Page images


“This apostolic city was known in the earliest periods of its history under various names. Under that of Therma it is associated with some interesting recollections. It was the resting-place of Xerxes on his march. A sister of Alexander the Great was called Thessalonica, and her name was given to the city of Therma. Strabo speaks of Thessalonica as the most populous town in Macedonia. Through the Middle Ages it never ceased to be important; and it is at the present day the second city in European Turkey. The reason of this is to be found in its geographical position. Situated on an inner bend of the Thermaic Gulf, half way between the Adriatic and the Hellespont, on the sea margin of a vast plain, it was evidently destined for a mercantile emporium."- Conybeare and Howson.




We read in that most instructive portion of inspired history, the Acts of the Apostles, an account of the first preaching of the Gospel to the people of Thessalonica. There we learned the circumstances of their Church, and some other facts which are either mentioned or implied in the course of this present Epistle. It begins, like all ancient letters, with the name of the writer of the Epistle. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, in the opening chapter, address the letter“ unto the Church of the Thessalonians.” He distinguishes this Church by these features :"In God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ.” It does seem, from the repeated use of these two remarkable expressions, that the apostle meant to make or to recognise a distinction of very great value. By saying that they belonged to God the Father, he distinguished them from the heathen who had many gods and false gods, whose characteristic brands they wore ; and that with them the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of all believers were the most distinguishing features. He says also they were “In the Lord Jesus Christ :” if “In God the Father” distinguished them from the

No rep Ho recome they be from whose

Gentiles or the heathen, “In Jesus Christ” distinguished them from the Jews, and shows that they went a step farther than the Jews, who recognised God as the Father, but refused to recognise Jesus Christ as the only Saviour of all that believe. Thus this Christian Church, or division of it planted in Thessalonica, came to be distinguished from the Jews by accepting Christ as the Messiah ; distinguished from the Gentiles or Pagans by accepting God as our Father in heaven; and were so far, as the apostle Peter calls the Christians in his epistle, “a holy nation, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, to show forth the praises of him who hath called them from darkness unto his marvellous light.” · The apostle, with that exquisite tact, with that true courtesy, always the more beautiful because it was true, gives thanks always to God the Father for all He had done for them-recognising the good that the Church has done before he proceeds to find fault with the errors that may adhere to it. The system of assuming all is wrong, and scolding and denouncing, is most unreasonable, and has no scriptural precedent ; we ought to recognise the good, and thank God for it; and then with more effect we may show the error or the sin, and reveal how it may be extirpated. Paul begins by thanking God, first of all, for what he recognised as their “work of faith,”_"faith worketh by love,"

-“their labour of love,” which neither wearies in the best nor falters in the worst of times; their “patience of hope,” still stretching onward and upward, and never giving way; the three great graces of the Christian character,-faith, which is retrospective to a Saviour that has been; hope, which is prospective to a Saviour that is to come; and love, the cement between them, that binds retrospective faith to prospective hope ; saying and singing, “whom, having not seen, we love ; in whom, though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding, even an eternal weight of glory.”

“ It is a Christian duty incumbent to all, and especially to ministers, through virtue of their office, to be much taken and affected with the good we perceive in others, so as length of time, distance of place, or multiplicity of other business, make us not forget it; and that while we remember it, we do not suppress it, or the deserved commendation of those in whom it is, that so we may thereby prevail both with ourselves and others to follow and imitate it (Rom. xi. 14), and especially to bless the Lord for it; for Paul, though now at a distance, and much involved in other affairs, both of his own and of public concernment, doth yet a long time after, always when occasion offered, call to mind and commemorate the graces of God bestowed upon these Thessalonians, as a ground of thanksgiving to God, both by himself and others : ‘Remembering without ceasing.'

“Then do we rightly remember the graces of God, parts and abilities of others, when the remembrance of them doth not produce discouragement, carnal emulation, and envy in ourselves (Numb. xi, 29), or flattering applause unto those who hate them (Prov. xxiv. 5), but matter of thankfulness to God who gave them ; for, as appears from the connexion, Paul's remembrance of their graces produceth this effect in him : 'We give thanks, remembering without ceasing.'

« PreviousContinue »