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What is certain, is that Titus was with Paul in Antioch before the council of Jerusalem; and that, having distinguished himself by his piety and zeal, he was one of those whom the church at Antioch sent to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and elders concerning the circumcision of the converted proselytes, fourteen years after Paul's own conversion, that is, in the year forty-nine. [Gal. ii. 1, 2.] When the messengers from the church at Antioch came to Jerusalem, the apostles, elders, and brethren, assembled; and, after reasoning on that question, decreed that it was not necessary to circumcise the converted Gentiles. Nevertheless, the judaizers in Jerusalem zealously endeavoured, on that occasion, to have Titus circumcised. So the apostle insinuates Gal. ii. 3, where he saith, not even Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. Here it is proper to remark, that the Jews called all the idolatrous Gentiles Greeks; for, in their manner of speaking, Jews and Greeks comprehended the whole of mankind. [See Rom. i. 16.] According to this interpretation of the appellation, from the apostle's calling Titus a Greek it may be inferred, that before his conversion he was an idolatrous Gentile. The same thing appears likewise, from the attempt of the judaizers to force him to be circumcised. For, after the decree of the council was passed, freeing the converted proselytes from obedience to the law of Moses, if Titus, before his conversion, had been one of that denomination, the judaizers could not, with any shew of reason, have insisted on his circumcision. Yet, as the council had determined nothing respecting the converts from among the idolatrous Gentiles, some of the zealous judaizers, who, by stealth, introduced themselves into the private meeting in which Paul explained to James, Peter, and John, the gospel which he had preached among the Gentiles, when they found out that Titus, before his conversion, was an idolater, might insist to have him circumcised, on pretence that he was not freed from circumcision by the council's decree. But this attempt to subject a Gentile convert to the law of Moses, Paul resolutely withstood, that the truth of the gospel might continue with the Gentiles. [Gal, ii. 5.]
After the council, when Paul and Barnabas, accompanied by Judas and Silas, returned to Antioch to give the brethren an account of what had happened at Jerusalem, Titus seems to have returned with them; and, from that time forth, seems to have accompanied Paul in his travels as one of his assistants. For when the apostle set out from Antioch to visit the churches which he had gathered among the Gentiles in his first apostolical journey, and to confirm them, by delivering to them the decrees of the council, Titus went with him all the way to Corinth, and laboured with him in the conversion of the inhabitants of that city. This appears from the 2 Cor. viii. 23, If any inquire concerning Titus, he is my partner and fellow-labourer in the gospel towards you. The reason is, the apostle, before he wrote to the Corinthians, having not visited them since their conversion, the fellow-labouring of Titus towards the Corinthians must have happened at the time they were converted, If this reasoning be just, it must follow, that after the council, when Paul set out from Antioch with Silas to visit the churches, Titus either went with them, or was sent away before them with the apostle's letter to the Galatians, which is supposed, by Dr. Macknight, to have been written at Antioch soon after the council. In that case, when the apostle went through Galatia with the decrees, he may have met Titus, and have taken him along with him. Or, during his eighteen months abode at Corinth, he may have sent for Titus to come and assist him at Corinth.
