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II. We learn from the Acts of the Apostles, that St. Paul was in Phrygia, both in his second and third apostolical journies, in the years 51 and 53; but it is thought by many persons, that this Epistle contains internal marks of his never having been at Colosse when he wrote it. This opinion rests principally upon the following passage: “ For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as hare not scen my face in the flesh (a)." I must own that these words are not in my judgment conclusive; if they prove anything upon this question, they prove that St. Paul had never been either at Laodicea or Colosse; but surely it is very improbable that he should have travelled twice into Phrygia for the purpose of preaching the Gospel, and not have gone either to Laodicea or Colosse, which were the two principal cities of that country; especially as in the second journey into those parts it is said, “ that he went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples;" and moreover, we know that it was the Apostle's practice to preach at the most considerable places of every district into which he went. However, I confess there is no direct proof,
(a) Col. c. 2. v. I.
either in this Epistle, or in the Acts, that St. Paul ever was at Colosse; and therefore after all it is a point which must be left in some degree doubtful.
III. Nor can we ascertain by whom the church at Colosse was founded : for it is possible that St. Paul might have gone thither, after some other apostle or teacher had founded a church there. Some have concluded, from the two following passages in this Epistle, that the Colossians were first converted by Epaphras: “ As ye also learned of Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ (6).”—“ Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God (c).” These passages do not appear to prove that Epaphras originally converted the Colossians to the Gospel, although they shew that he had been an active minister among them; and indeed the expression, “ Epaphras, who is one of you,” places Epaphras and the other Colossians upon the same footing, and is scarcely consistent with the idea, that Epaphras was the person through whom the inhabitants of Colosse had embraced Christianity. Upon the whole,
I am (b) C. s. v.7. (C) C. 4. V. 12.
I am inclined to think that St. Paul founded the church at Colosse, and my opinion rests principally upon those terms, both of affection and of authority, in which this Epistle is written. Dr. Lardner, after quoting and arguing upon several passages of this kind, says, “ From all these considerations, it appears to ine very probable that the Church at Colosse had been planted by the apostle Paul, and that the Christians there were his friends, disciples, and converts (d).”
IV. This Epistle greatly resembles that to the Ephesians, both in sentiment and expression. After saluting the Colossian Christians in his own name, and that of Timothy, St. Paul assures them, that since he had heard of their faith in Christ Jesus, and of their love to all Christians, he had not ceased to return thanks to God for them, and to pray that they might increase in spiritual knowledge, and abound in every good work; he describes the dignity of Christ, and declares the universality of the Gospel dispensation, which was a mystery formerly hidden, but now made manifest; and he mentions his own appointment, through the grace of God, to be the Apostle of the Gentiles; he expresses a tender concern for the Colossians and other Christians of Phrygia,
and (d) Vol. 6. p. 464.
and cautions them against being seduced from the simplicity of the Gospel, by the subtlety of Pagan philosophers, or the superstition of Judaizing Christians (e); he directs them to set their affections on things above, and forbids every species of licentiousness; he exhorts to a variety of Christian virtues, to meekness, veracity, humility, charity, and devotion; he enforces the duties of wives, husbands, children, fathers, servants (f), and masters; he inculcates the duty of prayer, and of prudent behaviour towards unbelievers; and after adding the salutations of several persons then at Rome, and desiring that this Epistle might be read in the church of their neighbours the Laodiceans, he concludes with a salutation from himself, written as usual (g), with his own hand (h). ·
P A RT II.
CHAPTER THE SIXTEENTH.
OF THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE .
J. The Occasion of this Epistle being written, and its
Date.-11. Substance of this Epistle. I. It is recorded in the Acts, as we have seen, that St. Paul, in his first journey upon the continent of Europe, preached the Gospel at Thessalonica, at that time the capital of Macedonia, with considerable success; but that after a short stay he was driven thence by the malice and violence of the unbelieving Jows. From Thessalonica Paul went to Bercea, and thence to Athens, at both which places he remained but a short time. From Athens he sent Timothy to Thessalonica, to confirm the new converts in their faith, and to enquire into their conduct. Timothy, upon his return, found St. Paul at Corinth. Thence, probably in the year 52,