ISAIAH ON PROVIDENCE

Returning to my rooms, I sat down to think out my problems alone.
Presently, on taking up the lecture-notes Arrian had given me, I found
that the title of the first was, “What is meant by being in desolation
or deserted? And who can call himself deserted?” The subject suited my
mood, and I began to read it, as follows: “Desolation is the condition of
a man unhelped. To be alone is not necessarily to be deserted. To be in
the midst of a multitude is not always to be undeserted. A man may be in
the centre of a crowd of his own slaves. But still, if he has just lost a
brother, he may be deserted. We may travel alone, yet never feel deserted
till we fall into the midst of a band of robbers. It is not the face of
a man that delivers us from desolation; it is the presence of someone
faithful and trustworthy, thoughtful and kind, good and helpful.”

I liked this. But afterwards the lecture strayed into what seemed to me
controversial theology or metaphysics, “If being alone suffices to make
you deserted, then say that Zeus Himself is deserted when the final fire
comes round in its cycle, consuming the universe. Say that He bewails His
loneliness exclaiming ‘Alas, me miserable! I have no Hera now! No Athene!
No Apollo! Not a single brother, son, or relation!’ Some people actually
do assert that Zeus behaves like this in the final fire!” I gathered
that he was attacking some philosophic tenet. But it did not interest
me any more than his subsequent assertion—or rather assumption—that
“Zeus associates with Himself, reposes on Himself, and contemplates the
nature of His own administration.” I have never felt drawn towards the
conception of a self-admiring, or a solitary God.

Arrian’s next note bore on the peace of the universe, a peace proclaimed
by the Logos, a peace resembling, but far surpassing, the peace
proclaimed by the Emperor, such a peace that every man can say, even
when he is alone, “Henceforth no evil can befall me. For me, robbers
and earthquakes have no existence. All things are full of peace, full
of tranquillity. Whether I am travelling on the high road, or living
in the city, whether in public assemblies or among private friends and
neighbours, nothing can harm me. There is Another, not myself, who makes
it His care to supply me with food. He it is that clothes me. He, not
myself, gave me the perceptions of my body. He, not myself, bestowed on
me the conceptions of my mind.”

Then followed a passage about death, which Arrian, during our last
conversation, had marked for my special attention: “_But if at any moment
He ceases to supply you with the things needful for your existence, then
take heed! In that moment He is sounding the bugle for you to cease the
conflict. He is saying to you, ‘Come!’ And whither? Into no land of
terrors. Simply into that same region from which you entered into being.
Into the company of such existences as are friendly and akin to you. Into
the elements. Such part as was fire in you will depart into fire; such
part of earth as was in you, into earth; such part of air or wind as was
in you, into air or wind; of water, into water. No Hades! No Acheron! No
Cocytus! No Pyriphlegethon! All things are full of Gods and dæmons!_” By
this I think he meant “good Gods and guardian angels.” He concluded thus,
“_Having such thoughts as these in his heart, looking up to the sun, the
moon, and the stars, and enjoying the earth and the sea, man has no more
right to call himself deserted than to call himself unhelped._”

It was not clear to me how I could continue to call myself “helped”
when I was on the point of being dissolved into the four elements.
If I were a criminal, successful in escaping punishment on earth, I
might deem it “help” (after a fashion) to know that I should be equally
successful after quitting the earth, because I need not fear Hades and
its three rivers as enemies. But where were the “friends”? The four
elements promised but cold friendship! Arrian’s comment rose to my mind,
and a second time I assented to it, “I cannot say that this satisfies
me.” Epictetus was so averse from anything like cant or insincerity of
expression that I was amazed—as I still am—that he could use, in such a
context, the words “friendly and akin.” Surely Sappho’s cry was truer,
when she wandered alone through the woods where she had once been loved
by Phaon—

“This place is now dead dust. He was its life.”

What would it profit that my “fiery part” should return to fire? It might
as well go astray into water, or earth, or into extinction, as far as
I cared. To be still loved would have been to be still in some kind of
home. But who would love my four elements? I should be “not I,” but only
four severed portions of what had once been “I,” fragments incapable even
of mourning, wandering among “dead dust,” no better than “dead dust”
themselves! How infinitely should I have preferred that Epictetus—if he
could not honestly accept the confident hope of Socrates concerning a
life after death,—should have said simply this, “As to what Zeus does
with our souls after death, others think they know much. I know nothing,
except that He does what is best.”

Reviewing passages in which Epictetus had mentioned the “soul,” I was
more perplexed than ever. For in those he distinctly recognised the
“_soul_” as “_better than the flesh_,” or “_better than the body_,” and
as using the body as its instrument. When, therefore, he spoke of God as
saying to man, “Come!” he ought to have supposed God to be addressing
_the whole man, soul as well as body, or perhaps the soul alone_, (using
the body, or the flesh, as its instrument). But if God said to the human
soul “Come!” how could He go on to say “Such part as was fire in you”
and so on, just as though we knew, without proof, that the _soul_ was
composed of nothing but fire, earth, air and water? We knew no such
thing. On the contrary, Epictetus continually assumed that we have within
ourselves “mind” and “logos.” He also said that “The being of God” is
“mind, knowledge, right logos.” Now he could hardly suppose that “mind”
and “logos” were composed of fire, earth, air, and water. For my part, I
did not feel that I knew anything certain about the distinctions between
“mind,” “soul,” “logos” and “I.” But those who made distinctions appeared
to me under an obligation to say what they meant by them.

It appeared to me that our Master had been inconsistent. As a rule, he
dealt with each of us as having a soul that was our real self, and a
body that was the tool of the soul. “Tyrants,” he would say, “can hurt
your _body_ but they cannot hurt _you_.” Might not a pupil of his go
on consistently to say, “Death can kill your _body_ but it cannot kill
_you_”? This, at all events, was what Socrates meant, when he said,
“As for me, Meletus could not hurt me.… He might kill, or banish, or
degrade,” for he certainly meant “kill” the _body_, not “kill” the _soul_.

Subsequently, when I came to read the Christian gospels, I found two of
them making this distinction in the words, “Be not afraid of them that
kill the body.” One of them added, “but cannot kill the soul,” the other
added “but cannot do anything more.” Then I understood more clearly why
Epictetus said nothing about what became of the soul after death. For
these two Christian writers spoke of a possibility that the soul might
be “destroyed in hell” or “cast into hell.” Now this was just what
Epictetus did not himself believe, and wished to make others disbelieve.
He preferred to give up the belief of Socrates that the good “go to the
islands of the blessed” after death, rather than believe also that the
bad go to a place of the accursed. Hence he dropped all thought of the
essential part, or parts, of man, namely, the soul, mind, and logos, as
soon as he came to speak of man’s death.

The consequence was that Epictetus confused us by an ambiguous use of
“_you_.” As long as we were alive he said to us, “_You_ must regard your
body as a mere tool,” where by “you” he meant the incorporeal part of
man. As soon as we were on the point of death, he said to us, “Do not
be alarmed. _You_ are going into the four elements,” where by “you” he
apparently meant our corporeal part. I felt sure then (as I do now) that
he did not intend to confuse us. He seemed to me to have been confused by
his own intense desire to persuade himself that men must do good without
hope of any reward at all except the consciousness of doing good in this
present life. I had not at that time read the Christian gospels; but
several passages in Paul’s epistles occurred to me as contrary to this
doctrine of Epictetus, and I thought that our Master might have been
biassed in part by Paul (as Scaurus had suggested)—only not, in this
instance, imitating Paul, but contradicting him. So I took up the epistle
to the Romans intending to read what Paul said there about Christ’s death
and resurrection.

I took up the epistle to the Romans, but I did not read it long. Another
subject stepped in to claim immediate attention in the first words on
which I lighted. They were these, “Isaiah cries aloud on behalf of
Israel, _Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the
sea, the remnant [alone] shall be saved_,” and then, “Even as Isaiah has
foretold, _If the Lord of Sabaoth had not left seed to us, we should
have become as Sodom and should have been made like unto Gomorrah_.”
Previously when I had read these words I could neither understand them
nor see the way to understand them, not knowing the meaning of “Sodom”
and “Gomorrah,” nor even “Isaiah.” But now, knowing that Isaiah was
one of the principal Hebrew prophets, I began to see that many obscure
passages of Paul might become clearer to me if I first studied this
prophet. This view was confirmed when I found Paul, later on, quoting
him again, “But Isaiah is very bold and says, _I was found by them that
sought me not, I became manifest to them that consulted me not_; but
with reference to Israel he says, _All the day long, I stretched out my
hands to a people disobedient and gainsaying_.” The name also occurred
toward the close of the epistle thus, “Isaiah says, _There shall be the
root of Jesse, and he that is raised up to rule over the nations; on him
shall the nations set their hope_.” These last words reminded me of the
doctrine of Epictetus about Diogenes “to whom are entrusted the peoples
of the earth and countless cares in their behalf.”

