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463

CHAPTER XXXVIII.
THE FINAL DOXOLOGY: PRAISE TO GOD,
THE PROTECTOR OF HIS SERVANTS.

"Now unto Him that is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of His glory without blemish in exceeding joy, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and power, before all time, and now, and for evermore." Amen.—St. Jude 24, 25.

FROM his severe and sombre warnings and exhortations St. Jude turns in joyous and exulting confidence to Him who alone can make them effectual. He has spoken with sternness and horror of great wickedness which has been manifested both in the past and in the present, and of God's terrible judgments upon it. He has exhorted his readers to beware of it, and not to let their abhorrence of it grow less when they are engaged in the merciful work of rescuing others from it. Now, in conclusion, he offers a fervent tribute of praise to Him who is a God of love as well as of justice, and who is as able and ready to protect those who cling to Him and serve Him as to punish those who murmur and rebel against Him.

The doxologies at the end of the Epistle to the Romans and at the beginning of the First Epistle to Timothy should be compared with this one. The former is nearest to it in form; and it is from the doxology in Romans that the epithet "wise," which the Authorized Version 464 wrongly inserts both here and in 1 Tim. i. 17, probably comes. Doxologies, modelled on those in the New Testament, became elastic in some respects, and stereotyped in others. The formula "to the only wise God" was a common one, and hence scribes inserted the epithet, perhaps almost mechanically, in places where it was not found in the original. It is quite possible that St. Jude knew the Epistle to the Romans, and his doxology, especially in its opening words, may be a conscious or unconscious imitation of it; for the Epistle to the Romans was written some years before the earliest date that can with any probability be assigned to this Epistle.

"To guard you from stumbling;" which in two respects is more than "to keep you from falling." Firstly, "guard" preserves the idea of protection against perils, both manifest and secret, more decidedly than "keep;" and secondly, one may have many stumbles without any falls, and therefore to be preserved from even stumbling implies a larger measure of care on the part of the protector. But even "to guard you from stumbling" does not quite do justice to the Greek (φυλάξαι ὑμᾶς ἀπταίστους), nor is it easy to do so. "Guard you so that you are exempt from stumbling and never trip or make a false step" is the full meaning of the expression. The verb which is here negatived is used by St. James (ii. 10): "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble (πταίσῃ) in one point, he is become guilty of all." The Vulgate lets go the metaphor of stumbling, and translates simply "to preserve you without sin" (conservare sine peccato). That which is impossible with men is possible with God, and the Divine grace can protect Christians against their own frailty. Christ says of His sheep that they shall 465 assuredly never perish, and that no one, whether powers of evil or human seducers, can snatch them out of His hand (John x. 28). Their wills are free, and they may will to leave Him; but if they determine to abide with Him they will be safe.

"And to set you before the presence of His glory without blemish." This is the blessed result of His protecting them from stumbling. The revised translation, "without blemish" (ἀμώμους), at first sight looks like a needless and vexatious change from the "faultless" of the Authorized Version, and a clumsy one, because it gives two English words for one Greek word. But the change is a real improvement, for the Greek word is a sacrificial term, which "faultless" is not. It is frequently used of victims, which must be "without blemish," in order to be suitable for offerings. It is not common in classical Greek, but frequent in the LXX. (Exod. xxix. 1; Lev. i. 3, 10; xxii. 21-24; Num. vi. 14; xix. 2). In 1 Macc. iv. 42 it is used of the priests, and so also in Philo (De Merc. Mer. i.; De Agric. xxix.: see Lightfoot on μωμοσκοπθέν: Clem. Rom. xli.). In the New Testament it is used sometimes of the sinlessness of Christ (Heb. ix. 14; 1 Peter i. 19), sometimes of the ideal perfection of Christians (Eph. i. 4; v. 27; Phil. ii. 15). In the Epistle to the Colossians St. Paul has almost the same idea as St. Jude—"to present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before Him" (i. 22); and again in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians—"to the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints" (iii. 13). "Before the presence of His glory" refers to the glory of God which shall be revealed at the last day.

466 "In exceeding joy" is a further consequence from the second point, as the second from the first. To be protected against stumbling leads to being presented without blemish before the judgment-seat, and this is an occasion of intense delight. As St. Peter puts it, "Inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of His glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy" (1 Peter iv. 13).

