Acts 23:31
The moral influence exerted by St. Paul on this Roman,, captain was so decided that he is compelled to send to his superior this report, whom I perceived... to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds." Such a man as this captain would judge fairly matters of character or of conduct. He had no blinding and bewildering ecclesiastical prejudices which made crimes where there were none. So his testimony to the apostle is important. Indeed, it is always well for us to feel that the world and the stranger are sure to judge us, and form impressions from our character and conduct. We cannot be indifferent to their opinion. Our walk and conversation ought to do honor to our Master. Men should "take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus." The words used by the captain here remind us of two things.

I. THAT THE WORLD WANTS NO JUDGMENT ON MEN FOR THEIR OPINIONS. About opinions a Roman soldier could be supremely indifferent. With opinions human laws and magistracies have nothing to do. In opinions men may have the fullest liberty and toleration. Only when opinions influence conduct in a way that imperils social order, or the safety of the state, does the law or the magistrate concern himself with it. So we find that, in order to bring so-called heretics under the civil power, it has always been necessary to accuse them of rebellion against the law; the judge condemns them as anarchists, not as heretics. In these times we are beginning to learn more fully that opinion had better not be interfered with, and that every man may have full "liberty of prophesying," of persuading men to adopt his views. And all wrong teachings are to be met by right teaching, by the moral force of argument, and not by the physical forces of the law. Though still we properly keep the liberty to matters of simple opinion; when men express their views in their conduct, we are bound to consider whether their conduct tends to preserve the public peace and the social order.

II. SECTARIAN PREJUDICE ALONE WANTS TO PUNISH MEN FOR THEIR OPINIONS. Even the sectarian Jews knew that St. Paul had done no wrong. They trumped up a charge against him of defiling the temple, but they knew well enough that it was a groundless charge. They were offended with his opinions and teachings, as opposing their own. Illustrate from the assumptions of the Papal Church, and her efforts to crush all who held other opinions than she sanctioned. Modern illustrations of the bitterness of sectarian prejudice may be mentioned. A man may, like the apostle, have the truth of God, but he must be rejected unless his message rings in exact harmony with the received opinions. Show, in conclusion, that the strangers judgment of us is the only really important one. They ask what we are in character, conduct, life, and relations; and they can best judge about the value of our opinions by those things in which the opinions find their practical expression. Let, then, those outside our circles, the strangers, judge us as Christians. Will they say of us as the Roman officer said of St. Paul, "About their opinions we know little or nothing; but this we can say, They are good men and true"? - R.T.

Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul.
1. The mournful departure of a witness of the truth, whose message of salvation his blinded people have rejected.

2. The glorious triumphant march of a servant of God, whom the Lord leads victoriously through the midst of enemies.

3. The solemn homeward journey of a warrior of Christ, who goes to meet his last fight, his last victory, his eternal reward.

(K. Gerok.)

A bodyguard of nearly five hundred men accompanied the apostle; he had never before journeyed with so strong an escort and so great a following. He was certainly indebted for so much respect primarily to his Roman privileges. But still it was a matter of fact that so strong a force was demanded for the security of his person. Christ not only protects His people, but also honours them. And the honour which is often unintentionally conferred on a child of God reflects back upon Him by whose grace a converted sinner is what he is.

(G. V. Lechler, D. D.)

Who will not in Paul, with his military escort, be reminded of Luther, his brother in spirit, successor in office, and companion in fortune, when he was conveyed by armed knights, and brought in safety to Wartzburg.

(K. Gerok.).

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