Remembering the ergastulum of Nicander I determined not to endure that manner of life a second time. My bonds had not been very firmly fastened, and the same good friend who had brought me word what was resolved concerning me, had loosened them still more. So when it was past midnight, as near as I could judge, creeping out from my chamber I found the porter sleeping, and without difficulty obtained possession of the key. I was opening the door to depart, when I suddenly bethought myself that I was going forth into the world without an obol in my purse, so that I must needs beg my food; in doing which I should surely be discovered and at once apprehended. So I went into a small chamber next to the library, wherein Philemon was wont to keep money, and I took out a purse. I extenuate nothing, I excuse nothing. Yet the truth may fairly be set down; and it is true that I purposed not to take so much, but as I opened it, I heard, or thought I heard, a noise from Philemon’s study, and straightway fled as I was, having the purse in my hand; and so in great haste and trepidation, being now thief as well as fugitive, I opened the house177door and ran for my life. For an hour or more I wandered about the street avoiding the watch, and as soon as the gates were opened, I went forth on the Ephesian road.
Then for the first time taking thought whither I should go, I determined to break all ties of friendship and acquaintance and to betake myself to some large city such as Corinth or Alexandria where I might be easily unknown. Meantime I must needs hide somewhere in the upland country; for in the port of Ephesus constant watch was kept for runaway slaves, and the crier was soon likely to make my escape known in the streets of Laodicea and Hierapolis. So, leaving the Ephesian road, I made my way as best I could straight towards the mountain called Cadmus, which rises up in these parts very high and precipitous and containing many spacious caverns fit for fugitives to hide in. As I went, I found myself amid several tombs cut in the sides of the hill a little away from the road, and the sun now shining from the east lit up the inscription on the face of one of the tombs nearest to me so that I could read each word of it plainly, and it was the very inscription which Metrodorus had mentioned. “Enjoy the present, for when the spirit has left the body, descending to Lethe, it will never again look on the world above.” Then began I to mock bitterly at that philosophy which would bid me, a slave and an outcast and one of the most wretched upon earth, to “enjoy the present.” But at that very moment methought I heard the sound of pursuers, and putting my ear to the ground (which is all pumice-stone in that region, very porous and hollow, and resonant almost after the manner of a drum)178 I plainly heard the hoofs of horses approaching. So I pressed on over rough and smooth making for the mountain. As the sun rose higher, I came to one of the spurs of Cadmus. High up in the sides of that mountain are many holes wherein eagles build their nests; and many of them were even now soaring in the air with choughs and crows screaming below them, but all so high that the eye could scarce discern them. The sounds of these birds together with the bleating of the flocks pasturing on the mountains, the scent of the flowers, the freshness of the morning air, and the beauty and the brightness of all things around, seeming to rejoice in the sunrise, constrained me in despite of myself to feel some pleasure in them, and I rested there for a while. But anon fear (and by this time hunger) forced me to hasten away.
Coming now to a building I desired to ask food; but I found that it was a temple, as could be perceived from the notice set up at the entrance to the precincts; which, even after the lapse of so many years, I am not able to forget, because at that time it seemed to me a type and pattern of all the religion and worship of the gods. For there were written up these words: “Let no man enter these sacred precincts who shall have tasted goat’s flesh nor lentils for these three days, or fresh cheese for one day. But whoso shall have touched a dead body let him delay entrance for forty days. Likewise, whoever will enter, let him bring with him the highest purity, namely, a healthy mind in a healthy body, free from a guilty conscience.” Then there came into my mind once again, only with much more force, the thoughts that I had had at Lebedea, namely,179 that the gods are helpful only to those who need no help, being happy and virtuous; or else only to the rich who can pay for many sacrifices and purifications; but as for the poor man who cannot give them fat bullocks and lambs, they have never a word to say for him; and if a poor man be a sinner and an outcast to boot, then a temple is no place for him. With such thoughts as these, sorely dejected in mind and beginning to be very weary in body as well as hungry, and the heat of the sun becoming now more than I could well endure, I betook myself to some kind of shepherd’s cot which I found open and empty; and there I lay down and slept.
