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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER IX. PAUL'S EPISTLES; HIS COLLECTION FOR THE POOR SAINTS AT JERUSALEM; HIS IMPRISONMENT THERE, AND AT CAESAREA AND ROME.

The Ancient Church by William Dool Killen

CHAPTER IX. PAUL'S EPISTLES; HIS COLLECTION FOR THE POOR SAINTS AT JERUSALEM; HIS IMPRISONMENT THERE, AND AT CAESAREA AND ROME.

A.D.57 TO A.D.63.

Paul had already determined to leave Ephesus at Pentecost, [128:1] and as the secular games, at which the Asiarchs presided, took place during the month of May, the disorderly proceedings of Demetrius and the craftsmen, which occurred at the same period, do not seem to have greatly accelerated his removal. Soon afterwards, however, he |called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed to go into Macedonia.| [128:2] When he reached that district, he was induced to enter on new scenes of missionary enterprise; and now, |round about unto Illyricum,| he |fully preached the gospel of Christ.| [128:3] Shortly before, Timothy had returned from Greece to Ephesus, [128:4] and when the apostle took leave of his friends in that metropolis, he left the evangelist behind him to protect the infant Church against the seductions of false teachers. [128:5] He now addressed the first epistle to his |own son in the faith,| [128:6] and thus also supplied to the ministers of all succeeding generations the most precious instructions on the subject of pastoral theology. [129:1] Soon afterwards he wrote the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. This letter throws much light on the private character of Paul, and enables us to understand how he contrived to maintain such a firm hold on the affections of those among whom he ministered. Though he uniformly acted with great decision, he was singularly amiable and gentle, as well as generous and warm-hearted. No one could doubt his sincerity; no one could question his disinterestedness; no one could fairly complain that he was harsh or unkind. In his First Epistle to the Corinthians he had been obliged to employ strong language when rebuking them for their irregularities; but now they exhibited evidences of repentance, and he is obviously most willing to forget and forgive. In his Second Epistle to them he enters into many details of his personal history unnoticed elsewhere in the New Testament, [130:1] and throughout displays a most loving and conciliatory spirit. He states that, when he dictated his former letter, it was far from his intention to wound their feelings, and that it was with the utmost pain he had sent them such a communication. |Out of much affliction, and anguish of heart,| said he, |I wrote unto you with many tears, not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.| [130:2] The Corinthians could not have well resented an advice from such a correspondent.

When Paul had itinerated throughout Macedonia and Illyricum |he came into Greece, [130:3] and there abode three months.| [130:4] He now visited Corinth for the third time; and, during his stay in that city, dictated the Epistle to the Romans. [130:5] At this date, a Church |spoken of throughout the whole world| [130:6] had been formed in the great metropolis; some of its members were the relatives of the apostle; [130:7] and others, such as Priscilla and Aquila, [130:8] had been converted under his ministry. As he himself contemplated an early visit to the far-famed city, [130:9] he sent this letter before him, to announce his intentions, and to supply the place of his personal instructions. The Epistle to the Romans is a precious epitome of Christian theology. It is more systematic in its structure than, perhaps, any other of the writings of Paul; and being a very lucid exposition of the leading truths taught by the inspired heralds of the gospel, it remains an emphatic testimony to the doctrinal defections of the religious community now bearing the name of the Church to which it was originally addressed.

The apostle had been recently making arrangements for another visit to Jerusalem; and he accordingly left Greece in the spring of A.D.58; but the malignity of his enemies appears to have obliged him to change his plan of travelling. |When the Jews laid wait for him as he was about to sail| from Cenchrea, the port of Corinth, |into Syria,| he found it expedient |to return through Macedonia.| [131:1] Proceeding, therefore, to Philippi, [131:2] the city in which he had commenced his European ministry, he passed over to Troas; [131:3] and then continued his journey along the coast of Asia Minor. On his arrival at Miletus |he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the Church; and, when they were come to him,| he delivered to them a very pathetic pastoral address, and bade them farewell. [131:4] At the conclusion, |he kneeled down and prayed with them all, and they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake that they should see his face no more: and they accompanied him unto the ship.| [131:5] He now pursued his course to Jerusalem, and after various delays, arrived at Caesarea. There, says Luke, |we entered into the house of Philip, the evangelist, which was one of the seven, and abode with him.| [131:6] In Caesarea, as in other cities through which he had already passed, he was told that bonds and afflictions awaited him in the place of his destination; [131:7] but he was not thus deterred from pursuing his journey. |When he would not be persuaded,| says the sacred historian, |we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done, and after those days, having packed up, [131:8] we went up to Jerusalem.| [131:9] The apostle and his companions reached the holy city about the time of the feast of Pentecost.

