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with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which has an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him- -But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother, or a sister, is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace." That is, if the unbelieving relative depart, the marriage must be dissolved. But the believing relative is not to be the first mover in dissolving the contract of marriage. Such things were done under the law. But a more friendly and peaceable behaviour is required of us. For as he goes on," What knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or, how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" that is, by bringing off in time such relatives, respectively, from idolatry to christianity.
The danger of idolatry might still be great; but not so great under the gospel, as under the law. And the gospel of Christ was less burdensome, and more reasonable and inviting, than the law of Moses.
Marriages with idolaters were not to be dissolved; but yet should not be contracted. Though such a marriage would not be unlawful, yet it was a point of prudence, and a matter of expedience, to avoid it. This is what I understand by fornication in this epistle. And as there are not now, and have not been for a good while in this part of the world, any heathen idolaters; this article, like the rest, is become obsolete. And as all the directions, here given, relate to things expedient in the circumstances of those times; it is not to be at all wondered at, that the meaning of several of them is now obscure and doubtful.
VI. OBSERVATIONS, IN THE MANNER OF COROLLARY. have now shown, that this epistle was designed for the use of all believers from among the Gentiles; that the regulations, contained in it, are not of a moral nature, but relate to such things as are in their own nature indifferent. I have also endeavoured to show the meaning of each particular.
I am in great danger of being esteemed prolix. Nevertheless as the subject is before me, I shall go on to put down some other observations, chiefly in the way of corollaries.
1. This decree is not to be understood as a precept, or commandment, but as delivering advice and counsel concerning some matters of prudence and expedience, considering the circumstances of things and persons at that time.
When Paul and Barnabas had returned to Antioch from
a peregrination in several cities and countries, where they had preached the gospel, "They gathered the church together, and rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples," Acts xiv. 27, 28.
Whilst they were there," certain men, which came down from Judea, taught the brethren, and said; Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined, that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. When they were come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church, and by the apostles and elders; and they declared all that God had done with them; but there had risen up certain of the sect of the pharisees which believed, who said, that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and spoke" After that Barnabas and Paul were heard," who declared what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them." After which James riseth up, and reasons upon the point. And then concludes: "Wherefore my sentence is," Aio eŋyw kpivw, I judge, I determine, “ that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God; but that we write to them," ettiσteidai avtois, that they "abstain from pollutions of idols-Then h pleased it the apostles," or it seemed good" to the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch- And they wrote letters by them after this manner -It has seemed good unto the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden, than these necessary things- -From which, if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well:" You will do what is acceptable, and agreeable, and will be well taken by us and by all the brethren of the circumcision.' So Cornelius says to St. Peter, ch. x. 33, "Immediately therefore I sent to thee. And thou hast well done, that thou art come." Philip. iv. 14," You have well done, that you have communicated with me in my affliction." 3 John, ver. 6, "Whom, if thou bring forward in their journey, after a godly sort, thou wilt dok well."
Ꮒ Τότε έδοξε τοις αποτόλοις. και ήμιν.
· Έδοξε γαρ τῳ ἁγίῳ πνευματικ k Vid. Grot. in Act. x. 33. et xv. 29.
Afterwards, ch. xvi. 4. It is said of Paul and Barnabas, "that as they went through the cities,' they delivered them the decrees to keep, that were ordained," determined, " by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem." The meaning of the Greek word here rendered decrees is equivalent to placita, resolutions, decisions, upon a question, and particularly, upon that question, which had been brought from Antioch, to the apostles at Jerusalem.
For certain, if we have given a right interpretation of the words, these regulations are not a part of the gospel of Christ, which is everlasting; but wise decisions and determinations, suited to the circumstances of things, in the christian church at that time.
2. These regulations are the result of that wisdom, with which the apostles of Christ were inspired, for deciding the question, whether Gentile converts should keep the law; and for directing their conduct, in the use of that liberty, which they had a right to, and was now secured to them.
"It has seemed good unto the Holy Ghost, and to us," that is, it has seemed good unto us," under the divine influence and direction, "to lay upon you no other burden, than these necessary things:" which we have judged expedient to be observed by you in the present circum
I say these regulations are the result of that wisdom, with which the apostles were inspired upon this occasion. For it does not appear, that any such regulations had obtained before. If they had, some notice would have been taken of it. And the reminding men of it would have tended to reconcile those, to whom these directions were sent to comply with them, and pay a regard to them. Nor can I discern either in Josephus, or in the books of the Old, or the New Testament, any hints or traces of them, before this council at Jerusalem.
