Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

was not that wisdom which comes to nought, and which in God's sight is foolishness, but the bidden wisdom of God in a mystery. The apostle's style was excel. lent in the highest degree. It was plain and scriptural: and if, as Peter says, some things written by him were hard to be understood, it was because the things themselves were mysterious, not because his words were obscure. The apostle gives the reason why he did not make it his business to recommend himself to men that admired a showy superficial wisdom and eloquence, because his chief, his only business among them, was, " to know Christ, and him crucified.”

For understanding the words, it is proper to observe, that the knowledge the apostle is here speaking of is the knowledge of religion, or of the way to eternal life. There is no design here to disparage the knowledge of necessary worldly affairs, which though the worst of men sometimes excel in, yet the best of men, in some measure, need, that they may be useful members of society. A man's not being slothful in business, needs not hinder his being fervent in spirit, serving the Lord : and though human arts and sciences are not necessary to all, yet it is needful for society that there should be some acquainted with them; and it is probable Panl himself was not wholly ignorant of them. But he counted that and all other things loss and dung to the knowledge in the text, and the knowledge of the way to the favour and to the image of God, to holiness, and to happiness. And as to these, he knew, that Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life. There are two expressions used here to signify the object of saving knowledge, “ Christ," and " him crucified.” The knowledge of Christ, in general, comprehends the knowledge of his person, his offices, his benefits, our need of him, his sufficiency and willingness to save, not excluding the knowledge of his precepts, since conformity to them is one principal benefit he has purchased for, and bestowed upon us, one chief

effect of his offices, and one chief branch of his image. The knowledge of Christ crucified signifies, more particularly, the doctrine of his sacrifice for sin, on which all the other doctrines of Christ have so great a dependence.

The apostle tells, that as this was all that he taught among the Corinthians, so it was not the result of forgetfulness, but of deliberate determination. The force and strength of the apostle's expre-sion is remarkable ; he determined to know nothing save this. This signifies more than merely to affirm, that this is a part, a necessary part, of Christian saving know. ledge. It intimates, that it is in a manner the whole, the principal doctrine of religion which virtually comprehends all the rest; all other necessary principles of saving knowledge being either supposed, and contained in it, or such as may be necessarily inferred from it; and the best view we can have of every 0ther part of knowledge of spiritual things being by considering it with relation to this.

It is useful, for giving further light to this, as well as many other texts in the writings of Paul, to observe, that in the church of Corinth, and several other churches to which he writes, besides the open enemies of Christianity, the unbelieving Jews and Heathen, there were others who handled the word of God deceitfully, of whom Paul tells the Philippians, that they were enemies of the cross of Christ. The character of these may be briefly collected out of plain scriptures; and it is useful to consider it because they have had their successors in all principal part of it was, as we read, Col. ii. and Phil. iii. that they placed a great part of religion in external things: Touch not, taste not, handle not; after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world. Their zeal for the ceremonial law was superstition, since God had abolished it. Besides, they spoiled mens souls with vain philosophy, seducing them from the simplicity of the gospel : and though they professed to believe Christ was sent from God,

ages. A

These men

they frustrated the grace of God, and made it of no effect. The epistle to the Galatians was written of purpose against them; but almost in all the epistles of Paul, he gives us some hint of them. had a particular contempt of Paul's mission, which he was therefore obliged to defend. They despised his person and appearance as mean and unpromising, and his style as rude and unpolished, and they traduced his doctrine as absurd and enthusiastical. Hence Paul uses so strong expressions to show, that what those men so much neglected and overlooked, was the thing they ought chiefly to have considered, in divine revelation.

The doctrine, therefore, that I shall discourse from these words is this, That the knowledge of Christ, and him crucified, is the sum and substance of saving knowledge, the life and soul of the Chri. stian religion, the chief scope and design of the word of God. This plainly follows from the text. Paul believed all Scripture to be given of God, and to be profitable; and therefore was determined, no doubt, to know all that was in the Scripture ; and yet he was determined to know nothing but Christ, and him crucified ; which shows, that in one view there is nothing in Scripture but this; for all other doctrines have this for their scope and design. The doctrine of the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ; and the doctrine of our 'sin and misery gives the knowledge of our need of him. Paul declared the whole counsel of God, and would not have rec. koned himself free of the blood of souls, if he had withheld any part of it.

So that from this text we are not to think, that Paul's knowledge was confined within narrow bounds, but that the knowledge of Christ is exceeding broad; and that he who knows the love of Christ is filled with all the fulness of God,

1. In discoursing on this point, I design, through God's grace, in the first place, to propose some general observations concerning the writings of the

apostles, and the other Scriptures, proper to make an impression upon us of this truth, That this doctrine of the mystery of redemption is the chief scope and design of the whole volume of God's book.

1. Concerning the writings of the apostles, it is useful for us, that we divide the contents of them, as we may justly do, into what is doctrinal and practical: for though all the doctrines are practical, yet there is a difference between what we are to believe and to practise ; the doctrines chiefly representing to us what God has done for us, and the precepts, what we ourselves ought to do. Now, if we distinguish what is doctrinal in the contents of the apos. tles writings, and what is practical, we shall see, that if in any large passage the knowledge of Christ is not the subject, there the holy penmen are treating, not of the doctrines, but of the precepts, and viewing even these as connected with the knowledge of Christ crucified. Duties are considered, with relation to him, as the fountain of that strength by which they are performed, as the altar that makes them acceptable, as the pattern of them, and as the chief motive to excite to them. But in those parts of the writings of the apostles where they are treating of the doctrines of Christianity, there is nothing more evident to all who seriously peruse them, than this, that the blessed and glorious mystery of God manifested in the flesh, to redeem his church by his own blood, wholly takes up the room ; and that the apostles are always either discoursing of the truth and certainty, the beauty and excellency, the unsearchable fruits, or the manner of partaking of it. It would be desirable, that all who doubt of the truth of this would follow the example of the noble Bereans, who searched the Scriptures to see if these things indeed were so.

2. A second general observation arises from the names given to the preaching of Christianity in the New Testament. It is called preaching Christ Je sus, – preuching the cross of Christ, -preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. Now, it is certain, the name of any doctrine is never taken from any thing that it mentions only by the by, or from any of its least considerable branches, but from what is the chief and principal' scope and design of it. It is the gospel concerning Jesus Christ that has him, not only for its author, but for its chief sabject matter. The doctrine of Moses and the apostles could not be called a doctrine concerning Moses and the apostles, as the gospel is called the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, in the beginning of the epistle to the Romans, and other places.

3. Another general confirmation of this may be drawn from those scriptures that represent as the most dangerous and most sinful ignorance, the ignorance of Christ, and of the redemption wrought by him. Thus, Rom. ix. where Paul is discoursing of the blindness of the Jews, he tells us, that he was in heaviness and great sorrow for them continually. So great sorrow, and so continual, should make us curious to know the cause of it. Paul's expression has astonished his readers in all ages, when he says, he was contented to be accursed from Christ for the Jews, that they might be delivered from that blindness. This should excite us to know what that blindness was. The Jews were not downright Atheists ; they did not deny the being of God, nor his attributes, nor his providence, nor his laws; nay, they were very zealous for all these. They did not deny the writ. ings of the Old Testament, which indeed contain the gospel as well as the law, and a very large account of Christ's history and his doctrine.

We are acquainted, Rom. x. 3. what that blindness was which occasioned this astonishing concern : “ For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God." That the righteousness of God here signifies that righteousness which God the Son wrought out by his sacrifice and obedience,

« ForrigeFortsæt »