« AnteriorContinuar »
thither again several years afterwards. “ As touching the Gentiles which believe,” say they, “ we have written, and concluded, that they observe no such thing :" which shows, that this was still the judgment of James himself, and of the elders, and of the church at Jerusalem. Some exceptions there might be: but the determinations of the council were what the church at Jerusalem generally agreed to, and heartily approved of. They did not exact of the Gentile believers an entire conformity to the law of Moses, as necessary to salvation.
Paul readily received these regulations, as prudent counsels, or matters of expedience at that time. And the other apostles intended no more by them.
Paul and Barnabas, Judas and Silas, are the persons who by name are charged with the epistle by the council. They carry it to Antioch, and deliver it to the church there. And Judas and Silas, moreover, recommend the observation of the things therein ordained: and doubtless with the approbation of Paul, who was then at Antioch, and continued there some time, When he left Antioch, he chose Silas to accompany him. And St. Luke bas assured us,
that “ as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily," ch. xvi. 4, 5. And, several years after this, as before observed, when Paul came again to Jerusalem, and the elders there, with James, remind him of the several articles of the epistle, they mention them as things with which Paul was well satisfied. Nor does he show any dislike. His accepting of these decisions is also manifest from his epistles above quoted.
Once more, for showing the general consent with which these determinations were made, it ought to be observed, that all the apostles of Christ, or most of them, were present in the council of Jerusalem. For, as formerly showno at large, there is good reason to think, that none of the twelve apostles left Judea to go and teach either Jews or Gentiles in other countries, until after the council. It is likely therefore, that they were all at the council where the controversy was fully determined; which was a great advantage. By that means the manner of receiving Gentiles into the church of God was fixed and settled beyond dispute, and beyond opposition. Or, if any opposition should be made afterwards, it could not be successful, nor very troublesome. And we may be assured, that all the apos
• See Vol, v. ch. vi.
tles, and their disciples, would be harmonious, and preach the same doctrine to Jews and Gentiles, wheresoever they went.
5. We may bence perceive the wisdom with which the apostles of Christ were furnished, for behaving in cases of difficulty that came before them; so as might be for the peace of the church, the edification of believers of every rank and capacity, and the preservation of the purity of the christian doctrine.
I think the regulations of the council at Jerusalem, as just represented and explained, are a proof of this. The first and principal thing to be regarded by the apostles of Christ was the preservation of the purity of the doctrine which they had received from him. The Gentiles were by no means to be brought into subjection to the law of Moses, as necessary to salvation. It behoved the apostles of Christ to assert their freedom from an obligation to observe the peculiarities of the Mosaic dispensation. This is strongly done by Peter, and the others, in the debates at the council. And the rights of the Gentiles are well secured in the epistle written by them.
Nevertheless some regard was due to the Jewish believers—And the Gentiles were to be directed to avoid such things as might be offensive to their brethren of the circumcision ; and likewise to decline such things as might prove dangerous temptations to themselves, and be a means of ensnaring them, and leading them into apostasy.
In a word, one exercise of wise and good men in this world arises from different sentiments, especially in things of religion. We can evidently discern, that there were some differences of opinion, and some controversies among
the followers of Jesus Christ, even in the apostolic age. Some thought, that the observation of the law of Moses was necessary for men's salvation, and were for imposing it, as such, upon the believing Gentiles.
Others of the Jewish believers thought, that the law was obligatory upon themselves and their posterity, as a distinct nation and people, to whom that law had been delivered ; whilst they hoped to be justified in the sight of God, and to be eternally saved, by faith in Jesus Christ, and sincere obedience to his precepts. These did not expect the Gentiles should come under the law of Moses, as necessary to salvation. Nevertheless they still had scruples about meats and drinks, and about conversing with them, who observed no such distinctions. Others there were, as it seems, among the Jews, who thought that the obligation of the law of
Moses, as to its peculiarities, had ceased. And they judged no wholesome meat to be unclean; which was the opinion of the Gentile believers in general.
Hence there arose an obligation to a different conduct. And these last mentioned, whom we reckon the more knowing, and strong, were to practise prudence, condescension, forbearance, compliance. They were to do what lay in their power, as they had opportunity, to enlarge the minds
In the mean time they were “ to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please themselves," Rom. xv. l.
