Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

travagancies of fanaticism. His judgment concerning a hesitating conscience; his opinion of the moral indifferency of many actions, yet of the prudence and even the duty of compliance, where non-compliance would produce evil effects upon the minds of the persons who observed it, is as correct and just as the most liberal and enlightened moralist could form at this day. The accuracy of modern ethics has found nothing to amend' in these determinations.

What Lord Lyttleton has remarked of the preference ascribed by St Paul to inward rectitude of principle above every other religious accomplishment, is very material to our present purpose." In his first Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. xiii, 1, 3, St Paul has these words: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing? Is this the language of enthusiasm ? Did ever enthusiast prefer that universal benevolence which comprehendeth all moral virtues, and which, as appeareth by the following verses, is meant by charity here?-did ever enthusiast, I say, prefer that benevolence" (which, we may add, is attainable by every man)

to faith and to miracles, to those religious opinions which he had embraced, and to those supernatural graces and gifts which he imagined' he had acquired; nay, even to the merit of martyrdom? Is it not the genius of enthusiasm to set moral virtues infinitely below the merit of faith, and, of all moral virtues, to value that least which is most particularly enforced by St Paul-a spirit of candour, moderation, and peace? Certainly neither the temper nor the opinions of a man subject to fanatic delusions are to be found in this passage.”Lord Lyttleton's Observations on the Conversion and Apostleship of St Paul.

I see no reason, therefore, to question the integrity of his understanding. To call him a visionary, because he appealed to visions, or an enthusiast, because he pretended to inspiration, is to take the whole question for granted. It is to take for granted that no such visions or inspiration existed; at least it is to assume, contrary to his own assertions, that he had no other proofs than these to offer of his mission, or of the truth of his relations.

One thing I allow, that his letters every where discover great zeal and earnestness in the cause in which he was engaged; that is to say, he was convinced of the truth of what he taught; he was deeply impressed, but not more so than the occasion merited, with a sense of its importance. This produces a corresponding animation and solicitude in the exercise of his ministry. But would not these considerations, supposing them to be well founded, have holden the same place, and produced the same effect, in a mind the strongest and the most sedate?

VI. These letters are decisive as to the sufferings of the author; also as to the distressed state of the Christian church, and the dangers which attended the preaching of the Gospel

. 66 Whereof I Paul am made a minister; who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body's sake, which is the church.”_Col. ch. i, 23, 24.

“ If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”—1 Cor. ch. xv, 19.

Why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If

, after the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?"_1 Cor. ch. xv, 30–32.

“ If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." —Romans, ch. viii, 17, 18.

“ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”—Rom. ch. viii, 35, 36.

Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer."— Rom. ch. xii, 12.

Now, concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord, yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose, therefore, that this is good for the present distress; I say, that it is good for a man so to be.”—1 Cor. ch. vii, 25, 26.

“ For unto you it is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me." - Phil. ch. i, 29, 30.

“ God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

“ From henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”_Gal. ch. vi, 14, 17.

"Ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost."-1 Thess. ch. i, 6.

“ We ourselves glory in you in the churches of God, for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure.”—2 Thess. chap. i, 4.

We may seem to have accumulated texts unnecessarily; but beside that the point which they are brought to prove is of great importance, there is this also to be remarked in every one of the passages cited, that the allusion is drawn from the writer by the argument or the occasion; that the notice which is taken of his sufferings, and of the suffering condition of Christianity, is perfectly incidental, and is dictated by no design of stating the faets themselves. Indeed they are not stated at all; they may rather be said to be assumed. This is a distinction upon which we have relied a good deal in former parts of this treatise; and, where the writer's information cannot be doubted, it always, in my opinion, adds greatly to the value and credit of the testimony.

If any reader require from the Apostle more direct and explicit assertions of the same thing, he will receive full satisfaction in the following quotations.

“ Are they ministers of Christ (I speak as a fool) ? 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 journeying 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 weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” -2 Cor. ch. xi, 23-28.

Can it be necessary to add more?--" I think that God hath set forth us the Apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the earth, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”-1 Cor. ch. iv, 9–13. I subjoin this passage to the former, because it extends to the other Apostles of Christianity much of that which St Paul declared concerning himself.

In the following quotations, the reference to the author's sufferings is accompanied with a specification of time and place, and with an appeal, for the truth of what he declares, to the knowledge of the persons whom he addresses:-“Even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the Gospel of God with much contention.”_1 Thess. ch. ü, 2.

“ But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.”—2 Tim. ch. iii, 10, 11.

I apprehend that to this point, as far as the testimony of St Paul is credited, the evidence from his letters is complete and full. It appears under every form in which it could appear, by occasional allusions, and by direct assertions, by general declarations, and by specific examples.

VII. St Paul in these letters asserts, in positive and unequivocal terms, his performance of miracles strictly and properly so called.

“He therefore, that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles (sri@raun duvepesis) among you, doth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith ?" Gal. ch. iii, 5.

“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me,* to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders (sv duranu onuesia xat tigata), by the power of the Spirit of God: so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ.” — Rom. ch. xv, 18, 19.

Truly the signs of an Apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (. σημείοις και τεράσι και durapeci).t-2 Cor. ch. xii, 12.

*ie. "I will speak of nothing but what Christ hath wrought by me;" or, as Grotius interprets it, “Christ ha wrought so great things by me, that I will not dare to say what he hath not wrought."

+ To these may be added the following indirect allusions, which, though

These words, signs, wonders, and mighty deeds (ompleix, *** Tiqata, ras duræuus), are the specific appropriate terms throughout the New Testament, employed when public sensible miracles are intended to be expresed. This will appear by consulting, amongst other places, the text referred to in the note; and it cannot be known that they are ever employed to express any thing else.

Secondly, these words not only denote miracles, as opposed to natural effects, but they denote visible, and what may be called external, miracles, as distinguished,

First, from inspiration. If St Paul had meant to refer only to secret illuminations of his understanding, or secret influences upon his will or affections, he could not, with truth, have represented them as “signs and wonders wrought by him," or signs and wonders and mighty deeds wrought amongst them."

Secondly, from visions. These would not, by any means, satisfy the force of the terms, “ signs, wonders, and mighty deeds;" still less could they be said to be “ wrought by him, " or “ wrought amongst them:" nor are these terms and expressions any where applied to visions. When our author alludes to the supernatural communications which he had received, either by vision or otherwise, he uses expressions suited to the nature of the subject, but very different from the words which we have quoted. He calls them revelations, but never signs, wonders, or mighty deeds. “ I will come,” says he, “ to visions and revelations of the Lord;" and then proceeds to describe a particular instance, and afterwards adds, “ lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh.” if they had stood alone, i.e. without plainer texts in the same writings, they might have been accounted dubious; yet, when considered in conjunction with the passages already cited, can hardly receive any other interpretation than that which we give them.

My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of men's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”—1 Cor. ch. ii, 4, 6.

" The Gospel, whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the

grace of God, given unto me by the effectual working of his power.” -Ephes. ch. iii, 6, 7.

“For he hath wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me towards the Gentiles.”—Gal.

“For our Gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.”_1 Thess. ch. i, $.

“ Mark xv, 20_Luke xxiii, 8_John ii, 11-23; iii, 2; iv, 48, 54 ; xi, 47—- Acts ii, 22; iv, 30; v, 12; vi, 8; xiv, 3; xv, 12– Heb. #i, 4.

ch, ži, 8.

and

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »