Page images

watched and fasted and “kept under his body," lest, after having borne the banner of the cross to the remotest haunts of men, and dispensed salvation to myriads of the perishing, he should himself at last be found a cast-away.") Shame on those professors of the faith of Christ, who can talk of the way of life as if it were carpeted with flowers, and of their own deceitful hearts, as if pure and buoyant as the hearts of cherubim, when the prince of the apostles pined as a patient in this great lazarhouse, and trod his weary course bowing beneath his load of depravity and death! "Wretched man!” he cried, “who shall deliver me from the body of this death!” And long as he lived he gave bis days to self-denial and watchfulness and prayer.

Nor did he boast any advantage over ordinary men in grappling with the difficulties that beset him from without. Who does not recollect how Saul of Tarsus felt, when professors and preachers of the religion of Jesus Christ laboured to undermine his influence with the churches of Galatia; and acting upon the principle “divide and conquer”—that GOLDEN RULE of the base and feebleminded !-attempted, by puffing the apostle Peter, to prostrate the fair fame of the apostle of the gentiles?" All that envy could dictate or malignity dare, he endured at the hands of false-hearted brethren. Who has not noted the diligence and faithfulness with which he watched over the churches he had planted; and with what fervour and firmness he interpo ed his efforts to protect or rescue them from the seductions of those teachers who laboured to corrupt the gospel of Jesus Christ? To the plain mind of Saul of Tarsus it by no means appeared sufficient for the

purposes of salvation that men were sincere in the opinions they professed. The gospel, the real gospel, and nothing

In pur

but the gospel, was recognized by him as the religion that can save a sinful soul from death. Nor did he hesitate one moment to denounce deep perdition on the corrupters as well as opposers of the doctrines of the cross. suing this course, he laid no peculiar stress on his apostolic office. He appealed, uniformly to those scriptures by which we must all abide: and, by the scriptures he con, firmed the doctrines which he preached.

Nor were his conflicts maintained exclusively with er: rorists in religion. He describes himself as wrestling not only "against flesh and blood,” but “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places." Well may descriptions of panoply, and all the, imagery of warfare abound in the writings of the apostle Paul; for his was a life of conflicts.

But it was not only in defending the religion of the bible that the apostle experienced difficulties. In promukgating the gospel his large endowments, generally speaking, rather contributed to multiply his labours, and increase his pains. Did he possess great influence? It only served to render him a more conspicuous object at which all might aim their shafts. Did he inherit great powers? They only stimulated him to greater exertions and more extended plans for the furtherance of the objects for which they were entrusted to him. Were his labours honoured with unusual success? That success but multiplied the objeets of his solicitude, and augmented the number and the perils of those journeys which the care of all the churches" exacted at his hands.

How shall we recount the labours of this apostle, who outstriped all his fellows in the promotion of his master's


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

service! How shall we depict the dangers he encountered,
the sufferings he endured, the obloquy he bore throughout
the whole course of his eventful life! One comprehensive
sentence must embrace the whole, for time would fail us
were we to attempt detail. Let his own enumeration to
the church of Corinth inform you what things he suffered
while running the race that Christ had set before him.
“Are they ministers of Christ ?” says he, when adverting to
some who it would seem had been exalted and eulogized,
for the purpose of letting him down; as in the case just
noted in the church of Galatia-"are they ministers of
Christ? I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes
above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
of the Jews five times received I forty stripes, save one.
Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I
suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the
deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of
robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the
heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness,
in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in wea-
riness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and
thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides
those things that are without, that which cometh upon me
daily, the care of all the churches."

And if this will not satisfy you that the apostle ran a most painful race through life, hear him once more, when addressing the same church. "I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed unto death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools, for Christ's sake-we are weakwe are despised. Even unto this present hour we both *bunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and

[merged small][ocr errors]

have no certain dwelling place; and labour, working with lour own hands. Being reviled--being persecuted—being defamed. We are made as the filth of the world; and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”

Such were the labours and sufferings of Paul! and such the recompense he received from many of the churches, and from the heathen for whose salvation he ventured on these trials! Is it any wonder that he should add, after glancing at such a series of discouragements and hardships, "I have kept the faith!" The apostle, you will now see, was constituted like other men; he suffered like other men; he felt like other men: and each successive instance of trial with which he met carried in it its own temptation to desert his Lord and master. Many who like him bore about within them a body of sin and death, have after a fair profession of the faith of Christ yielded themselves up the servants of iniquity: but Saul still struggled on, still grappled with corruption, and kept fast hold of his hope in God his Saviour. Many who like him had devoted their whole persons to the cause of God the Saviour, have turned aside like Demas to the present world, and given the cause of Zion to the winds of heaven; but Paul still skept the faith,” and nothing could abate his efforts for its furtherance. Many who like him had received * the word with joy,” have "been stumbled and turned aside, when persecutions and tribulations rose” on account of their profession: but in despite of the persecutions and tribulations just recounted, Paul still “kept the faith.” Many who like him had drank in their first impressions from the pure word of God, have been seduced by the sophistry of false teachers of religion, or by the imposing speculations of a vain philosophy; but he resisted to the


uttermost the jewish legalist, the gentile sophist, and the errorist of every name, and to the hour when he penned this last memento "kept pure the faith" of Jesus.

Nor did he disdain to promote that faith by submitting himself to the humblest occupations. When labouring together with others, among the newly established churches, this great, good man has been known to betake him to the occupation of a tent-maker, that by supplying bis own wants and those of his fellow labourers, in order that the infant churches might not be burdened with their maintainance; and that no mortal might be furnished with the colour of a pretense that they were heralding salvation from mere sordid motives. How different was thy mind, high-sonled Saul of Tarsus, from the minds of the multitudes who would deem themselyes disgraced by being seen to labour in any humble occupation. And how respectable that hand when wielding the hatchet or stretching the primed line, though contrasted with the soft white hands of those who place one half their dignity in a release from vulgar offices!

But thy humble occupations and thy matchless services have long since ceased together. The hand that once shaped tents now sweeps the harps of heaven; and now that the monarch of the golden palace-the tyrant who condemned thee, has not where to lay his head, and meets with none so lowly as to do him reverence; thou lone prisoner! hast a habitation in the heavens, an house not made with hands, and bending millions do their lowliest reverence to the apostle of the gentiles."

And now, my dear friends, we again urge the inquiry, what feature do you trace in the character of this apostle, which may be pronounced unattainable by the bumblest

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »