« PreviousContinue »
of the fanatical zealot, any thing not consistent with sound discretion, with the most deliberate and discriminating judgment, with entire self-possession, and soberness of mind, free from every tincture of fickleness or extravagance.
But we have still higher proofs than these to shew that this Apostle could neither be an enthusiast nor a deceiver. We have the testimony of miracles, the testimony of prophecy, and the testimony of Divine inspiration. He had “ the gift of tongues "," above the rest of the Apostles, enabling him to verify the promise made to him at his conversion, that he should be “a chosen vessel to bear the name “ of Christ before the gentiles, and kings, and 6 the children of Israel s.” Several of his miracles wrought upon others are upon record in the Acts of the Apostles. He foretold some special circumstances of his own history, and others relating to the future destinies of the church. His inspiration is attested by St. Peter, as well as by St. Luke; and is further proved by the nature of the doctrine which he preached, which was such as could not be the result of human learning, and perfectly harmonizes with the rest of holy writ. So long as these evidences rerl Cor. xiv. 18.
s Acts ix. 15.
main unshaken, the history of this Apostle's conversion, and of the consequences resulting from it, admit not of a question. They entirely accord with every other part of his history, and with the whole tenor of his writings, which testify throughout, the immediate suggestion and superintendence of the Almighty
The conversion of St. Paul, then, was in every point of view an event of the highest importance to the Christian church. It almost persuaded Agrippa to be a Christian ; and, no doubt, it would have led him to become altogether so, had he not stifled the impressions it had made, and forced his convictions to yield to corrupt self-interest and secular ambition. Upon the Jews,
Upon the Jews, among whom his reputation stood so high for knowledge and for zeal in their own Law, it could not but powerfully operate to overcome their stubborn prejudices. To other nations it would appear a convincing argument of the reality of the miracle, that such a man should not only on a sudden embrace Christianity, but become more especially the Apostle of the Gentile world, labouring to bring them to the acknowledgment of the faith, and to make them, together with the Jews, “ one fold, un“ der one Shepherd.”
This event teaches also many an important lesson to believers, and to unbelievers, of the present day.
Infidels may learn how vain it is to resist the evidence which subdued the high and haughty spirit of this once persecutor, and afterwards Apostle, of the church. Let them not plead that this was a miracle, or think themselves excusable because no such preternatural means have been afforded for their own conviction. We know that even the evidence of miracles may be, and has been, resisted. The Pharisees said of Christ,“ What 6 do we? for this man doeth
many miracles';" —and again, of the Apostles, “ that indeed a 6 notable miracle hath been done, is manifest, “ and we cannot deny it '.” But no such perverseness can be charged upon St. Paul. We have no record that he ever deliberately resisted such evidences as unbelievers now resist, in rejecting Christ. His prepossessions were in favour of a religion really of Divine origin ; not in favour of human opinions, in opposition to Revelation. On the part of a sincere Jew, it would indeed have been apostasy to relinquish a religion so attested as that of Moses, without incontestable evidence that the same Divine power by which it had been given now willed its cessation. St. Paul's prejudices, therefore, were not those of a careless or a libertine spirit, but of profound veneration for that which was really sacred. Nevertheless, he yielded instantly on conviction, and was the first to acknowledge his error in disbelieving. His example stands directly opposed to such views of the subject as those on which modern infidelity relies.
John xi. 47.
v Acts iv. 16.
Christians, on the other hand, cannot but find their faith corroborated by this splendid instance of Divine power and mercy towards one through whose subsequent labours so large a portion of the Gentile world, and, perhaps, our own country in particular, have had the light of the Gospel imparted to them. They may hence learn not to despond even in times most discouraging to the church of God, nor to despair of the conversion even of its bitterest opponents. An ever-watchful Providence can raise up instruments for its protection, when they are least expected ; and the efficacy of Divine grace can at all times “turn the hearts of the disobedient to “ the wisdom of the just.” The age of miracles is indeed gone by. No preternatural
light or voice from heaven awakens the infidel from his stupor, or pours
upon the sinner. Conversions either from impenitency or from unbelief are now usually the result of imperceptible operations of Divine grace, through the instrumentality of those ordinary means of instruction and reformation which the word and the ministry of God supply. No warrant, therefore, is given by this narrative to the pretences which fanatics in these days are wont to make, of sudden calls to a state of grace, by perceptible impulses of the Holy Spirit. These are to be received with caution, and even with distrust. Nevertheless, such records as that which we have here considered afford a pledge and assurance, that the Divine blessing will never be wanting where human means are faithfully and diligently applied.
Let us bless God, then, who hath thus caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world ; and shew our thankfulness for it, by holding fast the profession of our faith. Let us also beseech God to “ have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, “ and Heretics, and to take from them all
ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt