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hood, when they see us sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high. “Brother Saul, the |...} (even Jesus that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camést) hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” At this time, we may suppose, he laid his hands upon him. See the consequences. Verse 18. “Immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales, and he received sight forthwith ;” and not only bodily, but spiritual sight; he emerged as it were into a new world; he saw, and felt too, things unutterable; he felt a union of soul with God; he received the spirit of adoption; he could now, with a full assurance of faith, cry, Abba, Father. Now was he filled with the Holy Ghost; and had the love of God shed abroad in his heart; now were the days of his mourning ended; now was Christ formed in his soul; now he could give men and devils the challenge, knowing that Christ had justified him; now he saw the excellences of Christ, and esteemed him the fairest among ten thousand. You only know how to sympathize with the apostle in his joy, who, after a long night of bondage, have been set free by the Spirit, and have received joy in the Holy Ghost. May all that are now mourning, as Saul was, be comforted in like manner! The scales then are now removed from the eyes of Saul's mind; Ananias has done that for him, under God: he must now do another office—baptize him, and so receive him into the visible church of Christ; a good proof to me of the necessity of baptism where it may be had: for I find here, as well as elsewhere, that baptism is administered even to those who had received the Holy Ghost; Saul was convinced of this, and therefore arose and was baptized; and now it is time for him to recruit the outward man, which, by three days abstinence and spiritual conflicts, had been much impaired: we are therefore told, (verse 19.) “when he had received meat, he was strengthened.” But O, with what comfort did the apostle now eat his food? I am sure it was with singleness, I am persuaded also with gladness of heart: and why? He knew that he was reconciled to God; and, for my own part, did I not know how blind and flinty our hearts are by nature, I should wonder how any one could eat even his common food with any satisfaction, who has not some well grounded hope of his being reconciled to God. Our Lord intimates thus much to us, for in his glorious prayer, after he has taught us to pray for our daily bread, immediately adds that petition, “forgive us our trespasses;” as though our daily bread would do us no service, unless we were sensible of having the forgiveness of our sins.
To proceed: Saul hath received meat, and is strengthened; and whither will he go now? To see the brethren; “then was Saul certain days with the disciples that were at Damascus.” If we know and love Christ, we shall also love, and desire to be acquainted with the brethren of Christ: We may generally know a man by his company. And though all are not saints that associate with saints, (for tares will be always springing up amongst the wheat till the time of harvest,) yet, if we never keep company, but are shy and ashamed of the despised children of God, it is a certain sign we have not yet experimentally learned Jesus, or received him into our hearts. My dear friends, be not deceived: if we are friends to the bridegroom, we shall be friends to the children of the bridegroom. Saul, as soon as he was filled with the Holy Ghost, “was certain days with the disciples that were at Damascus.”
But who can tell what joy these disciples felt when Saul came amongst them " I suppose holy Ananias introduced him. Methinks I see the once persecuting zealot, when they came to salute him with a holy kiss, throwing himself upon each of their necks, weeping over them with floods of tears, and saying, “O my brother, O my sister, Can you forgive me? Can you give such a wretch as I the right hand of fellowship, who intended to drag you behind me bound unto Jerusalem!” Thus, I say, we may suppose Saul addressed himself to his fellow disciples; and I doubt not but they were as ready to forgive and forget as Ananias was, and saluted him with the endearing title of brother Saul. Lovely was this meeting; so lovely, that it seemed Saul continued certain days with them, to communicate experiences, and to learn the way of God more perfectly, to pray for a blessing on his future ministry, and to praise Christ Jesus for what he had done for their souls. Saul, perhaps, had sat certain years at the feet of Gamaliel, but undoubtedly learnt more these certain days, than he had learnt before in all his life. It pleases me to think how this great scholar is transformed by the renewing of his mind: what a mighty change was here ! That so great a man as Saul was, i. as to his station in life, and internal qualifications, and such a bitter enemy to the christians; for him, I say, to go and be certain days with the people of this mad way, and to sit quietly, and be taught of illiterate men, as many of these disciples we may be sure were, what a substantial proof was this of the reality of his conversion
What a hurry and confusion may we suppose the chief priests now were in ' I warrant they were ready to cry out, what! is he also deceived ? As for the common people, who knew not the law and are accursed, for them to be carried away, is no such wonder; but for a man bred up at the feet of Gamaliel, for such a scholar, such an enemy to the cause as Saul; for him to be led away with a company of silly, deceived men and women, surely it is impossible. We cannot believe it. But Saul soon convinces them of the reality of his becoming a fool for Christ's sake. For straightway, instead of going to deliver the letters from the high priests, as they expected, in order to bring the disciples that were at Damascus bound to Jerusalem, “he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.” This was another proof of his being converted. He not only conversed with christians in private, but he preached Christ publicly in the synagogues. Especially, he insisted on the divinity of our Lord, proving, notwithstanding his state of humiliation, that he was really the Son of God. But why did Saul preach Christ thus? Because he had felt the power of Christ upon his own soul. And here is the reason why Christ is so seldom preached, and his divinity so slightly insisted on in our synagogues, because the generality of those that pretend to preach him, never felt a saving work of conversion upon their own souls. How can they preach, unless they are first taught of, and then sent by God? Saul