Freethought Archives > Jeremy Bentham > Not Paul, But Jesus

CHAPTER II.

Outward Conversion—how produced—how planned.


SECTION 1.

MOTIVE, TEMPORAL ADVANTAGE—PLAN.

How flourishing the state of the church had at this period become, will be seen more fully in another place. Long before this period,—numbers of converts, in Jerusalem alone, above three thousand. The aggregate, of the property belonging to the individuals, had been formed into one common fund: the management—too great a burden for the united labours of the eleven Apostles, with their new associate Mathias—had, under the name so inappositely represented at present by the English word deacon, been committed to seven trustees; one of whom, Stephen, had, at the instance of Paul, been made to pay, with his life, for the imprudence, with which he had, in the most public manner, indulged himself, in blaspheming the idol of the Jews—their temple.[13]

[Pg 90]

Of that flourishing condition, Paul, under his original name of Saul, had all along been a witness. While carrying on against it that persecution, in which, if not the original instigator, he had been a most active instrument, persecuting, if he himself, in what he is made to say, in Acts xxii. 4, is to be believed,—"persecuting unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women;"—while thus occupied, he could not in the course of such his disastrous employment, have failed to obtain a considerable insight into the state of their worldly affairs.

Samaria—the field of the exploits and renown of the great sorcerer Simon, distinguished in those times by the name of Magus—Samaria, the near neighbour and constant rival, not to say enemy, of Jerusalem;—is not more than about five and forty miles distant from it. To Paul's alert and busy mind,—the offer, made by the sorcerer, to purchase of the Apostles a share in the government of the church, could not have been a secret.

At the hands of those rulers of the Christian Church, this offer had not found acceptance. Shares in the direction of their affairs were not, like those in the government of the British Empire in these our days, objects of sale. The nine rulers would not come into any such bargain; their disciples were not as cattle in their eyes: by those disciples themselves no such bargain would have been endured; they were not as cattle in their own eyes.

But, though the bargain proposed by the sorcerer did not take place, this evidence, which the offer of it so clearly affords,—this evidence, of the value of a situation of that sort in a commercial point of view, could not naturally either have remained a[Pg 91] secret to Paul, or failed to engage his attention, and present to his avidity and ambition a ground of speculation—an inviting field of enterprise.

From the time when he took that leading part, in the condemnation and execution, of the too flamingly zealous manager, of the temporal concerns of the associated disciples of that disastrous orator, by whom the preaching and spiritual functions might, with so much happier an issue, have been left in the hands of the Apostles—from that time, down to that in which we find him, with letters in his pocket, from the rulers of the Jews in their own country, to the rulers of the same nation under the government of the neighbouring state of Damascus, he continued, according to the Acts ix. 1; "yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord."

Of these letters, the object was—the employing the influence of the authorities from which they came, viz. the High Priest and the Elders, to the purpose of engaging those to whom they were addressed, to enable him to bring in bonds, to Jerusalem from Damascus, all such converts to the religion of Jesus, as should have been found in the place last mentioned.

In his own person the author of the Acts informs us—that, by Saul, letters to this effect were desired[14]. In a subsequent chapter, in the person of Paul, viz. in the speech, to the multitude by whom he had been dragged out of the Temple, in the design of putting him to death, he informs us they were actually obtained[15].

[Pg 92]

It was in the course of this his journey, and with these letters in his pocket, that, in and by the vision seen by him while on the road—at that time and not earlier—his conversion was, according to his own account of the matter, effected.

That which is thought to have been already proved, let it, at least for argument's sake, be affirmed. Let us say accordingly—this vision-story was a mere fable. On this supposition, then, what will be to be said of those same letters?—of the views in which they were obtained?—of the use which was eventually made of them?—of the purpose to which they were applied? For all these questions one solution may serve. From what is known beyond dispute—on the one hand, of his former way of life and connections—on the other hand, of his subsequent proceeding—an answer, of the satisfactoriness of which the reader will have to judge, may, without much expense of thought, be collected.

If, in reality, no such vision was perceived by him, no circumstance remains manifest whereby the change which so manifestly and notoriously took place in his plan of life, came to be referred to that point in the field of time—in preference to any antecedent one.

Supposing, then, the time of the change to have been antecedent to the commencement of that journey of his to Damascus—antecedent to the time of[Pg 93] the application, in compliance with which his letter from the ruling powers at Jerusalem the object of which was to place at his disposal the lot of the Christians at Damascus, was obtained;—this supposed, what, in the endeavour to obtain this letter, was his object? Manifestly to place in his power these same Christians: to place them in his power, and thereby to obtain from them whatsoever assistance was regarded by him as necessary for the ulterior prosecution of his schemes, as above indicated.

On this supposition, in the event of their giving him that assistance, which, in the shape of money and other necessary shapes, he required—on this supposition, he made known to them his determination, not only to spare their persons, but to join with them in their religion; and, by taking the lead in it among the heathen, to whom he was, in several respects, so much better qualified for communicating it than any of the Apostles or their adherents, to promote it to the utmost of his power. An offer of this nature—was it in the nature of things that it should be refused? Whatsoever was most dear to them—their own personal security, and the sacred interests of the new religion, the zeal of which was yet flaming in their bosoms, concurred in pressing it upon their acceptance.

With the assistance thus obtained, the plan was—to become a declared convert to the religion of Jesus, for the purpose of setting himself at the head of it; and, by means of the expertness he had acquired in the use of the Greek language, to preach, in the name of Jesus, that sort of religion, by the preaching of which, an empire over the minds of his converts, and, by that means, the power and opulence to which he aspired, might, with the fairest prospect of success, be aimed at.

[Pg 94]

But, towards the accomplishment of this design, what presented itself as a necessary step, was—the entering into a sort of treaty, and forming at least in appearance, a sort of junction, with the leaders of the new religion and their adherents—the Apostles and the rest of the disciples. As for them, in acceding to this proposal, on the supposition of anything like sincerity and consistency on his part, they would naturally see much to gain and nothing to lose: much indeed to gain; no less than peace and security, instead of that persecution, by which, with the exception of the Apostles themselves, to all of whom experience seems, without exception, to have imparted the gift of prudence, the whole fraternity had so lately been driven from their homes, and scattered abroad in various directions.

With the Christians at Damascus, that projected junction was actually effected by him: but, in this state of things, to return to Jerusalem was not, at that time, to be thought of. In the eyes of the ruling powers, he would have been a trust-breaker—a traitor to their cause: in the eyes of the Christians, he would have been a murderer, with the blood of the innocent still reeking on his hands: no one would he have found so much as to lend an ear to his story, much less to endure it. In Damascus, after making his agreement with his new brethren, there remained little for him to do. Much had he to inform himself of concerning Jesus. Damascus—where Jesus had already so many followers—Damascus was a place for him to learn in: not to teach in:—at any rate, at that time.

Arabia, a promising field of enterprise—Arabia, a virgin soil, opened to his view. There he would find none to abhor his person—none to contradict his[Pg 95] assertions: there his eloquence—and, under the direction of his judgment, his invention—would find free scope: in that country the reproach of inconsistency could not attach upon him: in that foreign land he beheld his place of quarantine—his school of probation—the scene of his novitiate. By a few years employed in the exercise of his new calling—with that spirit and activity which would accompany him of course in every occupation to which he could betake himself—he would initiate himself in, and familiarize himself with, the connected exercises of preaching and spiritual rule. At the end of that period, whatsoever might be his success in that country, such a portion of time, passed in innocence, would at any rate allay enmity: such a portion of time, manifestly passed, in the endeavour at any rate to render service to the common cause, might even establish confidence.

At the end of that time, he might, nor altogether without hope of success, present himself to the rulers of the church, in the metropolis of their spiritual empire: "Behold, he might say, in me no longer a persecutor, but a friend. The persecutor has long vanished: he has given place to the friend. Too true it is, that I was so once your persecutor. Years spent in unison with you—years spent in the service of the common cause—have proved me. You see before you, a tried man—an ally of tried fidelity: present me as such to your disciples: take me into your councils: all my talent, all my faculties, shall be yours. The land of Israel will continue, as it has been, the field of your holy labours; the land of the Gentiles shall be mine: we will carry on our operations in concert; innumerable are the ways in which each of us will derive from the other—information, assistance, and support."

[Pg 96]

To Arabia he accordingly repaired: so, in his Epistle to the Galatians, Gal. i. 17, he himself informs us: in that little-known country, he continued three whole years—so also, in the same place, he informs us. There it was, that he experienced that success, whatever it was, that went to constitute the ground, of the recommendation given of him by Barnabas to the Apostles. From thence he returned to Damascus: and, in that city, presenting himself in his regenerated character, and having realized by his subsequent conduct the expectations raised by his promises at the outset of his career[16]; he planned, and as will be seen, executed his expedition to Jerusalem: the expedition, the object of which has just been brought to view. "Then," says Paul himself, "I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days." Gal. 1:18. There, says the author of the Acts, Acts 9:27, 28, "Barnabas took him and brought him to the Apostles ... and he was with them coming in and going out of Jerusalem."

[Pg 97]


SECTION 2.

AT DAMASCUS, NO SUCH ANANIAS PROBABLY.

This same Ananias—of whom so much has been seen in the last chapter—Paul's own imagination excepted, had he anywhere any existence? The probability seems to be on the negative side: and, in the next section, as to whether Paul's companions on the road are not in a similar predicament, the reader will have to judge. But let us begin with Ananias.

At Damascus, at any rate—with such power in his hands, for securing obsequiousness at the hands of those to whom he was addressing himself—with such power in his hands, Paul could not have had much need of anything in the shape of a vision:—he could not have had any need of any such person as the seer of the correspondent vision—Ananias.

For the purpose of aiding the operation of those considerations of worldly prudence, which these powers of his enabled him to present, to those whom it concerned,—there might be some perhaps, who, for yielding to those considerations, and thus putting themselves under the command of this formidable potentate, might look for an authority from the Lord Jesus. But, forasmuch as, in this very case, even at this time of day, visions, two in name, but, in respect of probative force, reducible to one—are so generally received as conclusive evidence,—no wonder if, at that time of day, by persons so circumstanced, that one vision should be received in that same character. At Damascus, therefore, on his first[Pg 98] arrival, there could not be any occasion for any such corroborating story as the story of the vision of Ananias. At Damascus—unless he had already obtained, and instructed as his confederate, a man of that name—no such story could, with any prospect of success, have been circulated: for the purpose of learning the particulars of an occurrence of such high importance, the residence of this Ananias would have been inquired after: and, by supposition, no satisfactory answer being capable of being given to any such inquiries,—no such story could be ventured to be told.

Such was the case, at that place and at that time. As to any such evidence, as that afforded by the principal vision, viz. Paul's own,—perhaps no such evidence was found necessary: but, if it was found necessary, nothing could be easier than the furnishing it. As to the secondary vision, viz. that ascribed afterwards to a man of the name of Ananias,—at that time scarcely could there have been any need of it—any demand for it; and, had there been any such demand, scarcely, unless previously provided, could any such correspondent supply have been afforded.

In other places and posterior times alone, could this supplemental vision, therefore, have been put into circulation: accordingly, not till a great many years after, was mention made of it by the author of the Acts:—mention made by him, either in his own person, or as having been related, or alluded to, by Paul himself. Even the author of the Acts,—though in this same chapter he has been relating the story of Ananias's vision,—yet, when he comes to speak, of the way, in which, according to him, Paul, by means of his protector and benefactor[Pg 99] Barnabas, obtained an introduction to the Apostles, viz. all the Apostles, in which, however, he is so pointedly contradicted by Paul himself,—yet speaks not of Barnabas, as including, in the recommendatory account he gave them, of Paul—his vision, and his merits—any mention of this supplemental vision:—any mention of any Ananias. Acts 9:27.

At Damascus, howsoever it might be in regard to the Christians—neither to Jews, nor to Gentiles, could the production, of any such letters as those in question, have availed him anything. Such as had embraced Christianity excepted, neither over Gentiles nor over Jews did those letters give him any power: and, as to Jews, the character in which—after any declaration made of his conversion—he would have presented himself, would have been no better than that of an apostate, and betrayer of a highly important public trust. To men of both these descriptions, a plea of some sort or other, such as, if believed, would be capable of accounting for so extraordinary a step, as that he should change, from the condition of a most cruel and inveterate persecutor of the new religion, to that of a most zealous supporter and leader,—could not, therefore, but be altogether necessary. No sooner was he arrived at Damascus, than, if the author of the Acts is to be believed, he began pleading, with all his energy, the cause of that religion, which, almost to that moment, he had with so much cruelty opposed. As to the story of his vision,—what is certain is—that, sooner or later, for the purpose of rendering to men of all descriptions a reason for a change so preeminently extraordinary, he employed this story. But, forasmuch as of no other account of it, as given by him, is any trace to be found;—nor can any reason be[Pg 100] found, why that which was certainly employed afterwards might not as well be employed at and from the first;—hence comes the probability, that from the first it accordingly was employed.


SECTION 3.

ON DAMASCUS JOURNEY—COMPANIONS NONE.

In the preceding chapter, a question was started, but no determinate answer as yet found for it: this is—what became of the men, who—according to all the accounts given by Paul, or from him, of his conversion vision—were his companions in the journey? At Damascus, if any such men there were, they would in course arrive as well as he, and at the same time with him. This circumstance considered, if any such men there were,—and they were not in confederacy with him,—the imposition must have been put upon them: and, for that purpose, he must, in their presence, have uttered the sort of discourse, and exhibited the sort of deportment, mentioned in the above accounts.

To this difficulty, however, a very simple solution presents itself. He had no such companions. Neither by name, nor so much as by any the most general description,—either of the persons, or of the total number,—is any designation to be found anywhere:—not in the account given in the Acts; not in any account, given by himself, in any Epistle of his; or, as from himself, in any part of the Acts. In the company of divers others, a man was struck down, he says, or it is said of him, by a supernatural light: and, at the instant, and on the spot, has a conversation[Pg 101] with somebody. Instead of saying who these other men are, the credit of the whole story is left to rest on the credit of this one man:—the credit, of a story, the natural improbability of which, stood so much need of collateral evidence, to render it credible.

Not till many years had elapsed, after this journey of his were these accounts, any one of them, made public: and, in relation to these pretended companions—supposing him interrogated at any time posterior to the publication of the account in the Acts,—after the lapse of such a number of years, he could, without much difficulty, especially his situation and personal character considered, hold himself at full liberty, to remember or to forget, as much or as little, as on each occasion he should find convenient.


SECTION 4.

FLIGHT FROM DAMASCUS: CAUSES—FALSE—TRUE.
ACTS ix. 19-25.

