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of contention between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, than the two parties in the Sanhedrim began to dispute amongst themselves on the subject, and every person present took either one side or the other. The discussion became very violent and noisy, the Scribes who were Pharisees stood up and made a great struggle, declaring that they had nothing to say against Paul :if indeed he had received a communication from some angel or spiritual being, it might be so--they ought not to resist the power of God. The confusion and violence became so great, that Paul's person was not safe between the two parties : and the Tribune, finding that he was really in danger, directed the soldiers to go down into the court, and secure him by force, and take him safely into the Castle.
1. The boldness and confidence of manner manifested by St. Paul should be an example to all christians when placed in circumstances of difficulty, in which a faithful profession of true religion may be likely to involve painful consequences. He protested that he had lived in a becoming manner; and his protestation was made with the confidence of innocence. Paul's mode of proceeding upon this occasion before the Sanhedrim may be contrasted, in some respects, with his manner of addressing the Jewish crowd the day before. Though there was as much courage and self-possession in the previous as in the present case, he dealt more gently with the enraged multitude, many of whom might have been ignorant of his history, and perhaps were led away by sudden impulse; while on the contrary, all the members of the Sanhedrim must have been well acquainted with him; and their persecution arose from deep-rooted and deliberate hatred of the cause for which he was willing to suffer. We may gather from this, that the exercise of christian wisdom will produce a careful adaptation of our conduct to the peculiar feelings of those with whom we converse ; and that determined enmity to Christ's religion is to be met with a manifest boldness, in spite of the danger which might be reasonably apprehended.
Am I apt to shrink from expressing my opinions of spiritual religion, in the presence of those who are known to be violent opposers of the truth?
2. It is not necessary to decide the doubtful point concerning Paul's knowledge of Ananias's position, in order to apply the lesson taught us by his respect for lawful authority : this is plain, and it was based on scriptural authority. Christians will remember that “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. xiii. 1); and reflecting that Paul wrote thus to the Romans at the time that the cruel tyrant Nero held the governing power, they will feel the force of the same apostle's illustration of the doctrine, when he apologized for having spoken sharply to one who held the highest office in the council of the Jews. The pride of man naturally resists authority; and though in an orderly state of society this resistance cannot be expressed by violence of conduct, yet the principle of pride will often find a vent by means of sharp words respecting persons in authority, in whicn too many are apt to indulge. It should help to guard us against such language to remember that “to speak evil of dignities” is mentioned as one characteristic of those who are under condemnation. (Jude 8.)
QUESTION Do I ever speak strongly against persons above me in authority ? or is my language moderated by a sense of God's requirement in scripture ?
: 3. We may observe the tact and wisdom with which the apostle introduced a subject of discussion, that he knew was calculated to divert the attention of his enemies, by drawing forth their own opposing prejudices. What he stated was the truth; but it was also that particular portion of truth on which his adversaries held such different opinion, that they were not likely to join together in persecuting him upon that point. Here is another instance in which Paul's christian wisdom was exercised under extremely difficult circumstances; and by comparing it with those instances already mentioned, we may gather some idea of the great variety of cases to which that wisdom is ever ready to adapt itself. Both the parties in the council held Paul in equal hatred, and there seemed no way of avoiding the effect of their combined malice. It was a case specially anticipated by our Lord, and to which a special promise was given. (Matt. x. 19, 20. Mark xiii. 9-11.) His servant was brought before the council; and on the emergency the Holy Spirit gave him that wisdom that is from above. Our Lord has however included all cases of particular difficulty in one general statement, while each situation of difficulty to each of his servants was foreknown in His Divine mind; and therefore needful help was promised for each case, when it was written, "if any
of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James i. 5.) Whenever circumstances lead us to feel our lack of wisdom, we may confidently ask the great gift of the Holy Spirit, who shall instruct us how to exercise such christian discretion as shall be blessed, as in this case of Paul.
Am I fully convinced that God is able to supply me with wisdom to direct me in every case of difficulty? How do I shew this conviction ? do 'I apply to God for the Holy Spirit in prayer, as often as I feel I lack wisdom?
God of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things, give me, 'I beseech thee, such courage as may enable me with confidence to maintain the truth before all
I beseech thee to teach me how to stand boldly for thy name, in such wise as shall manifest that I submit humbly to the authority which thou hast ordained to rule over me. Guard my lips, that they speak not unadvisedly nor sharply of dignities. In all difficulties and distresses which thy providence may appoint for me, teach me that I have no wisdom of myself, but give me confidence in thy blessed promise to supply the wisdom that is needed. Lord, I lack wisdom; give me, I beseech thee, thy Holy Spirit, for Christ Jesus' sake. AMEN.
The conspiracy against Paul defeated. PLACE.-Jerusalem.-Cæsarea. TIME.-May, A.D. 56.
May God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, give me the Holy Spirit, that I may
understand this portion of His Holy Word, and profit by it. AMEN.
THE SCRIPTURE. Acts, chap. XXIII. verses 11 to 35. And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, “ Be of 11 good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome."
And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound 12 themselves under a curse [or, with an oath of execration), saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And they 13 were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. And they came 14 to the chief priests and elders, and said, “ We have bound ourselves uuder a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he 15 bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would enquire something more perfectly concerning him : and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him.” And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in 16 wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul. Then Paul 17 called one of the centurions unto him, and said, “ Bring this young man unto the chief captain : for he hath a certain thing to tell him. So he 18 took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, “ Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee.” Then the chief cap- 19 tain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, “ What is that thou hast to tell me?" And he said, “The 20 Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul tomorrow into the council, as though they would enquire somewhat of him more perfectly. But do not thou yield unto them : for there lie in wait 21 for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him : and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee.”. So the chief 22 captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, " See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me.
And he called unto him two centurions, saying, “ Make ready two 23 hundred soldiers to go to Cæsarea, and horsemen three-score and ten,and
24 spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night; and provide
them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix 25 the governor.” And he wrote a letter after this manner: « Claudius 26 Lysias, unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting. This 27 man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them : then
came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a 28 Roman. And when I would have known the cause wherefore they ac29 cused him, I brought him forth into their council : whom 1 perceived to
be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his 30 charge worthy of death or of bonds. And when it was told me how that
the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had
against him. Farewell.” 31 Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought 32 him by night to Antipatris. On the morrow they left the horsemen to 33 go with him, and returned to the castle : who, when they came to
Cæsarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also 34 before him. And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of
what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia; 35 “ I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come.” And he
commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall.
In the night following Paul's committal to the prisons of the Castle of Antonia in Jerusalem, it pleased the Lord to give him an encouraging assurance of His presence with him, and of His purpose still to employ him in His service. The Lord Jesus Christ appeared before him in the night, and bid him “ be of good cheer,” for as the apostle had given his testimony concerning Jesus at Jerusalem, so also it was the divine will that he should proclaim the gospel of the same Jesus at Rome.
The next morning a number of Jews assembled together, and entered into a conspiracy against Paul. They bound themselves by a vow, calling down the anathema or curse of God upon them, if they did not take his life before any of them either eat or drank; by this means intending to ensure the immediate execution of their design. There were upwards of forty persons thus conspiring, who lost no time in arranging their plans. They went without delay to the chief priests and members of the Sanhedrim, and made them acquainted with the scheme they had con