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The Elder’s Feast – A Tradition Of Laodicea
by [?]

At a certain time in the earlier ages there lived in the city of Laodicea a Christian elder of some repute, named Onesiphorus. The world had smiled on him, and though a Christian, he was rich and full of honors. All men, even the heathen, spoke well of him, for he was a man courteous of speech and mild of manner.

His wife, a fair Ionian lady but half reclaimed from idolatry, though baptized and accredited as a member of the Christian church, still lingered lovingly on the confines of old heathenism, and if she did not believe, still cherished with pleasure the poetic legends of Apollo and Venus, of Jove and Diana.

A large and fair family of sons and daughters had risen around these parents; but their education had been much after the rudiments of this world, and not after Christ. Though, according to the customs of the church, they were brought to the font of baptism, and sealed in the name of the Father, and the Son, and Holy Ghost, and although daily, instead of libations to the Penates, or flower offerings to Diana and Juno, the name of Jesus was invoked, yet the spirit of Jesus was wanting. The chosen associates of all these children, as they grew older, were among the heathen; and daily they urged their parents, by their entreaties, to conform, in one thing after another, to heathen usage. “Why should we be singular, mother?” said the dark-eyed Myrrah, as she bound her hair and arranged her dress after the fashion of the girls in the temple of Venus. “Why may we not wear the golden ornaments and images which have been consecrated to heathen goddesses?” said the sprightly Thalia; “surely none others are to be bought, and are we to do altogether without?” “And why may we not be at feasts where libations are made to Apollo or Jupiter?” said the sons; “so long as we do not consent to it or believe in it, will our faith be shaken thereby?” “How are we ever to reclaim the heathen, if we do not mingle among them?” said another son; “did not our Master eat with publicans and sinners?”

It was, however, to be remarked, that no conversions of the heathen to Christianity ever took place through the means of these complying sons and daughters, or any of the number who followed their example. Instead of withdrawing any from the confines of heathenism, they themselves were drawn so nearly over, that in certain situations and circumstances they would undoubtedly have been ranked among them by any but a most scrutinizing observer. If any in the city of Laodicea were ever led to unite themselves with Jesus, it was by means of a few who observed the full simplicity of the ancient faith, and who, though honest, tender, and courteous in all their dealings with the heathen, still went not a step with them in conformity to any of their customs.

In time, though the family we speak of never broke off from the Christian church, yet if you had been in it, you might have heard much warm and earnest conversation about things that took place at the baths, or in feasts to various divinities; but if any one spoke of Jesus, there was immediately a cold silence, a decorous, chilling, respectful pause, after which the conversation, with a bound, flew back into the old channel again.

* * * * *

It was now night; and the house of Onesiphorus the Elder was blazing with torches, alive with music, and all the hurry and stir of a sumptuous banquet. All the wealth and fashion of Laodicea were there, Christian and heathen; and all that the classic voluptuousness of Oriental Greece could give to shed enchantment over the scene was there. In ancient times the festivals of Christians in Laodicea had been regulated in the spirit of the command of Jesus, as recorded by Luke, whose classical Greek had made his the established version in Asia Minor. “And thou, when thou makest a feast, call not thy friends and thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors, lest they also bid thee, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, and the maimed, and the lame, and the blind, and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee, but thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”