But I did not know what “root of Jesse” meant. The name, “Jesse,” I
faintly remembered reading in the poems of David; but where it was I
could not recall. Hence the phrase was obscure. I determined to put off
the further study of Paul for the present, and to glance through the
book of Isaiah in the hope of meeting this and other passages quoted
above. Accordingly I unrolled the prophecy and began to read it from the
beginning.

At first, the language was clear—though the Greek was as bad as in the
poems of David. The “children” of God, said the prophet (meaning the
ancient Jews or Hebrews, whom he often spoke of as “Israel”) had rebelled
against their Father and were being punished with fire and sword by
hostile nations executing God’s vengeance on their impiety. Then came
the sentence I quoted above, from Paul, about the “remnant.” After this,
the prophet introduced “the Lord”—that is the God of the Jews—as saying
that He cared no longer for their incense or their offerings because they
came from hands stained with blood. This was somewhat like the saying
of Horace about Phidyle mentioned above. But what followed was not like
anything in Horace: “Wash you, make you clean; cease to do evil, learn
to do good; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless,
plead for the widow.” If they would act thus, then, said God, “though
your sins be red as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” As though
the nation were molten metal in a crucible, and He Himself were refining
them with fire, the Lord said to the whole people of Israel, “I will
purge away thy dross … afterwards thou shalt be called the city of
righteousness.”

I had begun to hope that I should be able to understand this author as
easily as Euripides and much more easily than Æschylus. But now came
obscurities. First I read of a golden age. People were to “beat their
swords into ploughshares,” and not to “learn war any more.” Then I found
a mention of general destruction as by a universal earthquake. Then came,
without any chronological or other order apparent to me, the following
pictures, or predictions:—a land without a ruler governed by children and
women; a picture of luxurious ladies of rank, a list of their dresses,
ornaments, jewels and cosmetics; a “branch of the Lord, beautiful and
glorious”; a purifying with a “spirit of burning”; “a song of my beloved
touching his vineyard”—all confused together (so it seemed to me at the
time) like the prophecies of the Sibyl.

As far as I could see, most of these prophecies dealt with the internal
corruption of the nation. The “vineyard” of the Lord was the people
of Israel. When He visited the vineyard, looking for fruit, said the
prophet, “He looked for judgment but behold oppression.” After this,
came a vision of the Lord’s glory, and then predictions of external
calamities, and invasions of foreign nations. But yet there was a promise
of the birth of a Deliverer, a Prince of Peace, to sit “upon the throne
of David.” Following this, at some interval, were the words for which
I was searching, about “the root of Jesse.” And now I could understand
them, for they were preceded by this prediction, “There shall come
forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots
shall bear fruit.” Just before that, there had been a description of an
invading army, coming as the instrument of the Lord’s wrath and “lopping
the boughs with terror” and hewing down “the high ones of stature.”

Then all was clear to me. I perceived the connexion between the “child”
that was to sit on “the throne of David,” and the “shoot out of the stock
of Jesse.” The two together brought back to my mind that passage which I
could not before recall from the Psalms, “The prayers of David the son of
Jesse are ended.” The words of Isaiah were like those of Sophocles where
he is speaking of the destruction of the royal house of Laius. Sophocles
calls the surviving child the “root,” and laments because the axe of Fate
was destroying it just when a branch was on the point of “shooting up”
from the “stock” so as to produce fruit. So now, but in an opposite mood
of hope and joy, Isaiah said that the royal house of David the son of
Jesse would not be exterminated, though many of its scions would be cut
off. A “branch” would “shoot up” and the succession to the kingdom would
be maintained.

In the same way, I perceived, the great Julius, or the Emperor Augustus,
being descended from Iulus, the son of Æneas, might be called “the shoot
out of the stock of Anchises,” transported from Asia to Europe so as to
“shoot up” into a new kingdom more glorious than the old. This, too,
explained the word “remnant” used by Paul. As the Trojan followers of
Æneas were a “remnant,” so too must be the Jewish followers of this
“child,” a remnant left from defeat, disaster, and captivity, after a
great “lopping of the boughs with terror.” Virgil sang about the empire
of the house of Iulus not as a prophet, but as a poet, prophesying, so
to speak, after the event. Isaiah appeared merely to predict empire as a
prophet, and a false prophet, prophesying what had not been, and never
would be, an “event.” The tree of the empire of Rome was erect for all
the world to look on. The tree of the kingdom of Jesse appeared to me as
extinct as the house of Laius. So I thought then.

Yet I knew that Paul looked at the matter differently and regarded
these prophecies as having been, or as about to be, fulfilled. And
when I looked more closely into the sayings of Isaiah about the future
kingdom, I saw that many of them were capable of two meanings. Sometimes
the prophet appeared to be contemplating a kingdom established in the
ordinary way by force of arms—a conquest achieved, or at all events
preceded, by fire, sword, and desolation. But, for the most part, it
seemed to be an empire of peace to be brought about by some kind of
persuasion, or feeling. A sudden conviction was to take hold of all the
nations of the earth, so that they were to exclaim, with one consent, as
at the sound of a trumpet, “Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of
the Lord,” meaning the Temple in Jerusalem.

In this kingdom, however brought about, the Lord was to be King, and
there was to be a “covenant” between Him and all the citizens or
subjects, a covenant of righteousness. The subjects were to obey the
King and the King would give them a righteous spirit. In some respects
the covenant of obedience was to resemble that philosophic oath which
Epictetus had enjoined on us, namely, to consult our own interests, to
be true to ourselves (meaning, to the spirit of righteousness within
us). But the prophet regarded righteousness as loyalty, or truth, not to
ourselves, but to our King.

That seemed to me one great difference between the Greeks and the Hebrews
in their notions of worship. The Greeks, when they lifted their thoughts
above themselves, looked, in the first place, each man to his several
city, and in the next place, to the Gods. They did not think in the first
place of the Gods. For the Gods were many, while the City was one. But
the ancient Jews, the men of Israel, or at least their prophets, looked
to their Lord God as their King—the Father, or sometimes the Husband, of
Israel. Although they were many tribes, they had but one God, the Lord
God, who had delivered them from the land of Egypt. This Lord God was a
God of justice and truth, hating oppression, a defender of the widow and
the fatherless. To be loyal to Him was righteousness.

And herein—as I soon began to perceive—was the great difference between
the view of righteousness or justice taken by Isaiah and that taken by
our Roman lawyers, or any lawyers bound to a written law. The lawyer’s
righteousness was legality; the prophet’s was loyalty. Epictetus and
Isaiah agreed together in aiming at loyalty, not legality. Both disliked
obedience paid to mere rules and commandments of men. But the former for
the most part inculcated loyalty that seemed like loyalty to oneself;
the latter, loyalty to God. This precept of Isaiah agreed with the
fundamental law prescribed in the code of Moses that the men of Israel
were to “love” the Lord their God.

After searching carefully to see what the prophet said concerning the
immortality of the soul (about which Moses seemed to be silent) I could
find little of a definite kind. In one passage I read “The dead shall
arise and they that are in the tombs shall be roused up.” But the
preceding lines said “The dead shall assuredly not see life”; so that it
was not clear whether the words meant that one nation should be destroyed
for ever and another nation should be raised up from destruction to
life. The prophet appeared to be thinking of the nation collectively,
more often than of separate citizens. The metaphor of the Vine of Israel
seemed to be almost always in his thoughts. And his hope seemed to be,
not concerning separate branches, that every branch should remain; but
that, in spite of being cruelly pruned and cut down almost to the ground,
the tree, as a whole, would yet grow up and bear fruit. I noticed also
that a certain king called Hezekiah, when praying to be delivered from a
disease likely to prove fatal, spoke as though there were no life after
death.

