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24 Five days later the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and an attorney, a certain Tertullus, and they reported their case against Paul to the governor. 2When Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:
Paul before Felix at Caesarea
Five days later the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and an attorney, a certain Tertullus, and they reported their case against Paul to the governor. 2When Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:
“Your Excellency, because of you we have long enjoyed peace, and reforms have been made for this people because of your foresight. 3We welcome this in every way and everywhere with utmost gratitude. 4But, to detain you no further, I beg you to hear us briefly with your customary graciousness. 5We have, in fact, found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6He even tried to profane the temple, and so we seized him. 8By examining him yourself you will be able to learn from him concerning everything of which we accuse him.”
9 The Jews also joined in the charge by asserting that all this was true.
Paul’s Defense before Felix
10 When the governor motioned to him to speak, Paul replied:
“I cheerfully make my defense, knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation. 11As you can find out, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. 12They did not find me disputing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd either in the synagogues or throughout the city. 13Neither can they prove to you the charge that they now bring against me. 14But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets. 15I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. 16Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people. 17Now after some years I came to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifices. 18While I was doing this, they found me in the temple, completing the rite of purification, without any crowd or disturbance. 19But there were some Jews from Asia—they ought to be here before you to make an accusation, if they have anything against me. 20Or let these men here tell what crime they had found when I stood before the council, 21unless it was this one sentence that I called out while standing before them, ‘It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’ ”
22 But Felix, who was rather well informed about the Way, adjourned the hearing with the comment, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” 23Then he ordered the centurion to keep him in custody, but to let him have some liberty and not to prevent any of his friends from taking care of his needs.
Paul Held in Custody
24 Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus. 25And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.” 26At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul, and for that reason he used to send for him very often and converse with him.
27 After two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and since he wanted to grant the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.
1. Seeing Ananias goeth down to Cesarea to accuse Paul, it maketh the conjecture more probable, which I brought before touching his priesthood. For it was not meet for the highest priest to take such a journey. Therefore some other man was highest priest at that time; and Ananias being one of the chief priests, forasmuch as he was in great authority, and was withal a stout 562562 “Strenuus,” active. his innocence. man, did take this embassage upon him. He bringeth with him a train, and that of the worshipful company of elders, that the governor might be moved with their very pomp to condemn Paul. But forasmuch as Paul did use no eloquence, they had no need to hire a rhetorician to contend with him in eloquence. Moreover, they did exceed both in dignity and also in multitude, so that it was an easy matter for them to oppress a poor man, and such a one as was destitute of man’s help. Therefore it was a sign of an evil conscience, in that seeing they were men of great experience, exercised in public affairs, and skillful in matters pertaining to courts, they hire a rhetorician. Eloquence is, I confess, the gift of God; but in this matter they went about nothing else but to deceive the judge therewith. And Luke declareth this, therefore, that we may know that the Jews did omit nothing whereby they might oppress Paul; and that they might not only prove him guilty, 563563 “Perverterent ejus innocentiam,” but so dash him out of countenance, that he might not be able to defend himself; and so let us consider that it came to pass by the wonderful providence of God, that Paul did so stoutly endure such sore assaults. Wherefore, if it so fall out at any time that a godly man being alone be beset with a great number of enemies, let him call to mind this history, and let him be of good courage. As David doth likewise exhort us by his own example,
“If tents were pitched about me, I will not fear,
because thou art with me,” (Psalm 27:3).
2. Seeing we live in great peace. Tertullus useth a preface nothing appertinent to the matter; because he commendeth Felix wisdom and virtues that he may purchase favor. Therefore it is a filthy and flattering exordium. Not that I am of their mind who reprehend Tertullus for speaking the judge fair, and for seeking to win his favor. For it is not always disagreeing with the right and lawful form of pleading to commend the judge; and there may reasons be brought on both sides (as they say) touching this matter. But I mislike nothing but this which is altogether corrupt. For the rhetorician doth insinuate himself under false praises, that he may darken the matter which is called in question. For to what end doth he speak of peace and a well ordered state, save only that Felix may think that the safety of Judea consisteth in condemning Paul, and that he may examine the matter no further? Moreover, it appeareth by Josephus, how covetously, cruelly, and voluptuously, Felix behaved himself in that province. The unworthy and tragical murdering of the highest priest, Jonathas, because he set himself against his dissolute tyranny, was already past; 564564 “Jam praecesserat,” had already been committed. and, finally, almost at the very same time, Claudius Caesar was enforced with the complaints of the whole nation, to put Festus in his place, and to call him to answer for himself.
Therefore we see how shamefully this orator did lie. And seeing all Paul’s adversaries sing the same song, we see that they be blinded with hatred and malice, and that they treacherously betray the state of their country; neither do they pass what befall them so Paul may die the death.
Where Erasmus translateth it, Many things are well done, the old interpreter seemeth to come nearer unto Paul’s meaning, who saith, that κατορθωματα are wrought, which signifieth as much as reformations or dressings. Therefore Tertullus commendeth the industry of Felix, because he had cleansed Judea from many corruptions, and he restored many things which would otherwise have decayed; 565565 “Quae alioqui pessum ibant,” which were otherwise becoming worse. to wit, to the end he may the more greedily seek to purchase the favor of the nation (which he knew was otherwise offended with him) by the death of one man.
5. For we found this man. Tertullus doth aim at a double mark. The first is this, that Paul may be delivered to the Jews, because they be very skillful in matters which concern the worship of God and the law of Moses. But and if he deny this, he layeth to his charge a crime worthy of death, because he procured contention 566566 “Seditionem... concitaverit,” stirred up sedition. among the people. They knew that the Romans did hate nothing more, therefore they urge that the sorest against Paul. This doth Tertullus amplify when he saith, that Paul had moved the Jews throughout the whole world. But I wonder why he addeth that he is the author or chief of the sect of the Nazarites, which we know was rather a praise than a dispraise among the Jews. I think that they mean not those who, according to the old and lawful custom of the law, did consecrate themselves to God, but those troublesome murderers who did also vaunt and boast that they were zealous men. 567567 “Tumultusos illos sicarios qui se etiam plausibili nomine vociferabant zelotas,” those tumultuary assassins who, assuming a specious name, boasted of being zelotae, (zealous) Some 568568 “Quae factio circiter illud tempus emerserit; imo ex Josephi historia colligitur jamtunc fuisse grassatos,” about this time that faction had broken out, nay, it appears from Josephus that it had even then made considerable progress, omitted. think that Nazarites are here put for Christians, which may very well be. But if we like the former exposition better, he doth craftily lay to Paul’s charge that he was one of that sect which the Romans did hate. For whereas these zealous men would above all other have been counted for notable observers of the law, they advanced a color of zeal as a banner to stir up the minds of the common people. Nevertheless, these good men, who are so zealous over their liberty, do not spare the chiefest maintainers thereof, so they may cause Paul to be hated by means of them. They would have commended the Nazarites as courageous defenders of the law, if it had not been in this matter, but now, as if they did infect the whole world, they seek to bring upon Paul great reproach by saying that he is one of them. Moreover, they slander Paul impudently, for no man did think that he was guilty of that crime. Therefore they lay to his charge, no less wickedly than maliciously, a crime which they take up at their foot, 569569 “Crimen velut ex trivio aereptum,” some charge, picked up, as it were, in the streets. and invent without all color. But such is the careless security of hypocrites, that they think they may do whatsoever they will, so they color their doings with zeal.
6. Who went about to pollute the temple. It was a light and almost a frivolous accusation to lay this to his charge before the Roman governor, who could have wished that the temple had been turned topsy-turvy. But because nothing was more fit for procuring uproars than the polluting of the temple, he doth craftily accuse Paul thereof, as if he should say, that it was no thanks to him that Jerusalem was not on an uproar; and that he carried such a firebrand as might have procured sore hurt if he had not been prevented. Also he includeth that other thing, that because Paul had offended in matters of religion, it did belong properly to the Jews to give judgment in that matter. And here he complaineth also of the chief captain Lysias, because he robbed them of their right. Therefore his drift is, to obtain at the hands of the ruler that he will restore to them that which Lysias had taken from them. This is also not void of subtilty, in that Tertullus doth discredit the chief captain, because he dealt more courteously towards Paul than the priests would he should; and glancingly he bringeth him in suspicion, because he dare not openly accuse him. But the question is, whether they could hope that the governor would grant them so much, seeing the Roman magistrates alone were to sit upon life and death? I answer, that he maketh in this place some semblance of equity, as if they were purposed to handle him more gently than he deserved. For though they might not condemn any man to death, yet they might use some light chastisement as was scourging. Nevertheless, Tertullus doth not cease to desire before the president to have him put to death.
8. Having made inquiry. A good 570570 “AEqua,” just, equitable. request, that the governor do not give sentence before he thoroughly examine and know the matter; and that he do not condemn Paul before he be lawfully convict. But how dare they put in these conditions, seeing their own consciences do accuse them of unjust dealing? I answer, that they had witnesses in readiness; and that they do not offer themselves to prove the matter until they do call them; 571571 “Nec se ad probandum offerre nisi suo arbitrio,” and that they do not offer proof unless he decide that it shall be taken. though there were another end. For they did hope that Felix would be so persuaded with such glorious words, 572572 “Ampullis,” bombast. that he would turn over unto them the man whom they did accuse for a condemned man, whom they might handle at their pleasure. In sum, the more fierce they be upon him, and the more they were puffed up with some affiance they had in themselves, they think they shall get the upper hand by this means, because the party arraigned shall have no license granted to defend himself. Thus do false accusers boldly boast that their matter is plain, that they may blind the eyes of the judges.
10. And Paul. The state of Paul’s defense is not conversant in the quality; but he denieth the crime that was laid to his charge; not that he was ashamed of the gospel, or afraid of the cross, but because that was no place to make any full confession of faith in. Therefore, omitting the cause of the gospel, which his accuser had not touched, he answereth simply unto the crimes whereof he was accused. But before he come thither, he saith that he doth the more willingly answer for himself before Felix, because he had long time been governor of Judea; because, peradventure, some new governor 573573 “Propter inscitiam,” through ignorance, omitted. would have been sore moved hearing such things laid to his charge. He doth not commend the virtues of the governor, but he saith that he is glad, because he is of great experience, that he may judge more justly. 574574 “Composite,” calmly. This is surely a sincere and free manner of defending, to set matter against words. Yet Paul seemeth to gather amiss, that Felix can know the time of his coming, because he had been governor many years. I answer, that this is said therefore, because it is likely that he will deal more moderately; as if he should say, Because thou hast been acquainted with their conditions long time, I have the better hope that they shall not deceive thee. For want of skill doth make judges too credulous, and doth enforce them to make too much haste.
11. To worship. First, it is certain that he came for other causes, and he will afterward confess that this was the chief, that he might bring alms for the sustentation of the brethren. But we may well excuse him, because it was not of necessity that he should give an account of his coming; only he meant, by the way, to excuse himself of corrupt religion. Wherefore, though he came to Jerusalem for some other cause, yet this is always true, that he came with no other mind, but to profess himself to be a worshipper of God, and to approve the holiness of the temple by his worshipping. The other question is more hard, how he saith that he came to worship, seeing the religion of the temple was already abolished, and all difference of the temple 575575 “Omne tempii discrimen,” all distinction or temple. taken away? I answer in this place likewise, that though he do not make his purpose known, yet he doth not lie or dissemble. For the faithful servants of Christ were not forbidden to worship in the temple, so they did not tie holiness to the place, but did lift up pure hands freely without making choice of places (1 Timothy 2:8). It was lawful for Paul to enter into the temple after he was come to Jerusalem, that he might make his godliness known, and there to use the solemn rites of the worship of God, because he was void of superstition; so he did not offer any propitiatory sacrifices which were contrary to the gospel. Therefore religion did not compel him to come to Jerusalem according to the appointment of the law, as if the sanctuary were the face of God as in times past; yet he doth not abhor the external worship which was unto men a testimony of godliness.
12. Disputing with any man. Paul had no need to deny any of these things if he had done them; because he might have answered for himself that it was well done. He had been one of the scribes which disputed daily; neither were they forbidden either by the law or by custom, but that they might assemble themselves together 576576 “Turmatim,” in crowds. to be taught. Yea, to this end there were in divers places of the city synagogues, wherein they met together. Moreover, he knew that both Christ and also his apostles had done the same thing. Also he might easily have turned [retorted] back upon his adversaries the crime which they did object to him, who did daily use the very same things. But because he aimeth at no other thing at this present, but to refute the false accusations of his adversaries, and to prove that importunate men had unadvisedly molested him for no cause; he intreateth not of the lawfulness of the fact, (as they say) but only of the fact. And he standeth chiefly upon this point to refute that slander, because he was burdened to be 577577 “Delatus fuerat tanquam,” was charged with being. a raiser of tumults. Therefore he concludeth that he was falsely and unjustly accused; because the adversaries had never proved those things which they had alleged. This ought to have been sufficient to discharge him, seeing he was thus burdened with wicked lies, whereas there rested in him not the very least suspicion that could be devised.
14. But I confess. Because they had laid to Paul’s charge impiety and the polluting of the temple, he purgeth himself of both now, that Felix may understand that his adversaries were moved with evil will. 578578 “Sola malevolentia impelli,” were instigated by sheer malevolence. For though the religion, which is pretended, be false and preposterous, yet the study thereof did oftentimes find favor with men, who took no great heed. Wherefore it was to be feared lest Felix, if he had conceived any sinister suspicion of Paul, should not only have pardoned the zeal of the priests, but also have granted their requests. Wherefore Paul doth also refute this point of the accusation; and that so, that he doth not touch the faith of the gospel, because (as we have said) that was no fit place for making confession thereof. But what is this that he saith, that he worshippeth God according to the way which they call heresy? Some think that this is added like to a concession; because the enemies take that in evil part which ought to be attributed to judgment and right election; as if Paul had said, that that form of religion which he had followed is, indeed, called heresy, but unworthily. But seeing that name was not infamous either among the Jews or Gentiles, it is unlikely that he maketh answer before a profane man, touching that which they counted everywhere rather a commendation than any vice. When Christians have conference together, the Spirit of God commandeth that heretics be counted detestable; and he teacheth us to beware of heresies, because they bring upon the Church plague, dissension, and wasteness. Therefore, it is a thing not to be suffered among the people of God, whose safety consisteth in the unity of faith. But because the Jews did then openly boast of their sects, that excuse, whereof we spake of late, was superfluous. Therefore, it remaineth that he do either mean that he is a Pharisee, or that he call the Jewish religion or the profession of the gospel (without infamy) heresy; because they were distinguished from the use and custom of all nations. Seeing he did before confess himself to be a Pharisee, there shall no inconvenience ensue, if we say that he doth repeat the same now; especially seeing he speaketh shortly after of the resurrection of the dead. But because this first point doth only contain a confession concerning the worship of the God of the fathers, I think that he doth rather speak generally of the Jewish religion, or of the Christian faith which did flow thence. Paul was a citizen of Rome, notwithstanding as he came of the Jews by his ancestry, he confesseth that he continueth in the religion which he had learned of the fathers. And to this end doth the adverb of likeness tend; for it showeth a known thing, namely, the manner of worship whereunto the Jews were addicted. He maketh express mention of the God of his fathers, because it was not lawful for a man that was a Roman to receive the doctrine of the law unless he had come of the Jews. Also he toucheth his adversaries, which handle him so cruelly; whereas, notwithstanding, they both worship one God. I (saith he) worship the same God (according to the manner delivered by mine ancestors) which they themselves worship, and even as they worship him. Neither doth that hinder because he was fallen from the ceremonies of the law, and was content with the spiritual worship of God. For Paul thinketh it sufficient for him to wipe away that blot of impiety which his adversaries had falsely cast upon him. Therefore the Papists are ridiculous, who feign that Paul alloweth [approveth] all manner [of] antiquity. We, say they, worship the God of our fathers with Paul, as the custom was delivered to us from hand to hand; as if (even they themselves being judges) it were sufficient for the Jews or Turks to hold up the same buckler against the faith of Christ. But the apostle meant nothing less than simply to ground religion in the authority of ancestors, and to defend his godliness with that defense, which might have been common to all the superstitions of the Gentiles; he meant only to stop the mouth of his adversaries. Nevertheless, he taketh this for a plain matter, that the fathers, from whom the Jewish religion came, were good and sincere worshippers of God; so that the Jews, which were not degenerate, might well boast, that the God of their fathers whom they worshipped was the only Creator of heaven and earth; and that the country gods 579579 “Gentiles,” the Gentile. of all the rest of the world were mere and vain inventions.
