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18 unto me,
Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem : for they 19 will not receive thy testimony concerning me.” And I said, “ Lord,
they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that 20 believed on thee : and when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed,
I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the rai21 ment of them that slew him.” And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles."
2 Cor. XII. 1 to 6. 1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come (for I will 2 come] to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ
about fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whe
ther out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth ;) such an one caught 3 up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, 4 or out of the body, I cannot tell : God knoweth ;) how that he was
caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not 5 lawful [or, possible] for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory : 6 yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I
would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth : but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
GAL. I. 18 to 24. Then after three years I went up [or, returned] to Jerusalem to see 19 Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I 20 none, save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write 21 unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the 22 regions of Syria and Cilicia; and was unknown by face unto the 23 churches of Judæa which were in Christ : but they had heard only,
“That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith 24 which once he destroyed.” And they glorified God in me.
EXPLANATION, After having escaped from Damascus, Saul returned to Jerusalem for the first time, since he had left it as a persecutor of the christians, immediately before his miraculous conversion. His object in now going there was to become personally acquainted with the apostle Peter, with whom he remained during the fortnight, which was the length of his visit upon this occasion to Jerusalem.
When Saul attempted to enter into friendly intercourse with the christians at Jerusalem, he found them all backward to receive him; they could not think it possible that he was really a disciple of Christ, when they remem
bered the violence of the enmity which he had shewn towards them. This coldness and difficulty was however overcome, through the christian kindness of Barnabas; of whom we have already heard as the converted Levite of Cyprus, who sold his property, and gave the money for the general distribution of the apostles. (Acts iv. 36, 37. See page 43.) Barnabas not only received Saul's account of himself as true, but 'actively took his part, and introduced him to the apostle James; he probably was the only one of the twelve, besides Peter, who happened to be at Jerusalem at the time; since Saul tells us himself, that he saw none of the apostles but these two. Barnabas explained to these the history of Saul's conversion by the appearance of our Lord himself, who had spoken to him on the road to Damascus; and told them, that the reality of his conversion had been proved by the bold and uncompromising manner in which for three years he had proclaimed the Gospel in the name of Jesus amongst the Jews at Damascus. This explanation on the part of Barnabas, had the effect of assuring the minds of the christians at Jerusalem, so that they admitted Saul amongst them upon the footing of a christian brother. The consequence was that, during the remainder of his stay in Jerusalem, Saul preached the gospel powerfully and publicly; and more particularly he entered into a controversy with some of the Hellenist, or Grecian, Jews : these were not improbably the chief members of those very synagogues, with whom Stephen had disputed in the manner which had led to his martyrdom. (Acts vi. 9-14. See page 66.) The Grecian Jews, with whom Paul now discussed the doctrines of christianity, pursued the same course towards him, as they did towards Stephen; they would gladly have taken away his life, and were endeavouring to do so.
It was at this time it should seem) that Saul was favored with that extraordinary vision, of which he makes mention in his second letter to the Corinthians, and which he also referred to afterwards in his public address to the Jews, when he was taken up by the Roman soldiers. Being in the temple in the act of prayer, he became entranced in such a manner, that he was unable afterwards to say whether what he saw and heard was revealed to him in a vision; or whether in his body he was actually carried into the highest heavens, and admitted into that place, where the departed spirits of the just made perfect are waiting in the presence of Christ for his returning glory. Saul calls it paradise, as did our Lord when he promised the penitent thief, that he should be there on the day of his crucifixion. Here Saul's mind was informed in a manner which it was impossible for him afterwards to express; but besides the “unspeakable words” which he heard by revelation, he also saw the Lord Jesus, and received from him a command to make all speed to escape from Jerusalem, because the Jews with whom he had been disputing would not be influenced by the testimony he had already delivered.
Saul tells us that, in reply to this command, he reminded the Lord of the reasonable ground which his own sins had given for their refusing to believe his testimony. The Jews had known him only as a persecutor, punishing by imprisonments and stripes, and scourging those who believed on that Saviour whom he now preached. Nay, it was well known that he had been accessory to the murder of the martyr Stephen, since he had encouraged the actual murderers by his presence amongst them, and even by taking care of the clothes which they had cast off, in order to effect their bloody purpose more conveniently.
