hindering us from telling the Gentiles how they may be saved. As a result, they continue to heap up their sins to full capacity; the utmost wrath has come upon them.
I. THE GREATEST SIN IS THAT OF SINNING WITHOUT RESTRAINT. It is a mistake to speak of every sin as of infinite guilt, or of all sins as equally guilty. Such an assertion is not only false, it tends either to despair or to reckless excess in sinning. However far one has gone in sin, it is better to stop than to go on to greater enormities. To be adding sin to sin, and to be sinning "always," are signs of reckless, abandoned depravity.
II. THERE IS A FULLNESS OF SINS WHICH BRINGS ITS OWN PENALTY. When sin reaches this point the penalty can no longer be stayed. The cup once full flows over in wrath and ruin. It is as though forbearance and guilt were in the scales. When guilt is full the balance dips. There is an end to all possible long-suffering. The more men go on in excesses of sin, the faster do they approach the inevitable day of reckoning. The sooner the sin is filled up to the measure which passes endurance, the sooner must the stroke of doom fall.
III. FULLNESS OF SINS MUST LEAD TO FULLNESS OF PUNISHMENT. They who fill up their sins always will have the wrath "come upon them to the uttermost." The worst debtor must be made to pay the last farthing. The swifter the rush downhill, the greater the crash at the bottom. The more tares that are sown in spring, the more bundles to burn in harvest. He who fills the present life with sins will have the next life filled with wrath.
IV. THERE SEEMS TO BE A LIMIT TO SINS. There is a fullness of sins. There is no fullness of virtues; these can be developed indefinitely. The good man is growing up to a perfection. The bad man is being corrupted, not to a perfection, but to a fullness. Evil has limits; goodness has none. Satan is let loose for a time. God restrains the wrath of the wicked. Sin, through rebellion against God, cannot break away from all Divine control. Sins are limited by several means:
1. Capacity. We have a limited power of sinning.
2. Time. God sometimes cuts the sinner off in the midst of his days, and brings the guilty nation to destruction.
3. Providential control. The fullness of sins is not the amount which God predestines to be committed, for God is not the author of sin, nor does he will or permit it. This fullness is the measure beyond which God stays the evil from proceeding. When the tide of iniquity, driven onwards by rebellious powers, reaches this fullness, God says, "Here shall thy proud waves be stayed," and the storm beats itself out in impotent fury. - W.F.A.
WHO BOTH KILLED THE LORD JESUS AND THEIR OWN PROPHETS
I. THE EXPLANATION OF THE INDICTMENT. Various views have been offered.
1. That as the persecution of believers in Thessalonica, though from the heathen, was yet directly instigated by the Jews, it was natural that Paul should turn aside to speak of them and their wickedness.
2. That the apostle, at the very time of writing, was himself suffering at their hands (Acts 18:5, 6, 12). His mind, therefore, we can well conceive, was full of thoughts regarding these Jewish misdeeds, and hence he bursts forth into utterances of sorrowful indignation.
3. That the Thessalonians were converts from Polytheism to a monotheistic religion which was a growth out of Judaism, They could, consequently, hardly fail to stumble by seeing Jews everywhere its most violent opponents. Paul may have striven to meet this state of mind, by showing that the opposition of the Jews was in keeping with their whole character and conduct.
II. ITS SUBJECT MATTER.
1. The culminating point in Jewish wickedness is the casting out and murder of their Messiah. In ignorance they did it, it is true. Yet that ignorance was no justification, for the prophets, whose testimony was to Christ, the Jews had also slain. This is the indictment of the Old Testament, and also of Christ (Matthew 23:29-39). Paul's words are but an echo of his Master's.
2. Seeing, then, that such was their past conduct, Paul adds, as naturally following, "and have persecuted us." What had been meted out to God's servants in the past it was to be expected would be extended to the apostles and believers. Under new conditions the Jewish character would again assert itself.
3. Hence he declares "They please not God and are contrary to all men." The more he came in contact with Gentile life, the more he must have observed the intense dislike with which the Jews were everywhere regarded. Despising other nations, they were themselves only loathed by these nations in return; and now that Paul's feelings had broadened into the love of all mankind, he could not but recognize them as showing what Tacitus called "adversus omnes alios hostile odium." The mark of God's anger had been set upon them, and the Divine judgment had been ratified by men. "When God loathes aught, men presently loathe it too."
4. But here it is not the dislike felt by others towards the Jews as the animosity of the Jews towards all others. "Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles," etc. Like their own Pharisees they would neither enter in themselves nor allow others to enter.
5. In thus standing in the way of the Gentiles' salvation they were acting so as "to fill up their own sins alway" with fearful perseverance; alike before Christ had come, when He came, and now that He had gone, they had been filling up the measure of their guilt.
6. And now retribution was approaching. Wrath had already fallen, and was falling upon them; but in a short fourteen years it came upon them to the utmost in the destruction of their city and the dispersion of their race.
(J. Hutchison, D. D.)
I. THE FURY OF THE JEWS IN THEIR INHUMAN TREATMENT OF THE GREAT LEADERS OF RELIGIOUS THOUGHT.
1. They plotted against the life of the world's Redeemer; and, in spite of insufficient evidence to convict, and the endeavours of the Roman Procurator to release, they clamoured for His crucifixion, exclaiming, "His blood be on us and on our children" — a self-invoked imprecation that fell on them with terrible and desolating vengeance!
2. The sin of murder already darkly stained their race — the best and noblest of their prophets being the unoffending victims. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Zechariah met with violent deaths. The charge of Stephen was unanswerable (Acts 7:52).
3. The apostles were subjected to similar treatment — "Have chased and driven us out." They drove them out of Thessalonica, afterwards out of Berea, and were at that moment engaged in instigating an insurrection to drive the apostle out of Corinth. The spirit of persecution is unchanged. Wherever the attempt is made to raise the Church, it is met with a jealous, angry opposition. And yet what a wretched, short-sighted policy does persecution reveal! It is the idolized weapon of the tyrant and the coward, the sport of the brutal, the sanguinary carnival of devils.
II. THE FURY OF THE JEWS WAS DISPLEASING TO GOD. They fondly imagined that they were the favourites of heaven, and that all others were excluded from the Divine complacency. They could quote the words of their law, such as Deuteronomy 14:2, with the utmost facility, to support their assumption of superiority and exclusiveness, wilfully shutting their eyes to the difference between the holy intention of Jehovah, and their miserable failure to realize that intention. In all their opposition to Christianity they thought they were doing God service. How fatally blinding is sin — goading the soul to the commission of the most horrible crimes under the guise of virtue.
III. THE FURY OF THE JEWS WAS HOSTILE TO MAN.
1. Their hostility was directed against the world of mankind. "Are contrary to all men." The Jews of that period were the adversaries and despisers of all. Tacitus brands them as "the enemies of all men:" and Apion, the Egyptian, calls them "Atheists and misanthropes, in fact, the most witless and dullest of barbarians."
2. Their hostility was embittered by a despicable religious jealousy. "Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles," etc. Here the fury of the old religion against the new reached its climax. It is the perfection of bigotry and cruelty to deny to our fellow men the only means of salvation! Into what monsters of barbarity will persecution convert men! Pharaoh persisted to such a degree of unreasonableness as to chastise the Hebrews for not accomplishing impossibilities! Julian the Apostate, carried his vengeful spirit to his deathbed.
IV. THE FURY OF THE JEWS HURRIED THEM INTO IRRETRIEVABLE RUIN.
1. Their wickedness was wilfully persistent. "To fill up their sins alway" — at all times, now as much as ever. So much so, the time is now come when the cup of their iniquity is filled to the brim, and nothing can prevent the consequent punishment. The desire to sin grows with its commission. St. Gregory says, "Sinners would live forever that they might sin forever" — a powerful argument for the endlessness of future punishment — the desire to sin is endless!
2. Their punishment was inevitable and complete. "For the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost" — is even now upon them. The process has begun. Their fury to destroy others will accelerate their own destruction. Punishment descended upon the wicked, unbelieving, and resisting Jews; and utter destruction upon their national status and religious supremacy.Lessons: —
1. There is a fearful possibility of sinking into a lifeless formality, and a blind, infatuate opposition to the good.
2. The rage of man against the truth defeats its own ends and recoils in vengeance on himself.
(Dr. J. Buchanan.)
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