A Great World Power
VENTS which affect us
But the Jews—those direct descendants of Abraham the patriarch, who had long ago migrated from Chaldea to the land of Canaan,—the Jews were looking for a great earthly conqueror. They had refused to acknowledge the claims of Christ to be that conqueror, and they wished to bring about His death as soon as possible.
"What thinkest thou?" they said one day—"Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not?"
"Show Me the tribute money," answered Christ.
And they brought Him a penny, a Roman penny made of silver, worth about sevenpence-halfpenny of present money.
"Whose is this image and superscription?" He asked them.
"Cæsar's," was their answer.
Then saith He unto them: "Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's; and to God the things which are God's."
This was no earthly conqueror like the Cæsars, whom they could expect to give them high places, to restore to them their rights and exalt them above their fellows. This Man taught that the world must be a great brotherhood, bound together by peace and love. And the Jews put Him to death, crucifying Him, according to their eastern custom.
They had killed Him when He was yet young, but they could not kill His teaching. Under His disciples and apostles it spread rapidly.
"Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel (good news) to every creature."
These had been among the last commands given to the followers of Christ. Among the first to carry out this great command of his Master was Paul.
The first city he chose in which to preach was Antioch—"Antioch the Beautiful," or the Crown of the East, as the men of old called the city. North of Tyre and Sidon, on the sea-coast of Syria, it stood, on the great trade-road between Ephesus and the East. Here were men from Cyprus and men from Cyrene, here lived numbers of wealthy Romans and Greeks. It was a good place to which to carry the good news. In a year's time Paul had taught many people, and here the name of "Christian" was first given to those who followed the teaching of Christ.
Tiberius the emperor was dead, and Claudius Cæsar was ruling over the Roman Empire; but the new teaching in far-away Antioch had not yet penetrated into the heart of Rome, though the sayings of the Master had been written down in the four books still known as the Gospels.
From Antioch St Paul crossed over to Cyprus, the island to which the Phœnicians had made their first voyage across the seas, and which now belonged to Rome.
After a time he set sail for the mainland of Asia Minor.
Asia Minor was indeed the highway by which Christianity passed to the capital of the world. Travelling from town to town, mainly along the great caravan routes of the country, the faithful apostle reached the sea-coast near the old town of Troy.
Here one night he had a dream. A man of Macedonia, in the bright clothing of that nation, appeared to him.
"Come over into Macedonia and help us," he said.
Paul could not resist such an appeal. Setting sail, he crossed over to Macedonia, setting foot for the first time on European soil. From thence he passed south to Athens, once the most beautiful city in the world.
Here he would see the great statue of the goddess Athene crowning the Acropolis. He knew how corrupt the city had grown since the brilliant times of Pericles, and "his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry."
Standing on Mars Hill, a lofty rock rising from the very heart of the city, with the clear blue sky of Greece above him, he spoke to the men of Athens from the very depths of his heart.
Again and again we find him travelling from town to town, standing amidst temples and "idols made with hands," and telling the people of the Master he would have them serve instead. At Ephesus, where, glittering in brilliant beauty, stood the great temple of Diana, Paul nearly lost his life in the uproar that followed his plain speaking. But he was ready to die for the Master if need be. Again preaching at Jerusalem, tumults arose which ended in his imprisonment and his well-known trial.
"I stand at Cæsar's judgment-seat, where I ought to be judged," he said, appealing to the highest tribunal in the land. "I appeal unto Cæsar."
"Hast thou appealed unto Cæsar? Unto Cæsar shalt thou go," cried Festus, ruler of the province.