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his pious wish! My brethren, if that sentiment, instead of lying in this despised book, had occurred in a Greek tragedy or a Roman story, or had it proceeded from the mouth of a Socrates or a Cicero, instead of that of an apostle, it would have been quoted an hundred times in the writings of the age, as an effusion of the sublimest and purest benevolence. But, alas !-our wits have taste and feeling on every point but one.
How admirably qualified was our apostle for the work to which he was separated, by this part of his character! Whereever selfishness predominates, it mars every great undertaking, It must prove the ruin of every good cause, and lead to the dissolution of every society which is not held together by the palpable bonds of interest. Yet how general its prevalence in the world; so that we are forced to confess, that those systems of morality which are founded on it have their counterpart too exactly in the conduct of mankind, while all our better feelings revolt from their principles ! How many humbling discoveries of it in the actions even of good men! How rare the instances of a person thoroughly and uniformly disinterested! The disappointments which he met with in this respect caused the most pungent grief to Paul. Hence his pathetic exclamation (which many, I am afraid, read without entering into the writer's feelings) on requesting Timothy to be sent to him: “ For I have no man like-minded; for all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.” * All ! how that word should thrill our hearts, awaken our jealousy, and cause alarm! If it was so in the primitive times of Christianity, and among those who were around the apostle, what must it be now and among us? Doth not the spirit say expressly, “ That in the last days perilous times shall come: for men shall be lovers of their own selves ?”+ Next to disingenuousness and fraud, nothing was so abhorrent to Paul's mind, and so apt to excite his resentment, as selfishness, and the partialities to which it gives rise. It was, I am inclined to think, a conviction, or apprehension, that he discerned the
2 Tim. iii, 1, 2
working of this principle in the mind of Barnabas, which led him into that “ sharp contention” which parted these dear friends, and hitherto most cordial fellow-labourers in the gospel; for Mark, whom Barnabas determined to take with them as the companion of their itinerancy, was his own “ sister's son.” * But neither this circumstance, nor the consideration that his mother's house had been the asylum of the persecuted saints, † appeared to Paul to be a good reason for choosing, as an assistant on a religious mission, a young man, who had fore. merly deserted them and the work through levity or selfishness. He remembered the words of his Divine Master, “ Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother;" and he was taught by them, that, though Christianity does not burst asunder the ties of kindred, it requires of all its followers that they be guided by higher considerations in advancing its interests. This may throw light on the bold expression which we find him elsewhere using, when he is speaking of the obligations which believers are under “not to live to themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again :"_“ Henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” I
We shall pause here for the present. In what has passed under our review, we have seen convincing proofs of the power of the grace of God; but much remains yet to be seen. “ To God only-wise be glory, through Jesus Christ, for ever. Amen."
^ Acts, xii. 12.
* Acts, xv. 37-39, comp. Coloss. iv. 10. I 2 Cor. v. 16.
THE CHARACTER OF PAUL.
1 Cor. xv. 10.
BY THE GRACE OF GOD I AM WHAT I AM.
We have viewed Paul as an indefatigable preacher of the gospel, as a great sufferer for it, and as an advanced and experienced Christian ; and, proceeding to take a nearer view of his character, we considered him as distinguished for humility and disinterestedness. Let me now call your attention to a higher quality.
3. He was of an elevated and enlarged soul. Of this, disinterestedness is an important and indispensable ingredient. He whose ruling passion is selfishness, or who forms his purposes, and regulates his conduct, chiefly with a view to his own interest, is incapable of noble efforts, or of generous and heroic deeds. But something more than this is necessary to constitute greatness of mind. Every good man is not a great man, and Paul was both. Some persons possess generous and benevolent dispositions, and, under their influence, are led to make sacrifices for the relief of others, or the promotion of a public cause; but, when they come to suffer hardships in consequence of this, and feel themselves unfit to conflict with “ the sea of troubles” in which they are involved, they begin to “ sigh and look backwards,” regret the course which they have adopted, and, if they do not make good their retreat, sink into inactivity and dejection. If the apostle of the Gentiles had laboured under this want of firmness and elevation of mind, he would soon have desisted from his work, or have continued it with languor and reluctance, instead of glorying, as he did, in his labours, infirmities, necessities, and afflictions.
Paul, as we have seen, was distinguished for humility; but humility is not meanness of spirit, nor is pride to be confounded with elevation of soul. When we say that a person has a noble spirit, we do not necessarily mean that he is either haughty or proud; we intend to convey the idea that he despises what is mean and base, and unbecoming his character, rank, or station; that he is above—that is, incapable of—an unworthy action; that his aims and pursuits are high, and that he delights in generous and heroic deeds. Persons of little minds and slender acquirements are most in danger of being puffed up with pride. Modesty is the inseparable attendant on great talents—or, at least, on greatness of soul. Those who have made the highest advances in true knowledge and virtue, perceive most clearly the vast disproportion between that which they aim at, and that which they have reached; they, accordingly, feel disposed to undervalue, rather than overvalue their attainments; and, compared with what is above them, the distance between themselves and those who are beneath them dwindles in their eyes, as they look first at the one and then at the other, to a span, to an handbreadth, to nothing. Yet they maintain their elevation, and continue to ascend higher. Self-complacency and self-glorification are the feelings of a person who has ceased to aspire. The very aspirations of a noble nature, and his efforts to rise, imply dissatisfaction with himself. And that this was the state of Paul's mind we learn from his own declaration :-“ Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”* But though he had learned “not to think of himself more highly than he ought,” and “ in honour to prefer others," yet he knew how to vindicate his gifts and labours against those who invidiously disparaged them, and how to bring down vain and arrogant boasters to their proper level. † Though he scrupled not to call himself “ the least of the apostles,” yet, when some attempted to derogate from the authority of his office, by extolling those who had been the companions and brethren of
our Lord, he could adopt a very different strain : -" Those who seemed to be somewhat, it maketh no matter to me (God accepteth no man's person); those who seemed to be somewhat, in conference added nothing to me."* A conscious dignity runs through his language and behaviour to believers and unbelievers, friends and foes. He knew what became him, and what he was entitled to as a man and a Roman, as a Christian and an apostle; and although he could “abase himself” for the good of others, and endure with patience and meekness both bonds and scourging, yet he did not think it his duty to expose himself to be trampled upon to gratify the humours of men, and neglected no opportunity of standing up for and maintaining his privileges. The most high-spirited Roman could not evince more jealousy in the maintenance of his rights of citizenship than he did at Philippi, at Jerusalem, and at Cesarea.f
I have made these remarks with the view of correcting certain mistakes on this subject which are far from being uncommon, and not because the quality of the apostle's mind, which I have at present in my eye, consisted in conscious dignity. It consisted in high aims, directed by enlarged views, and supported by generous and powerful principles of action. Religion, by calling men to the contemplation of a Being of infinite excellence, and making their chief duty and proper happiness to lie in resembling, pleasing, and enjoying him, tends naturally to generate such a state of mind. And Christianity, by the principles which it infuses, the examples which it furnishes, and the prospects which it opens up, is eminently calculated to elevate and ennoble. How can it be otherwise ? Does it teach men that they have immortal souls, formed after the image of their Maker, and which, though fallen and ruined, are capable of being restored, and destined to be raised to a higher than their pristine state; that they have been redeemed, not with such corruptible things as silver and gold, but with a price of inestimable value ; that they are born again from above; that their bodies are living temples in which God dwells; that they are sons of God, and heirs of an inheritance,