Acts 26:27
King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do."
Sermons
Patti's Defence Before AgrippaD. C. Hughes.Acts 26:1-32
Paul Before AgrippaJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 26:1-32
Paul Before AgrippaD. Katterns.Acts 26:1-32
Paul Before AgrippaJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 26:1-32
Paul Before Festus and AgrippaE. Johnson Acts 26:1-32
Paul's Defence Before AgrippaD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 26:1-32
Paul's Defence Before AgrippaJ. W. Burn.Acts 26:1-32
Paul's Sermon Before AgrippaT. D. Witherspoon, D. D.Acts 26:1-32
Paul's Stretched-Out ArmK. Gerok.Acts 26:1-32
That Many Rest Upon a Strict Way of ReligionA. Burgess.Acts 26:1-32
The Apostolic Defense in the Presence of Festus and AgrippaR.A. Redford Acts 26:1-32
The Christian's DesireW. Clarkson Acts 26:24-28
A Threefold Illustration of the Irrepressible Energy of the TruthP.C. Barker Acts 26:24-32
A ChristianR. Thomas.Acts 26:27-29
Almost a ChristianW. Johnson.Acts 26:27-29
Almost a ChristianD. Moore, M. A.Acts 26:27-29
Almost a ChristianW. M. Punshon, LL. D.Acts 26:27-29
Almost PersuadedG. R. Leavitt.Acts 26:27-29
Almost PersuadedW. H. Davison.Acts 26:27-29
Almost SavedW. M. Taylor, D. D.Acts 26:27-29
Almost Saved -- But LostActs 26:27-29
Almost Thou Persuadest Me to be a ChristianE. B. Pusey.Acts 26:27-29
Me a ChristianA. Maclaren, D. D.Acts 26:27-29
Paul Before AgrippaS. S. TimesActs 26:27-29
Paul Before AgrippaA. Barnes, D. D.Acts 26:27-29
Paul Before AgrippaD. J. Burrell, D. D.Acts 26:27-29
St. Paul Before AgrippaJ. B. Smith.Acts 26:27-29
The Almost ChristianH. Kollock, D. D.Acts 26:27-29
The Almost ChristianBp. S. Wilberforce.Acts 26:27-29
The Almost ChristianG. Whitefield.Acts 26:27-29
The Danger of Indecision in ReligionHomiletic ReviewActs 26:27-29
The Effect of Paul's Defence on AgrippaD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 26:27-29
The Nature and Causes of Irresolution in ReligionS. Clark, D. D.Acts 26:27-29
The Somewhat ChristianJ. A. Broadus, D. D.Acts 26:27-29
To Those Who are Almost PersuadedC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 26:27-29
The point of deepest interest in this scene is Paul's reply to Agrippa. There the nobility of the apostle is conspicuously present. But it is worth while to glance, first, at -

I. THE BLINDNESS OF SIN. (Ver. 24.) It makes mistakes of the greatest magnitude; it looks at the wisdom of God and mistakes it for madness. So it judged incarnate wisdom (John 10:30). So we are to expect it will judge us; for "the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man" (1 Corinthians 2:14), whether he be Greek (1 Corinthians 1:23) or Roman (text). That the whole Gentile world should be redeemed from sin and led by repentance into the kingdom of God by means of a suffering Savior - this, which is the wisdom of God, deep and Divine, seemed to the proud man of the world nothing better than insanity itself. Enlightened by his Spirit, we detect in this the very essence of Divine wisdom. If the eternal Father, looking down upon us, sees his own wise procedure mistaken for and spoken of as madness, may we not be content that our human schemes and plans should sometimes receive the faint approval, or even the direct condemnation, of our fellows?

II. THE CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE UNDER ATTACK. Paul was not abashed by the sudden outbreak of Festus, nor did he give way to unsuitable and injudicious resentment. He replied with calmness and dignity to the insulting charge of his Roman judge (ver. 25). When assailed in this way - when charged with folly, error, fanaticism, or even madness - the best thing we can do is to bear ourselves calmly, retaining mental and moral equability. This is the best way to disprove the allegations that are made.

(1) First let us be well assured of our position, not taking our ground until we have made all necessary inquiries and have every possible guarantee that we are on the side of "truth and soberness;" and then

(2) let us refuse to be disconcerted by abuse, oppose quiet dignity to angry crimination, and show a conscious rectitude which is far superior to violence, whether of word or deed.

III. THE CHRISTIAN'S DESIRE FOR ALL WHOM HE CAN REACH. Paul turned appealingly from Festus to Agrippa. Some points in common there must be, he felt, between himself and his royal countryman (vers. 26, 27). The king put off the prisoner with a courtly sarcasm (ver. 28); but the apostle was not thus to be silenced. In noble language and with touching allusion to the fetters he wore, he expressed the earnest wish that, whether with ease or with difficulty, not only the king himself, but all who heard him, might be "such as he was." A pure and passionate desire filled his soul that all whom he could anywise affect might be elevated and blessed by that ennobling truth which the risen Savior had revealed to him. This holy earnestness of his may remind us:

1. That the truth of the gospel is that which can be indefinitely extended without making any man the poorer. If a man divides his gold among the poor, be loses it himself, but he who imparts heavenly wisdom, Christian influence, gains as he gives.

2. That it is the tendency of Christian truth to make its possessor desire to extend it. The contemplation of a God of love, the study of the life and spirit of the self-sacrificing Savior, the purity of the joy which it inspires in the human heart, - these are fitted to produce in the soul a holy yearning to extend to others the blessedness we enjoy.

3. That it becomes us to put forth all our talents to diffuse the knowledge and to spread the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The thought of millions of souls starving that might feed on the bread of life should animate us with keen desire and scud us with elastic step in the path of deliverance and of life. - C.







King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?
S. S. Times.
1. Agrippa may know the prophets, and still not know Him of whom the prophets testify. An acquaintance with Christ's forerunners or an intimacy with Christ's followers is not an acquaintance with Christ Himself.

2. Agrippa may even believe the prophets without believing on Christ. Many a man thus accepts Christ impliedly and rejects Him practically.

3. Agrippa, like many another unbeliever, dismisses this most important matter with a flippant remark. How many souls have been lost by just such unwillingness to be candid with the truth!

4. Paul is dead in earnest, however flippant Agrippa may be. Christ's followers cannot afford to answer sneer with sneer, or jest with jest. The question of a soul's salvation is a supremely serious matter.

5. Paul is willing to do little or to do much to win a soul for Christ. Too many of Christ's followers have manifested a strong preference for doing little toward that end.

6. Paul knew he was better off than Agrippa and his court, despite their rank and freedom. Envy is a decidedly unchristian quality — the true Christian has nothing to envy.

7. Paul was not vindicated — he vindicated himself. That the Christian must ever do if it is done at all. He can employ no defence so strong as self-defence. He can present no plea so convincing as that of his own walk and conversation in presence of the scornful Festus and sneering Agrippa.

8. Paul vindicated Christ's cause in vindicating himself. In every Christian's enterprises Christ is a partner, and His credit gains or suffers according as the human partner does his best or his worst.

(S. S. Times.)

or Christianity in contact with the unconverted heart of one professing to believe in a revelation.

I. IN WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES DO SUCH CASES OCCUR?

1. There are those who, like Agrippa, have been favoured with a religious education, and who have no serious doubt of the truth or value of revealed religion. They have been often almost ready to take the decisive step; almost persuaded to come out from the world, and to give themselves to God.

2. Those who, by argument, have been convinced of the truths of religion. He that was a sceptic is now "almost" persuaded to be a Christian. He may now be appealed to, as Paul appealed to Agrippa, on the ground of his belief that the Bible is a revelation from God.

3. Those who have been brought to see their personal sinfulness and their need of a Saviour.

4. Those who are visited with calamity, and who are then almost persuaded to be Christians.

II. WHY PERSONS IN THIS STATE OF MIND DO NOT CARRY OUT THEIR CONVICTIONS AND BECOME ALTOGETHER CHRISTIANS.

1. The love of some particular sin. In one it may be pride; in another, ambition; in another, sensuality; in another, covetousness. Many a resolution may have been made in regard to this sin; many a purpose may have been formed to forsake it; many other sins may have been relinquished; but this one the man has never been quite willing to forsake; this one has prevented, still prevents, and may prevent forever his surrendering himself to God.

2. The love of the world. I refer to the love of office, distinction, fashion, gaiety. This is often avowed as the reason why the heart is not wholly devoted to religion, but it is oftener felt than avowed.

3. The fear of shame. That this was one of the reasons which prevented Agrippa from becoming altogether a Christian is more than possible.

4. A desire to be free from the restraints and obligations of religion. Such a man does not purpose to live in open sin; he does not intend to be regarded as an infidel. But he desires to be more free in his pursuits than if he were bound by the obligations of Church membership.

III. THE PROPER GROUNDS OF APPEAL TO BE MADE TO PERSONS WHO ARE IN THIS STATE OF MIND.

1. The state of mind itself. In the case of Agrippa, it was not needful for Paul to speak as if he had been addressing a heathen. Though Agrippa's faith did not extend to the point that Jesus was the predicted Messiah, yet the main difficulty was overcome; and it seemed to Paul, if the fact was admitted that the prophets were inspired, there was but a step to the conclusion that Jesus was indeed the Christ. It is hardly necessary to remark that there must be a great difference between approaching a sceptical mind, and a mind speculatively convinced of the truth of the Bible. In the former case, all the work is to be done from the foundation. In the latter case, as in that of Agrippa, we have only to ask men to carry out in all honesty the convictions of their own minds.

2. We may appeal on the ground of consistency. They avow all, in the understanding, which we ask them to receive in the heart. Admitting the truth of the Bible, they admit the fact of their own depravity; the need of regeneration, of repentance, of faith, the doctrine of the atonement, the claims of a Saviour, the obligations of prayer and of holy living. If they would simply act out their own admitted principles, all that we seek to secure would be gained. To all such we say, Your reason, your conscience, your judgment are on the side of religion; and we merely ask you to carry out these admissions and convictions. In the conduct of the infidel there is a melancholy consistency. The sceptical sensualist and voluptuary is only carrying out his principles when he says, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." But is this consistent for a man who believes that there is a God; that he himself has an immortal soul; that he is made to be a religious being; that he must live forever; that a Saviour died to redeem him; and that man's great interests are beyond the grave?

