The conversion of Saul. (1-9) Saul converted preaches Christ.
(10-22) Saul is persecuted at Damascus, and goes to Jerusalem.
(23-31) Cure of Eneas. (32-35) Dorcas raised to life. (36-43)
So ill informed was Saul, that he thought he ought to do
all he could against the name of Christ, and that he did God
service thereby; he seemed to breathe in this as in his element.
Let us not despair of renewing grace for the conversion of the
greatest sinners, nor let such despair of the pardoning mercy of
God for the greatest sin. It is a signal token of Divine favour,
if God, by the inward working of his grace, or the outward
events of his providence, stops us from prosecuting or executing
sinful purposes. Saul saw that Just One, ch.
near to us is the unseen world! It is but for God to draw aside
the veil, and objects are presented to the view, compared with
which, whatever is most admired on earth is mean and
contemptible. Saul submitted without reserve, desirous to know
what the Lord Jesus would have him to do. Christ's discoveries
of himself to poor souls are humbling; they lay them very low,
in mean thoughts of themselves. For three days Saul took no
food, and it pleased God to leave him for that time without
relief. His sins were now set in order before him; he was in the
dark concerning his own spiritual state, and wounded in spirit
for sin. When a sinner is brought to a proper sense of his own
state and conduct, he will cast himself wholly on the mercy of
the Saviour, asking what he would have him to do. God will
direct the humbled sinner, and though he does not often bring
transgressors to joy and peace in believing, without sorrows and
distress of conscience, under which the soul is deeply engaged
as to eternal things, yet happy are those who sow in tears, for
they shall reap in joy.
A good work was begun in Saul, when he was brought to
Christ's feet with those words, Lord, what wilt thou have me to
do? And never did Christ leave any who were brought to that.
Behold, the proud Pharisee, the unmerciful oppressor, the daring
blasphemer, prayeth! And thus it is even now, and with the proud
infidel, or the abandoned sinner. What happy tidings are these
to all who understand the nature and power of prayer, of such
prayer as the humbled sinner presents for the blessings of free
salvation! Now he began to pray after another manner than he had
done; before, he said his prayers, now, he prayed them.
Regenerating grace sets people on praying; you may as well find
a living man without breath, as a living Christian without
prayer. Yet even eminent disciples, like Ananias, sometimes
stagger at the commands of the Lord. But it is the Lord's glory
to surpass our scanty expectations, and show that those are
vessels of his mercy whom we are apt to consider as objects of
his vengeance. The teaching of the Holy Spirit takes away the
scales of ignorance and pride from the understanding; then the
sinner becomes a new creature, and endeavours to recommend the
anointed Saviour, the Son of God, to his former companions.
When we enter into the way of God, we must look for
trials; but the Lord knows how to deliver the godly, and will,
with the temptation, also make a way to escape. Though Saul's
conversion was and is a proof of the truth of Christianity, yet
it could not, of itself, convert one soul at enmity with the
truth; for nothing can produce true faith, but that power which
new-creates the heart. Believers are apt to be too suspicious of
those against whom they have prejudices. The world is full of
deceit, and it is necessary to be cautious, but we must exercise
true believers; and he will bring them to his people, and often
gives them opportunities of bearing testimony to his truth,
before those who once witnessed their hatred to it. Christ now
appeared to Saul, and ordered him to go quickly out of
Jerusalem, for he must be sent to the Gentiles: see ch. 22:21.
Christ's witnesses cannot be slain till they have finished their
testimony. The persecutions were stayed. The professors of the
gospel walked uprightly, and enjoyed much comfort from the Holy
Ghost, in the hope and peace of the gospel, and others were won
over to them. They lived upon the comfort of the Holy Ghost, not
only in the days of trouble and affliction, but in days of rest
and prosperity. Those are most likely to walk cheerfully, who
Christians are saints, or holy people; not only the
eminent ones, as Saint Peter and Saint Paul, but every sincere
professor of the faith of Christ. Christ chose patients whose
diseases were incurable in the course of nature, to show how
desperate was the case of fallen mankind. When we were wholly
without strength, as this poor man, he sent his word to heal us.
Peter does not pretend to heal by any power of his own, but
directs Eneas to look up to Christ for help. Let none say, that
because it is Christ, who, by the power of his grace, works all
our works in us, therefore we have no work, no duty to do; for
though Jesus Christ makes thee whole, yet thou must arise, and
use the power he gives thee.
Many are full of good words, who are empty and barren in
good works; but Tabitha was a great doer, no great talker.
Christians who have not property to give in charity, may yet be
able to do acts of charity, working with their hands, or walking
with their feet, for the good of others. Those are certainly
best praised whose own works praise them, whether the words of
others do so or not. But such are ungrateful indeed, who have
kindness shown them, and will not acknowledge it, by showing the
kindness that is done them. While we live upon the fulness of
Christ for our whole salvation, we should desire to be full of
good works, for the honour of his name, and for the benefit of
his saints. Such characters as Dorcas are useful where they
dwell, as showing the excellency of the word of truth by their
lives. How mean then the cares of the numerous females who seek
no distinction but outward decoration, and who waste their lives
in the trifling pursuits of dress and vanity! Power went along
with the word, and Dorcas came to life. Thus in the raising of
dead souls to spiritual life, the first sign of life is the
opening of the eyes of the mind. Here we see that the Lord can
make up every loss; that he overrules every event for the good
of those who trust in him, and for the glory of his name.