If in any region of Heathendom the evil spirits had pre-eminent sway, it was in the mythological system of Greece, which, with all its beautiful imagery and all its ministrations to poetry and art, left man powerless against his passions, and only amused him while it helped him to be unholy. In the lively imagination of the Greeks, the whole visible and invisible world was peopled with spiritual powers or demons. The same terms were often used on this subject by Pagans and by Christians. But in the language of the Pagan the demon might be either a beneficent or a malignant power; in the language of the Christian it always denoted what was evil. When the Athenians said (Acts 17:18) that Apostle Paul was introducing "new demons" among them, they did not necessarily mean that he was in league with evil spirits; but when Apostle Paul told the Corinthians (1Corinthians 10:20) that though "idols" in themselves were nothing, yet the sacrifices offered to them were, in reality, offered to "demons," he spoke of those false divinities which were the enemies of the True.
In the case before us it was a "female slave" who was possessed with "a spirit of divination:" and she was the property of more than one master, who kept her for the purpose of practising on the credulity of the Philippians, and realized "much profit" in this way. "We all know the kind of sacredness with which the ravings of common insanity are apt to be invested by the ignorant; and we can easily understand the notoriety which the gestures and words of this demoniac would obtain in Philippi. It was far from a matter of indifference, when she met the members of the Christian congregation on the road to the proseucha, and began to follow Apostle Paul, and to exclaim (either because the words she had overheard mingled with her diseased imaginations, or because the evil spirit in her was compelled to speak the truth):"These men are the bondsmen of the Most High God, who are come to announce unto you the way of salvation." This was continued for "several days," and the whole city must soon have been familiar with her words. Paul was well aware of this; and he could not bear the thought that the credit even of the Gospel should be enhanced by such unholy means. Possibly one reason why our Blessed Lord Himself forbade the demoniacs to make Him known was, that His holy cause would be polluted by resting on such evidence. And another of our savior’s feelings must have found an imitation in Apostle Paul's breast, - that of deep compassion for the poor victim of demoniac power. At length he could bear this Satanic interruption no longer, and, "being grieved, he commanded the evil spirit to come out of her." It would be profaneness to suppose that the Apostle spoke in mere irritation, as it would be ridiculous to imagine that Divine help would have been vouchsafed to gratify such a feeling. No doubt there was grief and indignation, but the grief and indignation of an Apostle may be the impulses of Divine inspiration. He spoke, not in his own name, but in that of Jesus Christ, and power from above attended his words. The prophecy and command of Jesus concerning His Apostles were fulfilled: that "in His name they should cast out demons." It was as it, had been at Jericho and by the Lake of Genesareth. The demoniac at Philippi was restored "to her right mind." Her natural powers resumed their course; and the gains of her masters were gone.
Violent rage on the part of these men was the immediate result. They saw that their influence with the people, and with it "all hope" of any future profit, was at end. They proceeded therefore to take a summary revenge. Laying violent hold of Paul and Silas , they dragged them into the forum (Acts 16:19) before the city authorities. The case was brought before the Praetors (so we may venture to call them, since this was the title which colonial Duumviri were fond of assuming;) but the complainants must have felt some difficulty in stating their grievance. The slave that had lately been a lucrative possession had suddenly become valueless; but the law had no remedy for property depreciated by exorcism. The true state of the case was therefore concealed, and an accusation was laid before the Praetors in the following form. "These men are throwing the whole city into confusion; moreover they are Jews; and they are attempting to introduce new religious observances, which we, being Roman citizens, cannot legally receive and adopt." The accusation was partly true and partly false. It was quite false that Paul and Silas were disturbing the colony; for nothing could have been more calm and orderly than their worship and teaching at the house of Lydia, or in the proseucha by the water-side. In the other part of the indictment there was a certain amount of truth. The letter of the Roman law, even under the Republic, was opposed to the introduction of foreign religions; and though exceptions were allowed, as in the case of the Jews themselves, yet the spirit of the law entirely condemned such changes in worship as were likely to unsettle the minds of the citizens, or to produce any tumultuous uproar; and the advice given to Augustus, which both he and his successors had studiously followed, was, to check religious innovations as promptly as possible, lest in the end they should undermine the Monarchy. Thus Paul and Silas had undoubtedly been doing what in some degree exposed them to legal penalties; and were beginning a change which tended to bring down, and which ultimately did bring down, the whole weight of the Roman law on the martyrs of Christianity. The force of another part of the accusation, which was adroitly introduced, namely, that the men were "Jews to begin with," will be fully apprehended, if we remember, not only that the Jews were generally hated, suspected, and despised, but that they had lately been driven out of Rome in consequence of an uproar, and that it was incumbent on Philippi, as a colony, to copy the indignation of the mother city.
Thus we can enter into the feelings which caused the mob to rise against Paul and Silas, (Acts 16:22) and tempted the Praetors to dispense with legal formalities and consign the offenders to immediate punishment. The mere loss of the slave’s prophetic powers, so far as it was generally known, was enough to cause a violent agitation: for mobs are always more fond of excitement and wonder than of truth and holiness. The Philippians had been willing to pay money for the demoniac’s revelations, and now strangers had come and deprived them of that which gratified their superstitious curiosity. And when they learned, moreover, that these strangers were Jews, and were breaking the laws of Rome, their discontent became fanatical. It seems that the praetors had no time to hesitate, if they would retain their popularity. The rough words were spoken: Go, lictors: strip off their garments: let them be scourged." The order was promptly obeyed, and the heavy blows descended. It is happy for us that few modern countries know, by the example of a similar punishment, what the severity of a Roman scourging was. The Apostles received "many stripes;" and when they were consigned to prison, bleeding and faint from the rod, the jailer received a strict injunction "to keep them safe." Well might Apostle Paul, when at Corinth, look back to this day of cruelty, and remind the Thessalonians how he and Silas had "suffered before, and were shamefully treated at Philippi." (1Thessalonians 2:2)
The jailer fulfilled the directions of the magistrates with rigorous and conscientious cruelty. Not content with placing the Apostles among such other offenders against the law as were in custody at Philippi, he "thrust them into the inner prison," (Acts 16:24) and then forced their limbs, lacerated as they were, and bleeding from the rod, into a painful and constrained posture, by means of an instrument employed to confine and torture the bodies of the worst malefactors. Though we are ignorant of the exact relation of the outer and inner prisons, and of the connection of the jailor’s "house" with both, we are not without very good notions of the misery endured in the Roman places of captivity. We must picture to ourselves something very different from the austere comfort of an English jail. It is only since that Christianity for which the Apostles bled has had influence on the hearts of men, that the treatment of felons has been a distinct subject of philanthropic inquiry, and that we have learnt to pray "for all prisoners and captives." The inner prisons of which we read in the ancient world were like that "dungeon in the court of the prison," into which Jeremiah was let down with cords, and where "he sank in the mire." They were pestilential cells, damp and cold, from which the light was excluded, and where the chains rusted on the limbs of the prisoners. One such place may be seen to this day on the slope of the Capitol at Rome. It is known to the readers of Cicero and Sallust as the place where certain notorious conspirators were executed. The Tullianum is a type of the dungeons in the provinces; and we find the very name applied, in one instance, to a dungeon in the province of Macedonia. What kind of torture was inflicted by the "stocks," in which the arms and legs, and even the necks, of offenders were confined and stretched, we are sufficiently informed by the allusions to the punishment of slaves in the Greek and Roman writers; and to show how far the cruelty of Heathen persecution, which may be said to have begun at Philippi, was afterwards carried in this peculiar kind of torture, we may refer to the sufferings "which Origen endured under an iron collar, and in the deepest recesses of the prison, when, for many days, he was extended and stretched to the distance of four holes on the rack."
