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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. Whom 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 Christ with respect to them, and chap. iv. 13. 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 subsist between persons converted to the faith of the gospel, and him who had converted them.-Thirdly, The apostle wrote the salutation 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 salutations were written by Tertius.-Fourthly, That the Colossians were converted by an apostle, appears from chap. ii. 6. Seeing then ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk ye in him; 7. Rooted in him, and built upon him, and made firm in the faith, even as ye have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. This the apostle 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 heard it, and knew the grace of God in truth. These things, as Dr. Lardner very well observes, Can. vol. ii. chap. 14. shew that the Colossians were converted by an apostle. Now, who should this be but Paul himself, who made so many journeys into their country, and preached there with such success?
Upon the whole, we may believe, that the churches in Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis, were planted by St. Paul, with the assistance of Timothy in particular; and therefore in writing this epistle, Timothy joined the apostle, as one well known to the Colossians, and greatly respected by them.
Of the Occasion of writing the Epistle to the Colossians.
When the news of Paul's confinement at Rome reached the Christians in Colosse, they sent Epaphras, (a native of their city, chap. iv. 12. and formerly an idolater, chap. i. 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 of 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 sabbaths, and to mortify their bodies by long continued fastings: In short, to practise the rites of the law of Moses as absolutely necessary to their salvation, chap. ii. 16.-23.
Long before the light of the gospel shone on the world, the Greeks had introduced their philosophy into many of the countries of the Lesser Asia, and among the rest into Phrygia, where it would seem 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 Axiμoves, a name which in the Greek language signifies Divinities: and these they enjoined their sect to worship, on account of their agency in human affairs. See Coloss. 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 sins 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 sins. 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 practised repeated and long continued fastings and other severities, for the purpose of thoroughly subjecting the body with its appetites to the soul.
From the things which the apostle Paul hath written to the Colossians, it appears that, before their conversion, some of them had embraced the discipline 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 Colossians, is the more probable, as 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 Moses. But, be this as it may, it cannot be denied that the Pythagorean precepts, both concerning the abstinence from animal food, and concerning the mortification of the body by fasting and other severities, together with the doctrines of Plato 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 Colossians. This being the case, 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 addressed, 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 shew 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 sinners to worship God without some mediator, and therefore they exhorted the Colossians, as an exercise of humility becoming them, to send up their prayers to God by the mediation of angels; which they said 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 heathens in general, trusting to propitiatory sacrifices for the pardon of their sins, were extremely attached to that kind of sacrifice, we may suppose, although it is not mentioned by the apostle that the Judaizers told the Colossians, 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 sin. 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 sin, 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 so 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 sins. In like manner, the vain figment, that angels are superior in diguity 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 first 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 invisible, whether they be thrones, or lordships, &c. consequently, 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 should continually dwell; consequently, that the Colossians had no inducement to worship, either 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 Colossians, chap. i. 25, 26. that he was commissioned by God to preach them to the world.-Next, because the false teachers insinuated, that a more perfect revelation of the will of God might be expected through the ministry of angels, than that which Christ had made, the apostle assured the Colossians, chap. ii. 3. That in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are laid up. And added, ver. 4. This, concerning Christ's possessing all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, I affirm, that no one may deceive you with plausible speech, concerning the office and power of angels in the government of the world. He therefore ordered them, ver. 8. to take care that no one made a prey of them, through an empty and deceitful philosophy; he meant the Platonic philosophy in which the dignity and office of angels were so highly extolled; because, ver. 9. In Christ continually dwelleth all the fulness of the godhead bodily —Also, because the Judaizers endeavoured to persuade such of the Colossians as were tinctured with the Pythagorean philosophy, to receive the precepts of the law of Moses concerning meats and fastings, as conformable to the Pythagorean precepts, and as having the same influence to purify the soul, the apostle told them, that they had no need, either of the Platonic dogmas concerning the dignity and mediation of angels, or of the Pythagorean precepts concerning abstinence from animal food, and concerning the mortification of the body; because, ver. 10. they were made complete, in every thing necessary to their sanctification and salvation, by the precepts, mediation, and government, of him who is the head of all government and power-Farther, because the Judaizers extolled the sacrifices and purifications appointed in the law of Moses, as the only effectual means of obtaining the pardon of sin, the apostle assured them, that these were of no use now. Because, ver. 14. Christ, by his death, had blotted out the hand-writing of ordinances contained in the law, with its curse, and had nailed it to his cross in its blotted out state, that all might see that the curse of the law was removed. He therefore ordered them to resist every teacher who attempted to impose on them, either the ordinances of the law of Moses, or the Pythagorean abstinences and mortifications, ver. 16. Let no one rule you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a festival, or of a new moon, or of Sabbaths. And in relation to the worshipping of angels as more powerful mediators than Christ, he said to them, ver. 18. Let no teacher make you lose your reward, delighting in humility and