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The twenty-second chapter of Acts was referred to, and Jane whispered, “ See, Mary, he says himself he was born at Tarsus."
“Well," said Mary, "will you please explain how both can be true, for I really don't understand it ?
“ You are quite right to inquire," said Mrs. Walters, “and I will tell you how it arises : Tarsus was raised by the Roman emperors, not only to be the capital of Cilicia; but the privileges of a Roman city were conferred upon it."
“Just as I am English, though I was born in Calcutta," said Anne Dereham.
“Exactly so. The Jews who were a trading people, as you know they continue to be, found it highly advantageous to settle there. That Paul was of Hebrew extraction, and not merely a Jewish proselyte, we learn from himself, when he calls himself a 'Hebrew of Hebrews,' and also informs us of what tribe he was. Tarsus was also a place of considerable learning, and the resort of many learned men."
“Did Gamaliel live there ?" inquired some one.
“No, at Jerusalem ; and it would appear that St. Paul was sent there at an early age, for he speaks of his life from his youth up,' as having been passed among his own nation at Jerusalem. Tarsus is still a considerable town ; its present buildings are constructed out of the remains of the old ones; but who ever hears now of the ships of Tarshish? There is something very melancholy in reading of the greatness of any ancient city; the contrast between the past and the present is so striking.”
Except Rome," said Fanny Barker, " its splendour is undiminished.”
Mrs. Walters shook her head. “ You have named, perhaps, the most melancholy instance of all,” said she ; “but I must not begin to talk about it now, we must proceed with the course of the Apostle. We so lately read of all the wonderful circumstances connected with his journey to Damascus, that we need not recapitulate them. Damascus is one of the most ancient cities in the world. Eliezer, of Damascus, is spoken of even in the days of Abraham. I imagine from all that I have ever read of it, that it is impossible to conceive any thing more lovely than
its situation. It is stated that Mahomet, after looking at it from a distance, refused to enter it. He said there was only one Paradise for men, and he did not wish to have his upon earth. It lies in a delicious plain amply watered, and is so embowered among trees as to look like one large garden. It is, indeed, surrounded by gardens, and we are indebted to the Crusaders for having introduced into our own country some of their productions, which, in their names, still retain traces of their origin."
As Mrs. Walters spoke, she pointed to a beautiful bouquet of Damask roses which she had purposely placed in the centre of the table, at the same time remarking that “ Damascenes," a fruit of which they were all so fond, were natives of that region.
“The whole history, short as it is, of St. Paul's arrival at Damascus, his sojourn there, and his flight from it, opens wide fields of thought to us,” continued Mrs. Walters.
"I do not wonder, mamma," said her daughter Madelaine, " that Ananias should have been afraid to receive Saul; and yet it showed great want of faith in him to argue the matter, when the Lord himself appeared in a vision to him.”
“ Yes,” rejoined her mother, “and how concisely he was answered : there. were no angry upbraidings, but a simple command, which he no longer hesitated to obey. What a lesson of patience is exhibited to us here! Our Saviour, even in heaven, condescending to show us an example of long-suffering and forbearance. It is a trying thing not to be believed when we are speaking in favor of one whom we are convinced is an improved character, but we may err; either the person may deceive us, or we may see his character through a false medium, making it appear as we would wish it to be, rather than as it really is. Now here there was no possibility of error, for it was He who spoke, to whom all the windings of the human heart are known; and yet how gently he deals with his doubting disciple.
“If I might be allowed to make one remark,” I said, “it would be this—the term 'Jew' is no longer the word of reproach that it was once.
Indeed in many minds there is a kind of romantic interest attaching to their future conversion, and restoration to their own land. But does not the term converted Jew' often suggest the ideas of fraud and dissimulation? I speak not of others; but I know in my own case this has too often
been so, and instead of doing what might be in my power to assist them in receiving their sight, I mean their mental sight, I have in point of fact made some such speech as that of Ananias.
Thou knowest how much evil such an one has done by a false profession of zeal for Thee ! ”
“The subject had not struck me in this light," said Mrs. Walters, “but in future, let us think of St. Paul as a converted Jew, and it may have the desirable effect of strengthening our feelings of interest in those who are indeed for a season cast off ; but for whom there are so many bright promises yet in store." s Will
you tell us, mamma, if you please," said Julia Walters, “what place Aretas was king of, for I cannot find out ? In 2 Cor. xi. 32, he is mentioned, and it says there that the governor under him was desirous to apprehend Paul; but in the Acts, it only mentions the Jews as wishing to kill him, and does not say that they were supported by any authority.”
Aretas," said Mrs. Walters, was the king of Arabia Petrea, which was at that time a tributary of the Roman empire, and Damascus was subjected to him. At this period there was war between Aretas and Herod, who, as you well know, was tetrarch of Galilee; for Herod who had married the daughter of Aretas, had put her away, in order to marry Herodias. It must have been a great trial to the apostle to have left Damascus in the way in which he did. His natural character was so bold and intrepid, that flight must have been extremely repugnant to his feelings."
" And then," said Fanny Barker, “ to feel that there was such retribution in it that the Jews wanted to kill him, just as he had wanted to kill the Christians when he first came to Damascus."
“And yet both they and he were quite sincere in what they were about;" pursued Mrs. Walters. “ Our Saviour had forewarned his disciples that the time would come that whosoever should kill them, would think that he was rendering an acceptable service to God. And there is no delusion more fatal than that of thinking, that if we are but sincere in our religious profession, it matters little what that profession may be. There are many sincere Mohamedans—many who are sincere believers in all the various delusions of heathenism."
“But we must always act conscientiously, must we not ma'am ?" inquired Jane Grant.
“True, my dear; but the point is to ascertain whether our conscience be rightly regulated. Are its dictates such as the Word of God enjoins ? If I choose to be careless about my watch, and though I am told that it is daily losing, yet neglect to have it regulated, have 1 any right to complain when I am going a journey, that the train has started before I arrived at the station, when the fault was obviously my own? Fancy or feeling must never be allowed to occupy the place of conscience. We must set it,' if I may be allowed the expression, by the Bible, and then we cannot err.
And we must make it a constant subject of prayer, that a right judgment in all things, may be given to us.
“ From the Epistle to the Galatians, we learn that Paul visited Damascus twice, and that in the interval he was in Arabia. Then he went to Jerusalem, where he again had to undergo the painful suspicions of those whose esteem he most valued. The affections of Peter seem indeed to have been drawn out in a powerful manner to him. He, too, had denied his Lord, and be felt that the grace which had forgiven him, was also sufficient to turn the heart of Saul the persecutor. But he had outward persecution to bear with at Jerusalem, as well as distrust. The Grecians, that is, Jews from the parts inhabited by Greeks, and who spoke the Greek language, conspired against his life. So once more he was constrained by the providence of God to fly.
“Cæsarea, to which place the disciples brought him, was built by Herod the Great, and was a splendid place. All the buildings, even the private houses, were of marble. He dedicated a temple there to Cæsar, whenee the town derived its name. In this temple were two statues, one of Cæsar, the other of Rome. Herod was only twelve years in building this town, so that things must have proceeded with great rapidity. It is interesting to us as having been the residence of Cornelius at the time of his conversion ; it was here, too, that Philip the evangelist resided.
“From Cæsarea, Paul departed for Tarsus, his native city; but we hear nothing of the time he passed there, though he was no doubt busy in his Master's work. And at the last day there may be disclosures of fruit springing up from seed planted by him during that visit. We can form but an imperfect judgment
as to when a person is really most useful. The greatest results often arise from the most unpremeditated actions, while at the same time the most earnest and laborious efforts of a minister may appear to be without any result at the time, but the harvest may spring up long after the hand that sowed it has mouldered into dust."
“And is it not well it should be so ?" I inquired, “If cause and effect as closely followed each other in the spiritual, as in the natural world, even an apostle would scarcely have been able at all times to give to God all the glory, and to own that it is He alone who gives the increase.”
· Yes,” said Mrs. Walters, “ Man must work as if he could do everything; but he must trust as if he could do nothing. Cheering indeed is the promise, 'In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand, for thou knowest not which shall prosper, this or that, or whether both shall be alike good.' And now, having brought the apostle to his native city again, we will not pursue his journeyings farther to-day.”
As the girls were collecting their books together, I remarked that I never read the Acts of the Apostles without thinking of the contrast which their various journeys present to those of the greater number of professing Christians in modern times.
“ Why,” replied Mrs. Walters, they travelled in order to fulfil a high duty; we too often travel to shun the duties with which we are surrounded at home. With them, self-indulgence was a thing unknown, while with us it is the idol to which increasingly more and more is sacrificed.
“A pilgrim-spirit;' how often we hear the words, yet, how seldom we think of all that is implied in them! Those who have ever sojourned in a foreign land, without having been there sufficiently long to form associations which bind them to it by feelings of affection, know how the heart thrills in a casual encounter with any one, with whom we accidentally meet, who knows our own beloved home and our friends, and how indifferent we feel to all the passing local circumstances, which are of so much consequence in the estimation of the resident inhabitants. We call heaven our home, yet live as if earth were ever to con
But now let us go out and enjoy this lovely day. I think, Mary, it is your week for supplying the bouquet ; and these flowers look rather languishing."