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Considering these differences, the different language of the apostle is perfectly in character. Circumcision, and conformity to the laws of Moses, in Jewish converts, was held to be lawful. Even the apostle of the gentiles himself, "to the Jews became a Jew,” frequently, if not constantly, conforming to the Jewish laws; and writing to others he expresses himself on this wise: "Is any man called, being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? Let him not become circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but keeping of the commandments of God." (1 Cor. vii. 18, 19.) But for gentiles, who had no such things to be alleged in their favor, to go off from the liberty granted to them, (Acts. xv.) and entangle themselves under a yoke of bondage; and not only so, but to make it a term of justification, was sufficient to excite a fear least the labor which he had bestowed upon them was in vain. PHILOLOGOS.
1 Cor. x. 13. God who is faithful, will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.
2 Cor. i. 8. We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.
THE ability in the first of these passages, and the strength in the last are far from being the same. The former is expressive of that Divine support which the Lord has promised to give to his servants under all their trials: the latter of the power which we possess naturally as creatures. We may be tried beyond this,
as all the martyrs have been, and yet not beyond the other. The outward man may perish, while the inward man is renewed day by day.
Gal. vi. 2.
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Gal. vi. 5. Every man shall bear his own burden. THE first is an exhortation to Christian sympathy under present afflictions: the last is a declaration of the rule of future judgment, according to character. We may alleviate each other's sorrows in this life; but cannot stand in each other's place at the last day.
Phil. iv. 5. The Lord is at hand.
2 Thess. ii. 2. Be not soon shaken in mind, nor troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
EVERY thing with respect to degrees is what it is by comparison. Taking into consideration the whole of time, the coming of Christ was at hand. There is reason to believe from this, and many other passages of the New Testament, that the sacred writers considered themselves as having passed the meridian of time, and entered into the afternoon of the world, as we may say. Such appears to be the import of the following, among other passages; "“God hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son: Once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself: Upon whom the ends of the world are come: The coming of the Lord draweth nigh: Surely I come quickly!"*
* Heb. i. 2. ix. 26. 1 Cor. x. 11. James v. 8. Rev. xxii. 20.
But taking into consideration only a single generation, the day of Christ was not at hand. The Thessalonians, though a very amiable people, were by some means led into a mistake on this subject: so as to expect that the end of the world would take place in their lifetime, or within a very few years. To correct this error, which might have been productive of very serious evils, was a principal design of the second epistle to that people.
Heb. xi. 33. Who through faith obtained promises.
THE Old Testament worthies by faith obtained many promises, but it does not follow that they obtained all. That of the Messiah in particular, "they received not;" God having provided this better blessing for us nnder the New Testament. Thus things are wisely balanced between us. We could not do without their prophecies; and they, without what has taken place in our days, could not be made perfect.
1 John i. 8. If we say that we ve no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John iii. 9. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
Ir appears that the word sin, in these passages, is of different signification. In the first it is to be taken properly, for any transgression of the law of God. If any man say, in this sense, he has no sin, he only proves himself to be deceived, and that he has yet to learn what is true religion.
But in the last, it seems from the context,that the term is intended to denote the sin of apostasy. If we were to substitute the term apostasy for sin, from the sixth to the tenth verse, the meaning would be clear: "Whoso abideth in him, apostatiseth not: whosoever apostatiseth hath not seen him, neither known him. He that is guilty of apostasy is of the devil; for the devil hath been an apostate from the beginning. Whosoever is born of God doth not apostatise; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot apostatise, because he is born of God."
This sense of the latter passage perfectly agrees with what is said of the sin unto death. (ch. v. 16-18.) "There is a sin unto death.....we know that whosoever is born of God, sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." It also agrees with chap. ii. 19, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us. But they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." Altogether, it affords, what we might presume to call, an incontestible proof of the certain perseverance of true believers.
2 Tim. iii. 12.
All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.
Prov. xvi. 7. When a man's ways please the Lord, he makeih even his enemies to be at peace with him.
SOME Consideration is required for the difference of times. It was the genius of the Old Testament, more than of the New, to connect obedience to God with
temporal prosperity; and therefore, that might be said under the one which would be less applicable under the other.
It is allowed however, that this is not sufficient to solve the difficulty. There has always been the same radical enmity in general between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. He that was born after the flesh, then persecuted him that was born after the spirit; and so it is now. And by how much more spiritual the church at any time has been, by so much higher has the enmity arisen against them. It is also true under the Gospel, as well as under the law, that where a man perseveres in righteousness and godliness, though he may have many enemies, yet their enmity shall frequently be prevented from hurting him, and even turned away from him into other channels. The truth seems to be, that neither of the above passages are to be taken universally. The peace possessed by those who please God does not extend so far as to exempt them from having enemies; and though all godly men must in some form or other be persecuted, yet none are persecuted at all times: God has always given his people some seasons of rest. The former of these passages may therefore refer to the native enmity which true godliness is certain to excite, and the latter to the Divine control over it. The rod of the wicked must be expected to fall, but not to rest, upon the lot of the righteous. Man's wrath shall be let loose in a degree; but farther than what is necessary for the praise of God, it shall not go. It shall be suffered to shoot forth in measure: but God will debate with it.. He stayeth his rough wind in the day of his east wind.