Page images

21 would inquire something more accurately concerning him. But

do not be prevailed upon by them ; for there are more than forty of them who lie in an ambush for him, who have obliged them

selves by a curse neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him ; 22 and they are now ready, waiting only an order from thee. The

Tribune therefore dismissed the young man with a charge, saying, Be sure thou tell no man that thou hast discovered, these things to me.

REFLECTIONS. Next to the history of the great Captain of our salvation, as recorded by the holy evangelists, none of the Christian heroes of whom we read, makes a brighter figure than Paul ; nor is there any who seems a spectacle more worthy the view of angels, or of God himself. Nobly supported in the midst of persecutions and indignities, by the testimony of his conscience as to the integrity with which he had walked before God, and therefore assured of the divine aid, he appears superior to all human injuries. Most unrighteously did the high-priest command that mouth to be smitten which had spoken the words of truth and soberness : Most justly did God verify the prediclion of his faithful, though despised servant, and smite that whited wall with speedy destruction which had stood in such a haughty opposition to his gospel. Paul might have urged a great deal in defence of what he had said, and yet he chose prudently to decline that defence ; and seems much more solicitous to prevent the abuse of what might appear dubious, than to assert his own cause to the utmost that it would bear. Thus should we sometimes be ready, as the Psalmist beautifully expresses it, to restore what we took not away, and for the peace of society, and the edification of others, should be content to wave apologies which we might justly offer. Let us learn particularly to revere that authority with which God hath clothed magistrates ; and be very cautious how we speak evil of the rulers of our people : Let the ministers of the gospel especially be cautious of it, lest the ministry be upon that account blamed, and their own character exposed, as if they were trumpeters of sedition, rather than ambassadors of the Prince of peace.

Our Lord had given it in charge to his apostles that they should be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves : both these characters are joined in Paul's behaviour on this important occasion. It was no dishonest artifice to divide the counsel, and to engage the favour of the Pharisees, by reminding them of what, if they considered the circumstances of the case, must needs appear to them to be the truth ; that it was his zeal for the doctrine of the resurrection that brought upon him a great deal of that opposition which he was then encountering, and that the most convincing evidence of that doctrine depended on the facts which, as an apostle of Jesus, he publicly maintained. And it had been most happy for the Pharisees had they always borne in their own minds the caution they now gave the Sadducees, to take heed of fighting against God. May none of us

provoke the Lord to jealousy, as if we were stronger than he ; which we shall certainly do by rejecting the tidings he hath sent us by his apostles, and the life and immortality which he promises in his gospe!.

Graciously did providence provide for the rescue and deliverance of Paul from the tumult then excited, and the conspiracy afterwards formed. Who would not lament to see a design of murder avowed with impunity before the chief magistrates of the Jewish nation, and approved by them under a pretence of religious zeal, while it was con secrated to God by the solemnity of a vow? The time was indeed come, when they that killed the servants of Christ thought they did God good service, as if no libation or offering could have been so pleasing unto him as the blood of his saints : But names alter not the nature of things; God regarded their counsels with righteous abhorrence, and laughed them to scorn. In vain did they form and ape prove a conspiracy which heaven had determined to defeat. Their lying in wait was, we know not how, discovered to a youth, and by means of that youth, who might perhaps have seemed beneath their notice, God as effectually preserved Paul, as if he had sent an ange! from heaven to deliver him, and turned the cabals of these bigots that thirsted for his blood into perplexity and shame. So, Lord, do thou continue to carry the counsel of the froward along, and save from the hand of violence and fraud all who commit themselves unto thee in wells doing, and humbly confide in thy wisdom and goodness,


Paul, for his safety, is sent by night to Cæsarea, where he is presented to

Felix, and accused by Tertullus. Ch. xxiii. 23, &c. xxiv. 1—9.


23 TOW this worthy Tribune was determined to consult the safety

of his prisoner; and finding it necessary to remove him from Jerusalem, he called to him two of the Centurions, and said, Pre, pare two hundred soldiers to go to Cæsarea; and seventy horse

men, and two hundred spearmen, by the third hour of the night 24 (nine o'clock in the evening) and provide beasts to set Paul upon,

and conduct him in safety to Felix the governor of the province. 25 And he wrote an epistle to Felix, the contents of which are in

this copy

26 “ Claudius Lysias to his excellency Felix the governor, sendeth. 27 greeting: This man was seized by the Jews, and had like to have

been slain by them, when I came with a party of soldiers, and 28 rescued him : and I have learnt since that he is a Roman. And

desiring to know the crime of which they accused him, I brought 39 him before the Sanhedrim : and I found he was accused concern.

ing questions of their law, but that nothing was charged upon him 30 worthy of death, or of bonds. But when it was signified to me

ihat an ambush would be laid for the man by the Jews, I imme. diately sent him to thee, commanding his accusers also to declare

before thee what they have against him. Farewell.”. 31 The soldiers therefore, as it was commanded them, taking up 32 Paul, brought him by night to Antipatris*. And the next day

they returned to the castle, leaving the horsemen to go with him ; 33 who entering into Cæsarea, and delivering the epistle to the 34 governor, presented Paul also before him. And when the gove

ernor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was ; and 35 being informed that he was of Cilicia, I will hear thee, said hes

when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to

be kept in Herod's Prætoriumt. xxiv. And after five days only, the high-priest Ananias came down

to Cæsarea, with the elders, and a certain orator called Tertullus :

and they made their appearance in form before the governor 2 against Paul. And he being called, Tertullus, whose business it

was to open the cause, began to accuse him, saying, in a flattering #oration to Felix; “ As we enjoy great peace by your means, and

illustrious deeds are happily done to this whole Jewish nation by 3 your prudent administration, we accept it always, and in all places, 4 most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. Nevertheless that I may

not trouble you further, I beseech you to hear us in a few words, 5 with your usual candour: for we have found this man a pestilent

fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout 6 the world, and a ring-leader of the sect of the Nazarenes; who

hath attempted also to profane the temple, and whom we apprevõ hended and would have judged according to our law ; but Lysias

the Tribune coming upon us with great force, took him away out 8 of our hands; commanding his accusers to come to you ; by which

means you might yourself, on examination, take cognizance of 9 all these things of which we accuse him."-And the Jews also

gave their assent to all that he had urged, saying that these things

[ocr errors]

were so.

REFLECTIONS. To hear the most amiable goodness injured by false and virulent accusations, is what we have been accustomed to, in the perusal of ihis sacred history, in which we have now advanced so far. The surprise of it therefore is abated. But who would not lament, to see the great talent of eloquence, in itself so noble, and capable of such excellent use for the public good, abused to such infamous purposes ; on the one hand to varnish over crimes, and on the other to render innocence suspected, and virtue itself odious ! Had that of Tertullus been much greater, than it appears by this specimen, it would only have served to perpetuate his own shame to posterity for the mean flattery he addressed to Felix, and the cruel and unjust invectives

* Above thirity-eight míles from Jerusalem: Cæsarea was seventy.

† A palace and court built by Herod the Great, having probably a stateprison belonging to it.

† Almost every word of this oration is false,

which he poured out against Paul. But history is juster than panegyric or satyr, and has left us the character of the one, and the other, painted in its true colours. And much more evidently shall every character appear in the justest light before the tribunal of a righteous God, where Paul, and Felix, and Tertullus, and Ananias, are to meet again. There may we, with the apostle, have honour and praise, whatever eloquence may now arraign, whatever authority may now condemn us in the mean time, where we enjoy great peace under the magistrates which providence has set over us, and worthy deeds are done by them for the honour of God and the good of mankind, let us always thankfully accept it, and take care ourselves to be quiet in the land. Should they who call themselves the followers of Jesus, be indeed pestilent fellows and movers of sedition, they would act not only beneath their character as Christians, but directly contrary to it, and in a manner which must by necessary consequence forfeit it; nor should they effect to be ringleaders in sects and parties. Their master is the Prince of peace : In his service let them exert themselves, but always in the spirit of love, labouring by the meekness of their tempers, and the usefulness of their lives, to silence, and if possible to shame, the clamours of their ignorant or malicious enemies.


