« السابقةمتابعة »
A. M. 4012,
(a)" Mark them who cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye &c. or 5509. have learned, and avoid them," is the instruction which he gave the Romans; and had he
Ann. Dom. 98, &c.
put it in practice upon this occasion, there had then been some grounds to complain of his † rudeness and incivility to St Peter; but, in opposing his conduct where it was blameable, and in telling him of his faults when they were notorious, he acted (even in the eye of the Mosaic law) the part of a kind brother; for (b) "thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart; thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him;" where, if not to rebuke a brother, is to hate him; to rebuke him, by consequence, is to love him; and therefore the royal Psalmist makes it the matter of his prayer, (c)" let the righteous smite me friendly, and reprove me, but let not their precious balm break my head."
But though St Paul might think it his duty, and no unkindness to St Peter, to oppose him in his dissimulation; yet we find him no where disagreeing with St James in any point of Christian doctrine. To silence the clamours of those indeed who pleaded for the necessity of circumcision, and other Jewish ordinances under the Christian dispensation, and were for imposing them upon the Gentile converts as things essential to salvation, in several parts of his epistles, but more particularly of those to the Romans and Galatians, he argues, that our acceptance with God here, and admission to happiness hereafter, which he calls by the term of justification, depends upon our sincere belief of the Gospel, and our living answerably to such a belief (which are comprehended in the word faith), and not upon any observance of the Jewish rites and ceremonies, which he calls the deeds of the law. This doctrine of justification by faith came, in a short time, to be perverted to very bad purposes, and (d) some there were, who, from the authority of St Paul, endeavoured to persuade themselves and others that, so long as they did but believe the Gospel in the naked notion and speculation of it, it was enough to recommend them to the favour of God, and serve all the purposes of justification and salvation, however they shaped and steered their lives. To countermine the designs of these men, and to beat down this strong hold of libertinism, St James, who wrote his epistle subsequent to those of St Paul, and as a kind of comment upon them, endeavours to shew the insufficiency of a naked faith and empty profession of religion; that it is not enough to recommend us to the Divine acceptance, and to justify us in the sight of heaven, barely to believe the Gospel, unless we obey and practise it; and that such a belief, destitute of this evangelical obedience, is (e) "like the body without the spirit, dead," and unavailable to our salvation: And therefore he concludes, that, by the practice of the several virtues of the Christian religion, which he terms works, a man is justified, and not by a mere notional belief of the things recorded in the Gospel, which he calls faith only.
(f) Considering then the difference of the adversaries which these two apostles had to contend with, that St Paul was engaged with false brethren, Jewish converts, who were for joining the ceremonial part of the law with the faith of the Gospel and the practice of the Christian religion; and that St James, on the contrary, had to do with libertines and hypocrites, men, who having abused St Paul's doctrine of faith and grace, and "wrested it to their own destruction," had thereupon abandoned themselves to all
(a) Rom, xvi. 17.
Porphyry, that subtle enemy of the Christian religion, makes use of this reproof which St Paul gave St Peter, as an argument against them both, charging the one with error and falsehood, and the other with rudeness and incivility; and says, that the whole was but a compact of forgery and deceit, while the princes of the church did thus fall out among themselves; and so sensible were some of this, in the primitive ages of Christianity, that rather than such
a disgrace, as they accounted it, should be reflected
(c) Psal. cxli. 5.
10. to the end.
manner of vice, and looked upon good works as things purely indifferent;-considering From Acts i. this, I say, we shall find the two apostles arguing very properly with the persons whom they had in view, and, though they do not advance assertions absolutely the same, are far from opposing or contradicting one another. "Legal observances will not save us, says St Paul, nor will a bare belief of the Gospel save us, says St James. A lively faith that is fruitful of good works will save us, says St Paul; and so will the practice of all moral and Christian virtues, says St James." Thus admirably do the two apostles agree and conspire to explain each other.
