The Apostle Paul knew that his campaigns were not ended, - that, as the soldier of Jesus Christ, he must not rest from his warfare, but must "endure hardness," that he might please Him who had called him. (2Timothy 2:3, 4). As a careful physician, he remembered that they, whose recovery from sin had been begun, might be in danger of relapse; or, to use another metaphor, and to adopt the poetical language of the Old Testament, he said, - "Come, let us get up early to the vineyards: let us see if the vine flourish."
The words actually recorded as used by Apostle Paul on this occasion are these:— "Come, let us turn back and visit our brethren in every city, where we have announced the word of the Lord, and let us see how they fare." We notice here, for the first time, a trace of that tender solicitude concerning his converts, that earnest longing to behold their faces, which appears in the letters which he wrote afterwards, as one of the most remarkable, and one of the most attractive, features of his character.
Paul was the speaker, and not Barnabas. The feelings of Barnabas might not be so deep, nor his anxiety so urgent. Paul thought doubtless of the Pisidians and Lycaonians, as he thought afterwards at Athens and Corinth of the Thessalonians, from whom he had been lately "taken, - in presence not in heart, - endeavoring to see their face with great desire, - night and day praying exceedingly that he might see their face, and might perfect that which was lacking in their faith" (1Thessalonians 2:17, 3:10). His wish was to revisit every city where converts had been made.
We are reminded here of the importance of continuing a religious work when once begun. We have had the institution of presbyters, and of councils, brought before us in the sacred narrative; and now we have an example of that system of church visitation, of the happy effects of which we have still some experience, when we see weak resolutions strengthened, and expiring faith rekindled, in confirmations at home, or in missionary settlements abroad.
This plan, however, of a combined visitation of the churches was marred by an outbreak of human infirmity. The two apostolic friends were separated from each other by a quarrel, which proved that they were indeed, as they had lately told the Lystrians, "men of like passions" with others (Acts 14:15).
Barnabas was unwilling to undertake the journey unless he were accompanied by his relation Mark. Paul could not consent to the companionship of one who "departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work:" and neither of them could yield his opinion to the other. This quarrel was much more closely connected with personal feelings than that which had recently occurred between Peter and Apostle Paul, and it was proportionally more violent. There is little doubt that severe words were spoken on the occasion.
It is unwise to be over-anxious to dilute the words of Scripture, and to exempt even Apostles from blame. By such criticism we lose much of the instruction which the honest record of their lives was intended to convey. We are taught by this scene at Antioch, that a good work may be blessed by God, though its agents are encompassed with infirmity, and that changes, which are violent in their beginnings, may be overruled for the best results. Without attempting to balance too nicely the faults on either side, our simplest course is to believe that, as in most quarrels, there was blame with both.
Paul’s natural disposition was impetuous and impatient, easily kindled to indignation, and (possibly) overbearing. Barnabas had shown his weakness when he yielded to the influence of Peter and the Judaizers. The remembrance of the indirect censure he then received may have been perpetually irritated by the consciousness that his position was becoming daily more and more subordinate to that of the friend who rebuked him. Once he was spoken of as chief of those "prophets at Antioch," among whom Saul was the last: now his name was scarcely heard, except when he was mentioned as the companion of Paul.
In short, this is one of those quarrels in which, by placing ourselves in imagination on the one side and the other, we can alternately justify both, and easily see that the purest Christian zeal, when combined with human weakness and partiality, may have led to the misunderstanding. How could Paul consent to take with him a companion who would really prove an embarrassment and a hinderance? Such a task as that of spreading the Gospel of God in a hostile world needs a resolute will and an undaunted courage. And the work is too sacred to be put in jeopardy by any experiments.
Mark had been tried once and found wanting. "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 1:62). And Barnabas would not be without strong arguments to defend the justice of his claims. It was hard to expect him to resign his interest in one who had cost him much anxiety and many prayers. His dearest wish was to see his young kinsman approving himself as a missionary of Christ. Now, too, he had been won back to a willing obedience, - he had come from his home at Jerusalem, - he was ready now to face all the difficulties and dangers of the enterprise. To repel him in the moment of his repentance was surely "to break a bruised reed" and to "quench the smoking flax" (Matthew 12:20).
