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
Section 5: Opposition Made to It by the Apostles and Their Disciples
Thus indefensible and deplorable, in the eyes even of his own dependents,—it may be imagined in what light the invasion presented itself at Jerusalem, to those who found themselves so cruelly menaced by it.
At the first place, at which, after a voyage of some length, they landed on their way to Judea,—they found the alarm already spread. This place was Tyre:
At Ptolemais, on the road from Tyre to Jerusalem, they stayed but one day,(Acts 21:7.) not long enough, it should seem, for any fresh marks of opposition to this enterprise to manifest themselves.
Continuing their approach to the metropolis, the next day they came to Cæsarea, Acts 21:4, "The house," then "entered into," was that of Philip, there styled the Evangelist, one of the seven trustees, who, under the name, rendered in the English translation by that of Deacon, at the recommendation of the Apostles, had been chosen by universal suffrage, for the management of the pecuniary affairs of the Church. Here they took up their quarters: and here a fresh scene awaited them.
In the person of a man, whose name was Agabus, the Apostles and their associates had found, as we have seen, an agent of approved talents, and usefulness: to him they had been indebted, for the most important service, of a temporal nature, which the history of the church in those days furnishes:—the supply of money already received, as above mentioned, from the first-born daughter of the church—the church of Antioch, in Syria. At this place, Cæsarea, as a last resource, this same Agabus, or another, was, as it should seem, dispatched to meet—at any rate did meet—the self-appointed Apostle in his way; and, in the character of a prophet, for so this Agabus is styled, strained every nerve, in the endeavour to divert the invader from the so anxiously apprehended purpose.
Whoever he was, employed on this occasion, but employed in vain, were all the treasures of his eloquence. The Holy Ghost was once more, and by name, set in array against Paul's Lord Jesus. The powers of verbal and oral eloquence were not thought sufficient: action—and not only of that sort which, in the eyes of Demosthenes, was an object of such prime importance, but even pantomime—was employed in aid. Acts 21:11. As to argument—fear in the bosom of the Church, for a life so precious, was the only one, which the skill of the orator could permit him to employ: as to fear for their own sakes, and resentment for the injury which they were predestinated to suffer,—these were passions, too strongly felt to be avowed.
Supposing the Agabus mentioned on this occasion, to be the same Agabus as he who was mentioned on the occasion of the apprehended dearth—supposing this to be he—and no reason presents itself in favour of the contrary supposition—well known indeed must he have been to Paul, since it was by his means that Paul was indebted for the opportunity of paying, to Jerusalem, that second visit of his, from which, as we have seen, so little fruit was reaped.
The singular circumstance here is, the manner, in which, on this second occasion, mention is made of this name—Agabus: "a certain prophet, named Agabus."(Acts 21:10.) Whether this was, or was not, the same as the former Agabus,—this mode of designation presents itself as alike extraordinary. If he was the same,—in that case, as, by the addition of the adjunct "a certain prophet," a sort of cloud is thrown over his identity,—so, by so simple an expedient as that of the non-insertion of these redundant words, the clouds would have been dispelled. If he was not the same,—so expressive being the circumstances, by which identity stands indicated—namely, the quarter from whence the same; the quarter to which the same; the importance of the mission, and the demand for talents and influence, in both cases so great; on this supposition, to prevent misconception, no less obvious than urgent was the demand, for some mark of distinction, to be added on this second occasion: in a word, for that sort of mark of distinction, which, on other occasions; may, in this same history, be seen more than once employed: witness that John, twice distinguished by the name of John, whose surname was Mark.(Acts 22:25, ib. 25:37.)
Hence a suspicion, nor that an unnatural one—that, in this history, the part, in which the name Agabus occurs for the first time, and the part, in which that same name occurs for the second time, were not the work of the same hand.
With or without the assistance of the Holy Ghost, with the like importunity, though in a tone corresponding to the difference of situation, was a dissuasion, to the same effect, added, with one voice, by the adherents, of whom the suite of the self-appointed Apostle was composed, and by all the other Christians then present. The author of Acts says,
The Holy Ghost, whom all the rest of the Church had for their advocate, was no equal match for the Holy Ghost whom Paul had for his adviser.
Paul die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus? He, Paul, this self-constituted Apostle, who, upon his own showing, had never seen Jesus? for the name of Jesus, forsooth, die at Jerusalem? at that Jerusalem, at which the indisputable Apostles had been, and continued to be, living and labouring, in the service of that same holy name, each of them, or they are much misrepresented, not less ready and willing, both to live and upon occasion to die for it, than he could be? Was it then really to die for the name of Jesus? was it not rather to live? to live for his own name, for his own glory, for his own profit, and for the pleasure of depriving of their flock those shepherds of souls, by whom his pretensions had been disallowed, his glory disbelieved, his advances received with that distrust and jealousy, for which the long and bitter experience they had had of him, afforded so amply sufficient a warrant? men, in whose eyes, though in the clothing of a shepherd, he was still a wolf?
What was he to die for? By whose hands was he to die? By no danger, since he had ceased to be their declared persecutor, had any Christians, in their character of Christians, whether disciples or preachers, then, or at any time, been menaced;51 of no such danger, at any rate, is any, the slightest, intimation ever to be found: if any danger awaited him, it was by himself, by his own restless and insatiable ambition, by his own overbearing and ungovernable temper, that it was created. Had he but kept to his agreement; had the whole of the known world, with the single exception of Judea, been wide enough for him: no danger would have awaited him:—he and Jerusalem might have remained in peace.
What service that they could not, could he hope to do to the cause? For doctrine, they had nothing to do but to report the discourses; for proof, the miracles which they had witnessed. To this, what could he add? Nothing, but facts, such as we have seen, out of his own head,—or, at best, facts taken at second hand, or through any number of removes from them,—and, in an infinity of shapes and degrees, travestied in their passage.
In this account, the curious thing is—that upon the face of it, the Holy Ghost of prophet Agabus is mistaken: nothing happened in the manner mentioned by him: for, in the same chapter comes the account of what did happen, or at any rate is, by this same historian, stated as that which happened:—by no Jews is the owner of the girdle bound: dragged by the people out of the temple,—by that same people he is indeed attempted to be killed, but bound he is not: for, with his being bound, the attempt to kill him is not consistent: binding requires mastery, and a certain length of time, which killing does not: a single blow from a stone may suffice for it.
As to the Jews delivering him unto the hands of the Gentiles,—it is by the Gentiles that he is delivered out of the hands of the Jews: of the Jews, the endeavour was—to deprive him of his life; of the Gentiles, to save it.
51 King Herod is indeed spoken of as having