« FöregåendeFortsätt »
THE DISINTERESTEDNESS OF SAINT PAUL,
THE perfection of the Christian character does not so much consist in this excellence, or that talent, or the other virtue; in the performance of some right action, or the abstinence from some wrong one, as in the deteramination of the whole soul for God. This generous surrender of self, whether of the sensual or of the intellectual self, is the unequivocal test of a heart consecrated by man to his Maker. He has no bye-ends, no secret reserves. His intention is single, his way is straight forward; he keeps his end in view without deflection, and he pursues it without weariness.
Saint Paul and his associates were the first moral-instructors who preached not themselves. Perhaps there is scarcely a more striking proof of the grandeur of his spirit, than his indifference to popularity. This is an elevation of character, which not only no Pagan sage has reached, but which not every Christian teacher has been found to attain.
This successful apostle was so far from placing him self at the head of a sect, that he took pains to avoid In some subsequent instructors, this vanity was proba bly the first seed of heresy; the sound of Ebionites and Marcionites would as much gratify the ear of the founders, as bringing over prose tes to their opinions would delight their feelings. Paul would have rejected with
horror any such distinction. He who earnestly sought to glorify his Master, would naturally abase himself. With a holy indignation he asks, "What then is Paul, and what is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed?" He points out to them the littleness of such exclusive fondness in men, who had such great objects in view-" overvalue not Paul or Apollos as yours, for all things are yours."
It is impossible not to stop a moment, in order to notice the fine structure of the period to which these words are an introduction. It would be difficult to find a more finished climax: "Let no man glory in men; for all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; or the world, or life, or death; or things present, or things to come; all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.*
Knowing the proneness of human nature to this party spirit, he takes pains to prevent excessive individuaf attachments. There is no instance of a man so distinguished, so little distinguishing himself. He chooses to merge himself in the general cause, to sink himself in the mass of faithful ministers. This is particularly evident in the beginning of many of his Epistles, by his humility in attaching to his own, some name of far inferior note, as his associate in the work; "Paul and Sosthenes"-" Paul and Sylvanus"-" Timotheus our brother;"-and in writing to the Thessalonians, he connects both the latter names with his own.
* 1 Corinth, iii. 22.
He laboured to make the people bear in mind that the apostles were the disseminators, not the authors, of the faith which they preached. Miraculous as his conversion had been, superior as were his endowments, favoured as he was by Divine inspiration, he not only did not assume, but he rejected, any distinction, and only included himself among the teachers of their common Christianity. Thus he bequeathed to his successors a standing pattern of humility, and of the duty of ascribing their talents, their application, and their success, to Him, from whom, whatever advantages they possess, are derived.
Saint Paul did not rank, on the one hand, with those liberal modern philosophers, who assert that virtue is its own reward; nor on the other, with those abstracted mystics, who profess an unnatural disinterestedness, and a superhuman disdain of any recompense but that which they find in the pure love of God. He was not above accepting heaven, not for any works of righteousness which he had done, but as the free gift of God through the righteousness that had been wrought for him. He was not too proud and independent to confess, that the nearness of heavenly glory was with him a most animating principle.
This hope cheered his fainting spirit; this prospect not only regulated, but almost annihilated his sense of suffering. Invisible things were made so clear to the eye of faith; remote things were brought so near to one, who always kept up in his mind a comparative estimate of the brevity of this afflicted life, and the du ration of eternal happiness; faith so made the future
present; love so made the labour light; the earnest of the Spirit was given him in such a measure;-that mortality seemed, even here, to be swallowed up of life. His full belief in the immediate presence of God in that world in which he was assured that light, purity, holiness, and happiness would be enjoyed in their most consummate perfection, not only sustained his hope, but exhilarated his heart.
If it does not support us under our inferior trials in the same manner, it is because we have rather a nominal than a practical faith, rather an assenting than an obeying conviction; it is because our eyes are not fixed on the same objects, nor our hearts warmed with the same affections; it is because our attention is directed so sparingly to that Being, and that state, to which his was supremely devoted. Ought we to complain, that we enjoy not the same supports, nor the same consolations, while we do not put ourselves in the same way to obtain them?
But though Paul was no disciple of that metaphysical theology, which makes such untaught distinctions, as to separate our love of God from any regard to our own beatitude; though he might have been considered a selfish man, by either of the classes to whom allusion has been made, yet true disinterestedness was eminently his characteristic. Another instance of a human being so entirely devoid of selfishness, one who never took his own ease, or advantage, or safety, or credit into the account, cannot be found. If he considered his own sufferings, he considered them for the sake of his friends. "Whether we be afflicted, it is for your con
solation and salvation," The only joy he seemed to derive, when he was "pressed out of measure, above strength," was, that others might be comforted and encouraged by his sufferings. So also of his consolations; the principal joy which he derived from them was, that others might be animated by them. This anxiety for the proficiency of his converts, in preference to his own safety; his disposition to regard every object in due subjection to the great design of his ministry; his humble, vigilant care, while exulting in the hope of an eternal crown, that he might "not himself be cast away;"-form, in combination with the rest of his conduct, a character which we must allow has not only no superior, but no parallel.
The union of generosity and self-denial,-and without the one the other is imperfect, was peculiarly exemplified in our apostle. His high-minded independence on man had nothing of the monkish pride of pov erty, for he knew how to abound;" nor was it the worldly pusillanimous dread of it, for he "knew how
In vindicating the right of the ecclesiastical body to an equitable provision, as a just requital of their labours, he nobly renounces all claim to any participation for himself. "I have used none of these things!" This wise and dignified abstinence in the original formation of a church, which must be founded, before provision can be made for its continuance, while it maintained the dignity of his own disinterestedness, enabled him with the better grace, and more powerful effect, to plead the legitimate claims of her ministers; and to