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good example of this great apostle. We have heard what a spirit the apostle manifested, and after what manner he lived in the world; how earnestly he sought his own salvation, and that not only before, but also after his conversion, and how earnestly cautious he was to avoid eternal damnation, long after he had obtained a saving interest in Christ. We have heard how strong he was in faith, how great was his love to his Lord and Saviour, and how he was not ashamed of the gospel, but gloried in the cross of Christ; how he abounded in prayer and praise, how he contemned the wealth, and pleasures, and glory of the world; how contented he was with the allotments of Providence; how prudent and cautious he was in giving an account of his achievements, lest he should represent more of himself in words than men should see of him in deeds. We have heard how much he suffered under abuses, how he loved his enemies, how he delighted in peace, and rejoiced with those that rejoiced, and wept with those that wept, and delighted in the fellowship of God's people, and how courteous he was in his behaviour towards others. We have heard of what a public spirit he was, how greatly concerned for the prosperity of Christ's kingdom and the good of his church, how diligent, laborious, and indefatigable in his endeavours to do good; how he studied for ways and means to promote this end, how he exercised his skill and contrivance, willingly foregoing those thing that were in themselves lawful, and willingly endured innumerable and extraordinary sufferings. My exhortation now is to imitate this example, and to enforce this, I desire that several things may be considered.
1. Let it be considered, why it is, that we have so much written of the good example of this apostle, unless that we might follow it. We often read those things in the holy scriptures which have now been set before us on this subject; and to what purpose, unless we apply them to ourselves? We had as good never have been informed how well the apostle behaved himself, if we do not endeavour to follow him. We all profess to be Christians, and we ought to form our notions of Christianity from what is written in the scriptures by the prophets, and from the precepts and excellent examples that are there set before us. One great reason why many professors live no better, walk no more amiably, and are in so many things so unlovely, is, that they have not good notions of Christianity. They do not seem to have a right idea of that religion that is taught us in the new testament. They have not well learned Christ. The notions that some persons entertain of Christianity, are very distorted, and ill conformed to the gospel. The notions of others are very erroneous. They lay the chief stress wrong, upon things on which it ought not to be laid. They place religion almost altogether in some particular duties,
leaving out others of great weight, and it may be the weightier matters of the law. And the reason why they have no better notions of Christianity is, because they take their notions of it chiefly from those sources whence they ought not to take them. Some take them from the general cry or voice of the people, among whom they live. They see that others place religion merely, if not almost wholly, in such and such things. And hence their notions of Christianity are formed. Or they take their notions from the example of particular individuals now living, who are in great reputation for godliness. And their notion of Christianity is, that it consists in being like such persons. Hence they never
have just notions of religion: 2 Cor. x. 12. "They measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." If we would have right notions of Christianity, we should observe those in whom it shone, of whom we have an account in the scriptures. For they are the examples that God himself has selected to set before us to that end, that from thence we might form our notions of religion; and especially the example of this apostle. God knows how to select examples. If therefore we would have right notions of Christianity, we ought to follow the good example of the apostle Paul. was certainly a Christian indeed, and an eminent Christian. have God's abundant testimony. But Christianity is in itself an amiable thing, and so it appeared in the example of this apostle. And if the professors of it would form their notions of it from such examples as those, rather than from any particular customs and examples that we have now, it would doubtless appear much more amiable in their practice than it now does; it would win others. They would not be a stumbling block. Their light would shine. They would command reverence and esteem, and be of powerful influence.
2. If we follow the good example which this apostle has set us, it will secure to us the like comfortable and sweet influence of God, that he enjoyed through the course of his life. Let us consider what a happy life the apostle lived; what peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost he possessed: 2 Cor. i. 12. "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience." How did he abound with comfort and joy, even in the midst of the greatest afflictions: 2 Cor. i. 3-5. "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble by the comforts, wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth in Christ." In all his tribulation his joy was exceedingly great. He seems to want words to express the
greatness of the joy which he possessed continually. He says he was filled with comfort, and was exceedingly joyful: 2 Cor. vii. 4. "I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation." How does the apostle's love seem to overflow with joy! 2 Cor. vi. 10, 11. "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, as poor, yet making many rich, as having nothing, yet possessing all things. O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged." How happy is such a life! How well is such happiness worth pursuing! We are ourselves the occasion of our own wounds and troubles. We bring darkness on our own souls. Professing Christians, by indulging their sloth, seek their own ease and comfort; but they defeat their own aim. The most laborious and the most self-denying Christians are the most happy. There are many who are complaining of their darkness, and inquiring what they shall do for light, and the comfortable presence of God.
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3. This would be the way to be helped against temptation, and to triumph over our spiritual enemies as the apostle did. Satan assaulted him violently, and men continually persecuted him. The powers of hell combined against him. But God was with him, and made him more than a conqueror. triumph 2 Cor. ii. 14. "Now thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ." Let us consider what an excellent privilege it would be thus to be helped against temptation. What a grief of mind is it to be so often overcome.
4. This would secure us honour from God, and an extraordinary intimacy with him. Moses enjoyed a great intimacy with God, but the apostle Paul in some respects a greater. Moses conversed with God in Mount Sinai. Paul was caught up to the third heavens.. He had abundant visions and revelations more than he has told us, lest any should think him to boast. He was favoured with more of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit than any other person. And though we cannot expect to be honoured with intimacy with heaven in just the same way, yet if we in good earnest apply ourselves, we may have greater and greater intimacy, so that we may come with boldness, and converse with God as a friend.
5. This would be the way to make us great blessings in the world. The apostle, by means of such a spirit and such a behaviour as you have heard, was made the greatest blessing to the world of any who ever lived on earth, except the man Christ Jesus himself. Wherever he went, there went a blessing with him. have him enter a city was commonly made a greater mercy to it than if the greatest monarch on earth had come there, scattering his treasures around him among the inhabitants. Wherever he went, there did, as it were, a light shine about him, seemingly to
enlighten the benighted children of men. Silver and gold he had none. But what he imparted to many thousands was worth more to them than if he had bestowed upon them the richest jewels of which the Roman Emperor was possessed. And he was not only a blessing to that generation, but has been so since his death by the fruits of what he did in his life time, the foundations he then laid, and by the writings which he has left for the good of mankind to the end of the world. He then was, and ever since has been, a light to the church next in brightness to the Sun of Righteousness. And it was by means of his excellent spirit and excellent behaviour that he became such a blessing. Those were the things that God made useful in him for doing so much good. And if we should imitate the apostle in such a spirit and behaviour, the undoubted consequence would be, that we also should be made great blessings in the world; we should not live in vain, but should carry a blessing with us wherever we went. Instead of being cumberers of the ground, multitudes would be fed with our fruit, and would have reason to praise and bless God that he ever gave us a being. Now, how melancholy a consideration may it be to any persons that they have lived to no purpose; that the world would have been deprived of nothing, if they had never been born; and it may be, have been better without them than with them. How desirable is it to be a blessing. How great was the promise made to Abraham, "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
6. For us to follow the good example of the apostle Paul, would be the way for us to die as he did. 2 Tim. iv. 6-8. "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day."
7. This would secure us a distinguished crown of glory hereafter. It is thought by some, and not without great probability, that the apostle Paul is the very next in glory to the man Jesus Christ himself. This is probable from his having done more good than any, and from his having done it through so great labours and sufferings. The apostle tells us, "Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour."
I shall conclude with mentioning some things as encouragements for us to endeavour to follow the excellent example of this great apostle. Many may be ready to say that it is in vain for them to try. The apostle was a person so greatly distinguished; it is in vain for them to endeavour to be like him. But for your encouragement, consider,
1. That the apostle was a man of like passions with us. He had naturally the same heart, the same corruptions; was under the same circumstances, the same guilt, and the same condemnation. There is this circumstance that attends the apostle's example to encourage us to endeavour to imitate him, which did not attend the example of Christ. And yet we are called upon to imitate the example of Christ. This is probably one main reason why not only the example of Christ, but also those of mere men are set before us in the scriptures. Though you may think you have no great reason to hope to come up to the apostle's degree, yet that is no reason why you should not make his good example your pattern, and labour, as far as in you lies, to copy after him.
2. This apostle, before he was converted, was a very wicked man, and a vile persecutor. He often speaks of it himself. He sinned against great light.
3. He had much greater hinderances and impediments to eminent holiness from without than any of us have. His circumstances made it more difficult for him.
4. The same God, the same Saviour, and the same head of divine influence are ready to help our sincere endeavours, that helped him. Let us therefore not excuse ourselves, but in good earnest endeavour to follow so excellent an example. And then, however weak we are in ourselves, we may hope to experience Christ's suffering, and be able to say from our own experience, as the apostle did before him, "when I am weak, then am I strong."