They for then, A.V.; voice for voices, A.V. Unto this word . They could not bear the idea of the Gentiles being admitted into the kingdom of God. It was a blow to their pride of exclusiveness. The leveling-up of the Gentiles seemed to be as intolerable as the leveling-down of themselves, as spoken of e.g. Isaiah 1:10 ; Ezekiel 16:45 , etc.
It was a very remarkable promise which our Lord made to his apostles, when, forewarning them that they should be delivered up to councils, and brought before kings and rulers for his sake, he added, "But when they so deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost" ( Mark 13:9-11 ). It is impossible not to see a fulfillment of this promise in St. Paul's apology delivered from the castle stairs at Jerusalem to an infuriated and bloodthirsty mob. A Jewish riot had something terrific in it, something dreaded even by the iron-minded Romans. The features all contorted with passion, the large eyes starting out of their sockets, the savage grinding of the teeth, the fierce cries, the wild throwing of handfuls of dust into the air, the tossing and waving of their garments with an unbridled violence, gave a demoniac aspect to such rioters. Paul had just come out of the thick of such a mob. He had barely escaped with his life, but not without many blows. He had heard his name given to execration, held up to detestation as the author of blasphemies and sacrilege, and as the enemy of his race. And now he was a prisoner in the hands of the heathen masters of his unhappy country. His hands were loaded with chains, and he knew not what dangers were before him. And yet, when he had scarce recovered breath after the struggle for life, we find him with the chains on his wrists, but with unruffled spirit, and admirable composure and self-possession, delivering to his enemies and would-be murderers a speech as gentle, as firm, as calm, as collected, and as logical, as if he had composed and prepared it at leisure in the stillness of his own study, and was addressing it to a congregation of friends and admirers. Must it not have been given to him in that hour what to speak, and how to say it? The great force of this defense lay in its simple statement of facts. The apostle's conduct at each successive stage had flowed naturally and almost inevitably from the circumstances which surrounded him. He had nothing to conceal. Indeed, the circumstances of his early life were well known to his hearers. If his statement was true, how could he have acted differently? He appealed to his fellow-countrymen, his fathers and brothers of the Jewish people, to hear with impartiality the apology which he made. Had he stopped here, maybe his defense would have been accepted. His Hebrew speech, his thoroughly Jewish attitude, his high-minded earnestness, his splendid courage, seem to have wrought to some extent upon his volatile and mobile hearers. But he could not stop there. He had a further message to deliver, and it must be delivered at Jerusalem, the mother Church, not only of the circumcision, but of the whole Gentile world. That message was that Christ was to be preached to the Gentiles, and that Jews and Gentiles were to be henceforth one in Christ. And that message he delivered with chains on his arms, from the midst of a Roman cohort, to the angry crowd beneath him, having obviously one single purpose—to speak the truth, and to do his duty both to God and man. One other remark is called for by this apology. The nature of the case, a defense under false accusation, made it absolutely necessary that the defendant should speak of himself. But in the course of the twenty verses in which he details the several passages in the history of his life which bore upon the accusation, it is impossible to detect one particle of vainglory or of egotism. There are no boastings, nor are there any expressions of an affected humility. There is absolute simplicity. He speaks of himself because he must. And in the same spirit of genuine humility, when it was not necessary, he did not speak of himself. In the remarkable absence of details in all those parts of the Acts of the Apostles where St. Luke does not write as an eyewitness, we have strong evidence that St. Paul did not make his own doings the subject of his conversation with his familiar friends. Had he done so, St. Luke's narrative might have been richer and fuller, but St. Paul greatness would have been diminished, as that of all vain men is, by the desire to appear great. As it is, the apology enables us to enumerate the great apostle's virtues as combining in an extraordinary degree, courage, gentleness, calmness, vigor, humility, high-mindedness, determination, honesty, truth, patriotism, self-forgetfulness, wisdom, eloquence, and a passionate zeal for the glory of Christ and for the salvation of men. (For an illustration of some of these features in the apostle's character, see also 2 Corinthians 11:1-33 .; 12.; Galatians 2:5 , Galatians 2:11 ; Ephesians 3:7 , Ephesians 3:8 ; 1 Timothy 1:12 , 1 Timothy 1:13 , 1 Timothy 1:16 ; and throughout the Acts of the Apostles.)
HOMILIES BY W. CLarkson
Argument and prejudice.
We have here—
I. AN ADMIRABLE ARGUMENT . Paul, at the inspiration of the moment, made a powerful defense of his position. He showed:
1. That no one could enter into their feelings more perfectly than himself. Was he not a Jew by birth ( Acts 22:3 )? Had he not received a thoroughly Jewish education, at the feet of a Jewish master ( Acts 22:3 )? Had he not been absolutely possessed by a devotedness to the Law, and a corresponding hatred of the new "Way" ( Acts 22:4 )? Had they not the evidence in their own hands of the bitter and unrelenting persecution of which he had been the eager and active agent ( Acts 22:5 )? If, then, he was found advocating this hated "Way," it was not because he did not understand Jewish sympathies, nor because he had always been one of its votaries; quite the contrary.
2. That no one could possibly have weightier reasons for changing his mind than he had. First came a heavenly vision, arresting him in his path of persecution, and forbidding him to continue ( Acts 22:6-11 ). Then came a powerful confirmation, in a miracle of healing of which he himself was the subject and of which a most honorable and estimable Jew was the instrument ( Acts 22:12 , Acts 22:13 ); and a further confirmation in the message with which he was charged ( Acts 22:14-16 ). Then came a third influence of a powerful character in the shape of another manifestation, and a command, against which he vainly strove, to go out and work among the Gentiles ( Acts 22:18-21 ).
II. A SENSELESS AND SUICIDAL EXASPERATION . ( Acts 22:22 , Acts 22:23 .) Such was the violent antipathy in the minds of his audience to any fellowship with the Gentile world that all Paul's arguments went for nothing. This was such an opportunity as was little likely to recur, of having the facts of the case placed plainly and forcibly before their minds; it was a day of grace to them. But so utterly prejudiced were they that one word filled them with a senseless exasperation which stole from them the golden chance they had of learning the truth, and which riveted the chains of error and exclusiveness they wore upon their souls.
This defense of the apostle and this exasperation of his audience may suggest to us:
1. The fullness of the Divine argument. God "reasons with" us. He does so
2. The foolish and fatal anger which it sometimes excites. There are those who, when God speaks to them in nature, providence, or privilege, instead of lending their ear to his word and bowing their spirit to his will, are only angered and exasperated; they go still further away from him in increased alienation, in still more determined rebelliousness of soul. But so doing
Damager and deliverance.
At length the latent envy of the Jewish audience breaks forth. "Away with such a man from the earth!"
I. DANGER INCURRED IN WITNESS FOR THE TRUTH , ( Acts 22:22-27 .) The wild force of fanaticism has to be encountered again and again. These scenes are a warning against fostering it. It dishonors God, under the pretext of jealousy for his honor; ill treats the innocent; disgraces itself, turning men into wild beasts.
II. DIVINE DELIVERANCE OF THE SERVANT OF GOD .
1. It is brought about by the right feeling of the Roman captain, together with the civil privileges of the apostle. And he obtains a new opportunity for self-justification.
2. It tends to illustrate his character. The violence offered to him elicits a gentle and lowly reply ( Acts 22:25 ; John 18:23 ). Outwardly ill treated, he remains inwardly unhurt. Momentarily trodden in the dust, he rises to eternal honors.
III. THE NOBILITY OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD . It is acquired by the new birth. It is sealed by the Spirit of God. It is proved by trial, conflict, and affliction. It appears in full glory in the heavenly state. Their privileges are—exemption from fear in the presence of the powers of this world; inviolate safety from the violence of evil men; independence of the judgment of the world. "Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be."—J.
Rescue of the prisoner and reference of his cause to the Jewish Sanhedrim.
I. THE POWER OF PREJUDICE . The very word "Gentile" exasperates Jews, yet they were separated from Gentiles, not to hate them, but to save them.
II. The close connection between IGNORANCE AND VIOLENCE . Knowledge helps patience; patience promotes knowledge.
III. THE CRUELTY OF POWER when it is exercised without righteousness. Torture was at once a confession of weakness and a violation of the rights of man. Law can need no cruelty to support it. It must be based upon truth and benevolence, or it is not righteous law. While the noisy tumult of the mob showed the corrupt state of the Jewish nation, the scene in the castle revealed the imperfection and worthlessness of mere human rule. Both facts were the cries of the world for the kingdom of God.
IV. THE INFLUENCE OF TRUE RELIGION in enlightening the mind, calming the feelings, strengthening the will, and preparing the man for trials. The example of Paul one of exalted self-possession and heroism, together with astonishing intelligence and discernment of character. The thought of using his Roman citizenship at that moment was doubtless a suggestion of God's Spirit.
V. PROVIDENCE in the government of the world. The Roman state needed to prepare the way for the gospel. The two citizenships—of the earthly kingdom, of the heavenly, compared in the two men, Lysias and Paul. Little the parents of the apostle could have anticipated how that Roman privilege would work into his history. We should give our children all we can to prepare them for future life. Grace and providence work together. The world's alarm opens the way for the gospel.
VI. THE REAL CONFLICT , not between Christianity and political power, but between true and false religion. The chief priests and the council face to face with the representative of Christ. A corrupted Judaism must be swept out of the way. After that is done, then Christianity will be ready for its still greater mission to evangelize the whole world, beginning with the Roman empire. The three parties represented—the Christian, the rabbinical, the heathen.—R.
The testimony of religious experience.
Not now dwelling upon the details of Saul's conversion, treated of for the most part under the consideration of the ninth chapter, we may observe that we have here Paul's own account of it, that is to say, we have his own rehearsal of his conversion, and so far forth religious experience. We may use the opportunity for the purpose of illustrating the right occasion and use of the individual declaring to the world "what the Lord has done for his soul. This is in some cases an undoubted duty, and the neglect of it an undoubted dereliction of duty. Many, no doubt, are the occasions that lie on the border-line of expediency, and even of duty. And, as in many, many other things, it is then that the solemn claims of individual responsibility are either seen and honored or dishonored. We may, therefore, observe some of the facts involved in a man's confession of his own religious experience before the Church and the world.
I. IT AMOUNTS TO A FORCIBLE TESTIFYING TO THE FACT OF THE WORKING AND FORCE OF GOD 'S PRESENCE IN HUMAN LIFE .
II. IT IS A STIMULUS OR OTHERWISE AN ABIDING REBUKE TO OTHER MEN WHO OWN TO NO LIVING CONSCIOUSNESS OF THAT PRESENCE OR CO - OPERATION WITH IT .
III. IT IS HELPFUL GUIDANCE IN MANY DIRECTIONS TO THOSE " WHO BELIEVE " IN THEIR OWN RELIGIOUS COURSE .
IV. IT FREQUENTLY OFFERS AMAZING INSTANCES OF THE GOODNESS , LOVE , AND POWER OF GOD AND OF CHRIST AND OF THE SPIRIT .
V. IT ABOUNDS IN EXEMPLIFICATIONS OF HUMAN NATURE UNDER CERTAIN MOST SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES AND TREATMENT , AND OF ITS BEHAVIOUR UNDER SUCH TREATMENT .
VI. IT IS NOT ONLY HONORING TO GOD AND A GLORIFYING OF HIM , BUT IT IS USEFUL TO MEN , TO BIND THEMSELVES BY SOLEMN OBLIGATION OF PUBLIC PROFESSION BEFORE MEN .—B.
The unreasoning excitement of crowds.
The action of this crowd is in most respects similar to that of crowds in all ages and in all districts; but in some of its features it was characteristically Eastern. "A great similarity appears between the conduct of the Jews when the chief captain of the Roman garrison at Jerusalem presented himself in the temple, and the behavior of the Persian peasants when they go to court to complain of the governors under whom they live, upon their oppressions becoming intolerable. Sir John Chardin tells us respecting them, that they carry their complaints against their governors by companies, consisting of several hundreds, and sometimes of a thousand; they repair to that gate of the palace near to which their prince is most likely to be, where they begin to make the most horrid cries, tearing their garments, and throwing dust into the air, at the same time demanding justice. The king, upon hearing these cries, sends to know the occasion of them. The people deliver their complaint in writing, upon which he lets them know that he will commit the cognizance of the affair to some one by whom justice is usually done them" (Paxton). Compare the excitement of the multitudes assembled in the Ephesian theatre ( Acts 19:29-34 ).
I. THE PERILOUS INFLUENCE OF POPULAR SENTIMENT . Masses readily take up prejudices and give way to mere feeling, and so are led to do terrible things. Illustrate from the riots of country towns in the older election-times, when the people were excited by political sentiment; or by the violent scenes of the French Revolution. It is usually true of all mobs that "the more part knew not wherefore they were come together." Sentiment is valuable as giving tone and feeling to action, but sentiment alone can never be allowed to decide and control action, because it tends to make a man at once passionate and weak. There is no wise decision, no calm judgment, no definite purpose, no solid strength of will, and so sentiment leads men to do things of which they are afterwards ashamed, to forget the reasonable claims of others, and to commit great social wrongs. The Christian man's duty, wherever his lot may be cast, is:
1. To strive against yielding to popular sentiments on
2. To use his influence to check public excitement, and to disseminate right principles. In religious spheres, yielding to "sentiment" has often been the cause of public and private persecution. In common life, reason is the proper check of sentiment. In religious spheres, the revelation given us in God's Word, and the direct illuminations of God's Spirit, are the proper checks. Illustrate how, in religious spheres, untempered sentiment has often developed into "mania."
II. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF ALL POPULAR LEADERS . They gain their power by appeal to sentiment. Illustrate from the incidents of the text. The leaders of the Judaic party knew perfectly well that they had no case against the apostle, but they appealed to the prejudice of the people, and excited their feeling into passion, which might have led to St. Paul's death within the temple courts. Opportunity is here given to speak of the valuable work done by the revivalist and the missioner, and at the same time of the responsibility of such workers, in the influence they gain over masses of people. So far as their work is merely an appeal to sentiment, it can exert but a passing, and only too possibly a mischievous, influence. So far as they become teachers of the truth and persuaders of men to duty, their work will be permanent and blessed. The Crusades illustrate the sway of the masses by sentiment; the Reformation the sway of the masses by truth.
III. THE HOPELESSNESS OF REASONING WITH EXCITED CROWDS . St. Paul tried, but he found it vain: they were carried away by the mere sound of the word "Gentiles." Compare the scheme of the town-clerk at Ephesus. Excited masses can only be interested until their passion dies down, or dispersed by physical force. Reasoning is of no use until men have become reasonable. Show that Christ never works upon the mere crowd. He and his servants make their appeal to men who have their power of reason. They use emotion and affection, but in subordination to reason. They work by the enthusiasm of numbers, but subordinate this influence to the enforcement of the saving truth.—R.T.