תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

- a city abandoned to Asiatic sensualities and superstitious rites; an exceedingly wicked and luxurious city, yet famous for arts, especially for the grandest temple ever erected by the Greeks, one of the seven wonders of the world. It was in the most abandoned capitals, with mixed populations, that the greatest triumphs of Christianity were achieved. Antioch, Corinth, and Ephesus were more favorable to the establishment of Christian churches than Jerusalem and Athens.

But the trials of Paul in Ephesus, the capital of Asia Minor, the most celebrated of all the Ionian cities, – “more Hellenic than Antioch, more Oriental than Corinth, more wealthy than Thessalonica, more populous than Athens," — were incessant and discouraging, since it was the headquarters of pagan superstitions, and of all forms of magical imposture. As usual, he was reviled and slandered by the Jews; but he was also at this time an object of intense hatred to the priests and image-makers of the Temple of Diana, troubled in mind by evil reports concerning the converts he had made in other cities, physically weak and depressed by repeated attacks of sickness, oppressed by cares and labors, exposed to constant dangers, his life an incessant mortification and suffering, “ killed all the day long,” carrying about him wherever he went “the deadness of the crucified Christ.”

Paul's labors in Ephesus were nevertheless successful. He made many converts and exercised an extraordinary influence, -- among other things causing magicians voluntarily to burn their own costly books, as Savonarola afterward made a bonfire of vanities at Florence. His sojourn was cut short at length by the riot which was made by the various persons who were directly or indirectly supported by the revenues of the Temple, — a mongrel mob, brought to terms by the tact of the town clerk, who reminded the howling dervishes and angry silversmiths of the punishment which might be inflicted on them by the Roman proconsul for raising a disturbance and breaking the law.

Yet Paul with difficulty escaped from Ephesus and departed again for Greece, not however until he had written his extraordinary Epistles to the Corinthians, who had sadly departed from his teachings both in morals and doctrine, either through ignorance, or in consequence of the depravity which they had but imperfectly conquered. The infant churches were deplorably split into factions, “the result of the visits from various teachers who succeeded Paul, and who built on his foundations very dubious materials by way of superstructure,” — even Apollos himself, an Alexandrian Jew baptized by the Apostle John, the most eloquent and attractive preacher of the day, who turned everybody's head. In the churches women rose to give their opinions without being veiled, as if they were Greek courtesans; the Agapæ, or love-feasts, had degenerated into luxurious banquets; and unchastity, the peculiar vice of the Corinthians, went unrebuked. These evils Paul rebukes, and lays down rules for the faithful in reference to marriage, to the position of women, to the observance of the Lord's Supper, and sundry other things, enjoining forbearance and love. His chapter in reference to charity is justly regarded by all writers and commentators as the nearest approach in Christian literature to the Sermon on the Mount. Scarcely less remarkable is the chapter on death and the resurrection, shedding more light on that great subject than all other writers combined in heathen and Christian annals, – one of the profoundest treatises ever written by mortal man, and which can be explained only as the result of a supernatural revelation.

Paul's second sojourn in Macedonia lasted only six months; this time he spent in going from city to city confirming the infant churches, remaining longest in Thessalonica and Philippi, where his most faithful converts were found. Here Titus joined him, bringing good news from Corinth. Still, there were dissensions and evils in that troublesome church which called for a second letter. In this letter he sets forth, not in the spirit of egotism, the various sufferings and perils he had endured, few of which are alluded to by Luke: “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one; thrice was I beaten with rods; once was I stoned; thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day have I spent in the deep; in journeyings often; in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own race, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in toil and weariness, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often; besides anxiety for all the churches."

It was probably at the close of the year 57 A. D. that Paul set out for Corinth, with Titus, Timothy, Sosthenes, and other companions. During the three months he remained in that city he probably wrote his Epistle to the Galatians and his Epistle to the Romans, — the latter the most profound of all his writings, setting forth the sum and substance of his theology, in which the great doctrine of justification by faith is severely elaborated. The whole epistle is a war on pagan philosophy, the insufficiency of good works without faith, -- the lever by which in later times Wickliffe, Huss, Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Saint Cyran overthrew a pharisaic system of outward righteousuess. In the Epistle to the Galatians Paul speaks with unusua? boldness and earnestness, severely rebuking them for their departure from the truth, and reiterating with dogmatic ardor the inutility of circumcision as of the Law abrogated by Christ, with whom, in the liberty which he proclaimed, there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, but all are one in Him. And Paul reminds them, -a bitter pill to the Jews, – that this is taught in the promise made to Abraham four hundred and fifty years before the Law was declared by Moses, by which promise all races and tribes and people are to be blessed to remotest generations. This epistle not only breathes the largest Christian liberty, — the equality of all men before God, but it asserts, as in the Epistle to the Romans, with terrible distinctness, that salvation is by faith in Christ and not by deeds of the Law, which is only a schoolmaster to prepare the way for the ascendency of Jesus.

I need not dwell on these two great epistles, which embody the substance of the Pauline theology received by the Church for eighteen hundred years, and which can never be abrogated so long as Paul is regarded as an authority in Christian doctrine.

I return to a brief notice of Paul's last visit to Jerusalem, which was made against the expostulations of his friends and disciples in Ephesus, who gathered around him weeping, knowing well that they never would see his face again. But he was inflexible in his resolution, declaring that he had no fear of chains, and

« הקודםהמשך »