Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ And said unto him: Thou seest, brother, how many thousand Jews there are, which believe. And they are all zealous of the law :” thinking it still obligatory upon themselves, and their posterity, who are of the Jewish nation. However, they afterwards add, at ver. 25, agreeably to the determination of the council : “ As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written, and concluded, that they observe no such thing :” that is, that they need not, are under no obligation to observe the law, or its customs : but may be justified without observing them. Consequently, neither did the believing Jews expect to be justified by the law. And their zeal for it consisted only in a desire to keep it, as obligatory upon themselves, to whom it was delivered as a nation and people. They must generally (for we need not be unwilling to allow of exceptions for some individuals) have assented to what Peter says in the council

, chap. xv. 11. “ We believe, that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we [Jews) shall be saved, even as they," the Gentiles. Which is also agreeable to what St. Paul says to St. Peter himself, and as a thing well known, and allowed by such as believed in Christ, Galatians ii. 15, 16. “ We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing, that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law."

“ They are all zealous of the law,” in the sense just mentioned. But, possibly, even that was more than was approved of by James, and the elders, or the most knowing and understanding men in the church at Jerusalem.

Ver. 21. “ And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles, to forsake the law, saying That they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs."

“ That they ought not,” that is, that it was unlawful for them so to do. Which was a calumny upon the apostle. He never said so. He may have said, that they needed not to practice circumcision : or that they were at liberty to quit the observances of the law. As he is understood by some to say, Rom. vii. 1-6. But, he never said that it was unlawful, or sinful for the Jews to circumcise their children, and keep the law. And though this had been reported among the Jews at Jerusalem, it is evident that James, and the elders did not give credit to it. By their manner of speaking they show, that they were persuaded, and knew it to be a falsehood.

Ver. 22, 23, 24.“ What is it therefore? The multitude must needs come together. For they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this, that we say unto thee. We have four men, which have a vow on them. Them take, and purify thyself with them, that they may shave their heads, and all may know that these things, whereof they are informed concerning thee, are nothing : but that thou thyself walkest orderly, (or regularly,] and keepest the law.'

They recommend something to be done by Paul, as likely to be more satisfying, and convincing, than verbal declaration could be. And he complies. Which showed, that he did not think it unlawful for a Jew to observe their customs. And that is all.

However, this compliance of the apostle must have been very agreeable to them, by whom the proposal was made. And though by the violence of the people of the city, and of others assembled there upon occasion of the feast, he was prevented from accomplishing the days of the purification,” and performing all the prescribed rites; there can be no question made, but that his design was well taken by the whole church at Jerusalem. He may have received many civilities from them, whilst he was kept in custody in Judea. And he was better qualified to write to them, at the end of his imprisonment, that excellent epistle, called to the Hebrews : and they, and other Jewish believers elsewhere, may have been better disposed to receive from him that word of exhortation, which was so well suited to their circumstances.

Though I have now gone over that history, perhaps it will not be disagreeable to some, if I add a word or two more by way of remarks upon it.

1.) St. Paul's complying with the proposal made to him by James, and the elders, did not at all weaken the freedom of the Gentiles from the law of Moses. Nor could it be understood by any so to do. This is manifest from the clear and open declaration here made by them, that

as touching the Gentiles, which believe, it had been concluded, that they observe no such things."

any

gave others.

2.) What St. Paul did now, was not contrary, but agreeable to his own declarations at other times, and to his conduct upon other occasions, and to the directions, which he

First, What St. Paul now did was agreeable to his declarations at other times, and there. fore, as we may be assured, was conformable to his settled judgment and persuasion, and not an artful, or hypocritical compliance, proceeding from fear, or calculated to subserve some private and selfish views.

He was a Jew. The rites prescribed by the law of Moses were in their own nature indifferent. He a practised them now, as such, not as things necessary to his own, or any other men's salvation. This his conduct therefore is agreeable to his declarations at other times. Thus it follows after the words before quoted from the beginning of the fifth chapter of the epistle to the Galatians ; where he so earnestly dissuades them from taking upon them the yoke of the law, as necessary to justification and salvation. “ For, (says he ver. 5,6,] we, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness through faith. For in Christ Jesus," or according to the tenour of the Christian dispensation, “ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision : but faith, which worketh by love.” And afterwards, in the same epistle, ch. vi. 15, 16. “ For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be upon them, and upon the whole Israel of God.” So he writes in an epistle, where he strongly asserts his own integrity, and earnestly exhorts those, to whom he is writing, “ to stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free.” He might therefore very reasonably practise indifferent things, as lawful, when not insisted upon, as necessary to salvation,

Farther, the compliance, related in the place, which we are considering, was also agreeable to his avowed conduct upon other occasions.

So 1 Cor. ix. 20-22. “ And unto the Jews became I as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews : to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law: to them that are without law, as without law,—that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak. I ain made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.'

Here, in the history under consideration, we have an instance of that compliance and condescension, which in the just cited text from the first to the Corinthians, he openly declares to have been his frequent practice: and which he esteemed to be his duty, in order to gain and save men of every rank, and denomination. And what was now done by him, was done by the advice and recommendation of men of great candour, and great wisdom and understanding: friends to Paul who knew him well, favourable to the Gentiles and guardians of the church at Jerusalem.

“ This do, [say they,] that all may know, that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee are nothing:” that is, that all may be satisfied that “thou dost not teach the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses : [nor say,] that it is unlawful for them to circumcise their children, and to walk after the customs : forasmuch as thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.” The meaning is not that he did always and constantly keep the law in all its appointments; but that sometimes, or often, upon many occasions, he did not scruple so doing: and that he did not judge it sinful, or contrary to the doctrine of Christ, so to do: for, when Paul said to Peter, Gal. ii. 14. “ If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews :" the meaning, certainly, is not that Peter always, and in all things, lived after the manner of the Gentiles, but only sometimes. Take the words in that sense, which it seems most reasonable to do : and Paul's argument with the apostle Peter is sufficiently cogent.

a 'Factus sum Judæis tamquam Judæus, ut Judæos lu- cessario, nullo modo imponenda esse censebat — Aug ad crifacerem,' - compassione misericordiæ, non simulatione Hieron. ap. Hieron. ep. 67. T. IV. p. 605. And see Refallaciæ Nam uiique Judæus erat. Christianus autem marques de Beausobre sur le N.T.T. I. p. 414. at the end factus, non Judæorum sacramenta reliquerat, quæ convenien- of the second ep, to the Corinthians. ter ille populus et legitimo tenipore quo oportebat, acceperat. 6 Ipsum vero Paulum non ad hoc id egisse, quod vel TiŞed ideo susceperat ea celebranda, quum jam Christi esset niotheum circumcidit, vel Cenchreis votum persolvit vel Jediscipulus, ut doceret non esse perniciosa his qui vellent, sicut rosolymis a Jacobo admonitus, cum eis qui voverant, legitima a parentibus per legem acceperant, custodire, etiam quum in illa celebranda suscepit, ut putari videretur per ea sacramenta Christo credidissent ; non tamen in eis jam constituerent etiam Christianam salutem dari : sed ne illa quæ prioribus, ut spem salutis, quoniam per Dominum Jesum salus ipsa, quæ congruebant temporibus, in unibris rerum futurarum Deus ipsis sacramentis significabatur, advenerat. Ideoque Genti- fieri jusserat, tanquam idololatriam Gentilium damnare credebus, quod insuetos a fide revocarent onere gravi, et non ne- retur, &c. Aug. ad Hieron. ep. 70. ib. p. 631, 032.

And that Paul did sometimes “ become to the Jews as a Jew,” he says himself in the place just cited from the first epistle to the Corinthians. And some instances of his so acting are particularly recorded by St. Luke, beside that of which we are speaking. So, as before observed, “ he took, and circumcised Timothy, the son of a Jewess, because of the Jews in those quarters.". For his father being a Greek by nation and religion, all supposed that Timothy was as yet uncircumcised. Acts xvi. 1-3.

And afterwards, ch. xviii. 18—22. at Corinth. “ Paul tarried there yet a good while; and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, having shorn his head in Cenchrea. For he had a vow. And he came to Ephesus - When they desired him to tarry longer time there, he consented not; but bid them farewel, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem : but I will return unto you again, if God will.”.

This is an action much resembling that which was proposed to him by James, and the elders at Jerusalem. And so far as we are able to discern, it was performed by him, of his own accord, freely and voluntarily, without any compulsion, and without the advice and recommendation of any. And, I think, it must be reckoned full proof, that he did, upon some occasions, “ walk orderly and keep the law.”

