After the death and burial of Stephen the persecution still raged in Jerusalem. That temporary protection which had been extended to the rising sect by such men as Gamaliel was now at an end. Pharisees and Sadducees - priests and people - alike indulged the most violent and ungovernable fury. It does not seem that any check was laid upon them by the Roman authorities. Either the procurator was absent from the city, or he was willing to connive at what seemed to him an ordinary religious quarrel.
The eminent and active agent in this persecution was Saul. There are strong grounds for believing that, if he was not a member of the Sanhedrin at the time of Stephen’s death, he was elected into that powerful senate soon after; possibly as a reward for the zeal he had shown against the heretic. He himself says that in Jerusalem he not only exercised the power of imprisonment by commission from the High Priests, but also, when the Christians were put to death, gave his vote against them. From this expression it is natural to infer that he was a member of that supreme court of judicature. However this might be, his zeal in conducting the persecution was unbounded. We cannot help observing how frequently strong expressions concerning his share in the injustice and cruelty now perpetrated are multiplied in the Scriptures. In Luke’s narrative, in Apostle Paul's own speeches, in his earlier and later epistles, the subject recurs again and again. He "made havoc of the Church," invading the sanctuaries of domestic life, "entering into every house:" (Acts 8:3. See Acts 9:2) and those whom he thus tore from their homes he "committed to prison;" or, in his own words at a later period, when he had recognized as God’s people those whom he now imagined to be His enemies.
"For this very reason, I truly thought in myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus the Nazarean, Which I also did in Jerusalem; and many of the saints I shut up in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my full consent against them." (Acts 26:9-10, Holy Bible in Its Original Order - A Faithful Version (HBFV) where noted)
And not only did men thus suffer at his hands, but women also, - a fact three times repeated as a great aggravation of his cruelty. (Acts 8:3, 9:2, 22:4) These persecuted people were scourged - "often" scourged - "in many synagogues." (Acts 26:10) Nor was Stephen the only one who suffered death, as we may infer from the Apostle’s own confession. And, what was worse than scourging or than death itself, he used every effort to make them "blaspheme" that Holy Name whereby they were called. His fame as an inquisitor was notorious far and wide. Even at Damascus Ananias had heard (Acts 9:13) "how much evil he had done to Christ’s saints at Jerusalem." He was known there (Acts 9:21) as "he that destroyed them which call on this Name in Jerusalem." It was not without reason that, in the deep repentance of his later years, he remembered how he had "persecuted the Church of God and wasted it," (Galatians 1:13; See also Philippians 3:6) - how he had been "a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious;" (1Timothy 1:13) - and that he felt he was "not meet to be called an Apostle," because he had "persecuted the Church of God." From such cruelty, and such efforts to make them deny that Name which they honored above all names, the disciples naturally fled. In consequence of "the persecution against the Church at Jerusalem, they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria." The Apostles only remained. (Acts 8:1) But this dispersion led to great results. The moment of lowest depression was the very time of the Church’s first missionary triumph. "They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word." (Acts 8:4. See Acts 11:19- 21) First the Samaritans, and then the Gentiles, received that Gospel, which the Jews attempted to destroy. Thus did the providence of God begin to accomplish, by unconscious instruments, the prophecy and command which had been given:—
"But you yourselves shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8, HBFV)
The Jew looked upon the Samaritan as he looked upon the Gentile. His hostility to the Samaritan was probably the greater, in proportion as he was nearer. In conformity with the economy which was observed before the resurrection, Jesus Christ had said to His disciples, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 10:5, 6) Yet did the Savior give anticipative hints of His favor to Gentiles and Samaritans, in His mercy to the Syrophoenician woman, and His interview with the woman at the well of Sychar. And now the time was come for both the "middle walls of partition" to be destroyed. The dispersion brought Philip, the companion of Stephen, the second of the seven, to a city of Samaria. He came with the power of miracles and with the message of salvation. The Samaritans were convinced by what they saw; they listened to what he said; "and there was great joy in that city." When the news came to Jerusalem, Peter and John were sent by the Apostles, and the same miraculous testimony attended their presence, which had been given on the day of Pentecost. The Divine Power in Peter rebuked the powers of evil, which were working among the Samaritans in the person of Simon Magus, as Paul afterwards, on his first preaching to the Gentiles, rebuked in Cyprus Elymas the Sorcerer. The two Apostles returned to Jerusalem, preaching as they went "in many villages of the Samaritans" the Gospel which had been welcomed in the city.
