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Colossians 2:16-19

16. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days:

16. Itaque ne quis vos iudicet 382382     Juge, ou, condamne;”“Judge, or condemn.” vel in cibo, vel in potu, vel in parte 383383     En partie, ou, en distinction, ou, de la part, ou, au respect;”“In part, or, in distinguishing, or, of the part, or, in respect of.” diei festi, vel neomeniae, vel sabbatorum:

17. Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

17. Quae sunt umbra futurorum, corpus autem Christi.

18. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

18. Ne quis palmam eripiat, volens in humilitate et cultu Angelorum, (id facere,) in ea quae non vidit se ingerens, frustra inflatus a mente carnis suae,

19. And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

19. Et non tenens caput, ex quo totum corpus per iuncturas et connexiones subministratum et compactum crescit increments Dei.


16. Let no one therefore judge you. What he had previously said of circumcision he now extends to the difference of meats and days. For circumcision was the first introduction to the observance of the law, other things 384384     “Les autres ceremonies;” — “Other rites.” followed afterwards. To judge means here, to hold one to be guilty of a crime, or to impose a scruple of conscience, so that we are no longer free. He says, therefore, that it is not in the power of men to make us subject to the observance of rites which Christ has by his death abolished, and exempts us from their yoke, that we may not allow ourselves to be fettered by the laws which they have imposed. He tacitly, however, places Christ in contrast with all mankind, lest any one should extol himself so daringly as to attempt to take away what he has given him.

In respect of a festival-day. Some understand τὸ μέρος to mean participation. Chrysostom, accordingly, thinks that he used the term part, because they did not observe all festival days, nor did they even keep holidays strictly, in accordance with the appointment of the law. This, however, is but a poor interpretation. 385385     “Mats c’est vne conjecture bien maigre;” — “But this is a very slender conjecture.” Consider whether it may not be taken to mean separation, for those that make a distinction of days, separate, as it were, one from another. Such a mode of partition was suitable for the Jews, that they might celebrate religiously 386386     “Estroittement;” — “Strictly.” the days that were appointed, by separating them from others. Among Christians, however, such a division has ceased.

But some one will say, “We still keep up some observance of days.” I answer, that we do not by any means observe days, as though there were any sacredness in holidays, or as though it were not lawful to labor upon them, but that respect is paid to government and order — not to days. And this is what he immediately adds.

17. Which are a shadow of things to come. The reason why he frees Christians from the observance of them is, that they were shadows at a time when Christ was still, in a manner, absent. For he contrasts shadows with revelation, and absence with manifestation. Those, therefore, who still adhere to those shadows, act like one who should judge of a man’s appearance from his shadow, while in the mean time he had himself personally before his eyes. For Christ is now manifested to us, and hence we enjoy him as being present. The body, says he, is of Christ, that is, IN Christ. For the substance of those things which the ceremonies anciently prefigured is now presented before our eyes in Christ, inasmuch as he contains in himself everything that they marked out as future. Hence, the man that calls back the ceremonies into use, either buries the manifestation of Christ, or robs Christ of his excellence, and makes him in a manner void. 387387     “Inutile et du tout vuide;” — “Useless and altogether void.” Accordingly, should any one of mortals assume to himself in this matter the office of judge, let us not submit to him, inasmuch as Christ, the only competent Judge, sets us free. For when he says, Let no man judge you, he does not address the false apostles, but prohibits the Colossians from yielding their neck to unreasonable requirements. To abstain, it is true, from swine’s flesh, is in itself harmless, but the binding to do it is pernicious, because it makes void the grace of Christ.

Should any one ask, “What view, then, is to be taken of our sacraments? Do they not also represent Christ to us as absent?” I answer, that they differ widely from the ancient ceremonies. For as painters do not in the first draught bring out a likeness in vivid colors, and (εἰκονικῶς) expressively, but in the first instance draw rude and obscure lines with charcoal, so the representation of Christ under the law was unpolished, and was, as it were, a first sketch, but in our sacraments it is seen drawn out to the life. Paul, however, had something farther in view, for he contrasts the bare aspect of the shadow with the solidity of the body, and admonishes them, that it is the part of a madman to take hold of empty shadows, when it is in his power to handle the solid substance. Farther, while our sacraments represent Christ as absent as to view and distance of place, it is in such a manner as to testify that he has been once manifested, and they now also present him to us to be enjoyed. They are not, therefore, bare shadows, but on the contrary symbols 388388     “Signes et tesmoignages;” — “Signs and evidences.” of Christ’s presence, for they contain that Yea and Amen of all the promises of God, (2 Corinthians 1:20,) which has been once manifested to us in Christ.

