« PreviousContinue »
revelation. Whether Paul excelled in these attributes of an orator we know not. But we know that, in some very essential points, he did admirably well in his manner of preaching. We know that he was not, “as many who corrupted the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, spake he in Christ.” We know that he kept back nothing that he deemed profitable : to his hearers, but that he testified, with an elevated zeal, not only in the place of public concourse, but, from house to house, “repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.” He is called to address all descriptions of people, and to combat ignorance, prejudice and authority. He stands before philosophers and kings; and he never forgets where he is or to whom he is speaking. He adapts his instructions to the capacities and condition of all. He is condescending to those in the lower, and respectful to those who are in the higher, ranks of life. He is at once modest and intrepid. He is the gentleman, at the same time that he is the Christian missionary. So self-possessed was he, só dignified in his address, so powerful in his reasonings, and so pathetic in his representations before Felix and his court, that Felix trembled, and could stifle his alarms only by the dismissal of his prisoner. On a subsequent occasion, in a public apology before Festus and Agrippa, Paul, growing warm upon his subject, and appealing to the knowledge which Aggripa had of the prophets, drew
from him the confession, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” With a promptitude, and pertinency, and benignity of feeling, which could hardly fail to subdue, he replied, “Would to God, that not only thou, but that all who hear me this day, were, not only almost, but altogether, such as I am except these bonds." Before the court of Areopagus, in Athens, a stranger, a Jew, in their hands, and at their disposal, to destroy him if they should so decide, in presence of the magistrates and philosophers, he undauntedly and powerfully reproves their idolatry; sets before them the character of Jehovah as the true God, the author of nature, and the sole object of religious worship; quotes from their own authorities in support of his doctrines; and enforces the truths he had urged by the declaration, that though in time past, this ignorance had not been publicly reproved by an inspired messenger, “God now commandeth all men every where to repent; because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."
He is scrupulously regardful of what is due to men in all the distinctions, which obtain in civil society; of which his letter to Philemon, respecting his servant Onessimus, is a beautiful example.
In things, which do not come under the cognizance either of doctrine or of law, he "became all
things to all men, that he might by all means save some." Let us remark, ,
6. The patience, the equanimity and the buoyancy of spirit, with which he endured that series of afflictions which attended him.
There is something truly admirable in the manner in which he speaks of his sufferings. He is not ashamed to detail them in all their forms, and in their whole extent. Never mere man endured so much, that is ignominious and abusive. Not only were his deprivations severe, as the mere consequence of his fidelity; but the positive sufferings brought on him by his cruel persecutors were intolerable. “In stripes,” says he, “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. We are made the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things.” To Timothy he says, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith-persecutions, afflictions which came upon me at Antioch, at Iconium, | at Lystra; what persecutions I endured. But out of them all, the Lord delivered me." These afflictions, brought on him entirely for the sake of the Gospel, were sustained with patience, with undiminished zeal, with a most admirable cheerfulness and elevation of spirit. “For which cause we faint not; but, though our outward man perish, the inward man is renewed in strength day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look, not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal.” He even says, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope.” And again, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake.” How mightily, did the graces work in the heart of Paul to raise him thus above that series of most severe persecutions, which perpetually assailed him? Patience in him seemed to have its perfect work. Faith in him was indeed the victory which overcometh the world.
7. We ought not to omit the notice of his entire contentment with those scanty supplies for the necessities of nature, which, in addition to the product of his own labors, he received from the contributions of his brethren.
We have a remarkable testimony to this part of his character in his Epistle to the Philippians. “Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where, and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be
hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.' I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have done well that ye did communicate with my affliction. For, even in Thessalonica, ye did send once and again unto my necessities. Not because I desire a gift; but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all and abound; I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice, acceptable, well pleasing to God.” Thus his labors, though severe, and inducing every species of distress, were properly gratuitous. Thus he was satisfied to be deeply abased in regard to the things of this world, even to extreme destitution. He considered himself as full, and abounding, when common necessaries were supplied from the hand of fraternal charity. How consentaneous this with all the other excellent traits in his missionary character! And how amiably unlike, at the same time, to those who take the lead in the affairs of this world! Theirs must be wealth, splendor and dissipation. Even ecclesiastics, in millions of examples, who professed to be subject to the holy religion which shone, with so much moral beauty, in Paul, and even to be public teachers of it, have, in the true spirit of priestcraft, and, by innumerable forms of imposition, amassed enormous wealth, and employed it to purposes of worldly parade and luxury.