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away? Their sins are many, and lie heavy on their consciences, and they can find no relief. 'Behold the Lamb of God ;' he only taketh away sin. Perhaps you have been looking elsewhere. You have been looking; to yourself, your own goodness, your honesty, your church-goings, prayer, and sacraments. Are these saviours? Were these appointed of God to take away sin? They are good things in thei r places, but very bad things to be put in the place of Christ. Away with them all in point of dependance, and for the purpose of acceptance. With holy Paul you must count them all loss and dung, that you may win Christ and be found in him. Look to nothing but Jesus, for only he taketh away the sin of the world.
And to you also, Believer, we will say, 'Behold the Lamb of God!' This must be your daily business as long as you live; and nothing can be so useful. Have you a hard heart? Look to him and it will melt. 'They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and mourn.' Are you cast down and full of fears ?—' They looked to him and were enlightened, and their faces were not ashamed.' Say with Jonah in the whale's belly, 'I will look again.' Would you obtain genuine humility? A sight of Christ must effect it. Job and Isaiah got it by a view of the glory of Christ. Would you entertain a constant hatred of sin ? Behold the Lamb of God bleeding for it on the cross. Would yon be truly holy? Behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus, and you shall be transformed into the same image from glory to glory.—Would you be bold for God, and constant in his cause? Behold the patient Lamb of God, who has left us an example that we should walk in his steps. Thus, Christian, persist in looking to Jesus daily by faith; till death shall shift the scene, and change faith into sight. Then shall we see him as he is; no longer 'through a glass darkly, but face to face;' nor shall you evermore need the exhortation in the text, ' Behold the Lamb of God!'
Father of mercies, we thauk thee that we have heard this joyful sound ! truly, these words are glad tidings of great joy ; for we have sinned, and come short of thy glory. When we consider our guilt and pollution, and remember that thou art holy and just, we are ready to ask, Wherewith shall we come before the Lord, and bow before the most high God! what offering can we bring, and what sacrifice can we make, to atone for our unnumbered transgressions? But thanks be unto God, who has found a ransom! Thou, 0 Lord, hast thyself provided a Lamb for the burnt-offering,— the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world, We desire to lay our hands upon the head of this sacrifice and to make it our own. We desire, with gratitude and joy, to accept of the offered grace. We pray that the blood of Jesus Christ thy .Son may cleanse us from all sin.
Be pleased, O Lord, so to bless the discourse now delivered, that some who have hitherto been looking only at the vanities of this world, may henceforward with attention, with faith, and with affection, behold the Lamb of God! And may they who have already . beheld this glorious object, be excited, by what they have hVard, to look with closer attention, with strongerfaith, and With more ardent love than ever before. Thus may we learn to hate sin, to be patient in sufferiug, and bold in the cause of truth and righteousness.
Help us all from the heart to join in the chorus of Heaven, and say, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing-, and honour, and glory: and power be unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
Acts ix. 11.
Behold, lie prayeth.'
'"PHE grace of God was never more gloriously displayed than in the conversion of St. Paul. Speaking of it himself, he says. 'The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant;' and * in me Jesus Christ shewed forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.' The change that was wrought in him was so sudden and remarkable, that the disciples of Christ at Damascus were afraid it was not real. To remove their suspicions, our Lord assures Ananias, their minister, that he was certainly a changed man ; for, behold, he prayeth! As if he had said, * You need not be afraid of him now. He was a bad man, but now he is a new man. He breathed out threatenings and slaughter, but now he breatheth out prayers and supplications. Behold he prayeth ."
As St. Paul's praying is here mentioned by Jesus Christ as a proof of his conversion, we shall take occasion from these words, to shew, that A praying person is a gracious person. This important truth will appear with the stronger evidence, by considering the history of St. Paul's conversion, as recorded in this chapter.
Paul, originally called Saul, was the son or Jewish parents; but being born in the city of Tarsus, was entitled to the privileges of a Roman citizen. He was brought up to the business of a tent-maker; for it was the laudable custom of the Jews, though rich, to teach their children some trade. He had, however, a good education, and was sent to Jerusalem, where he studied the Jewish religion under the care of Gamaliel, a learned
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doctor of the law. He also joined the sect of the Pharisees, who were in great esteem at that time for their apparent piety and zeal. But he unhappily imbibed their self-righteous notions, their bigotry, and their bitter hatred of Jesus Christ and his followers. Paul, probably, had opportunity to hear the discourses, and see the miracles of Jesus; but they made no saving impressions on his mind: on the contrary, he became the implacable enemy of his followers. With all his profession of religion, he was a proud man, depending upon his own goodness for salvation; and therefore not at all disposed to relish the humbling, self-denying religion of Christ, nor to join himself with the despised Nazarenes. Yea, such were his prejudices, that he became a 'blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious.'
The first we read of him in the book of the Acts is, that he assisted at the cruel murder of Stephen, the first Christian martyr; for he took care of the clothes of those who stoned him, and thereby shewed his approbation of the bloody deed. After this he was very active in the persecution. He made 'havoc of the church, entering into every house, and dragging away women as well as men, committed them to jail,' that they might be put to death. He 'imprisoned, beat, and punished,' all the believers he could find in any of the synagogues; and 'being exceedingly mad ' against the Christians, he obliged many of them to take refuge from his fury, by flying to distant places. Not content with this, he applied to the high-priest for authority to extend his persecution to the city of Damascus, which was 160 miles off. On this cruel expedition he set out, ' breathing threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord.'
Who would ever have thought that this man should become a Christian, a preacher, an apostle, and a martyr! Was there any thing in him that could entitle him to the favour of God? Some have supposed so, in order to lessen the free sovereign grace of God in his conversion. They tell us he was sincere in his way, had 'virtuous habits,' and therefore had a previous disposition to receive the gospel. Nothing can be more false. He tells us himself he was ' the chief of sinners;' he was 'in the flesh ;'—he went about to establish his own righteousness, 'not submitting himself to the righteousness of God.' Surely here was nothing to recommend him to mercy: but every thing that might provoke the Almighty to destroy him for ever. 'But God's ways are not as man's ways, nor his thoughts as man's thoughts. Paul 'was a vessel of mercy ;'—' separated from his mother's womb' in the counsels of God; but the call was deferred till a time, when the freeness, power, and riches of grace might appear with the brightest lustre.
Paul was now within sight of Damascus, enjoying the thoughts of his expected success; when, suddenly, in a moment, there appeared a light in the firmament, a dazzling brightness, far above that of the sun, which was then shining in its meridian splendour. It was not a flash of lightning ; but a continued glory, composed of rays which surrounded the body of our Saviour, who condescended personally to appear for the calling of this atrocious sinner. At the sight of the prodigious splendour, Paul, and all his companions, 'fell to the earth,' dazzled and confounded. While prostrate on the ground, a voice full of awful majesty, pronounced these words—' Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?' It was Jesus who spake; but Paul knew him not; yet supposing it must be some glorious personage, he summoned up sufficient courage to say, 'Who art thou, Lord?' And he immediately replied, with a solemnity and endearment peculiar to himself, and which pierced the rebel's heart,—' 1 am Jesus (the Nazarene) whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the goads.'
Observe here, that Jesus Christ accounts himself persecuted, when his poor members are persecuted. Saul thought he was punishing only a despicable set of silly enthusiasts, who had forsaken the church, and espoused the cause of the crucified Jesus; but Christ takes up the cause, and lets him know, that he thought himself injured by the injuries done to his followers. Let this be a check to those thoughtless persons who disturb and oppose religious people in their devotions. You may be as much mistaken as Saul was; for aught you know