Imatges de pÓgina

“ not I, but the grace of God which was with me *.' He renounced his uncommon labours and extensive services, as of no avail in the point of his acceptance with God: he gloried only in the cross of Christ, as procuring pardon and peace, and exulted as being

complete in Him.” It will be difficult, we allow, to your corrupt nature, to exert yourselves to the utmost for the advancement of truth and righteousness, and yet with unfeigned humility to cast all your works at the feet of Jefus, trusting in the efficacy of kis sacrifice and the merit of his obedience. But no otherwise can you maintain any well-grounded hope towards God. Your most admired duties, if not done in faith, will be rejected with abhorrence, and it will be said at the last,“ Who hath required these at your hands ?”

May the Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, be exalted in our estimation, as “the end of the law for righteousness!” With his holy Apostle, may we “re. joice in Him, and have no confidence in the flesh!"


2 Cor. xi. 11. I Cor. xv. 10.


SECT. 5.

Paul made his defence before the Sanhedrimmencouraged

by a vision-conspired against--fent to Cesarea-there pleaded his cause with

Felix, and afterwards with Feslus-appealed to Cefarmpreached before king Agrippa.

It was predicted by our Lord, that his Apostles Thould be brought before governors and kings for his fake*: but it does not appear, that any of them was called to this honour, so much as St. Paul. The great men of the earth, indeed, shewed no desire to be acquainted with his doétrine, nor was he admitted to audience in his proper character, as an ambassador from Heaven; but he was conducted into their prefence as a criminal. How mysterious are the ways of Providence ! Paul was cast into bonds, in order that he might declare the truth of the Gospel to magistrates and princes. We shall now behold him in this very situation, arraigned before powerful and malicious enemies, yet, without timidity, or any painful anxiety for himself, most earnestly folicitous to save the fouls of his hearers. O for the same bold and disinterested {pirit in all the ministers of Chrift! This would be the brightest ornament of their profeffion, and the strongest recommendation of the religion, which they preach.

* Matt. X. 18.


The Apostle was a prisoner at Jerusalem, in the custody of Roman soldiers. He had been with diffi- . culty rescued out of the hands of a Jewish mob, which was incensed against him; and, the Sanhedrim being summoned for his trial, he proceeded to make his defence. He maintained before the council the integrity of his heart and conduct, though he had been apprehended and accused as a criminal *. His countenance, as well as his speech, vetokened a holy firmness and intrepidity, the effect of conscious innocence, or rather of a divine influence, by which he was animated. The high priest, the president of the court, commanded him, in violation of all the forms of justice, to be smitten on the mouth, evidently ihewing a deterinination to silence him, or to hear nothing

a in his favour. The Apostle, however, not intimidated by such violent and injurious usage, reprehended his judge, and solemnly declared that God would shortly puniih bim for his base hypocrisy. Possibly, there was an improper warmth of teniper in the reproof : Paul, at least, acknowledged, that he was not aware of directing his censure against the high priest, who, for his office, ought to be treated with respect. Yet, doubtless, he spake by a prophetic impulse; and, according to his fentence, God did soon afterwards " smite that whited wall" by a singular destruction. The example ought not to be pleaded in justification of any infolence or resentment towards magistrates : St. Paul himself seemed folicitous to guard against such an abuse of his conduct. Be it our concern to “ live in all good conscience before God;" and then let us meekly commit to Him the event of all groundless and malicious accusations.

A prudent device of the Apostle disconcerted the meafures of his adversaries for that time. He perceived, that the assembly confifted partly of Pharisees,

* Acts xxiii. I, &c.


and partly of Sadducees, who differed widely in their sentiments, especially concerning the resurrection of the dead. He therefore declared himself attached to the feet of the Pharisees, and affirmed that for his defence of their leading doctrine he then stood arraigned before them. As many as were of this persuasion, immedia ately shewed an inclination to favour him, and proposed his dismission. But so warm were the debates occasioned by the subject, which he had started, that the council was thrown into the utinoft confufion. The Roman officer began to fear for the safety of his prisoner, and, that he might not suffer through the fierceness of the disputants, interposed with an armed force for his deliverance, and conducted him back again to the castle. The Lord secures his people, amidit violent opposition, by various ways. Sometimes he protects thein, by permitting their enemies to be divided and incensed against each other. The mutual hatred of wicked men is frequently so great, that they cannot unite in any schemes for persecuting the Church, as otherwise they would do. Thus « the wrath of man ihall praile God," and promote his purposes.

Our Apostle remained in close confinement, disa tressed, probably, by gloomy apprehenfions, as if he were cut off from all further opportunities of usefulness. The following night, however, the Lord graciously appeared in a vision to encourage and animate him, by an assurance that he should still continue his Jabours in the Gospel, and bear his testimony even at Rome, the imperial city. Fiw tender are the compassions of our God towards his amicted people! In general, when their troubles increase upon them,

their consolation also aboundeth by Christ *.' What, then, have they to fear ? Or, what can man do

2 Cor. i. 5.


Vol. IV.

against againft them? If the Lord declare his approbation, and say to them, as he did to Paul, “ Be of good cheer,” they should account it a sufficient compensation for their severeft persecutions, and be imboldened to face a host of enemies,

Fresh dangers awaited the Apostle at Jerusalem. Such was the fury of his opposers, that more than forty of them entered into an impious combination, and bound themselves under a curle to accomplish his murder. Even the chief priests and elders took part in the design. But, though the horrid plan might seem to be well concerted, it was detected and defeated by the providence of God. A young man, nearly selated to St. Paul, being apprized of the scheme, carried information of it to the Roman officer; in consequence of which the prisoner was immediately removed, and sent under a strong guard to Cesarea. His accusers, also, were commanded to follow hirn, that the matter might there be fairly investigated before Felix the governor.

It may appear strange, that one, whose heart glowed with benevolence and a desire of promoting universal happiness, should be pursued with such malignity and rage, as if he had been the vileft of his species and the peit of society. But in the opposition, which was made to him and other eminent faints, a striking proof of human depravity is exhibited. Whilst they were treated with contempt and abhorrence, for righteousness' sake, it is obvious that the God, whom they served, was di spised and hated : and indeed, this enmity of the carnal mind against Gre is the grand source and cause of persecution, whatever may be pretended. But shall the faithful followers of Christ be intimidated ? No: it is their privilege to maintain peace and joy, in dependence on their Almighty Redeemer. But they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.” Their wisest plans shall turn to their own confusion. While they "takc.counset together,-He that fitteth in the


[ocr errors]


« AnteriorContinua »