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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Acts 17

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1-2

31

Chapter 12

ST. PAUL IN MACEDONIA.

Acts 16:29-31; Acts 17:1-2; Acts 17:10

TROAS was at this time the termination of St. Paul’s Asiatic travels. He had passed diagonally right through Asia Minor, following the great Roman roads which determined his line of march. From Troas he proceeded to Philippi, and for exactly the same reason. All the great roads formed under the emperors down to the time of Constantine the Great led to Rome. When the seat of empire was moved to Constantinople, all the Asiatic roads converged upon that city; but in St. Paul’s day Rome was the world’s centre of attraction, and thither the highways all tended. This fact explains St. Paul’s movements. The Egnatian road was one of the great channels of communication established for State purposes by Rome, and this road ran from Neapolis, where St. Paul landed, through Philippi on to Dyrrachium, a port on the Adriatic, whence the traveller took ship to Brundusium, the modern Brindisi, and thence reached Rome. What a striking commentary we find in this simple fact upon the words of St. Paul Galatians 4:4 : "When the fulness of the time came God sent forth His Son." Roman dominion involved much suffering and war and bloodshed, but it secured the network of communication, the internal peace, and the steady, regular government which now covered Europe as well as Asia, and thus for the first time in the world’s history rendered the diffusion of the Gospel possible, as St. Paul’s example here shows. The voyage from Troas to Neapolis was taken by the Apostle after the usual fashion of the time. Neapolis was the port of Philippi, whence it is distant some eight miles. Travellers from the East to Rome always landed there, and then took the Egnatian Road which started from Neapolis. If they were official persons they could use the public postal service, post-houses being established at a distance of six miles from one another, where relays of horses were kept at the public expense, to carry persons travelling on the imperial service. Paul and Silas, Timothy and Luke, must, however, have travelled on foot along the Egnatian Road from Neapolis to Philippi, which was their first objective point, according to St. Paul’s usual policy, of attacking large and important centres of population, and then leaving the sacred leaven to work out into the surrounding mass of paganism. Philippi amply rewarded the wisdom of his plan, and the Philippian Church became noted for its zeal, its faith, its activity, among the Churches which owed their origin to the Apostle, as we learn from the Epistles addressed to the Corinthians and to the Philippians themselves a short time after the foundation of the Philippian Church.

Now let us look at the circumstances under which that foundation was laid. To understand them we must go back upon the course of history. Philippi was a city built by King Philip, the father of Alexander the Great. After the conquest of Macedonia by the Romans, it became famous as the scene of the great battle between Brutus and Cassius on the one hand, and Mark Antony and Augustus on the other, which decided the fate of the empire and influenced the course of the world’s history as few other battles have done. At the time of St. Paul’s visit the memory of that battle was fresh, and the outward and visible signs thereof were to be seen on every side, as indeed some of them are still to be seen, the triumphal arches, for instance, erected in memory of the victory and the mound or rampart of earth raised by Brutus to hinder the advance of the opposing forces. But these things had for the holy travellers a very slight interest, as their hearts were set upon a mightier conflict and a nobler war far than any ever before waged upon earth’s surface. There is no mention made in the sacred narrative of the memories connected with the place, and yet St. Luke, as an honest writer setting down facts of which he had formed an important part, lets slip some expressions which involve and throw us back upon the history of the place for an, explanation, showing how impossible it is to grasp the full force and meaning of the sacred writers unless we strive to read the Bible with the eyes of the people who lived at the time and for whom it was written. St. Luke calls Philippi "a city of Macedonia, the first of the district, a colony." Now this means that in that time it was situated in the Roman province of Macedonia, that it was either the capital of the division of Macedonia, in which it was situated, Macedonia being subdivided into four distinct divisions which were kept perfectly separate, or else that it was the first city the traveller met upon entering Macedonia from Asia, and further that it was a Roman colony, and thus possessed peculiar privileges. When we read in the Bible of colonies we must not understand the word in our modern sense. Colonies were then simply transcripts of the original city whence they had come. Roman colonies were miniatures or copies of Rome itself transplanted into the provinces, and ruling as such amid the conquered races where they were placed. They served a twofold purpose. They acted as garrisons to restrain the turbulence of the neighbouring tribes; and if we study Roman geography carefully we shall find that they were always placed in neighbourhoods where their military importance is plainly manifest; and further still, they were used as convenient places to locate the veteran soldiers of Italy who had served their time, where they were rewarded with grants of land, and were utilising at the same time the skill and experience in military matters which they had gained, for the general benefit of the State.

Augustus made Philippi into a colony, erecting a triumphal arch to celebrate his victory over Brutus, and placing there a large settlement of his veterans who secured for him this important outpost. The colonies which were thus dispersed along the military frontier, as we should put it in modern language, were specially privileged. All the settlers were Roman citizens, and the government of the colony was like that of the mother city itself, in the hands of two magistrates, called in Greek Strategoi, or in Latin Praetors, who ruled according to the laws of the Twelve Tables and after Roman methods, though perhaps all the neighbouring cities were still using their ancient laws and customs handed down from times long prior to the Roman Conquest. The details given us by St. Luke are in the strictest accordance in all these respects with the facts which we know independently concerning the history and political status of Philippi.

St. Paul and his companions arrived in Philippi in the early part of the week. He was by this time a thoroughly experienced traveller. Five years later, when writing his Second Epistle to Corinth, he tells us that he had been already three times shipwrecked; so that, unless peculiarly unfortunate, he must have already made extended and repeated sea voyages, though up to the present we have only heard of the journeys from Antioch to Cyprus, from Cyprus to Perga, and from Attalia back to Antioch. A two days’ voyage across the fresh and rolling waters of the Mediterranean, followed by a steep climb over the mountain Pangaeus which intervenes between Philippi and its port Neapolis, made, however, a rest of a day or two very acceptable to the Apostle and his friends. St. Paul never expected too much from his own body, or from the bodies of his companions; and though he knew the work of a world’s salvation was pressing, yet he could take and enjoy a well-earned holiday from time to time. There was nothing in St. Paul of that eternal fussiness which we at times see in people of strong imaginations but weak self-control, who, realising the awful amount of woe and wickedness in the world, can never be at rest even for a little. The men of God remained quiet therefore [Acts 16:12-13] till the Sabbath Day, when, after their usual custom, they sought out in the early morning the Jewish place of worship, where St. Paul always first proclaimed the gospel. The Jewish colony resident at Philippi must have been a very small one. The Rabbinical rule was that where ten wise men existed there a synagogue might be established. There cannot therefore have been ten learned, respectable, and substantial Jews in Philippi competent to act as a local sanhedrin or court. Where, however, the Jews could not establish a synagogue, they did not live without any external expression of religion. They knew how easily neglect of public worship is followed by practical atheism, as we often see. Men may say indeed that God can be realised, and can be worshipped anywhere, - a very great truth and a very precious one for those who are unavoidably cut off from the public worship of the Most High; but a truth which has no application to those who wilfully cut themselves off from that worship which has the covenanted promise of His presence. It is not a good sign for the young men of this generation that so many of them utterly neglect public worship; for as surely as men act so, then present neglect will be followed by a total forgetfulness of the Eternal, and by a disregard of the laws which He has established amongst men. The Jews at Philippi did not follow this example; when they could not establish a synagogue they set apart an oratory or Place of Prayer, whither they resorted on the Sabbath Day to honour the God of their fathers, and to keep alive in their children’s hearts the memory of His laws and doings.

The original name of Philippi was Crenides, or Place of Streams. Beside one of these streams the Jews had placed their oratory, and there St. Paul preached his first sermon in Europe and gained Lydia, his first European convert, a Jewess by blood, a woman of Thyatira in Asia Minor by birth, of Philippi in Macedonia by residence, and a dyer in purple by trade. The congregation of women assembled at that oratory must have been a very small one. When Philippi did not afford a sufficient Jewish population for the erection of a synagogue such as was found among the smaller towns of Asia Minor, and such as we shall in the course of the present tour find to have existed at towns and cities of no great size in Greece and Macedonia, then we may be sure that the female population, who assembled that Sabbath morning to pray and listen to the Scriptures, must have been a small one. But St. Paul and his companions had learned already one great secret of the true evangelist’s life. They never despised a congregation because of its smallness. I have read somewhere in the writings of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva, a remark bearing on this point. De Sales was an extreme Roman Catholic, and his mind was injured and his mental views perverted in many respects by the peculiar training he thus received. But still he was in many respects a very saintly man, and his writings embody much that is good for every one. In one of his letters which I have read he deals with this very point, and speaks of the importance of small congregations, first, because they have no tendency to feed the preacher’s pride, but rather help to keep him humble; and secondly, because some of the most effective and fruitful sermons have been preached to extremely small congregations, two or three persons at most, some one of whom has afterwards turned out to be a most vigorous soldier of the Cross of Christ. The most effective sermon perhaps that ever was preached was that delivered to Saul of Tarsus when to him alone came the voice, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" And here again, in the Philippian Oratory, the congregation was but a small one, yet the Apostle despised it not. He and his companions bent all their powers to the work, threw their whole hearts into it, and as the result the Lord rewarded their earnest, thorough, faithful service as He rewards such service in every department of life’s action. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia so that she attended to the apostolic teaching, and she and all her household when duly instructed became baptised disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.

