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tive to the peace and happiness of society. To check the influence of such virtue, Paul describes what true virtue is, as illustrated in the character of Jesus; and what, as such, ought to be the subject of meditation and practice to his followers : “ Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are venerable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are peaceful, whatever things bear a fair name-make these things the subject of your meditation. Also, what things you have learnt of me, and have received from my lips ; what you have heard of me when absent, and seen in me when present-these make the rule of your practice.”
A development of the qualities recommended by Aristotle, as they stand opposed to the virtues here recommended, will give additional beauty and propriety to this already beautiful passage. The words of the apostle, drawn out to their full extent, are to this effect: “ Whatever things are true and real objects of solemn regard, and not such falsehoods, such puerile fables, as are depicted by the pen of the Grecian sage-whatever things are just, are conducive to the peace, order, and happiness of the community, and not the hostile qualities, the violence, rapine, revenge, and fury which characterized Achilles-whatever things are pure, and bear a fair name, and not the impurities, the practices too infamous to be named, which, nevertheless, the Greek philosopher sets forth with the praise of virtue, and which, under that name, he recommends to the world in the person of his catamite. On these things you should meditate, as forming the theory of virtue; and the practice of it you should copy, not from the sages of Greece, not from the conduct of the deceivers who wilfully mislead you, but from the character of Jesus, as you have heard it described by me, and as you have seen it illustrated in my own temper and conduct.” It is worthy of observation, that the apostle alludes to the very title of the Ode of Aristotle,
which is “ The Praise of Virtue,” in the elosing words, “ If there be any virtue, if there be any praise in them.”
I cannot leave this beautiful paragraph without turning back and noticing the three principal things which are implied in it: First, in opposition to the deceivers who endeavoured to class Christ with the deified heroes of Greece, or otherwise held him as a god, Paul inculcates that he did not, like those men, covet divine honours, but that, even when invested with real glory from God, he voluntarily laid it aside and submitted to an ignominious death : Secondly, that Jesus, so far from himself being an object of worship, was exalted by God as the means of destroying all idolatrous worship; that those which were objects of superstitious veneration in the heavens above, of those on the earth, and of those under it, are all to be abolished by the prevalence of Christianity; and that, in the name Jesus, every knee is to bend to the glory of God the Father*: Thirdly, that, as Christians, we should look to the character of Jesus Christ as the model of our imitation; and that moral virtue, illustrated by his example, and founded on the knowledge and worship of the one true God, constitutes the sole end of the Gospel.
So fully aware was the apostle of the bias which, as heathens, the Philippians had to pay divine honours to Christ, that again, at the close, he cautions them against it : “ And my God will fulfil all your wants, according to his own riches, in that glory which is in Christ Jesus. But to our God and Father be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.” As they looked forward to glory through Jesus Christ, they might deem it reasonable to make him the immediate object of their praise and homage. Against a sentiment thus natural, in persons so disposed from their former habits of thinking, the apostle puts them on their guard by saying, “ But to our God and Father be the glory for ever and ever."
* That by επουρανια, και επιγεια και καταχθονια, the apostle means the Pagan gods, and hints at the final destruction of all idolatry, is strikingly illustrated by a passage in the Defence of Socrates by Plato. That philosopher was accused of the intention of subverting the gods of his country; and the reafon adduced for supposing that he denied them was, because “ he was too inquisitive about things above in the heavens, and things beneath the earth.” Plat. A pol. Socrat. § 2. The following worls, to which the apostle alludes, puts the thing beyond all doubt, “ Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven inage, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the abyss under the earth.” Exod. xx. 4.
It remains to notice one or two passages, to show that the same destructive system was introduced and preached among the converts at ColossÆ : “ Now I say this, lest any man deceive you by specious words-As you have received Jesus for the Christ and your Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in his faith, as ye have been taught, abounding thereby in thanksgiving. Beware, lest any make you his prey through the deception of a vain philosophy, which is according to the doctrine of men, according to the principles of the world, and not according to Christ; for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the deity in a bodily form,” The impostors maintained that Christ derived his power from Beelzebub, or that as a god he possessed it underived. The Almighty thought fit, in order to show that the authority given to his son was derived, and derived from heaven, to send him his spirit in a visible form, or, as Luke says, in a bodily shape. To this descent of the divine spirit on Jesus at his baptism Paul alludes, when he says that all the fulness of the deity dwelleth in him bodily, that is, dwelleth in him, having descended on him publicly, in the presence of thousands in a bodily shape.
From the above passage it appears, that there were at Colossæ certain false teachers, who sought to deceive the sincere believers by specious words, and like wolves to make them their prey, through the deception
of a false philosophy. The two fundamental principles of this philosophy were, that the man Jesus was not the Christ and the Lord to be obeyed; and that God the Father, whose spirit spoke and acted in Christ, and as it were dwelt in him, was not the supreme God. Against these two principles, the words of the Apostle are obviously levelled. In reference to the first, he says,
“ As ye received Jesus for the Christ and your Lord, so walk in him," i. e. Continue in the belief that the Christ is not a divine, but the human being known under the name and person of Jesus. The deceivers, by rejecting the simple humanity of our Lord, and the hope of a future state, grounded on his death and resurrection, found themselves free to reject his example and authority in favour of virtue. Their ultimate object, indeed, was to preclude that moral amendment, which he came to enforce as a necessary preparation for Heaven ; and as they endeavoured to undermine the sanction of his religion, they refused to acknowledge him as their Lord, as a master whose will they were bound to obey. In reference to the second principle, the Apostle asserts that the Great Being, whose spirit in all its fulness had descended on the man Jesus in a visible form at his baptism, was himself possessed of all perfections; that there then was no other God but he, much less any other superior to him, as the deceivers maintained. He therefore admonishes the converts to abound in thanksgiving, that is, to increase in gratitude and love towards God, as an all-wise and benevolent Being, and not blaspheme him as evil and imperfect.
Pliny informs us, that the Christians at a stated hour in the morning sang hymns to Christ as to a God, lib. x. ep. 97; and Eusebius H. E. lib. v. c. 28, asserts, that psalms and hymns were from the beginning composed by brethren in the faith, to celebrate the divinity of Christ. This practice doubtless prevailed in every place; and it drew forth the following admonition from
the pen of the Apostle Paul : “ Let the doctrine of Christ dwell in you alouows richly * in all wisdom ; while ye teach and admonish one another, with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness, and with your hearts to God. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God, even the Father through him.” Coloss. iii. 16. Here God the Father is held forth to the Colossians as the only proper object of worship: every act of homage, every expression of praise, was to be directed to him, and Christ was to be the medium only in which this should be done.
The impostors personified a series of abstract ideas; and coupled them two and two under the name of AIWVES, Qons. It is to this that Paul alludes in his first epistle to Timothy, not to give heed to fictions and endless genealogies, “which occasion disputes rather than that divine edification which is in faith.” Under this title of æons they comprehended the Creator of the World, angels, and even Christ. These cons, or angels, of course were held forth as objects to be worshipped by them and their followers : and the advocates of our Lord's divinity will do well to attend to the judgement which the apostle has delivered on this subject : “ Let no one defraud you of your prize, wishing you to become with low-minded servility worshippers of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, arrogantly puffed up by his carnal mind.” Coloss. ii. 18. The last clause has an evident allusion to that superior knowledge on which the Gnostics vainly prided themselves. The term subareuwy refers to a claimant,
* See Col. ii. 2, where the original is inelegant, harsh, and obscure, ως παντα πλουτος της πληροφοριας της συνεσεως-πληροφορια, maturity, ripeness. The use of the term is borrowed from seeds or plants. The writer had the parable of the sower in his mind; and under allusion to the same is the exhortation penned in chap. i. 10. ThouTos therefore, in that place must mean shovoros rumos, rich, or abundant fruit.