Page images
PDF
EPUB

distinction or denomination, but a personal character. Ecumenius speaks to the like purpose. He says, “These o persons were so called because they were sincere and fervent in their religion.' It is used in the same sense by Josephus, when he says, that Alexandra, widow of Alexander Jannæus, was a religious woman, or religious toward God.

Afterwards Ecumenius seems to give another interpretation, saying; Or otherwise he ? calls the proselytes worshippers properly. He addresseth himself to them before, saying, “ Men of Israel, and ye that fear God.” [Comp. ver. 16. and 26.] ' calling the proselytes “men

that feared God.” Thus he gives to the former the honour of their birth, calling them “ men • of Israel.” And though he could not say that of the other, he makes them equal for their • religion.' The place is somewhat obscure. But I think, he intends to say, that St Luke, by calling those men worshippers, makes them equal to the Israelites, in point of religion, because the word worshipper does properly denote one who is proselyted to the Jewish religion : whereas fearing God might be ascribed to other men, who were not so united to the Jewish people.

There is one place in Josephus, where this word is used, which appears to be very remarkable. It is in his account of the plundering the temple at Jerusalem, by Crassus, in the year before Christ 54. • Nor ought it to be thought strange, says Josephus, that there should be such • riches in our temple, when all the Jews and worshippers of God from every part of the world, • from Europe and Asia, had been sending presents thither for several ages.

By worshippers in this place, I think, must be meant proselytes. And worshippers here is a sort of technical word, like that of proselytes, denoting men that had joined themselves to the Jewish people, and were, by religion, though not by birth, Jews. I do not deny that some men who were not proselytes, but downright heathens and idolaters, did sometimes of their own accord, and freely, send presents to the Jewish temple. But here Josephus says, that all worshippers, as well as Jews, sent presents to the temple. We are thereby led to understand proselytes, who were as much obliged to pay respect to the temple as Jews by descent.

This word is found several times in the Acts, and, as seems to me, in its proper sense. I shall consider all those texts.

Acts xiii. 50. “But the Jews stirred up the devout [rather the worshipping) and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution againt Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.”

These might be called, not improperly, proselytes : though never initiated by any particular rite. Later Jews may say, that' women were initiated by baptism. But there is no ground for it in the law of Moses. I think that women were first so honoured and distinguished under the gospel dispensation. Therefore St. Paul says, that “ There is neither male nor female ;- for ye are all one in Christ Jesus,” Gal. iii. 28. And we are assured, that when the people of Samaria “ believed Philip, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women.” Acts viii. 12. And Lydia and her household were baptized, Acts xvi. 15.

I pay no regard to what the later Jewish Rabbins say of the method of initiating proselytes, by circumcision, baptism, and sacrifice : who have made void not only the moral, (with which our Lord often chargeth them, as Matt. xv. 149. Mark vii. 1–13. and other places,) but also the ritual part of the law of God. Indeed, they had corrupted the Mosaic ritual, by numberless additions, before the coming of our Saviour. As appears from the text of St. Mark just referred to. Nor have they ceased to do the like since.

I think, as beföre said, that women were first baptized under the evangelical dispensation. I am also of opinion, that our blessed Lord's forerunner first made use of baptism as an initiating

ο Σεβομενες ενταύθα τε και προϊων τες περι το οικειον σεζας - παντων των κατα την οικεμενην Ιεδαίων, και σεξομθερμες και διαπυρες και ζηλωτας των αλλων μαλλον καλει. . ενων τον Θεόν. . Ant. 1. 14. vii. 2. cum. in Act Ap. p. 1 15.

