Acts 9:3
As Saul drew near to Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
Sermons
A Remarkable ConversionChristian AgeActs 9:1-3
DamascusDean Plumptre.Acts 9:1-3
In Uno Caesare Multi Insunt MariiCalamy.Acts 9:1-3
Murder Will OutH. C. Trumbull, D. D.Acts 9:1-3
Saul, a PersecutorA. Barnes, D. D.Acts 9:1-3
Soul's CommissionDean Plumptre.Acts 9:1-3
St. Paul on the Way to DamascusDean Stanley.Acts 9:1-3
The Conversion of Great MenActs 9:1-3
The WayDean Plumptre.Acts 9:1-3
The WayJ. R. Thompson, M. A.Acts 9:1-3
The One Question of ConversionP.C. Barker Acts 9:1-5
Saul on His Way to DamascusE. Johnson Acts 9:1-8
ConversionW. Clarkson Acts 9:1-9
The Sign from HeavenR.A. Redford Acts 9:1-9
A Sudden ConversionActs 9:3-19
An Inspired VisionS. Chapman.Acts 9:3-19
ConversionE. B. Pusey.Acts 9:3-19
Conversion by the Vision of ChristActs 9:3-19
Conversion of St. PaulW. H. Hutchings, M. A.Acts 9:3-19
Conversions May be Quite Sudden in Their BeginningsH. W. Beecher.Acts 9:3-19
God's Method of Converting MenActs 9:3-19
Paul's Conversion a Type of the ReformationK. Gerok.Acts 9:3-19
Saul Meets with JesusH. R. Haweis, M. A.Acts 9:3-19
Saul of Tarsus ConvertedD. J. Burrell, D. D.Acts 9:3-19
Saul's ConversionC. S. Robinson, D. D.Acts 9:3-19
Saul's ConversionR. Watson.Acts 9:3-19
Saul's Conversion God's GlorificationM. Luther.Acts 9:3-19
The Battle of DamascusK. Gerok.Acts 9:3-19
The Completeness of St. Paul's ConversionC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 9:3-19
The Conversion of PaulC. Hodge, D. D.Acts 9:3-19
The Conversion of SaulH. J. Van Dyke.Acts 9:3-19
The Conversion of SaulD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 9:3-19
The Conversion of SaulD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 9:3-19
The Conversion of SaulJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 9:3-19
The Conversion of SaulJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 9:3-19
The Conversion of SaulJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 9:3-19
The Conversion of SaulM. G. Pearse.Acts 9:3-19
The Conversion of St. PaulJ. O. Dykes, D. D.Acts 9:3-19
The Conversion of St. PaulJ. Wolff, LL. D.Acts 9:3-19
The Conversion of St. PaulC. Hodge, D. D.Acts 9:3-19
The Difficulties in the NarrativeT. Binney.Acts 9:3-19
The Great Day of DamascusK. Gerok.Acts 9:3-19
The Heavenly LightWeekly PulpitActs 9:3-19
The Progress of St. Paul's ConversionJaspis.Acts 9:3-19
The Proud Rider UnhorsedT. De Witt Talmage.Acts 9:3-19
When Need is Greatest God is NearestK. Gerok.Acts 9:3-19
This seems to have been the earliest name for what we now call Christianity. That it was used as a distinctive appellation of the Christian religion may be seen by comparing Acts 19:9, 23; Acts 22:4; Acts 24:14, 22. A fuller expression is employed in 2 Peter 2:2, "By reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of," Our Lord had used the term in a very significant manner, saying, "I am the way (John 14:6); and the previous prophetic figure of the Messianic times - "An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness '- would be in the memory of the disciples, and therefore they would be likely to accept the term if it was first started by their persecutors. Compare the name "Christian," which began as a taunt, and became accepted as an honorable title. In introducing this subject, reference may be made to the interesting fact that, from this point, Luke's record becomes almost entirely an account of St. Paul's labors, probably because round him centered the missionary work of the early Church, and he was its greatest representative. The kind of religious authority over all Jews exercised by the Sanhedrim, and the limitations of its power to imprisonment and beating and excommunication, require consideration. Saul probably went to Damascus for two reasons -

(1) because in the scattering the disciples were likely to have found shelter there; and

(2) because many Jews dwelt there, and especially those Greek Jews, who were most likely to become converts to the broad principles as taught by Stephen's party. It was against this particular party that Saul was so greatly incensed. Their teaching most effectually plucked the ground from beneath mere formal Judaism. Reverting to the term, "the Way, as descriptive of the Christian religion, and filling it with the larger meaning of our later knowledge, we may notice that it is -

I. A WAY OF THINKING. It is characteristic of Christianity that it has its own peculiar way of thinking about

(1) God,

(2) man,

(3) sin,

(4) redemption.

Its "way of thinking" is placed under the guidance of special Divine revelation. And the starting-point of its thinking is that God has, "in these last days, spoken unto us by his Son." Probably the exact reference in this verse is to that "way of thinking" which Stephen introduced and taught, because that appeared to present special points of antagonism to the doctrine and authority of the Sanhedrim. There is still a "way of thinking" characteristic of Christ's disciples. With a large liberty there are well-defined lines beyond which the thinking, being unloyal to Christ, is unworthy of the Christian name.

II. A WAY OF FEELING. Every true disciple is distinguished by his admiration for, his trust in, and his love to, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the early Church the loyalty and the love were so strong that the disciples could endure shame and death for his sake. And still our "way of feeling" about Christ should mark us off from all the world; men should "take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus," that he has won our very hearts, and that to us henceforth "to live is Christ." Impress the important bearing of sustained high feeling on the power and joy of the Christian life.

III. A WAY OF WORKING. Besides the general modes of working characteristic of Christians, for the glory of God and the good of men, attention should be given to Stephen's way of working against mere formalism and ritualism, and in favor of spiritual religion; and the need for similar "ways of working" in each recurring over-civilized period should be impressed.

IV. A WAY OF LIVING. By their fruits of godliness and charity the early Christians were known. The Christian "way" is a "way of holiness," not of mere separateness, but of consecration; a way of laying all possessions or attainments on God's altar, and a way of using all powers and opportunities for God's service. - R.T.







And suddenly there shined round about him a light from heave.
Weekly Pulpit.
As the supernatural reflects the moral in all the miracles of the Bible, so in the conversion of St. Paul. We have here —

I. AN EMBLEM OF THE GOSPEL. — "a light from heaven." All knowledge is light. But as the light here was peculiarly dazzling, so the gospel is a special revelation of God's will. It is heavenly light, because —

1. Of its Divine origin. The apostles denied that they preached "cunningly devised fables." As the eye is made for the light, so the soul is made for Divine truth. The gospel speaks with so much clearness and authority, that conviction is carried home. Would anyone have convinced Saul that he saw merely the blaze of a torch. Nor can anyone persuade the believer that he is only influenced by the words of man? "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

2. Of its benign influence. The light and heat of the sun come like every good and every perfect gift, from the Father of lights. As heaven is bright and loving, so the gospel is the good news of salvation to men. It brings the peace and smile of heaven. There was darkness before, but now God hath shined in our heart.

3. It leads heavenward. Christians are not pilgrims because they are forced by time to move on, but because they have the light, and move in the right direction.

II. AN ILLUSTRATION OF DIVINE METHODS. "Suddenly there shined a light."

1. The sovereignty of the Divine will. God has no need of consultations with His creatures. His wisdom is infinite, and His tender mercies are over all His works (Romans 11:33-36). How unexpected the scene near Damascus. You ask, why God has done this? and the only answer is, "I am that I am." You must accept the Saviour on this ground: it is the will of God.

2. The decisiveness and finality of the Divine acts. The appearance to St. Paul was as emphatic as it was sudden. There was no mistake as to the source of the communication. Jesus met with Saul, not to parley with him, but to acquaint him with the ultimatum of the court of heaven. You perceive this in Paul's answer. The gospel is of none effect unless it carries with it its final appeal and authority.

3. The mercifulness of the Divine purposes. God comes to save, and not to destroy our souls.

(Weekly Pulpit.)

Proved —

I. TO SAUL. When sin rose highest the Lord snatched him back.

II. TO THE CHRISTIANS AT DAMASCUS. When the enemy was even before the gate, the Lord called, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther."

(K. Gerok.)

I. SAUL BEFORE CONVERSION. He seems to have been aroused to supreme violence by the martyrdom of Stephen. Like some beasts of prey which grow uncontrollable the moment they taste blood, this restless zealot "breathed out threatenings," a metaphor which reminds one of pictures of war horses snorting fire from their kindled nostrils. We see then —

1. That a young man can be thoroughly moral and yet be anything but a Christian. Compare what Paul said of himself about this period of his life (Acts 23:1) with what he writes about his correctness according to the standard of those times (Philippians 3:4-6).

2. That a young man can be very conscientious and honest, and yet not be a Christian (Acts 24:16). Everybody admitted that Saul acted up to his convictions. What he thought to be right, that he did swiftly and fearlessly (2 Corinthians 1:12; Acts 26:9-11).

3. That a young man can be very zealous in religion, and yet do more injury than good. What our Lord thought of the Pharisees we know, but He never credited them with indolence (Matthew 23:15). But Saul prided himself on being one of the "straitest" of them (Acts 26:4, 5). There is a zeal not according to knowledge: and it makes a vast difference what a man believes, even if he is sincere; for the more sincere he is, if he be wrong, the worse it is for him and everybody else.

4. That when a young man becomes a true Christian he perceives the sorrowful mistake he made before (Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:12-16; 1 Corinthians 15:9).

II. SAUL'S CONVERSION. Observe here —

1. How surely fixed is the unseen limit beyond which rebellious sinners are not permitted to go. God sometimes suffers a bad man to succeed in a bad cause, so as to make his arrest more abrupt, and his final failure more overwhelming. He did not stop Saul at Jerusalem; He let him prance his proud steed across Palestine; then He interposed, and with one flash of His presence He ended that high career.

2. How surely fixed is the Divine grace within which a penitent sinner can find safety. The issue is always narrowed down to two persons, God and the human soul; that is the reason why God takes conversion sovereignly into His own hands, and that is the reason why we cannot repent or believe for each other. Mark the words "thou" and "me" at the beginning and at the end of the conversation. It was as if Christ had told Paul, the conflict is between Me and thee; and then it was as if Paul told Christ he admitted it, duty is from me to Thee. When that supreme point in a soul's history is reached, and never before, it is easy to find peace; for the soul stands before a merciful God at last. Conclusion: The lesson leaves this proud persecutor in a pitiable condition of humiliation. But Saul is happy; he has become Paul. He takes a new commission; he is a "chosen vessel" now (Acts 5:15).

