« AnteriorContinuar »
beating him in the streets. Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. The next day, that he might ascertain the nature of the accusations brought against Paul, and inquire more particularly into the cause of the tumult, he commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them. The course of the inquiry only tended to revive the dissention; and the chief 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 Jews were now exasperated to the uttermost against Paul, and above forty of them bound themselves with an oath, that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed him. Their plan was to ask the chief captain to bring him down again before the council, under pretence of further inquiry, and to lie in wait for him as he passed, ready to execute their purpose. This .conspiracy was detected by a young relative of Paul's, who gained admission into the castle,
information. The chief
captain, feeling the increasing difficulties of his situation, as touching this prisoner, (who, as he had discovered, was entitled to the immu-' nities of a Roman citizen,) determined to throw the responsibility of a final decision upon a higher tribunal: and to accomplish this purpose, as well as to provide for the present safety of his prisoner, he sent him under a military escort to the Governor of the province of Cæsarea, whose name was Felix. At the same time. he wrote to the Governor in the following terms : “ Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent Governor Felix sendeth greeting. This man was taken of the Jews, and would have been killed of them; then came I with an army, and rescúed him, having understood that he was a Roman. And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council; whom 1 perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds. And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell!"—When the Governor had read the chief captain's letter, and asked to what province the prisoner belonged, he said he would inquire into his case when his accusers had arrived. A few days after, the
High Priest and Elders of the Jews, together with a certain orator, named Tertullus, came down to Cæsarea. Paul was brought forth ; Tertullus was heard in accusation; and Paul was permitted to reply in defence. The Governor having heard them both, deferred the cause, till he should have the explanatory testimony of the chief captain, and in the mean time he gave Paul back again in custody to the centurion. Desirous, however, it would appear, to hear something more of the doctrines which had been imputed to Paul, and possibly at the suggestion of his wife, who was a Jewess, “he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.”
This was Paul's constant theme. Wherever he went he preached Christ, and everlasting salvation through faith in his name.
It was a theme much despised indeed by the wise men of the world, but the learned pupil of Gamaliel was not ashamed of it; for he knew it “ to be the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” He did not, however, preach it always in the same manner; for although he disclaims the words of man's wisdom, lest by the unprofitable, though engaging ornaments of human rhetoric, the peculiarities of the cross of Christ should be obscured and made of none effect; yet, in the mode of treating his great subject, we find him adopting a reasonable variation to meet the circumstances, situations, and characters of his respective auditories. When he addressed an assembly of Jews, he began with a direct reference to the history of their ancestors, as recorded in the books of Moses and the Prophets, of the authenticity of which they entertained not the smallest doubt. But when he addresses an assembly of Gentiles, who professed no allegiance to those Jewish records, he appeals to the universal principles of our common nature-a conviction of an eternity, which we must spend, and an apprehension (not to say more) of an account which we must render. *
These are topics which commend themselves to the conscience of every man. Jew, Greek, Mahometan, Christian-all must feel these. I appeal to every one who hears me, whether the verdict of his conscience be not instinctively on the side of an eternity, and a future righteous judgment. Is there an individual in this congregation who can deliberately answer, No? Where, where is that creature in the shape of man, who, in a proud abuse of reason, has yielded himself a willing victim to the dark dæmon of infidelity ? A real infidel is a rare thing. We have fashionable pretenders to infidelity, who affect to consider it manly and spirited to despise what they call priestcraft, who force a contemptuous sneer
* Acts xiii. 16-41. compared with Acts xvii. 22-31.
at the idea of being frightened about hell; but who, notwithstanding all their bravado, are at heart paltry, trembling cowards. A real infidel is a rare thing. We have reasoning pretenders to infidelity, who fasten upon certain hackneyed cavils against religion, which they wish to find true, which they boldly declare to be unanswerable, and beyond which they refuse to inquire ; but who, notwithstanding all this seeming certainty, have a secret persuasion, or at the least an apprehension, that if they examined further and fairly, they would be convinced on the other side; and this feeling (resisted, yet recurring) gnaws like a worm upon the very vitals of their scepticism. My brethren, a real infidel is a rare thing, an unnatural thing; I will not say an impossible thing; for when a man resists, to a certain pitch, the warnings of the still small voice within him, and perseveres with daring hardihood in the commission of unrighteousness, it is written, that God gives him over to a reprobate mind, that he may believe a lie; that God hardens his heart, and sends him a strong delusion, that he may be damned, because he believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.* I am unwilling to think that there is even one such man in this church; but if there be, I do not speak to him, for He who sent me, hath said unto me,“ Cast not your
* Prov.i. 24-27. John xii. 39, 40. Rom. i. 28. 2 Thess.ii.11, 12.