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with God. If they had sought the wisdom of Christ they would have received great help,—hut they would not hearken to him, because he disappointed their earthly hopes.
Thus it was that St. Paul was received at Corinth: he was considered as a babbler when he commanded them to repent that they might live in the fear of God and of his son Jesus Christ. It has ever been to the Jews a stumbling-block and unto the Greeks foolishness; laid aside by the one, and thought not of by the other: treated by the self-conceited as vanity, and discarded as foolishness by the self-abased; and even with christians it is often an hindrance, for they must carry the cross of Christ if they would ever hope for Heaven; and often would they gratify their evil wishes if it were not for this check. And how much we should rejoice when it interrupts us in our evil progress and overcomes our sinful passions—when it subdues and governs our bad propensities, and leads us to joys which shall have no end. It is a consoling doctrine and the older we grow the more need for it we have; for we see even in these our days strange doctrines and false prophets arising, crying, "Peace, peace, when there is no peace;" leading the Lord's people astray from him and seeking after other gods, the work of men's hands. But a day is coming when all shall be of one fold and under one shepherd, when the Jew will require no sign, or the Greek to seek after wisdom; when it will be no longer unto the Jews a stumbling-block, or to the Greeks foolishness: and a blessed time to those who have made this doctrine their help and their hope. "I will have mercy saith the Lord and not sacrifice." For God is faithful by whom says St. Paul "ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." What was it that the same Apostle says to the wavering Corinthians? (1 Cor. ii. 2.) "I determined not to know any thing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified."
I will now direct your attention to this important subject, more minutely free on the one hand from superstition, and on the other desecration. For I would have you remember that "the wisdom of God is a mystery even an hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory, which none of the princes of this world knew." "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." We observe in these verses, both a warning and an exhortation. The wisdom of the world we well know had at that time a great influence; it overcame the preaching of even Christ himself. The requiring of a sign was but to gratify their wishes and to increase their pride;— our Lord himself declared " Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." It was but to exalt themselves and to defile the temple of Christ, and the sign further was but a sign for worldly increase and contentious gain; for they had not built upon a sure foundation, but on one of wood, hay, stubble, things which all perish in their using; things which St. Paul justly says in his epistle to the Colossians, "have indeed a show of wisdom in milworship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh." It was not the sign for the regeneration of a new birth, but a temporal sign for the gratification of vanities.—This is a warning to us: we must not be carnal, we must avoid envyings, and strifes, and divisions; for they that are carnal, walk as men! but we must embrace the sign of the cross marked on us at Baptism, "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." St. Paul in another place writes, "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect; for the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God." His power works within man and dictates to him what he ought to do; but when the evil spirit within him rises, it stops and prevents it, which is against the law of God and cannot be helped, for man is perverse;—for what man knoweth the good of those things which are righteousness, and peace, and joy unto him ?— "As it is writen, eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." By the Jews blindness, we enjoy this sublime doctrine as we read in the 13th chapter Acts, where Paul and Barnabas addressing the Jews, "waxed bold and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." St. Paul in remonstrating with the Corinthians shows the futility of all human learning, for the Greeks chose to seek after worldly wisdom in preference to (and when compared with) the excellency of the gospel of Christ. The Corinthians in general were addicted in the highest degree with indulgence in sensual pleasures, and had it not been for St. Paul, Corinth would have remained an Heathen country surrounded with follies and lusts. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit, and a temple of the Holy Ghost. "He is not a Jew," says St. Paul (Rom. ii. 28.) "which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision, which is circumcision in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart and the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God." And in another place he writes, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God."
Let then every one abide in the same calling wherein he was called, and he will strengthen his faith by upholding the cross of Christ; he will become a wise master-builder and shall have for it the praise of God. Without faith no man can please the Lord.— Do you then believe in the efficacy of this great, this all-powerful doctrine? Is your hope of heaven and future glory resting upon it? For the hope of the ungodly is like dust that is blown away with the wind; like thin froth that is driven away by the storm; like as the smoke which is dispersed here and there with a tempest, and passeth away as a remembrance of a guest that tarrieth but a day. But the righteous live for evermore; their reward also, is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the Most High. Therefore, shall they receive a glorious kingdom and a beautiful crown from the Lord's hand, "for with his right hand shall he cover them, and with his arm shall he protect them." We read in Isaiah, "He shall be for a sanctuary, but for a stone of stumbling and for a rod of defence to both the houses of Israel." What a true prophecy; and see its fulfillment! Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. "It was a stumblingblock to the Jews that Christ should die at all; for they understood their law to teach them that Christ should abide for ever: but it was far more so, that he should die upon the cross. Thus in the dialogue between Justin Martyr and Trypho the Jew; the latter objects:—" We cannot enough wonder that you should expect any good from God, who place all your hope on a man who was crucified." And again :—" We doubt of your Christ, who was so ignominiously crucified—for our Law styles every one who is crucified accursed." "Unto the Greeks foolishness."—-So, in the above mentioned dialogue, Justin Martyr says, "They account us mad, that, after the immutable and eternal God, we give the second place to a man who was crucified." Celsus calls it " wicked and abominable." "The wise men of the world insult over us" says Augustine, "and ask, Where is your understanding, who worship him for a God who was crucified?" See Whitby in loc. Doddridge well paraphrases here:—" Though it be to the Jews a stumblingblock, (as contrary to their secular expectations,) and to the Greeks foolishness, as not resting mainly on the principles of reason."— One requires a sign, another seeks after wisdom according as tha propensities of each lead them. The Jews wished for signs and wonders, and miracles; but although a miracle might startle, it could not convince; they would still have remained in a doubting mind. And now for the application of these remarks to ourselves, of the present day; and it will be well for us to consider these things attentively! When we take a survey of the last few years there is much to surprise us, much to lament. It is almost unnecessary for me to speak of the Unity of religion, or rather the unity that ought to be, since we know that instead of "one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling ;—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all:"—the body of Christ, has as it were, been broken in twain, and Schism pervertedly and wrongfully has arisen; and whilst the world is constituted as it is, it will be almost impossible to suppress, though I do assert, that religion ought not to be divided like the pieces of a tragedy into parts and divisions, and sects, hut should be "one in Christ, and one in brethren!" "While men," says the pious Baxter, "wrangle here in the dark, they are dying and passing to that world which will decide all their controversies, and the safest passage thither is by peaceable holiness." Vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild colt, and in the present times he vainly sets up his own ideas, and leads many astray with him—the Creator, as Creator, is alone acknowledged, and beyond this, men are constantly finding room for controversy. The doctrines of Christianity more or less are a mystery—our own nature is a mystery also; in fact, all that is handed down to us by revelation requires only belief, for it is seldom explanatory of itself, and man's wisdom can never solve it. We ground the reasonableness of faith on the credibility of testimony. It seems to me an idle speculation to attempt to discover reasons and objects of the Creator; what is written should be received in faith, as it is written; and man should not presume to go beyond it; for the search must be fruitless. St. Paul himself acknowledged "godliness" to be a "mystery,"— but he did not attempt to make it plain, or to put certain constructions upon it, and pronounce them the truth, and all other opinions to be wrong: No, he simply preached the doctrine of the cross with all its mysteries as it is; but man, presumptuous man, goes beyond the boundary, and after all his cavilling, finds at last spiritual blindness and ignorance from which he can never rid himself.