We have had occasion to speak of the combination of actual provinces and nominally independent states through which the power of the Roman emperor was variously diffused; and again, we have described the division of the provinces by Augustus into those of the Senate, and those of the Emperor.
Descending now to examine the component population of any one province, and to inquire into the political condition of individuals and communities, we find here again a complicated system of rules and exceptions. As regards individuals, the broad distinction we must notice is that between those who were citizens and those who were not citizens.
When the Greeks spoke of the inhabitants of the world, they divided them into "Greeks" and "Barbarians," according as the language in which poets and philosophers had written was native to them or foreign. Among the Romans the phrase was different. The classes into which they divided mankind consisted of those who were politically "Romans," and those who had no link (except that of subjection) with the City of Rome. The technical words were Gives and Peregrini, - "citizens" and "strangers."
The inhabitants of Italy were "citizens;" the inhabitants of all other parts of the Empire (until Caracalla extended to the provinces the same privileges which Julius Caesar had granted to the peninsula) were naturally and essentially "strangers." Italy was the Holy Land of the kingdom of this world. We may carry the parallel further, in order to illustrate the difference which existed among the citizens themselves.
Those true-born Italians, who were diffused in vast numbers through the provinces, might be called Citizens of the Dispersion; while those strangers who, at various times, and for various reasons, had received the gift of citizenship, were in the condition of political Proselytes. Such were Paul and Silas, in their relation to the empire, among their fellow-Romans in the colony of Philippi. Both these classes of citizens, however, were in full possession of the same privileges; the most important of which were exemption from scourging, and freedom from arrest, except in extreme cases; and in all cases the right of appeal from the magistrate to the Emperor.
The remarks which have been made concerning individuals may be extended, in some degree, to communities in the provinces. The City of Rome might be transplanted, as it were, into various parts of the empire, and reproduced as a colonia; or an alien city might be adopted, under the title of a municipium, into a close political communion with Rome. Leaving out of view all cities of the latter kind (and indeed they were limited entirely to the western provinces), we will confine ourselves to what was called a colonia.
A Roman colony was very different from any thing which we usually intend by the term. It was no mere mercantile factory, such as those which the Phoenicians established in Spain, or on those very shores of Macedonia with which we are now engaged; or such as modern nations have founded in the Hudson's Bay territory or on the coast of India. Still less was it like those incoherent aggregates of human beings which we have thrown, without care or system, on distant islands and continents. It did not even go forth, as a young Greek republic left its parent state, carrying with it, indeed, the respect of a daughter for a mother, but entering upon a new and independent existence.
The Roman colonies were primarily intended as military safeguards of the frontiers, and as checks upon insurgent provincials. Like the military roads, they were part of the great system of fortification by which the Empire was made safe. They served also as convenient possessions for rewarding veterans who had served in the wars, and for establishing freedmen and other Italians whom it was desirable to remove to a distance. The colonists went out with all the pride of Roman citizens, to represent and re produce the City in the midst of an alien population. They proceeded to their destination like an army with its standards; and the limits of the new city were marked out by the plough. Their names were still enrolled in one of the Roman tribes.
Every traveler who passed through a colonia saw there the insignia of Rome. He heard the Latin language, and was amenable, in the strictest sense, to the Roman law. The coinage of the city, even if it were in a Greek province, had Latin inscriptions. Cyprian tells us that in his own episcopal city, which once had been Rome's greatest enemy, the Laws of the 12 Tables were inscribed on brazen tablets in the market-place. Though the colonists, in addition to the poll-tax, which they paid as citizens, were compelled to pay a ground-tax; yet they were entirely free from any intrusion by the governor of the province. Their affairs were regulated by their own magistrates. These officers were named Duumviri; and they took a pride in calling themselves by the Roman title of Praetors.
The primary settlers in the colony were, as we have seen, real Italians; but a state of things seems to have taken place, in many instances, very similar to what happened in the early history of Rome itself. A number of the native provincials grew up in the same city with the governing body; and thus two (or sometimes three) co-ordinate communities were formed, which ultimately coalesced into one, like the Patricians and Plebeians. Instances of this state of things might be given from Corinth and Carthage, and from the colonies of Spain and Gaul; and we have no reason to suppose that Philippi was different from the rest.
