صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

We might here adduce those passages, so strikingly expressive of affection, as well as sincerity, in which he declares his anxiety for the spiritual improvement and final salvation of his converts. Surely he could not have used such language, unless he felt confident of his authority to instruct them, and of the good consequences that would ensue, if they adhered to his instructions. But I might quoté the greater part of these Epistles, if I wished to accumulate instances of the Writer being in earnest. I will therefore content myself with that affecting address to Timothy; when he apprehended that his time was come, and that he should shortly be released from the dangers, as well as anxieties, of his ministry. "Watch thou", he says, "in all things; endure afflictions; do the work of an evangelist; make fall proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for' me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing."

1

I

I confess it appears to me impossible that these several passages, with many others of similar import in the apostolical epistles, could have been written by any one who was not in earnest; who did not express what he really thought. I must not however omit the very strong argument, which may be brought to confirm the impression of St. Paul's sin

a 2 Tim. iv. 5–8.

cerity upon the minds of his intelligent and unprejudiced readers; which is, that there is no assignable reason for his being otherwise than sincere. No motive, but an honest conviction of the resurrection of Jesus, and of the Divine authority of his mission, can be alleged for the conversion of Paul of Tarsus; a learned, bigoted, and arrogant Jew; to the faith of one who was of a low class, and uneducated; who delivered tenets at variance with the permanence of the Mosaic institutions, and had been publicly put to death, as a mere pretender to the character of the Messiah. I say, no motive can be assigned for such an alteration of sentiment and of action too in such a man as Paul of Tarsus, unless we believe it to have been produced by some miraculous interposition; which indeed we find that he himself invariably alleged, as the real and sole ground of his sudden and extraordinary change of conduct. So truly, as well. as pathetically, did he himself assert; "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." a

ཏི

Now, if St. Paul was a man of sound judgement, able to discriminate real objects from fancies passing through the brain; if, though a man of ardent mind, yet his zeal was tempered with discretion, and did not by any means transport him to the verge of insanity; if moreover, a strong conviction arises to the mind of his reader, that he must have been in earnest; and if the actual circumstances, in which he was placed, afford additional reason for believing that. he could not be otherwise; the inference is at once as a 1 Cor. xv. 19.

plain, as it is important. Christianity must infallibly be true; for, certainly St. Paul had the best means of ascertaining whether it were so or not; and his writings, as well as conduct, abundantly shew that he was sincerely and conscientiously satisfied in his own mind, that Jesus was the destined Messiah ; and that He was, after His resurrection, exalted to the right hand of God in heaven.

This is the first use, that I proposed to make of the words of the text; to establish the truth of that religion, which Paul taught and ye believe, by the evidence of his writings as well as his actions.

My next and concluding observations will be of a more practical nature; if any thing can be more really practical, than the truth of our holy religion. They will refer to the blessedness of that state of mind, which fully appreciates and anticipates the enjoyment of being with Christ, yet cheerfully consents to remain in this lower world, in the hope of accomplishing more fully the duties entrusted to its performance.

[ocr errors]

Now this, I have no hesitation in saying, is the state of mind, unto which every Christian should exert his utmost to attain; unto which he has similar means of attaining with the great Apostle, whose words I have quoted, and whose example I wish to enforce; and unto which in proportion as he fails of attaining, he so far falls short of the perfection of a Christian character, and the happiness of a Christian life.

I say then, that a Christian of the present day has similar means of attaining to that state of faith, and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

hope, and resignation, which St. Paul possessed. The ground-work no doubt of all, as of every Christian excellence, is faith; sincere, undoubting faith in the Divine origin of the Gospel, and in the certainty of

its glorious rewards. For although we have not the same direct means of attaining unto this faith, which St. Paul enjoyed; namely ocular demonstration, and special communications from heaven; yet have we as strong grounds for believing that, which St. Paul believed, as can be supplied for the belief of any events, which have taken place so long before our own days. We have not only the power of contemplating the evidence coolly and impartially, divested of the violence of faction, and safe from the alarm of persecution; but we have the testimony of each succeeding age in corroboration of the utility and excellence of this heaven-inspired religion. We can compare the conduct of the actors with their writings; we can follow them through the course of their laborious and zealous life, and trace them sometimes to the painful conclusion. We recognize their firm belief and fervent piety at that hour, when, if human courage do not forsake the victims of unjust persecution; yet hypocrisy seldom fails to drop the mask, and fraud has no longer any motive for concealment. We have then, I say, similar means for attaining faith with St. Paul; and, amidst the cares and the pleasures, the duties and the vanities of the world, our unabated desire should be "to be with Christ." That is, we should, by long-continued meditation grounded upon real faith, have so firm a conviction of the happiness of another world, as to feel assured

that there is nothing in this inferior state, which can. for a moment be put in competition with it.

Now, supposing such a frame of mind attained; and that it is attainable we know from St. Paul, as well as other illustrious martyrs in the glorious cause; what a source of happiness must it prove to the good Christian, who has attained it, and what an improvement must it make in the state of things around him? For, in the first place, he, whose thoughts are continually fixed on heaven, can have nothing upon earth, comparatively and permanently, to disturb or distress him. Mere worldly prosperity, how does it lower its value to him, who desires to be with Christ! How insignificant are worldly honours or riches to him, who has laid up his treasure in heaven! In like manner, every source of care or affliction is abated or extinguished in the mind of the good Christian, who "knows that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." "

a

But, it may be said, the degree of faith, which leads to such anticipation of future happiness, may produce a state of mind, incompatible with the proper discharge of our duties here and it might sanction some of those extravagancies and errors, which, in various ages of the Church, have lessened the usefulness, and impaired the beauty, of religion. Most undoubtedly, the end of religion is to promote the glory of God by increasing the happiness of man; and therefore such feelings, as induce any one to a 2 Cor. v. 1.

« السابقةمتابعة »