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“The grace of God which bringeth salvation teacheth us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Just so,
8. Did our apostolic missionary live.
“Herein,” says he, “do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence towards God and towards men. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that, by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away." He appeals to the converts at Thessalonica, “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblameably, we behaved ourselves among you that believe.” Thus, with well doing he put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; commended himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God; took away occasion from those who sought occasion; disarmed his adversaries, and adorned the Gospel.
9. The farther remark may be made with respect to Paul, that he was a man of much prayer.
This part of his character was necessarily less public, than some other parts. But it comes out to view with sufficient clearness to warrant the assertion that he was greatly distinguished in this respect. He says, “God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of his Son, that, without ceasing, I make mention of you always in
my prayers.” “For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God night and day, praying exceedingly that we might see your face and perfect that which is lacking in your faith.” Again, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner man."
He enjoins it upon his Ephesian converts, “Praying always, with all
and supplication, and watching thereunto with all perseverance." Doubtless that which he enjoined upon others, was carried to an equal extent, into his own practice. Whatever the ungodly and the skeptical may suggest against the obligation and the utility of prayer; it is perfectly certain, that piety will always be inclined thus to maintain a filial intercourse with God; and the more elevated a man's piety is, the more will he employ himself in this exercise.
10. One thing more only I deem it requisite to mention respecting the missionary character of Paul; and that is, his deep humility, in the midst of the evidence that was clearly and continually before him of his interest in the covenant favor of God, of the high standing he held in the estimate of all the followers of Jesus, and of his amazing success in gaining converts to his Lord.
Paul had evidence of his unalterable interest in the salvation of the Gospel, which was as clear to
him, as it is unquestionable to us. speaks in language of confidence, with respect to his own saving interest in Christ.
His success in preaching the Gospel was great. It is supposed, that there were half a million of Christians before the termination of the first century. There is reason to presume, that Paul was the happy instrument of the conversion of a large portion of them.
His influence in the Church was pre-eminently great. Yet he is never elated. He arrogates nothing to himself. While he does not deny, and certainly it did not become him to deny, his apostolic endowments and authority, he places himself on a level with all his brethren. He is, like his divine Master, the servant of all. He counts himself, he expressly speaks of himself, as less than the least of all saints. He declares that he is not sufficient of himself to think. any thing as of himself. He refuses to glory. He even says, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.” His feelings and his religious habits are in agreement with his instructions to Timothy. “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.”
Upon the whole, my brethren, we have an admirable assemblage of evangelic virtues in the missionary character of Paul. We do not say, that it is absolutely perfect. But it is really difficult to
detect in it any intellectual, moral, or official deficiency. Thus he made full proof of his ministry, and magnified his office. Thus, laboring to be accepted, he became well prepared to give up his account with joy.
No mere man is so much an object of admiration as Paul. No man ever performed such deeds of heroic and persevering goodness: No man ever achieved so much that is truly great. He was indeed a burning and a shining light. The benefits resulting to the world from his missionary labors are beyond all estimatę. They have passed down the current of ages. They have spread extensively over the world. They are felt deeply by ourselves. They carry a sanctifying power to the bosom of every Christian. They will pass down the ages that are to follow, and spread farther and farther and farther, till they pervade the entire population of the globe. They will contribute mightily to the full glory of the millennium, and to swell the hosannas of the highest heaven.
1. From this delineation of the missionary character of Paul, which after all is very inadequate, is it not an obvious inference, that the Christian religion carries with it decisive evidence of its divine original, from the influence it has upon those who are unquestionably and most conspicuously its subjects.
All other religions not only fail entirely to improve, but powerfully contribute to sink into deeper and
deeper debasement, the human character. They impart no light to the understanding; but hold it in the darkness of the most deceptive, and gloomy, and guilty superstitions. They do not form the heart to one sentiment of genuine virtue; but strengthen its depravity by a powerful indurating influence. They do not lead their votaries one step in the way of a holy practice, but stimulate them to pursue all iniquity with greediness. An imperfect morality may, in a few instances, be discerned among some of the philosophers of Grecian and Roman antiquity. But not a single example is presented of disinterested, patient, and persevering effort to lead men from sin and wretchedness to holiness and heaven. Indeed they had not one single desirable object before them; nor one impulse of a properly useful tendency. The way of peace they did not know. Their wisdom was foolishness. Their magnanimity was the pride of a false philosophy. Their virtue was a spurious patriotism, which sought, regardless of the dictates of humanity, the aggrandizement of one, at the expense of the blood and treasure of other nations.
The Christian religion is peculiar and most propitious in its influences. It raises man from a spiritual death to a spiritual life; from the vainest superstitions to the ennobling knowledge, love, and worship, of the living God; from a detestable selfishness to the most liberal views, and the most useful pursuits. It changes the carnal, into the