Page:An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1828) vol 6.djvu/616

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Thessalonians in particular to this apostle, and so great was his love to them.

3. By bodily labour to prevent their charge; or that his ministry might not be expensive and burthensome to them; Ye remember our labour and travail; for, labouring night and day, &c. v. 9. He denied himself the liberty he had of taking wages from the churches. To the labour of the ministry he added that of his calling, as a tent-maker, that he might get his own bread. We are not to suppose that the apostle spent the whole night and day in bodily labour, or work, to supply the necessities of his body; for then he would have had no time for the work of the ministry. But he spent part of the night, as well as the day, in this work; and was willing to forego his rest in the night, that he might have an opportunity to do good to the souls of men in the day time. A good example is here set before the ministers of the gospel, to be industrious for the salvation of men's souls: though it will not follow that they are always obliged to preach freely. There is no general rule to be drawn from this instance; either that ministers may at no time work with their hands, for supply of their outward necessities, or that they ought always so to do.

4. By the holiness of their conversation, concerning which he appeals not only to them, but to God also; (v. 10. ) Ye are witnesses, and God also. They were observers of their outward conversation in public before men, and God was witness not only of their behaviour in secret, but of the inward principles from whence they acted. Their behaviour was holy toward God, just towards all men, and unblamable, without giving cause of scandal or offence; and they were careful to give no offence either to them who were without, or to them who believed, that they might give no ill example; that their preaching and living might be all of a piece. Herein, said this apostle, do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. Acts 24. 16.

II. He mentions their faithful discharge of the work and office of the ministry, v. 11, 12. Concerning this also, he could appeal to them as witnesses. Paul and his fellow-labourers were not only good Christians, but faithful ministers. And we should not only be good as to our general calling as Christians, but in our particular callings and relations. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians, not only informing them in their duty, but exciting and quickening them to the performance of it, by proper motives and arguments. And he comforted them also, endeavouring to cheer and support their spirits under difficulties and discouragements they might meet with. And this he did not only publicly, but privately also, and from house to house; (Acts 20. 20.) and charged every one of them by personal addresses: this, some think, is intended by the similitude of a father's charging his children. This expression also denotes the affectionate and compassionate counsels and consolations which this apostle used. He was their spiritual father; and as he cherished them like a nursing mother, so he charged them as a father, with a father's affection rather than a father's authority. As my beloved sons, I warn you, 1 Cor. 4. 14.

The manner of this apostle's exhortation ought to be regarded by ministers in particular for their imitation; and the matter of it is greatly to be regarded by them and all others; namely, that they would walk worthy of God, luho hath called them to his kingdom and glory, v. 12. Observe, 1. What is our great gospel-privilege—that God has called us to his kingdom and glory. The gospel calls us into the kingdom and state of grace here, and unto the kingdom and state of glory hereafter: to heaven and happiness as our end, and to holiness as the way to that end. 2. What is our great gospel-duty—that we walk worthy of God; that the temper of our minds and tenour of our lives be answerable to this call, and suitable to this privilege. We should accommodate ourselves to the intention and design of the gospel, and live suitably to our profession and privileges, our hopes and expectations, as becomes those who are called with such a high and holy calling.

13. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. 14. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews; 15. Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men; 16. Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

Here observe,

I. The apostle makes mention of the success of his ministry among these Thessalonians, (v. 13.) which is expressed,

1. By the manner of their receiving the word of God; When ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it, not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God. Where note, (1.) The word of the gospel is preached by men like ourselves, men of like passions and infirmities with others; We have this treasure in earthen vessels. The word of God, which these Thessalonians received, they heard from the apostles. (2.) However, it is in truth the word of God. Such was the word the apostles preached by divine inspiration, and such is that which is left upon record, written in the scriptures by divine inspiration; and such is that word which in our days is preached, being either contained, or evidently founded on, or deduced from, these sacred oracles. (3.) They are greatly to blame, who give out their own fancies or injunctions for the word of God. This is the vilest way of imposing upon people, and to deal unfaithfully. (4.) They are also to blame, who, in hearing the word, look no further than to the ministry of men, or the words of men, who are only, or chiefly, pleased with the elegance of the style, or the beauty of the composition, or the voice and manner in which the word is preached, and expect to receive their advantage herein. (5.) We should receive the word of God as the word of God, with affections suitable to the holiness, wisdom, verity, and goodness, thereof. The words of men are frail and perishing, like themselves, and sometimes false, foolish, and fickle: but God's word is holy, wise, just, and faithful; and, like its Author, lives and abides forever. Let us accordingly receive and regard it.

2. By the wonderful operation of this word they received; It effectually worketh in them that believe, v. 13. They who by faith receive the word, find it profitable. It doeth good to them that walk uprightly, and by its wonderful effects evidences itself to be the word of God. This converts their souls, and enlightens their minds, and rejoices their