A few hours had made a serious change from the quiet scene by the water-side to the interior of a stifling dungeon. But Paul and Silas had learnt, "in whatever state they were, therewith to be content." (Philippians 4:11) They were even able to "rejoice" that they were "counted worthy to suffer" for the name of Christ. (Acts 5:41) And if some thoughts of discouragement came over their minds, not for their own sufferings, but for the cause of their Master; and if it seemed "a strange thing" that a work to which they had been beckoned by God should be arrested in its very beginning; yet they had faith to believe that His arm would be revealed at the appointed time. Joseph’s feet, too, had been "hurt in the stocks," and he became a prince in Egypt. Daniel had been cast into the lions’ den, and he was made ruler of Babylon. Thus Paul and Silas remembered with joy the "Lord our Maker, who giveth songs in the night." (Job. 35:10) Racked as they were with pain, sleepless and weary, they were heard, "about midnight," from the depth of their prison-house, "praying and singing hymns to God." What it was that they sang, we know not; but the Psalms of David have ever been dear to those who suffer; they have instructed both Jew and Christian in the language of prayer and praise. And the Psalms abound in such sentences as these:— "The Lord looketh down from His sanctuary: out of heaven the Lord beholdeth the earth: that He might hear the mournings of such as are in captivity, and deliver the children appointed unto death." - "Oh! let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before thee: according to the greatness of thy power, preserve thou those that are appointed to die." - "The Lord helpeth them to right that suffer wrong: the Lord looseth men out of prison: the Lord helpeth them that are fallen: the Lord careth for the righteous." (Psalm 102:19, 20, 79:12, 146:6-8. See also Psalm 142:8, 9, 69:34, 116:14, 68:6) Such sounds as these were new in a Roman dungeon. Whoever the other prisoners might be, whether they were the victims of oppression, or were suffering the punishment of guilt, - debtors, slaves, robbers, or murderers, - they listened with surprise to the voices of those who filled the midnight of the prison with sounds of cheerfulness and joy. Still the Apostles continued their praises, and the prisoners listened.
"Then they cried to the LORD in their distress, and He saved them out of their troubles. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their bands asunder. Let them praise the LORD for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He has broken the gates of bronze and cut through the bars of iron." (Psalm 107:13-17, Holy Bible in Its Original Order - A Faithful Version (HBFV) where noted))
When suddenly, as if in direct answer to the prayer of His servants, an earthquake shook the very foundations of the prison, (Acts 16:26) the gates were broken, the bars smitten asunder, and the bands of the prisoners loosed. Without striving to draw a line between the natural and supernatural in this occurrence, and still less endeavoring to resolve what was evidently miraculous into the results of ordinary causes, we turn again to the thought suggested by that single but expressive phrase of Scripture, "the prisoners were listening." When we reflect on their knowledge of the Apostles’ sufferings , and on the wonder they must have experienced on hearing sounds of joy from those who were in pain, and on the awe which must have overpowered them when they felt the prison shaken and the chains fall from their limbs; and when to all this we add the effect produced on their minds by all that happened on the following day, and especially the fact that the jailer himself became a Christian; we can hardly avoid the conclusion that the hearts of many of those unhappy bondsmen were prepared that night to receive the Gospel, that the tidings of spiritual liberty came to those whom, but for the captivity of the Apostles, it would never have reached, and that the jailer himself was their evangelist and teacher.
The effect produced by that night on the jailer’s own mind has been fully related to us. Awakened in a moment by the earthquake, his first thought was of his prisoners (Acts 16:27) and in the shock of surprise and alarm, - "seeing the doors of the prison open, and supposing that the prisoners were fled," - aware that inevitable death awaited him, with the stern and desperate resignation of a Roman official, he resolved that suicide was better than disgrace, and "drew his sword."
The loud exclamation (Acts 16:28) of Apostle Paul, "Do thyself no harm; for we are all here," gave immediate re-assurance to the terrified jailer. He laid aside his sword, and called for lights, and rushed to the "inner prison," where Paul and Silas were confined. But now a new fear of a higher kind took possession of his soul. The recollection of all he had heard before concerning these prisoners and all that he had observed of their demeanor when he brought them into the dungeon, the shuddering thought of the earthquake, the burst of his gratitude towards them as the preservers of his life, and the consciousness that even in the darkness of midnight they had seen his intention of suicide, - all these mingling and conflicting emotions made him feel that he was in the presence of a higher power. He fell down before them, and brought them out, as men whom he had deeply injured and insulted, to a place of greater freedom and comfort; and then he asked them, with earnest anxiety, what he must do to be saved. We see the Apostle here self-possessed in the earthquake, as afterwards in the storm at sea, (Acts 27:20-25) able to overawe and control those who were placed over him, and calmly turning the occasion to a spiritual end. It is surely, however, a mistake to imagine that the jailer’s inquiry had reference merely to temporal and immediate danger. The awakening of his conscience, the presence of the unseen world, the miraculous visitation, the nearness of death, - coupled perhaps with some confused recollection of the "way of salvation" which these strangers were said to have been proclaiming, - were enough to suggest that inquiry which is the most momentous that any human soul can make:"What must I do to be saved?" Their answer was that of faithful Apostles. They preached "not themselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord." (2Corinthians 4:5) "Believe, not in us, but in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved; and not only thou, but the like faith shall bring salvation to all thy house." Prom this last expression, and from the words which follow, we infer that the members of the jailer’s family had crowded round him and the Apostles. No time was lost in making known to them "the word of the Lord." All thought of bodily comfort and repose was postponed to the work of saving the soul. The meaning of "faith in Jesus" was explained, and the Gospel was preached to the jailer’s family at midnight, while the prisoners were silent around, and the light was thrown on anxious faces and the dungeon-wall.
