Imágenes de páginas

of, viz. that Timothy, though he was left behind at Ephesus upon St. Paul's departure from Asia, yet might follow him so soon after, as to come up with the apostle in Macedonia, before he wrote his epistle to the Corinthians; that supposition is inconsistent with the terms and tenour of the epistle throughout. For the writer speaks uniformly of his intention to return to Timothy at Ephesus, and not of his expecting Timothy to come to him in Macedonia : "These things write I unto thee hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself," (chap. iii. 14, 15.) Till I come give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine," (chap. iv. 13.)

Since, therefore, the leaving of Timothy behind at Ephesus, when Paul went into Macedonia, suits not with any journey into Macedonia recorded in the Acts, I concur with Bishop Pearson in placing the date of this epistle, and the journey referred to in it, at a period subsequent to St. Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, and consequently subsequent to the æra, up to which the Acts of the Apostles brings his history. The only difficulty which attends our opinion is, that St. Paul must, according to us, have come to Ephesus after his liberation at Rome, contrary as it should seem to what he foretold to the Ephesian elders, "that they should see his face no more." And it is to save the infallibility of this prediction, and for no other reason of weight, that an earlier date is assigned to this epistle. The prediction itself however, when considered in connexion with the circumstances under which it was delivered, does not seem to demand so much anxiety. The words in question are found in the twenty-fifth verse of the twentieth chapter of the Acts: "And now behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the king

[blocks in formation]

dom of God, shall see my face no more." In the twentysecond and twenty-third verses of the same chapter, i. e. two verses before, the apostle makes this declaration: "And now behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befal me there; save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me." This "witnessing of the Holy Ghost" was undoubtedly prophetick and supernatural. But it went no further than to foretel that bonds and afflictions awaited him. And I can very well conceive, that this might be all which was communicated to the apostle by extraordinary revelation, and that the rest was the conclusion of his own mind, the desponding inference which he drew from strong and repeated intimations of approaching danger. And the expression "I know," which St. Paul here uses, does not perhaps, when applied to future events affecting himself, convey an assertion so positive and absolute as we may at first sight apprehend. In the first chapter of the epistle to the Philippians and the twentyfifth verse, "I know," says he, "that I shall abide and continue with you all for your joy and furtherance of faith." Notwithstanding this strong declaration, in the second chapter and twenty-third verse of this same epistle, and speaking also of the very same event, he is content to use a language of some doubt and uncertainty: "Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me; but I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly." And a few verses preceding these, he not only seems to doubt of his safety, but almost to despair; to contemplate the possibility at least of his condemnation and martyrdom: "Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.

No. I.

But can we show that St. Paul visited Ephesus after his liberation at Rome? or rather, can we collect any hints from his other letters which make it probable that he did? If we can, then we have a coincidence. If we cannot, we have only an unauthorized supposition, to which the exigency of the case compels us to resort. Now, for this purpose, let us examine the Epistle to the Philippians and the Epistle to Philemon. These two epistles purport to be written whilst St. Paul was yet a prisoner at Rome. To the Philippians he writes as follows: "I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly." To Philemon, who was a Colossian, he gives this direction: "But withal, prepare me also a lodging, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you." An inspection of the map will show us that Colosse was a city of the Lesser Asia, lying eastward, and at no great distance from Ephesus. Philippi was on the other, i. e. the western side of the Ægean sea. If the apostle executed his purpose; if, in pursuance of the intention expressed in his letter to Philemon, he came to Colosse soon after he was set at liberty at Rome, it is very improbable that he would omit to visit Ephesus, which lay so near to it, and where he had. spent three years of his ministry. As he was also under a promise to the church of Philippi to see them "shortly;" if he passed from Colosse to Philippi, or from Philippi to Colosse, he could hardly avoid taking Ephesus in his way.

No. II.

Chap. v. 9. "Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old."

This accords with the account delivered in the sixth

chapter of the Acts. "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration." It appears that from the first formation of the Christian church, provision was made out of the publick funds of the society for the indigent widows who belonged to it. The history, we have seen, distinctly records the existence of such an institution at Jerusalem, a few years after our Lord's ascension; and is led to the mention of it very incidentally, viz. by a dispute, of which it was the occasion, and which produced important consequences to the Christian community. The epistle, without being suspected of borrowing from the history, refers, briefly indeed, but decisively, to a similar establishment, subsisting some years afterwards at Ephesus. This agreement indicates that both writings were founded upon real circumstances.

But, in this article, the material thing to be noticed is the mode of expression; "Let not a widow be taken into the number." No previous account or explanation is given, to which these words, "into the number," can refer; but the direction comes concisely and unpreparedly. "Let not a widow be taken into the number." Now this is the way in which a man writes, who is conscious that he is writing to persons already acquainted with the subject of his letter; and who, he knows, will readily apprehend and apply what he says by virtue of their being so acquainted; but it is not the way in which a man writes upon any other occasion ; and least of all, in which a man would draw up a feigned letter, or introduce a supposititious fact*,

It is not altogether unconnected with our general purpose to remark, in the passage before us, the selection and reserve which St. Paul recom

No. III.

Chap. iii. 2, 3. "A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre, but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house."

"No striker :" That is the article which I single out from the collection as evincing the antiquity at least, if not the genuineness, of the epistle, because it is an article which no man would have made the subject of caution who lived in an advanced era of the church. It agreed with the in

mends to the governours of the church of Ephesus, in the bestowing relief upon the poor, because it refutes a calumny which has been insinuated, that the liberality of the first Christians was an artifice to catch converts; or one of the temptations, however, by which the idle and mendicant were drawn into this society: "Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, well reported of for her good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work: but the younger widows refuse." (v. 9, 10, 11). And, in another place, "If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged, that it may relieve them that are widows indeed." And to the same effect, or rather more to our present purpose, the apostle writes in his Second Epistle to the Thessa lonians: "Even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither let him eat," i. e. at the publick expense. "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy bodies; now them that are such, we command and exhort, by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread." Could a designing or dissolute poor take advantage of bounty regulated with so much caution; or could the mind which dictated those sober and prudent directions be influenced in his recommendations of publick charity by any other than the proper est motives of beneficence?

« AnteriorContinuar »