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

The festival of the Conversion of St. Paul falls aptly near the end of the Epiphany season, for it was brought about by a manifestation of Christ, and that vouchsafed to one who, though himself a Jew, was chosen to "be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles." The manifestation on the road to Damascus was of Christ glorified. St. Paul alludes to this distinction in the Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 1:1). The apostle, like the original twelve, was called by Christ Himself; but it was his special and solitary honour to have been "commissioned by the risen and glorified Lord." There are three manifestations of Christ in glory, or rather three to whom these epiphanies were vouchsafed — St. Stephen, St. Paul, and St. John. Over and above their special purposes in relation to the persons to whom our Lord appeared, these unveilings of Christ, since the "cloud received Him out of our sight," help us to realise the continuity of His work in heaven. St. Paul was drawing near to Damascus. It was about noon. The city may be seen from afar. The desert is passed. The eye feasts itself upon the green avenues through which the ancient capital is approached. In the distance may be descried the faint outline of its white buildings standing out against the azure sky. Saul catches already the murmurs of "the rivers of Damascus," and the ripple of the rivulets which glisten and sparkle and leap amongst the tangled brushwood. The perfume from the Syrian gardens, in which shrub, and fruit, and flower, are intermingled in wild profusion, which refresh the weary traveller, have little charm for him. He is "breathing out" slaughter. His mind is filled with the thought of how many disciples of Christ he may lay violent hands upon, and bring "bound unto Jerusalem." There is, however, another image which will rise up before his memory. There is the face of a young man, his eyes uplifted towards heaven. Saul hears again his dying prayer, and the thuds of the stones which are falling around him; he cannot shake off the remembrance — the courage and the forgivingness of the youthful martyr — "Thy martyr Stephen" (Acts 22:20), what was it sustained him? When — "suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And he said, Who art Thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." The Church usually celebrates the martyrdom of the saints, the end rather than the beginning of their spiritual course. But, as she marks in her Calendar the conception and nativity of our Lord's mother, and the birth of St. John the Baptist, so she keeps a festival to commemorate the conversion of St. Paul. It is the great turning point in Saul's history, a change somewhat out of the range of the ordinary operations of grace. We call it in our collect a "wonderful" conversion. Let us inquire into the cause of Saul's conversion, and secondly, note what is marvellous about it.

I. The narrative of St. Paul's conversion is three times told in the Acts of the Apostles, besides the apostle's allusions to it in several Epistles. From all we gather that THE GREAT CHANGE IN SAUL'S CONVICTIONS WAS BROUGHT ABOUT BY A VISION. It was the result of grace, though two factors, as we shall presently see, combined to produce it. Grace may come to us from without or from within. Grace in both these ways moved the soul of Saul of Tarsus. God appeals to us both through outward objects, and by His voice within. By the preaching of the gospel, by the working of miracles, by the events of Divine Providence, by the influence and power of good example, He can speak to us. He spoke to Saul in a vision. There are those who deny, or at least doubt, the supernatural character of the event. Saul "fell to the earth," they say; but this might have taken place through natural causes. The whole might have been the result of a thunderstorm, a sunstroke, a fit, or simply might have arisen from mental hallucination. But Saul's companions in travel also heard the "voice," though they saw not the Form, nor caught the words. They "saw indeed the light, and were afraid." The light "above the brightness" of the midday sun, St. Paul says, when standing before Agrippa, not only encircled himself, but "them which journeyed with" him, and all fell to the earth together. It was at noon when all in Eastern climes is hushed and still, and beneath a cloudless sky, that this happened. All Saul's prepossessions, all Saul's interests from an earthly point of view, his reputation and his honour, are against the change which at that moment was wrought. St. Paul is no visionary, but a man of masculine mind and clear judgment. Intellect appears to predominate over the imaginative faculty in the apostle, if we may judge from his Epistles. God speaks sometimes in visions to His saints. These visions are of different kinds; some addressed to the mind, others to the imagination, some to the eye of sense. St. Paul's was of the last kind, like the burning bush which Moses saw, and from the midst of which the voice of God was heard; so Saul saw with his eyes, and was blinded by the glory which he beheld. But grace from without is not enough. The fact that only one of the two thieves who were crucified with Christ repented will be sufficient to show that man may have the grandest opportunities and neglect them. The vision was rich, indeed, in revelation upon which St. Paul gazed — Jesus glorified — "I am Jesus of Nazareth," not only "I was." The memories of earth will not be expunged by the waters of Lethe from the soul as it passes into the eternal world. Jesus is still "Jesus of Nazareth." His history is a part of Himself. Saul, as he was persecuting the Christians, looked back to Christ, thought of Him only in reference to His mortal life in the past. Now he realises a present Christ — that which some who have been brought up as a Christian fail to do — and, moreover, learns the truth that Christ is one with His members, and that in persecuting them he was persecuting Him. It was, then, a rich external revelation of truth to Saul, but it needed inward grace that it might become victorious. The soul must be illumined also from within. The inspirations of that Spirit whose work it is to "receive of" Christ and reveal Him unto us, must be vouchsafed. And this also was granted. "It pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me" (Galatians 1:15, 16). The cause, then, of St. Paul's conversion, as of all others, is the grace of God. But there is another factor which has ever its share in the work of conversion — the human will. God does not destroy our moral accountability. Even in the case of St. Paul, whose conversion was in many ways "wonderful," it rested with himself whether he would or would not yield to the grace which was given him. He distinctly asserts that he was "not disobedient unto the heavenly vision" (Acts 26:19). It was a moment not only of rich revelation, but also of entire self-surrender, when Saul exclaimed, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"

II. We have considered how the grace of God, from without and from within, and the cooperation of the human will, changed Saul into Paul, the persecutor into the apostle. Now look at THE GREATNESS OF THE EVENT; IN WHAT RESPECTS IT WAS WONDERFUL. The justification of a sinner is ever a great event. St. Paul's conversion was wonderful because of the sharp antagonism between his previous and subsequent life. This antagonism is common when of a moral kind. Such a sharp contrast may be traced between the life of St. Mary Magdalene or St. Matthew, before their conversion and after. But it was the strength and violence of St. Paul's religious opinions which underwent this remarkable change. He was blinded by prejudice and passion.

1. It was wonderful, in that the grace of God overtook him in the very act of sin, as he was drawing near to Damascus, in the very acme of opposition and of violence. Souls sometimes prepare the way for God's grace by outwardly ceasing from sin. The stone of evil habit is removed from the door of that sepulchre before the voice of Christ penetrates into the realms of the dead. But St. Paul's experience is an illustration of the mission of God the Son to mankind — "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

2. The change was "wonderful" too, in its suddenness. Conversions may be suddenly or gradually effected. St. Peter's is an instance of a spiritual evolution, the gradual development of a vocation: Paul's of a sudden and more violent change. The former is a type of what is normal; the latter, of what is wonderful or extraordinary. God turns water into wine at Cana in a moment, but this was a miracle. He brings wine regularly out of the vine by means of the natural processes of growth and culture. Nor again, must we exaggerate the suddenness of St. Paul's conversion, though we admit that it was wonderful. St. Stephen's martyrdom had made an ineffaceable impression on his mind. Revolutions do not take place in history without a long series of events which lead up to them, though they seem to burst upon the world in a moment: so with the great apostle, though sudden was the change, there were doubtless preparations of grace going before it.

3. Lastly, it was wonderful in its completeness. There is usually the gradual growth, oftentimes the fluctuations or relapses. The new life has "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." But in St. Paul's case, as in the miracle of Cana, which we have already alluded to as in some sense its analogue — the miracle of turning water into wine, "the good wine" surpassed the ordinary produce of the grape; so the operations of grace seemed to have been so condensed in the soul of St. Paul as to bring fruit to perfection at once. He seems not to pass through what spiritual writers describe as the stages of purgation, illumination, and union with God, but attains at once to a vigorous spiritual life and a burning love for Christ.

(W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

To consider, then, the circumstances of St. Paul's conversion as an outline of our own. "He fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying to him." It is, accordingly, mostly amid terror and amazement that men are restored to God. God has impressed a law on the natural world also, that healthful cure can, for the most part, only take place through bitterness and suffering. The cures of our bodies picture to us the cures of our souls. The progress may be more or less painful; but bitterness is mixed in all. Those who have felt it say that the restoration of suspended life is far more suffering than apparent death. Restored circulation has pain; every touch of our body, whereby health is given back, has pain; well-nigh every healing medicine is bitter or revolting to our taste. By this universal law God would reconcile us to those merciful bitternesses, whereby He corrects our vitiated love for the destructive sweetnesses of this world, and cures our sickly tastes and appetites, teaching us to find no sweetness but in Him. So He prepares us beforehand to look to them as healthful, and find therein our health. Yes! sorrow, sickness, suffering, loss, bereavement, bring with them precious hours. God blinds us, like Saul, to the world, that, like Saul's, He may open our eyes to Him. He strikes us down, that He may raise us up. We should not be eager to escape sorrow, but only, through sorrow, to escape death. But pain of body, and sorrow of heart, have their end; if not sooner, yet in the grave: terror of soul has of necessity no end. Time, if it does no more, reconciles to sorrow, but not to fear. Man can endure the past, because it is past; the present, because it must end: but fear for the future, when the future is eternity, has no end. Yet it was through fear that God brought St. Paul to Himself; "and he trembling and astonished said." Nay, so wrapt up in this fear and awe did the heavenly voice leave him, that for three days and three nights he neither ate nor drank, but prayed. In fear He struck him to the ground; in fear and blindness, though with hope, He raised him. Fear, exceeding fear of hell, is one of the most usual ways in which God brings us back to Himself. It needs not that others have warned us of it, Children may hear of it, as it should seem, when man intends it not to reach them. But God brings it home to their tender consciences. To "cease to do evil," and "learn to do well," is the whole of repentance, but such repentance is not learned without sorrow, sorrow, heart-searching in proportion to the sin. "God," it has been said, "willeth to save sinners, but He willeth to save them as sinners. If He saved them by a simple change of heart, without any repentance for their past life, He would save them as innocent. He wills that they should feel 'that it is an evil thing and bitter to have forsaken the Lord thy God.'" God Himself, in His miraculous conversion of His chosen vessel, St. Paul, kept him three days and three nights without relief. During that long space of fixed sorrow and humiliation, intenser than we have ever felt, He allowed not his mind to be ministered to by man. How much more may we be content to bear sorrow and fear, who, wherein we have sinned, have sinned against the light, not of the law only, but of the gospel; not against the light shining around us, but against the light, lightened within us; not against a revelation made without us, but grieving the good Spirit of God placed within us. Sorrow then and aching of heart, brought upon us by God, are mostly the means by which God brings back His prodigal children; sorrow or fear without us, to grow by His grace into a godly fear and dread within us. And as we cannot make ourselves sorrow, so we should beware how of ourselves we cease to sorrow, or use the promises of the gospel to heal our pain rather than our sickness. St. Paul lay there where he was stricken, until God said to him, "Arise." It is a fearful thing to see how people, on an imagined conversion, contrive to forget what they have been, or remember it only to thank God that they are not now such. Yet the sorrow is not to end in itself. St. Paul had to arise and do God's bidding; and we must arise, and with him ask, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" With him too we must do it; keeping back nothing when we ask, and shrinking from nothing which is laid upon us. Such was St. Paul's conversion. He freely offered up all, and took all. All he had been he gave up; what he was not he, in God's hand, became. He was a ravening wolf, he became a lamb; the persecutor, he became persecuted. So was he in all things, and that exceedingly, transformed into the opposite of what he was before. And this is the most hopeful sign of a real healthful change wrought in us, when we become in life other than we were before; if we, like him, become blinded to the world, and see only in the world Him who was crucified for us, and "with Him" are ourselves "crucified to the world"; if for ambitious, we become lowly; for proud, humble; for angry, meek; for impatient, patient; for self-indulgent, self-denying; for covetous, liberal. Nor, again, are we to hope to have all our way plain before us, or to see His face equally clearly, as when He first by His merciful severity checked our wayward course, and recalled us to ourselves and to Him. By merciful interpositions, if we heed them, He sets us, from time to time, in a right course, but then He leaves us to the ordinary channels of His grace, and the guidance, which He has provided in His Church. Even to St. Paul He declared not at once, all He had in store for him.

(E. B. Pusey.)

This event, which happened on the Damascus road about the year was truly one of the most momentous of history. The meaning of this remarkable occurrence reaches out a long way. Indeed, since the New Testament is the final revelation for the Christian Church on earth, the power of Saul's' conversion must be felt to end of time.

I. Its meaning first, of course, CONCERNED HIMSELF.

1. He was convinced of the truth of Christianity. By Christianity we mean the doctrine that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. By what sort of an argument was Saul convinced of the truth of Christianity? The reasons for his becoming a Christian were both external and internal. The miracle was double, and whatever any one of any school of thought might require as a sufficient ground for such a tremendous change as was brought about in Saul is actually supplied in his case. He became a Christian really and rationally.

2. By this change Saul was led into an entirely new kind of life, not only in his heart, but in his work. Christianity was not only his creed, it was his business. Saul was to abolish Judaism as a half-way step to Christianity; he was to preach salvation to the Gentiles as Gentiles. To this change, planned by God to be brought about through Saul, our conversion is due. This work was to be done through a life of unusual obedience to Christ. Its type is presented to us at the very opening of Saul's Christian career in the question, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"

3. And how was all this brought about? Wholly of the grace of God. Saul did not convert himself, did not designate his work to himself, did not characterise it With suffering, did not furnish his own spiritual equipment for it. All was from God.

II. Saul's conversion had A GREAT INFLUENCE ON THE CHRISTIANS OF HIS DAY.

1. It showed them that God's care was over them.

2. It showed that God's power was behind His care. It is not enough to watch unless one is able to help. God knew and God was able. If He could make a man like Saul of Tarsus over into a follower of Jesus He could do anything; for this was the impossible, ordinarily speaking.

3. Saul's conversion showed the early Christians that God would use means for their blessing and the furtherance of His work such as they had not expected.

III. TO CHRISTIAN TRUTH ALWAYS SAUL'S CONVERSION HAS ESPECIAL VALUE.

1. In the line of Christian doctrine it has force. Saul's experience was not in a dream or in a vision. It was in broad daylight, under normal conditions. Thus he beheld Christ in glory. Christ then is alive, He is glorified, and His glory is not spiritual alone, but of such a kind that it can be apprehended by other ways than by thought upon His character. He can be present wherever He chooses in His glorified body, and can reveal Himself when He likes. The doctrine of the existence and work of the Holy Spirit is touched upon in the story of Saul's conversion.

2. Saul's conversion has immense value in the department of apologetics — the defence of Christianity. There is a problem here which mere naturalism has never been able to solve. Saul presumably was able to know either a stroke of lightning or a sunstroke if he had experienced it. An attempt has also been made to explain Saul's conversion on psychological lines. Because at once (ver. 5) he addresses Christ as Lord (Kyrie, which in this place is nothing more than the ordinary word of salutation to a superior), and because Christ (ver. 5) says it is hard for him to kick against the pricks (which means only that opposition to Christ is useless), it has been thought that Saul's conscience had been troubling him and making him wonder if perhaps Jesus were not the Christ, and so preparing him to be converted on a slight occasion. But the record gives not a hint of any such psychological preparation. Out of deliberate and bitter antagonism Saul was converted to Christ. The conditions were as unfavourable to his conversion as they could be made. No stronger evidence for the miraculous, supernatural character of Christianity could be offered. If Saul did not see Christ, then the strongest convictions of the clearest minds cannot be respected, and no thinking whatever is ever worth anything.

3. Saul's conversion has an especial relation to Christian mission. There are some special notes worth making in addition to these, in connection with the conversion of Saul.(1) All men need conversion. Saul was a good, moral, even godly man before he became a Christian.(2) No one is too hard a subject for a possible future Christian.(3) The outline of the soul's progress in conversion is the same for all.(4) Grace is the only means of our salvation. All is from God.(5) There is a work for everyone who is made Christ's. We are elected to work.(6) Our work is accomplished through suffering. What we gain we pay for. Let us not grudge the cost.

(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)

I. THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY.

II. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IN THE CONVERSION OF MEN. What has he, in regard to his salvation, which he did not receive? It is needful, in this connection, that we should be cautioned in regard to two points.

1. The conversion of Paul, while it illustrates God's sovereignty, does not exhibit any uniform plan as to the exercise of that sovereignty. He saves men by different ways.

2. We need to be reminded, by way of caution, that the sovereignty of God in the conversion of men gives no encouragement to continued impenitence. Therefore, harden not your heart. Reply not against God. Presume not on His forbearance.

III. THE RICHES OF DIVINE MERCY towards the chief of sinners.

(H. J. Van Dyke.)

God is such an Artificer, that He has pleasure only in difficult masterpieces, and not in trifling pieces of work. Also He works with special pleasure from the block. Therefore He has from of old selected especially very hard wood and stones in order to show His skill in them.

(M. Luther.)

The three greatest facts in redemptive history in the order of time and importance are the advent of Christ, the outpouring of the Spirit, and the conversion of Saul. Consider Saul —

I. AS AN ENEMY TO THE CAUSE OF CHRIST. His enmity was —

1. Intense, as we gather both from the narrative (ver. 1) and the man's character. He was a man of —

(1)Strong intellect, which gave power to his passions.

(2)Strong impulses, which gave force to every purpose.

(3)Invincible conscientiousness, which led him to the greatest cruelty without flinching.

2. Practical.

(1)He gets his persecuting plans legalised (ver. 2).

(2)He prosecutes his commission.

(a)Promptly.

(b)Thoroughly (Acts 8:3).

II. AS CONQUERED BY THE REVELATION OF CHRIST.

1. The nature of this revelation.(1) By symbol. "A light from heaven" — probably the Shekinah glory — not recognised as such by his companions, but seen by Saul to be the garment in which He clothed Himself whom Saul was persecuting.(2) By words.

(a)In the same tongue in which He had conversed during His earthly ministry.

(b)Emphatic. Jesus often used such repetitions, to fix attention. "Martha, Martha." "Simon, Simon."

(c)Most exciting. "Why persecute Me? What injury have I done to thee?"

2. Its effects. It brought him —

(1)Into conscious contact with Christ.

(2)To a complete submission to the will of Christ.

III. AS EXHIBITED IN THE SERVICE OF CHRIST (ver. 20). What a change is this! The messenger engaged to enlist Saul is here introduced. Ananias was especially selected and especially directed. Note here —

1. The reason assigned for the message received. Paul's prayer, which reached the heart of Christ, was answered in the mission of Ananias.

2. The manner in which the message was at first received. Reluctantly (vers, 13, 14).

3. The Divine argument with which the message was again urged (vers. 15, 16). Saul's subsequent history realised all that is here stated (Acts 25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28).

4. The manner in which the message was carried out.

(1)Affectionately. "Brother Saul."

(2)Faithfully. Ananias does not go in his own name, but in Christ's.

(3)Effectively. No remedies were applied, but the cure was perfect.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Look at the conversion of Saul —

I. AS ILLUSTRATING THE GREAT MORAL CHANGE WHICH IS ESSENTIAL TO THE SALVATION OF EVERY SINNER. Note —

1. The feelings developed in connection with it.

(1)A vivid consciousness of Christ.

(2)Anxious inquiry.

(3)Profound contrition.

(4)Earnest prayer.

2. The display of human and Divine in effecting it.(1) There is the human in Saul. The Divine is not sufficient to account for Saul's conversion; for it was as strikingly displayed in the cases of Pharaoh, Salaam, and the witnesses of the crucifixion. God created us without our consent, but cannot save us without it. There was something in Saul that made him susceptible to the Divine influence. He was conscientious, and reverenced the Divine will as far as he knew it.(2) There is the human in Ananias. God usually converts man by man.

3. The thoroughness of the change. How vast the difference between the man of ver. 1 and the man of ver. 20.

II. AS SUPPLYING A COGENT ARGUMENT IN FAVOUR OF THE DIVINITY OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH. Lord Lyttleton has ably demonstrated this. The argument may be thus shaped:

1. If the testimony of Paul concerning Christ be true, Christianity is Divine. Jesus was the grand theme of his ministry — Jesus the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world. If you believe Paul, you must believe in Christ.

2. If the conversion of Saul is a reality, his testimony must be true. This conversion shows that he had all the qualifications necessary to bear a credible testimony.(1) The necessary intelligence. He was no blind fanatic, but saw, heard, and felt Christ.(2) The necessary candour. If a witness is prejudiced, his testimony is vitiated; but Paul's prejudices were all against Christ.(3) The necessary disinterestedness. He had everything to lose, and nothing to gain.

III. AS AFFORDING HOPE OF MERCY TO THE GREATEST SINNER (1 Timothy 1:16).

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

1. Philip was sent to the eunuch of Ethiopia, and he made excellent work in that direction. Why was not Philip sent to the next man? He also rode in a chariot, and he also was deeply interested in religious questions. As well have sent a lamb to a lion! Is there no method in these providences? Does success in one case mean success in another? Will one kind of preaching do for every kind of hearer? Who will go to Saul? Not a man. Saul must be struck with lightning Divine. The thunder must take him in charge!

2. Christianity wrought a marvellous change upon a man of conscience. Saul was in a singular sense a most conscientious man. He was not a ruffian. He was a Pharisaic saint. He was a sincere man. There is nothing in all human history so terrible in opposition as conscience that is not based on reason.