3. A third ground of appeal is that their own guilt and danger must be increased by the fact of their admitting these obligations while yet practically disregarding them.(1) Guilt is always augmented by light and knowledge, and by the fact that a man is neglecting what he knows and admits to be duty and truth.(2) Can there be any doubt that danger, too, is augmented by a man's knowing his duty, and his being unwilling to perform it? Danger always follows guilt, and the one is commensurate with the other (Matthew 11:23, 24; Luke 13:34, 35; Proverbs 1:24-26; Proverbs 29:1).

(A. Barnes, D. D.)

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
I. HOW DOES ONE BECOME ALMOST PERSUADED? Various motives influence us to seek religion. Early training is a powerful motive. Good men, books, institutions — as the prayer meeting, the Sabbath — are so many voices calling us to Christ. We are placed in special circumstances of poverty, sickness, danger. Some, untouched by other motives, are shaken by revival. Yet this is only the lesser part of the explanation of the actual persuasion of a sinner; in these influences is no adequate account of a phenomenon so extraordinary. While one is agitated, why are others wholly unmoved? But one explanation can be given. The power which operates through so many various channels is the personal energy of the Holy Ghost. Note some of the motives through which the Spirit works.

1. The ruling motive with many is fear, characterised by some as an unworthy influence. Yet how many have been driven to Christ! And is it unreasonable for a person in a burning house to be frightened by fire into frantic efforts to escape?

2. Some, again, are moved by love. A little child had clambered out at a window, made its perilous way along the edge of the roof, and seated itself with its feet in the eaves spout. There its father, coming up the street, heard the baby voice, and saw the hands reach eagerly towards him. As he stood paralysed with terror, expecting every instant to see the wee thing topple over into the court below, he saw the mother standing in the window, pale, but smiling and reaching. He saw the child turn. It delayed. That was a frightful moment. But love prevailed. Slowly, on hands and knees, it crept up the steep roof as if upon the parlour floor. A swift clasp, and it was safe. Love is ever holding men back, as they stand on the perilous edge of the abyss, drawing them towards the reaching Saviour. If they yield, a swift, outstretching clasp, and they are saved.

3. Others are principally affected by calm and rational exhibitions of truth. It is not strange that this should be so. Though the preacher had no special aptness in appeals to fear or love, well might this message move by its own weight.

II. WHAT IS THE VALUE OF THIS WORD "ALMOST" IN ITS CONNECTION?

1. It indicates a hopeful condition. It is a great advance upon indifference. But what Security does it give against relapse into deeper indifference? The expression is, "in little." In a little time, a little space, going a little further, a little more, you would persuade me. The great difficulties are overcome. Almost, with a little additional persuasion, the heart would yield.

2. We shall further see the value of "almost" in regarding some of those who have been almost persuaded. How many of the antediluvians were moved by Noah's faithful appeals! How many half-finished arks were lifted from the stocks by the rising waters of the flood — the work of the almost persuaded! Lot's wife, Pharaoh, the rich young ruler, who would not give up his property; the foolish virgins; Herod, who after all had John beheaded; Judas, who after all betrayed Jesus; Pilate, who confessed His innocence, and gave Him up; and Felix, who trembled; these are but a few out of the great army of the almost persuaded. To be only almost persuaded is to be lost.

III. WHY IS IT ONLY "ALMOST" PERSUADED? The answer is simple. The sinner will not submit to God.

1. Some claim to need more light. There are those with whom this is a genuine difficulty. It is never a sufficient excuse, however genuine. But if it were, it is not the hindrance of the almost persuaded. All the great gospel truths they know.

2. Others profess to need leisure to think of religion. Of many, it is true. The want of a little leisure imperils multitudes of souls. But this is not the want of the almost persuaded. They have passed the need of leisure. They have an immediate duty. It requires not time, but decision.

3. There are some who profess to need more stirring appeals. Sometimes, it may be, a powerful preacher, a revivalist, is needed, through whom the blessings denied to other labourers may be obtained. But not by the almost persuaded. If it were powerful preaching that would make the almost an altogether, Paul would have succeeded and Christ would never have wept over Jerusalem.

(G. R. Leavitt.)

The language of the king was the language of a scornful and contemptuous rejection of the idea that he could become Christian. "Am I to sink to so low a condition as that?" The two words rendered "almost" mean "in a short time," or "with little effort," i.e., easily. This was the most critical moment in Agrippa's life. He was challenged by the apostle; he answered with a sneer.

I. HOW UNEXPECTED AND SUDDEN IS THE COMING OF THE DECISIVE HOUR OF DESTINY AND DIVINE VISITATION.

1. Herod Agrippa came to Caesarea on a visit of ceremony and pleasure. The prisoner offered a diversion in the midst of the gaiety. The king's presence gave a chance to Festus of extricating himself from a dilemma, for he did not know how to state a case. It never entered into their minds that the hour spent in hearing Paul would be an hour big with destiny. Agrippa was called to decide not the prisoner's fate, but his own. Forty years after he died as he had lived.

2. The mode in which the gospel was presented to him in the experience of Paul illustrates the same principle. With the same suddenness, at the height of his fame, Paul was called to decide his own fate. Now the persecutor is the persecuted preacher of the faith he once destroyed.

3. It is the same still. All life may be called a day of visitation, but there are also opportunities of a richer, rarer kind, in which we receive calls more express, solemn, weighty, decisive.

II. HOW NEAR GOD'S GRACE MAY COME TO A MAN ONLY TO BE REJECTED. Paul made a favourable impression on Agrippa, but the spiritual testimony was disdainfully rejected. How often is this history repeated.

1. There are those who are brought to acknowledge the reasonableness of Christianity, but who yet reject it as the spiritual rule of their lives. Persuasion has overpowered the intellect, but it has not overcome the pride of the heart.

2. There are those who acknowledge all Divine revelation and the marvellous beauty of the gentle life, who yet stand aloof from it and reject its grace. This does not arise from pride and self-sufficiency, but from a mean and degraded clinging to the fleshly lusts which war against the soul.

3. There are those who have neither doubts nor pride nor gross habits overcoming their convictions who yet do not become decided Christians. Some were impressed when young, but their impressions have become like the morning cloud. Subsequent impressions fare no better. The reason for this lies in the wilful waywardness of disposition. Conclusion: Almost a Christian is the equivalent of not. Almost stands without and loses all Christianity's inestimable boons.

(W. H. Davison.)

I. THE GREAT OBJECT OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTER'S PERSUASIONS. The apostle never persuaded Agrippa to be almost a Christian. Agrippa never was an almost-Christian, his life and character displayed a spirit very far removed from that condition. There is a great difference between being almost a Christian and being almost persuaded to be a Christian. A man who is almost an artist knows something of painting, but a man almost persuaded to be an artist may not even know the names of the colours. The preaching of the gospel minister should always have soul winning for its object. May it never be an object of ours to dazzle and astonish, but to persuade you to be Christians. Neither would the apostle have been content if he could have persuaded Agrippa to take the name of a Christian, or to be baptized as a Christian. His object was, that he might in very deed be a Christian. To seem is nothing, but to be is everything. Thus should we labour in seeking converts; the adoption of a certain dress or mode of speech is little; union with our denomination is almost as unimportant; the true embracing of Jesus as the Saviour of men is the vital matter. If you desire a definition of a Christian, the apostle has given you it in verse 18.

II. THE APOSTOLIC MANNER OF PERSUADING.

1. Paul made constant appeals to Scripture. This ought to be a powerful argument with you. You believe the Bible to be true, and the Bible says that it is your highest wisdom to be a follower of Christ. If you did not believe the Bible, no argument drawn from it could have any force with you; but granted that you accept it as God's Word, as Agrippa did, the apostolic form of reasoning from that Word ought to persuade your hearts.

2. His persuasion of Agrippa lay mainly in his personal testimony to the power of grace in his own soul. Personal testimony ought always to weigh with men. Convince me that a man is honest, and then if he bears witness to facts which are matters of his own personal consciousness, not merely the gleanings of hearsay, I am bound to believe him; and especially if his testimony be backed up by others. A great part of the preaching of every Christian minister should lie in his bearing his personal testimony to what Christ has done for him.

3. He made a clear statement of the gospel (ver. 23). Where the gospel statement is clearly given, even if no reasoning is used, it will, under God, frequently convince, for it is so marvellously self-evidencing.

4. He did not close until he had made a home appeal to Agrippa. "King Agrippa," said he (in something like the style of Nathan when he said, "Thou art the man!"), "believest thou the prophets?" The minister must know how to take the scaling ladder, and fix it against the wall of the conscience, and climb it sword in hand, to meet the man face to face in sacred duel, for the capture of his heart.

III. THE DIFFERING DEGREES OF SUCCESS ATTENDING SUCH PERSUASIONS. How did Paul succeed.

1. Note that he failed with Festus, one of the most respectable of the Roman governors, the type of those common-sense people, who are very practical, very fond of facts, who consider nothing to be worth their thoughts that has anything like sentiment in it, or that deals with abstract truth. "Thou art beside thyself." Wherever the gospel is preached there are people who say, "Toleration — by all means; and if people like to believe this, or that, well let them believe it. We have more practical and rational business to attend to." If such men bring grief to the preacher nowadays, he must not marvel, for such was Paul's burden in his day.

2. Now let us turn to Agrippa, a man of very different mould. He had always taken an interest in religious questions. He was sprung of a family that, with all their frightful vices, had trembled before the voice of prophecy and Scripture, and like the Herod who heard John gladly, he listened with great attention and interest to Paul. As he weighed the arguments, he felt that there was a great; deal to be said for Paul's view of the question. He did not half know but what Paul might be right. Still he had an "if." He would rather not think that the prisoner before him was better informed than he, or that such stem teaching demanded obedience from him, and, therefore, he closed the discourse with a remark intended to be pleasing to the orator, and he went his way. Oh, these Agrippas! I would almost sooner deal with Festus, for I know what Festus means, and one of these days it may be, the Lord will direct an arrow between the joints of Festus's harness; but Agrippa deceives me; he is a fair blossom that never knits, and so turns not to fruit; he is almost persuaded.

3. I wonder whether in Paul's congregation there was a third sort of hearer! Perhaps while Paul was failing with Festus and disappointed with Agrippa, there sat somewhere in the back seats a centurion, or a private soldier, or a Jewish ruler, upon whom the truth was falling like dew, and into whose heart it was being received as the ocean absorbs the falling shower.

IV. WHY THE HALF-CONVINCED HEARER WAS ONLY "ALMOST PERSUADED." It was not the fault of the preacher's matter or manner. Nothing could have been more powerful in either case. Where, then, did the fault lie?

1. On the right hand of Agrippa was a very excellent reason why he is not convinced, for there sat Bernice. The reason why sinners are not persuaded is, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, their love of sin! Bernice was beyond all doubt a shameless woman. Agrippa's public and ostentatious associating with her proved at least that he was in evil company. This is quite sufficient to account for his never being altogether persuaded to be a Christian. Evil company is one of Satan's great nets in which he holds his birds until the time shall come for their destruction.

2. Then there was the influence of Festus. If Festus calls Paul mad, Agrippa must not go the length of being persuaded. How could he go and dine with the governor if he became quite convinced? What would Festus say? "Ah! two madmen! Is Agrippa also beside himself?" Alas, how many are influenced by fear of men!

3. Do you not think, too, that Paul himself had something to do with it? Not that he was to blame in the case, but he wore decorations which were not of a pleasing character to a man of Agrippa's taste. Though better than golden ornaments were his chains, Paul seems to have perceived that Agrippa was shocked at Christianity in that peculiar garb, for he said, "Except these bonds." It often happens that looking abroad upon the sorrows of God's people, ungodly men refuse to take their portion with them. They find that righteous men are frequently sneered at, and they cannot run the risk of such inconvenience. Oh that men were wise enough to see that suffering for Christ is honour, that the truest dignity rests in wearing the chain upon the arm rather than endure the chain upon the soul!

V. THE EVIL THAT WILL FOLLOW UPON BEING "ALMOST PERSUADED."

1. He misses altogether the blessing which full persuasion would have brought him. A passenger was almost persuaded not to trust his life in a leaky ship, but he did so and perished. A merchant was almost persuaded not to have shares in a bubble speculation, but he bought the scrip, and his estate went down. A person exceedingly ill heard of a remedy, and he was almost persuaded to take it, but he did not, and therefore the disease grew worse and worse. You cannot have the blessing by being almost persuaded to have it. Your hunger cannot be appeased by almost eating, nor your thirst quenched by almost drinking.

2. He contracts additional guilt. A person has rebelled against the government, but he is afterwards very sorry for it, and he asks forgiveness; let mercy have free course. But another has been shown the impolicy of treason; he has seen the evil of taking up arms against the commonwealth, and he has been almost persuaded to be loyal. I say when he becomes a rebel, he is a traitor with a vengeance, to whom no mercy can be shown. The man who is almost persuaded to be honest, and yet deliberately becomes a thief, is a rogue ingrain.

3. To have been almost persuaded will lead to endless regrets.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Homiletic Review.
I. IT IS OF NO AVAIL TO BE ONLY ALMOST PERSUADED. The almost persuaded sinner is still at an infinite remove from salvation.

II. THE GUILT AND DANGER OF THE SINNER ARE ENHANCED BY BEING ONLY ALMOST PERSUADED. Agrippa lost his one opportunity.

III. ETERNITY WILL BE GREATLY EMBITTERED BY SUCH AN EXPERIENCE AS AGRIPPA'S IN THIS LIFE. It immensely aggravates a loss to know that it might have been avoided.

(Homiletic Review.)

That his could not be enthusiasm two arguments plainly prove: —

1. An enthusiast's delusion would naturally have fallen in with the state of his excited feelings. It is contrary to all our experience of human nature. An enthusiastic Pharisee, instead of imagining he had received a commission to preach Christ Jesus, would have been persuaded of the contrary, and would have been more and more confirmed in his zeal and bitterness against it.

2. We find that the persons who accompanied him, the officers of justice, were all strongly affected with the miraculous vision. And now to bring this subject home to ourselves. Let us contrast this conduct of Agrippa with that of many professing Christians of our own day, whose only distinguishing mark of Christianity is their name. Let us take, for instance, the proud, self-conceited man, puffed up in his own wisdom and fancied superiority to his fellow creatures, arrogantly assuming to himself the right of sitting in judgment upon the actions and counsels of God; daring to call in question the wisdom of the Almighty, and rejecting whatsoever his limited understanding is not able fully to comprehend; a ray of light flashes into his mind, and makes the darkness visible to him, in which he is enveloped: he is on the point of conviction — he is almost persuaded to be a Christian. But here, like Agrippa, he pauses: his vanity takes the alarm, his pride steps in, the ridicule of the world — all, all conspire to resist the convictions of truth. Or, again, let us view the ambitious and worldly-minded man — the slave of this world's goods, whose god is upon earth, who bows down before the idol of vanity or the god of Mammon, who is in the way to the acquisition of power, or is storing up his goods for many years. He may have been awakened to a sense of the insubstantiality of all this world can afford. Like Agrippa, he too is almost persuaded to become a disciple of Christ. But here, perhaps, the tempter assails him; "shows him the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them"; promises him honours and wealth; represents that the service of Christ is hard, that His doctrines are humiliating. Mammon is preferred to Christ. Or let us take the sensualist — the man of riot and extravagance and mirth and debauchery, sunk in the lusts of the flesh, "whose god," in the emphatic language of Scripture, "is his belly"; one of those foolish, miserable beings, who exclaim, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." In the midst of his sensual course he perhaps has been suddenly arrested by the effects of his follies. But then he must give up his beloved sin; then he must wash him and be clean. "This is too much," his depraved heart begins to exclaim; this is too great a sacrifice for him.

(J. B. Smith.)

Let us —

I. DELINEATE THE CHARACTER OF THE ALMOST CHRISTIAN. He may —

1. Have much speculative knowledge of religious truths.

2. Have great and splendid spiritual gifts.

3. Make a high profession of religion, unite himself visibly with the Church, and be frequent in the worship of God.

4. In some degree mourn for his sin, from the common operations of the Spirit upon his mind, and from a fear of the wrath of God.

5. Have some desires of grace, and of the blessings which God communicates to His children.

II. INQUIRE WHAT IS STILL WANTING TO SUCH A MAN? I answer, Everything that radically forms the Christian. He wants —

1. The Holy Ghost to dwell within him, for "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."

2. That new birth by which he must be made spiritual.

3. Deep humility of heart.

4. The life of faith.

5. That serious belief of the world to come, which causes the soul to take it as its happiness and treasure.

6. A universal hatred to all known sin, and an actual victory over it.

7. Unfeigned love to a life of holiness; a delight to meditate on the law of God, with an intention to obey it.Conclusion: These are solemn truths, let us be led by them —

1. To examine our own state. Professors of the religion of Jesus, are you real, or only almost Christians?

2. Salvation is not so easily obtained as the men of the world imagine. "Strive, therefore, to enter in at the strait gate," etc.

3. If those that advance so far shall perish, what shall be the doom of the openly profane?

(H. Kollock, D. D.)

