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4. The matters contained in this epistle are highly worthy of an inspired apostle ; for besides a variety of important discoveries, (See Sect. v.) all tending to display the perfections of God, and the glory of Christ, we find in it exhortations to virtue, and condemnations of vice, delivered with an earnestness and feeling, which shew the author to have been incapable of imposing a forged writing upon the world, and that his sole design in this epistle, was to promote the interests of truth and virtue in the world.
II. But in oposition to these internal marks of authenticity, and to the testimony of all the ancient Christian writers, since the days of Eusebius, who with one voice have ascribed this second epistle, as well as the first, to the apostle Peter, Salmasius, and other learned moderns have argued, that because its style is different from the style of the first cpistle, it must have been written by some impostor; who personated the apostle Peter. This objection shall be fully considered immediately. At present suffice it to say, in the general, that if this were a writing forged in the name of an apostle, by any impostor, we should certainly find some erroneous tenet, or false fact, asserted in it, for the sake of which the forgery was attempted. Yet nothing of that kind appears in the second epistle of Peter; nothing inconsistent with the doctrine taught in the other writings, which by all are acknowledged to be divinely inspired; in a word nothing unsuitable, but every thing consonant, to the character of an in. spired apostle.
This argument appeared so strong to Grotius, that although, on account of the difference of the sentiments and style observable in the two epistles, he would not allow the second epistle to be Péter's, he did not venture to call it the work of an impostor, but supposed it to have been written after the destruction of Jerusalem, by Symeon who succeeded James our Lord's brother in the bishopric of Jerusalem. And because the inscrip: tion, with the other particulars in the epistle relating to the writer's character, are utterly inconsistent with Grotius's opi. nion, he uses a method of removing these difficulties, unworthy so learned a critic, and so good a man. Without the least authority from any ancient MSS. or versions, he confidently affirms that the inscription is interpolated, and that originally it was Symeon, a servant of Jesus Christ. With the same unauthorized boldness, he proposes to expunge the words our beloved
brother, which precede the word Paul, chap. iii. 15.–And with respect to the words, which this writer says he heard coming from the excellent glory, when he was with Jesus on the holy mount, chap. i. 16. Grotius affirms, “ that if some more ancient MSS. “ could be found, it might thence appear, that these words wero “ added in this place, as other words in other places, by those “ who were willing to have this pass for an epistle of Peter." But I reply: That if the texts of ancient books are to be altered, at the pleasure of every rash critic, for the sake of supporting some groundless conceit, there will be no such thing as the genuine text of any ancient book whatever. Wherefore, if liberties of this kind are not to be taken with prophane authors, far less are they to be allowed in settling the text of the books of scripture, whose authority depends on our having, not the conjectural emendations of fanciful critics, but the very words of the inspired authors themselves.—With respect to the insinuation, that the author of this epistle wrote the first also, contain: ed in the expression, This second epistle, beloved I now write to you, chap. iii. 1. Grotius says, that the two preceding chapters are the first epistle, and that the second epistle begins with the words, This second epistle, &c. But, as in no ancient MS. or version of this epistle, it is so divided, and as no author ancient or modern hath spoken of its having been at any time so divided, Grotius's opinion merits no regard.
III. With respect to the objection against the authenticity of the second epistle of Peter, taken from its style being different from the style of the first, it is to be observed, that in the opinion of many learned men this diversity is found, only in the second chapter of the second epistle ; the style of the first and third chapters, being pretty much a-kin to the style of the first epistle. Wherefore, if the first and second epistles of Peter, are thought to have been written by different authors, because the style of the second epistle differs in one chapter from that of the first, we must think that the second epistle itself was written by two different authors, because the style of its first and third chapters, differs from that of the second. Yet no such conclusion ought to be drawn in either case; as it is well known that an author's style is regulated by the subjects of which he treats. If these are grand and interesting, they naturally sug. gest animated and sublime expressions; such as those in the first and third chapters of the second epistle, in whch Peter de. scribes the transfiguration of his master, with the august circumstances which attended it: also the creation of the world, its past demolition by water, and its future destruction by fire. On the other hand, if the subjects treated of, raise an author's indignation and abhorrence, he will use an acrimony of style, expressive of these feelings. Of this kind is the style of the second chapter of the second epistle. For the apostle, whose love to his master was great, and who had the feeding of Christ's sheep committed to him, regarding the false teachers as the most flagi. tious of men, wrote that chapter against them, with a bitterness, which he would not have used in correcting teachers who had erred through simplicity. Moreover in describing the character, and in foretelling the miserable end of these impostors, he adopted the bold figures and lofty expressions peculiar to the eastern writers, as even coming short of what might with truth be said concerning them.—Wherefore, since the diversity of style in the two epistles of Peter, can be so well accounted for, even on supposition that they were written by the same author, there is no reason to fancy with Grotius, that the second epistle was written by Symeon bishop of Jerusalem : or with Jerome, that Peter made use of different interpreters for the purpose of turning his Syriac epistle into Greek; or with Bishop Sherlock to suppose, that Peter in his second cpistle, and Jude in his epistle, copied some ancient Jewish writer, who described the false teachers of their own times, and denounced the judgments of God against them.
