Preface to the Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians
For an account of Thessalonica, and St. Paul's labors there, the reader is requested to consult the preface to the preceding epistle. That this second epistle was written shortly after the first, and from the same place too, is very probable, from this circumstance, that the same persons, Paul, Silvanus, and Timotheus, who addressed the Church at Thessalonica in the former epistle, address the same Church in this; and as three such apostolic men were rarely long together in the same place, it is very likely that the two epistles were written not only in the same year, but also within a very short time of each other. It appears that the person who carried the first epistle returned speedily to Corinth, and gave the apostle a particular account of the state of the Thessalonian Church; and, among other things, informed him that many were in expectation of the speedy arrival of the day of judgment; and that they inferred from his epistle already sent, 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:6, that it was to take place while the apostle and themselves should be yet alive. And it appears probable, from some parts of this epistle, that he was informed also that some, expecting this sudden appearance of the Lord Jesus, had given up all their secular concerns as inconsistent with a due preparation for such an important and awful event; see 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13. To correct such a misapprehension, and redeem them from an error, which, if appearing to rest on the authority of an apostle, must in its issue be ruinous to the cause of Christianity, St. Paul would feel himself constrained to write immediately; and this is a sufficient reason why these epistles should appear to have been written at so short a distance from each other. What rendered this speedy intervention of the apostle's authority and direction the more necessary, was, that there appear to have been some in that Church who professed to have a revelation concerning this thing, and to have endeavored to confirm it by a pretended report from the apostle himself, and from the words already referred to in the former epistle; see here on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (note): "We beseech you, brethren, be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by Spirit, nor by Word, nor by Letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand." As the apostle, in this epistle, 2 Thessalonians 3:2, entreats the Thessalonians to pray the Lord that he and his companions might be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men, Dr. Macknight supposes that the epistle was written soon after the insurrection of the Jews at Corinth, in which they dragged Paul before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, and accused him of persuading men to worship God contrary to the law; Acts 18:13. This argument places it also in the year 52, or 53, in the twelfth or thirteenth of Claudius the successor of Caius.
As there have been some eminent Christian writers who have entertained the same opinion with those at Thessalonica, that not only St. Paul, but other apostles of Christ, did believe that the day of general judgment should take place in their time, which opinion is shown by the event to be absolutely false; it appears to be a matter of the utmost consequence to the credit of Divine revelation, to rescue the character of the apostles from such an imputation. Dr. Macknight has written well on this subject, as the following extract from his preface to this epistle will prove: -
"Grotius, Locke, and others," says he, "have affirmed that the apostles believed that the end of the world was to happen in their time; and that they have declared this to be their belief in various passages of their epistles. But these learned men, and all who join them in that opinion, have fallen into a most pernicious error; for thereby they destroy the authority of the Gospel revelation, at least as far as it is contained in the discourses and writings of the apostles; because, if they have erred in a matter of such importance, and which they affirm was revealed to them by Christ, they may have been mistaken in other matters also, where their inspiration is not more strongly asserted by them than in this instance. It is therefore necessary to clear them from so injurious an imputation.
"And first, with respect to Paul, who was an apostle of Christ, and Silvanus, who was a prophet, and a chief man among the brethren, and Timothy, who was eminent for his spiritual gifts, I observe that the epistle under our consideration affords the clearest proof that these men knew the truth concerning the coming of Christ to judge the world; for in it they expressly assured the Thessalonians that the persons who made them believe the day of judgment was at hand were deceiving them; that, before the day of judgment, there was to be a great apostasy in religion, occasioned by the man of sin, who at that time was restrained from showing himself, but who was to be revealed in his season; that, when revealed, he will sit, that is, remain a long time in the Church of God, as God, and showing himself that he is God; and that, afterwards, he is to be destroyed. Now, as these events could not be accomplished in the course of a few years, the persons who foretold they were to happen before the coming of Christ certainly did not think the day of judgment would be in their lifetime. Besides, St. Paul, Romans 11:23-26, by a long chain of reasoning, having showed that, after the general conversion of the Gentiles, the Jews, in a body, are to be brought into the Christian Church, can any person be so absurd as to persevere in maintaining that this apostle believed the end of the world would happen in his lifetime?
