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In the fourteenth section we come to the first. Epistle to the Thessalonians. The Epistle to the Galatians had been written to prove the reasonableness of the doctrine, that the Gentiles were to be readmitted into the Church of God. This Epistle contains some statement of the evidences in favour of Christianity; and, as the inspired writings were read in all the Churches, we may consider the first Epistle to the Thessalonians, as a supplement to the former.
The next section gives us an account of the preaching of St. Paul at Corinth. While he continued in that city he addressed another Epistle to the Thessalonians, to remove a misinterpretation of his former letter, concerning the second coming of Christ. He assures them that the early descent of our Lord to judgment is not to be expected till a great apostacy had begun, and flourished, and was overthrown. The marks which distinguish this apostacy, describe the Church of Rome. I have not, however, on my own authority, represented popery as the predicted apostacy, The arguments which have proved satisfactory to the great majority of Protestants on this subject, are principally taken from Dr. Benson. Being convinced by these arguments, that the corrupt Church of Rome is described by St. Paul, as the great sin of Christianity; I have not hesi
10 tated to express and defend that opinion. To maintain Protestantism, and to oppose Popery, is not the cause of the Church of England, or of the English nation alone; it is the cause of all mankind. To resist that dominion, is the solemn and bounden duty of every man who wishes well to the human race, or who desires universal ecclesiastical and civil freedom. The giant which once bestrode the civilized world like a Colossus, is restless, and struggling beneath the weight of increasing knowledge; but its convulsive movements still shake the whole of Christendom, and his breath is the furnace of the volcano. We may mark the literary infidelity of the age, and the ancient superstitions of papal
Rome, ascending from the opposite sides of the intellectual horizon, and overshadowing the nation with their frowns. Our duty must be to strengthen the Protestant institutions which remain—to promote the plans of good, which aim at the enlightening of mankind--to sacrifice to truth, as well as to candour, and to plead for the union which may be founded upon useful laws. It may be questioned whether truth does not flourish more in an age of controversy, than of religious indifference. Christianity would never have established its unyielding peculiarities of opinion, discipline, and holiness; if the Apostles had consented to forego their zeal and diligence, in deference to popular clamour, compromised error, or the political plans of their superiors. Truth was their only, their undivided object. From this they were neither intimidated, nor perverted, nor seduced ; till by their preaching, and their writing, and their perseverance, they gave their perfect example to the Christian teacher; and erected the Church and the Religion of Christ, upon the ruins of every existing error. Their successors have lately desisted from the wars of the tongue and of the pen; and the consequence has been that Christian union is destroyed, truth is trodden under foot, and religious indifference assuming the name of liberality, demands and receives the general homage.
The marks of our alienation are now so deeply worn, that we might fear we shall never meet but in the grave—that we never shall worship together as one great family of God, till we rise from the dead, and bow before his throne in the invisible world. Let us trust, however, that those interpretations of Scripture are correct, which authorise a better expectation.
On the authority of Michaelis and Dr. Hales, I have assigned an early date to the Epistle of Titus. The vow at Cenchrea—the disputes at Ephesus—and the return of St. Paul to Antioch, terminate the chapter.
XIII. The third apostolical journey of St. Paul presents us with the same kind of history as the preceding. Proceeding from Antioch to the Churches which he had
planted in Galatia and Phrygia, he remained two years in Ephesus, and sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia and Greece. From Ephesus he writes his first Epistle to the Corinthians, to reprove the irregularities and disorders which had begun to divide the Church of Corinth ; and to answer various questions in doctrine and discipline, which had been proposed to him by his converts. The Apostle has been supposed, in this letter, to deny his own plenary inspiration. This opinion is considered in the note, principally from the labours of the lamented Rennell.
The success of St. Paul at Ephesus, at length endangered the profits of the shrine-makers of the temple of Diana. By their means he is compelled to retire to Macedonia, when he writes his first Epistle to Timothy ; to direct him how to suppress the false doctrines which the Jewish zealots were endeavouring to introduce into the Church at Ephesus, over which Timothy had been appointed. The Gospel had now made such progress, that it had become necessary, as in the instance of Titus, and now of Timothy; to place in large districts persons who should ordain ministers, and maintain discipline among the Churches. When the converts were required to submit to the authority which was now established over them; they began to question the right of the Apostles to controul and govern them. Thus we find in the eleventh section, that St. Paul wrote from Macedonia his second Epistle to the Corinthians ; to vindicate his authority, and to caution his people against the influence of false teachers. By thus reading the Epistles in their connection with the history, and considering them in their consecutive order; we see the manner in which the Churches were agitated, and the necessity of discipline, as well as of devotion, in all Christian societies. In this Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul observes the same conduct, which but a short time before he had so earnestly recommended to Timothy. The two Epistles reflect light on each other, and give us a more
accurate notion, when thus considered together, of the state of the primitive Churches.
It is not necessary that I should add in this place any remarks to those which will be found in the note to the thirteenth section of this Chapter, the Epistle to the Romans. Its object is to prove that Christ alone was the author of that one sublime plan of redemption, which included all mankind at the beginning; and which was intended to embrace the Gentiles once more within the Church of God; though for a season, on account of the Gentile idolatry, it had been confined to the family of Abraham. The prediction of the present state of the Jews, while their temporal polity was still flourishing, and of the eventual restoration of that people to the Christian Church, demonstrates the extent of the prophetic gifts which had been imparted to the Apostles.
“ The history proceeds to relate St. Paul's journeys over various parts of Asia—his presenting himself to St. James, the head of the Church at Jerusalem--his apprehension in that city—his defence, and appeal to his privilege as a Roman citizen to save himself from the indignation of his own countrymen. We meet with another instance, in the twenty-sixth section, of the inveterate hatred which the Jews still continued to bear, against the opinion which St. Paul so strenuously advocated, that the Gentiles were to be received into the Church. é". In the twenty-eighth section we are presented with St.
Paul's appearance, for the first time since his conversion, before the Jewish Sanhedrim. The brief narrative of St. Luke does not stop to inform us of the mingled rage, and Hatred, and contempt; with which they must have returned the earnest look of the apostle, when he stood before them. They had granted him high powers, and a great military command. He had been admitted to their confidence he had distinguished himself when a young man, by his ardent Leal in their cause. He now stood before them, the betrayer.
of their imagined interests--an apostate, and a criminal. The high priest commanded him to be struck, on account of the supposed insult, when St. Paul began the defence of his apparently inconsistent conduct ; with asserting that he had lived in all good conscience before God, until that day. The manner in which the apostle divided his judges among themselves-his subsequent encouragement to perseverethe conspiracy of the Jews to kill him-its discovery-his accusation and defence before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa --and his appeal to the Emperor, when he saw reason to believe that he would be surrendered to the Jews by the profligate Roman Governor, are beautifully told, and are deeply interesting. It will be observed, that St. Paul uniformly appeals to his miraculous conversion, and to the appearance of a great light at mid-day, which was seen by the large multitude which attended him ; whenever he is required to give an account of his motives, his religion, or his conduct as a Christian teacher. The Chapter ends with his being surrendered, a prisoner to the centurion, in consequence of his appeal to Cæsar.
XIV. Few observations are necessary on the fourteenth Chapter, which relates the voyage of St. Paul to Rome, his shipwreck at the island of Melita (probably in the Adriatic) and his arrival at Italy. During his imprisonment at Rome, he wrote his Epistle to the Ephesians, to congratulate them on their admission into the Christian Church, through the mercy of God, which invited them to holiness of life, and exempted them from the burthensome observ. ances of the Mosaic institutions. In the second year of his imprisonment he sent an Epistle to the Philippians, on the husual subject, to caution them against the Judaizing teachers, and persuade them to love and union. The Epistle to the Colossians affirms the doctrine of the atonement of Christ, against the metaphysical Essenians and Ju
daizers. These. Epistles shew the constant and peculiar care of the Apostle over the Churches, and his great anx