The Road to Damascus
From the Christian Science Sentinel, MAY 29, 1915, by Joseph G. Alden
In the book of Acts we read that “Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.” We may readily suppose that there was dread among the Christians in Damascus when it became known that Saul, a powerful member of the great Sanhedrin and an uncompromising enemy of the Christian sect, was on his way to the city to arrest such of them as he could find evidence against, to take them bound to Jerusalem, there to be tried before the ecclesiastical court. Accustomed though they were to the sneers and taunts and indignities heaped upon them by the people of Damascus, many stout hearts doubtless quailed before the announcement of Saul’s approach. His reputation for unbending judgment had preceded him. He came armed with a high priest’s commission and accompanied by a soldier band. He spared none and granted no quarter.
The day appointed for Saul’s arrival came and went in Damascus, but Saul was not seen. The Christians paused as they met, to question each other of the probable cause of his non-appearance. Had he abandoned his proposed trip, or had he simply stopped on his way to visit swift vengeance upon some other city in his path? Had he been detained in Jerusalem, or had some more important duty claimed his first attention? Was Damascus to be spared now, only to receive the dread visitation at a later time?
One day there appeared in the synagogues of Damascus a new disciple of the Nazarene. Unheralded he came; yet he had the air of one in authority. His face glowed in the reflected light of an inner vision. Upon his brow sat dignity and learning. His speech was golden with words of truth and soberness. His bearing was that of one accustomed to be obeyed, but in his look there was kindness and justice and mercy. When he spoke, he commanded quick attention, for his message burned with earnestness and power. It was Paul, the ambassador of Christ, come to Damascus on a mission of peace and good will!
Paul departed from Jerusalem the proud defender of an empty ritualism; he came to Damascus the humble expounder of a living faith. Yesterday he bore the haughty title of Pharisee; today he wears the simple livery of the humble Nazarene. Once he breathed out “threatenings and slaughter” in the name of Judaism; now he brings the blessings of peace and cheer in the name of the Lord. The meaning of this change is explained by Mrs. Eddy on page 326 of Science and Health, where she says: “Saul of Tarsus beheld the way—the Christ, or Truth—only when his uncertain sense of right yielded to a spiritual sense, which is always right. Then the man was changed. Thought assumed a nobler outlook, and his life became more spiritual . . . in humility he took the new name of Paul.”
Between Jerusalem and Damascus still stretches the way which Saul traveled. It leads from the place of empty creed to the place of living faith. Along its way still shines the light of Truth which transformed Saul, the proud Pharisee, into Paul, the humble follower of Christ. Going down to Damascus today, the traveler may again hear the voice of Truth speaking to his inner consciousness; and to obey the call is to share with Paul the wonder of a new birth and attain with him the reward which comes to him who has “fought a good fight,” and finished his course with joy.
At Damascus there waited the little company, possibly dreading a persecution which never came, and thus making real for the time being an experience which God never ordered and which divine Love transformed into an occasion of blessing and a mission of peace. Saul never reached Damascus! This was the needful lesson for the Christians of that city, and it is the needful lesson for us of today which is thus distilled from the story of the Damascus road. shall we come to realize the blessedness of which Mrs. Eddy tells us in “Pulpit and Press” (p. 3): “The river of His pleasures is a tributary of divine Love, whose living waters have their source in God, and flow into everlasting Life. We drink of this river when all human desires are quenched, satisfied with what is pleasing to the divine Mind.” Therein alone can be found true satisfaction!