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mainly because they walk in that way, whatever be those other pretexts which their persecutors may hold out (2 Tim. ii. 9); for he affirms they did suffer for the kingdom of God, and makes that an evidence that they shall be accounted meet for it: 'For which ye also suffer,” saith he.”
These are precious truths, though quaintly told by this most spiritual and thoughtful commentator, and well worth our acceptance.
CHAPTER I. 6, 10.
ere not singular p is, “ Through theaven.” The into
This chapter shows that the church to which the epistle was addressed was at that time placed in circumstances of very great tribulation. Every allusion made to their outward state proves this fact. They were not singular in this respect; the great law of the Christian economy is, “ Through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The prophecy of our Lord-a prophecy that has passed into history, having often been illustrated by the light of the faggot, in the darkness of the dungeon-in proscription, and sickness, and suffering—in all varieties of forms in the world--is, “In the world ye shall have tribulation ; but”-blessed compensatory fact-"in me ye shall have peace.” Now Paul, recognising the fact that the Thessalonian Church was a suffering church, yet ventures, in words that seem to us strangely inappropriate, to “thank God always for them, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth.” Why did Paul thank God in reference to a church confessedly persecuted and suffering, and whose only prospect of rest lay beyond that bourne from which no traveller returns ? The reason why he thanked God was, that the more they outwardly suffered, the more they appear to have inwardly prospered. The outward persecution of those that troubled them, to use the words of a subsequent passage, seems to have acted only as the furnace acts upon the gold-detaching all the dross, and bringing out more beautiful and brilliant the precious metal that remains behind ; for, says the apostle, in the midst of all this sore tribulation from those that trouble you, “I thank God that your faith grows exceedingly.” No storm that beats upon the Christian without, no heat of persecution, no cold of contumely and contempt, can affect or impede the growth of that inward life which groweth exceedingly, “and the charity which toward each other aboundeth."
This progress of the inward life in the midst of outer persecution must have been very signal, seeing the Apostle Paul thus takes notice of it. The outward eye could see their afflictions, but it needed the spiritual eye to appreciate the inner sanctification that was going on in spite of those afflictions. The apostle, therefore, thanks God that all they suffered not only worked to good, as he tells us in another epistle, but also that all they suffered worked out of them good. In other words, their tribulation and persecution developed in sharper and more beautiful outlines the inward Christian character; so that all they lost in outward estate was the greatest gain to their spiritual growth in grace and conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ. The greatest thankfulness is due to God for those afflictions, however poignant, that have his sweetening presence while they are borne, and his sanctifying direction in their ultimate and everlasting issue.
The two graces he especially notices as growing in VOL. IX.
this church are, faith and love. These two Christian graces are never separate. Faith is the root, love is the warm life that rises from it, and circulates through the stem ; and good works are the fragrant fruits that grow upon it. If there be no faith, that is, confidence in God, who is love, there will be no love in us towards God. It is a very singular fact, that Paul, who is called the apostle of faith, gives the most beautiful picture of love, in 1 Corinthians xiii.; and John, who is called the apostle of love, gives in his epistle the most admirable definitions of faith. This is singular; and yet it can be explained. Paul gives so glowing and full a description of love, because he believed that the faith that he preached would generate that love ; and John, the apostle of love, gives so full definitions of faith, because he believed that the love that he constantly inculcated was the inevitable product of that faith which worketh by love, purifieth the heart, and overcometh the world.
Then, says the apostle, “It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest with us." Here are the two great classes of mankind: those that trouble, or the persecutor; and those that are troubled, or the persecuted. These have existed from the days of Cain and Abel, the troubler and the troubled, downward to the present day. In some shape, every one who is stedfast for truth, or who reflects in any degree the likeness of his blessed Master, will meet with tribulation or persecution. It may not be always in the same shape— the world varies the persecution ; but the en. mity of flesh and blood to that which is born of God is not a new thing; and it is a passion that will not be exhausted until love, and light, and hope, and faith are triumphant, and they that trouble are punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. It seems a very strange thing that man should ever persecute his fellow-man because the latter reflects the likeness of the God of love ; but the reason is, that the least likeness of God upon earth rebukes what is inconsistent with it. Man's pride does not like to be rebuked; man's passions not only repel, but rise up against him that rebukes; and hence persecution of those that differ has not been peculiar to Rome—it is indigenous to human nature ; for unhappily every man who is born a sinner, and all are so born, has the germ of persecution in his heart; and, if he had the power, he would persecute those who bear the image of Christ, and thereby condemn those who are aliens and strangers, without God and without Christ, and without hope, in the world.
As we are told in this passage there are two distinct classes, the troubled and the troubler, so there are two distinct destinies stretching before them. To the one, we read, there is tribulation, that is to them that trouble you; to the other, we read, there is reserved the rest that remaineth for the people of God. So that they who trouble need not be elated by their present success, as it must end in everlasting ruin; and they that are troubled need not be too much cast down by their present suffering ; for if we suffer with Him, we shall also rejoice and be glorified with Him.. “To them that trouble you, tribulation; to you who are troubled, rest with us.” This is not only a promise, but it is, says the apostle, a righteous thing with God to do so. It is his law : “ Tribulation, anguish, and wrath to every soul that doeth evil ;" but glory, and honour,