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ciliating the esteem of its opposers. What have we to fear, if we serve the Lord Chrift?
The present history teaches us, likewise, to unite with an immovable firmness the exercise of meekness and love. Stephen complained not of the injurious treatment, which he received.
Instead of throwing out any bitter invectives, he teftified his readiness to pardon, by commending his murderers to the mercy and forgiveness of God. By such a singular display of forbearance and kindness, he brought more credit to the Gospel, than he could have done by any other arguments. Have we learnt to suffer with a similar disposition? Ah! how much do we dishonour the cause of Christ by the peevithness of our spirit, and the keenness of our resentment against those, who reproach or insult us! Or rather, do we not prove, that we have not yet understood the extent of that holiness, which our religion requires ?
3. It encourages us to expect fufficient strength and comfort, under all our perfecutions for righteoulness' lake. This primitive martyr stands as a witness for the grace and faithfulness of his divine. Mafter, who will never abandon or deceive his upright ser
That ancient promise is verified in the case of every sincere believer : “ As thy days, fo shall thy
so Strength be *.” And will not this suffice us? If the world frown, yet Jesus will smile: if they curse, He will command a blessing. Whatever may be taken from us, for our attachment to him, He will make an abundant compensation. Though the most numerous and powerful adversaries declare against us, we may exult in dependence on his veracity, and say, « The Lord is on my side, I will not fear to
We need not, we ought not, to stagger at the most terrible appearances of death. We perceive in St. Stephen's countenance, how Jesus. can lighten the
dark 2 Tim. ii. 126. Rev. ii, 10.
dark valley, and, even in that tremendous paffage fill our souls with peace and joy. Why should we not hope to maintain such a holy confidence? This, at least, the grace of our God can bestow. But we should extend our view beyond the prefent scene, and contemplate the Saviour, waiting to receive us to mansions of eternal blessedness. Let us perfevere in faith and patience, and soon shall the gates of heaven be opened for our honourable admiffion. “ If we fuffer, we shall also reign with him *.” For thus he addresses every Christian soldier, enlisted under his banner, “ Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life t."
We pray, therefore, with our church; « Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings heré upon earth, for the testimony of thy truth, we may Ateadfaftly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors, by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standeft at the right hand of God to fuccour all those that suffer for thee, our only Me. diator and Advocate. Amen 1.".
Colle&t for St. Stephen's day.
CHA P. IX.
Paul, bis extration and education--a bigotted Pharisee
-persecuted the Church-suddenly stopped by an appearance of Christ-submitted to him-struck blindin recovered his fight-abaptized by Ananias--preached
Chrift—what to be concluded from his conversion, THE Lord God frequently accomplishes his pure poses by such instruments, as are thought weak and contemptible, and thus proves, that his cause is not indebted to any human abilities for support. But, at fome times and for special purposes, He is pleased to select persons of admired endowments, whom infidelity would gladly have classed amongst its advocates, and to render them of extensive service to the interests of Christianity. Alas! how often do splendid gifts become a snare and a curse, not to the possessors only, but to fociety, being employed in defence of erroneous and destructive principles ! How different is the case, when they are confecrated to the Lord, and devoted to the use of the fanctuary! Then indeed they appear truly excellent, deserve our highest esteem, and contribute to the temporal and eternal happiness. of men.
Such reflections arise from the confideration of the character. now before us. St. Paul was furnished with large intelle Stual powers, and ample attainments, in literatures which would have done credit to any
cause. But it is our province to contemplate the Christian, rather than the Scholar, and to adinire, not so much his natural genius and abilities, as “the exceeding grace of God in him.” That grace stamped a dignity and worth on all his qualifications, and gave them their proper direction and employment. Let us hear his own grateful acknowledgment; “ By the grace of God I am what I am *.” None ever Lone with greater lustre than he did, after he had once entered on the service of Chrift: none seem to have arrived at a higher degree of perfection, or to have been honoured with more extensive usefulness in the world. We thank God for the amazing effects of his preaching, and especially for his inspired compofitions, which conftitute a confiderable part of the New Testament, and which will defcend as an inestimable blessing to ages yet unborn. May we all partake of the same fpirit, and learn from his example and exhortations to yield ourselves to the Saviour with the warmest affections and unreserved obedience!
Saul, for such was his name originally, was born at Tarsus in Cilicia, and, through peculiar favour granted to the natives of that town, entitled to the freedom and privileges of a Roman citizen t. He sprang from Jewish parents, and boasted that he could trace his descent from Abraham, and had conformed to all ritual injunctions; “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews I.” He was taught the common business of a tent-maker S; but we cannot therefore conclude, that he was confined to any fervile labour, or placed in a mean fituation. He enjoyed the advantages of a liberal education ; being well
* i Cor. xv. 10. + Acts xxii. 3, 28.
| 2 Cor. xi. 22. Phil. iii. 5. § Acts xviii. 3. # It was customary with the Jews, even the most opulent, to train, up their children to the knowledge of some trade, by which they might be able to earn their support in life, if they ihould be reduced ta difficulties.
instructed in the learning of the times, and furnished with a considerable share of reading in the Greek and Latin writers.
Probably at an early age, he went to Jerusalem, to acquire the necessary acquaintance with Jewish lite. rature, with the principles of his own religion, and the most generally received interpretations of the Old Testament. For those purposes he was under the care of the celebrated Doctor, Gamaliel, and, as his pupil, “ brought up at his feet.” There he made contiderable proficiency in his studies, and soon discovered a zealous attachment to all the Mofaic institutions. Such an attachment might be greatly increased by the influence of his tutor : at least, he came out from under his care a rigid, bigotted Pharisee.
He laid an undue stress on the observance of Jewih ceremonies; and, as he could not bear to hear of their abolision or insufficiency, he imbibed, with his first rudiments, a spirit of opposition to the Gospel. He thought, and it seemed to be a firm and well-grounded conviction, that it was his bounden duty to exert himself againt the Christian faith; " that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth *.>
' He acted, as would generally be allo ved, sincerely, and according to the dictates of his conscience, while he persecuted, and wished, if possible, to extirpate, the professors of this new religion. But the plea of fincerity and conscience will not excuse hiin. his fin, as it is the sin of many, not to be better informed : a blamable and corrupt disposition of mind prevented him from giving the Gospel a serious attention and fair examination.
He must have had many opportunities of being acquainted with its evidence, during his residence at Jerusalem: but he previously determined to reject a system, which totally subverted his proud principles, and therefore obstinately refused
* Acts xxvi. 5, 9. Gal. i. 14.