Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

arrival, 98 years had rolled away; during which period, owing to almost incomparable advantages of situation, it had risen again to a flourishing and highly conspicuous station. Such then was Corinth in the earliest times, such were the memorable fluctuations it experi. enced, and such was the state to which it had attained when entered by the great Apostle of the Gentiles. With him, as a temporary resident there, we have now more particularly to do. He had just been at Athens, an eye-witness of its natural scenery in every grand and lovely feature, and of the glittering beauty and magnificence which art had spread over it; an eye-witness too of the pride, the folly, and the thick darkness which covered the people, whilst he observed with a perturbed and mourning spirit the melancholy proofs of the whole city being given up to idolatry. Having addressed its people in words which, “not man's wisdom but the Holy Ghost taught him, and having cleared himself of their blood, he departed thence and came to Corinth." We shall devote the remainder of the present article to an examination of what is contained in the second and third verses of the chapter under consideration. They record the companions with whom he met, and the manual occupation to which he applied himself.

There is something exceedingly touching in the circumstance of Paul entering a city of such magnitude and celebrity, and so completely a stranger to the true Jehovah, to the attributes of all acceptable worship, to the illumination and peace, the hope and joy which are imparted by the gospel of Christ. We cannot help being led to enquire whom he first encountered, whether he experienced any magnanimous or kindly feelings toward himself, or whether he found any persons capable of sympathizing with the noble peculiarities of his character and work, or of appreciating those desires, and pursuits, and consolations, which so deeply engaged his own heart. This was hardly to be expected among the native population of the place. Immersed in business, taken up with the rites of a superstitious and defiling worship, devoted to shadowy and fruitless disputations, or sunk in the depths of sensuality, they could not be deemed able or inclined to bring around him any congenial or profitable society. It so happened, however, that though the native people could do nothing of this, Paul was not left altogether solitary. He found Aquila and Priscilla his wife. They were Jews, natives of Pontus, one of the most barren and cheerless districts of Asia Minor, and had been dwelling at Rome. But they were compelled to leave that proud queen of cities, by virtue of an edict of Claudius, which commanded all Jews to depart from Rome. The feelings under which this edict was conceived, and the terms in which it was expressed, are equally unnoticed by the inspired writer. Nor indeed was it needful that he should introduce them. But still the thoughtful mind will naturally ask, if there are any memorials of it in profane historians, any traces of the fact itself or of the circumstances in which it originated. Would that it were in our power fully to answer these inquiries. It is truly an unfortunate thing, that of the reign of Claudius, as traced and developed by the masterly pen of Tacitus, only the latter part has come down to us.

Had the whole been preserved, we might probably have met with the edict in question; because though he might not care anything about this people, or be disposed to say a word in their favour, yet an imperial edict, condemning their practices and banishing them from the city, could scarcely have been overlooked by him. That part of “ The Annals,” however, which would have contained, if not the edict itself, at least some clearly perceptible reference to it, is lost; and we are thus deprived of all the light which, from this source, would have been cast around the subject. Josephus also makes no mention of it, nor even any allusion to it. That this should have been the case never excited our wonder, notwithstanding he professes to commemorate the story of his own countrymen; and no mind, we think, unless clouded with prejudice, will be surprised at it either. The personal history of this writer, the strong peculiarities of his situation, the great aim he ever keeps in view in his pages, to conciliate rather than irritate the Romans, to attract their kindness rather than their anger towards the Jews; these things pondered together quite explain the fact of his silence respecting the proceedings of the alarmed and weak-minded Emperor. On the brief passage of Dio, which is thought to point indirectly to this event, we shall not dwell, regarding it at best as only of doubtful application, and therefore not calculated to produce any decided judgment. We come now to the life of Claudius, written by Suetonius, and though we do not find even here all that may be naturally desired, still there is a passage long enough and sufficiently explicit to authenticate the statement of the inspired historian. It occurs in Cap. 25. and runs thus, “ Judæos, impulsore Christo, assidue tumultuantes, Roma expulit.” A question has been started, we are well aware, and discussed too with great care and learning, as to whether the name “ Christo” designate a certain turbulent Jew, or Jesus Christ. We incline to the latter supposition; although the question itself has no necessary connexion with, or influence upon, the mere fact of the Jews being exiled from Rome. This is all that is declared in the inspired narrative, and the declaration is clearly established by the unqualified testimony of the Roman biographer. Thus are we furnished with a very interesting attestation to the historical veracity of this part of the Acts of the Apostles. Devoutly reflecting upon these movements, it is no difficult thing to discern plainly some gleams of the providential wisdom and mercy of God. All the deeds and proceedings of man are under his beneficent control, and are made subservient to the safety, the advantage, and the comfort of his faithful servants. Whilst the Jews were stirring up the flames of discord and rebellion, and whilst Claudius was thus enjoining them to go away from the city, the Divine Being was thereby securing to Paul the holy friendship and society of Aquila and Priscilla. Corinth itself, though exceedingly rich and covered with civic splendour, held forth nothing in these respects to sooth or to charm his mind; whilst with its gay and licentious inhabitants he could have no community of interest and feeling. In the midst of its bustle, among its teeming people, he might have been an utter stranger in this strange land. Such however, was not the case. He found there two pious Jews, a circumstance as gladdening to him, as the lovely stream or the green and flowery oasis of the desert, to the weary pilgrim. They would quickly feel at home with each other. Paul's own feelings on this event may be truly expressed in that beautiful language, applied to them under kindred peculiarities of situation, “ Whom, when Paul saw, he thanked God and took courage.” Most probably they had never met before; but it soon became apparent that in heart and mind they were one, and with mutual improvement and delight, could speak “ the language of Canaan.” Drawn closely together by the attracting power of one faith, one love, and one hallowed celestial hope, their fellowship was not occasional and transient, but enduring, for Paul went to them and abode with them. A happy little band, daily visited with the fertilizing dews of divine grace! Happy abode, cheered by the Sun of Righteousness! Yes, among all the stately and gilded mansions of Corinth, this only was felt to be the house of God and the gate of heaven! The holy intimacy thus began, continually increased in strength. Their mutual affection kindled into a brighter glow, their souls were cemented still more closely together. A sacred and unearthly atmosphere spread around them. Many nameless graces and offices appeared to bind yet more strongly the golden cord of their union. He loved them most fervently, and they manifested the tenderest and most courageous feelings for his safety and comfort. Of this there are several affecting and eloquent memorials. Leaving Corinth, he sailed into Syria, 6 and with him Priscilla and Aquila." He left them at Ephesus, and it was most probably there, that they encountered the greatest perils in guarding his life, a fact which deeply touched him, which he conld never forget, and which awoke the warmest gratitude in the Gentile churches; after they returned to Rome. These circumstances are recorded in the following pathetic and beautiful passage, “ Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” Again they seem to have departed from Rome, and to have taken up their abode at Ephesus; Paul in his second Epistle to Timothy thus writing, chap. iv. 19. “ Salute Prisca and Aquila." This is the last trace of their friendship and love to be found in the inspired volume. On earth they had no continuing city. But probably not very long afterwards, they removed their blest communion amidst the rest, the perfection, and the unclouded bliss of that “ city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

The other matter contained in the verses upon which we are dwelling, is the manual occupation to which Paul applied himself, being of “the same craft," he wrought with them, “ For by their occupation they were tent-makers.” In the original word, rendered “ tent-makers," there is nothing very remarkable, it being compounded of ornun, a tent, or moveable lodging, and molew, to form or make, to construct or manufacture; and assuredly there is nothing in this to countenance the absurd opinion of Michaelis, that he

was a maker of mechanical instruments. Once only is the term to be found in the New Testament, viz. in the passage under consideration. Chrysostom interprets it by the kindred orývoppápov, a word which merely indicates one part of the process in the manufacturing of this article, literally meaning, “a sewer of tents;" doubtless there were other operations to be performed before one of them could be finished and made perfect. These moveable, or, as they have been called, portable habitations, were peculiar to the far-stretching, unfrequented, and burning plains of the east, and also to the earliest ages, shepherds, travellers, and men of traffic, equally needed their kindly shelter. Great were the toils and dangers of journeying in those times and places; and when the shades of evening had fallen, there was no inn to which the way-farer could resort to obtain suitable accommodation, or to renovate his physical energies. Hence arose the necessity of tents, emphatically the dwelling-houses of the wilderness. The oldest record concerning them occurs in Gen. iv. 20, where mention is made of “ Jabal, the Father of such as dwell in tents, and have cattle.” The patriarchs abode in tabernacles or tents; the Israelites also, of which their feast of tabernacles was a standing and a highly instructive memorial; and the Rechabites did the same. Moreover, the Scythian and Trojan, the Asiatic and European Greek, and the Arab also, required, and generally used them. Even in modern times the Turk and the Bedouin use them, whilst their chief men have theirs of an extraordinary size, and distinguished for the richness and brilliancy of their decorations. From all this it naturally follows, that tents would become an article of regular and extensive manufacture. The materials employed for the purpose were various, such as skins, cloth, both of linen and woollen, leather, besides the poles and staves of wood which were required to hold them up.

But here a question may be asked, “ Why was Paul taught any manual art?” To this some would answer, that it was a point of conscience among the Jews to teach their sons a trade, although they were intended to be trained up for some of the liberal sciences, and that this was done even to youth of the loftiest rank. This, we are well aware, has been satisfactorily shown to be true. Admitting it, however, in its full extent, there appears to us no necessity to have recourse to these historical data, in order to explain the fact of Paul's knowledge of this manual employment. Have we any direct, or even strongly implied evidence, that he moved in that sphere of life which is exempt from labour of this kind, regarded as indispensably requisite to comfortable existence ? We humbly conceive not. It is true that he was “a citizen of no mean city, brought up at the feet of Gamaliel,” familiar with some of the classic poets ; but neither of these circumstances, nor all of them taken together, amount to any decided proof, that by ancestry or birth he was raised above the need of an acquaintance with some art or occupation. And let no one imagine for a moment, that this view of the question at all interferes with the purity and elevation, the harmony or the success of his ministerial character and work. Such an idea, as it could not be substantiated in fact, so neither does it follow from the supposition that he was not possessed of independent means of subsistence.

But there is another inquiry that may be put forward, riz. “ Assuming the fact of Paul's acquaintance with this manual occupation to be fully accounted for, how came it to pass that he should follow it, after having become a minister and an apostle of Christ, and this, too, in so renowned a place as Corinth ?” None can be more firmly persuaded than we are, of the reasonableness and equity of the principle, that they who preach the gospel should live by the gospel, a principle boldly asserted by Paul himself, and sanctioned, in the most indubitable manner, by the word and will of God. It has from hence been thought by some, that his thus labouring with Aquila and Priscilla, cast a shade of reproach, if not of suspicion, around his character. With such a conception we have no sympathy, and believe it to be grafted upon any thing rather than wise, or generous, or holy feelings of mind. To us, we confess, when contemplated in connexion with all attendant circumstances, it seems rather to shed another ray of moral lustre and beauty over it; and in a few brief remarks we shall state the grounds of this opinion.

Let it be borne in mind, first, that Paul must have subsisted by some secondary train of means. That this might, in one sense, have been otherwise, no one will for a moment doubt. As a mere matter of natural possibility, his heavenly Master could have interposed with some miraculous display of provision, at every returning hour when physical want might have been felt. He might have sent an angel daily to spread his table, and every need have thus been plentifully met. "Still that great and glorious being lived, who rained manna from heaven, who caused water to gush from the smitten rock, who fed Elijah at the river's brink, through the agency of ravens, who kept the widow's barrel of meal from wasting, and her cruise of oil from failing; who supplied thousands with a few loaves and fishes, and who, in any appropriate crisis, was able and prepared to effect similar wonders. And if the crisis of his visit had been of a sufficiently momentous character to demand such an interposition, it would no doubt have been made. This, however, was not the case. All that was involved in that visit, and divinely intended to be accomplished by it, could be wrought without any such intervention; and therefore he was left to a secondary train of means for his temporal subsistence.

Be it remembered, again, that these means of subsistence could not be looked for at the hands of the inhabitants of Corinth. That there was plenty in the city ; that it was the very home of variety and abundance, is certain. Many were the families among whom luxury reigned, whose tables were marked with the utmost costliness and profusion. Clothed in fine linen, they fared sumptuously every day. But what aspect had all this upon the situation of Paul ? A favourable one? Surely not. They had never seen him before, they did not know him, and, at least, on his first appearance in their midst, we may safely aver, that they cared nothing about him. And when they should hear of him, or become at all acquainted with

« ElőzőTovább »