"Next, with respect to the Apostle Peter, I think it plain, from the manner in which he has spoken of the coming of Christ, that he knew it was at a great distance; 2 Peter 3:3, 2 Peter 3:4, 2 Peter 3:8, 2 Peter 3:9 : 'Knowing this first, that scoffers will come in the last days, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For, from the time the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as at the beginning of the creation. But this one thing, let it not escape you, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord, who hath promised, doth not delay, in the manner some account delaying.' Now, seeing Peter has here foretold that, in the last age, the wicked will mock at the promise of Christ's coming, on account of its being long delayed; and, from the stability and regularity of the course of nature during so many ages, will argue that there is no probability that the world will ever come to an end; it is evident that he also knew the coming of Christ to judgement was at a very great distance at the time he wrote that epistle.
"The same may be said of James; for, in the hearing of the apostles, elders, and brethren assembled in the council of Jerusalem, he quoted passages from the Jewish prophets, to show that all the Gentiles were, at some future period, to seek after the Lord; Acts 15:17. But, if James looked for the general conversion of the Gentiles, he certainly could not imagine the end of the world would happen in his time.
"Lastly, the Apostle John, in his book of the Revelation, having foretold a great variety of important events respecting the political and religious state of the world, which could not be accomplished in a few years, but required a series of ages to give them birth; there cannot be the least doubt that he likewise knew the truth concerning his Master's second coming; and therefore, to suppose that he imagined the day of judgment was to happen in his own lifetime, is a palpable mistake.
"Upon the whole, seeing the apostles and other inspired teachers of our religion certainly knew that the coming of Christ to judgment was at a great distance, every impartial person must be sensible they have been much injured, not by the enemies of revelation alone, but by some of its friends; who, upon the strength of certain expressions, the meaning, of which they evidently misunderstood, have endeavored to persuade the world that the apostle ignorantly believed the day of judgment was at hand. These expressions may all be applied to other events, as shall be showed in the next section, and therefore they ought to be so applied; because candour requires that sense to be put on an author's words which renders him most consistent with himself." As the term coming of Christ has several acceptations in the sacred writings, and the applying any one of these to the subject to which in a given place it does not belong, may lead to very erroneous if not dangerous conclusions, as it appears to have done at Thessalonica; it is necessary to consider the different senses in which this phrase is used, that we may know its specific meaning in the different places where it occurs. Dr. Macknight, in the fourth section of his preface, intitled, Different Comings of Christ are spoken of in the New Testament, has treated this subject also with considerable judgment, as the reader will at once perceive.
"In this article I propose to show that there are other comings of Christ spoken of in Scripture besides his coming to judgement; and that there are other things besides this mundane system whose end is there foretold; and that it is of these other matters the apostles speak, when they represent the day of their Master and the end of all things as at hand.
"First, then, in the prophetic writings of the Jews (2 Samuel 22:10, 2 Samuel 22:12; Psalm 97:2-5; Isaiah 19:1) great exertions of the Divine power, whether for the salvation or destruction of nations, are called the coming, the appearance, the presence of God. Hence it was natural for the apostles, who were Jews, to call any signal and evident interposition of Christ, as Governor of the world, for the accomplishment of his purposes, his coming and his day; accordingly, those exertions of his power and providence, whereby he destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, abrogated the Mosaic institutions, and established the Gospel, are called by the apostles his coming, and day; not only in allusion to the ancient prophetic language, but because Christ himself, in his prophecy concerning these events, recorded Matthew 24:30 etc., has termed them the coming of the Son of man, in allusion to the following prophecy of Daniel, of which his own prophecy is an explication; Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14 : 'I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days. And they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom; that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away; and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.' This prophecy the Jewish doctors, with one consent, attribute to the Messiah, and of that temporal kingdom which they expected was to be given him. Farther, they supposed he would erect that temporal kingdom by great and visible exertions of his power for the destruction of his enemies; but they little suspected that themselves were of the number of those enemies whom he was to destroy; and that his kingdom was to be established upon the ruin of their state. Yet that was the true meaning of the coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven. For, while