« PreviousContinue »
fining some in prison, and procuring others is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." to be put to death.
As if the blessed Jesus had said, " All
thy attempts to extirpate the faith in me Nor could Jerusalem and the adjacent will prove abortive; and like kicking parts confine his fiery zeal ; he applied to against the spikes, wound and torment the Sanhedrim, and procured a commission tliyself.” from that court to extend bis persecution to
Saul was sufficiently convinced of his Damasous. How infernally insatiable is the fury of a misguided zeal ! How restless and
folly in having acted against Jesus, whom
he was now assured to be the true Messiah, unwearied in its designs of cruelty ! It had
and asked, “ Lord, what wilt thou have already sufficiently harrassed the poor chris.
me to do ?" On which the blessed Jesus tians at Jerusalem ; but not content with
replied, “ Arise, and go into the city, and this, it persecuted them even to strange
it shall be told thee what thou must do." cities, even to Damascus itsell, whither many of them bad tled for shelter, resolv
The company which were with him heard ing to bring them back to Jerusalem, in
the voice, but did not see the person who order to their punishment and execution.
spake from heaven. In all probability they It may not be improper here to observe, were ignorant of the Hebrew language, and that the Jewish Sanhedrima had not only the therefore only heard a confused sound : for power of seizing and scourging offenders the apostle himself tells, that they heard not against their law within the bounds of their the voice of him that spake ; that is, they own country, but by the connivance and did not understand what was spoken. favour of the Romans, might send into other countries, where there were any synagogues
The apostle now arose from the earth, that acknowledged a dependance in religi- resplendent brightness of the vision being
but found himself deprived of sight, the ous affairs upon the council of Jerusalem,
too intense for mortal eyes to behold. to apprehened them : and accordingly Saul
His companions, therefore, led him by was sent to Damascus to apprehend what
the hand to the city of Damascus, where christians he could find in that city, and
he entered the house of Judas, and remainhring the bound to Jerusalem.
ed there three days without sight, nor did But it was the will of Providence he
he either eat or drink, but spent his time should be employed in a work of a very dif
in prayer to the Almighty, beseeching him terent nature, and accordingly he was stop
to pardon the sins of his ignorance and ped in his journey. For as he was travel
blinded zeal. ling between Jerusalem and Damascus, to In the mean time our blessed Saviour ap execute the commission of the Jewish San- peared in a vision to Ananias, a very devout bedrim, a refulgent light, far exceeding the and religious man, highly esteemed by all brightness of the sun, darted upon him at the inhabitants of Damascus, though he wbich both him and his companions were professed the religion of the crucified Jesus, terribly amazed and confounded, and iin- commanding him to go into such a street mediately fell prostrate on the ground. in the city, and inquire in the house of Judas While they lay in this state, a voice was for one Saul of Tarsus, then offering up the heard in the Hebrew language, saying, most fervent prayers to the throne of grace. " Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me ?" " And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and To which Saul replied, “Who art thou, go into the street, which is called straight, Lord ?” And was immediately answered, and inquire in the house of Judas, for one “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest : It called Saul of Tarsus : for behold he prayeth,
and hath seen in a vision a man named Ana the Gospel to those Christians he came with nias coming in and putting his band on him, an intention to destroy, at the same time that he might receive his sight.”
boldly asserting, that Jesus was the Christ
the Son of God; and proving it to the Jews, Ananias, who was ever ready to obey with such demonstrative evidence, that they the commands of the Most High, startled were confounded, and found it impossible at the name, having heard of the blood y to answer him. practices of Saul at Jerusalem, and what commission he was now come to execute in Damascus. He, therefore, suspected that his conversion was nothing more than a
CHAP. II. snare artfully laid by bim against the christians. But our blessed Saviour soon remov Continuation of the Life of St. Paul, from ed his apprehensions, by telling him that his the Time of his Conversion, till the suspicions were entirely destitute of foun Council was held at Jerusalem. dation ; and that he had now taken him as a chosen vessel to preach the gospel both to the Jews and Gentiles, and even before | THE miraculous convert, at the instance
of the divine command, retired into the greatest monarchs of the earth.
