Acts 15:1
The crisis of the kingdom will be found in the life of the Divine Leader of the faith. In those hours when all that was human in him shrank from the sufferings and sorrows which were before him, or from the agony which was upon him, or from the darkness which enshrouded him, then was "the crisis of the world" and of the kingdom of God on earth. But this also was a crisis, grave and serious. If the Church at Antioch had yielded to these "false brethren" (Galatians 2:4), when they came to invade its liberty; or if - a much greater peril - the Church at Jerusalem had decided in favor of the Judaizers, and had passed a sentence that circumcision was necessary to salvation; and if Christian truth had thus been narrowed to the small dimensions of a mere adjunct to Judaism, where would Christianity have been to-day? From the incident here related we draw the lessons -

I. WHAT HARM ZEALOTRY MAY TRY TO DO. These men "who came down from Judaea" (ver. 1) were members of the Pharisaic party "which believed (ver. 5); they were formal adherents of the Christian faith; they spake reverently of Christ, and believed themselves to be acting in the interests of his kingdom. Yet we know that they were taking a course which, if they had carried their point, would hove simply extinguished the faith in a few years. Often, since then, has blind zealotry done its best to bring about a condition which would have proved fatal to the cause of God and of redeemed humanity.

II. IN WHAT UNINVITING LABORS FIDELITY MAY INVOLVE US. How different from evangelizing risks and toils, and from the fraternal intercourse which followed these, how much beneath both the one and the other, how much more uninviting this controversy with false brethren, narrow-minded, mistaking a rite whose significance was exhausted for an essential of salvation! How uncongenial, to the spirit of the apostle this dissension and disputation" (ver. 2)! But it was necessary; it was as much a part of their bounden duty and their loyal obedience to their Lord as the preaching of the gospel or the indicting of an Epistle. The Christian workman cannot always choose his work. He must sometimes give up the congenial for the unpleasant, the inviting for the repellent.

III. HOW WELL TO ENCOURAGE THE FAITHFUL IN THE HOUR OF THEIR ANXIETY. Those who constituted the deputation were "brought on their way by the Church" (ver. 3). In the profound anxiety which must have filled the sagacious and earnest mind of Paul at this critical juncture, such gracious attention on the part of the Church must have been exceedingly refreshing. No "moral support' of tried and anxious leaders, in times of supreme solicitude, is thrown away; it is well-spent time and trouble.

IV. THAT IT IS SOMETIMES OUR DUTY TO TAKE INTO CONSULTATION OUR BRETHREN IN A HIGHER POSITION. The Church at Antioch was not obliged to consult that at Jerusalem; the latter had no jurisdiction entitling it to decide the disputes of the former. But it was becoming and it was wise, and therefore it was right, to refer the matter in dispute to "the Church [of Jerusalem] and the apostles and the elders" (vers. 4, 6). Often when no written constitution obliges us to refer to authorities, it is a matter of practical wisdom, and therefore of rectitude, to go outside our own "body" and submit our case to those in high repute. We may gain far more than we lose thereby.

V. THE TEACHING OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE. (Vers. 7-9.) Peter would not have taken the side he took now had not his eyes been opened by the event in which he had borne so large and so honorable a share (Acts 10.). We should grow more charitable and more large-minded as we grow in years.

VI. THE FREEDOM OF THE GOSPEL FROM ALL BURDENSOME IMPOSTS. (Ver. 10.) Why tempt God by putting on the neck of the disciples an intolerable yoke? Why invite defeat? Why multiply difficulty and ensure disappointment by requiring of the whole Gentile world a conformity which they will not render and which God does not demand? Why make burdensome the yoke which the Master himself made easy (Matthew 11:30)? The gospel of his grace was meant to be a source of blessedness and deliverance; how insensate the folly of tying to it any institutes which would make it become an insufferable vexation!