3. Every man is born into the family of God by what may be called a miraculous conception. The new birth is always a miracle. Saul was converted miraculously. You were converted miraculously. We approach some mountain heights so gradually, that we are hardly aware that we have been climbing until we find ourselves without any further height to ascend. So it may be with many conversions. The great question for us to settle is. Are we really in Christ?

4. Christianity always creates the most marked experience of the individual mind. In the eunuch the experience was one of joy. In Saul it was one of thoughtfulness and prayer.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

We have heard opinions about what we term sudden conversions. Some persons do not believe in them. But here is the first word that is objected to! It is an Old Testament word. Suddenness was approved by the Lord of the Jewish Church. "The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple." Mark the harmony of that particular feature of the incident with the Divine purpose. A slow, deliberate, intellectual transformation would have been a moral violence under circumstances so peculiar. What could be more harmonious in all its particulars and relations than the conversion of the eunuch? A man quietly reading in his chariot and filled with wonder as to the meaning of the mysterious Word, what more seemly than that a teacher should sit beside him and show the meaning of the sacred mysteries? But here is a man "yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter" with such a man you cannot reason; God therefore suddenly strikes him to the ground. Let us admire this providence of arrangement and this inspiration of incident, as well as the stupendous conversion itself. Do not reprove the suddenness until you understand all the circumstances. The very suddenness may itself be part of the occasion. Now, look at the incident as showing —

I. SAUL'S RELATION TO JUDAISM — i.e., to his past life. Does Jesus Christ condemn Judaism? No. He Himself was a Jew. There is not a word of chiding in all the speech. The only thing that was being done was that Saul was hurting himself. "Why kick against the pricks?" The persecutor only hurts himself. The bad man digs a hell for himself. Christ did not condemn the personal attitude of Saul. Saul was a man of the Old Testament, which says "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." The heretic and blasphemer must be stoned. Saul was therefore keeping strictly within historic lines and constitutional proprieties when he said, in effect, "This novel heresy must be stamped out with force." Christianity does not condemn Judaism; it supersedes it. Christianity takes it up, realises all its types, and symbols, and ceremonies. Judaism is the dawn, Christianity is the full noontide. Christianity brings to maturity and sweetness all the roots and fruits of the Judaism. The Jew is simply a man who has not come on to the next point in history. But for Judaism, there could have been no Christianity. We are debtors to the Jew. The Gentiles never converted themselves. The Jew was sent to the Gentile. The most stubborn prejudices were turned into the most anxious sympathies, and this is the crowning miracle of the grace of Christ.

II. HIS CONVERSION AS THE GREATEST TRIUMPH WHICH CHRISTIANITY HAS ACCOMPLISHED. This was the master miracle. Who is this man? A Jew, of an ancient and honourable pedigree; a student, a scholar, a man of high and influential station. There lay within him capacity to do anything that mortals ever did. His hand once upon the prey, the prey was dead, unless the fingers be unloosed by Almightiness. Jesus Christ Himself directly undertakes his conversion, and works thus His supreme spiritual miracle. When Saul was converted, there was more than one man changed. There is a conversion of quality, as well as a conversion of quantity. Statistics cannot help you in this matter. Let a Saul of Tarsus be converted, and you convert an army. He will not let the world allow him to travel through incog. We can go through the house, the market, and the exchange, without anybody identifying us! Saul of Tarsus will never pass without recognition, and no town will he be in without setting up his holy testimony. Conclusion:

1. The Lord uses a remarkable expression in ver. 11. "Behold, he prayeth." Had he not been praying all his lifetime? In a certain sense, yes; but whilst saying prayers, punctilious in ritual, exemplary in all the outward observances of his Church, Saul had yet, in a Christian sense, never prayed. Prayer is a battering ram which only a Christian arm can work.

2. Another remarkable expression we find in ver. 16. "I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name's sake." Mark the harmony of this arrangement. God knows what we are doing, and He pays to the uttermost. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked," etc. Adonibezek said, "As I have done, so God hath requited me." Samuel said to Agag, "As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women." Saul was in this succession, a student in that school of compensation. Saul was now made to feel how exactly true these terms were (cf. Acts 8:3 with Acts 14:9; Acts 9:1 with chap. Acts 23; Acts 26:10 with Acts 16:26). Do not suppose you can escape God.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. AS ILLUSTRATING MORAL CONTRASTS. Saul, who went out to persecute, remained to pray (vers. 1, 11).

1. He breathed hotly. How changed in a little time! for his face is turned upward to heaven, and its very look is a pleading supplication. What has occurred? These effects must be accounted for. Have they any counterpart in our own experience? Have any of us passed from fierceness to gentleness, from drunkenness to sobriety, from darkness to light, from blasphemy to worship? Then we understand what is meant by this most startling contrast. This is precisely the work which Christianity undertakes to do. It undertakes to cool your breath, to take the fire out of your blood, to subdue your rancour and your malignity, and to clasp your hands in childlike plea and prayer at your Father's feet. Such is the continual miracle of Christianity. Jesus makes the lion lie down with the lamb, and He causes the child to hold the fierce beast, and to put its hand with impunity on the cockatrice den. Other miracles He has ceased to perform, but this continual and infinite surprise is the standing testimony of Christ.

2. When Saul was a Pharisee he persecuted; when Saul became a Christian (ver. 22) he "proved." As a Pharisee, he said, "Destroy Christianity by destroying Christians." Having seen Jesus, and entered into His Spirit, does he now say, "The persecution must be turned in the other direction; I have been persecuting the wrong parties"? No! Standing with the scrolls open before him, he reasons, proving that this is the Christ. When he was not a converted man, he never thought of "proving" anything. Now he stands up with an argument as his only weapon; persuasion as his only iron; entreaty and supplication as the only chains with which he would bind his opponents. What has happened? Is there not a counterpart of all this in our own experience, and in civilised history? Do not men always begin vulgarly, and end with refinement? Is not the first rough argument a thrust with cold iron, or a blow with clenched fist? Does not history teach us that such methods are utterly unavailing in the extinction or the final arrest of erroneous teaching? Christianity is a moral plea. Wherein professing Christians have resorted to the block and the stake, they have proved disloyal to their Master, and they have forgotten the spirit of His Cross. You cannot make men pray by force of arms. You cannot drive your children to church, except in the narrowest and shallowest sense of the term. You may convince men of their error, and lead men to the sanctuary, and, through the confidence of their reason and the higher sentiments, you may conduct them to your own noblest conclusions. How far is it from persecuting to praying? From threatening and slaughter to proving? That distance Christ took Saul, who only meant to go from Jerusalem to Damascus, some hundred and thirty-six miles. Christ took him a longer journey; He swept him round the whole circle of possibility. It is thus that Jesus Christ makes us do more than we intended to do. He meets us on the way of our own choice, and graciously takes us on a way of His own.

3. In the opening of the narrative, Saul was a strong man, the chief, without whose presence the band would dissolve. And in this same narrative we read of the great persecutor that "they led him by the hand." What has happened? We thought he would have gone into the city like a storm; and he went in like a blind beggar! We thought he would have been met at the city gate as the great destroyer of heresy; and he was led by the hand like a helpless cripple! Woe unto the strength that is not heaven-born! When we are weak, then are we strong. You are mightier when you pray than when you persecute. You are stronger men when you prove your argument than when you seek to smite your opponent. Saul led by the hand; then why need we be ashamed of the same process? Who will despise the day of small things? Presently he will increase in the right strength; not the power of transient fury, but the solid and tranquil strength of complete repose.

II. AS GIVING US GLIMPSES OF CHRIST. He is —

1. Watchful. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age." He left, yet did not leave. He is invisible, yet watchful; looking upon Saul every day, and looking at the same time upon His redeemed Church night and day. Events are not happening without His knowledge. He knows all your antagonistic plans. As for you Christians, He knows your sufferings, and oppositions, and through how much tribulation you are moving onward to the kingdom.

2. Compassionate. "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." He pitied the poor ox that struck its limbs against the sharp and piercing goads. This expostulation repeats the prayer of his dying breath. He does not bind Saul with his own chain; He throws upon him the happy spell of victorious love.

3. Consistent. "I will show him what great things he must suffer for My name's sake." When Jesus ordained the disciples to go out into the world, He laid before them a black picture, and told them that they would be persecuted; and now, when He comes to add another to the number, He repeats the ordination charge which He addressed to the first band.

III. AS SHOWING THE NATURE AND PURPOSES OF SPIRITUAL VISION. All these things were seen in a vision. Say some of you, "We have no visions now." How can we have? We may eat and drink all visions away. The glutton and the drunkard can have nothing but nightmare. A materialistic age can only have a materialistic religion. We may grieve the Spirit, quench the Spirit; we may so eat and drink and live as to divest the mind of its wings. It may be true that the vision has ceased within a narrow sense, but not in its true spiritual intent. Even now we speak about strong impressions, unaccountable impulses, uncontrollable desires, unexpected combinations of events. What if the religious mind should see in such realities the continued Presence and Vision which gladdened the early Church?

IV. AS DEMONSTRATING THAT CHRISTIANITY DOES NOT MERELY ALTER A MAN'S INTELLECTUAL VIEWS OR MODIFY A MAN'S MORAL PREJUDICES. Christianity never makes a little alteration in a man's thinking and action. Christianity makes new hearts, new creatures. Other reformers may change a habit now and again, may modify a prejudice, a temper, a purpose with some benign and gracious intent; but this Redeemer wants us to be born again. "If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature; old things have passed away, and all things have become new." There drop from his eyes "as it were scales," and, with a pure heart, he sees a pure God.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Three distinct lines of thought appear in this lesson, each concentered in a person — Saul, Ananias, and Christ.

I. Let us notice the STEPS IN SAUL'S CONVERSION, and find in them the story of every seeking soul.

1. Sin. We see in Saul an open, active, determined, and cruel enemy of Christ. We see a persistent enemy resisting the convictions of the Holy Spirit, kicking against the pricks of his own conscience, yet an honest, sincere enemy. "I did it ignorantly in unbelief" (1 Timothy 1:13).

2. Conviction, Saul's conviction was sudden, yet gradual. Gradual, for he had been striving against the influences of the Spirit (ver. 5) ever since he had seen the transfigured face of Stephen; sudden, when the culminating instant came. In a moment he awoke to the consciousness of his guilt.

3. Decision. "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" That sentence marked the crisis of a life, when Saul chose Jesus as his Master. What mighty results followed that instant's decision!

4. Seeking. For three days Saul was in an agony of prayer, seeking the Christ whom he had persecuted. The delay was not because God was unwilling, but because Saul was not yet in the right condition to receive the blessing.

5. Salvation. At last the scales fell from his eyes, and Saul saw Christ, not as his enemy, but as his forgiving Saviour.

