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to the Gnostics only, he introduces this very phrase, coming in the flesh. Being zealous of what is good, abstaining from all offence, and from false brethren, and from those who bear the name of Christ in hypocrisy; who deceive vain men. For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, he is Antichrist; and whosoever does not confess his suffering upon the cross, is from the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says, that there shall neither be any resurrection nor judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, leaving the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word that was delivered from the beginning.
Had this writer proceeded no farther than the second elause, in which he mentions those who did not believe that Christ suffered upon the cross, it might have been supposed that he alluded to two classes of men, and that the latter were different from those who denied that he came in the flesh. But as he goes on to mention a third circumstance, viz, the denial of the resurrection, and we are sure that those were not a third class of persons, it is evident that he alluded to no more than one and the same kind of persons by all the three characters. I conclude, therefore, that the apostle John, from whom the writer of this epistle had this phrase, used it in the same sense, and meant by it only those persons who believed that Christ was not truly man, i. e, the Gnostics.
It has been said that “the attempt to assign a reason why the Redeemer should be a man, implies both that he might have been, without partaking of the human nature, and by consequence that, in his own proper nature, he was originally something different from man; and that there might have been an expectation that he would make his appearance in some form above the human.' But it is certainly quite sufficient to account for the apostle's using that phrase coming in the flesh, that in his time there actually existed an opinion that Christ had no real flesh, and was not truly a man, but a being of a higher order, which was precisely the doctrine of the Gnostics. That, before the appearance of the Messiah, any persons expected that he would, or might, come in a form above the human, is bighly improbable.
“A reason,” it is said, “why a man should be a man, one would not expect in a sober man's discourse." But, certainly, it was very proper to give a reason why one who was not thought to be properly a man, was really so; which is what the apostle has done.
* See Sect. vi. vii. Abp. Wake's Translation, pp. 55, 56. (P.)
The very circumstantial account that John has given of the blood which issued from the wound in our Saviour's side, could hardly have any other meaning than to contradict the doctrine of the Gnostics, that he had not real flesh and blood, John xix. 34, 35: “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and torthwith came thereout blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.” What could be the meaning of this remarkably strong asseveration, but to assure the world that Jesus had real blood, like other men? To the same thing he probably alludes, when he mentions the blood by which Christ came, as well as the water, 1 John v. 6: “ This is he that came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and blood.” Again, and probably with the same view, he says, 1 John v. 8, “ There are three that bear witness,—the spirit, and the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one;" the spirit and the water referring probably to his baptism, and the blood to his death.
With respect to the other articles of the Gnostic creed concerning the person of Christ, viz. that Jesus was one being, and the Christ another, and that the proper Christ came into Jesus at his baptism, John also bears his strongest testimony against it; and he lays no less stress on a right faith in this respect than in the other, 1 John ii. 21–23: “ I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is Antichrist that denieth the Fatber and the Son. Whosoever deniéth the Son, the same hath not the Father." This also may explain what Peter meant by “ denying the Lord that bought them," as it may be supposed that he meant denying Jesus to be the Christ. 1 John iv. 15: “ Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God” (which is equivalent to being the Christ), “ God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” Chap. v. 5: “ Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God ?” From the conclusioti of John's gospel we may perhaps infer what several of the ancietits have asserted, viz. that he wrote it with a particular view to refute the Gnostics. Chap. xx. 91 : “ These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, ye might have life through his name.”
REMARKS on Page 94, Paragraph 2. [The apostle observes (1 Cor. iii. 11), that “ other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ;" and this he lays down as a principle, not only true in itself, but admitted to be so by his opposers in the church of Corinth. They all professed to inculcate bis religion, to own him as the author of their faith, and to speak as his ministers (2 Cor. ii. 13, 23), and, though they wretchedly perverted his doctrine, assumed to themselves the character of his followers. If they had any desire indeed to pass for Christian preachers, they could not do otherwise. That the Corinthians might not, however, implicitly believe what they said on this account, St. Paul reminds them (ver. 12), that it was very possible for persons pretending to lay this foundation, to build upon it both doctrines and practices very unsuitable to the design of the gospel ; and such be intimates to them, though in an indirect manner, were several of the tenets advanced among them by their new instructors.
Persons teaching doctrines under the name of Christianity, so inconsistent with what the Corinthians had received from St. Paul, could have no prospect of succeeding in their attempts by any other method than by depreciating his apostolic character and authority; and this they endeavoured by various ways. In opposition to their arts, the apostle makes it his business to lay open the vanity of their objections against him, and to shew that as he was not in the least inferior to the very chiefest of the apostles, so none who thus vilified him deserved to be accounted equal to him. And this point being clearly established, the Corinthians could have no excuse for casting off their regard to him. But then it is obvious, that all the pertinence of his arguments to this purpose, rested upon this supposition, that his antagonists professed to adhere to the same Lord of their faith with himself. Had they declared themselves advocates for any other system of religion than his whom Paul preached, the state of the question between the apostle and his adversaries would have been entirely altered. The competition would then have been between one religion and another, not between ministers of the same religion; and the Corinthians, without doubting in the least of St. Paul's eminence as a christian preacher, might have been inclined to hear what was said by one who addressed them under a different denomination.
