Men, brothers, and fathers, hear you my defense which I make now to you.…
We enter in this chapter on matter which is to some degree repetition (Acts 9.). The repetition is valuable for several reasons. It both adds and omits some particulars. It gives us Paul's own version in his own words, instead of what must still have been essentially his own version, but which was probably rehearsed in the historian's words. It gives us the advantage also of comparison in those parts which exhibit slight differences, and we gain a fuller impression of Paul's experience. We may imagine that Paul bad been almost tremblingly anxious the past hour or two for this opportunity; and the moment that the lashed and angry waves were hushed was a proud moment for him had he been merely the human orator, but much rather a prized moment as he was the Christian orator. He has heard wild and baseless accusations passionately hurled at him, and just so long as might were right, he might be supposed to hold himself answerable to unjust earthly judges, as well as to the one true Judge and one merciful Master. But beyond a doubt something else than personal defense was in his heart, and his eye spied a grand opportunity. For this "defense" it may be claimed that it is -
I. THE DEFENSE OF A MAN. For:
1. It must be held to be the outcome of, not craven fear, but the rising spirit of a true man. Very certain it is that not one out of a hundred would have risen to the occasion. Disheartenment, despair, perhaps disdain, would have locked close the lips of most men. But Paul does not consent to "give up," or to show anything in the shape of temper answering to the intolerant spirit of the multitude.
2. It was the acknowledgment (however undeserved in the individual case) of the respect naturally due in the society of human life from one man to his fellows. Such respect is all the more to be honored in the observance by the man who, whether Paul or Galileo, may be confessedly making a "new departure" of wide significance. History shows that it has been the lot of such men, not in religion only, to be made sufferers. The noblest examples of martyrs have been of those who have done nothing to bring it upon themselves by any manifestation of the defiant spirit.
3. Every word of it was the utterance of conscious rectitude.
4. It was a noble, typical example of the strength "in its glory" of the individual conscience against the senseless strength and intolerance of a mob.
II. THE DEFENSE OF A CHRISTIAN. For:
1. This defense was through the whole length of it a connected confession to a change wrought by Christ. The change was a great one. The pride of man offered every conceivable hindrance to it. The surrender was one that meant the profoundest acknowledgment of the opponent's victory. And Christ was the victor's Name. When Paul, therefore, defends his altered self and his altered course of life, his altered faith and hopes and methods, there is not an aspect of the defense which can be described as other than Christian.
2. The defense of himself was forthwith transmuted by Paul into a testimony for Christ. This was the mark and very stamp of both Christian design and Christian method. With manifest fire of zeal, he seizes the favorable and welcomed opportunity. He gives us the impression that this is the thing that has been in his eye of late. Paul may have been answerable in some degree for the commotion of the day. If so, now his task, embraced with all the energy that the very spirit of fidelity can throw into it, is to proclaim Christ. And when a man will so even vindicate himself as yet more to testify Christ, his self-vindication merits at least the title of the defense of a true Christian man.
3. This defense was perfect in its temper, and free from all betrayal of irritation; it makes its statement of facts with the utmost simplicity, but with unwavering confidence.
4. Lastly, at the point of supreme danger, it does not turn aside. The fact which Paul well knew was intolerable to the ears of his hearers, but vital to the truth, is steadily pursued, is arrived at, and then is distinctly announced, without an attempt at qualifying it or softening its effect. This was "not shunning to declare the whole counsel of God." And it marked the quality of the Christian hero; it spoke the firmness of the Christian martyr; perhaps best of all it established conclusively the title of Paul to the name of the true Christian man. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.