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Acts xxvi. 9, 10, 11,
I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do
many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jeru. salem; and many of the cbristians did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme ; and being exceedingly mad against them, I pursued them even unto for reign cities,
The apostle Paul, who here speaks, was no ordinary character :-of great natural powers and strong passions, active and ardent to pursue whatever he undertook, it could not be indifferent to what he turned himself: he must either be good and useful in the world, or otherwise, in the extreme. And it was happy for him that he had a pious education in his
youth, which saved him from going to lengths that might have been his ruin, without such foundation for virtue as was' then laid.
His history is well known; that from a persecutor of christians he became an apostle of Christ, and preacher of the gospel.
His unbelieving countrymen could not endure him after this change, which, indeed, bore very hard upon him, if he had any solid and rational grounds for it. And this he constantly maintained in a manner they could not gainsay, and with the greatest boldness.
Being not able in any other way to silence and confute him, they therefore determined at all hazards to destroy him; when, having been providentially disappointed in a plot to assassinate him privately, they accused him publicly before Felix, the Roman deputy-governor of their country, as the head of a dangerous new religious sect, named from one Jesus of Nazareth, and as guilty of the highest crimes against their Jewish law,
But as they could not make good their accusations, or prove that Paul had done any thing worihy of punishment, Felix acquitted him : nevertheless, that unworthy judge still detained him in prison, and had the meanness
to leave him there on quitting his government, to ingratiate himself with the Jews, and to prevent their making complaints to the emperor of his many arbitrary and oppressive acts.
These Jews renewing their charge against Paul under Felix's successor, Porcius Festus, he again defended himself against their accusations to the satisfaction of the court: but perceiving that, by the artifice of his enemies, there was a danger of his at last falling into their hands, and knowing that upon just occasions causes were often removed by appeal from the provinces to Rome; to save himself from the snares, that were laid for his life in Judea, he claimed his privilege of being heard by the emperor himself in person.
This was readily granted by the new governor, who was favourably disposed towards the prisoner ; but being at a loss what account to send of him to the emperor Nero, as he himself was much a stranger to the Jewish affairs and law,upon Agrippa, one of the deputy kings of the country under the Romans, coming to Cæsarea to welcome him into his government, he engaged him, who was a Jew, to hear Paul's defence of himself, that he might furnish him,
with a proper state of the case to send to Rome.
The words prefixed to my discourse are taken from his speech upon this occasion.
And as it seems to me that this and some other similar declarations concerning himself in his state of Judaism, before he embraced christianity, have been misunderstood, and led many to think better of the apostle than he ever intended, and too lightly of one of the greatest crimes that a human being can commit, of which he had been guilty, I shall crave your attention whilst I discuss the subject at large, hoping and believing that it will yield many useful observations and lessons to us for our own conduct.
After a polite and handsome address, but void of all flattery, to king Agrippa, his countryman, before whom he was directed to make his apology for himself; and after giving an account of his liberal education at Jerusalem, and strong attachment to the divine religion, which he and his adversaries in common professed;
To make Agrippa the more sensible that he did not become a christian from slight or fri
volous considerations, he acquaints him, in the words before us, with the viclent prejudices which he had been possessed with against the followers of Jesus, both from his education
“ I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth."
He declares, that he was formerly persuaded in his conscience, or thought that it was his duty, or incumbent on him, to persecute the professors and propagators of this new doctrine; which he did accordingly, with great rage and cruelty, as he goes on to specify.
Many have looked upon the apostle as here offering a vindication of himself, in that he was convinced in his own mind at the time that he did right in harassing and putting the christians to death: “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth ;” and have, therefore, been inclined to regard it as an extenuation of his guilt, if not a total acquittal of him, especially as taken in connexion with what he says of himself upon this subject in other places.