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peared to both. Nothing, therefore, is wanting to establish the evidence of this stupendous transaction throughout upon the firmest basis.
Saul, indeed, as THE LORD told Ananias, was "His chosen vessel, to bear his name, or propagate his religion before Gentiles and Kings, and sons of Israel; and to suffer greatly for his name's sake," Acts ix. 15, 16.
And, for this arduous office, he was eminently qualified and gifted. He was deeply versed in Jewish and Heathen philosophy, and from his education in both, was, perhaps, the most learned man of his own, or of any age: and he spoke, by inspiration, in more tongues, and languages than any, or than all the Apostles, or the most highly gifted converts, 1 Cor. xiv. 18. He was also the most powerful witness of CHRIST; for he saw him in glory, after his ascension, which none of the other Apostles did, until that last, most distinct, and most glorious appearance to the beloved John, in Patmos, A.D. 95, crowning all the preceding manifestations of THE GOD OF GLORY from Abraham's days, B.C. 2093.
Thus, by a singular and most unexpected and surprizing dispensation of Him, "whose ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts," was Saul "the blasphemer" of CHRIST, and "persecutor" of his saints, made the first fruits of the dying martyr Stephen's intercession for his murderers, in the true Spirit of his Divine Master, "LORD lay not this sin to their charge;" as a brand plucked out of the fire! and also, the first voucher to the truth of his testimony of seeing JESUS CHRIST in glory at the right hand of GOD, by what he himself soon after saw and heard on his journey to Damascus. But Saul, as he afterwards candidly and humbly confessed, after he had been the chief of sinners, obtained mercy, for these reasons, 1. Because he sinned ignorantly in disbelief, in disbelief of the GOSPEL, and ignorance of the elementary nature of the LAW, designed as a schoolmaster to bring us to CHRIST; and 2. That in his most striking case, and for the encouragement of the greatest sinners not to despair, JESUS CHRIST might shew forth to the world a pattern of his long sufferance to future believers, unto eternal life; by graciously entrusting, even to this blasphemer and persecutor, THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL of THE BLESSED GOD, and enabling and strengthening him to suffer so greatly for his sake, by undauntedly and perseveringly encountering trials and persecutions, enough to have made him of
all men most miserable in this life, if he attested a falsehood in the sight of God, and in the face of the world; were it not for the animating hope of inheriting that crown of righteousness, reserved for him and for the faithful in the great day of retribution, after he had fought a good fight, kept the faith, and finished his course, after he had laboured more abundantly in planting the Gospel of the uncircumcision, than any of the Apostles of the circumcision; and withstood even to his face, Peter, the first of the Apostles, when his practice was inconsistent with his doctrine, 1 Tim. i. 11-16, 2 Tim. iv. 6-8, 1 Cor. xv. 15-19, 2 Cor. xi. 21—31, Gal. ii. 11–14.
Saul, after his baptism, remained some days with the disciples at Damascus ; and immediately proclaimed in the Synagogues, JESUS as THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, Acts ix. 20, xx. * 21. Gal. i. 15.
And all that heard him were amazed, and said, Is not this he who persecuted at Jerusalem them that called upon this name? and who came hither on purpose to bring them prisoners to the chief priests? But Saul was strengthened [in spirit] still more, and confuted the Jews residing in Damascus; proving, by comparing the prophecies (ovußißalwv) that JESUS is THE CHRIST, Acts ix. 19-22.
This, indeed, was his usual mode of debating with the Jews every where, Acts xvii. 2, 3, xviii. 28, xxvi. 22, 23, xxviii. 23.
SAUL RETIRES TO ARABIA.
During the persecution of the Church in Judea, Saul went into the heathen country of Arabia Petræa, as a place of security from the Jews. There he probably preached the Gospel also, Gal. i. 16.
Three years after his conversion, he returned to Damascus, A.D. 38, Gal. i. 18, corresponding to Luke's account, when many days had been fulfilled, Acts ix. 23. A phrase used also to express three years precisely, in the Old Testament, 1 Kings xi. 38, 39.
Here, the Jews rejected his testimony, as an Apostate, and conspired to kill him, and watched the city gates day and night
The insertion of Ingovv, in the present text, is warranted by the two Syriac versions, the Vulgate, Ethiopic, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, and several ancient MSS. It is also absolutely required by the context. For the Jews admitted CHRIST to be THE SON OF GOD; they only doubted or denied that Jesus of Nazareth was he.
for that purpose, and procured the Syrian governor's concurrence. But the plot being made known to Saul, the disciples let him down from the city wall in a basket, by night; and so he escaped out of their hands, Acts ix. 23-25, Gal. i. 17, 18, 2 Cor. xi. 32, 33.
Though Luke, in the Acts, passed over in silence Saul's visit to Arabia, he was evidently well acquainted therewith, and with Paul's account of it in the Epistle to the Galatians and Corinthians, with which his own so exactly, though tacitly, harmonizes. He purposely omitted this early part of Paul's history, as he did afterwards his voyage to Crete, as being both inconsiderable, compared with his more public ministry in the populous cities and countries of Asia and Europe; which form the principal part of the Acts; and to which he hastens, after a cursory view of the earlier transactions. Medias in res rapit.
SAUL'S FIRST VISIT TO JERUSALEM.