And now we have an instance of that sympathetic care, that interchange of temporal and spiritual service, which has ever attended the steps of true Christianity. As it was in the miracles of our Lord and savior, where the soul and the body were regarded together, so has it always been in His Church. "In the same hour of the night" the jailer took the Apostles to the well or fountain of water which was within or near the precincts of the prison, and there he washed their wounds, and there also he and his household were baptized. He did what he could to assuage the bodily pain of Paul and Silas, and they admitted him and his, by the "laver of regeneration," (Titus 3:5) to the spiritual citizenship of the kingdom of God. The prisoners of the jailer were now become his guests. His cruelty was changed into hospitality and love. "He took them up into his house," and, placing them in a posture of repose, set food before them, and refreshed their exhausted strength. It was a night of happiness for all. They praised God that His power had been made effectual in their weakness; and the jailer’s family had their first experience of that joy which is the fruit of believing in God.
At length morning broke on the eventful night. In the course of that night the greatest of all changes had been wrought in the jailer’s relations to this world and the next. From being the ignorant slave of a Heathen magistracy he had become the religious head of a Christian family. A change, also, in the same interval of time, had come over the minds of the magistrates themselves. Either from reflecting that they had acted more harshly than the case had warranted, or from hearing a more accurate statement of facts, or through alarm caused by the earthquake, or through that vague misgiving which sometimes, as in the case of Pilate and his wife, (Matthew 27:19) haunts the minds of those who have no distinct religious convictions, they sent new orders in the morning to the jailer. The message conveyed by the lictors was expressed in a somewhat contemptuous form, "Let those men go." But the jailer received it with the utmost joy. He felt his infinite debt of gratitude to the Apostles, not only for his preservation from a violent death, but for the tidings they had given him of eternal life. He would willingly have seen them freed from their bondage; but he was dependent on the will of the magistrates, and could do nothing without their sanction. When, therefore, the dictors brought the order, he went with them to announce the intelligence to the prisoners, and joyfully told them to leave their dungeon and "go in peace."
But Paul, not from any fanatical love of braving the authorities, but calmly looking to the ends of justice and the establishment of Christianity, refused to accept his liberty without some public acknowledgment of the wrong he had suffered. He now proclaimed a fact which had hitherto been unknown, - that he and Silas were Roman citizens. Two Roman laws had been violated by the magistrates of the colony in the scourging inflicted the day before. And this, too, with signal aggravations. They were "uncondemned." There had been no form of trial, without which, in the case of a citizen, even a slighter punishment would have been illegal. And it had been done "publicly." In the face of the colonial population, an outrage had been committed on the majesty of the name in which they boasted, and Rome had been insulted in her citizens.
"But Paul said to them, 'After publicly beating us, who are Romans, without condemnation, and casting us into prison, do they think now to secretly thrust us out? No, indeed, but let them come in person and bring us out.' Then the sergeants reported these words to the captains. And when they heard that they were Romans, they were afraid. And they came and entreated them; and after bringing them out, they asked them to depart from the city." (Acts 16:37-39, HBFV)
The whole narrative of Apostle Paul's imprisonment at Philippi sets before us in striking colors his clear judgment and presence of mind. He might have escaped by help of the earthquake and under the shelter of the darkness; but this would have been to depart as a runaway slave. He would not do secretly what he knew he ought to be allowed to do openly. By such a course his own character and that of the Gospel would have been disgraced, the jailer would have been cruelly left to destruction, and all religious influence over the other prisoners would have been gone. As regards these prisoners, his influence over them was like the sway he obtained over the crew in the sinking vessel. (Acts 27) It was so great, that not one of them attempted to escape. And not only in the prison, but in the whole town of Philippi, Christianity was placed on a high vantage-ground by the Apostle’s conduct that night. It now appeared that these persecuted Jews were themselves sharers in the vaunted Roman privilege. Those very laws had been violated in their treatment which they themselves had been accused of violating. That no appeal was made against this treatment, might be set down to the generous forbearance of the Apostles. Their cause was now, for a time at least, under the protection of the law, and they themselves were felt to have a claim on general sympathy and respect.
They complied with the request of the magistrates. Yet, even in their departure, they were not unmindful of the dignity and self-possession which ought always to be maintained by innocent men in a righteous cause. They did not retire in any hasty or precipitate flight, but proceeded "from the prison to the house of Lydia;" (Acts 16:40) and there they met the Christian brethren, who were assembled to hear their farewell words of exhortation; and so they departed from the city. It was not, however, deemed sufficient that this infant church at Philippi should be left alone with the mere remembrance of words of exhortation. Two of the Apostolic company remained behind: Timothy, of whom the Philippians "learned the proof" that he honestly cared for their state, that ho was truly like-minded with Apostle Paul, "serving him in the Gospel as a son serves his father;" (Philippians 2:19-25) and "Luke the Evangelist, whose praise is in the Gospel," though he never praises himself, or relates his own labors, and though we only trace his movements in connection with Apostle Paul by the change of a pronoun, or the unconscious variation of his style.
Timothy seems to have rejoined Paul and Silas, if not at Thessalonica, at least at Berea. But we do not see Luke again in the Apostle’s company till the third missionary journey and the second visit to Macedonia. (Acts 20: 4 6) At this exact point of separation, we observe that he drops the style of an eye-witness and resumes that of an historian, until the second time of meeting, after which he writes as an eye-witness till the arrival at Rome, and the very close of the Acts. To explain and justify the remark here made, we need only ask the reader to contrast the detailed narrative of events at Philippi with the more general account of what happened at Thessalonica. It might be inferred that the writer of the Acts was an eyewitness in the former city and not in the latter, even if the pronoun did not show us when he was present and when he was absent. We shall trace him a second time, in the same manner, when he rejoins Apostle Paul in the same neighborhood. He appears again on a voyage from Philippi to Troas (Acts 20:56), as now he has appeared on a voyage from Troas to Philippi. It is not an improbable conjecture that his vocation as a physician may have brought him into connection with these contiguous coasts of Asia and Europe. It has even been imagined, on reasonable grounds, that he may have been in the habit of exercising his professional skill as a surgeon at sea. However this may have been, we see no reason to question the ancient opinion, stated by Eusebius and Jerome, that Luke was a native of Antioch. Such a city was a likely place for the education of a physician. It is also natural to suppose that he may have met with Apostle Paul there, and been converted at an earlier period of the history of the Church. His medical calling, or his zeal for Christianity, or both combined (and the combination has ever been beneficial to the cause of the Gospel), may account for his visits to the North of the Archipelago: or Apostle Paul may himself have directed his movements, as he afterwards directed those of Timothy and Titus. (1Timothy 1:3; 2Timothy 4:9, 21; Titus 1:5, 3:12) All these suggestions, though more or less conjectural, are worthy of our thoughts, when we remember the debt of gratitude which the Church owes to this Evangelist, not only as the historian of the Acts of the Apostles, but as an example of long-continued devotion to the truth, and of unshaken constancy to that one Apostle, who said with sorrow, in his latest trial, that others had forsaken him, and that "only Luke" was with him.
