Intense Against Christ May Become Intense for Him
Acts 8:3
As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

The indications given in this verse of Saul's intensity should be noticed; he added personal cruelties to judicial severity, manifested almost an insane ferocity and wanton brutality, as he afterwards acknowledged (Acts 26:11). The grounds of Saul's prejudice against Christ and Christianity should be carefully traced, as the nature of his mistaken sentiments helps to explain the entire change of his thoughts and conduct when Christ spoke to him from heaven. A Pharisee such as Saul would have a general offence against Christ

(1) as having deluded the people, and led them away from their proper teachers;

(2) as daring to claim the Messiahship, when he was known to be only a poor Nazarene carpenter. But he would have further and deeper grounds of offence in the facts

(3) that Jesus had openly opposed and endeavored to discredit the Pharisee class to which he belonged;

(4) that Jesus was proved to have wrought sham miracles by the fact that he could not deliver himself from the cross; and

(5) that it was a public insult to the intelligence of the people for these disciples to go on asserting that this crucified impostor had risen from the dead, and had ascended to heaven, and was now showing signs of his Divine power. Saul thought he had a plain case and good grounds for his persecuting zeal; and so he had, assuming that his view was correct. But, suppose he was wrong, and Jesus after all was Messiah? Suppose it could be shown him in a moment that Jesus was alive and exalted? Then the very foundations of all his arguments were plucked away, and a new impulse urged him to consecrate himself, once for all, to the service of Jesus the Nazarene.

I. THE INTENSITY OF AN IMPULSIVE CHARACTER. Illustrate from the Saul who was the first king of Israel; from incidents in the life of the Apostle Peter, and from the later story of Saul, or Paul. This intensity often does good service; it overleaps difficulties which hinder the quieter and calmer class of men. It bears others along on its own tide of impetuosity. It becomes holy boldness, wise enterprise, and steadfast endurance when it is duly toned, sanctified, and guided by the indwelling Holy Ghost. There is more or less of impulsiveness in each of the apostles of whom anything is narrated. James and John followed the impulse stirred by the Master's call, and left their fisher-work and fisher-folk, to become servants of Christ and fishers of men; and an impulsive spirit is sealed in the surname which our Lord fixed upon them. Matthew seems immediately to have obeyed, and left the receipt of custom, when the Master touched his heart with the call, "Follow me;" and it was evidently in the intensity of deep feeling that he gathered his friends to a parting feast. Thomas speaks impetuously, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails... I will not believe;" and still more impetuously he cries, "My Lord and my God," when constrained to believe by the condescending grace of the Redeemer. Peter represents to us the exaggeration of impulsiveness; and he never reveals his character more fully than when smitten down, penitent and broken-hearted, because of the second cock-crowing and the Savior's reproachful look.

II. THE WEAKNESS OF THE IMPULSIVE CHARACTER. This finds expression in such things as:

1. A disposition to overvalue mere religious feeling.

2. To take up new ideas or new schemes, under the urgings of sentiment rather than sound judgment.

3. A tendency to give up schemes with as little thought as they were taken up.

4. A foolish expectation that every one must be as intense as the impulsive one is.

5. And an inability fairly to estimate the reasons that make slow progress alone safe and sure. In the Christian life, as in common life, seasons of undue elevation are sure to be followed by seasons of undue depression, and such seasons are very disappointing and humiliating. St. Peter illustrates the weaknesses of the impulsive. Our Lord had even to reprove him severely. From Saul, or Pan], may be shown the solid excellence of character which the naturally impulsive man may gain when piety, principle, and noble sentiments come to rule and guide and tone his impulses. Some of the grandest sentences of St. Paul's Epistles are the utterances possible only to a sanctified man of intensity and strong impulses; e.g. Philippians 1:21-23. - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

WEB: But Saul ravaged the assembly, entering into every house, and dragged both men and women off to prison.

Different Kinds of Martyrdom
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