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title under Heaven given to man, whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free, whereby he may be saved.→ Peter having delivered his opinion thus strongly, and no reply made, Barnabas and Paul declared what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them."-This narrative confirmed St. Peter's argument, so that all opposition was silenced; which James, the brother of our Lord, perceiving, thought it a fit time to give final sentence; for he was probably bishop or head of the church at Jerusalem, and of course would preside in this assembly. Having observed upon the declaration of Simon, that God did visit the Gentiles," he cites in proof of it, nearly the words of the prophet Amos, c. 9. v. 12. "After this I will return, and will build up the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down, and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up, that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doth all these things."-It is remarkable, that the Jews were so fully satisfied of this prophecy belonging to the Messiah, that they called him by a name bearing the import of its first words. And had they retained any thing of the spirit of true reli gion, they could not have missed the application of it to Christ. But it was not a church, but a state, upon which they were intent: not spiritual but tem
poral blessings on which their hearts were fixed;
not heavenly but earthly glories of which they were ambitious. Both the political and religious state of the Jews had, before the coming of our Saviour, been long falling into ruin. To restore the former, it was necessary, by the express terms of their covenant with God, that they should repent and turn from the evil of their ways. Yet so entirely corrupt had they become, that they seem to have lost sight of that indispensable condition, and to expect a worldly Saviour and King, notwithstanding their universal and abominable wickedness. The dispensation given to them abounded with proofs, that the end and design of it was to make them virtuous and obedient; whereas they considered it as framed to make them great and powerful. Hence it was, that they cherished every idea which exalted their Messiah, but would not understand a syllable of his humiliation: and hence it was, that they looked upon redemption as nothing more than deliverance from the power of man, not
from the power of Satan to the living God."Had Christ appeared in worldly pomp and splendour they had soon acknowledged him as marked out by this prophecy, to build up the tabernacle or house of David. Yet how much more glorious was the edifice raised by him, "a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens!" Into this mansion the Jews had the eminent distinction of being first invited; and many came in with
thankfulness and joy. But the nation at large, still looking for an earthly tabernacle, and fatally disclaiming their high privilege, a door was opened to the Gentiles; or as the prophet Amos has it, to the remnant of Edom, who, being enemies of Israel, might stand for the most exceptionable among the nations, and so include the whole.
The judgment pronounced by St. James, and afterwards adopted by the whole church at Jerusalem, was, that the Gentile converts should not be troubled with an observance of the rite of circumcision, and other ceremonies of the Mosaic law; but that they should abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication; and from things strangled, and from blood.”—Among these precepts, the two first are of a moral, and the two last of a ceremonial kind. The former, as it should seem, were in this particular manner enforced above others of the same description of duties, because the vices alluded to were those to which converted Gentiles were most exposed by an intercourse with unbelievers, or in which they were apt to give themselves a latitude and indulgence, as being generally thought lawful. The latter were perhaps required; that in matters indifferent as little offence as possible might be given to their Jewish brethren, who had a strong antipathy to the eating of blood, whether separated from the animal or not; or it may possibly be to guard against the effects of such diet up
on the character and disposition of men, rendering them more fierce and savage: or, lastly, to draw the Gentiles away from the worship of demons, who were thought to delight in blood, and their votaries to be assimilated to them in proportion to their use of it. As the Apostle did not think fit to assign reasons for these several prohibitions, we need not be over curious about them: any of those assigned above are sufficient to shew them to have been reasonable and proper for that time, if not for all future periods of the church.
After the sentence was pronounced, it immediately follows, in the 21st verse, for Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” The connection here I take to be this; the instructions now given are intended for the Gentile converts only, being quite unnecessary to those of the Jews; for they every sabbath day hear the law read in their synagogues, and must therefore be perfectly well acquainted with these precepts, which are all there enjoined.
The Apostles, and elders, and brethren, that is, the whole council, having now agreed upon their answer to the question proposed, sent a decree in writing (as stated above) by the hands of Barnabas and Paul, together with chosen men of their own company, to Antioch, namely Judas, surnamed
Barnabas, and Silas."-It was addressed to the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia : beeause the two latter churches were subject to Antioch, where the question had arisen: but was manifestly designed equally for all other Gentile churches. "Which, when they (to whom the letters were addressed) had read, they rejoiced for the consolation," for the happy tidings, that they were exempt from a grievous yoke about to be imposed upon them, and were restored to their Christian liberty. Thus was this important point decided, with a wisdom and moderation, a candour and liberality, well becoming this eminent council, and highly advantageous to the Christian church.*
We now come to a subject, which, however at first sight it may create concern to believers, and has by the scorner sometimes been made matter of reproach, we shall find, upon a closer view, to be free from all manner of just objection; I mean the contention between Barnabas and Paul, which "was so sharp that they departed asunder:"-For what can be charged against them, but that they were men, of human infirmities and passions;
* It was probably not long after their return to Antioch, that St. Paul found it necessary to reprove St. Peter; who, having for some time conversed familiarly with the Gentile converts, upon the arrival of certain Judaizing Christians thought proper to dissemble, through fear of these, and to separate himself from his former companions. The circumstance is not related in the Acts of the Apostles, but is insisted upon at large, in St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, ch. ii. v. 1 1.