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whereof they are informed concerning thee are nothing, and that thou walkest orderly, even according to their own Law."
In compliance with this advice, the Apostle set a glorious Example. For, although he knew that our Saviour- had abolished the Hand-writing of Jewish Ordinances, and that all Christians were dead to the Law by the Body of Christ—yet, as the Jewish Temple was still standing, in which these Rites had been so long practised, he followed our Saviour's Example and gave way to them, as things of no essential obligation, in order that he might avoid giving Scandal to the weak Brethren among the Jews, and preserve Unity in the Church—A most severe Rebuke, my Brethren, against those Zealots of Modern Times, who are always striving to break the unity of a pure reformed Church, for the sake of some decent Rites and Ceremonies, far more indifferent in their
nature than those Ablutions and Purifications which St. Paul thought proper to comply with.
But this would not satisfy the fierce Zealots of that day. For, before the seven days of Purification were fully ended, the cry of Religion was up. The Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the Temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, crying out,—" Men of Israel, help! this is ihe Man that teacheth all men every where, against the People and the Law, and this holy Temple, and moreover hath brought unbelieving Greeks to tread, ivith unhallowed feet, the steps of its sacred Porches." Thus all the city was moved, or put in an Uproar, and the people ran together, and dragged him out of the Temple and led him from Court to Court, and beat him, and went about to kill him, if the chief captain of the City-Bands had not rescued him from their Rage, and given him an opportunity of pleading his privilege of a free Trial, as a Roman Citizen.
This brought him before Felix the Roman Governor, where we next find him pleading his own Cause, and Reasoning, with undaunted spirit, concerning " Righteousness, Temperance and a Judg* merit to come."—
And, Oh! that I could take up his divine arguments, and place them before you in all their sacred energy, who, I am persuaded, would not be prejudiced Judges, but patient and candid Hearers! Let me attempt the arduous Task!
Suppose, then, the mighty Felix seated on his Tribunal, in all the Pomp and Pride of Office; and his wife Drusilla, prompted by the novelty of the occasion, placed by his side!
Turn we, then, to the humble Prisoner, the ardent Apostle, with his Hand stretched out, his Soul animated with all the divine prospects of the Gospel, and his Countenance brightening into a stedfast affiance of conscious Innocence; and thus, let us suppose his Defence to run :—
"Most noble Felix! I count myself happy that I am permitted to make my Defence at your Bar; I will not repeat to you the Stripes, nor the Sufferings I have met with before, (pleading my privilege as a Roman Citizen, intitled to a free trial) I appeared at your Judgment Seat. You will suffer me then only to state my case, and acquaint you with the answers which I have given to the accusations of the Jews.
"It is but a few days since I came up to Jerusalem; and they neither found me disputing in the Temple, nor raising up the People, nor in the Synagogues nor in the City; nor can they prove the things whereof they accuse me; but this I confess, that after the way which they call Heresy I worship the God of my Fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and the Prophets; I have hope towards God, (which they themselves allow) that there shall be a Resurrection of the Dead. And in this blessed hope I exercise myself daily, to keep a conscience void of offence towards God and towards Men. Nor have I offended in matters of their Law, but have complied in things indifferent, rather than scandalize weak Brethren.
"Be it known unto thee, O Felix! that I was once a most rigid zealot for that Law. I was brought up in the strictest sect of the Pharisees, and was verily persuaded that I ought to do many Things contrary to theName of Jesus; and many things, with unhallowed Zeal I did against his blessed Name; shutting up his Saints in Prison, giving my Voice for their Death; punishing them in every City; compelling them to Blaspheme, and being exceedingly mad against them, I even persecuted them to strange Cities.
"But while 1 was in the wild Career of these bloody Purposes, in my way to Damascus, at mid day, O Felix!—a Divine Light from Heaven, eclipsing the Brightness of the Sun, struck me blind to the ground. And that glorified Jesus, whom I had persecuted in his Saints, to whose Death I had been consenting, was pleased, of his astonishing Goodness, to make himself known to me; to convince me of his Resurrection, and to call me to be a Witness thereof among the Nations; to furnish me with ineffable Powers and Succours; and to set before me the Truth of his Holy Religion, in all its Spirituality and Saving Efficacy.
"From that moment, O Felix! far other notions of Holiness and Religion than I had been taught before, filled my Breast. Those things that appeared gain to me formerly, I now accounted but Loss and Dung, so that I might win Christ. I was now persuaded that all those Rites and outward Ceremonies, all those Ablutions, Purifications and Sacrifices, for which I had expended my Zeal, were unsubstantial and vain under that better Covenant which he had made; and that, in Christ Jesus, neither Circumcision nor Uncircumcision availeth any thing, but a New Creature;—a Heart wholly devoted to him, and a Life of Righteousness and Temperance agreeably to the sublime Doctrines of his Gospel.
"Thus I preached, and thus I laboured, that I might put off the filthy rags of my own outward legal Righteousness, -and be found in him, in that better way which he hath appointed. And now, my whole hope is in him; and good foundation for hope surely. For since he hath shewn with Power, that he hath overcome Death, and risen from the Grave, he hath given us the assurance of rising also, and the prospect of eternal Communion with Him. But the terms of this Communion are, that we may become like to Him; Holy as he was Holy, Temperate as he was Temperate, Pure as he was Pure; Righteous, Merciful, Long-Sufiering, Compassionate, full of Brotherly Love and Kindness even as be hath set an example.
"God forbid, then, that I should forego this hope of Glory; that I should return to a vain dependence on carnal Ordinances and outward Shadows; when God, by this Divine Saviour, whose Resurrection I am called to witness, hath given assurance to all men that he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in Righteousness—a Day, most noble Felix! in which that poor despised Galilean, he that bore his own Cross, and bowed his eternal Head to Death, shall come again with Death slain before him, and the very Heaven and Earth melting at his approach, Amidst Thousands and Ten Thousands of his Saints and Angels xo judge the World, in Righteousness, and by the just Laws of his holy Gospel.
"Judgment, Brethren! a future Judgment at the Bar of Omnipotence, for the deeds done in the Body, good and bad—as the thought of it is-awfully alarming, so we may well believe that it was the mention of it by St. Paul, according to those Laws of Righteousness, &c. which he had been demonstrating, that roused the Conscitnce of Fehx, that made him tremble on his Tribunal, and wish to hear no more, or postpone the subject—" Go thy way for this time, "when I have a convenient season I will call for 44 thee."
What circumstances of the Resurrection and last Judgment, St. Paul might have mentioned before Felix, to p;it him into this trembling condition, the bounds of my present Discourse will not allow me