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§ I. Second Missionary Journey of St. Paul.
AFTER the conferences at Jerusalem Paul made but a short stay at Antioch. He was anxious to visit the Churches which he had founded, and to carry the Gospel into new countries. According to his original plan, Barnabas was to be his companion; but the latter was not willing to separate from Mark, and Paul judged it not reasonable to take with them again the young disciple, who had left them in Pamphylia. He did not wish to have his own liberal views hindered in their manifestation by a timorous comrade, still under the thraldom of Jewish prejudice. A sharp contention followed, and Paul and Barnabas parted. The latter repaired with Mark to the Island of Cyprus, of which he was a native, while Paul returned into Asia Minor, accompanied by Silas. We shall see presently how fresh fellow-laborers joined him as he went. The support of such men, devoted to his person and his doctrine, was very necessary, while he was thus plunging into conflict with the dark depths of paganism. The Apostle could scarcely have undertaken, unaided, the tremendous task of founding Churches and directing their first steps in a path so untrodden. The sense of isolation could not have failed also to weaken his hands, for his heart was as full of tenderness as of courage. His associates threw themselves completely into his work; they shared its responsibility, and acted rather as friends, co-workers, and disciples, than subordinates. They yielded to his influence, but they did not wear it as a yoke. Silas, or Silvanus, who departed from Antioch with Paul, occupied a distinguished position in the Church at Jerusalem. He was one of the delegates who carried to Antioch the resolutions of the conference at Jerusalem; and from this circumstance it may be inferred that he had shown a liberal and conciliatory spirit in the deliberations. He served as a sort of link between the Church at Antioch and the Church at Jerusalem. Through him the latter was therefore directly associated with the work of Paul among the Gentiles. Paul's choice of him as a companion was thus both wise and prudent. Silas remained faithful to this mission of conciliation, for we subsequently find him associated with St. Peter. 1 Peter v, 12.
Paul manifests in this second journey all the great qualities which make him the type of the Christian missionary. Feeble in health, with many infirmities, his bodily strength is soon exhausted, but his zeal never, and his very weakness gives more touching pathos to his appeals. Gal. iv, 14, 15. That voice, broken by suffering, pleads with irresistible accents. He is not merely the great orator; he seeks to win souls one by one, and where words are too weak, he uses the eloquence of tears. Acts xx, 19, 20. He preaches the Gospel with equal earnestness to the poor and unlearned, to the proconsul and the king; and employs as persuasive arguments in the prison where he teaches the slave Onesimus, as on the Athenian Areopagus, or at the judgment-seat of Festus. Not content with the extraordinary toils of his ministry, he supports himself by the work of his own hands, and, after a hard day of missionary labor, he may be seen providing, by tent-making, for his own subsistence, that he may be chargeable to none of the Churches. 1 Cor. ix, 12. Acts xviii, 3. Freely he will give that which freely he has received. This Christian, so free from prejudices, so liberal in spirit—this Apostle of a free salvation—nevertheless practices himself a severe asceticism, so much the more to be admired because he accounts it no merit and makes it no ground of pride. His one desire in keeping his body in such subjection is to conquer sin and to glorify his Master. Nor may we forget that all these unceasing labors are wrought in the midst of persecution and contradiction from without, while within is the perpetual pressure of that mysterious trial, that thorn in the flesh, designed to chasten and prove him, which, in his powerful language, he calls "a messenger of Satan sent to buffet him."104104There has been much discussion as to the nature of this trial. It cannot have reference, as has been supposed, to the sufferings inseparable from apostleship, or Paul would not have desired exemption. Nor can we see in it merely the lusts of the flesh, especially after such a declaration as we have in 1 Cor. vii, 7, 8. It was, probably, physical suffering reacting upon the soul through the nervous organism.
His tact as a missionary is no less admirable than his zeal. Never was worker so wise as he in "redeeming the time"—taking advantage, that is, of favorable occasions and circumstances. When he arrives in a city, he immediately finds means of access to the largest possible numbers. He preaches sometimes in the synagogues; sometimes, as at Philippi, by the road side; sometimes, as in frivolous Athens, in the place of public resort. He adapts himself to the customs of every country, and far and wide proclaims the name of Jesus.
