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office of Christ beyond all doubt, the apostle told the Colossians, chap. i. 25, 26. that he was commissioned by God to preach them to the world.-Next, because the false teachers insinuated, that a more perfect revelation of the will of God might be expected through the ministry of angels, than that which Christ had made, the apostle assured the Colossians, chap. ii. 3. That in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are laid up. And added, ver. 4. This, concerning Christ's possessing all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, I affirm, that no one may deceive you with plausible speech, concerning the office and power of angels in the government of the world. He therefore ordered them, ver. 8. to take care that no one made a prey of them, through an empty and deceitful philosophy; he meant the Plutonic philosophy in which the dignity and office of angels were so highly extolled; because, ver. 9. In Christ continually dweileth all the fulness of the godhead bodily.--Also, because the Judaizers endeavoured to persuade such of the Colossians as were tinctured with the Pythagorean philosophy, to receive the precepts of the law of Moses concerning meats and fastings, as conformable to the Pythagorean precepts, and as having the same influence to purify the soul, the apostle told them, that they had no need, either of the Platonic dogmas concerning the dignity and mediation of angels, or of the Pythagorean precepts concerning abstinence from animal food, and concerning the mortification of the body; because, ver. 10. they were made complete, in every thing necessary to their sanctification and salvation, by the precepts, mediation, and government, of him who is the head of all government and power.-Farther, because the Judaizers extolled the sacrifices and purifications appointed in the law of Mo. scs, as the only effectual means of obtaining the pardon of sin, the apostle assured them, that these were of no use now. Because, ver. 14. Christ, by his death, had blotted out the hand-writing of ordinances contained in the law, with its curse, and had nailed it to his cross in its blotted out state, that all might see that the curse of the law was removed. He therefore ordered them to resist every teacher who attempted to impose on them, either the ordinances of the law of Moses, or the Pythagorean abstinences and mortifications, ver. 16. Let no one rule you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a festival, or of a new moon, or of Sabbaths.-And in relation to the worshipping of angels as more powerful mediators than Christ, he said to them, ver. 18. Let no teacher make you lose your reward, delighting in humility and the worship of angels, ver. 19. and not holding the head : plainly telling the Colossians, that in praying to God, if they made use of the mediation of angels on pretence of humility, and worsbipped them as the authors of the blessings which they enjoyed, they renounced Christ the head, and deprived themselves of the benefit of his mediation, and lost all the blessings they were entitied to, as the members of his body.-Withal, to make the Colossians still more sensible of their folly in listening to the false teachers, the apostle asked them, ver. 20. Since ye have died with Christ from the elements of the world ; that is, since ye have been freed by your death with Christ, both from the heathen philosophy, and from the law of Moses, Why as living under that philosophy and law, do ye subject yourselves to the ordinances of either? which things are not according to the commandments of God, but, ver. 22. according to the commandments of men ?-Besides, 1 ver. 23. though these commandments have the appearance of wisdom, they are in reality foolishness; being destructive of the vigour both of the mind and of the body.
Peirce, in his note on Col. ii. 18. where the worshipping of angels is condemned, thus writeth : “St. Paul seems to me to “ have here a more especial regard to one particular sect of the “ Jews, the Essenes. As what he mentions, ver. 23. of the neglect6 ing of the body, will be shewn presently to suit them, so they “ had somewhat peculiarly among them relating to angels : For “ thus Josephus, De Bello Judaic. lib. ii. c. 7. sive 12. assures
us, that when they received any into their number, they made " them most solemnly swear, That they would keep or observe " the books of their sect, and the names of the angels, with like “ care.” In confirmation of his opinion, Peirce quotes a note of Dr. Hudson on the above passage from Josephus, to the following purpose ; “ It is hard to say, why the Essenes took such care “ of the names of angels. Was it that they made use of them 6 in their charms to cure diseases ? Or, did they pay them any 6 such worship as the apostle condemns, Col. ii. 18? The other « things there condemned, are certainly theirs, and agree to the « Essenes above all others.” See Col. ii. 23. note 7.
Mosheim, De Rebus Christianor. ante Constantinum magn. seems to think, that the great care with which St. Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians, taught the creation of all things by God's beloved Son, chap. i. 15, 16, 17. proceeded from his observing the beginnings of that absurd notion, concerning the creation of the world by an evil principle, which was first broached in the
Christian church by the Gnostics; and which afterwards was propagated by their disciples, the Marcionites, Encratites, and Manicheans : Or at least, that it proceeded from his foreseeing by the spirit of prophecy, the rise and progress of the monstrous tenets of these heretics, all flowing from their doctrine concerning the creation of the world by an evil principle ; and because he was anxious to guard the faithful against their pernicious
The same author, after describing the cosmogony of the ancient heretics above mentioned, adds, That they differed greatly from each other in their manners.