This was an important incident in the history of the Philippian Church, and was attended by far-reaching results. Lydia herself, like so many others of God’s most eminent saints, disappears at once and for ever from the scene. But her conversion was a fruitful one. St. Paul and his friends continued quietly but regularly working and teaching at the oratory. Lydia would seem to have been a widow, and must have been a woman of some position in the little community; for she was able to entertain the Apostle and his company as soon as she embraced the faith and felt its exceeding preciousness. When inviting them, too, she uses the language of a woman independent of all other control. "If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there," are words with the tone of one who as a widow owned no superior, and whose will was law within her own household; as well as the language of a woman who felt that the gospel she had embraced demanded and deserved the consecration to its service of all her worldly possessions. Previously to this conversion St. Paul had lived in hired lodgings, but now he moved to Lydia’s residence, abiding there, and thence regularly worshipping at the Jewish oratory. The presence of these Jewish strangers soon attracted attention. Their teaching too got noised abroad, exaggerated doubtless and distorted after the manner of popular reports. And the crowd were ready to be suspicious of all Eastern foreigners. The settlers in the colony of Philippi belonged to the rural population of Italy, who, after the manner of countrified folk of every generation, were a good way behind, for good or ill, their city brethren. The excavations made at Philippi have brought to light the fact that the colonists there were worshippers of the primitive Italian rustic gods, specially of the god Silvanus, eschewing the fashionable Greek deities, Jupiter, Juno, Venus, Diana, Apollo, and such like. A temple of Silvanus was erected at Philippi for the hardy Italian veterans, and numerous inscriptions have been found and have been duly described by the French Mission in Macedonia to which we have already referred, telling of the building of the temple and of the persons who contributed towards it. These simple Western soldiers were easily prejudiced against the Eastern strangers by reports spread concerning their doctrines, and specially concerning the Jewish King, of whose kingdom they were the heralds. Political considerations were at once raised. We can scarcely now realise the suspicions which must have been roused against the early preachers of Christianity by the very language they used. Their sacramental language concerning the body and blood of Christ, the language of Christian love and union which they used, designating themselves brethren and sisters, caused for more than two centuries the dissemination of the most frightful rumours concerning the horrible nature of Christian love-feasts. They were accused of cannibalism and of the most degraded and immoral practices; and when we take up the Apologists of the second century, Justin Martyr and such like, we shall find that the efforts of these men are largely directed to the refutation of such dreadful charges. And as it was in morals so was it too in politics. The sacred and religious language of the Christians caused them to be suspected of designs hostile to the Roman Government. The apostles preached about a King who ruled the kingdom of God. Now the Romans abhorred the very name and title of king, which they associated with the cruel acts of the early tyrants who reigned in the times of Rome’s fabulous antiquity. The hostility to the title was so great that, though the Roman people endured a despotism worse and more crushing at the hands of the Caesars, they never would allow them to assume the title of kings, but simply called them emperors, imperators or commanders of the army, a name which to their ears connoted nothing savouring of the kingly office, though for moderns the title of emperor expresses the kingly office and much more. The colonists in Philippi, being Italians, would feel these prejudices in their full force. Easterns indeed would have had no objection to the title of king, as we see from the cry raised by the mob of Jerusalem when they cried in reference to Christ’s claim, "We have no king but Caesar." But the rough and rude Roman veterans, when they heard vague reports of St. Paul’s teaching to the Jews who met at the oratory by the river-side, quite naturally mistook the nature of his doctrine, and thought that he was simply a political agitator organising a revolt against imperial authority. An incident which then occurred fanned the sleeping embers into a flame. There was a female slave the property of some crafty men who by her means traded on the simplicity of the colonists. She was possessed with a spirit of divination. What the nature of this spirit was we have not the means of now determining. Some would resolve it into mere epilepsy, but such an explanation is not consistent with St. Paul’s action and words. He addressed the spirit, "I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ to Come out of her." And the spirit, we are told, came out that very hour. The simple fact is that psychology is at the best a very obscure science, and the mysteries of the soul a very puzzling region, even under the Christian dispensation and surrounded by the spiritual blessings of the kingdom of God. But paganism was the kingdom of Satan, where he ruled with a power and freedom he no longer enjoys, and we can form no conception of the frightful disturbances Satanic agency may have raised amid the dark places of the human spirit. Without attempting explanations therefore, which must be insufficient, I am content to accept the statement of the sacred writer, who was an eye-witness of the cure, that the spirit of divination, the spirit of Python, as the original puts it, yielded obedience to the invocation of the sacred Name which is above every name, leaving the damsel’s inner nature once more calm and at union within itself. This was the signal for a riot. The slave-owners recognised that their hopes of gain had fled. They were not willing to confess that these despised Jews possessed a power transcending far that which dwelt in the human instrument who had served their covetous purposes. They may have heard, it may be, of the tumults excited about this same time by the Jews at Rome and of their expulsion from the capital by the decree of the Emperor, so the owners of the slave-girl and the mob of the city dragged the Apostles before the local Duumvirs and accused them of like disturbances: "These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and set forth customs which it is not lawful for us to receive or to observe, being Romans." The accusation was sufficient. No proof was demanded, no time for protest allowed. The magistrates with their own hands dragged the clothes off the backs of the Apostles, and they were flogged at once by the lictors or sergeants, as our translation calls them, in attendance upon the Duumvirs, who then despatched their victims to the common prison. Here a question may be raised, Why did not St. Paul save himself by protesting that he was a Roman citizen, as he did subsequently at Jerusalem when he was about to be similarly treated? Several explanations occur. The colonists were Italians and spoke Latin. St. Paul spoke Hebrew and Greek, and though he may have known Latin too, his Latin may not have been understood by these rough Roman soldiers: The mob again was excited, and when a mob gets excited it is but very little its members attend to an unfortunate prisoner’s words. We know too, not only from St. Paul’s own words, but from the testimony of Cicero himself, in his celebrated oration against Verres, that in remote districts this claim was often disregarded, even when urged by Italians, and much more when made by despised Jews. St. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:25, that he received three Roman floggings notwithstanding his Roman citizenship, and though the Philippian magistrates were afraid when they heard next day of the illegal violence of which they had been guilty, the mob, who could not be held accountable, probably took right good care that St. Paul’s protest never reached the official ears to which it was addressed. These considerations sufficiently account for the omission of any notice of a protest on the Apostle’s part. He simply had not the opportunity, and then when the tumultuous scene was over Paul and Silas were hurried off to the common dungeon, where they were secured in the stocks and thrust into the innermost prison as notorious and scandalous offenders.

No ill-treatment could, however, destroy that secret source of joy and peace which St. Paul possessed in his loved Master’s conscious presence. "I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake," is his own triumphant expression when looking back a few years later over the way by which the Lord had led him, and therefore at midnight the astonished prisoners heard the inner dungeon ringing with unwonted songs of praise raised by the Jewish strangers. An earthquake, too, lent its terrors to the strange scene, shaking the prison to its foundations and loosing the staples to which the prisoners’ chains were fastened. The jailer, roused from sleep, and seeing the prison doors opened wide, would have committed suicide were it not for Paul’s restraining and authoritative voice; and then the astonished official, who must have heard the strange rumours to which the words of the demoniac alluded-"These men are the servants of the Most High God, which proclaim unto you the way of salvation"-rushed into the presence of the Apostles, crying out in words which have ever since been famous, "Sirs, what must I do to be Saved?" to which the equally famous answer was given, " Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house." The jailor then took the Apostles, bathed their bruised bodies, set food before them, gathered his household to listen to the glad tidings, which they received so rapidly and grasped so thoroughly that they were at once baptised and enabled to rejoice with that deep spiritual joy which an experimental knowledge of God always confers. The jailor, feeling for the first time in his life the peace which passeth all understanding, realised the truth which St. Augustine afterwards embodied in the immortal words: "Thou, O God, hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee."

Let us look for a little at the question of the jailer and the answer of the Apostle. They are words very often used, and very often misused. The jailer, when he rushed into St. Paul’s presence crying out "What must I do to be saved?" was certainly not the type of a conscience-stricken sinner, convinced of his own sin and spiritual danger, as men sometimes regard him. He was simply in a state of fright and astonishment. He had heard that these Jewish prisoners committed to him were preaching about some salvation which they had to offer. The earthquake seemed to him the expression of some deity’s wrath at their harsh treatment, and so in his terror he desires to know what he must do to be saved from this wrath. His words were notable, but they were not Christian words, for he had yet much to learn of the nature of sin and the nature of the salvation from it which the Apostles were preaching. The Philippian jailor was a specimen of those who are saved violently and by fear. Terror forced him into communion with the Apostles, broke down the barriers which hindered the approach of the Word, and then the power of the Holy Ghost, working through St. Paul, effected the remainder, opening his eyes to the true character of salvation and his own profound need of it. St. Paul’s words have been misunderstood. I have heard them addressed to a Christian congregation and explained as meaning that the jailor had nothing to do but just realise Christ Jesus as his Saviour, whereupon he was perfect and complete so far as the spiritual life was concerned; and then they were applied to the congregation present as teaching that, as it was with the jailor, so was it with all Christians; they have simply to believe as he did, and then they have nothing more to do-a kind of teaching which infallibly produces antinomian results. Such an explanation ignores the fact that there is a great difference between the jailor, who was not a Christian in any sense and knew nothing about Christ when he flung himself at St. Paul’s feet, and a Christian congregation, who know about Christ and believe in Him. But this explanation is still more erroneous. It misrepresents what St. Paul meant and what his hearers understood him to mean. What did any ordinary Jew or any ordinary pagan with whom St. Paul came in contact understand him to mean when he said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved"? They first had to ask him who Jesus Christ was, whence He had come, what He had taught, what were the obligations of His religion. St. Paul had to open out to them the nature of sin and salvation, and to explain the obligation and blessing of the sacrament of baptism as well as the necessity of bodily holiness and purity. The initial sacrament of baptism must have held a foremost place in that midnight colloquy or conference concerning Christian truth. St. Paul was not the man to perform a rite of which his converts understood nothing, and to which they could attach no meaning. "Believe on the Lord Jesus" involved repentance and contrition and submission to Christian truth, and these things involved the exposition of Christian truth, history, doctrines, and duties.

This text, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved," is often quoted in one-sided and narrow teaching to show that man has nothing to do to be saved. Of course in one sense this is perfectly true. We can do nothing meritoriously towards salvation; from first to last our salvation is all of God’s free grace; but then, viewing the matter from the human side, we have much to do to be saved. We have to repent, to seek God for ourselves, to realise Christ and His laws in our life, to seek after that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. There were two different types of men who at different times addressed practically the same inquiry to the Apostles. They were both outside the Church, and they were both seekers blindly after God. The Jews on the day of Pentecost said, "Brethren, what shall we do?" and Peter replied, "Repent ye, and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Such was apostolic teaching to the Jews of Jerusalem. The jailor demanded, "What must I do to be saved?" and St. Paul replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved." Such was apostolic teaching to an ignorant pagan at Philippi; more concise than the Jerusalem answer, but meaning the same thing, and involving precisely the same doctrines in the hands of such a great master of the spiritual life as was the Apostle of the Gentiles.

The remainder of the story is soon told. When the morning came there came quiet reflection with it as far as the magistrates were concerned. They became conscious of their illegal conduct, and they sent their lictors to order the release of the Apostles. St. Paul now stood upon his rights. His protest had been disregarded by the mob. He now claimed his rights as a Roman citizen. "They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned men, that are Romans, and have cast us into prison; and do they now cast us out privily? Nay, verily; but let them come themselves and bring us out." These are St. Paul’s words, and they are brave, and at the same time wise words. They were brave words because it took a strong man to send back such an answer to magistrates who had treated him so outrageously only the day before. They were wise words, for they give us an apostle’s interpretation of our Lord’s language in the Sermon upon the Mount concerning the nonresistance of evil, and shows us that in St. Paul’s estimation Christ’s law did not bind a man to tolerate foul injustice. Such toleration, in fact, is very wrong if it can be helped; because it is simply an encouragement to the wicked doers to treat others in the same scandalous manner. Toleration of outrage and injustice is unfair and uncharitable towards others, if they can be lawfully redressed or at least apologised for. It is a Christian man’s duty to bring public evil-doers and tyrants, instruments of unrighteousness like these Duumvirs of Philippi, to their senses, not for his own sake, but in order that he may prevent the exercise of similar cruelties against he weaker brethren. We may be sure that the spirited action of St. Paul, compelling these provincial magnates to humble themselves before the despised strangers, must have had a very wholesome effect in restraining them from similar violence during the rest of their term of office.

Such was St. Paul’s stay at Philippi. It lasted a considerable time, and made its mark, as a flourishing Church was established there, to which he addressed an Epistle when he lay the first time a captive at Rome. This Epistle naturally forms a most interesting commentary on the notices of the Philippian visit in the Acts of the Apostles, a point which is worked out at large in Bishop Lightfoot’s Commentary on Philippians and in Paley’s "Horae Paulinae." The careful student of Holy Writ will find that St. Paul’s letter and St. Luke’s narrative when compared illuminate one another in a wondrous manner. We cannot afford space to draw out this comparison in detail, and it is the less necessary to do so as Dr. Lightfoot’s writings are so generally accessible. Let us, however, notice one point in this Epistle to the Philippians, which was written about the same time (a few months previously, in fact) as the Acts of the Apostles. It corroborates the Acts as to the circumstances under which the Church of Philippi was founded. St. Paul in the Epistle refers again and again to the persecutions and afflictions of the Philippian Church, and implies that he was a fellow-sufferer with them. St. Paul dwells on this in the beginning of the Epistle in words whose force cannot be understood unless we grasp this fact. In the sixth verse of the first chapter he expresses himself as "Confident of this very thing, that He which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defence and confirmation, of the gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace." St. Paul speaks of the Philippians as personally acquainted with chains and sufferings and prison-houses for Christ’s sake, and regards these things as a proof of God’s grace vouchsafed not only to the Apostle, but also to the Philippians; for St. Paul was living at that high level when he could view bonds and trials and persecutions as marks of the Divine love. In the twenty-eighth verse of the same chapter he exhorts them to be in no wise "affrighted by the adversaries," and in the next two describes them as persons to whom "it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer in His behalf: having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me," words which can only refer to the violence and afflictions which they witnessed as practised against himself, and which they were now themselves suffering in turn. While to complete St. Paul’s references we notice that in an Epistle written some five years later than his first visit to Philippi he expressly refers to the persecutions which the Philippian Church in common with all the Macedonian Churches seems to have suffered from the Very beginning. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-2, he writes: "Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the Churches of Macedonia; how that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality." Now all these passages put together confirm for us what the Acts expressly affirms, that from the very outset of their Christian career the Philippian Church had endured the greatest trials, and experienced a fellowship in the Apostle’s sufferings. And surely we may see in the character of the Philippian Epistle something eminently characteristic of this experience! It has been remarked that the Philippian Epistle is the only Epistle addressed to a Church in which there is no trace of blame or reproof. Temptation and trial and chastisement had there worked their appointed purpose. The Philippian Church had been baptised in blood, and grounded in afflictions, and purified by the cleansing fires of persecution, and consequently the tried Church gathered itself closer to its Divine Lord, and was perfected above all others in His likeness, and profited above all others in the Divine life.

