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brethren, that he still observed the ancient ceremonies, and was actually engaged in one of the most austere among them, (the vow of the Nazarite,) when he was attacked as a violator of the law, and profaner of the temple. So little regard was paid to truth or consistency in the proceedings against him.” “ And I have hope towards God, says the Apostle, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection from the dead, both of the just and of the unjust.”. We have already seen how constantly and earnestly this tenet was preached by all the Apostles: and I have only to observe the force of St. Paul's reasoning here against his accusers ; many of whomi held nearly the same doctrine, which had made him most obnoxious, and yct with shameful inconsistency join in the general cry against him. Having mentioned the hope of the resurrection, he adds, 6 and herein (on account of this) do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.” In which admirable sentiment are at once expressed the active duties which exercise man, in his various relations, and the most efficacious motive for discharging them. As he stood accused of a crime, which is among the most pernicious in society, le with great force disclaims any such design ; alleging the best, and it may be said, the only sure ground for their belief of his innocence; namely, that he
knew himself to be accountable in the day of judgment, reserved both for the righteous and unrighteous, to him who seeth the hearts of men.
I cannot dismiss this declaration of the Apostle without a few remarks naturally connected with
And first, as I have just now hinted, we may hence collect the nature of our duties in this life ; which are not intended to be of an indolent, but an active kind. It is not sufficient, that we embrace opportunities of doing good, as they happen to fall in our way. Such virtue may be ascribed to a particular frame or constitution of mind, consulting its own satisfaction, rather than to a just sense of duty. We must, in our several stations, so far as they enable us to act, seek out for all proper occasions to exercise our talents. Action is the true life and enjoyment of the soul. Whatever we may fancy of the delightful feelings of repose, experi. · ence teaches us the vanity of all such hopes. God hath wisely and graciously ordained, that our chief happiness should consist in virtue ; and that this virtue should keep our faculties in motion. We must, therefore, « labour in .our vocation,” and this not merely for our own profit, but for the glory of God and good of mankind.
Secondly, there is another duty beside the foree going, contained in the words before us ; I mean,
a careful examination of our hearts and lives. For how can we possibly know, whether we have a conscience void of offence, without a due enquiry into its real condition ? « The heart we are told, is deceitful above all things :" and if we take no pains to discover the treachery and false disguises practised upon us by the several enemies of our souls, what can we expect but to fall into the snare when we least suspect it? Many of us, perhaps, are at this moment in a state of the most fatal security. Even St. Paul himself, by neglecting to examine his conduct with sufficient diligence and exactness, had been guilty of great sin. It should be an awful warning to us ; for if we wilfully omit this duty, a multitude of sins must pass by unregarded and unrepented of; whilst others may impose themselves under the form of virtues, One of the most indispensable christian exercises therefore must be, to search and regulate our consciences by the word and will of God.
Thirdly, we should accustom ourselves to contemplate the hopes and fears of a general resurrection, so as to bring them into action, as motives of conduct. Let us leave it to empty declaimers, and men of pretended high sentiment, to make a parade about the intrinsic rewards of virtue. We are creatures formed with the passions on which those considerations powerfully operate; nor can they be silenced by such trifling. We have only to
do with these, as with all other passions ; to give them a just and proper direction. And what objects can be so great and worthy to engage them, as the interests of a future and eternal life ; as the favour or displeasure of our Creator and Preserver; as the certain rewards or punishments which avait us hereafter? We should not say within ourselves, such an action is very praise-worthy, and will procure for us the esteem of mankind, or will be its own reward ; but such an action is pleasing to Almighty God, who will reward it at the last judgment, in the face of men and angels, with his approbation and love ; I will not then lose sight of these glorious promises, but “press forward to the high prize of my calling in Christ Jesus.” Whoever carries this resolution constantly about him, shall be enabled to do more good, and resist more evil, than with all the refined speculations of all the moralists upon earth. Let us then “ lay hold upon the hope that is set before us ; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and stedfast.” - The Apostle goes on to state, that after many years absence, he came to bring alms to his nation from the Christians of Greece and Macedonia, and was seen by certain Jews from Asia, purified or performing his Nazarite vow in the temple, without any concourse of people or tumult whatsoever , and that they ought to be present (and no doubt
would have been) if they had any thing to prove against him. But, since they did not choose to appear, he appeals to his accusers on the spot, whether he had done evil while he stood before the counçil; or been guilty of any offence except his crying out among them, “ touching the resurrection of the dead, I am called in question by you this day.”
In this short defence every line speaks truth and integrity. And Felix was so sensible of St. Paul's . innocence, that he found it impossible to give sentence against him. At the same time, willing to gratify the Jews, he would not entirely acquit and set him free; but deferred any further hearing till Lysias the chief captain should come down. This we are told in the 22d verse, which may be more clearly rendered as follows ; “ Then Felix deferred them, and said, having obtained more exact knowledge of that way, (or religion) when Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will determine your matter."-But we may easily perceive what impression the business had made upon his mind; for although he ordered him to be detained in cus. tody, yet he made this as light and easy as possible ; ( he commanded a Centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come to him.”_Where we have an instance of a man wanting firmness to do compleat justice, yet en