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Such is his glorying as a Christian.
There are no vain boasts, no boundless conceits. On the contrary, he has remained constant, just within the bounds which God has set him. Have not the twelve apostles, too, been obliged to confess that God's grace has granted him so great a measure of success— more than to themselves ? As a part of this outward success he twice reckoned his apostolic signs and wonders as a proof that he was in nowise inferior to the other apostles. The Acts of the Apostles give us examples of this activity, which, however strangely it may strike us, in St Paul especially, just formed a portion of a missionary's regular inventory. Many of these signs consisted of cures of sick persons; a still greater number, probably, were instances of mighty psychical convulsions finding vent in ecstatic experiences. The Galatians “suffered many things” when God ministered the Spirit to them and a power worked in their midst. At Corinth the proof of the possession of the Spirit and of this power inflamed a fanatic and undisciplined enthusiasm accompanied by the speaking with tongues, prophesying and healing of the sick. But St Paul was not the man to rejoice at the sight of such external signs alone. Where no moral change followed upon them he might very well have been inclined to see even something Satanic in them. New men—new moral creatures—such the apostle ever puts forward as the surest proof of his apostleship. To the Thessalonians he writes : “ Ye received my message not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
When his opponents in Corinth asked for a sign as a proof that Christ really spoke in him, he cries out to the congregation at once in anger and in joy: “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith ; prove your own selves; know ye not your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you?" He stands firm in the faith that these Corinthians, to whom so many crimes still cling, and who are now at variance with their apostle, do still, in spite of all, show forth the fruits of Christ and are redeemed to a better life through the apostle, and Jesus that works in him. Here, then, the proof by external results changes into the self-certainty of faith.
But now the Jews arrived with their whole host of accusations and slanders. They were past masters as critics and as spies. “ Paul,” said they,“ was careless and changeable in his decisions; he hypocritically hushed up the unpleasant consequences of his latitudinarian gospel; he did not draw his support from the congregations, because he was afraid to do so; his sufferings and attacks were proof enough that God had smitten him,” and many other statements of a like nature. In short, his whole mode of life and all his methods were a clear refutation of his claim to the apostleship. His self-defence is proud and of a grand simplicity : “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of
: our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace
of God, we have had our conversation in the world.” .
And again, in 1 Thess. ii. and 2 Cor. vi. he rises to those powerful, but never vain descriptions of his activity in which the majesty of his style reflects in every line the feeling that he is standing at the height of his task. Such was his refutation of all these calumnies, and no man before him ever spake thus.
But even in these passages, where the apostle is witness on his own behalf, the greatest emphasis is laid upon his suffering and privations. Not one of his opponents can come anywhere near him in this respect. And so, wishing to present all that he has undergone at one view, St Paul composes the famous enumeration of his hardships in 2 Cor. xi., where he assumes his mask of a jester whose boasting the world “ suffers gladly.” And though he mounts up to his vision, that other title on which his fame rests, and remains for a moment in silent contemplation of these holiest mysteries of his life, yet he descends immediately again to his sufferings : “ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities; for when I am weak then am I strong.' It is as though he himself felt that such visions after all only form the culminating points of a life for the man that has himself experienced them, but that all men, even including all his enemies, must in the end bow down in acknowledgment of the incomparable height of his suffering in the service of the brethren.
When on some other occasion his right to call himself a minister of Christ was called in questionprobably on account of his not having known Jesus— he cries out at once in entreaty and as a challenge:
any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that as he is Christ's so are we Christ's.'
The halting sentence expresses the one thing to which he attaches the greatest importance—respect and toleration for the faithful fellowworker. He himself acted in accordance with these opinions when the factions arose at Corinth and also at Rome. He never wishes to drive others from the
field ; he merely wishes to maintain the place for himself which belongs to him by the side of the others. Even in the very heat of his self-defence he proclaims the principle that he has been called to be the servant, not the lord and master, of the congregation, and that he has to appear before the judgmentseat of Christ.
And so he gains the victory over all the attacks of his adversaries, the good and the bad alike, because his words and his life, the visible success and the inner self-mastery, have ever been in the completest harmony. Called to be an apostle by a revelation in an apparently illegitimate manner, he brilliantly legitimized himself by the services which he rendered. And in a fortunate moment the original apostles, including St James, confirmed this by holding out the right hand of fellowship, nor could anything that was set in motion from Jerusalem in later times affect this position.
We have in reality only reason to be thankful to the Jews. Had it not been for their denunciations, we should have lost the apostle's proud and frank apology. The man of God had no reason to fear the light, since with “unveiled face he reflected, as in mirror, the glory of God,” for a world that hailed the light with joy.
JESUS BROUGHT TO THE GENTILES.
St Paul knew that he was called to be a missionary to the Gentiles. External circumstances favoured this conviction. He himself was a Jew of the dispersion, a seasoned traveller accustomed from his earliest years to the life of the Greek towns. The pride that he took in his peculiar and independent position must have caused his work amongst the distant Gentiles to appear especially desirable to him, unhindered as it would be by the tradition of the early apostles. Next may be mentioned the opposition of the Jews, which he knew only too well from his own past. And besides it was advisable for the renegade—such he appeared to his friends—to depart to a safe distance. Such circumstances and such considerations no doubt contributed largely to aid St Paul in forming his decision ; but the really decisive cause was the clearly-felt impulse that urged him to go forth from the very moment of his call. He was under a necessity—he had to go to the Gentiles.
A tremendous task was laid upon him, to announce