Verse 43. "He tarried many days in Joppa" - Taking advantage of the good impression made on the people's minds by the miracle, he preached to them the great truths of Christianity, and thus established them in the faith.
Simon a tanner.] Whether the original word burseuv signifies a tanner or a currier, is of little consequence. The person who dealt in the hides, whether of clean or unclean animals, could not be in high repute among the Jews. Even in Joppa, the trade appears to have been reputed unclean; and therefore this Simon had his house by the sea side. See chap. x. 6. Of the trade itself the Talmudists speak with great contempt; they reckon it among blemishes. See proofs in Schoettgen.
1. THUS terminates what has not been improperly called the first period of the Christian Church, which began at the day of pentecost, chap. ii. 1, and continued to the resurrection of Dorcas; a period of about eight years.
During the whole of this time the Gospel was preached to the Jews only, no Gentile being called before Cornelius, the account of whose conversion, and the Divine vision that led to it, are detailed in the following chapter.
Salvation was of the Jews: theirs were the fathers, the covenants, and the promises, and from them came Christ Jesus; and it was right that they should have the first offer of a salvation which, while it was a light to lighten the Gentiles, was to be the glory of the Israelitish people. When they utterly rejected it, then the apostles turned unto the Gentiles. Among them the Christian Church was founded, and thus the reprobates became the elect, and the elect became reprobates. Reader! behold the goodness and severity of God! Towards them that fell, severity; but towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off, Rom. xi. 22. Thou canst only stand by faith; and be not high-minded, but fear. Nothing less than Christ dwelling in thy heart by faith can save thy soul unto eternal life.
2. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus is one of the most remarkable facts recorded in the history of the Christian Church. When we consider the man; the manner in which he was brought to the knowledge of the truth; the impression made on his own mind and heart by the vision he had on his way to Damascus, and the effect produced in all his subsequent life, we have a series of the most convincing evidences of the truth of the Christian religion. In this light he ever viewed the subject himself; the manner of his conversion he ever appealed to, as the most proper apology for his conduct; and, on several most important occasions, he not only refers to it, but enters into a detail of its circumstances, that his hearers might see that the excellency of the power was of GOD and not of man.
Saul of Tarsus was not a man of a light, fickle, and uncultivated mind. His natural powers were vast, his character the most decided, and his education, as we learn from his historian, and from his writings, was at once both liberal and profound. He was born and brought up in a city which enjoyed every privilege of which Rome itself could boast, and was a successful rival both of Rome and Athens in arts and science. Though a Jew, it is evident that his education was not confined to matters that concerned his own people and country alone. He had read the best Greek writers, as his style, allusions, and quotations sufficiently prove; and, an matters which concern his own religion, he was instructed by Gamaliel, one of the most celebrated doctors the synagogue had ever produced. He was evidently master of the three great languages which were spoken among the only people who deserved the name of nations-the Hebrew, and its prevailing dialect, the Chaldio-Syriac; the Greek, and the Latin; languages which, notwithstanding all the cultivation through which the earth has passed, maintain their rank, which is a most decisive superiority over all the languages of the universe. Was it likely that such a man, possessing such a mind, cultivated to such an extent, could have been imposed on or deceived? The circumstances of his conversion forbid the supposition: they do more; they render it impossible. One consideration on this subject will prove that imposture in this case was impossible: he had no communication with Christians; the then that accompanied him to Damascus were of his own mind-virulent, determined enemies to the very name of Christ; and his conversion took place in the open day, on the open road, in company only with such men as the persecuting high priest and Sanhedrin thought proper to be employed in the extermination of Christianity. In such circumstances, and in such company, no cheat could be practised. But was not he the deceiver? The supposition is absurd and monstrous, for this simple reason, that there was no motive that could prompt him to feign what he was not; and no end that could be answered by assuming the profession of Christianity. Christianity had in it such principles as must expose it to the hatred of Greece, Rome, and Judea. It exposed the absurdity and folly of Grecian and Roman superstition and idolatry, and asserted itself to be the completion, end, and perfection of the whole Mosaic economy. It was therefore hated by all those nations, and its followers despised, detested, and persecuted. From the profession of such a religion, so circumstanced, could any man, who possessed even the most moderate share of common sense, expect secular emolument or advantage? No! Had not this apostle of the Gentiles the fullest conviction of the truth of Christianity, the fullest proof of its heavenly influence on his own soul, the brightest prospect of the reality and blessedness of the spiritual world, he could not have taken one step in the path which the doctrine of Christ pointed out. Add to this, that he lived long after his conversion, saw Christianity and its influence in every point of view, and tried it in all circumstances. What was the result? The deepest conviction of its truth; so that he counted all things dross and dung in comparison of the excellency of its knowledge. Had he continued a Jew he would have infallibly risen to the first dignities and honours of his nation; but he willingly forfeited all his secular privileges and well grounded expectations of secular honour and emolument, and espoused a cause from which he could not only have no expectation of worldly advantage, but which, most evidently and necessarily, exposed him to all sorts of privations, sufferings, hardships, dangers, and death itself! These were not only the unavoidable consequences of the cause he espoused; but he had them fully in his apprehension and constantly in his eye. He predicted them, and knew that every step he took was a progressive advance in additional sufferings, and the issue of his journey must be a violent death! The whole history of St. Paul proves him to be one of the greatest of men; and his conduct after he became a Christian, had it not sprung from a Divine motive, of the truth of which he had the fullest conviction, would have shown him to be one of the weakest of men. The conclusion therefore is self-evident, that in St. Paul's call there could be no imposture, that in his own mind there could be no deception, that his conversion was from heaven, and the religion he professed and taught, the infallible and eternal truth of Jehovah. In this full conviction he counted not his life dear unto him, but finished his rugged race with joy, cheerfully giving up his life for the testimony of Jesus; and thus his luminous sun set in blood, to rise again in glory. The conversion of St. Paul is the triumph of Christianity; his writings, the fullest exhibition and defense of its doctrines; and his life and death, a glorious illustration of its principles. Armed with this history of Paul's conversion and life, the feeblest believer needs not fear the most powerful infidel. The ninth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles will ever remain an inexpugnable fortress to defend Christianity and defeat its enemies. Reader, hath not God so done his marvellous works that they may be had in everlasting remembrance?