And when he had received meat he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.—And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.—But all that heard him were amazed, and said: Is not this he that destroyeth them which called on his name in Jerusalem; and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?—But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.—And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him.—But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.—Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

The conception, which it was the evident design of this passage to impress upon the mind of the reader,[Pg 102] is—that, as soon almost as he was arrived at Damascus, Paul not only went about preaching Jesus, but preaching to that effect openly, and without reserve, in all the synagogues: and that it was for this preaching, and nothing else, that "the Jews," thus undiscriminating is the appellation, purposely it should seem, employed, "went about to kill him:" that thereupon it was, that he made his escape over the wall, and having so done, repaired immediately to Jerusalem.

In this conception, there seems to be evidently a mixture of truth and falsehood.

That he addressed himself, in a greater or less number, to the disciples,—must assuredly have been true: to the accomplishment of his designs, as above explained, intercourse with them could not but be altogether necessary.

That, when any probable hope of favourable attention and secrecy were pointed out to him—that, in here and there an instance, he ventured so far as to address himself to this or that individual, who was not as yet enlisted in the number of disciples,—may also have been true: and, for this purpose, he might have ventured perhaps to show himself in some comparatively obscure synagogue or synagogues.

But, as to his venturing himself so far as to preach in all synagogues without distinction,—or in any synagogue frequented by any of the constituted authorities,—this seems altogether incredible.

To engage them to seek his life; to lie in wait to kill him; in other words, to apprehend him for the purpose of trying him, and probably at the upshot killing him,—this is no more than, considering what, in their eyes, he had been guilty of, was a thing of[Pg 103] course: a measure, called for—not, for preaching the religion of Jesus; not, for any boldness in any other way displayed; but, for the betraying of the trust, reposed in him by the constituted authorities at Jerusalem: thus protecting and cherishing those malefactors, for such they had been pronounced by authority, for the apprehending and punishing of whom, he had solicited the commission he thereupon betrayed. Independently of all other offence, given by preaching or anything else,—in this there was that, which, under any government whatever, would have amply sufficed—would even more than sufficed—to draw down, upon the head of the offender, a most exemplary punishment.

In this view, note well the description, given in the Acts, of the persons, by whose enmity he was driven out of Damascus; compare with it what, in relation to this same point, is declared—most explicitly declared—by Paul himself.

By the account in the Acts, they were the persons to whom he had been preaching Jesus; and who, by that preaching, had been confounded and provoked. Among those persons, a conspiracy was formed for murdering him; and it was to save him from this conspiracy that the disciples let him down the wall in a basket.

Such is the colour, put upon the matter by the author of the Acts. Now, what is the truth—the manifest and necessary truth, as related—explicitly related—by Paul himself? related, in the second of his letters to his Corinthians, on an occasion when the truth would be more to his purpose than the false gloss put upon it by his adherents as above? The peril, by which he was driven thus to make his escape, was—not a murderous conspiracy, formed against him by a set of individuals provoked by his preaching;—it[Pg 104] was the intention, formed by the governor of the city. Intention? to do what? to put him to death against law? No; but to "apprehend" him. To apprehend him? for what? Evidently for the purpose of bringing him to justice in the regular way—whatsoever was the regular way—for the offence he had so recently committed: committed, by betraying his trust, and entering into a confederacy with the offenders, whom he had been commissioned, and had engaged, to occupy himself, in concert with the constituted authorities of the place, in bringing to justice.

"In Damascus," says he, 2 Cor. xi. 32, 33, "the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me. And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands."

And on what occasion is it, that this account of the matter is given by him? It is at the close of a declamation, which occupies ten verses—a declamation, the object of which is—to impress upon the minds of his adherents the idea of his merits: viz. those which consisted in labour, suffering, and perils: merits, on which he places his title to the preference he claims above the competitors to whom he alludes:—alludes, though without naming them: they being, as he acknowledges therein, ministers of Christ, and probably enough, if not any of them Apostles, persons commissioned by the Apostles. Greater, it is evident, must have been the danger from the ruling powers of the place, than from a set of individual intended murderers:—from the power of the rulers there could not be so much as a hope of salvation, except by escape: from the individuals there would be a naturally sufficient means of salvation; the[Pg 105] power of the rulers presenting a means of salvation, and that naturally a sufficient one.

Note here, by the by, one of the many exemplifications, of that confusion which reigns throughout in Paul's discourses: the result, of that mixture, which, in unascertainable proportions, seems to have had place—that mixture of nature and artifice. It is at the end of a long list of labours, sufferings, and perils, that this anecdote presents itself. Was it accordingly at the end of them that the fact itself had taken place?—No: it was at the very commencement: or rather, so far as concerned preaching, before the commencement. Only in the way of allusion—allusion in general terms—in terms of merely general description, without mention of time or place, or persons concerned,—are any of the other sufferings or perils mentioned: in this instance alone, is any mention made under any one of those heads: and here we see it under two of them, viz. place and person: and moreover, by other circumstances, the time, viz. the relative time, is pretty effectually fixed.

Immediately afterwards, this same indisputably false colouring will be seen laid on, when the account comes to be given, of his departure for Jerusalem: always for preaching Jesus is he sought after, never for anything else.

According to this representation, here are two governments—two municipal governments—one of them, at the solicitation of a functionary of its own, giving him a commission to negotiate with another, for the purpose of obtaining, at his hands, an authority, for apprehending a set of men, who, in the eyes of both, were guilty of an offence against both. Instead of pursuing his commission, and using his endeavours to obtain the desired cooperation, he[Pg 106] betrays the trust reposed in him:—he not only suffers the alleged malefactors to remain unapprehended and untouched, but enters into a confederacy with them. To both governments, this conduct of his is, according to him, matter of such entire indifference, that he might have presented himself everywhere, as if nothing had happened, had it not been for his preaching:—had it not been for his standing forth openly, to preach to all that would hear him, the very religion which he had been commissioned to extinguish.

In such a state of things, is there anything that can, by any supposition, be reconciled to the nature of man, in any situation,—or to any form of government?

Three years having been passed by him in that to him strange country, what, during all that time, were his means of subsistence? To this question an unquestionable answer will be afforded by the known nature of his situation. He was bred to a trade, indeed a handicraft trade—tent-making: an art, in which the operations of the architect and the upholsterer are combined. But, it was not to practise either that, or any other manual operation, that he paid his visit to that country. When he really did practise it, he took care that this condescension of his should not remain a secret: from that, as from everything else he ever did or suffered, or pretended to have done or suffered, he failed not to extract the matter of glory for himself, as well as edification for his readers. In Arabia, his means of subsistence were not then derived from his trade: if they had been, we should have known it:—from what source[Pg 107] then were they derived?[17] By the very nature of his situation, this question has been already answered:—from the purses of those, whom, having had it in his power, and even in his commission, to destroy, he had saved.

And now, as to all those things, which, from the relinquishment of his labours in the field of persecution to the first of his four recorded visits to Jerusalem, he is known to have done, answers have been furnished:—answers, to the several questions why and by what means, such as, upon the supposition that the supernatural mode of his conversion was but a fable, it will not, it is hoped, be easy to find cause for objecting to as insufficient.

[Pg 108]


SECTION 5.

ARABIA-VISIT—MENTIONED BY PAUL, NOT ACTS.

Not altogether without special reason, seems the veil of obscurity to have been cast over this long interval. In design, rather than accident, or heedlessness, or want of information,—may be found, it should seem, the cause, of a silence so pregnant with misrepresentation. In addition to a length of time, more or less considerable, spent in Damascus, a city in close communication with Jerusalem, in giving proofs of his conversion,—three years spent in some part or other of the contiguous indeed, but wide-extending, country of Arabia—(spent, if Paul is to be believed, in preaching the religion of Jesus, and at any rate in a state of peace and innoxiousness with relation to it)—afforded such proof of a change of plan and sentiment, as, in the case of many a man, might, without miracle or wonder, have sufficed to form a basis for the projected alliance:—this proof, even of itself; much more, when corroborated, by the sort of certificate, given to the Church by its preeminent benefactor Barnabas, who, in introducing the new convert, to the leaders among the Apostles, for the special purpose of proposing the alliance,—took upon himself the personal responsibility, so inseparably involved in such a mark of confidence.

