Abbildungen der Seite

cular and special evidence which the apostle had of the Thessilonians' election; and that was, the great and gracious success of his ministry amongst them. Our gospel came —But how our gospel? Not as if he were the author of it, but the dispenser only; not our gospel by original revelation, but by ministerial dispensation only. But how did the gospel come amongst the Thessalonians? Not in word only, sounding in the ear, or reaching or resting in the understanding only, as a light to gaze upon; but in power, that is, accompanied then with the power of miracles, now with a convincing, terrifying, humbling, renewing, and reforming power. It follows, and in the Holy Ghost; that is, the preaching of the word was at that time attended, as with a mighty power of miracles, so with an extraordinary effusion and pouring out of the Holy Gbost upon them that heard it, prevailing upon them to embrace it, and to submit themselves unto it. With this miraculous power of the Holy Ghost was the preaching of the word accoinpanied then, with an enlightening, quickening, regenerating, and sanctifying power now; the ministry of the word is the great instrument in the hand of the Spirit, for the conversion of sinners, for the edification of saints, and for the salvation of both. Again, the apostle's ministration came unto them in much assurance, that is, with a full conviction both to them and him; to them, with an evident conviction of the truth of his doctrine; and to him, it was a full persuasion, yea, a firm assurance, that God had chosen them to be a church and special people to himself' And, lastly, As to his own conduct and conversation amongst them, lie appeals to them, and to their own knowledge, whether it was not answerable to the doctrine delivered by him: Ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. Happy is it when the pious and prudent conversation of a minister amongst his people is, and has been such, that upon a fit occasion he can dare appeal to God and them as witnesses and observers of it; Ye know what we were among you: ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblamably, we behaved ourselves among you, chap. ii. 10. An heterodox conversation will carry an orthodox preacher to hell; there is a preaching life, as well as a preaching doctrine; if religion be taught by the first, and irreligion by the latter, we sadly disappoint the end of what is spoken:

though, like a cracked bell we may be instrumental to ring others to heaven, yet for ourselves there is no remedy, but to the fire we must go, either for our refining, or for our condemnation. The throne and the pulpit, above all places, call for holiness; the prince and the preacher, above all persons, are most accountable to God for their example: Ye know what manner of men we were among you.

6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: 7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.

In these words, our apostle gives us another probable evidence, that the Thessalonians were undoubtedly chosen of God, namely, because they were active and operative christians; they did in their life and practice conform themselves to that excellent pattern and example held forth unto them by their preachers, Ye became followers of us. Where note, That there ought to be something worthy of imitation in the lives of ministers, something which their people may safely follow ; and it is the people's duty, not only to lend an ear to their doctrine, but an eye to their pious conversation; it is added, Followers of us, and of the Lord: followers of Christ, absolutely, as an unerring pattern; of his ministers, conditionally, so tar as they followed Christ. But followers of the Lord, here, seems to import their following of him in his sufferings and afflictions, as appears by the next words, Having received the word with much affliction. Such as are sincere and serious christians, are followers of Christ in his sufferings, as well as in his example; they follow him in the sharp and thorny path of affliction, in which he went before them; they are willing to bear his cross, as well as to wear his crown; to suffer for him, as well as to be glorified with him. Observe next, The particular instance wherein the Thessalonians became followers of the apostles; it was this, that they preached the word to them with great desire, delight, and joy, though at the same time they endured a great fght of afflictions, contending with the opposition both of men and devils, in preaching the word unto them: in like manner did they receive the word with much affliction, and adhere to it in the

midst of persecution; and all this accompanied with such inward joy, as none but the Holy Ghost could be the author of in them; Ye received the word with much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost. Learn hence, That upon preaching of the word, to have a heart open to receive it, to receive it with affliction, with much affliction, and yet with joy and rejoicing, with a cheerful spirit, and such a joy as the Holy Spirit of God is the author and producer of, is a good evidence that a person is chosen of God, and has a title to the everlasting inheritance. Observe farther, Our apostle, in a just and deserved commendation of these Thessalonians, tells them, to their great and singular honour, that as they were followers of them (the apostles) in suffering, in patience, and cheerfulness; so they were themselves living patterns and lively ensamples of courage and constancy under their sufferings, to all the neighbouring churches in Macedonia and Achaia. Then is the grace of God received by us a mark and evidence of our election of God, when we have advanced to such a considerable proficiency and growth in it, as to become patterns and examples of piety to all that are round about us. Thus the Thessalonians here, Ye are become ensamples to all that be lieve in Macedonia and Achaia.