Paul began his missionary journey by visiting the Churches which he had founded in Syria and Cilicia. These were very prosperous, and daily increasing in the number of their members. In Lycaonia the Apostle took to himself a young disciple, converted during his previous journey, a young man full of faith, and endowed by God with many excellent gifts. The son of a Jewish mother, he had been taught from his childhood in the Scriptures. 2 Tim. iii, 14, 15. His father being a Gentile, he had not been circumcised. Paul deemed it well to observe scrupulously the decisions of the Council at Jerusalem, so as to give no ground for unjust suspicions; he accordingly circumcised Timothy, considering him according to Jewish custom, as of Hebrew origin. The young missionary also received the laying on of the hands of the assembled elders of his Church, (1 Tim. iv, 14,) as Paul had received it at Antioch before departing on his first mission. It was the prompting of the Divine Spirit, which led the brethren to give to Timothy this truly apostolic commission; they had a prophetic foresight of the service he would render to the Apostle in his great work. Timothy was, indeed, to Paul as a second self; the bond between them was like that of father and son. Paul's letters bear witness to the closeness of their relations. "I have no man like-minded," he writes to the Philippians. Phil. ii, 20. "I am mindful of thy tears," (2 Tim. i, 1-4,) he writes to him, speaking of their separation. Timothy was not less attached to the Churches than to Paul. He combined the energy of youth with the maturity of experience. Phil. ii, 22, The gravest and most delicate missions were safe in his hands. Paul had full confidence in him, and sometimes devolved upon him some of the most difficult duties of his office, such as presiding over the organization of new Churches. Timothy, like his beloved master, spared not himself in the service of Christ; he endured hardness to such a degree as even to injure his health. 1 Tim. v, 23. In his youth, his gentleness, his unshrinking devotedness, his utter forgetfulness of self, he presents to us one of the purest examples of primitive Christianity. He was the Melanchthon of the apostolic Luther.
Paul had also with him, at the beginning of this journey, another companion not less faithful: he was a Christian of Greek parentage, as we gather from his name—Epaphras, or Epaphroditus.105105There seems to us no good ground for questioning the identity of the Epaphras of the Epistle to the Colossians with the Epaphroditus of the Epistle to the Philippians. (ii, 25.) Such a contraction of ancient names is most common. We shall see him again at Paul's side in the Roman prison. Col. iv, 12; Philemon 23. He appears to have possessed remarkable gifts; for Paul, having passed rapidly through Phrygia, left Epaphras behind, and he there founded the flourishing Churches of Colosse, Hierapolis, and Laodicea.106106Nowhere in the Acts do we read of any sojourn of Paul's at Colosse, while it is positively said in the Epistle to the Colossians that they received the Gospel from Epaphras. (Col. i, 7.) The first of these cities, built on the banks of the Lycus, had been at one time a place of much consideration, and although now in its decline, it was still important. Laodicea, not far from Colosse, was beginning to eclipse it in commercial prosperity. Hierapolis was famous for its cave consecrated to Cybele. These three cities belonged to a country notable in the ancient world for a religious zeal approaching to frenzy. The worship of Cybele, or the Great Mother, had fostered the direst abominations of heathenism. It displayed that hideous blending of sensuality and cruelty which characterizes all merely natural religions. Apuleius has made us acquainted with the abominable rites of the Phrygian priests, and with the excesses of the fanatical eunuchs called "Galli," whose convulsive dances and deafening music were of world-wide repute. It might be easily foreseen that Christianity would with difficulty preserve its own purity in so tainted an atmosphere.
Paul merely passed through Phrygia, but made a longer stay in Galatia. There he found a race entirely new to him. The Galatians were not pure Asiatics, but a Western race, of Gallic and Celtic origin, which had settled in Asia Minor three centuries before Christ, and which, although modified by long sojourn in the East, yet retained in many respects their original type. The people of these countries were at once warlike and democratic; they had for a long time governed themselves, and under the imperial dominion had retained their own rulers. Paul, ever ready to be all things to all men, threw an unwonted vivacity into his preaching in order to make an impression on their warm and sensitive natures. In writing to them afterward, he says that Christ was set forth before them as vividly as if they themselves had seen him crucified. Gal. iii, 1. He thus won his way into their hearts, and the bodily sufferings under which he labored completed the conquest of their sympathies. He was to them as an angel, even as Christ Jesus, and their growing enthusiasm soon knew no bounds. "I bear you record," says the Apostle, in recalling that happy time, "that if it had been possible ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and given them to me." Gal. iv, 15. But this quick sensibility to impressions might be as easily turned in an opposite direction, and he was soon to learn to his cost the vacillation of these impetuous natures.
