« EdellinenJatka »
THE TWOFOLD COVENANT.
PROPOSITION I. In the apostolic age the question seems never to have been seriously raised, whether Jewish believers have anything to observe, from which Gentile believers are free. The Gospel once for all declares, that “in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love." (Gal. v. 6.) When the apostle asks, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision ?” and answers, “ Much every way,” he adds, “ Chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. iii. 1, 2); which certainly is no small advantage, as by those oracles, which testify of Christ, they were brought nearer to “ THE TRUTH,” than those who had them not. It is the same advantage he has who is born of Christian parents, baptized and brought up in the faith (though he may yet not be saved), over one, born of Heathen parents, far from the sound of the Gospel.
1. The early Judaizing teachers did not contend for Jewish believers only, to keep the law, but said to Gentile believers, “ Except ye be circumcised, after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Acts xv. 1); and these teachers themselves did not keep the law, but desired only, “ to make a fair show in the flesh.” (Gal. vi. 12, 13.) But St. Paul says, “ Behold, I Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” (Gal. v. 3.) And would it not be most strange, that that which should render Christ 6 of no effect” to one, should be obligatory on another—such a broad line of demarcation is to be drawn, and this without one clear intimation to that effect? It appears indeed, “ that because of false brethren, unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage," “to whom,” in the case of Titus, the apostle declares, “ we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue” (Gal. ii. 4, 5); but in the case of Timothy, we are informed, - Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him ;” but it is immediately added, “ because of the Jews, which were in those quarters” (Acts xvi. 3): and are we to make that a law, which we are told, by express inspiration, was compulsory, or out of policy and not of duty ? It may indeed be asked, how St. Paul could do so? For the present it is a sufficient answer, that as the fact was known to all the believers, and to Timothy himself, that his circumcision was only an act of policy, and not of duty, it could not have the effect either of making Christ “ of no effect" to him, or of misleading other believers. But those who should consider circumcision and the like absolutely necessary, would assuredly run the risk of making shipwreck of their faith, though there be no more sin in the mere act of circumcision, than there is in “eating of things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols." (1 Cor. viii.)
II. But we expressly find, that the apostles themselves did not keep the law, nor did the primitive believers, among themselves at all desire, or profess, to do so.
1. There ought to be some meaning attached to the vision of St. Peter, in which he appears, and the rest of the Church, through him, to have been taught two things, both expressed in one word, “ What God hath cleansed, call not thou common” (Acts x. 15); and that was probably the first time when Peter both went “ in to men uncircumcised,” and did seat with them” (Acts xi. 3); for which he is indeed at first reproved; but when he relates the vision to the believers, " they held their peace, and glorified God.” (Ver. 18.)
2. Again, at Antioch, Paul says to Peter, “ Thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews” (Gal. ii. 14); and he does not reprove him for this; but, because, this being the case, he asks him, “Why compellest thou the Gentiles, to live as do the Jews ?" St. Peter is blamed for dissimulation, for fear of men, for endangering the faith of the infant Church, but not for living " after the manner of Gentiles.” And St. Paul adds, “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” (Gal. ii. 15, 16); and then goes on to show the danger of returning to the law; for we are “ dead to the law;" “ that being dead wherein we were held,” the flesh, the old man, for which alone, the law was given (1 Tim. i. 9), and which must die (like the first husband of the married woman, before she can marry again) before he, in the character of the new man, can become a partaker of, married to, the Gospel. (Rom. v. 11.) But if we observe the law, we establish again that fleshly relation which is to be, and ever remain, “ destroyed,” and become sinners again, bound to do the whole law, of which St. Peter says, “ neither our fathers, nor we were able to bear," and advises not to put the “
the neck of the disciples.” (Acts xv. 10.)
3. Again, when St. Paul comes to Jerusalem, the disciples say to him, “ They are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise children, neither to walk after the customs.” (Acts xxi. 21.) They do not ask him, whether the report be true, nor upbraid him for it; and he never offers any explanation. And that St. Paul preached but one Gospel to both Jew and Gentile is obvious, from the fact, that we have no mention in the Gospel of separate Jewish Churches; the same epistles, addressed to Gentiles, are also intended for Jews (see Rom. vii. 1, &c.), who were members of the same Churches; and though St. Paul inveighs so strongly against the Judaizing teachers amongst the Gentiles, wishing them even to be “cut off,” &c. (Gal. v. 12), he never cautions Jewish believers against applying the rule he gives to Gentiles, to themselves, which he certainly would have done, had he not intended his cautions for all believers alike. And the Epistle to the Hebrews, intended altogether for Jews (probably the only Church consisting purely or chiefly, of Jews), is as much opposed to the legal observances, as the Epistle to the Galatians.
4. In the decree of the sacred council at Jerusalem, we, indeed, read, “ The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles:" but if we should infer from this, that, therefore, the decree has no reference to Jews, then we must be consistent, and infer further, that it has no reference to all Gentiles either; for it is expressly said, “the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia," and not Gentiles generally. The fact is, an answer is given to those who ask a question; and whosoever repeats the same question, may take for himself the same answer.
That the primitive Hebrew Christians should never have asked the question which troubled 66 carnal” Corinthians (1 Cor. iii. 3), and “ foolish Galatians” (Gal. iii. 1), can be no wonder, as there is every reason to believe, that they were better instructed, as were also many other Gentiles, who knew, that 6 Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
5. It is, indeed, again stated, “Many thousands of Jews there are which believe, and they are all zealous of the law" (Acts xxi. 20): but what kind of believers were they? not those who “glorified God,” when they heard of the apostle, “ what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry" (ver. 19, 20); but violent persons who “ stirred up all the people, and laid hands” on the apostle (ver. 27, &c.); and we are expressly informed of a particular sect of this kind, “ There rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them (mind! the Gentiles), and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (Acts xv. 5); but we see in the same chapter that their pernicious advice was rejected.
III. There remains yet only the transaction related (Acts xxi. 19—26), where St. Paul is advised, and consents, to give himself the appearance, as if he kept the law: but if we infer from this, that he actually did keep it, then we must consistently go further, and infer, that he, and those by whose advice he acted, yet held the necessity of sacrifices, for it is stated (ver. 26), “ Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them, entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them :” and would not such an inference be monstrous? We may, indeed, thank the Lord, that he, providentially, did not permit the intended offerings to be