« PreviousContinue »
they withdraw God's love from the Christian, whom the Spirit is inwardly supporting and comforting: and who " is kept by the power of God unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein," (as St. Peter writes, and he was no stranger to such circumstances, *) “ wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations : that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ ; whom having not seen, ye love ; and in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory : receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."
FESTUS REPORTS THE CASE OF PAUL TO
AGRIPPA.-A. D. 62.
Acts xxv. 13--27.
13. And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came into Cæsarea to salute Festus.
4 1 Pet. i. 548.
This Agrippa was son of Herod Agrippa, of whose charac14. And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul's cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix :
15. About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him. .
16. To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.
17. Therefore, when they were come hither without any delay, on the morrow I sat on the judgment-seat, and I commanded the man to be brought forth.
18. Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed :
19. But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.
20. And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters.
21. But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Cæsar.
Festus, we see, expresses his surprise at the sort of charge brought against the apostle. A man against whom so violent a feeling of enmity existed, must have done, he imagined, something “worthy of death or of bonds.” But he finds, on inquiry, that they brought none accusation of such things as he supposed, but had certain questions against him of their own superstition.
ter and death an account is given in chap. 12. He was king or governor of Chalcis, and part of Judea. Bernice was his sister ; as also was Drusilla, wife of Felix.
It was the same with another Roman, the celebrated Pliny. In the exercise of his government, about forty years afterwards, he thought it his duty to investigate the character of the Christians and their assemblies. They “ were everywhere spoken against :" to belong to them was a capital crime: and yet their number was daily increasing. He writes word to the emperor Trajan, that he had tried to discover the nature of this sect. And he, too, found no testimony of such things as he supposed. All he could learn was, that the Christians were accustomed on a stated day to meet before daylight, and to repeat among themselves a hymn to Christ as a God, and to bind themselves by an oath not to commit wickedness, but, on the contrary, to abstain from thefts, robberies, and adulteries : not to violate their promise or deny their pledge.
Pliny, however, and his predecessor, Festus, whilst each agreed in the innocence of the Christians, agreed also in their opinion of them. It was “ a depraved and excessive superstition” which they followed. So Pliny determined: and Festus speaks in the same slighting and insulting manner. He found laid against Paul certain questions of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. With these heathens, religion was, publicly, a matter of state government: privately, a matter of indifference.
? See Milner, vol. i. cent. ii. ch. i.
Every nation had its own superstition. Nor is this confined to the character of Festus, or the age of Pliny. Very much the same is the opinion of all countries and all ages, among those who are too busy, or too careless, or too vicious to inquire. As if it were a trifling question, whether God had revealed himself to his creatures : as if it were a subject of no importance, whether He, “ who in times past spake unto the fathers by the prophets, had in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.”3
The account of Festus stirred up the curiosity of his guest Agrippa, who was less a stranger to 6 all customs and questions which are among the Jews.”
22. Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself. To-morrow, said he, thou shalt heur him.+
23. And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains and principal men of the city, at Festus' commandment Paul was brought forth.
24. And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer.
25. But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him.
3 Heb. i. 1, 2.
^ In a way of public examination, for the purpose stated in ver. 26. It was not a judicial trial.
26. Of whom I have no certain thing to write unlo my lord: wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that after examination had, I might have somewhat to write.
27. For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.
Thus Festus opens the case, and, as it were, introduces Paul to the assembly. He was fulfilling the prophecy of his Lord, and for his sake was
brought before kings and governors. ” They came with great pomp: and were little aware how much greater than themselves he really was who was arraigned as a prisoner before them. They held authority under a powerful king: they were Cæsar's deputies, and Cæsar was then the highest of earthly rulers. But Paul, though “an ambassador in bonds,” was ambassador of “ the King of kings and Lord of lords.” In present appearance we know how strong the contrast must have been, between the splendour of Agrippa and Bernice, and their train of lofty state, and the simplicity of
Paul, the prisoner of the Lord.” But we equally know which would seem greatest, wisest, happiest, in the sight of God: to whom “ a thousand
years are as one day :" and who, therefore, together with the day of anxiety and humiliation which Paul was at that moment passing, sees also “the thousand years :" the years which no man number : the eternity of happiness which was awaiting him, at the close of this short day.