In this state of things then, which is expressly asserted by Paul to have been, and appears indubitably to have been, a real one,—considerations of an ordinary nature being sufficient—to produce—not only the effect actually produced—but, in the[Pg 109] case of many a man, much more than the effect actually produced,—there was no demand, at that time, for a miracle: no demand for a miracle, for any such purpose, as that of working, upon the minds of the Apostles, to any such effect as that of their maintaining, towards the new convert, a conduct free from hostility, accompanied with a countenance of outward amity. But, for other purposes, and in the course of his intercourse with persons of other descriptions, it became necessary for him to have had these visions: it became necessary—not only for the purpose of proving connection on his part with the departed Jesus, to the satisfaction of all those by whom such proof would be looked for,—but, for the further purpose, of ascribing to Jesus, whatsoever doctrines the prosecution of his design might from time to time call upon him to promulgate;—those doctrines, in a word, which, (as will be seen), being his and not Jesus's—not reported by anyone else as being Jesus's—we shall find him, notwithstanding, preaching, and delivering,—so much at his ease, and with unhesitating assurance.

A miracle having therefore been deemed necessary (the miracle of the conversion-vision), and reported accordingly,—thus it is, that, by the appearance of suddenness, given to the sort and degree of confidence thereupon reported as having been bestowed upon him by the Apostles, a sort of confirmation is, in the Acts account, given to the report of the miracle: according to this account, it was not by the three or four years passed by him in the prosecution of their designs, or at least without obstruction given to them;—it was not by any such proof of amity, that the intercourse, such as it was, had been effected:—no: it was by the report of the vision—that report which, in the first instance, was made[Pg 110] to them by their generous benefactor and powerful supporter, Barnabas; confirmed, as, to every candid eye it could not fail to be, by whatever accounts were, on the occasion of the personal intercourse, delivered from his own lips. "But Barnabas (says the author) took him and brought him to the Apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord by the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus." Acts 9:27.

When in the year 57, Paul,[18] to so many other boastings, was added the sufferings he would have us think were courted and endured by him, while preaching in the name of Jesus, that gospel, which he proclaims to have been his own, and not that of the Apostles, little assuredly did he think, that five years after, or thereabout, from the hand of one of his own attendants, a narrative was to appear, in which, of these same sufferings a so much shorter list would be given; or that, by an odd enough coincidence, more than seventeen centuries after, by a namesake of his honored patron, Doctor Gamaliel, the contradiction thus given to him, would be held up to view.

In the second of his epistles to his Corinthians, dated A.D. 57,—the following is the summary he gives of those same sufferings. Speaking of certain unnamed persons, styled by him false Apostles, but whom reasons are not wanting for believing to have been among the disciples of the real ones,—"Are they," says he, 2 Cor. xi. 23, "ministers of Christ? I speak as one beside himself, I am more: in labours[Pg 111] more abundant: in stripes above measure: in prisons more frequent: in deaths, oft.—Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes, save one.—Thrice was I beaten with rods; once was I stoned: thrice I suffered shipwreck: a night and a day have I been in the deep." Thus far as per Paul.

Add from his former Epistle to the same in the same year, battle with beasts, one. "If, after the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me," continues he, 1 Cor. XV. 32, "if the dead rise not, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."

Let us now see how the account stands, as per Acts. On the part of this his panegyrist, whether any such habit had place as that of cutting down below their real amount, either the sufferings or the actings of his hero, the reader will have judged. Of both together, let it not be forgotten, the Acts' account comes some five years lower, than the date of the above tragical list: in it are included those sufferings and perils which we have seen, namely, those produced by the voyage to Rome, and which, at the time of Paul's list, had not taken their commencement. Now then for the Acts' list. Stripes, nine-and-thirty in a parcel, none: difference five. Beatings with rods, saving one possible one, of which presently, none; difference, three. Stoning, one[19]. Shipwreck,[Pg 112] as yet none: the accident at Malta being three years subsequent. "Night and day in the deep,"—according as it was on or in the deep—either nothing at all, or an adventure considerably too singular to have been passed over. Diving-bells are not commonly supposed to have been, at that time of day, in use; but whoever has a taste for predictions, may, if it be agreeable to him, see those same scientific instruments or the equivalent in this Gospel of Paul's predicted.

As to the parcels of stripes, the self-constituted Apostle takes credit for, they would have been,—supposing them administered,—administered, all of them, according to law, meaning always the law of Moses: for, it is in that law, (namely in Deuteronomy XXV. 3) that the clause, limiting to nine-and-thirty, the number to be given at a time, is to be found. Of these statements of Paul's, let it not pass unnoticed, the place is—a formal and studied Epistle, not an extempore speech: so that the falsehood in them, if any, was not less deliberate than the Temple perjury.

Of all these same boasted bodily sufferings, eight in the whole, when put together,—one was, at the outset, reserved for consideration: let us see what light, if any, is cast upon it by the Acts. One beating, the Acts informs us of: and it was a beating by order of magistrates: and accordingly, a beating according to law. But the law, according to which it was given, was not Jewish law: the magistrates, by whose order it was given, were not Jewish magistrates. The magistrates were heathens: and it was for being Jews, and preaching in the Jewish style, that Paul, and his companion Silas, were thus visited. It was at Philippi that the affair happened: it was immediately[Pg 113] preceded by their adventure with the divineress, as per Acts 16:16; 34, Chap. 13: and brought about by the resentment of her masters, to whose established business, the innovation, introduced by these interlopers, had given disturbance: it was followed—immediately followed—by the earthquake, which was so dexterous in taking irons off. Whether therefore this beating was in Paul's account comprised in the eight stripings and beatings, seems not possible, humanly speaking, to know: not possible, unless so it be, that Paul, being the wandering Jew, we have sometimes heard of, is still alive,—still upon the look-out, for that aërial voyage, which, with or without the expectation of an aërostatic vehicle, we have seen him so confident in the assurance of.

Remains the battle with the beasts. What these same beasts were, how many there were of them,—how many legs they respectively had—for example, two or four—in what way he was introduced into their company,—whence his difference with them took its rise,—whether it was of his own seeking, or by invitation that he entered the lists with these his antagonists,—how it fared with them when the affair was over,—(for as to the hero himself, it does not appear that he was much the worse for it);—these, amongst other questions, might be worth answering, upon the supposition, that these antagonists of his were real beings and real beasts, and not of the same class as the arch-beast of his own begetting—Antichrist. But, the plain truth seems to be, that if ever he fought with beasts, it was in one of his visions: in which case, for proof of the occurrence, no visible mark of laceration could reasonably be demanded. Meantime, to prove the negative, as far as, in a case such as this, it is in the nature of a negative to be proved,—we may, without much fear[Pg 114] of the result, venture to call his ever-devoted scribe. To this same Ephesus,—not more than a twelvemonth or thereabouts, before the date of the Epistle—he brings his patron,—finds appropriate employment for him,—and, off and on, keeps him there for no inconsiderable length of time. There it is, that we have seen, Chap. 13, §. 7., his handkerchiefs driving out devils as well as diseases: there it is, and for no other reason than that he is there—there it is, that we have seen so many thousand pounds worth of magical books burnt—and by their owners: there it is, that with a single handkerchief of his,—which so it were but used, was an overmatch for we know not how many devils,—we saw a single devil, with no other hands than those of the man he lodged in, wounding and stripping to the skin no fewer than seven men at the same time. If, then, with or without a whole skin at the conclusion of it, he had really had any such rencounter, with one knows not how many beasts, is it in the nature of the case, that this same historiographer of his, should have kept us ignorant of it? To be shut up with wild beasts, until torn to pieces by them, was indeed one of the punishments, for which men were indebted to the ingenuity of the Roman lawyers: but, if any such sentence was really executed upon our self-constituted Apostle, his surviving it was a miracle too brilliant not to have been placed at the head of all his other miracles: at any rate, too extraordinary to have been passed by altogether without notice. The biographer of Daniel was not thus negligent.

