« הקודםהמשך »
The choice of Paul, however, was admirable. Silas was a broad and liberal man, who had great influence at Jerusalem, and was entirely devoted to his superior.
“ The first object of Paul was to confirm the churches he had already founded; and accordingly he began his mission by visiting the churches of Syria and Cilicia," crossing the Taurus range by the famous Cilician Gates, - one of the most frightful mountain passes in the world, — penetrating thus into Lycaonia, and reaching Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium. At Lystra he found Timothy, whom he greatly loved, modest and timid, and made him his deacon and secretary, although he had never been circumcised. To prevent giving offence to Jewish Christians, Paul himself circumcised Timothy, in accordance with his custom of yielding to prejudices when no vital principles were involved, — which concession laid him open to the charge of inconsistency on the part of his enemies. Expediency was not disdained by Paul when the means were unobjectionable, but he did not use bad means to accomplish good ends. He always had tenderness and charity for the weaknesses of his brethren, especially intellectual weakness. What would have been intolerable to some was patiently submitted to by him, if by any means he could win even the feeble; so that he seemed to be all things to all men. No one ever exceeded him in tact.
After Paul had finished his visit to the principal cities of Galatia, he resolved to explore new lands. We next find him, after a long journey through Mysia of three hundred miles, travelling to the south of Mount Olympus, at Troas, near the ancient city of Troy. Here he fell in with Luke, a physician, who had received a careful Hellenic and Jewish education. Like Timothy, the future historian of the Acts of the Apostles was admirably fitted to be the companion of Paul. He was gentle, sympathetic, submissive, and devoted to his superior. Through Luke's suggestion, Renan thinks, Paul determined to go to Macedonia.
So, without making a long stay at Troas, the four missionaries — Paul, Silas, Luke, and Timothy – took ship and landed at Neapolis, the seaport of Philippi on the borders of Thrace at the extreme northern shores of the Ægean Sea. They were now on European ground, — the most healthy region of the ancient world, where the people, largely of Celtic origin, were honest, earnest, and primitive in their habits. The travellers proceeded at once to Philippi, a city more Latin than Grecian, and began their work; making converts, chiefly women, among whom Lydia was the most distinguished, a wealthy woman who traded in purple. She and her whole household were baptized, and it was from her that Paul consented against his custom to accept pecuniary aid.
While the work of conversion was going on favorably, an incident occurred which hastened the departure of the missionaries. Paul exorcised a poor female slave, who brought, by her divinations and ventriloquism, great gain to her masters; and because of this destruction of the source of their income they brought suit against Paul and Silas before the magistrates, who condemned them to be beaten in the presence of the superstitious people, and then sent them to prison and put their feet fast in the stocks. The jailer and the duumvirs, however, ascertaining that the prisoners were Roman citizens and hence exempt from corporal punishment, released them, and hurried them out of the city.
Leaving Timothy and Luke at Philippi, Paul and Silas proceeded to Thessalonica, the largest and most important city of Macedonia, where there was a Jewish synagogue in which Paul preached for three consecutive Sabbaths. A few Jews were converted, but the converts were chiefly Greeks, of whom the larger part were women belonging to the best society of the city. By these converts the apostles were treated with extraordinary deference and devotion, and the church of Thessalonica soon rivalled that of Philippi in the piety and unity of its converts, becoming a model Christian church. As usual, however, the Jews stirred up animosities, and Paul and Silas were obliged to
leave, spending several days at Berea and preaching successfully among the Greeks. These conquests were the most brilliant that Paul had yet made, – not among enervated Asiatics, but bright, elegant, and intelligent Europeans, where women were less degraded than in the Orient.
Leaving Timothy and Silas behind him, Paul, accompanied by some faithful Bereans, embarked for Athens, — the centre of philosophy and art, whose wonderful prestige had induced its Roman conquerors to preserve its ancient glories. But in the first century Athens was neither the fascinating capital of the time of Cicero, nor of the age of Chrysostom. Its temples and statues remained intact, but its schools could not then boast of a single man of genius. There remained only dilettante philosophers, rhetoricians, grammarians, pedagogues, and pedants, puffed up with conceit and arrogance, with very few real inquirers after truth, such as marked the times of Socrates and Plato. Paul, like Luther, cared nothing for art; and the thousands of statues which ornamented every part of the city seemed to him to be nothing but idols. Still, he was not mistaken in the intense paganism of the city, the absence of all earnestness of character and true religious life. He was disappointed, as afterward Augustine was when he went to Rome. He expected to find intellectual life at least, but the pre
tenders to superior knowledge in that degenerate university town merely traded on the achievements of their ancestors, repeating with dead lips the echo of the old philosophies. They were marked only by levity, mockery, sneers, and contemptuous arrogance; idlers were they, in quest of some new amusement.
The utter absence of sympathy among all classes given over to frivolities made Paul exceedingly lonely in Athens, and he wrote to Timothy and Silas to join him with all haste. He wandered about the streets distressed and miserable. There was no field for his labors. Who would listen to him? What ear could he reach ? He was as forlorn and unheeded as a temperance lecturer would be on the boulevards of Paris. His work among the Jews was next to nothing, for where trade did not flourish there were but few Jews. Still, amid all this discouragement, it would seem that Paul attracted sufficient notice, from his conversation with the idlers and chatterers of the Agora, to be invited to address the Athenians at the Areopagus. They listened with courtesy so long as they thought he was praising their religious habits, or was making a philosophical argument against the doctrines of rival sects; but when he began to tell them of that Cross which was to them foolishness, and of that Resurrection from the dead which was alien to all their various beliefs, they were filled with scorn or relapsed into in