Dispensations Of Divine Providence Toward The Apostle Paul -- By: Edward Beecher

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 012:47 (Jul 1855)
Article: Dispensations Of Divine Providence Toward The Apostle Paul
Author: Edward Beecher


Dispensations Of Divine Providence Toward The Apostle Paul

Edward Beecher

An Expository Dissertation On 2 Cor. 12:7-10

An intelligent sympathy with the Christian experience of a servant of God so eminent as the Apostle Paul, is one of the most important and effectual means of sanctification. In the passage selected for consideration, there are the elements of the highest form of such a Christian experience, and yet the spiritual advantage of it is to a great extent lost by the substitution of a stimulated but ungrateful curiosity in the place of intelligent Christian sympathy.

The question: What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh, becomes an exciting subject of consideration; and, inasmuch as this has received as many and as unsatisfactory answers as the question: Who was Melchisedek, the inquirer, after wandering for a time in the mazes of conjecture, abandons the inquiry with a feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment.

Many eminent critics, indeed, avow the conviction that the question is insoluble for the want of the necessary elements of reasoning. Mr. Barnes, for example, says: “All conjecture here is vain; and the numerous strange and ridiculous opinions of commentators are a melancholy attestation of their inclination to fanciful conjecture where it is impossible from the nature of the case to ascertain the truth.” Olshausen, after stating that it was something by which God deeply humbled Paul, to prevent self-exaltation, says: “Any more particular information relative to the thorn in the flesh, or wherein it consisted, is not to be inferred.” Neander and other critics come to similar conclusions.

Nevertheless, most commentators, though abandoning the ground of certainty, undertake to state their views of the probabilities of the case. And here a large and decided majority agree on the supposition that it was some bodily affliction, although a great variety of opinions is disclosed in suggesting

definitely what it probably was. According to Barnes, Jerome fixes on the headache, and Tertullian suggests the same or the earache. Tellerus argues in favor of the head-gout, and Rosenmüller regards his argument as of weight. Baxter, who was tried by the stone or gravel, suggests his own trial as Paul’s thorn. A paralytic and hypochondriac disorder, caused by the action of heavenly glories on his nervous system, giving rise, perhaps, to a stammering in his speech and distortions of his countenance, was suggested by Whitby; and has been adopted by Benson, Macknight, Hade, Bloomfield, Bull, Sherlock, and Lord Barrington. Neander regards it as a constant and oppressive pain. Conybeare and Howson regard it as some unknown disease which cont...

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