The Philippian church
The Philippian congregation, which met here for worship on the Sabbath, consisted chiefly, if not entirely, of a few women; (Acts 16:13) and these were not all of Jewish birth, and not all residents at Philippi. Lydia, who is mentioned by name, was a proselyte; (Acts 16:14) and Thyatira, her native place, was a city of the province of Asia. (See Revelation 1:11) The business which brought her to Philippi was connected with the dyeing trade, which had flourished from a very early period, as we learn from Homer, in the neighborhood of Thyatira, and is permanently commemorated in inscriptions which relate to the "guild of dyers" in that city, and incidentally give a singular confirmation of the veracity of Luke in his casual allusions.
In this unpretending place, and to this congregation of pious women, the Gospel was first preached by an Apostle within the limits of Europe. Apostle Paul and his companions seem to have arrived in the early part of the week; for "some days" elapsed before "the sabbath." On that day the strangers went and joined the little company of worshippers at their prayer by the river-side. Assuming at once the attitude of teachers, they "sat down," (Acts 16:13. Compare Acts 13:14, and Luke 4:20) and spoke to the women who were assembled together.
The Lord, who had summoned His servants from Troas to preach the Gospel in Macedonia, (Acts 16:10) now vouchsafed to them the signs of His presence, by giving Divine energy to the words which they spoke in His name. Lydia "was one of the listeners," and the Lord "opened her heart, that she took heed to the things that were spoken of Paul."
Lydia, being convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, and having made a profession of her faith, was forthwith baptized. The place of her baptism was doubtless the stream which flowed by the proseucha. The waters of Europe were "sanctified to the mystical washing-away of sin." With the baptism of Lydia that of her "household" was associated. Whether we are to understand by this term her children, her slaves, or the work-people engaged in the manual employment connected with her trade, or all these collectively, cannot easily be decided. But we may observe that it is the first passage in the life of Apostle Paul where we have an example of that family religion to which he often alludes in his Epistles.
The "connections of Chloe," (1Corinthians 1:11) the "household of Stephanas," (1Corinthians 1:16, 16:15) the "Church in the house" of Aquila and Priscilla, (Romans 16:5. Compare Philemon 1:2) are parallel cases, to which we shall come in the course of the narrative. It may also be rightly added, that we have here the first example of that Christian hospitality which was so emphatically enjoined, (Hebrews 13:2. 1Timothy 5:10, &c) and so lovingly practised, in the Apostolic Church.
The frequent mention of the "hosts" who gave shelter to the Apostles, (Romans 16:23, &c) reminds us that they led a life of hardship and poverty, and were the followers of Him "for whom there was no room in the inn." The Lord had said to His Apostles, that, when they entered into a city, they were to seek out "those who were worthy," and with them to abide. The search at Philippi was not difficult. Lydia voluntarily presented herself to her spiritual benefactors, and said to them, earnestly and humbly, that, "since they had regarded her as a believer on the Lord," her house should be their home. She admitted of no refusal to her request, and "their peace was on that house." (Matthew 10:13).
Thus the Gospel had obtained a home in Europe. It is true that the family with whom the Apostles lodged was Asiatic rather than European; and the direct influence of Lydia may be supposed to have contributed more to the establishment of the church of Thyatira, addressed by John, (Revelation 2) than to that of Philippi, which received the letter of Apostle Paul. But still the doctrine and practice of Christianity were established in Europe; and nothing could be more calm and tranquil than its first beginnings on the shore of that continent, which it has long overspread.
The scenes by the river-side, and in the house of Lydia, are beautiful prophecies of the holy influence which women, elevated by Christianity to their true position, and enabled by Divine grace to wear "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit," have now for centuries exerted over domestic happiness and the growth of piety and peace. If we wish to see this in a forcible light, we may contrast the picture which is drawn for us by Luke - with another representation of women in the same neighborhood given by the Heathen poets, who tell us of the frantic excitement of the Edonian matrons, wandering, under the name of religion, with dishevelled hair and violent cries, on the banks of the Strymon.
Thus far all was peaceful and hopeful in the work of preaching the Gospel to Macedonia: the congregation met in the house or by the riverside; souls were converted and instructed; and a Church, consisting both of men and women, was gradually built up. This continued for "many days." It was difficult to foresee the storm which was to overcast so fair a prospect. A bitter persecution, however, was unexpectedly provoked and the Apostles were brought into collision with heathen superstition in one of its worst forms, and with the rough violence of the colonial authorities.
As if to show that the work of Divine grace is advanced by difficulties and discouragements, rather than by ease and prosperity, the Apostles, who had been supernaturally summoned to a new field of labor, and who were patiently cultivating it with good success, were suddenly called away from it, silenced, and imprisoned.