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is established, may be clearly seen. The primary meaning of every verse may be thus more probably ascertained ; and the universal adaptation of the Epistles to the circumstances of the Churches of Christ, in all ages, be more distinctly pointed out. I reject the hypotheses of Semler, and of Taylor of Norwich, as well as the reasonings of his follower, Mr. Belsham; who would destroy the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, by endeavouring to prove that the terms and phrases which are used by St. Paul, have an exclusive reference to the disputes of the apostolic age, respecting the admission of the Gentiles into the Church of God, and are therefore to be interpreted as alluding only to the privileges of the visible Church. While it must be allowed that the existing controversy between the Jews and the Apostles, on this point, ought to be kept in view, whenever the chief Epistles are studied, we shall utterly mistake the nature of that sublimer object which the Deity proposed, when he gave inspiration to his servants, if we attempt to confine their teaching and arguments to the advantages of a visible Church, and to the impartation to the idolatrous Gentiles of a purer system of morality. Their object was rather to prove, that if God admitted the Jews into a visible Church upon earth, as an earnest and proof that they should be hereafter admitted into a higher state of purity and happiness above; the same mercy would receive the Gentiles into this higher glory, and consequently, as an inferior privilege, would receive them into a more extensive and visible Church upon earth. On this account it is that the doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement, (without which essential truths is no Christianity) are so repeatedly and earnestly insisted upon. They are our pledges of future discoveries of God, when we shall rise from the dead. If any revelation be given us from above, we might justly expect that some internal evidence of its truth would be afforded, in addition to the outward facts which demonstrate its divine origin. That internal evidence, among other doctrines, would probably consist in some account of the Deity, which could not have been discovered by reason; and which would be the one, peculiar, characteristic, and mysterious foundation of the whole fabric of truth. This doctrine would be so interwoven with the system of Revelation, that it would be alike found in the beginning, the middle, and the end. The removal of it would be attended with the conviction of the utter uselessness and unreasonableness of the remainder. It would be consistent with the analogy of faith; it would be proportionate to the greatness of the soul of man ; it would be capable of exciting that internal feeling of indefinitude, which uniformly attends our contemplation of the visible world, by whatever branch of science we attempt to explore it, and whether the microscope or telescope be called to our assistance. Such internal evidence, such mysterious, essential truth, is to be found only in the doctrine of the atonement of Christ—a divine and an incarnate Being. It ought not to excite surprise, that the admirers of the powers of human reason have so uniformly endeavoured to overthrow this truth. Salvation by a crucified Redeemer, who was at once a manifested and predicted God, though he was found in fashion as a man, and was despised and rejected of men, ever was, and ever will be, our only real hope; while it is the object of unabated scorn, both to the deifiers of human intellect, and to all the deistical critics of the New Testament. Impressed with these convictions, while I endeavour to ascertain the primary meaning of an Epistle, I never attempt to bring down the lofty speculations of the inspired writer from the battlements of heaven, to the walls of the visible Church. Without losing sight of the controversies of the apostolic age, I have not endeavoured to pervert the meaning of any one passage, by forcibly applying it to these disputes.
The notes to each Epistle contain a brief account of their origin, date, place, and necessity. These will be found to be taken from our popular writers. The usual sources of our knowledge of these subjects have now been so thoroughly explored, that little addition is to be expected, unless we are willing to invent some new theory, or defend some strange paradox.
The conduct of St. Paul at Athens, amidst the contempt which the speculative philosophers of the academy felt and expressed for the Hebrew teacher, suggested some remarks on the best mode by which the missionary and the disputant, whether among heathens or infidels, may at once conciliate his hearers, and advocate truth. In a note to another part of this section, I have briefly considered some of those inquiries which in our early age are so deeply interesting; but which we are generally contented to resign to their own difficulty, in our maturer years. The utter impossibility of solving the problems respecting the nature and attributes of God, concerning the permission of evil, the existence of matter, the origin of the universe, the sources of action with the Deity, and many others, is one great proof of our future immortality, and of our eternal improvement.
In the fourteenth section we come to the first Epistlé to the Thessalonians. The Epistle to the Galatians had been written to prove the reasonableness of the doctrine, that the Gentiles were to be readmitted into the Church of God. This Epistle contains a brief statement of the evidences in favour of Christianity; and, as the inspired writings were read in all the Churches, we may consider the first Epistle to the Thessalonians, as a supplement to the former.
The next section gives us an account of the preaching of St. Paul at Corinth. While he continued in that city he addressed another Epistle to the Thessalonians, to remove a misinterpretation of his former letter, concerning the second coming of Christ. He assures them, that the early descent of our Lord to judgment is not to be expected till a great apostasy had begun, and flourished, and was overthrown. The marks which distinguish this apostasy, describe the Church of Rome. I have not, however, on my own authority, représented Popery as the predicted apostasy. The arguments which have proved satisfactory to the great majority of Protestants on this subject, are principally taken from Dr. Benson. Being convinced by these arguments, that the corrupt Church of Rome is described by St. Paul, as the great sin of Christianity ; I have not hesitated to express and defend that opinion. To maintain Protestantisın, and to oppose Popery, is not the cause of the Church of England, or of the English nation alone; it is the cause of all mankind. To resist that dominion, is the solemn and bounden duty of every man who wishes well to the human race, or who desires universal ecclesiastical and civil freedom. The giant which once bestrode the civilized world like a Colossus, is restless, and struggling beneath the weight of increasing knowledge ; but its convulsive movements still shake the whole of Christendom, and his breath is the furnace of the volcano. We may mark the literary infidelity of the age, and the ancient superstitions of papal Rome ascending from the opposite sides of the intellectual horizon, and overshadowing the nation with their frowns. Our duty must be to strengthen the Protestant institutions—to promote the plans of good, which aim at the enlightening of mankindto sacrifice to truth, as well as to candour, and to plead for the union which may be founded upon useful laws. It may be questioned whether truth does not flourish more in an age of controversy, than of religious indifference. Christianity would never have established its unyielding peculiarities of opinion, discipline, and holiness, if the Apostles had consented to forego their zeal and diligence, in deference to popular clamour, compromised error, or the political plans of their superiors. Truth was their only, their undivided object. From this they were neither intimidated, nor perverted, nor seduced ; till by their preaching, and their writing, and their perseverance, they gave their perfect example to the Christian teacher; and erected the Church and the Religion of Christ, upon the ruins of every existing error. Their successors have lately desisted from the wars of the
tongue and of the pen; and the consequence has been, that Christian union is destroyed, truth is trodden under foot, and religious indifference, assuming the name of liberality, demands and receives the general homage. The marks of our alienation are now so deeply worn, that we might fear we shall never meet but in the grave—that we never shall worship together as one great family of God, till we rise from the dead, and bow before his throne in the invisible world.
On the authority of Michaelis and Dr. Hales, I have assigned an early date to the Epistle of Titus. The vow at Cenchrea—the disputes at Ephesus—and the return of St. Paul to Antioch, terminate the chapter.
XIII. The third apostolical journey of St. Paul presents us with the same kind of history as the preceding. Proceeding from Antioch to the Churches which he had planted in Galatia and Phrygia, he remained two years in Ephesus, and sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia and Greece. From Ephesus he writes his first Epistle to the Corinthians, to reprove the irregularities and disorders which had begun to divide the Church of Corinth; and to answer various questions in doctrine and discipline, which had been proposed to him by his converts. The Apostle has been supposed, in this letter, to deny his own plenary inspiration. This opinion is considered in the note, principally from the labours of the lamented Rennell.
The success of St. Paul at Ephesus at length endangered the profits of the shrine-makers of the temple of Diana. By their means he is compelled to retire to Macedonia, when he writes his first Epistle to Timothy; to direct him how to suppress
the false doctrines which the Jewish zealots were endeavouring to introduce into the Church at Ephesus, over which Timothy had been appointed. The Gospel had now made such progress, that it had become necessary, as in the instance of Titus, and now of Timothy, to place in large districts persons who should ordain ministers, and maintain discipline among the Churches. When the converts were re