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reside in their respective dioceses. But still, if by bishops we only understand persons From Acts. i. who had authority to ordain and govern the clergy of their provinces, and to exercise 10. to the end. acts of discipline and censure over ecclesiastics, as well as private Christians, we cannot but think, that when we find (a) “ Timothy set over the house of God,” and in that house empowered (b) to make rules for the orderly celebration of Divine worship; to see that teachers (c) taught no other doctrine than what they had received from our Lord and his disciples; to commit the doctrine of the Gospel (d)" to faithful men who should be able to teach others ;" and to ordain those whom he should find to be qualified (e), some to be bishops, and others deacons: When we find him authorized (ƒ) to provide for the competent maintenance, and all due respect of church-offices; to take cognizance of accusations (g), even against elders; to (h) rebuke publicly those that sin; and to inflict censures proportionably to the crimes that are proved against them: And when we find Titus, in like manner, authorized to teach all degrees of men, and (i) "to exhort and rebuke them with all authority; to take cognizance of heretics; and such as did not repent (k) upon the second admonition, to reject from the communion of saints; () to set in order what St Paul had left unfinished; and to ordain those whom himself should approve" to be bishops and elders:" We cannot but think, I say, that, to all intents and purposes, they were bishops, and had the several parts of the apostolic authority committed to them; though in this they differed from such settled diocesan bishops as are among us, that the frequent calls of their evangelical office obliged them to be oftentimes absent from their charge.
St Paul, speaking of himself and his doctrine, has these remarkable words, (m)" I certify to you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not of man; for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ;" and therefore he styles himself "an (n) apostle, not of men, neither by man." Let us then observe a little, when it was that Jesus Christ vouchsafed him the revelation which he here speaks of, and then we may possibly find out the time when he first cómmenced an apostle. At his first conversion near Damascus, he saw a great light, and heard a voice issuing from heaven; but it does not appear that at this time he had any sight of Christ, or received any revelation from him, except (o) that he should go to Damascus, where it should be told him what was appointed for him to do. In Damascus, indeed, Ananias told him, that God had chosen him (p)" to know his will and see that Just One, and to hear the voice of his mouth, and (q) to carry his name to the Gentiles;" but this is rather a declaration of what was revealed to Ananias than any designation of Saul to the apostleship. Encouraged however by this notification from Ananias, and the inspiration which he received by the imposition of his hands, he began to preach in the name of Christ, and continued to do so for full three years with great eloquence and strength of argument; but so far was all this from gaining him the character of an apostle, that when he came to Jerusalem the first time after his conversion, (r) the brethren would not believe that he was so much as a disciple. It is no improbable opinion, therefore, (s) that it was at the second time of his coming up to Jerusalem, when, (as himself relates the matter) while he was praying in the temple, he fell into a trance, and saw Jesus Christ saying unto him, (7) Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, for they will not receive thy testimony con erning me, and therefore depart; for I will send thee far hence to the Gentiles:" It was at this time, I say, that he not only received his commission to preach the Gospel to the Gen
(b) Ibid. ii. 1.
(f) Ibid. v. 17.
(a) 1 Tim. iii. 15.
(e) 1 Tim. iii. 1, 2, &c.
(r) Ibid. 26.
(c) Ibid i. 3.
(p) Ibid. xxii. 14.
(d) 2 Tim. ii. 2. (h) Ibid. ver. 20. (m) Gal. i. 11, 12. (9) Ibid. ix. 15.
A. M. 4102, &c. or 5509.
Ann. Dom. 98, &c.
tiles, but the revelation of (a) the Gospel likewise which he was to preach, and the designation of the very person that was to accompany him in the work.
That he received such a revelation, (b) wherein God made known unto him "the mystery which, in other ages, was not known unto the sons of men, viz. that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel," himself testifies; and yet we have no clear account of any other interview between Christ and him than what happened here in the temple, upon his second coming to Jerusalem. Being thus furnished with a proper revelation, and a fellow-labourer to assist him in the propagation of it, he and Barnabas returned unto Antioch, where the Holy Ghost soon ordered the church (c) to separate them for the work whereunto he had called them, viz. in the vision which he vouchsafed Saul in the temple, when he was last at Jerusalem; and accordingly "the church (d) fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, having recommended them to the grace of God, and sent them away;" and they, being thus sent forth by the Holy Ghost, proceeded to the work of their ministry with great chearfulness and unanimity; until, upon their second peregrination, a certain disagreement happened, which produced a separation between them.
