« AnteriorContinua »
"But now I go unto Jerusalem, to minister unto the saints; for it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem." Rom. xv. 25, 26.
In this quotation three distinct circumstances are stated a contribution in Macedonia for the relief of the Christians of Jerusalem, a contribution in Achaia for the same purpose, and an intended journey of St. Paul to Jerusalem. These circumstances are stated as taking place at the same time, and that to be the time when the epistle was written. Now let us inquire whether we can find these circumstances elsewhere; and whether, if we do find them, they meet together in respect of date. Turn to the Acts of the Apostles, chap. xx. ver. 2, 3, and you read the following account: "When he had gone over those parts (viz. Macedonia), and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, and there abode three months; and when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he proposed to return through Macedonia." From this passage, compared with the account of St. Paul's travels given before, and from the sequel of the chapter, it appears that upon St. Paul's second vi sit to the peninsula of Greece, his intention was, when he should leave the country, to proceed from Achaia directly by sea to Syria; but that to avoid the Jews, who were lying in wait to intercept him in his route, he so far changed his purpose as to go back through Macedonia, embark at Philippi, and pursue his voyage from thence towards Jerusalem. Here therefore is a journey to Jerusalem; but not a syllable of any contribution. And as St. Paul had taken several journeys to Jerusalem before, and one also immediately after his first visit into the peninsula of Greece (Acts xviii. 21.), it cannot from hence be collected in which of these visits the epistle was written, or, with certainty, that it was written in either. The silence of the historian, who professes to have been with St. Paul at the time (xx. 6.) concerning any contribution, might lead us to look out for some different journey, or might induce us perhaps to question the consistency of the two records, did not a very accidental re
ference, in another part of the same history, afford us sufficient ground to believe that this silence was omission. When St. Paul made his reply before Felix, to the accusations of Tertullus; he alleged, as was natural, that neither the errand which brought him to Jerusalem, nor his conduct whilst he remained there, merited the calumnies with which the Jews had aspersed him." Now after many years (i. e. of absence) I came to bring alms to my nation and offerings; whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude nor with tumult, who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had aught against me." Acts xxiv. 17-19. This mention of alms and offerings certainly brings the narrative in the Acts nearer to an accordancy with the epistle; yet no one, I am persuaded, will suspect that this clause was put into St. Paul's defence, either to supply the omission in the preceding narrative, or with any view to such accordancy.
After all, nothing is yet said or hinted concerning the place of the contribution; nothing concerning Macedonia and Achaia. Turn therefore to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. xvi. ver. 1-4, and you have St. Paul delivering the following directions : "Concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye; upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever you shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem; and if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me." In this passage we find a contribution carrying on at Corinth, the capital of Achaia, for the Christians of Jerusalem: we find also a hint given of the possibility of St. Paul going up to Jerusalem himself, after he had paid his visit into Achaia: but this is spoken of rather as a possibility than as any settled intention; for his first thought was, "Whomsoever you shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality to Jerusalem :" and in the sixth verse he adds, "That ye may bring me on my journey whither so
ever I go." This epistle purports to be written after St. Paul had been at Corinth; for it refers throughout to what he had done and said amongst them whilst he was there. The expression, therefore, "when I come," must relate to a second visit; against which visit the contribution spoken of was desired to be in readiness.
But though the contribution in Achaia be expressly mentioned, nothing is here said concerning any contribution in Macedonia. Turn, therefore, in the third place, to the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. viii. ver. 1-4, and you will discover the particular which remains to be sought for: "Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that, in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality: for to their power, I bear record, yea and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves; praying us, with much entreaty, that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints." To which add, chap. ix. ver. 2.: "I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago." In this epistle we find St. Paul advanced as far as Macedonia, upon that second visit to Corinth which he promised in his former epistle; we find also in the passages now quoted from it, that a contribution was going on in Macedonia at the same time with, or soon however following, the contribution which was made in Achaia; but for whom the contribution was made does not appear in this epistle at all: that information must be supplied from the first epistle.
Here therefore, at length, but fetched from three dif ferent writings, we have obtained the several circumstances we inquired after, and which the Epistle to the Romans brings together, viz. a contribution in Achaia for the Christians of Jerusalem; a contribution in Macedonia for the same; and an approaching journey of St. Paul to Jerusalem. We have these circumstances -each by some hint in the passage in which it is mentioned, or by the date of the writing in which the passage occurs-fixed to a particular time; and we have
that time turning out upon examination, to be in all the same; namely, towards the close of St. Paul's second visit to the peninsula of Greece. This is an instance of conformity beyond the possibility, I will venture to say, of random writing to produce. I also assert, that it is in the highest degree improbable that it should have been the effect of contrivance and design. The imputation of design amounts to this: that the forger of the Epistle to the Romans inserted in it the passage upon which our observations are founded, for the purpose of giving colour to his forgery by the ap pearance of conformity with other writings which were then extant. I reply, in the first place, that, if he did this to countenance his forgery, he did it for the purpose of an argument which would not strike one reader in ten thousand. Coincidences so circuitous as this answer not the ends of forgery; are seldom, I believe, attempted by it. In the second place I observe, that he must have had the Acts of the Apostles, and the two epistles to the Corinthians, before him at the time. In the Acts of the Apostles (I mean that part of the Acts which relates to this period), he would have found the journey to Jerusalem; but nothing about the contribution. In the First Epistle to the Corinthians he would have found a contribution going on in Achaia for the Christians of Jerusalem, and a distant hint of the pos sibility of the journey; but nothing concerning a contribution in Macedonia. In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians he would have found a contribution in Macedonia accompanying that in Achaia; but no intimation for whom either was intended, and not a word about the journey. It was only by a close and attentive collation of the three writings, that he could have picked out the circumstances which he has united in his epistle; and by a still more nice examination, that he could have determined them to belong to the same period. In the third place, I remark, what diminishes very much the suspicion of fraud, how aptly and connectedly the mention of the circumstances in question, viz. the journey to Jerusalem, and of the occasion of that journey, arises from the context, "Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you; for I
trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. But now I go unto Jerusalem; to minister unto the saints; for it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily, and their debtors they are; for, if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed them to this fruit, I will come by you into Spain." Is the passage in italics like a passage foisted in for an extraneous purpose? Does it not arise from what goes before, by a junction as easy as any example of writing upon real business can furnish? Could any thing be more natural than that St. Paul, in writing to the Romans, should speak of the time when he hoped to visit them; should mention the business which then detained him ; and that he purposed to set forwards upon his journey to them, when that business was completed?
By means of the quotation which formed the subject of the preceding number, we collect, that the Epistle to the Romans was written at the conclusion of St. Paul's second visit to the peninsula of Greece; but this we collect, not from the epistle itself, nor from any thing declared concerning the time and place in any part of the epistle, but from a comparison of circumstances referred to in the epistle, with the order of events recorded in the Acts, and with references to the same circumstances, though for quite different purposes, in the two epistles to the Corinthians. Now would the author of a forgery, who sought to gain credit to a spurious letter by congruities, depending upon the time and place in which the letter was supposed to be written, have left that time and place to be made out in a manner so obscure and indirect as this is? If therefore coincidences of circumstances can be pointed out in this epistle, depending upon its date, or the place where it was written, whilst that date and place are only as