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tisfaction, because the votaries arrived at no definite conclusions, nor attained to a full solution of their doubts. In the domain of their shadowy speculations, they found no substantial restingplace. This was the prevalent propensity of the human mind, especially of the Phrygian, at the period in question. Amid the general desire for superior wisdom, and communion with higher orders of being, Christianity was embraced all the more readily, as the means of affording that relief to the spirit which it had elsewhere sought in vain, inasmuch as this new religion professes to release mankind, in some degree, from the bondage of the body, and to communicate a divine knowledge. But we must consider the tendencies of the Jewish mind itself prior to the reception of Christianity, and the different phases which it presented, before the result of the contact of such mind with the simple doctrine of the New Testament can be rightly developed. There is in mind generally, the practical and the speculative tendency. The former predominated among the Pharisees; the latter among the Essenes, a contemplative class, who lived secluded from the world, exhibiting a theosophic spirit in union with an ascetic bias. The Essenes, however, were not the only Jews who manifested this mental bias. Many others exhibited a mystic-ascetic direction. At first sight, asceticism might appear inconsistent with the theoretic spirit. It might seem improbable, that the practical and the speculative should be united in the same individuals. But a false asceticism, so far from being incongruous with the theoretic propensity, is nearly allied to it. When once the mind turns aside in a wrong direction, or tries to penetrate into the region of clouds and shadows, it engenders notions in regard to the material, which partake of the illusions gathered amid airy speculations. It will then be felt more keenly, that the body is a clog upon the heaven-born spirit, by preventing it from assimilation to angels and spirits, or by obstructing its desires after the invisible and immaterial. Hence the outward frame will be neglected and macerated, and its natural appetites unduly restrained, as though they directly tended to hinder communion with the spiritual world. If we reflect, moreover, that strict asceticism, as in the case of the false teachers at Colosse, often rested on the belief that matter was essentially evil, we shall readily perceive the alliance between phi losophical speculation and rigid abstinence. The elements of theosophic ascetism were already contained in the Jewish Cabbala. It is true that these elements with which the apostolic age was deeply imbued, had not been incorporated into a formal organism, but they were in active operation, and widely diffused notwithstanding. Soon after the apostolic period, they were wrought up into complete and compacted systems.
Let it be remembered too, that before and during the time of our Saviour, Alexandria was the metropolis of philosophy. There Jewish theosophy assumed various garbs, and was extensively cultivated. Allegorical interpretation was fashionable. To the outward symbols of Judaism a higher meaning was attached. A hidden sense was extracted from every part of the Old Testament. Contemplating the external as thus connected with the internal, the learned Jews of Egypt desired to penetrate through it into the recesses of the latter, and so to arrive at profound mysteries which it was the privilege of the initiated alone to apprehend. Such was the class to which Philo belonged - a class resembling the persons to whom reference is made in the present epistle. Now the influences emanating from Alexandria were extensive. A place where philosophical Judaism found its central point, must have had no ordinary effect upon the Jews resident in other, and especially, in neighbouring regions. Doctrines passed through it from the east into the west. Between the developments of the eastern and western mind, it must be regarded as the principal centre of union. Here were many contemplative Essenes or Therapeutæ, and thence came forth a powerful stimulus to the intellectual appetite of Jewish brethren, and even of cultivated heathen, who had not the good fortune to reside at the fountain, and to catch the enthusiastic spirit fresh from its source. It is unnecessary, on the present occasion, to develop the prevailing elements of the Alexandrine theology about the time of our Lord's advent, especially those peculiar elements which constituted the prominent part of Philo's creed. There was a twofold tendency to mystical speculation; viz., the Grecian-philosophic and the Oriental-theosophic; the former more apparent in Philo; the latter, in the case before us.
When Jews addicted to such theosophic-asceticism were led to embrace christianity, they could not easily abandon their previous bias, however opposite to the simplicity and purity of the gospel. Ignorant, perhaps, of the extent and reality of the self-denial which the gospel demands, they adopted it as offering spiritual freedom, and affording farther insight into that immaterial world in which their imaginations loved to luxuriate. But christianity grasped by minds of mystical and enthusiastic tendencies, must have partially disappointed their hopes, especially since they were averse to the renunciation of that boasted wisdom which must be laid at the foot of the cross. In these circumstances it was natural for theorizers to modify and adapt the gospel to their wonted modes of thought,--to bring it into union with their mystical notions, and to cast it anew in the mould of their own theosophy. Hence, pure christianity was disfigured. It cannot be associated with the heterogeneous speculations of oriental theosophy without deterioration of its genuine character. The house where the ark of the Lord is placed, cannot allow a rival occupant. Dagon must fall to the ground. Such was the mode in which it was sought to incorporate a theosophic religion with christianity. The false teachers in question were Jewish gnostics, whose previous tendencies had not been subdued by the all-pervading influence of genuine truth. They therefore modified the gospel to suit their particular views. We are now prepared to pronounce a decision upon the question whether the so-called philosophy consisted of elements foreign to Judaism, or of materials emanating from that religion alone. We have seen the kind of religious notions current among some of the Jewish sects. Josephus and Philo, who are the principal” sources of information in regard to this point, shew, that philosophical speculations identical with those inculcated by the errorists at Colosse, occupied the minds of the inquiring Jews, and were propagated as matters of recondite knowledge concealed from the mass of mankind. It has been thought difficult, however, to find among the Jews of that period evidence of the fact that the worship of angels (ii. 18) was held by any sectin the time of Paul; and again, to discover such sentiments as the apostle confronts, by declaring Christ to be the head of all principality and power (ii. 10), having spoiled principalities and powers, made a shew of them openly, and triumphed over them in his sufferings (ii. 15), i.e., peculiar sentiments in regard to orders of angels, and subordinate deities supposed to possess creative energy. Josephus, indeed, speaks of the three different forms in which the Mosaic religion had been moulded as different philosophical directions. The term philosophy therefore does not necessarily lead the inquirer beyond the bounds of the Old Testament religion, although it is too narrow to confine it, with Tittmann and others, exclusively to the Jewish law. According to the account given of the Essenes, we should have expected that they, if any of the sects, should have reverenced angels or celestial spirits. Perhaps, however, it will not be needful even here to travel beyond the limits of Judaism. The mental propensity which has been already described as belonging to the Jews in Phrygia, is nearly allied to an angelological tendency. In consequence of their proneness to the mysterious and the magical, they were eager to cultivate a connexion with superior beings. It is generally admitted that the Jews brought many notions concerning spirits and demons from Babylon; and there is little doubt that the cabbalistic doctrine concerning such beings had a strong tincture of orientalism. Accordingly Josephus states of the Essenes, that they observed the names of angels. The Alexandrine Jews approved of the sentiment that angels were internuncii between God and good men-a sentiment which would easily prepare the way for the adoration of these beings. Still more directly to our purpose is a passage in the xńcuyua Ilét gou, in which it is stated, that the Jews adored angels and archangels -and it is supposed by Grabe that this treatise belongs to the first century.* These Jewish theosophists may have paid a superstitious reverence to angels not only because angels were present in great numbers at the giving of the law, but because from them were supposed to proceed mysterious powers, which raised the initiated far above the multitude. Their acquaintance with the superior natures of the invisible world was supposed to give them a certain relation to the Supreme Deity. In that Judaizing sect,' says the excellent Neander, which here came into conflict with the simple, apostolic doctrine, we see the germ of the Judaizing gnosticism. Though the account given by Epiphanius of the conflict between Cerinthus and the Apostle Paul is not worthy of credit, yet at least between the tendency which Paul here combats, and the tendency of Cerinthus the greatest agreement is found to exist; and, judging by internal marks, we may consider the sect here spoken of to be allied to the Cerinthian. It is remarkable that to a late period traces of such a Judaizing angelological tendency were to be found in those parts; for at the council of Laodicea, canons were framed against a Judaizing observance of the sabbath, and a species of angelolatry; and even in the ninth century we find a kindred sect, the Athinganians.'t
In order that we may arrive at the particular opinions of these heretics, let us consider the passage in which they are described. The apostle warns the Colossians against that theosophy which he denominates vain and deceitful, because the superior wisdom of which it boasted was nothing but a delusion, stating at the same time that it was based on human traditions and Jewish-rabbinic rites, without proceeding from Christ or being in unison with his doctrine. In opposition to it, he sets forth the cardinal truth of the New Testament that the entire fulness of the divine perfections and the divine wisdom dwelt in Christ bodily—that He is superior to all angels and spirits—and that christians, by communion with him alone, receive everything in regard to the divine life and spiritual
• Spicilegium Patrum, Tom. I. p. 64.
† History of the planting and training of the christian church, translated by Ryland. — Vol. 1. pp. 381, 2.
knowledge, which is needed for their complete happiness. United to, and engrafted in him, they require no other me diator. After affirming the spiritual circumcision of the Colossian believers, from which it may be inferred, that the errorists insisted upon the outward rite as necessary to Gentile christians, he reminds them that their sins were forgiven, that they had been delivered from the bondage of the law as a system of legal observances, and that Christ triumphed over all evil spirits—all the opposing powers of the universe—by means of his cross, publicly shewing that he was their conqueror. In consequence of this description of Christ's perfection on the one hand, and the completeness belonging to his people in union with him, on the other—because he is the head of the entire church and of all spirits—the Colossians are exhorted not to allow any man to condemn them in regard to the non-observance of ceremonial ordinances and Jewish rites pertaining to meats and drinks, new-moon feasts, holy days, or Jewish sabbaths, all which externals were only a shadow of futurities, Christ himself being the substance. They are farther admonished not to allow themselves to be beguiled, so as that they should lose the reward attached to faith in Christ, by a pretended humility and by the worship of angels, on the part of those who impertinently pryed into things hidden from human vision, and were vainly puffed up with carnal conceit. These persons did not hold fast the Head, from whom alone all growth and nutriment are communicated to the united members of the body. If, says the apostle, ye be dead with Christ to legal observances and superstitious rites, how can ye adopt, as if ye belonged to the world, maxims of human invention enjoining abstinence from meats and drinks; since all such material things are perishable and decaying. These false teachers viewed matter as the principle of evil, avoiding as much as possible contact with external things, especially with flesh and strong drink, because by these they were thought to expose themselves to the malignant influence of evil spirits who were connected with matter. Such ascetic practices have the appearance of superior wisdom in an arbitrarily invented worship, an affected humility which can only approach the Deity through the medium of angels, and in maceration of the body; but yet they have nothing excellent in themselves, or becoming to the body: they only serve to gratify the unrenewed mind by ministering to its pride and self-conceit. It has been disputed, whether these heretics abstained from marriage, and entertained the docetic view of Christ's nature. In support of the former, Col. ii. 21 is adduced, particularly the expression w; on, which is similarly applied in 1 Cor. vii. 1.