I was awakened by the sound of music, ill played, as though by a beginner; and for a time, betwixt asleep and awake, I lay still without moving, not knowing what had become of me, or where I was. But presently the music came to a sudden stand, and a voice cried, “May the all-powerful Syrian Goddess, Parent of all things, and the holy Sabazius and the Idæan mother strike thee dead, thou dolt whom a week’s labor has not sufficed to teach thy notes. A pretty flute-player art thou. I am a ruined man with thee.” With that, I started up and beheld an old man, very fat and with a smooth face and having a cast in his eye; and by his side a youth, whom he was attempting to teach to play on the flute; but neither could the pupil learn, nor had the teacher skill to teach. I soon perceived from his attire and language, as well as from the ass bearing the image of the goddess, and the company of dancing girls who were with him, that he was one of the begging priests of Cybele; and it seemed that his flute180-player had deserted him so that he could gain no money from the people by his sacred dances, for want of the music. After watching them for a short time (unknown to them, for the corner wherein I had been lying was very dark) I lost patience to see how ill the old priest taught and the youth learned; and coming forward I took the flute from the hands of the youth and shewed him how he was to use it. At first the old man stood speechless with astonishment at the suddenness of my coming in upon them; but when he perceived that I had some skill in music, he asked whether I could make shift to play for him. I told him that I knew not that kind of music, and would have gone forth from the cot without more words; but he stayed me and begged me to give some proof of my skill; saying I must at least eat and drink with him and his company, for the village people had given them two kids and a cask of wine. So I was over-persuaded by my hunger, and after we had eaten our fill, he gave me to drink of unmixed wine, because, said he, there was no water nigh; and my thirst constrained me to drink. Then he began again to ply me with importunities to go with him at least as far as Pergamus, adding that if I wished to escape notice (and here he looked at me as if he knew that I had some secret) I could take no better course than this, but if I left him, who knew but questions might be asked, and I might be noticed more than I desired? And hereon, when he saw me wavering, and inflamed with wine, he put the flute once more into my hands, and called out that the dance should begin; and thus saying he led the ass into the midst of the chamber,181 bearing the image of the goddess which was covered with a silver veil. Then I began to play and the women to dance, and the priest applauded and cried that the music should go faster. At first I played against my will and my heart was not in it; but as I looked upon the women dancing in their many-colored tunics with their eyebrows darkened, and their Phrygian caps on their heads, and their saffron shawls streaming in the air, all dancing, at first slowly and then more quickly round the image, by degrees it was given to Satan to have power over me because I had not resisted him. So I began to take a pleasure in it, and I said, surely now is the time to cast aside all virtue and forget the name of goodness and to begin a new life, wallowing in all sin. And even as Satan thus moved me, I began to play the music more furiously, as if possessed by some demon, and the women, after their manner, brandishing their swords and battle-axes, began to leap more furiously to the sound of cymbal and tambourine, and they bared their arms and shoulders, scourging themselves with whips wrought of pieces of bone till the blood flowed out; and because it flowed not fast enough, they scourged themselves harder, yea, and in their leaping they bit their own flesh and screamed like wild beasts; and then the old priest stopped the music and clapping me on the shoulder bade me pledge him in another cup of wine, for I must needs go with him to Pergamus and be his flute-player; and I like a dumb beast could not say No, but drank of his wine and so consented.
§ 2. OF MY LIFE AT PERGAMUS.
Let it be permitted me to pass over the story of my wanderings until I came to Pergamus. Not that I would conceal or gloss over any of the sins I committed at this time. Yet although thou, O Lord, hast forgiven all things methinks I could not set down those deeds of darkness, without seeming to pass through a second course of sin. Suffice it that in all the acts of my companions, in all their thieving and lying, their blasphemings, revellings and impurities, I was not behind any, the vilest of the vile. But it pleased the Lord, after three months of thus wallowing in the mire, to hold out the hand to me though it were but for a season; and it was after this manner. When we came to Pergamus, going on a certain day to visit a priest of Asclepius I chanced to speak of the children that were daily exposed upon the Temple steps, and I shewed him (but not as from myself) the token of my brother Chrestus, saying that it had been given to me by one of my acquaintance to whom it had belonged, who was now dead. When the priest read the inscription TRUST, he started and changed color, and very earnestly questioned me whether my acquaintance had ever spoken to me touching a brother exposed at the same time, and wearing a token with another inscription, mentioning at the same time the words of it I LOVE THEE. Then it was my turn to start, and I confessed that I had heard mention of it, but that this brother also was long since dead. “Truly then,” said the priest,183 “I sorrow greatly for their poor mother’s sake, who came to the Temple not more than six or seven months ago, to make inquiry concerning two children who had been exposed in the first year of the emperor Claudius, twins, and wearing two such tokens as you have described.” So then, comparing the date, as well as the other circumstances, I knew that the children could be no other than myself and my brother Chrestus.
Now all my dissimulation was swallowed up in the eagerness of my desires, and I gave the priest no peace, questioning him again and again about the lady of whom he spoke; insomuch that I doubt not he suspected the truth. But all my questioning was vain; for he said that the lady would tell neither him nor his fellow-priests whence she came nor whither she was going; but she had declared in parting that she should come again to the Temple before long, if she lived. She was of tall stature, with brown hair and gray eyes, of fair complexion and somewhat pale, with a slight scar on the left cheek, and of a sad expression, and she spoke Greek with the Attic accent; moreover she informed the priests that she had sought in vain for her children for many years. Straightway from his words I conceived the image of one who could not have been guilty of any cruel or unnatural deed, and I became assured in my mind that some foul play or irresistible constraint, but not her own will, must have separated us from our mother. And a new feeling possessed me that, if I could find her, I might still have some one who would love me. But when I seemed to see her coming again to the Temple, and myself meeting her and telling her all my story, and the story of Chrestus, and shewing her my token, and184 falling on her neck and embracing my mother, and how she also would embrace me as a son, then it came into my mind, “And how could such a mother own such a son as Onesimus is now?”
In that moment, thou, O Lord, didst show me unto myself that I might hate myself; and on that same day I left the priest of Cybele and cast off my old companions, and having found a lodging with one who prepared skins for the covering of books, I determined to earn my living if possible as a transcriber. For the space of three or four months I lived after this manner, forswearing my former dissolute life and letting no day pass but I visited the Temple; for the sun never rose but I said to myself ‘this day perchance she may come;’ and I ruled all my life by the thought of her, and the hope of her, if perchance I might yet find one that would love me. But the Lord had ordained otherwise. For on a certain day (about the beginning of the fifth month after I had first come to Pergamus) taking my work to the shop of a bookseller with whom I had dealings, I found there two or three men of learning standing together, conversing of books and parchments and the like; and taking up a parchment one said to a companion that he had seen even such a book as this, so transcribed and adorned, in the library of Philemon of Colossæ. Then a terror fell upon me lest I should be discovered, and without so much as waiting to be paid for my labor, I made shift to leave the shop, upon some slight pretext, and returning to my lodging for a few minutes I went forth thence to the city gates, and ceased not travelling till I came to Ephesus, where I went on board a ship bound for the city of Corinth.
§ 3. HOW I CAME TO CORINTH AND SAW THE TOMB OF EUCHARIS.
At Corinth I found no man to employ me as transcriber. But because of the number of rich people in that city (some living there but many more resorting thither for pleasure) and many spending their whole lives in continual revelling, there was a great demand for such buffoons, and mimes, and inferior actors, as attend at great men’s feasts to make them merry; and to this occupation I was now forced to stoop. And so being cut off from all hope of finding my mother, I fell again into my old ways of reprobate living. Besides the baseness of my mode of life, I was weighed down by a perpetual slavish dread. Whithersoever I went, or whatever company I frequented, I was never secure, fearing always lest some one should take me by the throat and claim me as Philemon’s slave, a thief, and a would-be murderer; and whenever I saw a slave’s body hanging on the cross, with the crows fluttering round it, or a gang of branded wretches with shaven heads dragged in manacles through the streets, at such a time I would say, “Sooner or later this will be thy fate, Onesimus.” This took all the heart and spirit out of my resolve to lead a virtuous life. Sometimes I determined at all hazards to go back to Pergamus; for it made my heart sick to think of her who had been seeking me there many years, perhaps even at that instant standing on those steps of the Temple which I had been wont day by day to frequent in the hope of seeing her. But at first I durst186 not, and after some days when I had at last determined and made ready to depart, I remembered how I had told the priest of Asclepius that both Chrestus and Onesimus were dead; which he belike had by this time conveyed to my mother, so that she would now give over seeking in despair, and come to Pergamus no more. The thought of her new sorrow was heavier than I could bear, and thus that image of her which had been but of late so precious and helpful, became unto me now so full of sadness that I sought to flee from it in revellings and drunkenness.
The end of all was that the hand which seemed to have raised me for a breathing-space out of the deep gulf of destruction now plunged me down again; and I fell once more to a life not worse perhaps, but assuredly not much better, than that which I had led with the priest of Cybele. Yea, such a wretch was I now become that I began to be content with wretchedness, preferring darkness and fearing any glimpse of light lest it should make my darkness more visible; insomuch that once or twice at this season, as I remember, I took off the little tokens from my neck, the gifts of Eucharis and Chrestus, and thought to cast them away, because when I felt them upon my breast they troubled me at nights, suggesting visions of the past and hopes not possible. But, base and vile though I was, my courage failed me, and I could not do it.
One day, after late revelling, when thoughts like these had been disquieting my soul, I found myself wandering through the streets near the quays where the ferry takes passengers across to Peiræus; and scarce knowing what I did I stepped with the rest into the boat, and presently I187 had disembarked and was walking up toward the city of Athens, yet all the while cursing my folly in coming whither I should not have come. For I feared lest I might be recognized, and still more lest I should rouse up memories that were best forgotten. Yet on I went, for all my self-reproaches, as if I were a lifeless engine impelled by some power outside me, till I came to a little garden hard by the wall, wherein was a tomb of Charidemus a brother of Eucharis, who had died these many years; and entering in I read the words over the grave, which oftentimes I had read with my beloved by my side:
Golden youth, read here thine end:
I sprang from dust, to dust descend.
Eucharis had always been wont to find fault with this inscription as being too sad, and she would protest that, when she died, she would have somewhat more hopeful inscribed upon her tomb. This saying of hers coming to my memory reminded me of that which in my lethargy had all this while escaped me, that her tomb also would in all likelihood be in this same garden; and as I turned round my eye fell at once on a new-made sepulchre and on it this inscription:
Twenty years of fleeting breath
Then Eucharis went down to death
Whom I fondly called my own,
Not knowing she was but a loan
Lent by Death, who from below
Sends short delights to make long woe.
