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Biblical Illustrator Acts 9

Biblical Illustrator Acts 9

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Published by: glennpease on Jul 13, 2011
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BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR ACTS 9CHAPTER IX.VxBS. 1-3. And Saul, yet breathlng^ oat threatenlngs and slangbter against thedisciples. — Saul, a persecutor: — Saul was an educated young man, and that heshould engage in the work of perseoation strikes us as anomalous and uimataral.In young men we naturally expect a frank concession of freedom to think andgenerous and chivalrous impulses. We are not much surprised when we find in-tolerance as men advance in life, for age is conservative, and may be narrow andbigoted. Young men are often sceptical and unsettled in their notions ; they ques-tion the correctness of opinions long held to be true, and employ themselves inadjusting new discoveries to received truths. But the very nature of this processtends to make them liberal, for they cannot deny to others the liberty they claimfor themselves. Old men, however, are confirmed believers or unbelievers; andhate to be opposed or unsettled. Hence we are not surprised that the Sanhedrinshould be composed in a great part of " elders," nor that the principalfunctionariesof the " holy oflSce," should be men of advanced years. Yet few men, young or old,have been so furious in persecution as was Saul (chaps, viii. 3 ; xxii. 4 ; xxvi. 9-11 ;Gal. i. 13 ; 1 Tim. L 13 ; 1 Cor. xv. 9). I. The PREVAiiECB of pbbseotjtion. Themanner in which new views have been received is one of the most remarkablethings in history. The public tears of Pericles were necessary to save Aapasia,suspected of philosophy ; but all his eloquence could not save Anaxagoras forhaving taught that there was an intelligent cause of all things. Socrates was putto death for teaching the same thing. Aristotle only saved his Ufe by flight inorder, as he said, to save the Athenians a new crime against philosophy. Platowas twice thrown into prison, and once sold as a slave. Galileo was imprisonedfor maintaining that the sun is the centre of the universe. The Saviour was cruci-fied, and in almost every country His religion has encountered opposition andsecured a triumph only as the result of a baptism of blood and fire. 11. ItsOATTSEs. 1. The war of opinion. A man's opinions are a part of himself, andbecome as dear as Ufe or liberty. They are the measure of his reputation andinfluence, and are the result of all his experience and studies. To attack them is,,therefore, to attack him ; to overthrow them is to take away all that constitutes hisclaim to notice while living, or to remembrance when dead. This remark hasadditional force, if the matter is connected with religion. To attack this is tcassail that which must be dearest of all to the heart of man, inasmuch as it mayleaveman in a world indisputably wretched with no hope of a better. Eeligious opinions,therefore, have been among the slowest to make progress ; the strife in regard tothem has been the most bitter; and freedom of religious speech has been among the
 
last of the victories secured by the conflicts of past ages. 2. Vested interests.There are institutions, endowments, orders of men, customs and usages, that growout of forms of doctrine. All the religions of ancient and most of modem times¦were sustained by law. Rome indeed recognised those of other nations, but thenit was a principle that while each country recognised the rest, it allowed noattack on its own. When, therefore, Christianity attacked all forms of idolatry,it arrayed against itself all the malice of a misihty priesthood, and aU the power of the State ; and the result is well known. 3. The sanction given by religion to thecorruptions of the human heart. The plan of the Prince of darkness has been toVOL. n. 13 THE BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR. [chap. n.•eonre this for the indnlgenoe of passion. Hence to attack vice, as trne Christianityalways does, and to carry a pare morality over the world, was to array againstitself the power of all the religions of the earth. 4. The fixed aversion of the heartby natnre to the holiness which God requires of man ; to the scheme of salvationby the Cross, which is an " offence " to one class, and a *' stumbling-block " toanother ; to the doctrines of human depravity and of a just and changeless retribu-tion, which grate hard on the natural feelings and are repulsive to human pride.III. Its effots. 1. It has become, as the result of these trials, a settledprinciple that nothing which is good and true can be destroyed by persecution,bat is established more firmly and spread more widely. It has led men to look with favour on what is persecuted ; created a conviction that a right has been vio-lated ; awakened sympathy, stimulated inquiry in regard to the persecutedsentiments ; and made the persecuted more firmly attached to their principles, andmore eloquent in their defence. It has long since passed into a proverb that " theblood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." Imperial power and every deviceof human ingenuity has been resorted to in order to extinguish it ; and it may beassumed now that if Christianity is to become extinct in the world, it must be bysome other means than by persecution. 2. In hke manner, persecution becomes atest of the reality of religion. It is not, indeed, a direct demonstration of its truth.The advocates of other systems have borne persecution patiently, but although thisdoes not prove that they were suffering for the truth, yet it may be still true thatthe mass of men will somehow see in the endurance of Christian martyrs an arga-ment for the Divine origin of their rehgion. The number has been so great — theyhave borne their sufferings so patiently — they have met death so calmly — somanyof them have been distinguished for intelligence — and so many of them were wit-
 
nesses of what they affirmed to be true, that the general impression on mankind isthat sufferings so varied, so protracted, so meekly borne, could be only in the causeof truth. 3. The results of persecution are worth all which they cost. The resultsof the imprisonment of Galileo, of the sufferings of Columbus, &o., are more thancompensated for. And the happiness which has been conferred on the world byChristianity since the fires of persecution were first kindled, and that which theworld will yet enjoy when it shall be diffused over all the earth have been and willbe more than a compensation for all the sufferings of all the martyrs. (A. Bame$,D.D.) The conversion of great men : — As it is in the exquisite mystery of printing, the great difiBculty lies in the composing and working of the first sheet,lor by that one many thousands are easily printed ; so the work of the ministry isto convert great men. In uno Ccesare multi insunt Marii. — In one great man aremanyinferiors contained. When the great wheel of the clock is set a-moving, all theinferiorwheels will move of their own accord. How zealous was St. Paul about theconversionof Sergius Paulus, the deputy of the country 1 He knew well enough that to takesucha great fish was more than to catch many little ones, though the least is not to be de-spised. (Galamy.) A remarkable conversion : — This incident occurrei many yearsago in the heart of the Black Forest in Germany. It was at the dead of night. Theplace was lighted by torches, which cast a ghastly glare through the surroundinggloom. Savage looking men, fully armed, were sitting round in a circle. One of theirnumber was holding up something in his hand. These men were robbers. Thatevening they had robbed a stage-coach. According to their custom, they were nowengaged in selling by auction among themselves the articles that had been stolen.Travelling bags, different articles of clothing, and various other things had beendisposed of in this way. Last of all a ew Testament was held up. The manwho acted as auctioneer introduced this " article " with some wicked remark,whichthrew tbe company into a roar of laughter. One of the company suggested, as a joke, that the auctioneer should open the book and read a chapter, as he said, " fortheir edification." This motion was seconded, and carried unanimously. Open-ing the book at random, he began to read with an air of mock solemnity. As hewent on reading, laughs and jokes were heard all round. While this was going onone man in the company, the oldest member of the gang, and who had been theirringleader in all that was evil, became silent. He sat with his hands clasped onhis knees, lost in deep thought. It happened that the passage the auctioneer had just read was the very one he had heard read thirty years before, at family prayerm his father's house, on the morning of the day when he lefi that home for the

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