Believing all things. A short exposition of the sentence next going before. For, because he had not simply affirmed that he worshipped God, but did add this word ουτως, or so: he doth now set down how he worshippeth God. Whereby it appeareth what great heed he taketh for fear he entangle himself in those accidental 580580 “Adventitiis,” adventitious. superstitions which reigned among the Jews. As if any of us do at this day answer the Papists, that he worshippeth the God whom they profess, as we be taught out of the law and out of the gospel. By this let us learn that God is not rightly worshipped, so that our obedience can please him, unless it be of faith, which is the only ground-work of godliness. For he (to the end he may prove himself to be the servant of God) doth not thrust upon them bare ceremonies; but he saith flatly that he believeth. Furthermore, this place containeth a profitable doctrine, that this is the only foundation of right and true 581581 “Orthodoxae,” orthodox. faith, for a man to submit himself to the Scripture, and reverently to embrace the doctrine thereof. Furthermore, Paul doth in this place divide the Scripture into the law and the prophets, that he may the more plainly prove that he doth not dissent from the universal consent of the Church.
15. Hoping in God. We must note the course of his speech. For after that he hath professed that he believeth the Scripture, he doth now add the hope of the resurrection to come, that it may appear that it cometh not from the understanding of the flesh, 582582 “Carnis sensu,” from carnal sense. or from the decrees of men, but it is conceived out of the word of God. Thus doth the reverence of the Scripture go before, 583583 “Praecedit,” take precedence that it 584584 “Ejus anctoritas,” its authority may hold us fast bound, and it is the beginning of faith. After that the knowledge of those things which God hath revealed there doth follow, being coupled and linked with sure hope. And whereas he maketh them his fellows, it is referred unto the sounder sort. Though it be not to be doubted, but that he seeketh, by this means and policy, to bring them out of their lurking places into the clear light, and that before Felix; as it shall again appear by the conclusion of the defense. But in this place, the general resurrection is defended [asserted] against certain brain-sick fellows, who restrain the same unto the members of Christ. But as Paul doth in this place say that all men shall rise again, so by the plain voice of Christ all are cited; 585585 “Promiscue,” promiscuously. some unto judgment, some unto life (John 5:29).
16. And herein do I study. There is no sharper prick to prick men forward, with all desire to lead a godly and holy life, than the hope of the last resurrection, as the Scripture teacheth in many places. Therefore, when Paul will effectually exhort the people anywhere, he calleth them back to remember the same (Philippians 3:20). Wherefore, it is not without cause that he saith in this place, that staying himself upon this faith, he hath endeavored to live purely before God, and righteously among men. And surely an evil conscience is as good as a thousand witnesses to accuse 586586 “Ad coarguendos,” to convict. men of blockishness, that they may gather for a certainty that they do not earnestly and thoroughly believe eternal life, after which they never long. He calleth it a conscience, απροσκοπον, that is, without offense, where the servants of God labor to remove all lets which hinder their course. And he putteth two parts of the conscience. For there is a certain inward sense or feeling which beholdeth 587587 “Respicit,” has repect to. God alone, and thence cometh faithfulness and integrity which we use towards men. At length, when he saith that he hath constantly followed as well godliness in worshipping God, as just dealing among men, he signifieth unto us that those do indeed hope for the last resurrection who are never weary of well-doing. For this word always doth signify perseverance in a straight course.
