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be made feelingly to seek after Jesus Christ, were never yet truly convicted by, much less converted to, God. May the Lord who struck Saul, effectually now strike all my Christless hearers, and set them upon inquiring after Jesus, as their ALL in ALL! Saul said, “Who art thou, Lord And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.” Never did any one inquire truly after Jesus Christ, but Christ made a saving discovery of himself to his soul. It should seem, our Lord appeared to him in person; for Ananias afterwards says, “the Lord who appeared to thee in the way which thou camest;” though this may not only imply Christ's meeting him in the way; it is not much matter. It is plain Christ here speaks to him, and says, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” It is remarkable, how our Lord takes to himself the name of Jesus; for it is a name in which he delights. I am Jesus, a Savior of my people, both from the guilt and power of their sins; a “Jesus, whom thou persecutest.” This seems to be spoken to convince Saul more and more of his sin; and I doubt not, but every word was sharper than a two-edged sword, and came like so many daggers to his heart. O, how did these words affect him! A Jesus ! a Savior' and yet I am persecuting him This strikes him with horror; but then the word Jesus, though he was a persecutor, might give him some hope. However, our dear Lord, to convince Saul that he was to be saved by grace, and that he was not afraid of his power and enmity, tells him, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” As much as to say, though he was persecuting, yet he could not overthrow the church of Christ: for he would set as Kir upon his holy hill of Zion; the malice of men or devils shoul never be able to prevail against him. Wer. 6. “And he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Those, who think Saul had a discovery of Jesus made to his heart before, think that this question is the result of his faith, and that he now desires to know what he shall do, out of gratitude, for what the Lord had done for his soul; in this sense it may be understood," and I have made use of it as an instance to prove that faith will work by love; but perhaps it may be more agreeable to the context, if we suppose that Saul had only some distant discovery of Christ made to him, and not a full assurance of faith; for we are told, “he trembling and astonished.” trembling at the thoughts of his persecuting a Jesus, and astonished at his own vileness, and the infinite condescension of this Jesus, cries out, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do o Persons under soul-trouble, and

