Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Thessalonians 5:16 - 5:18

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Thessalonians 5:16 - 5:18


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THE NATURE OF TRUE RELIGION

1Th_5:16-18. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

THE just union of personal and relative duties is the brightest ornament of the Christian profession. The discharge of either will be imperfect, if it be not united with an attention to the other. As beauty in the human body consists not in the exquisite formation of any single feature, but in the just symmetry and configuration of the whole frame, so the perfection of a Christian character consists not in an exclusive attention to any one duty, but in a due regard to all duties, civil and religious, social and personal.

St. Paul has been giving directions respecting the duties we owe to each other as a Christian society [Note: ver. 14.]. He now descends from the social to the personal duties; stating at the same time both the grounds on which they stand, and the indispensable necessity of attending to them.

Taking his directions in a comprehensive and united view, we learn that religion is,

I.       A spiritual service—

[Many, like the Pharisees of old, suppose it consists in a formal attendance on ordinances, and an external decency of conduct. But true religion is inward and spiritual. It calls forth the strongest energies of the soul. It enables a person to maintain a holy intercourse with God in secret. St. Paul himself describes it as consisting, not in outward ceremonies of any kind, but in a devotedness of heart and soul to God [Note: Rom_14:17.], and declares that no man can be a Christian indeed, who does not possess and manifest this elevated state of mind [Note: Php_3:3 and Rom_2:28-29.]. How earnestly then should we examine whether we be thus continually waiting upon God in the exercise of prayer and praise!]

II.      A rational service—

[Spiritual religion is too often deemed enthusiasm. Indeed, if we interpreted the text literally and in the strictest sense of the words, we should make religion impracticable and absurd; but, when properly explained, it enjoins nothing but what is highly reasonable. It requires us to live in the stated and devout exercise of public, social, and private prayer; and to maintain such a sense of our own unworthiness, as excites a lively gratitude for every mercy we enjoy, and stimulates to an unwearied admiration of the Divine goodness: and can any thing be more reasonable than such a state? Should not they, whose iniquities are so great, and whose wants so numerous, be frequently employed in imploring mercy and grace in the time of need? And they, who are daily loaded with benefits, be daily blessing and adoring their Benefactor? Such a service is expressly called a “reasonable service [Note: Rom_12:1.].” To do otherwise were surely most unreasonable: nor are any people more irrational than they who pour contempt on these holy exercises from an affected regard for rational religion.]

III.     A delightful service—

[Many are prejudiced against spiritual religion, as though it must of necessity deprive them of all the comforts of life. Certain it is that it will rob them of all the pleasures of sin: but it will afford them infinitely richer pleasures in its stead [Note: Pro_3:17. This is not true of formal, but only of inward and spiritual religion.]. What can be more delightful than to maintain “fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ?” Can there be any melancholy arising from incessant praises and thanksgivings? Were the first converts, or the Samaritans, or the jailor, rendered melancholy by the acquisition of religion [Note: Act_2:46; Act_8:8; Act_16:34.]? Many are made melancholy by false views of religion; but none are by just and scriptural apprehensions of it. In proportion as we live in the exercise of it, we resemble the glorified saints and angels.]

Such being the nature of true religion, we will endeavour to enforce the practice of it—

[The will of God should be the law of all his creatures; and his will respecting us is fully revealed. It is his earnest desire that we should live in the enjoyment of himself. “He willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live.” It is moreover his authoritative command that we should love and serve him: it is his command to all, whether rich or poor, learned or unlearned. None are so high as to be exempt from this duty, nor any so situated as to be incapable of performing it. The heart may be lifted up in prayer and praise even when we are occupied in the service of the world. Let all then know God’s will respecting them. We must delight ourselves in communion with God. O let us be like-minded with our heavenly Father! Let us say, this shall be my will also. From henceforth let us “watch unto prayer and thanksgiving with all perseverance:” let us be ashamed that we have so long resisted the Divine will; and let us so live in obedience to it on earth, that we may have our portion with those who are praising him incessantly in heaven.]