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that is of importance in the writings of Paul may be brought under one or other of the four following heads :-1. God; 2. Man ; 3. Christ; 4. The Future Life. It may sometimes be necessary in quoting the texts that bear upon each of these points, to observe in what period of the Apostle's ministry the Epistles from which they are taken were probably written-as some critics have affirmed, not without probability, that, on a comparison of the earliest and the latest of the Apostle's letters, a development in his ideas respecting some of these topics may be clearly tra-ed. *
In every religious inquiry, the two prominent considerations are those concerning God and Man. The conception of their nature and mutual relation determines the character of the religious belief; and, in Christianity, is a necessary pre-requisite to clearly understanding the person and office of the being who acts as mediator between them.
I. We begin with God. The strict monotheism of the old Hebrew theology is assumed as a basis in all the reasonings of Paul. It is not so much made a subject of positive instruction, except in a few cases of direct appeal to the Gentiles, where the absurdity of polytheism is strongly pointed out, as it is everywhere tacitly assumed and argued from. Implicitly, however, and indirectly the most important truths are clearly taught respecting the nature, power, and character of God, and his relation to the moral world. It would be tedious to recite all the texts that might be alleged under each of these heads. We will briefly state the result of a careful and repeated examination; and quote a few only of the more striking passages in proof of our affirmations.
(1.) The nature of God. Paul teaches distinctly, that he is one, supreme, unsearchable; living and true; alone possessed of immortality; dwelling in unapproachable light; giving all things, and receiving nothing in return; author of all things both good and evil. That one sublime text in the Epistle to the Romans, (xi. 33–36,) may suffice as an illustration of the monotheistic doctrine of Paul : “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord ? Or who hath been his counsellor ? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again ? For of him, and
• The three Pastoral Letters, as they are called, (First and Second to Timothy, and that to Titus) are the latest of the writings ascribed to the Apostle : next to them must probably be placed the Epistle to the Philippians.
through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever." *
(2.) The power of God. He is all in all; the kingdom will be finally delivered up to him; he has full and uncontrollable power over the work of his hands, and can dispose of it as he will-just as the “potter hath power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour;" he saves us according to his own free grace and eternal purpose ; and the spirit by which our hearts are renewed comes from him.t
(3.) The character of God. He is a Father, who has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation. Everywhere God is designated by Paul as our Father, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has adopted us in Christ, and put his spirit in our hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. “To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him.” He is freely and gratuitously merciful, long-suffering, righteous, and just. He has concluded all in unbelief, that he may have mercy on all. He will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. “ After that the kindness of our Saviour God, and his love towards men appeared-according to his mercy he saved us." I
(4.) God's relation to the moral world. Everything emanates from him. His will is plainly manifested by the light of nature against all unrighteousness. Christ's ministry was according to the will of God our Father. Paul was predestined to the ministry from his mother's womb by the grace of God. Eternal life is God's gift. He qualifies us for the inheritance of the saints, and rescues us from the power of darkness. Saints are predestined to the adoption in Christ from the foundation of the world by the good pleasure of God. The saints are God's work, created to good works in Christ. $
If, then, we collect into one view the substance of Paul's doctrine respecting God, it seems to resolve itself into the idea of a Being, absolutely one, supreme, and uncontrollable-quite distinct from, independent of, and superior to, the material universe—the source from which all things proceed, and on which
• 1 Thess. i. 9. Rom. xi. 33–36. 1 Tim, ii. 5. 1 Tim. iv. 10. 1 Tim. vi, 15, 16. Titus i. 2, 3. 2 Thess. ii. 11.
+ 1 Cor. xv. 24–28. 2 Cor. v. 18. Rom. ix. 21-24. 2 Tim. i. 9. 2 Cor. i. 22.
1 1 Thess. v. 9; ii. 12. Gal. iv. 6, 7. 1 Cor. viii. 6. Rom. iii.; xi. 32. 1 Tim. ii. 3, 4; ix. 10. Titus ii. 11; iii. 4—7.
§ 2 Thess. ii. 13. Gal. i. 15 ; i. 4. 1 Cor. ii. 2 Cor. iv. 6. Rom. i. 18; vi, 23. Coloss. i, 12, 13. Ephes. i. 5 ; ii. 8, 10.
all things depend—responsible to no one, everything entirely submitted to his will—but exercising these high functions in the character and with the spirit of a Father. Paul's idea of God, as opposed to the exclusiveness of the Jews—is that of the equal and impartial Father of Jew and Gentile ;-as opposed to the superstition of the Gentiles, it is that of one, indivisible, and supreme Deity ;-as contradistinguished from the pantheism of heathen priests and philosophers, it is that of a Being, who has an existence, a power, and a will, with which nothing can come into competition, to which everything is subjected, and which would still subsist unchanged though the whole of creation were annihilated.
II. Such is Paul's conception of God. What does he teach respecting Man? This head divides itself into two parts—respecting the Jew, and respecting the Gentile ; and further, before, and after, conversion. First, let us speak of the Jew; and before conversion. According to the Apostle, the Jew in this state lived under a law, which he describes as a curse and a bondage; which gave the knowledge of sin, but no power to vanquish it. By the deeds of the law, the Jew could not be justified. The strength of sin lies in the law; and it is sin which gives its sting to death. Yet, while the law subsists, obedience to it is essential to the divine favour and blessing. After the announcement of the Gospel, all are threatened with the wrath of God, who do not repent and believe. Hence the external privilege of a Jew is unavailing. The majority of the Jews are allowed to remain unbelieving for a time, to afford the Gentiles an opportunity of entering the kingdom of God.* These views express a fundamental truth, viz., that mere law is unavailing to human peace and salvation,-modified in its application by a controversial object,--the proving that Jew and Gentile stand on the same footing before God, and equally require the justification of faith.
The Jew after conversion. He is justified by faith; i. e., by trust in Christ, as the image and representative of the Father, which includes the spirit of holiness and love. He is hence a new creature, bought with a price, and redeemed from the curse of the law. He has passed his season of pupillage, and has attained to the majority of an heir, and is adopted by God in Christ. He is now possessed of all things, puts on the Christian armour, and waits patiently for the future coming of Christ. His state in general is that of having passed from bondage, fear and death, to liberty and hope, and everlasting life; from the sense
• 1 Thess. i. 10; ii. 16; v. 9. Gal. ii. 1 Cor. xv. 56. Rom. ii. Coloss. i. 21. Philipp. iii. 9. Rom. xi.
of guilt and the dread of punishment, to the consciousness of forgiveness and reconciliation with God. The images of an earthly Messiah which had filled his mind, are converted into the spiritual conception of a future reigning with God and good men in heaven.* After conversion the condition of Jew and Gentile becomes almost identical. We have here selected the few points which are more immediately peculiar to the former. Moreover, the complete understanding of the condition of man after conversion, encroaches on the consideration of another question, which we cannot enter upon in this part of our inquiry - viz., Paul's doctrine of the Future Life.
We pass on, therefore, to the Gentiles; the consideration of whose condition and prospects, before and after conversion, is to us more interesting and instructive than that of the Jews, because it more nearly coincides with that of mankind in general. The Apostle's doctrine respecting them in their unconverted state is this. They have a moral law written on their hearts—a conscience that bears witness within them: and are without excuse when they sin, because the will of God is clearly manifested in the works of his hand. From not choosing to retain God in their knowledge, they have been given over to a reprobate mind, and abandoned to all immoralities. Having thus consciously and voluntarily done things worthy of death; having walked after the course of this world; having changed the truth of God into a lie, and served the creature more than the Creator ;-they have become fit subjects of the divine displeasure-vessels of wrath prepared for destruction; and, in their natural condition, are the children of wrath; for the wages of sin is death. The unconverted state of the heathen is called “the old man with his deeds.” + The general inference deducible from these views of the Apostle, we may state in the following terms. All wickedness results from a voluntary and intentional transgression of the divine commands. Hence men bring punishment on themselves, and have nothing to expect on the ground of debt, but all on the ground of mercy and favour. Before the preaching of the Gospel, the world was sunk in such a depth of wickedness, that a sentence of divine condemnation must have been pronounced upon it, but for the gratuitous interposition of divine mercy.
There are some particulars in which the condition and pros
pects of Jew and Gentile may be contemplated under a common point of view : to these we shall now briefly direct attention. And first, before conversion.—Those who obstruct the conversion of others, bring wrath on themselves. All men are sinners. All that are under the elements of the world, are in the condition of slaves. The works of the flesh exclude from the kingdom of God. Christ is the savour of death to them that perish. The God of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Gospel should not shine in unto them. All have sinned, and were morally dead; therefore Jew and Gentile must not judge one another. True circumcision is that of the heart. The carnal mind is death. Men make themselves enemies to God by their wicked works.* After conversion.—Christians are predestined to become such, from the foundation of the world. They are called and elected by the free grace of God; reconciled to God by the blood or death of Christ; made friends with, and brought nigh to, God; delivered from the present evil world, and from the wrath to come; justified by faith; sanctified by the spirit; born again; a new creation; sealed by the spirit to the day of redemption; waiting patiently for the appearance of Christ from heaven; planted into the death and resurrection of Christ—dying with him that they may live with him ; for, if they die, they shall live, and, if they suffer, they shall reign, with him. They are no longer their own, but bought with a price, entirely God's purified unto him, as a peculiar people, zealous of good works.t
Such, then, is Paul's doctrine respecting God and man, and their relation to each other. The mutual relation of God and man is the fundamental idea on which the superstructure of every religious system must rest. Let us endeavour to place distinctly before us, in phraseology with which we are familiar, what the Apostle teaches on these subjects. We may observe, in general, that his views are altogether broad and popular,—adapted to the conceptions of the multitude,-calculated for impressiveness and effect on the heart and life. Those mysteries and apparent contradictions which are inherent in the nature of the highest questions in theology and philosophy, and which have their
• 1 Thess. ii. 16; i. 10; v. 9. Gal. iii. iv. 1-4; v. 19-21; vi. 8. 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. 2 Cor. ii. 16 ; iv. 4; v. 15. Rom. ii. iii. v. viii; ix. 22. Col. i. 21.
1 Thess. i. 4, 10; ii. 12; iv. 7 ; v. 2 Thess. ii. 13; iii. 5. Gal. ii. 15-21; iii. 28, 29; iv. 1-7, 19; v. 6, 23; vi. 8. 1 Cor. i. 7, 8; ii. iii. 16, 17, 21, 23; vi. 146, 9, 10, 11, 20; vii. xiii. 2 Cor. ii. 16; iji. 18; v. 15, 17, 18, 19 ; vi. 14, 18. Rom. iii ; v. 1-11; vi. viii. ix. 24 ; xii. xiv. Coloss. i. 21, 22, 23; ii. iii. Ephes. i. 4, 5, 20; ii. 13, 17; iv. vi. Philipp. iii. 9, 10, 11, 21. 1 Tim. i. 5. 2 Tim. ii. 11, 12; ii. 15. Titus ii. 12, 13, 14.-Christians, a peculiar people, (nads trepluúoios).-iii. 5, 7. 2 Cor. xii. 14.
Vol. III. No. 12.–New Series.