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who heard Peter preach on the day of pentecost, and who were converted by him, strangers of Rome are mentioned, Acts ii. 10. 41. These Roman Jews, on their return home, no doubt preached Christ to their countrymen in the city, and probably converted some of them : so that the church at Rome, like most of the Gentile churches, began in the Jews. But it was soon enlarged by converts from among the religious proselytes; and in process of time, was increased by the flowing in of the idolatrous Gentiles, who gave themselves to Christ in such numbers, that at the time St. Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, their conversion was much spoken of.
These facts merit attention ; because the opposers of our religion represent the first Christians as below the notice of the heathen magistrates, on account of the paucity of their numbers, and the obscurity with which they practised their religious rites. But if the faith of the Roman brethren was spoken of throughout the whole empire, at the time this letter was written, the disciples of Christ in Rome must have been numerous, and must have professed their religion openly: for the turning of a few obscure individuals in the city from the worship of idols, and their worshipping the true God clandestinely, could not be the subject of discourse in the provinces.-Farther, that there were many Chriftians in Rome when St. Paul wrote this epistle, may be inferred from the tumults occasioned by the contests which the Jews had with them about the law, and which gave rise to Claudius's decree, banishing the whole of them from Rome, Acts xviii. 2. See sect. 3. page 168. at the beginning. - The falutations likewise in the end of this epiftle, show how numerous the brethren in Rome were at that time, some of whom were of long standing in the faith, as Andronicus and Funies, who were converted before Paul himself; others of them were teachers, as Urbanus ; others were deacons and deaconefles, as Mary, Iryphena, Tryphosa, and Perfis, all of whom were active in spreading the gospel ; others were persons of station, such as the members of the family of Narcissus, if, as is commonly supposed, he was the emperor's favourite of that name. But although this should not be admitted, the faints in Cæsar's household, whose falutation, some years after this, the apostle fent to the Philippians, may have been persons of considerable note.
Sect. II. Of the State of the Christian Church, at the Time St. Paul
wrote his Epistle to the Romans. The gospel being offered to the world as a revelation from God, the Jews justly expected, that it would agree in all things with the former revelations, of which they were the keepers. And therefore, when they perceived, that many of the doctrines taught by the apostles were contrary to the received tenets, which the scribes pretended to derive from the writings of Moses and the prophets, the bulk of the nation rejected the gospel, and argued against it with the greatest vehemence of passion, in the persuasion that it was an impious heresy, inconsistent with the ancient revelations, and destructive of piety.
To remove this specious cavil, the apostles, besides preaching the doctrines of the gospel as matters revealed to themselves, were at pains to shew that these doctrines were contained in the writings of Moses and the prophets; and that none of the tenets contrary to the gospel, which the Jewish doctors pretended to deduce from their own sacred writings, had any foundation there. Of these tenets, the most pernicious was, their misinterpretation of the promise to Abraham; that in his feed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. For the Jews, considering the moral precepts of the law of Moses as a perfect rule of duty, and its facrifices and purifications as real atonements for fin, and believing that no man could be saved out of their church, affirmed that the blessing of the nations in Abraham's feed, consisted in the conversion of the nations to Judaism by the Jews. Hence the Jewish believers, strongly impressed with these notions, taught the Gentiles, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved, Acts xv. 1. But this doctrine, though obstinately maintained, was a gross error. The law of Moses was no rule of justification. - It was a political institution, established for governing the Jews as the subjects of God's temporal kingdom in Canaan. And therefore the apostles, elders, and brethren, assembled in the council of Jerusalem, justly decreed, that the yoke of the law was not to be imposed on the Gentiles, as necessary to their salvation.
A decision, so deliberately and solemnly pronounced, by such an assembly, ought, among the disciples of Christ, to have
Gilenced all disputations on the subject. Nevertheless, the con. verted Jews, having been accustomed to glory in their relation to God as his people, and in the privileges which they had so long enjoyed, were extremely offended, when, according to the new doctrine, they found the Gentiles under the gospel, raised to an equality with them in all religious privileges. Wherefore, disregarding the decrees which were ordained of the apostles and elders, they exhorted the Gentiles every where to become Jews, if they wilhed to be saved. And this exhortation made the stronger impression on the Gentiles, that the Jewish worship by sacrifices, purifications, and holidays, was, in many respects, similar to their former worship. Besides, as the Jews were the only people who, before the introduction of the gospel, enjoyed the knowledge of the true God, and a revelation of his will, and as the Christian preachers themselves appealed to that revelation in proof of their doctrine, the Gentiles naturally paid a great regard to the opinion of the Jews in matters of religion, and especially to their interpretations of the ancient oracles. Hence some of the Gentile converts, especially in the churches of Galatia and Phrygia, who before their conversion were extremely ignorant in religious matters, hearkening to the Judaizing teachers, received circumcifion, and thereby bound themselves to obey the law of Mofes, in the persuafion that it was the only way to secure the favour of the Deity.
According to this view of the matter, the controversy which in the first age disturbed the Christian church, was not, as Locke supposes, whether the Gentiles, in their uncircumcised ftate, should be admitted into the church, and enjoy equal privileges with the Jews; and whether it was lawful for the Jews to hold religious communion with them, while they remained uncircumcised; but plainly, whether there was any church but the Jewish, in which men could be saved. For when the Judaiz:rş taught the Gentile brethren, çxcept ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved, they certainly meant that salvation could be obtained no where, but in the Jewish church.
In this controversy, the unbelieving Jews, and all the Judaizing Christians, ranged themselves on the one side, strongly and with united voices affirming, that Judaism was the only religion in
which men could be saved; that there was no gospel church different from the Jewish, nor any revealed law of God but the law of Mofes; and that the gospel was nothing but an explication of that law, of the same kind with the explications given of it by the prophets. On the other side, in this great controversy, stood the apostles and elders, and all the well-informed brethren, who, knowing that the Jewish church was at an end, and that the law of Moses was abrogated, ítrenuously maintained, that a 'new church of God was erected, in which all mankind might obtain salvation by faith without circumcision; and that the gospel was the only law of this new church. They therefore maintained the freedom of the Gentiles from the law of Moses in all its parts, and boldly asserted, that the gospel alone was sufficient for the salvation of the Gentiles ; consequently, that they were under no obligation to have recourse to the Levitical sacrifices and purifications, for procuring the pardon of their fins.
The controversy concerning the obligation of the law of Moses, viewed in the light wherein I have placed it, was a matter of no small importance, since on its determination depended, whether the law of Moses or the gospel of Christ should be the religion of the world. No wonder, therefore, that St. Paul introduced this controversy in so many of his epistles; and that he wrote three of them in particular, for the express purpose of confuting an error so plausible and so pernicious : I mean his epiftles to the Romans, to the Galatians, and to the Hebrews. These learned epistles, in process of time, produced the desired effect. By the strength of the arguments set forth in them, and by representing the same things every where in his preaching and conversation, the apostle enlightened many of the Jewish converts ; and these well-instructed Jewish brethren, in their several churches, effectually opposed the errors of the Judaizers : by all which, Judaism hath at length been banished from the christian church, in which for a while it had taken root, through the misguided zeal of the Jewish converts; and the gospel now remains the only revealed religion, authorized by God, and obligatory on men.
Sect. III. Of the Occasion of writing the Epistle to the Romans.
The controversy concerning the law of Moses, described in the foregoing section, was agitated very early at Rome, where the Jews being rich and factious, disputed the matter with greater violence than in other churches. And the unbelieving part, taking a share in the controversy, they occafioned such tumults, that the emperor Claudius, in the eleventh year of his reign, banished the contending parties from the city. So the Roman historian Suetonius informs us, who, confounding the Chrifrians with the Jews, calls the whole by 'the general name of Jews, and affirms that they were excited to these tum'ults by Chrif, (Chrifto impulsore, Claud. c. 25.) because he had heard, I suppose, that Christ was the subject of their quarrels.
Among the banished from Rome was Aquila, a Jew, born in Pontus, and his wife Priscilla, both of them Christians. These came to Corinth, about the time St. Paul firt visited that city; and being of the same occupation with him, they received him into their house, employed him in their business, and gave him wages for his work, with which he maintained himself all the time he preached the gospel to the Corinthians. During his abode with them, Aquila and Priscilla, no doubt, gave the apostle a full account of the state of the church at Rome, before its dispersion : and, among other things, told him, that the unbelieving Romans, following the Greeks, affirmed the light of natural reason to have been from the beginning a sufficient guide to mankind in matters of religion: that, being great admirers. of the Greeks, they considered their philosophy as the perfection of human reason, and extolled it as preferable to the gospel, which they scrupled not to pronounce mere foolishness: that, on the other hand, the unbelieving Jews, no less prejudiced in favour of the law of Moses, affirmed, it was the only religion in which men could be saved ; and condemned the gospel as a detestable heresy, because it did not adopt the sacrifices, purifications, and other rites enjoined by Moses.— They farther told the apostle, that many, even of the converted Jews, extolled the institutions of Moses, as more effectual for the salvation of finners than the gospel, and, in that persuasion, pressed the Gentiles to join the law with the gospel, that, by its facrifices and purifications, the