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the cross; not Christ the glorious being of godlike life and character, of pure and lofty teaching, philosophy, and example; nor Christ the manifestation of Divine Love in humanity; that would have pleased both Jews and Greeks; they would have hailed that, as glorious. God Incarnate, let alone the humiliating features of the Gospel, would have been a theme for an exceedingly popular philosophy and eloquence. But Christ crucified, Christ dying on the cross between two thieves, presented a theme of mere ridicule and scorn to all the world; to all, whose hearts were not beginning to be touched and troubled by the Spirit of the Saviour. Yet Paul drove on, in his exclusiveness, with nothing but Christ and him crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, to the Greeks foolishness. He made that very foolishness the beginning and end of his earnestness, the sum and substance of his argument, albeit he were addressing Greeks, Jews, or Romans. He rode in upon them with God's Word; he rolled over them with the chariot of the Gospel. Sometimes they stood up again after the incursions of this strange and fiery eloquence, merely astounded for the moment, to perish in their mockery; but many were discomfited, conquered, and brought to their senses, who had been all their life-long insane in philosophy and sin. Paul kept up, through his whole life, this freshness of preaching Christ from the heart. He urged the same upon his fellowchristians; he bequeathed the same, as his dying legacy, to Timothy.
And it was because it came from the heart, that it never lost its freshness and its power. You might have heard Paul, the first year of his preaching after the journey to Damascus, and you would have heard of Christ and him crucified; and if you heard him thirty years after that, it would still be the same ever-glorious, everlasting theme, and none other-Christ and him crucified; and as fresh the thirtieth year, or the five hundredth year, if Paul could have lived so long, as when he first began to say of Christ, “ Who loved me and gave himself for me.” It was because along with the intrinsic and amazing greatness and comprehensiveness of the theme, in Paul's inspired vision, it was ever the fresh outpouring of a grateful, loving heart. And what must have been the sermons of the man, who could write such vast and glorious descriptions and appeals, as are contained in the epistle from which our text is drawn! It was the obligation of such preaching that he enjoined on all others; it was the legacy of such preaching, and the mantle of such power, that he left, I say, to Timothy, charging him by the Lord his Redeemer, that he never should be striving about words to no profit, but that he should preach the WORD, in season and out of season. He could not endure to have anything presented as Christian truth in the place of Christ and him crucified. Beware lest any man spoil you, by preaching which is not after Christ.
Another of Paul's rules, intimately connected with the text, and serving as a guide and safeguard against the danger marked in it,
was this, namely, that Christians should never handle the Word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth, commending themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Paul's object was to manifest the truth, to open it, to make all wonder at its exceeding riches. He would not change it, nor restrict, nor conceal it, through philosophy and vain deceit, nor put tradition in its place, nor any of man's rudiments. Some commentators and preachers work hard to keep the meaning in, cut it down, restrain it, keep it from shining, make you see just as little in it as
philosophy and learning. Or rather, they spike the guns of God's Word, and then roll forward their tumbrels of philosophy, and baggage wagons of erudition, as if the battle were to be gained by those, and not by God's artillery.
Others there are again, who handle the Word of God deceitfully, by not rightly dividing it, by cutting off perhaps half of a truth, and throwing it away, or suffocating it with philosophical speculations. Some treat the very centrality of the Gospel, Christ and him crucified, in this manner. Some will take the great, beaming, radiant doctrine of the atonement by the sufferings and death of Christ, and cutting off the whole matter of sufferings and death, and the whole amazing manifestation of God's righteousness and justice in the pardon of the believer, as displayed in that propitiatory sacrifice, or resolving it into the play of a dramatic exhibition, dwell only on the character and life of Christ, and make the incarnation a manifestation merely of love, and not what God affirms it to be, a propitiation, that he might be just, and yet justify the guilty and the lost. Thus, while Christ is apparently brought forward, Christ crucified is quite put in the background, and the cross and death of Christ, instead of being the grand reality in that amazing scene and system of redemption, and the power of God in arresting and saving the soul, dwindles to a mere circumstance, a mere adjunct, taken up by the way. Now by whatever words or theories such a treatment of God's Word is covered, it is handling the Word of God deceitfully, and not by manifestation of the truth, but concealment of it, by philosophy and vain deceit. Beware lest any man so spoil you, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Others again, instead of Chirst and him crucified, present, as the main burthen and intent of the Gospel, the church and its ordinances, after the tradition of men. Some go so far, even in the Protestant communion, as to adopt the antichristian and Papal maxim, that it is through the church that we come to Christ, and not through Christ only that we come into the church. This is a dogma which has been the perdition of thousands upon thousands, and will be of thousands more. It is a word which eateth as doth a canker. It eats into the heart of the church of Christ, and devours all true piety, where it prevails, while at the same time it makes the church big in visibility, organization, ordinances, forms, and the pomp of circumstance and power. But why, says the Word of God, if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances after the commandments and doctrines of men, as if the church were a mere worldly corporation? These are profane and vain babblings, that will increase unto more ungodliness. And certainly a church