subjects of a Resurrection from the dead and a Judgment to come, we find him particularly engaged on these subjects, viz. bearing Testimony at Jerusalem to the great offence of the Jews, that Jesus whom they had slain on the Cross and had buried, was risen again, and through Him there would be a Resurrection of the dead from the grave. Being persecuted for his opinions, and allowed to plead his own cause, he avows this testimony first before Ananias the High Priest*, when he cried out, in the Council - "Men " and Brethren! I am a Pharisee and the son of a “ Pharisee-of the Hope and Resurrection of the “ dead, I am called in question;"_and afterwards before Felix the Roman governors. His arguments on this head, were so powerful and piercing that they shook the conscience and the very inmost feel. ing of his Judge himself. Forf “ as he reasoned " of Righteousness, Temperance and Judgment to "come, Felix trembled and answered—Go thy way * for this time; when I have a condenient season I will call for thee.On this passage of holy Scripture, it may be profitable to speak more at large; and, indeed my Brethren, if ever since I had the honour of being a Preacher of the Gospel, I have, at one time more than another, wished that I had all that profound Knowledge of the Christian System, all that commanding Force of Eloquence which distinguished the Apostle Paul—it has been on reading this

And St. Paul's own arguments and conclusions, grounded on this Certainty, (as recorded by St. Matthew). See our Text, also, 2 Corin. Chap. V. Ver. 1, 2, 3, 4. Rom. Chap. VIII. Ver. 21, 22, 23. 1 Corin. Chap. XV. from verse 35, to verse 58.

* Acts, Chap. XXIII. Ver. 6. † Acts, Chap. XXIV. Ver. 14, 15. | Acts, "Chap. XXIV. Ver. 25.

passage of Scripture, which always leaves a wonderful impression on the mind, and raises a multitude of ideas, beyond those immediately conveyed by the express words of the text.

The scene it presents is a most striking one-a poor Prisoner in Bonds, pleading his own cause, and the cause of a despised Religion and Crucified Mas. ter; yet his Judge himself trembling before him, and overcome with the majesty of Truth. One cannot help, in this place, lamenting the brevity of the Narrative, and wishing for the whole of those powerful Reasonings of Righteousness, Temperance, and Judgment to come, which had such a marvellous effect upon Felix! Much is left to be supplied by the imagination of every Christian expositor, ere such time as he can bring any Judge or Audience of the present day into the trembling state of Felix. This would require all the enlightened zeal and piercing elocu. tion of a Paul himself; and who shall hope to supply his place with justice to the subject?

But let us, as well as we can, with the aid of a careful perusal of his History and Writings, as recorded by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, attempt the arduous task.

The blessed St. Paul, being persuaded of the Spirit, had gone up to Jerusalem for the strengthening of the Infant-Church of Christians, where he was received among the Brethren with much Joy. On the next day after his arrival, he went first to James the Bishop of the place, who had assembled all the Elders or Presbyters to bid him Welcome in the name of the Lord. < And when he had saluted them*, he began to declare particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his Ministry. On hearing this account they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest Brother Paul, how many Thousands of Jews there are, which we have brought to believe in Christ, but yet still they retain many of their old prejudices, and are all zealous of the Law; and they are informed concerning thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are in thy Mission among the Gentiles, to forsake the Law of Moses, neither to circumcise their children, nor to walk after the customs of their Forefathers--As for us at Jerusalem, we have left the Jews at Liberty in such things; and with respect to the Gentiles under our care, we have also left them at Liberty, concluding that they need not observe such things; save only that they keep themselves from things offered to Idols, and from Blood, and from Strangled, and from Fornication."

Now, as it is reported that thou art zealous against the continuation of the Jewish rites, and they know that thou art now come to Jerusalem, the multitude will come together to question thee about these things. Wherefore, do what we advise in this matter. We have four men under a Vow, that they will undergo the Purifications required by the Law. Join thryself to them, in this public Testimony of regard to the Liw; and all the people shall then be ready to bear thee, after having this proof that the things

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

whereof they are informed concerning thee are nothing, and that thou walkest orderly, even according to their own Law."

In compliance with this advice, the Apostle set a glorious Example. For, although he knew that our Saviour had abolished the Hand-writing of Jewish Ordinances, and that all Christians were dead to the Law by the Body of Christ-yet, as the Jewish Temple was still standing, in which these Rites had been so long practised, he followed our Saviour's Example and gave way to them, as things of no essential obligation, in order that he might avoid giving Scandal to the weak Brethren among the Jews, and preserve Unity in the Church-A most severe Rebuke, my Brethren, against those Zealots of Modern Times, ki ho are always striving to break the unity of a pure reformed Church, for the sake of some decent Rites and Ceremonies, far more indifferent in their nature than those Ablutions and Purifications which St. Paul thought proper to comply with.

But this would not satisfy the fierce Zealots of that day. For, before the seven days of Purification were fully ended, the cry of Religion was up. The Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the Temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, crying out,-“ Men of Israel, help! this is ihe Man that teacheth all men every where, against the People and the Law, and this holy Temple, and moreover hath brought unbelieving Greeks to tread, with unhallowed feet, the steps of its sacred Porches.” Thus all the city was moved, or put in an Uproar, and the people ran together, and dragged him out of

the Temple and led him from Court to Court, and beat him, and went about to kill him, if the chief captain of the City.Bands had not rescued him from their Rage, and given him an opportunity of pleading his privilege of a free Trial, as a Roman Citizen.

This brought him before Felix the Roman Governor, where we next find him pleading his own Cause, and Reasoning, with undaunted spirit, concerning “ Righteousness, Temperance and a Judgment to come.”

And, Oh! that I could take up his divine arguments, and place them before you in all their sacred energy, uho, I am persuaded, would not be prejudiced Juviges, but patient and candid Hearers! Let me attempt the arduous Task!

Suppose, then, the mighty Felix seated on his Tribunal, in all the Pomp and Pride of Office; and his wife Drusilla, prompted by the novelty of the occasion, placed by his side!

Turn we, then, to the humble Prisoner, the ardent Apostle, with his Hand stretched out, his Soul animated with all the divine prospects of the Gospel, and his Countenance brightening into a stedfast affiance of conscious Innocence; and thus, let us suppose his Defence to run :

“ Most noble Felix! I count myself happy that I am permitted to make my Defence at your Bar; I will not repeat to you the Stripes, nor the Sufferings I have met with before, (pleading my privilege as a Roman Citizen, intitled to a free trial) I appeared at your Judgment Seat. You will suffer me then only to state my case, and acquaint you with the answers which I have given to the accusations of the Jews.

« VorigeDoorgaan »