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For by obliging the apostle to produce the evidences of his apostleship, and to relate the history of his life, especially after his conversion, we have obtained the fullest assurance of his being a real apostle, called to the office by Jesus Christ himself, and acknowledged to be an apostle by them who were apostles before him ; consequently we are assured that our faith in the doctrines of the gospel, as taught by him, (and it is he who hath taught the peculiar doctrines of the gospel most fully,) is not built on the credit of men, but on the authority of the Spirit of God, by whom Paul was inspired in the whole of the doctrine which he hath delivered to the world. See Pref. to 2 Corinthians, sect. ii. page 302.
This letter being directed to the churches of Galatia, it was to be read publicly in them all. We may therefore suppose, that it was sent first to the brethren in Ancyra, the chief city of • Galatia, with an order to them to communicate it to the other churches in the same manner as the first epistle to the Thessalonians was appointed to be read to all the holy brethren in that city, and in the province of Macedonia. See Prelim. Ess. ii.
I have hinted above, that Titus was the bearer of the epistle to the Galatians. My reasons for that conjecture are, 1. That Titus being a Greek, was greatly interested in the doctrine which this epistle was written to establish, and would willingly undertake the office of carrying it to the Galatians; more especially as he was mentioned in it by name. 2. Having been present in Jerusalem with Paul at the council, he could by word of mouth attest the things which happened in Jerusalem, to which the apostle appealed in proof of his own apostleship, and in proof of the doctrine which he uniformly taught. And that doctrine Titus no doubt confirmed, by relating to the Galatians, that Paul resisted the Judaizers in Jerusalem, when they attempted to have. Titus himself circumcised. However, if the reader thinks Titus was not the bearer of this letter, he may suppose it was sent by the person who brought the apostle word of the defection of the Galatian brethren, which occasioned its being written.
Of Paul and Barnabas's journey to Jerusalem, mentioned Gal. ii. 1. and of
the Decree passed by the Council of Jerusalem respecting the converted Gentiles.
According to the general opinion, the occasion of the apostle's journey to Jerusalem, mentioned Gal. ii. 1. is related, Acts xv. 1. as follows: And certain men who came down from Judea, taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissention 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.—Some of the things which happened to these messengers in Jerusalem after their arrival, Paul mentioned to the Galatians, chap. ii. 2.-10. But he said nothing of the decision which the apostles and elders gave concerning the matter referred to them by the brethren of Antioch. Our knowledge of that decision, and of the deliberation which preceded it, we owe to Luke, who tells us, their decision was directed to the brethren of the Gentiles who were in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia; and that it was expressed in the following terms, Acts xv. 28. It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things : 29. That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and
from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication : from which, if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. This decision or decree hath given rise to much controversy. For according to many, the brethren of the Gentiles, to whom the apostles directed their decree, were the whole Gentile converts without distinction. But others contend, that they were the converts from that class of Gentiles, who were called proselytes by the Jews. The determination of this point involves some important consequences, and merits to be examined with care.
And first of all, the account which Moses hath given of the character and obligations of the different sorts of persons who lived with the Jews in the land of Canaan, must be considered. He hath mentioned them under the denominations of, The cir. cumcised stranger; The sojourning stranger; and The alien or foreigner.—The circumcised stranger was in every respect a Jew. For it is declared, Exod xii. 48, 49. and elsewhere, that to the home born, and to ihe circumcised stranger, there is one law. Hence the circumcised strangers were called strangers within the covenant, and just strangers. The I.XX. call them Migoonduron, Proses lytes, by way of eminence : and of them our Lord spake, when he said to the Pharisees, Matt. xxiii. 15. Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte. The sojourning stranger,went by the name of The stranger within their gates. In the Greek language they were denominated Tue os xol, Sojourners. In the history of the Acts of the Apostles, this sort of strangers are called Religious, or worshipping proselytes.
To know who the brethren of the Gentiles were, to whom the apostles and elders directed their decision, it will be of use to consider the duties and privileges of those Gentiles who were called sojourning strangers, and worshipping proselytes. Their duties are described by Moses as follows: They were bound, 1. To observe all the moral and judicial precepts of the law, whereby injuries were restrained, and crimes were punished, and justice in dealings was maintained, Numb. xv. 30.—2. To worship no God but the God of Israel. For idolatry was forbidden to every inhabitant of Canaan, under the pain of death, Levit. xxvi. 1. Deut. xxvii. 15. And because the partaking with the heathens in the feasts on their sacrifices, was a joining with them in their idolatry, the stranger within their gates, was to abstain from all such meats. In short, the absolute renunciation of idolatry, was the condition on which any stranger or Gentile was permitted to dwell among the Israelites.-3. To abstain from blood, whether pure or mixed, under the pain of death, Levit. xvii. 10. and from every thing that had been strangled, with an intention to keep the blood in it, ver. 13. But all the other kinds of food which were prohibited to the Israelites, they were permitted to eat; and therefore, it was unlawful for the Israelites to go into their houses, and to eat with them, Acts x. 28.-4. To abstain equally with the Israelites from all incestuous marriages, and unnatural lusts, called in the Hebrew language Zanuth, and in the Greek Hogverce, Levit. xviii. 26.-5. To eat no leavened bread during the passover weck, Exod. xii. 19. although such strangers were not allowed to cat the passover, ver. 43. unless they subanitted to be circumcised, ver. 48.-6. To keep the sabbath, Exod. xx. 10. because it was instituted to preserve the memory of the creation of the world in six days, and of God's resting on the seventh. They were likewise bound to observe the fast of the 10th of the seventh month, Levit. xvi. 29. and the feast of weeks, Deut. xvi. 11.-14.
With respect to the privileges of the sojourning strangers, or worshipping proselytes, we know, that by observing the above mentioned precepts, they were entitled to a variety of civil privileges: Such as,-1. A right to live among the Israelites, and to enjoy the protection of the laws, and to be exempted from oppression, Levit. xix. 33, 34. And the Israelites were to exercise humanity and compassion towards them, in all their dealings with them, Exod. xxii. 21. xxiii. 12. Deut. x. 18.-2. They had an equal right with the Israelites to the cities of refuge, Numb. xxxv. 15.-3. They had a right to join in such parts of the worship of the God of Israel as were in use among the patriarchs ; and which were not peculiar to the Mosaic economy. For example, they might offer burnt-offerings, Levit. xvii. 8. Numb. xv. 15, 16. In later times, even those heathens who did not live in Canaan, were permitted to offer sacrifices to the God of Israel in the temple of Jerusalem ; as is evident from Joseph. Antiq. xviii. 5. 3. Bell. ii. 12. 6. and for that purpose they came up to the Jewish festivals, John xii. 20. Likewise the stranger, or worshipping proselyte, had a right to pray to God in the temple, and in the synagogues through the land : For the outer court of the temple was appropriated to their use. Accordingly, at the dedication of the temple, Solomon, in his prayer, mentioned the stranger coming from a far country to worship, 1. Kings viii. 41. See also Mark xi. 17. The proselytes also seem to have prayed in their own houses, at the hours of the morning and evening sacrifices, Acts x. 3, 4. at which times the Jews likewise prayed.-4. The worshipping proselyte had a right to hear the law read and explained at the great festivals, Deut. xxxi. 12. consequently they were entitled to hear the scriptures read in the synagogues, and to hear those discourses on religion, and those exhortations to piety, which were given in the syna. gogues, by the more knowing to the more ignorant. These rights the worshipping proselytes enjoyed, not in Judea only, but in all the countries where the Jews had synagogues.
Such being the duties and the privileges of the worshipping proselytes, that is, of those Gentiles who were entitled to join the Jews in certain parts of their worship, I am inclined to agree in opinion with those who think the decree of the apostles and elders, had for its object those Gentiles, who having been formerly worshipping proselytes, had embraced the gospel; and not the converts from idolatry.My reasons for being of this opi. nion, are these : VOL. III.
1. The arguments used by Peter and James in the council, make it probable, that the converted proselytes, and not the con. verted idolaters, were the brethren of the Gentiles, concerning whom the apostles and elders deliberated, and whom by their decree they bound to observe the four precepts mentioned in it; while they declared them free from all the other precepts of the law of Moses. For example, when Peter said in the council, Acts xv. 7. God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth, should hear the word of the gospel and believe, he evi. dently spake of Cornelius and his company, none of whom were idolatrous Gentiles, at that time, but devout men who feared God, Acts x. 2.-In like manner, when James said in the council, Acts xv. 14. Simeon hath declared, how God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name, he plainly spake of Cornelius and his company.--Farther, James told them, that the calling of Cornelius and his friends by Peter, had happened in fulfilment of the words of the prophet Amos, chap. ix. 11, 12, which he thus expressed, Acts xv. 16. I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David.-17. That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord. Wherefore since the idolatrous Gentiles were not called by the name of God, the Gentiles in after times on whom God's name was to be called, and who were to seek after the Lord, were not idolatrous, but devout Gentiles, worshippers of the true God. Consequently when James added, ver. 19. My sentence is, that we trouble not them, who from among the Gentiles are turned to God, he spake not of the idolatrous, but of the devout Gentiles or proselytes, who were more perfectly turned to God by believing the gospel.
2. This appears still more clearly, from the reason which James assigned for enjoining the Gentiles, who were turned to God, to observe the four precepts mentioned in the decree, Acts xv. 21. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogue every sabbath day. Did Moses any where in his law, enjoin all the Gentiles to abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood ? Moses delivered no precept whatever to the Gentiles, Rom. iii. 19. Wherefore, that Moses was preached and read in the synagogues in every city, was no reason why the converted idolaters should have been enjoined to obey the four precepts mentioned by James. But if he spako of the converted proselytes, his reasoning is conclusive. It is