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apply them to the scholars. But be sure and make the scholars distinguish between what is essential to all conversions and what is but form and method, and differs in different persons.
Illustration. The different experiences of John, Cornelius, the Ethiopian, of Baxter, Bunyan, and of the different characters in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.
Illustration. Men come into the kingdom of God in as many different ways as plants come to flower. Some come right up out of the earth to blossom; some come up and grow the whole summer, and then blossom; some grow a year, and then blossom the second year; some grow up like trees, and do not blossom till they are three or six years old; some put the leaves out first; and some put out the blossoms first and the leaves afterward. There is every possible mode of inflorescence. - Beecher.
IV. The change made in Paul by his conversion. See Notes. The new purpose and heart transformed his whole life.
Illustration. If we go into a factory where they make the mariner's compass, we can see many of the needles before they are magnetized, but they will point in any direction. But when they have been applied to the magnet and received its peculiar power, from that moment they point to the north, and are true to the pole ever after.
Illustration. Goethe, in his Tale of Tales, speaks of a fisherman's rough log hut, which by virtue of a lamp within was gradually transformed into solid silver, and the uncouth
V. Paul's life work. Paul had a special work to do, worthy of his best powers and hopes. No life better worth the living could he have found. Decribe its worth. *Show each scholar that he has an equally noble work to do, according to his ability.
LESSON VIII. — FEBRUARY 22. PAUL BEFORE THE COUNCIL. — ACTS 23:1-11. GOLDEN TEXT. — And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul. -- ACTS 23:11.
TIME. - Wednesday, May 24, A.D). 58. The day after the mob in the temple courts. The theme of the last two lessons.
PLACE. — Jerusalem, in the usual meeting place of the Sanhedrim at that time.
THE SANHEDRIM, or Council. . (1) Its membership. It was composed of 72 members, consisting first of 24 chief priests, being the heads of the 24 courses, and of 24 elders, the representatives of the Jewish laity, and lastly of 24 scribes or doctors, the advisers of the assembly on questions of law. This was the judicial body of the Jews.
(2) Its place of meeting. The Sanhedrim had originally sat in Gazith, an apartment in the inner temple. But as the Roman emperors had granted the boon that whatever heathen passed the sacred limits might be instantly put to death, it was afterwards found unsafe to permit deliberations where the Romans themselves could not exercise surveilance. Accord. ing to tradition, the Sanhedrim had, about 28 years before this time, moved down to the council-room just without the temple, and adjoining the western cloister on the site of the present Meh Kimeh, or Town Hall. — Lewin.
(3) Its power in matters civil and religious was practically unlimited. It had authority over kings and high priests. It alone had power of life and death, though this had been taken away by the Romans.
THE SCENE in the council-room. Ananias, the high priest, was in the president's chair at the upper end of the hall. On one side of him were arranged the Pharisees, and on the other the Sadducees, - the two rival sects. Among the Pharisees were the two sons of Gamaliel, Paul's old teacher. They had been fellow-students of Paul years before. They probably cherished the generous sentiments of their father who, 24 years before (A.D. 34), had the courage to advise, “ Refrain from these men and let them alone, for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5: 38, 39).
On the other side among the Sadducees were the aged Caiaphas, the ex-high priest, who had procured the crucifixion of the Saviour, and the sons of that Annas who had joined with his son-in-law Caiaphas; and there was Theophilus, another ex-high priest, who had fostered
the persecution against Stephen, and from whose hands Paul had received his commission to persecute at Damascus.
Paul entered as a prisoner the very hall where, twenty years before, he had helped to consign the martyr Stephen to his fate.
PRONUNCIATIONS. — Anăni'ăs; Cā'iăphảs (kā’yăphăs); Dămăs'củs; Lýs'iăs; Phir isee; Sắdoducee; Sẵn’hédrim.
INTRODUCTION. In our last lesson we studied Paul's address, from the stairs leading to castle Antonia, to the mob of respectable Jews in the Court of the Gentiles. He had related his religious experience, and come to his commission to preach the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles. And no sooner had he reached this point than the storm of animosity burst forth anew. They lifted up their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live!" Their cries were accompanied with frantic gestures; they cast off their clothes as if to stone Paul. — Smith.
Then began one of the most odious and despicable spectacles which the world can witness, — the spectacle of an oriental mob, hideous with impotent rage, howling, yelling, cursing, gnashing their teeth, flinging about their arms, waving and tossing their blue and red robes, casting dust into the air by handfuls, with all the furious gesticulations of an uncontrolled fanaticism. Happily Paul was out of the reach of their personal fury. - Farrar. .
Lysias, who as a Greek had not understood one word of Paul's address in Hebrew, could only conclude from the fury of the people that Paul, if not the Egyptian, must at least be some notable malefactor. He therefore ordered Paul to be conveyed into the castle, and according to the practice of the day for extracting the truth, commanded him to be put to the rack (in order to compel him under torture to confess his crime). The mildest form of this mode of examination was by scourging. A wooden post was erected in a slanting position, and the feet and hands were made fast to it with thongs, and blows applied with the scourge or whip, formed of three lashes or thongs made of leather or small cords, to which sometimes iron points or sharp-cornered pieces of metal were fastened. Lysias, not caring to see the torture applied, retired apart. — Lewin.
But at this stage of the proceedings Paul, self-possessed even in extremes, interposed with a quiet question, “ Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman and uncondemned?" - Farrar.
The warning was forthwith carried by the centurion to the tribune Lysias, who, hastening to learn the truth from Paul, was more and more surprised to hear that the prisoner, on whom he had already inflicted the indignity of chains, was free-born, while he himself, doubtless as an imperial freedman, had only obtained the franchise for a large sum. Having now learned that the question at issue regarded the Jewish religion, the tribune summoned the chief priests and Sanhedrim to meet on the following day. — Smith. Here our lesson for to-day begins, with Paul's address to this council.
NOTE ON ROMAN CITIZENSHIP. – This was to enjoy all the privileges and rights which belonged to the free citizens of Rome itself; to be considered as equal to the natives. It was conferred by the emperors on provinces, cities, or individuals. Among these privileges were, (1) not to be bound or imprisoned without a formal trial; (2) not to be scourged; (3) not to be put to the torture to extort confession; (4) to have fall rights over property and children; (5) to have a vote in the election of magistrates, and (6) a voice in the assemblies of the people. — P.
1. And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, And Paul, looking sted-1 Men and brethren, 'I have lived in all good conscience
fastly on the council, said,
Brethren, I have lived before before God until this day.
God in all good conscience 1 Acts 24: 16. 1 Cor. 4:4. 2 Cor. 1: 12; 4: 2. 2 Tim. 1:3. Heb. 13:18.
EXPLANATORY. I. Paul Commences his Address. — Ver. 1. 1. And Paul, earnestly beholding the council. Calmly and undauntedly (looking stedfastly', Rev. Ver.) he studies their faces and their spirit. — Butler. It seems to express the free, honest look of an innocent man, ready to speak in his own defence. — Riddle. He was now facing the assembly of which he was once a member, and in which were some old acquaintances, much changed by 20 years of active lise. How blessed it would be if some could be led to become Christians !
2. And the high priest Ananias commanded them until this day. And the high 2
priest Ananias commanded that stood by him, i to smite him on the mouth.
them that stood by him to 3. Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, smite him on the mouth,
Then said Paul unto him, God 3 thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the
shall smite thee, thou whited law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to
wall: and sittest thou to judge
me according to the law, and the law?
commandest me to be smitten 11 Kings 22: 24. Jer. 20:2. John 18: 22. ? Lev. 19:35. Deut. 25:1, 2. John 7: 51.
No wonder that he gazed searchingly and steadfastly on them, to see what were their characters and feelings. Men and brethren. Rendered simply brethren. His equals, his former colleagues. He speaks as a man among men, with neither pride nor false humility. He has only the most brotherly feelings toward them, however they may hate him. — P. I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. Well paraphrased by “I have lived as a true and loyal Jew, for the service and glory of God, from my youth up until now.” “ Lived" in the Greek is derived from a word meaning "city.” “I have been a good citizen." The words until this day cover all his preceding life. Paul more than once refers in a similar way to "conscience” (2 Tim. 1:3; 1 Tim. 1:5; see Rom. 2:15). Paul plainly demonstrates from his own early experience that conscience is by no means an infallible guide; it requires light from on high. He shows us again, by his own example, from what “good conscience before God” proceeds: (1) From true faith in Christ, by which the remission of sins is obtained. (2) From the assurance of divine grace. (3) From the faithful performance of the duties of our calling. - Schaff. There was no self-conceit in Paul's assertion, but only self-respect. He did not claim perfection, but stated a fact.
II. An Interruption : Injustice in a Court of Justice. — Vers. 2-4. 2. The high priest Ananias. Appointed high priest by Herod in A.D. 48. He was famous for his violent and illegal acts. He was now in the height of his power. Commanded them that stood by him. Not members of the council or spectators, but the servants in attendance. — Hackett. To smite him on the mouth. (1) The mouth must be shut that uttered such a declaration. It was not to be endured that a man arraigned there as an apostate from the religion of his fathers should assert his innocence. -- Hackett. (2) The high priest's character for violence and lawlessness suggests that a guilty conscience assumed the guise of zeal against blasphemy. — Smith. (3) Striking on the mouth was a symbolical gesture, like the rending or shaking of the garments, and implies a previous unlawful use of it as well as an injunction to cease speaking. — Alexander.
SMITING ON THE MOUTH. To strike a speaker in the mouth is still a common Eastern mode of expressing dislike of his words. Our Saviour was thus treated when on his trial before the same council (John 18:22). The stroke is usually inflicted with the heel of a shoe; hence, “ Give him the shoe," " Give him plenty of shoe," are well understood expressions. - Killo. The shoe was also considered as vile, and never allowed to enter sacred or respected places, and to be smitten with it is to be subjected to the last ignominy. – Paxton.
3. God shall smite thee, thou whited wall. These words are not to be understood as an imprecation, but rather as a prophetic denunciation of punishment, that his violent dealing would be returned on his own head. - Gloag. As it was a few years after, when at the beginning of the Jewish wars he perished in Jerusalem by the daggers of the Assassins. Thou whited wall. The expression " whited wall," or hypocrite, was used with a slight variation, by the Lord, of the Pharisees and scribes (Matt. 23: 27; Luke 11:44). He who wore the insignia of the high priest's office had little of the true spirit of a high priest. The Jews painted their sepulchres conspicuously white, that they might not defile themselves by unexpectedly coming in contact with them. Thus the walls would be white and fair-seeming to the eye, while within they were full of dead men's bones. — Rel. Com. Sittest thou to judge me after the law, etc. The meaning appears to be this: Do you judge me for a disregard of the ceremonial law, and yourself disregard that judgment which is one of the weightier matters of the law (Matt. 23:23). The act of Ananias violated the Mosaic precepts (Lev. 19:35; Deut. 19:17, 18; 25:1), which required careful investigation before punishment, and gave the accused a right always to be heard in his own defence. —- Abbott.
WAS PAUL TO BLAME IN SPEAKING THUS? There are two opinions. (1) The expression of anger on the part of Paul was no doubt a singular one; and although the hasty, wrathful words were allowed by God to take the form, in this case, of a prophecy, they are not to be excused. Paul himself evidently felt he had done wrong by thus giving way to what seems to be a natural expression of fiery indignation. We hear him, after a moinent's
4. And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's contrary to the law? And they 4 high priest?
that stood by said, Revilest
thou God's high priest? And 5 5. Then said Paul, 'I wist not, brethren, that he Paul said, I wist not, brethren,
that he was high priest: for was the high priest : for it is written, 2 Thou shalt not i
it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.
speak evil oí a ruler of thy
? Ex. 22:28. Eccles. 10:20. 2 Pet. 2:10. Jude 8.
reflection, recalling them, and expressing his sorrow for having uttered them. Although we dare not blame very hardly this very natural ebullition of anger on the part of the longsuffering apostle. – Schaff. (2) It seems unsafe to suppose that Paul, who for so many years had been longing for the salvation of his countrymen, and gone “bound in spirit" to their holy city, should have, on this first opportunity to meet the leaders of his race, lost his temper, and spoken unadvisedly with his lips. — Riddle. (a) What Paul said was exactly and literally true. There was not a particle of exaggeration in it. (b) How do we know that he spoke the words in an angry or passionate tone? (c) Certainly they are not much to be blamed; they are the language of moral indignation. - Gloag. We can be angry or indignant and sin not. Indeed there are times when one ought to be indignant. Paul would not have been “of like passions as we are," had he not spoken his indignation. (d) Christ's example has been referred to, yet we need not remind the reader that not once or twice only did Christ give the reign to righteous anger, and blight hypocrisy and insolence with a flash of holy wrath. - Farrar. (c) It does not seem likely that the specially promised guidance of the Spirit in speaking before judges would fail St. Paul just when he needed it. - Stock.
4. And they that stood by. Either the members of the court or the audience generally. They were struck with the boldness and, as they conceived, the impiety of Paul's language. — Gloag. Revilest thou God's high priest? It was contrary to the law to revile those in authority (Ex. 22:28); but especially it must have been regarded as great impiety to revile so sacred a person as the high priest -- the visible head of the theocracy the representative of God. — Gloag. God's high priest. So called because (1) the order was appointed by God; (2) he was the visible head of God's religion; (3) he was the representative, and should be the mouth-piece of God.
III. A Noble Apology; from the One of Least Guilt, but of the Purest Conscience. - Ver. 5. 5. Then said Paul, I wist not (i.e., I did not know), brethren, that he was the high priest. This answer of the apostle has occasioned a great deal of discussion; and it will be necessary to give in detail a number of the explanations proposed. (1) Meyer thinks the apostle's reply was ironical; “I could not have supposed from his conduct that he was high priest”; but this seems inconsistent with the character of the apostle, and the appeal to Scripture would in that state of mind be akin to irreverence. (2) The explanation given by Bengel, Neander, llackett, Schaff, Howson, and cihers, supposes that Paul meant that he did not recollect or consider that it was the high priest whom he was addressing. Gloag also approves, generally, of this solution. (3) Farrar suggests that “in a crowded assembly he had not noticed who the speaker was. Owing to his weakened sight, all that he saw before him was a blurred, white figure, issuing a brutal order, and to this person, who, in his external whiteness and inward worthlessness, thus reminded him of the plastered wall of a sepulchre, he had addressed his indignant denunciation. That he should retract it, on learning the hallowed position of the delinquent, was in accordance with that high breeding of the perfect gentleman, which in all his demeanor he habitually displayed." This is the view which Alford, though not entirely satisfied with it, prefers. We concur with Taylor, who adopts this view, that Paul did not know what person had given the command to smite him, and adds, “If I am asked for an explanation of this ignorance of Paul, I find it in either one or the other of three suppositions: either the high priest did not wear the official robes by which he was usually distinguished; or he was not at that time president of the council; or, more simply still, the near-sightedness of the apostle prevented him from recognizing the official dignity of the man who spoke so roughly." Paul does not retract his words, though he may regret that they fell upon a successor of Aaron. - Dr. Ormiston, Am. Ed. of Meyer's Com. on Acts. For it is written, viz., in Ex. 22: 28. The passage applies to any civil magistrate, as well as to the high priest. If his conduct in yielding to the momentary impulse was not that of Christ himself under a similar provocation (John 18:22, 23), certainly the manner in which he atoned for his fault was Christlike. - Hackett.
6. But when Paul perceived that the one part were people. But when Paul per- 6
ceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other part Pharisees, he cried out Sadducees, and the other Phar
isees, he cried out in the in the council, Men and brethren, 'I am a Pharisee, sees
council, Brethren, I am a the son of a Pharisee : ? of the hope and 3 resurrection Pharisee, a son of Pharisees :
touching the hope and resurof the dead I am called in question.
rection of the dead I am 1 Acts 26: 5. Phil. 3:5. ? Acts 24: 15, 21; 26:6; 28:20. 3 Col. 3: 4. 1 Thess. 4:14. Rev. 7:17; 20:6.
