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A Homiletic Glance at the Acts of the
Able expositions of the Acts OF THE APOSTLES, describing the manners, customs, and localities described by the inspired witers; also interpreting their words, and harmonizing their formal discrepancies, are, happily, not wanting amongst us. But the eduction of its widest truths and highest suggestions is still a felt desideratum. To some attempt at the work we devote these pages. We gratefully avail ourselves of all exegetical helps within our reach; but to occupy our limited space with any lengthened archæological, geographical, or philological remarks, would be to miss our aim; which is not to make bare the mechanical process of the study of Scripture, but to reveal its spiritual results,
SUBJECT : Paul's Final Visit to Jerusalem. (Continued.)
“And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this placo: and further, brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple. And all the city was moved, and the people ran together; and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shạt. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar: who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of. Paul. Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him. And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people."-Acts xxi. 27–39.
AVING noticed the treatment Paul met with by the
evangelical Christians at Jerusalem, we proceed to look at
II. HIS TREATMENT BY THE INTOLERANT JEWS. One might have hoped that Paul's effort to conciliate the Jews by complying with legal ceremonies, would have averted their hostility. But it was not so. Before the “seven days” he was spending in efforts at ceremonial conciliation, were ended, the hostility of the Jews from Asia, who now crowded the temple at the national festival, rose into violent action: “ And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, help.” The narrative here given of their hostility, reveals two subjects.
First. The genius of religious intolerance. Three things come out in the conduct of these Jews which always characterize the spirit of religious intolerance. (1.) Cunning. This is indicated in the watch word they employed to rouse the populace-"Men of Israel, help!” hereby naively intimating that Paul was an enemy to all Israel; that he was the opponent of every Jew, and that all should make a common cause in crushing him. Artifice has ever been the instrument of religious bigotry. Its miserable genius works by inuendo and insinuation. Another characteristic of religious intolerance is, (2.) Falsehood. It fabricates false allegations " This is the man that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place : and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place." Now this was all a spiteful fiction. Did Paul “ teach all men everywhere against the people ?” It is true he often denounced their bigotry, and their exclusiveness, but never a word of his was spoken against their race, and their high distinctions. Did he ever disparage “the law ?" Never. It is true he
often taught that its ceremonies were not binding upon Gentile disciples, nor of eternal obligation even upon the Jew. But he never defamed it, never spoke of it with contempt. In truth, he ever displayed a profound regard for it as a grand, old, and divine institution, the glory of the ancient world. Did he ever speak “against this place”—the temple itself? It is true that he taught that God dwelt not "in temples made with hands," but was to be worshipped everywhere. But never a word did he utter in dishonour of the temple. Did he ever bring “Greeks into the temple, and pollute the holy place"? This would have been a most criminal offence, and one punishable with death. For, although there was a court of the Gentiles within the precincts of the temple, into which Gentiles were allowed admission, their entrance into “ the holy place," or court of the Israelites, was strongly prohibited. Inscriptions were written upon the pillars, prohibiting any bat a Jew to cross the fatal threshold. Philo says it was certain death for any one who was not a Jew to set his foot within the inner courts of the temple. According to a speech which Josephus puts into the mouth of Titus, the Jews were suffered by the Romans themselves to kill even a Roman who guiltily entered this sacred place. But there was no evidence that the apostle ever took a Gentile within the sacred enclosure. The reason they had for the charge was a baseless supposition—“Trophimus," whom they "supposed" that Paul had brought into the temple. They supposed "—they did not know it-they, perhaps, saw Paul walking in the streets with him, and they rushed to the conjecture.
But whilst those charges are so utterly groundless, they bear testimony to three things concerning Paul. 1. His notoriety. “This is the man,” implying that he is well known, and that none in the city requires any further particulars concerning him. This Paul has in a few short years rung his name into the ear of all Israel, and painted his image on the imagination of the Jewish people. These charges bear witness to, (2.) His industry. They state that" he taught all men, everywhere."
Thus, they unwittingly confirmed the apostle's own description of his labours, and also his biographer's account of his marvellous activity. These charges bear witness to, (3.) His power. Their charges imply more than their sense of his notoriety and indefatigability. They testify to his amazing influence over the age and land in which he lived. Had he been an obscure man, and of feeble influence, they would not have spoken or acted as they did. They felt he was not one of the common horde, whom they could easily crush, but a man of such colossal influence as required the force of a whole nation to arrest and confine.
There is yet another characteristic hereof of religious intolerance, (4.) Violence. We are told, they “laid hands on him ;” "they drew him out of the temple ;" “they went about to kill him ;” and, more than this, they scourged him, for, we are told, "they left beating of Paul.” Violence has ever marked the history of religious intolerance. It does not argue, for it lacks an intelligent faith in its own cause. It has, therefore, ever had recourse to fraud and force. The tongue of slander, the arm of law, and the implements of persecution, it substitutes for reason and suasion. The narrative of the hostility reveals
Secondly: The genius of a mob assembly. Men are pretty well the same in all ages. The same classes, under similar circumstances, come out in similar phases. Mobs are the same everywhere, and in all time. The mob gathered in the streets of Jerusalem evinced just those things which mobs show now in Paris, New York, or London. Here is—(1.) Crelulousness. The false cry raised by the Isiatic Jews, and the false charges made, were taken up at once, were accepted at once, without any inquiry. “All the city was moved." Man is naturally a credulous animal. He has a propensity for believing. And this propensity gets intensity in association with numbers. Hence it often turns out that what even a credulous man will not believe when alone, he readily accepts when issuing from the lip of a demagogue in a vast assembly. Men accept creeds in churches which they almost repudiate in private discussion. Mobs are awfully credulous. They will swallow whatever is offered, without testing it by taste, or masticating it by inquiry. . (2.) Senselessness. Why did the people rush forth from their houses, pour along the streets, and crowd about the temple, in one vast and tumultuous mass? What did they know about the charges made against Paul? Nothing. Hence, when the chief captain
came near and demanded to know who Paul was, and what he had done,” some cried one thing, and some another." They had no intelligent account to give. Reason had abdicated the throne : they were the mere creatures of impulse. The mob in the streets of Ephesus on a previous occasion (Acts xix. 32) acted in the same way. Then, also, "some cried one thing and some another, and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.” A sad sight this. A vast multitude of human beings moved not by intelligent motives, but by blind impulse. It is this senselessness that makes the opinions of mobs so worthless, their movements so reckless, and their existence so dangerous. (3.) Contagionableness. So liable were the multitudes to be affected by the iniquitous opinions of those Asiatic Jews that no sooner were they uttered than this contagion was felt through the city. “The people ran together,” and when they came together their hearts surged with the same common passions. Their blood was heated with the same thought, their minds inspired with the same purpose. Their leaders, the bigots, said “Men of Israel help,' and the “people ran together," and “ the multitude of the people followed after, crying, away with him." With all our metaphysical science, how little we know of the many subtle elements by which man influences his fellow. How amazing it hat one man's thought, whether good or bad, may influence a nation, making millions burn with the fire of a common sentiment.
III. HIS TREATMENT BY THE ROMAN AUTHORITY. chief captain of the band" having heard that all Jerusalem