Sermon 3084. Paul's Parenthesis
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 1908.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, APRIL 26, 1874.
"By the Grace of God I am what I am." 1 Corinthians 15:10.
[Another Sermon by Mr. Spurgeon on the same passage is #2833, Volume 49-LESSONS ON DIVINE GRACE]
IF you will read the context of this passage, you will find that these words occur in one of Paul's digressions, or parenthesis.He was a writer who very frequently went off at a tangent-he often left the subject on which he was writing, turned his thoughtsin quite another direction-and then came back and went on with the subject which he had left for a while. In this respect,I have often, in my own mind, likened the Apostle Paul to Samson. When he was on the road to Timnah with his father and mother,he turned aside to slay the lion and afterwards to find the honey in the carcass. And each time he came back to his parents,just as if nothing had happened. So the Apostle Paul often turns aside from some grand argument upon which he is engaged andsays something very valuable and important upon quite another topic-and then comes back again and calmly and deliberatelygoes on with his argument!
There are some kinds of parenthesis which we can always excuse and, indeed, commend. For instance, the parenthesis of prayer.When we are engaged in any duty, it will not delay us-really we shall make all the better speed-if we pause for a while topray. I like to think of the Apostle Paul, while he was writing that grand Epistle to the Ephesians, turning aside from hismain argument to offer that great prayer, "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whomthe whole family in Heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His Glory, to be strengthenedwith might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and groundedin love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know thelove of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the
fullness of God." [See Sermon #707, Volume 12-HEAVENLY GEOMETRY] His
argument would not suffer in the least-indeed it would be all the stronger for that little interval of prayer! At anothertime, it is very sweet to see how he pauses, after recording the Lord's abundant mercy to him, to write that notable doxology,"Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and Glory forever and ever. Amen." Such parenthesisof prayer and praise must be acceptable to the Most High.
Our text, then, is found in a digression of an exceedingly blessed kind. It would be well if preachers would digress thusnowadays, if by digressing they preached more of Free Grace and more about the Lord Jesus Christ! I have heard of a preacherwho, on one occasion, when he entered his pulpit, found himself suddenly stricken with blindness. I think it was old Dr. Gouge,the great Puritan. Being unable to read the discourse which he had taken up with him, and being a man of unusual calmnessof spirit, instead of making any outcry, or telling the people that he had lost the use of his eyes, he preached extemporaneously.And when he came down from the pulpit, a woman thanked him for the sermon. "Alas," said the good man, "a great calamity hashappened to me. I have lost my sight." "Blessed be God for that," said the woman, "if it makes you give up reading your sermonsand enables you to preach as you have just done." It is a good thing when a preacher loses the thread of his discourse ifhis discourse is made of thread, and he goes straight away to the Cross, and begins talking about Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.Or if he has been wandering in the mazes of modern thought, it is well when he gets back into the old paths and preaches aboutthe Grace of God. That is, if he can declare, as Paul does here, "By the Grace of God I am what I am." God grant that theywho preach Free Grace Doctrines may never
get out of the habit of doing so! And may those who have almost forgotten the sound of the word, Grace-and those who neverknew the music of it-be made to lose their way until they ramble into the blessed neighborhood of the Sovereign Grace of God,for I am sure that nothing but the Gospel of the Grace of God will ever drive Popery out of this country! The only antagonistthat can ever overcome the self-righteousness and priestcraft of Romanism and Ritualism is a clear, bald, outspoken declarationof the great Truth of God that by the Grace of God the saints of God are what they are!
I. Coming to the text and speaking simply and plainly, and praying that God may speak to your hearts through my words, I wantto prove to you, first, that THE TEXT CONTAINS A DOCTRINAL STATEMENT. "By the Grace of God I am what I am."
