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, 13. as cities in which there were Christian churches, at the time this epistle was written, were fituated not far from each other, in the greater Phrygia, an inland country in the Lesser Asia. Of these cities Laodicea was the greatest, being the metropolis of Phrygia, and near it ftood Coloffe by the river Lycus where it falls into the Meander. --Coloffe, though inferior in rank to Laodicea, was a great and wealthy city, and had a Christian church, which perhaps was more confiderable than the churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis, on account of the number and quality of its members; and therefore it merited the attention which the apostle paid to it, by writing to the Coloflians the epistle in the canon which bears their name.
The inhabitants of Phrygia were famous for the worship of Bacchus, and Cybele the mother of the gods. Hence she was called Phrygia mater, by way of distinction. . In her worship, as well as in that of Bacchus, both sexes practised all sorts of debaucheries in speech and action, with a frantic rage which they pretended was occafioned by the inspiration of the deities whom they worshipped. These were the orgies (from ogging rage) of Bacchus and Cybele, so famed in antiquity; the lewd rites of which being being perfectly adapted to the corruptions of the human heart, were performed by both fexes without shame or remorse. Wherefore as the Son of God came into the world to destroy the works of the Devil, it appeared in the eye of his apostle, a matter of great importance, to carry the light of the gospel into countries, where these abominable impurities were dignified with the honourable appellation of Reli. gious worship; especially as nothing but the heaven-descended light of the gospel, could dispel such a pernicious infatuation, That this falutary purpose might be effectually accomplished, St. Paul, accompanied by Silas and Timothy, went at different times into Phrygia, and preached the gospel with great success in many cities of that country, as we are informed by Luke in his history of the acts of the apostles; and as shall be proved more particularly in the following section.
Sect. I. Shewing that the apostle Paul preached the gospel, and
planted churches, in Cologe, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. From the biftory of St. Paul's travels given by Luke, it appears that his constant custom was, to go directly to the chief cities in every country where he proposed to introduce the gospel. This method he followed, First, because in the great cities he had an opportunity of making the do&rine of salvation known, to multitudes, at once; and among others to persons of station, and education, who being best qualified to judge of the nature and evidences of the gospel, their example, if they embraced the gospel, he knew would have a powerful influence on others.--Secondly, because whatever corruption of manners prevailed among the natives of any country, he supposed would be more predominant in the great cities, than any where else ; and being there supported by all the countenance which authority and example could give them, he foresaw that the triumphs
of the gospel, in overthrowing these corruptions thus supported, would be the more illustrious. The apostle's constant custom, therefore, being to go directly to the great cities in all the heathen countries, they must be mistaken, who are of opinion, that Paul in his journies through Phrygia, never once visited either Colosse, or Laodicea, or Hierapolis, notwithstanding we are toid, Acts xvi. 4. that Paul and Silas travelled through the Lefser Asia, to deliver the decrees of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, to the churches which they had planted; and in para ticular that they went throughout Phrygia, Acts xvi. 6. Also we are told, Acts xviii. 23. that on another occafion Paul went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order.
Nevertheless, to prove that Paul did not preach the gospel in Colofle, two pafiages in his epift!e to the Colossians are appealed to. The first is, chap. i. 4. Having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the Saints. This, it is said, implieth that the Colossians were not converted by Paul; and that he had only heard of their being converted by some other teacher. But the apostle might express himself in that manner, consistently with his having converted the Colossians, because it was his custom, when absent from the churches which he had planted, to make inquiry concerning their state, 1 Thef. iii. 5. that he might know whether they persevered in maintaining that great article of the Christian faith, which he was fo anxious to establish, but which was every where opposed by the Judaizing teachers, namely that both Jews and Gentiles, under the gospel, were entirely freed from obedience to the law of Moses as a term of salvation; and that obedience to the gospel, was the only thing required in order to men's acceptance with God. This doctrine the apostle, Col. i. 26. termed The mystery which was kept hid from the ages and from the generations ; and, ver. 27. The mystery concerning the Gentiles, which is Christ to them the hope of glory.
Wherefore, when Epaphras came from Colosse to the apostle, it is natural to think, that according to his usual manner, he inquired concerning the state of the Colossians: And being informed by him that the greatest part of them persevered in the true faith of the gospel, Col. i. 8. notwithstanding the attempts of the falle teachers to seduce them, he was greatly elated, and with perfect propriety said to them, chap. i. 3. We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always when we pray for youl. 4. Having heard of your faith in Christ Jefusy and of the love which ye have to all the faints. Besides, it ought to be remembered, that the apostle spake in the same manner, of the faith and love of other churches and persons, of whose conversion, he himself was undoubtedly the instrument. Compare Philemon, ver. 5. with ver. 19. of that epiftle. See also
Theff. ii. 6. and note i on Ephes. i. 15.-Wherefore, the passage under our confideration, is no proof at all that the Co. loffians were indebted to some other teacher than Paul, for their faith in the gospel.
The second passage, quoted from Pauľs epistle to the Colosfians, to prove that he never preached the gospel in Colofle, Laodicea, and Hierapolis, is chap. ii. 1. I wish you to know how great a combat 1 lave for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh. But this by no means implies, that the brethren in Coloffe and Laodicea had not feen the apostle, when he wrote this letter to them. For, as Theodoret justly obferves in his preface to this letter, the apostle's meaning is, that his combat was for the converted Gentiles in Coloffe and Laodicea, who doubtlefs had often feen his face; and not for them alone, but for as many as had not feen his face in the flesh; that is, for all the converted Gentiles every where, and in every age of the world. That this is the true meaning of the expression, Theodoret proves from the next verse, where the apostle does not say, " that your heart may be comforted," as he would have done, if the Gentiles of Colofle and Laodicea had been of the number of those who had not feen his face in the flesh; but that their heart, namely, who have not seen my face, may be comforted as well as yours.
In the third place, it is alleged, that the apostle himself points out Epaphras as the spiritual father of the Colossians, chap. i. 7. As ye have also learned it from Epaphras. But in my opinion, the word also, indicates the direct contrary. The Coloffians had learned the true doctrine of the gospel, not from the apostle alone, but they had learned it from Epaphras also
, who as a faithful minister of Christ, and fellow-labourer with