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RETURN OF PAUL TO JERUSALEM.
Paul and the deputies of the Churches set out then from Cenchrea, having with them the contributions of the faithful for the poor of Jerusalem, and took their way towards Macedonia This was in some sort the first pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the first journey of a troop of converted pious people to the cradle of their faith. It seems that the ship, during a part of the voyage, was chartered at their expense, and that it obeyed their orders; but it must have been a simple decked boat. They made fifteen or twenty leagues a day; each evening they stopped to pass the night amongst the islands or the ports which bestrew the coast, and slept in the taverns near the shore. There were often many people there, and amongst the number good men who were not far from the kingdom of God. The barque, meanwhile, with 262its elevated poop and prow, was drawn upon the sand or anchored under some shelter.
We do not know if the Apostle touched at Thessalonica this time; but it is not probable that he did, since it would have been far out of his way. At Neapolis Paul wished to visit the Church of Philippi, which was a very short distance from it. He went forward with his companions, and asked them to wait for him at Troas. As for himself, he went to Philippi, celebrated Easter there, and rested with the persons whom he loved the most in the world, during the seven days in which they ate unleavened bread. At Philippi Paul again found the disciple who, at the time of his second mission, had directed his first steps in Macedonia, and who, most probably, was none other than St Luke. He took him with him again, and thus added to the journey a chronicler who has transmitted to us impressions of it with infinity of charm and of truth.
When the days of unleavened bread were finished, Paul and Luke re-embarked at Neapolis. They had evidently contrary winds, for they took five days to go from Neapolis to Troas. In this last town, all the apostolic company was complete. There was, as we have already said, a Church at Troas; the Apostle passed seven days with it, and consoled it much. An incident added to the general emotion. The morning of departure was a Sunday; in the evening the disciples met together according to custom, to break bread. The room in which they were was one of those lofty chambers which are so agreeable in the East, especially in the seaports. The meeting was numerous and solemn. Paul saw everywhere signs of his future trials. In his sermon he spoke much of his approaching end, and declared to those present that he bade them an eternal farewell. This was in the month of May; the window was open, and numerous lamps lighted the room. Paul spoke all the evening with an 263indefatigable enthusiasm; at midnight he was still speaking, and they had not broken bread, when suddenly a cry of horror was raised. A young man named Eutychus, seated upon the ledge of the window, had allowed himself to fall into a profound sleep, and dropped from the third floor upon the ground. They raised him, and they believed him to be dead. Paul, convinced of his miraculous powers, did not hesitate to do what Elisha is said to have done: he stretched himself upon the fainting man, he put his chest upon his chest, his arms upon his arms, and soon announced in an assured tone that he for whom they wept was still alive. The young man, in truth, had only been bruised by the fall; he did not take long to come to himself again. The joy was great, and all believed it a miracle. They remounted into the upper room, broke bread, and Paul continued their conversation until sunrise.
Some hours afterwards the ship set sail. The deputies and the disciples only were on board, Paul preferring to travel on foot, or at least by land, from Troas to Assos (about eight leagues). Assos was to be their meeting-place. From this time forth, Paul and his companions never separated. On the first day, they went from Assos to Mitylene, where they put in; on the second, they followed the Straits between Chios and the Peninsula of Clazomenes; on the third they touched at Samos; but, for a reason which we do not know, Paul and his companions preferred to pass the night at the anchorage of Trogyle, under the promontory of the neighbouring Cape, at the foot of Mount Mycala. They had thus passed before Ephesus without landing there. It was the Apostle who had wished it: he feared lest the friendship of the faithful of Ephesus might hinder him, and that he could not tear himself away from a town which was very dear to him; but he much wished to celebrate Pentecost at Jerusalem, and twenty-three or 264twenty-four days having elapsed since Easter, there was no time to be lost. On the morrow, a short sail brought the faithful company from Trogyle to one of the ports of Miletus. There Paul felt deep misgiving as to the propriety of having passed without giving any sign of his existence to his beloved community of Ephesus. He sent one of his companions to inform it that he was some leagues from it, and to invite the elders or wardens to come to him. They came with eagerness, and when they were re-united, Paul addressed to them a touching discourse, which was a summary, and the last words of his apostolic life.
“Since the day when I first came into Asia, you know what I have been for you. You have seen me serve God in humility, in tears, in temptations, and using all my strength to preach unto the Jews and Gentiles the return to God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem. I know not what awaits me; I only know that, from town to town, the spirit announces to me that bonds and afflictions wait upon me. But it matters little to me; I am going to sacrifice my life voluntarily, provided that I finish my course, and that I accomplish the mission that I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God. Oh, you to all of whom I have preached the Kingdom of God, I know that you will no more see my face; I protest then from this day, that I am innocent of the loss of those who will perish; for I have never neglected to make known to you the will of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers; be true pastors of the Church that the Lord has purchased with his own blood; for I know that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in, not sparing the flock. And from the midst of you shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 265Therefore watch, and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears. And now, I recommend you to the grace of God, who is able to give you a place among the heavenly bodies. I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. You know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and unto those of my companions. I have shown you how by work one can still support the weak, and to justify the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
All then fell on their knees and prayed. Only stifled sobs were heard. The words of Paul, “You will see my face no more,” had pierced them to the heart. The elders of Ephesus in turn approached the Apostle, bent their heads on his neck, and embraced him. They then conducted him to the port, and only left the shore when the ship set sail, taking the Apostle far from that Ægean sea which had been the scene of his contests, and the theatre of his prodigious activity.
A good wind abaft carried the apostolic company from the port of Miletus to Cos. On the morrow they reached Rhodes, and on the third day Patara, upon the coast of Lycia. There they found a ship loading for Tyre. The little coasting that they had done along the coast of Asia had much delayed them, and their journey would have been indefinitely protracted if they were to continue along the coasts of Pamphylia, Cilicia, Syria, and Phœnicia. They therefore preferred to take the shorter route, and, leaving their first ship there, they embarked on that which was about to sail for Phœnicia. The western coast of Cyprus was directly in their way. Paul could see from afar that Neo-Paphos, which he had visited thirteen years before, at the beginning of his apostolic career. He left it upon his left, and after a voyage of probably six or seven days, he arrived at Tyre.266
Tyre had a church, dating from the first missions which followed the death of Stephen. Although Paul had had nothing to do with its foundation, he was known and loved there. In the quarrel which divided the rising sect, in that great rent between Judaism and the strange child to which Judaism had given birth, the Church of Tyre was decidedly of the party of the future. Paul was very well received, and passed seven days there. All the faithful of the place dissuaded him strongly from going to Jerusalem, and asserted that they had manifestations of the Spirit absolutely contrary to the plan. But Paul persisted, and chartered a ship for Ptolemais. On the day of his departure, all the faithful, with their wives and children, conducted him out of the town to the shore. The pious company knelt down on the sand and prayed. Paul bade them farewell; the Apostle and his companions re-embarked, and the people of Tyre returned sadly to their homes.
They reached Ptolemais the same day. There also were some brethren; he saluted them and stayed for a day with them. Then the Apostle left the sea. Going round Carmel, he reached in one day Cæsarea in Palestine. They stayed at the house of Philip, one of the seven primitive deacons, who for many years had been settled at Cæsarea. Philip had not taken, like Paul, the title of Apostle, although in reality he had exercised the functions of one. He contented himself with the name of “Evangelist,” which designated apostles of the second rank, with the much more coveted title of “one of the seven.”
Paul found here much sympathy, and remained several days at Philip’s house. Whilst there, the prophet Agabus arrived from Judæa. Paul and he had known each other at Antioch fourteen years before. Agabus imitated the manners of the ancient prophets, and affected to act in a symbolical fashion. He entered in a mysterious manner, approached Paul, 267and took from him his girdle. They followed his movements with curiosity and terror. With the girdle of the Apostle that he had taken, Agabus bound his own legs and hands. Then suddenly breaking the silence, he said, in an inspired tone,—“Thus saith the Holy Ghost, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.” The emotion was of the liveliest kind. The companions of Paul and the faithful of Cæsarea with one voice begged the Apostle to give up his journey. Paul was inflexible, and declared that chains could not frighten him, since he was ready to die at Jerusalem for the name of Jesus. His disciples saw plainly that he would not yield, and finished by saying,—“The will of the Lord be done.” Then they began their preparations for departing. Many of the faithful of Cæsarea joined themselves to the caravans. Mnason, of Cyprus, a very old disciple, who had a house at Jerusalem, but who at this moment was at Cæsarea, was of the number. The Apostle and his following should lodge at his house. They mistrusted the welcome they would receive from the Church: there was much trouble and apprehension in all the company.
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