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subdue their opposition, sanctify their polluted hearts, pardon their numerous and aggravated sins, and even turn their opposition into friendship. Flee to Jesus, O sinner, and he will receive thee, and make of thee "a chosen vessel fit for the Master's use."
Saul resides three years at DamascusPreaches to the Jews-Is persecuted and flies to Tarsus-Visits Antioch, and then goes to Jerusalem.
AFTER his wonderful conversion, as recorded in the last chapter, Saul did not immediately return to Jerusalem, but remained in Damascus, with the exception of a short visit which he made into some parts of Arabia, and to which he briefly alludes in his Epistle to the Galatians. We do not know for what purpose he made this visit to Arabia; but it must have been for some good design, as he could not be idle in his Master's cause and service. Those who are truly converted, are always ready and anxious to do something for their Master.
After this short visit he returned to Damascus, and spent his time principally in preaching the Lord Jesus, to those whom he calls his kinsmen according to the flesh, that is, the Jews. But they could not be induced to be. lieve his testimony. Instead of listening to his arguments and exhortations, they entered into a combination against his life, and he would, most unquestionably, have been killed, had not the Lord interposed in his behalf. As the enemies of Saul watched the gates of the city day and night, lest he should escape, the Lord put it into the hearts of the disciples to contrive a plan by which his blood-thirsty enemies might be defeated. They put him in a large basket, and by ropes let him down over the wall one night, so that he escaped. At the time when this occurred, Aretas king of Arabia had possession of Damascus. For though Damascus was made a Roman province in the time of Pompey the Great, yet in the war between Aretas and Herod Antipas, the former took Damascus and held it for some time. This very strikingly accounts for the remark made by St. Paul in 2 Cor. xi. 32. "In Damascus, the governor under Aretas the
king, kept the city of Damascus with a garrison, desiring to apprehend me; and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and so escaped his hands." And we see from this, that when the Lord wills, there are many ways by which his servants can get out of the way of their enemies. It is only necessary to trust in the Lord, and there is no danger.
After Saul had escaped from Damascus, he went all the way to Jerusalem, which was a very long journey in those days. He, probably, had to walk all the way; but nothing tired him when he was about his Master's business. When he reached Jerusalem, however, he found that the disciples there were all afraid of him; and this shows with how much terror his former persecutions had filled all the church. Notwithstanding the report of his conversion, they did not want to have any thing to do with him, but God raised him up a friend among them. This friend was Barnabas, who related every thing which he knew or had heard, and Saul was then received as a fellow labourer in the Gospel. It is reasonable to suppose that Saul must have felt very strangely when he first began to preach
in Jerusalem; for this was the very place where he used to be so great a persecutor ; and it is very likely that he met with many persons who formerly knew him, and feared him too. As he had, before his conversion, so grievously persecuted the christians in Jerusalem, he now determined most faithfully to preach the Gospel there; and he did it with so much zeal and power, that he soon excited the indignation of his countrymen; and as he had been obliged to fly for his life from Damascus, so he was compelled to do the same from Jerusalem.
His brethren went with him to a place called Cæsarea, which is a sea-port on the Mediterranean sea; and, finding some conveyance ready, they sent him to Tarsus, the place where he had been born. All this happened in the year of our Lord 42. Saul remained in Tarsus, and the neighbourhood, for the next four years, no doubt preaching the Gospel of the Saviour wherever he could get an opportunity, and preparing himself for further usefulness.
After a short time, the apostles at Jerusalem heard that there was a great revival of religion in a town called Antioch. There were sixteen
towns of this name in Syria, but the one alluded to was the capital; once a very celebrated place, but now ruined entirely. Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem to this city, to see what was going on; and when he came, he found that there had been a great out-pouring of the spirit. As the Scriptures tell us, that he was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost, we are not surprised to hear that he was glad when he discovered such a state of things, and that he spent his time in exhorting them with full purpose of heart to cleave unto the Lord. But as such peculiar circumstances rendered his labour very heavy, he went to Tarsus to seek Saul, and brought him back with him to Antioch. The work here was so great, that Barnabas and Saul continued one whole year; and what is very remarkable, this Antioch was the very first place where the disciples were called christians. But, my dear young readers, to be called christians and to be christians are two things. The most of you are probably called christians, because you have been born and educated in a christian land. Oh, that you were all really christians; that is, that you were new created in Christ