The mission in Galatia seems a sort of preparation for the transition into Europe. The time had come for Paul to set his foot on the classic ground of philosophy and ancient art. For entering on a field of labor so wide and so new, a direct call from God was necessary. Paul was preparing to pursue his mission in Asia, when he was turned aside by a very remarkable vision. A man of Macedonia appeared to him, saying, "Come over into Macedonia, and help us!" This man was the representative of those powerful nations of the West which had accomplished such great things, and agitated such great thoughts in the domain of politics, and of free speculation, and which now, growing old and feeble, writhing in the restlessness of doubt at the foot of their world-famous altars of art and beauty, were turning tired eyes toward the East, seeking there a deliverance of which they had no longer any hope in themselves., This cry, Come over and help us! was it not the groaning of Greece, enslaved and fallen? and did not the same despairing entreaty come up from all quarters of the Roman empire? Was not the strange yearning of the West toward the religions of the East itself an unspoken prayer for help? This, then, was a favorable moment for carrying the Gospel into Europe. The ruler of the world at this period was Claudius, the puppet of mistresses and favorites, who had laid upon the whole empire a yoke of deepest humiliation, because the slavery imposed was accompanied with no redeeming ray of glory. Neither by the arts of peace or war did Claudius achieve any thing honorable to himself or to the world. Under this condition of things, the historians of the time describe the deepening agitation of men's minds, ever in restless quest of the new. The sick man turns upon his bed in feverish impatience, and seeks in religions beyond his own new medicines for the soul's long malady.107107Tacitus, "Annals," xi, 15. But in spite of such favoring dispositions, the preaching of the Gospel would have to encounter in Europe a host of obstacles. The refined culture of ancient Greece, ever devoted to the worship of form, idolatrous of beauty alike in language and in art—the terrible corruption of manners—the political and religious despotism of Rome, which, with its marvelous organization, had agencies in every city, large or small, to discover and to impede any hostile movement-such were some of the main obstacles in the path of the missionary of Christ. But Paul was not the man to shrink before them; and there was power enough in the doctrine which he preached to triumph over philosophers and rulers, over human force and human science.
It was at Troas Paul had the vision which decided him to go over into Macedonia. It was also at Troas he associated with himself another helper—Luke, the physician, who was to be the inspired chronicler of the apostolic age. Luke was, according to Eusebius,108108Eusebius, "Hist. Eccles.," iii, 4. a native of Antioch, and in all probability a Gentile by birth, and one of the Apostle's converts. We shall find him henceforward constantly by Paul's side, his companion in prison and up to the eve of martyrdom. None caught more thoroughly than he the spirit of the Apostle; none was more capable of truly representing his life, and preserving to us the features of that noble form. The legend which speaks of him as a painter, only errs by clothing a moral quality in a material form. Luke shows himself a true and inimitable painter in his representation of the Christians of the first century.
From Troas Paul went by Neapolis to Philippi. This city, built by Philip II., on the borders of Macedonia and Thrace, and rendered illustrious by the famous battle in which the Roman republic finally succumbed under Brutus, had become a flourishing Roman colony, the most important in the whole country.109109This is the most natural sense to attach to the words: ἥτις ἐστὶν πρώτη. It was governed, like all the colonies, by magistrates called decemvirs, who exercised all the rights of sovereignty in minor causes. They had lictors at their command.110110Στρατηγοῖς (Acts xvi, 20) ῥαβδοῦχοι.
In entering on this new field, the work of Christian missions was coming into collision not simply with Jewish fanaticism, or popular superstition as in Asia, but with the Roman administration, so admirably constructed for the universal suppression of liberty. Immediately on arriving at Philippi, Paul repairs to the river side, where the Jews were accustomed to assemble every Sabbath. There he found only a few women. To these he preached the Gospel with all his wonted earnestness and power; and in the house of one of them, Lydia, a seller of purple from Thyatira, the first nucleus was formed of that Church which was to be the jewel in his apostolic crown. Into this humble family there soon came a poor servant-girl, whose condition sheds light upon the paganism of that day. The mysterious malady, known as possession, was not peculiar to Judea. In this time of momentous crisis, the intervention of the powers of the unseen world was more than usually direct and sensible. It seems as if the barrier between that world and ours was broken down. The evil spirits, whose existence is so clearly revealed in the New Testament, act at such epochs in a special manner on persons predisposed to their influence by an unhealthy moral and physical condition. Natural phenomena, such as somnambulism, assume a peculiar character, and are aggravated by the addition of actual possession. The girl healed by Paul was the subject of this diabolical somnambulism. She had some gifts of divination, like somnambulists in all ages. Her fellow-citizens, therefore, regarded her as possessed with the spirit of Python, which was one of the names of Apollo, the god of oracles. But in addition to this gift of divination, there was in her case positive possession, as is clear from the language of Paul, who commands the evil spirit to