Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

lodged; that the consequence of this outrage was, that “ the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea.” Acts, ch. xvii. 1-10. From the mention of his preaching three sabbath days in the Jewish synagogue, and from the want of any farther specification of his ministry, it has usually been taken for granted that Paul did not continue at Thessalonica more than three weeks. This, however, is inferred without necessity. It appears to have been St. Paul's practice, in almost every place that he came to, upon his first arrival to repair to the synagogue. He thought himself bound to propose the Gospel to the Jews first, agreeably to what he declared at Antioch in Pisidia ; " it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you.” Acts, ch. xiii. 46. If the Jews rejected his ministry, he quitted the synagogue, and betook himself to a Gentile audience. At Corinth, upon his first coming there, he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath ; " but when the Jews opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he departed thence,” expressly telling them, “ From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles; and he remained in that city a year and six months.” Acts, ch. xviii. 6-11. At Ephesus, in like manner, for the space of three months he went into the synagogue ; but “when divers were hardened and believed not, but spake evil of that way, he departed from them and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus; and this continued by the space of two years.” Acts, , ch. xix. 9, 10. Upon inspecting the history, I see nothing in it which negatives the supposition, that St. Paul pursued the same plan at Thessalonica which

he adopted in other places; and that, though he resorted to the synagogue only three sabbath days, yet he remained in the city, and in the exercise of his ministry among the Gentile citizens, much longer; and until the success of his preaching had provoked the Jews to excite the tumult and insurrection by which he was driven away.

Another seeming discrepancy is found in the ninth verse of the first chapter of the epistle : “ 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.” This text contains an assertion, that, by means of St. Paul's ministry at Thessalonica, many idolatrous Gentiles had been brought over to Christianity. Yet the history, in describing the effects of that ministry, only says, that “ some of the Jews believed, and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.” (ch. xvii. 4.) The devout Greeks were those who already worshipped the one true God; and therefore could not be said, by embracing Christianity, “ to be turned to God from idols."

This is the difficulty. The answer may be assisted by the following observations: The Alexandrine and Cambridge manuscripts read (for σεξoμενων Ελλήνων πολυ πληθος) των σεξoμενων και Ελληνων πολυ πληθος: in which reading they are also confirmed by the Vulgate Latin. And this reading is, in my opinion, strongly supported by the considerations, first, that oi gebouevos alone, i. e. without ‘Emanues, is used in this sense in the same chapter-Paul being come to Athens, διελεγετο εν τη συναγωγή τους Ιουδαιοις και τους σεζομενοις : secondly, that σεζομενοι and Ελληνες

των

no where come together. The expression is redundant. The oi debolevou must be 'Enanves. Thirdly, that the xai is much more likely to have been left out incuriâ manûs than to have been put in. Or, after all, if we be not allowed to change the present reading, which is undoubtedly retained by a great plurality of copies, may not the passage in the history be considered as describing only the effects of St. Paul's discourses during the three sabbath days in which he preached in the synagogue ? and may it not be true, as we have remarked above, that his application to the Gentiles at large, and his success amongst them, was posterior to this?

CHAPTER X.

THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS.

No. I.

It may seem odd to allege obscurity itself as an argument, or to draw a proof in favour of a writing from that which is naturally considered as the principal defect in its composition. The present epistle, however, furnishes a passage, hitherto unexplained, and probably inexplicable by us, the existence of which, under the darkness and difficulties that attend it, can be accounted for only by the supposition of the epistle being genuine ; and upon that supposition is accounted for with great ease.

The passage which I allude to is found in the second chapter : “ That day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and

that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped ; so that he as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that when I was YET WITH YOU I TOLD YOU THESE THINGS ? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time; for the mystery of iniquity doth already work, only he that now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way; and then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming." It were superfluous to prove, because it is in vain to deny, that this passage is involved in great obscurity, more especially the clauses distinguished by italics. Now the observation I have to offer is founded upon this, that the passage expressly refers to a conversation which the author had previously holden with the Thessalonians upon the same subject : “ Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you I told you these things ? And now ye know what withholdeth.” If such conversation actually passed ; if, whilst “ he was yet with them, he told them those things,” then it follows that the epistle is authentic. And of the reality of this conversation it appears to be a proof, that what is said in the epistle might be understood by those who had been present at such conversation, and yet be incapable of being explained by any other. No man writes unintelligibly on purpose. But it may easily happen, that a part of a letter which relates to a subject, upon which the parties had conversed together before, which refers to what had been before said, which is in truth a portion or continuation of a former discourse, may be utterly without meaning to a stranger who should pick up the letter upon the road, and yet be perfectly clear to the person to whom it is directed, and with whom the previous communication had passed. And if, in a letter which thus accidentally fell into my hands, I found a passage expressly referring to a former conversation, and difficult to be explained without knowing that conversation, I should consider this very difficulty as a proof that the conversation had actually passed, and consequently that the letter contained the real correspondence of real persons.

No. II. Chap. ij. 8.

“ Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought, but wrought with labour night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you : not because we have no power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow.”

In a letter, purporting to have been written to another of the Macedonian churches, we find the following declaration :

“ Now, ye Philippians, know also, that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving but ye only."

The conformity between these two passages is strong and plain.. They confine the transaction to the same period. The epistle to the Philippians refers to what passed“ in the beginning of the Gospel,” that is to say, during the first preaching of the Gospel on that side of the Ægean sea. The epistle to the Thessalonians speaks of the apostle's conduct in

« ForrigeFortsæt »