« ElőzőTovább »
animals, that have not been fairly killed, so as that the blood might be all drained out of them wbilst warm.
Upon this our learned author says, p. 175, .This is omit• ted by many of the ancient fathers, and therefore by some • esteemed a gloss.' But that is said rather too bastily, and without ground; as may appear by what was saide formerly. This article is as genuine and authentic as the rest. It is in all Greek manuscripts in general, and is quoted by the most ancient writers of the church. But near the end of the fourth century, and afterwards, the Latin christians paid little regard to those regulations. And for that reason the apostolic decree is not always quoted exactly by writers in that language.
This regulation, like the preceding, must be understood to have been inserted, that the Gentile converts might not offend the Jewish believers. We, now, are at liberty to act as we see fit. We are under no obligation to forbear things strangled upon a religious account.
4. And from fornication.
I suppose it to have been already shown by general, but unanswerable reasons, that this epistle is not concerned about things of a moral nature: consequently, what we now generally mean by this word is not bere intended : that being an inmorality, and in itself unreasonable. But the true meaning is not certain : nor ought it to be thought strange, that it is not.
Beza's interpretation may be seen in his Annotations upon Acts xv. 20. He is clear, that things of a moral nature have no part in these regulations, but only such things as are in themselves indifferent, recommended for peace' sake, and out of regard to weak brethren. Therefore this word is not here to be understood in its common acceptation. He applies it to some things mentioned by St. Paul in the eighth and tenth chapters of the first epistle to the Corinthians, particularly, “sitting at meat in an idol's temple," I Cor. viji. 9.
But I apprehend, that what St. Paul there speaks of must rather relate to the first prohibition in this epistle, “ The pollution of idols, or things offered to idols.”
To me it appears probable, that hereby are forbidden some alliances with heathens; which, though not absolutely unlawful, had better be avoided by christians, lest they should prove dangerous temptations to apostasy. So the apostle writes, Heb. xii. 16, - Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold
• See Vol. iii. p. 23-30.
his birthright.” I suppose, that both these characters are given of Esau. He was not a lewd profligate, or fornicator, in our sense of the word; but he married Canaanitish women, “ which were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah,” Gen. xxvi. 34, 35. Which Jacob carefully avoided, ch. xxviii. 6–9. Theodoret mentions the interpretation which I bave given of that text. I am indebted to Beausobre5 for the reference.
I am confirmed in this interpretation by observing the earnestness with which St. Paul dissuades christians from marrying with heathens, though such marriages were not unlawful. 1 Cor. vii. 39, “ The wife is bound by the law, as long as her husband liveth ; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord.” 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15, “ Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion bas light with darkness? And what concord bath Christ with Belial ? Or what part bath he that believeth with an infidel?”
The Jews were forbidden by the law of Moses to marry with idolaters. Deut. vii. 3, 4. And see Malachi ij. 11. Ezra obliged many, who had married such women, to put them away, though they had children by them, ch. ix. and x. Nehemiah severely reproves such persons, and gives a reason against such marriages, which would be of some weight in the early times of the gospel, ch. xii. 23—27. Remarkable are the words of Ex. xxxiv. 15, 16, “ Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods; and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; and thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and they make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.”
St. Paul has wisely determined the point; that christians should not marry with idolaters, as before seen. Nor should a person converted to christianity dissolve by separation a marriage, contracted wbilst he was an idolater, and before bis conversion to christianity. But, if the unbelieving relative went off, then the christian would be at liberty. So I understand what he says, 1 Cor. vii. 12—16, “ If any brother has a wife, that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which has an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him- -But if the unbelieving depart, let hiin depart. A brother, or a sister, is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.” That is, if the unbelieving relative depart, the marriage must be dissolved. But the believing relative is not to be the first mover in dissolving the contract of marriage. Such things were done under the law. But a more friendly and peaceable behaviour is required of us. For as he goes on,
* Μη τις πορνος, η βεβηλος, ώς Ησαυ.] Πορνειαν το Ησαυ την γαστριμαργιαν εκαλεσε-
-Ουκ αν δε τις αμαρτοι, πορνειαν αυτο καλεσας και τον παρονομον γαμον αλλο υλες γαρ γυναικας ηγαγετο. Τheod. in Ηeb. xii. 16. Τ. III. p. 456.
8 See him on Heb. xii. 16.
“ What knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband ? Or, how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" that is, by bringing off in time such relatives, respectively, from idolatry to christianity.
The danger of idolatry might still be great; but not so great under the gospel, as under the law. And the gospel of Christ was less burdensome, and more reasonable and inviting, than the law of Moses.
Marriages with idolaters were not to be dissolved; but yet should not be contracted. Though such a marriage would not be unlawful, yet it was a point of prudence, and a matter of expedience, to avoid it. This is what I understand by fornication in this epistle. And as there are not now, and have not been for a good while in this part of the world, any heathen idolaters; this article, like the rest, is become obsolete. And as all the directions, bere given, relate to things expedient in the circumstances of those times; it is not to be at all wondered at, that the meaning of several of them is now obscure and doubtful.
VI. OBSERVATIONS, IN THE MANNER OF COROLLARY. I have now shown, that this epistle was designed for the use of all believers from among the Gentiles; that the regulations, contained in it, are not of a moral nature, but relate to such things as are in their own nature indifferent. I have also endeavoured to show the meaning of each particular.
I am in great danger of being esteemed prolix. Nevertheless as the subject is before me, I shall go on to put down some other observations, chiefly in the way of corollaries.
1. This decree is not to be understood as a precept, or cominandment, but as delivering advice and counsel' concerning some matters of prudence and expedience, considering the circumstances of things and persons at that time.
When Paul and Barnabas had returned to Antioch from
a peregrination in several cities and countries, where they had preached the gospel, “ They gathered the church together, and rehearsed all that God had done with thein, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples,” Acts xiv, 27, 28.
Whilst they were there, “ certain men, which came down from Judea, taught the brethren, and said ; Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Pau) and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined, that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. When they were come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church, and by the apostles and elders; and they declared all that God bad done with them; but there had risen up certain of the sect of the pharisees which believed, who said, that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and spoke” After that Barnabas and Paul were heard, " who declared what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.” After which James riseth up, and reasons upon the point. And then concludes : “Wherefore my sentence is,” Alo eryw kpivw, I judge, I determine, “ that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God; but that we write to them,” en lotella, avtors, that they “ abstain froin pollutions of idols ---Then pleased it the apostles,” or it seemned good " to the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch -And they wrote letters by them after this manner -Iti bas seemed good unto the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden, than these necessary things—From which, if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well :” • You will do what is ac
ceptable, and agreeable, and will be well taken by us and • by all the brethren of the circumcision.' So Cornelius says to St. Peter, ch. x. 33, “ Immediately therefore I sent to thee. And thou hast well done, that thou art come.” Philip. iv. 14, “ You have well done, that you have communicated with me in my affliction." 3 John, ver. 6, " Whom, if thou bring forward in their journey, after a godly sort, thou wilt dok well.” Τοτε εδοξε τους αποσoλoις. .
'Εδοξε γαρ το άγιο πνευματι, και ημιν. .
Vid. Grot, in Act. x. 33. et xv, 29.
Afterwards, ch. xvi. 4. It is said of Paul and Barnabas, " that as they went through the cities,' they delivered them the decrees to keep, that were ordained," determined, " by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.” The meaning of the Greek word bere rendered decrees is equivalent to placita, resolutions, decisions, upon a question, and particularly, upon that question, which had been brought from Antioch, to the apostles at Jerusalern.
For certain, if we have given a right interpretation of the words, these regulations are not a part of the gospel of Christ, which is everlasting ; but wise decisions and determinations, suited to the circumstances of things, in the christian church at that time.
2. These regulations are the result of that wisdom, with which the apostles of Christ were inspired, for deciding the question, whether Gentile converts should keep the law; and for directing their conduct, in the use of that liberty, which they had a right to, and was now secured to them.
“ It has seemed good unto the Holy Ghost, and to us," that is, it has seemed good unto us," under the divine influence and direction, “ to lay upon you no other burden, than these necessary things:" which we have judged expedient to be observed by you in the present circumstances.
I say these regulations are the result of that wisdom, with which the apostles were inspired upon this occasion. For it does not appear, that any such regulations bad obtained before. If they had, some notice would have been taken of it. And the reminding men of it would have tended to reconcile those, to whom these directions were sent to conply with them, and pay a regard to them. Nor can I discern either in Josephus, or in the books of the Old, or the New Testament, any hints or traces of them, before this council at Jerusalem.
I may bereafter enlarge farther upon the wisdom bestowed upon the apostles for conducting the affairs of the christian church. All that I intended to say here, is no more than this : that the four articles in this decree are not taken from any Noachic precepts, nor from any other Jewish traditions : but were now first thought of, and first proposed and recommended, by the apostles, upon occasion of the present emergency. ΙΙαρεδιδαν αυτοις φυλασσειν τα δογματα τα κεκριμμενα υπο των αποσολων. .
'm • Visum est Spiritui Sancto, et nobis.') Id est, visum est nobis ex exstinctu sive suggestione Spiritûs Sancti. Ev ora duw. Piscator in Act. xv. 28.