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day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord; for he giveth God thanks: and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not; and giveth God thanks.* Be it so, that Christians or Christian churches have scruples and attachments which neither go the whole length of evangelical freedom, nor even rise up to the height of evangelical purity-be it so, that they who see these infirmities are themselves of clearer light, stronger faith, and larger liberty. Yet they may not, says Paul, pour contempt upon their brethren: much less stand at a haughty distance, as if they were not disciples of a common master. Nor, may those of less attainments, “the weak," as Paul terms them, indulge even a censorious temper toward the others. Instead of such unseemliness, let us judge this rather, that no man put á stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his
“O Christians,” exclaims he, your best interests are untouched by these inferior disagreements. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink ; but righteousness, ,
peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things, viz. righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, serveth Christ, is ACCEPTABLE TO
* Rom. xiv. 6.
God, and approved of men. Laying aside, therefore, all janglings and heart-burnings about other matters, let us follow after the things which make for PEACE; and things wherewith one may EDIFY, may
build up, not pull down, another.* This was Paul's advice concerning disputes about the religious distinction of meats and days. And when the contest relative to circumcision had created warm blood between Christians, he pursued the same healing course. Perpetually calling them off from their subaltern polemics to their great concern, which was worth fighting, and bleeding, and burning for-he cries out, Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but keeping of the commandments of Godt_is_every thing! And again, In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a NEW CREATURE.
And as many as walk according to this rule, viz. that it is the being a new creature in Christ Jesus, which contains the pith and marrow, the vigour and glory of our good confession, peace be on them and mercy! Circumcised or uncircumcised; laying stress upon this custom, or laying none, I have no quarrel with them; nor ought others to
For notwithstanding this dissent,
* Rom. xiii. 17-19.
f Cor. vii. 19.
they all are the Israel of God; and such they shall be found and acknowledged to be, when many who are at daggers-drawing about the carnal rite shall be disowned by their Judge. For my own part, saith the Apostle, I have things of much higher moment to fill up my heart, my hours, and my efforts. I am set for the defence of the Gospel; and will not descend to these petty conflicts. My back scarred with the scourge, my limbs bruised with stones, for the cross of Christ, will shew whether my resolution proceeds from a selfish motive, or from a proper estimate of a cause which will justify and repay my sufferings. From henceforth let no man trouble me : for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus !* Sage and Hero! every man in whose heart the love of Jesus reigns, would fly to “kiss thy lips for giving so right an answer.”+
As was his doctrine, so was his example. He circumcised Timothy to sooth a Jewish prejudicef-he submitted, by the advice of the Presbyters at Jerusalem, to a useless but harmless. ceremony,
in “purifying himself” along with four men who had a vow on them;" for the express purpose of disproving the charge of his making war upon the “customs”-religious customs--customs belonging to divine worship, which converts from the Jews had retained from the ancient ceremonial.* Summarıly, he accommodated himself to all classes of men, and all their customs, whenever such courtesy, did not .imply a surrender of truth. About customs as customs he strove not. Yet this same condescending, accommodating Paul, who went every length consistently with the safety of substantial principles, would not stir an hair's breadth at the hazard of injuring them. Here he was unyielding, unmanageable, inexorable as Death. Upon such terms, however innocent, or even laudable, customs and rites might be in themselves; however dear to a tender but misguided conscience, his maxim was—" Touch not, taste not, handle not." Remove this single objectionshew that his compliance was not exacted as an approbation—that no vital truth was to be wounded-and,“ to the Jew he became as a Jew-to those under the law, as under the lawto those without the law, as without the lawto all men all things”+-for what purpose ? To “ gain some”-to promote the common salvation! This is that Paul the Apostle!
* Gal. vi. 15-17.
Prov. xxiv. 26.
* Acts, xvi. 3.
The same spirit animated the church after he had left it. When the Jewish controversy was settled forever, there was still a variety of observances in different places. They necessarily arose out of different climate, previous habits, social institutions, national character; and were as necessarily continued, and naturally increased. The general fact is stated and explained in the ecclesiastical histories which are in every one's hands. They produced, however, no discord nor inconvenience, till about the middle of the second century, when sharp and vehement contests arose between the Asiatic and western Christians about the celebration of Easter. The former keeping this feast on the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month, at the time that the Jews celebrated their passover, three days before the anniversary of Christ's resurrection; the latter keeping it on the night immediately preceding that anniversary.* This difference may appear very trifling to those who do not observe Easter at all; but to the primitive Christians it was far from being a trifle. Their devotional habits, in many things inaccurate, and in this among the rest, made it a question of high importance.
* Mosheim, Vol. I. p. 203.