THE PHILOSOPHERS. BY REV.

WILLIAM ARNOT

" Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jeius, and witf. the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoics, encoun tered him. And some said, What will this babbler say ? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection." ACTS xvn. 17, 18. ALTHOUGH it was the idolatry of the Greeks that stirred Paul s spirit, and launched him single-handed on the work, he kept his old rule of giving the first offer of the gospel to the Jews. Even here he began in the synagogue; but, as might have been expected, the mission to the heathen soon sprang to the fore ground, and occupied his energies. In the market-place he discoursed daily to all who were willing to listen. The method indicated by the term "disputed" was universal among the Greeks. It consisted of question and reply. It was both more lively in itself, and better fitted to elicit truth than any

The Church in the Plouse.

of our modern methods. At Tarsus, Paul was trained to such disputations in his youth; and doubtless he felt himself at home in the Agora of Athens. The " ves sel " was chosen because of its capacity; or rather, ca pacity was providentially imparted to. the vessel, be cause such an instrument was needed in the service

of the King. Two of the leading sects into which Greek philoso phy after the time of Socrates had broken up, immedi ately appear upon the field the Epicureans and the Stoics. These two systems were reciprocally antago nistic. In their nature and mutual relations they resem bled somewhat the Sadducees and the Pharisees among the Jews. Paul was a Pharisee before he was a Chris tian, and if he had lived in Athens would certainly have attached himself to the Stoics. Both sects dealt with the same questions: with man, his duty, his destiny, his relation to the universe and to God. Epicurus bought a garden in the city, and taught his disciples there. His main principle was, that the chief good of man is enjoyment. It is due, however, to the founders of the sect to say that they measured enjoyment by a high standard. They repudiated sen sual pleasures. It was in the later period of the Roman Empire that this philosophy developed into unbridled licentiousness. But even in Paul s time its maxims tended to degrade humanity. The apostle alludes with horror to its fundamental maxim, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." They made special ef forts to free themselves from the fear of death. Listen, O ye disciples of Epicurus ! a preacher stands in the Agora to-day who really can impart to you this secret. He will tell you of One who can " deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." * * Thoughtful heathens of that time were much exercised about the shadow which the prospect of death casts over the path of the living. They wove many curious and acute reasonings together, by way of covering; but, alas! these threads, though exhibiting great ingenuity, possessed no power.

Cic ero "Tusculan Questions." Book I. puts the matter thus: All men are either alive or dead. Those who are alive are free from death, and those who are dead are free from.it; therefore all are free, and none should fear. lie points out, with laborious hair-splitting, that no man has anything to dc

The PJiilosopJiers. 329 The Stoics, so called because their founder, Zeno, taught in a porch (Stoa), were in many respects the opposite of the Epicureans. They taught that man s chief end is to be virtuous. But, alas ! they had no certain knowledge of what virtue is; and they possessed no power to lead a human spirit in the right path, even although it had been known. When the representatives of these two philosophi cal sects encountered the learned Jew in the market place of Athens, they would soon discover that he was not a novice in their own arts. The Stoic system, es pecially, must have been familiar to Paul in his youth at Tarsus. It is remarkable that from the time of Zeno to the time of Paul, a period of about three hundred years, almost all the leading Stoics were Asi atic Greeks; and three of these, each of them a leader in his day, were of the same province Cilicia and two even of the same city Tarsus in which the apostle was educated. Discussions between Epicure an and Stoic, in the schools of Tarsus when Paul was young, must have held the same place which the dis pute between Romanists and the Reformation holds with us. There was the same interval, the same sep aration into sects, and the same antipathy. Both sections, however, soon turned against Paul, as Sadducee and Pharisee, at a later period, combined

at Jerusalem for his destruction. All parties were es pecially scandalized by his doctrine of "Jesus and the resurrection." These philosophers could not bear to be told of a crucified Redeemer. They would not re ceive the fact on which the salvation of the world de pends that Jesus died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. Paul was as eager to win these Greek philosophers as he had been to win those low, ruffian fortune-tellers who haunted the precincts of the temple at Ephesus. He had learned from the Master to have no respect of persons. He looked on the learned and unlearned as nil alike lost, unless and until Christ were formed in with death. It cannot come to the living, for when it comes, he is no longer living, but dead; and it cannot come to the dead, for he is already past it, How poor are these speculations of philosophy, in presence of the gospel of Christ !

330 The CJnirck in the House. them. These were noble specimens of humanity, but they were fallen. They were dead in^ sin, and they could not bring themselves to life again. Conceive of a race of intelligent beings springing up and attaining maturity in an hour: suppose that hour to be the beginning of the night; they are Ephem era; their life-course lasts only twenty-four hours. The first half of their existence is night. They exer cise their faculties on all the nocturnal phenomena of nature. This night, we shall suppose, has been varied. At first there was darkness; afterwards the stars ap peared, and later still the moon. The world, they

thought, was now glorious: their privileges were com plete. Expectation, imagination, could no further go. At length the day dawns in the east, and the sun rises in his strength. But these ephemeral creatures do not relish the light of day. Their faculties have de veloped under the feeble lights of the night; their senses have accommodated themselves to their cir cumstances. They are content with what they pos sess, and busy themselves in weaving thick curtains to keep out the sunlight. Such were the Athenian philosophers when the gospel reached them in the preaching of Paul. They had light of a kind. Their light, such as it was, reached them as a reflection from that Sun which they had never seen. But so accustomed were they to the darkness, and so contented with it, that when the Sun appeared they shut their eyes against his healing beams. The discussions which sprang up in the market place between Paul and the philosophers soon at tracted a crowd. The Greeks were sharp enough to perceive that there was something deeper in the dis course of the stranger than the daily gossip of the streets. By common consent it was agreed that these matters were too grave to be dealt with in the noise and jostling of the market. All felt instinctively that there must be an adjournment. The cry, "To the Are opagus!" was raised; and the whole mass preacher, philosophers, and people moved together from the low, level market-place up to the venerable rock. The ascent, abrupt on one side, was an easy gradient

The Philosophers. 331 on the other. The rock rose to a height of about sixty feet above the plateau that lay between it and

the much more elevated Acropolis. It was levelled on the top, and seats for the magistrates were cut in the rock. The temple of Theseus, the most ancient, and still the best preserved of their shrines, was close by. The Acropolis, crowned with the Temple of Minerva, the patroness of the city, overhung the spot, as the Castle rock of Edinburgh overhangs the pla teau on which Heriot s Hospital stands. In this open-air court all the great trials of religion and politics had been conducted. Grand associations were connected with the spot. In this case it was not the trial of a criminal. No charge was preferred against Paul. It was an adjournment to this place of grave and solemn traditions, that, under the presidency of the magistrates and in presence of the people, the sub lime themes concerning man and his relation to God, broached by the Jewish stranger, might be reasoned out. Here met the wisdom of this world and the fool ishness of preaching. Here the Cross of Christ came into contact with the best that human reason had been able to discover. Here, as elsewhere, the preached gospel will be a dividing word. The cross raised on the Areopagus will be like the cross erected by Pilate s soldiers on Calvary in this that on one side of it there will be a scorner, and on the other side a sinner saved by faith. From the one side you hear the sneer, " If thou be Christ, save thyself and us;" from the other the prayer, " Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." In Athens, as in Jerusalem, it is "on either side one, and Jesus in the midst." 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

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