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all indifferent Matters, especially if thereby he might gain some) readily complied with the Proposal of St. James; and took the men; and the next day, purifying himself with them, entred into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering Jhould 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 Ihew'd that they were zealous of the Law.
This Opportunity therefore St. Paul takes, for the Preservation of Peace and Charity, among the froward infant Members of the Primitive Church j though his own private Opinion, was on the other side of the Question: And which, we find,
f he communicated privately to them which were Gal. H. 2. of reputation; (the other Apostles, James and Peter and John) to whom, great as they were, he gave place by fubjeSlion, no, — S»
!' not fir an hour; that the truth of the Gof
X 3 pel
pel might continue with the Gentiles, And ^a^/"* afterwards, when Peter was come to An
tioch, he tells us, he 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 oat Lord Jesus CHRisr,accrued to the Professors of Christianity, particularly the Gentile Proselytes, was to be asserted then, immediately, in all Places; or forborn and dissembled, for a while, to avoid the Fury and Persecution of the enraged Jews: Stephen having been condemned to be stoned to Death, upon that very Account.
Those of the Apostles, whose Province lay in Jerusalem and the Parts adjacent, being Men of like Passions with others, and consequently subject to human Frailties, were inclin'd to temporize in the Matter; for Fear of hazarding not only their own Lives but the Loss "of man] Acts xx' thousands tf Jews, who,]at that Time,were 20. "Converts to Christianity, and yet zealous of the Law.
On the other side, St. Paul, whose
Preaching had been altogether among the
Gentiles, was quite bold and open in asserting that the ceremonial Law had, by C H R. i s T's| Coming, received its full Completion and final Determination: and therefore the Word, with him, was j Stand Gal. v. t, fast in the liberty •wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again •with the yoke of bondage. Behold, J Paul fay unto you, that, if ye be circumcised, Christ Jhall profit you nothing.
That this was really the Opinion of all the Apostles, we may fee from the Resolution of St. fames, at a Great Council Held at Jerusalem long before, upon this very Question; My sentence, is, that we Acts xv. trouble not them, (to keep the Ceremonial l9> Law) which from among the Gentiles are turned to God. To this, the rest of the Council assent j and a Decree is sent away to the Cities of the Gentiles accordingly; in which are these Words j It seemed good, Acts Xv, to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you z8> 29» no greater burden than these necessary things j that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication-, from which, if ye keep your selves, ye Jhall do well,
X 4 And,
And, to balance the Matter fairly, it must be confess'd that St. Paul had, upon occasion, temporiz'd in this Point, as well as the rest of the Apostles: When, ac Act* xvi. Ly/lra, he took Timothy.whosefather was a Greek, and circumcised him, because os the Jews which were in those quarters.
This Digression cannot be thought unseasonable, since it suggests to us a very convenient Doctrine; That Ceremonies, merely indifferent, however they may be unnecessary, or even burdenspm, ought to. be complied with, to humour a Majority: And, at the same Time, That, where People can use their own Liberty without hurting themselves, the less they are troubled with them,, the better.
The PROPHET S.
The Prophets were Persons whom God was pleas'd to honour with a divine Spirit of foreseeing some extraordinary Occurrences, and foretelling them to the World, long before they came to pass, or were even thought of. And from hence,
originally originally they obtain'd the Name of Seers. In the Days of Samuel, it is said; Beforetime, in Israel, when a man went to ! Saminquire 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.
By their Mouths, God was so gracious, from time to time, as to warn his People of the Evils they wou'd bring upon themselves by their sinful Disobedience: And to encourage them to walk in the Ways of Righteousness, by a Promise of the many Blessings He wou'd, upon that Condition, confer upon them. And through all, a future MeJJiab 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 Transgressions. Thus the Lord is introdue'd speaking to them; Since the day that your jer vii> fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt, 3Sunto this day, I have sent unto you all my servants the prophets.
And even before the Law took Place, and probably, from the first Beginning of