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customs and questions, to some of which he should have occasiou to refer; and as it would be necessary for him to be particular, he beseeches him to hear him patiently. He affirms that his manner of life from the beginning, had been conformable to the rules of the strictest sect among the Jews, the Pharisees, as was well known to them all, if they had candour enough to bear witness. As to the matter upon which he stood in judgment, it was not for any crime he had committed, but for his zealous attachment to the promise of a resurrection to eternal life through the Messiah ; a promise to which the twelve tribes who constantly served God day and night, hoped to attain. And now, says he, for this hope's sake, O king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. But, why should it be thought incredible, that God should raise the dead? He is able to do it, and was he to do it the honours of his moral government would be thereby displayed and vindicated. Admitting it therefore probable, it will not be thought strange if I lay before this assembly the positive evidence I have to adduce in favour of it.--So he goes on to state, the better to secure their regard to the credibility of his testimony, the aversion he formerly felt to the Christian doctrine which he now avowed. So inimical had he been to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, that he had persecuted the professors of it in the most rigorous and cruel manner. But, as he was going down, in all his mad zeal, from Jerusalem to Damascus, with authority from the chief priest to seize the Christians there and hale them to prison, at mid-day, a great light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shone round about him and his company. And when they were all fallen to the earth, he heard a voice saying in the Hebrew tongue, . Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks ;' to which replying in amazement, 'Who art thou, Lord?' he received for answer, I am Jesus, whom tbou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee: delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open
and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.' Upon this, he immediately in obedience to the heavenly vision betook himself to the faithful and zealous discharge of those duties to which his Master had appointed him. And for these causes, he proceeds, the Jews caught him in the temple, and went about to kill him. However having obtained help of God,' says he, I continue to this day, witnessing to all, those things and none other which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.'
Such was the apostle's defence, than which nothing could be more plain and artless, and at the same time more eloquent and masterly. And we may be sure there was a pathos and energy in his manner suited to the dignity and importance of his subject.
Now as he thus spake for himself, our text tells us, Festus the Roman governor said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself. From this strange story thou hast told us, and from thy eager vehement manner of relating it, I conclude thou art distracted. For who but a madman would assert that he had seen and conversed with one that is dead; and more than this, that a devoted Jew was sent of God to enlighten not only his own nation, but the more polite and well instructed Greeks and Romans? Much learning, much study of letters, and particularly of the ancient records of thy country, has driven thee mad. To which the apostle, unprovoked and in full possession of himself, replies, I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. It is true the things I have related are extraordinary, and my manner has been vehement. But it does not thence follow that I am mad. What I have asserted is not impossible; the evidence of the facts reported is before you, and will bear the strictest scrutiny. And I appeal to this whole audience whether I have not discoursed and reasoned of these matters with all plainness and sobriety. If I am possessed of learning both human and divine, if I have made the Scripture my study, and spent much time and pains in acquiring knowledge, this my learning hath not deprived me of my senses, but secured me from the wild flights of enthusiasm, and enabled me the better to investigate the truth. Nor should my earnestness be interpreted into an argument of insanity, since the importance of the subject demands the exertion of all my powers.
Now here we might enter into the proof of the grand points which the apostle affirms in this discourse, and which he styles words of truth and soberness. Is Jesus of Nazareth the person he said he was, or an impostor ? Did he, or did he not rise from the dead? Is his gospel to be credited or rejected ? The answer is, if the story the apostle here relates of himself is true, then the Christian religion is of God. But what the apostle relates of himself is true. For if it were not, he must either himself have been deceived, or have designed to deceive others, each of which is absolutely incredible. Let any one calmly consider what he said upon this occasion, and others of the like nature, and attentively examine his several epistles; and he will, I am persuaded, justify him from the charge of enthusiasm. He was a cool, sound, sober reasoner.
And let any one on the other hand consider what had been the apostle's manner of life previous to his conversion, his prejudices against the Christians, the sufferings to which he exposed himself by embracing the gospel, and his steady perseverance notwithstanding all to the end; let any one I say im- . partially consider these things, and he will as readily acquit him of the charge of imposture. To which it must be further added, that the circumstances of his conviction, as he relates them, were such as made it not only possible but easy to detect the fraud, had the whole business been a cheat.—But these are matters, which, however important, and however our text would naturally lead us to the consideration of them, we do not mean now to insist upon.
The point I have in view is to shew the utility of the apostle's learning both human and divine, to qualify him for those extraordinary duties to which he was called. The mission
apon which he was sent to Jews and Gentiles was very ar. duous and important. He was to reason with men upon the great facts reported in the gospel, and upon the great doctrines founded thereon. And he was to urge the belief of the truths and the practice of the duties of Christianity with a warmth and energy suited to their importance. Now if the apostle's learning inade him a sober reasoner and an earnest and affectionate preacher, surely it was a good thing. Let us for a moment consider this question respecting him: so our way will be opened to the main object of this discourse.
As to divine knowledge it will be admitted on all hands that the apostle possessed it in a very high degree. He was no small proficient in that learning which makes a man wise unto salvation. He was well instructed in the knowledge of his own heart, and the true and only grounds of acceptance with God. And whoever is conversant with his history must know what a happy effect this his learning had upon his temper and conduct; how humble, meek, patient, benevolent and zealous he was, ever exerting himself for the glory of God and the good of men.
But as the apostle, in the character of a minister, stood in need of a more accurate and comprehensive acquaintance with the Christian scheme than others, so God was pleased to inspire him in an extraordinary manner with this knowledge. The Holy Spirit was his instructor, and by his immediate teaching he was led into all truth. He clearly saw the connection between the law of nature and the gospel of Christ, the Jewish and the Christian dispensations, the histories of the world and the church, and the predictions of the ancient prophets and their fulfilment. And every gift necessary communicating this knowledge to others with clearness, fervour and success, was conferred
him. But then we are not to conceive of the apostle as having no other learning than what he thus received immediately from God by inspiration. He had a great deal of human or acquired knowledge. The Roman governor you see in our text speaks of him as a man of letters, a scholar, and not a superficial scholar neither. Such it is agreed on all hands he was,
nor does he himself deny it. He was distinguished from most others by very strong mental powers, a lively imagination, a sound judgment, and a warm heart. And by diligent applicacation, both before and after his conversion, he laid up a considerable stock of knowledge. He was bred at the feet of Gamaliel, a man held in such high esteem for his learning that it was said of him when he died, that the honour of the law died with him. No doubt therefore the apostle was like Agrippa, and in a greater degree than he, expert in all customs and questions among the Jews. The very phrase here used to express his great learning, ronda ypa pepecela, conveys an idea of his having been deeply conversant with the ancient records of his country, both divine and human. He had read them in their original languages, read them over and over again, and studied them with great attention and correctness. And it clearly appears from the excellent discourse he delivered at Athens, and many passages in bis history and epistles, that he was well versed in the Pagan philosophy, knew how to detect the false reasoning of the schools, and was acquainted with the writings of their poets, such as Aratus, Cleanthes, and others. Indeed it is highly probable he was a stranger to few, if any of the arts and sciences so celebrated in those times.
Now the utility of all this learning to enable him to reason soberly, and persuade with energy, methinks I need not take pains to shew. His knowledge, however he came by it, whether by inspiration or study; and whensoever, whether before or after his conversion, availed him not a little. Now we see him reasoning with Pagans and then with Jews : now arguing from the law of nature, and then from the Old Testament scriptures: now appealing to the writings of heathen poets and philosophers, and then referring to the traditions of the fathers, of which he had been exceedingly zealous. Now stating his arguments with all logical exactness, and then exposing the sophistry and false learning of his adversaries. Nor did his knowledge, both human and divine, fail of instructing him deeply in the truth and importance of the subjects on which he discoursed. Whence find him, as occasion requires, addressing the hearts and consciences of