[ocr errors]

nities out of Palestine, observing only the peculiar rites and discipline of the Gospel. It was impossible that materials so discordant should mingle harmoniously together. For ten years we read of no jars. But at the end of ten years the church began to be agitated by the endeavor to make it a homogeneous body, not by discarding the peculiarities of Judaism, on the part of the Jewish converts, but by forcing the Jewish ritual upon the converts from Paganism. Hence the movement we read of in the fifteenth chapter of Acts. In the year fifty, certain men came down from Jerusalem, and said: “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” This happened at Antioch, a city of Syria, not far from the confines of Palestine, where Paul and Barnabas were then preaching, and had gathered a church. Paul immediately perceived that the very existence of the Christian church was at stake. If he permitted his converts to submit to this demand, there was an end to Christianity as a universal religion. It must settle down as a subordinate sect of Judaism, and share with that narrow and exclusive faith, the neglect and contempt of the world. He therefore set his face against these Judaizing teachers from the first; “ When, therefore, Paul 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. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church and of the Apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees, which believed, saying: That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the Apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up and said unto them: Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago, God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the Gospel and believe. And God, who knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost even as he did to us, and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 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. But we believe, that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved even as they, or rather they shall be saved even as we.” The argument of Peter is here perfectly conclusive, and to an unprejudiced mind ought to have

settled the whole controversy. Peter, ten years before, had been sent by vision from Joppa to Cæsarea, to preach the Gospel to-Cornelius, a heathen, or at most, a proselyte of the gate. While he was preaching to him and his friends, as it is related in the tenth chapter of Acts, they were affected by the same manifestation of divine power, which had recognized as Christians the converts from Judaism; “while Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision,” that is, the Jews, “which believed, were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God." These miraculous powers were justly understood by Peter, as a seal of recognition by God of those upon whom they were conferred, as accepted by him, as the disciples of Jesus, and belonging to his church, without any requirement of the Jewish law. Thus the Spirit was leading him into all the truth. “Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost, as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”

Peter, from the first, drew the right inference from his vision at Joppa, that Jews and heathen were to be amalgamated in the new religion, not by imposing

[ocr errors]

the Jewish law upon the converts from Paganism, but by the abandonment on the part of the Jews of their national peculiarities. Accordingly on his arrival at Cæsarea, and the conversion of Cornelius and his friends, he gave up his Jewish scruples, and ate and drank with them as if he had never been a Jew. But the Jewish converts at Jerusalem, so far from following his example, took him to task on his return for what he had done. 66 And when Peter was come to Jerusalem, they of the circumcision contended with him, saying: Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.” And it was not till Peter had told them the whole story of the vision, and the conversion of Cornelius, that they would be pacified.

Now, ten years afterward, Peter contends for the principle which was established by his vision, so far as to advise that no requisition whatever of the laws of Moses, should be made of the Gentile converts. James, who was then the head of the church in Palestine, seems to have advised a middle course, to enjoin upon them not to keep the law of Moses, but to abstain from certain things which were the most offensive to the Jews, and which very much resembled the requirements of the proselytes of the gate. And after Paul and Barnabas had told of their success among the Gentiles, “ James answered, saying: Men and brethren, Simon hath declared how

God at first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble them not, which from among the Gentiles have turned unto God, but that we write unto them that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses hath of old time in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogue every Sabbath day.” That is to say, there are Jews in every city, whom we ought to conciliate to the Christian church, by indulging their prejudices in things indifferent. To this advice of James the council agreed, and wrote a circular to the churches of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia to that effect. Such was the decision of the first controversy which sprang up in the Christian church, and the history of this transaction affords the key to a large part of the Epistles of Paul.

Though the controversy was thus decided, the matter did not end here. These emissaries from the Judaizers at Jerusalem went on to disturb the peace of the churches which Paul had planted in Asia Minor, Macedonia and Greece. Especially among the churches of Galatia they seem, in the absence of Paul, to have made a deep impression, to have nearly subverted his authority, and to have been on the point of bringing them all under the Jewish law. To give more weight to their objections to the liberal doctrines taught by Paul, they called in question his apos

« ElőzőTovább »