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Paul, though heard by Felix with great conviction, is yet left a prisoner, and
being again accused before Festus appeals to Cæsar. Ch. xxiv. 24, &c. XXV. 1-12
24 ND after some days, Felix coming with Drusilla his wife,
who was a Jewess, sent for Paul, and heard him discourse at 25 large concerning faith in Christ. And as he reasoned concerning
righteousness, and temperance, and judgment to come, Felix
trembling, answered, Go thy way for this time, and I will take 26 some future opportunity to call for thee. And he hoped also that
money would be given him by Paul, that he might set him ať
liberty ; and therefore he sent the more frequently for him, and 27 discoursed with him.-Now after two years were ended, Felix
was succeeded in his government by Portius Festus; and Felix,
willing to ingratiate himself with the Jews, left Paul a prisoner. xxv. When Festus therefore was come into the province of Judea; 2 after three days he went up from Cæsarea to Jerusalem ; and the
high-priest, and the chief among the Jews, appeared before him 3 with an accusation against Paul, and entreated him, begging it as
the only favour* they desired against him, that he would send for
him to Jerusalem ; having formed a scheme of laying an ambush 4 to kill him by the way. But Festus answered, that Paul should
be kept at Cæsarea, and that he himself would shortly set out 5 for that place : therefore, said he, let those of you who are able,
go down with me ; and if there be any thing criminal in this man, 6 let them accuse him in my hearing. And having continued among
them more than ten days, he went down to Cæsarea ; and the
next day sitting down on the tribunal, he commanded Paul to be 7 brought before him. And when he appeared, the Jews who came
down from Jerusalem, stood round about, bringing many heavy
accusations against Paul, which they were not able to prove ; 8 while he answered for himself, and said, Neither against the laws
of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Cæsar, have I 9 committed any offence at all. But Festus, willing to ingratiate
himself with the Jews, answered Paul and said, Wilt thou go
up to Jerusalem, and there be judged before me concerning these 10 things? But Paul said, I am standing at Cæsar's tribunal, where
I ought to be judged: I have done no wrong to the Jews, as thou VI knowest perfectly well. For if indeed I have done wrong to anys
or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die : but if there is nothing in those things of which these persons ac
cuse me, no man can justly give me up to gratify them. I appeal 72 unto Cæsar. Then Festus having privately spoken with the coun
cil, answered Paul, Hast thou appealed unto Cæsar? unto Cæsar thou shalt go.
Entreating him to favour them by sending for Paul.” W.
REFLECTIONS. In the conduct of Paul towards Felix, we see the character of a gospel-minister illustrated in a most amiable manner. What could argue greater magnanimity, than to deal thus pilainly with a man in whose power his liberty was? Yet he did not sooth and flatter him, but acted the part of one infinitely more concerned about the salvation of his hearers than his own temporal interest. He chooses faithfully to represent the evil of those vices to which Felix was especially addicted, and displays the terrors of the judgment to come, as enfor: cing the sacred laws of righteousness and temperance, which Fe. lix had presumed so notoriously to violate. Let the haughtiest sinners know, even upon their tribunals, and upon their thrones, that the universal Judge, and the universal King, will shew his superior power, and will ere long call them to his bar; and, if they are conscious of allowed disobedience and rebellion against that supreme Lord of all, let them, like Felix, trenble.
