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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 23: Address Before Agrippa.

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Part:  A  B  C

The apostle was dwelling upon his favorite theme, in that solemn, earnest, impassioned manner which had been so powerful an agent in his mission. In the all-absorbing interest of his subject, he lost sight of kings and governors and chief captains, of wealth, rank, and titles. He was bearing the testimony which was the object of his life, and he could speak with the assurance of long familiarity and the fire of intense conviction. None who heard him could doubt his sincerity. But in the full tide of his eloquence he was suddenly stopped short. The facts related were new to Festus, as to nearly all present. The whole audience had listened spell-bound to Paul's account of wonderful experiences and visions, of revelations and ancient prophecies, and of a Jewish prophet who had been rejected and crucified, yet who had risen from the dead and ascended to Heaven; and who only could forgive sins and lighten the darkness of Jews and Gentiles. The last remark was too much for Festus to credit. [p. 259] He suddenly cried out in an excited manner: "Paul, thou art beside thyself! much learning doth make thee mad."

The apostle replied calmly and courteously: "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him, for this thing was not done in a corner." Then, turning to Agrippa, he addressed him directly: "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest."

The Jewish king had been instructed in the law and the prophets, and he had learned from credible witnesses some of the facts of which Paul had spoken. Hence, the arguments which were so new and strange to Festus, were clear and convincing to Agrippa. And he could but be affected by that burning zeal which neither stripes nor imprisonment could quench. For a time he forgot the dignity of his position, lost sight of his surroundings, and, conscious only of the truths which he had heard, seeing only the humble prisoner standing as God's ambassador, he answered involuntarily, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."

With solemn earnestness, the apostle made answer: "I would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am," adding, as he raised his fettered hands, "except these bonds." All who heard him were convinced that Paul was no common prisoner. One who could speak as he had spoken, and present the arguments that he had presented, who was so filled with the [p. 260] exaltation of an inspiring faith, so enriched by the grace of Christ, so calm in the consciousness of peace with God and man; one who could wish that all those princely and distinguished people might have the same hope and confidence and faith that sustained him, but who, without the least desire for revenge, could pray that they might be spared the conflicts, sorrows, and afflictions which he had experienced,—such a man could not be an impostor.

Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice were the criminals who should in justice have worn the fetters placed upon the apostle. All were guilty of grievous crimes. These offenders had that day heard the offer of salvation through the name of Christ. One, at least, had been almost persuaded to accept of grace and pardon. But to be almost persuaded, means to put aside the proffered mercy, to be convinced of the right way, but to refuse to accept the cross of a crucified Redeemer.

King Agrippa's curiosity was satisfied, and rising from his seat, he signified that the interview was at an end. As the assembly dispersed, the case of Paul was freely discussed, and all agreed that, while he might be an enthusiast or a fanatic, he could not in any sense be regarded as a legal criminal; he had done nothing worthy of death or imprisonment.

Though Agrippa was a Jew, he did not share the bigoted zeal and blind prejudice of the Pharisees. He had no desire to see freedom of thought suppressed by violence. "This man," he said, "might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar." But now that the case had been referred to that higher [p. 261] tribunal, it was beyond the jurisdiction of Festus or Agrippa. Yet, two years afterward, the result of that day's proceedings saved the life so precious to the cause of God. Festus, finding that his own judgment of the case, on grounds of Roman justice, was sustained from a Jewish stand-point by the protector of the temple, sent a letter to the emperor, stating that no legal charge could be found against the prisoner. And Nero, cruel and unscrupulous as he was, dared not put to death a man whom Lysias, Felix, Festus, and Agrippa pronounced guiltless, and whom even the Sanhedrim could not condemn.

Part:  A  B  C

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