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THE CONVERSION OF PAUL.
THE man, whose conversion is the subject of the present Lecture, has been already mentioned in this history; and the incidental hints respecting his sentiments and conduct, give a very unfavourable idea of his character. Young in years, he discovered no symptom of that generous spirit, and that tenderness of feeling, which are expected before the heart is narrowed and hardened by commerce with the world; but with an insensibility, which is the ordinary result of confirmed prejudices, and repeated crimes against humanity, he beheld, with approbation, the cruel death of a righteous man. His zeal hurried him on to take an active part in the persecution of the Church; and “entering into every house, and haling men and women, he committed them to prison.” From this specimen, what could the disciples prognosticate but hostility protracted during life, and augmenting in fury, as its objects multiplied, and its sanguine hopes of success were disappointed? The most perspicacious eye could perceive no trait in his character, from which a change might be predicted. It could still less have been foreseen, that this man should ere long be a preacher of the faith, which he was so eager to destroy. But in the plastic hands of the Almighty, the powers of mind, and the qualities of matter, are passive and pliant. With the rudest and most untoward materials, he can rear a fabric, admirable in its contrivance, beautiful in its construction, and accommodated to the most valuable purposes. It is his glory still to call a magnificent world out of chaos; it is his pleasure to display the sovereignty and power of his grace, upon the most unlikely and forbidding subjects.
When we read, in the beginning of this chapter, that “Saul, yet 150breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high-priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem;” we recognise the same spirit which had cordially consented to the murder of Stephen. The expression used by Luke is descriptive and animated. “He breathed out threatenings and slaughter.” The persecution of the inoffensive disciples was the continual subject of his thoughts; his conversation was filled with invectives and menaces against them; and to harass and destroy them was the chief pleasure of his life. Jerusalem, populous as it was, furnished too narrow a range for his impatient and indefatigable zeal. The havock which he had already made, served only to whet his eagerness; and he longed for an opportunity of more extensive mischief, that he might diffuse the fame of his implaclable hatred to the religion of Christ.
In Damascus, the capital of Syria, it appears that the gospel had made considerable progress. There the disciples multiplied under the protection of the laws, or, at least, not disturbed by the civil authority. It must have been the flourishing state of Christianity in Damascus, which attracted the notice of Saul to a place so remote. He applied to the high-priest for letters to the synagogues, empowering him to demand the surrender of such Jews as, by embracing the new doctrine, had incurred the guilt of apostasy from the religion of Moses. Damascus was in a foreign country, and under a different government; but the high-priest claimed a jurisdiction over all persons belonging to the Jewish Church, wherever they resided, and seems to have been permitted to exercise it, by Aretas the king. The offenders Saul was to bring to Jerusalem because there only it was competent to the high-priest to punish them, or because it was necessary that they should be tried by the Sanhedrim, and the example, it was hoped, would terrify those at Jerusalem, who yet remained obstinate heretics.
Having procured such letters as lie wished, Saul set out on his journey, and, we may be certain, suffered neither curiosity nor indolence to detain him on the road. His heart was too deeply interested in his commission to admit of any delay in executing it. Already he had approached near to Damascus, and perhaps within sight of its walls, when, in a very unexpected manner, his progress was arrested. God often permits the wicked to carry on their designs 151till they are on the eve of being accomplished, when he suddenly interposes to defeat them, in judgment or in mercy. He either overwhelms the builder under the ruins of his edifice, or makes him abandon his impious project, and consecrate his time and talents to the service of the sanctuary.