did not preach Christ before he knew him; no more should any one else. An unconverted minister, though he could speak with the tongues of men and angels, will be but as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal to those whose senses are exercised to discern spiritual things. Ministers that are unconverted, may talk and declaim of Christ, and prove from books that he is the Son of God; but they cannot preach with the demonstration of the Spirit and with power, unless they preach from experience, and have had a proof of his divinity, by a work of grace wrought upon their own souls. God forgive those who lay hands on an unconverted man, knowing that he is such : I would not do it for a thousand worlds. Lord Jesus, keep thy own faithful servants pure, and let them not be then partakers of other men's sins! Such an instance as was Saul's conversion, we may be assured, must make a great deal of noise; and therefore, no wonder we are told, ver. 21. “But all that heard him were amazed, and said, Is not this he that destroyed them who called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” Thus it will be with all that appear publicly for Jesus Christ; and it is as impossible for a true christian to be hid, as a city built upon a hill. Brethren, if you are faithful to, you must be reproached and have remarks made on you for Christ; especially if you have been remarkably wicked before your conversion. Your friends say, is not this he, or she, who a little while ago would run to as great excess of riot and vanity as the worst of us all? What has turned your brain Or if you have been close, false, formal hypocrites, as Saul was, they will wonder that you should be so deceived, as to think you were not in a safe state before. No doubt, numbers were surprised to hear Saul, who was touching the law blameless, affirm that he was in a damnable condition, (as in all probability he did) a few days before. Brethren, you must expect to meet with many such difficulties as these. The scourge of the tongue is generally the first cross we are called to bear for the sake of Christ. Let not, therefore, this move you : It did not intimidate, no, it rather encouraged Saul. . . Says the text, “But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.” Opposition never yet did, nor ever will hurt a sincere convert. Nothing like opposition to make the man of God perfect. None but a hireling, who careth not for the sheep, will be affrighted at the approach or barking of wolves. Christ's ministers are as bold as lions. It is not for such men as they to flee. And therefore (that I may draw towards a conclusion) let the ministers and disciples of Christ learn from Saul, not to fear men or their revilings; but, like him, increase in strength, the more wicked men endeavor to weaken their hands. We cannot be christians without being opposed. No ; disciples in general must suffer; ministers in particular must suffer great things. But let not this move any of us from our steadfastness in the gospel. He that stood by and strengthened Saul, will also stand by and strengthen us. He is a God mighty to save all that put their trust in him. If we look up with an eye of faith, we, as well as the first martyr St. Stephen, may see Jesus standing at the right hand of God, ready to assist and protect us. Though the Lord's seat is in heaven, yet he has respect to his saints in an especial manner, when suffering here on earth. Then the Spirit of Christ and of glory rests upon their souls. And, if I may speak my own experience, “I never enjoy more rich communications from God, than when despised and rejected of men for the sake of Jesus Christ.” However little they may design it, my enemies are my greatest friends. What I most fear, is a calm; but the enmity which is in the hearts of natural men against Christ, will not suffer them to be quiet long. No ; as I hope the work of God will increase, so the rage of men and devils will increase also. Let us put on, therefore, the whole armor of God. Let us not fear the face of men. Let us fear him only who can destroy both body and soul in hell. I say unto you, let us fear him alone. You see how soon God can stop the fury of his enemies. You have just now heard of a proud, powerful zealot stopped in his full career, struck down to the earth with a light from heaven, converted by the almighty power of efficacious grace, and thereupon zealously promoting, nay, resolutely suffering for, the faith which once with threatenings and slaughters he endeavored to destroy. Let this teach us to pity and pray for our Lord's most inveterate enemies. Who knows, but in answer thereunto, our Lord may give them repentance unto life? Most think, that Christ had respect to Stephen's prayer, when he converted Saul. Perhaps for this reason God suffers his adversaries to go on, that his goodness and power may shine more bright in their conversion. But let not the persecutors of Christ take encouragement from this to continue in their opposition. Remember, though Saul was converted, yet the high priest and Saul's companions, were left dead in trespasses and sins. If this should be your case, you will of all men be most miserable. For persecutors have the lowest place in hell. And, if Saul was struck to the earth by a light from heaven, how will you be able to stand before Jesus Christ, when he comes in terrible majesty to take vengeance on all those who have persecuted his gospel? Then the question, “Why persecuted thou me?” will cut you through and through. The secret enmity of your hearts shall be then detected before men and angels, and you shall be doomed to dwell in the blackness of darkness for evermore. Kiss the Son therefore, lest he be angry: For even you may yet find mercy, if you believe on the Son of God. Though you persecute him, yet he will be your Jesus. I cannot despair of any of you, when I find a Saul among the disciples at Damascus. What though your sins are as scarlet, the blood of Christ shall wash them as white as snow. Having much to be forgiven, despair not; only believe, and like Saul, of whom I have now been speaking, love much. He counted himself the chiefest sinner of all, and therefore labored more abundantly than all. Who is there among you fearing the Lord! Whose hearts hath the Lord now opened to hearken to the voice of his poor unworthy servant Surely the Lord will not let me preach in vain. Who is the happy soul that is this day to be washed in the blood of the Lambo Will no poor sinner take encouragement from Saul to come to Jesus Christ? You are all thronging round, but which of you will touch the Lord Jesus? What a comfort will it be to Saul, and to your own