18. Let no one take from you the palm. 389389     “The Latin, ‘seducat,’ correctly gives the intention of καταβραβευέτω which signifies, to cause a competitor to lose his prize, by drawing him aside from the goal, (seorsim ducendo, or seducendo.)” — Penn. — Ed. He alludes to runners, or wrestlers, to whom the palm was assigned, on condition of their not giving way in the middle of the course, or after the contest had been commenced. He admonishes them, therefore, that the false apostles aimed at nothing else than to snatch away from them the palm, inasmuch as they draw them aside from the rectitude of their course. Hence it follows that they must be shunned as the most injurious pests. The passage is also carefully to be marked as intimating, that all those who draw us aside from the simplicity of Christ cheat us out of the prize of our high calling. (Philippians 3:14.)

Desirous in humility. Something must be understood; hence I have, inserted in the text id facere, (to do it.) For he points out the kind of danger which they required to guard against. All are desirous to defraud you of the palm, who, under the pretext of humility, recommend to you the worship of angels. For their object is, that you may wander out of the way, leaving the one object of aim. I read humility and worship of angels conjointly, for the one follows the other, just as at this day the Papists make use of the same pretext when philosophizing as to the worship of saints. For they reason on the ground of man’s abasement, 390390     “Car ayans proposé l’indignite de l’homme, et presché d’humilite, de là ils concluent;” — “For having set forth man’s unworthiness, and having preached of humility, they conclude from this.” that we must, therefore, seek for mediators to help us. But for this very reason has Christ humbled himself — that we might directly betake ourselves to him, however miserable sinners we may be.

I am aware that the worship of angels is by many interpreted otherwise, as meaning such as has been delivered to men by angels; for the Devil has always endeavored to set off his impostures under this title. The Pope at this day boasts, that all the trifles with which he has adulterated the pure worship of God are revelations. In like manner the Theurgians 391391     The Theurgians were the followers of Ammonius Saccas, who prescribed an austere discipline with the view of “refining,” as he pretended, “that faculty of the mind which receives the images of things, so as to render it capable of perceiving the demons, and of performing many marvellous things by their assistance.” See Mosheim’s, Ecclesiastical History, vol. 1, p. 174. — Ed. of old alleged that all the superstitions that they contrived were delivered over to them by angels, as if from hand to hand. 392392     Per manus, (from one hand to another.) The reader will find the same proverbial expression made use of by Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, pp. 150, 373, and vol. 2, p. 9. — Ed. They, accordingly, think that Paul here condemns all fanciful kinds of worship that are falsely set forth under the authority of angels. 393393     “Lesquelles on fait receuoir au poure monde sous la fausse couuerture de l’authorite des anges;” — “Which they make the world receive under the false pretext of the authority of angels.” But, in my opinion, he rather condemns the contrivance as to the worshipping of angels. It is on this account that he has so carefully applied himself to this in the very commencement of the Epistle, to bring angels under subjection, lest they should obscure the splendor of Christ. 394394     “La splendeur de la maieste de Christ;” — “The splendor of Christ’s majesty.” In fine, as he had in the first chapter prepared the way for abolishing the ceremonies, so he had also for the removal of all other hinderances which draw us away from Christ alone. 395395     “De seul vray but, qui est Christ;” — “From the only true aim, which is Christ.” In this class is the worship of angels

Superstitious persons have from the beginning worshipped angels, 396396     See Calvin’S Institutes, vol. 1, p. 200. that through means of them there might be free access to God. The Platonists infected the Christian Church also with this error. For although Augustine sharply inveighs against them in his tenth book “On the City of God,” and condemns at great length all their disputations as to the worship of angels, we see nevertheless what has happened. Should any one compare the writings of Plato with Popish theology, he will find that they have drawn wholly from Plato their prattling as to the worship of angels. The sum is this, that we must honor angels, whom Plato calls demons, χάριν τὢς εὐφήμου διαπορείας (for the sake of their auspicious intercession.) 397397     “A cause de l’heureuse intercession qu’ils font pour les hommes;” — “On account of the blessed intercession which they make for men.” He brings forward this sentiment in Epinomis, and he confirms it in Cratylus, 398398     See Calvin’S Institutes, vol. 1, p. 202. and many other passages. In what respect do the Papists differ at all from this? “But,” it will be said, “they do not deny that the Son of God is Mediator.” Neither did those with whom Paul contends; but as they imagined that God must be approached by the assistance of the angels, and that, consequently, some worship must be rendered to them, so they placed angels in the seat of Christ, and honored them with Christ’s office. Let us know, then, that Paul here condemns all kinds of worship of human contrivance, which are rendered either to angels or to the dead, as though they were mediators, rendering assistance after Christ, or along with Christ. 399399     “Comme s’ils estoyent mediateurs ou auec Christ, ou en second lieu apres Christ, pour suppleer ce qui defaut de son costé“ — “As if they were mediators either with Christ, or in the second place after Christ, to supply what is wanting on his part.” For just so far do we recede from Christ, when we transfer the smallest part of what belongs to him to any others, whether they be angels or men.

Intruding into those things which he hath not seen. The verb ἐμβατεύειν, the participle of which Paul here makes use of, has various significations. The rendering which Erasmus, after Jerome, has given to it, walking proudly, would not suit ill, were there an example of such a signification in any author of sufficient note. For we see every day with how much confidence and pride rash persons pronounce an opinion as to things unknown. Nay, even in the very subject of which Paul treats, there is a remarkable illustration. For when the Sorbonnic divines put forth their trifles 400400     “Mettent en auant leurs mensonges;” — “Bring forward their false hoods.” respecting the intercession of saints or angels, they declare, 401401     “Ils prononcent et determinent comme par arrest;” — “They declare and determine as if by decree.” as though it were from an oracle, 402402     “Perinde atque ex tripode,” (just as though it were from the tripod.) Our author manifestly alludes to the three-footed stool on which the Priestess of Apollo at Delphi sat, while giving forth oracular responses. — Ed. that the dead 403403     “Les saincts trespassez;” — “Departed saints.” know and behold our necessities, inasmuch as they see all things in the reflex light of God. 404404     “En la reuerberation de la lumiere de Dieu;” — “In the reflection of the light of God.” And yet, what is less certain? Nay more, what is more obscure and doubtful? But such, truly, is their magisterial freedom, that they fearlessly and daringly assert what is not only not known by them, but cannot be known by men.

This meaning, therefore, would be suitable, if that signification of the term were usual. It is, however, among the Greeks taken simply as meaning to walk. It also sometimes means to inquire. Should any one choose to understand it thus in this passage, Paul will, in that case, reprove a foolish curiosity in the investigation of things that are obscure, and such as are even hid from our view and transcend it. 405405     “Et surmontent toute nostre capacite;” — “And exceed all our capacity.” It appears to me, however, that I have caught Paul’s meaning, and have rendered it faithfully in this manner — intruding into those things which he hath not seen. For that is the common signification of the word ἐμβατεύειν — to enter upon an inheritance, 406406     Thus ἐμβατεύειν εἰς τὴν οὐσίαν is made use of by Demosthenes, as meaning — “to come in to the property.” — See Dem. 1086. 19. — Ed. or to take possession, or to set foot anywhere. Accordingly, Budaeus renders this passage thus: — “Setting foot upon, or entering on the possession of those things which he has not seen.” I have followed his authority, but have selected a more suitable term. For such persons in reality break through and intrude into secret things, 407407     “Es choses secretes et cachees;” — “Into things secret and hidden.” of which God would have no discovery as yet made to us. The passage ought to be carefully observed, for the purpose of reproving the rashness 408408     “La role outrecuidance;” — “The foolish presumption.” of those who inquire farther than is allowable.

Puffed up in vain by a fleshly mind. He employs the expression fleshly mind to denote the perspicuity of the human intellect, however great it may be. For he places it in contrast with that spiritual wisdom which is revealed to us from heaven in accordance with that statement —

Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee.
(Matthew 16:17.)

Whoever; therefore, depends upon his own reason, inasmuch as the acuteness of the flesh is wholly at work in him, 409409     “Pource qu’il n’est gouuerné que par la subtilite charnelle et naturelle;” — “Because he is regulated exclusively by carnal and natural acuteness.” Paul declares him to be puffed up in vain. And truly all the wisdom that men have from themselves is mere wind: hence there is nothing solid except in the word of God and the illumination of the Spirit. And observe, that those are said to be puffed up who insinuate themselves 410410     “En la grace des hommes;” — “Into the favor of men. under a show of humility. For it happens, as Augustine elegantly writes to Paulinus, by wonderful means, as to the soul of man, that it is more puffed up from a false humility than if it were openly proud.

19. Not holding the Head. He condemns in the use of one word whatever does not bear a relation to Christ. He also confirms his statement on the ground that all things flow from him, and depend upon him. Hence, should any one call us anywhere else than to Christ, though in other respects he were big with heaven and earth, he is empty and full of wind: let us, therefore, without concern, bid him farewell. Observe, however, of whom he is speaking, namely, of those who did not openly reject or deny Christ, but, not accurately understanding his office and power, by seeking out other helps and means of salvation, (as they commonly speak,) were not firmly rooted in him.

From whom the whole body by joints. He simply means this, that the Church does not stand otherwise than in the event of all things being furnished to her by Christ, the Head, and, accordingly, that her entire safety 411411     “Toute la perfection de son estre;” — “The entire perfection of her being.” consists in him. The body, it is true, has its nerves, its joints, and ligaments, but all these things derive their vigor solely from the Head, so that the whole binding of them together is from that source. What, then, must be done? The constitution of the body will be in a right state, if simply the Head, which furnishes the several members with everything that they have, is allowed, without any hinderance, to have the pre-eminence. This Paul speaks of as the increase of God, by which he means that it is not every increase that is approved by God, but only that which has a relation to the Head. For we see that the kingdom of the Pope is not merely tall and large, but swells out into a monstrous size. As, however, we do not there see what Paul here requires in the Church, what shall we say, but that it is a humpbacked body, and a confused mass that will fall to pieces of itself.

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