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things ought to be our care, by gaining this command over ourselves, we shall be more able, as we get forward in the world, to resist every new temptation, as soon as it appears.
The truth of Christianity proved from the conversion of the
The conversion of St. Paul, with all its attendant circumstances, furnishes one of the most satisfactory proofs, that have ever been given, of the Divine origin of our holy religion. That this eminent person, from being a zealous persecutor of the disciples of Christ, became, all at once, a disciple himself, is a fact which cannot be controverted, without overturning the credit of all history. He must, therefore, have been converted in the miraculous manner alleged by himself, and of course the Christian religion a Divine revelation ; or he must have been an impostor, an enthusiast, or a dupe to the fraud of others. There is not another alternative possible.
If he was an impostor, who declared what he knew to be false, he must have been induced to act that part, by some motive. But the only conceivable motives for religious imposture, are, the hopes of advancing one's temporal interest, credit, or power; or the prospect of gratifying some passion or appetite, under the authority of the new religion. That none of these could be St. Paul's motive for professing the fạith of Christ crucified, is plain from the state of Judaism and Christianity, at the period of his forsaking the former, and embracing the latter faith. Those whom he left, were the disposers of wealth, of dignity, of power, in Judea : those to whom he went, were indigent men, oppressed, and kept from all means of improving their fortunes. The certain consequence, therefore, of his taking the part of Christianity, was the loss not only of all that he possessed, but of all hopes of acquiring more : whereas, by continuing to persecute the Christians, he had hopes, vising almost to certainty of making his fortune by the favour of those who were at the
* This piece is extracted from the Encyclopædia Britannica.” It is an abridgment of Lord Lyttelton's celebrated “ Obsorvations on the Conversion of St. Paul.”
head of the Jewish state, to whom nothing could so much recommend him, as the zeal which he had shown in that persecution.—As to credit or reputation, could the scholar of Gamaliel hope to gain either, by becoming a teacher in a college of fishermen ? Could he flatter himself, that the doctrines which he taught would, either in or out of Judea, do him honour, when he knew that “they were to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness ?”—Was it then the love of power, that induced him to make this great change ? Power! over whom? over a lock of sheep, whom he himself had endeavoured to destroy, and whose very Shepherd had lately been murdered! Perhaps it was with the view of gratifying some licentious passion, under the authority of the new religion, that be commenced a teacher of that religion! This cannot be alleged: for his writings breathe nothing but the strictest morality; obedience to magistrates, order, and government ; with the utmost abhorrence of all licentiousness, idleness, or loose behaviour, under the cloak of religion. We no where read in his works, that saints are above moral ordinances; that dominion is founded in grace ; that mona.chy is despotism which ought to be abolished ; that the fortunes of the rich ought to be divided among
poor; that there is no difference in moral actions ; that any impulses of the mind are to direct us against the light of revealed religion and the laws of nature ; or any of those wicked tenets, by whicb the peace of society has been often disturbed, and the rules of morality have been often violated, by men pretending to act under the sanction of Divine revelation. He makes no distinctions, like the impostor of Arabia, in favour of himself ; nor does any part of his life, either before or after his conversion to Christianity, bear any mark of a libertine disposition. As among the Jews, so among the Christians, his conversation and manners were blameless.
As St. Paul was not an impostor, so it is plain he was not an enthusiast. Heat of temper, melancholy, ignorance, credulity, and vanity, are the ingredients of which enthusiasm is composed : but from all these, except the first, the apostle appears to have been wholly free. That he had great fervour of zeal, both when a Jew and when a Christian, in maintaining what he thought to be right, cannot be denied ; but he was at all times so much master of his temper, as, in matters of indifference, to “ become all things to all men ;": with the most pliant condescension, bending his notions and
manners to theirs, as far as his duty to God would permit; a conduct compatible neither with the stiffness of a bigot, nor with the violent impulses of fanatical delusion. That he was not melancholy, is plain from his conduct in embracing every method, which prudence could suggest, to escape danger and shun persecution, when he could do it, without betraying the duty of his office, or the honour of his God. A melancholy enthusiast courts persecution ; and when he cannot obtain it, afflicts himself with absurd penances ; but the holiness of St. Paul consisted in the simplicity of a pious life, and in the unwearied performance of his apostolical duties. That he was ignorant, no man will allege who is not grossly ignorant himself ; for he appears to have been master, not only of the Jewish learning, but also of the Greek philosophy, and to have been very conversant even with the Greek poets. That he was not credulous, is plain from his having resisted the evidence of all the miracles performed on earth by Christ, as well as those that were afterwards worked by the apostles ; to the fame of which, as he lived in Jerusalem, he could not have been a stranger.-And that he was as free from vanity as any man that ever lived, may be gathered from all that we see in his writings, or know of his life. He represents himself as the least of the apostles, and not meet to be called an apostle. He says that he is the chief of sinners; and he prefers, in the strongest terms, universal benevolence to faith, and prophecy, and miracles, and all the gifts and graces with which he could be endowed. Is this the language of vanity or enthusiasm ?
