« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
suitable to the character they sustain-may the one and the other be convinced of the grievous error into which they are fallen, while they contemplate this opposite trait in the character of St. Paul.
Upon what consideration is founded the humiliating distinction, which is generally made between the rich and the poor? Was Christ manifested in a state of earthly grandeur? Did he not chiefly associate with the poor? Far from flattering the rich, did he not in. sinuate that they would, with the utmost difficulty, enter into the kingdom of God? Did he not affirm, it were better for a man to be cast into the sea with a mill-stone about his neck, than to offend the poorest believer? Did he not declare, that he would consider the regard shewn to the meanest of his followers, as though he himself had been the immediate object of it? When St. James assures us, that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way,' performs the best of all possible good works, because, by preventing a multitude of sins, he places the soul in the road to every virtue,-can this declaration be supposed to lose any of its force, when applied to the soul of a poor man? Are not the lowest of men immortal as the most elevated? Did not Christ humble himself to the death of the cross for the poor, as well as the rich? Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom ?' And, finally, Were the angels less ready to convey the soul of perishing Lazarus to Paradise, than that of wealthy Abraham? Perish then for ever that unchristian prejudice, which dishonours the poor, nourishes the pride of the rich, and leads us to the violation of that great command, by which we become as guilty as though we had transgressed the whole law, the spirit of which is love. And let us remember, it is only out of the ruins of so despicable a partiality, that the engaging conde. scension, of which St. Paul has left us so lovely an example, can possibly be produced.
His Courage in Defence of oppressed Truth.
'CHARITY rejoiceth in the Truth.' (1 Cor. xiii. 6.) These two amiable companions are closely united together, and mutually sustain each other. It is possible, however, when an error has the suffrages of many persons respectable on account of their wisdom, their age, their rank, their labours, or their piety, that a sincere Christian may be tempted to sacrifice truth to authority, or rather to a mistaken charity. But the enlightened pastor, putting on the resolution of St. Paul, will never suffer himself to be imposed upon by the appearance of either persons, or things; and though he should see himself standing alone on the side of evangelical truths, he will not fear, even singly, to act as their modest and zealous defender.
In these circumstances a lukewarm minister loses all his courage. Behold his general plea for the pusillanimity of his conduct- "I am alone, and what success can I expect in so difficult an undertaking? The partisans of this error are persons, whom I both love and honour. Some of them have shewn me great kindness, and others have sufficient credit to prejudice the world against me. Moreover, it would be looked upon as presumption in me, who am weaker than a reed, to oppose myself to a torrent, which bears down the strongest pillars of the church." Such is the manner, in which he apologizes for the timidity of his conduct in those situations, where his love of truth is publicly called to the test: Not considering, that to reason thus, is to forget, at once, the omnipotence of God, the force of truth, and the unspeakable worth of those souls, which error may poison and destroy.
occasions, rejoices in the truth,'conferring not with flesh and blood,' courageously refuses to bear the yoke of any error that must evidently be accompanied with evil consequences. In the most trying situations of this nature he imitates the conduct of the great apostle, who, when he saw a shameful error making its way in the church, placed himself in the gap, and gave way to the emotions of his honest zeal, as related in the following passage: False brethren came in privily to spy out our liberty, which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage. To whom we gave place by subjection, no not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. And when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: But when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him, insomuch that Barnabas also,' under the specious pretence of not offending his neighbour, was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou being a Jew livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?' (Gal. ii. 4, 14.)
This reasonable reprimand is, perhaps, one of the greatest proofs, which St. Paul ever gave of the uprightness of his intention, and the steadiness of his resolution.
Ye men of integrity! ye, who have proved how much it costs to defend the rights of truth, when they stand opposed to that deference, which condescending love obliges us to shew, in a thousand instances, to respectable authority: you alone are able to make a proper judgment of the holy violence, which was exercised by St. Paul upon this occasion. But whatever they may be called to endure, in so honourable a cause, happy are those Christians, and doubly happy those pastors, who
have so great a love for truth, and so true a love for their brethren, that they are ready at all times, with this faithful apostle, to sacrifice to the interests of the gospel, every inferior consideration, every servile fear, and every worldly hope.
His Prudence in frustrating the Designs of his
THERE is no kind of calumny, which the incredulous have not advanced, in order to render Christianity either odious, or contemptible. According to the notions of these men, to adopt the maxims of evangelical patience, argues a want of sensibility; and to regulate our conduct, according to the dictates of Christian prudence, is to act the hypocrite. What we have to say, in this place, will chiefly respect the latter charge.
It has been asserted by modern infidels, that the gentleness and forbearance, which the gospel requires of its professors, must necessarily make them the dupes of designing men, and lead them unreluctantly into the snares of their persecutors. But to draw this inference from some few passages of scripture, understood in too literal a sense, is to set truth at variance with itself, merely for the purpose of charging Christians with all the evil, which, it is presumed, they might have avoided by prudence, or have overcome by resolution. The example of our Lord, and that of St. Paul, might have rectified the ideas of cavillers upon this point. When Christ exhorted his disciples to be harmless as doves,' he admonished them at the same time to be wise as serpents:' And of this harmless wisdom he himself gave a striking
ing the lawfulness of paying tribute unto Cæsar. Well acquainted with the different sentiments of that people, with regard to the Roman yoke, without directly combating the prejudices of any party, he returned a satis factory answer to all parties, by an inference drawn from ⚫ the image and superscription' borne upon their current coin- Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Cæsar's, and unto God, the things that are God's.'(Matt. xxii. 21.)
The sincere Christian, and the faithful minister, have frequently occasion for this happy prudence, as well as St. Paul, who, more than once, employed it with success. The Jews, irritated against this apostle, sought occasion to destroy him, on account of the zeal, with which he published the gospel among the Gentiles. Hoping to soften the prejudices they entertained against his conduct, he recounted to them, how Jesus, being raised from the dead and appearing to him in an extraordinary manner, had expressly sent him to the Gentiles, (Acts xxii. 21,) when the Jews, more irritated than before, would have torn him in pieces, had he not been rescued out of their hands by the Roman garrison. By this means Paul was preserved for a more peaceful hearing. And on the morrow, when he stood before the Jewish council, perceiving that the assembly was composed, partly of Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit;' and partly of Pharisees, who believe equally in the existence of spirits and the resurrection of the body; he immediately availed himself of this circumstance, and cried out- Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: Of the hope and resurrection of the dead, I am called in question.' (Acts xxiii. 6.) As though he had said-The great cause of the violent persecution that is now raised against me, is, that I preach Jesus and the resurrection.' 6 Our Fathers,
indeed, were not absolutely assured of a life to come; but the important doctrine of the resurrection, and of the judgment, that shall follow, is now demonstrated; since God has given an incontestable proof of it, in rais