Before we consider the account of the conversion of Saul, it will be proper to make a few observations upon the extraordinary means by which it was effected. Jesus Christ did not call him by the ministry of any Apostle or Evangelist; and he called him, when, instead of attending upon the ordinances of religion, he was engaged in a scheme of persecution. The laws of nature and of grace are nothing but the order, according to which God exerts his power in the production of physical, moral, and spiritual effects. Creatures are obliged to conform to that order; but the Creator may step aside from it, when any end, worthy of his wisdom, is to be gained. Miracles are deviations from the laws of nature; and such conversions as that of Saul, are deviations from the laws of grace. When the world was created the power of God was necessarily exercised in a different manner from that in which it. is exercised in the ordinary government of it. It is not surprising, therefore. that when the Christian Church, which is represented in the Old Testament as a new and more glorious creation, was founded, divine grace should have adopted some unusual methods of accomplishing its designs. But as no man of a sound mind will infer from miracles, that he may safely disregard the established order of nature, and expect, for example, to be cured of an inveterate disease by a word, or to be fed with manna from heaven; so the history before us gives no encouragement to hope, that while men are neglecting and despising the instituted means of salvation, God will employ visions and revelations to awaken and convert them. The case of Saul affords no precedent, except as it shows the freeness of divine grace, to preserve the convinced sinner from despair. This is the only use which we are directed to make of it. “Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first, Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”
“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus; and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven.” The light was instantaneous; not like that of the sun, for the full splendour of which we are prepared by the gradual illumination of the atmosphere, 152as he approaches the horizon, but like the lightning which, bursting from the clouds amidst the darkness of the night, dazzles and confounds us. Its brightness was unusual, as Paul himself informs us in his speech to Agrippa. “At mid-day, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me, and them that journeyed with me.” It must have been different from any light with which we are acquainted; for when the sun is in the meridian, and shining in a cloudless sky, lightning itself would scarcely be perceptible. It was a signal of the approach of the Son of God, “who looketh on the sun, and it shineth not, and sealeth up the stars.”
Paul tells us, in one of his Epistles, that “last of all, Christ was seen of him also, as of one born out of due time;” and asks, in another place, “Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” In the seventeenth verse of this chapter, Ananias says, that “Jesus appeared unto him in the way as he came.” From these passages we conclude, that it was on this occasion that he was favoured with a sight of the human nature of our Saviour, by which he was qualified to be a witness, with the other Apostles, of his resurrection and exaltation. We are ignorant of the means by which Saul was enabled to see him.
Such was the effect of this vision, or of the dazzling brightness with which he was surrounded, that he fell to the earth. The shock was too violent for his bodily frame, and his mind was seized with terror. A flash of lightning strikes awe into the stoutest heart. Man is alarmed at any occurrence which reminds him of a power superior to his own, that could crush his puny strength; he looks with dismay at those appearances, which, being out of the ordinary course of nature, seem to portend the interference of the Deity, to inflict vengeance upon the guilty. Thus we see the proud and unrelenting persecutor lying prostrate on the earth. What now can we expect, but that a sentence of perdition shall be issued against him, and executed upon the spot? But mercy had cast him down, that it might raise him up again. We hear, therefore, only the language of expostulation. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” How much must he have been surprised and confounded at this address! Never could he have suspected, in the pride of self-righteousness, that a voice from heaven would accuse him of an atrocious crime, or that his present conduct, which was applauded 153as a proof of ardent zeal for the glory of God, would subject him to the charge of impiety.
Saul was guilty of persecuting Jesus, because he defamed his name and made every effort to extirpate his religion. We say that a man is persecuted after his death, when his memory is loaded with reproaches, and his friends are subjected to ill-usage on his account. Malignity sometimes continues, in the blindness of its fury, to pursue those who have escaped beyond its reach, and cannot be disturbed by it in the sanctuary of the grave. But something more is implied in the charge against Saul. Between Jesus and his people there subsists an intimate union. They are one body and one spirit. Their interests are mutual; their joys and afflictions are common. What is done to them, he accounts to be done to himself, whether it be an act of beneficence or of malice. The contempt and cruelty, of which they are the objects, he considers as a personal insult. “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye.” His love to them makes him feel the injury; and the head complains, when any man treads upon the foot. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”
While Jesus accuses Saul as his persecutor, he deigns to expostulate with him. “Why persecutest thou me? Whence this furious zeal? What have I done to provoke such determined hostility?” “Lord! why didst thou condescend to reason with this man? It was with the same gracious intention, which induces thee still to reason with us, whom thou mightest overwhelm at once with confusion and ruin to make the guilty reflect upon their conduct, and to excite them, from the fear of thy justice, to supplicate that mercy which thou art willing to exercise.”
Saul heard the voice, but did not know from whom it proceeded. He therefore said, “Who art thou, Lord?” It was a question not of curiosity, but of anxiety and terror. “Who art thou whom I have offended?” It could not be the God of Israel, for whose law he was zealous even above his countrymen; who then was this person whom he was accused of persecuting? The voice answered, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” Never did information more unexpected and alarming burst upon the startled ear. Jesus, whom the Jews had crucified as the vilest of malefactors, without the gates of their city; Jesus, whom Saul believed to be an impostor, and whose name he had never mentioned but in terms of execration; Jesus, whose helpless followers he had, on all occasions, 154treated with the utmost indignity and cruelty; this Jesus now appeared in heavenly glory, and was recognised by his furious persecutor, in the act of going to Damascus to plague and destroy his disciples, as the Son of God, and the exalted Messiah.
His own mind would immediately suggest the dangerous and hopeless nature of his undertaking, which is pointed out in the following words. “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” This is a proverbial expression, signifying, that the design in which a person is engaged will prove abortive, and will terminate in his ruin. There is an allusion to a fierce ungovernable animal, which kicks at sharp spikes of iron, and while it vents its impotent rage, destroys itself. What has been the result of the frequent persecutions to which the Church of Christ has been exposed? Hypocrites have apostatised; some faithful men have fallen by the hands of their enemies; others have been grievously harassed, and compelled to leave their country and their kindred; but the immortal race of believers remains, and will continue, in defiance of the utmost exertions of the world. What has been the fate of their persecutors? They have fallen and perished, and left their names for a proverb and a curse. “God is known in her palaces for a refuge. For lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled and hasted away. Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail.” Had Saul been permitted to go on in his career, the disciples in Damascus would have been imprisoned, spoiled of their goods, banished, and murdered; but Christianity would have maintained itself against him, and his confederates. He would have been foiled in the unequal contest; and, sinking into eternal perdition, should have felt how vain it is to contend with superior power.
Astonished at the unexpected discovery, and trembling from a consciousness of his crime against the glorified Saviour, Saul said, “Lord what wilt thou have me to do?” Where is now the fierceness of the persecutor? Where his haughty defiance of Jesus of Nazareth? These sentiments are exchanged for profound submission. The disarmed foe lies at the feet of his omnipotent antagonist, and throws himself upon his mercy. He bows to his sovereign authority. Any thing which the supreme arbiter of his destiny shall command, he is ready to do; any thing which will atone for his past unprovoked opposition. All his strong holds are cast down; 155all his lofty imaginations are abased. Formerly he believed, that he was contending with the followers of an impostor, who had paid the forfeit of his crimes with his life; but he finds that he was fighting against that almighty Lord, to whom men must submit or perish. “The Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” Perhaps, in the present state of his mind, he could not have given attention to the instructions of the Saviour; and his situation on a public road, and in the midst of his unconverted companions, was unfavourable. It was in the calm and leisure of privacy, that he was to be prepared for the important services, in which Jesus purposed to employ him.
In the mean time, “the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.” There seems to be a contradiction between this account, and that which is given by Paul himself in the twenty-second chapter; for he there says, that “they that were with him saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to him.” The accounts are easily reconciled, by supposing the one to mean, that they heard the sound of the voice, and the other that they did not distinguish the words.1414The passages may be reconciled in a different way. The voice which they heard, was the voice of Paul; but they did not see the person whom, he addressed. The voice which they did not hear, was the voice of our Saviour. Buxtorfii Catalecta. CL. This circumstance amazed them, particularly because while they heard a voice, they “saw no man;” and they were speechless with astonishment. It appears from the twenty-sixth chapter, that they, too, fell to the ground; but they recovered more speedily than Saul, upon whom a stronger impression was made by the words which were addressed to him.
