Page images
PDF
EPUB

Julian Pe

6 And he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what Near Dariod, 4748. wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, mascus. Vulgar Æra, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

35.

7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man 63.

8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes
were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the
hand, and brought him into Damascus.

thority than that of Scripture itself. Moses uses it when he
says Jeshurun waxed fat (et recalcitravit,) and kicked against
the law, (Deut. xxxii. 15.) and also God himself, (1 Sam. ii. 29.)
why kick ye against my sacrifices? The clause is retained in
the Vulgate, the Arabic, Ethiopic, and Armenian versions, al-
though it is not inserted in others, or in the Greek Manuscripts.
Griesbach likewise rejects it.

63 This verse bears the appearance of differing with the parallel
passage, chap. xxii. 9. where it is said that the men that were
with me heard not the voice. Dr. Hammond remarks, that the
word pvn signifies thunder, and he would reconcile the two
texts by reading "They that were with me heard the voice of
the thunder, but heard not the voice of him that spake unto me.”
The word oovn is often used in this sense in the Old Testament,
(Exod. ix. 23. 27. 33, 34. xx. 18. Ps. xviii. 13, &c. &c.)

In this verse the word seems to be used in the same sense as chap. ii. 2. (see the note in loc.) with reference to the thunder, which usually accompanied the Bath Col, or voice from heaven; in chap. xxii. 9. it more particularly relates to the voice itself, which the attendants of St. Paul, in consequence of their alarm and confusion, did not hear, or if they did, without rightly understanding it.

Beza, Vatablus, and Clarius think that they heard Saul's voice, but not that of Christ. Dr. Benson, as aкovεiv often sig. nifies to understand, supposes these attendants were Hellenist Jews, who did not understand the Hebrew, which was the language in which Christ addressed Paul. Dr. Whitby and Dr. Doddridge, that the voice from heaven was taken for thunder. -Doddridge, vol. ii. p. 36.

For further solutions of the difficulty, see Wolfius Curæ Phil. vol. ii. p. 1138. Bishop Barrington, Dr. Weston, and others, ap. Bowyer, and the commentators.

The Jews say that God three times spoke to Moses, Aaron being by and not hearing the voice: in Egypt, Exod. vi. 28. in Mount Sinai, Num. iii. 1. and in Levit. i. 1.

The same mode of expression is used in Schemoth Rabba, sect. ii. fol. 104. 3. in Exod. ii. 2. "The angel of the Lord appeared to him." Why is it thus said so expressly x to him, because other men were with him, but none of these saw any thing but Moses only. So also in Dan. x. 7.

64 He lost his sight from the glory of that light.

Michaelis, in Richteri chirurgischer Bibliothek, b. vi. p. 732. ap. Kuinoel, relates, that an African struck with lightning lost bis sight, but recovered it suddenly.

In the Critici Sacri is a treatise on the blindness of St. Paul, considered in its origin, continuance, and cure.

Jortin remarks, that the miracle by which St. Paul was instructed and converted, has been thought by some to be of the emblematic and prophetic kind, and to indicate the future call

SAUL IS CONVERTED-CHAP. IX.

93

Julian Pe

9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did Near Daried, 4748. eat nor drink 65. Valgar Era,

35.

ing of the Jews; so that Paul the persecutor, and Paul the
apostle, was a type of his own nation."

St. Paul, though the apostle of the Gentiles, never cast off his
care for his own brethren, and always expressed himself on that
subject with the warmest affection; and he alone, of all the
writers in the New Testament, hath spoken clearly of the resto-
ration of the Jews: he earnestly wished for that happy day, and
saw it afar off, and was glad. St. Paul was extremely zealous
for the law, and a persecutor of the Christians-so were the
Jews.

St. Paul, for opposing Jesus Christ, was struck blind; but upon his repentance he received his sight-so were the Jews, for their rebellion, smitten with spiritual blindness, which shall be removed when they are received again into favour.

St. Paul was called miraculously, and by the glorious manifestation of Christ himself, and was instructed by the same Divine Master: such will perhaps be the conversion and the illumination of the Jews.

St. Paul was called the last of the apostles-the Jews will certainly enter late into the Church.

St. Paul was the most active, laborious, and successful of all the disciples: such perhaps the Jews also shall be after their conversion. But these are rather conjectures of what may be, than discoveries of what must come to pass (a).

(a) See Jortin's Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, works, vol. ii. p. 14. and Mede's works, book v. p. 891, 892. as well as book iv. epist. xvii. p. 768. Jortin does not mention Mede, who has considered the parallel at greater length.

65 From the manner in which the conversion of St. Paul is related by St. Luke, many have been led to suppose that all those who are really Christians, must receive and retain some sensible impression of their conversion; and consequently remember the exact time or moment in which it took place. Others again argue, that St. Paul was selected from the rest of mankind as Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, and the Apostles, were for the especial purpose of promoting the designs of Providence in effecting the redemption of mankind; and therefore that it affords no sanction for the expectation of any sudden or miraculous conversion for others. Both parties insist with equal carnestness and sincerity in enforcing the doctrine of Scripture, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord:" but one would look for conversion in some momentary operation of the Spirit of God, without any previous preparation in the heart or conduct of the individual; the other on the contrary would rather seek it in the study of the Scriptures, and in the dne observance of the progressive and appointed means of grace which are given to all, as necessary to salvation, and which are always attended with the influences of the Holy Spirit.

The former, who believes that God more frequently impresses the mind by some sudden impulse, does not deny that it may sometimes happen, that individuals may be so educated and brought up, that they shall be sanctified from the womb. Thus the celebrated Annesly, the non-conformist divine, declared that he never remembered to have been converted. On the other side it is equally acknowledged, that it may please the same God who miraculously converted St. Paul, to impress in the most unexpected and peculiar manner the mind of any individual, at any time it may seem good to his Providence to do so. He

mascus.

[blocks in formation]

10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus,

would not, for instance, assert that it was impossible that Con-
stantine beheld a cross, or that Colonel Gardiner heard a voice
in the air, or any other circumstance of this nature (b); but
his general belief is, that since the canon of Scripture has been
completed, the sacraments are the effectual and divinely ordained
means of grace by which the Holy Spirit is conveyed to man for
his renovation; and that sufficient evidence is given to all men
for their establishment in the faith, without any extraordinary
or preternatural interference in their favour.

Christianity, it must ever be remembered, is not a system of
theoretical opinions, but a system of positive institutions. If
so, we may expect miracles at the establishment, but not in the
continuance of the dispensation. In one sense of the word
every thing is a miracle, both in the natural and moral world.
The growth of a plant is to us an unaccountable event; but we
see that it is gradually brought to perfection, by the sun and
rain from heaven-these are the appointed laws of nature. In
the same way the divine influences of the Holy Spirit, by the
appointed means of grace, gradually operate on the heart, till
it brings forth the fruits of perfection, and the perfect man is
formed. It is certain that the great Creator of the flower or
the herb might by a word command them to grow either on
the waves of the sea, or the floor of a room, but as this would
be deviating from established laws, we do not anticipate such
an occurrence. In the same manner it is not generally to be
expected that the Almighty Creator will depart from his own
appointed means of salvation to effect the recovery of sinful
man, who refuses to be nourished by the common blessings from
on high. It is not now to be expected that the heavens will
again open, the Shechinah appear, the Bath Col be heard, or
the holy flame kindle on holy heads; these indisputable evi-
dences of divine majesty are reserved for the consummation of
all things. In the mean time, God the Creator and Saviour, who
provides for the lilies and the flowers of the field, has in his
mercy ordained provision for the soul as well as the body of
man-" My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink in-
deed." Without the care and the labour of man the food for
the body would be lost in the ground; without the use of the
revealed means of grace, the fruits of the Holy Spirit would
be looked for in vain. Break up therefore the fallow ground
of your hearts (Hosea x. 12.) for it is time to seek the Lord,
that the showers and the latter rain may not be withholden
(Jer. iv. 3.)

The real question to be decided then is, whether he is most right who expects the influences of the Spirit to be conveyed to him through the means of those solemn ordinances which God Himself has ordained, gradually accomplishing that change of heart, without which spiritual happiness cannot be attained; or whether that opinion is to be preferred, which leads to the anticipation of some sudden impression producing the same effect independent of a humble attendance on the means of grace, in obedience to the Divine will.

I am convinced, that if Christians who believe in the doctrines

Damascus.

SAUL IS BAPTIZED-CHAP. IX.

95

Julian Pe- named Ananias: and to him said the Lord in a vision, Damascus. riod, 4748. Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. ValgarÆra,

35.

of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the absolute
necessity of inward holiness, from the influences of the Divine
Spirit, as well as outward morality, were to examine impartially
some controverted logomachies, they would not so much differ.
If certain systematic words were not so frequently resorted to,
there would be much less misapprehension and bitterness. Let
us place this subject in more general propositions, and we shall
then perceive how slight is the difference which divides these
contending parties.

It will be acknowledged by all that a due regard at least is
necessary to external religion for the sake of its author; but
that this very regard to the divine ordinances, if it does not pro-
ceed from obedience and love in Him who ordained them, and
faith in their spiritual effects and signification, becomes pre-
sumption and hypocrisy.

