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doctrine that they will not bear; and with some it may be another. But sooner or later, the natural heart rises up in anger against that part of the gospel which thwarts the favourite notion, or the indulged passion. The pride of the Jews could not be brought to give up what they considered their covenant privilege of exclusive favour with God; and when Paul's faithful declaration of the truth required him to set forth Christ's commission which sent him to the Gentiles with the offer of the gospel, they would bear the word of truth no longer,--and they would have killed him if they had not been prevented. The particular feeling from which flowed this rebellious rage against the truth in the Jews is one, which is described by the apostle as indicating the greatest hardness of heartthe filling up of their sins--the evidence that the wrath of God is come upon them to the uttermost: all this is connected with the act of " forbidding the apostle to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved.” (i Thess. ii. 16.) This was the national characteristic of the people generally, and it was specially brought out upon this occasion. They were refusing the gospel themselves, and at the same time refusing to let the Gentiles be taught by it the way of salvation. Strong as is the statement made by the apostle with reference to such a condition of heart as this, it is by no means an uncommon state. Indeed it is the ordinary condition of those worldly persons, whose interest is sufficiently awakened to make them actively feel the truth, while they resist its power. They are excited to anger by the proposal to send to others, as essential to salvation, that gospel which they reject for themselves. Hence arises the violent opposition to missionary exertions, and to the efforts attempted to be made for evangelizing the masses of nominal christians, who are living without God in the world.
QUESTION. Is there any doctrine which I cannot tolerate ? is it stated to be one of primary importance in the Scriptures ? What are my feelings towards those who put such a doctrine forward? Am I willing and anxious that the gospel should be placed within the reach of all men ? How do I shew this? How do I converse about missionary exertions ? What do I contribute towards them?
(In considering St. Paul's statement of the circumstances of his conversion, the applications to the fourteenth portion should also be read
; see page 106. And with reference to the apostle's vision of the Lord in the temple, read the second application of the sixteenth portion ; see
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, teach me the deceitfulness of my own heart, and make me jealous over it with a godly jealousy; that I may not allow uncharitable feelings towards any to lead me to unjust conclusions concerning them. Preserve me from hasty judgments, and from a readiness to think unfavourably, when it may be possible to find grounds for a favourable opinion. Give me wisdom to know how to approach those who love not to approach thee, that I may win their attention to the things which belong to their peace; but let me not withhold the truth through any difficulties which may arise from stating it. Open my mind to every portion of thy truth, and make it acceptable to my heart; and grant that I may never feel disposed to hinder the progress of thy blessed word. Oh! may it run and be glorified in the conversion of sinners, until thou shalt have accomplished the number of thine elect, and hastened the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
Paul brought before the Sanhedrim. PLACE.-Jerusalem. TIME.- Sunday, May 14, A.D. 56.
May God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, give me the Holy Spirit, that I inay understand this portion of His Holy Word, and profit by it. Amen.
THE SCRIPTURE. Acts, chap. XXII. verse 30, to XXIII. 10. On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty where- 30 fore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his hands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them. And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, “ Men and brethren,
23 I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” And the 2 high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Then said Paul unto him, “God shall smite thee, thou 3 whited wall : for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law ?” And they that stood by said, 4 “ Revilest thou God's high priest ?” Then said Paul, “I wist not, 5 brethren, that he was the high priest : for it is written, “Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” But when Paul perceived that 6 the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “ Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee : of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.” And 7 when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees : and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say 8 that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit : but the Pharisees confess both. And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were 9 of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, “ We find no evil in this man : but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.” And when there arose a great dissension, the chief 10 captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
The day after Paul's imprisonment, the Tribune felt anxious at finding that he had bound a Roman citizen to the whipping post, (whose privilege should have protected him by law from such a disgrace); and he was desirous of ascertaining precisely what was the crime with which the Jews charged him. He therefore ordered the handcuffs to be removed from him; and called a special meeting of the chief priests, with the Sanhedrim, before whom he commanded that Paul should be brought to trial.
Paul immediately entered upon his defence. He stood up boldly, and gazed on the councillors around him with an undaunted look. He then addressed the men as his brethren, and declared that not only before his conversion, but also since he had become a christian up to that very time, he had conducted himself in a conscientious and irreproachable manner in the sight of God.
This confident bearing and manner of Paul very much excited the temper of Ananias, who was presiding over the Council as High Priest; and he ordered the officers of the court, who were standing near Paul, to give hiin a blow on the mouth. Upon receiving this insult, the apostle turned towards Ananias, and sharply reproved him: looking upon him as one of the Pharisees of the Sanhedrim, he applied to him the comparison which our Lord had used in his strong condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees, upon leaving the Temple for the last time. (Matt. xxiii. 27, 28.) He called him a “whited wall,” as one who covered injustice and hypocrisy with a religious appearance ; for he was sitting to judge Paul's case according to the law, and yet began himself with breaking the law, by ordering him to be beaten in a manner which the law did not warrant. (Deut. xxv. 1, 2. John vii. 51.)
Those who heard this indignant burst from Paul immediately upbraided him for speaking in a reproachful manner of the person who filled the office of God's High Priest. Paul at once excused himself. He did not know (he said) that the person he spoke to was the High Priest. Had he considered him in that light, the word of God would have prevented his using such language to him ; for it was expressly stated in the law, “Thou shalt not revile the judges, nor curse the ruler of thy people.” (Exod. xxi. 28.) It is not easy to decide, whether Paul meant to say that he really was not aware who the person was who had given the order to strike him, or, that he did not acknow
ledge Ananias to be the lawful High Priest :-the historical facts tend to make it doubtful. It happened that Ananias, who had been the High Priest, had been removed from the office, and another named Jonathan had been appointed. Jonathan however had been assassinated just before this time; and the lawful successor had not been promoted to the High Priesthood. In the interval, Ananias seems to have fulfilled the duties of the office, and presided upon this extraordinary meeting of the Sanhedrim, at the summons of the Roman Tribune. It seems therefore to be a reasonable supposition that Paul, knowing that the office was vacant, was not really aware that the person who had commanded him to be beaten, had spoken as with the authority of the High Priesthood. However this was, the apostle in his indignation denounced a judgment against Ananias, which it pleased God afterwards to fulfil. Paul said that God should smite him, and not very long afterwards the wretched man came to a violent end; he was dragged from a place of concealment, and put to death.
As Paul found that there was no likelihood of obtaining a fair trial, he employed a wise device to prevent the unjust sentence he must have anticipated. He observed that of the Scribes who composed the Sanhedrim, some were of the sect of the Sadducees, and some were Pharisees. There was a constant jealousy and controversy between these two parties ; and an essential point of difference between them was, that the Sadducees denied the existence of the soul of man after death, or of any unseen spiritual beings, or angels ; and consequently they maintained that there would be no resurrection of those persons who had died. The Pharisees held the opposite opinions, and professed to believe that there are angels and spirits around us, though we cannot see them, and that those who have died in the body will rise again from death. Paul, speaking with a loud voice, addressed the assembly, and said that he was a Pharisee, and that his father had been a Pharisee before him; he declared that the charges brought against him arose in consequence of his maintaining the hope, and looking forward to the certainty of the resurrection of men's souls from death.
No sooner had Paul thus put forward this great subject