come out of her. As the unhappy girl follows Paul and Silas about the streets, crying, "These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto you the way of salvation," (Acts xvi, 17,) the Apostle, who will not receive demoniacal support at any price, heals the girl. This becomes the occasion of a violent persecution. The masters of the sick girl, enraged at the loss of the gains they made by her divination, stir up the populace, and drag Paul and Silas before the decemivirs, charging them with introducing into the city a religion not sanctioned by the laws. The magistrates yield to the popular clamor: they throw the accused into prison, and the jailer, the pliant instrument of the fury of the crowd, casts them into a dark dungeon, and makes their feet fast in the stocks. A long and painful night begins; but the prisoners feel free and happy in their chains. "That gloomy prison," to use the language of Tertullian, "was to them what the desert was to the prophets—holy retreat; one of those solitary places in which by preference Christ reveals his glory to his disciples. While their body was in fetters, their soul, sublimely free in spite of grating doors and guarded passages, was pressing on the way to God. The flesh feels no ill when the spirit is in heaven."111111"Hoc praestat carcer Christiano quod eremus prophetis. Nihil crus sentit in nervo, cum animus in cælo est." (Tertullian, "Ad Martyres," c. ii.) They are singing at midnight the praises of God. Suddenly an earthquake bursts the prison doors. The terrified jailer, fearing the retribution awaiting him if his prisoners escape, draws his sword to kill himself. The voice of Paul arrests him. "Do thyself no harm," cries the Apostle, "for we are all here." The soul of the rough man is moved by the generosity of these strange prisoners, who thus return good for evil. The sight of Paul and Silas rejoicing in their chains has already touched his conscience. Words which, doubtless, he had previously heard from their lips receive a new significance; in place of the dread of man, there springs up in his heart fear of the judgment of God. There is a convulsion in his inner nature corresponding to the convulsion in the world without, and he utters that cry of the broken heart whose salvation is nigh, "What must I do to be saved?" We know the Apostles' reply. The jailer and his family at once receive the sign of the new birth, and the Church of the Philippians gains a noble victory in the very place in which its founder was to have been consigned to ignominy and silence.
Paul's imprisonment had been the result of a tumult of the people. His cause had not been tried. The decemvirs having, like other Roman magistrates, but little leaning to religious fanaticism, now send their lictors to bring the Apostles out of the prison. But Paul protests indignantly against the unlawful treatment they have received. He boldly declares himself a Roman citizen—a name which, according to Cicero, casts a shield of protection over all who could use it to the uttermost parts of the world, and even in the midst of barbarous nations.112112"Illa vox et imploratio: Civis Romanus sum! sæpe multis in ultimis terris opem inter barbaros et salutem tulit." The Porcia lex forbade the beating with rods of a Roman citizen. The magistrates, alarmed at such a message, came themselves to release the Apostles; and we learn from the example of Paul on this occasion to rise above the narrow and petty notions which interdict Christians from boldly asserting their rights as citizens. Such views tend, in their practical issue, to sap the whole divine basis of society.
Paul left at Philippi a Church which had received the baptism of persecution, and which was strengthened in its attachment to his person by witnessing his courageous endurance of suffering.
Of this attachment the Philippian Church soon gave him touching proof, by sending generous aid to him at Thessalonica, whither he had gone to carry the Gospel. Phil. iv, 16. He had hastily passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia in order to reach this important city. It had been built by Cassander, who had given to it the name of his wife. Standing at the base of a mountain, not far from the sea, it was the capital of the second district of the province of Macedonia. It had become very flourishing under the Romans, especially by its commerce, and the Jews, who had flocked to it in large numbers, had there built a synagogue. Paul preached the Gospel to them three Sabbath days, and some of them believed, and consorted with the Apostle. But the preaching was much more successful among the Greeks. Paul, in his first Epistle to the Thessalonians, gives an admirable account of his mission among them. He came to them, as we there see, still bearing in body and spirit the wounds he had received at Philippi. 1 Thess. ii, 2. The fanatical Jews at Thessalonica soon again kindled the flame of persecution against him, and it was evident he would find no respite or peace. In the midst of many conflicts, therefore, his ministry was accomplished; but his courage never faltered, and the power of God was magnified in his servant's weakness. 1 Thess. i, 5. Enfeebled by suffering, he yet proves irresistible in his arguments with the unbelieving Jews. But his own experience of much affliction has given a deepened gentleness to his ministry, and full of tenderness for souls scarcely escaped out of heathen darkness, he cherishes them "even as a nurse her children." 1 Thess. ii, 7. He finds in these Thessalonians much readiness to receive the truth, and a childlike enthusiasm for the new religion, very beautiful, and productive of the happiest results while restrained within bounds by his presence, but dangerously akin to fanaticism. Hence the earnest warnings in his Epistles to the new converts not to neglect the fulfillment of their daily duties, in undue impatience of all the trammels of earthly life.