Once more, finally, the complying conduct of Paul at Jerusalem was agreeable to the directions which he gave to others upon the like occasions.

We all know, that in his epistles he oftentimes earnestly exhorts the Gentile Christians, the strong among them in particular, not always to assert to the utmost their christian liberty : but to forbear it, when there was danger, lest any weaker brethren should be so offended as to fall. “ I know, [says he in his epistle to the Romans, ch. xiv. 14–20.] and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, then walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. *All thin indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith ? have it to thyself before God.” See likewise what follows at the beginning of the next chapter.

Now therefore, at Jerusalem, Paul only put in practice the rules and directions which he had given unto others. He was a Jew, and he might perform such acts, as were in themselves indifferent, without sin. If he was not under the law of Moses, he was under the law of charity, by which all Christians were bound. And, as in respect to that obligation, he had exhorted Gentile believers, not unseasonably to assert their liberty, he was in like manner obliged to condescend himself. Here was such a case. If ever there could be such a case, it must be here, at Jerusalem. And, if he had not complied, as he did, he must have run the hazard of of fending a great number of the Jewish believers, his brethren, so as to cause them to fall, and fill their minds with prejudices against the dispensation of the gospel. According to the rules, just seen by us, as given to the Romans; he was obliged to act now as he did. If he had not, he would not have “ followed the things that make for peace, and wherewith one may edify another.". If he never practised condescension, compliance, yielding to the infirmities of the weak; how could he propose himself as an example to others; as he does, after a long exhortation at the end of the tenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians ? not now to refer to other texts: “ Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they might be saved.”

• Of Paul's vow at Cenchrea there is a particular account in Vol. I. p. 114, &c.

I hope, I have now vindicated St. Paul. But there still remains one observation more, which may be not improperly mentioned here.

9. From the explication, which has been given of the apostolic decree, and from all thai has been now largely observed upon it, we may be able to discern the reason, why the epistle of the council of Jerusalem is never particularly mentioned by Paul, nor James, nor Peter, nor John, nor Jude, in their epistles.

There was no necessity of so doing, partly, because it may be supposed,'that all Christians in general were already acquainted with it : and partly, because the regulations, therein contained, are not, strictly speaking, any part of the christian religion, or everlasting gospel, which is to be in force to the end of time: but only prudential rules and directions, suited to the circumstances of the christian church at that time. However, I think, there is a reference to it in Rev. ii. 24.

Another reason, why Paul, and other apostles do not expressly mention that epistle, or the decree in it, though they recommend like rules, or deliver cautions very suitable to it (as St. Paul certainly does, and very often) may be, that, by virtue of their apostolic commission, they were each one of them qualified to deliver prudential rules and directions.

Which observation may be of use for enabling us to understand some expressions of St. Paul, in the seventh chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, and perhaps elsewhere. " To the rest speak I, not the Lord,” ver. 12, and, “I have no commandment of the Lord. Yet I give my judgment, [or opinion, yuwunive] as one that has obtained mercy to be faithful,” ver. 25; and, “after my judgment,” or according to my opinion, xuTĀ TUV. Ele yu yuwunu.

" And I think also, that I have the spirit of God,” ver. 40. That is, he knew, and thought it could not be reasonably called in question by any Christians, that, beside authority to declare the gospel of Christ, he was also endowed with wisdom and power, to deliver prudential counsels, suited to the state of things. And, when he delivers them, he uses such expressions, as show, they were not properly a part of the christian doctrine, but only directions and counsels, adapted to the exigence of things at that time. “I suppose therefore, that this is good for the present distress,” ver. 26. necessity, or exigence, whilst the profession of the faith is exposed to so many difficulties. “ And this I speak for your profit : not that I might cast a snare upon you," ver. 35. that is,

• I speak this with a sincere view to your good : not intending, however, any thing above your ability to perform : of which you must be the best judges, after seriously weighing the • case.'

CHAP. VIII.

Page 201. Diss. L. · Whether St. Paul did really blame St. Peter for his conduct, mentioned Gal. ii ?'

That St. Peter was culpable, is allowed by our author. Wherein his fault consisted, was shown' formerly, and again in these Remarks.

