Galatians 1:17
nor did I go up to Jerusalem to the apostles who came before me, but I went into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
Aspects of the New LifeJ. H. Newman, D. D.Galatians 1:17
Quiet PlacesF. W. Farrar.Galatians 1:17
Residence in ArabiaA. Barnes.Galatians 1:17
St Paul's SeclusionCanon Liddon.Galatians 1:17
St. Paul's Sojourn in ArabiaBishop Lightfoot.Galatians 1:17
St. Paul's SolitudeEmilius Bayley, B. D.Galatians 1:17
The Inner Life of St. PaulCanon Miller.Galatians 1:17
The Significance of This Episode for UsS. Pearson, M. A.Galatians 1:17
Value of SeclusionCanon Liddon., J. Lyth.Galatians 1:17
Paul's Personal Grasp of the GospelR.M. Edgar Galatians 1:11-24
PositionR. Finlayson Galatians 1:11-24

I. THE DESTINY. St. Paul feels that from his birth he was set apart for the great apostolic work of his later years.

1. There is a destiny in every life. God has his purpose of calling us into being.

2. This destiny is determined for us, not by us. We do not choose the circumstances in which we are born, nor our own gifts and dispositions. We can with difficulty escape from our surroundings, and we can never escape from ourselves. Whether a man will see the light as a prince in a palace, or as a beggar under a hedge, is entirely beyond his control, and it is equally impossible for him to determine whether he will have the genius of Newton or the inanity of an idiot. Yet how largely do these differences effect a man's necessary future!

3. We may be long unconscious of our destiny. St. Paul never dreamed of his while he sat at the feet of Gamaliel nor while he was harrying the Christians. It is a secret of providence gradually revealed.

4. It is our duty to work out our destiny by voluntary obedience to the will of God revealed in it when once it is revealed to us. To resist it is to kick against the pricks. We can do this, for, though set apart for a work, we may refuse to follow it by our free-will, but at our great cost.

II. THE CALL. In the Acts of the Apostles the external details of the call of St. Paul are described; here he gives us only the internal experience. He only could give this, and this was the really important thing. The flashing light, the arrested journey, the audible voice, the blindness, were all accessories. The one important thing was the inward voice that brought conviction to the heart of the man. Every apostle needed a call from Christ to constitute him such. But every Christian has some Divine call. We have not the miracle to convey the call, and we do not want it. By the manifest claims that present themselves to us, by the discovery of our own powers and opportunities of service, by the promptings of our conscience, Christ calls us to our life's work, To see a work for Christ needing to be done, and to be able to do it, is a providential call to undertake it. It is a disastrous superstition that keeps us back while we wait for a more articulate voice. God's will is manifest in the indication of what is right. To know God's will is to be called to his service.


1. Its object. The revelation of Christ. St. Paul was to make Christ known. He was not to spread his own religious notions, but only to reveal Christ. He was not to teach a doctrinal Christianity so much as to show Christ himself. This was to be done, not only by his words, but also by his life. He was so to live Christ that men should see Christ in him. Thus Christ was to be revealed in him. Before he could preach Christ in words he must have the revelation of Christ in his own person. If we do not reveal Christ by our lives, all our words will count for little, being belied by our glaringly inconsistent conduct. If we act like Christ, the silent influence of our living will be the most clear and powerful setting forth of Christ.

2. The scope of the mission. St. Paul was to preach Christ among the Gentiles. His own special gospel was the message that God's grace in Christ extended to the whole world. It was not for his own sake nor even for the glory of Christ alone that he was called to his great mission. The highest missions are unselfish and beneficent. We are all called in some way to minister to others. We can do it in no way better than by revealing Christ to them in our actions as well as in our words. - W.F.A.

Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me.
I. NEGATIVE. He did not report himself.

1. The apostles were stiffly conservative, and

(1)might have suspected his conversion;

(2)would probably have questioned his Divine commission;

(3)would certainly have repudiated his apostleship.

2. Paul wanted nothing of them, and they could give him nothing.

3. He wished his life rather than his lips to speak. Let others see the reality of your conversion;they will then need no verbal proof of it.

