Acts 26

* Paul's defence before Agrippa. (1-11) His conversion and

preaching to the Gentiles. (12-23) Festus and Agrippa convinced

of Paul's innocence. (24-32)

1-11 Christianity teaches us to give a reason of the hope that

is in us, and also to give honour to whom honour is due, without

flattery or fear of man. Agrippa was well versed in the

Scriptures of the Old Testament, therefore could the better

judge as to the controversy about Jesus being the Messiah.

Surely ministers may expect, when they preach the faith of

Christ, to be heard patiently. Paul professes that he still kept

to all the good in which he was first educated and trained up.

See here what his religion was. He was a moralist, a man of

virtue, and had not learned the arts of the crafty, covetous

Pharisees; he was not chargeable with any open vice and

profaneness. He was sound in the faith. He always had a holy

regard for the ancient promise made of God unto the fathers, and

built his hope upon it. The apostle knew very well that all this

would not justify him before God, yet he knew it was for his

reputation among the Jews, and an argument that he was not such

a man as they represented him to be. Though he counted this but

loss, that he might win Christ, yet he mentioned it when it

might serve to honour Christ. See here what Paul's religion is;

he has not such zeal for the ceremonial law as he had in his

youth; the sacrifices and offerings appointed by that, are done

away by the great Sacrifice which they typified. Of the

ceremonial cleansings he makes no conscience, and thinks the

Levitical priesthood is done away in the priesthood of Christ;

but, as to the main principles of his religion, he is as zealous

as ever. Christ and heaven, are the two great doctrines of the

gospel; that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is

in his Son. These are the matter of the promise made unto the

fathers. The temple service, or continual course of religious

duties, day and night, was kept up as the profession of faith in

the promise of eternal life, and in expectation of it. The

prospect of eternal life should engage us to be diligent and

stedfast in all religious exercises. Yet the Sadducees hated

Paul for preaching the resurrection; and the other Jews joined

them, because he testified that Jesus was risen, and was the

promised Redeemer of Israel. Many things are thought to be

beyond belief, only because the infinite nature and perfections

of Him that has revealed, performed, or promised them, are

overlooked. Paul acknowledged, that while he continued a

Pharisee, he was a bitter enemy to Christianity. This was his

character and manner of life in the beginning of his time; and

there was every thing to hinder his being a Christian. Those who

have been most strict in their conduct before conversion, will

afterwards see abundant reason for humbling themselves, even on

account of things which they then thought ought to have been

12-23 Paul was made a Christian by Divine power; by a

revelation of Christ both to him and in him; when in the full

career of his sin. He was made a minister by Divine authority:

the same Jesus who appeared to him in that glorious light,

ordered him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. A world that

sits in darkness must be enlightened; those must be brought to

know the things that belong to their everlasting peace, who are

yet ignorant of them. A world that lies in wickedness must be

sanctified and reformed; it is not enough for them to have their

eyes opened, they must have their hearts renewed; not enough to

be turned from darkness to light, but they must be turned from

the power of Satan unto God. All who are turned from sin to God,

are not only pardoned, but have a grant of a rich inheritance.

The forgiveness of sins makes way for this. None can be happy

who are not holy; and to be saints in heaven we must be first

saints on earth. We are made holy, and saved by faith in Christ;

by which we rely upon Christ as the Lord our Righteousness, and

give up ourselves to him as the Lord our Ruler; by this we

receive the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and

eternal life. The cross of Christ was a stumbling-block to the

Jews, and they were in a rage at Paul's preaching the fulfilling

of the Old Testament predictions. Christ should be the first

that should rise from the dead; the Head or principal One. Also,

it was foretold by the prophets, that the Gentiles should be

brought to the knowledge of God by the Messiah; and what in this

could the Jews justly be displeased at? Thus the true convert

can give a reason of his hope, and a good account of the change

manifest in him. Yet for going about and calling on men thus to

repent and to be converted, vast numbers have been blamed and

24-32 It becomes us, on all occasions, to speak the words of

truth and soberness, and then we need not be troubled at the

unjust censures of men. Active and laborious followers of the

gospel often have been despised as dreamers or madmen, for

believing such doctrines and such wonderful facts; and for

attesting that the same faith and diligence, and an experience

like their own, are necessary to all men, whatever their rank,

in order to their salvation. But apostles and prophets, and the

Son of God himself, were exposed to this charge; and none need

be moved thereby, when Divine grace has made them wise unto

salvation. Agrippa saw a great deal of reason for Christianity.

His understanding and judgment were for the time convinced, but

his heart was not changed. And his conduct and temper were

widely different from the humility and spirituality of the

gospel. Many are almost persuaded to be religious, who are not

quite persuaded; they are under strong convictions of their

duty, and of the excellence of the ways of God, yet do not

pursue their convictions. Paul urged that it was the concern of

every one to become a true Christian; that there is grace enough

in Christ for all. He expressed his full conviction of the truth

of the gospel, the absolute necessity of faith in Christ in

order to salvation. Such salvation from such bondage, the gospel

of Christ offers to the Gentiles; to a lost world. Yet it is

with much difficulty that any person can be persuaded he needs a

work of grace on his heart, like that which was needful for the

conversion of the Gentiles. Let us beware of fatal hesitation in

our own conduct; and recollect how far the being almost

persuaded to be a Christian, is from being altogether such a one

as every true believer is.
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