ENTERED according to Act of Congress, in the year 1836, by

CHARLES HODGE, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of New Jersey.

[ocr errors]

MAY 14 1925




When Paul and the other apostles were called to enter upon their important duties, the world was in a deplorable and yet most interesting

Both Heathenism and Judaism were in the last stages of decay. The polytheism of the Greeks and Romans had been carried to such an extent as to shock the common sense of mankind, and to lead the more intelligent among them openly to reject and ridicule it. This skepticism had already extended itself to the mass of the people, and become almost universal. As the transition from infidelity to superstition is certain, and generally immediate, all classes of the people were disposed to confide in dreams, enchantments, and other miserable substitutes for religion. The two reigning systems of philosophy, the Stoic and Platonic, were alike insufficient to satisfy the agitated minds of men.

The former sternly repressed the best natural feelings of the soul, inculcating nothing but a blind resignation to the unalterable course of things, and promising nothing beyond an unconscious existence hereafter. The latter regarded all religions as but different forms of expressing the same general truths, and represented the whole mythological system as an allegory, as incomprehensible to the common people as the pages of book to those who cannot read. This system promised more than it could accomplish. It excited feelings which it could not satisfy, and thus contributed to produce that general ferment which existed at this period. Among the Jews, generally, the state of things was hardly much better. They had, indeed, the form of true religion, but were in a great measure destitute of its spirit. The Pharisees were contented with the form ; the Sadducees, were skeptics; the Essenes were enthusiasts and mystics. Such being the state of the world, men were led to feel the need of some surer guide than either reason or tradition, and some better foundation of confidence than either heathen philosophers or Jewish sects could afford. Hence, when the glorious gospel was revealed, thousands of hearts, in all parts of the world, were prepared by the grace of God to exclaim, This is all our desire and all our salvation.

The history of the apostle Paul shows that he was prepared to act in such a state of society. In the first place, he was born and probably educated, in part, at 'Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia; a city almost on a level with Athens and Alexandria for its literary zeal and advantages. In one


respect, it is said by ancient writers to have been superior to either of them. In the other cities mentioned, the majority of students were strangers, but in Tarsus they were the inhabitants themselves.* That Paul passed the early part of his life here is probable, because the trade which he was taught, in accordance with the custom of the Jews, was one peculiarly common in Cilicia. From the hair of the goats, with which that province abounded, a rough cloth was made, which was much used in the manufacture of tents. The knowledge which the apostle manifests of the Greek authors, 1 Cor. 15: 33. Tit. 1: 12, would also lead us to suppose that he had received at least part of his education in a Grecian city. Many of his characteristics, as a writer, lead to the same conclusion. He.pursues far more than any other of the sacred writers of purely Jewish education, the logical method of presenting truth. There is almost always a regular concatenation in his discourses, evincing the spontaneous exercise of a disciplined mind, even when not carrying out a previous plan. His epistles, therefore, are far more logical than ordinary letters, without the formality of regular dissertations. Another characteristic of his manner is, that in discussing any question, he always presents the ultimate principle on which the decision depends. These and similar characteristics of this apostle are commonly, and probably with justice, ascribed partly to his turn of mind and partly to his early education. We learn from the Scriptures themselves, that the Holy Spirit, in employing men as his instruments in conveying truth, did not change their mental habits; he did not make Jews write like Greeks, or force all into the same mould. Each retained his own peculiarities of style and manner, and, therefore, whatever is peculiar in each, is to be referred, not to his inspiration, but to his original character and culture. While the circumstances just referred to render it probable that the apostle's habits of mind were in some measure influenced by his birth and early education in Tarsus, there are others (such as the general character of his style) which show that his residence there could not have been long, and that his education was not thoroughly Grecian. We learn from himself that he was principally educated at Jerusalem, being brought up, as he says, at the feet of Gamaliel, (Acts 22: 3.) This is the second circumstance in the providential preparation of the apostle for his work, which is worthy of notice. As Luther was educated in a Catholic seminary, and thoroughly instructed in the scholastic theology of which he was to be the great opposer, so the apostle Paul was initiated into all the doctrines and modes of reasoning of the Jews, with whom his principal controversy was to be carried on. The early adversaries of the gospel were all Jews. Even in the heathen cities they were so numerous, that it was through them and their proselytes that the church in such places was founded. We find therefore, that in almost all his epistles, the apostle contends with Jewish errorists, the corrupters of the gospel by means of Jewish doctrines. Paul, the most extensively useful of all the apostles,

Strabo, lib. 14. ch. 5.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

was thus a thoroughly educated man; a man educated with a special
view to the work which he was called to perform. We find, therefore,
in this, as in most similar cases, that God effects his purposes by those
instruments which he has, in the ordinary course of his providence, spe-
cially fitted for their accomplishment. In the third place, Paul was con-
verted without the intervention of human instrumentality, and was taught
the gospel by immediate revelation. “I certify you, brethren,” he says
to the Galatians, “ that the gospel which was preached of me, was not
after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by
the revelation of Jesus Christ." These circumstances are important, as
he was thus placed completely on a level with the other apostles. He
had seen the Lord Jesus, and could, therefore, be one of the witnesses
of his resurrection; he was able to claim the authority of an original
inspired teacher and messenger of God. It is obvious that he laid great
stress upon this point, from the frequency with which he refers to it. He
was thus furnished not only with the advantages of his early education,
but with the authority and power of an apostle of Jesus Christ.
His natural character was ardent, energetic, uncompromising, and

How his extravagance and violence were subdued by the grace of God is abundantly evident from the moderation, mildness, tenderness, and conciliation manifested in all his epistles. Absorbed in the one object of glorifying Christ, he was ready to submit to any thing, and to yield any thing necessary for this purpose. He no longer insisted that others should think and act just as he did ; so that they obeyed Christ, he was satisfied, and he willingly conformed to their prejudices and tolerated their errors, so far as the cause of truth and righteousness allowed. By his early education, by his miraculous conversion and inspiration, by his natural disposition, and by the abundant grace of God was this apostle fitted for his work, and sustained under his multiplied and arduous labours.

[ocr errors]



One of the providential circumstances which most effectually contributed to the early propagation of Christianity, was the dispersion of the Jews among surrounding nations. They were widely scattered through the East, Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, Greece and Italy, especially at Rome. As they were permitted, throughout the wide extent of the Roman empire, to worship God according to the traditions of their fathers, synagogues were every where established in the midst of the heathen. The apostles, being Jews, had thus every where a ready access to the people. The synagogues furnished a convenient place for regular assemblies, without attracting the attention or exciting the suspicion of the civil authorities. In these assemblies they were sure of meeting not only Jews, but the heathen also, and precisely the class of heathen best prepared for the reception of the gospel. The infinite superiority of the pure theism of the Old Testament scriptures to any form of religion known to the ancients, could not fail to attract and convince multitudes among the pagans, wherever the Jewish worship was established. Such persons became either proselytes or “devout,” that is, worshippers of the true God. Being free from the inveterate national and religious prejudices of the Jews, and at the same time convinced of the falsehood of polytheism, they were the most susceptible of all the early hearers of the gospel. It was by converts from among this class of persons, that the churches in all the heathen cities were in a great measure founded. There is abundant evidence that the Jews were very numerous at Rome, and that the class of proselytes or devout persons among the Romans was also very large. Philo says (Legatio in Caium, p. 1041, ed. Frankf.) that Augustus had assigned the Jews a large district beyond the Tiber for their residence. He accounts for their being so numerous from the fact that the captives carried thither by Pompey were liberated by their masters, who found it inconvenient to have servants who adhered so strictly to a religion which forbade constant and familiar intercourse with the heathen. Dion Cassius (lib. 60, c. 6) mentions that the Jews were so numerous at Rome that Claudius was at first afraid to banish them, but contented himself with forbidding their assembling together. That he afterwards, on account of the tumults which they occasioned, did banish them from the city, is mentioned by Suetonius (Vita Claudii, c. 25), and by Luke, Acts 18:2. That the Jews on the death of Claudius returned to Rome, is evident from the fact that Suetonius and Dion Cassius speak of their being very numerous under the following reigns ; and also from the contents of this epistle, especially the salutations in ch. 16, addressed to Jewish Christians.

That the establishment of the Jewish worship at Rome had produced considerable effect on the Romans, is clear from the statements of the heathen writers themselves. Ovid speaks of the synagogues as places of fashionable resort; Juvenal (Satire 14) ridicules his countrymen for becoming Jews; and Tacitus (Hist. lib. 5, ch. 5) refers to the presents sent by Roman proselytes to Jerusalem. The way was thus prepared for the early reception and rapid extension of Christianity in the imperial city. When the gospel was first introduced there, or by whom the introduction was effected, is unknown. Such was the constant intercourse between Rome and the provinces, that it is not surprising that some of the numerous converts to Christianity made in Judea, Asia Minor, and Greece, should at an early period find their way to the capital. It is not impossible that many, who had enjoyed the personal ministry of Christ, and believed in his doctrines, might have removed or returned to Rome, and been the first to teach the gospel in that city. Still less im. probable is it, that among the multitudes present at Jerusalem at the day of Pentecost, among whom were “strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes," there were some who carried back the knowledge of the gospel. That the introduction of Christianity occurred at an early period may bu

« VorigeDoorgaan »