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ducees, who doubted of them, as sectaries
But as our strait limits will not allow us
2. The Jews had as good evidence of the divine inspiration of the Old Testament as Christians have of the New. So that it might as truly be said to a Jew, as to a Christian, If thou resist the ordinary evidence of the truth of revelation, neither wouldest thou be persuaded though one rose from the dead' to attest it.
the devils with their rage, hell with its torments, eternity with its horrors. We conjure you this moment, by the solemnity of all these motives, to return to God. I repeat it again, you cannot pretend distraction now, you cannot pretend forgetfulness now, nor can you avoid to-day, either the glory of conversion, or the shame of an impenitence that resists the most solemn and pathetic objects. But is it not true that none of these motives touch you? I mean, they do not reform you. For it does not argue any piety, if, after we have meditated on a subject, chosen our sentiments and our expressions, and, with an assemblage of Scripture-imagery, covered the pleasures of paradise, and the horrors of hell, with colouring the best adapted to exhibit their nature, and to affect yours; I say, it requires no pity to feel a moving of the animal spirits, a slight emotion of the heart. You are just as much affected with a representation, which, you know, is fiction, and exhibited by actors in borrowed guise; and you do us very little honour, by giving us what you bestow on theatrical declaimers. But is any one of you so affected with these motives, as to go, without delay, to make restitution of ill-gotten gain, to break off an impure connexion? I ask again, Can you contradict me? Can you refute me? Alas! we know what a sermon can do, and we have reason for affirming, that no known motives will change some of our hearts, although we do attend to them; and for inferring this just consequence, a thousand new motives would
be as useless as the rest.
It is questionable, whether the Jewish revelation explained the state of souls after death so clearly that Jesus Christ had sufficient grounds for his proposition. But were we to grant what this question implies; were we to suppose, that the state of souls after death was as much unknown as our querist pretends; it would be still true, that it was incongruous with the justice and wisdom of God to employ new means of conversion in favour of a Jew, who resisted Moses and the prophets. Our proof follows.
In this manner we establish the truth, thus we prove the sufficiency of the Christian religion, thus we justify Providence against the unjust reproaches of infidel and impenitent sinners, and thus, in spite of ourselves, we trace out our own condemnation. For, since we continue some of us in unbelief, and others of us in impenitence, we are driven either to tax God with employing means inadequate to the ends of instruction and conversion, or to charge the guilt of not improv-ceivable; at least, he was so culpable, that ing them on ourselves. We have seen that he could not equitably require God to emour disorders do not flow from the first; but ploy new means for his conversion. that they actually do proceed from the last of these causes. Unto thee, then, O Lord! belongeth righteousness; but unto us confusion of faces this day,' Dan. ix. 7.
Moses and the prophets taught sublime notions of God. They represented him as a Being supremely wise, and supremely powerful. Moreover, Moses and the prophets expressly declared, that God, of whom they gave some sublime ideas, would display his power, and his wisdom, to render those completely happy who obeyed his laws, and them completely miserable who durst affront his authority. A Jew, who was persuaded on the one hand, that Moses and the prophets spoke on the part of God; and, on the other, that Moses and the prophets, whose mission was unsuspected, declared that God would render those completely happy who obeyed his laws, and them completely miserable who durst affront his authority; a Jew, who, in spite of this persuasion, persisted in impenitence, was so obdurate, that his conversion, by means of any new motives, was incon
Here we would finish this discourse, had we not engaged at first to answer a difficult question, which naturally arises from our text, and from the manner in which we have discussed it. Could the Jews, to whom the state of the soul after death was very little known, be numbered among those who would not be persuaded though one rose from the dead? We have two answers to this seeming difficulty.
What does the gospel say more on the punishments which God will inflict on the wicked, than Moses and the prophets said (I speak on the supposition of those who deny any particular explications of the doctrine of immortality in the Old Testament). What did Jesus Christ teach more than Moses and the prophets taught? He entered into a more particular detail; he told his hearers, there was weeping and wailing and gnashBut the general ing of teeth; a worm that died not, and a fire that was not quenched.' thesis, that God would display his attributes in punishing the wicked, and in rewarding the good, this general thesis was as well known to the Jews as it is to Christians; and this general thesis is a sufficient ground for the words of the text.
1. We could deny that notion which creates this difficulty, and affirm, that the state of the soul after death was much better understood by the Jews than you suppose. We could quote many passages from the Old Testament, where the doctrines of heaven and of hell, of judgment and of the resurrec-sus Christ was not verified in regard to the tion, are revealed; and we could show, that Jews, but that it is much more verified in rethe Jews were so persuaded of the truth of gard to Christians; not that the Jews, who these doctrines, that they considered the Sad-resisted Moses and the prophets, were not
The most that can be concluded from this objection is, not that the proposition of Je
very guilty, but that Christians, who resist the gospel, are much more guilty. We are fully convinced of the truth of this as sertion. We wish your minds were duly affected with it. To this purpose we proceed to the application.
First, We address ourselves to infidels: O that you would for once seriously enter into the reasonable disposition of desiring to know and to obey the truth! At least, examine, and see. If, after all your pains, you can find nothing credible in the Christian religion, we own we are strangers to the human heart, and we must give you up, as belonging to a species of beings different from ours. But what irritates us is to see, that among the many infidels, who are endeavouring to destroy the vitals of religion, there is scarcely one to be found whose erroneous principles do not originate in a bad heart. It is the heart that disbelieves; it is the heart which must be attacked; it is the beart that must be convinced.
it at an immense distance-I see it at a place, which my crimes forbid me to enter-I see hell--hell, which I have ridiculed-it opens under my feet-I hear the horrible groans of the damned-the smoke of the bottomless pit chokes my words, and wraps my thoughts in suffocating darkness.'
Such is the infidel on a dying bed. This is not an imaginary flight; it is not an arbitrary invention, it is a description of what we see every day in the fatal visits, to which our ministry engages us, and to which God seems to call us to be sorrowful witnesses of his displeasure and vengeance. This is what infidelity comes to. This is what infidelity is good for. Thus most skeptics die, although, while they live, they pretend to free themselves from vulgar errors. I ask again, What charms are there in a state that has such dreadful consequences? How is it possible for men, rational men, to carry their madness to such an excess?
Without doubt, it would excite many murmurs in this auditory; certainly we should be taxed with strangely exceeding the mat ter, were we to venture to say, that many of our hearers are capable of carrying their corruption to as great a length as I have described. Well we will not say so. We know your delicacy too well. But allow us to give you a task. We propose a problem to the examination of each of you.
People doubt because they will doubt. Dreadful disposition! Can nothing discover thine enormity? What is infidelity good for? By what charm does it lull the soul into a willing ignorance of its origin and end? If, during the short space of a mortal life, the love of independence tempt us to please ourselves with joining his monstrous party, how dear will the union cost us when we come to die!
O were my tongue dipped in the gall of Who, of two men, appears most odious to celestial displeasure, I would describe to you you? One resolves to refuse nothing to his the state of a man expiring in the cruel un- senses, to gratify all his wishes without recertainties of unbelief; who secs, in spite of straint, and to procure all the pleasures that himself, yea, in spite of himself, the truth a worldly life can afford. Only one thought of that religion, which he has endeavoured disturbs him, the thought of religion. The to no purpose to eradicate from his heart. idea of an offended Benefactor, of an angry Ah! see! every thing contributes to trou- Supreme Judge, of eternal salvation neglectble him now. I am dying-I despair of re-ed, of hell contemned; each of these ideas covering-physicians have given me over- poisons the pleasures which he wishes to purthe sighs and tears of my friends are use- sue. In order to conciliate his desires with less; yet they have nothing else to bestow his remorse, he determines to try to get rid medicines take no effect-consultations come of the thought of religion. Thus he becomes to nothing-alas! not you-not my little for- an obstinate atheist, for the sake of becom tune-the whole world cannot cure me-I ing a peaceable libertine, and he cannot sin must die-It is not a preacher-it is not a quietly till he has flattered himself into a bereligious book-it is not a trifling declaimer lief that religion is chimerical. This is the -it is death itself that preaches to me- case of the first man. I feel, I know not what, shivering cold in my blood-I am in a dying sweat-my feet, my hands, every part of my body is wasted -I am more like a corpse than a living body-I am rather dead than alivemust die-Whither am I going? What will become of me? What will become of my body? My God! what a frightful spectacle! I see it! The horrid torches-the dismal shroud-the coffin-the pall-the tolling bell-the subterranean abode-carcases -worms-putrefaction-What will become of my soul? I am ignorant of its destiny-I am tumbling headlong into eternal night--my infidelity tells me my soul is nothing but a portion of subtle matter-another world a vision-immortality a fancy-But yet, I feel, I know not what that troubles my infidelity -annihilation, terrible as it is, would appear tolerable to me, were not the ideas of heaven and hell to present themselves to me, in spite of myself-But I see that heaven, that immortal mansion of glory shut against me-I see
The second man resolves to refuse nothing to his sensual appetites, to gratify all his wishes without restraint, and to procure all the pleasures that a worldly life can afford. The same thought agitates him, the thought of religion. The idea of an offended Benefactor, of an angry Supreme Judge, of an eternal salvation neglected, of hell contemned, each of these ideas poisons the pleasures which he wishes to pursue. He takes a different method of conciliating his desires with his remorse. He does not persuade himself that there is no benefactor; but he renders himself insensible to his benefits. He does not flattor himself into the disbelief of a Supreme Judge; but he dares his majestic authority. He does not think salvation a chimera; but he hardens his heart against its attractive charms. He does not question whether there be a hell; but he ridicules its torments. This is the case of the second man. The task, which we take the liberty to assign you, is to examine, but to examine coolly and
deliberately, which of these two men is the | tion, whether they be not more odious themmost guilty. selves than those whom they account the most odious of mankind, I mean skeptics and atheists! May each of us be enabled to improve the means which God has employed to save us! May our faith and obedience be crowned! and may we be admitted with Lazarus into the bosom of the Father of the faithful! The Lord hear our prayers! To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
Would to God, our hearers had no other interest in the examination of this question than what compassion for the misery of others gave them! May the many false Christians, who live in impenitence, and who felicitate themselves for not living in infidelity, be sincerely affected, dismayed, and ashained of giving occasion for the ques
THE ADVANTAGES OF REVELATION.