17. And after many years. His meaning is, that he had not of long time been at Jerusalem, but was conversant in other countries far distant, and that after long time he came now to bring alms, and to offer to God the sacrifice of thanks. Whereby doth also appear their want of good nature and their unthankfulness, because, seeing he had by all means deserved the goodwill of all the whole nation, they recompense him so evil. This place doth expound the former, where mention was made of worshipping. For it is certain that Paul came not purposely to offer in the temple, because he purposed to do that after he was come. But he doth only recite what the Jews found in him, which was of greatest weight for the matter which was now in hand. At length, when he saith that he was found in the temple doing this, and that having used first solemn purging, and, secondly, quietly without raising any tumult, he cleareth himself again of both crimes. For his purifying did witness that he did not pollute the temple; and, secondly, forasmuch as he did it quietly without any multitude, there was no suspicion of tumult.
19. Certain Jews. This is an imperfect speech; yet the sense is plain, that these men of Asia, as it should seem, had caused a tumult without cause, of whose absence he complaineth; as if he should say, Ye which lay so many things to my charge, cannot tell how the matter standeth; but you bring before the judgment-seat of the governor a tale which was rashly believed. But those who are to be blamed for the matter, and who were as fans to set all on fire, appear not. After that Paul hath turned back [retorted] the crime upon others, taking to himself a good courage, he doth now appeal unto the adversaries which are present, willing them if they know anything by him freely to utter it; though I dissent from Erasmus and the old interpreter in the participle σταντος, for they translate it in the present tense; and they expound the word συνεδριον, or council, of the sitting of the governor, which I think is far from Paul’s meaning. For his meaning is, in my judgment, that he was ready to give an account of all things in their council. And that they knew nothing then which they can lay to his charge, because they began to stir only for this one voice, when he said that he was judged of the resurrection of the dead; that is, that he suffered all this trouble for no other cause, save only because he did hope for the resurrection of the dead. Whereby it appeareth that they now coin a new accusation for no cause, because, if there had been in him any fault, they would not have concealed it then. It is likely that they had farther talk, and that they came nearer together, 588588 “Et proprius quasi manu conserta congressos esse,” and came, as it were, to close quarters. because we shall see elsewhere that they did contend about Christ; but it was Luke’s drift only to declare how well Paul had cleared himself of the false accusations of his accusers.
24. Felix, with his wife Drusilla. We said somewhat already concerning the covetousness and corruptions of Felix. Now, as touching his wife Drusilla, the readers must understand that she was daughter to Agrippa the elder, of whose filthy death Luke spake before, chapter 12, (Acts 12:23). She was betrothed to Epiphanis, the son of Antiochus. But forasmuch as the young man would not take on him the rites which the Jews did use, which he promised to do, her brother, Agrippa the younger, (of whom mention shall be made in the next chapter) after the death of his father, gave her to wife to Azizus, king of the Emesenes; from whose company she was enticed by the flattery of Felix. For Felix being taken with her singular beauty, did persuade one Simon, a Jew, born in Cyprus, to persuade and allure her to make a new match. Therefore, it came to pass, that this voluptuous woman, having broken promise with her former husband, did marry with an uncircumcised man contrary to the law. But though she had polluted herself with profane wedlock, yet we may easily conjecture by this place that she had not quite abandoned that feeling of religion which she had of [from] a child.
For Felix would neither have desired to hear Paul, neither would he have vouchsafed to speak to him, unless it had been for his wife’s sake. Luke doth not express thus much, but in that he nameth Drusilla, we may well gather that Paul was called for her sake, that he might dispute of the gospel; though such revolts [apostates] be rather tickled with curiosity, than moved with a sincere desire to learn.