II. Another line of thought is suggested in ANANIAS, THE HELPER IN SAUL'S CONVERSION.

1. He was a man. God uses men, and not angels, to point souls to salvation. Even Saul of Tarsus, though called by Christ Himself, is taught the way of faith by a fellow man.

2. He was a believing man. Saved himself, he was able to show others the way of salvation. Only the man who has himself seen the Lord can show Him to others.

3. He was a man of character. Notice what is said of him in Acts 22:12. Those who win souls must be men of good report.

4. He was in close and complete communion with Christ, enjoying direct revelation and holding familiar converse with his Lord. "He who would have power with men must have power with God."

5. He was an obedient worker, fulfilling the Divine command, even when it sent him into danger; for it seemed perilous to visit a persecutor with the message of the gospel.

III. There is also a suggestive subject in CHRIST AS REVEALED IN SAUL'S CONVERSION.

1. A living Christ. Only a little while ago Jesus died on the Cross, and was buried in the sepulchre. Yet now a living form stands forth, saying, "I am Jesus!"

2. A Christ with individual notice. He saw Saul's journey, knew his purpose, and recognised his character. He knew how Saul had striven against the Spirit. He called Saul by name, and called Ananias by name also. Christ in heaven has knowledge of men and events on the earth.

3. A Christ of infinite sympathy with His people. "Why persecutest thou Me?" He felt the blow at His Church more keenly than the spear thrust into His own body. In all our afflictions as Christians Christ is afflicted.

4. A Christ who sees the best in every man. Ananias saw in Saul only the enemy and the persecutor. Christ saw in him "a chosen vessel" and an apostle. He sees in every soul infinite possibilities.

5. A Christ with transforming power. He can transform Saul into Paul, Stephen's slayer into Stephen's successor, an enemy into a champion. What Christ could do with Saul He can do with any man. The conversion of Saul: — Let us regard this —

I. AS ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY. In the case of the apostle, nothing but evidence the most decisive could have effected such a change, in such a man, and at such a time.

1. He had the common prejudices of a Jew against Christianity and its Founder.

2. He was a Pharisee, and had the peculiarly inveterate prejudices of his sect.

3. He was a man of worldly ambition.

4. His very sincerity as a persecutor proves the power of that evidence which could convert such a man into a disciple.

5. The temper of his mind when the great event occurred which led to his immediate conversion, was only calculated to indispose him for conviction. On this we remark —(1) That he could not be deceived, either in the light or in the voice; or, supposing that to have been barely possible with him, yet, surely, not with those who accompanied him, at the same time. Nor could he be deceived in the fact of his blindness, and of his supernatural healing by Ananias, who gave him instruction.(2) Nor was he a deceiver. St. Paul was a good man; and that is our security that he would not deceive. If he were not a good man, where shall we look for one? But if he were a good man, then is the account true, for he could not have been deceived; and Jesus did meet him in the way, and the religion of Christ is from God.

II. AS SHOWING THE POWER AND GRACE OF THE SAVIOUR. This was manifested —

1. As to the Church —(1) By the conversion of its destroyer.(2) By the revelation of its oneness with Christ, and His intense interest in it. "Why persecutest thou Me?"

2. As to Paul himself, we see it in the illumination of his mind, in the extinction of his worldly temper, the conquest of the love of applause, the moral strength that was communicated.

III. AS FURNISHING IMPORTANT PRACTICAL LESSONS. We are reminded —

1. That love is the test of religion.

2. That our salvation is of God.

3. That true religion implies conversion — the change of the whole character.

4. That the end of a thing is better than the beginning of it.

5. Let us be thankful that God raised up this great light for His Church. Let us study his writings, and imbibe their spirit. Let us glorify God in him.

(R. Watson.)

I. ITS CIRCUMSTANCES.

1. It was without any preliminary preparation or special instruction.

2. It was without human instrumentality.

3. It was attended with a miraculous display of light and sound of words.

4. The physical effect of these displays: blindness and prostration.

II. ITS NATURE. A sudden and entire change in his views of Christ.

1. He had previously regarded Him as a mere man, as a bad man, unfaithful to His ancestral religion, and as an impostor, one falsely pretending to be the Messiah. Honestly, i.e., really entertaining these views, he thought it his duty to persecute the followers of Jesus, and to arrest the progress of the new religion.

2. This was very wicked because —(1) His views of the Old Testament and its prophecies of the Messiah were due to a carnal state of mind.(2) The evidence of Christ's Divine mission was such that none but a wicked person could reject it. Hence Paul considered himself the chief of sinners — a clear proof that honesty of conviction does not exonerate.

3. These false views of Christ were instantly rejected.(1) He saw Him to be the Lord, i.e., a Divine Person, the Son of God (Galatians 1:16).(2) He saw Him to be God manifest in the flesh. He believed that Jesus, a man, was the Son of God.(3) He saw that Christ was the promised Messiah. This was the truth that he at once preached (ver. 20).

III. ITS AGENCY.

1. Not by the outward circumstances.

2. Not by the revelation of Christ to his sense of vision. The wicked at the last day shall see Christ and flee from Him.

3. But by the immediate power of God (Galatians 1:16). So our Lord said to Peter, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but MY Father."

IV. ITS EFFECTS.

1. Entire submission and devotion, a willingness to renounce anything, and to do anything that Christ required.

2. This supposes the recognition of Him as God. So Christ became at once the supreme object of worship, love, and zeal.

3. It made him one of the greatest, best, and happiest of men.

4. It secured for him a place among the redeemed in glory.

(C. Hodge, D. D.)

I. BEFORE BOTH. Christ was persecuted and believers afflicted.

II. AT BOTH.

1. The light from heaven.

2. Repentance of heart.

III. FROM BOTH.

1. Evangelical preaching in the Church.

2. Evangelical missions in the world.

(K. Gerok.)

1. That blessed war of aggression which Jesus Christ wages upon the evil one is a war which is made to maintain itself. Christ's soldiers are His captured enemies. Perhaps the most notable instance of this is the conversion of Saul. Jesus Christ never encountered a bitterer or an abler foe; never won a mightier captain for His army. This conversion brought to the Church immediate rest from persecution, and prepared for the ultimate extension of a free gospel to the world at large.

2. Now, the important fact, that such a man suddenly abandoned the Pharisaic theology and became the Church's foremost preacher, amply justifies the detail with which the story is here related. The immediate occasion of Saul's change of life was quite as exceptional as the change itself was eventful. It was no ordinary case of a man led to believe in Jesus Christ through the evidence of others, the testimony of the Church, or the force of spiritual need. It was quite unique — a case which has no parallel. The agent in this man's conversion was not a mortal man, his fellow. It was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who called him personally. The apparition was not an inward vision such as appeared afterwards to Ananias. It was a veritable return of Him who went up from the Mount of Olives. And this personal manifestation of Him whom the heavens had received, is, I suppose, solitary in Christian history. The evidence is therefore exceptionally strong. Of course such a transaction cannot be compared with public events, like the death or resurrection of Jesus, to which many could testify. Here there could be no eye or ear witness but one. His evidence alone is to be had, and it is explicit. For it was upon the fact that he had personally seen his risen Master, as the other apostles saw Him, that Paul rested his claim to the privileges of apostleship. And the evidence of Paul was confirmed by the vision of Ananias, and was accepted as conclusive by the Church of Christ at the time.

3. Now, I suppose it may be due to the emphasis laid on this solitary appearance of Christ that so little has been told us of the internal history of the conversion. But who can tell the spiritual processes of any conversion? and why should we pry too curiously into the mysterious, secret place where, under cover of the darkness, the Spirit of God broods over the soul whom He will renew with His great grace into the likeness of the Eternal Son? The general nature of the change, however, which passed over Saul, is, I think, to be pretty well made out from what we know of the man before and after. Up to the moment when the glory smote him, this man was a Hebrew of the extremest type, and it needs no great insight to see that, to such a man, the preaching of repentance and faith in the Cross of a crucified deliverer from sin must have been simply gall and wormwood. So he flung himself into the work of stamping out this hateful heresy. Yet, all the while, I think it probable that Saul's mind was not quite at ease. I gather from the first words Jesus spoke to him, as he lay upon the road, that all had not been quite serene in the soul of the persecutor. Jesus had, ere this, been trying to get him into the right way. Some words heard in controversy, some meek victim's patience as he haled him to prison, some great craving of his own heart, some breath, in a quiet hour, from the Spirit of God — something must have stirred within this man, who looked, to other men, so resolute, and who told himself he was so right, a suspicion that, after all, the Nazarene might not be altogether wrong. And Saul had kicked against these pricks. Ah, which of us, from our own experience, cannot understand his case? To which of us has it never happened, that when we were well contented with our religious state, some ghastly doubt looked up all of a sudden and troubled us; some fear lest, after all, our standing might not turn out to be so very safe, and our religion so very real? But suddenly, in the glare of light that covered the scene at noon, a man appeared whom Saul believed to be a dead impostor. And the shock given to his whole being was as awful as it was sudden. Everything in the narrative speaks of instantaneous and utter collapse. We trace it in the few and timid words which he is able to stammer out. "Who art Thou, Lord? What shall I do?" If Jesus was the living God, then he, Saul, had always been rotten, hopelessly rotten. The old is shattered forever; it lives no more. Gamaliel's pupil, the Sanhedrin inquisitor, the blameless Pharisee, the slayer of Stephen — this old man is dead.

4. What were the meditations which filled up these three days before he began to pray? We do not know. But I think we shall not err if we concede the grand discovery of these days to have been the discovery of a spiritual law which condemned his legal righteousness as being, in his own later words, loss and dung. He needed no man now to tell him that his way of pleasing God, as he thought, had been a hideous blunder, since he had absolutely laid persecuting hands on Christ, thinking he was doing God service. Back through all his past life, his memory must have gone, discovering, bit by bit, that what he had called righteousness became, to his astonished soul, pride, discharity, sin; what he had called gain became utter spiritual loss. And in the end, when the need of atoning blood to wash such sin away, and bring Divine forgiveness, grew up within his soul into clear consciousness, then, at last, indeed, he began to look up out of his prostration and collapse. God began to reveal His Son in him by giving him the first hint of the Spirit of adoption. His mind reverted for help, turned round about in his loneliness to the names of those very disciples down in his notebook that he had come to arrest, and now, in a sweet vision, he seemed to see one of these friends of Jesus come into the home where he lay helpless and in darkness, and give him light. See how Jesus Christ must smite down that He may lift up. He first came in person by the way and brought judgment, darkness, horror, and almost death. He came now, the second time, by the gentle words of His humble servant, came by the blessed sacrament of His Church, and so coming He brought light, peace, and the hope and desire of a new and better life.Conclusion: St. Paul's conversion substantially is repeated in the history of ten thousand souls.

