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Moses ; and because St. Paul had always strenuously opposed them in this attempt, they set themselves secretly to lessen and disparage his character, as ignorant of the doctrine of Christ, and as an interloper who had thrust himself, uncalled, into the office of an apostle.

Some of the gentile converts had also been drawn over to think meanly of him for his want of that sort of eloquence, though'a very false one, for which they esteemed themselves ; and because he made no account of their vain philosophy, which they already began to mix with the Gospel.

These general ideas will throw light on this first epistle to the Corinthians, which will ever be admired for the fine abilities of the writer, his consummate knowledge of the Christian doctrine, and most ardent zeal to make men holy, and for ever happy.

Having bad the satisfaction to find that this his first epistle was well received, and that many still retained the affection and respect due to their old master and teacher, though others still continued their opposition to him ; in his second épistle, towards the conclusion of it, he judged it fitting to assert his high authority from God, his equality with the chief apostles, his disinterested labours, and unparalleled sufferings in the cause of the Gospel; and also to acquaint them with the extraordinary divine revelations which had been vouchsafed to him : a disagreeable task to speak so much in his own commendation, however necessary ; but which he appears to discharge with great reluctance and equal modesty.

And immediately after the naming of these wonderful divine revelations with which he was honoured, come the words (ver. 7.) “ And lest I should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations, there was given me a sharp suffering, a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to keep me down, lest I should be exalted above measure.” (ver. 8.) “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My favour is sufficient for thee: for my power is manifested in weakness," i.e. the weakness of the instrument employed*.

Most

* Probably the true solution of this text may be, that this whole transaction, that Paul speaks of, was in a vision, where the Lord Jesus was present to him, as be appeared to be to Stephen, and his request was directed to him to be

delivered

“ Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ (i.e. the aids which I derive from the Gospel) may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in ne cessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."

Herein he intimates to them, that these extraordinary divine favours and vouchsafements to him were not the things by which he wished them to form their judgements of him; nor did he hold himself the better for them, though it was necessary to mention them in his own defence. And that though he might boast of them as marks of the divine approbation, he would rather boast of the affliction which God had visited him with in consequence of them, which he considered to be a token of his favour equally with the heavenly revelations which had been bestowed upon him, though the suffering was so painful and op

delivered from this tborn, whatever it was. Is not this confirmed by what he says of the Lord's speaking to him so and so ? Could this be in any way but in a vision ? This remark I had froin a friend. VOL. I.

pressive

.

pressive to him, that he could not but earnestly pray to have it removed.

It shall be my business now to endeavour to explain, what was this sharp affliction of the apostle, thus described by him, and then to suggest one or two practical remarks.

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We are then, first, to inquire what is meant by what is here called a sharp splinter, or thorn in the flesh.

The expression is sometimes proverbial ; as in Numb. xxxiii. 55, where Moses told the Israelites, “ that if they suffered the heathen inhabitants of Canaan to remain

among them, they would be thorns in their sides." And, in general, it signifies any thing that is very troublesome, or that gives lively and acute pain : as it is called “a thorn in the flesh,” it probably was some bodily disorder or infirmity, which was very inconvenient and humbling to our apostle.

That no evil passion or desire, nothing of any immoral tendency was intended, is most plain hence, because such things are never immediately sent by God, but always brought on men by their own bad conduct; and, more

over, evil and vicious desires are always to be lamented by a good mind, because they tend to lead to misery and ruin, though by being resisted and overcome they may not actually lead to it.

Whereas that which St. Paul here mentions, 80 far from lamenting, you observe that he glories in it; counts it a happiness that it was sent to him from God, however painful and humiliating it was to him.

And the most likely conclusion of all others made concerning it, is, that it was some bodily defect, perhaps a paralytic affection, which tended to undervalue and lessen him in the eyes of those who judged of things from the outward appearance, and which thereby had a tendency to check that too great opinion of himself and vanity which he might otherwise have been in danger of falling into, from the very singular divine favours and commu. nications to him.

So we find it to have been understood by the early Christian writers, who might probably have learned it from a tradition preserved in those places where St. Paul had preached. But what chiefly confirms it, is, that the apostle himself seems so to explain iç in other parts

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