After all, was it really matter of pure invention—this same battle? or may it not, like so many of the quasi-miracles in the Acts, have had a more or less substantial foundation in fact? The case may it not[Pg 115] have been—that, while he was at Ephesus, somebody or other set a dog at him, as men will sometimes do at a troublesome beggar? or that, whether with hand or tongue, some person, male or female, set upon him with a degree of vivacity, which, according to Paul's zoology, elucidated by Paul's eloquence, entitled him or her to a place in the order of beasts?—Where darkness is thus visible, no light can be so faint, as not to bring with it some title to indulgence.

Of the accounts, given us by the historiographer, of the exploits and experiences of his hero while at Ephesus, one article more will complete the list. When any such opportunity offered, as that of presenting him to view, in his here assumed character, of a candidate for the honours of martyrdom,—was it or was it not in the character of the historiographer to let it pass unimproved? To our judgment on this question, some further maturity may be given, by one more law-case, now to be brought to view. Under some such name as that of the Ephesian Diana, not unfrequent are the allusions to it. Church of Diana silversmiths versus Paul and Co. is a name, by which, in an English law report, it might with more strict propriety be designated. Plaintiffs, silversmiths' company just named: Defendants, Paul and Co.; to wit, said Paul, Alexander, Aristarchus, Alexander and others. Acts, 22:41. Action on the case for words:—the words, in tenor not reported: purport, importing injury in the way of trade. Out of the principal cause, we shall see growing a sort of cross cause: a case of assault, in which three of the defendants were, or might have been, plaintiffs: cause of action, assault, terminating in false imprisonment. In this exercetitious cause, defendants not individually specified: for, in those early days, note-taking had not arrived at the pitch of[Pg 116] perfection, at which we see it at present. That which,—with reference to the question—as to the truth of the beast-fighting story,—is more particularly material in the two cases taken together,—is this: in the situation, in which these junior partners of Paul found themselves, there was some difficulty, not to say some danger. Pressed, as he himself was afterwards, in his invasion of Jerusalem,—pressed in more senses than one, they found themselves by an accusing multitude. What on this occasion does Paul? He slips his neck out of the collar. So far from lending them a hand for their support, he will not so much as lend them a syllable of his eloquence. Why? because forsooth, says his historiographer, Acts xix. 30, 31, "the disciples suffered him not:" item, v. 30, "certain" others of "his friends." When, as we have seen him, spite of everything that could be said to him, he repaired to Jerusalem on his Invasion Visit,—he was not quite so perfectly under the government of his friends. On the present occasion, we shall find him sufficiently tractable. Was this a man to be an antagonist and overmatch for wild beasts?

Now as to the above-mentioned principal case. Plaintiffs, dealers in silver goods: Defendants, dealers in words. To be rivals in trade, it is not necessary that men should deal exactly in the same articles:—the sale of the words injured the sale of the goods: so at least the plaintiffs took upon them to aver: for, in such a case, suspicion is not apt to lie asleep. The church of Diana was the Established Church, of that place and time. To the honour, the plaintiffs added the profit, of being silversmiths to that same Excellent Church. To the value of that sort of evidence, which it is the province of silversmiths[Pg 117] to furnish, no established church was ever insensible. The evidence, furnished by the church silversmiths of these days, is composed of chalices: under the Pagan dispensation, the evidence furnished by the church silversmiths of the church of the Ephesian Diana, was composed of shrines. When, with that resurrection of his own, and that Gospel of his own, of which so copious a sample remains to us in his Epistles,—Paul, with or without the name of Jesus in his mouth, made his appearance in the market, Plaintiffs, as we have seen, took the alarm. They proceeded, as the pious sons of an established church could not fail to proceed. Before action commenced, to prepare the way for a suitable judgment,—they set to work, and set on fire the inflammable part of the public mind. The church was declared to be in danger, ver. 27: the church of Diana, just as the church of England and Ireland would be, should any such sacrilegious proposition be seriously made, as that of tearing out of her bosom any of those precious sinecures, of which her vitals are composed. In Ephesus, it is not stated, that, at that time, any society bearing the name of the Vice Society, or the Constitutional Association, was on foot. But, of those pious institutions the equivalent could not be wanting. Accordingly, the charge of blasphemy, it may be seen, ver. 37, was not left unemployed. So the defence shows: the defence, to wit, made by the probity and wisdom of the judge: for, by the violence of the church mob,—who, but for him, were prepared to have given a precedent, to that which set Birmingham in flames,—the defendants were placed in the condition of prisoners: and the judge, seeing the violence, of the prejudice they had to encounter, felt the necessity, of adding to the function of judge, that of counsel for the prisoners.

[Pg 118]

But it is time to turn to the text: not a particle of it can be spared.

ACTS xix. 22-41.

22. So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.—And the same time, there arose no small stir about that way;—For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;—Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.—Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying, that they be no gods, which are made with hands:—So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.—And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.—And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.—And when Paul would have entered in, unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.—And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.—Some, therefore, cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.—And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people;—But when they knew he was a Jew, all with one voice, about the space of two hours, cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.—And when the town clerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?—Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.—For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.—Wherefore, if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a[Pg 119] matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another.—But if ye inquire anything concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.—For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.—And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.

The Judge by whom the principal cause was tried, and the plaintiffs non-suited, is styled, we see "the Town Clerk:" the more appropriate and respected title would not on this occasion have been ill-applied to him. Except what we have here been seeing, we know nothing of him that is positive: but, seeing thus much of him, we see that he was an honest man: and an honest man is not ill portrayed by negatives. He had no coronet playing before his eyes: no overpaid places and sinecures for relatives. He had not been made judge, for publishing a liturgy of the church of Diana, with an embroidery composed of his own comments,—or for circulating, with anonymous delicacy, a pious warning, never to be absent from the shrine of Diana, when the sacred cup was, proffered by the hands of holy priests. Accordingly, when the charge of blasphemy was brought before him,—being a heathen, he found no difficulty in treating it, in that gentle and soothing mode, in which, when, from the bosom of an established church it enters into a man, the spirit, which calls itself the spirit of Christianity, renders him so averse to the treating it. If, when his robes were off, he spoke of Diana what we now think of her,—he did not, when they were on, foam or rave, declare—that all, who would not swear to their belief in her, were not fit to be believed, or so much as fit to live.

