Apostle Paul's trial delayed

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We have seen that Apostle Paul's accusers had not yet arrived from Palestine, and that their coming was not even expected by the Roman Jews. This proves that they had not left Syria before the preceding winter, and consequently that they could not have set out on their journey till the following spring, when the navigation of the Mediterranean was again open. Thus they would not reach Rome till the summer or autumn of the year 61 A.D.

Meanwhile, the progress of the trial was necessarily suspended, for the Roman courts required the personal presence of the prosecutor. It would seem that, at this time, an accused person might be thus kept in prison for an indefinite period, merely by the delay of the prosecutor to proceed with his accusation; nor need this surprise us, if we consider how harshly the law has dealt with supposed offenders, and with what indifference it has treated the rights of the accused, even in periods whose civilization was not only more advanced than that of the Roman Empire, but also imbued with the merciful spirit of Christianity.

And even when the prosecutors were present, and no ground alleged for the delay of the trial, a corrupt judge might postpone it, as Felix did, for months and years, to gratify the enemies of the prisoner. And if a provincial Governor, though responsible for such abuse of power to his master, might venture to act in this arbitrary manner, much more might the Emperor himself, who was responsible to no man.

Thus we find that Tiberius was in the habit of delaying the hearing of causes, and retaining the accused in prison unheard, merely out of procrastination. So that, even after Apostle Paul's prosecutors had arrived, and though we were to suppose them anxious for the progress of the trial, it might still have been long delayed by the Emperor's caprice. But there is no reason to think that, when they came, they would have wished to press on the cause.

From what had already occurred, Paul's accusors had every reason to expect the failure of the prosecution. In fact it had already broken down at its first stage, and Festus had strongly pronounced his opinion of the innocence (Acts 25:25, 26:32) of the accused. Their hope of success at Rome must have been grounded either on influencing the Emperor's judgment by private intrigue, or on producing further evidence in support of their accusation. For both these objects, delay would be necessary.

Moreover, it was quite in accordance with the regular course of Roman jurisprudence, that the Court should grant a long suspension of the cause, on the petition of the prosecutor, that he might be allowed time to procure the attendance of witnesses from a distance. The length of time thus granted would depend upon the remoteness of the place where the alleged crimes had been committed.

We read of an interval of twelve months permitted during Nero's reign, in the case of an accusation against Suilius, for misdemeanors committed during his government of Proconsular Asia. The accusers of Apostle Paul might fairly demand a longer suspension; for they accused him of offences committed not only in Palestine (which was far more remote than Proconsular Asia from Rome), but also over the whole Empire. Their witnesses must be summoned from Judea, from Syria, from Cilicia, from Pisidia, from Macedonia.

In all cities, from Damascus to Corinth, in all countries, "from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum," must testimony be sought to prove the seditious turbulence of the ringleader of the Nazarenes. The interval granted them for such a purpose could not be less than a year, and might well be more. Supposing it to be the shortest possible, and assuming that the prosecutors reached Rome in August A.D. 61, the first stage of the trial would be appointed to commence not before August A.D. 62. And when this period arrived, the prosecutors and the accused, with their witnesses, must have been heard on each of the charges separately (according to Nero's regulations), and sentence pronounced on the first charge before the second was entered into.

Now, the charges against Apostle Paul were divided (as we have seen) into three separate heads of accusation. Consequently the proceedings, which would of course be adjourned from time to time to suit the Emperor's convenience, may well have lasted till the beginning of 63, at which time Luke's narrative would lead us to fix their termination.

During the long delay of his trial, Apostle Paul was not reduced, as he had been at Caesarea, to a forced inactivity. On the contrary, he was permitted the freest intercourse with his friends, and was allowed to reside in a house of sufficient size to accommodate the congregation which flocked together to listen to his teaching.

The freest scope was given to Paul's labors, consistent with the military custody under which he was placed. We are told, in language peculiarly emphatic, that this preaching was subjected to no restraint whatever. And that which seemed at first to impede must really have deepened the impression of his eloquence; for who could see without emotion that venerable form subjected by iron links to the coarse control of the soldier who stood beside him? How often must the tears of the assembly have been called forth by the upraising of that fettered hand, and the clanking of the chain which checked its energetic action!

We shall see hereafter that these labors of the imprisoned Confessor were not fruitless; in his own words he begot many children in his chains. (Philemon 1:10) Meanwhile, he had a wider sphere of action than even the metropolis of the world. Not only "the crowd which pressed upon him daily," (2Corinthians 11:28) but also "the care of all the churches," demanded his constant vigilance and exertion. Though himself tied down to a single spot, he kept up a constant intercourse, by his delegates, with his converts throughout the Empire; and not only with his own converts, but with the other Gentile Churches, who, as yet, had not seen his face in the flesh.

To enable the Apostle Paul to maintain this superintendence, he manifestly needed many faithful messengers; men who (as he says of one of them) rendered him profitable service; (2Timothy 4:11) and by some of whom he seems to have been constantly accompanied, wheresoever he went. Accordingly, we find him, during this Roman imprisonment, surrounded by many of his oldest and most valued attendants. Luke, his fellow-traveler, remained with him during his bondage; Timothy, (Philemon 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philippians 1:1) his beloved son in the faith, ministered to him at Rome, as he had done in Asia, in Macedonia, and in Achaia. Tychicus, who had formerly borne him company from Corinth to Ephesus, is now at hand to carry his letters to the shores which they had visited together.

But there are two names amongst Paul's Roman companions which excite a peculiar interest, though from opposite reasons. Their names are Demas and of Mark. The latter, when last we heard of him, was the unhappy cause of the separation of Barnabas and Paul. He was rejected by Paul as unworthy to attend him, because he had previously abandoned the work of the Gospel out of timidity or indolence. It is delightful to find him now ministering obediently to the very Apostle who had then repudiated his services; still more, to know that he persevered in this fidelity even to the end, and was sent for by Apostle Paul to cheer his dying hours.

Demas, on the other hand, is now a faithful "fellow laborer" (Philemon 1:24; cf. Colossians 4:14) of the Apostle; but in a few years we shall find that he had "forsaken" him, "having loved this present world." Perhaps we may be allowed to hope, that, as the fault of Demas was the same with that of Mark, so the repentance of Mark may have been paralleled by that of Demas.

Amongst the rest of Apostle Paul's companions at this time, there were two whom he distinguishes by the honorable title of his "fellow-prisoners." One of these is Aristarchus, (Colossians 4:10; cf. Acts 19:29, and Acts 27:2, and Philemon 1:24) the other Epaphras. (Colossians 1:7; Philemon 1:23) With regard to the former, we know that he was a Macedonian of Thessalonica, one of "Paul's companions in travel," whose life was endangered by the mob at Ephesus, and who embarked with Apostle Paul at Caesarea when he set sail for Rome. The other, Epaphras, was a Colossian, who must not be identified with the Philippian Epaphroditus, another of Apostle Paul's fellow-laborers during this time.

It is not easy to say what was the exact sense in which these two disciples were peculiarly fellow-prisoners of Apostle Paul. Perhaps it only implies that they dwelt in his house, which was also his prison.

But of all the disciples now ministering to Apostle Paul at Rome, none has for us a greater interest than the fugitive Asiatic slave Onesimus. He belonged to a Christian named Philemon, a member of the Colossian Church. But he had robbed (Philemon 1:18) his master, and fled from Colossae, and at last found his way to Rome. It is difficult to imagine any portion of mankind more utterly depraved than the associates among whom a runaway pagan slave must have found himself in the capital.

Profligate and unprincipled as we know even the highest and most educated society to have then been, what must have been its dregs and offal? Yet from this lowest depth Onesimus was dragged forth by the hand of Christian love. Perhaps some Asiatic Christian, who had seen him formerly at his master's house, recognized him in the streets of Rome destitute and starving, and had compassion on him; and thus he might have been brought to hear the preaching of the illustrious prisoner. Or it is not impossible that he may have already known Apostle Paul at Ephesus, where his master Philemon had formerly been himself converted by the Apostle. However this may be, it is certain that Onesimus was led by the providence of God to listen to that preaching now which he had formerly despised.

Onesimus was converted to the faith of Christ, and therefore to the morality of Christ. He confessed to Apostle Paul his sins against his master. The Apostle seems to have been peculiarly attracted by the character of Onesimus; and he perceived in him the indications of gifts which fitted him for a more important post than any which he could hold as the slave of Philemon. He wished (Philemon 1:13) to keep him at Rome, and employ him in the service of the Gospel. Yet he would not transgress the law, nor violate the rights of Philemon, by acting in this matter without his consent. He therefore decided that Onesimus must immediately return to his master; and, to make this duty less painful, he undertook himself to discharge the sum of which Philemon had been defrauded.

