We have seen the indignation produced by Paul's invasion of the dominion of the Apostles: we have seen it carried to its height, by his commencement of, and perseverance in, the exculpatory ceremony, for the purpose of which he made his entrance, and took up his lodgment in the temple. We have seen the fruits of that same indignation: we have seen the general result of them. What remains is—to give a clearer and more explicit conception, than can as yet have been given, of the cause of it.
This was—neither more nor less, than an universal persuasion—that the assertion,—to which, on his part, this ceremony had for its object the attaching the sanction of an oath,—was, to his full knowledge, false: the oath employed being, in its form, beyond comparison more impressive, than any that has been known to be at any time in use, in this or any other country: and that, accordingly, the confirmation given to the falsehood, in and by means of that most elaborate and conspicuous ceremony, was an act of[Pg 311] perjury: of perjury, more deliberate and barefaced, than anything, of which, in these days, any example can have place.
That, on this occasion, the conduct of the self-constituted Apostle was stained with perjury, is a matter, intimation of which has unavoidably come to have been already given, in more parts perhaps of this work than one. But, for a support to a charge, which, if true, will of itself be so completely destructive of Paul's pretensions—of all title to respect, at the hands of every professor of the religion of Jesus—no slight body of evidence could have been sufficient.
For this purpose, let us, in the first place, bring together the several elementary positions, proof or explanation of which, may be regarded as necessary, and at the same time as sufficient, to warrant, in this case, a verdict of guilty.
To these charges, is immediately subjoined such part of the evidence, as is furnished, by the account of the matter, as given in the Acts: in another section will be brought to view the evidence, furnished by Paul himself, in his Epistles. The evidence from the Acts is of the circumstantial kind: the evidence from the Epistles is direct.
1. To Paul was imputed as a misdeed, the having recommended the forsaking of the Mosaic law. Recommended, namely, to such disciples of his as, having been born and bred under it, were found by him settled in some Gentile nation. Proof, Acts 21:21, ... "They," 'the Jews which believe,' ver. 20, "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 the customs."
2. To a great extent, the imputation was well[Pg 312] grounded: for, to a great extent, it had been his practice, to give the recommendation thus described. Of this position the proof will follow presently.
3. By Paul, the truth of this imputation was utterly denied: denied by the opposite denegatory assertion: and, the imputation being as above well grounded,—in so far as any such denegatory assertion had been made by him, he had knowingly uttered a wilful falsehood.
4. In proof of the sincerity of this denial, it was proposed to Paul, on the part of the Apostles and Elders, to give a confirmation of it, by the performance of a certain appropriate ceremony.
5. The ceremony thus proposed, was one that was universally understood, to have the effect of attaching, to any assertion, connected with it for the purpose, the sanction of an oath.
6. Knowing such to be the effect of the ceremony, he gave his assent to the proposition, and determined, by means of it, to attach the sanction of an oath to such his denial, as above: and thereby, the assertion contained in that denial, being, as above, to his knowledge, false,—to commit, in that extraordinary solemn and deliberate form and manner, an act of perjury.
7. In pursuance of such determination, he accordingly repaired for that purpose to the temple and had his abode therein for several days: the completion of the requisite number being no otherwise prevented, than by the irruption of the indignant multitude, assured as they were of his being occupied in the commission of a perjury.
Proof of charges 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Acts 21:23, 24, 26, 27, 28.
23. "We, the Apostles and the Elders, or at least the Apostle James, ver. 18, have four men, which have a vow on them;
24. "Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that ... all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.
26. "Then Paul 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.
27. "And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews, which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him.
28. "Crying out, Men of Israel, help; This is the
man, that teacheth all men everywhere against
the people, and the law, and this place: and further
brought Greeks also into the temple; and hath polluted
this holy place."
