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1 COR. I. 22, 23, 24.
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek
after wisdom; But we preach Christ crucified : unto the Jews a
stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
To expect eternal life through a Saviour who died for us, is the fundamental doctrine of the Christian profession: the article that distinguishes our faith from all others, and with which our religion stands or falls. The New Testament therefore dwells much on the importance of this belief: and especially the Epistles of St. Paul inculcate it every where. He determined, though a man of extensive knowledge, not to know any thing among those whom he instructed, to insist on no subject, comparatively speaking, save Christ Jesus, and him crucified *. Still both he, and the rest of the Apostles, must plainly foresee, and they quickly experienced, as the preachers of the Gospel have done ever since, that the prejudices of many, and the pride of all men, would find much difficulty in submitting to owe their salvation to another; especially to one, who had lived so poor a life, and suffered so disgraceful a death; which would all be avoided by teaching them to ascribe the whole merit of it to themselves. But they had not so
* 1 Cor. ii. 2.
learned Christ*, as to handle the word of God deceitfully t. They knew, that what seemed to human vanity weak and ill-judged, was the true and only way to heavenly happiness. And therefore, though the Jews required a sign, &c.
In discoursing on these words, I shall endeavour to shew,
I. What it is to preach Christ crucified.
Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks
foolishness. III. That, notwithstanding, it places in a strong
light both the power and the wisdom of God. 1. What it is to preach Christ crucified. Now this, in one word, is to lay before men the nature and terms of that eternal salvation, of which, by his suffering on the cross, he is become the author unto all that obey him . More particularly it is to instruct them in the following great truths: that there ever hath, doth, and will exist, one infinite Being, perfectly wise, just, and good, the Almighty Maker and Ruler of the universe; who created man for the
practice of piety and virtue, and for the enjoyment of everlasting life: that our first parents, by wilfully transgressing a most equitable command of his, forfeited their title to immortality, disordered the frame of their bodies and minds, and derived to us the same corrupt and mortal nature, to which they had reduced themselves : that being in this condition through their fault, all men sunk into a still worse, by committing many sins, which however prone to them, they might have had the means of avoiding; and thus have deserved punishment here and hereafter: that, wickedness prevailing early, and spread
* Eph. iv: 20. + 2 Cor. iv. 2. 1 Heb. v. 9.
ing wide in the world, first the practice, then the knowledge, both of true religion and moral virtue, were in a great measure lost out of it: but that the unspeakable mercy and wisdom of the supreme Being provided a remedy for these evils, intimated in general terms to the earliest offenders, promised more distinctly in the succeeding ages, and actually given when the proper fullness of time came *; which remedy was this. A person, made known under the character of the only-begotten Son of God, and one with the Father in a manner to us incomprehensible, after teaching mankind from the beginning by various other methods, took upon him our nature, was born of a virgin, and dwelt on earth, to teach us personally by his word and example: condescended, for this compassionate purpose, to all the inconveniences of the present state of things, to numberless indignities and sufferings, and lastly to have his life taken away by the hands of wicked men; humbling himself unto death, even the death of the cross t, usually inflicted on none but the vilest and lowest of malefactors. In consideration of this meritorious goodness of his, which he engaged, before the world began, thus to manifest, the Most High established with him a covenant of grace and favour, by which all power in heaven and earth was given him I; and provision was made, that whoever should sincerely repent of the sins which he had committed, and throw himself on the promised mercy of God: whether as more obscurely notified before the Redeemer's incarnation, or more clearly afterwards; taking the word of truth for the law of his life, and faithfully endeavouring to obey it, should not only have pardon for his past transgressions, however heinous, but the assistance
Gal. iv. 4. + Phil. i. 8. | Matth. xxxviii. 18.
of the divine Spirit to preserve him from future ones: that a kind Providence should turn every thing to his good, which befel him in this world, and endless felicity be his portion in the next. But then it was also denounced, that whoever should either slight these offers when duly made; or professing to accept them, live unsuitably to them, Christ should be of no benefit to such; they should remain in their sins, with this heavy aggravation of their guilt, that they had rejected the counsel of God for their salvation; and when light was come into the world, loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil *.
This is, in brief, the doctrine of Christ crucified. The main parts of it, you see, are two: God's goodness to us, and our duty to him: and if either be omitted, men are not taught as the truth is in Jesus t. Insisting on moral duties only, is overlooking the greatest of all duties, piety. Insisting on the duties of natural religion only, is injuriously despising those of revelation, which the same authority hath enjoined. And laying before men all the commandments of God, only omitting to say, how they shall be enabled to perform them, and how they shall procure their performances, faulty as the best of them are, to be aecepted, is failing them in points of the most absolute necessity.
But then on the other hand, speaking of nothing, but Christ and his grace, is concealing what the grace of God appeared unto all men to teach them: that denying ungodliness and worldy lusts, they should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world I. It is not therefore naming Christ ever so often, or exalting his compassion to the fallen race of Adam • John jii. 19.
+ Eph. iv. 21. Tit. ii. 11, 12
ever so much, or describing his dreadful sufferings ever so movingly, that is preaching him as we ought, if all be not directed to make us become like him. His own Sermon on the Mount is almost entirely filled with precepts of duty; of the common duties of common life. And so may other sermons too, yet be truly Christian, even without mentioning Christ expressly, provided the necessity of his aid and his merits be understood throughout them; and the great design of his coming, the reformation of the hearts and lives of men, be closely pursued in them. Thus then judge of our discourses : and, which is of more importance, thus judge of your own improvement. It is neither talking nor thinking highly of Christ, nor being affected in the tenderest manner with his bitter passion and dying love, that constitutes a believer in him, such as he will finally own: but herein may we have boldness in the day of judgment, if, as he was, so are we in this world*.
Yet still the sacrifice of him, as a lamb without Blemisht, for our sins, the need we had of it, and the benefits we receive from it, are such capital and indispensable articles, that every preacher, who doth not frequently return to them, is without excuse: and every professor of Christianity, who doth not live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved him, and gave himself for him, frustrates his graces, and will come short of his glory s. Accordingly, though St. Paul himself hath considerable parts of chapters, in which little, if any thing, is said of our Saviour ; yet all prepares the way for introducing him again ; all points our eye to him; all makes part of that building, the corner stone of which is Jesus Christ ||. 1 John iv. 17. +1 Pet. i. 19.
Gal. ii. 20, 21. Rom. iii. 23.
|| Eph. ii. 20.