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all indifferent Matters, especially if thereby he might gain fome) readily complied with the Propofal of St. James; and took the men; and the next day, purifying himSelf with them, entred into the temple, to fignify the accomplishment of the days of TM purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them. And when the Seven days were almost ended, &c. It was reckon'd a very meritorious Act in any Person of Ability to be at Charges with any poor Nazarite, in providing the best Offerings for him, when the Days of his Separation were fulfill'd; and fhew'd that they were zealous of the Law.
This Opportunity therefore St. Paul takes, for the Prefervation of Peace and Charity, among the froward infant Members of the Primitive Church; though his own private Opinion, was on the other fide of the Question: And which, we find, he communicated privately to them which were Gal. ii. 2. of reputation; (the other Apostles, James and Peter and John) to whom, great as
they were, he gave place by fubjection, no, 5. not før an hour; that the truth of the Gof
pel might continue with the Gentiles, And Galii. afterwards, when Peter was come to Antioch, he tells us, be withstood him to the face, upon this very Account.
In short, the whole Point in Question was; whether, that Liberty, which, by the Gospel of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, accrued to the Profeffors of Christianity, particularly the Gentile Profelytes, was to be afferted then, immediately, in all Places; or forborn and diffembled, for a while, to avoid the Fury and Perfecution of the enraged Jews: Stephen having been condemned to be stoned to Death, upon that very Account.
Acts xxi. 20.
Those of the Apoftles, whofe Province lay in Jerufalem and the Parts adjacent, being Men of like Paffions with others, and confequently fubject to human Frailties, were inclin'd to temporize in the Matter; for Fear of hazarding not only their own Lives but the Lofs of many Thousands of Jews, who, at that Time,were Converts to Christianity, and yet zealous of the Law.
On the other fide, St. Paul, whofe Preaching had been altogether among the
Gentiles, was quite bold and open in afferting that the ceremonial Law had, by CHRIST's Coming, received its full Completion and final Determination: and therefore the Word, with him, was; Stand Gal. v. 1, faft in the liberty wherewith CHRIST has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul fay unto you, that, if ye be circumcifed, CHRIST fhall profit you nothing.
That this was really the Opinion of all the Apostles, we may fee from the Refolution of St. James, at a Great Council held at Jerufalem long before, upon this very Question; My fentence, is, that we Acts xv. trouble not them, (to keep the Ceremonial 19. Law) which from among the Gentiles are turned to God. To this, the rest of the Council affent; and a Decree is fent away to the Cities of the Gentiles accordingly; in which are these Words; It seemed good, Acts xv, to the Holy Ghoft, and to us, to lay upon you 28, 29, no greater burden than thefe neceffary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things ftrangled, and from fornication; from which, if ye keep your felves, ye shall do well.
And, to balance the Matter fairly, it must be confefs'd that St. Paul had, upon occafion, temporiz'd in this Point, as well as the rest of the Apostles: When, at Acts xvi. Lyftra, he took Timothy, whose father was a Greek, and circumcifed him, because of the Jews which were in those quarters.
This Digreffion cannot be thought unseasonable, fince it fuggests to us a very convenient Doctrine; That Ceremonies, merely indifferent, however they may be unneceffary, or even burdenfom, ought to be complied with, to humour a Majority: And, at the fame Time, That, where People can use their own Liberty without hurting themselves, the lefs they are troubled with them, the better.
The PROPHET S.
The Prophets were Perfons whom God was pleas'd to honour with a divine Spirit of foreseeing fome extraordinary Ooand foretelling them to the World, long before they came to pass, or were even thought of. And from hence,
originally they obtain'd the Name of Seers. In the Days of Samuel, it is faid; Beforetime, in Ifrael, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the Seer: for he that is now called a prophet was beforetime called a Seer.
I Sam. ix. 9.
By their Mouths, God was fo gracious, from time to time, as to warn his People 1of the Evils they wou'd bring upon themfelves by their finful Difobedience: And to encourage them to walk in the Ways of Righteoufnefs, by a Promife of the many Bleffings He wou'd, upon that Condition, confer upon them. And through all, a T future Meffiah is frequently predicted; to augment their Happiness, when they were virtuous and good; and to prevent them from falling into Despair, when they were punish'd and humbled for their Tranfgreffions. Thus the LORD is introduc'd fpeaking to them; Since the day that your Jer. vii. fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt, 25. unto this day, I have fent unto you all my Servants the prophets.
And even before the Law took Place, and probably, from the first Beginning of