« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
su ing up his son Jesus from the dead. And I myself pls have been an eye-witness of his resurrection, to whom tid he has appeared two several times ; once as I jour
neyed to Damascus, and afterwards as I prayed in Apreutes the Temple. But when I mentioned this second apmu2 pearance of a risen Saviour, my incredulous accusers
began vehemently to cry out, “ Away with such a fellow from the earth.' By this just exposition of the fact, and by his prudent selection of the resurrection of Christ from among the other great doctrines of Christianity, St. Paul happily caused a division to take place among his judges. And the event answered his expectation : For the Scribes, that were of the Pharisees' part, arose, saying, We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit,' that is, a man risen from the dead, or an angel, hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.' (Acts xxiii. 9.) There is still another instance of the wisdom of the serpent reconciling itself with the innocence of the dove, in the conduct of this Apostle when mar
ing the disposition of his Athenian judges, he took advantage of their taste for novelty by announcing to them. The unknown God,' to whom they had already erected an altar. (Acts xvii.)
This Christian prudence, equally distant from the duplicity of hypocrites and the stupidity of idiots, merits e a place among the traits which characterize this great
apostle, not only because it is worthy of our imitation, but also because it has been indirectly represented, by a modern Celsus, as mere cunning and artifice. The author here alluded to, who deserves rather to be called a great poet, than a faithful painter, having disfigured this trait of St. Paul's character, with a pencil dipt in the gall of prejudice; we gladly take this occasion of setting forth the injustice of his imputations, so illibe. rally cast both upon Christianity itself, and the most eminent of its defenders. This witty philosopher, who has said so many good things against the spirit of persecution, never perceived, that he bimself was actuated
cious are liable to be blinded by passion or prejudice. The same spirit of persecution, which excited the Athe. nians to discountenance the justice of Aristides, as a dan. gerous singularity, and to punish the piety of Socrates, as a species of Atheism, led the author of the Philosophical Dictionary to represent the prudence of St. Paal, as the duplicity of a hypocrite.
Had this severe judge occupied the seat of Ananias, he might perhaps, with an affected liberality, have overlooked the peculiarities of the Apostle's creed ; but, in the end, bis innate detestation of piety would have assisted him, according to the general custom of pez. secutors, to feign some just cause for treating him with the utmost rigour. And this he has done in our day, as far as his circumstances would permit; since, not being able to disgrace bim by the hand of a public executioner, he has studied to do it with his pen. by ravishing from him, not only his reputation for extraordinary piety, but even his claim to common honesty.
Persecutor !, whoever thou art, be content that thy predecessors have taken away the lives of the righteous, and spare them, what they prefer infinitely before life itself, · The testimony of a good conscience.'
His Tenderness toward others, and his Severity
Though perfectly insensible to the warm emotions of brotherly love, the worldly pastor frequently repeats, in his public discourses, those affectionate expressions, which flow so cordially from the lips of faithful minis. ters, “My dear brethren in Christ !' These expressions from the pulpit are almost unavoidable, upon some occasions ; but, in general, they are to be regarded in no
other light than the civil addresses of a haughty person, who concludes his epistles by assuring his correspondents, that he considers it a honour to subscribe himself their obedient servant. But while the worldly minister affects a degree of benevolence, which he cannnot feel, the good pastor, out of the abundance of a heart overflowing with Christian charity, addresses his brethren with the utmost affection and regard, not only without any danger of feigning what he has not experienced, but even without a possibility of expressing the ardour of his brotherly love. His exhortations to the faithful, like those of St. Paul, are seasoned with an unction of grace, and accompanied with a flow of tenderness, which frequently give them an astonishing effect upon his brethren, and which always evince the interest he takes in the concerns of the church. Rebuke not an elder,' says St. Paul, - but entreat him as a father, and the younger men as brethren : The elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters, with all purity.' (1 Tim. v. 1.) Such was the exhortation of this apostle to a young minister, nor was his example unsuitable to his counsel. I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God. Dearly beloved, be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.' (Rom. xii. 1, 19, 21.) "I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.' (1 Cor. iv. 14.) I, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation, wherewith ye are called.' (Eph, iv. 1.) • If there he any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, being of one accord. My beloved, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.' (Phil. ii. 1, 2, 12.) We beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as you have received of us how ye ought to walk, and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.' (1 Thess. iv, 1.) • Though I might be much bold in Christ, to enjoin thee that which is convenient, yet for Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have be. gotten in my bonds : Who in time past was unto thee unprofitable, but now profitable unto thee and me, whom I have sent again. Thou therefore receive him, that is mine own bowels. Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord; refresh my bowels in the Lord.' (Philemon v. 8, 12, 20.) Such was the tenderness and affection, with which St. Paul was accustomed to ad. dress his believing brethren. But the language of this apostle was very different when he spoke of himself, and of that body of sin, which constrained him to cry out, “ O wretched man that I am!'
It is the character of too many persons to be severe toward the failings of others, while they shew the utmost lenity toward themselves, with respect both to their infirmities and their vices. Always ready to place the faults of their neighbours in an odious light, and their own in the most favourable point of view, they seem to be made up of nothing, but partiality and self-love ; while the true minister reserves his greatest indulgence for others, and exercises the greatest severity toward him. self. • All things are lawful for me,' writes St. Paul, • but I will not be brought under the power of any." (1 Cor. vi. 12.) “Know ye not, that they, which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize ? And every one that striveth for the mastery, is temperate in all things: Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as un. certainly ; so tight 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.” (1 Cor. ix. 24—27.)
One reflection naturally finishes this trait of the character of St. Paul. If this spiritual man, if this great apostle, thought himself obliged to use such strenuous efforts, that he might not be rejected before God at the last ; in how great danger are those careless pastors and Christians, who, far from accustoming them. selves to holy acts of self-denial, satisfy their natural desires, without any apprehension, and treat those as enthusiasts, who begin to imitate St. Paul, by regard. ing their baptismal vow, and renouncing their sensual appetites.
His Love never degenerated into Cowardice, but
reproved and consoled, as Occasion required.
The charity of the true minister bears no resem. blance to that phantom of a virtue, that mean complai. sance, that unmanly pliancy, that ynchristian cowardice, or that affected generosity, which the ministers of this day delight to honour with the name of charity. According to these insufficient judges, to be charitable_is only to give some trifling alms out of our abundant superfluities, to tolerate the most dangerous errors, with. out daring to lift up the standard of truth, and to behold the overflowings of vice, without attempting to oppose the threatening torrent. Such would be the mistaken charity of a surgeon, who, to spare the mortifying arm of his friend, should suffer the gangrene to spread over his whole body. Such was the charity of the high priest Eli toward Hophni and Phinehas ; an impious charity, which permitted him to behold their shameful debaucheries with too favourable an eye; a fatal charity which opened that abyss of evil, which finally swallowed them up, and into which they dragged with them their father, their children, the people of Israel, and the church, over which they had been appointed to preside.
The good pastor, conscious that he shall save a sou from death, if he can but prevail with a sinner to forsake his evil way, uses every effort to accomplish so im. portant a work. And among other probable means,