Paul was well aware that there were not a few, even among the Christians of Palestine, by whom he was regarded with jealousy or dislike; and he had reason to believe that the agitation for the observance of the ceremonial law, which had disturbed the Churches of Galatia, had been promoted by the zealots of the Hebrew metropolis. But he had a strong attachment to the land of his fathers; and he felt deeply interested in the well-being of his brethren in Judea. They were generally in indigent circumstances; for, after the crucifixion, when the Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, those of them who had property |sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need;| [132:1] and, ever since, they had been harassed and persecuted by their unbelieving countrymen. |The poor saints| that were in Jerusalem [132:2] had, therefore, peculiar claims on the kind consideration of the disciples in other lands; and Paul had been making collections for their benefit among their richer co-religionists in Greece and Asia Minor. A considerable sum had been thus provided; and that there might be no misgivings as to its right appropriation, individuals chosen by the contributors had been appointed to travel with the apostle, and to convey it to Jerusalem. [132:3] The number of the deputies appears to have been seven, namely, |Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristech's and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.| [132:4] The apostle knew that he had enemies waiting for his halting; and as they would willingly have seized upon any apology for accusing him of tampering with this collection, he, no doubt, deemed it prudent to put it into other hands, and thus place himself above challenge. But he appears to have had a farther reason for suggesting the appointment of these commissioners. He was, in all likelihood, desirous that his brethren in Judea should have a favourable specimen of the men who constituted |the first fruits of the Gentiles;| and as all the deputies selected to accompany him to Jerusalem seem to have been persons of an excellent spirit, he probably reckoned that their wise and winning behaviour would do much to disarm the hostility of those who had hitherto contended so strenuously for the observance of the Mosaic ceremonies. Solomon has said that |a man's gift maketh room for him;| [133:1] and if Gentile converts could ever expect a welcome reception from those who were zealous for the law, it was surely when they appeared as the bearers of the liberality of the Gentile Churches.

When the apostle and his companions reached the Jewish capital, |the brethren received them gladly.| [133:2] Paul was, however, given to understand that, as he was charged with encouraging the neglect of the Mosaic ceremonies, he must be prepared to meet a large amount of prejudice; and he was accordingly recommended to endeavour to pacify the multitude by giving some public proof that he himself |walked orderly and kept the law.| [133:3] Acting on this advice, he joined with four men who had on them a Nazaritic vow; [133:4] and, |purifying himself with them, entered into the temple.| [133:5] When there, he was observed by certain Jews from Asia Minor, who had probably become acquainted with his personal appearance during his residence in Ephesus; and as they had before seen him in the city with Trophimus, one of the seven deputies and a convert from paganism, whom they seem also to have known, [134:1] they immediately concluded that he had now some Gentile companions along with him, and that he was encouraging the uncircumcised to pollute with their presence the sacred court of the Israelites. A tumult forthwith ensued; the report of the defilement of the holy place quickly circulated through the crowd; |all the city was moved;| [134:2] the people ran together; and Paul was seized and dragged out of the temple. [134:3] The apostle would have fallen a victim to popular fury had it not been for the prompt interference of the officer who had the command of the Roman garrison in the tower of Antonia. This stronghold overlooked the courts of the sanctuary; and, no doubt, some of the sentinels on duty immediately gave notice of the commotion. The chief captain, whose name was Claudius Lysias, [134:4] at once |took soldiers and centurions,| and running down to the rioters, arrived in time to prevent a fatal termination of the affray; for, as soon as the military made their appearance, the assailants |left beating of Paul.| [134:5] |Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains, and demanded who he was, and what he had done. And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude, and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle.| [134:6] In proceeding thus, the commanding officer acted illegally; for, as Paul was a Roman citizen, he should not, without a trial, have been deprived of his liberty, and put in irons. But Lysias, in the hurry and confusion of the moment, had been deceived by false information; as he had been led to believe that his prisoner was an Egyptian, a notorious outlaw, who, |before these days,| had created much alarm by leading |out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers.| [135:1] He was quite astonished to find that the individual whom he had rescued from such imminent danger was a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia who could speak Greek; and as it was now evident that there existed much misapprehension, the apostle was permitted to stand on the stairs of the fortress, and address the multitude. When they saw him preparing to make some statement, the noise subsided; and, |when they heard that he spake to them in the Hebrew tongue,| that is, in the Aramaic, the current language of the country, |they kept the more silence.| [135:2] Paul accordingly proceeded to give an account of his early life, of the remarkable circumstances of his conversion, and of his subsequent career; but, when he mentioned his mission to the Gentiles, it was at once apparent that the topic was most unpopular, for his auditors lost all patience. |They gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live. And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, the chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle.| [135:3]