VII. THE ESSENCE OF THE ORDINANCE. Circumcision was but the outward sign of admission to the privilege and obligation of the Law. The Law was but the schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. Those, then, who were saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (ver. 11) had the very essence and substance of which the old Jewish rite Was but the sign and symbol (Philippians 3:3; Romans 2:28, 29). - C.







And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised...ye cannot be saved.
S. S. Times.
I. CERTAIN MEN CAME DOWN FROM JUDEA.

1. Probably they were not appreciated at home.

2. They brought all their intolerance with them.

3. And the Church at Antioch had to suffer.

4. One bigot inside a Church can cause more dissension than two sceptics outside.

II. WHEN CERTAIN MEN COME DOWN FROM JUDEA.

1. They may sometimes be profitably invited to go back again.

2. It is the wisest course to seek advice from the great Head of the Church.

(S. S. Times.)

From this interesting chapter learn that -

I. CONTROVERSIES ARE UNAVOIDABLE, AND ARE A SIGN OF LIFE AND ACTIVITY. They are preferable to the peace of the graveyard. It is through controversy that truth is developed and error defeated. All the great doctrines, the Trinity, the Incarnation, justification, etc., have come out as pure gold from the furnace of theological dispute. Only, let controversy be conducted in a Christian spirit, and with a single eye to the cause of truth.

II. THE BEST WAY TO SETTLE A CONTROVERSY IS BY FULL DISCUSSION AND PERSONAL CONFERENCE. Even inspired apostles did not decide the question by mere authority, but travelled all the way to Jerusalem to secure a general understanding, after giving a full hearing to the opposition. It is good for Christians to come together, to think and talk together. In the multitude of counsellors there is safety. One man may be wiser than a whole multitude, but if he can convince the multitude, his judgment is all the more powerful.

III. SYNODICAL CONFERENCES ARE CLEARLY SANCTIONED BY APOSTOLIC EXAMPLE AND PRECEDENT. But the time and number are left to expediency. They may be annual, triennial, or occasional; local, diocesan, provincial, national, or oecuminical; advisory, or legislative; all depends upon the necessities of the Church, which vary in different periods and countries.

IV. THE COMPOSITION OF A SYNOD SHOULD BE DEMOCRATIC. The apostles might have decided the controversy by their own personal weight and authority; but they preferred to confer with the brotherhood, and to allow a free and open discussion. The council of Jerusalem consisted of "the whole Church" (Acts 15:6-22). It is therefore a departure from apostolic practice if synods have become purely clerical and hierarchical. This is contrary to the principle of the general priesthood of the laity, which gives every believer the right to take an active part in the government and all the general interests of the Church.

(P. Schaff, D. D.)

Some time ago I went down to the Lookout Mountain, and an old resident said to me, "Our soldiers fought bravely up there above the clouds; but sometimes the mists were so heavy that they could not distinguish friends from foes, and struck at each other."

(J. M. Buckley, D. D.)

It's a great pity we can't agree better. They are small, insignificant beings who quarrel oftenest. There's a magnificent breed of cattle in the Vale of Clwyd — the most beautiful vale in Wales. They have scarcely any horns, but an abundance of meat; yet if you ascend the hills on every side, there, on the heights, you find a breed which grows scarcely anything but horns, and from morning to night all you hear is the constant din of clashing weapons. So there are many Christians who live on the heights — but on very cold and barren ones. Everything they eat grows into horns, the strength of which they are constantly testing.

(J. Thomas.)

I saw once a little incident in Scottish history. It was at the time when conflicts were being waged between two factions in Scotland. One of them was represented by the garrison in the old castle at Edinburgh and the townspeople were on the other side. They fell into a very serious fight about surrendering the town. It was the easiest thing in the world for the castle to subdue whatever force was brought against it. Those of you who have been there know how commanding a position it occupied. In a very little while they opened a terrific cannonade on the town. They were soon subdued. It was an easy victory. But they found that the explosions of their cannon had shaken the rock beneath them and opened the fissures so widely that the waters in the wells that the garrison lived upon had run away into nothing. I don't believe we can afford to be victorious over each other, and that Christian denomination that holds its own by the destruction of any other one will find that its fissures beneath will carry away the water of piety and grace on which it lives.

(C. S. Robinson.)

Dr. Duncan was in Leghorn, Italy, when two godly shipmasters came to the port — the one from Leith, the other from England — the one a Presbyterian, the other a Wesleyan. The Wesleyan came and asked him to preach in his ship. "Oh," said he, "I could not do that; for you see I am a Calvinist and you are an Arminian, and I might say something to injure your feelings." "Sir," was the reply, "what we wish you to do is to come and preach against the devil." That is certainly a catholic platform. Calvinist and Arminian should always be agreed to preach against the devil, and in the name of a common Master.

"Old religious factions are volcanoes burned out," says Burke; "on the lava and ashes and squalid scoriae of old eruptions grow the peaceful olive, the cheering vine, and the sustaining corn." Those who have seen the sides of Vesuvius can well appreciate the force of this image. There indeed may be seen tracts of desolation; bare, black, and lurid, beyond any other which earth can show. These are where the sulphur still lingers and repels every effort of vegetation. But there are also tracts, close adjoining to them, and even in the midst of them, where the green vineyard, the grey olive, the golden orange, and the springing herb mark that, out of the attrition and decomposition of the ancient streams of lava, the vital forces of nature can assert themselves with double vigour, and create a new life under the very ribs of death. So it is with extinct theological controversies. So far, indeed, as they retain the bitterness, the fire and brimstone, of personal rancour and malignity, they are, and will be to the end of time, the most barren and profitless of all the works of man. But if this can be eliminated or corrected, it is undeniable not only that truths of various kinds take root and spring up in the soil thus formed, but that there is a fruitful and useful result produced by the contemplation of the transitory character of the volcanic eruptions which once seemed to shake the world.

(Dean Stanley.)

A huge fragment of rock from an adjacent cliff fell upon a horizontal part of the hill below, which was occupied by the gardens and vineyards of two peasants. It covered part of the property of each; nor could it be easily decided to whom the unexpected visitor belonged; but the honest rustics, instead of troubling the gentlemen of the long robe with their dispute, wisely resolved to end it by each party excavating the half of the rock on his own grounds, and converting the whole into two useful cottages, with comfortable rooms and cellars for their little stock of wine, and there they now reside with their families. After such a sort will wise men deal with the great doctrines of the gospel; they will not make them the themes of angry controversy, but of profitable use. To fight over a doctrine is sorry waste of time, but to live in the quiet enjoyment of it is the truest wisdom.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. DISPUTED. The Church at Antioch was made up of both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 11:19-23), living in complete harmony. The Church was prosperous. When this is the case the devil tries to get in and break up its concord. Here —

1. There were those who affirmed that, "Except ye be circumcised," etc. Note —(1) The doctrine which meant that the law, with all its requirements and penalties, was still in force.(2) The advocates of the doctrine. "False brethren" (Galatians 2:4). They assumed an authority which they did not possess, and which was repudiated by the Church (ver. 24).

2. Paul and Barnabas were their opposers (Galatians if. 5). It will be interesting to turn to Paul's indignant utterances against circumcision as a saving ordinance (Galatians 5:2; Galatians 6:12, etc.)And yet this same Paul afterwards circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3). But not as necessary to salvation, only that he might preach salvation to the Jews more acceptably. Here he fought the doctrine without compromise, because it was declared to be essential to salvation.

3. The result (ver. 2). Paul went up by revelation as well (Galatians 2:2). Note —(1) Those sent. Paul and Barnabas, who had the confidence of the Church, and who had been the opponents of the doctrine. Among the "certain other of them" was Titus (Galatians 2:8), and probably some who believed in circumcision.(2) The wisdom of sending. It sent the dispute where it would receive an authoritative answer. There is no need of a Church being torn asunder by any controversy when it acts in the manner and with the spirit of the Church at Antioch.(3) The journey. To Paul and Barnabas it was almost a triumphal march (ver. 3).

II. DENIED.

1. The reception. Paul and Barnabas were accorded, seemingly, a formal and cordial welcome. To men of repute, such as James, Cephas, and John, Paul privately explained the gospel he had been proclaiming among the Gentiles (Galatians 2:2); and in this public gathering he and Barnabas "rehearsed all things that God had done with them."

2. The attack (ver. 5). In the council, therefore, the question was sharply and clearly drawn as to whether faith in Christ was alone sufficient for salvation.

III. PROVED. Observe —

1. The composition of the council (ver. 22). There was no mere pontifical decision. Peter only argued the case, and voted like the rest. Nor did the apostles alone give judgment, but "the whole Church."

2. The arguments before the council.(1) Peter's.(a) God chose that by his mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. It was not Peter that moved in the matter, but God. Peter's scruples had to be overcome.(b) The reception of the Holy Spirit was conclusive evidence, for God knows the heart, and He never would send the Holy Spirit to take possession of those that were alien.(c) Their uncircumcision did not stand in the way of the cleansing of their hearts. His exhortation was short and to the point (ver. 10). The difficulty of bearing the yoke of Moses is set forth in Romans 7:7-14. Christ, in contrast, says, "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." Peter ends by declaring, "But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in like manner as they." Not "they in like manner with us," but "we as they" — without our circumcision!(2) Paul and Barnabas's. They simply declared the miracles and wonders that God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.(3) James'. He makes it manifest that the acceptance of the Gentiles is no new thought, but had been pre-indicated in the Word of God (Amos 9:11, 12). This appeal to prophecy, together with the evidence that God was moving in the matter, settled the controversy. The threatened schism in the Church was avoided, and liberty in the faith became a perpetual birthright. So was it that" the glorious liberty of the children of God "was vindicated.

(M. C. Hazard.)

There is a time —

I. TO BUILD AND A TIME TO BREAK DOWN (Ecclesiastes 3:3).

1. To build the fence of the law of the Old Covenant.

2. To break down that fence in the New Testament.

II. OF CONTENTION AND OF PEACE (Ecclesiastes 3:8).

1. Brotherly contention in order to find the right.

2. Brotherly peace after it is found.

III. TO SPEAK AND TO BE SILENT (Ecclesiastes 3:7).

1. To speak boldly when it concerns convictions.

2. To be silent when it concerns obedience to God's will and brotherly unity.

(K. Gerok.)

Science informs us that the fiercest hurricanes revolve around a perfect centre of calm. This chapter tells us of disturbance in the centre of the Church. A little examination of this dissension will show that it is, more or less, a type of all Church disputes. It was a conflict between —

I. THE RITUALISTIC AND THE SPIRITUAL (ver. 1).

1. The names of these breakers of Church peace are not given, nor do we require them. They were not persons of any authority. Their religion had more to do with the senses than with the souls with the form than with the spirit. I can conceive of them urging —(1) That the law of Moses was the law of God, and therefore immutable.(2) That the religion of Messiah was to develop, and not abrogate, the Levitical economy.

2. The new religion was, on the other hand, preeminently spiritual; it taught that "circumcision or uncircumcision availeth nothing," etc.

II. THE TRADITIONAL AND THE PROGRESSIVE.

1. For many ages the Gentile who sought religious light could only obtain it through the Jew. These Judaising teachers had felt that what had been must continue. They were institutional conservatives — they could not give up the past.

2. On the other hand, Christianity was preeminently progressive; it made the old a mere starting point. It left Palestine for the world, the Jew for the race, the temple of Jerusalem for the temple of the universe, teaching men everywhere that "God is a Spirit," etc.

