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    Paul, at first called Saul, was born of Jewish parents at Tarsus, a city of Cilicia. When young, he was sent to Jerusalem for the purpose of receiving a Jewish education; and was placed there under a most eminent doctor or rabbi, called Gamaliel. He joined the Jewish sect called Pharisees, who were at once the best learned, the most proud, hypocritical, and intolerant of all the Jews. Paul absorbed much of their spirit, as he acquired the whole of their learning. He became proud, overbearing, and haughty; and grievously persecuted the Christians: but as he was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus, with authority from the chief priests, to bind and variously persecute all that bore the Christian name, he had a most remarkable vision, which see related in Acts, chap. ix, in consequence of which he carefully examined and embraced the Christian faith; and afterward became one of the most zealous promoters and successful defenders of that cause which he had before so inveterately persecuted.

    Of his labors, sufferings, and travels, we have an ample account in the book of the Acts. He was long imprisoned at Rome; and at length suffered martyrdom, having his head cut off, by an order of the Roman emperor, Nero, on June 29, A. D. 66.

    Rome, to whose inhabitants, or rather to the Christian church there, this epistle was directed, was the metropolis of the Roman empire, and the mistress of the world.

    The occasion of writing this epistle was the following: -- Many Gentiles as well as Jews having been converted by the preaching of the gospel, the latter refused to admit the former to all the privileges of the church of Christ, unless they submitted to be circumcised; as they supposed that this was the only gate through which they should be admitted into the fold. In this epistle St. Paul shows that the Jewish rites and ceremonies were done away; that all men, both Jews and Gentiles, had sinned against God; and that no sacrifices or observances of the Jewish law could make atonement for sin; (for by its works no soul could be justified;) God had therefore appointed a new way of salvation, the sacrifice of Christ, and faith in that sacrifice. That this privilege was not granted to the Jews alone, but equally to the Gentiles; that none could be saved but in this way; and that those who were thus saved stood upon the broad ground of God's infinite mercy, and were equal in their religious rank, rights, and privileges. This view of the subject gave the apostle ample scope, 1st, to show the absolute inefficacy of human works, whether consisting in moral obedience or in observation of religious rites and ceremonies, to purchase the favor of God, or make an atonement for sin: and, 2d, the sovereign efficacy of the death of Christ, and faith in the merit of that death, to bring the soul into the favor of God, and give it a right to eternal life -- that sacrificial offering of Christ being the sole ground procuring these, and faith the means of applying its benefit to the guilty conscience.


    Corinth, to which this and the following epistle were sent, was one of the most celebrated cities of Greece. It is situated on a gulf of the same name; and was anciently the capital of the Peloponnesus, or Achaia. It was joined to the main land by a narrow isthmus, or neck of land, that had the port of Lecheum on the west, and the port of Cenchrea on the east, by which it commanded the commerce both of the Ionian and AEgean Seas. By the port of Lecheum it received the merchandise of Italy, and of the western nations; and by the port of Cenchrea it received that of the AEgean Sea, the coasts of Asia Minor, and of the Phoenicians. As this city abounded in riches, so did it in luxury and corruption of manners: and no place in the habitable globe needed the gospel of Christ more than this did. Here a church was founded, the principal members of which were eminently endowed with the gifts and graces of God's Spirit: but as some dissensions had arisen among them concerning things lawful and unlawful, what might be done with a clear conscience, and what ought not to be done, they wrote to St. Paul to give his judgment, and settle these disputes. This first epistle is in answer to that letter; in which, among other things, he discusses the question of the unlawfulness of eating things offered to idols: and enters at large into a consideration of that most important doctrine, the resurrection from the dead, and its proofs drawn from the natural and moral world, and from the resurrection of the body of our blessed Lord.


    The preceding epistle having been well received, and its exhortations and reprehensions having produced the desired effect, the apostle writes this to comfort and confirm them in the truth. He reproves a false apostle who had insinuated himself among them, and endeavored to render their minds evil affected toward himself. In this epistle he vindicates his own doctrine and conduct against the aspersions of that false apostle, gives an affecting account of his own trials and sufferings, and strongly exhorts them to holiness of heart and life.


