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THE CATHOLIC or GENERAL EPISTLES,-probably so called because they are not inscribed to any particular Churches',-have an intimate connexion with the Epistles of St. Paul, and with each other.
The Epistles of St. Paul, as has been already observed, ought not to be regarded as separate compositions without mutual coherence, but as connected together, and as forming an harmonious system of Apostolic instruction in Christian Faith and Practice. Accordingly, those Epistles will be studied with the greatest profit, when read in chronological order.
The Epistles of St. Paul receive also additional light from the Catholic Epistles, and reflect much light upon them.
The Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians and Romans, for example, cannot be duly understood, unless they are viewed in connexion with the General Epistle of St. James; and on the other hand, the Epistle of St. James may perhaps be liable to misapprehension, unless set in juxtaposition with the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians and to the Romans.
But when those Epistles of the two holy Apostles are placed together, they will be found to be adjusted to each other, and to fit in to each other with nice accuracy and exact precision; and, when thus combined, they form a complete body of Apostolic doctrine on the great article of Justification; and they afford a sufficient safeguard against erroneous teaching from two opposite sides, by which that doctrine has been assailed. This will be more fully demonstrated in the Introduction to the Epistle of St. James 3.
In like manner, the two General Epistles of St. Peter have a near relation to the Epistles of St. Paul. They add strength and support to them, and are strengthened and supported by them.
St. Peter's First General Epistle bears a remarkable resemblance to St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians; and St. Peter's Second General Epistle occupies a similar
1 Ecumenius, Proleg. in Epist. Jacobi. Leontius de sectis, c. 2.
'See above, the Preface to St. Paul's Epistles, p. vii, and the Introduction to the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, p. 5.