Acts 25:27
That was a striking scene which is suggested to our imagination by these verses. The sacred narrative does not, indeed, waste words on a description of it, but it supplies enough to place the picture before our eyes (see Farrar's 'Life of St. Paul,' in loc.). It invites our attention to three subjects. We have -

I. THE REPRESENTATIVE OF WORLDLY POWER. "At Festus's commandment" (ver. 23). The Roman procurator may not have been present with "great pomp," but he could afford to dispense with glitter and show; for he had authority in his hand - he represented the power of the world. He was a citizen of the kingdom which had "in it of the strength of iron" (Daniel 2:41). He was a successor of another Roman who had lately said, confidently enough, "Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?" (John 19:10). As a Roman ruler, he felt that he held a sway over those around him, to which they could lay no claim and which they were unable to disturb. Human power is:

1. Coveted by many thousands.

2. Within the reach of very few; it is therefore continually sought and missed, and the failure to attain it is a source of a large amount of human disappointment and unhappiness.

3. Much less enjoyed, when realized, than its possessor anticipated; for it proves to be limited and checked by many things invisible from without, but painful and irritating when discovered and endured.

4. Soon laid down again. The breath which makes can unmake; men are often giddy on the height and they stagger and fall; years of busy activity quickly pass, and then comes sovereign death which strikes down power beneath its feet.

II. THE REPRESENTATIVE OF SPIRITUAL DEGENERACY. (Ver. 23.) Both brother and sister, Agrippa and Bernice, were instances of this. They "saw the better thing and approved; they followed the worse." They "believed the prophets" (Acts 26:27); they knew the holy Law of God, but, instead of keeping it, instead of living before God and before the world in piety, in purity, in heavenly wisdom, they sacrificed everything to worldly advancement, to earthly honors, and even to unholy pleasure. How pitiable they seem to us now! That" great pomp" of theirs does but serve to make their moral littleness the more conspicuous. To rise in outward rank or wealth at the expense of character and by forfeiture of principle is:

1. Grievous in the sight of God.

2. Painful to all those whose judgment is worth regarding.

3. A most wretched mistake, as well as a sin.

4. An act, or series of acts, on which the agents will one day look back with deep and terrible remorse.

III. THE REPRESENTATIVE OF CHRISTIAN CONSECRATION. "Paul was brought forth" (ver. 23), he "had committed nothing worthy of death"(ver. 25), but yet "all multitude of the Jews "(ver. 24) were "crying out that he ought not to live any longer?' By his attachment to the truth and his devotion to the cause of Jesus Christ, he had placed himself there in captivity, charged with a capital offence, the object of the most bitter resentment of his countrymen. He had done nothing to deserve this; he had only taught what he honestly and rightly believed to be the very truth of God. He accepted his position, as a persecuted witness for Christ, with perfect resignation; he would not, on any consideration, have changed places with that Roman judge or those Jewish magnates. Christian consecration is:

1. An admirable thing, on which the minds of the worthiest will ever delight to dwell, lifting its subject far above the level of earthly power or worldly dignity.

2. Acceptable service in the estimation of Christ; to it the fullest Divine approval and the largest share of heavenly reward are attached. - C.







Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man for myself.
The scene is highly characteristic. The round of festivities in honour of the illustrious visitors began to flag-some novel show would be desirable. A Jewish heretic would interest Agrippa, who was himself a Jew. Berenice was clever and cultivated, and all women loved eloquence and genius, and Paul had both; and Berenice also loved novel and strange excitements. The upper classes then, as now, sated with luxury End refinement, found a certain fascination about prison life — out-of-the-way scent connected with police courts — human crime and misery. They liked a criminal cause celebre then just as they do now. An afternoon with Paul was the very thing to suit Agrippa and Berenice.

(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

Agrippa's desire may be understood variously —

I. AS THE WISH OF A SUPERCILIOUS CURIOSITY, which seeks nothing more than a passing entertainment.

II. AS THE EXPRESSION OF A WORLDLY DESIRE FOR KNOWLEDGE, which is only concerned about interesting information.

III. AS THE EARNEST DESIRE OF THE SEEKER FOR SALVATION, who feels the need of spiritual instruction. Application to Church going, hearing sermons, reading books, etc.