Too short a loan, poor twenty years,
For such vast interest of tears
Which we must weep, who now remains
To feel a lonely father’s pains.
Dear dream, sweet bubble, painted air,
Break! leave poor Molon to despair.
When I read these words I could not but feel some touch of pity for the poor old man mourning alone in his chamber where we three had been wont to sit so happily together; and looking on the wreaths and garlands that were on the sepulchre and perceiving that they were all very old and faded, I remembered that Eucharis was born as on that very day, and I marvelled that the old man had not come forth to do honor to the tomb and to deck it with fresh flowers, and methought some strong cause must have hindered him; for it was now nigh upon sun-down. So though I durst not have looked him in the face, I arose and went into the city again, even to the street where he lived, in case I might see him coming forth from his door; and up and down I walked till sunset, my head muffled in my cloak, and all that time I saw him not. Nor was I like to see him. For when I inquired of one that came forth from a neighboring house whether Molon yet lived in that street, he looked on me as if pitying me for my ignorance and said that the old man had died but two days ago and was to be buried on the morrow.
Now would I fain have persuaded myself that it was well with me, because not a single friend remained to reproach me, nor any one whose love or good opinion might deter me from leading a life according to my own desires, or the drift of fortune: yet at night when I lay down in Corinth, the thought of Eucharis would force its189 way into my soul, and when I shut my eyes I could see nothing and think of nothing but the inscription on her tomb; and at the last the memory of my beloved one prevailed, and tears fell from eyes for the first time since I had read her last farewell. But on the morrow all was forgotten. I went forth to my task of buffoonery as usual; and the day and the night passed according to custom, in jesting, and drinking, and revelling, and sin.
What shall I say to thee, O Lord, concerning these things? Shall I say, Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who didst suffer Thy servant to sin much, that he might be forgiven much, and that he might love much? Nay, but Thou art a righteous Lord and hatest unrighteousness. Lord, this only can I say, Thou knowest all, and yet Thou hast forgiven.
§ 4. HOW I SAW THE HOLY APOSTLE PAULUS BUT KNEW HIM NOT.
Though I had by this time no lack of employment, yet I began to be in debt as well as in want. For by continued revelling and gaming and drinking, I had spent all the money that I had brought with me from Pergamus, I mean the money of Philemon. Therefore about this time (it was the ninth year of the Emperor Nero) certain of my companions, who were in the same case as myself, persuaded me to accompany them to Rome, where they would obtain no less employment, they said, and better pay. At any other time I should have been not a little moved, coming thus for the first time to the chief city of the190 world; but such a lethargy had fallen on me that I took little or no note of all the greatness and splendor of the place, save only that I well remember the day when I first saw the Emperor presiding at the games in the Circus Maximus. For on that day seeing one that was a matricide, and a murderer, and an abuser of nature, thus enthroned in the chief seat of empire, and worshipped as God with the applause of such a concourse as would have gone nigh to make up a great city, and beholding also what vile sights were there exhibited—things detestable and not to be mentioned, with which the deaths of thousands of gladiators cannot be compared for horror—then it was borne in upon my mind that there need be no more dispute as to whether Good or Evil reigned over the world; for here before mine eyes was Evil visibly reigning, and called God by all. Wherefore, though I went to no greater excesses than before at Corinth, yet was I hardened and confirmed in evil, drowning my shame in wine and striving to banish all distinction between evil and good.
Yet even at Rome there were seasons when, in my heart of hearts, I was weary of my sinful and desolate condition, and longed for the touch of a friend’s hand; and at times I yearned to be a fool and to believe in something, cursing the wranglings and disputations of the philosophers who had taken from me all faith in the gods, so that I could no longer put trust in anything; yea, at such moments I would fain have been a peasant in the poorest village of Asia (such a one as poor old Hermas or lame Xanthias whom I remembered in my childhood), worship191ping Zeus, or Pan, or aught else, so that I might only be not myself. Life wearied me, yet I feared death, yea, I feared even sleep; for the darkness was full of terrors, and my couch brought me no rest, but only horrible phantasms of dread abysses, and visions of falling down for ever, and of hands stretched out to stay me and then drawn back, and of sad faces veiled or turned away. The daylight which chased away the terrors of sleep, brought ever back with it shame and remorse. Thus all things, both by night and by day, seemed set in array against me. But indeed (albeit I knew it not) my miseries were of the Lord; for by these means, didst thou, O Judge that judgest rightly, even by these righteous torments and just retributions, prepare me to be delivered from unrighteousness and to be made free in the Lord Jesus.
After I had been in Rome a few weeks, I was admitted into a club or collegium of actors; where I made acquaintance with the actor Aliturius, a Jew by birth, one that was in great favor with Poppea who had that same year been married to the Emperor. Now the lady Poppea, like many others of rank and quality at that time, was given to the observance of the Jewish law; at least so far as concerned Sabbaths and abstinence from meats and the use of certain purifications; and she had with her a certain Ishmael, who had been high priest among the Jews. Hence it came to pass that, by help of Aliturius and through favor of Poppea, I was admitted to perform and recite at several feasts and drinking parties in the palace, and sometimes even in the presence of the Emperor himself, but more especially before the officers of the Pretorian guard.
One evening, as I came from a feast where I had been making mirth for some of the officers, returning through that part of the palace which looks towards the Circus Maximus, there passed by me a guard of soldiers having a prisoner in chains, whom they led into an adjoining chamber, and I understood from them that the man was to lie there for that night, that he might be ready on the morrow; when the Emperor himself proposed to hear his cause in the temple of Apollo, which was near at hand. “And who,” said I, “is this prisoner whom the divine Emperor thus deigns to honor?” The man, they said, was one of the Christian superstition. Now at that time, being in favor with Poppea and the Jew Aliturius, and it being my occupation to be a jester for the officers and soldiers, I was wont to make the Christians matter for jest and scoffing, not sparing sometimes (may the Lord forgive me) to assail even the Crucified One in my jesting. So being inflamed with wine, I thrust myself unbidden into the chamber, telling the guard that we would examine the prisoner at once, “Wherefore,” said I, “be ye judices or jury, and I, for the nonce, will be the divine Emperor himself.”
Having therefore made for myself a kind of tribunal, I sat down on it, taking a centurion to be my assessor, and the rest of the soldiers, joining in the jest, sat down upon the floor; and when I bade the soldiers “produce the prisoner,” he sat up, but not so that I could see his face clearly, the lamp being behind him. Then I accosted the man in derision, saying that from his aspect I discerned him to be Heraclitus the crying philosopher, and I asked193 him whether he also, like Heraclitus, taught that “men are mortal gods, and gods immortal men.” To this he replied, as if willing to enter into the jest, that he was a teacher of joy and not of sorrow, but that indeed he taught that God and men were at one. After this, mocking at his baldness, I asked him whether he were Pythagoras risen from the dead, or whether he could teach us to be something more than men and to be in harmony with the Universe. He laughed gently at this, replying that, though indeed he could teach these things, yet was he no philosopher but rather a soldier; and saying this, he raised his head and looked at me very intently as if he were weak of sight; and at this moment the light of the lamp, just then falling on his face, perplexed me, because I felt sure that I had seen this man before; but where or when I could not tell. However, recovering myself, I asked him in what legion he had served and under what Imperator, and he replied, still preserving a calm temper and smiling, that he served in the Legio Victrix and under the auspices of the Imperator Soter, or Salvator. Hereat the soldiers applauded, and I perceived that I was being beaten on my own ground. So thinking to catch the old man by some slip, or to drive him into an inability to answer, I asked him what were his weapons. But he replied that he used the shield of faith, and the breastplate of righteousness, and the belt of truthfulness, and the sword of the word of God; and, said he, I fight the good fight of righteousness against unrighteousness, wherein the victory must needs be in the end upon my side, as your own hearts also testify; for which cause is our legion194 rightly called Victrix. He added some words which I cannot now recall, about the nobleness of such a battle, and the glory of it, which moved even the drowsy soldiers; insomuch that they said with one consent that the man had reason on his side and that they wished him well. “Then,” said I, making one last adventure to have the laugh on my side, “where then is thy Imperator that he does not bear witness unto thee?” At once he replied, “He will bear witness for me, and he is with me at this instant;” and these words he uttered with such a force of confidence and with a look so fixed and steady, gazing methought on some one whom he discerned behind me, that I leaped up and looked over my shoulder, trembling and quaking lest there were some phantom in the room. The soldiers also were, for the moment, somewhat moved, howbeit less than I was; and thinking perchance to shift the shame of their fear from themselves, they called out that I was not worthy to sit on a tribunal, nor to represent the divine Emperor. So, to put the best face I could upon my discomfiture, I concluded briefly with a mock-oration, saying that the prisoner appeared to be a valiant soldier, and that he seemed worthy to be allowed the privilege of abstaining from swine’s flesh, and of worshipping an ass’s head, if it so pleased him, and with that, I proclaimed the meeting dissolved.
§ 5. HOW I LEARNED THAT PAULUS WAS THE PROPHET THAT I HAD SEEN IN MY CHILDHOOD, THE SAME THAT HAD CURED LAME XANTHIAS.