Leaving their first Macedonian converts to the care of Timothy and Luke, aided by the co-operation of godly men and women raised up among the Philippians themselves, Paul and Silas set forth on their journey. Before we follow them to Thessalonica, we may pause to take a general survey of the condition and extent of Macedonia, in the sense in which the term was understood in the language of the day. It has been well said that the Acts of the Apostles have made Macedonia a kind of Holy Land; and it is satisfactory that the places there visited and revisited by Apostle Paul and his companions are so well known, that we have no difficulty in representing to the mind their position and their relation to the surrounding country.
Macedonia, in its popular sense, may be described as a region bounded by a great semicircle of mountains, beyond which the streams flow westward to the Adriatic, or northward and eastward to the Danube and the Euxine. This mountain barrier sends down branches to the sea on the eastern or Thracian frontier, over against Thasos and Samothrace; and on the south shuts out the plain of Thessaly, and rises near the shore to the high summits of Pelion, Ossa, and the snowy Olympus. The space thus enclosed is intersected by two great rivers. One of these is Homer’s "wide-flowing Axius," which directs its course past Pella, the ancient metropolis of the Macedonian kings, and the birthplace of Alexander, to the low levels in the neighborhood of Thessalonica, where other rivers flow near it into the Thermaic gulf. The other is the Strymon, which brings the produce of the great inland level of Serres by Lake Cercinus to the sea at Amphipolis, and beyond which was Philippi, the military outpost that commemorated the successful conquests of Alexander’s father. Between the mouths of these two rivers a remarkable tract of country, which is insular rather than continental, projects into the Archipelago, and divides itself into three points, on the farthest of which Mount Athos rises nearly into the region of perpetual snow. Part of Apostle Paul's path between Philippi and Berea lay across the neck of this peninsula. The whole of his route was over historical ground. At Philippi he was close to the confines of Thracian barbarism, and on the spot where the last battle was fought in defense of the Republic. At Berea he came near the mountains, beyond which is the region of Classical Greece, and close to the spot where the battle was fought which reduced Macedonia to a province.
Achaia and Macedonia were traversed many times by the Apostle; and he could say, when he was hoping to travel to Rome, that he had preached the Gospel "round about unto Illyricum." When we allude to Rome, and think of the relation of the City to the provinces, we are inevitably reminded of the military roads; and here, across the breadth of Macedonia, was one of the greatest roads of the Empire. It is evident that, after Constantinople was founded, a line of communication between the Eastern and Western capitals was of the utmost moment; but the Via Egnatia was constructed long before that period. Strabo, in the reign of Augustus, informs us that it was regularly made and marked out by milestones, from Dyrrhachium on the Adriatic, to Cypselus on the Hebrus in Thrace; and, even before the close of the republic, we find Cicero speaking, in one of his orations, of "that military way of ours, which connects us with the Hellespont." Certain districts on the European side of the Hellespont had been part of the legacy of King Attalus, and the simultaneous possession of Macedonia, Asia, and Bithynia, with the prospect of further conquests in the East, made this line of communication absolutely necessary. When Apostle Paul was on the Roman road at Troas or Philippi, he was on a road which led to the gates of Rome. It was the same pavement which he afterwards trod at Appii Forum and the Three Taverns. The nearest parallel which the world has seen of the imperial roads is the present European railway system. The Hellespont and the Bosphorus, in the reign of Claudius, were what the Straits of Dover and Holyhead are now; and even the passage from Brundusium in Italy, to Dyrrhachium and Apollonia in Macedonia, was only a tempestuous ferry, - only one of those difficulties of nature which the Romans would have overcome if they could, and which the boldest of the Romans dared to defy. From Dyrrhachium and Apollonia, the Via Egnatia, strictly so called, extended a distance of five hundred miles, to the Hebrus, in Thrace. Thessalonica was about half way between these remote points, and Philippi was the last important town in the province of Macedonia. Our concern is only with that part of the Via Egnatia which lay between the two last-mentioned cities.
The intermediate stages mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles are Amphipolis and Apollonia. The distances laid down in the Itineraries are as follows:— Philippi to Amphipolis, thirty-three miles; Amphipolis to Apollonia, thirty miles; Apollonia to Thessalonica, thirty-seven miles. These distances are evidently such as might have been traversed each in one day; and since nothing is said of any delay on the road, but every thing to imply that the journey was rapid, we conclude (unless, indeed, their recent sufferings made rapid traveling impossible) that Paul and Silas rested one night at each of the intermediate places, and thus our notice of their journey is divided into three parts.
From Philippi to Amphipolis, the Roman way passed across the plain to the north of Mount Pangaeus. A traveler, going direct from Neapolis to the mouth of the Strymon, might make his way through an opening in the mountains nearer the coast. This is the route by which Xerxes brought his army, and by which modern journeys are usually made. But Philippi was not built in the time of the Persian war, and now, under the Turks, it is a ruined village. Under the Roman emperors, the position of this colony determined the direction of the road. The very productiveness of the soil, and its liability to inundations, must have caused this road to be carefully constructed. The surface of the plain, which is intersected by multitudes of streams, is covered now with plantations of cotton and fields of Indian corn, and the villages are so numerous, that, when seen from the summits of the neighboring mountains, they appear to form one continued town. Not far from the coast, the Strymon spreads out into a lake as large as Windermere; and between the lower end of this lake and the inner reach of the Strymonic gulf, where the mountains leave a narrow opening, Amphipolis was situated on a bend of the river.
The ancient name of the place was "Nine Ways," from the great number of Thracian and Macedonian roads which met at this point. The Athenians saw the importance of the position, and established a colony there, which they called Amphipolis, because the river surrounded it. Some of the deepest interest in the history of Thucydides, not only as regards military and political movements, but in reference to the personal experience of the historian himself, is concentrated on this spot. And again, Amphipolis appears in the speeches of Demosthenes as a great stake in the later struggle between Philip of Macedon and the citizens of Athens. It was also the scene of one striking passage in the history of Roman conquest: here Paulus Aemilius, after the battle of Pydna, publicly proclaimed that the Macedonians should be free; and now another Paulus was here, whose message to the Macedonians was an honest proclamation of a better liberty, without conditions and without reserve.