Great is the force of truth, and of conscience, in which the prisoner triumphs, while the judge trembles. And 0 how happily might this consternation have ended, had he pursued the views which were then opening on his mind! But, lịke thousands of awakened sinners in our day, he deferred the consideration of these important things to an uncertain hereafter. He talked of a more convenient season for reviewing them ; a season, which alas, never came! for, though he heard again he trembled no more, that we can find ; or if he did, it was a vain terror, while he went on in that injustice, which had given him such dreadful apprehensions, of which his leaving Paul bound was a flagrant instance. Let every reader seriously weigh this remarkable, but terrible case, and take heed of stifling present convictions, lest they only serve to increase the weight of guilt, and to render the soul for ever more sensible of that greater condemnation to which it will be exposed by wickedly overbearing them. In the mean time, we do not find that Drusilla, though a Jewess, was thus alarmed*. She had been used to hear of a future judgment ; perhaps too she trusted to her being a daughter of Abraham, or to the expiations of the law, which were never intended to answer such purposes ; and so, notr withstanding the natural tenderness of her sex, was proof against those terrors which seized so strongly on her husband, though an heathen. Let it teach us to guard against those false dependencies which tend to elude convictions, that might otherwise be produced by the faithful preaching of the word of God. Let it teach us to stop our ears against those syren songs which would lull us into eternal ruin, even though they should come from the mouths of those who appear like angels of light ; for the prince of darkness himself could preach no more pernicious doctrines, than those which reconcile the hopes of salvation with a corrapt heart and an immoral life.
* For this excellent remark I am indebted to Bishop Atterbury in his unequalled sermon on this subjecta
In the conduct of Festus, as well as of Felix, we see what dangerous snares power and grandeur may prove, to a man who is not influenced by resolute and courageous virtue. The liberty of the worthiest of mankind was sacrificed by both, to their political views of ingratiating themselves with the Jewish people. Happy that ruler, who approving the equity of his administration to every man's conscience, has no need to court popular favour by mean compliances ; and whom the greatest eagerness of men's unjust demands can never turn aside from that steady tenor of justice which a righteous God requires, and which will engage that protection and favour in which alone the most exalted creatures can be happy ; in which alone they can be safe.
Paul is brought forth to be examined before Agrippa and Bernice, in a
grand assembly. Ch. xxv. 13, &c.
13 ND when some days were passed, king Agrippa and Bernice
his sister*, came to Cæsarea to pay their respects to Festus, 14 And as they continued there many days, Festus laid before the
king the case of Paul, saying, There is a certain man left in 15 bonds by Felix : concerning whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the
chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring judg16 ment against him. To whom I answered, that it is not the cus
tom of the Romans to give up any man to destruction, till he that is accused have the accusers face to face, and be allowed an
opportunity of making his defence as to the crime laid to his 17 charge. When therefore they were come hither to prosecute him,
I without any delay sat down upon the tribunal the next day, and 18 commanded the man to be brought forth. Against whom, when
the accusers stood up, they brought no charge of such things as 19 I supposed : but had certain questions against him relating to
their own religion, and about one Jesus that was dead, whom 20 Paul affirmed to be alive. But as I was dubious of the question
relating to him, I said to Paul that, if he were willing, he should 21 go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things. But Paul
appealing to be kept to the hearing of our August Emperort, I 22 commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Cæsar. Then
Agrippa said unto Festus, I also would desire to hear the man my
self. And he said, To-morrow thou shalt hear him. 23 The next day therefore, Agrippa and Bernice coming with
great pomp, and entering into the place of audience, with the
* With whom he was suspected of living in an incestuous commerce. Both Juvenal and Josephus mention this.
† Since Augusius was not properly one of the names of Nero (as it was of Titus) I thought the import of Erbaros here, which was plainly a complimental form of speaking, might be most justly expressed by this version. Tribunes and principalmen of the city; at the command of 24 Festus, Paul was brought forth. And Festus said, O* king
Agrippa, and all ye who are present with us, ye see this man, concerning whom all the multitude of the Jews have pleaded
with me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he ought 25 not to live any longer. But after diligent inquiry, I could not ap
prehend him to have done any thing worthy of death ; yet as he
himself appealed to our August Emperor, I have determined to 26 send him to Rome : concerning whom however I have nothing
certain to write to his majesty : wherefore I have brought him out before you all, and especially before thee, O king Agrippa, that
after further examination taken, I may have something to write ; 27 for it seems to me absurd to send a prisoner to be tried before Cæ
sar, and not to signify also the crimes alledged against him.
