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He would have willingly laboured among them in preference. He had “great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart respecting his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh.” ? They had known his former manner of life: how he had been among the most active in "
persecuting this way unto the death.” And now, witnessing the change, how he was no less eager to promote the christian faith, than he had been to destroy it; they might be led, he thought, to inquire more seriously and sincerely, and so yield to the evidence by which he himself had been converted.
It was a like argument to that which the rich man in our Lord's parable is represented as using, in behalf of his five brethren.3 These " had Moses and the prophets :" Moses and the prophets testified to them in vain: “ but if one went unto them from the dead, they would repent.” Nay. “ If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." And so it was foreseen of those Jews who believed not : they would not receive Paul's testimony concerning Christ, though he were as one risen from the dead : though instead of “a blasphemer, and a persecutor,” he was now a witness of the faith. And that which had been so many years before foreseen, was now confirmed by experiment of the fact. He who had consented to the death of the martyr Stephen, and kept the raiment ? Rom. xviii. 2.
3 See Luke xvi. 28-31.
of them who slew him, was now himself in Stephen's place, a martyr to the same cause. And did they receive his testimony? No sooner had he declared the will of God, that the Gentiles should have the gospel preached unto them, than they broke out in madness and fury: Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live.
The state of the Gentiles, so different from their own, would have excited pity and compassion in hearts rightly constituted. Here are men, they would argue, of like nature with ourselves, who know not God. They have no favour from Him, and He has no glory from them. O that it might please God to bring them to himself, that He might be glorified by their obedience, and they blessed by the light of his countenance. Such would be the reflection and the prayer of men led by the Spirit of God. But with these, their peculiar privileges had only engendered pride, and bigotry, and prejudice, and enmity : Paul mentions it elsewhere as the worst feature in the character of his countrymen, that they • forbade him to speak unto the Gentiles, that they might be saved.” So violently did this passion urge them, that even the presence of the chief captain and his band did not restrain their fury.
23. And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air,
24. The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by
4 1 Thess. ii. 18.
scourging ; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.
25. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said nto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned ?
26. When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest : for this man is a Roman.5
27. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.
28. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was freeborn.6
29. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.
30. On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.
An example is here seen of the wisdom of that mode in which the Scriptures have been delivered to us. If they contained precept alone, precept could never extend to all cases and circumstances. But history, too, is written for our instruction : and then we see the precepts reduced to practice, then we behold religion in actual exercise.
5 The chief captain, not understanding Paul's discourse, which was in the Hebrew tongue, and seeing the violence of the people against him, concluded that he must be some heinous malefactor, and resolved to force him to confession.
6 In some way which does not appear, Paul had by his birth the privileges of a Roman citizen : whether belonging to him as a native of Tarsus, or descending to him in right of his parents.
Our Lord had said, “ Resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” 7 Taken in its literal meaning, this might seem to forbid Paul from remonstrating against the injustice prepared against him, when he was to be examined by scourging : that is, when torture was to be used for the purpose of bringing him to confession. Paul, though ready to suffer, if need were, appealed to the law for protection against illegal injury. He appealed to the law, which forbade the applying a scourge to a Roman citizen. And on the same principle we find him in the next chapter expostulating with the high priest, who had ordered that he should be smitten :8 “ Sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law ?"
This example shows us, that they who desire to live as “a peculiar people,” regulating their conduct, not according to the world, but by the rule of the gospel, are still at liberty to avert injuries by all legal means. The precept of our Lord, though differently expressed, has the same meaning, and prescribes the same rule of practice as that left by the apostle himself, (Rom. xii. 19,)“ Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath : for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” 7 Matt. v. 39.
& xxiii. 3.
PAUL APPEARS BEFORE THE COUNCIL AT JERU
SALEM.-A. D. 60.
Acts xxiii. 1-11.
1. And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
2. And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
3. Then Paul said unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law ?
4. And they that stood by, said, Revilest thou God's high priest?
5. Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest : for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people:
Thus incidentally, Paul proves his own assertion. He had lived in all good conscience before God. He “ exercised himself to keep always a conscience void of offence both towards God, and
1 Exodus xxii. 28. “ Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor speak evil of the rulers of thy people.” If the high priest on this occasion was without his proper dress, Paul would be unable to distinguish him. He had not been long enough in Jerusalem to be acquainted with his person.