(K. Gerok.)

And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing.
It is at this moment more than ever we are justified in saying with the wise man, "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity." Where is now the splendour of the consulate? Where their brilliancy of lamps and torches; the feast of joyous assemblies? Where are the crowns and magnificent ornaments? Where the flattering reports of the city — the acclamations of the circus — the adulations of thousands of spectators? All have passed away! The wind by one blast has swept the leaves, and now they show us a dead tree torn up by the roots, so violent has been the tempest. It lies a broken ruin. Where are the pretended friends — the swarm of parasites — the tables charged with luxury — the wine circulating during entire days; where the various refinements of feasting — the supple language of slaves? What has become of them all? A dream of the night which vanishes with the day! A flower of spring, which fades in the summer — a shade which passes! a vapour which scatters! a bubble of water which bursts! a spider's web which is torn down — "Vanity of all vanities; all is vanity." Inscribe these words on your walls, on your vestments, your palaces, your streets, your windows, your doors; inscribe them on your conscience, in order that they may represent it incessantly to your thoughts. Repeat them every morning, repeat them in the evening, and in the assemblies of fashion, let each repeat to his neighbour, "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity."

( Chrysostom.)

As the naturalist observes of the glory of the rainbow, that it is wrought in the eye, and not in the cloud, and that there is no such pleasing variety of colours there as we see; so the pomp, and riches, and glory of this world are of themselves nothing, but are the work of our opinion and the creations of our fancy, and have no worth or price but what our lusts and desires set upon them.

(A. Farindon.)

I. A DRAWING ROOM OF WORLDLY GLORY, by the splendour of the assembled nobility (ver. 23).

II. A LECTURE ROOM OF HOLY DOCTRINE, by the testimony of the apostle (Acts 26:1-23).

III. A JUDGMENT HALL OF DIVINE MAJESTY, by the impression of the apostolic discourse which discloses the secret of the heart (Acts 26:24-32).

(K. Gerok.)

There are subjects about which the world has but one opinion, and towards which it maintains a tolerably consistent attitude, but Christianity is not one of them. Ask men of the world their opinions respecting profit, pleasure, health, death, etc., and you will get but one pronouncement; ask them about the religion of Christ and the answers will be almost as various as the men who give them. But practically they may be reduced to four when severely analysed, although intermingled, and are often found in combination. The Christian and his religion are regarded with —

I. HATRED. The Jews (ver. 24) so regarded Paul. To everything that corrupt Judaism held dear the apostle was an uncompromising antagonist. And so they cried "that he ought to live no longer" — a cry often heard since, and heard now. The money grubber, the pleasure seeker, the vicious hate the Christian and his faith. The attitude of Christianity towards the mere accumulation of wealth, towards sensuality, oppression, etc., necessarily arouses the bitterest hostility. There can be no truce between them. Victory in the one case means extermination in the other.

II. PERPLEXITY. Festus (vers. 26, 37) was nearly worried out of his life with the problem. Paul was a standing menace to the peace of his province, and yet he was guilty of nothing, as far as he could see, which could bring him under the ban of Roman law. Hence his desire to have the case heard by such experts in religious matters as the Sanhedrin and Agrippa. And Paul having appealed to Caesar on grounds of which he was deplorably ignorant, Festus was painfully embarrassed as to what to say about him to his imperial master. Festus is not a solitary instance of perplexity about Christians and their faith, Many now can make nothing of either; but often enough are ready to consult authorities like the Sanhedrin or Agrippa, who can give no satisfactory solution of the problem. Why did not Festus give himself the same trouble as Felix did, and commune with Paul? And so the obvious question in relation to the perplexed today is, Why do they not consult Christians or their Scriptures? The unreasonableness of the position is obvious. What would be thought of a man, troubled with scientific, political, or historical questions, who never consulted the proper authorities!

III. CURIOSITY. Agrippa probably laughed in his sleeve at both the animosity of the Jews and the perplexity of Festus. Yet, "desiring to hear Paul for himself," he displayed a somewhat more reasonable temper. This is all that Christianity asks, and the Christian thinks himself happy when he has the chance of answering for himself before an "expert" (chap. Acts 26:2, 3), whatever may be the result. The result, however, is often only that reached by experts in science, etc. The Christian has to be accounted for, and when an hypothesis is framed which satisfies curiosity he is labelled, like a geological specimen, and forgotten. So he is studied by the historian, the politician, the comparative religionist, etc. That he or his principles have any interest beyond this is not admitted for a moment.

IV. INDIFFERENCE AND CONTEMPT. What Berenice thought is not stated, for obvious reasons. She neither hated, nor was perplexed, nor curious about Paul. The trial was a new sensation, and that over perhaps both the occasion and the apostle were dismissed from her thoughts. What cared she for theological questions or for the fate of an enthusiast. And so there are many for whom a religious ceremony may have a passing interest, but who neither know nor care about the questions involved. The sordid man of business, or a voluptuous pleasure seeker, may attend a religious pageant in aid of a religious charity, but what care they for the object promoted.Conclusion:

1. Contact with Christianity becomes a test of character.

2. Contact with it even for once may decide a destiny. The Jews, Festus, Agrippa, Berenice — what occurred to them afterwards? What are they now?

(J. W. Burn.).

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself.
Here is all that Christianity ever asked for: an opportunity to speak for itself; and its answer is the one which must always be returned: "I beseech thee to hear me patiently." Christianity always appears in person, its witnesses are always at hand, the court is never disappointed, the judge has never to wait. But Christianity must be heard patiently. Only the candid hearer can listen well. If we have put into our ears prejudices and foregone conclusions, the music of Christianity cannot make its way. We should allow the Word free course through the mind, and, when it has completed its deliverance, then we may make reply, and then should be willing to return the courtesy and to hear what reply can be made. Here is the only answer which is universally available. As Christian Churches and preachers, we ought to take our stand just here, and when Paul is done, we should say, one and all, "That is our answer." Here is —

I. PERSONAL TESTIMONY. Paul talks about nobody else but himself. If we have nothing to say out of our own consciousness we cannot preach. But we are afraid to speak about ourselves; and, in truth, I am not surprised at the fear. We allege, however, that our experience is something between ourselves and God. Paul never thought so; he was not so humble as we are; we rebuke him, we shame him.

II. PERSONAL CONVERSION. Are you ashamed of that old word? Men used to be converted; now they change their opinion and their standpoint and their attitude. Mountebanks! See where he began — "which knew me from the beginning." That was the starting point; what was the end? "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." That is what we mean by conversion. Paul was not a profligate to be touched by emotions. His was not a vacant mind, ready for any new impression. He was not a fanatic, fond of exciting adventures. Here is a conversion based upon a distinct history. Ours is not so romantic, but is quite as real. The incidents were individual and local, but all the significance is universal. Christianity meets men on wrong courses. Saul was on his way to Damascus, intent upon doing a wrong thing. Are we not also on the wrong road with a wrong purpose, armed by the power of a wrong authority? Christianity fights with the weapon of light: "I saw in the way a light item heaven." I have seen that light; this is my own experience. I see it now! I see the hideous iniquity, the shameful ingratitude, the infinite love, the sacrificial blood. That is conversion. Christianity is the religion of mental illumination and liberation.

III. A NEW MISSION. "Rise, and stand upon thy feet," etc. Christianity does not perform in the mind the miracle of eviction without furnishing the mind with thoughts, convictions, and sublimities of its own. The reason why so many people have turned away from Christ is, that, though they have seen the light, they have not discharged the ministry. We must keep up visions by services; we must maintain theology by beneficence. Instead of sitting down and analysing feelings and impressions, in order to find out whether we are really Christians or not, we should go out and call the blind and the halt and the friendless to a daily feast, and in that act we should see how truly we are accepted of God. If Paul had retired as a gentleman of leisure he might have forgotten the vision, or have contracted it into an anecdote; but he made it the starting point of a new life; and in war, suffering, and agony, he got the confirmation of his best impressions. A working Church is a faithful Church; an honest, earnest, self-sacrificing Church is always orthodox.

IV. DIVINE INSPIRATION. "Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue" Conversion is followed by confirmation. Paul did not eat bread once for all: he sat daily at the table of the Lord; he obtained help of God. He needed it all; every night he needed the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost to sustain him after the wearing fray. Ministers, that is how we must live; we must obtain help from heaven; then we shall be able to say, "Though the outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. THIS INTERVIEW TOOK PLACE UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES OF UNUSUAL MAGNIFICENCE (Acts 25:23). All the majesty and splendour of the Roman provincial government were collected on the occasion. On the other hand, the apostle was a prisoner, and certainly the very last man with whom any then present would have wished to change places. But now who is there that would not rather have been Paul, than either Agrippa, or Festus, or any of their train?

II. WHEN THE APOSTLE HAS LEAVE GIVEN HIM TO SPEAK, purely in self-defence, HE CONDUCTS THAT DEFENCE SO AS TO EXPOUND "THE TRUTH AS IT IS IN JESUS." This was the case with all the primitive disciples. They taught in synagogues and in the markets, if men would let them; but, if they dragged them before magistrates, they turned the courts of law into preaching places, and instead of pleading for themselves, pleaded for their Master.

III. THE ENERGY AND ZEAL THAT DISTINGUISHED HIS ADDRESS. This was so eminent that the governor broke in upon him with a rude and unceremonious interruption (ver. 24).

IV. THE DIGNITY, WISDOM, AND ENERGY OF PAUL'S REPLY, which of itself is not only a complete refutation of the charge of madness, but a full vindication of religion in that respect, both as to its doctrine and its spirit. It is not easy for a man who is noisily interrupted to retain his self-possession, much less to take advantage of it, so as to increase the power and impressiveness of their discourse.

V. HIS APPEAL TO AGRIPPA (vers. 26, 27). Every competent judge of eloquence will admit that this is one of the finest apostrophes that ever proceeded from the lips of man. It takes advantage of the common opinion of the Roman people, that the best defence that an accused person could make was to appeal to the knowledge and conscience of his judge. How much more of this sort the apostle might have uttered, it is impossible to say; but Agrippa had already heard more than enough. He interrupted the apostle, and then left him abruptly. Little as Agrippa thought it, that day was for him one of those critical seasons which occur to some men but once, to others often, on which hinges the dreadful alternative, whether a man shall be saved or lost.

VI. THREE DEGREES OF CONDITION IN RELATION TO CHRISTIANITY. Here is —

1. The Christian altogether.

2. The man who is a Christian almost.

3. The man who is a Christian not at all.

(D. Katterns.)

Here we have —

I. THE SECRET OF PAUL'S SUCCESS. "I think myself happy." You do not hear any man until he is happy. Speaking under constraint, he cannot do justice to himself, nor to any great theme. Paul is happy: we shall therefore get his power at its very best. Conditions have much to do with speech and with hearing. Paul seems to have liked a Roman hearing. There was something in the grandeur of the circumstances that touched him and brought him up to his very best (Acts 24:10). Hearers make speakers: the pew makes the pulpit.

II. HIS METHOD OF USING OPPORTUNITIES FOR SPEAKING. Paul is permitted to speak for himself; what does he do? He unfolds the gospel. "But he was not asked to preach." But Paul cannot open his mouth without preaching; we expected that he would have defended himself according to Roman law. Paul makes no reference to Roman law. Paul always took the broad and vast view of things, and looking upon all life from the highest elevation, he saw it in its right proportion and colour and measure. Consider the opportunity and then consider the use made of it. Paul is all the while speaking about himself, and yet all the while he is preaching such a sermon as even he never preached before; he is rebuilding all the Christian argument and re-uttering in new tones and with new stretches of allusion and meaning the whole gospel of salvation. This should be a lesson to all men. We may speak about ourselves and yet hide ourselves in the glory of Another.

III. HIS PECULIAR, BUT EVER-AVAILABLE WAY OF ILLUSTRATING RELIGIOUS MYSTERIES. By relating personal miracles. Observe what a wonderful connection there is between the vers. 8 and 9. Suddenly Paul breaks out with the inquiry, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" Then as suddenly be reverts to his own case: "I verily thought with myself" Observe the word "thought" in both verses. Paraphrased, the case might stand thus: "I know it is a marvellous thing that God should raise the dead, but I was dead in trespasses and in sins, and God raised me; if, therefore, he has raised me, I can see how the same God could work the same miracle on another ground and under other circumstances." God asks us to look within, that we may find the key to His kingdom. There is not a miracle in all the Bible that has not been wrought, in some form of counterpart or type, in our own life. You can steal my Christianity if it is only a theory; you cannot break through nor steal if it is hidden in my heart as a personal and actual experience.

IV. HIS METHOD OF TESTING HEAVENLY VISIONS (ver. 19). By obeying them. Paul sets forth a very wonderful doctrine, namely, that he was not driven against his will to certain conclusions. Even here he asserts the freedom of the will — the attribute that makes a man. "I was not disobedient." I am content to have all theology tested by this one process. You say you believe in God; what use have you made of Him? Take the Sermon upon the Mount: the way to test it is to obey it. Prove prayer by praying; prove the inspiration of the Scriptures by being inspired by their speech.

V. HIS WAY OF PROVING HIS SANITY: by being what the world calls mad. Festus did not know the meaning of the word inspiration — a word as much higher than information as the heaven is high above the earth. Festus, therefore, thought Paul was mad. So he was from the point of view occupied by Festus. Christianity is madness if materialism is true. It is one of two things with us: we are either right, or we are — not merely wrong — mad.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

He asserts —

I. THAT THE THING FOR WHICH THEY ACCUSED HIM WAS THE GREAT RELIEF OF THE JEWISH NATION (vers. 6-8).

1. The Messiah in whom he believed was the grand "hope" of the Jewish people. It was a hope —(1) Founded on a Divine promise. The Old Testament was full of this promise (Genesis 3:15; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 18:15; 2 Samuel 7:12; Psalm 133:11; Isaiah 4:11; 7:14; 9:6, 7; Jeremiah 23:15; Jeremiah 33:14-16; Ezekiel 34:23; Daniel 9:24; Micah 7:14; Zechariah 13:1-7; Malachi 3:1).(2) Mightily influential.

(a)In its extent: "Our twelve tribes" — the whole Jewish people.

(b)In its intensity: "Instantly serving God day and night." Even to this day the hope of the Messiah burns in the heart of the Jewish people. The disappointments of ages have not quenched it.

2. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrated that He was this Messiah (ver. 8). They would not accept the fact of Christ's resurrection, though they could not deny it. The language implies that it was to the last degree absurd for them to consider the thing "incredible."

II. THAT THE CAUSE HE NOW ESPOUSED HE ONCE HATED AS MUCH AS THEY DID. He understood their prejudices, for they were once his own (vers. 9-11).

1. As a well-known Pharisee, he conscientiously set himself in opposition to Jesus of Nazareth. Conscientiousness is not virtue.

2. He manifested his opposition by the most violent persecution of Christ's disciples.

III. THAT THE CHANGE EFFECTED IN HIM, AND THE COMMISSION HE RECEIVED, WERE MANIFESTLY DIVINE.

1. The change (vers. 12-15).

2. The commission (vers. 16-18).

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

discloses —

I. INTERESTING FEATURES IN PAUL'S CHARACTER.

1. His marked courtesy (vers. 2, 3). True courtesy is —(1) A combination of some of the best elements of human nature.

(a)A just recognition of the respect due to others.

(b)A proof that our reliance is upon the merit of our cause, and not upon brute force.(2) An essential demand of Christianity upon all its disciples. Because —

(a)The grand law of Christianity is this: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

(b)Because Christianity demands of its disciples conformity to the example of the Lord.

(c)Because discourtesy is a violation of every instinct of a holy and meekly life.

2. Paul's candour (vers. 4-6). Candour —(1) Is

(a)frankness,

(b)clearness,

(c)conscientiousness,

(d)honesty.(2) Implies in respect to one's life.

(a)Openness to inspection.

(b)Readiness to confess and abandon any evil.

(c)Desire to deal fairly with all.(3) Is essential to a true Christian life.

(a)Because that to have a conscience void of offence before God and man is essential.

(b)Because concealment of facts, when necessary to be known, is inconsistent with the profession of a disciple of Christ.

3. Paul's courage (ver. 6).(1) Courage is based on the conviction that we are right.(2) Courage is an essential power to prosecute a godly life.(3) True Christian courage is the product of the Holy Spirit — "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you."

II. INSTRUCTIVE FACTS OF PAUL'S LIFE (vers 8-19).

1. The fact that the apostle had once been a bold and cruel opposer of Christ and of Christianity (vers. 9-11).(1) His opposition was terribly cruel.

(a)"Many of the saints did I shut up in prison."

(b)"When they were put to death I gave my voice against them."

(c)"I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme."(2) His antagonism assumed the form of a real frenzy of hate.

(a)"And being exceedingly mad against them.

(b)I persecuted them even unto strange cities."

(c)This confession of hate on the part of such a man as Paul afterward became, is almost incredible; but shows the terrible power that sin in any form has over anyone who yields to its regnant sway.

2. The great fact which led to the conversion of the great apostle (vers. 12-19).(1) He saw a supernal light (ver. 13).(a) The well-known shekinah brightness of paradise, the Red Sea deliverance, the tabernacle mercy seat, and the Transfiguration of Jesus, is here suggested.(2) He heard a supernatural voice (ver. 14). As the dazzling splendour of the light blinded his natural vision, so the commanding voice from heaven silenced the voices of prejudice and passion which he had so fanatically obeyed.(3) To him appeared the Lord Jesus, which completely subdued his proud spirit, awakened his conscience to his daring sin, and wrought in him the most genuine penitence.

3. The practical disposition of the true convert (ver. 20).(1) Prompt and implicit obedience to Christ's commands.(2) Entire consecration to Christ, in a life of practical usefulness in promoting the truth of Christianity at whatever cost.Conclusion:

1. The conversion of Saul is a demonstration of the Divine powers of Christianity, and of the resurrection of Christ.

2. The resurrection of Christ demonstrates the grand realities which constitute the basilar facts of Christianity:

(1)The atonement of Christ.

(2)The ascension of Christ.

(3)The intercession of Christ.

(4)The ultimate triumph of Christ over every foe.

(5)The prophecy of the full-orbed glory that awaits this world of which all inspired men have foretold. Let us say, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly."

(D. C. Hughes.)

Note —

I. WHAT AGRIPPA KNEW (ver. 3) — the questions concerning which Paul was accused. The first requisite in a judge is knowledge, without this sincerity, impartiality, etc., are wasted. It is not too much to demand, therefore, that those who sit in judgment on Christianity should first of all be sure of their facts. But how often is this requisite ignored.

II. WHAT THE JEWS KNEW. Paul's consistency (ver. 4, 5). It was a bold thing to draw upon the knowledge of his adversaries. But Paul was confident that from all they knew of him they could prefer no true charge against him. Our manner of life has been known for long by many — neighbours, friends, relatives. How many of us could make this bold appeal?

III. WHAT PAUL KNEW.

1. That he had met with Jesus.

2. That he was turned from darkness to light, from Pharisaism to Christianity.

3. That he received a worldwide mission.

4. That he was obedient to the heavenly call: These were not fancies, dreams, but facts of consciousness. The Christian argument is based upon experience. Other evidences stand in the second rank.

IV. WHAT FESTUS THOUGHT HE KNEW — that Paul was mad. Which was simply a confession of ignorance. He could have satisfied himself about what Paul stated, but did not care to trouble himself about "such manner of questions," consequently their strangeness to him suggested insanity on the part of the man who knew them true. A common trick today.

V. WHAT AGRIPPA MIGHT HAVE KNOWN — what it was to be a Christian; but like many others refused to embrace the opportunity.

VI. WHAT ALL WERE OBLIGED TO KNOW (ver. 31). What a testimony after these repeated investigations.

(J. W. Burn.)

I. THE PULPIT. Paul had stood in the Areopagus, in the Temple, in synagogues, but never in circumstances apparently more unfavourable than those here. A prisoner, his arm chained to that of a Roman soldier, he yet makes that prisoner's bar a pulpit from which with unrivalled energy he proclaims Christ as the Saviour of men. Nay, the very clanking of the chain becomes eloquent as he said, "Except these bonds." So around us everywhere are God's imprisoned preachers — men and women upon the arm of whose efficiency are the chains of poverty, physical weakness, etc., and yet who preach from the couch of the invalid, the bare garret and the lonely hovel, sermons which carry with them the eloquence of lives that are "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing," etc. Their example teaches us that there are no circumstances so unpropitious that a loving consecration may not find in them opportunity for witness bearing for Christ.

II. THE AUDIENCE. A vast concourse of Jews, Romans, and barbarians, patricians and plebeians, citizens and soldiers. But in a more special sense it consisted of but a single soul. Paul's words are addressed particularly to Agrippa, one of Paul's "own kindred after the flesh," whose conversion would set in motion influences for good the measure of which it would be impossible to foretell. There is many a patient, prayerful teacher who, as he looks Sabbath after Sabbath into the face of the one or two boys who come regularly to his class, grows disheartened at the smallness of the audience; but let him remember Paul's interest in Agrippa, and bear in mind the fact that one of those boys may be some chosen instrument through whom he will bring thousands into the kingdom. A single lever sets in motion whole acres of machinery, and so a single soul, inspired through your agency, may become a factor in the world's conversion.

III. THE SERMON.

1. Its method.

(1)Directness.

(2)Gentleness.

(3)Fervour.

(4)Masterly skill. By a system of gradual approaches the citadel of Agrippa's heart is besieged.

2. Its matter.

(1)The whole sermon centres in Christ.

(2)Prominence is given to Christ's death and resurrection.

(3)These great verities are presented, not simply as historical facts, but as inwoven with his own religious experience.

(4)Paul's estimate of its power: "To open their eyes, and to turn," etc. Here we have an admirable summary of the whole practical work of redemption.

IV. ITS RESULTS. The visible results were not of a character to afford much encouragement. Agrippa was the only one who gave any evidence of conviction, and his convictions only led him to say, "Almost thou persuadest me." Yet who can tell what harvest may have afterward come from the seed sown that day apparently in most unfriendly soil? Let the faithful worker for Christ take courage.

(T. D. Witherspoon, D. D.)

I. A WARNING SIGNAL FOR ALL THE GREAT OF THE EARTH: Attend to the things which belong to your peace (ver. 3).

II. A WAY MARK FOR ALL THE ERRING: Jesus receiveth sinners (ver. 9-18).

III. A BANNER FOR ALL THE PREACHERS OF THE GOSPEL: Endure hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ (vers. 21:27).

IV. A ROPE OF HOPE FOR ALL THE LOST: Be ye reconciled unto God (ver. 29).

(K. Gerok.)

After the most straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee.
The text is part of that narrative which relates to St. Paul's past conversation, wherein he described himself from the religious condition he then was in, and that, first, more generally, then more particularly. Generally: He was after the most strict way of religion. The original for religion, Plutarch tells us, cometh from the Thracians, eminently taken notice of for their devotion: and it is used sometimes in a good sense, sometimes in a bad sense, as it degenerateth into superstition. The original for sect is heresy, and so the several sects among philosophers were called heresies. It is the opinion of some that this word is always taken in an ill sense in the Scripture; but this place, with two or three more in the Acts, seems to imply the use of it in a middle or indifferent sense, any particular way that a man shall choose different from the road, although in the Epistles it is used in an ill sense. Therefore calls it Sects Christianorum, the sect of the Christians. Now, this way Paul walked in is aggravated in the superlative sense; and so Josephus speaks of the Pharisees as those that were most accurate in the observance of instituted and traditional obedience: more particularly his way is described by its denomination, a Pharisee. Now, the Pharisees were called either, as some say, from a word to open and explain, because they expounded the Scripture, or from a word to separate and segregate. Therefore, to be a Pharisee was to be a scrupulous, anxious man, who did subtly examine all things. Hence they were so strict that they would not sleep upon any easy thing, lest they should have any vain or indecent thoughts so much as in their very dreams; and because of this strictness it was that they were so admired among the people. From the text we may observe that an extraordinary strict way taken up in religion is thought a sure and a good foundation by many for their eternal happiness. To discover this false sign several things are considerable, as —

1. The way to heaven is a strict and exact way, and all our duties are to be done with a curious circumspection. Our prayers are to be exact prayers, our obedience exact obedience. The Scripture makes it an exact course, and therefore my dissolute, careless, negligent walking can no more claim a title to heaven than darkness to light. Attend to this, you whose lives are as most of the world are, proud as they, profane as they, contemning of religion as they.

2. Now, that godliness must be strictness appeareth partly from the nature of grace, which is contrary to our affections, and so doth with prevailing power subdue them to the grief of the unregenerate part. Hence the Scripture calls it mortifying and crucifying the old man, which implieth the pain and agony our corrupt part is exercised with by grace.

3. Again, godliness must needs be exact —(1) Because our duties are so bounded and circumstantiated in their principles, manner, and ends, that to do any good action is always to hit the mark, as to sin is to miss the scope and white. There is so much required in the cause, in the manner, in the motive, that we may cry out for every particular duty, which Paul did for one main one, "Who is sufficient for these things?" so that negligence, formality, and lukewarmness can no more consist with godliness that is of a strict and exact nature than hell with heaven.(2) Therefore, in the second place, it argueth a tongue and a heart set on fire from hell to reproach and cry out against strictness in the way to heaven. Oh consider either God's Word is wrong or thou art out of the way: thou art not yet such an atheist to assert the former, be therefore so far ingenious to acknowledge the latter.(3) From hence it followeth that the number of those who are truly godly are very few. They are but a little flock; and they are but few, not only comparatively to the whole world, but in respect of titular and nominal Christians, who have the name and own the profession of Christ, but deny the power thereof.

4. As the way to heaven is a most strict and accurate way, so the Word of God doth only declare and reveal what that exactness is. So that as in matters to be believed there is no doctrine can be urged as necessary which is not contained in that writing, so in matters to be practised there is no degree or high strain of holiness that is a duty which is not also commanded in God's Word: those two commands, one negatively, "Thou shalt not lust," the other affirmatively, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and soul, and strength," do command for matter and manner all that possibly can be done by man, and therefore can never be fulfilled in this life, because of those innate and adherent corruptions in us.

5. Hence all strictness introduced that is not according to Scripture, how specious and glorious soever it may seem to be, yet it affords no true solid comfort to those that are employed therein.(1) When the Scriptures or Word of God is accounted too low a thing to guide us, and therefore they expect a higher and more extraordinary teaching by the Spirit of God, and that for other matter than is contained therein.(2) A second extraordinary strict way in which men support themselves is the undergoing voluntary penalties or bodily chastisements for sins past, or setting upon external austere discipline to prevent sin to come. The apostle describeth such (Colossians 2:21-23).(3) An extraordinary strictness which maketh men confident is a voluntary abdication and actual dispossessing ourselves of all outward comforts, and applying ourselves only to religious exercises. How did this mistake seduce thousands of devout souls who were zealous for God, but wanted knowledge? Hence came those monasteries, renouncing of riches, wealth, and whatsoever comfort was in this life; as if those places, "Unless a man forsake all and deny himself, taking up the cross and follow Me," etc., did command an actual abdication of all, and not rather an habitual preparation of heart to leave them all when God shall call for them.(4) Men may judge their spiritual conditions the better because of an extraordinary strictness in Church discipline and Church dispensations when yet there is no ground at all for it. That there may be overmuch rigour in discipline appeareth plainly in 2 Corinthians 2:7, where the apostle blameth them, "That they did not receive into favour that incestuous person who had truly repented." And the apostle doth in part suppose it is part of Satan's subtle devices, when he cannot destroy a Church by profaneness and dissoluteness, to overthrow it by too much severity.Use 1. Is there indeed a true Scripture strictness, without which heaven cannot be obtained? Then see what a gulf there is between heaven and you who live in all looseness, negligence, and careless contempt of what is good. The fire of God's wrath will be heated seven times hotter for such opposers as thou art.Use 2. Of admonition to examine and judge wisely of all strictness commanded to thee, for the devil may seduce thee in thy zeal, as well as in thy profaneness; and do not persuade thyself of grace, because of a more strict opinion or Church practice thou conceivest thyself to be in, for this is not the Scripture strictness in which the essence of godliness consists, for that lieth in the inward circumcision of the heart, in the powerful mortification of the affections, in walking humbly, in living by faith and heavenly-mindedness.

(A. Burgess.)

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