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It is only by taking into view the circumstances in which the author and primitive teachers of Christianity were placed, and the means they used for diffusa ing it, as well as the nature of its doctrines, and the opposition with which it had to contend, that we can properly perceive the force of this most powerful argument.
Certainly the fact, that Christ Jesus was put to the death of a criminal and a slave, was in itself calculate ed to throw strong obstacles in the way of his being generally acknowledged as the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world. That Herod the Jewish king, or Vespasian the Roman emperor, should be blasphemously complimented, or even seriously considered by some as the Messiah, is no way remarkable. But certainly it must be admitted to be very wonderful, that a poor unfriended Jew, who was crucified, should, in the course of three centuries after his death, without any secular means being employed to advance his claims, with the strongest opposition which could be made by deep-rooted prejudice and imperial power, be considered, by the greater prrt of the Roman world, and by many beyond its limits, as the Son of God and the Saviour of mankind. Can
Can any other satisfactory account be given of this event than that which ou Lord himself gave? “ The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner. This is the doing of the Lord; and it is marvellous in our eyes *."
The divine agency in the success of the gospel, be comes still more apparent, if we recollect that the fact of his being crucified was by no means concealed; but, on the contrary, held a most prominent place in the preaching of the apostles. It was not only hom nestly avowed, but studiously exhibited, and triumph.
• Psalm cxxiii. 22, 23. ; compare Luke xx. 17.
antly gloried in. It was, indeed, by this doctrine, that they subjugated the world. “ Christ crucified was to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness,” while the first demanded a sign, and the second sought after wisdom; "but, unto all who were called, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God;" so that it was apparent to all, that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
7th, The crucifixion of Christ is the means of “crucifying the world” to all his faithful followers:-in other words, it is the principal instrument in the hand of the Divine Spirit for forming them to their unsecular and peculiar character.
Every true Christian “is not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world.” He is redeemed from this evil world. He is not conformed to it in its max. ims, tempers, and habits. He is afraid of the world, as it is often, by its allurements and terrors, the means and occasion of sin. He does not consider it as his chief good ; nor, indeed, as in any degree absolutely necessary to his happiness. He does not view it as a separate independent good, without a reference to God, who is the strength of his heart, and his portion for ever.
Now, this mode of thinking and feeling, with respect to the world, so different from that which is natural to man, is produced by the cross of Christ. By the sufferings of the cross was that grace purchased, by the communication of which this gracious temper is formed; and a believing contemplation of the cross is the grand means which the Spirit employs in this great and good work. In the cross of Christ the believer sees the vanity of the world most legibly written; he sees how different from, how opposite to, the wisdom of God is the wisdom of the world; and, in the cruci. fied Saviour as an object of love and esteem, he obtains a portion which renders the world, in his estimation, both unnecessary and unpleasing. Hence flows that holy indifference to things seen and temporal,—that unearthly character, if I may use the phrase, which has in all ages formed the distinguishing badge of the followers of Jesus *.
8th, The crucifixion of Christ furnishes saints with the most powerful dissuasives from sin, and motives to duty.
What can lead an ingenuous mind more thoroughly to detest sin, than the consideration that it rendered the death of Jesus on a cross absolutely necessary, in order to human redemption? We are in danger of indulging in malignant feeling against the human agents of our Saviour's sufferings. But if we have ever right. ly contemplated a crucified Saviour, we will have perceived that our sins were indeed his murderers. They were the traitors who, by the hands of Judas, delivered him up. We by our sins impeached him. The spiteful priests were but our advocates. Our sins cried, “Crucify him, crucify him!” with clamours more loud and importunate than the Jewish populace. He who has seen all this, cannot but hate sin, and avoid it as the worst of evils. Every sin will appear to him a re-acting of the tragic scene of Calvary,--a “ crucifying the Son of God afresh,--and a putting him to an open shame.” So true is it, that
6. The cross, once seen, is death to every vice +." As the crucifixion furnishes strong dissuasives from sin, it also suggests most powerful motives to duty.
* The important subject of this particular is merely glanced at. Its full illustration would fill a volume. Dr Witherspoon has dis. cussed it with his usual ability.-Works, vol. ii. pp. 193.-246.
t Cowper, Progress of Error.
What arguments to universal holiness so cogent as those deduced by the holy apostles from this source ? “Knowing this,” says the Apostle Paul, “ that our old man is crucified with him,—that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” “Forasmuch,” says the Apostle Peter, “then, as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind, that ye should no longer live the rest of your time in the flesh, to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.”
The cross ministers most persuasive motives, not only to holiness in general, but to all the various duties of the Christian life. Who dare murmur under the evils of life, when he thinks of him who “endured the cross, and despised the shame?” It was a powerful incentive which Ignatius employed to fortify his mind against the terrors of martyrdom, “My love was CRUCIFIED.” Who can hate or despise his brother, when he recollects that Christ was crucified for him? How is it possible to enforce humility so powerfully as the Apostle does ? “Let the mind be in you, which also was in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Who that has the heart of a dis. ciple, can think of Christ's cross, and not be disposed cheerfully to take up his own, and follow his Saviour ?
Wouldst thou, Christian, feel the sweetly compulsive force of Christian motive, in all its constraining influence ? take your station, along with the beloved
disciple, near the foot of the cross, behold your dying Lord, and listen to the language of his agonies ! it nothing to you, all ye that go by ? behold and see, if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.” “I am wounded for your transgressions, I am bruised for your iniquities, I am undergoing the chastisement of your peace. By the yearnings of my compassion, by the wounds of my body, by the anguish of my soul, by my blood, by my death, I conjure you to take up your cross and follow me. Will. ingly assume, cheerfully wear my easy yoke, gratefully acknowledge my goodness, carefully imitate my virtues. Give yourselves wholly to my service, as I give myself wholly for your salvation, and live to me, who now die for you.”_Who will now dare to doubt, that it became him, by whom are all things, and to whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to devote the Saviour to the death of the cross ?-I conclude, in the powerful language of a most eloquent preacher:
“ The crucifixion of Christ was the closing scene of his sufferings. After six hours of inconceivable agony, he said, 'It is finished ! placidly bowed his anointed head, and gave up the Ghost.' It is finished ! Holy victim ! all is finished that wicked men were wonderfully destined to contribute towards the general deliverance; what remains, infinite power and wisdom shall accomplish. The disciples, those few of them who had the courage to be present at this dismal scene, hang their heads in despondency, and seem to have abandoned the hope, that this was he who should redeem Israel. But Israel is redeemed. The high sacrifice appointed before the foundation of the world, typified by all the sacrifices of the law, is now offered and accepted. That Jesus, who, according to his own