It is not difficult to understand the obstinacy with which each of the disputants, when his feelings were once excited, clung to his opinion as to a sacred truth. The only course which now remained was to choose two different paths and to labor independently; and the Church saw the humiliating spectacle of the separation of its two great missionaries to the Heathen. We cannot, however, suppose that Paul and Barnabas parted, like enemies, in anger and hatred, it is very likely that they made a deliberate and amicable arrangement to divide the region of their first mission between them, Paul taking the continental, and Barnabas the insular, part of the proposed visitation.
Of this at least we are certain, that the quarrel was overruled by Divine Providence to a good result. One stream of missionary labor had been divided, and the regions blessed by the waters of life were proportionally multiplied. Apostle Paul speaks of Barnabas afterwards as of an Apostle actively engaged in his Master’s service. We know nothing of the details of his life beyond the moment of his sailing for Cyprus; but we may reasonably attribute to him not only the confirming of the first converts, but the full establishment of the Church in his native island.
At Paphos the impure idolatry gradually retreated before the presence of Christianity; and Salamis, where the tomb of the Christian Levite (Acts 4:36) is shown, has earned an eminent place in Christian history, through the writings of its bishop, Epiphanius. Mark, too, who began his career as a "minister" of the Gospel in this island, (Acts 3:5) justified the good opinion of his kinsman. Yet the severity of Paul may have been of eventual service to his character, in leading him to feel more deeply the serious importance of the work he had undertaken. And the time came when Paul himself acknowledged, with affectionate tenderness, not only that he had again become his "fellow laborer," (Philemon 1:24) but that he was "profitable to the ministry," and one of the causes of his own "comfort." (Colossians 4:10, 11)
It seems that Barnabas was the first to take his departure. The visitation of Cyprus having now been undertaken by others, his obvious course was not to go by sea in the direction of Perga or Attaleia, but to travel by the Eastern passes directly to the neighborhood of Iconium. It appears, moreover, that he had an important work to accomplish in Cilicia. The early fortunes of Christianity in that province were closely bound up with the city of Antioch and the personal labors of Apostle Paul. When he withdrew from Jerusalem, "three years" after his conversion, his residence for some time was in "the regions of Syria and Cilicia." He was at Tarsus in the course of that residence, when Barnabas first brought him to Antioch.
The churches founded by the Apostle in his native province must often have been visited by him; for it is far easier to travel from Antioch to Tarsus, than from Antioch to Jerusalem, or even from Tarsus to Iconium. Thus the religious movements in the Syrian metropolis penetrated into Cilicia. The same great "prophet" had been given to both, and the Christians in both were bound together by the same feelings and the same doctrines. When the Judaizing agitators came to Antioch, the result was anxiety and perplexity, not only in Syria, but also in Cilicia. This is nowhere literally stated; but it can be legitimately inferred. We are, indeed, only told that certain men came down with false teaching from Judea to Antioch (Acts 15:1).
But the Apostolic Decree is addressed to "the Gentiles of Cilicia " (Acts 15:23) as well as those of Antioch, thus implying that the Judaizing spirit, with its mischievous consequences, had been at work beyond the frontier of Syria. And, doubtless, the attacks on Apostle Paul's apostolic character had accompanied the attack on apostolic truth, and a new fulfillment of the proverb was nearly realized, that a prophet in his own country is without honor.
Paul had, therefore, no ordinary work to accomplish as he went "through Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches;" and it must have been with much comfort and joy that he was able to carry with him a document, emanating from the Apostles at Jerusalem, which justified the doctrine he had taught, and accredited his personal character. Nor was he alone as the bearer of this letter, but Silas was with him also, ready "to tell the same things by month." (Acts 15:27) It is a cause for thankfulness that God put it into the heart of Silas to "abide still at Antioch" when Judas returned to Jerusalem, and to accompany Apostle Paul (Acts 15:40) on his northward journey.
For when the Cilician Christians saw their countryman arrive without his companion Barnabas, whose name was coupled with his own in the apostolic letter, (Acts 15:25) their confidence might have been shaken, occasion might have been given to the enemies of the truth to slander Apostle Paul, had not Silas been present, as one of those who were authorized to testify that both Paul and Barnabas were "men who had hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 15:26)
Where "the churches" were, which he "confirmed" on his journey, - in what particular cities of "Syria and Cilicia," - we are not informed. After leaving Antioch by the bridge over the Orontes, he would cross Mount Amanus by the gorge which was anciently called the "Syrian Gates," and is now known as the Beilan Pass. Then he would come to Alexandria and Issus, two cities that were monuments of the Macedonian conqueror; one as retaining his name, the other as the scene of his victory.
After entering the Cilician plain, he may have visited Adana, Aegae, or Mopsuetia, three of the conspicuous cities on the old Roman roads. With all these places Apostle Paul must have been more or less familiar: probably there were Christians in all of them, anxiously waiting for the decree, and ready to receive the consolation it was intended to bring. And one other city must certainly have been visited. If there were churches anywhere in Cilicia, there must have been one at Tarsus. It was the metropolis of the province; Paul had resided there, perhaps for some years, since the time of his conversion; and if he loved his native place well enough to speak of it with something like pride to the Roman officer at Jerusalem, (Acts 21:39) he could not be indifferent to its religious welfare.
Among the "Gentiles of Cilicia," to whom the letter which he carried was addressed, the Gentiles of Tarsus had no mean place in his affections. And his heart must have overflowed with thankfulness, if, as he passed through the streets which had been familiar to him since his childhood, he knew that many households were around him where the Gospel had come "not in word only but in power," and the relations between husband and wife, parent and child, master and slave, had been purified and sanctified by Christian love.
But it has pleased God that we should know more of the details of early Christianity in the wilder and remoter regions of Asia Minor. To these regions the footsteps of Apostle Paul were turned after he had accomplished the work of confirming the churches in Syria and Cilicia. The task now before him was the visitation of the churches he had formed in conjunction with Barnabas. We proceed to follow him in his second journey across Mount Taurus.
The vast mountain-barrier which separates the sunny plains of Cilicia and Pamphylia from the central table-land has frequently been mentioned. On the former journey (Acts 13:14) Apostle Paul traveled from the Pamphylia plain to Antioch in Pisidia, and thence by Iconium to Lystra and Derbe. His present course across the mountains was more to the eastward; and the last-mentioned cities were visited first. More passes than one lead up into Lycaonia and Cappadocia through the chain of Taurus from Cilicia.
And it has been supposed that the Apostle traveled through one of the minor passes, which quits the lower plain at Pompeiopolis, and enters the upland plain of Iconium, not far from the conjectural site of Derbe. But there is no sufficient reason to suppose that he went by any other than the ordinary road. A traveler wishing to reach the Valais conveniently from the banks of the Lago Maggiore would rather go by the Simplon, than by the difficult path across the Monte Moro; and there is one great pass in Asia Minor which may be called the Simplon of Mount Taurus, described as a rent or fissure in the mountain-chain, extending from north to south through a distance of eighty miles, and known in ancient days by the name of the "Cilician Gates," - which has been, in all ages, the easiest and most convenient entrance from the northern and central parts of the peninsula to the level by the seashore, where the traveler pauses before he enters Syria. Through this pass we conceive Apostle Paul to have traveled on his way from Cilicia to Lycaonia.
As Apostle Paul emerged from the mountain-passes, and came among the lower heights through which the Taurus recedes to the Lycaonian levels, the heart which had been full of affection and anxiety all through the journey would beat more quickly at the sight of the well-known objects before him. The thought of his disciples would come with new force upon his mind, with a warm thanksgiving that he was at length allowed to revisit them, and to "see how they fared." The recollection of friends, from whom we have parted with emotion, is often strongly associated with natural scenery, especially when the scenery is remarkable. And here the tender-hearted Apostle was approaching the home of his Lycaonian converts.
On his first visit, when he came as a stranger, he had traveled in the opposite direction (Compare Acts 14, with 2Timothy 3:10, 11) but the same objects were again before his eyes, the same wide-spreading plain, the same black summit of the Kara-Dagh. In the farther reach of the plain, beyond the "Black Mount," was the city of Iconium; nearer to its base was Lystra; and nearer still to the traveler himself was Derbe, the last point of his previous journey. Here was his first meeting now with the disciples he had then been enabled to gather. The incidents of such a meeting, - the inquiries after Barnabas, - the welcome given to Silas, - the exhortations, instructions, encouragements, warnings, of Apostle Paul, - may be left to the imagination of those who have pleasure in picturing to themselves the features of the Apostolic age, when Christianity was new.
This is all we can say of Derbe, for we know no details either of the former or present visit to the place. But when we come to Lystra, we are at once in the midst of all the interest of Apostle Paul's public ministry and private relations. Here it was that Paul and Barnabas were regarded as Heathen divinities; that the Jews, who had first cried "Hosanna" and then crucified the savior, turned the barbarians from homage to insult; and that the little Church of Christ had been fortified by the assurance that the kingdom of heaven can only be entered through "much tribulation." Here too it was that the child of Lois and Eunice, taught the Holy Scriptures from his earliest years, had been trained to a religious life, and prepared, through the Providence of God, by the sight of the Apostle’s sufferings, to be his comfort, support, and companion.
Spring and summer had passed over Lystra since the Apostles had preached there. God had continued to "bless" them, and given them "rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness." But still "the living God, who made the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein," was recognized only by a few. The temple of the Lystrian Jupiter still stood before the gate, and the priest still offered the people sacrifices to the imaginary protector of the city. Heathenism was invaded, but not yet destroyed. Some votaries had been withdrawn from that polytheistic religion, which wrote and sculptured in stone its dim ideas of "present deities;" crowding its thoroughfares with statues and altars, ascribing to the King of the gods the attributes of beneficent protection and the government of atmospheric changes, and vaguely recognizing Mercury as the dispenser of fruitful seasons and the patron of public happiness.
But many years of difficulty and persecution were yet to elapse before Greeks and Barbarians fully learnt, that the God whom Apostle Paul preached was a Father everywhere present to His children, and the One Author of every "good and perfect gift."
Lystra, however, contributed one of the principal agents in the accomplishment of this result. We have seen how the seeds of Gospel truth were sown in the heart of Timothy. The instruction received in childhood, - the sight of Apostle Paul's sufferings, - the hearing of his words, - the example of the "unfeigned faith, which first dwelt in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice," (2Timothy 1:5) - and whatever other influences the Holy Spirit had used for his soul’s good, - had resulted in the full conviction that Jesus was the Messiah. And if we may draw an obvious inference from the various passages of Scripture, which describe the subsequent relation of Paul and Timothy, we may assert that natural qualities of an engaging character were combined with the Christian faith of this young disciple.
The Apostle’s heart seems to have been drawn towards Timothy with peculiar tenderness. He singled him out from the other disciples. "Him would Paul have to go forth with him." This feeling is in harmony with all that we read, in the Acts and the Epistles, of Apostle Paul's affectionate and confiding disposition. He had no relative ties which were of service in his apostolic work; his companions were few and changing; and though Silas may well be supposed to have supplied the place of Barnabas, it was no weakness to yearn for the society of one who might become, what Mark had once appeared to be, a son in the Gospel.
Yet how could he consistently take an untried youth on so difficult an enterprise? How could he receive Timothy into "the glorious company of Apostles," when he had rejected Mark? Such questions might be raised, if we were not distinctly told that the highest testimony was given to Timothy’s Christian character, not only at Lystra, but at Iconium also (Acts 16:2). We infer from this, that diligent inquiry was made concerning his fitness for the work to which he was willing to devote himself.
To omit, at present, all notice of the prophetic intimations which sanctioned the appointment of Timothy, we have the best proof that he united in himself those outward and inward qualifications which a careful prudence would require.
One other point must be alluded to, which was of the utmost moment at that particular crisis of the Church. The meeting of the Council at Jerusalem had lately taken place. And, though it had been decided that the Gentiles were not to be forced into Judaism on embracing Christianity, and though Apostle Paul carried with him (Acts 16:4) the decree, to be delivered "to all the churches," - yet still he was in a delicate and difficult position.
The Jewish Christians had naturally a great jealousy on the subject of their ancient divine Law; and in dealing with the two parties the Apostle had need of the utmost caution and discretion. We see, then, that in choosing a fellow-worker for his future labors, there was a peculiar fitness in selecting one "whose mother was a Jewess, while his father was a Greek" (Acts 16:1).
The Childhood and Education of Timothy
We may be permitted here to take a short retrospect of the childhood and education of Apostle Paul's new associate. The hand of the Apostle himself has drawn for us the picture of his early years. (2Timothy 1:5, 3:15, &c). That picture represents to us a mother and a grandmother, full of tenderness and faith, piously instructing the young Timothy in the ancient Scriptures, making his memory familiar with that "cloud of witnesses" which encompassed all the history of the chosen people, and training his hopes to expect the Messiah of Israel.
It is not allowed to us to trace the previous history of these godly women of the dispersion. It is highly probable that they may have been connected with those Babylonian Jews whom Antiochus settled in Phrygia three centuries before: or they may have been conducted into Lycaonia by some of those mercantile and other changes which affected the movements of so many families at the epoch we are writing of; such, for instance, as those which brought the household of the Corinthian Chloe into relations with Ephesus, (1Corinthians 1:11) and caused the proselyte Lydia to remove from Thyatira to Philippi (Acts 16:14).
There is one difficulty which, at first sight, seems considerable; viz. the fact that a religious Jewess, like Eunice, should have been married to a Greek. Such a marriage was scarcely in harmony with the stricter spirit of early Judaism, and in Palestine itself it could hardly have taken place. But among the Jews of the dispersion, and especially in remote districts, where but few of the scattered people were established, the case was rather different. Mixed marriages, under such circumstances, were doubtless very frequent. We are at liberty to suppose that in this case the husband was a proselyte. We hear of no objections raised to the circumcision of Timothy, and we may reasonably conclude that the father was himself inclined to Judaism: if, indeed, he were not already deceased, and Eunice a widow.
This very circumstance, however, of his mixed origin gave to Timothy an intimate connection with both the Jewish and Gentile worlds. Though far removed from the larger colonies of Israelitish families, he was brought up in a thoroughly Jewish atmosphere: his heart was at Jerusalem while his footsteps were in the level fields near Lystra, or on the volcanic crags of the Black Mount: and his mind was stored with the Hebrew or Greek words of inspired men of old in the midst of the rude idolaters, whose language was "the speech of Lycaonia." And yet he could hardly be called a Jewish boy, for he had not been admitted within the pale of God’s ancient covenant by the rite of circumcision.
Timothy was in the same position, with respect to the Jewish Church, as those, with respect to the Christian Church, who, in various ages, and for various reasons, have deferred their baptism to the period of mature life. And "the Jews which were in those quarters," (Acts 16:3) however much they may have respected him, yet, knowing "that his father was a Greek," and that he himself was uncircumcised, must have considered him all but an "alien from the commonwealth of Israel." Please see this site's article on the Life of Timothy for more information.
It may be thought, however, that Apostle Paul's conduct in circumcising Timothy was inconsistent with the principle and practice he maintained at Jerusalem when he refused to circumcise Titus. But the two cases were entirely different. Then there was an attempt to enforce circumcision as necessary to salvation: now it was performed as a voluntary act, and simply on prudential grounds. Those who insisted on the ceremony in the case of Titus were Christians, who were endeavoring to burden the Gospel with the yoke of the Law: those for whose sakes Timothy became obedient to one provision of the Law were Jews, whom it was desirable not to provoke, that they might more easily be delivered from bondage. By conceding in the present case, prejudice was conciliated and the Gospel furthered: the results of yielding in the former case would have been disastrous, and perhaps ruinous, to the cause of pure Christianity.
If it be said that even in this case there was danger lest serious results should follow, - that doubt might be thrown on the freedom of the Gospel, and that color might be given to the Judaizing propensity; - it is enough to answer that indifferent actions become right or wrong according to our knowledge of their probable consequences, - and that Apostle Paul was a better judge of the consequences likely to follow from Timothy’s circumcision than we can possibly be. Are we concerned about the effects likely to have been produced on the mind of Timothy himself?
There was no risk, at least, lest he should think that circumcision was necessary to salvation, for he had been publicly recognized as a Christian before he was circumcised; and the companion, disciple, and minister of Apostle Paul was in no danger, we should suppose, of becoming a Judaizer. And as for the moral results which might be expected to follow in the minds of the other Lycaonian Christians, - it must be remembered that at this very moment Apostle Paul was carrying with him and publishing the decree which announced to all Gentiles that they were not to be burdened with a yoke which the Jews had never been able to bear.
Luke notices this circumstance in the very next verse after the mention of Timothy’s circumcision, as if to call our attention to the contiguity of the two facts. It would seem, indeed, that the very best arrangements were adopted which a divinely enlightened prudence could suggest. Apostle Paul carried with him the letter of the Apostles and elders, that no Gentile Christian might be enslaved to Judaism.
Paul circumcised his minister and companion, that no Jewish Christian might have his prejudices shocked. His language was that which he always used, - "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing. The renovation of the heart in Christ is every thing. Let every man be persuaded in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). No innocent prejudice was ever treated roughly by Apostle Paul. To the Jew he became a Jew, to the Gentile a Gentile:"he was all things to all men, if by any means he might save some" (1Corinthians 9:20 22).
Iconium appears to have been the place where Timothy was circumcised. The opinion of the Christians at Iconium, as well as those at Lystra, had been obtained before the Apostle took him as his companion. These towns were separated only by the distance of a few miles; and constant communication must have been going on between the residents in the two places, whether Gentile, Jewish, or Christian. Iconium was by far the more populous and important city of the two, - and it was the point of intersection of all the great roads in the neighborhood. For these reasons we conceive that Apostle Paul's stay in Iconium was of greater moment than his visits to the smaller towns, such as Lystra.
Whether the ordination of Timothy, as well as his circumcision, took place at this particular place and time, is a point not easy to determine. But this view is at least as probable as any other that can be suggested: and it gives a new and solemn emphasis to this occasion, if we consider it as that to which reference is made in the tender allusions of the pastoral letters, - where Apostle Paul reminds Timothy of his good confession before "many witnesses," (1Timothy 6:12) of the "prophecies" which sanctioned his dedication to God’s service, (1Timothy 1:18) and of the "gifts" received by the laying-on of "the hands of the presbyters" (1Timothy 4:14) and the Apostle’s "own hands." (2Timothy 1:6) Such references to the day of ordination, with all its well-remembered details, not only were full of serious admonition to Timothy, but possess the deepest interest for us.
And this interest becomes still greater if we bear in mind that the "witnesses" who stood by were Apostle Paul's own converts, and the very "brethren" who gave testimony to Timothy’s high character at Lystra and Iconium; (Compare Acts 16:2 with Acts 13:51-14:21) - that the "prophecy" which designated him to his office was the same spiritual gift which had attested the commission of Barnabas and Saul at Antioch, (Compare 1Timothy 1:18 with Acts 13:1- 3) - and that the College of Presbyters, (1Timothy 4:14. See 2Timothy 1:6) who, in conjunction with the Apostle, ordained the new minister of the Gospel, consisted of those who had been "ordained in every Church" (Acts 14:23) at the close of that first journey.
On quitting Iconium Apostle Paul left the route of his previous expedition; unless indeed he went in the first place to Antioch in Pisidia, - a journey to which city was necessary in order to complete a full visitation of the churches founded on the continent in conjunction with Barnabas. It is certainly most in harmony with our first impressions, to believe that this city was not unvisited. No mention, however, is made of the place, and it is enough to remark that a residence of a few weeks at Iconium as his headquarters would enable the Apostle to see more than once all the Christians at Antioch, Lystra, and Derbe. It is highly probable that he did so: for the whole aspect of the departure from Iconium, as it is related to us in the Bible, is that of a new missionary enterprise, undertaken after the work of visitation was concluded.
Apostle Paul leaves Iconium, as formerly he left the Syrian Antioch, to evangelize the Heathen in new countries. Silas is his companion in place of Barnabas, and Timothy is with him "for his minister," as Mark was with him then. Many roads were before him. By traveling westwards he would soon cross the frontier of the province of Asia, and he might descend by the valley of the Maeander to Ephesus, its metropolis: or the roads to the south might have conducted him to Perga and Attaleia, and the other cities on the coast of Pamphylia. But neither of these routes was chosen. Guided by the ordinary indications of Providence, or consciously taught by the Spirit of God, he advanced in a northerly direction, through what is called, in the general language of Scripture, "Phrygia and the region of Galatia."
The remarks which have been made on Phrygia, must be repeated, with some modification, concerning Galatia. It is true that Galatia was a province: but we can plainly see that the term is used here in its popular sense, - not as denoting the whole territory which was governed by the Galatian propraetor, but rather the primitive region of the tetrarchs and kings, without including those districts of Phrygia or Lycaonia which were now politically united with it. There is absolutely no city in true Galatia which is mentioned by the Sacred Writers in connection with the first spread of Christianity.
Apostle Paul affectionately reminds the Galatians (Galatians 4:13) that it was "bodily sickness which caused him to preach the Glad Tidings to them at the first." The allusion is to his first visit: and the obvious inference is, that he was passing through Galatia to some other district (possibly Pontus, where we know that many Jews were established), when the state of his bodily health arrested his progress. Thus he became, as it were, the Evangelist of Galatia against his will. But his zeal to discharge the duty that was laid on him did not allow him to be silent. He was instant "in season and out of season." "Woe" was on him if he did not preach the Gospel. The same Providence detained him among the Gauls, which would not allow him to enter Asia or Bithynia (Acts 16:6, 7) and in the midst of his weakness he made the Glad Tidings known to all who would listen to him.
We cannot say what this sickness was, or with absolute certainty identify it with that "thorn in the flesh" to which he feelingly alludes in his Epistles, as a discipline which God had laid on him. But the remembrance of what he suffered in Galatia seems so much to color all the phrases in this part of the Epistle, that a deep personal interest is connected with the circumstance. Sickness in a foreign country has a peculiarly depressing effect on a sensitive mind. And though doubtless Timothy watched over the Apostle’s weakness with the most affectionate solicitude, - yet those who have experienced what fever is in a land of strangers will know how to sympathize, even with Apostle Paul, in this human trial.
The climate and the prevailing maladies of Asia Minor may have been modified with the lapse of centuries: and we are without the guidance of Luke’s medical language, which sometimes throws a light on diseases alluded to in Scripture: but two Christian sufferers, in widely different ages of the Church, occur to the memory as we look on the map of Galatia. We could hardly mention any two men more thoroughly imbued with the spirit of Apostle Paul than John Chrysostom and Henry Martyn. And when we read how these two saints suffered in their last hours from fatigue, pain, rudeness, and cruelty, among the mountains of Asia Minor which surround the place where they rest, - we can well enter into the meaning of Apostle Paul's expressions of gratitude to those who received him kindly in the hour of his weakness.
The Apostle’s reception among the frank and warm-hearted Gauls was peculiarly kind and disinterested. No Church is reminded by the Apostle so tenderly of the time of their first meeting. The recollection is used by him to strengthen his reproaches of their mutability, and to enforce the pleading with which he urges them to return to the true Gospel. That Gospel had been received in the first place with the same affection which they extended to the Apostle himself. And the subject, the manner, and the results of his preaching are not obscurely indicated in the Epistle itself.
The great topic there, as at Corinth and everywhere, was "the cross of Christ" - "Christ crucified" set forth among them. (Compare Galatians 3:1 with 1Corinthians 1:13, 17, 2:2, &c) The Divine evidence of the Spirit followed the word, spoken by the mouth of the Apostle, and received by "the hearing of the ear." Many were converted, both Greeks and Jews, men and women, free men and slaves. (Galatians 3:27, 28) The worship of false divinities, whether connected with the old superstition at Pessinus, or the Roman idolatry at Ancyra, was forsaken for that of the true and living God. And before Apostle Paul left the "region of Galatia" on his onward progress, various Christian communities were added to those of Cilicia, Lycaonia, and Phrygia.
Here then we may imagine the Apostle and his three companions to pause, - uncertain of their future progress, - on the chalk downs which lie between the fountains of the Rhyndacus and those of the Hermus, - in the midst of scenery not very unlike what is familiar to us in England. The long range of the Mysian Olympus to the north is the boundary of Bithynia. The summits of the Phrygian Dindymus on the south are on the frontier of Galatia and Asia. The Hermus flows through the province of Asia to the islands of the Aegean. The Rhyndacus flows to the Propontis, and separates Mysia from Bithynia.
By following the road near the former river they would easily arrive at Smyrna or Pergamus. By descending the valley of the latter and then crossing Olympus, they would be in the richest and most prosperous part of Bithynia. In which direction shall their footsteps be turned? Some Divine intimation, into the nature of which we do not presume to inquire, told the Apostle that the Gospel was not yet to be preached in the populous cities of Asia. The time was not yet come for Christ to be made known to the Greeks and Jews of Ephesus, - and for the churches of Sardis, Pergamus, Philadelphia, Smyrna, Thyatira, and Laodicea, to be admitted to their period of privilege and trial, for the warning of future generations. Shall they turn, then, in the direction of Bithynia?
This also is forbidden. Apostle Paul (so far as we know) never crossed the Mysian Olympus, or entered the cities of Nicaea and Chalcedon, illustrious places in the Christian history of a later age. By revelations, which were anticipative of the fuller and clearer communication at Troas, the destined path of the Apostolic Company was pointed out, through the intermediate country, directly to the West. Leaving the greater part of what was popularly called Mysia to the right, they came to the shores of the Aegean, about the place where the deep gulf of Adramyttium, over against the island of Lesbos, washes the very base of Mount Ida.