Unhopeful was the way in which King Agrippa came to hear the message from his God. St. Paul accordingly, throughout his appeal to the king, refers to his own experience. Who knows but that Agrippa too might have obeyed, that his "almost" might have been "altogether" a Christian? Agrippa believed in the prophets. He must have heard, in some measure, how manifoldly their words were fulfilled in our Lord. He could not then but suspect that Jesus might be the Christ. How, then, does he come to hear the apostle deliver what he must have known might be a message from his God? He came as a judge of Him who shall be his Judge. "I also would hear the man myself." Outwardly, he seemed to be judging the apostle; in deed and in truth, he was judging Christ. He came, associated with his sister Bernice, a shame to her sex, of whose sin he was thought to be partaker, to hear the message of the All-Holy God. He came, in great pomp, to hear of Him who, being God, humbled Himself to become man. Thus, fenced around and guarded from the access of the truth Agrippa heard the apostle of truth, as a civil judge, impartially. He bore him witness, which might do credit to a Christian judge, if he had to stem the tide of popular clamour and popular injustice. "This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds." So far from its being any gain to a soul to have been, or to be, "almost a Christian," far better, if it stop there, never to have heard the name of Christ. Whatever light a man has, that very light, if he come not wholly to Christ, is his condemnation. The greater the light, the deeper the damnation. Once more, increase of light, if rejected, increases condemnation. "If I had not come and spoken to them," saith our Lord, "they had not had sin, but now they have no cloke for their sin." Who then, you ask, are these "almost persuaded to be a Christian"? I will ask you, in turn, Who or what is a Christian? You will say readily, "He who believes in Christ, who loves Christ, hopes in Him, and obeys Him; and that, with all his mind and soul and strength, owning no other Lord, but only Christ." Then I must say to you, whoso wilfully falls short of this, in faith, or love, or obedience, is not a Christian, is hanging on only to Christianity. Whatever that thing is which holds him back from that complete self-surrender, that it is which hinders him from being "altogether" a Christian. The hindrance may be in faith or life, from the world or the flesh. In faith thou mayest be "almost persuaded to be a Christian," but as yet art none if thou wilfully withhold thy belief from any doctrine which God has revealed. The world will tempt you in this way, if it have not already tempted you. The world is the enemy of the gospel, in faith as well as in life. Tolerant of every form of error, it is intolerant of the exclusive claim of truth. It bears with all "opinions," it hates faith. And so there are afloat hundreds of Christianities. You have Christianity without Judaism, Christianity without facts, Christianity without doctrines, Christianity without anything supernatural, Christianity which shall only be an "idea," Christianity with fallible apostles, fallible prophets (alas! that one must give utterance to the blasphemy), a fallible Christ! In life there are more ways in which a person may be almost persuaded to be a Christian, and yet not be a Christian, because there are more varied ways of self-deceit. But, for the most part, those who are almost persuaded to be Christians have much, often very much, in common with Christians; only this is mostly nature, temperament, feeling, not grace, or if it be grace, it is grace admitted only for a time, to be thrust or jostled out afterwards. What more common than for a man to hope well for himself because he wishes to turn to God hereafter? If thou desirest to turn to God hereafter, then thou bearest witness against thyself that thou art not His now. Again, no man has all temptations. Compared to the very bad, the young may think themselves, at least, passing good. They have not had time to become altogether bad. Nay, they have many fine fresh feelings, warm hearts, generous purposes; zeal, at least, against what is base, or (perhaps) for the good of others and against evil, These very things, if you look at them and build upon them, will lead to the most fatal self-deceits. Your trial does not lie in them. These things, too, will become corrupted and debased hereafter, if you flatter yourselves as to them, and neglect your real trial. The main trial of each of you lies in one single thing, your master passion. When you take account of yourselves, or when conscience smites you for having again yielded to your master sin, he would persuade you to look away from it, and would suggest to you that you are kind-hearted, or gentle, or noble-minded, generous, soon-for-giving, or the like. As if one, sick of consumption, were to think well of himself because his heart was sound; or one dying of fever were to hope for life because he had no atrophy! Fear of the world and of man's opinion is thy bane. Fear of the world is stronger in thee than the love of God. Break off from society which is too strong for thy better self. This weakness is it which hinders thee from being altogether a Christian. Hast thou, in earlier days, allowed thy imagination to be corrupted. Or didst thou allow some wrong habit to grow over thee, which, although it may not injure others, thou didst afterwards, when it had gained strength, learn to be deadly sin? Or dost thou allow sloth to creep over thee? Or despisest thou truth, when it suiteth thee, in exaggeration, to give life to thy conversation, or to avoid some serape or some passing shame, or to exalt thyself? Or does vanity and love of personal appearance or the wish to vie with those of larger means tempt thee to contract debts which thou canst not pay, and knowest not how thou ever wilt pay? Called by this name thou couldest not say that such an one as thou art is a Christian. Whatever it be of these or other sins, as pride, anger, covetousness, which thou wilfully and habitually choosest, thou must give up thy sin or thou givest up God, thou must in will and deed renounce thy sin or thou renouncest Christ. Seemeth it to you a hard thing that any one of these things can hinder thee from being owned in God's sight as a Christian? Is it a hard thing that God who created thee, redeemed thee, sanctified thee, hath set His love upon thee, and will not have from thee less than thy whole self? God loveth with no half-love. Thou wouldest not, thyself, have any half-love. Let God or thyself be thy measure to thyself. If God has dealt with thee by halves, if Christ half-died for thee, if God, who is love, half-loveth thee, if Satan or the world half-created thee, then requite God with His own, then do thou halve with God; then half love God, half the world: then be half a Christian. Then, when you have tried it, you will know how sweet, peaceful, joyous a thing it is; wholly, without reserve to have surrendered yourself to the loving will of God. As a half-Christian, you have neither the miserable, feverish joys of the world, nor the solid, peaceful joy in God. Only entire self-surrender, only full obedience has joy in God.

(E. B. Pusey.)

To be religious is one thing, to be a Christian is another. In this country, as in other countries, there is very much of religiousness which is not Christianity.

I. WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN? A man may be an ecclesiastic without being a Christian. In answering the question, What is a Christian? my private opinion and yours are not of any authority. We must go to the New Testament; there is no other authority for the Christian religion than that which we have in the New Testament. A Christian is one who has accepted Jesus Christ as the basis of his faith and the rule of his life. In one aspect Christ Jesus is the foundation on which a man builds; in another aspect He is a law according to which a man thinks and feels. The man brings his thought, that is to say, and his feeling to the test of what he finds in Christ Jesus. This Christ, therefore, becomes the law of his thought and of his feeling, and when anyone adopts Jesus Christ as the law of his thought and feeling, he is undoubtedly a Christian — a Christian not by heredity, but by his own individuality. Life is made up of these two things, thought and feeling. There is nothing else in life but that in the last analysis. As in the material body, if I were speaking physiologically, I might talk about the blood and its circulation, remembering that the life is in the blood, when I had said all that was needful about the blood and all that was possible, someone might say: "That is a very strange thing, for a man to be talking solely about the blood; you would suppose there were no veins, no arteries, no muscles, no bones, no lungs, no brains"; yet, mark you, if I had talked exhaustively about that one thing, the blood that is in the human body, everything essential would have been said upon all these things; so it is in theology.

II. OUGHT I TO BE A CHRISTIAN? This is the question for every man to whom Jesus Christ is preached. That word "ought" is a serious word; it suggests obligation. Am I under obligation to be a Christian? How are we to determine what obligation rests upon a man? I think we must investigate the man himself; we must explore his nature; we must try to find out what design there is hidden in that nature, for every organism carries in it a suggestion of the end for which it was intended. If I look at a hippopotamus, for instance, I know perfectly well that the huge, heavy creature was not intended to do the work of a thoroughbred horse. Now, when I ask the question, Ought I to be a Christian? the answer must be hidden away in my nature. When I study Jesus, and all that He is, and all that is said about Him, and His relation to God and to man, and put it alongside the necessities of my nature, then, and not till then, do I find out that not more accurately does the die seem fitted to the seal than Christ Jesus to my necessities. I am forced to the conclusion that constitutionally we are made to be Christians. Our manhood was fore-ordained by God to take on the type we call Christian. A Christian cannot be made in an hour, nor in a day, nor in twenty days. It is thought that Christianity is something added to the original man, something not essential, something ornamental — clothing, polish, painting, or gilt of some kind — but that a man is a man without it. No, not in God's idea. When God said, "Let us make man," He meant a Christian. But this I say, that a man who has all the light necessary to be a Christian, all the facilities and opportunities for it, and is not a Christian, that man makes a violent arrest of himself at a line which doubts and dishonours God. It all depends on the direction in which a man's face is set, as to whether he is increasing and multiplying in the quality and quantity of his life or not. A man has no right to say, "Thus far will I go and no farther." No man has a right to say how far he will go along the line of Divine allegiance. Whenever a man or woman nurtured under the illumination of Christian principles and facts stops short of voluntary Christian discipleship, there is a self-willed arrestment of development, and the nature becomes deformed and dwarfed; it does not grow in well-balanced relation of one part to another. All parts of the nature ought to move together. Christianity gives us the June atmosphere in which souls grow into strength and beauty. You know perfectly well you cannot grow roses in a December atmosphere. You cannot grow souls in an atmosphere of atheism; you cannot grow souls in an atmosphere of materialism; you can grow animals; you can grow devils; but you cannot grow Christian souls. Now it is needful to recognise that a man may be a Christian disciple without having attained to Christian character; otherwise we may do great injustice to men and women, and especially to children and young people.

III. WHEN IS ANYONE A CHRISTIAN? The answer in its fulness would be, of course, when he has a Christian character. But is not he a Christian till then? Is not a man a Christian when he begins to belt? Am I not on the journey the very first step that I take? Am I not a pupil the first hour I spend in the school? Am I not a student as soon as my will is fixed to be one? Am I not in England the very first moment I put my fool on its soil? Most assuredly. I say a man is a Christian when he is willing to be one. "Willing" implies choice. It is more than desire. There are many people who say, "I desire to be a Christian"; but there is a great difference between desire and will. Really and truly, when the will is converted the man is converted. What is Christian character? It has three features which dominate it. They are expressed in those three familiar but profound words — faith, hope, love. Where there is no love there is no God. "He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love." Then we ask a supplementary question — Ought not all life to be nurtured under the most congenial conditions? Is there a place so suited to the nurture of the Christian life as the Church? Is not that its design, its intention? Ought not its atmosphere to be a compound of love and light? There is but one answer to these questions. But there are some persons who are converted intellectually — that is to say, they cannot bring any argument against Christianity that can stand. There are others who are converted as to feeling. They feel all right — that is to say, one day they do, and the next they do not. Feeling is the most unreliable thing for a foundation you can possibly have. What we want is the will to choose Christ definitely and openly. Why do not Christian disciples all do this? There are some persons who desire other things much more than Christ and His salvation. Oh, when God looks upon man's excuses for not being a Christian, they will be as the frost on the window pane; when the sun looks upon it, it all vanishes. I never was more impressed with this fact of the necessity sometimes of refusing all argumentation, and putting the Christ of God and the truth of God simply before the human mind, than I was some months ago when I went to see an old lady who was ninety-two years of age. Her niece told me that she had lived all that long life of hers with a kind of religiousness; she sometimes read her Bible; but she had been of a very fault-finding disposition, and would always turn to those parts of the Bible where there were threatenings, never regarding the promises at all. She never looked upon those passages that are full of love and the light that are in Jesus Christ, but always searched for the difficulties. That is the way some people have. If she could find a difficulty anywhere she would hunt it, like a huntsman a fox, until she caught it and flourished up the brush before the minds of others who came into contact with her. The young lady had read a printed volume of mine, and she came and asked me what she could do. I said, "I cannot tell unless I go and see her." She said, "She lives four miles away"; but I said, "I must see her," and when I saw this old lady of ninety-two. I said to her, "I have heard from your niece something about you; I have an hour to stay: I give you half an hour to tell me all you have to tell; the other half will legitimately belong to me." She began and told me about her religious experience, and how she stumbled at this, that, and the other text in the Bible, and about the books she had read, and it all amounted to not seeing, not doing, not believing. When she got through, I said, "Your half hour is up. The first thing I will ask you is this, Whether you do not think you have had stumbling enough for these ninety-two years, and have hunted difficulties long enough? You are not to argue with me and not to speak. You have told me about your sinfulness; I have heard it all. Nothing has happened to you but that which is common to man and woman; but now I am going to charge you at ninety-two years of age with a sin greater than anything you have confessed: it is the sin of going through that Bible time in and time out, year in and year out. and never seeing a passage like this and appreciating it: 'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should have everlasting life'; 'He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him.'" I prayed with her, and then I said, "Good morning. God bless you! I do not suppose I shall see you again in this world, but remember what I have told you." The next Friday evening prayer meeting came, and I said to her niece, "How is the old lady?" "Oh, I have had such a week as I never had in my lifetime! I do not believe she has grumbled once." The third Friday evening meeting came, and I said, "Well, how is our old lady?" "She went from us this morning, rejoicing in God's eternal love; and she left this message for you: 'Just tell him that if in my ninety-two years of life I had done so much good to my fellow creatures as he did in one hour, I should thank God.'"