Paul vindicates himself from the accusation of Tertullus, so that Felix only

orders him to be gently confined. Ch. xxiv. 10–23.

10 THEO THEN Paul, after the Governor had made a signal to him to

speak, answered the charges brought against him by Tertullus, in the manner following : “Knowing that thou, O Felix, hast been

for several years a judge to this nation, I answer for myself with Il the more cheerfulness; as thou mayest know, that it is no more 12 than twelve days since I went up to worship at Jerusalem ; and

they neither found me disputing with any man in the temple, nor

making any insurrection among the people, either in the syna13 gogues or in the city ; nor can they produce any proof of the 14 things concerning which they now accuse me. But this I confess

unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I

the God of our fathers; believing all things which are written in the 15 law and in the prophets ; having hope towards God of that, which

they themselves also expect, that there shall be a resurrection of the 16 dead, both of the just and of the unjust. And upon this account,

I exercise myself to have always an inoffensive conscience both 17 towards God and towards men. Now after several


I came 18 to Jerusalem to bring alms to my nation, and offerings ; upon

which some Asiatic Jews found me purified in the temple, neither 19 with multitude nor with tumult : who ought now to have been

present before thee, and to accuse me face to face, if they had 20 any thing against me. Or let these person's themselves who are

here present say, if when I stood before the Sanhedrim, they 31 found any crime in me ; unless it be with relation to this one

word, which I cried out when I stood among them, That for the

doctrine of the resurrection of the dead I am judged by you this 22 day. And when Felix heard these things, he put them off

, saying, After I have been more acccurately informed concerning this way of religion which Paul teaches, when Lysias the Tribune

cometh down, I will take cognizance of the affair between you. 23 And he commanded the Centurion to keep Paul in his custody,

and let him have every proper liberty; and to hinder none of his friends from assisting him, or coming to him.


REFLECTIONS. We here behold the righteous as bold as a lion, under false accusations, most confidently advanced by persons of the highest rank, and the most sacred, though (by a strange contrast) at the same time the most detestable character. And the more Felix was exercised in affairs, the more easily might he discern the genuine traces of innocence and integrity in his whole defence, to which, plain as it was, he seems to have paid more regard, than to all the complimental and insinuating harangue of Tertullus ; so great is the native force of truth,

on minds not entirely free from some corrupt bias !-Justly did Paul dare to avow his serving God according to the purity of gospel institutions, by whomsoever it might be called heresy ; nor need any fear that charge who make scripture the standard of their faith, and in the sincerity of their hearts seek inward divine teachings, that they may understand the sense of it; taking care not to run before their guide, and, with this injured servant of Christ, making it their daily exercise to maintain, in the whole of their conversation, a conscience void of offence towards God and men : A noble, though in some instances an arduous exercise ; such an exercise, that he who maintains it may look forward with pleasure to the unseen world, and through the grace of God in a Redeemer, may entertain a cheerful hope of that resurrection ; which, how terrible soever it may be to the unjust, shall be to all the righteous the consummation of their joys and of their glory. Whatever danger such may incur in consequence of a steady regard to that hope, let them courageously commit theinselves to him that judgeth righteously, who knows how to raise them up protectors where they might least expect it, and to make, as in this instance, those that are strangers to religion and virtue themselves, the means of delivering them from unreasonable and wicked persecutors, and not only of guarding their lives from violence, but of securing to them many conveniences and comforts.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »