Before his conversion to the faith of Christ, Paul was called Saul, and he persecuted the Christians, believing that they were doing wickedly and that he ought to punish them for it.
But while he was in the midst of these persecutions, and as he was journeying toward Damascus one day, he saw suddenly at noon-time, a light shining in the heavens which was greater than the light of the sun, and he and all that were with him fell to the earth in wonder and awe. Then Saul heard a voice speaking to him and saying, |Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?| And Saul said, |Who art Thou, Lord?| And the voice answered, |I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.|
Then Saul was instructed as to what he was to do, and was told that he would become a minister of Christ. From that time Paul preached and taught the Christian religion, and converted many people to it.
But he was persecuted in his new work as he had persecuted others, being finally taken prisoner and threatened with scourging; he declared himself a Roman citizen, however, and therefore safe from such treatment, and went on openly confessing his faith and telling of his conversion, and he appealed for protection to the Roman emperor.
He was then put on board a ship as a prisoner to be taken to Rome. While they were at sea a violent storm came up, and Paul warned the sailors that they were in great danger; but they would not listen to him. At last the ship was wrecked, all on board being cast ashore upon an island, whither they had been carried, clinging to boards and broken pieces of the ship.
The barbarous people of the island treated them kindly, building a fire that they might dry their clothing and get warm; for it was cold and they were, of course, drenched.
The men were very glad to be safe once more; but a strange thing happened after a little: Paul gathered up an armful of sticks to put upon the fire, and as he placed them upon the flames, a viper, which is a kind of poisonous snake, came out of the bundle and clung to his hand; he shook it off into the fire, however, without the slightest sign of fear.
Those who were about him thought that the hand would swell and that Paul would die from the effects of the bite, and they watched him closely, believing that this trouble was sent to him as a punishment for his sins. But no evil results came from the wound, and then the barbarians thought he was a god and looked upon him with great respect.
Paul and the men who were with him remained upon the island for three months. At the end of that time they went away in a ship, finally reaching Rome, where the prisoners were given up to the authorities; but Paul was allowed to live by himself, with only a soldier to guard him, and after a while he called the chief men of the Jews together and told them why he was there and preached to them the Word of God. His preaching was received by some with faith, but others did not believe.
[Illustration: THE CRUCIFIXION.]
[Illustration: |HE IS RISEN!|]
Paul went on preaching and teaching in Rome for two years, living in a house which he hired, and he brought many to Jesus. He was a man of excellent education and a powerful preacher. His Epistles, given in the Bible, are full of power and the fire of conviction, and he did a wonderful work for the great cause in which he believed with all his heart.
Paul was physically small and deformed; but mentally he was a giant. He had been taught the knowledge of the Romans, and was therefore well fitted to take up this new cause in a manner which would appeal to educated people as well as to those who had no learning.
[Illustration: THE LAST SUPPER.]
[Illustration: THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY GHOST.]
From the time of his conversion until his death he labored faithfully in the ministry of Christ, fearing no persecution or hardship when he could do the Master's bidding and teach His holy will. The work which he did was a wonderful work, and his influence in the Christian world has been a very remarkable one. Brave, untiring, devoted to the cause of Christ, he at last lost his life in that cause, adding another to the list of martyrs whose memory the world loves and reveres.
The story of Paul's experiences reads like those tales of adventure which are so full of absorbing interest that when once they have been taken up, we do not feel like laying them down again until they are finished.
This is true also of many others of the Bible stories, and great authors have taken their themes from them for the writing of books which have become famous.
The more we study the Bible, the more wonderful it becomes, and the more we learn that in that marvelous book are set forth nearly all the experiences of which human life is capable, with the teaching which each of these experiences should bring and the lesson to be learned by the reading of them. In all the world there is not another collection so wonderful as this.