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THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS. 279
he as God sitteth in the temple of God, -showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not that WHEN I WAS YET WITH YOŲ 4 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 reveal ed, 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 : “ Remem-ber 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 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 à 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. ii. 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." . . - 2 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 departs ed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only." . . i i !
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, “ that no church communicated with him, as concerning giving and receiving, but they only,” he could not, consistently with the truth of this declaration, have received any thing from the neighbouring church of Thessalonica. What thus appears by general implication in an epistle to another church, when he writes to the Thessalonians themselves, is noticed expressly and particularly ; “ neither did we eat any man's bread for nought, but wrought night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you." · The texts here cited further also exhibit á , mark of conformity with what St. Paul is made to say of himself in the Acts of the Apostles. The apostle not only reminds the Thessalonians that he had not been chargeable to any of them, but he states likewise the motive which dictated this reserve : “not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.' (ch. iii. 9.) This conduct, and, what is much more precise, the end which he had in view by it, was the very same as that which the history attributes to St. Paul in a discourse, which it represents him to have addressed to the elders of the church of Ephesus ; “ Yea, ye yourselves also know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak.” Acts, ch. xx. 34. The
sentiment in the epistle and in the speech is in both parts of it so much alike, and yet the words which convey it show so little of imitation or even of resemblance, that the agreement cannot well be explained without supposing the speech and the letter to have really proceeded from the same person. :
No, III. Our reader remembers the passage in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, in which St. Paul spoke of the coming of Christ : “ Thiş we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep: for the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, and so shall we be ever with the Lord. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.”! 1 Thess. iv. 15–17, and ch. v. 4. It should seem that the Thessalonians, or some however amongst them, had from this passage conceived an opinion (and that not very unaturally) that the coming of Christ was to take place instantly, ori Evere