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IX.

PAUL BEFORE FELIX ;

OR,
THE MORAL BASIS OF CHRISTIANITY.

“And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla,

which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered : Go thy way for this time ; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee.”—ACTs xxiv, 24, 25.

WE know, all of us, more or less of the character of St. Paul, but Holy Scripture tells us little of him-at that moment the master of Paul's destiny-with whom the Apostle discoursed on these high arguments; these, as they might easily have become to him, perilous themes. And yet, without this knowledge, the narrative of St. Luke loses half its force, and St. Paul's reasoning all its appropriateness.

Antonius Felix, the procurator of Judea, had risen to his present eminence from the rank of an emancipated slave, through the influence of his brother, the freedman Pallas, the favourite of the Roman Emperor, Claudius Cæsar. Two sentences of the historian Tacitus throw all the light we need, for our present purpose, upon his character as a man, and his conduct as a magistrate. “Relying upon his brother's influence, he thought there was no misdemeanour he might not commit with impunity.” (Cuncta malefacta sibi impune ratus tanta potentia subnixo.Tacit. Ann. xii. 54.) “In every form of cruelty and lust, he exercised the power of a king in the temper of a slave.(Per omnem sævitiam ct libidinem jus regium servili ingenio exercuit.-Hist. v. 9.)

Before this Roman magistrate, insensible to the claims of justice and humanity, gratifying every wayward lust and passion remorselessly and to the full; the most terrible of compounds, a slavish, brutal nature, endowed with sovereign, absolute power; the fearless preacher of the new principles that were beginning to “ turn the world upside down,” had the hardihood to reason, and apparently not without some success—at any rate so as to command respectful attention of "righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.”

And as he reasoned—not perhaps so much in the form of logical argument as of solemn, passionate appeal, such as we find him using subsequently as he pleads his cause before King Agrippa—the dead, or stupefied, conscience of a thoroughly vicious, hardened man was stirred with a momentary compunction. As the satirist of that bad age expresses it with such terrible emphasis, " The torment-scourge within smote his soul” (Tortore animum quatiente flagello), he trembled; and not till baser passions supervened, and the corrupt magistrate began to hope that the bribes, for which he had so often sold his judgments, might once more be offered him by his prisoner, did the opportunity of a moral recovery pass away which, if we may reverently say so, the Spirit of God, like the wind blowing where it listeth, was waiting to use.

Sermons vary almost infinitely in character, in method, and in aim. The tendency just now seems to be mainly in the direction of the emotional, or the dogmatic, or the speculative aspects of Christianity; which perhaps stir the sensibilities or exercise the intellectual faculties, and by some are supposed to furnish food for faith, but are with difficulty discerned ---possibly are not expected—to have any direct bearing on the government of daily life. When the public appetite is greedy of such highly-seasoned dishes, plainer but more wholesome fare is sometimes rejected with disdain ; and hearers, seeking after some attractive or philosophical system, like the Greeks of old, forget how simple, and yet how solemn, are those truths which, again and again, in the history of mankind, have hid themselves, as by a Divine law, from the wise and prudent, while they have been revealed to, and discovered by, babes.

Distracted by controversy; perplexed by speculation, growing dizzy in the wild war of words, beginning to doubt of all things—whether there is a God, whether we have souls, whether we are free agents, whether we are responsible—let us try if we cannot once more gain a steady footing upon some solid bits of rock, which rise above the surf of controversy, which arrest the daring inroads of speculation, and which, as yet at least, survive the wreck of faiths and creeds, by help of which men once thought they could ride safely through the storm.

Such considerations, indeed, are eminently in harmony with, what I will venture to call, the calm and thoughtful temperament of the Church of England. It has even been made a reproach to her—not justly, I think—that enthusiasm of every kind is an offence to her; that she has always, like the astute French diplomatist, repressed and discouraged zeal. It would be fairer to say that her spirit is one of tempered piety, of sober, reflective religion; that she almost sternly subordinates the passions to the judgment; and that the charge of St. Paul to the young Cretan bishop, that he should teach men and women, young and old, “to be sober-minded,” as well as sound in the faith, is specially congenial to her mind. “Next to a sound rule of faith,” says Mr. Keble, in the preface to the Christian Yearthat admirable manual of religious meditation which, I fear, is becoming year by year less known to the rising generation of English Churchmen—"next to a sound rule of faith, there is nothing of so much consequence as a sober standard of feeling in matters of practical religion; and it is the peculiar happiness of the Church of England to possess, in her authorised formularies, an ample and secure provision for both. But in times of much leisure and unbounded curiosity, when excitement of every kind is sought after with a morbid eagerness, this part of the merit of our Liturgy is likely in some measure to be lost on many of its sincere admirers; the very tempers which most require such discipline

setting themselves, in general, most decidedly against it."

In the midst of our present restlessness, our unreasonable dissatisfaction with our position as a branch of Christ's Holy Catholic Church, our passionate craving after any new religious sensation, our over-readiness to gird. ourselves with armour by whomsoever offered, by whomsoever previously worn, which we have not proved, and which neither suits our stature nor our more free and natural way of using our limbs, this warning voice of one who in his day, and that not long past, was justly deemed a master in Israel, may well be sounded from time to time in our ears.

The Gospel of Christ is a discovery rather than an invention. “The Old Testament,” says our Church in her seventh Article,"is not contrary to the New," nor, it may be added, the New to the Old. The ideas of life, and even of immortality—true ideas many of them, so far as they went—were in the world before, and were probably, in spite of modern theories of the progressive evolution of civilisation, coeval with the history of man.

Christ accepted them, illuminated them, placed them on a more solid basis, illustrated them by a divine example, sustained them by a new motive power.

The Gospel, according to St. Paul's conception of it, was a φανέρωσις ; an επιφανεία. Christ was o φωτίσας Ewnv kai ápoapolav (2 Timothy i. 10). The ideas, the facts, call them what you please, were there; He shed on them a new light; made them stand out from surrounding phenomena in fuller relief; breathed into

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