« AnteriorContinuar »
S E R-
Os the universal sense os good and evil.
Acts xxiv. 25.
And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled.
H E R E is nothing more use- gERM. [ ful and instructive than to l. I acquaint ourselves with theO^VNJ
in their moral conduct
history of mankind, especially
This gives us a true knowledge of human nature, of the various workings of its passions, and the principles by which it is influenced. And observations grounded onjact are certain A 4 and
Serm. and indisputable J whereas abjlraBspecuI. lations may not only differ very much, V>'V^"' but are liable to be disputed, and more easily perplexed or evaded. Besides, a small piece of history affords a greater variety of incidents for the improvement of our minds, and the right conduct of life, than can be suggested, within the same compass, in the way of instruction and reasoning: This will more fully appear by considering the particular transaction between Paul and Felix, of which the text is a part.
Felix *, by the confession of Tacitus the
Roman historian, governed the Jews in
a very arbitrary manner, and committed
the grossest acts of oppression and tyranny.
Joseph. And Drujilla his wife, without any good
Ant. l. xx. reason to justify a divorce, had left her
''" former husband, and given herself to
him j and consequently was an adulteress:
When St. Paul, therefore, was sent for
* Claudius defunctis regibus, Judæam provinciam equitibus Romanis aut libertis permifit; e quibus Antonius Felix, per omnem sievitiam ac libidinem, jus regium servili ingenio exercuit. Histor. lib. v. c. 9.
At non frater ejus eognomento Felix pari moderatione agebat, jam pridem Judæae impofitus, & cuncta malesacta Sbi impune ratus, tanta potentia subnixo. Annal. xii. 54.
to to explain to them the nature of theSERM. Christian Religion, which was then new- I. ly published, and, upon that account, a V*^V>-' matter of curiosity; and in discoursing on the morality of the gospel, which is the most important and essential part of it (as it must be of every revelation thaft is really of divine original) took occasion to inculcate the eternal laws of justice, and the immutable obligations of temperance and chastity; the conscience of the governour was alarmed and terrified, and a fense of his crime, and dread of the righteous and awful judgment of God upon all such notorious offenders against the rules of righteousness and humanity, filled him with the utmost confusion. Drufilla indeed does not appear to have discovered any remorse; perhaps she was, naturally, of a more hard, insensible, unrelenting temper j or confided in her Jewish privileges, and expected to be saved, as a daughter of Abraham, notwithstanding the immorality and wickedness of her life. However this be, as 'tis not my business to make conjectures, I shall proceed to consider what is directly related by the historian, viz. that, as
Serm. Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, . *• and judgment to come, Felix trembled: ^v*"^ only premising, that the impression, which the Apostle's discourse made upon his mind, did not spring from any thing in his peculiar circumstances, but from the general frame of human nature, and principles that are common to all mankind; and consequently that the moral reflections, naturally arising from it, must be of universal concern. And,
\jl. We learn from this history, that there is, even in the worst of men, a natural conscience of good and evil, which in very few, if any, instances, is entirely extinguished. It may be darkned, perverted, and very much defaced, but is hardly ever quite obliterated and lost. There are certain seasons, which check the insolence of the passions, and dispose for gravity and consideration, in which it revives; and represents the malignity of irregular and vitious excesses in a clear and strong light.
Indeed the advocates for vice and licentiousness have, sometimes, gone so far, as to represent all our notions of