The confinement of Paul, which now commenced at the feast of Pentecost in A.D.58, continued about five years. It may be enough to notice the mere outline of his history during this tedious bondage. In the first place, for the purpose of ascertaining the exact nature of the charge against him, he was confronted with the Sanhedrim; but when he informed them that |of the hope and resurrection of the dead| he was called in question, [136:1] there |arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees| [136:2] constituting the council; and the chief captain, fearing lest his prisoner |should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.| [136:3] Certain of the Jews, about forty in number, now entered into a conspiracy binding themselves |under a curse, saying, that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul;| [136:4] and it was arranged that the bloody vow should be executed when, under pretence of a new examination, he should be brought again before the Sanhedrim; but their proceedings meanwhile became known to the apostle's nephew; the chief captain received timely information; and the scheme thus miscarried. [136:5] Paul, protected by a strong military escort, was now sent away by night to Caesarea; and, when there, was repeatedly examined before Felix, the Roman magistrate who at this time, under the title of Procurator, had the government of Judea. The historian Tacitus says of this imperial functionary that |in the practice of all kinds of cruelty and lust, he exercised the power of a king with the mind of a slave;| [136:6] and it is a remarkable proof, as well of the intrepid faithfulness, as of the eloquence of the apostle, that he succeeded in arresting the attention, and in alarming the fears of this worthless profligate. Drusilla, his wife, a woman who had deserted her former husband, [136:7] was a Jewess; and, as she appears to have been desirous to see and hear the great Christian preacher who had been labouring with so much zeal to propagate his principles throughout the Empire, Paul, to satisfy her curiosity, was brought into her presence. But an interview, which seems to have been designed merely for the amusement of the Procurator and his partner, soon assumed an appearance of the deepest solemnity. As the grave and earnest orator went on to expound the faith of the gospel, and |as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled.| [137:1] His apprehensions, however, soon passed away, and though he was fully convinced that Paul had not incurred any legal penalty, he continued to keep him in confinement, basely expecting to obtain a bribe for his liberation. When disappointed in this hope, he still perversely refused to set him at liberty. Thus, |after two years,| when |Porcius Festus came into Felix' room,| the ex-Procurator, |willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.| [137:2]

The apostle was soon required to appear before the new Governor. Festus has left behind him the reputation of an equitable judge; [137:3] and though he was obviously most desirous to secure the good opinion of the Jews, he could not be induced by them to act with palpable injustice. After he had brought them down to Caesarea, and listened to their complaints against the prisoner, he perceived that they could convict him of no violation of the law; but he proposed to gratify them so far as to have the case reheard in the holy city. Paul, however, well knew that they only sought such an opportunity to compass his assassination, and therefore peremptorily refused to consent to the arrangement. |I stand,| said he, |at Caesar's judgment-seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die; but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.| [138:1]

The right of appeal from the decision of an inferior tribunal to the Emperor himself was one of the great privileges of a Roman citizen; and no magistrate could refuse to recognise it without exposing himself to condign punishment. There were, indeed, a few exceptional cases of a flagrant character in which such an appeal could not be received; and Festus here consulted with his assessors to ascertain in what light the law contemplated that of the apostle. It appeared, however, that he was at perfect liberty to demand a hearing before the tribunal of Nero. |Then,| says the evangelist, |when Festus had conferred with the council, he answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? Unto Caesar shalt thou go.| [138:2]

The Procurator was now placed in a somewhat awkward position; for, when sending Paul to Rome, he was required at the same time to report the crimes imputed to the prisoner; but the charges were so novel, and apparently so frivolous, that he did not well know how to embody them in an intelligible document. Meanwhile King Agrippa and his sister Bernice came to Caesarea |to salute Festus,| [138:3] that is, to congratulate the new Governor on his arrival in the country; and the royal party expressed a desire to hear what the apostle had to say in his vindication. Agrippa was great-grandson of that Herod who reigned in Judea when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and the son of the monarch of the same name whose sudden and awful death is recorded in the twelfth chapter of the Acts. On the demise of his father in A.D.44, he was only seventeen years of age; and Judea, which was then reduced into the form a Roman province with Caesarea for its capital, had remained ever since under the government of Procurators. But though Agrippa had not been permitted to succeed to the dominions of his father, he had received various proofs of imperial favour; for he had obtained the government, first of the principality of Chalcis, and then of several other districts; and he had been honoured with the title of King. [139:1] The Gentile Procurators could not be expected to be very minutely acquainted with the ritual and polity of Israel; but as Agrippa was a Jew, and consequently familiar with the customs and sentiments of the native population, he had been entrusted with the care of the temple and its treasures, as well as with the appointment of the high priest. Festus, no doubt, felt that in a case such as that of Paul, the advice of this visitor should be solicited; and hoped that Agrippa would be able to supply some suggestion to relieve him out of his present perplexity. It was accordingly arranged that the apostle should be permitted to plead his cause in the hearing of the Jewish monarch. The affair seems to have created unusual interest; the public appear to have been partially admitted on the occasion; and seldom, or, perhaps, never before, had Paul enjoyed an opportunity of addressing such an influential and brilliant auditory. |Agrippa came, and Bernice, with great pomp, and entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city.| [139:2] Paul, still in bonds, made his appearance before this courtly throng; and though it might have been expected that a two years' confinement would have broken the spirit of the prisoner, he displayed powers of argument and eloquence which astonished and confounded his judges. The Procurator was quite bewildered by his reasoning, for he appealed to |the promise made unto the fathers,| [139:3] and to things which |Moses and the prophets did say should come;| [140:1] and as Festus could not appreciate the lofty enthusiasm of the Christian orator (for he had never, when at Rome, been accustomed to hear the advocates of heathenism plead so earnestly in its defence), he |said with a loud voice -- Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.| [140:2] But the apostle's self-possession was in nowise shaken by this blunt charge. |I am not mad, most noble Festus,| he replied, |but speak forth the words of truth and soberness;| and then, turning to the royal stranger, vigorously pressed home his argument. |King Agrippa,| he exclaimed, |believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.| [140:3] The King, thus challenged, was a libertine; and at this very time was believed to be living in incestuous intercourse with his sister Bernice; and yet he seems to have been staggered by Paul's solemn and pointed interrogatory. |Almost,| said he, |thou persuadest me to be a Christian.| [140:4] It has been thought by some that these words were uttered with a sneer; but whatever may have been the frivolity of the Jewish King, they elicited from the apostle one of the noblest rejoinders that ever issued from human lips, |And Paul said, I would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.| [140:5]

The singularly able defence now made by the apostle convinced his judges of the futility of the charges preferred against him by the Sanhedrim. But at this stage of the proceedings it was no longer practicable to quash the prosecution. When Paul concluded his address |the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them. And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying -- This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa unto Festus -- This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.| [141:1]