REFLECTIONS. Mysterious as that dispensation was which permitted Paul's labours to be interrupted by so long an imprisonment, it is nevertheless very pleasant to trace the manner in which all was graciously over-ruled by a wise and kind providence. On this occasion he had an opportunity of bearing his testimony, first before ralers and kings in Judea, and then in Rome, and in the palace of Cæsar.—None of the jewels which these princes might wear, none of the revenues which they might possess, were of any value at all, when compared with the advantage which their converse with Paul gave them, for learning the way of salvation : But how shamefully was the advantage neglected, even the price which was put into their hands to get this divine wisdom. Alas! how coldly do they speak of the most important matters, even those relating to the death and resurrection of him, by whose knowledge and grace alone hell was to be avoided and heaven secured ! There was a question about one Jesus, who was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive : A doubtful question ! But, O Festus, why was it doubtful to thee? Surely, because thou didst not think it worth thy while seriously to search into the evidence that attended it ; else that evidence had opened upon thee till it had grown into full conviction, and this thine illustrious prisoner had led thee into the glorious liberty of God's children; had led thee to a throne far brighter than that of Cæsar, far more stable than the foundations of the earth.
It is no wonder that Agrippa had a curiosity to hear Paul ; it is no wonder that the gospel story in general should move curiosity; but God forbid that it should be considered merely as an amusement: In that view it is an amusement that will cost men dear.
In the mean time, the prudence of Festus is to be commended, who was desirous to get further information in an affair of such a nature as this ; and his equity, which bore a testimony to the innocence of the apostle, is worthy of applause ; as well as the law which provided, that none should be condemned unheard : A law, which, as it is common to all nations, (courts of inquisition only excepted) ought to be the rule of our proceeding in all affairs, not only in public but private life ; if we would avoid acting an injurious part in the censures we pass on the characters of others, and exposing our own to the just reproach, which they seldom escape who take upon them to judge a matter ber fore they have heard it.
Paul's defence before Agrippa. Ch. xxvi.
WHEN Agrippa said unto Paul, It is permitted unto thee to
speak for thyself. Then Paul stretching forth his hand, made his defence ; which was as follows : 2 " I esteem myself happy, O king Agrippa, that I am this day
called to make my defence before thee, concerning all those things 3 of which I am accused by the Jews; especially as thou art acquainted
with all the customs and the questions among the Jews : where, 4 fore I entreat thee that thou wilt hear me with patience.-The
manner of my life from my youth, which from the beginning
was spent among those of my own nation at Jerusalem, is known 5 to all the Jews : who were acquainted with me from the first (if
they would testify) that I lived a Pharisee, according to the 6 strictest sect of our religion. And now I stand in judgment for
the hope of that promise of a resurrection) which was made by 7 God unto our fathers : to which promise our twelve tribes hope to
attain, worshipping continually night and day: concerning which
hope, O king Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. And I aps 8 peal to you my honoured auditors, Why should it be judged an 9 incredible thing by you, that God should raise the dead? I myself
indeed [was once an enemy to the Christian doctrine, and] thought
with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the 10 name of Jesus the Nazarene : which accordingly I did in Jerusa
lem; and I shut up many of the saints in prison, having received
authority from the chief priests. And when some of them were 11 killed, I gave my vote against them : and frequently punishing
them in all the synagogues, I compelled them to blaspheme ; and
being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even to 12 foreign cities. With * this view, as I was going to Damascus, 13 with authority and commission from the chief priests, at mid-day,
while I was in the way, o king Agrippa, I saw a light from
heaven, exceeding the splendour of the sun, shining about me, and 14 those who travelled with me. And when we were all fallen down
to the earth, I heard a voice speaking to me, and saying in the
Hebrew language, Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me? it is 15 hard for thee to kick against the goads. And I said, Who art
thou, Lord ? And he said, I am Jesus, whom tlou persecutest. 16 But arise, and stand upon thy feet, for to this purpose I have appeared unto thee, to ordain tliee a minister and a witness, both
* In this view, D. With this view, A.