The Moral Versus the Aesthetic
Acts 17:15-34
And they that conducted Paul brought him to Athens: and receiving a commandment to Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed…

When Howard went forth, on what a great orator has called his "circumnavigation of charity," he visited some of the noblest cities, and passed through some of the most attractive scenery of modern Europe; but neither the splendour and wealth of the one, nor the attractions of the other, could engage his attention; the dungeon and the hospital, where suffering humanity invited his aid, had an interest to his mind which drew him aside from everything else, and made him insensible "to the sumptuousness of palaces and the stateliness of temples," to the curiosity of art, and even to the sublimities and beauties of nature. Cicero tells us that for him Athens had a higher charm than was derived from its magnificent buildings and exquisite works of art — the charm that arose from the memory of its illustrious men, and which made him search out the abodes and favourite haunts of each, and look with intent gaze on their sepulchres. In all large and earnest minds the moral will ever overtop and master the aesthetic; and, save as the latter may in some way be made subservient to the former, such minds will be apt to overlook, if not entirely to underestimate it. What wonder, then, that Paul, bent on a mission of moral beneficence to which he had consecrated his life, and penetrated with an all-absorbing desire to accomplish a result which he knew to be the noblest and worthiest and most enduring that could be proposed to human exertion, should have been content to bestow only a passing glance on the marble splendours of Athens, and should have been more deeply moved by the gloom which rested on the moral features of the scene, than by all the glory which lighted up its physical and material aspect? As he moved through the city, he beheld how all this wealth of genius was prostituted to the service of a vain and misleading superstition.

(W. L. Alexander, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.

WEB: But those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens. Receiving a commandment to Silas and Timothy that they should come to him very quickly, they departed.

Paul's Moral Survey of Athens
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