Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

in which he discharged the arduous trust. The progress he made in all the branches of science, with his capacity and diligence to acquire new improvements, enabled him to conduct the youth with great advantage through the several stages of useful and polite literature. And, while he endeavoured to improve the minds, he was not less solicitous to reform the hearts and lives of his pupils, to make them good as well as great, and fit them for both worlds. He knew that religion was the brightest ornament of the human, and the fairest image of the divine nature, that all true benevolence to men must have its foundation laid in a su: preme love to God, and that undissembled piety in the heart was the best security for usefulness in every character of life. It was therefore his constant endeavour to promote the eternal as well as the temporal good of the youth entrusted to his tuition, not only by his fervent preaching and exemplary life, but by incul. cating at the proper seasons the worth of their souls, and the vast, the inexpressible importance of their everlasting interests.

“ In the government of the college, he had the peculiar art of mingling authority and lenity in such a due proportion, as seldom or never failed of the desired success. Hence he was revered and loved by every member of that collected family over which he presided. His performances at public anniversary commencements, as they never failed to do honour to the institution, so they always surprised his friends themselves by exceeding, far exceeding, their most sanguine expectations. His poetical compositions, and his clegant taste for cultivating the Muses, gave additional embellishments to those performances, and greatly heightened the pleasure of his crowded auditors.

“ His acquaintance with mankind, his easy and polite behaviour, his affability and condescension, his modesty and candour, his engaging manner of address, with his sprightly and entertaining conversation, all the genuine fruits of a most benevolent heart, rendered him greatly beloved through the large circle of his acquaintance, and as greatly admired even by strangers, whose occasional excursions gave them only the opportunity of a transient interview.

“ His natural temper, amiable in itself, and sweetened with all the charms of divine grace, rendered him peculiarly dear in all the relative characters of social life, whether as an husband, a father, a tutor, or a friend."

SERIES OF LIVES.

THE LIFE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL.

[Continued from page 287.] On the following day Paul was examined before the Chief Priests and the Council; but when he prefaced his defence by declaring, that he had lived in all good conscience before God until that day, the High Priest commanded him to be smitten on the mouth. Upon this violation of public justice and decency, the apostle was transported to unbecoming warmth, and he sternly answered, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall. For sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest thou me to be smitten contrary to the law? But when they who stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? instantly recalling a christian temper, he answered calmly, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, Thou shult not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. How happily is this error corrected, and how needful is the admonition to respect the magistracy, even when it is degraded by him who is placed in it, lest we should poison the public mind, and sever those bonds which are essential to social order! The weakness of human nature considered, it is not surprising that good men, particularly if misled by false zeal, should lose their temper in even a greater degree than St. Paul did; but that, in the hour of recollection, they should approve and vindicate such a spirit, may well excite a doubt whether they have indeed acquired the mind of Christ.

After Paul had made his defence, perceiving the council to be divided, and that the Pharisees were inclined to judge him favourably, he seized the critical moment, and appealed to them, saying, Men and brethren, I am a pharisee, the son of a pharisee. Of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question : Thus, with equal truth and judgment, resting his cause on the resurrection of Jesus; while, with admirable address, he interested the pharisees in his behalf, by shewing the question in debate to be closely connected with the grand truths which they vindicated against the Sadducees. For the Sadducees say, there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit; but the pharisees confess both. This appeal had the desired effect; for the Scribes, which were of the pharisees part, arose and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man; but if an angel or spirit hath spoken to him, Ict us not fight against God. A conflict so fierce and tumultuous now arose be

Vol. II.

Q

tireen the hostile sects, that Lysias fearing that Paul would have been torn in pieces among them, rescued him with an armed force, and secured him in the castle, until being informed of a conspiracy against the life of his prisoner, he sent him by night, under a strong guard, to Felix, at Cesarea. Thither he was followed by the high priest and elders, and accused to the governor, who referred the cause to a second hearing, when he should have acquired some satisfactory information from the chief captain. In the meanwhile Paul was remanded to the care of a centurion, with permission to see his friends, and to preach in his own house. Among the curious inquirers into the principles of the new religion were Felix and his wife Drusilla, a Jewess, who sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient seacon, I will call for thee. He hoped also that money would have been given him of Paul that he might loose him; wherefore he sent for him the ofiener, and communed with him. But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felir's room, and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a fileasure, left Paul bound.

