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THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE.
MANY celebrated writers have offered excellent treatises to the public, some on the character of a true Christian, and others on the duties of a good Pastor. It were to be wished that these two objects might be so closely united as to fall under the same point of view: And to effect such an union is the design of this work, in which may be seen, at one view, what were the primitive Christians and the apostolic pastors ; and what they are required to be, who are called to follow them in the progress of piety.
As example is more powerful than precept, it was necessary that some person should be singled out, who was both an excellent Christian, and an eminent minister of Jesus Christ. The person we fix upon is St. Paul, in whom these two characters were remarkably united, and a sketch of whose wondrous portrait we endeavour to exhibit in the following pages.
When this apostle is considered as a Christian, his diligence in filling up the duties of his vocation, his patience in times of trial, his courage in the midst of dangers, his perseverance in well-doing, his faith, his humility, his charity, all sweetly blended together, constitute him an admirable model for every Christian. And when we regard him as a dispenser of the mysteries of God, his inviolable attachment to truth, and his unconquerable zeal, equally distant from fanaticism and indifference, deserve the imitation of every minister of the gospel.
The holy scriptures furnish materials in abundance chapter viii. containing little else than a narration of the labours of St. Paul, or an abridgment of his sermons and apologies. The New Testament, beside the Acts, contains twenty-two different books, fourteen of which were composed by this apostle himself with all the frankness suited to the epistolary style, and all the personal detail, into which he was obliged to enter, when writing in an uncommon variety of circumstances, to his friends, his brethren, and his spiritual children. It is on such occasions that a man is most likely to discover what he really is; and it is on such occasions, that the moral painter may take an author in the most interesting positions, in order to delineate, with accuracy, his sentiments, his circumstances and his conduct.
Let it not be said, that, in proposing this apostle as a model to Christians, we do but cast discouragements in the way of those who are at an immense distance behind him, with respect both to grace and diligence. The masterly skill that Raphael and Rubens have discovered in their pieces, serves not to discourage modern painters, who rather labour to form themselves by such grand models. Poets and orators are not disheartened by those chef d'æuvres of poetry and eloquence, which Homer and Virgil, Demosthenes and Cicero, have trans. mitted to posterity ; why then should we be discouraged by considering the eminent virtues and unwearied labours of this great Apostle ? The greater the excellence of the pattern proposed, the less likely is the laboured copy to be incomplete.
It is granted that all the faithful are not called to be ministers, and that als ministers are not appointed, like St. Paul, to establish new churches : But it is main. tained, that all Christians, in their different states, are to be filled with the piety of that apostle. If the most inconsiderable trader among us is not allowed to say, “ I deal only in trifling articles, and therefore should be indulged with a false balance,”-if such a trader is required to be as just in his shop, as a judge on his tribunal ; and if the lowest volunteer in an army is called to shew as much valour in his humble post, as a general officer in
his more exalted station ; the same kind of reasoning may be applied to the Christian Church: So that her youngest communicant is not permitted to say,
“ My youth, or the weakness of my sex, excuses me from exercising the charity, the humility, the diligence, and the zeal which the scriptures prescribe.”
It should be laid down as an incontrovertible truth, that the same zeal which was manifested by St. Paul for the glory of God, and the same charity that he displayed, as an Apostle, in the very extensive scene of his labours, a minister is called to exercise, as a pastor, in his parish, and a private person, as father of a family, in his own house. Nay, even every woman, in proportion to her capacity, and as the other duties of her station permit, should feel the same ardour to promote the salvation of her children and domestics, as St. Paul once discovered to promote that of the ancient Jews and Gentiles. Observe, in the harvest field, how it fares with the labourers, when they are threatened with an impetuous shower. All do not bind and bear the weighty sheaves. Every one is occupied according to their rank, their strength, their age, and their sex ; and all are in action, even to the little gleaners. The true church resembles this field. The faithful of every rank, age, and sex, have but one heart and one mind. According to their state, and the degree of their faith, all are animated to labour in the cause of God, and all are endeavouring to save either communities, families, or individuals, from the wrath to come; as the reapers and gleaners endeavour to secure the rich sheaves, and even the single ears of grain, from the gathering storm.
If, in the course of this work, some truths are proposed, which may appear new to the Christian Reader, let him candidly appeal, for the validity of them, to the holy scriptures, and to the testimony of reason, supported by the most respectable authorities, such as the confessions of faith adopted by the purest churches, together with the works of the most celebrated pastors
Among other excellent ends proposed in publishing the following sheets, it is hoped, that they may bring back bigoted divines to evangelical moderation, and either reconcile, or bring near to one another the orthodox professor, the imperfect Christian, and the sincere deist.
THE great Apostle of the Gentiles bore no resemblance to those who reject the service of God, till they are rendered incapable of gratifying their unruly passions. He was mindful of his Creator from his early youth, and as an observer of religious rites outstripped the most exact and rigid professors of his time; so that the regularity of his conduct, the fervour of his devotion, and the vivacity of his zeal, attracted the attention of his superiors in every place. Observe the manner in which he himself speaks on this subject, before the tribunal of Festus :
My manner of life, from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews, which knew me from the beginning, (if they would testify,) that after the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.'—(Acts xxvi. 4, 5.) Having occasion afterwards to mention the same circumstances, in his Epistle to the Galatians, he writes thus: - Ye have heard of my conversation in time past, how I profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own na. tion, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.' – (Gal. i. 13, 14.) And to what an extra. ordinary pitch of excellence he had carried his morality, may be inferred from the following short, but solemn