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the whole, in a subserviency to fit them for the services into which he designs to lead them afterwards. Thus he leads the blind by a way that they knew not; and often, for the manifestation of his wisdom, power, and grace, in bringing good out of evil, he, for a season, gives them up so far to the effects of their own depravity, that, in the judgment of men, none seem more unlikely to be the subjects of his grace, than some of those whom he has purposed not only to save from ruin, but to make instrumental to the salvation of others. I doubt not but some of my readers, who are acquainted with their own hearts, will easily apply this observation to themselves; but there are instances in which the contrast is so striking and strong, that it will be made for them by those who know them. It is, however, peculiarly exemplified in the case of St. Paul. He was set apart from the womb (as he himself tells us,)" to be a chosen instrument, of preaching among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. The frame of his heart and the manner of his life, the profession he had made, and the services in which he was engaged before his conversion, were evidently suited to render him an unsuspected as well as a zealous witness to the truth and power of the Gospel, , after he had embraced it. The Lord's purpose was to show the insufficiency of all legal appointments and human attainments, the power of his grace in subduing the strongest prejudices, and the riches of his mercy in pardoning the most violent attempts against his Gospel. We know not how this purpose could have been more effectually answered, in a single instance, than by making choice of our apostle ; who had been
a Gal. i. 15.
possessed of every advantage that can be imagined, exclusive of the Gospel, and, in consequence of these advantages, had made the most pertinacious efforts to suppress it. He was born à Jew, bred up under Gamaliel, a chief of the Pharisees,o the sect which professed the most peculiar attachment to the law of Moses. His conduct, before he became a Christian, was undoubtedly moral, if we understand morality in that lean and confined sense which it too frequently bears among ourselves, as signifying no more than an exemption from gross vices, together with a round of outward duties performed in a mercenary, servile spirit, to soothe conscience, and purchase the favour of God. While he was thus busied in observing the letter of the law, he tells us, he was alive—that is, he pleased himself in his own attainments, doubted not of his ability to please God, and that his state was safe and good. Upon these principles (which act uniformly upon all who are governed by them,) his heart was filled with enmity against the doctrines and people of Jesus; and his blinded conscience taught him that it was his duty to oppose them. He was a willing witness at the death of Stephen;P and, from a spectator, soon became a distinguished actor in the like tragedies. Such is the unavoidable gradation, in a state of nature, from bad to worse. The excess and effects of his rage are described by St. Luke in very lively colours, and he often acknowledges it in his epistles; for though the Lord forgave him, he knew not how to forgive himself for having persecuted and wasted the church of God; 9 he made havock of the disciples, like a lion or a wolf amongst a flock of sheep, pressing into their houses, sparing none, not even women. Thus he was filled with the hateful spirit of persecution, which is undistinguishing and unrelenting. The mischiefs he could do in Jerusalem not being sufficient to gratify his insatiable cruelty and thirst of blood, he obtained (as has been formerly observed,) a commission from the high priest to harass the disciples at Damascus. In this journey, when he was near the city, he was suddenly struck to the ground by the voice and appearance of the Lord Jesus. From that hour a memorable change took place in his heart and views; and, having been baptized by Ananias, and received a free pardon of all his wickedness, with a commission to the apostolic office, he began to preach that faith which before he had so industriously laboured to destroy. In this new light we are now to consider him; and whatever might be reasonably expected from a sense of such a display of grace and mercy, in his behalf, we shall find manifested in the subsequent course of his life. Happy are those who come the nearest to such an exemplary pattern!
o Phil. ïïi.
P Acts xxii. 20.. 9 Gal. i. 13; 1 Cor. xv. I.
I. The characteristic excellence of St. Paul, which was as the spring or source of every other grace, was the ardency of the supreme love he bore to his Lord and Saviour. It would not be casy to find many periods throughout his epistles which do not evidence the fulness of his heart in this respect. He seems delighted even with the sound of the name of Jesus, so that, regardless of the cold rules of studied composition, we find him repeating it ten times in the compass of ten successive verses." He was so struck with the just claim the Saviour had to every heart, that he ac
1 1 Cor. i. 1-10.
counted a want of love to him the highest pitch of ingratitude and wickedness, and deserving the utmost severity of wrath and ruin. S When he was conscious that, for his unwearied application to the service of the Gospel, in defiance of the many dangers and deaths which awaited him in every place, he appeared to many as one beside himself, and transported beyond the bounds of sober reason; he thought it a sufficient apology so say,
“ The love of Christ constrains us; are content to be fools for his sake, to be despised so he may be honoured, to be nothing in ourselves that he may be all in all. He had such a sense of the glorious, invaluable excellence of the person of Christ, of his adorable condescension in taking the nature and curse of sinners upon himself, and his complete suitableness and sufficiency, as the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption of his people, that he often seems at a loss for words answerable to the emotions of his heart; and when he has exhausted the powers of language, and astonished his readers with his inimitable energy, he intimates a conviction of his inability to do justice to a subject, the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of which are too great for our feeble capacities to grasp. But, besides these general views, he was particularly affected with the exceeding abundant love and grace of Christ to himself, when he reflected on the circumstances in which the Lord had found him, and the great things he had done for him. That he who had before been a persecutor, a blasphemer, and injurious, should be forgiven, accepted as a child of God, intrusted with the ministry of the Gospel, and appointed to everlasting salvation, was indeed an instance of wonderful grace. So it
s 1 Cor. xvi. 29. t2 Cor. v. 14.
appeared to himself, and at the thought of it he, often seems to forget his present subject, and breaks forth into inimitable digressions to the praise of Him who had loved him, and given himself for him. Happily convinced of the tendency and efficacy of this principle in himself, he proposes it to others, instead of a thousand arguments, whenever he would inculcate the most unreserved obedience to the whole will of God, or stir up believers to a holy diligence in adorning the doctrine of their God and Saviour in all things; and bis exhortations to the conscientious discharge of the various duties of relative life, are generally enforced by this grand motive. In a word, at all times, and in all places, the habitual and favourite subject that employed his thoughts, his tongue, and his pen, was the love of Christ.
Supported and animated by this love, he exerted himself to the utmost, in promoting the knowledge of him whom he loved, and bearing testimony to his power and grace. Nothing could dishearten, or weary, or terrify, or bribe him from his duty; and this must and will be universally, the leading principle of a faithful minister. Should a man possess the tongue of men and angels, the finest genius, and the most admired accomplishments, if he is not constrained and directed by the love of Christ, he will either do nothing, or nothing to the purpose; he will be unable to support either the frowns or the smiles of the world; his studies and endeavours will certainly be influenced by low and selfish views. Interest or a desire of applause may stimulate him to shine as a scholar, a critic, or a philosopher; but till the love of Christ rules, in his heart, he will neither have inclination nor power to exert himself for the glory of God, or the good of souls.