And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.…
I. THE IMPORTANCE AND DUTY OF PROMPTITUDE IN RELIGIOUS MATTERS. This quality standing at the beginning of the new course, and for the carrying out of the new convictions, has much instruction for us.
1. There are many beginnings in the world which stand alone, or which shine out in mocking contrast to all that comes after. Many a rosy morning becomes a cloudy noon, precursor of a stormy night! Many a man who starts in life well, swerves and wavers as he goes on. The divine life has to our eyes the same uncertainties about it. We have to wait for proof, for fruits, and for patient continuance to the end. Yet in some beginnings we can see conditions which, continued, lead to a triumphant issue. One of these, very prominent in the history, of St. Paul, is promptitude.
2. Promptitude is a prerequisite of success. A beginning is only a beginning, and yet much depends on how it is made. Some beginnings are like the spring on the mountainside, gushing into life and flowing clearly; some are like waters from a mossy soil, trickling, oozing, so little visible and so uncertain, that you cannot tell where they begin. But here is a vigorous, clear beginning. As soon as Paul saw his duty he did it. "What wilt Thou have me to do?" had been his prayer. The answer is, "You know Me now. You have persecuted — now preach"; and he did so "straightway." In giving the history of this very time, Paul himself tells us in the Epistle to the Galatians that "immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood." If he had so conferred, it is almost certain that his whole course would have been different. Some would have said: "Stay awhile until the memory of your career as persecutor has died away." Others would have said: "Be cautious. Do not commit yourself thus early. Your present convictions may be only transient. It can do no harm to wait." Had he gone to Jerusalem, Peter, who said to the Master, "Not so, Lord," would have been quite as ready to say "Not so" to the servant. And probably all the apostles would have advised caution and delay. But Paul was right, and his promptitude saved him from many difficulties which else would have beset his course. It raised his conversion above suspicion. It opened his way. It confirmed his faith. It enlarged his knowledge. It gave him an advantage against any who might be his enemies. It put him in possession of the ground. It made retreat more difficult. It made him a fit example for all who are beginning the Christian course to the end of time. The first sign of a rectified condition will always be the prayer, "What wilt Thou have me to do?" The next wilt be to do it "straightway."
3. The thing to be done will, of course, be different in different cases. In a sense, everyone who receives the gospel must preach it. There are some who favour reserve in regard to religious feeling and conviction. It is said that such things ought to be felt rather than expressed. That is not the teaching of the Bible. "We believe and therefore speak." "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." "Ye shall be witnesses," etc. — not silent witnesses surely. Such was the original law, and there is no reason to believe that it has ever been changed. Are, then, men who can now speak best on such a subject to speak least? Because thoughtless people sometimes talk not wisely and not well on religion, must thoughtful people seal their tongues in silence and keep all dark till the day of death? Each man ought, in his own measure and way, to preach. For a quiet man to speak in conversation, is as much as for a public man to write. For one man to offer prayer in a house, would be more than for another to preach in a pulpit. Or with some, a change of habit and life may be the most expressive thing they can say or do. The question as to the form which the duty of the new state shall take is a question which one can never settle for another. But the principle is this — that there is to everyone something to be done, by look, or speech, or action, or habit — or all of these together — to be done for Christ as soon as you believe in Him; and that that thing ought to be done without delay.
II. ITS ADVANTAGES.
1. "Straightway!" And your new consciousness will become clear, as it never will do by repression. Doubts gather around the inactive mind, over the slumbering reluctant will, as mists above the stagnant pool. Work in spite of them; work through them on to duty — and they are gone.
2. "Straightway!" And the outer difficulties will be dispersed, and you will see them no more. He who begins on the yielding system will find that the difficulties that hinder the soul's first alacrity will hinder it more and more. There are some animals which will not molest you if you face them, but they will follow you if you flee.
3. "Straightway!" And you will give to your soul one of the first and most indispensable conditions of growth. Children would sicken and die if they were kept in a state of inactivity.
4. "Straightway!" And you will lay the first stones in the great edifice of habit. We are in a large measure the creatures of habit; but would it be better if we were all impulse and emotion? No. It is no small part of our greatness that we can build our life into strength as well as beauty by the stones of habit.
5. "Straightway!" And you will end no small part of the lesser miseries of life. For, not a little is the result of duty undone — a word unspoken, an action postponed.
6. "Straightway!" And the enemies of our true life and of the gospel of Christ are taken at advantage. All their plans are broken, their prophecies of evil are set at nought — by the simple yet sublime plan of going, without hesitation, right on to duty or endeavour.
7. "Straightway!" And timorous friends — the discouraged, the weak, the halting — receive, as it were, a new inspiration.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.