Acts 9

CHAPTER IX.

Saul, bent on the destruction of the Christians, obtains letters

from the high priest, authorizing him to seize those whom he

should find at Damascus, and bring them bound to Jerusalem,

1, 2.

On his way to Damascus, he has a Divine vision, is convinced of

his sin and folly, is struck blind, and remains three days

without sight, and neither eats nor drinks, 3-9.

Ananias, a disciple, is commanded in a vision to go and speak to

Saul, and restore his sight, 10-16.

Ananias goes and lays his hands on him, and he receives his

sight, and is baptized, 17-19.

Saul, having spent a few days with the Christians at Damascus,

goes to the synagogues, proclaims Christ, and confounds the

Jews, 20-22.

The Jews lay wait to kill him, but the disciples let him down

over the walls of the city in a basket, by night, and he

escapes to Jerusalem, 23-25.

Having wished to associate with the disciples there, they avoid

him; but Barnabas takes and brings him to the apostles, and

declares his conversion, 26, 27.

He continues in Jerusalem preaching Christ, and arguing with the

Hellenistic Jews, who endeavour to slay him; but the disciples

take him to Caesarea, and send him thence to his own city

Tarsus, 28-30.

About this time, the Churches, being freed from persecution, are

edified and multiplied, 31.

Peter heals Eneas at Lydda, who had been afflicted with the

palsy eight years: in consequence of which miracle, all the

people of Lydda and Saron are converted, 32-35.

Account of the sickness and death of a Christian woman named

Tabitha, who dwelt at Joppa; and her miraculous restoration to

life by the ministry of Peter, 36-41.

Gracious effects produced among the inhabitants of Lydda by this

miracle, 42, 43.

NOTES ON CHAP. IX.

Verse 1. Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter] The

original text is very emphatic, ετιεμπνεωναπειληςκαιφονου, and

points out how determinate Saul was to pursue and accomplish his

fell purpose of totally destroying the infant Church of Christ.

The mode of speech introduced above is very frequent in the Greek

writers, who often express any vehement and hostile affection of

the mind by the verb πνεειν, to breathe, to pant; so Theocritus,

Idyll. xxii. ver. 82:

εςμεσσονσυναγονφονοναλλαλοισιπνεοντες.

They came into the assembly, breathing mutual slaughter.

Euripides has the same form, πυρπνεουσακαιφονον, breathing

out fire, and slaughter, Iphig. in Taur.

And Aristophanes more fully, referring to all the preparations

for war:-

αλλαπνεονταςδορυκαιλογχαςκαιλευκολοφουςτρυφαλειας,

καιπηληκαςκαικνημιδαςκαιθυμουςεπταβοειους.

They breathed spears, and pikes, and helmets, and

crests, and greaves, and the fury of redoubted heroes.

The figure is a favourite one with Homer: hence μενεαπνειοντες

αβαντες, the Abantes breathing strength.-Il. ii. 536. And how

frequently he speaks of his fierce countrymen as, μενεαπνειοντες

αχαιοι, the Greeks breathing strength, see Il. iii. 8; xi. 508;

xxiv. 364, which phrase an old Scholiast interprets, being filled

with strength and fury. St. Luke, who was master of the Greek

tongue, chose such terms as best expressed a heart desperately and

incessantly bent on accomplishing the destruction of the objects

of its resentment. Such at this time was the heart of Saul of

Tarsus; and it had already given full proof of its malignity, not

only in the martyrdom of Stephen, but also in making havoc of the

Church, and in forcibly entering every house, and dragging men and

women, whom he suspected of Christianity, and committing them to

prison. See Ac 8:3.

Went unto the high priest] As the high priest was chief in all

matters of an ecclesiastical nature, and the present business was

pretendedly religious, he was the proper person to apply to for

letters by which this virulent persecutor might be accredited. The

letters must necessarily be granted in the name of the whole

Sanhedrin, of which Gamaliel, Saul's master, was at that time

the head; but the high priest was the proper organ through whom

this business might be negotiated.

Verse 2. Letters to Damascus to the synagogues] Damascus,

anciently called Damask, and Darmask, was once

the metropolis of all Syria. It was situated at fifty miles'

distance from the sea; from which it is separated by lofty

mountains. It is washed by two rivers, Amara or Abara, which ran

through it, and Pharpar, called by the Greeks Chrysorrhoas, the

golden stream, which ran on the outside of its walls. It is one of

the most ancient cities in the world, for it existed in the time

of Abraham, Ge 14:15; and how long

before is not known. The city of Damascus is at present a place

of considerable trade, owing to its being the rendezvous for all

the pilgrims from the north of Asia, on their road to and from the

temple of Mecca. It is surrounded with pretty strong walls, which

have nine gates, and is between four and five miles in

circumference. It contains about 100,000 inhabitants, some say

more, the principal part of whom are Arabs and Turks, with whom

live, in a state of considerable degradation, about 15,000

Christians. Damascus, like other places of importance, has

passed through the hands of many masters. It was captured and

ruined by Tiglath Pileser, who carried away its inhabitants to

Kin, beyond the Euphrates, about 740 years before the

Christian aera; and thus was fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah,

Isa 17:1-3, and that of

Amos, Am 1:4, 5. It was also taken by

Sennacherib, and by the generals of Alexander the Great.

Metellus and Laelius seized it, during the war of Pompey with

Tigranes; before Christ 65. It continued under the dominion of

the Romans till the Saracens took possession of it, in A.D. 634.

It was besieged and taken by Teemour lenk, A.D. 1400, who put all

the inhabitants to the sword. The Egyptian Mamelukes repaired

Damascus when they took possession of Syria; but the Turkish

Emperor Selim having defeated them at the battle of Aleppo in

1516, Damascus was brought under the government of the Turks, and

in their hands it still remains. In the time of St. Paul it was

governed by Aretas, whose father, Obodas, had been governor of it

under Augustus. Damascus is 112 miles south of Antioch; 130 N.N.E.

of Jerusalem; and 270 S.S.W; of Diarbek. Longitude 37� east:

latitude 33� 45' north. The fruit tree called the Damascene,

vulgarly Damazon, and the flower called the Damask rose, were

transplanted from Damascus to the gardens of Europe; and the silks

and linens, known by the name of Damasks, were probably first

manufactured by the inhabitants of this ancient city.

Any of this way] That is, this religion, for so derec

in Hebrew, and οδος, hodos, in Hellenistic Greek, are often to be

understood. derec Yehovah, the way of the Lord, implies

the whole of the worship due to him, and prescribed by himself:

the way or path in which he wills men to walk, that they may get

safely through life, and finally attain everlasting felicity. The

Jewish writers designate the whole doctrine and practice of

Christianity by a similar expression, derec

hanotsarim, the way, doctrine, or sect of the Christians.

Whether they were men or women] Provided they were Jews; for no

converts had as yet been made among the Gentiles; nor did the

power of the high priest and Sanhedrin extend to any but those who

belonged to the synagogues. Pearce.

