St. Paul, Apostle | Biography | 6



During that night the enemies of God’s servant were not forgetful of him, and forty men bound themselves under a curse neither to eat nor drink until they had succeeded in killing him.

They accordingly made request to the council that Lysias might have St. Paul tried once more, purposing in their hearts to lie in wait as he came out from the castle, and falling upon him, destroy him.

In some manner which we do not know, the secret transpired, and a young man related to the Apostle brought news to the castle of what the forty Zealots had arranged.

Lysias listened to his story, but bade him not to speak of the discovered plot to anyone.

He then determined to send St. Paul away that same night, as it was evident that his life was in peril through the malice of the people.

Summoning two of his centurions, he bade them make ready 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen, who were to take a journey into Caesarea at 9 o’clock that night, and horses were also to be provided for the Apostle, who must be safely placed under the care of Felix, the governor of that place.

Lysias knew that this enormous guard would be necessary to ensure the safety of his prisoner:

When all was in readiness for departure, he had a letter written which was to be given to the governor of Caesarea, explaining the reasons for which St. Paul was sent to him, and all who had any accusation to make against him were told to go to Felix with the complaint.

By the dawn of morning, the travellers had accomplished about 35 miles of their journey, reaching Antipatris, where the foot-soldiers were dismissed;

the rest of the guard conducted the Apostle safely through another day’s travel, and then they entered Caesarea.

After reading the letter sent by Lysias, Felix asked his prisoner from what province he came. St. Paul told him that he was from Cilicia, where he was born.

Felix then gave orders that he should be kept in the judgment-hall of Herod until his accusers came forward, and his defence could be heard.

For several days the Apostle remained thus, until the high priest Ananias, and others of the Jewish council, arrived with a Roman advocate, or lawyer, ready to assist them in making their complaint against him to the Caesarean governor.

Felix had once been a slave, who by the favour of the Roman emperor had been raised to his high position; but he was an unjust and a tyrannical man, who lived in great sin.

It was before him then that St. Paul had to appear,

and Tertullus, the lawyer, commenced his speech by praising Felix, as if he had been a good man, and laying his accusations against the prisoner.

First, he was charged with being a “pestilent man, raising seditions among all the Jews throughout the world, and author of the sedition of the sect of the Nazarenes.”

On these grounds St. Paul was deemed an offender against the Roman government, and against the Law of Moses.

The next charge was that he had brought Gentiles into the temple.

The assembled Jews confirmed the truth of what Tertullus uttered, and then Felix gave the prisoner permission to defend himself.

He therefore declared that he was not guilty of disputing with any man, nor had he caused disturbance either in the temple or synagogue; that he had gone up to the temple to engage in a Jewish ceremony, and those who had been in his company were not Gentiles.

After such a defence, it would have seemed impossible to find any plea for detaining the Apostle a prisoner, but Felix only put the matter off, promising to enquire further into it at the coming of Lysias.

Hoping that the Apostle would purchase his freedom, Felix remanded him to a somewhat light imprisonment, which continued 2 years.

One day the governor sent for St. Paul, that he and his wicked wife Drusilla might hear so famous a teacher speak about his faith.

The Apostle had the gift of making his addresses exactly applicable to those who listened to him; and as he knew the sinful life of Felix, he was not afraid to speak out openly of that purity of life which the Gospel law enjoins.

He spoke also of the judgment to come, in such forcible words that the governor’s conscience was awakened, and he trembled.

Still, - like so many wicked people of later times, - he was not ready to give up his sinful pleasures, but only wished to be rid of the thought of God’s future punishment. “For this time go thy way;” he said, “when I have a convenient time I will send for thee.

Thus did Felix close his heart to the influence of the Holy Spirit, and resist God’s grace; nor do we read that he ever had another opportunity for repentance.

At the close of the two years during which St. Paul was a prisoner, another governor was appointed in place of Felix, whose name was Festus.

Scarcely had he come to Caesarea than he went to visit Jerusalem, and the Jews took the occasion as a favourable time to ask that Paul might be tried there, but this request was not granted.

When Festus returned to Caesarea, he had the Apostle brought up before him in the presence of the accusers, and St. Paul replied to the charges against him in much the same words he had used two years before.

Festus was perplexed, for it was evident to him that the prisoner had not created any disturbance against the government;

still he feared the Jews, and therefore asked St. Paul if he would not like to go up to Jerusalem for trial. But the Apostle replied that he stood before Caesar’s judgment-seat, and he appealed to Caesar.

Then Festus cried, “Have you appealed to Caesar? To Caesar shalt thou go;” meaning that he should be sent to Rome for trial.

Soon after these proceedings, the young King Agrippa, with his sister Bernice, came upon a visit to the governor of Caesarea, and hearing of St. Paul’s case, said that he would himself pronounce judgment upon it.

