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    III. THE CATHOLIC OR GENERAL EPISTLES

    THE EPISTLE OF JAMES

    James the Less, one of the disciples and kinsmen of our Lord, has been most generally supposed to have been the author of this epistle; and that it is the oldest of all the apostolical epistles, and perhaps prior to any of the gospels. It seems to have been written to comfort and edify the believing Jews, who were scattered through the different nations of the earth. It is written much in the style of a Jewish prophet; and seems to be a connecting link between the law and the gospel, as John the Baptist was between Judaism and Christianity. The style of it is elevated, and the diction compressed and clear; and the lessons of morality and submission to the divine will which it conveys are not surpassed by any thing found in the writings of the other apostles.

    FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER

    Peter was a native of Bethsaida, in Upper Galilee; and by trade a fisherman. He and his brother Andrew were called early to be disciples of Christ. Being married, he had removed his family to Capernaum and his house there seems to have been the usual residence of our Lord when in those districts. He is generally supposed to have obtained the crown of martyrdom at home, at the beginning of Nero's persecution, about A. D. 64 or 65.

    His epistles seem to be written to the believing Jews and Gentiles; especially those who were suffering persecution, or were obliged to leave their country on account of the gospel, and take refuge in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. He exhorts them to patience, submission, perseverance, and holiness, after the example of our Lord; and concludes with suitable exhortations to the elders to guard and feed the flock of Christ.

    SECOND EPISTLE OF PETER

    This is addressed to the same persons as the first, and on nearly the same occasion. He shows that the believing Gentiles, though uncircumcised, were entitled to the same privileges as the believing Jews; exhorts them to patience and steadiness in their Christian profession; warns them against false prophets, and professing Christians whose lives were unholy; refers to the day of judgment, and wonderfully describes the action of the fire by which all things shall be destroyed; but predicts a renovation of all things, so that a new heaven and a new earth should be, by the power of God, generated as out of the old.

    FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

    The writer of these three epistles is the same as John the evangelist, of whose history we have already had a sketch in speaking of his gospel. This epistle appears to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and probably A. D. 68 or 69.

    The design of this epistle is to inculcate the doctrine of holiness of heart and life springing from love to God and man. Indeed this love seems to be his text, and he has written the whole epistle on this text. His own soul was filled with this heavenly fire; and it shone on and warmed all around.

    SECOND EPISTLE OF JOHN

    This epistle is of a private nature, being written to an eminent Christian matron in or near Ephesus, probably a deaconess of the church; or one who was in the habit of accommodating apostles and itinerant evangelists. He commends her for her piety, -- for the Christian state and discipline of her family; warns her against false doctrines and false teachers; and concludes by hoping shortly to pay her a visit.

    THIRD EPISTLE OF JOHN

    This is also an epistle of a private nature, being written to an eminent Christian friend of the name of Gaius, to whom he earnestly wishes, -- 1. Health of body; 2. Health of soul; and, 3. Prosperity in secular affairs. He commends him for his charity and hospitality, warns him against a troublesome person of the name of Diotrephes, and promises to pay him a visit shortly. Both these persons must have been near the apostle's habitation, as he was now about ninety years of age, and consequently incapable of taking any long journey. Both these epistles are supposed to have been written between A. D. 80 and 90. The exact time is not known.

    EPISTLE OF JUDE

    We know no more of this person than what he tells us himself, in the beginning of this epistle, that he was "a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James." But, as there were several Judes and several Jameses, we know not which is intended. It is not directed to any particular church or people, but to Christians in general; and hence it has been called a "general epistle."

    He warns the churches of Christ against false teachers, and against apostasy; and describes the false teachers of the time in the most vivid colors. The exhortation in verses 20, 21, is forcible and affectionate; and the doxology in verses 24 and 25 is well adapted to the subject, and is peculiarly dignified and sublime. It is supposed that this epistle was written about A. D. 64 or 65.

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