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ESSAY ON THE CHARACTER OF ST. PAUL

Οἴδατε δὲ ὅτι δι᾽ ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν τὸ πρότερον, καὶ τὸν πειρασμὸν ὑμῶν ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου οὐκ ἐξουθενήσατε οὐδὲ ἐξεπτύσατε, ἀλλὰ ὡς ἄγγελον θεοῦ ἐδέξασθέ με, ὡς χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν.—Gal. iv. 13, 14.

THE narrative of the Gospel gives no full or perfect likeness of the character of the Apostles. Human beings do not admit of being constructed out of a single feature, nor is imagination able to supply details which are really wanting. St. Peter and St. John, the two Apostles whose names are most prominent in the Gospels and early portion of the Acts, both seem to unite two extremes in the same person; the character of St. John combining gentleness with vehemence, almost with fierceness; while in St. Peter we trace rashness and timidity at once, the spirit of freedom at one period of his life, and of narrowness and exclusiveness at another. He is the first to confess, and the first to deny Christ. Himself the captain of the Apostles, and yet wanting in the qualities necessary to constitute a leader. Such extremes may easily meet in the same person; but we do not possess sufficient knowledge to say how they were really reconciled. Each of the twelve Apostles grew up to the fullness of the stature of the perfect man. Even those who to us are little more than names, had individual features as lively as our own contemporaries. But the mention of their sayings or acts on four or five occasions while they followed 2the footsteps of the Lord on earth, and then on two or three occasions soon after He was taken from them, then once again at an interval of twelve or fourteen years, is not sufficient to enable us to judge of their whole character. We may distinguish Peter from John, or James from either; but we cannot set them up as a study to be compared with each other.

More features appear of the character of St. Paul, yet not sufficient to give a perfect picture. We should lose the individuality which we have, by seeking to idealize and generalize from some more common type of Christian life. It has not been unusual to describe St. Paul as a man of resolute will, of untiring energy, of logical mind, of classic taste. He has been contrasted with the twelve as the educated with the uneducated, the student of Hebrew and Greek learning, brought up in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel, with the fishermen of Galilee ‘mending their nets’ by the lake. Powers of government have been attributed to him such as were required, and in some instances possessed, by the great leaders of the Church in later ages. He is imagined to have spoken with an accuracy hardly to be found in the systems of philosophers. Not of such an one would the Apostle himself ‘have gloried’; he would not have understood the praises of his commentators. It was not the wisdom of this world which he spoke, but ‘the hidden wisdom of God in a mystery’. All his life long he felt himself to be one ‘whose strength was perfected in weakness’; he was aware of the impression of feebleness which his own appearance and discourse made upon his converts; who was sometimes in weakness and fear and trembling before them, ‘having the sentence of death in himself’, and at other times ‘in power and the Holy Ghost and in much assurance’; and so far 3from having one unchanging purpose or insight, that though determined to know one thing only, ‘Jesus Christ and Him crucified’, yet in his manner of teaching he wavers between opposite views or precepts in successive verses. He is ever feeling, if haply he may find them, after the hearts of men. He is carried away by sympathy, at times even for his opponents. He is struggling to describe what is in process of revelation to him. ‘Rude in speech but not in knowledge’, as he himself says. The life of the Greek language had passed away, and it must have been a matter of effort for him to write in a foreign tongue, perhaps even to write at all; yet he puts together words in his own characteristic way which are full of meaning, though often scattered in confusion over the page. He occasionally lights also on the happiest expressions, stamping old phrases in a new mould, and bringing forth the new out of the treasury of the old. Such are some of the individual traits which he has left in his Epistles; they are traits far more interesting and more like himself than any general image of heroism, or knowledge, or power, or goodness. Whatever other impression he might have made upon us, could we have seen him face to face, there can be little doubt that he would have left the impression of what was remarkable and uncommon.

There are questions which it is interesting to suggest, even when they can never receive a perfect and satisfactory answer. One of these questions may be asked respecting St. Paul:—‘What was the relation in which his former life stood to the great fact of his conversion?’ He himself, in looking back upon the times in which he persecuted the Church of God, thought of them chiefly as an increasing evidence of the mercy of God, which was afterwards extended to 4him. It seemed so strange to have been what he had been, and to be what he was. Nor does our own conception of him, in relation to his former self, commonly reach beyond this contrast of the old and new man; the persecutor and the preacher of the Gospel; the young man at whose feet the witnesses against Stephen laid down their clothes, and the same Paul disputing against the Grecians, full of visions and revelations of the Lord, on whom in later life came daily the care of all the Churches.

Yet we cannot but admit also the possibility, or rather the probable truth of another point of view. It is not unlikely that the struggle which he describes in the seventh chapter of the Romans is the picture of his own heart in the days when he ‘verily thought that he ought to do many things contrary to Jesus of Nazareth’; the impression of that earlier state, perhaps the image of the martyr Stephen (Acts xxii. 20), may have remained with him in after years. For men seem to carry about with them the elements of their former lives; the character or nature which they once were, the circumstance which became a part of them, is not wholly abolished or done away; it remains, ‘even in the regenerate’, as a sort of insoluble mass or incumbrance which prevents their freedom of action; in very few, or rather in none, can the old habit have perfect flexure to its new use. Every where, in the case of our acquaintance, who may have passed through great changes of opinion or conduct, we see from time to time the old nature which is underneath occasionally coming to the surface. Nor is it irreverent to attribute such remembrances of a former self even to inspired persons. If there were any among the contemporaries of St. Paul who had known him in youth and in age, they would have seen similarities which escape us 5in the character of the Apostle at different periods of his life. The zealot against the Gospel might have seemed to them transfigured into the opponent of the law; they would have found something in common in the Pharisee of the Pharisees, and the man who had a vow on his last journey to Jerusalem; they would perhaps have observed arguments, or quotations, or modes of speech in his writings which had been familiar to them and him in the school of Gamaliel. And when they heard of his conversion, they might have remarked that to one of his temperament only could such an event have happened, and would have noted many superficial resemblances which showed him to be the same man, while the great in ward change which had overspread the world was hid from their eyes.

The gifts of God to man have ever some reference to natural disposition. He who becomes the servant of God does not thereby cease to be himself. Often the transition is greater in appearance than in reality, from the suddenness of its manifestation. There is a kind of rebellion against self and nature and God, which, through the mercy of God to the soul, seems almost necessarily to lead to reaction. Persons have been worse than their fellow men in outward appearance, and yet there was within them the spirit of a child waiting to return home to their father’s house. A change passes upon them which we may figure to ourselves, not only as the new man taking the place of the old, but as the inner man taking the place of the outer. So complex is human nature, that the very opposite to what we are has often an inexpressible power over us. Contrast is not only a law of association; it is also a principle of action. Many run from one extreme to another, from licentiousness to the ecstasy of religious feeling, from 6religious feeling back to licentiousness, not without a ‘fearful looking for of judgement’. If we could trace the hidden workings of good and evil, they would appear far less surprising and more natural than as they are seen by the outward eye. Our spiritual nature is without spring or chasm, but it has a certain play or freedom which leads very often to consequences the opposite of what we expect. It seems in some instances as if the same religious education had tended to contrary results; in one case to a devout life, in another to a reaction against it; some times to one form of faith, at other times to another. Many parents have wept to see the early religious training of their children draw them, by a kind of repulsion, to a communion or mode of opinion which is the extreme opposite of that in which they have been brought up. Let them have peace in the thought that it was not always in their power to fulfil the duty in which they seem to themselves to have failed. These latter reflections have but a remote bearing on the character of St. Paul; but they serve to make us think that all spiritual influences, however antagonistic they may appear, have more in common with each other than they have with the temper of the world; and that it is easier to pass from one form of faith to another than from leading the life of all men to either. There is more in common between those who anathematize each other than between either and the spirit of toleration which characterizes the ordinary dealings of man and man, or much more the spirit of Christ, for whom they are alike contending.

Perhaps we shall not be far wrong in concluding, that those who have undergone great religious changes have been of a fervid imaginative cast of mind; looking for more in this world than it was 7capable of yielding; easily touched by the remembrance of the past, or inspired by some ideal of the future. When with this has been combined a zeal for the good of their fellow men, they have become the heralds and champions of the religious movements of the world. The change has begun within, but has overflowed without them. ‘When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren’ is the order of nature and of grace. In secret they brood over their own state; weary and profitless their soul fainteth within them. The religion they profess is a religion not of life to them, but of death; they lose their interest in the world, and are cut off from the communion of their fellow creatures. While they are musing, the fire kindles, and at the last—‘they speak with their tongue’. Then pours forth irrepressibly the pent-up stream—‘unto all and upon all’ their fellow men; the intense flame of inward enthusiasm warms and lights up the world. First they are the evidence to others; then, again, others are the evidence to them. All religious leaders can not be reduced to a single type of character; yet in all, perhaps, two characteristics may be observed; the first, great self-reflection; the second, intense sympathy with other men. They are not the creatures of habit or of circumstances, leading a blind life, unconscious of what they are; their whole effort is to realize their inward nature, and to make it palpable and visible to their fellows. Unlike other men who are confined to the circle of themselves or of their family, their affections are never straitened; they embrace with their love all men who are likeminded with them, almost all men too who are unlike them, in the hope that they may become like.

Such men have generally appeared at favourable conjunctures of circumstances, when the old was 8about to vanish away, and the new to appear. The world has yearned towards them, and they towards the world. They have uttered what all men were feeling; they have interpreted the age to itself. But for the concurrence of circumstances, they might have been stranded on the solitary shore, they might have died without a follower or convert. But when the world has needed them, and God has intended them for the world, they are endued with power from on high; they use all other men as their instruments, uniting them to themselves.

Often such men have been brought up in the faith which they afterwards oppose, and a part of their power has consisted in their acquaintance with the enemy. They see other men, like themselves formerly, wandering out of the way in the idol’s temple, amid a burdensome ceremonial, with prayers and sacrifices unable to free the soul. They lead them by the way themselves came to the home of Christ. Some times they represent the new as the truth of the old; at other times as contrasted with it, as life and death, as good and evil, as Christ and anti-Christ. They relax the force of habit, they melt the pride and fanaticism of the soul. They suggest to others their own doubts, they inspire them with their own hopes, they supply their own motives, they draw men to them with cords of sympathy and bonds of love; they themselves seem a sufficient stay to support the world. Such was Luther at the Reformation; such, in a higher sense, was the Apostle St. Paul.

There have been heroes in the world, and there have been prophets in the world. The first may be divided into two classes; either they have been men of strong will and character, or of great power and range of intellect; in a few instances, combining both. They have been the natural leaders of mankind, compelling 9others by their acknowledged superiority as rulers and generals; or in the paths of science and philosophy, drawing the world after them by a yet more inevitable necessity. The prophet belongs to another order of beings: he does not master his thoughts; they carry him away. He does not see clearly into the laws of this world or the affairs of this world, but has a light beyond, which reveals them partially in their relation to another. Often he seems to be at once both the weakest and the strongest of men; the first to yield to his own impulses, the mightiest to arouse them in others. Calmness, or reason, or philosophy are not the words which describe the appeals which he makes to the hearts of men. He sways them to and fro rather than governs or controls them. He is a poet, and more than a poet, the inspired teacher of mankind; but the intellectual gifts which he possesses are independent of knowledge, or learning, or capacity; what they are much more akin to is the fire and subtlety of genius. He, too, for a time, has ruled kingdoms and even led armies; ‘an Apostle, not of man, nor by men’; acting, not by authority or commission of any prince, but by an immediate inspiration from on high, communicating itself to the hearts of men.

Saul of Tarsus is called an Apostle rather than a prophet, because Hebrew prophecy belongs to an age of the world before Christianity. Now that in the Gospel that which is perfect is come, that which is in part is done away. Yet, in a secondary sense, the Apostle St. Paul is also ‘among the prophets’. He, too, has ‘visions and revelations of the Lord’, though he has not written them down ‘for our instruction’, in which he would fain glory because they are not his own. Even to the outward eye he has the signs of a prophet. There is in him the same 10emotion, the same sympathy, the same ‘strength made perfect in weakness’, the same absence of human knowledge, the same subtlety in the use of language, the same singleness in the delivery of his message. He speaks more as a man, and less immediately under the impulse of the Spirit of God; more to individuals, and less to the nation at large; he is less of a poet, and more of a teacher or preacher. But these differences do not interfere with the general resemblance. Like Isaiah, he bids us look to ‘the man of sorrows’; like Ezekiel, he arouses men to a truer sense of the ways of God in his dealings with them; like Jeremiah, he mourns over his countrymen; like all the prophets who have ever been, he is lifted above this world, and is ‘in the Spirit at the day of the Lord’. (Rev. i. 10.)

Reflections of this kind are suggested by the absence of materials such as throw any light on the early life of St. Paul. All that we know of him before his conversion is summed up in two facts, ‘that the witnesses laid down their clothes with a young man whose name was Saul’, and that he was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the few Rabbinical teachers of Greek learning in the city of Jerusalem. We cannot venture to assign to him either the ‘choleric’ or the ‘melancholic’ temperament. [Tholuck.] We are unable to determine what were his natural gifts or capacities; or how far, as we often observe to be the case, the gifts which he had were called out by the mission on which he was sent, or the theatre on which he felt himself placed ‘a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men’. Far more interesting is it to trace the simple feelings with which he himself regarded his former life. ‘Last of all he was seen of me also, who am the least of the Apostles, that am not worthy to be called an Apostle, because 11I persecuted the Church of God.’ Yet there was a sense also [in which it is true] that he was excusable, and that this was the reason why the mercy of God extended itself to him. ‘Yet I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.’ And in one passage he dwells on the fact, not only that he had been an Israelite, but more, that after the strictest sect of the Jews’ religion he lived a Pharisee, as though that were an evidence to himself, and should be so to others, that no human power could have changed him; that he was no half Jew, who had never properly known what the law was, but one who had both known and strictly practised it.

We are apt to judge extraordinary men by our own standard; that is to say, we often suppose them to possess, in an extraordinary degree, those qualities which we are conscious of in ourselves or others. This is the easiest way of conceiving their characters, but not the truest. They differ in kind rather than in degree. Even to understand them truly seems to require a power analogous to their own. Their natures are more subtle, and yet more simple, than we readily imagine. No one can read the ninth chapter of the First, or the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, without feeling how different the Apostle St. Paul must have been from good men among ourselves. We marvel how such various traits of character come together in the same individual. He who was ‘full of visions and revelations of the Lord’, who spake with tongues more than they all, was not ‘mad, but uttered the words of truth and soberness’. He who was the most enthusiastic of all men, was also the most prudent; the Apostle of freedom, and yet the most moderate. He who was the strongest and most en lightened of all men, was also (would he have himself 12refrained from saying?) at times the weakest; on whom there came the care of all the Churches, yet seeming also to lose the power of acting in the absence of human sympathy.

Qualities so like and unlike are hard to reconcile; perhaps they have never been united in the same degree in any other human being. The contradiction in part arises not only from the Apostle being an extraordinary man, but from his being a man like ourselves in an extraordinary state. Creation was not to him that fixed order of things which it is to us; rather it was an atmosphere of evil just broken by the light beyond. To us the repose of the scene around contrasts with the turmoil of man’s own spirit; to the Apostle peace was to be sought only from within, half hidden even from the inner man. There was a veil upon the heart itself which had to be removed. He himself seemed to fall asunder at times into two parts, the flesh and the spirit; and the world to be divided into two hemispheres, the one of the rulers of darkness, the other bright with that inward presence which should one day be revealed. In this twilight he lived. What to us is far oft both in time and place, if such an expression may be allowed, to him was near and present, separated by a thin film from the world we see, ever ready to break forth and gather into itself the frame of nature. That sense of the invisible which to most men it is so difficult to impart, was like a second nature to St. Paul. He walked by faith, and not by sight; what was strange to him was the life he now led; which in his own often repeated language was death rather than life, the place of shadows and not of realities. The Greek philosophers spoke of a world of phenomena, of true being, of knowledge and opinion; and we know that what they meant by these distinctions is something 13different from the tenets of any philosophical school of the present day. But not less different is what St. Paul meant by the life hidden with Christ and God, the communion of the Spirit, the possession of the mind of Christ; only that this was not a mere difference of speculation, but of practice also. Could any one say now—‘the life’ not that I live, but that ‘Christ liveth in me’? Such language with St. Paul is no mere phraseology, such as is repeated from habit in prayers, but the original consciousness of the Apostle respecting his own state. Self is banished from him, and has no more place in him, as he goes on his way to fulfil the work of Christ. No figure is too strong to express his humiliation in himself, or his exaltation in Christ.

Could we expect this to be otherwise when we think of the manner of his conversion? Could he have looked upon the world with the same eyes that we do, or heard its many voices with the same ears, who had been caught up into the third heaven, whether in the body or out of the body he could not tell? (2 Cor. xii. 1-5.) Must not his life have seemed to him a revelation, an inspiration, an ecstasy? Once and again he had seen the face of Christ, and heard Him speak from heaven. All that followed in the Apostle’s history was the continuation of that first wonder, a stream of light flowing from it, ‘planting eyes’ in his soul, transfiguring him ‘from glory to glory’, clothing him with the elect ‘in the exceeding glory’.

Yet this glory was not that of the princes of this world, ‘who come to nought’; it is another image which he gives us of himself;—not the figure on Mars’ hill, in the cartoons of Raphael, nor the orator with noble mien and eloquent gesture before Festus and Agrippa; but the image of one lowly and cast 14down, whose ‘bodily presence was weak, and speech contemptible’; of one who must have appeared to the rest of mankind like a visionary, pierced by the thorn in the flesh, ‘waiting for the redemption of the body’. The saints of the middle ages are in many respects unlike St. Paul, and yet many of them bear a far closer resemblance to him than is to be found in Luther and the Reformers. The points of resemblance which we seem to see in them, are the same withdrawal from the things of earth, the same ecstasy, the same consciousness of the person of Christ. Who would describe Luther by the words ‘crucified with Christ’? It is in another manner that the Reformer was called upon to war, with weapons earthly as well as spiritual, with a strong right hand and a mighty arm.

There have been those who, although deformed by nature, have worn the expression of a calm and heavenly beauty; in whom the flashing eye has attested the presence of thought in the poor withered and palsied frame. There have been others again, who have passed the greater part of their lives in extreme bodily suffering, who have, nevertheless, directed states or led armies, the keenness of whose intellect has not been dulled nor their natural force of mind abated. There have been those also on whose faces men have gazed ‘as upon the face of an angel’, while they pierced or stoned them. Of such an one, perhaps, the Apostle himself might have gloried; not of those whom men term great or noble. He who felt the whole creation groaning and travailing together until now was not like the Greek drinking in the life of nature at every pore. He who through Christ was ‘crucified to the world, and the world to him’, was not in harmony with nature, nor nature with him. The manly form, the erect step, 15the fullness of life and beauty, could not have gone along with such a consciousness as this, any more than the taste for literature and art could have consisted with the thought, ‘not many wise, not many learned, not many mighty’. Instead of these we have the visage marred more than the sons of men, ‘the cross of Christ which was to the Greeks foolishness’, the thorn in the flesh, the marks in the body of the Lord Jesus.

Often the Apostle St. Paul has been described as a person the furthest removed from enthusiasm; in capable of spiritual illusion; by his natural temperament averse to credulity or superstition. By such considerations as these a celebrated author confesses himself to have been converted to the belief in Christianity. And yet, if it is intended to reduce St. Paul to the type of what is termed good sense in the present day, it must be admitted that the view which thus describes him is but partially true. Far nearer the truth is that other quaint notion of a modern writer, ‘that St. Paul was the finest gentleman that ever lived’; for no man had nobler forms of courtesy, or a deeper regard for the feelings of others. But ‘good sense’ is a term not well adapted to express either the individual or the age and country in which he lived. He who wrought miracles, who had hand kerchiefs carried to him from the sick, who spake with tongues more than they all, who lived amid visions and revelations of the Lord, who did not appeal to the Gospel as a thing long settled, but himself saw the process of revelation actually going on before his eyes, and communicated it to his fellow men, could never have been such an one as ourselves. Nor can we pretend to estimate whether, in the modern sense of the term, he was capable of weighing evidence, or how far he would have attempted to 16sever between the workings of his own mind and the Spirit which was imparted to him.

What has given rise to this conception of the Apostle’s character has been the circumstance, that with what the world terms mysticism and enthusiasm are united a singular prudence and moderation, and a perfect humanity, searching the feelings and knowing the hearts of all men. ‘I became all things to all men that I might win some’; not only, we may believe, as a sort of accommodation, but as the expression of the natural compassion and love which he felt for them. There is no reason to suppose that the Apostle took any interest in the daily life of men, in the great events which were befalling the Roman Empire, or in the temporal fortunes of the Jewish people. But when they came before him as sinners, lying in darkness and the shadow of God’s wrath, ignorant of the mystery that was being revealed before their eyes, then his love was quickened for them, then they seemed to him as his kindred and brethren; there was no sacrifice too great for him to make; he was willing to die with Christ, yea, even to be accursed from Him that he might ‘save some of them’.

Mysticism, or enthusiasm, or intense benevolence and philanthropy, seem to us, as they commonly are, at variance with worldly prudence and moderation. But in the Apostle these different and contrasted qualities are mingled and harmonized. The mother watching over the life of her child, has all her faculties aroused and stimulated; she knows almost by instinct how to say or do the right thing at the right time; she regards his faults with mingled love and sorrow. So, in the Apostle, we seem to trace a sort of refinement or nicety of feeling, when he is dealing with the souls of men. All his knowledge 17of mankind shows itself for their sakes; and yet not that knowledge of mankind which comes from without, revealing itself by experience of men and manners, by taking a part in events, by the insensible course of years making us learn from what we have seen and suffered. There is another experience that comes from within, which begins with the knowledge of self, with the consciousness of our own weakness and infirmities; which is continued in love to others and in works of good to them; which grows by singleness and simplicity of heart. Love becomes the interpreter of how men think, and feel, and act; and supplies the place of, or passes into a worldly prudence wiser than, the prudence of this world. Such is the worldly prudence of St. Paul.

Once more; there is in the Apostle, not only prudence and knowledge of the human heart, but a kind of subtlety of moderation, which considers every conceivable case, and balances one with an other; in the last resort giving no rule, but allowing all to be superseded by a more general principle. An instance of this subtle moderation is his determination, or rather omission to determine the question of meats and drinks, which he first regards as in different, secondly, as depending on men’s own conscience, and this again as limited by the consciences of others, and lastly resolves all these finer precepts into the general principle, ‘Whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God’. The same qualification of one principle by another recurs again in his rules respecting marriage. First, ‘do not marry unbelievers’, and ‘let not the wife depart from her husband’. But if you are married and the unbeliever is willing to remain, then the spirit of the second precept must prevail over the first. Only in an extreme case, 18where both parties are willing to dissolve the tie, the first principle in turn may again supersede the second. It may be said in the one case, ‘your children are holy’; in the other, ‘What knowest thou, O wife, if thou shalt save thy husband?’ In a similar spirit he withdraws his censure on the incestuous person, lest such an one, criminal as he was, should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. There is a religious aspect of either course of conduct, and either may be right under given circumstances. So the kingdoms of this world admit of being regarded almost as the kingdom of God, in reference to our duties towards their rulers; and yet touching the going to law before unbelievers, we are to think rather of that other kingdom in which we shall judge angels.

The Gospel, it has been often remarked, lays down principles rather than rules. The passages in the Epistles of St. Paul which seem to be exceptions to this statement, are exceptions in appearance rather than in reality. They are relative to the circum stances of those whom he is addressing. He who became ‘all things to all men’, would have been the last to insist on temporary regulations for his converts being made the rule of Christian life in all ages. His manner of Church government is so unlike a rule or law, that we can hardly imagine how the Apostle, if he could return to earth, would combine the freedom of the Gospel with the requirements of Christianity as an established institution. He is not a bishop administering a regular system, but a person dealing immediately with other persons out of the fullness of his own mind and nature. His writings are like spoken words, temporary, occasional, adapted to other men’s thoughts and feelings, yet not without an eternal meaning. In sending his instructions to 19the Churches he is ever with them, and seems to follow in his mind’s eye their working and effect; whither his Epistles go he goes in thought, absent, in his own language, ‘in the body, but present in spirit’. What he says to the Churches, he seems to make them say: what he directs them to do, they are to do in that common spirit in which they are united with him; if they live he lives; time and distance never snap the cord of sympathy. His government of them is a sort of communion with them; a receiving of their feelings and a pouring forth of his own: he is the heart or pulse which beats through the Christian world.

