BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse


The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas


Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross


The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting


History of the Christian church

by George Park Fisher

Excerpt:

1 Acts xiii. 1-xiv. 2a * Acts xi. 29, 30. * Acts It. 5.

personal labors had been among "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." What he said of the spiritual nature of religion, of the folly of placing merit in external rites, of himself as superior to the Sabbath and the temple, of the higher type of worship that he had come to introduce, of faith in him as the one thing essential, contained the seeds of the destruction of the Jewish ceremonial system. Through his death and his rising to a heavenly life and a spiritual throne, its office was fulfilled. It was historically undermined ; but it was left to time, under the enlightening influence of the Spirit and of the lessons of Providence, to effect its downfall.

More resolutely than any other, Paul insisted on the free and universal nature of the gospel. He, like the Apostles at Jerusalem, first carried the good tidings to his own countrymen. But when, in the places which he visited, they met the call to believe in Jesus with a scornful rejection, he turned to the Gentiles, by whom the gospel was welcomed. The offer of salvation to them was not to be loaded with the condition that they should take on them the yoke of the law, and by circumcision enter within the fold of Judaism. Cornelius and other individuals had been recognized as brethren without submission to this rite ; but they were few in number, and the circumstances were peculiar. It was another question when whole communities were springing up, in which the characteristic rites were not required to be observed. That there should be perplexity and hesitation among the Jewish Christians, who hoped for the conversion of their countrymen as a body, was natural. There were symptoms of a grave conflict.

The threatened division was averted. Paul and Barnabas had first a private conference on the subject with the Apostles," and p»n]andthe then met the Jerusalem Church as a body.' The JeruTbroe- salem leaders, Peter, James, and John, had no fault to

find with Paul's teaching.* When they saw what success had attended him, they gave to him and his associate the right hand of fellowship, and bade them God-speed. The great argument for catholicity, be it observed, was the same as that which had convinced Peter in the affair of Cornelius. It was plain that the Spirit 6f God had followed the preaching of Paul: the good fruits were apparent No dogmatic theory could stand in the way of such unanswerable facta The verdict of Heaven had been given. The reason then assigned for fellowship with Paul is a motive to catholicity, and a standing rebuke of narrowness, for all time. The

• G»L U. 2 sq. • Aots xv. 4-29. 3 Gal. ii. 6.

demand of judaizers that Titus, one of Paul's companions, who was of Greek parentage, should be circumcised, the Apostle absolutely refused to comply with. The case of Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess, was different. In this case, which occurred later, no principle was at stake: the rights of Gentile believers were not involved. In the conference of the Antioch teachers with the Jerusalem Church, Peter—as might be expected, in view of the light which he had previously received—spoke on the side of freedom. James followed with an approval of what he had said, quoting in support of Peter's opinion a passage from the prophet Amos. It was not well, he added, to " trouble " the Gentile converts. It was enough to enjoin on them abstinence from the flesh of animals which had been sacrificed to heathen gods, from blood, the life of the animal, held sacred in the Mosaic system, from animals slain with the blood left in them, and from fornication. If this moral offence does not refer to incestuous marriages, the mention of it in so brief a catalogue of things forbidden indicates how prevalent and how little condemned the sin of impurity was among the heathen. There was nothing in these recommendations at variance with Paul's ideas, or which he would regard as an abridgment of the freedom demanded for his converts. It is improbable that James would have been satisfied if anything less had been required. That he was satisfied Paul himself declares. The reason assigned by James for these restrictions, that the Old Testament law was always read in the synagogues, may signify that Jewish. Christians would be in no danger of forgetting its requirements. It is more commonly understood, however, to mean that if the Gentile converts failed to abstain from the obnoxious practices, a bitter prejudice would be excited against them among all persons of Jewish birth, and a barrier to intercourse between the two classes would be erected. In writing to the Galatians and to the Corinthians, Paul makes no reference to this decision at the conference. Among the Galatians it was his right to be an Apostle that was disputed, and on this point he does refer to the fellowship accorded to him at Jerusalem. Among the Corinthians, in the dispute about the eating of meat offered to idols, neither Jews nor judaizers were concerned. Besides, it is not likely that Paul regarded the act of the conference, in itself considered, as applicable to Gentile churches which, at a later time, he had planted independently. There is, however, no evidence of an opposition on his part, at any period, to its essential purport. Certainly, while defending the liberty of the Gentiles, he was at pains not to scandalize the Jews. "With the Jews," he said, "I became as a Jew." The message of fraternal recognition from the Church at Jerusalem was sent to the Gentile converts in Syria and the neighboring district of Cilicia. There was rejoicing at Antioch, where believers in Jesus had first been called "Christians."


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