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LECTURE LXXXIII.

CONTINUATION OF PAUL'S DEFENCE BEFORE FELIX A.d.60.

Acts xxiv. 17—27.

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17. Now after many years, I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. . ."■■•'

18. Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.}

19. Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had aught against me.

20. Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council,

21. Except it be for this one voice, that I cried, standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day. . , v _j..., iS.,

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A few days before, when Paul was defending himself at Jerusalem, an interruption took place at this point, in consequence of the dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees. Paul had then alleged, that this was the ground of accusation. Touching the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. His doctrine all turned on this. He preached "through Jesus the resurrection of the dead." He maintained the resurrec

1 xxi. 27—30.

tion of Jesus, as the precursor of all that are in the graves: who shall come forth, and stand before the judgment-seat of God, "to give account of the things done in the body."

By this time Felix perceived the nature of Paul's crime. It did not press immediately. No danger need be apprehended to the state.

22. And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way,2 he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.

23. And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid, none of his acquaintance to minister, or to come unto him.

24. And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.

25. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.3

26. He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.

27. But after two years, Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.

Thus the governor sends for his prisoner, and inquires concerning the faith which he taught, and

2 Either through what he had heard from Paul, or from previous acquaintance with the christian doctrine, during the six or seven years of his government.

3 'E^o/Soc yevofievos, becoming alarmed.

for teaching which he was so vehemently accused.

Paul did not use this opportunity to obtain favour, or gain his liberty. Whetber speaking before christian disciples, or before kings and rulers, he, must still speak as before "God, who trieth the hearts, and not as pleasing men." For what should it profit him, if by flattering words he should procure a few years of ease, and then be summoned to account for his unfaithfulness? He thought, not of himself, but of the cause entrusted to him, and of the state of the unhappy man whom he was addressing. For Felix was one "dead in trespasses and sins:" living below the light he had, even as a heathen. He was unjust and cruel in his government. He was unrighteous. One reason why he kept Paul bound, was because he hoped that money should be given for his release. Temperance, too, was unknown to him. He had no command over his passions. Drusilla, who accompanied him as his wife, had been enticed from her own husband by him. Paul, therefore, began at the foundation: showed that these are the sins which separate man from God: signs of a heart alienated from him, and requiring to be renewed and purified.

Governor, (he might have said,) thou art the creature of God. And the Creator has a claim to the allegiance of his creatures. One of his commands is, that we be righteous in our dealings towards each other. Do no violence. Pervert not judgment. Oppress not the fatherless and widow, and those that have none to help them. In a word, "whatsoever thou wouldest that men should do unto thee, do also unto them." What does thy conscience say in this matter? Canst thou meet God when he comes to judgment, as having done justice and loved mercy?

Thus he might reason with him of righteousness.

Governor, (he may have said,) God is a God of holiness. He cannot look upon iniquity. Sin is "the abominable thing which he hateth."* And therefore all who are at peace with him must be temperate in all things: must be holy, for he is holy: must purify themselves, even as he is pure. And here let me ask: What answer does thy conscience make?

Thus would he reason with him of temperance.

If thou pleadest former ignorance; there is no ignorance to be pleaded now: for God "hath revealed his wrath from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men:" he hath revealed a day " in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained: whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." Now, then, governor, is the time: "Prepare to meet thy God."

Thus, we may believe, would the apostle reason with Felix of righteousness, and temperance, and judgment to come. Just as a physician, when

4 Jer. xxiv. 4.

anxious to persuade his patient to consent to some change, to submit to some sacrifice on which his life depends, first points out the danger, before he proposes the remedy. Felix must perceive himself to be lying under the wrath of God, before he can repent, and be converted. Like the jailor at Philippi, he must be alarmed for his own safety, before he inquires, " What must I do to be saved?"

O how would Paul's heart have rejoiced, if such had been the effect of his reasoning with Felix? Far more than the promise of liberty, far more than the assurance of life, would it have been sweet to him, if he could have heard that governor confess his guilt, and say, " I have sinned against the Lord." "Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered." How may I be one' of those, to whom "the Lord will not impute sin?"

Full gladly would the answer have been returned, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy on him." For he "has found a ransom." Unrepented, unforsaken sin, cannot be forgiven. But sin repented of and forsaken has been laid on " One that is mighty to save:" on him who "is the propitiation for our sins:" who has borne their penalty: and the message which I bear, the commission with which I am charged is this: "That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."

These blessed tidings Felix was never to hear.

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