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CONTINUATION OF THE THIRD JOURNEY OF PAUL—THE GREAT CONTRIBUTION—DEPARTURE FROM EPHESUS.
Paul, according to his habit, added to the end of the letter,—
“The salutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema. Maran atha.”
He confided his letter to Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, who had brought that of the Corinthians to him. Paul thought the three deputies 220would reach Corinth in nearly the same time as Timothy. He feared that the youth and timidity of his disciple were badly received in the mocking society of Corinth, and that they did not accord him enough authority. The Apostle recommended them in the most pressing way to treat Timothy as himself, and expressed a desire to see him again as soon as possible. He did not wish to leave Ephesus without his valuable companion, whose presence had become a sort of necessity to him.
Paul strongly urged Apollos to join Stephanas, and to return to Corinth, but Apollos wished rather to postpone his departure. From this moment we lose sight of him. Tradition, however, continues to regard him as a disciple of Paul. It is probable, in truth, that he continued his apostolic career, putting to the service of the Christian doctrine his Jewish erudition and his elegant style.
Paul, however, revolved in his mind boundless projects, in which he believed, according to his constant habit, that he saw the dictates of the Spirit. There happened to Paul, what often happens to persons accustomed to a species of activity. He could not leave what had been the occupation of his life. Travelling had become necessary to him: he sought occasions for it. He wished to revisit Macedonia, Achaia, then to visit Jerusalem anew, then to set out to try new missions in countries farther off, and not yet reached by the faith, such as Italy and Spain. The idea of going to Rome tormented him. “I must see Rome,” he often said. He foresaw that the centre of Christianity would one day be there, or at least that decisive events would happen there. The journey to Jerusalem was another project which greatly pre-occupied him far more than a year.
To calm the jealous feelings of the Church of Jerusalem, and to fulfil one of the conditions of the peace which was signed at the time of the interview of the 221year 51, Paul had prepared a great contribution in the Churches of Asia Minor and of Greece. We have already seen that one of the bonds which marked the dependence of the provincial Churches on those of Judlea, was the obligation of alms. The Church of Jerusalem, partly through the fault of those who composed it, was always in distress. Mendicants abounded there. In the earliest ages, the leading characteristic of Jewish society was that there was neither poverty nor riches. For two or three centuries, there had been at Jerusalem rich, and consequently poor, people. The true Jew, turning his back on Gentile civilisation, became day by day more destitute of resources. The public works of Agrippa II. had filled the town with starving masons; buildings were demolished merely for the sake of not leaving thousands of workmen without work. The Apostles and their companions suffered like every one else by this state of things. It was necessary that the suffering Churches, active, laborious, should save these holy men from dying of hunger. Whilst supporting impatiently the pretensions of the brethren of Judæa, their supremacy and their titles of nobility were not doubted in the provinces. Paul had for them the greatest regard. “You are their debtors,” said he to his faithful ones; “for if the Gentiles have been made partakers of spiritual things with the saints of Judæa, their duty is all the more to minister to them in carnal things.” It was, moreover, an imitation of the custom which had for a long time obtained among the Jews of all parts of the world, to send contributions to Jerusalem. Paul thought a large alms, which he would himself carry to the Apostles, would cause him to be much better received by the old college who pardoned him with so much reluctance for doing great things without their assistance, and would be, in the eyes of these hungry nobles, the best mark of submission. How could they treat as schismatics and rebels those who 222gave such substantial proofs of generosity, and of fraternal and respectful sentiment?
Paul began the gathering about the year 56. He wrote of it first to the Corinthians, then to the Galatians, and without doubt to other Churches. He returned to it in his new letter to the Corinthians. There were in the Churches of Asia Minor and Greece people in easy circumstances, but none with large for-tunes. Paul knew the economical habits of the world in which he had lived. The insistence with which he presents his maintenance as a heavy charge with which he was not desirous of burdening the Churches, proves that he himself suffered from the petty embarrassments of poor men, obliged to be careful about trifles. He thought that if, in the Churches of Greece, they waited his arrival before collecting the alms, the business would be a failure. He still wished each one on Sunday to put aside an amount, proportioned to his means, for this pious end. This little treasure of charity thus constantly added to, must wait his arrival. Then, the Churches would elect deputies, whom Paul would send with letters of recommendation to bear the offering to Jerusalem. Perhaps even, if the result was worth the trouble, Paul would go in person, and in that case the deputies would accompany him. So much honour, and so much happiness, to go to Jerusalem, to travel in company with Paul, greatly agitated the believers. An emulation in well-doing, skilfully encouraged by the great master in the art of the direction of souls, kept everybody on the alert. This contribution was, during some months, the thought which sustained life, and made all hearts to beat.
Timothy soon returned to Ephesus, as Paul had desired him. He brought the news later than that of the departure of Stephanas; but there is reason to believe that he had left the town before Stephanas went there on his return; for it is by Titus that Paul 223learnt later the effect that his new letter had produced. The situation at Corinth was always very strained. Paul modified his projects, resolved to touch first at Corinth, to remain there a little time, afterwards to accomplish his journey from Macedonia, to make a second and longer sojourn at Corinth, and afterwards, resuming his first plan, to set out for Jerusalem, accompanied by Corinthian deputies. He believed that he ought to inform the Church of Corinth immediately of his change of resolution. He charged Titus with a message and the most delicate communications for the rebellious Church. The disciple was at the same time to press for the realisation of the contribution that Paul had ordered. Titus, it would seem, at first declined; he feared, like Timothy, the giddy and inconsiderate temper of the men of Corinth. Paul reassured him,—told him what he thought of the qualities of the Corinthians, extenuated their faults, dared to promise him a warm reception. He gave him for a companion a “brother” whose name is not known to us. Paul was near the last days of his stay at Ephesus; nevertheless it was agreed that he should wait in this town for the return of Titus.
But new trials had just compelled him anew to modify his designs. Few periods in the life of Paul were so troubled as this. For the first time he found the limit overrun, and avowed that all his strength had departed. Jews, Pagans, Christians, hostile to his supremacy, appeared to be sworn together against him. The situation of the Church of Corinth gave him a kind of fever; he sent messenger after messenger to it; he daily changed his resolution with regard to it. Sickness, probably, befell him there: he believed he was about to die. A riot which had taken place at Ephesus still further complicated the situation, and obliged him to set out without awaiting the return of Titus.
The temple of Diana offered a terrible obstacle to 224the preaching of the new cult. This gigantic establishment, one of the wonders of the world, was the life and reason for existence of the entire town, by its colossal riches, by the number of strangers whom it attracted, by the privileges and celebrity which it conferred upon the city, by the splendid festivals of which it was the occasion, by the trades which it maintained. Superstition had here the most sure of guarantees, that of material interest, never so happy as when it can disguise itself under the pretext of religion.
One of the industries of the town of Ephesus was that of the silversmiths, who made little shrines of Diana. Strangers carried away with them these objects, which, placed afterwards upon their tables or in the interior of their houses, represented to them the celebrated sanctuary. A great number of craftsmen were employed in this work. Like all manufacturers living by the piety of pilgrims, these workmen were very fanatical. To preach a religion opposed to that which had enriched them, appeared to them a piece of frightful sacrilege; it was as if in our days one were to declaim against the worship of the Virgin at Fourvières or La Salette. One of the formulas in which were summed up the new doctrine was: “The gods made with hands are not gods.” This doctrine had become sufficiently public to cause anxiety to the silversmiths. Their chief, named Demetrius, excited them to a violent manifestation, maintaining that he himself acted before all for the honour of the temple that Asia and the whole world worshipped. The workmen rushed into the streets, crying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” and in a short time all the town was filled with confusion.
The crowd was borne along to the theatre, the ordinary place of assembly. The theatre of Ephesus, whose immense outline, despoiled of nearly all its completeness—still to be seen on the flanks of Mount 225Prion—was perhaps the greatest in the world. It is estimated that it must have held at least 56,000 people. As the immense seats were formed in the side of the hill, an enormous crowd could in an instant spread itself over from the top and completely inundate it. The lower part of the theatre, moreover, was surrounded by colonnades and open porticoes; and being in the neighbourhood of the forum, of the market, of several gymnasia, the whole place was always open. The tumult was at its height in an instant. Two Christians of Thessalonica, Caius and Aristarchus, who had joined Paul at Ephesus, and were attached to him as companions, were in the hands of the rioters. Great was the trouble among the Christians. Paul wished to enter into the theatre and harangue the people; his disciples begged him to do nothing of the kind. Some of the rulers who knew him also persuaded him not to commit such an imprudence. The most diverse cries were heard in the theatre; the majority did not know why they had come. There were many Jews, who put forward a certain Alexander, who made a sign with his hand demanding silence; but when they recognised him as a Jew, the noise was redoubled; during two hours, no other cry was heard but “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” It was with difficulty that the chancellor of the town could make them listen to him. He represented the honour of the great Diana as beyond all reproach; besought Demetrius and his workmen to have a trial of those who he believed had displeased them, begged everybody to return to the legal ways, and showed the consequences that such seditious movements might bring upon the town, if they could not justify themselves in the eyes of the Roman authority. The crowd dispersed. Paul, who had fixed his departure some days from that time, did not wish to prolong this perilous situation. tie resolved to take his departure as soon as possible.226
In terms of the letter which he had sent by Titus to the Christians of Corinth, Paul would first of all embark for that town. But he was cruelly perplexed: the anxieties that he had because of Achaia rendered him undecided. At the last moment, he again changed his route. The time did not appear to him opportune for a visit to Corinth; there was much discontent, and a disposition to proceed with vigour. Perhaps his presence might provoke revolt and schism. He did not know what effect his letter had produced, and he was very anxious about it. He believed himself, moreover, to be stronger at a distance than near at hand: his presence impressed people very little; his letters, on the contrary, were his triumph. In general, men who have a certain timidity prefer to write rather than speak. He preferred then not to go to Corinth until he had seen Titus again, but rather to write anew to the indocile Church. Thinking that severity is exercised better at a distance, he hoped that his new letter would bring his adversaries to a better state of mind. The Apostle resumed, therefore, his former plan of travelling. He summoned the faithful, addressed his farewells to them, gave orders that, when Titus should arrive, he should be sent to Troas, and set out for Macedonia, accompanied by Timothy. Perhaps he took, as assistants from thence, the two deputies of Ephesus, Tychicus and Trophimus, charged to bear to Jerusalem the offerings of Asia. This must have been in the month of June in the year 57. Paul’s sojourn at Ephesus had lasted three years.
During so long an apostleship, he had had time to give to this Church a strength proof against all trials. Ephesus will be henceforth one of the metropolitan cities of Christianity, and the place in which its most important transformations will occur. It was necessary, moreover, that this Church should be exclusively Pauline, like the Churches of Macedonia, and the 227Church of Corinth. There were those who worked against him at Ephesus, enemies there were for certain, and in ten years we shall see the Church of Ephesus cited as a model for having known how to do justice to “those who call themselves apostles without being so,” for having unmasked their imposture, and for the vigorous hate that it bore to the “Nicolaitans,” that is to say, to the disciples of Paul. The Judæo-Christian party existed without doubt at Ephesus from the first year.
Aquila and Priscilla, the assistants of Paul, continued after his departure to be the centre of the Church. Their house, in which the Apostle had dwelt, was the place of meeting of all that was most pious and zealous. Paul was pleased to celebrate every-where the merits of this respectable couple, to whom he recognised that he owed his life. All the Churches of Paul had for them a great veneration. Epænetus, the first Ephesian whom they converted, came after them; then a certain Mary, who appears to have been a deaconess, an active and devoted woman; then Urbane, whom Paul names his co-operator; then Apelles, to whom Paul gives the title “approved in Christ;” then Rufus, “chosen in the Lord,” who had an aged mother, whom the Apostle, out of respect, called “My mother.” Besides Mary, other women, true sisters of charity, were vowed to the service of the faithful. These were Tryphena and Tryphosa, “who labour in the Lord;” then Persis, particularly dear to Paul, and who had valiantly worked with him. There were still Ampliatus or Amplias, the Jew Herodion, Stachys, beloved by Paul; a Church or conventicle composed of Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and many others; another Church or a little society composed of Philologus and Julia, of Nereus and “his sister” (that is to say, probably his wife), of Olympas, and of several others. Two great houses of Ephesus, those of Aristobulus and of Narcissus, counted among 228their slaves several of the faithful. Finally, two Ephesians, Tychicus and Trophimus, were attached to the Apostle, and were henceforth in the number of his companions. Andronicus and Junia were also at this time at Ephesus. These were members of the primitive Church of Jerusalem; St Paul had the greatest respect for them “because they had been in Christ before him.” He calls them “of note among the Apostles.” It is a new detail that in the trial that Paul calls “his battle against the beasts,” they probably had shared of his prison.
At a much more perilous time appeared Artemas, who is said to have been a companion of Paul; Alexander the coppersmith, Phygellus Hermogenus, who seems to have left an evil reputation behind him,—provoked schisms or excommunications, and to have been considered as traitors in the school of Paul; Onesiphorus and his house, who, on the contrary, would have shown themselves more than once full of love and devotion towards the Apostle.
Several of the names which have just been enumerated are the names of slaves; thus much we see in their peculiar designations, in which is the ironical emphasis which make them so like to the grotesque names that are given to negroes in the colonies. It is not improbable that there were already among the Christians many persons of servile condition. Slavery, in many cases, did not induce so complete an attachment to the master’s house as our modern domesticity. The slaves of certain categories were free to mix together, to associate to a certain extent, to form brotherhoods, a kind of tontine or club, in view of their funerals. It is not impossible that several of the pious men and women who had given themselves up to the service of the Church were slaves, and that the hours that they gave to the diaconate were those that their masters allowed them. At the time in which these events happened, the servile class comprised 229many polished, resigned, virtuous, well-instructed persons. The highest lessons on morality came from slaves; Epictetus passed a great part of his life in servitude. The Stoics, the sages, spoke as did St Paul to the slave: “Remain as thou art; do not think of setting thyself free.” It is not necessary to judge of the lower classes in the Greek towns by our populace of the same age, dull, brutal, sensual, incapable of distinction. This refined, delicate, polished something that one feels in the relations of the first Christians is a tradition of Greek elegance. The humble workmen of Ephesus, whom St Paul salutes with so much cordiality, were without doubt persons of a gentle nature, with a touching honesty, relieved by excellent manners, and by the peculiar charm that there is in the civility of the poorer classes. Their serenity of soul, their content, were perpetual sermons. “See how these Christians love one another!” was the exclamation of the Pagans, surprised at this innocent and tranquil air, at this profound and attractive gaiety. After the preaching of Jesus, it is the divine work of Christianity; it is his second miracle,—a miracle drawn truly from the living forces of humanity, and of that in it which is best and most holy.
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