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ACTS xxiv. 24, 25.
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.
WE may lay it down as a maxim, that, soon
or late, pride and power will sink before truth and righteousness.
1. STATE THE CASE of the text.
2. Draw some general INFERENCES from the subject.
I. Let us attend to the CIRCUMSTANCES here recorded.
St. Paul had been sent from the Jews to the Roman Government. He stands before Felix.
Who was this Felix? he had certainly freed the country from some abuses; but historians agree that he was a wicked, cruel, and covetous
man: he was oppressive and unjust, with respect to the Jews: he had procured the murder of Jonathan, the High Priest; and he lived in adultery with this Drusilla. Drusilla was the daughter of Herod Agrippa: she had been brought up in the Jewish religion: she was a celebrated beauty; and Felix had persuaded her to forsake her husband Azizus, and to marry himself who was a
Now the text informs us, that, 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: that is, he heard Paul state his views of Christianity; and he heard him make an application of the discourse.
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He heard him reason of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come: he argued from the facts which he had stated in a rational way, and he made a powerful address to the consciences of his hearers.
He reasoned with them on righteousness and justice. He shewed that there was a standard, which God himself had set up, quite contrary 'to the corrupt maxims of the world: he shewed the sanctions of these truths, in opposition to those who say, Tush! thou God will not regard it. And he shewed also the righteousness that God had set forth in the cross of Jesus Christ; for he reasoned with them concerning the faith in Christ: as if he had said, “Justice is here set forth in the
strictest and most effectual manner: righteousness and peace kiss each other." ·
And he reasoned not only concerning righteousness and justice, but concerning temperance or chastity. He shewed, before an adulterer, how -wretched a mistake a fallen spirit makes, that, while he is hastening to eternity, he commits him-self to the pleasures of a brute. He shewed them how incapable such a man must be, as to anything like friendship with God; for whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
He reasoned also concerning judgment to come. No doubt he shewed them, that a judgment to come is to be expected from the unequal distribution of things in this world: and argued on the certainty of it, from the declarations of Scripture: Enoch, who prophesied the seventh from Adam, said, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand lof his saints: Daniel had pointed out the terrors of the Great Day: Christ had described the process of the Last Judgment. He shewed, doubtless, that nothing was more plain than these truths, and yet nothing more important.
But, as he reasoned on these subjects, Felix trembled: for Felix was not ignorant of these things he felt how justly the Apostle spakehow reasonably, and simply-how sincerely, and faithfully. If a man will hear and take the word of God for his standard, he must fear and tremble when he hears what God says of man dying an unpardoned and impenitent sinner.
But what is the conduct of Felix? Go thy way for this time, says he: when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.-Go thy way.
The truth, when believed and felt, will always make a man dislike either himself or the minister who sets it forth. Ahab could not bear the preacher of truth: There is one prophet more, says he: but I hate him; for he does not speak good concerning me, but evil: because there was nothing good to be said of him; but Ahab hated the preacher.
Go thy way for this time: "Let me put off the evil day a little longer: I would fain shake off my conviction."-Is not this the old trade of sinners? Is it not evident how much men wish to put away these considerations? They cannot deny the truth; and yet-Go thy way for this time: when I have a more convenient season, I will send for thee.
Here is an old device of Satan:-" You will not die just yet: have a little longer pleasure: go on in thy ways of vice: think of it at some future season." It is even said of St. Austin, that part of his prayer used to be, " O Lord, make me a good man, but not yet!" Go thy way for this time: when I have a more convenient season I will send for thee.
II. The subject, thus opened, brings before us some general CONSIDERATIONS.
1. You see, my Dear Hearers, from this
of Scripture History, what is THE DUTY OF A
St. Paul had given an account of Christianity; but he neither considers the greatness of the persons before him, nor does he bend to their taste and notions, nor does he consider his own safety. He preaches justice, to an oppressor: he preaches chastity, to an adulteress: he preaches judgment to come, to a judge on the judgment-seat, while he himself is the prisoner. Truth will pay no undue respect to persons. We may bow to truth; but truth will not bow to us. Truth will aim at the conscience; and St. Paul, the Minister of Truth, will prefer the salvation of a single soul to his own safety; and he will labour, even when there is little prospect of success.
But, let me ask: Must a Minister be less faithful now? Are men now less dead in trespasses and sins? Are they less deceived by Satan? Have they a more just view of the state in which they stand? Are their souls less valuable? -Recol lect, if the truth at any time appear but little grateful to your feelings, let whatever be the consequence, whether you will hear or whether you will forbear, I am bound to declare it.
You see, therefore, from this history, the Duty of a Minister.
2. Let us consider THE FORCE OF TRUTH.
The more plainly truth is set forth, the more keenly will it be felt: the more important it is,