Images de page

argued that it was well to give way to these men who came from Jerusalem, where the apostles were; but they were not walking uprightly, and were giving up a vital principle, which would result in rending the church of God in twain and in nullifying the gospel. We cannot but admire the boldness and wisdom of Paul in withstanding and rebuking Peter to the face before them all. It was no time for vacillation, and Paul's firmness saved the church from wellnigh shipwreck. But if we admire Paul's courage we cannot withhold our admiration from Peter, who, though he was the elder, received the rebuke, and bore no grudge in after days to him who administered it. (2 Pet. ii. 15.) Would that we all had more of this spirit !

The result of this contention at Antioch was the sending of Paul, Barnabas, and other brethren to Jerusalem, to have the question authoritatively decided by the apostles and elders. (Acts xv. 2.) Is there not here an example for us? Instead of contending for our varied opinions when a matter of difference arises, likely to cause strife and confusion, would it not be better that those who are elders should come together to seek the mind of the Lord by prayer and searching of the Word ?

After careful enquiry and consideration, the apostles and elders, inspired by the Holy Ghost, write an epistle to the Gentile believers, telling them that those who had gone from Jerusalem and troubled them on the subject of circumcision and the law, had no authority from them, and they enjoined upon them to abstain from meats offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, &c.; but nothing was said as to abstaining from unclean meats.

Surely now, we would say, this can no longer be a point of contention or dispute; Peter's vision twelve years previously, and now the apostolic letter, would place the matter beyond question. But alas ! our prejudices are often proof against even the clearest word of the Lord. Seven years later (accepting the dates given in the margin of our Bibles) we find that the apostle Paul had to write on this subject to the saints at Rome, evidently to meet fresh difficulties on the question. (See Rom. xiv.) Some would

. () eat certain meats, and others would not eat; one judged his brother, and his brother despised him; and this, of course, would lead to a breach of fellowship. In these circumstances what does the Spirit of God enjoin? Does the apostle say, Refuse fellowship to those who will not eat for they are disobedient to God's word, and make the gospel of Christ of no effect ? No; it is evident that the

? Lord makes allowance for the strength of prejudices imbibed from early childhood. Prejudice, some may say, ought not for a moment to be allowed to stand in the way when we have a “ Thus saith the Lord.” True, but the Lord, who knows us altogether, in matchless grace causes Paul to write thus, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” And again, knowing well how much patience would be required, the apostle adds, “Now the God of patience

grant you to be like-minded one toward another after the example of Christ Jesus [margin]

wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us"—that is, in all our ignorance and with all our prejudices—"to the glory of God.” (Rom. xv. 5, 7.) This teaching is the more striking when we remember the immense importance of the real subject of difference, viz., circumcision.

In the first epistle to the Corinthians, written about eight years after the decision of the Holy Ghost by the apostles as to the abstaining from things offered to idols, we find Paul dealing with this question at some length in chapter viii. So common was the sale of meat offered to idols, that to avoid partaking of it, and so disobeying the

[ocr errors]

command of the Lord, it would appear that some believers would not eat meat. Does the Spirit of God insist upon the fact that the mind of the Lord had been made known (Acts x.), and that no forbearance is to be shown to those who are not clear upon the point? On the contrary, the apostle enlarges upon the subject, and shows their liberty in the matter, but yet inculcates forbearance one with another

Has not the Lord in much grace caused these subjects of contention and division in the early church to be recorded for our instruction ? His desire surely is, that we may gather from the Scriptures which refer to them, rules and principles for our guidance amidst the difficulties and perplexities of the present day. He would teach us that although truth on certain points may be quite clear to us, we must not insist on others seeing at once exactly as we do.

While we bear with children of God who from early training, &c., fail to apprehend certain truths fully, we are not by any means thereby condoning their ignorance or failure, but are acting as our Lord Himself acted, when He taught His disciples as they were able to bear it. (Mark iv. 33.) While taking every opportunity of teaching the truth to those less instructed than ourselves, we need to use much patience lest we hinder their growth by exciting opposition and causing contention. (2 Tim. ii. 24, 25.)

To this effect, surely, is the teaching of the Scriptures upon which we have been dwelling. What long forbearance was exercised by the Lord even towards His apostles ! And what patience with one another are we exhorted to ! Does not experience also show that this, after all, is the most successful way ? Many of us who are now firmly convinced of the correctness of our church principles were

but slow learners in the school of God. Had we been dealt with as we are sometimes inclined to deal with others, we should probably have remained in our unscriptural positions. But patience having been exercised towards us, our prejudices and opposition gradually gave way, and we now, by the grace of God, hold firmly to the truth.

The difficulties in arriving at a clear conclusion from Scripture on the subject of church government are considerable, and they are increased by faulty translations in the Authorized Version; and we need to bear this in mind in our judgment regarding many children of God. But while we say this, let no one think that we make light of church order, baptism and kindred subjects, or that we would encourage laxity as to teaching the whole counsel of God. Such is far from our intention ; but we wish to bring into notice another side of truth, namely, that while we firmly hold to what God has taught us, we are not to cease bearing and forbearing in love with fellow-members of Christ who see not yet as we now do. (Eph. iv. 2.)

Let us take warning by the Corinthian church, which was very scrupulous about meats and drinks, and yet was so low in morals as to allow in its membership one guilty of a sin which even the heathen would not have tolerated. This has been the experience of every period in the Church's history. The lower the Church's spirituality, and the more its allowance of worldliness or evil, the more particular and exacting it becomes regarding forms and ceremonies; the shell is everything, the kernel nothing ; much is made of the clothing, while the body is neglected. It is very desirable to have good clothing, it is more desirable to have a healthy body; it is best of all to have both.

W. J. S.





THE “conflict” which the apostle had for the Colossian and Laodicean saints was the conflict of prayer. The same word is used of our Lord in Luke xxii. 44, " And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly.” In Col. iv. 12 the corresponding verb is used, where Epaphras is spoken of as “labouring fervently” in his prayers for the Colossians. It is a solemn thing to think of Paul's earnest conflict for the Laodiceans, and then to remember the Lord's description of them in Rev. iii., thirty years afterwards They must have failed to watch and pray for themselves.

Verse 1 also teaches us that we should pray not only for those we know, but for those we have not seen. Paul's heart was large enough to take in all the saints he had met, and to remember the thousands who had not seen his face in the flesh. The special longing of the apostle's heart was to present "every man perfect in Christ Jesus;" that is, as full-grown, healthy, comely men, and not starvelings; they would then be perfectly well-pleasing to the Lord. This should be our standard for ourselves and for one another.

In chap. i. 28, the repetition of "every man ” is marked; “ warning every man, and teaching every man .... we may present every man perfect.” The apostle uses similar words in 1 Thess. ii. 11, “As ye know we exhorted and charged each one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God.” Paul cared for his spiritual children after the pattern put before earthly

... that

« PrécédentContinuer »