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This, it is probable, the Reader has been strongly inclined to believe, if not to be fully convinced of, from the examinas tion of the first of these chapters. Indeed there is, so striking a reference in that chapter, to some great national calamity, that it has been thought, even by those who have imagined the Apostle to have been treating of the day of Fudgment, in that chapter, that he interweaves with it, a reference to the destruktion of Jerusalem. But Dr. Benson has very judiciously observed, that “ particular expressions, in
any Author, may be váriously applied, when, detached « from their connection; but the current of the Apostle's " discourse. here, is concerning only one grand and signal “ day.” And it is remarkable, that even Dr. Benson has repeatedly referred, in his Notes on this chapter, to Matt. xxiv. 36, 37, 43. Luke xxi, 34, 35, 36, and even to Luke xvii. 26, &c. to prove, that that grand and signal day is the day of final judgment. *
If the reasoning which hath hitherto been adopted, in endeavouring to ascertain the meaning of the fifth chapter of this Epistle, shall, upon examination, be found to be accurate and conclusive ; it will, in the strongest manner, be confirmed, by a close attention to the second chapter of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, with which it is, on all hands, allowed to be intimately connected. .. and
This chapter hath exercised the ingenuity of the most learned men in Christendom, and there is none, about the meaning of' which, their opinions have been more divided ; some applying it to the apostacy of the Romish church ; while others have thought that it relates to the destruction of Jerus salem, and the Jewish State. Among those who have enter. tained this latter opinion are, the great Grotius, Le Clerc,
* It is not meant, in this instance, to charge Dr. Benson with inconsiste mcy, in referring to these passages; for he actually thought they related to the day of Judgment. See pages 123, 124, of this work ;---but it is remarkable the same references are made by Messrs. Beausobte and L'Enfant, and also by Mr. Le Clerc, as well as by most other Commentators. The former, in their Note on a Thess. V. 2. say, “ Ils avoient appris ce que le Seigneur avoit dit là dessus à ses 'Disciples. Voy. Matt xxiv. 42. And, on the 3d verse they say,---Il s'agit des impies: & des profanes ; en particulier des Juifs-impenitens. Il y a là des allusions au deluge, & à la ruïne de Jerusalem. Voyez Luc. xvii. 26.-30. The latter, in his Note on ver. 2. quotes Matt. xxiv. 43, and has this remarkable expression---les Thessaloniciens l'avoient apris, i. e. The Thessalonians learnt the coming of the day of the Lord from Matt xxiv. 43,
Hammond, Hammond, Whitby, and Wetstein, and though a much greater majority of the learned apply it to the former, and it appears to be at present the prevailing opinion_yet still it is liable to some very formidable objections, which will fully justify a suspicion, that the Apostle's meaning has not yet been thoroughly understood, and consequently will be a suf. ficient apology for bespeaking the candid 'attention of the Reader to a critical and minute review of the Apostle's lan. guage in this chapter.
As it is obvious that the meaning of the whole chapter depends upon the meaning of the phrase the coming of Christ, in the first verse ; it will be necessary to ascertain, with all possible precision, what that meaning is. * Bishop Newton has observed, that “ The phrases of the 6 coming of Christ, and the day of Christ, may be understood, es either figuratively of his coming in judgment upon the * Jews, or literally of his coming in glory to judge the world. 6 Sometimes indeed they are used in the former sense, but," says he, “ they are more generally employed in the latter, by the • Writers of the New Testament.” And he, asserts, " that the " latter is the proper signification in this place as the context 66 will evince beyond contradiction."
With respect to the context, and the learned Bishop's obo servations upon it, they will presently be considered ;- but if there be any truth in the representation, which, in the preceding pages, has been made, that the Gospel History is an History of the great controversy between Jesus and the Jews, concerning the true nature of the Messiah's character, and that the destruction of Jerusalem was a crowning proof, and a decisive completion of that controversy ; it will necessarily follow, that till that controversy was finally decided, the lead. ing idea of the coming of Christ, and that upon which his coming to judge the world depended, was his coming in judga ment” uport the Jews; for upon the accomplishment of that cvent, he had rested the issue of that controversy!
