Ellen G. White Writings

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The Youth’s Instructor

July 3, 1902

A Faithful Witness

When Paul was summoned to appear before Nero for his trial, it was with the near prospect of certain death. The nature of the crime charged against him, and the prevailing animosity against Christians, left little ground for hope of a favorable issue.

It was the practise among the Greeks and Romans to allow an accused person an advocate, to present his case and to plead in his behalf. By force of argument, by impassioned eloquence, or by entreaties, prayers, and tears, the advocate would often secure a decision in favor of the prisoner; or failing in this, would lessen the severity of the sentence. But no man ventured to act as Paul's advocate; no friend was at hand even to preserve a record of the charges brought against him by his accusers, or of the arguments he urged in his own defense.

Paul before Nero—how striking the contrast! The height of earthly power, authority, and wealth, as well as the lowest depths of crime and iniquity, had been reached by the haughty monarch before whom the man of God was to answer for his faith. In power and greatness, Nero stood unrivaled. There was none to question his authority, none to resist his will. Kings laid their crowns at his feet. Powerful armies marched at his command. The ensigns of his navies betokened victory. His statue was set up in the halls of justice, and the decrees of senators and the decisions of judges were but the echo of his will. Millions of subjects bowed in obedience to his mandates. To incur his displeasure was to lose property, liberty, life. His frown was more to be dreaded than a pestilence.

Without money, without friends, without counsel, Paul had been brought forth from a dungeon to be tried for his life. His experience had been one of poverty, self-denial, and suffering. With a sensitive nature, that thirsted for love and sympathy, he had braved misrepresentation, reproach, and abuse. Shrinking with nervous dread from pain and peril, he had fearlessly endured both. Like his Master, he had been a homeless wanderer; he had lived and suffered for the truth's sake, seeking to bless humanity and to live the Christ-life. How could Nero, a capricious, passionate tyrant, appreciate the character and motives of this son of God?

Paul and Nero face to face!—the countenance of the monarch bearing the shameful record of the passions that raged within; the countenance of the prisoner telling the story of a heart at peace with God and man. The result of opposite systems of education stood that day contrasted,—a life of unbounded self-indulgence and a life of entire self-sacrifice. Here were the representatives of two theories of life,—all-absorbing selfishness, which counts nothing too valuable to be sacrificed for momentary gratification, and self-denying endurance, ready to give up life itself, if need be, for the good of others.

The Jews brought against Paul the old charge of sedition and heresy, while both Jews and Romans accused him of instigating the burning of the city. While these accusations were urged against him, Paul preserved unbroken serenity. The people and the judges looked upon him with surprise. They had been present at many trials, and had looked upon many a criminal; but never had they seen a man wear a look of such holy calmness as did the prisoner before them. The keen eyes of the judges, accustomed to read the countenances of prisoners, searched Paul's face in vain for some evidence of guilt.

When Paul was permitted to speak in his own behalf, all listened with eager interest to his words. Once more he had opportunity to uplift before a wondering multitude the banner of the cross. With more than human eloquence and power he presented the truths of the gospel. His words struck a chord that vibrated in the hearts of even the most hardened. Truth, clear and convincing, overthrew error. Light shown into the minds of many who afterward gladly followed its rays. The words spoken on this occasion were destined to shake nations. They were endowed with a power that would enable them to live through all time, influencing the hearts of men when he who uttered them would be silent in a martyr's grave.

As Paul gazed upon the throng before him,—Jews, Greeks, Romans, with strangers from many lands,—his soul was stirred with an intense desire for their salvation. He lost sight of the occasion, of the perils surrounding him, of the terrible fate that seemed so near. He saw only Jesus, the Intercessor, pleading before God in behalf of sinful men. He pointed his hearers to the sacrifice made for the fallen race. An infinite price had been paid for man's redemption. Provision had been made for him to share the throne of God. By angel messengers, earth was connected with heaven, and all the deeds of men, whether good or evil, were open to the eye of infinite Justice.

Thus pleads the advocate of truth. Faithful among the faithless, loyal among the disloyal, he stands as God's representative, and his voice is as a voice from heaven. There is no fear, no sadness, no discouragement, in word or look. Strong in a consciousness of innocence, clothed in the panoply of truth, he rejoices that he is a son of God. His words are as a shout of victory above the roar of battle. He declares that the cause to which he has devoted his life is the only cause that can never fail. Though he may perish for the truth's sake, the gospel will not perish. God lives, and his truth will triumph.

Paul's countenance beams with the light of heaven. Many who looked upon him “saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” Tears dimmed many eyes. The gospel found its way to the hearts of many who, but for Paul's witness, would never have been led to the Saviour.

Mrs. E. G. White

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