SPEAKING EVIL OF RULERS is a great evil. (1) The tendency is to criticize severely all their acts that work against us, however good for the whole people. (2) It is easy to find fault with others whose circumstances and limitations we do not wholly understand. (3) Speaking evil of rulers tends to disobedience and lawlessness, lessening the power of those who would execute law. (4) It tends to irreverence toward God. (5) We should respect the office, even when we cannot the officers. (6) This does not forbid a fair and candid discussion of the actions of rulers, or of their character so far as necessary to prevent the election of bad men, or the imitation of their conduct. — P.
IV. A Division in the Enemies' Ranks. — V'ers. 6–10. 6. But when Paul perceived. St. Paul avails himself, with consummate skill, of the notorious division of opinion on the most elementary points of doctrine among the judges themselves, and enlists on his side the approval of one-half at least of his audience. - Vaughn. It is probable too that Ananias being a Sadducee, his conduct may have aided a reaction in Paul's favor among the Pharisees. — P. St. Paul's appeal to the Pharisees against the Sadducees must not be understood as a mere device for securing his own safety. He had come to Jerusalem "to reconcile the sincere Jews, if possible, to the Gospel as the fulfilment of the Law. He desired to prove himself a faithful Israelite by his very testimony to him whom God raised from the dead. Both these objects might be promoted by an appeal to the nobler professions of the Pharisees, whose creed, as distinguished from that of the Sadducees, was still, as it had ever been, his own. Of that creed, faith in the risen Lord was the truc fulfilment. He wished to lead his brother Pharisees into a deeper and more living apprehension of their own faith; and seeing now the hopelessness of gaining over the Sadducees, he made a last appeal to the party of which there remained any hope." — Smith's Student's 1. T. Hist. The one part were Sadducees (from Zadok, their founder). Whether they sat in groups on different sides, after the manner of the Government and Opposition benches in the House of Commons, or whether St. Paul recognized the faces of individual teachers of each sect with whom he had formerly been acquainted, we have no data for deciding. — Plumptre. Lewin thinks they sat on separate sides (see Introductory Notes). Ananias the high priest himself was a Sadducee. — Rer. Com.
SADDUCKIS AND PHARISEES. The Pharisees are supposed to derive their name from a Hebrew wood signifying "separated," and were so called because of the strictness with which they kept the law. The Pharisees differed from the Sadducees in the three following points: (1) They recognized, besides the Scriptures of the Old Testament, oral traditions either as explanatory of the law or enjoining new ordinances. (2) The Pharisees, in contradistinction to the Sadducees, inculcated the doctrine of a future state. The Sadducees were materialists, believing in no angel spirit as distinct from the body. (3) Whilst the Sadducees appeared to have denied the doctrine of divine influences, the Pharisees insisted upon it; and whilst they admitted the free will of man, taught also a subjection to Providence. It was no doubt favorable for the church that there was at this time this division of parties in the Sanhedrim. The Sadducees were chiefly incensed against the Christians because they taught the doctrine of the resurrection; whereas the Pharisees, out of opposition to their rival sect, were sometimes inclined to favor them. – Gloag. I am a Pharisee. St. Paul was still a Pharisee in regard to the Mosaic law and in his firm acceptance of the doctrines which distinguished them from acceptance of the Sadducees, the rationalistic pertion of the nation. – Denton. Of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. The hope of the fathers fulfilled by the coming of Jesus the Messiah, and the resurrection of the dead sealed by the resurrection of Christ, – these two themes were the groundwork of all Paul's preaching. “My only crime," he urged with passionate earn. estness, " is that I preach with a strange success that great doctrine of the resurrection, the maintaining of which at all risks, in an unbelieving and faithless generation, is the reason of existence of the whole Pharisee sect.” On that doctrine Paul as a Christian knew how to flash a new strong light, but the “teaching” itself for which he really suffered was only the teaching of the purest Pharisee school. – Schaff. It did not involve even a tacit disclaimer of his faith in Christ. It was rather as though he said, “I am one with you in all that is