In every country where there were Jews and synagogues, the power

and authority of the Sanhedrin and high priest were acknowledged:

just as papists in all countries acknowledge the authority of the

pope. And as there can be but one pope, and one conclave, so there

could be but one high priest, and one Sanhedrin; and this is the

reason why the high priest and sanhedrin at Jerusalem had

authority over all Jews, even in the most distant countries.

Verse 3. Suddenly there shined round about him] This might have

been an extraordinary flash of the electric fluid, accompanied

with thunder, with which God chose to astonish and confound Saul

and his company; but so modified it as to prevent it from striking

them dead. Thunder would naturally follow such a large quantity of

this fluid as appears to have been disengaged at this time; and

out of this thunder, or immediately after it, Christ spoke in an

awful and distinct voice, which appears to have been understood by

Saul only.

Verse 4. And he fell to the earth] Being struck down with the

lightning: many persons suppose he was on horseback, and painters

thus represent him; but this is utterly without foundation.

Painters are, in almost every case, wretched commentators.

Verse 5. Who art thou, Lord?] τιςεικυριε; Who art thou, SIR?

He had no knowledge who it was that addressed him, and would only

use the term κυριε, as any Roman or Greek would, merely as a term

of civil respect.

I am Jesus whom thou persecutest] "Thy enmity is against me and

my religion; and the injuries which thou dost to my followers I

consider as done to myself."

The following words, making twenty in the original, and thirty

in our version, are found in no Greek MS. The words are, It is

hard for thee to kick against the pricks: and he trembling and

astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? and the Lord

said unto him. It is not very easy to account for such a large

addition, which is not only not found in any Greek MS. yet

discovered, but is wanting in the Itala, Erpen's Arabic, the

Syriac, Coptic, Sahidic, and most of the Slavonian. It is found

in the Vulgate, one of the Arabic, the AEthiopic, and Armenian;

and was probably borrowed from Ac 26:14, and some marginal notes.

It is wanting also in the Complutensian edition, and in that of

Bengel. Griesbach also leaves it out of the text.

It is hard for thee, &c.] σκληρονσοιπροςκεντραλακτιζειν.

This is a proverbial expression, which exists, not only in

substance, but even in so many words, both in the Greek and

Latin writers. κεντρον, kentron, signifies an ox goad, a piece of

pointed iron stuck in the end of a stick, with which the ox is

urged on when drawing the plough. The origin of the proverb seems

to have been this: sometimes it happens that a restive or stubborn

ox kicks back against the goad, and thus wounds himself more

deeply: hence it has become a proverb to signify the fruitlessness

and absurdity of rebelling against lawful authority, and the

getting into greater difficulties by endeavouring to avoid

trifling sufferings. So the proverb, Incidit in Scyllam qui vult

vitare Charybdim. Out of the cauldron into the fire. "Out of

bad into worse." The saying exists, almost in the apostolic form,

in the following writers. EURIPIDES, in Bacch. ver. 793:-

θυοιμαναυτωμαλλονηθυμουμενος

προςκεντραλακτιζοιμιθνητοςωνθεω.

"I, who am a frail mortal, should rather sacrifice

to him who is a GOD, than, by giving place to

anger, kick against the goads."

And AESCHYLUS, in Agamemnon, ver. 1633:-

προςκεντραμηλακτιζε.

Kick not against the goads.

And again in Prometh. Vinct. ver. 323:-

προςκεντρακωλονεκτενειςορωνοτι

τραχυςμοναρχοςουδυπευθυνοςκρατει.

"Thou stretchest out thy foot against goads, seeing

the fierce monarch governs according to his own will."

Resistance is of no use: the more thou dost rebel, the more

keenly thou shalt suffer. See the Scholiast here.

PINDAR has a similar expression, Pyth. ii. ver. 171-5 :-

φερεινδελαφρως

επαυχενιονλαβοντα

ζυγονγαρηγειποτικεντρονδετοι

λακτιζεμεντελεθει

ολισθηροςοιμος.

"It is profitable to bear willingly the assumed yoke.

To kick against the goad is pernicious conduct."

Where see the Scholiast, who shows that "it is ridiculous for a

man to fight with fortune: for if the unruly ox, from whom the

metaphor is taken, kick against the goad, he shall suffer still

more grievously." TERENCE uses the same figure. Phorm. Act i.

scen. 2, ver. 27:-

Venere in mentem mihi istaec: nam inscitia est,

Adversum stimulum calces._______

"These things have come to my recollection, for it

is foolishness for thee to kick against a goad."

OVID has the same idea in other words, Trist. lib. ii. ver. 15:-

At nunc (tanta meo comes est insania morbo)

Saxa malum refero rursus ad icta pedem.

Scilicet et victus repetit gladiator arenam;

Et redit in tumidas naufraga puppis aquas.

But madly now I wound myself alone,

Dashing my injured foot against the stone:

So to the wide arena, wild with pain,

The vanquish'd gladiator hastes again;

So the poor shatter'd bark the tempest braves,

Launching once more into the swelling waves.

Intelligent men, in all countries and in all ages of the world,

have seen and acknowledged the folly and wickedness of fighting

against God; of murmuring at the dispensations of his providence;

of being impatient under affliction; and of opposing the purposes

of his justice and mercy. The words contain a universal lesson,

and teach us patience under affliction, and subjection to the

sovereign will of God; and they especially show the desperate

wickedness of endeavouring, by persecution, to hinder the

dissemination of the truth of God in the earth. He that kicks

against this goad does it at the risk of his final salvation. The

fable of the viper and the file is another illustration of this

proverb: it gnawed and licked the file, till it destroyed its

teeth and wasted away its tongue. The maxim in the proverb

should be early inculcated on the minds of children and scholars;

when chastised for their faults, resistance and stubbornness

produce increased coercion and chastisement. And let parents and

masters learn that the oft-repeated use of the goad and ferula

seldom tend to reclaim, but beget obduracy and desperation. The

advice of Columella to the ploughman, having some relation to the

proverb in the text, and a strong bearing on this latter part of

the subject, is worthy of the most serious regard: "Voce potius

quam verberibus terreat: ultimaque sint opus recusantibus remedia

plagae. Nunquam stimulo lacessat juvencum, quod retrectantem

calcitrosumque eum reddit: nonnunquam tamen admoneat flagello."

COLUMELLA, De Re Rustica, lib. ii. cap. 2, in fine. "Let the

husbandman intimidate his oxen more by his voice than by blows, to

which he should never have recourse but in extreme cases. A young

steer should never be goaded, for this will induce him to kick

and run back; but on proper occasions the whip, as an incentive to

activity, may be profitably used." In reference to the same

subject, which all concerned should feel to be of the greatest

importance I shall close with the advice of one greater than the

Roman agriculturist: Fathers, provoke not your children to anger,

lest they be discouraged, Col 3:21; but

bring them up (ενπαιδειακαινουθεσιακυριου) in the discipline

and admonition of the Lord, Eph 6:4, using the authority that God

has given you with a steady hand, actuated by a tender and feeling

heart.

Verse 6. Trembling] Under a strong apprehension of meeting the

judgment he deserved.

And astonished] At the light, the thunder, and the voice.

Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?] The word κυριε, Lord, is

here to be understood in its proper sense, as expressing authority

and dominion: in the 5th verse it appears to be equivalent to our

word sir.

The pride of the Pharisee is now brought down to the dust; and

the fury of the persecutor is not only restrained, but the lion

becomes a lamb. What wilt thou have me to do? Wilt thou condescend

to employ me among thy meanest servants?

Go into the city, and it shall be told thee, &c.] Jesus could

have informed him at once what was his will concerning him; but he

chose to make one of those very disciples whom he was going to

bring in bonds to Jerusalem the means of his salvation: 1. To

show that God will help man by man, that they may learn to love

and respect each other. 2. That in the benevolence of Ananias he

might see the spirit and tendency of that religion which he was

persecuting, and of which he was shortly to become an apostle.

Verse 7. Stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.]

The men were εννεοι, stupified, hearing τηςφωνης, the voice

or thunder, but not distinguishing the words, which were addressed

to Saul alone; and which were spoken out of the thunder, or in a

small, still voice, after the peal had ceased. The remarkable

case, 1Ki 19:11-13, may serve to illustrate that before us.

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord;

and the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the

mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lard; and

after the wind an earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire; and

after the fire a still small voice; and when Elijah heard it, he

wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the

entering in of the cave, and behold, there came a voice unto him,

and said, WHAT DOST THOU HERE, ELIJAH! The thunder must have been

heard by all; the small, still voice by Saul alone. This

consideration amply reconciles the passage in the text with that

in Ac 22:9, where Paul says, They that were with me saw the light

and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him that spoke

with one. They had heard the thunder which followed the escape of

the lightning, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to

Saul; they did not hear the words, I am Jesus whom thou

persecutest, &c.; but they saw and heard enough to convince them

that the whole was supernatural; for they were all struck down to

the earth with the splendour of the light, and the sound of the

thunder, which I suppose took place on this occasion. It has been

a question among divines, whether Jesus Christ did really appear

to Saul on this occasion. The arguments against the real

appearance are not strong. St. Luke tells us that those who were

with him heard the voice, but they saw no man; which is a strong

intimation that he saw what they did not. Ananias, it seems, was

informed that there had been a real appearance, for, in addressing

Saul, Ac 9:17, he says,

The Lord Jesus that APPEARED unto THEE in the way as thou

camest, &c. And Barnabas intimates thus much, when he brought

him before the apostles at Jerusalem, for he declared unto them

how he had SEEN the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken unto

him; and, Ac 22:14, where the discourse of Ananias is given more

at large, he says, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee that

thou shouldest know his will, and SEE that JUST ONE, and shouldest

HEAR the voice of his mouth; so we find that hearing the voice, or

words of his mouth, was not what is called the appearance; for,

besides this, there was an actual manifestation of the person of

Christ. But St. Paul's own words, 1Co 9:1, put the subject out of

dispute: Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? HAVE I NOT SEEN JESUS

CHRIST OUR LORD? To which may be added, 1Co 15:8,

And last of all, HE WAS SEEN OF ME ALSO, as of one born out of

due time.

Verse 8. When his eyes were opened, he saw no man] Instead of

ουδενα, no man, the Codex Alexandrinus, the Syriac, Vulgate,

and some others, have ουδεν nothing. He not only saw no man, but

he saw nothing, being quite blind; and therefore was led by the

hand to Damascus, μηβλεπων, being without sight.

Verse 9. Neither did eat nor drink.] The anxiety of his mind and

the anguish of his heart were so great that he had no appetite for

food; and he continued in total darkness and without food for

three days, till Ananias proclaimed salvation to him in the name

of the Lord Jesus.

Verse 10. A certain disciple-named Ananias] A general opinion

has prevailed in the Greek Church that this Ananias was one of the

seventy-two disciples, and that he was martyred; and they

celebrate his martyrdom on the first of October. It has been

farther stated that his house was turned into a church, which

remains to the present day, though now occupied as a Turkish

mosque; but even the Mohammedans have the tradition, and treat his

memory with great respect. However this may be, from Ac 22:12, we

learn, what is of more importance, that he was a devout man

according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews that

dwelt there. See Clarke on Ac 9:17.

To him said the Lord in a vision] ενοραματι, In a strong

impression made upon his mind, which left no doubt concerning its

heavenly origin, nor of the truth of the things represented by

it. It is very probable that the whole took place in a dream.

Verse 11. Arise, and go into the street which is called

Straight] How very particular is this direction! And it was

necessary that it should be so, that he might see the whole to be

a Divine communication; the house was probably one in which Saul

was accustomed to reside when at Damascus; and where he was known

as a native of Tarsus.

Tarsus was a city of Cilicia, seated on the Cydnus, and now

called Tarasso. It was, at one period, the capital of all Cilicia,

and became a rival to Alexandria and Athens in the arts and

sciences. The inhabitants, in the time of Julius Caesar, having

shown themselves friendly to the Romans, were endowed with all the

privileges of Roman citizens; and it was on this account that St.

Paul claimed the rights of a Roman citizen; a circumstance which,

on different occasions, was to him, and the cause in which he was

engaged, of considerable service.

Behold, he prayeth] He is earnestly seeking to know my will, and

to find the salvation of his soul; therefore, go speedily, and

direct him. Some have laid needless stress on these words, as if

they intimated, that "though Saul as a Pharisee had often said his

prayers, yet he had never prayed them till now." This is not

correct: he could himself testify that, while he was a Pharisee,

he had lived in all good conscience towards God; and

consequently, in that time, made many faithful and fervent

prayers; but he was praying now for instruction, and his prayers

were speedily answered.

Verse 12. Hath seen in a vision] While God prepares Ananias, by

a vision, to go and minister to Saul, he at the same time prepares

Saul, by another vision, to profit by this ministry.

Verse 13. Lord, I have heard by many of this man] This was all

done in a dream, else this sort of reasoning with his Maker would

have been intolerable in Ananias. Saul had been a notorious

persecutor; many could testify of his outrageous acts against the

poor followers of Christ.

Thy saints] That is, the Christians, or followers of Christ.

αγιοι signifies not only holy persons, but also consecrated

persons; from α, negative, and γη, the earth; persons who

are separated from all earthly uses, and consecrated to the

service of God alone.

Verse 14. And here he hath authority, &c.] Ananias had

undoubtedly heard of Saul's coming, and the commission he had

received from the chief priests; and he was about to urge this as

a reason why he should have no connection with so dangerous a man.

Verse 15. Go thy way] He was thus prevented from going farther

in his reasoning on this subject.

He is a chosen vessel unto me] The word σκευος in Greek, and

keley in Hebrew, though they literally signify a vessel, yet they

are both used to signify any kind of instrument, or the means by

which an act is done. In the Tract. Sohar Exod. fol. 87, on these

words of Boaz to Ruth, Ru 2:9,

When thou art athirst, go unto the vessels and drink, &c., there

are these remarkable words . " keley, vessels; that is, the

righteous, who are called the vessels or instruments of Jehovah;

for it is decreed that the whole world shall bring gifts to the

King Messiah; and these are the vessels of the Lord: vessels, I

say, which the holy and blessed God uses, although they be

brittle; but they are brittle only in this world, that they

may establish the law and the worship with which the holy and

blessed God is worshipped in this world; neither can this ministry

be exercised but by vessels or instruments."

This mode of speech was common also among the Greek and Roman

writers. So POLYBIUS, speaking of Damocles, Excerpta, vol. iii.

lib. 13, [Edit. Ernesti,] says, ηνυπηρετικονσκευοςκαιπολλας

εχωνεφορμαςειςπραγματωνοικονομιαν. "He was a useful

instrument, and fit for the management of affairs." We find

Paul, in 1Th 4:4, using the same word,

σκευος, for the body, agreeable to the expression of

Lucretius, iii. 441, Corpus, quod VAS quasi constitit ejus.

"The BODY, which is the VESSEL or instrument of the soul." See Bp.

Pearce on this passage.

Chosen vessel.-σκευοςεκλογης is properly a Hebraism, for an

excellent or well-adapted instrument. Every reader of the Bible

must have noticed how often the word chosen is used there to

signify excelling or eminent: so we use the word choice,

"choice men," eminent persons; "choice things," excellent

articles. So in Jer 22:7:

They shall cut down the choice cedars, vecaretu

MIBCHAR arazeyca; καιεκκοψουσιταςεκλεκαταςκεδρουςσου, SEPT.

They shall cut the most EXCELLENT of thy cedars; or thy cedar

trees, which are the most excellent of their kind, they will cut

down. Whoever considers the character of St. Paul, his education,

attainments in natural knowledge, the distinguished part he

took-first against Christianity, and afterwards, on the fullest

conviction, the part he took in its favour-will at once perceive

how well he was every way qualified for the great work to which

God had called him.

To bear my name before the Gentiles] To carry the ensign of the

cross among the Greeks and Romans; and, by the demonstration of

the Spirit, to confound their wisdom and learning, and prove that

neither salvation nor happiness could be found in any other. Hence

he was emphatically called, the apostle of the Gentiles, 1Ti 2:7;

2Ti 1:11. See also Ga 2:7, 8, and Eph 3:8.

Verse 16. How great things he must suffer] Instead of proceeding

as a persecutor, and inflicting sufferings on others, I will show

him how many things he himself must suffer for preaching that very

doctrine which he has been hitherto employed in persecuting.

Strange change indeed! And with great show of reason, as with

incontrovertible strength of argument, has a noble writer, Lord

Lyttleton, adduced the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, and his

subsequent conduct, as an irrefragable proof of the truth of

Christianity.

Some think that the words, I will show him, &c., refer to a

visionary representation, which Christ was immediately to give

Saul, of the trials and difficulties which he should have to

encounter; as also of that death by which he should seal his

testimony to the truth. If so, what a most thorough conviction

must Saul have had of the truth of Christianity, cheerfully and

deliberately to give up all worldly honours and profits, and go

forward in a work which he knew a violent death was to terminate!

Verse 17. Brother Saul] As he found that the Head of the Church

had adopted Saul into the heavenly family, he made no scruple to

give him the right hand of fellowship, and therefore said, Brother

Saul.

The Lord, even Jesus] Of what use is this intrusive word even

here? It injures the sense. St. Luke never wrote it; and our

translators should not have inserted it. The Lord Jesus, the

sovereign Jesus who appeared unto thee in the way, hath sent me,

that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy

Ghost. Christ could have cured him so miraculously by his own

power, without human means, as he had enlightened his heart

without them; but he will honour man by making him his agent, even

in working miracles.

And be filled with the Holy Ghost.] So it appears that the Holy

Spirit was given to him at this time, and probably by the

imposition of the hands of Ananias. To say that it would be

degrading to an apostle to receive the Holy Ghost by means of one

who was not an apostle is a very flimsy argument against the

evidence which the text affords that Saul did receive this Spirit

by the ministry of Ananias: besides, Saul was not an apostle at

this time; he was not even a Christian; and the Holy Ghost, which

he received now, was given more to make him a thorough Christian

convert than to make him an apostle. No person will deny that he

was baptized by Ananias; and certainly there was as strong an

objection against an apostle receiving baptism from one who was

not an apostle as there could be in receiving the Holy Spirit from

such a person. It is very likely that Ananias was either one of

the seventy disciples commissioned by Jesus Christ himself, or one

of those who had been converted on the day of pentecost. If he

were the former, any authority that man could have he had. But who

was the instrument is a matter of little importance; as the

apostleship, and the grace by which it was to be fulfilled, came

immediately from Jesus Christ himself. Nor has there ever been an

apostle, nor a legitimate successor of an apostle, that was not

made such by Christ himself. If we consider the authority as

coming by man, or through any description of men, we should be

arrested and confounded by the difficult question, Who baptized

the apostles? Jesus Christ baptized no man, Joh 4:2. Who then

baptized Peter! Can the Roman conclave answer this question? I

trow not. It would be as difficult to answer it as to prove

Peter's supremacy. We have no evidence who baptized the apostles,

who themselves baptized so many others. The truth is, none but

Christ ever made an apostle; and none but himself can make and

qualify a Christian minister.

Verse 18. There fell from his eyes as it had been scales] This

was real: he had been so dazzled with the brightness of the light

that we may suppose the globe of the eye, and particularly the

cornea, had suffered considerable injury. The structure of the

cornea was doubtless much disturbed, and the whole of that

humour would be rendered opaque, and incapable of permitting the

rays of light to pass through the different humours to the retina,

where all the images of things transmitted through the lenses, or

humours, are distinctly painted. In the miraculous cure the

membrane was restored to its primitive state, and the opaque

matter separated from the cornea, in the form of thin laminae or

scales. This being done, the light would have as free a passage

as formerly, and the result would be distinct vision.

And arose, and was baptized.] That he was baptized by Ananias

there is every reason to believe; as he appears to have been the

chief Christian at Damascus. As baptism implied, in an adult, the

public profession of that faith into which he was baptized, this

baptism of Saul proved, at once, his own sincerity, and the deep

and thorough conviction he had of the truth of Christianity.

Verse 19. When he had received meat, he was strengthened] His

mind must have been greatly worn down under his three days'

conviction of sin, and the awful uncertainty he was in concerning

his state; but when he was baptized, and had received the Holy

Ghost, his soul was Divinely invigorated; and now, by taking food,

his bodily strength, greatly exhausted by three days' fasting, was

renewed also. The body is not supported by the bread of life, nor

the soul by the bread that perisheth: each must have its proper

aliment, that the whole man may be invigorated, and be enabled to

perform all the functions of the animal and spiritual life with

propriety and effect.

Then was Saul certain days with the disciples] Doubtless under

instructions, relative to the doctrines of Christianity; which

he must learn particularly, in order to preach them successfully.