I may hereafter enlarge farther upon the wisdom bestowed upon the apostles for conducting the affairs of the christian church. All that I intended to say here, is no more than this: that the four articles in this decree are not taken from any Noachic precepts, nor from any other Jewish traditions: but were now first thought of, and first proposed and recommended, by the apostles, upon occasion of the present
1 Παρεδίδεν αυτοις φυλασσειν τα δογματα τα κεκριμμενα υπο των αποςόλων. Visum est Spiritui Sancto, et nobis.] Id est, visum est nobis ex exstinctu sive suggestione Spiritûs Sancti. ev dia duw. Piscator in Act. xv. 28.
3. The several regulations of this decree were expedient and useful, (as has been already hinted" several times,) on one or both these accounts. 1. To prevent offence in the believing Jews, and facilitate civil converse, and religious communion between believing Jews and Gentiles. And, 2. To secure the Gentile converts themselves, the more effectually from apostasy, or a return to idolatry, by keeping them out of the way of some dangerous snares and temptations.
That the former was one ground and reason of these regulations, may be reckoned evident from the history in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts, and from many things in St. Paul's epistles; where he shows the expediency of forbearing some meats, when there was any hazard of offending a christian brother. As Rom xiv. and xv. at the beginning, and 1 Cor. chap. viii. and x. 25-33. That the latter was another ground and reason of the counsels here given, may be also argued to be very probable from St. Paul's exhortations to avoid dangerous temptations to idolatry, which are likewise in the same context. See particularly, 1 Cor. x. 1-22, and 2 Cor. vi. 13-18.
4. There was a happy agreement in the council, and the regulations, now determined, were carried with great unanimity; as appears from the history in the fifteenth chapter of the book of the Acts.
St. Luke intimates, that for a while there was much disputing. It is very likely, that they who were for imposing the law upon the Gentiles, and now appeared before the council, laboured to maintain their cause, and carry their point. And, possibly, their arguments at first appeared specious and plausible to some others, who were not engaged with them. But, that the resolutions, finally determined, were carried with a general consent, is manifest. We have the speech of the apostle Peter, who openly declares against imposing a law upon the Gentiles, as necessary to salvation. James afterwards speaks to the like purpose, sums up the arguments that had been alleged, and concludes the debates. The epistle itself is written in clear and strong terms. And the judgment upon the point is delivered with the joint authority of all the members of the council. "Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas, surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren. And wrote letters by them after this manner. The apostles, and
See particularly, p. 320, note *,
elders, and brethren, send greeting unto the brethren, which are of the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia." Then they pass a censure upon those, who had occasioned the disturbance at Antioch, and say; "Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain, which went out from among us, have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying; Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law; to whom we gave no such commandment." They proceed : "It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you, with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore unto you Judas and Silas, who shall tell you the same things by mouth." How affectionate and respectful is all this!" For it has seemed good unto the Holy Ghost, and to us," that is, to us, under divine influence and direction, " to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch. And when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle. Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. And Judas and Silas being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren, and confirmed them."
Every part of this whole affair shows great unanimity, good temper, and admirable candour and discretion. When the messengers from the church at Antioch came to Jerusalem, and proposed the question; "The apostles and elders came together to consider of the matter." Having carefully weighed it, they all agree in one judgment. And when they send the decree away, they make the most honourable mention of Barnabas and Paul, who had preached the gospel in Syria, and other parts. With them they send Judas and Silas, who were some of the most eminent men of the church of Jerusalem, and also prophets themselves next in knowledge and understanding, and in spiritual gifts, to apostles. Who, when they came to Antioch, "gathered together the multitude," or the whole church, and delivered to them the epistle: adding also observations of their own, tending to reconcile them to the regulations contained in it. And the christians at Antioch were well satisfied, and rejoiced for the consolation afforded them, and for the regard that had been shown to them, in asserting and securing their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial appointments of the law of Moses.
This harmony continued: as appears from the discourses of James and the elders at Jerusalem, when Paul came