the Jewish nation continued in Judea, and observed the institutions of Moses, they violently opposed the preaching of the Gospel, by which the Messiah was to reign over all people, nations, and languages. Wherefore, that the everlasting kingdom might be established effectually, it was necessary that Jerusalem and the Jewish state should be destroyed by the Roman armies. Now, since our Lord foretold this sad catastrophe in the words of the prophet Daniel, Matthew 24:30, 'And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory;' and after describing every particular of it with the greatest exactness, seeing he told his disciples, Matthew 24:34, 'This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled;' can there be any doubt that the apostles, (who, when they wrote their epistles, certainly understood the true import of this prophecy), by their Master's coming and by the end of all things, which they represent as at hand, mean his coming to destroy Jerusalem, and to put an end to the institutions of Moses? It is no objection to this, that, when the apostles heard Christ declare, 'There shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down,' they connected the end of the world or age with that event; Matthew 24:3 : 'Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, και συντελειας του αιωνος, and of the end of the age?' For as the Jewish doctors divided the duration of the world into three ages; the age before the law, the age under the law, and the age under the Messiah; the apostle knew that the age under the law was to end when the age under the Messiah began; and therefore by the end of the age they meant, even at that time, not the end of the world, but the end of the age under the law, in which the Jews had been greatly oppressed by the heathens. And although they did not then understand the purpose for which their Master was to come, nor the true nature of his kingdom; nor suspect that he was to make any chance in the institutions of Moses; yet when they wrote their epistles, being illuminated by the Holy Ghost, they certainly knew that the institutions of Moses were to be abolished; and that their Master's kingdom was not a temporal but a spiritual dominion, in which all people, nations, and languages were to be governed, not by external force, but by the operation of truth upon their minds through the preaching of the Gospel.
"Farther, that the apostles, by the coming of Christ, which they represented as at hand when they wrote their epistles, meant his coming to establish his spiritual kingdom over all people, nations, and languages, and not his coming to put an end to this mundane system, is evident from what Christ himself told them, Matthew 16:28 : 'There be some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.' And, agreeably to this account of the coming of Christ and of the end of all things, I observe that every passage of their epistles, in which the apostles have spoken of these things as at hand, may with the greatest propriety be interpreted of Christ's coming to establish his everlasting kingdom over all people, nations, and languages, by destroying Jerusalem, putting an end to the law of Moses, and spreading the Gospel through the world. Thus, 1 Corinthians 11:11 : 'These things - are written for our admonition, upon whom τα τελη των αιωνων, the ends of the ages are come,' means the end of the age under the law, and the beginning of the age under the Messiah. Philippians 4:5 : 'Let your moderation be known to all men: the Lord is nigh;' namely, to destroy the Jews, your greatest adversaries. Hebrews 9:26 : 'But now once επι συντελειᾳ των αιωνων, at the conclusion of the ages, (the Jewish jubilees), hath he been manifested to abolish sin-offering by the sacrifice of himself.' Hebrews 10:25 : 'Exhorting one another daily; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching,' the day of Christ's coming to destroy Jerusalem and the Jewish state. Hebrews 10:37 : 'For yet a little while, and he who is coming will come, and will not tarry.' James 5:7 : 'Wherefore, be patient, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.' James 5:8 : 'Be ye also patient, strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord (to destroy the Jews, your persecutors) draweth nigh.' James 5:9 : 'Behold the Judge standeth before the door.' 1 Peter 4:7 : 'The end of all things (the end of Jerusalem, and of the temple, and of all the Mosaic institutions) hath approached. Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.' 1 John 2:18 : 'Young children, it is the last hour of the Jewish state; and as ye have heard (from Christ, in his prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem) that antichrist cometh, so now there are many antichrists, whence we know that it is the last hour of the Jewish state.'
2. "There is another coming of Christ spoken of by the apostles, different likewise from his coming to judge the world, and to put an end to the present state of things; viz. his coming to destroy the man of sin. 2 Thessalonians 2:8 : 'Him the Lord will consume by the breath of his mouth, and will render ineffectual by the bright shining of his coming.' This singular event, which will contribute greatly to the honor of God and the good of his Church, being accomplished by a visible and extraordinary interposition of the power of Christ in the government of the world, is, agreeably to the Scripture style, fitly called the coming of the Lord, and the bright shining of his coming; but this coming is nowhere in the Scriptures said to be at hand.
3. "There is likewise a day or coming of Christ, spoken of by Paul, different from his coming to judgment, and from both the former comings; I mean his releasing his people from their present trial by death. 1 Corinthians 1:8 : 'He also will confirm you unto the end, without accusation, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Philippians 1:6 : 'He who hath begun in you a good work, will be completing it until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.' It is true, the release of Christ's servants from their present trial by death is accomplished, for the most part, by no extraordinary display of his power; yet it is fitly enough called his day and coming, because by his appointment all men die, and by his power each is carried to his own place after death. Besides, his servants in particular being put on their duty, like soldiers, must remain at their several posts till released by their commander: and when he releases them, he is fitly said to come for that purpose.
4. "Besides all these, there is a day or coming of the Lord to judge the world, and to put an end to the present state of things. This coming Christ himself has promised. Matthew 16:27 : 'The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his holy angels; and then shall he reward every man according to his work.' Now this, being a real, personal appearing of Christ in the body, is, more properly than any other of his comings, called the day and coming of Christ. And the purposes of it being more important than those of his other comings, the exertions of his power for accomplishing them will be most signal and glorious. Hence this coming is, with great propriety, termed the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the day of his revelation, when he shall be glorified in his saints, and admired of all them who believe.
"Thus it appears that, when the apostles wrote, there were four comings of Christ to happen, three of them figurative, but the fourth a real appearance; that these different comings are frequently spoken of in Scripture; and that, although the coming of Christ to destroy Jerusalem, and to establish his everlasting kingdom, be represented by the apostles as then at hand, no passage from their writings can be produced in which his personal appearance to judge the world is said, or even insinuated, to be at hand. The truth is, if the different comings of Christ are distinguished as they ought to be, we shall find that the apostles have spoken of each of them according to truth; and that the opinion which some Christians have unadvisedly espoused, to the great discredit of the inspiration of the apostles, has not the least foundation in Scripture." The epistle naturally divides itself into three parts, and each is contained in a separate chapter.
Part 1. 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 - Contains the address, and motives of consolation in their afflicted and persecuted state.
Part 2. Chap. 2-- Is partly prophetical, and partly didactic. It contains the doctrine concerning Christ's coming to judgment, and a prophecy concerning some future but great apostasy from the Christian faith.
Part 3. Chap. 3-- Is wholly hortatory; and contains a number of important advices relative to Christian virtues, and a proper behavior in those situations in life in which it had pleased God to call them.
This is the shortest of all St. Paul's epistles to the Churches, but is of very great importance, and in many places very sublime, especially in the second part; and in this there are several very great difficulties, and some things hard to be understood. After all the pains and labor of learned men, it would be hazardous to say, the meaning of every part is now clearly made out. What increases the difficulty is, that the apostle refers to some private communication with themselves, no part of which is on record, and without which it would require St. Paul's inspiration to be able to fix the sense and meaning of all we find here. May the Father of lights give the reader a wise understanding in all things! Amen.
The salutation of St. Paul and his companions, 2 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:2. The apostle gives thanks to God for their faith, love, and union; and for their patience under persecutions, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Thessalonians 1:4. Speaks of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the punishment of the ungodly, and the glorification of the righteous, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10. Prays that God may count them worthy of their calling, that the name of Jesus may be glorified in them, 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 2 Thessalonians 1:12.
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:Paul, and Silvanus, etc. - See the notes on 1 Thessalonians 1:1. This epistle was written a short time after the former: and as Silas and Timothy were still at Corinth, the apostle joins their names with his own, as in the former case.
Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;Your faith groweth exceedingly - The word ὑπεραυξανει signifies to grow luxuriantly, as a good and healthy tree planted in a good soil; and if a fruit tree, bearing an abundance of fruit to compensate the labor of the husbandman. Faith is one of the seeds of the kingdom; this the apostle had sowed and watered, and God gave an abundant increase. Their faith was multiplied, and their love abounded; and this was not the case with some distinguished characters only, it was the case with every one of them.
So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:We ourselves glory in you in the Churches of God - We hold you up as an example of what the grace of God, can produce when communicated to honest and faithful hearts.
For your patience and faith - From Acts 17:5, Acts 17:13, and from 1 Thessalonians 2:14, we learn, that the people of Thessalonica had suffered much persecution, both from the Jews and their own countrymen; but being thoroughly convinced of the truth of the Gospel, and feeling it to be the power of God unto salvation, no persecution could turn them aside from it. And having suffered for the truth, it was precious to them. Persecution never essentially injured the genuine Church of God.
Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:A manifest token of the righteousness judgement of God - The persecutions and tribulations which you endure, are a manifest proof that God has judged righteously in calling you Gentiles into his Church; and these sufferings are also a proof that ye are called in; for they who enter into the kingdom of God go through great tribulation; your going through that tribulation is a proof that ye are entering in, and God sees it right and just that ye should be permitted to suffer before ye enjoy that endless felicity.
The words, however, may be understood in another sense, and will form this maxim: "The sufferings of the just, and the triumphs of the wicked, in this life, are a sure proof that there will be a future judgment, in which the wicked shall be punished and the righteous rewarded. "This maxim is not only true in itself, but it is most likely that this is the apostle's meaning.
That ye may be counted worthy - Your patient endurance of these sufferings is a proof that ye are rendered meet for that glory on account of which ye suffer and, in a true Gospel sense of the word, worthy of that glory; for he who is a child of God, and a partaker of the Divine nature, is worthy of God's kingdom, not because he has done any thing to merit it, but because he bears the image of God; and the image is that which gives the title.
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;Seeing it is a righteous thing - Though God neither rewards nor punishes in this life in a general way, yet he often gives proofs of his displeasure, especially against those who persecute his followers. They, therefore, who have given you tribulation, shall have tribulation in recompense.
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,And to you who are troubled, rest with us - And while they have tribulation, you shall have that eternal rest which remains for the people of God.
When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed - But this fullness of tribulation to them, and rest to you, shall not take place till the Lord Jesus come to judge the world.
With his mighty angels - The coming of God to judge the world is scarcely ever spoken of in the sacred writings without mentioning the holy angels, who are to accompany him, and to form his court or retinue. See Deuteronomy 33:2; Matthew 25:31; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 26:64; Mark 8:38.
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:In flaming fire - Εν φλογι πυρος· In thunder and lightning, taking vengeance - inflicting just punishment on them that know not God - the heathen who do not worship the true God, and will not acknowledge him, but worship idols; and on them that obey not the Gospel - the Jews, particularly who have rejected the Gospel, and persecuted Christ and his messengers; and all nominal Christians who, though they believe the Gospel as a revelation from God, yet do not obey it as a rule of life.
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;Who shall be punished - What this everlasting destruction consists in we cannot tell. It is not annihilation, for their being continues; and as the destruction is everlasting, it is an eternal continuance and presence of substantial evil, and absence of all good; for a part of this punishment consists in being banished from the presence of the Lord - excluded from his approbation, for ever; so that the light of his countenance can be no more enjoyed, as there will be an eternal impossibility of ever being reconciled to him.
The glory of his power - Never to see the face of God throughout eternity is a heart-rending, soul-appalling thought; and to be banished from the glory of his power, that power the glory of which is peculiarly manifested in saving the lost and glorifying the faithful, is what cannot be reflected on without confusion and dismay. But this must be the lot of all who acknowledge not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.When he shall come to be glorified in his saints - As the grace of God is peculiarly glorified in saving sinners and making them into saints, this gracious power will be particularly manifested in the great day, when countless millions will appear before that throne who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
And to be admired - Οαυμασθηναι· To be wondered at among and on the account of all them that believe. Much as true believers admire the perfections of the Redeemer of mankind, and much as they wonder at his amazing condescension in becoming man, and dying for the sins of the world; all their present amazement and wonder will be as nothing when compared with what they shall feel when they come to see him in all his glory, the glory that he had with the father before the world was. In reference to this we may apply those words of St. John: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." 1 John 3:2.
Instead of τοις πιστευουσιν, them that believe, τοις πιστευσασιν, them that have believed, is the reading of ABCDEF, many others, the later Syriac, Slavonic, Vulgate, and Itala, with most of the Greek fathers. This reading is undoubtedly genuine.
