No cities were ever more favorably placed for prosperity and growth than those of the colonial Greeks in Asia Minor. They had the advantage of a coastline full of convenient harbors, and of a sea which was favorable to the navigation of that day; and, through the long approaches formed by the plains of the great western rivers, they had access to the inland trade of the East. Two of these rivers have been more than once alluded to, - the Hermus and the Maeander. The valley of the first was bounded on the south by the ridge of Tmolus; that of the second was bounded on the north by Messogis. In the interval between these two mountain-ranges was the shorter course of the river Cayster. A few miles from the sea a narrow gorge is formed by Mount Pactyas on the south, which is the western termination of Messogis, and by the precipices of Gallesus on the north, the pine-clad summits of which are more remotely connected with the heights of Tmolus. This gorge separates the Upper "Caystrian meadows" from a small alluvial plain by the sea. Partly on the long ridge of Coressus, which is the southern boundary of this plain, - partly on the detached circular eminence of Mount Prion, - and partly on the plain itself, near the windings of the Cayster, and about the edge of the harbor, - were the buildings of the city.
Ephesus was not so distinguished in early times as several of her Ionian sisters; and some of them outlived her glory. But, though Phocaea and Miletus sent out more colonies, and Smyrna has ever remained a flourishing city, yet Ephesus had great natural advantages, which were duly developed in the age of which we are writing. Having easy access through the defiles of Mount Tmolus to Sardis, and thence up the valley of the Hermus far into Phrygia, - and again, by a similar pass through Messogis to the Maeander, being connected with the great road through Iconium to the Euphrates, - it became the metropolis of the province of Asia under the Romans, and the chief emporium of trade on the nearer side of Taurus.
The Alexandrian age produced a marked alteration in Ephesus, as in most of the great towns in the East; and Lysimachus extended his new city over the summit of Prion as well as the heights of Coressus. The Roman age saw, doubtless, a still further increase both of the size and magnificence of the place. To attempt to reconstruct it from the materials which remain would be a difficult task, - far more difficult than in the case of Athens, or even Antioch; but some of the more interesting sites are easily identified. Those who walk over the desolate site of the Asiatic metropolis see piles of ruined edifices on the rocky sides and among the thickets of Mount Prion: they look out from its summit over the confused morass which once was the harbor, where Aquila and Priscilla landed; and they visit in its deep recesses the dripping marble-quarries, where the marks of the tools are visible still. On the outer edge of the same hill they trace the enclosure of the Stadium, which may have suggested to Apostle Paul many of those images with which he enforces Christian duty, in the first letter written from Ephesus to Corinth. (1Corinthians 9:24-27) Farther on, and nearer Coressus, the remains of the vast theater (the outline of the enclosure is still distinct, though the marble seats are removed) show the place where the multitude, roused by Demetrius, shouted out, for two hours, in honor of Diana. Below is the Agora, through which the mob rushed up to the well-known place of meeting. And in the valley between Prion and Coressus is one of the Gymnasia, where the athletes were trained for transient honors and a perishable garland. Surrounding and crowning the scene are the long Hellenic walls of Lysimachus, following the ridge of Coressus. On a spur of the hill, they descend to an ancient tower, which is still called the Prison of Apostle Paul. The name is doubtless legendary: but Apostle Paul may have stood here, and looked over the city and the plain, and seen the Cayster winding towards him from the base of Gallesus. Within his view was another eminence, detached from the city of that day, but which became the Mohammedan town when ancient Ephesus was destroyed, and nevertheless preserves in its name a record of another Apostle, the "disciple" John.
But one building at Ephesus surpassed all the rest in magnificence and in fame. This was the Temple of Artemis or Diana, which glittered in brilliant beauty at the head of the harbor, and was reckoned by the ancients as one of the wonders of the world. The sun, it was said, saw nothing in his course more magnificent than Diana’s Temple. Its honor dated from a remote antiquity. Leaving out of consideration the earliest temple, which was contemporaneous with the Athenian colony under Androclus, or even yet more ancient, we find the great edifice, which was anterior to the Macedonian period, begun and continued in the midst of the attention and admiration both of Greeks and Asiatics. The foundations were carefully laid, with immense substructions, in the marshy ground. Architects of the highest distinction were employed. The quarries of Mount Prion supplied the marble. All the Greek cities of Asia contributed to the structure; and Croesus, the king of Lydia, himself lent his aid. The work thus begun before the Persian war was slowly continued even through the Peloponnesian war; and its dedication was celebrated by a poet contemporary with Euripides. But the building, which had been thus rising through the space of many years, was not destined to remain long in the beauty of its perfection. The fanatic Herostratus set fire to it on the same night in which Alexander was born. This is one of the coincidences of history, on which the ancient world was fond of dwelling: and it enables us, with more distinctness, to pursue the annals of "Diana of the Ephesians."
The temple was rebuilt with new and more sumptuous magnificence. The ladies of Ephesus contributed their jewelry to the expense of the restoration. The national pride in the sanctuary was so great, that, when Alexander offered the spoils of his eastern campaign if he might inscribe his name on the building, the honor was declined. The Ephesians never ceased to embellish the shrine of their goddess, continually adding new decorations and subsidiary buildings, with statues and pictures by the most famous artists. This was the temple that kindled the enthusiasm of Apostle Paul's opponents (Acts 19), and was still the rallying-point of Heathenism in the days of John and Polycarp. In the second century we read that it was united to the city by a long colonnade. But soon afterwards it was plundered and laid waste by the Goths, who came from beyond the Danube in the reign of Gallienus. It sank entirely into decay in the age when Christianity was overspreading the Empire; and its remains are to be sought for in mediaeval buildings, in the columns of green jasper which support the dome of Sophia, or even in the naves of Italian cathedrals.
If the Temple of Diana at Ephesus was magnificent, the image enshrined within the sumptuous enclosure was primitive and rude. We usually conceive of this goddess, when represented in art, as the tall huntress, eager in pursuit, like the statue in the Louvre. Such was not the form of the Ephesian Diana, though she was identified by the Greeks with their own mountain-goddess, whose figure we often see represented on the coins of this city. What amount of fusion took place, in the case of this worship, between Greek and Oriental notions, we need not inquire. The image may have been intended to represent Diana in one of her customary characters, as the deity of fountains; but it reminds us rather of the idols of the far East, and of the religions which love to represent the life of all animated beings as fed and supported by the many breasts of nature. The figure which assumed this emblematic form above was terminated below in a shapeless block. The material was wood. A bar of metal was in each hand. The dress was covered with mystic devices, and the small shrine, where it stood within the temple, was concealed by a curtain in front. Yet, rude as the image was, it was the object of the utmost veneration. Like the Palladium of Troy - like the most ancient Minerva of the Athenian Acropolis, - like the Paphian Venus or Cybele of Pessinus, to which allusion has been made, - like the Ceres in Sicily mentioned by Cicero, - it was believed to have "fallen down from the sky" (Acts 19:35). Thus it was the object of the greater veneration from the contrast of its primitive simplicity with the modern and earthly splendor which surrounded it; and it was the model on which the images of Diana were formed for worship in other cities.
One of the idolatrous customs of the ancient world was the use of portable images or shrines, which were little models of the more celebrated objects of devotion. They were carried in processions, on journeys and military expeditions, and sometimes set up as household gods in private dwellings. Pliny says that this was the case with the Temple of the Cnidian Venus; and other Heathen writers make allusion to the "shrines" of the Ephesian Diana, which are mentioned in the Acts (Acts 19:21). The material might be wood, or gold, or "silver." The latter material was that which employed the hands of the workmen of Demetrius. From the expressions used by Luke, it is evident that an extensive and lucrative trade grew up at Ephesus, from the manufacture and sale of these shrines. Few of those who came to Ephesus would willingly go away without a memorial of the goddess, and a model of her temple; and, from the wide circulation of these works of art over the shores of the Mediterranean, and far into the interior, it might be said, with little exaggeration, that her worship was recognized by the "whole world" (Acts 19:27).
