" And Saul, yet breathing out threatening; and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the higli priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem," etc. ACTS ix. 1-3. EVERY one goes his own way; every creature after its kind. The Ethiopian Treasurer, having obtained all he de sired having gained more than a whole world in that desert place, "went on his way rejoicing." Philip, hav ing finished one work, instantly betakes himself to an other. He does not become a hanger-on in the palace of his powerful convert. From Ashdod, the first town he reached on his return, all the way to Caesarea, his home, he preached the gospel in every city. A faith ful servant, not hiding but exercising his talent, he was not content with the successful accomplishment of his errand to the desert place, but took advantage of his

176 The Church in the Ploitse. return journey to scatter the seed of the kingdom in all the towns of the south. Saul, too, on his part, act ing according to his nature, is as busy as the rest. When last we saw him, he was acquiescing eagerly in the martyrdom of Stephen (viii. i); and .now, after a considerable interval, he appears again, still bent on getting new victims. Perhaps, when the Christians were either driven away from Jerusalem, or concealed

there, he found his occupation gone, and determined to find a new hunting-field. Damascus was a great city only about one hundred and forty miles distant. Many Jews resided permanently there; and probably some of the fugitives from Jerusa lem had recently reached it in quest of a refuge. It is intimated in a subsequent verse (13) that believing Jews. who had left Jerusalem after Stephen s death, informed Ananias of Saul s arrival. Damascus is the oldest city known to history still flourishing. It has a population of 250,000. Travellers describe with enthusiasm the marvellous beauty and salubrity of its site. A bright rapid river, flowing from the slopes of the eastern Lebanon range, divides into several branches in the plain. Soon after passing the city these streams are absorbed, and never reach an outfall in any sea. " And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings." The instigator and manager of the first martyrdom has not yet changed; he still breathes out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of Jesus, but will not do so much longer now. This part of his course is near an end; this is the last journey he will undertake as the waster of the Church. The days of his rebellion are numbered; the hour of his conversion is on the wing. He is still the persecutor; but a little while, and he will persecute no more. After this day, all his days he will be persecuted, until, like the rest of the martyrs, he is sent up in a fiery chariot to join the company of the crowned saints. Saul demanded from the high priest a commission empowering him to require the assistance of the syna gogue authorities in Damascus in prosecuting there his work of blood. From his own lips, at a subsequent stage, we learn that this demand was successful; he

Saul. 1 77 went to Damascus " with authority," and not as an ad venturer on his own account. By connivance of the Roman governor, the Jewish ecclesiastical council were permitted within certain limits to rule their own coun trymen according to their own laws; and it appears that their jurisdiction extended in some form to the persons of Jews residing in foreign cities. The commission granted by the high priest bore " that if he found any of this way," he should bring them bound to Jerusalem. We have here a new des ignation of the Christian faith. It is called the* way, and those who believe it are said to be of the way. The expression in the same sense occurs in three other places of the Acts: " But divers spake evil of the way " (xix. 9); " And the same time there arose no small stir about the way" (xix. 23): " Felix, having more perfect knowledge of the way" (xxiv. 22). From a compari son of these passages in their context it may be clearly seen that "the way" was a specific designation of the Christian system. Two questions spring here: Who gave the Chris tians that name ? and, Why was it given ? I think it is not a nickname imposed by enemies, but a significant designation adopted by themselves. It may indeed have been either voluntarily adopted by themselves, and thereafter employed by enemies as a term of re proach; or, conversely, employed by adversaries as a reproach, and ultimately accepted by themselves. In the use of the term there may have been some thing of the nature of a cipher, used for purposes of concealment. It seems not improbable that the early disciples, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, " I am the way, the truth, and the life,"

might adopt, as their distinguishing title, the first con stituent of that blessed trinity. The word would be very precious in those troubled times. Christ was their way to the Father; faith in him was their way to pardon and peace. "The way" in those times was their path across the wilderness, and their entrance into rest. * The meaning is partially obscured by the introduction of the pronoun "this" in the English version. In the margin it is given correctly " the way."

178 The Church in the House. The term "Methodist" has been similarly employed in recent British history; and it is interesting to notice, although the English terms do not reveal the circum stance, that the same Greek word is the root of both epithets. Women were not exempt: when and where have they been exempt, when persecution for Christ s sake was raging ? From the commission given to Saul, empowering him to drag women as well as men before the Jewish tribunals, down to the time when godly women were tied to stakes in the rising tide of the Solway by order of a blood-thirsty government, the persecutor has always succeeded in quenching the voice of nature in his own breast. He spares neither age nor sex. From the beginning women have followed the Saviour in his suffering, and suffered for his sake. The authorized agent was charged to bring the prisoners to Jerusalem for trial such trial as Stephen obtained there such trial as the Inquisition accorded to its victims in the dark ages such trial as the Pope and the Jesuits would give us to-day, if they had power.

" And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven." We are approaching the crisis now. I think this was, and was intended to be, the most striking and important individual conversion between Christ s ascension and his return to judge the world. In its results, direct and indirect, it is the largest sin gle fruit that has yet been gathered from the tree of righteousness that the Lord by his death and resur rection planted in the world. As we approach the turning-point the meetingplace, we stand in awe. For Christians this spot is holy ground. Like the three disciples on the mount, we fear as we enter the cloud; for here the Redeemer is transfigured, and displays more of his glory than mortal eye may easily bear. From a comparison of this narrative with the ac counts of the same event given subsequently by Paul in his public apologies, it results that while his com panions heard a voice, Saul only distinguished the ar ticulate speech of a person; and that while they all fell

The Lord s Word Consolation. 179 to the earth at the first appearance of the light, the rest of the company soon rose to their feet again, while Saul continued prostrate to hear the word of the Lord. All the company beheld the light with which the risen Jesus that day clothed himself as with a garment; but Saul alone saw the Divine Person who wore that robe of glory. All heard a sound; but he alone felt the word as a two-edged sword penetrating his joints and mar row. Similar distinctions occur in our day. One is taken, and another left. A thousand may hear the word of the kingdom, and the kingdom come in power

to only a single soul. Here the Lord takes unto himself his mighty power and reigns. He subdues and leads captive the greatest enemy of his throne. He makes openly a show of Jew ish unbelief in the person of its chosen champion, and uses the captive then as an instrument to promote his own design. The Lord had need of human energy and genius in its highest measure of a moral power that sweeps all lighter things before it in whatever di rection it may move, like a river in flood of Hebrew lore and Greek culture blended together in one capa cious mind, of all these the Lord had need for the work of the kingdom; and sovereignly he seized the vessel which contained them all in fullest measure, that he might employ it as he employed the ancient prophet, "to root out and to pull down, and to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant" (Jer. i. 10). 1. 68 FREE BOOKS 2. ALL WRITINGS

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