After the apostle had planted the gospel in Corinth, he went to Jerusalem; but whether Titus abode at Corinth, or accompanied him to Jerusalem, is not said. This, however, we know, that he came to the apostle, as many others did, during his long residence at Ephesus, mentioned Acts xix. 10. For, by him, he sent his first epistle
to the Corinthians, which was written at Ephesus about the time of the riot of Demetrius. This service the apostle assigned to Titus; because, being well known to, and much respected by, the Corinthians, on account of his former labours among them, he hoped he might have influence in composing the disturbances which had taken place in their church. On his return from Corinth, Titus met the apostle in Macedonia, and gave him such an account of the good disposition of the Corinthians, as filled him with joy, and induced him to write to them a second letter, which he employed Titus likewise to carry. At the same time, he requested him to excite the Corinthians to finish their collections for the saints in Judea, which they had begun during Titus' former visit to them. In prosecution of this design, Titus abode at Corinth till the apostle himself came and received their collections, and the collections of the other churches of Achaia. On that occasion, Paul spent three months at Corinth, [Acts xx. 3.] then set out for Jerusalem, taking Macedonia in his way. His companions in his journey to Jerusalem are mentioned Acts xx. 4; and though Titus is not named as one of them, it does not follow that he was not one of the number. He is not said by Luke to have been with the apostle in Macedonia in his way to Corinth; yet, from the apostle's sending him from Macedonia to Corinth with his second epistle to the Corinthians, we learn that he was one of his chief assistants at that time. Wherefore, notwithstanding Luke, in his account of the apostle's return from Greece, hath not mentioned Titus among those who accompanied him to Jerusalem with the collections, he may have been one of them; and, having gone with him to Jerusalem, he may have ministered to him during his imprisonment there and in Cæsarea; nay, he may even have sailed with him to Rome. These, however, are only conjectures; for, from the time Titus delivered the apostle's second letter to the Corinthians, in the year fiftyeight, we hear nothing of him till the year sixty-two, when he was left by the apostle in Crete, to set in order the things that are wanting, and to ordain elders in every city. [Titus i. 4.]
Among the three thousand who were converted by Peter on the memorable day of Pentecost, Cretes, that is, Jews natives of Crete, who had come up to Jerusalem to worship, are mentioned Acts ii. 11. These being of the same disposition with the Jewish converts, who, after the death of Stephen, preached the word to none but to the Jews only, [Acts xi. 19.] would, after their return home from Jerusalem, confine their preaching to the Jews, who, as Josephus informs us, were very numerous in Crete. We may therefore believe that the first Christians in Crete were mostly of the Jewish nation. It is true, Barnabas went into Cyprus after he separated himself from Paul; but it is not said that he went into Crete, either on that or on any other occasion. And even though he had preached in Crete, as he had not the power of imparting the spiritual gifts to his converts, it cannot be thought that his preaching in that country would be attended with very great success. The same may be said of any other evangelist or Christian prophet who happened to preach the gospel to the Cretans. It is therefore thought, the numerous conversions of the inhabitants of Crete, which made it necessary that elders should be ordained in every city, must be ascribed to the labours of some apostle, who, by working miracles, and conferring the spiritual gifts on his converts, made such an impression on the minds of the Cretans, that many of the idolatrous inhabitants, and some of the Jews, embraced the Christian faith.
Now that St. Paul was this apostle, seems probable from his leaving Titus in Crete, to set in order the things wanting among the Christians there, and to ordain elders in every city. The modelling and governing the Christian churches certainly belonged to the persons who had planted them. Accordingly, most, of the churches in the Gentile countries having been planted by the apostle Paul, he modelled, corrected,
and governed the whole, either in person, or by his assistants, without any interference from his brethren apostles; just as the apostles of the circumcision modelled, corrected, and governed the churches planted by them, without any interference from him.
The first converts to the Christian faith in Crete being those Cretan Jews to whom Peter preached on the memorable day of Pentecost, and those Jews in Crete to whom Peter's converts preached the gospel on their return from Jerusalem, they were all, or most of them at least, very zealous for the law of Moses. Wherefore, when Paul came into Crete and converted numbers of the idolatrous inhabitants, we may believe that the more early Christians in Crete would address the new converts with great warmth, and insist on their obeying the law of Moses as absolutely necessary for their salvation. Moreover, to render the law acceptable to these new converts, they, no doubt, followed the course in which their brethren in other churches walked.. They amused the new converts with vain talking, and Jewish fables, and commandments of men, and foolish questions about the law. Nay, they went so far as to affirm that the sacrifices and purifications enjoined by the law, duly performed, would procure pardon for them, though they continued in the practice of sin. To this doctrine the Cretans, many of whom were very wicked, lent a willing ear; insomuch that these corrupt teachers, who seem to have been natives of Crete, and to have been infected with the vices of their countrymen, subverted whole families. [Tit, i, 11]
The errors and bad practices of the judaizing teachers and of their disciples, the apostle, when he came into Crete, observed and opposed by wholesome instructions and sharp rebukes. But, well knowing how diligent they were in spreading their errors, Paul left Titus in Crete to restrain them. And, that he might have a number of fit persons, clothed with proper authority, to assist him in opposing the judaizers, and in maintaining the truth, he ordered him, at parting, to ordain elders in every city. But that he might be at no loss to know who were fit to be invested with the offices of bishop and deacon, and what line of conduct he himself was to pursue in discharging the duties of his ministry, the apostle, when he came to Colosse, wrote to him the epistle. which bears his name, in which he described the qualifications of the persons whe were worthy to be ordained elders, commanded him to rebuke the judaizers sharply, and mentioned the errors he was particularly to oppose, the doctrines he was earnestly to inculcate, and the precepts he was constantly to enjoin; that none of the Cretans,, whether teachers or people. might fail in their duty through want of information..
By comparing the epistle to Titus with the two epistles to Timothy, we learn that the judaizing teachers were every where indefatigable in propagating their erroneous, doctrine concerning the necessity of obedience to the law of Moses as the only means, of obtaining salvation; and that, in the most distant countries, they uniformly taught, the same doctrine, for the purpose of rendering the practice of sin consistent with the hope of salvation; and that, to draw disciples after them, they encouraged them in sin, by the vicious practices which they themselves followed, in the persuasion that they should be pardoned through the efficacy of the Levitical sacrifices. Only, from the, apostle's so earnestly commanding Titus in Crete, and Timothy at Ephesus, to oppose these errors, it is probable that the judaizing teachers were more numerous and successful at Ephesus and in Crete than in other places. However, as Titus was a Gentile convert, whose interest it was to maintain, the freedom of the Gentiles from the law. of Moses, and a teacher of long standing in the faith, the apostle was not so full in his directions and exhortations to him as to Timothy, neither did he recommend to him, meekness, lenity, and patience in teaching, as he did to Timothy, but rather sharpness. [sh. i. 13, ii. 13.]. Perhaps Titus was a person of a soft and mild, temper; whereas,,
Timothy, being a younger man, may have been of a more ardent spirit, which needed to be somewhat restrained.
The leaving of Titus in Crete is supposed to have happened in the year sixty-two, after the apostle was released from his first confinement in Rome. He is believed to have remained there some time, until visited by the apostle Paul, who is thought to have heard of Nero's persecution while he abode in that island, and to have hastened thither in company with Titus, in consequence of his receiving that information. Titus seems to have remained with Paul during his second imprisonment, till he came to answer before Cæsar, and then to have fled to Dalmatia. Whether he did this with or without the apostle's approbation is unknown, nor have we any further account concerning him in scripture. Some antient writers assert that he died in Crete, in the ninety-fourth year of his age.
Philemon, to whom the epistle was written, seems to have been no stranger to the apostle Paul. For, in the first and second verses, the apostle addressed all the members of Philemon's family, as being well acquainted with them; and, verse 19, he insinuates that Philemon himself was his convert. Philemon's respect for the apostle is mentioned verse 17. He was an inhabitant of Colosse, as appears from the epistle to the Colossians, chap. iv. ver. 9, where Onesimus, Philemon's slave, is called one of them. And, in verse 17, the brethren at Colosse are desired to say to Archippus, (the person mentioned Philemon, verse 2) take heed to the ministry which thou hast received. Besides, the antients believed that Philemon was an inhabitant of Colosse. So Theodoret says expressly in his commentary upon Philemon; and tells us that his house was still remaining at Colosse in his time, that is, in the beginning of the fifth century. And Jerome also; ia his commentary upon this epistle, says Philemon was of Colosse. And Theophylact calls him a Phrygian,
Philemon seems to have been a person of great worth as a man, and of some note as a citizen in bis own country; for his family was so numerous, that Dr. Macknight supposes that it made a church by itself, or, at least, a considerable part of the church at Colosse! [verse 2.] He was likewise so opulent, that he was able, by the communication of his faith, that is, by his beneficence, to refresh the bowels of the saints. [Verse 6, 7.] According to Grotius, Philemon was an elder of Ephesus. But Beausobre speaks of him as one of the pastors of Colosse, in which he is followed by Doddridge. From the apostle's employing Philemon to provide him a lodging at Colosse, Michaelis conjectures that he was one of the deacons there. These authors were led to think Philemon a minister of the gospel, because, in the inscription of the epistle to him, the apostle calls him his fellow-labourer; but that appellation is of an ambiguous signification, being given not only to those who preached the gospel, but to such pious persons, whether men or women, as assisted the apostles in any manner while they were employed in preaching. See Rom. xvi. 8, 3 John, verse 8.
