Sidor som bilder

They seek not its favour nor its honours, but they give a more substantial proof of affection,-they seek its improvement, its peace, its happiness, its salvation.

If ever man, on this ground, had a pre-eminent claim to the title of philanthropist, that man is the Apostle Paul. The warmth of his affections, as exhibited in a more general view in the narrative of Saint Luke, and the tenderness of his feelings as they appear more detailed throughout his own Epistles, constitute a most interesting part of his very diversified character.

This truth is obvious, not only on great and extraordinary occasions, but in the common circumstances of his life, and from the usual tenor of his letters.

There are persons, not a few, who, though truly pious, defeat much of the good they intend to do, not always by a natural

natural severity of temper, but by a repulsiveness of manner, by not cultivating habits of courtesy, by a neglect of the smaller lenient arts of kindness. They will indeed confer the obligation, but they confer it in such a manner as grieves and humbles him who receives it. In fulfilling the letter of charity, they violate its spirit. We would not willingly sus pect, that if they are more averse from bestowing commendation, than from receiving it, a little envy, unsuspected by themselves, mixes with this reluctance. But be this as it may, tender spirits and feeling hearts, especially in the first stages of their religious course, require the fostering aid of kindness and encouragement. They are not able to go alone, they need the soothing voice and the helping hand. They are ready to suspect that they are going wrong, if not occasionally encouraged to believe that they are going right.

[blocks in formation]

History presents us with numberless instances in which the success or the failure of great enterprizes has depended, not altogether on the ability, but partly on the temper of him who conducted it. The importance of conciliatory and engaging manners is no where more strikingly illustrated than by the opposite conduct and different success of two famous Athenian generals. Plutarch observes, that though Pericles and Nicias both pursued the same end, the former, in the progress of his purpose, always won the people by his kind and insinuating address; while the latter, not employing the mild powers of persuasion, exasperated instead of winning them over, and thus commonly failed in his enterprise.

Paul's consummate knowledge of human nature, no less than his tenderness of heart, led him to encourage in his young converts every opening promise of goodness. He carefully cultivates every favour

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

favourable symptom.

He is "gentle

among them as a nurse cherisheth her "children." He does not expect every thing at once; he does not expect that a beginner in the ways of religion should start into instantaneous perfection. He does not think all is lost if an error is committed; he does not abandon hope, if some less happy converts are slow in their progress. He protects their budding graces, he fences his young plants till they have had time to take root; as they become strong he exposes them to the blast. If he rejoices that the hardy are more flourishing, he is glad that the less vigorous are nevertheless alive.

Characters which are great are not always amiable; the converse is equally true; in Saint Paul there is an union of both qualities. He condescends to the inferior distresses, and consults the natural feelings of his friends, as much as if no weightier cares pressed on his mind. B 3 There

There is scarcely a more lovely part of his character, though it may be less striking to common eyes, as being more tender than great, than the gentleness exhibited to his Corinthian converts; where he is anxious, before he appears among them again, that any breach might be healed, and every painful feeling done away, which his sharp reproof of an of fending individual might have excited. He would not have the joyfulness of their meeting overshadowed by any remaining cloud.

Though he expresses himself in the most feeling manner, lest he might have given them pain by his severe reproofs in a preceding letter, yet instantly the predominating integrity of his mind leads him to take comfort in the reflection, that this temporary sorrow had produced the most salutary effects on them who felt it. His rejoicing that the very sorrow he had excited was a religious sorrow,

« FöregåendeFortsätt »