Freethought Archives > Jeremy Bentham > Not Paul, But Jesus

CHAPTER IX.

Paul disbelieved continued—The Fourth and Last Jerusalem Visit. The Purpose concealed:
Opposition universal; among his own Disciples, and among those of the Apostles.


SECTION 1.

MOTIVES TO THIS VISIT.

Of this momentous visit to say what were the real objects, must in a great part be left to conjecture:—to inferences drawn from the known circumstances of the case. By himself, as will be seen, they were concealed with the most persevering anxiety.

But, in default of direct evidence, the point may without much danger of error be settled by circumstantial evidence. The common objects of political concupiscence—money, power and vengeance—were all before his eyes: money—in no less a quantity than that of the aggregate mass of the property of the whole church:—that fund, for the management of which, the Apostles' seven trustees, under the name of Deacons, were not more than sufficient:—that fund, by which the repulsed concupiscence of the sorcerer of Samaria had so lately been excited:—power, that which was exercised by the direction of the consciences of the whole number of the faithful, some time before this, not less in number than three thousand: vengeance, for the repeated rebuffs, by which,[Pg 267] at the interval of so many years from each other, his endeavours to supplant the Apostles had been repelled.

In a general point of view, ambition,—rival ambition,—the same motive which sent Caesar to Rome, may be stated as having sent Paul, at this time, to Jerusalem: to Jerusalem—the metropolis of the Christian world, by design; and thence, eventually and undesignedly, to the metropolis of the whole civilized world.

By two opposite desires—two antagonizing but correspondent and mutually explanatory desires—desires, in both parts intense and active, the external marks of which are sufficiently visible in two different quarters,—the nature as well as prevalence of this motive, will, it is believed, be found sufficiently proved:—a desire, in the breast of the self-constituted Apostle, to establish himself in the original metropolis of the Christian world:—a desire on the part of the Apostles—of the Apostles constituted by Jesus—to keep him out of it.


SECTION 2.

THE VISIT ANNOUNCED BY PAUL AND DEFERRED.

Ephesus, at which place he had arrived not long after his departure from Corinth, where he had made a stay, as it should seem, of more years than one,[45] touching in the way at Cenchrea, where he shaved his[Pg 268] head for the performance of a vow—Ephesus is the place, at which, by the author of the Acts, Paul is for the first time made to speak of himself, as harbouring, having in mind the making of this visit: and on that occasion, the visit is spoken of, as being the subject of a settled determination, and in particular as being the time fixed upon by him for the execution of this design. Acts 18:20, 21. "When they, the Jews at Ephesus, desired him to tarry longer with them, he consented not; but bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again to you if God will."

As to the keeping of this or any other feast at Jerusalem or at any other place—if it was under any such notion as that of contributing to his own personal salvation by any such Mosaic work, it was an object inconsistent with his own principles—with his own so repeatedly and strenuously advocated principles:—and the like may be said of the head-shaving and the vow, performed by him, at Cenchrea, in his way to Ephesus from Corinth: and moreover, in this last-mentioned instance, more particularly in contradiction with a precept so positively delivered by Jesus, namely, Swear not at all,—if, under swearing, the making of vows is to be understood to be included.

Of this design, the next intimation which occurs in the Acts, is in the next chapter, Acts 19:21, "When these things were ended," namely, the discomfiture of the exorcists, and the burning of the books of curious arts at Ephesus,—"Paul, it is said, purposes in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome."

Fortunate it is for the credit—either of the spirit, or of Paul, or of the author of the Acts, that it was on[Pg 269] this second occasion only, and not on the first, that it was in the spirit that he proposed to go to Jerusalem by the then next feast: for, notwithstanding the "must" and the "by all means,"—so it is, that between those his two determinations as above, no less a space of time than two years is stated as elapsing, on one occasion, at one and the same place.[46] And this place—what was it? it was Ephesus: the same place, at which, on his departure from it, the first determination was declared: after which, and before this his second visit to Ephesus,—he is represented as having visited Cęsarea and Antioch.