At Adramyttium, if not before, Apostle Paul is on the line of a great Roman road. We recognize the place as one which is mentioned again in the description of the voyage to Rome. (Acts 27:2) It was a mercantile town, with important relations both with foreign harbors, and the cities of the interior of Asia Minor. From this point the road follows the northern shore of the gulf, - crossing a succession of the streams which flow from Ida, - and alternately descending to the pebbly beach and rising among the rocks and evergreen brushwood, - while Lesbos appears and re-appears through the branches of the rich forest-trees, - till the sea is left behind at the city of Assos. This also is a city of Apostle Paul.
The nineteen miles of road which lie between Assos and Troas is the distance which he traveled by land before ha rejoined the ship which had brought him from Philippi (Acts 20:13):and the town across the strait, on the shore of Lesbos, is Mytilene, whither the vessel proceeded when the Apostle and his companions met on board.
But to return to the present journey. Troas is the name either of a district or a town. As a district it had a history of its own. Though geographically a part of Mysia, and politically a part of the province of Asia, it was yet usually spoken of as distinguished from both. This small region, extending from Mount Ida to the plain watered by the Simois and Scamander, was the scene of the Trojan war; and it was due to the poetry of Homer that the ancient name of Priam’s kingdom should be retained. This shore has been visited on many memorable occasions by the great men of this world. Xerxes passed this way when he undertook to conquer Greece. Julius Caesar was here after the battle of Pharsalia. But, above all, we associate the spot with a European conqueror of Asia, and an Asiatic conqueror of Europe; with Alexander of Macedon and Paul of Tarsus.
For here it was that the enthusiasm of Alexander was kindled at the tomb of Achilles, by the memory of his heroic ancestors; here he girded on their armor; and from this goal he started to overthrow the august dynasties of the East. And now the great Apostle rests in his triumphal progress upon the same poetic shore: here he is armed by heavenly visitants with the weapons of a warfare that is not carnal; and hence he is sent forth to subdue all the powers of the West, and bring the civilization of the world into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
Turning now from the district to the city of Troas, we must remember that its full and correct name was Alexandria Troas. Sometimes, as in the New Testament, it is simply called Troas; (Acts 16:8, 11, 20:5; 2Corinthians 2:12; 2Timothy 4:13) sometimes, as by Pliny and Strabo, simply Alexandria. It was not, however, one of those cities (amounting in number to nearly twenty) which were built and named by the conqueror of Darius.
This Alexandria received its population and its name under the successors of Alexander. It was an instance of that centralization of small scattered towns into one great mercantile city, which was characteristic of the period. Its history was as follows:— Antigonus, who wished to leave a monument of his name on this classical ground, brought together the inhabitants of the neighboring towns to one point on the coast, where he erected a city, and called it Antigonia Troas. Lysimachus, who succeeded to his power on the Dardanelles, increased and adorned the city, but altered its name, calling it, in honor of "the man of Macedonia" (if we may make this application of a phrase which Holy Writ (See Acts 16:9) has associated with the place), Alexandria Troas. This name was retained ever afterwards.
When Apostle Paul's eyes were turned towards the West, he saw that remarkable view of Samothraoe over Imbros, which has just been mentioned. And what were the thoughts in his mind when he looked towards Europe across the Aegean? Though ignorant of the precise nature of the supernatural intimations which had guided his recent journey, we are led irresistibly to think that he associated his future work with the distant prospect of the Macedonian hills. We are reminded of another journey, when the Prophetic Spirit gave him partial revelations on his departure from Corinth, and on his way to Jerusalem. "After I have been there I must also see Rome (Acts 19:21) - I have no more place in these parts - I know not what shall befall me, save that the Holy Spirit witnesseth that bonds and afflictions abide me." (Acts 20:22, 23)
Such thoughts, it may be, had been in the Apostle’s mind at Troas, when the sun set beyond Athos and Samothrace, and the shadows fell on Ida and settled dark on Tenedos and the deep. With the view of the distant land of Macedonia imprinted on his memory, and the thought of Europe’s miserable Heathenism deep in his heart, he was prepared, like Peter at Joppa, to receive the full meaning of the voice which spoke to him in a dream.
In the visions of the night, a form appeared to come and stand by Paul (Acts 16:9) and he recognized in the supernatural visitant "a man of Macedonia," who came to plead the spiritual wants of his country. It was the voice of the sick inquiring for a physician, - of the ignorant seeking for wisdom, - the voice which ever since has been calling on the Church to extend the Gospel to Heathendom, - "Come over and help us."