« ZurückWeiter »
of Moses, in order to salvation. Thus he acted," fearing them of the circumcision.” I transcribe Augustine below, who speaks exactly to the same purpose.
Some have been unwilling to think, that the apostle Peter should have exposed bimself to this censure after the council of Jerusalem; though the order of St. Paul's narration, in the chapter just cited, implies as much. But the difference is not great. Peter's guilt may be aggravated thereby. But whether before, or after that council, he was now guilty of dissimulation. For he did eat, and converse for a while with the Gentiles at Antioch ; and afterwards separated himself from them, “ fearing them of the circumcision.” And a part of Paul's argument is to this purpose; “ If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles,” that is, sometimes, as he had lately done, and probably at some other times likewise, “ and not as do the Jews; why compellest thou the Gentiles to judaize ?” Or, as Mr. Locke: • If thou, being a Jew, takest the liberty sometimes to live
after the manner of the Gentiles, not keeping to those rules which the Jews observe; why doest thou constrain the • Gentiles to conform themselves to the rites, and manner of • living of the Jews ?'
Moreover, we know, that long before the council of Jerusalem, Peter had been at the bouse of Cornelius at Cesarea, and received him, and his company, though Gentiles, into the church by baptisın. And, when he returned to Jerusalem, and there were some “ who contended with him, because he had gone to men uncircumcised, and did eat with them;" he having rehearsed the whole matter to them, they were satisfied, " and glorified God, saying ; Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life,” Acts x. and xi. 148. Of which St. Peter takes particular notice in his speech at the council, Acts xv. 7–9.
This action of Peter therefore was hypocrisy, or dissimulation, as St. Paul justly calls it, a mean compliance, contrary to judgment, through fear of the displeasure of unreasonable men. And this was the fault of all the rest who
Quapropter non ideo Petrum emendavit, quod paternas traditiones ob, servaret; quod si facere vellet, nec mendaciter niec incongrue faceret. Quamvis enim jam 'superflua, tamen solita non nocerent. Sed quoniam Gentes cogebat judaizare; quod nullo modo posset, nisi ea sic ageret, tanquam adhuc etiam post Domini adventum necessaria saluti forent; quod vehementer per apostolatum Pauli veritas dissuasit. Nec apostolus Petrus hoc ignorabat. Sed id faciebat, timens eos qui ex circumcisione erant. Itaque et ipse vere correctus est, et Paulus vera narravit. Augustin. ad Hieron. ap. Hieron. Ep. 67. T. IV. P. II. p. 605.
joined him in that behaviour. . “ And the other Jews,” says St. Paul, “ dissembled with him : insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation."
The apostle Peter, as is manifest, submitted, and acquiesced. And we may reasonably believe, that he never after showed the like unsteadiness, but was firm against the like temptation. The same may be well supposed of Barnabas, and most of the other Jews, who were now faithfully and openly reproved by St. Paul.
E. We may now be able to vindicate the conduct of the apostle Paul in complying, as he did at Jerusalem, with the advice of James, and the elders there. As related Acts xxi. 17-30.
I do not know, that we are bound to justify the conduct of any man, not even of an apostle, in all things. Nay, we cannot but acknowledge, that some of the most eminent of that order failed in some instances. We have just now been observing upon a faulty conduct of Peter. And it is likely, that in the contention between Paul and Barnabas, there was on each side a sharpness not to be justified. Acts xv. 36– 41. Paul might be too much offended with Mark, “ who departed from them from Pamphylia.” And he might be too much exasperated at Barnabas, who had dissembled with Peter, when he separated himself from those, with whom he had before lived familiarly. But Paul was reconciled to both afterwards, and makes honourable mention of them in his epistles. Paul likewise seems to have been too much moved by the indignity offered him by the bigh-priest, Ananias, Acts xxiii, 1–5.
But we cannot willingly allow of many instances of misconduct in the apostles. And we may be disposed to vindicate any men, so far as we reasonably can, especially men of eminence and extensive usefulness, whose usual conduct entitles them to esteem and reverence.
And, excepting the instances just mentioned, St. Paul's conduct, so far as we know, was free from censure. Indeed, I think, that his doctrine and his conduct, as a christian and an apostle, were always uniform, and harmonious ; and that he never practised any compliances, but such as were agreeable to his avowed principles.
However, it is fit that we should particularly consider what we find related in Acts xxi, 17-30.
This relation, as seems to me, is brought in to inform us how, and in what manner, Paul was apprehended; that we might know the occasion of that imprisonment of the apostle, which was of so long continuance, and was attended
with many incidents of importance. And as the apostle's imprisonment was a necessary part of his bistory, the occasion of it could not be omitted by a faithful and judicious historian, as St. Luke certainly is.
And there appear so many tokens of candour and good temper, wisdom and discretion, in James and the elders of the church at Jerusalem, that, as one would think, men of ingenuity should be little disposed to surmise, that any thing was now proposed to Paul, or complied with by him, which was at all dishonourable to him, or derogatory to the true principles of religion, or to the interests, either of believing Jews or Gentiles.
But it is not to be expected, that all should be contented with such general observations. We will therefore observe every paragraph of this narration.
Ver. 17, “ And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren," meaning the church in general, “ received us gladly.” The presence of Paul was acceptable to them, and in a friendly and affectionate manner they congratulated him upon his safe arrival among them.
Ver. 18, 19, “ And the day following Paul went in with us unto James : and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly, what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.” · The original phrase, kao' ev erastov, imports the exactness, and particularity of the accounts which Paul gave of his successes in the several cities and countries in wbich he had been, since he was last at Jerusalem. And here we cannot forbear to observe the frankness and openness, and also the humility of the apostle, in giving so full an account of himself; where he had been, and wbat he had done, and what tokens of divine approbation had been afforded to him,
and to his endeavours. This resembles the account which Paul and Barnabas gave to the church of Antioch, upon their return thither, after they had fulfilled the work to which they had been appointed in an especial manner, Acts xiv. 26, 27, and compare ch. xiii, 1–4. The main difference is, that there “they gathered the church together, and rehearsed all that God had done with them.” Here Paul speaks to James and the elders only of the church at Jerusalen.
Ver. 20, “ And when they heard it they glorified the Lord." A proof of the truly christian and charitable disposition of the chief men at Jerasalem. They rejoiced and were thankful to God for the progress of the gospel among the Gentile people, as preached to them by Paul.
«. 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 St. 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 practise circumcision; or that they were at liberty to quit the observances of the law. As he is understood by some
Rom. vii. 146. 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—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 beads, 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
They recommend something to be done by Paul, as likely to be more satisfying, and convincing, than any verbal declaration could be. And be 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 circuinstances.
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 bim 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 thing."
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 gave to others.
First, What St. Paul now did was agreeable to his declarations at other times; and therefore, as we may be assured, was conformable to his settled judgment and per