Verse 27. "For it seemeth to me unreasonable, &c." - Every reader must feel the awkward situation in which Festus stood. He was about to send a prisoner to Rome, to appear before Nero, though he had not one charge to support against him; and yet he must be sent, for he had appealed to Caesar. He hoped therefore that Agrippa, who was of the Jewish religion, would be able to discern more particularly the merits of this case; and might, after hearing Paul, direct him how to draw up those letters, which, on sending the prisoner, must be transmitted to the emperor.
This chapter ends as exceptionably as the twenty-first. It should have begun at ver. 13, and have been continued to the end of the twenty-sixth chapter, or both chapters have been united in one.
1. FROM St. Paul's appeal to Caesar, we see that it is lawful to avail ourselves, even in the cause of God, of those civil privileges with which his mercy has blessed us. It is often better to fall into the hands of the heathen than into the hands of those who, from mistaken views of religion, have their hearts filled with bitter persecuting zeal. Those who can murder a man, pretendedly for God's sake, because he does not think exactly with them on ceremonial or speculative points of divinity, have no portion of that religion which came down from God.
2. The Jews endeavoured by every means to deny the resurrection of our Lord; and it seems to have been one part of their accusation against Paul, that he asserted that the man, Jesus, whom they had crucified, was risen from the dead. On this subject, a pious writer observes: "What a train of errors and miseries does one single instance of deceit draw after it; and what a judgment upon those, who, by corrupting the guards of the sepulchre, the witnesses of the resurrection of our Lord, have kept the whole nation in infidelity!" Thus it often happens in the world that one bad counsel, one single lie or calumny, once established, is the source of infinite evils.
3. The grand maxim of the Roman law and government, to condemn no man unheard, and to confront the accusers with the accused, should be a sacred maxim with every magistrate and minister, and among all private Christians. How many harsh judgments and uncharitable censures would this prevent! Conscientiously practised in all Christian societies, detraction, calumny, tale-bearing, whispering, backbiting, misunderstandings, with every unbrotherly affection, would necessarily be banished from the Church of God.