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“Not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
-I Cor. xv. IO.
HE Bible is, to a certain extent, a book of
biographies. It contains not only the doc
trines of a divine creed, and the precepts of a divine law, but also numerous and graphic narratives of the sayings and doings of “the excellent of the earth.” It teaches us by examples, and shows how its heavenly doctrines have been embodied in personal character, and its holy precepts exemplified in living action.
Among these Bible biographies, the only perfect one is, of course, the life of Christ, as portrayed by the four Evangelists. In their simple and truthful narratives we have, as it were, four distinct photo
graphic views of Him, who was “fairer than the children of men,” and of whom the infidel Rousseau declared, in an involuntary burst of admiration, that the inventor of such a character would be more wonderful than the hero."
But while Christ himself is the only perfect pattern of moral excellence, yet we may learn much from a careful study of the biographies of eminent saints, with which Scripture abounds. Though our chief aim must be to follow Christ, in that spotless example which He has left for our imitation, yet we ought also to be ' “ followers of those who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises;" and though their failings and mistakes should be beacons of warning to us, yet the graces which adorned their character, and the virtues which ennobled their lives, should stimulate and encourage us to exemplify, in our own conduct, the power of a living Christianity.
It will readily be admitted that, in that bright “ cloud of witnesses” with which we are compassed about, none stands forth more conspicuous and illustrious than the great Apostle of the Gentiles; and that, in his many-sided character, none can be more advantageously held forth as a model for young men. Most truly could Paul say that he had laboured in the cause of Christ more abundantly” than any of his fellow-apostles. And yet for these abundant labours, , as well as for his distinguished attainments, he never
imagined that any merit or credit was due to himself. On the contrary, he accounted himself “the least of the apostles," yea, “less than the least of all saints." He felt deeply that nothing which he did was, strictly speaking, his own doing, but rather the doing of the Lord by his feeble instrumentality. In his outward aspect there was nothing to command attention or to enforce submission, for his enemies said of him that his “bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible.” And though this, in their lips, may have been the language of exaggeration, yet, probably, he had a weakly frame and an ungainly address, which nothing could have overcome but the force of his intellect, and the fervour of his spirit, and, above all, the omnipotent grace of God. And yet this man, with his sickly body but courageous soul, with his thorn in the flesh—the messenger of Satan—to buffet him, but with the grace of God made sufficient for him ; this man achieved the noblest triumphs over pagan idolatry and vice, and planted the standard of the Cross in the chief centres of power, throughout the vast Roman empire, and was the main instrument in accomplishing a moral revolution, such as the world has never seen before nor since. The other apostles, indeed, were not idle; but of the great Apostle of the Gentiles it may be truly said, “Many have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.” And need we be told that the same grace which made him what he was, can make us like him; and that the heights of piety, and virtue, and usefulness, to which he rose, are not inaccessible to us; for “with God is the residue of the Spirit.”
We purpose, therefore, to analyse the character of the apostle Paul, and to exhibit it as an example of living Christianity, or the life of faith, and especially as a model for young men. They are the rising hope of our country and of the Church. Many of them have shared richly in the blessings of a time of revival, and have resolved to devote themselves to the work to which Paul's whole life was consecrated; and it may be useful to them to fix their attention on his character and labours, and to learn from them those lessons of wisdom which they are fitted and designed to teach ; and it may be useful to others, by inducing them to devote their energies to the cause of Christ, and to the extension of His kingdom in the world
In this introductory chapter we shall endeavour to present merely a general view of Paul's character in three leading aspects; and in subsequent chapters we shall enter more into detail, and exhibit, specifically, the more prominent features of his character.
I. His FAITHFULNESS AS A PREACHER OF CHRIST.
There are many, in the present day, who undervalue, and even despise, the preaching of the Gospel and who regard it as foolish and fanatical to expect
that the words, spoken by a fellow-mortal from the pulpit, will reform men's lives, and renovate their hearts. But they forget that the preaching of the Gospel is an ordinance of Christ; and that, however feeble or defective the instrument in itself may be, yet it becomes "mighty through God.” Whenever His Word is preached simply, faithfully, and earnestly, it will not return to Him void : and "it hath pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.”
But while this notion is entertained by the sceptical, it is strange that a similar notion is entertained also by the superstitious. For instance, the Romanist and the Ritualist undervalue public preaching, and attach far greater importance to baptism and other external rites. But that was not the opinion of the apostle Paul; for he says, “ Christ sent me, not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel,” plainly intimating that no outward observances can for a moment be put in comparison with a full and faithful proclamation of the Gospel. It was for this end mainly that he was converted to the faith of Christ, and it was to this that he consecrated all the energies of his gifted mind, and all the activities of his busy life. “Necessity is laid upon me,” he said, “yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel.” In this he was never idle, but he went from house to house, from city to city, and from one country to another, preaching, in season and of season, the glad tidings which were