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was produced upon their minds, by the spectacle of his constancy and rejoicing; for if there be one bright and incontrovertible evidence of the truth of that religion we profess, it is the manner in which it sustains its disciples, when all the consolations of this world have departed. Call to mind the impression that has, at different times, been wrought upon your own hearts, by the sight of believers rising in triumph above the bitterest of human trials. You have seen them plunged from affluence into poverty; stripped of the objects of dearest affection; visited with sickness; subjected to mortifications and disappointment; and yet, amidst all, preserving the same even tenor of contented cheerfulness: and what has been the conclusion you have drawn as you beheld them? You have felt as if an argument for the reality of faith was here presented, superior to all besides; you have thought with delight, that in this case, at least, there could be no deception; and have poured forth new ascriptions to that Spirit of grace, which could thus call forth songs of sweetest praise from the furnace of affliction. From your own experience, therefore, you may conceive of the frame of soul in which these ministers of Jesus went forth to their labors, from the scene of the Apostle's imprisonment; and of the superior ardor, with which they would now preach to a guilty world the unsearchable riches of Christ. And it is in the fact of this quickened zeal of God's ambassadors in his service, that we are furnished with another proof of the unreasonableness of mourning under trials. His confinement was one of the choicest of blessings; it warmed the spirit of every herald of the cross with new devotion; and, through these more engaged and animated efforts,
fresh inultitudes received Christ in their hearts, "the hope of
Such were the two advantages, which, as the Apostle tells us, had resulted to the cause of Jesus, from the captivity he was then enduring. Before passing to the next part of his observations, it may be instructive to contemplate, for an instant, the delightful model he has here furnished, of the manner in which the Christian should look at all the adverse circumstances of his life. Consider the actual situation of St. Paul, when he penned the words that have just passed in review. He was a prisoner: and few calamities are more aggravating to the human spirit than bondage. And yet what is the view which you here find him taking, of this bitter and humbling visitation? It is simply that of a thankful recognition of God's merciful designs in the allotment: and, instead of turning with restless discontent to his own condition, he traces the blessings with which it was connected; joyfully discerns the kindness with which mercy had been mingled with judgment; and because, through his sufferings, the cross of Christ had been more widely proclaimed, and additional souls had been converted and saved, he is seen, according to his own touching language upon another occasion, "glorying in tribulations also."t Now, my dear hearers, this happy mode of surveying the dark providences of his pilgrimage, is rightly enough considered as one of the distinguishing privileges of the Christian and yet who among you that examines his own experience, or the conduct of too many of the Saviour's disciples, can say that it is the believer's unvarying spirit amidst the trials of his course? Let me invite you, then, to come to
* Col. i.-27.
† Rom. v. 3.
the verses before us for instruction; and, sitting down with the Apostle in his prison, to follow out, through all the sorrows of existence, the finger of a wise and merciful Disposer. When the Almighty visits you with the rod of affliction, you find it hard to see a blessing in the dispensation. But the reason is, that you do not, like this primitive servant of God, make the endeavor to look for it: or you would with gratitude discover, that, in robbing you of some earthly comfort, the Lord was calling your affections heavenward; that in making your path thorny and difficult, his design was to awaken the remembrance of your iniquities and sins; that, in defeating some favorite plan, he was preventing "evil to come," and saving you from the mournful catastrophe of being ruined at your own request. But let us admit, that the believer cannot, in all cases, imagine any profitable end in his afflictions. Even so it may be: yet is it not possible, that the intention which ✓ is hidden now, may be fully disclosed at some future period? When John Newton, about to let down the boat from the ship's side, and to proceed in it to his accustomed station on the African coast, was suddenly forbidden by his commander, he was disappointed: but that night the boat sunk, and he who had gone as his substitute perished in the waters of the river: and this eminent servant of God was constrained to acknowledge, that the Father of heaven may have merciful intentions in frustrating our desires, though, at the time, he conceals them from our vision,* Under such circumstances, therefore, my brethren, "in patience possess your souls:" what now you know not, believe that "you shall know hereafter:"t and by the cheer* Authentic Narrative. Letter x. + John, xiii. 7.
fulness with which, in all scenes and situations, you see love and wisdom shining from above, exemplify that portrait of a Christian's blessedness, drawn by the pencil of Archbishop Leighton. "Thus solid," says he, "is the happiness of the saints, that in the lowest condition it remains the same: in disgraces, in caves, in prisons and chains, cast them where you will, still they are happy."*
Having thus described the good effect which had resulted from his imprisonment, in the increased zeal of his brethren in the ministry, the Apostle goes on to advert to a topic exceedingly painful in its nature. Among those who, in the primitive church, were engaged in the office of preachers, there were some who had become converts from the Jewish faith; and who, in their delivery of the gospel message, recommended, together with several of the doctrines of Christ, an observance of the abrogated institutions of the Mosaic dispensation. These persons were the source of multiplied griefs and anxieties to St. Paul, during the whole course of his ministerial labors; and their perpetual endeavor was to create a faction, among the members of the different churches, in opposition to his apostolic authority. With such malignant adversaries he was now annoyed at Rome: so that, while there were some heralds of salvation who were of the true Christian spirit, others, on the contrary, were converting the great duties of their office into instruments of intrigue, self-aggrandizement, and discord. Let us hear the Apostle's account of these teachers of the word. "Some indeed," he states, "preach Christ even of envy and strife;" or, in other words, their labors are stimulated merely by jealousy of my station and influence,
* Commentary on I. Peter; at Ch. iv. verse 14.
and in a spirit of wicked rivalry: and he proceeds to portray their character still further in the sixteenth verse, where he says; "The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds;" that is, their whole object is to produce an alienation of feeling from my person; their motives are not pure and single; they enjoy a secret pleasure in the thought, that, while I am lying in imprisonment, they will be able to gain the affections of the people wholly to themselves. These are the men whom he contrasts with others of God's ministering servants, of a better and holier character; and of whom he tells us, that their preaching was "of good-will," that is, out of a pure, unmixed desire for the everlasting salvation of men; "and of love knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel," by which he means to say, that they were full of affection for the great work of converting sinners unto God; and, as the Apostle was placed by divine Providence in the ministry, for the important purpose of establishing Christ's truth against all the gainsayings of Jews and Gentiles, that they were anxious to assist him in this object, and to supply the present loss of his services by their own increased diligence in the cause.
From the description of the Apostle, as thus briefly illustrated, it appears that those factious leaders of whom he complains did correctly exhibit the truth as it is in Jesus: it seems probable, therefore, that, perceiving the success of the gospel as proclaimed in all its purity by St. Paul, and in order still more effectually to procure the hearts of men in their favor, they concealed their own peculiar creed, and unfolded the cross of a dying Saviour as the single medium of acceptance. These persons, then, my brethren, acted the depraved and monstrous