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of his being a Roman citizen. But others think, this was a bag or book-case with certain books, supposed to be books of the Jewish scriptures. He left likewise some parchments with Cars pus, containing perhaps the autographs, or original copies, of his own epistles to the churches; or the epistles which he had received from the churches. These parchments he afterwards ordered Timothy to bring to him, during his second imprisonment, (2 Tim. iv. 13.) designing I suppose to acknowledge them as his writings, and to deliver them to Timothy with his own hand, to be kept for the use of the churches, after he was gone:
Paul visits the Churches in Macedonia, writes his First Epistle to Timothy,
and winters at Nicopolis. From that City he goes into Crete. Leaving Crete, he goes with Titus to Rome, where he is imprisoned a second Time,
In Macedonia Paul visited the several churches ; and among the rest that at Philippi, which had shewn him such kindness in his former confinement. From Macedonia he went to Nicopolis, (Tit. iii. 12.) a city of Epirus, where he spent the winter. Here Titus came to him from Crete, according to his order, (Tit. iii. 12.) Here also, or at Philippi, he wrote his first epistle to Timothy in Ephesus, to direct him how he ought to behaye himself in the church of the living God ; fearing it would not be in his power to return to Ephesus at the time he proposed, when he parted with Timothy; 1 Tim. iii. 14, 15. Accordingly, the account given by Titus of the churches in Crete, determin
returning to Ephesus, he set out early in the spring from Nicopolis for Crete, 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 sell sick, and was left in Miletus, a city of that island, 2 Tim. iv. 20.
About this time, the emperor Nero began that persecution of the Christians, which is reckoned the first of the ten general persecutions. The occasion of it was this. Nero himself having set fire to the city, on the tenth of July A. D. 64. a great part of it was laid in ashes. And being generally believed the author of that calamity, he became the object of the popular hatred. Wherefore, to clear himself from the imputation of so odious a crime, Nero, in the month of November following, began to puno ish the Christịans as the incendiaries, and treated them with
such cruelty, that at length the people's compassion towards them was raised. The torments which the Christians now endured on account of their supposed guilt, are described by Tacitus, (Ann. lib. xv. C. 44.) who informs us, that many of them being apprehended, some were covered with the skins of wild beasts, and thrown to dogs to be devoured ; others were crucified; others were fastened to stakes, and daubed over with pitch, and had fire set to them, that they might burn instead of torches in the night time. By these and such like cruelties, the historian says (ingens multitudo ) a prodigious number of Christians were destroyed. .
The news of these cruelties being brought to Crete, the apostle thinking his presence might be useful in comforting the brethren, went with Titus to Italy, where they arrived about the time Nero set out for Achaia, and where the prætorian prefect, who was left to govern the city in the emperor's absence, continued the persecution with a cruelty equal to that of Nero himself. Wherefore, though the danger was great, the apostle went to Rome in the beginning of A. D. 65. where he exerted the same zeal and activity in promoting the Christian cause, as formerly. But the priests and bigots pointing him out to the magistrates, as a chief man among the obnoxious sect, he was apprehended and imprisoned, in order to be punished.
How long Paul continued in prison, at this time, we know pot. But from his being twice brought before the emperor, or his prefect, it may be presumed, that he was imprisoned a year or more before he was condemned.
Paul appears before Nero the first time. Writes his second Epistle to
Timothy, and at last suffers Martyrdom.
The danger to which Paul was exposed, by this second imprisonment, appeared so great to his assistants, that most of them fled from the city. Luke alone remained with him : and even he was so intimidated, that he durst not stand by him when he made his first answer, 2 Tim. iy. 11. 16. While the apostle's friends thus deserted him, his enemies waxed more bold : especially Alexander the Ephesian coppersmith, whom formerly the apostle had delivered to Satan, for his errors and vices. This person, moved with resentment, came to Rome, and did Paul much harm by withstanding his words, 2 Tim. iv. 14. It seems he joined his prosecutors, and in the presence of his judges, loudly contradicted the facts which Paul alleged in his own vindication. Wherefore, it was with the utmost difficulty he escaped condemnation after making his first defence : so that he looked for nothing but a sentence of death, when next brought before his judges.
