Freethought Archives > Jeremy Bentham > Not Paul, But Jesus

CHAPTER X.

Paul disbelieved continued.—His Fourth Jerusalem Visit continued. His Arrival and Reception.
Accused by all the Disciples of the Apostles, he commences an exculpatory Oath in the Temple.
Dragged out by them—rescued by a Roman Commander—sent in Custody to Rome.


SECTION 1.

AT JERUSALEM, PAUL IS RECEIVED BY THE ELDERS AND JAMES, BUT BY NO OTHER APOSTLE.

Spite of the opposing Holy Ghost,—spite of the Apostles, and their prophet,—there he is at Jerusalem. Now comes an incident—or say, rather, a relation—which is altogether curious.

At "Jerusalem," says the history, "the brethren received us gladly," Acts 21:17. The brethren? what brethren? the brethren, by whom Agabus, with his stage-trick, had been sent some sixty or seventy miles' journey, in the endeavour to keep him at a distance? the thousands of Jews thereupon immediately mentioned? those Jews, who, though believers in Jesus, are not the "less zealous of the law," and enraged at Saul for those breaches of it, with which he is charged?

That, by such of them, if any, by whom—by the appearance he made, with his suite, it had happened to be more or less overawed,—that by these, an appearance[Pg 289] of gladness was assumed, seems credible enough: look for those, by whom he could have been received with real gladness—they will not, it should seem, be very easy to be found.

Not, till the next day after his arrival, do Paul and his suite present themselves to any in authority in this spiritual commonwealth. The first person, to whom, on this occasion, he presents himself, is James: that one of the Apostles, who, with the exception of Peter, is the person, and the only person, with whom Paul has, on the occasion of any of his visits, been represented as holding converse. Not with this James—not with any settled inhabitants of Jerusalem—has he had his lodging: only with Mnason,[53] a man of Cyprus, whom, lest lodging should be wholly wanting, they had brought with them from Cęsarea. Of this so extensively apprehended arrival, there had been full time for ample notice: among the rulers, those, who, as well as James, chose to see him, were all present. Who were they? the elders—"all the elders." Of the Apostles, not so much as one, besides James. Let it not be said, that, under the word elders, the Apostles were meant to be included: on other occasions, on which elders are mentioned, Acts 15:4; 6:23, the Apostles are mentioned, as forming a body, distinct, as they naturally would be,—distinct from these same elders.

Salutations performed, he addresses the assembly in that strain, which was so familiar to him: boasting upon boasting, and, above all things, boasting that he does not boast: "declaring," says his historian;—declaring? what? declaring what was his business[Pg 290] at Jerusalem? declaring what service, in his eyes the cause stood in need of, at his hands? Not he, indeed: to any such effect, declaration might not have been altogether so easy. What he declared, and that "particularly," was—what "things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry." Exactly on this, as on his last preceding visit,—when all, but himself, were speaking to the question before him—Peter on one side; after him, James on the other side—nothing, is either he, or his companion Barnabas, represented as saying, that belongs to the question; nothing, but "declaring what miracles and wonders, God had wrought among the Gentiles by them." Between what is represented, as having been said on the two occasions,—one difference, and no more than one, is visible. On the former occasion, "miracles and wonders"; on this latter occasion, no miracles no wonders:—nothing more than things. Supposing any of them particularized—neither miracles nor wonders had, it should seem, been fortunate enough to obtain credence: for that reason, it should seem, that, on this occasion, all mention of them is dropped.

Hearing of these things, what did these elders? Being things that "God," as they were informed, "had wrought," they could do no less than glorify "the Lord." Acts 21:19-20. As in Paul's Epistles, so here, in the Acts,—by the Lord, it is Jesus, who, as far as it appears, is the person, all along meant to be designated. Here, God, it may be observed, is the person, by whom everything good, that is done, is done: Jesus—the Lord Jesus—the person, who is glorified for it.

To make his boasts, was his business with them: but, to subscribe to those same boasts, was not their business with him.

