« AnteriorContinuar »
THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS.
THERE is a circumstance of conformity between St. Paul's history and his letters, especially those which were written during his first imprisonment at Rome, and more especially the Epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians, which being too close to be ac-> counted for from accident, yet too indirect and latent to be imputed to design, cannot easily be resolved into any other original than truth. Which circumstance is this, that St. Paul in these epistles attributes his imprisonment not to his preaching of Christianity, but to his asserting the right of the Gentiles to be admitted into it without conforming themselves to the Jewish law. This
was the doctrine to which he considered - himself as a martyr. Thus, in the epistle before us, chap. i. 24. (I Paul) “ who now rejoice in my sufferings for you”—“ for
you,” i. e. for those whom he had never seen; for a few verses afterwards he adds, “ I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” His suffering therefore for them was, in their general capacity of Gentile Christians, agreeably to what he explicitly declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians, iv. 1. “ For this cause, I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles.” Again in the epistle now under consideration, iv. 3. “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds.” What that “ mystery of Christ” was, the Epistle to the Ephesians distinctly informs us ; “ Whereby when ye read ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which, in other ages, was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel.” This, therefore was the confession for which he declares himself to be in bonds. Now let us inquire how the occasion of St. Paul's imprisonment is represented in the history. The apostle had not long returned to Jerusalem from his second visit into Greece, when an uproar was excited in that city by the clamour of certain Asiatic Jews, who,“ having seen Paul in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him.” The charge advanced against him was, that “ he taught all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place ; and farther brought Greeks also into the temple, and polluted that holy place.” The former part of the charge seems to point at the doctrine, which he maintained, of the admission of the Gentiles, under the new dispensation, to an indiscriminate participation of God's favour with the Jews. But what follows makes the matter clear. When by the interference of the chief captain, Paul had been rescued out of the hands of the populace, and was permitted to address the multitude who had followed him to the stairs of the castle, he delivered a brief account of his birth, of the early course of his life, of his miraculous conversion; and is proceeding in his narrative, until he comes to describe a vision which was presented to him, as he was praying in the temple ; and which bid him depart out of Jerusalem, “ for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” Acts, xxii. 21. “ They gave him audience,” says the historian, “ unto this word ; and then lift up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth!” Nothing can show more strongly than this account does, what was the offence which drew down upon St. Paul the vengeance of his countrymen. His mission to the Gentiles, and his open avowal of that mission, was the intolerable part of the apostle's crime. But although the real motive of the prosecution appears to have been the apostle's conduct towards the Gentiles; yet, when his accusers came before a Roman magistrate, a charge was to be framed of a more legal form. The profanation of the temple was the article they chose to rely upon. This, therefore, became the immediate subject of Tertullus's oration before Felix, and of Paul's defence. But that he all along considered his ministry amongst the Gentiles as the actual source of the enmity that had been exercised against him, and in particular as the cause of the insurrection in which his person had been seized, is apparent from the conclusion of his discourse before Agrippa ; “ I have appeared unto thee,” says
he, describing what passed upon his journey to Damascus, “ for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness, both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee, delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision; but showed first unto them of Damascus, and of Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.” The seizing, therefore, of St. Paul's person, from which he was never discharged till his final liberation at Rome; and of which, therefore, his imprisonment at Rome was the continuation and effect, was not in consequence of any general persecution set on foot against Christianity ; nor did it befall him simply as professing or teaching Christ's