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from Christ and salvation. For our Lord told the Pharisees, that publicans and harlots went into the kingdom of God before them. (Matth. xxi. 31.)
The Apostle's own account of his conversion will confirm this statement. “It pleased God” (says he, Gal. i. 15, 16) “who separated me os from my mother's womb, and called me by His “grace, to reveal His Son in me.” The good pleasure of God was the impulsive cause of his vocation, and Divine grace the efficient. And if the end proposed thereby be inquired into, he states it to be the glory of Divine mercy in the salvation of sinners. “For this cause 1,” the chief of sinners, “obtained mercy, that in me " the first,” the greatest criminal, “ Jesus Christ
might shew forth all long suffering, for a patos tern to them which should hereafter believe on “ Him to life everlasting.” (I Tim. i. 16.) Well therefore might he say, after his conversion, “ By the grace of God I am what I am.” (1 Cor. xvi. 10.)
The Apostle's general view of the doctrines of grace accords exactly with what he says of himself. For he evidently considers all men as alike under condemnation, as alike incapable of saving themselves, as alike destitute of any personal recommendation, natural or acquired, to the Divine approbation, and all who are saved as alike “ saved by grace through faith” in Jesus Christ. (See Eph. i. 3. ii. 3-10.)
We now proceed to discriminate the extraordinary from the ordinary circumstances of St. Paul's conversion. Hereby we shall be enabled to determine, after due self-examination, whether the same necessary change, in its essential parts, have been produced in our own bosoms,
The light from heaven which at midnight burst on the Apostle's organs of corporeal vision, exceeding that of the sun in his highest altitude (whether a real flash of lightning, or an irradiation from the glorified body of Jesus)—the voice which he heard the exhibition of Christ in His bodily shape-the blindness which succeeded it -the commission given to Ananias in a Divine dream--and the Apostle's restoration to sightthese were extraordinary circumstances peculiar to the Apostle's case, which were necessary for the proof of his call to the Apostleship, for the conviction of gainsayers, for the promotion of his future ininistry, and for the support and consolation of his own mind under those great and long protracted trials to which he was destined.
But conversion, in all its essential properties and effec s, is the same thing now as it was then. For it was not the external vision and voice seen and heard by the Apostle, which changed his heart, but an internal and almighty energy exerted on his soul, without which the most surprising miracles must have failed of producing any radical and abiding result. Conversion, in every instance, is wholly to be ascribed to Divine grace, , as its impulsive, efficient, and final cause. The change in every instance is universal in its nature though not in its degree. The understanding, the will and the affections, are all the subjects of its influence. And though the circumstantials of St. Paul's conversion are not to be introduced into the usual model of Divine operation; yet something analogous to those circumstantials may be observed in the conversion of every sinner who is turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Internal light is diffused on the understanding by the word and
Spirit of God, disclosing new objects to the mind, and clothing those which had been previously beheld in new colours. In consequence of this illumination the soul feels its own blindness, and longs for the scales of ignorance to be removed, that the objects of which it has enjoyed a momentary and imperfect glimpse may be seen clearly and perpetually. A voice, uttered by the word of God, is heard in the conscience, charging sin upon it, and especially the sin of enmity to Christ, and disclosing the folly of rebellion against Him. “It is hard for thee to kick against s the pricks.” The effect of this discovery, in proportion to its perspicuity and the want of evangelical consolation accompanying it, is “ trembling and astonishment;' in which the body sometimes becomes a fellow-sufferer with the awakened spirit, so as to lose its desire for its necessary food. God employs His ministers now, as He did Ananias of old, to be the instruments of communicating consolation to His dejected people, of dispelling their fears, and of giving them assurances of His favour. The essentials of conversion are a conviction of sin, and a recovery of the soul to God, that it may derive from Him pardon, sanctification, and salvation.
The consequences of St. Paul's conversion, with respect to his own heart and conduct, ought to be closely examined, as they will help us to determine whether we also be partakers of the grace of God in truth. For the same cause invariably produces the same effects.
We may remark then, in the first place, that St. Paul immediately abandoned all his former legal hopes. He had before expected to recommend himself to God by his own righteousness; but of this expectation he now saw the extreme folly.
“ We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of “ the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified
by the works of the law, but by the faith of " Jesus Christ; even we have believed in Jesus
Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for
by the works of the law shall no flesh be justi“ fied.” (Gal. ii. 15, 16.) “What things were
gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. “ Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss “ for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ “ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the “ loss of all things, and do count them but dung “ that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, “ not having mine own righteousness which is of " the law, but that which is through the faith of “ Christ, the righteousness which is of God by “ faith.” (Phil. iii. 7, 8, 9.) Now does the reader's state of mind afford this evidence of true conversion? Let him consider the Apostle's declarations, and see whether it be possible to form a parallelism between them and his own sensibilities on the subject of salvation by grace.
The apostle's conversion was also immediately productive of a spirit of prayer. And this is so necessary and so demonstrative a mark of discipleship, that the wisdom of God selected it as the best which could be mentioned for the purpose of convincing and satisfying the suspicious mind of Ananias respecting the change that had taken place in the character of the persecuting bigot. (Acts ix. 11.) Saul the Pharisee had, doubtless, made many long prayers according to the usage of his formal and ostentatious sect. But he had never prayed till now. He had never before felt his need of mercy, nor approached the throne of grace as a true supplicant in the name of Jesus
Christ. He had before used the words of prayer, but without that temper of mind in which its essence consists.
St. Paul moreover, so soon as a revelation of redeeming love was made to his soul, surrendered his whole heart to Christ. “Lord, what wilt thou “ have me to do,” was the inquiry which he instantly made, with a fixed resolution of complying with the Divine will in all its extent.
through the law am dead to the law, that I
might live unto God. I am crucified with “ Christ : nevertheless I live; yet not I, but " Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now s live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son a of God, who loved me and gave Himself for “me.” (Gal. ii. 19, 20.) “God forbid” (he adds in the same Epistle) “ that I should glory, save “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom “ the world is crucified to me, and I unto the “ world.” (Gal. vi. 14.) “To me to live is “ Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. i. 21.) From this devotedness of heart to his redeeming Lord proceeded a consecration of his whole remaining life to His honour and glory. He had been informed "how great things he must suffer for the “ name of Christ."
(Acts ix. 16.) Yet this deterred him not from an immediate and open profession of Christianity. And when afterwards he found the warning verified in his experience, he could say, “None of these things move me; nei"i ther count I my life dear unto myself, so that “ I might finish my course with joy, and the mi
nistry which I have received of the Lord Jesus,
to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts xx. 24.)
Now if the reader is indulging a hope that he hath been made a partaker of converting grace,,