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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, be heard Paul state his views of Christianity; and he heard him make an application of the discourse.
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 showed that there was a standard, which God himself had set up, quite contrary to the corrupt maxims of the world: he showed the sanctions of these truths, in opposition to those who say, “Tush! thou God will not regard it.' And he showed 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 showed, before an adulterer, how wretched a mistake a fallen spirit makes, that, while he is hastening to eternity, he commits himself to the pleasures of a brute. He showed them how incapable such a man must be, as to any thing like friendship with God; for ' whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.'
He reasoned also concerning judgment to come.' No doubt he showed 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 of his saints :' Daniel had
pointed out the terrors of the Great Day: Christ had described the process of the Last Judgment. He showed, 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 spake-how 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: 6 “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 MINISTER.
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.
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 ?-Recollect, 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
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, the more affecting it must be : the more consistently delivered by an honest man, who is himself under its
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
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 govener 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 it, “Felix, willing to show 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 Jesus 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 thirty-third 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;
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."