CHAP. VIII. The fourth Argument, taken from Acts 15.
THE example of the Apostolicall Churches, Acts 15. maketh for us. The Churches of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, being troubled with the question Page 179 about the Jewish Ceremonies, the matter was debated and disputed at Antioch, the chiefe towne of Coelosyria, where Paul and Barnabas were for the time. It is very pro∣bable, that some out of the other Churches in that Province, as also out of the Churches of Cilicia, were present in that meeting and conference, for they were troubled with the very same question, no lesse then the Church of Antioch. Howsoever the matter could not be agreed upon in that meeting, but a refe∣rence thereof, was made to a more generall assembly at Hierusalem, and for that effect Paul and Barnabas, and others with them, were sent thither. All this is cleare by com∣paring verse 2. with 23. Hereupon the Apo∣stles and Elders did synodically come toge∣ther at Hierusalem, and decided the question, giving forth decrees to be observed by the particular Churches, Acts 15.6.28. and 16.4. We will not dispute what sort of Synod this was, only that it was a Synod with authority over many particular Churches and Congre∣gations, and whereunto the meeting at An∣tioch (whether it was provinciall, or Presby∣teriall only) did referre the determination of the question about Jewish ceremonies.
It is answered by some. 1. That the reason of sending Paul and Barnabas to Hierusalem,Page 180 was to know whether these teachers who pressed the observation of the ceremoniall Law had any such commission from the A∣postles and Elders, as they pretended. 2. That there is here no Synod, nor assembly of the Commissioners of divers Churches, for there were no Commissioners from the rest of the Churches in Iudea, Galilee, and Samaria, mentioned Acts 9.31. nor from the Churches of the Gentiles mentioned Act. 14.23. neither were Paul and Barnabas, and the rest who went with them, Commissioners to represent the Church of Antioch, but mes∣sengers only to make narration of the case. 3. Not only the Apostles and Elders, but the whole Church at Hierusalem met together. 4. If the resolution which was given, be con∣sidered, as the judgement of the Church at Hierusalem, it was only her advice to her si∣ster Churches, if otherwise considered, it was a decree absolutely Apostolicall, and divine Scripture by infallible direction from the holy Ghost, and for that reason imposed up∣on all the Churches of the Gentiles, though they had no Commissioners there.
These answers had need to be stronger, be∣fore that so many Fathers, Councells, and Protestant Writers, who have understood the matter otherwise should all bee put in an error.
Page 181To the first wee reply, that the reason of sending Paul and Barnabas to Hierusalem, was not so much to know, whether these tea∣chers had commission from the Apostles and Elders, to presse the keeping of the Law of Moses, as to get a resolution of the question it selfe, verse 2. about this question. Now the question was not what commission the Apo∣stles had given to those teachers, but whether they should be circumcised, after the manner of Moses, verse 1.
To the second, we say, that if Paul and Barnabas, were messengers to make narration of the case, certainely they were more then sufficient messengers, and there was no need of others to be joyned in message with them, so that it appeareth the rest who were sent with them were Commissioners to represent the Churches which sent them. Neither is it credible, but that all the Churches of Syria and Cilicia, which were in the same case, with the Church of Antioch, did send their Commissioners also to Hierusalem, for other∣wise, how could the Apostles and Elders have so certaine and perfect intelligence of the case of those Churches, verse 23. Beside it had beene a great neglect in those Chur∣ches, if they had not sent some to Hierusalem, as the Church of Antioch did, for if it was Page 182 expedient which Antioch did, they ought no lesse to have done it, their case being the same. Moreover it may be collected from verse 3. that the other Churches through which Paul and Barnabas passed in their journey, did send some companions along with them, to joyne with them in their errand, and to give their consent in the meeting at Hierusalem, unto that which was to be concluded. This is the observation of Cajetan, Mentzerus, Calvin, Gualther, and other Interpreters upon that place.
Lastly, it is no way probable, that the Apostles and Elders at Hierusalem, together with those who were sent from the Churches of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, and the other Churches through which Paul and Barnabas did travell, would come together without acquainting the rest of the Churches of Ju∣dea, which were so neare at hand, and might so easily send their Commissioners to Hie∣rusalem.
To the third wee reply, that it cannot bee proved from the Text that the body of the Church of Hierusalem was present, but rather it appeareth from verse 6. that they were not present,* as hath been said before. And though it were granted that they were present, yet Master Robinson saith,* that they did no Page 183 more then consent to the decree.
To the last answer, it is containe that the conclusion of that meeting at Hierusalem, was not a naked counsell and advice, but a decree imposed with authority upon the Churches, Acts 15.28. and 16.4. and 21.25.* And whereas it is affirmed, that the decree was meerely Apostolicall, and that the Elders did no more then consent thereto, even as the brethren did, this is ma∣nifestly against the Text, for Acts 16.4. It is said of Paul and Silas as they went through the Cities they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the Apostles & Elders that were at Hierusalem. And Act. 21.25. all the Elders speaking to Paul, say, as touching the Gentiles which believe, wee have written and concluded that they observe no such thing. That this was spoken by al the Elders, is plain from v. 18.19.20. So then the Elders did de∣creee, ordaine, and conclude these things to bee imposed upon the Churches of the Gentiles,* and not the Apostles only. Now the Elders of the Church of Hierusalem, had Page 184 no authority to impose their decrees upon all the Churches of the Gentiles, with whom they had nothing to doe, as Mr. Robinson saith truely. Since therefore these things were imposed upon the Churches of the Gentiles, as the decrees ordained by the Apostles and Elders, at Hierusalem, this doth necessarily import that there were in that meeting, delegates and commissioners from the Churches of the Gentiles, which did represent the same.