ST. PAUL AT PUTEOLI

The Gospel first came to Europe in circumstances similar to those in which it came into human history. Through poverty, shame, and suffering—through the manger, the cross, and the sepulchre—did our Saviour accomplish the salvation of the world; through stripes and imprisonment, through the gloom of the inner dungeon and the pain and shame of the stocks, did Paul and Silas declare at Philippi the glad tidings of salvation. Out of the midnight darkness which enveloped the apostles of the Cross, as they sang in the prison, came the marvellous light that was destined to illumine all Europe. Out of the stocks which held fast the feet that came to the shores of the West shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, sprang that glorious liberty which has broken every fetter that bound the bodies and souls of men throughout Christendom. After the earthquake that shook the prison walls and released the prisoners came the still, small voice of power, which overthrew the tyrannies and superstitions of ages, and remade society from its very foundations.

Very similar were the circumstances in which the apostle landed at the quay of Puteoli. A weary, worn-out prisoner, accused by his own countrymen, on his way to be judged at the tribunal of the Roman emperor, associated with a troop of malefactors, St. Paul disembarked, on the 3d of May of the year 59, from the ship Castor and Pollux, after having gone through storm and shipwreck, and first touched the shore of the wonderful land destined afterwards to be the scene of the mightiest triumphs of the Gospel, and the most enlightened centre for its diffusion throughout the world. Like the birth of Rome itself, whose obscure foundation, according to the beautiful myth, was laid by the outcast son of a Vestal Virgin, the kingdom of the despised virgin-born Jesus of Nazareth that cometh not with observation, stole unawares, amid the meanest circumstances, into the very heart of the Roman world. Momentous events were taking place at the time throughout the Roman Empire, attracting all eyes, and engaging the attention of all minds; but the unnoticed landing at Puteoli of the humble Jewish prisoner, judging by its marvellous results, was by far the most important. It marked a new era in the history of the world. And there was something significant in the coincidence that St. Paul should have come to the Italian shore in the ship Castor and Pollux, the names not merely of the patrons of sailors, but also of the saviours of Rome. The mighty empire which human tyranny had established has crumbled to pieces, and we walk to-day amid its ruins; but the kingdom of peace and righteousness which Paul came to inaugurate has spread from that coign of vantage over all the earth, and in a world of death and change has impressed upon the minds of men with a new force the idea of the eternal and the unchangeable.

Earth holds no fairer scene than that which met the apostle's gaze as he entered the bay of Puteoli. "See Naples, and die," is the cuckoo cry of the modern tourist who visits this enchanted region; and such a vision is indeed worthy to be the last imprinted upon a human retina. It is called by the Italians themselves "Un pezzo di cielo caduto in terra," a piece of heaven fallen upon earth. Shores that curve in every line of beauty, holding out arm-like promontories, into whose embrace the tideless sea runs up; mountain-ranges whose tops in winter are covered with snow, and whose sides are draped with the luxuriant vegetation of the South; a large city rising in a series of semicircular terraces from the deep azure of the sea to the deep azure of the mountains, whose eastern architecture flushes to a vivid rosy hue in the afternoon light like some fabled city of the poets; and dominating the glorious horizon the double peak of Vesuvius forming the centre in which all the features of landscape loveliness are focussed—crowned by its pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. Such is the picture upon which travellers crowd from the ends of the earth to gaze.