Our attention is now called to that other traveler. We turn from the "desert road" on the south of Palestine to the desert road on the north; from the border of Arabia near Gaza, to its border near Damascus "From Dan to Beersheba" the Gospel is rapidly spreading. The dispersion of the Christians had not been confined to Judea and Samaria. "On the persecution that arose about Stephen"they had "traveled as far as Phoenicia and Syria." (Acts 11:19) "Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," (Acts 9:1) determined to follow them. "Being exceedingly mad against them, he persecuted them even to strange cities." (Acts 26:11) He went of his own accord to the high priest, and desired of him letters to the synagogues in Damascus, where he had reason to believe that Christians were to be found. And armed with this "authority and commission," (Acts 26:12) intending "if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women," (Acts 9:2) to "bring them bound unto Jerusalem to be punished," (Acts 22:5) he journeyed to Damascus.
The great Sanhedrin claimed over the Jews in foreign cities the same power, in religious questions, which they exercised at Jerusalem. The Jews in Damascus were very numerous; and there were peculiar circumstances in the political condition of Damascus at this time, which may have given facilities to conspiracies or deeds of violence conducted by the Jews. There was war between Aretas, who reigned at Petra, the desert-metropolis of Stony Arabia, and Herod Antipas, his son-in-law, the Tetrarch of Galilee. A misunderstanding concerning the boundaries of the two principalities had been aggravated into an inveterate quarrel by Herod’s unfaithfulness to the daughter of the Arabian king, and his shameful attachment to "his brother Philip’s wife." The Jews generally sympathized with the cause of Aretas, rejoiced when Herod’s army was cut off, and declared that this disaster was a judgment for the murder of John the Baptist. Herod wrote to Rome and obtained an order for assistance from Vitellius, the Governor of Syria. But when Vitellius was on his march through Judea, from Antioch towards Petra, he suddenly heard of the death of Tiberius (A. D. 37); and the Roman army was withdrawn, before the war was brought to a conclusion. It is evident that the relations of the neighboring powers must have been for some years in a very unsettled condition along the frontiers of Arabia, Judea, and Syria; and the falling of a rich border-town like Damascus from the hands of the Romans into those of Aretas would be a natural occurrence of the war. If it could be proved that the city was placed in the power of the Arabian Ethnarch under these particular circumstances, and at the time of Apostle Paul's journey, good reason would be assigned for believing it probable that the ends for which he went were assisted by the political relations of Damascus. And it would indeed be a singular coincidence, if his zeal in persecuting the Christians were promoted by the sympathy of the Jews for the fate of John the Baptist.
But there are grave objections to this view of the occupation of Damascus by Aretas. Such a liberty taken by a petty chieftain with the Roman power would have been an act of great audacity; and it is difficult to believe that Vitellius would have closed the campaign, if such a city were in the hands of an enemy. It is more likely that Caligula, - who in many ways contradicted the policy of his predecessor, - who banished Herod Antipas and patronized Herod Agrippa, - assigned the city of Damascus as a free gift to Aretas. This supposition, as well as the former, will perfectly explain the remarkable passage in Apostle Paul's letter, where he distinctly says that it was garrisoned by the Ethnarch of Aretas, at the time of his escape. Many such changes of territorial occupation took place under the Emperors, which would have been lost to history, were it not for the information derived from a coin, an inscription, or the incidental remark of a writer who had different ends in view. Any attempt to make this escape from Damascus a fixed point of absolute chronology will be unsuccessful; but, from what has been said, it may fairly be collected, that Saul’s journey from Jerusalem to Damascus took place not far from that year which saw the death of Tiberius and the accession of Caligula.
No journey was ever taken, on which so much interest is concentrated, as this of Apostle Paul from Jerusalem to Damascus. It is so critical a passage in the history of God’s dealings with man, and we feel it to be so closely bound up with all our best knowledge and best happiness in this life, and with all our hopes for the world to come, that the mind is delighted to dwell upon it, and we are eager to learn or imagine all its details. The conversion of Saul was like the call of a second Abraham. But we know almost more of the Patriarch’s journey through this same district, from the north to the south, than we do of the Apostle’s in an opposite direction. It is easy to conceive of Abraham traveling with his flocks and herds and camels. The primitive features of the East continue still unaltered in the desert; and the Arabian Sheik still remains to us a living picture of the Patriarch of Genesis. But before the first century of the Christian era, the patriarchal life in Palestine had been modified, not only by the invasions and settlements of Babylonia and Persia, but by large influxes of Greek and Roman civilization. It is difficult to guess what was the appearance of Saul’s company on that memorable occasion. We neither know how he traveled, nor who his associates were, nor where he rested on his way, nor what road he followed from the Judean to the Syrian capital.
His journey must have brought him somewhere into the vicinity of the Sea of Tiberias. But where he approached the nearest to the shores of this sacred lake, - whether he crossed the Jordan where, in its lower course, it flows southwards to the Dead Sea, or where its upper windings enrich the valley at the base of Mount Hermon, - we do not know. And there is one thought which makes us glad that it should be so. It is remarkable that Galilee, where Jesus worked so many of His miracles, is the scene of none of those transactions which are related in the Acts. The blue waters of Tiberias, with their fishing-boats and towns on the brink of the shore, are consecrated to the Gospels. A greater than Paul was here. "When we come to the travels of the Apostles, the scenery is no longer limited and Jewish, but Catholic and widely-extended, like the Gospel which they preached: and the Sea, which will be so often spread before us in the life of Apostle Paul, is not the little Lake of Genesareth, but the great Mediterranean, which washed the shores and carried the ships of the historical nations of antiquity.
Whatever road was followed in Saul’s journey to Damascus, it is almost certain that the earlier portion of it brought him to Neapolis, the Shechem of the Old Testament, and the Nablous of the modern Samaritans. This city was one of the stages in the Itineraries. Dr. Robinson followed a Roman pavement for some considerable distance in the neighborhood of Bethel. This northern road went over the elevated ridges which intervene between the valley of the Jordan and the plain on the Mediterranean coast. As the travelers gained the high ground, the young Pharisee may have looked back, - and, when he saw the city in the midst of its hills, with the mountains of Moab in the distance, - confident in the righteousness of his cause, - he may have thought proudly of the 125th Psalm:"The hills stand about Jerusalem: even so standeth the Lord round about his people, from this time forth forevermore." His present enterprise was undertaken for the honor of Zion. He was blindly fulfilling the words of One who said:"Whosoever killeth you, will think that he doeth God service." (John 16:2) Passing through the hills of Samaria, from which he might occasionally obtain a glimpse of the Mediterranean on the left, he would come to Jacob’s Well, at the opening of that beautiful valley which lies between Ebal and Gerizim. This, too, is the scene of a Gospel history. The same woman, with whom JESUS spoke, might be again at the well as the Inquisitor passed. But as yet he knew nothing of the breaking-down of the "middle wall of partition." (Ephesians 2:14) He could, indeed, have said to the Samaritans:"You do not know what you worship. We know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews." (John 4:22, HBFV). But he could not have understood the meaning of those other words:
"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is indeed seeking those who worship Him in this manner." (John 4:23, HBFV)
His was not yet the Spirit of CHRIST. The zeal which burnt in him was that of James and John, before their illumination, when they wished (in this same district) to call down fire from heaven, even as Elias did, on the inhospitable Samaritan village. (Luke 9:51- 56) Philip had already been preaching to the poor Samaritans, and John had revisited them, in company with Peter, with feelings wonderfully changed. But Saul knew nothing of the little Church of Samaritan Christians; or, if he heard of them and delayed among them, he delayed only to injure and oppress. The Syrian city was still the great object before him. And now, when he had passed through Samaria and was entering Galilee, the snowy peak of Mount Hermon, the highest point of Antilibanus, almost as far to the north as Damascus, would come into view. This is that tower of" Lebanon which looketh towards Damascus." (Son. 7:4) It is already the great landmark of his journey, as he passes through Galilee towards the sea of Tiberias, and the valley of the Jordan.
Leaving now the "Sea of Galilee," deep among its hills, as a sanctuary of the holiest thoughts, and imagining the Jordan to he passed, we follow the company of travelers over the barren uplands, which stretch in dreary succession along the base of Antilibanus. All around are stony hills and thirsty plains, through which the withered stems of the scanty vegetation hardly penetrate. Over this desert, under the burning sky, the impetuous Saul holds his course, full of the fiery zeal with which Elijah traveled of yore, on his mysterious errand, through the same "wilderness of Damascus." (1Kings 19:15) "The earth in its length and its breadth, and all the deep universe of sky, is steeped in light and heat." When some eminence is gained, the vast horizon is seen stretching on all sides, like the ocean, without a boundary; except where the steep sides of Lebanon interrupt it, as the promontories of a mountainous coast stretch out into a motionless sea. The fiery sun is overhead; and that refreshing view is anxiously looked for, - Damascus seen from afar, within the desert circumference, resting, like an island of Paradise, in the green enclosure of its beautiful gardens.
This view is so celebrated, and the history of the place is so illustrious, that we may well be excused if we linger a moment, that we may describe them both. Damascus is the oldest city in the world. Its fame begins with the earliest patriarchs, and continues to modern times. While other cities of the East have risen and decayed, Damascus is still what it was. It was founded before Baalbec and Palmyra, and it has outlived them both. While Babylon is a heap in the desert, and Tyre a ruin on the shore, it remains what it is called in the prophecies of Isaiah, "the head of Syria." (Isaiah 7:8) Abraham’s steward was "Eliezer of Damascus," (Genesis 15:2) and the limit of his warlike expedition in the rescue of Lot was "Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus." (Genesis 14:15) How important a place it was in the flourishing period of the Jewish monarchy, we know from the garrisons which David placed there, (2Sa. 8:6; 1Chronicles 18:6) and from the opposition it presented to Solomon. (1Kings 11:24) The history of Naaman and the Hebrew captive, Elisha and Gehazi, and of the proud preference of its fresh rivers to the thirsty waters of Israel, are familiar to every one. And how close its relations continued to be with the Jews, we know from the chronicles of Jeroboam and Ahaz, and the prophecies of Isaiah and Amos. (See 2Kings 14:28, 16:9, 10; 2Chronicles 24:23, 28:5, 23; Isaiah 7:8; Amos 1:3, 5) Its mercantile greatness is indicated by Ezekiel in the remarkable words addressed to Tyre: - "Syria was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of the wares of thy making: they occupied in thy fairs with emeralds, purple, and broidered work, and fine linen, and coral, and agate. Damascus was thy merchant in the multitude of the wares of thy making, for the multitude of all riches; in the wine of Helbon, and white wool." (Ezekiel 27:16, 18) Leaving the Jewish annals, we might follow its history through continuous centuries, from the time when Alexander sent Parmenio to take it, while the conqueror himself was marching from Tarsus to Tyre - to its occupation by Pompey, - to the letters of Julian the Apostate, who describes it as "the eye of the East," - and onward through its golden days, when it was the residence of the Ommiad Caliphs, and the metropolis of the Mohammedan world, - and through the period when its fame was mingled with that of Saladin and Tamerlane, - to our own days, when the praise of its beauty is celebrated by every traveler. from Europe. It is evident, to use the words of Lamartine, that, like Constantinople, it was a "predestinated capital." Nor is it difficult to explain why its freshness has never faded through all this series of vicissitudes and wars.
It is not to be wondered at that the view of Damascus, when the dim outline of the gardens has become distinct, and the city is seen gleaming white in the midst of them, should be universally famous. All travelers in all ages have paused to feast their eyes with the prospect: and the prospect has been always the same. It is true that in the Apostle’s day there were no cupolas and no minarets. But the white buildings of the city gleamed then, as they do now, in the center of a verdant inexhaustible paradise. The Syrian gardens, with their low walls and waterwheels, and careless mixture of fruits and flowers, were the same then as they are now. The same figures would be seen in the green approaches to the town, camels and mules, horses and asses, with Syrian peasants, and Arabs from beyond Palmyra. We know the very time of the day when Saul was entering these shady avenues. It was at midday. The birds were silent in the trees. The hush of noon was in the city. The sun was burning fiercely in the sky. The persecutor’s companions were enjoying the cool refreshment of the shade after their journey: and his eyes rested with satisfaction on those walls which were the end of his mission, and contained the victims of his righteous zeal.