But there was one passage, of very mysterious import, which seemed to
point to a different conclusion. It spoke about a “servant of God,” of
mean aspect but destined to be a great Deliverer—such as Epictetus had
described—“bearing upon him the cares” of multitudes. He was to grow up
“as a root in the thirsty ground,” which suggested that he was to be “the
root of Jesse” above mentioned. But he was not to be like Æneas, “the
root” of Anchises. For Æneas divided the spoils in Italy as the prize of
his sword. But this Deliverer—so the prophet declared—was “despised and
reckoned as naught.” He was “delivered over” to the enemies of his nation
as a ransom to save his fellow-countrymen, and it was by their wickedness
that “he was led to death.” Yet in the end, said the prophet, “He will
inherit many men, and will divide the spoils of the strong, because his
soul was delivered over to death, and he was reckoned among criminals,
and he carried the sins of many and he was delivered over on account of
their crimes.”

This was altogether beyond my comprehension at the time. But I saw that
I should have to return to this prophecy hereafter; for I recognised
its last words as having been quoted by Paul in writing to the Romans.
I found afterwards that the passage in Paul spoke about “believing in
Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was _delivered over
for the sake of our transgressions_, and was raised up for the sake of
our being made righteous.” For the present, however, the passage in
Isaiah about the “servant” of God seemed to me important, for this reason
mainly, because it indicated a belief in a life after death. And so did
another difficult passage—if Paul had interpreted it rightly. My copy of
the prophecy said, “Death by its strength hath swallowed up”; but the
margin said “Death is swallowed up in victory,” and these latter words,
too, I recognised as being quoted by Paul; and this, or some similar,
sense appeared to be required by the context.

It was growing late and I was obliged to break off. But I resolved to
return to the book next morning before lecture. So far as I had read,
it appeared to me that the prophet did not formally recognise the
immortality of the soul in general. But in the case of the Suffering
Servant he did seem to recognise it. Having the Servant in my mind,
I unrolled the book of Isaiah to other passages using the same word,
such as, “for my _servant_ David’s sake,” “But thou, Israel, art my
_servant_,” “My _servant_ whom I have chosen.” At last I came to “the
seed of Abraham my _friend_.” In all these passages, God was supposed to
be speaking. Then it occurred to me, “Did the prophet make an exception
for the Suffering Servant only? Did he not also believe that Abraham’s
soul was immortal?” It seemed to me impossible that if the God of the
Jews were asked, “Where is Abraham thy friend?” He would reply—or
that the prophet would regard Him as replying—“Resolved into the four
elements.” On the whole, I was led to the conclusion that Isaiah implied,
though he did not express, some kind of doctrine of human immortality
dependent on the relation between man and God.

Even when I was in the act of rolling up the book of Isaiah, very late at
night, it occurred to me that the question “Is there a life after death?”
might be connected with another, “Is there to be hereafter a reign of
righteousness?” I tried to give my mind rest by thinking of other things;
but this second question came back to me again and again both before and
after I retired to rest. Epictetus spoke about “the sceptre and throne
of Diogenes”: but I knew he would not assert that the philosopher’s
“sceptre” implied any present kingdom except over his own mind and the
minds of a small band of Cynics—small in comparison with Stoics and
Epicureans, and nothing at all in comparison with the non-philosophic
myriads. As for a kingdom of righteousness after death in another world,
I was now certain that Epictetus did not expect it; and I began to doubt
whether he expected such a kingdom at any time in this world. If to
believe in Providence means to believe in a God who foresees and prepares
that which is best—I could not understand where Epictetus could find a
basis for such a belief.

With the Jews, it was otherwise. They, I could see, had received a
special training, which made them, more than any other nation known to
me, begin by expecting a reign of righteousness on earth. Beginning thus,
and being largely disappointed, they might be led on to expect a reign of
righteousness in heaven. Their history was like a collection of stories
for children, teeming with what a child might call surprises, but a
prophet judgments—evil, uppermost, suddenly cast down; humble patient
goodness, chastened by pains and trials, lifted up to lordship over its
past oppressors. Examples occurred to me before I slept, and many more
during the night, in my waking moments. I had not noticed them so clearly
when reading the Law consecutively. Now, grouped together, they came
almost as a new revelation—if not of history, at all events of legend,
and of a nation’s thoughts, and of the training through which the Jew
Paul must have passed in his childhood and youth.

First, there was Abraham—Abraham the homeless, going out from unbelievers
to worship the one God, and receiving a promise that he should be the
father of blessing, for multitudes in all the nations of the earth;
Abraham the childless, rewarded with the child of promise; Abraham the
kind and yielding, who gave way to his kinsman Lot, so that the older
patriarch was content with the inferior pastures while the younger chose
the fertile lands of Sodom and Gomorrah; Abraham the father of the one
child that embodied the truth of the one God, offering up that child on
the altar, and receiving him back as if from Hades; Abraham the landless,
without a foot of ground in the land promised to him, buying with money
a cave to bury his family. “Surely,” I said, “the story of Abraham, in
itself, is a compendium of national history not indeed for Rome, but for
a nation of peace (if only the nation could live up to it!) most fit for
training a child to become a citizen in the City of Righteousness!”

If the life of Abraham was full of surprises or paradoxes, so too were
the lives of the other patriarchs and leaders of the nation. Isaac,
“laughter,” laid himself down to die in appearance, but to “laugh”
at death in reality. Esau was the “elder,” yet he was to “serve the
younger.” Jacob was promised lordship over his brother in the future, but
he bowed down before him in the present. The same patriarch, a poor man,
with nothing but his “staff,” became rich and prosperous. Yet, because
he had deceived his father, he in turn was deceived by his children and
sorely tried by their contentions. Through Samuel, the little child,
God rebuked Eli the high priest; and the little one became the prophet
and judge of Israel. David, the despised and youngest of many brethren,
became the greatest of Israel’s kings.

Such was the history of the great men of the ancient Jews—tried, but
triumphing over trial. On the other hand, the history of the mass of the
common people, from the time when they were a family of twelve sons,
shewed them as going astray, lying, quarrelling and rebelling. For this
they were punished by plagues and enemies; then, delivered by judges or
prophets; but only, as it seemed, again to fall away, and to be delivered
again; so that the reader of the histories, apart from the prophecies,
might well suppose that these ebbs and flows were to go on for ever; that
Israel was to be always imperfect, always liable to rebellion; and that
the promise to Abraham was never to be fulfilled. More especially might a
reader of the histories anticipate this when he saw the great empires of
the east, Assyria and Babylon, leading the tribes away into captivity and
destroying Jerusalem and the Temple.

Such were my thoughts by night concerning the Law and the Histories
of Israel. Resuming the study of the prophecy early next morning, I
perceived that in the sins and backslidings of the people there was
yet another and far deeper illustration of what might be called “the
law of paradoxes.” Not only came prosperity out of adversity but also
righteousness out of sin, and out of punishment promise. Some of
Isaiah’s most comforting prophecies arose from the invasion of Israel
by Assyria. In this connexion there came a promise about a “child” that
was to be “born,” of whom it was said “the government shall be upon his
shoulder.” These things reminded me of passages in the poems, where the
poet—musing on the chastisements and deliverances that followed the sins
of Israel—exclaims “His mercy endureth for ever,” or “I remember the days
of old, I meditate on all thy doings.” In the history of Greece and Rome
I could find comparatively few stories of such “doings.” How indeed could
I reasonably expect them? Romans and Greeks worship many Gods, but only
one Father of Gods and men. Athens might claim Athene, and other cities
might have their special patrons among the Gods. But how could it be
supposed that the Father of Gods and men would make any one nation His
peculiar care? Virgil says that Venus was on the side of the future Rome,
and that Jupiter favoured Venus; but Juno intervenes for Carthage. Then
Jupiter has to compromise between Juno and Venus, or to conciliate Juno
by laying the blame on fate! “How different,” I exclaimed, “all this is
from the Hebrew egotism that represents the one God as continually saying
to Israel ‘Thee have I chosen’!”

Yet I had hardly uttered the word “egotism” before I felt inclined to
qualify it, adding, “But it is not ‘egotism’ from Paul’s point of view.”
For indeed Paul seemed to think that God chose Abraham, not for Abraham’s
own sake—or at all events not merely for Abraham’s own sake—but for the
sake of “all the nations of the earth,” to bring light and truth to
them. Epictetus spoke of Diogenes as “bearing on himself the orb of the
world’s vast cares.” Somewhat similarly—when I took up the Law of the
Jews to revise the thoughts that had come to me in the night—I found the
Law describing the life of Abraham the friend of God. For I did not find
Abraham blessed or happy—as the world would use the terms “blessing” and
“happiness.”

