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humanity, was reprefented to them as the Son of the Moft High God, and the Redeemer of the world. If to men fo prepoffeffed as were the Jews, this doctrine could not fail to appear impious and execrable, (and for a time it did fo even to the apostles); to men fo prepoffeffed as were the Gentiles it could not fail to appear nonsensical and abfurd.
Nay, it is manifest from the writings of the early apologists for Christianity, in the second and third centuries, that this doctrine continued long to be a principal matter of offence to the enemies of our religion, and was regarded by such as an infurmountable objection. They treated it as no better than madnefs, to place confidence in a man whom God had abandoned to the fcourge of the executioner, and the indelible reproach of the crofs. Yet this doctrine was, from the beginning, fo far from being taught covertly by the apostles, as one would have thought that a fmall fhare of political wisdom would have fuggefted; it was fo far from being diffembled, and palliated, that it appeared to be that particular of their religion, of which, in spite of the utter abomination it raised in others, in fpite of all the obloquy it brought upon themselves, they were chiefly oftentatious. With our apostle the cross of Christ is a phrase in familiar use for denoting the whole of this new economy. The foes of the gofpel he calls enemies of the cross of Christ *. To the * Philip. iii. 18. VOL. III.
Corinthians, he fays, he determined to know nothing among them, fave Jefus Chrift, and him crucified *. The offence taken against Christianity he styles, the offence of the cross t And the grand object of his glorying was what to others appeared the greatest scandal, the cross of Chrift t. So much in general (for your time does not admit my entering into particulars) of the foolishness of the doc
LET us next confider the weakness of the inftruments, the firft miffionaries of this new religion. What were they? We fhould certainly think, that a trust of this kind, requiring the most confummate skill and addrefs to manage properly, could not, with the smalleft hope of fuccefs, be committed to any, but men, who to great natural fhrewdnefs, and acquired knowledge, had all the advantages that refult from being acquainted with the world, and converfant in public life. If to thefe, wealth, nobility, and authority, were added, fo much the better. But were the first publishers of the gospel men of this fort? Nothing can be conceived more opposite. A few fishermen of Galilee, and fome others of the lowest clafs of the people, poor, ignorant, totally unacquainted with the world; without any visible advantages natural or acquired; men who, before they received this extraor
* Cor, ii, 2. + Gall. v. II.
dinary million, had been obliged to drudge for bread within the narrow limits of a toilsome occupation, and had probably never dared to open their mouth in places where men of condition (their betters, as we familiarly express it) were present. Such were the agents employed in effecting the greatest revolution ever produced upon the earth. Was it in a rude and unlettered age that this religion was firft broached? or was it only to the illiterate that its promulgators were char. ged to communicate it? It was at the time when Rome was in the zenith of her power ; it was at the time when all the Grecian arts and sciences shone forth in their meridian glory. It was then that these plain, unexperienced men, were commiffioned, not cautiously to impart this doctrine in a whisper, to perfons of a particular ftamp, but to proclaim it to all indiscriminately, as from the housetops, to preach the gospel to every creature *. These lowly ministers of Jesus did according. ly publish it to the Jews in the temple and in the fynagogues, and to the Gentiles in the fo. rums of their cities, and in other places of public resort.
Their undaunted fpirit and freedom, considering what they were, did in. deed amaze their superiors, and all who heard them. When the High Priest, and other members of the Sanhedrim, saw the boldness of Peter and John, in the spirited and perti..
* Mark xvi. 15.
nent reply they made, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled *.
How different is the policy of Heaven, pardon the expreffion, from that of earth! How truly is the matter reprefented in my context: "God hath chofen the foolish things of the "world, to confound the wife; and God hath "chofen the weak things of the world, to "confound the things which are mighty;
and bafe things of the world, and things "which are defpifed, hath God chofen, yea,
and things which are not, to bring to "nought things that are; that no flefh fhould
glory in his prefence +." The apostles were very fenfible of their defects, in refpect of natural talents, rank, and education; they knew well, that by men of fashion, men of the world, they were counted "as the filth "of the world, and the off-fcouring of all "things ." But as their zeal was kindled folely in behalf of the caufe of their master, they never affected to conceal or extenuate thefe defects. They neither difdainfully undervalued thofe acquired advantages which they had not, but which were poffeffed by many of their antagonists, nor vainly arrogated to themselves any merit from the fuccefs that attended their preaching. Their humble language was, We have this treafure, the doctrine of the gospel, the ineftimable riches of
1 Cor. i. 27. 28. 29.
*Acts iv. 13. 1 Cor. iv. 13.
Christ, in earthen vessels; not veffels of gold or filver, as men of eminence among the great and learned might be called, but veffels of the very coarseft materials, thofe denominated the dregs of the people," that the excel"lency of the power may be of God, and "6 not of us *.".
We are apt to attend but carelessly to the report of facts to which our ears have been long familiarized. Such is that of the low condition of those who were the first heralds of the gospel of peace. Befides, to us the very title APOSTLES conveys certain ideas of refpect and dignity, which, as it were, hide from us the mean nefs and obfcurity of their outward ftate. In order, therefore, to roufe our attention to this circumftance, of the utmost importance to the right understanding of my argument, let us confider what would be, I fay not probably, but certainly, the effect of fuch an attempt in our own age: and nation, made by fuch ill-provided, and, as we should say, defpicable instruments, un. aided from above, in oppofition to all the eftablished powers, religion, laws, and learn-ing of the country. Yet we have no reason to believe, that our fishermen are, in any refpect, inferior to the fifhers of thofe days on the lake of Gennefaret. It would not perhaps be difficult to prove, that, in point of education, in this part of the ifland at leaft,
2 Cor. iv. 7.