Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.Acts 24:5
Compare Clarendon's description of Cromwell: 'Without doubt, no man with more wickedness, ever attempted anything, or brought to pass what he desired, more wickedly, more in the face and contempt of religion and moral honesty'.
References.—XXIV. 5.—F. D. Maurice, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 325. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii. No. 1632. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 116.
The Resurrection of the Body
The differences between our bodies as they are now and as they will be in the resurrection are only three; let us see what they are.
I. In the first place, they can no more sin. This is certain, because, if they could sin, we might be cast out of heaven. But if we once enter that blessed place, we can never be driven out. Heaven would be no heaven if we could lose it. But we are told expressly that 'he that is dead hath ceased from sin'. The body, which was always hindering us in God's service here, will there help us in it. It cannot grow weary, it cannot interrupt us by its own feelings; there we shall truly and perfectly 'glorify God in our body and in our spirit, which are God's'.
II. The next great difference is that the body will be incorruptible. This does not only mean that it will never die, but it tells us a great deal more. Here, in this world, our bodies are wearing out day by day, and therefore day by day we have to keep them up by food and by rest. But there they cannot wear out, therefore they will not want food nor rest; at least, that is the belief of the Church. It is certain there can be no weariness; it is certain there can be no sickness; 'the inhabitant,' says Isaiah, 'shall not say I am sick'; it is certain there can be no old age or decay.
III. All in heaven will be perfect. The belief of the Church is that the old will be raised again, not withered and decayed and worn out, but as they were when they were in the best part of their earthly lives; and that children will be raised, not as they were when they were laid in the grave, but as they would have been if they had been spared to their full growth and strength. Isaiah, speaking of heaven, says: 'There shall be no more thence an infant, nor an old man'. And St. Paul says that we shall all be in 'the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ'. Now our Lord died for us in the very prime of life at thirty-three years of age according to the flesh, therefore holy men have thought that at our resurrection we also shall wake up in the prime of life, even as our Lord did at His.
—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iv. p. 46.
References.—XXIV. 16.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii. No. 66. XXIV. 15, 16.—J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons (2nd Series), p. 86.
This text is associated with the dying moments of Sir Harry Vane. Dr. Stoughton gives the following description of his end:—'A noble victim perished two months afterwards. It has been with Sir Henry Vane as with Oliver Cromwell: having disliked each other in life, they have shared a common fate in the judgment of posterity: for, after years of odium, the names of both are raised to honour. Vane's Republicanism rendered him impracticable, and his mysticism, although undeserving the reproaches of Baxter and Burnet, threw a haze over his speculations, which makes them somewhat unintelligible; but the piety and genius of his Meditations, and the purity and virtue of his life, render him an object of reverence and love He was tried for compassing the death of the King; yet, whatever he might be in other respects, he was no regicide. The evidence on his trial only proved that he had held office under the Commonwealth, that he had been a member of the Council of State in 1651, and had belonged to the Committee of Safety in 1659. To make the condemnation and sentence of Vane the more unrighteous, the King, after solemnly promising to spare the life of the Republican, had written to Clarendon, saying—Vane "is too dangerous a man to let live, if we can honestly put him out of the way". The spirit of the prisoner appears in a letter which he wrote to his wife. "This dark night, and black shade," he observes, "which God hath drawn over His work in the midst of us, may be, for aught we know, the ground colour to some beautiful piece that He is now exposing to the light." His execution was an ovation. From the crowded tops and windows of the houses, people expressed their deep sympathy, crying aloud, "The Lord go with you, the great God of heaven and earth appear in you and for you"; signs of popular feeling which sustained the sufferer, who gratefully acknowledged them, "putting off his hat and bowing". When asked how he did, he answered, "Never better in all my life"; and on the scaffold his noble bearing so affected the spectators that they could scarcely believe "the gentleman in the black suit and cloak, with a scarlet silk waistcoat (the victorious colour) showing itself at the breast, was the prisoner". Frequent interruptions from the sound of drums drowned his voice, which, as Burnet says, was "a new and very indecent practice". The officers, as they put their hands in his pockets, searching for papers, exasperated the populace, whilst Vane's calmness led a Royalist present to say, "he died like a prince". Before receiving the last stroke, he exclaimed, "I bless the Lord, who hath accounted me worthy to suffer for His name. Blessed be the Lord, that I have kept a conscience void of offence to this day. I bless the Lord I have not deserted the righteous cause for which I suffer." "Father, glorify Thy servant in the sight of men, that he may glorify Thee in the discharge of his duty to Thee and to his country." One blow did the work. "It was generally thought," remarks Burnet, "the Government had lost more than it had gained by his death." Pepys declares the people counted his constancy "a miracle"; adding, "The King lost more by that man's death than he will get again for a good while". Thus fell the noblest mystic of the age, next to George Fox.'
—History of Religion in England, vol. iii. pp. 253-255.
References.—XXIV. 16.—J. H. Holford, Memorial Sermons, p. 41. R. J. Wardell, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xix. p. 266. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, pt. iii. p. 161. J. H. Jowett, From Strength to Strength, p. 29. XXIV. 17—Expositor (4th Series), vol. viii. p. 331. XXIV. 24.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. x. p. 277.
Bidding Good-bye to God
What would you think of a man who had plainly heard the voice of God—heard it so plainly that it made him tremble—and who yet had the awful courage to reply, 'Go away for the present. When I have a convenient season, I will send for thee'? We hold our breath at the very thought of such stupid, lordly defiance of Almighty God; and then we breathe more freely again as we bethink ourselves that such a thing could not be. It could not be? Nay, but it has been. There was a man who rolled those very words off his thoughtless tongue, and there are other men—have we not ourselves been among them?—who have cherished such thoughts in our hearts, and sighed for God to go away, though the blasphemous words may never actually have crossed our lips.
I. Felix was the man—the cruel, the powerful, the gorgeous Felix. Beside him is a prisoner speaking to him with deadly earnestness of a judgment to come. The voice is Paul's but the words are God's, and they smite with terror into his seared Roman conscience. Paul is right, God is right, and Felix can stand it no longer. 'Go away,' he says, in a sudden access of terror. 'Go away for the present. When I have a convenient season, I will send for thee.' It is to Paul that he is speaking, but what are those awful words but a tragic farewell to God,—the God who was pleading with him through the mighty presence of Paul?
What a prayer! 'O God! go away.' It is a fearful thing to bid good-bye to God, but, oh! the presumption, the pathetic, the unspeakable presumption, of expecting that the God to whom we have haughtily said good-bye will come back at our summons, and alter His plans to suit our convenient season!
II. Procrastination is the secret of failure. A noble thought, a holy resolution, visits us. It stands knocking at the door. But it will disturb our comfort if we suffer it to enter and possess our life, and that will not do. So we give it a courteous dismissal. 'Go thy way for the present. When I have a convenient season, I will send for thee.' And before that season comes, we may have reached some place where there is no repentance though we seek it carefully with tears.
III. Warnings enough there come to every man. Every time we are appalled, like Felix, at the thought of the judgment to come; every terror that shakes our conscience; every funeral procession that passes up the busy streets, with its silent mockery of their crowded haste; every experience that awes and humbles us—is another voice of the God who loves us too dearly to leave us alone. The man who says to such a voice, 'Go thy way for the present,' is either a coward or a fool—a coward if he cannot bear to look at those stern facts with which he will one day have to make his bed, and a fool if he supposes that the God whom he is deliberately rejecting will come in mercy when he summons Him. 'When I have a more convenient season I will send for Thee.' Yes, but will He come? He will come indeed, be sure of that; but, when He comes, He will demand the uttermost farthing.
—J. E. Macfadyen, The City With Foundations, p. 221.
The observation of every day will give new proofs with how much industry subterfuges and evasions are sought to decline the pressure of resistless arguments.
References.—XXIV. 25.—G. W. Brameld, Practical Sermons (2nd Series), p. 19. R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. iii. p. 105. W. Brock, Midsummer Morning Sermons, p. 127. R. W. Church, Village Sermons, p. 231. W. H. Evans, Short Sermons for the Seasons, p. 62. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv. No. 171. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 12. XXV. 1.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 98. XXV. 13.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. x. p. 17; ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 293; ibid. vol. x. p. 444. XXV. 18, 19.—J. H. Jellett, The Elder Son, p. 175. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2016. XXV. 22.—Expositor (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 288. XXVI. 5.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. x. p. 132.
And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence,
We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.
Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.
For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:
Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.
But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands,
Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him.
And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.
Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself:
Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.
And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city:
Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.
But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.
Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.
Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.
Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me.
Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council,
Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.
And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.
And 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 unto him.
And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.
And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.
But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.