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THE PERSECUTOR CONVERTED.

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of Saul of Tarsus, than to dwell on the threatenings and slaughter against the doctrines it so clearly establishes. Per-disciples of the Lord Jesus," could not haps the reader will think the moral bear the idea of their escaping the rod stands before the tale: be it so. of persecution. Like a ravenous wolf he mind of the writer has been struck with panted for their blood, and wished that the exhibition the narrative affords of like their great Master, they might be the power and sovereignty of Divine deprived of life. He had heard Stephen grace; he fears the subject is not made with his dying breath address Christ as sufficiently prominent, nor often enough God, and he probably longed to shew brought forward by some, who, how- that Jesus had not the power to deliver ever firmly they believe the doctrine, his followers from the hands of their seem to fear that its exhibition would persecutor. Influenced by these feelings produce unhappy consequences; and he he went to the high priests, and enwas unwilling to reserve for his last treated letters from them to Damascus, lines a subject, that cannot be dwelt on giving him authority to go there with a with too much delight; and which, chosen band of men, furious against while it glorifies the God we serve, is so the Christians as himself, and bring the eminently calculated to foster humility offenders, both men and women, to and every Christian grace. Jerusalem. He would persecute the helpless, the delicate female, as well as the more robust and hardy man; he would drag both before the tribunal of blood, in the city near which their Lord had suffered, and where only they could be sentenced to death. One thing alone to all human appearance could lead them to hope for deliverance from his rageto blaspheme the holy name by which they were called-to curse that Jesus, by whose death they had been blest with life. Who could have thought that such a man as this could have become a humble follower of the Lord Jesus? But my thoughts," saith Jehovah, “are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." The first," says the Saviour, "shall be last, and the last first."

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Persecution, as we have seen in the case of Stephen, was the lot of the primitive church. Saul of Tarsus, a man little in stature and in bodily strength, was yet filled with fury towards the believers of the new doctrine. He is first introduced to our notice as being present at Stephen's death, and guarding the clothes of those who stoned that holy man. Ah! thou persecutor, little dost thou think that this conduct will cost thee many a pang of heart, and many a bitter tear. Saul was a young man of an interesting character; his family was respectable, his talents were of the first order, and his attainments considerable. He had acquired much knowledge in his native town, and was now completing his studies under the eminent Doctor Gamaliel, at Jerusalem. His prospect of the acquirement of fame, and of rising high in the scale of society was unclouded; and being a Jew of the strictest class, he was highly esteemed by the Sanhedrim, who still in religious matters possessed power over all the Jews both in and out of Palestine, who chose to submit to their government, which was very generally, if not universally done.

Many of the disciples of Jesus, actuated by the love of life, and anxious to extend the triumphs of truth, as well as to obey the commands of their Lord, having been persecuted in the city of Jerusalem, fled to Damascus: Aretas the Governor of which, had shewn many signs of being favourable to them. But Saul, whose heart was filled with rage towards these unoffending persons, and who seemed to maintain his very life by persecution, who "breathed out

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Nor were the means employed by the God of heaven to change the heart of Saul, less remarkable than the choice of the person on whom they were exerted. He sets out from Jerusalem all intent on the object to which he has devoted himself, verily thinking that he is doing God service," to whom, perhaps, he has even bowed the knee in gratitude for the task in which he is employed. He passes along the road, encouraging his attendants to activity and persever ance in the work; the news has travelled before them, and Damascus is filled with anxious expectation of his approach; the Jews impatiently waiting for authority to commence their persecutions against the followers of Jesus, while the Christians with spirits much