“And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened,. he saw no man: but they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.” Had this blindness been the natural. effect of the dazzling light, his fellow-travellers would have been: affected in the. same manner. It was a temporary punishment, inflicted by the power of Christ, which showed how easily he could have struck him dead upon the spot, and cast his guilty soul into hell; and taught him to admire and praise the gracious Redeemer, who, in the midst of wrath, remembered mercy to the worst of his enemies. Shut up to his own reflections, under this blindness, he 156was engaged in exercises so solemn and interesting, that he had neither inclination nor leisure to attend to the concerns of his body. It was during this period, that that process of conviction was carried on, which he has described in one of his Epistles. “I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” When he compared his former life with the holy law of God, which he now, for the first time, understood, sins past reckoning rose to his view; he discovered the most frightful depravity in his heart; and his Pharisaical notions, his proud confidence in his own righteousness, perished as a dream. Full of remorse, and shame, and fear, he cried with the penitent publican, “God, be merciful unto me a sinner.” It was during this period, that it pleased God “to reveal his Son in him” as the Messiah, who had brought in an everlasting righteousness, by which he obtained, through faith, that peace of mind which he ever afterwards enjoyed. It was during this period, that he was instructed in the knowledge of the gospel immediately by Christ, and was qualified in the same extraordinary manner in which he had been called, to be an Apostle. “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Amidst such distress and such joy; amidst such new and astonishing views as presented themselves to his opening mind, Saul forgot the necessities of the body. All this time was spent in tears, and prayers, and thanksgivings..
The following verses relate the cure of his blindness, his admission into the fellowship of the disciples by baptism, and the zeal and courage which he displayed in the service of Christ.
“And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias, and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.” This is the language of a faithful disciple, who only waits for the commands of his Master, that he may obey them. “And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas, for one called Saul of Tarsus: for behold he prayeth.” He no longer breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples; nothing proceeded from his lips but earnest supplications for mercy. 157This circumstance is mentioned to encourage Ananias to visit him. However wicked a man may have formerly been, we may presume that he is changed, as soon as we learn that he is frequent and fervent in prayer. The spirit of devotion cannot reside in the same bosom with the spirit of pride, dissimulation, injustice, and cruelty. The one will expel the other. “He hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias, coming in, and putting his hands on him, that he might receive his sight.” This vision was intended not only to comfort Saul in his distress, but to prepare him to receive Ananias, as a messenger of Christ..
Ananias, when first addressed by our Saviour, answered, “I am here,” signifying the utmost readiness to execute his orders; but he hesitates when he hears his commission. “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.” “Is it to Saul that thou sendest me? Is it thy will, that I should go and deliver myself into his hands?” The good man does not refuse to obey, but humbly expresses his apprehensions, which were too well justified by the past conduct of Saul. Ananias appears not to have known what had befallen him in the way.
“But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” “Lord! how unsearchable are thy judgments, and thy ways past finding out!” There were Pharisees in Jerusalem, who were not guilty of such crimes as Saul; men who disbelieved thy religion, but did not persecute thy followers; who were restrained by a sense of justice and humanity from injuring their persons, although they detested their error, These thou didst pass by, and leave to perish in ignorance; while to this man, compared with whom they were innocent, a man who impiously waged war with thyself, and would have rejoiced in the utter ruin of thy cause, thou wast pleased to exercise pardoning mercy. We adore the sovereignty of thy grace. Thou makest of the same lump one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour. Thou choosest the very worst of mankind as the fittest objects upon whom to display thy goodness, that the disappointed, confounded pride of man, may never more dare to stand forth as the rival of thy glory. What art thou not able to do, who couldst transform 158one of the most active agents of Satan into a zealous and successful minister of thy kingdom; and couldst make the lips which blasphemed thee, become the eloquent heralds of thy praise? Never shall we despair of any man, however far advanced in the career of impiety, after we have seen this example of the wonders which thy grace can perform.”
This information removed the doubts of Ananias, who hastened with a joyful heart, to execute his commission. “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him, said, Brother Saul, the Lord (even Jesus that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest,) hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” Grace makes a man soon forget injurious treatment l and most willingly does a Christian pardon those whom his Lord has forgiven. The blasphemies and cruelties of Saul are remembered no more. Ananias sees in him, not the murderer of the saints, but “a new creature, created in Christ Jesus to good works; and he salutes him by the compellation of brother, bidding him welcome to the privileges of the heaven-born family. By the imposition of his hands, Saul recovered his sight, and received the gifts of the Spirit, which were necessary to qualify him for the Apostolical office. “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales; and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” Thus he was received into the communion of the Church, and dedicated to the service of Christ.
Saul immediately joined himself to the disciples, and openly appeared. as the friend and champion of the truth. “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God;” in the same synagogues to which he had carried letters from the high priest, requiring them to deliver up to punishment those by whom this truth was avowed. So powerful were his arguments, that the Jews were confounded. With their objections, he was well acquainted, for they had been often urged by himself; but he was now able to point out their futility. A change so sudden and so great was beheld with astonishment. “All that heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests!” Some would be content to wonder; others were stimulated, by offended pride and disappointed bigotry, to revenge; but a few, we may believe, 159carefully inquiring into the cause of an event so extraordinary, perceived in his conversion such evidence in favour of the gospel, as prevailed upon them to imitate his example.
The conversion of Paul, considered in all its circumstances, presents an argument of great strength for the truth of Christianity. About the fact itself there can be no dispute; and the only question between us and the enemies of revelation respects the conclusion to be deduced from it. I acknowledge, that a change from one system to other does not, in every case, afford evidence against the first, and in favour of the second, because the change is often the effect of fickleness, of passion, of self-interest, or of vanity. But when a man forsakes a religion, which he has long and zealously supported, and goes over to a religion which he has long and zealously opposed; when every motive of honour, profit, and personal safety, is on the side of the former, and all those motives operate against the latter; and when his character is such, as to obviate any suspicion that he was deceived by others, or imposed upon by his own imagination; the presumption is strong, that the evidence in favour of the religion which he has adopted, is at least probable, and deserves to be carefully examined. The zeal of Paul for the law of Moses was equalled only by his antipathy to the gospel. Yet, we find him suddenly changing sides, commencing one of the boldest and most active propagators of the gospel, and employing his powers of reasoning to prove, that the obligation of the law of Moses was annulled, and that no man could be saved by the observance of it. How shall we account for this revolution in his sentiments and conduct? It cannot be explained by any of the ordinary principles which influence the determinations of men. The reasons for continuing in the Jewish religion were various and weighty. It was the religion of his fathers, which they had received from God himself; it was the religion of his country, of the rulers and great men, of his companions and friends; it was the religion which opened to him the only path to reputation and preferment; it was the religion in which he had made great proficiency, and on which were founded his hopes of acceptance with God; it was the religion to which he had, in the most decided manner, given the preference, and which he could not renounce without acknowledging himself to have been in an error, and incurring the censures and reproaches of the world. Christianity was contrary to his Jewish and Pharisaical prejudices with respect to the character of 160the Messiah, the nature of his kingdom, and the plan by which a sinner is justified; was embraced chiefly by persons in the lower ranks, and was taught by illiterate men; was proscribed by the laws, and persecuted, so that whoever professed it must give up all hope of living quietly and safely, and reckon upon ill-usage of every sort, and probably in the issue, a violent death; and would be the cause of peculiar trouble and danger to him, whom the Jews would unite to persecute as an apostate and a traitor.
