Who shall describe the marvels of the change when from the sea of sin a human soul is caught up into the life above, and lifted into the blessed brotherhood of the saints of God? No fears, no doubts, no remorse; but only a certain purifying fire of repentance within me, stimulating me to a life of virtue and to the helping of others, even as I had myself been helped. In addition to the delight of continual communion with my beloved teacher Paulus, my spirit was also refreshed by all the brethren of the church. For in them I found such a joy of fellowship as I had never before known, not like a common collegium where men meet merely to eat and drink and to be merry and to pay for the funeral of some deceased companion, and to give help to those of the collegium who may chance to be in need; but the Christian collegium, if I may so call it, was far above all these, being bound together with a tie not to be loosened by death and so strong and passionate as I had never experienced nor even conceived, a veritable enthusiasm and insatiate desire for well-doing. Marvellously great therefore was the change for one who had been but yesterday208 friendless, an outcast, despised of all men, now to find himself encompassed round with friends or rather brothers and bathed as it were in a flood of friendship. But the greatest help of all was the Lord Jesus himself, present in my heart by day and night, a constant fountain of inexpressible peace. Now also I heard once more and learned these words of the Lord which had first drawn my soul towards him at Antioch; and other words I learned beside these, full of grace and healing. Many a time in Colossæ, and sometimes even in Pergamus and Corinth during the days of my darkness, I had caught myself unwittingly repeating to myself that most precious exhortation of the Lord Jesus to the weary and heavy laden, that they should come unto him and he would give them rest; but then I had repeated these words as an unbeliever or as a doubter, striving to harden myself in unbelief; now I repeated them with understanding, knowing them by experience to be true, and acknowledging that in him alone was rest. Notwithstanding the Spirit of the Lord, and the manifestations of the Spirit, came not unto me from the learning of the sayings of Jesus, but from the preaching of Paulus, who first revealed to me the power of the Lord unto salvation.
At this time I told Paulus the whole story of my life, and although I supposed that matters of love were scarcely fit for his hearing (as Epictetus had spoken of them slightingly, as beneath the attention of a philosopher) yet I concealed not either my former love for Eucharis or the bitterness of my sorrow for her death. He was moved by it more than I had thought possible, nor did he209 rebuke me as I had expected. Hereon I described to him the doctrine of Epictetus, who forbade me to sorrow for her or for anything, or any person, because it was necessary to preserve serenity of mind. But Paulus shook his head, and said that it was not right that we should in this way seek to escape from the troubles of life by separating ourselves from others; but that we ought to rejoice with them that rejoice and sorrow with them that sorrow, and that we should fulfil the law of Christ by bearing one another’s burdens. Yet he bade me think of Eucharis as of one not dead but sleeping, and not in the hand of Death but in the hand of the Lord, “for” said he, “whether we live, or die, we are the Lord’s.”
Again, when I spoke to him of my former doubts concerning the ruling of the world, whether it were for good or for ill, he said that men had been placed in the world as if in twilight, to seek and grope after God; but that now the day had dawned in the manifestation of the Lord Jesus and in his rising again from the dead; “for,” said he, “this, and nothing else, is the salvation of the world, resolving all doubts and showing forth the triumph of good over evil and of life over death.” And in all his doctrine he made mention of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus as being the foundation of the whole Gospel and the seal of its truth.
