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under the burden of sin, guilt, and misery; and the dread of eternal wrath from a justly-offended Creator.
We are also assured, that through death, Christ, our Lord, overcame Satan, our chief adversary, and vanquished every other spiritual enemy. He made the conquest at the very time that he seemed conquered. And now he lives for evermore the Saviour of sinners. He thus describes himself,—I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore! Amen; and have the keys of death and hell. Rev. i, 18. He rose from the grave a triumphant conqueror, and is now seated at the right hand of God, the Redeemer, Deliverer, and Intercessor of his people, even of al them that trust in him.
Such is the doctrine of a crucified Redeemer. It is the centre of all other truths. They all flow from this, they all cling to this, and hang round this; it is the support, and stay, and illustration of every other revealed truth. Hence we may observe, that whatever OTHER DOCTRINES the Apostles preached, THEY TAUGHT them IN DIRECT CONNECTION WITH THIS leading truth; and on whatever duties they insisted, it is from this they lead us to discharge them. Do they declare the love of God? it is from this topic it derives its brightest evidence- Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us. Do they exhibit his justice? this propitiation is set forth to shew that God is just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Do they urge dedication to God? here is its main spring; ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit which are his. Do they seek to comfort Christians? they tell us, in that Christ himself suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them also that are tempted; he is touched with a
feeling of our infirmities. Do they endeavour to alarm and awaken the careless? it is by this appeal, How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation! Are we taught to be humble, and to give place to others? here is the motive-Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant, even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give his life a ransom for many. Are we instructed how to discharge
relative duties? it is still from the same doctrineHusbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it.
These instances will sufficiently shew that the doctrine of the death of Christ for sin, is the leading truth of Christianity; that which is specially insisted on by its first teachers; and that which is eminently the ordinance of God for the salvation of men. It was not the preaching with enticing words of man's wisdom, that was accompanied by the Holy Spirit; but the preaching of Jesus Christ and him crucified, came to the Corinthian converts in demonstration of the spirit and of power, so that their faith stood in the power of God. 1 Cor. ii, 4, 5. The Gospel is eminently the ministration of the spirit. 2 Cor. iii, 8. When the love of God, our Heavenly Father, 'as especially manifested in the atonement of Christ, and the work of his Spirit, is held forth prominently; when free justification by divine grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and sanctification by his spirit are clearly and explicitly displayed; then God gives testimony to the word of his grace in the conversion and edification of sinners; then he pours out his Holy Spirit, and revives and refreshes his church.
You have here, then, Christian Reader, a test
of that which is the true Gospel of Christ. Wherever Christ is not exhibited as the principal subject of the sermon, or other truths are preached without any connection with this leading truth, there, there is not the pure light of Christianity. O, then, pray for your ministers, that they may know more of Christ themselves, and preach him more simply, and fully, as the only hope of fallen man. While his redemption exhibits the brightest displays of God's perfections, and the most quickening motives to obedience; it is the very doctrine by which it pleases God to save precious and immortal souls.
Perhaps some ministers may have laboured diligently and conscientiously according to their knowledge for many years, and have seen little fruit of their labours in turning sinuers from the error of their ways; in such a case, it becomes them seriously to enquire, whether they have fully exhibited a crucified Saviour, as the only and sovereign remedy for our spiritual maladies, and the only medium of return to God.
This doctrine is effective of the most important results. It has two very important, but very different and opposite effects. The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God. Those who are lost, reject it as folly. Those who are saved, receive it as the power of God.
A rejection of the Gospel LEAVES MEN UNDONE. If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. They reject the gratuitous pardon, and the free salvation which the Sovereign of all worlds sets bofore them. Through their wilful blindness, and sinful perverseness, they see not any wisdom or excellence in salvation by a crucified Redeemer. It may be very profitable to consider some of the grounds on which different charac
ters reject the great appointed means of salvation, so that it becomes to them, not a savour of life unto life, but a savour of death unto death. There are THE WISE and LEARNED of this world, like the philosophers of old; who, because they know arts and sciences better than others, or are acquainted with learned languages, and understand rules of criticism, instead of using these talents, as they might be used, for the better understanding of the truth, are puffed up with pride, and a conceit of their own superior wisdom; will not comprehend the doctrine of the cross, and disdain to come with others as poor perishing sinners, guilty, coudemned, and undone, for a free salvation. This doctrine was foolishness to the Greek formerly, and it is, alas! too evident, that it is still foolishness to many who have genius, and talent, and learning, and every thing, but a heart subjected to the mind and will of God. Therefore God leaves them to their own wisdom, and they cannot find that way of life, which a wayfaring man, though a fool, does not mistake. O let us pray to be delivered from the pride of fancied knowledge, and ask for the simplicity of a little child, in receiving the doctrines of the Gospel. Not that true philosophy and science are to be despised; they render service to religion, when under its governing influence; but they do not ordinarily prepare for its reception. The philosophers of old were not the first to receive the Gospel; and when they did receive it, they soon sought to deteriorate it by human mixtures; and philosophers in the present day have often acted a similar part; if any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise. 1 Cor. iii, 18. That wisdom of God which philosophers have rejected, multitudes of the poor and ignorant have gladly received,
and have become wise unto salvation. The SELFRIGHTEOUS count this foolishness, as the Pharisees of old did. These will not part with their fancied worthiness. They trust in their regular, moral, decent, and sober life. Nothing is more contrary to their state of mind, than to be called on to renounce all hope in any goodness or merit of their own, and to descend on a level with the vilest sinner, as to justification before God, and build every hope on free and unmerited grace, through a crucified Lord. Hence they exclaim against it, as opening the flood-gates of sin, and count nothing too severe to say against those who maintain this doctrine. The LOVER OF THE WORLD thinks the doctrine of the cross to be foolishness. That doctrine proclaims the immense value of spiritual things, and the vanity of all worldly things. While it shews that the favour of God is better than life itself, it at the same time declares that the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, shall pass away. Hence it disturbs him in the pursuit of his worldly plans. It is incompatible with his favourite objects. He cannot, if he receives it, follow his covetous desires, his proud inclinations, or his vain pleasures; but must yield himself to the service of God, as the one thing of supreme importance. The ANTINOMIAN, too, though he may boast of his regard to the cross, and despise others, and think that it will allow him to live as he pleases, and gratify his sinful appetites; yet, after all, the true doctrine of the cross is foolishness to him also. He discerus not its practical tendency. He shrinks from the real cross. He marks not the corresponding obligations to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Christ. He cannot really enter into the force of the Apostle's words, I am crucified with Christ.