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ON THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS. 1. Date, occasion, and scope of this Epistle. - II. Analysis of its
contents. III. *Observations on this Epistle. I. THE second Epistle to the Thessalonians was evidently written soon after the first (a. D. 52.), and from the same place: for Silvanus or Silas, and Timothy, are joined together with the apostle in the inscription of this Epistle as well as of the former. This Epistle was occasioned by the information communicated to Saint Paul by the person who had conveyed his first letter to the Thessalonians, respecting the state of their church. Among other things he was informed, from some expressions in it, that many of them expected that the day of judgment would happen in that age: and that such of them, as thought the advent of Christ and the end of the world to be at hand, were neglecting their secular affairs, as being inconsistent with a due preparation for that important and awful event. As soon, therefore, as the state of the Thessalonians was made known to Saint Paul, he wrote this second Epistle, to correct their misapprehension, to rescue them from an error which (appearing to rest on apostolical authority) must ultimately be injurious to the spread of the Gospel, and to recommend several Christian duties.
II. After a short introduction, the apostle begins with commending the faith and charity of the Thessalonians, of which he had heard a favourable report. He expresses his joy on account of the patience with which they endured persecution ; which, he observes, was a proof of a righteous judgment to come, where their persecutors would meet with their proper recompense, and the righteous be delivered out of all their afflictions. And all this (he assures them) will take place, when Jesus Christ returns with pomp and majesty as universal judge. He further assures them of his constant prayers for their further improvement, in order that they may attain the felicity promised. (ch. i.)
He then proceeds to rectify the mistake of the Thessalonians, who, from misunderstanding a passage in his former letter, believed that the day of judgment was at hand. “The day of the Lord,” he informs them, will not come until a great apostacy has overspread the Christian world, the nature of which he describes. Symptoms of this mystery of iniquity had then appeared ; but the apostle expresses his thankfulness to God, that the Thessalonians had escaped this corruption; and he exhorts them to steadfastness, praying that God would comfort and strengthen them. (ii.)
He next requests their prayers for himself, and for Silvanus and Timothy, his two assistants ; 'at the same time expressing his confidence that they would pay a due regard to the instructions he had given them. And he proceeds to correct some irregularities that
i See 1 Thess, iv. 15. 17. y. 4.6.
had crept into their church. Many of the Thessalonians seem to have led an idle and disorderly life': these he severely reproves, and commands the faithful to shun their company, if they still remained incorrigible. Saint Paul concludes with his apostolical benediction; and informs them that his writing the salutation with his own hand was a token of the genuineness of all the Epistles which he wrote.
From the preceding view of this Epistle, it will be seen that it consists of five 1. The inscription. (i. 1, 2.) 2. Saint Paul's thanksgiving and prayer for them. (i. 3–12.) 3. The rectification of their mistake concerning the day of judg
ment, and the doctrine concerning the man of sin. (ii.) 4. Various advices relative to Christian virtues, particularly,
i. To prayer, with a prayer for the Thessalonians. (m. 145.)
ii. To correct the disorderly. (iii. 6~-16.) 5. The conclusion. (iii. 17, 18.)
III. Although the second Epistle to the Thessalonians is the shortest of all Saint Paul's letters to the churches, it is not inferior to any of them in the sublimity of the sentiments, and in that excellent spirit by which all the writings of this apostle are so eminently distinguished. Besides those marks of genuineness and authority which it has in common with the rest of the apostolical Epistles, it has one peculiar to itself, in the exact representation it contains of the papal power, under the characters of the “Man of Sin," and the “ Mystery of Iniquity.” For, considering how directly opposite the principles here described were to the genius of Christianity, it must have appeared, at the time when this Epistle was written, highly improbable to all human apprehension that they should ever have prevailed in the Christian church; and consequently a prediction like this, which answers so exactly in every particular to the event, must be allowed to carry its own evidence along with it, and to prove that its author wrote under divine influence.1
On the undesigned coincidences between this Epistle and the Acts of the Apostles, see Dr. Paley's Hore Paulina, pp. 312–322.
ON THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY. 1. Account of Timothy. — II. Date of this Epistle. - III. Genuines
ness and authenticity of the Two Epistles to Timothy. – JV. Scope and synopsis of the First Epistle. – V. Observations on the use which the church is to make, in every age, of Saint Paul's
Epistles to Timothy and Titus. 1. TIMOTHY, to whom this Epistle was addressed, was a native of Lystra, a city of Lycaonia, in Asia Minor. His father was a Greek, but his mother was a Jewess (Acts xvi. 1.), and, as well as his grandmother Loïs, a person of excellent character. (2 Tim. i. 5.) The pious care they took of his education soon appeared to have the desired success; for we are assured by Saint Paul, that from his childhood, Timothy was well acquainted with the Holy Scriptures. (2 Tim. iii. 15.) It is generally supposed that he was converted to the Christian faith during the first visit made by Paul and Barnabas to Lystra. (Acts xiv.) From the time of his conversion, Timothy made such proficiency in the knowledge of the Gospel, and was so remarkable for the sanctity of his manners, as well as for his zeal in the cause of Christ, that he attracted the esteem of all the brethren in those parts. Accordingly, when the apostle came from Antioch in Syria to Lystra the second time, they commended Timothy so highly to him, that Saint Paul selected him to be the companion of his travels, having previously circumcised him (Acts xvi. 14-3.), and ordained him in a solemn manner by imposition of
1 Dr. Doddridge's Introd. to 2 Thess. For a full illustration of the prophecy above mentioned, soe Bishop Newton's Dissertations, vol. ii. Diss. 22. Dr. Benson's Dissertation on the Man of Sin (Paraphrase on 1 and 2 Thess. pp. 173-197. 24 edit.) or Drs. Macknight and A. Clarke on 2 Thess. ij.
nds (1 Tim. iv. 14. ; 2 Tim. i. 6.), though at that time he probably was not more than twenty years of age. (1 Tim. iv. 12.) From this period, frequent mention is made of Timothy, as the attendant of Saint Paul in his various journeyings, assisting him in preaching the Gospel, and in conveying his instructions to the churches. When the apostle was driven from Thessalonica and Berea by persecution, he left Silas and Timothy there to strengthen the churches in the faith. (Acts xvii. 13, 14.) Thence they went to Saint Paul at Corinth (xvii. 5.), from which city he again sent Timothy to Thessalonica (Acts xix. 22. ; 1 Thess. iii. 2, 3.) to comfort' the believers under their tribulations and persecutions. Timothy returning to the apostle at Corinth, next accompanied him into Asia (Acts xx. 4.), and was left at Ephesus (1 Tim. i. 3, 4.) to instruct the church in that city, the care of which was confided to Timothy. How long he governed the Ephesian church is not known; and we are equally uncertain as to the time of his death. An ecclesiastical tradition relates that he suffered martyrdom, being slain with stones and clubs, A. D. 97, while he was preaching against idolatry in the vicinity of the temple of Diana at Ephesus. His supposed relics were translated to Constantinople, with great pomp. A. D. 356, in the reign of Constantius.
II. The date of this Epistle has been much disputed. Dr. Lardner refers it to the year 56; Dr. Benson and Michaelis (after Cappel, Grotius, Lightfoot, and several other critics) date it in A. D. 58; Bishop Pearson, Le Clerc, Dr. Mill, and Rosenmüller, in A. D. 65 ; Drs. Whitby, Macknight, and Paley, and Bishop Tomline, in 64.
In favour of the EARLY DATE it is argued,
1. That it appears from the third chapter of this Epistle, that no bishops had been then appointed at Ephesus. Saint Paul instructs Timothy in the choice, as of an appointment to a new office, and “ hopes to return to him shortly." And it is not probable the apostle would suffer a community to be long without governors. Now he departed from Ephesus when he travelled into Macedonia (Acts xx. 1.), and we see from v. 17. 28. that on his return bishops had been appointed. Consequently this Epistle must have been written at the beginning of his journey ; for Timothy soon left Ephesus, and was at Corinth with Paul (Acts xx. 4.) He even joined him in Macedonia, for the second Epistle to the Corinthians, written in Macedonia, was in the joint names of Paul and Timothy. This Epistle therefore was written a short time before tbe second to the Corinthians.
2. It is further contended, that Timothy, at the time this Epistle was written, was in danger of being “ despised for his youth." (1 Tim. iv. 12.) As he became an associate of Paul at Lystra (Acts xvi. 1.) so early as A. D. 50, he must then have been, as an assistant in the Gospel, at least twenty years of age. If this Epistle was written A. D. 65, he must have been of the age of thirty-five years, and could not have been less than fifteen years a preacher of the Gospel. He could not in that case have been despised for his youth; though he might, before he had reached his twenty-seventh year.
On the contrary, in behalf of the LATER DATE, which supposes this Epistle to have been written after Saint Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, A. D. 64 or 65, it is insisted,
1. That it appears from Saint Paul's Epistles to Philemon (22.) and to the Philippians (ii. 24.), that he evidently designed, when he had a prospect of being released, to go both to Colossæ and into Macedonia. Now it is admitted, that these two Epistles were written towards the close of Saint Paul's first imprisonment at Rome; and, if he executed his intention of going to Colossæ immediately after his release, it is very probable that he would visit Ephesus, which was in the vicinity of Colossæ, and proceed thence to Philippi.
2. We further learn from the first Epistle to Timothy, that he was left at Ephesus to oppose the following errors: 1. Fables invented hy the Jewish doctors to recommend the observance of the law of Moses as necessary to salvation ;- 2. Uncertain genealogies, by which individuals endeavoured to trace their descent from Abraham, in the persuasion that they would be saved, merely because they had Abraham to their father ; - 3. Intricate questions and strifes about some words in the law ;-4. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, who reckoned that which produced most gain to be the best kind of godliness; and oppositions of knowledge falsely so named. But these errors had not taken place in the Ephesian church before the apostle's departure ; for, in his charge to the Ephesian elders at Miletus, he foretold that false teachers would enter among them after his departing, Acts xx. 29., I know that after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the fluck. 30. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perrerse things, to draw away disciples after them. The same thing appears from the two Epistles which the apostle wrote to the Corinthians; the one from Ephesus before the riot of Demetrius, the other from Macedonia after that event; and from the Epistle which he wrote to the Ephesians themselves from Rome, during his confinement there. For in none of these letters is there any notice taken of the abovementioned errors as subsisting among the Ephesians at the time they were written, which cannot be accounted for on the supposition that they were prevalent in Ephesus, when the apostle went into Macedo
nia after the riot. We conclude therefore with Dr. Macknight, that the first Epistle to Timothy, in which the apostle desired him to abide at Ephesus, for the purpose of opposing the judaisers and their errors, could not be written, either from Troas, or from Macedonia, after the riot, as those who contend for the early date of that Epistle suppose : but it must have been written some time after the apostle's release from his confinement in Rome, when, no doubt, he visited the church at Ephesus, and found the judaising teachers there busily employed in spreading their pernicious errors.
3. In the first Epistle to Timothy, the same persons, doctrines, and practices are reprobated, which are condemned in the second. Compare 1 Tim. iv. 146. with 2 Tim. iii. 1-5., and 1 Tim. vi. 20. with 2 Tim. ii. 14., and 1 Tim. vi. 4. with 2 Tim. ii. 16. The same commands, instructions, and encouragements are given to Timothy in the first Epistle as in the second. Compare i Tim. vi. 13, 14. with 2 Tim. iv. 1-5. The same remedies for the corruptions, which had taken place among the Ephesians, are prescribed in the first Epistle as in the second. Compare 1 Tim. iv. 14. with 2 Tim. i. 6, 7. And as in the second Epistle so in the first, every thing is addressed to Timothy, as superintendent both of the teachers and of the laity in the church at Ephesus : all which, Dr. Macknight justly thinks, implies that the state of things among the Ephesians was the same when the two Epistles were written. Consequently the first Epistle was written only a few months before the second, and not long before the apostle's death.
To the late date of this first Epistle, however, there are three plausible objections, which admit of easy solutions.
1. It is thought, that if the first Epistle to Timothy was written after the apostle's release, he could not, with any propriety, have said to Timothy, iv. 12. Let no man despise thy youth. — But it is replied, that Servius Tullius, in classing the Roman people, as Aulus Gellius relates, divided their age into three periods. Childhood, he limited to the age of seventeen : Youth from that to forty-six: and old
age, from forty-six to the end of life. Now, supposing Timothy to have been twenty years old, A. D. 50, when he became Paul's assistant, he would be no more than 34, A. D. 64, two years after the apostle's release, when it is supposed this Epistle was written. Since therefore Timothy was then in that period of life, which, by the Greeks as well as the Romans, was considered as youth, the apostle, with propriety, might say to him, Let no man despise thy youth.
2. When the apostle touched at Miletus, in his voyage to Jerusalem, with the collections, the church at Ephesus had a number of elders
, that is, of bishops and deacons, who came to him at Miletus, Acts xx. 17. It is therefore asked, What occasion was there, in an Epistle written after the apostle's release, to give Timothy directions concerning the ordination of bishops and deacons, in a church where there were so many elders already? The answer is, the elders who came to the apostle at Miletus, in the year 58, might have been too few for the church at Ephesus, in her increased state, in the year 65. Besides false teachers had then entered, to oppose whom, more bishops and deacons might be needed than were necessary in
1 Noctes Atticæ, lib. x. c. 28.