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or And he arose,
received baptism on the occasion of Ananias's visit.
Arise, said Ananias to him, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts xxii. 16. and was baptized.” Acts ix. 18.
In this circumstance Mr. Gamaliel Smith has found matter for raillery, and I insert the following passage, absurd as it is, to shew how light and unbecoming are the remarks into which writers are betrayed, who indulge in a spirit of ridicule on sacred subjects.
“ This is no light matter, if so it really were that according to the religion of Jesus by such a cause such an effect was, on that occasion, produced, that such effect could in a word, on any occasion, in any case, be produced, that murders (or not to embarrass the question with conceits of local jurisprudence) killings of men, killings of men by persecution carried on on a religious account--slaughters of Christians by non-christians, could thus, as in Paul's case, be divested of all guilt, at any rate of all punishment at the hands of Almighty justice, if impunity could, indeed, be thus conferred by the sprinkling a man with water, or dipping him in it, then would it be matter of serious consideration, not only what is the verity of that
religion, but what the usefulness of it, what the usefulness, with reference to the present life, at any rate not to speak of a life to come.” Not Paul but Jesus. pp. 37, 38.
Now to offer many words in reply to such frivolous observations as those just cited, would be a waste of my own and my reader's time. With regard, however, to the circumstance of St. Paul being baptized, and the promise held out to him in the name of Jesus, of remission of his sins, I may remark, that we see in the instance of St. Paul, that the religion of Jesus is a religion of mercy, affording to every believing penitent the hope, that if like that Apostle he truly repents, and turns from the error of his ways,
the blood which Christ shed upon the cross will prove effectual to atone for the guilt of his past transgressions, and to obtain for him, at the hands of Almighty justice, pardon and salvation. The Gospel bids us
repent and believe,” and by holding out to us the promise of mercy to be obtained through Christ, it administers an antidote, to despair, than which there cannot be a worse foe to reformation of life.
Accounts of what the Vision is said to have revealed
to Ananias consistent with each other.
In the historical account, and that which is reported to have been delivered afterwards by St. Paul in his speech at Jerusalem, we may observe a striking conformity in regard to the matters stated to have taken place at the interview between St. Paul and Ananias; at the same time, it is to be remarked, that there is not that precise agreement in the language, which we may naturally suppose would have been adopted by a person who was forging a narrative, with a view to impose upon the world. Thus, in the historical account of what Ananias said to St. Paul, we read, “that the Lord said unto him (that is, to Ananias), Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.” Acts ix. 15, 16. In the account given by St. Paul relative to the same circumstance, we meet with language to the same effect. “And he, that is, Ananias, said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that
thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” Acts xxii. 14, 15.
That St. Paul should be forewarned by God, and thereby the better prepared to encounter the sufferings that awaited him for preaching the Gospel of Christ, seems very natural, and as we proceed in our investigation we shall find, that St. Paul became what the vision declared he should be, a chosen vessel, to bear the name of Christ before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel, and that he actually did “suffer great things" for preaching Christ's religion.
St. Paul preaches Christ in the Synagogues at
Enough, I trust, has been already said to prove the reality of St. Paul's conversion, and of that event, we may, in what is related of his subsequent conduct, expect to witness the fruits in his zealous and successful propagation of the religion which he had before endeavoured to destroy. Conformably
to this opinion, we find, that after his interview with Ananias, St. Paul commenced “preaching Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God,” a doctrine most unpalatable to the Jews who had persecuted Jesus and his followers, but most consolatory to those, who had embraced the Gospel; since, if Christ was indeed the Son of God, then must his religion have been true, and all the hopes and promises which he had held out to his disciples would, in due time, receive their full accomplishment. That St. Paul should preach Christ, that he is the Son of Godthat he should bear witness to him as the very Christ, the long looked-for Messiah, and by proving this, should confound the Jews which dwelt at Damascus—that all that heard him should be amazed, and say, “Is not this he that destroyed them which . called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests,” are all matters perfectly consistent with the sincerity of St. Paul's conversion, but at the same time so incompatible with the opinions that Gamaliel Smith labours to inculcate respecting Paul's not preaching “Jesus, but himself,” nor the Gospel of Jesus, but “one of his own making,” that we need hardly be surprised at the cool assurance with which he denies the facts altogether. “Had