on Acts 25 :27
For it seemeth to me unreasonable, etc. - Every reader must feel the awkward situation in which Festus stood. He was about to send a prisoner to Rome, to appear before Nero, though he had not one charge to support against him; and yet he must be sent, for he had appealed to Caesar. He hoped therefore that Agrippa, who was of the Jewish religion, would be able to discern more particularly the merits of this case; and might, after hearing Paul, direct him how to draw up those letters, which, on sending the prisoner, must be transmitted to the emperor.
This chapter ends as exceptionably as the twenty-first. It should have begun at Acts 25:13, and have been continued to the end of the twenty-sixth chapter, or both chapters have been united in one.
1. From St. Paul's appeal to Caesar, we see that it is lawful to avail ourselves, even in the cause of God, of those civil privileges with which his mercy has blessed us. It is often better to fall into the hands of the heathen than into the hands of those who, from mistaken views of religion, have their hearts filled with bitter persecuting zeal. Those who can murder a man, pretendedly for God's sake, because he does not think exactly with them on ceremonial or speculative points of divinity, have no portion of that religion which came down from God.
2. The Jews endeavored by every means to deny the resurrection of our Lord; and it seems to have been one part of their accusation against Paul, that he asserted that the man, Jesus, whom they had crucified, was risen from the dead. On this subject, a pious writer observes: "What a train of errors and miseries does one single instance of deceit draw after it; and what a judgment upon those, who, by corrupting the guards of the sepulchre, the witnesses of the resurrection of our Lord, have kept the whole nation in infidelity!" Thus it often happens in the world that one bad counsel, one single lie or calumny, once established, is the source of infinite evils.
3. The grand maxim of the Roman law and government, to condemn no man unheard, and to confront the accusers with the accused, should be a sacred maxim with every magistrate and minister, and among all private Christians. How many harsh judgments and uncharitable censures would this prevent! Conscientiously practised in all Christian societies, detraction, calumny, tale-bearing, whispering, backbiting, misunderstandings, with every unbrotherly affection, would necessarily be banished from the Church of God.
on Acts 25 :27
For it seemeth to me unreasonable - Festus felt that he was placed in an embarrassing situation. He was about to send a prisoner to Rome who had been tried by himself, and who had appealed from his jurisdiction, and yet he was ignorant of the charges against him, and of the nature of his offences, if any had been committed. When prisoners were thus sent to Rome to be tried before the emperor, it would be proper that the charges should be all specified, and the evidence stated by which they were supported, Yet Festus could do neither, and it is not wonderful that he felt himself perplexed and embarrassed, and that he was glad to avail himself of the desire which Agrippa had expressed to hear Paul, that he might be able to specify the charges against him.
Withal - Also; at the same time.
To signify - To specify, or make them know. In concluding this chapter, we may observe:
(1) That in the case of Agrippa, we have an instance of the reasons which induce many people to hear the gospel. He had no belief in it; he had no concern for its truth or its promises; but he was led by curiosity to desire to hear a minister of the gospel of Christ. Curiosity thus draws multitudes to the sanctuary. In many instances they remain unaffected and unconcerned. They listen, and are unmoved, and die in their sins. In other instances, like Agrippa, they are almost persuaded to be Christians, Acts 26:28. But, like him, they resist the appeals, and die uninterested in the plan of salvation. In some instances they are converted, and their curiosity, like that of Zacchaeus, is made the means of their embracing the Saviour, Luke 19:1-9. Whatever may be the motive which induces people to desire to hear, it is the duty of the ministry cheerfully and thankfully, like Paul, to state the truth, and to defend the Christian religion.
(2) in Festus we have a specimen of the manner in which the great, and the rich, and the proud usually regard Christianity. They esteem it to be a subject in which they have no interest a question about "one dead Jesus," whom Christians affirm to be alive. Whether he be alive or not; whether Christianity be true or false, they suppose is a question which does not pertain to them. Strange that it did not occur to Festus that if he was alive, his religion was true; and that it was possible that it might be from God. And strange that the people of this world regard the Christian religion as a subject in which they have no personal interest, but as one concerning which Christians only should inquire, and in which they alone should feel any concern.
(3) in Paul we have the example of a man unlike both Festus and Agrippa. He felt a deep interest in the subject a subject which pertained as much to them as to him. He was willing not only to look at it, but to stake his life, his reputation, his all, on its truth. He was willing to defend it everywhere, and before any class of people. At the same time that he urged his rights as a Roman citizen, yet it was mainly that he might preach the gospel. At the same time that he was anxious to secure justice to himself, yet his chief anxiety was to declare the truth of God. Before any tribunal; before any class of people; in the presence of princes, nobles, and kings, of Romans and of Jews, he was ready to pour forth irresistible eloquence and argument in defense of the truth. Who would not rather be Paul than either Festus or Agrippa? Who would not rather be a prisoner. like him, than invested with authority like Festus, or clothed in splendor like Agrippa? And who would not rather be a believer of the gospel like Paul, than, like them, to be cold contemners or neglecters of the God that made them, and of the Saviour that died and rose again?
on Acts 25 :27