The Temple and the Temple-services remained under the Romans as they had been since the period of Alexander. If any change had taken place, greater honor was paid to the goddess, and richer magnificence added to her sanctuary, in proportion to the wider extent to which her fame had been spread. Asia was always a favored province, and Ephesus must be classed among those cities of the Greeks, to which the conquerors were willing to pay distinguished respect. Her liberties and her municipal constitution were left untouched, when the province was governed by an officer from Rome. To the general remarks which have been made before in reference to Thessalonica, concerning the position of free or autonomous cities under the Empire, something more may be added here, inasmuch as certain political characters of Ephesus appear on the scene which is described in the sacred narrative.
We have said, in the passage above alluded to, that free cities under the Empire had frequently their senate and assembly. There is abundant proof that this was the case at Ephesus. Its old constitution was democratic, as we should expect in a city of the Ionians, and as we are distinctly told by Xenophon: and this constitution continued to subsist under the Romans. The senate, of which Josephus speaks, still met in the Senate-house, which is noticed by another writer, and the position of which was probably in the Agora below the theater. We have still more frequent notices of the demus or people, and its assembly. Whereever its customary place of meeting might be when legally and regularly convoked (ejnnomw ekklhsia , Acts 19:39), the theater would he an obvious place of meeting, in the case of a tumultuary gathering, like that which will presently be brought before our notice.
If we turn now from the city to the province of which it was the metropolis, we are under no perplexity as to its relation to the imperial government. From coins and from inscriptions, from secular writers and Scripture itself (Acts 19:38), we learn that Asia was a proconsular province. We shall not stay to consider the question which has been raised concerning the usage of the plural in this passage of the Acts; for it is not necessarily implied that more than one proconsul was in Ephesus at the time. But another subject connected with the provincial arrangements requires a few words of explanation. The Roman citizens in a province were, in all legal matters, under the jurisdiction of the proconsul; and for the convenient administration of justice, the whole country was divided into districts, each of which had its own assize town . The proconsul, at stated seasons, made a circuit through these districts, attended by his interpreter , and those who had subjects of litigation, or other cases requiring the observance of legal forms, brought them before him or the judges whom he might appoint. Thus Pliny, after the true Roman spirit, in his geographical description of the Empire, is always in the habit of mentioning the assize-towns, and the extent of the shires which surrounded them. In the province of Asia he takes especial notice of Sardis, Smyrna, and Ephesus, and enumerates the various towns which brought their causes to be tried at these cities. The official visit of the proconsul to Ephesus was necessarily among the most important; and the town-clerk, in referring to the presence of the proconsuls, could remind his fellow-citizens in the same breath that it was the very time of the assizes (ajgoraioi agontai, Acts 19:38).
These notices of the topography and history of Ephesus, of its religious institutions, and political condition under the Empire, may serve to clear the way for the narrative which we must now pursue. We resume the history at the twenty-second verse of the nineteenth chapter of the Acts, where we are told of a continued stay in Asia after the burning of the books of the magicians. Apostle Paul was indeed looking forward to a journey through Macedonia and Achaia, and ultimately to Jerusalem and Rome (verse 21); and in anticipation of his departure he had sent two of his companions into Macedonia before him (verse 22). The events which had previously occurred have already shown us the great effects which his preaching had produced both among the Jews and Gentiles. And those which follow show us still more clearly how wide a "door" (1Corinthians 16:9) had been thrown open to the progress of the gospel. The idolatrous practices of Ephesus were so far endangered, that the interests of one of the prevalent trades of the place were seriously affected; and meanwhile Apostle Paul's character had risen so high, as to obtain influence over some of the wealthiest and most powerful personages in the province. The scene which follows is entirely connected with the religious observances of the city of Diana. The Jews fall into the background. Both the danger and safety of the Apostle originate with the Gentiles.
It seems to have been the season of spring when the occurrences took place which are related by Luke at the close of the nineteenth chapter. We have already seen that he purposed to stay at Ephesus "till Pentecost;" and it has been stated that May was the "month of Diana," in which the great religious gathering took place to celebrate the games. If this also was the season of the provincial assize (which, as we have seen, is by no means improbable), the city would be crowded with various classes of people. Doubtless those who employed themselves in making the portable shrines of Diana expected to drive a brisk trade at such a time; and when they found that the sale of these objects of superstition was seriously diminished, and that the preaching of Apostle Paul was the cause of their merchandise being depreciated, "no small tumult arose concerning that way" in which the new teacher was leading his disciples (verse 23).
A certain Demetrius, a master-manufacturer in the craft, summoned together his workmen, along with other artisans who were occupied in trades of the same kind - (among whom we may perhaps reckon "Alexander the coppersmith" (2Timothy 4:14), against whom the Apostle warned Timothy at a later period), - and addressed to them an inflammatory speech. It is evident that Apostle Paul, though he had made no open and calumnious attack on the divinities of the place, as was admitted below (verse 37), had said something like what he had said at Athens, that we ought not to suppose that the deity is "like gold or silver carved with the art and device of man" (Acts 17:29), and that "they are no gods that are made with hands" (verse 26). Such expressions, added to the failure in the profits of those who were listening, gave sufficient materials for an adroit and persuasive speech. Demetrius appealed first to the interest of his hearers, and then to their fanaticism. He told them that their gains were in danger of being lost - and, besides this, that "the temple of the great goddess Diana" (to which we can imagine him pointing as he spoke) was in danger of being despised, and that the honor of their national divinity was in jeopardy, whom not only "all Asia," but "all the civilized world," had hitherto held in the highest veneration. Such a speech could not be lost, when thrown like fire on such inflammable materials. The infuriated feeling of the crowd of assembled artisans broke out at once into a cry in honor of the divine patron of their city and their craft, - "Great is Diana of the Ephesians."
The excitement among this important and influential class of operatives was not long in spreading through the whole city. The infection seized upon the crowds of citizens and strangers; and a general rush was made to the theater, the most obvious place of assembly. On their way, they seem to have been foiled in the attempt to lay hold of the person of Paul, though they hurried with them into the theater two of the companions of his travels, Caius and Aristarchus, whose home was in Macedonia. A sense of the danger of his companions, and a fearless zeal for the truth, urged Apostle Paul, so soon as this intelligence reached him, to hasten to the theater and present himself before the people; but the Christian disciples used all their efforts to restrain him. Perhaps their anxious solicitude might have been unavailing on this occasion, as it was on one occasion afterwards, (See Acts 21:13) had not other influential friends interposed to preserve his safety. And now was seen the advantage which is secured to a righteous cause by the upright character and unflinching zeal of its leading champion. Some of the Asiarchs, whether converted to Christianity or not, had a friendly feeling towards the Apostle; and well knowing the passions of an Ephesian mob when excited at one of the festivals of Asia, they sent an urgent message to him to prevent him from venturing into the scene of disorder and danger. Thus he reluctantly consented to remain in privacy, while the mob crowded violently into the theater, filling the stone seats, tier above tier, and rending the air with their confused and fanatical cries.
It was indeed a scene of confusion; and never perhaps was the character of a mob more simply and graphically expressed, than when it is said, that "the majority knew not why they were come together" (verse 32). At length an attempt was made to bring the expression of some articulate words before the assembly. This attempt came from the Jews, who seem to have been afraid lest they should be implicated in the odium which had fallen on the Christians. By no means unwilling to injure the Apostle’s cause, they were yet anxious to clear themselves, and therefore they "put Alexander forward" to make an apologetic speech to the multitude. If this man was really, as we have suggested, "Alexander the coppersmith," he might naturally be expected to have influence with Demetrius and his fellow-craftsmen. But when he stood up and "raised his hand" to invite silence, he was recognized immediately by the multitude as a Jew. It was no time for making distinctions between Jews and Christians; and one simultaneous cry arose from every mouth, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians;" and this cry continued for two hours.
The excitement of an angry multitude wears out after a time, and a period of re-action comes, when they are disposed to listen to words of counsel and reproof. And, whether we consider the official position of the "Town-clerk," or the character of the man as indicated by his speech, we may confidently say that no one in the city was so well suited to appease this Ephesian mob. The speech is a pattern of candid argument and judicious tact. He first allays the fanatical passions of his listeners by this simple appeal: "Is it not known everywhere that this city of the Ephesians is Neocoros of the great goddess Diana and of the image that came down from the sky?" The contradiction of a few insignificant strangers could not affect what was notorious in all the world. Then he bids them remember that Paul and his companions had not been guilty of approaching or profaning the temple, or of outraging the feelings of the Ephesians by calumnious expressions against the goddess. And then he turns from the general subject to the case of Demetrius, and points out that the remedy for any injustice was amply provided by the assizes which were then going on, - or by an appeal to the proconsul. And reserving the most efficacious argument to the last, he reminded them that such an uproar exposed the city of Ephesus to the displeasure of the Romans: for, however great were the liberties allowed to an ancient and loyal city, it was well known to the whole population, that a tumultuous meeting which endangered the public peace would never be tolerated. So, having rapidly brought his arguments to a climax, he tranquillized the whole multitude, and pronounced the technical words which declared the assembly dispersed. (Acts 19:41) The stone seats were gradually emptied. The uproar ceased (Acts 20:1), and the rioters separated to their various occupations and amusements.
Thus God used the eloquence of a Greek magistrate to protect His servant, as before He had used the right of Roman citizenship, and the calm justice of a Roman governor. And, as in the cases of Philippi and Corinth, (Acts 16:40, 18:18) the narrative of Apostle Paul's sojourn at Ephesus concludes with the notice of a deliberate and affectionate farewell. The danger was now over. With gratitude to that Heavenly Master who had watched over his life and his works, and with a recognition of that love of his fellow-Christians, and that favor of the "Chief of Asia," which had been the instruments of his safety, he gathered together the disciples (Acts 20:1), and in one last affectionate meeting - most probably in the school of Tyrannus - he gave them his farewell salutations, and commended them to the grace of God, and parted from them with tears.
This is the last authentic account which we possess, - if we except the meeting at Miletus (Acts 20), - of any personal connection of Apostle Paul with Ephesus; for although we think it may be inferred from the Pastoral Epistles that he visited the metropolis of Asia again at a later period, yet we know nothing of the circumstances of the visit, and even its occurrence has been disputed. The other historical associations of Christianity with this city are connected with a different Apostle and a later period of the Church.
Paul at Troas
After his mention of the affectionate parting between Apostle Paul and the Christians of Ephesus, Luke tells us very little of the Apostle’s proceedings during a period of nine or ten months. All the information which we find in the Acts concerning this period is comprised in the following words:—
"When the tumult was over, Paul called the disciples to him and embraced them; then he left to go into Macedonia. And after passing through those parts and exhorting them with much speaking, he came to Greece. Now after he had been there for three months, he was going to sail to Syria. But when he learned that the Jews were lying in wait for him, he decided to return through Macedonia." (Acts 20:1-3, Holy Bible in Its Original Order - A Faithful Version (HBFV) where noted)
Were it not for the information supplied by the Epistles, this is all we should have known of a period which was, intellectually at least, the most active and influential of Apostle Paul's career. These letters, however, supply us with many additional incidents belonging to this epoch of his life; and, what is more important, they give us a picture drawn by his own hand of his state of mind during an anxious and critical season; they bring him before us in his weakness and in his strength, in his sorrow and in his joy; they show the causes of his dejection and the source of his consolation.
In the first place, we thus learn what we should, a priori, have expected, - that he visited Alexandria Troas on his way from Ephesus to Macedonia. In all probability he traveled from the one city to the other by sea, as we know he did on his return in the following year. Indeed, in countries in such a stage of civilization, the safest and most expeditious route from one point of the coast to another is generally by water rather than by land; for the "perils in the sea," though greater in those times than in ours, yet did not so frequently impede the voyager as the "perils of rivers" and "perils of robbers" which beset the traveler by land.
We are not informed who were Apostle Paul's companions in this journey; but as we find that Tychicus and Trophimus (both Ephesians) were with him at Corinth (Acts 20:4) during the same apostolic progress, and returned thence in his company, it seems probable that they accompanied him at his departure. We find both of them remaining faithful to him through all the calamities which followed; both exerting themselves in his service, and executing his orders to the last; both mentioned as his friends and followers, almost with his dying breath.
In such company, Apostle Paul came to Alexandria Troas. We have already described the position and character of this city, whence the Apostle of the Gentiles had set forth when first he left Asia to fulfil his mission, - the conversion of Europe. At that time, his visit seems to have been very short, and no results of it are recorded; but now he remained for a considerable time; he had meant to stay long enough to lay the foundation of a Church (see 2Corinthians 2:12), and would have remained still longer than he did, had it not been for the non-arrival of Titus, whom he had sent to Corinth from Ephesus either with or soon after the First Epistle. The object of his mission was connected with the great collection now going on for the Hebrew Christians at Jerusalem, but he was also enjoined to enforce the admonitions of Apostle Paul upon the Church of Corinth, and endeavor to defeat the efforts of their seducers; and then to return with a report of their conduct, and especially of the effect upon them of the recent Epistle. Titus was desired to come through Macedonia, and to rejoin Apostle Paul (probably) at Troas, where the latter had intended to arrive shortly after Pentecost; but now that he was forced to leave Ephesus prematurely, he had resolved to wait for Titus at Troas, expecting, however, his speedy arrival. In this expectation he was disappointed; week after week passed, but Titus came not. The tidings which Apostle Paul expected by him were of the deepest interest; it was to be hoped that he would bring news of the triumph of good over evil at Corinth: yet it might be otherwise; the Corinthians might have forsaken the faith of their first teacher, and rejected his messenger. While waiting in this uncertainty, Apostle Paul appears to have suffered all the sickness of hope deferred.
"I had no rest in my spirit because I was not able to find Titus, my brother; then I left them and went into Macedonia." (2Corinthians 2:13, HBFV)
Nevertheless, his personal anxiety did not prevent his laboring earnestly and successfully in his Master’s service. He "published the Glad-tidings of Christ" (2Corinthians 2:12) there as in other places, probably preaching as usual, in the first instance, to the Jews in the Synagogue. He met with a ready hearing; "a door was opened to him in the Lord." (2Corinthians 2:12) And thus was laid the foundation of a Church which rapidly increased, and which we shall find him revisiting not long afterwards. At present, indeed, he was compelled to leave it prematurely; for the necessity of meeting Titus, and learning the state of things at Corinth, urged him forward. He sailed, therefore, once more from Troas to Macedonia (a voyage already described in our account of his former journey), and, landing at Neapolis, proceeded immediately to Philippi.
We might have supposed that the warmth of affection with which he was doubtless welcomed by his converts here would have soothed the spirit of the Apostle, and restored his serenity. For, of all his converts, the Philippians seem to have been the most free from fault, and the most attached to himself. In the Epistle which he wrote to them, we find no censure, and much praise; and so zealous was their love for Apostle Paul, that they alone (of all the Churches which he founded) forced him from the very beginning to accept their contributions for his support. Twice, while he was at Thessalonica, immediately after their own conversion, they had sent relief to him. Again they did the same while he was at Corinth, working for his daily bread in the manufactory of Aquila. And we shall find them afterwards cheering his Roman prison by similar proofs of their loving remembrance. (Philippians 4:16) We might suppose from this that they were a wealthy Church; yet such a supposition is contradicted by the words of Apostle Paul, who tells us that
"Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God that has been given to the churches in Macedonia, That in a great trial of affliction, their abundant joy and their deep poverty has overflowed unto the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and even beyond their ability, they were willing to give of themselves" (2Corinthians 8:1-3, HBFV)
In fact, they had been exposed to very severe persecution from the first. "Unto them it was given," so Apostle Paul reminds them afterwards, - "in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake." (Philippians 1:29) Perhaps, already their leading members had been prosecuted under the Roman law upon the charge which proved so fatal in after times, - of propagating a "new and illegal religion" (religio nova et illicita); or, if this had not yet occurred, still it is obvious how severe must have been the loss inflicted by the alienation of friends and connections; and this would be especially the case with the Jewish converts, such as Lydia, who were probably the only wealthy members of the community, and whose sources of wealth were derived from the commercial relations which bound together the scattered Jews throughout the Empire. What they gave, therefore, was not out of their abundance, but out of their penury; they did not grasp tenaciously at the wealth which was slipping from their hands, but they seemed eager to get rid of what still remained. They "remembered the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." Apostle Paul might have addressed them in the words spoken to some who were like minded with them:—
"For you not only showed compassion to me in my bonds, but also gladly endured the plunder of your possessions, knowing within yourselves that you have a greater and more enduring possession in the heavens." (Hebrews 10:34, HBFV)
Such were the zealous and loving friends who now embraced their father in the faith; yet the warmth of their welcome did not dispel the gloom which hung over his spirit; although amongst them he found Timothy also, his "beloved son in the Lord," the most endeared to him of all his converts and companions. The whole tone of the Second Epistle to Corinth shows the depression under which he was laboring; and he expressly tells the Corinthians that this state of feeling lasted, not only at Troas, but also after he reached Macedonia. "When first I came into Macedonia," he says, "my flesh had no rest; without were fightings, within were fears." And this had continued until "God, who comforts them that are cast down, comforted me by the coming of Titus."
At length the long-expected Titus arrived at Philippi, and relieved the anxiety of his master by better tidings than he had hoped to hear. The majority of the Corinthian Church had submitted to the injunctions of Apostle Paul, and testified the deepest repentance for the sins into which they had fallen. They had passed sentence of excommunication upon the incestuous person, and they had readily contributed towards the collection for the poor Christians of Palestine. But there was still a minority, whose opposition seems to have been rather imbittered than humbled by the submission which the great body of the Church had thus yielded. They proclaimed, in a louder and more contemptuous tone than ever, their accusations against the Apostle. They charged him with craft in his designs, and with selfish and mercenary motives; - a charge which they probably maintained by insinuating that he was personally interested in the great collection which he was raising. We have seen (1Corinthians 16:3) what scrupulous care Apostle Paul took to keep his integrity in this matter above every shade of suspicion; and we shall find still further proof of this as we proceed. Meanwhile it is obvious how singularly inconsistent this accusation was, in the mouths of those who eagerly maintained that Paul could be no true Apostle, because he did not demand support from the Churches which he founded. The same opponents accused him likewise of egregious vanity, and of cowardly weakness; they declared that he was continually threatening without striking, and promising without performing; always on his way to Corinth, but never venturing to come; and that he was as vacillating in his teaching as in his practice; refusing circumcision to Titus, yet circumcising Timothy; a Jew among the Jews, and a Gentile among the Gentiles.
It is an important question, to which of the divisions of the Corinthian Church these obstinate opponents of Apostle Paul belonged. Prom the notices of them given by Apostle Paul himself, it seems certain that ‘they were Judaizers (see 2Corinthians 11:22); and still further, that they were of the Christine section of that party (see 2Corinthians 11:7). It also appears that they were headed by an emissary from Palestine (2Corinthians 11:4), who had brought letters of commendation from some members of the Church at Jerusalem, and who boasted of his pure Hebrew descent, and his especial connection with Christ himself. (See 2Corinthians 11:22) Apostle Paul calls him a false apostle, a minister of Satan disguised as a minister of righteousness, and hints that he was actuated by corrupt motives. He seems to have behaved at Corinth with extreme arrogance, and to have succeeded, by his overbearing conduct, in impressing his partisans with a conviction of his importance, and of the truth of his pretensions. They contrasted his confident bearing with the timidity and self-distrust which had been shown by Apostle Paul. (1Corinthians 2:3) And they even extolled his personal advantages over those of their first teacher; comparing his rhetoric with Paul’s inartificial speech, his commanding appearance with the insignificance of Paul’s "bodily presence." (2Corinthians 10:10, 16)
Titus, having delivered to Apostle Paul this mixed intelligence of the state of Corinth, was immediately directed to return thither (in company with two deputies specially elected to take charge of their contribution by the Macedonian Churches), in order to continue the business of the collection. Apostle Paul made him the bearer of another letter, which is addressed (still more distinctly than the First Epistle), not to Corinth only, but to all the Churches in the whole province of Achaia, including Athens and Cenchrea, and perhaps also Sicyon, Argos, Megara, Patrae, and other neighboring towns; all of which probably shared more or less in the agitation which so powerfully affected the Christian community at Corinth. The twofold character of this Epistle is easily explained by the existence of the majority and minority which we have described in the Corinthian Church. Towards the former the Epistle overflows with love; towards the latter it abounds with warning and menace. The purpose of the Apostle was to encourage and tranquillize the great body of the Church; but, at the same time, he was constrained to maintain his authority against those who persisted in despising the commands of Christ delivered by his mouth. It was needful, also, that he should notice their false accusations; and that (undeterred by the charge of vanity which they brought) he should vindicate his apostolic character by a statement of facts, and a threat of punishment to be inflicted on the contumacious.
In this letter we find a considerable space devoted to subjects connected with a collection now in progress for the poor Christians in Judea. It is not the first time that we have seen Apostle Paul actively exerting himself in such a project. Nor is it the first time that this particular contribution has been brought before our notice. At Ephesus, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Apostle Paul gave special directions as to the method in which it should be laid up in store (1Corinthians 16:1-4). Even before this period similar instructions had been given to the Churches of Galatia (ib. 1). And the whole project was in fact the fulfillment of a promise made at a still earlier period, that, in the course of his preaching among the Gentiles, the poor in Judea should be remembered (Galatians 2:10).
The collection was going on simultaneously in Macedonia and Achaia; and the same letter gives us information concerning the manner in which it was conducted in both places. The directions given to the Corinthians were doubtless similar to those under which the contribution was made at Thessalonica and Philippi. Moreover, direct information is incidentally given of what was actually done in Macedonia; and thus we are furnished with materials for depicting to ourselves a passage in the Apostle’s life which is not described by Luke. There is much instruction to be gathered from the method and principles according to which these funds were collected by Apostle Paul and his associates, as well as from the conduct of those who contributed for their distant and suffering brethren.
