« PreviousContinue »
1 THESSALONIANS V. 23.
The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
has been justly remarked by two writers of distinguished eminence*, that the eloquence of St. Paul bears a striking resemblance to that of Demosthenes, the greatest of all the antient orators. I think, however, that though they both agree in sublimity of sentiment and energy of expression ;—though they † alike arise from earth to heaven, in all the resistless majesty of unbounded imagination ;-yet, where the tender passions are concerned, where the heart is to be
* Vide Smith's Longinus. Blackw. Sacred Classics, Vol. I. page 299.
+ Vide Blackw, page 301.
touched, as well as the understanding convinced, the Christian orator has infinitely the advantage over the Athenian. There is a strain of melting affection, there is a flow of winning and pathetic earnestness, which runs through all his writings, which it is impossible to read without the most lively emotions of tenderness and sensibility. It would be needless, it would be endless, to give all the examples of this. Let any man only read his farewell address to the Ephesian elders, and if it has not the same effect upon him, which it had upon St. Paul's audience, who all wept sore and fell upon his neck and kissed him, he must have a heart incapable of the finer feelings of nature, a stranger to the amiable ebullitions of human sensibility.
There is something no less solemn and affecting in this prayer of St. Paul for the Thessa lonians, contained in the text; expressive both of his own love and affection for them, and also of that great earnestness and sincerity, with which he laboured to promote the salvation of souls.
And the devout fervency, with which he offers it up to heaven, will appear in a still more forcible and amiable light, if we consider the peculiar circumstances of the Thessalonians, to whom he writes.
Thessalonica, or, as it is now called, Salonica, was at that time the capital of Macedon. The greater part of its inhabitants were not only heathen idolaters, but also men of dissolute and abandoned lives; the rest were Jews, exceedingly jealous of the traditions and superstitions of their fathers. It might naturally therefore be concluded, that both would be very averse to a religion, which struck at all the wickedness of the one, and all the superstitious rites and ceremonies of the other. Accordingly we find*, that St. Paul had not preached the Gospel there more than three weeks, before a tumult was raised against him, and compelled him to fly to Berea. It was no wonder therefore he should express the most tender concern for the infant colony of Christians he had left behind him. He knew they were as sheep without a shepherd, in the midst of ravenous wolves, who would not fail to distress them by every art of barbarity and persecution; and therefore they stood in need of every advantage, both of celestial aid and human consolation, to guard them from apostacy, and to keep them blameless to the coming of their great Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. He therefore lifts up his hands and voice to heaven in their favour, with all the fervency of a parent, anxious
for the welfare of a beloved child, exposed to the attacks of an enraged and unrelenting enemy: "the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; " and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul "and body, be preserved blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But it is not in this light only, that these words deserve our attention and admiration : they contain also a description of every Christian's moral duty, highly deserving our most serious consideration. For though we may not be able to reach the standard of perfection laid down by St. Paul, yet it will become us never to lose sight of it, but rather, on all occasions, to remember, that it is our duty to endeavour at least, "that our whole spirit and soul and body 66 may be preserved blameless to the coming of "Christ."
When St. Paul here speaks of spirit and soul and body, it seems pretty clear, that he speaks the language of the antient philosophers, who distinguished between spirit and soul, and therefore represented man as a three-fold composition. By spirit they understood that principle of knowledge and reason, that noble intellectual faculty, which distinguisheth man from brutes, by which