His miraculous conversion did not imply that he must then have a

consummate knowledge of every Christian doctrine. To this day we

find that even the genuine Christian convert has a thousand things

to learn; and for his instruction he is placed in the Church of

Christ, where he is built up on his most holy faith by the

ministry and experience of the disciples. Without the communion of

saints, who is likely to make a steady and consistent Christian;

even though his conversion should have been the most sincere and

the most remarkable?

Verse 20. Preached Christ in the synagogues] Instead of χριστον,

Christ, ιησουν, Jesus, is the reading of ABCE, several others of

high importance, together with the Syriac, Coptic, AEthiopic,

Armenian, Slavonic, and Vulgate.

The great question to be determined, for the conviction of the

Jews, was that JESUS was the Son of God. That the Christ, or

Messiah, was to be the Son of God, they all believed. Saul was

now convinced that Jesus, whom they had crucified, and who had

appeared to him on the way, was the Son of God, or Messiah; and

therefore as such he proclaimed him. The word Christ should be

changed for Jesus, as the latter is, without doubt, the genuine

reading.

The first offers of the grace of the Gospel were uniformly made

to the Jews. Saul did not at first offer Jesus to the heathens at

Damascus; but to the synagogues of the Jews.

Verse 21. Is not this he that destroyed them] οπορθησας. The

verb πορθειν has three acceptations in the Greek writers: 1. To

treat one as an enemy, to spoil him of his goods. 2. To lead away

captive, to imprison. 3. To slay. Paul was properly πορθων, a

destroyer, in all these senses. 1. He acted as the most determined

enemy of the Christians: Being exceedingly mad against them, he

persecuted them to strange cities, Ac 26:11. 2. He shut up many

of the saints in prison, Ac 8:3; 9:14; 26:10. 3. He persecuted

them unto death-gave his voice against them that they might be

destroyed, and was a principal instrument in the martyrdom of

Stephen. He breathed threatenings and slaughter. See

Ac 7:58; 8:1; 9:1; 26:10, 11. Therefore these

three meanings of the original word are all exemplified in the

conduct of Saul.

Verse 22. Confounded the Jews] συνεχυνε, Overwhelmed them so

with his arguments that they were obliged to blush for the

weakness of their own cause.

Proving that this] ουτος, This person, viz. JESUS, is very

Christ; εστινοχριστος, IS THE CHRIST, or Messiah.

See Clarke on Ac 9:21.

Verse 23. And after that many days were fulfilled] What follows

relates to transactions which took place about three years after

his conversion, when he had come a second time to Damascus, after

having been in Arabia. See Ga 1:17, 18. What he did in Arabia we

know not; he probably preached Christ in different Jewish

synagogues; but with what fruit we are not told. St. Luke, who

could not have been ignorant of this part of his history, passes

it over in silence; and any assertion, at this distance of time,

relative to his employment in Arabia for those three years, must

be both foolish and impertinent.

Verse 24. They watched the gates day and night to kill him.] At

this time Damascus was under the government of Aretas, king of

Arabia, who was now at war with Herod, his son-in-law, who had put

away his daughter in order to marry Herodias, his brother Philip's

wife. As Herod was supported by the Romans, Saul's enemies might

intimate that he was in league with them or Herod; and, as the

gates of the city were constantly watched and shut, that no spy

might enter, and no fugitive get away, they thought it would be

easy to apprehend him; and doubtless got orders for the different

officers at the gates to be on the look-out that he might not be

permitted to escape.

Verse 25. Let him down, by the wall] Favoured, probably, by a

house built against or upon the wall, through the window of which

they could lower him in a basket; and by this means he made his

escape. His escape was something similar to that of the spies at

Jericho, Jos 2:15.

Verse 26. He assayed to join himself to the disciples] επειρατο

κολλασθαι, He endeavoured to get closely united to them, to be in

religious fellowship with them.

Believed not that he was a disciple.] They did not suppose it

possible that such a person could be converted to the faith of

Christ. The full power of Divine grace, in the conversion of the

soul, was not yet completely known.

Verse 27. Barnabas-brought him to the apostles] That is, to

Peter and James; for others of the apostles he saw none, Ga 1:19.

It appears that he went up at this time to Jerusalem merely to see

Peter, with whom he abode fifteen days, Ga 1:18. How it came that

the apostles and Church at Jerusalem had not heard of Saul's

conversion, which had taken place three years before, is not easy

to be accounted for. The following considerations may help; 1. It

is certain that intelligence did not travel speedily in those

primitive times; there were few open roads, and no regular posts,

except those between military stations. 2. Though there were many

Jews in Damascus, and several Christians, yet the city was

heathen, and under a heathen king, with whom the Jews at

Jerusalem could have little commerce. 3. Though Herod had married

the daughter of Aretas, yet, as he had put her away, there were

great animosities between the two courts, which at last broke out

into an open war; this must have prevented all social and

commercial intercourse. 4. The Christians were at that time

greatly persecuted by the Jews, and therefore the few that dwelt

at Damascus could have little connection, if any, with their

brethren at Jerusalem. 5. It might be the interest of the Jews at

Jerusalem, supposing they had heard of it, to keep the fact of

Saul's conversion as quiet as possible, that the Christian cause

might not gain credit by it. 6. They might have heard of his

conversion; but either did not fully credit what they had heard,

or were not satisfied that the person who now presented himself

was the man; for it is not likely that all the Christians at

Jerusalem had been personally acquainted with Saul.

Verse 28. He was with them coming in and going out] Freely

conversing and associating with them; but this seems to have

continued only fifteen days. See Ga 1:18.

Verse 29. Disputed against the Grecians] That is, the

Hellenistic Jews, viz. those who lived in Grecian cities, spoke

the Greek language, and used the Septuagint version for their

scriptures. And thus the Syriac version has interpreted this

place. See Clarke on Ac 6:1, where this subject is largely

explained.

Verse 30. They brought him down to Caesarea] Calmet contends

that this was Caesarea of Palestine, and not Caesarea Philippi;

it being his opinion, and indeed that of others, that where this

word occurs without any addition, in the New Testament, Caesarea

of Palestine is meant, and not Caesarea Philippi.

See Clarke on Ac 8:40.

Sent him forth to Tarsus.] This was his own city; and it was

right that he should proclaim to his own countrymen and relatives

that Gospel through which he was become wise to salvation.

Verse 31. Then had the Churches rest] Instead of ιαεκκλησιαι,

the Churches, ABC, several others, the Syriac, Coptic,

AEthiopic, Armenian, and Vulgate, have ηεκκλησια, the Church.

Every assembly of God's people was a Church; the aggregate of

these assemblies was THE CHURCH. The word ειρηνην, which we

translate rest, and which literally signifies peace, evidently

means, in this place, prosperity; and in this sense both it and

the Hebrew shalom are repeatedly used. But what was the cause

of this rest or success? Some say, the conversion of Saul, who

before made havoc of the Church; but this is not likely, as he

could not be a universal cause of persecution and distress,

however active and virulent he might have been during the time of

his enmity to the Christian Church. Besides his own persecution,

related above, shows that the opposition to the Gospel continued

with considerable virulence three years after his conversion;

therefore it was not Saul's ceasing to be a persecutor that gave

this rest to the Churches. Dr. Lardner, with a greater show of

probability, maintains that this rest was owing to the following

circumstance: Soon after Caligula's accession to the imperial

dignity, the Jews at Alexandria suffered very much from the

Egyptians in that city; and at length their oratories were all

destroyed. In the third year of Caligula, A.D. 39, Petronius, who

was made president of Syria in the place of Vitellius, was sent by

the emperor to set up his statue in the temple at Jerusalem. This

was a thunder-stroke to the Jews, and so occupied them that they

had no time to think of any thing else; apprehending that their

temple must be defiled, and the national religion destroyed, or

themselves run the risk of being exterminated if they rebelled

against the imperial decree.

The account given by Josephus will set this in a clear point of

view. "Caligula sent Petronius to go with an army to Jerusalem, to

set up his statues in the temple, enjoining him if the Jews

opposed it, to put to death all that made resistance, and to make

all the rest of the nation slaves. Petronius therefore marched

from Antioch into Judea, with three legions, and a large body of

auxiliaries raised in Syria. All were hereupon filled with

consternation, the army being come as far as Ptolemais. The Jews,

then, gathering together, went to the plain near Ptolemais, and

entreated Petronius in the first place for their laws, in the next

place for themselves. Petronius was moved with their

solicitations, and, leaving his army and the statues, went into

Galilee, and called an assembly of the heads of the Jews at

Tiberias; and, having exhorted them without effect to submit to

the emperor's orders, said, 'Will ye then fight against Caesar?'

They answered that they offered up sacrifices twice every day for

the emperor and the Roman people; but that if he would set up the

images, he ought first of all to sacrifice the whole Jewish

nation; and that they were ready to submit themselves, their wives

and children, to the slaughter." Philo gives a similar account of

this transaction. See Lardner's Credibility, Works, vol. i. p. 97,

&c.

It appears, therefore, that, as these transactions took place

about the time mentioned in the text, their persecution from the

Romans diverted them from persecuting the Christians; and THEN had

the Churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee, and Samaria;

the terror occasioned by the imperial decree having spread itself

through all those places.

Were edified] οικοδομουμεναι, A metaphor taken from a building.

1. The ground is marked out; 2. the ichnograph, or dimensions of

the building, ascertained; 3. the foundation is digged; 4. the

foundation stone laid; 5. the walls builded up with course upon

course; 6. the top-stone brought on; 7. the roof raised, and the

whole covered in; and, 8. the interior part fitted up and adorned,

and rendered convenient for the intended inhabitant. This figure

frequently occurs in the sacred writings, especially in the New

Testament. It has its reason in the original creation of man: God

made the first human being as a shrine or temple, in which himself

might dwell. Sin entered, and the heavenly building was destroyed.

The materials, however, though all dislocated, and covered with

rubbish and every way defiled, yet exist; no essential power or

faculty of the soul having been lost. The work of redemption

consists in building up this house as it was in the beginning, and

rendering it a proper habitation for God. The various powers,

faculties, and passions, are all to be purified and refined by the

power of the Holy Spirit, and order and harmony restored to the

whole soul. All this is beautifully pointed out by St. Peter,

1Pe 2:4, 5:

To whom (Jesus Christ) coming as unto a LIVING STONE, chosen of

God and precious, ye also, as LIVING STONES, are BUILT UP a

spiritual HOUSE, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual

sacrifices to God by Jesus Christ. And St. Paul, who, from his own

profession as a tent-maker, could best seize on the metaphor, and

press it into this spiritual service, goes through the whole

figure at large, in the following inimitable words: Ye are the

HOUSEHOLD of God, and are BUILT upon the FOUNDATION of the

apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief

CORNERSTONE, in whom all the BUILDING, FITLY FRAMED together,

groweth unto a HOLY TEMPLE in the Lord: in whom ye also are

BUILDED together for a HABITATION of God, through the Spirit,

Eph 2:19-22.

Edification signifies, therefore, an increase in the light,

life, and power of God; being founded on the doctrine of Christ

crucified; having the soul purified from all unrighteousness, and

fitted, by increasing holiness, to be a permanent residence for

the ever-blessed God.

Walking in the fear of the Lord] Keeping a continually tender

conscience; abhorring all sin; having respect to every Divine

precept; dreading to offend him from whom the soul has derived its

being and its blessings. Without this salutary fear of God there

never can be any circumspect walking.

In the comfort of the Holy Ghost] In a consciousness of their

acceptance and union with God, through his Spirit, by which solid

peace and happiness are brought into the soul; the truly religious

man knowing and feeling that he is of God, by the Spirit which is

given him: nothing less can be implied in the comfort of the Holy

Ghost.

Were multiplied.] No wonder that the Church of God increased,

when such lights as these shone among men. This is a short, but

full and forcible description of the righteousness, purity, and

happiness of the primitive Church.

Verse 32. As Peter passed throughout all quarters] διαπαντων,

Bp. Pearce thinks, should be translated, not through all quarters,

but through all the saints. The Churches having rest, the apostles

made use of this interval of quiet to visit the different

congregations, in order to build them up on their most holy faith.

Of Saul we hear no more till Ac 11:30, which is supposed to be

about five years after this time; eight in all from his

conversion. Peter, it seems, had continued in Jerusalem all the

time that the Churches were in a state of persecution throughout

the whole land. Great as he was, he never evidenced that steady

determinate courage by which St. Paul was so eminently

distinguished; nor did he ever suffer half so much for God and his

truth.

To the saints] The Jews, who had been converted to Christianity.

Which dwelt at Lydda.] A town in the tribe of Ephraim, almost on

the border of Judea, and nigh unto Joppa: it was about ten leagues

from Jerusalem, and was afterwards known by the name of Diospolis,

or the city of Jupiter.

Verse 33. A certain man named Eneas] This name has been

celebrated in the annals of heathen poetry, in that beautiful work

of the poet Virgil, called the AEneid; which gives an account of

the misfortunes, travels, wars, &c., of a Trojan prince of this

name, after the destruction of his native city, Troy. On the

difference of names which so frequently occurs in some pasts of

the Scriptures, Calmet makes the following judicious remarks: As

both Greek and Hebrew, or Syriac, were commonly spoken in

Palestine, most persons had two names, one Greek and the other

Hebrew. Thus Peter was called Cephas in Hebrew, and Petros in

Greek. Paul was called Saul in Hebrew, and Paulos in Greek. The

person in Ac 9:36,

Tabitha in Hebrew, and Dorcas in Greek. And the paralytic person

cured by Peter, Hananiah in Hebrew, and Aineas in Greek. So Thomas

was the Hebrew name of the apostle who in Greek was called

Didymus.

Had kept his bed eight years] This was occasioned by a palsy;

and now inveterate and hopeless, through its long standing.

Verse 34. Jesus Christ maketh thee whole] Not Peter, for he

had no power but what was given him from above. And, as an

instrument, any man could heal with this power as well as Peter;

but God chose to put honour upon those primitive preachers of his

word, that men might see that they were commissioned from heaven.

Arise, and make thy bed.] Give now full proof that Jesus Christ

HAS made thee whole, by arising, and by making thy bed. He was at

home, and therefore was not commanded, as the paralytic person,

to take up his bed; but he was ordered to make it-strew it afresh,

that all might see that the cure was perfect.

Verse 35. All that dwelt in Lydda and Saron saw him] Saron was

that champaign country that lay between Joppa and Lydda. The long

affliction of this man had been well known; and his cure,

consequently, became a subject of general examination: it was

found to be real. It was known to have been performed by the grace

and mercy of Christ; and the consequence of all this conviction

was that all these people became Christians.

Verse 36. Now there was at Joppa] This was a sea-port town on

the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, about a day's journey from

Jerusalem. It is supposed to be the same which is called in the

Old Testament Japho, which belonged to the tribe of Dan,

Jos 19:46. It is at present called

Jaffa, and is still a place of considerable note.

A certain disciple named Tabitha] This word is more properly

Syriac than Hebrew. [Syriac] tebitho is the word in the Syriac

version, and is their manner of writing the Hebrew tsebi, the

teth being changed for the tsaddi. The word [Syriac]

tabio, and the feminine [Syriac] tabitho, have the same meaning

as the Hebrew tsebi and the Greek δορκας, Dorcas, and

signify the gazel or antelope; and it is still customary in the

east to give the names of beautiful animals to young women. The

comparison of fine eyes to those of the antelope is continually

occurring in the writings of the Arabic and Persian poets. The

person in the tern probably had her name in the same way. She was

very beautiful, and was therefore called Tabitha and Dorcas.

This woman was full of good works] She spent her life in acts of

kindness and charity. Her soul was full of love to God and man;

and her whole time was filled up with works of piety and mercy.

Verse 37. She was sick, and died] Even her holiness and

usefulness could not prevent her from sickness and death. Dust

thou art, and to dust thou shalt return, is a decree that must be

fulfilled, even on the saints; for the body is dead, sentenced to

death, because of sin, though the spirit be life because of

righteousness.

Whom when they had washed] Having the fullest proof that she was

dead, they prepared for her interment. In most nations of the

world it was customary to wash their dead before they buried them,

and before they laid them out to lie in state, as Homer tells us

was the case with the body of Patroclus:-

ωςειπωνεταροισιςεκεκλετοδιοςαχιλλευς,

αμοιπυριστησαιτριποδαμεγανοφραταχιστα

πατροκλονλουσειαν_______

καιτοτεδηλουσαντεκαιηλειψανλιπελαιω__

Iliad xviii. 343.

"So saying, he bade his train surround with fire

A tripod huge, that they might quickly cleanse

Patroclus from all stains of clotted gore.

They on the blazing hearth a tripod placed,

Infused the water, thrust dry wood beneath,

And soon the flames, encompassing around

Its ample belly, warm'd the flood within.

Soon as the water in the singing brass

Simmer'd, they bathed him, and with limpid oil

Anointed.

They stretch'd him on his bed, then cover'd him

From head to feet with linen texture light,

And with a wide unsullied mantle last."

COWPER.

The waking or watching of the dead was also practised among the

ancient Greeks, as we learn from a preceding paragraph, where

Achilles, addressing his dead friend Patroclus, tells him:-

τοφραδεπαρανηυσικορωνισικεισεαιαυτως

αμοιδεσετρωαικαιδαρδανιδεςβαθυκολποι

κλαυσονταινυκταςτεκαιηματαδακρυχεουσαι

Il. xviii. 338.

"Mean time, among

My lofty galleys thou shalt lie, with tears

Mourn'd day and night, by Trojan captives fair

And Dardan, compassing thy bier around."

COWPER.

A similar description is given by Virgil of the funeral

obsequies of Misenus, AEneid vi. ver. 212.

Nec minus interea Misenum in littore Teucri

Flebant, et cineri ingrato suprema ferebant.

* * * * * * *

Pars calidos latices et aena undantia flammis

Expediunt, corpusque lavant frigentis et ungunt

Fit gemitus: tum membra toro defleta reponunt,

Purpureasque super vestes, velamina nota,

Conjiciunt, &c.

"Meanwhile, the Trojan troops, with weeping eyes,

To dead Misenus pay his obsequies.

First from the ground a lofty pile they rear

Of pitch-trees, oaks, and pines, and unctuous fir:

The fabric's front with cypress twigs they strew;

And stick the sides with boughs of baleful yew;

The topmost part his glitt'ring arms adorn:

Warm waters then, in brazen cauldrons borne,

Are pour'd to wash his body, joint by joint;

And fragrant oils the stiffen'd limbs anoint.

With groans and cries Misenus they deplore.

Then on a bier with purple cover'd o'er

The breathless body, thus bewail'd, they lay."

DRYDEN.

These rites, in many respects, resemble those still used among

the native Irish. See the account of the funeral ceremonies of the

Egyptians, in the notes, See Clarke on Ge 50:2. The primitive

Christians washed the bodies of their dead not only out of decency and

affectionate respect to them, but as a token of their firm belief

in the resurrection of the dead.

Verse 38. Sent unto him-desiring-that he would not delay to

come] Tabitha died at Joppa, and Peter was at Lydda, about four

leagues distant. But why did they send for Peter? We cannot tell.

It is not likely that they had any expectation that he should

raise her from the dead; for none of the apostles had as yet

raised any; and if God did not choose to restore Stephen to life,

this favour could not be reasonably expected in behalf of inferior

persons. However, they might hope that he who cured Eneas at Lydda

might cure Dorcas; for it is probable that they had sent for Peter

before she died; and in this sense we might understand the

απεστειλαν of the text.

Verse 39. Showing the coats and garments] χιτωναςκαιιματια,

the outer and inner garments. These, it appears, she had made for

the poor, and more particularly for poor widows, in whose behalf

she had incessantly laboured.

Verse 40. Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down and prayed]

It was not even known to Peter that God would work this miracle:

therefore he put all the people out, that he might seek the will

of God by fervent prayer, and during his supplications be liable

neither to distraction nor interruption, which he must have

experienced had he permitted this company of weeping widows to

remain in the chamber.

And turning-to the body] σωμα, The lifeless body, for the spirit

had already departed.

Said, Tabitha, arose.] During his wrestling with God, he had,

undoubtedly, received confidence that she would be raised at his

word.

And when she saw Peter, she sat up.] As Dorcas was a woman so

eminently holy, her happy soul had doubtless gone to the paradise

of God. Must she not therefore be filled with regret to find

herself thus called back to earth again? And must not the

remembrance of the glories she had now lost fill her with dislike

to all the goods of earth? No: for, 1. As a saint of God, her

Maker's will must be hers; because she knew that this will must

be ever best. 2. It is very likely that, in the case of the

revivescence of saint or sinner, God mercifully draws a veil over

all they have seen or known, so that they have no recollection of

what they have either seen or heard. Even St. Paul found it

impossible to tell what he had heard in the third heaven, though

he was probably not in the state of the dead. Of the economy of

the invisible world God will reveal nothing. We walk here by

faith, and not by sight.

