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to a point thus solemnly to give themselves up to the Lord, and have done it in his appointed method, let them go on their way rejoicing, even though providence should separare from them those spiritual guides who have been owned as the happy instruments of their conversion and their edification. The servants of Christ are called to glorify him in different scenes and stations of life; happy if in one state and country or another they may spread the savour of his name, and gather in converts to him, whether from among the sons of Israel or of Ethiopia.
Saul, setting out to persecute the church, is miraculously converted by our
Lord's appearance to him. Ch.ix. 1—9.
UT Saul, still breathing out threatenings and slaughter against 2 the disciples of the Lord, came to the high-priest, and peti
tioned for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, that if
he found any of that way (or sect,) whether they were men or 3 women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And as he
was proceeding on his journey, and was come near to Damascus, 4 on a sudden, a ligh' from heaven shone around him, and he fell to
the ground, and he heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, 5 why dost thou persecute me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord ?
And the Lord said, I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom thou perse6 cutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goads. And trembling
and amazed, he said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And
the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall 16 be told thee what thou must do. (Ch. xxvi.) For I have appeared
unto thee for this purpose, to ordain thee a minister and a witness
both of those things which thou hast now seen, and of those in 17 which I will hereafter manifest myself unto thee : delivering thee
from the Jewish people, and the Gentiles; to whom I now send 18 thee: to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light,
and from the power of Satan unto God; that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith which is in me.
And the men, who travelled with him, stood astonished, hear. 8 ing indeed the sound of the voice, but seeing no one.
Then r Saul arose from the earth; and though his eyes were open, he
But they that were with him led him by the hand, 9 and brought him to Damascus. And he was there three days
without sight, and neither eat nor drank, but lay part of the time as in a trunce, in which he saw some extraordinary visions.
saw no man.
REFLECTIONS. Let us pause a little on this most amazing instance of the power and sovereignty of divine grace in our blessed Redeemer, and adore and rejoice in its illustrious triumph. Who of all the enemies of Christ, and of his church seemed ripest for tenfold vengeance? Whose name will be transmitted to posterity as the name of the person who most barbarously ravaged the innocent sheep and lambs of Christ's flock, and, like the ravenous wolf, most insatiably thirsted for their blood ? Whose very breath was threatenings and slaughter against them, and the business of his life their calamity and destruction ? Who but Saul; the very man for whom, under another name and character, we have contracted (if I may be allowed the expression) that tenderness of holy friendship, that next to that of his divine Master, his name is written on our very hearts; and whom, though once the chiefest of sinners, we reverence as the greatest of the apostles, and love as the dearest of saints! Thy thoughts, O Lord, are not as our thoughts, nor thy ways as our ways. He had Damascus in view, which was to be the scene of new oppressions and cruelties; he was, it may be, that very moment, anticipating in thought the havock he should there make, when, behold, the light of the Lord breaks in upon them, and Jesus the Son of God condescends in person to appear to him, to expostulate with him ! And how tender the expostulation Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me ? Tender to Saul, tender to all his people ; for it expresses his union with them ; his partici. pation in their interests; so that he looks upon himself as injured by those that injure them, as wounded by those that wound thein.
Who, in this view, does not see at once the guilt, and madness, and misery of persecutors? They have undertaken a dreadful task indeed, and will find it hard to kick against the goads ; they will surely find it so when Jesus appears to them in that vengeance which he here laid aside ; when he sits on his awful tribunal to make inquisition for bund, and to visit upon them all their inhumanities and all their impic eties.-But here our merciful Redeemer chose to display the triumphs of its gruce, rather than the terrors of his wrath ; and, behold how sudden a transformation it wrought! Behold Saul, who had so insolently assaulted his throne. now prostrate at his feet, surrendering, as it were, at descretion ; presenting a blank, that Jesus might write his own terms, and saying, as every one who is indeed the trophy of divine grace
will say, Lord, what will thou have me to do? As ready to employ all his powers for the service of Christ as he had before been to arm them for the destruction of his church.
What must the attendants of his journey think, on such an occasion ? If they were also converted, here were further witnesses added to Christianity, and more monuments of divine grace erected ; bat if they were not converted, what an instance was this of their hardness and obstinacy ? and even though their bodily sight was continued, how much was heir blindness worse than his! Let us pray that we may all be taught of God; and if we are brought to resign ourselves to God in sincerity and truth, let us acknowledge the internal operasions of his grace, as that to which the victory is owing, even where external circumstances have been most remarkable.
The situation in which Saul lay, seems indeed to have been very melancholy, his sight lost, his appetite for food gone, and all his soul w rapt up in deep astonishment, or melted in deep contrition and remorse ; but though he might sow in fears he reaped in joy. It ap
pears that light and gladness were sown for him. He came refined out of the furnace, and these three dark and dismal days are, no doubt, recollected by him in the heavenly world, as the æra from whence he dates the first beamings of that divine light in which he now dwells.
Let us never be afraid of the pangs of that godly sorrow, which, working repen'ance to salvation not to be repènted of, will soon be ten thousand times over balanced by that exceeding weight of glory, and those full transports of eternal joy for which it will prepare the soul.
Ananias sent to restore sight to Saul, who is baptized ; preaches the gospel
at Damascus and Jerusalem, and to avoid the rage of the Jews is sent to Tarsus. Ch. ix, 10–31.
10 Tow there was a certain disciple at Damascus, whose name
was Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias : 11 and he said, Behold I am here, Lord. And the Lord said to him,
Arise and go to that which is called the Straight Street, and in
quire in the house of Judas, for a man of Tarsus, whose name is 12 Saul; for behold he is praying : and he hath seen in a vision,
a man whose name is Ananias, coming in and laying his hand 13 upon him, that he might recover his sight.-And Ananias an
swered, Lord, I have heard by many concerning this man, how 14 much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem ; and here also
he hath authority from the chief priests, to bind all that invoke thy 15 name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way ; for this man is
to me a chosen vessel, to bear my name before nations and kings, 16 and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how many things 17, he must suffer for my name. And Ananias immediately went
and entered into the house where Saul was ; and laying his hands upon him, he said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appear. ed to thee on the way, as thou camest hither, hath sent me
that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy 14 Spirit. ( Ch. xxii.) The God of our fathers hath fore-ordained
thee to know his will, and to see that righteous person, and to hear 15 the voice from his own mouth : For thou shalt be his witness unto
all men to the truth of those things which thou hast seen and 16 heard. And now, why dost thou delay ? Arise, and be baptized, 18 and wash away thy sins, invoking the name of the Lord.—And
immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales * ; and 19 he presently recovered his sight, and arose, and was baptized ; and
having received food he was strengthened. And Saul was for 20 several days with the disciples at Damascus.-And immediately
he preached Christ in the synagogues, proving that he is the son 21 of God. And all that heard him were astonished and said, Is not
this he who in Jerusalem spread desolation among them, who * Perhaps the outward coat of his eyes might be scorched with the light ning, and what fell from them might resemble the small scales of fishes.
called on this name ; and came hither also to this end, that he might 32 carry them bound to the chief priests ? But Saul was strengthened
and animated so much the more ; and confounded the Jews that 35 dwelt at Damascus, evincing that this Jesus is the Messiah. And
when many days were fulfilled*, the Jews conspired to kill him : 24 but their design was made known to Saul ; and they watched the 35 gates day and night to murder him. But the disciples took him
by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket, by which means 26 he escaped to Jerusalem. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem,
he attempted to associate with the disciples there ; but they all
feared him, not believing that he who had been such a persecutor, 27 was really a disciple. But Barnabas taking him by the hande
brought him to the apostles, and related to them, how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldiy at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Upon this they gladly received him; and he was with them coming in, and go
ing out at Jerusalem, and preaching boldly in the name of the 29 Lord Jesus. And he spake, and disputed with the Hellenists (us
well as with the native Jews) ; but they attempted to kill him. 30 And the brethren being informed of it, conducted him to Cæsarea, 31 and from thence sent him away to Tarsus.-Then the churches
through all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria, being edified, had restt; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the consolation of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied.
