« ZurückWeiter »
RISE OF HERESY FORETOLD BY THE APOSTLES. 173
approved may be made manifest among you," I Cor. xi. 19. The apostolic writings contain numerous intimations of this painful fact, with cautions, admonitions, and warnings to the churches, and their bishops or overseers more especially, to expect such things and watch against them. To this effect are the following passages of Scripture: “There shall be false teachers among you, who shall privily bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them; and through covetousness, shall they with feigned words make merchandize of you,” 2 Peter ii. 1-3. Addressing the Elders of the church of Ephesus, Acts xx. 29, 30, we find the apostle Paul thus warning them: “I know that, after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock; also of your ownselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them; therefore watch.” The same apostle, writing to Timothy, forewarns him of an awful apostacy that was coming upon the churches, in these words : “ Now the Spirit speaketh, expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth,” 1 Tim. iv. 1-3. But he is still more explicit on this subject when writing to the church of the Thessalonians, to whom he says, “ the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way, and then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming,” &c., 2 Thess. ii. 7, &c. The apostle John also gives the following admonition and caution : “ Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God, because many faise prophets, or teachers, are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God ; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is that spirit of Antichrist whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world,” 1 Joh. iv. 1–3. These are some of the many intimations given by the inspired writers concerning what was to be the state of the Christian profession, when the apostles should have left the world, and the truth of them we shall find amply verified as we proceed with the history of the Christian church. It is a subject to which we shall very often have occasion to recur, and the present Lecture shall be devoted to a review of the errors and heresies that sprang up during the first century.*
The first instance that we find upon record of the dissemination of pernicious error among the churches of Christ, and of the corruption of the Christian doctrine, is in the case of certain zealots of Judaism, who, in the days of the apostles, went out from the church of Jerusalem, and proceeding to the city of Antioch, in Syria, which was a Gentile church, taught the brethren that unless they were circumcised, and attended to other observances of the law of Moses, they could not be saved. We have the account of this in Acts xv., where we also learn that this new doctrine was instantly and firmly opposed by Paul and Barnabas, and that, after much dissension and disputation, the latter was sent up to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and elders on this question. There the subject was taken up in solemn council, and in the issue a decree was drawn up, exempting the Gentile converts from all obligation to become circumcised, and observe the other rites of Judaism: the only things that were enjoined upon them being, “ that they abstained from polluting themselves with the worship of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and the eating of blood, ver. PAUL'S ANATHEMA OF THE JUDAIZERS.
* The word heresy, Gr. Aspeois, strictly speaking, denotes no more than election or choice, and was commonly employed by the Helenistic Jews, in the days of our Lord, when the people were much divided in their religious sentiments, to denote in general any branch of the division, and was nearly equivalent to the English words class, party, sect. See Dr. Campbell's Prelim. Diss. IX. Part IV. In the apostolic writings it is often translated sect, as in Acts xxvi. 5. It is used in both a good and bad sense--and occasionally in neither one nor the other, as in Acts xv.5 and xxviii. 22. But most commonly it is to be'understood in a bad sense, and so heresy is reckoned among the works of the flesh, Gal, v. 20, and in the following verse the heretic is excluded from the kingdom of heaven. In the epistle to Titus, it is said, "the man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted and sinneth, being condemned of himself,” ch. iii. 10, that is, he holds so much of the truth as condemns his errors. A heresy, therefore, may be defined “ an error in some of the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, affecting the ground of a Christian's hope, maintained with obstinacy and frequently under very specious pretexts.”
20. 29. This apostolic decision, which claimed the authority of immediate inspiration, secured the liberty of the believing Gentiles; though it was far from laying the heresy at rest, for we find, from other parts of the New Testament, that these Judaizing teachers found ways and means to propagate their corrupt doctrine among many of the Gentile churches, and those of the regions of Galatia in particular.
It was obviously to counteract this heresy that the apostle. Paul wrote this epistle to the churches in that region, and he exhibits it as a perversion of the gospel of Christ, Gal. i. 7; as frustrating the doctrine of divine grace, and rendering the death of Christ a vain thing, ch. i. 21; making the doctrine of a sinner's justification to be by the works of the law, and not by the faith of Christ, as the apostles uniformly taught, ch. iii. 8–12;-in short, it was bringing the Gentiles under a yoke of burdensome rites, which the Jews found almost intolerable, and made them debtors to keep the whole law, ch. v., and, in effect, deprived them of all benefit arising from Christ's work of redemption, ver. 2, 3. Such, according to the apostle, were 'the pernicious effects of this corrupt doctrine ; and, viewing it in that light, we cannot wonder at the bold stand which this noble champion for the doctrines of divine grace made against it. He was fired with jealousy for the honour of his God and Saviour and the salvation of his fellow sinners, both which were involved in it and affected by it.
