AN EASTER DISCIPLE
The Chronicle of Quintus, the Roman Knight
ARTHUR BENTON SANFORD
IN MEMORY OF ABSENT ONES
WHO HAVE ENTERED INTO LIFE
An Opening Word
I. A Roman Quest
II. In Solomon's Porch
III. Christ Himself the Witness to Immortality
IV. Cicero or Christ?
V. The Vision of the Risen Christ
VI. Christ's Witnesses at Rome
AN OPENING WORD
Many voices had been speaking of eternal life, before the days of
the Son of man. Especially pronounced had been the teachings of
the Egyptians that there is another world. In their Acadian hymns
the Chaldaeans had dimly foretold a future life. The belief of the
Parsees, as expressed in their Zend-Avesta, had included a place of
darkness for the evil soul and a reward for the good in the realm
of light. The Hindus had declared, in their Rig-Veda, their
beautiful conception of the immortality of the soul, and had
written of a future "imperishable world, where there is eternal
light and glory." The Grecian and Roman mythologies had voiced
their hope of blessedness for the shades of the departed.
Everywhere serious men had been asking as to the experiences beyond
the grave. It was as if the Eastern world had become a vast
parliament chamber, wherein the nations were proclaiming their
different doctrines as to a future life.
In the midst of these varying and uncertain voices, Christ spoke
his authoritative message. There was no wavering in his tone.
What the Oriental philosophers were guessing, he revealed; what the
Hebrew prophets had foreshadowed in their holy writings, he
unfolded in full light. The ancient Vedic hymns, the oracles of
Greece, the Egyptian _Book of the Dead_, anticipating by two
thousand years the Hebrew exodus - all these are naught compared
with the words of that inspired Teacher who spoke in Palestine.
In addition, Christ was himself the vital evidence of the
resurrection which he taught. Against the assaults of doubt his
unique teachings are buttressed forevermore by his own return from
the land of silence. In a short week after his words to Martha at
Bethany he had become, through his own rare experience, the
resurrection and the life. Not the dead Buddha, nor the departed
Zoroaster, nor the vanished Pythagoras ever came back through the
opened door of the sepulcher, wearing the grave clothes of those
who sleep. Human fancy had never dreamed of such a rapturous
denouement for faiths other than Christianity. The resurrection of
the Lord is the crowning narrative with which the Gospels close.
It is a risen Christ who repairs the wastage of human decay and
death. A voice above all those from Ind or Persia or the Nile
speaks henceforth in Judaea and the world concerning immortality.
The superlative Easter argument is the risen Christ himself.
A ROMAN QUEST
"If one might only have a guide to the truth." - _Seneca_.
On Scopus, the high mountain north of Jerusalem, the Roman camp was
pitched, that last autumn in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. A
few years further on, if the warriors of the Emperor Tiberius could
then have foreseen the future, Titus was to quarter his famous
legions on that vantage point; and from its elevation he was to
hurl himself as a resistless battering ram against the Holy City.
But, on this autumn day, when these chronicles begin, no blare of
trumpets was summoning the Roman soldiery to arms; only the feet of
the camp sentinels, as they walked their appointed rounds, broke
the quiet of the sunlit afternoon.
That lithesome, cultivated, serious-minded young knight, Quintus
Cornelius Benignus, is standing on the height which overlooks the
great metropolis. He is the son of Marcus Cornelius Magnus, that
Roman noble who is the intimate associate of the reigning Caesar,
and who has been a luxurious resident on the Palatine Hill since
his distinguished proconsulship in Africa.
* * * * *
NOTE. - It is not from any time-marked Hebrew roll that this story
of Quintus is now taken. He was of Roman blood, and his record is,
rather, to be found in the Latin literature of his time. Well it
is when some new leaf is discovered among the musty folios,
reciting the saintly character and the triumphs of those who lived
when Christianity was new. This record shows the worth of
consecrated life and service in the days when the luxurious Roman
state most needed a Christian citizenship. But the lesson is none
the less for these last days, when the hope of the world is in the
creed of Quintus.
* * * * *
By the side of Quintus is his fellow soldier Aulus. They had spent
their boyhood together among the scenes of Rome; now they are
companions still, on this last Roman expedition to the district of
Judaea. While the common soldiery are throwing their dice in
the camp thoroughfare, these are speaking of more serious things.