Abraham begins as a homeless wanderer, going forth from his kindred at
the bidding of the one true God; and a homeless wanderer he remains
to the end. He is a father of kings but no king himself, not even a
landowner! He has to buy with money land enough to bury his dead! His
life is one of intercession as well as concession. Abraham intercedes
for the dwellers in Sodom and Gomorrah, feeling it a painful thing that
even a few righteous should suffer with the many. Once indeed Abraham
becomes a soldier. But it is not for himself. It is for his kinsman and
for the rescue of captives. Abraham makes himself a servant, waiting at
table upon his guests. Abraham offers to God the life of his only son.
If Paul was right, and if the children of Abraham mean the men that
do such things as these in such a spirit as this, and if “the seed of
Abraham” is the man that incarnates this spirit, then, I thought, there
was perhaps no egotism when the prophet of Israel represented God as
saying to the descendant of Abraham, “Thou, Israel, my servant, Jacob
whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.” For it may mean
“I have not chosen the rich, I have not chosen the great and strong.
I have chosen the good and kind and truthful and courageous; him only
have I chosen.” And soon afterwards God says, “I have chosen thee in the
furnace of affliction,” that is to say, “I have not chosen thee to make
thee selfishly happy and prosperous, but to make thee my servant, like
Abraham, for the service of all the world.”

The same truth appeared to apply to Moses, who, next to Abraham, might
be called the greatest of the “servants of the Lord.” Even from the
cradle he was in peril of death. He delivered his countrymen, as it
were, against their will. The burden of their rebellions pressed on him
through his life, and caused him to be cut off from the land of promise
in the moment of his death. He saw it from afar off but was not allowed
to enter it. He was prohibited because of his sin; and his sin fell upon
him because his people sinned. “The Lord was wroth with me,” said Moses,
“for your sakes.” That was the greatest burden of all. With the lives of
Abraham and Moses before me, it seemed that the greatest servants were
also the greatest sufferers.

Having this fresh light, I turned again to the description of the
Suffering Servant in Isaiah. Did the prophet mean some particular
prince of the house of David who was actually “chosen in the furnace of
affliction” in order to deliver Israel? Or did he mean Israel itself,
scattered through the world and afflicted in order that it might deliver
the world? Plato modelled his Republic in the form of a man: had Isaiah
any such double meaning? Did he predict a second David delivering sinful
Israel, and also a purified Israel delivering a sinful world? Was he
carried, so to speak, by the past into the future? That is to say, had
he in mind some prince actually tortured and imprisoned, and as good as
dead, for the sake of the people, and did the prophet regard this prince
as destined to be raised up from the darkness of the prison house and to
reign on earth? Or else was the prince, though actually killed, destined
to be raised up and to reign after death in his own person, or to reign
in the person of his descendants?

About all these questions I felt that it was not for me to judge. I did
not know enough about the history of the people and the language of their
poets and prophets. But there remained with me this general truth, as
being not only at the bottom of this prophecy, but also pervading the
history of Israel, namely, that in order to make a great nation, great
men must die for its sake. And I began to conceive a possibility that the
greatest of all men, some real “son of Abraham”—I mean some spiritual
son of Abraham, not necessarily a Jew—might arise in the history of the
world, who might be willing to die not for one nation alone but for all
the nations of the empire. But how? And against what enemies? As soon
as I asked myself these questions, the conception faded away. I thought
of Nero enthroned in Rome, and of the Beast enthroned in the heart of
man. Against either of these foes I did not understand how the death of
any “son of Abraham,” or “servant of God,” could avail. How could such a
Servant “divide the spoils of the strong, because his soul was delivered
over to death”? This was beyond me.

For the rest, Isaiah appeared to me to carry on throughout the book
of his prophecies that thread of unexpectedness about which I spoke
above—I mean, that what prophets (foreseeing them) call judgments, men
of the world (not foreseeing) call surprises. Yes, and even prophets
and righteous men—not foreseeing enough—often lift up their hands in
amazement, exclaiming, “This hath God wrought!” or “The stone that the
builders rejected hath become the headstone of the corner!” But there was
a dark as well as a bright side in these surprises. The disappointments
were often most strange. For example, Isaiah saw a vision of the
Lord “high and lifted up.” But with what result? The prophet himself
was straightway cast down with the thought of being “unclean.” Even
afterwards, when his lips had been cleansed with the coal from off the
altar so that he might deliver God’s message, the message was, “Hear ye,
indeed, but understand not!”—because his warning was to be rejected.
And so it was throughout, paradox on paradox! Israel was “chosen” in
one sentence, “backsliding” in the next. The “despised and rejected”
servant was to be “lifted up.” The transgressions of the world were to be
taken away by a deliverer, who was to be “reckoned among transgressors.”
Sometimes, as if despairing of the noble and learned among his own
people, the prophet seemed to appeal to the poor and simple, according to
the words of David, “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou
ordained strength!” Sometimes he even seemed to turn away from Israel
itself—at all events from the majority of the nation—to the remnant, and
to the pious among other nations, as though they, yes, even foreigners,
might receive the fulfilment of the promise made to the seed of Abraham!

Amid all these (to me) perplexing paradoxes, one thing was
clear—constituting a great difference between Isaiah and Epictetus. The
former saw God in history. The latter did not. Epictetus said (as I have
shewn in a previous chapter) that, up to the time of death, man can
always find peace by following the “logos” within himself during life;
after death he ceases to exist. “Bearing these things in mind,” said he,
“and seeing the sun and moon and stars, and enjoying the earth and sea,
man is not deserted any more than unhelped.” These words now returned
to my mind, and I perceived the force of what they did _not_ say. They
said that God was to be seen in the sun and moon and stars; but they did
_not_ say that He was to be seen where Isaiah saw Him, in the nations of
the earth controlled by the Supreme. It is true that Isaiah, too—like
Epictetus—bade his readers look up to the stars as witnesses to God. But
Isaiah seemed to me to reckon men superior to stars.

David certainly did so. David had “considered” all the glories of the
visible heaven. Yet he counted them inferior to “man,” who was “made
but little lower than God,” and inferior to the “son of man,” who had
received “dominion” over God’s works. In the same spirit, Isaiah, as
it seemed to me, spoke of the Maker of the heavenly bodies as being
adorable, not because He had made them multitudinous and bright, but
because He led them like a flock—as though even a star might wander but
for the kindness of the divine Shepherd. Moreover God seemed to him to
be controlling the mighty powers of the heaven for the service of man,
“_Behold, the Lord, the Lord, He cometh with strength, and His arm with
lordship. Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. As a
shepherd shall He shepherd His sheep, and with His arm He shall gather
the lambs, and encourage those that are with young. Who measured out the
water with His hand, and the heaven with a span, and all the earth with
His fingers? Who established the mountains by measure and the valleys
with a scale? Who hath known the mind of the Lord and who hath become His
fellow counsellor so as to instruct Him?_”

Thus, according to the prophet, there was to be a great advent in which
God was to “come” with “reward.” He predicted a future “shepherding” of
the “sheep” and “gathering” of the “lambs,” corresponding to the past
“measuring” of the “heaven.” According to the philosopher there was to
be no such future. All things were to go round and round. Instead of
“sheep” or “lambs,” bubbles in an eddy seemed a more appropriate metaphor
to describe the results of human life in accordance with the general
tendency of Epictetian doctrine.

It was now almost the third hour and I was on the point of rolling up the
volume, when a fellow-student suddenly entered to borrow some writing
materials. Thrusting the book in my garment I supplied him with what he
needed, and we hastened together to the lecture-room.

We conversed, about trivial subjects, but my mind was not in them. It was
with Isaiah. I could not help marvelling that a native of so small and
weak a country should take so wide and imperial a view of the movements
of the nations. In a Roman, I could have understood it better; or in a
Greek of the days of Alexander. But that a Jew—whose people was as it
were the shuttlecock between the great empires surrounding it—that a
Jewish prophet should think such thoughts filled me with astonishment.
Then I wondered what Epictetus would say on the administration of the
world if he ever dealt with it fully. “He,” I said, “was a Phrygian and
a slave. Is it possible that he, too, like Isaiah, could speak in this
imperial fashion?” Arriving somewhat late, we found the room almost
filled; but my seat was vacant, and I was glad to find Glaucus next to
me, in the place vacated by Arrian’s departure.

