Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

112 ) fore be unsuspected vouchers of the sentence pronounced to decide it. .

Finally, it is not, I think, possible to read over this decree, without admiring the humility and moderation of its conclufion; it enumerates the prohibitions already stated, and closes with these words, 66.2 from which if ye keep yourselves ye shall do as well; fare ye well.” How different this from the high strains of priestly arrogance and papal usurpation in the corrupted ages of the church ; or the bitter invectives of angry reformers, and the wild rants of heated enthusiasts, in more modern days ? how conformable to that mild and sober dignity we should expect in men speaking the dictates of genuine inspiration, and following the example of their meek and humble Lord ? ..

Another remarkable circumstance, connected with this transaction, here presents itself to our consideration, which seems to supply an additional proof of the great discretion and good sense, as well as the love of peace and harmony which regulated the conduct of the apostles. They had, as was remarked, determined that the Gentiles converted to Christianity were under no obligation to subject themselves to the burthen of the entire Mosaic law; but they had also determined, that the Jews who

as

[merged small][ocr errors]

embraced

embraced the gospel, might, if they pleased, retain the observance of that law, which from their infancy they had been habituated to revere, because, though not necessary, yet neither was it inconsistent with Christianity.— Now this distinction was cer- tainly most just and rational; but it was also such a distinction as fanatics never would have made, and the conduct observed in consequence of this distinction was strikingly consonant to the spirit from whence it originated.

Št. Paul, the zealous and successful diffeminator of the gospel through the wide extent of the Heathen world, returned, after a period of several years, to Jerusalem ; he visits the apostle James, who remained there, and then presided over the Jewish church, he was received by him, and all the elders assembled, and declares particularly the wonders which God had wrought amongst the Gentiles by his ministry, and “ when they heard it they glorified “ God.” But while full of joy and exultation at the progress of the gospel, they were not inattentive to the safety of their brother apostle, and the peace of the Jewish Church. They knew the violence of many of the Jews would be easily roused by those who mistook or misrepresented the conduct of St. Paul, and they intreat the apostle to act in such a manner, as might prevent the mischievous consequences of such an error or calumny; by performing some public acts, which should prove that he even then did not think

erro

it inconsistent with his Christian character to oba serve the Jewish law; and with this request St. Paul immediately and chearfully complied, as in this instance his compliance could not injure the cause of Christian liberty, while it avoided offending the prejudices of the over-zealous Jew.

over

The admirable wisdom and Christian benevolence with which St. Paul conducted himself on this difficult subject, also appears strongly from contrasting his conduct towards two of his favourite converts, and most able assistants, Timotheus and Titus.

[ocr errors]

a The former he prevailed on to submit to circumcision, and obey the Mosaic law; because, as it was known his mother had been a Jewels, his not acting thus would have given occasion of offence. The latter had been a Gentile, and therefore when it was suggested that he also should be circumcised, the apostle steadily refused, lest he should seem to establish a precedent for subjecting the liberty of all the Gentile Christians to the bondage of the law.

Thus admirably did all the apostles act up to those principles, which St. Paul has so beautifully described, « b giving none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to (s the Gentiles, nor to the church of God, even as “ I, says he, please all men in all things; not seeking

* Acts xvi. Gal. ii. 3.

I Cor. x. 32.

66 mine

« mine own profit, but the profit of many, that " they may be faved.” Was this enthusiastic delufion, wild fanaticism, extravagant and ill-directed zeal ? surely not; no, this was the voice of foberness fupporting the sacred cause of piety and truth. Let us now direct our attention to some more minute, but not less convincing proofs, that St. Paul in particular was totally uninfluenced by the extravagance of enthusiasm.

SECTION IV.

The conduct of St. Paul in particular was not directed

or influenced by enthusiasm.

THE conduct of this apostle perpetually displays a zeal, ardent indeed, and active, but constantly united with the observance of decorum and propriety, as well as attention to his reputation and his personal safety, so far as was consistent with the discharge of his sacred office, and to a much higher degree than can possibly be conceived to exist in a mind dif tracted by the frenzy of enthusiasm ; a few instances will illustrate and prove this position.

[blocks in formation]

When at Philippi he was unjustly fcourged and imprisoned, and the discovery of his innocence induced the magistrates to give orders for his immediate, but private enlargement; he is not satisfied with securing his safety, without also guarding his character, which was exposed to suspicion and disgrace, from the ignominious treatment he had received ; and he uses that motive to procure an honourable dismiffal, · which alone could excite the attention of the magistrates.-" They have beaten us (says the apostle) “.openly, uncondemned, being Romans, and have « cast us into prison, and now do they thrust us out “ privately; nay, verily, but let them come themselves 6s and fetch us out.”—The event justified the expectation of the apostle; for, 6 the magistrates fear" ed when they heard they were Romans, and came r and besought them and brought them out.”

ma.

But having thus vindicated their character, they did not attempt to retaliate the ill usage they had received, by public or legal complaint, or to irritate the resentment, and provoke the further vengeance of the magistrates, by obstinate opposition; when desired by them to depart out of the city, they only waited to see the brethren," and when they had seen " them, they comforted them, and departed."

The apoftle displays a similar care of his reputation when he enjoins the Corinthians; “ whomfoever ye

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »