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deserving only of his displeasure. There is no necessary connexion between the dignity of the office, and that of the person who sustains it. The Christian minister who has felt the power of the gospel on his own heart, instead of priding himself upon his supposed personal dignity, will be filled with self-abasement at the thought of his unworthiness to be entrusted with so weighty a charge. His feelings will be those of the Apostle when he exclaimed “ who is sufficient for these things?” Whilst he magnifies his office he will debase himself. In this, as well as in every thing else connected with the ministerial profession, St. Paul is indeed an illustrious example. He entertained at once the most exalted idea of his office, and the most humble' opinion respecting himself. “ Unto me," he observes, " who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”. What more lowly expression could he use, than that which he here employs or rather invents, to desiguate his personal unworthiness? did not satisfy him to say that he was “ inferior” to other saints, or even the “ least” of all saints : such was his humility that he could scarcely deem himself worthy to be numbered amongst them at all; and he could only say that, if it were possible, he was “ less than the least."
And yet we know, as well from his own testimony as from the history of his life, that he was not a wi behind the chiefest of the Apostles. If there be a cha
Ephesians iii. 8. ? ¿haxlololegos a comparative, formed from the superlative enaxlolos. racter unfolded to us in the pages of sacred history, whether of the Old Testament or the New, more strikingly noble, disinterested, and benevolent than another, it is that of the Apostle Paul. From the moment he was arrested by the voice of his Redeemer, and entrusted with the Gospel, he acted as a magnanimous champion in his cause, and was successful beyond all example as a Preacher of “ the faith which once he destroyed.” He was a burning and a shining light ; " in all things approving himself as the minister of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings, by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report.” How greatly are we of this day indubted to him for his invaluable and edifying writings ! How large a portion of the New Testament itself is the composition of his pen! To how many millions have his words given light and wisdom, consolation and joy! It is impossible to peruse those writings without forming the highest idea of their author-of the sublimity of his conceptions, the strength of his faith, the expansion of his heart, the confidence of his hope, the warmth of his affections, the ardour of his zeal, and the disinterestedness of his purpose. Yet, such was the depth of his humility, and the penitential regret with which he retraced his steps as a “ persecutor and injurious,” that in sincerity of soul he described himself as “ less than the least of all saints !”
And as the Christian Minister is thus taught to humble himself, whilst he magnifies his office, so is he instructed also to regard his appointment as a special privilege, which should awaken his gratitude to “ the Father of lights, from whom proceedeth every good and perfect gift.” “ Unto me,” says the Apostle, “who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” But why, it may be asked, did he esteem such an appointment to be a “grace” or a “ favour?" It was not in those days an office of credit in the world : on the contrary, it was universally branded with infamy. St. Paul, we know, was regarded as a factious demagogue-- a leader of the sect of the Nazarenes every where spoken against- one who “ turned the world upside down." Was it a “ favour” to be thus exposed to the world's scorn and persecution ? Was that office to be accounted honourable which insured universal contempt, or that appointment valuable which stripped its possessor of every earthly good? Yet, St. Paul accounted it such ; and, next to his conversion, he thanked God for “ putting him into the ministry." He accounted it a favour because it gave him an opportunity of gratifying the benevolent affections of his heart. He Jonged for the salvation of mankind ; for this he accounted not his life dear unto him. The office was one whose duties he delighted to perform, notwithstanding all the privations and sufferings it imposed. He preached the Gospel “ not by constraint, but willingly;" for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind."
He esteemed it a favour also, because it gave him
many opportunities of testifying his gratitude to Christ. So great was his sense of obligation to the Redeemer, that he rejoiced to suffer in his cause, and after his example. Multiplied and grievous as were the tribulations he endured, they depressed not bis spirits ; nay, rather he learned to glory in them as evidences of his fidelity and love to him “who died for him, and rose again." Nor was he ignorant that his “ light afflictions which were but for a moment, would work out for him a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," whilst he looked steadfastly at things unseen and eternal. He knew that the day of requital would ere long arrive, when the Saviour's smile, and the Saviour's presence would make amends for all; when they who had turned many to righteousness would “ shine as the sun in the firmament, and as the stars, for ever and ever.”
But there was one other consideration which served to enhance the value of his appointment; namely, the unspeakable excellency of those tidings which he was commissioned to bear. It was given him to preach, what he terms, “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” And who amongst the most profound of theologians, that has studied the most deeply, and the most successfully the treasures of wisdom, and knowledge, and love, which are exhibited to us in the cross of the Redeemer, will not freely admit that they pass man's understanding ? Behold! what wisdom is displayed in the contrivance of our redemption. Careless and carnal minds are disposed to overlook every difficulty which presents itself in the inquiry, How can man be just with God? They regard the all holy One as a Being like unto themselves, whose only impediment to the pardon of sin is the indignation which he feels against the sinner. “ But God's ways are not as our ways, nor are our thoughts like his thoughts." Before sin can be pardoned, it must be seen that no injury will accrue to the attributes of the Most High, or to the well-being of the universe. The claims of justice, holiness, and truth, must be severally satisfied, ere mercy can dictate terms of forgiveness. Now the plan devised in the counsels of eternity was one at the same time honourable to God, and benevolent to man; one whereby mercy and truth met together, righteousness and peace embraced each other; one by which God remained just, though the justifier of those that believe in Jesus. The perfect life, and the atoning death, the glorious resurrection and triumphant ascension of Jesus of Nazareth, achieved this plan,“ brought life and immortality to light, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers." Can we contemplate the plan or its execution without exclaiming in the language of the Apostle, “O the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are his thoughts, and his ways past finding out."
And what riches of liberality; what treasures of compassion and love are exhibited in the gospel of Christ. “ God spared not his own Son, but delivered him
for us all.”
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” What the Father refused not, the Son delighted to give : he gave himself a ransom for all, first stripping himself of his glory, the glory which he had before the world was, assuming our nature in its lowest form, and voluntarily