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“ often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, “ in cold and nakedness d.” His spirit, under all these trials, was invincible. But it was a new spirit, a new kind of resolution, which engaged him in this warfare. It was the spirit of genuine charity, which now urged him to suffer, as well as to contend, in bringing others to the knowledge of the truth. He who had lately “breathed out threaten
ings and slaughter,” now taught and practised the love that “ beareth all things, be“ lieveth all things, hopeth all things, en“ dureth all things.” With his zeal, his learning also took a new direction. His profound knowledge of the Jewish Law enabled him to display, with so much greater effect, the harmony betwixt the Old and the New Testament; and to this purpose he applied it with eminent success. Though he determined to “know nothing but Jesus Christ, “ and him crucified";”—making that the basis of all his instructions and exhortations ;—yet the whole force of his reasoning powers and his richest stores of scriptural information were continually brought forth, to establish and confirm that fundamental article of the Christian faith.
d 2 Cor. xi. 23–27.
e 1 Cor. xiii. 7.
fi Cor. ii. 2.
From this view of the Apostle's character and conduct, it will readily appear that he was neither deceived himself, nor deceived others; but that, to use his own expressions, he spake “ the words of truth and sober
ness :”—of truth; therefore, not of an impostor :-of soberness; therefore, not of an enthusiast.
1. What traces, indeed, do we discover of imposture, in any part of his history or deportment? The same proofs to the contrary appear in his case, as in the rest of the Apostles ; with some peculiar circumstances of additional weight. His conduct in this sudden change was evidently contrary to all worldly views of ambition or of gain. Instead of the triumphant persecutor, he yielded to become the victim of persecution. Instead of seeking to establish a reputation among his countrymen, or among the heathen to whom he preached, for learning and religion; he became the object of their scorn, as one no better than “ the filth of the earth, “ and the offscouring of all things $.” Instead of obtaining the applause of the sanhedrim and the court, he was derided as a madman, or stoned as a blasphemer. His earthly career was henceforth to proceed through toil
g 1 Cor. iv. 14.
and trouble, contempt and obloquy, pains and perils, to the bloody crown of martyrdom. Surely, some strange, some unheard-of spring of action must be discovered in the human mind, before we can pass sentence of imposture on conduct like this!
But, could even this be supposed, where were the means, where the agents, for carrying the imposture into effect ?
Here is a plain and simple narrative, thrice repeated by the Evangelist, (twice as it was recited by Paul himself,) of a noon-day occurrence, in the presence of a multitude of witnesses, not one of whom gainsays a tittle of the evidence, or throws a shadow of suspicion on any one of its circumstances. Saul is a notorious persecutor of the faith. He is furnished with authority from its adversaries to root out and to destroy it. He is accompanied by a chosen band, to carry this into effect. They witness the supernatural phenomenon, and are smitten to the earth with terror : but Saul alone is selected as the object of this Divine visitation. Were his companions, then, the persons to invent, or to abet the deceit? Did they join with him in preaching Jesus, or in suffering for his name's sake? Not a trace of any such conversion appears.—Had the Apostles then, or some other of the disciples, any concern in the transaction ? Had they formed the strange design of bringing over this implacable adversary to their cause? What bribes had they to offer? what allurements to hold out ? what arguments or persuasives to disarm the fury of this oppressor ?--Not only is the sacred history silent as to any such coalition, but refutes it in every respect. The disciples, says St. Luke, were all scattered “ abroad throughout the regions of Judæa " and Samaria, except the Apostlesh;” and these remained at Jerusalem, while Saul was spreading terror among the faithful on his way to Damascus.
The disciples, it appears, were every where terrified at the very name of Saul. Ananias, when directed in a vision to present himself to the new convert, partook of this general dread, and not without reluctance obeyed the heavenly warning. Even after many days, when Paul had made proof of his ministry at Damascus and returned to Jerusalem, desiring to join himself to the disciples, “ they were all afraid of him, “ and believed not that he was a disciple," till Barnabas testified to the certainty of his conversion. Consider again, under any possible supposition of deceit in this transaction, what the Apostle became pledged to do, as well as to suffer, in consequence of his conversion. He was to convict himself of the most flagrant errors, and to turn others from that
h Acts viii. 1.
i Acts ix. 26.
very blindness and infatuation under which he had so long laboured. Without derogating from the Divine character of the Jewish dispensation, he was to shew the error of still adhering to it in opposition to the Christian faith. He was to reconcile interests seemingly the most discordant, and to unite both Jew and Gentile in a persuasion the most repugnant to their respective tenets.
Observe, then, how he shaped his conduct in conformity with this obligation ; how he combated prejudices similar to those he had himself recently entertained; how unreservedly he declared “ the whole counsel of “ Godk;” and, while he proved by irrefragable arguments the cessation of the Jewish Law, and its insufficiency without the Gospel; yet unfolded its real design, confirmed its authority, and bore the most ample and unequivocal testimony to it, as connected both with the earlier and later revelations, each of which had issued from the same infinite wisdom.
k Acts xx. 27.