And that statement may be read, first, as meaning this-that Paul ascribed his own salvation to the free favor of God. He believedhimself to be a regenerate man, a forgiven man, a saved man-and he believed that condition of his was the result of the unmeritedfavor of God. He did not imagine that he was saved because he deservedsalvation, or that he had been forgiven because hisrepentance had made an atonement for his sin! He did not reckon that his prayers had merited salvation, or that his abundantlabors and many sufferings had earned that gift for him at God's hands. No, he does not for a moment speak of merit-it isa word which Paul's mouth could not pronounce in such a connection as that. His declaration is, "It is by God's free favorthat I, Saul of Tarsus, have been converted, and made into Paul the Apostle, the servant of Jesus Christ. I attribute thisgreat change entirely to the goodwill, the Sovereign benignity, the undeserved favor of the ever-blessed God."
Now, my dear Hearers, let me put this Truth very plainly, so that you may not mistake it. If you are saved, you do not oweyour salvation to anything that you have done. Nor, if you ever are to besaved, will it be the result of any goodness of yourown. You may spin, but if you are ever saved, the first thing God will do will be to unravel that which you have spun. Youmay clothe yourself in the gaudy garments of a self-made righteousness, but God's first act of Grace will be to strip youof them and to make you feel that all such garments are nothing but filthy rags, fit only for the fire. You must deny yourown merits, or you cannot have the merits of Christ! Your Church attendance, your Chapel attendance, your Baptism, your so-calledsacraments, your confirmation, your private prayers, your family prayers, your Bible readings, your good thoughts, your almsdeeds-all these put together have no merit in them that could help you to go an inch towards salvation! Salvation is not ofworks, but of Grace alone! And they who do not obtain salvation in this way will as surely perish as the blasphemer and thedrunk! There is but one way of salvation-the way of free favor. That was the way in which Paul went and that is the way inwhich we must go if we would enter into eternal life!
The word, Grace, in Scripture, also means something else besides free favor-it very often means operative power. When theSpirit of God works savingly upon the heart, the influence which He exerts is called His Grace. So the Apostle means here,"By the Grace of God I am what I am" that is, "Whatever I am that is right, God made me that. If I am regenerate, I must havebeen born-again from above by the power of God. If I have repented, my repentance was the gift of God. If I have believed,my faith was the work of God. If I have perseverance in faith, that perseverance has been the effect of the work of God inmy soul. If I have ever prayed an acceptable prayer, it was God's Grace that enabled me to do it. If I have ever sung God'spraise so as to please Him, that praise was first written in my heart by the Holy Spirit."
"What have you which you have not received?" is a question to which the answer from every true heart is, "I have nothing whichI have not received, except my sin. But all I have that is good must have come from God." If any of you are to be saved, Godmust save you. Sinner, you are lost, and lost beyond recovery by any hand but that which is Divine and Omnipotent! "It isnot of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy." Let that text roll like thunder over the headsof those who think that they can save themselves. The Lord must do it from first to last! His is the first act of Grace whenHe quickens the spiritually dead-and His must be the last act of Grace when we lay down our vile bodies and our spirit entersinto the joy of our Lord!
Now, these two things being true, and being surely believed among us, that salvation is by the free favor of God and thatit is by the power of Divine Grace, I think I may say that if Paul had been here, he would have pushed this matter a littlefurther. There are some of our dear Brothers and Sisters, and true Brothers and Sisters, too, who do not see the Doctrinesof Grace quite clearly. They see men as trees walking, for they seem to attribute the fact of their salvation in part to themselves.I do not say as to merit, for I believe they abhor that idea. And I do not say as to power, for I believe
they hold as earnestly as we do that the sinner is dead in sin and that the power to act comes from the Holy Spirit. But,somehow or other, they make a great deal more of man's will than I think they should, just as, on the other hand, some speaktoo little of the will of man and treat men as if they had not any wills, but were so many logs of wood! There is Truth ofGod on both sides of the question and, as some of my Brothers preach the other view of the Truth, I will preach that viewof it which my text gives me.
