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Get thee up into mount Abarim, and die. Could they suppose this to mean, Go, and be extinct for ever? Thou hast served me these fourscore years: and now it is the same as if thou hadst transgressed against me fourscore years. Go, and be extinct for ever.
This is the thing which it would be really difficult to believe and comprehend. It is not incredible that God should raise the dead: that he who made the body should revive the body: but it is incredible, that there should be no difference between the man that serveth him, and the man that serveth him not.8
Arguments like these ought to have been convincing to every reader of the Jewish scriptures, even if positive testimony had not been abundantly found there. We have no need of such arguments, "Life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel." It is revealed to us in plain terms, that "all shall stand before the judgment-seat of God, to give account of the things done in the body, whether they be good or bad." The word of God declares that it shall be so. And the fact of the resurrection of Christ has shown that it may be so. By that fact assurance is given to all, that God will raise the dead.
"Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."9
8 See Mai. iii. 18. 9 2 Pet. iii. 14.
THE DISCOURSE BEFORE AGRIPPA CONTINUED.
A. D. 62.
Acts xxvi. 9—18.
0. / verily thought within myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
10. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.
11. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
Paul here before Agrippa follows the same line of argument which he had addressed to the Jewish assembly in the temple: showing that he had not lightly taken up the opinion which he maintained. They thought his doctrine incredible. He himself had once thought the same. No one could be more opposed to the gospel, and to those who believed it, than he had formerly been. He had denied that Jesus was the Messiah: he had forced others to deny it, persecuting them to the uttermost. Why, then, was he now preaching the faith which once he destroyed? Nothing had convinced him, but a proof which it was impossible to withstand.
12. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
13. At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
14. And when we were all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for 'thee to kick against the pricks.
15. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
16. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I shall appear unto thee;
17. Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
18. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
The commission given to Paul is more fully expressed here than in any other passage. He was chosen to be a witness or messenger from God to the people, and to the Gentiles more especially. And as such, he was to open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.
To open their eyes. The Gentiles were idolaters. There were different forms of their idolatry; but they all worshipped something instead of the true God: some created thing, and not the Creator. And what can more truly describe the state of an idolater, than the idea of blindness, darkness! The apostles might go from city to city, and from country to country, and justly say, It is all darkness. There was no want of light in things belonging to this world: as to such knowledge, the understanding was bright and clear: but all was darkness in what related to God, and concerned the soul. Isaiah points this out with the pen of an enlightened witness, (xliv. 9, &c.) "They that make a graven image are all of them vanity. They see not, nor know, that they may be ashamed. The smith with the tongs and the hammer, the carpenter with his rule and plane, fashion the idol after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars; he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof and warm himself: yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; and the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me, for thou art my god. They have not known, nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see, and their hearts, that they cannot understand."
thus shut, and their hearts closed: "As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind." 1
Now, however, mercy was intended. The veil should be taken away. God would send his minister to open their eyes, that they might "show themselves men," and "he ashamed" of their former blindness. Satan had long kept them under his power: now they should turn unto God, and partake of the provision which he had made for their receiving forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in Christ Jesus.
Forgiveness and sanctification: such is the twofold promise. First, God treats the sinner after the example of the creditor in the parable.2 The debtor is brought before him, "owing ten thousand talents," and "having not to pay." The lord of the servant is moved with compassion, and forgives him the debt. "I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins."3 The blood of Christ is spread over the account, and there is reconciliation.
This is the first promise; the forgiveness of sins. Still greater is the eternal inheritance among them that are sanctified. The unprofitable, disobedient servant, is not only forgiven, but received into favour; adopted as an heir: is "no more a servant, but a son." * The same Spirit who turned his heart to God will now renew and purify that
i Rom. i. 28. 2 Matt, xviii. 24, &c.
3 Isaiah xliv. 22. 1 Gal. iv. 7.