I Am Jesus; or,
"Christ's Conversion of Paul a Christian Evidence."
And immediately he began preaching Christ in the synagogues, saying, "He is indeed the Son of God!" Acts 9:20
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus has ever been considered one of the most conclusive evidences of the truth, and one of the most distinguished trophies of the power, of the Christian faith on record. So convincing and impressive indeed that a branch of the Christian Church has, in its devotional formula, appointed a distinct place for its special recognition and remembrance.
In what point of light however we view this triumph of the Savior's free and sovereign grace, it must afford instruction to the mind, comfort to the heart, and establishment to the faith of the Christian; and to the latest period of time exist as a monument of God's great love to sinners, holding out hope to the most despairing, and testifying that God, who had mercy upon Saul of Tarsus, will extend a like mercy to the vilest sinner seeking in penitence and faith a like interest in the Savior's pardoning grace. Such is His own testimony, "For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all patience, for a pattern to those who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting."
And then we read that, immediately after his conversion, "... he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, He is indeed the Son of God" Did we, in our present exposition, strictly adhere to these words, we should speak, in their order, of the preacher- as confirming the truth of Christianity; of the subject-matter of the preaching as evidencing the nature of Christianity; and of the place of the preaching as evidencing the triumph of Christianity. Without, however, pledging myself to a minute examination of each of these points in detail, we may yet keep them in view as landmarks guiding our present meditation upon the subject which we propose to illustrate by these words- The conversion of Said of Tarsus, an evidence of the truth of the Christian religion.
Christianity lacks no evidence. Occupying the central position of all truth, it attracts universal notice, challenges the closest scrutiny, and summons its testimony from every object and source. All modern attempts of infidelity to impugn the divinity, to sap and undermine the foundation of our holy faith, have been met, answered, and exploded a thousand times over: and the gospel of Christ has invariably come forth from the battle and the scrutiny, its evidence all the stronger, its glory all the brighter, wearing fresh laurels and girt with new strength. The discoveries of science and the march of intellect have but accumulated around the gospel increased proofs of its divinity, while the foes of our faith, retiring from the conflict discomforted and dismayed, have but foamed forth their shame and revenge as the billow hurled from the rock against which it thundered but which it could not move.
Let us look for a moment at his conversion. What were the moral antecedents of Saul of Tarsus? In general terms, he was what we all are by nature- the children of wrath, even as others. There breathes not an individual of the race who is not involved in the fall and wreck of humanity -whose nature is not originally and totally alienated and depraved, tainted by sin and accursed of God; who, dying in that state, unrenewed, unconverted by the Holy Spirit, must pass into eternity but to endure its inconceivable, indescribable, and never-ending woe. "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." "There is none righteous, no, not one."
Such is the testimony of Scripture. But in addition to that which we hold in common with him, there was a strong development of the carnal mind in Saul, which brought out his enmity against God in bold relief, and took the form of avowed and virulent hostility to Christ and His Church. Reviewing at a subsequent period this part of his history, he employs this language, "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. " "Being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities."
So sworn a foe of Christ, and so decided an enemy to the truth, he was the last man, we might have supposed, who would eventually become not only a convert to the faith, but one of its greatest and boldest preachers. One could scarcely have selected from the entire ranks of Christ's enemies, an individual less likely to become a disciple and apostle of the Savior. As soon might we have expected Caiaphas would have torn the ephod from his breast and the tiara from his brow, and, trampling them in the dust at the Savior's feet, avow himself henceforth Christ's follower. One would almost as soon have expected Pilate himself- the vacillating, temporizing Pilate- would have descended from his judgment-seat and have bowed the knee in homage to Christ, as that the bloodthirsty Saul of Tarsus, the bitter and relentless persecutor of the saints, should become a sincere believer in, and the chief apostle of, the Lord Jesus.
And yet mark the great change through which he passed. Armed with authority from the Sanhedrin to arrest all whom he found professing Christ, he himself was arrested by a higher power and for a nobler end. A glory brighter than the noontide sun shone around him. What was that glory? It was as though the Shekinah of the ancient temple had returned to earth with augmented and transcendent luster- It was the glory of Jesus which now shone around him with blinding and overpowering effulgence, from which there came a voice saying, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."
In a moment the rebel was disarmed, the foe was conquered, and the proud pharisee was smitten to the ground, conquered, regenerated, saved! By whom and by what was this remarkable and instantaneous revolution effected? Was it natural or supernatural? human or divine? Let the disciple of a cold, skeptical philosophy reply. By no process of training was this wonderful change preceded. In a moment, as in the twinkling of an eye, the cry burst from his lips, "Lord, what will you have me to do I?"
