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V. The meaning of the valedictory prayer or benediction at the end of this second epistle to the Corinthians seems to be to this purpose : · May the favour of our Lord Jesus • Christ, and the love and good will of God be with you, • and abide with you. And may you partake of all the blessings of the gospel, with all good things needful for you.' Let us observe each expression.
“ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is so well known, that the word, which we render grace, signifies favour, that there can be no need to prove it. Hereby then is to be understood all that is included in having the favour of Jesus Christ.
" And the love of God.” • And may you enjoy, and con*tinue to have, the love, approbation, and good will of God; • whose good will is the spring of all happiness, natural . and spiritual, temporal and eternal.'
“ And the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all."
“ Communion," or fellowship. The word is used several times in the New Testament, and seems to signify one or other of these two things. First, it sometimes denotes “ communication," or distribution. At other times it signifies partaking or “ participation" of somewhat together with others.
First, I say, it sometimes denotes communication or distribution of somewhat to others. Rom. xv. 26, “ It has pleased them of Macedonia, and Achaia, to make a certain contribution," communion, communication," for the poor saints at Jerusalem." It is the same word in the original, which is here rendered « communion.” 2 Cor. ix. 13, “ Whilst by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your liberal distribution to them,” communion or communication, and to all men." Heb. xiii. 16, “ But to do good, and to communicate forget not.” The Greek is literally thus : “ But forget not well-doing, and communion,” or communication. For here too is the same word which we have in the text. And the words are well rendered : “ But to do good, and to communicate, forget not." These instances, not to mention others, show that the word does sometimes signify communication, or distribution of some good to others.
It seems also to denote sometimes participation with others in some good. 1 Cor. i. 9, “ God is faithful, by whom ye were called to the fellowship" or communion “ of his Son Jesus Christ :” that is, to a participation of the blessings vouchsafed in and through Jesus Christ. And 2 Cor. viii. 14, “ What fellowship has light with darkness? Gal. ii. 9,
They gave unto us the right hands of fellowship :” or admitted us to partake with them in the same office and work in which they were engaged.
Thus it also signifies a participation of good things with others. And both these senses may be included in the word, as used by St. John, and perhaps in some other places. 1 John i. 2, “ That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye may have fellowship with us :" that is, that ye may have like privileges with us.
“ And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” . And indeed we are servants of God, and follow• ers of Jesus Christ, and have received most delightful and • most valuable communications from above.'
By the “ Holy Ghost," undoubtedly, is often meant in the New Testament, and throughout the scriptures, miraculous powers and gifts, or immediate inspiration, and divine revesation, in an especial manner. Acts vii. 5, St. Stephen, before the Jewish council, says: “ Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.”. Or, ye have been always wont to oppose and disobey the divine revelations, and the messengers sent to you with them. As ye have now resisted Christ, so did your fathers the prophets in former times.
It is said in St. John's gospel, ch. vii. 39, that the “ Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified :” meaning, that the miraculous powers and gifts designed to be bestowed upon the apostles, and others, who believed in Jesus, were not yet vouchsafed to them: the plentiful effusion of such gifts having been deferred till after Christ's ascension, as an evident proof of it to all. Acts ii. 4, “ And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” And it is well known, that miraculous gifts, in some degree and proportion, were bestowed upon most believers at that time. Acts v. 32, Peter, and the other apostles before the Jewish council : “ And we are his witnesses of these things. And so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."
This is what the apostle may be thought to mean here: to wish that these christians might continue to partake in • miraculous gifts and powers.' And if that be the meaning, it is argued that this benediction, or farewell prayer, is confined to those times, and cannot be reasonably used now.
For farther clearing up this point therefore, and enabling all to judge of it, so far as I am able, I would observe, that words are not always used in their fullest sense and meaning. If all believers in general at that time are spoken of as having the Spirit, yet, as to most of them, it was in a much inferior degree and measure than that of the apostles.
St. Paul says, Col. i. 19, “ It pleased the Father, that in him all fulness should dwell.” In Eph. iii. 19, he prays for those christians, that " they might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Nevertheless none can suppose, that he intends all the power and wisdom that was in Christ. The context does not lead us to think that the apostle intended any miraculous gifts at all. But he means, probably, what the evangelist John does, when he says, ch. i. 16, 17, “ And of his fulness have all we received, even grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ;" that is, the true grace of the gospel, with which all christians ought to be well acquainted. And the apostle there prays particularly for the Ephesians, that they may be so.
In like manner, Eph. i. 17, 18, he prays for the same Ephesian christians, “ that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him : that the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, ye may know what is the hope of his calling.' And the rest, which there follows. Not intending, I presume, any new revelation, or immediate inspiration, or the infusing into them any wisdom miraculously ; but that in the right use of their reasonable powers and faculties, and recollecting what they had heard from him, and other preachers of the gospel, and attending to this his epistle, and other scriptures, or rightly improving any other means of religious knowledge, they might attain to and be settled in a right conception and understanding of the doctrine of the gospel, as it had been revealed by Christ and his apostles. Upon this place Mr. Locke might be fitly consulted.
Moreover the phrase, the Holy Ghost, is, I think, plainly used for spiritual good things in general. Luke xi. 9–13, “ And I say unto you: Ask, and ye
shall receive.- -For every one that asketh receiveth. If a sun shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone ? Or if he ask a fish, will be for a fish give him a serpent? Or, if he sball ask an egg, will be offer him a scorpion ? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?” Which in St. Matthew is expressed by good things. And I shall likewise recite that context largely, that all may the better judge whether it is not exactly parallel. “ Matt. vii. 7-11, “ Ask, and it shall be
given you—-For every one that asketh receiveth. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son shall ask bread, will he give him a stone ? Or, if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent ? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good gifts to them that ask him?"
Prov. i. 23, * Behold, I will pour out my Spirit upon you. I will make known my words unto you." It is not reasonable to think, that hereby is meant inspiration, in the highest meaning of the word. But only : • If you will • hearken unto me, and follow my counsels, you will attain to wisdom and good understanding.'
St. Paul says, Eph. i. 3, “ Blessed be God, which has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Which thanksgiving, I think, may be used hy christians still, though they have not exactly the same privileges with the christians of the apostolic age.
Nor is it uncommon for the apostle, near the conclusion of his epistles, to offer up prayers or wishes in behalf of those to whom he writes, for the spiritual blessings of the gospel, or confirmation and increase of virtue and holiness, and likewise for all that happiness which was then generally included in the word peace, comprehending both temporal and spiritual blessings. Of this some instances may be taken notice of. Eph. vi. 23, “ Peace be unto the brethren, and love, with faith from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thess. iii. 16, “ Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always, by all means.
The Lord be with you all.” And in this very epistle, the second to the Corinthians, the words near the conclusion may be observed. 2 Cor. xiii, 11, “ Finally, brethren, farewell, Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you.".
All these things may lead us to think, that this benediction needs not to be understood of miraculous gifts, and therefore may be still used.
Let me propose some other observations. The first two particulars, “ the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,” may still be desired for all christians. Why then should the third particular be esteemed peculiar to some?
Farther, though the benediction at the end of this epistle is more particular, I apprehend that it is no more than equivalent to those in the other epistles. For when it is said " grace be with you," or, the grace of our Lord Jesus
Christ be with you,” therein is included a wish of all needful blessings, suited to the circumstances of christians at that time. And this has no more.
A frequent salutation at the beginning of St. Paul's epistles, as we have seen, is “ Grace be unto you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ." But at the beginning of the epistles to Timothy and Titus he writes: “ Grace, mercy, and peace be to thee.” Which nevertheless can import no more than a wish of all happiness. And as much is included in the other forms. So likewise St. Jude's epistle begins after this manner : " Mercy unto you, and peace and love be multiplied.” But it may be supposed, that no more is comprehended therein, than in St. Paul's wish of“ grace and peace.”
“ The communion of the Holy Ghost” therefore means a participation in all the blessings of the gospel, with all other needful good things. “ Be with you all,” that is, abide with you.
May these blessings be always your portion and happiness.'
VI. From what has been said by way of explication, we seem to have reason to think, that this valedictory wish and prayer may be still used. However, the preceding argument is referred to the consideration of the serious and inquisitive.
VII. Though this form may be still used, it needs not, it ought not to be always used.
As there are other forms of blessing in the New Testament, it is very fit that they also should be used. Otherwise some might have a superstitious regard for one portion of scripture above another; or indulge a weak and groundJess apprehension, that something more extraordinary is proposed to them than is intended.
VIII. These benedictions, when used by us, are not to be pronounced in the way of authority, but only as a prayer, or wish of all good and happiness to others.
Indeed no man can bless authoritatively. No one man, more than another, can convey blessings to any. Nay, none can be blessed of God himself, or obtain true happiness, unless they will desire and seek it, and will be in the use of
proper means to obtain it.
Ix. What has been now said, may satisfy us about the manner of pronouncing these benedictions.
Some, of good judgment, have scrupled to pronounce them in the form of a wish for others; thinking that to be peculiar to the apostles, and as if so doing had in it an appearance of authority. Therefore they choose to say: “And