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C!. share were the Christian converts to have in the calamities " of the rebellious and unbelieving Jews? and why should " they not rather have been comforted than troubled at the
punishment of their inveterate enemies ?. Besides, hover 6 could the Apostle deny that the destruction of the Jews
was at hand when it was at hand, as he saith himself,
1 Thess, ii. 16. And the wrath is come upon them to the 65
uttermost? He knew, for our Saviour had declared, that " the destruction of Jerusalem would come to pass in that
generation : And what a ridiculous comfort must it be to “ tell them, that it would not happen immediately, but would
be accomplished within less than twenty years? The phrases " therefore of the coming of Christ and the day of Christo! he concludes, " cannot, in this place, relate to the destruction
of Jerusalem, but must necessarily be taken in the more “ general acceptation of his coming to judge the world." *
Such is the reasoning of this learned Prelate, which, if it is plausible, is no more ; for in reply to the question- What connection Macedonia had with Judea or Thessalonica with Jerusalem ? it seems sufficient to observe, that the destruction of Jerusalem was an event in which all Christians, however remote their situation, were materially and deeply interested, if only as a prediction, in which the credit of the Author of their religion, as a true Prophet of God, was at stake. It was, in fact, the crowning evidence of the truth of Christianity, and a complete decision of the important controversy, on which the whole Gospel History is founded, concerning the true nature of the Messiah's character. And while that event remained unaccomplished, that controversy could not, with strict propriety, be said to be decided ; for, as was be fore observed, from Dr. Jortin, 's Christ had foretold it so If expressly, that if he had failed, his Religion could not have “ supported itself,"
That the Apostle thought the Thessalonians interested in their destruction is plain from his mentioning it, in so partiçular a manner, and particularly from the reason which he assigned for it to wit that they were the common enemies of mankind. And the History of the Acts of the Apostles para ticularly states it as a fact; that their rage against the Christians at Thessalonica, was so great, that having driven some of * See Newton on the Prophecies, Vol. II. pagès 361, 364.
their teachers from thence by the violence of their persecution, they followed them to Berea, and stirred up the people of that place against them. See Acts, xvii. 13.
It must indeed be acknowleged that these were reasons why they should rather be comforted than troubled, at the punishment of their inveterate enemies-- but it does not appear that the Thessalonians were agitated at the thoughts of their destruction, but by the suggestions of certain evit
minded persons. What these suggestions were, cannot perhaps with precision, be ascertained--but by the Apostle's saying, that that day should not come except there came a falling away—or an apostasý first, it should seem they had intimated its very near approach---when as yet, there were no such signs of it, as had been predicted, and for which they were directed to watch. It surely was not a ridiculous comfort to tell them, that the signs predicted by our Lord, would precede the event!
" But,” says the learned Prelate, * how could the AposBy tle deny that the destruction of the Jews was at hand,
when it was at hand, as he saith himself, 1 Thess. ii. 16.
And the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost pes To this question it may be replied, that here is a contradiction supposed, where there really is none ; for the Apostle did not mean to say that it was come that not being the fact, at the time when he wrote this Epistle but only that it was coming--that is as the Bishop himself seems to have inter. preted it that i would be accomplished within twenty years:
But perhaps this matter cannot be set in a clearer light than by the learned University Preacher, so often quoted in the course of this work. " Because," says he,
66 St. Paul assures as his Brethren, that the coming of Christ was not at hand, " they (viz. the Commentators) have rashly represented " him as informing them, that it was therefore at a consider* able distance: And, as one mistake frequently leads to 16 another, they have considered the Prophecy of the man of # Sin as describing a system of spiritual corruption, which « began to operate in the earliest ages of the church, and bá which the revolution of seventeen centuries has not been “ able to dispel. The former error has originated from not “ duly attending to the true meaning of the word, heeren. “ dered at hand, (upon which Mr. Alexander has left us
" the following very accurate Observation. Paraphrase, &c.
page 90.)? • The word which is rendered at hånd, is “ not the same with that which is rendered so in other parts “ of Scripture. And without doubt it should have been " rendered differently, here; if for no other reason, to avoid “ fixing a downright contradiction upon the doctrine of of the New Testament. It is a much stronger expression có than is used elsewhere of this event, and is applicable to
a present event, or one so very near, that accord. "ing to the common use of words, it may be said to be
present or just here.'
6. If St. Paul had denied that the day of Christ was ap“ proaching, or that it might happen during the existence of * the Thessalonians, to whom he wrote, he would indeed have “ dire&tly contradi&ted what he had plainly intimated in his * First Epistle, but he means only to affirm, that the day was “ not at hand ;—that it would not happen within a week,
a month, or a year : And the expressions emera “gizousa, and emera enestekuia, would immediately excite,
in the mind of a Græcian, such very different and distinct ", ideas, that they would require no comment or explanation 66 whatever.--The latter error, which I noticed as occasioned by the former, is most decisively confuted by comparing
the passage we are considering with the opening of the “prediction : For as in the one our Apostle insinuates that
the day of the Lord might possibly overtake his Thessalo“nian converts, yet afterwards asșerts in the other, without 6s the least hesitation, that that day shall not come except there
come a falling away first ;-it necessarily and unavoidably
follows, that this apostasy must have sprung up and • arrived at its maturity within the compass of a few years ; * and, that the application of it to the corruptions, which 5 have subsisted in the Romish church, must be abandoned as os à defenceless and extravagant conjecture,” +
If the remarks which have already been presented to the Reader, upon the nature of the coming of Christ, and upon our Lord's particularly connecting that coming with the destrue. tion of Jerusalem, shall, upon consideration, be found, in no degree to be invalidated by the objections of Bishop Newton,
* Vide Grotii Opera, Tom. III. p.719. + See Edwards's Sermon on the Predictions of the Apostles, pages 27---30.
the way will be fully prepared for a farther examination of St. Paul's subsequent language, in the chapter under con sideration.
Some light, it is probable, will be thrown upon the true meaning of the concluding part of the first verse, viz. the gathering together unto him-by referring first, to an early and important predi&tion concerning the coming of the Messiah, in the book of Genesis, Chap xlix. 10. The sceptre sall not depart from Judah-nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto him shall THE GATHERING OF THE PEOPLE be. And secondly, to what was, perhaps, a repetition of, or at least an allusion to, the same prediction, by our Lord himself, Matt. xxiv. 31. They shall gather together kis ele, from the four winds-from one end of heaven to the other. And the sense of both these passages seems to be equivalent to St. Paul's expression, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, Chap. ii. 14. namely,- To the breaking down of the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, of which the. destruction of the Jewish polity would, whenever it happened, be an important and remarkable evidence."
The Apostle having, as has been particularly noticed, guarded the Thessalonians against the deceptions of their adversaries, and exhorted them not to be excessively agitated by their false insinuations, goes on to correct them, by telling them that that day, viz. the day of Christ-or the day of the destruction of Jerusalem; would not come except there came AN APOSTASY-or falling away first.
Bishop Newton-Bishop Hallifax-Dr. Macknight-Mr. Zouch-and, in general, all the advocates for the application of St. Paul's Man of Sin to the church of Rome, are of opinion that the Apostasy here mentioned, was not of a civil.but of a religious nature-not a revolt from the governmentbut a defection from the true religion and worship of Godma departing from the faith, and from the living God—but they, none of them, appear to have given that critical and minute attention to the subject which it appears to deserve-or which can warrant 'an implicit acquiescence in their opinions.
The term Apostasy, when considered abstractedly, and without any relation to any particular subject, most unquestionably means, a departure from any thing, and all the passages in which this word is used, in the New Testament, plainly evince that it was considered in this light. Thus the
Historian of the Acts of the Apostles, chap. xxi. 21. uses the word Apostasy--but to describe its natutë, he found it ab. solutely necessary to make an addition to explain it : Thort teachest all the Jews who are among the Gentiles an Apostasy. PRON MOSES:--So again St. Paul, in his first Epistle to Timothy, chap. iv, 1. says that, in the latter times, some shall depart--but the word here translated to depart, was not of itself sufficient to describe the nature of the Apostasy...The Apostle, therefore, adds, in order that his meaning might not be mistaken, that it was a departure, or an Apostasy from the faith. Once more the Writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews chap. iii. 12. says--Take heed brethren" list there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief IN DEPARTING from The
Here also the word rendered to depart is defined by the addition which is made to it, which at once renders the Apostle's meaning clear and distinct.
From these examples, it appears unquestionable, that the word Apostasy, as made use of, by the Writers of the New Testament, neither signifies a rcvolt from government-nor defection from the true religion and worship. It is neither a civil nor a religious apostasy- but it is used in the abstract sense of A DEPARTURE from any thing, and consequently, it required some addition, accurately to define what it was. *
If this criticism upon the word apostasy be accurate how is the Apostle's meaning, in the passage under consideration, to be ascertained, more naturally, than by considering the nature of the coming of Christ, with which it is in the closest manner conneded? And this appears in fax to be the method which the Apostle himself has pointed out. That dayto wit--the day of the coming of Christ shall not come except there come A FALLING AWAY, or an apostasy, hrst.
If there is good reason, from what has been advanced, for supposing that the coming of Christ, in the chapter under consideration, has a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, with which our Lord constantly connected the fall manifesei
* Mr. Leigh, in his Crítica Sacra, in a Note upon the word Apostasy, says---- Some interpret it, de defcctione ab Imperio Romano ; as Ain brase,
Hierom, Terusljan. Others, & more, de defectione à fide. Chrysost. “ Oecum. Theoph. Theodoret. & Avgust de Civit. Dei.” Mr. Hardy, in his Note on this word, says---" Apastasia à fide defe&tionem gencraliter * denotat, hic de defe&tionem Iudæorum ab imperio Romano significare “ videtur." But the judicious Reader will prefer genuine criticism lo a thousand Authorities.