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33 mined to seize me; and I was let down through a window, in a
basket, by the wall, and thus escaped from his hands.
REFLECTIONS. Surely we have reason to be thankful, in some dregree, for tbat providential permission to which it was owing that this blessed aposile was brought under the unwilling necessity of boasting' ; to which his modesty submits with such genuine and becoming regret : we had otherwise lost some very valuable fragments of sacred history, which it becomes us to gather up with respect. We are indeed elsewhere informed, concerning several of his labours, stripes, and imprison. ments ; but how frequent, and above measure they were, we had never known, if he had not been urged thus to plead them with the Corinthians, and so to represent them to us. What a life was St. Paul's amidst so many injuries and hardships! Land and sea, every country, every city, almost every society of men, seemed to be in a combination against him, to make his life wretched ; and amidst all the rig. ours and severities of coils and watchings, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, he felt, and particularly complained of the treatment he received from fulse brethren. Yet thus surrounded, and (as we should from the detail be ready to say) thus overwhelmed, with so many and so various miseries, he was yet happy in the favour of God, in the presence of Christ : unspeakably happy in the cheerful views of approaching glory, and in all that abundant usefulness with which a gracious God was pleased to honour him. Whilst his benevolent heart was pained, it was also comforted; and with the care of all the churches pressing upon him, and with all that he felt from particular persons, still was his voice in tune for praise ; and he hardly ever begins an epistle without such a burst of it in some of his first lines, as looks like one of the songs of heaven. O glorious effect of real Christianity, which every inferor minister, yea, and every private Christian, to this day feels, in proportion to the degree in which his character rescmbles that of this holy champion of our divine faith!
But ( ! how unlike his hath been the character of many who have borne themselves highest on their pretended claims to the most extraordinary powers, by a succession from him and his brethren! What tyranical insults! What cxorbitant oppressions! What base methods to enslave the conscience, the properties, and the persons of men, whom they should have respected and loved as their brethren, whom they should have cherished even as their children! So that cne would imagine they liad taken the picture which St. Paul here draws of the false apostles, as a model of their own conduct; while they have perhaps denied the title of ministers of Christ to those who have much more resembled the dispositions and circumstances of this his most faithful ambassador. O that this might only be the infamy of the Popish clergy, with whose cruel and usurping practices such sentences may seem best to suit ! Or rather, would to God it were no lonver even theirs. May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for evermore, pour out a better spirit upon all who profess themselves the servants of his Son! That they whose business it is to call others to Christ, may themselves first come, and learn of him who is meek and lowly of heart; whose yoke is 80 easy, and his burden so light, that it is astonishing that any who have themselves felt it, should ever think of binding on others, burdens heavy and hard to be borne.
The apostle gives a modiest account of some extraordinary revelations which
he had received from God, and of those exfueriences which taught him to glory even in his infirmities. Ch. xii. 1-10.
I TT is not expedient for me (some of you will say *, thus] to boast:
I nevertheless (as I seek not my own glory} I will come to vis2 ions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ † above
fourteen years ago (whether he was then in the body I know not ;
or out of the body I know not, God knoweth ; such an one, who Ŝ was snatched up even into the third heaven. Yea I knew such a
man (whether in the body, or out of the body, I know nott; God 4 knoweth) that he was caught up into paradise ll, and heard unut
terable words, such as it is not lawful or possible for man to utter. 5 $ Of such an one I will boast as highly honoured of Christ, but of 6 myself I will not boast, unless it be in my infirinities : For if I
should resolve to boast on this occasion, I shall not be foolish ; for
I speak only the truth. But I forbear, lest any one should esteem 7 me above what he seeth to be in me, or heareth of me. And lest
I should be too much elevated with the abundance of revelations, there was given me an affliction, painful as a thorn in the flesh, that the false teacher, that messenger of Satan might take occa
sion from it to buffet me, that I might not be excessively exalted. 8 This was so grievous a trial, that I besought the Lord thrice on the 9 cccasion, that it might depart from me. And though he did not
indulge me in this, he said to me, My grace is sufficient for thee ; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. With the greatest pleasure therefore will I boast in my weaknesses, that the strength
* The apostle is here speaking ironicalij, supposing the faction to censure him for praising himself. M.
