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you see what it was the Jews expected; that if our Saviour had been the Son of God, he fhould have faved himfelf; when they went about to crucify him, that God fhould have rescued him out of their hands, and given fome extraordinary teftimony from heaven to his innocency; and for this reason, the preaching of Christ crucified was very offenfive to them: The Jews require a fign; but we preach Chrift crucified.
Such was the temper and difpofition of the Jews: but now the Gentiles, according to their way of inftitution, expected that the Apoftles fhould have difcourfed to them upon philofophical principles, and have demonftrated things to them in their way. The Greeks feek after wisdom; they were great fearchers after wisdom and knowledge, and they valued nothing but what had the appearance of it, and what was delivered with great fharpness of wit and reasoning, and fet off with art and eloquence. Had the Apoftles pretended to fome new theory of natural or moral philofophy, and difcourfed to them about the first principles of all things, about the chief good, or about the nature of the foul, they would have heard them with great patience and delight. Nething but deep and fubtle fpeculations, about thefe kind of arguments, did relish with them, and pleafe their palates. But the hiftory of our Saviour, his life, and death, and refurrection, and the plain precepts of his doctrine, were dry and infipid things to them, and were fo far from having a fhew of wisdom and philofophy, that they appeared foolish and ridiculous to them.
But the defign of God in the Chriftian religion, being not to please the humour, and gratify the curiofity of men; but really to do them good, and to reform the manners of mankind, he ufed quite another method which, how offenfive foever it might be to those who thought themselves wife, yet it was really the wifeft and moft powerful means to that end: fo the Apoftle tells us here in the text; But we preach Chrift crucified, to the Jews a fumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness: but unto them that are called, that is, to thofe whose minds are duly prepared to confider things impartially, and to receive the truth, the power of God, and the wif
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dom of God; a moft wife and powerful means to reform the world, an eminent inftance of the divine power and wifdom.
In these words, we have these two things confiderable: First, The exception which the world took at the doctrine of the gofpel, upon account of our Saviour's sufferings: Chrift crucified was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness.
Secondly, That, notwithstanding the feeming unreafonabless and abfurdity of it, it was a moft wife and effectyal contrivance for the end to which it was designed and appointed But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Chrift the power of God, and the wifdom of God. I fhall fpeak fomething to each of thefe, as briefly and plainly as I can. I begin with the
First, The exception which the world took at the doctrine of the gofpel, upon account of our Saviour's fufferings. The world were generally offended at it, but not all upon the fame account; the Jews took one kind of exception against it, and the Heathen another; We preach Chrift crucified, unto the Jews a fumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness. They were both offended at the fame thing, the low and fuffering condition of our Saviour; but not upon the fame reason. The Jews thought, that this mean appearance and condition of our Saviour, was unfuitable to the power of God; and the Heathen, that it was not agreeable to the wisdom of
The Jews, from the tradition of their fathers, to which (juft as the church of Rome does now-a-days) they paid a gater reverence, than to the written word of God, were poffeffed with a strong perfuafion, that the Meffias whom they expected, and was foretold by the Prophets, was to be a great temporal prince, to appear in great fplendor and glory, to be a mighty conqueror, and not only to free them from the Roman yoke, which they were then under; but to fubdue all nations to them, and fo bring them under their dominion and government. And this did fo generally prevail among them, that even the difciples of our Saviour were as ftrongly poffeffed with this conceit as any of the reft; infomuch that the mother
of James and John made it her folemn request to our Saviour, that her two fons might fit, one on his right hand, and the other on his left, in his kingdom. And though he had told his difciples juft before, that he must go up to Jerufalem, and juffer many things of the Scribes and Pharifees, and be betrayed and put to death; yet the other conceit of his temporal dominion and greatnefs did fo poffefs their minds, that they could not understand this faying, and it was hid from them that they perceived it not, as St. Luke tells us, Luke ix. 45. Nay, even after his death and refurrection, when he appeared to them, this still stuck in their minds, as appears by that queftion which they asked him immediately before his afcenfion, Acts i. 6. When they were come together, they asked of him, Lord, wilt thou, at this time, reftore again the kingdom to Ifrael? They took it for granted the Meffias would do it one time or other, and they enquire of him, whether that were the time.