II. PASSIVE. In Arabia Paul —

1. Lived a life of quiet meditation.

2. Equipped himself for his great work.

3. Calmly waited for indications from God. After conversion

(1)don't rush into office, but

(2)think, read, pray, weigh the responsibility of Christian work, fit yourself by Divine grace, wait till God says, "Go."

III. ACTIVE. "To Damascus" (see Acts 9:22).

1. The hour had struck, and the man was ready for it.

(1)Paul now knew not only what to say, but how to say it and defend it.

(2)The seed sown at conversion had produced a body of experience.

2. Once at it he grew strong in the work.

3. He was rewarded with striking success.

IV. SUFFERING (Acts 9:23, 24).

1. Persecution tests depth of conviction and reality of work.

2. Look for it, but don't fear it.

V. INDEPENDENCE. Living movements do not come of committees, they come of individuals.

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)

Just as an eagle, which has been drenched and battered by some fierce storm, will alight to plume its ruffled wings, so, when a great soul has "passed through fire and through water," it needs some safe and quiet place in which to rest

... Like almost every great soul in ancient or modern times, to whom has been entrusted the task of swaying the destinies by moulding the convictions of mankind — like Sakya Mouni, like Mahomet in the cave of Hira, like St. in his sickness, like Luther in the monastery of Erfurt, Paul would need a quiet period in which to elevate his thoughts, to still the tumult of his emotions, to commune in secrecy and in silence with his own soul.

(F. W. Farrar.)

In the busy mart, amid life's dusky lanes and accumulating cares, we lose and forget our God. Our books are too much with us; friends and social life make the hours busy with what is human; and the claims of business are of increasing urgency. We must find for ourselves a desert place, where, occasionally for prolonged seasons, and daily for a short season, we may receive the Lord's anointing.

(S. Pearson, M. A.)Meditation is the life of the soul; action is the outcome of meditation, honour is the reward of action. So meditate that thou mayest do; so do that thou mayest be honoured; so accept honour as to give God the glory.

The world and the Church have ever shown a curiosity as to the inner life of great men, as to what they were, not when the eye of man was upon them, but when they were alone — what they were in the secret recesses of their hearts; and this curiosity has made biographies and autobiographies, and private journals and letters, very popular. It has led, moreover, to the publication of documents which were never meant for the public eye, and which had better have remained unperused. But God has seen fit in the ease of St. Paul to gratify, not indeed a mere morbid curiosity, but the devout desire on the part of His Church to know something of the great apostle's secret feelings and sternest conflicts for its own edification and for His own glory.

(Canon Miller.)

His main object we may assume to have been to seclude himself for a while from the outer world, to commune with God and his own soul in stillness, and to seek for grace for his future labours. It was a pause in his career, which he might legitimately crave after; a moment of calm between the stormy passions of his past life, and the tumultuous scenes which lay before him; a half-hour of heavenly silence in which, alone with God, he might learn more perfectly his Master's will, and gather strength to do his Master's work. We may follow the apostle into Arabia, and safely infer that his retirement was made use of for the following purposes.

1. Thought. On reviewing his past life — his former antagonism to Christ, his ignorance and self-will, his unbelief and active enmity; and the forbearance, love, and mercy of God — what food for reflection had St. Paul! Thought concerning God, the gospel of Christ, the soul, sin, death, salvation, life, heaven, is essential to salvation; there can be no real, intelligent living unto God without it.

2. Selfabasement. Bitter mourning for sin. The manifestation of God's love deepens the sense of ingratitude and unworthiness in the truly penitent.

3. Prayer. He who is most fully conscious of his own utter helplessness, will cling with tightest grasp to the only Giver of all good.

4. Self-dedication. The life given to God.

(Emilius Bayley, B. D.)

1. Obscurity of the incident. A veil of thick darkness hangs over St. Paul's visit to Arabia. Of the scenes among which he moved, of the thoughts and occupations which engaged him while there, of all the circumstances of a crisis which must have shaped the whole tenour of his after life, absolutely nothing is known. "Immediately," says St. Paul, "I went away into Arabia." The historian passes over the incident without a mention. It is a mysterious pause, a moment of suspense in the apostle's history, a breathless calm which ushers in the tumultuous storm of his active missionary life.

