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nation having been, during a course of ages, treated as the peculiar favourites of heaven, they universally claimed a proscriptive right to this exclusive privilege. It would have been in vain to assert, that an impartial God cannot, in reality, be an arbitrary respecter of persons; and that to him who loveth righteousness, the man in every nation that worketh righteousness, shall be accepted. The history of their own nation would have been adduced to confute the principle. Even the favoured disciples of that Jesus, who declared that he came to give light to the whole world, could not have imagined that this light should shine with equal lustre among the Gentiles. Here again was a miracle necessary. The apostle Peter was instructed, by an emblematical vision, that the distinction which had continued during so many ages, was no longer to exist; and he was ordered to give instruction to the devout heathen, Cornelius. Cornelius was directed, by a correspondent vision, to "send to Joppa, and call for one, Simon, surnamed Peter." The coincidence in this case, also, confirmed the faith of each. Peter being thus authorised to preach to the Gentiles, he tells Cornelius and his assembled household, how God had anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; "who
went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him;" and he said, "we are witnessess of all things which he did, both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they slew, and hanged on a tree; him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly." These were the facts he preached; he left them to operate, and they operated to the conviction and conversion of these heathens, from the paganism of their fathers.
Many other instances might be adduced to show, that, under circumstances in which natural means could not be efficient, recourse was had to those which were supernatural, for the introduction and promulgation of Christianity; while the course of truth, respecting subordidate parts, was committed to the influence of natural causes. Christianity being received, and its essential doctrines well understood, by the early Pagan and Jewish converts, they were left to the exercise of their own understandings, for decisions upon various intricate questions which occasionally presented themselves.
After a number of the Gentiles had embraced the Christian faith, we read, that some of the Jewish converts not only retained the ancient ordinance of circumcision, but their prejudices induced them to impose it also upon the Gentiles.
But this point was finally settled by the deliberate exercise of their own understandings, without any miraculous interposition; although the harmony of the Church seemed to depend upon their decisions. The apostles and elders being assembled to deliberate upon the subject, they agreed that it was not proper to lay upon theGentile converts, any other injunctions than those which were requisite to preserve them from idolatry, and the immoral practices which heathenism did not prohibit. They were to abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication."
Nor are we authorized to assert, that the primitive apostles were, in every respect, under the infallible direction of God, like their great master. He was the fountain, and of his fulness they received those portions of grace, which the peculiarities of their mission de-. manded. They were all inspired to preach, and they preached with one voice, the fundamental doctrines, that Christ was the Messiah, the sent of God, empowered to proclaim peace and recon-ciliation to penitent believers; that he was unjustly crucified; that he arose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and that he shall come again to judge the world in righteousness.
But they were not uniformly preserved from the errors and failings incident to humanity. Paul and Barnabas, those fellow workers in the promulgation of Gospel truths, quarrelled and parted about a circumstance which appears to us extremely trivial. Again, Saul accused Peter of duplicity in his conduct, upon a subject where it might have been the least expected. That very Peter, who had the honour of introducing Christianity among the heathens, by an express revelation, and associated with them at one period, not only withdrew from them, but compelled them to conform to some of the Jewish customs. "When Peter was come to Antioch," as St. Paul writes to the Galatians, "I withstood him to the face, because he was to blame; 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 that were of the circumcision; and the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch, that Barnabas was also carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before 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 ?"*
Peter acknowledges, that in the epistles of his colleague Paul, are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest, as they do other Scriptures, unto their own destruction. The difficulty must be ascribed to his abstruse mode of reasoning concerning points of doctrine, the opinions he entertained, and the basis of these opinions. Whatever deserves the character of an immediate revelation from heaven, must be explicit, and not be so obscurely expressed, that a brother apostle, who was also a divinely appointed missionary, should acknowledge that his sentiments were hard to be understood. These obscurities, in some measure, continue to the present hour. Most of our theological controversies are occasioned by them; and, what is most to be lamented, those passages which are the least understood are, in the warmth of disputation, considered as the most important!
St. Paul manifests his integrity, and strengthens our confidence respecting the truths he had professedly received by inspiration, when he acknowledges that he was not at all times inspired.
*Gal. ii. 12-14.