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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GALATIANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 15
Verse 15. But when it pleased God. Paul traced all his hopes of eternal life, and all the good influences which had ever borne upon his mind, to God.
Who separated me, etc. That is, who destined me; or who purposed from my very birth that I should be a preacher and an apostle. The meaning is, that God had in his secret purposes set him apart to be an apostle. It does not mean that he had actually called him in his infancy to the work, for this was not so, but that he designed him to be an important instrument in his hands in spreading the true religion. Jeremiah Jer 1:5 was thus set apart, and John the Baptist was thus early designated, for the work which they afterwards performed. It follows from this,
(1.) that God often, if not always, has purposes in regard to men from their very birth. He designs them for some important field of labour, and endows them at their creation with talents adapted to that.
(2.) It does not follow that because a young man has gone far astray; and has become even a blasphemer and a persecutor, that God has not destined him to some important and holy work in his service. How many men have been called, like Paul, and Newton, and Bunyan, and Augustine, from a life of sin to the service of God.
(3.) God is often training up men in a remarkable manner for future usefulness. His eye is upon them, and he watches over them, until the time comes for their conversion, His providence was concerned in the education and training of Paul. It was by the Divine intention with reference to his future work that he had so many opportunities of education, and was so well acquainted with the "traditions" of that religion which he was yet to demonstrate to be unfounded and false, he gave him the opportunity to cultivate his mind, and prepare to grapple with the Jew in argument, and show him how unfounded were his hopes. So it is often now. He gives to a young man an opportunity of a finished education. Perhaps he suffers him to fall into the snares of infidelity, and to become familiar with the arguments of skeptics, that he may thus be better prepared to meet their sophisms, and to enter into their feelings, His eye is upon them in their wanderings, and they are suffered often to wander far; to range the fields of science; to become distinguished as scholars, as Paul was; until the time comes for their conversion, and then, in accordance with the purpose which set them apart from the world, God converts them, and consecrates all their talents and attainments to his service.
(4.) We should never despair of a young man who has wandered far from God. If he has risen high in attainments; if his whole aim is ambition; or if he has become an infidel, still we are not to despair of him. It is possible still that God "separated" that talent to his service from the very birth, and that he means yet to call it all to his service, how easy it was to convert Saul of Tarsus when the proper period arrived. So it is of the now unconverted and unconsecrated, but cultivated talent among the young men of our land. Far as they may have wandered from God and virtue, yet much of that talent has been devoted to him in baptism, and by parental purposes and prayers; and, it may be—as is morally certain from the history of the past—that much of it is consecrated also by the Divine purpose and intention for the noble cause of virtue and pure religion. In that now apparently wasted talent; in that learning now apparently devoted to other aims and ends, there is much that will yet adorn the cause of virtue and religion; and how fervently should we pray that it may be "called" by the grace of God, and actually devoted to his service.
And called me by his grace. On the way to Damascus. It was special grace, because he was then engaged in bitterly opposing him and his cause.
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