« FöregåendeFortsätt »
repugnant to all that is related of the matter, than it is to reason; for St. Paul had companions with him on his journey, and if it was pretended that he had seen a vision on his way to Damascus, when travelling with attendants, those attendants would naturally be examined on the subject, and if no such circumstances as those reported had occurred, then instead of any possible utility, or advantage, arising therefrom to either Pauls or Ananias, they must have been immediately covered with shame and contempt, and treated as impostors unworthy of belief. It was not likely, either that the Jews or the disciples of Christ would suffer such a remarkable circumstance as St. Paul's conversion to be passed over without enquiry. The Jews incensed against him for having embraced Christianity, and the followers of Christ fearful of him on account of bis former persecutions, would be equally interested in ascertaining the reality of his conversion. Besides, independent of the improbability and useJessness of such a conspiracy between St. Paul and Ananias, the character given of the latter proves him to have been a very unlikely person to have engaged in a fraud of such a nature : for "he was a devout man according to the law, having a good report among all the Jews
who dwelt at Damascus." Mr. Gamaliel Smith affects surprise at the character given of Ananias : he wonders how Ananias could have been a “devout man according to the law;" but neither Gamaliel Smith, or any other person, can find any passage in Scripture in which it is said, that men could not be devout under the Jewish dispensation : to say nothing of numerous worthies in the Old Testament, of whose devotion so much is recorded, we are told by St. Luke, that Simeon was both just and devout", and as at the time when Simeon is said to have possessed this character, he could not have had any knowledge of religion beyond that afforded by the Mosaic dispensation, he must have been devout according to the law. The fact is, both Christ and his Apostles approved of that part of the Jewish religion, which is called the moral law, and so far from annulling it, Christ said, “Whosoever should break one of its least commandments, and should teach men so to do, he should be accounted least in the kingdom of heaven."
The law, as St. Paul observed, was "holy, just, and good ;" but because it was clogged with numerous burthensome ceremonies, which were only “a shadow of good things to
a Luke ii. 25.
come,” Christ and his Apostles taught men a more excellent way of religion, and by the preaching of the Gospel brought life and immortality to light.
But, says Gamaliel Smith, “if Ananias was so happy as to be the subject of this good report, this man who was already a Christian, this man, and not Paul, who of all
of Christianity had been the most fierce, would naturally have been the man to receive the supernatural commission. Supposing his vision real and the reports of it true, no difficulty, rationally speaking, could he have found in obtaining credence for it, at the hands of the Apostles b."
That Ananias was one of many excellent witnesses to the truth of Christianity appears clear from the history which is given concerning him, but that he
so well qualified to become a propagator of Christ's religion as St. Paul, is, what I must beg to deny; for independent of St. Paul's peculiar attainments, the very circumstance of his having once been a bitter enemy, and persecutor of the disciples of Jesus, renders his testimony the more important, and the more entitled to belief; and I perfectly concur in the observation
of Lord Lyttleton, that “the conversion and Apostleship of St. Paul, is, of itself, a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity to be a divine revelation.” The visions, then, which are reported to have been seen by St. Paul and Ananias being real, and from what has been said, we have every reason to believe they were SO,
we shall find that the circumstances which followed were such as were promised, and might naturally be expected to be accomplished.
Ananias's Visit to St. Paul.
To suppose that St. Paul, who had been blind three days, could immediately receive his sight from the mere words of Ananias without believing Ananias to have been invested with supernatural power, would be to yield up our minds to the most absurd credulity, especially when we consider that St. Paul's blindness was of ro ordinary kind. “ And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house, and putting
Observations on the Conversion and Apostleship of St. Paul, by the late Right Hon. George Lord Lyttleton.
his hands on him, said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way aş thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes scales, and he received sight forthwith.” Acts ix. 17, 18.
We are informed in the New Testament, that when Jesus was about to ascend to heaven after his resurrection, he said to the eleven disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature, he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Agreeably to this command we find baptism was administered by his Apostles, and indeed the outward sign of water was well calculạted to represent the internal purity of heart enjoined by Christ's religion, and the cleansing efficacy of that blood which was shed for the salvation of mankind, It was usual for the new converts to Christianity to comply with the rite of baptism, as a test of their profession of the Gospel : it was, there. fore, perfectly consonant with the religion of Jesus, that St. Paul should give this outward evidence of his conversion-an evidence that appeared in his case the more necessary, from his having so recently been a persecutor of the followers of Christ. Accordingly we read, that St. Paul