An opportunity now offered itself for Onesimus to return in good company; for Apostle Paul was sending Tychicus to Asia Minor, charged, amongst other commissions, with an epistle to Colossae, the home of Philemon. Under his care, therefore, he placed the penitent slave, who was now willing to surrender himself to his offended master. Nevertheless, he did not give up the hope of placing his new convert in a position wherein he might minister no longer to a private individual, but to the Church at large.

Paul intimated his wishes regarding Onesimus to Philemon himself, with characteristic delicacy, in a letter which he charged Onesimus to deliver on his arrival at Colossae. This letter is not only a beautiful illustration of the character of Apostle Paul, but also a practical commentary upon the precepts concerning the mutual relations of slaves and masters given in his contemporary Epistles. We see here one of the earliest examples of the mode in which Christianity operated upon these relations; not by any violent disruption of the organization of society, such as could only have produced another Servile War, but by gradually leavening and interpenetrating society with the spirit of a religion which recognized the equality of all men in the sight of God.

While Onesimus, on the arrival of the two companions at Colossae, hurried to the house of his master with the letter which we have just read, Tychicus proceeded to discharge his commission likewise by delivering to the Presbyters the Epistle with which he was charged, that it might be read to the whole Colossian Church at their next meeting.

The letter to the Colossians itself gives us distinct information as to the cause which induced Apostle Paul to write it. Epaphras, the probable founder of that Church (Colossians 1:7), was now at Rome, and he had communicated to the Apostle the unwelcome tidings, that the faith of the Colossians was in danger of being perverted by false teaching. It has been questioned whether several different systems of error had been introduced among them, or whether the several errors combated in the Epistle were parts of one system, and taught by the same teachers.

On the one side we find that, in the Epistle, Apostle Paul warns the Colossians separately against the following errors. The first error Paul warns about is a combination of angel worship and asceticism. The second one is in regard to a self-styled philosophy or gnosis which depreciated Christ.

Paul's epistle to the Colossians seems distinctly (though with an indirectness caused by obvious motives) to point to a single source, and even a single individual, as the origin of the errors introduced; and, Secondly, we know that at any rate the these errors were combined by some of the early Gnostics.

The most probable view, therefore, seems to be, that some Alexandrian Jew had appeared at Colossae, professing a belief in Christianity, and imbued with the Greek "philosophy" of the school of Philo, but combining with it the Rabbinical theosophy and angelology, which afterwards was embodied in the Cabala, and an extravagant asceticism, which also afterwards distinguished several sects of the Gnostics.

In short, one of the first heresiarchs of the incipient Gnosticism had begun to pervert the Colossians from the simplicity of their faith. We have seen in a former chapter how great was the danger to be apprehended from this source, at the stage which the Church had now reached; especially in a church which consisted, as that at Colossae did, principally of Gentiles (Colossians 1:25 - 27, Colossians 2:11); and that, too, in Phrygia, where the national character was so prone to a mystic fanaticism.

We need not wonder, therefore, that Apostle Paul, acting under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, should have thought it needful to use every effort to counteract the growing evil. This he does, both by contradicting the doctrinal errors of the new system, and by inculcating, as essential to Christianity, that pure morality which these early heretics despised.

We have seen that the Epistle to the Colossians, and that to Philemon, were conveyed by Tychicus and Onesimus, who traveled together from Rome to Asia Minor. But these two were not the only letters with which Tychicus was charged. We know that he carried a third letter also; but it is not equally certain to whom it was addressed. This third letter was that which is now entitled the Epistle to the Ephesians (See Ephesians 6:21, 22) concerning the destination of which (disputed as it is) perhaps the least disputable fact is, that it was not addressed to the Church of Ephesus. This point is established by strong evidence.

To begin with the former, we remark, First, that it would be inexplicable that Apostle Paul, when he wrote to the Ephesians, amongst whom he had spent so long a time, and to whom he was bound by ties of such close affection (Acts 20:17, &c), should not have a single message of personal greeting to send. Yet none such are found in this Epistle. Secondly, He could not have described the Ephesians as a Church whose conversion he knew only by report (Ephesians 1:15). Thirdly, He could not speak to them, as only knowing himself (the founder of their Church) to be an Apostle by hearsay (Ephesians 3:2), so as to need credentials to accredit him with them (Ephesians 3:4). Fourthly, He could not describe the Ephesians as so exclusively Gentiles (Ephesians 2:11, 4:17), and so recently converted (Ephesians 5:8, 1:13, 2:13).

The Epistle to the Ephesians which Paul wrote consists of two main parts: first, a doctrinal, and, secondly, a hortatory portion.

The first part contains a summary, very indirectly conveyed (chiefly in the form of thanksgiving), of the Christian doctrines taught by Apostle Paul, and is especially remarkable for the great prominence given to the abolition of the Mosaic Law. The hortatory part, which has been so dear to Christians of every age and country, enjoins unity (especially between Jewish and Gentile Christians), the renunciation of Heathen vices, and the practice of Christian purity. It lays down rules (the same as those in the Epistle to Colossae, only in an expanded form) for the performance of the duties of domestic life, and urges these new converts, in the midst of the perils which surrounded them, to continue steadfast in watchfulness and prayer.

The Praetorium and the Palatine

The close of the Epistle to which our attention has just been turned contains a remarkable example of the forcible imagery of Apostle Paul (Ephesians 6:14 - 17). Considered simply in itself, this description of the Christian's armor is one of the most striking passages in the Sacred Volume. But if we view it in connection with the circumstances with which the Apostle was surrounded, we find a new and living emphasis in his enumeration of all the parts of the heavenly panoply. The belt of sincerity and truth, with which the loins are girded for the spiritual war, the breastplate of that righteousness, the inseparable links whereof are faith and love, the strong sandals, with which the feet of Christ's soldiers are made ready, not for such errands of death and despair as those on which the Praetorian soldiers were daily sent, but for the universal message of the Gospel of peace.

The large shield represents confident trust, wherewith the whole man is protected, and whereon the fiery arrows of the Wicked One fall harmless and dead. The close-fitting helmet, with which the hope of salvation invests the head of the believer, and finally the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, which, when wielded by the Great Captain of our Salvation, turned the Tempter in the wilderness to flight, while in the hands of His chosen Apostle (with whose memory the sword seems inseparably associated) it became the means of establishing Christianity on the earth.

All this imagery becomes doubly forcible if we remember that when Apostle Paul wrote the words he was chained to a soldier, and in the close neighborhood of military sights and sounds. The appearance of the Praetorian guards was daily familiar to him, as Paul's "chains" on the other hand became "well known throughout the whole Proetorium." (Philippians 1:13).

The Emperor was praetor or commander-in-chief of the troops, and it was natural that his immediate guard should he in a praetorium near him. It might, indeed, be argued that this military establishment on the Palatine would cease to be necessary when the Praetorian camp was established: but the purpose of that establishment was to concentrate near the city those cohorts which had previously been dispersed in other parts of Italy: a local bodyguard near the palace would not cease to be necessary: and Josephus, in his account of the imprisonment of Agrippa, speaks of a "camp" in connection with the "royal house. Such we conceive to have been the barrack immediately alluded to by Apostle Paul: though the connection of these smaller quarters with the general camp was such that he would naturally become known to "all the rest" of the guards, as well as those who might for the time be connected with the Imperial household.

What has just been said of the word "praetorium" applied still more extensively to the word "palatium." Originally denoting the hill on which the twin brothers were left by the retreating river, it grew to be, and it still remains, the symbol of Imperial power.

Augustus was born on the Palatine; and he fixed his official residence there when the Civil Wars were terminated. Thus it may be truly said, that, "after the Capitol and the Forum, no locality in the ancient city claims so much of our interest as the Palatine hill. It was, at once, the birthplace of the infant city, and the abode of her rulers during the days of her greatest splendor, where the red-thatched cottage of Romulus was still preserved in the midst of the gorgeous structures of Caligula and Nero."

About the close of the Republic, the Palatine hill was the residence of many distinguished citizens, such as Crassus, Cicero, Catiline, Clodius, and Antony. Augustus himself simply bought the house of Hortensius, and lived there in modest state. But the new era was begun for the Palatine, when the first Emperor, soon after the battle of Actium, raised the temple of Apollo, with its celebrated Greek and Latin libraries, on the side near the Forum. Tiberius erected a new palace, or an addition to the old one, on the opposite side of the hill, immediately above the Circus Maximus. It remained for subsequent Emperors to cover the whole area of the hill with structures connected with the palace.

