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LECTURE XXV.

ANANIAS BY A VISION IS COMMISSIONED TO SEEK OUT SAUL, WHO IS BAPTIZED, AND BECOMES A PREACHER OF THE GOSPEL, -a. D. 35.

Acts ix. 10—22.

10. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, J am here, Lord.

11. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

12. And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

13. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:

14. And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

15. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

16. For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.

The thoughts expressed by Ananias were natural, and he is not condemned for indulging them. He could only judge of Saul from what he knew concerning him: and he could not think well of a man who had done much evil to the saints:—was an enemy to those whom the Spirit had sanctified, and made " a holy people" to the Lord.

But the Lord said unto him. Go thy way; for he is a chosen vessel unto me. I have selected him to be an instrument in my hands: I have "separated"7 him from ordinary vessels, as a vessel for my peculiar use; and "called him by my grace," that he may bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.

It is not our business to inquire why God saw fit to make Saul a chosen vessel for his service, and to bring him into his service by extraordinary means. "His ways are far above out of our sight." But though we cannot always perceive his reasons, we are quite sure that he has reasons. Ignorant or perverse men may act without reason; but it is impossible that God should do so. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

In the usual course of God's dealings with man, his grace does not enlighten those who are acting as Saul was acting: giving way to perverseness, obstinacy, and malicious passions. His ordinary and sure mode of dealing is: "They that seek me, shall find me." "The meek will he guide in judgment."

But in every age he has been known to snatch some from the midst of sin, as " brands from the burning;" thus showing, that none need despair; 1 See Gal. i. 15.

that repentance is open to the worst; that "the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin;" and that the power of the Holy Spirit is such as to soften the most stony heart. Paul himself was of opinion that this was the purpose of God's mercy to him. (1 Tim. i. 16.) "Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe in him to life everlasting."

And wherever the gospel has been preached, this example of the favour of God shown to one who had before been " a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious," has proved a comfort to the repentant sinner. It is calculated to give comfort to any one, who may remember former wickedness with anguish of soul. He has here an instance of one like himself, to whom "Christ Jesus did show forth his long-suffering:" that is, whom he received and pardoned. The same merciful Lord has still the same will and the same power to save all who come to him in the spirit of Saul, humbly inquiring, "Lord, what wouldest thou have me to do?" He "will in no wise cast them out." He "will show them of his covenant." He "will guide them with his counsel;" he will hereafter "receive them in glory."

We return to Ananias.

17. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him, said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou earnest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

18. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

19. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

20. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

21. But all that heard him were amazed, and said, Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?

22. But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

The natural sight of Saul had been taken away for a time; and when it was restored, there fell from his eyes as it had been scales. This, surely, was an emblem of his mind. He says himself, (2 Cor. iv. 4,) "The god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not." It had been his own state. His mind was blinded, that "seeing he did not perceive, and hearing he did not understand." But, now, "God, who commanded the light to shine out of.darkness, had shined in his heart:" and straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God: and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

This truth had been revealed to him at once: as when God had said at the creation, "Let there be light; and there was light." In the ordinary course, the conviction would be more gradual. He would have examined into the life and death, the ministry and doctrines, of Jesus: he would have compared them with the scriptures; with the history of his nation ; with Moses and the law; and more especially with the prophecies concerning him who was to come. Thus, under the teaching of the Spirit, he would arrive by gradual steps at the truth, that this is very Christ, and that this who was the Christ, was also the Son of God.

But such a mode of conviction would require time. Still more would it require time, that the truth should take such hold upon his heart as to enlist it in the cause, and devote him henceforward to the gospel.

Here, however, was no such delay. Straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues. And he himself explains it: telling us, that "it pleased God to reveal his Son in him :"8 that " the mystery was made known to him by revelation :''3 that the truthswhich he declared he " received of the Lord," not by intercourse with his fellow-men.4

This enabled him more fully in his after-life to magnify, as he did, the power of divine grace, which had made him what he was. This led him to declare, with the energy which he was constantly employing, that the gospel comes "not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance ;"3 that Christ is "the power of God, and the wisdom of God."6 Expe

* Gal. i. 16. 3 Eph. iii. 8.

* 1 Cor. xi. 23. 5 1 Thess. i. 5.

8 1 Cor. i. 24.

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