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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 21: Trial at Caesarea.

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The apostle spoke with earnestness and evident sincerity, and his words carried with them a [p. 239] conviction of their truthfulness. Moreover, his statements were in harmony with the letter of Claudius Lysias. Felix himself had so long resided at Caesarea—where the Christian religion had been known for many years— that he had a better knowledge of that religion than the Jews supposed, and he was not deceived by their representations. The words of Paul made a deep impression upon his mind, and enabled him to understand still more clearly the motives of the Jews. He would not gratify them by unjustly condemning a Roman citizen, neither would he give him up to them to be put to death without a fair trial. Yet Felix knew no higher motive than self-interest, and his love of praise and desire for promotion controlled him. Fear of offending the Jews held him back from doing justice in the case, and releasing a man whom he knew to be innocent. He deferred all further action in the case until Lysias should be present, saying, "When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter."

Paul was again placed in charge of a centurion, but with orders that he should enjoy greater freedom than before his examination. While it was necessary for him to be strictly guarded, as a protection from the plots of the Jews, and also because he was still a prisoner, his friends were to be allowed to visit him and minister to his comfort.

It was not long after this that Felix and his wife Drusilla summoned Paul to a private interview. Drusilla felt considerable interest in the apostle, having heard an account of him from her husband, and she was desirous of hearing the [p. 240] reasons for his belief in Christ. Thus Paul, as a prisoner of the Lord, had an opportunity to present the truths of the gospel to some souls whom he could not otherwise have approached. A cruel and licentious Roman governor and a profligate Jewish princess were to be his sole audience. They were now waiting to listen to truths which they had never listened to before, which they might never hear again, and which, if rejected, would prove a swift witness against them in the day of God.

Paul considered this God-given opportunity, and he improved it faithfully. He knew that the man and woman before him had the power to put him to death, or to preserve his life; yet he did not address them with praise or flattery. He knew that his words would be to them a savor of life or of death, and, forgetting all selfish considerations, he sought to arouse them to the peril of their souls.

The gospel message admits of no neutrality. It counts all men as decidedly for the truth or against it; if they do not receive and obey its teachings, they are its enemies. Yet it knows no respect of person, class, or condition. It is addressed to all mankind who feel their need of its gracious invitations. Said Christ: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

The apostle felt that whoever might listen to his words, the gospel had a claim upon them; they would either stand among the pure and holy around the great white throne, or with those to whom Christ should say: "Depart from me, ye that work iniquity." He knew that he must meet every hearer before the tribunal of Heaven, and must there render an account, not only for [p. 241] all that he had said and done, but for the motive and spirit of his words and deeds.

So violent and cruel had been the course of Felix, that few had ever before dared even to intimate to him that his character and conduct were not faultless. But Paul had no such fears. With perfect respect for the position of his hearers, he plainly declared his faith in Christ, and the reasons for that faith, and was thus led to speak particularly of those virtues essential to Christian character, but of which the haughty pair before him were so strikingly destitute.

He presented before his hearers the character of God—his righteousness, justice, and equity —and the nature and obligation of his law. He clearly showed man's duty to live a life of sobriety and temperance, keeping the passions under the control of reason, in conformity to God's law, and preserving the physical and mental powers in a healthful condition. A day of judgment would surely come, when all would be rewarded according to the deeds done in the body. Wealth, position, or honorary titles would be powerless to elevate man in the favor of God, or to ransom him from the slavery of sin. This life was his period of probation, in which he was to form a character for the future, immortal life. Should he neglect his present privileges and opportunities, it would prove an eternal loss; no new probation would be vouchsafed to him. All who should be found unholy in heart or defective in any respect when judged by the law of God, would suffer the punishment of their guilt.

Paul dwelt especially upon the far-reaching claims of God's law. He showed how it extends to the deep secrets of man's moral nature, and [p. 242] throws a flood of light upon that which has been concealed from the sight and knowledge of men. What the hands may do or the tongue may utter, —what the outer life can exhibit,—but imperfectly reveals man's moral character. The law extends to the thoughts, motives, and purposes of the heart. The dark passions that lie hidden from the sight of men, the jealousy, revenge, hatred, lust, and wild ambition, the evil deeds meditated upon in the dark recesses of the soul, yet never executed for want of opportunity,—of all these God's law makes a record. Men may imagine that they can safely cherish these secret sins; but it is these that sap the very foundation of character; for out of the heart "are the issues of life."

Paul then endeavored to direct the minds of his hearers to the one great Sacrifice for sin. He pointed back to those sacrifices that were shadows of good things to come, and then presented Christ as the antitype of all those ceremonies, —the object to which they pointed as the one only source of life and hope for fallen man. Holy men of old were saved by faith in the blood of Christ. As they saw the dying agonies of the sacrificial victims, they looked across the gulf of ages to the Lamb of God that was to take away the sin of the world.

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