8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 9 For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God.

Still our apostle proceeds in a copious commendation of these Thessalonians, or rather in a thankful admiration of the grace of God shining in them; he tells them, and that without flattery, that the fame and report of their graces were spread abroad far and near, insomuch that the foreign churches, amongst whom he conversed, were able to give him a perfect account how the apostle's entrance amongst them at Thessalonica was ; though not pompous, yet very prosperous, strangely succeeded,

and singularly blessed, to the turning of them from dead idols, to serve the living and true God. Learn, That where true grace is rooted in the heart, though it be not immediately seen, yet it cannot long be bid, but it will discover itself in the genuine fruits and vital effects of it, to the deserved admiration, and wished-for imitation of all beholders whatsoever: From you sounded forth the word of the Lord, Fr. And how you turned from idols, that is, how readily and speedily, how sincerely and heartily, you turned from idolatry, your former idolatry, in which you had educated and brought up; yet upon preaching of our gospel ye left it, and t ed with indignation from it, to serve God, the living God, so called in opposition to their dead and dumb idols; and the true God, in opposition to their false gods. These words of the apostle teach us how to expound those words of our Saviour, John xviii. 3. This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God: teaching us that the Father is called the only true God, not in opposition to Jesus Christ, M the Socinians would insinuate, but in opposition to idols and false gods only. Now from this effect, which the gospel had upon the Thessalonians, to turn them from idols to serve the living God, we learn, that as every man naturally bears an idol in his heart, that is, sets up something there in God's stead, which attracts and draws off the chief of his affections from God; so wherever the gospel is heartily received and entertained, there will be an abandoning of, and returning from, whatsoever did usurp God's throne in the soul, and the person hereafter will only love and serve the living and true God: You turned from idols, to serve the living and true God.

10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to i

Here the apostle produces a further evidence of these Thessalonians' conversion, namely, that they did not only turn from idols to serve God the Father, but did also believe in Jesus Christ his only Son: this act of faith is expressed by waiting, they waited for his Son from heaven: that is by faith, they expected that Christ, I the apostle had preached to them, i

gone to heaven, would certainly come again from thence to deliver his redeemed ones from the wrath to come, that is, from the punishment and vengeance eternally due unto them for sin. And the ground of this their expectation was, Christ's resurrection from the dead: To wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead. Note here, 1. A description, an heart-affecting, yea, a soul-affectmg description of that wrath which doth await every wicked and impenitent sinner; it is a wrath to come: after thousands, yea, millions of years, that sinners have lain under it, still it is a wrath to come; and they are as far from being delivered from it, as the first hour they fell under it. Note,

2. That Jesus Christ delivered up himself to death, that he might be a Saviour and deliverer to his people from this wrath; let it break forth when it will, not a drop of it ahall ever fall upon any of them. Note,

3. That believers may warrantably expect deliverance by Christ from this wrath, seeing God has railed him from the dead. Note, 4. Therefore may and ought they to wait and wish, to look and long, for his coming from heaven, when deliverance from wrath will be perfected and completed.


Tlw design and scope of the apostle, in the chapter no* before us, is. to acquaint the Theaealooiatia with Ike sincerity and success of hia ministry among them; as also to put them in remembrance of his meek deportment towards them, even as a nurse among tier children; and from the gracious success which God had given him »o hts ministerial services for them, he concludes that these bis converts to christianity, the Thes' anloaians, would certainly be hia joy and crown of rejoicing, in the day of the Lord Jesus.

T^OR yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:

Observe here, How our apostle did and durst appeal to the Thessalonians themselves, as touching the sincerity and success of his public ministry among them: Ye yourselves know. It is not sufficient to a minister's comfort, that he be well reported of amongst strangers, for his zeal and diligence, for his sincerity and faithfulness, unless he can and dare appeal to the consciences of his own people, and call them to vouch and bear witness to his integrity: Ye youaclves know, that our entrance in unto you was not in vain. Our entrance tn unto you, that is, our first preaching amongst you, was not in vain, that is, say

some, it was not in vain in the matter, we did not preach about vain, useless, and unprofitable niceties and speculations; but our preaching was substantial, sound, and solid. It was not in vain in the manner, say others: it was not undertaken rashly, and without a call, nor managed in a slight and vain manner. But the word in vain, here seems to point out these two things: 1. That it did not want power and energy, but had the demonstration of divine assistance to confirm them in the faith that heard it, and also those that preached it, in expectation of success. 2. It was not in vain: that is, it did not want fruit, it was not without a great and gracious success: for the word vain, when it is applied to the message which the ministers of God bring, signifies the not accomplishing the great ends for which it was designed. Isa. lv. 11. The word that gocth out of my mouth, shall not return unto me in vain, but prosper, &c. Hence learn, That where a minister is regularly called to, and faithfully discharges his duty amongst a people, both by public preaching and private instruction, his labours seldom, if ever, want fruit, in some degree or measure, either sooner or later, either manifest or secret, either forconversionoredification. We have the promise of Christ's presence with us, Matt, xxviii. 20. And if the fault be not ours, we shall certainly experience it ; both the presence of his power to strengthen us, and the presence of his gracious Spirit to succeed us. Possibly we do not see any visible success at present: but this may comfort us, there is more good done by the ministry of the word, than we are aware of; and if we reap not the fruit of the seed we sow, they who come after us may: but if neither they nor we reap fruit, our ministry shall not be in vain, with reference to ourselves; yet shall we be glorious, though Israel be not gathered. But, O! that our people might share in that glory with us, and also shine as the stars, for ever and ever! God grant we may never be called forth by Christ to give a judicial testimony against any of them at the bar of God, for not believing our report.

•2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as yc know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God, with much contention.

Here St. Paul discovers to the Thessalonians the great difficulties and dangers, which lie broke through at his first entrance amongst them to preach the gospel, he acquaints them with the reproach and disgrace he underwent at their neighbouring city, Philippi, and the sufferings there endured for the gospel, which are recorded Acts xvi. 23. But nothing of that nature could discourage him, but that he rather waxed more bold in spirit, resolving to preach the gospel of God, though with much contention and opposition from the unbelieving Jews.—Where mark, that the apostle calls his boldness, in God, because a boldness for God, and from God. It was not barely the fruit of a natural courage, but it was a zealous boldness in the cause of God, and proved a convincing, as well as a courageous, boldness; it is one necessary requisite and qualification in the ministers of God, in order to the rendering their ministry fruitful and successful, that a wise, humble, zealous, and convincing boldness be found with them in their delivering the truths of God unto their people: We were bold in our God to speak unto you. the gospel of God,

3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: 4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

Here our apostle assigns a subordinate reason why his preaching was so successful amongst the Thessalonians, namely, because it was very sincere. There was both sincerity in the doctrine preached, and also in the preacher of that doctrine. Where note, 1. St. Paul calls his preaching an exhortation: doubtless, because a great part of his preaching was, as ours ought to be, applicatory and exhortatory, earnestly and affectionately exciling the hearers to cleave unto the truths, whether doctrinal or practical, delivered to them. Note, 2. How St. Paul removes from himself the opposites of sincerity, some of which point at the sincerity of the doctrine preached by him: it was not of deceit, or of ensnaring and seducing error, not suited to the corrupt opinions and wicked inclmations of men. Nor of uncleanness; nothing that he either preached or practised did countenance and encourage men in their filthy

lusts, as did the false preaching of the false apostles, and the Gnostics. Nor in guile: this points at the sincerity of his own heart in preaching, his exhortation was not in guile i that is, he did not seek himself, under a pretence of acting for God and his glory, nor propound his own worldly advantage as his ultimate end. Learn hence, It is the duty of Christ's ministers, not only to preach the pure word of God, but to preach it purely in simplicity of heart, and with a single eye at God's glory, without looking at, or having any regard unto, base, sinister ends, or by-respects. Note, 3. That St. Paul having vindicated his ministry from all suspicion of insincerity, next assures them of his great uprightness in all his ministerial performances, makmg it his chief design to approve himself unto God, and to be approved of him, not in the least regarding to please men, but only in subordination to God. Note, 4. The arguments or motives inclming him thus, in much sincerity, to approve himself to God in all his ministerial services; namely, 1. The consideration of that high favour and honourable trust which he had received from God: We were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel. God did fit him for this trust, and then entrusted him with it, and he looked upon both as a favour and honour from God. 2. The consideration of God's omnisciency and allseeing eye, Who trieth our hearts. The apostle well knew, that Almighty God was both a witness of his doctrine and conversation, and also privy to his intentions and purposes, his aim and end, as being a God that searcheth the heart ; therefore he so preached, not as pleasing men, but God. Learn from both, That nothing doth more effectually constrain the ministers of Christ to the faithful discharge of their whole duty, than the consideration of the honour and weight of that trust which God hath conferred on them, and the remembrance that the eye of an all-seeing and heart-searching God is both upon and within them also. We so speak, being put in trust with the gospel by God, who trieth our hearts.