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perturbed are settling their temporal | injure my cause; why then listen to the concerns, commending their souls to voice of depravity, or the language of God, and preparing for death. He has prejudice? Why hasten headlong to almost reached the city, when suddenly ruin?" O what power does Jesus poshis attention is arrested by a great and sess over the heart of man! No sooner miraculous light, far more glorious and does he propose this question, than the resplendent than that of the sun. Struck strongest conviction seizes the mind of with astonishment he falls to the ground. the persecutor: "And he, trembling Never before was he seized with such a and astonished, said, Lord, what wilt trembling; never before did his heart thou have me to do?" How is his pride thus beat, or was his whole system thus humbled, his heart softened; how subunnerved. His feelings, he knows not missive to the will he has so long opposhow or why, undergo a complete revo- ed! How anxious to obey the Nazarene lution. Astonished at the sublime and he had hitherto persecuted, and whose imposing scenery by which he is sur- cause he had resolved, if possible, to rounded, he waits in anxious suspense destroy! What a change does the grace for some voice that might explain the of God make in the heart if a man! He mysterious phenomena around him. At becomes a new creature in Christ length he is addressed, "Saul, Saul, why Jesus; old things pass away, and behold persecutest thou me?" Jesus knew him, all things become new." Satisfied that and was not indifferent to the business the voice he hears is that of Christ, in in which he had engaged. This sublime what a child-like spirit does Paul receive language is that of expostulation; he his word. He sees at once the littleness does not with the terrific voice of thun of the world, the folly of persecution, der reproach him for his conduct, and and the blessedness of those who believe sentence him, as he deserved, to eternal in Jesus. wrath; but he condescends to reason with the sinner, and asks the grounds of his conduct. O if every persecutor was obliged to answer this question, what emotions would it excite in many a bosom! Light beams on the mind of Saul, yet he needs farther information, and he tremblingly asks, "Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." What a communication was this to Saul! How does Jesus here shew his union to his people: he, the Head of his church, was in heaven, but he was persecuted in his members on earth; and inasmuch as it was done unto them, he viewed it as done to himself. How plain the revelation he makes, "I am Jesus!" The same Jesus who was crucified on Calvary; Jesus whose name thou hast hated-whose cause thou hast opposed. What concern does he shew for Saul! "Why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." The allusion is to the goads with which cattle were driven; the goad was thrust into their sides, like a spur into the side of a horse, and to resist the goad was only to increase their own sufferings. It is as though the Saviour had said, "I have given thee a thousand proofs of the Divinity of my Mission, and the truth of my religion; to resist is only to make thyself miserable, it cannot really

When Saul makes the interesting enquiry, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do!" the heart of the Saviour melts with pity, and he gives him the instruction he so much needs. He does not, as one might expect, leave him long in anxious doubt and suspense, but he sends him into the city of Damascus, where he should find one who would tell him the way of salvation. He continues his journey, but O how changed the state of his mind! he intended to have entered the city as the persecutor of the Christians, but he comes ardently praying to be one of their number. Three days is he in a state of blindness caused by the glory of the vision he had seen; thus effectually was his pride subdued, and thus by reflection, fasting, and prayer, was his mind prepared for the communication of knowledge which the Saviour had promised to make; and during this period some have thought he saw the vision of which he speaks to the Corinthians, (2 Cor. xii.) Nor was it possible for Saul or his companions otherwise to account for the change he felt, and the light they all saw, and the sound indistinctly heard, even by his companions, than of its being lous.

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It is a circumstance well worthy of our remark, that the blessed God fre quently employs instruments to accomplish his most important purposes that

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THE PERSECUTOR CONVERTED.

we should judge the most unlikely. When Israel was to be delivered from Egypt, he employed-not a prince or a warrior, but called Moses from the land of Midian. When he would give his people a king after his own heart, he refuses the men whom the prophet judged most eligible, and called a little David from the sheepfold. When the Saviour would appoint heralds of his Gospel through the world, he selects not the great or the learned, but fishermen and tentmakers; and now when Saul prays, and Jesus appoints a messenger of mercy to him, he sends not an apostle, but Ananias, of whose ministry we have never heard, and who certainly had not risen in the Christian church to any eminent station. This arrangement of the blessed God tends to encourage our humility, while it strikingly illustrates his own wisdom and power.

Nor is it less worthy of observation, that when the servants of God are clearly called to the discharge of important duties, they are too apt to frame excuses why they should decline performing them. Thus did Moses and Jeremiah, and thus did Ananias. Perhaps each of these cases, a sense of their unworthiness operated strongly on their minds; but do we not also see in them a portion of pride? Had they forgotten that what they had to do was merely as instruments, and that all power came from their great Master, who was glorified by the very circumstance that caused their reluctance? Let us never be deterred from the path of duty, bewe feel that we are sinners. Humility itself, all lovely and amiable as it is, sins when it leads us to disobedience.

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165 submission to the government of Jesus, and of attachment to his cause, to be baptized, and thus solemnly dedicated to the service of him whom he had so much hated. Such is the power of the grace of God, that it thus effectually changes the heart.

