« VorigeDoorgaan »
abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia," 1 Tim. ch. i. 3. “And in how many things he ministered to me at Ephesus thou knowest well,” 2 Tim. ch. i. 18. I adduce these testimonies, because, had it been a competition of credit between the history and the epistle, I should have thought myself bound to have preferred the epistle. Now, every epistle which St. Paul wrote to churches which he himself had founded, or which he had visited, abounds with references, and appeals to what had passed during the time that he was present amongst them ; whereas there is not a text in the Epistle to the Ephesians, from which we can collect that he had ever been at Ephesus at all. The two Epistles to the Corinthians, the Epistle to the Galatians, the Epistle to the Philippians, and the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, are of this class ; and they are full of allusions to the apostle's history, his reception, and his conduct whilst amongst them ; the total want of which, in the epistle before us, is very difficult to account for, if it was in truth written to the church of Ephesus, in which city he had resided for so long a time. This is the first and strongest objection. But farther, the Epistle to the Colossians was addressed to a church, in which St. Paul had never been. This we infer from the first verse of the second chapter: “ For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” There could be no propriety in thus joining the Colossians and Laodiceans with those “ who had not seen his face in the flesh,” if they did not also belong to the same description*. Now, his address to the Colossians, whom he had not visited, is precisely the same as his address to the Christians to whom he wrote in the epistle which we are now considering : “ We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,” Col. ch. i. 3. Thus, he speaks to the Colossians : in the epistle before us, as follows : “ Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you in my prayers,” chap.
* Dr. Lardner contends against the validity of this conclusion ; but, I think, without success. LARDNER, vol. xiv. p. 473, edit. 1757.
i. 15. The terms of this address are observable. The words “ having heard of your faith and love,” are the very words, we see, which he uses towards strangers ; and. it is not probable that he should employ the same in accosting a church in which he had long exercised his ministry, and whose “ faith and love” he must have personally known*. The Epistle to the Romans was written before St. Paul had been at Rome; and his address to them runs in the same strain with that just now quoted : “ I thank my God, through Jesus Christ, for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world :” Rom. ch. i. 8. Let us now see what was the form in which our apostle was accustomed to introduce his epistles, when he wrote to those with whom he was
* Mr. Locke fendeavours to avoid this difficulty, by explaining “ their faith, of which St. Paul had heard,” to mean the steadfastness of their persuasion that they were called into the kingdom of God, without subjection to the Mosaic institution. But this interpretation seems to me ex-. tremely hard ; for, in the manner in which faith is here joined with love, in the expression, “your faith and love,” it could not be meant to denote any particular tenet which distinguisha ! ed one set of Christians from others; forasmuch as the expresa sion describes the general virtues of the Christian profession. Vide Locke in loc.
already acquainted. To the Corinthians it was this : “ I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Christ Jesus," i Cor. ch. i. 4. To the Philippians : “ I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,” Phil. ch. i. 3. To the Thessalonians : “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love," 1 Thess. ch. i. 3. To Timothy : “ I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day,” 2 Tim. ch. i. 3. In these quotations, it is usually his remembrance, and never his hearing of them, which · he makes the subject of his thankfulness to God.
As great difficulties stand in the way supposing the epistle before us to have been written to the church of Ephesus, so I think it probable that it is actually the Epistle to the Laodiceans, referred to in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians. The text which contains that reference is this : “When this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of
the Laodiceans, and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea," ch. iv. 16. The “ epistle from Laodicea” was an epistle sent by St. Paul to that church, and by them transmitted to Colosse. The two churches were mutually to communicate the epistles they had received. This is the way in which the direction is explained by the greater part of commentators, and is the most probable sense that can be given to it. It is also probable that the epistle alluded to was an epistle which had been received by the church of Laodicea lately. It appears then, with a considerable degree of evidence, that there existed an epistle of St. Paul's nearly of the same date with the Epistle to the Colossians, and an epistle directed to a church (for such the church of Laodicea was) in which St. Paul had never been. What has been observed concerning the epistle before us, shows that it answers perfectly to that character.
Nor does the mistake seem very difficult to account for. Whoever inspects the map of Asia Minor will see, that a person proceeding from Rome to Laodicea would probably land at Ephesus, as the nearest frequented sea-port in that direction. Might