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class of men. He might have discussed some of those subjects which would have flattered the governor. He might have discoursed on the dignity of princes, and on the relation they have to the Supreme Being. He might have said, that the magistrate "beareth not the sword in vain," Rom. xiii. 4. That the Deity himself has said, "ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the most High," Ps. lxxxii. 6. But all this adulation, all this finesse, were unknown to our apostle. He sought the passions of Felix in their source. He forced the sinner in his last retreat. He boldly attacked the governor with "the sword of the Spirit," and with "the hammer of the word." Before the object of his passion, and the subject of his crime, before Drusilla, he treated of " temperance." When Felix sent for him to satiate his avarice, he talked of "righteousness." While the governor was in his highest period of splendour, he discoursed "of a judgment to come."
but because he hoped to have received money for his liberation. Here is the effect of avarice. Josephus recites an instance of his voluptuousness. It is his marriage with Drusilla. She was a Jewess, as is remarked in our text. King Azizus, her former husband, was a heathen; and in order to gain her affections, he had conformed to the most rigorous ceremonies of Judaism. Felix saw her, and became enamoured of her beauty. He conceived for her a violent passion; and, in defiance of the sacred ties which had united her to a husband, he resolved to become master of her person. His addresses were received. Drusilla violated her former engagements, preferring to contract with Felix an illegitimate marriage, to an adherence to the chaste ties which united her to Azizus. Felix the Roman, Felix the procurator of Judea, and the favourite of Cesar, appeared to her a noble acquisition. It is indeed a truth, we may here observe, that grandeur and fortune are charms which mortals find the Preachers of the court, confessors to princes, greatest difficulty to resist; and against which pests of the public, who are the chief promothe purest virtue has need to be armed with all ters of the present persecution, and the cause its constancy. Recollect those two characters of our calamities! O that I could animate you of Felix and Drusilla. St. Paul, before those by the example of St. Paul: and make you two personages, treated concerning "the faith blush for your degeneracy and turpitude! My in Christ;" that is, concerning the Christian brethren, you know a prince;-and would to religion, of which Jesus Christ is the sum and God we knew him less! but let us respect the substance, the author and the end: and from lustre of a diadem; let us venerate the Lord's the numerous doctrines of Christianity, he se- anointed in the person of our enemy. Examlected "righteousness, temperance, and judg-ine the discourses delivered in his presence; ment to come." read the sermons pompously entitled, "Sermons preached before the king;" and see those other publications, dedicated to The perpetual conqueror, whose battles were so many victories-terrible in war-adorable in peace. You will there find nothing but flattery and applause. Who ever struck in his presence, at ambition and luxury? Who ever ventured there to maintain the rights of the widow and the orphan? Who, on the contrary, has not magnified the greatest crimes into virtues; and, by a species of idolatry before unknown, made Jesus Christ himself subservient to the vanity of a mortal man?
Here is, my brethren, an admirable text; but a text selected with discretion. Fully to comprehend it, recollect the character we have given of Felix. He was covetous, luxurious, and governor of Judea. St. Paul selected three subjects, correspondent to these characteristics. Addressing an avaricious man, he treated of righteousness. Addressing the governor of Judea, one of those persons who think themselves independent, and responsible to none but themselves for their conduct, he treated of "judgment to come."
