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particulars. 1. A vain inquiry into things which lie wholly beyond the capacity of man in his present state, and which can only be discovered by supernatural revelation. 2. A vain attempt to account for every thing according to the light and principles of depraved reason. 3. A studious exactness in language, either an easy flow of words to please and amuse the ear, or a torrent of strong and figurative expressions, to engage the passions, according as a different taste or fashion happens to prevail. It would be too dry a task to illustrate these points, by adducing specimens of each from the works of the ancient and modern philosophers: but if we had not other employment in hand, it would be easy to show that man's wisdom, in the first sense, is Uncertainty; in the second, Prejudice; in the third, Imposition and artifice. It is sufficient for my present purpose, that the apostle renounced them all. Instead of vain conjectures*, he spoke from certain experience; he could say, "I received of the Lord, that which I "also delivered to you :" instead of accommodating his doctrine to the taste and judgment of his hearers, he spoke with authority, in the name of God whom he served: instead of losing time in measuring words and syllables, that he might obtain the character of a fine speaker, he spoke, from the feeling and fulness of his

* Though the apostle disclaimed the light sophistry which obtained in the schools, the tenour of his preaching was founded upon the clearest principles, and contained a chain of the justest consequences. He did not only assert, but prove and demonstrate the truth of his doctrines, by ancient prophecies, by recent facts, and by a present incontestible efficacy. "Yet it is called "the demonstration of the Spirit," to intimate that the strongest and best adapted evidence is insufficient to the purposes of salvation, unless accompanied with a divine power.


heart, the words of simplicity and truth. The success of his preaching did not at all depend upon the softness and harmony of his periods, and therefore he disdained an attention to those petty ornaments of speech, which were quite necessary to help out the poverty of "man's wisdom;" he sought something else, which those who preach themselves rather than Christ Jesus the Lord, have little reason to expect*; I mean, the power and demonstration of the Spirit. He knew that this alone could give him success; and ministers may learn from him, what to avoid and what to seek for, if they would be useful to their hearers. Men can but declare the truths of the Gospel; it is the Spirit of God who alone can reveal them: nothing less than a divine power can present them to the mind in their just importance, and throw light into the soul by which they may be perceived; nothing less than this power can subdue the will, and open the heart to receive the truth in the love of it without this concurring agency, even St. Paul would have preached in vain. From what has been said, we may remark two obvious reasons, amongst others, why we have so much unsuccessful preaching in our days: either the Gospel-truths are given up, or the Gospel simplicity departed from. Where either of these is the case, the Lord refuses his power and blessing.

A man who has languages and science in his head, but does not know or relish the Gospel of Christ, is an ignorant, indeed, a stupid person, unaffected with the grandest view of wisdom, power, and goodness, that ever was, or can be displayed; and whoever truly knows and embraces this mystery of godliness, is a wise man, a person of an excellent understanding, though he may not be much acquainted with those uncertain, unsatisfying systems which men have agreed to honour with the name of knowledge. See Ps. cxi: 10.

VIII. Another observable part of St. Paul's character, is his unaffected humility. In the midst of his eminent and extensive services, he retained a deep sense of the part he once acted against the Lord. He speaks of himself, on this account, in the most abasing language, as the chief of sinners, and strongly expresses his unworthiness of the grace and apostleship he had received, by comparing himself to an untimely birth*; and though his insight into the mysteries of the Gospel, the communion he maintained with God by faith in his Son, and the beauty of holiness which shone in his conversation, were all beyond the common measure; yet having, in the same proportion, a clearer sense of his obligations, and of the extent and purity of the divine precepts, he thought nothing of his present attainments, in comparison of those greater degrees of grace he was still pressing after †. While, in the eyes of others, he appeared not only exemplary, but unequalled, he esteemed himself less than the least of all saints; and his patience and condescension towards

* 1 Cor. xv. 8. "As one born out of due time." The original word is Exrewa, that is, an abortion. He speaks of himself under this despicable image, (the true sense of which is not easily perceived by an English reader,) to show the deep and humbling sense he retained of the part he once acted against the church of Christ. He considered himself as unworthy and contemptible to the last degree, as one of whom no good hope could be justly formed at that time, much less that he should be honoured with a sight of the Lord Jesus from heaven, and with a call to the apostolic office.

† Phil. iii. 13. “Fogetting the things that are behind." As a traveller upon urgent business posts from place to place, forgets the distance and inconveniences behind him, and has all his thoughts taken up with the place he would be at, and the remainder of the road that leads to it.

Eph. iii. 8.

others, and his acquiescence under all the trying dispensations of providence with which he was exercised, were a proof that this was not an affected manner of expression, but the genuine dictate of his heart. To speak of one's self in abasing terms is easy; and such language is often a thin veil, through which the motions of pride may be easily discerned; but though the language of humility may be counterfeited, its real fruits and actings are inimitable. Here again he is a pattern for Christians. An humble frame of mind is the strength and ornament of every other grace, and the proper soil wherein they grow. A proud Christian, that is, one who has a high conceit of his own abilities and attainments, is no less a contradiction, than a sober drunkard, or a generous miser. All other seeming excellences are of no real value, unless accompanied with this; and though a person should appear to have little more than a consciousness of his own insufficiency, and a teachable dependent spirit, and is waiting upon the Lord, in his appointed way, for instruction and a blessing, he will infallibly thrive as a tree planted by the water side; for God, who resisteth the proud, has promised to give grace to the humble*. But, in an especial manner, humility is necessary and beautiful in a minister. The greatest abilities and most unwearied diligence will not ensure success without it; a secret, (if allowed,) apprehension of his own importance, will deprive him of that assistance, without which he can do nothing; "his arm will be dried up, and his right


eye will be darkened †;" for the Lord of hosts hath purposed to stain the pride of all human glory, and will honour none but those who abase themselves, and

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are willing to give all the praise to him alone. If any man had ground to set a value upon his knowledge, gifts, and services, St. Paul might justly claim the preeminence. But though he was an apostle, and an inspired writer, though he had planted churches through a considerable part of the known world, though he was received as an angel by many to whom he preached, and, by a peculiar favour, had been caught up into the third heaven; yet he was, by grace, preserved from being exalted above measure, or from assuming an undue superiority over his brethren. The authority with which he was intrusted he employed solely to their advantage, and accounted himself the least of all, and the servant of all. How very opposite has been the conduct of many since his time, who have aimed to appropriate the name of ministers of Christ exclusively to themselves!

Such was our apostle, and the same spirit, (though in an inferior degree,) will be found in all the faithful ministers of the Lord Jesus. They love his name; it is the pleasing theme of their ministry, and to render it glorious in the eyes of sinners is the great study of their lives. For his sake, they love all who love him, and are their willing servants to promote the comfort and edification of their souls. They love his Gospel, faithfully proclaim it without disguise or alteration, and shun not to declare the whole counsel of God, so far as they are themselves acquainted with it. They contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; and are desirous to preserve and maintain the truth, in its power and purity. The knowledge of their own weakness and fallibility makes them tender to the weaknesses of others; and though they dare not lay, or allow, any other foundation than that which God has laid in Zion,

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