Imatges de pÓgina

The remaining books of the epistolary class are styled Catholic or General Epistles; the qualifying word implying that they were not addressed to any particular branches or divisions of the early Church, or designed for a local application, but intended for the admonition and instruction of the believers in general, wherever they resided. The first, as they are ranged in our English version, is ascribed to the Apostle James; the second and third, to Peter; the fourth, fifth and sixth, to John; and the seventh, to Jude.

The serial arrangement of the Epistles was not intended to indicate the order of time in which they were severally written. The Epistle to the Romans, for instance, was not written, it is supposed, until about six years after the three letters which immediately follow it were composed: but it is placed before all the others because the canonical supervisors regarded the main subjects of which it treats as being of pre-eminent importance; and also, it is said, because of the dignity of Rome, "the imperial city," whither it was directed. The Epistle to the Galatians is by some thought to have been written previously to any of the others, and should, therefore, in their opinion, be the first in a chronological arrangement.

Various students and critical inquirers have assigned different periods as the dates of the several writings we are considering: but as each hypothesis is characterized by uncertainty, I shall not weary you with a long disquisition upon the comparative accuracy of either one

of them; for it would necessarily be somewhat dry and uninteresting. In lieu thereof, I will merely present the following chronological table from the writings of Dr. NATHANIEL LARDNER, one of the most distinguished Biblical scholars in the world. This table exhibits not only the periods of time at which he supposed the Epistles to have been written, but also the names of the places wherein each author is thought to have sojourned while engaged in the labor of composition. It should be remembered that the following dates are not based upon certainty, but are merely the results of conjectural estimate:

I. Thessalonians

II. Thessalonians -

I. Corinthians

I. Timothy

II. Corinthians


Ephesians -
II. Timothy



I. and II. Peter

1. John

Il. and III. John



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*See Lardner's "Supplement to the Second Part of the Credibility of the Gospel History."

The special intent of each of these books (aside from the general aim of all the writers, to inculcate what they deemed religious truth and sound morality) may be learned much better from a perusal of the exordium of each, than from any summary that I could present in this lecture. In most instances, local allusions and precepts of special application are explained by the connec tion wherein they severally occur.

The writings which are ascribed to Paul exhibit great magnanimity of character. They furnish indubitable proof that they are the production of a noble man—an individual whose mind was of a truly liberal stamp, albeit the current of his thoughts and his course of reasoning were colored somewhat by Jewish notions and prejudices imbibed early in life. His style abounds in tropes and metaphors, and is never feeble, but energetic and well sustained throughout. Various and sometimes quite affluent imagery is employed by his inventive mind to illustrate the teachings of Christ, as he understood them. As fine specimens of forcible and significant declamation, interspersed with intensely apposite figures of speech, could be selected from his writings, as may be found in almost any other composition. Like all truly great men, he manifests the spirit of unaffected modesty. He nowhere betrays any thing like unreasonable selfesteem, or even a vivid consciousness of his real supe riority. Ilis speech, it is true, is sometimes very bold and confident: he is occasionally very positive, verging

to the boundary of dogmatism, perhaps, in the assertion of his peculiar sentiments in relation to some points of mental speculation. But this results more from the ardor of his temperament, than from the spirit of downright bigotry.

Although he cherished, perhaps to the close of his life, some of his early Jewish predilections and errors, yet he outgrew the superstitious idea of HOLY TIME which formed the basis of that austere sanctity with which the seventh day of the week had been so long observed. This is evident from the tolerant manner in which he speaks of this subject. Says he, "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it."* I understand him as expressing the idea, that he attached no great importance to the formal observance of any day, merely as a day; but, at the same time, if any one were deeply conscientious in regard to the matter, the observance might not be entirely unprofitable; for his conscientiousness and purity of motive would hallow it, in some sense, and thereby make it consecrate "unto the Lord,"-as, indeed, are the harmless observances of every pure mind, even when logically mistaken as respects their supposed authority.

Perhaps the most remarkable portion of Paul's let

* Romans, xiv. 5, 6.

ters, is the fifteenth chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians; in which he treats of the Resurrection. In the first part of the chapter, he asserts in very strong terms that Christ arose from the dead, and that he was seen by many. "I delivered unto you first of all," says he, "that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once ;* of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James; then of all the Apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." What did Paul mean? Did he intend to say that he saw Christ, in a bodily shape, after his resurrection? Or did he mean that Cephas, the twelve, and the five hundred brethren of whom he spoke, saw Jesus spiritually? In the account of Paul's conversion, contained in the Acts of the Apostles, it is

* Several weeks after the delivery of this lecture, I met with the following queries, and what follows, in a note in Balfour's "Essays on the Intermediate State of the Dead." The questions show plainly that the subJect was attended with some little difficulty in his mind:

"Were these five hundred persons brethren at the time they saw Christ, or did they become so afterwards? If brethren at the time they saw him, how happened it that the number of the disciples, just before the day of Pentecost, was only one hundred and twenty? If they became brethren afterwards, perhaps in consequence of seeing him, it accounts for their not being present with the one hundred and twenty."—Essays, Sc., p. 140.

To the interrogatories proposed by Mr. Balfour, I wish to add another: May it not be possible that Paul did not use the expression, "five hundred brethren," with a signification numerically exact, but in a proverbial and rather indefinite manner? +1 Cor. xv. 3-8. + Acts, ix.

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