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This insistence on the truth, as the test for the last days, is very remarkable. And so are these courses of preaching, by persons who took nothing of the Gentiles when they came forth, leaving it to God to cause them to be received of those who had the truth at heart; the truth being their only passport among Christians, and the only means by which the Apostle could guard the faithful. It appears that they were of the Jewish race, for he says,"receiving nothing of the Gentiles,” the Apostle thus making the distinction. I notice this, because, if it be so, the force of the expression, “And not for ours only," 1 John i. 2, becomes simple and evident; which it is not to every one. The Apostle, as Paul does, makes the difference of us, Jews--though one in Christ. We may also remark that the Apostle addressed the assembly, and not Diotrephes its head; and that it was this leader who, loving pre-eminence, resisted the Apostle's words, which the
assembly, as it appears, were not inclined to do.
Gaius persevered in his godly course, in spite of the ecclesiastical authority (whatever may have been its right or pretended right) which Diotrephes evidently exercised; for he cast persons out of the assembly.
When the Apostle came, he would (like Paul) manifest his real power. He did not own in himself an ecclesiastical authority to remedy these things by a command. These epistles are very remarkable in this respect. With regard to those who went about preaching, the only means he had, even in the case of a woman, was to call her attention to the truth. The authority of the preacher lay altogether in that. His competency was another matter. The Apostle knew no authority which sanctioned their mission, and the absence of which would prove it to be false or unauthorised. The whole question of their reception lay in the doctrine which they brought. The Apostle had no other way to judge of the authority of their mission. There was then no other, for had there been any, that authority would have flowed from him. He would have been able to say, “Where are the proofs of their mission?” He knew none but this—do they bring the truth? If not, do not salute them. If they bring the truti, you do well to receive them, in spite of all the Diotrephes in the world.
JUDE. The Epistle of Jude develops the history of the apostasy of Christendom, from the earliest elements that crept into the Church to corrupt it, down to its judginent at the appearing of our Lord. A very short Epistle, and containing instructions presented with much brevity, and with the energetic rapidity of the prophetic style, but of immense weight and extensive bearing.
The evil which had stolen in among Christians would not cease until destroyed by judgment.
We have already noticed this difference between the Epistle of Jude and the 2nd of Peter, that Peter speaks of sin, Jude of apostasy, the departure of the Church from its primitive state before God. Renunciation of the most holy faith is the subject which Jude treats. He does not speak of outward separation. He views Christians as a number of persons professing a religion on the earth, and originally true to that which they professed. Certain persons had crept in among them unawares. They fed themselves without fear at the love-feasts of the Christians; and although the Lord would come attended by all His saints, so that the faithful will have been already caught up, yet, in the judgment, these persons are still accounted to be in the same class,“ to convince,” he says, “ all that are ungodly among them.” They may, indeed, be in open rebellion at the moment of judgment, but they were individuals who had once formed a part of the company of Christians; they were apostates. When it is said, “These be they who separate themselves," it does not mean openly from the visible Church, but they set themselves apart, being in it, as more excellent than others, like the Pharisees among the Jews. Jude points them out as being in the midst of the Christians, and presenting themselves as such. The judgment falls upon this class of persons; the taking up of the Church has left them behind for judgment. VOL. XII, PART IV.
Jude begins by declaring the faithfulness of God, and the character of His care for the saints, which answers to the prayer of Jesus in John xvii. They were called ones, sanctified by God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ. Happy testimony! which magnifies the grace of God.
“Holy Father, our Lord said, " keep them;" and these were sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ. The Apostle speaks with a view to the forsaking by many of the holy faith; he addresses those who were kept.
He had purposed writing to them of the salvation common to all Christians, but he found it needful to exhort them to stand fast, to contend for the faith once given to the saints. For already was that faith being corrupted, by the denial of the rights of Christ to be Lord and Master. And thus, also, by giving the reins to self-will, they abused grace, and turned it into a principle of dissoluteness. These are the two elements of the evil which the instruments of Satan introduced; the rejection of the authority of Christ (not His name), and the abuse of grace, in order to indulge their own lusts
. In both cases it was the will of man which they set free from everything that bridled it. The expression “ Lord God” points out this character of God. Lord,” here, is not the word generally used: it is “despotees," that is “master.”
