« הקודםהמשך »
selves to the duties of humiliation, mortification, and repentance, during the season of Lent.
Q. What have you to remark in regard to the epistles and gospels for these Sundays?
A. The epistles for each of these three days are taken out of St. Paul's Epistles to the Corinthians. The two first persuade us to acts of mortification and penance, by proposing to us St. Paul's example; and because all acts of self-denial, unless founded upon charity, or a principle of love to God, and submission to his institutions, profit nothing, the Church, in the epistle for Quinquagesima Sunday, sets before us this exalted virtue of Christian love and unity. The design of the gospels is the same with that of the epistles.
THE CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL,
HAT festival doth the Church this day celebrate? A. The Church this day celebrates the conversion of St. Paul, who was a chosen vessel to bear God's name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.j He was not of the number of the twelve ; yet, for his extraordinary eminence in the ministry of the Gospel, he was styled an apostle.
Q. Why is St. Paul commemorated by his conversion ?
A. St. Paul is not commemorated, as the other apostles are, by his death or martyrdom, but by his conversion; because, as it was wonderful in itself, so it was highly beneficial to the Church of Christ. By his indefatigable labours he contributed very much to the propagation of the Gospel throughout the world ; and while other apostles had their particular provinces, he had the care of all the churches.
Q. What have you to remark concerning the epistle and the gospel for the day?
j Acts ix. 15.
A. The epistle relates the conversion of St. Paul; and the gospel exhibits the eminent reward of those who, like this apostle, shall steadily adhere to the Saviour, and labour in his service.
Q. Give an account of the birth-place, parentage, and education of St. Paul.
A. St. Paul was born at Tarsus, the metropolis of Cilicia, a city famous for riches and learning, whose inhabitants enjoyed the franchises and liberties of Roman citizens. His parents were both Jews, and of the tribe of Benjamin ; so that he was an Hebrew of the Hebrews. He first engaged in the occupation of tent making, the Jews esteeming it a disgrace not to bring up their children to some useful trade, both as a security from idleness, and a resource against poverty and misfortune. He was educated also in the learning of his city; and afterwards removed to Jerusalem, where he became a scholar to the great rabbi Gamaliel. We find him described by two names, Saul and Paul; the one Hebrew, relating to his Jewish original; the other Latin, assumed by him, as some think, at his conversion, as an act of humility, styling himself less than the least of all saints.
Q. Was not St. Paul a violent persecutor of the Church before his conversion ?
A. Inflamed by the fiery spirit of the sect of the Pharisees in which he was educated, and transported by the zeal of his own temper, þe violently opposed all those who were esteemed enemies to the Mosaic economy. He accordingly persecuted the Christians with great fury, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples at Jerusalem, making havock of the Church, and procuring a commission to imprison the Christians at Damascus. It appears also, that he was acces. sary to the death of the holy martyr St. Stephen.m
Q. What were the circumstances of St. Paul's conversion to the Christian faith?
A. On his journey to Damascus, there suddenly shone round about him a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun. Amazed and confounded, he and his companions fell to the ground; and at the same time a voice from heaven called to him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" To which he replied, “Who art thou, Lord ?" The voice replied, " I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.' Trembling and astonished, Saul inquired, “Lord, what wilt
1 Acts xxü. 3; xvi. 37.
I Acts viü. 3 ; ix. 1, 2.
m Acos yiii.
thou have me to do ?" Whereupon he was bid to rise and go to Damascus, and there expect what should be farther revealed to him. He was obedient to the heavenly vision, diligently inquired his Lord's will and pleasure, and immediately followed the directions he received."
Q. In what manner was St. Paul admitted into the Chris. tian Church?
A. St. Paul, having become blind by the extraordinary splendour of the light, was led to Damascus, where he fasted three days, and humbled his soul under a sense of those cruelties he had committed against the Christians. Ananias, a devout man, supposed to be one of the seventy disciples, having been admonished by the Lord in a vision, went to St. Paul, and, laying his hands on him, he received his sight, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and was made a member of the Church by baptism.o
Q. What reasons may be assigned for the miraculous manner of his conversion ?
A. St. Paul, who was to publish to the world the glad tidings of salvation, was miraculously converted, in order that he might be in his own person a remarkable instance of the power of the grace of God, and of the readiness of God to pardon the chief of sinners on their repentance. obtained mercy, that Jesus Christ might show forth first in him all long-suffering, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting."p God also was pleased to "show mercy to him," and miraculously to convince him of the truth of the religion which he had persecuted, because what he did was done “ignorantly, in unbelief;", from the heat of natural temper, and from the transport of a false zeal, and not from a wilful opposition to what he knew was the truth. His miraculous conversion also gave great authority to his testimony in behalf of the religion of Christ. *
Q. In what way did St. Paul evidence the sincerity of his conversion ?
A. St. Paul evidenced the sincerity of his conversion, by his unwearied zeal and assiduity in preaching that very Jesus whom he had opposed; in confirming and comforting the faithful, whom before he had persecuted; in building
n Acts ix. 3,4, &c. o Acts ix. 10, &c. . p 1 Tim. i. 16.. 9 1 Tim. i. 13. * The powerful evidence of the truth of the Gospel afforded by the conversion of the apostle Paul, is ably illustrated by Lord Lyttleton, in his
Observations on the Conversion and Apostleship of St. Paul."
