Verse 35. "I will hear thee" - diakousomai sou; I will give thee a fair, full, and attentive hearing when thy accusers are come; in whose presence thou shalt be permitted to defend thyself.
"In Herod's judgment-hall." - en tw praitwriw, In Herod's praetorium, so called because it was built by Herod the Great. The praetorium was the place where the Roman praetor had his residence; and it is probable that, in or near this place, there was a sort of guard room, where state prisoners were kept. Paul was lodged here till his accusers should arrive.
ON the preceeding chapter many useful observations may be made.
1. Paul, while acting contrary to the Gospel of Christ, pleaded conscience as his guide. Conscience is generally allowed to be the rule of human actions; but it cannot be a right rule, unless it be well informed. While it is unenlightened it may be a guide to the perdition of its professor, and the cause of the ruin of others. That conscience can alone be trusted in which the light of God's Spirit and God's truth dwells. An ill-informed conscience may burn even the saints for God's sake! 2. No circumstance in which a man can be placed can excuse him from showing respect and reverence to the authorities which God, in the course of his providence, has instituted for the benefit of civil or religious society.
All such authorities come originally from God, and can never lose any of their rights on account of the persons who are invested with them. An evil can never be of use, and a good may be abused; but it loses not its character, essential qualities, or usefulness, because of this abuse.
3. Paul availed himself of the discordant sentiments of his judges, who had agreed to show him no justice, that he might rid himself out of their hands.
To take advantage of the sentiments and dispositions of an audience, without deceiving it, and to raise dissension between the enemies of the truth, is an impotent artifice, when truth itself is not violated and when error is exposed thereby to public view.
4. The Pharisees and Sadducees strove together. God frequently raises up defenders of the principles of truth, even among those who, in practice, are its decided enemies. "Though," says one, "I do not like the truth, yet will I defend it." A man clothed with sovereign authority, vicious in his heart, and immoral in his life, fostered those principles of truth and righteousness by which error was banished from these lands, and pure and undefiled religion established among us for many generations.
5. The providence of God, and his management of the world, are in many respects great mysteries; but, as far as we are individually concerned, all is plain. Paul had the fullest assurance, from the mouth of Christ himself, that he should see Rome; and, consequently, that he should be extricated from all his present difficulties. Why then did he not quietly sit still, when his nephew informed him that forty men had conspired to murder him? Because he knew that God made use of the prudence with which he has endowed man as an agent in that very providence by which he is supported; and that to neglect the natural means of safety with which God provides us is to tempt and dishonour him, and induce him in judgment to use those means against us, which, in his mercy, he had designed for our comfort and salvation. Prudence is well associated even with an apostolical spirit. Every being that God has formed, he designs should accomplish those functions for which he has endowed it with the requisite powers.
6. Claudius Lysias sent Paul to Felix. "In the generality of human events," says one, "we do not often distinguish the designs of God from those of men. The design of Lysias, in preserving Paul from the rage of the Jews, was to render his own conduct free from exception: the design of God was, that he might bring Paul safely to Rome, that he might attack idolatry in its strongest fort, and there establish the Christian faith." God governs the world, and works by proper means; and counterworks evil or sinister devices, so as ultimately to accomplish the purposes of his will, and cause all things to work together for good to them that love Him.
7. Felix acted prudently when he would not even hear St. Paul till he had his accusers face to face. How many false judgments, evil surmises, and uncharitable censures would be avoided, did men always adopt this reasonable plan! Hear either side of a complaint separately, and the evil seems very great: hear both together, and the evil is generally lessened by one half. Audi et alteram partem-hear the other side, says a heathen: remember, if you have an ear for the first complainant, you have one also for the second.