« PoprzedniaDalej »
In his confinement, the apostle was probably oppressed with apprehensions that his usefulness was about to be terminated. To console him, however, the Lord appeared to him in a vision, and assured him that, notwithstanding the malice of his enemies, he should not only behold the triumphs of the gospel in Jerusalem, but should also proclaim it at Rome.
Thus encouraged, the apostle was composed even in the midst of the dangers which appeared to thicken around him. Forty of the Jews, provoked at the slow proceedings of the sanhedrim, entered into a criminal combination, and bound themselves neither to eat nor drink till they had killed him. The chief priests and the elders concurred with them; but though the scheme appeared well concerted, it was discovered through the watchful providence of God. Lysias immediately sent Paul under a strong guard to Cæsarea, the residence of Felix, the governor of the province, where he was confined in Herod's hall, till his accusers could follow him.
LIFE OF PAUL.
In our last lecture we beheld Paul sent by Lysias to Felix, the Roman governor of the province, for his trial. The hatred of the Jews impelled them shortly to follow him, and in five days from the time that he was first seized in the temple, Ananias, the high priest, and some other members of the sanhedrim, came down to Cæsarea to prosecute him. They were accompanied by Tertullus, as an advocate. In a speech, disgraced by the injustice of his cause, and by eulogiums on Felix, totally undeserved by him, he accuses the apostle of sedition and heresy, since he was a leader of the sect of the Nazarenes, and of the profanation of the temple. The Jews who were present immediately declared that the accusations were founded in truth. These misrepresentations were indeed base, but Paul was not surprised. They were experienced by the Saviour, and had been predicted by him to his disciples. (Matt. x. 24-26.)
Paul, having obtained liberty to make his defence. indulged in no reproaches, but spake with simplicity, and that confidence which truth and justice inspire, expressed his satisfaction in having to answer before one who, from having been so long the governor of the nation, was capable of judging of the propriety of the charges made against him. As to the charge of sedition, he unequivocally denied it, and called upon them to prove their allegation. With regard to the accusation of heresy, whilst he modestly waived the remark, that he was the head of the sect of the Nazarenes, he acknowledged that he was what they denominated a heretic, but maintained that he worshipped the God of his fathers; that all that he believed was supported by the law and the prophets; and that in the hope of the resurrection and eternal life, he was careful to live conscientiously before God and man. With respect to the profanation of the temple, he declares, that though indeed he was in the temple performing there certain rites, when he had come up to Jerusalem, after a long absence, to bring alms to his indigent countrymen, yet there was nothing irregular in his conduct; and although at that time he had been accused by some Asiatic Jews of polluting it, yet the charge was totally unfounded ; that they themselves had not come to Cæsarea to testify it, and that he was acquitted by the grand sanhedrim at Jerusalem of every thing of consequence laid to his charge, except by those who were sadducees, who were filled with rage because he asserted the resurrection of the dead. Such was the substance of the accusation and defence. Felix, on hearing them, declined pronouncing a definitive sentence, till he had spoken with Lysias, and ordered Paul again into custody, with permission, however, to see his friends and receive acts of kindness from them.
If this were all that we knew of Felix, his character would not appear so reprehensible; but he is next presented to us under circumstances which more clearly illustrate his real disposition. Knowing that Paul had brought large collections for the poor believers in Jerusalem, and seeing the warm interest that all Christians took in his welfare, he frequently sent for him, hoping that he would give him money for his release. Such baseness is not surprising in one whom history represents as infamous for his avarice, his cruelties, his robberies, his debauchery, and the general profligacy of his morals. He had caused the high priest Jonathan to be assassinated for daring to admonish him of his guilt, and then granted impunity to his murderers, which encouraged them to fill Judea with massacres.* He had violated the laws of God and man by his shameless marriage with Drusilla. She was the daughter of Herod Agrippa the elder, and sister of Agrippa, Bernice, and Mariamne, and had been the wife of Azizus, king of Emesa, and he had allured her, in violation of duty and the most solemn engagements, to abandon her husband and the religion of her fathers, (for she was a Jewess,") for one who, originally a slave, had risen to eminence without acquiring one noble sentiment. When recalled from his
government to Rome, he would certainly have been punished with death, had it not been for the influence of his brother Pallas.
Such were the persons whom Paul was called to address; and what was his conduct? Did he imitate the base adulation of Tertullus ? Did he dis
* Vide Joseph. Antiq. lib. 40. cap. 6. and 7.
† Equibus (libertis) Antonius Felix per omnem sævitiam ac libidinem jus regium servili ingenio exercuit.
Taciti Hist. lib. 5. cap. 9. At non pater ejus (he had been speaking of Pallas,] cognomento Felix pari moderatione agebat, jam pridem Judeæ impositus et cuncta malefacta sibi impunè ratus, tanta potentia subnixa.
Taciti Annal. lib. 12. cap. 30 and 54.
guise the truth, lest he should share the fate of Jonathan? Was he not afraid that Drusilla, that new Herodias, should cause him, like John the Baptist, to be killed ? Ah, no! With a courage becoming an apostle of God, with a firmness and a zeal for truth, which no dangers could shake, he recalls to Felix his violated duties, and the account that awaited him in the future world. “ He reasoned of righteousness," or justice to his fellow men, on the laws of which this iniquitous governor had trampled during his whole administration; “ of temperance,” or the regulation of all the sensual appetites and inclinations, (for the original word is thus extensive, including both sobriety and chastity,) which he had constantly disregarded in all its branches; and of his contempt of which, Drusilla sitting by him, was a proof; "and of judgment to come,” where governors must appear with their subjects, and where titles, dignities, and power, cannot screen the sinner from the vengeance of God.
What effect does this plain and pointed discourse produce upon the cruel and abandoned Felix ? Does it not inspire him with a rage to be quenched only by the blood of his faithful admonisher? Does not the apostle become another victim of his fury, and a monument of his disregard of law? Or does he not at least, under legal forms, deliver him up to those Jews who are so ready to destroy him? No! admire the power of divine truth: Felix, on his tribunal, trembles before his prisoner in chains! His past crimes start up around him, and point to the judgment-bar, and his soul is filled with agitation and horror. Who would not have hoped for his conversion? But, alas! his terror and affright only make him anxious to remove the object which alarms him, and to separate