• Οι δε Ιεδαιοι παροτρυναν τας σεζομενας γυναικας, και Ebouery Tepi to delov. De B. J. 1. 1. v. 2. And see τας ευσχημονας, και τες πρωτ8ς της πόλεως. vol. I.

i The Rabbinical accounts of initiating proselytes may be η σεζόμενος ιδιως προσηλυτος καλει. Και δημηγο- seen in Reland. Antiq. Ηebr. Ρ. ΙΙ. cap. 7. p. 246. and Moses ρων εμπροσθεν, και λεγων, 'Ανδρες Ισραηλιται, και οι εν υμιν Maimon. Tract. de Proselytis. cap. 1. p. 13, 114, ex. ed. Η. φος εμενοι τον Θεον, φοβάμενος τον Θεον τας προσελυτες εκαλεί, Prid. Oxon. 1679. τ8ς μεν από τα γενές σεμνυνων, και Ισραηλιτας εξονομαζων, της δε, ότι μη τοτο ειχεν ειπείν, απο θρησκειας ισαζων. Ιb. p. 16.

с

[ocr errors]

ordinance : and therefore he was called the Baptist. O Burtosus Matt. iii. 1. and in many other places. Nor am I singular in this opinion.

Josephus, ` who makes so long a story about circumcising Izates, does not say, that Helena, his mother, was initiated by an external rite: though sie likewiee embraced the Jewish religion.

The worshipping women, above-mentioned, whom Grotius calls proselytes, were unquestionably reckoned to be of the Jewish religion. Josephus, speaking of affairs in the year of Christ sixty-six, says, The men of Damascus formed a design to make away with all the Jews of that • place. But they concealed their design from their wives, who, excepting a few only, were all • devoted to the Jewish religion.'

Acts xvi. 13, 14. At Philippi in Macedonia. “ And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made for, where an oratory was appointed to be.] and we sat down, and spake unto the women, which resorted thither. And a certain woman, named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us.” σεβομενη τον Θεον. .

Acts xvii. 1—4. “And they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them. And three sabbath days (successively] reasoned with them out of the scriptures. And some of them,'' that is, of the Jews, who were so by birth, or Israelites, “ believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas : and of the devout (worshipping] Greeks, a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.” TON TE GEBOJ. Evwv enamuwv roku πληθος.

These worshipping Greeks must have been proselytes : for they frequented the synagogue, and were admitted there without scruple. They were among the ordinary stated attendants on the worship there.

It is true, when at Antioch, in Pisidia, it is said, Acts xii. 42, 44. “ And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought, that these words might be preached unto them the next sabbath. And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city to hear the word of God." But this was an extraordinary case.

And under s almost the whole city” must be comprehended many heathens and idolaters of the place. And from this very context it appears, that none besides Jews and proselytes frequented the synagogue. For it is here said, “ When the Jews were gone out the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them.” Therefore they were not present at St. Paul's first discourse. It was owing to some general rumour only, that their curiosity had been raised.

St. Luke, in the place just cited from Acts xvii. at the beginning, does not mention St. Paul's preaching at Thessalonica to any besides Jews and worshipping Greeks. Nevertheless the apostle, in his first epistle to the Thessalonians, ch. i. 9. writes to them as “having turned to God from idols, to serve the living God.” St. Paul therefore, whilst at Thessalonica, either between the sabbaths above-mentioned or afterwards, must have preached to and converted a considerable number of Gentiles. And there seems good reason to think, that the apostle and his fellow-labourers stayed longer at Thessalonica than three weeks. For whilst he was there, the Philippians “sent once and again to his necessity,” Philip. iv. 16. He also reminds the Thessalonians, that whilst he was with them, he and his companions “laboured night and day, that they might not be chargeable to any of them.”

Acts xvii. 17. At Athens. “Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met him.” Διελεγετο μεν εν εν τη CUvaywyn Tois lode1015, XUL TOIS RECOMEVOÇ. It should have been rendered, with the Jews, and the - worshippers, agreeably to the Latin Vulgate, here, and elsewhere, et colentibus, not religiosis, as in Beza.

These were proselytes: for they frequented the synagogue equally with the Jews : and Paul applied himself equally to them. This, as we learned from the passage of Josephus before quoted, * Antiq. 1. 20. cap. ii.