+ He must doubtless mean himself, or the account would be foreign to his purpose. It seems he had modestly concealed this extraordinary event fourteen years.
$ He had lost ail consciousness of any thing about him at that time. It is plain Paul supposed that the spirit might exist without the body.
11 The seat of happy spirits in the intermediate state. Luke xxiii. 43. Acts ii. 27. 9 “ In " D. “Concerning.” M. Ver. 6. " Yet if I should incline to boast.” Ib
What this was, has perplexed commentators. Most probably it was that infirmity in his flesh which he mentions, Gal. iv. 13, 14. 1 Cor. ii. 3. (2 Cor X. 10.] The author thinks, with some others, that his visions so affected his nerves as to occasion paralytic symptonis, in his speech and countenance. Comp. Dan. viii. 27. Gen. xxii. 25.
10 of Christ may rest* upon me. And therefore I feel a complacen
cy in infirmities, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in straits, for Christ's sake ; for when I am weak then am I strong.
• REFLECTIONS. Well might the apostle say, that when he was weak, then was he strong ; for it is difficult to tell when he expresses a greater strength of genius, or of grace, than while thus discoursing of his own infirmities. "How glorious were those scars in his body which were the marks of his sufferings for Christ ; and those tremblings and distortions of his nerves which were the results of those bright visions of the Lord which brought down heaven to earth, and had for the time cqualled a mortal man with the spirits of just inen made perfect ; yea almost with the angels of God !-Transported with the sacred impulse, he could scarcely tell whether he were in the body or out of it ; but he testified, that the things which he saw and heard were unutterable. Let us not repine, that he recoliected and recorded nothing more particular concerning what passed before the eye of his mind, when that of the body was closed. These celestial raptures were intended to confirin his faith, and consequently likewise to confirm ours : but not to amuse our curiosity. If the earth be full of the goodness of the Lord, how much more the third heavens, where he holds his highest court! Nor shall the intermediate state of souls want its proper enjoyments and blessings. Assuredly therefore believing these things, let us wait God's time for a more particular knowledge of them; and when called of him to go forth and receive this inheritance, like genuine children of Abraham; obey, though we know not particularly whither we go.
We see the danger of spiritual pride, from which even St. Paul himself was not sccuro. One would have imagined, that such a view of the celestial world should in itself have been sufficient to have humbled him, during all the remainder of the longest life : and yet it is evident, that God saw there was some danger, lest pride should be cherished by that which seemed so proper to destroy it : therefore was there given him a thorn in the flesh. And by how many thorns are the most distinguished Christians often pierced! Let them bless God, if thereby they are humbued too, even though the messengers and instruments of Saian should from thence take occasion to buffet them.
In all our exigences, extremities, and complaints, let us apply to the throne of grace, and that blessed Redeemer, who intercedes before it, for proper assistance and relief. Nor let us e discouraged, though the first or second address should seem to be disregarded : the third or fourth may be successful. And what, if we do not succeed to our wish in the immediate answer ? Let it content us, that we may be assured by Christ of the suficiency of his grace In our weakness he can illustrate his strength. And in that view too may we glory in our infirinilies. For surely the honour of our divine master, in our deepest huniiliation, ought to give us much more joy, than to see our
* v. 9. “ Pitch its tent upon me.” That seems the strong emphasis of the original word. D.
selves ever so much admired and extolled. But, o blessed Jesus, how much of thy strength must be mani/ested in us, to reach our vain and selfish hearts a lesson, which at the very first proposal appears so reasonable, if considered in speculation alone? Lord increase our faith! Increase our humility! So shalt thou have the glory in all thou givest, and in all thou deniest us, and in all the struggles and trials to which thou mayest appoint us; and in which, for thy sake, we will lake pleasure.
He vindicates his sincerity, tenderness, and disinterested conduci, in all his
dealings with them. Ch. xii. 11. &c.
