Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

JUR remarks on the Life of Faith would be

very incomplete without some reference to

that inward root, that hidden source, from which it proceeds, viz., the life of God in the soul. We have endeavoured to present the leading features of Paul's character, in which seeming opposites are combined; such as humility with dignity, large-heartedness with tender-heartedness, unselfishness with conscientiousness, and courage with prayerfulness. And we have seen also how remarkably these high moral qualities were exhibited in the closing years of his life, and in the immediate prospect of a violent death. It is a rare spectacle, and a noble specimen of the power of living Christianity. What then was the hidden root from which these holy and abundant fruits were produced? What was that "well of living water" within him which continued to spring up so copiously unto everlasting life, and which poured forth rich, pure, refreshing, and fertilising streams on the moral wilderness around him?

To these questions he himself furnishes the answer in the words, To me to live is Christ;" and therefore he could add,“ to die is gain.

These words will appear the more remarkable if we consider attentively the circumstances in which he uttered them. It was during his first imprisonment at Rome: when, as we have seen, though he was bound with a chain, he had considerable freedom allowed to him, and had the privilege of meeting with his Christian friends, and even of preaching the Gospel to great numbers of people; and when his preaching was so successful in winning souls to Christ," that his bonds in Christ were manifest in all the palace” of the Cæsars, while “many of his brethren in the Lord” were so stimulated by his zeal and success, that they

were much more bold to speak the Word without fear.That very success, however, had raised up against him many enemies in the Church itself; and more especially, it had brought upon him the enmity and opposition of the Judaising teachers, who insisted that the Gentile converts should submit to the burdensome yoke of the Levitical law.

These men “preached Christ of envy and strife,” in a spirit of sectarian exclusiveness and bitterness, and caused division in the Church by imposing terms of communion, which were inconsistent with the broad and


expansive spirit of the Gospel. Thus, they sought to “add affliction to his bonds," and no doubt they added greatly to that burden of care, and anxiety, and grief, which pressed so heavily upon his mind. Then, too, the apostle was soon to be arraigned before the tribunal of Nero, to whom he had appealed against the unjust treatment of Festus at Cæsarea, and he could have little hope of mercy at the hands of an emperor, whose profligate life and bitter hatred of Christianity, and cruel persecution of the Christians, had made him the terror of his subjects. At all events, Paul, at this time, was quite uncertain whether his life was soon to be cut short by a bloody martyrdom, or whether he was still to be spared for further service in the cause of Christ and His Gospel.

It was in these circumstances, then, that he said, “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” His mind was alternating between fear and hope, as he looked forward to the future. At one time, he hoped that a favourable sentence would be pronounced upon him by the supreme court of the empire; 'and that it would still be possible for him to revisit the churches which he had planted, and especially his beloved brethren in the church of Philippi. Then again, at another time, the thought of a cruel and bloody death, to terminate all his earthly labours, would rise up before his mind, as more than probable. And yet, in this state of painful uncertainty and suspense, he was neither unduly depressed by fear, nor unduly elevated by hope ; but he “possessed his soul in patience," and calmly acquiesced in the will of God, whatever that might be; and he was firmly assured that he would be borne triumphantly, through all his trials and conflicts, to a happy issue and a glorious reward. He was quite willing either to live or die, as the Lord might be pleased to appoint. “His confidence rested on a foundation firm as a rock, independent of the alternation of events, and unshaken by any waves or storms." No doubt, he had an earnest longing to depart from the trials and troubles of time to the pleasures and rewards of eternity, and to enjoy close and uninterrupted communion with his God, in the land of promised and perfect rest. But then, on the other hand, when he thought of his beloved converts, left as sheep without their earthly shepherd, he was quite willing for their sakes to continue longer in this world, in order to help forward their spiritual progress, and advance their meetness for heaven. Thus he was in a strait betwixt two," between his desire to “depart and be with Christ," which was far better for himself, and his desire to “abide in the flesh," as being more needful for the Church. But instead of deciding which of the two was best, he left the decision entirely to the all-wise Disposer of his lot, in the firm belief that whatever that decision might be, all that could happen to himself would redound to the glory of God, and promote the wider diffusion of the Gospel, and the highest welfare of the Church. In so far as he himself was concerned, he felt that it mattered not whether he was to live or to die; and he tells us what was the secret of his wonderful calmness, and of his profound submission to the Divine will, when he says, “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Let us then consider the real nature and the inner source of the apostle's life, and how this life enabled him to contemplate death, not only with calm tranquillity, but also with hope and joy. In other words, let us consider the secret source, or the hidden root, of living Christianity. “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation : for behold the kingdom of God is within you.” It does not consist in outward forms or professions; but it has its seat in the heart: it rules in the inner man, and brings every thought and desire into captivity to the obedience of Christ. “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” It comes with power when the conscience is quickened to a true sense of the evil of sin, and pacified by the application of Christ's precious blood ; when the heart is drawn out to Christ, in simple trust and sincere love; when the will is subjected to Christ's authority, and inclined to honour and serve Him; and when the whole inner man is brought into con

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »