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spised as they deserve, philofophical morality is set up in the place of gospel-holiness, and mens own righteousness in place of the righteousness of God, and the grace of God, on which only true and undefia, led religion can fubfift. As it was then, so it has continued ever since, the most zealous contenders for these are most remiss in the weightier matters of the law.'
So the Apostle says it was then. The enormous zeal for the law of Moses was no more but a fair shew, to recommend theme selves to those who had the power in their hands, and could screen them from the persecution which the honest professors of Christianity were exposed to on account of the cross of Christ. And that it was no more, he proves by an unquestionable evidence. Had they been sincere in their profession, their regard to the law would have engaged them to a thorough conformity to it in their practice: But that was not the case. They did not keep the law; but while they exerted such a flaming zeal for the external and circumftantial parts, they neglected the weightier and most substantial matters of the law, judgement, mercy, and faith, Matt, xxiii. 23.
What they aimed at was, to magnify their own importance, by the number of proselytes they had made; which the Apostle very justly calls boasting, or glorying in their flesh.
What the Apostle fays of the cross of Christ being the great object of the Jewish malice against Christianity, and the reason of their persecuting the professors of it, which yet he makes the sole subject of his own boasting and glorying, vers. 14. needs to be carefully considered ; as by comparing these two different lights, we may be able to make out some just notion of the true meaning of that term the cross, among those who best understood the genius and constitution of the Christian religion in those early and purest times, before the simplicity and beauty of it was defaced by the inventions of men. , .
And here we may be very fure, that by the cross of Christ, they did not mean the material cross upon which Christ suffered. It was certainly greatly below the Apostle's good sense, to say no more of him, to glory or boast in a piece of timber; nay, it was even below the Jews, however stupid they may be thought, ta
point their resentment against it, so that one may justly wonder how it should ever have become an object of religious veneration. It was Christ crucified, and dying upon a cross, which was a stumbling-block to The Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks; but which was indeed the power of God, and the wisdom of God, i Cor. i. 23. 24.
The malice and rage of the Jewish leaders seems to have been mainly, if not folely, founded in their unhappy mistake concerning the nature of the Messiah's kingdom, promised and prophesied of by the prophets. As fpiritual things cannot be brought under human conception, but by images and analogous representations, taken from the state of things in this sensible world ; the poinpous descriptions of the spiritual glory of that kingdom under these images, very naturally led them to promise themselves a worldly kingdom more extensive, and of course more glorious, than all that had been before it, extending unto the very utmost ends of the earth. And the prospect would be the more agreeable, that they were then held under the opprefiive yoke of the Romans,
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from which they expected their Messiah should save and deliver them, and give them the pleasure, (the greatest that worldly men can have), to bring their oppressors under the same bondage to them.
When 'therefore Jesus came as he did, with such a mean outward appearance, he was by no means a Messiah to their taste: and notwithstanding the astonishing miracles by which he attested his divine miffion, they looked upon him as a deceiver of the people, and condemned him as a blafphemer, for saying what their expected Messiah must have said, whenever he came into the world. A suffering Mefliah they had no notion of; and though he could not bave been the Christ, if, according to Moses and the prophets, he had not suffered, before he entered into his glory, they ignorantly concluded, that when they had brought him to the cross, that there must be an end of his pretensions; and the more fo, that, according to their notions of the law, he was a very 'notorious finner, by transgressing those traditions which they held to be of equal authority with the laws given by Moses. But as he professed to be the King of the
Jews, and plainly declared, that the design of his coming was to set up a kingdom that should never be moved, they thought there was a necessity of putting him to death, left the Romans should be provoked to come and cut off the whole nation, as he who professed to be their king was, according to their notions of him, 'urterly incapable of defending them.
Thus the cross of Christ became a stumþling-block to the Jews; but more so, when he was declared to be the Son of God with power, by his resurrection from the dead, and the glory that followed. When this same Jesus who submitted to be crucified ascended up into heaven, had all power and authority in heaven and in earth lodged in his hand, and instructed it by the highest exertion of power, even by sending the Holy Spirit, according to his promise, on his disciples and followers, and that in such a palpable man
ner, as left no room for doubt or dif· pute: And when they themselves were char
ged home by his aposțles with the horrible. crime of being the betrayers and murderers of the Son of God, it was no wonder that they were filled with the utmost an. 3 M 2