Epictetus was just beginning his first sentence. I will give it as
Glaucus took it down, exactly: “Be not surprised if other animals, all
except ourselves, have ready at hand the things needful for their bodily
wants provided for them, not only food and drink but also bedding, and
no need of sandals or blankets or clothes—while we have need of all
these additional things.” He proceeded to say that the beasts were our
servants, and that it would be extremely inconvenient for us if we had
“to clothe, shoe, and feed sheep and asses! As if,” said he, “a colonel
had to shoe and clothe his regiment before they could do the service
required of them! And yet men complain, instead of being thankful!” Any
single created thing, he said, would suffice to demonstrate Providence
to a grateful mind. Then he instanced the production of milk from grass
and of cheese from milk. Thence he passed from the “works” of Nature
to “by-works,” such as the beard, distinguishing man from woman. This
(I think) was one of his customary digressions against the fashion of
smooth-skinned effeminacy: “How much more beautiful than the comb of
cocks! How much more noble than the mane of lions! Therefore it was our
duty to preserve God’s appointed tokens of manhood: it was our duty not
to give them up, not to confuse (so far as lay in us) the classes, male
and female, distinguished by Him.”

“Are these,” he continued, “the only works of Providence in our behalf?
What praise can be proportionate to our benefits? Had we understanding,
we should be ever hymning the graces He has bestowed on us. Whether
digging, or ploughing, or eating, ought we not to sing the appropriate
hymn to God, saying ‘Great is God, because He hath given us tools
wherewith to till the ground,’ ‘Great is God, who hath given us hands,
and the power of swallowing, and a stomach, and a faculty of growing in
stature painlessly and insensibly, and of breathing even when we sleep’?
Hymns and praises such as these we ought to sing on each occasion. But
the greatest and most divine hymn of all should be sung in thanks for
that power”—he meant the Logos—“which intelligently recognises all these
blessings, and which duly and methodically employs them. But _you_ are
silent. What then? Since you, like the common herd, are blind to God’s
glory, it was but fit that there should be some one herald, though it be
but one, to fill the place left empty by your default, and to chant the
hymn that goes up to God in behalf of all. What else am I fit to do, a
halting old man like me, except to sing the praises of God?”

And so he drew toward the conclusion of the first part of his lecture.
Were he a nightingale or a swan, he said, he would do as a nightingale or
a swan—that is to say, utter mere sounds, songs without words, songs void
of reasonable thoughts, without Logos—“But as it is, I am endowed with
Logos. Accordingly I must sing hymns to God. This is my special work.
This I do. Never will I abandon this post of duty, as long as it is given
to me. And I invite and urge you also to the same task of song.” From
this he proceeded to speak of “the things of the Logos,” or “the logical
things,” as being “necessary”; and he spoke of the Logos as that which
“articulates”—by which he meant, distinguishes the joints and connexions
of all other things—and also as being that which accomplishes all other
things. He appeared to mean that this Logos was reason; and he assumed
that it is “impossible that anything should be better than reason.” But
he refused to enter into the question, If the Logos within us goes wrong,
what shall set it right? His language at this point was very obscure. The
impression left upon me was that Logos, with him, meant two different
things and that he did not distinguish them. When he sang hymns to God in
accord with the Logos, I thought he must intend to include something more
than reason; but when he passed on to say that “the things of the Logos”
(or “the logical things”) are necessary, he seemed to mean “reason” alone.

Later on, he returned to his first subject: “When you are in the act of
blaming Providence for anything, reflect, and you will recognise that it
has happened in accordance with Logos.” Then, taking the case of some man
supposed to have been defrauded of a large sum of money, he placed in his
mouth the objection that, if the fraud is “in accordance with Logos,” it
would seem that injustice is “in accordance with Logos.” For, said the
objector, “the unjust man has the advantage.” “In what respect?” asked
Epictetus. “In money,” says the objector. To which Epictetus replied,
“True, for he is better than you are for this purpose”—he meant, for
making money—“because he flatters, he casts away shame, he is always
unweariedly working for money. But consider. Does he get the better of
you in respect of faithfulness and honour?” Then he rebuked us, would-be
philosophers, for being angry with God for bestowing on us His best
gifts, namely virtues, and for allowing bad men to take away from us what
was not good in itself, namely, our worldly possessions.

This view of Providence and of wealth seemed to differ from the one
assumed in Isaiah and often stated by Moses and David. For they had
taught me that righteousness, and truth, and obedience to parents,
and neighbourly kindness, tend to “length of days” and to peace and
prosperity on the earth—for the righteous man himself as well as for the
community; and they also distinguished honest wealth, acquired by labour,
from dishonest wealth acquired by greediness and injustice. But Epictetus
here made no such distinction.

The Jewish poems recognised it as being, at all events on the surface, a
strange thing that a righteous man should be subjected to exceptional,
crushing, and continuous calamities by the visitations of God. Epictetus
appeared to teach us that God had ordained some men to be restless,
pushing, shameless, and greedy, that they may take away the wealth
acquired honestly by the good and honest and just. God had made these
rascals “better” than the virtuous—in rascality! Then he called on us
to admire or accept this ordinance or law: “Why fret, then, fellow? You
have the better gift. Remember, therefore, all of you always, and have
it by heart and on the lips, _This is a Law of Nature that the better
should have—in the province in which he is better—the advantage of the
inferior_. Then none of you will fret any more.”

In his general theory, Epictetus was careful to separate himself from
those who maintain that the Gods do not interfere with the affairs of
men, or never interfere except on great and public occasions, and he
approved of the words of Ulysses to the Allseeing, quoted by Socrates,
“Thou seest my every motion.” If man, he said, can embrace the world
in his thought, and if the air and sun can include all things in their
influence, why cannot God? But this seemed to lead to the conclusion that
the influence of God is being perpetually and ubiquitously exerted on
men in order to produce knaves, slaves, tyrants, and fools: for such our
Master appeared to deem the majority of mankind.

In practice, Epictetus avoided such a blasphemy against God, by drawing
no inference as to Providence from any of the laws or institutions of
men, for he appeared to regard human institutions as radically bad. At
all events he allowed his pupils—as I have shewn above—to say that the
rulers of the world are “thieves and robbers” and that the courts of
justice are “courts of injustice.” His belief in Providence was—I seemed
to see clearly—based on nothing but the consciousness of the Logos within
himself. The Logos in the vast majority of mankind appeared to him to
have done them no good: so he could not argue from that.

When someone mentioned the fate of the Emperor Galba as disproving a
belief in Providence, Epictetus implied a scornful disavowal of any
intention to base belief on any such historical event. Nor did he ever
refer to God as controlling the movements of nations. In answer therefore
to my silent question, “Does our Master see God in the history of
individuals or nations?” his teaching seemed to reply “No, I see it in
nothing except Socrates, Diogenes, and a few other philosophers, and also
in myself. Beyond this little group of souls, though I feel myself able
to infer God in everything, I cannot really infer Him in anything mental
or spiritual. Hence I am driven to such physical instances as butter,
cheese, stomachs, and beards!”

On leaving the lecture-room I chatted with Glaucus and tried hard to be
cheerful. But how I missed Arrian! I felt inclined to turn Epicurean.
The “careless” gods of Epicurus seemed at least less unloveable than the
Providence of Epictetus. Too much depressed for any kind of study, I did
not return to my lodging but walked out into the country by unfrequented
paths, resting after mid-day in a little village inn. Coming out, toward
the close of the afternoon, I found an acquaintance of mine, Apronius
Rufus, standing in the porch and amusing himself by throwing figs and
nuts to a crowd of boys just emerging from the doors of a neighbouring
school. From scrambling and scuffling the boys had come to fighting—all
but two or three, who held aloof with an air of sulky superiority; and
one, I think, saw the schoolmaster in the distance. My acquaintance was
attending the Epicurean classes in Nicopolis. We Cynics called the
followers of Epicurus “swine,” and I could not resist the temptation
of saying, “Rufus, you are making converts. When they grow up, these
little pigs will do you credit.” He laughed good-humouredly: “Not all of
them, Silanus! A few, as you see yonder, remain of your persuasion, true
Cynics, that is to say, puppies or prigs. But we do pretty well. Nature
is for us, though you and the schoolmaster are allied against us. By the
way, I think I see your ally coming round the corner. I will be off. Two
against Hercules are one too many. Farewell!” “Farewell!” said I, “Your
wit is as much stronger than mine as your philosophy is weaker.”