Apostle Paul's next stage was to the city of Apollonia. After leaving Amphipolis, the road passes along the edge of the Strymonic gulf, first between cliffs and the sea, and then across a well-wooded maritime plain, whence the peak of Athos is seen far across the bay to the left. We quit the seashore at the narrow gorge of Aulon, or Arethusa, and there enter the valley which crosses the neck of the Chalcidic peninsula. Up to this point we have frequent historical landmarks reminding us of Athens. Thucydides has just been mentioned in connection with Amphipolis and the Strymon. As we leave the sea, we have before us, on the opposite coast, Stagirus, the birthplace of Aristotle; and in the pass, where the mountains close on the road, is the tomb of Euripides. Thus the steps of our progress, as we leave the East and begin to draw near to Athens, are already among her historians, philosophers, and poets.
Apollonia is somewhere in the inland part of the journey, where the Via Egnatia crosses from the gulf of the Strymon to that of Thessalonica; but its exact position has not been ascertained. We will, therefore, merely allude to the scenery through which the traveler moves, in going from sea to sea. The pass of Arethusa is beautiful and picturesque. A river flows through it in a sinuous course, and abundant oaks and plane-trees are on the rocks around. Presently this stream is seen to emerge from an inland lake, whose promontories and villages, with the high mountains rising to the south-west, have reminded travelers of Switzerland. As we journey towards the west, we come to a second lake. Between the two is the modern post-station of Klisali, which may possibly be Apollonia, though it is generally believed to be on the mountain slope to the south of the easternmost lake. The whole region of these two lakes is a long valley, or rather a succession of plains, where the level spaces are richly wooded with forest-trees, and the nearer hills are covered to their summits with olives. Beyond the second lake, the road passes over some rising ground, and presently, after emerging from a narrow glen, we obtain a sight of the sea once more, the eye ranges freely over the plain of the Axius, and the city of Thessalonica is immediately before us.
Once arrived in this city, Apostle Paul no longer follows the course of the Via Egnatia. He may have done so at a later period, when he says that he had preached the Gospel "round about unto Illyricum." But at present he had reached the point most favorable for the glad proclamation. The direction of the Roman road was of course determined by important geographical positions; and along the whole line from Dyrrhachium to the Hebrus, no city was so large and influential as Thessalonica.
The Apostolic city at which we are now arrived was known in the earliest periods of its history under various names. Under that of Therma it is associated with some interesting recollections. It was the resting-place of Xerxes on his march; it is not unmentioned in the Peloponnesian war; and it was a frequent subject of debate in the last independent assemblies of Athens. When the Macedonian power began to overshadow all the countries where Greek was spoken, this city received its new name, and began a new and more distinguished period of its history. A sister of Alexander the Great was called Thessalonica, and her name was given to the city of Therma, when rebuilt and embellished by her husband, Cassander the son of Antipater. This name, under a form slightly modified, has continued to the present day. The Salneck of the early German poets has become the Saloniki of the modern Levant. Its history can be followed as continuously as its name. When Macedonia was partitioned into four provincial divisions by Paulus Aemilius, Thessalonica was the capital of that which lay between the Axius and the Strymon. When the four regions were united into one Roman province, this city was chosen as the metropolis of the whole. Its name appears more than once in the annals of the Civil Wars. It was the scene of the exile of Cicero, and one of the stages of his journey between Rome and his province in the East. Antony and Octavius were here after the battle of Philippi; and coins are still extant which allude to the "freedom" granted by the victorious leaders to the city of the Thermaic gulf. Strabo, in the first century, speaks of Thessalonica as the most populous town in Macedonia. Lucian, in the second century, uses similar language. Before the founding of Constantinople, it was virtually the capital of Greece and Illyricum, as well as of Macedonia, and shared the trade of the Aegean with Ephesus and Corinth. Even after the Eastern Rome was built and reigned over the Levant, we find both Pagan and Christian writers speaking of Thessalonica as the metropolis of Macedonia and a place of great magnitude. No city, which we have yet had occasion to describe, has had so distinguished a Christian history, with the single exception of the Syrian Antioch; and the Christian glory of the Patriarchal city gradually faded before that of the Macedonian metropolis.
If Thessalonica can boast of a series of Christian annals, unbroken since the day of Apostle Paul's arrival, its relations with the Jewish people have continued for a still longer period. In our own day it contains a multitude of Jews commanding an influential position, many of whom are occupied (not very differently from Apostle Paul himself) in the manufacture of cloth. A considerable number of them are refugees from Spain, and speak the Spanish language. There are materials for tracing similar settlements of the same scattered and persecuted people in this city, at intervals, during the Middle Ages; and even before the destruction of Jerusalem we find them here, numerous and influential, as at Antioch and Iconium. Here, doubtless, was the chief colony of those Jews of Macedonia of whom Philo speaks; for while there was only a proseucha at Philippi, and while Amphipolis and Apollonia had no Israelite communities to detain the Apostles, "the synagogue" of the neighborhood was at Thessalonica.
The first scene to which we are introduced in this city is entirely Jewish. It is not a small meeting of proselyte women by the river-side, but a crowded assembly of true-born Jews, intent on their religious worship, among whom Paul and Silas now make their appearance. If the traces of their recent hardships were manifest in their very aspect, and if they related to their Israelitish brethren how they had "suffered before and been cruelly treated at Philippi" (1Thessalonians 2:2), their entrance in among them must have created a strong impression of indignation and sympathy, which explains the allusion in Apostle Paul's Epistle. He spoke, however, to the Thessalonian Jews with the earnestness of a man who has no time to lose and no thought to waste on his own sufferings. He preached, not himself, but Christ crucified. The Jewish Scriptures were the ground of his argument. He recurred to the same subject again and again. On three successive Sabbaths (Acts 17:2) he argued with them; and the whole body of Jews resident in Thessalonica were interested and excited with the new doctrine, and were preparing either to adopt or Oppose it.
The three points on which he insisted were these:— that He who was foretold in prophecy was to be a suffering Messiah, - that after death He was to rise again, - and that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah who was to come. Such is the distinct and concise statement in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 17:3): and the same topics of teaching are implied in the first Epistle, where the Thessalonians are appealed to as men who had been taught to "believe that Jesus had really died and risen again" (1Thessalonians 4:14), and who had "turned to serve the true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus" (1Thessalonians 1:10). Of the mode in which these subjects would be presented to his hearers we can form some idea from what was said at Antioch in Pisidia. The very aspect of the worshippers was the same; proselytes were equally attached to the congregations in Pisidia and Macedonia, and the "devout and honorable women" in one city found their parallel in the "chief women" in the other. The impression, too, produced by the address, was not very different here from what it had been there. At first it was favorably received, the interest of novelty having more influence than the seriousness of conviction. Even from the first some of the topics must have contained matter for perplexity or cavilling. Many would be indisposed to believe the fact of Christ’s resurrection: and many more who, in their exile from Jerusalem, were looking intently for the restoration of an earthly kingdom, (Acts 1:6) must have heard incredulously and unwillingly of the humiliation of Messiah.
That Apostle Paul did speak of Messiah’s glorious kingdom, the kingdom foretold in the Prophetic Scriptures themselves, may be gathered by comparing together the Acts and the Epistles to the Thessalonians. The accusation brought against him (Acts 17:7) was, that he was proclaiming another king, and virtually rebelling against the emperor. And in strict conformity to this the Thessalonians are reminded of the exhortations and entreaties he gave them, when among them, that they would "walk worthily of the God who had called them to His kingdom and glory" (1Thessalonians 2:12), and they are addressed as those who had "suffered affliction for the sake of that kingdom " (2Thessalonians 1:5). Indeed, the royal state of Christ’s second advent was one chief topic which was urgently enforced, and deeply impressed, on the minds of the Thessalonian converts. This subject tinges the whole atmosphere through which the aspect of this church is presented to us. It may be said that in each of the primitive churches, which are depicted in the apostolic epistles, there is some peculiar feature which gives it an individual character. In Corinth it is the spirit of party, (1Corinthians 1:10, &c) in Galatia the rapid declension into Judaism, (Galatians 1:6, &c) in Philippi it is a steady and self-denying generosity. (Philippians 4:10-16) And if we were asked for the distinguishing characteristic of the first Christians of Thessalonica, we should point to their overwhelming sense of the nearness of the second advent, accompanied with melancholy thoughts concerning those who might die before it, and with gloomy and unpractical views of the shortness of life and the vanity of the world. Each chapter in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians ends with an allusion to this subject; and it was evidently the topic of frequent conversations, when the Apostle was in Macedonia. But Apostle Paul never spoke or wrote of the future as though the present was to be forgotten. When the Thessalonians were admonished of Christ’s advent, he told them also of other coming events, full of practical warning to all ages, though to our eyes still they are shrouded in mystery, - of "the falling-away," and of "the man of sin." (2 Thessalonians 2) He told them, in the words of Christ himself, that "the times and the seasons" of the coming revelations were known only to God; and he warned them, as the first disciples had been warned in Judea, that the great day would come suddenly on men unprepared, "as the pangs of travail on her whose time is full," and "as a thief in the night;" and he showed them, both by precept and example, that though it be true that life is short and the world is vanity, yet God’s work must be done diligently and to the last.
The whole demeanor of Apostle Paul among the Thessalonians may be traced, by means of these Epistles, with singular minuteness. We see there, not only what success he had on his first entrance among them, not only how the Gospel came "with power and with full conviction of its truth," (1Thessalonians 1:5) but also "what manner of man he was among them for their sakes." We see him proclaiming the truth with unflinching courage, endeavoring to win no converts by flattering words, but warning his hearers of all the danger of the sins and pollution to which they were tempted; manifestly showing that his work was not intended to gratify any desire of self-advancement, (1Thessalonians 2:5) but scrupulously maintaining an honor able and unblamable character. We see him rebuking and admonishing his converts with all the faithfulness of a father to his children, and cherishing them with all the affection of a mother for the infant of her bosom. We see in this Apostle at Thessalonica all the devotion of a friend who is ready to devote his life for those whom he loves, all the watchfulness of the faithful pastor, to whom "each one" of his flock is the separate object of individual care.
And from these Epistles we obtain further some information concerning what may be called the outward incidents of Apostle Paul's residence in this city. He might when there, consistently with the Lord’s institution (Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; See 1Timothy 5:18) and with the practice of the other Apostles, (1Corinthians 9:4, &c) have been "burdensome" to those whom he taught, so as to receive from them the means of his temporal support. But that he might place his disinterestedness above all suspicion, and that he might set an example to those who were too much inclined to live by the labor of others, he declined to avail himself of that which was an undoubted right. He was enabled to maintain this independent position partly by the liberality of his friends at Philippi, who once and again, on this first visit to Macedonia, sent relief to his necessities (Philippians 4:15, 16). And the journeys of those pious men who followed the footsteps of the persecuted Apostles along the Via Egnatia by Amphip-olis and Apollonia, bringing the alms which had been collected at Philippi, are among the most touching incidents of the Apostolic history. And not less touching is that description which Apostle Paul himself gives us of that other means of support - "his own labor night and day, that he might not be burdensome to any of them" (1Thessalonians 2:9). He did not merely "rob other churches," (2Corinthians 11:8) that he might do the Thessalonians service, but the trade he had learnt when a boy in Cilicia justified the old Jewish maxim; "he was like a vineyard that is fenced;" and he was able to show an example, not only to the "disorderly busy-bodies" of Thessalonica (1Thessalonians 4:11), but to all, in every age of the Church, who are apt to neglect their proper business (2Thessalonians 3:11), and ready to eat other men’s bread for nought (2Thessalonians 3:8). Late at night, when the sun had long set on the incessant spiritual labors of the day, the Apostle might be seen by lamplight laboring at the rough haircloth, "that he might be chargeable to none." It was an emphatic enforcement of the "commands" which he found it necessary to give when he was among them, that they should "study to be quiet and to work with their own hands" (1Thessalonians 4:11), and the stern principle he laid down, that "if a man will not work, neither should he eat." (2Thessalonians 3:10)
In these same Epistles, Apostle Paul speaks of his work at Thessalonica as having been encompassed with afflictions, (1Thessalonians 1:6) and of the Gospel as having advanced by a painful struggle. (1Thessalonians 2:2) What these afflictions and struggles were, we can gather from the slight notices of events which are contained in the Acts. The Apostle’s success among the Gentiles roused the enmity of his own countrymen. Even in the Synagogue the Proselytes attached themselves to him more readily than the Jews. But he did not merely obtain an influence over the Gentile mind by the indirect means of his disputations on the Sabbath in the Synagogue, and through the medium of the Proselytes; but on the intermediate days he was doubtless in frequent and direct communication with the Heathen. We need not be surprised at the results, even if his stay was limited to the period corresponding to three Sabbaths. No one can say what effects might follow from three weeks of an Apostle’s teaching. But we are by no means forced to adopt the supposition that the time was limited to three weeks. It is highly probable that Apostle Paul remained at Thessalonica for a longer period. At other cities, (Acts 13., 18., 19., &c) when he was repelled by the Jews, he became the evangelist of the Gentiles, and remained till he was compelled to depart. The Thessalonian Letters throw great light on the rupture which certainly took place with the Jews on this occasion, and which is implied in that one word in the Acts which speaks of their jealousy (Acts 17:5) against the Gentiles. The whole aspect of the Letters shows that the main body of the Thessalonian Church was not Jewish, but Gentile. The Jews are spoken of as an extraneous body, as the enemies of Christianity and of all men, not as the elements out of which the Church was composed. The ancient Jewish Scriptures are not once quoted in either of these Epistles. The converts are addressed as those who had turned, not from Hebrew fables and traditions, but from the practices of Heathen idolatry. (1Thessalonians 1:9) How new and how comforting to them must have been the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead! What a contrast must this revelation of "life and immortality" have been to the hopeless lamentations of their own pagan funerals, and to the dismal teaching which we can still read in the sepulchral inscriptions of Heathen Thessalonica, - such as told the bystander that after death there is no revival, after the grave no meeting of those who have loved each other on earth! How ought the truth taught by the Apostle to have comforted the new disciples at the thought of inevitable, though only temporary, separation from their Christian brethren! And yet how difficult was the truth to realize, when they saw those brethren sink into lifeless forms, and after they had committed them to the earth which had received all their heathen ancestors! How eagerly can we imagine them to have read the new assurances of comfort which came in the letter from Corinth, and which told them "not to sorrow like other men who have no hope"! (1Thessalonians 4:13)
But we are anticipating the events which occurred between the Apostle’s departure from Thessalonica and the time when he wrote the letter from Corinth. We must return to the persecution that led him to undertake that journey, which brought him from the capitol of Macedonia to that of Achaia.