As to the objections of Artemidorus (for I hid none of them nor aught else, because of the perfect trust I had in Paulus) namely, that the Lord Jesus had not been sent into the world till after so many centuries, and then to a most despised nation—the Apostle lightened these doubts210 by teaching me more fully concerning Israel; how the seed of Abraham, though lightly esteemed of men, had been chosen of God to proclaim his will; and how all things from the beginning, both the questionings of the Gentiles, and the Law, and the Prophets of Israel, had prepared the way for the coming of the Lord. But whereas Artemidorus had said that there was no sin, and Epictetus also had taught me that sin and crime were no more than “erroneous opinion,” Paulus now taught me quite otherwise, that an Evil Nature was in the world from the first, contending against the Good, and that the Evil is the cause of all our sins and miseries; howbeit, he bade me believe that out of our very sins the Love of God worketh a higher righteousness, making evil itself to be a kind of step of ascent to a greater good; which belief I do still, and ever shall, hold fast. Touching any signs and wonders wrought by the Lord (whereon certain of the brethren were wont to set great store) he said but little, although he himself wrought no small signs in the healing of diseases; for that which drew him to the Lord was not signs nor wonders but a love of him, and a trust in him, as being the spiritual power of God manifested to the saving of the souls of men. In the same way I also believed, and do still believe, in the Lord Jesus, worshipping him not as the worker of wonder and portents, but as the Eternal Love of God, governing the world from the first, and in these last days made flesh for us, that in him we might know God, and love God, and be at one with God.
§ 2. HOW I RETURNED TO PHILEMON AT COLOSSÆ.
Even before I had been baptized (which took place on the seventh day after I had first heard the preaching of Paulus) I had resolved that I must at once return to Philemon. However, by the advice of Paulus, I went not straightway to Colossæ, but abode some days with him at his lodging, that I might be strengthened in the faith of Christ; and each day drew me closer to my new teacher. Those who knew him not might perchance have accused him of inconstancy; for his manner of speech and the features of his countenance changed every moment; and he was skilful as an actor to suit himself (in all honorable fashion) to them with whom from time to time he had to do, whether Jews or Greeks, bond or free, soldiers or courtiers, or whatever else. But the cause of his thus conforming himself to others in things indifferent was not inconstancy nor dissimulation, but a sincere love for all men and a power of feeling as others felt, so that his own nature disposed him without constraint to carry out that precept which was always on his lips, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and sorrow with them that sorrow.” And beneath all this appearance of inconstancy there was a firm and solid resolution, the depth of which could not be known but by those who knew the depths of the love of the Lord Jesus. From Paulus (who knew Philemon well) I heard that my former enemy Pistus had fled from Colossæ some months ago, being convicted of theft, and after his departure his devices against me had been discovered212 and my innocence proved; hearing which I was the more willing to return. Nor did the Apostle longer delay me, saying that he doubted not but that Philemon would do what was right; but to make assurance surer he would write a letter to him whereof I should be the bearer.
I had not been an hour in Colossæ before Philemon signified his desire to emancipate me without conditions, at the same time lamenting that he had been led by the practice of Pistus to suspect me without cause; and for the brief remnant of his life, he (no less than Apphia) bestowed on me a truly parental affection; which I for my part endeavored to requite with something of the care and attention due from a son. Soon afterwards I was appointed to the ministry, and I labored in the church at Colossæ to supply the old man’s place, inasmuch as he became daily more infirm and less able to preside over the congregation. Many difficulties in the work began at this time to perplex me, because there appeared in our little congregations divisions of opinion. Some of the brethren were plain simple folk (slaves most of them) delighting in wonders; and these, besides believing other portents, supposed that, after their death, they would reign on earth with Christ for many years wearing the same flesh and blood which now they wore. Others (but of these only a few) coming to the knowledge of Christ from the study of philosophy, denied that there was any further resurrection, after the human soul had once been raised up from the death of sin to life in Christ. Again, others maintained Christ to be not very God, but only the greatest of a great train of angels created by God; and some of these213 affirmed that Christ was not a man at all (save in appearance only) but that he merely went through the form of appearing to be born and to suffer and to die. Many also attacked the Law of Moses and the ancient Scriptures of the Jews; and these (not understanding the doctrine of the Apostle concerning the progress of all things, and how the Law was but as a slave to bring us to Christ) taking it for granted that I must needs maintain the Law to be perfect, and the doings of the Patriarchs to be perfect, yea, and the letter of the Law to be perfect, endeavored to bring the Scriptures into derision, by asking whether the true God had nails and hair and teeth and the like, as well as hand and voice and nostrils; because, said they, the Scriptures declared that he had the latter; and if the latter, why not the former?