“But _is_ it weaker?” thought I, as he strode back to Nicopolis, and I
in the opposite direction. Was not Apronius right in saying that Nature
was on his side? Does not Providence, like Circe, throw down figs and
nuts for us human creatures to make us swine? Is she not always saying
to us, “Push, and be greedy! Then you will get what you want”? And did
not Epictetus acquiesce in this, in effect, saying to the two or three
non-pushers, “Be content. The others, the masses of men, are ‘better’
than you are for pushing and for kicking and for fighting like greedy
swine”? But who made them “better”? Was it not Nature? And how could
I feel sure that this same Nature or Providence that made “grass” (as
Epictetus said) to produce “milk and butter and cheese,” did not make man
to produce scrambling and scuffling and fighting—a spectacle for some
amused God, who watches from the windows of heaven, like Apronius Rufus
from the inn-door on earth?

After a long circuit, returning to Nicopolis, I sat down to rest in a
copse when the sun was drawing towards the west. Tired out by my walk,
I fell asleep. When I awoke, the sun had set and the evening star was
shining. As I sat in silence gazing upon it, better thoughts were brought
to me. “Five minutes,” I said, “with Hesper teach more about Providence
than an hour with Epictetus.” Then it occurred to me, “But, were I Priam,
and were this the evening before Troy was taken, would not Hesper shine
as brightly before me? What does Hesper prove?” Presently, the lesser
stars began to appear, growing each moment in number. Then I remembered
how Moses represents the Lord God appearing to Abraham (when he was as
yet childless) and saying to him, “Look up to the heaven and number
the stars, if thou art able to number them all. So shall thy seed be.”
And what had come of it all? A nation that was no nation, a race of
captives, known to us in Rome chiefly as hating pork and strangers no
less than they loved their sabbaths. Then I thought, “Had Hesper any more
favour for Abraham than for Priam? Perhaps the stars promised peace and
prosperity to both and broke their promise! What Troy is, that Jerusalem
is. Nay, worse. Troy has produced a New Troy. Where is the New Jerusalem?
And where is the great nation promised to Abraham? A flock (or flocks) of
exiles, fanatics, and slaves!”

Just then came into my mind the memory of some words about the stars in
Isaiah. I had taken the book with me to lecture. So I unrolled it till I
came to them: “_Lift up your eyes on high and see. Who hath appointed all
these? He that leadeth forth His host in a numbered array. He will call
them all by name. Because of thy great glory, and in the might of thy
strength, not one escapeth from thine eye._” Then the prophet declared
that, even as the stars of heaven are made visible in the darkness, so
the seed of Abraham was not hidden by any darkness from God’s eye: “_Say
not, O Jacob (ah, why didst thou dare to say it, O Israel?) ‘My way is
hidden from God, and my God hath taken away judgment and hath departed
from me.’ Hast thou not even now found out the truth? Hast thou not
clearly heard it? The God eternal, the God that framed and fashioned
the earth, even to its furthest corners, He will not faint for hunger,
nor is there any fathoming of His wisdom. To them that hunger He giveth
strength—but sorrow to them that have no grief. For hunger shall fall on
the youths, and weariness on the young men, and the chosen warriors shall
utterly lose strength; but they that wait patiently for God shall renew
their strength; they shall put forth wings like eagles; they shall run
and not be weary; they shall walk erect and shall not faint for hunger._”

I could not believe all this. But neither could I disbelieve it. One
voice said to me, “The poet is casting on the God of the stars the
mantle that he has borrowed from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
But another voice kept saying to me, “Wait patiently for God: He shall
renew thy strength.” In the afternoon, when I had thrown myself down to
rest, I had thought that I would give up the search after truth, get rid
of all my books, leave Nicopolis, and go at once into the army. Now I was
more hopeful. But I could not give any logical reason for my hope. Isaiah
had not convinced me. Far from it! The promise to Abraham seemed still to
me to have resulted in failure. I had broken off my study of Paul, almost
at its commencement, in order to study Isaiah. And Isaiah, without Paul,
presented many difficulties that might perplex wiser minds than mine.
“Grant,” said I, “that David the son of Jesse was a great poet. Grant
that Isaiah was a great prophet. Yet what were their poems and prophecies
except so many pillars of vapour, or, if of substance, then substantial
failures; pillars with the capital gone and the shaft broken, no longer
sustaining anything? Their temple is burned a second time, never to be
rebuilt; the rod of Jesse, cut off from the very root, with no life left
in it, ‘despised indeed and rejected’ but with no compensation of being
‘exalted’ or of ‘dividing the spoils of the strong’!”

All these things I said over and over again to myself. But still another
voice, deeper than my own, seemed to be repeating “Wait patiently on God
and He will renew thy strength! Wait patiently! Wait!” Up to the moment
of retiring to rest that night my mind was in a state of oscillation. On
the one hand, Scaurus might be right, and my best course might be to give
up the study of philosophy, and to prepare myself for a military career.
On the other hand, there appeared nothing in these poems or prophecies of
Isaiah that would make a man less fit to be a soldier. My last thought
was, “I should like to see how the modern Jew, Paul, takes up the
teaching of the ancient Jew, Isaiah. I have but glanced at his quotations
as yet.” So I decided to examine this point on the following day.

Hitherto my study of Christian or Jewish literature had never followed my
intentions. I had intended to read Paul continuously. But first Isaiah,
then David, then Moses, and then Isaiah again, had intervened. I was
going forward all the while, but by a winding course, like a stream among
hills and rocks. Now again I have to describe how—although I sat down
with a determination to digress no more but to read through the epistles
from the beginning to the end—I was led off to another investigation.

The first phrase in the volume did not long occupy me. True, I had
greatly disliked it when I first glanced at it, a few days ago—“Paul
a _slave_ of Jesus Christ.” “Slave” was always used by Epictetus in a
bad sense, and I had then thought it savoured of servility. But now I
knew that the translation of Isaiah often used it to denote a devoted
servant of God; and it seemed to me that Paul had perhaps no other word
that could so well express how he felt bound to service by Christ’s
“constraining love.”

Nor did the next words now cause me much difficulty:—“_Called_ to be an
_apostle_, _set apart_ to preach the _good tidings_ of God, which He
promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy scriptures.” Scaurus
had told me how Epictetus had borrowed from the Christians this notion of
being “called” to bear testimony to God. Whether he was right or wrong,
he had prepared me to find “called” in such a passage as this. It was
connected here with an “apostle,” that is, someone “_sent_” by God. This,
too, seemed natural. Though Epictetus did not use the noun, he often
used the verb to describe his ideal Cynic—and especially Diogenes—as
being “_sent_” to proclaim the divine law. “Set apart” I understood to
mean “set apart” by special endowments of body and mind such as Epictetus
frequently attributed to Socrates and Diogenes.

As to the “good tidings,” I knew that Epictetus would have considered it
to be a message from God to this effect, “Children, I have placed your
true happiness in your own control. Take it from yourselves, each of
you, from that which is within you.” But what was Paul’s “good tidings”?
Isaiah had described God’s messengers as “proclaiming good tidings,”
namely, that God was coming to the aid of men: “As a shepherd will He
shepherd His flock and with His arm will He gather the lambs.” Epictetus,
as I have shewn above, scoffed at this metaphor of “shepherd.” But I
could not help liking it. Homer used it about kings, Isaiah about God.
I thought Paul meant, in part, that God would manifest Himself as the
righteous King.

But I knew that Paul must also mean more, and that he would not have
claimed the attention of the Romans for a mere repetition of an ancient
written prophecy. Any child able to read could have repeated that. Paul
must have more good news—either about the Shepherd, or about the time, or
about the certainty of His coming. At this point, it occurred to me, “Why
wait for the gospels that Flaccus is to send me? Why not search through
the epistles to find out what Paul’s gospel is?” But I checked myself,
saying, “No more digressions.” The next words were these: “Concerning
His Son, who came into being from the seed of David according to the
flesh; who was defined Son of God, in power, according to the spirit of
holiness, from the resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
These words I have translated literally and obscurely so as to indicate
to the reader how exceedingly obscure they seemed to me. “I must pass
on,” I said, “I can make nothing of this. What follows may make things
clearer.”