* See my Sermon on What think ye of Christ 2

sore conviction, would be glad to do any thing, or comply on any terms, to get peace with God. “Arise,” says our Lord, “and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou shalt do.” And here we will leave Saul awhile, and see what is become of his companions. But what shall we say? God is a sovereign agent; his sacred Spirit bloweth when and where it listeth ; “He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.” Saul is taken, but, as far as we know to the contrary, his fellow travelers are left to perish in their sins; for we are told, ver, 7. “That the men who journeyed with him stood, indeed speechless, and hearing a confused voice.” I say a confused voice, for so the word signifies, and must be so interpreted, in order to reconcile it with chap. xxii. ver. 9. where Saul giving an account of these men, tells Agrippa, “ They heard not the voice of him that spake to me.” They heard a voice, a confused noise, but not the articulate voice of him that spake to Saul, and therefore remained unconverted. For what are all ordinances, all, even the most extraordinary dispensations of providence, without Christ speaks to the soul in them? Thus it is now under the word preached: many, like Saul's companions, are sometimes so struck with the out-goings of God appearing in the sanctuary, that they even stand speechless; they hear the preacher's voice, but not the voice of the Son of God, who, perhaps, at the same time is speaking effectually to many other hearts; this I have known often; and what shall we say to these things? O the depth of the sovereignty of God . It is past finding out. Lord, I desire to adore what I cannot comprehend. “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight !” But to return to Saul. The Lord bids him arise and go into the city; and we are told, verse 8. that “Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened,” (for he was so overpowered with the greatness of the light that shone upon them, that) “he saw no man; but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus,” that very city which was to be the place of his executing or imprisoning the disciples of the Lord. “And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.” But who can tell what horrors of conscience, what convulsion of soul, what deep and pungent convictions of sin he underwent during these three long days? It was this that took away his appetite, (for who can eat or drink when under a sense of the wrath of God for sin?) and, being to be greatly employed hereafter, he must be greatly humbled now; therefore the Lord leaves him three days groaning under the spirit of bondage, and buffeted, no doubt, with the fiery darts of the devil, that, being tempted like unto his brethren, he might be able hereafter, to succor those that were tempted. Had Saul applied to any of the blind guides of the Jewish church under these circumstances, they would have said he was mad, or going beside himself; as many carnal teachers and blind pharisees now deal with, and so more and more distress poor souls laboring under awakening convictions of their damnable state. But God often at our first awakenings, visits us with sore trials, especially those who are, like Saul, to shine in the church, and to be used as instruments in bringing many sons to glory: those who are to be highly exalted, must first be deeply humbled; and this I speak for the comfort of those, who may be now groaning under the spirit of bondage, and perhaps, like Saul, can neither eat nor drink; for I have generally observed, that those who have had the deepest convictions, have afterwards been favored with the most precious communications, and enjoyed most of the divine presence in their souls. This was afterwards remarkably exemplified in Saul, who was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. But will the Lord leave his poor servant in this distress 7 No. His Jesus (though Saul persecuted him) promised and he will perform that it “should be told him what he must do. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias, and unto him, said the Lord in a vision, Ananias; and he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.” What a holy familiarity is there between Jesus Christ and regenerate souls ' Ananias had been used to such love visits, and therefore, knew the voice of his beloved. The Lord says, Ananias; Ananias says, “Behold, I am here, Lord.” Thus it is that Christ now, as well as formerly, often talks with his children at sundry times, and after divers manners, as a man talketh with his friend. But what has the Lord to say to Ananias' Verse 11. “And the Lord said unto him, arise, and go into the street, which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas, for one called Saul of Tarsus;” (see here for your comfort, O children of the most high God, what notice Jesus Christ takes of the street, and the house where his own dear servants lodge) “for behold, he prayeth;” but why is this ushered in with the word behold 2 What, was it such a wonder to hear that Saul was praying Why, Saul was a pharisee, and therefore, no doubt, fasted and made |. ; and, since we are told that he profited above many of his equals, I doubt not but he was taken notice of for his gift in prayer: and yet it seems, that before these three days, Saul never prayed in his life: and why? Because, before these three days, he never felt himself a condemned creature; he was alive in his own opinion, because without a knowledge of the spiritual meaning of the law; he felt not a want of, and therefore, before now, cried not after a Jesus, and consequently, though he might have said, or made a prayer, as many Pharisees do in these days, he never uttered a prayer; but now, behold ! he prayed indeed; and this was urged as one reason why he was converted. None of God's children, as one observes, come into the world still-born; prayer is the very breath of a new creature; and therefore, if we are prayerless, we are Christless; if we never had the spirit of supplication, it is a sad sign that we never had the spirit of grace in our souls; and you may be assured you never did pray, unless you have felt yourselves sinners, and seen the want of Jesus to be your Savior. May the Lord, whom I serve in the gospel of his dear Son, prick you all to the heart, and may it be said of you all as it was of Saul, Behold, they pray! The Lord goes on to encourage Ananias to go to Saul: says he, verse 12. “For he hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias, coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.” So that though Christ converted Saul immediately by himself, yet he will carry on the work, thus begun, by a minister. Happy they, who under soul troubles have such experienced guides, and as well acquainted with Jesus Christ as Ananias was : you that have such, make much of and be thankful for them; and you who have them not, trust in God; he will carry on his own work without them. Doubtless, Ananias was a good man; but shall I commend him for his answer to our Lord 7 I commend him not; for says he, verse 13. “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call upon thy name.” I fear this answer proceeded from some relics of self-righteousness, as well as infidelity, that lay undiscovered in the heart of Ananias. “Arise, (said our Lord) and go into the street, which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas, for one called Saul of Tarsus; for behold he prayeth !” One would think this was sufficient to satisfy him: but says Ananias, “Lord I have heard by many of this man” (he seems to speak of him with much contempt; for even good men are apt to think too contemptuously of those who are yet in their sins) “how much evil he hath done to thy saints in Jerusalem; and here, he hath authority from the chief priests, to bind all that call upon thy name.” And what then, Ananias Is any thing too hard for the Lord ' Who made thee to differ Could not he who converted thee, convert him also Surely Ananias here forgets himsels, or perhaps fears, lest this man, who had authority from the chief priests to bind all that call upon Christ's name, should bind him also, if he went unto him ; but the Lord silences all objections, with a “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. For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.” Here God stops his mouth immediately, by asserting his sovereignty, and preaching to him the doctrine of election. And the frequent conversion of notorious sinners to God, to me is one great proof, amongst a thousand others, of that precious, but too much exploded, and sadly misrepresented doctrine of God's electing love; for whence is it that such are taken, whilst thousands not near so vile, die senseless and stupid? All the answer that can be given, is, “They are chosen vessels; Gothy way, (says God) for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel; for I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.” Observe what a close connection there is between doing and suffering for Christ. If any of my brethren in the ministry are present, let them hear what preferment we must expect, if we are called out to work remarkably for God; not great prebendaries or bishoprics, but great sufferings for our Lord's namesake; these are the fruits of our labor; and he that will not contentedly suffer great things for preaching Christ, is not worthy of him. Suffering will be found to be the best preferment, when we are called to give an account of our ministry at the great day. I do not hear, that Ananias quarreled with God concerning the doctrine of election; no ; O that all good men would, in this, learn of him! “He went his way, and entered into the house; and put his hands on him, and said, brother Saul;” just now it was this man ; now it is brother Saul: It is no matter what a man has been, if he be now a christian; the same should be our brother, our sister, and mother; God blots out every convert's transgressions as with a thick cloud, and so should we ; the more vile a man has been, the more should we love him when believing in Christ, because Christ will be more floo on his behalf. I doubt not, but Ananias was wonderully delighted to hear that so remarkable a persecutor was brought home to God! I am persuaded he felt his soul immediately united to him by love, and therefore addresses him not with “Thou persecutor, Thou murderer, that comest to butcher me and my friends; but, brother Saul.” It is remarkable that the primitive christians much used the word brother and brethren; I know it is a term now much in reproach; but those who despise it, I believe would be glad to be of our brother

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