Having pointed out the evil which had secretly crept in, the Epistle goes on to show them that the judgment of God is executed upon those who do not walk according to the position in' which God had originally placed them.
The evil was not only that certain men had crept in among them-in itself an immense evil, because the action of the Holy Ghost is thereby hindered among Christians—but that, definitively, the entire testimony before God, the vessel which held this testimony, would become (as had been already the case with the Jews) corrupt to such a degree that it would bring down upon itself the judgment of God. And so it has been.
This is the great principle of the downfall of the testimony established by God in the world, by means of the corruption of the vessel which contains it, and which
bears its name. In pointing out moral corruption as characterising the state of professors, Jude cites, as examples of this downfall and of its judgment, the case of Israel, who fell in the wilderness (with the exception of two, Joshua and Caleb), and that of the angels who, not having kept their first estate, are reserved in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
This last example suggests to him another case, that of Sodom and Gomorrah, which presents immorality and corruption as the cause of judgment. Their condition is a perpetual testimony here on earth to their judgment.
These men are but dreamers, for the truth is not in them. The two principles which we have noticed, are developed in them, filthiness of the flesh, and contempt for authority. The latter manifests itself in a second form; namely, the license of the tongue, the self-will that manifests itself by speaking evil of dignities. Whereas the text says, the Archangel Michael durst not rail
, even against the devil, but, with the gravity of one who acts according to God, appealed to the judgment of God Himself.
Jude then sums up the three kinds or characters of the evil and of estrangement from God:- First. That of nature, the opposition of the flesh to the testimony of God and to His true people; the impetus which this enmity gives to the will of the flesh. In the second place, ecclesiastical evil, teaching error for reward; knowing all the while that it is contrary to the truth, and against the people of God. Thirdly, open opposition, rebellion against the authority of God, in His true King and Priest.
At the time when Jude wrote his Epistle, those persons whom Satan introduced into the Church, in order to stifle its spiritual life, and bring on the result which the Spirit views prophetically, were dwelling in the midst of the saints, took part in those pious feasts at which they gathered together, in token of their brotherly love. They were" spots” in those "feasts of charity,” feeding without fear in the pastures of the faithful. The Holy Ghost denounces them energetically. They were doubly dead by nature and by their apostasy; without fruit; bearing
fruit that perished, as out of season; plucked up by the roots; foaming out everywhere their own shame; wandering stars, reserved for darkness. Of old, the Spirit had announced, by the mouth of Enoch, the judgment that should be executed upon them. This presents a very important aspect of the instruction here given, namely, that the evil which had crept in among the Christians would continue, and still be found when the Lord should return for judgment. He would come with the myriads of His saints to execute judgment upon all the ungodly among them, for their acts of iniquity, and their ungodly words which they have spoken against Him.
It is quite remarkable to sce the inspired writer identifying the favourers of licentiousness with the rebels who will be the object of judgment in the last day. It is the same spirit, the same work of the enemy, although restrained for the moment, which will ripen for the judg. ment of God. Alas, for the Church! It is, however, but the universal progression of man. Only that grace having fully revealed God, and delivered from the law, there must now be, either holiness of heart and soul, and the delights of obedience under the perfect law of liberty, or else, license and open rebellion. In this, the proverb is true, that the corruption of that which is the most excellent is the worst of corruptions. We must add here, that the admiration of men, in order to gain advantage by them, is another characteristic feature of these apostates. It is not to God that they look.
Now, the apostles had already warned the saints that these mockers would come, walking after their own lusts, exalting themselves, not having the Spirit, but being in the state of nature.
Practical exhortation follows, for those who were preserved. According to the energy of spiritual life, and the power of the Spirit of God, they were by grace to build themselves up, and keep themselves in the communion of God. The faith is, to the believer, a most holy faith; he loves it because it is so, it put him into relationship and communion with God Himself. That which he has to do in the painful circumstances of which