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Julian Pe- preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath- Jerusalem. riod, 4760. day. Vulgar Æra,
should be added to the end of the 15th; being then read, the
Why are these things forbidden, he observes, more than eating
As Christ's kingdom is not of this world, his doctrine and laws make no difference in civil regulations. He that is subject to heathen powers must be so still. He that is married, must not seek to be loosed. Christian parents must love heathen children. Christian children must obey heathen parents, &c. Also 1 Cor. vii. 18. 20. the principal character of the Christian religion is an entire freedom to comply with all customs in which there is no moral turpitude. In this the decree agrees, for it is only a list of abstinences that were enjoined on Proselytes of the Gate, in virtue of the obedience they owed to the civil law of Palestine.
St. Paul, so far from enjoining these abstinences to the idolatrous Gentiles, expressly declares that nothing is unclean of itself (Rom. xiv. 14. 20. Tit. i. 15. 1 Cor. x. 25. 27.); and no where, in any epistle to the idolatrous Gentiles, does he insist upon or even mention the decree: indeed his argument (Gal. v. 24.) expressly forbids a compliance with the Jewish customs. His reasoning is, that if a Gentile considered circumcision to be necessary to salvation, he laid a weight upon an obedience to the law of Moses, which was in effect renouncing the mediation of Christ, and seeking to be justified by an observance of that law by which" no flesh living could be justified." A Jew might be circumcised, and obey all the laws of Moses, and yet not renounce Christianity; indeed, St. Paul bids the Jews continue Jews; that is, obey the laws of their country as the laws of their country, but not seek justification from an observance of them. If this hypothesis be true, the authority of this decree only lasted as a civil regulation, while the Jewish polity lasted, and therefore the advice founded upon it must cease with the existence of the Jewish nation, and indeed never could have been addressed to the idolatrous Gentiles.
Origen (continues Lord Barrington) was of opinion that the four prohibitions contained in the decree were particularly addressed to Proselytes of the Gate, though he imagined the decree itself to be addressed to all Christians.
The reason why these things were forbidden to the Proselytes of the Gate was, that they were at that time the chief enticements to, and concomitants of idolatry. And as renouncing idolatry was the only reason why any one should desire to become a proselyte, and the only reason the Jews should grant it (as an idolater being guilty of high treason under a theocracy was not to be suffered to live,) Moses expressly forbad those things which accompanied idolatry, and were likely to tempt
them to a commission of the crime.
Jalian Period, 4760. Valgar Era, 49.
22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the Jerusalem.
That the decree only related to the Proselytes of the Gate, is attempted to be proved by many other considerations, to which the reader is referred.
Lord Barrington further considers the Church at Antioch to have been at first designed by God, in his Providence, and continued all along, as a Church made up of Proselytes of the Gate, to prepare Paul and Barnabas for preaching to the idolatrous Gentiles; and the Jewish Christians for receiving the news of whole churches being composed of those who had been idolatrous Gentiles; and to be in some sort, if I may so express it, the mother Church of the idolatrous Gentiles, as Jerusalem was of the Jews. For as the apostles and apostolic men were sent from the Church at Jerusalem to convert Jews, Samaritans, and Proselytes of the Gate, to which afterwards they returned to give an account of their success; so were the apostles Barnabas and Saul sent on their first peregrination by the Church at Antioch, to convert the idolatrous Gentiles to the faith, (Acts xiii. 2, 3. 5.) and return thither at the end of it, and "rehearse all that God hath done with them." (Acts xiv. 26, 27.) Moreover it is to be observed, that Paul set out from Antioch on his second and third peregrination, (Acts xxviii. 22, 23.); and perhaps Barnabas and Mark did so likewise, (Acts xiv. 39.) It is also highly probable, that after his first imprisonment at Rome, when he went up to Jerusalem, he might from thence go again to Antioch, as his custom was every other time he went up to Jerusalem after commencing an apostle; in which case we have grounds for inferring that he set out again from that place on his fifth peregrination, which we gather from other passages of Scripture he went upon; though St. Luke does not carry the history of St. Paul so far. Before having written this note, from the unassisted study of Scripture, I had come to the same conclusion, in opposition to those who would refer the apostles' journeyings from Jerusalem. Antioch was a city extremely well suited to these designs of Providence. It was situated in Syria, a country that was thought by the Jews to be of a sort of middle nature, between the holiness they ascribed to Palestine, and the pollution of other countries; and like the Proselytes of the Gate, being neither holy nor profane (c), it became consequently a region fit for a great Church of the Proselytes of the Gate converted to the faith. If this should be allowed, it accounts for the rise of the question-For it does not seem probable that Jews should require idolatrous Gentiles, who had never dwelt or sojourned in Palestine, to be bound by Moses's law-which they considered as obligatory only on themselves, or on those who would become Jews. And indeed I have some doubt whether at any time the zealots insisted on the necessity of the idolatrous Gentiles observing the laws of Moses, as they did in relation to the Proselytes of the Gate. This hypothesis agrees with Peter's argument, which is entirely taken from the case of Cornelius, from which he deduces that as the Holy Ghost was given to this devout proselyte, on the observance only of these four precepts, and not of any of the other laws of Moses; in like manner the same conditions, and no others, should be required of the Proselytes of the Gate, who had been converted to Christianity at Antioch. There was a famous Jewish university at Antioch, and we learn both from Josephus (d), and the Roman laws (e), that it was full of Jews, and of Proselytes of the Gate, who were always numerous where there were many Jews, and comprehended generally most of the well-disposed Gentiles,
Julian Pe- whole church, to send chosen men of their own company Jerusalem. riod, 4760.
Vulgar Æra, who did not go entirely over to the Jewish religion. The Pro-
selytes of the Gate at Antioch, had been first converted to Chris-
However correct and ingenious this system of Lord Barring-
The prohibition against idolatry does not seem to me to have been designed to forbid the mere offering of idolatrous worship to images of wood and stone; but to condemn also the indulgence of those vices which were sanctioned by the heathens, who had appointed a god or a goddess as the presiding patron of every vice.
The prohibition to cat the blood of the animal that was per mitted to be used for food, might not have been designed only against luxury, as Delaney imagines; nor to prevent certain idolatrous practices, as Spencer and Young have represented. It is well known, that the blood of the animal that was to be offered in sacrifice, and afterwards eaten by the worshipper, was poured out at the foot of the altar. Blood was an emblem of natural life; as the blood was poured out at the altar, so was it necessary that he who would approach to God with acceptance, must sacrifice the inferior and animal nature, and offer unto God a spiritual homage. The blood aptly typified also that divine sacrifice, whose blood was poured out, and who gave his life as a sacrifice for many; and thus the meaning of the prohibition to abtain from blood would be, " Remember Him who shed his blood for you, and die unto the world, with its affections and lusts, drawing near to God with a pure and contrite heart."
The abstaining from things strangled might have had a similar meaning. In these the blood was not poured out, and the sacrifice could not be accepted. This still declared, that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin-that the sacrifice of flesh is required of all of us that we may become new
The last command to abstain from impurity, requires no observation.
I am confirmed in this view of the meaning of the apostolic decree, by the consideration that all the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law had a spiritual as well as a typical signification. They were designed to keep the Jews as a distinct people, and to serve as a wall or partition between the Gentiles and themselves; but they all afforded likewise a moral instruction, and thus became the schoolmaster to bring them to the Christ, who was to come in the same way these enactments might have been formed to enforce the remembrance of that Messiah who had now appeared, and was exalted to the right hand of God.
Julian Pe- to Antioch, with Paul and Barnabas; namely Judas sur- Jerusalem.
It cannot be necessary to stop here to refute the conjecture of Bently, that instead of Topveías, in this passage, we should read yopeias, as this emendation is unsupported by the authority of any manuscript. Neither does the interpretation of the word opveía, by Michaelis, who refers it to flesh offered to idols, and sold in the shambles, appear worthy of farther notice.
Dr. Delaney has endeavoured to prove that the prohibition to eat blood is still binding upon the Churches of Christ; and Dr. A. Clarke has embraced his opinion. I cannot say their reasoning appears to be conclusive. The arguments of Dr. Hammond, Dean Graves, &c. &c. appear much more supported-that the prohibition has ceased upon this principle, that laws are no longer binding, when the reasons for their enactment cease to exist. If at some future day, when it shall please God to bring about the accomplishment of his prophecies, and receive the Jews into his Church again, the eating of blood and of things strangled shall prove a stumbling-block to the converts, it will then perhaps, and not before that time, become the duty of Christians to obey the decree of the apostolic council.
Grotius (ƒ) asserts that the converts were bound to abstain from blood, because it was so ordained to all the sons of Noah. He quotes from Tertullian, that the Emperor Leo considered it unwholesome, and prohibited it by an edict. He further argues, that the observance of a command so easy, was not liable to the charge of superstition, and that the eating blood made men fierce and savage.
He then endeavours to prove that the Christians were not commanded to abstain from blood, merely lest the Jews should be offended, which he would prove from the fact, that the converts abstained from blood, where no Jews were present, a circumstance which rests upon the authority of Eusebius and Tertullian. Grotius proceeds to demonstrate this point from the apostolical constitutions.
Dorschæus replies to these assertions, that the precepts of Noah obliged only the Proselytes of the Gate-that it is even doubtful if these precepts are other than a Rabbinical tradition -it is doubtful if all the precepts of Adam and Noah were binding on mankind in general. He asserts, it is not true that Christ took nothing from the precepts of Adam and Noah, and only added to them new precepts. He then invalidates the authority of Tertullian, and the Emperor Leo; and in reply to the two last observes, that the facility of obedience is no criterion of the reasonableness of a command, and ridicules the opinion, that eating blood in a state prepared by cookery can be injurious.
Dorschæus then attempts to shew that it was by no means an universal opinion among Christians, that they were to abstain from blood, and refuses to depend on arguments drawn exclusively from the apostolical constitutions.
Witsius has shewn, in his discussion on the council at Jerusalem, that the more reflecting Jews believed that the pious among the heathen might be saved without circumcision. And he observes, that the discussion at the Council of Jerusalem does not weaken the claim of the apostles to inspiration. They were unanimous, but it was necessary to satisfy the consciences of their converts.
(a) See Homer Odyss. I 470, and N 26. Virg. Ecl. 3. 77, &c. &c. (b) Hom. Odyss. 18. v. 25.-Schoetgen, Hora Hebr. vol. i. p. 461. quotes-Apicius de arte coquin, 1. viii. c. 8.-See too Tacit. Annal. xii.
Julian Pe- named Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the bre- Jerusalem. riod, 4760. thren:
23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner, The apostles, and elders, and brethren, send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia:
24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you, with our beloved Barnabas and Paul.
26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us,
29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and
St. Paul and Barnabas return to the Church at Antioch,
ACTS XV. 30-35.
30 So when they were dismissed, they came to An- Antioch. tioch and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle :
31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets" also them
47. The instance of Cataline's practical allusion to customs of this nature
21 The chapter of this arrangement of the New Testament,