Of the perjuriousness of Paul's intent, a short proof, namely of the circumstantial kind, is thus already visible, in the indignation excited,—its intensity, its immorality, and the bitter fruits of it. Will it be said no? for that the indignation had, for its adequate cause, his being thought to have spoken slightingly of the law in question—it being the law of the land,—and that, to this imputation, the ceremony, it being, as above the performance of a vow, had no reference? Assuredly no: no such interpretation will be found tenable. True it is, that, by the persuasion, that he had thus been dealing by the Mosaic law,—by this persuasion, without need of anything else, the indignation may well have been produced: but it could only have been by the knowledge, that, upon his having been called upon to confess the having so done, or to deny it, he had, in this most extraordinary[Pg 314] and universally conspicuous mode, given continuance and confirmation to his denial—it could only have been by this knowledge, that the excitement was raised up to so high a pitch. For, What was it that the information had charged him with? It was the forsaking Moses. What was the purpose, for which the recommendation was given to him—the recommendation to perform this ceremony? It was the purifying himself, "that all might know" that the information was groundless. "That those things," say the Apostles with the Elders to him, "whereof they," the thousands of Jews which believe, ver. 20, "were informed against thee were nothing:"—"to purify thyself," says the official translation: more appositely might it have said to clear thyself: for in that case, the idea of an imputation would clearly enough, though but implicitly, have been conveyed: whereas, to some minds, the idea conveyed by the word purify may perhaps be no other than that of some general cleansing of the whole character, by means of some physical process, to which, in so many minds, the psychological effect in question has, by the influence of artifice on weakness, been attached.
Such then, namely, the clearing himself of the imputation by so solemn a confirmation of the denial of it,—such was the purpose, for which, in the most unequivocal terms, his performance of the ceremony was recommended: such, therefore, was the purpose for which it was commenced; such, accordingly, was the purpose for which it would have been consummated, but for the interruption which it experienced: experienced not from his hands, but from hands among which, there seems sufficient reason to believe, were the hands, if not of the very persons by whom it had been recommended, at any rate of those who till that time had been in use to be guided by their influence.
To this interpretation, what objection is there that can be opposed? If any, it can only be that which to some minds may perhaps be suggested by the word vow.
But the fact is—this word vow is a mistranslation: the proper word should have been oath. By an oath everyone understands at first mention an assertory, not a promissory, declaration: by a vow, a promissory, not an assertory one. But an assertory declaration, as every one sees, is the only sort of declaration, that admits of any application to the case in question. By nothing that, in Paul's situation, a man could promise to do, in addition to the performance of the ceremony, could any evidence be given, of a man's having, or not having, done so and so, in any time past.
That by that which was actually done, that which was essential was considered as having been done,—is proved, by what is put into Paul's mouth in relation to this subject, in his defence against the accusation brought afterwards against him, before the Roman governor Felix, by the spokesman of the Jewish constituted authorities, Tertullus. There it is, that, beyond all doubt, what he is speaking of, is his CLEARANCE, as above: for there also, the word in the official translation, as well as in the Greek original, is purified: in the past tense, purified. This being assumed, it follows, as a necessary consequence, that either in the course of that part, which at the time of the irruption, was already elapsed of the seven days' ceremony, in the temple; or, what seems more probable, antecedently to the commencement of it, a denegatory declaration—a declaration denying the fact charged in the accusation,—had been made: for, that the ceremony itself was never accomplished, is what is expressly stated:—of the term of seven days stated[Pg 316] as necessary to the accomplishment of it, no more than a part, it is said, had elapsed, when the final interruption of it took place.
To return to the time of Paul's entrance into the temple.
Thus, as hath been seen, stands the matter, even upon the face of the official English translation. But in verse 26, the word employed in the Greek original, removes all doubt. "Then," says the translation, "Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them, entered into the temple." Purifying himself, in the present tense, says the translation: and, even this alone taken into consideration, the purifying process, whatever it was, might be supposed to have been but commenced before the entrance into the temple, and as being thus as yet in pendency, waiting the exit out of the temple for its accomplishment. Thus it is, that, in the translation, the verb is in the present tense, purifying himself: but, in the Greek original, it is in the past tense, having purified himself: so that, in the original, the purification, whatever it may have been, is in express terms stated as having, even before his entrance into the temple, already accomplished.
Note that, if the historian is to be believed, he had on this occasion, the fullest opportunity, of being, in the most particular manner, acquainted with everything that passed. For, when, as above, the recommendation was given to Paul, on his appearance before the Apostle James and the Elders,—he, the historian, was actually present, "And the day following," says he, Acts 21:18, "Paul went in with us unto James; and all the Elders were present."
