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is it the only instance, in which it has “
pleased God to choose the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” Those, who set too high a value upon the unassisted powers of reason ; upon progress it is capable of making and the depths it is able to fathom; may here be instructed, first, that the most extraordinary revolution in the world was achieved, and the most valuable knowledge imparted to man, without employing the agency of human wisdom. For it is a fact which, although we have before considered it, cannot be too often repeated or too earnestly inculcated--that neither “the wise nor the scribe, nor the disputer of this world,” neither the shrewd politician, the profound philosopher, nor the subtle logician, were at all concerned in first spreading the truths and extending the advantages of Christianity
The second lesson of humility, which is inculcated upon the advocates for the all sufficiency of the human understanding, is afforded by the discovery that human reason, after repeated trials, was utterly incompetent to find out with sufficient clearness, and to establish with sufficient authority, the great truths, from whence our obligations as moral agents arise, and upon which our happiness depends. After the trial that was made by the greatest philosophers and acutest reasoners of antiquity, shall infidels of the present day flatter themselves into a persuasion, that the powers of their own minds, employed in the contemplation of nature, will enable them to discover every important truth in morality, and theology? If any be deluded into such belief, they must needs be reminded that they have borrowed their evidence and assurance of those very truths from revelation, and then disavow the source, from whence their confidence is derived. Such conduct in matters of mere science would be ridiculed and exposed. If a philosopher should pretend now to discover the aberration of the fixed stars, or the precession of the equinoxes, we should deride his attempt to impose upon our understanding by aiming at the praise of originality of invention : but it seems that the presumption, which would be justly exploded in a subject of physical science, may be practised with impunity, and even regarded with attention, when the first author of the discovery is the Deity, and the object no less than eternal life.
We may therefore for the best reasons refuse our assent to any one who shall argue, as unbelievers have been known to argue, that the book of nature is the only volume, in which the will of God is written; for that book was laid open to Plato and to Cicero and to all the wise men of antiquity; and they could not make the discoveries, which the deist pretends to make there. When moreover we are assured, that even Socrates, at the most awful moment of his life, fluctuated between hope and fear, with respect to a future state; and that Cato embraced the hope of immortality rather as a delightful error, than a wellgrounded expectation, we are led to conclude, that the human understanding could not have attained such certainty with respect to the Being and Unity of God, or with respect to a future life, as to operate with effect upon human conduct, without the aid and the light of Christianity.
But above and beyond all other lessons, which may be learned from the words of the text, let me in conclusion turn your attention to that great discovery of the Gospel, which is the pledge of our pardon and acceptance before God. “We preach Christ crucified;" we proclaim that awful “mystery of godliness; God manifest in the flesh,” yet “humbling Himself even to the death upon the Cross for us, miserable sinners.”
Here indeed is the highest exercise of our faith; the strongest incentive to our humility; at once the proof and the remedy of the corruption of our earthly nature, the foundation of all our hope that it may be exalted into a participation with the heavenly. No wonder that, at the first announcement of this amazing fact, it proved to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness ;” but with us; who have never been benighted with Heathen ignorance, nor beset with Jewish prejudice; who can carefully compare the prophecies before the birth of our Lord with the stupendous events, by which they were fulfilled ; with us, wonder subsides into gratitude, and derision is extinguished by conviction. Joyfully therefore do we recognize the truth, and humbly do we claim the benefits, of this dispensation. Deeply impressed with a sense of our own unworthiness, yet placing full reliance upon the merits of Christ, we bow in lowliness of heart before the Cross, and hail our great Redeemer as at once “ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
ST PAUL, SINCERE IN HIS PROFESSION OF THE GOSPEL ;
AND AN EXAMPLE OF TRUE ZEAL.
Philipp. 1.' 23, 24.
I AM IN A STRAIT BETWIXT TWO, HAVING A DESIRE
DEPART, AND TO BE WITH CHRIST; WHICH 18 FAR BETTER: HUNEVERTHELESS TO ABIDE IN THE FLESH IS MORE NEEDFUL FOR YOU. ;
I think no candid and reflecting mind can peruse the Epistles of St. Paul without being satisfied, that he was a man of sense,' and in earnest. I do not here refer to some obscure portions of these writings; which are perhaps obscure because we do not, at this time of day, so distinctly' comprehend the subjects upon which he was writing, and the peculiar manner in which he has handled them; such as points of controversy, connected with the Jewish law, and treated according to the modes of disputation in Jewish schools. Still less do I refer to those passages; where he distinctly lays claim to Divine inspiration, and talks of visions and other special communications from Heaven. The former set of passages I set aside for the present, because it is not possible to form an accurate judgement of a man's intellect, where he is not clearly understood." I would only observe, that it is by no means unusual for the very best writers; particularly of a distant age and obsolete language; to abound in passages, which the most intelligent of their readers now cannot thoroughly understand. The latter set of passages, namely those relating to visions and miracles, I put out of the question ; because they involve the very question at issue between those who admit, and those who dispute, the validity of St. Paul's pretensions as an inspired Apostle. But, taking the mass of his writings, and excluding from our present consideration passages either of doubtful signification or such as are too closely connected with the inference Í would draw from the observation; I think I may say that an intelligent reader, looking with an unprejudiced eye through the Epistles of St. Paul, would not hesitate to state, that they are the productions of a man of good judgement, who writes as if he were in earnest.
No one certainly can deny that there are some passages, marked with a spirit of no ordinary eloquence, in these very important and interesting pages. Witness that splendid enumeration of the component qualities of charity; witness that gorgeous combination of illustration and reasoning in the 15th chapter of the same Epistle to the Corinthians. Witness again that affecting description of the duties and distresses of the Ministers of the Gospel, and particularly of his own sufferings in the sixth and eleventh chapters of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians'. As a proof of clear and correct judgement, let me refer to
* 2 Cor. vi. 3-10, xi. 21-30; see also Chap. iv. 8-10.