And what is the effect of this change of views and of feelings? "Paul," says the excellent Hannah More," is a wonderful instance of the power of faith. That he should be so entirely carried out of his natural character; that he, who by his persecuting spirit, courted the favour of the intolerant Sanhedrim, should be brought to act in direct opposition to their prejudices, supported by no human protection, sustained alone by the grace of him, whom he had so stoutly opposed; that his confidence in God should rise in proportion to his opposition from man; that the whole bent of his soul should be set directly contrary to his natural propensities, the whole force of his mind and actions be turned in full opposition to his temper, education, society, and habits; that not only his affections should be diverted into a new channel, but that his judg ment and understanding should sail in the newly directed current; that his bigotry should be transformed into candour, his fierceness into gentleness, hist untameable pride into charity, his intolerance into meekness-can all this be accounted on any principle inherent in human nature, on any principle uninspired by the Spirit of God?

"After this instance, and blessed be God, the instance though superior, is not solitary; the change, though miraculous in this case, is not less certain in others-shall the doctrine so exemplified continue to be the butt of ridicule? While the scoffing infidel virtually puts the renovation of the human heart nearly on a footing with the metamorphosis of Ovid, or the transmigrations of Pythagoras, let not the timid Christian be discouraged; let not his faith be shaken, though he may find that the principle to which he has been taught to trust his eternal happiness, is considered as false by him who has not examined into its truth; that the change, of which the real believer exhibits so convincing an evidence, is decided as absurd by the philosophical sceptictreated as chimerical by the superficial reasoner, or silently suspected as incredible by the decent moralist."

But when the fears of Ananias, generated by unbelief, are removed, with what pleasure does he visit the man who is now divested of his persecuting disposition, and who possesses his right mind. With what affection and delight does he address him as a brother; how does his heart glow with pleasure as he tells him, that the same Jesus who had appeared to him in the way, had now sent him that he might receive his sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost:" what unspeakable joy would fill the heart of each as the thick film (caused by the glorious vision he had seen, so operating on the organs of sight as to produce blindness,) fell from his eyes; and when Saul wishes, as a proof of his

Strengthened for the work in which he had to engage, the new convert repairs to the disciples of Jesus, who had been accustomed to tremble at his name, and tells them of the mighty revolution that had taken place in his mind. He begins boldly to preach the exalted character of Jesus in the synagogues of the Jews, exciting among them the most astonished feelings, and leading them to enquire what could have produced so astonishing a change. How devoted are his energies-how strong his arguments-how warm his affections in the holy cause; we wonder not at the opposition which his zeal created, or to his being compelled to flee for his life. He shrinks not, however, from difficulty, but goes to Arabia on the same errand, and in three years returns to Jerusalem, where at length he is numbered with the apostles.

warrant to apply to Christ. This is the
doctrine that Paul himself raised from
the premises 1 Tim. i. 16. "Howbeit
for this cause I obtained mercy, that in
me first Jesus Christ might shew forth
all long suffering, for a pattern to them
which should hereafter believe on him
to life everlasting."-That in our ad-
dresses to sinners we should imitate the
Lord Jesus, and kindly expostulate with
them on the evil consequences which
sin brings on themselves. This often
melts the heart, and produces repent-
ance.-That when we are called to the
discharge of duty, we ought not like
Ananias, to refuse to perform it, either
on account of the sinfulness of others,
or our own weakness, but to
6< go forth
in the strength of the Lord God."-That
we ought not, when evidence is offered
of a change of heart on the part of our
fellow-men, to refuse to credit it. Elijah
acted wrong, when he indulged a sus-
picion that all Israel were gone after
idols; and the disciples of Jesus acted
wrong, when they were afraid to receive
Saul on a profession of his faith in
Christ.-And, finally, we are by this

It does not comport with the design of this paper to dwell on the subsequent labours, the sufferings, and the success of the great Apostle of the Gentiles. "Having had much forgiven him, he loved much." Called of God to the

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arduous, but honourable task of "preach-account encouraged to pray and labour
ing Christ among the heathen, he con- for the conversion of the worst of sin-
ferred not with flesh and blood," but ners, seeing that God has sometimes
cheerfully embarked in the work. He selected from them the brightest of
was not ignorant of the innumerable saints.
J. B.
sufferings and reproaches to which he
would be exposed; he saw the prisons
he must visit, the opposition he must
encounter, and the death to which he
must submit; but "none of these things
moved him" from his purpose. He
laboured and was crowned with success;
he bore with patience the rage of his
enemies, and the unkindness of his
friends; and at last laid down his life
in the cause, to the promotion of which
the larger portion of it had been devoted.

To the Editor of the New Evan. Magazine,
SIR,

The reply of your correspondent D. p. 106 in your last Magazine, to the Query of "A Baptist," p. 95, in your publication for the preceding month, will, I hope, be seriously considered by all your readers, who, as members of Christian churches, are called upon to give their vote when persons are proposed for admission to their communion, as it points out the rule by which the first Christians acted relative to the subject of enquiry, and proves that the same law of Christ by which they were governed, is also binding upon us.