He heard him touching the faith. This confession of Paul doth witness, that he did not spare to speak of Christ before, because he was afraid, or because he would escape the trouble of the cross; 592592 “Vel ut se subtraheret a curcis molestia,” or that he might escape from bearing the cross but because it was not yet time to speak. Seeing he was cited unto the judgment-seat to answer for himself, it stood him upon to answer concerning the crimes which were objected to him, that he might afterward frankly and freely profess the faith of Christ. Therefore, when he now seeth the gate set open, and opportunity offered for speaking, he is not afraid to offend the governor, neither is he terrified with danger, that he doth craftily make as if he were not a Christian. Therefore, we see that he was as well furnished with invincible constancy as with wisdom and judgment; neither did he ever of set purpose suppress the light of the gospel, but did only make choice of the time.
Now, the wonderful counsel of God is worth the noting in this place, who will have the gospel offered sometimes to the reprobate; not that they may profit thereby, but rather that they may be made inexcusable. It had been better for Felix and Drusilla never to have heard anything concerning Christ; because they did not escape without punishment for refusing the grace of salvation which was offered to them, or for neglecting the same with loathsomeness. Furthermore, we must note this, that certain, by reason of that seed of godliness which is in them engendered, do desire to hear the gospel preached, which, so soon as they have heard, they do by and by either loathe, or else they cannot suffer it. Nevertheless, the preaching of the gospel (what success soever it have) is a good and sweet savor to God; whether it quicken or kill men (2 Corinthians 2:15).
23. When Felix. It appeareth that Felix (though he pronounced nothing concerning the matter) did perceive that Paul was burdened with no fault of his own, but with the malice of the priests. For when Luke saith that the matter was deferred until the coming of Lysias, he putteth in this instead of a reason, that the ruler did perfectly know those things which did appertain unto the way, by which words, I think, is signified, either that through long experience he had been acquainted with the conditions of the priests, and knew full well how they were wont to behave themselves; or else that he saw by these things which had been spoken on both sides how frivolous the accusation was, which is confirmed by the courteous and remiss 589589 “Magis remissa... tractatio,” mere indulgent treatment. usage of Paul; for he putteth a centurion in trust with him, that he may have the more liberty. Others had rather read it in one text in the person of Felix: when Lysias, who doth better know the truth of this matter, is come, I will then give judgment. But they let [draw] and gather this racked sense from a reason which is scarce firm. They say that this word way is nowhere taken for the doctrine of the law without some addition. But I do not interpret it of the law, but of those sects whereof no strangers were ignorant. No man did doubt but that the Pharisees did hold the immortality of the soul. Therefore, seeing it was a thing so common, no marvel if Felix do acquit Paul. Furthermore, it were hard to take way for the knowledge of the fact. And I see not how this can hang together, that the governor doth confess that Lysias was more expert in the law than he. But his innocency is made more famous and evident by this, because a profane man did straightway give such a prejudice 590590 “Tale praejudicium tulit,” did so favourably prejudge it. thereof that he did suffer him to be visited and holpen by his friends, being, as it were, exempted from the order of prisoners. Also, we gather by this that Paul’s companions and the residue of the Church had not forsaken him. For to what end had it been to grant liberty to his friends and acquaintance to have access unto him unless they had been present, had showed themselves to be careful for him, and had been desirous to do their duty? 591591 “Officio defungi,” to do offices of kindness to him. Therefore, let us learn by this example, that so long as we may, and are able, we must not defraud the martyrs of Christ of any manner of comfort whilst they labor for the gospel.
25. And as he disputed. Felix hoped that he should take some delight in Paul’s sermon; as men who are desirous of new things do willingly feed their ears with subtle disputations; also he meant to satisfy his wife’s desire without his own trouble; now, he is enforced to feel that force of the Word of God, whereof he never thought, which driveth away all his delights. Paul, out of bonds, disputeth of the judgment of God; he which had power to put him to death, or to save his life, is afraid and quaketh as if he stood before his own judge; neither doth he find any other comfort, but to send him away out of his sight. Let us first learn by this, what great force of the Spirit of God there was both in the heart and also in the tongue of Paul, because he seeth that he must speak in the name of Christ, he doth not behave himself like an underling; 593593 “Non submisse agit,” he does not act crouchingly. but he declareth the embassage which was enjoined him, with a grace, as from on high, and having forgotten that he was in bonds, he denounceth the heavenly judgment in the person of Christ. And now seeing Felix’ heart is so pricked with the voice of a prisoner, the majesty of the Spirit doth show itself in that also, which Christ extolleth; when the Spirit shall come he shall judge the world, etc., and that force of prophesying, which the same Paul setteth forth elsewhere (1 Corinthians 14:24). Also, that is fulfilled which he saith in another place, that the word of God was not bound with him; which he did not only stoutly maintain and affirm to be true, but which did effectually pierce into the hearts of men, (and that of such as were proud of their greatness) as if it did lighten from heaven.
Again, we must note, that although the reprobate be stricken with the judgment of God, yet are they not renewed unto repentance by that terror alone. Felix is touched indeed, when he heareth that God shall be the Judge of the world; yet he fleeth therewithal from his judgment-seat, (whereof he is afraid) so that this is feigned sorrow, which doth not work salvation. Therefore, repentance requireth such fear as may both engender a voluntary hatred of sin, and may also present a man before God, that he may willingly suffer himself to be judged by his word. And this is a token of true profiting when the sinner seeketh for medicine there, from whence he received his wound. Furthermore, this place doth teach that men are then examined and tried to the quick, when their vices, wherewith they are infected, are brought to light, and their consciences are called back unto the judgment to come. For when Paul disputeth of righteousness and temperance, he did rub Felix sore upon the gall; forasmuch as he was both a man given to filthy pleasure, and also to dissolute riot, and given over unto iniquity.
26. Hoping that money. Though Felix had thoroughly tried Paul’s integrity, so that he was ashamed to take money of the Jews for condemning him; yet forasmuch as he was a covetous man, and a man given to corruptions, he would not acquit him for nothing; for this cause he doth often call Paul, that he may with fair words put him in some hope of deliverance. 594594 “Liberationes redimendae,” of purchasing deliverance. For judges which gape after money do insinuate themselves thus, when as they will make way for corruptions. Whence we gather, that it was but a vain and transitory fear wherewith Felix was taken when he heard Paul dispute, seeing hope of gain doth compel him to call for him whom he was enforced with fear to send away. How did Felix hope for some reward at the hands of a poor man, and one that was destitute? for that ghoul would not have been content with a small prey. I do not doubt but that (as those who have the law and right to sell are witty and can perceive things 595595 “Ut sagaces sunt et acuti qui jus habent venale,” as those judges who act ve-nally are sagacious and acute ) when he saw the Jews did make such earnest suit to have Paul put to death, he smelled somewhat afar off touching him; 596596 “Aliquid procul de ipso subodoratum esse,” he had some distant idea of what kind of a person he was. to wit, that he was none of the common sort; but such a man as was in great favor with many. Wherefore, he did not doubt but that many of his friends would willingly bestow cost to redeem him.
27. And when two years were expired. Seeing Paul knew that the judge who did gape for gain would be favorable to him so soon as he should offer him money, and seeing he had sufficient time to gather the same; it is likely that he did not only bear with the brethren, 597597 “Pepercisse fratribus,” spare the brethren. but also detest such bribery, wherewith the holiness of civil order is shamefully polluted. Now, whereas governors use to let loose such prisoners as they know are not guilty when they go from the province, Felix took the contrary way to win favor. The Jews had often complained of his filthy gain, of his extortion, cruelty, and unruly government. Claudius Caesar being wearied with so many complaints, did call him out of Judea; to the end the Jews may not spite him so sore, he leaveth Paul bound; so that he maketh the guiltless servant of God, as it were, an offering for his evil deeds, that he may therewithal appease the priests.