Apostasy in Scripture imports revolt, or rebellion. That idolatry is such, is proved from several passages in Scripture. By spirits in the text, are meant doctrines. Doctrines of demons are to be taken passively, viz., for doctrines concerning demons. Several instances of the like form of speech in Scripture.
I return now unto the first part of my text the description of that solemn apostasy; where I will consider the five parts or points thereof as I have propounded them, though it be not according to the order of the words. And first in the more general expression, as I called it, in the words,* shall revolt from the faith, giving heed to erroneous spirits.
Some shall revolt. That is as much as to say, shall make an apostasy. Now apostasy () in the Scriptures use, when it looks towards a person, signifies a revolt or rebellion; when toward God, a spiritual revolt from God, or rebellion against divine majesty, whether total, or by idolatry and serving other Gods. For the Seventy, whence the New Testament borrows the usage of speech, usually translates by this word the Hebrew verb marad, to rebel, and mered, rebellion; both which, when they have reference to a spiritual sovereignty, mean nothing else but idolatry and serving of other gods, as may appear, Joshua 22: 19, where the Israelites supposing their brethren the Reubenites and
Gadites, in building another altar upon the banks of Jordan, had meant to have forsaken the Lord and served other gods, said unto them, timrodu, You have rebelled against the Lord, and presently Rebel not against the Lord, nor rebel against us; where the Seventy hath, be not apostates from the Lord and apostates not from us.* And in verse 22, mered, rebellion, is translated apostasy in the words, the Lord God of Gods he knoweth if it be rebellion or in transgression against the Lord. Also, Numbers 14: 9, when the people would have renounced the Lord upon the report of the spies, Joshua and Caleb spake unto them al timrodu, Rebel ye not: where the Seventy hath, Be not apostates from the Lord. So Nehemiah , in that repentant confession which the Levites make of the idolatries of their nation, they were disobedient, say they, vayimredu, and rebelled against thee; where the Seventy hath, they apostatized from thee.§ And Daniel, in the like confession, 9: 9, says, maradnu, we have rebelled against him, but the Seventy, we have apostatized.|| So the idolatry of Ahaz, II Chronicles 28, 29, is by the same interpreters called his apostasy and he revolted greatly (apostatized with apostasy) from the Lord.Ά
I will not trouble you with the places where marad, translated apostatize** is used for
treason and rebellion against earthly princes, which are many. It is sufficient to gather from what we have quoted, that apostasy having reference to a sovereignty and lordship, betokens a withdrawing of service and subjection therefrom; which if the sovereignty and majesty be divine, is done by idolatry and service of other Gods, as well as if the majesty of the true God were renounced altogether. The use of the New Testament is answerable. Hebrews , Take heed lest there be in any of you and evil heart of unbelief* in departing (apostatizing) from the living God. And, which is more near to our purpose, St. Paul, in II Thessalonians 2: 3, means no other thing in his prophecy of the man of sin, by falling away, than Christian idolatry; his words are, unless that apostasy come first, that is, unless there be a breach of allegiance and of the faith given unto Christ, by idolatry under Antichrist. The like, therefore, I conclude to be intended in my text by they shall apostatize from the faith, namely, that in the latter times men should break their oath of fidelity to Christ, which is, that in and through Him alone they should approach and worship the Divine Majesty. And so hath the use of the word Apostasy taught us something, or at least it hath wrought an indefinite suspicion of what should befall Christians in the latter times. However we are yet in suspense whether this departing from Christ and the mystery of godliness should
be total, in not acknowledging him at all, or whether heretical, in serving others besides him. For the Jews, we know, when they forsook the Lord most, yet did not forsake him altogether; but their Apostasy was in not serving him only and alone, but others besides him, as calves, the host of Heaven and Baalim.
2. Let us, therefore, see if the next general words will afford us yet further information, viz., attending to erroneous spirits, or as some read, spirits of error.* It would be unprofitable and tedious to tell here of the diverse use of this word, spirit, in Scripture. Some take it in this place for doctors of spiritual things, and so the words would mean, doctors of errors.
But I had rather take spirits in this place for doctrines themselves; for so divines observe it to be used, I John 4: 1, Believe not every spirit, i.e. every doctrine, but try the spirits if they be of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world; and so, onward in that chapter, the spirit of Antichrist signifies the false doctrine of Antichrist. So if this sense be admitted, we are something less in suspense than we were, and may guess that this revolt should not be total but heretical. For we shall not easily find the word spirit to be otherwise used but either for the doctrines or doctors of Christianity, or for heresies under the same. It seems, therefore, to be some revolt from Christ by idolatry, even in those who would seem to worship him.
But suppose it be so, yet still are we in suspense what these erroneous and idolatrous
doctrines might be; for idolatry, as we may see in the Jewish apostasies, was of diverse kinds, as worshipping the Host of Heaven, Baalims; and the Gentiles other things besides them. But we shall not be long in doubt; the next words will clear the case, and tell us they shall be Doctrines of Demons, , not, which Demons and Devils are authors of (though that be true), as if the genitive case had an active sense, but doctrines concerning Demons, the genitive case being here to be taken passively for the object of these doctrines, as in Hebrews 6: 2, we have doctrines of baptisms, and doctrines of laying on of hands, of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment, that is, doctrines about and concerning all these. And the same use may elsewhere be found with the word doctrine; as in Acts 13: 12, the doctrine of the Lord, that is, concerning him. So Titus * the doctrine of God our Savour. And Galatians , we have the faith of the Son of God, that is, concerning him. Similarly, in my text, Doctrines of Demons are Doctrines concerning Demons; that is, the Gentiles Idolatrous theology of Demons should be revived among Christians. For I take the word Demon not in that worst sense (which no author but the Scripture useth), but in the better or more indifferent sense, as it was supposed and taken among the theologists and philosophers of the Gentiles, and as it is also sometimes taken in Scripture, as I shall show in due time.