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will consider a little the true import of the word (c) which the writer of the Acts hath used to express St. Peter's mean, ing, will perhaps be disposed to doubt whether it ought to be understood as having any reference at all to the law of Moses, As to that close connection or intimate association with Gentiles which might induce a Jew to become a follower of idolatrous practices, and which St. Luke seems to have intended to convey an idea of by the remarkable word (d) which he has made use of, the general tenor of the law undoubtedly forbids it. But with regard to a less intimate intercourse with Gentiles, there seems to be, at least, some reason to sup. pose that it was rather permitted and encouraged, if not enjoined by the law, than forbidden. For even “ the progeny of an obnoxious Ammonite or Moabite, it seems, was to be received into the congregation of the Lord in the tenth generation.” (e) And the Jews are expressly forbidden to “ abhor an Edomite or Egyptian," and enjoined to receive their respective descendants “into the congregation of the Lord, in the third generation.” (f) Moreover it is said “ The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you, as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.” (g) And again “ Thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow.” (h) .
Some may find themselves encouraged to acquiesce in this interpretation of the Law, by considering the extraction of the person whose property the Lawgiver himself appointed David to use, in order to stop the ravages of that pestilence which the execution of his presumptuous project had brought on the people under him (ij- the step which he directed Elijah to take to avoid the fury of Ahab (0-and that remarkable instance of concern which he manifested for the preservation of the reprobate inhabitants of the metropolis of Assyria, by compelling his reluctant prophet to go among them, and to use his best endeavors to reclaim them. (k)They may however stand a fairer chance of being persuaded of the propriety of it by considering the practice of the Jew. · ish nation from time to time till the arrival of the Messiah, as they will find that alliances were not unfrequently entered into by the rulers of the Jewish with those of other nations that Joshua did not scruple to make a league with the subtile
(c) A belítov. (d) Korraolar. (e) Deut, xxiï. 3. 4. (f) Deut. xxiii. 7. 8. (g) Lev. xix. 34.
(14) Deut. xxviii. 12.. (3) Sam. xxiv. 18. . 6) Kings i, 17. 19.
(1) Jonah i, 2.
chiefs of the Gibeoniies as belonging to a distant country, and that the Almighty would not suffer it to be violated with impunity by Saul, notwithstanding it had been obtained by a false pretence on their part (1)--that David sent ambassadors to Hanun to comfort him on the loss of his father (m)-that Solomon sent others to Huram king of 'Tyre, to request that he would continue as amicably disposed towards himself, as he had before been towards his father David (n)-that he also married the daughter of the king of Egypt, and notwitha standing that connexion, still continued an object of the di. vine favor (0)--that the temple was built and beautified by the joint skill and labor of Jewish and Gentile artificers (p) and-that certain T'yrians were shipmates with the Jews in the voyage to phir. (9)
Moreover, by the account which we have of the first publication of Christianity, they will find, that the Jews were at that time dispersed every where—that they had synagogues in the more populous Gentile cities--and that proselytes constantly resorted to them to join in their religious worship.
But they will perhaps be inclined to think that there is no great occasion to have recourse either to the letter of the law, or to the practice of the Jewish nation at large to settle this point, when they come to compare our Lord's profession with his practice.
We are assured by St. Matthew that he expressly declared " that he came not to destroy the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfil them.” (r) And yet we are told both by the fame Evangelist and by St. Luke that when an application was made to him by a Centurion of Capernaum, through the rulers of that town, to come and heal his servant, that he inItantly said “ I will come and heal him," (s)—and that he not only said so, but that's he went with them,” without making any remark on its being considered by any one as an irreligious step. Now can it be supposed that the Jews of Capernaum would have taken upon them to intercede with Jesus to heal the Centurion's servant-or--that our Lord would have consented so readily to comply with their request, if it had been understood to be contrary to the Law? And though every sort of communication whatever between Jews
(!) Josh, ix. 15. and 2 Sam. xxi. 9. (m) 2 Sam. x. 2. (m) 2 Chron. ii. 3. -(0) 1 Kings, iii. 1. 10) 2 Chron. and i Kings, 7. (g) 2 Chron. viii. 18. (s) Matth. v. 17. . (o) Matth. viii. and Luke vii,
and Gentiles be even supposed to have been interdi&ted by the law of Moses, yet as our Lord by fulfilling that Law “ broke down the middle wall of partition and thereby made both one,”' (t) St. Peter, it may be thought, having been apprised of that event, ought to have suppressed the remark which he made to Cornelius and his party on the illegality of taking such a step.