1 COR. i. 21.
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 that believe.
IT is a celebrated saying of Tertullian, my brethren, that every mechanic among Christians knew God, and could make him known to others. Tertullian spoke thus by way of contrast to the conduct of the philosopher Thales towards Cræsus the king. Croesus asked this philosopher, What is God? Thales (by the way, some relate the same story of Simonides), required one day to consider the matter, before he gave his answer. When one day was gone, Croesus asked him again, What is God? Thales entreated two days to consider. When two days were expired, the question was proposed to him again; he besought the king to grant him four days. After four days he required eight: after eight, sixteen; and in this manner he continued to procrastinate so long, that the king, impatient at his delay, desired to know the reason of it. O king! said Thales, be not astonished that I defer my answer. It is a question in which my insufficient reason is lost. The oftener I ask myself, What is God? the more incapable I find myself, of answering. New difficulties arise every moment, and my knowledge diminishes as my inquiries increase.
Tertullian hereupon takes an occasion to triumph over the philosophers of paganism, and to make an eulogium on Christianity, Thales, the chief, of the wise men of Greece; Thales, who has added the erudition of Egypt to the wisdom of Greece; Thales cannot inform the king what God is! The meanest Christian knows more than he. What man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of a man which is in him: even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God,' 1 Cor. ii. 11. The Christian has more understanding than all his teachers,' according to the Psalmist, Ps. cxix. 99; for, as far as the light of revelation is above that of nature, so far is the meanest Christian above the wisest heathen philosopher.
Of this superiority of knowledge we intend
to treat to-day. This St. Paul had in view in the first chapters of this epistle, and particularly in the text. But in order to a thorough knowledge of the apostle's meaning, we must explain his terms, and mark the oc casion of them. With this explication we begin.
Greece, of which Corinth was a considerable city, was one of those countries which honoured the sciences, and which the sciences honoured in return. It was the opinion there, that the prosperity of a state depended as much on the culture of reason, and on the establishment of literature, as on a well disciplined army, or an advantagecus trade; and that neither opulence nor grandeur were of any value in the hands of men who were destitute of learning and good sense. In this they were worthy of emulation and praise. At the same time, it was very deplorable that their love of learning should often be an occasion of their ignorance. Nothing is more common in academies and universities (indeed it is an imperfection almost inseparable from them) than to see each science alternately in vogue; each branch of literature becomes fashionable in its turn, and some doctor presides over reason and good sense, so that sense and reason are nothing without his approbation. In St. Paul's time, philosophy was in fashion in Greece; not a sound chaste philosophy, that always took reason for its guide (a kind of science, which has made greater progress in our times than in all preceding ages); but a philosophy full of prejudices, subject to the authority of the heads of a sect which was then most in vogue, expressed politely, and to use the language of St. Paul, proposed with the words which man's wisdom teacheth,' 1 Cor. ii. 13. Without this philosophy, and this eloquence, people were despised by the Greeks. The apos tles were very little versed in these sciences. The gospel they preached was formed upon another plan; and they who preached it were destitute of these ornaments: accord
ingly they were treated by the far greater part with contempt. The want of these was a great offence to the Corinthians. They could not comprehend, that a doctrine, which came from heaven, could be inferior to human sciences. St. Paul intended in this epistle to guard the Corinthians against this objection, and to make an apology for the gospel, and for his ministry. The text is an abridgment of his apology.
