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“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”—Eph. iii. 8.
TAVING already presented, in the former chap
ter, a general outline of the character of Paul,
as a preacher, as a sufferer, and as a true believer, we come now to analyse his character more minutely, and to exhibit its more prominent features in detail. Many of these features have been often and fully described by able and eloquent writers, such as the late Dr M'Crie and the Rev. Adolph Monod, whose keen sagacity and power of discrimination cannot be surpassed by any attempt to treat of the same subject, and who have furnished ample and valuable materials, for attaining a clear and just perception of the many-sided character of the great apostle. But while taking advantage of these materials, we propose to adopt a somewhat different method. Instead of considering the qualities of Paul's gifted mind
singly and separately, we propose to consider them in combination, with the view of showing how apparently opposite qualities were harmonised in his wonderful character, so as to produce, as the result, not only a great, but a thoroughly well-balanced mind. There have often been great and good men, who were distinguished by one or more remarkable excellences; but whose moral power was weakened or destroyed by glaring defects, which were only rendered more conspicuous in the light of their acknowledged excellences. Superior genius, as in Lord Byron, has often been allied with a low morality. High intellectual power has often been combined with what is disreputable and base. And even true piety and strict integrity have often been combined with want of judgment and flagrant folly. Of the distinguished founder of the inductive philosophy, Lord Bacon, it has been truly said, that while he was the greatest and wisest, he was also “ the meanest of mankind.”
But no such want of symmetry or harmony can be detected in the character of Paul. While he was possessed of the noblest qualities, in the highest state of development, yet they are all of a piece, beautifully blended, and harmoniously adjusted, so as to give the impression of singular power and commanding influence. In this respect, therefore, the apostle's character is an almost perfect model for young men : and it well deserves their attentive study and close
imitation. Even on the mere surface of his character, the most cursory reader can scarcely fail to observe a singular combination, of the highest argumentative power with the most stirring and thrilling eloquence, of the most intrepid courage with the most winning tenderness, of the strongest resolution with meekness and gentleness, and of burning zeal and enthusiasm with profound wisdom and rare sagacity ;-all showing that he shines as a star of the first magnitude in the Church's firmament; while, at the same time, he humbly acknowledged that he shone by a borrowed light, for which he was wholly indebted to the glorious Sun of Righteousness.
Following out, then, the plan now indicated, of presenting the leading characteristics of Paul in combination, we select the two following, viz.: His deep humility combined with high moral dignity.
I. CHRISTIAN HUMILITY.—“Unto me” (he said),
“who am less than the least of all saints, is this
grace given." The importance of this grace as an essential element of Christian character, can scarcely be over-estimated. As man fell by pride, so he can only rise again by humility. Pride goes before destruction; but before honour is humility ; or as our Lord himself has strongly and tersely expressed it, “He that exalteth himself shall be abased; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” And we are plainly told that there is no admission into Christ's kingdom, except for those who are made in some degree “meek and lowly in heart," as Christ himself was; " for except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Our very first steps heavenward must be, the entire renunciation of every idea of personal merit, and the cordial acceptance of salvation as the gift of free and sovereign grace ; for “God resisteth the proud, but He giveth grace to the humble.”
But though man, as a dependent and sinful being, has every reason to clothe himself with humility, yet this grace is not natural to any man. Guilty and polluted though he be, yet how ready is he' to be puffed up with pride and self-conceit, and to fancy that he “is rich and increased with goods, and has need of nothing," while in reality he is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked!” That this is the universal tendency of fallen humanity, is evident from the fact, that no traces of this virtue of humility are to be found in the code of heathen morality. The ancient Romans admired and praised other virtues, but they had not even a word in their language to express this virtue. By their word, humilitas, they meant utter baseness and cringing servility. To tell a proud Roman that he ought to be humble (humilis) in his own esteem, would have
been resented by him as a gross personal insult. Not only, however, among the heathen, but also among the chosen people, true humility was scarcely known and seldom practised. The Pharisees, to whom Paul once belonged, were notorious for their arrogance and self-assumption, for their complacent self-righteousness, and their haughty contempt of other men. The apostle thus expresses the sentiments which he once cherished, and of which he was accustomed to boast, in his former state of ignorance and unbelief: “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the Church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless ;” but then he adds, "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ; yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things."
Here, then, was one fruit, and indeed the first fruit of his conversion ; even a genuine, unaffected, and profound humility, which was manifested by renouncing his own merits as a ground of hope, and distrusting his own strength as a means of sanctification; and by relying on the Saviour's precious blood alone for pardon, and on His promised grace for purity of heart and devotedness of life. And then