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CHAP. ii, 14, “ For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God, which, in Judea, are in Christ Jesus; for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews."
fo a reader of the Acts of the Apostles, it might seem, at first sight, that the persecutions which the preachers and converts of Christianity underwent, were suffered at the hands of their old adversaries the Jews. But, if we attend carefully to the accounts there delivered, we shall observe, that though the opposition made to the Gospel usually originated from the enmity of the Jews, yet in almost all places the Jews went about to accomplish their purpose, by stirring up the Gentile inhabitants against their converted countrymen. Out of Judea they had not power to do much mischief in any other way. This was the case at Thessalonica in particular: “ The Jews which believed not, moved with envy, set all the city in an uproar.”—Acts, chap, xvii, 5. It was the same a short time afterwards at Berea : " When the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people." -Acts, chap. xvii, 13. And before this, our Apostle had met with a like species of persecution, in his progress through the Lesser Asia: in every city “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil-affected against the brethren.”— Acts, chap. xiv, 2. The Epistle, therefore, represents the case accurately as the history states it. It was the Jews always who set on foot the persecutions against the Apostles and their followers. He speaks truly, therefore, of them, when he says in this Epistle, they “ both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted usforbidding us to speak to the Gentiles”-ii
, 15, 16. But out of Judea it was at the hands of the Gentiles, it was “ of their own countrymen,” that the injuries they underwent were immediately sustained: “ Ye have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews.”
The apparent discrepancies between our Epistle and the history, though of magnitude sufficient to repel the imputation of confederacy or transcription in which view they form a part of our argument), are neither numerous, nor very difficult to reconcile. One of these
be observed in the ninth and tenth verses of the second chapter: "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travel; for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly, and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.” A person who reads this passage is naturally led by it to suppose, that the writer had dwelt at Thessalonica, for some considerable time; yet of St Paul's ministry in that city, the history gives no other account than the following:- That "he came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews; that, as his manner was, he went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures; that some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas.” The history then proceeds to tell us that the Jews which believed not, set the city in an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, where Paul and his companions lodged; that the consequence of this outrage was, that “the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night into 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 thither, 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 amongst 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 Alexandrian and Cambridge manuscripts read (for των σεβομενων Ελληνων πολυ πληθος, « of the Greeks a great multitude,”) των σεβομενων και Ελληνων πολυ πληθος, “of the devout persons, and Greeks, a great multitude;" 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 o celou svou (the devout) alone, i. e. without 'EXandes (Greeks), is used in this sense in the same chapter (ver. 17). Paul being come to Athens, diensyeto a on συναγωγη τοις Ιεδαιοις και τους σεβομενοις, “ disputed in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons;” secondly, that os baptivo and Examvis no where come together. The expression is redundant. The ó cs@opesvou must be 'Earmues. Thirdly, that the xai is much more likely to have been left incuriâ manûs (by the carelessnes of the copyist), 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 effect 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?
THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS.
Іт 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 upon 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
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 destroy with the brightness of his coming.”—ver. 3-8. 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 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 to 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.
CHAP. iii, 8, “ Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought, but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.”
In a letter, purporting to have been written to another of the Macedonic 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.”—Phil. iv, 15.
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 that city upon “ his first entrance in unto them,” which the history informs us was in the course of his first visit to the peninsula of Greece.
As St Paul tells the Philippians, 6 that no church commu