intelligence. The superior intelligence, whom they take for their guide, is JESUS CHRIST; and the testimony, to which they submit, is the gos pel. Our meaning will be clearly conveyed by a remarkable passage of Tertullian, who shows the difference between him, whom St. Paul calls wise, and him whom he calls a believer. On the famous words of St. Paul to the Colossians, Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, chap. ii. 8, says this father; St. Paul had seen at Athens that human wisdom, which curtaileth and disguiseth the truth. He had seen, that some heretics, endeavoured to mix that wis dom with the gospel. But what communion hath Jerusalem with Athens? the church with the academy? heretics with true Christians? Solomon's porch is our porch. We have no need of speculation, and discussion, after we have known Jesus Christ and his gospel. When we believe we ask nothing more; for it is an article of our faith, that he who believes, needs no other ground of his faith than the gospel.' Thus speaks Tertullian.
But why does St. Paul call the gospel,' the foolishness of preaching? It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.' Besides, he calls it, the foolishness of God: the foolishness of God is wiser than men,' ver. 25. And he adds, ver. 27, God hath chosen the foolish thing of the world to confound the wise.'
The occasion of the words of the text is a key to the sense of each expression; it explains those terms of the apostle which need explanation, as well as the meaning of the whole proposition: 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 that believe.'
The wisdom, or the learning, of which St. Paul speaks, is philosophy. This, I think, is incontestable. The first Epistle to the Corinthians, I grant, was written to two sorts of Christians, to some who came from the profession of Judaism, and to others who came from the profession of paganism. Some commentators doubt whether, by the wise, of whom St. Paul often speaks in this chapter, we are to understand Jews or pagan philosophers: whether by wisdom, we are to understand the system of the synagogue, or the system of the porch. They are inclined to take the words in the former sense, because the Jews usually called their divines, and philosophers, wise men, and gave the name of wisdom to every branch of knowledge. Theology they called, wisdom concerning God; natural philosophy they called, wisdom concerning nature; astronomy they called, wisdom concerning the stars; and so of the rest. But, although we grant the truth of this remark, we deny the application of it here. It seems very clear to us, that St. Paul, through out this chapter, gave the Pagan philoso phers the appellation wise, which they affected. The verse, that follows the text, makes this very plain: the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:' that is to say, the Greeks are as earnestly desirous of philosophy, as the Jews of miracles. By wisdom, in the text, then, we are to understand philosophy. But the more fully to comprehend the meaning of St. Paul, we must define this philosophy agreeably to his ideas. Philosophy, then, is that science of God, and of the chief good, which is grounded, not on the testimony of any superior intelligence, but on the speculations and discoveries of our own
There are two more expressions in our text, that need explaining; the foolishness of preaching,' and 'them that believe: 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 that believe. They who believe, are a class of people, who take a method of knowing God opposite to that of philosophers. Philosophers determine to derive all their notions of God, and of the chief good, from their own speculations. Believers, on the contrary convinced of the imperfection of their reason, and of the narrow limits of their knowledge, derive their religious ideas from the testimony of a superior
It is usual with St. Paul, and the style is not peculiar to him, to call an object not by: name descriptive of its real nature, but by a name expressive of the notions that are formed of it in the world, and of the effects that are produced by it. Now, the gospel being considered by Jews and heathens as a foolish system, St. Paul calls it, foolishness. That this was the apostle's meaning two passages prove. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are FOOLISHNESS UNTO HIM,' chap. ii. 14. You see, then, in what sense the gospel is foolishness; it is so called, because it appears so to a natural man. Again, We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and UNTO THE GREEKS FOOLISHNESS.' You see in what sense the gospel is called foolishness; it is because the doctrine of Jesus Christ crucified, which is the great doctrine of the gospel, was treated as foolishness. The history of the preaching of the apostles fully justifies our comment. The doctrines of the gospel, in general, and that of a God-man crucified, in particular, were reputed foolish. 'We are accounted fools,' says Justin Martyr, for giving such an eminent rank to a crucified man," The wise men of the world,' says St. Augustine, insult us, and ask, Where is your reason and intelligence, when you wor ship a man who was crucified ?'t
These two words, wisdom and foolishness being thus explained, I think we may easily understand the whole text. 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 that believe.' To know God is a short phrase, expressive of an idea of the virtues necessary to salvation; it
* Apol. Secund. Serm. viii. de verbo Apost.
of our own wisdom, but to make us the rich present of revelation.
