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the 20th verse of the second chapter: 'Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why as though living in the world are ye subject to ordinances,' &c., &c.; for it is quite improbable that these words refer exclusively to such as had been shaken in faith by the heretics. The admonitions, instructions, and warnings of the entire epistle are addressed to the church; not merely to one section of it, or to certain indi. viduals. In no case is one person singled out or appealed to; neither are several individuals addressed in contradistinction to the remaining believers. It has been well observed by Olshausen, that such a mode of writing is perfectly adapted to the first stages of the christian life. The first traces of heretical doctrine were exhibited at Colosse. The apostle hastened to crush them in the bud, and to bring back the straying to the right path. He had no ground for tracing these errors to wicked intention. He saw their origin in inexperience and weakness : hence he does not immediately apply strict rules ; neither does he proceed forthwith to exclude them from church communion; but he advances with forbearance, considering and treating the erring as still members of the church, and seeking to bring them back to truth by a mild exhibition of their wanderings. Some years later the matter would have been far differently represented, when Paul, towards the close of his life, wrote the pastoral letters. The evil intention of the heretics had then openly appeared, and Paul dared not any longer make use of unreasonable mildness. The diseased mem. bers must be removed, in order to preserve the entire organization in a healthy state.'
Had the errorists in question been mere Jews, it is not easy to account for the mild polemics of the apostle, nor the full significance of his earnest and serious warnings against them. How is it possible that they should not have been openly condemned as anti-christians ? If, as Schneckenburger affirms, the tolerance of these Jews towards christianity was merely an accommodation on their part, in order the more effectually to accomplish their object-an object that aimed at nothing less than the seducing of the Colossians away from the pale of christianity-should the apostle have been less direct or severe on this account in his condemnation of their designs ? Would he not all the more plainly have warned the believers against their insidious arts ? Every view of the subject that can be taken tends to the conclusion, that the errorists were not merely Jews, but Judaizing christians, with a strong mysticascetic bias.
II. It is a matter of great difficulty to ascertain whether Paul had visited Colosse, and founded the church at that place, before writing the present Epistle. Some attribute the origin of it to Epaphras, or to one of Paul's immediate disciples ; while others contend that it was planted by himself. The data upon which any hypothesis can be supposed to rest, are not so definite or satisfactory as the inquirer could wish. We shall briefly allude to the arguments advanced on both sides of the question.
Dr. Lardner has fully stated all the considerations that may be drawn from the epistle itself as well as that to Philemon, in order to support the hypothesis that the church was planted by Paul himself. No less than sixteen arguments are adduced with this view. A reviewer of De Wette's Introduction in the ‘Hallische Literatur-Zeitung' for 1828, advocated the same sentiments; which were also defended by Schulz in the 'Studien und Kritiken' for 1829; by Schott, in his Introduction; and by Bishop Tomline. Wiggers has recently endeavoured to support them by new arguments, in the Studien und Kritiken.' In early times, Theodoret had taken the same view. The great majority, however, of continental critics maintain the opposite opinion, such as Michaelis, Hug, De Wette, Boehmer, Steiger, Credner, Neander, Olshausen, and Guerike.
The following arguments have been adduced by Lardner and others :
1. It appears from the Acts of the Apostles, that Paul travelled twice through Phrygia; and it is probable that in one or other journey he visited the principal cities, such as Colosse and Laodicea (Acts xvi. 6; xviii. 23). Was it possible that he should go through the country without planting churches in cities and towns so important as these ?
2. The epistle exhibits proofs of the intimacy and affection subsisting between the apostle and the Colossian believers. Paul seems to have a correct knowledge of their state; is confident that they had been grounded and well instructed in the faith of the gospel; speaks of their love to him, and gives them such exhortations as imply a personal acquaintance, and induce the belief that they were first instructed by him. (See i. 6, 8, 23; 1.5,6,7,20—23; iv.7–9; iv. 3, 4.) The salutations, too, in iv. 10, 11, 14, suppose the Colossians to have been well acquainted with Paul's fellow-travellers and fellow-labourers; while those in the 15th and 17th verses of the same chapter prove that the apostle knew the state of the churches in Colosse and Laodicea.
3. Epaphras was sent to Rome by the Colossians to inquire of Paul's welfare (iv. 7, 8), a token of respect on their part which presupposes a personal acquaintance. And it is allowed that Epaphras had brought to St. Paul a particular account of the state of affairs in this church. Which is another argument that they were his converts.'*
4. The Colossians were endowed with spiritual gifts (iii, 16), which they could not have received from any other than an apostle.
5. 'St. Paul does in effect, or even expressly, say that himself had dispensed the gospel to these Colossians, ch. i. 21–25. I shall recite here a large part of that context, ver. 23—25 : 'If ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, .... whereof I Paul am made a minister. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body's sake, which is the church. Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil,' or fully to preach, "the word of God.' And what follows to ver. 29.'*
6. It is written in chapter ü. 1, 2, For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love,' &c. Here the change of persons implies that the Colossians, to whom he is writing, had seen his face, else the writer would have said your, not their.
