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able, and would be also useful for preserving themselves from some temptations to apostasy in those times.
6. We may hence perceive the reason, why those of the Jewish believers, who were for imposing the law upon the Gentiles, are so severely reproved, and condemned by St. Paul.
They were for imposing the law, and its observances, upon the Gentiles, as necessary to salvation. Which should be always attended by us, when we read St. Paul's epistles, and observe the tartness of his expressions. So says St. Luke very clearly. Ch. xvi. 1," Certain men which came down from Judea, taught the brethren: Except ye be cir cumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." See also ver. 5. And are not these men tartly reproved by the apostles and elders in their epistle? ver. 24," Forasmuch as we have heard," say they," that certain, which went out from us, have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law."
And justly does St. Paul say of Peter, and the rest, who separated themselves from the Gentile christians at Antioch, that "they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel," Gal. ii. 14. And as justly does he exhort, and argue, Gal. v. 1-4, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty, wherewith Christ has made us free. And be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised," esteeming it necessary to salvation," he is a debtor to the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law. Ye are fallen from grace.' Which now must be all clear. It can need no farther explication.
7. We may now discern, wherein lay the fault of the apostle Peter, and others, who complied too far with the rigid part of the Jewish believers.
The only place of scripture, where this is mentioned, is Gal. ii. 11-16, " But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles. But when they were come, he withdrew, and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews likewise dissembled with him: insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw, that they walked not up
rightly, according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all: If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews; why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 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. 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 The word is explained at
P Τι τα εθνη αναγκαζεις ισδαϊζειν ;
large in Vol. vi. ch. xii.
of Moses, in order to salvation. Thus he acted, "fearing thein of the circumcision." I transcribe Augustine 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 baptisin. 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
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, tanquam 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.
joined him in that behaviour. "And the other Jews," says St. Paul," dissembled with him: insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation."
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. 3641. 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 the 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, kao' ev exaσtov, 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.