Their business was—to inform him, of the storm of[Pg 291] unpopularity, which by his audacity he had brought upon himself: to inform him of the storm, and to point out the only course, which, in their view of the matter, presented a chance for his escape from it. "Thou seest,"—say they,—"thou seest how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law. And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses; saying, that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after their customs," Acts 21:20. "What is it, therefore?" add they, "the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come."


SECTION 2.

LOW TONE ASSUMED BY HIM ON THIS OCCASION.

On more accounts than one, remarkable,—and not a little instructive, is the account we have of this last recorded visit: and, in particular, as to what concerns the reception he experienced from the ruling powers of the Church.

It is, in some particulars, more especially to be depended upon,—inasmuch as, at this important meeting, the author of the Acts—if he is to be believed—was himself present.

The first remarkable circumstance is—that, on this occasion, Paul, the self-elected Apostle—instead of taking the lead, and introducing his companions—keeps behind, and is introduced by them: such was the pliancy, with which—even on this expedition, of invasion and projected conquest,—an expedition,—undertaken,[Pg 292] in spite of everything that could be done, both on the part of the intended objects of the conquest, and on the part of his own adherents—such was the pliancy, with which this man, among whose boasts was that of being all things to all men, could bend himself to circumstances.

Acts 21:15-18. "And after those days, we took up our carriages, and went to Jerusalem. There went with us, also, certain of the disciples of Cęsarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge." At Jerusalem, not so much as a house, to harbour them, could they have been assured of, but for this old disciple—fellow countryman, of Paul's old patron, the Son of Consolation, Barnabas. Not even with him could they have been assured of this token of friendship, had he not either been already of their party, or detached himself to meet them, and afford them the assurance: although, at Cęsarea,—from some cause, of which, while the effect is brought to view, no intimation is given,—they were fortunate enough to obtain a hospitable reception, Acts 21:8, at the house of Philip. This, however, be it observed, was not Philip, the Apostle, whether it may have been Philip, styled here the Evangelist:—one of the seven trustees, or directors, Acts 6:5, to whom, with his six colleagues, under the name, so inexpressively rendered, in the English, by the word Deacons,—the management of the common fund had, by the suffrages of the disciples, been committed, must be left to conjecture.

17. "And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren," Acts 21:17, "received us gladly." What brethren? The Apostles, or any one of them? no: The elders? no. Who then?—Who, but such of the members of the Church, as, notwithstanding the general repugnancy,—as testified at Tyre, and afterwards,[Pg 293] by prophet Agabus, at Cęsarea,—could, by the influence of the Cypriot Mnason, or otherwise, be prevailed upon to see them.

And, to whom was it, that this sort of reception, whatsoever it was, was afforded? Was it to Paul? No: it was to those, who, on other occasions, were with him; but, with whom, on this occasion, his prudence forced his pride to submit to be.

Witness the next verse, Acts 21:18; "And the day following," not till the day following, "Paul went in with us unto James." With them—with these his attendants—did Paul, then and there, go in:—not they with him.

At the house of James—mark well, now—who were the persons present? Answer—"all the elders." But, forasmuch as these elders were, all of them, present,—notice, within the compass of the two fragments of two days,—notice, to and by all of them must have been given and received: for it has just been seen, whether, between any of them, on the one hand,—and Paul, or, so much as any one of his attendants, on the other,—there could have been any such sort of good understanding, as to have produced any the least personal intercourse, but at, and on, the occasion of the general and formal meeting:—a meeting, which—as will be seen presently—had, for its sole object, the imposing upon him, in the event of his continuance at Jerusalem, an obligation: an obligation—to a man in his circumstances—it has been seen, of how perilous and repulsive a nature.

Such, then, was the notice, as to have brought to the place, all the Elders—All the Elders?—good. But, these Elders—Elders among the disciples in ordinary,—on an occasion such as this, what were they in comparison of the Apostles—the only known chosen servants, and constant companions of Jesus?[Pg 294] Well, then, while—at this meeting—this formally convened meeting—those Elders were, every one of them, present—what was the number of Apostles present? Answer—Besides James, not one.

And—why James?—manifestly, because it was at his house, that the meeting was held.

