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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 21: Trial at Caesarea.

Contents  Preface.  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  ...

God justly claimed the love and obedience of all his creatures. He had given them in his law a perfect standard of right. But they forgot their Maker, and chose to follow their own way in opposition to his will. They had returned enmity for a love that was as high as Heaven and as broad as the universe. God could not bring down his law to meet the standard of wicked [p. 243] men, neither could man, fallen by sin, meet the demands of the law by a blameless character and life. But by faith in Christ the sinner could be cleansed from his guilt, and he enabled to render obedience to the law of his Maker. God did not bestow his grace to lessen the binding claims of the law, but to establish it. "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other."

Thus Paul the prisoner urged upon Jew and Gentile the claims of the divine law, and presented Jesus, the despised Nazarene, as the Son of God, the world's Redeemer. The Jewish princess well understood the sacred character of that law which she had so shamelessly transgressed; but her prejudice against the Man of Calvary steeled her heart against the word of life. But Felix, who had never before listened to the truth, was deeply agitated as the Spirit of God sent conviction to his soul. Conscience, now aroused, made her voice heard. He felt that Paul's words were true. Memory went back over the guilty past. With terrible distinctness came up before him the secrets of his early life of lust and bloodshed, and the black record of his later years,—licentious, cruel, rapacious, unjust, steeped with the blood of private murders and public massacres. Never before had the truth been thus brought home to his heart. Never before had his soul been thus filled with terror. The thought that all the secrets of his career of crime were open before the eye of God, and that he must be judged according to his deeds, caused him to tremble with guilty dread.

But instead of permitting his convictions to [p. 244] lead him to repentance, he eagerly sought to dismiss these disagreeable reflections. The interview with Paul was cut short. "Go thy way for this time," he said, "when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee."

How wide the contrast between the course of Felix and that of the jailer of Philippi! The servants of the Lord were brought in bonds to the jailer, as was Paul to Felix. The evidence they gave of being sustained by a divine power, their rejoicing under suffering and disgrace, their fearless calmness when the earth was reeling with the earthquake's shock, and their spirit of Christlike forgiveness, sent conviction to the jailer's heart. He did not, like Felix, banish these convictions, but with trembling and in deep humility inquired the way of salvation; and having learned the way, he walked in it, with all his house. Felix trembled, but did not repent; the jailer with trembling confessed his sins and found pardon. Felix bade the Spirit of God depart; the jailer joyfully welcomed it to his heart and to his house. The one cast his lot with the workers of iniquity; the other chose to become a child of God and an heir of Heaven.

For two years no further action was taken against Paul, yet he remained a prisoner. Felix several times visited him, and listened attentively to his words. But the real motive for this apparent friendliness was a desire for gain, and he intimated to Paul that by the payment of a large sum of money he might secure his release. The apostle, however, was of too noble a nature to free himself by a bribe. He was innocent of all crime, and he would not stoop to evade the law. Furthermore, he was himself too poor to pay [p. 245] such a ransom, had he been disposed to do so, and he would not, in his own behalf, appeal to the sympathy and generosity of his converts. He also felt that he was in the hands of God, and he would not interfere with the divine purposes respecting himself.

Toward the close of this time there arose a fearful strife among the population of Caesarea. There had been frequent disputes, which had become a settled feud, between the Jews and the Greeks, concerning their respective rights and privileges in the city. All the splendor of Caesarea, its temples, its palaces, and its amphitheater, were due to the ambition of the first Herod. Even the harbor, to which Caesarea owed all its prosperity and importance, had been constructed by him at an immense outlay of money and labor. The Jewish inhabitants were numerous and wealthy, and they claimed the city as theirs, because their king had done so much for it. The Greeks, with equal persistency, maintained their right to the precedence.

Near the close of the two years, these dissensions led to a fierce combat in the market-place, resulting in the defeat of the Greeks. Felix, who sided with the Gentile faction, came with his troops and ordered the Jews to disperse. The command was not instantly obeyed by the victorious party, and he ordered his soldiers to fall upon them. Glad of an opportunity to indulge their hatred of the Jews, they executed the order in the most merciless manner, and many were put to death. As if this were not enough, Felix, whose animosity toward the Jews had increased every year, now gave his soldiers liberty to rob the houses of the wealthy. [p. 246]

These daring acts of injustice and cruelty could not pass unnoticed. The Jews made a formal complaint against Felix, and he was summoned to Rome to answer their charges. He well knew that his course of extortion and oppression had given them abundant ground for complaint, but he still hoped to conciliate them. Hence, though he had a sincere respect for Paul, he decided to gratify their malice by leaving him a prisoner. But all his efforts were in vain; though he escaped banishment or death, he was removed from office, and deprived of the greater part of his ill-gotten wealth. Drusilla, the partner of his guilt, afterward perished, with their only son, in the eruption of Vesuvius. His own days were ended in disgrace and obscurity.

A ray of light from Heaven had been permitted to shine upon this wicked man, when Paul reasoned with him concerning righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come. That was his Heaven-sent opportunity to see and to forsake his sins. But he said to the Spirit of God, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee." He had slighted his last offer of mercy. He was never to receive another call from God.

Contents  Preface.  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  ...


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