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who affirmed that Chrift was a mere man engendered of Jofeph; which was precisely the opinion of the proper Ebionites. Now if the Ebionæan doctrine concerning the perfon of Christ, was esteemed by the church heretical fo early as in the time of Irenæus, it could neither be the doctrine of the apoftles nor of the first Chriftians. Upon the whole, the argument of the Socinians to prove that both the apoftles and the first Christians were Unitarians, taken from the members of the church of Jerufalem being called Ebionites by the ancients, is by no means conclufive.

Befides the heretics above mentioned, there was a third fort who troubled the church in the apoftle's days, named Nicolaitans, Rev. ii. 15. Thefe, the ancient Christian writers called Gnoftics; because, mifunderstanding our Lord's words, John xvii. 3. This is the life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jefus Christ whom thou haft fent, they affirmed that nothing was neceffary to eternal life, but the knowledge of the true God and of his Son Jefus Chrift. With them, therefore, knowledge was the higheft, and indeed the only Chriftian virtue; and therefore, whoever poffeffed the knowledge of God and of Chrift, was fure of falvation, whatever his character and actions might be.-Farther, because the apostle Paul, in his epiftles, had taught the doctrine of juftification by faith without works of law, these heretics affirmed, that Chrift had fet men free from the obligation of the law of God as a rule of life; eonfequently that in the gospel difpenfation believers being under no law whatever, they finned not by any thing they did, however contrary it might be to the laws, whether of God or of men. According to them, the only thing incumbent on believers, in order to their obtaining eternal life, was to abide in Christ; by which they meant, abiding in the knowledge and profession of the gospel. This impious doctrine, the Nicolaitans anxiously propagated, for the purpose of alluring wicked men to become their disciples, that they might draw money from them, which they spent in gratifying their lufts. Accordingly our Lord, in his epiftle to the church of Pergamos, Rev. ii. 14. represents the Nicolaitans as holding the doctrine of Balaam, who, (as Peter expreffes it, 2 Pet. ii. 15. loving the hire of unrighteousness), taught Balak


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Balak to caft a ftumbling-block before the children of Ifrael, to eat things facrificed to idols, and to commit whoredom. -Farther, because these ungodly teachers, whilft they inculcated the most immoral doctrines, pretended to be inspired, our Lord gave them the name of Jezabel Ahab's wife, who, being addicted to forcery and divination, was a great favourer of the prophets of Baal. Perhaps also the Nicolaitans, to gain the reputation of inspired teachers, imitated the prophets of Baal in their extafies.-Our Lord's condemnation of the doctrines and practices of these impoftors, we have in the following paffage, Rev. ii. 20. Thou fuffereft that woman Jezabel, who calleth herfelf a prophetess, to teach, and to deceive my fervants to commit shoredom, and to eat things facrificed to idols.-Concerning this class of false teachers, it is proper to remark that their error, did not confift in denying the effential difference between moral good and evil, but in affirming, that Christ having purchased for his people an abfolute freedom from the laws both of God and men, they were not bound by any rules of morality, but were at liberty to do what they pleased; fo that being incapable of finning they were not fubject to punishment. This doctrine leading its abettors to all manner of licentiousness, our Lord had good reafon to fay of the Nicolaitans, Rev. ii. 6. that he hated their deeds; and also their doctrine, ver. 15.

The licentious doctrines and abominable practices of the Nicolaitans, being adapted to the corrupt inclinations of the wicked, were eagerly embraced by many, in the latter part of the apostle John's days. He, therefore, judged it neceffary in this epiftle, to condemn thefe doctrines and practices, in the plainest and ftrongest terms. See chap. i. 8.-10. ii. 1.-3. iii. 4.For a more particular account of the Gnoftics, taken from Mofheim, fee pref. to the Coloff. fect. 2. paragr. 3. from the end.

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SECT. IV. Of the Time when, and the Place where, John wrote his First Epiftle.

Grotius, Hammond, Whitby, and Benson, think John wrote his first epiftle before the deftruction of Jerufalem. Benfon

fixes it to A. D. 68. answering to the 14th year of the emperor Nero, not long before the deftruction of Jerufalem. This opinion he founds on chap. ii. 18. where the apostle says, young children it is the laft hour; by which Benfon underftands, the laft hour of the duration of the Jewish church and state. But Lampe, who fuppofed this epifle was written after the deftruction of Jerusalem, thought the apoftle might say, It is the laft hour, not only before, but after Jerufalem was destroyed.. Wall in his note on these words, after mentioning that Grotius and Hammond interpreted them of the time immediately preceding the deftruction of Jerufalem, which happened A. D. 69. adds, "Nor are St. John's words, like thofe of any one who was foretelling that event, but rather of one who was speaking of the present state of the Chriftian religion." - The commentators who fuppofe this epiftle was written before Jerufalem was destroyed, appeal likewife in fupport of their opinion to chap. ii. 13. Fathers, I write to you, because ye have known him from the beginning. For this, they think, could be said only to perfons who had feen and converfed with Chrift; of which description there might be many alive, at the time Jerufalem was destroyed.