I began to read on, but soon desisted. The words that followed took
no hold of my mind. I tried, and tried again, but was irresistibly
dragged back to “resurrection of the dead,” and “power,” and “spirit of
holiness,” and “defined”—especially to “resurrection.” What kind of
“resurrection”? During my childhood I had heard my father tell a story
or legend how, just before the battle of Philippi, the spirit of the
great Julius appeared to Brutus, saying “Thou shalt see me at Philippi.”
There Brutus slew himself. And Scaurus had remarked that a similar fate
had overtaken others of the conspirators; so that some might declare
that Julius had power to rise from the grave and turn the swords of his
assassins against themselves. That, if true, was an instance of the power
of a man, or a man-god, rising from the dead in a spirit of vengeance.
But Paul spoke of “resurrection of the dead,” and “power,” in connexion
with a “spirit of holiness.” Paul (I knew that already from the epistles)
had been an enemy of Christ, as Brutus had been of Cæsar. Comparing the
two conquests, I asked whether more “power” might not be claimed for
Christ’s “spirit of holiness” than for Cæsar’s spirit of vengeance. For
Paul, instead of being killed by Christ, had been made a willing and
profitable “slave.” Brutus had been forced to turn his sword against
himself; Paul had been constrained by love to turn his new sword, “the
sword of the spirit,” against the enemies of his new Master.

What light did this passage throw on the causes of Paul’s conversion?
I read it over again. Christ, he said, “came into being,” or was born,
“of the seed of David according to the flesh.” Well, that might be one
cause. A Jew would be more likely to accept as king a descendant of the
house of David. And besides, Jews might think that such a birth fulfilled
the prophecy above mentioned about “the root of Jesse.” But there might
be many born “of the seed of David according to the flesh.” That which
“defined” Christ to be “the Son of God” was “the resurrection of the
dead”; and the “defining” was “in power” and “according to the spirit
of holiness.” By these last words, Paul seemed to separate Christ’s
resurrection from any such apparition as that of Julius, or other ghosts
and phantasms; which may appear to this man or to that, and then vanish,
either caused by evil magic, and doing an evil and magical work, or doing
no work at all; whereas the rising again of Christ was caused by a holy
power and resulted in a work of abiding power and “holiness.”

This it was that led me into a new digression. Recalling how the spirit
of Cæsar was said to have appeared and spoken to Brutus, I desired to
know what words the spirit of Christ said to Paul, and when and how
Christ appeared to him. I wished also to inquire about the nature of Paul
himself, before and after his conversion; and whether he shewed signs of
restlessness, and of ambition to become a leader in a new sect. Perhaps I
should have spared myself this searching if I had known that, along with
the gospels, Flaccus was sending me Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. But the
results of the search were helpful to me. So I will set them down in case
they may be helpful to others.

First, then, I found that, before his conversion, Paul had been a Jew
of the strictest kind. “Ye have heard,” he said to the Galatians, “how
that beyond measure I used to persecute the church of God and laid it
waste, and I advanced in the Jews’ religion beyond many of mine own age
among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions
of my fathers.” That expression “ye have heard” clearly shewed that it
was a matter of notoriety. The writer meant (I thought) not only “ye have
heard from me,” but also “from others,” perhaps meaning his enemies,
the Judaizers (often mentioned in this epistle), who pointed at him the
finger of scorn, saying, “This is the man that changed his mind. This man
thought once as we do.” To the Philippians also Paul said that he had
every claim to be confident “in the flesh,” being “A Hebrew of Hebrews;
as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to the
righteousness that is in the law, blameless.” So also he said to one of
his assistants, Timothy, that he, Paul, had been “the chief of sinners”
because he had persecuted the church.

Elsewhere I found him writing to the Romans that his heart sorrowed for
his countrymen and that he could almost have prayed to be “accursed from
Christ” for their sake, for they, he said, had the Patriarchs, and to
them were made the promises; and he expressed a fervid hope that in the
end the nation would receive the promises, though for a time they were
shut out. What he said to the Romans convinced me, in an indirect way,
almost as strongly as what he said to the Galatians and Philippians,
that Paul had been a genuine patriot, observing the traditions, as well
as the written law, of the Jews, and persecuting the Christians with all
his might because he thought (as we also were wont to think in Rome) that
they were a pestilential sect, destructive of law, order, and morality.
So much for what Paul was before his conversion.

Next, as to what happened to him at the moment of his conversion. First
I turned to the Corinthian letter describing the appearances of Christ
after death, to see whether anything had escaped me in the context—any
words uttered by Christ to Paul, for example, at the time. But there
was nothing except the bald statements, by this time familiar to me,
“He is recorded to have been raised on the third day according to the
scriptures; and he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; afterwards he
appeared to above five hundred brethren, of whom the greater part remain
till now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to
all the apostles; and last of all, as unto one born out of due time, he
appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet
to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God.” All this
Paul had previously delivered to the Corinthians—so says the letter—as a
“tradition,” and as a part of his “gospel.”

This gave me no help. All that I could infer from it was that Christ
probably “appeared” to his enemy Paul in the same way in which he had
“appeared” to his friends and followers, and that the “appearing” must
have been of a cogent kind, since it convinced an enemy. Nor did I gain
much more from the Galatian account, which was as follows: “But when it
was the good pleasure of God—who set me apart for this service even from
my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace—to reveal His Son in me that
I might make it my life’s work to preach the good tidings about him among
the nations, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither
did I go up to Jerusalem to those that had been apostles before me, but I
went away into Arabia, and turned back again to Damascus.”

Here I was in doubt whether “reveal His Son _in me_,” meant “reveal
_by my means_,” or “reveal _in my heart_,” that is, “unveil in my
soul the image of the Son, which up to that time I had smothered with
self-will and obstinacy”—as though “the Son” had been all the while in
Paul’s heart, but he had been refusing to acknowledge him. This latter
interpretation I preferred. But still there was no mention of any words
uttered by Christ to Paul at the moment of his conversion. Only, as Paul
implies elsewhere that he had not seen Jesus in the flesh, that is, in
person, I presumed that there must have been some such utterance as “I am
Jesus,” or “I am the crucified”:—else, how would Paul have recognised the
appearance?

As to the place of conversion, however, some light was afforded by
the words “I turned back to Damascus,” shewing that he had been near
Damascus when it happened. And the epistle to the Corinthians said that
he had been let down in a basket from Damascus so as to escape the Jews.
It appeared that he was persecuting the Christians up to the time of
his conversion; that he was doing this in or near Damascus when he was
converted; and that the Jews living in that city turned against him after
his conversion, so that he had to escape from them.

Hereupon I tried to imagine Paul the persecutor, in his course of
“persecuting the church,” suddenly stopped by an apparition of Christ.
In respect of his acts, Paul—though he could not possibly have been so
cruel—might be compared to Nero, who also persecuted the Christians.
But in respect of righteousness and truth and fervour, Paul was like
Epictetus. Then I recalled the story recently told me by Scaurus, how
he and his father had come suddenly upon the young Epictetus, in the
Neronian gardens, staring upon the Christians in their torments, and how
Scaurus had remarked upon the ineffaceableness of the impression produced
on his own mind and (as he believed) on that of my future Teacher. That
I could well understand. But Scaurus and Epictetus were merely passive
spectators. Paul was a perpetrator. “How much deeper,” I said, “and all
the more deep and terrible in proportion to his sense of justice and
truth, must have been the impression on Paul’s mind, when he suddenly
woke up to the fact that he had been persecuting the followers of Truth,
the disciples of the Suffering Servant of God, predicted by the prophets!”

Then it appeared to me that perhaps the precise _words_ uttered by
Christ in that moment of Paul’s shock and agony were not of so much
importance as the _feeling_ of shock and agony itself, followed by a
great wrenching away of prejudices and misconceptions, and by a sudden
influx of a dazzling light on eyes habituated to darkness. Looking again
at the Philippian letter, I perceived how much Paul had to give up, how
lightly he regarded the sacrifice of all his prospects of prosperity and
promotion among his own people: “_But whatever things were once gains to
me, these I have counted as loss for Christ’s sake. Nay, more, I count
all things as loss for the sake of the preeminence of the knowledge of
Christ Jesus my Lord; for whose sake I suffered the loss of all that I
had, and I count it all as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and
be found in Him—not having as my own righteousness that which is of the
law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that is
from God based on that faith—that I may know Him, and the power of His
resurrection and fellowship with His sufferings, being conformed with His
death; if by any means I may attain to the resurrection of the dead! Not
that I have already received, or am already perfected. But I pursue the
chase, if by any means I may seize as a prize that for which I was also
seized as a captive by Christ Jesus!_”

These last words made me understand how Paul might have regarded Christ
as manifested _in_ him rather than _to_ him. Isaiah saw God uplifted
on high _outside_ him. But Paul felt the Son of God enthroned as
sovereign _within_ him: I remembered reading in some drama how the wife
of a dethroned and submissive sovereign goads him to rebel against his
successor, saying—

“Hath he deposed
Thine intellect? Hath he been _in thy heart_?”

