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66 Christ fent me, (“fays the apostle) not to bap“ tize, but to preach the gospel ; not with wisdom C6 of words, lest the cross of Christ should be of
none effect, for the preaching of the cross is to " them that perish, foolishness; but to 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 prudent. Where " is the wise, where is the scribe, where is the disa
puter of this world ? Hath not God made foolish " the wisdom of the world ? for after (in the wisdom “ of God) the world, by its wisdom, knew not God, “ it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to " fave them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, 66 and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach “ Christ crucified unto the Jews a stumbling block, " and to the Greeks foolishness ; but unto them c which are called, both Jews and Greeks, the power s of God, and the wisdom of God: because the 66 foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the 56 weakness of God is stronger than men. For you “ see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise
men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many " noble, ' have called you: but God hath chosen the “ foolish things of the world to confound the wife ; " and the weak things of the world to confound the
1 Cor. i. 17. * This important alteration in the translation, I adopt from Dr. Macknight, who has, to my mind, fully evinced its propriety.
mighty ; and base things of the world, and things “ that are despised, hath he chosen; yea, and things " that are not, to bring to nought things that are ; ts that no fleth should glory in his presence."
Bold and overstrained as this passage might seem, when we do not attend to its occafion and its context, it will, I think, appear founded on certain fact, and perfectly consistent with reason, when we reflect on the ill success of both Jews and Greeks in religious enquiries--on the violent opposition they made to Christianity on the natural weakness, and even ignorance of the first teachers of the gospel-on their success in overcoming the opposition of the Jewish Rabbies, and the Greek philosophers, by the exhibition of plain and uncontrouled miracles, with the clear discovery they made of the undoubted, but neglected and forgotten truths of natural religion to mankind, as well as of the more peculiar doctrines of the Christian scheme.
Persecution from external enemies was not, however, the only source of embarrafsment to the apostle: the opposition he encountered from mistaken zealots, or false teachers, even in the churches which he himself had planted, at the hazard of his life, was another subject of constant anxiety'; and a great part of his epistles is occupied in exposing and confuting the false doctrines which these, his opponents, had introduced ; in vindicating his character from the misrepresenta
tions and calumnies with which they had loaded it; rebuking the misconduct of those whom they had seduced ; commanding the infliction of public censure and punishment on the most gross offenders ; and threatening the obstinate and contumacious with still greater punishments, which he would himfelf inflict, by the miraculous and apostolical power with which he was invested.
Such topics as these, it would surely have been unnatural, nay, almost impossible to treat of, without a considerable degree of warmth and earneftness. We cannot wonder at the apostle being obliged, frequently, to recall to the recollection of his converts his own preaching and miracles, his labours and his his sufferings ; at his appealing to them, with the greatest earneftness, in attestation of his integrity and affection towards them ; at his urging and entreating them to adhere to that faith which he had taught; at his describing the misconduct and unworthy views of the false teachers, in the strongest colours, and pointing out the dangers they incurred by following them, in the most forcible manner.
If the conviction the apostle entertained of the divine origin of the doctrines he inculcated was firm; if his sense of their importance was exalted ; if he was fully conscious of having taught and acted with singleness of heart; if he considered the guilt of wilfully apostatizing from the truth in Chrif as great and hazardous, he could not but speak freely, and boldly, and urgeňtly, when opposed by error and calumny; when the interests of the gospel, and the virtue and happiness of those churches, which were most dear to him, were at stake. Since then a sincere teacher of divine truths, however sober ånd genuine his inspiration is supposed, must have entertained these feelings, and expressed them withi freedom and earneftness ; surely such feelings, and such a mode of expressing them, is no proof of Weakness and fanaticism.
In considering the effect which the general perfè. cuted state of the church, as well as the personal opposition particularly offered to the apostles, must have produced in their feelings and writings, it is necessary to remark, that such persecution and oppofition contribute materially to confirm the certainty of a divine interpofition at the first promulgation of Christianity ; because no human means existed to overpower such persecution, and no humañ artifice could have escaped detection, when into that very fociety, which was formed, as infidels suppose, merely by such artifice, discord and controversy so early crept, inducing some of its chief leaders to oppose and question each others opinions and pretensions ; & contest which, if these claims had not, on the part of the apostle, been founded on truth, would undoubtedly 'have exposed the fallacy by which they were fupported. It is also necessary further to remark,
that the fame circumftances give the adverfary to Christianity every advantage he could desire, for detecting enthusiasm in the writings and conduct of its first teachers, if it had really existed ; because external persecution, and internal controversy, were, of all imaginable circumstances, the most directly calculated to rouse, and to inflame the smallest sparks of enthusiasm into extravagance and violence. If then, notwithstanding this powerful bias, we difcover in the writings of the apostles clear traces of sound judgment and steady self-command, we may without hesitation conclude, that the fobriety; as well as the sincerity of their mind, has sustained the feverest trial, and been established by the fullest proof.
This conclusion applies with peculiar force to the writings of St.Paul; because his natural temper was certainly warm, his train of ideas rapid, his turn of style bold and emphatic, and his education such as was calculated to strengthen his impression of the importance of religion. A mind such as this, controuled and directed by a superintending inspiration, was an admirable instrument for the laborious task of spreading the gospel through the wide extent of the Heathen world, in despite of all opposition ; but such a mind uncontrouled, and undirected by the Spirit of God, if once infected by enthusiasm, would have exhibited it in all its extravagance, especially when agitated and irritated by such malignant persecution