Page images

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 faid, is consistent neither with the revelation communicated to him, upon


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 Je“rufalem; and so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number 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 pre-, supposed Christianity to be known, and which related to


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 diffembled likewise with him, in" fomuch that Barnabas also was carried

away with their dissimulation : but when

certain doubts that had arisen in some established Christian coinmunities.

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 sound to prevail amongst his converts. The avowal of his own doctrine, and of his steadfast adherence to that doctrine, formed a necessary part of the design of . his letter, but was not the whole of it.

6 I saw

“ I saw they walked not uprightly, accord

ing to the truth of the Gospel, I said unto

Peter, before them all, If thou, being a * Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, 66 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 Ivda.Celum" 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


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 com



pulsion 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 Artioch was prior to the consultation at Jerusalem ; or that Peter, in consequence of this rebuke, might have afterwards maintained firmer sentiments,


« EelmineJätka »