« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
communicated to the new converts the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, and thus the second Christian church was planted. Soon after this, we find Philip, by divine direction, meeting with the Ethiopian eunuch, to whom he communicated the knowledge of Christ, and baptized him into the faith of it, by which means the gospel would be carried down to Ethiopia, and the prediction of the Psalmist consequently fulfilled, “ Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands unto God."*
Philip, on returning from this interview with the eunuch, called at Azotus (the famous Ashdod of the Philistines)t a town on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean sea, and from thence passed through several cities that lay in his way, preaching the gospel in each of them, until he arrived at Cæsarea, at that time the metropolis of Palestine, and residence of the Roman governor, where he appears to have afterwards settled for life. I
In all this time the malice of Saul was raging with unabated fury. Intimation had probably been given him, that many of the persecuted disciples had taken refuge at Damascus. This was a most noble city, situated at the foot of mount Lebanon. $ It had formerly been the
* Psalm 1xviii. 31.
+ 1 Sam. vi. 17.
Acts xxi. 8, 9.
$ So Milton, in reference to the Syrian idol, whose temple was fixed in that city, thus writes;
“ Rimmon, whose delightful seat
Par. Lost. B. I. 1. 467, &e. Mr. Maundrell describes it as “sitnated on an even plain of so great extent, that one can but just discern the mountains which compass it on the farther side. It stands on the west side of the plain, about two miles distant from the head of the river Barrady which waters it. It is of a long strait figure, about two miles in extent, adorned with mosques and stee.
capital of Syria, and was still very considerable. Josephus says it abounded with Jews, and in one place mentions that the inhabitants, shut up in their baths and destroyed, in one hour, ten thousand of them : * and upon another occasion he represents the Damascenes as having murdered eighteen thousand Jews with their wives and children, without the least colour or pretext. f To this city Saul petitioned the high priest to grant him letters of authority to go and search the synagogues for the disciples of Jesus, and that, if be found any, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Caiaphas was still in office, and, no doubt, every way as anxious as Saul himself could be to stop the growing heresy. The request was cheerfully complied with; and, in the capacity of chief inquisitor, and breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the Christians, Saul hastened on his journey to fulfil, as he thought, the holy errand of extirpating heretics. About noon, Saul and his companions arrived in the vicinity of the city of Damascus, when suddenly there appeared to him the Schekinah, or glory of the Lord, far more bright and dazzling than the sun in his meridian splendour, and this great light from heaven shone around them. Saul was sufficiently versed in Jewish learning to recognize this as the excellent glory, and he instantly fell to the earth as one dead. But how inconceivably great must have been his astonishment to hear himself addressed by name,“ Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” And yet, if alarmed at the question, his surprise could not be diminished on asking " Who ples, and encompassed with gardens, according to computation, full thirty miles round.”—The fruit tree called the Damascene, and the flewer called the Damask rose, were transplanted from the gardens belonging to this city; and the silk and linen, known by the name of Dar, were probably the invention of its inhabitants.
An. Unio. • Wan, b. 2. ch. 20.5 2.
art thou Lord ?” to be told in reply, “ I am Jesus whom thou persecutest,--- it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." Trembling and astonished, Saul inquired, « Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?” Jesus said unto him, “ Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” And Saul arose from the earth, but the splendour of the vision had overpowered his bodily eyes, so that he was led by the hand into Damascus, where he remained three days without sight or food.
The Lord afterwards appeared in vision to a certain disciple, in Damascus, named Ananias, and directed bim where he should find Saul, and what instructions he should give him as to his future conduct, telling him that he was a chosen vessel unto him, to bear his name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel, “ for I will shew him," said the Saviour,“ how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.”* Ananias obeyed the divine command, and laid his hands on Saul, when a thick film like scales fell from bis eyes; his sight returned, his mind became tranquillized, and he was baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Thus the lately persecuting Saul was numbered with the disciples; and in a few days " he straightway preached
“ Christ in the synagogue, that he is the Son of God;" an event no less wonderful to the disciples which dwelt at Damascus than to their enemies; but “Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt there, proving that Jesus is the true Messiah.”+
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.
From the first preaching of the Gospel among the Gen
tiles, to the return of Paul and Barnabas from their first journey.
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the faith of Christ is a memorable event in the annals of the Christian church. Whether we consider the nature of the change which then passed upon his mind, the extraordinary signs which accompanied it-such as the miraculous shutting and opening of his eyes—or the astonishing effects which these things produced, we shall find something to excite our admiration, and lead us to adore the riches and sovereignty of divine grace. Such a revolution was now produced in all his sentiments and in all the springs of his life, as resembled the course of a mighty river changed from east to west by the shock of an earthquake. The supernatural signs which affected his bodily frame, shewed what befel his mind, and at the same time served to exemplify the effects which his ministry should produce among the Gentiles, unto whom Christ now sent him “ to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” *
“ When it pleased God," says he,“ who called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.”+ In that country he appears to have spent nearly the term of three years, I but the inspired historian has given us no account of the fruit of his ministry there. Our own reflections, however, may teach us to contemplate the wisdom of God, in directing the steps of Saul into Arabia, at this particular juncture of his life. His conversion to the christian faith must, in the eyes of his unbelieving countrymen, and especially of his former associates, have been in the highest degree provoking. Engaged as he had formerly been in the most active measures for de stroying the subjects of the kingdom of Christ, they must now necessarily have regarded him as a grand apostate, whose conversion tended greatly to weaken the cause in which they were so zealously engaged, while it strengthened the hands of the Christians.
But, notwithstanding the interval that had elapsed, and which, humanly speaking, might have given time for the fiercest rage to cool, Saul had no sooner returned to Damascus, than “ the Jews took counsel to kill him."* The Lord, however, opened a way for his escape. For although his adversaries had prevailed upon the governor of the city to aid them with a military force; and though centinels were placed at the gates of the city night and day to prevent his escape; his friends let him down by night through a window in a basket, by the wall of the city, and thus frustrated their malicious designs. +
Saul, upon this, went up to Jerusalem to have an interview with some of the other apostles, where he met with Peter and James, and abode with them fifteen days. It is perfectly natural to suppose that such of the disciples of Christ, in that city, as had a personal knowledge of him, and had witnessed his former persecuting zeal against them, would, if unacquainted with his conversion, take the alarm on his again appearing among them. Such, in fact, was the case; for when he at
• Acts ix, 23.
1 2 Cor. xi. 32.