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2 COR. v. 17. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.
It was a constant rule with the ancient and most celebrated teachers of oratory, to warn their pupils never to offend their audience; to take especial care to prepossess them in their favour ; and to avoid every circumstance which might prejudice their minds against the speaker, or against the subject he had to handle. The same good sense which suggested this useful rule to the ancients, will direct a modern teacher of the Gospel of Christ how far he is to observe a similar practice of never giving offence, or how far he is bound to alter or modify the rule according to the different circumstances in which he is placed.
The example of so eminent a saint as St. Paul, shews that a faithful minister of the Gospel cannot
always avoid giving offence. The doctrines of salvation by Christ, though they be the true and the only medicines of our fallen nature, yet often prove very ungrateful to the taste ; and the person who administers them is sometimes repelled with considerable dislike and censure.
The honest zeal of the wisest and most judicious servants of God has frequently been deemed enthusiastic, and supposed to border even on madness itself. Festus did not hesitate to tell St. Paul, in so many plain words, that he was “ beside himself, and that much learning had made him mad.”. And the same Apostle, in his affectionate addresses to the Corinthians, evidently foresaw that he would probably be suspected by them of an unsoundness of intellect, when he says, “Whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God; or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.” In imputations of this sort there is nothing new. The messenger of the prophet Elisha, when he went to Jehu, was called a mad fellow : and so in the days of the visitation described by Hosea, the prophet is said to be a fool, and the spiritual man to be mad. And it may be thought still more remarkable that our blessed Lord himself should have been called a