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the just distinction which he draws between things that are lawful, and those which are not expedient a ; and the sound application of the principle to the case of eating meats, which had been offered to idols 6. Be it observed, that no situation could be more difficult or delicate than that, in which the Apostle was placed, as holding the scales between the Jewish and Gentile converts; anxious to gratify both, so far as the strict line of duty would permit; yet, when that duty constrained him, giving directions or establishing principles, which might offend both. See then, how judicious a course he takes to prevent the Gentile Christian from offending his Judaizing brother by partaking of meat, which had been offered up in sacrifice at an Heathen temple. Such a Christian, although acting from an honest persuasion that he was offending against no principle of the Gospel, might furnish a pretext to some other convert, not so judicious or not so honest, to avail himself of the example, and indulge himself in a way less innocent and more indecorous. St. Paul argues upon the subject with equal address and delicacy. He first lays down the principle, in which all were agreed; namely, that “ an idol is nothing in the world”; and then, without urging a direct prohibition, puts it as a matter of good feeling, whether any one should persevere in a practice; which, though harmless in itself, was yet so contrary to the previous notions and habits of the Jews, and so likely to prove a stumbling-block to the weaker conscience, or more violent
a 1 Cor. x. 23.
b 1 Cor. viii. and x. 19-33.
passions, of some among the brethren.“: “ Meat,"
commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed, lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak. For if any man see thee, which hast knowledge, sit at meat, in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him, which is weak, be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols? And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend." --Surely, this is the language and conduct of a man, wishing to prevent unnecessary scandal in the Church, acknowledging that the offence, if taken, would arise in consequence of ignorance; but still arguing that the wiser party should kindly relinquish a personal gratification, rather than be the cause of dissension, and thereby endanger the interests of that religion, to which, upon the fullest conviction of its truth and importance, he had given his assent.
I might here be allowed, in further proof of St. Paul's consummate good sense, to refer to his unpremeditated, discourses, in which he accommodates himself to the different circumstances, in which he was placed; and the different audiences, before whom he was called upon to plead. These various speeches are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles; a work composed by one, who was intimately acquainted
with St. Paul; was the companion of his travels, and shared some of his dangers. Nor can there be any doubt, but those Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul mutually illustrate and confirm each other. Nothing indeed can more correspond with the character of the great Apostle, as it may be collected from his actions and speeches in the Acts, than the sentiments, which are handed down as having really proceeded from his pen. But I will not any longer multiply quotations to shew him to have been a man of good sense, who well knew what he was about, and would not suffer his imagination to hurry him into the belief of things, for which he had not good evidence; either from his own personal observation, or from credible testimony.
I rather proceed to make a few remarks upon the apparent earnestness and sincerity, with which he writes ; and that, not in one or two particular passages, where it might be thought he was upon his guard; but upon all occasions, even in the most unsuspicious effusions of his pen. It would be very difficult, I conceive, for a person, who really had not the strongest grounds for believing that Christ was risen from the grave;that he was in heaven, ready and able to reward those, who laboured in His cause; it would, I say, be difficult for a person, who had not strong grounds for such belief, to express himself as St. Paul does in the text. He was at the time of writing it, in a state of imprisonnient, and subjected to the arbitrary will of a tyrant, who might at any moment dispose of his life. Does he repine at this ? No! He would rather look forward to such a termination with joy. And why? Because he felt assured, that he should be with Christ. But, is this assurance expressed in a manner, to cause any doubt about the soundness of his judgement ? Does he seem to court martyrdom, as some heated enthusiasts may have done since ? Far from it! He even expresses a wish to remain longer in the world, amidst all the privations and all the afflictions, to which he was subjected, because his continuance in life would be more useful to the cause he had espoused, and the converts he had made. “ I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” Now; can this be the language of enthusiasm, or the language of imposture? Does it not seem to be the very manner, in which a person, placed in the situation of St. Paul, firmly believing the Gospel and anxious to promote its success by every personal sacrifice, would express himself! So, again, in the following chapter" Do all things without murmurings and disputings : that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world ; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” Is it at all likely, that any man in his senses would write in this manner, unless he had felt thoroughly persuaded in his own mind, that the day of Christ would really come ? Thus, in the 2d Epistle to the Corinthians, it is impossible to conceive that any one would adopt such a course of argument, if there were not an indelible conviction upon his mind that Christ was risen; and that all, who resembled Him in suffering, if they obeyed His injunctions, would be partakers of His resurrection.“ Knowing that He, which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For which cause," proceeds the Apostle, "we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen'; for the things which are seen are temporal ; 'but the things which are not seen, are eternal." a In like manner he pursues a strain of sentiment, very similar to that in the text: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. For we must all
appear before the judgement-seat of Christ ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” b. Once more; “He that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Then, passing from this general declaration, he is warmed by the mention of everlasting life ; and expresses his own personal conviction, that he shall be permitted to partake of it. “ And let us not be weary in well-doing :-for in due season we
if we faint not."
a 2 Cor. iv. 14, 16–18.
b 2 Cor. v. 8-10.