Summary: This Sermon is #9 from Rev. Andrew Lee’s SERMONS published in 1803 by Isaiah Thomas, Jr. at Lisbon, Connecticut.
The entire book Andrew’s Lee’s Sermons is available free at Project Gutenberg as e-Text #15031.
St. Paul’s Wish to be accursed from Christ. Romans ix.3
"For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."
FEW characters more remarkable than that of St. Paul, are to be found in history. He is introduced to our acquaintance on a tragical occasion--the martyrdom of Stephen, where he appears an accomplice with murderers--"he was standing by and consenting to his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him."
THE circumstances of Paul’s conversion to Christianity were very remarkable, and afford strong evidence of its truth. He was not an ignorant youth, who could be easily deluded. He had all the advantages of education which that enlightened age afforded. He was born indeed at Tarsus, a city of Cilicia; but sent to Jerusalem for an education, and "brought up at the feet of Gamaliel," a famous Jewish Rabbi, who is said to have been many years president of the Sanhedrin; and renowned for wisdom and erudition.
PAUL’S mind was not only early imbued with general science, but he was particularly instructed in the Jews’ religion, and became a zealous member of the pharisaic sect--verily believed the truth to be with them--thought it to be his duty to inculcate their sentiments, both scriptural and traditionary, and oppose all who did not fall in with their views, and help to increase their influence, and spread their principles. Therefore his hatred of Christianity, and determination to destroy it from its foundation----Therefore his implacable aversion to Christians, and unwearied endeavors to reduce them from the faith, or compel them to blaspheme, or where he failed in those attempts, to destroy them from the earth.
BUT lo! the triumphs of divine grace! This arch enemy, while pursuing the followers of the Lamb, even to strange cities, is met by the glorified redeemer, while on his way to Damascus, whither he was going, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples!" Arrested in his course! Convinced of his madness! Brought to believe on that Jesus whom he had reviled and blasphemed! And even changed into a preacher of that gospel which he had been so eager to destroy!
WE know the strange process by which these events were effected--how this proud adversary was subdued and melted into a humble, penitent believer! We know the zeal with which he entered on the gospel ministry--what he did--what he suffered, to build up the cause he had destroyed!
How he persevered to the end, and sealed his testimony with his blood!--What a trophy of divine power and mercy! "These were the Lord’s doings, and marvelous in our eyes."
BUT why marvelous? Why should we wonder when we consider the agent? God is wont to subvert the purposes of his enemies; and often uses those means and instruments which were prepared and intended against him, to accomplish his purposes.
EGYPT is said, at a particular period, to have dreaded a deliverer, then expected to arise in Israel--therefore the edict for thy destruction of the male children which should be born to the Hebrews, thinking to destroy the deliverer among them. But while that edict was in operation, as though in contempt of infernal malice, and Egyptian policy, Moses, the savior of his people, was born. And mark what followed. Lo! The daughter of Pharaoh becomes his mother. The house of Pharaoh his asylum! The learned Magi of that hostile empire, his instructors! And all to fit him for the work for which heaven designed him. *
* Hunter Vol. ii. Lect, xviii.
SO here; this Moses of the New Testament--this destined chieftain among Christians, is educated among Pharisees; the great enemies of Christ--instructed by their greatest teacher--inspired with a double portion of their zeal and rancor against the cause of the Redeemer, and sent forth to destroy. But lo! This mighty Abaddan of diabolical and Jewish malice, is arrested in his course--changed into another man, and all his zeal and learning from that hour directed to buildup the cause of God! The energy instructed and furnished, but heaven directed the use and application!
GOD’S purposes stand and will stand. None can stay his hand, or reverse his decrees. The means chosen to subvert, are used to build his cause and kingdom. "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the purposes of the froward are carried headlong."
WHILE Paul remained a Pharisee he was the idol of his nation; but no sooner did he become a Christian, than their love was turned to hatred. No other was so abhorred as he. Against no other did they unite with such determined rancor. Numbers soon leagued together, and even "bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink till they had slain him." But all their machinations were vain. "Obtaining help from God, of whom he was a chosen vessel, to bear his name to the Gentiles, and kings, and the people of Israel," he continued many years, and did, perhaps, more than any other perform in the cause of Christ. Jewish rancor towards him never abated, but he caught no share of their bitter spirit? the temper of Christ governed in him? he loved his enemies, and did them good. Like another Moses he bore Israel on his heart before God, and made daily intercession for them, weeping at a view of their sad state, and the evils coming upon them.