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THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.
From Paul's arrival at Jerusalem with the contributions
from Asia, to the period of his death.
We are now arrived at a period in the life of the great apostle of the Gentiles, when a circumstance arose which has occasioned no little perplexity to commentators, and drawn from many of them either unmerited reproaches or needless apologies.
It seems that previous to the apostle's arrival in Judea, a report had got into circulation, that he was in the practice of teaching the Jews who were dispersed throughout the Gentile countries, “ to forsake the law of Moses, and neither circumcise their children, nor walk after the Jewish customs."* This was an unfounded representation of his conduct in regard to this matter. He indeed taught the Gentiles that they should observe none of these things; but he well knew that the time which God had appointed for putting an end to the political constitution of the Jews, had not yet arrived. He, therefore, conformed to the rites of Judaism himself, though aware that the whole of that typical dispensation had been virtually abolished by the death of Christ; and he instructed his Jewish brethren to do the same, until, by the destruction of their temple and city, the providence of God should co-operate with his word in rendering it impossible for them any longer to adhere to Moses. It was, therefore, necessary that the Jews in
• Acts xxi. 21.
Jerusalem should be undeceived in this matter; and, in order to this, it was recommended to him by James the apostle, and the elders of the church, to give a proof to all his Jewish brethren that what they had heard of him was incorrect, by joining himself to four men who were under a vow, and subjecting himself to the charges that were necessary to the performance of it, “ that all might know that the things which they had heard concerning him were nothing, but that he himself walked orderly and kept the law." Paul complied with this advice; and the following day, purifying himself with them, they all entered into the temple, to signify to the priest their resolution to accomplish the seven days of their purification. But before these were ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up all the people against him, and apprehending him by. violence, cried out, “Men of Israel help; this is the man that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place, and hath polluted this holy temple by bringing Greeks into it.” By this means an universal ferment was excited throughout Jerusalem, for the people ran together, and seizing Paul, drew him out of the temple, closing the doors, being resolved, it would seem, to put him to death. At this critical moment, when they were actually engaged in beating him, Claudius Lysias, the commander of the Roman garrison, interposed with a band of soldiers and rescued Paul, demanding to know who he was and what he had done. Finding it impossible, however, from the contrariety of their reports, to arrive at any certainty in the affair, he ordered the soldiers to take him into the castle, whither he was pursued by the multitude, crying out, “away with him.”
Having reached the top of the stairs, Paul asked leave of the chief captain to address them; which being granted, he beckoned to them with his hand, and when he had obtained silence, accosted them in the Hebrew tongue, recapitulating the most material circumstances of his history, particularly his conversion to the Christian faith ; appealing to the high priest and elders for the truth of what he said; and closing the narrative with stating the commission be had received from Jesus Christ, to go and preach the gospel to the Gentiles. The very mention of this was enough for these Jews. Hitherto they had listened to him patiently, but no sooner bad he spoken of his commission to the Gentiles, than they became outrageous, exclaiming, “Away with such a fellow from the earth; it is not fit that he should live:"* on saying which, they rent off their clothes and threw dust into the air.
Lysias, in all probability, understood nothing of what Paul had spoken in Hebrew; but seeing the effects which his speech had produced upon the Jews, and that they were driven to frenzy by it, he concluded that certainly he must be some notorious malefactor, and, therefore, commanding him to be brought into the castle, he was preparing to have recourse to the Roman custom of extorting a confession from his own lips, by means of torture,-one method of which was by binding the person to a pillar and severely scourging him. +
When the soldiers had stripped Paul, and were extending his arms to the utmost stretch, that they might bind him with thongs to the pillar, he enquired from the centurion, whether it were lawful for him to scourge a freeman of Rome, before he was convicted of any crime? The officer, upon receiving this hint, that the apostle was
• Acts xxii. 1-22. + See Suetonius' Life of Augustus, ch. 19. Tacit. Annals, b. 15. ch. 56, 57. Joseph. Antiq. b. 16. ch. 10. 2—5.
a Roman citizen, desisted from his purpose, and apprised the chief captain of the fact, who interrogating Paul, and finding that he was free born, began to regret what he had done, and liberated him from his bonds.
On the following day the apostle was brought before the Jewish Sanhedrim, with the view of having his conduct investigated before that great national council. When placed in the midst, he surveyed the assembly with earnestness and composure, and was proceeding to renew his vindication before them, but the first sentence he uttered provoked the high priest, who commanded the by-standers to smite him on the mouth. Paul complained of this as an unjust procedure on the part of his judges : probably he was not aware whence the order to smite him originated; at any rate, he was not apprised that it came from the high priest, whose office was then become quite a marketable commodity, and in which the Romans were of course making frequent changes. The apostle, however, recalled his words, and apologized for them; but continuing to look round upon the council, and perceiving that one part of them were Pharisees and the other Sadducees, he made an appeal to the former, that he had been one of their sect, and that he was now called to answer for the hope which he had of a resurrection from the dead,-a doctrine wholly denied by the latter. A contention immediately arose between the two parties, and the Sanhedrim became divided. In this state of confusion, the chief captain, fearing Paul might be sacrificed between them, ordered a company of soldiers to go down and take him by force, and bring him into the castle.
In the ensuing night the Lord Jesus appeared in vision to his servant, encouraging him to “ be of good cheer,” and telling him, that as he had borne witness of him in Jerusalem, he must now also do the same at VOL. I.
Rome. A conspiracy was formed among forty of the Jews, the next morning to put him to death ; "they
, bound themselves by a curse,” that they would peither eat nor drink till that object was accomplished. The stratagem, however, failed; the plot was defeated. Paul's sister's son got intimation of it, and conveyed it to his uncle, who called one of the centurions of the garrison, desiring him to introduce the young man to Lysias, the tribune, he having something to communicate to him. Paul's nephew developed the whole plot to Lysias, who enjoining upon him the utmost secrecy, immediately gave orders for an escort of two hundred soldiers, with the same number of spearmen, and seventy horsemen, to be got ready against nine o'clock at night, and also to provide a horse for Paul to ride upon to Cæsarea, to which place he was accordingly conveyed in safety, with a letter from Lysias to the Roman governor there, explaining the reasons of the whole procedure.
Felix was at this time governor of Cæsarea; and Lysias, having now transferred the whole affair between Paul and his adversaries to his jurisdiction, he ordered the high priest and some others of the Sanhedrim to appear before him in five days, which they did, accompanied by Tertullus, an advocate or Roman orator, who was to lay Paul's crimes before the governor. When the day arrived, the apostle was brought into court, and the orator, in a pompous speech, interspersed with flattering compliments to Felix, accused him vehemently of being a pestilent fellow, an exciter of seditions among the Jews everywhere, a ring-leader of the sect of the Nazarenes, who had profaned their holy temple, and that they would have judged bim according to the Jewish law, had they not been prevented by the conduct of Lysias, who took him out of their hands; to the truth of all which the Jews gave their assent.