Moreover--Cornelius, it seems, was a Centurion as well as the person of Capernaum, for whose fick servant the rulers of that town befought Jesus; and though we are not told that “ he had built a synagogue,” (u) yet we are assured of a thing as much to his credit-namely--that “ he was of good report among all the nations of the Jews.”' (U) And we are informed too that he was “ a worshipper of the one true Gud," (w) and the other, it seems, was not more ;—why then should St. Peter have hesitated a moment to visit so respect. able a character, especially after our Lord had so graciously condescended to visit the servant of a person in no religious point of view more respectable?- Why should he have thought of making that unpleasant remark to Cornelius and his friends concerning the unlawfulness of the step which he had presumed to take, as soon as he was introduced to them, when the request of the rulers at Capernaum, and his Lord's ready compliance with that request,seem clearly to indicate that it could not have been considered either by him or them as being contrary to the law of Moses, however contrary it may have been, in the opinion of some, to the law of tradition? - And why should he have been so forward to declare that the impression which an emblematical appearance had made on his mind while he was in a trance at joppa, was the cause of his presuming to take it, when he might have recollected a precedent so very oppofite that had been established by the Messiah himself a long while before at Capernaum ?-If we had not been informed that he was an inhabitant of that very city, and that there is a good reason to suppose that his wife's mother (*) may have been cured of a fever under his own roof by a touch of Jesus, on the very day when the Cen. turion's servant was healed, one would be almost inclined to
(1) 2 Eph. 14.
( Luke vii. 5. (0) Acts x. 22.
(w) Acts x. 22. (r) It is evident from St. Matthew's relation, that the cure of St. Peter's mother-in-law happened on the same day, as the two just mentioned miracles, ---viz.--the cure of the Centurion's servant,
and the cure of the leper. M's MICHAILIS,
doubt whether he had ever been brought acquainted with that transaction :that his memory should not have preserved the impression which so extraordinary an occurrence must have made on him, till he was sent for by Cornelius, if he had been brought acquainted with it, would seem not a little surprising, even if nothing had happened to renew it in the course of his attendance on his Lord :--but since his Lord had, it seems, in the mean time, reminded the inhabitants of Naza. reth, openly in the synagogue of that town, that a distressed
Gentile widow (y) had in the days of Elias been an object of ... his father's providential care, above all the indigent widows
of Israel ;-since he had intimated at Jerusalem his being appointed to fulfil a more comprehensive scheme of provin dence than that which related to the descendants of Abraham (z) — since he had expressly declared not a long while after in the same city, that he was commissioned to administer diftri. butive justice to all the nations of the earth; (aa)-that the righteous among them would be rewarded with eternal life, (66) and the children of the kingdom be cast into outer dark, ness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth; (cc) . that a less fevere punishment would be inflicted on the inhabitants of the most profligate heathen cities, than on the - inhabitants of those, where most of his mighty works had been done ; (dd ; and since, after all this, he positively commanded the Apostles to become his messengers of reconcilia. tion to all the world, one is at a loss to conceive why St. Peter should have been still so averse to a communication with Gentiles, as to stand in need of the additional incite. ment of a vision to induce him to engage in this affair ; and why he should have attributed his determination to act contrary to his avowed notion of the obligation of the Law to what had been suggested to him in the vision, without ada verting in the least to any thing that had been foretold by the Prophets, or said, or done by his Lord.
In vain then, it seems, had our Lord apprised the Apostles before his crucifixion “ that all things which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning himself must be fulfilled," and reminded them after his resurrection of his having so done. (ee) --In vain too
(y) Luke iv. 25, 26.
(3) John vi. 16.
(bb) Luke iii. 10, 12, &c.
cd be at the same time " open their oscerfandings, that they might understand the scriptures, and lar to tben: thus it is writen, and inus it bebo.es Christ to fúzer, ani to rise from the deze the third day; and tea repea:ance ass remis. hon of hos snovi be preached in his care, beginning at Je. rusalem. And re are wiideles of there things.” So flow of heart was S:. Peter too, i: seems to be iese all gat the prophets had spoken, even after his Lordin.. taken such pains to expiain their means og vin :-Had it not ex. pressed then.eives in a language familiar to bim, or had their words never been recorded, bis misappreben..on might have been perhaps in some degree excusabie.-But face they declared future events in his own native language-ance their sayings were recorded faithfuily in a book-ince the reconciliation of the nations to God had been retold by almost all of them, (f) and repeatedly by most of them, since he had been accustomed to hear them read every saba bath day for several years after his Lord had opened his understanding and had explained their meaning to him, as well as in all the preceding part of his life, his conduct seems to have been so exceedingly reprehensible as to justify a suspicion that he may have been the very person alluded io in the patable of the unjust fleward. (gg)-It seems however to be hardly pollible to fix on a character in which that parable has been better exemplified: for the steward there spoken of, seems to be a steward of the mysteries of God. But, be that as it may, before it be condemned as a whimsical or ridicu. lous conceit to imagine that such an allusion may have been intended, it should be considered whether it would be more for his credit to suppose that the “ vail remained untaken away from his heart, in the reading of the new teftament” (hh) for nearly the space of seven years after his understand: ing had been opened by the Son of God and enlightened by the Holy Spirit. And though that parable, as far as it relates to the steward's wastefulness, be thought after all, to be inapplicable to the conduct of Peter on this occasion; yet it will not surely be said, that that other parable of " a faithful and wise fteward who gave those of his Lord's household their meat in due season”.(ii) is more applicable to it.
(ff) Deut. xxxii. 48. Psalms 18 and 127. Isaiah xi. 5. Isaiah 19. Isaiah 66. i Mal.
(gs) Luke 16. (kh) 2 Cor. 3. 14. (ii) Luke xii. 42, Matth. xxiv. 45.