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the chief priests; and even when they had been killed, he had sanctioned their execution. He had thus persecuted them in every synagogue in Jerusalem, and forced them sinfully to speak evil of the name of Jesus. Being greatly exasperated against them, he had extended his persecutions to the Jewish inhabitants of cities beyond the limits of Judea. With this view he was going to Damascus armed with authority and power from the chief priests; and as he was journeying, about noon there shone

brilliant a light from heaven, that it exceeded the light of the sun, even at mid-day. This light appeared to all those that were in company with him, and they all fell to the ground in great alarm. Then Paul said that he heard a voice speaking in the Hebrew language to himself. It asked why Paul persecuted him who spake, adding that it was useless for him to waste so much zeal in that which would only produce evil to himself in the end; just as it would be foolish in an ox to hurt himself by kicking against the pricking goad. Paul then asked who it was that was speaking, upon which the voice replied by declaring that he was Jesus whom Paul was persecuting.

Then Paul explained how the Lord Jesus bid him rise from the ground and stand up, for that he had manifested himself to him in this manner, on purpose to ordain him as a minister of the gospel, and to send him forth as a witness of what he then saw, and also of the future revelations which he would receive. Then the apostle stated that Jesus gave him the commission to go forth amongst the idolatrous Gentiles, from whose violence he promised he should be delivered, as well as from the anger of the Jews. The power of that gospel commission Paul then declared; that the Lord Jesus had promised that by his ministry he should open the eyes of men's understanding, turning them from the darkness of ignorance to the light of truth, from the slavery of the devil to the perfect liberty of the children of God; in order that those thus converted might have the pardon of their sins, and partake in the inheritance of the saints who are made holy by the power of faith in Christ Jesus.

(The full account of the events here referred to will be found in the fourteenth portion, page 100.)

Having thus set forth the circumstances of his conversion, Paul told Agrippa that he obeyed at once the commands of the great one whom he had seen from heaven. He had immediately preached the doctrine of repentance, explaining that in that change of mind there must be a turning towards God, and a course of life marked by such good works as would manifest that they sprung from a true repentance. This the apostle had proclaimed first to the Jews, (whether those at Damascus, at Jerusalem, or in other parts of Judea), and then to the Gentiles. These were the true reasons why the Jews had seized upon him in the temple, and conspired to kill him. As however he was supported by Divine aid, their efforts had availed nothing; for he was safe and was alive that day, to testify the gospel to all classes of persons, maintaining only the very things which had been proclaimed beforehand by the prophets and by Moses ; for they maintained that the Messiah would have to suffer, and that he should be the first who, rising up to life again from amongst those who had died, should manifest the light both to the Jews and to the Gentiles.

At this part of Paul's address, Festus seems to have been much excited, perhaps at the notion of the resurrection to life of one who had died, more especially as connected with the character of a despised Jew. He interrupted the apostle, by exclaiming that he had lost his senses—excess of study had turned his brain, and made him mad. Paul was neither daunted nor vexed by this exclamation of the governor's, but replied to him that he was not mad, but that what he had been explaining was not only truth, but also sound and sober sense. King Agrippa, who was present, was able to judge of these things; and being acquainted with the subject, Paul said he had spoken before him freely. He was sure that he must have had information on these matters before; for the great event of the resurrection of Christ had not been concealed, as though it had been done in a corner. Then turning to the king, he appealed to himself, and asked him boldly whether he believed what was written in the books of the prophets; and when Agrippa gave him no answer, he interpreted the silence, and told him that he knew that he believed them. This drew forth an expression from Agrippa, of the feelings with which he had heard the apostle; “You have almost persuaded me to become a christian.” Paul, fixing on the fatal word almost, expressed an earnest desire that, not only Agrippa, but every one in the assembly who had heard his defence that day, were more than almost, even altogether what he himself had become through the circumstances he had related. Whilst lifting up however, as he spoke, the chain by which his arm was bound to the Roman soldier, the thought arose of the persecutions and suffering which had been the consequence; and giving vent to the feeling of love which could not desire ill to any, he put a limit to the wish that they should become what he was, by excepting the bondage to which he was subjected.

