Click here to get started today!
- 2 Thessalonians
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians, it is generally agreed, was the earliest written of all St. Paul’s epistles, whence we see the reason and propriety of his anxiety that it should be read in all the Christian churches of Macedonia. - “I charge you by the Lord, that this Epistle be read unto all the holy brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27). “The existence of this clause,” observes Dr. Paley, “is an evidence of its authenticity; because, to produce a letter, purporting to have been publicly read in the church at Thessalonica, when no such letter had been read or heard of in that church, would be to produce an imposture destructive of itself. Either the Epistle was publicly read in the church of Thessalonica, during St. Paul’s lifetime, or it was not. If it was, no publication could be more authentic, no species of notoriety more unquestionable, no method of preserving the integrity of the copy more secure. If it was not, the clause would remain a standing condemnation of the forgery, and one would suppose, an invincible impediment to its success.” Its genuineness, however, has never been disputed; and it has been universally received in the Christian church, as the inspired production of St. Paul, from the earliest period to the present day. The circumstance of this injunction being given, in the first epistle which the Apostle wrote, also implies a strong and avowed claim to the character of an inspired writer; as in fact it placed his writings on the same ground with those of Moses and the ancient prophets. The second Epistle, besides those marks of genuineness and authority which it possesses in common with the others, bears the highest evidence of its divine inspiration, in the representation which it contains of the papal power, under the characters of “the Man of sin,” and the “Mystery of iniquity.” The true Christian worship is the worship of the one only God, through the one only Mediator, the man Christ Jesus; and from this worship the church of Rome has most notoriously departed, by substituting other mediators, invocating and adoring saints and angels, worshipping images, adoring the host, etc. It follows, therefore, that “the Man of sin” is the Pope; not only on account of the disgraceful lives of many of them, but by means of their scandalous doctrines and principles; dispensing with the most necessary duties, selling pardons and indulgences for the most abominable crimes, and perverting the worship of God to the grossest superstition and idolatry. It was evidently the chief design of the Apostle, in writing to the Thessalonians, to confirm them in the faith, to animate them to a courageous profession of the Gospel, and to the practice of all the duties of Christianity; but to suppose, with Dr. Macknight, that he intended to prove the divine authority of Christianity by a chain of regular arguments, in which he answered the several objections which the heathen philosophers are supposed to have advanced, seems quite foreign to the nature of the epistles, and to be grounded on a mistaken notion, that the philosophers designed at so early a period to enter on a regular disputation with the Christians, when in fact they derided them as enthusiasts, and branded their doctrines as “foolishness.” In pursuance of his grand object, “it is remarkable,” says Dr. Doddridge, “with how much address he improves all the influence which his zeal and fidelity in their service must naturally give him, to inculcate upon them the precepts of the gospel, and persuade them to act agreeably to their sacred character. This was the grand point he always kept in view, and to which every thing else was made subservient. Nothing appears, in any part of his writings, like a design to establish his own reputation, or to make use of his ascendancy over his Christian friends to answer any secular purposes of his own. On the contrary, in this and in his other epistles, he discovers a most generous, disinterested regard for their welfare, expressly disclaiming any authority over their consciences, and appealing to them, that he had chose to maintain himself by the labour of this own hands, rather than prove burdensome to the churches, or give the least colour of suspicion, that, under zeal for the gospel, and concern for their improvement, he was carrying on any private sinister view. The discovery of so excellent a temper must be allowed to carry with it a strong presumptive argument in favour of the doctrines he taught....And, indeed, whoever reads St. Paul’s epistles with attention, and enters into the spirit with which they were written, will discern such intrinsic characters of their genuineness, and the divine authority of the doctrines they contain, as will, perhaps, produce in him a stronger conviction than all the external evidence with which they are attended.” These remarks are exceedingly well grounded and highly important; and to no other Epistles can they apply with greater force than the present most excellent productions of the inspired Apostle. The last two chapters of the first epistle, in particular, as Dr. A. Clarke justly observes, “are certainly among the most important, and the most sublime in the New Testament. The general judgment, the resurrection of the body, and the states of the quick and the dead, the unrighteous and the just, are described, concisely indeed, but they are exhibited in the most striking and affecting points of view.”
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17