Having thus shown that St. Paul was neither an impostor nor an enthusiast, it remains only to be inquired, whether he was deceived by the fraud of others : but this inquiry needs not be long; for who was to deceive him? A few illiterate fishermen of Galilee ? It was morally impossible for such men to conceive the thought of turning the most enlightened of their opponents, and the cruellest of their persecutors, into an apostle ; and to do this by a fraud, in she very instant of his greatest fury against them and their Lord. But could they have been so extravagant as to conceive such a thought, it was physically impossible for them to execute it in the manner in which we find his conversion was effected. Could they produce a light in the air, which at mid-day was brighter than the sun ? Could they make Saul bear words from that light, which were not hoard by the rest of the company ? Could they make him blind for
three days after that vision, and then make scales fall from his eyes, and restore him to sight by a word ? Or, could they make him, and those who travelled with him, believe that all these things liad happened, if they had not happened? Most unquestionably no fraud was equal to all this.
Since then St. Paul was not an impostor, an enthusiast, or a person deceived by the fraud' of others, it follows, that his conversion was miraculous, and that the Christian religion is a Divine revelation.
The heavens and the earth show the glory and the wisdom of
their Creator.- The earth happily adapted to the nature
of man. THE universe may be considered as the palace in which the Deity resides ; and the earth, as one of its apartments. In this, all the meaner races of animated nature mechanically obey him ; and stand ready to execute his commands, without hesitation. Man alone is found refractory : he is the only being endued with a power of contradicting these mandates. The Deity was pleased to exert superior power in creating him a superior being ; a being endued with a choice of good and evil; and capable, in some measure, of co-operating with his own intentions. Man, therefore, may be considered as a limited creature, endued with powers imitative of those residing in the Deity. He is thrown into a world that stands in need of his help; and he has been granted a power of producing harmony from partial confusion.
If, therefore, we consider the earth as allotted for our babitation, we shall find, that much has been given us to en:
joy, and much to amend ; that we have ample reasons for our gratitude, and many for our industry. In those great outlines of nature, to which art cannot reach, and where our greatest efforts must have been ineffectual, God himself has finished every thing with amazing grandeur and beauty. Qur beneficent Father has considered these parts of nature as peculiarly his own; as parts which no creature could have skill or strength to amend : and he has, therefore, made them incapable of alteration, or of more perfect regularity. The heavens and the firmament show the wisdom and the glory of the Workman. Astronomers, who are best skilled in the symmetry of systems, can find nothing there that they can alter for the better. God made these perfect, because no subordinate being could correct their defects.
When, therefore, we survey nature on this side, nothing can be more splendid, more correct, or amazing. We there behold a Deity residing in the midst of a universe, iufinitely extended every way, animating all, and cheering the vacuity with his presence.
We behold an immense and shapeless mass of matter, formed into worlds by his power, and dispersed at intervals, to which even the imagination cannot travel. In this great theatre of his glory, a thousand suns, like our own, animate their respective systems, appearing and vanishing at Divine command. We behold our own bright luminary, fixed in the centre of its system, wheeling its planets in times proportioned to their distances, and at once dispensing light, heat, and action. The earth also is seen with its twofold motion ; producing, by the one, the change of seasons ; and, by the other, the grateful vicissitudes of day and night. With what silent magnificence is all this performed ! with what seeming ease! The works of art are exerted with interrupted force; and their noisy progress discovers the obstructions they receive; but the earth, with a silent, steady rotation, successively presents every part of its bosom to the sun ; at once imbibing nourishment and light from that parent of vegetation and fertility.
But not only provisions of heat and light are thus supplied; the whole surface of the earth is covered with a transparent atmosphere, that turns with its motion, and guards it from external injury.. The rays of the sun are thus broken into a genial warmth ; and, while the surface is assisted, a gentle heat is produced in the bowels of the earth, which contributes to cover it with verdure. Waters also are supplied in healthful abundance, to support life, and assist veger