And—why at his house? Because, on the occasion, and for the purpose, of the partition treaty,—that treaty, so necessary to the peace of the Church,—on the one hand; and, to the carrying on of Paul's scheme of dominion, on the other hand;—James was one, of the only three, who could ever endure the sight of the self-declared Apostle: Peter and John, as hath been seen, being the two others:—and, because, when, for the purpose of investing the meeting, in the eyes of the disciples at large, with the character of a meeting of the ruling administrative body—the Apostles,—less than that one, if there were any, there could not be. This one, James—under the pressure of the present emergency—prevailed upon himself to be: and, to be so irksome an intercourse—notwithstanding the obviousness of the demand for as great a number, as could be collected, of that primarily influential body—of no other of the Apostles, could the attendance be obtained: not even of Peter, who, on a former occasion, had brought himself to endure the hateful presence.

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SECTION 3.

POSTERIOR TO ALL HIS SUPPOSED MIRACLES, HIS SILENCE PROVES THEM UNREAL.

Now, then, as to miracles. Had Paul, really and truly, ever received from Jesus, any such preeminent and characteristic appendage and mark of Apostleship,—here, of all others, was an occasion, on which it concerned him to make proof of it. Here was an occasion, on which, with the design, and for the purpose—the palpable, and almost universally and so strenuously opposed design and purpose—of constituting himself the superior of the Apostles, he was presenting himself—though in circumstances of such humiliation—in the character of an equal, with whom they had treated on equal terms. Here—in order to impose silence on all gainsayers—here was the occasion, for his bringing to public view, this most important of all items in the list of his credentials. The Apostles, to whom—without any exception, by Jesus, if the Evangelist, Mark 16:15-18, is to be believed—this power had, previously to his ascension, been imparted,—these, if any, were the men—not to say the only men—qualified to form a judgment on the question—whether, by any other individual, and, more especially, by the individual before them, namely, by this their self-declared colleague, any such extraordinary power had, on any, and what, occasion, been exercised or possessed. Of all imaginable occasions, this was the one, on which he had most at stake, in the being able to make proof of so matchless an endowment:—of an endowment, which in the character of a[Pg 296] proof, in support of all his claims, would, in the very nature of it, have been so perfectly irresistible.

Well, then: this proof of his title—did he use every endeavour, or make any offer, to produce it? No: not so much did he venture upon, as, in any the most general terms, to assert, or, so much as insinuate, the existence of it. According to his own statement, what was the general description of the tokens brought forward by him, for the purpose of obtaining acceptance? Were they signs and wonders? Oh, no! His historiographer, indeed—in that, or any other such indeterminate, and conveniently ambiguous phrase—his historiographer, at some twenty or seven-and-twenty years' distance, might venture, Acts 14:3, to speak of his exploits—of the effects produced by his exertions: in the like terms, in writing to his Corinthian disciples, he might, even himself, venture, for once, to speak of his own exploits.[54] But, before an assembly, so composed, was this boast, loose, and conveniently ambiguous, as it was,—in his eyes, too much to venture. Acts 21:19—Behold here the passage: "And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly"—what? what—signs and wonders? No: but simply—"what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry."

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Had he hazarded so much as the general expression of signs and wonders—well, and what were these signs and wonders? give us, at any rate, something by way of a sample of them? In any one of them, was there anything supernatural? anything—beyond the success, the extraordinary success—we are to understand, your exertions were attended with? Questions, to some such effect as this, which, in an assembly, so composed, had he ventured upon any such expressions, he could not but have expected to be annoyed with.

The occurrences which, in the course of it, in the character of miracles, he has ventured to present to view, will have been seen in their place and order. Yet,—notwithstanding the mention there respectively and severally made of them—no mention of them does he, in the account given by him of the meeting, venture to put in his leader's mouth. Why? because—forasmuch as, by Paul himself, no such pretence was ventured to be made—the meeting was too important, and too notorious, to render it safe to advance any such matter of fact; the face being false; or, that any such pretensions were really made.

But, hereupon come two questions.

1. Had any such miracles been really wrought—was it in the nature of things, that, on this occasion, Paul should have omitted all mention of them? even so much as the most distant allusion to them?