This was just what Paul experienced and exulted in avowing. Christ had
“deposed” Paul’s former self, and substituted a new self of his own as
viceroy, to rule Paul, “in his heart.” A soldier might say that Christ,
in the moment of taking Paul prisoner, had (so to speak) given him back
his sword, saying “Use it on my side among all the nations of the earth,
that they also may receive the good tidings of the forgiveness of sins.”
But in fact (according to Paul’s view) Christ had done much more than
this. He had given Paul a new sword, “the sword of the spirit.” He had
also made his whole nature anew, according to Paul’s own saying, “If any
man be in Christ, he is a new creature, behold all things are made new.”

Not that I was as yet convinced that Christ had actually risen from the
dead. For I did not yet feel sure that Paul might not have been deceived
by himself and by the Christians. But I did now feel sure that Paul was
honest and did not knowingly deceive his readers. And it was becoming
more and more difficult to believe that self-deception or Christian
deception could have produced effects on multitudes of men so great and
permanent as those which were plainly discernible in the epistles.

I remember at this time trying to prevent my growing admiration for
Paul’s work from blinding me to his defects. Such phrases as “let him
be anathema,” and “dogs,” and “whose belly is their glory,” and “I
would that those who are thus desolating you would even emasculate
themselves”—these and others I marked with red in my volume. I knew
Epictetus would have condemned them. But I soon perceived that these
fiery flashes of wrath were reserved for those whom Paul regarded as
proud and greedy ensnarers and oppressors of helpless souls; proud of
knowledge that was no knowledge; greedy of money and influence to which
they had no right; shutting their eyes against the light, and dragging
back poor pilgrims just as they were on the point of entering into the
City of Truth. Towards others, even if they might have appeared as
rivals, he seemed to me to feel no rivalry, merging all such feeling in
allegiance to Christ. Some, he said to the Philippians, preached Christ
“thinking to add affliction” to his bonds, out of jealousy and spite.
“What then?” he says, “Whatever may be the motive, Christ is preached,
and I rejoice. Yea, and I will rejoice.” In the same spirit he wrote to
the church of Corinth concerning those among them who said, “I am of
Apollos,” “I am of Cephas,” “I am of Paul”—condemning all partisanship,
although he gently reminds them of his singular relation to them, “Even
though ye have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet ye have not many
fathers: for in Christ Jesus through the Gospel I begot you.”

Another detail interested me. Paul (I found) differed greatly from
Epictetus in physical constitution, Epictetus used to teach us that a
Cynic had no business to be “infirm” of body. At all events, he said,
no such person can do the work of a Cynic Missionary. When he extolled
“the sceptre of Diogenes,” he used to tell a story of the way in which
that philosopher, lying by the roadside, sick of a fever, called on the
wayfarers to admire him. It was the road to Olympia, and people were on
the way to the games: “Villains!” he shouted to them, “Stay! Are you
going all that way to Olympia to see athletes fight or perish, and will
you not stay to behold a contest between a man and a fever?” But this
contest, I think, ended in Diogenes’s death. As a rule, both he and
Socrates had been perfectly and robustly healthy: and Epictetus seemed
somewhat to despise those who were otherwise.

Paul, on the other hand, frequently spoke of his “weakness,” meaning
physical infirmity or sickness. It was “owing to _weakness_,” he told the
Galatians, that he preached the gospel for the first time among them; and
he called it a “temptation (or, trial) in the flesh.” This I took to mean
that he had been delayed in Galatia by some sickness, and had founded the
Church there while in that condition. So to the Corinthians he said, “In
_weakness_ and in fear and in trembling did I come addressing myself to
you.” But that letter went on to say, “And my word and my preaching were
not in the persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit
and _power_”—so that “power” went hand in hand with “weakness.” Once
at least I found Paul praying to be delivered from “weakness.” “I will
not boast about myself”—so he writes to the Corinthians—“except in my
weaknesses.” And then he went on to explain the “boasting” as being quite
different from that of Diogenes. For the Cynic cried, in effect, “Come
and see how strong I am!” But Paul meant that he would “boast” because,
when he felt weakest, then his Master came to his aid and made him
strong. This he expressed in a way that perplexed me at first: “_There
was given to me a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me,
that I might not be lifted up above measure. About this, I besought the
Lord thrice that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace
sufficeth for thee, for in weakness is Power made perfect._”

For some time I could not understand this phrase, “_an angel of Satan_.”
But afterwards I found Paul writing to his Thessalonian converts that,
when he wished to come to help them, “Satan _hindered_ him,” so that
Satan appeared to be a _hinderer_ of the gospel. Then it seemed to me
that among the Jews and Christians certain diseases might be regarded as
demons, or the work of demons—just as, in Rome, “Fever” is worshipped
as divine and has temples. This fact I had heard Epictetus mention; and
he also condemned those who pray to be delivered from fever. The right
course was, he said, “to have the fever rightly.” Paul seemed to say,
“first pray to be delivered from fever, if it seems to hinder you from
doing the work of the Lord. Then, if it be revealed to you as the will of
the Lord that you should bear the fever, be sure that He will make your
bodily weakness spiritually strong. Thus the temptation from Satan, the
Hinderer and Adversary, shall be turned into a strengthening trial from
God, your Helper and Friend.”

Summing up the marvellous changes that seemed to have come about for
Paul in consequence of Christ’s “appearing” to him, I was more than ever
disposed to believe that it was of a divine origin and a great deal more
than a mere “appearing.” I thought it must have been an “appearing” to
the inner eye, the spirit, as well as to the outer eye.

When we Romans and Greeks use the word “spirit,” we mostly think of a
shadowy unreal appearance of the dead. We should not call Jupiter, or
Zeus, a “spirit.” But I perceived that, with Paul, “spirit” was more
real—and, if I may so say, more eternally solid—than “body.” It was the
real “person.” The word “person” in Greek, as also in Latin, means a
“mask” or “character.” There is, with us, no one word to express “real
person.” Common people think the body real, but the spirit unreal. Paul
used the name “spiritual body” to describe a “real person,” raised from
the dead in Christ. Well, then, it seemed to me that the power of Christ
on Paul might be described, not only as an “appearing” but also as the
grasp of a “real person,” “taking hold of” Paul’s spirit with a spiritual
hand so as to strengthen and direct him. What else was it that made him
so strong?

The strength of Epictetus in bearing trials and sufferings had long
excited my admiration. But now the strength of Paul seemed greater.
Epictetus bore—or at least professed to bear—only his own burdens. As
for those of others, he said, “These are nothing to me.” Paul was like
a gentle nurse or tender mother with the weaklings among his converts.
“Who,” he asked, “is made to stumble, and I burn not? Who is weak, and I
am not weak?” And yet, in his weakness, he was a very Hercules or Atlas,
strong enough to bear “the care of all the churches”! This “weak” man was
always fighting, always craving to fight, and always conquering—up to the
time of his impending departure, when he exclaimed that he had “fought
the good fight”! And through what an extent of the civilised world! “From
Jerusalem to Illyricum”—so he wrote to the Romans! In that same letter
he announced his intention of carrying the eagles of the New Empire into
Rome itself, and of passing onward from Rome to the invasion of Spain!
No wonder that he felt able to say, “I take pleasure in weaknesses, in
outrages, in straits and necessities, in persecutions and hardships, in
Christ’s behalf; for in the moment when I am weak, in that moment I am
strong.”

“I am strong”! Yes. Rolling up the volume as I retired to rest that
night, I was constrained to agree with that, at all events. “About some
things,” said I, “or perhaps about many things in your letters I am
doubtful; but assuredly you are strong. I myself am also certain that
you are honest. But that you are strong—and that, too, with a strength
that comes from faith in the resurrection of your Master—this not even an
atheist or Epicurean could deny.”