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might not have been extended to him. He persecuted in ignorance and unbelief: but had he not abundant means of coming to the knowledge of the truth? Did he not despise the wisdom and spirit of Stephen, the evidence of the glory on his countenance, and the dying prayers of that blessed martyr? In his judicial proceedings against the church, how many tender scenes did he not witness, and what evidence must he not have resisted? His conduct was, therefore, inexcusable; his heart was corrupt, as that of every man naturally is; his religion had, in some respects, made it worse; his talents and learning furnished him with weapons against the truth; and his zeal, and the consciousness of his good intentions, deceived him, by their specious appearance, to an uncommon degree of fury and implacability.
Such was Saul of Tarsus, the Goliath of pharisaic orthodoxy. Unsatisfied with the devastation he had committed at Jerusalem, he solicited a commission from the high priests to persecute the christians at Damascus, and commenced his journey, according to St. Luke's description, rather like a wild beast than a man, breathing threatenings and slaughter. But when he was ready to invade the fold, the Great Shepherd of the sheep withstood his fury, disarmed, subdued, and led him captive. Requesting the reader to compare Acts ix. and Acts xxvi. for a full account of his conversion, it will be sufficient here to give a comment on the text. The whole scene is wonderful, and every part of it claims our deliberate attention. As the Hebrew legislator, who was designed from his birth to be the deliverer of Israel, and the destroyer of Egypt, was nursed and reared in the palace of Pharaoh; so did the mysterious wisdom of God separate this Jew of Tarsus, even from his mother's womb, to be an apostle of Jesus Christ; and for that office every feature of his character, and every circumstance of his life, were amazingly adapted. Educated at Jerusalem, at the feet of Gamaliel, with an unspotted character, the champion of Moses, and the determined enemy of Christ; while he gloried in himself, and was arrived at the highest pitch of furious opposition to the gospel; the time was come to strike a deadly blow at pharisaic religion, by the hands of a man who was the pride of his sect. For this purpose the blessed Jesus, clothed with light, at mid-day showed himself to Saul, with a glory which he he had deigned, on Mount Tabor, to exhibit only to his most favoured disciples. He dazzled, blinded, and struck him to the ground, and while the fiery Saul trembled at his feet, avowed himself to be that Jesus whom he persecuted, and expostulated with him on his causeless hate and stubborn opposision. This
was demonstration which ignorance could not resist; an exhibition against which no human courage was proof. Flight or resistance were impossible. He lay at the mercy of his injured and insulted conqueror, and took the only part which could be taken, that of an unconditional surrender of himself to Christ, intimated in language expressive of his faith and obedience— Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do? Immediately Jesus commanded him to arise, and stand on his feet, for he had nothing to fear, and added, that in Damascus he should be instructed as to what he must do. But it was not enough that our Lord should descend from heaven to convert this chief of sinners. He meditated grace still more rich and free-to make him a chosen instrument of his glory. For this purpose (saith he) I have appeared unto thee, to make thee a minister and a witness, both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things wherein I will appear unto thee, delivering thee from the people and the Gentiles, to whom now I send thee: to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me. Thus, at his first interview with our Saviour, is Saul accused and arraigned; convicted and condemned; believes with his heart unto righteousness; with his lips makes confession unto salvation; is justified freely by grace; nominated an apostle, and assured of Christ's protection and blessing in the discharge of his office. What an astonishing display of power and grace! But we shall not do justice to the subject, if we consider it as a mere private transaction. It was an illustrious testimony to the truth of christianity, a gracious interposition in behalf of the persecuted church, a striking lesson to the persecuting Jews, a noble triumph over Satan's malice, an everlasting monument of God's long-suffering, and a general benefit to the gentile world.
Let us now accompany to Damascus the humbled Saul, smarting under the anguish of a wounded spirit. Though the gracious communication of Jesus Christ was calculated to preserve him from despair, and to inspire hope, yet it is not the method of our physician slightly to heal the wounds which he inflicts: Saul's were probed to the bottom. He was made to see and feel what he himself was, and what his conduct had been. From his inmost soul he was then made to exclaim, O wretched man! who shall deliver me from this body of death! He had seen him whom he had pierced, and mourned as a man for his first-born, His bodily eyes were blinded, while faith disclosed the things of a spiritual and invisible world, in their true forms, colours,
magnitudes and relations. A light more pure and benign than that which he saw on his journey, shone on his heart; and the Lord the Spirit convincing him of sin, righteousness, and judgment, purified him as with a refiner's fire. Now were prophecies, which had been familar to him, unfolded to his understanding, and the precepts and spirit of the moral law assumed their due empire over his mind. His sins were marshalled before him, and his fancied righteousness vanished. Every self-righteous plea was answered, every dependence cut off, every hope precluded. The ignominious cross now became his only refuge and hope; and to that cheering spectacle he raised his eyes, as the expiring Israelites in the wilderness gazed upon the serpent. Such were the views and feelings of the broken hearted Saul, and such are the views and feelings, in a greater or less degree, of all who are truly regenerated.
But new miracles were to facilitate, and to grace Paul's entrance into the church. He was comforted with a vision of Ananias coming to his assistance, and Ananias was commissioned to restore Saul's sight, and to introduce him to the brethren. The good man was amazed and startled at the commission; but his doubts and fears were removed by the information, that Saul was a chosen vessel to bear Christ's name before the gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. He therefore went to him, laid his hands on his eyes, and said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who apfeared to thee in the way hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately he received sight, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat he was strengthened. Thus was Saul translated from darkness into marvellous light, and rejoiced with joy unsficakable and full of glory. By faith he was grafted into Christ, and by every grace of the christian temper Christ dwelt in him through the Spirit. In every apostolic gift he was not one whit behind the chiefest of the apostles. Every distinction upon which he had before valued himself, he now esteemed dung and dross in comparison of the excellent knowledge of Christ. He renounced all property in himself, and as one purchased with his Saviour's blood, gave himself and all he had to his absolute disposal, that whether living or dying, Christ might be magnified in him. His change was universal and complete, internal as well as external; a change of temper and principle, faith and practice, of fear, hope, and desire, of sorrow, aversion, and enjoyment. Hear his language-I live not, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself
for me. God grant that every one who reads these words may be able with truth to apply them to himself.
Saul was now a christian, an apostle, and furnished with those weapons which were mighty to the throwing down of strong holds. He, therefore, conferred not with flesh and blood, but straightway declared that he had seen Jesus in the way, and preached in the synagogue, that he is the Son of God. But all who heard him were amazed, and said, Is not this he, who destroyed those who called on this name at Jerusalem, and came hither that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving this is very Christ. While we adopt the opinion of Beausobre, who places Saul's first preaching immediately after his conversion, it is proper to notice, that Dr. Lardner and bishop Pearson place it after his return from Arabia. Our opinion has been formed from a comparison of Acts ix. 19, with the 22d verse of the same chapter. In the 19th verse, St. Luke tells us, that after Saul had received meat, and was strengthened, he was certain days with the disciples at Damascus, and straightway preached Christ, &c. and in the 23d verse, that after many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him. It seems evident that St. Luke speaks in the former verse of Saul's preaching at Damascus after his conversion, for certain days; and in the latter, passing by the journey to Arabia, (Gal. i. 17.) of his return to Damascus, where he made a long stay, until he was compelled to save himself by flight. This interpretation is countenanced by the following considerations, nor are the reasons against it of real importance. The only imputation on Saul's character, was his persecution of the church. But the first christians were not vindictive, and Ananias's testimony, as well as the part Saul then acted, were sufficient to secure to him a cordial reception. His arrival in the city, and the nature of the letters he brought from the chief priests, were well known. Some rumours of what had happened in the way, were probably spread abroad by his attendants. He was expected in the synagogue. An explanation of his conduct, and an unequivocal declaration of his present views, were absolutely necessary. A character so decisive would not hesitate to take such a stepThe amazement expressed by his auditors evinces, indeed, that he did do so; for as his conversion must have been well known at Damascus, it is not likely any thing like astonishment should have been excited by his conduct a year and a half after, when he returned from Arabia. Nor need we wonder that the opposition he encountered in the first instance was not so great as he after,
wards experienced. Persecution was not yet organized. Saul's character stood high in the synagogue, and the Jews would be unwilling to proceed to extremities against a man whom they might hope to conciliate, and of whose formidable opposition they had not yet felt the effects.
[To be continued.]
RELIGIOUS AND MORAL DISCUSSIONS.
OF APOSTATE ANGELS.
EGYPT, where the powers of darkness reigned triumphant, was long the source of the grossest idolatry. The Egyptians were neither deficient in understanding nor learning. For these, indeed, they were the most early distinguished of all the ancient nations. But having forsaken the true God, they became, through their religious extravagances, the derision of every age. It was in Egypt, that the satanic influence was exerted in the time of Moses, to produce apparent miracles. Frogs were produced, water was turned into blood, and a rod into a serpent. This seems to be distinctly asserted in scripture: and whatever construction or interpretation be given to the assertions, it will be hard to show that effects were not produced superior to the natural and unaided powers of man. But the Divine Power was, notwithstanding, asserted as superior to that of Satan, as limiting and controlling it, as triumphing over it, and trampling on it; nay, as permitting it to be exerted only to increase the miseries of its blinded votaries. The Egyptians were hereby rendered inexcusable in their opposition to God. A small measure of just reflection must have detached them from their follies. The power in which they trusted could prevail for mischief only, but was unable to remove any of their calamities. There is some reason to believe, that the darkness so oppressive to the Egyptians, was gladly employed by the evil one to torture the minds of the very persons most devoted to his service. Speaking of this calamity, the psalmist uses these remarkable expressions; God "cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them." The wisdom of Solomon says; "That the Egyptians were prisoners of darkness, being horribly astonished and troubled with strange apparitions; noises of wa