2. If any such intimation had really been given, by the historian himself, is it in the nature of the case, that, on this occasion,—he having been one of the witnesses, in whose presence they had been performed,—all[Pg 298] mention of such intimation should have been omitted?

Well, then—suppose that to both these questions, let it but be a negative answer or the true one, the consequence is plain—no such miracles were wrought. Yet, in his narrative, has this man—exhibiting himself, at the same time, in the character of a percipient witness, in relation to them—ventured to assert the existence, one after another, of the whole list of these particularized miracles, not to speak of the cluster of unparticularized ones.


SECTION 4.

ACCUSED BY THE DISCIPLES, HE COMMENCES, AT THE RECOMMENDATION OF THE APOSTLES, AN EXCULPATORY OATH IN THE TEMPLE.

Such being in their eyes the danger; now comes their expedient for the arresting of it. It is an altogether curious one: and among those persons styled elders—all the elders—to every sincere and pious Christian it will naturally be matter of no small satisfaction that no one of the whole fellowship of the Apostles is to be found.

According to the description here given of it, the expedient is of such a sort, that—but for the occasion on which it is represented as being proposed,—scarcely would it be possible to divine what is meant; what it was that was proposed to be done; or, whatever it was, what could be the use or effect of it?

"Do therefore this," Acts 21:23, continues the speech attributed to these elders, "do therefore this that we say to thee: we have four men which have[Pg 299] a vow on them:—Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly and keepest the law.—As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood and from fornication.—Then Paul," it is added, "took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them."

In the terms of the historian, the matter of the accusation in question is this: namely, "that thou," speaking to Paul, "teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses": it then divides itself into two branches: one is—that "they ought not to circumcise their children"; the other is—that "they ought not to walk after the customs":—i. e., conform to any part of the habitual observances—acts and forbearances together—prescribed by the Mosaic law.

Such is the accusation: such the act charged upon him, in the character of an offence:—the teaching of the doctrine in question.

In regard to the question—whether the doctrine he is thus said to have taught, had really ever been taught by him,—much will depend upon the difference between simple permission and prohibition: in English, upon the difference between need not and ought not. If,—in the doctrine, the teaching of which is thus charged upon him as a crime,—simple permission was included—if, in speaking of the converts[Pg 300] in question, the saying was—that they need not circumcise their children—that they need not walk after these customs—this and no more;—in this case, that the charge, such as it is, was true, is altogether out of doubt:—if, on the other hand, the act he was charged with, went so far as to the teaching that they ought not to circumcise any of their children, or that they ought not to walk after the customs prescribed in the Mosaic law—on this supposition, the truth of the charge will at any rate not be quite so clear as in the other case.

According to the English translation, that which is charged as an offence, was not committed, unless, in the doctrine taught, a direct prohibition was contained: to a doctrine importing nothing more than a simple permission to abstain from the acts and forbearances in question, the charge would not have any application. Not thus unambiguous, however, is the Greek original; either by prohibition, or by ample permission, might the doctrine charged as criminal have been taught.

Such is the description of the obnoxious practice, with which Paul is here stated as having been charged: the practice by which the odium is stated as having been incurred.

But this imaginary guilt, in what view do they mention it as imputed to him? In this view evidently, viz., that at their recommendation he may take that course, by which, in their view, he will escape from the wrath of which he had become the object. The effect thus aimed at is,—that the indignation of which he is the object, may be made to cease. How made to cease? in one or other of two ways: for the nature of the case admits not of any other: either by proving that that which he had been supposed to have taught, had not in truth ever been[Pg 301] taught by him, and thus, that no such offence as he was charged with, had, in fact, ever been committed by him; or that, if any such offence had been committed, the practice recommended might be accepted as an atonement: or rather as an assurance, that whatever in his past conduct had given them offence, would not be repeated by him in future.

When the supposed remedial practice has been explained,—then immediately after comes, we see, a more particular indication of the good effects, for the production of which it is recommended. These are—in the first place, that, whatsoever were the doctrines he was charged with having taught it, it will be generally known that no such doctrines were ever taught by him: in the next place, that it will in like manner be known, that by himself no such habitual offence as that of an habitual violation of the law in question was committed.

Such are the effects, stated as resulting from his performing the ceremony, the performance of which was thus recommended to him.

This ceremony we see: and what we see at the same time is—that it could not be, in the nature of it, productive of any such effects.

Here is a certain doctrine, which he had been charged with having taught. If the case was, that he had taught it; let him have purified himself ever so purely, whatsoever was meant by purification,—let him have purified himself ever so completely, let him have paid ever so much money, let him have shaved his head ever so close,—by any, or all of all these supposed meritorious acts, how could that be caused, not to have happened, which in fact had happened? by what means could they afford proof of his performance of any ceremony, other than those very same purification ceremonies themselves?

[Pg 302]

As to the purpose of furthering the temporal interest of the individual in question; namely, by removing the load of odium, with which at that time it seems he was burdened,—how far, in relation to this object, the expedient promised to be an effectual cure, is more than at this time we can find any ground for saying: as to any good purposes of any other kind, that it was not in the nature of it to be productive of any, may be pronounced without much danger of error.

Here at any rate was a ceremony—a ceremony the object of which was—to apply, to the purpose of ensuring obsequiousness, the power of the religious sanction.

The object, to which it was meant to apply that form, comes, it may be seen, under the general denomination of an oath. An oath is either assertory or promissory: if it be an oath of the promissory kind, it is called a vow. An oath which is not a vow cannot respect anything but what is past: upon that which is past, no human act can any longer exercise any influence. A vow has respect to something future—to the future conduct of him by whom the vow is taken: and to this conduct a man, in and by the taking of the vow, engages to give the form therein mentioned.

Whatsoever, therefore, these ceremonies were in themselves,—thus much seems plain enough, respecting the immediate effect they were designed to answer: namely, either the delivery of a certain species of evidence, or the entering into an engagement to a certain effect: the evidence being a denial of the act charged: the engagement, a promise not to practice any acts of the sort in question in future.

Whatsoever was the effect looked for, and intended, by the ceremony,—thus much we know, if the[Pg 303] historian is here to be believed: namely, that, in conformity to the advice, Paul betook himself to the performance of it.

But, in so doing, thus much also we know: namely, that he consented to, and betook himself to one of two things: an act of perjury, if the effect of the ceremony was to convey an assertion, that he had never taught, that a Jew, on being converted to the religion of Jesus, need not circumcise his children, or walk after the Mosaic customs: an act of apostasy, if the effect of it was an engagement never to teach this same doctrine in future: an act of apostasy—and for what? only to save himself from the displeasure entertained towards him on unjust grounds by a set of ill-advised and inconsistent disciples.

Under the general head of Paul's Doctrines, particular title Faith and Works, it will be seen what pains he had taken, on so many occasions, to weed out of men's breasts, Gentiles and Jews together, all regard for the Mosaic law—to cause them, in the words of the charge, to forsake Moses. "By the works of the law," says he in his letter to the Galatians, Gal. 2:16, "by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."

In this same letter, and in the same paragraph,—he speaks, of a speech which he had made, of a reproof which, at Antioch, he had given to Peter:—given to him, at a point of time long before the time here in question, namely, that of his last preceding visit—his third visit to Jerusalem,—this being the fourth. Let us see, once more, on what occasion, and for what cause, this reproof: we shall thereby be the better enabled to judge—how far, supposing the ceremony to have the effect of an assertory oath,—how far that oath can have been conformable to the truth.

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Speaking of Peter, "Time was," he says, "when he did eat with the Gentiles: but at Antioch, as above, certain persons came from James": Gal. 2:12, 13, and then it was that "he, Peter, withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.—And the Jews," continues he, "dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation." Of his return to Judaism, or at any rate of the dissimulation which accompanied it, what is the judgment which, if he is to be believed, he pronounced? Answer, That in so doing "they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel." Thereupon it is, that he charged Peter with inconsistency, and reproved him for it: "Because," says he, "he was to be blamed." Gal. 2:14. "When I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the Gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?"

Before me lies a book by Thomas Lewis, M. A., in four 8vo volumes, entitled Origines Hebraicae. In this book, under titles Vow and Purification, my expectation was, to find some explanation of this matter: as also of the other vow taken by Paul at Cenchrea, Acts 17:18, in the interval between his third visit to Jerusalem, and this fourth: but no mention is made of either: nor does anything appear, by which any light can be reflected upon either.

On the four men, whom, in pursuance of the recommendation in question, Paul is said to have taken, that he might "purify himself along with them," the intended effect of the ceremony in question is said to be—the making or performance of a vow. But, from the circumstance of its being a vow in[Pg 305] their case, it follows not absolutely that it may not have been an oath—an assertory oath, in his case.

At Jerusalem, for the taking or performance of a vow, a man was received into the temple:—a district more extensive by far, it appears, than the district called Rules of the King's Bench at London: from the account given by Lewis, as well as by this,—it appears that, on every such occasion, fees were taken by the priests. As to the four men here in question—having already, as it is stated, a vow on them, but nothing as yet done in consequence,—it looks as if it had been by poverty that they had hitherto been kept from the accomplishment of their purpose: on which supposition, Paul being the head of a considerable party, and as such having a command of money,—part of the recommendation seems to have been—that, to acquire the reputation of liberality, he should open his purse to these his proposed companions, and pay their fees.

On the occasion here in question, whatsoever was the purpose and intended effect of the ceremony, what appears from verse 27, Acts 27, is—that seven days were regarded as necessary for the accomplishment of it: no mention of this in Lewis.

On this occasion, by the author of the Acts, once more is mentioned the conciliatory decree of the Apostles and Elders. Still, not a syllable about it is to be found in any Epistle of Saint Paul, or in any other of the Apostolical Epistles that have come down to us.

Humanly speaking,—in what motives, in what circumstances, in what considerations, shall we say, that the causes, final and efficient, of this temperament—this mezzo termino—this middle course—are to be found? The answer that presents itself is as follows:

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Two stumbling-blocks were to be steered clear of:—the scruples of the Jewish converts, and the refractoriness of the Gentiles. So far as regarded abstinence from idolatrous feasts, and from meat with the whole blood in it, killed and dressed in a manner other than that in practice among the Jews,—conformity, it was judged, need not be dispensed of, at the hands of the Gentiles: and, so long as they would be content with meat killed and dressed after the Jewish mode,—the Jewish teachers might, without giving offence to their Jewish converts, have the convenience of partaking of the tables of the Gentile converts. As to the rest—the endless train of habitual observances, by which so large a portion of a man's life was occupied and tormented, neither these permanent plagues, nor the initiatory plague of circumcision, though the affair of a minute, and performed once for all, were found endurable: neither upon himself nor upon his children would a man submit to have it practiced.

After all, if the author of the Acts is to be believed,—it was by the Jews of Asia, and not by those of Jerusalem, that, at Jerusalem, the tumult was raised, by which this purification of Paul's was rendered incomplete, and his stay at Jerusalem cut short: he being removed for trial to Rome; at which place the history leaves him and concludes.

Of the behaviour observed by the Jerusalem Christians, on that occasion—Apostles, Elders, Deacons and ordinary brethren all together—nothing is said. Yet, of these there were many thousands on the spot, Acts 21:20: all of them of course informed of the place—the holy place,—in which, at the recommendation of the Elders, Paul had stationed himself. By the Jews of Asia were "all the people on this occasion stirred up," Acts 21:27: yet, among so many[Pg 307] thousands, no protection, nor any endeavour to afford him protection, for aught that appears, did he experience. Yet Asia it was, that had been, to the exclusion of Judaea, the theatre of his labours: from Asia it was, that the train of attendants he brought with him, were come—were come with him to these brethren—"the brethren,"—as if it had been said, all the brethren,—by whom, according to the author of the Acts, they were "received so gladly."

