Chapter 4: Paul Disbelieved Continued. First of His Four Visits to Jerusalem After His Conversion—Say Jerusalem Visit I. or Reconciliation Visit.—Barnabas Introducing Him From Antioch to the Apostles
Section 2: Grounds of Paul's Prospect of Reconciliation on this Occasion with the Apostles and their Disciples
On this head, in addition to, and in explanation of, the sort of narrative given in the Acts,—information, of the most instructive and impressive stamp, may be seen furnished by himself: at the head of it, may be placed that, which may be seen in his Epistle to his Galatian converts.
At Jerusalem was the board-room in which sat the Council of the Apostles: of those men, to whom their bitterest enemies would not, any more than their disciples and adherents, have refused the appellation of constant companions and selected disciples of the departed Jesus. To them was known, everything that, in relation to Jesus, was known to any one else: and moreover, in unlimited abundance, particulars not capable of being known by any one else.
As to Paul, let us suppose him now a believer in Jesus; and, on this supposition, note what could not but have been the state of his mind, with relation to those select servants of Jesus.
In them he beheld the witnesses—not only of the most material and characteristic acts and sayings of their Master, but of his death, and its supernatural consequences—the resurrection and ascension, with which it had been followed.
In them he beheld—not only the witnesses of his miracles, but a set of pupils, to whom such powers of working the like miracles—such miraculous powers, in a word, as it had pleased him to impart,—had been imparted.
In their labours, he beheld the causes of whatsoever prosperity, he found the society, established by them, in possession of.
In himself, he beheld the man, who, with such distinguished acrimony and perseverance, had done his utmost, for the destruction of that society, into which, for the purposes, indication of which has been so clearly given by his own pen, he was preparing to intrude himself.
To form an ostensible cause for his intrusion,—in addition to such information, as, by means of his persecution, it had happened to him to extract from those whom he had been persecuting, what, on his part, had he?—He had his own learning, his own talents, his own restless and audacious temper, and the vision he had got up:—the baseless fabric of that vision, a view of which has just been given.
Of the representation thus given of the matter,—whether we take his own account of it, or that of the Acts,—suppose the truth to rest upon no other ground than this vision, with or without that other vision, which has been seen so slenderly tacked to it, and so strangely inserted into it,—thus slender is the ground, on which we shall find him embarking upon his enterprize,—assuming to himself, without modification or apology, the name of an Apostle,—thrusting himself into the society, and putting himself altogether upon an equality, not to say more than an equality, with the whole company of the men, whose title to that appellation was above dispute:—those of them who, among the chosen, had been the most favoured, not excepted.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
Thus, however indistinctly and incoherently stated, stands the matter, on the surface of both these accounts. On the surface. But, by a little reflection on the nature of the case—the obvious and indisputable nature of the case—as collected from all accounts, as already brought to view in a preceding chapter II, we shall be led to another conception, and the only tenable one.
The plan of worldly ambition—that plan by which we have already seen his outward conversion produced—had been not only formed, but acted upon:—acted upon, during a course of at least three years: of three years, employed at Damascus in preparation,—in Arabia in probation. What remained, and was now become necessary, was—some sort of countenance from the Apostles: from the Apostles, and thence, if possible, from the rest of the then existing Church. Necessary altogether was this countenance for his support: for, to this plan the name of Jesus was essential. It was in that name, that all his operations were to be carried on:—in that name, from the use of which it was to be universally understood, that it was according to directions, and with support, from the departed Jesus, that by this, his newly-enlisted servant, everything was said and done.
In Damascus—yes:—in Damascus, where were the only persons, with whom, for the purpose of his dominion, he could with safety communicate: that is to say, persons, whom his commission from the Jerusalem authorities had placed under his power. In Arabia—yes: where, though he had made no progress of which he saw any advantage in giving any account—he at any rate had not experienced any opposition, of such a sort as to engage him to drop his scheme. In those comparatively distant countries—yes. But, in Jerusalem—the birthplace of Jesus and his religion,—in that metropolis, within which, or the near neighbourhood of it, all the witnesses of its rise and progress—all the proselytes, that had been made to it, were collected,—and from whence, and to which, the votaries of that religion, out of which it had sprung, would be continually flocking from all quarters;—in this place, for a man, known so notoriously to them all as a persecutor, in whose scheme of persecution they had all of them been involved,—for such a man to have, all on a sudden, begun preaching and acting, in the name of that Jesus, whom, to use his own language, he had persecuted—such an enterprise as this, which, even with the utmost support which it was in their power to give, would have been audacity, would, without some sort of countenance from them,—have been downright madness.
To perfect success it was necessary, that not only these shepherds of the Church pasture, but, through them the whole flock, should thus be brought under management. So far as regarded those same rulers, we shall find him, in a certain degree,—and even, with reference to his purpose, in a sufficient degree,—successful. But, with reference to the Disciples in general, and to all those rulers but three,—it will be seen to have completely failed.
Circumstanced as he was, to those rulers alone, was it possible for him to have addressed himself, with any the smallest hope. To any assembly of the faithful at large, to have repaired with no better recommendation than his vision story,—even with Barnabas, ready, as we shall see, to take him by the hand,—would have been plainly hopeless. Not less so would it have been—to present himself to the Apostles,—if, in support of such proposition as he had to make,—nothing more apposite, nothing to them in their situation more credible, than this same vision story,—had been capable of being produced. On them, therefore, the case seems already pretty well ripe for the conclusion, that, no such story was ever attempted to be passed. But, setting aside that aërial argument,—inducements of a more substantial nature, such as we shall find brought to view by Paul himself, were neither on this occasion wanting,—nor could, at any time, have been out of the view of that same Barnabas, whom we shall see appearing so often, in the character of his generous patron and steady friend. "On this plan, might Barnabas say to them,—On this plan, which he has chalked out for himself, he will be acting—not only not in opposition to, but even in furtherance of, your wishes and endeavors. Grecian as he is,—skilled in that language, and that learning, which serves a man as a passport through the whole of the Gentile world,—it is to that world that his labours will confine themselves; a field surely ample enough for the most comprehensive views. To you he will leave,—and leave certainly without privation, and therefore naturally without regret,—that field, of which you are already in possession,—and, by the boundaries of which, your means of convenient culture are circumscribed."
"On this plan,—not only will your exertions remain unimpeded, but the influence of the name of Jesus—that name, on the influence of which those same exertions are so materially dependent for their success,—will, in proportion to Paul's success, be extended."
In a discourse, to this effect, from the generous and enlightened mediator,—may be seen the natural origin of that agreement, which, further on in its place, under the name of the partition treaty, there will be occasion to bring, in a more particular manner, under review.
But, what is little less evident, than the propriety and prudence of this plan, viewed at least in the point of view in which it might not unnaturally be viewed by Barnabas, is—the impossibility, of coming forward, with any tolerable prospect of success, with any such plan in hand, in presence of a vast and promiscuous assemblage. To engage, on the part of any such assemblage, not to say any steady confidence, but any the slightest hope,—that, from an enemy even to death, the same man would become a partner and assistant,—would require a most particular and protracted exposition, of all those facts and arguments, which the requisite confidence would require for its support:—a detail, which no such assembly would so much as find time to listen to, were it possible for it to find patience.
Even in the case of the Apostles themselves,—taking the whole council of them together, the nature of the plan, it will be seen, admitted not of any successful negotiation. Accordingly, to the chief of them alone, to wit, to Peter, was it so much as the intention of Paul to make any communication of it in the first instance: and, in the whole length of the intercourse, such as it was, that he kept up with, them—in all the four visits, in the course of which that intercourse was kept up—being a period of not less than twenty-five years, to wit, from the year 35 to the year 60,—with no more than three of the eleven, will he be seen so much as pretending to have had any personal interview: they not seeing him, except when they could not avoid it; and the others never seeing him at all.