(R. Thomas.)

1. The scene before us is a meeting between the old world and Christ's new kingdom. Here, on the one side, were the solemn insignia of the mighty Roman empire, by which it had subdued the world; and with these all the pomp of royal magnificence: and on the other, the apostle, with nothing which the unenlightened eye could trace, beyond that ardent zeal which might spring from the holding fast some master truth, or which might be the fanatical delusion of a brain-sick enthusiast.

2. Such was the outside aspect of that day. But for the unsealed eye how much lay beneath it! how much was there for the eager gaze of those unfallen ministers of God's will who watch the unfolding of His purposes of love in their continual strife with moral evil! What issues hung upon that hour! Once, at least, the message of the gospel reached this Roman governor. Festus and Agrippa must accept it or declare against it; they cannot be neutrals; they are singled out for this high trial. And by one of these, at least, that struggle was acknowledged. To enter into it we must have clearly before us what was the state of Agrippa's mind.

3. His half-Jewish descent, and his knowledge of the Jewish Scripture, had undoubtedly prepared him for the apostle's teaching. Then, again, he was still young, and the whirlpools of indulged passion had not yet utterly polluted the currents of his life. There was within him still the tenderness of a youthful heart; the volcano's fires had not yet blazed fiercely forth, to leave upon his soul, after their tumultuous outbreak, the hard crust of sensuality or the bitter ashes of a low ambition. And young as he was, life had looked in upon his soul in some of its sterner and more appalling characters. The career of the great founder of his line showed to those within the circle the signs of unrelieved suspicious misery, and had notoriously ended in a death of agony. The wretched life and violent end of Aristobulus must have been familiar to him: and, but just before, in the full splendour of its midday brightness, his father's reign had abruptly ended, with the startling accidents of sudden and exceeding suffering. And he could not but note the uncertainty of such dependent sovereignty as his, which, at a moment, the people's violence, or the emperor's caprice, might turn into the dungeon, exile, or the scaffold.

4. Thus prepared by outward circumstance, he listened to the words of Paul; he was brought beneath the influence of the Holy Spirit. To a certain degree his in most soul answered to the call. New, strange wishes were rising in his heart. The Mighty One was brooding over its currents, was stirring up its tides, was fain to overrule their troubled flow. And he himself was evidently conscious of the struggle; he was almost won; he well-nigh yielded.

5. What the issue was, we know. The world was too strong within him. We meet him again no more in Holy Writ. Like ships which, when night is spread over the sea, emerge for a moment from the darkness as they cross the pathway of the moonbeams, and then are lost in the utter gloom, so was it with him. He stands before us here in the brightness of that light of truth which fell upon him for a season, and then he passes out of sight into the thick shadows of a merely worldly life. We know, therefore, little farther of him; but miserable is that little both for him and for Bernice. Such was the issue of great opportunities neglected; of God's merciful intentions wilfully resisted; of self-chosen darkness in the midst of light; of the world's conquest in his heart. For it was this which made his ear deaf to the heavenly message. It is clear that, to a certain extent, he did count the cost; so much his words distinctly intimate. He did see the freedom and the blessedness which was within his reach; he was almost persuaded to lay hold of them: that which stood between him and them was manifestly the necessary sacrifice which he must make to be a Christian. His Jewish prejudices, his Idumaean throne, his youthful passions, his mounting ambition, the ties of family, the frown of society — all stood between him and this bright and blessed life which now rose before him. He felt that he must make a choice, and he made the wrong choice. Perhaps, like Felix, he waited for fuller convictions and a more convenient season: perhaps he meant, when he was older and had enjoyed somewhat fuller draughts of pleasure, when he had secured some farther step upon the ladder of his hopes, then to listen to this voice of wisdom. Perhaps he thought that his peculiar situation would excuse his putting by the message; that he was not to be judged by ordinary rules, or tried by the common measure of all men. By some such decent falsehood he no doubt stilled the unquietness of an awakened conscience. But, in doing this, he put salvation from him. He chose for time — he chose for eternity. He was almost a member of His kingdom, amongst whose first laws these are written plain: "He that is not with Me is against Me"; "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." Agrippa was but a type of a common class. Many agree with him —

I. IS HIS CHOICE. Every one of us, at some time or other, has to come to this conclusion: "I will, or I will not, be altogether Christ's." Sometimes it gathers itself up into one signal choice between the world and Christ. Oftener, perhaps, no such great necessity of direct and immediate decision awakens all our vigilance; but we go on choosing throughout a multitude of small occasions. In little concessions to passion, or to self-indulgence, or to seeming expediency, we are casting in our lot with the world: and though no one instance may rise above the ordinary level, yet we are, upon the whole, aware that the course of our life is in one direction; and therefore we are truly conscious that we are making the choice of being "almost" His who will accept no "almost" servants. This "almost" choice tends to quiet conscience; that which is our shame and our danger is made, by the heart's deceitfulness, our comfort and excuse. We do feel; we all but resolve; we think we shall resolve another day: we are so near the kingdom of heaven that we are contented without pressing into it; so close to the door, that we bear, almost without misgiving, to see it shut against us.

II. IN ITS CAUSE. We cannot bring ourselves to make all the needful sacrifice. The world we have to give up may not be so great as his was, but it is our world. The details will vary infinitely, but its master spring is one. This man cannot bring himself to give up some evil habit; another cannot face the jeer of his fellows; another feels inwardly that he is called to a higher and more self-denying life than he can bring himself to lead: and so all these men, for Agrippa's old reason, make his choice. They respect religion in others; they will not join with Festus in reproaching Christ's witnesses with madness; they even wish that they could rise themselves to the same nobleness of aim, and act, and character; but with broken wing, they do but gaze where they ought to soar; they do but faintly feel when they should determinately act.

III. IN ITS END. It is a downward course; a course of increasing evil, of growing dulness, of strengthening chains, of fainter aspirations; of evil choices multiplied; of God's grace slighted, grieved, and quenched; of a heart less striven with, almost deserted, and then, at last, abandoned, and so — reprobate. Conclusion" Note —

1. The exceeding danger of shrinking back from any call of God.

2. Our need of seeking most constantly the aid and guidance of God's Holy Spirit.

(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY AN ALMOST CHRISTIAN? One who wavers between Christ and the world.

II. WHY SO MANY ARE NO MORE THAN SUCH. Because of —

1. False notions of religion.

2. Servile fear of man.

3. Prevailing covetousness.

4. Love of pleasure.

5. Instability of character.

III. THE FOLLY AND DANGER OF SUCH A CONDITION. It is —

1. Ineffectual to salvation.

2. Prejudicial to others.

3. Ungrateful to Christ.

(G. Whitefield.)

I. MAN'S CHARACTER IS NOT NATURALLY CHRISTIAN. Evident from —

1. Consciousness.

2. Observation.

3. Scripture.

II. TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE MAN'S SUPREME AIM: because —

1. It is God's will.

2. Man's privilege and necessity. Only thus can he realise the true end of his being and reach heaven.

III. MAN MAY ALMOST BECOME YET STILL FALL SHORT OF BEING A CHRISTIAN.

IV. FOR THE NON-POSSESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER MAN WILL BE CULPABLE.

(W. Johnson.)

There are some characters in Scripture whose history is brought up to a point at which the interest becomes intensely awakened; and then we hear no more about them. Felix — did he ever see that convenient season he talked about? The young man, who went away from Christ sorrowful, did he ever come back again? Agrippa, did he die an "almost Christian," or did he go back and become an unbeliever quite? About these things Scripture has told us nothing, and we may be sure there are good reasons for its silence. In applying the passage we must bear in mind the difference between what it is to be a Christian in our day, and what it was to be a Christian in the days of the apostle. Hence a distinction, forced upon us by these altered circumstances, between a nominal Christianity and that which is vital and spiritual. Christians of the nominal sort we call Christians only by a kind of courtesy. We make a charitable supposition about them, and hope for the best. But such Christians as Paul earnestly desired Agrippa might become are few among us. Many are beyond the nominal stage; but there is a constant stopping short. Like the Scribe, they are not far from the kingdom of God, and yet they never get actually to it. Note —

I. THE PROMISING QUALITIES OF LIFE AND CHARACTER WHICH MAY CONSIST WITH SUCH A STATE.

1. There may be a great deal of religious knowledge in such a person. This was evidently the case with Agrippa. We may be aforehand of many around us in religious intelligence, sound in all our views, and yet, by reason of all this knowledge being unapplied, may be no better Christians than this Agrippa was. What was Balaam, with all his visions of God, with all his far-seeing glimpses into the day of Christ, but as a trumpet strange to the music of its own sounds, or a candlestick not knowing the light it bears? No, the knowledge which enlightens is not always the knowledge that saves. The tree of knowledge is not the tree of life.

2. More than once, he may have been brought under the power of deep religious convictions. Agrippa must have struggled long before, or he could not have made the admission which he did. And so few of us go for long together without the conviction coming very close home to us that, if weighed in the balances, we should be found wanting; and for the time we set about some outward reforms as Herod did, resolve that we will go and hear that preacher again as Felix did, and confess that we are beginning to think differently upon the subject of religion as Agrippa did. All this time the great truth has not been mastered by us, that conviction is not the same thing as conversion. Convictions are but means to an end. And thus it is that our stinted and stunted Christianity frustrates the grace of God. We halt, and do not suffer His work to speed in the heart.

3. Other qualities of head and heart will easily occur as marking the religion of an almost Christian — such as amiableness of disposition, tastes, studies, feelings, tendencies, which, if nothing were told us to the contrary, we should be ready to conclude were hopeful indications of Christian character. There must have been something amiable about this Agrippa. Josephus has preserved a tender and touching address of his on the misery and wickedness of war, which must have read very strangely from one of Herod's line; whilst in the son of him who was eaten up with worms for his impiety we should little expect to have found what the apostle evidently attributes to him — the habit of a reverent study of the Jewish Scriptures. The remark may, at all events, suggest the reflection how much nature, temperament, and outward circumstances may do, in producing a result which, after all, shall be only a semblance and counterfeit of the work of grace. And the counterfeit deceives many — very often deceives ourselves.