My brethren, when a man preaches for popularity, instead of seeking the glory of Christ, Oh! but St. Paul would have preached in he seeks his own; selects subjects calculated a different manner! Before Felix, before Druto display his talents, and flatter his audience. silla, he would have said that, "fornicators Does he preach before a professed infidel, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. will expatiate on morality; and be ashamed to vi. 9, 10. In the midst of an idolatrous peopronounce the venerable words-covenant-sa-ple, he would have painted, in the liveliest cotisfaction. Does he address an Antinomian au- lours, innocence oppressed, the faith of edicts dience, who would be offended were he to en- violated, the Rhine overflowing with blood, force the practical duties of religion; he makes the Palatinate still smoking, and buried in its every thing proceed from election, reprobation own ashes. I check myself; we again repeat and the irresistibility of grace. Does he preach it; let us respect the sacred grandeur of kings, in the presence of a profligate court, he will and let us deplore their grandeur, which exenlarge on the liberty of the gospel, and the poses them to the dangerous poison of adulaclemency of God. He has the art,-(a most tion and flattery. detestable art, but too well understood in all ages of the church,) he has the art of uniting his interests and his ministry. A political preacher endeavours to accommodate his preaching to his passions. Minister of Christ, and minister of his own interests, to express myself with this apostle, he "makes a gain of godliness:" on this principle had Felix expressed a desire to understand the gospel, St. Paul had a favourable opportunity of paying his court in a delicate manner. The Christian religion has a favourable aspect towards every
This suggests an important reflection; a reflection concerning the necessity which should induce sovereigns to have ecclesiastics about their persons, who would address them with frankness, and prompt them to the recollection of their duty. Grandeur, power, and applause, (we are obliged to make the observations in our pulpits, in places where decorum requires attention; for we are of no consideration in the bustle of a splendid court;) grandeur, power, and applause, are charms against which it is very difficult for the human mind to retain
its superiority. Amid so many dangers, if a man have no guide but himself, no preacher but his conscience; if, instead of attending to the sober dictates of truth, he is surrounded with flatterers, how can he resist so many attractions? And, if he do not resist, how can he be saved? For in fact, the same laws are given to the high and the low; to the rich and the poor; to the sovereign and the subject.
In society, there is a gradation of rank. One is king, another is a subject; one tramples a carpet of purple and gold under his feet, another leads a languishing life, begging a precarious pittance of bread: one is drawn in a superb carriage, another wades through the dirt. But before the judgment-seat of Christ, all these distinctions will be no more. There will then be no respect of persons. The same nothing is our origin; the same dust is our end; the same Creator gave us being; the same Saviour accomplished our redemption; and the same tribunal must decide our eternal destiny. How very important is it, when a man is elevated to dignities, inaccessible, so to speak, to reflections of this nature,-how very important is it to have a faithful friend, a minister of Christ, a St. Paul, fully enlightened in the knowledge of the truth, and bold enough to declare it to others!
The commission is arduous to execute. is difficult in the ordinary course of life to give advice to equals. The repugnance which men evince on being told of their faults, occasions their being seldom cautioned. How much more difficult then to speak impartially to those, in whose presence our minds are mostly assailed with intimidating bashfulness, and who hold our life and fortune in their hands?
It behoves, notwithstanding, the ministers of Christ to maintain the dignity of their character. Never had orators a finer field for commanding attention. Never were subjects susceptible of a more grave and manly eloquence, than those which they discuss. They have motives the most powerful to press, and passions the most impetuous to move. They have an eternity of glory to promise, and an eternity of misery to denounce. They are ambassadors of a Potentate, in whose presence, all the kings of the earth are but "as the small dust of the balance." Behold St. Paul, fully impressed with the grandeur of his mission. He forgot the grandeur of Felix. He did more; he made him forget himself. He made him receive admonition with reverence. "He reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to
Ministers of Jesus Christ, here is our tutor, who prepares us for the sanctuary. And you, Christians, here is our apology. You complain when w interfere with the shameful secrets of your vice; consider St. Paul. He is the model God has set before us. He requires us to speak with freedom and force; to exhort "in season and out of season;" to thunder in our pulpits; to go even to your houses, and disturb that fatal security which the sinner enjoys in the commission of his crimes. He requires us to say, to the revenue-officers, "exact no more than that which is appointed;" to the soldiers, "do violence to no man, and be content with your wages;" to Herod, "it is
not lawful for thee to have thy brother Philip's wife," Luke iii. 12-14. You are not higher than Felix, neither are we in chains like St. Paul. But though we were yet more deeply abased; and though the character we sustain seemed to you yet more vile; and though to the rank of Jewish governor, you should superadd, that of Roman emperor, and sovereign of the world; despising all this vain parade, we would maintain the majesty of our Master. So St. Paul conducted himself before Felix and Drusilla. “He reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come."
