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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 21: Trial at Caesarea.

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Part:  A  B  C

Five days after Paul's arrival at Caesarea, his accusers also came down from Jerusalem, accompanied by one Tertullus, an orator whom they had engaged as their counsel. The case was granted a speedy hearing. Paul was brought before the assembly, and Tertullus proceeded to specify the charges against him. This wily orator judged that flattery would have more influence upon the Roman governor than the simple statements of truth and justice. He therefore began his speech with praise of Felix: "Seeing [p. 235] that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, we accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness."

Tertullus here descended to bare-faced falsehood. The character of Felix was base and contemptible. It was said that he "practiced all kinds of lust and cruelty with the power of a king and the temper of a slave." It is true that he had rendered some service to the nation by his vigilance in ridding the country of robbers, and he pursued and drove away the Egyptian rebel for whom Claudius Lysias had hastily mistaken Paul; but his acts of cruelty and oppression caused him to be universally hated. The treacherous cruelty of his character is shown by his brutal murder of the high priest Jonathan, to whom he was largely indebted for his own position. Jonathan, though really little better than Felix himself, had ventured to expostulate with him for some of his acts of violence, and for this, the procurator had caused him to be assassinated while employed in his official duties in the temple.

An example of the unbridled licentiousness that stained his character is seen in his alliance with Drusilla, which was consummated about this time. Through the deceptive arts of Simon Magus, a Cyprian sorcerer, Felix had induced this princess to leave her husband and to become his wife. Drusilla was young and beautiful, and, moreover, a Jewess. She was devotedly attached to her husband, who had made a great sacrifice to obtain her hand. There was little indeed to induce her to forego her strongest prejudices and to bring upon herself the abhorrence [p. 236] of her nation for the sake of forming an adulterous connection with a cruel and elderly profligate. Yet the Satanic devices of the conjurer and the betrayer succeeded, and Felix accomplished his purpose.

The Jews present at Paul's examination shared in the general feeling toward Felix; yet so great was their desire to gain his favor in order to secure the condemnation of Paul, that they assented to the flattering words of Tertullus. These men in holy office, robed in the sacerdotal garments, were very exact in the observance of customs and ceremonies, very scrupulous to avoid outward pollution, while the soul-temple was defiled with all manner of iniquity. The outward contact with anything deemed unclean was a great offense in their eyes, while the murder of Paul was considered a justifiable act. What an illustration of the blindness that can come upon the human mind! Here were the representatives of those who claimed to be God's covenant people. Like the barren fig-tree, they were clothed with pretentious leaves, but destitute of the fruits of holiness; "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." Filled with malice toward a pure and good man, seeking by every means to take his life, and extolling a vindictive profligate!

There are many to-day who estimate character in the same manner. Prompted by the adversary of all righteousness, they call evil good, and truth falsehood. It is as the prophet has described,— "Truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter." It is because such is the condition and spirit of the world that God calls upon his people to come out and be separate. Those who mingle with the world will come to view matters from [p. 237] the worldling's stand-point, instead of seeing as God sees. "What communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? God's people will see as he sees. The pure and good will be honored and loved by those who are good.

In his speech against Paul, Tertullus charged that he was a pestilent fellow, who created sedition among the Jews throughout the world, and who was consequently guilty of treason against the emperor; that he was a leader of the sect of Nazarenes, and chargeable with heresy against the laws of Moses; and that he had profaned the temple, virtually an offense not only against the Jewish but the Roman law, which protected the Jews in their religious worship. He then falsely stated that Lysias, the commandant of the garrison, had violently taken Paul from the Jews as they were about to judge him by their ecclesiastical law, and had thus improperly forced them to bring the matter before Felix. These lying statements were skillfully designed to induce the procurator to deliver Paul over to the Jewish court. All the charges were vehemently supported by the Jews present, who made no effort to conceal their hatred against the prisoner.

Felix had sufficient penetration to read the disposition and character of Paul's accusers. He perceived the motives of their flattery, and saw also that they had failed to substantiate their charges. Turning to the accused, he beckoned to him to answer for himself. Paul wasted no words in fulsome compliments, but simply stated that he could the more cheerfully defend himself before Felix, since the latter had been [p. 238] so long a procurator, and therefore had so good an understanding of the laws and customs of the Jews. Step by step he then refuted the charges brought against him. He declared that he had caused no disturbance in any part of Jerusalem, nor had he profaned the sanctuary: "They neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city; neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me."

While confessing that "after the way which they call heresy" he had worshiped the God of his fathers, he asserted that he had never swerved from his belief in the law and the prophets, and that in conformity with the Scriptures he held the faith of the resurrection of the dead; and he further declared that it was the ruling purpose of his life to "have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward man."

In a candid, straightforward manner he then stated the object of his visit to Jerusalem, and the circumstances of his arrest and trial: "Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude nor with tumult. Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had aught against me. Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead, I am called in question by you this day."

Part:  A  B  C

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