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    April 9, 1885

    “Notes on the International Lesson. Acts 28:16-31” The Signs of the Times 11, 15, pp. 230, 231.

    APRIL 26—Acts 28:16-31

    Paul at Rome.

    ST. PAUL had seen many magnificent cities, but never one which was approached by a road so regular and so costly in construction as Rome. As they passed each well-known object, the warm-hearted brethren would point out to him the tombs of the Scipios and Cecilia Metella, and the thousands of other tombs, with all their architectural beauty, and striking bass-reliefs and touching inscriptions; and the low seats for the accommodation of travelers at every forty feet; and the numberless statues of the Dei Viales; and the roadside inns, and the endless streams of carriages for travelers of every rank—humble birotae and comfortable rhedae, and stately carpenta—and the lecticae or palanquins borne on the necks of slaves, from which the occupants looked luxuriously down on throngs of pedestrians passing to and from the mighty capital of the ancient world.SITI April 9, 1885, page 230.1

    How many a look of contemptuous curiosity would be darted at the chained prisoner and his Jewish friends as they passed along with their escort of soldiers! But Paul could bear all this while he felt that he would not be utterly lonely amid the vast and densely-crowded wilderness of human habitations, of which he first caught sight as he mounted the slope of the Alban hills. And so through ever-lengthening rows of suburban villas, and ever-thickening throngs of people, they would reach the actual precincts of the city. It was thus that the dream of Paul’s life was accomplished, and thus that in March, A.D. 61, in the seventh year of the reign of Nero, under the consulship of Cesennius Petus and Petronius Turpilianus, he entered Rome.SITI April 9, 1885, page 230.2

    Here the charge of the centurion Julius ended, though we can hardly suppose that he would entirely forget and neglect henceforth his noble prisoner, to whom, in God’s providence, he owed his own life and the safety of the other prisoners intrusted to him. Officially, however, his connection with them was closed when he had handed them over to the charge of the Prefect of the Pretorian guards, the honest and soldierly Afranius Burrus. So far, Paul was fortunate, for Burrus, as an upright and humane officer, was not likely to treat with needless severity a prisoner who was accused of no comprehensible charge—of none at any rate which a Roman would consider worth mentioning—and who had won golden opinions both from the Procurators of Judea and from the centurion who had conducted him from Jerusalem. A vulgar and careless tyrant might have jumped to the conclusion that he was some fanatical Sicarius, such as at that time swarmed throughout Judea, and so have thrust him into a hopeless and intolerable captivity. But the good word of Julius, and the kindly integrity of Burrus, were invaluable to him, and he was merely subjected to that kind of military custody which was known as observatio.SITI April 9, 1885, page 230.3

    For the first three days he was hospitably received by some member of the Christian community, and was afterwards allowed to hire a lodging of his own, with free leave to communicate with his friends both by letter and by personal intercourse. The trial of having a soldier chained to him indeed continued, but that was inevitable under the Roman system. It was in mitigation of this intolerable concomitant of his imprisonment that the good will of his Roman friends might be most beneficially exercised. At the best, it was an infliction which it required no little fortitude to endure, and for a Jew it would be far more painful than for a Gentile. Two Gentiles might have much in common; they would be interested in common topics, actuated by common principles; but a Jew and Gentile would be separated by mutual antipathies, and liable to the incessant friction of irritating peculiarities.SITI April 9, 1885, page 230.4

    That St. Paul deeply felt this annoyance may be seen from his allusions to his “bonds” or his “coupling-chain” in every epistle of the captivity. Yet even over these coarse, uneducated Gentiles, the courtesy, the gentleness, the “sweet reasonableness” of the apostle, asserted its humanizing control. If he was chained to the soldier, the soldier was also chained to him, and during the dull hours until he was relieved, many a guardsman might be glad to hear from such lips, in all their immortal novelty, the high truths of the Christian faith. Out of his worst trials the apostle’s cheerful faith created the opportunities of his highest usefulness, and from the necessities of his long-continued imprisonment arose a diffusion of gospel truths throughout the finest regiment of that army which less than a century later was to number among its contingents a “thundering legion,” and in less than three centuries was to supplant the silver eagles of the empire by the then detested badge of a slave’s torture and a murderer’s punishment.—Farrar.SITI April 9, 1885, page 230.5

    THE Jews who had been banished from Rome some years previous, had been tacitly permitted to return, so that large numbers were now to be found there. To these, first of all, Paul determined to present the facts concerning himself and his work, before his enemies should have opportunity to embitter them against him. Three days after his arrival at Rome, therefore, he called together their leading men, and in a simple, direct manner stated the reasons why he had come to Rome as a prisoner.SITI April 9, 1885, page 230.6

    “Men and brethren,” he said, “though I have committed nothing against the people or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Cesar; not that I had aught to accuse my nation of. For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you and to speak with you because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”SITI April 9, 1885, page 230.7

    He said nothing of the abuse which he had suffered at the hands of the Jews, or of their repeated plots to assassinate him. His words were marked with caution and kindness. He was not seeking to win personal attention or sympathy, but to defend the truth and to maintain the honor of the gospel.SITI April 9, 1885, page 230.8