The next mention, is that which occurs in the next chapter, chapter 20:16. "Paul," we are there told, being then at Miletus, "had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost."

At Miletus it is, that he sends for, and receives, from Ephesus, a number of his adherents in that place. Upon their arrival, he is represented as making a formal speech to them: and now, he not merely proposes in the spirit, as before, but is "bound in the spirit," to go thither.[47] Vain would be the attempt to ascertain, with any approach to exactness, the interval of time, during which the operation of the spirit remained in a sort of suspense between purpose and obligation: it may have been months, only: it may have been years.

[Pg 270]

While, by one spirit, Paul was thus urged on, every now and then, towards Jerusalem;—by the same spirit, or by another spirit, he was pulled back.[48]

In the very next verse, Acts 20:22, in which he speaks of his being "bound in the spirit unto" that place, not knowing, as, in his speech, he thereupon adds,—"not knowing the things that shall befall me there,"—he goes on, and says: "Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things," says he, ver. 24, "move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God."

To raise, in the breast of Paul, the expectation, that of his proceeding in the course it was his way to take in preaching that religion, to which, from a persecutor, he had, in appearance, become a convert, affliction, in a variety of shapes, might prove to be the fruits,—needed no information from the spirit; if, by receiving information from the spirit, he meant any communication of a supernatural kind—anything beyond information in the ordinary shape;—be the effect—be the purpose, good or bad,—such is the lot, that awaits innovation in the field of politics—the spiritual part included, as well as the temporal—at all places, and all times.

A passage, which now presents itself, helps to show how easily and copiously, out of a few words, written in ancient times, mysteries and miracles have been manufactured in modern times. In Acts 20:22, we[Pg 271] have seen Paul, "bound in the spirit," as he is made to assure us, to go unto Jerusalem. In the next chapter, 21:4, we find disciples ... who said to Paul, "through the spirit," that he should not go up to Jerusalem. Oh! what a useful word this word spirit! Let a man say plainly and simply, I shall go, or be going, to Jerusalem—or, Don't go to Jerusalem,—his words go for no more than they are worth: in either case, with a proper proposition to introduce it, add the word "spirit," the matter becomes serious. Out of a word or two, you thus add to the Godhead a third person, who talks backward and forward for you, and does for you whatever you please.

At so small a price, even to this day, are manufactured, every day, a sort of verbal miracles, which, as many as are disposed, are welcome to improve into real ones.

To reconcile men to this expedition of Paul's, the spirit was the more necessary,—inasmuch as it was not in his own power, or even in that of any one of his numerous attendants and dependants, to assign so much as one ostensible reason for it.

That, to the advancement of religion—of the religion of Jesus—no such presence of his was necessary;—that no good could result from it;—that much evil could not but result from it;—was obvious to all eyes. Of the original number of the Apostles,—for aught that appears, not less than eleven were still remaining on the spot: men, to every one of whom, all acts and sayings of Jesus were, by memory, rendered so familiar:—men, on the part of some of whom, and, at any rate, on the part of the chief of them, Peter,—there was no want of zeal and activity. While to these men a single city, or, at the utmost, one small region—composed the whole field of exertion—the whole earth besides is left open by them to Paul: still,[Pg 272] such is the ravenousness of his ambition, nothing can content him, but he must be intruding himself—thrusting his restless sickle into their ripening harvest.


SECTION 3.

THE DESIGN INDEFENSIBLE.

All this—is it not enough? Well then, take this one other—this concluding proof. In the teeth of all their endeavours, and among them, some that will be seen extraordinary enough, to prevent it,—was undertaken the fourth and last of his four recorded visits to their residence—Jerusalem.

But, in the first place, in the utter indefensibility of the design, shall be shown the cause, of the opposition so universally made to it.

Tired of a mixture of successes and miscarriages,—disdaining the conquests he had been making in so many remote, and comparatively obscure regions of the world,—he had formed—but at what precise time, the documents do not enable us to pronounce—the determination, to exhibit his glories on the two most illustrious of theatres:—in the two capitals—Jerusalem, of the Jewish, and now of the Christian world; Rome, of the whole classical heathen world:—and in the first place, Jerusalem, now, for the fourth time since his conversion. It was at Ephesus, as we have seen, this determination was first declared.