REFLECTIONS. How admirable was the condescension and care of our blessed Redeemer, in sending good Ananias thus early, as a messenger of comfort and peace to Saul in his darkness and distress! We cannot wonder at the objections which were at first ready to rise in his mind; but must surely yield to the great authority by which they were overborne; ço ihy way, he is a chosen vessel. Thus does it become us to acquiesce in all our Lord appoints, in pursuance of the schemes of his electing love ; and thus should we with brotherly affection, like that of this holy man, be ready to embrace even the greatest of sinners, when they are brought in humility to a Saviour's feet. But when he is thus glorifying his power and his grace, what gratitude and love may he justly expect from those that are the happy objects of it? When the scales are fallen from their eyes, when they have given themselves up to him in the solemn seals of his covenant, when they have received the communications of his Holy Spirit, how solicitous should they be to love much, in proportion to the degree in which they have been forgiven ? And with what zeal and readiness should they immediately apply themselves, from a principle of gratitude to Christ, and of compassion to sinners, to declare that way of salvation into which they have been directed ; and, so far as they have opportunity, whether
* After his excursion into Arabia. See Gal. ii. 16, 17.
† This repose of the Christians might be occasioned by the general alarm given to the Jews about A. D. 40, upon the order of Caligula, to set up his -statue in the Holy of holies.
under a more public or private character, to lead others unto that Jesus on whom they have themselves believed ! And now, let us with sacred pleasure behold the progress
grace in the heart of Saul : Let us view him rising from his bed of languishing with a soul inflamed with love and zeal, testifying the gospel of Christ, and confounding the Jews that dwelt at Damascus. Let us behold him running the hazard of his life there, while their obstinate hearts refused to receive or endure such a testimony; and then returning to Jerusalem, desiring to join himself to the company of those whom he had once despised and persecuted ; and on that most public theatre, under the very eyes of that sanhedrim from which he had received his bloody commission, openly bearing his testimony to that go8p / which he had so eagerly attempted to tear up by the roots. Thence let us view him travelling to Tarsus, and visiting his native country, with a most earnest desire to fill Cilicia, as well as Judea and Damascus, with that doctrine which his divine Master had condescended to teach him, and to be the means of regeneration to the inhabitants of the place from whence he derived his natural birth. And while we behold, with reverence and delight, the hand of God with and upon him, let us, as we are told the churches in Judea did, while he was by fuce unknown to them, glorify God in him. In all the labours and writings of Paul, the glorious apostle, let us keep Saul the persecutor in our eye, still remembering, that (according to his own account of the matter) it was for this cause that he, though once the chief of sinners, obained morcy, that in him, as the chief, Christ might shew forth a pattern of all long-suffering to them that should hereafter believe.- Well might the churches be edified by such an additional evidence of the truth and er of the gospel. May the edification be continued to churches in succeeding ages; and while a gracious Providence is giving them rest, may they walk in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and be daily multiplied, established, and improved !
Peter cures Æneas at Lydda, and raises Dorcas from the dead at Joppa.
Ch. ix. 32, 8c.
TOW it came to pass, that Peter making a progress through
33 that dwelt at Lydda. And he found there a certain man whose
name was Æneas, who had a palsy, and had kept his bed eight years. 34 And Peter said to him, Æneas, Jesus the Messiah healeth thee; 34 arise and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. And all
the inhabitants of Lydda, and of the vale of Saron* saw him, and
turned to the Lord. 36 And there was at Joppa a certain female disciple, named Tabi
tha, who by interpretation is called Dorcas, and she was full of $7 good works and alms-deeds, which she did for the poor. And it
* Or Sharon, a pleasant and fruitful valley. i Chr. xxvii. 29, &c.