« PreviousContinue »
The matters contained in the two epistles to the Thessalonians being of such importance, we may believe, that the Presidents of the Thessalonian church, in obedience to the apostle's adju. ration in his first epistle, took care to have both of them frequently read to the people in their public assemblies ; who considering them as expressions of their spiritual father's love to them, and of his earnest concern for their salvation, would hear them read with pleasure, and be greatly strengthened and comforted by them.-May the reading of these excellent writings have the same happy effects on the disciples of Christ, to the end of time.
OF ST. PAUL'S
FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY.
The History of Timothy's Conversion to Christianity. Paul and Barnabas, in the course of their first apostolical journey among the Gentiles, having come to Lystra, a city of Lycaonia, in the Lesser Asia, Acts xiv. 6. preached there some time, and converted a pious Jewish woman, named Lois, with her daughter Eunice, whose husband, it is thought, was then dead, 2 Tim. i. 5.-Soon after this, Timothy, Eunice's son, who had been brought up by his mother and grandmother, in the Jewish religion, and in the knowledge of the scriptures, 2 Tim. iii. 15. being greatly affected by the apostle's discourses, believed.From the time of his conversion, Timothy made such proficiency in the knowledge of the gospel, and was so remarkable for the sanctity of his manners, as well as for his zeal in the cause of Christ, that he attracted the esteem of all the brethren in those parts. Accordingly, when the apostle came from Antioch in Syria to Lystra, the second time, they so praised Timothy, that him would Paul have, to go forth with him, Acts xvi. 2, 3. The testimony of the brethren, however, was not the only reason of this choice. Timothy was pointed out as a fit person to be ordained an evangelis, by a revelation made either to Paul himself, or to some of the Christian prophets in Lystra, 1 Tim. i. 18. In the mean time, Timothy, though a Jew, not having been circumcised, by reason that his father was a Greek or Gentile, it was proper he should bear that mark of his descent; because, without it, the Jews would have looked on him as a
Gentile, and have despised his instructions. This, and not any opinion that circumcision was necessary to salvation, determined the apostle to propose, and Timothy to receive, the rite by which the Jews, from the earliest times, had been distinguished from the rest of mankind. Afterwards, the eldership at Lystra, the more strongly to impress Timothy with a sense of the importance of the function he had undertaken, solemnly set him apart to the office of an evangelist, by the laying on of their hands, 1 Tim. iv. 14. and by prayer. This was followed by the laying on of the apostle's hands, for the purpose of communicating to Timothy the gifts of the Holy Ghost, 2 Tim. i. 6.
Timothy, thus prepared to be the apostle's fellow-labourer in the gospel, accompanied him and Silas when they visited the churches of Phrygia, and delivered to them the decrees of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, freeing the Gentiles from the law of Moses as a term of salvation. Having gone through these countries, they at length came to Troas, where Luke joined them, as appears from the phraseology of his history, Acts xvi. 10, 11, &C.-In Troas, as was mentioned, Pref. to 1 Thess. sect. 1. a vision appeared to Paul, directing them to go into Macedonia. Loosing therefore, from Troas, they all passed over to Neapolis, and from thence went to Philippi, where they converted many, and planted a Christian Church. From Philippi they went to Thessalonica, leaving Luke at Philippi; as appears from his changing the phraseology of his history at ver. 40. We may therefore suppose, that, at their departing, they committed the converted at Philippi to Luke's care.--In These salonica, they were opposed by the unbelieving Jews, and obliged to flee to Beræa, whither the Jews from Thessalonica followed them. To elude their rage, Paul, who was most obnoxious to them, departed from Berca by night to go to Athens, leaving Silas and Timothy in Beræa. At Athens Timothy came to the apostle, and gave him such an account of the afflicted state of the Thessalonian brethren, as induced him to send Timothy back to comfort them. See Pref. to 1 Thess. sect. 1.-After that, Paul preached at Athens; but with so little success, that he judged it proper to leave Athens, and go forward to Corinth, where Silas and Timothy came to him, and assisted in converting the Corinthians. And when he left Corinth, they accompanied him, first to Ephesus, then to Jerusalem, and after that to Antioch in Syria.-Having spent some time in Antioch, Paul set out with Timothy on his third apostolical journey, in which, after visiting all the churches of Galatia and Phrygia, in the order in which they had been planted, they came to Ephesus the second time, and there abode long. In short, from the time Timothy first joined the apostle as his assistant, he never left him, except when sent by him on some special errand. And by his affection, fidelity, and zeal, he so recommended himself to all the disciples, and acquired such authority among them, that Paul inserted his name in the inscription of several of the letters which he wrote to the churches, to shew that their doctrine was one and the same. His esteem and affection for Ti. mothy, the apostle expressed still more conspicuously, by writing to him those excellent letters in the canon, which bear his name; and which have been of the gr test use to the ministers of the gospel, ever since their publication, by directing them to discharge all the duties of their function, in a proper manner.
Of the time when the first Epistle to Timothy was written. In the third verse of the first chapter of this epistle, the apose tle saith, As I entreated thee to abide in Ephesus, when going into Macedonia, so do; that thou mayest charge some not to teach differently. From this it is plain,l. That Timothy was in Ephesus when the apostle wrote his first letter to him.-2. That he had been left there by the apostle, who at parting with him, entreated him to abide in Ephesus.-3. That this happened when Paul was going from Ephesus into Macedonia.--And 4. That he entreated Timothy to abide in Ephesus for the purpose of charge ing some teachers in that church, not to teach differently from the apostles.
In the history of the acts of the apostles, there is no mention of Paul's going from Ephesus into Macedonia, but once; namely, after the riot of Demetrius, Acts xx. 1. For which reason, Theodoret among the ancients, and among the moderns, Estius, Baronius, Capellus, Grotius, Lightfoot, Salmasius, Hammond, Witsius, Lardner, Benson, and others, have given it as their opinion, that the apostle speaks of that journey in his first epistle to Timothy. Yet, if I am not mistaken, the following circumstances will shew their opinion to be ill founded.
1. When the apostle went from Ephesus into Macedonia, as related Acts xx. 1. Timothy was not in Ephesus, having gone from that city into Macedonia with Erastus, by the apostle's
direction, Acts xix. 22. And, in the first epistle to the Corinthians, which was written after Timothy's departure from Ephesus, we are informed that he was to go from Macedonia to Corinth, 1 Cor. iv. 7. I have sent to you Timothy.--1 Cor. xvi. 10. If Timothy be come, take care that he be among you without fear. Ver. 11. Send hiin forward in peace, that he may come to me : for I expect him with the brethren. But before Timothy returned from Corinth, the apostle left Ephesus, and went into Macedonia, where the brethren above mentioned met him, 2 Cor. ii. 12, 13. having Timothy in their company; as is plain from his joining the apostle in his second epistle to the Corinthians, which all agree was written from Macedonia, immediately after the brethren from Corinth gave the apostle an account of the success of his first letter. Wherefore, since Timothy was not in Ephesus when the apostle left that city after the riot, it could not be the occasion, on which the apostle said to him, As I entrtated thee to abide in Ephesus, when going into Macedonia, 80 do: But the journey into Macedonia, of which he speaks, must have been some other journey not mentioned in the Acts. To remove this difficulty, we are told, that Timothy returned from Corinth to the apostle, before his departure from Ephesus, and that he was left there after the riot : But that something happened, which occasioned him to follow the apostle into Macedonia; That there he joined him in writing his second epistle to the Corinthians; and having finished his business in Macedonia, he returned to Ephesus, and abode; agreeably to the apostle's request. But as these suppositions are not warranted by the history of the Acts, Timothy's joining the apostle in his second epistle to the Corinthians, may still be urged as a proof, that he came with the brethren directly from Corinth to Macedonia.Farther, that Timothy did not go from Macedonia to Ephesus, after joining the apostle in his second epistle to the Corinthians, but returned with him to Corinth to receive the collections, I think is plain, from Acts xx. 4. where he is mentioned as one of those who accompanied Paul from Corinth to Jerusalem, with the collections.
2. When the apostle wrote his first epistle to Timothy, he hoped to come to him soon, chap. iii. 14. But, from the history of the Acts, it is certain, that in no letter written to Timothy after the riot, till his first confinement in Rome, could the apostle say, that he hoped to come to him soon. He could not say so, in any letter written from Troas, the first place he stopped at after