But who can here supply the brevity of the historian, and report the whole of what the apostle said to Felix on these important points? It seems to me, that I hear him enforcing those important truths he has left us in his works, and placing in the fullest lustre those divine maxims interspersed in our Scriptures. "He reasoned of righteousness." There he maintained the rights of the widow and the orphan. There he demonstrated, that kings and magistrates are established to maintain the rights of the people, and not to indulge their own caprice; that the design of supreme authority is to make the whole happy by the vigilance of one, and not to gratify one at the expense of all; that it is meanness of mind to oppress the wretched who have no defence but cries and tears; that nothing is so unworthy of an enlightened man as that ferocity, with which some are inspired by dignity; and which obstructs their respect for human nature, when undisguised by worldly pomp; that nothing is so noble as goodness and grandeur, associated in the same character; that this is the highest felicity; that in some sort it transforms the soul into the image of God; who, from the high abodes of majesty in which he dwells surrounded with angels and cherubim, deigns to look down on this mean world which we inhabit, and "leaves not himself without witness, doing good to all."
"He reasoned of temperance." There, he would paint the licentious effects of voluptuousness. There he would demonstrate how opposite this propensity is to the spirit of the gospel; which every where enjoins retirement, mortification, and self-denial. He would show how it degrades the finest characters, who have suffered it to predominate. Intemperance renders the mind incapable of reflection. It debases the courage. It debilitates the mind. It softens the soul. He would demonstrate the meanness of a man called to preside over a great people, who exposes his foibles to public view: not having resolution to conceal, much less to vanquish them. With Drusilla, he would make human motives supply the defects of divine; with Felix, he would make divine motives supply the defects of human. He would make this impudent woman feel that nothing on earth is more odious than a woman destitute of honour; that modesty is an appendage of the sex; that an attachment, uncemented by virtue, cannot long subsist; that those who receive illicit favours, are the first, according to the fine remark of a sacred historian, to detest the indulgence: "The hatred wherewith Amnon, son of David, hated his sister, after the gratification of his brutal passion, was
greater than the love wherewith he had loved her," 2 Sam. xiii. 15. He would make Felix perceive, that however the depravity of the age might seem to tolerate a criminal intercourse among persons of the other sex, with God, who has called us all to equal purity, the crime was not less heinous.
"He reasoned," in short, "of judgment to come." And here he would magnify his ministry. When our discourses are regarded as connected only with the present period, their force I grant is of no avail. We speak for a Master, who has left us clothed with infirmities, which discover no illustrious marks of Him, by whom we are sent. We have only our voice, only our exhortations, only our entreaties. Nature is not inverted at our pleasure. The visitations of heaven do not descend at our command to punish your indolence and revolts: that power was very limited, even to the apostles. The idea of a future state, the solemnities of a general judgment supply our weakness; and St. Paul enforced this motive; he proved its reality: he delineated its lustre, he displayed its pomp. He resounded in the ears of Felix, the noise, the voices, the trumpets. He showed him the small and great, the rich man and Lazarus, Felix the favourite of Cesar, and Paul the captive of Felix, awoke by that awful voice; " Arise ye dead, and come to judgment."
of these extraneous aids: behold him without any ornament but the truth he preached. What do I say, that he was destitute of extraneous aids? See him in a situation quite the reverse;— a captive, loaded with irons, standing before his judge. Yet he made Felix tremble. Felix trembled! Whence proceeded this fear, and this confusion? Nothing is more worthy of your inquiry. Here we must stop for a moment: follow us while we trace this fear to its source. We shall consider the character of Felix under different views: as a heathen, imperfectly acquainted with a future judgment, and the life to come: as a prince, or governor, accustomed to see every one humble at his feet: as an avaricious magistrate, loaded with extortions and crimes: in short, as a voluptuous man, who had never restricted the gratification of his senses. These are so many reasons of Felix's fears.
First, we shall consider Felix as a heathen, imperfectly acquainted with a future judgment, and the life to come: I say, imperfectly acquainted, and not as wholly ignorant, the heathens having the "work of the law written in their hearts," Rom. ii. 15. The force of habit had corrupted nature, but had not effaced its laws. They acknowledged a judgment to come, but their notions were confused concerning its nature.
Such were the principles of Felix; or rather, But not to be precipitate in commending the such was the imperfection of his principles, apostle's preaching. Its encomiums will best when he heard this discourse of St. Paul. You appear by attending to its effects on the mind may infer his fears from his character. Figure of Felix. St. Jerome wished concerning a to yourselves a man, hearing for the first time, preacher of his time, that the tears of his audi- the maxims of equity and righteousness inculence might compose the eulogy of his sermons.cated in the gospel. Figure to yourselves, a We shall find in the tears of Felix occasion to man who heard corrected the immorality of applaud the eloquence of our apostle. We pagan theology; what was doubtful, illustrated; shall find that his discourses were thunder and and what was right, enforced. See a man, lightning in the congregation; as the Greeks who knew of no other God but the incestuous used to say concerning one of their orators. Jupiter, the lascivious Venus, taught that he While St. Paul preached, Felix felt I know must appear before Him, in whose presence not what agitations in his mind. The recollec- the seraphim veil their faces, and the heavens tion of his past life; the sight of his present sins; are not clean. Behold a man, whose notions Drusilla, the object of his passion and subject were confused concerning the state of souls of his crime; the courage of St. Paul; all terri- after death, apprised that God shall judge the fied him. His "heart burned," while that world in righteousness. See a man, who saw disciple of Jesus Christ expounded the Scrip- described the smoke, the fire, the chains of tures. The word of God was quick and power- darkness, the outer darkness, the lake of fire ful. The apostle, armed with the two-edged and brimstone; and who saw them delineated sword, dividing the soul, the joints, and the by one animated by the Spirit of God. What marrow, carried conviction to the heart. Fe- consternation must have been excited by these lix trembled, adds our historian, Felix trem- terrific truths! bled! The fears of Felix are our second reflection.
This we are incapable adequately to comprehend. We must surmount the insensibility, II. What a surprising scene, my brethren, acquired by custom. It is but too true, that is here presented to your view? The governor our hearts, instead of being impressed by these trembled, and the captive spoke without dis- truths, in proportion to their discussion-our may. The captive made the governor tremble. hearts are the more obdurate. We hear them The governor shivered in presence of the cap- without alarm, having so frequently heard them tive. It would not be surprising, brethren, if before. But if, like Felix, we had been brought we should make an impression on your hearts up in the darkness of paganism; and if another (and we should do so indeed, if our ministry Paul had come and opened our eyes, and unis not, as usual, a sound of empty words:) it veiled those sacred terrors, how exceedingly would not be surprising if we should make should we have feared? This was the case some impression on the hearts of our hearers. with Felix. He perceived the bandage to This sanctuary, these solemnities, these groans, drop in a moment, which conceals the sight this silence, these arguments, these efforts, of futurity. He heard St. Paul, that herald all aid our ministry, and unite to convince and of grace, and ambassador to the gentiles. He persuade you. But here is an orator destitute | heard him reason on temperance, and a judg
ment to come.
His soul was amazed; his heart trembled; his knees smote one against another.
Amazing effects, my brethren, of conscience! evident argument of the vanity of those gods, which idolatry adores, after it has given them form! Jupiter and Mercury, it is true, had their altars in the temples of the heathens; but the God of heaven and earth has his tribunal in the heart: and, while idolatry presents its incense to sacrilegious and incestuous deities, the God of heaven and earth, reveals his terrors to the conscience, and there loudly condemns both incest and sacrilege.
Secondly, consider Felix, as a prince; and you will find in this second office, a second cause of his fear. When we perceive the great men of the earth devoid of every principle of religion, and even ridiculing those very truths which are the objects of our faith; we feel that faith to waver. They excite a certain suspicion in the mind, that our sentiments are only prejudices; which have become rooted in man, brought up in the obscurity of humble life. Here is the apology of religion. The Caligulas, the Neros, those potentates of the universe, have trembled in their turn as well as the meanest of their subjects. This independence of mind, so conspicuous among libertines, is consequently an art,-not of disengaging themselves from prejudices,-but of shutting their eyes against the light, and of extinguishing the purest sentiments of the heart. Felix, educated in a court, fraught with the maxims of the great, instantly ridicules the apostle's preaching. St. Paul, undismayed, attacks him, and finds a conscience concealed in his bosom: the very dignity of Felix is constrained to aid our apostle, by adding weight to his ministry. He demolishes the edifice of Felix's pride. He shows, that if a great nation was dependent on his pleasure, he himself was dependent on a sovereign, in whose presence the kings of the earth are as nothing. He proves that dignities are so very far from exempting men from the judgment of God; that, for this very reason, their account becomes the more weighty, riches being a trust which Heaven has committed to the great: and "where much is given, much is required." He makes him feel this awful truth, that princes are responsible, not only for their own souls, but also for those of their subjects; their good or bad example influencing, for the most part, the people committed to their care.