In a worldly point of view, the change from, Judaism to Christianity was highly imprudent, or rather would have been a certain indication of madness. But Paul was not mad; he laboured under no disorder of mind, which might have led him to extravagance of conduct; he was not a visionary, who is the sport of the illusions of fancy, nor a weak man, who is the dupe of the artifice of others. All his writings, and all his actions subsequent to his conversion, show him to have been a man of sound judgment, of strong intellectual powers, of consummate prudence, and of steady principles. He was not one of those inconstant, restless beings, who run through every form of religion. He never made but one change, and he persevered in it amidst the severest trials. At the time when he was converted, his mind was not in a state which disposed it to receive strange and unaccountable impressions. He was not troubled with remorse for any crime: he was not apprehensive of danger; he was not labouring under bodily infirmity; he was not in solitude. He was on a journey, in the midst of his friends, and in open day; he was confident of the goodness of his cause; his disbelief of Christianity, and his determination to oppose it, were never more decided. At this moment his views of the gospel underwent a total change. His hostility to it ceased. He acknowledged Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, devoted himself to his service, accepted of one of the highest and most dangerous offices in his Church, and commenced an avowed and indefatigable advocate of his cause.
It is impossible, I think, when all the circumstances are considered, to account for this conversion, except on such grounds. as shall fully establish the truth of the gospel. Nothing could have effected a change so great, so sudden, so much opposed by all the feelings of human nature, but evidence, which the mind of Paul was unable to resist. Had the gospel not been true, it would not have counted Saul of Tarsus among its friends. Not only does 161his conversion demonstrate the truth of Christianity, but it gives a high degree of credibility to this particular history. Such a conversion evidently required such an extraordinary interposition. Paul was out of the reach of ordinary means. He would have disdained to hear an Apostle; he would not have listened with patience to any arguments in favour of the gospel; and we cannot suppose that he would have carefully and dispassionately investigated the subject by himself. It was almost necessary to employ miraculous means to bring this man to the acknowledgment of the truth; and if we believe his conversion to have been sudden, we must also believe that it was accomplished in the manner described in this chapter.
The case of Paul deserves the serious consideration of infidels, who should either give a satisfactory solution of it, in consistency with their own principles, or admit the force of the argument which it affords in behalf of the gospel. It is an instance of an unbeliever, a man of some learning, and considerable abilities, who yielding to the conviction, publicly adopted our religion after having virulently and pertinaciously opposed it. Their refusal to imitate his example, must proceed from their not having considered the evidence, or from their having found it defective. Among those who have examined the subject, there can be no doubt to which of these causes their conduct should be ascribed. Christianity will stand the test of the strictest inquiry. We have nothing to fear from fair discussion. Unbelief is not the consequence of just reasoning, but of sophistry, prejudice, presumptous ignorance, and licentious dispositions. Infidels sometimes maintain, that God ought to work miracles in every age for the confirmation of the gospel; and, on this ground, may insinuate, that they have the same right as Paul to have their doubts removed by a supernatural interposition. But the demand is not reasonable. If the ordinary evidence is sufficient to satisfy those who will candidly attend to it, God is not obliged, at the request of every caviller, to break in upon the established order of providence. Let them first show, that it is impossible at present to know the gospel to be true without a new revelation; and it will then be time to examine, whether such a revelation should be granted.
To the friends of Christianity, the conversion of Paul is fraught with instruction. It confirms their faith by a new proof of the divinity 162of the gospel. It illustrates the power and grace of their Redeemer. It shows them, that his religion is safe amidst the most vigorous and best directed attacks of its enemies, since he is able to change them into friends, or to crush them. and their designs. The conversion of such persons as Paul is indeed extremely rare. Infidels commonly die as they lived, especially when they have signalized themselves by their unhallowed zeal. None of the most noted characters of this description, in our times, has glorified God by a recantation of his error. Christianity does not need their aid. It would have succeeded in the beginning, although Paul had continued to persecute it; it will go on without them, and in spite of their exertions. Jesus Christ rules “in the midst of his enemies.” But divine grace could subdue the proudest and most determined unbeliever; and instances are not wanting, in which its power has been displayed in opening the blind eyes, and turning them from darkness to light. Let us rejoice that the truth shall be ultimately victorious; and let us conclude with this prayer of the Church to her almighty Redeemer. “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty; with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously, because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things, Thine arrows are sharp in the hearts of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.”163
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