When the Jews saw Proselytes and Gentiles, and many of the leading women (Acts 17:4) of the city, convinced by Apostle Paul's teaching, they must have felt that his influence was silently undermining theirs. In proportion to his success in spreading Christianity, their power of spreading Judaism declined. Their sensitiveness would be increased in consequence of the peculiar dislike with which they were viewed at this time by the Roman power. Thus they adopted the tactics which had been used with some success before at Iconium and Lystra, and turned against Apostle Paul and his companions those weapons which are the readiest instruments of vulgar bigotry. They excited the mob of Thessalonica, gathering together a multitude of those worthless idlers about the markets and landing-places which abound in every such city, and are always ready for any evil work. With this multitude they assaulted the house of Jason (perhaps some Hellenistic Jew, whose name had been moulded into Gentile form, and possibly one of Apostle Paul's relations, who is mentioned in the Epistle to the Romans), with whom Paul and Silas seem to have been lodging. Their wish was to bring Paul and Silas out to the demus, or assembly of the people. But they were absent from the house; and Jason and some other Christians were dragged before the city magistrates. The accusation vociferously brought against them was to the following effect: "These Christians, who are setting the whole world in confusion, are come hither at last; and Jason has received them into his house; and they are all acting in the face of the Emperor’s decrees, for they assert that there is another king, whom they call Jesus."
We have seen how some of the parts of Apostle Paul's teaching at Thessalonica may have given occasion to the latter phrase in this indictment; and we obtain a deeper insight into the cause why the whole indictment was brought forward with so much vehemence, and why it was so likely to produce an effect on the magistrates, if we bear in mind the circumstance alluded to in reference to Philippi, that the Jews were under the ban of the Roman authorities about this time, for having raised a tumult in the metropolis, at the instigation (as was alleged) of one Chrestus, or Christus; and that they must have been glad, in the provincial cities, to be able to show their loyalty and gratify their malice, by throwing the odium off themselves upon a sect whose very name might be interpreted to imply a rebellion against the Emperor.
Such were the circumstances under which Jason and his companions were brought before the politarchs. We use the Greek term advisedly; for it illustrates the political constitution of Thessalonica, and its contrast with that of Philippi, which has lately been noticed. Thessalonica was not a colony, like Philippi, Troas, or the Pisidian Antioch, but a free city (Urbs libera), like the Syrian Antioch, or like Tarsus and Athens. The privilege of what was technically called "freedom" was given to certain cities of the Empire for good service in the Civil Wars, or as a tribute of respect to the old celebrity of the place, or for other reasons of convenient policy. There were few such cities in the western provinces, as there were no municipia in the eastern. The free towns were most numerous in those parts of the Empire where the Greek language had long prevailed; and we are generally able to trace the reasons why this privilege was bestowed upon them. At Athens, it was the fame of its ancient eminence, and the evident policy of paying a compliment to the Greeks. At Thessalonica it was the part which its inhabitants had prudently taken in the great struggle of Augustus and Antony against Brutus and Cassius. When the decisive battle had been fought, Philippi was made a military colony, and Thessalonica became free.
The privilege of such a city consisted in this - that it was entirely self-governed in all its internal affairs, within the territory that might be assigned to it. The governor of the province had no right, under ordinary circumstances, to interfere with these affairs. The local magistrates had the power of life and death over the citizens of the place. No stationary garrison of Roman soldiers was quartered within its territory. No insignia of Roman office were displayed in its streets. An instance of the care with which this rule was observed is recorded by Tacitus, who tells us, that Germanicus, whose progress was usually distinguished by the presence of twelve lictors, declined to enter Athens attended with more than one. There is no doubt that the magistracies of such cities would be very careful to show their loyalty to the Emperor on all suitable occasions, and to avoid every disorder which might compromise their valued dignity, and cause it to be withdrawn. And on the other hand, the Roman State did wisely to rely on the Greek love of empty distinction; and it secured its dominion as effectually in the East by means of these privileged towns, as by the stricter political annexation of the municipia in the West. The form of government in the free cities was very various. In some cases the old magistracies and customs were continued without any material modification. In others, a senate, or an assembly, was allowed to exist where none had existed before. Here, at Thessalonica, we find an assembly of the people (Demus, Acts 17:5) and supreme magistrates, who are called politarchs (Acts 17:8). It becomes an interesting inquiry, whether the existence of this title of the Thessalonian magistracy can be traced in any other source of information. This question is immediately answered in the affirmative, by one of those passages of monumental history which we have made it our business to cite as often as possible in the course of this biography. An inscription which is still legible on an archway in Thessalonica gives this title to the magistrates of the place, informs us of their number, and mentions the very names of some who bore the office not long before the day of Apostle Paul.
It is at least well worth our while to notice, as a mere matter of Christian evidence, how accurately Luke writes concerning the political characteristics of the cities and provinces which he mentions. Cyprus is a "proconsular" province. Philippi is a "colony." The magistrates of Thessalonica have an unusual title, unmentioned in ancient literature; but it appears, from a monument of a different kind, that the title is perfectly correct. And the whole aspect of what happened at Thessalonica, as compared with the events at Philippi, is in perfect harmony with the ascertained difference in the political condition of the two places. There is no mention of the rights and privileges of Roman citizenship; (Compare Acts 16:21) but we are presented with the spectacle of a mixed mob of Greeks and Jews, who are anxious to show themselves to be "Caesar’s friends." Nothing is said of religious ceremonies (Acts 16:21) which the citizens, "being Romans," may not lawfully adopt; all the anxiety, both of people and magistrates, is turned to the one point of showing their loyalty to the Emperor (Acts 17:7). And those magistrates by whom the question at issue is ultimately decided are not Roman proetors, but Greek politarchs.
