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The Trial at Caesarea
FIVE days after Paul's arrival at Cæsarea, his accusers came from Jerusalem, accompanied by Tertullus, an orator whom they had engaged as their counsel. The case was granted a speedy hearing. Paul was brought before the assembly, and Tertullus “began to accuse him.” Judging that flattery would have more influence upon the Roman governor than the simple statements of truth and justice, the wily orator began his speech by praising Felix: “Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, we accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness."
Tertullus here descended to bare-faced falsehood; for the character of Felix was base and contemptible. It was said of him, that "in the practice of all kinds of lust and cruelty, he exercised the power of a king with the temper of a slave." Those who heard
1 Tacitus: “History," chap. 5, par. 9.
Tertullus knew that his flattering words were untrue; but their desire to secure the condemnation of Paul was stronger than their love of truth.
In his speech, Tertullus charged Paul with crimes which, if proved, would have resulted in his conviction for high treason against the government. “We have found this man a pestilent fellow,” declared the orator, “and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: who also hath gone about to profane the temple.” Tertullus then stated that Lysias, the commandant of the garrison at Jerusalem, had violently taken Paul from the Jews when they were about to judge him by their ecclesiastical law, and had thus forced them to bring the matter before Felix. These statements were made with the design of inducing the procurator to deliver Paul over to the Jewish court. All the charges were vehemently supported by the Jews present, who made no effort to conceal their hatred of the prisoner.
Felix had sufficient penetration to read the disposition and character of Paul's accusers.
He knew from what motive they had flattered him, and he saw also that they had failed to substantiate their charges against Paul. Turning to the accused, he beckoned to him to answer for himself. Paul wasted no words in compliments, but simply stated that he could the more cheerfully defend himself before Felix, since the latter had been so long a procurator, and therefore had so good an understanding of the laws and customs of the Jews. Referring to the charges brought against him, he plainly showed that not one of them was true. He declared that he had
caused no disturbance in any part of Jerusalem, nor had he profaned the sanctuary. “They neither found me in the temple disputing with any man,” he said, “neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.”
While confessing that after the way which they call heresy” he had worshiped the God of his fathers, he asserted that he had always believed "all things which are written in the law and in the prophets ;” and that in harmony with the plain teaching of the Scriptures, he held the faith of the resurrection of the dead. And he further declared that the ruling purpose of his life was to “have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men.”
In a candid, straightforward manner he stated the object of his visit to Jerusalem, and the circumstances of his arrest and trial: “Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. 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."
The apostle spoke with earnestness and evident sincerity, and his words carried with them a weight of conviction. Claudius Lysias, in his letter to Felix, had borne a similar testimony in regard to Paul's
conduct. Moreover, Felix himself had a better knowledge of the Jewish religion than many supposed. Paul's plain statement of the facts in the case enabled Felix to understand still more clearly the motives by which the Jews were governed in attempting to convict the apostle of sedition and treasonable conduct. The governor would not gratify them by unjustly condemning a Roman citizen, neither would he give him up to them to be put to death without a fair trial. Yet Felix knew no higher motive than self-interest, and he was controlled by love of praise and a desire for promotion. Fear of offending the Jews held him back from doing full justice to a man whom he knew to be innocent. He therefore decided to suspend the trial until Lysias should be present, saying, “When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter."
The apostle remained a prisoner, but Felix commanded the centurion who had been appointed to keep Paul, “to let him have liberty," and to "forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him."
It was not long after this that Felix and his wife, Drusilla, sent for Paul, in order that in a private interview they might hear from him “concerning the faith in Christ.” They were willing and even eager to listen to these new truths -- truths which they might never hear again, and which, if rejected, would prove a swift witness against them in the day of God.
Paul regarded this as a God-given opportunity, and faithfully he improved it. He knew that he
stood in the presence of one who had power to put him to death, or to set him free; yet he did not address Felix and Drusilla with praise or flattery. He knew that his words would be to them a savor of life or of death, and forgetting all selfish considerations, he sought to arouse them to a sense of their peril.
The apostle realized that the gospel had a claim upon whoever might listen to his words; that one day they would stand either among the pure and holy around the great white throne, or with those to whom Christ would say, “Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity. He knew that he must meet every one of his hearers before the tribunal of heaven, and must there render an account, not only for all that he had said and done, but for the motive and spirit of his words and deeds.
So violent and cruel had been the course of Felix, that few had ever before dared even to intimate to him that his character and conduct were not faultless. But Paul had no fear of man. He plainly declared his faith in Christ, and the reasons for that faith, and was thus led to speak particularly of those virtues essential to Christian character, but of which the haughty pair before him were so strikingly destitute.
He held up before Felix and Drusilla the character of God - His righteousness, justice, and equity, and the nature of His law. He clearly showed that it is man's duty to live a life of sobriety and temperance, keeping the passions under the control of reason, in conformity to God's law, and preserving the physical and mental powers in a healthy condi
. Matt. 7:23.