15. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
15. Itaque fratres, state, et tenete institutiones, quas didicistis vel per sermonem, vel per epistolam nostram.
16. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
16. Ipse vero Dominus noster Iesus Christus, et Deus, ac Pater noster, qui dilexcit nos, et dedit consolationem aeternam, et spem bonam per gratiam,
17. Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
17. Consoletur corda vestra, et stabiliat vos in omni opere et sermone bono.
He deduces this exhortation on good grounds from what goes before, inasmuch as our steadfastness and power of perseverance rest on nothing else than assurance of divine grace. When, however, God calls us to salvation, stretching forth, as it were, his hand to us; when Christ, by the doctrine of the gospel, presents himself to us to be enjoyed; when the Spirit is given us as a seal and earnest of eternal life, though the heaven should fall, we must, nevertheless, not become disheartened. Paul, accordingly, would have the Thessalonians stand, not merely when others continue to stand, but with a more settled stability; so that, on seeing almost all turning aside from the faith, and all things full of confusion, they will, nevertheless, retain their footing. And assuredly the calling of God ought to fortify us against all occasions of offense in such a manner, that not even the entire ruin of the world shall shake, much less overthrow, our stability.
15 Hold fast the institutions. Some restrict this to precepts of external polity; but this does not please me, for he points out the manner of standing firm. Now, to be furnished with invincible strength is a much higher thing than external discipline. Hence, in my opinion, he includes all doctrine under this term, as though he had said that they have ground on which they may stand firm, provided they persevere in sound doctrine, according as they had been instructed by him. I do not deny that the term paradoseis is fitly applied to the ordinances which are appointed by the Churches, with a view to the promoting of peace and the maintaining of order, and I admit that it is taken in this sense when human traditions are treated of, (Matthew 15:6.) Paul, however, will be found in the next chapter making use of the term tradition, as meaning the rule that he had laid down, and the very signification of the term is general. The context, however, as I have said, requires that it be taken here to mean the whole of that doctrine in which they had been instructed. For the matter treated of is the most important of all -- that their faith may remain secure in the midst of a dreadful agitation of the Church.
Papists, however, act a foolish part in gathering from this that their traditions ought to be observed. They reason, indeed, in this manner -- that if it was allowable for Paul to enjoin traditions, it was allowable also for other teachers; and that, if it was a pious thing to observe the former, the latter also ought not less to be observed. Granting them, however, that Paul speaks of precepts belonging to the external government of the Church, I say that they were, nevertheless, not contrived by him, but divinely communicated. For he declares elsewhere, (1 Corinthians 7:35,) that it was not his intention to ensnare consciences, as it was not lawful, either for himself, or for all the Apostles together. They act a still more ridiculous part in making it their aim to pass off, under this, the abominable sink of their own superstitions, as though they were the traditions of Paul. But farewell to these trifles, when we are in possession of Paul's true meaning. And we may judge in part from this Epistle what traditions he here recommends, for he says -- whether by word, that is, discourse, or by epistle. Now, what do these Epistles contain but pure doctrine, which overturns to the very foundation the whole of the Papacy, and every invention that is at variance with the simplicity of the Gospel?
16 Now the Lord himself. When he ascribes to Christ a work altogether Divine, and represents him, in common with the Father, as the Author of the choicest blessings, as we have in this a clear proof of the divinity of Christ, so we are admonished, that we cannot obtain anything from God unless we seek it in Christ himself: and when he asks that God may give him those things which he had enjoined, he shews clearly enough how little influence exhortations have, unless God inwardly move and affect our hearts. Unquestionably there will be but an empty sound striking upon the ear, if doctrine does not receive efficacy from the Spirit.
What he afterwards adds, who hath loved you, and hath given consolation, etc., relates to confidence in asking; for he would have the Thessalonians feel persuaded that God will do what he prays for. And from what does he prove this? Because he once shewed that they were dear to him, while he has already conferred upon them distinguished favors, and in this manner has bound himself to them for the time to come. This is what he means by everlasting consolation. The term hope, also, has the same object in view -- that they may confidently expect a never-failing continuance of gifts. But what does he ask? That God may sustain their hearts by his consolation; for this is his office, to keep them from giving way through anxiety or distrust; and farther, that he may give them perseverance, both in a pious and holy course of life, and in sound doctrine; for I am of opinion, that it is rather of this than of common discourse that he speaks, so that this agrees with what goes before.