Supposing that the true interpretation,—of what use and effect then, it may perhaps be asked, was the[Pg 317] ceremony, of which the temple was the theatre? The answer has been already given. It cannot have been any other than the attaching, to the declaration that had been made, the sanction, of an oath. Without the ceremony performed in the temple, the declaration was a declaration not upon oath, and as such not regarded as sufficient evidence:—evidence, in the shape which, the historian says, had been actually required for the purpose: when the ceremony, of which the temple was the theatre, had been gone through, and the last of the number of days, required for its accomplishment had been terminated;—then, and not before, it was regarded as having been converted into the appropriate and sufficient evidence. Thus it was, that this seven days' ceremony was no more than an elaborate substitute to the English ceremony of kissing the book, after hearing the dozen or so of words pronounced by the official functionary.
On this occasion, the Greek word rendered by the word vow, is a word which in its ordinary sense was, among Gentiles as well as Jews, exactly correspondent to our word prayer. But, the idea denoted by the word prayer, applies in this case with no less propriety to an assertory oath than to a promissory vow. Directly and completely, it designates neither. In both cases an address is made to some supposed supernatural potentate: in cases such as the present, beseeching him to apply the sanction of punishment to the praying individual, in the event of a want of sincerity on his part: in this case, in the event of his not having done that which, on this occasion, he declares himself to have done, or, what comes to the same thing, his having done that which he declares himself not to have done: in the other case, in the event of his not doing that which he has promised to[Pg 318] do, or doing that which he has promised not to do.
All this while, it is not in a direct way, it may be observed, that this word vow is employed, and application made of it to Paul's case: not in speaking of Paul himself in the first instance, but after speaking of the four other men, whom it is proposed he should take for his comrades, on his entrance into the temple. "We have four men," James and the Elders are made to say, Acts 21:23, 24, "We have four men which have a vow on them: Them take, and purify thyself with them ... that ... all may know, that those things, whereof they," the multitude, ver. 22, "were informed concerning thee, are nothing": no otherwise, therefore, than by the case these four men were in, is the case designated, in which it is proposed to Paul to put himself.
As to the case these four men were in,—no otherwise than on account of its connection with the case Paul was in,—is it in anywise of importance. As probable a supposition as any seems to be—that of their being in the same case with him: accused, as well as he, of teaching "Jews to forsake Moses:" for, between their case and his, no intimation is given of any difference: and, as the "purifying himself" is what is recommended to him, so is it what they are stated, as standing eventually engaged to do on their part. If then, in his instance, purifying himself means—clearing himself of a charge made against him,—so in their instance must it naturally, not to say necessarily, have meant—clearing themselves of some charge made against them. Moreover, when, as above, he is, in the Greek original, stated as having actually purified himself, before his entrance into the temple, so are they likewise; for it is "with them," that his purification is stated as having been performed.
This being assumed, it might not be impossible to[Pg 322] find a use for the word vow, even in its proper sense—its promissory sense: for, what might be supposed is—that before the entrance into the temple, at the same time with the denegatory declaration, a vow was made—a solemn promise—to enter into the temple, and back of the declaration with the sanction of an oath, by going through the ceremony. But, forasmuch, as, in the import of the Greek word, no such idea, as that of a promise, is comprised,—the only use of this interpretation would be—to save the translators from the imputation of an impropriety, with which it seems rather more probable that they stand chargeable.
All this while, of Paul's conduct on this occasion, to what part was it that the blame belonged?—Surely, not to the endeavour, to wean men from their attachment to the Mosaic laws: for thus far he copied Jesus; and in copying did not go against, but only beyond, the great original. True it is, that, in so doing, he served his own personal and worldly purposes: not less so, that, in this subserviency, he found the inducement by which his conduct was determined: for, by how much stronger men's attachment would continue to be to the dead lawgiver, by so much, less strong would it be to the living preacher. But, in so far as a man's conduct is serviceable to mankind at large, it certainly is not rendered the less serviceable, or the less laudable, by his being himself included in the number. The blame lay then—not in teaching men to forsake Moses: for, thus far, instead of being blame-worthy, there was nothing in his conduct, that did not merit positive praise. What there was amiss in his conduct—in what, then, did it consist? Plainly in this, and this alone: namely, that, on being taxed with having so done,—instead of avowing and justifying it, he denied it: and, having denied it, scrupled not to add to the falsehood the aggravation of such[Pg 323] extraordinarily deliberate and solemn perjury, as hath been so plainly visible. And, to what purpose commit so flagrant a breach of the law of morality? Plainly, to no other, than the fixing himself in Jerusalem, and persevering in a project of insane and selfish ambition, which, in spite of the most urgent remonstrances that could be made by his most devoted adherents, had brought him thither: for, he had but to depart in peace, and the Apostles of Jesus would have remained unmolested, and the peace of Christendom undisturbed.
An article of evidence, that must not be left unnoticed,—is
the part taken, on this occasion, by the
historiographer. Nowhere does this eyewitness take
upon himself to declare,—nowhere so much as to insinuate—that
of the charge, thus made upon his hero,
there was anything that was not true: nowhere does
he so much as insinuate, that the declaration by which
he says Paul had cleared himself of the charge, and,
as we have seen, before his entrance into the temple
for the purpose of enforcing it by the sanction of an
oath,—was anything short of a downright falsehood.
After this, he makes a defence for Paul before Felix;
he makes a defence for Paul before Festus;
he makes a defence for Paul before Festus and
Agrippa; and, on no one of all those occasions, is the defence anything to the purpose. He, indeed, makes Paul declare, that he, Paul, had always been a strict observer of the Mosaic ordinances. This may have been either true or false: but, true or false, it was equally foreign to the purpose. Not improbably, it was, in a considerable degree, true: for if, while he gave to other Jews his assurance, that the operations in question, burthensome as they were, were of no use, he himself continued to bear the burthen notwithstanding,—the persuasiveness of his advice would naturally be augmented by the manifestation thus given of disinterestedness. It may accordingly have been true: but, false or true, it was equally foreign to the purpose: the question was—not what he had done himself; but what he had recommended it to others to do.
Thus—from everything that appears, by all such persons as had the best means of information—the charge made upon him was believed,—let it now be seen, whether we should not be warranted in saying, known,—to be true.
As to "The Jews of Asia,"—and the mention made of this class of men, as the instigators of the tumult—can any support be derived from it, for the inference, that it was by something else in Paul's conduct, and not by any such perjury as that in question, that the vent, thus given to the indignation, was produced? No, assuredly: altogether inconsistent would any such supposition be, with the main part of the narrative. Whoever were the persons with whom the manual violence originated;—whatever were the reproaches cast upon the invader on other grounds;—the purpose—the sole purpose—for which he entered upon the ceremony, is rendered as plain as words can make it. It was the clearing himself of the charge of teaching Jews to forsake Moses: and, supposing the fact admitted, everything, in the way of justification, being, before such a tribunal, manifestly inadmissible,—of no such charge was it possible for him to clear himself, without denying the truth of it. But, according to the historian, to confirm this denial, by the solemnity, whatever it was,—was the purpose, and the sole purpose, of it: of this, the negative assertion, contained in the denial, being untrue, and, by him who made it, known to be so,—confirming[Pg 326] such denial, by the solemnity,—call it oath—call it vow—call it anything else,—was committing an act of perjury: and, to believe that such his denial was false, and yet not believing him guilty of perjury—at any rate, on the supposition of the accomplishment of the solemnity—was not possible. How numerous so ever may have been the other causes of provocation, given by him—how numerous so ever, the different descriptions of persons to whom they had been given;—no disproof could, by all of them put together, be given, by this solemnity, to the denial in question,—supposing it false.
To the present purpose, the only question is—whether, by Paul, on the occasion in question, an act of perjury was, or was not, committed? not—what was the cause, whether that, or any other, of any indignation of which he was the object. Even therefore, might it be allowed, that a vow, in the sense of which it is contradistinguished from an oath, was performed by him, or about to be performed,—still it would not be the less undeniable, that it was for the purpose of converting the simple declaration into a declaration upon oath, that he entered upon the solemnity: and that, therefore, if in the simple declaration there was anything to his knowledge false, the consequence is—that by his converting it into a declaration upon oath, he rendered himself guilty of perjury.
The observation, thus applied, to what is said of the "Jews of Asia," will be seen to be applicable, and, with equal propriety, to what is said about his being charged with "bringing Greeks into the temple:" and, in particular, about his being supposed to have brought in "The Ephesian Trophimus:" and moreover, what may, in this last case, be observable, is—that this about the Greeks is expressly stated as being[Pg 327] a further charge, distinct from the main one: nor yet is it so much as stated, that, by any such importation, to what degree so ever offensive, any such effect, as that signified by the word pollution was produced.
