Imágenes de páginas

the Roman governor, in all his authority, could subdue or bow. He appeared before them less as the criminal than as the judge. His mind rose, his spirit towered, till all before him seemed to be, what indeed they were, comparatively very little men. What then could bring tears, and many tears, from the eyes of a man who could make governors tremble on their bench of justice? The overflowings of his own benevolent heart! When he saw how men slighted their own mercies—how they rejected, some with civil, some with contumelious air, as they do at this hour, the salvation of God, and “put away from them the words of eternal life;" having before him the perils which they encountered, and a full view of the ruin which they could not escape,

his whole soul was dissolved in tenderness, and he wept his tears of bitterness over their infatuation. The terror of the Roman government could not extort from his firmness a single drop—the sight of an immortal soul, perishing in its iniquity, and pleased with its delusions, altogether unmanned him, and suffused his cheeks with tears, which in other cases would have been the sign of weakness. Objections and oppositions were not the only impediments of the apostle's career. Many trials befell him by the lying in wait of the Jews. That Paul was their countryman, in whom they had prided themselves--that he was among the Pharisees, whom the nation almost idolized-that he had been their ringleader in persecuting the new religion, all passed for nothing. He was now a follower of the crucified Nazarene, and nothing but his blood would assuage their wrath. All the world over, the disciples of the Lord Jesus have been singled out as objects of ultimate violence. It is not to be wondered at in a world under the influence of him who "was a murderer from the beginning." And if their condition is better now, it is because the Gospel has triumphed over human madness, and hath put the devil to shame. No thanks to the progress of philosophy, nor to the thing, cantly styled rational Christianity, of which the abettors have, even now, just as much, and a little more, of the persecuting devil, than it is for their interest to avow. Paul trod continually, not amidst vipers and scorpions, but, what is infinitely worse, the snares of hellish men. Every sermon furnished materials for a new conspiracy; every step a track for the bloodhounds. The cowards who shrunk from his eye, would yet venture to stab him from behind. It was only by lying in wait, that the Jews hoped for success. But all this was not to shake the resolution, nor alter the

[ocr errors]

conduct, of Paul. Such as the grace of the Lord Jesus made him, both the church and her adversaries always found him.

In the midst of these discouragements, nothing could arrest his zeal, nor silence his testimony: “he kept back nothing that was profitable to his Ephesian hearers. Neither the love of fame, nor the hope of gaining a party, ever called forth Paul's exertions. His anxiety was to be useful; popularity, at the expense of duty, had no charms for him. Wo to that preacher who makes his office subservient to the applause of his fellow-men. Whether his hearers approved or disapproved—whether his doctrines coincided with the popular prejudice, or were directly hostile to it, it was the same thing to this wise and gallant apostle. He had to do with “God, who searcheth the hearts;" human opinions dwindled away into their native insignificance before him “whose judgment is according to truth;” and therefore he kept back nothing that was profitable to those who frequented his ministry. He showed them that truth which admits of no compromise; he had but one doctrine, which he “ taught publicly, and from house to house.” Be he where he might, in the solemn assembly, or in the domestic circle, his instructions were the same. It is of the very nature of truth that it should be so. And it equally belongs to imposture to utter things unpleasant in public, and fritter them away in private; or to utter them in private, and suppress them in public. His discourses in the church he followed up with his explanations and applications at home. “From house to house,” the apostle might be tracked upon his line of life. This passage has been used as furnishing a divine warrant, and proving a divine obligation, to what is termed parochial visitation. Highly important it is, no doubt; but men must be careful that they do not convert the sound of words into a divine warrant, and not to require bricks without straw. To prove that apostolic example establishes a precedent for imitation, we must be sure that the circumstances to which it is applied are similar. But this is far from being the case in the present instance. There are two things in which the state of the churches now differs materially from their state in primitive times. In the first place, they had inspired teachers; who could, therefore, spend the whole week in exhorting, confirming, consoling, their converts, without infringing on their preparations for the Lord's day. “Our situation is quite different: close and habitual study are necessary for us. And if we cannot get

time to attend to it, our ministrations grow uninteresting, and our congregations lean. As for those men who boast of working at the loom all the week, and then acquitting themselves well on the Lord's day, I shall say nothing, but that their performances are such as might be expected from the loom; but as far as can well be conceived from the labours of a "workman who rightly divides the word of truth.” In the next place, the primitive churches never permitted themselves to suffer for want of labourers. Their spiritual advancement was, in their eyes, infinitely more valuable than all the pelf which the maintenance of their ministers required. Look over the Acts of the Apostles, and be astonished at the abundance of help which the churches then enjoyed. Our economical plan is to make one pastor do the work which was anciently done by three or four; and the very natural consequence follows, the work is badly done, or the workman is sacrificed. In our own city, from the accumulation of inhabitants, and their very dispersed residences, if we were to visit as much, or any thing like it, as our people are good enough to wish, and unreasonable enough to expect, we should not have an hour left for our proper business; we could make no progress in the knowledge of the Scriptures; and not one would be able to preach a sermon worthy of a sensible man's hearing. The conclusion is almost self-evident, if congregations will stint themselves in workmen, they must have their work spoiled; and if the work be done at all, they must kill the mind or body of the workman; and sometimes both. Let them not deceive themselves. If they impose hardships which God never commanded, they must expect to go without his blessing.

The burden of Paul's preaching, whether to the Jew or Gentile, was “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” That their conceptions and feelings toward God were radically wrong; that these must be altered and purified; and that all their views must centre in our Lord Jesus Christ, as “the way, the truth, and the life,” in order to human happiness, his word constantly declares, and the experience of men as constantly confirms. This great truth, “Christ, the wisdom of God and the power of God,” flowed alike from the tongue and from the pen of Paul, and was, in fact, “the head and front of his offending," with both Jews and Gentiles. This, however, must be the substance of his testimony. And so it must be still. All who hope to win sinners unto God, and to have them as

crowns of rejoicing” in that day, must, like Paul, “determine to know nothing save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” And cursed with all the curses which are written in this book, be that ministry of which Christ is not the all and all. Such is a very feeble outline of the nature of Paul's ministry. Oh happy, thrice happy, the man who nearly imitates it! We have much reason to blush and be ashamed, when we compare ourselves with this prince of preachers; and have infinite need to address to you, my Christian friends, the request of this glorious man of God, Brethren, pray for us.”

II. We are next called to witness Paul's extreme devotedness to the cause in which he was engaged. He was bound in the spirit to go to Jerusalem. The Holy Ghost put forth a constraining influence upon him to go to that city. He had often heard, and well knew, the voice-had often felt, and well understood, the impression which signified his duty to go to the metropolis of persecution. Of the general nature of the impulse, he was well assured. He knew it came from God, and could not lead him astray. This was sufficient to mark out the course of his obedience. What was to befall him at Jerusalem he corld not tell; he only knew that no rest awaited him there. "The Holy Ghost witnessed, that in every city, bonds and afflictions abode him." Go where he would, he was sure that his fidelity would be put to the severest test-sure that whoever found the Christian cause a cause of ease and comfort, it was to be no ease nor comfort to him. Well, how does the prospect affect him? He was not such a fanatic as to court pain when he might have avoided it. The school of Beccaria and Voltaire, which teaches that the severity of punishment multiplies the offence, was not then known; or, had it been known, would hardly have caught the ear of Paul. He did not dream of fitting himself for the duties of an apostle, by proclaiming war upon the principle of common sense, and the common feelings of human nature. He knew, and never shrinked from the original condition of his Master's service. “Whosoever denieth not himself, and taketh not up his cross, and followeth not after me, cannot be my disciple.” Shew me the cross, exclaimed this magnanimous man; spread out before me all the self-denials I may be called to endure: be they what they may, I must be a disciple! He did not doubt that his Lord would make all up to him in due season; "for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” “None of these things move me ; neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the

VOL. IV.NO. 8.


ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” One of the idlest of human efforts is, the attempt to frighten a man who has deliberately resolved to sacrifice his life, or to succeed in his undertaking. You have lost your hold of him. When you have threatened him with death, you have done your worst, and have no terrours left. It is then that the great commander steps on the scene, and says, “ Fear not them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do: but I will forewarn you whom you shall fear; fear him, who, after he hath killed, hath power to destroy both soul and body in hell: yea, I say unto you, fear him.” Paul entered thoroughly into this feeling and therefore all appeals to human power and human pains,-to the axe, the gibbet, or the stake, were without effect upon him; for “ he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” And so, my friends, will it be with us, in proportion as our converse is with eternal realities. Reckon not, when the great trial comes, upon the strength, and courage, and nerves, which have commanded human applause, and secured human expectation. I cannot argue for Christ,” said a female martyr, “but I can burn for him.” Her faith was of the same sort with the apostle's : and therefore she did not even count her life dear unto herself, that she might finish her course with joy.” My brethren, how could you, the best, the most resolute of you all, abide this test of the apostolic or female martyr? I do not say, that in a life of ease and comfort, which God has vochsafed to you, you are called to exercise the grace of martyrdom: but I do say, that if upon your deliberate choice, your preference lean to any thing else than our Lord Jesus Christ, you have nothing to expect bot that he will cast you out of his kingdom. The apostle was always practical; i.e. he never preached Christian duties, or painted Christian trials, without a reference to the possibility of his being called to the performance of the one, or to the endurance of the other. He now felt all the considerations from both press hard upon him. One of his sweet enjoyments arose from the presence and sympathy of his fellow-christians. He found that this was to be interrupted -to be closed : and that drew from him, in the

III. Place, his presentiment of the present being the last opportunity of converse with his Ephesian friends. “And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more!”

There is a relation, and a tenderness of relation, produced

« AnteriorContinuar »