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styled 'happy' indeed (Arabia Felix) when Paul was there, who came as a blessing; contrary to that which is said of the great Turk, that wherever he sets his foot the grass grows not, but he leaves a desolation behind him. Paul's visit was one of
mercy, and he doubtless was in the midst of many people, as a dew from the Lord,' a silent principle of blessing.
“And returned again unto Damascus ;” that in that city wherein he had once done his utmost to extirpate the cause of Christ, he might devote his noblest efforts to establish and con. firm the church. The word translated “I returned,” (UTepeya) signifies to retire secretly, and is used to denote a retreat in war. It is probable, therefore, that Paul was compelled by persecution, kindled against him from afar, to withdraw from Arabia and return to Damascus. What his emotions were in again entering the beautiful valley where his conversion took place, may be more easily imagined than described. As Bethel, ever after the vision he beheld there, was a memorable place to Jacob, we cannot doubt that if, of any spot on earth, Paul could say, 'This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven,' he would fix upon the hallowed suburts of the city of Damascus.*
Ver. 21.-24,4" AFTERWARDS I CAME INTO THE REGIONS OF SYRIA AND CILICIA: AND WAS UNKNOWN BY FACE UNTO THE CHURCHES OF JUDEA WHICH WERE IN CHRIST : BUT THEY HAD
* “ About half a mile from the city," says Mr. Carne, “tradition points to the spot where Saul was arrested by the voice and light from heaven."
Damascus is about 136 miles from Jerusalem. It is celebrated for its antiquity, and for being still one of the richest and most magnificent cities in the Levant.
“Modern Damascus," says the quaint Thomas Fuller, in his Pisgah-sight of the Holy Land, " is a beautiful city. The first Damask rose had its root and name hence. They have no lawyers. Physicians are paid no fees except the patient recover his health. ... And now I perceive," he adds, “that Mahomet was a politic man, who entered but once into Damascus, and perceiving the pleasures thereof, would not return, lest he should be bewitched with the delightfulness thereof, and hindered from the great work he had in hand!” The description of the valley of Damascus by M. De la Martine will amply repay the reader's attention.
HEARD ONLY THAT HE WHICH PERSECUTED US IN TIMES PAST, NOW PREACHETH THE FAITH WHICII ONCE HE DESTROYED. AND THEY GLORIFIED GOD IN ME."
Another objection is here anticipated-that though he had not received religious instruction from the apostles themselves, yet that some leading men in the Christian churches of Judea might have been his instructors in the mysteries of the Christian faith. To this Paul replies, that he did not visit those churches at all, but went direct from Jerusalem into Syria and Cilicia: that he was not so much as personally known to any of those churches : but then he adds, that, though unknown, he was not unfavourably regarded by them, and that, far from attempt. ing to frustrate his labours by undermining his reputation, they, on the contrary, 'glorified God' in him. Of so great importance were these facts, both to his own and to other times, that he confirms the most striking of them with a solemn asseveration and oath: “Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God I lie not.”
Thus concludes this important chapter ; and in reviewing the apostle's history, drawn by his own hand, one reflection only we have space to introduce. We learn the very different aspect which an irreligious life bears, in its anticipation, and in its review. Many pursuits, it seems, which appear most inviting in prospect, may be retraced under impressions of sorrow, disappointment, and remorse. When life was new and hope unbroken, Paul could scarcely place a limit to the self-complacency with which he contemplated his past progress in Jewish learning, and the bright prospects which opened before him, as the bold adherent of the Jewish Sanhedrim, and the inveterate foe of the religion of Christ. But all this, far from yielding him satisfaction in the review, was soon looked back upon with the utmost humiliation and regret, as the false enchantments of the world must be ever retraced with confusion and shame.
Above all, Paul could never forget his having persecuted the church of God. The church had long since forgiven him; and, amidst the wonderful success of the apostle, had almost thrown into oblivion the fury of the persecutor. We have reason to
believe that God had forgiven him too, for he gratefully acknowledges, “I obtained mercy.” But he could never forgive himself. Well had conscience calendared the martyrdom of Stephen, and he exclaims, “ I am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” There are some sins which, even if forgiven by others, cannot easily be pardoned by the penitent mind. Dr. Bates tells us that the excellent Richard Baxter cherished such self-condemnation on account of his own sinfulness, that he was in the habit of saying, “I can more easily believe that God will forgive me, than that I can forgive myself.” Sin promises much in the outset, but dreadfully disappoints in the issue. “What fruit had ye in those things whereof ye are
now ashamed ?” On the other hand, it becomes an irrefragable argument in favour of an early devotedness to the religious life, that whilst it bestows infinite blessings hereafter, it saves from incalculable misery here ; and is at once favourable to a grateful retrospect of the past, and a happy anticipation of the future.
XVIII. OUTLINES OF A DISCOURSE ON BROTHERLY
(By the late Rev. Robert Hall.)
GALATIANS vi. 1.
BRETHREN, IF A MAN BE OVERTAKEN IN A FAULT, YE WHICH ARE SPIRITUAL RESTORE SUCH AN ONE IN THE SPIRIT OF MEEKNESS; CONSIDERING THYSELF, LEST THOU ALSO BE TEMPTED.”
The Epistles of Paul were, for the most part, written to those Christian societies which he had been the instrument of founding in the world. Every true Christian was united to some church; for to profess to be a disciple of Christ, and to be connected with a church, was nearly one and the same thing. The practice of some Christians in the present day, of professing religion, and refusing to join themselves to a church, and to submit to
the ordinances and discipline enjoined in the gospel, is one evidence of degeneracy in the Christian profession.
The union subsisting between Christians and the church is not a mere figure, but expressive of a vital and vigorous affection, which Christians exercise towards each other. It was so in the apostolic age; and whilst the world was full of wars and tumults, the church was the scene of concord, peace, and joy. But the church was not even then perfect; and the passage
before us It is solely addressed to the church. It does not extend to all mankind; but respects members of the church, and them alone. It exhorts them to cherish certain feelings, and to pursue a certain line of conduct, towards any one of their number who may have been suddenly surprised by some powerful temptation into the commission of sin. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness.
1.-LET US CONSIDER THE CASE WHICH THE TEXT DESCRIBES.
It supposes a Christian doing wrong, under the influence of a powerful and unexpected temptation. It therefore intimates that he would not have voluntarily yielded to sin, had he not been taken by surprise, when off his guard. He will not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. In reference to the faults which prevail among members of a Christian church, it will generally be found, that those who are guilty of them are overtaken. Their commission is not to be taken as a sample of the general state of the mind, or of the ordinary course of conduct; but as an occasional departure from the usual tenour of their lives.
There are many cases in which the best of men commit faults ; but they are the exception to the rule of their life. For if a member of a church were to live in continual sin, he would be treated in a manner very different from that which is recommended in the case before us. They are to be cut off from the church. But this extreme and final act of discipline is not to be extended to every deviation from the strict line of moral duty; especially under circumstances of a mitigated character ; --for this would destroy all confidence in the church. It is to
be applied to faults which involve great and decisive guilt; and not in doubtful case, or in one where the commission of sin resulted in unforeseen and terrible temptation. Where this is the case, the feelings of the party will indicate who is the sufferer. To separate, for such a description of fault, one who deeply deplores it, and repents, as it were, “in dust and ashes,” would be an act of cruelty inconsistent with the gospel precepts; and instead of doing any good to the offender, might break his
any attention the Epistles to the church at Corinth, you will see this view of such a case sufficiently supported.
heart. If you
II.-LeT US ENDEAVOUR TO ASCERTAIN THE CONDUCT
take it up
This applies not simply to such persons as are endowed with spiritual gifts ; but to those Christians who are more than ordinarily devoted to religion. A spiritual man is one whom the Holy Ghost hath enlightened and changed. It does not belong to every one in the church to assume this office. Those who are distinguished for eminent piety, are to do it; for they may be employed with the greatest confidence of success. Such persons best know the importance and delicacy of the task. Nothing but a strong sense of duty would induce even them to
Such persons in the church ought not to shrink from the duty, however great may be the responsibility incurred; but are to endeavour to restore their brethren who
be taken in a fault.
To restore, is a general term, admitting of a variety of applications. It often signifies to amend. In a moral sense, it means to restore the faulty person to the moral feeling which he has lost. He who thus restores, becomes the healer of disease. How it is to be done is not mentioned; but the obvious end is to lead the person to confess his sin and to express
sincere sorrow for it. When this is accomplished, the office of Christian fidelity and friendship is discharged.