Page 202. The only difficulty seems to be,' says our learned author, with regard to Pe• ter's motive for this conduct, which possibly might be this. He had been charged before at • Jerusalem, on account of his eating with uncircumcised Gentiles, and vindicated himself to • the satisfaction of the assembly. Acts xi. But he had done that in a more private manner, « which rendered him less obnoxious to the zealous Jews.'

There is no reason to say, that was done in a more private manner. It was very public, as appears from the history in the tenth and eleventh chapters of the Acts of the apostles. Nothing could be done more publicly among Christians at that time. When Peter, by divine direction, went from Joppa to Cornelius at Cesarea, he took with him six brethren, who were witnesses to all that was done at the house of Cornelius. There Peter tarried several days. Before he returned to Jerusalem, “ the apostles and brethren that were in Judea,” by whom must be meant the whole church at Jerusalem, or a large part of it, “ heard, that the Gentiles also had received.

[blocks in formation]

the word. And when Peter came to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.' But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order to them.” His discourse there follows at length. And in the council St. Peter speaks of this transaction openly, and as a thing well known to all. Acts xv. 7. “ And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them : Men and brethren, ye know, how that God a good while ago made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.”

There is no reason therefore, to insinuate, that this was done in a more private manner. But learned men, when engaged in an argument, are too apt to advance some things to serve a present purpose. Which should be carefully avoided by sincere inquirers after truth.

Page 203. Afterwards, when Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem about the dispute * raised at Antioch concerning the Gentile converts, and Paul took Titus with him ; he would * not consent that Titus should be circumcised, though some pretended Jewish converts, who • probably crept into the assembly, when that matter was debated, insisted upon it. These seem • to have been different persons from the believing pharisees, who are mentioned as being at • that assembly. But, as they are said to have believed, he would not, one would think, have • here called them “ false brethren,” though they joined likewise in insisting upon the circum• cision of Titus.'

By “ the false brethren, unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty, which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage,” Gal. ii. 4. Paul means no others, than those who began the disturbance at Antioch, of whom it is said, Acts xv. 1“ Certain men came down from Judea, who taught the brethren, and said : Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved :" who at ver. 5, are said to be “ pharisees that believed.”

Nor can I see, why St. Paul should make any scruple to call them “ false brethren,” who are so censured by the apostles and elders, and the whole council at Jerusalem, who say of them : Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain men, which went out from us, have troubled you with words, subverting your souls—to whom we gave no such commandment.”

Nor does it appear, that there was any dispute about Titus, in particular, either at Antioch, or at Jerusalem. But Paul, to satisfy the Galatians of his inviolable steadiness upon all occasions, inserts this fact in his narration : that he took Titus with him to Jerusalem, and brought him thence again, uncircumcised.

P. 203, 204. · But after this, when Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, Peter coming • thither, for some time did eat with the Gentile converts. This conduct of Peter could not but • make much noise, and give offence to the converted Jews, who were yet zealous for their law. • Which being heard at Jerusalem, might occasion much uneasiness there among that sort of

persons. And this might occasion James to send some persons to Antioch, to acquaint Peter * with it: who, to avoid the ill consequences, which he apprehended would follow from thence, • might think proper to alter his conduct, and also to induce Barnabas, and other Jews, to do • the like.'

In my opinion, all this is abundantly too conjectural. Many things are here said without ground. Why should Peter's eating with Gentiles at Antioch presently make much noise? It was doing no more than might be reasonably expected of him, especially after the decisions of the council at Jerusalem, as Dr. Wallows this to have been, p. 202. Nor is there any reason to believe, that tidings of Peter's eating with Gentiles at Antioch had been brought to Jerusalem. Peter, as it seems, stayed now but a short time only in that city. And the Jews mentioned, Gal. ii. 12. may have come to Antioch upon business, or purely to gratify their curiosity. There is no reason at all to bring in James, and make him either a cause, or an occasion of the alteration of Peter's behaviour. “ Before that certain came from James.” The

a r". And that, because of false brethren," who came • down to Antioch, Acts xv. 1. “ unawares brought in,” in• sinuating themselves into the church at Antioch.

" Who • came in privily to spy out our liberty," from the observance of the Jewish law, which we have in Christ Jesus, that

they might bring us into bondage" to it: they pleading for the necessity of circumcising the Gentiles, and commanding them to keep the law, Acts xv. 5. Whitby upon Gal. ii, 4. See also Doddridge upon the same place.

« PreviousContinue »