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"We have in this Chapter a very awful Account of the latter-day Heresies. But, while the Holy Ghost graciously, informs the Church of those Seasons, he as graciously teacheth the Church how to discern their Features, and discover them from the Faithful."
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (2) And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. (3) And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. (4) For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; (5) And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; (6) And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; (7) And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (8) (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day today with their unlawful deeds;)"
Let the Reader begin the Chapter with prayer, for the spirit of discernment. And he will find, as John said, that there is a sure way, under God, of discovering false prophets. See 1 John 4:1-6 . And let him first remark, that the Apostle is not speaking of the true, and real Church of Christ, which is made up only of regenerated believers; but of a mere nominal professing Church, which have been from the first forming of the Church in Egypt, all the way through, and will continue to the end. A mixed multitude went up out of Egypt. Exodus 12:38 . After the descent of the Holy Ghost, there were the Ananiah's and Sapphira's in the visible Church. Acts 5:1-2 . And there must be, the Apostle saith, heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 1 Corinthians 11:19 . Tares will grow with the wheat. But, as of the Church of old, all were not Israel in the promised line, which were of Israel, naturally, and nationally considered so it is now. Romans 9:6-7 . Mingling in the same congregation is a perfectly distinct thing from belonging to Christ. All men, generally speaking, are born Christians, that are born in Christian countries, and under the meridian of the Gospel. But this doth not constitute a real Christian. Before any man is a real Christian, he must be new-born. Birth by nature; gives no right to grace. Hence, the real Church of Christ is only composed of real regenerated believers. All that join the congregation of Christ without this qualification, only constitute what may be called a professing Church.
But we must not stop here. The Apostle saith, that in such a Church, there wilt not only be mere nominal worshippers, but there shall be false teachers. As there were in the old Church, false prophets, in the Hananiahs, and the Amaziahs, who impudently stood up to minister in the Lord's name, without the Lord's authority, yea, and in defiance to the Lord's truth; (Jeremiah 28:0 ; Amos 8:0 ) so the latter, day dispensation is to be distinguished with false teachers among the Lord's people. What an awful consideration! Reader! ponder it. well, for the time is come. False teachers! not mere hearers, not the mere congregation, but those who stand up to teach. Oh! how earnest ought the people of God to be in prayer to the Lord, to keep his church from such delusions! Oh! Lord! send I pray thee, Pastors according to thine own heart, and according to thine own promise, Which shall feed thy flock with understanding and knowledge! Jeremiah 3:15 .
But it is our mercy, that the same Lord who hath forewarned the church of these awful times of heresy, hath also fore-armed his people with the source of security, for their defence. The persons here spoken of, are said to be false teachers among the people. Look at this, as the first standard by which to ascertain their real character. They are not to spring out of the heathen. They are not from among the ancient enemies of Christ, the Jews. But these false teachers are to arise up from among persons professing Christianity. There shall be false teachers among you. Secondly: observe, that as those men are not heathen men, which want to establish heresy from without; but men calling themselves, like yourselves, Christians in name, and wish to praise up heresy within; so, the leading feature of their teaching God hath graciously marked, they privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them. There are several points here marked out, which, if duly attended to, will throw a light over the whole passage, and enable the church, under God's teaching, to discover who they are here described. First. They are said privily to bring in damnable heresies. Now privily means an artful, sly, insinuating way. Their plan is deep laid, and done with caution. It is privily; that is, done plausibly, so that their real intention, of subverting the truth, is not immediately discerned. Now, it is worthy observation, that such was the method of false teachers which sprung up in the Old Testament church, in the Sanballats, and Tobias, and Geshems. Nehemiah 6:10-12 . Yea, the Serpent himself began with deceit, in the first lie ever told in the world, which he practised on our Mother. Genesis 3:4 . And Our God hath warned his people against the insinuation of all false teachers. O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts! Ezekiel 13:4 . And the church, aware of this craftiness, cried out, take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes. Song of Solomon 2:15 . So much for the craft made use of, in the false teachers privily bringing in their heresies
Secondly. Let us look at the features of those heresies, which God the Holy Ghost saith, those false teachers shall bring in. The Lord alls them damnable. And they are proved to be so, for they bring upon themselves swift destruction. And the Lord shews wherefore they are so; for the first relation of the heresy is, even denying the Lord that bought them. There are several subordinate ones mentioned, such as coveteousness in making merchandize and profit of the people, and using feigned words, soft and insinuating words, as if wishing above all things the good of the people they are endeavoring to ruin; complimenting with feigned words their good sense, in appealing to their reason and understanding, under the name of rational Christianity and the like. But the grand object of all their aim, and, therefore the grand discriminating feature by which the Holy Ghost hath marked them, is their denial of the Lord that bought them; and by which they bring upon themselves swift destruction.
