Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

wintered at the island, they proceeded to Syracuse in Sicily, where they tarried three days, and soon after arrived at Rhegium, and from thence, in two days at Puteoli near Naples, where they disembarked, and continued a week, in compliance with the wishes of the Christian bretheren whom they found there. From Puteoli to Rome their journey was about a hundred miles by land.

Several of the disciples at Rome, hearing of Paul's approach, proceeded to meet him at Appii-forum, and the Three Taverns; the former place being about fifty, and the latter thirty miles from the city. The sight of these Christian brethren inspired the apostle with new life and vigour, for it is said, “ When he saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” And thus in the month of February, of the sixtieth year of the Christian era, and seventh of the reign of the emperor Nero, the apostle arrived at

Rome, the imperial city, and metropolis of the whole world, situated in Italy, on the banks of the Tiber, at the distance of about 16 miles from the sea. The foundations of this celebrated city were laid by Romulus, 753 years before the birth of Christ, at which time it consisted of merely a small castle on the summit of Mount Palatine, But it had risen, by gradual and almost imperceptible degrees, to the proud eminence of being the first city in the world, in point of extent, population, and splendour. The populousness of that great capital, says Gibbon, cannot perhaps be exactly ascertained; but the most modest calculation will not surely reduce it lower than a million of inhabitants.* It was built upon seven hills, and is said

Decline and Fall, vol. 2. ch. 15. + Hence it was called Urlis septicollis, and a festival was celebrated in December, called Septimontium festus, to commemorate the addition of the seventh hill. The names were, Mons Palatinus, Capitolinus, Aventinus, Quirinalis, Cælius, Viminalis, and Exquilinus There is a very striking allusion to this local circumstance, Rev. xvii. 9, and the reader may see the subject ably illustrated in Hurd's Introductory Sermons, vol. 2. Ser.. mon 11.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

to have been twenty miles in circumference. There were in it no less than 420 temples, crowded with statues; the priests were numerous, and each divinity had a particular college of sacerdotal servants. Previous to the establishment of Christianity in the empire, the worship and sacrifices of the Romans were uncommonly superstitious. The will of the gods was consulted upon every occasion; and no general marched to an expedition, without the previous assurance from the augurs that the omens were propitious. Their wars were declared in the most awful and solemn manner, and prayers were always offered in the temples for the prosperity of Rome, when a defeat had been sustained or a victory won. They raised altars, not only to the gods who, as they supposed, presided over their city, but also to the deities of conquered nations, as well as to the different passions and virtues.

The gospel had found its way to this imperial city long before it was visited by Paul, who had himself written his epistle to the church there several years prior to his being brought thither as a prisoner. It seems very probable that the knowledge of Christ was conveyed to Rome soon after the day of Pentecost; for, it is expressly mentioned, among the multidude who were witnesses of the miraculous gift of tongues, there were strangers from Rome, both Jews and proselytes."* Such of these as were converted to the Christian faith, would, on their return home, carry with them the glad tidings of salvation, and communicate it to others. When Paul wrote his epistle to that church, it must have been numerous, for he acknowledges that “ their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world.”+ He mentions a considerable number of them by name, in his last chapter, though he had never been among them; and they must have made great progress in their Christian profession, for he declares that“he was per

·

Acts ii. 10.

† Rom. i. 8.

Vol. I.

suaded of them that they were full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another."* The apostle had had “a great desire for many years” + to visit that church, and had been long arranging his plans to accomplish his wish;# but his purpose was now effected in a manner altogether different from what he had been expecting

During the whole voyage, it is evident that Paul had been treated by Julius, the Roman officer, to whose custody he was committed, with great humanity and kind