The great hall of audience was filled with the royal court, the tribunes and all the chief men were assembled; and St. Paul took this opportunity to preach the Gospel to them.

He told the story of his life, of his conversion and subsequent work amongst men;

but when he said that Christ had come to be a light to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews, a loud cry broke from Festus,

Paul, thou art beside thyself, much learning hath made thee mad.

I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I speak words of truth and soberness,” replied the Apostle; then, appealing to the king, he added,

Believest thou the prophets, O King Agrippa? I know that thou believest.

Agrippa said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

Would to God,” cried St. Paul, “that not only thou, but all that hear me this day, should become such as I am, except these bonds.

The king, with Festus and the rest, rose up to leave the hall.

This man hath done nothing that merits either death or the prison,” said Agrippa. “He might have been set at liberty if he had not appealed unto Caesar.”

As it was now necessary to send the Apostle to Rome, Festus had him placed with some other prisoners on board a ship which was going part of the way.

It was in the year 62 that St. Paul started as a prisoner, with Luke and Aristarchus to bear him company.

Sidon was the first stopping-place, and here the Apostle was allowed to go on shore to visit the Christians who dwelt there.

When they arrived at Lystra, Julius the centurion, who had charge of the prisoners, found a large ship going to Italy from Alexandria, into which he had them removed.

But a contrary wind rose, so that for several days they could proceed but very slowly:

It was a time of year when sailing was difficult and dangerous, so when they reached a place called Good Havens, St. Paul said it would be better to remain there during the winter.

But the master of the ship and the centurion determined to go on, hoping to reach Phenice, and winter there.

At first a gentle south wind was blowing, but a sudden change came, and the ship was driven furiously along towards the dangerous coast of Africa.

The sailors were afraid that their vessel would he broken to pieces in the storm, and they passed strong chains underneath it and took down all their sails.

The next day they tried to make the ship lighter by throwing over all they could most easily spare, and upon the third day they even cast away ropes, sails, and anchors.

It was so dark from the heavy stormy clouds that the master of the ship could not discover whereabouts they were, and all hope seemed gone.

Then St. Paul stood up in the midst of the frightened men, and bade them take heart, for the life of everyone should be preserved, although the vessel would be lost.

He gave them his authority for stich a promise –

For an Angel of God, Whose I am, and Whom I serve, stood by me this night, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar; and, behold, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.

For 14 long days and nights the vessel was driven about in the sea of Adrian, and then the sailors thought they were drawing near land,

but upon letting down their measuring line they found the water becoming so shallow that they feared being cast upon the rocks; so they cast down four anchors to hold the ship securely until morning.

Filled, however, with selfish fear, the sailors secretly let down a boat into the water, meaning to get into it themselves, and leave the others in their difficulty.

St. Paul was given the power of divining what passed in their hearts, and he told their scheme to the centurion, who ordered his soldiers to cut the ropes that the boat might fall over into the sea.

When day broke, the Apostle begged all on board to eat, and he repeated his promise of safety for all, and taking bread, he “gave thanks to God in the sight of them all,” and they also eat and were refreshed.

It was now evident that the ship could not be saved, so the wheat with which it was laden was thrown over, in order that it might be lightened, and so run close in to the shore.

But as the sailors were endeavouring to get up a little creek, the vessel stuck fast in the ground, and the hinder part was broken to pieces by the stormy waves.

The soldiers would have begun putting the prisoners to death, lest they might swim to shore and thus escape, but the centurion prevented them,

and ordered those who were able to swim to do so, while the rest he made hold on to the boards and broken spars of the ship.

In this way every soul was saved of the 276 who had been on board the vessel -  saved for the sake of Paul, the beloved servant and Apostle of God.

The island on which they were cast was called Melita - the Malta of our own day - and no sooner they were landed than a fresh proof of God’s providential care over St. Paul was granted.

A fire of sticks had been kindled by the people of the island, and as the Apostle assisted the others, gathering together what faggots he could find, a viper came and fastened upon his hand.

The ignorant natives observing this, thought it must be some very wicked man pursued by dreadful judgments, although he had escaped the perils of the sea;

but when St. Paul shook off the viper, and it was seen that he was wholly uninjured by its poisonous bite, they changed in their feelings, and believed he could be nothing less than a god.

It was the Will of Almighty God that still more wonders should he wrought upon that island.

The father of Publius, the governor of Malta, was lying dangerously ill, and St. Paul went to visit him as his Master when on earth visited the sick and suffering, and “laid his hands on him,” and healed, him.

Seeing this marvel wrought by the touch of the Apostle, all the people of the island who were in any way sick or diseased came hastening to St. Paul, and they too received the healing of their infirmities.

For 3 months the shipwrecked company remained in Malta, and when finally they departed in a ship bound for Italy, the people of the island gave them many presents in gratitude and good-will.