Upon this the king and Festus, with Bernice, rose and broke up the assembly, retiring to another apartment for private consultation, in which they agreed that Paul had been guilty of no offence which should be punished with death, or with imprisonment. Agrippa added, that there was no reason why he should not be set at liberty at once, except that having made an appeal to the judgment of the emperor, the case could now be decided by no inferior court.

APPLICATION.

similar graces.

1. The speech and behaviour of St. Paul, as seen in this portion, shew both the wisdom and the boldness with which the apostle was gifted; and they afford encouraging evidence of the effects to be expected from any exercise of

He was addressing an eminent Jew, well acquainted with the scriptures; and was also speaking before persons high in power, but entirely ignorant of the true God, and of his revelation to man. He touched upon the essential points in such a manner as accorded with the scriptural knowledge of Agrippa, while he was able at the same time to apply his argument so as to appeal to the reason of Festus ;—thus putting his question to both and all, (the pronoun is in the plural number), “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead ?” His boldness too in setting forth Jesus and the power of His doctrine, as well as the extent of his own commission to convey it to all the world, Gentile as well as Jew, shews the unshaken confidence that he reposed in the help of his

Lord against the anger of man; as neither Agrippa nor Festus was likely to receive his statements with a complacent feeling. Without appearing to contemn the power of those to whom he spoke, he referred his protection to God, and traced his conduct to the necessary obedience required of him; “having obtained help of God, he continued unto that day witnessing the truth both to small and great."

This admirable mixture of christian wisdom with faithful boldness produced different results in the two principal persons addressed. Festus thought the man mad, who could talk of the dead returning to life, and who could exaggerate so insignificant a matter as the execution of a certain malefactor, whether justly or unjustly, into an event of so great importance; but he bore with his denial, and gave attention to his reference of the subject to Agrippa. That prince on the other hand was deeply affected by the apostle's appeal, which brought his previous knowledge to bear with unusual force upon his conscience; and though unhappily neither one nor the other finally profited by the opportunity, yet the majesty of God's truth was respected, and the honour of the name of Jesus was publicly maintained, both to His glory, and for the increased responsibility of the hearers.

Does fear hinder me from speaking plainly concerning spiritual truth in the presence of those to whom it would likely be unpalatable? Do I venture to touch upon scriptural subjects, before those whom I believe, though acquainted with the scriptures, to be as yet uninfluenced by their truth?

QUESTION.

2. Agrippa was almost persuaded to be a christian :how many of those, who are nominally christians by outward rites, have never yet proceeded further towards becoming christians in spirit and in truth, than to have been almost persuaded. The arguments of Paul were convincing to the understanding that knew the Scriptures and received them, but these arguments brought that knowledge into close contact with conscience, producing there a powerful pressure-almost enough to make the wretched man feel he must give up the course of life, of which that knowledge made him understand the sinfulness. Until however the pressure upon conscience was enough to produce this effect, the mind could not be entirely persuaded that, by the atonement of Jesus, we are both “ turned from the power of Satan to God,” and “receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance amongst them that are sanctified by faith that is in Christ.” This almost-persuaded state is the most awful condition in which a man can be. It leaves no room for the hope of ignorance, nor for the expectation of mistaken conviction. It aggravates immensely the sinfulness of every sin; and makes it the greatest folly to be one moment at rest, until the point is settled in the heart, that has already opened its light upon the mind. To be almost a christian now, and not to be found a christian at the great day, must involve a terrible increase of misery for eternity; as to have risen to a height without attaining the point of safety, and then to fall, would be more disastrous than to fall without having risen at all. How beautiful is the evidence of having fully attained to the christian elevation of character, which is seen in the answer of Paul to Agrippa's confession—“not almost, but altogether-not one alone, but all that hear—would that they were as I am in safety, because in Christ ! yet not as I am, because in bondage and suffering :"-here is set forth the love which is the high characteristic of being altogether A

CHRISTIAN.

QUESTION. As I am a christian in name, and by outward baptism, am I one who has been fully persuaded to receive Christ in the spirituality of life which He imparts ? or am I only one who is almost persuaded to adopt christianity heartily? What point in faith or practice, which I know to be essential to the completeness of the christian character, have I not yet been persuaded to adopt ?

THE PRAYER.

God of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things, and without whom nothing is

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