« PreviousContinue »
After being released,' in the spring of the year 62, he embarked with Titus, and probably with Timothy also, at some of the ports of Italy, and touched at the island of Crete, where he preached in many cities, and collected the disciples into societies; but finding it requisite to quit Crete, he left Titus there," to set in order the things that were wanting, and to ordain elders in every city.* From thence he proceeded to Judea, to fulfil the promise which he had made, in his epistle to the Hebrews, chap. xiii. 23, of visiting the church at Jerusalem, and the other churches in that country. After spending some time among them, accompanied by Timothy, he left Judea to visit the churches of the Lesser Asia, taking Antioch in his way, and travelling through Cilicia into Galátia, from whence he went to Colosse, where he had desired Philemon to provide him a lodgingt as he intended to spend some time in that city.
While at Colosse he wrote his epistle to Titus in Crete, and from thence proceeded to Ephesus, where he left Timothy to direct the affairs of that numerous church. From Ephesus Paul went into Macedonia, calling at. Troas in his way, where, lodging with Carpus, he left behind him the cloak (which some suppose his father had received as a badge of his Roman citizenship), and likewise some parchments (probably the autsgraphs or original copies of his epistles to the churches). These he afterwards requested Timothy to bring with him, when he came to visit him at Rome, during his second imprisonment. In Macedonia he visited the church at Philippi, agreeably to the intimation he had given them in his letter,|| and from thence proceeded to Epirus, where he spent the winter at the city of Nicopolis, and where he had desired Titus to come from Crete and give hiin the meet
Titus i, 5. + Philemon, ver. 24. iv, 13. | Phil. i. 25, 26.
$ 2 Tim.
$ 1 Tim. i. 3. Titus jäi, 12.
ing. Here also, or at Philippi, he wrote his first epistle to Timothy, instructing him how to conduct himself in the house of God, fearing it would not be in his power to return to Ephesus at the time he proposed.* Accordingly, Titus having brought him such a report of the state of the churches in Crete, as made it necessary for the apostle to visit them, he set out early in the spring from Nicopolis for that island, accompanied by Titus, Trophimus, and Erastus, and, taking Corinth in his way, Erastus, who was a native of that city, chose to abide there. When they arrived at Crete, Trophimus fell sick, and was left in Miletum, a city of that island.t
But while Paul was thus employed in conveying the glad tidings of mercy to guilty men, or confirming the churches in the truths they had already learned, a dreadful storm was gathering at Rome, which burst upon the church there with tenfold fury. Nero, who had swayed the imperial sceptre about ten years, and who had arrived at such a pitch of wickedness as to prepare the minds of his subjects for the belief of any act of tyranny, cruelty, or vileness which was reported of him, is said to have set fire to the city of Rome, on the 10th of July, A. D. 64, in consequence of which a great part of it was laid in ashes. Mischief and the misery of others were his delight; and he is said to have expressed great pleasure at the spectacle, indulging himself in singing the burning of Troy while his own city was in flames. He, however, very soon became the suspected incendiary, and consequently the object of popular hatred. To clear himself from the odious charge, he endeavoured to fix the crime on the Christians; and, having thus falsely and tyrannically imputed the guilt to them, he put them to death by various methods of exquisite cruelty. The account which is given us by Tacitus, a heathen historian, is too remark
• 1 Tim. iü. 14, 15.
+ 2 Tim. iy. 20.
Nero sets fire to Rome.
able to be omitted. Speaking of Nero, and the conflagration of Rome, he thus proceeds. “To divert suspicion from himself, he substituted fictitious criminals, and with that view inflicted the most exquisite tortures on those men, who, under the vulgar appellation of Christians, were already branded with deserved infamy. The confessions of those who were seized, discovered a great multitnde* of their accomplices, and they were all convicted, not so much for the crime of setting fire to the city, as for their hatred of human kind. They died in torments; and these were embittered by insult and derision. Some were nailed on crosses, others sewed
in the skins of wild beasts, and exposed to the fury of dogs, others again were smeared over with combustible materials and used as torches to illumine the darkness of the night. The gardens of Nero were destined for the melancholy spectacle, which was accompanied by a horse race, and honoured with the presence of the emperor, who mingled with the populace in the dress and attitude of a charioteer. The guilt of the Christians deserved indeed the most exemplary punishment; but the public abhorrence was changed into commiseration, from the opinion that these unhappy wretches were sacrificed, not so much to the rigour of justice, as to the cruelty of the jealous tyrant.”+
Intelligence of these cruelties being brought to Paul while at Crete, and, thinking his presence might be useful in comforting the minds of his brethren, he set out for
* Ingens multitudo,” is the expression of Tacitus, the literal transla. tion of which is, a very great multitude.” It is impossible for us, in the present day, to ascertain the exact import of this phrase : Gibbon, who evinces no solicitude to overrate the number of Christians, has ingeniously compared these words of Tacitus with the import of the same words as ased by Livy on another occasion ; a careful inquiry into the meaning of which had furnished the result to be seven thousand. Decline and Fall, vol.2. ch. 15.
+ Tacit. Annal. b. 15. Ç. 44.
Italy, and probably arrived at Rome in the beginning of of the year 65, where he was apprehended, as being chief man among this obnoxious sect. He have been twice brought before the emperor or his prefect, whence it is presumed that he had been confined at least a year before he was condemned.
We may easily conceive how perilous it must have been for
any of Paul's friends to avow an open attachment to him, under existing circumstances; and indeed it appeais from the second epistle to Timothy, which he wrote while waiting his execution, that most of them fled the city. Of the conduct of Onesiphorus, indeed, he makes the most honourable mention (2 Tim. i. 16–18.) During the apostle's stay at Ephesus, he had been extremely kind to him. But having occasion to visit Rome, while Paul was in confinement, Onesiphorous“ sought him out very diligently and found himn.”. He was not ashamed of the apostle because he was immured in a jail and loaded with a chain ; on the contrary, he bestowed upon him the most kind and tender assiduities, and cheerfully ministered to his temporal necessities. Paul could not reflect upon this affectionate behaviour of his friend, without' having all the sensibilities of his soul excited; and he gave vent to it, by offering up this prayer to God that he would “
grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus in the great day of account;" repeating his supplication,“ the Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.” But Onesiphorus had now returned to Ephesus: Luke alone was with him ; and even he appears to have been so intimidated that, at the apostle's first examination, he was afraid to stand by him. In this state of things, about to be offered up, and viewing the hour of his departure at hand,” he urged Timothy to haš- * ten to him to receive his last instructions, and assist hin in the ministry during the short time he had to live. And
$ECT. v1.] Reflections on the apostolic office. 105 thus, according to the most credible records, he was condemned and put to death in the twelfth year of the reign of Nero, answering to the sixty-sixth of the Christian
Two years after that, Nero put an end to his own life, and to this terrible persecution, which had raged during a period of four years, and swept off a prodigious number of the disciples of Christ.
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED
From the period of the death of Paul, A.D. 66, to the
close of the first century.
It has been pertinently remarked by one of the ancients, that the writer of the Acts of the Apostles leaves the reader thirsting for more. But concise as his narrative is, it ought to be regarded by us as an invaluable part of the sacred writings, and for this reason among others, because it shews us in what sense the apostles understood the commission which their Lord had given them, previous to his ascension into heaven. From their discourses, recorded in that book, we learn what were the doctrines they preached; what the laws and institutions they enforced upon the disciples; and the manner in which they set up his kingdom in the world. In attempting a sketch of this interesting subject, we have hitherto prosecuted our journey under the light of divine revelation; but, þeņceforward, we must be content to explore our way under more uncertain guides. Vol. I.