Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

chief."* While the voice of an admiring church applauded and still applauds him as the first of saints, he speaks of himself in the humblest style of abasement and contrition. No candid reader can ever imagine that his language is that of affectation. There is an air of sincerity and candour about it which convinces us that it comes from the heart; and never was there a man more zealous for Christ's honour and less solicitous for his own. But he saw such mani. festations of Divine influence, in his course of duty and obedience, as claimed his grateful acknowledge ment while he lived on earth, and his song of praise when he had entered into rest.

1. Paul reflects on his labours and services with satisfaction, on account of the glory redounding from them to God. It was his earnest expectation, and his hope, as he expresses it in his epistle to the Philippians, that Christ should be magnified in his body in life and in death. Now that hope was realized. The battles he had fought, and the victories he had won, were in Christ's cause. The enemies he had subdued were his enemies, and the converts he had made had swelled his ranks and extended his empire. In the duties of obedience he had shown forth the virtues of him who had called him out of darkness into his marvellous light. In keeping the faith he had maintained and spread abroad that gospel which is the testimony of our Lord, which declares his glory among the heathen, and his wonders among all people.

• 1 Tim. i. 15.

He had taught multitudes to know him, and won multitudes to serve him. Besides, the

power

and
grace

of Christ were strikingly displayed in accomplishing such objects by means so feeble. It was Divine power alone which made him defy such danger, enabled such weak hands to hold fast the faith in spite of all the attempts made to wrest it from him, and caused languid nature to endure to the end. The soldier exults in every victory that is gained, if it will add a new title of honour to his commander's name, or secure for his ashes a more honourable monument; and shall not good men exult in those labours of love, in that fight of faith, in that purity which vice could not ensnare, and in that devotion which elevated the soul, by all which the name of our Lord Jesus is glorified in us, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ? The weapons of our warfare are mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds : casting down imagination, and every high thing which exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought in subjection to the obedience of

faith."*

2. Paul reflects on them with satisfaction, on account of the advantages which resulted from them to the world and to the church. He had given in various places a fatal blow to those superstitions and vices by which the nations were enslaved, opened channels among the heathen in which the waters of life should flow, destroyed the influence of those principles which

* 2 Cor. x. 4.

kept multitudes in the bondage of corruption, and had spread more extensively, than any other, that religion which was to break the fetters of the slave, banish the abominations of Pagan impurity from the earth, refine and bless the intercourse of domestic life, and in due time unite the kingdoms of the earth in harmony. He had increased the members of the church, his example had invigorated their fortitude; he had been the happy instrument of settling differences, repressing false teachers, and comforting the saints under the afflictions of the gospel. No instability, no error, and no misconduct of his, had shaken the minds of the disciples, or made the ways of God to be evil spoken of. Well, therefore, might the Apostle rejoice, that the grace bestowed on him had not been in vain, and that the present and sueceeding generations should reap what he had sown in tears. Thus

may Christians, in the obscurest situa. tions, rejoice in the influence of the fruits of the Spirit in them, however limited. The plant which grows in the desert has had its fragrance wafted to a distance by the breeze, and its seeds borne to a more favoured soil, where they have had an abundant in

crease.

3. Paul reflected on his past labours with satisfaction, on account of their happy influence as to himself. By these fruits of holiness his calling and his election were made sure, and he had the fullest assurance that the Spirit of Christ dwelt in him. Besides, there is a pleasure in the testimony of conscience to well doing, which no worldly enjoyment can impart. Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with Aleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.”* The language undoubtedly intimates, that though this was not their only, it was not the least of their joys. By the constitution of Heaven the practice of religion yields the purest delight, and the more complete we stand in the will of God the more blissful is its influence. The racer's progress fatigues him as he advances, the warrior's struggles subject him to bruises and wounds; but every step the Christian moves in his race his joy advances, and every conflict yields him sweeter rest to the soul.

It was a most gratifying thought to Paul, that his memory should live in the church, and that the purest honours of enlightened gratitude should be paid to his name. If, of the woman who poured the precious ointment on our Lord's head, he said,

" That wherever the gospel was preached what she had done should be told for a memorial of her,” this must be true of him who brought so many blessings to the head of Jesus from those who were ready to perish, and who poured his life’s blood at his feet.

Paul too regarded these services as proofs of his meetness for the future reward. Looking at them, and at the promise connecting holiness with glory, he could exclaim,-" The warrior's palm, the racer's prize, and the confessor's crown are mine !" yet while he said this, the language which follows shows that his heart was adding," They are mine for his sake,

* 2 Cor. i. 12.

and they shall be mine from his hands of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things."

CONCLUSION. It is probable that some advanced in life may be now saying in their hearts,-“ The review of my past life presents me with no such grounds of exultation ; I have done nothing for God, and when I think what I have done against him, I feel that no language so well becomes me as this, Innumerable evils compass me about, mine iniquities have taken hold on me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than - the hairs of mine head, therefore my heart faileth me;"_but beware lest, in the gloom of your despondency, you deny or overlook what God hath done for your souls. Look back to the scene in which you offended God, and do you see in that scene no traces of the tears of contrition, no marks which point out the path by which you returned to him? Look back on the season of spiritual darkness, and mark the patience with which you waited on God, and the earnestness with which you cried to him. Look back on the time of your affliction, and remember your songs in the night, the firmness with which you repelled every suggestion of despair, and the abhorrence with which you regarded every temptation to seek relief by unlawful methods. These are some of the characters of grace. You are ashamed that there are not more; be grateful that there are any. Who hath despised the day of small things ? God will not, neither should you.

Be more active than ever during the little of life

« VorigeDoorgaan »