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THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS.
When a transaction is referred to in such a . manner, as that the reference is easily and immediately understood by those who are beforehand, or from other quarters, acquainted with the fact, but is obscure, or imperfect, or requires investigation, or a comparison of different parts, in order to be made clear to other readers, the transaction so referred to is probably real; because, had it been fictitious, the writer would have set forth his story more fully and plainly, not merely as conscious of the fiction, but as conscious that his readers could have no other knowledge of the subject of his allusion than from the information of which he put them in possession.
The account of Epaphroditus, in the Epistle to the Philippians, of his journey to Rome, and of the business which brought him thither, is the article to which I mean to apply this observation. There are three passages in the epistle which relate to this sub
ject. The first, chap. i. 7, “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel, ye all are συγκοινωνοι με της xagitos, joint contributors to the gift which I have received*.” Nothing more is said in this place. In the latter part of the second chapter, and at the distance of half the epistle from the last quotation, the subject appears again; “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and companion in labour, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants : for he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick : for indeed he was sick nigh unto death ; but God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that when ye see him again ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in 'reputation : because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life to supply your lack of service toward me.” Chap. ii. 25– 30. The matter is here dropped, and no farther mention made of it till it is taken up near the conclusion of the epistle as follows: “ But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again : wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity; not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye, Philippians, know also that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only; for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my ne
* Pearce, I believe, was the first commentator, who gave this sense to the expression; and I believe also, that his exposition is now generally assented to. He interprets in the same sense the phrase in the fifth verse, which our translation renders “ your fellowship in the Gospel;” but which in the original is not LoivwnQ TOU EXy782100, or 20176nçc EY TW avayyediye; but κοινωνια εις το ευαγγελιον.
cessity; not because I desire a gift : but I desire fruit that may abound to your account, But I have all, and abound; I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you.” Chap. iv. 10– 18. To the Philippian reader, who knew that contributions were wont to be made in that church for the apostle's subsistence and relief, that the supply which they were accustomed to send to him had been delayed .by the want of opportunity, that Epaphroditus had undertaken the charge of conveying their liberality to the hands of the apostle, that he had acquitted himself of this commission at the peril of his life, by hastening to Rome under the oppression of a grievous sickness ; to a reader who knew all this beforehand, every line in the above quotations would be plain and clear. But how is it with a stranger? The knowledge of these several particulars is necessary to the perception and explanation of the references; yet that knowledge must be gathered from a comparison of passages lying at a great distance from one another. Texts must be interpreted by texts long subsequent to them, which necessarily produces embarrassment and suspense. The passage quoted from the beginning of the epistle contains an acknowledgement, on the part of the apostle, of the liberality which the Philippians had exercised towards him ; but the allusion is so general and indeterminate, that, had nothing more been said in the sequel of the epistle, it would hardly have been applied to this occasion at all. In the second quotation, Epaphroditus is declared to have “ ministered to the apostle's wants,” and “ to have supplied their lack of service towards him ;” but how, that is, at whose expense, or from what fund he “ ministered,” or what was the lack of service” which he supplied, are left very much unexplained, till we arrive at the third quotation, where we find that Epaphroditus. “ ministered to St. Paul's wants,” only by conveying to his hands the contributions of the Philippians; “ I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you :” and that “ the lack of service which he supplied” was a delay or interruption of their accustomed bounty, occasioned by the want of opportunity ; “ I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again ; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.” The affair at length comes out clear; but it comes out by