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made; but if we cannot infer from the transaction the necessity of sacrifices, after that Christ by his own atonement on the cross did “ cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease” (Dan. ix. 27), then can we not infer from it either, that St. Paul kept the law.
1. But the fact is, it is plain from the transaction, as it is related, that it was a mere device, to escape, and ward off, persecution, and spare the lives of men, who were ready indeed to hazard, as they have hazarded, their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts xv. 26); but would not die martyrs, either for, or against, the law, to which they were “ dead.” “ Thou seest, brother,” say they, “how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: and they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses. What is it therefore? The multitude must needs come together. . . . . Do therefore this that we say unto thee," &c. There is no intimation, that this advice was given by inspiration ; and the Lord may have suffered it, so far as it went, to teach us how vain it is to have recourse to such devices. That devices of this kind were had recourse to, we learn unequivocally, from the case of Timothy, already alluded to, &c. And I do not know why we could not suppose that St. Paul and the rest were as much “ to be blamed” in this transaction, as was St. Peter at Antioch; when the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.” (Gal. ii. 13.)
2. In Ephesus, when they proclaim, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians !”—“when Paul would have entered into the temple” (of Diana), but that “the disciples suffered him not,” the apostles are said to be, “neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess” (Acts xix. 30—37); and in Athens, when St. Paul “ saw the city wholly given to idolatry,” he says, “As I passed by and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To the unknown God. Whom, therefore, ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts xvii. 16-23): but nobody ever inferred from these facts, that Gentile Christians must acknowledge Diana, or that the apostle indeed declared no other god to the Athenians, but such as they worshipped !
3. There are two facts, indeed, we learn from the conduct of our blessed Lord himself and his disciples, on the one hand, and
that of the Jews on the other, which are worth noticing. The Jews never would persecute, ostensibly, for the belief in Christ : the Christians would never be persecuted, or die, for anything else. On one occasion they want the Lord to “divide the inheritance;" but he refused. (Luke xii. 13, 14.) Another time they want his judgment on an adulteress: he will give no judgment. (John viii. 3—9.) The charge the Jews wanted at last to substantiate against the Lord was, an intention to destroy the temple; but “he held his peace, and answered nothing;” but when he is asked, whether he be “the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Then “ Jesus said, I AM !” (Mark xiv. 58–62.) So, again, before Pilate; when the chief priests accused him of many things, he answered nothing :” but when he is asked, “ Art thou the King of the Jews?” He answers, “ Thou sayest it.” (9727 12, so thou sayest, thou saidst right, true.) (Mark xv. 2–5.) So against Stephen; “ They suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God” (Acts vi. 11-15); but nothing about believing and preaching the Son of God, “ Christ crucified:” but the holy martyr would die with but this sole testimony in his mouth, “ I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” So with the apostles; the Jewish council said, “But that it spread no farther among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name "—that is all. (Acts iv. 17.) So when St. Paul was apprehended in the temple; in the lengthened trials which ensue, every time he is called on to make his defence, he avails himself of the opportunity, to preach “Christ crucified;" they cry out against it, “Away with such a fellow from the earth!” but they will not make this the charge against him; but say, 6 We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition; .... gone about to profane the temple,” &c. But St. Paul continually alleges, that because of the hope of the resurrection, and because he was “ witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did
say should come: that Christ should suffer," &c. 6. For these causes,” he says, “the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.” But nowhere does he affirm that he kept the law. He
He says, indeed, “ Neither against the law of the Jews,
neither against the temple, ... have I offended anything at all :" but this he might say, with perfect truth, though not in the sense in which a Jew would use these words, for in that sense, belief in Christ would be the greatest offence.
IV. But we may even go further, and say, so far from inferring from anything related in the Acts of the Apostles, that the Jews are not included in the famous decree, so much of that decree as forbids the eating of “blood,” and of “things strangled,” to Gentiles, is itself only an innocent compromise,* in the distress for the time being; but that it has no actual, perpetual force; as we may learn from the whole tenour of the Gospel, and the practice of the Church catholic. The words of Christ stand sure and steadfast, “ Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” (Matt. xv. 11.) 66 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake.” (1 Cor. X. 25; Rom. xiv. 14.)
Certain Church historians indeed speak as if a difference had actually been established and perpetuated, in observances, between Hebrew and Gentile believers; but they appear only to assume the matter, without investigating or proving it; no such inference can be drawn from the Fathers of the first three centuries; on the contrary, St. Ignatius speaks contemptuously both of the Jewish Sabbath and of circumcision, which he would not have done, if he knew them to be the duty and practice of any sort of sound Christians. St. Justin Martyr, in his “Dialogue with Trypho," the Jew, mentions, that there were some who held that the Mosaic law might be kept up; but he himself will not admit it. That there may have been some individuals or small parties, both of Jews and Gentiles who clung to the letter of the law, might be presumed; (even without knowing the few obscure, and by no means imitable facts, on record ;)+ no heresy was yet at once so rooted out, as to leave no remnant behind for a time; and we know that there have been persons, “desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they afirm” (1 Tim. i. 7); and they perverted many: but what the effects of their doctrines were we see in the Galatians; they once “ did run well,” and had received “the Spirit,” and, no doubt, manifested forth his blessed fruits; but what became of them,
* Mark the words ! “ It seemeth good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things ;” and two of these things required no new decree ; and the necessity of the other two may then well have been only according to Rom. xiv. ; 1 Cor. viii. 13.