These ardent young Christians displayed heroic courage in the conflict stirred up by the Jews. 1 Thess. i, 6. Paul was probably led by the persecutions which burst so rapidly upon this newly-formed Church to dwell much on the glorious issues of Christianity, the triumph of the Lord, and his near return. 1 Thess. i, 10.
It was, indeed, a terrible storm which broke over the Church at Thessalonica. Paul's implacable adversaries hired men of low character, who by their calumnies of the Apostle set all the city in an uproar. Wresting the words he had spoken with reference to the kingdom of Christ and his speedy coming to reign, (Acts xvii, 7,) they accused him before the Praetor of conspiring against Cæsar. They thus took advantage at once of the Roman law, and of the passions of the people—a cunning proceeding which proved only too successful.
When they could not find either Paul or Silas, they assaulted the house of an inhabitant of the city, named Jason, who, being probably a convert through their preaching, had received them into his house. The magistrates committed Jason to prison, and he was only released on giving bail. The Apostles were sent away by their friends by night to Berea, a town about ten miles distant from Thessalonica. Here they met with a better reception from the Jews; they even gained some adherents in the upper classes of society. Acts xvii, 12. But the synagogue of Thessalonica, irritated by a course of conduct, which in its eyes seemed only wicked obstinacy, contrived to stir up the Berean populace also against Paul and Silas. Some devoted friends conducted Paul at once to Athens, while Silas, Timothy, and the rest of their company, remained for awhile behind.
What Athens was to the ancient world is well known. "From Athens," says Cicero, "philosophy and religion, agriculture and laws, have gone forth into the whole world."113113"Unde humanitas, doctrina, religio, fruges, jura, leges, artes in omnes terras distributæ putantur." (Cicero, "Pro Flacco," 26, 62.) At Athens paganism had attained all the perfection of which it was capable. The religion of Greece, which was a religion of artists, since its essence was the worship of the beautiful, had there found its best interpreters in the great sculptors, whose immortal works were the embodiment of ideal beauty. In strange paradox, it was also at Athens that paganism had been more deeply undermined by philosophy. Socrates and Plato had there taught the adoration of a deity more adapted than the Olympian Jupiter to meet the demands of conscience. Nor must we forget that not far from Athens were celebrated the Eleusinian Mysteries, so closely connected with the worship of the divinities, who, according to the belief of the Greeks, had the control of death and of the judgment of the soul after the earthly life. The secret source of this worship was the vague dread of eternity, and the feeling of the insufficiency of a purely esthetic religion to lighten the dark abode of death.
The Athenian people were more concerned than most to appease the gods. Philostratus puts these words into the mouth of Apollonius of Tyana: "It is wise to speak well of all the gods, especially at Athens."114114"Philost.," vi, 3. This disposition had grown, as Greek polytheism had fallen into deeper and deeper decay. In its subjection to the Romans, the brilliant city was at once more frivolous and more devout than ever before. The rostrum was voiceless; the great poets had been succeeded by frigid versifiers. The places of Plato and Aristotle were filled by feeble philosophers. While the Epicurean mocked at the gods, the Stoic asserted the uselessness of metaphysics. The Athenian people, indolent and skeptical, lounged about the public places, seeking to beguile their ignoble leisure, but chafed all the while in spirit by a restlessness that would not be allayed.
Such were the conflicting influences at work when the great Apostle arrived in Athens. As he passed along the streets of the queenly city, where the masterpieces of pagan art met his eye at every step. a sacred sadness seized his soul, and he eagerly desired to preach Christ to these poor idolators. After having proclaimed the Gospel in the synagogue, he sought access to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. The Athenians, whose curiosity was easily excited, brought him to the Areopagus, to hear him speak of these new gods. It has been erroneously imagined that Paul was arraigned by the Athenians, and that his address was a defense of himself rather than a general apology for Christianity. He was indeed taken to the spot, where causes were customarily tried, but it was only that he might more easily harangue a large assembly. Paul had before him the marvelous Acropolis, adorned with the miracles of the chisel of Phidias; above him the temple of Theseus, the most ancient monument in Athens; and wherever his eye turned, it rested on the altars of false gods. It is worth observing, that the temples which were nearest to him, in the Areopagus itself, were dedicated to those subterranean deities which inspired so much terror in the Greeks, and which expressed the protest of outraged conscience against the too facile poetry of their state religion. These temples were, in fact, according to Pausanias, devoted to the Furies and to Pluto.115115"Pausanias," p. 27; Xylander Edit. The worship of these terrible and mysterious deities implicitly contained an acknowledgment of the unknown God. It is of little consequence whether the famous inscription, which the Apostle makes his starting-point, really had all the significance which he seems to ascribe to it. It was, in any case, a faithful expression of one aspect of Greek polytheism, and he had a perfect right so to make use of it.
The testimony of Pausanias and of Philostratus confirms that of St. Paul as to this inscription.116116Βωμοὶ θεῶν ὁνομαζομένων ἀγνώστων. Pausanias, i, I; Philostratus, vi, 3. Of all the interpretations which have been given of it, the most plausible appears to us to be that of Diogenes Laërtius. He says, that in the time of a plague, when men knew not which God to propitiate in order to avert it, Epimenides caused black and white sheep to be let loose from the Areopagus, and wherever they lay down, to be offered to the respective divinities. "Hence it comes," says Diogenes Laërtius, "that altars are still found in Athens which do not bear the name of any known god."117117Diog. Laërtius, "Epimenides," i, 1. St. Jerome says that the inscription was thus worded: "Diis Asiæ et Europæ et Africæ, Diis ignotis et peregrinis." ("Ad. Tit.," i, 12.) But this opinion has no solid ground. Eichhorn maintains that it referred to an ancient god, whose name was lost. This opinion might be accepted if we had not the explicit testimony of Diogenes Laërtius. (See De Wette's "Comm. on the Acts," in which the question is admirably treated.) This fear of neglecting angry and unknown gods clearly revealed that in the hearts entertaining it there was a deep consciousness of the insufficiency of their religion; for if they had truly believed in the gods they knew, they would have been assured that when these were appeased there was nothing more to dread. But they had a vague conception that another yet more powerful deity was angry with them. The worship of the subterranean gods took its rise in the same consciousness. "That they had reared an altar to an unknown god," says Calvin, "was a sign that they knew nothing certainly. It is true they had an infinite multitude of gods, but when with these they associated unknown gods, they by that act confessed that they knew nothing of the true Deity."118118Calvin, "Commentaries," vol. ii, p. 798, Paris edition. 1854.
It is not our purpose here to analyze Paul's address; we shall treat of that when he comes to speak of his doctrine. It is impossible not to notice, however, the skill with which he finds the point of contact between the truth and his hearers. Observing their extraordinary devotion, he traces it to its principle—the deep necessity felt by the human heart of union with God. He reads on the altars of paganism the avowal of its impotence, and he borrows the words of a pagan poet to show how grand is man in his origin, and how infinite are his aspirations. That living and true God, whom they in their ignorance are feeling after, has just revealed himself in an amazing manner by the gift of his Son; and faith in the Christ is the one way of escape from the terrible judgment which awaits the unpardoned sinner at the resurrection day. The Greeks listened to the Apostle so long as he confined himself to philosophic generalities, but they could not endure the faintest allusion to a judgment to come. The doctrine of immortality was contrary alike to the pantheism of the Stoics and to the atheism of the Epicureans. It was natural that Greek paganism, on its first contact with the severe religion of Jesus Christ, should elude its appeals, and seek refuge in graceful frivolity. The Greek feels no indignation; he does not persecute like the synagogue; he simply returns with a scornful smile to the diversions of the public square—a striking illustration of the distance which divides mere intellectual curiosity from a serious love of truth. The bow, however, so steadily drawn by the Apostle, has not been ineffectual. The true worshiper of the "unknown god" perceives that, in truth, this God whom Paul declares to them is He; and among the new disciples, one is a judge of the Areopagus. In the metropolis of paganism, Paul has spoken words mightier and more beautiful than any which had ever fallen from the lips of philosophers or poets—words which will be a living power when temples and statues are in ruins. Their ruin is indeed already imminent. In preaching the true God, Paul has pronounced the death-doom of polytheism, and the sentence is without appeal.
From Athens Paul repaired to Corinth. This city, washed by two seas, the Ionian and the Ægean, united, through the activity of its commerce, the pomp and luxury of Asia with the civilization of Greece. It had been celebrated in all ancient times for the cultivation of the arts and sciences.119119Herodotus, ii, 167. Destroyed by Mummius, 146 years before Christ, it had been rebuilt by Julius Cæsar, and had become the capital of Achaia. Corinth, at the period when Paul visited it, had recovered all its ancient splendor. It surpassed even Athens; for while the city of Pericles represented the most exalted side of paganism—pure and noble art, great philosophy and great poetry—Corinth represented its material and voluptuous side; and such luster is ever the most conspicuous in an age of decay.120120Lange, work quoted, ii, 233. Its beautiful climate, its wealth, the extraordinary concourse of foreigners within its walls, all contributed to the corruption of manners. Thus, amid the licentious cities of the old world, Corinth was distinguished for its immorality. The worship of Aphrodite was there observed in all its shamelessness. To live like a Corinthian was a proverbial expression for a career of debauchery. What a miracle was the foundation of a Church in such a city! Paul's labors here commenced less brilliantly than at Athens. He began by working in the shade. His first converts were a humble family of Jews, fugitives from Rome, in consequence of the decree of banishment issued by Claudius against their nation. Priscilla and Aquila were fellow-countrymen of the Apostle's, coming, like him, from Pontus; like him, they also maintained themselves by making tents of the substantial fabrics of their country. A close friendship arose between them; Paul lodged under their roof, and supported himself by working with them. Not for a day, however, did he lose sight of his missionary work. Every Sabbath he went up to the synagogue, and in the interval he preached the Gospel to the Gentiles. It is evident, from his first Epistle to the Corinthians, that he addressed himself chiefly to the lower orders of society. 1 Cor. i, 26. He had not here a brilliant auditory, as on the Areopagus; he did not see the first magistrates and philosophers of the city thronging around him. He presented the truth to the Corinthians in all its naked simplicity; he would not pander to the tastes of the degenerate Greeks, enamored of human eloquence and outward show. "My speech and my preaching," he subsequently says, "was not with enticing words of man's wisdom." 1 Cor. ii, 4. The simple setting forth of the Cross was the substance of his teaching. Oppressed, as he may well have been, by the sight of the enormities of paganism shamelessly enacted before his eyes, he tells us that he preached the Gospel in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 1 Cor. ii, 3. Nevertheless, he gained many adherents, and, among others, Stephanas, Crispus, and Gaius. 1 Cor. xvi, 15; 1 Cor. i, 14. The Jews at Corinth, with a few exceptions, offered him an obstinate resistance; he was even constrained to an open rupture with them. He separated himself from them, after addressing them in terrible words of denunciation, justly provoked by their blasphemies; and he founded a true synagogue in the house of a disciple named Justus, where he continued to preach. His discourses produced such an effect that the chief ruler of the Jewish synagogue was won to the Gospel. The Apostle did not in general baptize the new Christians, leaving this duty to his companions, or to the elders of the young Church. He was no representative of an ecclesiastical hierarchy, which makes it its first concern to initiate men into outward observances; he was concerned solely with the moral and religious effect of his teaching, leaving aside as subordinate all questions of form.
After he had thus preached the Gospel during a year and a half, the Jews, taking advantage of the arrival of a new proconsul, accused him of professing a strange and unauthorized religion. Happily for Paul, this proconsul was a man of a tolerant and enlightened disposition; he was Gallio, brother of the famous Seneca, by whom he was declared to be the mildest of men.121121"Nemo mortalium unus tam dulcis est quam hic omnibus." (Seneca, "Pref. Natur. Qusest.," I, iv. He refused, with the disdain of a lettered Roman, to interfere in these questions of religion, which appeared to him all miserable chicanery. He shared the proud contempt of his countrymen for the Jews, and he did not scruple to leave Paul's accusers to the violence of the inhabitants of the city, who held them and all their race in abomination. Paul soon after quitted Corinth. It was from this city that he wrote his two Epistles to the Church of Thessalonica.122122Reuss, "Geschichte der Heilig. Schrift., N. T.," pp. 67, 68. It has been erroneously stated that the first epistle was dated from Athens; but this is not possible. We see, in fact, (1 Thess. i, 7,) that the Churches of Achaia are spoken of. The passage in 1 Thess. ii, 18, also implies that some time had elapsed between the journey of Paul to Thessalonica and the date of the letter. Baur's objections to the genuineness of the second epistle are entirely dogmatic and of no critical value. Timotheus and Silas, who rejoined the Apostle at Corinth, brought him news from Thessalonica, and their communications led him to write, warning that Church against such an undue preoccupation with the prophetic aspect of revelation as might lead into error.