See then Felix in one moment deprived of his tribunal. The judge became a party. He saw himself rich and in need of nothing; and yet he was "blind, and naked, and poor." He heard a voice from the God of the whole earth, saying unto him, "Thou profane and wicked prince, remove the diadem, and take off the crown. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, and it shall be no more," Ezek. xxi. 25, 26. Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord," Obad. 4. Neither the dignity of governor, nor the favour of Cesar, nor all the glory of empire shall deliver thee out of my hand. Thirdly, I restrict myself, my brethren, as much as possible, in order to execute without VOL. II.-38
exceeding my limits, the plan I have conceived; and proceed to consider Felix as an avaricious man; to find in this disposition a farther cause of his fear. Felix was avaricious, and St. Paul instantly transported him into a world, in which avarice shall receive its appropriate and most severe punishment. For you know that the grand test by which we shall be judged is charity. "I was hungry, and ye gave me meat;" and of all the obstructions of charity, covetousness is the most obstinate and insurmountable.
This unhappy propensity renders us insensible of our neighbour's necessities. It magnifies the estimate of our wants: it diminishes the wants of others. It persuades us that we have need of all, that others have need of nothing. Felix began to perceive the iniquity of this passion, and to feel that he was guilty of double idolatry. Idolatry in morality, idolatry in religion. Idolatry in having offered incense to gods, who were not the makers of heaven and earth; idolatry in having offered incense to mammon. For, the Scriptures teach, and experience confirms, "that covetousness is idolatry." The covetous man is not a worshipper of the true God. Gold and silver are the divinities he adores. His heart is with his treasure. Here then is the portrait of Felix;— a portrait drawn by St. Paul in the presence of Felix; and which reminded this prince of innumerable prohibitions, innumerable frauds, innumerable extortions; of the widow and the orphan he had oppressed. Here is the cause of Felix's fears. According to an expression of St. James, the "rust of his gold and silver began to witness against him, and to eat his flesh as with fire," James v. 3.
Fourthly, consider Felix as a voluptuous man. Here is the final cause of his fear.. Without repeating all we have said on the depravity of this passion, let one remark suffice; that, if the torments of hell are terrific to all, they must especially be so to the voluptuous. The voluptuous man never restricts his sensual gratification; his soul dies on the slightest approach of pain. What a terrific impression must not the thought of judgment make on such a character! Shall I, accustomed to indulgence and pleasure, become a prey to the worm that dieth not, and fuel to the fire which is not quenched! Shall I, who avoid pain with so much caution, be condemned to eternal torments! Shall I have neither delicious meats, nor voluptuous delights! This body, my idol, which I habituate to so much delicacy, shall it be "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, whose smoke ascendeth up for ever and ever!" And this effeminate habit I have of refining on pleasure, will it render me only the more sensible of my destruction and anguish!
Such are the traits of Felix's character; such are the causes of Felix's fear. Happy, if his fear had produced that "godly sorrow, and that repentance unto salvation not to be repented of." Happy, if the fear of hell had induced him to avoid its torments. But, ah no! he feared, and yet persisted, in the causes of his fear. He trembled, yet said to St. Paul, "Go thy way for this time." This is our last reflection.
III. How preposterous, my brethren, is the
sinner! What absurdities does he cherish in his heart! For, in short, had the doctrines St. Paul preached to Felix been the productions of his brain;-had the idea, which he gave him of rectitude and injustice, been a prejudice; had the thought of a future judgment been a chimera, whence proceeded the fears of Felix? Why was he so weak as to admit this panic of terror? If, on the contrary, Paul had truth and argument on his side, why did Felix send him away? Such are the contradictions of the sinner. He wishes; he revolts; he denies; he grants; he trembles, and says, "Go thy way for this time." Speak to him concerning the truths of religion; open hell to his view, and you will see him affected, devout, and appalled; follow him in life, and you will find that these truths have no influence whatever on his conduct.