After the terrible experience of Philippi Paul and Silas passed on to other towns of the same province of Macedonia. The Apostle, however, when quitting Philippi to do the same evangelistic work, breaking up the ground in other towns after the manner of a pioneer, did not leave the Church of Philippi devoid of wisest pastoral care. It is most likely, as Dr. Lightfoot points out in the Introduction to his Commentary on Philippians, that St. Luke was left behind to consolidate the work which had been thus begun by such a noble company. Then Paul and Silas and Timotheus proceeded to Thessalonica, one hundred miles west, the capital of the province, where the proconsul resided, and where was a considerable Jewish population, as we see, not only from the fact that a synagogue is expressly said to have existed there, but also because the Jews were able to excite the city pagan mob against the Apostles and drag them before the local magistrates. St. Paul at Philippi had for the first time experienced a purely pagan persecution. He had indeed previously suffered at the hands of the heathen at Lystra, but they were urged on by the Jews. At Philippi he gained his first glimpse of that long vista of purely Gentile persecution through which the Church had to pass till Christianity seated itself in the person of Constantine on the throne of the Caesars. But as soon as he got to Thessalonica he again experienced the undying hostility of his Jewish fellow-country-men using for their wicked purposes the baser portion of the city rabble. St. Paul remained three weeks in Thessalonica teaching privately and publicly the gospel message, without experiencing any Jewish opposition. It is an interesting fact that to this day St. Paul’s visit to Thessalonica is remembered, and in one of the local mosques, which was formerly the Church of Sancta Sophia, a marble pulpit is shown, said to have been the very one occupied by the Apostle, while in the surrounding plains trees and groves are pointed out as marking spots where he tarried for a time. The Jews were at last, however, roused to opposition, possibly because of St. Paul’s success among the Gentiles, who received his doctrines with such avidity that there believed "of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few." In Thessalonica, as elsewhere, the spirit of religions selfishness, desiring to have gospel promises and a Messiah all to themselves, was the ruin of the Jewish people. The Jews therefore, assisted by the pagans, assaulted the residence of Jason, with whom St. Paul and his friends were staying. They missed the Apostles themselves, but they seized Jason and some of the apostolic band, or at least some of their converts whom they found in Jason’s house, and brought them before the town magistrates, who, acting under the eye of the resident proconsul, did not lend themselves to any irregular proceedings like the Philippian praetors. A charge of treason was formally brought against the prisoners: "These all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another King, one Jesus"; in the words of which charge we get a glimpse of the leading topic upon which the Apostles insisted. Jesus Christ, the crucified, risen, glorified King and Head of His people, was the great subject of St. Paul’s teaching as it struck the heathen. The Thessalonian magistrates acted very fairly. They. entered the charge, which was a serious one m the eye of Roman law. Bail was then taken for the accused and they were set free. The Apostles, however, escaped arrest, and the local brethren determined that they should incur no danger; so while the accused remained to stand their trial, Paul and Silas and Timotheus were despatched to Beroea, where they were for a time welcomed, and free discussion permitted in the synagogue concerning the truths taught by the Evangelists. After a time, however, tidings having reached Thessalonica, agents were despatched to Beroea, who stirring up the Jewish residents, St. Paul was despatched in charge of some trusty messengers, who guided the steps of the hunted servant of God to the city of Athens. We see the physical infirmities of St. Paul, the difficulties he had to contend with, hinted at in the fourteenth and fifteenth verses of the seventeenth chapter. "Then immediately the brethren sent forth Paul," and "They that conducted Paul brought him to Athens," words which give us a glimpse of his fearfully defective eyesight. His enemies might be pressing upon him and danger might be imminent, but he could make no unaided effort to save himself. He depended upon the kindly help of others that he might escape his untiring foes and find his way to a place of safety.

Thus ended St. Paul’s first visit to Thessalonica so far as the Acts of the Apostles is concerned; but we have interesting light thrown upon it from an Epistle which St. Paul himself wrote to the Thessalonians soon after his departure from amongst them. A comparison of First Thessalonians with the text of the Acts will furnish the careful student with much information concerning the circumstances of that notable visit, just as we have seen that the text of the Philippian Epistle throws light upon his doings at Philippi. The Thessalonian Epistles are more helpful even than the Philippians in this respect, because they were written only a few months after St. Paul’s visit to Thessalonica, while years elapsed, eight or ten at least, before the Philippian Epistle was indited. First Thessalonians shows us, for instance, that St. Paul’s visit to Thessalonica lasted a considerable time. In the Acts we read of his discussing in the synagogue three Sabbath days, and then it would appear as if the riot was raised which drove him to Beroea and Athens. The impression left on our minds by St. Luke’s narrative is that St. Paul’s labours were almost entirely concentrated upon the Jews in Thessalonica, and that he bestowed very little attention indeed upon the pagans. The Epistle corrects this impression. When we read the first chapter of First Thessalonians we see that it was almost altogether a Church of converted idolaters, not of converted Jews. St. Paul speaks of the Thessalonians as having turned from idols to serve the living God; he refers to the instructions on various points like the resurrection, the ascension, the second coming of Christ, which he had imparted, and describes their faith and works as celebrated throughout all Macedonia and Achaia. A large and flourishing church like that, composed of former pagans, could not have been founded in the course of three weeks, during which time St. Paul’s attention was principally bestowed on the Jewish residents. Then too, when we turn to Philippians 4:16, we find that St. Paul stayed long enough in Thessalonica to receive no less than two remittances of money from the brethren at Philippi to sustain himself and his brethren. His whole attention too was not bestowed upon mission work; he spent his days and nights in manual labour. In the ninth verse of the second chapter of First Thessalonians he reminds them of the fact that he supported himself in their city, "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God." When we realise these things we shall feel that the Apostle must have spent at least a couple of months in Thessalonica. It was perhaps his tremendous success among the heathen which so stirred up the passions of the town mob as enabled the Jews to instigate them to raise the riot, they themselves keeping all the while in the background. St. Paul, in First Thessalonians, describes the riots raised against the Christians as being the immediate work of the pagans: "Ye, brethren, became imitators of the Churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus. For ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen as they did of the Jews"; a statement which is quite consistent with the theory that the persecution was originally inspired by the Jews. But we cannot further pursue this interesting line of inquiry which has been thoroughly worked out by Mr. Lewin in vol. 2 Chronicles 11:1-23, by Conybeare and Howson in ch. 9, and by Archdeacon Farrar, as well as by Dr. Salmon in his "Introduction to the New Testament," ch. 20. The careful student will find in all these works most interesting light reflected back upon the Acts from the apostolic letters, and will see how thoroughly the Epistles, which were much the earlier documents, confirm the independent account of St. Luke, writing at a subsequent period.

Before we terminate this chapter we desire to call attention to one other point where the investigations of modern travel have helped to illustrate the genuineness of the Acts of the Apostles. It has been the contention of the rationalistic party that the Acts was a composition of the second century, worked up by a clever forger out of the materials at his command. There are various lines of proof by which this theory can be refuted, but none appeal so forcibly to ordinary men as the minute accuracy which marks it when describing the towns of Asia Minor and Macedonia. Macedonia is a notable case. We have already pointed out how the Acts gives their proper title to the magistrates of Philippi and recognises its peculiar constitution as a colony. Thessalonica forms an interesting contrast to Philippi. Thessalonica was a free city like Antioch in Syria, Tarsus, and Athens, and therefore, though the residence of the proconsul who ruled the province of Macedonia, was governed by its own ancient magistrates and its own ancient laws without any interference on the part of the proconsul. St. Luke makes a marked distinction between Philippi and Thessalonica. At Philippi the Apostles were brought before the praetors, at Thessalonica they were brought before the politarchs, a title strange to classical antiquity, but which has been found upon a triumphal arch which existed till a few years ago across the main street of the modern city of Thessalonica. That arch has now disappeared; but the fragments containing the inscription were fortunately preserved and have been now placed in the British Museum, where they form a precious relic proving the genuineness of the sacred narrative.


Verse 10

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Chapter 12

ST. PAUL IN MACEDONIA.

Acts 16:29-31; Acts 17:1-2; Acts 17:10

TROAS was at this time the termination of St. Paul’s Asiatic travels. He had passed diagonally right through Asia Minor, following the great Roman roads which determined his line of march. From Troas he proceeded to Philippi, and for exactly the same reason. All the great roads formed under the emperors down to the time of Constantine the Great led to Rome. When the seat of empire was moved to Constantinople, all the Asiatic roads converged upon that city; but in St. Paul’s day Rome was the world’s centre of attraction, and thither the highways all tended. This fact explains St. Paul’s movements. The Egnatian road was one of the great channels of communication established for State purposes by Rome, and this road ran from Neapolis, where St. Paul landed, through Philippi on to Dyrrachium, a port on the Adriatic, whence the traveller took ship to Brundusium, the modern Brindisi, and thence reached Rome. What a striking commentary we find in this simple fact upon the words of St. Paul Galatians 4:4 : "When the fulness of the time came God sent forth His Son." Roman dominion involved much suffering and war and bloodshed, but it secured the network of communication, the internal peace, and the steady, regular government which now covered Europe as well as Asia, and thus for the first time in the world’s history rendered the diffusion of the Gospel possible, as St. Paul’s example here shows. The voyage from Troas to Neapolis was taken by the Apostle after the usual fashion of the time. Neapolis was the port of Philippi, whence it is distant some eight miles. Travellers from the East to Rome always landed there, and then took the Egnatian Road which started from Neapolis. If they were official persons they could use the public postal service, post-houses being established at a distance of six miles from one another, where relays of horses were kept at the public expense, to carry persons travelling on the imperial service. Paul and Silas, Timothy and Luke, must, however, have travelled on foot along the Egnatian Road from Neapolis to Philippi, which was their first objective point, according to St. Paul’s usual policy, of attacking large and important centres of population, and then leaving the sacred leaven to work out into the surrounding mass of paganism. Philippi amply rewarded the wisdom of his plan, and the Philippian Church became noted for its zeal, its faith, its activity, among the Churches which owed their origin to the Apostle, as we learn from the Epistles addressed to the Corinthians and to the Philippians themselves a short time after the foundation of the Philippian Church.

Now let us look at the circumstances under which that foundation was laid. To understand them we must go back upon the course of history. Philippi was a city built by King Philip, the father of Alexander the Great. After the conquest of Macedonia by the Romans, it became famous as the scene of the great battle between Brutus and Cassius on the one hand, and Mark Antony and Augustus on the other, which decided the fate of the empire and influenced the course of the world’s history as few other battles have done. At the time of St. Paul’s visit the memory of that battle was fresh, and the outward and visible signs thereof were to be seen on every side, as indeed some of them are still to be seen, the triumphal arches, for instance, erected in memory of the victory and the mound or rampart of earth raised by Brutus to hinder the advance of the opposing forces. But these things had for the holy travellers a very slight interest, as their hearts were set upon a mightier conflict and a nobler war far than any ever before waged upon earth’s surface. There is no mention made in the sacred narrative of the memories connected with the place, and yet St. Luke, as an honest writer setting down facts of which he had formed an important part, lets slip some expressions which involve and throw us back upon the history of the place for an, explanation, showing how impossible it is to grasp the full force and meaning of the sacred writers unless we strive to read the Bible with the eyes of the people who lived at the time and for whom it was written. St. Luke calls Philippi "a city of Macedonia, the first of the district, a colony." Now this means that in that time it was situated in the Roman province of Macedonia, that it was either the capital of the division of Macedonia, in which it was situated, Macedonia being subdivided into four distinct divisions which were kept perfectly separate, or else that it was the first city the traveller met upon entering Macedonia from Asia, and further that it was a Roman colony, and thus possessed peculiar privileges. When we read in the Bible of colonies we must not understand the word in our modern sense. Colonies were then simply transcripts of the original city whence they had come. Roman colonies were miniatures or copies of Rome itself transplanted into the provinces, and ruling as such amid the conquered races where they were placed. They served a twofold purpose. They acted as garrisons to restrain the turbulence of the neighbouring tribes; and if we study Roman geography carefully we shall find that they were always placed in neighbourhoods where their military importance is plainly manifest; and further still, they were used as convenient places to locate the veteran soldiers of Italy who had served their time, where they were rewarded with grants of land, and were utilising at the same time the skill and experience in military matters which they had gained, for the general benefit of the State.

Augustus made Philippi into a colony, erecting a triumphal arch to celebrate his victory over Brutus, and placing there a large settlement of his veterans who secured for him this important outpost. The colonies which were thus dispersed along the military frontier, as we should put it in modern language, were specially privileged. All the settlers were Roman citizens, and the government of the colony was like that of the mother city itself, in the hands of two magistrates, called in Greek Strategoi, or in Latin Praetors, who ruled according to the laws of the Twelve Tables and after Roman methods, though perhaps all the neighbouring cities were still using their ancient laws and customs handed down from times long prior to the Roman Conquest. The details given us by St. Luke are in the strictest accordance in all these respects with the facts which we know independently concerning the history and political status of Philippi.

St. Paul and his companions arrived in Philippi in the early part of the week. He was by this time a thoroughly experienced traveller. Five years later, when writing his Second Epistle to Corinth, he tells us that he had been already three times shipwrecked; so that, unless peculiarly unfortunate, he must have already made extended and repeated sea voyages, though up to the present we have only heard of the journeys from Antioch to Cyprus, from Cyprus to Perga, and from Attalia back to Antioch. A two days’ voyage across the fresh and rolling waters of the Mediterranean, followed by a steep climb over the mountain Pangaeus which intervenes between Philippi and its port Neapolis, made, however, a rest of a day or two very acceptable to the Apostle and his friends. St. Paul never expected too much from his own body, or from the bodies of his companions; and though he knew the work of a world’s salvation was pressing, yet he could take and enjoy a well-earned holiday from time to time. There was nothing in St. Paul of that eternal fussiness which we at times see in people of strong imaginations but weak self-control, who, realising the awful amount of woe and wickedness in the world, can never be at rest even for a little. The men of God remained quiet therefore [Acts 16:12-13] till the Sabbath Day, when, after their usual custom, they sought out in the early morning the Jewish place of worship, where St. Paul always first proclaimed the gospel. The Jewish colony resident at Philippi must have been a very small one. The Rabbinical rule was that where ten wise men existed there a synagogue might be established. There cannot therefore have been ten learned, respectable, and substantial Jews in Philippi competent to act as a local sanhedrin or court. Where, however, the Jews could not establish a synagogue, they did not live without any external expression of religion. They knew how easily neglect of public worship is followed by practical atheism, as we often see. Men may say indeed that God can be realised, and can be worshipped anywhere, - a very great truth and a very precious one for those who are unavoidably cut off from the public worship of the Most High; but a truth which has no application to those who wilfully cut themselves off from that worship which has the covenanted promise of His presence. It is not a good sign for the young men of this generation that so many of them utterly neglect public worship; for as surely as men act so, then present neglect will be followed by a total forgetfulness of the Eternal, and by a disregard of the laws which He has established amongst men. The Jews at Philippi did not follow this example; when they could not establish a synagogue they set apart an oratory or Place of Prayer, whither they resorted on the Sabbath Day to honour the God of their fathers, and to keep alive in their children’s hearts the memory of His laws and doings.

The original name of Philippi was Crenides, or Place of Streams. Beside one of these streams the Jews had placed their oratory, and there St. Paul preached his first sermon in Europe and gained Lydia, his first European convert, a Jewess by blood, a woman of Thyatira in Asia Minor by birth, of Philippi in Macedonia by residence, and a dyer in purple by trade. The congregation of women assembled at that oratory must have been a very small one. When Philippi did not afford a sufficient Jewish population for the erection of a synagogue such as was found among the smaller towns of Asia Minor, and such as we shall in the course of the present tour find to have existed at towns and cities of no great size in Greece and Macedonia, then we may be sure that the female population, who assembled that Sabbath morning to pray and listen to the Scriptures, must have been a small one. But St. Paul and his companions had learned already one great secret of the true evangelist’s life. They never despised a congregation because of its smallness. I have read somewhere in the writings of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva, a remark bearing on this point. De Sales was an extreme Roman Catholic, and his mind was injured and his mental views perverted in many respects by the peculiar training he thus received. But still he was in many respects a very saintly man, and his writings embody much that is good for every one. In one of his letters which I have read he deals with this very point, and speaks of the importance of small congregations, first, because they have no tendency to feed the preacher’s pride, but rather help to keep him humble; and secondly, because some of the most effective and fruitful sermons have been preached to extremely small congregations, two or three persons at most, some one of whom has afterwards turned out to be a most vigorous soldier of the Cross of Christ. The most effective sermon perhaps that ever was preached was that delivered to Saul of Tarsus when to him alone came the voice, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" And here again, in the Philippian Oratory, the congregation was but a small one, yet the Apostle despised it not. He and his companions bent all their powers to the work, threw their whole hearts into it, and as the result the Lord rewarded their earnest, thorough, faithful service as He rewards such service in every department of life’s action. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia so that she attended to the apostolic teaching, and she and all her household when duly instructed became baptised disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.

This was an important incident in the history of the Philippian Church, and was attended by far-reaching results. Lydia herself, like so many others of God’s most eminent saints, disappears at once and for ever from the scene. But her conversion was a fruitful one. St. Paul and his friends continued quietly but regularly working and teaching at the oratory. Lydia would seem to have been a widow, and must have been a woman of some position in the little community; for she was able to entertain the Apostle and his company as soon as she embraced the faith and felt its exceeding preciousness. When inviting them, too, she uses the language of a woman independent of all other control. "If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there," are words with the tone of one who as a widow owned no superior, and whose will was law within her own household; as well as the language of a woman who felt that the gospel she had embraced demanded and deserved the consecration to its service of all her worldly possessions. Previously to this conversion St. Paul had lived in hired lodgings, but now he moved to Lydia’s residence, abiding there, and thence regularly worshipping at the Jewish oratory. The presence of these Jewish strangers soon attracted attention. Their teaching too got noised abroad, exaggerated doubtless and distorted after the manner of popular reports. And the crowd were ready to be suspicious of all Eastern foreigners. The settlers in the colony of Philippi belonged to the rural population of Italy, who, after the manner of countrified folk of every generation, were a good way behind, for good or ill, their city brethren. The excavations made at Philippi have brought to light the fact that the colonists there were worshippers of the primitive Italian rustic gods, specially of the god Silvanus, eschewing the fashionable Greek deities, Jupiter, Juno, Venus, Diana, Apollo, and such like. A temple of Silvanus was erected at Philippi for the hardy Italian veterans, and numerous inscriptions have been found and have been duly described by the French Mission in Macedonia to which we have already referred, telling of the building of the temple and of the persons who contributed towards it. These simple Western soldiers were easily prejudiced against the Eastern strangers by reports spread concerning their doctrines, and specially concerning the Jewish King, of whose kingdom they were the heralds. Political considerations were at once raised. We can scarcely now realise the suspicions which must have been roused against the early preachers of Christianity by the very language they used. Their sacramental language concerning the body and blood of Christ, the language of Christian love and union which they used, designating themselves brethren and sisters, caused for more than two centuries the dissemination of the most frightful rumours concerning the horrible nature of Christian love-feasts. They were accused of cannibalism and of the most degraded and immoral practices; and when we take up the Apologists of the second century, Justin Martyr and such like, we shall find that the efforts of these men are largely directed to the refutation of such dreadful charges. And as it was in morals so was it too in politics. The sacred and religious language of the Christians caused them to be suspected of designs hostile to the Roman Government. The apostles preached about a King who ruled the kingdom of God. Now the Romans abhorred the very name and title of king, which they associated with the cruel acts of the early tyrants who reigned in the times of Rome’s fabulous antiquity. The hostility to the title was so great that, though the Roman people endured a despotism worse and more crushing at the hands of the Caesars, they never would allow them to assume the title of kings, but simply called them emperors, imperators or commanders of the army, a name which to their ears connoted nothing savouring of the kingly office, though for moderns the title of emperor expresses the kingly office and much more. The colonists in Philippi, being Italians, would feel these prejudices in their full force. Easterns indeed would have had no objection to the title of king, as we see from the cry raised by the mob of Jerusalem when they cried in reference to Christ’s claim, "We have no king but Caesar." But the rough and rude Roman veterans, when they heard vague reports of St. Paul’s teaching to the Jews who met at the oratory by the river-side, quite naturally mistook the nature of his doctrine, and thought that he was simply a political agitator organising a revolt against imperial authority. An incident which then occurred fanned the sleeping embers into a flame. There was a female slave the property of some crafty men who by her means traded on the simplicity of the colonists. She was possessed with a spirit of divination. What the nature of this spirit was we have not the means of now determining. Some would resolve it into mere epilepsy, but such an explanation is not consistent with St. Paul’s action and words. He addressed the spirit, "I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ to Come out of her." And the spirit, we are told, came out that very hour. The simple fact is that psychology is at the best a very obscure science, and the mysteries of the soul a very puzzling region, even under the Christian dispensation and surrounded by the spiritual blessings of the kingdom of God. But paganism was the kingdom of Satan, where he ruled with a power and freedom he no longer enjoys, and we can form no conception of the frightful disturbances Satanic agency may have raised amid the dark places of the human spirit. Without attempting explanations therefore, which must be insufficient, I am content to accept the statement of the sacred writer, who was an eye-witness of the cure, that the spirit of divination, the spirit of Python, as the original puts it, yielded obedience to the invocation of the sacred Name which is above every name, leaving the damsel’s inner nature once more calm and at union within itself. This was the signal for a riot. The slave-owners recognised that their hopes of gain had fled. They were not willing to confess that these despised Jews possessed a power transcending far that which dwelt in the human instrument who had served their covetous purposes. They may have heard, it may be, of the tumults excited about this same time by the Jews at Rome and of their expulsion from the capital by the decree of the Emperor, so the owners of the slave-girl and the mob of the city dragged the Apostles before the local Duumvirs and accused them of like disturbances: "These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and set forth customs which it is not lawful for us to receive or to observe, being Romans." The accusation was sufficient. No proof was demanded, no time for protest allowed. The magistrates with their own hands dragged the clothes off the backs of the Apostles, and they were flogged at once by the lictors or sergeants, as our translation calls them, in attendance upon the Duumvirs, who then despatched their victims to the common prison. Here a question may be raised, Why did not St. Paul save himself by protesting that he was a Roman citizen, as he did subsequently at Jerusalem when he was about to be similarly treated? Several explanations occur. The colonists were Italians and spoke Latin. St. Paul spoke Hebrew and Greek, and though he may have known Latin too, his Latin may not have been understood by these rough Roman soldiers: The mob again was excited, and when a mob gets excited it is but very little its members attend to an unfortunate prisoner’s words. We know too, not only from St. Paul’s own words, but from the testimony of Cicero himself, in his celebrated oration against Verres, that in remote districts this claim was often disregarded, even when urged by Italians, and much more when made by despised Jews. St. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:25, that he received three Roman floggings notwithstanding his Roman citizenship, and though the Philippian magistrates were afraid when they heard next day of the illegal violence of which they had been guilty, the mob, who could not be held accountable, probably took right good care that St. Paul’s protest never reached the official ears to which it was addressed. These considerations sufficiently account for the omission of any notice of a protest on the Apostle’s part. He simply had not the opportunity, and then when the tumultuous scene was over Paul and Silas were hurried off to the common dungeon, where they were secured in the stocks and thrust into the innermost prison as notorious and scandalous offenders.

No ill-treatment could, however, destroy that secret source of joy and peace which St. Paul possessed in his loved Master’s conscious presence. "I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake," is his own triumphant expression when looking back a few years later over the way by which the Lord had led him, and therefore at midnight the astonished prisoners heard the inner dungeon ringing with unwonted songs of praise raised by the Jewish strangers. An earthquake, too, lent its terrors to the strange scene, shaking the prison to its foundations and loosing the staples to which the prisoners’ chains were fastened. The jailer, roused from sleep, and seeing the prison doors opened wide, would have committed suicide were it not for Paul’s restraining and authoritative voice; and then the astonished official, who must have heard the strange rumours to which the words of the demoniac alluded-"These men are the servants of the Most High God, which proclaim unto you the way of salvation"-rushed into the presence of the Apostles, crying out in words which have ever since been famous, "Sirs, what must I do to be Saved?" to which the equally famous answer was given, " Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house." The jailor then took the Apostles, bathed their bruised bodies, set food before them, gathered his household to listen to the glad tidings, which they received so rapidly and grasped so thoroughly that they were at once baptised and enabled to rejoice with that deep spiritual joy which an experimental knowledge of God always confers. The jailor, feeling for the first time in his life the peace which passeth all understanding, realised the truth which St. Augustine afterwards embodied in the immortal words: "Thou, O God, hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee."