By him, one man was not robbed of his rights, because another man, when called upon as a witness, refused to perjure himself. By him, a man was not[Pg 120] refused to be heard as a witness, nor refused protection for the fruits of his industry, nor deprived of the guardianship of his children, because he waited to see Diana, before he declared himself a believer in her existence. In the open theatre was pronounced the judgment we have seen. He did not, by secret sittings, deprive men of the protection of the public eye. He did not, we may stand assured—for we see how far the people of Ephesus were from being tame enough to endure it—he did not keep men's property in his hands, to be plundered by himself, his children, or his creatures, till the property was absorbed, and the proprietors sent broken-hearted to their graves. He did not—for the people of Ephesus would not have endured it—wring out of distress a princely income, on pretence of giving decisions, declaring all the while his matchless incapacity for everything but prating or raising doubts. He did not display,—he could not have displayed—the people of Ephesus could not have endured it—any such effrontery, as, when a judicatory was to sit upon his conduct, to set himself down in it, and assume and carry on the management of it. He would not have sought impunity—for if he had sought it in Ephesus, he would not have found it there—he would not have sought impunity, in eyes lifted up to heaven, or streaming with crocodile tears.

Thus much as to his negative merits. But, we have seen enough of him, to see one great positive one. When, from the inexhaustible source of inflammation, a flame was kindled,—he did not fan the flame,—he quenched it.

The religion of Diana having thus come upon the carpet, a reflection which could not be put by, is—spite[Pg 121] of all efforts of the church silversmiths, in how many essential points, negative as they are, the religion of Diana had, on the ground of usefulness, the advantage of that, which is the religion of Paul, and is called the religion of Jesus. Diana drove no men out of their senses, by pictures or preachments of never-ending torments. On pretence of saving men from future sufferings, no men were consigned by it to present ones. No mischievous, no pain-producing, no real vice, was promoted by it. It compelled no perjury, no hypocrisy: it rewarded none. It committed, it supported, it blessed, it lauded, no depredation, no oppression in any shape: it plundered no man of the fruits of his industry, under the name of tithes. For the enrichment of the sacred shrines,—money, in any quantity, we may venture to say, received: received, yes: but in no quantity extorted. One temple was sufficient for that goddess. Believing, or not believing in her divinity,—no men were compelled to pay money, for more temples, more priests, or more shrines.

As to the religion of Jesus, true it is, that so long as it continued the religion of Jesus, all was good government, all was equality, all was harmony: free church, the whole; established church, none: monarchy, none; constitution, democratical. Constitutive authority, the whole community: legislative, the Apostles of Jesus; executive, the Commissioners of the Treasury: not Lords Commissioners, appointed by a King Herod, but trustees or stewards; for such should have been the word, and not deacons,—agents elected by universal suffrage. In this felicitous state, how long it continued—we know not. What we do know, is—that, in the fourth century, despotism took possession of it, and made an instrument of it. Becoming established, it became noxious,—preponderantly[Pg 122] noxious. For, where established is the adjunct to it, what does religion mean? what but depredation, corruption, oppression, hypocrisy? depredation, corruption, oppression, hypocrisy—these four: with delusion, in all its forms and trappings, for support.

So pregnant is this same boasting passage—1 Cor. xv. 32, the labour it has thrown upon us, is not altogether at an end. By what it says of the resurrection, the memory has been led back, to what we have seen on the same subject, in one of Paul's Epistles to his Thessalonians: brought together, the two doctrines present a contrast too curious to be left unnoticed. Of the apparatus employed by him in his trade of disciple-catcher, his talk about the resurrection, was, it may well be imagined, a capital article. Being, according to his own motto, all things to all men, 1 Cor. ix. 22, whatever it happened to him to say on the subject, was dished up, of course, according to the taste of those he had to deal with. To some it was a prediction: for such, we have seen, was the form it assumed when the people to be wrought upon were the Thessalonians. To others, when occasion called, it was a statement concerning something past, or supposed to be past. On an occasion of this sort it was, that the name of Jesus, another article of that same apparatus, was of so much use to him. True it is, that to the doctrine of the general resurrection in time future, he had, it must be remembered, no need of declaring himself beholden to Jesus: at least, if on this point, the Acts' history is to be believed: for, of the Pharisees,—the sect to which Paul belonged—of the Pharisees, as compared with the other sect the Sadducees, it was the distinctive tenet. But, of the then future,[Pg 123] the then past, as exemplified in the particular case of Jesus, could not but afford very impressive circumstantial evidence. Of this momentous occurrence, there were the real Apostles, ready to give their accounts,—conformable, it may be presumed, to those we see given, as from them, by the four Evangelists. These accounts, however, would not suit the purpose of the self-constituted Apostle: in the first place, because they came from the real Apostles, with whom, as we have so often seen, it was a declared principle with him not to have had anything to do: in the next place, because the Apostles were too scrupulous: they would not have furnished him with witnesses enough. His own inexhaustible fund—his own invention,—was therefore the fund, on this occasion, drawn upon: and, accordingly, instead of the number of witnesses,—say a score or two at the utmost—he could have got from the Apostles,—it supplied him with five hundred: five hundred, all at once: to which, if pressed, he could have added any other number of percipient witnesses whatsoever, provided only that it was at different times they had been such.

So much for explanation: now for the announced contrast. Whoever the people were, whom he had to address himself to,—they had contracted, he found, a bad habit: it was that of eating and drinking. Reason is but too apt to be seduced by, and enlisted in the service of her most dangerous enemy—Appetite. Not only did they eat and drink; but they had found, as it seemed to them, reason for so doing. They ate and drank—why? because they were to die after it. "Let us eat and drink," said the language we have seen him reproaching them with, 1 Cor. xv. 32. "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."

[Pg 124]

The case is—that, in pleasure, in whatever shape they see her,—all men, to whose ambition supernatural terrors supply an instrument of dominion, behold their most formidable rival. Against such a rival, wonderful indeed it would be, if their hostility were not proportionable. No morality accordingly do they acknowledge, that does not include, with or without other things, hatred,—with or without contempt, of pleasure. Such, too, as is their morality, such is their law. Death is scarce severe enough, for a pleasure, which they either have, or would be thought to have, no relish for. So at least says what they teach: but, teaching how to act is one thing; acting accordingly, another. Thus we all see it is, in so many instances: and thus, without much danger of injustice, we may venture to suppose it may have been, in that of the self-constituted Apostle.

Not so Jesus: no harm did he see in eating and drinking, unless with the pleasure it produced greater pain. With this reserve, no harm,—for anything that appears in any one of the four histories we have of him,—no harm did he see in anything that gives pleasure. What every man knows—and what Jesus knew as well as any man—for neither in words nor in acts did he deny it—is,—that happiness, at what time soever experienced,—happiness, to be anything, must be composed of pleasures: and, be the man who he may, of what it is that gives pleasure to him, he alone can be judge.

But, to return to eating and drinking. Eating and drinking—he gives his men to understand—even he, holy as he is, should not have had any objection to, had it not been for this same resurrection of his, which he was telling them of: eating and drinking—a practice, to which, notwithstanding this resurrection[Pg 125] of his, and so much as he had told them of it, he had the mortification to find them so much addicted. So much for his Corinthians. It was, as we see, for want of their paying, to what he was thus telling them about the resurrection, that attention, to which it was so well entitled,—that they still kept on in that bad habit. But his Thessalonians—they too, as we have seen, had got the same bad habit. Well: and what was it that gave it them? What but their paying too much attention to this same resurrection of his, dished up in the same or another manner, by the same inventive and experienced hand. In conclusion, on laying the two cases together, what seems evident enough is—that, in whatever manner served up to them, his resurrection, whatever it was, was considerably more effectual in making people eat and drink, than in weaning them from it.


SECTION 6.

GAMALIEL—HAD HE PART IN PAUL'S PLAN?