The antients differed as much as the moderns in their opinion concerning Philemon's station in the church. Some of them reckoned him a bishop; but others, fancying that Apphia was his wife, contended that he had no ecclesiastical character whatever; for they became very early to esteem celibacy in ecclesiastical persons. In particular, Hilary the deacon saith expressly that he was one of the laity. Theodoret, Oecumenius, and Theophylact, seem also to have been of the same opinion.
Onesimus, a slave, on some disgust, having run away from his master Philemon, came to Rome; and, falling into want, as is supposed, he applied to the apostle Paul, of whose imprisonment he had heard, and with whose benevolent disposition he was well acquainted, having, it seems, formerly seen him in his master's house. Or the
fame of the apostle's preaching and miracles having drawn Onesimus to hear some of the many discourses which he delivered in his own hired house in Rome, these made such an impression on him, that he became a sincere convert of the Christian faith. For the apostle calls him, verse 9, his son whom he had begotten in his bonds. After his conversion, Onesimus abode with the apostle, and served him with the greatest assiduity and affection. But, being sensible of his fault in running away from his master, he wished to repair that injury by returning to him. At the same time, being afraid that, on his return, his master would inflict on him the punishment which, by the law or custom of Phrygia, was due to a fugitive slave, and which, as Grotius says, he could inflict without applying to any magistrate, he besought the apostle to write to Philemon, requesting him to forgive and receive him again into his family. The apostle, always ready to do good offices, very willingly complied with Onesimus' desire, and wrote this letter to Philemon; in which, with the greatest softness of expression, warmth of affection, and delicacy of address, he not only interceded for Onesimus' pardon, but urged Philemon to esteem him, and put confidence in him as a sincere Christian. And, because restitution, by repairing the injury that hath been done, restores the person who did the injury to the character which he had lost, the apostle, to enable Onesimus to appear in Philemon's family with some degree of reputation, bound himself, in this epistle, by his hand-writing, not only to repay all that Onesimus owed to Philemon, but to make full reparation also for whatever injury he had done to him by running away from him.
The apostolical institutions, a book of questionable authority, asserts that Onesimus was bishop of Berea. When Ignatius wrote his epistle to the Ephesians, their bishop's name was Onesimus; and Grotius thought he was the person for whom Paul interceded. But, as Lardner observes, this is also uncertain. Mill has mentioned a copy, in which, at the conclusion, it is said, that Onesimus died a martyr at Rome, by having his legs broken.
Linus and Clement, who are mentioned by Paul, are each of them said to have been bishops of Rome. Concerning the latter of these we shall mention several particulars in the History of Martyrs.
Hermas is reported to have written a book of visions, which Dr. Lardner believes to be genuine.
Dionysius the Areopagite is also spoken of as an author, but the works ascribed to him are generally believed to have been of later origin.
The scantiness of the information with which we are furnished concerning the lives of the first followers of Christ, though it may disappoint our curiosity, tends to the confirmation of our faith. It proves that those illustrious men, to whom the world is indebted for the diffusion of evangelical light, did not seek to repay their loss of all things by the accumulation of fame, since they took so little pains to transmit their own names, or those of each other, to an admiring posterity.