The apostle, in the words under consideration, appears to
admit, therefore, that if he who came, undertook to direct them to any other Jesus, as the author of their salvation, besides him whom he, the apostle, had preached; or if they had received from his ministration any other spirit, different from, or superior to, what they had already received, there might be some reason for their regarding him ; but as this could not be so much as pretended, their conduct in suffering themselves to be so perverted was capable of no defence.
If this view of the apostle's reasoning with the Corinthians in his own vindication be just, it should seem that he does not in this place refer to any as actually preaching another Jesus, but only supposes a case, the only one which could apologize for their behaviour, a case which they knew did not exist; and from the non-existence of it, lets them see how indefensible they were in preferring others to him, who, as a minister of Christ, was, as he goes on to shew, in the qualifications by which they endeavoured to recommend themselves, equal, or far superior to them.
As to the rest, I have no doubt but that Gnosticism had, when St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, made its appearance in the church, and amongst them in particular, nor that the apostle makes it his business, in these epistles, to shew the falsity and pernicious nature of its doctrines.
The date assigned to the first epistle to Timothy by bishop Pearson, is about the year of Christ 65. But Lightfoot and Lord Barrington place the writing of it between the times of the writing of the first and second epistle to the Corinthians, but before the epistle to the Romans; and Theodoret mentions it in the same order, and says he takes it to be the fifth epistle of those which we have of St. Paul's writing. The patrons of this opinion differ about the year, but all place it much sooner than Pearson.
If this early date of this epistle could be clearly established, it would be a great confirmation of Dr. Priestley's opinion of the introduction of Gnosticism into the church of Corinth, at the time of the writing the first epistle to it. But perhaps it is too doubtful, or at least it will be too much disputed to admit of laying stress upon it; though it appears, from p. 80, that the Doctor has not entirely overlooked it.(X)]*
*. • Having employed much time and labour in the composition of this work, which, on account of the necessary expensiveness of it, and the nature of the subject, is not likely to meet with many purchasers, and consequently may not soon be reprinted, I was willing to make this edition as perfect as I could; and for this purpose requested some of my learned friends to peruse it with care, and favour me with their remarks. All of them were by no means persons whose sentiments on the subject were the same with mine; and, indeed, I chose to apply to them in preference to those who were of the same opinion with myself.
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SECTION VI. Of the Doctrine of the Gnostics with respect to Martyrdom.
An obvious consequence of denying the reality of Christ's flesh and blood was, that he never really suffered. This, indeed, the Gnostics contended for, as his prerogative and exceilence; thinking all the affections of the flesh reproachful to a being of his high rank and natural dignity. Some of them, rather than suppose that Christ really suffered, said that it was not even Jesus, but Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross after him, that was hung upon it; and that Christ, seeing this from a distance, laughed at the mistake of his enemies, and then returned to his father who had sent him. This notion is by Theodoret ascribed to Basilides. *
As, in the opinion of the Gnostics, Christ did not really suffer, we are not surprised to find that, in general, they did not allow the obligation of martyrdom. Irenæus says, that some of them despised the martyrs, and reproached them for their sufferings.f Clemens Alexandrinus says, that some of the heretics argued against martyrdom, saying, that "the true martyrdom, or testimony to the truth of God, was the knowledge of the true God; and that he was a self-murderer who confessed Christ by giving up his life.”
In order to extenuate the merit of martyrdom, Basilides maintained, that the martyrs not being perfectly innocent, suffered no more than they deserved. But this he might hold, without denying the obligation to die in the cause of truth.
According to Epiphanius, also, Basilides held that martyr
of the work, I have thought it most advisable to subjoin such additional observations, as, since the printing of tlre work, have been suggested by then, or have occurred to myself. They consist of corrections of the text, improvements in the translation of passages, replies to objections, or observations tending to throw farther light on the subject; whether in favour of what I have advanced, or not. Those of them to which is subjoined the letter (X) were written by a person to whom I am more particularly obliged for his attention to this work, but whose pame I do not know that I am at libertý to mention." Dr. Priestley's Appendix, 1786.
• Παθειν δε τετον εδαμως λεγει, αλλα Σιμωνα τον Κυρηναιον υπομειναι το παθος νομισο θεντα ειναι Χριςον τον δε Χριςον πορρωθεν ορωντα, γελαν των Ιεδαιων την απονοιαν, ειθ' úsepoy, ameRTEN tpos TOY anoskiNarta. Hær. Fab. L. i. C. iv. IV. p. 195. (P.)
* « Et cum hæc ita se habeant, ad tantam temeritatem progressi sunt quidam, ut etiam martyres spernant, et vituperent eos qui propter Domini confessionem occiduntur." L. i. C. xxi p. 247. (P.)
1 Τινες δε των αιρετικών το κυριά παρακηκοόλες ασεβαίς αμα και δειλως φιληζορσίν μαρί τυρεαν λεγόντες αλοθη είναι της τα όντως οντος γνωσιν Θε· οπερ και ημείς ομολόγομεν φοντα δε αυτον ειναι εαυθε, και αυθενην, τον δια θαναλον ομολογησανία και αλλα τοιαύλα Detroas copiouata EIS MEGOV Xovi Soussy. Shern. L. iv. p. 481. (P.)