Other commentators affign a much later date to this epiftle.Mill and Le Clerc place it A. D. 91. or 92.-Basnage A. D. 98.-Beaufobre and L'Enfant in the end of the first century when John was very old: on which account, they think, he ⚫ called himself in his fecond and third epiftles, The Elder.Du Pin was of the fame opinion.-Whifton thought this and the other two epiftles, were written A. D. 81. or 82.—Lampe places the first epistle after the Jewish war was ended, and before the apostle's exile into Patmos.-Lardner alfo places it after the Jewish war, A. D. 80. or later.

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My opinion is, that John wrote his first epiftle before the deftruction of Jerufalem. 1. Because the expreffion, It is the laft hour, may more naturally be understood of the laft hour of the duration of the Jewish ftate, than of any later period; especially fince the apostle adds, And as ye have heard that the antichrift cometh, fo now there are many antichrifts; whence we know that it is the last hour: plainly alluding to our Lord's VOL. VI. prediction


prediction concerning the falfe teachers, who were to arife before the destruction of Jerufalem.-2. The expreffion, Ye have known him from the beginning, applies better to the disciples, immediately before Jerufalem was destroyed, than to the few who may have been alive at the late date affigned to this epiftle. For thirty. five years after our Lord's afcenfion, when Jerusalem was deftroyed, there may have been many living, who had seen and conversed with him, during his miniftry on earth. Whereas in the year 98. or even in 92. there could not be many alive, who were of that defcription.

In proof however of the late date of John's first epiftle, it is alleged, that the heretics who are faid by the ancient fathers to have propagated the errors and practifed the vices condemned in it, did not arise till after the deftruction of Jerufalem. But, though it were true, that Bafilides, Cerinthus and the reft, who are mentioned by the fathers as holding the errors, and following the vicious practices, condemned in this epiftle, did not arise till after Jerufalem was deftroyed, the errors and vices, for which they were infamous, certainly exifted in the church before that catastrophe. For James fpeaks of them as prevalent in his time. See the preface to his epiftle, fect. 4. And John represents the false teachers, whom he terms antichrists, as the very persons who were foretold by Chrift to arise before Jerufalem was overthrown, 1 John ii. 18. I am, therefore, of opinion, that Bafilides and the reft were mentioned by the fathers, not because they were the authors of the herefies afcribed to them, but because they propagated them with great industry and success.

As we do not know the precife time when, fo neither do we know, with any certainty, the place where John wrote his first epiftle. Grotius thought it was written in Patmos, during the apostle's exile there, which he places before the destruction of Jerufalem. But if it was written before that event, which I think is the truth, it is more reasonable to suppose, that it was penned in Judea, about the time the apoftle obferved the encompaffing of Jerufalem with armies, and the other figns of its approaching destruction foretold by his master; which led him to conclude that the laft hour of the Jewish ftate was come,


and to write this letter, to prevent the Chriftians in Judea from being feduced, by the falfe Chrifts and falfe teachers, who, according to our Lord's prediction, had arisen. If I am right in this conjecture, the perfons addreffed in the second chapter under the denomination of little children, young men, and fathers, were the Chriftians of different ftandings in the church, who were living in Judea and the neighbouring countries, at that time, for whose falvation the apostle had the most anxious concern: especially as he speaks of the perfons he calls fathers as having feen Chrift. However, they were not the only perfons for whom this epiftle was intended. It was written for the benefit of Christians in general, to preserve them in the truth, and to prevent them from following the vicious practices of the false teachers, who had then arisen, or who might afterward arise. But of these things, more in the following section, where the opinions, both of the ancients and moderns, concerning the perfons to whom John's first epistle was written, fhall be explained.

In this question, it is of fome importance to obferve, that if John wrote his firft epiftle in Judea, about the time of the deftruction of Jerufalem, and delivered it to the Christians living in that country, as I fuppofe he did, it will account for its being universally received as his, in the firft age, notwithstanding it appeared without any infcription, and did not bear his name in any part of it. For, as he lived among the people for whom it was more immediately intended, and delivered it to fome of them perfonally, they must all have known it to be his.-Befides, after he settled at Ephesus, he had frequent opportunities, during his long abode there, to acknowledge that epiftle as his, in the presence of perfons who enquired concerning its authenticity, and who no doubt reported his acknowledgment to others. Thus the teftimony of the brethren in Judea, to whom this epiftle was originally delivered, joined with the apostle's own acknowledgment, published in Afia by the Chriftians there, could not fail to establish its authenticity, in such a manner as to occafion its being univerfally received as his, before the apostle's decease.—But the second and third epistles of John, being writ ten in the latter part of his life, he did not furvive long enough, C 2


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