Against all these opinions it seemed needful to contend, not so much inveighing against that which was false, as rather pleading for that which was true. Many times did I now desire that my teacher, the blessed Apostle, had been present to direct and guide me. But then there came into my mind the saying of Epictetus that “it is only a bad performer who is afraid to sing alone,” and how One greater than Epictetus had promised that he “would be ever with us.” Yet I began to lament (as did others also) that we had no writings of the words and deeds of the Lord which might have served as a lamp and guide to our feet. However, in spite of these contrarieties, it was still a great refreshment to note the work of the Spirit among all such as believed in the Lord Jesus, yea, even among some that erred in opinions. For not only did all alike214 abstain from magic arts, and festivals, and sacrifices to demons, and the like, but a wonderful change came also upon their whole lives: the thief no longer stole; the lewd became chaste; the cruel merciful; the timorous and servile no longer feared aught save sin. To crucify slaves had become a thing hateful and abominable; to expose children was to sin against God; wealth and pleasure were despised; and, in a word, such temperance, constancy and benevolence as are recommended by philosophers in their lectures to a small circle of pupils, these very virtues were practised by the whole multitude of the saints; and this, not out of ostentation, nor “to preserve one’s own serenity of mind” (as Epictetus would have had me think) but simply out of an insatiate desire to serve the Lord Jesus by loving and serving men. Nor could I fail to perceive how fruitful and blessed was the service of the Lord; for that very peace and freedom of mind which Epictetus had held up to me as the chief object of life, and which I had found impossible to obtain by aiming at it, behold, now that I no longer aimed at it, but only desired to serve the Lord, this same peace of mind came as it were unasked into my bosom, peace deep, and calm, and past all power of tongue to utter or mind to understand.
§ 3. OF MY DISCOURSE WITH ARTEMIDORUS CONCERNING THE FAITH.
About this time died Artemidorus. Of late the old man had become infirm and bedridden, and I visited him often, and spoke much with him touching the faith of215 Christ; and he received me the more willingly because he had a great love for Epictetus (who was now absent with his master in Rome), and he was wont to say that I was now become a second Epictetus, setting my superstition aside. He retained all his force of mind and keenness of understanding; and still as in old times, he would fain have judged the Faith of Christ by the weakness of the weakest of the brethren, and not by the strength which made them strong. For example, because certain of our church (living from day to day in expectation of the coming of the Lord) were wont to catch up, perhaps too greedily, every light rumor of war or famine or earthquake, as signs of the Last Day, on this account he would call the Christians misanthropi, enemies of Cæsar, and haters of the empire. Again, because others among us gave much time to fasting and prayer, and in that condition discerned (or in some cases perchance seemed to discern) visions of the Lord; or because a few, more superstitious than the rest, abstained from eating flesh; for this cause he mocked at all the saints as dreamers of dreams and given to foolish austerity and unprofitable abstinence.