    In reply, his hearers stated that they had received no charges against him by letters, public, or private, and that none of the Jews who had come to Rome had accused him of any crime. They also expressed a strong desire to hear for themselves the reasons of his faith in Christ. “For as concerning this sect,” they said, “we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” It was supplanting the religion of their fathers, and causing disputations and dissensions which they considered injurious to the people.SITI April 9, 1885, page 230.9

    Since they themselves desired it, Paul bade them set a day when he could present to them the truths of the gospel. At the time appointed, many came together, “to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.” He related his own experience, and presented arguments from the Old Testament scriptures with simplicity, sincerity, and power. Upon some minds, at least, his words made an impression which would never be effaced. All who were honestly seeking for truth were convinced, as Paul spoke of what he knew, and testified of what he had seen.SITI April 9, 1885, page 230.10

    He showed that religion does not consist in rites and ceremonies, creeds and theories. If it did, the natural man could understand it by investigation, as he understands worldly things. Paul taught that religion is a practical, saving energy, a principle wholly from God, a personal experience of God’s renewing power upon the soul.SITI April 9, 1885, page 231.1

    He showed how Moses had pointed Israel forward to Christ as that Prophet whom they were to hear; how all the prophets had testified of him as God’s great remedy for sin, the guiltless One who was to bear the sins of the guilty. He did not find fault with their observance of forms and ceremonies, but showed that while they maintained the ritual service with great exactness, they were rejecting Him who was the antitype of all that system.SITI April 9, 1885, page 231.2

    He declared that in his unconverted state he had known Christ after the flesh, not by personal acquaintance, but by the conceptions which he, in common with others, cherished concerning his character and work. He had rejected Jesus of Nazareth as an impostor because he did not fulfill these expectations. But since Paul’s conversion, his views of Christ and his mission were far more spiritual and exalted than the Jewish conception of the long-promised Messiah. He asserted that he did not present to them Christ after the flesh. Herod had seen Christ in the days of his humanity; Annas had seen him; Pilate and the chief priests and rulers had seen him; the Roman soldiers had seen him. But these had not seen him with an eye of faith, and discerned him spiritually as the glorified Redeemer. To apprehend Christ by faith, to have a spiritual knowledge of him, was more to be desired than a personal acquaintance with him as he appeared on earth. The communion with Christ which Paul now enjoyed, was more intimate and more enduring than a mere earthly and human companionship.SITI April 9, 1885, page 231.3

    Some of Paul’s hearers eagerly received the truth, but others stubbornly refused to be convinced. The testimony of the Scriptures was presented before them by one who was their equal in learning and their superior in mental power, and who had the special illumination of the Holy Spirit. They could not refute his arguments, but refused to accept his conclusions. The prophecies which the rabbis themselves applied to Christ were a great annoyance to these opposing Jews; for the apostle showed that the fulfillment of these very prophecies required them to accept of Christ.SITI April 9, 1885, page 231.4

    His humble entry into Jerusalem, his rejection by his own people, the treachery of Judas, the paltry sum paid for his betrayal, his death as a malefactor, even the bitter stupefying draughts offered him in his dying agony, the lots cast upon his garments, his victory over death and the grave by the resurrection on the third day, his final exaltation on the right hand of God,—all these were in direct fulfillment of the words of the prophets. But the more conclusive the arguments presented, the more determined were the Jews in their opposition. Frenzied with malice, they reiterated their assertions that Jesus of Nazareth was a deceiver.SITI April 9, 1885, page 231.5

    Further argument was useless. Paul closed with a solemn address, in which he applied to them the words of Isaiah, before quoted by Christ himself: “Well spake the Holy Ghost by Eesias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive; for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their ears have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”SITI April 9, 1885, page 231.6

    Paul’s words had not been in vain. Some fully accepted Jesus as the world’s Redeemer, and, despite the opposition of their former brethren, became earnest advocates of the truth.SITI April 9, 1885, page 231.7

    The truth always involves a cross. Those who will not believe, oppose and deride those who do believe. The fact that its presentation creates a storm of opposition, is no evidence against the truth. The prophets and apostles imperiled their lives because they would conscientiously obey God. And our Saviour declares that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” This is the Christian’s legacy.—Mrs. E. G. White, in Sketches from the Life of Paul.SITI April 9, 1885, page 231.8

    TO THOSE persons who make such an outcry against the International Lessons from the Old Testament, as containing “no Christ,” “no gospel,” &c., we would commend the careful study of Acts 28:23 in the lesson for April 26: “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.”SITI April 9, 1885, page 231.9

    In the law of Moses and in the prophets, Paul could find enough about Jesus to keep him talking a whole day, “from morning till evening;” but nowadays “eminent theologians,” “doctors of divinity” (?), and “gospel leaders,” can go over them for a whole year and yet find “no Christ” and “no gospel” at all! It would naturally be thought that those who can talk so learnedly of “Pauline theology” and “Christocentric faith,” might know more of real Pauline theology, and real Christocentric faith than to talk of “no gospel and no Saviour for the children,” whenever the lessons are taken from the Old Testament. If there were more study of the Old Testament, there would be fewer objections to it.SITI April 9, 1885, page 231.10

    A. T. J.

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