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" He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: -wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him. But after two years Porcius Feslus came into Felix 1 room: and Felix, willing to- show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound. 1 ACTS xxiv. 26, 27. THE seed was good and the sower skilful, yet no fruit followed. For one thing, the hearer of the Word on that occa-
410 The CJiurcJi in the House. sion did not seek spiritual benefit, and that is at least in part the reason why he did not obtain it. A plan and a purpose are necessary on the part of the hearer, as well as on that of the preacher. The promise is, " Seek, and ye shall find." Those who omit the con dition, have no right to expect the result. Further, bad company in this case contributed to the failure. Felix and Drusilla, were both steeped in wickedness. It is more difficult for Felix to yield and admit conviction in presence of his profligate compan ion. If he had shown symptoms of repenting, this bold bad woman was ready with her fiercest look and her most contemptuous sneer. Oh that the poor man had been alone, or had been surrounded by companions who would have encouraged him to turn and live ! Many promising impressions have been nipped in the bud by the scoff of worldly companions.
When convictions spring up as in this case, taking the shape of terror in prospect of the judgment-seat, there must and will be a rapid movement, either backward or forward. It is as if fire were falling on the spot where you stand, and you must instantly escape from it. You will go either nearer to the God whom you fear, or further away from him. If you get a glimpse of his love in Christ, you will bound forward in order to hide from all fears in his Divine compassion; but if you get no such view of his mercy, the terror of the Lord will drive you into vanities or vice, as a cover from the light 01 his countenance. For such a case the Word of Christ was spoken and written " Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." The subterfuge of Felix "When I have a conve nient season, I will call for thee " was natural in the circumstances, but false and shallow. He made a promise which he did not mean to fulfil. If Paul has rightly presented the reckoning, now is the most, the only convenient time for getting it settled. Now is the day of salvation; the gospel does not know to morrow. Let . any one who in modern times is in clined to follow this ancient example of procrastina tion, think for a moment why he desires delay. Is it that you may enjoy the pleasures of sin a little longer?
Convictions Resisted bear no good Fruit. 411 But the case will not bear reasoning. It is false from the foundation. You, the guilty and condemned, are invited, besought, to accept instant and full pardon and peace with God free through the Redeemer; and you beg to be excused you plead for a little delay, as if you had been summoned to the scaffold. The plead ing for delay is as much as to tell God to his face that
the pardon and peace which he offers you count a ca lamity, and if you must endure them sometime, you would fain put the evil day afar off. True repentance does not covet it dreads delay. It is dangerous to stifle convictions thus. The con science cannot be so treated with impunity. When it is not listened to, it loses its sensitiveness and vitality. It will not give its testimony so clearly the next time. When a bar of iron is made red-hot and plunged into water, and that process is several times repeated, it be comes hard and brittle; it may be easily broken now, but cannot be bent. In some such way the conscience is seared by stifling convictions of sin. The facts that immediately follow the dismissal of the preacher bear directly and decisively on a question of universal and cardinal interest in religious affairs, the question whether a religion of terror produces any permanent good moral effect. Superficial inquirers, who examine the gospel from a point of view outside of its boundaries, cling to the conviction that it is dangerous to withdraw the fear of punishment. They think this fear is necessary to keep men from trans gression. This is a mistake; but neither human in stinct nor human philosophy possesses the means of correcting it. It cannot be corrected except by the experience of a more excellent way. The old ques tion, " Do we make void the law through faith ? " can not be answered except from the Christian view-point " God forbid: yea, we establish the law." The Popery of the Middle Ages maintained a re ligion of terror. The priests kept the line in their own hands, and by means of confession and purgatory im agined they had the hook in Leviathan s jaws. But Leviathan could not be bridled in by such childish machinery. Sin in humanity, like a sea-monster in its clement, was too strong for these green withes.
412 The Church in the House. The evil spirit in man said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you ? " God s method of binding souls to obedience is sim ilar to his method of keeping the planets in their orbits that is, by flinging them out free. You see no chain keeping back these shining worlds to prevent them from bursting away from their centre. They are held in the grasp of an invisible principle, which we call the law of gravitation; and it is by the invisible bond of love love to the Lord who bought them that ran somed men are constrained to live soberly and right eously and godly. "Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more; " such is the method by which Jesus bound a chief sinner to obedience. He trusts that his free gift of pardon will generate a love in the sinner s breast, which will constrain him, like gravitation, to keep the law. Let us see whether the terror of Felix in the pros pect of judgment produced any good effect on his mor als. Two specimens of the man s life are with great simplicity subjoined, and from these we learn that his fright had not made him a better man. In ver. 26, we learn that the governor, who never found a more con venient season for hearing the Word, summoned Paul the prisoner often into his presence for another purpose. He expected a bribe, and meanly condescended to give the innocent prisoner many a hint that a man like him need not languish in confinement, while his numerous and ardent admirers had plenty of money in their hands. Next, in ver. 27, we learn that, at the end of two years, when Felix was recalled from the province, instead of setting Paul at liberty as a man against whom no crime had been proved, he handed him over to his successor, still a prisoner, because he saw that the act would be
popular with the fanatic Jewish mob. Considering the position of Felix as governor and judge, no fouler deed could possibly be recorded against him. Such is the fruit borne by an evil tree after it has been deeply cut by the axe, but not cut through and made good by the engrafting of another. Such is the fruit that the con victions of a wicked man bear when they have been arrested and not permitted to grow into conversion, Such is the result of terror where there is not faith. One would like to know the history of that centu rion who had charge of the missionary during those two years at Caesarea, and also of the soldiers of his com pany who acted by turns as the apostle s sentinel. The veil has not been lifted up. The result of intercourse with Paul day by day for so long a period will not be known till the day declare it; but I think when it is declared, it will be a glory to the Lord and a crown of joy to his servant. Not a few in the ranks of the Ro man army were converted during the life-time of the apostle. Even in Caesar s household at Rome there were disciples of Jesus, sending their greetings to fel low-disciples in other lands. There is much probabil ity that the Word of life would win the officer who had charge of Paul at Caesarea. Ward and warder have both gone long ago to their account; and from the an alogy of other cases, it is lawful to indulge the fond hope that these two men, who often promenaded to gether the coast of the Mediterranean, or gazed from the battlements of Herod s judgment-hall on the sun setting in the western sea, gaze together now with clearer eyesight on greater wonders, before the great white throne. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS
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