It is a most important circumstance that must not, by any means, be forgotten in the consideration of the meaning of the phrase the coming of Christ, as used by St. Paul, in the passage in question, that our Lord's predi&tion concerning the true nature of his coming, as the Messiah, was in answer to the question of the Disciples... What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world, or age,--. e. as was ob
Here, it must carefully be observed, that both in the Epistle and in the Gospels--the subject treated of, unquestionably is the coming of Christ. In the latter the question of the Diso" ciples, is what shall be the sign of the COMING? In the former, ithe Apostle's language is Now we beseech you con. cerning THE COMING OP CHRIST. And the cautions, in both; are almost the same verbatim. The language therefore, and the subject are so strikingly the same, that scarcely a single doubt can be entertained, that the one has an immediate and direct reference to the other, even though no other evidence of the fact could be produced, But when to this it be added, that our Lord, in a very particular and earnest manner, spoke of the destructiou of Jerusalem, as declarative of the true nature of his coming as the Messiah, and particularly pointed out the signs of its approach, in order that they should make a deep impression upon the minds of those who should be living at the time, saying, in the most impressive language - Behold I have told you before.When all these circumstances are maturely and attentively weighed there can hardly exist a doubt in the mind of any impartial person that by the coming of Christ, in the passage under consideration, the Apostle had an immediate reference to the destruktion of Jerusalem. And this meaning of the phrase the coming of Christ is strongly confirmed by the language which he had made use of in the fifth chapter of his former Epistle, that the coming of the Lord and the day of the Lord were at hand-as well as by that event being confessedly at no great distance. At least it must be admitted, that there is no inconsistency in the supposition, that the Apostle referred to that event. . ..
* But,'? says Bishop Newton, so the proper signification 66 of the phrase the coming of Christ in this place is, his
6 coming in glory to judge the world, as the context will 66 evince beyond contradition.” And to prove this, he reasons as follows: “ St. Paul himself," says he, “ had planted “ the church in Thessalonica'; and it consisted principally " of converts from among the Gentile idolaters, because it " is said, 1 Thess, i. 9. That they turned to God from idols, to “ șerve the living and true God. What occasion was there 66 therefore to admonish them particularly of the destruction *** of Jerusalem ? Or why should they be under such agitations " and terrors upon that account? What connection had Maos cedonia with Judea, or Thessalonica with Jerusalem? What C! share were the Christian converts to have in the calamitics « of the rebellious and unbelieving Jews ? and why should 66 they not rather have been comforted than troubled at the o punishment of their inveterate enemies ?. Besides, how 6 could the Apostle deny that the destruction of the Jews 66 was at hand when it was at hand, as he saith himself, ¢ Thess, ii. 16. And the wrath is come upon them to the 6 uttermost? He knew, for our Saviour had declared, that
the destruction of Jerusalem would come to pass in that “ generation : And what a ridiculous comfort must it be to “ tell them, that it would not happen immediately, but would
be accomplished within less than twenty years? The phrases
therefore of the coming of Christ and the day of Christ," he concludes, “ cannot, in this place, relate to the destruction
of Jerusalem, but must necessarily be taken in the more “ general acceptation of his coming to judge the world." * .. · Such is the reasoning of this learned Prelate, which, if it is plausible, is no more ; for in reply to the question-What çonnection Macedonia had with Judeam-or Thessalonica with Jerusalem ? it seems sufficient to observe, that the destruction of Jerusalem was an event in which all Christians, however remote their situation, were materially and deeply interested, if only as a prediction, in which the credit of the Author of their religion, as a true Prophet of God, was at stake. It was, in fact, the crowning evidence of the truth of Christi. anity, and a complete decision of the important controversy, on which the whole Gospel History is founded, concerning the true nature of the Messiah's charakter. And while that event remained unaccomplished, that controversy could not, with stri&t propriety, be said to be decided ; for, as was be fore observed, from Dr. Jortin, « Christ had foretold it so FR expressly, that if he had failed, his Religion could not have 96. supported itself,"
That the Apostle thought the Thessalonians interested in their destruction is plain from his mentioning it, in so parti: çular a manner, and particularly from the reason which he assigned for it to wit-mthat they were the common enemies of mankind, And the History of the Acts of the Apostles para ticularly states it as a fact; that their rage against the Christians at Thessalonica, was so great, that having driven some of See Newton on the Prophecies, Vol. II. pages 361, 36%.