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the more affecting it must be: the more consistently delivered by an honest man, who is himself under its power and influence, it will be the more penetrating
Drusilla, being a Jewess, might possibly shroud herself under her Jewish privileges; and might take up the sentiment of those who cried, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are we! - In the course of my ministry, I have found none so impenetrable to truth, as those who shroud themselves under the privileges of their Church a set of formalists, that say, “ Do not we belong to the True Church?"-But what is the state of your hearts? Have you the fear of God in your hearts, or are you resting on your outward privileges ?
Felix, indeed, could not thus shelter himself from conviction. It is no wonder, therefore, when he heard the truth so plainly, that he trembled, though he did not turn to God; for, like Agrippa, -he knew something more than Drusilla. Greatness cannot support us against truth. Belshazzar -may revel in the midst of his lords and concubines ; yet if God write upon the wall, his loins will tremble, his greatness will not save him. Plain truth was here proposed to Felix: a faithful preacher set it forth : irresistible conviction took place: an arrow entered his conscience: Felix trembled, and said, Go thy way for this time: when I have a convenient season, I will send for thee. : Brethren! learn to make truth your friend; for greatness will not support you against it. If Felix trembled before Paul, who stood in chains as his prisoner; what will Felix feel, when he comes to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ? Who would not then wish to be the prisoner Paul, instead of the governor Felix? It was a just sentiment of Colonel Gardiner when he said, “I fear God, and have none else to fear.”
3. Let us consider also, from this passage, THE
DECEITFULNESS OF SIN.'
What miserable evasions are here, when the truth is so plainly set before him! Nay, worse than evasions: for he hoped 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 because the Apostle would not use money for this purpose, if he had had it, Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound. Such, you see, is the deceitfulness of sin, that many will trifle with God and with their convictions: they will regard their self-interest and the good-will of men, as Felix did, more than the truth and the fear of God.
You may behold in these two men, a kind of abstract of the whole world.
Here is a great man,-a governor; who seems to say, , “ How shall I manage things at this time? How shall I extract a little money from this prisoner?” Mean and contemptible spirit!
And here stands a man in chains before him ; who seems to see nothing but the things of eternity, and the way of salvation by Jesús Christ, for whom he has suffered the loss of all things, and determines to suffer the loss of even life itself, that he may win the prize of his high calling!
These are not new characters. - In the thirtythird chapter of Ezekiel, God says to his prophet, Lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song, of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument : for they hear thy words, but they do them not-their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, for St. Paul, he was only one of the same stamp, and stock, and cast that Moses had long before exhibited: he counted the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt.
You see, then, whence it is, that the Gospel comes to be so slighted : it is this deceitfulness of sin: it is this love of present things : it is this apostasy from God. The God of this world, says the Apostle, has blinded the eyes of them that believe not: the love of the world has overwhelmed them: the fear of man keeps them prisoners: and Satan forwards the delusion: You cannot deny the truth,” as if he had said: “ You cannot suspect the truth of what Paul says; but you can put off the matter : you can hear him at a more convenient season: you can go on enjoying yourself; and, when your conscience is more hardened, you can hear him again.”
Ye, who talk of a more convenient season ye, who think of putting off religion to a deathbed- this is one of the grand devices of Satan to keep you as he would wish you to be. The strong man armed keepeth his goods in peace, while he can; but it is my duty to come, in the name of the stronger than he, and shew you the necessity of this armour being spoiled, before you can enter into the happiness prepared for the children of God.
4. I shall only add; that we are here taught THE NATURE AND NECESSITY OF DIVINE GRACE.
Even St. Paul may preach, and his character cannot be suspected: the truth' he preaches cannot be denied: he reasons plainly and convincingly: Felix can only reply, with trembling, “I will hear thee again :”-now the necessity of divine grace appears from this, that, till the man is under its influence, he will continue to say, When I have a convenient season, I will send for thee. Without the grace of God, and the work of the Holy Ghost, the utmost that a preacher can hope to do, is, to rouse the sinner, as Paul did Felix---to make him tremble to think of what is before him, as Felix trembled; and a time may, perhaps, come, when he will say, as Agrippa did, “ Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Abraham did not reply to the rich man, that, if one arose from the dead, his brethren would not tremble: but he said they would not believe, or be persuaded: they would not be persuaded to tread in the narrow path, and lay hold on eternal life.
You see, then, the nature and necessity of divine grace. Without this, man’s religion would. be merely external : it would be but the form of godliness, without the power. You see its efficacy, also: for this man,--a man of consequence and looked up to,-was so determined on the wrong side, that he persecuted to death every Christian on whom he could lay his hånds: but, when divine grace opens his heart, he stands in chains, and, at the peril of his own life, preaches the Gospel to Drusilla the adulteress, and Felix the adulterer; and, having fought manfully, surrendered himself to all consequences, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: As if St. Paul had said, “ I expected this issue. If God does not impress this truth on the heart of the adulterer, he will hate me the more: he will probably put me to death: but I must speak the truth, and then I can say, I have fought a good fight: I have finished my course: I have kept the faith; and, whatever Felix may do, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness; which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but unto al them also that love his appearing.”