Nay, to clear the character of St Paul still farther, we may observe, that in those very epistles where he seems to extol faith, and debase the efficacy of works most, he nevertheless makes them the indispensable condition of our salvation: For, having laid it down as a certain truth, that (a) "not the hearers of the law are just before God, but that the doers of the law shall be justified," he plainly asserts, that our misery or happiness in a future state depends upon our good or ill deportment here; for (b) "God will render to every man according to his works, tribulation and anguish upon every soul that doth evil; but glory, honour, and peace upon every soul that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile." In another place, having spoken of the happiness of our redemption from original sin, by the merits and mercies of Jesus Christ, he asks these questions, (c) "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" And in like manner, having made this comfortable declaration, (d) " there is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus," lest we should mistake his meaning, and think that an empty faith, or bare profession of Christianity, was enough to entitle us to this blessedness, he adds, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit;" and elsewhere gives us this caution, (e) "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap; for he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." *
There seems, at first view indeed, to be some contrariety between the decree of the council at Jerusalem and the latitude which St Paul allows in relation to meats offered to idols: But to pass a right judgment concerning these offerings, we must know,— (f) That, besides what was eaten of them in the idol's temple (which eating was an act of religious worship, and communion with the idol, as our eating the bread of the sacrament is a communion with Christ);-besides this, I say, there was a certain portion of those sacrifices which fell to the priests, and which they, having no use for, sold to others, who afterwards exposed it to sale promiscuously among other meat upon the shambles, where it was bought up and spent in private families without any distinction, whether it had or had not been offered to idols. Now, as for the former way of eating meats thus offered, namely, in the idol's temple, this the apostle utterly disallows as absolutely unlawful; but the other only under some circumstances: For he allows, that it might be lawfully bought among other meat in the market, and being so bought, might be eaten in any private house without the least sin; only with this caution, that whereas there were some who well understood that meat could have no defiling quality imprinted upon it by its consecration to an idol; and others (on the contrary), having not so much knowledge, supposed, that its consecration to an idol left upon it such a polluting quality, and near relation to the idol, as defiled the eater; the former sort might freely and innocently eat such meat in private families, provided it was not before those of the latter sort, who, through weakness, having an opinion of the unlaw
(e) Gal. vi. 7.
(c) Ibid. vi. 1.
(a) Rom. ii. 13. (b) Ibid. ver. 6, &c. (d) Ibid. viii. 1. [See the Supplementary Dissertation on some of the principal doctrines of the Christian religion, appended to Chap. iv. of this Book.] (f) South's Sermons, vol. iii.
A. M. 4012, fulness of such meats, might nevertheless be induced to use the same liberty, though &c. or 5509. their consciences, in the mean time, having quite another judgment in this matter, esteemed the eating them little better than idolatry.
Now the argument by which the apostle abridges the liberty of the former sort of converts, in condescension to those of the latter sort, proceeds upon the strength of this assertion, that the lawfulness of mens actions depends not solely either upon the lawfulness of their subject-matter, nor yet upon the conscience of the doers of them, considered in itself, but as considered with reference to the consciences of others, to whom, by the law of charity, they stand bound so to behave themselves, as by none of their actions to give them occasion of sin. From which plain state of the case, it appears, St Paul is so far from giving the least encouragement to the eating of meats offered unto idols, that, in the first place, he uses the most cogent arguments, viz. the regard we ought to have to our neighbour's soul, and the danger of offending Christ, by wounding and destroying those members of his mystical body," for which he died,” to engage us to a total abstinence; and then proposes his own generous resolution to enforce his advice, (a) "Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh whilst the world stands, that I make not my brother to offend."
(b) "Whatsoever ye bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven;" as in another place, (c) " Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained,” are words which are generally supposed to contain the commission which our Blessed Lord gave his apostles, to exercise a judicial power over the members of his church, by censuring offenders, and, upon their repentance afterwards, remitting the censures which were passed on them. To this purpose we find St Paul telling the Corinthians, that (d) "though he should boast of the authority which the Lord had given him, for edification and not for destruction, he should not be ashamed," and putting that authority in practice against the person who had committed incest among them; (e)“ In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such an one unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord."
