Section 6: Gamaliel—Had He Part In Paul's Plan?
Gamaliel—in the working of this conversion, may it not be that Gamaliel—a person whose reality seems little exposed to doubt—had rather a more considerable share, than the above-mentioned unknown and unknowable Ananias?
Gamaliel was "a doctor of law" Acts 5:34—a person of sufficient note, to have been a member of the council, in which the chief priests, under the presidency of the High Priest, Acts 5:24, took cognizance of the offence with which Peter and his associates had a little before this been charged, on the occasion of their preaching Jesus. Under this Gamaliel, had Paul, he so at least is made to tell us, studied, Acts 22:3. Between Paul and this Gamaliel, here then is a connection: a connection—of that sort, which, in all places, at all times, has existence,—and of which the nature is everywhere and at all times so well understood—the connection between protegé and protector. It was by authority from the governing body, that Paul was, at this time, lavishing his exertions in the persecution of the Apostles and their adherents:—who then so likely, as this same Gamaliel, to have been the patron, at whose recommendation the commission was obtained? Of the cognizance which this Gamaliel took, of the conduct and mode of life of the religionists in question,—the result was favourable.
False Pretences Employed
To the self-constituted Apostle, false pretences were familiar. They were not—they could not have been—without an object. One object was power: this object, when pursued, is of itself abundantly sufficient to call forth such means. But, another object with Paul was money: of its being so, the passages referred to as above, will afford abundant proofs. A man, in whose composition the appetite for money, and the habit of using false pretences are conjoined, will be still more likely to apply them to that productive purpose, than to any barren one. In the character of a general argument, the observations thus submitted, are not, it should seem, much exposed to controversy.
But, of a particular instance, of money obtained by him on a false pretence,—namely, by the pretence of its being for the use of others, when his intention was to convert it to his own use,—a mass of evidence we have, which presents itself as being in no slight degree probative. It is composed of two several declarations of his own,—with, as above referred to, the explanation of it, afforded by a body of circumstantial evidence, which has already been under review: and as, in the nature of the case, from an evil-doer of this sort, evidence to a fact of this sort, cannot reasonably be expected to be frequently observable,—the labour, employed in bringing it here to view, will not, it is presumed, be chargeable, with being employed altogether without fruit.
First, let us see a passage, in the first of his Epistles to his Corinthians, date of it, A.D. 57. In this, we shall see a regularly formed system of money-gathering: an extensive application of it to various and mutually distant countries, with indication given of particular times and places, in which it was his intention to pursue it: also, intimation, of a special charitable purpose, to which it was his professed intention to make application of the produce of it, at a place specified: namely, Jerusalem.
First then comes the passage. A.D. 57:
Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia. And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.
Next let us see a passage in his Epistle to his Romans: date of it, A.D. 58. Here, in two instances, we shall see the success, with which this system was pursued by him: as also a maxim, laid down by him—a maxim, in which the existence of this same system, on his part, is acknowledged: a maxim, in which his hopes of success in the pursuit of it, are declaredly founded.
Romans, A.D. 58:
In the instance in question, money (we see)—of the quantity of course nothing said—is mentioned by him, as being actually in his hands: the purpose, for which it was there,—and to which he would of course be understood to intend applying it,—being also mentioned by him:—applying it, at Jerusalem, to the use of the poor saints. So much for professed intentions. Now then for real ones. Answer, in his own words: that those Gentiles, who by him had been made partakers of his spiritual things, might, as in "duty" bound, "minister" to him, so much the more effectively "in carnal things:" that he, who preached, what he called the Gospel, might, as he had been preaching to his Corinthians also(1st Corinthians 9:14.) be enabled so much the more comfortably to "live by" it.
"The poor saints which are at Jerusalem:"—the poor saints—to wit, not here and there a saint or two, but the whole Christian population living together on a common stock—if now, A.D. 58, they were living, as A.D. 53 they were(Acts 2:44; vi. 1) and, in this particular, from the beginning to the end of the history, no change is mentioned—in Jerusalem—was it in the nature of man, in that state of men and things,—was it in the nature of men and things, that any man, who had any knowledge of their situation, and of the terms on which Paul, from first to last, had been with them, could for a moment have thought of lodging, for their use, any the smallest sum of money in his hands? as well might it be said, at this moment—a man, whose wish it was to convey money to Spain, for the use of the Cortes, would choose the hand of the Duc d'Angouleme to send it by. All this time, there were the Apostles of Jesus—patrons of those same saints: and, anywhere more easily than there, could he be. That, with this money in his hands, among his objects was—the employing more or less of it in the endeavour to form a party there, may not unreasonably be supposed, from what we have seen of that Invasion Visit, by which his designs upon Jerusalem were endeavoured to be carried into effect. For, according to Acts 19:21, already when he was at Ephesus, as above, was it his known design, to try his fortune once more in Jerusalem, and after that in Rome. This may have been among his designs, or not. Be this as it may, this would have been no more than a particular way, of converting the money to his own use.
Not that, if at this time, and for this purpose from even the quarters in question, money had come, as he says it had, there was anything very wonderful in its so doing. As to us indeed we know pretty well what sort of terms he was on, from first to last, with the community in question: we know this, because his historiographer has made us know it. But, as to the people of those same countries respectively,—at their distance from Jerusalem, what, in their situation, might easily enough happen was,—not to have, as to this point, any adequate information till it was too late to profit by it: and, that such would be their ignorance, is a matter, of which he might not less easily have that which, to a man of his daring and sanguine temper, would be a sufficient assurance.
