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the circumcised strangers were called strangers within the covenant, and just strangers. The LXX. call them Пgornλutol, Proselytes, by way of eminence: and of them our Lord spake, when he said to the Pharisees, Matt. xxiii. 15. Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte. The sojourning stranger,went by the name of The stranger within their gates. In the Greek language they were denominated Пagano, Sojourners. In the history of the Acts of the Apostles, this sort of strangers are called Religious, or worshipping proselytes.
To know who the brethren of the Gentiles were, to whom the apostles and elders directed their decision, it will be of use to consider the duties and privileges of those Gentiles who were called sojourning strangers, and worshipping proselytes. Their duties are described by Moses as follows: They were bound, 1. To observe all the moral and judicial precepts of the law, whereby injuries were restrained, and crimes were punished, and justice in dealings was maintained, Numb. xv. 30.-2. To worship no God but the God of Israel. For idolatry was forbidden to every inhabitant of Canaan, under the pain of death, Levit. xxvi. 1. Deut. xxvii. 15. And because the partaking with the heathens in the feasts on their sacrifices, was a joining with them in their idolatry, the stranger within their gates, was to abstain from all such meats. In short, the absolute renunciation of idolatry, was the condition on which any stranger or Gentile was permitted to dwell among the Israelites.-3. To abstain from blood, whether pure or mixed, under the pain of death, Levit. xvii. 10. and from every thing that had been strangled, with an intention to keep the blood in it, ver. 13. But all the other kinds of food which were prohibited to the Israelites, they were permitted to eat; and therefore, it was unlawful for the Israelites to go into their houses, and to eat with them, Acts x. 28.-4. To abstain equally with the Israelites from all incestuous marriages, and unnatural lusts, called in the Hebrew language Zanuth, and in the Greek Пogveld, Levit. xviii. 26.-5. To eat no leavened bread during the passover weck, Exod. xii. 19. although such strangers were not allowed to cat the passover, ver. 43. unless they submitted to be circumcised, ver. 48.-6. To keep the sabbath, Exod. xx. 10. because it was instituted to preserve the memory of the creation of the world in six days, and of God's resting on the seventh. They were likewise bound to observe the fast of the 10th of the seventh month, Levit. xvi. 29. and the feast of weeks, Deut. xvi. 11.-14.
With respect to the privileges of the sojourning strangers, or worshipping proselytes, we know, that by observing the above mentioned precepts, they were entitled to a variety of civil privileges: Such as,-1. A right to live among the Israelites, and to enjoy the protection of the laws, and to be exempted from oppression, Levit. xix. 33, 34. And the Israelites were to exercise humanity and compassion towards them, in all their dealings. with them, Exod. xxii. 21. xxiii. 12. Deut. x. 18.-2. They had an equal right with the Israelites to the cities of refuge, Numb. xxxv. 15.-3. They had a right to join in such parts of the worship of the God of Israel as were in use among the patriarchs; and which were not peculiar to the Mosaic economy. For example, they might offer burnt-offerings, Levit. xvii. 8. Numb. xv. 15, 16. In later times, even those heathens who did not live in Canaan, were permitted to offer sacrifices to the God of Israel in the temple of Jerusalem; as is evident from Joseph. Antiq. xviii. 5. 3. Bell. ii. 12. 6. and for that purpose they came up to the Jewish festivals, John xii. 20. Likewise the stranger, or worshipping proselyte, had a right to pray to God in the temple, and in the synagogues through the land: For the outer court of the temple was appropriated to their use. Accordingly, at the dedication of the temple, Solomon, in his prayer, mentioned the stranger coming from a far country to worship, 1. 7 Kings viii, 41. See also Mark xi. 17. The proselytes also seem to have prayed in their own houses, at the hours of the morning and evening sacrifices, Acts x. 3, 4. at which times the Jews likewise prayed.-4. The worshipping proselyte had a right to hear the law read and explained at the great festivals, Deut. xxxi. 12. consequently they were entitled to hear the scriptures read in the synagogues, and to hear those discourses on religion, and those exhortations to piety, which were given in the syna. gogues, by the more knowing to the more ignorant. These rights the worshipping proselytes enjoyed, not in Judea only, but in all the countries where the Jews had synagogues.
Such being the duties and the privileges of the worshipping proselytes, that is, of those Gentiles who were entitled to join the Jews in certain parts of their worship, I am inclined to agree in opinion with those who think the decree of the apostles and elders, had for its object those Gentiles, who having been formerly worshipping proselytes, had embraced the gospel; and not the converts from idolatry.-My reasons for being of this opinion, are these:
1. The arguments used by Peter and James in the council, make it probable, that the converted proselytes, and not the converted idolaters, were the brethren of the Gentiles, concerning whom the apostles and elders deliberated, and whom by their decree they bound to observe the four precepts mentioned in it; while they declared them free from all the other precepts of the law of Moses. For example, when Peter said in the council, Acts xv. 7. God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth, should hear the word of the gospel and believe, he evidently spake of Cornelius and his company, none of whom were idolatrous Gentiles, at that time, but devout men who feared God, Acts x. 2.-In like manner, when James said in the council, Acts xv. 14. Simeon hath declared, how God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name, he plainly spake of Cornelius and his company.-Farther, James told them, that the calling of Cornelius and his friends by Peter, had happened in fulfilment of the words of the prophet Amos, chap. ix. 11, 12, which he thus expressed, Acts xv. 16. I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David.-17. That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord. Wherefore since the idolatrous Gentiles were not called by the name of God, the Gentiles in after times on whom God's name was to be called, and who were to seek after the Lord, were not idolatrous, but devout Gentiles, worshippers of the true God. Consequently when James added, ver. 19. My sentence is, that we trouble not them, who from among the Gentiles are turned to God, he spake not of the idolatrous, but of the devout Gentiles or proselytes, who were more perfectly turned to God by believing the gospel.
2. This appears still more clearly, from the reason which James assigned for enjoining the Gentiles, who were turned to God, to observe the four precepts mentioned in the decree, Acts xv. 21. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogue every sabbath day. Did Moses any where in his law, enjoin all the Gentiles to abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood? Moses delivered no precept whatever to the Gentiles, Rom. iii. 19. Wherefore, that Moses was preached and read in the synagogues in every city, was no reason why the converted idolaters should have been enjoined to obey the four precepts mentioned by James. But if he spake of the converted proselytes, his reasoning is conclusive. It is
as if he had said, though we free the converted proselytes from circumcision in the same manner that they were freed from it by Moses, we must write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols, &c. because these precepts being enjoined by Moses to the proselytes, if they neglect them, the reading of him in the synagogues every sabbath, making the Jews sensible that these converts have forfeited their rights as proselytes, they will banish them out of Judea.
3. That the decree of the apostles and elders related to the converted proselytes, and not to the converted idolaters, will be acknowledged, if the conversion of the idolaters was not generally known in Jerusalem, at the time the apostles and elders met to consider of the circumcision of the Gentiles. That their conversion was then a secret, appears from what Paul told the Galatians, chap. ii. 2. namely, that when he came to Jerusalem, he communicated that gospel which he preached to the Gentiles, to them who were of reputation, but privately lest perhaps he had run, or should run in vain. Wherefore though it be said, Acts xv. 3. that Paul and Barnabas declared the conversion of the Gentiles, as they passed through Phenice and Samaria in their way to Jerusalem, the secrecy observed by Paul, when he communicated to the three chief apostles the gospel which he preached to the Gentiles, obliges us to suppose, that by the conversion of the Gentiles, Luke meant the conversion of the proselyted Gentiles; a sense in which the term Gentiles, is often used by him in his history of the Acts. See chap. x. 45. xi. 1. 18. xiii. 42. See also Mark xi. 17.
4. That the decree related to the converted proselytes, and not to the converted idolaters, may be argued from this circumstance: That if it related to the whole body of the converted Gentiles, the four precepts enjoined by the decree, are necessary to all Christians at this day, and to the end of the world, as a term of salvation. Consequently all who profess the gospel, ought to abstain from eating blood, and things strangled, and meats offered to idols, notwithstanding St. Paul hath declared, 1 Tim. iv. 4. That every creature of God is good, being received with thanksgiving, and nothing is to be cast away.-Rom. xiv. 14. That no meat is unclean in itself.-1 Cor. vi. 12. That all meats are lawful, to every believer.-Rom. xiv. 17. That the kingdom of God is not meat and drink.-1 Cor. viii. 8. That the eating, or not eating, of this or that kind of meat, does not recommend any one to God.-1 Cor. x. 25. That the Corinthians might eat what
ever was sold in the shambles, and ver. 27. whatever was set before them in the houses of the heathens, asking no question about its having been offered to idols.-Lastly, That in none of the places of Paul's epistles, where he hath spoken of meats, is there the least intimation that the eating of things strangled, and of blood, and of meats offered to idols, except in the idol's temple as an act of worship, is forbidden to Christians. From all which, I conclude, that the prohibition in the decree, related to none of the brethren of the Gentiles, but the converted proselytes only.
Perhaps it will be said, that the four precepts were not enjoined in the decree as things necessary to salvation, but as necessary on account of the prejudices of the Jewish believers; and that the obligation of these precepts was only temporary. To this I answer, 1. That at the time the apostle Paul in his epistles declared all meats lawful, the prejudices of the Jewish believers were as strong as ever.— -2. That neither in the history of the Acts, nor any where else in the New Testament, is there the least hint of the abrogation of the decree. On the contrary, we are told, Acts xxi. 21. that when Paul came to Jerusalem with the collections, James and the elders told him, the Jewish believers who were zealous of the law, had been informed that he taught all the Jews, who lived among the Gentiles, to forsake Moses; and therefore advised him to quiet their minds, by observing a solemn public rite of the law, in order to convince them, that he himself walked orderly, and kept the law. This advice Paul readily complied with; having never taught that the law of Moses, as the municipal law of Judea, was to be forsaken by the Jews or by the proselytes. What he taught every where, was, that the keeping of the law of Moses, was not necessary to the salvation either of Jews or Gentiles: and, that if any man sought salvation by keeping the law, Christ would profit him nothing, Gal. v. 2. 4.
To prevent this fourth argument from being misunderstood, it is proper to add, that by restricting the decree to the converted proselytes, and by teaching that it laid no obligation on any other denomination of believers, it is not meant to insinuate that fornication, like the eating of things strangled, and of blood, was by the decree allowed to the converted idolaters. All Christians ever were, and still are bound to abstain from incestuous marriages, unnatural lusts, and every species of fornication. But their obligation to abstain from these vices, doth not arise from their having been forbidden to the Israelites and proselytes by