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THE CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL..
1 CORINTHIANS XV. PART OF V. 10.
I laboured more abundantly than they all.
This day is appointed by our church to be SERM. kept sacred in memory of the conversion or of St. Paul. Whether we consider the extraordinary circumstances which produced this conversion, or whether we look to the advantage which the Gentile world, and we, among others, have received from it-in either view, both reason and gratitude demand that it should be had in everlasting remembrance.
SERM. I propose in this discourse to enter con. w cisely into the history and character of this
illustrious apostle, and to shew the argument which his conversion affords in favour of the truth of Christianity, and, lastly, to lay down some rules for your practice, which the facts described may suggest.
By the conversion of St. Paul is meant, his quitting the Jewish, and embracing the Christian religion. St. Paul was born at Tarsus, of Jewish parents; their circumstances were probably opulent, though they brought up their son to the trade of tentmaking; for it was usual with the Jews, whatever fortune they were able to give their children, to have them instructed in some trade, both to keep them from idleness, and that they might have some resource, if their circumstances should ever require it. Having received the. rudiments of his
education at his native placé, he was sent, SERM.
XIX. at a certain time, to complete it at Jerusailem, and was placed under the care of Ga. imaliel, the most eminent Jewish teacher of his time. Here St. Paul made a great -proficiency, and became expert in all the " customs and questions which are among " the Jews." The sect of which he made choice was that of the Pharisees, the most strict of all others, and, being of a warm temper, he became exceedingly zealous for the Jewish religion.
This was not long after the death of Christ, but yet his followers had greatly increased in numbers; and as they did not scruple to assert, that the religion which they taught was to be erected on the ruins of Judaism, they gave very serious alarms to the Jews. Among others, St. Paul, be. lieving the whole to be an imposture, and verily thinking (as he says) that he ought to do many things contrary to the name
SERM. of Jesus of Nazareth, became extremely XIX.
irritated against the Christians, he gave his voice against them, punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and when the first martyr, Stephen, was executed, St Paul was consenting to his death, and stood by and took care of the clothes of those who stoned him..... ,
It was soon after this, that, not contented with what he had done at Jerusalem, he went to the chief priest, and solicited from him letters to the synagogues of Damascus, which might' authorize him to take and imprison all those whom he found adhering to the name of Christ. But as he was in the midst of his journey, full of his unjust purpose, about noon, a light from heaven, above the brightness of the
sün, shone round about him, and those jiwho were with him; and when they were all fallen to the earth, St. Paul heard a voice speaking to him in the Hebrew SERM. tongue, and saying -- " Saul, Saul, why “ persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee “ to kick against the pricks ;” and he said, “Who art thou, Lord?” And the voice answered—“I am Jesus, whom thou per“ secutest. But rise, and stand upon thy « feet : for I have appeared unto thee for .“ this purpose, to make thee a minister "! and a witness, both of these things which “ thou hast seen, and of those in the which “ I will appear unto thee; delivering thee “ from the people and from the Gentiles, “ unto whom I now send thee ; to open “ their eyes, and to turn them from dark“ ness to light, and from the power of “ Satan unto God, that they may receive "' forgiveness of sins, and inheritance “ among them which are sanctified by " by faith, that is in me." And when Paul arose, he was blind, and those who were with him took him by the hand,