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the more learned Jews believed on Jesus : Such as Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and that great company of the priests who were obedient to the faith, (Acts vi. 7.)—3. Gamaliel, Saul's master, from his great knowledge of the scriptures, seems to have thought well of the apostles, and of their doctrines, as is plain from the counsel which he gave to his brethren of the Sanhedrim, Acts v. 38. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone ; for if this counsel, or this work be of men, it will come to nought. 39. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.—How perfectly Saul was educated in the knowledge of the law of the fathers, we learn from himself, Acts xxii. 3. Born in Tarsus in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous towards God, as ye all are this day. And of his "proficiency in that kind of learning, he says, Gal. i. 14. And porofited in Judaism, above many my, equals in mine own nation, 'being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of the futhers.
Saui's parents completed his education, by having him taught the art of tent-making, Acts xviii. 3. In this they followed the manners of the Jews, with whom it was customary to teach the youth of the highest birth some mechanical employment, whereby, in cases of necessity, they might maintain themselves, without being burdensome to others. The benefit which Saul derived from this branch of his education, while he preached the gospel, will be seen afterwards.
In what year of his age Saul came to Jerusalem, and how long he continued under the tuition of Gamaliel, is not known. But from his saying, that he spent his youth among his own nation at Jerusalem, Acts xxvi. 4. it may be conjectured that he came thither early in life. And seeing in bis epistle to Philemon, which is thought to have been written A. D. 62. he calls himself Paul the aged, we cannot be much mistaken in supposing that he was then about 60 years old ; and that when our Lord began his public ministry, he was in the 26th* year of his age. Where
Seeing the vulgar æra, according to the opinion of the most learned chronologers, commenced at least two years after the birth of Christ, the year 62 of that computation, in which the epistle to Philemon is supposed to have been written, was really the 64th year from the birth of Christ. Wherefore if Paul was then 60 years old, he must have been four years younger than our Lord; and by consequence when our Lord began his ministry in the 30th year of his age, Saul was 26 complete.
Tore having finished his studies, we may suppose that he then, professed himseit a Pharisee ; of which sect also his father was, Acts xxiii. 6.-Farther, 'seeing our Lord, in the course of his ministry, attracted the attention of the whole Jewish nation, it is probable Saul's zeal for the institutions of his fathers, prompted him to join such of his sect as followed Jesus with an intention to find matter of accusation against him. And when he was tried, condemned, and put to death for calling himself Christ the Son of the blessed, this zealous young man may have been present. So that having often seen Jesus, he could know whether he who appeared to him on the road to Damascus, was really the person whom the rulers at Jerusalem had put to death, or only an impostor who personated him. However, if any one calls this conjecture in question, I will not dispute it with him.
What we certainly know from the sacred history is, that when Christ's resurrection from the dead was published in Jerusalem, the rulers were greatly offended with the preachers of that miracle ; and the rather, because they urged it as a proof that Jesus, whom God had raised from the dead, was THE CHRIST, and that he had been put to death unjustly. Wherefore, the rulers stirred up some of the most zealous members of the foreign synagogues in Jerusalem, (Proofs and Illustrations, No. 1.) to oppose them. And these zealots happening to hear Stephen, one of the seven deacons, preach, disputed with him. But Acts vi. 10. They were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. 11. Then they suborned men, which said in the hearing of the multitude before whom they disputed, and in private to the elders and scribes, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God. 12. And they stirred ap the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him and brought him to the council. 13. And set up false witnesses which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words, against this holy place, and the law. 14. For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth, whom ye put to death as a deceiver, shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. While the witnesses thus bare testimony against Stephen, 15. All that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. It seems his face shown with a glory, like that which beamed from Moses's face, when he came down from the mount. This miraculous testimony from God, the council beheld all the while Stephen spake in his own defence; and from it they might have
concluded, that the things which he spake were agreeable to God. Nevertheless when they heard them, being cut to the heart, they gnashed on him with their teeth through rage. But Stephen was miraculously supported by a sight of the glory of God, and of Jesus stand on the right hand of God. And being exceedingly affected with the sight, he told it to the council. But they stopped their ears, as afraid to hear things which they thought blasphemous, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him to death, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus (for he now saw him) receive my spirit.
In executions of this kind, it was usual for those who had borne witness against the criminal, to cast the first stone. And for that purpose, they put off their upper garments, and gave them to be kept by persons equally hearty in the prosecution with themselves. At the stoning of Stephen, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of our Saul ; by which he is pointed out, as consenting to the condemnation and punishment of that blessed martyr, Acts xxii. 20.