2. The place. If we suppose that the apostle at this critical moment betook himself to the Sinaitic peninsula, the scene of the giving. of the law, then his visit to Arabia becomes full of meaning. He was attracted thither by a spirit akin to that which formerly had driven Elijah to the same region (1 Kings 19:8-18). Standing on the threshold of the new covenant, he was anxious to look upon the birth-place of the old: that dwelling for a while in seclusion in the presence of "the mount that burned with fire," he might ponder over the transient glories of the "ministration of death," and apprehend its real purpose in relation to the more glorious covenant which was now to supplant it. Here, surrounded by the children of the desert, the descendants of Hagar the bondwoman, he read the true meaning and power of the law. In the rugged and barren region whence it issued, he saw a fit type of that bleak desolation, which it created, and was intended to create, in the soul of man. In the midst of such scenes and associations, his spirit was attuned to harmony with his Divine mission, and fitted to receive fresh visions and revelations.

3. Its duration. What was the length of this sojourn we can only conjecture. The interval between his conversion and his first visit to Jerusalem, St. Paul here states to have been three years. The notices of time in the narrative of the Acts are vague, but not contradictory to this statement. From Damascus, St. Paul tells us, he went away into Arabia, whence he returned to Damascus. St. Luke represents him as preaching actively in this city after his conversion, not mentioning, and apparently not aware of any interruption, though his narrative is not inconsistent with such. It seems probable, then, that St. Paul's visit to Arabia took place early in this period, before he. commenced his active labours. "Immediately," he says, "instead of conferring with flesh and blood, I went into Arabia." The silence of the historian is best accounted for on the supposition that the sojourn there was short; but as St. Luke's companionship with the apostle commenced at a much later date, no great stress must be laid on the omission. Yet, on the other hand, there is no reason for supposing it of long duration. It was probably brief — brief enough not to occupy any considerable space in the apostle's history, and yet not too brief to serve the purpose it was intended to serve.

4. Its purpose. Can we doubt that by this journey he sought seclusion from the outer world, that his desire was to commune with God and his own soul amid these hallowed scenes, and thus to gather strength in solitude for his active labours? His own language implies this — "I conferred not with flesh and blood, but departed into Arabia." The fathers for the most part take a different view of this incident. They imagine the apostle hurrying forth into the wilds of Arabia, burning to impart to others the glad tidings which had so suddenly burst upon himself. "See how fervent was his soul," exclaims ; "he was eager to occupy lands yet untilled; he forthwith attacked a barbarous and savage people, choosing a life of conflict and much toil." This comment strikes a false note. Far different at such a crisis must have been the spirit of him, whose life henceforth was at least as conspicuous for patient wisdom and large sympathies as for intense self-devotion. He retired for a while, we may suppose, that, "separate from the world, his heart might deeply take, and strongly keep, the print of heaven." And what place more fit for this retirement than that holy ground, "where all around, On mountains, sand, and sky, God's chariot wheels have left distinctest trace."

(Bishop Lightfoot.)

After a great change of conviction, nature, as well as something higher than nature, tells us that a long period of retirement and silence is fitting, if not necessary. The three days in the house of Judas were not enough in which to sound the heights and depths of newly recognized truth, or the strength and weakness of the soul which was to own and to proclaim it. They were to be followed by three years passed in the desert of Arabia. It is, indeed, thought that this retirement was dictated by a wish to preach the gospel to the wandering Bedouin tribes, or to the settled Arabs at Petrea. And there is no doubt that "Arabia" among the ancients was a very wide and inclusive geographical term. It might have included Damascus itself; it might have even taken in regions far to the north, extending to the very borders of Cilicia. But these are less usual uses of the word; nor can it be supposed that emphasis would have been laid on this retirement if all that had been meant was a journey of a few miles into the desert beyond the walls of Damascus. Something may be said for a retreat to Petra, the ancient capital of Edom, which had its own synagogue in Jerusalem; but the probabilities are that, under the profound and awful inspirations of the hour, Paul sought to tread in the very footsteps of Moses and Elijah at the base of Sinai. The spiritual attractions of such a course must have been, to a man of his character and antecedents, not less than overwhelming. There, where the Jewish law had been given, he wag led to ask what it really meant — what were its sanctions, what its obligations, what the limit of its moral capacity, what the criterion of its weakness. There he must have felt the inspiration of a life like Elijah's, the great representative of a persecuted religious minority, the preacher of an unpopular truth against vulgar but intolerant error. Would not the still small voice which had there spoken to the prophet — or rather, did it not — again and again speak to him? They were precious years, depend upon it, for a man whose later life was to be passed, wholly passed, in action.