And with this communion of himself and his converts, this care of daily life, there mingles the vision of ‘the great family in heaven and earth’, ‘the Church which is his body’, in which the meaner reality is enfolded or wrapt up, ‘sphered in a radiant cloud’, even in its low estate. The language of the Epistles often exercises an illusion on our minds when thinking of the primitive Church; individuals perhaps there were who truly partook of that light with which the Apostle encircled them; there may have been those in the Churches of Corinth, or Ephesus, or Galatia, who were living on earth the life of heaven. But the ideal which fills the Apostle’s mind has not, necessarily, a corresponding fact in the actual state of his converts. The beloved family of the Apostle, the Church of which such ‘glorious things are told’, is often in tumult and disorder. His love is constantly a source of pain to him: he watches over them ‘with a godly jealousy’, and finds them ‘affecting others rather than himself’. They are always liable to be ‘spoiled’ by some vanity of philosophy, some remembrance of Judaism, which, like an epidemic, carries off whole Churches at once, 20and seems to exercise a fatal power over them. He is a father harrowed and agonized in his feelings; he loves more and suffers more than other men; he will not think, he cannot help thinking, of the ingratitude and insolence of his children; he tries to believe, he is persuaded, that all is well; he denounces, he forgives; he defends himself, he is ashamed of defending himself; he is the herald of his own deeds when others neglect or injure him; he is ashamed of this too, and retires into himself, to be at peace with Christ and God. So we seem to read the course of the Apostle’s thoughts in more than one passage of his writings, beginning with the heavenly ideal, and descending to the painful realities of actual life, especially at the close of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians—altogether, perhaps, the most characteristic picture of the Apostle’s mind; and in the last words to the Galatians, ‘Henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus’.

Great men (those, at least, who present to us the type of earthly greatness) are sometimes said to possess the power of command, but not the power of entering into the feelings of others. They have no fear of their fellows, they are not affected by their opinions or prejudices, but neither are they always capable of immediately impressing them, or of perceiving the impression which their words or actions make upon them. Often they live in a kind of solitude on which other men do not venture to intrude; putting forth their strength on particular occasions, careless or abstracted about the daily concerns of life. Such was not the greatness of the Apostle St. Paul; not only in the sense in which he says that ‘he could do all things through Christ’, but in a more earthly and human one, was it true, 21that his strength was his weakness and his weakness his strength. His dependence on others was also the source of his influence over them. His natural character was the type of that communion of the Spirit which he preached; the meanness of appearance which he attributes to himself, the image of that contrast which the Gospel presents to human greatness. Glorying and humiliation; life and death; a vision of angels strengthening him, the ‘thorn in the flesh’ rebuking him; the greatest tenderness, not without sternness; sorrows above measure, consolations above measure; are some of the contra dictions which were reconciled in the same man. It is not a long life of ministerial success on which he is looking back a little before his death, where he says, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith’. These words are sadly illustrated by another verse of the same Epistle, ‘This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me’ (2 Tim. i. 15). So when the contrast was at its height, he passed away, rejoicing in persecution also, and ‘filling up that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ for his body’s sake’. Many, if not most, of his followers had forsaken him, and there is no certain memorial of the manner of his death.

Let us look once more a little closer at that ‘visage marred’ in his Master’s service, as it appeared about three years before on a well-known scene. A poor aged man, worn by some bodily or mental disorder, who had been often scourged, and bore on his face the traces of indignity and sorrow in every form—such an one, led out of prison between Roman soldiers, probably at times faltering in his utterance, the creature, as he seemed to spectators, of nervous sensibility; yearning, almost with a sort of fondness, to 22save the souls of those whom he saw around him,1414   Gal. ii. 20; iv. 14; vi. 17: 1 Cor. xv. 32: 2 Cor. i. 9; vi. 12; x. 10; xi. 23-27; xii. 7-10: Philem. ver. 9.—spoke a few eloquent words in the cause of Christian truth, at which kings were awed, telling the tale of his own conversion with such simple pathos, that after-ages have hardly heard the like.

Such is the image, not which Christian art has delighted to consecrate, but which the Apostle has left in his own writings of himself; an image of true wisdom, and nobleness, and affection, but of a wisdom unlike the wisdom of this world; of a nobleness which must not be transformed into that of the heroes of the world; an affection which seemed to be as strong and as individual towards all mankind, as other men are capable of feeling towards a single person.

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