Paul, before leaving Corinth, had his head shaved, in fulfillment of a vow made some time previously. We cannot but wonder to see the great Apostle of the Gentiles submitting to this legal observance. We must not forget, however, that this was an age of transition, and that Judaism was only gradually vanishing before Christianity, as shadows before the sun. Paul, also, while he borrowed an ancient custom from the religion of his fathers, did so not as under the yoke of Mosaic observances, but in the use of his Christian liberty. While holding as a fundamental principle that the whole life is one act of worship, and that whatever is done must be done unto the Lord, he yet admitted a sort of individual discipline, by which portions of the life, characterized by greater austerity than the rest, might be set aside, so that the soul, freed from the fetters of the material, might the more readily rise into a purer region. 1 Cor. vii, 5. The vow of the Nazarite, so common among the Jews, seemed to St. Paul the faithful symbol of this exceptional consecration of a portion of his life to God. This vow enforced, as we know, abstinence for a time from all fermented drinks, and the free growing of the hair uncut. Those who were under the vow were regarded as specially consecrated to God. Num. vi, 1-8. Commentators have been much perplexed by the fact that Paul had his head shorn at Cenchræa, and not in the temple at Jerusalem, according to Mosaic prescription.123123"And the Nazaiite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." (Num. vi, 18.) For ourselves, we regard this deviation from Jewish ritual as in perfect harmony with his principles; he felt no scruple in modifying legal practices, because he held himself to be under the law of liberty. The Apostle, who, writing some months later to the Corinthians, says, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?" (1 Cor. vi, 19,) and who, consequently, no longer believed in the existence of any particular sanctuary, was thus raised above all the ordinances which had reference to the temple. He felt himself as fully at liberty to have his head shorn at Corinth as at Jerusalem, if circumstances rendered it desirable. He thus vindicated the voluntary self-discipline of his religious life from the appearance of a timid subservience to ritual law.124124The vow of Paul has been the subject of long and confused disputations. It has been maintained, first, that the vow was not made by him, but by Aquila; but the adjective κειράμένος evidently refers to the principal subject of the sentence. Neander, ("Pflanz.," i, 348) resting on a passage of Josephus, ("De Bello Judaico," ii, 15,) supposes a modification of the vow of the Nazarite among the Jews of that period; but the passage of Josephus does not at all signify that the head was shaved elsewhere than in the temple. Lange maintains that Paul had his head shorn before quitting the Gentile lands, in order that his new growth of hair might be undefiled; but such a notion is utterly at variance with Paul's principles. Baumgarten (ii, 326, 327) makes unfair use of the symbolical manner in which the Apostle speaks of the long hair of a woman, (1 Cor. xi, 19,) and sees in St. Paul's vow a token of his spirit of humility and submission; but this is a forced and over-subtle explanation. As to the idea of Salmasius, that what is here meant is some such vow as those spoken of by Juvenal, (Satire xii, 815,) which consisted in devoting the hair of the head to the Deity, it is utterly baseless.
From Corinth, Paul went to Ephesus, with Aquila and Priscilla. After a short stay, he left them there, and himself went up, by way of Cesarea, to Jerusalem, there to keep the Feast of Pentecost.125125Paul goes up by sea to Jerusalem, Now the inexperience of navigation would render such a voyage impossible in the spring. The feast to be observed could not, therefore, have been the Passover; and of the other Jewish festivals, the Pentecost alone would have a religious interest for such a man as Paul. He did not stay either there or at Ephesus, but returned to Antioch, whence he had twice gone forth on his great missionary journeys. During his sojourn at Jerusalem and at Antioch, Aquila and Priscilla heard at Ephesus of a Jewish stranger who was producing a deep impression by his discourses in the synagogue. This was Apollos, who was to play so important a part in the early Church, and whose influence at Corinth was to rival even that of St. Paul. He came from Alexandria, where he had heard the learned teachers who endeavored to fuse and harmonize the Mosaic religion with the Greek philosophy. From this school he had doubtless acquired much aptitude in penetrating into the meaning of sacred symbols. He had probably gained some knowledge of the new religion in a recent journey in Palestine; but he had, as yet, very elementary notions of the Gospel, for he had come in contact only with disciples of John the Baptist, and had received only the baptism of John. He succeeded, however, even with these imperfect lights, in convincing the Jews at Ephesus. He was a man nobly gifted, deeply versed in the sacred Scriptures, full of fervor and enthusiasm,126126Δυνατὸς ὢν ἐν ταὲς γραφαῖς. courageous,127127Ζέων τῷ πνεύματι. and possessed of remarkable oratorical power, which he had been able freely to exercise in one of the great centers of Greek civilization.128128Ἤρξατο παῤῥησιάζεσθαι. From Aquila and Priscilla Apollos learned the way of truth more perfectly; and thus furnished, he went at once to Corinth, where his eloquence129129Λόγιος. Acts xviii, 24, 28. produced an unparalleled effect. We shall soon meet with him again, and shall see how party spirit, without Apollos' own concurrence, wrested his noble gifts to the disadvantage of Paul, whose language had neither the correctness nor the beauty of that of the young doctor of Alexandria. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is, nevertheless, perfectly in harmony with the Apostle Paul, though acting, according to the custom of the apostolic age, with complete independence.130130See, with reference to Apollos, Bleek, "Brief an die Hebræer," i, 422.
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