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UPON THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS.
is faithful, he will perform this unto you; not for your merits, but for his own name, and for his mercy sake. Because he is faithful, he will not despise the work of his own hands.
Ver. 25. Brethren, pray for me.
My enemies are strong, they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: I am weak and of no resistance. Our sufficiency is of him. Without him we can do nothing. Pray for me, that he will put his word into my mouth, that I may be a vessel of his glory to preach forth the glad tidings of his gospel; that I may be a faithful minister of the new testament; that I may disclose the mystery of our redemption; that his holy Spirit will assist me, and make my travails fruitful.
Ver. 26. Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.
Salute one another in token of true and unfeigned love. And withhold not this epistle from any of the brethren. It is written for their sakes. Let them hear it, that they may take comfort by it. How agreeth Paul in this charge with them that in no case would have the people read the scriptures? that say, ignorance is the mother of devotion? It is the word of God the Father; why should not the people of God understand it? It is the water that springeth out to everlasting life; why should the people of God be driven away and not suffered to drink thereof? It is the light of the world; why should the people be hood-winked, and kept that they should not look up and see it? why should they sit and perish in the darkness of death? It is the will of God that all the people should know him, from the least to the greatest
St Paul saith : “Whatsoever things are written aforetime, are written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." Christ saith : “ This is life eternal, to know thee to be the only very God, and, whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ.” Let us not forget these words of Paul. “I charge you in the Lord,” by his death, by his cross, by his blood, by the day of his appearance, that this epistle be read to the learned and unlearned, to the wise and simple, to the masters and to the servants, to all our brethren, to all the sons of God.
Ver. 28. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
God open your eyes, that you may behold the way of righteousness, and direct you, that you may walk in it. Through his grace you have received the word; and it hath been fruitful in you; and by the same grace you shall continue in it for ever. His grace and blessing and mercy be with you all. Amen.
THE SECOND EPISTLE OF THE APOSTLE ST PAUL
CHAPTER I. Ver. 1. Paul, and Sylvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians
which is in God our Father and in our Lord Jesus Christ. In the former epistle he wrote somewhat touching the latter day, and the coming of our Lord to judgment, and said that that day shall come as a thief in the night; and therefore exhorted them to watch and pray, and to prepare themselves to be in a readiness. The false apostles did fondly and maliciously mistake his words, and devised means thereby to disquiet the minds of the faithful, and to trouble the church of God. Thus could the prince of darkness, the old serpent and deceiving spirit, turn the truth of God into occasion of slander. In the mean while the apostle was far off from them at Athens. But when he heard of their case, he sent unto them this other epistle, wherein he declareth more plainly that matter which before seemed doubtful, and seeketh to satisfy their hearts, and to remove them from all? that error which they had conceived.
In discourse hereof he taketh occasion to speak of antichrist, of whom we hear much, and have had warning often. He telleth us that he shall come in working of signs and wonders; that he is the man of sin, which shall thrust himself into the place of Christ. He sheweth who is antichrist, and how we may know him ; what things he shall do; what credit he shall have in the world; and by what power he shall be overthrown and confounded. After this he speaketh of idleness and of bodily labour, and requireth? every man to live in the sweat of their brows, and in painful travail, as God hath ordained. Other comfortable and necessary doctrine is delivered in this epistle, as will appear. The whole matter of the epistle is so fit for these days in which we live, as if it were purposely written for us. For we live in the latter3 age of the world; and it cannot be but the end of all things is at hand, and that the glorious appearing of our Lord shall be shortly.
“Paul, and Sylvanus, and Timotheus.” This epistle was sent, not only from Paul, but also from Timothy and Sylvanus. These three were all guided by one Spirit, and had all one like care for the church of God. Therefore he writeth thus : Paul, and Sylvanus, and Timotheus, the servants of God, chosen from our mothers' womb, and appointed to publish the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to carry his name before kings and princes; and especially* I Paul, which am your father, and have begotten you in Christ; which was sometimes a blasphemer, and did persecute the faithful; whom it pleased God to make a chosen vessel for himself; which am also hated of my brethren and kinsmen after the flesh for the gospel's sake; and which am ready to give my life for your behalf. .
“ Unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God our Father," &c. You are (saith he) the beloved of God, you are his people; and he hath assured his
mercy unto you: you have the promise and the earnest of the life to come. Here let us mark the state of that country as it was then, and compare it with itself as it is now. Then it was the church of God; for otherwise St Paul would not so have called it: according to the grace of God given unto him he laid the foundation, he planted and watered their hearts; and God gave the increase: so that they received the word in much affliction; and the word of the gospel
sounded from them, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but their faith towards? God was spread also abroad in all quarters. In such sort were they a vessel sanctified unto honour, full of blessing and full of the mercy and grace of God.
But what is become of that country? In what case standeth the church of Thessalonica at this day? It is now the synagogue of Satan, under the tyranny of the Turk, and such as are enemies of the cross of Christ. Such a change hath the right hand of the Lord wrought in that place, which hath sometimes been his holy tabernacle. I thought good to mark this, that we might understand how vain a thing it is to put confidence in cities or churches, or in the names of our fathers.
The church of Thessalonica, whose foundation was surely built by St Paul himself, for which he was so careful, unto? which he wrote3 special letters to commend their increase in godliness and their stedfastness in the gospel, is forsaken and laid waste. If the work which the Spirit of God wrought by the apostle be decayed, whose work may we think shall stand ? Jeremy spake unto? the people of the Jews, saying: “Trust not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, this is the temple of the Lord.” That temple God himself commanded to be built; the form and fashion thereof God himself devised and appointed; therein he placed his tabernacle, and set up his mercy-seat; therein he shewed forth his majesty and the glory of his countenance. Yet, all this notwithstanding, God said by the prophet: Trust not in these words: they be lying words, and will deceive you.
As the prophet spake of the temple at Jerusalem, so may it be said of any other church throughout the world. So may it be said of the church of Rome. We may say: Trust not in lying words, saying, The church of Rome, the church of Rome. Say not thus with yourselves: The church of Rome is built upon a rock, so surely that it cannot be moved, or that no wind can shake it : say not, the faith of that church can never fail. These be lying words : trust not in them; for Christ never spake any such thing of the church of Rome. It never had promise of more special privilege than was given to4 the church at Thessalonica. Read the scriptures, behold the words of our Saviour, and consider them; you shall find no speech made of the church of Rome, nor any promise or5 piece of promise, wherein he bindeth himself more to the church of Rome than he hath done to other churches, or to this of Thessalonica.
Thessalonica was beautiful in the sight of God: the Lord of hosts had pitched his tents round about her, the name of the Most Holy was placed in the midst of her: she enjoyed like spiritual peace and prosperity as did the Jerusalem of the Almighty; she was as a city fenced within itself: but the Lord hath taken away the light of his countenance from her: she hath forsaken the ways of righteousness, she hath left off to serve the Lord, and is become the place which the Lord hath forsaken : there is scarce any remnant left there of those which call upon the name of our salvation, and love the Lord Jesus with an unfeigned heart. “ This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” And is his hand shortened that he cannot, or is his zeal abated that he will not, in like severity deal with such as forsake him? If he spared not the natural branches, if Jerusalem were overthrown because of her iniquities, it cannot be that he will spare other places that do the like, but that they shall also be cut off. This is it that our Saviour hath said in the gospel by St Matthew : “ Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation which shall bring forth the fruits thereof.” Such terrible and dreadful examples hath God laid before our eyes, to keep us in his fear, and in awe of his judgments. Ver. 2. Grace be with you, and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord
This is the salutation of Paul in all his epistles, to say: I wish that the blessing and favour and love of God may light upon you. But for the better
[' Toward, 1594.)
consideration hereof, and that we may know how earnestly we ought to pray unto God for this grace and peace the apostle' wisheth to the churches, let us look into ourselves and see how miserable we are if we be left void of this grace, and if God take his holy Spirit away from us. By nature what are we other than the bond-slaves of sin ? We are not able to lift up our eyes unto heaven, nor to believe in God, nor to praise him, nor to call upon his name. 6 We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves.” Unless he open' our lips, we cannot shew forth his praise : unless he heal our deafness, we cannot give ear to his word: unless he give us understanding hearts, we cannot take knowledge of his will. “Destruction and unhappiness," saith the prophet David, Psal. xiv. ' are in their ways; and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes;” speaking of such as had not received the favour and grace of God to guide and direct them. And by the prophet Malachi God uttereth his displeasure against them, saying: “I have no pleasure in you, saith Mal. i. the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hands.”
Therefore the apostle prayeth that they may receive such measure of God's grace as may quench in them the fiery darts of the wicked, and enable them to hold fast that worthy thing that is committed unto 10 them, and may keep them holy and undefiled against the glorious coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Ver. 3. We ought to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because
that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of every one of you towards
another aboundeth : 4. So that we ourselves rejoice of you in the church of God, because of your
patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye suffer.
God hath wrought this good work of faith, and love, and patience in your hearts : he will make it prosper and increase. It is he which hath put this fire in you, and he will make it burn. He hath laid his leaven in the dough or meal of your heart, and will make it heavell and work, until all be leavened. He will make you abound more and more, and will bring to a good end the thing he hath begun.
“Your faith groweth exceedingly.” That is the will of God, that we wax and increase in all holiness. Hereby we know whether we be of God or no. not stand at a stay, but must be renewed. One saith: In via virtutis qui non proficit 12, deficit: “Whosoever mendeth not himself in the practice of virtue, he groweth worse.” God hath placed us in a race to run: we must so run that we may attain the prize. We are grafts 13 of the Lord's planting: we must grow to the height and breadth of a tree, and bring forth fruit. We are pilgrims and strangers, and pass by the wilderness of this world into our heavenly restingplace: we may not stay by the way, but must remove our tents, and continually march on forward, until that day come when we shall enter into the land of promise.
“So that we ourselves rejoice of you in the church of God,” &c. Your faith is not only true and pure, but settled and constant. For you continued stedfast in the midst of persecution: you have been tormented and suffered afflictions in your body by the hands of tyrants; yet could they never remove you from the 14 faith in our Saviour Jesus Christ, nor from your obedience to the will of God. You know that “all which will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Tim. iii. Yet are you comforted, and say as the prophet David : “ The Lord is with me; Psal. cxviii. therefore I will not fear what man can do unto me.” You cannot forget who it is that said: “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also Matt. x.
Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me, I will also deny him before my Father which is in heaven.” “He that loseth his life for my
[7 Peace which the apostle, 1583, 1584, 1594, 1609.]
[8 Into, 1583, 1584, 1594.)
[ Heavie, 1584.]
sake shall find it.” “He that endureth unto the end, he shall be saved.” And again : “Blessed shall ye be, when men revile you?, and persecute you, and
say all manner of evil against you, for my sake, falsely. Rejoice, and be glad; for great is your reward in heaven. For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
Ver. 5. Which is a manifest token of 'the righteous judgment of God, that ye
may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for the which ye also suffer. 6. For it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that
7. And to you which are troubled rest with us; when the Lord Jesus: shall shew
himself from heaven with his mighty angels, 8. In flaming fire, rendering vengeance unto them that do not know, and which
obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; 9. Which shall be punished with everlasting perdition from the presence of the
Lord, and from the glory of his power ; 10. When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be made marvellous in
all them that believe, because our testimony towards you was believed, in that day.
2 Cor. v.
Many are the troubles which the righteous men do suffer ; but the Lord will deliver them. After Paul and Barnabas had preached the glad tidings of the gospel, they confirmed the disciples' hearts, and exhorted them to continue in the faith, and said, “that we must through many afflictions enter into the kingdom of God.” We must not therefore be afraid for any terror of them which trouble us for righteousness' sake; but rather, looking over and beyond them, we must rejoice and give thanks to God, who hath made us worthy not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake. “For we know that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle be destroyed, we have a building given of God, an house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens.” These persecutions and tribulations which you suffer are a manifest token (saith the apostle) of God's love towards you: for “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth ; and he scourgeth every son that he receiveth." The prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, which were not only reviled and scourged, but beheaded, cut in pieces, drowned in the waters, consumed in the fire, or by any other devices of tyrants cruelly put to death, did by this way receive the manifest token of their happy and blessed estate, and by this way did enter into the kingdom of God. Athanasius, an ancient
father, reckoneth the suffering of persecution to be a special note of a christian Athanas ad man, saying : Cædi Christianorum proprium est; cædere autem Christianos Pilati et
Caiapho officia sunt8 : “ It is the part of Christians to be persecuted; but to persecute the Christians, it is the very office of Pilate and Caiaphas."
The Lord is not unjust; but all his works are righteousness and truth. Their little and short tribulation in this life prepareth an eternal and exceeding weight of glory unto his servants. Though they sow in tears, they shall reap in joy. They shall be taken up into heaven, and shall see God face to face, and shall be crowned with glory and honour. As for the ungodly, it is not so with them : they may flourish for a time, and have great power and authority in this world; but the Lamb shall overcome them; and their end shall be according to their works. David saith: “Upon the ungodly he shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, storm and tempest: this shall be their portion to drink.”
“ When the Lord Jesus shall shew himself from heaven." There are many which are ashamed of Christ and of his word in the presence of such as are enemies to the cross of Christ, and have countenance and authority in this world. But a time shall come when Christ will shew himself from heaven, accompanied
[ By this way received, 1594.)
[Athanas. Op. Par. 1698. Hist. Arian, ad Mo. nach. 41. Tom. I. Pars I. p. 368.]