Page images

some modern philosophers, who, misrepresenting the Christian religion, a religion which breathes nothing but humility and love, set it forth as the cause of all the divisions, persecutions, and massacres, which have ever been fomented or perpetrated by its corrupt professors. Disasters, which, far from being the produce of real Christianity, have their principal source in the vices of a supercilious, uncharitable, and antichristian clergy.

The church will always be exposed to these imputa. tions, till every ecclesiastic shall imitate St. Paul, as he imitated Christ. That apostle, ever anxious to tread in the steps of his divine Master, was peculiarly distinguished by his humility to God and man. Ever ready to confess his own native poverty, and to magnify the riches of ! is grace, he cries out— Who is sufficient for these things ?' who is properly qualified to discharge all the functions of the holy ministry ? 6 Such trust have we in Christ to Godward : Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves ; but our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament: Not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.'-(2 Cor. ii. 16 ; iii. 4, 6.) 'Who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man ? I have planted, Apollos wat red; but God gave the increase. So then, neither is ie that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth': But God that giveth the increase.'-(1 Cor. iii. 5, 7.) • I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle : But by the grace of God I am what I am.'-(1 Cor. xv. 9.) God hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ : But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.'—(2 Cor. iv. 6, 7.)

If the humility of St. Paul is strikingly evident in these remarkable passages, it is still more strongly expressed in those that follow :

-Ye see, brethren, that not many wise men after the flesh, pot many mighty, not many noble are called. But God hatha chosen the foolish

things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That Do flesh should glory in his presence.'-(1 Cor. i. 26, 29.) : Unto, me, who am less than the least of all saints, who am nothing, who am the chief of sinners, is this grace given, that I should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.':-(Eph. iii. 2 ; 2 Cor. xii ; 1 Tim. i. 15.)

Reader, if thou hast that opinion of thyself, which is expressed in the foregoing passages, thou art an humble Christian. Thou canst truly profess thyself the servan! of all those who salute thee; thou art such already by thy charitable intentions, and art seeking occasions of demonstrating, by actual services, that thy tongue is the organ, not of an insidious politeness, but of a sincere heart. Like a true disciple of Christ, who concealed himself, when the multitude would have raised him to a throne, and who presented himself, when they came to drag him to his cross, thou hast a sacred pleasure in humbling thyself before God and man, and art anxious, without hypocrisy or affectation, to take the lowest place among thy brethren. 53. The humble Christian, convinced of his wants and his

weakness, feels it impossible to act like those proud and bashful poor, who will rather perish in their distress,

than solicit the assistance of their brethren. St. Paul * had nothing of this false modesty about him. Penetrated - with a deep sense of his unworthiness and insufficiency, * after imploring for himself the gracious assistance of God, he thus humbly solicits the prayers of all the faith. -ful.--- Brethren, pray for us.'-(1 Thess. v. 25.) "I

beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together in your prayers for me.'--(Rom. xv. 30.) • Pray always for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an Ambassa. dor in bonds : That therein I may speak boldly as I

[ocr errors]

ought to speak.” (Eph. vi. 18, 19.) - You also [continuing] to help by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf.' (2 Cor. i. 11.)

Thus humility, or poverty of spirit, which is set forth by Christ as the first beatitude, leads us, by prayer, to all the benedictions of the gospel, and to that lively gratitude, which gives birth to thanksgiving and joy. Lovely humility! penetrate the hearts of all Christians, animate every pastor, give peace to the church, and happiness to the universe.


[ocr errors]





i tanto voi TRAIT XII.

117110 fot) The ingenuous Manner, in which he acknowleded and repaired his Errors.

s'* t'aid i IT difficult for a proud man to confess him in an error: But they who are possessed of humility and love, can make such an acknowledgment with cheerfulness. When St. Paul was called upon to justify his conduct before the tribunal of the Jews, the same spirit of resentment which animated his persecutors suddenly seized upon the more passionate of bis judges, when the high priest, still more exasperated than the rest, commanded them who stood near Paul' to smite him on the mouth.' It was in that moment of surprise and indignation, that the apostle, unacquainted with the author of so inde. cent a proceeding and not imagining, that the president of an august assembly could so far forget his own dignity, as to act with so reprehensible an impetuosity, gave this sharp reply to so unjust an order : God shall smite thee, thou wbited wall ; for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law ?' Immediately those who stood by, reproaching him with bis apparent disrespectful carriage, inquired with the utmost indignation, · Revilest thou God's high priest ? Here the apostle, far from justifying his own conduct, in resenting the severity of a judge, who had degraded himself by an act of the most flagrant injustice, immediately acknowledged his error : And lest the example he had given should encourage any person to withhold the respect due to a magistrate, still more respectable by his office than blameable by his rigorous proceedings, he endeavoured to make instant repa. ration for his involuntary offence, by citing a penitent passage from the law, answering with all meekness; • I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: For it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.' (Acts xxiii. 2, 5.)

There is another instance of the indiscretion and can. dour of this apostle. Paul and Barnabas going forth to publish the gospel, took for their companion John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas. The young evange. list, however, staggered by the dangers, which those apostles were constantly obliged to encounter, forsook them at Pamphilia in the midst of their painful labours. But afterwards, repenting of his former irresolution, he offered to accompany them in another journey. Barnabas, who had charity enough to hope all things of his nephew, wished to afford him a second trial : While Paul, whose prudence taught him to fear every thing from a young man, who had already given an indisput. able proof of his inconstancy, refused his consent. length the two apostles, unable to decide the matter to their mutual satisfaction, took the resolution of separat. ing one from another. Paul went to preach the gospel in Syria with Silas ; while Barnabas, accompanied by his nephew, proceeded to proclaim Christ in the isle of Cyprus. Thus the separation of true Christians, with. out producing any schism in the church, frequently tends to the propagation of the gospel.

Time alone could determine whether Barnabas was deceived by an abundance of charity, or St. Paul through an excess of prudence. The event turned the balance in favour of the judgment of Barnabas ; the conduct of John Mark on this second mission was irreproachable. From that time, St. Paul, with his usual candour, for.


[ocr errors]

getting the former instability of Mark, placed the utmost confidence in him, received him with joy as the companion of his labours, revoked the order he had formerly given respecting him, and recommended him to the churches as a faithful minister. Thus much may be inferred froin the following passage in his Epistle to the Colossians: Aristarchus, my fellow-prisoner, saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, touching whom ye received commandments ; if he come unto you, receive him.' (Col. iv. 10.)

Thus the sincere followers of Christ are ever anxious to repair their involuntary faults : Faults which we, as well as the apostles, are always exposed to the commission of, and which should constrain us to say, with St. Paul, · Now we know' things and persons in part.' This imperfection in our knowledge will sometimes produce errors in our judgment, and those errors may probably influence our conduct. But, if in these failings there be no mixture of malice; if we sin through ignorance, and in the integrity of our hearts, God imputes no those errors; provided that we are always prepared, like St. Paul, to confess and repair them. To err is the lot of humanity: Obstinacy in error is the character of a dæmon: But humbly to acknowledge and anxiously to repair an error, is to exhibit a virtue more rare and valuable than innocence itself, when accompanied with any degree of conceit and pride.

They, who give the portraits of legendary saints, gene. rally paint them without a single failing. But they who wish faithfully to imitate the sacred authors, are obliged to employ shades as well as lights, even in their most celebrated pieces. If this part of the portrait of St. Paul should not appear brilliant, it will serve, at least, to manifest the reality of the original, the liberality of the apostle, and the fidelity of the painter.

to us

« PreviousContinue »