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The grace of our Lord Jesus - As the epistle began so it ends; for the grace of Christ must be at the beginning and end of every work, in order to complete it, and bring it to good effect.
Amen - This is wanting in BD*FG and some others. It was probably not written by St. Paul.
The subscriptions are, as in other cases, various and contradictory. The chief MSS. conclude as follows: The first to the Thessalonians is completed; the second to the Thessalonians begins - DFG. The first to the Thessalonians written from Athens - AB, and others. From Laodicea - Cod. Claromont. The first to the Thessalonians, written from Athens - Common Greek text.
The Versions conclude thus: -
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians was written at Athens, and sent by the hands of Timotheus. - Syriac.
To the Thessalonians. - Aethiopic.
Nothing in the Vulgate.
The end of the epistle: it was written from a city of the Athenians, and sent by the hand of Timotheus.
And to the Lord be praise for ever and ever. Amen. - Arabic.
Written from Athens, and sent by Silvanus and Timotheus. - Coptic.
That it was not sent by either Silvanus or Timothy is evident enough from the inscription, for St. Paul associates these two with himself, in directing it to the Thessalonian Church. Others say that it was sent by Tychicus and Onesimus, but this also is absurd; for Onesimus was not converted till a considerable time after the writing of this epistle. That it was written by St. Paul, there is no doubt; and that it was written at Corinth, and not at Athens, has been shown in the preface.
1. The two preceding chapters are certainly among the most important and the most sublime in the New Testament. The general judgment, the resurrection of the body, and the states of the quick and dead, the unrighteous and the just, are described, concisely indeed, but they are exhibited in the most striking and affecting points of view. I have attempted little else than verbal illustrations; the subject is too vast for my comprehension; I cannot order my speech by reason of darkness. Though there are some topics handled here which do not appear in other parts of the sacred writings, yet the main of what we learn is this. "Our God will come, and will not keep silence; a fire shall burn before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him; he shall call to the heavens above, and to the earth beneath, that he may judge his people. "The day of judgment! what an awful word is this! what a truly terrific time! when the heavens shall be shrivelled as a scroll, and the elements melt with fervent heat; when the earth and its appendages shall be burnt up, and the fury of that conflagration be such that there shall be no more sea! A time when the noble and ignoble dead, the small and the great, shall stand before God, and all be judged according to the deeds done in the body; yea, a time when the thoughts of the heart and every secret thing shall be brought to light; when the innumerable millions of transgressions, and embryo and abortive sins, shall be exhibited in all their purposes and intents; a time when Justice, eternal Justice, shall sit alone upon the throne, and pronounce a sentence as impartial as irrevocable, and as awful as eternal! There is a term of human life; and every human being is rapidly gliding to it as fast as the wings of time, in their onward motion, incomprehensibly swift, can carry him! And shall not the living lay this to heart? Should we not live in order to die? Should we not die in order to be judged? And should we not live and die so as to live again to all eternity, not with Satan and his angels, but with God and his saints? O thou man of God! thou Christian! thou immortal spirit! think of these things.
2. The subject in 1 Thessalonians 5:27 of the last chapter I have but slightly noticed: I charge you, by the Lord, that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. This is exceedingly strange; the Epistles to the Romans, the Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, were directed to the whole Church in each of those places; why, then, after directing this, as he did all the rest, to the whole Church, should he at the conclusion adjure them, by the Lord, that it should be read to all the holy brethren; that is, to the very persons to whom it was addressed? Is there not some mystery here? Has it not been the endeavor of Satan, from the beginning, to keep men from consulting the oracles of God; and has he not used even the authority of the Church to accomplish this his purpose! Was not the prohibiting the use of the Scriptures to the people at large the mystery of iniquity which then began to work, and against which the adjuration of the apostle is directed? see second epistle, chap. 2; this mystery, which was the grand agent in the hands of Mystery, Babylon the Great, to keep the people in darkness, that the unauthorized and wicked pretensions of this mother of the abominations of the earth might not be brought to the test; but that she might continue to wear her crown, sit on her scarlet beast, and subject the Christian world to her empire. Was it not the Christian world's total ignorance of God's book which the Romish Church took care to keep from the people at large, that induced them patiently, yet with terror, to bow down to all her usurpations, and to swallow down monstrous doctrines which she imposed upon them as Christian verities? Was it not this deplorable ignorance which induced kings and emperors to put their necks, literally, under the feet of this usurped and antichristian power? This mystery of iniquity continues still to work; and with all the pretensions of the Romish Church, the Scriptures are in general withheld from the people, or suffered to be read under such restrictions and with such notes as totally subvert the sense of those passages on which this Church endeavors to build her unscriptural pretensions. It is generally allowed that the Vulgate version is the most favorable to these pretensions, and yet even that version the rulers of the Church dare not trust in the hands of any of their people, even under their general ecclesiastical restrictions, without their counteracting notes and comments. How strange is this! and yet in this Church there have been, and still are, many enlightened and eminent men; surely truth has nothing to fear from the Bible. When the Romish Church permits the free use of this book, she may be stripped, indeed, of some of her appendages, but she will lose nothing but her dross and tin, and become what the original Church at Rome was, beloved of God, called to be saints; and have her faith, once more, spoken of throughout all the world, Romans 1:7, Romans 1:8. She has, in her own hands the means of her own regeneration; and a genuine Protestant will wish, not her destruction, but her reformation; and if she consent not to be reformed, her total destruction is inevitable.
Finished correcting for a new edition, on the shortest day of 1831. - A. C.
on 1-thessalonians 5 :28
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, ... - notes, Romans 16:20.
In regard to the subscription at the close of the Epistle, purporting that it was written from Athens, see the introduction, section 3. These subscriptions are of no authority, and the one here, like several others, is probably wrong.
From the solemn charge in 1 Thessalonians 5:27 that "this epistle should be read to all the holy brethren," that is, to the church at large, we may infer that it is in accordance with the will of God that all Christians should have free access to the Holy Scriptures. What was the particular reason for this injunction in Thessalonica, is not known, but it is possible that an opinion had begun to prevail even then that the Scriptures were designed to be kept in the hands of the ministers of religion, and that their common perusal was to be prohibited. At all events, whether this opinion prevailed then or not, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the Holy Spirit, by whom this Epistle was dictated, foresaw that the time would come when this doctrine would be defended by cardinals and popes and councils; and that it would be one of the means by which the monstrous fabric of the Papacy would be sustained and perpetuated. It is worthy of remark, also, that the apostle Paul, in his epistles to the Thessalonians, has dwelt more fully on the fact that the great apostasy would occur under the Papacy, and on the characteristics of that grand usurpation over the rights of people, than he has anywhere else in his Epistle; see 2 Thessalonians 2:11. It is no improbable supposition that with reference to that, and to counteract one of its leading dogmas, his mind was supernaturally directed to give this solemn injunction, that the contents of the Epistle which he had written should be communicated without reserve to all the Christian brethren in Thessalonica. In view of this injunction, therefore, at the close of this Epistle, we may remark:
(1) that it is a subject of express divine command that the people should have access to the Holy Scriptures. So important was this considered, that it was deemed necessary to enjoin those who should receive the word of God, under the solemnities of an oath, and by all the force of apostolic authority, to communicate what they had received to others.
(2) this injunction had reference to all the members of the church, for they were all to be made acquainted with the word of God. The command is, indeed, that it he "read" to them, but by parity of reasoning it would follow that it was to be in their hands; that it was to be accessible to them; that it was in no manner to be withheld from them. Probably many of them could not read, but in some way the contents of revelation were to be made known to them - and not by preaching only, but by reading the words of inspiration. No part was to be kept back; nor were they to be denied such access that they could fully understand it; nor was it to be insisted on that there should be an authorized expounder of it. It was presumed that all the members of the church were qualified to understand what had been written to them, and to profit by it. It follows therefore,
(3) that there is great iniquity in all those decisions and laws which are designed to keep the Scriptures from the common people. This is true:
(a) in reference to the Papal communion, and to all the ordinances there which prohibit the free circulation of the Sacred Volume among the people;
(b) it is true of all those laws in slave-holding communities which prohibit slaves from being taught to read the Scriptures; and,
(c) it is true of all the opinions and dogmas which prevail in any community where the right of "private judgment" is denied, and where free access to the volume of inspiration is forbidden.
The richest blessing of heaven to mankind is the Bible; and there is no book ever written so admirably adapted to the common mind, and so fitted to elevate the sunken, the ignorant, and the degraded. There is no more decided enemy of the progress of the human race in intelligence, purity, and freedom, than he who prevents the free circulation of this holy volume; and there is no sincerer friend of the species than he who "causes it to be read by all," and who contributes to make it accessible to all the families and all the inhabitants of the world.
on 1-thessalonians 5 :28