« ZurückWeiter »
he wishes to render proselytes. Christianity needed for its first preachers men who were not only good Christians, but who knew, from experience, the kind and measure of the opposition with which their faith would have to contend. And it was especially essential, that he who was to take the lead in Christianizing both Jew and Gentile, both the learned and the ignorant, should thoroughly understand the mental condition, the current experience, and the established beliefs of these several races and classes. We trace, in St. Paul's early history, a Providential training for his peculiar mission. He could talk intelligently to the Greeks about their superstitions, and could cite their own poets in confirmation of his doctrines. When “certain philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoics encountered him” at Athens, and constrained him to make a public harangue on the Areopagus, he was able to meet them on their own ground, and his speech before them is a masterpiece of philosophical condensation and precision, both in thought and style. He understood the intense nationality of the Romans, and the hardihood and persistency of their characters, as contrasted with Grecian fickleness and Oriental effeminacy; and knew how to frame his appeals to them so as to bring over their undivided energy of mind and heart from a hostile to a friendly attitude toward the Gospel. And as for the Jews, he had occupied in their capital a central point of observation, or rather of experience, and his own remembered self-consciousness revealed to him the impregnable and the accessible points of their moral nature, showed him through what avenues of approach he might get the control of their convictions and sympathies, and might enlist all that was noble in their local and ancestral attachments in behalf of the Christian commonwealth and its metropolis, the “ Jerusalem which is above." We cannot overrate, among his endowments as a religious teacher, the thorough negative knowledge of Christianity which he had obtained prior to his conversion. He could best comprehend the positive truth of revelation, by his conversance with the various expressions of the formula humanity minus Christianity, - with the morbid anatomy of the human heart, not yet touched by the healing hand of the Saviour. For the modern teacher of religion, it
is not enough that he be a sincere and good man, and a learned theologian; he must be familiar, not alone with the dialect of Christian circles, but with the idioms of the ex. change, the forum, and the workshop, with the habits of thought and modes of feeling which it is his province to transform; and, next to the Bible itself, for the training of one who shall do good service in the Church, we would place, first, the Greek and Roman classics, and then, the open university of the busy world. By classical study, as in no other way, he learns what natural religion could not do, and what revelation has done for the race, - what, how profound, how vital, were the needs for which philosophy and the spontaneous religion of blindness and ignorance proffered no supply,how dependent we are on Christianity for truths which seem attainable without its aid. By intimacy with the active walks of life, he gains precisely the same knowledge with reference to individuals, the same perception of susceptibilities, wants, and yearnings, which revelation alone can meet. By such discipline was St. Paul prepared to be, not the mere scholastic expositor of a frigid creed, but the thoroughly skilled ambassador of reconciliation from heaven to man.
There is reason to believe that St. Paul's social position in early life was much above mediocrity. He inherited from his father the citizenship of Rome. A Jew, or a native of Tarsus, could have obtained this only by purchase, or in reward of distinguished services. If in the former way, the cost was larger than a poor man could have paid, or one in obscure life would have cared to offer; if in the latter, the implication of a prominent and influential place in society is still more direct and certain. Then, too, there are numerous tokens of a highbred courtesy in St. Paul's speeches and epistles. His style of address, in his recorded speeches, before men in exalted stations, is equally free from sycophancy and from rudeness, betraying at once the tact of an accomplished, and the dignity of a Christian, man- the unstudied ease of one who knew how to render to all their due, and the integrity of one who would on no account render to man what is due to God. In his epistles, there is a pervading ease and grace of manner, indicating at once the politeness of a generous heart, and fami
liarity with its choicest conventional expressions. His very rebukes are conciliatory. He prepares the way for needed censure by merited commendation. He suggests unpalatable truth at once with considerate gentleness and unmistakable emphasis. He shows equal delicacy in the reluctant asking, and the grateful acknowledgment, of favors.
He always seems to be receiving a kindness while conferring an obligation. His numerous salutations are free from stiffness and awkwardness, gracefully diversified in their form, admirable always for their simplicity, and often for their positive rhetorical beauty. All these traits betoken a man who had grown naturally into the best modes of social intercourse, and with whom the language of refined courtesy was as a native dialect. In all these points, the Epistle to Philemon might be collated with the acknowledged models of the most courtly style of epistolary composition, such as the Letters of Cicero and Pliny in ancient, or of Lady Montagu or Lord Chesterfield in modern, times; and the comparison would result largely in favor of St. Paul. A similar reference, as to the apostle's rank in society, might be drawn from the high, though cruel official trust ceded to him in his early youth by his own fellow-countrymen. Then, too, we find him, at a subsequent period, sustaining at one time the charge of four men, who had taken upon themselves the Nazarite vow - an office which implies the command of no inconsiderable pecuniary resources. It is worthy of remark, also, that alike in Judea, before Festus, Felix, and Agrippa, on his voyage to Rome, and while retained in bondage in the imperial city, where he was permitted to live in his own hired house, he was always treated as a prisoner of distinction. Nor is our conclusion from these facts invalidated by his trade as a tent-maker; for it was customary among the Jews, of whatever condition in life, to teach their sons manual occupations. From his trade, we may hazard a not improbable conjecture as to his father's condition and calling. A chief staple of commerce in Tarsus was the cloth of goats' hair, (illicium,) universally used for the better sort of tents, which persons of opulence were accustomed to carry with them on their journeys. If St. Paul's father was among the leading merchants of the city, what more natural than
that he should have trained his son to the manufacture of one of the principal commodities with which his ships were freighted ?
We dwell not on this point because the mere accident of birth attaches to him the slightest preëminence above his colleagues from the fishing-boats on the Galilean lake. But he lived at an age when the lines of social distinction were sharply drawn, and had not begun to be blended or crossed by the gospel of human brotherhood; and whatever advantage of social position he possessed must have opened for him avenues of influence, which were closed against the original apostles, and must have won for him larger freedom of access, and a more willing audience with the persons of exalted station, and even royal dignity, before whom he was not infrequently permitted to plead the cause of Christ and Christianity. Then, too, the higher his previous position, the larger was his sacrifice in joining the company of unlettered rustics and fishermen, and bearing with them the reproach of the despised Nazarene. And the farther he was removed from the condition of those who had little to lose by becoming Christians, the more improbable is his conversion on any theory of naturalism — the stronger the certainty that he indeed had a vision of the Saviour on the way to Damascus, and was miraculously called to the apostleship.
We might speak, also, of the influence of nature in St. Paul's education. He was, indeed, so profoundly occupied with the great themes of Christianity, that he alluded to the phenomena of the outward universe in but a few instances, yet in these with deep and vivid feeling. Still, there pervades every manifestation of his spirit a fervor, a glow, a torrent-like rush of thought and feeling, an overcharged intensity of emotion, which indicates not only quick and strong native susceptibilities, but a soul stimulated from without by familiar conversance with the grand and beautiful in nature; - in fine, a style of character which it is impossible for us to associate with tame, even quiet, scenery. Tarsus was situated on a plain of unsurpassed fertility and richly variegated beauty. In the rear of the city rose the lofty, bald, snowcrowned cliffs of Mount Taurus, piled against the northern
and western sky, summit against summit, crag upon crag, rolling up their mist-wreaths to meet the ascending sun, and arresting midway his declining path. From these cliffs, translucent as glass, made deathly cold even under the summer solstice by their melting snows, tumbled rather than flowed the river Cydnus, over perpetual rapids, and frequent waterfalls of unsurpassed beauty and of grandeur hardly equalled on the Eastern Continent, till only as it approached it became tractable to the oar, and navigable thence to the great sea. And in full sight of the city lay spread the vast Mediterranean, the ocean of the ancient world, whitened with the sails of a multitudinous commerce, alternately serene as a land-locked lake, and lashed by frequent storms into commotion wild and grand as that with which the Atlantic breaks upon its shores. Thus, by the divine ministry of mountain, sea, and river, no less than by the intercourse of the thronged city, and in the world-renowned schools of Stoic and of Jew, was God training the great apostle for his world-wide and world-enduring mission.
But what was this mission, which demanded for this man alone such vast endowments, and such prolonged and diversified culture and experience, while it was enough for his associates in the sacred college that, in every other aspect simple and illiterate men, they should be wise only in the lore of inspiration? We doubt whether the magnitude of the work assigned to St. Paul has been duly considered and appreciated. In an important sense, (though immeasurably inferior to that in which we apply the title to the God-born Saviour,) he was the Founder of Christianity. Christ planted the seeds of bis religion in the decaying trunk of Judaism, as those of the mistletoe are lodged in the ancient oak. It was as a reformed sect of Jews that the earliest Christians not only were regarded, but regarded themselves. The original apostles were still punctilious Hebrews, and held Christianity as a supplementary code to that of Moses. They were at first scandalized and horror-stricken at the thought of abjuring the ceremonial law. When they reluctantly began to gather in Gentile converts, they stretched the yoke of Judaism before the gate of the church, and sought to compel their proselytes VOL. LXXVII. - NO. 160.