To Rome, he might have gone, and welcome: namely, in so far as his doctrines could have confined themselves within the limits of those of Jesus: which, however, it will be seen, they could not: but,[Pg 273] success being moreover supposed, nothing but good could such visit have had for its result.

But, by a visit to any place other than Jerusalem, various were the points of spleen and ambition, that could not have been satisfied. Nothing would serve him, but, over that Edom Jerusalem, he would, in the first place, cast forth his shoe.

Unless the eleven most confidential servants, selected by Jesus himself to be the propagators of his religion, were altogether unworthy of the task thus allotted to them,—nothing to the good purposes of that religion could be more palpably unnecessary, nothing to the purposes of peace and unity more pernicious, than the intrusion thus resolved upon. That the number of these legitimately instituted Apostles had as yet suffered any diminution, is not, by any of the documents, rendered so much as probable. Neither in the works of Paul himself, nor in that of his historiographer, is any intimation to any such effect to be found. In their own judgments, had there been any need of coadjutors—any deficiency of hands for the spiritual harvest,—they well knew how to supply it. Of the sufficiency of such knowledge, they had given the most incontestable proofs: the election of Matthias was the fruit of it. They showed—and with a disinterestedness, which has never since had, nor seems destined to have, any imitators—that, in the Christian world, if government in any shape has divine right for its support, it is in the shape of democracy;—representative democracy—operating by universal suffrage. In the eye of the Christian, as well as of the philosopher and the philanthropist, behold here the only legitimate government: the form, the exclusion of which from the Christian world, has been the object of that league, by which, by an unpunishable, yet the most mischievous—if not the only[Pg 274] mischievous—sort of blasphemy, the name of Christian has been profaned.

This method of filling offices, was no more to the taste of Paul, than to that of a Napoleon or a George. He determined to open their eyes, and prove to them by experience, that monarchy,—himself the first monarch—was the only legitimate form of government. The difficulties of the enterprise were such as could not escape any eyes:—least of all his own: but to die or conquer was his resolve: so he himself declares.[49] What, in case of success, would have been the use made by him of it? The fate of the Apostles may be read in the catastrophe of Saint Stephen: the vulgar herd would, in his eyes, have been as declaredly foolish as the Galatians. Gal. 3:1. "O, foolish Galatians!" Who did bewitch you, etc.

The invasion was not less inconsistent with good faith, than with brotherly love, peace and unity. It was a direct violation of the partition-treaty: that treaty, of which he gives such unquestionable evidence against himself, in the boast he makes of it to his Galatians. Gal. 2:9. "When James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision."

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SECTION 4.

OPPOSITION MADE TO IT BY HIS OWN ATTENDANTS AND OTHER ADHERENTS.

To find so much as the colour of a reason for this perfidy, was too much for the ingenuity of his attendant panegyrist. In the eyes of the whole body of his attendants, of whom the historian was one, so completely unjustifiable was his design in every point of view,—they joined in a remonstrance to him, beseeching him to give it up.

ACTS 21:12 to 14.

And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.—Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus.—And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

At no such loss, however, was Paul himself: for this, and for everything else it was his will to do, he had a reason ready made. It was no less concise and economical than convenient: a word, and no more than a word, was the price paid for it:—revelation was that word.[50] So he assures his "foolish" Galatians: and if they were foolish enough to believe it, these, though first, have not been last, in the career of foolishness.

[Pg 276]

Allow a man but the use of this one word, so it be in the sense in which Paul here uses it—admit the matter of fact, of which it contains the assertion,—the will of that man is not only sufficient reason, but sufficient law, for everything: in all places, and to all persons, his will is law. The will of this man is the will of that God, by whom this revelation of it has been made to him: the will of God, what man shall be audacious enough to dispute?

