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means of grace? It pleases the Most —had been by no means sufficient to High God oftentimes to reveal himself satisfy his revengefulspirit. His cruelty to the sons of men when they are at- to the disciples of the Lord seemed to be tending the ministry of his word. heightened as he proceeded. What was They have been brought to repentance probably at first only a warm attempt under the sermon of a minister, whose to protect the religion of his foredoctrine they rather came to ridicule fathers from the encroaching zeal of than to respect. The word has reached the Christians, seemed really to have the heart and turned the stone to been exasperated into an unmitigated flesh; they have thrown down the thirst for the wastefulness of Chris. weapons of their rebellion, and
tian blood. His very subsistence aping as they looked upon those weapons, peared to depend on the gratification they have acknowledged the force of of his rage. His sword was always all conquering mercy. But the Apos- kept unsheathed ; and he had a fierce tle Paul at the time of his conversion satisfaction in forcing the poor
Chriswas not only not asking for mercy, he tians to taste the last dregs of the cup was not in the way of asking it-he of bitterness which he placed before was neither hearing, nor reading, nor them. But, brethren, I cannot dwell praying. He could not probably at on the dark story of the wrongs and any time have been more unprepared wretchedness, which the church of to receive any manifestations of the church of Christ for a while endured Divine regard.
at the hands of Saul of Tarsus. I He was engaged in a journey of ini cannot go into the detail of what wereaquity; in open defiance of the Son of dily may conceive to have been his mer. God, crucifying him afresh, and put- ciless and unpitying indiscriminate bar. ting him to an open shame. He had barity. Let it suffice to tell you, then, received letters from the High Priest, that multitudes of pious and peaceful the highest authority of the Jewish peo- believers, both men and women, were ple, to go to the synagogue at Damas- driven from their homes and families ; cus; that if he found any of the dis- hunted like wild beasts, persecuted ciples of Christ, whether they were even unto strange cities; punished oft men or women, he might bring them in every synagogue; compelled even bound unto Jerusalem. “And he went to blaspheme, and at last sent down forth breathing out threatenings and with violence and butchery to the slaughter against the disciples of the grave.
No wonder, then, that Saul of Tartion more strikingly descriptive of a sus became the theme of universal apmind abandoned to the fiercest ex- prehension. Every little village, in tremes of persecuting rage ;
which were faithful followers of the ing out threatenings and slaughter,” Lamb, lived in constant dread of him. as the panting of a beast of prey; and He was an evil that walked in darktruly no savage beast of prey is so ness, and a destruction that wasted at savage as a persecutor; no hyena of the noon-day. For about noon it was desert is so malignant as the malice of on the day of his marvellous, memorathat carnal mind which is enmity ble, and miraculous conversion, (miraagainst God. Saul also, it is said, culous in point of manner and circum
“ still breathing out threaten- stance, though not miraculous in point ings.” The havoc he had already made of principle) as he made his journey, the injury he had already done—the in- and was come nigh unto Damascus, offensive families he had already ruined he saw in the way a light from heaven,
Lord.” I can conceive no representa
above the brightness of the sun, shin- stance in all his previous life had ing round about him and them that power to do. He had witnessed the journeyed with him. He dropped to martyrdom of Stephen when he was a the ground trembling and astonished young man—and tenderness of spirit and heard a voice speaking unto him peculiarly befits the young-he had and saying in the Hebrew tongue, heard, without emotion, that dying "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? prayer—" Lord, lay not this sin to It is hard for thee to kick against the their charge :" he had seen pourtrayed prick." The very first question, which in Stephen's countenance that powerthe suddenness of this arrest prompted ful and serene tranquillity which swal. his agitated spirit to ask, was—"Who lowed up the agony of a cruel death. art thou Lord ?" “ I am Jesus whom All this he had seen, and yet remained thou persecutest.” It was that very unmoved ! but the moment Jesus laid Saviour whose humble disciples had his finger on his heart, it melted. been so outrageously assailed, who Trace, then, the sequel of this innow stopped short the persecutor interesting history. His heart is changhis career of vengeance. And with ed. Behold he prayeth ; and conwhat array of majesty was the Re- secrates the remainder of his life to deemer seen to make his appearance? the service of His Redeemer. Faith Did the lightnings flash, or the thun- now takes that place in his heart ders roll, to bespeak the presence of which formerly was held by unbelief, the incarnate God? No, although the and love succeeds to rage and malice. all-gracious Saviour descends from The lion is turned into a lamb, and heaven low enough to be visible, yet no a little child may lead it. The perterror clothes his brow. He ap- secutor becomes an Apostle. He is proaches near enough to be heard, but straightway in the synagogue, and his words are not spears and arrows, preaches the faith which once he des. neither be they very swords. His troyed. Now, brethren, consider only language is not—"O thou child of the journeys, which after this methe devil"-" I have found thee, O morable event he took—the sufferings mine enemy." No, nothing but the he endured—the sermons he deliveredmost tender expostulation. “ Saul, the epistles he wrote, and the churches Saul, why persecutest thou me?" For he planted : hear him, at the close of three and thirty years I lived in thy a life the most laborious and unernation—I went about constantly doing ampled, exultingly exclaiming—“I am good—I opened the eyes of the blind now ready to be offered, and the time -I unstopped the ears of the deaf-1 of my departure is at hand,”-consi. gave feet to the lame-health to the der, I say, all this, and then conceive diseased—and life to the dead. I am what the Apostle must have felt when. Jesus whom thou persecutest, the ever he uttered the expressions of the Saviour of others and of THEE.