The Lord Jesus only replied to this humble explanation on the part of Saul, by repeating his command that he should leave Jerusalem without delay, as the Lord had a special commission for him—to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.
When Saul returned from his trance, and the christians at Jerusalem became acquainted with the designs of the Hellenist Jews, they immediately assisted Saul in obeying the injunctions of the Lord Jesus. They conveyed him to the sea-port of Cesarea, which was included in the province of Syria : from thence he took ship and sailed to some northern port, from whence he travelled through the province of Cilicia to his native city of Tarsus. In consequence of this hurried departure from Judea, he did not become personally acquainted with any of the numerous bodies of christians in the various towns of that province ; but the conviction of his sincerity having now been fully established, it became generally known that he, who had formerly been so terrible a persecutor, was now preaching the faith which he had so violently opposed; and the churches gave glory to God for this signal mercy.
APPLICATION. 1. The backwardness of the disciples in receiving Saul amongst them, was not unnatural under all the circumstances, but in the brotherly kindness of Barnabas, we see a more excellent
And in like manner mistaken views as to a persons conduct may lead to consequences like those which attended Saul's appearance at Jerusalem. A constraint of feeling, and backwardness in intercourse, may be shewn towards such a one, who may be so placed as to be unable to make the explanation that would remedy the evil. Cases of this kind often occur, and afford abundant opportunities of profiting by the example here set before us. It needed but some gentle expostulaticn-some careful explanation--some affectionate good sense-some readiness in the office of a brother :--but if Barnabas had not exercised these, when the converted Saul first visited the church at Jerusalem, he could scarcely have gone forward in his great work, and must have reinained in a false and comparatively useless position. Many a true christian has been misapprehended by other christians around him; and for want of a Barnabas (truly a “Son of Consolation," Acts iv. 36), has been depressed into a useless member, when perhaps he might have been an efficient one in his generation. How important then, that when an occasion occurs, we should be ready to take out of the way anything which prevents christians from living in the freeness of affectionate intercourse one with another. The dread of being thought to interfere in other people's business, ought not to check such efforts ;--if it is the business of
business of every chr tian to restore even a faulty brother in the spirit of meekness (Gal. vi. 1), how much more to preserve a wronged brother from the effects of prejudice or of misapprehension. The boldness of Saul's conduct in Christ's service during the remainder of his stay at Jerusalem, may be considered as
the reward of the exertions of Barnabas ; and in like manner it will be found, that the trouble taken in the exercise of such brotherly kindness, in clearing away mistakes between christians, will be rewarded by the evidences of their increased usefulness, which will result from success in the endeavours.
QUESTION What steps have I taken to bring together any christians, whom I may have known to be divided through mistakes, or misapprehensions one of another ? Have I left their case alone, as being no business of mine? or have I taken kindly pains to bring them together, considering that I should thus be doing the work of the Lord ?
2. It was a wonderful honor bestowed on Saul, that he should have received the revelations and visions mentioned on this occasion. It was truly a matter to “glory in,” (as he himself says, 2 Cor. xii.); it was a blessing bestowed on him of the Lord's free favour. And though such visions and revelations are not to be expected at present, yet God does even now, through ordinary means, confer higher degrees of heavenly knowledge upon some than upon others; and every such greater degree is given as this was to Saul, not in reference to merit, but in spite of infirmities. It is a grievous mistake, for any one to connect the thought of these superior attainments, with the supposition of merit: we may well glory like Saul, in the thought that the Lord has blessed us with a free and unmerited mercy, to fit us more for his work; but this alone can be the reasonable cause for such a feeling. We should observe, that this honor was put upon Saul while he was engaged in prayer in the Temple; which suggests the thought, that all increase of grace and knowledge must be looked for in the devout and prayerful use of appointed means. These wonderful revelations were given him in preparation for especial labours, conflicts, trials, and persecutions; and so we find that additional gifts of knowledge and experience of God's love and power, are frequently bestowed at a season, when the support they are calculated to afford is to be rendered peculiarly needful, by the course of subsequent trials. But the most remarkable