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in the thought, a fulness, a rich fulness, in the language
—a weight and magnificence of truth, and privilege, and doctrine, and duty in the whole Epistle—that are not equalled, certainly not excelled, in any other portion of the New Testament Scriptures. Many of the phrases contained in the Epistle to the Colossians are so like those that occur in the Epistle to the Ephesians that the careful student is led to infer that the former must have very soon succeeded the latter ; the intense thought that glowed in the composition of the one evidently not having cooled when he commenced the composition of the other. We have only to read the first chapter of this Epistle, to see how just is this criticism, and how rich and expressive is every sentence, thought, and allusion.
He begins the Epistle by stating that he and Timothy, in united sympathy and love, sent the Epistle, though the apostle alone wrote it. Both send their prayers and their congratulations to the people at Colosse. But singularly enough, whilst he continues in almost the whole of the first chapter, at least till the last few verses, using “we” and “us,” meaning thereby himself and Timothy, at the close of the first chapter, and throughout the second, he falls back upon his own personality, and speaks of “I;" as when he says, “I am made a minister.” And again he returns to the plural at the close of the Epistle, indicating probably that Timothy there concurred in the sentiments which he expressed ; and that he, the inspired writer, and Timothy, the obedient pupil, were at one in the belief and teaching of these precious truths.
Beginning, then, the Epistle after the manner of ancient letters, by giving and prefixing the name of
the writer, he wishes “grace and peace.” Bishop Davenant observes on this part :
“Inasmuch as he places grace before peace, he teaches us that is first of all to be desired, that we may have God propitious. If he be hostile, even blessings will be turned into a curse.
“He teaches besides, that true peace cannot belong except to those only who are in favour with God. < There is no peace to the wicked,' i. e, to the man not reconciled by Christ.
“ Lastly ; from the very order in which these benefits are placed, he shows that all good things which fall to the lot of the godly, are as it were streams from this fountain of Divine grace.
“From the thing itself desired :
“Paul shows us by his own example the duty of every minister of the gospel ; which is, not only to preach grace and peace to his people, but from their inmost souls to intreat and implore the same from God by incessant prayer : neither is sufficient of itself.
“He reproves the folly of this world, in which almost all wish for themselves and their friends health, riches, and honours; but grace, peace, and other spiritual good things, they neither regard nor think of. But Christ commands us to seek first the kingdom of God' (Matt. vi. 33).
“He comforts the godly and faithful by showing them that the grace of God and the peace of God they always possess ; in comparison of which good things whatsoever fall to the wicked are filth and refuseokýßala. 'A God appeased,' says Bernard, 'tranquillizes all things, and to behold him at peace is to be ourselves at peace.
word-o they cherishedow-Christians : Colossians
“And so far as to the blessings desired. We shall now speak of the authors of them, whom the apostle designates in these words following:
"From God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.' In which words he points out both the fountain and the channel of all grace, and he describes both by their relation to us.”
He sends it “to the saints ;" that is, to the persons separated, set apart, or predestinated, if I might use the word, to eternal joy. How exalted is the character of a Christian ! He proceeds to give thanks to God on account of the love which these Colossians felt and expressed to all fellow-Christians; also for the hope which they cherished, of which they had heard in the word of the gospel : a gospel, he says, which is come unto them, and brings forth fruit in them; as it does, indeed, in every part of the world.
“So apt are people to reject truth, when there is any prejudice against the preacher (1 Kings xxii. 8), that whosoever would preach to any good purpose must labour so to bear in upon people's affections, that they may have ground to conceive of him as of one that loveth them; this the apostle doth here through the whole preface unto the twelfth verse.
“As it is our duty in relation to God (Matt. ix. 8), so it speaketh much our hearty affection unto others, when the graces of God, parts, and abilities that are in them, do not produce carnal emulation or envy (Numb. xi, 29), nor flattering commendations of the men themselves (Job xxxii. 21), but furnisheth us with matter of thanksgiving unto God : thus Paul doth evidence his affection to those Colossians : We give thanks to God.'
“God is the Father of Jesus Christ, not only as God, by an eternal generation and communication of his whole essence unto him in a way unspeakable (Psa. ii. 7), but even also as man, through virtue of the personal union of the two natures in Christ, and in a special way, which doth far excel all other ways, whereby he is a father to other men and angels (Luke i. 32): thus 'God and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ' are one; for the particle 'and' is exegetic of the same thing, and not copulative of things different.
“ In all our performances we should eye God with a respect had to Jesus Christ, seeing the Father is well pleased only in him, both with our persons and duties (Matt. iii. 17); for in giving thanks he eyeth God with a relation to Christ : 'We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.'
" Then is the fittest time to give thanks to God for favours bestowed, when our hearts are somewhat elevated to God, and our affections somewhat warmed in the duty of prayer; and the duties of prayer and praise do mutually contribute for the help one of another: thus the apostle 'gave thanks, always praying for them ;' that is, always when he prayed for them; for 80 are the words to be ordered, and not praying always,' as if he had been constantly praying for them.”
Thus wherever the incorruptible seed is sown, more or less abundantly, it will grow up into the peaceable fruits of righteousness. God's Word never returns void. He next alludes to Epaphras, who seems to have been a teacher, a preacher, or minister to them ; who reported to Timothy and Paul the progress of the Colossians, their increase in love and grace, and every Christian virtue.
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Again therefore the apostle says, “Both I and Timothy do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom.” Then follows a chain, an ascending chain of blessings which he asks for them : that they may walk worthy of their magnificent calling, and worthy of the Lord, a walk which is alike duty and delight—that they may be fruitful, like trees of righteousness, in every good work—that they may increase in the knowledge of God—that they may be strengthened with all might, patience, long-suffering, joyfulness. These blessings, rich blessings, he implores from the heart for every one of every degree of his Colossian converts. Finally, he adds, “Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Here is enunciated a precious thought : Christians have not only what is called an imputed righteousness, constituting their right to heaven, but they have also an imparted righteousness, which is their fitness for heaven.
He says in this verse that God makes us meet, that is, fit, to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. In other words, heaven, the future glory, is a prepared place for a prepared people. Those that are admitted into heaven have not only the title in their hands, received by faith in the finished work of Christ, but they have also the fitness in their hearts and nature, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, that enables them to breathe its air,—to mingle with its songs,-to enter into its themes,—to talk about its interesting and its glorious recollections and prospects, and to feel heaven to be not a foreign land, but a home, their native country, and God their Father, and its inmates brethren.