Let us look for a little at the question of the jailer and the answer of the Apostle. They are words very often used, and very often misused. The jailer, when he rushed into St. Paul’s presence crying out "What must I do to be saved?" was certainly not the type of a conscience-stricken sinner, convinced of his own sin and spiritual danger, as men sometimes regard him. He was simply in a state of fright and astonishment. He had heard that these Jewish prisoners committed to him were preaching about some salvation which they had to offer. The earthquake seemed to him the expression of some deity’s wrath at their harsh treatment, and so in his terror he desires to know what he must do to be saved from this wrath. His words were notable, but they were not Christian words, for he had yet much to learn of the nature of sin and the nature of the salvation from it which the Apostles were preaching. The Philippian jailor was a specimen of those who are saved violently and by fear. Terror forced him into communion with the Apostles, broke down the barriers which hindered the approach of the Word, and then the power of the Holy Ghost, working through St. Paul, effected the remainder, opening his eyes to the true character of salvation and his own profound need of it. St. Paul’s words have been misunderstood. I have heard them addressed to a Christian congregation and explained as meaning that the jailor had nothing to do but just realise Christ Jesus as his Saviour, whereupon he was perfect and complete so far as the spiritual life was concerned; and then they were applied to the congregation present as teaching that, as it was with the jailor, so was it with all Christians; they have simply to believe as he did, and then they have nothing more to do-a kind of teaching which infallibly produces antinomian results. Such an explanation ignores the fact that there is a great difference between the jailor, who was not a Christian in any sense and knew nothing about Christ when he flung himself at St. Paul’s feet, and a Christian congregation, who know about Christ and believe in Him. But this explanation is still more erroneous. It misrepresents what St. Paul meant and what his hearers understood him to mean. What did any ordinary Jew or any ordinary pagan with whom St. Paul came in contact understand him to mean when he said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved"? They first had to ask him who Jesus Christ was, whence He had come, what He had taught, what were the obligations of His religion. St. Paul had to open out to them the nature of sin and salvation, and to explain the obligation and blessing of the sacrament of baptism as well as the necessity of bodily holiness and purity. The initial sacrament of baptism must have held a foremost place in that midnight colloquy or conference concerning Christian truth. St. Paul was not the man to perform a rite of which his converts understood nothing, and to which they could attach no meaning. "Believe on the Lord Jesus" involved repentance and contrition and submission to Christian truth, and these things involved the exposition of Christian truth, history, doctrines, and duties.

This text, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved," is often quoted in one-sided and narrow teaching to show that man has nothing to do to be saved. Of course in one sense this is perfectly true. We can do nothing meritoriously towards salvation; from first to last our salvation is all of God’s free grace; but then, viewing the matter from the human side, we have much to do to be saved. We have to repent, to seek God for ourselves, to realise Christ and His laws in our life, to seek after that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. There were two different types of men who at different times addressed practically the same inquiry to the Apostles. They were both outside the Church, and they were both seekers blindly after God. The Jews on the day of Pentecost said, "Brethren, what shall we do?" and Peter replied, "Repent ye, and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Such was apostolic teaching to the Jews of Jerusalem. The jailor demanded, "What must I do to be saved?" and St. Paul replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved." Such was apostolic teaching to an ignorant pagan at Philippi; more concise than the Jerusalem answer, but meaning the same thing, and involving precisely the same doctrines in the hands of such a great master of the spiritual life as was the Apostle of the Gentiles.

The remainder of the story is soon told. When the morning came there came quiet reflection with it as far as the magistrates were concerned. They became conscious of their illegal conduct, and they sent their lictors to order the release of the Apostles. St. Paul now stood upon his rights. His protest had been disregarded by the mob. He now claimed his rights as a Roman citizen. "They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned men, that are Romans, and have cast us into prison; and do they now cast us out privily? Nay, verily; but let them come themselves and bring us out." These are St. Paul’s words, and they are brave, and at the same time wise words. They were brave words because it took a strong man to send back such an answer to magistrates who had treated him so outrageously only the day before. They were wise words, for they give us an apostle’s interpretation of our Lord’s language in the Sermon upon the Mount concerning the nonresistance of evil, and shows us that in St. Paul’s estimation Christ’s law did not bind a man to tolerate foul injustice. Such toleration, in fact, is very wrong if it can be helped; because it is simply an encouragement to the wicked doers to treat others in the same scandalous manner. Toleration of outrage and injustice is unfair and uncharitable towards others, if they can be lawfully redressed or at least apologised for. It is a Christian man’s duty to bring public evil-doers and tyrants, instruments of unrighteousness like these Duumvirs of Philippi, to their senses, not for his own sake, but in order that he may prevent the exercise of similar cruelties against he weaker brethren. We may be sure that the spirited action of St. Paul, compelling these provincial magnates to humble themselves before the despised strangers, must have had a very wholesome effect in restraining them from similar violence during the rest of their term of office.

Such was St. Paul’s stay at Philippi. It lasted a considerable time, and made its mark, as a flourishing Church was established there, to which he addressed an Epistle when he lay the first time a captive at Rome. This Epistle naturally forms a most interesting commentary on the notices of the Philippian visit in the Acts of the Apostles, a point which is worked out at large in Bishop Lightfoot’s Commentary on Philippians and in Paley’s "Horae Paulinae." The careful student of Holy Writ will find that St. Paul’s letter and St. Luke’s narrative when compared illuminate one another in a wondrous manner. We cannot afford space to draw out this comparison in detail, and it is the less necessary to do so as Dr. Lightfoot’s writings are so generally accessible. Let us, however, notice one point in this Epistle to the Philippians, which was written about the same time (a few months previously, in fact) as the Acts of the Apostles. It corroborates the Acts as to the circumstances under which the Church of Philippi was founded. St. Paul in the Epistle refers again and again to the persecutions and afflictions of the Philippian Church, and implies that he was a fellow-sufferer with them. St. Paul dwells on this in the beginning of the Epistle in words whose force cannot be understood unless we grasp this fact. In the sixth verse of the first chapter he expresses himself as "Confident of this very thing, that He which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defence and confirmation, of the gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace." St. Paul speaks of the Philippians as personally acquainted with chains and sufferings and prison-houses for Christ’s sake, and regards these things as a proof of God’s grace vouchsafed not only to the Apostle, but also to the Philippians; for St. Paul was living at that high level when he could view bonds and trials and persecutions as marks of the Divine love. In the twenty-eighth verse of the same chapter he exhorts them to be in no wise "affrighted by the adversaries," and in the next two describes them as persons to whom "it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer in His behalf: having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me," words which can only refer to the violence and afflictions which they witnessed as practised against himself, and which they were now themselves suffering in turn. While to complete St. Paul’s references we notice that in an Epistle written some five years later than his first visit to Philippi he expressly refers to the persecutions which the Philippian Church in common with all the Macedonian Churches seems to have suffered from the Very beginning. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-2, he writes: "Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the Churches of Macedonia; how that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality." Now all these passages put together confirm for us what the Acts expressly affirms, that from the very outset of their Christian career the Philippian Church had endured the greatest trials, and experienced a fellowship in the Apostle’s sufferings. And surely we may see in the character of the Philippian Epistle something eminently characteristic of this experience! It has been remarked that the Philippian Epistle is the only Epistle addressed to a Church in which there is no trace of blame or reproof. Temptation and trial and chastisement had there worked their appointed purpose. The Philippian Church had been baptised in blood, and grounded in afflictions, and purified by the cleansing fires of persecution, and consequently the tried Church gathered itself closer to its Divine Lord, and was perfected above all others in His likeness, and profited above all others in the Divine life.

After the terrible experience of Philippi Paul and Silas passed on to other towns of the same province of Macedonia. The Apostle, however, when quitting Philippi to do the same evangelistic work, breaking up the ground in other towns after the manner of a pioneer, did not leave the Church of Philippi devoid of wisest pastoral care. It is most likely, as Dr. Lightfoot points out in the Introduction to his Commentary on Philippians, that St. Luke was left behind to consolidate the work which had been thus begun by such a noble company. Then Paul and Silas and Timotheus proceeded to Thessalonica, one hundred miles west, the capital of the province, where the proconsul resided, and where was a considerable Jewish population, as we see, not only from the fact that a synagogue is expressly said to have existed there, but also because the Jews were able to excite the city pagan mob against the Apostles and drag them before the local magistrates. St. Paul at Philippi had for the first time experienced a purely pagan persecution. He had indeed previously suffered at the hands of the heathen at Lystra, but they were urged on by the Jews. At Philippi he gained his first glimpse of that long vista of purely Gentile persecution through which the Church had to pass till Christianity seated itself in the person of Constantine on the throne of the Caesars. But as soon as he got to Thessalonica he again experienced the undying hostility of his Jewish fellow-country-men using for their wicked purposes the baser portion of the city rabble. St. Paul remained three weeks in Thessalonica teaching privately and publicly the gospel message, without experiencing any Jewish opposition. It is an interesting fact that to this day St. Paul’s visit to Thessalonica is remembered, and in one of the local mosques, which was formerly the Church of Sancta Sophia, a marble pulpit is shown, said to have been the very one occupied by the Apostle, while in the surrounding plains trees and groves are pointed out as marking spots where he tarried for a time. The Jews were at last, however, roused to opposition, possibly because of St. Paul’s success among the Gentiles, who received his doctrines with such avidity that there believed "of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few." In Thessalonica, as elsewhere, the spirit of religions selfishness, desiring to have gospel promises and a Messiah all to themselves, was the ruin of the Jewish people. The Jews therefore, assisted by the pagans, assaulted the residence of Jason, with whom St. Paul and his friends were staying. They missed the Apostles themselves, but they seized Jason and some of the apostolic band, or at least some of their converts whom they found in Jason’s house, and brought them before the town magistrates, who, acting under the eye of the resident proconsul, did not lend themselves to any irregular proceedings like the Philippian praetors. A charge of treason was formally brought against the prisoners: "These all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another King, one Jesus"; in the words of which charge we get a glimpse of the leading topic upon which the Apostles insisted. Jesus Christ, the crucified, risen, glorified King and Head of His people, was the great subject of St. Paul’s teaching as it struck the heathen. The Thessalonian magistrates acted very fairly. They. entered the charge, which was a serious one m the eye of Roman law. Bail was then taken for the accused and they were set free. The Apostles, however, escaped arrest, and the local brethren determined that they should incur no danger; so while the accused remained to stand their trial, Paul and Silas and Timotheus were despatched to Beroea, where they were for a time welcomed, and free discussion permitted in the synagogue concerning the truths taught by the Evangelists. After a time, however, tidings having reached Thessalonica, agents were despatched to Beroea, who stirring up the Jewish residents, St. Paul was despatched in charge of some trusty messengers, who guided the steps of the hunted servant of God to the city of Athens. We see the physical infirmities of St. Paul, the difficulties he had to contend with, hinted at in the fourteenth and fifteenth verses of the seventeenth chapter. "Then immediately the brethren sent forth Paul," and "They that conducted Paul brought him to Athens," words which give us a glimpse of his fearfully defective eyesight. His enemies might be pressing upon him and danger might be imminent, but he could make no unaided effort to save himself. He depended upon the kindly help of others that he might escape his untiring foes and find his way to a place of safety.

