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or did he speak of some one else ? In reply to this inquiry, Philip took the passage as his text; and shewing how the prophecy had been fulfilled in the recent circumstances of the crucifixion, he explained to the Ethiopian the doctrine of Jesus as the Christ.
As the carriage was proceeding during this conversation, they came to a spot where there was a stream, or pond of water. The Ethiopian, who had attended earnestly to the instruction of Philip, pointed out this water, and asked what there was to prevent his being baptized in it. Philip told him that what was required was, that he should believe with all his heart; upon which the Ethiopian declared that he believed the doctrine now explained to him, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This profession of faith being thought sufficient by Philip, the Ethiopian desired that thic carriage should be stopped; and he and Philip going down to the water, Philip administered baptism to him.
As soon as they came out of the water, Philip was miraculously conveyed away from the spot by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that the Ethiopian saw him no more; but this wonderful disappearance must have tended to strengthen the faith of the new convert; and we are told that he proceeded on his journey with great joy. Philip however found himself at a place called Azotus, or Ashdod, about thirty-four miles distant from Gaza to the north, by the sea-coast. From thence he went to Cæsarea ; and as he passed through the several places on his way, he preached the gospel to their inhabitants.
APPLICATION. 1. The circumstances of the conversion of the Ethiopian may
afford us .a view of the manner, in which God is pleased to arrange providentially those events, that concur in bringing the ministry of the word within the reach of such as receive the truth in the love of it. The accidents, as they appear to be, which have brought about the spiritual conversion of many persons must have been ordered by Him who gives power to his word, and who appoints the office of the angels, those “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” (Heb. i. 14.) It no doubt seemed to the Ethiopian quite
an accident that he should happen to cross the path of a man, who could instruct him so well in the truth he was anxious to understand—that he should happen to be reading a passage which contained so much of that truth—that they should find the water in the way, that he might be baptized; but we know that all these accidents were arranged by an angel, who directed the human instrument of the Lord's word, while His own Spirit worked with it in the Ethiopian's soul. We may, know with equal certainty, that the same machinery is in operation, though unseen, to produce similar results now; and it is the part of faith to recognize them with gratitude, when we have perceived the effects in our own cases, or in the cases of those in whom we are interested. The beautiful combination of outward events, leading to the effectual work of the Holy Spirit inwardly, can be traced in so many instances, that it enables us to make an application of the Ethiopian's case in others; and teaches us to glorify God for his mercy and wisdom in the ordering of those minute circumstances, which the unbelieving mind attributes to chance.
QUESTION. Am I disposed to object to the notion, that the lesser events which contribute to a spiritual benefit are ordered by the providential arrangement of God? or do I recognize his hand in the minute detail of circumstances which have concurred in promoting my own spiritual advantages ?
2. The progressive state of preparation in the mind of the Ethiopian convert affords an instance of the manner in which God is pleased very frequently to work in drawing his people to the salvation of the gospel. This man had been brought from heathenism to acknowledge Jehovah as the true God ; and following the convictions of his mind, he had joined the people who worshipped that God : this must have been at great personal sacrifice. He was diligent in fulfilling the religious duties imposed on him by his new faith ; and he was sincerely seeking for further instruction in that faith. Accordingly, it was in the exercise of these duties that the angel of the Lord placed the ministry of the word of truth within his reach ; and as the process had brought him in humility of mind to submit with readiness to the instruction afforded him, so the Spirit gave him such evidence of power, in the miraculous removal of Philip, as confirmed his faith, and made him go on his way rejoicing. All this is an illustration of the truth of that text, then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord” (Hosea vi. 3): a self-denying profession, following on from a sincere conviction of so much truth as we are able to receive-a diligent endeavour after consistency with what we profess-an humble and earnest search after more truth as we advance in knowledge—these steps lead on to the fulness of faith, and to increase of joy and peace in believing.
Am I diligently acting up to what I do know, and humbly seeking for instruction as to what I do not know of the truth of God's word? or am I pausing in my progress, by falling short as to what I do know, or by thinking that I know enough?
3. It is very important to observe, that the whole substance of the effectual preaching of Philip was “Jesus ;' and that the Scripture which he explained for this purpose was that which details his atonement: while the whole substance of the qualification for baptism, was the faith of the heart in the divinity of that atoning Saviour. Such a creed is the turning point of salvation with every christian; and such a subject is the essential point of power in every preaching. While every preaching without this misses it mark, and every creed without this fails of its object, the faith that feels Christ, and the ministry that preaches Jesus, contain in themselves all that is necessary to attain the end in view—the salvation of the soul. The refreshing simplicity which characterizes this marks its divine authority, as contrasted with the bewildering difficulties of every system which has ever been devised by man with the same object; and it exemplifies the power of that truth, that “to the poor the gospel is preached.”
QUESTION. What do I seek for and find in the ministry of God's word to
my soul? Is it Jesus only? What is the nature of my faith? Is it with my heart? and does it lay hold of Jesus as the Son of God?
Thou merciful God, who clothest the grass of the field, and feedest the fowls of the air, increase my faith to feel how sure it is that thou wilt much more care for me, and apply that care to the spiritual concerns of my soul. Teach me to see the mark of thy hand in all those things which thou hast made to work together for the good of my soul, and to feel thy mercy in the very minuteness of thy providential arrangements on my behalf. Quicken my conscience and excite me to diligence in fulfilling those duties which I believe to be according to thy will; and draw me to follow on to know more of thy will and thy love than I have hitherto known. Supply me with all needful helps in learning thy truth; for how can I know it except I be guided ? Shew me the power of that truth as it is in Jesus, I beseech thee; and affect my heart to feel the faith which my mind receives, so that I may ever be able to rejoice in saying, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” AMEN.
The conversion of Saul. PLACE.-Samaria. TIME.-About May, A.D. 37.
May God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, give me the Holy Spirit, that I may understand this portion of His Holy Word, and profit by it. Amen.
THE SCRIPTURE. Acts, chap. IX. verses 1 to 19 (pt.); with chap. XXII.
verses 3 to 16; and chap. XXVI. verses 4, 5, 9 to 18.
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him 2 letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way [of the way], whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus : 3 and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven : and he 4 fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, “Saul; Saul, why persecutest thou me?" And he said, “ Who art thou, Lord ?” And the 5
Lord said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to 6 kick against the pricks.” And he trembling and astonished said, “ Lord,
what wilt thou have me to do?” And the Lord said unto him, “ Arise, 7 and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” And
the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but 8 seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were
opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him 9 into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did
eat nor drink. 10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias ; and to
him said the Lord in a vision, “ Ananias.” And he said, “ Behold, I am 11 here, Lord.” And the Lord said unto him, “Arise, and go into the
street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one 12 called Saul, of Tarsus : for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision
a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he 13 might receive his sight.” Then Ananias answered, “ Lord, I have heard
by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jeru14 salem : and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that 15 call on thy name." But the Lord said unto him, “Go thy way: for he
is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and 16 kings, and the children of Israel : for I will shew him how great things 17 he must suffer for my name's sake.” And Ananias went his way, and
entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, “ Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou
camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled 18 with the Holy Ghost.” And immediately there fell from his eyes as it
had been scales : and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was 19 baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened.
Acts XXII. verses 3 to 16. 3 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet
brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to
the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward 4 God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, 5 binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the
high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders : from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus
to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished? 6 And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh
unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great 7 light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice 8 saying unto me, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?' And I
answered, “Who art thou, Lord ?' And he said unto me, 'I am Jesus 9 of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.' And they that were with me saw