+ See the history of the “ Nazarenes” and “ Ebionites,” Moshiem, cent. ii. chap. V., or any other ecclesiastical history. These two heretical sects are probably of a very early origin, perhaps referred to, Rev. ii. 9. Those who are
not acquainted with history may here be informed that the term “ Nazarenes," although originally perhaps (see Acts xxiv. 5) applied by the Jews to all Christians, was subsequently confined to a particular sect, which, like the “ Ebionites," made use of a spurious Gospel, rejected the writings of St. Paul, &c. But with the history of primitive Jewish-Christians before us in the Gospel, it would be unsound criticism to suppose that all Jewish Christians joined these sects. And if Church historians had borne in mind how much the prevalence of Christianity affected both the religious feelings and the national reputation of the Jews, they would not have spoken with such unmitigated contempt and cruel severity of their occasional attempts to stop its progress,—which attempts, at the same time, were by far less malevolent, than those of the Heathen, who were not so affected by it,—nor even than those of the larger heretical Christian sects. And it may even be, if the primitive Gentile Christians had entertained such friendly and brotherly feelings towards their Jewish brethren, as these did entertain towards them (see Acts visi, 46, 12, 27, &c.; xi. 18; xxi. 19, 20), the Gospel might have continued to advance amongst the Jews. And this unfriendly feeling, it probably was, which called forth the remonstrances of the apostle, Rom. ix., X., xi. And to this day do Gentile Christians accuse even the holy apostles themselves of “ Jewish prejudices,” because, that after such instances, as related Matt. x. 5, 6; xv. 21—26, Peter required an extra revelation to confirm the general instruction in Matt. xxviii, 19, 20, not yet knowing the purpose of the Lord, that a Church of Jews should first be organized (according to Rom. xi. 29), before Gentiles be admitted. Some even apply Tit. i. 10-12, to the ancient Jewish believers, as if the “Prophet of their own,” were Isaiah, or Jeremiah, &c., though every body knows that it was Epimenides, a Cretian Heathen, and “circumcision” was not confined to the Jews. (See Jer. ix. 25, 26; where “ circumcised with the uncircumcised,” ought, however, to be, with the Sept. and Vulg., “ circumcised in the foreskin" [sya 5], which was, however, not counted circumcision. (See Rom. ii. 28, 29.] And for this reason it probably was that the Jews invented their 179ong to be distinguished from the circumcision of Heathen nations.) It is remarkable that in the Old Testament the opprobrium of being “ uncircumcised," is (besides Gen. xxxiv. 14, &c.), applied solely to the Philistines (perhaps the descendants of the Hivites); and Ezekiel, in denouncing against Egypt, tells Pharaoh, that, as a punishment, he should " lie in the midst of the uncircumcised.” (Ezek. xxxi. 18; xxxii. 19—32.) s6 The Cretians are alway liars,” &c.
when they departed “from the simplicity that is in Christ ?" “ Foolish Galatians,"_“ bewitched,"—to “bite and devour one another” (Gal. iii. 1, 2, v. 15); and the same would be the result amongst Hebrew Christians. “ Be not carried about," says the Apostle, to Jews, “with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” (Heb. xiii. 9.) “Before faith came we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Gal. iii. 23–25.) Or applies this to Gentiles only,—were they “kept under the law, shut up," and was the law, which they had not at all,—their “schoolmaster” only, and not that of the Jews? Nay, rather of the Jews only, and of Gentile believers only, in so far as they became fellow-heirs with, and ingraffed amongst, the Jews. But the Apostle Paul had also a vow on himself ! (Acts xviii. 18.) So may Christians, like Jacob of old (Gen. xxviii. 20), before the laws concerning vows were given, (Numb. xxx.,) now vow a vow, though in Europe, where this is not the fashion, they would not shave their heads at it. But enough for the present.
From what has been said, it appears plain
1. That there is no difference, as to obligation, between Jewish and Gentile Christians.
2. That in the apostolic age the cry which Judaizing teachers raised about the law, was not confined to Jews, but extended also to Gentiles.
3. That the apostles and primitive Hebrew Christians did in reality not keep the law, though to avoid persecution on account of it, they would allow Jews to think that they kept the law,— and the Jews seemed to be aware that they did not. (See Acts xxiii. 1, 2.)
4. We learn at the same time that this policy failed, generally speaking, though in particular cases it might have saved some lives, of which we have however no account. As to the spread of the Gospel, to this it does not appear to have contributed anything at all; nor can we believe that it ever will. Policy, the keeping of the law, &c., cannot subdue and regenerate
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