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LIFE OF PAUL,
THE APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST.
OFFER to the public the history of the apostle Paul, composed from materials furnished, partly by himself in his epistles, and partly by the evangelist Luke in his book of the Acts. And I do this, in the persuasion that the better we are acquainted with Paul's character and actions, the more will we be disposed to acknowledge his authority as an apostle, and to respect his writings as the oracles of God. This, however, is not the only advantage to be derived from the knowledge of Paul's history. It will establish us in the faith, by shewing us in what manner the gospel was preached at the first, both to the Jews and to the Gentiles; what success it met with in the different countries where it was preached; what sufferings the first preachers and the first believers endured for the sake of the gospel; and how amply it was confirmed by the Lord, who gave testimony to the word of his grace, by the signs and wonders which he granted to be wrought by the hands of the apostles, in all the countries where they preached. To these advantages we may add, the use which the knowledge of Paul's history will be of, in helping us to understand his writings, which make so considerable a part of the canon of scripture.
Paul's Birth and Education; his Persecution of the Disciples of Christ; and his Conversion.
Paul was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, rightly descended from Abraham the founder of the Israelitish nation; in which respect he was superior to those Jews, whose parents had been converts from heathenism. According to the manner of
his people, he was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, and had an Hebrew name given him, being called Saul: but afterward he took the name of Paulus or Paul, in compliment to Sergius Paulus the proconsul of Cyprus, whom he converted in his first journey among the Gentiles, Acts xiii. 7, 8. Tarsus, the place of Saul's nativity, though not a city of Judea, did honour to such Jews as were born there. For it was the metropolis of Cilicia, and as a place of education, it excelled Athens and Alexandria, and all the other Greek cities, where there were schools of philosophy, and of the polite arts. So Strabo tells us, lib. xiv. Saul therefore had reason to boast even of the place of his birth, Acts xxi. 39. I am a man, which am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city.
Saul's father was a Roman*, (Acts xxii. 28.) which in the provinces was a distinction highly honourable, as it entitled those who possessed it, to many valuable privileges and immunities. For which reason it was either purchased with money, or it was bestowed as the reward of extraordinary services, Acts xx. 28. His being a Roman in the right of his father, is not the only circumstance which shews that Saul was well born: The care and expense bestowed on his education, is a proof that his family was in opulent circumstances.
As Saul hath termed himself an Hebrew of the Hebrews, we may presume that the language of his family was what they then I called the Hebrew. Yet having passed the first years of his life in Tarsus, a Greek city, it is reasonable to believe, that he spake the Greek language also, and was even taught to read it. But, as to his education in the Greek literature, I am not so certain. In his sermons and writings, there are traces from which it may be gathered that he had a general knowledge of the learning, the religion, the manners, and the customs of the Greeks, and that he had read some of their best authors. But whether he got that knowledge at Tarsus, in his younger years, may be doubted. He did not remain there the time that was requisite for acquiring it. And at Jerusalem, where he received the greatest part of his education, he had no opportunity of studying the Greek learning. I am therefore of opinion, that
Many of the Jews enjoyed the right of citizenship; nay some of them were Romae knights, as we learn from Josephus, who in describing the injustice and cruelty of Felix's government, mentions his having crucified some Jews who were Roman knights.'
Saul's knowledge of the Greek rhetoric and philosophy, was not acquired in Tarsus. Neither was it such as could entitle him to the appellation of learned in these matters. But it was
a general knowledge only, acquired by conversing with the Greeks, in the different countries where he preached the gospel. In any other manner he cannot well be supposed to have got that knowledge: Because, however capable he might be of such studies, he had no leisure, after he became an apostle, to prosecute them. Besides, the greatest proficiency in the rhetoric and philosophy of the Greeks, would have been of no use to him in the discharge of the apostolic office. For Christ sent him and the other apostles to preach the gospel, not with the wisdom of words, lest the conversion of the world might have been attributed to the eloquence, knowledge, and superior abilities of the preachers, and not to the power of God which accompanied their preaching.
But though Saul was no proficient in the rhetoric and philosophy of the Greeks, he was thoroughly instructed in the learning of the Jews. For as soon as the years of his childhood were over, his parents sent him to Jerusalem, to study under Gamaliel, the most celebrated doctor of his time, and who for his great knowledge and virtue, was had in reputation among all the people, Acts v. 34.-According to Josephus, Ant. xx. the learning of the Jews consisted in the knowledge of their own laws and religion, as contained in their sacred writings. The doctors, therefore, employed themselves in explaining these writings to the studious youth, founding their interpretations upon traditions, pretended to be handed down from Moses and the prophets. It is true, the doctors in some instances perverted the meaning of the scriptures; and by their traditions made void the commandments of God. But in general, the true sense of the scriptures seems to have been preserved among the Jews, by these traditionary explications, as may be understood from the following well-known facts. 1. The apostles, especially Paul, in reasoning with the Jews, always proved the doctrines of the gospel by quotations out of the writings of Moses and the prophets. But these quotations would have been no proofs at all of the gospel doctrines, at least to the Jews, unless the sense put upon them by the apostles, which was their real meaning, had been the sense generally put upon them by the Jews.-2. It was owing to the knowledge which they had of the true meaning the writings of Moses and the prophets, that some of
the more learned Jews believed on Jesus: Such as Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and that great company of the priests who were obedient to the faith, (Acts vi. 7.)-3. Gamaliel, Saul's master, from his great knowledge of the scriptures, seems to have thought well of the apostles, and of their doctrines, as is plain from the counsel which he gave to his brethren of the Sanhedrim, Acts v. 38. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel, or this work be of men, it will come to nought. 39. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.—How perfectly Saul was educated in the knowledge of the law of the fathers, we learn from himself, Acts xxii. 3. Born in Tarsus in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous towards God, as ye all are this day. And of his proficiency in that kind of learning, he says, Gal. i. 14. And profited in Judaism, above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of the futhers.
Saul's parents completed his education, by having him taught the art of tent-making, Acts xviii. 3. In this they followed the manners of the Jews, with whom it was customary to teach the youth of the highest birth some mechanical employment, whereby, in cases of necessity, they might maintain themselves, without being burdensome to others. The benefit which Saul derived from this branch of his education, while he preached the gospel, will be seen afterwards.
In what year of his age Saul came to Jerusalem, and how long he continued under the tuition of Gamaliel, is not known. But from his saying, that he spent his youth among his own nation at Jerusalem, Acts xxvi. 4. it may be conjectured that he came thither early in life. And seeing in his epistle to Philemon, which is thought to have been written A. D. 62. he calls himself Paul the aged, we cannot be much mistaken in supposing that he was then about 60 years old; and that when our Lord began his public ministry, he was in the 26th* year of his age. Where
Seeing the vulgar æra, according to the opinion of the most learned chronologers, commenced at least two years after the birth of Christ, the year 62 of that computation, in which the epistle to Philemon is supposed to have been written, was really the 64th year from the birth of Christ. Wherefore if Paul was then 60 years old, he must have been four years younger than our Lord; and by consequence when our Lord began his ministry in the 30th year of his age, Saul was 26 complete..
fore having finished his studies, we may suppose that he then professed himself a Pharisee; of which sect also his father was, Acts xxiii. 6.-Farther, seeing our Lord, in the course of his ministry, attracted the attention of the whole Jewish nation, it is probable Saul's zeal for the institutions of his fathers, prompted him to join such of his sect as followed Jesus with an intention to find matter of accusation against him. And when he was tried, condemned, and put to death for calling himself Christ the Son of the blessed, this zealous young man may have been present. So that having often seen Jesus, he could know whether he who appeared to him on the road to Damascus, was really the person whom the rulers at Jerusalem had put to death, or only an impostor who personated him. However, if any one calls this conjecture in question, I will not dispute it with him.
What we certainly know from the sacred history is, that when Christ's resurrection from the dead was published in Jerusalem, the rulers were greatly offended with the preachers of that miracle; and the rather, because they urged it as a proof that Jesus, whom God had raised from the dead, was THE CHRIST, and that he had been put to death unjustly. Wherefore, the rulers stirred up some of the most zealous members of the foreign synagogues in Jerusalem, (Proofs and Illustrations, No. I.) to oppose them. And these zealots happening to hear Stephen, one of the seven deacons, preach, disputed with him. But Acts vi. 10. They were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. 11. Then they suborned men, which said in the hearing of the multitude before whom they disputed, and in private to the elders and scribes, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God. 12. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him and brought him to the council. 13. And set up false witnesses which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words, against this holy place, and the law. 14. For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth, whom ye put to death as a deceiver, shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. While the witnesses thus bare testimony against Stephen, 15. All that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. It seems his face shown with a glory, like that which beamed from Moses's face, when he came down from the mount. This miraculous testimony from God, the council beheld all the while Stephen spake in his own defence; and from it they might have