We will enter into this discussion by placing on the one side, a philosopher, contemplating the works of nature; on the other, a disciple of Jesus Christ, receiving the doctrines of revelation. To each we will give four subjects to examine the attributes of God; the nature of man; the means of appeasing the remorse of conscience; and a future state. From their judgments on each of these subjects, evidence will arise of the superior worth of that revelation, which some minute philosophers affect to despise, and above which they prefer that rough draught which they sketch out by their own learned speculations.
I. Let us consider a disciple of natural religion, and a disciple of revealed religion, meditating on the attributes of God. When the disciple of natural religion considers the symmetry of this universe; when he observes that admirable uniformity, which appears in the succession of seasons, and in the constant rotation of night and day; when he remarks the exact motions of the heavenly bodies; the flux and reflux of the sea, so ordered that billows, which swell into mountains, and seem to threaten the world with a universal deluge, break away on the shore, and respect on the beach the command of the Creator, who, said to the sea, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed,' Job xxxviii. 11; when he attends to all these marvellous works, he will readily conclude, that the Author of nature is a being powerful and wise. But when he observes, winds, tempests and earthquakes, which seem to threaten the reduction of nature to its primitive chaos; when he sees the sea overflow its banks, and burst the enormous moles, that the industry of mankind had raised; his speculations will be perplexed, he will imagine he sees characters of imperfection among so many proofs of creative perfection and power.
When he thinks that God, having enriched the habitable world with innumerable productions of infinite worth to the inhabitant, has placed man here as a sovereign in a su
The apostle says, After the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God to save believers by the foolishness of preaching.' That is to say, since the mere systems of reaBon were eventually insufficient for the salvation of mankind, and since it was impossible that their speculations should obtain the true knowledge of God, God took another way to instruct them: he revealed by preaching the gospel, what the light of nature could not discover, so that the system of Jesus Christ, and his apostles, supplied all that was wanting in the systems of the ancient philosophers. But it is not in relation to the ancient philosophers only that we mean to consider the proposition in our text; we will examine it also in reference to modern philosophy. Our philosophers know more than all those of Greece knew; but their science, which is of perb palace; when he considers how admiraunspeakable advantage, while it contains itself bly God has proportioned the divers parts of within its proper sphere, becomes a source of the creation to the construction of the human errors when it is extended beyond it. Human body, the air to the lungs, aliments to the reason now lodges itself in new intrench- different humours of the body, the medium ments, when it refuses to submit to the faith. by which objects are rendered visible to the It even puts on new armour to attack it, after eyes, that by which sounds are communicatit has invented new methods of self-defence. ed to the ears; when he remarks how God Under pretence that natural science has made has connected man with his own species, and greater progress, revelation is despised. Un- not with animals of another kind; how he der pretence that modern notions of God the has distributed talents, so that some requir Creator are purer than those of the ancients, ing the assistance of others, all should be the yoke of God the Redeemer is shaken off mutually united together; how he has bound We are going to employ the remaining part men together by visible ties, so that one canof this discourse in justifying the proposition not see another in pain without a sympathy of St. Paul in the sense that we have given it: that inclines him to relieve him: when the we are going to endeavour to prove, that re- disciple of natural religion meditates on vealed religion has advantages infinitely su- these grand subjects, he concludes that the perior to natural religion that the greatest Author of nature is a beneficent being. But geniuses are incapable of discovering by their when he sees the innumerable miseries to own reason all the truths necessary to salva- which men are subject; when he finds that Lion and that it displays the goodness of every creature which contributes to support, God, not to abandon us to the uncertainties contributes at the same time to destroy us;
is equal to the term theology, that is, science concerning God; a body of doctrine, containing all the truths which are necessary to salvation. Agreeably to this, St. Paul explains the phrase to know God, by the expression, to be saved. 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 that believe :' and, a little lower, what he had called knowing God,' he calls 'knowing the mind of the Lord,' chap. ii. 16, that is, knowing that plan of salvation which God has formed in regard to man.
When therefore the apostle said, 'The world by wisdom knew not God,' he meant, that the heathens had not derived from the light of nature all the help necessary to enable them to form adequate notions of God, and of a worship suited to his perfections. Above all, he meant to teach us, that it was impossible for the greatest philosophers to discover by the light of nature all the truths that compose the system of the gospel, and particularly the doctrine of a crucified Redeemer. The accomplishment of the great mystery of redemption depended on the pure will of God, and, consequently, it could be known only by revelation. With this view, he calls the mysteries of revelation things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, but which God hath revealed by his Spirit,' ver. 9, 10.