At this period ends all that, on the present occasion, it will be necessary to say, of this last recorded visit to Jerusalem. Of the two inconsistent accounts said to have been given by him of his conversion—one to the Jerusalem mob, the other to King Agrippa—full notice has been taken under the head of his conversion: of the miracles ascribed to him at Malta, mention is here made, in the chapter allotted to the history of his supposed miracles. Of any other subsequent acts or sayings of his, no notice will require to be taken in this place. The matter here in question has been—the sort of relation, stated as having had place, between this self-constituted Apostle, and those who beyond controversy were constituted such by, and lived as such with, Jesus himself: and to this have incidentally been added the causes, which have continually been presenting themselves, for suspicion, in respect of the verity and authenticity, or both, of the history, which, under the name of the Acts of the Apostles, has come down to us, connected by the operations of the bookbinder, in the same volume with the several histories of the four Evangelists, and the Epistles—not only of Paul himself but of others among the Apostles; and with the work styled, as if in derision, "The Revelations."

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SECTION 5.

THE DESIGN OF THIS RECOMMENDATION JUSTIFIED.

But the Apostles—says somebody—what are we to think of the Apostles? If by Paul a perjury was thus committed, were they not—all of them who joined in this recommendation—so many suborners of this same perjury?

The answer will, it is hoped, by most readers at least, have been anticipated.—Yes or no, if so it be, that it was their expectation that he would commit it: no, assuredly; if it were their expectation—their assured expectation—that he would not commit it: that, even in his person, even after all they had witnessed in him, the union of profligacy and rashness would never soar to so high a pitch. The necessity they were under, of ridding themselves of his presence was extreme:—of ridding themselves—and, what was so much more, their cause. Stay in the same town, and in the same company with them, he could not,—without being either their known adversary, or their known associate. Their known adversary he could not be, without either continuing himself to be an object of universal horror, or else rendering them objects of horror, to the whole body of their disciples. Their associate he could not be, without involving them in that odium, with which he himself was, by the confession of his own adherent and historiographer, covered. Under these circumstances, not to speak of the cause of mankind, for saving themselves and their cause from destruction,—what course could they take, so gentle, and at the same time, to all appearance, so surely effectual, as the[Pg 309] proposing to him this test?—a test, which no man could rationally expect, that any man in his circumstances would take.


SECTION 6.

DRAGGED OUT OF THE TEMPLE BY JEWS OR CHRISTIANS, HE IS SAVED BY A GENTILE, NAMELY, A ROMAN COMMANDER.

With this occurrence concludes so much of Paul's history, as,—for the purpose of perfecting the demonstration given, of the disbelief manifested towards his pretensions to a supernatural intercourse with the Almighty,—it was found necessary here to anticipate.

In the matter of the chapter—the 13th—in which Paul's supposed miracles are brought to view,—his history is, as to all those particulars which seemed necessary to be brought to view for the purpose of the present inquiry,—deduced to very near the time, at which the historian of the Acts, having conducted him to Rome, leaves him there: leaves him there, and with no other notice, than that of his having, at the time, at which the history closes, passed two years at that capital, in a sort of ambiguous state between freedom and confinement: waiting to receive, at the hands of the constituted authorities, the final determination of his fate.

Meantime, lest anything should be wanting, that could have contributed to the elucidation on a point of such supreme importance, follows in the next chapter a concluding and more particular view of the grounds, on which, on the occasion of his visit to the temple, the intention of deliberate perjury was found necessary to be imputed to him.


[Pg 310]

FOOTNOTES:

[53] Acts 21:16. "There went with us also certain of the disciples of Cęsarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge."

[54] 2 Cor. 12:12. "Truly the signs of an Apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds." Not that, by the words assigns and wonders, when used by Paul, anything more was meant, than what, but a few years after, was, according to him, doing, or about to be done, by Antichrist. 2 Thess. 2:9. "Even him, whose coming is, after the manner of Satan, with all powers, and signs, and lying wonders." Lying is, indeed, the adjunct prefixed, in this instance; but, lying or not lying, if Paul be believed, they failed not to produce the effect intended by them. Signs and wonders being such equivocal thing, no great wonder if—writing at Corinth to nobody knows what disciples of his at Rome, A.D. 58, Rom. 15:18, 19,—he could venture, if this was venturing, to speak of what he had been doing in Jerusalem and Illyricum, in the same terms. "For I will not dare to speak, says he, of any of those things which Christ has not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient by word and deed.—Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about, unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ."


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