II. WHY IT IS THAT PEOPLE PERSUADED TO GO SO FAR CANNOT BE PERSUADED TO GO FURTHER. "Almost" — but not altogether — "I have some reserves which I cannot give up yet, some difficulties which you have not overcome yet."

1. The reason of it is that given by our Lord, "Ye have not the love of God in you." All half-and-half Christianity resolves itself into this. The religion of the almost Christian would go farther if his prayers were loved prayers, his service love service, his sacrifices loved sacrifices. Religion is never worth anything till you come to take some pleasure in it for itself. Everything you do is but duty service before that, and God cannot away with such sacrifices. Defects, errors, faults, He can bear, so only that we can say with shame-stricken Peter, "Lord, Thou knowest all things — with all my shortcomings and defects — Thou knowest that I love Thee."

2. But this absence of love is not the only reason. There is the predominant love in the heart of something else. There is some secret thing with you, a reserve which God must not touch, an inner chamber into which He must not intrude. You will give up a great deal, but not all.

III. WHAT IS THE MORAL VALUE OF THE STATE DESCRIBED? If I am proceeding on a long journey, it may be some comfort to be told that I am almost at the end of it. If I have all my life been proposing some great object, it is something to be told I am almost within sight of its accomplishment. But in these cases the supposition is, that I am making further way every day; whereas the spiritual condition contemplated is that of a person standing still, year after year, in the same dead state; seeking to enter in at the strait gate, but never striving; ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth. And the question is, What is the man the better for his pains? What good will his "almost" do for him? The ten virgins knocked at the door very soon after the bridegroom had entered in; were they any the better for having been so very near? We read of some who could not enter into the promised land because of unbelief. Did it stand them in any stead that, though not entering in, they had pressed close up to the very borders? No; the great truth that stands out everywhere in God's Word is, that in the future world there are two states only. We read nothing about a middle condition, nothing about a heaven for the almost saved. And so if we must fix a value on such a persuasion as Agrippa had, it must be this — that it had been better for him never to have been persuaded at all. It seems as if, in another world, the reflection would be insupportable to us that our everlasting ruin should have turned upon an almost.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

I. WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN? Let Scripture say.

1. Take, e.g., the text in the first instance. It is evident that with vers. 17, 18 ringing in his ears, Agrippa must have caught some notion of Christianity as a spiritual force. There are the affirmations that the world is in the dark touching its relations and its duties to God; but that light has come which reveals at once the distance from God and the reconciliation to Him. Then there is the proclamation that the sad thrall of sin under which the world has groaned for ages need not continue — but that there is a power that can turn men from Satan unto God. Then there is the announcement of conscious pardon, in whose strange, thrilling joy men can rest without presumption, and a holiness in which they are purified by faith. Then there is the living witness that all these blessings are conferred upon us by Christ. To be a Christian implies living faith in those transforming truths.

2. Take next Acts 11:26. This adds to living faith in doctrinal truth the publicity and avowed confession of Christ. The disciples had a conduct so blameless that it brought no reproach upon their creed. The record tells us that the messengers who were sent to visit them rejoiced in their exemplary piety. And this is just the requirement that Christianity still demands. To believe in and not to confess Christ is a sign either of unworthy compromise or of a recreant soul. If you are a Christian indeed, you cannot keep it concealed. It does not need that men should see the rose always on its stem; its fragrance will be sure to tell of its neighbourhood. Clouds gather sometimes about the sun, but men know that he is there always by the light and comfort of the day.

3. Take 1 Peter 4:16. This adds to faith and publicity readiness to suffer if need be for the cause of Christ. If there is to be a pure transcript of the truth as it is in Jesus, there must be the martyr's heart although there may be no martyr's agonies. Our lot has fallen upon more merciful times, yet in the disputes of every day there is an agony coming down into the Christian heart fiercer than any of the ancient gladiators knew. These are the three things that constitute the Christian, the absence of any one of which detracts from the perfection of the whole.

II. HOW IT IS THAT MEN ARE ONLY ALMOST PERSUADED TO BE CHRISTIANS.

1. The king did not hesitate on account of any lack of evidence. He was convinced, but not persuaded; his understanding surrendered at discretion, but his heart secretly rebelled; and this is just the mystery of unbelief. Conviction, signifying an intellectual satisfaction with the harmonious evidences of truth, is within the reach of any candid mind which will take the trouble to inquire; but persuasion has greater difficulties to encounter and to overcome. The heart is not only the fountain of impurity, but the stronghold of unbelief. There is an old proverb about a man being convinced against his will If reason and passion meet in combat, reason has a small chance of gaining the mastery unless it be shielded. If your will only ceases its opposition you are won to Christ.

2. It is possible that the value of human praise, and the fear of human censure, prevented Agrippa's decision. It would involve the forfeiture of power, of position, of influence. And are there not multitudes yet who are thus influenced? You are convinced and wishful. But there is a public opinion which you dare not brave.

3. The main cause of Agrippa's indecision, and that which influences thousands still, was the wish to continue a little longer in the indulgence of sin. He would grasp the present while he could, in the hope that yet by and by, when it palled upon the senses, he might enjoy the future. Conclusion: This Bible is true, or it is false. Do you believe it? If so, then you believe that just beyond you there is a heaven of blessedness and a hell of doom, and yet you are only almost persuaded to escape the one and to secure the other! Do you know the imminent risks that you run by delay? Death at hand! and you almost prepared to meet it! The Grand Assize! and you almost ready for the trial! The Judge at the door! and you almost persuaded that it is time to get ready for His coming! Eternity flashing or darkening upon your sky! and you almost beginning to think that it may possibly be true! Heaven opened for the ransomed and the ready! and you almost at the gate before it shuts! The last sheaf of the harvest gathered — the last flower of the summer plucked! and you almost saved!

(W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)

Many persons will be disturbed at being told that the "almost Christian," however common an object, is not found in this passage. Agrippa's celebrated saying is, in the Greek, quite ambiguous, and so is Paul's reply. No one can determine with certainty what is the real meaning. "Somewhat" is the most probable interpretation, and agrees best with the character of Agrippa. "In some measure," "somewhat," makes it a polite answer, expressing interest in what has been said, and a disposition to admit that Christianity has really some claims, especially as presented by so able a speaker. The "somewhat Christian" is oftener to be met with in our congregations than the "almost Christian."

I. WHAT LED AGRIPPA TO MAKE THIS CIVIL REPLY.

1. After completing the account of his conversion, Paul declares (vers. 19-23) that he had ever since been trying to act according to the Divine instructions.(1) He was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision. How could he be?(2) Nobody could object to his exhortation that men "should repent and turn to God," and prove it by a corresponding life.(3) And the doctrines Paul has taught are really nothing but what was predicted by the prophets and by Moses (ver. 22), namely —

(a)That the Messiah must be not a worldly conqueror, as the Jews expected, but a sufferer, as in Isaiah 53.

(b)That He must rise from the dead.

(c)That, in consequence of His death and resurrection, He will proclaim spiritual light — instruction and hope.

2. The two leading persons among his hearers now speak to Paul, and he replies to each with great wisdom and earnestness (vers. 24-29).(1) Festus was satisfied that no sane man could express such notions, so he interrupted Paul in an excited manner, and then, perhaps wishing to soften his harsh accusation, he adds, "Thy much learning doth turn thee to madness." He had probably heard that Paul was thoroughly acquainted with the learning of the rabbis. It is also probable that Paul had shown great anxiety to have books (2 Timothy 4:13). "Practical politicians" often express a certain contempt for learned or literary persons, and not unfrequently say it addles their brains to read so much. The apostle's reply (ver. 25) is courteous, dignified, and earnest. He refers to the king as having better acquaintance than a recently arrived governor with the well-known history of Christianity (ver. 26). Then Paul pointedly addresses the young king. Agrippa was a Jew, educated to believe in the Scriptures. Under the impression of Paul's presence and appeal, he was likely to feel a quickened persuasion that the Messianic prophecies were true, and to perceive that they had been fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus.(2) And so Agrippa said to Paul, "Somewhat thou persuadest me to make me a Christian." The interruption by Festus had been loud and violent. The remark of Agrippa is more courteous than serious. But in both cases Paul's reply is at once dignified and deeply earnest. He wishes that not only Agrippa, but all the others present, might be to some extent and to a great extent such as he is, i.e., Christians. Whether a man be a prince or a beggar, we can wish for him nothing so truly desirable as that he may become a Christian. Whatever else we may be doing for those we love, let us neglect no effort to bring them into the possession of the one thing needful.

II. HOW MANY, LIKE THIS YOUNG KING, ARE ONLY "SOMEWHAT CHRISTIANS"! Here is a youth who has been taught to respect Christianity, who has affection for some pious people; sometimes the words of his pastor, his friend, stir in him a transient interest, and if he were to express his feeling, it would be, "I am really impressed by all this; I am somewhat disposed to become a Christian myself." Here is a child whose tender heart is touched by the story of Jesus, and who inwardly says, "I think I'll get to be a Christian before long." Here is a man growing old, who goes to church and listens with outward decorum, and then goes away without any apparent result; but some day the pastor makes a special appeal, and the man says to a friend as they turn away, "I don't know but some of these days they'll get me into the Church after all." In numerous cases, we must not speak harshly as to the insufficiency of such an interest and purpose, but must strive to encourage, and to deepen, and strengthen it. Yet we must never forget that Christian piety is a very decided and positive thing; that Jesus Himself solemnly said, "He that is not with Me is against Me."

(J. A. Broadus, D. D.)

