Page images
PDF
EPUB

force or art. An involved argumentation, frequent obscurities, especially in the order and transition of thought, piety, vehemence, affection, bursts of rapture, and of unparalleled sublimity, are properties, all or most of them discernible in every letter of the collection. But although these epistles bear strong marks of proceeding from the same hand, I think it is still more certain that they were originally separate publications. They form no continued story; they compose no regular correspondence; they comprise not the transactions of any particular period; they carry on no connexion of argument; they depend not upon one another; except in one or two instances, they refer not to one another. I will farther undertake to say, that no study or care has been employed to produce or preserve an appearance of consistency amongst them. All which observations show that they were not intended by the person, whoever he was that wrote them, to come forth or be read together that they appeared at first separately, and have been collected since.

The proper purpose of the following work is to bring together, from the Acts of the Apostles and from the different epistles, such passages as furnish examples of undesigned coincidence; but I have so far enlarged upon this plan as to take into it some circumstances found in the epistles, which contributed strength to the conclusion, though not strictly objects of comparison.

It appeared also a part of the same plan to examine the difficulties which presented themselves in the course of our inquiry.

I do not know that the subject has been proposed

or considered in this view before. Ludovicus, Capellus, Bishop Pearson, Dr. Benson, and Dr. Lardner have each given a continued history of St. Paul's life, made up from the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles joined together. But this, it is manifest, is a different undertaking from the present, and directed to a different purpose.

If what is here offered shall add one thread to that complication of probabilities by which the Christian history is attested, the reader's attention will be repaid by the supreme importance of the subject; and my design will be fully answered.

CHAP. II.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.

No. I.

THE first passage I shall produce from this epistle, and upon which a good deal of observation will be founded, is the following:

"But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints; for it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem." Rom. xv. 25, 26.

In this quotation three distinct circumstances are stated-a contribution in Macedonia for the relief of the Christians of Jerusalem, a contribution in Achaia for the same purpose, and an intended journey of St. Paul to Jerusalem. These circumstances are stated as taking place at the same time, and that to be the time when the epistle was written. Now let us inquire whether we can find these circumstances else

where; and whether, if we do find them, they meet together in respect of date. Turn to the Acts of the Apostles, chap. xx. ver. 2, 3. and you read the following account: "When he had gone over those parts (viz. Macedonia), and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, and there abode three months; and when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia." From this passage, compared with the account of St. Paul's travels given before, and from the sequel of the chapter, it appears that, upon St. Paul's second visit to the peninsula of Greece, his intention was, when he should leave the country, to proceed from Achaia directly by sea to Syria; but that to avoid the Jews, who were lying in wait to intercept him in his route, he so far changed his purpose as to go back through Macedonia, embark at Philippi, and pursue his voyage from thence towards Jerusalem. Here therefore is a journey to Jerusalem; but not a syllable of any contribution. And as St. Paul had taken several journeys to Jerusalem before, and one also immediately after his first visit into the peninsula of Greece (Acts, xviii. 21), it cannot from hence be collected in which of these visits the epistle was written, or, with certainty, that it was written in either. The silence of the historian, who professes to have been with St. Paul at the time (xx. 6), concerning any contribution, might lead us to look out for some different journey, or might induce us perhaps to question the consistency of the two records, did not a very accidental reference, in another part of the same history, afford us sufficient ground to believe that this silence was omission. When St. Paul made his reply

before Felix, to the accusations of Tertullus, he alleged, as was natural, that neither the errand which brought him to Jerusalem nor his conduct whilst he remained there merited the calumnies with which the Jews had

aspersed him. "Now after many years (i. e. of absence) I came to bring alms to my nation and offerings; whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude nor with tumult, who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had aught against me." Acts, xxiv. 17-19. This mention of alms and offerings certainly brings the narrative in the Acts nearer to an accordancy with the epistle; yet no one, I am persuaded, will suspect that this clause was put into St. Paul's defence, either to supply the omission in the preceding narrative, or with any view to such accordancy.

After all, nothing is yet said or hinted concerning the place of the contribution; nothing concerning Macedonia and Achaia. Turn therefore to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. xvi. ver. 1—4, and you have St. Paul delivering the following directions: "Concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye; upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever you shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem; and if it be meet that I'go also, they shall go with me." In this passage we find a contribution carrying on at Corinth, the capital of Achaia, for the Christians of Jerusalem: we find also a hint given of the possibility of St. Paul going up to Jerusalem him

self, after he had paid his visit into Achaia: but this is spoken of rather as a possibility than as any settled intention; for his first thought was, "Whomsoever you shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality to Jerusalem :" and in the sixth verse he adds, "That ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go." This epistle purports to be written after St. Paul had been at Corinth; for it refers throughout to what he had done and said amongst them whilst he was there. The expression, therefore, "when I come," must relate to a second visit; against which visit the contribution spoken of was desired to be in readiness.

But though the contribution in Achaia be expressly mentioned, nothing is here said concerning any contribution in Macedonia. Turn, therefore, in the third place, to the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. viii. ver. 1-4, and you will discover the particular which remains to be sought for: "Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that, in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality for to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves; praying us, with much entreaty, that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints." To which add, chap. ix. ver. 2: “I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago." In this epistle we find St. Paul advanced as far as Macedonia, upon that second visit to Corinth which he

« PreviousContinue »