After his escape from Damascus, Saul went up to Jerusalem, A.D. 38, for the first time since his conversion; chiefly as he says, to get acquainted* (oroonoa) with Peter, Gal. i. 18. This, indeed, was a natural wish, from the resemblance of their dispositions and characters †, as marked by similar zeal and similar situations: both had erred, both had been converted; Peter, by a pitying, but penetrating look of his suffering LORD; Saul, by the brightness of his glory; Peter had been restored, upon repentance, to his Apostolic rank; Saul had been also, upon repentance, raised thereto. Both were susceptible of the warmest attachments.
Mihi mens juvenili ardebat amore,
"Great souls, by instinct to each other turn,
We need not, however, be surprized at the shyness of the brethren at Jerusalem to associate with Saul, at first, when he proposed himself. They knew him to have been a most furious bigot and
Josephus celebrates the uncommon valour of a Roman centurion, Julian, at the siege of Jerusalem, with whom, says he, "I got acquainted (ioropnoa) during that war." Bell. Jud. vi. 1, 8.
+ Estque ea jucundissima amicitia quam similitudo morum conjugavit.—Dispares mores, disparia studia sequuntur, quorum dissimilitudo dissociat amicitias. Cicero, De Offic. I. 17. De Amicit. 20.
persecutor; and were probably quite unacquainted with his miraculous conversion; there being then but little intercourse with Damascus, during Herod's war with Aretas; and less between Jerusalem and Arabia, to which he had retired. But Barnabas, who is said to have been his fellow-student under Gamaliel, and knew him early, took him by the hand, and introduced him to the Apostles, Peter and James, the LORD's brother, who then were at Jerusalem, and recounted all the circumstances of his conversion. Whereupon, they admitted him freely to their society, Acts ix. 26—28, Gal. i. 18, 19.
In Jerusalem, Saul spake boldly in the name of The Lord JESUS, and debated with the Grecising Jews; but they attempted to kill him, Acts ix. 28, 29.
At this time, while Saul was praying in the Temple, he fell into an ecstacy, or trance, and saw CHRIST, who said unto him, Hasten and depart quickly out of Jerusalem, because they will not favourably receive thy testimony concerning me. But Saul pleaded for a longer stay, alledging that his former persecution of the Saints, and concurrence in the martyrdom of Stephen, contrasted with his present conversion to CHRIST, could not fail to persuade the Jews. THE LORD, however, knew their bigotry better, and that his labour among them would be in vain ; and replied, "Go, for I will send thee forth as an extra-Apostle, (εATOOTελ) to the remote Gentiles," Acts xxii. 17—21, “selecting thee (apovμevoç σE) from the people of the Jews, and from the Gentiles, to whom [the latter] I am now going to send thee forth, (vvv arоOTEλλw) to turn them from darkness to light, and from the jurisdiction of Satan unto GOD; in order that they might receive remission of sins, and an allotment among those that are sanctified by faith toward ME," Acts xxvi. 17, 18*.
Not disobeying therefore the heavenly vision, Saul staid this time only fifteen days in Jerusalem, Gal. i. 18. And the brethren also, well knowing the malice of the Zealots, escorted him to Cæsarea; and sent him away by land through the Churches of Judea, to Tarsus, his native city in Cilicia, Acts ix. 30, Gal. i.
This is introduced in Paul's apology before King Agrippa, as if it immediately followed the first vision of Christ in the way to Damascus; the Apostle passing over the second vision or trance at Jerusalem, at which it really happened, when CHRIST said, "But arise, and stand upon thy feet: for to this end I appeared unto thee, [at first, woonv] to ordain thee a minister and witness of what thou sawest [then, ɛideg] and of my future appearances to thee" (wv op0nooμaι σo.) xxvi. 16.
21, 22. There he remained three or four years, till Barnabas summoned him to assist in preaching the Gospel, Acts xi. 25.
REST OF THE CHURCHES IN JUDEA, &c.
After the first persecution had raged about four years, an unexpected persecution of the Jews themselves put a stop to it. Caius Caligula, the Roman Emperor, about A.D. 39, commanded that his statue should be set up in the temple of Jerusalem and sent Petronius, president of Syria, with a large army from Antioch, into Judea, to enforce obedience to his edict, under pain of death to the opposers, and of slavery to the whole nation unless they submitted thereto.
This was, indeed, a thunderstroke. And the universal consternation produced thereby, absorbed all inferior concerns. They desisted from persecuting the Christians, to deprecate this outrageous contempt of their laws and sacrilegious profanation of their temple. And when Petronius had advanced as far as Ptolemais, they earnestly besought him to suspend the execution of the order until they could send an embassy to Rome, and endeavour to deprecate and prevent this abomination. Petronius, unwilling to proceed to extremities, granted their request, and they sent an embassy accordingly; the history of which has been written by Philo, one of the deputies. But this only provoked the tyrant's rage-he was much displeased with Petronius for his delay, and threatened to go in person to Alexandria to enforce obedience. But fortunately for them, he was assassinated before he could fulfil his intentions, A.D. 40. Josephus has given a circumstantial account of his assassination. See also Lardner, Vol. I. p. 97-100.
During this time the Churches throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, had peace, or respite from persecution; and being edified, or instructed by the Apostles, in the fundamental doctrines of THE GOSPEL, and walking in the fear of the LORD, and in the comfort of the HOLY SPIRIT, were multiplied, Acts ix. 31.
Peter in particular, took a circuit through the home Churches of Judea to confirm them in the faith; and at Lydda, a town between Jerusalem and Joppa, he cured a patient who had been confined eight years to his bed with a palsy. "Æneas, said he, JESUS CHRIST healeth thee, arise, and make thy bed,” and he arose immediately; and all the inhabitants of Lydda,