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SECT. IV.] Paul before the Areopagus.
71 pagus, which stood upon a hill, and was the highest forum in Athens. The judges belonging to this latter court were held in such veneration, that, to be an Areopagite was a term used proverbially among them for an excellent person.* They were the Athenian senate, or standing court of judicature;+ and, besides other things, matters of religion, blasphemy against the gods, contempt of the holy mysteries, and all sorts of impiety, the consecration of new gods, the erecting of temples or altars, and the introduction of new ceremonies into divine worship, were referred to the judgment of this court. Conceiving, therefore, that the apostle had some new object of worship to propose to the Athenians, it was perfectly natural for them to conduct him before this venerable assembly, which having done, they requested him to explain himself concerning this new doctrine; they frankly acknowledged that he brought strange things to their ears, in talking to them about Jesus and the resurrection, and they desired to know what these things meant.
The apostle's discourse upon this occasion has always been admired as a model of fine address and of cogent reasoning. He had carefully inspected their religious rites and worship; and, among the multiplicity of their altars, had observed one that was dedicated to the known God." He began, therefore, by stating, that he perceived them to be extremely religious ;£ for besides the number of temples and altars which they had in common with the other cities of Greece, he observed one with this peculiar inscription, “ To the unknown God.” He might therefore fairly presume that it would not be unacceptable to them to be made acquainted with the
Aulus Gellius, b, 12. ch. 7. + Potter's Gr. Antiq. vol. 1 ; p. 105.
Very religious, for so the word, deisidaimonesteroi, should be translated, as has been frequently remarked by critics, and not too superstitious, a our translators have it.
character of that Being whom they ignorantly worshipped. “God,” says he, “who made the world'and ali things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, since he giveth to all life and breath and all things, and hath made of one blood all the nations of the earth." And here we may remark, in passing, the different method which the apostle pursued, in reasoning with the idolatrous Gentiles, from that which he uniformly adopted with the Jews. The latter had in their bands the writings of Moses and their prophets, which they themselves acks nowledged to be the oraclés of God! In attempting to engage their attention to his testimony, he had nothing to do but make his appeal to those scriptures, and convince them that their own prophets had foretold all that he now testified unto them, for that in reality" he said none other things than what Moses and the prophets did say should come, viz. that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first to rise from the dead, and should shew light to his people Israel and to the Gentiles." But with the Athenians, who had no written revelation in their hands, he proceeds upon quite other principles : 'he appeals to* the volume of creation, and argues from the impressions of power, wisdom, and goodness every where displayed before their eyes; he asserts the providence and the om nipresence of God; that he is the fountain of life and all its comforts+the supreme disposer of all events, and the common father of mankind; appealing in proof of this part of his doctrine to Aratus, one of their own most favourite poets. From these first principles, founded in reason, and which commend themselves to the consciences of all men, the apostle justly infers the folly of their idols. Admitting as they did, that they themselves were the offspring of God, how absurd was it in them to imagine*
73 “ the Godhead like unto gold, or silver, or stone graven by art or man's device.” Thus having shewn the gross absurdity of their idolatrous worship, he declared to them that the Most High had for a course of time allowed men to go on in their ignorance, without instructing them by messengers divinely commissioned, that he might shew them by facts and their own experience, the insufficiency of their reason in the concerns of religion. But the state of things was now changed; for the time was come when God commanded all men every where to repent of their ignorance, idolatry and wiekedness, having " appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by his Son Jesus Christ, whom he had raised from the dead,” and in that event hath given the highest certainty of the fact, ko no.
When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, the Epicureans mocked him, and the Stoics found so little interest in his reasoning, that they gladly adjourned the meeting, promising, like Felix, upon another occasion, to hear him again of this matter at a more convenient season. Some few individuals, however, were struck with his doctrine, and received it as divine truth; amongst whom was Dionysius, one of the Areopagite judges, and a women of some note named Damaris, with a few others, who consequently clave to the apostle and consorted with him. The handful of seed, however, sown at this time, at Athens, produced, in due season, the harvest of a numerous church, as will be seen in the history of the next century.
While Paul was thus employed at Athens, Timothy arrived from Berea, and informed him that the enemies of the faith at Thessalonica had raised a dreadful persecution against the disciples there; on hearing which, the apostle thought it best to be left alone at Athens, and without delay dispatched Timothy to Thessalonica to Vol. I.
succour the brethren in their distress ; to comfort their hearts, and prevent their being turned aside from the good profession they had made, by the afflictions they were now enduring * Timothy soon afterwards returned to the apostle, bringing him a most pleasing account of their stedfastness in the faith, their regard for Paul, and their anxious desire to see him again, all which greatly refreshed and cheered his mind.t. From Atheng hé pro ceeded to
CORINTH, à city situated on a narrow neck of land which joined the Peloponnesus to Greece, in consequence of which it commanded the commerce of both Asia and Europe. On the eastern side of the isththus were the ports of Cenchrea and Schænus, and being thus advanu tageously situated for commercial purposes, it soon be came extremely rich and populous. " Its original name was 'Ephyre, but during the Achæan war," the Roman consul, Mummius, burnt it to the ground.' 'It was, howi ever, rebuilt by "Julius Cæsar, after having long lain mi in ashes, and by his command it was colonized with the ancestors of those Gentiles to whom Paul preached the everlasting gospel. Wheh Achaia was made a Roman province, Corinth," becoming the seat of government, soon regained its ancient celebrity, in regard to commerce and its 'attendants, riches and luxury; so that, at the time it was visited by Paul, it was almost as famous for leaming and the arts as Athens' itself. Here philosophers taught science, and established academies for the instruction of youth ; and in such high reputation were its seminaries, that an education at Corinth became proverbial for the most finished cultivation of manners, in every polite and literary accomplishment.#" With all its' ad
* 1 Thess. iji. 1-6.
Ih. ver. 6, 7, Thus the Roman poet Horace,
“Non cuivis homini contingit adire Corinthum.",
Paul visits Corinth.: vantages, however, it seems to have outstripped every eity of Greece in laxity of morals; insomuch that a Greek word, formed by the name of this city, has been used to signify all that lasciviousness and profligate corruption which leave the human heart enslaved to the basest and most headstrong passions. According to Strabo, there was in it a temple dedicated to Venus, at which no less than a thousand priestesses attended, who made pros, titution a part of their devotions to the Goddess.
Paul, on his arrival in this city, found a Jewish Chris- · tian, of the name of Aquila, and his wife Priscilla, just arrived from Italy in consequence of a decree which had been issued by the Roman emperor Claudius Cæsar, com manding all Jews to depart from Rome, It is affirmed by Dio, an ancient historian, that Claudius did not banish the Jews from Rome, but only prohibited their assemblies. This, however, even though his decree proceeded no further, was, in effect banishing all those who had any conscience of religion. But Seutonius, who lived nearer the time, expressly, says, that he expelled the Jews from, Rome, who were continually, making tumults ; Chrestys being their leader or the occasion of their disturbances." * It is a matter of dispute among the learned, whether by CHRESTUS, Seutonius meant Jesus Christ, qe not. The probability is that he did; for in other places he has shewn himself peculiarly virulent against the Christianset, And, admitting this to have been his mean, ing, it shews us that the degree of Claudius was occasioned by the tumults, which the unbelieving Jews were continually raising at Rome against the disciples of Christ, just as they persecuted Paul and his party at Lystra, Thessalonica, and Berea, and afterwards at Corinth, not to mention their conduct in the cases of Stephen, the apostles, or the Lord Jesus himself.
* Life of Claudius, ch. 25.
Life of Nero, ch. 163