Page images
PDF
EPUB

the apostle, after his departure had not failed to put the Colossians in mind of his doctrine. Besides, if Epaphras had converted the Colossians, the apostle instead of saying, chap.iv. 12. Epaphras who came from you, a servant of Christ saluteth you, would rather have said, as Lardner has observed, Epaphras by whom

ye

believed; or somewhat to the like purpose, expressive of the obligations they lay under to him.

The following are the arguments which prove that Paul converted the Colossians. First, This apostle speaking of the Christian church, says, chap. i. 25. Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God, which was given me on your account, fully to preach the word of God. But if the difpensation of God was given Paul on account of the Coloffians, fully to preach the word of God, can it be imagined, that, notwithftanding he was so often in Phrygia, he would neglect his commillion so far, as never to preach the gospel in Coloffe ?-Secondly, Throughout the whole of this epiftle, the apostle and the Colossians are represented as taking a special interest in each others affairs, like persons who were bound to each other, by the strongest ties of friendship. For example, chap. ii. s. Though in the fless I be absent, yet in spirit I am with you, rejoising when I see your order, and the firmness of your faith. In like manner, chap. iv. 7. All things concerning me, Tychicus a beloved brother, and faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will make known to you. 8. Wbom, I have sent to you for this very purpose, that he may know the state of your affairs and comfort your hearts. Nay, as a person for whose opinion the Colossians had the highest regard, he bare testimony to them concerning Epaphras their own pastor, chap. i. 7. that he was a faithful minister of Jesus Chris with respect to them, and chap. iv. had much zeal for them, and for those in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis : all which are expressions of such an affection, as would naturally sublift between persons converted to the faith of the gospel, and him who had converted them.—Thirdly, The apostle wrote the falutation to the Colossians with his own hand, as he did to the other churches, which were planted by himself, and who knew his hand-writing. Whereas in his epistle to the Romans, who were strangers to him, the falutations were written by Tertius.-Fourthly, That the Coloslians were converted by an apostle, appears from chap. ii. 6. Seeing then he have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk ye in him ; 7. Rooted in bim, and built upon him, and made firm in the faith, even as ye have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. This the apoftle could not have said to the Colossians, if their only teacher had been Epaphras, or any other who was not an apostle, See also chap. i. 6. From the day ye keard it, and knew the grace of God in truth. These things, as Dr. Lardner very well obferves, Can. vol. ii. chap. 14. shew that the Colossians were converted by an apostle. Now, who should this be but Paul himfelf, who made so many journeys into their country, and preached there with such success ?

written

13.

Upon the whole, we may believe that the churches in Colofle, Laodicea, and Hierapolis, were planted by St. Paul, with the affistance of Timothy in particular; and therefore in writing this epistle, Timothy joined the apostle, as one well known to the Colossians, and greatly refpected by them.

Sect. II. Of the Occasion of writing the Epifle to the Coloffians.

When the news of Paul's confinement at Rome reached the Christians in Coloffe, they sent Epaphras, (a native of their city, chap. iv. 12. and formerly an idolater, chap. 1. 13. but now a Christian minister in their church, chap. i. 7.) all the way to Rome to comfort the apostle, by declaring the affection which the Colossians bare to him as their spiritual father, chap. i. 8. and to give him an account of their state, and to bring them back word how matters went with him, chap. iv. 7,-9.

From Epaphras the apostle learned, that the greatest part the Colossians persevered in the faith, and were remarkable for their love to all the brethren, chap. i. 4. But that certain false teachers had persuaded some of them to worship angels, and to abstain from animal food, and to observe the Jewish festivals, new moons, and fabbaths, and to mortify their bodies by long continued fastings: In short, to practise the rites of the law of Mofes as absolutely necessary to their falvation, chap. ii. 16.– 23.

Long

of

1

Long before the light of the gospel shone on the world, the Greeks had introduced their philosophy into many of the countries of the Lefler Asia, and among the rest into Phrygia, where, it would seen the doctrines of Pythagoras and of Plato were much admired. The followers of Plato held, that the government of the world is carried on by beings inferior to the gods, but superior to men, such as the Jews believed angels to be. These 'they called Azijoves, a name which in the Greek language fignifies Divinities: and these they enjoined their sect to worship, on, account of their agency in human affairs. See Coloff. ii. 8. note 2.—The philosophy of Pythagoras led to a different discipline. They held, that mankind had all lived in some preexistent state, and that for the fins committed by them in their pre-existent state, some of their souls were sent into human bodies, and others of them into the bodies of brutes, to be punished for, and to be purged from, their former fins. Wherefore, believing the whole brute creation to be animated by human souls, they held it unlawful to kill any thing which hath life, and abstained wholly from animal food. Withal, effectually to free themselves from the vices and pollutions contracted in their pre-existent state, they practifed repeated and long com tinued fastings and other severities, for the purpose of thoroughly fubjecting the body with its appetites to the foul.

