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with all his other inspired epistles. They were sent by him to the elders of the churches for whose use they were designed, with a direction that they should be read publicly, by some of their number, to the brethren in their assemblies for worship; and that not once or twice, but frequently, that all might have the benefit of the instructions contained in them. If this method had not been followed, such as were unlearned would have derived no advantage from the apostolical writings: and to make these writings of use to the rest, they must have been circulated among them in private; which would have exposed the autographs of the apostle's letters, to the danger of being lost. The practice therefore of the Romish clergy,
who do not read the scriptures to the common people in their religious assemblies, or who read them in an unknown tongue, is directly contrary to the apostolical injunctions, and to the primitive practice.-Farther, as the Thessalonian brethren had not been entirely obedient to their spiritual guides, the apostle may have suspected, that their pastors would be afraid to read this epistle publicly, in which a number of them were rebuked, and in which practices were expressly condemned, which many of them still followed. He therefore laid the pastors under an oath, to cause it to be read publicly to all the brethren in their own city, and in the neighbourhood.
OF ST. PAUL'S SECOND
EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS.
Of the Occasion of writing the second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
FROM the matters contained in this epistle it appears, that the messenger who carried Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, gave him, when he returned, a particular account of their affairs, (see 2 Thess. iii. 11.) and, among other things, informed him, that many of them thought the day of judgment was to happen in that age; because in his letter the apostle seems to insinuate, that he was to be living on the earth at the coming of the Lord: 1 Thess. iv. 15. We who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord.-Ver. 17. Then we who are alive and remain, shall be caught up.-Chap. v. 4. But ye are not in darkness, so as that day should, like a thief, lay hold on you.-Ver. 6. Therefore, let us not sleep, even as the others; but let us watch and be sober. The same person also informed the apostle, that such of the Thessalonians, as thought the coming of Christ, and the end of the world at hand, were neglecting their secular affairs, in the persuasion that all business of that sort was inconsistent with the care of their souls: That certain false teachers among the Thessalonians pretended to have a revelation of the Spirit, importing that the day of judgment was at hand: That others affirmed they were sent by the apostle to declare the same things by word of mouth: nay, That a forged letter had been handed about in Thessalonica, as from him, to the same purpose.-An error of this kind being exceedingly prejudicial to society, it was necessary to put a stop to it immediately: and
the rather, that being imputed to Paul, it was utterly subversive of his apostolical character and inspiration. The state, therefore, of the Thessalonians was no sooner made known to the apostle, than he wrote to them this second epistle: in which, as in the former, Silas and Timothy joined him, to shew that they were of the same sentiments with him concerning that momentous affair.
The foregoing account of the occasion and design of writing the second epistle to the Thessalonians, is taken from chap. ii. 1. where the apostle besought the Thessalonians, with relation to the coming of Christ, and their gathering together around him (described in his former epistle, chap. iv. 14-18.), not to give the least heed to any teacher, pretending to a revelation of the Spirit, who affirmed that the day of Christ was at hand; or who brought any verbal message or letter to that purpose, as from him. The whole was a falsehood, wickedly framed. And to convince them that it was a falsehood, he assured them in the most express terms, that before the day of the Lord there will be a great apostasy in the church; that the man of sin is to be revealed; that he will oppose and exalt himself above every one who is called God, or who is an object of worship; and that he will sit, or continue a long time, in the church, as God. Then he put this question to the Thessalonians, ver. 5. Do ye not remember, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? So that if they had recollected the apostle's discourses, they would easily have perceived the falsehood of the things, which the deceivers pretended to inculcate as a message from him. -The chief design, therefore, of this epistle, was to convince the Thessalonians, that the apostle and his assistants did not entertain the opinion imputed to them, that the coming of the Lord and the day of judgment were to happen in their lifetime: and to foretell the rise and progress of the mystery of iniquity, together with the coming and destruction of the Man of Sin; that the faithful, being forewarned, might not be surprised at these events, when they took place in the church.
Of the Time and Place of writing the second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonians is thought, by the best critics and chronologers, to have been written from Corinth, during his first abode in that city. For the error it was designed
to correct, being of a most pernicious nature, as shall be shewed immediately, and requiring a speedy remedy, it is natural to suppose the apostle would write it as soon as possible, after the messenger who carried his former letter returned, and gave him an account of the disorders which prevailed among the Thessalonians. That the apostle wrote this second letter not long after the first, seems probable for this reason also, that Timothy and Silvanus, who joined him in his first letter, were still with him, and joined him in the second. And seeing in this epistle he desired the brethren to pray that he might be delivered from brutish and wicked men, chap. iii. 2. it is probable he wrote it soon after the insurrection of the Jews at Corinth, in which they dragged him before Gallio the proconsul of Achaia, and accused him of persuading men to worship God contrary to the law, Acts xviii. 13. It seems the ignorance and rage of the unbelieving Jews had made such an impression upon the apostle's mind, that he was afraid of encountering them again: and therefore he begged the Thessalonians to pray that God would deliver him from all such furious bigots, who, though they professed to believe in the true God, shewed, by their actions, that they were destitute of every good principle whatsoever. This epistle, therefore, being written at Corinth, soon after the former, we cannot be much mistaken in supposing that it was dated A. D. 52. in the end of the twelfth, or in the beginning of the thirteenth year of the reign of Claudius, the successor of Caius.
On supposition that this is the true date of the epistle, Grotius, who makes the Emperor Caius the man of sin, and Simon Magus the wicked one, whose coming is foretold, 2 Th. ii. hath fallen into a gross error; as hath Hammond likewise, who makes Simon Magus the man of sin and the wicked one. From the history of the Acts we know, that Simon had of a long time bewitched the Samaritans with his sorceries, when Philip preached the gospel to them. After leaving Samaria he went, according to Grotius and Hammond, to Rome, and was honoured as a god, in the beginning of the reign of Claudius. Now, seeing in the second epistle to the Thessalonians, which was written in the end of the reign of Claudius, the revelation of the man of sin is spoken of as an event to happen in some future period, it is plain that neither Caius, who was then dead, nor Simon, who is said to have revealed himself at Rome, as a god, in the beginning of the reign of Claudius, can be, the man of sin, and wicked one, whose coming and revelation are foretold in that epistle.