The question is, what is implied in this heresy? And this is best answered by the similar passage, in Jude 1:4 denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ; that is, not deifying the being, and existence of God, and of Christ; but denying the scriptural testimony of God, in his threefold character of Persons, and as manifested in covenant transactions in Jesus Christ. These damnable heresies; which these men privily bring in, (Jude saith they have crept in unawares in this deed,) level all distinctions of personality in the Godhead); they deny the (Godhead of Christ, atonement by his blood, the Person, work, and offices of God the Holy Ghost. So that, while affecting to be called Christians, they would rob the Son of God of all his glory, in the denial of his Godhead; and their own souls, and the souls of all the redeemed of their happiness, in denying the efficacy of his redeeming blood. They reduce the Gospel to a mere system of ethics, mere moral duties, and count the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and do despite to the Spirit of grace! Reader! how can it be otherwise, than that such men should bring upon themselves swift destruction, since, if there be no hope of redemption in the blood and righteousness of Christ, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 1 Peter 4:18 ; Romans 3:19 .
By the expression of the Loud that bought them, must not be supposed, as having any allusion to the redemption by Christ. Had Jesus indeed bought them with his blood, he would have regenerated them by his Spirit. The sheep of Christ, marked in his blood as his property, must have been the objects of his care. But by the buying them, simply hath reference to his providences over them. Like Israel of old, as a nation, all the children of Israel were included in their deliverance from the Egyptian bondage; and as such, might be said to be bought out of that bondage, by the Lord's deliverance of them. Deuteronomy 4:32-34 . Hence Moses, in allusion to this, saith to Israel nationally considered, Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? Is not he thy father that hath bought thee? Hath, he not made thee and established thee? Deuteronomy 32:6 .
Reader! ponder these things. Look at what is here said, and contemplate the present day; and then say, whether in the present day, which may well be called a Christ-despising generation, the features could have been more accurately described. Had this scripture been written but yesterday, it could not have more suited! And, Reader, look again! Peter saith of them, that their judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. And Jude, in yet stronger language saith, that they were before of old ordained to this condemnation. Jude 1:4 . An awful account, to trace them up to their first, and original stock. What a decided account, indeed, ordained of old to this condemnation! And the Apostle draws a parallel line between those ordained men, and fallen angels. They are all of the same family. As the one was cast down from heaven; so these are cast out of the Church of God. As the one is reserved in everlasting chains of darkness; so these are reserved-unto the judgment of the great day. As the fallen angels are cast down to hell; so Christ-despisers, and the bringers in of damnable heresies, are reserved for the blackness of darkness forever. Yea, if there be a misery in hell, greater one than another, surely they, that like Chorazin, were once exalted to greater Gospel privileges in the ordinances of a Gospel Church, and despised them, shall have it. Reader! do observe one thing. Despisers of God's truth, who have had greater privileges than others of God's mercy, (as this land evidently affords,) will have greater condemnation. Perhaps no nation ever had the views of divine truth more clearly unfolded, than Great Britain. Perhaps no heretics ever came up to those of this country. The greatest reptiles and monsters are found under the tropics. The greatest infidels, where the Sun of Righteousness shines with most glory!
I must not further trespass, but it is a solemn close to this scripture which the Holy Ghost makes, by way of confirming the sure judgment of Christ-despisers; that the destruction of angels, the overthrow of the whole world by the flood, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, and infinitely, and above all, as might have been added, the death of Christ, for the salvation of his people; these loudly proclaim the Lord's determination to take vengeance on sin.
"The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: (10) But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. (11) Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. (12) But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; (13) And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; (14) Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: (15) Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; (16) But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet. (17) These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever. (18) For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. (19) While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. (20) For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (21) For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. (22) But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."
I admire this very beautiful, and gracious scripture, introduced in this place, as a blessed relief to the mind, in the midst of the many judgments. Reader! do not overlook it. Amidst all the exercises of the present awful day, do not lose sight of this; the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations. Here is enough for a child of God to repose in forever! But the Holy Ghost is engaged in this Chapter in an awful subject, and the Lord pursues it again. I do not think it necessary to dwell particularly upon the several features of character which the Holy Ghost hath drawn, of ungodly men. They are all of them very strong and expressive. Balaam is introduced, to shrew what convictions of head-knowledge there may be, void of all heart-influence. This monster of iniquity, while convinced in head-knowledge, that the Israel of God was blessed of God in Christ; hired himself out for the sake of gain, to curse them. And, when he found all would not do to accomplish this end, he recommended Moab to a plan which he thought would effectually answer. By advising the Moabites to invite the sons of Israel to come to their sacrifices, they laid a trap to catch Israel with the beauty of Moab's daughters; and this he knew, would lead Israel into idolatry, which would do more to the ruin of Israel than all the curses of Balaam. Compare Numbers 23:24-25 with Revelation 2:12-17 .
I shall only detain the Reader with a short observation, on the close of this Chapter, in the three last verses of it. If the Reader will diligently attend to what is here said, he will discover, that the Holy Ghost, by the Apostle, is speaking all along of mere nominal professors, as distinguished from the Lord's own people. The outward form of godliness had done enough to induce, in mere professors, a wish for an outward, garb of godliness. The reputation of being somewhat religious, had an effect to restrain them from the open commission of more daring offences before men. They had set up somewhat of a reform, observed perhaps family prayer, attended ordinances, and now and then the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. But here it ceased. No awakening by grace, no regeneration of the heart, no union with Christ. Hence, though they had escaped the open and notorious acts of pollution which were in the world, yet no work of saving grace was ever wrought in the heart; and therefore, what begins only in nature, can arise no higher, neither will it ever end in grace. The dog, when sick, and vomits up, soon returns and swallows down again what must everlastingly make sick. And the sow, however you may wash her, will not be easy until she return to wallow again in her favorite mud. It is her nature, and nature never ariseth above her own element. The sheep may fall into the mire, but it will never lay there. But the sow is in her native soil. When there, neither can any keep her from it. Oh! how sweet is distinguishing grace!
READER! what an awful thing it must be, in a church, calling itself Christian, to be under the direction of false teachers. Professing the name of Christ, and yet denying his Godhead! Feeling their own daily state of sin and corruption before God, and yet rejecting the only possible way of finding peace and pardon with God, in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ! My soul! come not thou into their secret; unto their assemble mine honor be not thou united, Oh! for grace, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, to brave every opposition of men; and faithfully, fully, and unceasingly to proclaim the Lord our Righteousness.
Precious Lord Jesus! let thy name be as ointment poured forth. And, as thou knowest how to deliver the godly out of temptation; do thou keep them now, O Lord, in these awful seasons, when the Holy Ghost is admonishing the Church, that false teachers will arise, even among the people. Lord! give! us grace, to discern grievous wolves from true shepherds, and those that love the flock from those that live only to fleece them. My soul is relieved in the view, that Jesus knows his sheep, and is known of them. He will keep them in the dark and cloudy day. He will watch over them for good. He will bring them home, and bring them in, to his everlasting kingdom. Precious Lord Jesus! how safe and secure are all thine, kept by thine own power!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Peter 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25