1. The same appalling discovery that the exterior observance of piety which one took for righteousness is no righteousness, but dead works, because not animated by the spirit of love to God, has been made times upon times since Paul made it. And if it is not often that God's disclosure of Himself bursts upon a man with such violent catastrophe as here, it will be your highest wisdom to see whether or not you have made the Pauline discovery, and learned the Pauline lesson.

2. One unexpected day has often revolutionised a life. We all live in the presence of spiritual forces, which may, at any moment, get unlooked-for access to us. A stray word, a new acquaintance, a book you open, some sudden disaster, may prove, before you know it, the very turning of your history. But let none be idle waiters on critical moments in Providence. "Seek the Lord while He may be found."

(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

I. ITS CIRCUMSTANCES.

1. In the Bible proper names frequently had meanings. Now this Saul, or Shaul in Hebrew, and especially in Arabic, means not only asked for, but to seek diligently or to be sought out. And here you have in the very name the history of every sinner who comes to God; he is not one who is seeking God first, but one who is sought for. Was it not the case even with Abraham? "And He said, Abraham, Abraham; and he answered, Here am I." Did Moses call God first, or seek for God? Far from it; "Moses, Moses; and he said, Here am I."

2. In what state was this Shaul at the moment he was sought out? "Yet breathing out threatenings, "etc. Such a man cannot have been in his sound senses. And you may see his own candid confession of that. (chap. Acts 26.). I "compelled them to blaspheme." I experienced something of this lately at Cairo. From eleven o'clock in the night till three o'clock I was with several Jews, who continually tried me to say "only once, only once, curse the name of Jesus." And why did he do this? "Being exceedingly mad against them." And it is said — "yet breathing out." Why yet? Something must have gone on before, which might have changed his opinions and his conduct. And many such things went before, but without use to him. The Son of God nailed on the Cross had fulfilled every prophecy regarding His sufferings. Here is Stephen praying amidst the shower of stones, "Lay not this sin to their charge"; a thinking mind, like Paul's, one should suppose would have been struck with this. And he "went unto the high priest." He had the approbation of the ecclesiastical authorities. We can have the approbation of the world and the orthodox churchmen, and yet be still far from God. He desired of him letters that if he found any of this way. I was often struck with this expression, when I heard the Arabs speaking about religion; they do not say "the religion of Jesus," but "I want to know your way." "What is your way?" And do we not often find this the ease in England? Speak to men about vital conversion, and they answer, "Oh! I am not of that way."

3. "And suddenly." We find often that the grace of God comes suddenly. And so we find frequently that genius is awakened. An Italian forty years of age lived at Rome, and went every day to St. Peter's, but he never was struck with the masterpieces of Raphael; but one day he went there, and suddenly struck with them his genius awakened, and he exclaimed, "I am also a painter"; and from that moment he became the great painter Correggio. So very often the grace of God comes. A man is journeying on and on carelessly towards eternity, when, suddenly struck by the grace of God, he exclaims, "I am also a sinner ransomed." Paul saw a light — that described Isaiah — "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light" — "the Sun of Righteousness." "And he fell to the earth." I had an exact illustration of this when I was brought to Turkisthaun in slavery. After I was ransomed, the dungeons of hundreds of slaves were opened; these poor people had not seen the daylight for many months, and when they so suddenly were brought into it, they were so struck that several were as if they were going to fall down; they were overpowered. "Oh!" they said, "we cannot see the light, it is too powerful." So it is with people, when they are so suddenly overpowered with this "light from heaven." It makes such an impression upon them, that they cannot bear it. "And he heard a voice, saying unto him." We see our Lord does not use much learning or much eloquence to put down a man, to bring him to Himself, but very few words. I read this chapter to a Persian several years ago, a man of great powers; and he said, "There is one thing I find in Christianity which I do not find in our religion; it is a religion of the heart, it speaks to the heart." And this he found in these very words, in which here our Lord asks of Saul — "Saul, Saul!" — thou who art sought out, thou sought for, thou whom I am seeking like a mother her child, like a father his wayward child — "why persecutest thou Me?" What a striking contrast! In the first verse it is said, "Yet breathing out threatenings against the disciples"; bat here the Lord asks, "Why persecutest thou Me?" Persecute the mother, the child will feel it; persecute the child, the mother will feel it. And for this reason only the Christian religion deserves the name of religion. What is religion? To bind again together man to God. "And he said, Who art Thou, Lord?" — at once confessing his ignorance, as everyone struck by the grace of God will do. As long as we think ourselves wise we shall never come to the truth. But here — "who art Thou?" Very modest; he did not know Him, though he persecuted Him. But he felt His power, and therefore he called Him "Lord." "And the Lord said, I am Jesus" — Jehoshua, God the Saviour. This is very affectionate. "I am not come here to destroy thee, though thou hast persecuted Me; I am still Jesus." Whilst you may not yet believe in Him, it is Jesus, the Saviour, who came to seek those that were lost. "And he, trembling and astonished, said" — How natural this is! How little an infidel, however clever, knows or understands the Bible! Schiller says, "We are still in want of a kind of Linne for the human heart" — i.e., in want of a person to give us a development of the human heart, as that celebrated Linne did of the natural kingdom. Now if he had only studied the history of Paul, he would have found a development of the human heart. A man who had stood for many days near a precipice, and never knew that he was near it, but had his eyes suddenly opened and was instantly snatched away from it — he must "tremble." But a real believer does not remain trembling. "And he, trembling and astonished, said" — not, "Now I will go and read the books of our Rabbis"; and a really awakened sinner would not say, I will go and read Paley, or Dr. Adam Clarke or other writers on the evidences; but like Paul, "Lord! what wilt Thou have me to do?" verifying those words of our Lord, "Except ye be converted and become as little children," etc. A little child does not say, I must speculate to get a thing from my father; but it asks him for it. Now see how the Lord takes him by the hand. "And the Lord said unto him, Arise."

4. Let us pursue this history. Here you will see how a real believer has to suffer, and from a quarter where he does not expect it — from believers. What has the Jew to expect when he once boldly confesses the name of Jesus? Mistrust from a quarter where he ought not to experience it — from believers. If Ananias had lived in our time, they would have called him a cautious and prudent man. Now let us hear the answer of the Lord: "Go thy way" — (for "His ways are not our ways, neither are His thoughts our thoughts"); that very Saul who was going about "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" is "a chosen vessel." In Arabic, Paul means an instrument; he was a Shaul, a sought-out — he is now a Paul, an instrument, "a chosen vessel to bear My name." And now Ananias at last was convinced.

II. ITS RESULT. "And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales." At first he was like the blind man, who was receiving his sight; things were still indistinct to him, and he "saw men like trees walking"; but now that there fell upon him the Holy Ghost, he conceived what it is to be a Christian, was baptized, and joined the disciples. "And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues." When the believer enters a beautiful garden he invites others to enter. "Straightway" — no round-aboutery. And a believer is not ashamed; he preaches Him who had been "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence."

III. THIS HISTORY IS A TYPE (1 Timothy 1:16) —

1. Of the conversion of the Jewish nation. He was "one born out of due time." And so in every century one has seen Jews "born out of due time." In the middle ages there was Sixtus Senensis, a Jew at Rome, whose writings still exist, and from whom we may say that the most spiritual part of the Roman Catholic Church, the Jansenists, still derive all their Biblical knowledge. So De Lyra was the teacher of Luther. And so in our time.

2. Of the future conversion of the nation. He was a Saul, a sought-out; and to Jerusalem it is said, "Thou shalt be called sought-out, a city not forsaken." The light "shone round about him from heaven"; and to Jerusalem it shall be said, "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." And as the Apostle Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, so my nation shall be the great national apostle to the Gentile world; "and Gentiles shall come to Thy light, and kings to the brightness of Thy rising." And as there was peace in the Church at the time of the conversion of Saul, so "thy walls, O Jerusalem, shall be called Peace, and thy governors Righteousness."

(J. Wolff, LL. D.)

I. THE CONVERSION ITSELF.

1. It was an improbable event.

2. It was miraculous in its circumstances, and as such is a proof of the gospel. Because

(1)No rational solution other than that he gives can be given for it. It was not a delusion, nor a deception.

(2)It proves Christ's resurrection, and therewith the whole gospel.

(3)It authenticates Paul's doctrine as a supernatural revelation from Christ.

3. Though miraculous in its circumstances it was normal in its essentials.

(1)As to the nature of the change.

(2)As to the means by which it is effected.

(3)As to the evidences of its sincerity.

II. THE STATE OF MIND EXPRESSED. It included —

1. Entire abnegation of self. He sought not his own

(1)Advancement;

(2)Enjoyment;

(3)Improvement.

2. Absolute submission to Christ's authority.

(1)Not his own will.

(2)Not that of friends, rulers, or the world.

(3)But Christ alone had authority to determine and direct his course.

3. Entire consecration to the service of Christ.

(1)Readiness to do His will.

(2)Willingness that He should determine not only the service, but the field and the circumstances.

III. THE MEANS BY WHICH IT WAS PRODUCED.

1. The revelation of Christ. This was —

(1)External; but this was not all, for He was thus revealed to thousands.

(2)To the reason. A rational conviction was produced.

(3)Spiritual, effected by Christ's Spirit, and consisting in spiritual manifestation.

2. The truth revealed was the Divinity of Christ. Because —

(1)He is called Lord.

(2)Because in Galatians 1:16 he says, "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me."

(3)Because of the analogy between this revelation and that on the Mount of Transfiguration.

(4)Because Paul makes conversion consist in knowing Christ.

(5)From its effects.

(C. Hodge, D. D.)

I.THE FIRST IMPRESSION. The deep feeling of his spiritual inability (ver. 8).

II.THE FIRST SIGNS OF LIFE (ver. 11).

III.THE FIRST TESTIMONY (ver. 20).

IV.THE FIRST EXPERIENCE (ver. 23).

(Jaspis.)

I. SPIRITUAL CRISIS. Saul had now arrived at his spiritual crisis. Such a crisis has occurred in the lives of most great reformers, and at these moments they become absorbingly interesting. Buddha waiting for the final illumination under his wisdom tree; Mohammed in the caves of the desert; Luther in the monk's cell; Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus — each in his own way was having that last desperate encounter with the past and its outworn traditions, which was to fit him to be the religious pioneer of the future. Such a passage from the old to the new may be fitly called conversion. Most of us may have known something like it. Not that everyone must pass through an intellectual or spiritual convulsion. Some souls seem to grow like flowers; some leap like cataracts. There are halcyon as well as earthquake natures; there are neutral tinted people who never seem to rise or fall very much; there are well-balanced people set in harmonious conditions who develop day by day, and never know the shocks of sudden change.

II. HINDRANCES TO SPIRITUAL PROGRESS. In most of us there is a bar, and that bar has to be passed or the soul will languish.

