« PreviousContinue »
with an opportunity of learning as much of them as, in his particular circumstances, is necessary for his eternal salvation.
We are told that Philip and the Ethiopian went down into the water together. In those hot countries bathing was very frequent; therefore it is not to be wondered at, that those who were baptized should be immersed in water; but the sacrament is equally efficacious when sprinkling only is practised; as it is the Grace of GoD through CHRIST, and not the Water itself, that washes away sin: therefore, provided we obey the command of our LORD in being baptized, the quantity of water used for the purpose can surely make no difference in respect to its efficacy.
The Ethiopian was not the only person converted by means of the 53d chap. of Isaiah. It had the same happy effect on a nobleman of our own nation, Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, a person of great wit and immorality. The fact is thus related by Bishop Burnet.
"He said (to Bishop Burnet) Mr. Parsons, in order to "his conviction, read to him the 53d chapter of the "prophecy of Isaiah, and compared that with the his"tory of our SAVIOUR's passion, that he might there see "a prophecy concerning it wrote many ages before it 86 was fulfilled; which the Jews that blasphemed JESUS "CHRIST still kept in their hands, as a book divinely
inspired. He said to me, that as he read he felt an " inward force upon him, which did so enlighten his "mind and convince him, that he could resist it no "longer; for the words had an authority which did "shoot like rays or beams into his mind, so that he was "not only convinced by the reasonings he had about "it, which satisfied his understanding, but by a power "which did so effectually restrain him, that he did ever
"after as firmly believe in his SAVIOUR, as if he had 66 seen him in the clouds. He had made it be so often "read to him, that he had got it by heart, and went "through a great part of it in discourse with me with a sort of heavenly pleasure, giving me his reflections upon it. Some few I remember; Who hath believed our report? Here, he said, was foretold the opposition "the Gospel was to meet with from such wretches as "he was. He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we "shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire "him. On this he said, the meanness of our LORD's
66 appearance and person has made vain and foolish people disparage him, because he "fool's coat as they delight in.
came not in such a What he said on the "other parts I do not, says the Bishop, remember.” The prophecy here alluded to is now made plain, by comparing events with the prediction. How inexplicable must it have been, before the completion of it by our LORD JESUS! From this circumstance, we have reason to conclude, that such passages of Scripture, as are still dark and obscure, will, in the course of providence, be cleared in like manner *. In the mean time let us study them with attention, and endeavour to understand them, not doubting but GoD will make our study successful, as far as is expedient for us.
From the two instances we have been comparing, we may see the superior advantages those who live in a Christian country enjoy. Lord Rochester was converted without a miracle, for he could easily find a minister of the Gospel to explain the prophecy; nay, the Gospel itself would have taught him its import: but the Ethiopian nobleman knew not whom to apply to for instruc
*See Dr. Gregory Sharp on Prophecy, p. 235.
tion; and, had he consulted with a Jewish teacher, he would only have been led farther astray.
THE CONVERSION OF SAUL.
From Acts, Chap. ix.
AND Saul yet breathing out threatenings and slaugh ter against the disciples of the LORD, went unto the high-priest,
And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven.
And he 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 LORD said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to 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, 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 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 into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias,
Ananias, and to him said the LORD in a vision, Ananias, And he said, Behold, I am 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 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 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 Jerusalem :
And here he hath authority from the chief priests, to bind all that 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 kings, and the children of Israel. For E will shew him how great things he must suffer for my names'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 with the HOLY GHOST.
And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.
For thou shalt be his witness unto all men, of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the LORD.
And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
And straightway he preached CHRIST in the synagogues, that he is the Son of GOD.
But all that heard him were amazed, and said, Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither 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 is very 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 kill him.
Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.
And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he essayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple,
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 coming in and going out at Jerusalem.
And he spake boldly in the name of the LORD JESUS, and disputed against the Grecians; but they went about
to slay him.
Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Cesarea, and sent him to Tarsus.
Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea, and