« PreviousContinue »
1 Cor. i. 23, 24.
“ But we preach CHRIST CRUCIFIED, unto the
Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are calledChrist, the power of God, and the wisdom of GOD."
THAT the sublime mystery of the Redemption, should have escaped the comprehension, both of the Jew, and of the Greek : that a Crucified Saviour, should have given offence to the worldly expectant of a Triumphant Messiah, whilst the proud philosopher of the schools, turned with disdain, from the humiliating doctrine, which proclaimed the insufficiency of human reason, and threatened to bend its aspiring head before the foot of the Cross-were events, which the matured growth of national prejudice, on the one hand, and the habits of contentious discussion, aided by a depraved moral system, on the other, might, in the natural course of things, have been expected to produce.—That the Son of God had descended from Heaven: that he had disrobed him
self a of the Glory, which he had with the Father, before the world began: that he had assumed the form, of the humblest, and most degraded, of men: that submitting to a life of reproach, and want, and sorrow, he had closed the scene, with a death of ignominy and torture; and that through this voluntary degradation and suffering, a way of reconciliation with the Supreme Being had been opened to the whole human race; and an atonement made for those transgressions, from the punishment of which unassisted reason could have devised no means of escape: these are truths, which prejudice and pride could not fail, at all times, to have rejected: and these are truths, to which the irreligion and self-sufficiency of the present day, oppose obstacles not less insurmountable than those which the prejudice of the Jew, and the philosophy of the Greek presented, in the age of the Apostle. For, at this day, when we boast a wider diffusion of learning, and more extensive acquirements of moral knowledge, do we not find these fundamental truths of Revelation questioned ? Do we not see the haughtiness of lettered scepticism, presuming to reject the proffered terms of Salvation, because it cannot trace, with the finger of human science, the connexion between the cross of Christ and the redemption of man? But to these vain and presumptuous aspirings after knowledge placed beyond human reach, we are commanded to
• See No. I. p. by:
preach CHRIST CRUCIFIED: which, however it may, to the self-fancied wise ones of this world, appear as foolishness, is yet, to those who will humble their understanding to the dispensations of the Almighty, the grandest display of the divine perfections; Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
To us also, my Brethren, who profess a conviction of this truth ; and who are called on by the return of this day, more particularly to recollect the great work of Salvation, wrought out for us by the memorable event which it records ; it may not be unprofitable, to take a short view of the objections, that have been urged against this fundamental doctrine of our religion : that so we may the better discern those snares, which beset the Christian path; and that being guarded against the obstructions, which are insidiously raised, against that true and gospel faith, whereby alone we can hope for acceptance and happiness, * We may be able to place the great pillar of our hopes, upon a basis, which no force can shake, and no art can undermine.
In the consideration of this subject, which every Christian must deem most highly deserving the closest examination, our attention should be directed to two different classes of objectors: those, who deny the necessity of any mediation whatever; and those, who question the particular nature of
See No. II. h.88 • See No. III. to go
that mediation, which has been appointed. Whilst the Deist, on the one hand, ridicules the very notion of a Mediator: and the philosophizing Christian, on the other, fashions it to his own hypothesis: we are called on to vindicate the word of truth, from the injurious attacks of both; and carefully to secure it, not only against the open assaults of its avowed enemies, but against the more dangerous misrepresentations, of its false, or mistaken friends.
The objections, which are peculiar to the former, are upon this subject, of the same description with those, which they advance against every other part of Revelation ; bearing with equal force, against the system of Natural Religion, which they support, as against the doctrines of Revealed Religion, which they oppose. And indeed, this single circumstance, if weighed with candour and reflexion; that is, if the Deist were truly the Philosopher he pretends to be; might suffice to convince him of his error. For the closeness of the analogy between the works of Nature and the word of the Gospel, being found to be such, that every blow, which is aimed at the one, rebounds with undiminished force against the other: the conviction of their common origin, must be the inference of unbiassed understanding.
Thus, when in the outset of his argument, the Deist tells us, that as obedience must be the object of God's approbation, and disobedience the ground of his displeasure ; it must follow by natural consequence; that when Men have transgressed the divine commands, repentance and amendment of life will place them, in the same situation, as if they had never offended :-he does not recollect, that actual experience of the course of Nature, directly contradicts the assertion; and that, in the common occurrences of life, the man, who by intemperance, and voluptuousness, has injured his character, his fortune, and his health, does not find himself instantly restored to the full enjoyment of these blessings, on repenting of his past misconduct, and determining on future amendment. Now, if the attributes of the Deity demand, that the punishment should not outlive the crime; on what ground shall we justify this temporal dispensation? The difference in degree, cannot affect the question in the least. It matters not, whether the punishment be of long, or of short duration; whether in this world, or in the next. If the justice or the goodness of God, require, that punishment should not be inflicted, when repentance has taken place; it must be a violation of those attributes, to permit any punishment whatever, the most slight, or the most transient. Nor will it avail to say, that the evils of this life attendant upon vice, are the effects of an established constitution, and follow in the way of natural consequence. Is not that established constitution itself, the effect of the divine decreer And are not its several operations as much the