To what can we ascribe this extraordinary awakening, this remarkable revolution of thought and feeling, but the power of God? Behold the change! The hand that had just grasped the weapon that was to slay, was now uplifted in supplication. The knees that stood firm as a rock when Stephen was writhing in death's agonies now smote each other in fear. The eye that gloated upon the fast-flowing blood of Christ's first martyr now overflowed with tears of penitence. The man who was mad against the saints a moment before was now at the feet of Jesus pleading for mercy and suing for service. Again, I ask, is not this instance of regenerating power, of converting grace, an evidence of the divine nature of the religion of Christ such as all its enemies cannot gainsay, carrying conviction to every ingenuous, honest mind in favor of the divinity of that religion which could transform such a nature as Saul of Tarsus into the nature of God?
And what was his subsequent career? From that hour he became one of the greatest of saints and one of the foremost apostles of Christ. Follow him from the moment that he cried, "Lord, what will you have me to do?" until he closed his career by a martyr's death, and every candid mind must acknowledge that neither the history or the martyrology of the Christian Church ever presented a character more illustrative of the sovereign grace of Christ, and more demonstrative of the divine truth of Christianity than Paul's. My reader, why have I dwelt thus long and earnestly upon the conversion of Paul? Why, but to carry conviction home to your heart, as by the power of the Holy Spirit, of the truth that such must you become if you share the grace that made Paul what he was, and partake of the glory into which he has entered.
Conversion is essentially and unchangeably the same in every age, environment, and individual. The new birth is in all the regenerate alike the advent of a new nature in the soul, involving a new governing principle, new affections, a new mind, leading to a new and holy life, a life henceforth lived unto God. This new nature is divine, and, therefore, sinless. It is essentially different from our old nature, which we derive from the first Adam, and which, in common with the race, is wholly fallen and totally corrupt- not only 'very far gone,' but gone to the farthest distance from original righteousness, and to the utmost limit of sin. The testimony of God's word is explicit, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is none good, no, not one."
But, as I have remarked, regeneration is the implanting of a new nature in the believer, not the old mended and repaired. Hence the apostle John employs this striking language, personating the new nature in the regenerate- "Whoever is born of God, does not commit sin; for His seed remains in him: and he cannot sin because he is born of God." Corresponding with this is the language of the apostle Paul, "Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness," "and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created him."
Could language, even inspired by the Holy Spirit, be more explicit? Thus the regenerate man bears about with him two natures, essentially different, and yet ever in the closest union; deadly opposed, and yet inseparably united. Hence the apostle, referring to the Roman mode of punishment, speaks of his bearing about with him a body of death and corruption. "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" The interpretation which we thus present of the new nature in the believer will explain the spiritual conflict which the regenerate daily wage, and, not clearly understanding which, many of the Lord's people are led into much mental distress and spiritual bondage and fear.
You have often thought, O Christian, that you cannot possibly be a true child of God because of the battle raging within you, the law in your members warring against the law of your mind, and bringing you into captivity to the law of sin which is in your members. Oh, how mournfully have you travailed because of this! How have you made your bed to swim with tears, and the solitude of the desert to echo with sighs. But take heart, dear child of God! Were you "dead in trespasses and in sins," you would be insensible to the spiritual conflict of the "two armies" within you- the flesh and the spirit. Your conscience would be asleep, your heart motionless, your mind blinded, and your whole soul wrapped in the shroud of spiritual death. Satan and the world, too, would continue their efforts to renew the anodyne, and to rock the cradle of your spiritual slumber, lest you should awake from your sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ should give you light, and you should be saved.
Oh, what reason have you to thank God for the least evidence of spiritual feeling, for the faintest pulse of spiritual life, though it be but a sigh, a groan, a tear, a smiting on the breast, a breathing to heaven the prayer, "God be merciful to mea sinner!" Is the Spirit of God showing to you more deeply your sinfulness and poverty, your weakness and need? Do you seem in your own eye to grow worse and not better, viler and not holier, to go backward and not forward? Blessed teaching, beloved, is this! The schools could not instruct you thus. Philosophy could teach you no lesson like this. "Flesh and blood'" is impotent here.
