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THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS.
HERE 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 Coloffians 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 afserting 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 mattyr. Thus, in the epistle before us,
chap.i. ver. 24. (I Paul) “who now rejoice
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 Chriftians, agreeably to what he explicitly declares in his epistle to the Ephesians, iv. I. " For this cause, I Paul, the
prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gen“ tiles.” 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 " whereby when
ye may un-
“ tiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same
body, and partakers of bis promise in Chrift “ by the gospel.” This, therefore, was the çonfesion for which he declares himself to be in bonds. Now let us enquire 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 Afiatic 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 difpenfation, 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 de part out of Jerusalem, "for I will send $6 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 $6 with such a fellow from the earth.” Nothing can fhew 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 Gențiles, 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 Apoftle'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 Tertuilus'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 en mity 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 difcourse 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, “6 unto whom now I fend thee, to open “their eyes, and to turn them from dark" ness to light, and from the power of “ Satan unto God, that they may receive
forgiveness of fins, and inheritance among “ them which are fanctified by faith that is ço in me. Whereupon; O King Agrippa,