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in the house of this distinguished man, for exercising sacred duties, that is, for prayer, for preaching the word, and the celebration of the sacrament; or they denote his private family, which for its religious sanctity merited this illustrious name of Church, Rom. xvi. 5. So Theodoret thinks, who thus writes on this passage, He made his private family a Church, adorning it with piety and religion. Neither do I perceive that any disadvantage follows, if we unite both, and say, that the house of this man was called a Church by the Apostle, as well because the congregation of the faithful was accustomed to assenible in his house, as because he instructed all his domestics piously and in a Christian-like manner, and trained thein daily in religious exercises.
Instructions. 1. Every collection of believers, although on account of its smallness they may be included within the walls of a private house, and although on account of the fury of their enemies, they meet in nocturnal assemblies, is a true Church, and a living member of the universal Church.
2. The Papists therefore err, who acknowledge no Church unless that which has sovereignty, and ever before the eyes of the world. For sometimes the rage of persecution does not suffer the Church to move in the public sight of all, but compels her to slink as it were into private retreats. She flees into the wilderness, Rev. xii. 6. So aforetime, when the Arians ruled, Athanasius and the rest of the orthodox Christians were compelled to retire into corners.
3. It is incumbent upon every head of a family, so to instruct and train his domestics in true Religion, that his house may deservedly obtain the name of a Church. The pious Patriarch Abraham did this, of whom God himself testifies, Gen. xviii. 19, I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord, and to do justice and judgment. So Joshua, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, Josh. xxiv. 15.
4. They are therefore unworthy the name of Christians, who (with respect to Religion) take not any care of their domestics, but suffer their houses to be so polluted by rioting and drunkenness, that they may more truly be called taverns than Churches.
Vers. 16. And 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 Epis: le from Laodicea.
He enjoins a threefold command upon the Colossians in this verse: One concerning this Epistle being published in the Church of the Colossians : When this Epistle is read among you : The other about transmitting the same to their neighbours the Laodiceans; let it be read in the Church of the Laodiceans. The third concerning the reading of some other Epistle, which he had received from Laodicea; And that ye likewise read the Epistle from Laodicea.
1. When this Epistle is read among you.] As to the first; The Apostle wished this his Epistle to be published and read in a usual assembly of the whole Church, that all might know it. Hence we derive two Corollaries :
1. That the Sacred Scriptures were not written for the end that they should be the peculiar property of a few of the clergy; but that they should be open to the whole Christian people, and should be known of all. Hence that the ordinary reading of the Scriptures obtained in the primitive Church, (1 Thess. v. 27.) and that in a language understood by the people, is clear from Justin Martyr, in Apolog. 2 ; from Tertullian, in Apologet.; and from other Fathers. Which custom B. Rhenanus, in Annotat. ad Tertull. De Corona militis, wished to be restored to the Papal church.*
2. That they err who deny that the reading of the
• Vide p. 134 of this Vol. and Note.
Scriptures itself conduces to the edification of a Christian people in faith and charity, unless there be added at the same time an illustration and exposition of them by a preacher. Far be it from us to detract from the utility or necessity of preaching; nevertheless, we assert with the Psalmist, concerning the word of God read studiously and devoutly, The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul : the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple, Psal. xix. 7.
2. Cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodi. ceans.] This is the second command of the Apostle, in which the Colossians are ordered to communicate this Epistle to the Laodiceans.
A twofold reason may be offered for this command: One; because the doctrine of this Epistle is general, and on that account was not to be reserved for the private use of one Church, but to be communicated to the whole Church of God; but first to the neighbours of the Colossians, who having read the autograph, could take copies of it, and diffuse them through the whole Church of God.
The other reason is; Because (as it is very likely) this Church on account of its vicinity, was opposed in the same manner as the Church of Colosse, by those Jewish and philosophical seducers : therefore, lest there should be a necessity for a new Epistle, the Apostle would have this made common to both.
Hence observe, That among all the Churches of God, but especially among neighbouring ones, there ought to be a communication of spiritual benefits; so that if one Church should have any thing that might contribute to the edification of another, it should not grudge to impart it.
3. And that ye likewise read the Epistle from Laodicea.] We have in these words the last particular of the Apostolic command; which enjoins that a certain Epistle sent from Laodicea should be read in the Church of the Colossians. It is probable that the Laodiceans had written to Paul concerning the state of their affairs, and that the Epistle contained something in it which was very useful to be known by the Colossians : Hence the Apostle ordered it to be read by them.
But concerning this Epistle, Commentators have entertained very different opinions. Theophylact would have the first Epistle to Timothy to be understood, which is reported to have been written from Laodicea. Marcion the heretic thinks the Epistle to the Ephesians to be indicated; the title of which he dared impudently enough to interpolate, and to write upon it to the Laodiceans. Vide Tertull. advers. Marcion, lib. 5.
Some of the advocates for the Papacy (among whom is Stapleton*) think that some Epistle was written by the Apostle to the Laodiceans, which yet the Church by its authority would not admit into the canon: and by this argument he attempts to prove that the canonical authority
* STAPLETON, Thomas, was born at Henfield, in Sussex, in 1535, and educated at Canterbury and Winchester Schools, and New College, Oxford. In Mary's reign he obtained a Prebend of Chichester, but on Elizabeth's accession he retired with his parents to Louvain, whither, after an excur. sion to France and Italy, he returned, and made great progress in his studies. In 1569, Allen invited him to Douay, to found there his English se. minary of idolatry and rebellion. He prosecuted this work so acceptably that he was elected their Professor of Divinity, took his degree of Doctor, and was made afterwards Carion of the Collegiate Church of St. Amatus. He had a great affection for the Order of Jesuits, and became a novice in it. But he subsequently forsook them, and accepted an invitation to his old station, Louvain, and the Professorship there, and obtained the lucrative dignity of Dean of Hilverbeck. He became eminent as a Controversial. ist on the side of the Romish Church, in favour of which he was an indefatigable writer ; and at his death in 1598, he left a number of pieces, which, together with his preceding works, were published collectively, at a great expence, by the booksellers of Paris, in four thick vols. folio : 1620, the contents of which are particularized by Dodd. This mass of learning has been denominated CORPUS CONTOVERSIARUM. The renowned Car. dinal Bellarmin is said to have been indebted to him for what he published concerning the Church, Tradition, and Scripture. Clement the VIIIth was so much delighted with the productions of this zealous advocate, that he ordered them to be read daily in times of his refection, and invited him to Rome with a design to confer on him the place of Pro. tonotary, and, as some say, to make him Cardinal. All that is imporportant, however, in his “ vast stores," has been well and ably refuted by the justly celebrated Dr. Whitaker and others, (vide Note p. 135 of the present vol.); and from the specimen here given by our Expositor, it may be seen how easily the cobweb sophistry of the most renowned and best educated champions of Popery is swept away, and all its pretty mechanism reduced to a modicum of virt. He who would have more of this writer may consult Dodd's Church History, &c. Vol. ii. pp. 84, et seq.
of the Scriptures rested upon the judgment of the Church; which thus could exclude the writings of the Apostles themselves from the number of the sacred books. The ambiguity of the Latin version, which gives the passage thus, Eum qua Laodicensium est vos legatis, and that ye read that which is of the Laodiceans ; and the bold dishonesty of a certain impostor, who put forth a certain forged epistle under the title of Paul to the Laodiceans, have given occasion to this error. But I answer, that no one ever accounted that epistle for a genuine Epistle of Paul, except Stapleton, and those like him, who are used to scrape together from every quarter arguments to set the authority of the Church above the Scriptures. (Ecumenius in this place observes, He has not said that to the Laodiceans, but that FROM Laodicea, which Theodoret also had observed before him. As to that which Stapleton (relying upon this passage) desires to hold for a genuine Epistle of Paul; I wonder at the impudent stupidity of the man, since that has already been rejected by all the Fathers who have mentioned it. Theodoret in this place, calls it a fiction and forgery. Jerome in his Catalogue of Ecclesiastical writers, where he reckons up all Paul's Epistles, at length subjoins these words, Some read and to the Laodiceans ; but it is exploded by all. Lastly, the 2d Nicene Council, Act 6. says, Among the Epistles of the divine A poslle a certain one is spoken of to the Laodiceans, which our Fathers have reprobated as another man's. That opinion, therefore, is consonant both to the Greek context and to truth, which we have propounded from the beginning; that an epistle from the Laodiceans to Paul was here meant, not one on the contrary part. And the opinion of Stapleton is to be detested, who determines that it was an Epistle of Paul himself, which all the Fathers have rejected as a forgery and unworthy of attention : Nor is the conclusion more sound, which he would deduce therefrom; namely, that the Church had authority to exclude from the canon a true and genuine Epistle of the Apostle Paul. Thus much of the threefold command of the Apostle.
In those two verses which remain, he bids them to admonish Archippus to fulfil his ministry; and, introducing