Изображения страниц

have joined Barnabas at Cyprus, whither he had gone after the apostolic council,* and accompanied him to Jerusalem. Nor is the omission of all mention of Barnabas upon this occasion by Luke any great difficulty, for when the historian has told us almost nothing, it was not likely he would tell us that. There is one other circumstance which strongly favours Dr. Wieseler's view. Paul alludes to a certain occasion on which he had felt it his duty to administer an open rebuke to Peter on account of the inconsistency of his conduct. This is mentioned in close connection with the visit to Jerusalem,† and the language of the apostle clearly implies that Peter's fault consisted in the violation of principles to which he had already given his consent, and on which he had begun to act. Now these principles involved the abolition of all distinctions between Jew and Gentile. For what was Peter's offence? He had, it appeared, eaten with Gentiles at Antioch; but when certain of the more strictly Judaic party had come down from Jerusalem, he had changed his practice, through subserviency to their prejudices, and withdrawn from Gentile communion. Now it is quite inconceivable that Peter should have thus acted in direct opposition to the apostolic decrees immediately after he had himself given his sanction to them, nor would Paul have expected him to do so. And, indeed, this transaction at Antioch is generally referred to Acts xviii. 22, even by those who maintain the identity of the events described in Acts xv. 1-29, with those recorded in Gal. ii. 1-10. The words of the apostle, however, do not seem to us to admit of any long interval of time being supposed to have elapsed between verses 10 and 11 of Gal. ii., and hence it becomes necessary to push forward Paul's journey to a period immediately preceding the dissension in Antioch. In addition to these reasons for holding the identity of Gal. ii. 1-10 and Acts xviii. 22, Dr. Wieseler thinks that the same result may be derived also from the chronology of the Acts. He proves that Paul's conversion took place in the year 40 A.D., and his fourth visit to Jerusalem in the year 54, which would correspond with the statement of the apostle in Gal. ii. 1. Into this difficult question, however, we have left ourselves no space to enter.

The only serious difficulty in the way of the adoption of this view is the same which stands in the way of those critics who, with Neander and Lechler, assume that Gal. ii. refers to the date of the apostolic council, and maintain that while the historian has recorded that event which seemed of most public interest, the apostle has confined himself to the details of a private transaction, viz. the omission by Paul of all reference to so important a fact as the meeting of the council. But although this omission would be quite unaccountable in the one case, it does not follow that it may not be perfectly intelligible in the other. Paul could not have passed this event in total silence had he been referring to that visit to the Jewish metropolis during which it took place. But there was no necessity for his alluding to that visit at all, if nothing occurred at the time to throw light upon his apostolic commission. The apostle does not propose to give the Galatians a history of all his meetings with the leaders of the Hebrew Christians, but merely to bring forward such facts as will serve to vindicate his own independence and equal authority; and it is certain, in any case, that he passes in silence two out of four journeys to Jerusalem, for the epistle to the Galatians was not written till after the fourth mentioned in the Acts. It was not therefore essential to his purpose to state that the elder apostles had at one time imposed certain limitations upon the gospel of the uncircumcision, and that he had himself given thereto his sanction,-facts which the Galatians would be sure to have heard from their false teachers. All that he wished to prove was, that the Jerusalem church had at length given its full sanction to a gospel untrammelled by any fetters,—to such a gospel as had from the first been communicated to the people of Galatia,—and for this he needed only to refer to the visit to Jerusalem preceding the composition of the epistle.

† Gal. ii. 11-14.

* Acts xv. 39.

We have left ourselves but little space in which to state precisely our view of the composition and historical value of the book of Acts, and to offer the one or two suggestions we had intended towards a more impartial treatment of the subject than it has yet received. The materials for such a treatment of it are overwhelming in their abundance; but there is required some one who will handle them at the same time fearlessly and skilfullysome one who has no special theory to support, and who will accept such results as appear to have truth on their side, without regard to the school from which they proceed. While, on the one hand, the writers of the Tübingen school have perhaps allowed themselves sometimes to be carried into extravagances which, had they been less eager in the pursuit of one idea, they might have avoided; on the other, there can be little doubt that the critics of the present reactionary school of theology in Germany have committed the error of rejecting all the results which their opponents, by means of a criticism as searching as it is ingenious, have obtained. On the whole, it seems to us that the unhistorical character of the early chapters of the Acts is made out as clearly as any thing can be. But because the story of Ananias and Sapphira is a fable, it does not follow that the account of the council at Jerusalem must be equally so, any more



than it would be just to deny the correctness of Livy's history of the second Punic war, because it has been proved that his account of regal Rome is little better than a romance.

