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15. The Council at Jerusalem

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

6And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

12Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

13And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 19Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. 22Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 23And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. 30So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: 31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. 32And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. 33And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. 34Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still. 35Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

36And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. 37And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. 39And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

28. It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us. Whereas the apostles and elders match and join themselves with the Holy Ghost, they attribute nothing to themselves apart therein; but this speech importeth as much as if they should say, that the Holy Ghost was the captain, guide, and governor, and that they did set down, and decreed that which they write as he did indite it to them. 149149     “Seque eo dictante statuisse quod scribunt,” and that which they write was resolved on his dictation For this manner of speech is used commonly in the Scripture, to give the ministers the second place after that the name of God is once expressed. When it is said that the people believed God and his servant Moses, (Exodus 14:31,) faith is not rent in pieces, as if it did addict itself partly to God, and partly to mortal man. What then? to wit, whereas the people had God for the sole author of their faith, they believed or gave credence to his minister, from whom he could not be separate. Neither could they otherwise believe God than by believing the doctrine set before them by Moses, as they did shake off the yoke of God after that they had once rejected and despised Moses. Whereby the wickedness of those men is also refuted, who, making boast of faith with full mouth, do no less wickedly than proudly contemn the ministry. For, as it were a sacrilegious partition, if faith should depend even but a very little upon man, so those men do openly mock God who feign that they have him to be their teacher, when they set nought by the ministers by whom he speaketh. Therefore, the apostles deny that they invented that decree of their own brain which they deliver to the Gentiles, but that they were only ministers of the Spirit, that they may, with the authority of God, make them commendable, which (proceeding from him) they do faithfully deliver. So, when Paul maketh mention of his gospel, he doth not enforce upon them a new gospel, which is of his own inventing, but he preacheth that which was committed to him by Christ.

And the Papists are doltish who go about, out of these words, to prove that the Church hath some authority of her own; yea, they are contrary to themselves. For, under what color do they avouch that the Church cannot err, save only because it is grounded immediately by the Holy Spirit? Therefore, they cry out with open mouth, that those things be the oracles of the Spirit which we prove to be their own inventions. Therefore, they do foolishly urge this cause, it seemed good to us; because, if the apostles decreed any thing apart from the Spirit, that principal maxim shall fall to ground, that Councils decree nothing but which is indited by the Spirit.

Besides these necessary things. The Papists do forwardly triumph under color of this word, as if it were lawful for men to make laws which may lay necessity upon the conscience. That (say they) which the Church commandeth must be kept under pain of mortal sin, because the apostles say that that must necessarily be observed which they decree. But such a vain cavil is quickly answered. For this necessity reached no farther than there was any danger lest the unity should be cut asunder. So that, to speak properly, this necessity was accidental or external; which was placed not in the thing itself, but only in avoiding of the offense, which appeareth more plainly by abolishing of the decree. For laws made concerning things which are of themselves necessary must be continual. But we know that this law was foredone 150150     “Refixam,” remodeled. by Paul so soon as the tumult and contention was once ended, when he teacheth that nothing is unclean, (Romans 14:14;) and when he granteth liberty to eat all manner [of] meats, yea, even such as were sacrificed to idols, (1 Corinthians 10:25). Wherefore, in vain do they gather any cloak or color out of this word to bind men’s consciences, seeing that the necessity spoken of in this place did only respect men in the external use lest there should any offense arise thereupon, and that their liberty before God might stand whole and sound. Also, in vain do they gather out of all the whole place, and in vain do they go about out of the same to prove that the Church had power given to decree anything contrary to the word of God. The Pope hath made such laws as seemed best to him, contrary to the word of God, whereby he meant to govern the Church; and that not ten or twenty, but an infinite number, so that they do not only tyrannously oppress souls, but are also cruel torments to vex and torment them.

To the end the hired brabblers [wranglers] of the Pope may excuse such cruelty, they do object that even the apostles did forbid the Gentiles that which was not forbidden in the word of God. But I say flatly, that the apostles added nothing unto the word of God; which shall plainly appear if we list to mark their drift. I said of late that they meant nothing less 151151     “Nihil minus in animo illis fuisse,” that the last thing they meant was to. than to set down a perpetual law, whereby they might bind the faithful. What then? They use that remedy which was fit for the nourishing of brotherly peace and concord among the Churches, that the Gentiles may for a time apply themselves 152152     “Se... accommodent,” accommodate themselves. to the Jews. But if we will grant anything, we must assuredly confess that this is according to the word of God, that love bear the sway in things indifferent; that is, that the external use of those things which are of themselves free be bent unto the rule of charity.

In sum, if love be the bond of perfection and end of the law; if God command that we study to preserve mutual unity among ourselves, and that every man serve his neighbor to edify, no man is so ignorant which doth not see that that is contained in the word of God which the apostles command in this place, only they apply a general rule to their time. Furthermore, let us remember that which I said before, that it was a politic law which could not ensnare the conscience, neither bring in any reigned worship of God; which two vices the Scripture condemneth everywhere in men’s traditions. But admit we should grant (which is most false) that that did not accord with the word of God which was decreed in that council, yet that maketh nothing for the Papists. Let the councils decree anything contrary to [beyond, in addition to] the express word of God, according to the revelation of the Spirit; yet none but lawful councils may have this authority given them. Then let them prove that their councils were godly and holy, to the decrees whereof they will have us subject. But I will not any farther prosecute this point, because it was handled in the beginning of the chapter. Let the readers know (which is sufficient for this present place) that the apostles pass not the bounds of the word of God when they set down an external law, as time requireth, whereby they may reconcile the Churches among themselves.


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