Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

deavouring to make some amends to the injured person; a case by no means uncommon in life, pro-, ceeding sometimes from fear, sometimes from interest, sometimes from partial affection, or other causes, which are sufficient to turn conscience aside, yet not wholly put down its awful warnings.

We now come to examine the conduct of St. Paul before Felix and Drusilla ; an occasion which displays the truest dignity of mind, the most heroic contempt of danger, and the most benevolent concern for unhappy souls under the power of sin, to be found in the history of mankind. This Drusilla was sister to king Agrippa, a woman of exquisite beauty; and had been married to Azizus, king of the Emesenes, but was seduced from him by Felix. Now let us consider what were the topics chosen by Paul, when, being sent for, he spoke concerning the faith in Christ. A man influenced: by common motives, would in his situation have dwelt on such matters as should be most pleasing, at least would bave carefully avoided every thing offensive to his hearers. And so, no doubt, would the Apostle have done (for he was by no means unacquainted with the arts of persuasion) had not a superior duty and higher authority commanded him to speak more honestly and boldly : “ He reasoned. of righteousness, and temperance, and judgment to come."--He discoursed of justice before a man, covered with crimes of oppression, cruelty, and

wrong; of continence before him and his profligate mistress, who were plunged in the guilt of adultery; and of a future day of judgment, when such crimes should be brought to a severe account, and punished as they deserved by a righteous and pure judge. What could be expected from such home truths, which they could not avoid applying to their own hearts, but a gross abuse of power in some way of revenge? Felix had already shewn himself very capable of this conduct; and there was every reason to apprehend, that he would be encouraged to restrain such freedom by the infamous Drusilla. For how unpardonable must such a woman have thought it in him, to censure even indirectly a Roman governor and an admired queen, who had his life in their hands! But these things could not shake St. Paul's glorious purpose of reclaiming those sinners from their evil courses, and urging them by terror and remorse to repent and be converted. They might kill the body; but he Fould, if possible, save their souls. Could he compass this grand object, he lightly regarded bonds, imprisonment, or death; he therefore with undaunted courage spoke to them the words of truth and life. Never did this great Apostle appear more great and good, more wisc, disinterested, brave, generons, and humanc. Whoever can read this passage without sentiments of the deepest veperation, must be deficient in some of the best quali

ties of our nature. Every man of virtue mast admire so much excellence.

It pleased God to give a different effect to St. Paul's discourse, from what could have been extra pected in the common course of human affairs : 66 Felix trembled."—He felt the force of his just and powerful reasoning, saw the hideous picture of his own vile character, and for a while antici: pated the horrors of future judgment. But still clinging to his favourite vices, he could not per: suade himself to yield them up: nor yet was he able to endure reproof with total want of sense or concern. Thus wavering between the love of sin and the fear of punishment, (when the first, as usual, prevailed in the end) he said to Paul, “ Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee:"--The impression was for a moment lively and strong; but it soon passed off a soul devoted to the world: inveterate habits soon returned and entirely destroyed the good seed. Of which we bave an extraordinary and melancholy proof in the words that follow; - lle hoped also, that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him : wherefore he sent for him the oftener, anil communed with him."--He knew that Paul had been commissioned to bring alms to his nation; and his avarire caught at the hope of turning these to his own profit. Ile was ready to make a sale of justice, though the price should be

On

paid from the fund of the poor. What a sordid and iniquitous mind must his have been! No wonder, that the preaching even of St. Paul should work no lasting change in it. What can be hoped from casting pearls before swine ?

After two years of St. Paul's imprisonment, Felix was succeeded by Portius Festus, who found the Apostle still in bonds ; for Felix had left him so, “ willing to shew the Jews a pleasure.” When he was leaving his province, he dreaded complaints against the many acts of oppression which he had committed : and with a view to soothe and cajole his accusers, he would not set the Apostle at liberty, knowing him to be detested by the whole nation. But his wicked policy did not succeed better than it deserved ; for he was followed to Rome by heavy accusations against his crimes, and had certainly met with condign punishment, but for the interest of his brother with the emperor.

Upon the arrival of Festus at Jerusalem, as mentioned in the beginning of the 25th chapter, the high priest and the chief men of the Jews renewed their informations against Paul, “ desiring this favour, that he would send for him to Jerusalem.” This they did, intending to have persons lying in wait to take his life. Whence may be incidentally collected their rooted and inexorable animosity towards him ; since neither a considera. ble length of time, nor his loss of liberty, could

soften their hearts. Nothing is more cruel than false zeal ; its rage is heightened by the suffering of its victims, and confirmed by years : fortitude and virtue but inflame it more, being looked upon as new insults upon its infallible decisions. Here we see the high priest at the head of a murderous conspiracy, ready to stain the sanctity of his robes in the blood of an innocent man, against whose life he and his accomplices despaired of procuring a legal sentence. They had, on a former occasion, listened to a proposal of the same kind, coming from a band of fiery zealots, and were willing to give it their countenance : they now become principals in the atrocious design. But whether Festus suspected them, or for his own convenience, he refused to grant the request, desiring that Paul's accusers should appear at Cesarea, whither he himself intended shortly to return ; in about ten days he went down ; and on the day after his return, “ sitting in his judgment seat, he commanded Paul to be brought before him ; who, to the “ many and grievous complaints” alleged against him, answers as before ; “ Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor yet against Cæsar have I offended any thing at all.”

When it was found that nothing could be proved to justify his condemnation, Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, asked Paul, - wilt thou go up

« AnteriorContinuar »