« AnteriorContinuar »
pise his authority. He therefore tells them, that as they had endured the forwardness and presumptuous confidence of these false teachers, he would show them that he had as good ground . for glorying in external advantages as any others had. Howbeit, whereinsoever any is bold, I speak foolishly, I am bold also.
He then proceeds to examine their pretensions, and to compare them with his own, which he had not before obtruded. Are they Hebrews ? so am 1. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am 1. He was not at all inferior to them in these outward advantages, if such they were esteemed. But he asks, Are they ministers of Christ? I speak as a fool, I am more. Here he declares himself to be their superior; which he proves by relating what he had suffered for Christ's sake, while these men had used every means of avoiding persecution. In labours more abundant. He had travelled through Asia Minor and Greece, to make known the glad tidings of salvation through Christ in these parts of the world; not following the track of others, as the false teachers did; and as schismatics generally do; but going where Christ had not been preached before; that he might be the instrument of turning sinners from the error of their ways; not going to prey upon or to divide the flock of Christ, but to gather sheep into His fold, to the glory of His holy name.
And what recompense did the apostle receive for his great and abundant labours of love? Stripes, imprisonment, danger of being put to death. 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. This was the reward which he received from his fellow-creatures. The Jews punished him according to their law, in which it was written, Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed.69 The heathen punished him in the manner they were accustomed to do. At Philippi the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them; and when they had laid many stripes on them, they cast them into prison. At Lystra he was stoned, and drawn out of the city, being supposed to be dead.70
And not only did he suffer such things from his fellow-creatures, he met with many of what are called the common accidents of life, to which he would not have been exposed, had he not gone forth into the world to preach the gospel of Christ. He says, Thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep. An account is given of one of his shipwrecks on his voyage to Rome, at the island of Melita' or Malta, in the twenty-seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. He was constantly going from
69 Deuteronomy xxv. 3.
70 Acts xvi. 22, 23; xiv. 19.
place to place on his errand of mercy; and so was exposed to various perils or dangers. In journeyings 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. His own countrymen were always opposed to him, and often laid snares to apprehend him and put him to death; as at Corinth, when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat.71 The heathen were also very hostile to Christianity, as it appeared in the tumult at Ephesus, which was excited because Paul had persuaded and turned away much people from idolatry, saying that they be no gods which are made with hands.71 He was in perils in the city, not only on that occasion, but at Damascus also, as it is mentioned at the close of the chapter from which the text is taken. In Damascus, the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me; and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.7 In his travels he passed through deserts, where he might have perished; he went over the sea, and was in frequent danger. But that which pained him most of all was being in perils among false
71 Acts xviii. 12; xix. 26.
72 2 Cor. xi. 32, 33. Acts ix. 24, 25.
brethren, such as were the false teachers, against whom he was obliged to vindicate himself.
In the pursuit of the glorious object which he had ever in view, the dissemination of the gospel of Christ, he was in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness; which he need not have endured, but for his anxious desire, or, as he expressed it, the necessity that was laid upon him to preach the gospel of Christ, wherever a door was opened for its reception.
In addition to all this, he had a continual anxiety for the spiritual welfare of those who had received the gospel through his instrumentality. Besides those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. He was desirous to see the seed of the word of God which he had sown, spring up and bear fruit to the glory of God. For this he earnestly prayed. He rejoiced in the prosperity of the churches which he had planted. He mourned when any seemed to turn aside from the truth of the gospel. What a beautiful specimen we have of his care for all the churches, in his address to the elders of Ephesus, recorded in the twentieth chapter of the Acts.
As his calling to the ministry of the gospel of Christ had exposed him to such trials, and afflictions, and anxieties, he might well ask, Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended and I
burn not? If others complained of weakness, or inability to support themselves under the load of obloquy and distress to which they were exposed, on account of their profession of the Christian religion, how much more reason had St. Paul to speak of his weakness, and to be bowed down and depressed under his trials and burdens. If others were offended at the reproach and persecution which they had met with for the sake of the cross of Christ, what reason had he to burn with indignation because of his sufferings. But, no! He knew that complaint and indignation became him not in this holy cause.
He therefore adds, on the contrary, If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities, or weaknesses, those in which his weakness most appeared. As he says in the following chapter, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. He considered it to be his highest honour, that the strength of Christ should be made perfect in his weakness.73
But as he had been so greatly and grievously maligned by the false teachers, who had sown tares in the garden of God during his absence,
73 2 Corinthians xii. 9, 10.