up that Church which he had sought to overthrow; cheerfully and resolutely exposing himself to those very difficulties and dangers for the faith, which he had endeavoured to bring on those who professed it.
Q. Where did St. Paul bestow his apostolical labours ?
A. This eminent apostle, through the most severe hardships and perils, proclaimed the Gospel of his Saviour over the whole Roman empire; from Jerusalem, through Arabia, Asia, Greece, round" to Illyricum, to Rome, and even to what was then considered the utmost bounds of the western world. Dismayed by no dangers or difficulties, he was zealous and indefatigable in preaching the Gospel, and in writing epistles to confirm in the faith those churches which he had established ; thus persevering in " the good fight of faith, till he had finished his course.
Q. Is there not reason to believe that St. Paul planted Christianity in the island of Great-Britain ?
A. From the concurring testimony of several of the ancient fathers, Eusebius, Theodoret, St. Jerome,t Clemens Romanus,u there is reason to believe that St. Paul extended his apostolical labours to the island of Great-Britain.
Q. Where did St. Paul suffer martyrdom ?
A. St. Paul was beheaded in the sixty-eighth year of his age, at Rome, under Nero, in the general persecution of the Christians, upon the pretence that they set fire to the city: and from the instrument of his execution, arose the custom of representing him in pictures with a sword in his hand.
Q. What writings did St. Paul leave behind him?
A. St. Paul has left fourteen epistles, which contain an admirable exposition of the plan of salvation, and the most forcible exhortations to the practice of Christian duties. They are principally occupied with vindicating the dispensation of God's mercy to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews, and with enforcing the principle, that justification is to be obtained by faith in the Gospel, without obedience to the ceremonial law of Moses.
Q. Is it not said, that the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans lays down the doctrine of particular election and reprobation ?
A. The election and reprobation spoken of by the apostle, relate to God's purpose of calling the Gentiles to the faith
r Acts of Apnst. and Clemen. Epist. ad Corinth.
$ 2 Tim. iv. 7.
of the Gospel, and rejecting the impenitent Jews: the one were “the vessels of mercy," and the other, “vessels of wrath.” The apostle vindicates God's sovereign right to dispense his spiritual blessings in this world, according " to the counsel of his own will;" but does not speak of bis determining the eternal destiny of mankind, by any unconditional decree. At the last day, “ every man shall be judged according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad ;" and if it were possible (as he himself says) for Paul, the chosen vessel 10 the Gentiles, to become “a castaway,' there can be no ground for the assertion, that he advocates the doctrine of absolute election. In the Old Testament, the Jews are styled the “ elect” of God, as being separated to his service from the rest of the world, and in the New Testament, for the same reason, the whole body of Christians are called "elect;" and the purpose of God to confer on them the blessings of the Gospel, is styled “the purpose of election.” But that there is no arbitrary, unconditional clection to eternal life, is evident from Christians being di. rected to make their “ calling and election sure."
Q. Does the seventeenth article of the Church sanction the doctrine of absolute election ?
A. The seventeenth article of the Church does not sanc. tion the doctrine of absolute election. It speaks indeed of those whom God hath “chosen in Christ out of mankind,” but does not assert that this election is made without any loresight of their faith or good works, or any other cause in them moving thereunto," which would render the election absolute. It evidently is the design of this article, to lay. down the process and the certainty of salvation, in regard to all “ godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the spirit of Christ mortifying the works of the flesh,” &c. The article also refers us to “God's promises, as they are set forth in Scripture,” where they are certainly conditional. The doctrine of absolute election would render this article contradictory to the other articles, and to the Liturgy of the Church; for the fifteenth article declares that Christ, by " the sacrifice of himself, should take away the sins of the world.” The sixteenth article declares, that " we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin." In the Catechism,
w 1 Cor. ix. 27.
The Epistle to the Romans is ably explained by the celebrated Locke, 80 as to satisfy any candid person that it does not sanction the gloomy and upcomfortable doctrine of particular election and reprobation.