תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

and unto Cæsar shalt thou go.” Thus ended the trial of Paul; and thus providentially was the way open to him, without expense to himself, to go to Rome, which of all cities he wished to visit, and where he hoped to continue, even under bonds and restrictions, his missionary labors.

In the mean time, before a ship could be got in readiness to transport him and other prisoners to Rome, Herod Agrippa II., with his sister Bernice, came to Cæsarea to pay a visit to the new governor. Conversation naturally turned upon the late extraordinary trial, and Agrippa expressed a desire to hear the prisoner speak, for he had heard much about him. Festus willingly acceded to this wish, and the next day Paul was again summoned before the king and the procurator. Agrippa and Bernice appeared in great pomp with their attendants ; all the officers of the army and the principal men of the city were also present. It was the most splendid audience that Paul had ever addressed. He was equal to the occasion, and delivered a discourse on his familiar topics, — his own miraculous conversion and his mission to the Gentiles to preach the crucified and risen Christ, — things new to Festus, who thought that Paul was visionary, and had lost his balance from excess of learning. Agrippa, however, familiar with Jewish law and the prophecies concerning the Messiah, was much impressed with Paul's elo

quence, and exclaimed: “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian !” When the assembly broke up, Agrippa said, “This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Cæsar.” Paul, however, did not wish to be set at liberty among bitter and howling enemies; he preferred to go to Rome, and would not withdraw his appeal. So in due time he embarked for Italy under the charge of a centurion, accompanied with other prisoners and his friends Timothy, Luke, and Aristarchus of Thessalonica.

The voyage from Cæsarea to Italy was a long one, and in the autumn was a dangerous one, as in Paul's case it unfortunately proved.

The following spring however, after shipwreck and divers perils and manifold fatigues, Paul arrived at Rome, in the year 61 A. D., in the seventh year of the Emperor Nero. Here the centurion handed Paul over to the prefect of the prætorian guards, by whom he was subjected to a merely nominal custody, although, according to Roman custom, he was chained to a soldier. But he was treated with great lenity, was allowed to have lodgings, to receive his friends freely, and to hold Christian meetings in his own house; and no one molested him. For two years Paul remained at Rome, a fettered prisoner it is true, but cheered by friendly visits, and attended by Luke, his “beloved physician” and biographer, by Timothy and other devoted disciples. During this second imprisonment Paul could see very little outside the prætorian barracks, but his friends brought him the news, and he had ample time to write letters. He had no intercourse with gifted and fortunate Romans; his acquaintance was probably confined to the prætorian soldiers, and some of the humbler classes who sought Christian instruction. But from this period we date many of his epistles, on which his fame and influence largely rest as a theologian and man of genius. Among those which he wrote from Rome were the Epistles to the Colossians, the Ephesians, and many pastoral letters like those written to Philemon, Titus, and Timothy.

We know but little of the life of Paul after his arrival at Rome, for at this point Saint Luke closes his narrative, and all after this is conjecture and tradition."

1 There has been much doubt as to whether Paul was martyred during the three years of this imprisonment, or whether he was acquitted, left Rome, visited his beloved churches in Macedonia and Asia Minor, went to preach the gospel in Spain, and was again arrested, taken to Rome, and there beheaded. The earliest authorities seem to have been agreed upon the second hypothesis; and this is based chiefly upon a statement made by Paul's disciple Clement to the effect that the apostle had preached in “the extremity of the West” (an expression of Roman writers to denote Spain), and also on the impossibility of placing certain facts mentioned in the second letter to Timothy and the one to Titus in the period of the first imprisonment. He was certainly tried, defended himself, and he may have been at first acquitted.

But the main part of Paul's work was accomplished when he was first sent to Rome as a prisoner to be tried in the imperial courts; and there is but little doubt that he finally met the death he so heroically contemplated, at the hands of the monster Nero, who martyred such a vast multitude of Paul's fellow-Christians.

At Jerusalem and at Antioch he had vindicated the freedom of the Gentile from the yoke of the Levitical Law ; in his letters to the Romans and Galatians he had proclaimed both to Jew and Gentile that they were not under the law, but under grace. During the space of twenty years Paul had preached the gospel of Jesus as the Christ in the chief cities of the world, and had formulated the truths of Christianity. What marvellous labors ! But it does not appear that this apostle's extraordinary work was fully appreciated in his day, certainly not by the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem; nor does it appear even that his pre-eminence among the apostles was conceded until the third and fourth centuries. He himself was often sad and discouraged in not seeing a larger success, yet recognized himself as a layer of foundations. Like our modern missionaries, Paul simply sowed the seed; the fruit was not to be gathered in until centuries after his death. Before he died, as is seen in his second letter to Timothy, many of his friends and disciples de serted him, and he was left almost alone. He had

ve

to defend himself single-handed against the capricious tyrant who ruled the world, and who wished to cast on the Christians the stain of his greatest crime, the conflagration of his capital. As we have said, all details pertaining to the life of Paul after his arrival at Rome are simply conjectural, and although interesting, they cannot give us the satisfaction of certainty.

But in closing, after enumerating the labors and writings of this great apostle, it is not inopportune to say a few words about his remarkable character, although I have now and again alluded to his personal traits in the course of this narrative

Paul is the most prominent figure of all the great men who have adorned, or advanced the interest of, the Christian Church. Great pulpit orators, renowned theologians, profound philosophers, immortal poets, successful reformers, and enlightened monarchs have never disputed his intellectual ascendency; to all alike he has been a model and a marvel. The grand old missionary stands out in history as a matchless example of Christian living, a sure guide in Christian doctrine. No more favored mortal is ever likely to appear; he is the counterpart of Moses as a divine teacher to all generations. The popes may exalt Saint Peter as the founder of their spiritual empire, but when their empire as an institution shall crumble away, as all institutions must which are not founded on the “Rock” which it was

« הקודםהמשך »