Such of them as were of a morose disposition, and averse to sensual pleasures, ordered their disciples to weaken and subdue the body, as the fountain of all pravity, by hunger, and thirst, and every kind of hardship: And forbade the use of wine, and of marriage, and of whatever tended to the gratification of the body; in order that the mind being delivered from the fetters and contagion of matter, might be free. Hence came that austere manner of life, which the Marcionites, Encratites, Manicheans, and other ancient heretics, led. That such of them as were inclined to sensual pleasures, by the very same dogmas concerning the pravity of matter, and concerning the evil principle, took to themselves a liberty of gratifying their lusts without fear. For they affirmed, That piety consists in the knowledge of God, and in the union of the mind with him : That they who attain this union, and by contemplation draw their mind away from their body, have no concern with the actions of the body; and therefore are under no obligation to restrain its propensities. Hence proceeded the dissolute lives of the Carpocratians and others, who affirmed, that all things were lawful to them; and that temperance was enjoined to men, not by God, but by the maker of the world, whom, as we have said, they represented as an evil being.-Of this twofold discipline, proceeding from one and the same fountain, there are many traces in scripture. For among the first corrupters of Christianity, the apostle Paul mentions some who assumed to themselves a great shew of wisdom, by a voluntary neglecting of the body, Col. ii. 23. And the apostles Peter and Jude speak of others, who were so corrupted as to affirm, that Christ had purchased for them a liberty of sinning: and who argued, that whatever their lusts inclined them to do, was lawful. See 1 John Pref. sect. 3.
Before this section is concluded, it may be proper to remark, with Lardner, that in the epistle, which our Lord directed St.
John to write to the church of the Laodiceans, there are traces of the errors which the false teachers endeavoured to disseminate in Phrygia. For example, to shew that angels are not superior to Christ in dignity and power, and that they are not to be worshipped on account of their ministry in the government of the world, he in that epistle asserted his own power as creator of the world, nearly in the terms made use of by Paul in his epistle to the Colossians, For he calls himself, Rev. iii. 14. The beginning (aoxin, the efficient cause) of the creation of God.-Next, because the false teachers, who troubled the churches of Phrygia, were puffed up on account of their pretended knowledge of things which they had not seen, Col. ii. 18. and thought themselves complete in every respect, by obeying the precepts of the law of Moses, and the prescriptions of the heathen philosophy, Christ condemned that vain boasting in the Laodiceans, Rev. iii
. 17. Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and misera. ble, and blind, and naked.-And whereas St. Paul said to the Colossians, chap. ii. 10. Ye are made complete by him who is the head of all government and power; Christ said to the Laodi. ceans, Rev. iii. 18. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white rayment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.
It may be proper also to take notice, that although the wor. ship of angels was at the first repressed, in the churches of Phrygia, by the apostle's epistle to the Colossians, it afterwards prevailed among them to such a degree, that the council which met at Laodicea, the metropolis of Phrygia, found it necessary to condemn that idolatry by their 35th canon, as Theodoret informs us in his note on Coloss. ii. 18. as follows : “ This mis“ chief continued long in Phrygia and Pisidia. Hence the coun* cil which met at Laodicea, in Phrygia, made a law against “ praying to angels; and to this very day, there are to be seen “ among them, and in the neighbouring parts, the oratories of « St. Michael.”—The 35th canon of the council of Laodicea, to which Theodoret refers, is in the following words : “ Christians “ought not to leave the church of God, and go and name angels
, or gather assemblies. If, therefore, any one is found to practise “ this secret idolatry, Let him be Anathema, because he has left
our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, and has turned to idola“ try.”—The time of the meeting of this council is uncertain
Lardner, vol. viii. p. 293. thinks it was held A. D. 363. This is the council of Laodicea which, in its last two canons, declared what sacred books were to be publicly read in the churches.
Of the Time when the Epistle to the Colossians was written : and of the
Persons by whom it was sent. At the time the apostle wrote this letter, he was in bonds for preaching the gospel, Col. iv. 3. But this confinement was not so strict as to prevent his preaching occasionally. For he mentions, chap. iv. 10. His fellow labourers in the kingdom of God, who had been a consolation to him. This agrees with Paul's first confinement at Rome, where, Acts xxviii. 30. He dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all who came in unto him ; 31. preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.--Now, on the supposition that this epistle was written during the apostle's first confinement at Rome, since it was sent by the persons who carried his letter to Philemon, in which he desired him to provide him a lodging at Co. losse, because he hoped to see him soon, ver. 22. we have reason to think, that both letters were written in the second year of the apostle's confinement, and towards the end of that year, answering to A. D. 61. when the apostle had a prospect of being soon released.
The letter to the Colossians was not sent by Epaphras their own pastor. That good man, from the time of his arrival in Rome, had exerted himself so strenuously in the cause of Christ, that he became obnoxious to the magistrates, and was imprisoned, Philem. ver. 23. The apostle, therefore, sent this letter by Tychicus, and Onesimus, a slave who had run away from his master Philemon, but whom the apostle converted in Rome, and sent back to Colosse.
Because Tychicus, the bearer of the apostle's letter to the Colossians, carried likewise his letter to the Ephesians, Ephes. vi. 21, 22. and because there is a remarkable agreement in the sentiments and language of both epistles, many have conjectured that they were written about the same time. See Pref. to the Ephes. sect. 5. This too was Locke's cpinion, who says, “ They « seem to be writ at the very same
ime in the same run and “ warmth of thoughts, so that the very same expressions, yet “ fresh in his mind, are repeated in many places: The form,