Verse 41. Saints and widows] In primitive times the widows

formed a distinct part of the Christian Church.

Verse 42. Many believed in the Lord.] That is, in Christ Jesus,

in whose name and through whose power they understood this miracle

to be wrought. This miracle, as well as that at Lydda, was not

only the means of strengthening the faith of the disciples, and

gaining credit to the cause of Christianity, but also of bringing

many sincere converts to the Lord, so that the Church was thereby

both builded up and multiplied.

Verse 43. He tarried many days in Joppa] Taking advantage of the

good impression made on the people's minds by the miracle, he

preached to them the great truths of Christianity, and thus

established them in the faith.

Simon a tanner.] Whether the original word βυρσευς signifies a

tanner or a currier, is of little consequence. The person who

dealt in the hides, whether of clean or unclean animals, could not

be in high repute among the Jews. Even in Joppa, the trade appears

to have been reputed unclean; and therefore this Simon had his

house by the sea side. See Ac 10:6. Of the trade itself the

Talmudists speak with great contempt; they reckon it among

blemishes. See proofs in Schoettgen.

1. THUS terminates what has not been improperly called the first

period of the Christian Church, which began at the day of

pentecost, Ac 2:1, and continued to the resurrection of Dorcas; a

period of about eight years. During the whole of this time the

Gospel was preached to the Jews only, no Gentile being called

before Cornelius, the account of whose conversion, and the Divine

vision that led to it, are detailed in the following chapter.

Salvation was of the Jews: theirs were the fathers, the covenants,

and the promises, and from them came Christ Jesus; and it was

right that they should have the first offer of a salvation which,

while it was a light to lighten the Gentiles, was to be the glory

of the Israelitish people. When they utterly rejected it, then the

apostles turned unto the Gentiles. Among them the Christian Church

was founded, and thus the reprobates became the elect, and the

elect became reprobates. Reader! behold the goodness and

severity of God! Towards them that fell, severity; but towards

thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou

also shalt be cut off, Ro 11:22. Thou canst only stand by faith;

and be not high-minded, but fear. Nothing less than Christ

dwelling in thy heart by faith can save thy soul unto eternal

life.

2. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus is one of the most

remarkable facts recorded in the history of the Christian Church.

When we consider the man; the manner in which he was brought to

the knowledge of the truth; the impression made on his own mind

and heart by the vision he had on his way to Damascus, and the

effect produced in all his subsequent life, we have a series of

the most convincing evidences of the truth of the Christian

religion. In this light he ever viewed the subject himself; the

manner of his conversion he ever appealed to, as the most proper

apology for his conduct; and, on several most important occasions,

he not only refers to it, but enters into a detail of its

circumstances, that his hearers might see that the excellency of

the power was of GOD and not of man.

Saul of Tarsus was not a man of a light, fickle, and

uncultivated mind. His natural powers were vast, his character

the most decided, and his education, as we learn from his

historian, and from his writings, was at once both liberal and

profound. He was born and brought up in a city which enjoyed

every privilege of which Rome itself could boast, and was a

successful rival both of Rome and Athens in arts and science.

Though a Jew, it is evident that his education was not confined to

matters that concerned his own people and country alone. He had

read the best Greek writers, as his style, allusions, and

quotations sufficiently prove; and, an matters which concern his

own religion, he was instructed by Gamaliel, one of the most

celebrated doctors the synagogue had ever produced. He was

evidently master of the three great languages which were spoken

among the only people who deserved the name of nations-the Hebrew,

and its prevailing dialect, the Chaldio-Syriac; the Greek, and the

Latin; languages which, notwithstanding all the cultivation

through which the earth has passed, maintain their rank, which is

a most decisive superiority over all the languages of the

universe. Was it likely that such a man, possessing such a mind,

cultivated to such an extent, could have been imposed on or

deceived? The circumstances of his conversion forbid the

supposition: they do more; they render it impossible. One

consideration on this subject will prove that imposture in this

case was impossible: he had no communication with Christians; the

then that accompanied him to Damascus were of his own

mind-virulent, determined enemies to the very name of Christ; and

his conversion took place in the open day, on the open road, in

company only with such men as the persecuting high priest and

Sanhedrin thought proper to be employed in the extermination of

Christianity. In such circumstances, and in such company, no cheat

could be practised. But was not he the deceiver? The supposition

is absurd and monstrous, for this simple reason, that there was no

motive that could prompt him to feign what he was not; and no end

that could be answered by assuming the profession of Christianity.

Christianity had in it such principles as must expose it to the

hatred of Greece, Rome, and Judea. It exposed the absurdity and

folly of Grecian and Roman superstition and idolatry, and asserted

itself to be the completion, end, and perfection of the whole

Mosaic economy. It was therefore hated by all those nations, and

its followers despised, detested, and persecuted. From the

profession of such a religion, so circumstanced, could any man,

who possessed even the most moderate share of common sense, expect

secular emolument or advantage? No! Had not this apostle of the

Gentiles the fullest conviction of the truth of Christianity, the

fullest proof of its heavenly influence on his own soul, the

brightest prospect of the reality and blessedness of the spiritual

world, he could not have taken one step in the path which the

doctrine of Christ pointed out. Add to this, that he lived long

after his conversion, saw Christianity and its influence in every

point of view, and tried it in all circumstances. What was the

result? The deepest conviction of its truth; so that he counted

all things dross and dung in comparison of the excellency of its

knowledge. Had he continued a Jew he would have infallibly risen

to the first dignities and honours of his nation; but he willingly

forfeited all his secular privileges and well grounded

expectations of secular honour and emolument, and espoused a cause

from which he could not only have no expectation of worldly

advantage, but which, most evidently and necessarily, exposed him

to all sorts of privations, sufferings, hardships, dangers, and

death itself! These were not only the unavoidable consequences of

the cause he espoused; but he had them fully in his apprehension

and constantly in his eye. He predicted them, and knew that every

step he took was a progressive advance in additional sufferings,

and the issue of his journey must be a violent death!

The whole history of St. Paul proves him to be one of the

greatest of men; and his conduct after he became a Christian,

had it not sprung from a Divine motive, of the truth of which he

had the fullest conviction, would have shown him to be one of the

weakest of men. The conclusion therefore is self-evident, that

in St. Paul's call there could be no imposture, that in his own

mind there could be no deception, that his conversion was from

heaven, and the religion he professed and taught, the infallible

and eternal truth of Jehovah. In this full conviction he counted

not his life dear unto him, but finished his rugged race with joy,

cheerfully giving up his life for the testimony of Jesus; and thus

his luminous sun set in blood, to rise again in glory. The

conversion of St. Paul is the triumph of Christianity; his

writings, the fullest exhibition and defence of its doctrines;

and his life and death, a glorious illustration of its

principles. Armed with this history of Paul's conversion and life,

the feeblest believer needs not fear the most powerful infidel.

The ninth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles will ever remain an

inexpugnable fortress to defend Christianity and defeat its

enemies. Reader, hath not God so done his marvellous works that

they may be had in everlasting remembrance?

Copyright information for Clarke