(Canon Liddon.)

The value of such retirement, if circumstances admit of it or suggest it, before entering on the decisive work of life, can hardly be exaggerated. Many a young man, whose education is complete (as the phrase goes), and who knows, or thinks that he knows, what to do for himself or his fellow-creatures, is often painfully disappointed when his plans for immediate action suddenly break down, and he has to remain for a while in comparative obscurity and inaction. It seems to him to be a loss of time, with little or nothing to redeem the disadvantage. He is wasting, he thinks, his best years in idleness. He may, of course, so act as to make that phrase justifiable. It need not be so. A prudent, no less than a religious man, will thankfully, if he can, avail himself of such an opportunity for consolidating his acquirements, for reviewing the bearing of his governing convictions, for estimating more accurately the resources at his disposal for extending or contracting his plans, at least for reconsidering them. A religious man will, above all, seize such an opportunity for testing and strengthening his motives, and for cultivating an increased intimacy with those means and sources of effective strength which he will need so much hereafter.

(Canon Liddon.)Observe —

I. God sometimes raises up and qualifies His agents without human intervention.

II. Such agents are duly qualified and may be tested by their fruits.

III. As a rule, they have assigned them some new department of labour.

(J. Lyth.)

The point thus suggested is the interval between the choice of a profession or calling in life and the entrance on the public duties of that profession or calling.


1. The first thing which strikes us on this point is the great variety of things to be done in the world, during any one generation; or the variety of the fields for exertion and employment.

2. The next point, under this head, relates to the variety of endowments among men, as adapted to these various occupations — endowments such that these various ends are in fact secured, and such that at the same time they are secured voluntarily, or so that men enter on their different pursuits not by force or compulsion, but of preference and choice.

3. A third remark under this head; the ends of life may be secured, the purposes of society advanced, and God may be honoured, in any one of these occupations and employments.


1. The first is, that the profession or calling should be selected in which the most can be made of life for its proper purposes; or, in which life can be turned to the best account. Life, though transitory, short, uncertain, has its purpose.

2. The second principle which I mention is, that, consequently, when there is a fitness for either of two or more courses of life, that should be chosen which under the circumstances will be most adapted to secure the ends of life.

3. A third rule would be that the profession or calling should be chosen which will be best adapted to develop the peculiar endowments of the mind, or which will be in the line of those endowments.

4. A fourth thing which is vital to any just views of life, to a proper choice of a profession, is, that that only should be chosen which is just and honourable; which is itself right, and is consistent with the highest standard of morality; and which can be pursued in all its ramifications, and always, and in all respects, on the principles of honesty, truth, justice, and fairness.

5. A fifth principle is that that course should be chosen in which there are the fewest temptations to evil.

6. A sixth principle is, that a young man should choose that which while it will conduce to his own individual interest and to the purpose of his life, will, at the same time, promote the general good of society, and contribute to the advancement of the race.

7. A seventh principle may be added. It is, that that calling should be selected which will not interfere with, but which will best aid the preparation for another world.

III. These remarks and suggestions will enable us, in the third place, to answer the main inquiry with which we started — IN WHAT WAY SHALL THE INTERVAL BETWEEN THE CHOOSING OF A PROFESSION AND THE ENTRANCE ON ITS ACTIVE DUTIES BE EMPLOYED?

1. The first is, that time enough should be taken to prepare for the profession or calling which has been selected.

2. Secondly, the studies should obviously have reference to the future calling.

3. One thought only remains: It is, that the preparation for that profession should be — as the choice of the profession, and the profession itself should be — subordinate to the life to come — to the preparation for eternity.

(A. Barnes.)

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