It is our opinion that, while the events immediately following the resuscitation of Christianity are wrapped in impenetrable darkness, with the murder of Stephen and the appearance of Saul the sunny rays of genuine history begin to stream into our eyes. Clouds, however, here and there descend upon the scene, and once more involve certain portions of it in darkness; and though we may concede the fact of Paul having preached on the Areopagus, we cannot on that account guarantee the earthquake at Philippi. Nor, as before intimated, would we undervalue the importance of that remarkable phenomenon, the use of the "we," occurring for the first time in connection with Paul's first visit to Macedonia, nor deny that it assures us of the testimony of an eyewitness for some of the events recorded. Yet it is disappointing to find that these events, unless we except, as is perhaps possible, the noble farewell to the Ephesians, are just the least interesting; for assuredly we should rather have known on such authority what happened to Paul on his last visit to Jerusalem than that, on his journey thither, he went “with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara.” As to the discourses occurring in the work, we have already expressed our opinion, and we have now only to remark that the composition of speeches for the principal persons appearing on the scene formed a necessary part of historical composition in ancient times; and the historian of the primitive church would very naturally follow the precedent of Xenophon and Thucydides, with whose writings it is impossible he should have been wholly unacquainted. We should, however, expect each discourse to have grown out of some germ of reality, except when this may be excluded by other circumstances.

Another thing - and this is the last remark we can allow ourselves—which we consider established beyond all reasonable doubt by the Tübingen critics, is the existence of a design in the book of Acts to reconcile divergent lines of thought, and to give a modified representation of the opposition between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. Such a design, however, it ought not to be forgotten, might co-exist with truthfulness on the part of the historian, and, at least partially, with a trustworthy narrative of facts. We have no hesitation in thinking that some facts unfavourable to that view of the church which it was the writer's aim to put forward have been omitted, and that others have received a peculiar colouring, which imparted to them such a meaning as would tend to aid the design of the work. But there has probably been no further departure from

truth, for the sake of the design, than this. What, however, are we to say to those remarkable parallels between Peter and Paul which we have noticed at some length? We venture to propose the following explanation of the phenomenon: That two parties, one of which would claim Peter and the other Paul as its head, existed in the church from a very early period, is what no one denies. Now each of these two parties would naturally seize upon and retain in mind whatever facts or fictions would redound to the credit of its favourite apostle. A rivalry in this respect would spring up between the two. Each would be eager to match with some corresponding statement whatever was urged by the other in behalf of its own apostle's superiority. Thus the parallels between Peter and Paul found in the Acts might have come into existence spontaneously, and gradually worked themselves into the tradition of Christendom. The historian of the church, writing in the Pauline interest, and anxious not to be unjust to the opposite party, would follow tradition in setting down whatever he heard in regard to either of the chief actors in his narrative; and thus the existence of these parallels does not in the least compromise his historic fidelity, and may, indeed, have been but half present to his consciousness. On the authorship of the Acts we forbear at present to offer any opinion. We will only reiterate, in conclusion, our deep conviction that the highest interests of the Christian faith demand the freest spirit of historical criticism,-a criticism neither destructive nor apologetic in tone, but strictly and impartially directed to the minute examination of every apparent inconsistency, and the fullest consideration of the apparent bias of the historian.



A Bill further to amend the Laws relating to the Representation of

the People in England and Wales. Ordered by the House of

Commons to be printed, March 1, 1860. We have too long been ardent and earnest Reformers not to receive Lord John Russell's new Bill with grief, disappointment, and dismay. Year after year, Number after Number, when few other organs of public opinion cared to discuss a question about which the public was so utterly indifferent, we have endeavoured to bring the country to an adequate conception of the great work to be done, and the true means of doing it at once with justice and with safety. With the most patient and anxious perseverance we have pointed out to half-shut eyes and scarcely-listening ears what was due alike to the existing constitution and to the working classes who sought entrance within its pale, though all the while conscious that our voice was as that of one crying in the wilderness. And now we are answered by a measure which we are compelled to characterise as simply the vulgarest ever proposed by a great minister to a great nation as the settlement of a great question. It is a measure based upon no principle, embodying no securities, affirming no rights, fixing no landmarks. It neither recognises the claim of all the working classes to the franchise, nor confers the franchise solely on the qualified among them. It does not even attempt at once to give them their fair share of electoral power, and to prevent that share from becoming unfair and preponderant. It admits in effect and by implication the claims of congregated numbers, but shrinks from conceding them in full. It simply, and by the speech of its author avowedly, endeavours by a mere anxious gaze at figures to do enough to satisfy radical demands without ostensibly destroying the existing system. It discards all new ideas, all variety of franchises, all security for the representation of minorities, though declaring that representation to be right and needful. In a word, its undisguised object is to shelve the question, not to settle it,-to dispose of its embarrassments by compromise, not by justice, - by giving to every man the half of what he asks, instead of the whole of what he ought to have. Yet we suppose it will pass; and a few considerations will explain the disreputable “reason why."

The present position of the Reform question is full of deep reproach to the morality of our public men, and of terrible augury for the future of our nation. The causes to which it must be traced, and the consequences which it must entail, are alike discreditable and disquieting. To state the case in the plainest possible form and the fewest possible words:- Parliament is preparing to pass a Bill of a clearly democratic tendency, though five-sixths of both Houses notoriously and in their hearts know it to be uncalled for, and believe it to be mischievous. They are about to do this, though conscious that it is a false step, and more especially that it is a step which cannot be retraced; and they are about to do it in avowed redemption of a pledge exacted by constituents, the great majority of whom regret that it was ever demanded or ever given, and who, as well as their representatives, make no secret of their sentiments on this head, “ whenever reporters are shut out, and there is no occasion for humbug.” With its heart heavy and its eyes open, in defiance of the traditions of the past, full of fears for the future, with the


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »