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from the preacher who disturbs his peace in sin. Paul trembled when he saw the light from heaven; the jailer trembled when the earthquake shook the prison; they both cried with solicitude,“ what shall we do?” They were directed to the Saviour, and obtained eternal life, but Felix cries to Paul, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will send for thee." Did this season ever arrive? Oh, no! he remained still the same unjust, dissolute, cruel Felix; and there is awful reason to apprehend that he now, from the regions of despair, looks back with agony upon these despised warnings and murdered convictions.
My brethren, you pity the undone, the lost Felix. But has the unhappy secret, by which he stifled the remorse of his conscience, and quenched the motions of the Holy Spirit, died with him? Do we not see similar instances constantly among ourselves ? How many who at times are terrified at their situation, but who are not converted; who defer to an uncertain future their most important interests, and are surprised by death before their projected return to the Lord ? Ah! will the king of terrors listen to you, when
you cry to him; “Go thy way for this time?" Ah! will the judgment linger, when you exclaim in agony, • Summon me not yet; when I have a more convenient season, then, great God; then, neglected Jesus, I will call for you!
Felix, disappointed in his avaricious views, kept Paul in prison for the two remaining years of his office; and then being recalled, and desirous of conciliating the affections of the Jews, he left the apostle still in prison. He was disappointed, however, in his expectations; for a deputation of the Jews of Cæsarea followed him to Rome, to accuse him before Nero of his crimes; and he would certainly have suffered, had it not been for the earnest entreaties of his brother, who having been the cause of the elevation of Agrippina, the mother of Nero, and Nero himself, still preserved his favour at the court.*
Was Paul unhappy during this long confinement ? No: could we know all that passed between God and his soul, all the communion that passed between his soul and his Redeemer, we might perhaps find these the happiest years of his life. His prison could not shut out the light and the consolations of heaven, nor his chains prevent his soul from exulting in that freedom wherewith Christ had made him free.
LIFE OF PAUL.
Acts xxvii. xxviii.
For some weeks past we have intermitted the prosecution of the life of Paul. Let us now resume and conclude it. We have marked the apostolical boldness with which he spoke before the iniquitous Felix, and the energy and clearness with which, before Festus, he displayed the firm foundatious of the Christian faith, and vindicated his own character
* Joseph. Hist. lib. 20. cap. 7.
from the charges laid against him by the Jews. So forcibļe was his defence, that had he not previously appealed unto Cæsar, he would have been immediately discharged, since it was acknowledged, that so far from being guilty of a capital crime, he had done nothing that deserved imprisonment by the Roman law. But he had ardently desired and prayed that he might carry the gospel to imperial Rome, and his prayers were answered, in a manner that he did not anticipate.
He was committed to the charge of Julius, the commander of a company belonging to the legion of Augustus. Together with other prisoners, and with Luke and Aristarchus, they embarked in a vessel of Adramyttium, a seaport of Mysia, intending to coast along the shores of Lesser Asia. Arriving at Sidon, Julius, whose disposition appears to have been courteous and amiable, permitted Paul during their stay, to visit his friends on the shore. Thus strongly does a consistent piety excite the esteem and confidence even of those who are strangers to religion. Thus easily can the Lord raise up friends for his children, in their distresses. If an innocent Joseph is imprisoned, a heathen jailer may be attached to him; if a zealous apostle is sent in chains to Rome, the centurion to whom he is committed shall be induced to mitigate his woes.
Having arrived at Myra, the metropolis of Lycia, and there changed their vessel, they proceeded, continually contending with contrary winds, and with difficulty reached Fairhavens, in the island of Crete. Here, as the autumn was now far advanced, and the sailing become dangerous, the apostle advised them to remain and winter; assuring them under a prophetic impulse, that if they proceeded, the vessel and
cargo would be lost, and themselves placed in the most imminent danger. The master of the vessel, however, disregarding his advice, they again embarked with the intention to reach Phænice, a port of Crete, and there winter. Soon, however, a violent storm arose; the gentle southern gale, which had blown before, was succeeded by a violent and tempestuous north-east wind, which raged with such fury, that they were obliged to let the vessel drive before it. Fourteen days were they in this situation, during the greater part of which time, from the thickness and darkness of the air, neither the body of the sun, nor the stars were visible. Death stared them in the face; from their terror, and the necessity of constant exertion, they could scarcely take any food; the merchandise and even the tackling of the ship was committed to the waves.
But in the midst of this peril, was the apostle alarmed? No: he knew that he was beloved by God, that death would bear him to his Redeemer, and could “with joy have embraced the peaceful wave which, when he intended Rome, should land him in heaven.“ Was he unhappy ? No: for the season of affliction is that in which God peculiarly manifests himself to his children, and gives them the most precious and consoling evidences of his pre
While the others were agitated and alarmed, Paul addressed them with serenity and composure; he assured them that not one of them should perish; for “ there stood by me this night, the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve; saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that are with thee,” hath preserved their lives for thy sake. No wonder Paul was composed; for in the darkest seasons and
most dangerous storms, can we desire a firmer ground of support than God's word of promise? Never was one in a ship, except the man Christ Jesus, whom Satan would more have rejoiced to drown than Paul, at this time. But the apostle, notwithstanding the fury and the power of his adversary, can cheerhis heart, and lean upon the declaration of his God. Happy for us, if we can thus look to the promises of our Father, when the waves of temptation, of corruption, of affliction, or desertion roll around us.
Oh! how great are the privileges of believers! The angels of God are appointed to minister unto them, and though they no longer are visible, yet unseen they perform innumerable offices of love. As with joy they flew from heaven to cheer the tem, pest-tossed Paul, so with delight they hasten to console many an afflicted believer at the present day. Wouldst thou desire to enjoy this privilege? Then be careful to acquire the character of the apostle, so that thou mayest truly say, « The God whose i I am, and whom I serve.” And whose art thou, my brother-God's or Satan's '; the Lord's or the world's? Whom dost thou serye God or his enemies? What is thy great business, thy first occupation, thy chief end? These are questions on which thy sentence will turn at the final day. Oh! now judge thyself, that thou be not then condemned. Of how much benefit are the pious even to the ungodly! Ten righteous would have saved Sodom. One Paul preserves the lives of mote than two hundred and seventy. Oh! how many families, towns, and countries, have been preserved from destruction by the prayers, and for the sake of the children of God? Do you love your country, and wish it to be victorious ?