THE GOSPEL FULFILS THE LAW. BY REV.

WILLIAM ARNOT

" Then Agrippa *aid unto Pau/, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for him self: " etc. ACTS xxvi. 1-16. PAUL S address before Festus and Agrippa is recorded with considerable fulness. It is in form, as well as substance, an apology for Christianity, adapted to the audience and the times. In determining his ground, he adheres closely to his former line-of defence. He does not demand the sanc tion of imperial law for the introduction of a new relig ion; he takes his stand on the fact that the Jewish re ligion is a lawful worship, and argues that the gospel, being a legitimate development of Judaism, is already sanctioned. His language is not, Tolerate the religion which I proclaim; but, My religion is already tolerated by the laws of the state. The first premise of his argument, the Jewish re ligion is tolerated in the empire, was not disputed; the second, I am of the Jewish religion, is the point on which the great apologist on this occasion puts forth his strength. This, although debated in a Roman court, was a question between Jews and Christians. The Jews accused the Christians of having apostatized from the tolerated faith; it was Paul s business, there fore, to refute this accusation to prove that in ac cepting Christ he did not renounce Moses, and so

The Gospel fulfils the Laiv. 419

make good his claim to the protection of the govern ment under existing laws. Thus, the form which the question that day as sumed, makes the apostle s reasoning on it very pre cious to the Church in all ages. Circumstances led him to show that the gospel sprang necessarily from the law, as the stalks and ears of harvest from the seed of spring. Starting from the notorious fact, that in his youth he was himself a Jew, he proves, by a narrative of the case, that he had never changed; that his progress, instead of being an apostasy, had been the develop ment and glory of all the Old Testament revelation. In this aspect, the progress of revelation is some what like the progress of a plant that grows from seed. The first stage is in appearance very different from the second. The leaves subsequently unfolded are not a mere repetition of their predecessors. Suppose a per son altogether unacquainted with the processes of vegetation has obtained some seed, which he believes to be precious, from a foreign land. He sows it in his garden, and watches its springing and growth. After having seen its first leaves spread out, he is called from home. The plants are left under the charge of a skilful and faithful servant, and the owner does not see them again for a month. On his return he visits the garden to mark the progress of his valued foreign plants. He finds them growing indeed on the same spot, but entirely changed. These are not my plants ! he exclaims. I left them with leaves smooth and almost circular; these leaves are downy, corru gated, and sharply indented on all sides. He thinks the gardener has removed the original germs, and substituted others of a different kind in their place. The mistake is due to the ignorance of the proprietor; the servant has been faithful to his charge. The owner ignorantly mistakes a natural development for

a dishonest change. The Sanhedrim represents the prejudiced house holder, and Paul stands for the faithful steward. The gospel which Paul preached was not indeed a mere re production of the Mosaic institutes; it was the growth of that germ into foliage, flowers, and fruit. All the

420 The Church in the House. sacrifices are promises. The Sanhedrim, in their blind zeal, would grasp these promise-buds, and hold them tight, and never permit them to open; Paul would leave these precious buds free under the sun and air of heaven, and watch to see whereunto they would grow. Pa i\ held fast the hope of the promise. It was not a new or strange doctrine that he proclaimed. It was the promise made to the fathers. He was aware, while he spoke, that his doctrine involved the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection of the dead in general, and the resurrection of Christ in particular, are bound up together. To deny the possibility of a resurrection, involves the rejection of Christ; for, if the dead rise not, then is Christ not risen. There is reason to believe that the Herodian family, of whom Agrippa was, at that time, the head, had imbibed Sadducean views. As the king enjoyed, by favor cf the Roman emperor, the right of nominating the high priest, the Sadducees, under this ancient specimen of lay patronage, would probably obtain most of the chief preferments. Paul plainly assumes that Agrippa was a Sadducee, and endeavors to change the king s dark belief. " Why should it be thought a thing in credible with you, that God should raise the dead ? " The actual resurrection of Jesus, when accepted, demol ishes the foundation-stone of the Sadducean system.

Once more, on a great public arena, the apostle nar rates his own conversion. He relies mightily on this as an instrument in his ministry. In order to provide a fulcrum for his lever, he carefully notes, at the outset, that he too was once against Jesus of Nazareth. And here the grand natural character of Saul emerges in striking outlines. What he thought to be his duty, that he resolutely performed. He thought the disci ples of Jesus were a sect of deceivers, and therefore he determined to hunt them down. This is the essence of persecution in every age. It is a conviction lodged in a strong but unenlightened mind, that those who re fuse compliance with the authorized orthodoxy should be put to death. It is that grim sense of duty, com bined with a perverted religious belief, that has done all the killing of the saints. While Paul was an unbe-

TJie Gospel fulfils the Law. 421 liever, he thought it right to put the disciples of Christ to death, and he acted on his conviction; but when he became himself a disciple, he changed not only his side, but his method. After he became a Christian, he be lieved that the unbelieving Jews erred fatally in their faith; but we never hear a whisper of any desire on his part to put them in prison, or to take away their lives. Christ made him free, and when he was delivered from condemnation, his law was love. This experience has been repeated in more recent times. As long as the superstition of Rome was predominant in Europe, it put heretics to death; when the Reformation triumphed, argument came in place of the stake. It is remarkable how directly contrary are the maxims of Rome to the precepts of the gospel. See (Titus iii. 10) a specific instruction to Christians how they ought to treat those who maintain erroneous doctrine; "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject."

Paul says, exclude him from your communion; Rome says, burn him at a stake. We obtain an incidental hint here regarding the methods of torture adopted by ancient Jewish inquisi tors " I compelled them to blaspheme." It is not said that Christians under that cruel compulsion actu ally blasphemed the holy name whereby they were called. The persecutor endeavored to force them to a denial of the Lord, but he did not succeed. The heathen magistrates during the first three centuries adopted precisely the same plan, with the same result. The martyrs suffered, but would not sin. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

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