The design of this Volume is indicated, perhaps, with sufficient clearness, by its title. It is intended to illustrate some of the doctrines and duties of Christianity, and the nature of its influence in its first contact with the world, from the example of the most illustrious of the agents employed in its propagation.
The work is founded on the principle that the nature of true religion is fairly illustrated in the lives of its friends; and that more can be learned of its nature from the example of those whose lives are conformed to its requirements, than from a creed or a mere abstract statement of its doctrines. It is assumed, therefore, that the example of a good man, in the various situations in which he is placed in the world—the manner of his acting amid the trials, the duties, and the temptations-of life—may incidentally illustrate the nature of religion, and that these accumulated records constitute a treasure of great value to the Church,—an argument of great force, in fact, in favour of the Divine origin of the religion itself. This constitutes the value of religious biography.
The most illustrious instance of this principle undoubtedly is found in the example of the Founder of Christianity Himself. The one who stands next to Him will probably be conceded by every one to be the Apostle Paul.
In the plan of the work it has been supposed that, from the character of this Apostle, and from the manner in which he was brought into contact with the world, there would be much of this nature that would always be of value to the Church; for he was made, in common with the other apostles, "a spectacle" (Marg. theatre; Gr. Otarpov—seen as those were who acted on a stage) "unto the world, and to angels, and to men" (1 Cor. iv. 9), and he "obtained mercy" that in him "first"—jrpwroc, eminently—"Jesus Christ might show forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting" (1 Tim. i. 16).
Amid the trials which Paul had to meet in endeavouring to propagate the Christian religion, it could not but occur that he would often be placed in circumstances which might present very difficult points of inquiry as to what was proper to be done, and in which his conduct would furnish an important illustration of what is required by Christian duty.
It was supposed, also, that the events of his life might do much to illustrate the nature of Christianity as it came in contact with different classes of mind, and that an important argument for its truth and its power might be found in its influence over those minds in turning them to God, and that those scenes might thus furnish valuable illustrations of human nature as the ministers of the Gospel are called to meet it from age to age. The contact of Christianity with the world now is substantially the same as in the age of the Apostles: the qualifications of the Christian ministry for its great work are substantially the same in every age and land as those which were found in Paul.
This work does not aspire to be a biography. Such notices of the personal history of Paul, however, are given as, it is hoped, may furnish a just and connected view of his character and life. For the notices of this kind which occur, I am largely indebted to the very valuable work of Messrs. Conybeare and Howson.1 I have made free use of that book so far as the facts in the Life of Paul are concerned.
1 "The Life and Epistles of St. Paul. By the Rev. W. J. Conybeare, M.A., late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; and the Rev. J. S. Howson, M.A., Principal of the Collegiate Institution, Liverpool."