To bring our remarks to a close, it is only needful to observe, that the subject suggests that persons may have a confused knowledge of religion, who never heartily receive it. The companions of Saul saw the light, and heard something of the voice, but they produced no salutary effects on their minds. They bore evidence to Paul's sincerity I perfectly agree with your correspon in his profession of a change, but no dent in the sentiments he has expressed; change took place in their own hearts. and entertain the hope that what he That divine grace in the conversion of has written will do something toward sinners is sovereign and free: triumph-correcting that unscriptural delay in the ing over every difficulty, and given with-reception of persons seeking admission out qualifications; and that therefore to the churches, which is, no doubt, the vilest of sinners have a complete rather prevalent in some of them. Yet,

167 on the part of the converts after their believing the Gospel; and, consequently, no room for enquiry as to the effects of their faith in a change of character.

I fear there is an evil relative to the reception of persons to Christian fellowship, that is much more prevalent in the churches, than the delay complained of by your correspondent, and much more fruitful of distressing and pernicious consequences, as it not only admits to fellowship many persons who very soon fall into the gross neglect of public worship, and are indisposed to submission to that discipline which is of divine appointment, but is also the principal source of those numerous exclusions from communion, which take place in almost every church that, in this respect, has a good degree of regard to the authority of Christ, and the purity of Christian communion. The evil to which I refer is, that of receiving persons to fellowship, without a due examination of them as to their knowledge of the Gospel, or of Christ and the way of salvation by him. As far as it respects their knowledge, they are, in too many instances, received upon the ground of some general declarations of their faith in Jesus as the Saviour, and their hope of salvation through him; but they are not questioned respecting their views of the person, atonement, &c. of the Redeemer. The consequence of this is, that many are admitted in a state of gross ignorance concerning the salvation revealed in the Gospel. Your correspondent D. observes, Nothing more was requisite in that age of purity, than a simple confession of faith in the Redeemer, to entitle an individual to that sacred ordinance." This is, substantially, true; and yet upon this true statement, churches may found a practice leading to the admission of many persons destitute of scriptural and saving knowledge. Had your correspondent stated particularly, what he deemed to be "a simple confession of faith in the Redeemer," and have represented it as affording evidence of the knowledge of his person, atonement, &c. it would have superseded the necessity of these reap-marks. But he has left his statement too naked and vague to correct, in any degree, the evil to which I am referring. Should it be maintained that such general confessions of faith as, "I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and the only Saviour, and that he died for the

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ON THE ADMISSION OF MEMBERS INTO CHURCHES.

for truth's sake, it must be admitted,
that there are churches who receive
applicants for fellowship immediately
upon their asking it, if there be no ob-
jection arising either from manifest
ignorance or known immorality; and
that in the greater number of churches,
in the absence of these causes of delay,
applicants are received within a month
from the time of their first application:
as the plan that most generally prevails
(arising from the monthly observance
of the Lord's supper) is, to propose can-
didates at one church meeting, and to
receive them at that of the following
month. It is not, I conceive, every in-
stance of delay that is opposed to the
rule of the New Testament. In the
time of the apostles, converts to the
faith of Christ came forward to be bap-
tized, and to unite themselves with a
church immediately upon their receiving
the Gospel; and we have ground to be-
lieve that those to whom they applied
for these purposes, complied with their
wishes without hesitation. But, at the
present time, in this country, converts
are not so ready to make an open pro-
fession of their faith in Christ by attend-
ing to Christian ordinances. Some of
them, from various causes, put it off
for
years, and most of them for several
months and the consequence of this is,
that when they do apply for baptism and
admission to a church, it is known from
their own statement, that months or
years have elapsed since they first be-
lieved. Now, under such circumstances,
would not a literal observance of the
rule observed by the first Christians
under different circumstances, lead to the
admission of persons who must be ex-
cluded as soon as their character shall
become known to the church?

:

Several instances have come under my own observation, of persons applying for admission, whose conduct was found upon enquiry, to be such as amounted to a denial of the reality of their professed faith in Christ. I conceive, therefore, that churches do not depart from the rule observed by the first Christians, when they take as much time as is necessary in order to make enquiry respecting the character of plicants, who represent themselves as having believed in Christ for a considerable length of time previous to their application. If the first churches received professed converts without any delay, it was because there was no delay

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