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thought that in killing Paul " they were doing God service."1 Paul had experienced it in his own case, when he "verily thought within himself that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth."2 And many have been the instances of a like kind in the history of the church. The greatest crimes have been contrived and perpetrated in the name of religion. Men have bound themselves under a curse, in God's name, to do that which is most hateful in the sight of God.
It is a useful lesson. It teaches us to distrust ourselves: to remember, that "the heart is deceitful above all things :" and that there is an adversary ever ready to take advantage of its corruption. Conscience is the guide; if Satan can pervert the guide, everything is in his power. It is the light; and "if the light that is in us be darkness, how great is that darkness!" Such was the case here. The principle which these persons had taken up, and which the chief priests and elders encouraged, was that by all means and by any means the law of Moses was to be maintained, and the doctrine which they considered adverse to it put down. Therefore the commandment was superseded, which said, "Thou shalt not kill." Murder was not murder, if it was committed against the enemy of their religion. And their heart did not reprove, or their conscience restrain them.
Must we therefore disregard conscience? Hold
it to be a mere name, and nothing worth? By no
means. Paul "rejoiced in the testimony of his
1 John xvi. 2. 2 Acts xxvi. 9.
conscience."3 "The spirit of a man that is in him," is that by which he must judge and examine himself, that he "may have confidence before God;"4 that he may know his state in God's sight. But conscience has shared in the corruption which defaces the whole nature of man, and must be enlightened before it can be trusted, must be watched that it do not fatally deceive. The spirit must be tried, and examined according to the written word. Like our clocks or watches: whilst we take them to the sun, the true standard of time, they are useful to us, and we are commonly guided by them: but unless we thus compare and regulate them, they would mislead, and we could not safely follow them. So we must bring our heart and conscience to the word of God, and regulate it there. This the Jews did not. As a people, generally, they neglected this. It was their sin that they "made the commandment of God of none effect by their traditions."5 Their traditions, their false glosses and interpretations, satisfied their hearts, and governed their consciences. And the conspirators here fell into the same snare. Had they consulted the law of God, they would have found nothing there to justify their murderous plot, everything to condemn and forbid it. But they neglected that law, and "God gave them over to a reprobate mind." As the prophet had written, "A deceived heart has turned them aside:" they
• 2 Cor. i. 12. 1 John iii. 21.
5 Matt. xv. 6.
confound right with wrong: they "cannot say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ?"6
16. And when PauVs sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul.
17. Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him.
18. So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee.
19. Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me?
20. And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to-morrow into the council, as though they would inquire somewhat of him more perfectly.
21. But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee.
22. So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me.
23. And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Cesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night;
24. And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.
25. And he wrote a letter after this manner:
6 Is. xliv. 20.
26. Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting.
27. This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman.
28. And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council:
29. Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds.
30. And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell.
31. Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris.
32. On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle:
33. Who, when they came to Cesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him.
34. And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia;
35. / will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall.
It is instructive to trace the various interests which united to preserve Paul from the snare contrived to take away his life. His sister's son was led by the feelings of relationship to reveal the plot to the chief captain, Lysias. The chief captain was concerned, that no violence should take place under his government. The soldiers to whom he committed Paul performed their proper duty, in guarding the prisoner entrusted to their charge. Thus all these unconsciously contributed their various parts, to do that which the "hand and counsel of God determined before to be done."7 They brought Paul in safety to Cesarea, as the first step towards Rome : the first step towards fulfilling the assurance which the Lord had given, that he should there bear witness to his name. The words of the psalmist are verified: "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain."
PAUL DEFENDS HIMSELF BEFORE FELIX AT CESAREA.—A. D. 60.
Acts xxvi. 1—16.
1. And after jive days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.
2. And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, sdying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence,
i Acts iv. 28.
1 Tertullus, after the manner ef a flattering orator, alludes to services rendered to the country by Felix in the destruction of a body of freebooters, of which one Eleazar was chief. But