None the less, he willingly heard me speak of the Lord Jesus, and sometimes himself questioned me concerning him. One such conversation I remember, a few weeks before his death, when, upon my entering his chamber, I found him in a deep study: and, as soon as he saw me, scarcely giving me time to salute him, “You Christians,” he said, “believe in a good God, who is all-powerful; whence then comes evil into the world?” “I will explain that,” replied I,216 “when you can explain whence arose the atoms which, as you say, made the Universe.” He said, “Nay, my friend, I have no theories to maintain on this subject; but evil is opposed to your supposition of a good and powerful God.” “Not more,” I replied, “than atoms, existing from the beginning, are opposed to your supposition of no effect without a cause.” Then he was silent, and said no more on that point. But producing my letters which I had written to him from Antioch (and it was at that time that he gave into my hands those papers the substance of which I have set down above) he urged against me more especially that which I had myself said, that the religion of Jesus was narrow, giving precedence to Jews, and compelling all men to be Jews in the observing of the Law; and he added that, however Paulus might affirm the contrary, this and nothing else was clearly the intent of Christus himself. But it was not difficult for me to show that, howsoever Jesus had purposed that the Gospel should be preached to the Greeks through the Jews, yet his doctrine and kingdom had, from the first, been intended to include all mankind, without observance of the Law. I also repeated to him as many of the sayings of the Lord as I had been able to collect and to commit to memory; and hence I proved to him that he at whom Artemidorus had been wont to scoff, was neither juggler, nor magician, nor impostor, but a great Conqueror of the minds of men, and one whose doctrine and practice went down to the roots of life, and to the foundations of all things. And this indeed, when he had heard the account of his life and doctrine, Artemidorus did not deny, admitting himself to have misjudged in former times, and pro217fessing now to revere Christus as he would revere Socrates, or Epicurus, or Pythagoras; “but still,” said he, “the acknowledgment of one great and good man more in the world, proves not that the world is divinely governed.” Then I urged him again with a new argument, saying that it was very credulous to suppose that this wonderful Universe had come together by chance and without a Mind, whether the Mind had wrought through atoms or otherwise, and that if there were such a Mind, then those things that were done and said in accordance with that Mind would prevail (being in harmony with the universe) but those things that were not in accordance with it would come to nought; wherefore, since the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth had been already so very powerful (and that too without aid of force or cunning or any customary aids of great conquerors) it seemed certain that they were indeed in harmony with that Mind of the Universe to which Jesus had taught us to give the name of Father. To all this he listened patiently and attentively; and that he pondered these matters in his heart may be judged from the following rough notes which I found among his papers in his handwriting, dated about the time of our discourse together, that is to say a month or thereabouts before his death.
§ 4. OF THE DOUBTINGS OF ARTEMIDORUS.
“THE PROBLEM OF THE CHRISTIANS.
“This Christus lived in Syria less than forty years, and, after doing nothing worthy of mention, was put to218 death upon the cross by Pontius Pilatus, governor of Judea. He made no conquests, no laws, and few disciples; and, of these few, one betrayed him. He wrought, it may be, some cures of a kind to startle the multitude (doubtless in accordance with nature, by working on the imaginations of men); but in any case none marvellous enough to persuade men that he was a prophet; for it is not denied that his own countrymen delivered him to execution. After his death, his disciples constantly affirmed that he had appeared to them, and in one case this was confessed by an enemy; but (saving this belief in his resurrection, and some kind of expectation that he would always be present with them as an ally) he bequeathed to his followers nothing except a policy that was no policy, but rather a dream, somewhat after this fashion:—
“THE DREAM OF CHRISTUS.
“The world is to be a commonwealth wherein the Supreme God is to be King, and all mankind the citizens. But God being the Father of men, mankind are to be to him as children, and to one another as brethren. Of this commonwealth the laws are to be as follows:—
“1. The Law of Love. Love (and not Force nor Cunning) is the strongest power in the world; and as little children take captive the hearts of their parents by force of love, so are the Christians to take captive the world by becoming as little children, loving all men and thereby constraining all men to love them in return. [Surely the vainest of vain dreams! In the fulfilment of which I will then believe when I see the sheep loving the wolf and thereby constraining the wolf to love them in return.]
“2. The Law of Giving and Receiving. As by giving to Nature the husbandman receives a manifold return, so by giving to the Unseen Nature and Spiritual Harmony which Christus believed to exist, men shall receive an abundant harvest in return. Thus, by giving love, a man is to receive a return of love; or giving pity, a return of pity; or service, a return of service. [All this may be, and yet there may be no God. For doubtless, if a man give love to his fellow men, even though they love him not in return, yet he thereby enlarges his imagination of the Divine Love, and warms his heart with the fancy that he is now more perfectly loved by that Divine Person whom he has painted for himself out of the colors of his own mind. This dream may make some men happy, and more women; but though a dream may give pleasure, it does not cease to be a dream.]
“3. The Law of Sacrificing. All sacrifices of beasts are to be done away, the only true sacrifice being the sacrifice of the will, whereof the sacrifices of beasts are but as emblems. In the life and death of Christus (being a perfect sacrifice of the will) these Christians suppose the perfect sacrifice to have been offered up. Hence they regard Christus as the High Priest of mankind offering himself up for all men; supposing that by force of sympathy with him, which they call ‘faith,’ they are able to be united with him and so to take unto themselves his sacrifice. [I deny not this doctrine of sacrifice to be less ignoble and superstitious than the notions of the common sort; who vainly imagine that they can bribe the Supreme by sheep and oxen. But, even were it true, it seems too220 high and unsubstantial for the minds of the common people. Besides, as there is no God, there can be no sacrifice, so that this also is a dream, like all the rest.]
“4. The Law of Forgiving. It is supposed that, by force of sympathy, every disciple of Christus has a power of raising up men beneath him in goodness, whom they call sinners. This ‘sympathy’ they call bearing the sins of others, and the result of it is forgiveness; and Christus is said by them to have brought this power into the world and to have bequeathed it to his disciples. It differs, they say, from our ‘forgiveness,’ in that it means not the mere remission of punishment, but the putting away of sin itself. [All this is simply natural, and may be seen in any family or assembly of human beings; wherein the better always have a power of raising up the worse, and those who are injured have power to set at rest the minds of their injurers by forgiving them. Therefore all that they can claim for Christus is, that he possessed this power perchance in a singular degree, and discerned how great a force it had over the minds of men; and perhaps also that he (by some special and peculiar influence) imparted it to his disciples.]
“5. The Law of Faith and Trust. No man, said Christus, could be forgiven sins by him, except he had ‘faith;’ and in the same way his followers maintain that without ‘faith,’ it is impossible to obtain the forgiveness of sins, but by faith the worst of sinners can be forgiven.” [This again, so far as it is true, is merely natural; because no offender can so much as imagine himself freed from the consciousness of his wrong-doing by the forgiveness221 of the man injured, if he distrust the latter and esteem him as an hypocrite. And without doubt this “faith”—as one may see even in a dog that has faith or trust in his master—has not a little power to confer magnanimity on men by raising their minds to the level of a high idea of God, even though that idea be but an empty imagination. But here, as elsewhere, there is a deficiency of proof; for what is wanted is, not superstructure, but foundation; for I will not dispute the power of faith, if these Christians will first give me somewhat certain to have faith in.]
“ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM.
“This being the commonwealth and these the Laws of Christus, the problem is, whence comes it that so many thousands of men are drawn towards him, and thereby led out of evil and vile courses into lives of virtue? For other religions (and Onesimus justly urges this argument) hold out similar hopes of Elysian fields, and terrors of Hades, and purifications from sin; and some also, like the religion of Pythagoras, pretend to join men into brotherhoods; and almost all afford portents sufficient to satisfy the natural credulity of men; yet do they not succeed in persuading their votaries to lead virtuous lives.
“The answer is, in my judgment, two-fold; first that the laws of Christus are in accordance with the Harmony of things—by which however I am far from meaning that there are gods, or any such things as sin, forgiveness and the like, for all these things are probably mere imaginations—but I mean that human nature is so framed as to be turned from the imagination of sin by the imagination222 of forgiveness and these other imaginations which Christus has devised; secondly, Christus himself appears to have been of a nature to imprint himself upon others to a degree much above the common; and his power over the minds of his disciples (as has been sometimes seen in the case of others, both teachers and law-givers and private men) instead of being diminished after death, was greatly increased.
“A third cause may be alleged by some, namely, that his disciples believed and cause others to believe, that he rose from the dead. But is this a cause, and not rather an effect? For we must surely ask, what caused his first disciples to believe that he had risen from the dead? Perhaps they did not believe it, but pretended to believe it, and deceived others. But this I do not think to be true in the case of Paulus; who was changed from an enemy to a friend by an apparition of Christus at the time when he was persecuting his followers. For this reason, and for others, I incline to believe that the first disciples did not deceive others, but were themselves deceived by apparitions, naturally arising from affection and imagination. Yet can I not deny that, on this supposition, the influence of Christus, being supposed to be so powerful over the minds of men as to force even an enemy to become a friend by the apparition of him whom he had persecuted, far exceeds anything that I have witnessed, or heard, or read; and it raises Christus to something almost above the nature of man.
“The sum of all is, that this commonwealth of Christus appears to me but a dream, though, I deny not, a noble dream. And even were it to prosper beyond expectation in the future, as it has already prospered in the past, yet could I not entertain it, having no belief in a god or gods. Yet thus much I admit, that, if I were able to believe in gods of any kind, I know not where among gods or men I could find anything more worthy of worship than this Christus, reasonably worshipped, without violence to nature; for if Plato was right in saying that ‘there is nothing more like god than the man who is as just as man may be,’ then certainly Artemidorus may say that ‘if there were a god, there would be nothing more like god than Christus.’”
§ 5. OF THE LAST WORDS AND DEATH OF ARTEMIDORUS.
Thus wrote Artemidorus three or four weeks before his death; and from certain words that fell from his lips afterwards, I have hope that he came yet nearer to the Truth than this. However in his case I perceived (not indeed for the first time, but more clearly then than ever before) that it is not argument nor force of philosophy that brings into the Church of Christ them that are without, but it is rather the Spirit of Christ in the Church. For this Spirit, the Spirit of loving-kindness, and justice, and purity, and patience, not only binds us that are in the Church close together, but also causes them that are without to desire to enter in, while they wonder and admire at the concord of the brethren. In this way the common people of Colossæ—rich as well as poor, though more often the poor—coming by twos and by threes to our assembly224 were daily converted; but Artemidorus, being (as I have said) bedridden, could neither know how great a change had been wrought by Christ in the lives of the brethren, nor what a spirit of power reigned over us in the meetings of the congregation, with which perchance he himself might have been imbued had he been present among us. Therefore when I urged him a few days before his death, to believe and to be baptized, though he was neither amazed nor indignant, as of old, yet he shook his head, saying that he was now too old and too sick to leap, at so short notice, into a new philosophy. “Nor,” said he, “could the gods themselves, if there be gods, take it in good part that I, who have been, all my life through, a perfect Mezentius, not merely offering no libations to them but even denying their existence, should now present to them as it were the dregs of the cup of this life.” In this mood he continued even till his death. Some of the brethren rebuked me afterwards because I had not warned him of the fiery wrath that awaits them that harden their hearts against the Lord. But I was not unmoved by the old man’s answer to Archippus, who had made some mention to him of the terrors of hell. To which Artemidorus replied that if Christus were indeed a lover of truth, then he would of a surety make some allowance for one who, all his life long, had sought such truth as he could find, however imperfectly, and who now, in his old age, was loth for shame to say, “I will believe Christus to be god because, if there be no gods, I thereby lose nothing; and if he be god, I thereby gain much.” These words the old man spoke to Archippus in my pres225ence, when he was now in extreme weakness, so that he could scarce move his hand to bid me farewell; and on the morrow he died, without making any sign at all of faith; only he whispered to his secretary, a few minutes before his death, to tell me this as his last message, that, whereas he had charged me always to bear in mind the proverb that “incredulity is security,” now he perceived that there was room for trust as well as distrust in the life of man.