The picture on which they look from lofty Scopus includes the
shining roofs of Jerusalem, the wooded Mount of Olives, and the far
landscape to the south and west; its undulations and brilliant
colorings no Roman artist might put upon the canvas.
With the autumn haze covering the extended panorama, Quintus says
first to his comrade:
"What the fates have in store for me, here in the city of
Hierosolyma, I am much wondering. The day before our trireme
sailed from Brundisium for Tyrus I made a visit to the augur's
tent. His prediction was that my journey hither would be followed
by strange consequences. The flight of the birds through the air
did not reveal to him just what was to occur; but that something
eventful was to take place he was very sure. What is to be my
"Your lot it may be," answers Aulus, "to perform some daring deed,
here in our Jewish campaign; and on your return to Rome you may
receive a great reward from the hand of Tiberius."
"In my mind this has been," replies Quintus; "before I left Rome I
had an audience with our divine Caesar, and he was pleased to say
that my fidelity here might bring me special recompense. Yet would
that be satisfying? I have seen the triumphal processions in the
streets of Rome, when heroes have been acclaimed; I have heard our
statesmen in the Senate hall, and prize the joys of oratory; I have
been served all my days by slaves in my father's palace, and know
the sweetness of the Falernian wine in the banquet room. A
proconsulate, if I might come to that dignity, would be a high
honor to write in my life story. But, my dear Aulus, would there
be content in this? My restless soul seems crying out for some
better gift from the gods."
"It cannot be," continues Aulus. "that your heart's love is
involved. When our military movements bring the Roman knights to
Palaestina, in their pride of birth they do not wed the black-eyed
daughters of the Jews. On your earlier expedition to Egypt you met
a princess of the land, but were not let to espouse that swarthy
maiden of the Nile. The reward of love cannot be the experience of
which the augur spoke at Brundisium."
"Not so," says Quintus in response; "as I was leaving Rome, it was
the beautiful Lucretia who sent me forth with her rare farewell.
For my return from Palaestina she is now waiting; and under the
blue skies of Italia we are to wed. I have been wondering,"
Quintus adds further, "if the augur, watching the flight of birds
there at Brundisium. could mean that I am to fall by death, here
in Palaestina. We have not come for battle, but to guard the
peace. Yet it is easy for Atropos, that cruel fate, to clip the
slender thread of life and send men on to die land of shades. If
this was what the augur meant, no Roman in the days of Tiberius has
ever set forth upon a more serious adventure."
"You are given to melancholy, this autumn afternoon, my comrade
Quintus," the other says; "you are feeling that sadness which comes
to men when the Dryads move over the earth and touch the leaves
into crimson and gold and brown."
"Not so," answers Quintus; "but I am remembering that I have come
into a land where a strange Teacher is speaking to men of a future
life. Yet are men to live again? I have seen the marble tombs on
the Appia Via where the Scipios, the Metelli, and so many more of
our great Romans lie asleep. Shall I soon follow them? Is it an
endless slumber? What is it that the new Rabbi from Nazareth
means, when in the city yonder he speaks of another life?"
"A fig for your weird autumn fancy," responds Aulus; "down to the
streets of Hierosolyma we will go, and among their novel sights we
will forget your serious meditations."
They walk that afternoon as sightseers through the crowded Jewish
emporium. The shops remind them, with all their contrasts, of the
marts of Rome, for men always and everywhere have the trader's
passion. In the narrow streets of Jerusalem they see the stir of
many activities. The workman is hammering his brass; the shoemaker
shapes his sandals; the flax spinner is winding his thread; the
scribe sits on his mat, and is ready for his writing. In the shops
they see costly merchandise for sale - silks and jewels, fine linens
and perfumes, delicious foods and drinks. These have been imported
from far Arabia and India; they have been brought from distant
Persia and Media. With all their variety, no taste, however
fitful, need go unsatisfied.
What a motley crowd is on the streets! They hear the Aramaic
speech of Palestine, which Quintus has been taught by his Athenian
tutor, and their ears also catch the accents of other foreign
tongues. They meet traders from western Zidon, sailors from Crete,
bearded Idumaeans from beyond Judaea, and scholars from far
Alexandria. Magnificent Jerusalem it is! Yet destined soon to
fall. For the day draws near when the Roman Titus shall weep on
Scopus over its fading splendors and then shall smite it to the
One purchase only does Quintus make. In a shop where Egyptian
wares are sold he says to Aulus:
"Look on this scarab, this sacred beetle, which has been shaped by
some workman down in Thebae on the Nile. We may be sure that no
people believes more intensely in a future life. What compliment
they pay this physical frame of men when they hold that embalmment
restores to the soul its former body! After the judgment of
Osiris, if their lives be true, the worthy shall enjoy the
companionship of the great god forever. No other people wears such
a visible emblem of their faith in another life. I will buy this
scarab for an amulet against accident and evil."
But where had the workman gone who once had shaped that token of
immortality? Whither had vanished his carver's skill? Where had
disappeared his projects and his dreams? Quintus is not thinking
of any proconsulship he may win, or even of the love light in the
eyes of Lucretia, as he climbs again the heights of Scopus. Rather
he is meditating on the departed maker of scarabs - and on the
destiny of the soul. For ages the philosophers have been
speculating about the future life. Familiar is Quintus with the
views of Laelius and Seneca, among the Roman inquirers, and with
the teachings of the great Grecians who have spoken in classic
Athens. But now the question leaps to the front. Quintus is in
the city where Ayran travelers and Persian magi and Egyptian
priests are busy telling their theories of immortality. He is in
the very streets, besides, where a sandaled Teacher from Nazareth
is declaring that the dead shall live again. If but half is true
that this strange Man is reputed to have said, no priest of Jupiter
has ever uttered at Rome so luminous a word. Can it be that
Quintus himself shall see this Christus and hear his message? If
so, his will be in very truth a momentous quest.
IN SOLOMON'S PORCH
"Give me new consolation, great and strong, of which I nave never
heard or read." - _Pliny_.
With increasing frequency Christ was now speaking his prophecies of
the life immortal. In his earlier ministry he had been dwelling
upon the presence of the divine kingdom in the earth, the practical
conditions for membership therein, and the inclusion of Gentile as
well as Jew in the gracious provision. Novel were his words.
Whoever had heard his discourse on the Mount or the parable of the
lost sheep was rich beyond the modern sons of men. But now, in the
closing period of his stay with mortals, he was more frequently
foretelling the life to come. Like a footworn traveler drawing
near the homeland, he was keenly anticipating his return to the
spirit world. Those who listened to him heard majestic intimations
of a celestial country which eye had not beheld. Nor is it to be
thought that the Gospels, in their restricted pages, have recorded
half his words concerning the heavenly land.
Now comes the opportunity for Quintus himself to hear this new
Teacher of the Jews. A messenger from Pilate, sent on an errand to
the headquarters at Scopus, brings the tidings that Christ is in
Jerusalem as a visitor at the Feast of Dedication. Favored are
those who hear through the years the world's commanding voices;
beyond estimate is the high privilege now granted Quintus.
"I will hasten in to Hierosolyma," he says to Aulus, who is
detained by camp duties; "I will hear him for myself; and I will
bring you back report as to this latest prophet of immortality."
With his soldier's cloak about him, in protection against the
winter's chill, Quintus is away to Jerusalem. The national Feast
of Dedication attracts his notice. A courteous Hebrew explains to
him that the joyful festival commemorates the cleansing of the
Temple after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes, two hundred
years before. The procession of pious Jews, carrying their palm
branches and marching to the heights of Moriah, the chanting of the
great Hallel within the imposing fane, the ascription of praise to
Jehovah all impress the keen-eyed soldier.
The enthusiasm of it all! Though of other blood, Quintus clearly
feels the thrill of patriotism that stirs the multitude about him;
and he understands in some measure their impatient waiting for the
coming prince who shall deliver Israel.
But is this all? Instead it is only the beginning of the wonders
which the serious Quintus is to witness. Forth he passes to the
eastern cloister of the Temple, known then among the Jews as
Solomon's Porch, in memory of their illustrious king. The
bystanders tell Quintus that it is built of a fragment of the first
Temple which Nebuchadnezzar had left standing. As the soldier
looks down the far-reaching aisle, he sees a quadruple row of white
Corinthian columns, one hundred and sixty in number, and extending
a length of many hundred feet. The vista is most amazing.
Accustomed though he has been all his days to the magnificence of
the Roman architecture, he yields in willing admiration to the
splendors of the Solomonic porch.
Then - he sees the Christ! Walking through that forest of massive
columns is the superlative Jew of his times, and of all times. For
now - when the voices of that winter day are still, and Solomon's
Porch has vanished where stood those blessed feet - there is no
earthly measurement by which to estimate the Man whom Quintus saw.
Among the throng that surround him hostile Pharisees challenge him
to tell them plainly if he be the foretold Messiah. With impatient
hearts they have waited long for their redemption. Let him say if
their deliverer has now come. Then shall they throw off the yoke
of the detested Roman rule and renew their ancient monarchy with
enlarging influence and increasing splendors.
Memorable words in answer does Quintus hear. The Stranger puts
aside the thought of the Jewish struggle for an earthly throne,
and turns in his fancy to the quiet pastures where feed the flocks.
He is a guardian Shepherd; Israel and all the world besides are his
cherished sheep. Those who are truly his shall hear his guiding
voice, and shall follow him. They shall never perish. From the
hand of the Shepherd no vandal shall steal his own away. How the
words thrill! Sometimes Quintus has seen in the Judaean pastures
the keeper with his flocks, and knows how unchanging is his
fidelity. It is as if this watcher in his devotion is anticipating
the faithfulness of the greater Shepherd. How entrancing is the
lesson to this seeking soldier from beyond the Adriatic!
Then does the Christ add another word more surprising than the
rest. To men who are his sheep he makes a promise that compasses
the furthest limit of the eternities. Of such he says: "Unto those
who follow me I will give the Life of the Ages. Beyond the tomb
they are to live on forevermore." Nor to the Jews alone, amid the
maze of those Corinthian columns, does the coming Shepherd speak.
The listening Roman soldier, wearing the armor of the empire on the
Tiber, comes within the circle of his promise. Into the face of
Quintus he looks and benignly says: "There are other sheep not of
the Jewish pasture, to whom I shall give this unending life. I
covet your great empire as my own. O soldier of the Caesars,
follow after me!"
Back to the camp on Scopus the soldier goes, moved to his deepest
soul. Impossible it seems to longer worship the Roman gods. When
he has described to Aulus the Feast of Dedication, he repeats the
words he has heard in the Temple cloister, and says in deepest
"Most unearthly is the Man on whom I have looked to-day. In his
speech a divine patience, kindness, and dignity combine. As for
the words he spoke, I cannot tell their moving power. The sayings
of our noblest Romans are feeble in the comparison. Never have I
heard another speak as he has done about a future world. Truly, an
unequaled Man is this new Teacher who is abroad in Judaea."
Sleep is of little consequence that night. Is the word of the
augur at Brundisium beginning to be fulfilled? In his tent Quintus
is wondering through the long hours if, among his people on the
Tiber, the Shepherd shall not find some sheep to whom he will give
the unending life.
CHRIST HIMSELF THE WITNESS TO IMMORTALITY
"He appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine
prophets had foretold." - _Josephus_.
How often have men missed the sight of great historic occurrences,
in their attention to the routine of life! So it was that Quintus
did not witness the tragic events of that Passover week on which
human destiny was to turn. To Tyre on the Great Sea he had gone,
to arrange for the landing of a new quota of troops from
Brundisium. The commander at Scopus had chosen him for the
responsible mission, in token of his especial fitness. The
compliment was pleasing. But in his absence he was ever thinking
of the promise made by the Teacher in Solomon's Porch, that the
sheep who followed him should have eternal life.
