cerity is the apprehension of God's eye as always upon us; and it is a sign of sincerity, when in all we do we endeavour to approve ourselves to God; and that is right, which is so in the sight of God. Then is the work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope, sincere, when it is done as under the eye of God.
[3.] He mentions the fountain from whence these graces flowed—God's electing love; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God, v. 4. Thus he runs up these streams to the fountain, and that was God's eternal election. Some by their election of God would understand only the temporary separation of the Thessalonians from the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles in their conversion; but this was according to the eternal purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will, Eph. 1. 11. Speaking of their election, he calls them, brethren beloved: for the original of the brotherhood that is between Christians, and the relation wherein they stand one to another, is, election. And that is a good reason why we should love one another, because we are all loved of God, and were loved of him in his counsels when there was not any thing in us to merit his love. The election of these Thessalonians was known to the apostle, and therefore might be known to themselves, and that by the fruits and effects thereof—their sincere faith, and hope, and love; by the successful preaching of the gospel among them. Observe,
First, All those who in the fulness of time are effectually called and sanctified, were from eternity elected and chosen to salvation.
Secondly, The election of God is of his own good pleasure and mere grace, not for the sake of any merit in them who are chosen.
Thirdly, The election of God may be known by the fruits thereof.
Fourthly, Whenever we are giving thanks to God for his grace either to ourselves or others, we should run up the streams to the fountain, and give thanks to God for his electing love, by which we are made to differ.
2. Another ground or reason of the apostle's thanksgiving, is, the success of his ministry among them. He was thankful on his own account as well as their's, that he had not laboured in vain. He had the seal and evidence of his apostleship hereby, and great encouragement in his labours and sufferings. Their ready acceptance and entertainment of the gospel he preached to them were an evidence of their being elected and beloved of God. It was by this way that he knew their election. It is true, he had been in the third heavens; but he had not searched the records of eternity, and found their election there, but knew this by the success of the gospel among them, (v. 5.) and he takes notice with thankfulness,
( 1.) That the gospel came to them also not in word only, but in power; they not only heard the sound of it, but submitted to the power of it. It did not merely tickle the ear and please the fancy; fill their heads with notions, and amuse their minds for a while; but it affected their hearts: a divine power went along with it, for convincing their consciences and amending their lives. Note, By this we may know our election, if we not only speak of the things of God by rote as parrots, but feel the influence of those things in our hearts, mortifying our lusts, weaning us from the world, and raising us up to heavenly things.
(2.) It came in the Holy Ghost, that is, with the powerful energy of the divine Spirit. Note, Wherever the gospel comes in power, it is to be attributed to the operation of the Holy Ghost; and unless the Spirit ot God accompanies the word of God, to render it effectual by his power, it will be to us but as a dead letter; and the letter killeth, the Spirit giveth life.
(3.) The gospel came to them in much assurance. Thus did they entertain it by the power of the Holy Ghost. They were fully convinced of the truth of it, so as not to be easily shaken in mind by objections and doubts; they were willing to leave all for Christ, and to venture their souls and everlasting condition upon the verity of the gospel-revelation. The word was not to them, like the sentiments of some philosophers, about matters of opinion and doubtful speculation, but the object of their faith and assurance. Their faith was the evidence of things not seen; and the Thessalonians thus knew what manner of men the apostle and his fellow-labourers were among them, and what they did for their sake, and with what good success.
6. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: 7. So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 8. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 9. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10. And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come.
In these words we have the evidence of the a])ostle's success among the Thessalonians, which was notorious and famous in several places. For,
I. They were careful in their holy conversation to imitate the good examples of the apostle and ministers of Christ, v. 6. As the apostle took care to demean himself well, not only for his own credit's sake, but for the benefit of others, by a conversation suitable to his doctrine, that he might not pull down with one hand what he buildedup with the other; so the Thessalonians, who observed what manner of men they were among them, how their preaching and living were all of a piece, shewed a conscientious care to be followers of them, to imitate their good example. Herein they became also followers of the Lord, who is the perfect example we must strive to imitate; and we should be followers of others no further than they are followers of Christ: (1 Cor. 11. 1.) the Thessalonians acted thus, notwithstanding their afflictions, that much affliction which the apostles and themselves also were exposed to. They were willing to share in the sufferings that attended the embracing and professing Christianity. They entertained the gospel, notwithstanding the troubles and hardships which attended the preachers and professors of it too. Perhaps this made the word more precious, being dear-bought; and the examples of the apostles shined very bright under their afflictions; so that the Thessalonians embraced the word cheerfully, and followed the example of the suffering apostles joyfully, with joy in the Holy Ghost; such solid and spiritual and lasting joy as the Holy Ghost is the Author of, who, when our afflictions do abound, maketh our consolations much more to abound.
II. Their zeal prevailed to that degree, that they were themselves examples to all about them, v. 7, 8.
Observe here,1. Their example was very effectual to make good