It is evident that the magistrates were excited and unsettled as well as the multitude. No doubt they were anxious to stand well with the Roman government, and not to compromise themselves or the privileges of their city by a wrong decision in this dispute between the Christians and the Jews. The course they adopted was to "take security" from Jason and his companions. By this expression it is most probably meant that a sum of money was deposited with the magistrates, and that the Christian community of the place made themselves responsible that no attempt should be made against the supremacy of Rome, and that peace should be maintained in Thessalonica itself. By these means the disturbance was allayed.
But though the magistrates had secured quiet in the city for the present, the position of Paul and Silas was very precarious. The lower classes were still excited. The Jews were in a state of fanatical displeasure. It is evident that the Apostles could not appear in public as before, without endangering their own safety, and compromising their fellow-Christians who were security for their good behavior. The alternatives before them were, either silence in Thessalonica, or departure to some other place. The first was impossible to those who bore the divine commission to preach the Gospel everywhere. They could not hesitate to adopt the second course; and, under the watchful care of "the brethren," they departed the same evening from Thessalonica, their steps being turned in the direction of those mountains which are the western boundary of Macedonia. We observe that nothing is said of the departure of Timothy. If he was at Thessalonica at all, he stays there now, as Luke had stayed at Philippi. We can trace in all these arrangements a deliberate care and policy for the well-being of the new Churches, even in the midst of the sudden movements caused by the outbreak of persecution. It is the same prudent and varied forethought which appears afterwards in the pastoral Epistles, where injunctions are given, according to circumstances, - to "abide" while the Apostle goes to some other region, (1Timothy 1:3) "hoping that he may come shortly "again, (1Timothy 3:14) - to "set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders," (Titus 1: 5) - or "to use all diligence" to follow and co-operate again in the same work at some new place.
Berea, like Edessa, is on the eastern slope of the Olympian range, and commands an extensive view of the plain which is watered by the Haliacmon and Axius. It has many natural advantages, and is now considered one of the most agreeable towns in Rumili. Plane-trees spread a grateful shade over its gardens. Streams of water are in every street. Its ancient name is said to have been derived from the abundance of its waters; and the name still survives in the modern Verria, or Kara-Verria. It is situated on the left of the Haliacmon, about five miles from the point where that river breaks through an immense rocky ravine from the mountains to the plain. A few insignificant ruins of the Greek and Roman periods may yet be noticed. The foundations of an ancient bridge are passed on the ascent to the city-gate; and parts of the Greek fortifications may be seen above the rocky bed of a mountain stream. The traces of repairs in the walls, of Roman and Byzantine date, are links between the early fortunes of Berea and its present condition. It still boasts of eighteen or twenty thousand inhabitants, and is placed in the second rank of the cities of European Turkey.
In the apostolic age Berea was sufficiently populous to contain a colony of Jews. (Acts 17:10) When Apostle Paul arrived, he went, according to his custom, immediately to the synagogue. The Jews here were of a "nobler" spirit than those of Thessalonica. Their minds were less narrowed by prejudice, and they were more willing to receive "the truth in the love of it." There was a contrast between two neighboring communities apparently open to the same religious influences, like that between the "village of the Samaritans," which refused to receive Jesus Christ (Luke 9), and that other "city" in the same country where "many believed" because of the word of one who witnessed of Him, and "many more because of His own word" (John 4). In a spirit very different from the ignoble violence of the Thessalonian Jews, the Bereans not only listened to the Apostle’s arguments, but they examined the Scriptures themselves, to see if those arguments were justified by prophecy. And, feeling the importance of the subject presented to them, they made this scrutiny of their holy books their "daily" occupation. This was the surest way to come to a strong conviction of the Gospel’s divine origin. Truth sought in this spirit cannot long remain undiscovered. The promise that "they who seek shall find" was fulfilled at Berea; and the Apostle’s visit resulted in the conversion of "many." Nor was the blessing confined to the Hebrew community. The same Lord who "is rich unto all that call upon Him," (Romans 10:12) called many "not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles." (Acts 9:24) Both men and women, (Acts 17:12) and those of the highest rank, among the Greeks, were added to the church founded by Apostle Paul in that provincial city of Macedonia, which was his temporary shelter from the storm of persecution.
The length of Apostle Paul's stay in the city is quite uncertain. From the fact that the Bereans were occupied "daily " in searching the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) for arguments to establish or confute the Apostle’s doctrine, we conclude that he remained there several days at least. Prom his own assertion in his first letter to the Thessalonians, (1Thessalonians 2:17) that, at the time when he had been recently taken away from them, he was very anxious, and used every effort to revisit them, we cannot doubt that he lingered as long as possible in the neighborhood of Thessalonica. This desire would account for a residence of some weeks; and there are other passages in the same Epistle which might induce us to suppose the time extended even to months. But when we find, on the other hand, that the cause which led him to leave Berea was the hostility of the Jews of Thessalonica, and when we remember that the two cities were separated only by a distance of sixty miles, - that the events which happened in the Synagogue of one city would soon be made known in the Synagogue of the other, - and that Jewish bigotry was never long in taking active measures to crush its opponents, - we are led to the conclusion that the Apostle was forced to retreat from Berea after no long interval of time. The Jews came like hunters upon their prey, as they had done before from Iconium to Lystra. They could not arrest the progress of the Gospel; but they "stirred up the people" there, as at Thessalonica before. They made his friends feel that his continuance in the city was no longer safe. He was withdrawn from Berea and sent to Athens, as in the beginning of his ministry (Acts 9:30) he had been withdrawn from Jerusalem and sent to Tarsus. And on this occasion, as on that, the dearest wishes of his heart were thwarted. The providence of God permitted "Satan" to hinder him from seeing his dear Thessalonian converts, whom "once and again" he had desired to revisit. The divine counsels were accomplished by means of the antagonism of wicked men; and the path of the Apostle was urged on, in the midst of trial and sorrow, in the direction pointed out in the vision at Jerusalem, (Acts 17:17- 21) "far hence unto the Gentiles."
An immediate departure was urged upon the Apostle; and the Church of Berea suddenly lost its teacher. But Silas and Timothy remained behind, to build it up in its holy faith, to be a comfort and support in its trials and persecutions, and to give it such organization as might be necessary. Meanwhile some of the new converts accompanied Apostle Paul on his flight; (Acts 17:14, 15) thus adding a new instance to those we have already seen of the love which grows up between those who have taught and those who have learnt the way of the soul’s salvation.