    Galatia or Gallograecia, was anciently a part of Phrygia, in Asia Minor bounded on the east by Cappadocia, on the west by Bithynia, on the south by Pamphylia, and on the north by the Euxine Sea.

    The church of God founded in this place seems to have been greatly perplexed and disturbed by some Jewish teachers, who endeavored to persuade the converted Gentiles that unless they were circumcised, and kept the law of Moses, they could not be saved. Many having been stumbled and turned aside by these teachers, the apostle wrote to them, 1. To vindicate his own apostleship which those false teachers had undervalued. 2. To assert and maintain the doctrine of justification by faith, from which they had been departing. And, 3. To call them back to the liberty of the gospel from which, under those bad teachers, some of them had apostatized. He proves at large, 1. That no rites or ceremonies of the Jewish law could avail in their justification. 2. That their own works could avail nothing in reference to their acceptance with God; the only way of salvation being by faith, and that this was the original way, for Abraham was justified by faith long before the law was given. 3. That the curse of the law was upon every sinner, and is not removed but by the sacrifice of Christ.


    Ephesus was a very famous city of Ionia, and once the metropolis of that part of the world. The grand subject of this epistle is to prove that the great mystery of God, which had been hidden from all former ages, was opened and explained by calling the Gentiles into the church, making them one with the converted Jews, and placing them under the one great and Only Shepherd, Christ Jesus. The apostle also shows the necessity of the doctrine of justification by faith; enters into a description of the heights, lengths, and breadths of Christian holiness; points out the enemies of true believers; shows them the spiritual armor with which they are to defend themselves and concludes by giving them the most pointed directions relative to the cultivation of their hearts, their moral conduct, and particularly their exact fulfillment of all the relative duties.


    Philippi was a town of Macedonia, in the confines of Thrace, and near the northern extremity of the AEgean Sea. St. Paul first preached the gospel here about A. D. 53, and established one of the most pure and excellent churches. False teachers had crept into this church also, against whom he warns the people exhorts them to unity and concord, points out to them the glory which shall be revealed to the truly faithful, speaks of the blessedness of his own experience, and thanks and commends them for the contributions they sent to supply his wants.


    Colosse, or Colossa, was a city of Phrygia Pacatiana, now a part of Natolia, in Asia Minor, situated on an eminence on the south side of the river Meander. There is a very great similarity between this epistle and that to the Ephesians. It contains the very depth and essence of Christian doctrine and Christian experience; strongly excites to holiness of heart and life; and exhorts to a regular fulfillment of the relative duties, viz., parents and children, husbands and wives, masters and servants, etc..


    Thessalonica, now called by the Turks Salonichi, is a seaport town of Turkey, in Europe, and anciently the capital of Macedonia. Paul and Silas preached the gospel in this city about A. D. 51 or 52. This epistle is probably the first that St. Paul wrote: and it appears that the church of Thessalonica was the purest of all the apostolic churches. The apostle finds scarcely any thing among them to reprove. They had received the whole truth as it was in Jesus, and their conduct was conformed to it. They had a faith that worked, a love that labored, and a hope which enabled them to bear all afflictions patiently, and wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus. The directions which he gives in the last chapter, relative to the perfection of their Christian faith and character, are of the utmost importance; and intimately concern all Christian churches, and all who bear the Christian name.


    It appears that the second epistle was written shortly after the first, the main design of which is to warn the people against crediting a false report which they had heard relative to the sudden appearing of Christ to judge the world; which they had so far received and credited as actually (at least some of them) to give up their secular affairs, as being inconsistent with the expectation of so solemn an event, so speedily to take place. On this subject the apostle sets them right by giving just notions of the future judgment, predicts a certain apostasy from the faith, and exhorts them to obedience and fidelity in all the circumstances of life in which God may place them.


    Timothy, the person to whom this epistle is addressed, was the son of a Gentile, by a Jewish woman named Eunice, the daughter of a Jewess named Lois. It is likely that, at the time that Lois was converted to the Christian faith, her husband was dead, as was also the husband of Eunice; and that the grandmother, mother, and son lived all together. Their son Timothy became strongly attached to St. Paul, received the Christian faith in its power, became an evangelist, and traveled with the apostle through different parts, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. The apostle having left him in the City of Ephesus to superintend the church in that place, he wrote this first epistle to him, probably about A. D. 64 or 65, in which he gives him direction, 1. To oppose those fables invented by Jewish teachers to recommend the observance of the Mosaic law as necessary to salvation. 2. To oppose those uncertain genealogies by which certain persons wished to show their descent from Abraham, on the persuasion that they should be saved merely because they were his descendants. 3. That he might oppose a foolish inclination which they had to the discussion of intricate questions, which, instead of leading to godliness, engendered strife. 4. The apostle gives him suitable directions how to act the part of an evangelist; how to rule the church of God; and how to repress irregularities, and maintain truth.


    This was in all probability written a short time after the first; for the same sort of persons, doctrines, and practices are reprobated in the second which were condemned in the first. The same commands and instructions are given to Timothy in the second as in the first. The same remedies for the corruptions which had taken place at Ephesus are prescribed in the second as in the first. And in this second epistle every thing is addressed to Timothy as the superintendent both of the preachers and laity in the church of Ephesus. All which prove that, as the same persons and the same state of things continued when this second epistle was written, as when the first was written, consequently both must have been sent within a short time of each other.

    In this epistle St. Paul strongly exhorts his son Timothy to hold fast the form of sound words which had been delivered to him; shows him what and how to preach; predicts the evils of the latter times and his own approaching martyrdom; and sends salutations to different friends.

    Both epistles are a treasury to the church of Christ, and of the utmost consequence to all preachers of the gospel.


    From frequent mention made of this person in St. Paul's epistles, we learn that he was a Greek, and most probably a heathen till converted to Christianity by St. Paul. He accompanied this apostle in several of his journeys; and was at last left by him in the island of Crete, as superintendent or bishop of the churches there planted. Crete is a very large island in the Mediterranean Sea; being about one hundred and eighty miles long, by about forty broad.

    This epistle is very similar to the First Epistle to Timothy. They are both principally occupied in describing the qualifications of those who should be appointed to ecclesiastical offices; and the ingredients in this description are nearly the same in both epistles.

    Timothy and Titus are both cautioned against the same prevailing corruptions; the phrases and expressions in both letters are nearly the same; and the writer accosts his two disciples with the same salutations; which shows, not only that the two epistles were written by the same person, but nearly about the same time, viz., A. D. 65.


    Philemon seems to have been a person of consideration, affluence, and charity, in the city of Colosse and a distinguished Christian, who had a church at his house; and frequently entertained the Christians and Christian ministers who passed that way.

    The occasion of writing this letter was the following: -- Onesimus, a slave, had on some pretense or other run away from his master, Philemon, and come to Rome, where St. Paul then was as a prisoner, though dwelling in his own hired house and guarded by a Roman soldier. Onesimus, having found him out, was converted by the apostle, who wrote this letter to his friend Philemon in behalf of one who, though formerly unfaithful, was now restored to a better mind. The recommendation is managed with great skill and address, and was no doubt successful. The epistle contains no pointed reference to and particular doctrine of Christianity; but is a model for recommendatory and intercessory letters. It was probably written about A. D. 62.


    This is allowed to have been the last written by St. Paul of which we have any knowledge; and was most probably composed in A. D. 63. The design was to prevent the Jews who had received the gospel from turning back again to Mosaic rites and ceremonies. And, to accomplish this design, he shows them that the law was but the shadow of good things to come, and the gospel the substance; that the former without the latter was without meaning, and without use; and that every thing in and under the law pointed out some corresponding spiritual good under the gospel. The major part of the epistle is a comment upon the law, and the most beautiful illustration of it that ever was or can be given. On the prophetic, sacerdotal, and regal offices of Christ, it is both ample and luminous; and no man can read it without having his head enlightened and his heart mended. It is by far the most elegant, the most argumentative, and the most useful epistle of the great apostle of the Gentiles. In it he concentrates all his learning, all his legal knowledge, and all his evangelical experience and unction. The epistle everywhere shows the hand of a master; and that hand was guided by the unerring wisdom of the eternal Spirit.


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