Thus ended St. Paul’s first visit to Thessalonica so far as the Acts of the Apostles is concerned; but we have interesting light thrown upon it from an Epistle which St. Paul himself wrote to the Thessalonians soon after his departure from amongst them. A comparison of First Thessalonians with the text of the Acts will furnish the careful student with much information concerning the circumstances of that notable visit, just as we have seen that the text of the Philippian Epistle throws light upon his doings at Philippi. The Thessalonian Epistles are more helpful even than the Philippians in this respect, because they were written only a few months after St. Paul’s visit to Thessalonica, while years elapsed, eight or ten at least, before the Philippian Epistle was indited. First Thessalonians shows us, for instance, that St. Paul’s visit to Thessalonica lasted a considerable time. In the Acts we read of his discussing in the synagogue three Sabbath days, and then it would appear as if the riot was raised which drove him to Beroea and Athens. The impression left on our minds by St. Luke’s narrative is that St. Paul’s labours were almost entirely concentrated upon the Jews in Thessalonica, and that he bestowed very little attention indeed upon the pagans. The Epistle corrects this impression. When we read the first chapter of First Thessalonians we see that it was almost altogether a Church of converted idolaters, not of converted Jews. St. Paul speaks of the Thessalonians as having turned from idols to serve the living God; he refers to the instructions on various points like the resurrection, the ascension, the second coming of Christ, which he had imparted, and describes their faith and works as celebrated throughout all Macedonia and Achaia. A large and flourishing church like that, composed of former pagans, could not have been founded in the course of three weeks, during which time St. Paul’s attention was principally bestowed on the Jewish residents. Then too, when we turn to Philippians 4:16, we find that St. Paul stayed long enough in Thessalonica to receive no less than two remittances of money from the brethren at Philippi to sustain himself and his brethren. His whole attention too was not bestowed upon mission work; he spent his days and nights in manual labour. In the ninth verse of the second chapter of First Thessalonians he reminds them of the fact that he supported himself in their city, "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God." When we realise these things we shall feel that the Apostle must have spent at least a couple of months in Thessalonica. It was perhaps his tremendous success among the heathen which so stirred up the passions of the town mob as enabled the Jews to instigate them to raise the riot, they themselves keeping all the while in the background. St. Paul, in First Thessalonians, describes the riots raised against the Christians as being the immediate work of the pagans: "Ye, brethren, became imitators of the Churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus. For ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen as they did of the Jews"; a statement which is quite consistent with the theory that the persecution was originally inspired by the Jews. But we cannot further pursue this interesting line of inquiry which has been thoroughly worked out by Mr. Lewin in vol. 2 Chronicles 11:1-23, by Conybeare and Howson in ch. 9, and by Archdeacon Farrar, as well as by Dr. Salmon in his "Introduction to the New Testament," ch. 20. The careful student will find in all these works most interesting light reflected back upon the Acts from the apostolic letters, and will see how thoroughly the Epistles, which were much the earlier documents, confirm the independent account of St. Luke, writing at a subsequent period.

Before we terminate this chapter we desire to call attention to one other point where the investigations of modern travel have helped to illustrate the genuineness of the Acts of the Apostles. It has been the contention of the rationalistic party that the Acts was a composition of the second century, worked up by a clever forger out of the materials at his command. There are various lines of proof by which this theory can be refuted, but none appeal so forcibly to ordinary men as the minute accuracy which marks it when describing the towns of Asia Minor and Macedonia. Macedonia is a notable case. We have already pointed out how the Acts gives their proper title to the magistrates of Philippi and recognises its peculiar constitution as a colony. Thessalonica forms an interesting contrast to Philippi. Thessalonica was a free city like Antioch in Syria, Tarsus, and Athens, and therefore, though the residence of the proconsul who ruled the province of Macedonia, was governed by its own ancient magistrates and its own ancient laws without any interference on the part of the proconsul. St. Luke makes a marked distinction between Philippi and Thessalonica. At Philippi the Apostles were brought before the praetors, at Thessalonica they were brought before the politarchs, a title strange to classical antiquity, but which has been found upon a triumphal arch which existed till a few years ago across the main street of the modern city of Thessalonica. That arch has now disappeared; but the fragments containing the inscription were fortunately preserved and have been now placed in the British Museum, where they form a precious relic proving the genuineness of the sacred narrative.


Verses 16-18

Chapter 13

ST. PAUL IN GREECE.

Acts 17:16-18; Acts 18:1

THERE are parallelisms in history which are very striking, and yet these parallelisms can be easily explained. The stress and strain of difficulties acting upon large masses of men evolve and call forth similar types of character, and demand the exercise of similar powers. St. Paul and St. Athanasius are illustrations of this statement. They were both little men, both enthusiastic in their views, both pursued all their lives. long with bitter hostility, and both had experience of the most marvellous and hairbreadth escapes. If any reader will take up Dean Stanley’s "History of the Eastern Church," and react the account given of St. Athanasius in the seventh chapter of that work, he will he strikingly reminded of St. Paul in these various aspects, but specially in the matter of his wondrous escapes from his deadly enemies, which were so numerous that at last they came to regard Athanasius as a magician who eluded their designs by the help of his familiar spirits. It was much the same with St. Paul. Hairbreadth escapes were his daily experience, as he himself points out in the eleventh chapter of his Second Epistle to Corinth. He there enumerates a few of them, but quite omits his escapes from Jerusalem, from the Pisidian Antioch, from Iconium, Lystra, Thessalonica. and last of all from Beroea, whence he was driven by the renewed machinations of the Thessalonian Jews, who found out after a time whither the object of their hatred had fled. Paul’s ministry at Beroea was not fruitless, short as it may have been. He established a Church there which took good care of the precious life entrusted to its keeping, and therefore as soon as the deputies of the Thessalonian synagogue came to Beroea and began to work upon the Jews of the local synagogue, as well as upon the pagan mob of the town, the Beroean disciples took Paul, who was the special object of Jewish hatred, and despatched him down to the sea-coast, some twenty miles distant, in charge of certain trusty messengers, while Silas remained behind, in temporary concealment doubtless, in order that he might consolidate the Church. Here we get a hint, a passing glimpse of St. Paul’s infirmity. He was despatched in charge of trusty messengers, I have said, who were to show him the way. "They that conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens." His ophthalmia, perhaps, had become specially bad owing to the rough usage the had experienced, and so he could not escape all solitary and alone as he did in earlier years from Damascus, and therefore guides were necessary who should conduct him "as far as the sea," and then, when they had got that far, they did not leave him alone. They embarked in the ship with him, and, sailing to Athens, deposited him safely in a lodging. The journey was by sea, not by land, because a sea journey was necessarily much easier for the sickly and weary Apostle than the land route would have been, offering, too, a much surer escape from the dangers of pursuit.

The voyage was an easy one, and not too prolonged. The boat or ship in which the Apostle was embarked passed through splendid scenery. On his right hand, as he steered for the south, was the magnificent mountain of Olympus, the fabled abode of the gods, rising a clear ten thousand feet into the region of perpetual snow, while on his left was Mount Athos, upon Which he had been looking ever since the day that he left Troas. But the Apostle had no eye for the scenery, nor had St. Luke a word to bestow upon its description, though he often passed through it, absorbed as they were in the contemplation of the awful realities of a world un-seen. The sea voyage from the place where St. Paul embarked till he came to Phalerum, the port of Athens, where he landed, lasted perhaps three or four days, and covered about two hundred miles, being somewhat similar in distance, scenery, and surroundings to the voyage from Glasgow to Dublin or Bristol, land in both cases being in sight all the time and splendid mountain ranges bounding the views on either side.

St. Paul landed about November 1, 51, at Phalerum, one of the two ports of ancient Athens, the Piraeus being the other, and thence his uncertain steps were guided to the city itself, where he was left alone in some lodging. The Beroean Christians to whom he was entrusted returned perhaps in the same vessel in which they had previously travelled, as the winter season, when navigation largely ceased, was now fast advancing, bearing with them a message to Timothy and Silas to come as rapidly as possible to his assistance, the Apostle being practically helpless when deprived of his trusted friends. At Athens St. Paul for a time moved about examining the city for himself, a process which soon roused him to action and brought matters to a crisis. St. Paul was well used to pagan towns and the sights with which they were filled. From his earliest youth in Tarsus idolatry and its abominations must have been a pain and grief to him; but Athens he found to exceed them all, so that "his spirit was provoked within him as he beheld the city full of idols." We have in ancient Greek literature the most interesting confirmation of the statement here made by St. Luke. We still possess a descriptive account of Greece written by a chatty Greek traveller named Pausanias, in the days of the Antonines, that is, less than a hundred years after St. Paul’s visit, and when Athens was practically the same as in the Apostle’s day. Pausanias enters into the greatest details about Athens, describing the statues of gods and heroes, the temples, the worship, the customs of the people, bestowing the first thirty chapters of his book upon Athens alone. Pausanias’s "Description of Greece" is most interesting to every one because he saw Athens in the height of its literary glory and architectural splendour, and it is specially interesting to the Bible student because it amply confirms and illustrates the details of St. Paul’s visit.

Thus we are told in words just quoted that St. Paul found "the city full of idols," and this provoked his spirit over and above the usual provocation he received wherever he found dead idols like these usurping the place rightfully belonging to the lord of the universe. Now let us take up Pausanias, and what does he tell us? In his first chapter he tells how the ports of Athens were crowded on every side with temples, and adorned with statues of gold and silver. Phalerum, the port where Paul landed, had temples of Demeter, of Athene, of Zeus, and "altars of gods unknown," of which we shall presently speak. Then we can peruse chapter after chapter crowded with descriptions of statues and temples, till in the seventeenth chapter we read how in their pantheistic enthusiasm they idolised the most impalpable of things: "The Athenians have in the market-place, among other things not universally notable, an altar to Mercy, to whom, though most useful of all the gods to the life of man and its vicissitudes, the Athenians alone of all the Greeks assign honours. And not only is philanthropy more regarded among them, but they also exhibit more piety to the gods than others; for they have also an altar to Shame and Rumour and Energy. And it is clear that those people who have a larger share of piety than others have also a larger share of good fortune." While again, in chapter 24, dwelling upon the statues of Hercules and Athene, Pausanias remarks, "I have said before that the Athenians, more than any other Greeks, have a zeal for religion." Athens was, at the time of St. Paul’s visit, the leading university of the world, and university life then was permeated with the spirit of paganism, the lovers of philosophy and science delighting to adorn Athens with temples and statues and endowments as expressions of the gratitude they felt for the culture which they had there gained. These things had, however, no charm for the apostle Paul. Some moderns, viewing him from an unsympathetic point of view, would describe him in their peculiar language as a mere Philistine in spirit, unable to recognise the material beauty and glory which lay around. And this is true. The beauty which the architect and the sculptor would admire was for the Apostle to a large extent non-existent, owing to his defective eye-sight; but even when recognised it was an object rather of dislike and of abhorrence than of admiration and pleasure, because the Apostle saw deeper than the man of mere superficial culture and aesthetic taste. The Apostle saw these idols and the temples consecrated to their use from the moral and spiritual standpoint, and viewed them therefore as the outward and visible signs of an inward festering corruption and rottenness, the more beautiful perhaps because of the more awful decay which lay beneath. The glimpses which St. Paul got of Athens as he wandered about roused his spirit and quickened him to action. He followed his usual course therefore. He first sought his own countrymen the Jews. There was a colony of Jews at Athens, as we know from independent sources. Philo was a Jew the authenticity of whose writings, at least in great part, has never been questioned. He lived at Alexandria at this very period, and was sent, about twelve years earlier, as an ambassador to Rome to protest against the cruel persecutions to which the Alexandrian Jews had been subjected at the time when Caligula made the attempt to erect his statue at Jerusalem, of which we have spoken in a previous chapter. He wrote an account of his journey to Rome and his treatment by the Emperor, which is called "Legatio ad Caium," and in it he mentions Athens as one of the cities where a considerable Jewish colony existed. We know practically nothing more about this Jewish colony save what we are told here by St. Luke, that it was large enough to have a synagogue, not a mere oratory like the Philippian Jews. It cannot, however, have been a very large one. Athens was not a seat of any considerable trade, and therefore had no such attractions for the Jews as either Thessalonica or Corinth; while its abounding idolatry and its countless images would be repellent to their feelings. Modern investigations have, indeed, brought to light a few ancient inscriptions testifying to the presence of Jews at Athens in these earlier ages; but otherwise we know nothing about them. The synagogue seems to have imbibed a good deal of the same easy-going contemptuously tolerant spirit with which the whole atmosphere of Athens was infected. Jews and pagans alike listened to St. Paul, and then turned away to their own pursuits. In a city where every religion was represented, and every religion discussed and laughed at, how could anyone be very much in earnest? St. Paul then turned from the Jews to the Gentiles. He frequented the marketplace, a well-known spot, near to the favourite meeting-place of the Stoic philosophers. There St. Paul entered into discussion with individuals or with groups as they presented themselves. The philosophers soon took notice of the new-comer. His manner, terribly in earnest, would soon have secured attention in any society, and much more in Athens, where whole-souled and intense enthusiasm was the one intellectual quality which was completely wanting. For who but a man that had heard the voice of God and had seen the vision of the Almighty could be in earnest in a city where residents, and strangers sojourning there, all alike spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing? The philosophers and Stoics and Epicureans alike were attracted by St. Paul’s manner. They listened to him as he discoursed of Jesus and the Resurrection, the two topics which absorbed him. They mistook his meaning in a manner very natural to the place, strange as it may seem to us. In Athens the popular worship was thoroughly Pantheistic. Every desire, passion, infirmity even of human nature was deified and adored, and therefore, as we have already pointed out, Pity and Shame and Energy and Rumour, the last indeed the most fitting and significant of them all for a people who simply lived to talk, found spirits willing to prostrate themselves in their service and altars dedicated to their honour. The philosophers heard this new Jewish teacher proclaiming the virtues and blessings of Jesus and the Resurrection, and they concluded Jesus to be one divinity and the Resurrection another divinity, lately imported from the mysterious East. The philosophers were the aristocracy of the Athenian city, reverenced as the University professors in a German or Scotch town, and they at once brought the newcomer before the court of Areopagus, the highest in Athens, charged, as in the time of Socrates, with the duty of supervising the affairs of the national religion, and punishing all attacks and innovations thereon. The Apostle was led up the steps or stairs which still remain, the judges took their places on the rock-hewn benches, St. Paul was placed upon the defendant’s stone, called, as Pausanias tells us, the Stone of Impudence, and then the trial began.