I will reform in future! But who has told me, that I shall even desire to be converted? Do not habits become confirmed in proportion as they are indulged? And is not an inveterate evil very difficult to cure? If I cannot bear the excision of a slight gangrene, how shall I sustain the operation when the wound is deep? I will reform in future! But who has told me, that I shall live to a future period? Does not death advance every moment with gigantic strides? Does he not assail the prince in his palace, and the peasant in his cottage? Does he not send before him monitors and messengers; acute pains, which wholly absorb the soul;-deliriums, that render reason of no avail;-deadly stupors, which benumb the brightest and most piercing geniuses? And what is still more awful, does he not daily come without either warning or messenger? Does he not snatch away this man without allowing him time to be acquainted with the essentials of religion; and that man, without the restitution of riches ill-acquired; and the other, before he is reconciled to his enemy?
Instead of saying, "Go thy way for this time," we should say, stay for this time. Stay, while the Holy Spirit is knocking at the door of my heart; stay, while my conscience is alarmed; stay, while I yet live; "while it is called to-day." The arguments confound my conscience: no matter. "Thy hand is heavy upon me:" no matter still. Cut, strike, consume; provided it procure my salvation.
But, however criminal this delay may be, we seem desirous to excuse it. "Go thy way for this time; wher. I have a convenient sea, I will call for thee." It was Felix's business then which induced him to put off the apostle. Unhappy business! Awful occupation! It seems an enviable situation, my brethren, to be placed at the head of a province; to speak in the language of majesty; to decide on the fortunes of a numerous people; and in all cases to be the ultimate judge. But those situations, so happy and so dazzling in appearance, are in the main dangerous to the conscience! Those innumerable concerns, this
But are we not mistaken concerning Felix? Did not the speech of St. Paul make a deeper impression upon him than we seem to allow? He sent the apostle away, it is true, but it was "for this time only." And who can censure this delay? We cannot be always recollected and retired. The infirmities of human nature require relaxation and repose. Felix could afterward recall him. "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will send for thee."
It pains me, I confess, my brethren, in entering on this head of my discourse, that I should exhibit to you in the person of Felix, the portrait of whom? Of wicked men? Alas! of nearly the whole of this assembly; most of whom seem to us living in negligence and vice, running with the children of this world" to the same excess of riot." One would suppose, that they had already made their choice, having embraced one or the other of these notions, either that religion is a phantom, or that, all things considered, it is better to endure the torments of hell, than to be restricted to the practice of virtue. O no; that is not their notion. Ask the worst among them. Ask whether they have renounced their salvation? You will not find an individual who will say, that he has renounced it. Ask them again, whe-noise and bustle, entirely dissipate the soul. ther they think it attainable by following this While so much engaged on earth, we cannot way of life? They will answer, No. Ask be mindful of heaven. When we have no leithem afterward, how they reconcile things so sure, we say to St. Paul, "Go thy way for this opposite, as their life, and their hope? They time; when I have a convenient season, I will will answer, that they are resolved to reform, call for thee." and by and by they will enter on the work. Happy he, who, amid the tumult of the They will say, as Felix said to St. Paul, "Go most active life, has hours consecrated to rethy way for this time; when I have a conve- flection, to the examination of his conscience, nient season, I will call for thee." Nothing and to ensure the "one thing needful!" Or is less wise than this delay. At a future pe- rather, happy he, who, in the repose of the riod I will reform. But who has assured me, middle classes of society,-placed between inthat at a future period I shall have opportuni-digence and affluence,-far from the courts of ties of conversion? Who has assured me that the great,-having neither poverty nor richGod will continue to call me, and that another es according to Agur's wish, can in retirement Paul shall thunder in my ears? and quietness see life sweetly glide away, and make salvation, if not the sole, yet his principal concern!
I will reform at a future period! But who has told me, that God at a future period will accompany his word with the powerful aids of grace? While Paul may plant and Apollos may water, is it not God who gives the increase? How then can I flatter myself, that the Holy Spirit will continue to knock at the door of my heart, after I shall have so frequently obstructed his admission?
Felix not only preferred his business to his salvation, but he mentions it with evasive disdain. "When I have a convenient season, I will call for thee."-"When I have a convenient season!" Might we not thence infer, that the truths discussed by St. Paul were not of serious importance? Might we not infer,