Because our testimony - was believed in that day - The members of this sentence seem to have been strangely transposed. I believe it should be read thus: "In that day, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired among all them that have believed; for our testimony was believed among you." The Thessalonians had credited what the apostles had said and written, not only concerning Jesus Christ in general, but concerning the day of judgment in particular.
Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:We pray - that our God would count you worthy - It is our earnest prayer that God would make you worthy, αξιωσῃ, afford those continual supplies of grace by his Holy Spirit, without which you cannot adorn your holy vocation; you are called into the Christian Church, and, to be proper members of this Church, you must be members of the mystical body of Christ; and this implies that you should be holy, as he who has called you is holy.
Fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness -
1. The goodness of God - his own innate eternal kindness, has led him to call you into this state of salvation.
2. It is the pleasure of that goodness to save you unto eternal life.
3. It is the good pleasure; nothing can please God more than your receiving and retaining his utmost salvation.
4. It is all the good pleasure of his goodness thus to save you; this he has amply proved by sending his Son to die for you, beyond which gift he has none greater. In this, all the good pleasure of his goodness is astonishingly manifested.
5. And if you be faithful to his grace, he will fulfill - completely accomplish, all the good pleasure of his goodness in you; which goodness is to be apprehended and is to work by faith, the power of which must come from him, though the act or exercise of that power must be of yourselves; but the very power to believe affords excitement to the exercise of faith.
That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.That the name of our Lord - This is the great end of your Christian calling, that Jesus who hath died for you may have his passion and death magnified in your life and happiness; that ye may show forth the virtues of him who called you from darkness into his marvellous light.
And ye in him - That his glorious excellence may be seen upon you; that ye may be adorned with the graces of his Spirit, as he is glorified by your salvation from all sin.
According to the grace - That your salvation may be such as God requires, and such as is worthy of his grace to communicate. God saves as becomes God to save; and thus the dignity of his nature is seen in the excellence and glory of his work.
1. It is an awful consideration to the people of the world, that persecutions and afflictions should be the lot of the true Church, and should be the proof of its being such; because this shows more than any thing else the desperate state of mankind, their total enmity to God; they persecute, not because the followers of God have done or can do them hurt, but they persecute because they have not the Spirit of Christ in them! Men may amuse themselves by arguing against the doctrine of original sin, or the total depravity of the soul of man; but while there is religious persecution in the world, there is the most absolute disproof of all their arguments. Nothing but a heart wholly alienated from God could ever devise the persecution or maltreatment of a man, for no other cause but that he has given himself up to glorify God with his body and spirit, which are his.
2. The everlasting destruction of the ungodly is a subject that should be continually placed before the eyes of men by the preachers of the Gospel. How shall a man be induced to take measures to escape a danger of the existence of which he is not convinced? Show him the hell which the justice of God has lighted up for the devil and his angels, and in which all Satan's children and followers must have their eternal portion. All the perfections of God require that he should render to every man his due. And what is the due of a sinner or a persecutor, of one who is a determinate enemy to God, goodness, and good men? Why, everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. And if God did not award this to such persons, he could not be the God of justice.
3. The grand object of God in giving his Gospel to mankind is to save them from their sins, make them like himself, and take them to his eternal glory. He saves according to the measure of his eternal goodness; the scanty salvation contended for and expected by the generality of Christians, it would be dishonorable to God to administer. He saves according to his grace. His own eternal goodness and holiness is the measure of his salvation to man; not the creeds and expectations of any class of Christians. To be saved at all, we must not only be saved in God's way, and upon his own terms, but also according to his own measure. He who is not filled with the fullness of God cannot expect the glory of God.
4. Another proof of the fall and degeneracy of men is, their general enmity to the doctrine of holiness; they cannot bear the thought of being sanctified through body, soul, and spirit, so as to perfect holiness in the fear of God. A spurious kind of Christianity is gaining ground in the world. Weakness, doubtfulness, littleness of faith, consciousness of inward corruptions, and sinful infirmities of different kinds, are by some considered the highest proofs of a gracious state; whereas in the primitive Church they would have been considered as evidences that the persons in question had received just light enough to show them their wretchedness and danger, but not the healing virtue of the blood of Christ.