Both from this passage of Scripture and from others we are fully made aware of Apostle Paul's motives for urging this benevolent work. Besides his promise made long ago at Jerusalem, that, in his preaching among the Gentiles, the poor Jewish Christians should be remembered, the poverty of the residents in Judea would be a strong reason for his activity in collecting funds for their relief among the wealthier communities who were now united with them in the same faith and hope. But there was a far higher motive, which lay at the root of the Apostle’s anxious and energetic zeal in this cause. It is that which is dwelt on in the closing verses of the ninth chapter of the Epistle which has just been read, (2Corinthians 9:12-15) and is again alluded to in words less sanguine in the Epistle to the Romans. (Romans 15:30- 31) A serious schism existed between the Gentile and Hebrew Christians, which, though partially closed from time to time, seemed in danger of growing continually wider under the mischievous influence of the Judaizers. The great labor of Apostle Paul's life at this time was directed to the healing of this division. He felt that if the Gentiles had been made partakers of the spiritual blessings of the Jews, their duty was to contribute to them in earthly blessings (Romans 15:27), and that nothing would be more likely to allay the prejudices of the Jewish party than charitable gifts freely contributed by the Heathen converts. According as cheerful or discouraging thoughts predominated in his mind, - and to such alternations of feeling even an apostle was liable, - he hoped that "the ministration of that service would not only fill up the measure of the necessities of Christ’s people" in Judea, but would "overflow" in thanksgivings and prayers on their part for those whose hearts had been opened to bless them (2Corinthians 9:12-15), or he feared that this charity might be rejected, and he entreated the prayers of others, "that he might be delivered from the disobedient in Judea, and that the service which he had undertaken for Jerusalem might be favorably received by Christ’s people" (Romans 15:30, 31).
Influenced by these motives, he spared no pains in promoting the work; but every step was conducted with the utmost prudence and delicacy of feeling. He was well aware of the calumnies with which his enemies were ever ready to assail his character; and, therefore, he took the most careful precautions against the possibility of being accused of mercenary motives. At an early stage of the collection, we find him writing to the Corinthians.
"Now concerning the collection that is being made for the saints: as I directed the churches in Galatia, so you also are to do. Every first day of the week, each one is to put aside food at home, storing up whatever he may be prospered in, so that there need not be any collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve in your letters, these are the ones I will send to carry your bounty to Jerusalem. Now if it be suitable for me to go also, they shall go with me." (1Corinthians 16:1-4, HBFV)
and again he alludes to the delegates commissioned with Titus, as "guarding himself against all suspicion" which might be cast on him in his administration of the bounty with which he was charged, and as being "careful to do all things in a seemly manner, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (2Corinthians 8:20, 21). This regard to what was seemly appears most strikingly in his mode of bringing the subject before those to whom he wrote and spoke. He lays no constraint upon them. They are to give "not grudgingly or of necessity," but each "according to the free choice of his heart; for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2Corinthians 9:7). "If there is a willing mind, the gift is acceptable when measured by the giver’s power, and needs not to go beyond" (2Corinthians 8:12). He spoke rather as giving "advice" (2Corinthians 8:10) than a "command;" and he sought to prove the reality of his converts’ love by reminding them of the zeal of others (2Corinthians 8:8). In writing to the Corinthians, he delicately contrasts their wealth with the poverty of the Macedonians In speaking to the Macedonians themselves, such a mode of appeal was less natural, for they were poorer and more generous. Yet them also he endeavored to rouse to a generous rivalry, by telling them of the zeal of Achaia (2Corinthians 8:24, 9:2). To them also he would doubtless say that "he who sows sparingly shall reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully shall reap bountifully" (2Corinthians 9:6), while he would gently remind them that God was ever able to give them an overflowing measure of all good gifts, supplying all their wants, and enabling them to be bountiful to others (ib. 8). And that one overpowering argument could never be forgotten, - the example of Christ, and the debt of love we owe to Him, -
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: that although He was rich, He became poor for your sakes, so that by His poverty you might become rich." (2Corinthians 8:9, HBFV)
Nor ought we, when speaking of the instruction to be gathered from this charitable undertaking, to leave unnoticed the calmness and deliberation of the method which he recommends of laying aside, week by week, what is devoted to God (1Corinthians 16:2), - a practice equally remote from the excitement of popular appeals, and the mere impulse of instinctive benevolence.
The Macedonian Christians responded nobly to the appeal which was made to them by Apostle Paul. The zeal of their brethren in Achaia "roused the most of them to follow it" (2Corinthians 9:2). God’s grace was abundantly "manifested in the Churches" on the north of the Aegean (ib. 2Corinthians 8:1). Their conduct in this matter, as described to us by the Apostle’s pen, rises to the point of the highest praise. It was a time, not of prosperity, but of great affliction, to the Macedonian Churches; nor were they wealthy communities like the Church of Corinth; yet, "in their heavy trial, the fulness of their joy overflowed out of the depth of their poverty in the riches of their liberality" (ib. 2Corinthians 8:2). Their contribution was no niggardly gift, wrung from their covetousness (2Corinthians 8:5); but they gave honestly "according to their means" (ib. 3), and not only so, but even "beyond their means" (ib); nor did they give grudgingly, under the pressure of the Apostle’s urgency, but "of their own free will, beseeching him with much entreaty that they might bear their part in the grace of ministering to Christ’s people" (ib. 3, 4). And this liberality arose from that which is the basis of all true Christian charity. "They gave themselves first to the Lord Jesus Christ, by the will of God" (ib. 5).
The Macedonian contribution, if not complete, was in a state of much forwardness, when Apostle Paul wrote to Corinth. He speaks of liberal funds as being already pressed upon his acceptance (2Corinthians 8:4), and the delegates who were to accompany him to Jerusalem had already been chosen (2Corinthians 8:19, 23). We do not know how many of the Churches of Macedonia took part in this collection, but we cannot doubt that that of Philippi held a conspicuous place in so benevolent a work. In the case of the Philippian Church, this bounty was only a continuation of the benevolence they had begun before, and an earnest of that which gladdened the Apostle’s heart in his imprisonment at Rome. "In the beginning of the Gospel" they and they only had sent once and again to relieve his wants, both at Thessalonica and at Corinth (Philippians 4:15, 16); and "at the last" their care of their friend and teacher "flourished again" (ib. 10), and they sent their gifts to him at Rome, as now they sent to their unknown brethren at Jerusalem. The Philippians are in the Epistles what that poor woman is in the Gospels, who placed two mites in the treasury. They gave much, because they gave of their poverty; and wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the whole world, there shall this liberality be told for a memorial of them.
If the principles enunciated by the Apostle in reference to the collection command our devout attention, and if the example of the Macedonian Christians is held out to the imitation of all future ages of the Church, the conduct of those who took an active part in the management of the business should not be unnoticed. Of two of these the names are unknown to us, though their characters are described. One was a brother, "whose praise in publishing the Gospel was spread throughout the Churches," and who had been chosen by the Church of Macedonia to accompany Apostle Paul with the charitable fund to Jerusalem (2Corinthians 8:18, 19). The other was one "who had been put to the proof in many trials, and always found zealous in the work" (ib. 22). But concerning Titus, the third companion of these brethren, "the partner of Apostle Paul's lot, and his fellow-laborer for the good of the Church," we have fuller information; and this seems to be the right place to make a more particular allusion to him, for he was nearly concerned in all the steps of the collection now in progress.
