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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 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 had believed in Jesus Christ, and heartily embraced his 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 of Moses, in order to salvation. Thus he acted, " fearing them of the circumcision." I transcribe Augustin below, who speaks exactly to the same purpose.
Some have been unwilling to think, that the apostle Peter should have exposed himself 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 house of Cornelius at Cesarea, and received him, and his company, though Gentiles, into the church by baptism. 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. 1-8. 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 joined him in that behaviour. "And the other Jews," says St. "dissembled with him: insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.”
• Τι τα εθνη αναγκαζεις ισδαΐζειν ;
The word is explained at large in vol. III. ch. xii. Quapropter non ideo Petrum emendavit, quod paternas traditiones observaret; quod si facere vellet, nec mendaciter nec incongrue faceret. Quamvis enim jam superflua, tamen solita non nocerent. Sed quoniam Gentes cogebat judaïzare; quod nullo modo posset, nisi ea sic ageret, tamquam 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.
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.
8. 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 high-priest, Ananias, Acts xxiii. 1—5.
But we cannot willingly allow of many instances of misconduct in 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 history, 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, nat' ev exaçov, imports the exactness, and particularity of the accounts which Paul gave of his successes in the several cities and countries in which 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 what 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 Jerusalem.
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 Jerusalem. 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 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 practice circumcision: or that they were at liberty to quit the observances of the law. As he is understood by some to say, Rom. vii. 1-6. 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, 23, 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 heads, 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 law.
Paul, as likely to be more satisfying, and con-
They recommend something to be done by vincing, than any verbal declaration could be. verbal declaration could be. not think it unlawful for a Jew to observe their 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 circumstances.
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 him 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 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 persuasion, and not an artful, or hypocritical compliance, proceeding from fear, or calculated to subserve some private and selfish views.
He was a Jew. The rites prescribed by the law of Moses were in their own nature indifferent. He practised them now, as such, not as things necessary to his own, or any other men's salvation. This his conduct therefore is agreeable to his declarations at other times. Thus it follows after the words before quoted from the beginning of the fifth chapter of the epistle to the Galatians; where he so earnestly dissuades them from taking upon them the yoke of the law, as necessary to justification and salvation. "For, [says he ver. 5, 6,] we, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness through faith. For in Christ Jesus," or according to the tenour of the Christian dispensation, "neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision but faith, which worketh by love." And afterwards, in the same epistle, ch. vi. 15, 16. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be upon them, and upon the whole Israel of God." So he writes in an epistle, where he strongly asserts his own integrity, and earnestly exhorts those, to whom he is writing, "to stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free." He might therefore very reasonably practise indifferent things, as lawful, when not insisted upon, as necessary to salvation.
Farther, the compliance, related in the place, which we are considering, was also agreeable to his avowed conduct upon other occasions.
So 1 Cor. ix. 20-22. "And unto the Jews became I as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews: to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law to them that are without law, as without law,that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak. I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."
Here, in the history under consideration, we have an instance of that compliance and condescension, which in the just cited text from the first to the Corinthians, he openly declares to have been his frequent practice: and which he esteemed to be his duty, in order to gain and save men of every rank, and denomination. And what was now done by him, was done by the advice and recommendation of men of great candour, and great wisdom and understanding : friends to Paul who knew him well, favourable to the Gentiles and guardians of the church at Jerusalem.
"This do, [say they,] that all may know, that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee are nothing:" that is, that all may be satisfied that "thou dost not teach the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses: [nor say,] that it is unlawful for them to circumcise their children, and to walk after the customs: forasmuch as thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law." The meaning is not that he did always and constantly keep the law in all its appointments; but that sometimes, or often, upon many occasions, he did not scruple so doing: and that he did not judge it sinful, or contrary to the doctrine of Christ, so to do: for, when Paul said to Peter, Gal. ii. 14. "If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews:" the meaning, certainly, is not that Peter always, and
a Factus sum Judæis tamquam Judæus, ut Judæos lucrifacerem,'-compassione misericordiæ, non simulatione fallacia Nam utique Judæus erat. Christianus autem factus, non Judæorum sacramenta reliquerat, quæ convenienter ille populus et legitimo tempore quo oportebat, acceperat. Sed ideo susceperat ea celebranda, quum jam Christi esset discipulus, ut doceret non esse perniciosa his qui vellent, sicut a parentibus per legem acceperant, custodire, etiam quum in Christo credidissent; non tamen in eis jam constituerent spem salutis, quoniam per Dominum Jesum salus ipsa, quæ ipsis sacramentis significabatur, advenerat. Ideoque Gentibus, quod insuetos a fide revocarent onere gravi, et non ne
in all things, lived after the manner of the Gentiles, but only sometimes. Take the words in that sense, which it seems most reasonable to do: and Paul's argument with the apostle Peter is sufficiently cogent.
And that Paul did sometimes" become to the Jews as a Jew," he says himself in the place just cited from the first epistle to the Corinthians. And some instances of his so acting are particularly recorded by St. Luke, beside that of which we are speaking. So, as before observed, he took, and circumcised Timothy, the son of a Jewess, because of the Jews in those quarters." For his father being a Greek by nation and religion, all supposed that Timothy was as yet uncircumcised. Acts xvi. 1—3.
And afterwards, ch. xviii. 18-22. at Corinth. "Paul tarried there yet a good while; and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, having shorn his head in Cenchrea. For he had a vow. And he came to Ephesus When they desired him to tarry longer time there, he consented not; but bid them farewel, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return unto you again, if God will."
This is an action much resembling that which was proposed to him by James, and the elders at Jerusalem. And so far as we are able to discern, it was performed by him, of his own accord, freely and voluntarily, without any compulsion, and without the advice and recommendation of any. And, I think, it must be reckoned full proof, that he did, upon some occasions, "walk orderly and keep the law."
Once more, finally, the complying conduct of Paul at Jerusalem was agreeable to the directions which he gave to others upon the like occasions.
We all know, that in his epistles he oftentimes earnestly exhorts the Gentile Christians, the strong among them in particular, not always to assert to the utmost their christian liberty: but to forbear it, when there was danger, lest any weaker brethren should be so offended as to fall. "I know, [says he in his epistle to the Romans, ch. xiv. 14-20.] and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, then walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God." See likewise what follows at the beginning of the next chapter.
Now therefore, at Jerusalem, Paul only put in practice the rules and directions which_he had given unto others. He was a Jew, and he might perform such acts, as were in themselves indifferent, without sin. If he was not under the law of Moses, he was under the law of charity, by which all Christians were bound. And, as in respect to that obligation, he had exhorted Gentile believers, not unseasonably to assert their liberty, he was in like manner obliged to condescend himself. Here was such a case. If ever there could be such a case, it must be here, at Jerusalem. And, if he had not complied, as he did, he must have run the hazard of offending a great number of the Jewish believers, his brethren, so as to cause them to fall, and fill their minds with prejudices against the dispensation of the gospel. According to the rules, just seen by us, as given to the Romans; he was obliged to act now as he did. If he had not, he would not have "followed the things that make for peace, and wherewith one may edify another." If he never practised condescension, compliance, yielding to the infirmities of the weak; how could he propose himself as an example to others; as he does, after a long exhortation at the end of the tenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians? not now to refer to other texts: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they might be saved."
• Of Paul's vow at Cenchrea there is a particular account in Vol. I. p. 114, &c.