From the things which the apostle Paul hath written to the Colossians, it appears that, before their conversion, some of them had embraced the disclipline of Pythagoras, and others of them the philosophy of Plato ; and that the Judaizers who came to Colosse, the more effectually to recommend the law of Moses to the Christians in that city, had affirmed that Pythagoras derived his discipline, and Plato his dogmas, from the writings of Moses. That these false teachers made use of an argument of this kind, to recommend the Jewish institutions to the Coloffians, is the more probable that some of the early Christian writers, and, if I am not mistaken, some of the Jewish writers also in the first ages, affirmed the very same fact. See Ryan's history of the effects of religion on mankind, Sect. 2. The truth is, the Pythagorean discipline bears some resemblance to the abstinence from unclean meats, and to the fastings enjoined in the law of Mofes. But, be this as it may be, it cannot be denied that the Pythagorean precepts, both concerning the abftinence from animal food, and concerning the mortification of the body by fasting and other severities, together with the doctrines of Piato concerning the agency of angels in human affairs, and the honour which is due to them from men on that account, are all expressly condemned by the apostle in his epistle to the Colollians. This being the cafe, may we not believe that the Judaizing teachers, who it is well known artfully suited their tenets to the characters and prejudices of the persons whom they addrefred, talked to the Colossians, in a plausible and pompous manner, concerning the dignity and office of angels, and represented them as proper objects of worship to mankind, on account of the blessings which they received through their ministry; and even insinuated, that, to render mankind complete in knowledge, new revelations of the will of God, more perfect than those made by Christ, might be expected through the ministry of angels, who they affirmed were better acquainted with the will of God, than it was possible for Christ to be; as, according to them, he was nothing but a man. Nay, these impostors, may have gone so far as to obtrude their own false doctrines on the Colossians, as new revelations made to them by angels.-Farther, in proof of the agency of angels in human affairs, and to fhew that they are proper objects of men's worship, they would not neglect to tell the Colossians, that the law of Moses was given by the ministry of angels, and that angels conducted the Israelites into Canaan. - And with respect to such of the Colossians as were tinctured with the Platonic philosophy, we know that to persuade them to worship angels, or at least to make use of their mediation in worshipping God, they affirmed that it was arrogance in finners to worship God without some mediator, and therefore they exhorted the Colosījans, as an exercise of humility becoming them, to send up their prayers to God by the mediation of angels; which they faid was more acceptable to God, and more effectual, than the mediation of Christ, who could not be supposed to have power with God, like the angels his ministers in the government of the world. Lastly, As the heatheps in general, trusting to pro. pitiatory sacrifices for the pardon of their fins, were extremely

attached

attached to that kind of sacrifice, we may suppose, although it is not mentioned by the apostle, that the Judaizers told the Colos. sians, since there were no propitiatory sacrifices prescribed in the gospel, it was undoubtedly the will of God to continue the sacrifices and purifications of the law of Moses, which he himself had appointed as the means of procuring the pardon of fin. And, by this argument also, they endeavoured to allure the Colossians to embrace the law.-Upon the whole, the Judaizers recommended the law, as an institution excellently calculated for procuring the pardon of fin, and for perfecting men in virtue, consequently as absolutely necessary to salvation.

But this whole form of doctrine, by drawing men away from Christ the head, and making them forfeit all the benefit which they may derive from his mediation, it was necessary that an effectual remedy should be provided for putting a stop to lo pernicious a scheme of error. And such a remedy the Spirit of God actually provided, by inspiring the apostle Paul to write this excellent epistle, wherein all the errors of the false teachers are condemned, either directly, or by establishing the contrary truths. In particular, the Levitical sacrifices and purifications, were shewed to be of no manner of use under the gospel, by the apostle's doctrine, chap. i. 14. That we have redemption through the blood, that is, the sacrifice of Christ, even the forgiveness of fins.-In like manner, the vain figment, that angels are superior in dignity and power to Christ, was entirely destroyed by the apostle's doctrine, chap. i, 15. that Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firft born, or Lord, of the whole creation, ver. 16 Because by him were created, all things which are in the heavens, and which are' upon the earth, things visible, and things invisble, whether they be thrones, or lordships, &c. confequently, that the angels themselves, whatever their nature, or their office in the universe may be, were created by Christ, and are absolutely subject to him, ver. 18. That he is the head, or ruler, of the body, even of the church, ver. 19. For it pleased the Father, that in him all the fulness of perfection and power pould continually dwell; consequently that the Colossians had no inducement to worship, cither evil angels through fear, or good angels from humility. And, to put these important doctrines concerning the dignity and office of Christ beyond all doubt, the apostle told the Coa

lossians,

« PreviousContinue »