Jesus's Words

Chapter 13: Paul's Supposable Miracles Explained

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Section 6: Supposable Miracle V.—at Corinth, Paul comforted by the Lord in an unseen Vision, A.D. 54—Acts 18:7-11

A vision, being a species of miracle, could, no more than a pantomime, have place without some expense. In the present case, as in any other, a natural question is—What was the object to be accomplished, upon which the expense—whatever it was—was bestowed? The answer is—The keeping his attendants, whoever they were, in the necessary state of obsequiousness: for no other is perceptible. To the dependants in Paul's train, it was no very uncommon sentiment to be not quite so well satisfied with the course he took, as he himself was. Corinth was at this time the theatre of his labours: of the men, whoever they were, who had staked their fortunes upon his, some,—the historiographer, as it should seem, of the number,—there were, whose wish it was to change the scene. In that Gentile city,—the chief ruler of the Jewish synagogue, Crispus by name—this man, besides another man, of the name of Justus, "whose house joined hard to" that same synagogue, had become his converts: and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.Acts 18:8b Eyes, however, there were, in which the success, whatsoever it was, was not yet enough to afford a sufficient warrant for his stay. A vision was necessary, and a vision accordingly, or at least a something, which was called by that name, made its appearance. The historiographer says, Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.Acts 18:9-10 Nor was the vision without its effect; for, as the next verse informs us, And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.Acts 18:11

That which, on this occasion, may be believed without much difficulty is, that the word thus taught by Paul was Paul's word: and, that which may be believed with as little, by those, whoever they may be, who believe in his original conversion-vision, is—that it was God's word likewise. From Paul himself must the account of this vision have been delivered to the historiographer: for, unless at the expense of a sort of miracle, in the shape of an additional vision at least, if not in some more expensive shape, no information of any such thing could have reached him. In these latter days, no ghost is ever seen but in a tete-a-tete: in those days, no vision, as far as appears, was ever seen but in the same degree of privacy. A vision is the word in these pages, because such is the word in the authoritative translation made of the historiographer's. That which Paul is related to have heard, is—what we have just seen as above: but that, upon this occasion he saw anything—that he saw so much as a flash of light, this is what we are not told: any more than by what other means he became so well assured, that the voice which he heard, supposing him to have heard a voice, was the Lord's voice. In these latter days,—inquiries, of some such sort as these, would as surely be put, by a counsel who were against the vision,—as, in the case of the Cock-lane Ghost, which gave so much exercise to the faith of the archlexicographer, were put by the counsel who were against the ghost; but, by a sort of general understanding,—than which nothing can be more convenient,—inquiries, such as these,—how strictly soever in season when applied to the 19th century of the vulgar ear, are altogether out of season, as often as they are applied to the commencement of it.

As to the speaking by a vision, the only intelligible way, in which any such thing can really have place, is that, which under the pressure of necessity has been realized by the ingenuity of dramatists in these latter days. Such is the mode employed, when the actors, having been struck dumb by the tyranny of foolish laws, and consequently having no auditors, convey to the spectators what information seems necessary, by an appropriate assortment of gold letters on a silk ground: whether the Lord who, on this occasion, according to Paul, spoke to the eyes of Paul, came provided with any such implement, he has not informed us. Without much danger of error, we may venture to assert the negative: for, if such was the mode of converse, there was nothing but what might happen without sign or wonder: and, on this supposition, no addition was made by it, to those signs and wonders, which, as has been seen, it was his way to make reference to, in the character of evidence.

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