So that the Jews being fo firmly fixed in this conceit of the temporal reign of the Meffias, nothing could be a greater ftumbling-block to them, than the mean and fuffering condition, in which our Saviour appeared. The meannefs of his birth and life was a great objection against him; but when they faw him put to death fo ignominioufly, and that he did not then fhew his glory and power, to fave himself from that cruel and fhameful death, they could rather believe any thing than that this was the Meffias foretold, and whom they had fo long expected. They made full account that the Meffias, whenever he came, would live in great fplendor and glory, and do great things for the advantage and honour of their nation; the leaft they expected from him was their deliverance from the Roman yoke, and the establishing of the throne of David for ever; or, if his beginning had been obfcure, that he would at last break forth in great luftre and majefty; or, if they could have fuppofed that the Meffias fhould be perfecuted, and condemned, and nailed to the crofs, yet they doubted not but then God would have given teftimony to him by fome fign from heaven, and have rescued him from the crofs in a miraculous manner: but feeing nothing of all this, nothing but poverty and
meanness, reproach and fuffering attending him, they concluded, whatever miracles he pretended to, this could not be the Son of God, the true Meffias.
On the other fide, the Heathen philofophers, who were pot poffeffed with thefe conceits about the Meffias, they were offended at the unreasonablenefs and folly, as they thought, of the Apoftles doctrine, who went about to perfuade the world, that a man who had lately fuffered and was crucified at Jerufalem, was a great Prophet come into the world; nay, the Son of God, in whom all men ought to believe, and by whom they ought to hope for life and falvation: as if it were reasonable to think, that God would have exposed the most innocent and virtuous perfon that ever was, to fo great reproach and fufferings, that the Son of God fhould die, and that life and immortality were to be hoped for from him, who was crucified and put to death. This they looked upon as a story fo ill framed, that, to all wife and fagacious men, it detroyed its own credit and belief. For though they faid he was rifen again from the dead, yet before that could be entertained by men of philofophical minds, there were many deep points to be determined, as concerning the nature of the foul, and whether it can fubfift feparately from the body, and whether a body once dead can be reftored to life again, and re-united to the foul.
And as for his doctrine, which the Apoftles pretended to deliver, it was a plain, and rude thing, without art or eloquence, nothing of deep fpeculation, or ftrict demonftration in it in fhort, fo far from being worthy of a teacher come from God, that it was below the pitch of an ordinary philofopher. These, and fuch like things, were, in all probability, the exceptions which the Heathen philofophers took at the Apoftles preaching, concerning our Saviour's death, and his doctrine; and they had fome colour in them.
But, upon impartial examination, it will appear, that, notwithstanding thefe exceptions, the fufferings of our Saviour, confidered with all the circumstances that belong to them, were a very wife and effectual method made ufe of by lmighty God, for the reforming and faving of the world. Which brings me to the
Second thing I propounded to speak to from these words, namely, to vindicate the wisdom of this defign and contrivance of Almighty God, for the falvation of mankind by the fufferings of his Son from the seeming abfurdity and unreafonablenefs of it. But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Chrift the power of God, and the wisdom of God. And,
First, The Jews had no fufficient ground, to be fo much offended at the fufferings of the Meffias. For,
I. They had no reafon to expect that the Meffias fhould be a great temporal Prince, if they had attended to the predictions of their prophets concerning him, which ought to have been their rule: for they affirm no fuch thing of him. All that they fay of him, plainly refers to a fpiritual kingdom, that he should rule in righteousness, that he should preach the gospel to the poor, and open the eyes of the blind, and unftop the ears of the deaf, and make the lame walk; that he should finish tranfgreffion, and make an end of fin, and make interceffion for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteoufnefs. So that, if they had not entertained a very groundlefs and carnal conceit concerning him, they could not fo widely have mistaken the ancient prophecies of him, which ought to have guided them in these matters, and which they might have seen all plainly fulfilled in the perfon of our Saviour.
II. The predictions concerning him do moft exprefly foretel his death and fufferings, and that with very particular circumstances: David in the xxii. Pfalm; Isaiah quite throughout his liii. chapter: and Daniel does particularly point out the time when he fhould be cut off. So that they had all the reafon in the world to expect that the Meffias, when he came, fhould be defpifed and rejected of men, a man of forrow and acquainted with grief; that he fhould be fcourged and buffeted, oppressed and afflicted, and at laft cut off out of the land of the living. Nay, if it had been otherwife, they had had no reafon to have owned him for the true Meffias.
III. As for figns to evidence him to be the Son of God: though God did not gratify their curiofity as to the nature and manner of them, yet he gave the greatest teftimonies