In the twenty-second and twenty-sixth chapters of the Acts we are told that it was "about noon" - "at mid-day" - when the "great light" shone "suddenly" from heaven (Acts 22:6, 26:13). And those who have had experience of the glare of a mid-day sun in the East, will best understand the description of that light, which is said to have been "a light above the brightness of the sun, shining round about Paul and them that journeyed with him." All fell to the ground in terror (Acts 26:14), or stood dumb with amazement (Acts 9:7). Suddenly surrounded by a light so terrible and incomprehensible, "they were afraid." "They heard not the voice of Him that spake to Paul" (Acts 22:9), or, if they heard a voice, "they saw no man" (Acts 9:7). The whole scene was evidently one of the utmost confusion: and the accounts are such as to express, in the most striking manner, the bewilderment and alarm of the travelers
But while the others were stunned, stupefied and confused, a clear light broke in terribly on the soul of one of those who were prostrated on the ground. A voice spoke articulately to him, which to the rest was a sound mysterious and indistinct. He heard what they did not hear. He saw what they did not see. To them the awful sound was without a meaning: he heard the voice of the Son of God. To them it was a bright light which suddenly surrounded them: he saw JESUS, whom he was persecuting. The awful dialogue can only be given in the language of Scripture. Yet we may reverentially observe that the words which Jesus spoke were "in the Hebrew tongue." The same language, in which, during His earthly life, He spoke to Peter and to John, to the blind man by the walls of Jericho, to the woman who washed His feet with her tears - the same sacred language was used when He spoke from heaven to His persecutor on earth. And as on earth He had always spoken in parables, so it was now. That voice which had drawn lessons from the lilies that grew in Galilee, and from the birds that flew over the mountain slopes near the Sea of Tiberias, was now pleased to call His last Apostle with a figure of the like significance:"Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the goad." As the ox rebels in vain against the goad of its master, and as all its struggles do nought but increase its distress - so is thy rebellion vain against the power of my grace. I have admonished thee by the word of my truth, by the death of my saints, by the voice of thy conscience. Struggle no more against conviction, "lest a worse thing come unto thee."
It is evident that this revelation was not merely an inward impression made on the mind of Saul during a trance or ecstasy. It was the direct perception of the visible presence of Jesus Christ. This is asserted in various passages, both positively and incidentally. In Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, when he contends for the validity of his own apostleship, his argument is, "Am I not an Apostle? Have I not seen Jesus Christ, the Lord?" (1Corinthians 9:1) And when he adduces the evidence for the truth of the Resurrection, his argument is again, "He was seen… by Cephas… by James… by all the Apostles… last of all by me… as one born out of due time" (1Corinthians 15:8). By Cephas and by James at Jerusalem the reality of Saul’s conversion was doubted (Acts 9:27); but "Barnabas brought him to the Apostles, and related to them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and had spoken with Him." And similarly Ananias had said to him at their first meeting in Damascus:"The Lord hath sent me, even Jesus who appeared to thee in the way as thou camest" (Acts 9:17). "The God of our fathers hath chosen thee that thou shouldest see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth" (Acts 22:14). The very words which were spoken by the Savior, imply the same important truth. He does not say, "I am the Son of God - the Eternal Word - the Lord of men and of angels:" - but, "I am Jesus" (Acts 9:5, 26:15), "Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 22:8). "I am that man, whom not having seen thou hatest, the despised prophet of Nazareth, who was mocked and crucified at Jerusalem, who died and was buried. But now I appear to thee, that thou mayest know the truth of my Resurrection, that I may convince thee of thy sin, and call thee to be my Apostle."
