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a disciple.” It was difficult for them to believe that so bigoted a Pharisee, and one who had done so much to destroy the church, could become a sincere follower of Jesus. “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."
Upon hearing this, the disciples received him as one of their number. Soon they had abundant evidence as to the genuineness of his Christian experience. The future apostle to the Gentiles was now in the city where many of his former associates lived; and to these Jewish leaders he longed to make plain the prophecies concerning the Messiah, which had been fulfilled by the advent of the Saviour. Paul felt sure that these teachers in Israel, with whom he had once been so well acquainted, were as sincere and honest as he had been. But he had miscalculated the spirit of his Jewish brethren, and in the hope of their speedy conversion he was doomed to bitter disappointment. Although “he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians," those who stood at the head of the Jewish church refused to believe, but “went about to slay him." Sorrow filled his heart. He would willingly have yielded up his life, if by that means he might bring some to a knowledge of the truth. With shame he thought of the active part he had taken in the martyrdom of Stephen; and now in his anxiety to wipe out the stain resting upon one so falsely accused, he sought to vindicate the truth for which Stephen had given his life.
Burdened in behalf of those who refused to believe, Paul was praying in the temple, as he himself afterward testified, when he fell into a trance; whereupon a heavenly messenger appeared before him, and said, “Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning Me." 18
Paul was inclined to remain at Jerusalem, where he could face the opposition. To him, it seemed an act of cowardice to flee, if by remaining he might be able to convince some of the obstinate Jews of the truth of the gospel message, even if to remain should cost him his life. And so he answered, “Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on Thee: and when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.” But it was not in harmony with the purpose of God that His servant should needlessly expose his life; and the heavenly messenger replied, “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles." 10
Upon learning of this vision, the brethren hastened Paul's secret escape from Jerusalem, for fear of his assassination. “They brought him down to Cæsarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus." The departure of Paul suspended for a time the violent opposition of the Jews, and the church had a period of rest, in which many were added to the number of believers.
18 Acts 22:18.
19 Acts 22:19-21.
A Seeker for Truth
In the course of his ministry, the apostle Peter visited the believers at Lydda. Here he healed Æneas, who for eight years had been confined to his bed with palsy. “Æneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole,” the apostle said; “arise, and make thy bed.” “He arose immediately. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.”
At Joppa, which was near Lydda, there lived a woman named Dorcas, whose good deeds had made her greatly beloved. She was a worthy disciple of Jesus, and her life was filled with acts of kindness. She knew who needed comfortable clothing and who needed sympathy, and she freely ministered to the poor and the sorrowful. Her skilful fingers were more active than her tongue.
“And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died.” The church in Joppa realized their loss; and hearing that Peter was at Lydda, the believers sent messengers to him, “desiring him This chapter is based on Acts 9:32 to 11:18.
that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them." In view of the life of service that Dorcas had lived, it is little wonder that they mourned, that warm tear-drops fell upon the inanimate clay.
The apostle's heart was touched with sympathy, as he beheld their sorrow. Then, directing that the weeping friends be sent from the room, he kneeled down, and prayed fervently to God to restore Dorcas to life and health. Turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.”
Dorcas had been of great service to the church, and God saw fit to bring her back from the land of the enemy, that her skill and energy might still be a blessing to others, and also that by this manifestation of His power the cause of Christ might be strengthened.
It was while Peter was still at Joppa, that he was called by God to take the gospel to Cornelius, in Cæsarea. Cornelius was a Roman centurion.
He was a man of wealth and noble birth, and his position was one of trust and honor. A heathen by birth, training, and education, through contact with the Jews he had gained a knowledge of God, and he worshiped Him with a true heart, showing the sincerity of his faith by compassion to the poor. He was known far and near for his beneficence, and his righteous life made him of good repute among both Jews and
Gentiles. His influence was a blessing to all with whom he came in contact. The inspired record describes him as "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.”
Believing in God as the Creator of heaven and earth, Cornelius revered Him, acknowledged His authority, and sought His counsel in all the affairs of life. He was faithful to Jeliovah in his home life and in his official duties. He had erected the altar of God in his home; for he dared not attempt to carry out his plans or to bear his responsibilities without the help of God.
Though Cornelius believed the prophecies, and was looking for the Messiah to come, he had not a knowledge of the gospel as revealed in the life and death of Christ. He was not a member of the Jewish church, and would have been looked upon by the rabbis as a heathen and unclean. But the same Holy Watcher who said of Abraham, “I know him," knew Cornelius also, and sent a message direct from heaven to him.
The angel appeared to Cornelius while he was at prayer. As the centurion heard himself addressed by name, he was afraid, yet he knew that the messenger had come from God, and he said, “What is it, Lord?” The angel answered, “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: he lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the seaside."
The explicitness of these directions, in which was named even the occupation of the man with whom