that undertakes to constitute itself in Christ, by virtue of its organization, as a church historically apostolic, and then sets up the dogma that men can be in Christ only by being in the church, is but a shadow cast by the true body of Christ; or rather, it is a merely fleshly body, vainly puffed up by a fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, the Lord Jesus, from whom all the body, by joints and bands having nourishment ministered and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. A church proclaiming that men must come to Christ by the church, increaseth with the increase of men, but not of God. Under such a sign and dogma of tradition and world rudiment, men that come into the church to get to Christ, stop with the church, and go no further, and are likely, under the anodynes of ordinances, never to gain Christ. For along with this error comes in that other deceivableness of unrighteousness and frustration of the grace of God, anwering to the Jewish tenet of circumcision as the gate of heaven, against which Paul thundered such fiery anathemas—the tenet of baptismal regeneration-rendering the grace of God of none effect, and justification by faith a dead and useless doctrine. It may be laid down as a rule infallible, that whoever trusts in any church, or in any ordinance, or in any creature, to bring him to Christ, or to put him in Christ, will never find Christ, will never come to Christ. He never will, so long as this delusion lasts. And thus it was that Paul, by God's commission, launched the bolts of such a fiery vengeance against those who thus corrupted the church and the Word of the living God. I tell you, said he, that Christ is become of none effect unto you, whosoever ye be, that trust in such things; ye are fallen from grace. If you be baptismally regenerated, and trust in that, you will never be regenerated in any other way, and Christ can profit you nothing. If you trust to get to heaven, because you are the children of the church and of Abraham, God will sooner people heaven from the stones in the streets, than admit you there, by such contempt, nullification, and falsification of the cross of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward by such things. As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they make much of such things, and glory in them. But God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto us, and we unto the world. For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircum. cision, but a new creature. · Now, in one way and another, the world is full of these errors, corrupting the truth, deluding the soul, and deadening the Word of God. Some of these errors are like a breastwork of cotton, before a beleaguered city, in which all the balls of an invading army may be buried, and never one reach the walls, or houses, or people of the city. Just so, the very arrows of God's truth fall blunted before hearts thus entrenched by the elastic rudiments of the world, by the traditions, and commandments, and doctrines of men. And therefore it was, and is, that our blessed Lord, in the New Testament and in the Old, always did, and still does, speak with such devouring indignation against those who make paths to heaven which he has not made, and set up gates and sign-boards to heaven, of their own construction, which are gates to hell; making the commandment of God of none effect, through their tradition. Ye hypocrites! in vain do ye worship me. Ye blind leaders of the blind! Ye that beguile, and they that are beguiled, shall both fall into the ditch. It was because these dogmas and ordinances of men are the source of fleshly arrogance, persecution, and pride, the denial of the cross, the destruction of faith, the perversion of the Word of God, the corruption of the church, the delusion and destruction of the soul !
Now our subject, and this text, out of which it has directly grown, shows you what you are to find in God's Word Jesus Christ and him crucified; what constitutes the worth of God's Word Jesus Christ and him crucified; for what you are to cherish, study, and prize God's Word Jesus Christ and him crucified ; and how you are to study God's Word-in Christ and him crucified, in the light of his cross, and by the teachings of his Spirit. If you do not find Christ in the Word, and life and immortality only through him, the Word, with all its glory, will be of no use or efficacy with you, save in your condemnation. And our blessed Lord himself has said, that the Word which he has given unto you, and spoken to you, that shall judge you at the last day.
But if you do find Christ in it, then you will ever value it in and for Christ. You will love it for its clear, decisive, glorious manifestation of Christ and him crucified. You will be watchful against all handling of the Word of God deceitfully, to mar the glory, beauty, and completeness of that doctrine. You will be jealous of all philosophy and vain deceit, and all the traditions of men, and all the rudiments of the world, and all the speculations of intruding fleshly minds, that would beguile you from the simplicity of your faith, and make you distrust or forget your completeness in Christ. You will be anxious to study the Word of God in God's light, by the guidance, interpretation, and indwelling life of God's Holy Spirit. It is he, the Spirit of Christ and of the Father, the Messenger of the Father and the Son, who is to lead you into all truth, to sanctify you by the truth, and in so doing, and in order so to do, taking of the things that are Christ's--not man's—and showing them to your souls. You will rely, not upon the enticing words of
man's wisdom, but upon the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. You will love Paul's exclusiveness—“I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” And in proportion as you love and imitate that, because your love, like Paul's, is set only upon Christ, in that proportion will you also know and love the comprehensiveness and the glory of Paul's prayers; and the great strife of your prayers, the fire and life of your study of the Word, will be that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” And thus he will “ grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith ; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length, and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. And unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly, above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."