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Galilee, and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the LORD, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
What an amazing instance of the power of Divine grace in our blessed Redeemer is here recorded!
We read in a former Section, that Saul was one of the greatest persecutors of the Christians. Not satisfied with the severities he exercised over them in Jerusalem, he determined to obtain the sanction of the High-Priest and Council, that he might pursue them from city to city, and entirely extirpate them if possible. Having procured from the Sanhedrim letters addressed to the rulers of the Jewish synagogues at Damascus, he set out on his journey. Blinded by prejudice, and hurried on by misguided zeal, he raged like a furious lion, resolving to ravage the sheep, and destroy the tender lambs of CHRIST'S flock wherever he came; but the great Shepherd himself interposed to rescue them, and by restraining the remainder of his wrath shewed, that no man could wrest them out of his hands.
Saul was the professed enemy of CHRIST; but the LORD, to whom all hearts are open, saw, that it was only for want of knowing him that he was so: and that he acted upon a principle of regard to the honour of GOD in defending the Mosaic Law, and * verily thought that he ought to oppose the Gospel; so that when. his zeal was diverted into another channel, he would be a useful member of the Christian church. CHRIST, therefore, chose him for an Apostle to the Gentiles; and that he might be able to bear witness of his resurrection, vouche
safed to convince him, that he was actually in a state of glory, as his disciples declared him to be.
When Saul heard and saw, that he whom he had so often affronted and despised was such a great and powerful person, and that instead of destroying him he condescended thus kindly and compassionately to expostuInte with him, his mind was almost overborne with an unutterable mixture of contending passions; so that trembling at the thoughts of what he had done, and amazed at the glorious appearance of JESUS, he humbly resigned himself to the disposal of the LORD; who informed him of the purpose for which he had called him off from his bloody design, and the work he had appointed him to do; but did not compel him by an irresistible impulse to obey. On the contrary, we have reason to think, that before Saul was required to be baptized, the Gospel scheme was fully made known to him, and his mind opened to understand the Scriptures, and he had leisure afforded him to meditate on the subject without interruption from outward objects; and that for the three days he continued blind he gave himself up to spiritual exercises, fasting, and praying for remission of sins. When Ananias arrived, Saul received from him full confirmation, that his own vision was not a delusion of the imagination; and having made a rational and deliberate choice of the religion of CHRIST in preference to the Jewish law, he was solemnly initiated into the Christian church by baptism; soon after which he received the HOLY GHOST, not by imposition of hands from another Apostle, but as an immediate gift from our LORD himself, who taught him by Divine inspiration what was necessary for him to know concerning Him and his doctrine, and thus put him upon an equality with the other Apostles.
We see then, that it was on a very extraordinary occasion, and for a very extraordinary purpose, that Saul was called to the Gospel in this miraculous way, therefore it cannot authorise ordinary Christians to expect their own reformation to be effected by a sudden impulse of Divine grace, changing the very nature of the soul from extreme wickedness to holiness. It is true, that our LORD knoweih his sheep; that is, all who will submit to his Gospel, and these he will undoubtedly call; that is, furnish them with the means of salvation. But in a Christian country like this, where the Scriptures are publicly read in our churches, where Bibles are in every house, where every neighbourhood has ministers to explain the Gospel, and (it is to be hoped) persons to set an example of the practice of its precepts, where religion is frequently the subject of conversation, and where books of piety abound, it is every one's own fault, if he is not a believer. Let us then guard our minds against enthusiasm, as it has a tendency to make us undervalue moral actions, the performance of which is absolutely necessary to complete the character of a real Christian. Without Divine grace we certainly can have no salvation; but then we must not expect it to pour down upon us like a torrent. If we avail ourselves of the means we are furnished with to obtain this inestimable blessing, it will descend into our hearts insensibly like drops of rain into the thirsty earth, exciting us to what is right, and deterring us from what is sinful, by informing our reason; but our own will must co-operate with it to render it effectual. This was evidently the case of Saul, as appears in the course of this history.
It must have been surprising to the Jews as well as to the Apostles, to hear Saul preach the Gospel, as it was known that he went to Damascus with a very different design.
When he departed from Damascus, he did not go back to Jerusalem to join the other Apostles, but made an excursion into Arabia, because he was particularly commissioned to preach to the Gentiles.
No wonder, after his former conduct, that the Apostles should be at first afraid of trusting Saul; when they were convinced of the reality of his conversion, they were ready to receive him into their society.
The persecutions which had been so furiously carried on, we find gradually abated, from various causes, after the conversion of Saul, and Christian churches (for societies) were established throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria, and the members of them led lives of exemplary piety; they enjoyed the consolation of the Holy Spirit, and were considerably multiplied by the accession of new converts. During this peaceful interval many remarkable events happened.
PETER HEALETH ENEAS OF THE PALSY, AND RESTORETH TABITHA TO LIFE.
From Acts, Chap. ix.
AND it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.
And there he found a certain man named Eneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of ne palsy.
And Peter said unto him, Eneas, JESUS CHRIST maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.
And all that dwelt in Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the LORD.
Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas; this woman was full of good works, and alms-deeds which she did.
And it came to pass in those days that she was sick, and died whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.
Then Peter arose and went with them. was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made whilst she was with them.
But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down and prayed; and turning him to the body, said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes; and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.
And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed on the LORD.
And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
Lydda was a considerable town near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and Joppa was a sea-port near to it. It must have afforded the benevolent Apostle Peter great