Page images
PDF
EPUB

fruit in all; and this is what our Lord requires of

Some might be more improved than others, but all would be improved. And then Christ's blessing would be upon us, on the youngest no less than on the oldest. Then having been built up on our most holy faith, and praying in the Holy Spirit, --for who does not pray when he feels at peace with God, forgiven and beloved ?—we should keep ourselves in the love of God, and look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose mercy to the youngest of us will make the path through this life safe and free from misery, and keep the prospect of eternal life ever before us, brightening as earth and earthly things grow darker. RUGBY CHAPEL,

us.

August 30th, 1835.

SERMON XXXVI.

ST. PAUL.

Acts, xxii. 21.

Depart; for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.

THESE words, taken from the second lesson which you have just heard read in the service of the day, describe shortly the business for which St. Paul was set apart by God; for which he lived and for which he died. He was the Apostle of the Gentiles; and through him and his preaching we, and all Christians now living,—for where are we to find the remains of the churches of Judæa ?-have received the knowledge of Christ's Gospel. His name is familiar to every ear, and so, no doubt, are the principal circumstances of his life. Nevertheless, as through the division of the Bible into chapters we are apt to read his history as it were piece by piece, and as we do not always connect

сс

his writings with his life, nor consider under what circumstances they were written, it may not be useless if I endeavour to lay before you in one view the principal points in his life and character; noticing at the same time his several epistles, as the order of our account leads us to each of them in its turn.

You have heard his early life described in his own words.

“I am verily,” he said to the Jews at Jerusalem, “a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in the city, at the feet of Gamaliel; and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers; and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.” He was brought up, he says, in Jerusalem, and taught by Gamaliel, one of the most famous doctors or teachers of that time, so that he was well acquainted with the law of the Jews, and with their traditions respecting it; and, as he says in another place, “according to the straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee.” Nor did he study merely the ceremonial part of the law, but was what we should call in common language a good and conscientious man: again he describes his early life by saying, “ Touching the righteousness which is in the law, I was blameless." And because he loved the law in which he had been bred up, and had a great reverence for its minutest ordinances, and thought that the most eminent

[ocr errors]

teachers of the law could not err, therefore he was very angry with the Christians, who declared that Jesus of Nazareth, whom the teachers and rulers of the Jews had crucified as a deceiver, was really the Son of God; and who declared farther, or were accused of declaring, “ that this Jesus should destroy the holy place at Jerusalem, and should change the customs which Moses had given to the people of Israel.” These things seemed to Paul such great profaneness, that, as we heard him say in the lesson of this morning, he persecuted the way of Christ unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.

There are and have been many good men like St. Paul, who, respecting and loving the Church in which they have been brought up, and being fondly attached to its minutest forms, and regarding with the fondest reverence the wise and learned men who have in times past and present been its ornaments, have like him been very angry with all those who have differed from them, and have sometimes, when they have had the power, persecuted them even to death. So the Roman Catholics dealt with the martyrs of our Church, with Latimer and with Ridley; and so did the zealots of our Church deal,—not persecuting indeed to the death, but delivering him into prison for twelve years,— with that true and earnest servant of Christ, whose writings have been the delight and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

edification of so many of us, both in youth and age; the author, I mean, of the Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan.

Now what was Paul's fault in this matter, and what the fault of other good men who have in later times acted in the same way? The fault in all these cases is the same,-it is the putting the lighter things on a level with the greater,—the ordinances of man on a level with the eternal will of God. The law of the Israelites declared that he who blasphemed God should be stoned: the Jews stoned Stephen because they said he had spoken blasphemous words against the holy place and against the law; although, as they might have known, he was as far from blaspheming God as they were And so Paul persecuted the Christians for calling Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God, when the rulers and chief priests had declared him a deceiver; although the Christians, as Paul himself afterwards found, “ according to the way which he then called heresy, so worshipped the God of their fathers, believing all things which were written in the law and the prophets." Thus in later times, the Church of Rome and the Church of England punished men for not complying with their ordinances, nor acknowledging their authority; although the men so made to suffer worshipped all the time the God of their fathers and believed in his Son Jesus Christ, and in all things

« PreviousContinue »