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ditus. The Philippians might be allowed to say, that they were full of anguish to hear that Epaphroditus was sick, but it is an idle use of language to say that he, when now recovered, was full of anguish because they had heard he had been sick. Besides, if the Christians at Philippi felt such interest in Epaphroditus, was it necessary in the Apostle to advise them to receive him with gladness in the Lord, and to hold such in reputation? Does not this advice imply, that they were disposed to receive him with reluctance, or not to receive him at all in the Lord, and to hold such in contempt? How is this incoherence to be removed? At the first promulgation of the gospel, those of the pagans who embraced it were expected to withdraw from their stations, which they had before occupied, especially if such stations were inconsistent with genuine piety and benevolence. Thus such converts as bore arms, or were engaged in any department of Paganism in general, gave up their profession as immoral; and thus with their opinions they changed their modes of living. It may be gathered from Suetonius and Dion, that Epaphroditus shewed his attachment to the new religion, not by any profession, but by his conduct, having had the pru dence to remain at his post. Clement, it is evident, acted a different part; and hence, while he is branded for inertness and atheism, the same
charge is not made in words against Epaphro-ditus, who was even put to death without the im-putation of being a Christian.
As the emperor was at the head of the army, every man in his service was at least nominally a soldier and his continuance in the court of so odious a monster as Nero, and in a profession so repugnant to the spirit of the gospel, must have necessarily sunk him, as weak and timid in the estimation of his more ardent, but less prudent, brethren. And it is highly interesting to observe that this is the point of light, in which he is placed and defended by the Apostle of the Gentiles. The original term means weakness either in mind or in body; and the writer, after using it in the first of these senses, uses it again in the second; agreeably to a custom familiar to the Jewish and Christian writers, of employing the same word in the same place, in a literal and metaphorical acceptation *.
The Christians at Philippi had heard, that Epaphroditus had the weakness not to give up his
The word which the Apostle here uses, he uses also in a metaphorical sense in Rom. iv. 19. και μη ασθένησας τη πιςει, meaning, "though now in consequence of his age, Abraham was weak in body, he was nevertheless not weak in faith." Instances of the same word being employed in a literal and metaphorical sense occur in Cor. iii. 17. Mat. viii. 22. John iv. 13, 14.
connexion with the emperor, and perhaps in words not to have made a public avowal of his faith: such a report of him was doubtless propagated by some envious nominal believers; and this must have proved to that good man an unfeigned cause of sorrow. The clause therefore should be thus rendered, "For he longs to see you, and is full of anguish, because ye have heard, that he has proved weak; and indeed he was weak, being by sickness nigh unto death." His sickness is explicitly said to have proceeded from the service of Christ, that is, from exposing his life to defend and supply the Apostle, while a prisoner of Nero. Epaphroditus must have naturally wished to visit the churches, in order to remove the prejudices which were cherished against him; and hence we perceive the propriety of the admonition to receive him with gladness in the Lord, and to hold such in estimation. At Rome, as in other places, there were men loud in their profession of the gospel, while they had yet no danger or difficulty to encounter. These changed their tone, and left the Apostle to shift for himself, when the hour of trial arrived: Epaphroditus acted quite an opposite part. He made no pro-. fession, and continued in office, as if he had not been a believer; but when the season arrived, when he was called upon to honour, or to betray his faith, he stands forth and supports the Apostle
at the hazard of his life. Touched with his ge nerosity and firmness, the Apostle bears him in return the most honourable testimony, rendering prominent his character as a man not of words, but of deeds, and recommending him, and such persons as resembled him, to reverence and admiration, in opposition to those pretenders, who were men not of deeds but of words. Such men hold in estimation, because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death.
As the Philippians had the temerity to censure Epaphroditus for weakness, the Apostle scruples not to remind them that they had been deficient in liberality towards him now in bonds, and as such unable to supply his own wants; while he, whom they had injured, had supplied that deficiency at the risk of his life*. To soften the odium, which attached to Epaphroditus as a nominal soldier under Nero, St. Paul calls him my fellow-soldier; and in reference to his being a minister of the emperor, he styles him a minister of my wants.
In his epistle to the Colossians, St. Paul has farther these words: "Epaphras, your countryman, a
* Παραβουλευσαμενος τη ψυχή, ένα αναπλήρωση το ύμων ύςερημα της προς με λειτουργιας, having endangered his own life, that he might supply the deficiency of your contribution towards me. Phil, ii, 30.
slave of Christ, saluteth you."
some others have observed that Epaphras is but an abbreviation of Epaphroditus, not to mention that in this place some copies have the latter reading. Epaphroditus then was a native of Colossi, and at this time a slave of the emperor. To this circumstance the Apostle alludes; and he endeavours to do away the odium, which attached to him as a slave of Nero, by holding him forth as a slave of Christ: as though he had said, "Do not have any prejudice against him for being engaged in the service of the emperor: for he is truly and faithfully the servant of him, whose service is perfect freedom*."
Soon after this, the Great Apostle of the Gentiles was sacrificed by the adversary on the altar of the gospel. But the providence of God brought to Rome, and to the palace a man, perfectly similar in principles and in character, who supplied in the heart of Epaphroditus the place of his deceased illustrious friend. This man was
* While the Apostle lived at Rome, Epaphroditus visited Colossi, probably as being his native place; whence he brought back an account of the church in that city. He a second time visited the Philippians, and carried with him the epistle written by Paul to that people, which perhaps he took an opportunity to do, as sent by the emperor on public duty to those parts.