! — This Agrippa was son of the other Herod of whom we hear in the Acts as a persecutor. This one appears, from other sources, to have had the vices, but not the force of character, of his bad race. He was weak and indolent, a mere hanger-on of Rome, to which he owed his kingdom, and to which he stoutly stuck during all the tragedy of the fall of Jerusalem. But he knew a good deal about the Jews, about their opinions, their religion, and about what had been going on during the last half century amongst them. On grounds of policy he professed to accept the Jewish faith. So the apostle was fully warranted in appealing to Agrippa's knowledge, not only of Judaism, but of the history of Jesus Christ, and in his further assertion, "I know that thou believest." But the home thrust was too much for the king. His answer is given in the words of our text. They are very familiar words, and they have been made the basis of a great many sermons upon being all but persuaded to accept of Christ as Saviour. But, edifying as such a use of them is, it can scarcely be sustained by their actual meaning. Most commentators are agreed that our Authorised Version does not represent either Agrippa's words or his tone. He was not speaking in earnest. His words are sarcasm, not half melting into conviction. And the Revised Version gives what may, on the whole, be accepted as being a truer representation of their intention when it reads, "With but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian." He is half amused and half angry at the apostle's presumption in supposing that so easily, or so quickly, he is going to land his fish. "It is a more difficult task than you fancy, Paul, to make a Christian of a man like me." That is the real meaning of his words.

I. FIRST, THEN, I SEE HERE AN EXAMPLE OF THE DANGER OF A SUPERFICIAL FAMILIARITY WITH CHRISTIAN TRUTH. As I said, Agrippa knew, in a general way, a good deal not only about the Prophets, and the Jewish religion, but the outstanding facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul's assumption that he knew would have been very quickly repudiated if it had not been based upon fact. Mark the contrast between him and the bluff Roman official at his side. To Festus, Paul's talking about a dead man's having risen, and a risen Jew becoming a light to all nations, was such utter nonsense that, with characteristic Roman contempt for men with ideas, he breaks in, with his rough, strident voice, "Much learning has made thee mad." There was not much chance of that cause producing effect on Festus. He was bewildered at this entirely unintelligible talk. Agrippa, on the other hand, knows all about it. And was he any better for it? No! He was a great deal worse. It took the edge off a good deal of his curiosity. It stood in the way of his apprehending the truths which he thought that he understood. And although you and I know a great deal more about Jesus Christ and the gospel than he did, the very same thing is true about thousands of people that have all their lives been brought into contact with Christianity. Superficial knowledge is the worst enemy of accurate knowledge. For the first condition of knowing a thing is to know that we do not know it. The ground is preoccupied in our minds with our own vague and imperfect apprehensions. You fancy that you know all that I can tell you. Very probably you do. But have you ever taken a firm hold of the plain central facts of Christianity — your own sinfulness and helplessness, your need of a Saviour? These are but the fundamentals, the outlines of gospel truth. But you see them, far too many of you, in such a manner as you see the figures cast upon a screen when the lantern is not rightly focussed, a blurred outline. And the blurred outline keeps you from seeing the sharp-cut truth as it is in Jesus. Then there is another way in which such knowledge as that of which the man in our text is an example is a hindrance, and that is that it is knowledge which has no effect on character. What do hundreds of us do with our knowledge of Christianity? Our minds seem built in watertight compartments, and we keep the doors of them shut very close, so that truths in the understanding have no influence on the will. "Agrippa! believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest." "Yes! believest the prophets; and Bernice sitting by your side there — believest the prophets, and livest in utter bestial godlessness." What is the good of a knowledge of Christianity like that?

II. NOW, SECONDLY, NOTICE HOW WE HAVE HERE THE EXAMPLE OF A PROUD MAN INDIGNANTLY RECOILING FROM SUBMISSION. There is a world of contempt in Agrippa's words, in the very putting side by side of the two things. "Me! Me," with a very large capital M — "Me a Christian?" He thinks of his dignity, poor creature. It was not such a very tremendous dignity after all. He was a petty kinglet, permitted by the grace of Rome to live and to pose as if he were the real thing. And yet he struts and claps his wings and crows on his little hillock as if it were a mountain. "Me a Christian?" "The great Agrippa! A Christian!" As if he said, "Do you really think that I — I — am going to bow myself down to be a follower and adherent of that Christ of yours? The thing is too ridiculous! With but little persuasion thou wouldst fain make me a Christian. But you will find it a harder task than you fancy." Now, the shape of this unwillingness is changed, but the fact of it remains. There are two or three features of what I take to be the plain gospel of Jesus Christ which grate very much against all self-importance and self-complacency. I just run them over very briefly.

1. The gospel insists on dealing with everybody in the same fashion, and regarding all as standing on the same level. Many of us do not like that. Let us get away from Agrippa and Palestine. "I am a well-to-do Manchester man. Am I to stand on the same level as my office boy?" Yes! the very same. At any rate, we are not to be classed in the same category with the poor and the ignorant and the sinful and the savage all over the world. But we are so classed. Do not you and the men in Patagonia breathe the same air? Are not your bodies subject to the same laws? Have you not to be contented to be fed in the same fashion, and to sleep and eat and drink in the same way? "We have all of us one human heart"; and "there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." The identities of humanity, in all its examples, are deeper than its differences in any. We have all the one Saviour, and are to be saved in the same fashion. It is a humbling thing for those of us that stand upon some little elevation, real or fancied. We all need the same surgery, and we must be contented to take it in the same fashion. So some of us recoil from humbling equality with the lowest and worst.

2. Then, again, another thing that makes people shrink back from the gospel sometimes is that it insists upon everybody being saved solely by dependence on Another.

3. And another thing stands in the way — namely, that the gospel insists upon absolute obedience to Jesus Christ. Agrippa fancied that it was an utterly preposterous thing that he should lower his flag, and doff his crown, and become a servant of a Jewish peasant. A great many of us, though we have a higher idea of our Lord than that, do yet find it quite as hard to submit our wills to His, and to accept the condition of absolute obedience, utter resignation to Him, and entire subjection to His commandment. We say, "Let my own will have a little bit of play in a corner." "I, with my culture; am I to accept what Christ says as the end of strife?" Yes! absolute submission is the plainest condition of real Christianity. "Thou wouldst fain persuade me to be a Christian," is the recoil of a proud heart from submission. Let me beseech you that it may not be yours.

III. AGAIN, WE HAVE HERE AN EXAMPLE OF INSTINCTIVE SHRINKING FROM THE PERSONAL APPLICATION OF BROAD TRUTHS. Agrippa listened half-amused, and a good deal interested, to Paul, as long as he talked generalities, and described his own experience. But when he came to point the generalities and to drive them home to the hearer's heart, it was time to stop him. That question of the apostle's, keen and sudden as the flash of a dagger, went straight home. And the king at once gathers himself together into an attitude of resistance. Ah! that is what hundreds of people do. You will let me preach as long as I like — only you will get a little weary sometimes — you will let me preach generalities ad libitum. But when I come to "And thou?" then I am "rude," and "inquisitorial," and "personal," and "trespassing on a region where I have no business," and so on, and so on. And so you shut up your heart if not your ears. And yet what is the use of toothless generalities?

IV. LASTLY, WE HAVE HERE AN EXAMPLE OF A SOUL CLOSE TO THE LIGHT AND PASSING INTO THE DARK. Agrippa listens to Paul; Bernice listens to Paul; Festus listens. And what comes of it? Only this, "And when they were gone aside they talked between themselves, saying, This man hath done nothing worthy of death or of bonds." May I translate into a modern analogy: And when they were gone aside they talked between themselves, saying, "This man preached a very impressive sermon," or, "This man preached a very wearisome sermon," and there an end. Agrippa and Bernice went their wicked way, and Festus went his, and none of them knew what a fateful moment they had passed through. Probably they never heard the gospel preached any more, and they went away, not knowing what they had done when they silenced Paul and left him. Now you will probably hear plenty of sermons yet. You may, or you may not. But be sure of this, that if you get away from this one, unmelted and unbelieving, you have not done a trivial thing.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Almost saved, if it be no more, is, in the end, altogether lost, and that, too, in the most melancholy of circumstances. When, after safely circumnavigating the globe, the Royal Charter went to pieces in Moelfra Bay, on the coast of Wales, it was the melancholy duty of a minister in Liverpool to visit and seek to comfort the wife of the first officer, made by that calamity a widow. The ship had been telegraphed from Queenstown, and she was sitting in the parlour expecting her husband, with the table spread for his evening meal, when the messenger came to tell her he was drowned. "Never can I forget the grief, so stricken and tearless, with which she wrung my hand, as she said, 'So near home, and yet lost!' That seemed to me the most terrible of human sorrow. But ah! that is nothing to the anguish which must wring the soul who is compelled to say at last, 'Once I was at the very gate of heaven, and had almost entered in, but now I am in hell!'"

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

A boat went over the Niagara cataract with two men in it, leaving another clinging to a log which lay against a weir, just above the edge of the descending flood. The morning which rose upon the night of disaster revealed the imperilled man. Thousands gathered upon the banks of the river, and every invention was tried to save him. Lifeboats were swept away until the day began to decline. At length a frail skiff was brought by ropes from each shore to his side. Hope shed its light upon all faces, and shone on no feature so brightly as upon his who lifted his foot to step into the last means of rescue. With the footfall the boat shot upward and backward into the boiling waters, and then downward to the abyss of destruction below went the victim of pleasure. Almost saved! What agony of feeling that expression declares!

Let us —

I. DESCRIBE THE CASE OF THOSE WHO ARE ALMOST PERSUADED, BUT NOT ALTOGETHER.

1. Some have strong convictions of the truth and reasonableness of religion.

2. Some have also, at particular seasons, very serious and lively impressions made upon their hearts by Divine truths.

3. Some are some. times so far persuaded as to entertain resolutions, and yet cannot bring themselves to a fixed determination to become Christians in earnest.

4. Some are so far persuaded that they actually take some steps towards being Christians.

II. WHENCE IT IS THAT THEY ARE NOT ALTOGETHER PERSUADED.

1. Not for want of sufficient reasons, but for want of consideration, and attending to them.

2. On account of the prejudices they have imbibed against religion.

3. Fondness for the world, its pleasures, and other advantages.

4. The power and prevalence of some particular lust.

III. REPRESENT THEIR UNHAPPY STATE.

1. To such persons their own consciences will be a terrible witness against them, as soon as they find time and leisure to bethink themselves; and a long time and leisure they will find for it in the other world if they could not before.

2. That they had been so near the kingdom of God, and yet fell short of it, will be another source of most severe reflections and tormenting agonies.

(S. Clark, D. D.)

illustrates —

I. THE MIGHTY POWER OF GOSPEL TRUTH. This is here seen —

1. In shaking the religion of the monarch.(1) There is no task more difficult than that of destroying a man's faith in his own religion. It is easier to argue a man out of anything than out of his religious creed — he has often given up his home, friends, and life for this.(2) But this difficulty was emphasised in the case of a Jew. No religion ever took such a hold upon the human mind as Judaism.(3) But of all classes none would feel it more difficult to change their religion than kings. Pride, policy, or fear binds them to their old creed.(4) Add to all this that the new religion was neither popular nor respectable. Here is a glorious evidence of the power of our religion! It is to triumph over all religions. Like Aaron's rod, the Cross shall swallow up their enchantments, dispel every error that darkens the human judgment, snap every fetter that enthralls the human soul, give to every spirit its right and freedom.

2. In strengthening the heart of the apostle. What was it that braced up the soul of the apostle with so much unconquerable energy? Gospel truth. And does it not always act thus? While it overcomes the sinner with conviction, does it not fill the Christian with joy and peace in believing?

II. THE GRAND AIM OF GOSPEL TRUTH. To elevate, to stir the mind to action, to dispel its ignorance, correct its errors, remove its opposition; but its grand object is to make men Christians. But what is it to be a Christian? Is it to be orthodox in creed? No; there are many wicked spirits profound theologians. Is it to be regular in our attendance on religious ordinances? No; the Scribes and Pharisees were so. Is it to be attached to the person, character, and ministry of God's servants? No; Herod heard John gladly. Is it conviction of sin? No; Judas repented, Felix trembled, and Agrippa was almost a Christian. What, then, is it to be a Christian? Paul answers the question — to be as I am.

1. He accepted the atonement of Christ as the only hope of salvation.

2. He made the will of Christ the rule of his conduct. "What wilt Thou have me do?" was the first question he asked.

3. He cherished the love of Christ as the inspiration of his life. These three things made the apostle what he was, and are the essential elements of a Christian. Are you a Christian? Then there is oneness between you, Christ, and every holy spirit — you live in the sympathies of the good, and in the arms of redemptive mercy; the great God is your Father, Jesus is your brother, angels are your servants, and heaven at last will be your home; you can look and claim an interest in all. "All things are yours." How benevolent that wish of the apostle's, "I would to God," etc.; a nobler never entered a human heart. From it we learn that a Christian in chains is freer, happier, and nobler than a king upon his throne.

III. THE PRACTICAL METHOD OF GOSPEL TRUTH. How does this powerful truth attain this sublime object? By sentimental rhapsody, priestly interpositions, theatrical ritualism, noisy declamations? No. These may rouse the emotions, but cannot convince the judgment. By legislative enactment? There is no way by which coercion can travel to a man's soul, and touch the moral springs of action. What, then, is the method? Moral suasion. This implies two things —

1. The existence of evidence to convince the judgment. Before I could persuade an infidel to love and obey God, I must convince him by evidence of the being, excellency, and claims of the Great One. Before I can persuade a sinner to seek salvation in Christ, he must be convinced of his sin and danger, and of the suitability and willingness of Christ as a Saviour.

2. The existence of motives to change the will. Motives gathered from life, death, time, eternity. The presenting of these motives is persuasion — is the means by which men are to be made Christians. This persuasion is a peculiarity of our religion. The religion of heaven needs no persuasion — the spirits there have only to know their duty in order to perform it. Other religions on earth are too false to depend upon it. If the religion of the "false prophet" is to be propagated, it must be by the sword; if popery, by mystification; if deism, by the construction of fallacies. All Christianity wants is to be presented fairly to the mind, in humble dependence upon that Spirit that has pledged to crown it with success.

IV. THE SOLEMN FAILURE OF GOSPEL TRUTH. Only "almost." What was the reason he did not yield entirely? Because he did not think sufficiently and rightly upon it. The power of argument depends upon the consideration you give it.

V. THE PHILOSOPHIC GENIUS OF GOSPEL TRUTH. Paul's reply has a moral grandeur beyond description. Here is a spirit of the highest philanthropy.

1. It was a praying philanthropy: "I would to God."

2. It was a forgiving philanthropy.

3. It was a universal philanthropy.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

A chemist who is experimenting with some newly-discovered element keeps a record showing the various reactions which occur when this element is brought into combination with other substances. The book of Acts is largely a diary of spiritual chemistry: it shows what happened when the gospel of Jesus Christ was brought into contact with different classes and conditions of men. When Paul presented it to Festus and Agrippa it was received in a peculiar way and had peculiar consequences. This was an unpromising audience for the preaching of the gospel of Christ. But Paul believed that gospel was meant for great as well as small (ver. 22), for profligate as well as virtuous, for the whole sinful world.

I. THE CHARACTER OF THE ADDRESS. Paul now, as often before as after, told in a simple, straightforward way the story of his own life. There is no evidence for Christ more convincing than that of Christian experience.

1. God and man worked together in Paul's Christian life (ver. 19).(1) There was first the heavenly vision vouchsafed to Paul for his spiritual enlightenment and guidance. His conversion was wrought from without. He had not been yearning for Christ, but had been opposing Him, when God came upon the scene and changed things miraculously. God can do wonders when He will. The hardest and most impenetrably stony heart becomes the warm heart of living flesh under His converting touch.(2) Paul's conversion was brought about only when he had submitted to the vision. He was not disobedient unto it (ver. 19). "Not even Paul's conversion was irresistible" (Bengel). That is to say, it is not accomplished without the action of his own will. So God entreats us ever to come and obey Him, and if we are not His in Christ, it is because we will not be. The heavenly vision is freely given, but we must not be disobedient unto it.

2. Paul's mission. He was called for a Divine purpose. This he recognised himself at the very time when he had the vision, for his first words were, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"(1) His mission was to declare far and wide, to both Jew and Gentile, "that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance" (ver. 20). He was to be a teacher to lead men to God. The ethical contents of his message were repentance and righteousness. He was to help men to better living.(2) But Christ's atonement, although it is not mentioned here, is presupposed as the ground of this ethical teaching (vers. 18, 23).

3. Paul's persistence in his calling.(1) Opposition arose to Paul's accomplishment of his mission (ver. 21). That God was empowering him meant not (as we often wish it might mean for us) the removal of obstacles, but their conquest. The projection of Christianity into a heretofore unchristianised community ought to have antagonism for its reaction as certainly as litmus paper is discoloured by the touch of acid.(2) Paul obtained "the help that is from God" (ver. 22, R.V.). His mission came to him without his own selection, and the power to accomplish it was also other than his own.(3) Paul stood unharmed as a result of this Divine empowerment (ver. 22).(4) Testifying, testifying ever, was the work of his life (ver. 22).(5) Paul was impartial to his life work (ver. 22). He testified both to small and great. All men were men to him. Nationality, age, social position, wealth, learning made no difference to Paul. He gave the gospel to everyone, for everyone needed it.

4. The contents of his preaching concerning Christ are given. He preached —(1) A suffering Christ. Christ was the Prophet by eminence. But other prophets had suffered too, and for others beside themselves. Yes, but Christ had suffered the very penalty of others' sins, entering into the place where they should have stood. He was thus the only Saviour.(2) A risen Christ (ver. 23).(3) A world-enlightening Christ (ver. 23). And what was the character of Christ's enlightenment? The bringing of salvation into the world's night of sin. The emphatic point in Paul's expression is "both to the people and to the Gentiles." The gospel is just as much meant for those who we think would not appreciate it — the worst criminals in the slums, the stupidest heathen, the most self-reliant sceptics — as for the most devout and eager souls.

II. THE RECEPTION OF PAUL'S ADDRESS.

1. Festus. He interrupted Paul with a loud voice. The resurrection was a piece of nonsense of which he did not care to hear any more.(1) He did not believe what Paul was saying. He considered it madness, irrationality (ver. 24). He had supposed from Paul's bearing that he was a strong, hard-headed thinker. He found out (as he thought) that he was only a bewildered mystic. A Roman wanted facts. Paul was giving him fancies. So easily do we men imagine that our minds are the measure of truth!(2) He had contempt for Paul. His expression denotes it. With the pride of his nation he looked down on whosoever differed with him. Oh, wise Festus! This that is before thee in this chained prisoner shall yet put the wisdom of this world to scorn, showing itself to be the eternal wisdom of God.(3) Paul's reply. Without resenting the scorn in Festus' interruption, Paul quietly and courteously defends himself.

2. Agrippa.(1) Agrippa was merely a curious spectator of Paul, but as he sat there he was unwillingly being tried by the great touchstone of life — the gospel of Jesus Christ then and there offered to him.(2) Agrippa had some knowledge of Christ (ver. 26). It may have been superficial, and yet it carried responsibility with it. Paul appealed to it. It had in it the beginnings of salvation for a willing heart.(3) Agrippa was evidently influenced by his companions. His manner was plainly not that of an independent, fearless man.(4) He gives an ironical retort, as much as to say, "Ah! you are trying your rapid method of making Christians on me, are you! Before I know it, I suppose, you will have me converted.(5) His real feeling was concealed. How much he felt under the pressure of Paul's personal appeal we cannot judge. God's call was at last heard and recognised. But it was not obeyed.(6) Paul's reply. As he met the hard, unbelieving Festus with a simple protest of his own truthfulness, so he met the unwillingly moved Agrippa with a sober and infinitely touching prayer. With both men he left behind a seed, which might perhaps spring and blossom unto eternal life.

III. GENERAL LESSONS.

1. There are voices of God everywhere. No soul but hears them. Are we obedient unto them?

2. Christ is the centre of Christian truth and life and work. From Him should come our thoughts, our emotions, and our deeds. Let life be to us Christ.

3. The heart of man is desperately wicked. Who could resist Paul's preaching? Festus and Agrippa did. It is possible to resist the preaching of the Spirit of God.

(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)

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