« PreviousContinue »
LORD? And the LORD said, I am Jesus, whom thou perles cutest ” Never did any one enquire truly after Jesus Christ, but CHRIST made a saving discovery of himself, to his soul. It should feem, our LORD appeared to him in person; for Ananias, afterwards, says, “ The LORD who appeared to thee in the way which thou camest;" though this may only imply Christ's meeting him in the way; it is not much matter: it is plain CHRIST here speaks to him, and says, “ I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.” It is remarkable, how our LORD takes to himself the name of Jesus; for it is a name in which he delights: I am Jesus, a Saviour of my people, both from the guilt and power of their fins; “ a Jesus, whom thou perfecutest.” This seems to be spoken to convince Saul more and more of his fin; and I doubt not, but every word was sharper than a two-edged sword, and came like so many daggers to his heart; O how did these words affect him! a JESUS! a Savi. our! and yet I am perfecuting him! this strikes him with horror; but then the word JESUS, though he was a perfecutor, might give him some hope. However, our dear LORD, to convince Saul that he was to be saved by grace, and that he was not afraid of his power and enmity, tells him, “ It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” As much as to say, though he was persecuting, yet he could not overthrow the church of CHRIST: for he would fit as King upon his holy hill of Zion; the malice of men or devils should never be able to prevail against him.
Ver. 6. “And he, trembling and astonished, faid, LORD, what wilt thou have me to do?” Those, who think Saul had a discovery of Jesus made to his heart before, think that this question is the result of his faith, and that he now desires to know what he shall do, out of gratitude, for what the LORD had done for his soul; in this fense it may be understood; * and I have made use of it as an instance to prove, that faith will work by love; but perhaps it may be more agreeable to the context, if we suppose, that Saul had only fome distant discovery of CHRIST made to him, and not a full assurance of faith: for we are told, “he trembling and astonished,” trembling at the thoughts of his perfecuting a Jesus, and aftonished at his own vileness, and the infinite condescension of this
* See VOL. V. Serinon 24.
JESUS, Jesus, cries out, “ LORD, what wilt thou have me to do ?” Persons under soul-trouble, and fore conviction, would be glad to do any thing, or comply on any terms, to get peace with God. « Arise, (lays our LORD) and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou shalt do."
And here we will leave Saul a while, and see what is become of his companions. But what shall we say? God is a sovereign agent; his sacred Spirit bloweth when and where it lifteth; "he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy." Saul is taken, but, as far as we know to the contrary, his fellow-travellers are left to perish in their fins : for we are told, ver. 7. “ That the men who journeyed with him stood, indeed, speechless, and hearing a confused voice;" I say, a confused voice, for so the word signifies, and must be so interpreted, in order to reconcile it with chap. xxii. ver. 9. where Saul, giving an account of these men, tells Agrippa, “ They heard not the voice of him that spake to me.” They heard a voice, a confused noise, but not the articulate voice of him that spake to Saul, and therefore remained unconverted. For what are all ordinances, all, even the most extraordinary dispensations of providence, without CHRIST speaks to the soul in them? Thus it is now under the word preached : many, like Saul's companions, are sometimes so struck with the outgoings of God appearing in the sanctuary, that they even stand speechless; they hear the preacher's voice, but not the voice of the Son of God, who, perhaps, at the same time is speaking effectually to many other hearts; this I have known often; and what shall we say to these things ? O the depth of the sovereignty of God! it is past finding out. LORD, I desire to adore what I cannot comprehend. “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy fight!”
But to return to Saul : the LORD bids him “ arise and go into the city ;” and we are told, ver. 8. that “ Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, (he was so overpowered with the greatness of the light that thone upon them, that) he faw no man; but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus," that very city which was to be the place of his executing or imprisoning the disciples of the LORD. “And he was three days without fight, and neither did eat nor drink.” But who can tell what horrors of
conscience, what convulsions of foul, what deep and pungent convictions of sin he underwent during these three long days? it was this took away his appetite (for who can eat or drink when under a sense of the wrath of God
for sin ?), and, being to be greatly employed hereafter, he must be greatly humbled now; therefore, the Lord leaves him three days groaning under the spirit of bondage, and buffeted, no doubt, with the
fiery darts of the devil, that, being tempted like unto his brewid thren, he might be able hereafter to fuccour those that were
tempted. Had Saul applied to any of the blind guides of the Fewish church, under these circumstances, they would have said, he was mad, or going besides himself; as many carna! teachers and blind Pharisees now deal with, and so more and more distrēls, poor fouls labouring under awakening convicțions of their damnable state. But God often at our first awakening, visits us with sore trials, especially those who are,
the church, and to be used as instruments in bringing many fons to glory: those who are to be highly exalted, must first be deeply humbled; and this I speak for the comfort of such, who may be now groaning under the spirit of bondage, and perhaps, like Saul, can neither eat nor drink; for I have generally observed, that those who have had the deepest convictions, have afterwards been favoured with the most precious communications, and enjoyed most of the divine presence in their souls. This was afterwards remarkably exemplified in Saul, who was three days without light, and nei. ther did eat nor drink,
But will the Lord leave his poor servant in this distress? no; his Jesus (though Saul persecuted him) promised (and he will perform) that "it should be told him what he must do. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and unto him, said the Lord, in a vision, Ananias; and he faid, Behold, I am here, LORD.” What a holy familiarity is there between Jesus CHRIST and regenerate fouls !' Ananias had been used to such love-visits, and therefore' knew the voice of his beloved. The LORD says, “ Ananias;" Ananias says, “ Behold, I am here, LORD." Thus it is that CHRIST now, as well as formerly, often talks with his children at fundry tinies and after divers mannerš, as a 'man' calketh with his friend. But what has the LORD to say to Ananias?
Ver. 11. “ And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street, which is called Siraight, and enquire in the house of Judas, for one called "Saul of Tarsus; ". (See here for your comfort, O children of the most high God, what notice JESUS CHRIST takes of the street and the house where his own dear servants lodge) " for behold, he prayeth';" but why wonder, to hear that Saul was praying? why, Saul was a Pharisee, and therefore, no doubt, fafted and made long prayers: and, since we are told that he profited above many of his equals, I doubt not but he was taken notice of for his gift in prayer; and yet it seems, that before these three days, Saul never prayed in his life; and why? because, before these three days, he never felt himself a condemned creature: he was alive in his own opinion, because without a knowledge of the spiritual meaning of the lay; he felt not a want of, and therefore, , before now, cried not after a Jesus; and consequently, though he might have said, or made a prayer (as many Pharisees do now-a-days) be never prayed a prayer ; but now, behold! he prayed indeed;" and this was urged as one reason why he was converted. None of God's children, aş one obferves, comes into the world fill-born ;, prayer is the very breath of
the new creature ; and therefore, if we are prayerless, we are schriftless; if we never had the spirit of supplication, it is a fad ggn that we never had the spirit of grace in our souls: and you may be assured you never did pray, unless you have felt yourselves finners, and seen the want of Jesus to be your Saviour. May the LORD, whom I serve in the gospel of his dear Son, prick you all to the heart, and may it be said of you all, as it was of Saul, behold, they pray!
The LORD goes on to encourage Ananias to go to Saul: says he, yeß. 12." For he hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias, coming, in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his fight.". So that though CHRIST converted Saul immediately, by himself, yet he will carry on the work, thus begun, by a minifter, Happy they, who under foultçoubles have such experiepced guides, and, as well acquainted with Jesus Christ as Ananias, was a you that have such, make much of and be thankful for them, and you who have
them ) ་
them not, trust in God; he will carry on his own work without them.
Doubtless, Ananias was a good man; but fhall I commend him for his answer to our Lord? I commend him not : for says he, ver. 13. “ 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 upon thy name." I fear this answer proceeded from some relicks of self-righteousness, as well as infidelity, that lay undiscovered in the heart of Ananias. “ Arise, (faid our LORD) and go into the street, which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas, for one called Saul of Tarsus; for behold, he prayeth !" One would think this was sufficient to satisfy him; but says Ananias, “ LORD, I have heard by many of this man (he seems to speak of him with much contempt; for even good men are apt to think too contemptuously of those who are yet in their fins) how much evil he hath done to thy saints in Jerusalem: And here, he hath authority from the chief priests, to bind all that call upon thy name.” And what then, Ananias? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? Who made thee to differ? Could not he who converted thee, convert him also ? Surely Ananias here forgets himself, or perhaps fears, left this man, who had authority from the chief priests to bind all that call upon Christ's name, should bind him also, if he went unto him; but the LORD silences all objections, with a “ 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 shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's fake.” Here God stops his mouth immediately, by asserting his sovereignty, and preaching to him the doctrine of election. And the frequent conversion of notorious finners to God, to me is one great proof, amongst a thousand others, of that precious, but too much exploded and sadly misrepresented, doctrine of God's electing love; for whence is it that such are taken, whilst thousands, not near so vile, die fenseless and stupid? All the answer that can be given, is, they are chosen vesils; “Go thy way, (says God) 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 thew him how great things he must suffer for my name's