7. The Epistle to Philemon affords evidence that Paul had been among the Colossians. The 19th verse implies that Philemon had been converted to christianity by the apostle, probably at the home of the former. He also salutes by name Apphia, the wife of Philemon, and Archippus, probably pastor at Colosse; · he desires Philemon to prepare him a lodging; Philemon is styled his fellow-labourer, and Archippus his fellow-soldier ; all implying personal acquaintance and mutual co-operation in the gospel in one place, perhaps Colosse.
Those who think that Epaphras, or some other person, founded the church at Colosse, are wont to appeal to chapter ii. 1, believing that the clause, and as many have not seen my face in the flesh, includes the Colossians and Laodiceans preceding. Theodoret and Lardner, as we have already seen, object to this interpretation on account of the sudden change of person; affirming that the apostle should then have written, 'that your hearts, &c.,' instead of their hearts, &c.' They also refer to chapter i. 7, ‘as ye have also learned of Epaphras, &c.,' words supposed to imply, that although the Colossians had been taught by Epaphras, he was not their first instructor; and to the expression,
Epaphras who is one of you,' (iv. 12), which the apostle would not have applied to him had Epaphras founded the church; for
the same is said of Onesimus who had recently been converted, (iv. 9). In speaking of Epaphras, the apostle never adds, 'by whom ye believed, or, ‘by whom ye were brought to the fellowship of the Gospel,' even when he recommends him to the esteem of the Colossians. Some have supposed Epaphras to be the same as Epaphroditus, one of the Philippian pastors. So Grotius, and apparently Winer. It is more probable, that they were different persons. So Steiger, Boehmer, Rheinwald, Lardner, Beausobre, Olshausen, and others.
In reviewing these arguments, various considerations suggest themselves to the mind of the impartial inquirer. It is remarkable that the apostle does not once allude to the fact of his having founded the church himself. This point is adduced on other occasions, especially when the members were in danger of being led away by Judaising teachers from the foundation he had laid ; or when they had already apostatised. Thus in the epistle to the Galatians, i. 6., 'I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another Gospel.' It is no satisfactory reply, that the apostle deemed it unnecessary to state a matter so well known. If in other cases he mentions the circumstance as one that ought to carry weight along with it to the minds of those whom he had instructed in person; if in warning against the teachings and seductions of heretical disturbers, he exhorts to abide by what the churches had received from his lips, and calls attention to the diversity between his own doctrines and theirs, should we not expect a similar course towards the Colossians whose faith was in imminent danger of being corrupted? And yet his personal intercourse among them is neither named nor hinted at. Let the reader compare the procedure of the same Paul in the first epistle to the Corinthians, and a striking difference will be apparent, (1 Cor. ii. 1-10.) Even when commending Epaphras to their affectionate regard, he does not say, that he preached the same Gospel as they had already heard from his own mouth. He does not state, that he built upon the foundation which he himself had laid among them, or that they should implicitly receive his teachings, because such teachings exactly coincided with those which the apostle himself had propounded among them as the true foundation of their fellowship in the faith of the Gospel. All this is singular, if it be conceived that Paul himself planted the church. It is altogether in harmony with this peculiarity, that although various allusions are made to their having heard the gospel (i. 5. 23), it is never subjoined that they had heard it from himself; although this would have been highly apposite amid the concern expressed for their welfare and their leaning towards the heretics. The same force does not attach to Paul's mention of his hearing of
their faith and other virtues, since Epaphras's report concerning them does not affect the point before us. It is true that the apostle speaks of the Colossians in such a manner as to shew his anxiety for their state, his knowledge of their circumstances, his familiarity with their belief, and with the progress they had made in divine things; but of these he was apprised by Epaphras. When it is recollected that the apostle had the care of all the churches upon him—that he was properly the pastor of all—that he watched over them with parental solicitude, although he may not have planted them personally, the passages supposed to denote a personal acquaintance, on his part, with the Colossians, will not appear strange. In relation to the messengers sent in various directions to the churches—the exhortations dispatched through them to the various christian communities, the affectionate counsels with which they were charged, the accounts in the New Testament are defective; but it may be well conceived that such things were frequent. In this way he came to know the peculiar influences to which the converts were exposed from without, as well as the internal elements which pervaded and leavened them in their social fellowship. How natural was it therefore, that the Colossians should entertain a high veneration for the great apostle. If they had love to all the saints, as is said in the first chapter (4th verse) most of whom they had not seen in the flesh, should they not have felt a higher love for Paul. They owed their conversion to him if not immediately, at least through the teaching of persons whom he had instructed and sent. They had heard of his abundant labours and self-denying zeal on behalf of the Gentiles, and they might look to him as their spiritual father in consequence of the relation which Epaphras and others sustained to himself and to them. Not to have written in this manner would have savoured of some other than the ardent and zealous apostle, whose heart was so large as to embrace within its capacious folds all the churches of the Saviour. For these Colossians not to have manifested their love to him, which they must have done chiefly through Epaphras, would have belied their profession and contradicted their christianity. Thus while the entire tenour of the epistle shews that the apostle is writing to converts, disciples, and friends, it is not necessary to assume that they were his own immediate disciples and converts. Those who imagine that they must have been such, measure the feelings of apostles and primitive christians by a modern standard. The coldness and negligence now so prevalent among professing christians, especially those whom Providence has placed at a little distance from one another, should not be transferred to the
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