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Sister's son to Barnabas. This woman, the mother of Mark, and the sister of Barnabas, was, as might be expected, a person of some eminence amongst the Christians of Jerusalem. It so happens that we hear of her in the history. • When Peter was delivered from prison, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying. Acts xii. 12. There is somewhat of coincidence in this; somewhat bespeaking real transactions amongst real persons.
The following coincidence, though it bears the appearance of great nicety and refinement, ought not, perhaps, to be deemed imaginary. In the salutations with which this, like most of St Paul's epistles, concludes, we have Aristarchus and Marcus, and Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision,' iv. 10, 11. Then follow also, 'Epaphras, Luke the beloved physician, and Demas. Now as this description, who are of the circumcision,' is added after the first three names, it is inferred, not without great appearance of probability, that the rest, amongst whom is Luke, were not of the circumcision. Now can we discover any expression in the Acts of the Apostles, which ascertains whether the author of the book was a Jew or not? If we can discover that he was not a Jew, we fix a circumstance in his character, which coincides with what is here, indirectly indeed, but not very uncertainly, intimated concerning Luke: and we so far confirm both the testimony of the primitive church, that the Acts of the Apostles was written by St Luke, and the general reality of the
persons and circumstances brought together in this epistle. The text in the Acts, which has been construed to show that the writer was not a Jew, is the nineteenth verse of the first chapter, where, in describing the field which had been purchased with the reward of Judas's iniquity, it is said, 'that it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem ; insomuch as that field is called, in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, the field of blood. These words are by most commentators taken to be the words and observation of the historian, and not a part of St Peter's speech, in the midst of which they are found. If this be admitted, then it is argued that the expression, in their proper tongue,' would not have been used by a Jew, but
is suitable to the pen of a Gentile writing concerning Jews.* The reader will judge of the probability of this conclusion, and we urge the coincidence no further than that probability extends. The coincidence, if it be one, is so remote from all possibility of design, that nothing need be added to satisfy the reader upon that part of the argument.
Chap. iv. 9. With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.'
Observe how it may be made out that Onesimus was a Colossian. Turn to the Epistle to Philemon, and you will find that Onesimus was the servant or slave of Philemon. The question therefore will be; to what city Philemon belonged. In the epistle addressed to him this is not declared. It appears only that he was of the same place, whatever that place was, with an eminent Christian named Archippus.
Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved and fellow-labourer ; and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house. Now turn back to the cpistle to the Colossians, and you will find Archippus saluted by name amongst the Christians of that church. Say to Archippus, take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord that thou fulfil it, (iv. 17). The necessary result is, that Onesimus also was of the same city, agreeably to what is said of him, he is one of you. And this result is the effect, either of truth which produces consistency without the writer's thought or care, or of a contexture of forgeries confirming and falling in with one another by a species of fortuity of which I know no example. The supposition of design, I think, is excluded, not only because the purpose to which the design must have been directed, viz. the verification of the passage in our epistle,' in which it is said concerning Onesimus, 'he is one of you,' is a purpose which would be lost upon ninety-nine readers out of a hundred; but because the means made use of are too circuitous to have been the subject of affectation and contrivance. Would a forger, who had this purpose in view, have left his readers to hunt it out, by going forward and
* Vide Benson's Dissertation, vol. i. p. 318, of his works, ed. 1756.
backward from one epistle to another, in order to connect Onesimus with Philemon, Philemon with Archippus, and Archippus with Colosse ? all which he must do before he arrives at his discovery, that it was truly said of Onesimus, he is one of you.'
It is known to every reader of Scripture, that the First Epistle to the Thessalonians speaks of the coming of Christ in terms which indicate an expectation of his speedy appearance : 'For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds—But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.' (chap iv. 15—17. chap. v. 4.)
Whatever other construction these texts may bear, the idea they leave upon the mind of an ordinary reader, is that of the author of the epistle looking for the day of judgment to take place in his own time, or near to it. Now the use which I make of this circumstance, is to deduce from it a proof that the epistle itself was not the production of a subsequent age. Would an impostor have given this expectation to St Paul, after experience had proved it to be erroneous ? or would he have put into the apostle's mouth, or, which is the same thing, into writings purporting to come from his hand, expressions, if not necessarily conveying, at least easily interpreted to convey, an opinion which was then known to be founded in mistake? I state this as an argument to show that the epistle was contemporary with St Paul, which is little less than to show that
it actually proceeded from his pen. For I question whether any ancient forgeries were executed in the lifetime of the person whose name they bear; nor was the primitive situation of the church likely to give birth to such an attempt.
Our epistle concludes with a direction, that it should be publicly read in the church to which it was addressed: 'I charge you by the Lord, that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.' The existence of this clause in the body of the epistle is an evidence of its authenticity ; because to produce a letter purporting to have been publicly read in the church of Thessalonica, when no such letter in truth had been read or heard of in that church, would be to produce an imposture destructive of itself. At least, it seems unlikely that the author of an imposture would voluntarily, and even officiously, afford a handle to so plain an objection. Either the epistle was publicly read in the church of Thessalonica during St Paul's lifetime, or it was not. If it was, no publication could be more authentic, no species of notoriety more unquestionable, no method of preserving the integrity of the copy more secure. If it was not, the clause we produce would remain a standing condemnation of the forgery, and, one would suppose, an invincible impediment to its success.
If we connect this article with the preceding, we shall perceive that they combine into one strong proof of the genuineness of the epistle. The preceding article carries up the date of the epistle to the time of St Paul; the present article fixes the publication of it to the church of Thessalonica. Either therefore the church of Thessalonica was imposed upon by a false epistle, which in St Paul's lifetime they received and read publicly as his, carrying on a communication with him all the while, and the epistle referring to the continuance of that communication ; or other Christian churches, in the same lifetime of the apostle, received an epistle purporting to have been publicly read in the church of Thessalonica, which nevertheless had not been heard of in that church; or, lastly, the conclusion remains, that the epistle now in our hands is gen: uine.
Between our epistle and the history the accordancy in many points is circumstantial and complete. The history relates, that, after Paul and Silas had been beaten with many stripes at Philippi, shut up in the inner prison, and their feet made fast in the stocks, as soon as they were discharged from their confinement they departed from thence, and, when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, came to Thessalonica, where Paul opened and alleged that Jesus was the Christ, Acts xvi. 23, &c. The epistle written in the name of Paul and Sylvanus (Silas), and of Timotheus, who also appears to have been along with them at Philippi, (vide Phil. No. iv.) speaks to the church of Thessalonica thus: ‘Even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention, (ii. 2).
The history relates, that after they had been some time at Thessalonica, 'the Jews who believed not, set all the city in an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason where Paul and Silas were, and sought to bring them out to the people. Acts xvii. 5. The epistle declares, “when we were with you, we told you
before that we should suffer tribulation ; even as it came to pass, and ye know, (iii. 4).
The history brings Paul and Silas and Timothy together at Corinth, soon after the preaching of the gospel at Thessalonica : - And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia (to Corinth), Paul was pressed in spirit,' Acts xviii. 5. The epistle is written in the name of these three persons, who consequently must have been together at the time, and speaks throughout of their ministry at Thessalonica as a recent transaction: We, brethren, being taken from you for a short time, in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abunılantly to see your face, with great desire,' (ii. 17).
The harmony is indubitable ; but the points of history in which it consists, are so expressly set forth in the narrative, and so directly referred to in the epistle, that it becomes necessary for us to show, that the facts in one writing were not copied from the other. Now amidst some minuter discrepancies, which will be noticed below, there is one circumstance