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Jerusalem, to worship the God whom he had learnt to serve.1 The state of his heart may be perceived from his employment: as he travelled, he was engaged in reading the prophet Isaiah.
Perhaps at Jerusalem he had heard the things which had come to pass; perhaps he had been directed, through some of those who were preaching the gospel there, and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, to the prophecies which especially related to him. And he did not disregard what he heard. His heart had been already turned to God: he had not closed his eyes against the light which had shone upon him, and he was now seeking fresh light from prophecy, and waiting till "the daystar should arise,"2 and enable him to perceive its full meaning.
To accomplish this end, Philip is first sent by an angel of the Lord to the desart which lay between Jerusalem and Gaza: and now the Spirit said, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
30. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest f
31. And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
1 It is made a question, whether this "man of Ethiopia," (i.e. probably, Abyssinia) were a heathen proselyte, or of Jewish extraction. Nothing would make us suppose the latter, except that, if by birth a heathen, this was the first Gentile convert: and it is not mentioned that he was so.
2 2 Peter i. 19.
32. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:s
33. In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
34. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35. Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
36. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
37. Then Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
It was an easy task for Philip to show how the prophecy to which the Ethiopian had been directed was accurately fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus, and of no other man.
The "good ground," so softened and prepared, the "honest and good heart," received the seed of truth. He said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
We were very lately reading how Simon, a man of a different stamp, as soon as he perceived an opportunity of gain, seized it eagerly; and offered money for what he thought would prove money's worth to him. So it is with all who are keen after any earthly good: they lose no opportunity, they suffer no delay. This quickness and eagerness is not extinguished, but transferred to a better object,
3 Isaiah liii.
when spiritual things take possession of the mind. There must be no delay. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field."4 So it was with this stranger. He felt within himself: If we know not what a day may bring forth, and if "there is but one name under heaven given among men, whereby we may be saved," I must be inscribed with that name. I must receive that blessing whilst I can; and secure for myself the treasure which is laid up in Christ. What doth hinder me to be baptized, since that is the gate of his mercy: the entrance into the everlasting covenant? Let me at once put off the old man, which is "corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." 5
Such would be his thoughts. Philip encourages them, throws no obstacle in the way of his desire; and only insists on the condition, without which baptism would be a vain and empty form. If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.
Simon had not believed with all his heart, and had "no part nor lot in the matter," though the rite of baptism had been solemnised. If the Ethiopian did believe; so believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, as to trust in him for all that the soul can need, or God sees fit to bestow; then he had part in this salvation. The blood of Christ should " wash away his sins," as water cleanseth the defilement
4 Matt. xiii. 44. » See Eph. iv. 22—24.
of the body: nay, there should be in him "a well of water, springing up into everlasting life :"6 he should "receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,"7 to comfort, and strengthen, and purify his mind.
38. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
39. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
40. But Philip was found at Axotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Ccesarea.
We can easily conceive that this man would go on his way rejoicing. We can understand his feelings, and enter into the state of his mind. We know that he was acquainted with the scripture; which had brought him to perceive his condition in the world, as the creature of a pure and holy God. He must often have felt within himself a doubtful and anxious apprehension, as to his state in the sight of that God. The scripture told him what God required: but he knew likewise his own heart and practice; and he could not but see in how many things he had offended, and "come short of the glory of God." Like a mariner on a stormy sea, in a sinking vessel, he would be full of doubts and fears. Now came certainty instead of doubt, and hope instead of fear. He had found an anchor for his soul, fixed it upon Christ, the rock of ages. He had received a proof, a proof not to 6 John iv. 14. ?Acts ii. 38.
be disputed, of God's "good-will towards men;" his love and pity for the creatures he had made. Nay, he had received for himself a token of that love, and was enrolled as one of his adopted children. So he went on his way rejoicing. A wanderer on the earth, he had been led into a safe and certain path. A creature of God, he had found assurance of his favour. A sinful being, he had found a remedy for his sin: a dying creature, he had found "life and immortality."
It would not be all joy with him, as he passed onward in his course. He would have, like other men, his troubles; like other Christians, he would have his trials; but for the future there was hope, and for the present there was joy; "joy and peace in believing."
SAUL, JOURNEYING TO DAMASCUS, IS ARRESTED BY A VISION FROM HEAVEN.—A. D. 35.
Acts ix. 1—9.
1. And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
2. And desired of him letters to Damascus1 to the syna
1 Damascus was the chief city of Syria: and distant five or six days' journey from Jerusalem.