5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness ; God is witness: 6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

Still our apostle sees fit to proceed in avouching his own sincerity in preaching the gospel, and disowning all flattery, covetousoess, and vain-glory, to have any influence upon him in the discharge of his ministerial trust. First, He used not flattering words, that is, speeches fitted to gratify the lusts and humours of men, or for gaining their favour, or courting their good opinion. Flattery in any is odious, in a minister 'tis monstrous; both because spiritual men ought to be most plain-hearted, and also because flattery about spiritual things is most fatal and pernicious, both to the giver and receiver. Secondly, he used not a cloak of covetousness, that is, he had no covetous design in his ministry; his great end, in that administration, was not worldly or outward advantage to himself; and because a covetous design is secret, and man cannot judge of it, he appeals solemnly to God that searcheth the heart, as a witness of bis freedom from that design: I used no flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness. As if he had said, " Had I used flattering words, you might witness it; but I could have worn a cloak of covetousness so closely, thai you could not have seen it, but God could; he can judge through the darkest cloud, and sec through the thickest cloak and covering; but I appeal to him, whether I hare put on such a cloak, or no." An oath, then, is lawful to a christian; lie may solemnly appeal to God, and call him to witness the truth of what he speaks, in and upon a just and great occasion ; thus St. Paul here, by oath, purges himself of covetousness of spirit. Thirdly, He purges himself from all ostentation and vain-glory; he tells them plainly, he did not hunt after applause from others, nor sought so much as due respect in a filling maintenance from themselves, though herein he assures them that he did remit of his right ; seeing, as an apostle of Christ, he might have been burdensome, that is, chargeable to them, by exacting maintenance from thern. Learn, 1. Though every man may (much more a mmister) have a due respect to his own honour and just reputation, yet to hunt after respect and esteem, and to seek it with the full bent of our desires, doth savour of vanity and vain-glory.—Learn, 2. Though the mmisters of the gospel have an undoubted right to an honourable maintenance, yet it may be a pious prudence in them, at a particular time, to remit their right; and when they do so with an eye

at the glory of God, and the advantage of the gospel, God will recompense it to them.

7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: 8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

St. Paul having cleared himself and his ministry, in the foregoing verses, from the charge and imputation of those foul vices of flattery, fraud, and covetousness, which the false teachers were guilty of, he next gives an account of his holy and humble, meek and gentle, courteous and affable, behaviour amongst them, performing all duties towards them from a principle of tender love, even such as is found in a nurse to her babe, which makes her stoop to the meanest offices for it: We were gentle among you, as a nurse, not an hired nurse, but a mother-nurse, who takes nothing for nursing, who bestows all her time and pains in nursing, who draws forth her breasts, and gives down her milk with pleasure to her nursling, lodging it in her bosom, carrying it in her arms, with all possible demonstrations of a tender affection towards it, especially bearing with its frowardness and manifold infirmities; intimating to us, with what tenderness of affection a minister should be devoted to his people, bearmg with them, and forbearing of them, and exercising all that indulgence towards them, which may mutually endear them to each other. Observe farther, Our apostle having resembled himself, in general, to a nurse cherishing her children, next instances, in particular, wherein he stood ready to express, like a nurse, his indulgent care over them. Thus, 1. As the nursing-mother, if she be but a short time absent from her children, doth most vehemently long to see them, and draws forth her breast towards them with the utmost desire and delight; in like manner, was our now absent apostle most affectionately desirous of seemg and enjoying his beloved Thessalonians. 2. As the nursmg-mother, when she gets to the child, with unspeakable delight feeds it with her own blood, concocted and turned into milk; so was the apostle desirous to impart, not the gospel only, but his own soul, that is, his

« ZurückWeiter »