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indeed the light, and were afraid ; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord ?' And the 10 Lord said unto me, ' Arise, and go into Damascus ; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.' And when I 11 could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout 12 man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, 'Brother Saul, 13 receive thy sight.' And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he 14 said, 'The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and 15 heard. And now why tarriest thou ? arise, and be baptized, and wash 16 away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'"
Acts, chap. XXVI. verses 4, 5, 9 to 18. “My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine 4 own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the 5 beginning, if they would testify, that after the inost straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee."
“I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary 9 to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem : 10 and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and 11 compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. Whereupon as I went to 12 Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at mid- 13 day, 0 king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto 14 me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.' And I said, “Who 15 art thou, Lord ?' And he said, 'I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for 16 this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom 17 now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to 18 light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.'"
We have already heard of Saul as taking care of the clothes of the witnesses, while they inflicted the death of stoning upon Stephen (page 75); and the effects of the first act of violence were shewn by the active persecution which he voluntarily undertook against the christians at Jerusalem. This man afterwards gave some account of himself, in a discourse to the Jewish people (which is to be found in Acts xxii.), and also in the defence which he made before Festus and Agrippa (Acts xxvi.): from these we learn, that he was born in Tarsus, the chief city of the province of Cilicia, and had the privileges of a Roman citizen. (Acts xvi. 37, 38; xxii. 25-29; xxiii. 27.) This was an honour which was often obtained by paying a sum of money; but it was also bestowed by the Roman government upon persons belonging to the conquered provinces, as a reward for special services to the Roman cause. When given for this reason, it was usually granted to the person himself and his family; so that the honour descended from father to son. This was the case with the Roman citizenship of Saul, who inherited the privilege from his father :- he was
“ free born.” Saul received his education at Jerusalem, where he was under the tuition of Gamaliel ; who was a celebrated teacher of the law of Moses, and of the traditions of the Rabbis. (Acts v. 34.) The pupil imbibed all the prejudices and zeal of the tutor; and as he was brought up, so he lived, following all the rules and customs of the Pharisees in the strictest manner.
Hence he was led to take such an active part in the persecution of the christians; and having carried on this warfare against them in every synagogue in Jerusalem, he determined to extend his search for new victims
amongst the inhabitants of other places. With this view he went to the high priest, and asked him to make use of his own authority, and that of the Sanhedrim, in stirring up a similar persecution in Damascus, a very populous city of Syria, where there were a great number of Jews, amongst whom many had been converted to christianity. The high priest accordingly furnished Saul with letters to the principal Jews of Damascus, by which a commission was given to Saul, empowering him to apprehend all Jews in that place, male or female, who professed the doctrine of Jesus, and to bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
Having set forth upon this journey, it was about noon when Saul came near to Damascus, with several persons who accompanied him. Suddenly there shone around them so brilliant a light from heaven, that it exceeded the splendour of the sun, though it was midday. The whole company saw the light, and fell to the ground in great alarm; then the sound of a voice was heard by all the party, who were struck dumb with astonishment, though Saul alone could distinguish the meaning of the words spoken, which were in the Hebrew language ; “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me ?" Saul then asked who it was that was speaking; upon which the voice replied, by declaring that he was Jesus whom Saul was persecuting as the despised One of Nazareth ; adding that it was useless for Saul to waste so much zeal in that which would only produce evil to himself in the end, just as it would be foolish in an ox to hurt himself by kicking against the pricking goad. Then the Lord Jesus bid Saul rise from the ground and stand up, for He had manifested himself to him in this manner, on purpose to ordain him as a minister of the gospel, and to send him forth as a witness of what he then saw, and also of the future revelations which he would receive. Jesus then gave him the commission to go forth amongst the idolatrous Gentiles, from whose violence he promised that Saul should be delivered, as well as from the anger of the Jews. He told him that by means of the gospel, he should open the eyes of men's understanding, turning them from the darkness of ignorance to the light of the gospel—from the slavery of the devil to the perfect liberty of the children of God; in order that those thus converted might have the pardon of their sins, and partake in the inheritance of the saints who are made holy through the power of faith in Christ Jesus.
Trembling with astonishment, Saul then asked the Lord, what it was his pleasure that He should do. „Jesus told him to rise up and go into Damascus, where he should receive further instructions as to the course appointed for
him to take. He accordingly got up from the ground; but found, upon opening his eyes that, owing to the intense glory of the light he had beheld, he was unable to see. His companions recovering themselves rose also, and led him by the hand into Damascus, where they took up their lodging at the house of a person named Judas. Here Saul continued during three days without recovering his sight; and all this time he abstained from eating or drinking
There was a converted Jew residing at Damascus, who was well known amongst the Jews as a man of piety. His name was Ananias; and to him the Lord Jesus appeared in a vision, calling him by name. Ananias humbly expressed his readiness to attend to the directions of the Lord; who thereupon bid him go immediately into a certain street called Straight-street, and enquire for the house of a person named Judas, and in that house for a man of the name of Saul of Tarsus. Jesus described this man as one who was praying ; and he had been favoured with a vision, in which he had seen a man called Ananias, who visited him and placed his hand on him, in order to restore his sight to him: this vision Ananias was to fulfil.
Ananias humbly ventured to state to the Lord, that the report of this man's violent opposition to the people of Christ, and the injuries he had done them at Jerusalem, had come to his ears from many quarters; and it was well known that he was now come to Damascus, with authority to apprehend and imprison all the christian Jews. But Jesus bid Ananias do as he was commanded, assuring him that this Saul was one whom He had chosen as an instrument for proclaiming his name amongst the heathen rulers of the world, as well as to the Jewish nation; and it was the Lord's intention to explain to Saul beforehand the greatness of the sufferings that he would have to pass through for the sake of the name of Jesus.
Ananias immediately obeyed the directions he had received, and proceeded to the house of Judas, where he found Saul. Going up to him, and laying his hands upon him, he called him “Brother Saul," and told him that the Lord, even the same Jesus who had appeared to him as he was approaching Damascus, had sent him to be
the instrument by whom he might be restored to sight, and receive the fulness of the Holy Spirit. As he said these words, the covering that had blinded Saul fell off his eyes like scales, and he was able to see.
Ananias then told him that the Almighty One, who was the God of his father Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, had chosen him to be favoured with the knowledge of His will, and with the sight of the Messiah, the Just One whose voice he had heard. He was moreover to bear testimony before the world of what he had thus been favoured with. Ananias bid him therefore hasten to seal in baptism the covenant of mercy in the gospel, by which he would be cleansed from his sins through the name of the Lord, on which he bid him call: and Saul immediately arose and was baptized. Being extremely weak through long fasting, he then took some food, and recovered his strength.
1. In the last portion we heard of the conversion of the Ethiopian nobleman, and traced the gradual preparation of his mind for effectually receiving the truth as it is in Jesus : and now we are told of another conversion, produced suddenly by an extraordinary exercise of divine power which accompanied the visible appearance of the Lord Jesus in glory. From this contrast we may learn, that God has not limited himself to any particular course, in his gracious dealings towards those whom he gathers into the true church of Christ. Experience proves that His more ordinary method of converting sinners, is like that in which the conversion of the Ethiopian took place; while his sovereign power is occasionally shown, in a manner similar to that in which Saul was converted. We ought not therefore to be unwilling to believe that an individual is really converted, merely because the circumstances connected with his change of heart were singular and unexpected, or the effect sudden; which it is too often the tendency of our mind to do. On the other hand, the circumstances of Saul's conversion do not afford the slightest ground for hope to any one, who puts off the consideration of his spiritual state, under the vague expectation that something extraordinary may happen to change his thoughts and