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MYSTERIES OF THE GOSPEL TO BE BELIEVED THOUGH INCOMPREHENSIBLE.
1 CORINTHIANS, ii. 11.
"For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God."
THE argument of the Apostle, conveyed to us in the language of the text, must be equally convincing and satisfactory to every one possessed of common sense, and a common regard for the welfare of his immortal soul. The epistle, from whence this text has been selected, was addressed by St. Paul to the church at Corinth, and was intended to furnish them with a general view of the nature and design of the religion which they had recently embraced, and of the practical duties which were necessarily inherent in it, and which of course could not be separated from it. It opens with a declaration of the harmonious integrity of the gospel, of its consistency with itself, and of the consequent impropriety of those persons' conduct who
fomented divisions and disputes within the church to which they all equally professed to belong.
The world, as the Apostle insists, despite the wisdom to which a certain portion of it laid claim, knew nothing whatever of the essence and the attributes of the Deity: "The world by wisdom knew not God." Hence it followed, that all those disputes and differences, even among the professed disciples of Christ, must have been perfectly useless, and even unlawful, inasmuch as the entire word of God proclaimed all that was necessary to be known, and from its clearness and perspicuity, could not admit of uncertainty or doubt. "Christ crucified" was the great corner stone to which the whole superstructure of the Christian edifice was affixed; to the Jews, indeed, a stumbling block, because, in spite of the miraculous proof which our Lord afforded them to the contrary, they obstinately persisted in regarding the promised Messiah as a temporal prince, who should, by deeds of conquest, raise their country to its former splendour and power; and to the Greeks "foolishness," because their philosophy and mere worldly wisdom could not explain to them how the murder of the man Jesus could be the means of reconciling sinners unto God. 66 But," as the Apostle further declares, "unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Is it, then, you may probably ask, that the mysterious reconciliation of man to his Maker, by the sacrifice of the man Jesus, is more intelligible to
one set of men than it is to another? Is it that the great and mysterious dogma which has been a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks, is more comprehensible to them who are designated as those who "are called?" Undoubtedly, brethren, not. We none of us understand how it is, or why it is, that the sacrifice of Jesus, once offered, can be a fair and reasonable satisfaction unto God for the offences of a sinful world. We know not, indeed, the "how" or the "why;" as we know not how God could make the world by a mere word, and why he permitted man, the work of his hands, to sin and rebel against him. We know, nevertheless, that these things are so; because we see them, or because we have sufficient evidence that they are so. And, for a similar reason, we know "Christ crucified;" the effectual reconciliation of sinners unto God by this mysterious event; we know it because, though mere worldly wisdom never can explain its efficacy to us, yet have we been assured of it on the testimony of God, "whose foolishness is wiser than men." We plainly see, therefore, with the Word of God before our eyes, authenticated and confirmed as it is by the testimony of all ages—by the fulfilment of prophecies and the performance of miracles, that though the redeeming influence of Christ's death be such as the greatest wisdom of the world never could have suggested, and never can explain, yet is it to be received as a fact whose truth is not to be doubted. The argument, therefore, of the Apostle, as contained
in the text, is both comprehensive and unanswerable. The material substance of which our bodies consist, is altogether unequal to the knowledge or the comprehension of any thing whatever. The mere body of man, divested of the living soul, possesses no more comprehension than does a beast of the field, or even a tree of the forest. With the living soul, however, termed by the Apostle, in the text, the spirit of man, it is widely different. The spirit of man, according to a perfect and benevolent law of the Creator established at the beginning of time, possesses the faculty of intelligence or comprehension. Man, therefore, different from all other works of the creation, whether living or dead, is enabled to exercise a faculty which is denied to these. In this regard, indeed, he is not only unlike the other objects of God's workmanship, but he bears a resemblance to the Creator himself: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." In this respect were mankind peculiarly "blessed" by God, who said unto them, "be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." the earth." It does not follow, however, that though the Almighty raised man above the other objects of his workmanship, he placed him on an equality with himself. As reasonable would it be to assert that brutes are on an equality with man, because equally with man they are gifted
with the breath of life, and possess the power of movement, as to equalize the spirit, that is, the intellectual part of man with that of his Creator, because man possesses a spirit in common with his Creator. The Almighty, therefore, in making man like himself, hath not made him equal to himself. In other words, there are limits to the human understanding, whereas the intelligence of God is unbounded; His wisdom is infinite!
In respect of those for whom the blessings of the Redemption are intended, the Apostle, using the words of Isaiah, says, "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. But God," he continues in his own language, "hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit : for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." And then, evidently anticipating the objection that men could not be expected to believe what they did not comprehend, he says in effect, that as man by the spirit which is in him knoweth things which other animals without this spirit do not know, so God, by his Divine Spirit, knoweth things above the comprehension of man, and which are peculiar to himself. And he afterwards explicitly declares, that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: that is, men in a state of nature, who merely had that spirit within them which is common to all men, who even possessed the advantages of education and civilization like the Jews and