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King Agrippa, believest thou the Prophets? I know that thou believest.
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
And Paul said, I would to GOD, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.
And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them, And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.
Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Cæsar.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
We may regard the oration of Paul before Agrippa, as a remarkable instance of our LORD's attention to the promise he made, that when his disciples were brought before governors and kings for his sake, he would teach them what they should speak. In it the seriousness of the Christian, the boldness of the Apostle, and the po- : liteness of the gentleman and the scholar, are happily blended. There was no appearance of flattery in his congratulating himself on speaking before one skilled in the manners and records of the Jews, nor any arrogance in his insisting on the strictness of his former life; for he knew that this righteousness would not justify him in the sight of GOD. But he had no advocate to plead for him, and it was necessary for his vindication, that he should give this account of himself, and shew, that though he was hated by the Jews, he still retained the religion he was educated in, as far as it agreed with the promises made to the Patriarchs, on which he built his
hopes of the resurrection of the dead; they were only the ceremonials of the law, and the traditional supersti tions that he rejected. Paul observed that he was not singular in his opinion concerning the resurrection of the dead; for the whole body of the Jewish church looked for a MESSIAH and a life to come: and it was no incredible thing that GoD, who had almighty power, and at first created all things, should raise the dead. Paul informed his judges, that he had not followed CHRIST from interested views*; for it must evidently appear, that when he embraced Christianity, he gave up the fortune he was in a fair way of advancing; the reputation he had acquired by the labours and study of his whole life, and by a blameless behaviour. He gave up his friends and relations, and banished himself from the society of those whom he had been accustomed to converse with, and that religion for which he had been remarkably zealous. He positively asserted, that he was made a convert by a particular call from heaven, and received a commission from CHRIST himself to preach to the Gentiles, at the very time he was going with a sanction from the High Priests to extirpate the Christians.
Having shewn by what means he became a Christian, Paul proceeded to inform his Judges, that since his conversion he had zealously taught the Christian doctrines, and borne witness with the rest of the Apostles to the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies; which he was qualified to do, not by the instruction of men, but by immediate revelation from God.
Agrippa began to feel the force of Paul's reasoning, but afraid to look into his own heart, he precipitately broke up the court; and Paul had only time to add the * Lord Lyttelton,
benevolent wish, with which he concluded his oration. We understand from the private discourse between Agrippa, Festus, and Bernice, that they thought him unjustly persecuted.
St. Paul's question to Agrippa, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?" was a very sensible one, and worthy of our serious consideration. The Almighty Being who created all things from nothing, is undoubtedly able to raise the dead to life; and he has given us many images of a resurrection in the vegetable world, and among the insect tribes: but as the great and indisputable proof, he has raised CHRIST from the dead in our nature. Let us then apply to ourselves the Apostle's benevolent wish to king Agrippa, and by embracing in its full extent the doctrine he preached, and endeavouring like him to follow our blessed LORD's example, become altogether such a Christian as he was, consistent, sincere, and stedfast.
Paul and his associates, viz. Luke, Aristarchus, Trophimus, and some others, were delivered to the care of Julius a centurion, who with his band of soldiers embarked with them on board a ship.
They had a voyage of the utmost danger through stormy and dark weather, which Paul by a divine impulse forewarned them of; but the owner of the ship, thinking that he should be able to make an harbour on the coast of Crete, prevailed on Julius to consent to his pursuing the voyage. In a short time after a violent wind arose, a dreadful darkness ensued, which continued for several days, so that they knew not how to steer; for they could see neither the sun by day nor the stars by night, and were obliged to lighten the ship to prevent her sinking. They first threw the merchants goods overboard, then the tackle of the ship; but not
withstanding all their efforts, the ship struck upon the sands in a very dangerous place, and was immediately broken to pieces. In this conjuncture, the soldiers made a barbarous proposal to kill the prisoners, lest they should escape; but Julius, who was a very humane man, and had a great esteem for Paul, prevented their putting it in execution, and commanded that those who could swim should cast themselves into the sea, and endeavour to get to land: they did so, and every man on board, being two hundred and seventy-six, either by swimming, or on planks or pieces of the wreck, got safe on shore; as Paul had before assured them it was revealed to him by an Angel they would do, if the sailors staid in the ship, and exerted their best endeavours to save her, and trusted to divine providence, instead of taking to the boat, as some of them were going to do.
The name of the island on which they were cast was Melita, now called Malta. It was at that time subject to the Romans, but inhabited by Carthaginians, who seeing these poor wretches ready to perish with cold, treated them with great hospitality, making good fires to dry them, and using every method to comfort and refresh them.
A remarkable circumstance happened to Paul in this place. He had taken up a bundle of sticks and cast it into the fire, when a viper dislodged by the heat came out of the wood, and fastened on his hand. The islanders seeing this, and knowing that he was a prisoner, concluded that he was certainly a murderer, who, though he had escaped the dangers of the sea, could not avoid divine justice; but to their astonishment, they beheld him with the utmost composure shake the reptile into the fire, according to the promise of our LORD, that those
those who believed in him should take up serpents *. The people observed him attentively for some time, expecting that the venom would soon operate, and that he would swell violently, and drop down dead; but when they saw he remained unhurt, they changed their opinion, and took him for a deity. So fickle is the opi nion of those who form their notions of things from the light of reason only, unguided by Divine revelation!
Publius, a Roman nobleman, who was governor of the place, hearing that a shipwreck had happened, invited the distressed strangers to his house, where they were courteously entertained for three days; at which time the father of Publius was seized with a dangerous illness, from which he was miraculously recovered by the hands of Paul. The news of this miracle spread abroad, and occasioned many who were afflicted with diseases to apply to the Apostle, who cured them, and he was in return highly honoured and respected by them. At the end of three months, Paul and his company embarked on board another ship, and shortly af ter landed at Naples; where meeting with some disci. ples, they staid a week, and then set off for Rome by land. The Christians at Rome hearing he was coming went out to meet him. At the sight of them Paul greatly rejoiced, and returned thanks to GoD, being encouraged from this circumstance to hope, that these friends would be comforters to him in his confinement --When arrived at Rome, Julius delivered his prisoners into the hands of the captain of the Emperor's guards, who being of an amiable disposition, treated Paul with all possible indulgence, and allowed him to live in an hired house or lodgings, with one soldier only to guard him.
* See Sect. I.