17. But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
17. Nos vero, fratres, orbati vobis ad tempus horae aspectu, non corde, abundantius studuimus faciem vestram videre in multo desiderio.
18. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
18. Itaque voluimus venire ad vos, ego quidem Paulus, et semel et bis, et obstitit nobis Satan.
19. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
19. Quae enim nostra spes, vel gaudium, vel corona gloriationis? annon etiam vos coram Domino nostro Iesu Christo in eius adventu?
20. For ye are our glory and joy.
20. Vos enim estis gloria nostra et gaudium.
17 But we, brethren, bereaved of you. This excuse has been appropriately added, lest the Thessalonians should think that Paul had deserted them while so great an emergency demanded his presence. He has spoken of the persecutions which they endured from their own people: he, in the mean time, whose duty it was above all others to assist them, was absent. He has formerly called himself a father; now, it is not the part of a father to desert his children in the midst of such distresses. He, accordingly, obviates all suspicion of contempt and negligence, by saying, that it was from no want of inclination, but because he had not opportunity. Nor does he say simply, |I was desirous to come to you, but my way was obstructed;| but by the peculiar terms that he employs he expresses the intensity of his affection: |When,| says he, |I was bereaved of you.| By the word bereaved, he declares how sad and distressing a thing it was to him to be absent from them. This is followed by a fuller expression of his feeling of desire -- that it was with difficulty that he could endure their absence for a short time. It is not to be wondered, if length of time should occasion weariness or sadness; but we must have a strong feeling of attachment when we find it difficult to wait even a single hour. Now, by the space of an hour, he means -- a small space of time.
This is followed by a correction -- that he had been separated from them in appearance, not in heart, that they may know that distance of place does not by any means lessen his attachment. At the same time, this might not less appropriately be applied to the Thessalonians, as meaning that they, on their part, had felt united in mind while absent in body; for it was of no small importance for the point in hand that he should state how fully assured he was of their affection towards him in return. He shews, however, more fully his affection, when he says that he endeavored the more abundantly; for he means that his affection was so far from being diminished by his leaving them, that it had been the more inflamed. When he says, we would once and again, he declares that it was not a sudden heat, that quickly cooled, (as we see sometimes happen,) but that he had been steadfast in this purpose, inasmuch as he sought various opportunities.
18 Satan hindered us. Luke relates that Paul was in one instance hindered, (Acts 20:3) inasmuch as the Jews laid an ambush for him in the way. The same thing, or something similar, may have occurred frequently. It is not without good reason, however, that Paul ascribes the whole of this to Satan, for, as he teaches elsewhere, (Ephesians 6:12) we have to
wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities of the air, and spiritual wickednesses, etc.
For, whenever the wicked molest us, they fight under Satan's banner, and are his instruments for harassing us. More especially, when our endeavors are directed to the work of the Lord, it is certain that everything that hinders proceeds from Satan; and would to God that this sentiment were deeply impressed upon the minds of all pious persons -- that Satan is continually contriving, by every means, in what way he may hinder or obstruct the edification of the Church! We would assuredly be more careful to resist him; we would take more care to maintain sound doctrine, of which that enemy strives so keenly to deprive us. We would also, whenever the course of the gospel is retarded, know whence the hindrance proceeds. He says elsewhere, (Romans 1:13) that God had not permitted him, but both are true: for although Satan does his part, yet God retains supreme authority, so as to open up a way for us, as often as he sees good, against Satan's will, and in spite of his opposition. Paul accordingly says truly that God does not permit, although the hindrance comes from Satan.
19 For what is our hope. He confirms that ardor of desire, of which he had made mention, inasmuch as he has his happiness in a manner treasured up in them. |Unless I forget myself, I must necessarily desire your presence, for ye are our glory and joy.| Farther, when he calls them his hope and the crown of his glory, we must not understand this as meaning that he gloried in any one but God alone, but because we are allowed to glory in all God's favors, in their own place, in such a manner that he is always our object of aim, as I have explained more at large in the first Epistle to the Corinthians. We must, however, infer from this, that Christ's ministers will, on the last day, according as they have individually promoted his kingdom, be partakers of glory and triumph. Let them therefore now learn to rejoice and glory in nothing but the prosperous issue of their labors, when they see that the glory of Christ is promoted by their instrumentality. The consequence will be, that they will be actuated by that spirit of affection to the Church with which they ought. The particle also denotes that the Thessalonians were not the only persons in whom Paul triumphed, but that they held a place among many. The causal particle gar, (for,) which occurs almost immediately afterwards, is employed here not in its strict sense, by way of affirmation -- |assuredly you are.|