Of the Time when the Second Epistle of Peter was written, When Peter wrote his second epistle, he was old, and near his end : Chap. i. 14. Knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle is soon to happen, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Besides, chap. iii. 16. he speaks as if he had then seen all Paul's epistles. As also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, hath written to you, 16 as indeed in all his epistles, &c. If Peter had seen all Paul's epistles when he wrote this letter, it is probable that Paul was then dead. Nay it is thought that Paul was dead when Peter wrote his first letter; at least if he wrote it from Rome, as most of the ancient Christian writers testify, (See 1 Pet. Pref. Sect. v.) The reason is, when Paul wrote his second to Timothy from Rome, a short while before his martyrdom, though he mentioned many who were then with him, he spake nothing in that letter of Peter; an omission, which, if Peter had been in Rome at that time, could not well have happened. Wherefore if Peter wrote his first epistle from Rome, he must have done it after Paul's death; consequently not sooner than the end of the year 66, or the begin ning of the year 67, about three years before the destruction of Jerusalem. For Paul was put to death in the twelfth year of Nero, answering to A. D. 66.
With respect to the second epistle, which, as we have seen, was composed a little before Peter's death, it seems to have been written from Rome likewise, not long after the first. For as Lardner, Can. iii. p. 253. observes, “ It is not unlikely, that soon “after the apostle had sent away Silvanus with the first epistle,
some came from those countries to Rome, where there was a “ frequent and general resort from all parts, bringing him an " account of the state of religion among them, which induced “ Peter 10 write a second epistle, for the establishment of the “ Christians, among whom he had laboured : and he might well " hope, that his last words and dying testimony, to the doctrines « which he had received from Christ, and had taught for many ' years with unshaken stedfastness, would be of great weight " with them.” Indeed he seems to niake that circumstance, his apology for writing a second letter to them, so soon after the first. See chap. i. 15. iji. 1.---If the second epistle of Peter was written not long after the first, we may date it in the year 67, or 68, while the persecution against the Christians raged at Rome, and when Peter had an immediate prospect of suffering martyrdom, as the Lord Jesus Christ had shewn him.
It was mentioned, No. 2. that Grotius supposed this epistle was written after the destruction of Jerusalem. But if his opi. nion be true, it will destroy the authenticity of the epistle, as an inspired writing, seeing the only ground on which he rests his opinion is chap. iii. 12. where he says the writer speaks of the end of the world as then at hand. Expecting, and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, in which the heavens bring set on fire shall be dissolved, &c. For as, according to him, it was a common opinion in the first age, that the end of the world was to succeed the destruction of Jerusalem, he supposed the writer of this epistle could not exhort the Christians to expect and earnestly desire the coming of the day of the Lord, &c. unJess Jerusalem had been then destroyed. But an exhortation or this sort, is no proof that the writer, whoever he was, thought the end of the world was then at hand. He knew the contrary, as is plain from chap. iii. 3. where he expressly foretels, that scoffers will come in the last days ; saying where is the promise of his coming ? For since the fathers fell asleen, &c. In the last days the scoffers on account of Christ's long delaying to come would ridicule his promises, and his disciples' expectation of that grand event. It being thus evident, that the writer of this epistle did not think the end of the world was then at hand, (see 2 Thess. Pref. sect. 3.) his exhortation to expect, and earnestly desire, the coming of the day of the Lord, does not imply that the day of the Lord's coming to destroy the world was then at hand, but that being kept hidden from all mankind, and absolute. Iyuncertain, believers ought always to be prepared for it. And as at that day the living are to be changed and the dead to be loosed from the bands of death, and the whole crowned as victors, it ever was, and till it happen, ever will be, the object both of their earnest desire, and of their firm hope. Grotius's argument, there. fore, to prove that this epistle was written after the destruction of Jerusalem, taken from chap. iii. 12. being a misrepresentation of that text founded on a false fact, is not of the least value.
Of the Persons to whom the Second Epistle of Peter was written. In the preface to 1 Peter, sect. 3. we have shewn, that that epistle was written to the whole of the brethren, whether of Gentile or Jewish extraction, who were dispersed in the widely extended countries of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. Wherefore they were the brethren to whom St. Peter directed this his second epistle, 2 Pet. iii. 1. And as the matters which it contains, were admirably calculated for confirming them in the faith of the gospel, and for comforting them under the persecution to which they were exposed for their religion, it must have been of great use to all the brethren in these countries to have them in writing from an inspired apostle ; and the epistle which contained them, could not fail to be exceedingly valued by them, especially as it is written in an higher strain than common both of discovery and of language ; (see sect. v.) written also in the prospect of his soon dying a martyr for the truths, which he had all along taught during the course of a long life.