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Departing from Phalera or Piræus, Paul arrived at Cenchrea, which was the port of Corinth on the Ægæan Sea. It is a pretty enough little harbour. It is surrounded by verdant hills and pine woods, and is situated at the extremity of the Gulf of Saronica. A beautiful open valley, nearly two leagues in extent, reaches from that port to the great city built at the foot of the colossal dome from which can be seen the two seas.

Corinth was a field much better adapted than Athens to receive the new seed. It was not like Athens a sort of sanctuary of thought, a city sacred and unique to the world; it was even hardly a Hellenic city. Ancient Corinth had been razed to. its foundations by Mummius. For a hundred years the soil of the Achaian Confederation was desert. In the year 44 B.C. Julius Cæsar rebuilt the city and made it an important Roman colony, which he peopled principally with freedmen. This is equivalent to saying that the population was very heterogeneous. It was composed of a conglomeration of those peoples of every sort and of every origin which loved Cæsar. The new Corinthians remained for a long time strangers to Greece, where they were regarded as intruders. Their entertainments consisted of the brutal games of the Romans, which were repulsive to true Greeks. Corinth became thus a city 111like so many others on the shores of the Mediterranean, very populous, wealthy, brilliant, frequented by many strangers, a centre of commercial activity, one of those conglomerate cities, in short, which no longer contained patriots. The dominant trait which rendered its name proverbial was the exceeding corruption of manners which was remarked there. In this again it constituted an exception amongst the Hellenic cities. The purely Greek manners were simple and gay, and could on no account be held to be luxurious and debauched. The affluence of the mariners who were attracted thence by the two ports, had made of Corinth the last sanctuary of the worship of Venus Pandemos, a remnant of the ancient Phœnician establishments. The great temple of Venus had more than a thousand consecrated courtesans; the whole city was like a vast pandemonium, where numerous strangers, sailors particularly, resorted to spend their wealth foolishly.

There was at Corinth a colony of Jews, which was probably established at Cenchrea, one of the ports which was used in trading with the East. A short time before the arrival of Paul, a colony of Jews, which had been expelled from Rome by the edict of Claudius, had disembarked, and among the number were Aquila and Priscilla, who, it seems, at that time already professed the faith of Christ. From all this there resulted a concomitance of circumstances most favourable. The isthmus formed between the two masses of the Greek continent has always been the seat of a world-wide commerce. It had always been one of those emporiums, quite irrespective of race or of nationality, designed to be the headquarters, if I might say so, of infant Christianity. New Corinth, on account of its having few Hellenic nobility, was a city already semi-christianised. With Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and Rome, she became an ecclesiastical metropolis of the first rank. But the 112immorality which reigned should at the same time have presaged that the first abuses in the history of the Church would be produced there. In a few years Corinth shall present tows the spectacle of incestuous Christians, and of drunken people sitting down to the table of Christ.

Paul quickly divined that a long sojourn at Corinth would be necessary. He resolved hence to take up there a fixed abode, and to prosecute his trade of upholsterer. Now, strictly speaking, Aquila and Priscilla followed the same trade as Paul. He went there to live with them, and the three set up a small shop, which was stocked by them with ready-made articles.

Timothy, whom Paul had sent from Athens to Thessalonica, soon rejoined him. The news from the Church at Thessalonica was excellent. All the faithful continued in the faith and in charity, and in their attachment to their master. The persecutions of their fellow-citizens had not shaken them; brotherly love prevailed throughout Macedonia. Silas, whom Paul had not seen since his flight from Beræa, had probably been joined by Timothy, and returned with the latter. What is certain is, that the three companions found themselves reunited at Corinth, and that they lived there together for a long time.

The attention of Paul was, as usual, first directed to the Jews. Each Sabbath he spoke in the synagogue. He found there dispositions greatly diverse, One family, that of Stephenephorus or Stephanus, was converted, and were all baptised by Paul. The orthodox resisted energetically, even to the extent of injuring and of anathematising them. One day, finally, there was an open rupture. Paul shook the dust off his raiment upon the incredulous of the assembly, made them responsible for the consequences, and declared to them that, seeing they closed their ears to the truth, he would go unto 113the Gentiles. Having uttered these words, he left the hall. He taught henceforth in the house of one Titus Justus, a man that feared God, and whose house was contiguous to the synagogue. Crispus, the chief of the Jewish community, belonged to the party of Paul; he was converted with his whole house, and Paul baptised him himself, a thing of rare occurrence.

Many others, both Jews and Pagans, and those “fearing God,” were baptised. The number of converted Pagans appeared to be here relatively considerable. Paul displayed prodigious zeal. Several divine visions which came to him during the night fortified him. The fame of the conversions he had made at Thessalonica, nevertheless, preceded him, and had favourably disposed the religious society in his behalf. The supernatural phenomena were not wanting: there were some miracles. Innocence was not the same thing here as at Philippi and Thessalonica. The corrupt manners of Corinth crossed sometimes the threshold of the Church; at any rate, all those who entered it were not equally pure. But, in return, few of the Churches were more numerous; the community of Corinth irradiated the whole province of Achaia, and became the home of Christianity in the Hellenic peninsula. Without speaking of Aquila and of Priscilla—almost received in the rank of apostles—and of Titus Justus, of Crispus, of Stephanus—mentioned above—the Church numbered in its bosom Gaius, who was himself also baptised by Paul, and who extended hospitality to the Apostle during the second sojourn of the latter in Corinth; Quartus, Achaicus, Fortunatus, Erastus, rather an important personage, who was treasurer of the city; a woman named Chloe, who had a numerous household. We have only vague and uncertain notions in regard to one Zenas, a doctor of Jewish law. Stephanus and his household constituted the most influential group, the one 114which had the most authority. All the converts, nevertheless, with the probable exception of Erastus, were simple-minded people, without much instruction, without social distinction, drawn, in a word, from the humblest ranks.

The port of Cenchrea had likewise its Church. Cenchrea was in great part peopled by Orientals. There one could reverence Isis and Eschmoun, while the Phœnician Venus was not neglected. It was like Calamaki in our days, less a city than a mass of shops and inns for seafaring men. In the midst of the corruption of these filthy hovels of seafarers, Christianity produced its miracle. Cenchrea possessed an admirable deaconess, who, one day, as we shall see later on, concealed under the folds of her woman’s garments the whole future of Christian theology, the writing which was to regulate the faith of the world. She was named Phœbe. She was an active person, never at rest, always eager to render service, and who was very precious to Paul.

The sojourn of Paul at Corinth lasted for eighteen months. The beautiful rock of Acrocorinth, the snowy summits of Helicon and of Parnassus, remained for a long time in his regards. Paul contracted in that new religious family some deep friendships, although the taste of the Greeks for disputation displeased him; while on more than one occasion his natural timidity may have been increased by the disposition of his auditors to subtlety. He could not detach himself from Thessalonica, from the simplicity he had found there, from the lively affections he had there left behind him. The Church at Thessalonica was the model which he never ceased to proclaim, and to-wards which he always reverted. The Church at Philippi, with its pious women, its rich and good Lydia, was not allowed to be forgotten. That 115Church, as we have seen, enjoyed a singular privilege; which was, to nourish the Apostle when his labour did not suffice to do so. At Corinth he received from her fresh succour. As if the somewhat sprightly nature of the Corinthians, and of the Greeks in general, had inspired him with distrust, he would not accept anything of this kind from them, although more than once he found himself reduced to want during his sojourn in their midst.

It was with difficulty, nevertheless, that the anger of the orthodox Jews, always so active, was restrained from breaking out. The preachings of the Apostle to the Gentiles, his broad principles in regard to the adoption of all those who believed, and their incorporation into the family of Abraham, irritated to the highest pitch the partisans of the exclusive privilege of the children of Israel. The Apostle, on his part, was not very sparing in hard words. He announced to them that the anger of God was about to break out against them. The Jews had recourse to the Roman authorities. Corinth was the capital of the province of Achaia, comprising the whole of Greece, and which ordinarily was joined to Macedonia. The two provinces had been made senatorials by Claudius, and in virtue of which they had a pro-consul. That position was filled at the time of which we speak by one of the most amiable and best instructed men of the century—Marcus Annæus Novatus, elder brother of Seneca. who had been adopted by the rhetorician L. Junius Gallio, one of the litterateurs of the society of the Senecas: Marcus Annæus Novatus took hence the name of Gallio. He had a great mind and a noble soul, was a friend of the poets and of the celebrated authors. Every one who knew him adored him. Statius called him dulcis Gallio, and probably he was the author of some of the tragedies which proceeded from that literary roof. He wrote, it seems, upon natural philosophy. 116His brother dedicated to him his book on Anger and Happy Life; people attributed to him one of the most intellectual works of the period. It appears that it was his high Hellenic culture which, under the learned Claudius, led to his selection for the administration of a province which all governments, somewhat enlightened, surrounded with delicate attentions. His sanctity obliged him to abandon the post. Like his brother, he had, under Nero, the honour of expiating by his death his distinction and his honesty.

Such a man was little disposed to agree to the demands of fanatics coming to ask the civil power, which they protested against in secret, to rid them of their enemies. One day Sosthenes, the new ruler of the synagogue, who had succeeded Crispus, brought Paul before the judgment seat, and accused him of preaching a religion contrary to the law. Judaism, in fact, which had old authorisations, and all sorts of guarantees, pretended that the dissentient sect, as soon as they had made a schism in the synagogue, enjoyed no longer the charters of a synagogue. The situation was one which would have brought before the French law liberal Protestants on the day they separated themselves from recognised Protestantism. Paul was going to answer, but Gallio restrained him, and, addressing the Jews, said: “If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason were that I should bear with you; but if it be a question of words and of names, and of your law, look ye to it, for I will be no judge of such matters.” This was an admirable response, worthy of being set up as a model to civil governments when they are invited to meddle with religious questions. Gallio, after he had pronounced it, gave orders to drive away both parties. A great tumult ensued. Everybody was seized with the desire to fall upon Sosthenes, and he was beaten 117before the judgment seat, and no one could tell whence the blows proceeded. Gallio paid little heed, and caused the place to be cleared. The sage politician had avoided entering into a dogmatic quarrel; the well-educated man refused to mix himself up with a quarrel of vulgar people; and when he saw violence break out, he sent every one away.

No doubt it would have been wiser not to appear so disdainful. Gallio was well inspired in declaring himself to be incompetent to judge in a question of schism and of heresy; but yet men of mind have sometimes little prescience! It was discovered later that the quarrel of these abject sectaries was the great affair of the century. If, instead of treating a religious and social question with that unceremoniousness, the government had taken the trouble to make an impartial investigation, to make a searching public investigation, and to discontinue giving an official sanction to a religion become completely absurd; if Gallio had been disposed to take into account what it was that constituted a Jew and a Christian, to read Jewish books, to keep himself au courant of what was passing in the subterranean world; if the Romans had not been so narrow-minded, so little addicted to the study of science, many misfortunes would have been avoided. How very singular! There was, in the case now under consideration, on the one hand, a man who was one of the most intellectual and the most studious; on the other, a soul which was one of the most robust and the most original of his time, and they passed the one before the other without either perceiving the fact; and, surely, if the first blows had fallen upon Paul instead of upon Sosthenes, Gallio would have been equally indifferent. One of the things which causes the most faults to be committed by people of the world, is the superficial disgust which badly educated and unmannerly people inspire in them yet 118manners are only a matter of form, and those who have them not are found sometimes not to be destitute of good sense. The society man, with his frivolous sneers, passes continually, without knowing it, the man who is going to create the future; they do not belong to the same world; yet the common error of society people is to think that the world which they see is the entire world.

These difficulties, however, were not the only ones that the Apostle had to encounter. The Corinthian mission was thwarted by obstacles which, for the first time, he had met with in his Apostolic career,—obstacles proceeding from the bosom of the Church itself, from intractable men who had been introduced to it, and who opposed him, or from many Jews who had been attracted to Jesus, but more attached than Paul to legal observances. The false spirit of the degenerated Greek who, starting from the fourth century, corrupted Christianity so much, was already making itself felt. The Apostle then called to mind his beloved Churches at Macedonia, that unlimited docility, that purity of morals, that frank cordiality, which had procured for him at Philippi and Thessalonica such happy days. He was seized with an ardent desire to go and see once more the faithful of the Lord, and when be received from them an expression of the same desire, he could hardly restrain himself. In order to comfort himself in this embarrassment, and to protect himself from the importunities of those with whom he was surrounded, it pleased him to write to them. The epistles dated from Corinth bear the imprint of a kind of sadness,—praises of the most lofty description for those to whom Paul wrote; but these letters were completely silent, or contained some unfavourable allusions to those from whose midst he wrote.

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