text, “ But I obtained mercy." The blow which his vindictive tem. But I hasten to the THIRD part of per now received was fatal : he in the subject. AND WHAT A GLORIOUS stantly falls a victim to the agonies of DISPLAY IS HEREIN MADE OF THE Dı. a wounded spirit. All the wrath of vine CHARACTER. the persecutor is gone; all the pride of Paul obtained mercy in spite of all the Pharisee is gone; and the whole his rebellion. The very form of his fabric of his self-righteousness is struck expression in the text throws us back to the ground for ever.
One word on the words which immediately preJesus did that which no circum- cede it—“who was before a blasphemer,
and a persecutor, and injurious; but I gion and happiness, which the piety obtained mercy.” Had we beheld his and zeal of his excellent father, Hezeunchecked fury, his exceeding mad- kiah, had just brought to perfection ; ness against the disciples of Jesus, we forsaking the worship of Jehovah, in should assuredly have said, that if which his holy father had so carefully there were heavier chains, or a deeper instructed him; setting up an image dungeon in the world of woe, they of Baal in that very part of the sancwould certainly be reserved for such tuary, wherein Jehovah had fixed his an implacable enemy of true godli- peculiar residence; devoting his own ness. And yet, brethren, I charge you children to the heathen gods, causing to admire the inexhaustible richness of them to pass through the fire to Mothe grace of God-even this man, this loch; putting to death an immense Saul of Tarsus, is admitted into the number of the Lord's prophets; shedgoodly fellowship of the prophets, is ding innocent blood, till he had filled numbered with the noble army of Jerusalem from one end to another; Martyrs, and makes a distinguished causing even the venerable and evanfigure in the glorious company of the gelical Isaiah, who had been his faApostles.
ther's friend and counsellor, to be And if you ask why all this was the sawn asunder," as an example of Apostle himself shall tell you. “For peculiar vengeance; and, in short, not this cause," says he, “ I obtained only multiplying to an extravagant demercy, that in me, first-not first in gree his own sacrilegious impieties, but order of time, but first in rank, first poisoning the principles, and pervertin guilt, first in eminence as a sinner ing the manners of his subjects ; making -in me who have sinned more daringly them do worse than the most detest- than others—who stand foremost in able of heathen idolaters. the list of desperate offenders—in me, But even this haughty rebel was Jesus Christ might shew forth all long subdued; the Assyrians invaded the suffering”-such long suffering as none land ; Manasseh was taken prisoner, but a God can shew-an obstinacy of deprived of his kingdom, and led capkindness opposed to an obstinacy of tive to Babylon. His imprisonment, transgression—" for a pattern to them under the blessing of God's Holy which should hereafter believe on him Spirit, awakened him to reflection. to life everlasting !" Oh, brethren, He saw and confessed the baseness of what a verse is this ! And what a his former life, and cried unto God sermon might be preached on this verse, for mercy; that mercy, which is if only our hearts were in it as they vouchsafed to all who seek it in the ought to be! But blessed be our God! way of God's appointment, was grantThis is not the only display we have ed to Manasseh ; and he, who had once of this lovely attribute of mercy. St. exhibited as sad a specimen, as ever was Paul is not the only trophy of forgiving exhibited of the desperate depravity of goodness.
the human heart, became a child of Go and look at Manasseh-that forgiving love, and an heir of immortal monster of barbarity—that youthful glory. adept in all iniquity-read over the record of the atrocious wickedness case of the Corinthian church. I need which marked his earlier years. Be- not tell you that the inhabitants of hold him as soon as he had succeeded Corinth were proverbially abandoned to the throne of Judah, tearing down and corrupt. Some of them indulged that goodly structure of national reli- in such abominable vices, and habi.
the Then, brethren, look next at the
tuated themselves to such outrages and racter—drag Him before a heathen acts of injustice as were a reproach to tribunal—and extort a sentence of human nature. And yet, even these death against innocence and holiness sons of violence, and slaves of sensua- itself. Never was the vilest slave so lity, were washed, were sanctified, cruelly treated, nor the most criminal were justified. They were washed in malefactor so barbarously executed. the precious blood of a dying Redeemer; The sun was confounded the earth sanctified by the powerful operations of itself trembled at the horrid scene; the blessed Spirit; and justified through and we wonder much how the avengthe infinitely tender mercies of a gra- | ing lightnings could withhold their cious God. Those, who were once the flashes. But, behold the triumphburden of the earth, are now the joy ant goodness of God our Saviour ! of heaven, and the delight of angels. Many even of these murderers obtained But the time would unquestionably mercy; for, at the subsequent descent fail to tell of all the triumphs of re- of the Holy Spirit, they were condeeming mercy. I will only mention, vinced of their sins, were wounded therefore, one other instance in Scrip- with penitential remorse, fed to the ture, which most loudly publishes sanctuary of the cross, and received a that sweetest of the Divine names, full, free, and eternal pardon. And “ The LORD, the LORD God, merciful now are they shining in the kingdom and gracious, long-suffering, and of heaven as so many everlasting mo. abundant in goodness and truth, keep- numents of exuberant mercy, and are ing mercy for thousands, forgiving ini. receiving blessings past utterance from quity, transgression, and sin.” It is that very Redeemer, whom, once, with an instance which exceeds not only all wicked hands they crucified and slew. that I have mentioned, but all that can
Well, then, might the prophet cry be imagined; and which, if I were to out with rapturous amazement, “Who be so careless as to forget it, the very is a God like unto thee, that pardon. stones might cry out and sound it in eth iniquity, and passeth by transgiesmy ears. I mean the case of those sion.” Truly may it be said that He is who murdered the Prince of Peace and plenteous in mercy, that He is rich in Lord of Glory. If any sinners were mercy, that He keepeth mercy for thouunpardonable, we may surely think sands, that His mercy is from ever. these were. If any transgressors de- lasting to everlasting; that it is even served to be consigned to irrevocable greater than the heavens, and more wrath and the severest torments, these extensive than the dimensions of the did. They had not the shadow of an sky. Brethren, have ye ever dwelt for excuse for their crime; hardly a single an instant on the thought, that the circumstance to extenuate their guilt. mercy of God is greater than the heavens? They had been well acquainted with Lift your eyes to that azure canopy the exemplary conversation of Jesus of spread over your heads, embroidered Nazareth; they had often heard his with radiant stars, and spacious enough heavenly doctrines ; they were almost to form a covering for unnumbered daily witnesses of his unequalled mi. worlds. Where does it begin? Where racles. They had, therefore, all pos- does it end? What is its extent ? If you sible reason to honour Him, as the are yourselves unable to answer these most illustrious of beings, and to re- questions, carry them to angels. They ceive His Gospel as the most ines- are perpetually going this immense timable of blessings. And yet they circuit; and yet, even angels cannot seize his person—asperse his cha- measure the bounds of space-because that space is boundless and unknown. collect how the Lord found you, when What then shall we say of “the mercy you sought Him not, and brought you of God,” which is greater than the by a way that you know not, and led you heavens ?” which pardons crimes the in paths that you had not known; and most atrocious, and with perfect free- made darkness light before you, and ness; because of the Redeemer's Me- crooked things straight. These things diation : yea, pardons them more rea. He did unto you and has not since fordily, if it were possible, than the wide- saken you. Notwithstanding your many spread arch of heaven covers within its provocations, He has not been weary circuit, a ridge of mountains, or even of doing you good. He still bears a single grain of sand. Let all fesh with you; still accepts you ; still know assuredly, let all flesh rejoice treats you with kindness; still degreatly, that with the Lord there is signs your never-ending happiness. such mercy, and with his Christ such And surely you cannot think on all plentiful redemption. Oh! for the this unmerited mercy, on all this unvoice of an archangel to circulate the deserved, spontaneous goodness to you, glad tidings throughout the world, and not call upon your souls and all that, through the infinitely great pro- that is within you to “ bless His Holy pitiation of the adorable Redeemer, all name; who forgiveth all thine ini. manner of sin, barbarity, and blasphe- quities ; who healeth all thy diseases ; my are forgiven unto men.
and crowneth thee with loving-kindAnd if these things be so, brethren, ness and tender mercies.” let me, in conCLUSION, address a few But you will observe, Secondly, words to you.
from this subject, that no man can be And my First remark is this saved but on this principle of mercy. the subject we have been considering If, then, brethren, you die without speaks with a voice of power to you who obtaining mercy, your souls are placed have obtained mercy. It calls upon in peril-you are lost for ever. There you to review the grace that has been is only one of two principles on which bestowed upon you. It bids you re- any human being can be saved-the member where you were, and what principle of merit, or the principle of you were, when you first obtained mercy. But the principle of merit will mercy. “Hearken to me, then, ye not do. The law of our God requires that follow after righteousness ; ye that perfect, unsinning obedience, and it seek the Lord.” Look unto the rock must require perfect obedience, bewhence ye were hewn, and to the hole cause it is a perfect law; and it must of the pit whence ye were digged." be a perfect law, because nothing but Retrace in your memory the circum- perfection can emanate from perfecstances of your conversion to God. tion. The law of God must be perLook back on the rise and progress of fect as the nature of God. If then, religion in your soul. Call to mind after having the alternative fairly prothe original deadness of your heart to posed to you in the Gospel, of appearspiritual things; when you neither ing at the bar of God in the merits of saw nor felt that you were a lost and your own obedience, and being tried miserable sinner ready to perish; by it, or on the merits of Christ's obehaving no strength and no goodness of dience, and being blessed by it, how your own; and must be saved, if sav. will you be dealt with, if, putting away ed at all, by the abundant mercy of all dependence on Divine mercy-or God in Christ Jesus. Compare your what is equally dangerous, blending state then with your state now. Re- your dependence on the Divine mercy