It may not be amiss however to observe, that the design of the Holy Ghost in having this their perverseness recorded, was not only to testify the truth and sincerity of the apostolic history, which is not afraid to relate the faults and failings of its chief personages, whatever construction may be put upon them; but to show us likewise that the best Christians are subject to the same passions and infirmities with other men; and that therefore none ought to be too much elated with an opinion of their own piety, or to despise others whom they may imagine their inferiors. Nor must it be forgotten, that this benefit in particular accrued to St Mark, (who was the subject of their contention) viz. that the positiveness of St Paul not to take him in company, who, in their former journey, had so shamefully deserted them, made him more constant and resolved in the service of the church for the time to come, and gave the church this advantage, (as we hinted before) (e) that by means of the separation of two such eminent apostles, more people were converted, and a greater number of provinces (than otherwise would have been) visited with the glorious light of the Gospel.
The like benefit accrued to the church from the divine severity on Ananias and his wife Sapphira; for it was not any sentence of St Peter that destroyed them, but the righteous judgment of God, in punishing the hypocrisy, the covetousness, the sacrilege, and gross impiety wherewith their crime was aggravated. The custom in those times was, (f)" for as many as were possessors of lands to sell them, and to bring the prices of the things that were sold, and to lay them down at the apostles feet, that distribution might be made unto every man according as he had need." This charitable disposition among believers, Ananias and his wife made use of to obtain a false reputation, and to pass a cheat upon the apostles if they could. To this purpose they gave it out that they had devoted all their possessions (which perhaps were very large) to the use of the church, and accordingly sold them. "This, say they, will gain us the credit of being very charitable and religious persons; will make us be highly respected by the apostles, and, in a manner, idolized among the brethren. We purpose, however, not to give away our all upon this occasion, though we may pretend we do so, but will reserve a good portion to ourselves; and if we keep but our own counsel, who will find it out? The apostles indeed are persons endued with great gifts, but (g) ' what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him?' It is impossible for them to pry into our hearts: And therefore if we blab it not ourselves, we may
(a) Philip. ii. 2.
(c) Acts xiii. 2. (f) Acts iv. 34, 35.
(d) Ibid. 3, 4. (g) 1 Cor. ii. 11.
10. to the end.
by this means put out our money to good interest, and by laying down a part of the From Acts i. price at the apostles feet, (as others have done the whole) be entitled to the same right of relief from the public stock which others, who have parted with their all, are admitted to, and at the same time retain a comfortable subsistence for ourselves. All that we have to do, then, is to be stedfast and uniform in our story, and then we may defy the Spirit of God itself, which the apostles make such boast of to detect us.”
This seems to be a natural comment upon their contrivance and conspiracy; and if so, (a) the Jews, who are apt to object against Christians the severity of what they suffered, would do well to remember, that the law of Moses allowed of no atonement for wilful sacrilege, but (b) left the delinquent to be cut off by the hand of heaven, as Ananias here was: Nor should it be forgotten, (c), that as we find God, under the law, more severe in his punishment of those who first offended in offering strange fire, (as in the case of Nadab and Abihu) and violated the Sabbath, (as in the case of the man who gathered sticks on that day), and especially against those who rose up against Moses the prophet, and Aaron the priest of the Lord, (as in the case of Korah and his company), there is the like reason that the first great offence of this kind, under the Gospel dispensation, should receive exemplary punishment from the hand of God, that others might stand in more terror of those sins, which thus affronted that Holy Ghost, by whose power the Christian religion began now to be propagated; for so the text tells us, (d) "that great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things, and believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women."
St Paul, speaking of his own easy compliance to the several tempers and humours of those with whom he conversed, (e)" Though I be free from all men, (says he) yet have I made myself a servant unto all, that I might gain the more; unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without the law, as without the law, that I might gain them that are without the law; to the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some, and this I do for the Gospel's sake :" And doubtless for the Gospel's sake it was that he appointed Timothy to be circumcised. He knew full well the prejudices which the Jews had conceived against persons who had not submitted to that ordinance; that they would not suffer them to appear, much less to argue and discourse in any of their synagogues: And therefore, being determined to take Timothy for the companion of his travels, (to make his access more easy to the Jews, and himself a fitter instrument in their conversion) he thought proper to give him this passport as it were: (f) "Circumcision (he knew) was nothing, and uncircumcision was nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God." (g) In its own nature it was a thing indifferent, neither required by the Christian religion, nor inconsistent with it; and under this consideration he was willing it should pass upon Timothy: But when it came to be required as a duty, and a duty necessary to salvation; to be used as the distinguishing mark of a Jew, in opposition to Christians; to be made an obligation to the total observance of the law, and a rock of offence to those of a different persuasion; it then became evil, and inconsistent with the doctrine of the Gospel. Under this sense it is that St Paul so frequently and so loudly declaims against it; and upon these considerations it was that he would not allow Titus to be circumcised, notwithstanding the earnest importunity of some people of reputa tion at Jerusalem.
(a) Kidder's Demonstration of the Messiah, part ii. (c) Whitby's Annotations on Acts v. 1.
(e) 1 Cor. ix. 19, &c. siah, part ii. page 93.
(f) Ibid. vii. 19.
&c. or 5509.
A. M. 4102, (a) With what a jealous eye St Paul was looked upon by all judaizing Christians, as a Ann. Dom. person averse to the Mosaic institutions, is sufficiently known. These men had been at Antioch, where, having insidiously watched the liberty which he took in omitting Fall legal observances, they, when he came to Jerusalem, informed the church against him, that he preached to the Gentiles, who were not circumcised; that he conversed freely and familiarly with them; that Titus, who was a Greek, was at that time with him; and therefore, to put the matter upon an issue, they urged that this intimate friend of his might be circumcised. Their policy in this was visible. Had they carried their point against St Paul, they would soon have informed the church of Antioch, that, by the order of the council at Jerusalem, (b) Titus had been obliged to be circumcised; and this, besides the defeat given to the apostle, and baffle to his doctrine of Christian liberty, would have proved a great scandal and discouragement to the heathen converts, and an impediment to the progress of the Gospel, which at that time began to be more successful among the Gentiles than the Jews. And therefore St Paul was resolute, and took especial care that Titus should not be circumcised. that, upon the whole, it appears that St Paul was no ways inconsistent with himself, though he varied his conduct according to the different circumstances he found himself under. He ordered Timothy (whose mother was a Jewess) to be circumcised, because his circumcision would be a means to forward his ministry, and to gain him an easier access to the Jews; but he refused to have Titus, who was a Gentile, circumcised, because his circumcision would have been a means to scandalize the brethren, to alienate their minds from the Christian faith, and a great obstruction to the course of the Gospel. In short, (c) Titus he would not suffer to be circumcised, thereby to shew that circumcision was not necessary; but Timothy he allowed to be circumcised, that, by his practice, it might appear that such ceremonies were not evil in themselves, but might be used without any crime until by degrees they came to be abolished.
The like may be said of his own compliance with certain ceremonies of purification, at the request of St James and the other elders at Jerusalem, and for the satisfaction of the Jewish converts there. (d) "Thou seest, brother, (say they) how many thousands of Jews there are who believe, and they are all zealous for the observance of the law." The law of Moses was held in so great veneration, as being the contrivance of God himself, (e)" ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator," ratified by miracles, and entertained by all their forefathers, as the peculiar prerogative of their nation for so many generations, that even those who, by the evidence of the Gospel, were prevailed upon to embrace Christianity, could not overcome the prejudice of education, but still continued their adherence to those legal rites and customs wherein they had been brought up. Some of them indeed were for obtruding them upon the Gentile converts, but the most moderate of them all (even bishops and elders, as well as the laity) were for a punctual observation of them among the Jewish. They were convinced, that these institutions were of Divine original. They knew of no revelation made by God, that they were to cease after the death of their Messiah. Our Blessed Saviour, in his Gospel, had said little or nothing of them; nay, in saying " that he came not to destroy the law and the prophets," he seems to have given a fresh sanction to them; and because he foreknew that the destruction of their temple, and their exclusion from their own land, would in a short time make it impossible for them to observe them, he had given none of the apostles (except it was St Paul) any intimations concerning them; and therefore it is not to be wondered at, that men in these circumstances should advise St Paul (for the good of so many thousand souls, as might otherwise take exception at his conduct) to comply with the observance of some things, which as yet, (b) Ibid. on Acts xvi. (e) Gal. iii. 19.