III. THE FETTERING AND THE FREE. To bind the Gentile converts to this Jewish rite would be to enslave their souls; hence Peter exclaimed, "Why tempt ye God to put a yoke on the necks of the disciples?" To tie the soul to a ceremony is to enslave it, and this those bigots now sought to do. They would fetter the limbs of a new faith with the trammels of old ceremonies. Christianity is freedom; it invests the soul with "the glorious liberty of the children of God."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. A DEPUTATION FROM THE CHURCH AT ANTIOCH AND A FULL DISCUSSION OF THE SUBJECT AT A GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE CHURCH (vers. 4, etc.)(1) It was a general synod, not a mere meeting of the apostles and elders. It is not necessary to believe that every Church member was present, but that all were represented.(2) It was a popular assembly. Notice —

1. The speech of Peter. It is noteworthy that there is no assumption of superiority on Peter's part. He speaks only as one of their number, strongly, but with deference to the common judgment. He shows that Jewish ritualism was —(1) Unnecessary. He quotes his own experience in proof of this, and states that his ministry to the Gentiles was —

(a)By the appointment of God. "God made choice among us."

(b)Divinely sanctioned. "Giving them the Holy Ghost."

(c)Productive of the same spiritual results. "Put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." This work the gospel effects as well without Jewish ritualism as with it, and achieves it in connection with faith and the agency of the Holy Ghost.(2) Inexpedient (ver. 10).

(a)Ritualism is an intolerable yoke.

(b)Men, by their bigoted conduct, may tempt God to put this yoke upon people. Were England to renounce her Protestantism, she would tempt God to put the yoke of Popery upon this country.(3) Contrary to his faith (ver. 11). This is the last speech we have of Peter. Adieu, great apostle!

2. The speech of James. The speech of Peter produced such a deep impression, that, amidst breathless "silence," Barnabas and Paul arose. Their speeches are not recorded; only so much is said about them as to show that they were historic. But the speech of James is given. He was chairman, summed up the matter, and gave his judgment. He accepts the position of Peter, and supports it by a prophetic quotation, which points to a great restoration —

(1)Among the Jewish people. The building up of that which was in ruins.

(2)That would lead the Gentiles to seek after the Lord.

(3)Effected by that God who sees the end from the beginning.

3. The decision contained four prohibitions. Against —

(1)Food which had been offered to idols.

(2)"Fornication" — mentioned in connection with idolatry, because horrible licentiousness mingled with the devotions of those heathens.

(3)"Things strangled" — things held in abomination among the Jews, and in high esteem among the heathens.

(4)"Blood" (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 10:14; Deuteronomy 12:23; 1 Samuel 14:34).

II. A DEPUTATION BACK TO ANTIOCH WITH THE RESULTS OF THE DELIBERATION (vers. 22, etc.)The apostolic letter may be regarded —

1. As a homage to the right of private judgment. It is not an enactment enforced by penalties, nor a mere moral appeal addressed to a corporate body; it is directed to the judgment of every member of the Church in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. The questions at issue were vital to every man, and to every man appeal is made. The whole Bible recognises this right.

2. As a condemnation of ecclesiastical decrees. Its benign and tender spirit, touching references, popular and advisory features, are in striking contrast to the deliverances of later councils. Little men, who claim to be the successors of these apostles, have issued decrees whose arrogance and intolerance insult the Christian name.

3. As a charter of the Church's liberties. With this letter issuing from the great council of the mother Church at Jerusalem, the result of apostolic deliberation and heavenly guidance, we claim a liberty from the reign of ritualism.

