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10. to the end.
and practices both of the Jews and Gentiles; to confirm them in the belief and obe. From Acts 1. dience of the Christian doctrine; and to instruct them fully in the great mysteries of the Gospel; their redemption and justification by the death of Christ; their gratuitous election; the calling of the Gentiles; their union with the Jews in one body, of which Jesus was the head; and the glorious exaltation of that head above all creatures, both spiritual and temporal, together with many excellent moral precepts, both as to the general duties of religion, and the duties of their particular relations."
St Paul himself had never been at Colosse, but Epaphras *, who was then at Rome a prisoner with him, had preached the Gospel there with good success; and from him he might learn, that certain false teachers had endeavoured to persuade the people, that they ought not to apply to God by Jesus Christ, who, since his ascension, was so far exalted above them, but by angels, who were now become the proper mediators between God and man; and therefore, in opposition to this, as well as some other seductions of the like nature, he wrote his epistle to the Colossians :." Wherein he magnificently
ceans, for which he produces his own copy, inscribed to the saints, which were at Laodicea, and not at Ephesus, as the generality of manuscripts and versions now have it; and, to support this, several passages are cited out of the epistle itself, which seem not so well to agree with the circumstances of St Paul, who had lived and preached for the space of three years at Ephesus, vid. chap. i. 15. iii. 1. 4. iv. 21. but as it would be rash and imprudent, upon the account of a few ambiguous texts, to deny the authority of all antiquity, and especially that of St Ignatius, who, in his letter to the Ephesians, sect. xii. makes mention of that which St Paul had wrote to them, so (if we are minded to compromise the matter) we may, with Archbishop Usher, say, that this was a circular letter, and designed for the use of all the churches of Asia, insomuch, that St Paul did not insert the name of any particular church, but sent it with this general title, "Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ, to the saints which are at ———.” But then, as Ephesus was the mctropolis of the province, the epistle in most of the copies went under its name, though others there might be (even as late as St Basil's days) inscribed to no church at all, from whence the Laodiceans might pretend that it belonged originally to them, and Marcion (who was of the kingdom of Pontus, in the confines of Phrygia, wherein Laodicea was) might accordingly cite it under their name. Calmet's and Beausobre's, Preface sur l'Epitre aux Ephesiens.
* While St Paul was preaching in Phrygia, whereof Colosse was one of the principal cities, he very likely met with this Epaphras; but when, where, or upon what occasion, he converted him from the heathen to the Christian religion, we nowhere find. This only we know, that, after his own conversion, he contributed very much to that of his fellow-citizens, the inha bitants of Colosse, and that while St Paul was in bonds at Rome, coming, very probably, to pay him a visit, himself was likewise made a prisoner with him for the common cause of Christianity, Philem. ver. 23. Understanding, however, that false teachers, taking the advantage of his absence, had sown tares among the wheat, he engaged St Paul (whose name and au thority were reverenced through all Phrygia) to send a letter to the Colossians, in order to set them right
in matters wherein they were mistaken, and to give them a true knowledge of their false teachers. This the apostle very readily did; and the more to recom mend the merit, and support the authority of Epaphras, styles him " his dear fellow-servant, and faithful minister of Christ," Col. i. 7. being then (as it is said of him) a bishop, and not long after a martyr at Colosse. Calmet's Commentary in locum.
The better to understand the chief design of this epistle, we may observe, that the followers of Plato always looked upon angels (whom they honoured with the name of demons) as the great Mediators between God and men, who carried up their prayers to him, and reconveyed his blessings to them. these they committed not only the direction of the stars and elements, but the administration likewise of all sublunary things, and from thence they concluded, that they were to be honoured for the same reason that we usually do honour the governors of provinces, or the chief ministers of any state. The followers of Simon Magus ascribed the creation of the world even to the meanest kind of angels, but those of a superior order they held in the highest veneration: For their master, who (according to his fancy) had stocked the heavens with these intelligences, made it one of his principles, that none could be saved without using such and such mysteries, and sacriticing to the God of all things by the mediation of these celestial powers. Nay, the Jews themselves, after their return from the Babylonish captivity, began to entertain high conceptions of the angels, insomuch, that, in the prophecy of Daniel, and other books written after that captivity, we find the several orders of them ranged under their proper names; and, among them, there was a famous sect called the Essenes, who, together with other things, obliged themselves to preserve the books which were peculiar to them, and the names of the angels, which they held in great esteem. It is to be observed farther, that among the Jews there were several sects very superstitious in their abstinences; that the Essenes denied themselves the use of wine; the Nazarenes held it a crime to eat flesh; and the Therapeutæ would drink nothing but water, and made bread and salt their common food, except some more delicate persons (as they called
A. M. 4066, sets forth the Messiah, and all the benefits flowing from him, as being the image of his &c. or 5473. Father, the Redeemer of all mankind, the reconciler of all things to God, and the head
Ann. Dom. 62. &c.
of the church, which gives life and vigour to all its members; wherein he commends the doctrine preached to them by Epaphras, and exhorts them not to be led away by the reasonings of human philosophy, by the superstitious practices of making differences of meats and drinks, or by a pretended humility, in worshipping angels; and wherein he gives them an abstract of many chief and principal duties of the Christian life, especially such as respect the relations of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants.'
