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St. Paul's character, indeed, under whatever aspect it may be viewed, is not to be confounded with those of an ordinary stamp. From the first period of his conversion, it was shewn him,“ how great things he must “ suffer)". for the name of Christ. The readiness with which he nevertheless embraced the Gospel is a virtual proof that, even in his former persecution of it, he had not been actuated by sinister motives. When he calls himself a persecutor and blasphemer, and “the chief of sinners",” he does not lay to his own charge the malice, the envy, the secular spirit, which stimulated the chief priests and rulers to their rancorous hatred of Christ. He says, he “ obtained mercy, be
cause he did it ignorantly, and in unbelief"." His understanding, rather than his affections, was engaged on the side of error, and prevented him from discerning the truth. The blindness inflicted upon him at the moment of his conversion, and the subsequent restoration of his sight, were a lively image of the past and present state of his mind. He had discerned nothing of what he ought to have believed, until, by the mercy of God, the scales were removed from his eyes ;—his prejudices were done away ;—“and he received sight forthwith.” The removal of his mental, no less than of his natural blindness, was indeed the work of Divine power: and the restored faculty, in the one case as in the other, he failed not to use to God's glory, in the high commission conferred upon him. Then he appears to have bent the whole force of his mind to the subject. Nor could any one of the Apostles be better qualified;none, perhaps, under the
| Acts ix. 16. m 1 Tim. i. 15. nl Tim. i. 13.
the peculiar circumstances of the case, could be equally well qualified ;-to overcome all possible objections and difficulties which might impede the reception of the truth. “ Are they Israel" ites?”—said he of the Jews" So am I.” Are they of the seed of Abraham ? “ So am “ I°.”—Every sentiment the Jew could cherish in hostility to the Gospel, this Apostle had experimentally known and felt. Hence, both to Jew and Gentile his testimony came with extraordinary force. They saw a man who had not, like the rest of the Apostles, consorted with our Lord, and been from the beginning to the end of his ministry faithfully and constantly attached to him ;—not one who had been overpowered by the sight of his wonderful works, or the irresistible persuasion of his heavenly discourses ;—not
• 2 Cor. xi. 22.
one who had even “mused,” in doubt and conjecture, whether that might be the Christ or not;—but one who had been signalized among the most headstrong of his opponents; “ unknown by face” (as he himself observes,)
unto the churches of Judæa which were in “ Christ; who had heard only, that he which
persecuted them in times past, now preached “ the faith which once he had destroyed P.”
2. But, although it be thus impossible to conceive St. Paul to have acted the part of the hypocrite and impostor ; is it not possible that he might act under the influence of enthusiasm or delusion?–Might not this lead to his conversion ?-Might it not subsequently influence his writings and his conduct ?
In cases of enthusiasm, the mind is usually preoccupied by some strong persuasions, inclining it to yield to any suggestions of the imagination, or any extraneous delusion, in confirmation of its own previous impressions. If St. Paul were indeed an enthusiast, this process appears to have been inverted. His prepossessions were manifestly contrary to the cause he now espoused. His imagination, if it were at all busied in the scene, would rather suggest to him visions falling in with the current of his thoughts, than so directly adverse to them: and if any illusion had been practised upon him, some repugnancy at least might be looked for, from one in whom timidity or imbecility of character can be traced in no other instance.
p Gal. i. 22, 23.
Does the narrative itself, however, favour any such suspicion ?-Here is no tale of secret or lonely visions at the dead of night, when solitude or gloomy contemplations might work upon the perturbations of a wounded conscience, and render it credulous of unreal appearances. The whole occurrence is at mid-day: it takes place before a company bent upon the same errand with Paul himself: it is attended with tokens addressed to the evidence of the senses; “ a “ light above the brightness of the sun,” visible to all the party; a voice heard to issue from that light; instant blindness inflicted upon their leader, and continuing for the space of three days, till removed without human power or skill. When did imagination or artifice work such wonders as these ? or what less than absolute insanity can be ascribed to a whole company like this, believing such phenomena, if none such actually took place?
But the character of St. Paul is alone sufficient to rebut a charge so improbable and
groundless. Festus might ignorantly, or inconsiderately, say, Paul, thou art beside
thyself, much learning doth make thee 66 mad 4:" but none who are conversant with his writings, none who have duly considered his actions, will adopt that calumny. Let the sceptic who cherishes such a surmise, study—if he be competent to study—the Epistles to the Romans, to the Galatians, and to the Hebrews : and let him
where he will find equal strength of conception, equal vigour of understanding, equal depth and solidity of reasoning. Let him try the force of the Apostle's penetration and discernment in discussing with the philosophers of Corinth the doctrine of a resurrection of the dead. Let him
Let him accompany this mighty convert through his eventful history recorded by his faithful companion St. Luke: let him read his sermon before the synagogue at Antioch ; his remonstrance with the idolaters in Lystra ; his discourse to the philosophers of Athens ; his last farewell to the church of Ephesus ; his address to the incensed multitude at Jerusalem ; his defence before Felix ; and, lastly, his pleadings before Agrippa, the subject of our present consideration. In these, let him discover, if he can, any traces
9 Acts xxvi. 24.