The Athenian philosophers were cultured, and they were polite. They demand, therefore, in bland tones, "May we know what this new teaching is, which is spoken by thee? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears; we would know, therefore, what these things mean." And now St. Paul has got his chance of a listening audience. He has come across a new type of hearers, such as he has not enjoyed since those early days of his first Christian love, when, after his escape from Jerusalem, he resided at the university city of Tarsus for a long time, till sought out by Barnabas to come and minister to the crowds of Gentiles who were flocking into the Church at Antioch. St. Paul knew right well the tenets of the two classes of men, the Stoics and the Epicureans, with whom he had to contend, and he deals with them effectually in the speech which he delivered before the court. Of that address we have only the barest outline. The report given in the Acts contains about two hundred and fifty words, and must have lasted little more than two minutes if that was all St. Paul said. It embodies, however, merely the leading arguments used by the Apostle as Timothy or some other disciple recollected them and told them to St. Luke. Let us see what these arguments were. He begins with a compliment to the Athenians. The Authorised, and even the Revised, Version represent him indeed as beginning like an unskilled and unwise speaker with giving his audience a slap in the face. "Ye men of Athens, in all things I perceive that ye are somewhat superstitious," would not have been the most conciliatory form of address to a keen-witted assembly like that before which he was now standing. It would have tended to set their backs up at once. If we study St. Paul’s Epistles, specially his First Epistle to Corinth, we shall find that even when he had to find the most grievous faults with his disciples, he always began like a prudent man by conciliating their feelings, praising them for whatever he could find good or blessed in them. Surely if St. Paul acted thus with believers living unworthy of their heavenly calling, he would be still more careful not to offend men whom he wished to win over to Christ! St. Paul’s exordium was complimentary rather than otherwise, bearing out the description which Pausanias gives of the Athenians of his own day, that "they have more than other Greeks, a zeal for religion." Let us expand his thoughts somewhat that we may grasp their force. "Men of Athens, in all things I perceive that ye are more religious and more devoted to the worship of the deity than other men. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, To the unknown God." St. Paul here displays his readiness as a practised orator. He shows his power and readiness to become all things to all men. He seizes upon the excessive devotion of the Athenians. He does not abuse them on account of it, he uses it rather as a good and useful foundation on which he may build a worthier structure, as a good and sacred principle, hitherto misapplied, but henceforth to be dedicated to a nobler purpose. The circumstance upon which St. Paul seized, the existence of an altar dedicated to the unknown God, is amply confirmed by historic evidence. St. Paul may have noticed such altars as he passed up the road from Phalerum, where he landed, to the city of Athens, where, as we learn from Pausanias, the next-century traveller, such altars existed in his time; or he may have seen them on the very hill of Areopagus on which he was standing, where, from ancient times, as we learn from another writer, altars existed dedicated to the unknown gods who sent a plague upon Athens. St. Paul’s argument then was this. The Athenians were already worshippers of the Unknown God. This was the very deity he came proclaiming, and therefore he could not be a setter forth of strange gods nor liable to punishment in consequence. He then proceeds to declare more fully the nature of the Deity hitherto unknown. He was the God that made the world and all things therein. He was not identical therefore with the visible creation as the Pantheism of the Stoics declared; but gave to all out of His own immense fulness life and wealth, and all things; neither was He like the gods of the Epicureans who sat far aloof from all care and thought about this lower world. St. Paul taught God’s personal existence as against the Stoics, and God’s providence as against the Epicureans. Then he struck straight at the root of that national pride, that supreme contempt for the outside barbaric world, which existed as strongly among these cultured agnostic Greek philosophers as among the most narrow, fanatical, and bigoted Jews: "He made of one every nation of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after Him, and find. Him." A doctrine which must have sounded exceeding strange to these Greeks accustomed to despise the barbarian world, looking down upon it from the height of their learning and civilisation, and regarding themselves as the only favourites of Heaven. St. Paul proclaims on the Hill of Mars Christian liberalism, the catholic and cosmopolitan character of the true religion in opposition to this Greek contempt grounded on mere human position and privilege, as clearly and as loudly as be proclaimed the same great truth at Jerusalem or in the synagogues of the Dispersion in opposition to Jewish exclusiveness grounded on the Divine covenant. St. Paul had grasped the great lesson taught by the prophets of the Old Testament as they prophesied concerning Babylon, Egypt, and Tyre. They proclaimed the lesson which Jewish ears were slow to learn, they taught the Jews the truth which Paul preached to the philosophers of Athens, they acted upon the principle which it was the great work of Paul’s life to exemplify, that God’s care and love and providence are over all His works, that His mercies are not restrained to any one nation, but that, having made of one all nations upon the face of the earth, His blessings are bestowed upon them all alike. This truth here taught by St. Paul has been slow to make its way. Men have been slow to acknowledge the equality of all nations in God’s sight, very slow to give up their own claims to exceptional treatment and blessing on the part of the Almighty. The great principle enunciated by the Apostle struck, for instance, at the evil of slavery, yet how slowly it made its way. Till thirty years ago really good and pious men saw nothing inconsistent with Christianity in negro slavery. Christian communions even were established grounded on this fundamental principle, the righteous character of slavery. John Newton was a slave trader, and seems to have seen nothing wrong in it. George Whitefield owned slaves, and bequeathed them as part of his property to be held for his Orphan House in America. But it is not only slavery that this great principle overthrows. It strikes down every form of injustice and wrong. God has made all men of one; they are all equally His care, and therefore every act of injustice is a violation of the Divine law which is thus expressed. Such ideas must have seemed exceedingly strange, and even unnatural to men accustomed to reverence the teaching and study the writings of guides like Aristotle, whose dogma was that slavery was based on the very constitution of nature itself, which formed some men to rule and others to be slaves.

St. Paul does not finish with this. He has not yet exhausted all his message. He had now dealt with the intellectual errors and mistakes of his hearers. He had around him and above him, if he could but see the magnificent figure of Athene, the pride and glory of the Acropolis, with its surrounding temples, the most striking proofs how their intellectual mistakes had led the wise of this world into fatal and degrading practices. In the course of his argument, having shown the nearness of God to man, "In Him we live and move and have our being," and the Divine desire that man should seek after and know God, he quoted a passage common to several well-known poets, "For we are also His offspring." This was sufficient for St. Paul, who as we see, in all his Epistles, often flies off at a tangent when a word slips as it were by chance from his pen, leading him off to a new train of ideas. We are the offspring of God. How is it then that men can conceive the Godhead, that which is Divine, to be like unto those gold and silver, brass and marble statues, even though wrought with the greatest possible skill. The philosophers indeed pretended to distinguish between the Eternal Godhead and these divinities and images innumerable, which were but representations of his several characteristics and attributes. But even if they distinguished intellectually, they did not distinguish in practice, and the people from the highest to the lowest identified the idol with the deity itself, and rendered thereto the honour due to God.

St. Paul then proceeds to enunciate his own doctrines. He lightly touches upon, as he did previously at Lystra, [Acts 14:16] a subject which neither the time at his disposal nor the position of his hearers would permit him to discuss. He glances at, but does not attempt to explain, why God had postponed to that late date this novel teaching: "The times of ignorance God overlooked; but now He commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent." This doctrine of repentance, involving a sense of sin and sorrow for it, must have sounded exceeding strange to those philosophic ears, as did the announcement with which the Apostle follows it up, the proclamation of a future judgment by a Man whom God had ordained for the purpose, and authenticated by raising Him from the dead. Here the crowd interrupted him. The Resurrection, or Anastasis, which Paul preached was not then a new deity, but an impossible process through which no man save in fable had ever passed. When the Apostle got thus far the assembly broke up. The idea of a resurrection of a dead man was too much for them. It was too ludicrous for belief. "Some mocked: but others said, We will hear thee again of this matter," and thus ended St. Paul’s address, and thus ended too the Athenian opportunity, for St. Paul soon passed away from such a society of learned triflers and scoffers. They sat in the seat of the scorner, and the seat of the scorner is never a good one for a learner to occupy who wishes to profit. He felt that he had no great work to do in such a place. His opportunity lay where hearts were broken with sin and sorrow, where the burden of life weighed upon the soul, and men heavy laden and sore pressed were longing for a real deliverance and for a higher, nobler life than the world could offer. His work, however, was not all in vain, nor were his personal discussions and his public address devoid of results. The Church of Athens was one of those which could look back to St. Paul as its founder. "Not many wise after the flesh were called" in that city of wisdom and beauty, but some were called, among whom was one of those very judges who sat to investigate the Apostle’s teaching: "But certain clave unto him, and believed: among whom also was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them." And this Church thus founded became famous; Dionysius the Areopagite became afterwards a celebrated man, because his name was attached some five centuries later to a notorious forgery which has played no small part in later Christian history. Dionysius was the first bishop of the Athenian Church according to the testimony of another Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, who lived in the middle of the second century, while persons were yet living who could remember the Areopagite. He was succeeded by Publius, who presided over the Church at an important period of its existence. The Emperor Hadrian came to Athens, and was charmed with it about the year 125 A.D. At that time the Athenian Church must have included among its members several learned men; for the two earliest "Apologies" in defence of Christianity were produced by it. The Athenian Church had just then been purified by the fiery trials of persecution.

Quadratus and Aristides stood forth to plead its cause before the Emperor. Of Quadratus and his work we know but little. Eusebius, the great Church historian, had, however, seen it, and gives us ("H.E.," 4:3) a brief abstract of it, appealing to the miracles of our Saviour, and stating that some of the dead whom Christ had raised had lived to his own time. While as for Aristides, the other apologist, his work, after lying hidden from the sight of Christendom, was printed and published last year, as we have told in the former volume of this commentary. That "Apology" of Aristides has much important teaching for us, as we have there tried to show. There is one point, however, to which we did not allude. The "Apology" of Aristides shows us that the Athenian Church accepted in the fullest degree and preserved the great Pauline doctrine of the freedom and catholic nature of Christianity. In the year 125 Judaism and Christianity were still struggling together within the Church in other places; but at Athens they had clean separated the one from the other. Till that year no one but a circumcised Jewish Christian had ever presided over the Mother Church of Jerusalem, which sixty years after the martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul preserved exactly the same attitude as in the days of James the Just. The Church of Athens, on the other hand, as a thoroughly Gentile Church, had from the first enjoyed the ministry of Dionysius the Areopagite, a Gentile of culture and education. He had been attracted by the broad liberal teaching of the Apostle in his address upon Mars’ Hill, enunciating a religion free from all narrow national limitations. He embraced this catholic teaching with his whole heart, and transmitted it to his successors, so that when some seventy years later a learned Athenian stood forth in the person of Aristides, to explain the doctrines of the Church, contrasting them with the errors and mistakes of all other nations, Aristides does not spare even the Jews. He praises them indeed when compared with the pagans, who had erred on the primary questions of morals; but he blames them because they had not reached the final and absolute position occupied by the Christians. Listen to the words of Aristides which proclaim the true Pauline doctrine taught in St. Paul’s sermons, re-echoed by the Epistles, "Nevertheless the Jews too have gone astray from accurate knowledge, and they suppose in their minds that they are serving God, but in the methods of their service, their service is to angels and not to God, in that they observe Sabbaths and new moons, and the passover, and the great fast, and the fast and circumcision, and cleanness of meats," words which sound exactly the same note and embody the same conception as St. Paul in his indignant language to the Galatians: [Galatians 4:9-11] "Now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known of God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again? Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labour upon you in vain."

St. Paul did not stay long at Athens. Five or six weeks perhaps, two months at most, was probably the length of his visit, time enough just for his Beroean guides to go back to their own city two hundred miles away, and forward their message to Thessalonica fifty miles distant, desiring Timothy and Silas to come to him. Timothy, doubtless, soon started upon his way, tarried with the Apostle for a little, and then returned to Thessalonica, as we learn from 1 Thessalonians 3:1 : "When we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone, and sent Timothy to establish you and comfort you." And now he was again all alone in that scoffing city where neither the religious, moral, nor intellectual atmosphere could have been pleasing to a man like St. Paul. He quitted Athens therefore and came to Corinth. In that city he laboured for a period of a year and a half at least; and yet the record of his brief visit to Athens, unsuccessful as it was so far as immediate results are concerned, is much longer than the record of his prolonged work in Corinth.

Now if we were writing a life of St. Paul instead of a commentary on the history told us in the Acts, we should be able to supplement the brief narrative of the historical book with the ample details contained in the Epistles of St. Paul, especially the two Epistles written to Corinth itself, which illustrate the life of the Apostle, his work at Corinth, and the state of the Corinthians themselves prior and subsequent to their conversion. A consideration of these points would, however, lead me to intrude on the sphere of the commentator on the Corinthian Epistles, and demand an amount of space which we cannot afford. In addition, the three great biographies of St. Paul to which we have so often referred-Lewin’s, Farrar’s, and that of Conybeare and Howson-treat this subject at such great length and with such a profusion of archaeological learning as practically leave a fresh writer nothing new to say in this direction. Let us, however, look briefly at the record in the Acts of St. Paul’s work in Corinth, viewing it from the expositor’s point of view. St. Paul went from Athens to Corinth discouraged, it may have been, by the results of his Athenian labours. Opposition never frightened St. Paul; but learned carelessness, haughty contemptuous indifference to his Divine message, the outcome of a spirit devoid of any true spiritual life, quenched his ardour, chilled his enthusiasm. He must indeed have been sorely repelled by Athens when he set out all alone for the great capital of Achaia, the wicked, immoral, debased city of Corinth. When He came thither he united himself with Aquila, a Jew of Pontus, and Priscilla, his wife, because they were members of the same craft. They had been lately expelled from Rome, and, like the Apostle, were tent-makers: for convenience’ sake therefore, and to save expense, they all lodged together. Here again St. Paul experienced the wisdom of his father’s training and of the Rabbinical law, which thus made him in Corinth, as before in Thessalonica, thoroughly independent of all external circumstances, and able with his own hands to minister to his body’s wants. And it was a fortunate thing too for the gospel’s sake: that he was able to do so. St. Paul never permits anyone to think for a moment that the claim of Christ’s ministry for a fitting support is a doubtful one. He expressly teaches again and again, as in 1 Corinthians 9:1-27., that it is the Scriptural as well as rational duty of the people to contribute according to their means to the maintenance of Christ’s public ministry. But there were certain circumstances at Thessalonica, and above all at Corinth, which made St. Paul waive his just claim and even cramp, limit, and confine his exertions, by imposing on himself the work of earning his daily food. Thessalonica and Corinth had immense Jewish populations. The Jews were notorious in that age as furnishing the greatest number of impostors, quack magicians, and every other kind of agency which traded upon human credulity for the purpose of gain.

St. Paul was determined that neither Jew nor Gentile in either place should be able to hinder the work of the gospel by accusing him of self-seeking or covetous purposes. For this purpose he united with Aquila and Priscilla in working: at their common trade as tentmakers, employing the Sabbath days in debating after the usual fashion in the Jewish synagogues; and upon ordinary days improving the hours during which his hands laboured upon the coarse hair cloth of which tents were made, either in expounding: to his fellow-workmen the glorious news which he proclaimed or else in meditating upon the trials of his converts in Macedonia, or perhaps, most of all, in that perpetual communion with God, that never-ceasing intercession for which he ever found room and time in the secret chambers of the soul. St. Paul’s intercessions, as we read of them in his Epistles, were immense. Intercessory prayers for his individual converts are frequently mentioned by him. It would have been impossible for a man so hard. pressed with labours of every kind, temporal and spiritual, to find place for them all in formal prayers if St. Paul did not cultivate the habit of ceaseless communion with his Father in heaven, perpetually bringing before God those cases and persons which lay dearest to his heart. This habit of secret prayer must be the explanation of St. Paul’s widespread intercessions, and for this reason. He commends the same practice again and again to his converts. "Pray without ceasing" is his language to the Thessalonians. [1 Thessalonians 5:17] Now this could not mean, prolong your private devotions to an inordinate length, because great numbers of his converts were slaves who were not masters of their time. But it does mean cultivate a perpetual sense of God’s presence and of your own communion with Him, which will turn life and its busiest work into a season of refreshing prayer and untiring intercession.

Meanwhile, according to Acts 18:5, Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, bringing contributions for the Apostle’s support, which enabled him to fling himself entirely into ministerial and evangelistic work. This renewed activity soon told. St. Paul had no longer to complain of contemptuous or listless conduct, as at Athens. He experienced at Jewish hands in Corinth exactly the same treatment as at Thessalonica and Beroea. Paul preached that Jesus was the Christ. The Jews blasphemed Him, and called Him accursed. Their attitude became so threatening that Paul was at length compelled to retire from the synagogue, and, separating his disciples, Jews and Gentiles alike, he withdrew to the house of one Justus, a man whose Latin name bespeaks his Western origin, who lived next door to the synagogue. Thenceforth he threw himself with all his energy into his work. God too directly encouraged him. The very proximity of the Christian Church to the Jewish Synagogue constituted a special danger to himself personally when he had to deal with fanatical Jews. A heavenly visitor appeared, therefore, to refresh the wearied saint. In his hour of danger and of weakness God’s strength and grace were perfected, and assurance was granted that the Lord had much people in the city of Corinth, and that no harm should happen to him while striving to seek out. and gather God’s sheep that were scattered abroad in the midst of the naughty world of Corinthian life. And the secret vision did not stand alone. External circumstances lent their assistance and support. Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and his family became converts, and were baptised. Gains and Stephanas were important converts gathered from amongst the Gentiles; so important indeed were these three individuals and their families that St. Paul, turned aside from his purely evangelistic and missionary labours and devoted himself to the pastoral work of preparing them for baptism, administering personally that holy sacrament, a duty which he usually left to his assistants, who were not so well qualified for the rough pioneer efforts of controversy, which he had marked out for himself. And so the work went on for a year and a half, till the Jews thought they saw their opportunity for crushing the audacious apostate who was thus making havoc even among the officials of their own organisation, inducing them to join his Nazarene synagogue. Achaia, of which Corinth was the capital, was a Roman province, embracing, broadly speaking, the territory comprised in the modern kingdom of Greece. Like a great many other provinces, and specially like Cyprus, to which we have already called attention, Achaia was at times an imperial, at times a senatorial province. Forty years earlier it was an imperial province. The Acts describes it as just then, that is, about A.D. 53, a senatorial or proconsular province; and Suetonius, an independent Roman historian, confirms this, telling us ("Claud.," 25) that the Emperor Claudius restored it to the senate.

Gallio, a brother of the celebrated philosophic writer Seneca, had been sent to it as proconsul, and the Jews thought they now saw their opportunity. Gallio, whose original and proper name was Annaeus Novatus, was a man distinguished by what in Rome was considered his sweet, gentle, and loving disposition. His reputation may have preceded him, and the Jews of Corinth may have thought that they would play upon his easy-going temper. The Jews, being a very numerous community at Corinth had it of course in their power to prove very unpleasant to any ruler, and specially to one of Gallio’s reputed temper. The Roman governors were invested with tremendous powers; they were absolute despots, in fact, for the time being, and yet they were often very anxious to gain popularity, especially with any troublesome body of their temporary subjects. The Roman proconsuls, in fact, adopted a principle we sometimes see still acted out in political life, as if it were the highest type of statesmanship. They were anxious to gain popularity by gratifying those who made themselves specially obnoxious and raised the loudest cries. They petted the naughty, and they neglected the good. So it was with Pontius Pilate, who perpetrated a judicial murder because it contented the multitude; so it was with Festus, who left an innocent mart in bonds at Caesarea because he desired to gain favour with the Jews; and so too, thought the Jews of Corinth, it would be with Gallio, They arrested the Apostle, therefore, using the messengers of the synagogue for the purpose, and brought him to the proconsular court, where they set him before the bema, or elevated platform, whence the Roman magistrates dispensed justice. Then they laid their formal accusation against him: "This man persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law"; expecting perhaps that he would be remitted by the proconsul to the judgment and discipline of their own domestic tribunal, even as Pilate said to the Jews about our Lord and their accusation against Him: "Take ye Him, and judge Him according to your law." But the philosophic brother of the Stoic Seneca had a profound contempt for these agitating Jews. His Stoic education too had trained him to allow external things as little influence upon the mind as possible. The philosophic apathy which the Stoics cultivated must have more or less affected his whole nature, as he soon showed the Jews; for before the Apostle had time to reply to the charge Gallio burst in contemptuously. If it were a matter of law and order, he declares, it would be right to attend to it; but if your complaint is touching your own national law and customs I will have nothing to say to it. And then he commanded his lictors to clear the court. Thus ended the attempt on St. Paul’s freedom or life, an attempt which was indeed more disastrous to the Jews themselves than to anyone else; for the Gentile mob of Corinth, hating the Jews, and glad to see them balked of their expected prey, seized the chief accuser Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment-seat; while Gallio all the while cared for none of these things, despising the mob, Jew and Gentile alike, and contemptuously pitying them from the height of his philosophic self-contentment. Gallio has been at all times regarded as the type of the mere worldling, who, wrapped in material interests, cares for nothing higher or nobler. But this is scarcely fair to Gallio. The Stoic philosopher was not dead to better things. But he is the type rather of men who, blinded by lower truths and mere intellectual wisdom, are thereby rendered careless of those spiritual matters in which the soul’s true life alone consists. He had so thoroughly cultivated a philosophic contempt for the outside world and its business, the sayings and doings, the joys and the sorrows of the puny mortals who fume and strut and fret their lives away upon this earthly stage, that he lost the opportunity of hearing from the Apostle’s tips of a grander philosophy, a deeper contentment, of a truer, more satisfying peace than was ever dreamt of in stoical speculation. And this type of man is not extinct. Philosophy, science, art, literature, politics, they are all great facts, all offer vast fields for human activity, and all may serve for a time so thoroughly to content and satisfy man’s inner being as to render him careless of that life in Christ which alone abideth for evermore.

The attempt of the Jews marked the termination of St. Paul’s work in Corinth. It was at least the beginning of the end. He had now laboured longer in Corinth than anywhere else since he started out from Antioch. He had organised and consolidated the Church, as we can see from his Corinthian Epistles, and now he longed once more to visit his old friends, and report what God had wrought by his means during his long absence. He tarried, therefore, yet a while, visiting doubtless, the various Churches which he had established throughout all the province of Achaia, and then, accompanied by a few companions, set sail for Syria, to declare the results of his eventful mission, taking Ephesus on his way. This was his first visit to that great city, and he was probably led to pay it owing to the commercial necessities of Aquila. Life’s actions and deeds, even in the case of an apostle, are moulded by very little things. A glance, a chance word, a passing courtesy, forgotten as soon as done, and life is very different from what it otherwise would have been. And so, too, the tent-making and tent-selling of Aquila brought Paul to Ephesus, shaped the remainder of his career, and endowed the Church with the rich spiritual heritage of the teaching imparted to the Ephesian disciples by word and epistle.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Acts 17:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/acts-17.html.

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