The direct and immediate character of this call, without the intervention of any human agency, is another point on which Apostle Paul himself, in the course of his apostolic life, laid the utmost stress; and one, therefore, which it is incumbent on us to notice here. "A called Apostle," "an Apostle by the will of God," Apostle sent not from men, nor by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead;" (Galatians 1:1) these are the phrases under which he describes himself, in the cases where his authority was in danger of being questioned. No human instrumentality intervened, to throw the slightest doubt upon the reality of the communication between Christ Himself and the Apostle of the Heathen. And, as he was directly and miraculously called, so was the work immediately indicated, to which he was set apart, and in which in after years he always gloried, - the work of "preaching among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." (Ephesians 3:8. See Romans 11:13, 15:16; Galatians 2:8; 1Timothy 2:7; 2Timothy 1:11, &c) Unless indeed we are to consider the words which he used before Agrippa as a condensed statement of all that was revealed to him, both in his vision on the way, and afterwards by Ananias in the city:
"And I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting. Now arise, and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose: to appoint you as a minister and a witness both of what you have seen and what I shall reveal to you. I am personally selecting you from among the people and the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, To open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the authority of Satan to God, so that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified through faith in Me.'" (Acts 26:15-18, HBFV)
But the full intimation of all the labors and sufferings that were before him was still reserved. He was told to arise and go into the city, and there it should be told him what it had been ordained that he should do. He arose humbled and subdued, and ready to obey whatever might be the will of Him who had spoken to him from heaven. But when he opened his eyes, all was dark around him. The brilliancy of the vision had made him blind. Those who were with him saw, as before, the trees and the sky, and the road leading into Damascus. But he was in darkness, and they led him by the hand into the city. Thus came Saul into Damascus; - not as he had expected, to triumph in an enterprise on which his soul was set, to brave all difficulties and dangers, to enter into houses and carry off prisoners to Jerusalem; - but he passed himself like a prisoner beneath the gateway; and through the colonnades of the street called "Straight," where he saw not the crowd of those who gazed on him, he was led by the hands of others, trembling and helpless, to the house of Judas, (Acts 9:11) his dark and solitary lodging.
Three days the blindness continued. Only one other space of three days’ duration can be mentioned of equal importance in the history of the world. The conflict of Saul’s feelings was so great, and his remorse so piercing and so deep, that during this time he neither ate nor drank. (Acts 9:9) He could have no communion with the Christians, for they had been terrified by the news of his approach. And the unconverted Jews could have no true sympathy with his present state of mind. He fasted and prayed in silence. The recollections of his early years, - the passages of the ancient Scriptures which he had never understood, - the thoughts of his own cruelty and violence, - the memory of the last looks of Stephen, - all these crowded into his mind, and made the three days equal to long years of repentance. And if we may imagine one feeling above all others to have kept possession of his heart, it would be the feeling suggested by Christ’s expostulation:"Why persecutest thou ME?" (See Matthew 25:40, 45) This feeling would be attended with thoughts of peace, with hope, and with faith. He waited on God: and in his blindness a vision was granted to him. He seemed to behold one who came in to him, - and he knew by revelation that his name was Ananias, - and it appeared to him that the stranger laid his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. (Acts 9:12)
We know nothing concerning Ananias, except what we learn from Luke or from Apostle Paul. He was a Jew who had become a "disciple" of Christ (Acts 9:10), and he was well reputed and held to be "devout according to the Law," among "all the Jews who dwelt at Damascus" (Acts 22:12). He is never mentioned by Apostle Paul in his Epistles; and the later stories respecting his history are unsupported by proof. Though he was not ignorant of the new convert’s previous character, it seems evident that he had no personal acquaintance with him; or he would hardly have been described as "one called Saul, of Tarsus," lodging in the house of Judas. He was not an Apostle, nor one of the conspicuous members of the Church. And it was not without a deep significance, that he, who was called to be an Apostle, should be baptized by one of whom the Church knows nothing, except that he was a Christian "disciple," and had been a "devout" Jew.
Ananias came into the house where Saul, faint and exhausted (See Acts 9:19) with three days’ abstinence, still remained in darkness. When he laid his hands on his head, as the vision had foretold, immediately he would be recognized as the messenger of God, even before the words were spoken, "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 Spirit." These words were followed, as were the words of Jesus Himself when He spoke to the blind, with an instantaneous dissipation of darkness:"There fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith (Acts 9:18):" or, in his own more vivid expression, "the same hour he looked up on the face of Ananias (Acts 22:13)." It was a face he had never seen before. But the expression of Christian love assured him of reconciliation with God. He learnt that "the God of his fathers" had chosen him "to know His will," - "to see that Just One," - "to hear the voice of His mouth," - to be "His witness unto all men." (Acts 22:14, 15) He was baptized, and "the rivers of Damascus" became more to him than "all the waters of Judah" (See 2Kings 5:12) had been. His body was strengthened with food; and his soul was made strong to "suffer great things" for the name of Jesus, and to bear that Name "before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." (See Acts 9:15, 16)