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the world. And if he knows not the proper character of Jesus Christ, there is little or no probability of his reaping benefit from the work of his ministry.
It shall be my object therefore so to explain the words of the Text, in conformity with the general tenor of Scripture, that they may become a kind of fixed standard, both for the establishment of faith and the regulation of practice: that the member of the Christian Church may become perfect in the sense in which that word is applied to him by the Apostle ; that having been made acquainted with the plan of Salvation by Jesus Christ, he may through Grace become finally qualified for the possession of it.
The words of the Text were originally addressed to the Gentile and Jewish converts, in the Church of Corinth. They contain a suinmary of Gospel blessings, strikingly adapted to the respective condition of the parties in question. And they shew, in brief, the manner, in which the Christian Religion corrected the errors and depravities of Heathenism, by substituting true wisdom for extravagant folly; at the
same time that it supplied the defects, by realizing the shadows of the Law; thereby perfecting the great plan of Salvation by Jesus Christ.
“Christ, (says the Apostle,) is made unto us wisdom,"
To understand what is here meant by this expression, we must know to what particular subject it applies, and on what occasion it was originally made use of.
St. Paul, in the opening of the Epistle from whence the words of the Text are taken, is calling his disciples at Corinth to account, for the divisions that had taken place among them. These divisions, as they were given to understand, had been occasioned chiefly by the preference given to some Ministers above others; in consequence of superior abilities which they were supposed to possess. To counteract a prejudice, which could not fail to destroy that unity and harmony, by which the members of the Christian Church should at all times be joined together; St. Paul enters into argument on this subject, with the view of convincing his disciples at Corinth; that wisdom, in the worldly ac
ceptation of the word, had much less to do with the preaching of the Gospel than they vainly imagined.
“ Christ (says he) sent me to preach the Gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the Cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”-1 Cor.
Lest, in consequence of the attention being fixed upon the eloquence and abilities of the preacher, the goodness of God, in the Redemption of the world by Jesus Christ, should be disregarded : and thus the disciple led to look to man rather than to God, as the Author of his Salvation. In such case indeed the Cross of Christ must become of none effect.
At the time when this Epistle was written, the seat of the Roman Empire, had attained to the highest pitch of civilized perfection. Philosophy, following the fate of arms, had there fixed her residence; and the state, to which the arts and sciences had advanced at this important period, appears to authorize a conclusion, that the powers of the human mind, had been carried to the extent of their natural exertion.
Had the wisdom of this world then been necessary to the propagation of the Christian cause, it would doubtless have been employed. But the wisdom of this world was become so foolish in the eyes of God, that it was not to be honoured with so divine a work. On the contrary, its imposing authority was, on this occasion, to be scrupulously guarded against. And for the following very evident reason. The wise men of the heathen world, with all their boasted knowledge, neither knew God, nor the relation in which man stood to his Maker. In searching after what they called wisdom, they had totally lost the way to all true knowledge; having, according to the Apostle's description, “ their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that was in them.” Eph. iv. 18.
In fact, their wisdom was even unable to preserve the world from that most wretched state of mental depravity, which was a disgrace to rational beings; in consequence of which, “they changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into an image made like to corruptible man), and
to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things; changing (as the Apostle strongly expresses it) the truth of God into a lie, and worshipping the creature more than the Creator.” Rom. i. 25.
In fact, the further men dispersed from the patriarchal seats, where Revelation was never extinguished, and came the pearer to an uninstructed state, which is properly that of nature; the deeper they sunk in ignorance and barbarity. In the strong words of Job, they sat“ in a land of darkness, as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death; without any order, and where the light is as darkness.” Job. x. 22.
Such was natural Religion, even when accompanied with the boasted advantages of worldly wisdom. Let its advocates*
* Dr. Clarke, whose object it was to place the case of the heathens in the most favourable point of view, is obliged to make use of a scale of diminution, when describing their condition. “Men, (says he) without the assistance of Revelation, did not attain to a right knowledge of God, in any considerable degree: some argued themselves out of the belief of the very being of God; and in these enquiries, wherein they professed them