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with hearts that have retained the impression of God's word spoken before, and ready to increase the impression every time that they shall hear it again.


December 13th, 1835. [End of the Half-Year.]



2 Peter, iii. 15, 16.

Account that the long suffering of our Lord is salvation; even

as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you ; as also in all his Epistles speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.

LEAVING out of sight for the present all other points contained in these verses, I would wish now to confine myself to two;—the divine wisdom here ascribed to the Epistles of St. Paul generally, and the difficulty spoken of as existing in some particular parts of them,-a character which some, we might imagine, have been almost tempted to reverse; as if the general character of St. Paul's writings was difficulty, and only some particular

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passages were full of that wisdom which tends to edify God's people.

“Our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you. According to that wisdom which God had given him, that he should fully make known to the Gentiles all the revelation of God. First he spoke according to this wisdom, and taught by word of mouth ; but afterwards he wrote according to it, that the wisdom might not die with him and his first hearers, nor be trusted to the handing down of others, who, not having it in themselves, could not well appreciate it, but would be sure to corrupt it by some additions or alterations of their own; but that it might be kept safe and pure through the course of ages, as fresh and perfect for us as at the time when it was first delivered.

He wrote according to it in fourteen Epistles ; for although the Greek words of the present text of the Epistle to the Hebrews may not be his own, yet the wisdom of it is no doubt his; and no one has ever supposed but that it was written at least by one of those who went about with him,Luke or Silas, or Apollos or Clement. Now, then, taking these fourteen Epistles, and dividing them according to the order of time in which they were written, we find, first, the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, then those to the Corinthians, and that to the Romans, all written before that journey

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to Jerusalem, and the beginning of that long imprisonment first at Cæsarea, and afterwards at Rome, of which we heard in the second lesson of this morning. Then come the Epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and to Philemon, written during his imprisonment at Rome. And thirdly, we have the two Epistles to Timothy, and that to Titus, written at a period later than the history in the Acts reaches down to; that is, between the end of St. Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, and his death. The date of the remaining two Epistles, those to the Galatians and to the Hebrews, it does not seem possible to fix with certainty.

This is the division of St. Paul's Epistles according to the order of time; and this is one very important division of them, because by thus considering the different states of the church at which they were written, we understand their object better, and can see why some things are more dwelt on in some of them, and others in others. Another very important division of them is according to their subject, whether general or particular; and in this division the Epistles to the Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians, are to be put as one class, and the other eleven Epistles as belonging to another class. What I mean is this, that the Epistle to the Romans was written to a church of which St. Paul as yet knew nothing personally,

and is sent as a general view of what Christianity was, and what practice should naturally flow from its principles. And the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians seem to have been of the nature of circulars; for the Colossians are directed to pass on the Epistle directed to them to the church at Laodicea, and to get in return the Epistle from Laodicea ; that is, in all probability, our Epistle to the Ephesians, which, having been sent on from Ephesus to other places, had come to Laodicea, and was from thence to be forwarded immediately to Colosse. Thus both these Epistles are quite of a general character, containing like that to the Romans, only on a smaller scale, a general view of Christian principles and practice, not more fitted to one church than to another.

On the other hand, all the other eleven Epistles are more or less particular. That to Philemon is written to an individual about a private affair, his slave Onesimus having fled from him to Rome, and being sent back to him by Paul. Those to the Thessalonians and Philippians seem like the overflowing of the apostle's affection towards two churches, for which he appears to have felt an unusual degree of regard. Those to Timothy and Titus are addressed to persons in a particular office, and are commonly called the Pastoral Epistles, as containing directions for Christian pastors or ministers. That to the Galatians, and the first

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