See Dr. Benson's History of the first planting the Christian • Tas ce bouevas yuvaixas, ' mulieres religiosas.'7 Proselytas. Religion, B. 3. ch. v. sect. 5. p. 99. Nam erant et proselyti in eâ urbe, ut audivimus supra, ver. 43. e Disputabat igitur in synagoga cum Judæis, et colentibus

et in foro, per omnes dies, ad eos qui aderant. Vers. Lat. • Απασας πλην ολιγων υπηγμενας τη Ιεδαϊκη θρησκεια. De B.J. I. 2. XX. 2. And see vol. 1. p. 06.

Grot. in loc.

was the proper distinction and denomination of those who by proselytism joined themselves to the people of Israel. They were not of the stock of Israel : but they worshipped with them, in synagogues and at the temple. They paid tribute to the temple, as other Jews did. They might offer sacrifices there, and they kepi the passover. In other words, they were in full communion with the people of Israel in religious ordinances. They partook with them in all their religious privileges, and joined with them in all their solemnities. They were therefore very properly called worshippers.

Acts xviii. 1–7. “ After these things Paul departed from Athens and came to Corinth. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in spirit, and testified to the Jews, that Jesus was the Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed; he shook his raiment, and said unto them: Your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean. Henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.

" Who worshipped God,” GEBOUE's Tov @cov. Justus was a proselyte. He was one of those Greeks whom Paul persuaded, together with the Jews, in the synagogue. And Justus was convinced by what Paul said, and became a Christian. That Paul, whilst in the synagogue, preached to Jews only, that is to men circumcised, Jews by birth or by religion, is apparent from the history, ver. 4, 5. “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in spirit,” and testified to the Jews “that Jesus was the Christ :" • That is, upon the coming of

those two his fellow-labourers, he was encouraged: and also animated with the greatest ardour : • and once more, and finally, “testified to the Jews,” that Jesus was the expected and promised • Messialı." “ But when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed; he shook his raiment, and said unto them : Your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean. Henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”

Let this suffice for explaining the word gebouevos, worshipper.

I now intend to take notice of some other Greek words, which in our translation are rendered devout.

Acts x. 1, 2. “ There was a certain man in Cesarea, called Cornelius-a devout man, and one that feared God, with all his house." EUTE@ns. It should be rendered pious.

Ver. 7. “ And when the angel, which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier, of them that waited upon him continually." SPATIWTYV EUCERY.

Here again is the same Greek word, which should be translated pious. It denotes not any religious distinction or denomination : but is a personal character. Cornelius is never called a proselyte, nor gefouevos, a worshipper. And that he and his family and all the company at his house, were Gentiles, and uncircumcised, is manifest, as from other places, so particularly from ch. xi. 13.

I shall observe likewise upon another Greek word rendered by us devout, in some places.

Luke ii. 25. “ And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon. And the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Και ο ανθρωπος ουτος dinados, nel sundbys. I should be disposed to render it thus : • And he was a righteous and understanding man. Simeon was righteous, or religious, and also knowing and discreet.

Acts ii. 5. “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” avdpes eurubels. The same word again, and to be understood in the like manner : denoting, that there were then at Jerusalem Jews from all parts, who were the most eminent men of the nation, and most distinguished for their zeal, their understanding, and their outward circumstances and condition.

Ch. viii. 2. “ And devout men carried Stephen to his burial.” EuvenouiCEU DE TON ETE O:2004 avège; {UA.<BEIG. I should like to translate the word in this place discreet.” “And discreet men carried forth Stephen, and made great lamentation for him.” Such men were the best fitted for the kind office here spoken of. Wisdom, or discretion, and circumspection, appear to be included in the. verb, as used in Acts xxiii. 10. and Heb. xi. 7. And observe likewise the noun substantive in

Heb. v. 7.

IV. THE OCCASION AND DESIGN OF THE DECREE. The other question concerning the apostolic decree, at the head of this Dissertation, is, whether it was perpetual.

I now therefore intend to consider the occasion of it, and then to explain it. Wherein will be contained a sufficient answer to the question proposed above.

I begin with laying down these several following propositions.

1. This epistle, or decree, was designed for the use and direction of all the Gentile converts to Christianity at that time. This was shown before, and needs no enlargement here.

