And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.
Rights of citizenship were obtained in various ways and on various grounds. Some men had it by birth, others by gift, others by purchase, others as the public recognition of heroic deeds. These may be illustrated in connection with the citizenship of London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and other large cities. Roman citizenship was once sold at a very high rate, but in later times its value was lowered, and it was bartered for a trifle. It is not known how St. Paul's parents obtained their citizen rights, but the apostle held his as an inheritance. St. Paul was not a citizen by virtue of his having been born in. Tarsus. "That city, in consideration of its sufferings under Cassius, and because of its adherence to Julius Caesar, was admitted by Antony to many privileges; but it was not a colony, only a free city, and that did not confer citizenship. Seine of the apostle's ancestors, it may be assumed, had been admitted to citizenship in acknowledgment of good service, civil or military." A distinction is made, which men still recognize, between acquired rights and natural rights; but a far higher value is set on the rights of birth than on those which can be obtained in any other way. We fix attention on the fact that St. Paul was twice free born. He held right of birth into Roman citizenship, and right of the new Divine birth into the kingdom of Christ and of heaven.
I. THE PRIVILEGES OF HUMAN BIRTH.
1. Illustrate what positions their birth puts some men in, and what consequent trusts and responsibilities come upon them.
2. Show that such privileges are not to be despised by Christian people, because they may give them noble opportunities of serving Christ.
3. Point out that any envy of those born to high station is unworthy of all who feel aright the honor of having any kind or degree of trust from God.
4. And impress that the greater the trust of position and privilege which a man may have, the heavier will be his judgment if he misuses his powers and privileges. "Of him that hath much will be required."
II. THE PRIVILEGES OF DIVINE BIRTH. Explain the Scripture figures of" new birth," "being born again," and "regeneration." Illustrate that no man can acquire a place in Christ's kingdom by any
(3) or effort.
The only entrance is by a Divine birth: "Ye must be born again;" the only possible right of the Christian is his birthright. This kind of right excludes all pride and self-satisfaction. "We are saved by grace." It gives to God all the glory; for we are "born of God." It changes all the aspects and relations of our lives, so that we seem to have wakened up into a new world with new powers. It lays us under serious obligations, appoints for us high and holy duties, and holds out before us a glorious future. If the Roman citizen was bound to walk worthily of his citizenship, and honor the Roman name wherever he might go, much more should those who are born of God "walk as children of light," "walk worthy of the vocation by which they are called." See St. Paul's statement, "Our citizenship is in heaven." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.