« AnteriorContinua »
of the cross, gloried in tribulations, saying, "In all these "things we are more than conquerors, through him who "loved us."
In the FOURTH place, We shall illustrate the manner in which the Apostle speaks of his glorying. His expression is bold and lively: "But God forbid that I should "glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." The expression which our version has rendered "God forbid," is never used by him except on grave and important occasions, and, in using it on this occasion, Paul protests, That there was nothing else in which he could glory, in the sense of glorying in the cross of Christ; That he abhorred the thought of glorying in any thing else; and, That whatever others might do, he determined to glory in the cross till his course should be finished.
First, By his bold and lively expression, Paul protests, That there was nothing else in which he could glory, in the sense of glorying in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a scholar, his learning was real and extensive, and, as a Pharisee, his righteousness was blameless and exempla ry; as a preacher of the cross, he had converted thousands, and, as an Apostle, he was in nothing behind the chiefest. But in none of these distinctions could he glory. Compared with the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, his learning was refined ignorance: Compared with the righteousness of faith, his own was pompous folly. Before the Lord his labours in the ministry were not pure, and his equality to the chiefest Apostles was insufficient to recom- mend him to the favour of God. In several things he had whereof to glory before men, and, on several occasions, the harsh and unreasonable manner in which men treated him, compelled him to glory. But before God, there was nothing else save the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ in which he could glory.
Secondly, This holy man abhorred the thought of glorying in any thing else. To build upon any other foundation his justification and acceptance with God, or to recommend to the world any other foundation than the obedience and blood of Christ, appeared to him an attempt which was both detestable and ruinous. "God forbid that "I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ," is the language of detestation. When the zealous apostle
of the cross encounters any sentiment or practice dishoncrable to the doctrine of God our Saviour, “God forbid” is his ordinary expression. "Shall we continue in sin, that "grace may abound? God forbid." "Is Christ the minister "of sin? God forbid." "Is the law against the promises? "God forbid." This detestation is a spiritual and holy affection, and, among Christians, is stronger or weaker in proportion to the clearness or darkness of their knowledge of the person and glory of Christ, and the strength or weakness of their faith in his blood. His cross is the foundation which the wisdom of God hath laid for the confidence of all the ends of the earth. To reject this either wholly, or build partly upon it, and partly upon another, is to impute folly to the only wise God, and treat the kindness and love of his dear Son most disrespectfully. The substitution of any thing in the place assigned by the wisdom of God to the cross of his Son, and building upon it wholly or partially our hope of salvation, is an heresy, immoral in its nature, and fatal in its tendency. Under this hazardous and aggravated consideration, it appeared to our Apostle in the churches of Galatia, and roused his zeal into indignation. "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be cir"cumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify "again to every man who is circumcised, that he is a "debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of none "effect unto you; whosoever of you are justified by the "law, ye are fallen from grace. O foolish Galatians! who "hath bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, "before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set "forth crucified among you."
Thirdly, This bold and upright man solemnly protests, that whatever other preachers might do, he had determined to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, till his course and ministry were finished. No evidence appears in his writings that he changed his sentiments concerning the cross, or altered his determination of glorying in it.— At Corinth, where he determined to know nothing save Jesus Christ and him crucified, imputations of levity and inconstancy were thrown upon his character and doctrine; but these he refutes with candor and integrity. "Did I "use lightness, or the things which I purpose, do I "purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should "be yea, yea, and nay, nay? But as God is true, our
"word toward you was not yea and nay: For the Son of "God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us— "was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the "promises of God in him, are yea, and in him amen, unto "the glory of God by us." In that Epistle, which is supposed to be the last written by him, he exhorts Timothy to "hold fast the form of sound words which he heard" of him, and "not to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord." In the life and ministry of this Apostle of the cross, an example of integrity and constancy is set before us, which it is our duty, our honor, our interest to follow. No sufferings, no temptations, no discouragements moved him to disown the testimony of Christ, or to dissemble and conceal his sentiments of his cross. No prospects of ease, of gain, of popularity, or fame, alienated his affections. from this blessed object, and stopped his mouth from glorying in it. When death, arrayed in the terror of martyr dom, appeared, he drew from the cross courage and strength to encounter it, and hope of salvation, with eternal glory, after the conflict. "I am now ready to be offered, "and the time of my departure is at hand: I have "fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have "kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a "crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous "judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, "but unto all them also who love his appearing."
After these illustrations of the nature of glorying in the cross of Christ; of the considerations of glorying in it common to Christians, and peculiar to Paul; and of the boldness and firmness of his profession of glorying, we shall conclude with some observations suggested by these illustrations of the text, and some exhortations grounded upon it to duty and obedience.
First, Concerning the person and glory of Christ, men are still divided in their sentiments. This division is nearly as old as the world. It broke out in the family of Adam. The two sons who were born first to him embraced opposite systems; the one building his acceptance upon the promise of the Seed of the woman, and the other upon his own works. As men multiplied, the division spread, and produced two societies, called "the Sons of God," and "the children of men." Through all the changes and dispen
sations of the Old Testament it continued, and appeared in form under the ministry of our Lord: "There was a "division of the people because of him, some saying he "was a good man, and others that he deceived the people." After he left the world, the division concerning him still subsisted; and under the ministry of his apostles, men arose whom they have stigmatised "Enemies of the cross "of Christ." Since that time, men of this denomination have appeared in every age; nor is the visible Church without them in the present day. Unto some, the cross of Christ, in which all true Christians glory, appears intolerably vile, or, at best, an inconsiderable and uninteresting object. While believers wonder how they are so blind, as not to behold the glory which breaks forth from it on every side, these likewise wonder, on their part, what charms any reasonable man can see in an object so trifling and unimportant.
Secondly, The existence of intellectual blindness and depravity cannot be denied. Greatness and beauty meet together in the cross of Christ, or in that system of divine operations of which it is a denomination. Here perfections, which are the essential glory of the nature of God, and the revealed glory of his will, shine forth in the highest splendour! here the greatest wonder appears-the Son of God, in the nature and likeness of sinful flesh, dying a sacrifice for sin, and a pattern of patience and self-denial! and here the reasoning faculties of men may exert themselves with everlasting improvement, and everlasting delight! This great and beautiful object is, notwithstanding, ridiculed by some, neglected by others, and lightly esteemed by the most part of men. To what principle is this almost universal disrespect to be ascribed? or what cause for it can be assigned? Intellectual depravity is most certainly the principle, and the reign of this disorder the undoubted cause. With respect to spiritual objects, the natural understanding is both blinded and prepossessed, incapable of beholding their greatness and beauty, and perverted by principles eversive of their nature and tendency. Till these principles be destroyed, and an understanding to know him who is true, given, the necessity and glory of his cross cannot be discerned and acknowledged. "For "the preaching of the cross is to them who perish foolish"ness, but unto us who are saved, it is the power of God.
"For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, "and will bring to nothing the understanding of the pru"dent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is "the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the "wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of "God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, "by the foolishness of preaching, to save them who be"lieve. 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 who are called, both Jews and Greeks, "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Be"cause the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the "weakness of God is stronger than men."
Thirdly, The difference between natural and spiritual taste is an object of consideration upon the subject. A fine taste is a natural endowment, and philosophers have laid down excellent rules for improving and perfecting it, and for preventing a depravation of the public taste, which is always detrimental to the welfare of society. But the spiritual taste, or a capacity to judge rightly of spiritual things, is a supernatural and gracious endowment; and the rules for improving and perfecting it, and for preventing the depravation and corruption of it, are delivered in the Holy Scriptures, with promises of the influence and operation of the Spirit. Of this taste Paul is an eminent example, and his glorying in the cross of Christ is an illustrious proof. Behold the man rising above himself, forgetting the privileges of his birth as an Hebrew, the greatness of his learning as a scholar, the strictness of his life as a Pharisee, the eminency of his gifts as an apostle, the extent of his usefulness as a minister, the variety and severity of his sufferings as a martyr, forgetting all, renouncing all, and glorying in the cross, and in nothing save the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the cross, the essence of glory, the excellency of greatness, the perfection of beauty, and the sublimity of wisdom and love, shine forth; and glorying in it is a proof of a taste exquisitely spiritual, and refined in a super-eminent degree. How the apostle obtained this fine taste, we are informed by himself. "The "things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the "Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things.