At Sidon, he allowed him to go on shore to visit his Christian friends. And when they were shipwrecked on the island of Melité, he kept the soldiers from killing the prisoners, that he might save Paul. When Paul's friends at Puteoli wished him to remain with them a week, probably that they might enjoy his company on the Sabbath, he kindly granted their request. Julius had been favoured with many opportunities of knowing the character of his prisoner ; he no doubt knew the favourable opinion which was entertained of his cause by Festus and Agrippa, and all the tribunes at Cæsarea ; but the things that had occurred during the voyage must also have tended greatly to increase his respect for him; and, it is highly probable, that to the esteem which Julius had for him, the apostle was indebted for the indulgence which was shewn him immediately on his arrival at Rome. For he was not shut up in a common jail with the other prisoners, but, from the very first, was permitted to dwell in his own hired house, attended by a soldier who guarded him by means of a long chain fastened to his right wrist and the soldier's left arm. In this manner Herod Agrippa was chained to a soldier when he was thrown into prison by Tiberius.

ness.

Rom. xv. 14.

+ Ib. ver. 23.

Rom. ch. ii 11-15.Josephus' Antiq, b. 18. сh, 6.9 6,7.

SECT. v.] Paul holds a conference with the Jews.

99

It seems

On the fourth day after his arrival, Paul called the chief of the Jews together, and explained to them the circumstances of his case; the treatment he had received in his own country; how he had been delivered at Jerusalem a prisoner into the hands of the Romans, who after investigating his affair, would have liberated him, had not the clamour of the Jews prevented it; and, in short, that it was " for the hope of Israel” he was bound with the chain which they then saw.

Paul's accusers had not yet arrived from Judea. The Jews whom he had called together, therefore, confessed that they had not received any letters from that quarter, nor any information concerning him, through any other medium ; they were desirous, nevertheless, of knowing his opinion of the Christian sect, which was every where spoken against. A day was therefore appointed, on which many came to his lodgings, to whom, from morning till evening, he narrated fully the history of Jesus, testifying concerning the nature of the kingdom of God, and persuading them both from the law of Moses and from the writings of the prophets. The result was, that some believed the things that were spoken, and others believed not. Thus the apostle having discharged his duty in first making known the glad tidings of salvation to his own brethren according to the flesh, took his leave of them, and thenceforward associated with the Gentiles, who had been previously formed into a church in this city, and to whom he had already addressed his important and invaluable epistle. “ And Paul 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 boldness, unmolested by any one.” And with this information the inspired historian closes his narrative of the great apostle of the Gentiles.

2005

[ocr errors]

During the two years that Paul was detained, on this oceasion, a prisoner at Rome, he wrote several of those epistles to the churches which now enrich the scriptures and constitute so important a part of divine revelation. Amongst these are enumerated, that to the Ephesians to the Philippians to the Colossians—and the short letter to Philemon; and, it is thought, that immediately on bis release he wrote the epistle to the Hebrews. From these letters we may collect, that during his imprisonment at Rome, he was attended by many of his disciples and friends, who either accompanied him from Judea, or followed him to Italy. Of this number was Tychicus, by whom he sent his epistle to the Colossians, ch. iv. 7, and Onesimus, ver. 9, and Mark, ver. 10, and also Jesus, who was called Justus, all of the circumcision, ver. 11, except Onesimus. Demas, too, was with him, ver. 14, and Timothy, Phil. i. 1.; and Aristarchus, who was imprisoned for his zeal in preaching the gospel, Col. iv. 10.; and Luke, the beloved physician and evangelist, ver. 14. He also enumerates Epaphras, who seems to have been one of the pastors of the Colossian church, ver. 12.; and Epaphroditus, a member of the church at Philippi, Phil. ii. 25. All these Christian brethren, residents of very remote countries, appear to have been with the apostle during his first confinement at Rome.

Of the circumstances attending his trial and release, we have no authentic particulars; but that he was liberated after a period of two years, seems deducible from the words with which the sacred historian closes the book of the Acts of the Apostles.. Nor have we any certain information concerning his travels and preaching from this time to his death. Intimations, indeed, are given in the epistles which he wrote from Rome, of his purposes, from, which some writers have undertaken to sketch the transactions of the latter period of his life, and there is at least a probability that it was to the following effect.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »