« PreviousContinue »
years, was a benevolent one. “Now, after many years I came to bring alms to my nation and offerings." The apostle had been the bearer of gifts from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia to the poor saints in the city. This was his mission, a mission of mercy and worship, not of rebellion and impiety. He assures the judge that he was found in the temple by certain Jews from Asia "purified," not gathering a multitude and creating a tumult, and that those Jews who found him there ought to have been present. Whereupon, certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult, who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had aught against me. Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil-doing in me, while I stood before the Council, except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day."
Such was Paul in his defence before Felix. In this probably very abbreviated account which is given, does he not appear to great advantage ?-dignified in bearing, frank in statement, skilful in argument, nigh in aim, and indomitable in his adhesion to his credenda. We have now to notice
III. HIS JUDGE. Who was this Felix ? We need not go to Josephus, or Tacitus, the latter of whom says that in “ the practice of all kinds of lust, crime, and cruelty, he exercised the power of a king with the temper of a slave," for proofs of the wickedness of this man's life, sufficient for that comes out in the narrative. The narrative affords us a glance at him officially and morally.
First: Officially. How does he treat Paul, as a judge ? He has heard the case, seen his accusers, listened to Tertullus, the advocate, looked at Paul, heard his noble defence, and if he possessed the most ordinary ability, penetration, and culture, he must have seen that the charges against the apostle were utterly groundless, and that the animus of his accusers was that of malignant and unscrupulous persecution. Hence,
as a judge, he should have acquitted him at once. Instead of which, how does he act? Though convinced, as he must have been, of the innocence and nobility of Paul, yet, in order to conciliate the Jews, he resorts to the cowardly expediency of delay. “And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, when Lysias, the chief captain, shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter." Legally, he could not condemn him; morally, he was too cowardly to acquit. He was, therefore, shut up to an adjournment of the case, and the pretext was, that Lysias, when he came ilown to Jerusalem, would give further information of the matter. It is only fair, however, to this corrupt judge, to say, that he granted to Paul during his imprisonment some privileges. “And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him." To be allowed to see his friends, though chained to a soldier, would, no doubt, be esteemed a great privilege by Paul. We may suppose that Philip and his family visited him-also Aristarchus, and Luke, the beloved physician, his companion, and biographer. The narrative leads us to look at him—
Secondly: Aforally. “ And after certain days when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee. He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him ; wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him. But after two years, Porcius Festus came into Felix's room, and Felix, willing to show the Jews & pleasure, left Paul bound.” In this we observe three facts touching this man's depravity. (1) He is convicted, by Paul's preaching, of the enormity of his wickedness. “Felix trembled.” What made him tremble? It was Paul's discourse on the Christian religion-“faith in Christ,"
branching out into "righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.” No doubt Paul knew the man's history well-knew his connection with Drusilla, who sat by his side-knew well the most salient attributes as they came out in his conduct, and showed themselves in his looks and words, and, with all the force of his inspired genius, le brings the divine truth to bear
upon his conscience, and the man trembles. The magis trate, the judge, the oppressor, the profligate, cowers with mysterious horror before the divine majesty of the prisoner's form and words. (2) He trifles with his conscience by adjourning the question of reformation. What does he do Does he at once yield to truth-renounce the old, and adopt the new light which the awakened conscience dictates ? No, but he stifles the feeling by promising to himself a more convenient season.
“Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season I will call for thee.” This trifling with an awakened conscience added enormously to his wickedness. Better conscience never awake, than it should awake with its reproofs, and be disobeyed. (3) Instead of setting to a reformation, he becomes increasingly corrupt. He does send for Paul again, but what for ? Not to help him out of his sins, but to gratify his greed. “He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him, wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him." He had learnt from Paul's defence that he had been entrusted with funds for the poor at Jerusalem. He knew, too, that Paul had thousands who believed in him, many of whom were wealthy men, and he expected that money would be forthcoming to purchase by a bribe his liberty. Of all the base passions in the human heart avarice is the basest, and this man had sunk deeply into that, after the convictions that he had received. Felix, to gratify his greed, and to please the Jews, let Paul remain for two years in his prison. Such, in Felix, was Paul's judge at Cæsarea.
From the whole chapter there are several grand subjects for thought which we can only briefly note. First: The malice of religious bigotry. This comes out
HOMILETIC GLANCE AT THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
in the fact that “five days” after Paul had left Jerusalem, the high priest, the elders, and Tertullus, their advocate, came down all the way to Cæsarea, in order to gratify their malign passions.
(See ver. 1.) And for what? merely because Paul had outgrown their interpretations of the Scriptures, Religious hatred is of all hatreds the most insatiable and cruel. This may be explained.
Secondly : The prostitution of distinguished talent. Tertullus was evidently a man of noted ability, possessing great natural endowments, with high forensic culture and yet he gives himself to the advocacy of a cause the most iniquitous and inhuman. Like Judas he sold the truth for money. Tertullus is a representative man, a veritable type of all who sell themselves for gain.
Thirdly: The Christianity of old Judaism. Paul, though a Christian, regarded himself as a most consistent Jew. He believed (1) In the Jews' God; (2) In the Jews' Scriptures; (3) In the Jews' Resurrection. (See ver. 14, 15.) Christianity is Judaism brightened into noon.
Fourthly : The characteristics of a great man. (1) He is not ashamed of an unpopular cause.
He had vowed his connexion with a “sect" universally despised. (See ver. 14.) (2.) His highest aim is moral rectitude. A good conscience is what he strives after. (Ver. 16.) (3) He is not afraid to reprove iniquity in the great. Paul lectured Felix on “ unrighteousness, temperance, and judgment to come." (Ver. 25.) Such are ever the characteristics of a great man.
Fifthly: The danger of religious delay. The conscience of Felix was roused, under the ministry of Paul, and then was the " convenient" season-hour for his conversion. It was the favourable moral mood. He promised himself a “more convenient season,” but it never came. Opportunities for seeing Paul came, and he availed himself of those opportunities again and again, but with none of those opportunities ever came the moral mood,
Germs of Thought.
SUBJECT : The Rival Armies, “So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.”—Judges v. 31.
Analysis of Bomily tht Seben Hundred and fifty-Sixth. THERE are different ways of reading history. We may
peruse historical records, sacred or profane, as only relating to particular times and individuals. But that would be a very narrow view to take. We should rather read his. tory as in some measure, at least, giving us an account of the Divine workings. The history of the Jews is especially interesting and instructive when viewed in its relation to the Providence of God. As in nature, so in grace, God is the greatest of economists. He is liberal, but never lavish of his gifts. There is a danger in these days lest we undervalue Old Testament writings, as though the spirit inspiring the New Testament were not equally the inspiration of the Old. The Bible is one.
We may then take the incidents of Jewish national life, and derive some useful and salutary lessons by dwelling upon them in a right spirit. The text introduces us into one of the most interesting and instructive periods of the early national life in the promised land. Israel had sinned. “And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord when Ehud was dead." This was very ungrateful of the Jews, it must be admitted, but their conduct was not exceptional. The Jews were neither special in their virtues nor in their vices, but were simply samples of the human race. As a punishment for their sinfulness, “the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor ; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.” Under these circumstances, the Israelites did just what might have been expected of them -- they “cried unto the Lord.” And we find that the Lord did just what might have been expected of