A dear friend is walking in the steps of the Apostle Paul and I am jealous and consoling myself with a reread of James Freeman Clark's, "The Ideas of the Apostle Paul." Written late in his career, the book calls Paul the "first liberal Christian."
" If I...were asked for my opinion of Paul, I might answer thus: " He was one of the greatest souls whom the world has produced, uniting in himself the grandest qualities of mind and heart. He emancipated Christianity from its Jewish form; and, alone among the apostles, fully understood and carried out the ideas of Jesus which have made of his religion a gospel for mankind. He was the founder of Liberal Christianity, believing that there might be many members and yet one body; teaching that in the Christian Church there should be both variety and unity, freedom and order. He was able to be thus wide because he went down so deep in his experience and up so high in his aspiration. He was a logical and a spiritual thinker, possessing both intuitive and dialectic power. His reasonings are so subtle and close that often, knowing little of the question in dispute, we find it difficult to follow the argument. But though possessed of this intense activity of thought, he placed thought far below love. He said that belief would change, opinion alter, knowledge pass away; but that faith, hope and love would abide forever."
Some natures are simple, others complex. And some complex natures are not fully at harmony with themselves. Then they are hard to understand; thus they are often misjudged. So it was with Paul at first; so it has been ever since ; so it is now. He is a complex soul, and never fully harmonized with himself and his surroundings. But he is planned on large proportions, he is moved by the deepest convictions, his heart is on fire with the noblest enthusiasm for a great object. He lives for it and dies for it, and the result of his life is an era in the history of man. He gave a fresh impulse to human thought, and the force of this movement is not yet exhausted. Augustine, Luther, Pascal, Wesley have each, in turn, received from the Apostle Paul the mighty influence which awakened their spiritual natures. His place in universal history is in the front rank of those who create a new epoch in civilization and progress."