Stephen in his defence, having boldly asserted before the council, that Jesus was the Just One, or Christ : and that they were his betrayers and murderers ; also having called them a stiffnecked and uncircumcised generation, whose fathers persecuted the prophets, and slew them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One, and who by no means observed the law, of which they pretended to be so zealous ; all the council were enraged, and carried on the persecution against the church, after Stephen's death, with the utmost severity, intending utterly to extirpate the whole sect : Acts viii. 1. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church that was at Jerusalem : and they were all scattered abroad, the preachers and the chief brethren were scattered abroad, throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.-One of the main instruments in this persecution was our Saul. 3. Who made havoc of the church, entering into every house where the disciples assembled for the worship of God, and haling men and women, committed them to firison. It seems the chief priests had given him a commission to search them out, and imprison them, that they might be pun. ished. So he tells us himself, Acts xxvi. 10. Which thing I also did at Jerusalem, and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests. The same thing he affirmed in the hearing of the multitude, Acts xxii. 4. I persecuted this way unto death, binding and delivering into prison,
both men and women.-The Jews were now at liberty to put the disciples to death, because between the removal of P. Pilate, and the accession of Herod Agrippa, in the 2d year of the Emperor Claudius, who gave him all the dominions of his grandfather Herod the Great, there was no Procurator in Judea to restrain their intemperate zeal.
In employing Saul, as the instrument of their malice against the saints, the rulers did not make a wrong choice. For though he had received abundance of Jewish literaiure from his master Gamaliel, he had acquired nothing of his moderation ; but executed his commission with such severity, that the disciples were forced to take shelter in foreign cities. But even there they did not long remain in safety : for, Acts ix. 1. Saul yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the dis iples of the Lord, went unto the high-riest, 2. And desired of him letters 10 Da. mascus, to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. It seems the synagogues in foreign parts, had a jurisdiction over their own members, (No. II.) in the exercise of which they were sometimes directed, as on this occasion, by the high-priest and council at Jerusalem.--At this time there were several synagogues in Damascus; so that it was full of Jews; and many of them had enibraced the gospel. Wherefore, although Damascus was at a great distance from Jerusalem, Saul resolved to go thither with his new commission from the high-priest: And being joined by assistants equally bigotted and furious with himself, the news of their coming reached Damascus before they arrived, and greatly terrified the saints, Acts ix. 14. 21.
But when this company of persecutors, full of wrath against the disciples, drew nigh to the city, the Lord Jesus appeared to Saul from heaven, surrounded with a light inexpressibly resplendent, which was seen also by Saul's companions : Acts ix. 3. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly there shined round him a light from heaven. Saul himself giving an account of this circumstance to Agrippa, says, Acts xxvi. 13. At mid-day, 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. Luke proceeds thus ; 4. And he fell to the earth. But Saul himself in relating this circumstance says, Acts xxvi. 14. And when we were all fallen to the earth. They all fell prostrate, from fear or reverence, supposing the super
natural light which they saw to be an indication of the appearance of some divine person : I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me ? By speaking thus, Jesus declared that he considered whatever was done to his people as done to himself. Acts ix. 5. And he said, Who art thou Lord ? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest : It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. Thou wilt find it hard for thee, to accomplish thy malicious designs against me. In the account which Saul gave of this conversation to Agrippa, he says, that after speaking the words last mentioned, Jesus ordered him to rise and stand upon his feet.'Acts xxvi. 15. I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 16. But rise, and stand upon thy feet. Jesus intended that Saul should see him, and be convinced that the person who now spake to him was Jesus of Nazareth whom the chief priests had crucified at Jerusalem ; and that he was really risen from the dead, as his disciples affirmed. We must therefore believe, that in obedience to this order, Saul arose from the earth, and with his bodily eyes beheld Jesus standing in the way before him (No. III.) But being unable to bear the dazzling splendour of his appearance, he fell to the earth a second time; or he may have put himself into that posture, as worshipping Jesus, whom he now knew to be Christ the son of God, (Acts ix. 20.) While in this humble posture, Acts ix. 6. He trembling and astonished said, Lord, what will thou have me to do ? By professing a willingness to do whatever Jesus should command him, Saul declared that he had now altered his opinion of Jesus of Nazareth ; and had laid aside his enmity against his disciples.-Luke has related none of the things, which on this occasion Jesus said to Saul, except that he was to go into the city, and there it should be told him what he was to do; so that from his account of the matter, we could not have understood that Saul at this time was made an apostle by Christ, and commissioned to preach to the Gentiles. But Saul himself hath supplied that defect; for he told Agrippa, that when Jesus ordered him to rise and stand upon
his feet, he added, Acts xxvi. 16. 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 will appear unto thee; 17. Delivering thee from the people of the Jews, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I now 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