At first sight it may appear extraordinary that so eminent a missionary in the meridian of his usefulness was subjected to so long an imprisonment. But |God's ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts.| When thus, to a great extent, laid aside from official duty, he had ample time to commune with his own heart, and to trace out, with adoring wonder, the glorious grace and the manifold wisdom of the work of redemption. Having himself partaken largely of affliction, and experienced the sustaining power of the gospel so abundantly, he was the better prepared to comfort the distressed; and hence his letters, written at this period, are so full of consolation. [141:2] And apart from other considerations, we may here recognise the fulfilment of a prophetic announcement. When Paul was converted, the Lord said to Ananias -- |He is a chosen vessel unto me to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel, for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.| [141:3] During his protracted confinement he exhibited alike to Jew and Gentile an illustrious specimen of faith and constancy; and called attention to the truth in many quarters where otherwise it might have remained unknown. Though he was chained to a soldier, he was not kept in very rigorous custody, so that he had frequent opportunities of proclaiming the great salvation. He was peculiarly fitted by his education and his genius for expounding Christianity to persons moving in the upper circles of society; and had he remained at liberty he could have expected to gain access very rarely to such auditors. But already, as a prisoner, he had pleaded the claims of the gospel before no inconsiderable portion of the aristocracy of Palestine. He had been heard by the chief captain in command of the garrison in the castle of Antonia, by the Sanhedrim, by Felix and Drusilla, by Festus, by King Agrippa and his sister Bernice, and probably by |the principal men| of both Caesarea and Jerusalem. In criminal cases the appeals of Roman citizens were heard by the Emperor himself, so that the apostle was about to appear as an ambassador for Christ in the presence of the greatest of earth's potentates. Who can tell but that some of that splendid assembly of senators and nobles who surrounded Nero, when Paul was brought before his judgment-seat, will have reason throughout all eternity to remember the occasion as the birth-day of their blessedness!

The apostle and |certain other prisoners| embarked for Rome in the autumn of A.D.60. The compass was then unknown; in weather, |when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared,| [142:1] the mariner was without a guide; and, late in the season, navigation was peculiarly dangerous. The voyage proved disastrous; after passing into a second vessel at Myra, [142:2] a city of Lycia, Paul and his companions were wrecked on the coast of the island of Malta; [142:3] when they had remained there three months, they set sail once more in a corn ship of Alexandria, the Castor and Pollux; [142:4] and at length in the early part of A.D.61, reached the harbour of Puteoli, [143:1] then the great shipping port of Italy.

The account of the voyage from Caesarea to Puteoli, as given in the Acts of the Apostles, is one of the most curious passages to be found in the whole of the sacred volume. Some may think it strange that the inspired historian enters so much into details, and the nautical terms which he employs may puzzle not a few readers; but these features of his narrative attest its authenticity and genuineness. No one, who had not himself shared the perils of the scene, could have been expected to describe with so much accuracy the circumstances of the shipwreck. It has been remarked that, after the lapse of eighteen hundred years, the references of the evangelist to prevailing winds and currents, to the indentations of the coast, to islands, bays, and harbours, may still be exactly verified. Recent investigators have demonstrated that the sailors, in the midst of danger, displayed no little ability, and that their conduct in |undergirding the ship,| [143:2] and in casting |four anchors out of the stern,| [143:3] evidenced their skilful seamanship. Luke states that, after a long period of anxiety and abstinence, |about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country.| [143:4] The headland they were approaching is very low, and in a stormy night is said to be invisible even at the distance of a quarter of a mile; [143:5] but the sailors could detect the shore by other indications. Even in a storm the roar of breakers can be distinguished from other sounds by the practised ear of a mariner; [144:1] and it can be shewn that, with such a gale as was then blowing, the sea still dashes with amazing violence against the very same point of land off which Paul and his companions were that night labouring. In the depth of the water at the place there is another most remarkable coincidence. We are told that the sailors |sounded and found it twenty fathoms, and when they had gone a little farther, they sounded, and found it fifteen fathoms.| [144:2] |But what,| observes a modern writer, |are the soundings at this point? They are now twenty fathoms. If we proceed a little farther we find fifteen fathoms. It may be said that this, in itself is nothing remarkable. But if we add that the fifteen-fathom depth is in the direction of the vessel's drift (W. by N.) from the twenty-fathom depth, the coincidence is startling.| [144:3] It may be stated also that the |creek with a shore| [144:4] or sandy beach, and the |place where two seas met,| [144:5] and where |they ran the ship aground| may still be recognised in what is now called St Paul's Bay at Malta. [144:6] Even in the nature of the submarine strata we have a most striking confirmation of the truth of the inspired history. It appears that the four anchors cast out of the stern retained their hold, and it is well known that the ground in St Paul's Bay is remarkably firm; for in our English sailing directions it is mentioned that |while the cables hold, there is no danger, as the anchors will never start.| [144:7] Luke reports that when the ship ran aground, |the fore-part stuck fast and remained unmoveable| [144:8] -- a statement which is corroborated by the fact that |the bottom is mud graduating into tenacious clay| [145:1] -- exactly the species of deposit from which such a result might be anticipated.