(a) Hammond's Annotations on Philip. ii. 3. Commentary on Acts xvi.
(d) Acts xxi. 20, &c.
they did not think abrogated. So that, in the apostles at Jerusalem, there was no de From Acts i. sign of deluding the people into a false belief by St Paul's conforming himself to some 10. to the end. ritual observances, because their present persuasion was, that it was a duty incumbent upon him so to do, St Paul indeed knew very well, that our Saviour by his death (a) "had abolished the law of commandments contained in ordinances;" but since these were observances belonging to the temple, which was yet standing, and God had not by any express declaration made to the Jews prohibited the continuance of them, he might lawfully submit to this compliance with them, in order to prevent the scandal of the believing Jews, which might otherwise alienate them from the Christianity they had embraced, and to promote, by his future preaching among them, the conversion and salvation of the unbelieving
(b) "Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves," is a lesson which our Saviour gave his disciples, and which St Paul, more especially at this time, when he was every where surrounded by his enemies, had occasion to put in practice. Most casuists are of opinion, that by all innocent men it is allowable to sow divisions among the wicked, because the union of the wicked is as prejudicial to the cause of religion as the disunion is destructive to it. If therefore St Paul, by an innocent address, could set the Pharisees and Sadducees at variance, there is no reason to be given why he should decline it. Had he indeed, in so doing, but implicitly denied himself to be a Christian, this had been an inexcusable crime; but both the Pharisees and Sadducees were too well acquainted with him and his conversion ever to put that construction upon his words. The resurrection of the dead was a principle doctrine of the Christian religion; and as it was coincident with the faith of the Pharisees, I cannot see how he could use a more proper argument to convince them of their fault and folly in persecuting Christians, than to shew, that they themselves did hold one of the prime articles of the Christian faith; and if by declaring this doctrine of Christianity before them, he engaged the Pharisees on his side, and thereby declined the malice and rage of his enemies, who can say, but that, in this putting the wisdom of the serpent in execution, he still preserved the harm. lessness of the dove?
But this can hardly be said of St Peter's prevarication at Antioch. (c) He, at his first coming down to that place, made use of the liberty which the Gospel had given him. He familiarly ate and conversed with the Gentile converts, accounting them, now that the "partition wall was broken down, no longer (d) strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." This he had been taught by the vision of the sheet let down from heaven. This had been lately decreed, and he himself had promoted, and subscribed it in the Synod at Jerusalem. This he had before practised towards Cornelius and his family, and justified the action to the satisfaction of his accusers: And this he had freely and innocently done at Antioch, till some of the Jewish brethren coming thither, for fear of offending and displeasing them, he withdrew his converse from the Gentiles, as if it had been unlawful for him to hold communion with uncircumcised persons. In this affair, as he himself acted against the light of his own mind and judgment, condemning what he had approved, and destroying what before he had built up; so hereby he confirmed the Jewish zealots in their inveterate error; cast infinite scruples into the minds of the Gentiles; revived the old feuds and prejudices between them; destroyed that union and harmony, which before his coming prevailed in the church of Antioch; and in short, brought matters to that issue, that the whole number of Jewish converts, following his example, separated themselves from the company of Gentile Christians, insomuch, that St Paul was forced to interpose his authority with rebukes.
(a) Eph. ii. 15.
(b) Matt. x. 16.
(c) Cave's Life of St Peter.
(d) Eph. ii. 19.