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Saul, The Christian Convert.

Saul, The Christian Convert.

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"Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogue, that He is the Son of
God." — Acts ix, 19, 20.

"Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogue, that He is the Son of
God." — Acts ix, 19, 20.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Aug 09, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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Saul, the Christian Convert. By R. . SLEDD, "Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogue, that He is the Son of God." — Acts ix, 19, 20. We have seen Saul, the Pharisee. He was honest in his Phariseeism. He believed in it, and loved it with all his heart. He was thoroughly inbued with its spirit. He was self-righteous, bigoted, intolerant. His intolerance broke out into violent, relentless per- secution of the followers of Christ. He made havoc of the church. He arrested both men and women, shut them up in prison, and when they were brought before the Sanhedrim for trial, gave his vote against them. He aimed at nothing less than the complete extinction of the church. Jerusalem soon became too limited a field for his active zeal. The persecution waged by him and his co-religionists resulted in the scattering of the Chris- tians abroad. As they went they preached the word and made converts to the faith. Thus the means whereby he had hoped to extirpate the church re- sulted only in its enlargement. This was more than his Phariseeism, now inflamed to the highest pitch of fanaticism, could bear. He determined to follow the flying disciples and hunt them to [84] True Heroism and Other Sermons. 85 death. With this intent he went to the high- priest and obtained from him a commission to go to Damascus and arrest any of " this way " whom he might find there, and bring them bound to Jerusalem. With an escort supplied by the authori- ties, or companions whom he had chosen because of their sympathy with him, he set out on his journey. Five or six days' travel brought him near Damascus. It was about mid-day as he entered the shaded avenue
leading to the gates of the city. He was still " breath- ing out threatenings and slaughter." o relentings had been kindled in his soul. There had been no ebbing of his hate, no faltering of his purpose to overthrow the new faith by the destruction of its adherents. We pass over a brief period of only three days, and, strange to tell, we find him " with the disciples; " with them not as an enemy, with authority to arrest and imprison them, but as a fellow-believer and brother; and not only with them but " preaching Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God." In the very place which but three days before he expected to make the scene of violence and outrage, and in fellowship with the very persons whom he intended to make the victims of his furious zeal, he is fearlessly proclaiming the eternal power and godhead of Jesus of azareth, and thus setting the seal of condemna- tion on his countrymen and on his own past life, and 86 True Heroism and Other Sermons. attesting the truth of the faith which he came to destroy. It is not surprising that those who " heard him were amazed, and said, Is not this he that destroyed them that called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent?" o doubt the Jewish as- semblies were profoundly moved when they heard it. Some men wondered; some wept; some gnashed their teeth in the frenzy of their disappointment; while a few, perhaps, cherished the forlorn hope that it was only a subtle strategem on his part the more surely to entrap and destroy them that believed in Christ. The disciples themselves could scarcely believe in the reality of the change. While they " rejoiced for the deliverance," they were bewildered by its strange- ness. Could it be that the storm-cloud which had come so near had suddenly dissolved into sunshine? Was the change real, complete, and would it be per-
manent? Was he indeed to be henceforth their friend, and their colaborer in the work of the world's evange- lization? These were questions of absorbing interest to them, and are of no less importance to us. The fact of such a change of conduct is presump- tive proof of a change of sentiment and conviction. When we look at his impassioned earnestness, and witness the life, spirit, and power of his words, we feel that all this is not, cannot, be assumed; that he is not acting the hypocrite; but that his conviction of the truth of what he is now proclaiming is as profound True Heroism and Other Sermons. 8y as had been his comtempt for it a few days before; and his love of Christ and His people as ardent as his hate had been cruel. And when we see that from that moment to the close of his life, despite privation, suffering, persecution, he continued " to testify the gospel of the grace of God " to both Jews and Greeks, and at last went to the scaffold for the testimony which he held, we cannot reasonably cherish the faintest doubt of the reality and completeness of the change wrought in him at Damascus. How are we to account for this sudden change — this instantaneous renunciation of worldly name and fame, and all the convictions and prejudices of his previous life, and his consecration to a cause which he had so bitterly despised and persecuted? Infidelity has had but few problems with which to grapple in either ancient or modern times more perplexing than this. Lord Lyttelton undertook its solution with the avowed purpose of destroying its credibility as a supernatural fact, and thus overturn- ing one of the strong pillars of the Christian faith. Instead of accomplishing his purpose, he was himself vanquished and converted, and gave to the world as the result of his studies a powerful argument for the truth of our holy religion. Every attempt to dis- credit it, either as a historical or a supernatural fact, has only demonstrated the weakness of its assailants and the truth and the power of the gospel of Christ.

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