Apostle Paul was at Rome precisely at that time when the Palatine was the most conspicuous spot on the earth, not merely for crime, but for splendor and power. This was the center of all the movements of the Empire. Here were heard the causes of all Roman citizens who had appealed to Caesar. Hence were issued the orders to the governors of provinces, and to the legions on the frontier.

From the "Golden Milestone" (Milliarium Aureum) below the palace, the roads radiated in all directions to the remotest verge of civilization. The official messages of the Emperor were communicated along them by means of posts established by the government: but these roads afforded also the means of transmitting the letters of private citizens, whether sent by means of tabellarii, or by the voluntary aid of accidental travelers.

To such communications between the metropolis and the provinces others were now added of a kind hitherto unknown in the world. They were not different in outward appearance from common letters, but containing commands more powerful in their effects than the despatches of Nero, touching more closely the private relations of life than all the correspondence of Seneca or Pliny. They proclaimed, in the very form of their salutations, the perpetual union of the Jew, the Greek, and the Roman.

After the departure of Tychicus and Onesimus, the Apostle's prison was cheered by the arrival of Epaphroditus, who bore a contribution from the Christians of Philippi. We have before seen instances of the noble liberality of that Church, and now once more we find them ministering to the necessities of their beloved teacher.

Epaphroditus, apparently a leading presbyter among the Philippians, had brought on himself, by the fatigues or perils of his journey, a dangerous illness. Apostle Paul speaks of him with touching affection. He calls him his "brother, and companion in labor, and fellow-soldier" (Philippians 2:25); declares that "his labor in the cause of Christ had brought him near to death" (Philippians 2:30), and that he had "hazarded his life" in order to supply the means of communication between the Philippians and himself. And, when speaking of his recovery, he says that God was merciful and compassionate to him (Philippians 2:27). We must suppose, from these expressions, that Epaphroditus had exposed himself to some unusual risk in his journey. Perhaps his health was already feeble when he set out, so that he showed self-devotion in encountering fatigues which were certain to injure him.

Meanwhile Apostle Paul continued to preach, and his converts to multiply. We shall find that when he wrote to the Philippians, either towards the close of this year, or at the beginning of the next, great effects had already been produced; and that the Church of Rome was not only enlarged, but encouraged to act with greater boldness upon the surrounding masses of Heathenism (Philippians 1:12 - 14) by the successful energy of the apostolic prisoner. Yet the political occurrences of the year might well have alarmed him for his safety, and counselled a more timid course.

We have seen that prisoners in Apostle Paul's position were under the charge of the Praetorian Prefect; and in this year occurred the death of the virtuous Burrus, under whose authority his imprisonment had been so unusually mild. Upon this event the prefecture was put into commission, and bestowed on Fenius Rufus and Sofonius Tigellinus. The former was respectable, but wanting in force of character, and quite unable to cope with his colleague, who was already notorious for that energetic wickedness which has since made his name proverbial.

Apostle Paul's Christian friends in Rome must have trembled to think of him as subject to the caprice of this most detestable of Nero's satellites. It does not seem, however, that his situation was altered for the worse; possibly he was never brought under the special notice of Tigellinus, who was too intent on court intrigues, at this period, to attend to so trifling a matter as the concerns of a Jewish prisoner.

Another circumstance occurred about the same time, which seemed to threaten still graver mischief to the cause of Paul. This was the marriage of Nero to his adulterous mistress Poppaea, who had become a proselyte to Judaism. Such circumstances fully account for the anticipations of an unfavorable issue to his trial, which we shall find Apostle Paul now expressing (Philippians 2:17, and 3:11) and which contrast remarkably with the confident expectation of release entertained by him when he wrote the letter (Philemon 1:22, 23) to Philemon. When we come to discuss the trial of Apostle Paul, we shall see reason to believe that the providence of God did in fact avert this danger; but at present all things seemed to wear a most threatening aspect.

Perhaps the death of Pallas (which also happened this year) may be considered, on the other hand, as removing an unfavorable influence; for, as the brother of Felix, he would have been willing to soften the Jewish accusers of that profligate governor, by co-operating with their designs against Apostle Paul. But his power had ceased to be formidable, either for good or evil, some time before his death.

Meanwhile, Epaphroditus was fully recovered from his sickness, and able once more to travel; and he willingly prepared to comply with Apostle Paul's request that he would return to Philippi. We are told that he was "filled with longing" to see his friends again, and the more so when he heard that great anxiety had been caused among them by the news of his sickness (Philippians 2:26). Probably he occupied an influential post in the Philippian Church, and Apostle Paul was unwilling to detain him any longer from his duties there. He took the occasion of his return to send a letter of grateful acknowledgment to his Philippian converts.