2. The several regulations of the council at Jerusalem relate to things in their own nature indifferent.

1.) The point in controversy relates to things in their own nature indifferent. Therefore it is likely, that the determination of the question should be of the like kind. The rise of the - controversy, and all the debates upon the occasion, lead us to think, that the regulations of the council should concern things indifferent, ritual, and ceremonial. There never was a question, whether believers from among the Gentiles should obey the moral precepts of righteousness and true holiness. But the dispute was, whether they should be circumcised, and observe the ritual ordinances of the law of Moses, as the Jews did.

They who have any doubt about this, should do well to attend to the history of this council, and particularly the occasion of it, at the beginning of the fifteenth chapter of the book of the Acts, and throughout. However, I shall transcribe below the sentiments of divers learned and judicious commentators, who speak to che like purpose. To whom, possibly, some others may be added in the process of this argument.

2.) The apostles and elders call what they recommend in their epistle, a burden. Eepor. Ver. 28. “ It seemed good unto the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden, than these necessary things.

Which word may lead us to think, they intend not such things as are in themselves reasonable, and always obligatory.

· Burden,' say Beausobre and Lenfant, in their note upon this place, is the same with “yoke," * mentioned ver. 10. These expressions show, that the discourse is about ceremonial observances, • which are considered as a yoke and burden, in opposition to moral precepts, which ought not • to be reckoned burdensome: since the reason and consciences of men teach them, that they are obligatory in themselves.'

Rev. ii. 24, 25.-"I will put upon you no other burden : Gagoe. “But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come.” “Where, I think, our exalted Lord refers to this decree of the apostles. And he graciously declares, that this burden should not always lie upon his people ; but should be taken off from them, when his religion had made greater progress in the world.

Our Lord inviting men to receive his instructions, as the rule of life, in order to their obtaining everlasting salvation, says, Matt. xi. 30. “My yoke is easy, and my burden [To Ocgtlov hr] is light.” But he therein intends to say, as I apprehend, that his requirements are not burdensome at all, and that observing them will afford great pleasure and delight.

So St. John says, 1 Jolin v. 3. · And his commandments are not grievous.” They are not grievous, or burdensome, because they are in themselves reasonable, and approve themselves to the judgment and understanding of all men.

As the things recommended in this epistle, are so distinctly spoken of, as a burden; it is likely they were not then understood to be in themselves reasonable.

Ž.) Another character of these regulations of the Council is, that they are necessary things. By which I think ought to be understood such things as are expedient.

Undoubtedly, moral virtues are of all things the most necessary, according to the general use of the word among us. Both reason and revelation assure us of their absolute necessity. To promote real holiness is the great design of all true religion. Nor is any institution so well suited to make men truly and eminently virtuous and holy, as the Christian. Nevertheless in the language of the New Testament, moral virtues are not usually called necessary things, nor holiness, said to be of necessity. I am not aware of more than one text, in which any moral virtue is recommended under that character. It is Rom. xiii. 5. “ Wherefore * ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” In other places the meaning of the word is expedient, fit, proper, convenient, in certain seasons and circumstances. Says St. Paul to the Corinthians : « Therefore 6 I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go be. fore unto you, to make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before,” 2 Cor. ix. 8.

Non censet, monendos pios ex Gentibus de iis, quæ satis didicerant : Deum colendum unum verum, non falsos; ei omnem exhibendam reverentiam ; abstinendum a cædibus, a rapinis, injuriis, adulteriis, et incestis jure Gentium cognitis : jus cuique reddendum. Sed de iis monet, quæ disputationem recipere videbantur, et quæ Judæos poterant offendere, et impedire, quo minus pii ex Gentibus cum piis Hebræis in unam ecclesiam coalescerent. Grote in Act. xv. 20. sub in.

Hæc ille [Tertullianus) a scopo aberrans, cum nula hic sit nisi rerum suapte naturâ mediarum mentio. Bez. annot. in Act. xv. 20.

b Necessaria autem hic intellige ad pacem Ecclesiæ, quæ tum erat, per tolerantiam infirmorum ; non autem necessaria per se, et simpliciter, exceptâ scortatione. Piscator in Act. XY, 28,

To the Philippians : " Yet · I supposed it necessary to send unto you Epaphroditus, my brother," ch. ii. 25. And, “ nevertheless to abide in the flesh - is more needful for you," ch. i. 24. In the epistle to the Hebrews : “ It was therefore necessary that the patterns of the things in the heavens should be purified with these," ch. ix. 23. St. Luke in the Acts : « Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It' was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken unto you,” Acts xiii. 46. In all which places, as seems to me, this expression denotes what is expedient, highly proper and convenient, considering the circumstances of things and persons. And so the phrase is understood here by some 8 very judicious commentators.

I would however observe, that the original phrase in this place is somewhat particular. And, instead of these necessary things, some' rather understand such things as it was needful for the apostles to impose. But this, as I apprehend, makes little difference : whether these things were such as the circumstances of things obliged the Council to require, or the Gentile Christians 10 observe.

4.) None of the Christian converts needed to be informed, that they ought to keep themselves from the practice of such things as are immoral, and in their own nature evil, and unreasonable.

Take things sacrificed to idols for idolatry, blood for homicide, and fornication for uncleanness, or any sins contrary to moral purity: and there was not a Gentile convert to the Christian religion, whether converted by Paul, or Barnabas, or any other Jewish preacher of the Gospel, but knew his duty in all those respects. Men may need to be exhorted to the practice of what they know to be their duty, and to be dissuaded from things which they know to be evil. But men do not need to be informed of what they know already.

5.) If the apostles, and elders, and brethren, present in this council, had intended to forbid in their epistle things contrary to morality; they would have added divers other things, beside those here mentioned.

They would, in that case, expressly have forbidden lying, perjury, wrath, evil-speaking, theft, robbery, adultery, and all uncleanness. I might add, that it it had been the design of this assembly to remind the converts, to whom they write, of their duties and obligations as Christians; they would have exhorted them particularly to persevere in the faith of Christ

, and would have recommended to them the duty of bearing the cross, or of patience and fortitude under afflictions and persecutions for his name's sake.

6.) All the several particulars of the decree must be understood to be of the like kind.

They ought to be all moral, or all indifferent. At least, it appears to me to have a good deal of probability, that the writers of the epistle would not put together things of a different nature, without denoting their difference, or making a distinction between them. That all these things are not moral, or reasonable in themselves, and in their own nature obligatory upon all men, in all times, is apparent. Therefore none are so.

[ocr errors]

• Διο αναγκη. κ. λ.

» Πλην των επαναγκες τετων. Αναγκαιον Bν ήγησάμην. .

'Non imponeremus hæc, nisi necesse esset ea imponere. * Αναγκαιον δε ηγησαμην

Non dicunt: imponimus hæc necessaria, sed imponimus hæc, αναγκαιοτερον δι υμας. .

quæ necesse est, scilicet, imponere. Comment. Practicus. Αναγκη αν τα μεν υποδειγματα των εν τοις ερανοις, τατους Caspar Streson in Act. Ap. p. 568. Amst, 1658. καθαριζεσθαι.

The Latin Vulgate is hæc necessaria.' Beza translates, Υμιν ην αναγκαιον πρωτον λαληθηναι τον λογον τα Θεο. * præter vecessaria ista.' But in his annotations says, Id est,

8 • Necessaires.'] Il s'agit ici d'une nécessité relative aux ad quæ nos adigit præsens necessitas, nempe quod aliter non circonstances des temps, des personnes, et des lieux, pour possint Judæi lucrifieri, non quod ista per se ad salutem redégager les gentils de toute participation à l'idolatrie, et pour quirerentur. Bez.in xv. 48. warquer aux juifs autant d'égards qu'il se pouvoit, sans blesser la liberté Chrétienne. Lenf. et Beaus. sur Actes xv. 28.

VOL, V.

ST

« PreviousContinue »