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was in fact the practical test of Jewish prejudices. It happened however that James sent some members of the church from Jerusalem to Antioch, who (it appears) were not free from such feelings of prejudice; and after their arrival, Peter seemed to draw back from his former liberty, and under the influence of a false fear, lest these brethren of the circumcision should be offended, he kept himself apart from the Gentile members of the church. An example thus set by so eminent a person as the apostle Peter was soon followed by other Jewish christians; and so strong was the influence, that even Barnabas himself was ensnared into some misgivings upon the subject. Paul however stood forward upon this occasion with a courage similar to that which he had shewn at Jerusalem; he boldly and openly maintained that Peter was not only wrong, but that in retracting, by his conduct, the opinion which he had formerly expressed at Jerusalem, his inconsistency was a sentence of disapproval upon himself. Paul said this, not only to Peter himself, but publicly before the church; and set forth his error by asking him why it was that, if he as a Jew had given up so many of the Jewish rights and customs and lived as a Gentile, he should expect the Gentiles to conform to any of the customs of the Jews. This powerful and timely reproof seems to have put an end to all those difficulties, with which the church had been troubled by differences of feeling upon this subject.
1. In the application of the twentieth portion, we had occasion to consider the tender manner in which the prejudices of the Jewish conscience were dealt with in the council of Jerusalem, under the immediate direction of the Holy Ghost. (See page 109.) And in the present portion we have an instance of the manner in which, according to the spirit of the decision at Jerusalem, a christian was left to the exercise of his own conscience, by the toleration of a ritual observance, from the bondage of which he was set free. Whether it were Aquila or Paul who had the vow here mentioned, according to the Mosaic dispensation, makes no difference (as has been already noticed); but from the fact that an eminent christian under apostolic
influence, made and observed a Nazarite vow, we may learn that it is not consistent with christian charity to judge severely of peculiarities of conscience, that lead some christians to impose observances upon themselves as a duty, from which our more matured sense of christian liberty may set us free. It must however be remembered that Aquila and Paul were persons who held the truth of Christ in all its integrity, and unmixed with any erroneous doctrine required as necessary to salvation; and this makes the difference between the occasional prejudices of weak christians, and the essential superstition of the false church of Rome. While Aquila felt it to be advantageous to his own mind and feeling to shave his head in Cenchrea, he would not have imposed any such act as a duty of necessity upon any other person. The superstitious observances of Romanism are however absolutely required of those who belong to that communion, which denounces all others as beyond the reach of salvation.
How do I deal with the prejudices of those christians who, I have every reason to believe, are truly converted to God by the Spirit? Do I condemn such persons as not being spiritually taught? or do I bear with them in christian tenderness?
2. The christian forbearance of Paul in the matter of Aquila's vow is rendered more striking by the contrast of this conduct with the earnest feeling under which he felt constrained to go up to Jerusalem, for the special purpose of resisting those who would have imposed such rites as those observed by Aquila upon the whole body of Gentile christians. The vow of Aquila was the result of a personal feeling, which did not seek to rule the conscience of another by his own. The object of the "false brethren unawares brought into" the church was to spy out the liberty" of conscience which gave freedom from such outward observances, in order to bring christians into bondage. While therefore Paul put no hindrance in the way of Aquila, he "gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour," to those who would, by requiring these observances, have prevented the truth of the gospel from continuing with the
Gentiles. It is upon the same principle that a christian full of charity must condescend to the infirmities which prevent an individual from profiting by the freeness of the gospel service, while he withstands to the utmost every attempt to encroach upon christian liberty, by requiring any thing as necessary to salvation or to grace, which is not plainly stated to be of necessity in God's word.
As very much of the claim of the apostate church of Rome is made to depend upon a superiority supposed to have been given to Peter in matters of faith, it is important to remark that Paul could have had no notion of such a preeminence as that which is claimed for Peter, since he "withstood him to the face;" and publicly, before the church, reproved him as one who "ought to be blamed."
How far am I disposed to be influenced by the private opinions of others in judging of the benefit or necessity of external observances? Have I ever been in danger of being led away by Romish doctrines? If so, have I tested them by the word of God?
O merciful God, who hast given thy blessed Son to deliver us from the bondage of corruption, and give us the glorious liberty of thy children, I beseech thee to make me free from such a dependance upon outward observances as may bring me into bondage; and to bestow upon me such heavenly-mindedness as may enable me ever to worship thee in spirit and in truth. Grant, gracious God, that a sense of my own infirmities may work in me, through thy grace, a compassionate tenderness for the infirmities of others, so that I may never judge uncharitably concerning those whose consciences appear to me less enlightened than my own. Guard and defend me from every approach of that spirit of carnal observance, which rests the hope of salvation upon those outward acts and compliances which have been commanded as necessary, under the darkness of Romish error. Keep me, O God, in the simplicity of the faith set forth in thy holy word; and teach me to prove all things by that word, in order that I may hold fast that which is good. I ask this for the sake of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. AMEN.
TIME. From about May A.D. 52, to early in the year 53.
May God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, give me the Holy Spirit, that I may understand this portion of His Holy Word, and profit by it.
ACTS chap. XVIII verses 23 to 28; XIX. verses 1 to 7. And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the 24 disciples. And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an 25 eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This
man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing 26 only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto 27 them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much 28 which had believed through grace: for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ [or, is the Christ].
19 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having
passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain 2 disciples, he said unto them, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" And they said unto him, "We have not so much as heard 3 whether there be any Holy Ghost." And he said unto them, "Unto what then were ye baptized ?" And they said, "Unto John's baptism." 4 Then said Paul, “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should 5 come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." When they heard this, they 6 were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake 7 with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve.
The way in which the course finally determined on at Jerusalem is mentioned, seems to shew that some general
visitation of the churches was then planned, and that in the spirit of brotherly union it was agreed for Paul and Barnabas to address themselves to the Gentiles, and the other apostles to the Jews. In accordance with this Paul had not long returned to Antioch, before he prepared for a new missionary journey; in which it was more than probable that Titus accompanied him.
There is every reason to believe, that about the same time Peter also set forth from the same place upon a visitation of the Jewish christian churches; which confirms the supposition that, besides the general acknowledgement at Jerusalem of their different portions of the great work of preaching the gospel, some particular effort was contemplated. We may infer that Peter was at Corinth, and preached the gospel there after Apollos (1 Cor. i. 12; iii. 22); and there are other reasons for concluding that he went there on his way to Rome, in the course of this missionary journey amongst the Jews of Asia, of Greece, and of Italy; which must have begun about the same time with that of Paul amongst the Gentiles.
Paul passed from Antioch through the several provinces of Asia Minor; of which those of Galatia and Phrygia, where he had before travelled (Acts xvi. 6), are particularly mentioned. He every where strengthened the members of the church, settling the minds of the Gentiles on the subject of their freedom from Jewish rites (which was the point of anxious interest amongst them), and confirming them in the faith of Christ Jesus.
After Paul had left Ephesus upon the occasion of the short visit he had paid to that city on his way to Syria from Greece, a Jew named Apollos arrived there. He was a native of Alexandria, a city where learning was very much cultivated; a man of great eloquence, and one who was thoroughly acquainted with the books of the Old Testament. He had also been taught so much of the knowledge of Jesus being the Messiah, as the disciples of John the Baptist knew; and being a man of earnest zeal, he spared no pains to communicate to others that portion of knowledge which he possessed. He spoke freely and courageously in the synagogue of the Jews, where Aquila and his wife (who had remained at Ephesus after Paul's de