It has been often remarked that the Epistle to the Philippians contains less of censure and more of praise than any other of Apostle Paul's extant letters. It gives us a very high idea of the Christian state of the Philippians, as shown by the firmness of their faith under persecution, (Philippians 1:28, 29) their constant obedience and attachment to Apostle Paul, (Philippians 2:12) and the liberality which distinguished them above all other Churches (Philippians 4:15).

The Philippians were also free from doctrinal errors, and no schism had as yet been created among them by the Judaizing party. They are warned, however, against these active propagandists, who were probably busy in their neighborhood, or (at least) might at any time appear among them. The only blemish recorded as existing in the Church of Philippi is, that certain of its members were deficient in lowliness of mind, and were thus led into disputes and altercations with their brethren. Two women of consideration amongst the converts, Euodia and Syntyche by name, had been especially guilty of this fault; and their variance was the more to be regretted because they had both labored earnestly for the propagation of the faith.

Apostle Paul exhorts the Church in Philippi, with great solemnity and earnestness (Philippians 2:1, 2, and 4:2) to let these disgraceful bickerings cease, and to be all "of one soul and one mind." He also gives them very full particulars about his own condition, and the spread of the Gospel at Rome. He writes in a tone of most affectionate remembrance, and, while anticipating the speedily approaching crisis of his fate, he expresses his faith, hope, and joy with peculiar fervency.

The Epistle gives us an unusual amount of information concerning the personal situation of its writer, which we have already endeavored to incorporate into our narrative. But nothing in it is more suggestive than Apostle Paul's allusion to the Praetorian guards, and to the converts he had gained in the household of Nero. He tells us (as we have just read) that throughout the Praetorian quarters he was well known as a prisoner for the cause of Christ, (Philippians 1:1) and he sends special salutations to the Philippian Church from the Christians in the imperial household (Philippians 4:22).

Paul's notices bring before us very vividly the moral contrasts by which the Apostle was surrounded. The soldier to whom he was chained today might have been in Nero's bodyguard yesterday; his comrade who next relieved guard upon the prisoner might have been one of the executioners of Octavia, and might have carried her head to Poppaea a few weeks before. Such were the ordinary employments of the fierce and blood stained veterans who were daily present, like wolves in the midst of sheep, at the meetings of the Christian brotherhood.

If there were any soldiers not utterly hardened by a life of cruelty, their hearts must surely have been touched by the character of their prisoner named Paul, brought as they were into so close a contact with him. They must have been at least astonished to see a man, under such circumstances, so utterly careless of selfish interests, and devoting himself with an energy so unaccountable to the teaching of others. Strange indeed to their ears, fresh from the brutality of a Roman barrack, must have been the sound of Christian exhortation, of prayers, and of hymns; stranger still, perhaps, the tender love which bound the converts to their teacher and to one another, and showed itself in every look and tone.

But if the agents of Nero's tyranny seem out of place in such a scene, still more repugnant to the assembled worshippers must have been the instruments of his pleasures, the ministers of his lust. Yet some even among these, the depraved servants of the palace, were redeemed from their degradation by the Spirit of Christ, which spoke to them in the words of Paul. How deep their degradation was we know from authentic records.

We are not left to conjecture the services required from the attendants of Nero. The ancient historians have polluted their pages with details of infamy which no writer in the languages of Christendom may dare to repeat. Thus the very immensity of moral amelioration wrought operates to disguise its own extent, and hides from inexperienced eyes the gulf which separates Heathenism from Christianity.

Suffice it to say that the courtiers of Nero were the spectators, and the members of his household the instruments, of vices so monstrous and so unnatural, that they shocked even the men of that generation, steeped as it was in every species of obscenity. But we must remember that many of those who took part in such abominations were involuntary agents, forced by the compulsion of slavery to do their master's bidding. And the very depth of vileness in which they were plunged must have excited in some of them an indignant disgust and revulsion against vice.

Under such feelings, if curiosity led some to visit the Apostle's prison, they were well qualified to appreciate the purity of its moral atmosphere. And there it was that some of these unhappy bondsmen first tasted of spiritual freedom, and were prepared to brave with patient heroism the tortures under which they soon were destined to expire in the gardens of the Vatican.

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