« 上一頁繼續 »
which from infancy they had been habituated, in regard to the protection of Providence, and the marks whereby Heaven distinguishes its favourites destined for honour and authority.
Paul, accordingly, takes particular notice of the bad reception which this doctrine med with from both Jews and Gentiles, in confequence of the inveterate prejudices entertained against it. The preaching of the cross, says -he, is to them that perish, to them who reject and despise the gospel, foolishness; but to us who are saved, who by faith give it a grateful reception, it is the pourer of God *. However much the Jews and the Greeks differed from each other, in their religious principles, as well as customs, they concurred in a most hearty detestation of this, which made fo fundamental an article of the Christian difpenfation. They viewed it differently, according to their different national characters; but the effect, an indignant rejection, was the same in both. Our apoftle, who perfectly underitood the difference, las marked it with the greatest accuracy. The Jews require a signo, an evidence of the interpofition of omnipov tence, which may overpower their minds, and command an unlimited affent; and the Greek's seek after wisdom, the elaborate productions of oratory and ingenuity, which may at once convince their reason, and gratify their curiofity : but we preach Christ crucified;
Cor. i. 18.
a doctrine so far from suiting the inclinations of either, that to the Jews it is a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks foolishness. Both agree to reprobrate this doctrine : they differ only in the manner. To the Hebrew, it is an ob. ject of abhorrence; to the Grecian, of contempt. He adds, but to them who are called, those who are divinely instructed, both Jews and Grecks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God *
Nor can we justly wonder that so strange a doctrine as this of the cross, fo repugnant to flesh and blood, should, upon the trial, prove so unwelcome to carnal men. If we inquire but ever so little into the circumstances of the cafe, we shall find, that its reception could not have been any other than it was. The Jewish nation was at that time fplit into fects, which in many things entertained opinions oposite to one another. Nevertheless, all who expected the Mefliah, of whatever feet, concurred in the belief that he would be, what the world calls, an illustrious prince, a mighty conqueror, who would subdue kingdoms, and establish for himself a new universal monarchy, or fecular empire, (for of a spiritual kingdom they had no idea), wherein his own nation would be exalted above all the nations of the earth. From these sentiments the Samaritans (however much they differed from the Jews in other relpects) seem not to have Ciftented ; in these sentiments all our Lord's I Cor. i. 22. 23. 24.
disciples disciples had been brought up, and to these sentiments, in spite of the manifest tendency of his instructions and example, they, by their own account, firmly adhered during his life, and even for fome time after his resurrection. Nor do they seem ever to have relinquished these sentiments, till the descent of the Holy Ghost, after the ascension, on that memorable day of Pentecoft, on which the promulgation of the evangelical economy may properly be said to have commenced.
But it is not enough to say that the Mefliah held forth to this people in the gofpel, and that which the glofses and traditions of the rabbis had taught them to expect, were perfonages widely different. They were, in most respects, the reverse of one another. The people had not yet learnt, that God, though not in the tempeft, the earthquake, nor the thunder, may yet be found in the small and feeble voice. Their heads were occupied with ideas of grandeur and majesty merely human. When they were thinking of the royal palace, their attention was called to the shop of the artificer. Is not this the carpenter * ? say they, with a mixture of astonishment and con. tempt. Instead of riches and fplendor, behold poverty and humility: for a potentate and warrior, they had only a peaceful citizen. In lieu of one whose undertakings were, in the fight of all mankind, to be crowned with glory and success, they were presented with a * Mark vi. 3.
man incessantly haunted by misfortune from his cradle to his grave ; whose friends were few, and enemies innumerable ; one who in their eyes had nothing defirable, or, to adopt the expression of the prophet, had no form ner comeliness *; one who accordingly, from his first appearance in public, was by all the mem of power and influence, hated, derided, de. famed, persecuted, dishonoured, and at laft cruelly murdered. But the stone which the builders rejected, foon became the head of the corner.
Prosperity and adversity have, in all ages, and in all nations, had some influence on the: judgements of men, in regard to divine favour and aversion; but on no nation had thefe external things a greater influence than on the Jewith ; and under no difpenfation or form of religion, true or false, more glaringlý than under the Mosaic. There was something in that institution, it must be acknowledged, which naturally led the attention to these outward distinctions between man and man. The promises and threatenings of the law, interpreted according to the letter, are of things merely temporal. That under thefe are couched the eternal things of the gospel, is not to be denied ; things which were also typified by the established ceremonies and car. nal ordinances. But it must be observed, that the literal is the most obvious sense ; the fpiritual was perceived by those only whose faith.
* Ifa. liii. 2.
or spiritual discernment put them in a capaci. ty of seeing through the veil of symbolical language and ritual observances. For it ever did, and ever will hold, that “ the secret of " the Lord is with them that fear him *.” But in regard to the generality of the people, (I may almost say the whole, the exceptions are so few), that outward happiness or misery were the standard by which they determined whether a person were the object of the love or of the hatred of Heaven, is a fact that might be evinced, if necessary, from num. berless passages, both of the Old Testament and of the New. And if this holds in regard to what may be called the general tenor of a man's life, it holds more efpecially of his death. To be adjudged to the death of a malefactor by the supreme tribunal of the cho. sen people, they considered as an infallible mark of reprobation. How much more, when the very sort of death, suspension upon a tree, had a special malediction pronounced on it, which, as an indelible ftigma, had been engroffed in the body of their law? " that is hanged is accursed of God +:” The Jews, accordingly, to this day, distinguish our Saviour by the name of the HANGED MAN, as the most disgraceful they can employ. We cannot then wonder, that to those whose minds were blinded through sensual affection and obdurate prejudices, and in respect of
* Psal. xxv. 14.
+ Deut. xxi. 23.