Impressed, therefore, with a view of his approaching condemnation, Paul wrote his second epistle to Timothy ; in which he desired him to come to him before winter, (ver. 21.) and to bring Mark with him, (ver. 11.) that they might receive his last instructions, and assist him in the ministry during the few months he had to live. Withal, to induce Timothy the more cheerfully to come, he told him, he had sent Tychicus to Ephesus (2 Tim. iv. 12.) to supply his place there.—From this epistle, we learn also, that although the apostle's assistants, terrified with the danger that threatened him, forsook him and fled, he was not altogether without consolation. For the brethren of Rome came to him privately, and ministered to him ; as we learn from his sending their salutation to Timothy, 2 Tim. iv, 21.
Most of the particulars above mentioned, the apostle hath suggested in his own letters, especially in his second to Timothy. What followed, we learn from ancient Christian writers, who inform us, That Paul was condemned and put to death, in the 12th year of the reign of Nero, answering to A. D. 66. And two years after that, namely A. D. 68. Nero put an end to his own life, and to this terrible persecution, after it had continued four years, and swept off a prodigious number of the disciples of Christ.
CHAPTER XII. Character and Eulogy of the Apostle Paul. Such was the life, and such the death, of Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ. In his younger years, being exceedingly zealous of the law of Moses, he persecuted the Christians, as enemies of God and religion. But after Jesus appeared to him, and shewed him his error in denying his resurrection, he forthwith became a zealous and indefatigable preacher of that faith, which formerly he was so active in destroying. In the rolls of fame, Paul stands deservedly next to his Divine Master as a teacher of religion and morality ; being without comparison a greater hero by that undertaking, and much more worthy of admiration, than the greatest of those who have been called Great. The bodily labour which he endured, the dangers which he encountered, the sufferings which befel him, and the courage which amidst all these evils, he exerted in his apostolic office, shew that his virtues, both active and passive, were far superior to those, which the most renowned conquerors have exhibited in the pursuits of ambition, or fame. The end likewise, for which he exerted such an high degree of all the virtues, was more noble; being not to amass riches, or to acquire power, or to obtain fame, or to conquer kingdoms, or to enslave mankind; but to deliver the nations of the world from the thraldom of igno. rance, idolatry and wickedness, by imparting to them the knowledge of God and of a future state, and by teaching them those duties of religion and morality, on which their happiness both in time and eternity wholly depends. .
This noble, this beneficent employment, Paul prosecuted with unremitting diligence for the space of thirty years ; all the while foreseeing and experiencing innumerable evils, as the consequence of his generous undertaking, without reaping from it any worldly advantage whatever. Such heroic benevolence is the more to be esteemed, as at the time Paul carried the light of the gospel through the world, mankind were involved in one thick cloud of darkness, which hindered them from discerning those spiritual matters, which as reasonable beings designed to exist through eternity, it was of the greatest importance for them to know. Wherefore, if any person ever merited well of mankind, it is Paul, who with such unwearied activity, and with such labour and loss to himself, imparted to the nations of the world, the knowledge of the true God, and of the way of salvation.
But this most excellent man is entitled to admiration and gratitude, not from those alone who put a just value on religious knowledge, but from those also, who esteem nothing but what promotes the interest of the present life. For the gospel, which Paul spread through the world, hath been the source of many of those good qualities, whereby such as have embraced the Christian religion, have been rendered superior to all who have gone before them. More particularly, the gospel hath introduced good faith, which is the foundation of mutual confidence between nations, in their leagues and compacts: it hath banished that fierceness with which the most civilized nations anciently carried on war; it hath diffused that humanity and complaisance, by which modern manners are so happily distinguished from the ancient : Nay, if I am not mistaken, the gospel hath, by accident, contributed to the improvement even of the sciences and the arts: For by the great objects which it presents to the minds of men, their intellectual faculties have been enlarged and strengthened : and by the rewards of immortality which it promises, its votaries have been inspired with a sense of their own dignity, and such hopes have been infused into their breasts, as have rendered them not only just, but active, even in the affairs of this life. Let the gospel therefore have its due praise, which holds out distinguished rewards in the future life, even to those who mingle in the affairs of the present, and who from just principles, promote the temporal interest of their fellow creatures. Also let the blessed Paul have his praise, to whom chiefly we in this part of the world are indebted for our knowledge of the gospel, and for all the advantages, temporal and eternal, of which the gospel hath been the happy occasion to mankind.