The motives, which gave birth to this act of perfidy and hostility, will now be visible enough, to every eye, that dares to open itself to them. At the time in question, they were too manifest to need mentioning: and at the same time too unjustifiable, to bear to be mentioned by his dependent historian, when speaking of the opposition, which, even on the part of his own dependents, it produced. They besought him—with tears they besought him: but, as to the reflections by which these tears were produced, they could not bear the light: it was not for a declared adherent to give them utterance. The sort of colour, put upon the project by Paul, with the help of one of his phrases—this was the only colour that could be found for it. It was for the name of the Lord Jesus, Acts 21:13, that he was ready—"ready, not to be bound only, but also to die." For the name? O, yes, for the name at all times; for, in the name of Jesus, he beheld from first to last his necessary support: and of the Lord Jesus, nothing, as we shall find,—nothing from first to last, did he ever employ but the name. But, to be bound at Jerusalem—to die at Jerusalem—to be bound—to die—supposing this to take place,—where—to the religion of Jesus—would be, where could be, the use of it? There, at Jerusalem, the Apostles—the real Apostles of Jesus:—executing, without either dying or being bound for it, the commission, which to them had been really given by Jesus.

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SECTION 5.

OPPOSITION MADE TO IT BY THE APOSTLES AND THEIR DISCIPLES.

Thus indefensible and deplorable, in the eyes even of his own dependents,—it may be imagined in what light the invasion presented itself at Jerusalem, to those who found themselves so cruelly menaced by it.

At the first place, at which, after a voyage of some length, they landed on their way to Judea,—they found the alarm already spread. This place was Tyre: there they found "disciples," Acts 21:4, "who said to Paul," and "through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem." It was through their spirit, that they bade him not to go; but his revelation, as we have seen, bade him to go, notwithstanding:—his revelation was too strong for their spirit. If it was from the Lord Jesus, as he all along informs us, that his revelation came, while their spirit was the Holy Spirit, otherwise called the Holy Ghost,—already another schism was produced: a schism, in a council still higher than that of the Apostles.

At Ptolemais, on the road from Tyre to Jerusalem, they stayed but one day: Acts 21:7, not long enough, it should seem, for any fresh marks of opposition to this enterprise to manifest themselves.

Continuing their approach to the metropolis, the next day they came to Cęsarea, Acts 21:4, "The house," then "entered into," was that of Philip, there styled the Evangelist, one of the seven trustees, who, under the name, rendered in the English translation[Pg 278] by that of Deacon, at the recommendation of the Apostles, had been chosen by universal suffrage, for the management of the pecuniary affairs of the Church. Here they took up their quarters: and here a fresh scene awaited them.

In the person of a man, whose name was Agabus, the Apostles and their associates had found, as we have seen, an agent of approved talents, and usefulness: to him they had been indebted, for the most important service, of a temporal nature, which the history of the church in those days furnishes:—the supply of money already received, as above mentioned, from the first-born daughter of the church—the church of Antioch, in Syria. At this place, Cęsarea, as a last resource, this same Agabus, or another, was, as it should seem, dispatched to meet—at any rate did meet—the self-appointed Apostle in his way; and, in the character of a prophet, for so this Agabus is styled, strained every nerve, in the endeavour to divert the invader from the so anxiously apprehended purpose.

Whoever he was, employed on this occasion, but employed in vain, were all the treasures of his eloquence. The Holy Ghost was once more, and by name, set in array against Paul's Lord Jesus. The powers of verbal and oral eloquence were not thought sufficient: action—and not only of that sort which, in the eyes of Demosthenes, was an object of such prime importance, but even pantomime—was employed in aid. Acts 21:11. As to argument—fear in the bosom of the Church, for a life so precious, was the only one, which the skill of the orator could permit him to employ: as to fear for their own sakes, and resentment for the injury which they were predestinated to suffer,—these were passions, too strongly felt to be avowed. "He took Paul's girdle," Acts[Pg 279] 21:11, "and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles."

Supposing the Agabus mentioned on this occasion, to be the same Agabus as he who was mentioned on the occasion of the apprehended dearth—supposing this to be he—and no reason presents itself in favour of the contrary supposition—well known indeed must he have been to Paul, since it was by his means that Paul was indebted for the opportunity of paying, to Jerusalem, that second visit of his, from which, as we have seen, so little fruit was reaped.

The singular circumstance here is, the manner, in which, on this second occasion, mention is made of this name—Agabus: "a certain prophet named Agabus," Acts 21:10. Whether this was, or was not, the same as the former Agabus,—this mode of designation presents itself as alike extraordinary. If he was the same,—in that case, as, by the addition of the adjunct "a certain prophet," a sort of cloud is thrown over his identity,—so, by so simple an expedient as that of the non-insertion of these redundant words, the clouds would have been dispelled. If he was not the same,—so expressive being the circumstances, by which identity stands indicated—namely, the quarter from whence the same; the quarter to which the same; the importance of the mission, and the demand for talents and influence, in both cases so great; on this supposition, to prevent misconception, no less obvious than urgent was the demand, for some mark of distinction, to be added on this second occasion: in a word, for that sort of mark of distinction, which, on other occasions; may, in this same history, be seen more than once employed: witness that John, twice[Pg 280] distinguished by the name of John, whose surname was Mark. Acts 22:25, ib. 25:37.

Hence a suspicion, nor that an unnatural one—that, in this history, the part, in which the name Agabus occurs for the first time, and the part, in which that same name occurs for the second time, were not the work of the same hand.

With or without the assistance of the Holy Ghost, with the like importunity, though in a tone corresponding to the difference of situation, was a dissuasion, to the same effect, added, with one voice, by the adherents, of whom the suite of the self-appointed Apostle was composed, and by all the other Christians then present. "And when we heard these things," says the author of the Acts, "both we, and they of that place, Cęsarea, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem." Acts 21:12.

The Holy Ghost, whom all the rest of the Church had for their advocate, was no equal match for the Holy Ghost whom Paul had for his adviser. "What mean ye," says he, "to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." Acts 21:13. To a Holy Ghost so highly seated, submission from a Holy Ghost of inferior rank, was the only course left. "When he could not be persuaded, concludes the historian, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done."

Paul die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus? He, Paul, this self-constituted Apostle, who, upon his own showing, had never seen Jesus? for the name of Jesus, forsooth, die at Jerusalem? at that Jerusalem, at which the indisputable Apostles had been, and continued to be, living and labouring, in the service of that same holy name, each of them, or they are much misrepresented, not less ready and[Pg 281] willing, both to live and upon occasion to die for it, than he could be? Was it then really to die for the name of Jesus? was it not rather to live? to live for his own name, for his own glory, for his own profit, and for the pleasure of depriving of their flock those shepherds of souls, by whom his pretensions had been disallowed, his glory disbelieved, his advances received with that distrust and jealousy, for which the long and bitter experience they had had of him, afforded so amply sufficient a warrant? men, in whose eyes, though in the clothing of a shepherd, he was still a wolf?

What was he to die for? By whose hands was he to die? By no danger, since he had ceased to be their declared persecutor, had any Christians, in their character of Christians, whether disciples or preachers, then, or at any time, been menaced;[51] of no such danger, at any rate, is any, the slightest, intimation ever to be found: if any danger awaited him, it was by himself, by his own restless and insatiable ambition, by his own overbearing and ungovernable temper, that it was created. Had he but kept to his agreement; had the whole of the known world, with the single exception of Judea, been wide enough for him: no danger would have awaited him:—he and Jerusalem might have remained in peace.

What service that they could not, could he hope to do to the cause? For doctrine, they had nothing to do but to report the discourses; for proof, the miracles[Pg 282] which they had witnessed. To this, what could he add? Nothing, but facts, such as we have seen, out of his own head,—or, at best, facts taken at second hand, or through any number of removes from them,—and, in an infinity of shapes and degrees, travestied in their passage.

In this account, the curious thing is—that upon the face of it, the Holy Ghost of prophet Agabus is mistaken: nothing happened in the manner mentioned by him: for, in the same chapter comes the account of what did happen, or at any rate is, by this same historian, stated as that which happened:—by no Jews is the owner of the girdle bound: dragged by the people out of the temple,—by that same people he is indeed attempted to be killed, but bound he is not: for, with his being bound, the attempt to kill him is not consistent: binding requires mastery, and a certain length of time, which killing does not: a single blow from a stone may suffice for it.

As to the Jews delivering him unto the hands of the Gentiles,—it is by the Gentiles that he is delivered out of the hands of the Jews: of the Jews, the endeavour was—to deprive him of his life; of the Gentiles, to save it.


SECTION 6.

PLAN OF THE APOSTLES FOR RIDDING THEMSELVES OF PAUL.

In this important contest, the Holy Ghost of Agabus was predestinated to yield to the irresistible power of Paul's Lord Jesus. He made his entry into Jerusalem, Acts 21:17, and the very next day commenced the storm, by which, after having been on the point[Pg 283] of perishing, he was driven, at last, as far as from Jerusalem to Rome, but the particulars of which belong not to the present purpose.

What is to the present purpose, however, is the company, which, upon this occasion, he saw. James, it may be remembered, was one of the three Apostles—out of the whole number, the only three who, on the occasion of the partition treaty, could be prevailed upon to give him the right hand of fellowship. Into the house of this James he entered: and there what he saw was an assembly, met together for the purpose, of giving him the advice, of which more particular mention will be made in its place. It was—to clear himself of the charge,—a charge made against him by the Jewish converts,—of teaching all the Jews, which are among the Gentiles, to forsake Moses, and of inculcating that doctrine by his own example, Acts 21:20-24. Well! at this assembly who were present? Answer—the Elders—all of them: of the Apostles with the single exception of James, at whose house it was held, not one: not even John,—not even Peter:—the two other Apostles, by whom on their part, the treaty had been entered into:—Peter, the chief of the Apostles;—John "the disciple," John 19:26; 20:2; 21:7-20, whom Jesus loved. The nerves of James it appears, from other tokens besides this, were of a stronger texture than those of either of these his two colleagues; he alone stood the brunt. As for Peter, he had been so "withstood to his face" by Paul on the occasion of his first visit, that he had no stomach to be so withstood a second time.

James, it may be remembered, was the Apostle, at whose motion, against the opinion and speech of Peter, the resolution insisting upon certain Jewish observances, on the part of heathen converts to the Church, was carried.

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Here then, in support of the proposition maintained, by James,—here, was an assembly of the rulers of the Church convened: the Elders—the elected coadjutors of the Apostles all of them present: of the Apostles themselves, not one: James excepted, whose presence, it is evident, could not, on this occasion, be dispensed with. Of this assembly, the object, and sole object, was—the insisting upon Paul's taking, for the sake of the peace of the Church, a certain measure. Now, the measure thus insisted upon, what was it? The clearing himself of a certain charge then mentioned. And this charge, what was it? A charge—of which, consistently with truth,—of which without such direct falsehood, as if committed would be notorious,—he could not clear himself. In this case, one of two things would absolutely be the result. Either he would be rash enough to commit the falsehood,—in which case his reputation and power of disturbing the peace of the Church would be at an end; or, shrinking from the summons, he would virtually confess himself guilty: in which case likewise, he would find his situation, in the midst of an universally adverse multitude, no longer tenable.

For this clearance, a ceremony was prescribed to him:—a ceremony, the effect of which was—to declare, in a manner, beyond all comparison, more solemn and deliberate than that of anything which is commonly understood by the word oath,—that he had not done anything, of that which he stood charged with having done, and which it could not but be generally known that he had done. Witness those Epistles of his, which in another place we shall see, Ch. 12:—Epistles in which he will be seen, so frequently, and upon such a variety of occasions, and in such a variety of language, not only proclaiming the needlessness[Pg 285] of circumcision—its uselessness to salvation,—but, in a word, on all points making war upon Moses.

No course was so rash, that Paul would shrink from it, no ceremony so awful, or so public that Paul would fear to profane it. Of the asseveration, to which he was called upon to give, in an extraordinary form, the sanction of an oath, the purport was universally notorious: the falsity, no less so: the ceremony, a solemnity on which the powers of sacerdotal ingenuity had been exhausted, in the endeavour to render is efficaciously impressive. Place of performance, the most sacred among the sacred: act of entrance, universally public, purpose universally notorious; operations, whatever they were, inscrutably concealed from vulgar eyes: person of the principal actor occasionally visible, but at an awful elevation: time, requisite for accomplishment, Acts 21:27, not less than seven days: the whole ceremony, effectually secured against frequent profanation, by "charges" too heavy to be borne by the united power of four ordinary purses.[52] With all the ingredients of the most finished perjury in his breast,—perfect consciousness, fixed intentionality, predetermined perseverance, and full view of the sanction about to be violated,—we shall see him entering upon the task, and persevering in it. While the long drama was thus acting in the consecrated theatre, the mind of the multitude was accumulating heat without doors. The seven days necessary, were as yet unaccomplished, when indignation could hold no longer: they burst into the sacred edifice, dragged him out, and were upon the[Pg 286] point of putting him to death, when the interference of a Roman officer saved him, and became the first link in that chain of events, which terminated in his visit to Rome, and belongs not to this place.

Thus much, in order to have the clearer view of the plan of the Apostles, and of the grounds of it, from which will be seen the unexceptionableness of it, it seemed necessary for us here to anticipate. But such rashness, with the result that followed—the Apostles, in their situation, how could they have anticipated it?

Baffled, in their former endeavours to keep the invader from entering the holy city—that holy city, with the peace of which his presence was so incompatible, such was the course which they devised and embraced from driving him out of it. For the carrying of this measure into effect, a general assembly of the governing body of the Church was necessary. At this assembly had no Apostle been present, it could not, in the eyes of the Church at large, have been what it was necessary it should appear to be. Though, of the whole number of the Apostles, no more than one was present,—yet, his being the house at which it was held, and the others, whether summoned or no, being expected of course, by the disciples at large, to be likewise present,—the Elders being likewise "all" of them present,—this attendance was deemed sufficient: as to the other Apostles—all of them but the one whose presence was thus indispensable,—abhorrence, towards the man, whose career had in their eyes commenced with murder, continued in imposture, and had recently been stained with perfidy,—rendered the meeting him face to face, a suffering too violent to be submitted to, when by any means it could be avoided.

On this occasion, the opinion, which, as we have[Pg 287] seen, cannot but have been entertained by them, concerning Paul and his pretensions to Revelation, and to a share equal to their own in the confidence of Jesus,—must not, for a moment, be out of mind.

The whole fellowship of the Apostles,—all others, to whom, at the time, anything about the matter was known, believed his story to be, the whole of it, a pure invention. In their eyes it was a fabrication: though we, at this time of day—we, who of ourselves know nothing about it, take for granted, that it was all true.

For proving the truth of it, all we have are his own accounts of it: his own accounts, given, some of them, by himself directly: the rest ultimately, his being the only mouth from which the accounts we have seen in the Acts could have been derived. Bearing all this in mind, let us now form our judgment on the matter, and say, whether the light, in which the Apostles viewed his character and conduct, and the course pursued by them as above, was not from first to last, not only conformable to the precepts of their master, but a model of patience, forbearance, and prudence.


[Pg 288]

FOOTNOTES:

[45] Acts 18:11. "He continued there, at Corinth, a year and six months."—18. "And Paul tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave."

[46] Acts 19:10. "And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks."

[47] Acts 20:22. "And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there."

[48] Acts 20:23. "Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me."

[49] Acts 20:24. "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God."

Acts 21:13. "Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break my heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."

[50] Gal. ii. 2. "I went up by revelation."

[51] In Acts 12:1, King Herod is indeed spoken of as having "stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church, and he killed," it is said, "James, the brother of John, with the sword." Then comes the story of Peter's imprisonment and liberation. But the cause of these inflictions had nothing to do with religion: the proof is—nor can there be a more conclusive one—to no such cause are they attributed.

[52] Acts 21:23, 24. "We have four men, say the Apostles and Elders, we have four men which have a vow on them:—Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them."


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