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But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our
Lord Jesus Christ.
N Y brethren, we are this day met to keep up the
V remembrance of our Redeemer's sufferings and death in our room. We are to commemorate an event the most important, the most interesting, and the most astonishing, that creation ever beheld. We are to contemplate a subject the most wonderful and mysterious that ever was offered to the mind of man. The incarnation of the Son of God, the King of kings found in the form of a servant, and the Prince of life expiring on an accursed tree. What is this but the union of things the moft opposite and seemingly inconsistent that can possibly be conceived ? the union of the most distant extremes of strength and weakness, glory and baseness, honor and shame?
In a sort of correspondence and analogy to this great subject itself, nothing can be more opposite than the sentiments formed by believers and unbelievers with regard to it. To the one it hath a dignity and majesty unspeakably amiable ; to the other, it hath a meanness and base. ness that is shameful and contemptible. The Apostle Paul often takes notice of this, that it was “ to the Jews a “ a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness;" and he often discovers his own inviolable attachment to his Saviour, by an open profession of esteem for those circumstances in his character and appearance which a blinded world were most apt to treat with derision and scorn. This is particularly the case in the text, “ But God forbid that “ I should zlory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
By the cross of Christ, in the New Testament, we are sometimes to understand the sufferings of believers for Christ's fake; but more commonly, and, I think, evidently in this place, it signifies his humiliation in general, and particularly his crucifixion, to which circumstance our attention is directed, because it was the most base and ignominious of the whole. In this the apostle says he would glory : nay, he expresses his abhorrence at the thought of glorying in any thing else: “ God forbid that " I should glory fave in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Nothing can be more suited to the employinent of this day, and nothing more proper to distinguish between the friends and the enemies of Christ, than this, when carefully attended to; for the one will undoubtedly glory and the other will as certainly be ashamed of his cross.
In discoursing further on this subject, what I propose, through divine aslistance, is,
1. To explain the import of the apostle's glorying only in the Saviour's cross.
2. To shew what good reason every real Christian hath to glory in it. And,
3. To make some practical application of the subject..
1. In the first place, then, let us explain the import of the apostle's glorying only in the Saviour's cross. What is this object in which the apostle says he would glory? Very wonderful indeed. It is, That Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary, was subjected to a long life of forrow, reproach, and contempt: That towards the close of it, he was arrested, accused, condemned as a malefactor; and after innumerable and unspeakable indignities, was at last nailed to a cross, an engine of torture of the most cruel
and painful kind, and so shameful, that it was a manner of punishment appropriated to the most detested criminals of the basest rank. What is there here to glory in ? and what does the apostle mean by this expression ? It means,
1. That he had a high esteem of it, as an event of the greatest moment, and an object worthy of the highest regard. We do not glory in common things, but in things of peculiar dignity and worth. It was not then in his view merely what it seemed. He did not consider it, surely, as the execution of a criminal ; but said, with the centurion on Mount Calvary, Truly “this was a righteous man;" Truly this was “ the Son of God.” He considered it as the effect of the infinite love of God, who fent his only hegotten Son to die for our sins. He considered it as an infinite price paid for the pardon of our offences, as the only way of deliverance from guilt, as the sure and certain pledge of peace to an awakened conscience. In this view, how does it rise in his esteem? While others are disposed to fcorn, pitying their madness, he is constrained to worfhip and adore. Think of it, Christians, how different were the sentiments of his insulting enemies and his mourning disciples, when he hung upon the cross. The one consider him as a guilty sufferer, the other as a loving Saviour. The hearts of the one were boiling with hatred, or filled with contempt; the hearts of the other were swallowed up in admiration, or melted with love.
2. The apostle's glorying in the cross, implied his having a strong, though humble confidence of his own relation to and interest in it. I think it is impossible to ieparate this from our idea of the apostle's meaning. We do not glory or boast of any thing in which we have no concern. A man of great genius, or uncommon worth, I may admire and honor, merely for the eminent qualities of which he is possessed, and I may do him all justice by commendation ; but I am never disposed to glory in him, nor have I any title to do it unless he is somehow related to me : but if I add, that he is my child, or he is my brother, I may be truly said to glory in him, or to boal of him, because the honor that is given to him, is, in one measure reflected upon myself. Again, I may speak vi the riches and magnificence of some great city ; but I an: then only said to glory in it, if I add any circumstance of rclation; as that it is the place of my nativity, or the place of my residence, or the place in which I have property and interest. When therefore the apostle says, “ God “ forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” it certainly implies a humble persuasion of his own interest in it, and his happiness to flow from it. This indeed naturally arises from a real and spiritual difcovery of its proper glory. None can see the transcendent beauty of this object, till they have seen their own guilt and misery in the fight of a holy God. And no sooner do they discover the excellence of this atonement, its perfect sufficiency for all, and the unrestrained offer to all, than they fly to it as their security, and rest on it as the ground of their hope. The word here translated glo- : rying, signifies at the same time exulting, or rejoicing; and therefore to glory in the cross, is the same thing as to rejoice in the Saviour. The truth is, it is but seldom that this apostle mentions the death of Christ without some appropriating expression : Phil. iii. 8. “ Yea doubtless, and “ I count all things but lofs, for the excellency of the “ knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord : for whom I have “ suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but
dung, that I may win Chrift;" Gal. ii. 20. “I am cru.' “ cified with Chrift: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but “ Christ liveth in me : and the life which I now live in " the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved “ me and gave himself for me.”
3. To complete the idea of the apostle's glorying in the cross, it implies such a sense of its comparative worth, as prompts him to a public and open profession of esteem, with a sovereign contempt of the judgment or conduct of others, who set themselves in opposition to it. Glorying always fignifies the declaration of our mind to others; and is not ill illustrated by that expreflion of the apostle Paul in writing to the Romans, chapter i. 16. “For I am not “ ashamed of the gospel of Christ.: for it is the power of “ God unto salvation, to every one that beiieveth, to the " Jew first, and also to the Greek.” The opposition be
tween the sentiments of others, and his own, he ofteri mentions; as I Cor. i. 18. “For the preaching of the u cross is to them that perish, foolishness: but unto us " which are saved, it is the power of God.” And verse 23. “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a « stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but " unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, “ Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” When he glories in the cross, therefore, it implies an open and refolute adherence to this despised cause. This meaning is particularly carried in the word cross. It had been less wonder, if he had said, he gloried in his Saviour's divine power, exerted before his crucifixion, or that he gloried in his triumphant resurrection, and exaltation to the right hand of God after it; but, inftead of this, he says he gloried in his cross, in his very abasement, in what was most vile and contemptible. ; .
A late very eminent writer and champion for the cross, in a sermon on the fame subject, makes a remark to the following purpose : “* That through the veneration of " many ages, and the difuse of that punishment among " us in the execution of malefactors, the word cross does “not carry so base an idea to our minds; but that in the " ear of a Galatian, it founded as if the apostle had faid, he “ gloried in a gallows, a gibbet or a halter.” And in a note upon this passage of the fermon, when published, he expresses himself thus: “ Some persons, I am informed, “ were disgusted at these words, halter, gallows, gibbet, " they are so horridly contemptible : to whom I would “ reply, That the cross, in point of ignominy, implied all * this; and in point of torture, much more. Unless the “ English reader forms to himself some such image as this, “ he will never be able to apprehend the scandalous na“ ture and shocking circumstances of his divine master's “ death. The words, I must confess, were diversified, and “ the sentiment reiterated, on purpose to affect the mind " with this astonishing truth. Neither can I prevail with " myself to expunge the expressions, unless I could sub."
* Mr. Hervey. VOL. I.