« السابقةمتابعة »
shame the young believer in Jesus.
Sometimes this hatred manifests itself by expulsion from the paternal dwelling, and exclusion from the father's will.
Even a mother, in her blinded enmity to the Truth, can deliver her once beloved child into the bloody arms of the Inquisition. Superstition, bigotry, and worldly hatred have in all ages wasted the sheep of Christ.
Jesus said to his disciples: "Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. They shall put you out of the synagogues, yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think he doeth God service; and these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. Ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."
Such has been, and such is the spirit of the world, a determination to retain the forms of Christianity, and to crush its power. The offence of the cross has not ceased. In many countries where Papal darkness reigns, the old enmity is still in vigorous operation. The man of sin cannot endure the light of Truth, nor those who shine as lights in the world. Even in this Protestant England-this land of Bibles,-from whence the true light shines with such a glorious lustre into surrounding nations, the spirit of persecution is not extinct. It still works in the bosom of the bigoted, the carnal, and the infidel opposer of the Truth.
Through the mercy of our God, we have long
been protected from open violence, and are yet privileged to serve him without bodily fear. But who can tell, how soon the concealed evil may be permitted in righteous judgment to break forth into action? Nothing but Almighty Power can restrain the malice of Satan, and the bitter enmity of the natural heart. Are not dark clouds gathering around us? Do we not hear the awful sounds of an approaching storm?
A persecuting spirit is not from above; urged on by the powers of darkness, it springs from ignorance of the true God, from pride, and from that deadly root of all evil, unbelief.
James and John felt its workings, when they desired that fire might descend from heaven, and consume a Samaritan village, because its inhabitants refused to receive their Divine Master. Jesus rebuked them, and said; "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."
This blinded state of heart, which fills the earth with misery and bloodshed, was awfully displayed in the spirit and conduct of Saul. St. Luke, the inspired writer of the Acts of the Apostles, informs us, that when Saul was a young man, the clothes of those who stoned Stephen were laid at his feet; that he consented to the death of this holy disciple; that he made havock of the Church, entering into every house, and haling men and women, committed them to prison.
Whether Saul was any further engaged in the death of Stephen does not appear. However,
the circumstance recorded by St. Luke, of his guarding the clothes of his murderers, loudly proclaims his approbation of the deed. Let us never forget, that God looks chiefly at the heart; and if the vote be passed there, he writes the man guilty, though he stir no farther. It is easy to murder another by a silent wish, or a passionate desire, as Jesus has declared in his searching Sermon on the Mount, and St. John, in his first Epistle.
In all moral actions, whether good or evil, God regards the will; and reckons the man a companion in sin, who, though he may never actually join in it, yet inwardly applauds and likes it.
The storm thus begun, increased rapidly. A violent persecution afflicted and dispersed the Christians at Jerusalem, who went every where preaching the Word. Like all the dispensations of God towards his Church, it was over-ruled for the more rapid extension of the Gospel, just as a scattered fire increases the conflagration.
The rage of Saul was so fierce at this period, that in the strong language of the sacred historian, he breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord. Not satisfied with his own anathemas, he went unto the high-priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, be might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
How wonderful is the divine forbearance. Truly God is strong and patient. Though in his wisdom, he may permit the persecutor's fury to rage for a season, yet, through his power, he maketh
the wrath of man to praise him; and in his love, he over-ruleth all for the purifying and enlargement of his Church. He who said to the mighty ocean: Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed,-can order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men. All hearts are under the divine control, and can be chained or changed according to His purpose, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own Will.
In every age, God is pleased to manifest his power either in the conversion or the destruction of sinners; for He, who ruleth over all, must and shall be feared by all intelligent creatures. Oh that the prayers of his Church may be speedily answered by the ushering in of that period, when His name shall be hallowed; His kingdom come; and His will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
The time was now arrived when Infinite Love purposed to make such a manifestation of its glory, as would fill heaven with joy and earth with praise. The enemy had come in like a flood, but the Spirit of the Lord was about to lift up a standard against him. While Saul was hastening to Damascus, full of persecuting fury, and intending to strike a deadly blow at the infant Church of Christ, thinking thereby, "to do God service;" Jesus met him in the way. Suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about him, above the brightness of the sun. The fiery bigot, checked in his career, fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? He said: Who art thou, Lord?
And the Lord said: I am Jesus whom thou perBut 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 those things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
Saul, trembling and astonished, said: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said: Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." Being unable to see for the glory of that light, he was led by the hand of them that were with him, and came to Damascus.
What a display of sovereign grace is here presented to our view. The bloody persecutor now lies prostrate at the feet of Jesus. Though his bodily eyes were darkened, the film of ignorance was removed from his mind, the enmity of his heart was destroyed, the strong-holds of unbelief and pride were thrown down, and he became teachable and submissive like a little child.
"Over the raging waves of human will,
The Saviour's Spirit walk'd ;-and all was still."
Have we ever experienced this converting grace of Jesus? Has a divine light ever darted into our minds, showing us, by its irresistible