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was the construction of Theophylact ; and gives, I apprehend, the true meaning of the original.
It is to be observed, that Sylvanus or Silas, and Timothy, united with Paul in sending this Epistle to the Thessalonians ; and of course coincided with him in all the declarations, which it contains. Accordingly, the language of the text is, “What is our hope." These excellent men, therefore, who had been the Apostle's fellow labourers in converting the Thessalonians, certainly expected to find the same glorious crown, and their own share in the same elevated joy, in the final day. That their expectations were well founded, the Spirit of inspiration, who dictated this Epistle, has left us the amplest proof.
It is also to be observed, that Paul exhibits the Corinthians as rejoicing in him, and Timothy who united with him in writing the second Epistle to that Church, even as they did, in the members of that Church. To the same joy in him he directs the Philippians, in the verse following the passage, already quoted. " For the same cause, also, do ye rejoice, and be glad with me.”
The foundation of the Apostle's joy in his converts is particularly expressed in the whole of this passage, taken together. “ That ye may be blameless, and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine, as lights in the world : Holding forth the word of life ; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” The blameless, harmless, unrebukable character of these converts, the lustre of their example, and the glory, which it cast around the word of God; constituted the source of that peculiar happiness, which he expected to find in the day of Christ. This exemplary piety, seen in their lives with such beauty and lustre, while it allured those, who beheld it, to follow them in the way to endless life, was, at the same time, a glorious proof of the faithfulness and efficacy of his own labours for their conversion.
In the text, thus considered, are contained the following doctrines.
I. Those, who have been intimately connected in the present world, will at the day of judgment be known to each other.
II, Faithful Ministers of the Gospel, and those, who under their
ministry have embraced the Gospel, will be mutual causes of joy in that day, and by consequence through eternity.
1. Thuse, who have been intim itely connected in the present world, will at the day of judgment be known to each other.
Of the truth of this doctrine there can, I think, be little doubt. The Apostle, his fellow-labourers, and their converts, were to rejoice with each other at the day of Christ, with a peculiar joy. To these Ministers of the Gospel neither the saints of ancient times, nor those of succeeding generations, were to be their hope, or their joy, or their crown. This character is in the text, and the parallel passages which have been mentioned, expressly confined to their own converts. In the same manner these converts are exhibited as peculiarly rejoicing in Paul and Timothy, as Ministers, by whom they believed. But, if these preachers, and their converts, were thus to rejoice in each other; it follows of course, that they must be mutually known; and known in their mutual connection, as instruments, and heirs, of salvation. St. Paul therefore, and Timothy, and Silas, will know the members of those churches for whom they wrote, and be known by them, in the day of Christ. Nor can there be any reasonable doubt, that other ministers and their converts will be known in the same manner; nor by parity of reasoning, that parents and children will know each other; husbands and their wives ; instructors and their pupils; friends, also ; companions; and neighbours.
In accordance with this scheme of thought it is said, that many shall come from the east and from the west, from the north, and from the south, and sit down with Abraham, with Isaac, with Jacob, and with all the prophets, in the kingdom of God. Lazarus was carried by Angels to Abraham's bosom. These illustrious persons, therefore, must, it would seem according to any rational interpretation, be known to those, concerning whom these declarations are made. Abraham, Lazarus, and the rich man, were all known to each other. It is incredible, that this case should be singular; or the exbibition, made in it concerning the state of our future existence, erroneous.
In the same manner Moses and Elias, on the mount of transfiguration, were known, not only to each other, but to the three Apostles also: as Peter proves in his address to Christ. It cannot
be rationally questioned, that this knowledge is universally a part of the divine system ; or that all, who have been intimately connected here, will be known by each other hereafter.
II. Ministers of the Gospel, and those, who under their ministry have embraced the Gospel, will be mutual causes of joy in that day; and by consequence, throughout eternity.
Of this doctrine there can be as little doubt, as of the former. Both the text, and the parallel passages which have been quoted, furnish ample evidence of its truth. To such, as love the doctrines of the Scriptures, it must, however, be profitable to exainine the nature, and ground, of this joy. I have already mentioned the declaration of St. Paul concerning this subject to the Philippians ; in which he informs them, that their assumption of the Gospel as the rule of life, and of holiness as their moral character, the lustre of their obedience to the former, and the eminence of their proficiency in the latter, were the sources of that peculiar enjoyment which he and his fellow-labourers expected in the day of Christ. The same characteristics in him and his companions, and the peculiar faithfulness and success, with which they performed the duties of their stewardship, are, also, with sufficient clearness exhibited as the foundation of that joy, which their converts would find at the same solemn period.
It is impossible, that intelligent beings should find in each other more noble, or rational, sources of happiness than these. In their converts the ministers, in question, beheld a multitude of immortal minds, rescued from ignorance and idolatry, from endless sin and endless ruin ; established in the belief and obedience of divine truth, and constituted heirs of everlasting glory, happiness, and virtue. On the one hand, how wonderful the escape ! On the other, how amazing the acquisition !
With what sympa. thy, with what transport, must such benevolent men, as Paul, Silas, and Timothy, behold this delightful scene! These converts were originally without God, and wilhout hope in the world ; worshipped images of gold and silver; of brass and stone; and prostrated themselves before the stock of a tree. They were aliens from the divine kingdom; outcasts from the virtuous universe; and heirs only of sin, and perdition. When the Apostle
and his companions first beheld them, how melancholy, how desolate, must have been the prospect! How deep the darkness, in which they were involved! How entirely pathless the desert, in which they groped their way! With what emotions must these messengers of salvation have regarded the miserable sufferers, in this state of gloom, solitude, and despair! With what yearnings of evangelical compassion did these ministers of Christ light up for them the lamp of hope; and guide them into the path to endless life! How joyfully did they behold them enter the straigh! gate, and go on in the narrow way! With what animated expectations did they mark their future progress; their victory over obstacles, temptations, enemies, and sins; their faithful adherence to the precepts of the Gospel; and the steady direction of their course towards heaven!
In Paul and his companions their converts beheld those, who in this world had been pre-eminently wise, and had turned many to righteousness; and who, therefore, were in the future world to shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars, forever and
In these illustrious ministers of Christ they beheld those, who, as instruments in the hands of God, had done to them greater good, than the universe beside was able to do : good, which could never be repaid ; good, which no created mind can comprehend; good, which no limited duration can ever unfold. With the blessing of God, these men had accomplished their salvation ; and secured to them an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and eternal in the heavens. The benefit, communicated, was the greatest of all benefits : and the disposition, by which it was produced, the best of all dispositions. At the final day, when future things will begin to be actual, realized, and enjoyed, they will see in them the best of all created friends, and the noblest of all created benefactors: friends, whose kindness will appear more lovely ; whose beneficence, more valuable; and whose characters, more excellent; through every succeeding age of eternity. Thus connected, thus related; how can these ministers and their converts fail to rejoice in each other at this solemn day; or to increase their joy continually, as they advance through the successive periods of endless duration ?
No labour is necessary to persuade my audience, that from a subject, so solemn, so interesting. so delightful, many inferences of high importance might be derived.
Particularly is the integrity of Paul and his fellow.labourers most clearly evident from the sentiments, expressed in this passage of Scripture. They are obviously sentiments, which no impostor, no dishonest man, would devise ; or, if he had devised them, would have adopted. The hope, the joy, of such a man would have terminated, of course, in this world; and centred wholly in the means of enhancing his influence, and establishing his control over the Thessalonians. The Epistle, if written by such a man, would have abounded in artsul refutations of the censures, thrown upon his character; and in insidious contrivances to gain the ends, which ambition, pride, and cunning, promise themselves from their successful efforts. Fraud and hypocrisy would have floated on the surface; and wealth, power, and pleasure, would have been seen at the bottom.
With the like clearness are the excellence, and amiableness, of these men unfolded in this passage of Scripture, thus examined. The objects, proposed, display a benevolence singularly generous and noble; and the exhibition of these objects presents this character in a light, eminently happy. Warm from the heart; uncontrived; unaffected; the sentiments expressed array the men with all the beauty and loveliness of Evangelical charity. The portrait is formed of enchanting lines, and charming colours : and the eye discerns, and acknowledges, the likeness without a momentary hesitation.
From this character of the writers is inferred, irresistibly, the integrity of their writings; and from this, in a manner equally obvious and necessary, their divine origin. But from these, and many other, reflections of a similar nature the time, barely sufficient for my present purpose, compels me to withdraw my attention. The peculiar design of this discourse requires, that I devote the remainder to its accomplishment.
You, my young friends, for whom this discourse is particularly designed, stand in a relation to me, in several respects the same with that in which the converts, so often mentioned, stood in relation to Paul and his companions. You have, also, been connect