"To the only God our Saviour." St. Paul, like St. Jude, speaks of God the Father as our Saviour. He is "an Apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Saviour" (1 Tim. i. 1), and he says that intercession and thanksgiving for others "is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour" (ii. 3). Still more fully he says that "God our Saviour ... saved us ... through Jesus Christ our Saviour (Titus iii. 4-6: comp. i. 3; ii. 10). The work of the Son is the work of the Father; and so in the Old Testament we have Jehovah spoken of as the Saviour and Redeemer of His people (Ps. cvi. 21; Isa. xli. 15, 21; xlix. 26; lx. 16). And this is the meaning of the clause which textual criticism has restored to us in this passage. God is our Saviour "through Jesus Christ our Lord." Some take these words with what follows. "To the only God be glory, majesty, dominion and power, through Jesus Christ our Lord;" which makes excellent sense, and is in harmony with the doxology in 1 Peter iv. 11, "that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." It is no strong objection to this to urge that in that case St. Jude would have reversed the order of the clauses (δόξα μεγαλωσύνη κράτος καὶ ἐξουσία διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν). In the doxology at the end of the Epistle to the Romans (which St. Jude 467 may have in his mind) "through Jesus Christ" precedes "be the glory," and yet cannot easily be taken with anything else (omitting as a probable corruption). The combination "glory and dominion" occurs in other doxologies (1 Peter iv. 11; Rev. i. 6; v. 13); "majesty" and "power" do not occur in any. "Majesty" in the New Testament is found in Hebrews i. 3 and viii. 1 only; but it occurs in the LXX. and in Clement of Rome (xvi. 1). The doxology in 1 Chron. xxix. 11 is specially worthy of notice. The word seems to have been used almost exclusively of the majesty of God, and the four words together sum up the Divine glory and omnipotence. It is a little remarkable that in this case St. Jude abandons his favourite triplets, and gives four attributes rather than three. But he returns in a still more remarkable way to his favourite arrangement in the concluding words.

"Before all time, and now, and for evermore." Thus, in a very comprehensive phrase, eternity is described. Throughout all time, and throughout the ages which precede and follow it, these attributes belong to God. Evil men in their dreamings may "set at nought dominion and rail at glories," and their mouth may "speak great swelling words" about their own superior knowledge and greater liberty, and may mock and scoff at those who will not follow them in "walking after their own ungodly lusts." Nevertheless, ages before they were born, and ages after they shall have vanished from the world which they are troubling by their presence, glory, majesty, dominion, and power belong to Him who saves us, and would save even them, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

They belong to Him. This seems to be the meaning 468 rather than that they are ascribed to Him. No verb is given in the Greek; neither "is," as in 1 Peter iv. 11 (ᾧ ἐστὶν ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος), nor "be" (ἔστω), which in most doxologies may be understood. "To Him be glory before all time" is scarcely sense, for our wishes cannot influence the past. "To Him belongs glory before all time" is the statement of a simple fact.

It is those who know their own frailty and liability to sin; who know the manifold temptations which surround them, and the terrible attractiveness which many of them can present; who know from past experience what frequent and grievous falls are possible; that can best understand the statement of fact which this doxology contains, and the significance of it. He who can guard such creatures as we are from stumbling, in such a world as this, must be the only God; must be He who was, and is, and is to come; must possess throughout all time and all eternity the highest powers and glories which the heart of man can conceive. The wonders of the material universe impress us in our more solemn moments with feelings of awe, and reverence, and love for Him who is the Author of them all. How much more should the wonders of the kingdom of heaven do so! Out of sinful man to make a saint is more than to make a world out of nothing; and to keep sinful men from stumbling is more than to keep the stars in their courses. There is a free and rebellious will to be won and retained in the one case, whereas there is nothing but absolute and unresisting obedience in the other. The difference is that which is so beautifully expressed in the 103rd and 104th Psalms. In the latter of these two exquisite songs of praise and 469 thanksgiving Jehovah is praised as the Creator and Regulator of the world, in the former as the Pardoner and Preserver of His servants. In the one case blessing and praise is offered to the Lord—

"Who laid the foundations of the earth,

That it should not be moved for ever.

Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a vesture;

The waters stood above the mountains.

They went up by the mountains,

They went down by the valleys,

Unto the place which Thou hadst founded for them.

Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over;

That they turn not again to cover the earth.

O Lord, how manifold are Thy works!

In wisdom hast Thou made them all:

The earth is full of Thy riches.

Let the glory of the Lord endure for ever;

Let the Lord rejoice in His works:

Who looketh on the earth, and it trembleth;

He toucheth the mountains, and they smoke."

Ps. civ. 5, 6, 8, 9, 24, 31, 32.

But in the other song the Lord is praised, not so much in relation to the glorious universe which He creates and controls, but in relation to the spirits of men, whom He restores, and of angels, whom He retains, to willing obedience and service.

"Bless the Lord, O my soul,

And forget not all His benefits:

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities;

Who healeth all thy diseases;

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction;

Who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.

He hath not dealt with us after our sins,

Nor rewarded us after our iniquities.

For as the heaven is high above the earth,

So great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.

As far as the east is from the west,

So far hath He removed our transgressions from us.

470Bless the Lord, ye angels of His;

Ye mighty in strength, that fulfil His word,

Hearkening unto the voice of His word,

Bless the Lord, all ye His hosts;

Ye ministers of His, that do His pleasure."

Ps. ciii. 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21.

It is quite in harmony with such a strain as this that the joyous doxology with which St. Jude's stern letter suddenly ends is written. Its clauses lend themselves to that parallelism which distinguishes Hebrew poetry, and they have not only the spirit, but the form, of a concluding strophe of praise.

"Now unto Him that is able to guard you from stumbling,

And to set you before the presence of His glory without blemish in exceeding joy,

To the only God our Saviour,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Glory, majesty, dominion and power,

Before all time, and now, and for evermore. Amen."

Note.—The "Amen" at the end of this Epistle, as at the end of Romans and 2 Peter, which like this close with a doxology, seems to be genuine (comp. 1 Peter iv. II; v. II); but that at the end of 2 Peter is somewhat doubtful. In all other books of the New Testament, excepting Galatians, the final "Amen" is probably spurious.

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