Gamaliel—in the working of this conversion, may it not be that Gamaliel—a person whose reality seems little exposed to doubt—had rather a more considerable share, than the above-mentioned unknown and unknowable Ananias?

Gamaliel was "a doctor of law" Acts 5:34—a person of sufficient note, to have been a member of the council, in which the chief priests, under the presidency of the High Priest, Acts 5:24, took cognizance of the offence with which Peter and his associates had a little before this been charged, on the occasion of their preaching Jesus. Under this Gamaliel, had[Pg 126] Paul, he so at least is made to tell us, studied, Acts 22:3. Between Paul and this Gamaliel, here then is a connection: a connection—of that sort, which, in all places, at all times, has existence,—and of which the nature is everywhere and at all times so well understood—the connection between protegé and protector. It was by authority from the governing body, that Paul was, at this time, lavishing his exertions in the persecution of the Apostles and their adherents:—who then so likely, as this same Gamaliel, to have been the patron, at whose recommendation the commission was obtained? Of the cognizance which this Gamaliel took, of the conduct and mode of life of the religionists in question,—the result was favourable. "Let them alone," were his words. Acts v. 38. The maintenance, derived by the protegé, on that same occasion, from the persecution of these innoxious men—this maintenance being at once odious, dangerous, and precarious,—while the maintenance, derivable from the taking a part in the direction of their affairs, presented to view a promise of being at once respectable, lucrative, and permanent;—what more natural then, that this change, from left to right, had for its origin the advice of this same patron?—advice, to which, all things considered, the epithet good could not very easily be refused.

FALSE PRETENCES EMPLOYED.

To the self-constituted Apostle, false pretences were familiar. They were not—they could not have been—without an object. One object was power: this object, when pursued, is of itself abundantly sufficient to call forth such means. But, another object[Pg 127] with Paul was money: of its being so, the passages referred to as above, will afford abundant proofs. A man, in whose composition the appetite for money, and the habit of using false pretences are conjoined, will be still more likely to apply them to that productive purpose, than to any barren one. In the character of a general argument, the observations thus submitted, are not, it should seem, much exposed to controversy.

But, of a particular instance, of money obtained by him on a false pretence,—namely, by the pretence of its being for the use of others, when his intention was to convert it to his own use,—a mass of evidence we have, which presents itself as being in no slight degree probative. It is composed of two several declarations of his own,—with, as above referred to, the explanation of it, afforded by a body of circumstantial evidence, which has already been under review: and as, in the nature of the case, from an evil-doer of this sort, evidence to a fact of this sort, cannot reasonably be expected to be frequently observable,—the labour, employed in bringing it here to view, will not, it is presumed, be chargeable, with being employed altogether without fruit.

First, let us see a passage, in the first of his Epistles to his Corinthians, date of it, A.D. 57. In this, we shall see a regularly formed system of money-gathering: an extensive application of it to various and mutually distant countries, with indication given of particular times and places, in which it was his intention to pursue it: also, intimation, of a special charitable purpose, to which it was his professed intention to make application of the produce of it, at a place specified: namely, Jerusalem.

First then comes, 1 Cor. 16:1-8. A.D. 57.

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as[Pg 128] I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.—Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.—And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.—And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.—Now I will come unto you when I shall pass through Macedonia; for I do pass through Macedonia.—And it may be that I will abide, yea and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go.—For I will not see you now by the way: but I trust to tarry a while with you if the Lord permit.—But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost." At Ephesus, where he becomes an object of jealousy, as we have seen, to the church-silversmiths; and, from his declared business at those other places, some evidence surely is afforded of what was his probable business in that place.

Next let us see a passage in his Epistle to his Romans: date of it, A.D. 58. Here, in two instances, we shall see the success, with which this system was pursued by him: as also a maxim, laid down by him—a maxim, in which the existence of this same system, on his part, is acknowledged: a maxim, in which his hopes of success in the pursuit of it, are declaredly founded.

Rom. 15:24-28. A.D. 58.

"Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you; for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.—But now I go unto Jerusalem, to minister unto the Saints.—For it hath pleased them of Macedonia[Pg 129] and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.—It hath pleased them verily: and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.—When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain."

In the instance in question, money (we see)—of the quantity of course nothing said—is mentioned by him, as being actually in his hands: the purpose, for which it was there,—and to which he would of course be understood to intend applying it,—being also mentioned by him:—applying it, at Jerusalem, to the use of the poor saints. So much for professed intentions. Now then for real ones. Answer, in his own words: that those Gentiles, who by him had been made partakers of his spiritual things, might, as in "duty" bound, "minister" to him, so much the more effectively "in carnal things:" that he, who preached, what he called the Gospel, might, as he had been preaching to his Corinthians also (1 Cor. ix. 14) be enabled so much the more comfortably to "live by" it.

"The poor saints which are at Jerusalem:"—the poor saints—to wit, not here and there a saint or two, but the whole Christian population living together on a common stock—if now, A.D. 58, they were living, as A.D. 53 they were (Acts ii. 44; vi. 1) and, in this particular, from the beginning to the end of the history, no change is mentioned—in Jerusalem—was it in the nature of man, in that state of men and things,—was it in the nature of men and things, that any man, who had any knowledge of their situation, and of the terms on which Paul, from first to last, had been with them, could for a moment have thought of[Pg 130] lodging, for their use, any the smallest sum of money in his hands? as well might it be said, at this moment—a man, whose wish it was to convey money to Spain, for the use of the Cortes, would choose the hand of the Duc d'Angouleme to send it by. All this time, there were the Apostles of Jesus—patrons of those same saints: and, anywhere more easily than there, could he be. That, with this money in his hands, among his objects was—the employing more or less of it in the endeavour to form a party there, may not unreasonably be supposed, from what we have seen of that Invasion Visit, by which his designs upon Jerusalem were endeavoured to be carried into effect. For, according to Acts 19:21, already when he was at Ephesus, as above, was it his known design, to try his fortune once more in Jerusalem, and after that in Rome. This may have been among his designs, or not. Be this as it may, this would have been no more than a particular way, of converting the money to his own use.

Not that, if at this time, and for this purpose from even the quarters in question, money had come, as he says it had, there was anything very wonderful in its so doing. As to us indeed we know pretty well what sort of terms he was on, from first to last, with the community in question: we know this, because his historiographer has made us know it. But, as to the people of those same countries respectively,—at their distance from Jerusalem, what, in their situation, might easily enough happen was,—not to have, as to this point, any adequate information till it was too late to profit by it: and, that such would be their ignorance, is a matter, of which he might not less easily have that which, to a man of his daring and sanguine temper, would be a sufficient assurance.

[Pg 131]

One thing there is, which, on the occasion of any view they took of this subject, may perhaps have contributed to blind their eyes. This is—the fact, of his having actually been concerned, in bringing money to Jerusalem, for a similar purpose, though it must be confessed, not less than fourteen years before this: to wit, from Antioch, as stated in Chapter V., speaking of that—his second Jerusalem Visit, by the name of the Money-bringing Visit.

But,—what may easily enough have happened, distance in time and place, together considered, is—that to those particulars, which composed no more than the surface of the business, their knowledge was confined: while we, though at the distance of more than seventeen centuries, know more or less of the inside of it,—let into it, as we have been, by the author of the Acts.

As to their arriving sooner or later, at the suspicion, or though it were the discovery, that the money had not, any part of it, reached the hands it was intended for, nor was in any way to do so,—what bar could the apprehension of any such result oppose, to the enterprise, systematic, as we see it was, of the creator of Antichrist? When, to a man, who occupies a certain situation in the eye of the political world, calls for accounts are become troublesome,—Scipio might have informed him, if he had not well enough known of himself, how to answer them.

When a charge made upon you is true—evidence full against you, and none to oppose to it,—fly into a passion, magnify your own excellence—magnify the depravity of your adversaries. This mode, of parrying a charge, is perfectly well understood in our days, nor could it have been much less well understood in Paul's days. As for his adversaries, Paul had a storm in petto at all times ready for them:[Pg 132] for the materials, turn to any page of his Epistles: whatever, in this way, he had for rivals,—that and more he could not fail to have for accusing witnesses. To the creator of Antichrist—sower of tares between Pharisees and Sadducees,—whatever were the charges, defence, the most triumphant, could never be wanting: arguments, suited with the utmost nicety, to the taste of judges. He would warn them, against false brethren, and liars, and wolves, and children of Satan, and so forth: he would talk to them, about life and death, and sin and righteousness, and faith and repentance, and this world and that world, and the Lord and resurrection: he would talk backwards and forwards—give nonsense for mystery, and terror for instruction: he would contradict everybody, and himself not less than anybody: he would raise such a cloud of words, with here and there an ignis fatuus dancing in the smoke,—that the judges, confounded and bewildered, would forget all the evidence, and cry out Not Guilty through pure lassitude.

As to us,—the case being now before us, what shall be our verdict? Obtaining money on false pretences is the charge. Guilty shall we say, or not guilty? Obtainment on a certain pretence, is proved by direct evidence—his own evidence: proof, of falsity in the pretence, rests, as it could not but rest, on circumstantial evidence.

One observation more: for another piece of circumstantial evidence has just presented itself: it consists of the utter silence, about the receipt of the money or any particle of it,—when, if there had been any such receipt, occasions there were in such abundance for the mention of it. A.D. 57, in his first to his Corinthians,—there it is, as we have seen, that[Pg 133] he urges them to lay by money for him, declaring it is for the saints at Jerusalem; and that on this same errand it is, that he is going to Macedonia,—and that in his way to Jerusalem he will give them another call, to receive, for that same purpose, the intermediate produce of these proposed saving-banks. In his letter to the Romans, written the next year, A.D. 58—written at Corinth,—then it is, that he has already made the said intended money-gathering visit, and with success:—with success not only in Macedonia, as he had proposed, but in Achaia likewise: and, with this money in his hand, and for the purpose of delivering the money to those for whom he obtained it;—for this purpose (he says) it is, that he is at that moment on his way to Jerusalem—the place of their abode. This is in the year A.D. 58. Well then: after this it is, that he takes up his abode at Ephesus. And when, after his contests with the church silversmiths there, he departs from thence, whither does he betake himself? To Jerusalem? No: he turns his back upon Jerusalem, and goes for Macedonia (Acts xx. 1.) then into Greece, where he stays three months; and purposes, Acts 20:3, to return through Macedonia. A.D. 60, it is, that, for the first time, Acts 20:16, any intention of his to visit Jerusalem is declared, he having coveted no man's silver or gold, as his historian, Acts xx. 33, makes him assure us. When, at length he arrived there, what his reception was, we have seen. Had any of the money been received there, would such as we have seen have been the reception given to the man? When, by the Christians at Jerusalem, Agabus was sent to him, to keep him if possible from coming there,—is it in the nature of things, that they should have already received any of it, or been in any expectation of it? In what passed between[Pg 134] him and the Elders, headed by the Apostle James, is any the slightest allusion made to it? When, in Cæsarea, all in tears, Acts 21:12, 13, his attendants were striving, might and main, to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem,—did he say anything about the money—the money he had been so long charged with? Oh no; not a syllable: to Jerusalem he is resolved to go indeed: Oh yes: but not the shadow of a reason can he find for going there.

When arrived at Jerusalem, the brethren, says the Acts 20:17, received him gladly. The brethren: yes, what adherents he had, would of course receive him gladly, or at least appear to do so. But the money? On their side, was anything said about the money? Not a syllable. Either at this time by his own hand, or any time before, by other hands, had they received this money, or any considerable part of it, could they have received him otherwise than not only gladly, but gratefully?

All the time, the hero was thus employed in money-craving and money-gathering, the historian, let it never be out of mind, was of the party: four years before, A.D. 53, had he been taken into it; yet not any the least hint about these money-matters does he give. So far indeed as regarded what was avowedly for Paul's own use, neither could the receipt nor the craving of the money from their customers, have been unknown to him; for this was what they had to live upon. But the letters his master wrote—wrote to their customers everywhere—letters, in which the demand was made, for the so much more extensive purpose,—of these, so many of which have reached these our times, the contents may to him have easily enough remained a secret: little reason had he to expect, none at all to fear, the exposure,—which now,[Pg 135] at the end of more than seventeen centuries, has, at length, been made of them,—confronted, as they may now be, with the particulars he himself has furnished us with.


FOOTNOTES:

[13] Acts vii. ver. 47. Speech of St. Stephen. "But Solomon built him an house. Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?" In itself, perfectly comfortable all this, to the dictates of reason and the instruction of Jesus: but not the less clear blasphemy against the Mosaic law.

[14] Acts ix. ver. 1 and 2. "And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the Disciples of the Lord, went unto the High Priest,—And desired of him letters to Damascus to the Synagogues, &c."

[15] Acts xxii. ver. 5. "As also the High Priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the Elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem for to be punished."

[16] Yet, for even at the outset, after certain "days spent with the disciples," and employed of course in receiving from them the necessary instructions, he preached Jesus with such energy and success as not only to "confound," Acts ix. 19 to 24, the unbelieving among the Jews, but to provoke them to "take counsel to kill him."

[17] Paul, says—2nd Cor. 11:6—"For though I be rude in speech yet am I not in knowledge nay, in everything we have made it manifest among all men to you-ward, or did I commit a sin in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I preached to you the Gospel of God for naught? I robbed other Churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you; and when I was present with you I was in want, I was not a burden on any man; for the brethren, when they came from Macedonia supplied the measure of my want, and in everything I kept myself from being burdensome unto you and so I will keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me no man shall stop me of this glorying in the regions of Achaia, &c."

When ever we get a Temperamental and psychological view of Paul, we see verified the deductions of the author of this treatise, that he was a transparent imposter. An unscrupulous adventurer. With talent well adapted to dogmatically command the attention of the ignorant and especially those of organized hereditary idolatry, the extreme vanity, the vain glorious pretensions of this new priest was well adapted to obtain obsequious complacence from such people. He always presents himself in a controversial spirit of self-exaltation.

His egotistic diction could hardly be made more manifest than in the terms above quoted, to wit:—"I robbed other Churches taking wages of them that I might minister unto you, &c." It presents a striking contrast to the benevolent and fraternal spirit of Christ and his disciples.

[18] N.B. The editor at this place inserts pages of discussion—which the author exhibited by way of an appendix. At the expense of a little redundancy and incongruity the editor inserts it in this place.—Ed.

[19] According to the Acts' account, this same stoning, if it was the same, was much in the style of that same resurrection of Eutychus, which we have seen in Chapter xiii. §. 10. As to Paul, when this martyrdom had been suffered by him,—"some" says Acts xiv. 19, were "supposing he had been dead:" and on that supposition, "drew him out of the city." Paul, on the other hand, thought otherwise: he supposed himself alive, and, on that supposition, he walked off, as if nothing had been the matter with him. "Certain Jews ... say verses 19 and 20, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe."


Previous Section | Home | Contents | Next Section

HTML © 2002 - 2017