Another species of corrupt teaching, which began early to infect some of the Gentile churches, consisted in mingling the philosophy of the schools with the simple doctrine of Christ crucified. Against this also we find the apostle Paul entering his strong protest in such language as the following : “ Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,” Col. ii. 8; and his discourse, through the remainder of the chapter, seems to indicate that he had his eye upon both the error of the Judaizers and that of the Gentile philosophers, each of them being opposed to the simplicity of the truth as it is in Jesus. His epistle to the church at Corinth abounds with pointed allusions to the danger that Christians were in from the philosophy of the schools, the wisdom of the Scribe, and the disputer of this world. He declares that in saving guilty mortals, through the crucifixion of his own Son, the blessed God had poured contempt upon all the wisdom of this world, and made it appear perfect folly—that, by this method of salvation, he had cut off every pretext for boasting on the part of man; and by exhibiting Christ as a complete and all-sufficient Saviour, he had so ordered matters that no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1 Cor. i. 30, &c.
It appears that the plain unvarnished tale which the apostles had to declare to the world concerning the death of Jesus, and which Paul frequently sums up in two words, “ Christ crucified," was a very unpalatable doctrine to both the Jewish Scribe and the philosophic Greek; it was a stumbling block to one and foolishness to the other, and the pride of both was piqued at it. There certainly is nothing in it to flatter the vain-glorious boasting of any man; and those who know what human nature is will find no cause of wonder and surprise in the efforts that have been made to corrupt the Gospel in every age of the church. The Judaizing teachers thought it would be much improved by the addition of circumcision and a few other of the Mosaic rites and ceremonies, while the Greek philosophers were equally zealous to give it a polish by means of some of their favourite systems; but the apostle Paul rejected both these propositions with equal abhorrence. He would allow of no addition from either quarter. On this head his language was, “though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have already preached unto you, let him be accursed; as we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other Gospel than that ye have received, let him be accursed,” Gal. i. 7—10.
On another occasion we find him thus expressing himself: “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy, for I have espoused you to one husband, that I might present you as a chaste virgin to Christ; but I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ :” and he then proceeds to hint at persons getting access among them and preaching another Jesus, 2 Cor. xi. 2–4.
This jealousy of the apostle respecting the purity of the doc
HERESY CONCERNING THE RESURRECTION.
trine of the Gospel, and the implicit obedience which is due to the authority of Christ in all the affairs of his own kingdom, must seem strange to many in our day, who are under the influence of what is termed a Catholic spirit, and who are led to regard conscientiousness, or sincerity, in error as equivalent to soundness in the faith. But, if we carefully attend to the apostolic writings, we shall be at no loss to trace it to the views they entertained of the nature of divine grace, and its incompatibility with all works and every notion of worthiness on the part of those who are benefited by the Gospel. Hence we find the apostle Paul, when treating of the blessing of justification, declare that “it is of faith that it might be by grace:"_" and if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But, if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwisé work is no more work.” In this way he states these two things, grace and works, as perfect opposites, and so totally irreconcileable one to the other, as respects the doctrine of justification, that he will admit of no compromise whatever. This principle is carried out in all the apostolic writings, and it is the criterion by which we are taught to distinguish between sound and unsound doctrine; yet how seldom do we find it attended to in the writings of our modern theologians ! But, to return,--
A third heresy which troubled the churches of Christ in the first century regarded the resurrection of the body, and is commonly designated the heresy of Hymenæus and Philetus. It is referred to by the apostle Paul, in writing to Timothy, 2 Tim. ii. 17, where, having mentioned their names, he adds, “Who, concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some.” These men appear to have had a party in the church at Corinth, and it gave occasion to the apostle Paul, not only to refute their heresy, but to pour a flood of light on the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, 1 Cor. xv. 12, &c. We learn from what passed between the apostle Paul and the philosophers at Athens, Acts xvii. 32, that the resurrection of the body was considered by the learned Greeks as more a subject of ridicule than of reasoning—for they regarded the body as the prison of the soul, and placed their happiness in being for ever freed from it after death: and these heretics appear to have been of the same opinion. To render