· 11 TT may be indeed, I am become foolish in boasting; but if so,
1. you have compelled me : for I ought to have been commended by you rather than to have vindicated myself; for I have in no re
spect failed to equal the most excellent of the apostles, though in 12 the account of some I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle
were produced among you, in all patience, in signs, and wonders, 13 and miraculous powers, wrought for your benefit. For in what re
spect were ye inferior to the rest of the churches, unless it were
in this, that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me 14 this injury. Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you*.
Nevertheless I will not now be burdensome to you ; for I seek not your possessions, but yourselves : for it is not fit that the children
should lay up treasure for the parents, but the parents for the chil". 15 dren. For I will, with the greatest pleasure, spend and be spent
for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I 16 am loved. But be it so: I did not burden you, some will say ;
nevertheless r being subtil, I took you in by an artifice. I answer 17 by appealing to fact.' Did I make a prey of you by any one person 18 whom I sent to you? I entreated Titus to make you a visit, and
with him I sent a brother. But did Titus make a gain of you ? Did we not all of 118 walk in the same spirit, and in the same
steps ? 19 Againt, do you think that we make any apology to you ? In the
sight of God we speak, in Christ as his servants ; [that] all things 20 we dor beloved, are for your edification. For I fear lest, when I
come, I should not find you such as I could wish ; and I should be found by you such as ye would not wish : lest there should be con
tentions, emulations, wraths, strifes, reproaches, whisperings, swel21 lings, tumults: and lest my God should humble me, when I come
among you again, and lest I should find cause to mourn over many who have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness, and fornication, and lasciviousness, which they have committed.
* Having been disappointed twice before. See 1 Cor. xvi. 5. 2 Cor. i. 15, 16.
t" By seniling Titus again:"-referring to v. 18. This is according to Paul's laconic manner. Some might think he sent Titus now as an " apology" for not going himself. M.
REFLECTIONS, How amiable was the goodness of the apostle, in adding all patience to those signs of his divine mission, which were with so much splendor given among the Corinthians, when there were so many things to have excused, or rather to have vindicated his severity ! Such ineckness had he learned of Christ, such does he teach to succeeding ministers and private Christians. How disinterested was his behaviour in every part of it ; not seeking their substance, but their souls! And indeed what is the greatest gain which avarice, in its most artful and successful forms, can make of the ministry, when compared with winning souls to Christ, and bringing them into the way of salvation? Who that descrves the name of a minister, would not gladly sacrifice the views of worldly interest to this, and rejoice in an opportunity of spending and of being spent for this 2-Yet we see, that even this cannot always command the returns of love : but the love, as well as the praise of men is, in comparison, a matter of small importance. It will surely engage the approbation of God : and all the slights and injuries over which this benevolent disposition triumphs, will be remembered by him, with proportionable tokens of his gracious acceptance.
Happy was that prudence which made the proof of integrity so clear, and the appeal to the whole world so confident, as it here appears. So may we avoid every appearance of any thing which might beget a suspicion of sinister designs, that we may vindicate ourselves from every such insinuation, with the noble freedom of those who are ap. proved to God, and the consciences of men. To preserve this, may we always speak and act as before God, in Christ, and do all things, not for the gratification of our own humour, or advancement of our secular interest, but for the edification of others.
The ministers of the gospel cannot but be humbled, when any thing contrary to the rules and genius of it, is to be found among the people of their care and charge ; whether they be pollutions of the flesh, or of the spirit : and they may be in some instances as effectually mortified and distressed, by debates, envyings, strifes, backbitings, and whisperinys, as by uncleanness, fornication, and lasciviousness. But when any of these things occur, as it is to be feared that in most Christian societies, or at least in such as are considerable for their numbers, they sometimes will ; let it be remcınbered that they happen by the permission of providence. God hath his wise ends in suflering what is indeed so lamentable : thus humbling the shepherd, that the flock may be further edificd; that he may approve his fidelity in more vig. orous efforts for reformation ; and may not be excessively exalted by that better success, whereuilh in other instances God may crown his endcaronis,