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tasting of the honey had on Jonathan, and now, on looking back on the same course, he sees only a train of victories and triumphs. Such alternations of feeling, and quick changes from fear to hope, and from grief to joy, on the account of others, are incident only to tender hearts.
The same feeling dictated that wise and winning mode of address which pervades the writings of our apostle, and which he adopts whenever he has occasion to reprove, or seeks to reclaim. He is ingenious in finding excuses for his brethren. He only partly believes” the unfavourable reports of them. He “ stands in doubt” of them is “afraid of them;" but is unwilling to think the worst. 6 Have ye suffered so many things in vain, if it be yet in vain ?" If he had been grieved, it was only “ by a part” of them. “ Ye have not injured me at all.” This language is not the result of art, or of a frigid prudence, but flows from the warmth of his affections, and a delicate apprehension of saying any thing which might, in the slightest degree, mar the spiritual benefit of those who were concerned. Let me add, that his affection was not limited to those among whom he had laboured personally, but extended to “ as many as had not seen his face.” He tells us that he felt a tender solicitude for all the churches, and for every individual in them. " Who is weak, and I am not weak ? Who is offended, and I burn not?”* But I would quote the greater part of his writings, if I were to produce all the proofs of this feature of his character.
Learned men have employed themselves in forming a key to the Epistles of Paul. Without despising their labours, or undervaluing the assistance which may be drawn from them for understanding what is obscure in his writings, I cannot help saying that attention to that quality of his mind which we are now considering is the best key to his works. It will enable us to unlock the cabinet which contains such rare treasures, and to find our way into some of its most concealed and intricate compartments. It will often do more than any instrument in the art of interpretation for explaining his peculiar phraseology, his seeming tautologies, his puzzling paradoxes, his transitions, digressions, parentheses, and hyperboles. Without this sympathetic tact, the acutest critic and the most skilful divine will frequently fail in hitting his sense, following the strain of his discourse, or penetrating the depth of his argument; and they will certainly fail in perceiving his beauties. A ravishing persuasion of the sublime truths of Christianity, and an intense love to the souls of men, are the two elements which form Paul's eloquence, and by which his writings are distinguished from those of all other orators.
** 2 Cor. xi. 28, 29.
In fine, after what has been advanced, it is scarcely necessary for me to add, that his ardent zeal for religion was tempered with the greatest moderation. But as this part of his character is frequently brought forward in the evangelical record, it is proper that it should be distinctly stated here. Before his conversion, Paul was “exceedingly zealous of the traditions of his fathers ;” but then his zeal was blind, bigoted, intolerant, and violent. His zeal for Christianity was equally ardent, but it was enlightened and liberal, and under the government of the mild and gentle principles of the religion which he had espoused. He was “ very jealous” of the honour of his new Master, and wholly devoted to his interests; but then it was as became the servant of him who was “meek and lowly of heart,” and who “ came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” If “ his spirit was stirred in him” when he saw the cities which he visited “ wholly given to idolatry,” and if he felt constrained in duty to teach that “ they were no gods which were made with men's hands,” this he did in the synagogues of the Jews, or in the forum, where it was customary to treat such topics ; and there was nothing in his discourse which was calculated to excite sedition, or inconsistent with the decorum due to a worship founded on prescription, and sanctioned by the voice and laws of the public. If, under the influence of love to the truth and to the souls of men, he pronounced those “ accursed” who should " preach another gospel,” he was willing that the curse should fall on himself, provided he was found guilty of the sin. If he directed the church of Corinth to " deliver unto Satan” a vicious member, it was “for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved.” If he announced that the weapons with which he was armed were “ in readiness to revenge the disobedience" of the proud and obstinate, he at the same time declares that he would not draw the spiritual sword until the “ obedience” of the sound part of the church was “ fulfilled," and time was given to all to repent.
What an eminent display of this temper did he give in the controversy respecting the observance of the Mosaical law, which divided the opinions and disturbed the peace of the primitive church! In maintaining the doctrine of gratuitous justification by faith, in opposition to those who would have made this privilege to depend on the performance of works, whether moral or ceremonial, he was inflexible; and he “ gave place, by subjection, no, not for an hour,” to those who sought to impose the yoke of Jewish ceremonies on Gentile believers. But, at the same time, he readily acquiesced in, and used his authority to execute, the decree of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem as to certain things which it was necessary for the Gentiles to avoid, in order to preserve communion with their Jewish brethren. With respect to believers of the Jewish nation, his conduct was different. He knew that the ceremonial law was virtually deprived of its obligation by the death of Christ ; but he was aware that all who had embraced the gospel did not possess the knowledge and assurance of this truth, that it was the will of God that their minds should be gradually enlightened in it, and that they were accepted by him when they acted in this matter according to their conviction, and with charity toward their brethren. Accordingly, he exhorted them not to condemn one another on account of their different opinions and practices ; but, at the same time, showed that it was the duty of the more enlightened to have a due regard to the scruples of their weaker brethren, and not to use their own liberty in such a way as to lay a stumblingblock before them, or to lead them into the commission of what they thought sin. In this way, while he instructed the more ignorant, and conducted them gradually to the knowJedge of their Christian liberty and privileges, he repressed
the rashness, selfishness, and pride of the more knowing. And the doctrine which he taught on this head he was careful to exemplify in his own practice. While he proclaimed aloud, " I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean in itself,” with the same breath, and in same tone, he declared, “ If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” Hence the maxim by which he regulated his conduct in such matters : “ All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient : all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” Hence the description which he gives of his uniform behaviour in every thing which was not in itself or by implication sinful : “ Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak : I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor. ix. 20-22). Here zeal and charity meet together, and truth and peace embrace one another. Here we have a genuine and living exhibition of Christian liberality, which has been so often counterfeited and caricatured; for what is true liberality of mind but a good heart shining through a clear and enlarged understanding ?
THE ADVANTAGES OF ADVERSITY, ILLUSTRATED IN
THE HISTORY OF JOSEPH.
HE SENT A MAN BEFORE THEM, EVEN JOSEPH, WHO WAS SOLD FOR
A SERVANT; WHOSE FEET THEY HURT WITH FETTERS; HE WAS LAID IN IRON: UNTIL THE TIME THAT HIS WORD CAME: THE WORD OF THE LORD TRIED HIM. THE KING SENT AND LOOSED HIM; EVEN THE RULER OF THE PEOPLE, AND LET HIM GO FREE. HE MADE HIM LORD OF HIS HOUSE, AND RULER OF ALL HIS SUBSTANCE; TO BIND HIS PRINCES AT HIS PLEASURE, AND TEACH SENATORS WISDOM.
WHERE, even in works of imagination formed solely to please, will we find a story so beautiful, and so delightfully told, as that of Joseph in the book of Genesis ? Which of you does not recollect from a child the intense and neverwearying interest with which you listened again and again to the recital of the events of his checkered life—the tears of sorrow which you shed over the successive calamities which overwhelmed the amiable youth—and the tears of joy which flowed still more copiously at the unexpected turn of affairs which raised him from a prison to the second place in Egypt, and gilded the last hours of the venerable old man his father ?
But the history of Joseph would not have obtained a place in the inspired volume, had it not been highly instructive as well as deeply interesting. Not to speak of the important moral lessons it conveys ; such as the baneful effects of envy, especially among children of the same family; the force of religion in fortifying the mind against temptation, and sustaining it under the pressure of adversity; and the power of