صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Luke we find confirmed in the writings of Paul himself.

Paul, who was a Jew by nation, had been edu. cated in the rigid principles of the feet called Phare isees, and formed to eminent learning in the cele. brated school of Gamaliel. He was a man of diltinction among his countrymen, and famous for his zeal in opposing Chriftianity. His worldly interest and preferment, the sentiments imbibed from his education, and the prevalent opinion of the Jewish rulers and priests, all concurred to fill him with violent prejudices against the gospel of Christ. In human view, no man was more unlikely than he, to be converted to the belief of it; and no time was more unpromising for his conversion than that in which it took place. He had just consenied to, and assisted in the execution of an eminent preacher of the gospel. Breathing out threatening and Daughter against the disciples of the Lord, he had sought and obtained from the Jewish high priest a commission to bind and bring to Jerusalem for public punishment all, both men and women, whom he found professing the faith of Jesus Christ. And for the execution of this bloody commission, he was now going to Damascus. His. zeal against. the gospel was, at this time, wound up to the high, est strain. Who would fufpe&t, that this man. should become a Chriftian ?But so it was: When he came near to Damascus, he was, at noon, day, suddenly surprised with a light from heaven, far exceeding the brightness of the fun. This was followed with an articulate voice, calling him by name, expoftulating with him for his perfecution of the church of Christ, and warning him of the ruin which he would bring on himself. Struck with conviction of his guilt, Paul inquired, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' The same voice directed him to proceed on his journey into the city, where he should meet with instructions adaptı. ed to his case. In consequence of this vision he fell blind. He was led by some of the company which attended him, into the city. There he spent his time in prayer. After some days a Christian disciple came to him, related to him the purpose of the vision, and restored him to his light by laying his hands on him in the name of Christ. Soon after this, Paul became a preacher of the.gospel That this wonderful scene was real, and not im. aginary, no man can reasonbly doubt.

There is nothing, in Paul's conduct or writings, that favours of fanaticism; but, on the contrary, he uniformly appears to have possessed a good un. derstanding and a sound judgment. If he had been an enthu haft, yet he never would have fancied a revelation in opposition to his religious princia ples, his worldly interest, and all his Arong préju. dices. Enthusiasm never takes this turn, but ala ways falls in with some previous palfion, interest or humor.

Paul was now actually engaged in a design to extirpate Christianity, and he was persuaded, that his design was laudable. If he had been a fanatic, he might have fancied a revelation in favor of his design; but it was impoflible that imagination fhould create a light and voice in direct opposition to a design, which he had so much at heart, and which he thought fo pions.

Besides : This whole scene was open and pub. lic, and attended with none of those circumstances of secrefy and disgaise, which usually attend th revelations of enthusiasts and impostors. It took place, not in the night, but in full day--not in a private apartment, or retired desert, but in the high road, and near a populous city-not when Paul was alone, but when he was in the company of a number of people, who all saw the light and heard the voice, as well as he, though they understood not the words which were fpoken. And there were hot Christians, but enemies to Christianity, as well ás he.

Nothing can be more abfurd, than to suppose, that a number of men, all violent opposers of the gospel, should happen, all at the saine moment, tb fancy, that they saw a light, and heard a voice in confirmation of the gospel, and that one of them fell blind, and continued so for several days, if no such thing had taken place.

That this story was not a fiction of the writer, but a faćt fully believed by him, is as evident, as any ancient historical fact can possibly be. It is publicly asserted by Luke soon after it is said to have happened; and the time, place and circum. ftances are pointed out; so that it might easily have been disproved, if it had not been true. Paul himself, in two of his public defences, and in the presence of numbers of Jews, relates the story, and appeals to it as a proof of his Apostleship, which he would not have done, if there had not been full evidence of the truth of it. He alludes to it also in several of his epiftles, which shews, that it was then fully believed in the churches.

This vision produced in Paul a mighty change. From this time he became a firm, unwavering be. liever, and a zealous, intrepid preacher of the gol. pel. He openly professed his faith, that Jesus was the Son of God; and he immediately received baptism the instituted badge of discipleship. And, be. ing divinely instructed, that he was appointed a minister and witness of Jefus, he straightway preached him in Damascus, proving that he was the very Chrift foretold by the prophets.' From Damascus, where he first began his ministry, and where he foon found his life in danger, he privately escaped to Jerusalem. There he joined the other Apollles, and spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. Afterward, being ordained by certain prophets and teachers of the church as an Apostle of the Gentiles, he travelled through the various provinces of the lesser Aga: Then he passed into Europe and visited the moft noted places in ancient Greece: From thence he went into Syria, and returned to Jerusalem. Afterward he went over a considerable part of the same ground again, confirming the churches, which he had planted.

Wherever he went, he boldly preached this new religion in the most conspicuous places, especially in the Jewish fynagogues ; for there were Jews dile persed in all parts of the Roman empire. In many places he met with great oppo Gtion, chiefly from the malice of the Jews. He was imprisoned; tortured, whipped, foned, and once handled so, violently that he sell, and was dragged away for dead. But none of these things moved him, neiiher counted he his own life dear to him, that so he might finish with joy the ministry which he had received. God wrought fpecial miracles by his hands in expelling evil spirits, healing the sick and raising the dead. In many places, churches under his ministry were planted, improved and increased to great celebrity. Thus he continued his work, until he was made a prisoner at Rome, where he remained two years, confined to his own hired house; yet with so much liberty, that he received all who came to him, preaching to them the kingdom of God, and teftifying the things which con. cern the Lord Jesus, with all confidence.

Paul could not have conducted in this manner, if he had not believed the gospel to be divine. He could not have had such great success, if he had not exhibiced evidence of its divinity. The mira. cles, which he wrought, confirmed the testimony which he gave in its favor,

And certainly Luke's narrative of these matters must have been true, or it never could have gained credit, nor would he have thought of writing it. For, it should be observed, this is not a narrative of

Paul's private life, but of his public ministry. If Paul had never performed such travels, preached in such places, erected such churches, wrought fuch miracles, met with such persecutions, stood before such councils and magistrates, and made such fpeeches in his public defence, the historian, who Thould relate these things as recently done, would have gained no credit, but must have met with

perfe&t contempt.

There are thirteen epistles afcribed to this Paul; and whoever reads them with attention, will easily fee, that they were written by the same man, whole life and actions Luke has related to us. They breathe the spirit of that celebrated preacher; they contain the same doctrines, which, Luke says, Paul preached; and they narrate, or allude to the same transactions, which the historian has ascribed to him. If you read Luke's history, and Paul's let. ters, you will see, there is no collusion--no com. bination to support each other's credit. But there is a remarkable coincidence of facts; a coincidence which is worthy of notice, as it strongly confirms the credit of both writers. For where two men write independently, in a different man. ner, on different occa Gions, and without concert, their agreement in the relation of facts must be supposed to spring from truth.

Paul's early sentiments and manner of life-his persecution of the church-his conversion-his preaching in Damascus—his danger in, and escape from that city--his sufferings the places to which he carried the gospel the success, and the opposition which he found in them-his allistance from other Apotles—his imprisonments his felfdenials his labors for his own support—his constancy and perseverance-his. miraculous works, are represented in his epifles, as they are related in the history of the A&ts, with only this difference ; Luke relates them with the freedom and boldness

yet

« السابقةمتابعة »