When Paul landed at Puteoli, he must have contemplated with deep emotion the prospect of his arrival in Rome. The city to which he now approached contained, perhaps, upwards of a million of human beings. [145:2] But the amount of its inhabitants was one of the least remarkable of its extraordinary distinctions. It was the capital of the mightiest empire that had ever yet existed; one hundred races speaking one hundred languages were under its dominion; [145:3] and the sceptre which ruled so many subject provinces was wielded by an absolute potentate. This great autocrat was the high priest of heathenism -- thus combining the grandeur of temporal majesty with the sacredness of religious elevation. Senators and generals, petty kings and provincial governors, were all obliged to bow obsequiously to his mandates. In this vast metropolis might be found natives of almost every clime; some engaged in its trade; some who had travelled to it from distant countries to solicit the imperial favour; some, like Paul, conveyed to it as prisoners; some stimulated to visit it by curiosity; and some attracted to it by the vague hope of bettering their condition. The city of the Caesars might well be described as |sitting upon many waters;| [145:4] for, though fourteen or fifteen miles from the mouth of the Tiber, the mistress of the world was placed on a peninsula stretching out into the middle of a great inland sea over which she reigned without a rival. In the summer months almost every port of every country along the shores of the Mediterranean sent forth vessels freighted with cargoes for the merchants of Rome. [146:1] The fleet from Alexandria laden with wheat for the supply of the city was treated with peculiar honour; for its ships alone were permitted to hoist their topsails as they approached the shore; a deputation of senators awaited its arrival; and, as soon as it appeared, the whole surrounding population streamed to the pier, and observed the day as a season of general jubilee. But an endless supply of other articles in which the poor were less interested found their way to Rome. The mines of Spain furnished the great capital with gold and silver, whilst its sheep yielded wool of superior excellence; and, in those times of Roman conquest, slaves were often transported from the shores of Britain. The horses and chariots and fine linen of Egypt, the gums and spices and silk and ivory and pearls of India, the Chian and the Lesbian wines, and the beautiful marble of Greece and Asia Minor, all met with purchasers in the mighty metropolis. [146:2] As John surveyed in vision the fall of Rome, and as he thought of the almost countless commodities which ministered to her insatiable luxury, well might he represent the world's traffic as destroyed by the catastrophe; and well might he speak of the merchants of the earth as weeping and mourning over her, because |no man buyeth their merchandise any more.| [146:3]

Paul had often desired to prosecute his ministry in the imperial city; for he knew that if Christianity could obtain a firm footing in that great centre of civilisation and of power, its influence would soon be transmitted to the ends of the earth: but he now appeared there under circumstances equally painful and discouraging. And yet even in this embarrassing position he was not overwhelmed with despondency. At Puteoli he |found brethren,| [146:4] and through the indulgence of Julius, the centurion to whose care he was committed, he was courteously allowed to spend a week [147:1] with the little Church of which they were members. He now set out on his way to the metropolis; but the intelligence of his arrival had travelled before him, and after crossing the Pomptine marshes, he was, no doubt, delighted to find a number of Christian friends from Rome assembled at Appii Forum to tender to him the assurances of their sympathy and affection. The place was twenty-seven miles from the capital; and yet, at a time when travelling was so tedious and so irksome, they had undertaken this lengthened journey to visit the poor, weather-beaten, and tempest-tossed prisoner. At the Three Taverns, ten miles nearer to the city, he met another party of disciples [147:2] anxious to testify their attachment to so distinguished a servant of their Divine Master. These tokens of respect and love made a deep impression upon the susceptible mind of the apostle; and it is accordingly stated that, when he saw the brethren, |he thanked God and took courage.| [147:3]

The important services he had been able to render on the voyage gave him a claim to particular indulgence; and accordingly, when he reached Rome, and when the centurion delivered the prisoners to the Praetorian Prefect, or the commander-in-chief of the Praetorian guards, [147:4] |Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.| [147:5] But though he enjoyed this comparative liberty, he was chained to his military care-taker, so that his position must still have been very far from comfortable. And yet even thus he continued his ministry with as much ardour as if he had been without restraint, and as if he had been cheered on by the applause of his generation. Three days after his arrival in the city he |called the chief of the Jews together,| [148:1] and gave them an account of the circumstances of his committal, and of his appeal to the imperial tribunal. They informed him that his case had not been reported to them by their brethren in Judea; and then expressed a desire to hear from him a statement of the claims of Christianity. |And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets from morning till evening.| [148:2] His appeals produced a favourable impression upon only a part of his audience. |Some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.| [148:3]