But others, who were rigid, and would impose indifferent things, as necessary to salvation, were to be blamed, and reproved, as they are by this council. And every one knows, how they were withstood by the apostle Paul. And all ho are attentive in reading the New Testament, may perceive, that the epistle of the council at Jerusalem exactly corresponds with the doctrine of Paul in his epistles, and that the temper of both is one and the same.
Some regard was due to the Jewish nation in general, even to the unbelievers among them, whilst they behaved with decency and civility. For a long time they had been favoured with many religious privileges above other men. As is acknowledged in Rom. ix. 4,5. And it is the apostle's direction, 1 Cor. x. 32, “ Give no offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God;" by the two former plainly meaning such as were unbelievers. And it is said, Acts xvi. 2, 3, that when Paul determined to have Timothy with him, wbo was “ the son of a woman that was a Jewess, and believed; he took him, and circumcised him, because of the Jews who were in those quarters; for they all knew, that his father was a Greek.” I think, those Jews were unbelievers. Paul would not offend them; and he might hope to gain some of them. See 1 Cor. ix. 19, 20.
But they were not the men, who occasioned the council of Jerusalem, or the decisions of it. The men, who came to Antioch, and taught the brethren there, “ Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved," were pharisees who believed, Acts xv. 1. They were men, who went out from the church at Jerusalem, ver. 24. These are now reproved. But whilst the freedom of the Gentiles is asserted from a subjection to the law of Moses and its appointments, some things are recommended to them as expedient for the time. Which might facilitate converse and communion with all the Jewish believers, who were tract
able, and would be also useful for preserving themselves from some temptations to apostasy in those times.
6. We may hence perceive the reason, why those of the Jewish believers, who were for imposing the law upon the Gentiles, are so severely reproved, and condemned by St. Paul.
They were for imposing the law, and its observances, upon the Gentiles, as necessary to salvation. Which should be always attended by us, when we read St. Paul's epistles, and observe the tartness of his expressions. So says St. Luke very clearly. Ch. xvi. 1,“ Certain men which came down from Judea, taught the brethren: Except ye be cir, cumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”. See also ver. 5. And are not these men tartly reproved by the apostles and elders in their epistle? ver. 24, “ Forasmuch as we have heard,” say they, “ that certain, which went out from us, have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law."
And justly does St. Paul say of Peter, and the rest, who separated themselves from the Gentile christians at Antioch, that " they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel,” Gal. ii. 14. `And as justly does he exhort, and argue, Gal. v. 1–4, “ Stand fast therefore in the liberty, wherewith Christ has made us free. And be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Cbrist shall profit you nothing For I testify again to every man that is circumcised,” esteeming it necessary to salvation," he is a debtor to the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law. Ye are fallen from grace.” Which now must be all clear. It can need po farther explication.
7. We may now discern, wherein lay the fault of the apostle Peter, and others, who complied too far with the rigid part of the Jewish believers.
The only place of scripture, where this is mentioned, is Gal. ii. 11–16, “ But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles. But when they were come, he withdrew, and separated bimself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews likewise dissembled with him : insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw, that they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all: If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews; why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 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. For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
The fault of Peter lay in this, that his conduct implied the necessity of the Gentiles being circumcised, and keeping the ordinances of the Mosaic law, in order to their being saved, " Why P compellest thou the Gentiles to judaize ?" that is, to become Jews, and live according to the law of Moses, and that, in order to salvation. This was the meaning of his behaviour. The Gentiles at Antioch bad believed in Jesus Christ, and heartily embraced bis doctrine. Nevertheless Peter now behaved toward them, as if they were unworthy of converse, or communion with himself, or other Jewish believers. They were not yet of the church and people of God; but must, if they would be saved, be circumcised, and obey the law of Moses, as the Jewish people did.
This is what Paul blames Peter for. It is apparent from St. Paul's whole argument in this place. It follows next after the words just cited : “ 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.” Which plainly shows, that St. Paul is speaking of imposing the law, as necessary to acceptance with God; or, in other words, that he is speaking of justification, and salvation. And St. Peter says the same thing at the council, in almost the same words. Acts xv. 10, 11, “ Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers, nor we, were able to bear For we believe, that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved, even as they."
We see therefore, that. Peter was now guilty of dissimulation. He acted contrary to his own judgment. And did what implied the necessity of the Gentiles receiving the law Ρ Τι τα εθνη αναγκαζεις ιαδαϊζειν ;
4 The word is explained at large in Vol. vi. ch. xii.