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THE MORALITY OF SAINT PAUL.
CHRISTIANITY was a second creation. It completed the first order of things, and introduced a new one of its own, not subversive but perfective of the original. It produced an entire revolution in the condition of man, and accomplished a change in the state of the world, which all its confederated power, wit, and philosophy, not only could not effect, but could not even conceive. It threw such a preponderating weight into the scale of morals, by the superinduction of the new principle of faith in a Redeemer, as rendered the hitherto insupportable trials of the afflicted, comparatively light. It gave strength to weakness, spirit to action, motive to virtue, certainty to doubt, patience to suffering, light to darkness, life to death.
It is a rule of Aristotle, that principles and conclusions must always be within the sphere of the same science; that error will be inevitable, while men examine the conclusions of one science by the principles of another. He observes, that it is therefore absurd for a mathematician, whose conclusions ought to be grounded on demonstration, to ground them on the probabilities of the rhetorician.
May not this rule be transferred from the sciences of the schools to the science of morals? Will not the worldly moralist err, by drawing his conclusions as to
the morality of a serious Christian from the principles of the worldly school, not being at all able to judge of the principles, of which the religious man's morals are the result.
But in our application of this rule, the converse of the proposition will not hold good; for the real Christian, being aware of the principles of worldly morality, expects that his conclusions should grow out of his principles, and in this opinion he seldom errs.
Christian writings have made innumerable converts to morality; but mere moral works have never made one convert to religion. They do not exhibit an originating principle. Morality is not the instrument but the effect of conversion. It cannot say, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” But when Christ has given life, then morality, by the activity of the inspiring motive, gives the surest evidence of renovated vitality, and exhibits the most unequivocal symptoms, not only of spiritual life, but of vigorous health.
Saint Paul is sometimes represented not merely as the greatest of the Apostles,-this is readily granted-but virtually as being almost exclusively great. Is not this just ascription of superior excellence, however, too commonly limited to the doctrinal part of his compositions, and is not the consummate moral perfection which both his writings and his character so consistently display, sometimes, if not overlooked, yet placed in the background?
Though he did more for the moral acomplishment of the human character than has ever been effected by any
other man; though he laboured more abundantly than any other writer, to promote practical religion; yet polemical divinity, on the one side, is too much disposed to claim him as her immediate champion; and then in order to make good her claim, on the other, to assign to him a subordinate station in the ranks of sacred moral writers.
Now the fact is, that all the prophets and apostles, aggregately, are not so abundant in ethical instruction, nor is the detail of moral conduct in any of them so minutely unfolded, or so widely ramified, as in the works of Saint Paul. We may, indeed, venture to assert, that David and our apostle are almost the only Scripture characters, of whom we have such full-length pictures. And for this obvious reason; what was left imperfect in their delineation by their respective historians, is completely filled up by their own compositions. The narratives may be said to exhibit their shape and features; their own writings have added the grace of countenance, the force of expression, and the warmth of colouring.
It furnishes a complete answer to those who oppose the doctrines of grace, on the supposed ground of their encouraging sin; that, as there never was a man who expanded and illustrated those doctrines so fully, so there never was one whose character and compositions exhibit a more consistent and high-toned morality.
Like his sacred precursors, Paul always equally maintains the freeness of grace, and the necessity of holiness. The character of faith is not lowered by insisting that holy practice, which is nothing more than
the exercises and consequences of faith, is the signs of its reality. Action, and motion, and speech are not life, but they are the most unequivocal signs of life. Life evidences itself in them; and we do not disparage the principle when we infer its effects, and estimate their value.
We sometimes hear in conversation Saint James set up as the champion of moral virtue against Saint Paul, the bold assertor of doctrines. For these two eminent apostles, there has been invented an opposition, which, as it never existed in their minds, so it cannot be traced in their writings. Without detracting from the perfect ethics of Saint James, may we not be allowed to insist, that Paul, his coadjutor, not his rival, is equally zealous in the inculcation of practice; only running it up more uniformly into its principle; descending more deeply into its radical stock, connecting it more invariably with its motive. It is worth observing, in confirmation of their similarity of views, and perfect agreement in sentiment, that Saint Paul and Saint James derive their instance of the principle for which each is contending, from the same example, the patriarch Abraham.
So far is Paul from undervaluing virtue, that he expressly declares "that God will render to every man according to his deeds." So peremptory on this head, that he not only directs men to do good works, but to "maintain" them; so desirous to establish the act into a habit, that they must not only perform them, but be "careful" in the performance; so far from thinking, that, after his conversion, man was to be an inactive re
cipient of grace, that he not only enjoins us to be " always abuonding in the work of the Lord," but assigns the very reason for it-the reception of grace; "forasmuch as ye know that your labour will not be in vain in the Lord. He repeatedly presses on them perseverance, and perseverance is no fanatical symptom. His documents enforce a religion equable, consistent, progressive. This mode of instruction is no fruit of a heated brain, no child of emotion, no vapour of impulse, no effect of fancy.
Not to instance those ample tables of Christian practice, the twelfth of Romans, the fifth of Thessalonians, the whole Epistle of Titus, and the two last chapters to the Ephesians,-every part of his writings either deduces holy practice from some corresponding principle; or else, after he has been enforcing a system of doctrine, he habitually infers a system of morals growing out of it, inseparable from it. Indeed, throughout the whole of the last-named Epistle, into which the very essence of Gospel doctrines is infused and compressed, all the social, personal, and relative duties are specificially detailed and enjoined the affection of husbands, the submission of wives, the tenderness of parents, the obedience of children, the subordination and fidelity of servants, economy of time, hands to be kept from stealing, "a tongue from evil speaking,” a body maintained in "temperance, soberness, and chastity;" a guarded conversation, a gravity of carriage; the very decencies of life are all proposed with a minuteness which will scarcely bear a comparison but with his own catalogue of virtues in a kindred Epistle :