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world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ. The glory of Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, whom He came to seek and to save, notwithstanding they had rebelled against Him, their Creator, to whom their allegiance was due, was that which St. Paul was most anxious at all times to display, in order that the name of God might be magnified. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God; for as St. Peter declares, these things the angels desire to look into ;95 they desire to be made acquainted with the mode in which God is pleased to deal with mankind, in order that they may be led to admire and adore Him with greater wonder, love, and praise.

The plan of salvation for perishing sinners, and the manner in which it was to be made known, was according to the eternal purpose which God purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. It was formed and carried into effect by His own counsel, and to the praise of the glory of His grace,96 that all the glory of it might be secured to Himself. The great benefit derived from it by those to whom it was made known was reconciliation to God through Christ; in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him; so

95 1 Peter i. 12.

96 Ephesians i. 6.

that we may draw nigh to God, and be assured that He will draw nigh to us, will hear our humble supplications and grant us His favour, and will bless us both in this life and in that which is to come. In such language the apostle Paul describes the benefits of which the Gentiles, or the world at large, were made partakers, by the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the words to which our attention is now to be directed more particularly, he speaks,

First, Of his own unworthiness to fill the office to which he was appointed, of being the apostle of the Gentiles.

Secondly, Of the nature of his office, and the needful qualification for it; and

Thirdly, Of the subject of his ministry.

May the Spirit of God be pleased to influence our hearts and minds, while we consider the important topics here brought before us.

When an apostle of Christ speaks of himself and his ministry in such terms as the text records, it surely becomes those who now minister in holy things to have the most humble thoughts of themselves, and the most exalted ideas of the office with which they have been entrusted. The apostle's estimate of himself was that he was less than the least of all saints. So he said to the Corinthians, I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church

of God.97 On which he enlarges in his first epistle to Timothy, I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious, but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant, with faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus.98 St. Paul had ever the most humble opinion of himself in the sight of God. The deepest self-abasement filled his mind when he reflected on his conduct towards the church of Christ in the days of his ignorance and pride. And notwithstanding he had been admitted into the number of the saints of God, or those who were set apart by Divine grace to be a holy people unto the Lord, the servants of God, separated from the world that lieth in wickedness,99 and made partakers of the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost; yet he never reflected upon his former state without the deepest humiliation before God, and heartfelt gratitude that Divine mercy should have been extended to one who had been so opposed to Himself and His people; and had carried his opposition to so great a length, as to breathe out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord; and who had in a measure effected his evil desires, having concurred in the stoning of Stephen; and as he afterwards confessed to king Agrippa, Many of the saints did I shut

97 1 Cor. xv. 9.

98 1 Tim. i. 13, 14.

99 1 John v. 19.

up in prison, having received authority from the
chief priests; and when they were put to death I
gave my voice against them: and I punished them
oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blas-
pheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I
persecuted them even unto strange cities.1 That
notwithstanding all this, Divine mercy should
have been extended to him, excited his unceas-
ing admiration and gratitude; and he made
mention of it to show that none need think
themselves to be beyond the reach of mercy,
when, being convinced of their sinfulness, they
implore pardon for Christ's sake. He added,
For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first,
(or the chief of sinners, as he had before acknow-
ledged) Jesus Christ might show forth all long
suffering, for a pattern to them which should
hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.
the text St. Paul constructs a new word to
express more forcibly his sense of his utter un-
worthiness of Divine mercy. He did not think
it sufficiently humiliating to call himself the
least of the saints, but he styles himself less than
the least of all saints. He does this in order to
extol the riches of Divine grace. That the God
of heaven should have condescended to regard
one who was so totally unworthy of His favour,
was to him a subject of astonishment and gra-


1 Acts xxvi. 10, 11.

21 Timothy i. 16.

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titude. He felt therefore that he had the most powerful inducement to use every possible means to prove his gratitude to his gracious Benefactor. He felt it to be his bounden duty and his reasonable service to serve the Lord Christ, to endeavour to the utmost to promote His glory, and to make known His great salvation. This was the best way in which he could manifest his thankfulness for the mercy that had been extended to him. And he knew that his speaking humbly of himself would lead others to think that they also had cause to be humbled before God, and that it became them to be lowly in their own eyes, on account of their transgressions of His holy law. When he used such language respecting himself, he could with the greater confidence exhort others not to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think ; but to think soberly3 and humbly of themselves. When we consider what we actually are, and what we ought to be, according to that which God requires of us in His holy word, we shall be convinced, if we know ourselves, that we have nothing to be proud of, but on the contrary every reason to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. This indeed is the first step in the Christian life; for until we are convinced of

3 Romans xii. 3.

4 1 Peter v.

5, 6.

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