Not altogether destitute of probability seems the supposition, that these two circumstances—about the Jews of Asia, and about Trophimus—may have been thrown in, by this adherent of Paul's, for the purpose of throwing a cloud of confusion and obscurity over the real charge: and if so, the two circumstances, with the addition of the three different defences, put into the hero's mouth, on the three several occasions of the endeavour,—must be acknowledged to have been employed, not altogether without success.
Here then closes that part of the evidence, which, to the purpose of a judgment, to be passed at this distance of time from the facts, may be considered as so much circumstantial evidence: in the next section may be seen that part, which comes under the denomination of direct evidence.
We come now to the direct evidence: that evidence—all of it from Paul's own pen:—all of it from his own Epistles. It consists in those "teachings to forsake Moses," which will be now furnished, in such unequivocal terms and such ample abundance, in and by those fruits of his misty and crafty eloquence:—in the first place, in his letter to the disciples, which he had made, or hoped to make at Rome:—date of it, according to the received chronology, about four[Pg 328] years anterior to the time here in question:—in the next place, in two successive letters to the disciples, whom, it appears, he had made at Corinth:—both these addresses, set down, as belonging to the same year as the one to the Romans. Moreover, in his so often mentioned Epistle to the Galatians, matter of the same tendency is to be found. But, this last being, according to that same chronology, of a date posterior by some years to the time, at which the charge of having preached the sort of doctrine in question was, on the present occasion, made,—it belongs not to the present question, and is therefore left unemployed. And, in the same case, is some matter that might be found in his Epistles to the Thessalonians.
1. First then as to the Mosaic "law and customs," taken in the aggregate.
On this subject, see in the first place what the oath-taker had said to his Romans.
Rom 15:14. "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean."—— 17. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Rom 3:20. "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his, God's sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
Rom. 3:27, 28, 29, 30, 31. "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of the faith.—— Therefore, we conclude, that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.—— Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:—— Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.—— Do we then make void[Pg 329] the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."
Rom. 10:9. "... if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.—— 12. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.——For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Rom 14:2. "... one believeth that he may eat all things: another who is weak, eateth herbs.—— Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth; for God hath received him.—— One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike."
1 Cor. 6:12. "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient:" or profitable margin, "all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.—— Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them."
1 Cor. 8:8. "But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither if we eat not, are we the worse.—— Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."
1 Cor. 9:19-23. 19. "For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.—— And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law:—— To them that are without law, as without law, being not without law to God but under the law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law.—— To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.—— And this I do for the Gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you."
2 Cor. 3:12 to 17. "Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech.—— And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished.—— But their minds were blinded; for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ.—— But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.—— Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.—— Now the Lord is that spirit; and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
Now as to circumcision in particular.
Rom. 2:25, 26, 27, 28, 29. "For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a[Pg 331] breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.—— Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?—— And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?——For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh:—— But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."
Rom. 3:1, 2. "What advantages then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?—— Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God."
Rom. 4:9, 10, 11, 12. "Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.—— How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision. Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.—— And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:—— And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised."
Rom. 15:8. "Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the premises made unto the fathers."
1 Cor. 7:18. "Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.—— Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God."
From any one individual, who, in either of these distant cities, had seen any one of these same Epistles,—let it now be seen whether information of their contents, supposing it credited, would not have sufficed to produce those effects, the existence of which is so unquestionable. Not but that the same rashness, which suffered him to furnish such abundant evidence against himself in those distant regions, could scarce fail to have given birth to credence in abundance, of various sorts, and of a character, which, on that occasion, would be much more impressive.
