« AnteriorContinua »
rily have occupied a large portion of time, and must have all taken place during St. Paul's residence at Rome. Thirdly, after a residence at Rome thus proved to have have been of considerable duration, he now regards the decision of his fate as nigh at hand. He contemplates either alternatives, that of his deliverance, ii. 23. "Him therefore (Timothy) 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:" that.of his condemnation, ver. 17. 66 Yea, and if I be offered* upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all." This consistency is material, if the consideration of it be confined to the epistle. It is farther material, as it agrees with respect to the duration of St. Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, with the account delivered in the Acts, which having brought the apostle to Rome, closes the history by telling us that he dwelt there two whole years in his own hired house."
Chap. i. 23. "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.'
With this compare 2 Cor. v. 8.: "We are confident and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
The sameness of sentiment in these two quotations is obvious. I rely however not so much upon that, as upon the similitude in the train of thought which in each epistle leads up to this sentiment, and upon the suitableness of that train of thought to the circumstances under which the epistles purport to have been written. This, I conceive, bespeaks the production of the same
* Αλλ' ει και σπενδομαι επι τη θυσία της πιστεως iwy, if my blood be poured out as a libation upon the sacrifice of your faith.
mind, and of a mind operating upon real circumstances. The sentiment is in both places preceded by the contemplation of imminent personal danger. To the Philippians he writes, in the twentieth verse of this chapter, "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death." To the Corinthians, "Troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." This train of reflection is continued to the place from whence the words which we compare are taken. The two epistles, though written at different times, from different places, and to different churches, were both written under circumstances which would naturally recall to the author's mind the precarious condition of his life, and the perils which constantly awaited him. When the Epistle to the Philippians was written, the author was a prisoner at Rome, expecting his trial. When the Second Epistle to the Corinthians was written, he had lately escaped a danger in which he had given himself over for lost. The epistle opens with a recollection of this subject, and the impression accompanied the writer's thoughts throughout.
I know that nothing is easier than to transplant into a forged epistle a sentiment or expression which is found in a true one; or, supposing both epistles to be forged by the same hand, to insert the same sentiment or expression in both. But the difficulty is to introduce it in just and close connexion with a train of thought going before, and with a train of thought apparently generated by the circumstances under which the epistle is written. In two epistles, purporting to be written on different occasions, and in different
periods of the author's history, this propriety would not easily be managed.
Chap. i. 29, 30.; ii. 1, 2. "For unto you is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. If there be, therefore, any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies; fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
With this compare Acts xvi. 22.; "And the multitude (at Philippi) rose up against them, (Paul and Silas;) and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them; and when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely; who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks."
The passage in the epistle is very remarkable. I know not an example in any writing of a juster pathos, or which more truly represents the workings of a warm and affectionate mind, than what is exhibited in the quotation before us. The apostle reminds his Philippians of their being joined with himself in the endurance of persecution for the sake of Christ. He conjures them by the ties of their common profession and their common sufferings," to fulfil his joy;" to contemplate, by the unity of their faith, and by their mutual love, that joy with which the instances he had received of their zeal and attachment had inspired his breast. Now, if this was the real effusion of St. Paul's mind, of which
* The original is very spirited : Ει τις ουν παρακλέσις εν Χριστώ, ει τι παραμυθιον αγαπης, ει τις κοινων Πνεύματος, εν τινα σπλάγχνα και οικτιρμοί, πληρω τσατ εμου την χαράν.
it bears the strongest internal character, then we have, in the words "the same conflict which ye saw in me," an authentic confirmation of so much of the apostle's history in the Acts, as relates to his transactions at Philippi; and, through that, of the intelligence and general fidelity of the historian.
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 accounted 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, 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 afterward 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 sufferings 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.: "From this cause, I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles." Again, in the Epistle now under consideration, iv. 3. : A 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 66 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 this 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