As I was going forth from the chamber with the rest, he that was guarding the prisoner stayed me, questioning me195 concerning the Emperor’s health, and asking me whether it was likely that the Emperor would hear his case in person to-morrow. I said that it was not unlikely; for though he had not been in good health, yet now that he was wedded to Poppea, she made him give heed to all Jewish matters. “Yea but,” said the guard, “this fellow is no Jew, such as the other Jews, but of a different faction, which they call seditious; and the rest of his people hate him.” “I understand that,” said I, “but whether the Jews love him or hate him, in either case Poppea will be for him or against him; and of that he is like to have experience to-morrow.” Then the soldier began to explain to me the nature of this sect; but I interrupted him, saying that I knew everything concerning them, “having learned their customs at Antioch” and whereas I was always wont to preserve silence about my life in Asia and about everything and every one that had to do therewith, now on the other hand, something I know not what, made me add the words—“and at Colossæ;” and as soon as I had said it I repented of it and hastened to go forth from the chamber. But the prisoner rose up from his couch and, catching me by the cloak, asked whether I had been lately at Colossæ and whether I knew one Philemon, who was a citizen of that place. I said “no;” and he sat down with a sigh, keeping his eyes fixed upon me; and then, as I was going forth, the expression of his features came back to my mind on a sudden and I remembered the hook-nosed prophet who had healed lame Xanthias in years gone by at Lystra, and I could not forbear asking him whether he had ever been in the region of Pamphylia; and he answered196 “yes,” and when I mentioned Lystra, he said he knew that city and had been there. Then I asked in what year, and he answered in the fourth year, or thereabouts, of the Emperor Claudius. So perceiving that the times agreed, I questioned him further whether he had healed a sick man there, and to make sure, I said one sick of the palsy; but he replied “No, but a lame man, that had been lame many years,” and with that he leaned forward to me as if still desirous to answer and ask further questions.
But at this point the soldier, he I mean to whom the prisoner was chained (for the rest were gone forth) having now laid himself down upon the pallet to sleep, smote the prisoner upon the face with the palm of his hand, saying that it was bad enough that he should lose his seat for the games in the Circus Maximus to-morrow, where the people were even now gathering (and indeed we could hear the noise and shouting of the multitude outside) and that he would not further be cheated of his slumbers by a miserly Jew, who refused to give a single denarius to the soldier that was at the pains of guarding him. Hereat the prisoner began with a cheerful countenance to compose himself to lie down by the side of his keeper, only saying that his friends had been very willing to fee the keeper; but the guard having been that day changed, and he himself being (as it chanced) without money, it was not possible for him to give any fee at that time. But the soldier, nothing moved, struck him twice, yet harder than before, with his fist, bidding him hold his peace and saying, with a curse, that excuses were not denarii.
I know not whether it was the patience and constancy197 of the prisoner that moved me; or because his presence seemed to carry back my mind to the days of my childhood, reminding me of the pleasant fields and flocks round Lystra, and my brother Chrestus and my old nurse Trophime, and the shepherd Hermas; but, be the cause what it may, certain it is that I was drawn to the man as if bewitched or fascinated, and taking out such money as I had (which was but very little) I gave it to the soldier. At the same time I asked the prisoner whether he had made any attempt to gain the intercession of Titus Annæus Seneca, a great philosopher in those days and the former tutor of the Emperor. “Nay, but the old bookworm has no power in these days with our Emperor,” said the soldier taking my money, “and could no more rein him in now than a butterfly could rein in the dragons of Hecate; besides, if he could, think you that a man of quality, such as the Emperor’s tutor, would regard such scum of the earth as these Christian wretches? However, whatever he be is no business of mine, and money should have money’s worth; so I give you five minutes with the prisoner; but, mark me, no more.”
I felt as one caught in a trap. Twice had I endeavored to depart from the chamber because I desired to avoid speech with this stranger, who knew Colossæ and my master Philemon; and now of my own motion I had so wrought that I must needs have speech with him. So I sat down, and asked the prisoner his name. “My name was once Saul,” he answered, “but I am now called Paulus and I was born in Tarsus.” Hereat I stood up to go at once, but my limbs refused to obey me and I went198 not, but stood where I was, gaping and staring like one mad; for I seemed to see before me, next to Christus, the bitterest foe of my life; because this Paulus had caused Philemon to be my enemy and by his superstitions had slain my beloved Eucharis. Yet on the other hand it was borne in upon me that here was one that had seen Christus risen from the dead, and I remembered as if it were but fresh in mine ears, his invocation over me in the days of my childhood, “The Lord be unto thee as a Father;” and I felt that however I might endeavor, it was not possible for me to hate this man, nor easy to resist the spirit that was in him, for I was in his presence as one under a spell. So, though my fears bade me depart, the hand of the Lord constrained me to remain. While I thus stood stammering, uttering something perchance but meaning nothing, Paulus interrupted me, taking me by the hand and saying, “I perceive that there is to be more discourse between us; wherefore I will only say this, that this night my prayers shall ascend to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in thy behalf. For the Lord hath need of thee, and verily thou shalt be saved and redeemed from all thy sins. To-morrow, as thou hast heard, I stand before the Emperor; but if (as I doubt not) I receive deliverance from the mouth of the lion, I am to discourse at sun-down concerning the mercies of the Lord Jesus in the house of Tryphæna and Tryphosa, hard by the Capenian gate. Prithee, my benefactor, bestow on me yet another benefit, and promise that thou wilt be there.” “No” was in my heart, but “yes” came from my lips before I knew that I had framed an answer, and I left the chamber as one in a trance.
§ 6. HOW I WAS LED INTO THE NET OF THE GOSPEL.
As soon as I was come forth from the presence of Paulus I resolved one thing for certain, that, go whither I might to-morrow, I would by no means go to the house of Tryphæna; for, in spite of all my former disbelief in witchcraft, I began to believe that verily some kind of fascination was being used against me to make me a Christian against my will. For a long time I dared not lie down to rest, but sat reasoning with myself and endeavoring to call to mind the arguments of Artemidorus against the Christians; yet ever and anon the face of Paulus would appear before mine eyes, and I seemed to hear him saying that the gods are immortal men, and it came into my mind that, if indeed there were but such a god as my beloved Eucharis or Chrestus, only immortal instead of mortal, how willingly would I trust in him, how gladly face all peril and endure all hardship for his sake! And then I bethought myself of the saying of Paulus about his leader Christus whom he mentioned as still living and bearing witness to him, and how he seemed to see Christus behind me; and with that I leaped up crying for help and screaming like one distraught; and so timorous was I that I lit a second lamp and sat down again resolving not to sleep that night at all. But presently sleep, whether I would or not, fell upon my eyelids, and a confused mixture of many visions passed before me, Paulus and Pythagoras and Heraclitus, all beckoning to me, and speaking about an “immortal man” and a200 “mortal god;” and then such a chaos of words and sights that I grew dizzy, till at last I saw a small white cloud which grew larger and opened itself and inclosed all the former chaos, and on it was written “Chrestus;” but as I approached, it was not “Chrestus” but “Christus,” and then “Chrestus” again, till the cloud burst with a loud sound as of thunder and disclosed my brother, bright and smiling as in old days, and on his breast he bore the token I LOVE THEE and he stretched out his arms to me. But when I ran to embrace him, behold, on his hands and feet the marks of grievous wounds, and the expression of his countenance was the same and yet not the same; so that I stood and drew back, and, though he beckoned to me, I fled. But he pursued after me and I still fled from him, and all around there were voices and faces of good and evil, the good helping my pursuer, the bad helping me; but, as he gained fast upon me, the priest of Cybele smote the ground, and, behold, a great yawning chasm, wherein was a multitude of skeletons with open arms waiting for me, and I leaped into the chasm, and the arms of the skeletons were clasping me round; when suddenly I awoke and found myself upon the ground, shrieking and struggling and my limbs all shivering and bathed in sweat; and by this time the night was well nigh past, and the first light of dawn was to be seen in the east.
So great was my terror that my first resolve was to depart at once from Rome. But then I bethought myself that, whithersoever I might travel, I could not avoid bad dreams; and, if I desired to avoid Paulus, no place was so convenient for me as the most populous of all cities.201 So I concluded to remain where I was, but to spend that day in Tusculum; whither I accordingly set out a little before noon. But I had not gone a few paces from the door of my lodging, before the slaves of a certain rich Octavius, one of my patrons, came suddenly behind me and, catching fast both my arms, bade me return with them, saying their master entertained company that day unexpectedly, and much desired my presence to make them merry. When I would have excused myself, they replied that they were under constraint to take no refusal; for Octavius had threatened them with a whipping if by fair means or foul they brought me not. Moreover, as they were to dine very early, I must come with them at once, though it was but the seventh hour, and thus they would be sure of me.
So I went with them under a kind of friendly violence and entertained the company after my power. But what I said and did I know not, save only that at the beginning of the entertainment I overheard one of the guests say to his neighbor that Tychicus (by which name I was known in those days) was that day in admirable fooling; and his neighbor replied that truly Tychicus would be the most wittily obscene buffoon in the whole of the city, but for a certain unevenness in his jesting, as if he were possessed with two spirits, a lewd spirit and a surly spirit, “for,” said he, “after keeping all the table in a roar of mirth for two or three hours, if you watch the fellow for a minute or so when he thinks none are looking at him, he falls into a moroseness, or else a kind of vacancy, as if he were a soothsayer and saw visions.” When I heard this, I drank202 even more recklessly than my wont, saying to myself that I would drive out that spirit of vision-seeing and give myself wholly to the evil spirit. And noting that it was now near sun-down, so that I was free from the snares of the enchanter Paulus, I grew more and more furious in my revelry, exceeding all bounds in grossness and blasphemy so that the guests applauded amain and covered my head with crowns of roses.
When I was at last dismissed, the guests now retiring to prepare for a second banquet, it was full two hours after sunset. Now the House of Octavius was on the Cœlian hill (where now stands the Colisseum) so that I was in no way constrained to go near the Capenian gate in order to return to my lodging. But the Lord constrained me and it was as if my feet took me thither against my will. Again and again did I repeat to myself, “Fool, why goest thou into the snare with thine eyes open?” But I replied, “What harm in merely going through the street, since it is certain that I shall not enter the house?” Yet, as I drew near to the street, I perceived the folly of going whither I desired not to go, and I drew back and turned aside going towards the Prætorium, when of a sudden a fear fell upon me, and I felt a hand laid on my shoulder from behind, and I trembled from head to foot hearing the voice of Paulus: “My son, thou art not in the right way.” Fain would I have made some excuse, or have fled at once without excuse; but neither could my tongue avail for words, nor my feet for flight. So I went on with Paulus even as a captive, and he took me by the hand and led me unresisting into a house where was a large congregation203 of the Christians already assembled and expecting his presence; through the midst of whom I walked, crowned as I was with roses, and dripping with unguents and staggering in my gait, so that all gazed at me with wonder and some perchance in anger. However they all made way reverently for Paulus, and for me with Paulus, he still holding me by the hand. Then Paulus ascended a bema or platform and began to speak to the people. At first I sat still, as one hearing and yet not hearing, content to listen but not knowing why I listened; like a brute beast not capable of understanding. By degrees my senses returned, and his words seemed to come nearer and nearer to me till they penetrated my very soul; but I cannot recollect them so as to set them down, except a few of the last sentences, and these not exactly.
When I came to myself, he was speaking of the mercies of the Lord, describing how he himself had persecuted the faith yet had obtained mercy. Who therefore, said he, could not be pardoned, since he had been counted worthy of pardon? Who was so vile and sinful that must needs say ‘I am not worthy to draw nigh unto the Lord’ since he, Paulus, the sinner and persecutor, had been embraced by the arms of his mercy? “Therefore, say not within yourselves ‘What new sacrifice shall I bring?’ For the Lord Jesus Himself is your sacrifice; neither say in your hearts ‘With what new purification shall I draw nigh unto him?’ for the blood of the Lord Jesus is your purification; neither say ‘What new deeds must I do?’ or ‘What new life must I lead?’ for the Lord himself hath prepared thy deeds that thou shalt do; and as for thy life, it is no204 longer thine own; for behold thou art dead; and the life that thou shalt hereafter live, is the life that Christ shall live in thee. Come therefore unto thy Lord and trust in him.
“Stumble not, O ye Jews, at the cross, neither say within yourselves, ‘The Crucified cannot be the Christ; he that died the death of a slave cannot be our King.’ Nay, but I say unto you, because of the cross, and not in spite of the cross, the Lord Jesus is the Christ; and because he made himself to be the servant of all, therefore is he now exalted to be King over all. Also, ye Gentiles, stumble not at the sepulchre of Christ, saying, ‘It is not possible that one that is dead should rise again;’ for verily these eyes have seen him, and your own consciences bear witness for me that I speak not as one deceiving you, but that I verily saw the Lord Jesus. And as many of you as believe, have, as a testimony, the presence of his Spirit in your hearts; and as many as shall believe shall have that same Spirit dwelling among you, as earnest of the glory that is to come, bringing with it love towards God and good-will towards all men. Come therefore unto the Lord Jesus, and behold, the grave hath no power to make a gulf between you and him. Say not ‘He is in the heaven far above us,’ nor ‘He is in Hades far beneath us;’ for I declare unto you that neither heaven, nor earth, nor that which is beneath the earth, can part you from him; fear not the gods nor the Gentiles, nor the reproach of men; fear not the thrones nor powers of this world; if Christ be for us who shall be against us? Fear ye not therefore the fears of this world; for behold, for them that are called of Christ, all things work together for good; for I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now at first as I came to myself, and heard the voice of the Apostle discoursing of Jesus and of the life in Him, and of the joy and peace of it, being made conscious of my inward darkness and of the unattainable Light, I felt the burden of my miseries too great for me to bear. A shape of evil seemed to sit pressing down my soul, stifling her groanings and exulting over her unavailing struggles; bidding me stop my ears against the voice lest it should disquiet my heart in vain, because having taken side with evil and having wilfully blasphemed, I was now his lawful slave, and regrets were unavailing; and because I would not obey him, methought he was encompassing me all around with thick walls of an impenetrable dungeon, wherein I lay as in a sepulchre beneath the earth, fast bound, not able either to see or to hear. But suddenly, as if a great way off, I seemed to perceive a sound, though very faint, that “if Christ were for us none would be against us,” and with that, a shaking of the walls of my dungeon; and after that, came the other words of the Apostle each after each, battering at my prison, so that wall after wall fell with a great crashing noise; and last of all there came that thunderous proclamation roaring around mine ears, that neither things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any other206 creature should separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord; and hereat my whole dungeon straightway parted, like a curtain rent asunder, and brightness burst in upon me as a flood, and the Lord Jesus revealed Himself unto me as the Light and Life of men.