Man at his creation was made perfect; the spiritual triumphing over the inferior nature. When he fell, the earthly or animal nature predominated. As his descendants we are made partakers of the same earthly and animal nature-we are born with it-its existence constitutes our original sin-we are subject to its penalties, and rendered totally unfit for a spiritual immortality hereafter.

The system of revelation is the plan for restoring man to God, by renewing within him that spiritual nature which he lost by the fall of his first parent.

The manner in which this important object is to be accomplished, has ever been the same. It is faith in the atonement of one Redeemer, the manifested God of the Patriarchs, Jews, and Christians, producing holiness of life.

The manner in which this faith is made effectual, has ever been the same. Outward means of grace were instituted from the moment of the expulsion from Paradise. Where these external ordinances have been observed through faith, and in compliance with the revealed will of God, his influences have uniformly been imparted, and a spiritual change of heart imperceptibly and gradually accomplished.

The Spirit of God however is not confined to means. The Omnipotence of God is not limited to the measures he has himself revealed or ordained. It is impossible therefore not to believe that the death of a friend or relative, a lingering illness, or any other affliction or circumstance, may not, through divine grace, be made the instrument of salvation, and turn our hearts from this world to serve the living God. But few will hesitate to join with me in the conclusion, that the divine blessing is to be more generally found in those significant and solemn institutions, which The Way-The Truth-and The Life Himself appointed.

This is not the place to enter further into this controversy. The ancient fathers, the reformers in general, and the Church of England at present, make the commencement of our acceptance with God (by whatever name, conversion or regeneration, we may call it,) to begin with baptism; and that the influences of the Holy Spirit continue with the Christian through life, to complete the work of justification, to renovate him when he falls, to preserve him in temptation, and to support him in death, unless those influences are quenched by wilful, repeated, deliberate, and persevering sin. This system, which makes our Christian life begin with certain feelings in maturer years,

Julian Pe

11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the Damascus. riod, 4748. street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house Vulgar Era,

35.

makes the question concerning baptism so very important. The
re-establishment of the ancient union among believers, depends
on our estimate of the benefits attendant on that first and most
solemnly commanded ordinance—whether it is merely an useful
rite, or an appointed means of grace ;-or, as it is defined in
the Church Catechism, an outward sign of an inward grace. The
system which refuses to confine the beginning of our Christian
life to baptism, is thus described by a once distinguished writer
-Regeneration has its degrees. Its first step is contrition, and
that softening of the heart by which a man is brought to a sense
of sin and misery; and under the influence of which he ear-
nestly desires deliverance. The second is a knowledge of
Christ, by which whoever is convinced of the sufficiency of
Christ to deliver him, denies himself, and flies to Christ, and
by a living faith is united to him, and with a filial confidence
of deliverance depends upon him, and a filial love towards God
is kindled in his heart, by the power of which he serves God
with unfeigned obedience, and a holy life. The first step is
called the spirit of bondage, and it is properly the effect
of law; the second is the spirit of adoption, and it is the
proper effect of the Gospel (a). The learned writer then pro-
ceeds to illustrate this hypothesis by the instance of Cornelius.
I think it is evident, that the Scriptures of truth no where
command us to have this train of feelings, to become accept-
able to God. Faith and obedience,—or faith, obedience, and
repentance, are required: and it is impossible, in general, for
the Christian who has been baptized, and has received a reli-
gious education, and knows God from his infancy, to say when
he begins to have faith, and to have become acceptable to his
Maker. Few men can pass through life without many feelings
of sorrow for sin, of humility before God, of desire to become
more holy. No human being can declare himself spotless be-
fore his Creator. But all these emotions are the result of our
knowledge of God, and his Son, which are given us by the
means of grace; and they proceed from the Holy Spirit which
attends them. They are common to all men, at all ages; they
are experienced by children at the first dawn of reason, and
by the aged at the close of life.

Since the Scripture and the means of grace have been
given, I believe that all pretensions of this nature are very
dubious; though I dare not say, that the Father of the
spirits of men may not visibly communicate his will to some
favoured individuals, when he pleases. I believe only, that
he has not done so; because the law of Christ is sufficient
to guide any of his creatures to future happiness. Dr.
Doddridge relates the anecdote of Colonel Gardiner, as if
the circumstance might possibly have been the vivid sug
gestion of his own mind. The hour was midnight-he was
confused with intemperance-the cause of his watchfulness
was criminal-he had received a religious education, and the
silence, and solitude, and the possible reproaches of his con-
science led him to some associations of ideas respecting
the crucified Saviour, whom he had forgotten. At such a
moment he saw, or thought he saw, the cross in the air, and
heard the appeal of the imagined figure before him. This
appears to me to be the natural result of those laws of mind
which God has given to every man. These natural reflections

« EelmineJätka »