One thing there is, which, on the occasion of any view they took of this subject, may perhaps have contributed to blind their eyes. This is—the fact, of his having actually been concerned, in bringing money to Jerusalem, for a similar purpose, though it must be confessed, not less than fourteen years before this: to wit, from Antioch, as stated in Chapter 5, speaking of that—his second Jerusalem Visit, by the name of the Money-bringing Visit.
But,—what may easily enough have happened, distance in time and place, together considered, is—that to those particulars, which composed no more than the surface of the business, their knowledge was confined: while we, though at the distance of more than seventeen centuries, know more or less of the inside of it,—let into it, as we have been, by the author of the Acts.
As to their arriving sooner or later, at the suspicion, or though it were the discovery, that the money had not, any part of it, reached the hands it was intended for, nor was in any way to do so,—what bar could the apprehension of any such result oppose, to the enterprise, systematic, as we see it was, of the creator of Antichrist? When, to a man, who occupies a certain situation in the eye of the political world, calls for accounts are become troublesome,—Scipio might have informed him, if he had not well enough known of himself, how to answer them.
When a charge made upon you is true—evidence full against you, and none to oppose to it,—fly into a passion, magnify your own excellence—magnify the depravity of your adversaries. This mode, of parrying a charge, is perfectly well understood in our days, nor could it have been much less well understood in Paul's days. As for his adversaries, Paul had a storm in petto at all times ready for them: for the materials, turn to any page of his Epistles: whatever, in this way, he had for rivals,—that and more he could not fail to have for accusing witnesses. To the creator of Antichrist—sower of tares between Pharisees and Sadducees,—whatever were the charges, defence, the most triumphant, could never be wanting: arguments, suited with the utmost nicety, to the taste of judges. He would warn them, against false brethren, and liars, and wolves, and children of Satan, and so forth: he would talk to them, about life and death, and sin and righteousness, and faith and repentance, and this world and that world, and the Lord and resurrection: he would talk backwards and forwards—give nonsense for mystery, and terror for instruction: he would contradict everybody, and himself not less than anybody: he would raise such a cloud of words, with here and there an ignis fatuus dancing in the smoke,—that the judges, confounded and bewildered, would forget all the evidence, and cry out Not Guilty through pure lassitude.
As to us,—the case being now before us, what shall be our verdict? Obtaining money on false pretences is the charge. Guilty shall we say, or not guilty? Obtainment on a certain pretence, is proved by direct evidence—his own evidence: proof, of falsity in the pretence, rests, as it could not but rest, on circumstantial evidence.
One observation more: for another piece of circumstantial evidence has just presented itself: it consists of the utter silence, about the receipt of the money or any particle of it,—when, if there had been any such receipt, occasions there were in such abundance for the mention of it. A.D. 57, in his first to his Corinthians,—there it is, as we have seen, that he urges them to lay by money for him, declaring it is for the saints at Jerusalem; and that on this same errand it is, that he is going to Macedonia,—and that in his way to Jerusalem he will give them another call, to receive, for that same purpose, the intermediate produce of these proposed saving-banks. In his letter to the Romans, written the next year, A.D. 58—written at Corinth,—then it is, that he has already made the said intended money-gathering visit, and with success:—with success not only in Macedonia, as he had proposed, but in Achaia likewise: and, with this money in his hand, and for the purpose of delivering the money to those for whom he obtained it;—for this purpose (he says) it is, that he is at that moment on his way to Jerusalem—the place of their abode. This is in the year A.D. 58. Well then: after this it is, that he takes up his abode at Ephesus. And when, after his contests with the church silversmiths there, he departs from thence, whither does he betake himself? To Jerusalem? No: he turns his back upon Jerusalem, and goes for Macedonia(Acts 20:1.) then into Greece, where he stays three months; and purposes,(Acts 20:3.) to return through Macedonia. A.D. 60, it is, that, for the first time,(Acts 20:16.) any intention of his to visit Jerusalem is declared, he having coveted no man's silver or gold, as his historian,(Acts 20:33.) makes him assure us. When, at length he arrived there, what his reception was, we have seen. Had any of the money been received there, would such as we have seen have been the reception given to the man? When, by the Christians at Jerusalem, Agabus was sent to him, to keep him if possible from coming there,—is it in the nature of things, that they should have already received any of it, or been in any expectation of it? In what passed between him and the Elders, headed by the Apostle James, is any the slightest allusion made to it? When, in Cæsarea, all in tears, Acts 21:12-13, his attendants were striving, might and main, to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem,—did he say anything about the money—the money he had been so long charged with? Oh no; not a syllable: to Jerusalem he is resolved to go indeed: Oh yes: but not the shadow of a reason can he find for going there.
When arrived at Jerusalem, the brethren received him gladly.(Acts 20:17.) The brethren: yes, what adherents he had, would of course receive him gladly, or at least appear to do so. But the money? On their side, was anything said about the money? Not a syllable. Either at this time by his own hand, or any time before, by other hands, had they received this money, or any considerable part of it, could they have received him otherwise than not only gladly, but gratefully?
All the time, the hero was thus employed in money-craving and money-gathering, the historian, let it never be out of mind, was of the party: four years before, A.D. 53, had he been taken into it; yet not any the least hint about these money-matters does he give. So far indeed as regarded what was avowedly for Paul's own use, neither could the receipt nor the craving of the money from their customers, have been unknown to him; for this was what they had to live upon. But the letters his master wrote—wrote to their customers everywhere—letters, in which the demand was made, for the so much more extensive purpose,—of these, so many of which have reached these our times, the contents may to him have easily enough remained a secret: little reason had he to expect, none at all to fear, the exposure,—which now, at the end of more than seventeen centuries, has, at length, been made of them,—confronted, as they may now be, with the particulars he himself has furnished us with.