If I am a saved man, how came I to be saved? Somebody asks, "But why are you saved, and not other men?" My dear Friend, thereare two questions there, so I must take them one at a time. Will you kindly let me take the first one, only altering it thus-Whyare you saved? If you are saved, there is a great difference between you and others who are not saved. You were once a loverof pleasure and of the world, but you are now a lover of God. Now, somebody made that difference, and whoever did it did agood job, so let his head be crowned! Here is the crown. Now, Sirs, upon whose head shall I put it? Have you made yourselfto differfrom what you used to be, and from what others still are? Are you prepared to wear the crown? You bow your head andsay, "Oh, no! Let the Lord have the Glory of it." Well, then, it is quite evident that God has made a difference between youand others and that it was a commendable thing for Him to do so. And as it was commendable for God to do it, it must havebeen so for God to purpose to do it. And if it was commendable for Him to purpose to do it the day He did it, it was commendablefor Him to purpose to do it from all eternity! And thus we get back to the old and glorious decrees and Covenant of DivineGrace of which some are so afraid, though, as surely as this Book is written of God, it stands there that He has, "from thebeginning," chosen His people unto salvation. "By the Grace of God I am what I am."
If there is an Antinomian here, he will very boldly declare the meaning of this passage. But I will speak as boldly as hedoes and dare to do it with the Truth of God on my side! I am sure that this is pure unadulterated Truth of God, that Grace,Grace, Grace, Grace saves the soul from beginning to end. But if you ask me, "Why is a man lost?" then the Antinomian andI will differ altogether. I say if he is lost, it is his own fault-it is his sin and his willful rejection of Christ thatcause him to be lost. And if there is any Arminian here who will lay the guilt of sin on the sinner's conscience, I can dothat as much as he can, and I believe I shall have Scripture with me in so doing! Damnation is all of man from first to last-andsalvation is all of Grace from first to last! Someone asks, "How do these two things agree?" No, Brother, how do these twothings disagree? If you will tell me when they quarrel, I will try to reconcile them. They stand in this Book side by sideas two grand Inspired Truths of God and they should be preached side by side! They never did fall out and they never will.If you love self-righteousness, they will quarrel with you-but they will never quarrel with each other.
II. Now, secondly, I shall briefly treat our text, AS A GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT. Here is a child of God who stood very highamong his fellow Believers, one who had many gifts, much Grace, great success, and high honor in the Church-yet he says, "Bythe Grace of God I am what I am." It would be right for any of us who are nobodies, and who never did anything, to talk thus.But this is Paul who is speaking, the one who could truthfully say, "I was not a whit behind the very chief Apostles." Yethe says, "By the Grace of God I am what I am."
Paul's grateful acknowledgment means, first, that he forbade himself ever to boast. Why should he boast? Whatever he had thatwas good had been given to him by the great Benefactor, so he might well have said, "What have I in which I can glory? I amnothing and I have done nothing except what God has made me, and what His Grace has worked in me and by me." Beloved Friends,it is an astonishing thing that we should be the subjects of pride! Yet, considering what poor creatures we are, it is notastonishing that we are proud, or that we are anything that is bad. But if we are proud, what fools we are! Proud?-just aheap of dust and ashes that the wind would blow away if it were not for a daily miracles-just a mass of corruption that wouldbe putrefying in a few hours if the life were gone out of it! Yet we sell out and think ourselves some great ones-and, oh,what big somebodies we are until the Grace of God brings us down to our proper level! The heavens themselves are scarcelyhigh enough for our tall heads, we think ourselves so great! But it is a deathblow to boasting when anyone can say, "By theGrace of God I am what I am."
And, dear Friends, this grateful acknowledgment incites us to holy service. If everything that we have already received hascome from God, let us surrender ourselves and all we have to God! As He has made us, let us live for our Creator! As He hasworked all our works in us, let us give up to Him our spirit, soul, and body as our reasonable service.
Debtors to Free Grace as we are, if others talk about good works, let us go and do them! While the idle dream of self-righteousnessleads some men to make sacrifices, let gratitude for Free Grace compel us to make still greater sacrifices.
Moreover, our text, I think, as a grateful acknowledgment, leads us to further confidence in God. If by the Grace of God Iam what I am, then by the Grace of God I shall be, by-and-by, something better. He who has brought us to repent and to believewill bring us to greater faith, to fuller assurance and to completer conformity to Christ. And He will preserve us unto theend. When any tell us that God will leave us to perish at the last, I never care to answer them, for it always seem to methat those who talk so of my Master do not know Him. What? Leave His beloved, leave His spouse, leave the members of His ownbody to perish? It is useless to tell us that! He loves His own with too mighty a love to ever cast them away. Let otherssay what they will, I join with Paul in saying, "By the Grace of God I am what I am" and I am persuaded that, by that sameGrace, I shall one day be with Christ and be like He. You who are not the subjects of Divine Grace may well fear that youwill perish! But you who have received God's Grace may rest assured that since Grace was the motive which began the good workin you, the same motive will continue even to the end! If God had begun saving us because we were good, He would, of course,leave off saving us when we were not good! If he had begun to save us because we were pure in heart and gracious in life,He would leave off when we ceased to be so. But as He began to save us from no motive but His own Sovereign determinationto save us, how can that be affected by anything that may happen to us? So let us fall back upon this comforting assurance-bythe Grace of God we are what we are, and by the Grace of God we shall one day share Christ's Glory!
III. I will not say more upon that part of the subject, though it is one upon which I might profitably talk for an hour. But,in the third place, I want you to regard the text as A SWEET ENCOURAGEMENT.
A sweet encouragement to whom? Why, first, to the minister Beloved Friends, he who is now speaking to you feels himself tobe a marvel of the Grace of God and he can say to you honestly and without any mock humility, that since God saved him, hehas never doubted the possibility of the salvation of anyone else of the whole human race! Preserved from outward sin of thegrosser kind, I nevertheless had for some years such a full sense of my own depravity and such a horror of darkness on accountof the evil that I saw within myself, that I can have sympathy with the most despairing soul that is here. If you are sittingat Hell's dark door, I can tell you that I sat there month after month! And if you are tempted even to destroy yourself, Ican assure you that I have known the misery that Job felt when he said, "My soul chooses strangling and death rather thanmy life." Yet I am saved by the Sovereign Grace of God, Glory be to His holy name! If the Lord sent me to preach the Gospelto the devil, himself, I would believe that God was able to convert even him! I know that He never will, but if there is anyman who is as bad as the devil, and the Gospel is sent to him, I shall never despair of the possibility of that man beingreclaimed and made to stand among the redeemed at the last!
I know that there are many here who were drunks, swearers and worse than that-but they have obtained mercy, they have beenwashed in the precious blood of Jesus-and tonight they are rejoicing that their many sins have been forgiven them for Christ'ssake! Those who have been in such a plight as that do not despair of the salvation of the greatest sinners here. You havegone far into sin, but you have seen another saved who was once just what you now are, so why should you not be saved? Therehave been murderers saved, then why not you if your hands are red with the blood of others? There was a thief who was savedat the last hour, then why not you if you are a thief? There have been many Magdalens saved, then why not you if you belongto that sad sisterhood? O you who lie despairing at the gates of Hell, the silver trumpet of the Gospel is sounded in yourears by one who has enjoyed the music of it in his own soul! What an encouragement it is to the preacher when he can stay,"By the Grace of God I am what I am!"
And what an encouragement it should be to the hearer when he is told that salvation is all of Grace! If Christ came to youand said, "You cannot be saved unless you perform so many good works," there would be no hope for the most of you, thoughI fear that there are some who think that such a message would just suit them, for they fancy that they have done a greatmany good works. In cherishing that delusion, they are like a Hindu of whom I once heard. He believed that he must not eatany animal substance, or that if he did, he would perish. A missionary said to him, "That idea is ridiculous. Why, you cannotdrink a glass of water without swallowing thousands of living creatures." He did not believe it, so the missionary took adrop of water and put it under a microscope. When the man saw the innumerable living creatures in the drop of water, whatdid he do? Why, he broke the microscope! That was his way of settling the question. So, when we meet with persons who say,"Our works are pure, clean and excellent," we bring the great
microscope of the Law of the Lord, and we bid them look through that. And when they dolook through it and discover that evenone sinful thoughtdestroys their hope of salvation by self-righteousness-and when they see a whole host of sins in their prayers,or acts, or thoughts-then they are angry with the preacher and they try to break the microscope! But, for all that, the Truthof God remains, "By the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the Law is the knowledge ofsin."
But salvation comes by Grace. Catch at that, Sinner, for if it is by Grace that sinners are saved, why should not you be saved?If a thing is given away, nobody can be too poor to have it. If it is the gift of charity, poverty is a recommendation ratherthan a hindrance. My Lord and Master does not tell me to come and say to you that salvation is by your own feelings. It wouldbe as impossible for you to feelright as to doright-but salvation is entirely by God's Grace! "But," says someone, "my heartis hard." Then come to God to have it softened! "But I have no good thing to bring Him." Then come to Him for every good thing!"But I cannot even bring a sense of need." Then come without a sense of need-for the man who feels that he has not a senseof need is often the one who has the best sense of need! He who says, "I have at last a sense of need," shows that he hasnot yet got to the bottom, for if he were brought to the bottom, he would feel that he had not any feeling-he would groanthat he could not groan and grieve that he could not grieve! Dear Friends, you have to do nothing, and to be nothing, andto feel nothing by way of fitness for salvation-but just come and accept, free, gratis, for nothing-the abundant mercy ofGod in Christ Jesus! He is the empty sinner's fullness, the dead sinner's life, the perishing sinner's salvation! I do notknow any Truth of God that can encourage poor sinful souls to pray, to repent and to believe in Jesus except the Truth thatsalvation is all of Grace from first to last! As the Apostle was saved by Grace, so must it be with all the rest of us-andso may it be with you!
IV. Now, to close, I think our text gives us A SUGGESTION FOR SELF-EXAMINATION.
"By the Grace of God I am what I am," says Paul. And I want each one of you to ask yourself, "What am I?"My eyes cannot reachyou all, but I want you to feel that God's eyes are looking at you and that He puts this question to you, "What are you?"Paul tells us what he is, but what are you? An unregenerate sinner? An unpardoned sinner? An impenitent sinner? An unbelievingsinner? Will you put on the right label and wear it? I almost wish I had some labels to put on you, but let your own consciencesdo it-and when you get home, will you take your pen and write down what you really are? You are either condemned or uncondemned!Write down whichever you are and look the truth in the face. No man is usually so near bankruptcy as the one who dares notlook into his books-and that man must be bad who dares not search his own heart. What are you, then, dear Friend? Let thatquestion begin your self-examination.
Here is another question, How much do you know about the Grace of God? Paul says, "By the Grace of God I am what I am." Yousee that the mark of a child of God is that by the Grace of God he is what he is-what do you know about the Grace of God?"Well, I attend my place of worship regularly." But what do you know about the Grace of God? "I have always been an upright,honest, truthful, respectable man." I am glad to hear it. But what do you know about the Grace of God? You think you do notneed it, though you are not a saved soul-yet none are so certainly lost as those who think they do not need the Grace of God.Has that Grace ever changed you?' 'Well, I was born-again in baptism." Yes, I have seen a great many of those who were saidto have been born-again in baptism, but I have not seen any difference between them and those who were not born-again in baptism!And nor can anybody else. "You must be born-again," even you baptized heathens who know no more about the Grace of God thanif you had never lived in a land where the Gospel is preached!
I will put to you another straight question, Is Christ Jesus your only hope?Were you ever made to feel that there was no meritin anything that you ever did? Were you ever thrown flat on your face on the Grace and mercy of God, and made to pray, inthe name of Jesus Christ, "God be merciful to me a sinner"? If not, what is your hope? If there is, in the matter of yoursupposed salvation, anything that is not of the Grace of God, do with it what the man did with the forged bill-bury it inthe earth and run away from it-and be afraid that anybody should think it was yours. Your own righteousness is such an abominablething that it will as surely damn you as the greatest profanity! The best thing for you to do with it is to bury it and runaway from it.
If you cannot say that you are what you want to be. If you cannot say that you know anything experimentally about the Graceof God, the last question I will put to you is this, What must that principle be which does rule you? The Grace of God madePaul what he was-what has made you what you are? "Well, Sir, I think I am as good as my neighbors, and rather better thanmost of them." Who made you so? I suppose you are a self-made man and it is a matter of fact that everybody worships his creator,so that if you believe that you made yourself, I am not surprised that you worship yourself. But I do wonder where you expectto go when you die, you who have never done any wrong, and have been so good that you do not need a Savior. Do you expectto go to Heaven? Well, if you could go there, what would you do? I read of the multitude that no man could number, "Theseare they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Thereforeare they before the Throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple." But if you could get there because your garmentsnever needed any washing, surely you would throw up your cap and say, "Well done myself!" And what a discord that would causein the music of Heaven! What a stranger you would feel among those multitudes who would all praise the blessed God! But youwill never go there until you fling that righteousness of yours back to the pit from whence it came, for there is nothingin it that God can look upon with pleasure. It is a vile compound of pride and ignorance. May the light of the Holy Spiritshine upon it and make you loathe it, hate it and flee from it! And may He teach you that there is life in Jesus, there ispardon in Jesus, there is salvation in Jesus for every soul that comes to Him! If you say, "By my own merits and abilitiesI am what I am," may God save you from that dreadful delusion and bring you humbly to trust in the merits and Sacrifice ofHis dear Son! So you shall find salvation and He shall have the Glory, world without end. Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: ACTS9:1-31.
Verse 1. And Saul, yet breathing out threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest Noticethat little word, "yet." "Saul yet breathing out threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord." But there was tobe a point beyond which he could not go. I pray God that there may be such a "yet" as that put into the histories of any herewho are opposing God and His Christ. "Saul, yet breathing out threats and slaughter"-as if they were his very breath, as ifhe only lived to blaspheme the name of Christ and to persecute His followers-"went unto the high priest."
2. And desired of him letters to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women,he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. He wanted his hunting ground enlarged! He had not enough to gratify his malice amongthe thousands of Believers in Jerusalem, so he must go to Damascus to hunt out the Christians there. Paul was always verythorough in all that he did. So, when he was a persecutor, he was a very bitter one. It mattered not to him whether the saintswere men or women. In ordinary warfare it is the custom to spare the women. A brave man is satisfied to fight with men likehimself-but a bigot's zeal knows no bounds-and so Saul asked for letters so that, "if he found any of this way, whether theywere men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem."
3. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus.The lion is about to leap upon his prey! The sheepfold lies in the valley andthe wolf surveys it from the hillside. "Alas for the Church of God at Damascus!" you and I would have said if we had beenthere.
3. And suddenly there shined round about him a light from Heaven.A supernatural blaze, as though Heaven's gate had been thrownopen and the Glory had come streaming down upon this rebellious man.
4. And he fell to the earth, and heard a Voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?Most people are convertedin a somewhat similar fashion to this. There is "a light from Heaven" shining through the Gospel upon them. They fall to theground in penitent self-abasement and then they hear the Voice of the Son of God speaking to their hearts. I do not mean thatthe external phenomena are the same as in the case of Saul of Tarsus, but the work is the same in its effects and in someof its processes. Saul "heard a Voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" It was a Divine Voice-majestic,piercing, affectionate, convincing. Saul's mind was of a deeply-logical kind, so Christ's question was an appeal to his reasoningfaculties-"Give the reason for your present action. 'Why do you persecute
5. And he said Who are You Lord? And the lord said, I am Jesus whom you persecute: it is hard for you to kick against thepricks.I do not doubt that he had been already pricked in his conscience and he had kicked out as an ox kicks against theox-goad when he is pricked by it to make him go forward. Saul was a man of strong will and determined
purpose. He had already felt in his own heart some of the sorrows that follow from a wrong course of life, yet he resolvedto persevere in it, so the Lord said to him, "It is hard for you to kick against the pricks." And if any of you resist thethrusts of conscience and the strivings of God's Spirit, you will be like a man with naked feet kicking against iron spikes,and hurting himself, but not injuring that against which he kicks.
6. And he, trembling and astonished, said Lord, what will You have me to do?This was a very natural question from one whohad always tried to live by doing. He had been a work-monger up to that very moment, so he naturally cried, "Lord, what willYou have me to do?"
6. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told you what you must do. "You must become adisciple and sit at the feet of another man, of a humbler sort, and you must learn from him." Christ will never teach us byvisions what we can learn by the ordinary means of instruction, nor will he work miracles where common methods may suffice.
7. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless. They were struck with astonishment-
7. Hearing a Voice, but seeing no man. A loud Voice stunned their ears, but they could not understand its message.
8, 9. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and broughthim into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. What a whirl of anguish must his mindhave been in all that time! The panorama of Stephen's martyrdom and of the holy men and women against whom he had breathedout threats and slaughter would pass before his inward eyes, even though his outward eyes were closed.
10, 11. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And hesaid, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquirein the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for behold, he prays. God knows where every sinner is- the street helives in, the number of the house, and the name of the owner of the house, so that he can find him when He pleases, or sendone of His servants to him. You remember what John Bunyan said to the Quaker who came to see him in prison? The Quaker saidto him, "Friend John, I am glad I have found you at last, for the Lord sent me to you, and I have been through half the prisonsin England trying to find you." "No, no," said Bunyan, "do not tell me that. The Lord did not send you to me, for He knowsI have been here all these years. If He had sent you, you would have come straight to the prison door." When the Lord callsa man to go on an errand for Him, He puts His finger on the right spot and says,
12. Andhas seen in a vision, a man named Ananias coming in, andputting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.Yousee how true Revelations fit into each other? Something is revealed to Ananias, and it is also revealed to Saul and, therefore,it is proved to be true. Some years ago, a brother told me that he had had it revealed to him that I was to let him preachfor me in the Tabernacle. I said that of course I would agree to that when it was revealed to me that I was to let him, butI did not believe in lopsided Revelations. You will find a great many of those crazy revelations about and you may generallyjudge them in some such common-sense way as that.
13-16. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to Your saints at Jerusalem:and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Your name. But the Lord said unto him, Go your 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 willshow him how great things he must suffer for My name's sake. He had made God's people suffer because of their loyalty to Christ-soit seemed only right that he, himself, should suffer for the same reason.
17, 18. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; andputting his hands on him, said, Brother Saul, the Lord, evenJesus, that appeared to you in the way as you came, has sent me, that you might receive your sight, and be filled with theHoly Spirit. And immediately there feel from his eyes, as it had been, scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose,and was baptized.As he believed in Jesus, it was right that he should confess his faith in the way that Christ appointed.
19. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened.Do admire the tenderness of the Holy Spirit in recording that Saulreceived meat and was strengthened. He had been without food or drink for three days and nights, so that it was as right forhim to partake of food as to confess his faith by being baptized!
19. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. Thus did the lion lie down with the lamb and thewolf with the kid!
20. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. How he must have startled his JewishBrothers and Sisters that day! They knew why he had come to Damascus, but, behold, he was preaching the very faith that hehad gone there to destroy!
21-25. But all that heard him were amazed, and said: is not this he that destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem,and came here for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength,and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. And after that many days were fulfilled,the Jews took counsel to kill him: but their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to killhim. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. I never heard of a more precious basketfulof material than that! Sometimes the greatest of men may owe their safety to the very poorest of instruments and I think itis the duty of a Christian to avoid trouble if he can, just as our Lord bade His disciples, when they were persecuted in onecity, to flee to another. Paul was carrying out that command of his Master. It was not cowardice-it was the very soul of courage-thathe might go elsewhere to proclaim the Gospel that he had received in Damascus.
26. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, andbelieved not that he was a disciple. They did not admit anybody and everybody into the Church. They guarded it as Christ'sChurch should be guarded, that unworthy people might not enter it. If any of you should be kept back a little while, you cansay to yourself, "Well, they kept back Paul." We are poor fallible creatures, but we try to judge rightly concerning thosewho wish to unite with us.
27-31. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the Apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way,and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them comingin and going out at Jerusalem, And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but theywent about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. Thenhad the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord,and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied. Blessed be God for such a conversion as that of Saul of Tarsus!