(f) Now, in order to know the meaning of this "delivering unto Satan," we must observe, that the church, or kingdom of Christ, was erected in opposition to Satan's kingdom, and therefore every Christian, at his baptism, covenants to renounce the devil and all his works," and is thereupon admitted into the church of Christ, and taken under his protection; but when men notoriously break their baptismal covenant, and, instead of obeying Christ, openly adhere to the devil, they are then reduced to the state of heathens, who are under the dominion of the prince of this world: And, as the Scriptures generally ascribe all sort of calamities which befal mankind to the procurement of the devil; so the pains and diseases of the body, which in this first age usually attended the sentence of excommunication, were supposed to proceed from the devil, whose malice the Divine wisdom might then employ as a common sergeant and executioner, to inflict some bodily punishment upon every notorious offender, thereby to deter others from the like provocations, and thereby to bring him to consideration and repentance, and so save his soul at the great day of judgment.
Josephus, in his History of the Jewish Wars (g), tells us, that the Essenes, one of the strictest sects among them, upon their deprehending any of their society in a notorious wickedness, excluded him from the congregation, and whoever incurred that sentence generally came to a miserable end; and therefore we need less wonder, that
(a) 1 Cor. viii. 13.
(b) Matt. xviii. 18.
(c) John xx. 23. (d) 2 Cor. x. & (f) Archbishop Potter's Discourse of Church Government.
10. to the end.
God, at the first beginning of Christianity (a), and when it was wholly destitute of all From Acts i. civil coercive authority, did invest his apostles with a power of inflicting corporal pu nishments upon such as either opposed the progress of the Gospel, or offended grossly against its rules; since this was an effectual means to keep the wicked in awe, to advance the cause of religion, and to conciliate respect to its ministers: For the proper end of all church censures (according to (b) Lactantius) is, "not for revenge, but to support the honour of Christ's laws, to admonish others to amend, and to warn all not to despise this salutary authority."
St Paul's advice to the governors of the church is far from exciting a spirit of persecution in them: For (c) though he arms the temporal magistrate with a sword, not only to be a terror to evil doers, but to cut off and execute notorious offenders; yet to the spiritual magistrate he only gives a pastoral rod and a staff, neither of which are designed to destroy, but only to reform those that go astray. His first prescription is, to try gentle methods; to begin with kind and fatherly admonitions, which, from persons in so high a station, may probably have a blessed effect, and restore the offender, (d) “with all long-suffering in the spirit of meekness:" But if these prove too weak to awaken a sinner who is fallen into the lethargy of obduration, his next degree of discipline is (e) sharp reproof and severe threats, and (f) a public exposition of his crime: But in case he be so far depraved as to have lost all sense of shame, his last direction. is to eject him out of the church, who, while he continues in it, will be a perpetual scandal to it, and (g) give the enemies of the Lord an occasion to blaspheme; however, only so to eject him, as that, upon his repentance and reformation, he may be restored again, and not (h) swallowed up (as the apostle tenderly expresses it) with over-much
These are the rules which St Paul has laid down for the governors of the church, with respect to those under their care, who are either unsound in the faith, or retain the faith in unrighteousnes. (i) This is the discipline which the fathers have given us so far a character of, as to call it "the keeper of hope, the anchor of faith, the guide of our heavenly journey, the food and nourishment of good inclinations, and the mistress of all virtue." Nor is it to be denied that (k) the church's reputation was never so good as in the primitive times, when this discipline was exercised with vigour. Then her professed enemies admired her; great numbers of proselytes daily flocked into her, and could not be restrained by the utmost torments which either human or diabolical malice could inflict; whereas, since this godly discipline has been relaxed, though the church has been protected by the civil power, and furnished with far more splendor than before, fewer converts have been brought over to her, and too many of her own sons and members have lost their first love and zeal for her. But to proceed.
Upon supposition that Alexander the copper-smith was the same person with that Alexander who was concerned in (7) the tumult raised at Ephesus, we may imagine that he was a Jewish convert residing in that city; that when he was seized by the common sergeants, and examined before the Jews, (as the word pobάat there signifies) in the apology which he would have made to the people, his purpose was to have averted the danger from him, by laying it upon St Paul; and that from this time, conceiving an hatred against the apostle, and (m) having put away a good conscience, he soon began to make shipwreck of his faith, and particularly to call in question the reality of a future resurrection; a doctrine which St Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, had so largely insisted on.
(n) The philosophers in those days looked upon the body as the prison and sepulchre
(a) Cave's Introduction to the Lives of the Apostles. (4) De Irà Dei, p. 809. (c) Comber's Discourse upon Ordination. (d) 2 Tim. iv. 2. Gal. vi. 1. (e) Tit. ii, 15. (ƒ) 1 Tim. v. 20. (g) 2 Sam. xii. 14. (h) 2 Cor. ii. 7. (i) Comber on Ordination. (k) Archbishop Potter's Dis course on Church Government. (1) Acts xix. 33. (m) 1 Tim. i. 19. (n) Whitby's Annot, on 1 Cor. xv.
A. M. 4012, of the soul, and that her happiness could not commence till after her dissolution from &c. or 5509. it. Upon which principle they argued, that it was not only an impossible thing, but an unjust and unworthy thing for God to raise the body in order to unite it to the soul, since the happiness of the soul consisted in being delivered from it, and its punishment in being confined to it. This notion Alexander, among others, having imbibed, began to put a new construction upon the doctrine of the resurrection, as if it imported only a renovation of our manners, and a resurrection from the death of sin unto a life of righteousness, which in all God's elect (as they were sure to rank themselves in that number) (a) was already past.
The resurrection of the dead, in its literal sense, was so fundamental a point, that St Paul puts the whole stress of the Christian religion upon it. (b) " If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen; and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain; yea, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God, that he raised up Christ, whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not." But though the denial of a future resurrection was implicitly a renunciation of the Christian religion, yet we do not find that Alexander had actually apostatised from it; for then the apostle would not have excommunicated him, because we find him claiming no authority but over such as were within the pale of the church; for (c) "what have I to do, says he, to judge them that are without? Those that are without, God judgeth.'
The judgment, however, which he gave against Alexander, so incensed that heretic, that he pursued him as far as Rome, on purpose to oppose his doctrine and vilify his person, and perhaps to exhibit some accusations against him; which malicious proceeding might give the apostle occasion enough to say, that "the Lord would reward him according to his works" For (d) so the king's manuscript reads it in the future tense, dos, and so the current of ancient interpreters do account it not an imprecation, but a prediction only of what, in the just judgment of God, would befal him; for pious men, say they, do neither wish for, nor rejoice in, nor desire to hasten the punishments of the wicked, though they sometimes foretel them.
St Paul, no doubt, when brought (e) before powers and magistrates, had a share in the promise of the assistance and direction of God's blessed Spirit, sufficient to enable him to make proper answers, and to secure him against the transgression of any law; and therefore we may presume, that when he treated the high priest with some severity of speech, he either did not know, or did not acknowledge him to be a person invested with that authority. (f) Since the time of his conversion, which was now about five and twenty years, he had been seldom at Jersusalem, and when he came thither, made but a short stay; so that he might very well be unacquainted with the high priest's person, especially if he had not on, at that time, the vestments peculiar to his function, and such as distinguished him from ordinary priests. The order of the pontifical succession, likewise, had been so totally destroyed, and both by the Jewish kings and Roman governors, the high priests placed and displaced so frequently, that à stranger, just come to Jerusalem, might not always know who was the present possessor of that dignity.
But even suppose that St Paul had known that Ananias was then in the chair, (g) yet as that pontiff is supposed to have obtained his office by bribery, the apostle, who had been taught by his master Gamaliel, that "whoever did so was neither a judge, nor deserved to be honoured as such," might demur to his title, and say, “I know very well that a ruler of the people' is not to be reviled, but that the person
(a) 2 Timothy ii, 18.
tions on Acts xxiii. 5.
(c) Ibid. v. 12, 13. (✔) Luke xii. 11, 12. (g) Grotius, Whitby, and Beausobre's Annota