« FöregåendeFortsätt »
to investigate the evidences of Christianity, were firmly persuaded of its truth, and not only themselves believed the Scriptures, but devoted a portion of their studies to illustrate the beauties, and to elucidate the difficulties contained in Holy Writ.
St. Paul's Commission from the Jerusalem Rulers.
WE read in the ninth chapter of The Acts, that “Paul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them hound unto Jerusalem,” and St. Paul, when apprehended at Jerusalem, confirms the account here given, and is reported to have appealed to the high priest and the elders, as to the truth of his having been invested with such an authority. With his usual scepticism, Mr. Gamaliel Smith doubts the truth of the matters altogether, and makes the following very sapient remarks: “Supposing the appeal made, the multitude might have
saved themselves the trouble of putting him to death : those rulers against whom, by his own confession, he had committed this treason, would have been ready enough to proceed against him in the regular way, and take the business out of the hands of an unauthorized moba." Now, according to the received chronology, the time when St. Paul was invested with the commission to apprehend the disciples at Damascus,
A. D. 35. The time when he made the appeal to the high priest, was A.D. 58. I need not say to those who are at all acquainted with the Jewish history, that numerous changes, not only in the office of the high priesthood, but in other affairs, had taken place in the intervening 23 years.
At the time when Paul set out on his commission to Damascus, Caiaphas was the high priest, soon afterwards he was deposed, and Jonathan set up in his stead.
After him, we read in Josephus, that the office of high priest was held by Theophilus, Simon, Matthias, Elionæus, Josephus, and Ananias, the last of whom appears to have exercised it at the time when St. Paul was apprehended at Jerusalem. Yet, according to Gamaliel Smith, we are to shut our eyes to all that might have happened in the interval between
the two periods; we are to suppose the same high priest, and the same elders to have been all living, and in office; and, that spite of the Roman authority, spite of St. Paul's Roman citizenship, nothing would have been more easy than to have had Paul taken up, and put to death, and 'for what? for not having executed,
years before, a commission to bind, and persecute the Christians, a commission in itself most barbarous, cruel, and unnatural, not to say illegal. Such are the absurdities to which Gamaliel Smith's hypothesis inevitably leads ! That St. Paul should declare that the elders, and the person who was high priest at the time he was speaking, could confirm his testimony on the subject of his commission to persecute the disciples, was extremely natural, for they could not be ignorant of such a commission having formerly been granted to St. Paul; for even supposing there were no public records in the archives of the high priesthood of the fact, St. Paul's conversion to Christianity, and the circumstances attending it, could not have been otherwise than well known in Jerusalem, especially to the ecclesiastical rulers of the Jews, from whose predecessors St. Paul had received his commission, to apprehend the disciples at Damascus, and bring them bound
to Jerusalem. It was a blind and mistaken zeal, that induced Paul to become a persecutor of the followers of Jesus, but as he himself declares, he “obtained mercy, because he did it ignorantly in unbelief;" and when convinced by the vision which he saw on the road to Damascus, that the religion of Christ was true, and consequently, that the commission which he had received from the chief priest and the elders was cruel and unjust, he resolved to set it at defiance, although, from the treatment experienced by Christ, and the still more recent fate of St. Stephen, he must have well known, that such a line of conduct would be attended with the utmost danger to himself. That the Jews afterwards pursued him with the utmost malice, is evident from various parts of his history. St. Paul, however, never suffered any personal consideration to divert him from what be considered the path of duty. He thought it better to "obey God rather than men,” and hence it was, that, reckless of consequences to himself, he not only set at nought his commission from the high priest, but went. and preached in the very synagogues of the Jews at Damascus, that Christ was the Son of God. And we shall find, as we proceed, that without subjecting himself to the imputa
tion of rashness, or enthusiasm, ms conduct was that of a man who was firmly persuaded of the truth of what he taught, and who was ready to lay down his life for the name and religion of Jesus.
St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians does not contradict the
Account given of his Conversion in The Acts of the Apostles.
SPEAKING of St. Paul's conversion, Gamaliel Smith says, “ All this while now, for little less than 1800 years, from Paul's own pen, we have an account of this his conversion, and of any such story as that of its being effected through the instrumentality of visions in this account of his, not any the slightest trace is to be found, not any the slightest allusion to it* !! Now let us turn to the first chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, and we shall see the utter falsity of the above remarks: Gal. i. 1. “Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ. Ver. 10. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to