Several years prior to this date a Christian Church existed in the Western metropolis, and at this time there were probably several ministers in the city; but the apostle, in all likelihood, now entered upon some field of labour which had not hitherto been occupied. He |dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him -- preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no man forbidding him.| [148:4] All this time Paul's right hand was chained to the left hand of a soldier, who was responsible for the safe keeping of his prisoner. The soldiers relieved each other in this duty. [148:5] It would appear that Paul's chain might be relaxed at meal-times, and perhaps he was occasionally granted some little additional indulgence; but day and night he and his care-taker must have remained in close proximity, as the life of the soldier was forfeited should his ward escape. We can well conceive that the very appearance of the preacher at this period invited special attention to his ministrations. He was now |Paul the aged;| [149:1] he had perhaps passed the verge of threescore years; and though his detractors had formerly objected that |his bodily presence was weak,| [149:2] all would at this time have, probably, admitted, that his aspect was venerable. His life had been a career of unabated exertion; and now, though worn down by toils, and hardships, and imprisonments, his zeal burned with unquenched ardour. As the soldier who kept him belonged to the Praetorian guards, it has been thought that the apostle spent much of his time in the neighbourhood of their quarters on the Palatine hill, [149:3] and that as he was now so much conversant with military sights and sounds, we may in this way account for some of the allusions to be found in his epistles written during his present confinement. Thus, he speaks of Archippus and Epaphroditus as his |fellow-soldiers;| [149:4] and he exhorts his brethren to |put on the whole armour of God,| including |the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.| [149:5] As the indefatigable old man, with the soldier who had charge of him, passed from house to house inviting attendance on his services, the very appearance of such |yoke-fellows| [149:6] must have created some interest; and, when the congregation assembled, who could remain unmoved as the apostle stretched forth his chained hand, [149:7] and proceeded to expound his message! He seems himself to have thought that the very position which he occupied, as |the prisoner of the Lord,| [149:8] imparted somewhat to the power of his testimony. Hence we find him saying -- |I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel, so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the Praetorium, [150:1] and in all other places; and many of the brethren in the Lord waxing confident by my bonds are much more bold to speak the word without fear.| [150:2]

During this imprisonment at Rome, Paul dictated a number of his epistles. Of these, the letter to Philemon, a Christian of Colosse, seems to have been first written. The bearer of this communication was Onesimus, who had at one time been a slave in the service of the individual to whom it is addressed; and who, as it appears, after robbing his master, had left the country. The thief made his way to Rome, where he was converted under the ministry of the apostle; and where he had since greatly recommended himself as a zealous and trustworthy disciple. He was now sent back to Colosse with this Epistle to Philemon, in which the writer undertakes to be accountable for the property that had been pilfered, [150:3] and entreats his correspondent to give a kindly reception to the penitent fugitive. Onesimus, when conveying the letter to his old master, was accompanied by Tychicus, whom the apostle describes as |a beloved brother and a faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord| [150:4] who was entrusted with the Epistle to the Colossians. Error, in the form of false philosophy and Judaizing superstition, had been creeping into the Colossian Church, [150:5] and the apostle in this letter exhorts his brethren to beware of its encroachments. About the same time Paul wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians; and Tychicus was also the bearer of this communication. [150:6] Unlike most of the other epistles, it has no salutations at the close; it is addressed, not only |to the saints which are at Ephesus| in particular, but also |to the faithful in Christ Jesus| [151:1] in general; and as its very superscription thus bears evidence that it was originally intended to be a circular letter, it is probably |the epistle from Laodicea| mentioned in the Epistle to the Colossians. [151:2] The first division of it is eminently distinguished by the profound and comprehensive views of the Christian system it exhibits; whilst the latter portion is no less remarkable for the variety, pertinency, and wisdom, of its practical admonitions. The Epistle to the Philippians was likewise written about this period. Paul always took a deep interest in the well-being of his earliest European converts, and here he speaks in most hopeful terms of their spiritual condition. [151:3] They were less disturbed by divisions and heresies than perhaps any other of the Apostolic Churches.

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