Imágenes de páginas

his own breast or in that of others. Has he occasion to speak of his office? It is the grace of apostleship. Of his qualifications for it? They are gifts. Of his having laboured abundantly in it? “ Not I, but the grace of God in me.” Of his success? It is God that giveth the increase. Of his sufferings? He had borne them through Christ strengthening him. From the same principle we find him often using the plural number, and speaking in the name of his brethren, when he describes actions and qualities which were peculiarly his own. If he ever adopts language which appears at variance with his usual modesty, it is by constraint and for the purpose of silencing those who aimed at injuring the gospel by detracting from the credit of his ministry. On such occasions, instead of being puffed up, he appears humbled at being obliged to assume the style of his detractors. And withal, there is such an ingenuousness and frankness in his apology, such a delicate raillery and chiding of his friends for reducing him to the necessity of saying what, though true, ought to have come from other lips, that every one must perceive that his temper was equally abhorrent of vain boasting and of affected humility. “I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you; for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing." * The finest moral description falls short of this natural burst of feeling. In reflecting on what he had said he is covered with blushes ; seeking to relieve his mind from the confusion and embarrassment which he felt, he is gradually led to use language even higher than what he had formerly employed; upon which he sinks at once to the expression of his native humility, wrapping himself in the mantle of self-denial and devout abasement. He begins by acknowledging that he had spoken as “ a fool," and ends by acknowledging that he was " nothing.”

2. The next feature of his character to which I would call your attention is disinterestedness. In taking up the cross of Christ he learned to “ deny himself,” and the whole of his

* 2 Cor. xii. 11.

subsequent conduct afforded a bright example of the purest and most disinterested benevolence. It was under the influence of this principle that he formed the resolution, upon which he continued to act during his ministry, of waving the right which he had, both on the principles of reason and revelation, to be supported by those whom he taught, and of sustaining himself and assisting his companions by exercising the trade of tent-making which he had acquired in his youth. His reasons for this were as wise and generous as the practice itself was disinterested. He felt averse to be a burdensome” to any–he was anxious to convince the heathen that regard to their spiritual advantage was his only motive for coming and remaining among them, and he was determined to preserve his independence as a servant of Christ by avoiding whatever might seem to prevent him from using the utmost freedom in admonishing and reproving the converts which he made by his preaching. Itinerant teachers who lectured for money were to be found at that time in all the cities of Greece. As the Pharisees “ devoured widows' houses under the pretence of long prayers,” so there arose at an early period among the Christians mercenary individuals, who, 6 for filthy lucre's sake,” taught things which they ought not, subverting whole houses, fomenting divisions, and creating factions; and such, alas ! is the infirmity of human nature, and such the smooth arts which mercenary men practise, and the flattering unction which they apply to the humours of men, that they often gained a greater ascendency over the minds of the Christians than the most gifted and useful of the apostles. This appears from the severe but friendly irony with which Paul expostulates with the Christians at Corinth, who had suffered themselves to become the dupes of their selfish artifice. “Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also; for ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise : For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you (eat you up), if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you in the face." * Knowing that he had a testimony in the breasts of those to whom he wrote, that his conduct had been the very reverse of this, with what boldness does he address them: “ Receive us : we have wronged no man; we have corrupted no man; we have defrauded no man.”* But to perceive fully the advantage which his keeping himself free from pecuniary obligations gave him in refuting the calumnies of his detractors, and in putting to shame those who had lent a too credulous ear to them, you must consult the different parts of his epistles to the Corinthians in which he alludes to that topic. His experience of this gave him much satisfaction in reflecting on the resolution which he had at first adopted on higher grounds.t By adhering to his original resolution, he also gave an example of disinterestedness to his brethren, and of industry to Christians in general, which we find him repeatedly pressing;f and he felt himself more at liberty to use exertions in procuring contributions from the Gentile churches in behalf of the poor saints in Judea, according to the engagement he had come under to the apostles at Jerusalem. S

* 2 Cor. xi, 18-20.

Two circumstances connected with this subject throw considerable light on that feature of the apostle's character which we are contemplating. In the first place, though he did not choose to depend for his livelihood on the churches which he served, yet he vindicated the right which the ministers of the gospel had to such support. He did not hold out his own conduct as an example which ought to be universally imitated; he did not speak of it in such a strain as, in the slightest degree, to disparage or throw a reflection on those who found it necessary, or who chose to act otherwise than himself. He did not even leave their conduct open to challenge, or to be defended by themselves; but, knowing that such a vindication would come with a better grace, and would have more influence from his pen, he applied himself particularly, and of set purpose, to vindicate the right of his brethren to be supported by those among whom they laboured, on principles both human

[ocr errors]

and divine. How different from the conduct of those who, imitating the Apostle according to the letter, in circumstances very dissimilar, show but too plainly, by their language, that they have not drunk deep into his spirit! In the second place, though he “ did not desire a gift,"—though he had “ learned both to suffer want and to abound,”—though he looked on it as his " reward” to “ make the gospel of Christ without charge,” and ordinarily acted on that principle, yet, whenever the assistance of others was requisite to enable him to discharge the high and indispensable duties of his office, or even to relieve him from great straits, provided it was offered cheerfully, and not as the price of his independence, he did not stand on the point of honour, nor proudly or cynically disdain the benevolence of individuals, or the contributions of churches. Nor did he seek to conceal any instances of this kind as if they had been discreditable to him, or inconsistent with the general principle on which he acted. Hence, referring to the aid which he had received from the Christians in Macedonia when he preached to the Corinthians, he says to the latter, in his strong, but easy to be understood language, “ I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” * Hence the frank and warm manner in which he bears testimony to the uniform attention and kindness of the church at Philippi, in acknowledging the receipt of a recent contribution from them : “ Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Notwithstanding ye have well done that ye did communicate with my affliction. Even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not that I desire a gift; but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound” (hold your hand-send me no more), “ I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” (Philip. iv. 10–20). Read the whole passage, my brethren, at your leisure. What a union of dignity with humility, of firmness with sensibility, of disinterestedness with gratitude, of the finest feelings of the man with the most ardent devotion of the saint! We see him standing as a priest before the altar, and laying upon it the gift which he had received from the Philippians as a free-will offering, the odour of which, after refreshing himself, ascended to heaven, mingled with the incense of his thanksgivings and prayers. The disinterestedness of Paul was displayed in the receiving, as well as in the refusing, of favours. What was the return he was prepared to make to these liberal Christians ? He tells them in the same letter. They had given him of their substance; he was ready to impart to them himself. “ Yea, and if I be offered (poured out as a libation) on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.”

* 2 Cor. xi. 8

The disinterested spirit of Paul did not appear only in his readiness to renounce every pecuniary claim. He was prepared, and stood always ready, to make a sacrifice of his ease, his health, his strength, his reputation, his life, in prosecution of his high calling, and for the advancement of the spiritual welfare of those among whom he laboured ; nor could their ingratitude and insensibility to his services cool the ardour of his generous determination to do them good : " I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” * Nor was this disinterested benevolence confined to those who were Christians. If the maxim be just, s out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” then his unpremeditated reply to King Agrippa is a convincing proof of this. Struck with his fervent appeal to him, and with the character of his whole appearance and defence, the king could not refrain from exclaiming, “ Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”_" I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, EXCEPT THESE BONDS." O how gladly would Paul have continued to wear 66 these bonds,”-how gladly would he have withdrawn his “ appeal to Cesar,” and consented to “ go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged,” provided he could have obtained but half

* 2 Cor. xii. 15.

« AnteriorContinuar »