Astir was all Jerusalem, when the knight returned to Scopus. It
was on the morning after the Lord's resurrection. That Roman
centurion who had been at Calvary reviewed for Quintus the fateful
happenings. With pomp reminding of a Roman triumph the Christ had
entered David's city; after four days Iscariot had betrayed him
with a kiss; for blasphemy Pilatus, the procurator, had sentenced
him to the cross; they had put on him a scarlet robe in mockery;
they had hung him between two robbers on the hill of Golgotha; a
brutal soldier now at Scopus had won by lot his seamless robe, and
was jauntily displaying it as a trophy; an uncanny darkness had
covered the Judaean sky; the soldier Longinus had pierced the
sufferer's side; they had buried the dead Christ in the garden tomb
of the Arimathaean Joseph. Monumental events were these - all new
to Quintus, but destined to be written indelibly in the calendars
"More than this," continues the centurion, "an amazing rumor is now
abroad in the city that yesterday the dead Christus awoke from his
sleep and has been five times seen by his amazed disciples. When I
beheld him yield up the ghost, I hailed his death as that of a
devout man, but little did I think that he was a God and would
return from the tomb. The report says he has now come back. On
swift wing the rumor has flown through Jerusalem and even into
Down from the heights of Scopus the hurrying feet of Quintus carry
him to Jerusalem. Doubts and wonderings and half-beliefs fill his
mind. What if by any shadow of possibility the prediction of the
strange Teacher has been fulfilled, that he should return from the
dead on the third day? Finding his way to Joseph's garden, Quintus
stands by an empty sepulcher. There is a group of wondering
visitors near, and among them is one whose inviting face leads
Quintus to accost him. Not frightened by the sword and armor of
the Roman knight, but assured by his candid look, the other answers
in the Aramaic which both can speak:
"Johannes is my name. Till three years ago I was a fisherman, up
on the waters of Gennesaret. Since then I have been a disciple of
this Man from Galilee. In his company I have heard surprising
words and have felt a heavenly influence. He was no ordinary
Teacher. He was indeed from above."
"Is it true," asks Quintus in breathless words, "that your Master
has risen from the grave? I have been away in Tyrus. Now in the
Roman camp on Scopus I have heard that he has come forth from the
sepulcher. What means such a marvelous report?"
"Yes, it is all true," John answers with his face aglow; "this is
the very sepulcher where our Lord was laid. Your own sentries kept
guard before the tomb securely sealed. But on the morning of
yesterday there was a shaking of the earth; some angelic visitants
rolled away the stone door of the grave; and our immortal Christus
came forth again.
"Astounding," Quintus interrupts in a whirl of words; "but did he
make any promise of another life for men, before he was put to
"He truly did," replies the disciple; "when we had eaten the
Passover supper with him, he spoke a word more marvelous than any
of your Roman teachers has ever uttered. Into the spirit world he
said he was departing, to make ready a room in the Father's ample
house for those who were his own; and on his return he would take
them to be with himself. Ever since our sad-hearted band have been
comforting themselves with this last promise in the upper room."
"None of our Roman gods has ever promised such a future." responds
Quintus; "but is this all?"
"No," answers the disciple; "on his cross our Christus spoke again
about another experience for men. By his side was Dysmas, the
crucified robber, grieving for his faults and asking comfort. When
the cross pain and thirst were over, our Lord replied, the outlaw
should walk with him among the bowers of the beautiful Paradise
beyond this world's horizon. It was enough. In this consolation
the tortured Dysmas passed on, with a smile of peace upon his face."
"Have you more wonders to tell?" presses Quintus, in his eagerness,
while the story of the cross begins to compel his judgment and call
for his heart's surrender.
Then, the consummation! In ecstatic words John tells of the one
final and overmastering proof, in the thought of the eleven
"Greatest of all, we have ourselves seen our Friend again. Five
times already has he showed himself. First, Mary of Magdala saw
him under the trees of the garden, and spoke with him; then the
other women met him and fell at his feet; next our fellow disciple
Petros saw him; then two of our band walked with him to outlying
Emmaus, and knew him as he broke bread at the journey's end; and
then last evening, he came to ten of us in the Passover room and
spoke his peace on us.
"Perhaps you have all seen a spectral form which has no real
existence," remonstrates Quintus, while all the time he is yielding
himself to the compelling story.
"It cannot be," responds the convincing John; "there have been too
many witnesses for that. We have seen the very wound made by the
spear of Longinus; we have heard his familiar voice; we have
received his blessing. Our number is our evidence; it cannot be
possible that all of us have been deceived. It is surely he, O
Roman soldier, unless the senses of the women and of ten honest men
are far astray. No other teacher of the East has ever come back
from the sepulcher. Look and see for yourself. Yonder is Joseph's
empty tomb. The Christus is himself the evidence."
What can Quintus do, in the face of such proof as this? He returns