III. THE ASSEMBLING OF THE CHURCH AT ANTIOCH TO RECEIVE THE COMMUNICATION FROM THE MOTHER CHURCH (ver. 30). The whole Church is assembled. Paul and Barnabas, Barnabas and Silas, deliver the letter, which yields great "consolation." The strangers exhort the brethren and confirm them, and after a little while return home. Conclusion: Such was the method of settling this first discussion in the Christian Church. How simple, wise, and successful! Would that more recent councils had imitated it.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

1. Previous apostolic speeches were for the most part statements or vindications of the gospel. The only one which prepares us for the present discussion is that of Peter in explanation of his conduct towards Cornelius, which for a time silenced the murmurers. But the question was not dead; it only slept awhile, and awoke with energy when the gospel was openly carried to the Gentiles in Syria and Asia Minor.

2. The "apostles and elders" were seated in order, as constituting a Christian Sanhedrim On the earlier occasion we read of "the apostles and the brethren." In the interval, presbyters had been appointed. There is no mention of an institution of this order, as there is of that of deacons; and for this reason — that the latter was a new order; but the Jews had always had elders, and, as a matter of course, continued that order in the new Christian fellowship. Along with their acknowledged leaders were assembled many of the private Christians.

3. As battles have often begun with the skirmishing of light troops, that could decide nothing, but could search and clear the ground for the onset of the battalions that were to decide the fortune of the day, so in this assembly there was much informal discussion before the leaders spoke. At last it was evident that the "much questioning" was not moving the subject any nearer to solution, and so —

I. "PETER ROSE UP." It had always been his way to take the initiative; and the illustrious part he had played on and since the day of Pentecost entitled him to much honour and deference. He saw no need for lengthened discussion. He was guided to his conclusion by the knowledge of facts. The matter was in his view virtually settled by the case of Cornelius. It was not the bent of this apostle's mind to plough his way through a deep or careful argument; but he knew how to grasp relevant facts, and make them tell. Why should the objectors "tempt God" by assuming that He would not save Gentiles elsewhere as He had saved them in the house of Cornelius? And for what end did they seek thus to restrict the mercy of God, and limit the range of the Christian Church? Was it to impose on the Gentiles a yoke which even Jews had been unable to bear? One thing was quite certain, that salvation for all men was "through the grace of the Lord Jesus"; and no ceremonial or traditional restriction on that grace could be allowed. We can imagine the satisfaction with which St. Paul, who understood the question better than anyone, listened to this clear evangelical statement. He remembered it, and was obliged to remind St. Peter of it on a future occasion at Antioch, when that apostle acted in a manner inconsistent with his speech. St. Peter always spoke with effect, and the whole assembly felt the force of his unanswerable words and "kept silence." So far truth and charity had gained the day.

II. The silence was broken by THE MISSIONARIES, perhaps by pre-arrangement with the leading apostles, perhaps on the happy inspiration of the moment. Barnabas seems to have spoken first — a judicious arrangement, because he had a stronger hold on the confidence of the Church at Jerusalem. Neither were likely to surrender any just claim of Judaism without good cause. Barnabas was a Levite, and Paul a carefully educated Pharisee, who even in youth had been a Sanhedrist. They did not so much argue as narrate what God had wrought, the logical deduction from which was that if God has not refused those Gentile converts on account of their uncircumcision, why should the Church refuse them? And if God gave to them His Holy Spirit, why should men hesitate to give them baptism?

III. ST. JAMES THEN MOVED THE JUDGMENT OF THE COURT. This fell naturally to him on account of his position as president. His character gave great weight to his opinion, and he was not implicated in any personal intercourse with Gentiles, as Peter was. This is the only speech of St. James which has been preserved. It consists of four sentences: —

1. He recognised the importance and relevancy of the case referred to by his colleague, whom he characteristically styled in the Hebrew form "Symeon."

2. He went to the Old Testament to find prophetic sanction. A mind like his craved some ground of Scripture, as well as of observation and reason. He found it in Amos (Amos 9:11,12; LXX.)The prophet had foretold that the fallen tabernacle of David would be rebuilt, and that a blessing would fall on the Gentiles. The erection of the Church of Christ, the Son of David, was a restoration of the tabernacle of David; and there came into prominent view those words which intimated that the Lord's name would be "called" on by the Gentiles. Was not this being fulfilled in the conversion to Christ of a people whom God was now calling out of the heathen world for His name? And, if so, it certainly was not necessary for them to conform to the separate rites of the Jews.

3. In pursuance of this view, he proposed a decision of the case. The Gentile converts should not be harassed by the Jewish law. Enough that they should conform to certain rules of abstention which could not be called irksome, and which might in some degree conciliate those who were apt to regard all Gentiles alike as unclean.

4. In his last sentence he touched with soothing hand the susceptibilities of the more keen Jewish partisans, and his counsel became the unanimous resolution of the whole conclave. The Gentile liberty was secured, and, at the same time, the peace of the whole Church was promoted.Conclusion: The whole discussion suggests —

1. The advantage of holding Christian assemblies for the adjustment of difficulties. The narrative is fatal to the Popish system of Church government; for there was open discussion, and the decision went out with concurrence of the whole Church. It is also incompatible with a bare system of independency, which leaves every local church to steer its own course. It is easy to point the finger at councils which have been bigoted and superstitious; but these were not constituted like this. Give us a council of the elders of the Church, as the trusted leaders, deliberating in presence of their brethren, and you furnish the best possible instrument for adjusting difficulties, allaying jealousies, maintaining truth and peace.

2. The debt of gratitude due to those men who settled what are now to us dead controversies. The questions that tormented early Christianity are nothing now but matters of remote history. Thanks to the men who refuted these heresies, and above all to the Spirit of Truth who enabled them to maintain sound doctrine l The question of circumcision which troubled the infancy of the Church so much is now quite dead. But we should remember that our liberty in Christ was won only by a hard struggle, and should honour the men, who broke down the claims of an arrogant Judaism, But oven this decision did not settle the question. St. Paul had still to fight it out in almost every Church. Thanks to him most of all, and then to other Jewish brethren who championed our freedom from a Jewish yoke!

(D. Fraser, D. D.)

I. ITS OCCASION: a life question of the Church (vers. 5, 11).

1. Not of faith, for concerning that there was no dispute, and that no assembly can finally decide.

2. But of life, of the practical application of the incontestable truths of faith to ecclesiastics ordinance and Christian practice.

II. ITS SPIRIT — truly evangelical. A spirit of —

1. Truth, depending on the Word of God and Christian experience.

2. Love, seeking not its own, but the good of the whole.

III. ITS RESULT — a blessing for the Church.

1. Progress by the decisive victory over antiquated external ordinances; but —

2. On the ground of steadfast Christian faith and love.

(K. Gerok.)

I. THE QUESTION that was discussed: a question concerning salvation.

II. THE SPIRIT in which it was discussed: a spirit of love and truth.

III. THE RULE according to which it was decided: God's testimony in word and deed.

IV. THE CONFESSION which lay at the foundation of the resolution determined on (ver. 11).

(K. Gerok.)

God hath written a law and a gospel: the law to humble us, and the gospel to raise us up; the law to convince us of our misery, and the gospel to convince us of His mercy; the law to discover sin, and the gospel to discover faith and Christ

(J. Mason, M. A.)

A gentleman who was in company with the Rev. John Newton lamented the violent disputes that often take place among Christians respecting the nonessentials of Christianity, and particularly Church government. "Many," he said, "seem to give their chief attention to such topics, and take more pleasure in talking on these disputable points than on spiritual religion, the love of Christ, and the privileges of His people." "Sir," said the venerable old man, "did you ever see a whale ship? I am told that when the fish is struck with the harpoon, and feels the smart of the wound, it sometimes makes for the boat, and would probably dash it to pieces. To prevent this, they throw a cask overboard, and when it is staved to pieces they throw over another. Now, sir," added Mr. Newton, "Church government is the tub which Satan has thrown over to the people of whom you speak."

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