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He would not stay to hear; but stopped the discourse, and said, Go thy way for this time, and when I have a convenient season, I will send for thee.
Such was Felix. The discourse with the apostle had this result and no other. It left him under a deeper responsibility. "The kingdom of God had come nigh him." He rejected it, and preferred to remain the slave of Satan. He resisted the first impressions of conscience, and conscience troubled him no more, but left him to bear the accumulated weight of guilt which the day of judgment will disclose.
Alas! it is a too common case. He heard the word of God condemning sin: but he hardened his heart against the word, and continued to treasure up unto himself "wrath against the day of wrath.'
And what is this, but the case of every one who lives in the habitual commission of what God has forbidden? He cannot so live, without feeling from time to time the compunction which in this land of light and knowledge must touch every wilful transgressor. The thought must sometime occur, "What shall I do in the end?" But instead of yielding to this conviction, he forbids it entrance. He shuts it out by business. He stifles it in dissipation in thoughtless company. Conscience, tired of warning in vain, will warn no more: till at last, perhaps, she rises up with force which can no longer be resisted, and the dying bed bears wit
ness to the vain lamentations of conviction without conversion. "O that thou hadst known, in that thy day, the things belonging to thy peace! now they are hid from thine eyes.
PAUL IS ACCUSED BEFORE FESTUS.-A. D. 62.
ACTS xxv. 1—12.
1. Now when Festus was come into the province, ufter three days he ascended from Cæsarea to Jerusalem.
2. Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him,
3. And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to
4. But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Cæsarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither.
5. Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.
Such was the continued malice of the Jews. Two years might have brought them to a better mind. Not, however, unless it brought the grace of God into their hearts. Without this, time has no other effect than to fix more firmly the prevailing passion.
So it proved in this case. A new governor is appointed in Felix' room. But the last favour which that governor could show to the Jews, was to "leave Paul bound:" and the first favour which the Jews ask of their new ruler is, that Paul might be conveyed back to Jerusalem, that they might lie in wait in the way to kill him. The care of God to preserve is more watchful than the wrath of Satan to destroy. As he had before directed the hearts of Lysias and of Felix, so he also directs the heart of Festus. Festus is evidently aware of the motive of the Jews, and disappoints it. Go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.
6. And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down into Cæsarea; and the next day sitting in the judgment-seat, commanded Paul to be brought.
7. And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove;
8. While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Cæsar, have I offended anything at all.
9. But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?
10. Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment-seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.
11. For if I be an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none
of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Cæsar.1
12. Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Cæsar? unto Cæsar shalt thou go.
Thus Paul still remains in prison. Two years he had been detained there under the government of Felix. And now he must wait till Festus has the mind, or the opportunity, to transfer him for judgment to the emperor at Rome. He whom we have so long followed through his many journeyings and labours-he whom we have seen escaping from one persecution only that he might encounter another, never at ease but when employed about his Master's business, he is now shut up in prison, and as far as appears, had no opportunity to “speak at all, or teach in the name of Jesus." So various are the ways in which God tries his servants. Paul had to comfort him both the example and the resignation of those in former times. "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it." "It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good."
Heavenly wisdom might see a need for this discipline. Every man, whilst he has an outward duty to fulfil in his particular station, has also a business to carry on within-in the government of
1 Paul was a freeman of Rome, i. e. had the privileges of a Roman citizen. One of these was a right of appealing to the emperor at Rome against the decision of the magistrates of a province.
2 Ps. xxxix. 9. 1 Sam. iii. 18.
his own heart. This is often ill pursued in the hurry of a life like that of Paul-a life of restless activity. Daily contending as he was in the synagogues, and public places, and with them that met with him rebuking the prejudices of the Jews, and instructing the ignorance of the Gentiles: teaching "both publicly, and from house to house" night and day warning men to flee from the wrath to come :- he had little leisure for entering into himself, or watching the movements of his heart. There might need an interval when he might "be still, and commune" with his own bosom. And if such an interval were needful, then we may be sure that the circumstances of Paul's life would be so ordered that the opportunity should be afforded him.
Vain, however, is the attempt to trace the design of all those mysterious dealings, through which the people of God are led to their final habitation. It would often be presumptuous to inquire. We may be content to know, that "he doeth all things well." "The branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bear more fruit."3 All things, whether favourable to our wishes, or contrary to them; whether conducive or not to our present ease; all things, whether liberty or freedom, notoriety or seclusion, health or sickness, life or death, work together for the benefit of those who love God, and whom God loves. They cannot withdraw the Christian from the love of him to whom he has committed himself. Still less can 3 John xv. 2.