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Acts 25:9-12

9. And Festus, being willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me? 10. But Paul said, I stand before Caesar’s judgment-seat, where I must be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou thyself knowest full well. 11. And if I do injury, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die; but if there be nothing of these things whereof they accuse me, no man can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar. 12. Then spake Festus with the council, and said, Hast thou appealed to Caesar? to Caesar shalt thou go.

 

9. And Festus. Whether Festus knew somewhat of their laying await, (which we may well conjecture) or whether he were altogether ignorant thereof, he dealeth unjustly with Paul; and we see how soon those are drawn unto all corruption which are not guided by the Spirit of God. For Festus doth not openly contemn or hate Paul; but ambition, and peradventure also desire of gain, got the upper hand, so that, for pleasing the other part, he doth unjustly bring him in danger of death; also, it is likely that he was enticed with the smell [hope] of some reward to hearken so courteously to the priests. Notwithstanding, I marvel that he giveth Paul leave to choose, and doth not rather, according to this authority, command them to carry him whether he would or no. Surely we gather that he was kept back with fear, lest he should infringe the privilege of the city of Rome, 599599     “Jus Romanae civitatis,” the privilege of a Roman citizen. which was a very odious crime. Notwithstanding, he studied craftily to persuade Paul not to refuse to be judged at Jerusalem. For he was not ignorant of that which indeed came to pass, that a citizen of Rome might lawfully appeal, so that he could then go no farther. Nevertheless, it was no thank to him that he was not delivered into the hands of murderers. 600600     “Quo minus sceleratis latronibus mactandum objiceret,” that he did not expose himself to be murdered by nefarious assassins.

10. I stand at Caesar’s judgment-seat. Because Paul seeth that he is betrayed into the hands of the Jews through the ambition of the governor, he objecteth the privilege of the city of Rome. He had submitted himself modestly, if he had commanded him to do 601601     “Si impetrasset,” if he had obtained. that which was just and equal. Now, because the governor doth not his duty willingly, necessity compelleth the holy man to defend himself by law; and by this means the Lord delivereth him now again, even when he was almost given over into the hands of the enemies. And whereas he desireth to have his matter handled before Caesar’s judgment-seat, he doth not, therefore, make the doctrine of the gospel subject to the judgment of a profane and wicked man; but being ready to give an account of his faith everywhere, he appealeth from that court where he could no longer hope for equity. Furthermore, though the citizens of Rome did retain their privilege, yet the order was then altered, because the Caesars had taken into their own hands the judging of the people, 602602     “Judicium populi,” the right of judging (formerly) in the people, as if they would be good maintainers and patrons of common liberty.

To the Jews have I done. Because those whose consciences do accuse them, and which mistrust their matter, fly unto certain odd excuses and exceptions, Paul turneth away from himself this opinion. And surely the ministers of Christ ought to have no less care to make their innocency known than to save their life. If Paul had flatly denied to answer for himself, the enemies would have triumphed, and the doubtfulness of an evil conscience should have been objected to him to the reproach of the gospel. But now when he citeth the governor himself to be a witness of his integrity, and doth refuse no punishment if he should be found guilty, he cutteth off all occasion of slanderous reports. Therefore, he showeth that he doth not seek to save himself by turning his back, 603603     “Tergiversandi,” by tergiversation. but flyeth unto the fortress of a just defense, that he may there save himself from injury, seeing his adversaries have hitherto handled him unjustly; and now refusing to deal with him any longer by law, they go about to have him murdered. Neither doth Paul go behind the president’s back to tell him that he doth unjustly, in that he doth so dally with his accusers; and therewithal he doth, as it were, bridle his lust, so that he dare go no farther.

11. I appeal unto Caesar. After that he hath professed that he doth not refuse to die if he be found guilty, he freely useth such helps as he could find at the hands of men. Wherefore, if we be at any time brought into like straits, we must not be superstitious, but we may crave help of the laws and politic order. Because it is written, that magistrates are made and appointed by God to the praise of the godly (Romans 13:3; and 1 Peter 2:13). Neither was Paul afraid to go to law under an unbelieving judge; for he which appealeth commenceth a new action.

Therefore, let us know that God, who hath appointed judgment-seats, doth also grant liberty to his to use the same lawfully. Therefore, those mistake Paul who think that he doth flatly condemn the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 6:1) because they require help of the magistrate for defense of their right, seeing he reproveth in that place a manifest fault, to wit, because they could suffer no wrong, and because they were too much set upon suing one another, whereby they caused the gospel to be evil spoken of.

12. Festus having talked with the council The governors did use to have certain of the chief citizens which did attend upon them, and sat with them in judgment, that they might decree nothing without the consent of the council. Furthermore, it doth seem that Festus pronounced this with indignation, when he said interrogatively, Hast thou appealed to Caesar? to wit, because it grieved him that he could not do the Jews such a pleasure as he desired; though I leave that indifferent, because it is neither of any great importance, and it leaneth only to a conjecture.


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