Titus does not, like Timothy, appear at intervals through all the passages of the Apostle’s life. He is not mentioned in the Acts at all, and this is the only place where he comes conspicuously forward in the Epistles; and all that is said of him is connected with the business of the collection. Thus we have a detached portion of his biography, which is at once a thread that guides us through the main facts of the contribution for the Judean Christians, and a source whence we can draw some knowledge of the character of that disciple, to whom Apostle Paul addressed one of his pastoral Epistles. At an early stage of the proceedings he seems to have been sent, - soon after the First Epistle was despatched from Ephesus to Corinth (or perhaps as its bearer), - not simply to enforce the Apostle’s general injunctions, but to labor also in forwarding the collection (2Corinthians 12:18). Whilst he was at Corinth, we find that he took an active and zealous part at the outset of the good work (ib. 8:6). And now that he had come to Macedonia, and brought the Apostle good news from Achaia, he was exhorted to return, that he might finish what was so well begun, taking with him (as we have seen) the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, and accompanied by the two deputies who have just been mentioned. It was a task which he was by no means unwilling to undertake. God "put into his heart the same zeal" which Paul himself had; he not only consented to the Apostle’s desire, but was "himself very zealous in the matter, and went of his own accord" (2Corinthians 8:16, 17). If we put together these notices, scanty as they are, of the conduct of Titus, they set before us a character which seems to claim our admiration for a remarkable union of enthusiasm, integrity, and discretion.
After the departure of Titus, Apostle Paul still continued to prosecute the labors of an evangelist in the regions to the north of Greece. He was unwilling as yet to visit the Corinthian Church, the disaffected members of which still caused him so much anxiety, - and he would doubtless gladly employ this period of delay to accomplish any plans he might have formed and left incomplete on his former visit to Macedonia. On that occasion he had been persecuted in Philippi, and had been forced to make a precipitate retreat from Thessalonica; and from Berea his course had been similarly urged to Athens and Corinth. Now he was able to embrace a wider circumference in his Apostolic progress. Taking Jerusalem as his center, he had been perpetually enlarging the circle of his travels. In his first missionary journey he had preached in the southern parts of Asia Minor and the northern parts of Syria: in his second journey, he had visited the Macedonian towns which lay near the shores of the Aegean: and now on his third progress he would seem to have penetrated into the mountains of the interior, or even beyond them to the shores of the Adriatic, and "fully preached the Gospel of Christ round about unto Illyricum" (Romans 15:19).
Whether he traveled widely and rapidly in the regions to the north of Greece, or confined his exertions to the neighborhood of those churches which he had previously founded, - the time soon came when he determined to revisit that Church, which had caused him so much affliction not unmixed with joy. During the course of his stay at Ephesus, and in all parts of his subsequent journey in Troas and Macedonia, his heart had been continually at Corinth. He had been in frequent communication with his inconsistent and rebellious converts. Three letters had been written to entreat or to threaten them. Besides his own personal visit when the troubles were beginning, he had sent several messengers, who were authorized to speak in his name. Moreover, there was now a special subject in which his interest and affections were engaged, the contribution for the poor in Judea, which he wished to "seal" to those for whom it was destined (Romans 15:28) before undertaking his journey to the West.
Paul's Return to Corinth
It was probably already winter when Apostle Paul once more beheld in the distance the lofty citadel of Corinth towering above the isthmus which it commands. The gloomy season must have harmonized with his feelings as he approached. The clouds which, at the close of autumn, so often hang round the summit of the Acro-Corinthus, and cast their shadow upon the city below, might have seemed to typify the mists of vice and error which darkened the minds even of its Christian citizens. Their father in the faith knew that, for some of them at least, he had labored in vain. He was returning to converts who had cast off the morality of the Gospel; to friends who had forgotten his love; to enemies who disputed his divine commission. It is true, the majority of the Corinthian Church had repented of their worst sins, and submitted to his Apostolic commands. Yet what was forgiven could not entirely be forgotten; even towards the penitent he could not feel all the confidence of earlier affection; and there was still left an obstinate minority, who would not give up their habits of impurity, and who, when he spoke to them of righteousness and judgment to come, replied either by openly defending their sins, or by denying his authority and impugning his orthodoxy.
He now came prepared to put down this opposition by the most decisive measures; resolved to cast out of the Church these antagonists of truth and goodness, by the plenitude of his Apostolic power. Thus he warned them a few months before (as he had threatened when present on an earlier occasion), "when I come again, I will not spare" (2Corinthians 13:2).
He declared his determination to punish the disobedient (2Corinthians 10:6). He "boasted" of the authority which Christ had given him (2Corinthians 10:8). He besought them not to compel him to use the weapons entrusted to him (2Corinthians 10:2), weapons not of fleshly weakness, but endowed with the might of God (2Corinthians 10:4). He pledged himself to execute by his deeds, when present, all he had threatened by his words when absent (2Corinthians 10:11). As we think of him, with these purposes of severity in his mind, approaching the walls of Corinth, we are irresistibly reminded of the eventful close of a former journey, when Saul, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," drew nigh to Damascus. How strongly does this accidental resemblance bring out the essential contrast between the weapons and the spirit of Saul and Paul! Then he wielded the sword of the secular power - he traveled as the proud representative of the Sanhedrin - the minister of human cruelty and injustice: he was the Jewish Inquisitor, the exterminator of heretics, seeking for victims to imprison or to stone. Now he is meek and lowly, (See 2Corinthians 10:1) traveling in the humblest guise of poverty, with no outward marks of pre-eminence or power; he has no jailers at his command to bind his captives, no executioners to carry out his sentence. All he can do is to exclude those who disobey him from a society of poor and ignorant outcasts, who are the objects of contempt to all the mighty, and wise, and noble, among their countrymen. His adversaries despise his apparent insignificance; they know that he has no outward means of enforcing his will; they see that his bodily presence is weak; they think his speech contemptible. Yet he is not so powerless as he seems. Though now he wields no carnal weapons, his arms are not weaker, but stronger, than they were of old. He cannot bind the bodies of men, but he can bind their souls. Truth and love are on his side; the Spirit of God bears witness with the spirits of men on his behalf. His weapons are "mighty to overthrow the strongholds of the adversaries;" "thereby" he could "overthrow the reasonings of the disputer, and pull down the lofty bulwarks which raise themselves against the knowledge of God, and bring every rebellious thought into captivity and subjection to Christ." (2Corinthians 10:4, 5)
Nor is there less difference in the spirit of his warfare than in the character of his weapons. Then he "breathed out threatenings and slaughter;" he "made havoc of the Church;" he "haled men and women into prison;" he "compelled them to blaspheme." "When their sentence was doubtful, he gave his vote for their destruction; (Acts 26:10) he was "exceedingly mad against them." Then his heart was filled with pride and hate, un-charitableness and self-will. But now his proud and passionate nature is transformed by the Spirit of God; he is crucified with Christ; the fervid impetuosity of his character is tempered by meekness and gentleness; his very denunciations and threats of punishment are full of love; he grieves over his contumacious opponents; the thought of their pain fills him with sadness. "For if I cause you grief, who is there to cause me joy?" (2Corinthians 2:2) He implores them, even at the eleventh hour, to save him from the necessity of dealing harshly with them; he had rather leave his authority doubtful, and still remain liable to the sneers of his adversaries, than establish it by their punishment (2Corinthians 13:7-9). He will condescend to the weakest prejudices rather than cast a stumbling-block in a brother’s path; he is ready to become "all things to all men," that he may "by all means save some."
Yet all that was good and noble in the character of Saul remains in Paul, purified from its old alloy. The same zeal for God burns in his heart, though it is no longer misguided by ignorance or warped by party-spirit. The same firm resolve is seen in carrying out his principles to their consequences, though he shows it not in persecuting, but in suffering. The same restless energy, which carried him from Jerusalem to Damascus that he might extirpate heresy, now urges him from one end of the world to the other, that he may bear the tidings of salvation.
