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ACTS xxvi. 18.
of Tarsus. He once breathed out threatenings and slaughter, against all engaged in the Christian cause, and while he thirsted for their blood, a light from heaven above the brightness of the sun encompassed him, and a divine voice spoke to his conscience and changed his heart.
Nor is this the only instance to be found in the annals of Christianity; but every age since the apostolic has been productive of such instances, though not with miraculous appearances, yet they were the effects of the same divine agency. Perhaps in no age has been more HE Almighty displays him- instances of this nature than in silf to rational and intelli- the present, nor one which has gent minds, in all his works, both given higher evidence that God in the natural and moral worlds, governs the world, and hath the and justly claims of them a tri-hearts of all men in his hands. bute of love and praise. By the dispensations of his providence and grace he breaks down Satan's kingdom, and some of his closest adherents are arrested, and made willing openly to declare themselves in favor of Jesus Christ.
Among those of the above description, may be reckoned Saul
Such instances are testified in what we see at home; in what we hear from abroad; from the wilderness, and those who were sunk in the lowest grade of savage life. These are among the marvellous works of God, and with lustre and splendor do they display his perfections in the view of the intelligent universe.
That such a God did exist be
Saul of Tarsus was raised up heavens, laid the foundations of and inspired by the power of di- the earth, and built the world— vine grace, to go among the he said let there be light, and Gentiles, and to be the first in-there was light. strument in the hands of God, to begin the conversion of the hea-fore the world was made, or the then, with the promise of divine hills were brought forth, he protection. He went, he enter-taught them from the things beed the very seat of Satan's em-fore their eyes, "For the invisipire, forced his strongest holds, ble things of him from the creaand was victorious through the tion of the world are clearly strength and grace of Jesus seen, being understood by the Christ. The work was the Lord's, things that are made, even his and it still is; and he is now car- eternal power and Godhead." rying it on, by the instruments And from this evidence, he of his own choice in different draws the conclusion that they parts of the world; opening the were inexcusable not to beeyes of the people, turning them lieve, and glorify him as God. from darkness to light, and from The visible heavens and earth, the power of Satan unto God, the rain and sunshine, fruitful that they may receive forgive- and propitious seasons, all proness of sins and inheritance a- claim intelligent design. And mong them which are sanctified the evidence, that the first cause by faith that is in Christ Jesus. was intelligent, rises still higher when we contemplate the pow ers and faculties of the human mind.
I. Let us attend to what the apostle did in the execution of his divine mission among the Gentiles.
Agreeable to our text, the apostle's business was to open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified. What the apostle did in the execution of his divine mission we learn only from his writings; and from them it appears that he laid before those ignorant Gentiles to whom he was sent, those truths of a divine nature, which it was necessary for them to know and experience, that their sins might be forgiven.
In the execution of his mission, the apostle set before those to whom he was sent, this truth, that there is a holy and just God. That this God spread the
If there be a God, nature's voice is, thou shalt worship him,. and revelation hath taught the sons of men, what worship and service are acceptable in his sight.
This led the apostle of the Gentiles to open the volume of revelation, and illustrate to their understandings the purposes, perfections, and glory of Jehovah as they appear in the face of Jesus Christ.
From presenting to their view the character of God, as it was taught in revelation, the apostle, in the next place, proceeded to teach them their own true char acters. In his description of this he includes total depravity. That all the natural descendants of apostate Adam are totally destitute of holiness in their hearts. That their depravity consisted in
opposition of heart to God's moral character, and the nature of holiness; that mankind, while in their natural state, do not like the truths contained in the word of God, but are displeased with them, and with all holy things. The truth of these observations is confirmed by what he has left on record in his epistles written to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, and others, also, by the doctrine of the atonement.
brethren," saith the apostle, "I came not with the excellency of speech or of wisdom, and my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
The apostle, in the next place, did not fail to describe in lively colors, that benevolent spirit which was, and still is, and for
essence of Christianity. That it not only taught the sons of men to love God supremely, but that the benevolence taught by the author of the Christian religion, required them to love their neighbors as themselves: to regard the prosperity, the peace, happiness and good of others in all respects as they did their own. Let no man seek his own (is the language of inspiration ;) but every man another's wealth. It teacheth men to be kindly affectioned one to another, to love without dissimulation; for every
After this gloomy view of the sinful state in which all the nat-ever will be the ornament and ural descendants of apostate Adam were, the apostle explained the way of life and salvation through the atonement which Christ had made, consistently with the moral character of God and his holy law. This led him to illustrate the character of the Mediator as the Son of God, and Saviour of the world; that thro' him life and immortality were brought to light, and endless life was promised to all who would receive him, and embrace him as their prophet, priest, and king, their hope and portion. He showed them the purity, spiritu-man to look not on his own ality, and extent of the divine things, but on the things of othlaw, that it required the whole ers; in lowliness of mind, let heart, or supreme love to God, each esteem others better than and perfect obedience to the di- themselves. Charity seeketh vine commands. That the atone-not her own, charity never failment which Jesus had made did eth. not make void the law, but mag- Repentance toward God, and nified it, and made it honorable; faith toward our Lord Jesus vindicated the character of God, Christ, as the only method of his justice, and every perfection, pardon and salvation for their and had declared his righteous-perishing souls, he urged in a ness, that he might be just, and most pathetic and solemn manthe justifier of him who believ-ner. eth in Jesus.
These interesting truths he recommended to every man's 'conscience, and with more than human energy, urged his audience to embrace them: "My
Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a favorite doctrine
with the apostle; it was a necessary part of the Christian system, and that which insured the resurrection of all Adam's race. This led him to discourse on future rewards and punishments; and to impress upon their minds the important truths which he had taught, he introduced the last solemn scene of judgment, when the vail which hides an awful eternity should be lifted up, when they and all men should appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one might receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
That the sacred truths which he had taught them, or should teach them, might not be forgotten; that they might understand the whole counsel of God, and feel that they were shut up unto the faith; he showed them, that they were in the hands of God, and were absolutely dependant on sovereign, distinguishing grace and mercy. That impenitent sinners were so wilfully opposed to God, and; the gospel plan of salvation for their perishing souls, that they would never accept the offer of life.Therefore divine agency was of necessity used, to prevent them from destroying themselves; to change their stubborn hearts, and bring them into that meek, humble, and benevolent spirit which the gospel enjoins. This must be acknowledged right, just, and truly benevolent. This is goodness in its highest exercise; on this principle it is that Jehovah hath mercy on whom he will, that he might accomplish more good in this way, than could be in any other.
II. To notice the fitness and propriety of those means which the apostle used, to accomplish the benevolent purpose proposed in the text.
Those truths, which the apostle laid before their minds, were well calculated to show them the difference between the true God and their heathen gods ;between idolatry and Christianity. The illustrations which the apostles gave in their hearing, of the character of Jehovah, the simplicity and excellence of the Christian religion, would naturally enlighten their understandings, convince their minds of their folly, and gain their assent to the truth. Truth, addressed to the understanding, affords light and knowledge; it is means the best calculated to open the eyes and turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, of any which can be named.
When the Gentiles heard the descriptions which the apostle gave of Jehovah's true character, they must be led to consider him preferable to their gods, and that a being of such attributes and perfections was fit to govern the universe; that the religion which he taught was far superior to their idolatrous worship; that it would enlarge and exalt the human mind, and if they would embrace it, would raise them from their low, groveling state, to be kings and priests to God for ever.
It may be observed, also, that those means which the apostle used, were admirably well calculated to accomplish the benevolent purpose mentioned in the text, as they point directly to men's hearts and consciences.Those truths which the apostle