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“ latia, they assayed to go into Bithynia.” The progress here recorded was subsequent to the apostolic decree; therefore that decree must have been extant when our epistle was written. Now, as the professed design of the epistle was to establish the exemp. tion of the Gentile converts from the law of Moses, and as the decree pronounced and confirmed that exemption, it may seem extraordinary that no notice whatever is taken of that determination, nor any appeal made to its authority. Much however of the weight of this objection, which applies also to some other of St. Paul's epistles, is removed by the following reflections.
1. It was not St. Paul's manner, nor agreeable to it, to resort or defer much to the authority of the other apostles, especially whilst he was insisting, as he does strenuously throughout this epistle insist, upon his own original inspiration. He who could speak of the very chiefest of the apostles in such terms as the following of those who “ seemed to be somewhat (whatsoever they “ were it maketh no matter to me, Godi " accepteth no man's perfon) for they who
"* seemed to be somewhat in conference. “ added nothing to me”-he, I say, was not likely to support himself by their decision.
2. The epistle argues the point upon principle; and it is not perhaps more to be wondered at, that in such an argument St. Paul should not cite the apostolic decree, than it would be that, in a discourse designed to prove the moral and religious duty of observing the fabbath, the writer should not quote the thirteenth canon.
3. The decree did not go the length of the position maintained in the epistle; the decree only declares that the apostles and elders at Jerusalem did not impose the observance of the Mofaic law upon the Gentile converts, as a condition of their being admitted into the Christian church. Our epistle argues that the Mofaic institution itself was at an end, as to all effects upon a future state, even with respect to the Jews themselves.
4. They whose error St. Paul combate ed, were not persons who submitted to the Jewish law, because it was imposed by the authority, or because it was made part
of the law of the Christian church; but they were persons who, having already become Christians, afterwards voluntarily took upon themselves the observance of the Mosaic code, under a notion of attaining thereby to a greater perfection. This, I think, is precisely the opinion which St. Paul opposes in this epistle. Many of his expressions apply exactly to it : “ Are ye fo foolish?
having begun in the spirit, are ye now “ made perfect in the flesh ?” (chap. iji. ver. 3). “ Tell me, ye that desire to be “ under the law, do ye not hear the law?” (chap. iv. ver. 21). - How turn ye again “ to the weak and beggarly elements, where“ unto ye desire again to be in bondage ?" (chap. iv. ver. 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 alledge to such persons the decision at Jerusalem, for that only thewed 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 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” (chap. v. ver. 4); i. e. whosoever places his dependance 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 fettling the point in controverfy*.
Another * Mr. Locke's solution of this difficulty is by no mcans fatisfactory. " St. Paul,” he says, “ did not “ remind the Galatians of the apoftolic 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 which progress, and of all that pertained to it, is closed in the fifth verse, when the history informs us that, “lo 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