For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
When did he utter this? It was not as he rose from earth dazzled into blindness by the Redeemer's glory, and the words of the first commission were ringing in his ears. It was not in Damascus, while as the scales fell from his eyes he recognized the Lord's goodness and power. Nor was it in Arabia where supernatural wisdom so fully unfolded to him the facts and truths which he was so uniformly to proclaim. It sprang not from some momentary elation as at Cyprus where he confounded the sorcerer and converted the Roman proconsul. No, it was written at Rome, in bonds, and after years of unparalleled toil and suffering. His past career had been signalized by stripes, imprisonment, shipwrecks, and unnumbered perils, but he did not regret them. He had been "in weariness and painfulness," etc., but his ardour was unchilled; and let him only be freed, and his life prolonged, and his motto would still be, "For me to live is Christ." It did not repent the venerable confessor now, when he was old, infirm, and a prisoner, with a terrible doom suspended over him, that he had done, travelled, spoken, and suffered so much for Christ. Nor was the statement like a suspicious vow in a scene of danger, which is too often wrung from cowardice, and held up as a bribe to the Great Preserver, but forgotten when the crisis passes, and he who made it laughs at his own timidity. No. It was no new course that the apostle proposed, it was only a continuation of those previous habits which his bondage had for a season interrupted. Could there be increase to a zeal that had never flagged, or could those labours be multiplied which had filled every moment and called out every energy? In fine, the saying was no idle boast, like that of Peter at the last supper — the flash of a sudden enthusiasm so soon to be drowned in tears. For the apostle had the warrant of a long career to justify his assertion, and who can doubt that he would have verified it, and nobly shown, as hitherto, for him to live was Christ? He sighed not under the burden, as if age needed repose; or sank into self-complacency, as if he had done enough, for the Lord's commission was still upon him, and the wants of the world were as numerous and pressing as to claim his last word and urge his last step.
Parallel VersesKJV: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.