While St Paul was thus laudably employed in his confinement at Rome, James, the bishop of Jerusalem, was not idle; but thinking it belonged to his apostolical office to take care of all the converted among the twelve tribes of Israel, wherever dispersed, he wrote an epistle to them, which, among those that are called Catholic, is placed first in the sacred canon, and was designed" to suppress and confute a dangerous error, then growing up in the church, viz. that a bare naked faith was sufficient to secure mens salvation, without any attention to good works; to comfort Christians under the persecutions, which were going to be raised against them † by worldly powers; and to awaken them out of their stupidity, when judgments were ready to overtake them." To this purpose, he inserts in his epistle many excellent exhortations, such as, " to bear afflictions, to hear the word of God, to mortify their lusts, to bridle their tongues, to avoid
them), who used honey and hyssop. From all which it seems very probable, that the Essenes, who were reputed the philosophers of the Jews, or some other sects of the like nature, having embraced the Christian religion, were for engaging others in the worship of angels, the observation of the Jewish ceremonies, and some particular abstinences, wherein they placed a great deal of perfection. For, though this doctrine of worshipping angels might originally be derived from the Platonists, yet since they, who at this time held it, added some Jewish observances, they are rather to be reckoned among the scholars of Simon Magus, or of some opinionated Jews, who were for mixing the law and the Gospel together, and these were the heretics whom St Paul in this epistle sets himself to oppose. Beausobre's Preface sur l'Epitre aux Colos. and Echard's Ecclesiastical History, lib. ii. c. 6.
Ever since the fourth century, this epistle of St James, the two of St Peter, three of St John, and that of St Jude, have obtained the name of Catholic, because they are directed to all the faithful, and not to any particular church as those of St Paul are; and this may suggest a reason why this epistle of St James in particular did not at first meet with a general reception. For, being in the nature of a circular letter, and addressed to no one church who might take care to preserve it, and promote its pretensions, it might be some time before it obtained its place in the canon; and that the rather, because there seeined to be some contradiction between the doctrine advanced in it, viz. " that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only," chap. ii. ver. 24. and that in St Paul's epistle to the Romans, "that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law," chap. iii. ver. 28. which might give some unskilful readers, not sufficiently attentive to the scope of each apostle, some umbrage of suspicion. Whitby's and Beau
sobre's Preface to the epistle of St James.
From the history of the Acts we learn, that about the 39th year of Christ, the churches had peace throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, ch. ix. ver. 31. and so they seem to have continued till after the council of Jerusalem, when they are said to be established in faith, and to increase in numbers daily, Acts xvi. 5. Nay, when St Paul was at Rome, he received all that came in to him for two whole years, preaching the kingdom of God with all confidence, no man forbidding him, Acts xxviii. 30, 31. So that at least, till the 4th or 5th year of Nero, the Gospel was freely preached at Rome without any opposition, either from the Romans or the Jews. But then, in the 6th year of this emperor's reign, the Christians were subjected to punishments, (as Suetonius in Neron. c. 16. tells us) and it seems very probable, says Dr Lightfoot, that even then Nero had, by some public act or edict, suppressed Christianity, not only at Rome, but also in Judea, as he gathers from that passage in Tacitus," Repressaque in præsens exitiabilis superstitio rursus erumpebat, non modo per Judæam, originem ejus mali, sed per urbem etiam," which shews, that before the persecution began in the 10th of Nero, (of which Tacitus here speaks) Christianity had been by him suppressed, not at Rome only, but in Judea. In the 10th of his reign he renewed his persecution of the Christians, and this he did not only at Rome, but through all the provinces of his em pire, which encouraged the Jews every where to shew their utmost rage against all those of their religion who had embraced the faith of Christ; and the nearer they drew to their final dissolution, the more did Satan inflame their rage and malice against those Christians, whom he found to be the fatal enemies and overthrowers of his kingdom. Whitby's Preface to the Epistle of St James.
10. to the end.
cursing and swearing, and to adorn their Christian profession with a good conversation From Acts i. with meekness, peaceableness, and charity." But it was not long before a period was put to all his labours; for the governing part of the Jews, being highly enraged at the disappointment of their malice against St Paul, by his appealing to Cæsar, were now resolved to revenge it upon St James; and, accordingly, taking the opportunity of the death of Festus, before the arrival of his successor Albinus, Annas or Ananas, the high priest, summoned James and some others before the Sanhedrim, requiring them to renounce the Christian faith. Their desire more especially was, that the apostle should make his renunciation in the most public manner, and therefore they carried him up to the battlements of the temple, and threatened to cast him down thence in case of refusal. But when, instead of gratifying their desires, he began himself to confess, and to exhort others to confess the faith of Christ, in the presence of those who came to hear his recantation, they ordered him to be thrown down headlong from the place where he stood. By this fall he was sadly bruised, though not quite killed; and therefore, getting upon his knees, he was praying for his murderers, in the manner of the protomartyr St Stephen, when, as the rabble was loading him with a shower of stones, one of them, more mercifully cruel than the rest, with a fuller's club beat out his brains: A fact altogether so black and barbarous, that even their own historian Josephus could not but condemn it, and (as himself testifies) all the honest and conscientious part of the city remonstrated against it, both to their king Agrippa, and to the Roman governor Albinus; insomuch, that the high priest, by whose authority it was committed, was, in a few months, degraded, and another put in his place: But † the blessed martyr was buried in a tomb of his own building on Mount Olivet, and, by the general voice, his own brother Simon was appointed his successor in the bishopric of Jerusalem.
By what means St Paul was delivered from his imprisonment, and discharged from the accusation which the Jews brought against him, we have no account in history; but may presume, that, having not sufficient proof of what they alleged, or being informed, that what they alleged was no violation of any Roman law, they durst not implead him before the emperor, and so permitted him to be discharged in course. But before he left Italy, he wrote his famous and most elaborate | epistle to the Hebrews, i. e. to the
* The words of Josephus are these,-"This was so surprising a way of proceeding to all the honest and conscientious part of the city, that they presently sent king Agrippa private notice of it, as a very ill thing done, with a request that Ananas might have a check for it, and a caution never to do any such thing for the future; whilst others were sent with an account of it to Albinus, who was then upon his journey to Alexandria, representing it as an usurpation and encroachment upon his authority, and what ought not to have been done without his consent; whereupon the governor sent him an angry and menacing letter, and king Agrippa, at the end of three months, removed him from his office of high priest, and gave it to Jesus the son of Damnæus." Antiquities, lib. xx. c. 8.
+ He was a man of extraordinary piety and devotion, educated under the strictest rules of religion, and a priest (as some imagine) of the order of the Rechabites, or rather (as Epiphanus conjectures) of the most ancient form of priesthood, when the sacerdotal office was the prerogative of the first-born; and therefore it is said, that he wore a plate of gold, or probably a mitre upon his head, as the ensign of VOL. III. 3 M
his dignity. Prayer was his daily business and de-
That this epistle was of ancient date, and written
A. M. 4067, converted Jews dwelling in Jerusalem and Judea, " Wherein his main design is to mag.
&c. or 5474. Ann. Dom. 63, &c.
nify Christ, and the religion of the Gospel, above Moses and the Jewish economy, that by this means he may the better establish the converted Jews in the belief and profession of Christianity: Wherein, to this purpose, he represents our Saviour, in his Divine nature, far superior to all angels, and all created beings; and, in his mediatorial capacity, a greater Lawgiver than Moses; a greater Priest than Aaron; and a greater King and Priest than Melchisedec: Wherein he shews, that the ceremonies, the sacrifices, and the observances of the law, could have no virtue in themselves, but only as they were types of Jesus Christ; and, being now accomplished in his person, and by his ministry, were finally and totally abolished: Wherein he insists upon the necessity of faith, and, by the examples of the patriarchs and prophets, proves, that justification is to be had no other way than by the merits of a dying Saviour; and wherein, lastly, he mingles many excellent precepts for the regulation of their lives; exhortations to trust and confidence in Christ in all their sufferings; and strict cautions against apostacy from his religion in the hottest persecutions."
Having thus discharged his ministry, both by preaching and writing in Italy, St Paul, in company with Timothy, prosecuted his long-intended journey into Spain, and it is probably thought, that from thence he came over, and * preached the Gospel in Britain. After he had continued about eight or nine months in these western parts, he returned again eastward, and, leaving both Sicily and Greece, arrived at Crete, where he constituted Titus bishop of the island, and then went with Timothy into Judea to visit the Christians there.
In what manner St Peter employed his time, after his escape out of prison, we have
before the destruction of the temple, and abolition of
to "pray for him, that he might be restored to them sooner," chap. xiii. 18, 19.; and, lastly, that this epistle was written from Rome, as some manuscripts have it, or from Italy, as we find it in others; we cannot but allow, that each of these is a strong argument that this epistle was written by St Paul, because they accord so exactly with his circumstances at this time above any one's else. But then, if we add to this the testimony of the ancients, especially of St Peter, who, in his second epistle to the Jewish converts, mentions a certain letter which St Paul had wrote to them, distinct from all his other epistolary writings, 2 Peter iii. 15, 16. which can be no other than that which bears the name of the epistle to the Hebrews, we can no longer doubt of its being the composition of St Paul; and an original composition too, since it has in it none of that constraint which is visible in a translation, nor any of those Hebrew phrases which occur so frequently in the version of the Septuagint. Beausobre's and Whitby's Preface to the Epistle to the Hebrews.
* Clemens, in his famous epistle to the Corinthians, expressly tells us, that, being a preacher both in the east and west, he taught righteousness to the whole world, and went to the utmost bounds of the west; and Theodoret and others inform us, that he preached not only in Spain, but went to other nations, and brought the Gospel into the isles of the sea, by which he undoubtedly means Britain: And therefore he elsewhere reckons the Gauls and Britons among the people whom the apostles, and particularly the tent. maker (as he calls him), persuaded to embrace the law of Christ. Cave's Lives of the Apostles.
no certain account; but it is generally agreed, that, about the second year of the em- From Acts i. peror Claudius, he went to Rome, and there continued until that emperor, taking the 10. to the end. advantage of some seditions and tumults raised by the Jews, by a public edict banished them from Rome. Upon this occasion St Peter returned back to Jerusalem, and was present at the great apostolic synod, whereof we have given some account before. How he disposed of himself after this, we are left under great uncertainties, though the current opinion is, that after he had visited the several churches which he had planted in the east, and carried the glad tidings of the Gospel into Africa, Sicily, Italy, and even as far as Britain, making great numbers of converts in all places; towards the latter end of Nero's reign he returned to Rome, where he found the minds of the people strangely bewitched and hardened against Christianity, by the subtilities and magical arts of Simon Magus, whom he had formerly defeated at Samaria.
Provoked at this general infatuation, the apostle thought himself concerned to oppose this sorcerer; and having *, in some instances, discovered the vanity of his impostures, he wrought him up at length to such a pitch of madness and desperation, that, to give the people an evident demonstration of his being the Son of God (as he pretended) he promised, that on such a day he would ascend visibly up into heaven. cordingly, at the time appointed, he went up to the mount of the capitol, and, throwing himself from the top of the rock, began his flight, and, by the help of some infernal powers, seemed to be posting to heaven; when, immediately upon the apostle's prayer to God, that the people might be undeceived, and the cheat detected, his invisible supporters withdrew, and †o down he came headlong, so miserably bruised and wounded with his fall, that in a short time after he expired.
Justin Martyr assures us, that this impostor was honoured as a deity; that a statue was erected to him in the Insula Tyberina, with this inscription, SIMONI DEO SANCTO, which is confirmed by the testimony of Irenæus, Tertullian, and several others after them. Whatever therefore may be said to shake the credit of this inscription, it can hardly be thought that Justin Martyr, who was a person of great learning and gravity, inquisitive about things of this nature, and at this time at Rome, where he might fully satisfy himself of the truth of it, would have inserted any thing in his apology to the emperor and the senate of Rome, but what he knew would bear the test; and yet he speaks twice of this statue, and desires of them, that if, upon enquiry, they should find what he said to be true, they would abolish it. Cave's Lives of the Apostles, and Whitby's Preface to the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
* A noble instance of this kind we have in Hege. sippus the Younger. "There was at this time, says he, in Rome, a gentleman of some note, a kinsman to the emperor, lately dead. Those who knew St Peter's power in working miracles, advised his friends to send for him, and others likewise prevailed, that Simon the magician might be sent for. Glad of this occasion to magnify himself before the people, Simon propounded to Peter, that if he raised the man to life, Peter, who had reviled the mighty power of God (as he styled himself), should lose his life; but that, if Peter prevailed, he would submit to the same penalty. Peter accepted the challenge; and when Simon began his charms and enchantments, the dead body seemed to move his hand: Whereupon the people who stood by, thinking that the person was alive, were going to fall
foul upon Peter for daring to oppose so great a power.
+ It must be owned, that the truth of this whole