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ST. PAUL PROCEEDS TO THESSALONICA-CHAP. XII.
Jalian Pe- openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us Philippi. riod, 4761. into prison: and now do they thrust us out privily? nay Vulgar Era, 50. verily; but let them come themselves, and fetch us out.
38 And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.
38 And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.
From Philippi through Amphipolis, and Apollonia to Thes-
salonica, where they are opposed by Jason.
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and ThessaloApollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a syna- nica. gogue of the Jews:
2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath-days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures'.
3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul
This passage is generally quoted as one of those which prove the identity of the service of the primitive Church with that of the synagogue. In the instance of reading the Scriptures in both, the parallel certainly exists. This subject, however, having been already in some measure considered, I shall merely observe, in this place, that we never read that any one of the primitive Churches had such an officer as the Archisynagogus, or were governed by the ten, the twenty-three, &c. neither were the primitive Churches built by the side of rivers; and many other points of dissimilarity might be shewn.
Some writers indeed have gone to the opposite extreme, and derived the principal customs which prevailed among the early Christians to the Heathen institutions established among them. The fact seems to be, that as the Jewish synagogues were necessarily the first places of worship, very many useful customs were derived from the Jewish synagogue-service: and, as the number of the Gentile converts increased from the Heathen worship, some customs might be derived from them also. The Churches, in things indifferent, were left to their own discretion there was, however, a general similarity of worship, as well as an unity of faith, among all the primitive Churches. As at the Reformation, our Church-service was not formed upon the model of the service of the Romish Church; yet our reformers wisely retained whatever was useful; so were many customs of the synagogues preserved. The worship of God was placed upon a right foundation: there was neither a servile deference paid to antiquity, neither was there any capricious, or useless, or jealous removal of ancient customs, merely because they were established.
Julian Pe- and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, Thessaloriod, 4762. and of the chief women not a few.
5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.
6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down, are come hither also:
7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
8 And they troubled the people, and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.
9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
St. Paul writes his Epistle to the Galatians, to prove, in
opposition to the Judaizing Teachers, that faith in
Christ, and not their imperfect obedience to the Ceremo-
nial Law, was the cause of their salvation 1o.
Paul vindicates his Apostleship, and salutes the Brethren.
1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but
10 Revelation is the language of heaven, spoken by the lips of
men; and no where through the volume of Scripture do we more
legibly read its characters of light, than in the portion to which
we have now arrived, the Epistles of St. Paul." It is here that
the discoveries are made which complete the perfection of the
Christian dispensation. The preaching of Christ was past—the
generation of witnesses who heard him speak "as man never
spake," was rapidly dying away; the reign of the Holy Spirit
had began, and the divine teaching was recalled to the minds of
the Evangelists, and the deepest mysteries of God were impart-
ed to the apostles. In the Gospels we read what Christ in his
humility declared on earth, in the Epistles are recorded what
Christ on his throne of glory spake through the Spirit from
heaven. Why should it excite our surprise, therefore, that all
those who passionately long, or serenely hope, for their eventual
attainment of the promises of God, should be so much attached
to this portion of their holy Revelation; when others again, of
a different character, who seem unable to appreciate their sub-
lime excellencies, would altogether exclude them, as abounding
with observations and directions which were primarily of a
temporary nature only, and consequently, as they assert, irre-
levant to the Christians of the present age. On this principle
nearly the whole of our Scriptures may be rejected as use-
less, for all the sacred books, either wholly, or in part,
were first written to answer some temporary object, how-
ever profitable they may have been for instruction, reproof,
and doctrine to the Catholic Church for ever. Man is the
THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS-CHAP. XII.
Julian Pe- by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him Thessalofrom the dead ;)
same in all ages, and in all countries. However his customs and
habits may differ, the same principle of evil within him every
where prevails-as the body is the same in one nation as in
another, though the manner of his clothing and the ornaments
of his dress may vary. It is to the principle within, "to the
inner man," that the Scripture is addressed; and if therefore
we meet either in the Old or New Testament with any passages
which refer to customs that are now obsolete, we may consider
the appeal of inspiration as directed to the motives of action;
and we shall then find that all Scripture is of universal applica-
tion, and is written for our instruction in righteousness. It
proceeds from the Father of Spirits, and is by him revealed to
the spirit of man within him.
Here it is that we are presented with a picture of the heart
of man, and of the human nature with which we are born into
the world, so faithful that when we look within us, we acknow-
ledge its justice with indignation, with sorrow, or remorse; yet
so vivid, so animated in its colouring-its impression so pow-
erful, that we never cease to remember the terrible portrait
of ourselves, which is drawn by the inspired pencil. Here
it is that the supernatural energy of inspiration triumphs.
We may call in to our aid the flatteries of our self-love, and
arm ourselves with speculations on the dignity of human na-
ture, and the infinite, uncovenanted mercy of God-We may
palliate vice, and endeavour to satisfy ourselves that the natu-
ral or animal man may become a participator of a spiritual
existence without change or repentance, or divine influence;
if, however, we contemplate the likeness of ourselves as the
character of the heart is drawn in these divine compositions,
we shall deeply feel the absolute necessity of the same Spirit
of God, which inspired these holy writers, to cleanse the
thoughts of our hearts within us, that we may perfectly love
and worthily magnify him. Here it is that we read in a clearer
and fuller manner, than in any other part of the sacred volume,
the mysteries of the world to come-the nature of our future ex-
istence-the recesses of the human heart-the majesty of the
Son of God-the intimate union which may be formed while we
are still on earth between the human soul and God its Creator-
and the unspeakable consolations which Christianity alone can
afford us in the prospect of death, and the hour of our most
painful sufferings. It would be easy to detail these at great
length: each of them appeals to the heart, as the angel Jeho-
vah, when he followed our first parents in the recesses of the
garden, and exclaimed, "Where art thou?" In the devotional
parts of St. Paul's Epistles, a voice from heaven, as the trum-
pet of the archangel, seems to appeal to the Son of Man, where
art thou? what are thy employments? to what world art thou
The errors which distracted the Church in the apostolic age, are the same in principle as those which have always flourished, and which are abundantly prevalent in our own day. Even now the advocates of natural religion, and the asserters of the power of human reason, like the Gnostics of the apostolic age, embarrass themselves and their readers with vain philosophy, and crude speculations on the existence of God, the nature of the soul, the origin of the world, or the eternity of matter. Antichristian metaphysicians still deserve the censure of "profane and vain babblings." The Greek, the Oriental, and Jewish
Julian Pe- 2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the Thessaloriod, 4762. churches of Galatia : Vulgar Era,
philosophy, united all their jargon to oppose a system of spiri-
tual religion, which did not, and could not amalgamate with
their metaphysical theories; and every Deistical dream which
has been since invented, is uniformly opposed to the same
object. Revelation is the only guide to the reason of man;
when its bright light is obscured, or disregarded, man must
always stumble on the dark mountains of error.
Did the Gnostics" forbid to marry, and command to abstain
from meats?" The apostle, in condemning them, passes his
censure upon those corrupters of Christianity, who still in the
Church of Rome inculcate the same doctrines-Did any pro-
fess to consider Christ as inferior to the Father? The apostle is
more especially urgent upon this fundamental point to enforce
on the Church, that the Christ who took upon him our nature,
is over all God blessed for ever-Did others maintain that Christ
came into the world not to expiate the sins of man, or to ap-
pcase the wrath of an offended Deity, but only to communicate
to the human race the long lost knowledge of the Supreme
Being? The Epistle to the Hebrews satisfied the ancient
Church of the folly, absurdity, and wickedness of this wilful
blindness, and condemns, in language which modern cour-
tesy would shrink from as illiberal and bigoted, the pre-
sumption of the German speculatist, and the blasphemy of the
half-reasoning Unitarian. All metaphysical inventions which
clash with the common-sense opinions which have originated in
Scripture respecting God, the soul, the compound nature of
man, the origin, continuance, and eventual conquest of evil,
are alike condemned by the inspired Epistles.
Among the various errors of the apostolic age which are censured in their different compositions, we meet with no traces of that fatal error which has been reserved only for modern presumption: we find no denial, of the miraculous evidences upon which Christianity is founded, or of the facts which it records, as the basis of the doctrines it enforces. This effort of the enemy of the Church was reserved for the present critical and enlightened age, in which that reasoner is considered the most wise who departs farthest from the only true wisdom; and bewildered in the clouds and mists of error, puts darkness for light, and light for darkness.
If we turn to those subjects in which man may imagine himself
to be more personally interested, as an immortal being, to the
discoveries which it has pleased the Spirit of God to make to us
by his apostles concerning the Saviour of the world, we might
transcribe at great length the lofty titles and magnificent de-
scriptions with which the inspired language of the apostles
describe Him, who is the brightness of his Father's glory, and
the express image of his person-the exact impression of his
manner of existence-the image of the invisible God, in whom
dwelleth the fulness of the Deity-who is highly exalted-at
whose name all created things shall bow, whether in heaven or
in earth; visible or invisible-the object of the worship of
angels-the Judge of the world. He is here described as the
one who was before all things: as the manifested Saviour, from
the creation to the judgment. It is in these Epistles that we
are enabled in a greater degree to penetrate beyond the scaling
of our own destiny.
The distant throne, the sapphire blaze
Where angels tremble while they gaze.
THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS-CHAP. XIL
8 Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father, Thessalo
riod, 4762. and from our Lord Jesus Christ, ValgarÆra,
In them we are confirmed in the belief of our own resurrection-in the assurance that this corruptible must put on incor. ruption. They corroborate the events related in the Gospels, and are the most decisive evidences we can possess of the rapid increase of Christianity. In them we hear, as it were, the angel of God declare, that "time shall be no more." We see the Saviour of the world resign his mediatorial kingdom to his Father, that God may be all in all-the harvest of the Church gathered in the eternity that is past united to the eternity that is to come, and man made partaker of a heavenly and glorious immortality.
With respect to the crime of dividing or disturbing the Churches, the apostolic Epistles every where abound with the most explicit injunctions on this point-" I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment: for it hath been declared unto me, of you, my brethren, that there are contentions among you. Submit to those that have the rule over you, for they watch for your souls, as those that must give an account;" with many other passages to the same purpose.
Still farther; there are various portions of the Epistles, which incontrovertibly relate to our own times, and to times yet to arrive: those portions, namely, which are predictive. Of this description are the Epistle of St. Jude; a part of the second Epistle of St. Peter; of St. Paul's second Epistle to the Thessalonians, and of both his Epistles to Timothy; and of the Epistles of St. John. It is needless to name other passages, or to enlarge on those prophecies which have been specified; for who will deny them to pertain to the faith and the practice of the present age?
We must not, however, regard the Epistles as communica-
tions of religious doctrines not disclosed before: as displaying
the perfection of a system, of which merely the rude elements
had been indicated in the writings of the four Evangelists.
The object of the Gospels seems supposed to be almost exclu-
sively this: to prove, by a genuine narrative of miraculous
facts, that Jesus Christ was the promised Redeemer; and thus
to lay ground for the belief of the doctrinal truths, which he
should afterwards reveal by the Holy Ghost in the Epistles.
Is this opinion, says a learned modern (a), consistent with
antecedent probability? Does it appear a natural expecta-
tion, that our blessed Redeemer, in whom dwelt all the
fulness of the Godhead bodily," to whom the "Holy Ghost
was given without measure," should restrict within such scanty
limits his personal communications of divine truths to his dis-
ciples: that he should thus restrict such communications to
his apostles during the whole period of his public ministry,
before his crucifixion and after his resurrection?
nion easily reconcileable with the declarations of the inspired
writers, that, while our Lord" dwelt among them, they beheld
his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full
of grace and truth," (John i. 14.): and that "after his passion
he was seen of them forty days, speaking of the things pertaining
to the kingdom of God?" (Acts i. 3.)
To bring the point in debate to the speediest issue, we will inquire, what are the new articles, what is the new article, of