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heard a voice saying to him, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.' Nevertheless, Peter went to Cæsarea, 1 Acts x. 9-14. and, addressing Cornelius and his friends, said, “Ye yourselves know that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to join himself or come unto one of another nation. Notwithstanding, 2 Acts x. 28. they invited Peter to tarry with them certain days, which he did.
For this ecclesiastical irregularity, when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, the Jewish Christians contended with him, saying, “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcized, and didst eat with them.” Whereupon Peter justifies his conduct, relating his vision, in the course of which he calmly repeats to the apostles and brethren his reply to the divine message, “ Not so, Lord; for nothing common or unclean hath ever entered into my mouth.”
These words, read in the light of a previous chapter," might suggest that Peter had been all 4. See p. 108. his life a strict tithe-payer, because, if he had so scrupulously observed the higher law (as the rabbis deemed it) concerning ceremonial purity, and not being the guest of, or entertaining, an outsider, it goes without saying that he would have observed what they regarded as the lower vow (that is, concerning tithes), and so have paid and expended annually for religious purposes a fourth, or thereabouts, of his income.
We are not told that the apostle Peter belonged, or had belonged, to the party of the Pharisees; but
3 Acts xi. 1-8.
& Mark vii. 3.
in the present instance he seems to speak like one. Not, however, that the Pharisees alone were careful to avoid ceremonial defilement. The reason why the captors of Jesus would not go into the Gentile
judgment hall of Pilate was that they might not 1 John xviii. 28. thereby be rendered unclean'; and we read that
“all the Jews, except they wash their hands up to the elbow, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.". The words, too, of Peter to Cornelius imply that it was unlawful for any Jew to be guest with an outsider.
Thus far, then, we have been dealing with Christian practice and principle in almsgiving and beneficence in Palestine, among the Jews, until Peter, preaching to Cornelius, opened the door of entry to the Christian Church to the Gentiles. We read, however, “They therefore that were scattered abroad, upon the tribulation that arose about Stephen, travelled as far as Phenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch, but preaching Christianity to none but Jews.
Meanwhile, certain men of Cyprus and Cyrene spake to the Grecian Jews at Antioch, where Barnabas and Saul taught for a whole year.
Here the disciples were first called Christians, the one practical feature of their Christianity mentioned, being that “the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren
that dwelt in Judea, which also they did, sending it 4 Acts xi. 20-30. to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.""
Then, Barnabas and Saul, having accomplished this labour of love, went back to Antioch, where,
3 Acts xi. 19.
6 Acts xii. 25.
not long after, certain men came down from Judea, and taught the brethren that they ought to be circumcized. A deputation, therefore, was sent to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders; and it is in connection with the conference that followed we read that some, at least, of the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem, especially those who had been Pharisees,' had thought it needful that the Gentile 1 Acts xv. 5. converts should be circumcized, and that they should be charged to keep (presumably in its entirety) the law of Moses, which would include, of course, spending a considerable portion of their incomes for religious purposes.
Moreover, it was not ex-Pharisees alone who were of this opinion, for, later on, we read of the Christians at Jerusalem saying to Paul, " Thou seest, brother, how many [myriads or tens of] thousands of Jews there are which believe, and they are all zealous [for the observance] of the law."
This zeal for the law no doubt included the payment of tithes, which practice was, at that very moment, in full force, presumably, by these tens of thousands of converts, and so continued for many years afterwards, as witnessed by Josephus A.D. 67.8 3 See p. 106. Accordingly, neither here nor throughout the Acts of the Apostles is any exception mentioned concerning tithes and offerings, as if they were obsolete, or the law concerning them rescinded.
Passing now from St. Luke's testimony in the Acts of the Apostles, to that of other writers of the New Testament, we find the author of the Epistle
2 Acts xxi. 20.
2 Bible Class Handbook on
to the Hebrews urging Christians “to do good 1 Heb. xiii. 16. and to communicate,”? these words including a
duty, no doubt, as Dr. A. B. Davidson puts it, to “impart of their substance, to minister to the
necessities of those in want or in affliction.” 2 So Hebrews xii. 16. also St. John, in his first epistle, puts before his
readers this far-reaching question : “Whoso hath this world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in
need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, 3 1 John iii. 17. how doth the love of God abide in him?" 3 whilst
the apostle James asks very practically, “If a brother or sister be naked, and in lack of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled : and yet ye give them not
the things needful for the body; what doth it 4 Jas ii. 15-16. profit?”
It is in accordance, therefore, with these principles, that we see the early Christians did not stint to give for, among other things, the relief of the needy; and so, when Paul and Barnabas were sent to the heathen, the one practical injunction mentioned as laid on them was, “that we should remember the poor ; which very thing,” says Paul, "I was also zealous to do." 5
How peculiarly zealous he was we have already seen, in his bearing the alms of the Christians from Antioch to the famishing brethren at Jerusalem. Moreover, this was not the last time of Paul's acting as almoner; for, when writing to the Romans, this great apostle says:
“ I Jerusalem, ministering unto the saints, for it hath been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia
5 Gal. ii. io.
6 Acts xi. 30.
to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints that are at Jerusalem.” 1 And again, in 1 Rom. xv. 26. his speech before Felix, the apostle stated that, after some years, the cause that took him to Jerusalem was to convey to his nation alms and offerings, all which, together with what has been 2 Acts xxiv. 17. previously said, tends to show that the first Christians, whether converted from Judaism or heathenism, looked upon right giving, to say the least, as an important part of right living.