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Story of the Bible by  Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
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HOW PAUL CAME TO ROME, AND HOW HE LIVED THERE

Acts xxviii: 2 to 31.

T HE people who lived on the island of Melita were very kind to the strangers who had been thrown by the sea upon their shore. It was cold and rainy, and the men from the ship were in garments drenched by the waves. But the people made a fire, and brought them all around it, and gave them good care. Very soon they found that many of the men were prisoners, who were under guard of the soldiers.

Paul gathered a bundle of sticks and placed them on the fire, when suddenly a poisonous snake came from the pile, driven out by the heat, and seized Paul's hand with its teeth. When the people saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, "This man must be a murderer. He has saved his life from the sea, but the just gods will not let him live on account of his wickedness."

But Paul shook off the snake into the fire, and took no harm. They looked to see his arm swell with poison, and to see him fall down dead suddenly. But when they watched him for a long time and saw no evil come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god, and were ready to worship him.

[743] Near the place where the ship was wrecked were lands and buildings belonging to the ruler of the island, whose name was Publius. He took Paul and his friends into his house and treated them very kindly. The father of Publius was very ill with a fever and a disease called dysentery, from which people often died. But Paul went into his room, and prayed by his side; then he laid his hands on him, and the sick man became well. As soon as the people of the island heard of this, many others troubled with diseases were brought to Paul and all were cured. The people of Melita after this gave a great honor to Paul and those who were with him; and when they sailed away they put on the ship as gifts for them all things that they would need.

The centurion found at anchor by the island a ship from Alexandria on its way to Italy, which had been waiting there through the winter. The name of this ship was "The Twin Brothers." After three months in the isle, the centurion sent on board this ship his soldiers and prisoners, with Paul's friends; and they sailed away from Melita. After stopping at a few places on their voyage, they left the ship at Puteoli, in the south of Italy, and from that place they were led toward Rome. The church at Rome, to which Paul had written a letter in other days, heard that he was coming, and some of the brethren went out to meet him a few miles from the city. When Paul saw them, and knew that they were glad to meet him, even though he was in chains, he thanked God, and took heart once more. He had long wished to go to Rome, and now came into the city at last, but as a prisoner, chained to a Roman soldier.

When they came to Rome, the good centurion Julius gave his prisoners to the captain of the guard in the city; but from the kind words spoken by Julius, Paul was allowed to go to a house by himself, though with the soldier who guarded him always at his side. After three days in Rome, Paul sent for the chief men among the Jews of the city to meet in his house, because he could not go to the synagogue to meet with them. When they came, he said to them:

"Brethren, though I have done no harm to our people, or against our law, yet I was made a prisoner in Jerusalem, and given into the hands of the Romans. When the Romans had given me a trial they found no cause for putting me to death, and wished to [744] set me free. But the Jews spoke against me, and I had to ask for a trial before Caesar, though I have no charge to bring against my own people. I have asked to see you and to speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain."

They said to Paul, "No letters have come to us from Judea, nor have any of the brethren brought to us any evil report of you. But we would like to hear from you about this people who follow Jesus of Nazareth, for they are a people everywhere spoken against."

So Paul named a day, and on the day they came in great number to Paul's room. He talked with them, explaining the teaching of the Old Testament about Christ, from morning until evening. Some believed the words of Paul, and others refused to believe. And when they would not agree, Paul said to them as they were leaving, "Truly indeed did the Holy Spirit say of this people, in the words of Isaiah the prophet, 'Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand, and seeing ye shall see, and yet not see. For this people's heart is become hard, and their ears are dull, and their eyes they have shut; for they are not willing to see, nor to hear, nor to understand, nor to turn from their sins to God.' But know this, that the salvation of Christ is sent to the Gentiles; and they will listen to it, even though you do not."

And after this Paul lived two years in the house which he had hired. Every day a soldier was brought from the camp, and Paul was chained to him for all that day. And the next day another soldier came; each day a new soldier was chained to Paul. And to each one Paul spoke the gospel, until after a time many of the soldiers in the camp were believers in Christ; and when these soldiers were sent away they often carried the gospel with them to other lands. So Paul, though a prisoner, was still doing good and working for Christ.

Then, too, some of Paul's friends were with him in Rome. The young Timothy, whom Paul loved to call his son in the gospel, and Luke the doctor, of whom he wrote as "the beloved physician," were there, perhaps in the same house. Aristarchus of Thessalonica, who had been with him in the ship and in the storm, was still with Paul. Mark, the young man who years before went with Paul and Barnabas on their first journey from Antioch, visited Paul in Rome.

At one time, when Paul had been a prisoner nearly two years, [745] a friend came to see him from Philippi in Macedonia. His name was Epaphroditus, and he brought to Paul a loving message from that church, and also gifts to help Paul in his need. In return, Paul wrote to the church at Philippi a letter, "The Epistle to the Philippians," full of tender and gentle words. It was taken to the church by Epaphroditus and by Timothy, whom Paul sent with him, perhaps because in Rome Epaphroditus was very ill, and Paul may have thought it better not to have him go home alone.

In Rome a man named Onesimus met Paul. He was a runaway slave who belonged to a friend of Paul, named Philemon, living at Colosse in Asia Minor, not far from Ephesus. Paul led Onesimus to give his heart to Christ, and then, although he would have liked to keep him with himself, he sent him back to Philemon, his master. But he asked Philemon to take him, no longer as a slave but as a brother in Christ. This he wrote in a letter which he sent by Onesimus, called "The Epistle to Philemon." Onesimus carried at the same time another letter to the church at Colosse. This letter is "The Epistle to the Colossians." And about the same time Paul wrote one of the greatest and most wonderful of all his letters, "The Epistle to the Ephesians," which he sent to the church in Ephesus. So all the world has been richer ever since Paul's time by having the four letters which he wrote while he was a prisoner at Rome.

It is thought, though it is not certain, that Paul was set free from prison after two years; that he lived a free man, preaching in many lands for a few years; that he wrote during those years the First Epistle to Timothy, whom he had sent to care for the church at Ephesus, and the Epistle to Titus, who was over the churches in the island of Crete; that he was again made a prisoner and taken to Rome; and from his Roman prison wrote his last letter, the Second Epistle to Timothy, and that soon after this the wicked Emperor Nero caused him to be put to death. Among his last words in the letter to Timothy were these:

"I have fought a good fight; I have run my race; I have kept the faith; and now there is waiting for me the crown which the Lord himself shall give me."


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