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brings no guilt upon the soul. But we may be assured, that such suppositions are not only without any foundation from Scripture, but are directly contrary to Scripture. “For every idle word,” much more than for every wicked word, “ shall men give account.” And when all the wicked words, which a wicked man has spoken, shall be brought to light and publicly known, we may judge how immensely such a discovery wil! add to his guilt and his confusion. St. Paul felt how greatly he had sinned in this respect. How many blasphemous speeches he had ultered against the blessed Jesus, and tbe Gospel of bis Grace ! How ntany false, malicious, and blood-thirsty words, he had spoke en against the unoffending Christians ?-Nor had words been sufficient to express his rage against them. He had taken upon himself the dreadful office of a persecutor. He bad “ made havock of the Church,” entering into every house, and without regard to sex or age, throwing the Christians into prison. Hear bis own account of the matter; “ I persecuted this way unto the death :" " Many of the Saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from tha chief 'l'riests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft, in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme, and being exceedingly mad against them, 1. persecuted them even uuto strairge cities.”c -After this representation, in what light does the Apostle's Character and conduct before his conversion to Christianity appear ? Did be much overstate the truth, when he said, “ of sinners I am
c Acts, xxi. 4.-xxvi. 10, 11,
Chief ?" Do we not see the full meaning of his expres sion in the text, “ Howbeit I obtained mercy?"- Vile
I was sunk, far beneath the common level of ordinary sinners ; an enemy to God; a proud blasphemer; . an injurious and a bloody persecutor; 1 yet obtained 'mercy. There was mercy with God in Christ Jesus even for me. He who came into the world to save sinners, could find mercy for such a one as I am. Notwithstanding my aggravated guilt, he did not shut me out from his compassion.
Blessed be his name ! where sin had abounded, Grace did much more abound.' Such was the free, the rich, the wonderful mercy, which St. Paul obtained.—1 set before you,
II. The Cause for which he obtained it.
Perhaps on hearing this account of the Apostle, it might be proudly and presumptuously asked : why * did St. Paul obtain mercy ? Why did God shew mercy to so great and obstinate an offender ? Or, if the Lord designed, in due time to convert bim to the faith, and to make him a Preacher of the Gospel, why did • He suffer bim to run such lengths in sin, and not ear• lier prevent him by his grace ?? In answer to such questions, it might be sufficient to say: “ Nay but, Oman, who art thou, that repliest against God ?” or to recite these words of the Almighty, “ I will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”d-But we are enabled in this instance to go farther. We are enabled to give a more direct answer to these inquiries. We can stale the reason, why St. Paul obtained mercy ; why be was permitted to go on so long in sin ; why he was after
d Rom. ix. 20.-Exodus, xxxiii. 19.
wards brought to the knowledge and faith of Christ. He himself ; " For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should bereafter believe on him to life everlasting."- The case of St. Paul was intended on purpose to shew forth the riches of divine grace, to give proof of the unfathomable love of Christ in pardoning the Chief of Sinners, and thus to afford an encouraging example to all Sinners in every age, who should flee to Christ for refuge.
But let us more attentively examine the points. here stated by the Apostle.-“Jesus Christ shewed to him all long-suffering.” Long-suffering towards Sinners is one of the most glorious perfections of God. It comprebends that slowness to wrath, that unwillingness to punish, that forbearance under provocations, that patient waiting for repentance, that readiness to receive the returning sinner, which the Almighty claims as peculiarly belonging to Himself, and which he so abundantly manifests in his dealings with men. But when were these Divine Qualities more clearly manifested than in the instance of St. Paul?_" To bin was shewn all long-suffering." This glorious Perfection was exercised towards him in the greatest possible extent. God bore long with him, and though grievously insulted; yet suffered not his displeasure to arise. How provoking must have been the pride and unbelief of this Chief of Sinners, while cloaked under the mask of religion! How offensive must have been bis prayers and offerings, while proceeding from a heart at ennity with God! How loudly did his blaspheming language and persecuting -spirit call for vengeance on biin! But the rengeance, so
loudly called for, was still withheld. Nay,it length, then not content with driving the christians from Jerusalem, he prorsued them to foreign cities; when " breathing out threatenings and slanghter against the Disciples of the Lord,” he hastened to Damascus, that the might more speedily co:nplete their ruin ; not even then, was the Divine Patience exhausted towards him. At that very tiine, in that very place, the Lord .net bim with tokeus of love and lavour; subdued his stubborn heart; and reconciled him to himself. No sooner, under a conviction of his guilt and misery, did he call for mercy but be obtained it. No sooner was it said of him, “ Behold he prayeth ;” but Anacias in a vision, was directed to go and comfort him.
We here see, what is meant by all long-suffering. Let us then remember, that in this instance it was shewn on purpose for a Pattern. The long-suffering sbewn to the Apostle was intended to teach us in a manner more forcibly than words could teach us, that God is slow to anger and of tender mercy ; not willing that any should perisha, but tbat all should coine to repentance. It was intended to impress upon us by example that most important and comfortable truth, which the Scriptures throughout declare, thal“ in Christ all fulness dwells se fulness of mercy, grace, and goodness; that in him are riches unsearchable ; pardo! for sinners of every rank, description, and age ; love which passeth knowledge.; compassion which knows no bounds. God grant that he truth thus taught us, may come with power and effi
e Col. i. 19. VOL.JI.
cacy to every heart ! May it speak peace and consola tion to every wounded spirit!
Are there any ainong us, whose souls are weighed down with a sense of unpardoned sin : wbo, awakened to a sight of their guilt and danger, are filled with distressing fears, with desponding thoughts; and are ready to conclude that there is no mercy for theni? Be not cast down, as men without hope. Paul obtained mercy. Why may not you obtain it? Is there any thing in your case so different from that of the apostle, as justly 10 prevent your drawing comfort from his cxample ?—Perhaps you say, “ I am a great and griev
ous sinner.'-So was Paul.- I have continued long in rebellion against God.' So did Paul.-'I have • been very provoking in my sins.' So bad Paul been.
- I have been guilly of slighting the Gospel, and of * despising the long-suffering of God.' So had Paul been.-But still
Paul had not been such a s sinner as I have been : he had not been an immoral, 'an impure, or an intemperate sinner.'— True: but he had been a blaspheming, a persecuting sinner. If he had not been the slave of lust, he had yet been the slave of pride, of spiritual pride. And have you any Scriptural grounds for concluding that the mercy of God, which was so abundantly shewn in the one instance, will be withholden in the other ? Nay, does not the text assert the very contrary ? Does it not directly affirın, that the Lord's merciful dealing with Paul, wat a pattern of his merciful dealing with others : and that it ras designed to be a pattern for the comfort and encouragement of all them, who should hereafter believe on