History & Literary - The Epistles

Next to this come the Epistles of St. Paul, which are fourteen in number: one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one to the Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, one to Philemon, and one to the Hebrews. They contain that part of ecclesiastical history which immediately follows after what is related in the Acts. The principal matter contained in them is the establishment or confirmation of the doctrine which Jesus Christ taught his disciples. According as the difficulties which raised disputes among the Christians, or the heresies which sprung up in the church from the first age of it, required, St. Paul in these epistles clears up and proves all matters of faith, and gives excellent rules for morality. His epistles may be considered as a commentary on, or an interpretation of, the four books of the Gospel.[1] In respect to the leading design of the apostolical epistles, Dr. Bloomfield remarks: “That though the essential doctrines and precepts of Christianity are to be found in the Gospels, yet a fuller and clearer statement of them was necessary, considering the altered state of things to that which existed during our Savior's life-time; and especially after the uprise of serious corruptions and dangerous errors, originating partly in misconception, which required to be checked by a more explicit, and yet equally authoritative revelation. Now this was done by St. Paul and the other writers of the Epistles. Consequently, though they were written for the immediate purpose of refuting heresies, arising from a mixture of Christianity with Judaism or Gentilism, of repressing corruptions, reforming abuses, and composing schisms and differences, yet, in point of fact, they became, and were avowedly, commentaries on the doctrine of Christ, as delivered in the Gospels; and though originally intended for particular Christian societies, yet are adapted to the instruction of Christians in all ages.” Principles are involved, which are our surest guides on all points relating to church liberty especially as to abstaining from things innocent in themselves, if likely to give offence to scrupulous brethren--Ed.