Paul's sermon to Felix instructs every minister in the duty of adapting his discourse to the auditory, and instead of indulging in mere common-place, or displaying his skill in curious and elaborate disquisitions, to call the attention of his hearers to things of everlasting concern; forcibly impressing the guilty conscience, and speaking to the hopes and fears of the soul, by an unequivocal and energetic declaration of those solemn sanctions, which give life to the moral law, and interest to the promises of the gospel. Let us all also be warned, by the example of Felix, to shun procrastination; and while the terrors of the Lord are deeply affecting our spirits, let us humble them before God, and continue in prayer, till our weary souls obtain liberty and peace. From Paul's declining to purchase his liberation by a bribe, that valuable rule, not to do evil that good may come, is exemplified and recommended. To buy what justice should give, is to feed vice, to render it bold and daring, and to diminish to the poor the means of redress. Besides, evil is deceitful and progressive; if we buy justice to-day, we may buy injustice to-morrow, and what we learn to buy, we shall perhaps be equally disposed to sell. It is also worthy of observation, that while Paul could not with safety preach the gospel at Jerusalem, nor, perhaps, in any city of Judea, he was, for two years, under the protection of the magistrate, in the second city of the province, in the court of the proconsul; and there had an oppor

tunity of declaring the truth to an order of men, with whom he could otherwise have had little intercourse. '

When Festus came to his province, the Jews resumed their prosecution of the Apostle, who perceiving the governor disposed to act partially against him, he again pleaded his privilege as a Roman, and appealed to the personal judgment of Cæsar. This appeal was readily admitted; but as nothing had been charged against him, of which the Roman laws took cognizance, but both the accusation and defence appeared a matter of superstition, respecting one Jesus, who was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive, Festus was embarrassed at the idea of sending him to the emperor without some specific complaint, and as about that time he received a visit from king Agrippa, who was a Jew, and expert in all the customs and questions of the nation, he gave the apostle another hearing before him, that after examination he might have somewhat 10 write. The behaviour and defence of St. Paul, on that occasion, as it is recorded in the 26th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, was truly great and admirable. It is impossible not to feel the beautiful simplicity, and the calm but impressive eloquence of the Apostle's speech. Never did prisoner address his judge with more manly freedom and dignified respect; nor did any minister ever make a more direct but respectful application to his hearer, than Paul did to king Agrippa. This noble defence, it may be presumed, recommended itself to the understanding and conscience of many present, since Agrippa was compelled to confess, Almost thou persuadest me to be a christian; and both he and Festus acknowledged that Paul had done nothing worthy of death or bonds, and might have been set a liberty if he had not appealed to Cæsar.

Not long after this occurrence, St. Paul, accompanied by Luke, Timothy, and others, embarked for Italy, and the interesting particulars of his voyage are narrated in the 27th and 28th of the Acts. Without presuming that we can nicely scan the wonderful scene of providence which is there displayed, it is obvious that St. Paul is the principal figure in the piece. To plant the barren rock of Malta with the immortal vine of christianity, and to give a loud and merciful call to Paul's numerous slipmates, were evidently a part of the design of providence in exciting the storm which overtook him; and the whole was ordered so as to fix every eye on the great apostle, and to prepare every heart to receive his ministration with respect and gladness. To him the impending tempest was first revealed, and as he predicted their danger, so when the storm, raging in its fury, had sunk every heart with sadness, and deprived them of all hopes of safety, he was authorized to announce infallible deliverance, and to declare that his God had given to him the lives of all who sailed with him. He advises, exhorts, and comforts them, and appears as the angel of life watching over their preservation. From the conduct of St. Paul we may remark, how much superior to all natural and acquired courage is the magnanimity of the humble christian! Supported on either hand by divine goodness and power, he caimiy resigns himself to the disposal of overruling wisdom, knowing, that all things work together for good to the man who fears and loves his God. While the soldier, statesman, merchant, artist, scholar, boast themselves as the defence, strength, and ornament of the land, how little do they reflect, that God's government of the world is of a moral nature, and its ultimate end to promote the greatest possible quantum of moral good; and how little do they suspect, that as the Roman crew owed their lives to the piety and prayers of Paul, so that unless the Lord of hosts had lefi us a very small remnant, who are followers of his faith, the country miglit, by this time, have been as Sodom, and like unto Gomorrah.

When they reached the shore, some by swimming, and others on pieces of the wreck, the islanders received them with much kindness, and kindled a fire for their refreshment. In this good work the active apostle was cheerfully assisting, when a viper came out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the bar. barians saw the venemous beast hang on his hand, they said, No doubt this man is a mirderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet d'engounce sufje reih not to live. And he shook of the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, and fallen down dead suddenly; but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said he was a god. From the narrative it is clear, that the apostle was bitten by the viper, though the poison had no power to injure him. Casual as the incident may appear, the christian will see in it the hand of God directing these kind barbarians to the man who could recompense their hospitality, by communicating to them the unsearchable riches of Christ; and though their first and second attempt to decypher the mystic characters of providence were unsuccessful and erroneous, yet in the apostle they sound an interpreter, who enabled them to read the writing, and to understand its important meaning. During the three months Paul staid at Malta he wrought many miracles of healing, and preaching the gospel with success, as may be inferred from the treatment which he and his friends received; for St. Luke

« EdellinenJatka »