Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 hiş 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 estimate. 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

[graphic]

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

spiritual, man. It imbues its subject with kind affections, and spreads those affections abroad upon the most elevated objects. For the sake of the everlasting happiness of a fellow-man, of a miserable creature, whom the pride of the world would

pass by with neglect, perhaps with contempt, of an enemy whom hate would destroy, it watches, and labors, and suffers, and prays, is intrepid in the greatest dangers, and is willing to die any moment. In short, it formed such a character as that of Paul. Is then this religion a contrivance of man? Is it not certainly from God?

2. Does not the survey, which has been taken of the character of Paul, go to a complete vindication of the doctrines of grace against the objection, that they subvert obligation and have a tendency to produce a lax and careless manner of living?

It cannot be denied without putting an affront upon reason and trampling evidence in the dust, that Paul, more than any other sacred writer, insists upon these doctrines as the truth of God, the essential articles of the Gospel of our salvation. No man ever believed them more firmly. No man could have been, no man is, and probably no man will be, at least till the millennium, more under the practical influence of them than Paul. What was their influence in fact upon him? Did they make him an idler in his vocation? Did they paralyze his moral sensibilities and make him careless of his duty? He is before us in his true character. And

a better mere human character never was formed. Let even a captious liberality judge. His life is decisive proof that these doctrines are according to godliness, and do, and must ever, act most propitiously upon the hearts and lives of all who sincerely embrace them. “Do we then make void the law through faith? Yea, we establish the law.”

3. Does not the view which we have taken of the missionary character of Paul completely vindicate, and strongly recommend, the office and the labors of the Christian missionary, generally considered?

Can an intelligent Christian, can a friend to the intellectual, moral, social, and immortal interests of man; can any one, who is not as great a fanatic in the cause of a skeptical liberality, as Simeon, the Stylite, was in his notions of expiatory and meritorious penance, think lightly, or speak in disparagement, of the service of the faithful missionary? Can a man, with the thousandth part of a grain of generous feeling towards his fellow-men in the wretchedness of heathenism, fail to attach his decided approbation to this office? Surely, in the example of Paul, it has the strongest recommendations.

4. Let the excellent character of Paul, as an apostolic and Christian missionary, the immeasurable value of the service he performed as such, and the incalculable benefits that result from it to a ruined world, have its proper influence upon us,

my brethren, to stimulate us to augmented efforts in the cause of missions.

Let us, in this great and godlike enterprize, come forward with a stronger zeal to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Let us labor to embody in our future selves all the moral excellencies of our apostolic missionary. The cause, for the sake of which he resigned so readily all his temporal expectations, to which he was so exclusively devoted, upon

which his affections acted in so strong and tender a manner, and in which he so inflexibly persevered, is the same precisely in ours, that it was in his, hands. It is, as. it was then, and ever will be, the cause of humanity, of truth, of virtue, of salvation, of God. It embraces all that is valuable to man for time and for eternity. Whoever embarks in this cause, then, must do it with all his heart. He must let his lukewarmness open itself on some temporal concern. Let him be a coward every where else; but let him fight manfully here. Let him be parsimonious in regard to all other demands; but let him be very bountiful here.

We rejoice greatly in the resuscitation, within thirty years past, of the primitive missionary spirit. But, taking the missionary character of Paul for our standard of estimation, we must confess that, after all, this is a day of small things. The Christian Church moves but slowly. The most zealous are as if they were halting between two opinions. Our contributions are as if Mammon had stronger

« PreviousContinue »