Jesus's Words

Chapter 9: Paul Disbelieved Continued.—Jerusalem Visit IV. and Last Invasion Visit. The Purpose Concealed: Opposition Universal; Among His Own Disciples, and Among Those of the Apostles

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Section 2: The Visit Announced By Paul and Deferred

Ephesus, at which place he had arrived not long after his departure from Corinth, where he had made a stay, as it should seem, of more years than one,45 touching in the way at Cenchrea, where he shaved his head for the performance of a vow—Ephesus is the place, at which, by the author of the Acts, Paul is for the first time made to speak of himself, as harbouring, having in mind the making of this visit: and on that occasion, the visit is spoken of, as being the subject of a settled determination, and in particular as being the time fixed upon by him for the execution of this design. When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will.Acts 18:20-21

As to the keeping of this or any other feast at Jerusalem or at any other place—if it was under any such notion as that of contributing to his own personal salvation by any such Mosaic work, it was an object inconsistent with his own principles—with his own so repeatedly and strenuously advocated principles:—and the like may be said of the head-shaving and the vow, performed by him, at Cenchrea, in his way to Ephesus from Corinth: and moreover, in this last-mentioned instance, more particularly in contradiction with a precept so positively delivered by Jesus, namely, Swear not at all,—if, under swearing, the making of vows is to be understood to be included.

Of this design, the next intimation which occurs in the Acts, is in the next chapter, After these things were ended,Acts 19:21a namely, the discomfiture of the exorcists, and the burning of the books of curious arts at Ephesus,— Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.Acts 19:21b

Fortunate it is for the credit—either of the spirit, or of Paul, or of the author of the Acts, that it was on this second occasion only, and not on the first, that it was in the spirit that he proposed to go to Jerusalem by the then next feast: for, notwithstanding the "must" and the "by all means,"—so it is, that between those his two determinations as above, no less a space of time than two years is stated as elapsing, on one occasion, at one and the same place.46 And this place—what was it? it was Ephesus: the same place, at which, on his departure from it, the first determination was declared: after which, and before this his second visit to Ephesus,—he is represented as having visited Cæsarea and Antioch.

The next mention, is that which occurs in the next chapter. Paul, we are there told, being then at Miletus, Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.Acts 20:16

At Miletus it is, that he sends for, and receives, from Ephesus, a number of his adherents in that place. Upon their arrival, he is represented as making a formal speech to them: and now, he not merely proposes in the spirit, as before, but is "bound in the spirit," to go thither.47 Vain would be the attempt to ascertain, with any approach to exactness, the interval of time, during which the operation of the spirit remained in a sort of suspense between purpose and obligation: it may have been months, only: it may have been years.

While, by one spirit, Paul was thus urged on, every now and then, towards Jerusalem;—by the same spirit, or by another spirit, he was pulled back.48

In the very next verse, Acts 20:22, in which he speaks of his being "bound in the spirit unto" that place, not knowing, as, in his speech, he thereupon adds,—not knowing the things that shall befall me thereActs 20:22—he goes on, and says: But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of GodActs 20:23-24a

To raise, in the breast of Paul, the expectation, that of his proceeding in the course it was his way to take in preaching that religion, to which, from a persecutor, he had, in appearance, become a convert, affliction, in a variety of shapes, might prove to be the fruits,—needed no information from the spirit; if, by receiving information from the spirit, he meant any communication of a supernatural kind—anything beyond information in the ordinary shape;—be the effect—be the purpose, good or bad,—such is the lot, that awaits innovation in the field of politics—the spiritual part included, as well as the temporal—at all places, and all times.

A passage, which now presents itself, helps to show how easily and copiously, out of a few words, written in ancient times, mysteries and miracles have been manufactured in modern times. In Acts 20:22, we have seen Paul, "bound in the spirit," as he is made to assure us, to go unto Jerusalem. In the next chapter, 21:4, we find disciples ... who said to Paul, "through the spirit," that he should not go up to Jerusalem. Oh! what a useful word this word spirit! Let a man say plainly and simply, I shall go, or be going, to Jerusalem—or, Don't go to Jerusalem,—his words go for no more than they are worth: in either case, with a proper proposition to introduce it, add the word "spirit," the matter becomes serious. Out of a word or two, you thus add to the Godhead a third person, who talks backward and forward for you, and does for you whatever you please.

At so small a price, even to this day, are manufactured, every day, a sort of verbal miracles, which, as many as are disposed, are welcome to improve into real ones.

To reconcile men to this expedition of Paul's, the spirit was the more necessary,—inasmuch as it was not in his own power, or even in that of any one of his numerous attendants and dependants, to assign so much as one ostensible reason for it.

That, to the advancement of religion—of the religion of Jesus—no such presence of his was necessary;—that no good could result from it;—that much evil could not but result from it;—was obvious to all eyes. Of the original number of the Apostles,—for aught that appears, not less than eleven were still remaining on the spot: men, to every one of whom, all acts and sayings of Jesus were, by memory, rendered so familiar:—men, on the part of some of whom, and, at any rate, on the part of the chief of them, Peter,—there was no want of zeal and activity. While to these men a single city, or, at the utmost, one small region—composed the whole field of exertion—the whole earth besides is left open by them to Paul: still, such is the ravenousness of his ambition, nothing can content him, but he must be intruding himself—thrusting his restless sickle into their ripening harvest.


36 And he continued there a year and six months... And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave.Acts 18:11a, 18a

36 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. Acts 19:10

36 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there.Acts 20:22

36 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.Acts 20:23

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