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ciliating the esteem of its opposers. What have we to fear, if we serve the Lord Chrift?
The present history teaches us, likewise, to unite with an immovable firmness the exercise of meekness and love. Stephen complained not of the injurious treatment, which he received.
Instead of throwing out any bitter invectives, he testified his readiness to pardon, by commending his murderers to the mercy and forgiveness of God. By such a singular display of forbearance and kindness, he brought more credit to the Gospel, than he could have done by any other arguments. Have we learnt to suffer with a similar disposition? Ah! how much do we dishonour the cause of Christ by the peevishness of our fpirit, and the keenness of our resentment against those, who reproach or insult us! Or rather, do we not prove, that we have not yet understood the extent of that holiness, which our religion requires ?
3. It encourages us to expect sufficient strength and comfort, under all our perfecutions for righteousness' fake. This primitive martyr stands as a witness for the grace and faithfulness of his divine Masters who will never abandon or deceive his upright fervants. That ancient promise is verified in the case of every sincere believer : “ As thy days, so shall thy strength be *.” And will not this suffice us? If the world frown, yet Jesus will smile: if they curse, He will command a blessing. Whatever may be taken from us, for our attachment to him, He will make an abundant compensation. Though the most numerous and powerful adversaries declare against us, we may exult in dependence on his veracity, and say, « The Lord is on my side, I will not fear t."
We need not, we ought not, to stagger at the most terrible appearances of death. We perceive in St. Stephen's countenance, how Jesus.can lighten the
16 If we
dark valley, and, even in that tremendous paffage fill our souls with peace and joy. Why should we not hope to maintain such a holy confidence? This, at least, the grace of our God can bestow. But we should extend our view beyond the prefent scene, and contemplate the Saviour, waiting to receive us to mansions of eternal blessedness. Let us perfevere in faith and patience, and soon shall the gates of heaven be opened for our honourable admiffion. suffer, we shall also reign with him *.” For thus he addresses every Christian soldier, enlifted under his banner, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life t."
We pray, therefore, with our church; « Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth, for the testimony of thy truth, we may Steadfaftly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our perfecutors, by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O bleffed Jesus, who ftandest at the right hand of God to fuccour all those that suffer for thee, our only Me. diator and Advocate. Amen I."
CA A P. IX.
Paul, bis extraction and education-a bigotted Pharisee
-persecuted the Church-suddenly stopped by an appearance of Chrift--submitted to him-struck blind recovered his fight-baptized by Ananias-preached Chrift--what to be concluded
from his conversion, THE
HE Lord God frequently accomplishes his puro poses by such inftruments, as are thought weak and contemptible, and thus proves, that his cause is not indebted to any human abilities for support. But, at fome times and for special purposes, He is pleased to select persons of admired endowments, whom infidelity would gladly have classed amongst its advocates, and to render them of extensive service to the interests of Christianity. Alas! how often do splendid gifts become a snare and a curse, not to the poffeffore only, but to fociety, being employed in defence of erroneous and destructive principles ! How different is the case, when they are confecrated to the Lord, and devoted to the use of the sanctuary ! Then indeed they appear truly excellent, deserve our highest esteem,, and contribute to the temporal and eternal happiness. of men.
Such reflections arise from the confideration of the character now
St. Paul was furnished with large intelletual powers, and ample attainments in literature, which would have done credit to any
cause. But it is our province to contemplate the Christian, rather than the Scholar, and to adinire, not so much bis natural genius and abilities, as “the exceeding grace of God in him.” That grace stamped a dignity and worth on all his qualifications, and gave them their proper direction and employment. Let us hear his own grateful acknowledgmert; “ By the grace of God I am what I am *." None ever Imone with greater lustre than he did, after he had once entered on the service of Chrift: none seem to have arrived at a higher degree of perfection, or to have been honoured with more extensive usefulness in the world. We thank God for the amazing effects of his preaching, and especially for his inspired compofitions, which constitute a considerable part of the New Testament, and which will defcend as an inestimable blessing to ages yet unborn. May we all partake of the fame spirit, and learn from his example and exhortations to yield ourselves to the Saviour with the warmest affections and unreserved obedience!
Saul, for such was his name originally, was born at Tarsus in Cilicia, and, through peculiar favour granted to the natives of that town, entitled to the freedom and privileges of a Roman citizen t. He fprang from Jewish parents, and boasted that he could trace his descent from Abraham, and had conformed to all ritual injunctions; “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews I." He was taught the common business of a tent-maker ; but we cannot therefore conclude, that he was confined to any fervile labour, or placed in a mean situation. He enjoyed the advantages of a liberal education ; being well
* i Cor. xv. 10. + Acts xxii. 3, 28.
I 2 Cor. xi. 22. Phil. iii. 5. § Acts xviii. 3. # It was customary with the Jews, even the most opulent, to train , up their children to the knowledge of some trade, by which they might be able to earn their support in life, if they should be reduced to difficulties.
instructed in the learning of the times, and furnished with a considerable share of reading in the Greek and Latin writers.
Probably at an early age, he went to Jerusalem, to acquire the necessary acquaintance with Jewish lite. rature, with the principles of his own religion, and the most generally received interpretations of the Old Testament. For those purposes he was under the care of the celebrated Doctor, Gamaliel, and, as his pupil, « brought up at his feet." There he made confiderable proficiency in his studies, and soon discovered a zealous attachment to all the Mofaic institutions. Such an attachment might be greatly increased by the infuence of his tutor : at least, he came out from under his care a rigid, bigotted Pharisee. He laid an undue stress on the observarse of Jewilh ceremonies; and, as he could not bear to hear of th
aboliion or insufficiency, he imbibed, with his first rudiments, a spirit of opposition to the Gospel. He thought, and it seemed to be a firm and well-grounded conviction, that it was his bounden duty to exert himself against the Christian faith ; " that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth * "
He acted, as would generally be allo xed, sincerely, and according to the dictates of his conscience, while he persecuted, and wished, if possible, to extirpate, the professors of this new religion. But the plea of fincerity and conscience will not excuse him. It was his fin, as it is the fin of many, not to be better informed : a blamable and corrupt disposition of mind prevented him from giving the Gospel a serious attention and fair examination, He must have had
many. opportunities of being acquainted with its evidence, during his residence at Jerusalem: but he previously determined to reject a system, which totally fubverted his proud principles, and therefore obstinately refused:
* Acts xxvi. 5, 9. Gal. i. 14.