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for the purpose of mutual edification, for promoting the common cause of the Gospel.--And so far from raising any dispute about matters, upon which the Jew held opinions differing from the Gentile, the latter was even to abstain from that which was in itself harmless, rather than hurt the conscientious, but mistaken, feelings of one, whom he should on the contrary regard and treat as a brother. “I know," he declares, “and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of;" that is, let not your superior understanding, your freedom from unfounded prejudice, be the occasion of scandal to those, who are not so well informed ; " for the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he, that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." a
Amidst these cheering specimens of sound judgment and amiable feeling, we must not fail to remark one lesson, which the Apostle was particularly anxious to impress upon the minds of his followers, and which is most worthy of being remembered and practised in every succeeding age. That lesson is recorded in the text. “ But why dost thou judge thy brother ? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother ? For we shall all stand at the judgment seat of Christ.” Here it is to be observed, the Holy Writer addresses himself separately to each of the parties, whom he was endeavouring to instruct and desirous to conciliate. “Why dost thou Jew condemn thy Gentile brother, because he neglects the distinction of meats and days ? Or, thou Gentile, why dost thou despise thy Jewish brother, as a weak bigot, because he observes these distinctions ?”
a Ch. xiv. 14. ete.
In such matters, we should be cautious how we pass sentence upon one another; since we ourselves are amenable to a tribunal, where uncharitable conduct towards others will bring down a just and heavy sentence upon ourselves. We are not to erect ourselves into judges of other men's consciences; but leave them to the judgment and disposal of One, who alone can see into the heart of man, and alone can ascertain the real nature and ultimate consequences of all questions, which admit of “ doubtful disputation.” a
The same important truth he places in another, and equally striking, point of view. “ Who art thou that judgest another man's servant ? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.” That is ; in the affairs of this world, in the ordinary intercourse of life, no one thinks of interfering with the servants, or domestics, of another. He is answerable only to his own master, not to a stranger. But if one
a See Macknight.
passes censure upon another, or declines the intercourse of courtesy and civility, because he differs on some particular point of religious belief or conduct, he assumes an authority, to which he has no claim, and for which he can plead no justification. Every Christian, in matters of religion, is the servant of God; and to Him alone, in such as are merely religious, is he responsible. He ought not therefore to be judged of harshly, still less to be treated injuriously by any one, who presumes to think that he himself is more correct in opinion or more pure
In conclusion, I will observe that the whole of this portion of the Epistle is eminently calculated to produce the fruits of charity and concord among all, who call themselves by the name of Christ ; and who duly consider the principles which their holy profession infuses, the duties which it exacts, and the noble ends which it ever seeks to promote, by combining “glory to God” with "good-will towards men.” Attentively therefore should it be studied, and conscientiously reduced to practice. The result could not fail to be a diminution in the number and magnitude of causes, which now produce separation between members of different sects and communions ; with a nearer approach to that agreement in love, if not in opinion, which our Saviour enforced as the peculiar characteristic and distinguishing excellence of His religion.
My remarks upon this very curious and important part of the Sacred Writings must now be brought to a close.
And here, as I have endeavoured to treat very fully the subjects which have heretofore passed
under review, I shall confine myself to the light, which the facts as well as topics, brought forward in this discourse, throw upon the character of the illustrious Writer, and the still more illustrious cause, which he advocated so powerfully, so assiduously, and so faithfully.
And first, the very fact of such a serious difference of opinion, between the two descriptions of converts, shews that the force of truth alone could have induced them to support any one common
It cannot be said, that Jews and Gentiles were likely to combine for the sake of promoting a fraudulent, or even doubtful, scheme. So far from previously acting together, they had been completely at variance. The Jew, though degraded, as he felt himself to be by the peculiar dispensation of the Almighty, into a vassal of the Heathen, yet still regarded him as really inferior to himself in spiritual privilege, and in the ultimate favour of Heaven.The Heathen returned the disdain of the Jew with aversion as well as contempt; and proclaimed him the hater of the human race. The seeds of dissension remained, as we have seen, even after their conversion ; nor did they shew the slightest disposition to amalgamate, even for the sake of promoting that Gospel, which, upon grounds satisfactory to both though in some respects distinct, they agreed to accept as the appointed means of obtaining the knowledge of Divine truth, and learning the way to everlasting life.
2ndly, The conviction, that Christianity owed its success to no fortuitous combination of circumstances in its favour, still less to any artful collusion, is
strongly enforced by the manner, in which the character of St. Paul himself is developed in these writings. The only alternative, in order to dispose of the evidence arising from the conduct of St. Paul, is to represent him as an enthusiast, incapable of forming a cool and clear opinion ; or, as one engaged in promoting a deliberate fraud. The very statement of such an alternative produces its own refutation-A zealous Jew, an enthusiast against Judaism ! A selfish person, bent upon promoting his own misery and destruction! But, to consider the testimony, supplied by his own writings and the well-known state of things, against either charge.
The whole tenor of his writings shews that a charge of enthusiasm cannot with any pretence of reason be imputed to St. Paul. There is in them a singular absence of undue bias in favour of his own opinions. He does not even express himself with uncharitable vehemence against idolaters. He exposes the fallacy of their speculative notions, and strongly discourages their immoral practices. But there are no marks of that violent emotion, which animates the fanatic and enthusiast. Observe the steady balance which he holds, in the chapter before us, between the contending parties. It is clear he had a decided opinion upon the merits of the questions at issue; and he was fiercely, even vindictively, opposed by one of the parties, on account of the opinions which he sanctioned against the Mosaic Law. Yet here he vindicates the error of that very party as harmless; and employs in their favour every topic, which thorough good sense, united with kind feeling, could possibly suggest.