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cried, standing amongst them, Touching the resurrection of the dead (for no other charge) am I called amongst you this day.'
“ The case was so clear, that the court could not hesitate a moment. The accusers were filled with confusion; and the prisoner, though not immediately released, owing to the corruption of the judge, who, we are expressly told, hoped that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him, and who we may, hereby, be confident had been prodigally bribed on the other side to condemn him, was merely entrusted to the general superintendence of a centurion, who was expressly commanded to let him have his liberty, and to forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or to come to him.'+
“ But the most important feature in the entire case is the striking contrast exhibited in the conduct and demeanour of St. Paul himself and that of the Roman governor, to whose award he was committed, and upon whom, under God, his fate altogether depended. We behold the one standing, as a prisoner, at the bar, surrounded by a band of soldiers; the other sitting on the judgment-seat in all the pomp and circumstance of power: yet the prisoner is bold and at ease, while the judge shrinks and trembles before him. What is the cause of this marvellously reversed order of things? the mysterious impulse that thus induces them, as it were, to change places that gives quiet and dignity to fetters, and thorns and confusion of face to authority?
“ The answer is one in which every human being is concerned; and which has operated from the beginning * Acts xxiv. 26.
+ Acts xxiv. 23.
of the world, and will continue to operate till its consummation. The infinite difference of their past lives : the influence of conscience upon their hearts, now equally arraigning them before her still loftier tribunal, and whispering her just award in their ears.
“When Mr. Addison was lying on his death-bed, being sensible, by the grace of God, of a composure that falls to the lot of but few Christians in that trying hour, he called for one of the infidels he had been acquainted with, that he might read a lesson to him in the holy calm of his mind ; 'See (said he) how a Christian can die!' The language of St. Paul in his defence on the present occasion, is, ‘See how a Christian can live !' and live, too, in the midst of calumny and oppression, of bonds and the sight of martyrdom. “This (says he) I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things that are written in the law and the prophets. And have hope towards God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.'!
“ The great secret is here disclosed to us: the heroic feeling is fully accounted for; and the discipline may be practised in all ages. If any man would be a partaker of the joy and the exultation which St. Paul manifests, and which raises him above every weight of affliction, let him live his life ; let him tread in his footsteps; let him, too, exercise 'a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men;' let him, too, exert his faith in all things which are written in the
Acts xxiv. 16.
law and the prophets;' let him, too, 'worship the God of his fathers in the way' which the world may laagh at and condemn,-and he shall reap the same rewardhe shall rise to the same tone of triumph. External circumstances will, to such a man, be of little moment. In bonds or at large, in evil report or good report, in life or in death, he is endowed with a buoyant and compensating power, that renders all earthly things indifferent to him. The peace of God, which passeth all understanding,' shall still surely be his, and shall still keep him in the knowledge and the love of God. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, shall still be with him, and remain with him for ever.' On such a man what hold can persecution take? What influence can the flaming stake have, or the agonizing cross? He will glory in tribulation, he will sing praises in torture, and will exclaim, with St. Paul, on another occasion, 'Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.'s
“On the contrary, of what advantage is wealth or station, or official authority, to him whose awakening conscience stirs up the flames of hell in his bosom? and shews on what a pointed spear that man leans who rests his heart on the world ? Such was Felix at the time before us. His conscience had never, perhaps, till now been stirred up at all. For, however tender by nature, and watchful in the discharge of its duty, it may be hardened and set asleep by art. Unhappily, there are narcotics in abundance, and far more dangerous than those of pharmacy, and that lie within the reach of every one, and that are too often culled by
§ Phil. ii, 17.
every one that can stupify it, as it appears to have been stupified in the case before us; that can render life a delirium, and put a lie in the right hand of the fool who thus cheats himself. Thousands and tens of thousands are there who have thus drugged themselves from the beginning of life; whose conscience has never once awoke; and who go on with the besotted dream to their graves; and then only open their eyes to the dread reality of the worm that never dieth, and the fire that is never quenched.'
Happy they, O! happy above all men, whose conscience never sleeps; who prize its warning voice; drink in its wholesome monitions; discipline themselves by its precepts; and sweep, and garnish, and sanctify their hearts, as a temple for the Holy Ghost. And next to these are they happy--and happy, too, in the midst of all the pangs that may chastise them, the cleansing agony they are doomed to endure-whose slumbering conscience is, at length, startled in the midst of its lethargy, and urged to a faithful discharge of its duty; who, in the noon and sun-shine of their sinful career, are stopt short by the hand of Providence; are stung with a feeling of their own guilt and depravity; and, while in the high-road of profligacy and forgetfulness of God, have a lesson read to them of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,' that makes them tremble. It is a season of mercy, it is a call to repentance; the penance may be sharp, but it leads to health and happiness; it is a blessed purgatory, and the only one to be found in the scriptures; the only middle state of torment, that can save from hell, and prove preparatory to heaven.
“It was vouchsafed to Felix, but, like millions who
have been favoured in the same manner since, he was found a coward in the day of trial, and flinched from its searching potency. The iron entered into his soul, it touched him to the quickest point of his heart; all his deeds of oppression, extortion, and injustice, arose in fearful vision before his face; his robbery of the widow and the orphan, his condemnation of the innocent, his rapacity and cruelty toward the prisoner who was then addressing him, and who he felt ought to be as free as himself ; they were the ghosts of his past crimes, permitted to haunt him on the polluted seat of justice, and to barrow all his heart-strings. • And as Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled. He trembled, but he did nothing more; he trembled, but it was not the trembling of penitence ; he trembled, but he lulled the panic with an opiate : ‘Go thy way, said he, for this time, and when I have a convenient season, I will send for thee.'
“It is thus the great God is trifled with from day to day, and the Holy Spirit grieved, and the Redeemer of the world crucified afresh.-0! pause, ye whose hearts are conceiving the same deadly words -pause, ere they proceed from your lips. They may be the last words ye may ever pronounce : the bolt of avenging justice may overtake you while uttering them. Or, if such be not the case, your doom may still be as certain ; your everlasting ruin as inevitable; and this, too, though you should live to the age of Methuselah. There may be a convenient season' for others, but to you
may never return. He who breaks it off when once offered to him, may never find any • convenient season' afterwards. It came not to him