Have you cast from you the garment of you're your own righteousness, coming to Christ "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," accepting Him as your only righteousness, believing in Him as your only salvation, reposing in Him as your only rest? Then be it known to you that these are divine drawings, these are holy leadings, this is God's work in your soul. I give you the words of Jesus for this assertion, "No man can come to Me, except the Father, who has sent Me, draw him. . . . . Every man that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto me."
Accept then, beloved, your spiritual awakening, your humbling discoveries, the deep insight into your own heart, the conflict within of which you are so acutely, so painfully sensible, the tears that moisten your pillow, the groans that wake the solitude of the desert, the sighs that float upon the air, as marks of grace, as symptoms of life, as evidences that you are born again, and, by God's grace, been translated out of darkness into light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Oh, blessed, unerring signs of your adoption, your high calling, your heirship to eternal glory?
In further consideration of the conversion of Paul, we are arrested by his preaching. "And immediately he preached Christ." "Immediately." This is a remarkable expression- a volume in a word; the moment he was converted he became a preacher of Christ. He waited for no preparation, sought no authority from the Church, asked for no orders from man, applied for no diploma from the schools; but the moment that the discovery of the Lord Jesus Christ was made to his mind, he became Christ's bold, earnest, and powerful preacher. This feature is too significant and suggestive to be lightly overlooked.
Still we must guard ourselves here. We do not infer from this that an individual may devote himself ably and successfully to the work of the Christian ministry apart from a previous process of spiritual and mental training, qualifying him for the holy and solemn functions of his high office. Far from this. We can see no exact parallel between the case of the apostle Paul and that of an individual called by grace by ordinary means. It is generally admitted that the conversion of Paul was miraculous. Prior to this his mind had undergone a thorough intellectual training in one of the first schools of learning, and at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel, one of the most renowned doctors of the law. His mental culture was of no imperfect cast. It is evident, from his writings, that he was not only profoundly taught in Jewish lore, but that his mind was singularly familiar with the philosophers of Greece and with the poets of Rome. No advocate, therefore, of an uneducated ministry can properly cite the great apostle of the Gentiles as sustaining his idea or as illustrating his theory.
And yet, at the same time, I am prepared to concede that I see no reason, when God converts an intelligent individual by His grace- his heart glowing with love to the Savior and with yearning for the salvation of souls- why he should not go forth through the length and breadth of the land preaching Christ and evangelizing as he goes. The authority to preach with which we are invested is not from a church. Our ordination, as received from man, conveys no priestly power, and confers upon us no prescriptive right to expound the mysteries of God's Word.
We are ministers, and not priests; we do not make, we but proclaim a sacrifice offered once for all the one sacrifice of Christ. We administer the sacraments not sacerdotally but ministerially. The administration of the rite of baptism and of the Lord's Supper possesses no more virtue or efficacy, coming from the hands of the highest ecclesiastical dignitary, than from those of the most humble evangelist in the land. It is well, however, that those who, like Saul of Tarsus, straightway preach Christ, should, like him, receive the recognition and be set apart by the prayers of the Church. Then may he with confidence and power go forth, seeking to bring others to a saving knowledge of that Savior whom he has found so precious to his own soul.
This conducts us to the subject-matter of Paul's preaching. "And immediately he began preaching CHRIST." Dilating at some length upon this vital and important part of our subject, I must crave the indulgence of my readers. The reply to the question, "What is it to preach Christ?" embraces a wide range of truth. There may be much preaching so denominated which yet presents no scriptural claim to the character. It is marvelous how much may pass current with men for the real in divinity, and for the true in religion, which yet passes not current with the Lord. An individual may preach theology without God, Christianity without Christ, the cross without the atonement, and the Bible without revelation! But Saul of Tarsus "immediately preached Christ."
Before we attempt to show what this involves, let me remind my reader briefly of the position of the apostle. He had to cope with difficulties and opposition of every kind. In the first place, he was confronted by the ancient religion of Judaism. There was much the Jew could allege in favor of his religion. It was divine, it was ancient, it was taught in the writings of the prophets. His arguments were many, his reasoning strong, his prejudices unconquerable. And yet the apostle in the face of all this preached Christ Jesus and Him crucified.
In addition to this, he had to cope with the philosophy of Greece and with the heathenism of Rome. And it was here, I imagine, the trained intellect and the well-stored mind of Paul came to his help. It was here he felt the advantage of his previous mental culture. But still he changed not his theme. Still he preached Christ and the resurrection. And whether he confronted the pharisaical Jew in the synagogue, or reasoned with the skeptical philosopher on Mars' Hill, Jesus Christ was his one, his only, his grand, his invariable theme.
Much may be learned from this. There is a strong tendency in the minds of some to meet the errors of the day by other and less authorized and potent means than the preaching in stern simplicity the Gospel of the grace of God. But it is a great and a fatal mistake. The experiment has been tried again and again, and has failed. The preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ in the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit, is the only divinely appointed instrument of destroying false religion, overthrowing error, and converting the soul, and the only one God Himself will acknowledge and the Holy Spirit bless.
But the question still recurs, What is implied in preaching Christ? Paul preached Christ in the divine dignity of His person. He had so overwhelming a demonstration of this truth in his remarkable conversion, that ever after, in all the discourses he delivered, and epistles he penned, he testified to the Godhead of the Savior with an apostle's zeal and with a martyr's firmness. The true preaching of Christ remains unalterably the same. We cannot, my reader, properly preach Christ without in the very foreground placing this grand article of our creed- this fundamental doctrine of our faith- that Christ and God are one, that Jesus Christ is as truly God, as essentially Divine, as the Father. The whole fabric of Christianity rests upon this great doctrine as its basis. Cut from beneath us the doctrine of the essential Deity of Christ -sweep away the Divinity of the Son of God, and on what do we stand? in what is our hope for eternity?
I marvel not that men who deny the Godhead of Christ deny also the sacrifice of Christ; the one stands or falls with the other. If my Savior be but a mere creature; if He be but a man like myself; if He be not everlastingly and essentially God; then I can have no confidence in His death. The saving efficacy of the death of Christ- the obedience of Christ- the sacrifice of Christ- the blood of Christ- the power of Christ to save- all springs from the Godhead of Christ. If Christ is Divine-if my Savior is God- then my hope is resting on Divinity- my salvation is based on Deity, and I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I commit unto Him until the last great day.
Hold fast this great, cardinal, precious doctrine of our faith- the essential Deity of Christ. Entertain no doubts, indulge in no cavilings, give heed to no reasonings and debatings tending to shake your faith in this doctrine; cast not away your confidence in this truth; it is your life! The more firmly your faith is built on the essential Deity of Christ, the more will you realize the Atonement to be what it is, the more will you realize the joy and comfort that springs from the one sacrifice He has offered for poor sinners.
Why is it that the blood of Jesus Christ can wash the soul, all guilty as it is, whiter than snow? Why is it that the righteousness of Christ, imputed by the Spirit and received by faith, will present you before God justified from all things? It is because your Savior is Divine, your Redeemer is God, and has imparted the virtue of His Godhead, the dignity of His higher nature, to His atoning sacrifice.
I have anticipated my second observation, that, to preach Christ we must preach the Sacrifice and atonement of Christ without qualification or reserve. This is a day of much criminal reserve, of holding back bold, uncompromising statements of these great and essential verities of our faith. Men styled evangelical seem afraid to place in the front rank of their preaching these great doctrines of the Gospel; whereas, the Gospel of Christ is what it ever has been, and the work of Christ is what it ever has been- of vital, essential moment to souls speeding to the judgment. No change in modern modes of thought, or of opinion, or of education, or of philosophy, has altered, in the slightest degree, the essential nature and the vital importance of the great doctrines of Christianity. We are not to adapt our preaching to the education, the philosophy, or the politics of the times. We are to preach the same old glorious Gospel which the apostle Paul preached when he uplifted the cross of Christ as the only hope of a lost and a ruined world, and declared that by this Name- this one Name, given under heaven alone could men be saved.
We teach without the slightest modification or reserve, that Christ's obedience and death, sealed and confirmed by His resurrection, constitute the one and only ground of the sinner's salvation. That there is salvation in no other. That no man is justified by the deeds of the law, but by faith in Christ. Christ represented His Church in His legal obedience and expiatory sacrifice. He kept the precept and endured the penalty of the law in our stead; was tried, condemned, and crucified for us. "He was delivered for our offences, and rose again for our justification." Believe this truth- or rather, believe not so much in a truth as in Him who is the Truth; not so much in the official work as in the personal dignity, grace, and love of Christ- and you are saved.
Patrick Hamilton, one of the first Protestant martyrs of Scotland, thus clearly and forcibly puts this great doctrine, "No man is justified by the deeds of the law, but by the faith of Christ. He was punished for you, and therefore you shall not be punished. I do not say we ought to do no good deeds, but I say we should do no good works to the intent to obtain remission of sins and the inheritance of heaven; for God says, 'Your sins are forgiven for my Son's sake, and you shall have the inheritance of heaven for my Son's sake.' I condemn not good deeds, but I condemn trust in our works; for all the works wherein a man puts any confidence are by his confidence poisoned and become evil; wherefore, you must do good works, and beware of doing them with the view to deserve any good for them. In a Christian man's life, and in order of doctrine, there is the law, repentance, hope, charity, and the deeds of charity; yet in the act of justification there is nothing else in man that has part or place but faith alone, apprehending the object, which is Christ crucified, in whom is all the worthiness and fulness of our salvation."
Paul preached Christ, too, as the Savior of poor, lost sinners. Oh, what a grand feature was this in His ministry- Christ the Savior of sinners! God forbid that out preaching should be contradictory and dissonant in its utterance and in its melody to that glorious key-note of the apostle, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." When we preach Christ truly, we preach Him as the Savior who died for the ungodly- as the Savior, not of saints, not of the worthy, not of those who imagine themselves fit to be saved, but as the Savior of sinners- lost, heartbroken, self-condemned, sin-loathing, self-abhorring sinners, sinners who have become acquainted with the plague of their own hearts, who place their mouths in the dust, and cry, "God be merciful to me, the sinner" -sinners who have not a hope but that which springs from the finished work of Christ.
Oh, if I did not believe that Jesus Christ came to save the worst of sinners, will never cast out the very chief who comes in penitence at His feet, and takes hold of His blessed cross, resting on his finished work, I would never more preach. There may be not a few who scan this page who have deemed themselves beyond the pale of salvation. You have thought yourself a great sinner. Your transgressions of a deep and dark dye. You have so sinned against conviction, have so stifled emotion, have so endeavored to conquer spiritual feelings. You have so sinned against light, knowledge, and feeling, against a father's pleadings- a mother's prayers- a minister's warnings- the providential dealings of God in your history.
You seem as if you had placed yourself beyond the reach of Christ's arm, and that for you there was no salvation. But listen to our wondrous story. Christ, the Savior of the lost, whose glory, delight, love it is to exercise His divine power and the freeness and the fulness of His grace in saving sinners to the uttermost, I present to you. Yes! that same Jesus who found Saul of Tarsus, who transferred the dying malefactor from the cross on earth to His bosom in glory, washed from every crime in His most precious blood, is willing, is able to save you. You may have been a persecutor of the saints; you may have been a bold blasphemer, a scorning sceptic; you may have herded with the unclean, may have sold yourself to Satan; nevertheless, do you feel a wish to be saved? Is there stirring within your heart a desire to be saved? Do you long to be a child of God, a disciple of Jesus? Then, my brother-for such you are- if you come to this precious Christ, this glorious Savior, He will not reject you nor cast you out. Oh, if the angels in heaven, were now to speak, they could not make to you an announcement truer, sweeter, more precious than this that, if you will throw yourself at the foot of the cross, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ- if you will now wash in the fountain of His blood, the Lord Jesus Christ will graciously accept you, freely pardon you, and forever glorify you in heaven.
Paul preached Christ in His fullness. It is impossible to present the Lord Jesus in His proper light apart from this. The feeblest, gentlest unfolding of the Divine character expresses in some degree the grace, the love, the blessing it contains. This is a great encouragement to those preachers who are conscious of the much infirmity with which they attempt to uplift the Savior. Let them remember that however humble their gifts, narrow their acquirements, and limited the range of their influence, it is impossible that they can exhibit the Lord Jesus without some fragrance breathing from His name, and some blessing distilling from His grace, for which some sin-distressed soul, or some tried and tempted believer shall thank them in heaven. But what a blessed preaching this of Christ! All fullness of guilt-pardoning and of sin-subduing grace, all fulness of wisdom and strength; all fulness of tenderness and love; all fulness of salvation and glory, free, redundant, inexhaustible fulness.
To bring you in some measure into the experience of this truth, the Lord has, perhaps, been instructing you more deeply in the experience of your own emptiness. The two lessons are taught in the same school, and by the same Teacher; the two blessings flow through the same channel, and to the same recipient. He who sees his own poverty sees something of Christ's wealth; who feels his own emptiness realizes in some measure Christ's fulness. Thus the Lord impoverishes, that He might enrich us; weakens, that He might strengthen us; casts us down, that faith may look for uplifting. "When men are cast down, then you shall say, there is lifting up."
Repair, then, to the Savior's fulness with frequent, unhesitating, and unlimited application. That fulness is not for Himself, nor for angels, but for us, empty, needy, sinners. "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell" for the Church, whose salvation was confided to His hands. And you cannot chant His praise more sweetly, nor weave a garland more worthy of His brow, than when in faith you bring your guilt to the cleansing virtue of His blood, your corruption to the conquering power of His grace, and your exhausted resources to the fulness from which the saints on earth and the saints in heaven have for ages drawn, and which yet has not sunk one hair's breadth.
Open your eyes, you weeping Rachel, and behold the fountain of all blessing in Jesus flowing at your side. "All my springs are in You."
To preach Christ is to present Him in the tender compassion of His heart. To keep back or to dilute this truth is to divide Christ, to veil one-half His nature. We need the two natures of our Lord, and cannot dispense with either- the one, His divine nature, to impart efficacy to His atonement; the other, the human nature, to make the atonement His deity thus stamps with infinite worth. But it is of His sympathizing nature as man I now speak. How precious is this to the heart in seasons of suffering of mind, body, or estate! Adversity proves a costly pearl when it brings us into the experience, compassion, and sympathy of the Savior. Sorrow makes us better acquainted with our common humanity. We know more of man, feel more for man, and do more for man when God brings us into affliction. If this is true of our fellow-men, how much more so of Christ! There are perfections of His being we cannot properly see, excellences in His character we do not distinctly discern, cloisters in His heart we do not fully penetrate, truths in His gospel we cannot clearly understand, until trial in some shape or other impels us to more individual and actual fellowship with Him. Accept, then, the discipline of your Heavenly Father, as designed to make you better acquainted with His blessed Son. Blend the brightest thoughts of Jesus with the gloomiest thoughts of your present grief. He knows it, has sent it, comes with it, will sustain you beneath it, and will bring you through it, as He has promised. "I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver its refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God"
Oh, to know more of Christ, to hold with Him more confidential communion, to insinuate ourselves, as it were, more closely within His heart, it were worth all the discipline of trial we ever experienced. The measure of our true knowledge of God's truth is the measure of our personal experience; and the measure of our experience is the sanctified result of God's discipline. "Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord, and teach out of your law."
We preach Christ in the glory of His second coming. As this great and august event approaches- and the time of the end speeds on- it is of solemn moment that the trumpet of the Lord's ministers give no hesitating and uncertain sound touching this great and glorious truth. Paul, though living so remote from the time of the second advent of Christ, constantly made it the theme of his ministry and the burden of his epistles. "I beseech you by the coming of the Lord," was his frequent and impressive argument when enforcing holiness, or urging us to entire surrender to God. Yes, the Lord is at hand! He is coming to gather in His ancient people Israel, to confront the Antichrist yet to be revealed and then to be overthrown, to punish with judgments the idolatrous nations of the earth, and finally to Judge the ungodly, and to reign over and among His people gloriously. He will come as a thief in the night; blessed are they who shall then be counted worthy to stand before the Son of man!
My reader, let me devote the brief space yet left me in pressing home upon your attention the personal question- Have you been arrested by Christ? Has He 'apprehended' you by His Spirit in the midst of your hatred and rebellion, your pleasure and worldliness? In other words, are you truly converted by His grace? Has Jesus called you, not with the audible voice that arrested Saul, but by the still, small voice of His Spirit in your heart? Oh to hear Him say, "I am Jesus! whom you have long disbelieved and despised; I am Jesus, whose grace you have scorned, whose salvation you have neglected, with whose blood you have trifled. I am Jesus who, notwithstanding all, is able and willing to save you to the uttermost." The Lord of His grace grant that you may hear that voice speaking mercy, and saying, "Come unto me," before you hear it speaking to you in judgment, and saying, "Depart from me!"
Let me close these pages as I commenced them. If, my reader, you are a disbeliever in the divine authority of the Bible, a rejecter of the truth of Christianity, let me implore you candidly and prayerfully to weigh the evidence of the Christian faith afforded by the remarkable conversion of Saul of Tarsus. And the Lord grant that by the Spirit, it may convince you, as it carried conviction to the skeptical mind of Lord Lyttleton, that God's Word Is True! and thus may you henceforth become a disciple and follower of the Savior now, and a jewel in His crown hereafter. For this let us pray. O God, who through the preaching of the blessed apostle Paul, have caused the light of the gospel to shine throughout the world; grant, we beseech You, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto You for the same, by following the holy doctrine which He taught, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.