« AnteriorContinuar »
ready to grow mad yourselves at the madness of this horrible perfecutor ?" But God's ways are not as our ways, neither are his thoughts as our thoughts." Paul is ftruck to the ground as he is going on one of these bloody errands to Da. mascus. But in what way is he ftruck? Is it then in vengeance? Is it with a thunderbolt, fo as never to rise again? Is he doomed never to lift up his eyes any more, except“ in hell, being in torments?” No; the time which I am now to speak of, is the time when, as he thankfully expresses it in one of his epistles, he is permitted to see Jefus. - Suddenly there appeared a light in the firmament, above the brightness of the Sun, and a voice from heaven saying, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me! And he said, who art thou, Lord? and he said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest. It is hard, for thee to kick against the pricks. And he said, Lord, what shall I do? And the voice said, arise, and stand upon thy feet, for I have appointed thee to be a chosen vessel to go unto the people and to the Gentiles, to whom I now send thee, to open their eyes, and to bring them from dark ness to light, and from the power of Satan unta God, and to give them an inheritance among them that are sanctified through faith that is in me.”
We know from the scriptures what were the consequences of this wonderful Conversion of St. Paul. He was numbered from this time among the apostles of Christ, and though in ong
fense he considered himself as 66 the least” of them all, and as not even “ meet to be called an apoftle, because he had perfecuted the church of God;" yet he tells us, nevertheless, that in point of apostolic rank and authority, he was · “not a whit behind the chiefest of them;" and he also “ labored more abundantly than they all,” every where suffering the most cruel per. fecution from his old friends the Jews, and every where 6 preaching that faith which once he de. Atroyed.”
And now, what are we to learn from this extraordinary story - In the first place it appears to me, that we may gain from it a very ítrong argument in favor of the general truth of Christianity.
It is fair, I think, when any one quits his party, and goes over to the contrary side, to allow that he does it honestly, and on conviction, provided it is plain, he has no reason to expect to gain any thing by the change. Now Paul had nothing to gain; on the contrary he had much to lofe by becoming a Christian; and it is therefore reasonable to suppose, that he was very fincere as to his conversion. In general, it must be a large bribe that must tempt a man to bear the reproach and mortification which follow him when he goes over from his party. But what was the bribe offered to Paul? What in the world could he gain by his conversion? Could | he get by it, either wealth or honor, or ease, * or earthly fatisfaction ? No, he well knew that he
was now likely rather to sacrifice his wealth an all his worldly honor, that he was now about t bid adieu to ease and every earthly comfort an · enjoyment; he well knew that all his best and dearest friends were now about to turn againí him, and that as he had once persecuted others so now he was about to suffer the most bitte persecution in his turn. 66 For this cause," say: he, in one place, the Jews sought to stone i me!" and no wonder, for who is there whom, in general, people are more ready to stone than a deserter from their own party? Were not all the other apostles also at this time exposed to a variety of sufferings? Had not Christ himself been crucified? And had pot Paul, therefore, every reason to expect the same só great fight of afflictions," whenever he should profess himself converted into an apoftle. Accordingly wę find him afterwards giving the following description of himself:- He was stoned, he was beaten with rods, twice he suffered shipwreck; he was persecuted from city to city; he was in journey. ings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of his own countrymen, in perils by false brethren, in perils of the sea, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in weariness and painfulness, in watching often, in cold and nakedness.” Such was his treatment now he was become a Christian; and let us just ask also, how did he bear it ? “ Being defamed,” says he, 66 we entreat; being persecuted, we Tuffer it,”. 66 We are accounted the very filth of the earth,
and the offscouring of all things to this day.” " But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. When we conlider further how every temper of Paul's mind was also changed, how the lion was turned into a lamb, and how he, who had been once a persecutor, became a gentle and affectionate among his people, even as a nurse cherisheth her children;" surely, it must be owned, that we have in Paul a striking evidence, both of the truth, and also of the excellence of Christianity.
But I think'we may gain from the fame story of Si, Paul's conversion, a confiderable degree of insight into some of the christian doctrines; I thean for instance, that we may learn fomething of the sovereignty and power of God, and of his long forbearance and forgiveness, and of the exceeding riches of his grace in Jesus Christ. li is the opinion of fomt who have never attend. ed to the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, that every man is saved by the inerit of his own vorks, and by using inerely his own natural power and strength, and not by any act of parpion, or by any special help or grace of the Alnighty. Now how remarkable does the story bf Paul's conversion fly in the face of every such Appofition! for what had Paul done, in order, Mher to merit, or in any degree to procure that fhorcy which was shewn him? What had he. done, in order to induce God to stop him on his way to Damascus ? The case is a very striking one in this view. Paul was breathing slaughter at the very time when the voice from heaven spoke to him; “Saul, Saul, why perfecutest thou me!" These words imply that he was at that moment persecuting Christ. God in this case, very evidently exerted his own fovereign power, and bestowed freely on Paul, the most unmerited grace, in agreement indeed with those other passages of scripture. “ For I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion; so then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy," In like manner, God is said to have 66 faved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace.” But we ob. served also, that the long forbearance and for giveness of God, are here remarkably manifeft: Paul was intended to serve as an eminent and most encouraging example to the believers of all ages in this respect. 6 For this cause,” says he, “ I obtained mercy, that in me first, Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” It was by this deep fense of his guilt, and by the remembrance of his own infinite obligations, that Paul was now qualified for his work. When be went about preaching to the Gentiles, if he had to encou.