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interpretation of these predictions ; and feeling as they did the severity of Roman oppression, they wished and hoped and believed that the Messiah, who was foretold to their fathers, would appear in all the splendour of majesty and power, would go forth conquering and to conquer, would subdue all the nations of the earth to himself, and would drag the subjugated nations captive at the wheels of his chariot. How much, then, must they have been disappointed in Jesus, who, instead of being born of a great and powerful family, appeared in the humble character of a carpenter's son, and who, instead of laying claim to the throne of his fathers, plainly declared that his kingdom was not of this world. The proud, fastidious, and self-conceited Jews, hid their faces from one who pretended to be their deliverer, but whom they saw to be without form or comeliness, and whom they beheld in poverty and distress, wandering about from place to place, without habitation, or having where to lay his head. But what still more offended their foolish vain-glory, was the last scene of his life ; when he was dragged as a malefactor before the tribunal of a foreign governor, and at length put to death on the ignominious tree. On their national pride they made shipwreck of their faith. It was contra ry to their pre-conceived notions, it was degrading to their country to believe, that, one who had been considered as unworthy to live, and who had been crucified between two thieves, was the Saviour of the world.
Prejudices of a different kind operated on the minds of the Greeks. They were a learned, refined, luxurious and corrupted people. They expected, that, their Saviour should, at least, possess superiour wisdom and learning, and display superiour taste and politeness. What, then, must they have thought of Jesus, when they perceived the plainness and simplicity of his discourses and instructions, which, in their opinion, bordered on foolishness; which were so unlike those “ words of man's “ wisdom," and so different from that ostentatious display of knowledge, that sophistry and science, falsely so called, to which they had been accustomed in the schools of their philosophers ? They could not relish his meek and unaffected manners; they could not admire his discourses, which, plainly and simply, explained the truth without study or ornament; they despised his moral instructions
which wanted the air and the abstraction of science, and which were suggested in the most natural and easy manner by the objects around him, by the lilies of the field which grew under his feet, and by the fowls of heaven which flew over his head. Among the heathens, it must also be observed, crucifixion was a punishment inflicted only on the vilest criminals; and, consequently, they could scarcely be brought to give a hearing to men who began with declaring that their Master died upon a
Innumerable, then, were the prejudices and obstacles which were to be surmounted by the christian religion, in which the doctrine of the cross was the fundamental article.
But notwithstanding these difficulties, it soon overthrew all opposition : wherever the Apostles preached Christ crucified, they met with a success which plainly showed that their religion was from God, and not from man. At the appearance of the gospel, the Pagan religions every where fell into contempt ; and the religion of that humble personage who had suffered so ignominious a death was, in a few years, known and believed throughout all the regions of the civilized world,
The immediate cause of such rapid and unexpected success was, undoubtedly, the overruling providence of its great Authour: but, besides this, the religion itself was excellently adapted to the condition and circumstances of man, and carried its own recommendation along with it, in that remedy which it provided for the guilt and degeneracy of human nature. Even the doctrine of the cross could not appear foolishness, or be a stumbling block
circumstance concerning it was, properly, explained. For when men are told that Jesus suffered and died upon a cross, in order to make an atonement for the sins of mankind : when they are assured that that same Jesus who was crucified and slain, rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven, and will come again to judge the quick and the dead, all prejudices must vanish, and all men must be disposed to confess, that “this is a faithful saying, and worthy of
all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into " the world to save sinners.”
The text (1 Cor. i. 18 ) presents to our consideration two important ideas. The first is the preaching of the cross, that is, of the atonement for sin which Christ made by his sufferings and death upon the cross.
The second is, the effect of this doctrine, namely, that it is the power of God to those who are saved. I
I. To explain the nature of Christ's atonement for sin, and
II. To illustrate the purposes which the doctrine of salvation by Christ's atonement answers, that we may be able to infer the truth and meaning of the Apostle's assertion, that the preaching of the cross is the power of God to those who are saved.
We begin with explaining the nature of Christ's atonement : an important and interesting subject to which I solicit your attention, , as it is the foundation of what follows when we come to the consideration of those great purposes which it is calculated to effect.
Man, by his disobedience, had forfeited his title to eternal life, had incurred the penalty pronounced against sin, and had rendered himself obnoxious to the divine wrath and displeasure. The justice of God required, that sin should not pass unpunished ; his holiness excluded the impure sinner from his favour and enjoyment ; and his truth made it necessary, that, the punishment which was threat