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how desirous to execute and do, the will of Sod: Who art thou. Lordand what wilt thou have me to do .* We may sooner find fire without heat, than a true convert without operative grace. Observe farther, Christ's answer to Paul's enquiry: Who art thou, Lord; says Paul; I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutes/, saith Christ. Where note, That contemned, though not contemptible, name, Jesus of Nazareth, is owned by Christ from heaven. Mark, he said not, I am Jesus the Son of God, I am Jesus the heir of the world, and Lord of all; but, / am Jesus of Nazareth. He glorieth in that reproach which his enemies cast upon hiru, Jesus of Nazareth: he owned his name from heaven, to leach his members not to be ashamed of it when reproached by it here on earth. Observe lastly, The witnesses of Paul's conversion: The men that -were with him, who saw the light, but heard not the voice. It is very probable that he had a considerable number of officers with him, to bring both men and women that professed christianity bound to Jerusalem. These saw the light shining, and heard a confused noise like thunder, but they heard not the articulate, much less the efficacious, voice of Christ, which spake so convincingly to his soul. Lord, how many are there who come under the preaching of the gospel, that, with Paul's companions, hear only a confused noise, an empty sound! They do not hear the efficacious voice of Christ, speaking to their hearts with a strong hand, and so remain shot up under the power of unbelief.
10 And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. 11 And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. 12 And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, 13 Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14 And he said, The God of our fa
thers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. 15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all men, of what thou hast seen and heard. 16 And now, why tarriest thou ? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
Here observe, 1. That although Christ converted Paul himself, yet Ananias, as his minister, must instruct him: by Christ is grace infused, but by his ministers increased. Such an honour doth Christ put upon the ministers of the gospel, that he makes use of their endeavours, ordinarily, both for the protection and augmentation of grace in the hearts of his people. O the necessity and usefulness of a standing ministry! It is a singular favour to have the mind of God made known to us by men like unto ourselves. And behold the honour which God puts upon his minister*, in using them as conduit-pipes for conveying the water of life unto us, which is not ordinarily communicated immediately from himself, nor immediately received by us! Observe, 2. The title given by Ananias to Saul, Brother Saul. They were now brethren by faith and profession, owning the same God, united to the same Saviour, animated by the same Spirit, encouraged by the same promises, partakers of the same hope, and heirs of the same glory. As the scripture speaks of a brotherhood betwixt Christ and believers, He is not ashamed to call them brethren; so it speaks of a brotherhood betwixt believes themselves, Lore the brotherhood; that is, the whole fraternity and society of christians, who are Sanguine Christi conglutinati; cemented by the blood of Christ, and united by the bond of love. Observe, 3. Ananias acquaints Saul with the special favours which God intended for him: The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, or taken thee by the hand, as the word signifies, that thou shouldst know his will, and see that just one. So he calls the blessed Jesus, to convince them of their sin in putins; him to death; And be a witness unit all men of what thou hast seen and heard. The work of the ministers of the gospel u now to witness for, hereafter to witness against: now they witness for God and his truth, and persuade sinners to belrve
it; hereafter they will witness against sinners for not believing and obeying the truth of God. Lord, what a sad consideration is this, that the ministers of Christ must be brought in as witnesses against the souls of their neighbours and friends, and be forced to testify to their faces for their condemnation! Ah, Lord, with what an heart must a poor minister study when he considereth, that every sermon that he preaches must be brought in for a witness against many, if not most, of his hearers! Doubtless this sad reflection makes every faithful minister of Christ study hard, pray hard, entreat hard, be earnest and instant in season and out of season, that they may not be condemners of their people's souls. Observe, 4. The advice which Ananias gives to this new convert, to take upon him the badge of christianity, to wit, Baptism: Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins. Here note, That sacraments are not empty insignificant signs; but God, by his grace and blessing, renders his own ordinances etfectual for these great ends for which his wisdom has appointed them: Be baptised, and -wash away thy sins. As water cleanseth the body, so the blood of Christ, signified by water, washes away the guilt of the soul. Where true faith is, together with the profession of it by baptism, there is salvation promised, Mark xvi. J 6. He that belicveth, and is baptized, shall be saved.
17 And it came to pass, that when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; 18 And saw him saying unto mc, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem : for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. 10 And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: 20 And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of . them that slew him. '21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence, unto the Gentiles.
St. Paul, having thus declared to the Jews his wonderful manner of conversion,
proceeds next to acquaint them how desirous he was to have preached to the Jews rather than to the Gentiles, if the will of God had seen fit: but it proved otherwise; for, as he was praying in the temple, he had a vision, in which he was commanded to hasten out of the city, because his former zeal in opposing the gospel would hinder his present preaching of it from being successful. Against this he humbly argued, that his former zeal against christianity might, he hoped, be an argument to persuade the Jews, his countrymen, to embrace christianity. But this argument did not prevail for his staying at Jerusalem; but he was commanded to depart from thence, to preach the gospel to the despised Gentiles, who had not such strong expectations against him, but would with more readiness embrace his doctrine. Learn hence, 1. That carnal reasonings are very apt to arise in the hearts of God's own servants, and cause them to object something against their obedience to the divine commands. Here the apostle objects, that according to his reason he saw greater probahility of doing good by his ministry among the Jews than he could hope for among the Gentiles, who would be afraid of him, as Ananias was; but Christ repeats his command, Depart, and get thee hence, for I will send thee to the Gentiles. And now the apostle doth no longer dispute, but despatch. This teaches us, 2. To lay by all our carnal reasonings and vain pretences, when once the call and command of God is clear, and no longer cavil, but comply; no longer object, but instantly obey. We may safely follow God blindfold, when once we have assurance that he goes before us, and obey every command without hesitation or limitation.
22 And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. 23 And as they cried out, and cast oft' their clothes, and threw dust into the air, 24 The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined" by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. 25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? 26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. 27 Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. 28 And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained 1 this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. 29 Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. 30 On the morrow, beoause he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.
Observe here, 1. With what patience the Jews heard the apostle's discourse until he made mention of the Gentiles, and that he was appointed to preach to them. Upon which they brake forth into fury and passion, and expressed their fury by throwing dust into the air, and casting off their clothes, as if they would presently stone him, whom they looked upon as the worst of villains, and unworthy to live: where we may remark at once both what a vile opinion the Jews had of the Gentiles, whom they called and accounted dogs, and what an high esteem they had of themselves, and a proud conceit of their own deservings, as if the favours of heaven belonged to none but themselves, who yet trampled upon them, when they were tendered to them. Observe, 2. What a vile esteem these wicked Jews had of the holy and innocent apostle, who desired above all things to preach the glad tidings of the gospel to them, and longed most affectionately for the conversion and salvation of them. They account him the greatest villain upon earth, and unworthy to live upon it; but the good man had learnt (and let all the faithful ministers of Christ learn it after him) to take pleasure
in reproaches, in persecutions, in necessities and distresses, for Christ's sake. Aoay -with such a fcllor-w from the earth, it is not meet that he should lire. Observe, 3. The pious prudence and innocent policy which the apostle uses for his own preservation: when they were aboui to hind him to a post, in order to the scourging of him, the apostle declares himself a free denizen of Rome, by being born in one of the cities which the Roman emperor had made free ; accordingly St. Paul pleads for himself the privilege of a Roman citizen, who neither ought to be bound or beaten. Though we may not render evil for evil, yet we may right ourselves by all lawful means. Christ allows as much oflbe serpent as the dove in his servants, provided the subtilty of the one doth not destroy the simplicity of the other. The bead of the serpent and the heart of the dove do best together; for as policy without piety is too subtle to be good, so piety without policy is too simple to be safe. Observe, 4. How th; chief captain, fearing he had done more than he could answer, because it was death for any one in authority to violate the Roman privileges; therefore more out of fear than love, or more out of love to himself than the apostle, he looses St. Paul's bonds. Thence note, That when at any time the persecutors of the saints do desist from their bloody purposes, it is not out of love to them, but love to themselves. Observe lastly, The saints' deliverances from affliction and persecution, whilst on this side heaven, are not total or final, but momentary and partial. The apostle was delivered from his chains, not from his confinement; though unbound, not set at liberty. Next day. we find him before the great council, or Sanhedrim, and fresh bonds and afflictions ahide him. Little rest is to be expected by the members, and less rest by the faithful ministers, of Jesus Christ in this world: blessed be God for the believing hopes of an eternal rest? where the fury of the persecutor, the injuries of the oppressor, shall cease for ever; where no sin shall affect us, no sorrow afflict us, no danger affright us; but we shall be perfectly like unto God, as well in purity as immortality. In the mean time, may we, the ministers of God, who are set for the defence of the gospel, bear the burden and heat of the day with patience and courage, resolution and constancy; may we gird up the loins of our minds, not accounting either our labours or our lives dear unto us, so that we finish our course with joy, and fulfil the ministry which we have received of the Lord, glorymg in our reproaches for well-doing; yea, though we be accounted the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things: for when the chief Shepherd shall appear, we shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away.
tn the foregoing chapter we find the apostle in prison, but having leave given him to make his defence; which accordingly he did, but littlp to the satisfaction of the enraged multitude. 1n this chapter wc find him before the Sanhedrim, or great council at Jerusalem, professing his own 'onocency , but instead of setting him at liberty, the cursed Jews conspire his destruction, hut the providence of God wonderfully interposes for his deliverance, as the chapter before us fully informs us.
1 ND Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. 2 And the high-priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. 3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?
Here we have observable the apostle's sober and ingenuous profession and protestation, Ananias's insolent and injurious injunction, St. Paul's zealous answer and contestation. Observe, 1. The apostle's sober and ingenuous profession and protestation, ver. 1. I have lived in all good conscience unto this dmr; that is, during his continuance in the Jewish religion, and since his conversion to the christian religion, he had walked uprightly, and according to his knowledge, and the light of his conscience. But had Paul a good conscience when he persecuted the christians? Anns. He went according to his conscience when he persecuted: he verily thought he did God service in so doing, and it was not any selfish end or sinister design he propounded to himself, but zeal for his religion provoked him to persecution, Phil, iii. 6. Concerning zeal, persecuting the church. It is certainly a man's duty to follow his conscience; but then it is as much his duty to inform his conscience, as
it is to follow it; / have lived in all good conscience until this day. Here note, The apostle sets forth the goodness of his conscience these lour ways. I. From the goodness of his conversation: I have lived. A good conversation is the best evidence of a good conscience. God doth not measure men's sincerity by the tides of their affections, but by the constant bent of their resolutions, and the general course and tenor of their conversations. Every man's conscience is as his life is. 2. From the generality of his care and obedience: / hare lived in all good conscience: if it be not a conscience all good, it is no good conscience at all. Herod had some good conscience, he did many things; but the apostle went farther, he lived not in some, but in all good conscience. 3. The apostle sets forth the goodness of his conscience from the integrity of it towards God: / have lived in all good conscience before God. Many a man's conscience passeth for a good conscience before men, and perhaps before himself, which yet are not good before God, the judge of conscience. 4. From his continuance and constancy, Until tbis day; I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. It is not sufficient to begin a good life, and to have a good conscience; but we must keep it too, and that all our days, eve i to our last day. Happy man! that can truly say at his dying day, I have lived in all good conscience until this day. Observe, 2. As the apostle's solemn protestation, so the high-priest's injurious injunction: Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Here note, What is the reward and portion of a good conscience from the world: to be smitten either on the mouth, or with the mouth; either with the fist, or with the tongue. There is nothing so enrages men of wicked consciences, as the profession and practice of a good conscience doth: but better ten blows on the face than one on the heart; better a thousand blows for a good conscience, than one from it. Observe, 3. St. Paul's zealous answer and contestation, God shall smite thee, thou -whited wall. Where note, 1. That although the apostle doth not smite again as he was smitten, though he did not smite Ananias on the cheek, as he smote him on the mouth, yet he gives him a check and sharp reproof for his violence and injustice. Thence learn, That christian patience, though it hinds a man's hands, yet it doth not always hind his tongue; though it lays a law upon a man to forbear violence, yet it lays Dot a law upon him to enjoin him silence. St. Paul though he did not strike yet durst speak; though he held his hands, yet he did not hold his peace. Though religion pinions a man's arms from striking, yet it doth not seal up a man's lips from speaking; but we may declare both our own innocency, and others' iujustice. Note, 2. St. Paul doth not say, God shall judge thee: or God shall plague thee; but God shall smite thee: denoting, that as there is always equity, so sometimes a retaliation in the executions of divine justice, or a recompensing like for like. God sometimes returns smiting for smiting, so that the sinner is forced to cry out, As I have done, so God hath requited me. God punishes sometimes in the same kind, sometimes in the same manner, sometimes in the same place; that sinners are forced to cry out, Righteous art thou, O Lord! and just are thy judgments!
4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high-priest?
Observe here, That Ananias the highpriest having commanded the apostle unheard and uncondemned to be smitten, the apostle denounces the just judgments of God upon him for the same; yet not in a way of imprecation, but prediction; rather foretelling what would come, than wishing or desiring that it should come; not in a way of revenge, or recompensing evil for evil, but in a way of ministerial reproof, which the standers by call reviling. Revilest thou Gods high-priest? Thence learn, that profane sinners look upon the faithful reproofs which the ministers of God give them for their lewdness, to be no better than revilings; they think we revile them, if we do but rebuke them; whereas, though we chasten sinners with the rod of reproof, we dare not sting them with the scorpion of reproach.
5 Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high-priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.
Several interpretations are given by expositors of these words, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high-priest. 1. Some think that St. Paul did not really know the high-priest, having been gone so
long from Jerusalem; and the liigb-priest being made yearly. Others say, 2. That there being a great throng about him, the apostle could not distinctly hear who it waa that spake to him. 3. Some understand it of absolute denial, that any such office as that of high-priest ought then to be in being. As if the apostle bad said, "I do not own any man to be a lawful highpriest now, that function being abolished and disannulled at the coming of the Mesrias." Again, 4. Others understand the words, as if the apostle denied him to be the lawful high-priest, one of God's appointing, he being one of man's making, having purchased the place with money . for the power and covetousness of the Romans put a new high-priest every year to officiate: accordingly, St. Paul, knowing this man to be none of the posterity of Aaron, but brought in by sordid gain, might justly disown him to be the high-priest. Lastly, there arc who affirm, That the apostle did certainly see and know the high priest; and that his meaning is," That having received such unjust usage in the court a* to be openly smitten in the time of hearing, he did not know, that is, he did not consider, who it was that spake to him, and therefore spake hastily and unadvisedly." The scripture will not bear us out to use ill words to magistrates, should we be, as St. Paul here was, ill used by them; yet are magistrates no more to be flattered than they are to be reproached. The greatest may be reproved, and with a gracious severity told of their faults; and St. Paul did no more. It is no sin to tell the judgments of God, which will certainly come upon injurious and unjust oppressors.
0 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
Observe here, The innocent policy which the apostle uses for his own preservation: he, perceiving that the council before whom he stood were not all of a piece, but patched up of Pharisees and Sadducees, he publicly professes himself a Pharisee by education, and of that persuasion now in point of the resurrection. Thus at once be cast in a bone of contention between the Sad