The painful anticipations which saddened his return to Corinth were not, however, altogether unrelieved by happier thoughts. As he approached the well-known gates, in the midst of that band of faithful friends who accompanied him from Macedonia, his memory could not but revert to the time when first he entered the same city, a friendless and lonely stranger. He could not but recall the feelings of extreme depression with which he first began his missionary work at Corinth, after his unsuccessful visit to Athens. The very firmness and bold confidence which now animated him - the assurance which he felt of victory over the opponents of truth - must have reminded him by contrast of the anxiety and self-distrust (See 1Corinthians 2:1-3) which weighed him down at his first intercourse with the Corinthians, and which needed a miraculous vision (Acts 18:9) for its removal. How could he allow discouragement to overcome his spirit, when he remembered the fruits borne by labors which had begun in so much sadness and timidity? It was surely something that hundreds of believers now called on the name of the Lord Jesus, who, when he first came among them, had worshipped nothing but the deification of their own lusts. Painful no doubt it was to find that their conversion had been so incomplete; that the pollutions of heathenism still defiled those who had once washed away the stains (1Corinthians 6:11) of sin: yet the majority of the Church had repented of their offences; the number who obstinately persisted in sin was but small; and if many of the adult converts were so tied and bound by the chains of habit, that their complete deliverance could scarce be hoped for, yet at least their children might be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Moreover, there were some, even in this erring church, on whom Apostle Paul could think with unmingled satisfaction; some who walked in the Spirit, and did not fulfil the lust of the flesh; who were created anew in Christ Jesus; with whom old things had passed away, and all things had become new; who dwelt in Christ, and Christ in them. Such were Erastus the treasurer, and Stephanas, the first-fruits of Achaia; such were Fortunatus and Achaicus, who had lately traveled to Ephesus on the errand of their brethren; such was Gaius, who was even now preparing to welcome beneath his hospitable roof the Apostle who had thrown open to himself the door of entrance into the Church of Christ. When Apostle Paul thought of "them that were such," and of the many others "who worked with them and labored," (1Corinthians 16:16) as he threaded the crowded streets on his way to the house of Gaius, doubtless he "thanked God and took courage."
But a painful surprise awaited him on his arrival. He found that intelligence had reached Corinth from Ephesus, by the direct route, of a more recent date than any which he had lately received; and the tidings brought by this channel concerning the state of the Galatian churches excited both his astonishment and his indignation. His converts there, whom he seems to have regarded with peculiar affection, and whose love and zeal for himself had formerly been so conspicuous, were rapidly forsaking his teaching, and falling an easy prey to the arts of Judaizing missionaries from Palestine. We have seen the vigor and success with which the Judaizing party at Jerusalem were at this period pursuing their new tactics, by carrying the war into the territory of their great opponent, and endeavoring to counterwork him in the very center of his influence, in the bosom of those Gentile Churches which he had so lately founded. We know how great was the difficulty with which he had defeated (if indeed they were yet defeated) the agents of this restless party at Corinth; and now, on his reaching that city to crush the last remains of their opposition, he heard that they had been working the same mischief in Galatia, where he had least expected it. There, as in most of the early Christian communities, a portion of the Church had been Jews by birth; and this body would afford a natural fulcrum for the efforts of the Judaizing teachers; yet we cannot suppose that the number of Jews resident in this inland district could have been very large. And Apostle Paul in addressing the Galatians, although he assumes that there were some among them familiar with the Mosaic Law, yet evidently implies that the majority were converts from heathenism. (See Galatians 4:8)
It is remarkable, therefore, that the Judaizing emissaries should so soon have gained so great a hold over a church consisting mainly of Gentile Christians; and the fact that they did so proves not only their indefatigable activity, but also their skill in the arts of conciliation and persuasion. It must be remembered, however, that they were by no means scrupulous as to the means which they employed to effect their objects. At any cost of falsehood and detraction, they resolved to loosen the hold of Apostle Paul upon the affection and respect of his converts. Thus to the Galatians they accused him of a want of uprightness in observing the Law himself whilst among the Jews, yet persuading the Gentiles to renounce it; (Galatians 5:11) they argued that his motive was to keep his converts in a subordinate state, excluded from the privileges of a full covenant with God, which was enjoyed by the circumcised alone; (Galatians 4:16, compare with Galatians 2:17) they declared that he was an interested flatterer, "becoming all things to all men," that he might make a party for himself; and above all, they insisted that he falsely represented himself as an apostle of Christ, for that he had not, like the Twelve, been a follower of Jesus when He was on earth, and had not received His commission; that, on the contrary, he was only a teacher sent out by the authority of the Twelve, whose teaching was only to be received so far as it agreed with theirs, and was sanctioned by them; whereas his doctrine (they alleged) was now in opposition to that of Peter and James, and the other "Pillars" of the Church. By such representations they succeeded, to a great extent, in alienating the Galatian Christians from their father in the faith; already many of the recent converts submitted to circumcision, (Galatians 6:13) and embraced the party of their new teachers with the same zeal which they had formerly shown for the Apostle of the Gentiles; (Galatians 4:14, 15) and the rest of the Church was thrown into a state of agitation and division.
On receiving the first intelligence of these occurrences, Apostle Paul hastened to check the evil before it should have become irremediable. He wrote to the Galatians an Epistle which begins with an abruptness and severity showing his sense of the urgency of the occasion and the greatness of the danger. It is also frequently characterized by a tone of sadness, such as would naturally be felt by a man of such warm affections when he heard that those whom he loved were forsaking his cause, and believing the calumnies of his enemies. In this letter his principal object is to show that the doctrine of the Judaizers did in fact destroy the very essence of Christianity, and reduced it from an inward and spiritual life to an outward and ceremonial system; but in order to remove the seeds of alienation and distrust which had been designedly planted in the minds of his converts, he begins by fully contradicting the falsehoods which had been propagated against himself by his opponents, and especially by vindicating his title to the Apostolic office as received directly from Christ, and exercised independently of the other Apostles.
It was probably about the same time when Apostle Paul despatched to Ephesus the messengers who bore his energetic remonstrance to the Galatians, that he was called upon to inflict the punishment which he had threatened upon those obstinate offenders who still defied his censures at Corinth. We have already seen that these were divided into two classes: the larger consisted of those who justified their immoral practice by Antinomian doctrine, and, styling themselves "the Spiritual," considered the outward restrictions of morality as mere carnal ordinances, from which they were emancipated; the other and smaller (but more obstinate and violent) class, who had been more recently formed into a party by emissaries from Palestine, were the extreme Judaizers, who were taught to look on Paul as a heretic, and to deny his apostleship. Although the principles of these two parties differed so widely, yet they both agreed in repudiating the authority of Apostle Paul; and, apparently, the former party gladly availed themselves of the calumnies of the Judaizing propagandists, and readily listened to their denial of Paul’s divine commission; while the Judaizers, on their part, would foster any opposition to the Apostle of the Gentiles, from whatever quarter it might arise.
But now the time was come when the peace and purity of the Corinthian Church was to be no longer destroyed (at least openly) by either of these parties. Apostle Paul's first duty was to silence and shame his leading opponents by proving the reality of his Apostleship, which they denied. This he could only do by exhibiting "the signs of an Apostle," which consisted, as he himself informs us, mainly in the display of miraculous powers (2Corinthians 12:12). The present was a crisis which required such an appeal to the direct judgment of God, who could alone decide between conflicting claimants to a Divine commission. It was a contest like that between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Apostle Paul had already in his absence professed his readiness to stake the truth of his claims on this issue (2Corinthians 10:8, and 2Corinthians 13:3-6); and we may be sure that now, when he was present, he did not shrink from the trial. And, doubtless, God, who had sent him forth, wrought such miracles by his agency as sufficed to convince or to silence the gainsayers.
Now, therefore, that "their obedience was complete," the painful task remained of "punishing all the disobedient" (2Corinthians 10:6). It was not enough that those who had so often offended and so often been pardoned before should now merely profess once more a repentance which was only the offspring of fear or of hypocrisy, unless they were willing to give proof of their sincerity by renouncing their guilty indulgences. They had long infected the Church by their immorality; they were not merely evil themselves, but they were doing harm to others, and causing the name of Christ to be blasphemed among the heathen. It was necessary that the salt which had lost its savor should be cast out, lest its putrescence should spread to that which still retained its purity (2Corinthians 12:21). Apostle Paul no longer hesitated to stand between the living and the dead, that the plague might be stayed. We know, from his own description (1Corinthians 5:3-5), the very form and manner of the punishment inflicted. A solemn assembly of the Church was convened; the presence and power of the Lord Jesus Christ was especially invoked; the cases of the worst offenders were separately considered, and those whose sins required so heavy a punishment were publicly cast out of the Church, and (in the awful phraseology of Scripture) delivered over to Satan. Yet we must not suppose that even in such extreme cases the object of the sentence was to consign the criminal to final reprobation. On the contrary, the purpose of this excommunication was so to work on the offender’s mind as to bring him to sincere repentance, "that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1Corinthians 5:5) If it had this happy effect, and if he manifested true contrition, he was restored (as we have already seen in the case of the incestuous person) (2Corinthians 2:6-8) to the love of the brethren and the communion of the Church.
We should naturally be glad to know whether the pacification and purification of the Corinthian Church thus effected was permanent; or whether the evils which were so deeply rooted sprang up again after Apostle Paul's departure. On this point Scripture gives us no further information, nor can we find any mention of this Church after the date of the present chapter, either in the Acts or the Epistles. Such silence seems, so far as it goes. And the subsequent testimony of Clement (Philippians 4:3) confirms this interpretation of it. He speaks (evidently from his own personal experience) of the impression produced upon every stranger who visited the Church of Corinth, by their exemplary conduct; and specifies particularly their possession of the virtues most opposite to their former faults. Thus, he says that they were distinguished for the ripeness and soundness of their knowledge in contrast to the unsound and false pretence of knowledge for which they were rebuked by Apostle Paul. Again, he praises the pure and blameless lives of their women; which must therefore have been greatly changed since the time when fornication, wantonness, and impurity (2Corinthians 12:21) were the characteristics of their society. But especially he commends them for their entire freedom from faction and party-spirit, which had formerly been so conspicuous among their faults. Perhaps the picture which he draws of this golden age of Corinth may be too favorably colored, as a contrast to the state of things which he deplored when he wrote. Yet we may believe it substantially true, and may therefore hope that some of the worst evils were permanently corrected; more particularly the impurity and licentiousness which had hitherto been the most flagrant of their vices. Their tendency to party-spirit, however (so characteristic of the Greek temper), was not cured; on the contrary, it blazed forth again with greater fury than ever, some years after the death of Apostle Paul.
Apostle Paul continued three months (Acts 20:3) resident at Corinth; or, at least, he made that city his headquarters during this period. Probably he made excursions thence to Athens and other neighboring Churches, which (as we know) he had established at his first visit throughout all the region of Achaia, and which, perhaps, needed his presence, his exhortations, and his correction, no less than the metropolitan Church. Meanwhile, he was employed in completing that great collection for the Christians of Palestine, upon which we have seen him so long engaged. The Christians of Achaia, from whose comparative wealth much seems to have been expected, had already prepared their contributions, by laying aside something for the fund on the first day of every week; (1Corinthians 16:2) and, as this had been going on for more than a year, (2Corinthians 8:10, and 2Corinthians 9:2) the sum laid by must have been considerable. This was now collected from the individual contributors, and entrusted to certain treasurers elected by the whole Church, who were to carry it to Jerusalem in company with Apostle Paul.
While the Apostle was preparing for this journey, destined to be so eventful, one of his converts was also departing from Corinth, in an opposite direction, charged with a commission which has immortalized her name. This was Phoebe, a Christian matron resident at Cenchrea, the eastern port of Corinth. She was a widow of consideration and wealth, who acted as one of the deaconesses of the Church, and was now about to sail to Rome, upon some private business, apparently connected with a lawsuit in which she was engaged. Apostle Paul availed himself of this opportunity to send a letter by her hands to the Roman Church. His reason for writing to them at this time was his intention of speedily visiting them on his way from Jerusalem to Spain. He desired, before his personal intercourse with them should begin, to give them a proof of the affectionate interest which he felt for them, although they "had not seen his face in the flesh." We must not suppose, however, that they were hitherto altogether unknown to him; for we see, from the very numerous salutations at the close of the Epistle, that he was already well acquainted with many individual Christians at Rome. From the personal acquaintance he had thus formed, and the intelligence he had received, he had reason to entertain a very high opinion of the character of the Church; and accordingly he tells them (Romans 15:14-16) that, in entering so fully in his letter upon the doctrines and rules of Christianity, he had done it not so much to teach as to remind them; and that he was justified in assuming the authority so to exhort them, by the special commission which Christ had given him to the Gentiles.
The latter expression shows us that a considerable proportion, if not the majority, of the Roman Christians were of Gentile origin, (See also Romans 1:13) which is also evident from several other passages in the Epistle. At the same time, we cannot doubt that the original nucleus of the Church there, as well as in all the other great cities of the Empire, was formed by converts (including more Gentile proselytes than Jews) who had separated themselves from the Jewish synagogue. The name of the original founder of the Roman Church has not been preserved to us by history, nor even celebrated by tradition. This is a remarkable fact, when we consider how soon the Church of Rome attained great eminence in the Christian world, both from its numbers, and from the influence of its metropolitan rank. Had any of the Apostles laid its first foundation, the fact could scarcely fail to have been recorded. It is therefore probable that it was formed, in the first instance, of private Christians converted in Palestine, who had come from the eastern parts of the Empire to reside at Rome, or who had brought back Christianity with them, from some of their periodical visits to Jerusalem, as the "Strangers of Rome," from the great Pentecost. Indeed, among the immense multitudes whom political and commercial reasons constantly attracted to the metropolis of the world, there could not fail to be representatives of every religion which had established itself in any of the provinces.
On this hypothesis, the earliest of the Roman Christians were Jews by birth, who resided in Rome, from some of the causes above alluded to. By their efforts, others of their friends and fellow countrymen (who were very numerous at Rome) would have been led to embrace the Gospel. But the Church so founded, though Jewish in its origin, was remarkably free from the predominance of Judaizing tendencies. This is evident from the fact that so large a proportion of it at this early period rare already of Gentile blood; and it appears still more plainly from the tone assumed by Apostle Paul throughout the Epistle, so different from that in which he addresses the Galatians, although the subject-matter is often nearly identical. Yet, at the same time, the Judaizing element, though not preponderating, was not entirely absent. We find that there were opponents of the Gospel at Rome, who argued against it on the ground of the immoral consequences which followed (as they thought) from the doctrine of Justification by Faith; and even charged Apostle Paul himself with maintaining that the greater man’s sin, the greater was God’s glory. (See Romans 3:8) Moreover, not all the Jewish members of the Church could bring themselves to acknowledge their uncircumcised Gentile brethren as their equals in the privileges of Christ’s kingdom (Romans 3:9 and 29, Romans 15:7-11); and, on the other hand, the more enlightened Gentile converts were inclined to treat the lingering Jewish prejudices of weak consciences with scornful contempt (Romans 14:3). It was the aim of Apostle Paul to win the former of these parties to Christian truth.