Arabia Petræa, where he received a full thy way, said he, for he is a chosen vessel
revelation of all the mysteries of christiunto me, to hear my name before the Gen anity ; for he himself declares that he contiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." versed not with flesh and blood. Having At the same time he acquainted him with preached in several parts of that country the great persecutions he should undergo some time, he returned again to Damascus, for the sake of the gospel : “ For I will applying himself, with the utmost assiduity shew him how great things he must suffer to the great work of the ministry, frequenting for my name's sake."
the synagogues there, powerfully confuting
the objections commonly made by the This quieted the fears of Ananias, who descendants of Jacob against Jesus of immediately obeyed the heavenly vision, Nazaretis, and converting great numbers of repaired to the house of Judas, and, laying Jews and Gentiles. bis hands upon Saul, addressed him in words to this effect :-" That Jesus, said he, who
lle was, indeed, remarkably zealous in appeared to thee in the way, hath sent me
his preaching, and blessed with a very ex
traordinary inethod of reasoning, whereby to restore thy sight, and by the infusion of bis spirit to give thee the knowledge of
he proved the fundamental points of christhose truths, which thou hast blindly and
tianity beyond exception. This irritated the ignorantly persecuted ; but who now is
Jews to the highest degree ; and at length,
after two or three years continuance in those willing to receive thee by baptism into his church, and make thee a member of bis
parts, they found means to prevail on the body.”
governor of Damascus to have bim put to
death. But they knew it would be difficult This speech was no sooner pronounced, to take bim, as he had so many friends in the than there fell from his eyes thick films re city ; they, therefore, kept themselves in a sembling scales, and he received bis sight ; continual watch, searched all the houses and after baptism conversed with the chris where they supposed he might conceal himtians of Damascus. Nor did he only con seil, and also obtained a guard from the verse with them; he, also, to the great asto governor to observe the gates, in order to nishment of the whole church, preached prevent his escaping from theur.
In this distress his christian friends were , lation soon prevailed all over the world; and far from deserting him ; they tried every the latter was in a few ages almost entirely method that offered to proeure his escape ; forgotten. but finding it impossible for him to pass thro' either of the gates of the city, they let him About this time'a terrible famine, foretold down from one of their houses through a by Agabus, happened in several parts of the window in a basket over the wall, by which Roman empire, particularly Judea, which means the cruel designs of his enemies were induced the christians at Antioch to comrendered abortive.
passionate the miseries of their brethren at
Jerusalem. They accordingly raised consiHaving thus éscaped from his malicious derable contributions for tbeir relief, which persecutors, he repaired to Jerusalem, and they sent to the capital of Judea, by the OH his arrival, addressed himself to the hands of Barnabas and Saul, who immedichurch. But they knowing well the former ately after executing their commission, temper and principles of the great persecu- returned to Antioch. But while they tor, shunned his company, till Barnabas were performing the public exercises of brought him to Peter, who was not yet cast religion, it was revealed to them by, the into prison, and to James, bishop of Jerusa- Holy Ghost, that they should " set apart lem, informing them of his miraculous Barnabas and Saul,” to preach the gospel conversion, and that he had preached the in other places : which was accordingly gospel with the greatest boldness to the sy done, and they were immediately deputed nagogues of Damascus ; upon which they for that service by prayer, fasting, and gladly received him, and familiarly enter imposition of hands. tained hiin fifteen days.
The first place they visited was Saleucia, During this interval, he was remarkably where they did not continue long, but sailassiduous in preaching the gospel of the Son ed for Cyprus ; and at Salamis, a great city of God, and confuting the Hellenest Jews in that island, they preached in the synawith the greatest courageand resolution. But gogue of the Jews. From hence they remosnares were laid for him, as malice can a's ved to Phaos, the residence of Serigus Paueasily cease to be, as to remain inactive. lus, the pro-consul of the island, a man of Being warned by God in a vision, that his great wisdom and prudence, but miserably testimony would not be received at Jerusa seduced by the wicked artifices of Bar Jesus, lem, he thought proper to depart, and preac! a Jewish impostor, who stiled himself Elythe gospel to the Gentiles. Accordingly, mas, or the magician, vehemently opposed being conducted by his brethren to Cesarea the apostles, and kept the pro-consul from Philippi, he set sail for Tarsus, his native embracing the faith. city ; from whence he was soon after brought by Barnabas to Antioch, to assist him in pro The pro-consul, however, called for the pagating christianity in that city.
apostles, who, after severely checking Ely
mas for his malicious opposition to the truth, In this employment he spent one whole told him the divine vengeance was now year, and had the satisfaction of seeing ready to seize upon him ; and immediately the gospel flourish in a very remarkable he was deprived of his sight. The vermanner.
geance of the Almighty was remark
ably displayed in this punishment, by It was in this city that the disciples first depriving him of his bodily eves, who bad acquired the name of christians, before which | so wilfully and maliciously shut those of his they were stiled Nazarenes ; but this appel- | mind against the light of the gospel, and