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precisely the opinion which St. Paul opposes in this epistle. Many of his expressions apply exactly to it: “Are ye so foolish ? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect in the flesh ?” (iii. 3.) “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?” (iv. 21.) "How turn ye again to the weak and
“ beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” (iv. 9.) It cannot be thought extraordinary that St. Paul should resist this opinion with earnestness; for it both changed the character of the Christian dispensation, and derogated expressly from the completeness of that redemption which Jesus Christ had wrought for them that believed in him. But it was to no purpose to allege to such persons the decision at Jerusalem, for that only showed that they were not bound to these observances by any law of the Christian church: they did not pretend to be so bound. Nevertheless they imagined that there was an efficacy in these observances, a merit, a recommendation to favour, and a ground of acceptance with God for those who complied with them. This was a
a situation of thought to which the tenor of the decree did not apply. Accordingly, St. Paul's address to the Galatians, which is throughout adapted to this situation, runs in a strain widely different from the language of the decree: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law” (v.4); i.e. whosoever places his dependence upon any merit he may apprehend there to be in legal observances. The decree had said nothing like this; therefore it would have been useless to have produced the decree in an argument of which this was the burthen. In like manner as in contending with an anchorite, who should insist upon the superior holiness of a recluse, ascetic life, and the value of such mortifications in the sight of God, it would be to no purpose
to prove that the laws of the church did not require these vows, or even to prove that the laws of the church expressly left every Christian to his liberty. This would avail little towards abating his estimation of their merit, or towards settling the point in controversy.*
* Mr. Locke's solution of this difficulty is by no means satisfactory. “St. Paul,” he says, “ did not remind the Galatians of the apostolic decree, because they already had it.” In the first place, it does not appear with certainty that they had it ; in the second place, if they had it, this was rather a reason than otherwise, for referring them to it. The passage in the Acts, from which Mr. Locke concludes that the Galatic churches were in possession of the decree, is the fourth verse of the sixteenth chapter : “ And as they” (Paul and Timothy)
went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.”
In my opinion, this delivery of the decree was confined to the churches to which St. Paul came, in pursuance of the plan upon which he set out, of “visiting the brethren in every city where he had preached the word of the Lord;" the history of wnich progress, and of all that pertained to it, is closed in the fifth verse, when the history informs us that “so were the churches established in the faith and increased in number daily.” Then the history proceeds upon a new section of the narrative, by telling us that “when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they assayed to go into Bithynia.” The decree itself is directed “to the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia ;” that is, to churches already founded, and in which this question had been stirred. And I think the observation of the noble author of the Miscellanea Sacra is not only ingenious, but highly probable, viz. that there is, in this place, a dislocation of the text, and that the fourth and fifth verses of the sixteenth chapter ought to follow the last verse of the fifteenth, so as to make the entire passage run thus : “ And they went through Syria and Cilicia” (to the Christians of which countries the decree was addressed), “confirming the churches; and as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem ; and so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number
Another difficulty arises from the account of Peter's conduct towards the Gentile converts at Antioch, as given in the epistle, in the latter part of the second chapter; which conduct, it is said, is consistent neither with the revelation communicated to him, upon the conversion of Cornelius, nor with the part he took in the debate at Jerusalem. But, in order to understand either the difficulty or the solution, it will be necessary to state and explain the passage itself. “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 dissembled likewise with him, insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation : but when I saw they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter, before
daily.” And then the sixteenth chapter takes up a new and unbroken paragraph : “ Then came he to Derbe and Lystra, &c.” When St. Paul came, as he did into Galatia, to preach the gospel, for the first time, in a new place, it is not probable that he would make mention of the decree, or rather letter, of the church of Jerusalem, which presupposed Christianity to be known, and which related to certain doubts that had arisen in some established Christian communities.
The second reason which Mr. Locke assigns for the omission of the decree, viz. “that St. Paul's sole object in the epistle, was to acquit himself of the imputation that had been charged upon him of actually preaching circumcision,” does not appear to me to be strictly true. It was not the sole object. The epistle is written in general opposition to the Judaizing inclinations which he found to prevail amongst his converts. The avowal of his own doctrine, and of his stedfast adherence to that doctrine, formed a necessary part of the design of his letter, but not the whole of it.
them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews ?” Now the question that produced the dispute to which these words relate, was not whether the Gentiles were capable of being admitted into the Christian covenant; that had been fully settled: nor was it whether it should be accounted essential to the profession of Christianity that they should conform themselves to the law of Moses; that was the question at Jerusalem : but it was, whether, upon the Gentiles becoming Christians, the Jews might thenceforth eat and drink with them, as with their own brethren. Upon this point St. Peter betrayed some inconstancy; and so he might, agreeably enough to his history. He might consider the vision at Joppa as a direction for the occasion, rather than as universally abolishing the distinction between Jew and Gentile; I do not mean with respect to final acceptance with God, but as to the manner of their living together in society: at least he might not have comprehended this point with such clearness and certainty, as to stand out upon it against the fear of bringing upon himself the censure and complaint of his brethren in the church of Jerusalem, who still adhered to their ancient prejudices. But Peter, it is said, compelled the Gentiles Iovdaiterv—"why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” How did he do that? The only way in which Peter appears to have compelled the Gentiles to comply with the Jewish institution, was by withdrawing himself from their society. By which he may be understood to have made this declaration : “We do not deny your right to be considered as Christians;
we do not deny your title in the promises of the gospel, even without compliance with our law; but if you would have us Jews live with you, as we do with one another, that is, if you would in all respects be treated by us as Jews, you must live as such yourselves.” This, I think, was the compulsion which St. Peter's conduct imposed upon the Gentiles, and for which St. Paul reproved him.
As to the part which the historian ascribes to St. Peter, in the debate at Jerusalem, beside that it was a different question which was there agitated from that which produced the dispute at Antioch, there is nothing to hinder us from supposing that the dispute at Antioch was prior to the consultation at Jerusalem; or that Peter, in consequence of this rebuke, might have afterwards maintained firmer sentiments.
The Epistle to the Ephesians.
This epistle, and the epistle to the Colossians, appear to have been transmitted to their respective churches by the same messenger: “But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things; whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.” (Eph. vi. 21, 22.) This text, if it do not expressly