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towards all men.” No sooner was it suggested to him, that the words he had uttered were a transgression of the law, than he retracts, and acknowledges that he had spoken ignorantly and unadvisedly. Yet he might have defended himself. For well had the high priest explained the Lord's comparison, who had likened such characters as his to “ whited sepulchres :" making a fair outward show, but inwardly disgusting and impure. Like the false prophets, who in the same manner had smitten Micaiah and Jeremiah, he had attempted to silence Paul, not by truth and reason, but by violence and cruelty.
And now Paul, according to the wisdom given him, saw that it was useless to proceed before the council on the ground which he had first taken. It was vain to show those, who refused to hear, how both in his former sentiments and his present conduct he had maintained all good conscience before God. He had at first been zealous for God, though, like themselves now, “ not according to knowledge.”+ That zeal had led him to persecute the very church which he was now accused of upholding. Nothing but a divine command, such as they also ought to obey, had brought him to “ this ministry and apostleship.” All this he would have set before them ; but there were no ears to hear. He must choose another course. And looking at the character of those assembled, he saw that there was one portion of them to whom it would not be unacceptable to declare the resurrection of the dead. 2 Matt. xxii. 27. 3 1 Kings xxii. 24; Jerem. xx. 2.
Rom. x. 2.
And the resurrection of the dead was the cornerstone of the Christian faith. 6. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised : and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain : ye are yet in your
This afforded another opening, by which he might attempt to secure their attention.
6. But when Paul perceived that 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.
7. And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees : and the multitude was divided.
8. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.
9. And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were 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.
10. And when there arose a great dissension, 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.
11. And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
“ The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous.” When he sees any especial encouragement needful
5 1 Cor. xv. 16.
for them, his “ ministering spirits" are ready, and it is conveyed. Paul had long been anxious to visit the Christians in distant countries, as Spain and Italy. He had entreated the Roman brethren to “strive together in their prayers unto God” that he might escape the dangers which he foresawawaiting him in Jerusalem : might“ be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea, and come unto them with joy.”?
But surrounded as he now was by enemies, there seemed little prospect of his fulfilling this work, or indeed of his doing God more service in the world at all. He might well imagine that “ the time of his departure was at hand.” But it was not so.
Neither is he allowed to apprehend this.
The Lord stood by him in a vision of the night, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul; for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou also bear witness at Rome. Be of good cheer. Not because his trials were over, his remaining days to be days of ease, or his reward at once bestowed on him. But because the Lord had still need of him. There were still more“ things which he must suffer for the Lord's sake.” He had gone “ bound in the spirit to Jerusalem :" knowing that such was his Master's will, though there most especially he might expect that bonds and afflictions awaited him. So it had proved. But he had borne witness there. And now he must bear witness also at Rome. But none of these things moved him, turned him from his purpose, or 6 Rom. i. 11; xv. 22–24.
7 Rom. xv. 31.
abated his resolution. Nor could they, while the Lord stood by him, and strengthened him, and bid him be of good cheer.
The history of God's faithful servants shows that the same gracious eye still watches over them, observes and supplies their need. The Lord does not stand by them in a vision which may be seen. But his Spirit is with them : applies his promises to their heart: gives them a cheerful sense of his favour: “ bears witness with their spirit that they are his children.” No one can doubt that they have an inward supply of strength proceeding from above, resulting from their faith : sent by Him who is “ the Author and Finisher of their faith." Through this grace dangers are encountered ; sacrifices of ease, of interest, of natural wishes are borne; sufferings are endured; sorrow is undergone ; and they are still of good cheer : there is a sense that God is all-sufficient, and of very faithfulness has caused them to be troubled.
A CONSPIRACY AGAINST PAUL'S LIFE IS DE
FEATED.-A. D. 60.
Acts xxiji. 12-35.
12. And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.
13. And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy.
14. And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.
15. Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to-morrow, as though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him : and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him.
Thus a numerous body of men, with the law of God before their eyes, and professing to be very zealous for that law, engage in a conspiracy to break the first principles of the law. No sense of sin or shame affects them. They make no concealment : they acquaint the chief priests and elders with their design : and these, whose business it was to teach righteousness, encourage them, and take part in their scheme. They were in that state of mind which Christ had himself foretold : they