 On this occasion, supposing the purpose of this ceremony to be, as here contended, no other than that of applying, to a declaration concerning a matter of fact, the supernatural penal sanction, by which it was converted into an oath,—a natural enough subject of inquiry is—to what cause is to be attributed the extraordinary length thus given to it?—seven days at the least; to which, upon examination, would be found virtually added, as much greater a length of time, as the holy person, to whose custody the oath-taker consigned himself, might be pleased to prescribe. Answer, without difficulty,—the affording time and pretence for the exaction of his surplice fees:—namely, those established by law,—with the addition of others, to as large an amount, as the need which the oath-taker had of the accommodation thus to be afforded to him, could engage him to submit to. As to the length of time,—in the passage in question, the translation exhibits some obscurity: nor is it altogether cleared up by the original. A determinate number of days, to wit, seven, is indeed mentioned, ver. 27, but immediately before this, ver. 26, comes a passage, from whence it seems unquestionable, that, whatever were the time a man had been thus detained, he was not to be let out, until, over and above what good things it had been made necessary he should bring in with him, a further payment, and as it should seem, in a pecuniary shape, had been made: "to signify," says ver. 26, "the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them." "And when the seven days were almost ended," continues ver. 27: immediately after which comes the account of the tumult, by which they were prevented from being quite ended.
As to the phrase—"to signify the accomplishment of the days," what seems to be meant by it is—to make known when the number requisite for the completion of the train of operations had been accomplished. But, to make known when that number had been accomplished, it was previously requisite to make known when it had commenced: and, for making this known, the act, probably a public one, of making entrance into the temple, was employed.
As to the origin, as well as particular nature, of the ceremony,—though no such word as Nazarite is here employed, on turning to the Book of Numbers, chapter the sixth, it will be manifest, that the ceremony here in question is the same as that, by which, according to the receipt there given, any man whatever, whether, and any woman also, must be left to conjecture, might be converted into a Nazarite. Nazarite is from a Hebrew word, which meant originally neither more nor less than a person separated. A person consigned himself to the custody of "the priest of the congregation:" or, as we should now say, the parson of the parish. The ceremony accomplished, the patient was thereby put into a state of appropriate sanctity: and, from this metamorphosis, as the priest and the Nazarite could agree, any inference might be drawn, and any purpose at pleasure accomplished. Neither to the extent of the inference, nor therefore to the purpose designed, were any limits visible. Everything depended upon the priest: for, though of certain particular operations made requisite, a most particular list is given, all of them of the most insignificant character in themselves, yet so thickly and so plainly sown are the seeds of nullity, that, when all the appointed fees, of which there is also an enormous list[IV.], had been paid, it would still lie at the option of the priest, to pronounce the whole procedure null and void, unless, and until any such final compliment as he chose to expect, were paid to him. Among the most obviously, as well as extensively convenient purposes, to which it was capable of being applied, is this of which the present case affords an example: namely, the manufacturing of evidence: could he but find means to satisfy the priest, a man might, to all legal purposes, and even to the satisfaction of all appropriately disposed minds, prove, and with conclusive effect, any thing to be false, which everybody knew to be true. By fabrication, falsification, or suppression of evidence, what is the right that may not be usurped? what is the wrong that may not, with success and impunity, be committed?
In the Mosaic law, immediately before this institution Numbers, chap. 5., comes another, by means of which every man, who was tired of his wife, might, in another way, with the assistance of a priest—and, for aught that appears, any priest—clear himself of that incumbrance. All the man had to do was—to say he was "jealous" of her: the priest thereupon took charge of her. If priest and husband were agreed, "the water of jealousy" did its office: if not, the woman remained imprisoned. Against the superhuman evidence, afforded by the purifying process here in question, no quantity of human evidence was to be available. In like manner, to warrant this poisoning process, not any the smallest particle of human evidence was necessary: the case in which it is to be performed, is "if there be no witness against her, neither she be taken," says the text, Numbers 5. 13. Verily, verily, not without sufficient cause, did Jesus, from first to last, take every occasion, to weaken the attachment of the people, to a system of law, of which those institutions afford two, among so many samples. Yet, while in the very act of depreciating it, is he represented as declaring his purpose to be the fulfilling it: Matt. 5. 17. for, such was the verbal veil, which the prejudices he had to encounter, rendered it necessary to him at the moment, to throw over the tendency of his endeavors. Fulfill the very law he was preaching against? Yes: but in one sense only: namely, by fulfilling—not the real purpose of it,—the establishment of the corrupt despotism of the priesthood,—but the professed purpose of it, the good of the community: in regard to the law, fulfilling, in a word, whatever there was that was good in it, whatever there was that deserved to be fulfilled. Jesus, in whose opinion death was too severe a punishment, for a wife, in the case of a breach, on her part, of a contract, the breach of which was by the other contending party practised with impunity—Jesus, who accordingly, in saving the offender, exposed to merited disgrace the sanguinary law—was doubtless still further from approving, that parish priests, in unlimited numbers, should poison innocent women for the accommodation of their husbands, or sell licenses to commit every imaginable wrong by perjury.
Vow is oath: this is not the only occasion, in which the self-constituted Apostle, if his historiographer is to be believed, took the benefit, whatever it was, of this ceremony. In Acts 18:16, he "shaved his head," it is said, at Cenchrea:—why?—"for he had a vow upon him." What the vow was, we are not told; this, however, we know, as well from Acts 21:26, as from Numbers 6, he could not have got anything by it, had the parson of the parish of Cenchrea been otherwise than satisfied with the "offering" that was made.
[IV.] In the bargain between vow-maker and vow-sanctifier, the following list of fees, provided for sanctifier, by Excellent Church of that country, in those days whatever they were,—may serve to show the use of it to one of the contracting parties. To complete our conception of the nature and effects of the arrangement, nothing is wanting, but that which so unhappily must for ever remain wanting—a history of the purposes, to which from the commencement of the government to the dissolution of it, the solemnity had been applied on the vow-maker's side. Of these purposes, we must content ourselves as well as we can with the sample, for which we are here indebted to the author of the Acts. The table of fees is as follows:
It is extracted from the Book of Numbers, chapter 6:1 to 21.
Fees to be paid in all cases: fees liquidated in quantity, and thence in value.
|I.||}||1. He lamb of the first year, one. |
2. Ewe-lamb of the first year, one.
3. Ram without blemish, one.
Fees, not liquidated in quantity, and thus left to be liquidated in quantity, and thence in value, by the will of the priest.
|II.||}||4. Basket of unleavened bread, one. |
5. Parcel of cakes of fine flour mingled with oil.
6. Parcel of wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, one.
7. Meat-offering, one.
8. Drink-offerings—numbers and respective quantities not liquidated.
Fees payable, on a contingency: a contingency not describable without more time and labour, than would be paid for by the result.
|III.||}||9. Turtle-doves or pigeons, two. |
10. Lamb of the first year, one.
IV. Mysterious addition, the liquidation of which must be left to the Hebrew scholar. Ver. 21. "Besides that that his hand shall get:" (whose hand? priest's or vow-maker's?) "according to the vow which he vowed, so he must do after the law of his separation:"—probable meaning, according to the purpose, for which he performed the ceremony—the advantage which he looked for from it.
Moreover, by any one whose curiosity will carry him through the inquiry, causes of nullity may be seen as sedulously and copiously provided, as if by the astutia of an English judge, or pair of judges, to whose profit the fees were to be received: effect of the nullity, of course, repetition; necessity of repeating the process, as in case of new trial or arrest of judgment, with the fees.
Religion was thus no less aptly served at Jerusalem, under Mosaic institutions,—than Justice is to this day, under matchless constitution and English institutions, at Westminster.
 Paul at the suit of Tertullus, A.D. 60. Acts 24:1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 11, 18.
"And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.—And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him,—Saying, We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:—Who also hath gone about to profane the temple; whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.—And the Jews also assented, saying, that these things were so.—Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered,—Thou mayest understand, that they are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.—Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude nor with tumult."
 Paul before Festus alone, A.D. 60. Acts 25:7, 8.
"And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove:—While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended anything at all."
 Paul before Festus and Agrippa, A.D. 62. Acts 26:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 20, 21.
"Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:—I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee, touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews;—Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews; wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.—My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;—Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straightest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee.—And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:—Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.—20. But showed first unto them of Damascus and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.—For these causes, the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me."
 "And when the seven days were almost ended," says Acts 21:27, "the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him."
 A cheap enough rate this, at which salvation is thus put up. Of what use then morality? Of what use is abstinence from mischievous acts, in what degree so ever mischievous? "Oh! but," says somebody, "though Paul said this, he meant no such thing:" and then comes something—anything—which it may suit the defender's purpose to make Paul say.
 Another receipt for making salvation still cheaper than as above. Not so Jesus. Matt. 7:21: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
 Behold here the degree of importance attached by Paul to sabbaths.