1. Pleasure is one man's bar. Till he recognises something above pleasure he will make no way. A noble cause or enthusiasm at last lays hold upon him, and he counts pleasure lost for the first time that he may compass the new ideal. He postpones appetite, he learns self-sacrifice. The bar is passed.

2. Another drifts. Indecision, want of purpose, is his bar. The love of a pure, strong, tender woman delivers him; or the companionship of a high-minded friend steadies and directs his aims.

3. Another is an idolater of self. His horizon is hopelessly narrowed in, and there is no progress until you get out of that dismal, vicious circle. Responsibility, interests, loves and lives of others, sense of a spiritual world — in one word, God and religion in some form awakening Divine echoes, sounding undreamed of depths within, such a revelation may come upon you with a shock. The expulsive power of a noble affection, the absorbing power of a good cause, the emancipating and illuminating power of a Divine sentiment may be the terms of your conversion.

4. Saul's bar was intellectual pride and self-sufficiency. In politics this obstinate habit breeds the State despot, the man who would sacrifice party, principle, country. In religion it produces the fanatic. The Son of God may hang on a tree; Stephen with the angel face may be stoned; Savonarola and Huss may be stoned.

III. DIVINE LEADINGS. There came a day when Paul wept to remember how Saul had persecuted the Church of Christ. But at present he breathes nothing but threatenings and slaughter, and is off to Damascus on his cruel purpose. But on that lonesome journey Saul thinks —

1. "Tis an odious business, this. Is it a duty? My duty! My Master Gamaliel used to say, 'Let them alone,' etc. Ah! he was too mild. One must not tolerate insult to the Holy Temple and the Law." So Gamaliel was pushed aside.

2. Saul thinks; "This Jesus. Why did the people hear Him? A magician of words it seems, mistaken at first for an eloquent Rabbi — most cursed perversion of talent. That He who spoke the story of the prodigal, which the very children now prattle, should have uttered that hateful tale of the vineyard — that was aimed at our holy rules; a poisoned tongue, an insidious, treacherous Rabbi that Jesus: His viper brood of disciples must be stamped out; 'tis the will of God." And so Jesus was pushed aside.

3. Then once again Saul thinks as the face of the murdered Stephen rises before him: "Such an one with the makings of a good Haggadist, but hopelessly tainted. Is it not written, 'The poison of asps is under their lips'? yet did not his looks belie his iniquity? We judged him, he seemed to be judging us. 'Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.' Monstrous brazen-tongued heretic, or visionary — which? Yes, he saw a vision. I would that face had not been crushed in so bloody a death. But no, it was expedient that one man died for the people. We have stamped the thing out in Jerusalem by that stroke. Yet his smile, his prayer — last fraud of the tempter. Thou hadst Stephen in thy toils — thou shalt not take me so easily." And with this did Saul smite his jaded steed, as Balaam did his, and for a like reason. On! on! he fiercely spurred, and again his poor beast kicked against the pricks, as he was himself kicking against the pricks of a Divine Master who sought to guide him whither he would not go. Suddenly his brain reels — like an over-bent bow gives in a moment — he staggers on horseback — the bolt seems to fall from the blue. Is it thunder? Is it a voice? Is it a light? — aye, "above the brightness of the sun," but it leaves Saul in darkness. Jesus has met him by the way.

(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

In the middle of July, 1719, Colonel Gardiner, who was then leading a most licentious life, had spent the evening of a Sunday in some gay company, and had an assignation with a married woman at midnight. The company broke up at eleven, and while he was waiting for the hour of twelve, he took up a book to pass away the time. As he was reading, he saw an unusual blaze of light fall on the page, and looking up he saw before him, as it were suspended in the air, a representation of our Blessed Lord on the Cross, surrounded by a glory. At the same instant he heard a voice saying, "O sinner, did I suffer this for thee, and are these the returns?" The vision filled him with unutterable astonishment and agony of heart; and pierced by a sense of his ingratitude to God, he from that moment forsook his evil life.

Is it not beautiful to see how Paul forgot all his old Pharisaism? All the hard words and bitter blasphemies that he had spoken against Christ, they have all gone in a moment. What strange changes will come over some beings in an instant! One of my students who has been a sailor has preached the gospel for some long time, but his English was far from grammatical. Having been in college some little time he began to speak correctly, but suddenly the old habit returned upon him. He was in the Princess Alice at the time of the lamentable catastrophe, and he escaped in an almost miraculous manner. I saw him some time after, and congratulated him on his escape, and he replied that he had saved his life but had lost all his grammar. He found himself for awhile using the language of two or three years ago; and even now he declares that he cannot get back what he had learnt. He seems to have drowned his grammar on that terrible occasion. Now, just as we may lose some good thing by a dreadful occurrence, which seems to sweep over the mind like a huge wave and wash away our treasures, so by a blessed catastrophe, if Christ should meet with any man tonight, much which he has valued will be swept away! You may write on wax, and may make the record fair. Take a hot iron and roll it across the wax, and it is all gone. That seems to me to be just what Jesus did with Paul's heart. It was all written over with blasphemy and rebellion, and He rolled the hot iron of burning love over his soul, and the evil inscription was all gone. He ceased to blaspheme, and he began to praise.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

A poor woman caught by a slave-raiding band in the far interior, and in a moment snatched with a few of her friends from home, from children, from hope, found herself on the march to the coast in the dreadful slave gang. Day after day, foot sore and heart sore, she wended her weary way, until one night in her sleep visions of God came to her. She dreamed she was in a larger room than she had ever seen; and at one end of it there was a man with a white face, whose words gave her great comfort. She rose the next morning with heart relieved, a pilgrim to a blessed destiny. She did not know what it was to be; she knew that she was a pilgrim to the sunrise. She reached the coast, was there sold, and embarked on board a slaver. The slaver was taken, and a large part, herself included, of the slave cargo was landed at Fernando Po. A little while after she was taken to our little chapel at Clarence in West Africa. It was the room of her dream. There was the man of her dream, and his message brought the light of immortality to her heart, which never left it. And my story is not ended. That was fifty years ago. She was living a few years since, for Wright Hay told me that whenever he was in any discouragement or difficulty he went to this noble old saint of God, and never left without finding wisdom and help from her saintly counsel.

(S. Chapman.)

Look at the mighty mountain lifting its head above the clouds that do but girdle it. How proud and defiant it stands! Far up above the dusty ways of man, clothed in robes of unsullied snow, it seems the very emblem of the unchangeable. Yet every day it is being levelled. The glacier grinds the rock; the frost frets and frays it; the torrents wear away the stones and hollow out the sides. Now rocks are rent from it and go sweeping far into valleys, in turn to be ground into soil, until in time the great mountain that stood bleak and bare is spread into the golden cornfields or into the pastures that are covered with flocks, and where the homesteads look forth from the midst of the trees that screen them, and the happy people laugh and sing. Now that is what the heavenly Father is seeking to do for us by the daily discipline of life, and by the ministry of His grace. He puts Himself within reach of us that He may bring down the pride and selfishness, that He may take away the coldness and hardness, and turn us into love and service and a thousand forms of blessedness. Have faith in God. Take hold of the power of God that is in Christ Jesus that in you the mountain may be made into cornfields. Look at Saul of Tarsus. How like a mountain did he stand! How proud, how defiant, how high he carried his head! And like the mountain, too, how the black storms gathered around him, and the lightnings blazed, how the thunders lowered and crashed, and the cruel torrents roared and raged in their fury! It is a volcano that rises before us whence flow the streams of fire. But lo! there comes the grace of God. He is broken, transformed. Listen how long after he writes to the little flock to whom he had ministered: "We were gentle among you even as a nurse cherisheth her own children, so being affectionately desirous of you we were willing to have imparted unto you not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were become very dear unto us." The persecuting Saul is turned into an apostle of love. Faith has cast out the mountain and transformed it into the cornfields and pastures. Now we are to take hold of the grace of God to do like wonders within us. We have no business to talk about our nature, we have to think about the almighty power of God.

(M. G. Pearse.)

Etienne de Grellet says he required a reason for everything from a child. God, however, chose His own way in his conversion. He was walking in the fields, under no kind of religious concern, when he was suddenly arrested by what seemed to be an awful voice, crying, "Eternity! eternity I eternity!" It reached his very soul. His whole frame shook, and, like Saul, he fell to the ground. He cried out, "If there is a God, doubtless there is a hell." For long he seemed to hear the thundering proclamation, and was eventually led to decision.

I knew a young woman who was brought to God very suddenly. She was busily engaged singing a profane song, when a flash of lightning seemed to pass through the room she occupied, illuminating the place with a sudden, supernatural light; then followed a deep, loud roll of thunder, and the young woman, feeling as if in the presence of God, fell upon her knees confessing her sins and crying for mercy. Sins, which hitherto she had not felt to be sins, seemed to stand up and condemn her; she felt that there was no safety for her except through the blood of Jesus; and Christ, the merciful Saviour, accepted her.

In December the days grow shorter till the twenty-first, the shortest day, when, at a precise moment, the sun pauses and begins to return towards the north. And then, though the days are constantly growing longer, and the sun coming nearer, yet for weeks there is no apparent change. The snow lies heavy upon the earth. There are neither leaves, nor blossoms, nor singing birds; nothing to mark the summer time which is surely advancing. But at length the ground begins to relax in the sunny places, and the snows melt, and warm winds blow from the south, and buds swell, and flowers spring, and ere long there is the bloom and glory of June. So there is a precise moment when the soul pauses in its departure from God, and begins to return towards Him. The fruits of that return may not be at once visible; there may be long interior conflicts before the coldness and deadness of the heart is overcome; but at length the good will triumph, and instead of winter and desolation, all the Christian graces will spring up in the summer of Divine love.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I. THE ENEMIES.

1. Saul breathing vengeance with his armed followers, and his weapons of human learning and carnal zeal.

2. Christ the Crucified and Exalted One, with the marks of His wounds and in His heavenly glory; behind Him crowds of angels, among whom is joy over one sinner that repenteth.

II. THE FIGHT.

1. Christ attacks.

2. Saul defends himself.

III. THE VICTORY.

1. Saul surrenders.

2. Christ triumphs.

IV. THE SPOIL. "He shall have the strong for a prey." Saul is led away a prisoner, not to death, but to life.

V. THE JOYFUL TE DEUM OF THE CHURCH.

(K. Gerok.)

I. ITS TROUBLED AND STORMY MORNING.

II. ITS HOT AND THUNDERY NOON.

III. ITS QUIET AND BLESSED EVENING.

(K. Gerok.)

Damascus still stands with a population of 135,000. It was a gay city of white and glistering architecture; its domes playing with the light of the morning sun; embowered in groves of olive, and palm, and citron, and orange, and pomegranate; a famous river plunging its brightness into the scene — a city by the ancients styled "a pearl surrounded by emeralds." A group of horsemen are advancing. Let the Christians of the place hide, for they are persecutors; their leader, as leaders sometimes are, insignificant in person — witness Napoleon and Dr. Archibald Alexander. But there is something very intent in the eye of the man, and the horse he rides is lathered with the foam of a long and quick travel of one hundred and thirty-five miles. He cries, "Go 'long" to his steed, for those Christians must be captured and that religion annihilated. Suddenly the horses shy off and plunge, until the riders are precipitated. A new sun had been kindled, putting out the glare of the ordinary sun. Christ, with the glories of heaven wrapped about Him, looked out from a cloud, and the splendour was insufferable, and no wonder the horses sprang and the equestrians dropped. Struck stone blind, Saul cries out, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And Jesus answered him, "I am the One you have been chasing. He that scourges Christians scourges Me. I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest." From that wild, exciting, and overwhelming scene there rises up the greatest preacher of all the ages — Paul, in whose behalf prisons were rocked down; before whom rulers turned pale; into whose hand Mediterranean sea captains put control of their ship wrecking craft, and whose epistles are the avant courier of a resurrection day. I learn from this scene —

I. THAT A WORLDLY FALL SOMETIMES PRECEDES A SPIRITUAL UPLIFTING. A man does not get much sympathy by falling off a horse. People say he ought not to have got into the saddle if he could not ride. Here is Paul on horseback; a proud man riding on with government documents in his pocket; a graduate of a most famous school in which Doctor Gamaliel had been a professor; perhaps having already attained two of the three titles of the school — Rab and Rabbi, and on his way to Rabbak. I know, from his temperament, that his horse was ahead of the other horses. But without time to think of his dignity he is tumbled into the dust. And yet that was the best ride Paul ever took. Out of that violent fall he arose into the illustrious apostleship. So it has been in all the ages. You will never be worth anything for God and the Church until you are somehow thrown and humiliated. You must go down before you go up. Joseph finds his path to the Egyptian court through the pit into which his brothers threw him. Daniel would never have walked amid the bronzed lions that adorned the Babylonish throne if he had not first walked amid the real lions of the cave. Men who have been always prospered may be efficient servants of the world, but will be of no advantage to Christ.

II. THAT THE RELIGION OR CHRIST IS NOT A PUSILLANIMOUS THING. People try to make us believe that Christianity is something for men of weak calibre, for women, for children. Look at this man. He was a logician, a metaphysician, an all-conquering orator, a poet of the highest type. I have never found anything in Carlyle, or Goethe, or Herbert Spencer that could compare in strength or beauty with Paul's Epistles. I do not think there is anything in Sir William Hamilton that shows such mental discipline as you find in Paul's argument about justification and resurrection. I have not found anything in Milton finer than Paul's illustrations drawn from the amphitheatre. There was nothing in Emmet pleading for his life, or in Burke arraigning Warren Hastings, that compared with the scene before Agrippa. A religion that can capture a man like that must have some power in it. Where Paul leads, we can afford to follow. I am glad to know that Christ has had in His discipleship a Mozart and a Handel in music; a Raphael and a Reynolds in painting; an Angelo and a Canova in sculpture; a Rush and a Harvey in medicine; a Grotius and a Washington in statesmanship; a Blackstone, a Marshall, and a Kent in the law; and the time will come when the religion of Christ will conquer all the observatories and universities, and philosophy will, through her telescope, behold the morning star of Jesus, and in her laboratory see that "all things work together for good," and with her geological hammer discern the "Rock of Ages." Oh, instead of cowering when the sceptic talks of religion as though it were a pusillanimous thing, show him the picture of the intellectual giant of all the ages prostrate on the road to Damascus; then ask your sceptic who it was that threw him. Oh, no! it is no weak gospel. It is a glorious, an all-conquering gospel; the power of God unto salvation.

III. THAT A MAN CANNOT BECOME A CHRISTIAN UNTIL HE IS UNHORSED. We want to ride into the kingdom of God just as the knight rode into castle gate, on palfrey beautifully caparisoned. We want to come into the kingdom of God in fine style. No crying over sin. No begging at the door of God's mercy. No, we must dismount, go down in the dust, until Christ shall, by His grace, lift us up, as He lifted Paul.

IV. THAT THE GRACE OF GOD CAN OVERCOME THE PERSECUTOR. Paul was not going, as a sheriff goes, to arrest a man against whom he has no spite. He breathed out slaughter. Do you think that that proud man on horseback can ever become a Christian? Yes! There is a voice from heaven uttering two words, "Saul! Saul!" That man was saved; and so God can, by His grace, overcome any persecutor. The days of sword and fire for Christians seem to have gone by; but has the day of persecution ceased? No. That woman finds it hard to be a Christian while her husband talks and jeers while she is trying to say her prayers or read the Bible. That daughter finds it hard to be a Christian with the whole family arrayed against her. That young man finds it bard to be a Christian in the shop when his companions jeer at him because he will not go to the gambling hell or the house of shame. But, oh, you persecuted ones, is it not time that you began to pray for your persecutors? They are no prouder, no fiercer than was this persecutor. God can, by His grace, make a Renan believe in the Divinity of Jesus, and a Tyndall in the worth of prayer. John Newton stamped the ship's deck in derisive indignation at Christianity only a little while before he became a Christian. "Out of my house," said a father to his daughter, "if you will keep praying"; and, before many months passed, the father knelt at the same altar with the child.

V. THAT THERE IS HOPE FOR THE WORST OFFENDERS. It was particularly outrageous that Saul should have gone to Damascus on that errand. The life and death of Jesus was not an old story as it is now. He heard parts of it recited every day by people who were acquainted with all the circumstances; and yet, in the fresh memory of that scene, he goes to persecute Christ's disciples. Oh, he was the chief of sinners. No outburst of modesty when he said that. He was a murderer. And yet the grace of God saved him, and so it will you. There is mercy for you who say you are too bad to be saved. You say you have put off the matter so long. Paul had neglected it a great while. You say that the sin you have committed has been amid the most aggravating circumstances. That was so with Paul. You say you have exasperated Christ, and coaxed your own ruin. So did Paul; and yet he sits today on one of the highest of the heavenly thrones.

VI. THAT THERE IS A TREMENDOUS REALITY IN RELIGION. If it had been a mere optical delusion over the road to Damascus, Paul was just the man to find it out. If it had been a sham and pretence, he would have pricked the bubble. And when I see him overwhelmed, I say there must have been something in it. And, my dear brother, you will find that there is something in religion in one of three places, either in earth, or in heaven, or in hell.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

There are three accounts of the conversion of St. Paul, and they are all in this book. The first is the account of Luke here; the two others are by Paul himself — one to an infuriated mob in chap. Acts 22, the other before Agrippa in chap. Acts 26. Let us —

I. EXAMINE THE APPARENT DISCREPANCIES IN DETAIL.

1. In one account the companions of Saul fell to the ground; in the other they stood wondering and astonished. But —(1) It is not at all unlikely that in the journey from Jerusalem some were on horseback and some on foot. This is the common way of making up companies in the East. I once saw a caravan, coming out of the desert into Cairo; some were upon camels, some on asses, many were walking. They had all been to Mecca and back. Those who fell, therefore, in one narrative would be those mounted; those who stood in the other would be the travellers on foot.(2) But, again, at the first shock all might have fallen, and those who were the farthest from the centre might have sooner recovered themselves, and have been standing astonished even when Saul was still lying upon the earth.

2. In one account it is said the companions of Saul did not hear the voice that spake, and in another that they did hear. Now, do you think that twelve men of common honesty and common sense would find much difficulty if there was such a discrepancy as this between two witnesses who were giving their evidence before them? The slightest cross examination would bring out the fact that in the one case what was heard was a sound, something inarticulate, mysterious, and that in the other they did not hear the words, the distinct utterance that was given. And further, the difference in the word "voice" in the two passages involves this explanation. In the one case the import is that they heard (the sound) "of the voice"; in the other, that they did not hear "the voice" itself — what was said.

3. In one account Ananias is described as "a disciple," and all that he says, and all that is said of him, is in harmony with that; in another account he is described as "a devout man according to the law," and everything that is said of him, and that he says, is in harmony with that. Well, the one account is not contradictory to, but only supplementary of, the other. But besides that, there is beauty and propriety in the different way in which Ananias is spoken of in the two cases. In the first case, where he is spoken of as being "a disciple," is in St. Luke's history of him. St. Luke was a Christian writer, writing a Christian history for Christian people, and therefore he naturally put forward the Christian side of Ananias. In the other case St. Paul is addressing an infuriated Jewish mob, all zealous for the law. With admirable tact, therefore, he endeavours to conciliate them, and he naturally puts before them Ananias' Jewish side.

4. In one case it is said that Jesus directed Paul to go into the city, and "it should be told him what he must do"; but when he is addressing Agrippa, Paul himself seems to speak as if Jesus had said to him a great deal more. Paul, I think, did not receive at the moment of his conversion, from the lips of Jesus, all that he says to Agrippa; but he did receive it all, either direct from Christ or through Ananias as commissioned by Him. In addressing Agrippa his one object was fully to set before him his apostolic commission. The substance and the source of the truth were what was important; and Paul, without attenuating his address by enumerating times and places and circumstances, exercises his common sense in so putting the matter before the king as to fix his attention on the authority and the scope of the ministry he exercised.

II. SOME OBSERVATIONS ARISING OUT OF THEM. Note —

1. The nature and characteristics of human testimony. If two witnesses express themselves precisely in the same language, word for word, it is suspicious. What we look for is substantial agreement with circumstantial variations; such variations constitute, not the weakness, but the strength of the testimony. We have human testimony in this book. Inspiration in respect to some things was necessarily verbal, but, had it always been that, you could never have two accounts of anything. And, moreover, if the guiding inspiration had to be such that every word was to be exactly just that which was uttered, then you have no human agent, with his freedom and intelligence, giving his evidence, but exclusively the dictations of the presiding mind, and these mechanically conveyed. A mere automaton might have been set in motion to do that. On this hypothesis the Bible might have been photographed, and that, too, in human language, by a Divinely directed, material force. You have something better than that. You have Divine thought; but you have that communicated by conscious and active minds. Of course, if we had the witnesses before us, we should soon be able, by a little cross examination, to harmonise their statements.

2. These three different accounts were all written by the same hand. Though the first account only is in the words of Luke, the others being in the words of St. Paul, yet Luke wrote them all down; they lay before his eye; he could compare them as we do. Luke was a man of education and intelligence; of disciplined faculty and sound judgment. Now, if he had included what was inherently contradictory in a book written for the express purpose that those who read it should know the certainty of the things in which they had been instructed, do you suppose that he would not be conscious of the discrepancy? And do you not see that it was in his power to remove it? He could easily have made the accounts harmonise. But he did not think it worth while to do it.

(T. Binney.)

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