Sermon 7. Christ Crucified
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 11, 1855, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
At Exeter Hall, Strand.
"But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which arecalled, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."-1 Corinthians 1:23-24.
What contempt hath God poured upon the wisdom of this world! How hath he brought it to nought, and made it appear as nothing.He has allowed it to word out its own conclusions, and prove its own folly. Men boasted that they were wise; they said thatthey could find out God to perfection; and in order that their folly might be refuted once and forever, God gave them theopportunity of so doing. He said, "Worldly wisdom, I will try thee. Thou sayest that thou art mighty,that thine intellect is vast and comprehensive, that thine eye is keen, and thou canst find all secrets; now, behold,I try thee; I give thee one great problem to solve. Here is the universe; stars make its canopy, fields and flowers adornit, and the floods roll o'er its surface; my name is written therein; the invisible things of God may be clearly seen in thethings which are made. Philosophy, I give thee this problem-find me out. Here are my works-find me out. Discover in the wondrousworld which I have made, the way to worship me acceptably. I give thee space enough to do it-there are data enough. Beholdthe clouds, the earth, and the stars. I give thee time enough; I will give thee four thousand years, and I will not interfere;but thou shalt do as thou wilt with thine own world. I will give thee men enough; for I will make great minds and vast, whomthou shalt call lords of earth; thou shalt have orators, thou shalt have philosophers. Find me out, O reason; find me out,O wisdom; find me out, if thou canst; find me out unto perfection; and if thou canst not, then shut thy mouth forever,and then will I teach thee that the wisdom of God is wiser than the wisdom of man; yea, that the foolishness of God is wiserthan men." And how did the wisdom of man work out the problem? How did wisdom perform her feat? Look upon the heathen nations;there you see the result of wisdom's researches. In the time of Jesus Christ, you might have beheld the earth covered withtheslime of pollution, a Sodom on a large scale-corrupt, filthy, depraved; indulging in vices which we dare not mention;revelling in lust too abominable even for our imagination to dwell upon for a moment. We find the men prostrating themselvesbefore blocks of wood and stone, adoring ten thousand gods more vicious than themselves. We find, in fact, that reason wroteout her lines with a finger covered with blood and filth, and that she forever cut herself out from all her glory by the viledeeds she did. She would not worship God. She would not bow down to him who is "clearly seen," but she worshipped anycreature-the reptile that crawled, the viper- everything might be a god; but not, forsooth, the God of heaven. Vice mightbe made into a ceremony, the greatest crime might be exalted into a religion; but true worship she knew nothing of. Poor reason!poor wisdom! how art thou fallen from heaven; like Lucifer-thou son of the morning-thou art lost; thou hast written outthy conclusion, but a conclusion of consummate folly. "After that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God,it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."
Wisdom had had its time, and time enough; it had done its all, and that was little enough; it had made the world worse thanit was before it stepped upon it, and "now," says God, "Foolishness shall overcome wisdom; now ignorance, as ye call it, shallsweep away science; now, humble, child-like faith shall crumble to the dust all the colossal systems your hands have piled."He calls his armies. Christ puts his trumpet to his mouth, and up come the warriors, clad infishermen's garb, with the brogue of the lake of Galilee-poor humble mariners. Here are the warriors, O wisdom, that areto confound thee; these are the heroes who shall overcome thy proud philosophers; these men are to plant their standard uponthy ruined walls, and bid them to fall forever; these men and their successors are to exalt a gospel in the world which yemay laugh at as absurd, which ye may sneer at as folly, but which shall be exalted above the hills, and shall be gloriousevento the highest heavens. Since that day, God has always raised up successors of the apostles; not by any lineal descent,but because I have the same roll and charter as any apostle, and am as much called to preach the gospel as Paul himself; ifnot as much owned by the conversion of sinners, yet, in a measure, blessed of God; and, therefore, here I stand, foolish asPaul might be, foolish as Peter, or any of those fishermen; but still with the might of God I grasp the sword of truth, cominghereto "preach Christ and him crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them whichare called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
Before I enter upon our text, let me very briefly tell you what I believe preaching Christ and him crucified is. My friends,I do not believe it is preaching Christ and him crucified, to give people a batch of philosophy every Sunday morning and evening,and neglect the truths of this Holy Book. I do not believe it is preaching Christ and him crucified, to leave out the maincardinal doctrines of the Word of God, and preach a religion which is all a mist and a haze,without any definite truths whatever. I take it that man does not preach Christ and him crucified, who can get through a sermon without mentioning Christ's name once; nor doesthat man preach Christ and him crucified, who leaves out the Holy Spirit's work, who never says a word about the Holy Ghost,so that indeed the hearers might say, "We do not so much as know whether there be a Holy Ghost." And I have my own privateopinion, that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and himcrucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism. I have my own ideas, and those I always state boldly.It is a nickname to call it Calvinism. Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel,if we do not preach justification by faith without works; not unless we preach the sovereignty of God in his dispensationof grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor, I think, canwepreach the gospel, unless we base it upon the peculiar redemption which Christ made for his elect and chosen people; norcan I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burnedin the fires of damnation, after having believed. Such a gospel I abhor. The gospel of the Bible is not such a gospel as that.We preach Christ and him crucified in a different fashion, and to all gainsayers we reply, "We have not so learned Christ."
There are three things in the text: first, a gospel rejected, "Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumblingblock, and to theGreeks foolishness"; secondly, a gospel triumphant, "unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks"; and thirdly, a gospeladmired; it is to them who are called "the power of God and the wisdom of God."
I. First, we have here A GOSPEL REJECTED. One would have imagined that, when God sent his gospel to men, all men would meeklylisten, and humbly receive its truths. We should have thought that God's ministers had but to proclaim that life is broughtto light by the gospel, and that Christ is come to save sinners, and every ear would be attentive, every eye would be fixed,and every heart would be wide open to receive the truth. We should have said, judging favorably of ourfellow-creatures, that there would not exist in the world a monster so vile, so depraved, so polluted, as to put so muchas a stone in the way of the progress of truth; we could not have conceived such a thing; yet that conception is the truth.When the gospel was preached, instead of being accepted and admired, one universal hiss went up to heaven; men could not bearit; its first preacher they dragged to the brow of the hill, and would have sent him down headlong; yea, they did more-theynailed him to the cross, and there they let him languish out his dying life in agony such as no man hath borne since.All his chosen ministers have been hated and abhorred by worldlings; instead of being listened to they have been scoffed at;treated as if they were the offscouring of all things, and the very scum of mankind. Look at the holy men in the old times,how they were driven from city to city, persecuted, afflicted, tormented, stoned to death, wherever the enemy had power todo so.Those friends of men, those real philanthropists, who came with hearts big with love, and hands full of mercy, and lipspregnant with celestial fire, and souls that burned with holy influence; those men were treated as if they were spies in thecamp, as if they were deserters from the common cause of mankind; as if they were enemies, and not, as they truly were, thebest of friends. Do not suppose, my friends, that men like the gospel any better now than they did then. There is an ideathat youare growing better. I do not believe it. You are growing worse. In many respects men may be better-outwardly better; theheart within is still the same. The human heart of today dissected, would be like the human heart a thousand years ago; thegall of bitterness within that breast of yours, is just as bitter as the gall of bitterness in that of Simon of old. We havein our hearts the same latent opposition to the truth of God; and hence we find men, even as of old, who scorn the gospel.
I shall, in speaking of the gospel rejected, endeavour to point out the two classes of persons who equally despise truth.The Jews make it a stumblingblock, and the Greeks account it foolishness. Now these two very respectable gentlemen-the Jewand the Greek-I am not going to make these ancient individuals the object of my condemnation, but I look upon them as membersof a great parliament, representatives of a great constituency, and I shall attempt to show that, ifall the race of Jews were cut off, there would be still a great number in the world who would answer to the name of Jews,to whom Christ is a stumblingblock; and that if Greece were swallowed up by some earthquake, and ceased to be a nation, therewould still be the Greek unto whom the gospel would be foolishness. I shall simply introduce the Jew and the Greek, and letthem speak a moment to you, in order that you may see the gentlemen who represent you; the representative men; the personswhostand for many of you, who as yet are not called by divine grace.
The first is a Jew; to him the gospel is a stumblingblock. A respectable man the Jew was in his day; all formal religion wasconcentrated in his person; he went up to the temple very devoutly; he tithed all he had, even to the mint and the cummin.You would see him fast twice in the week, with a face all marked with sadness and sorrow. If you looked at him, he had thelaw between his eyes; there was the phylactery, and the borders of his garments of amazing width, that hemight never be supposed to be a Gentile dog; that no one might ever conceive that he was not an Hebrew of pure descent.He had a holy ancestry; he came of a pious family; a right good man was he. He could not like those Sadducees at all, whohad no religion. He was thoroughly a religious man; he stood up for his synagogue; he would not have that temple on MountGerizim; he could not bear the Samaritans, he had no dealings with them; he was a religionist of the first order, a man ofthe veryfinest kind; a specimen of a man who is a moralist, and who loves the ceremonies of the law. Accordingly, when he heardabout Christ, he asked who Christ was. "The Son of a Carpenter." Ah! "The son of a carpenter, and his mothers's name was Mary,and his father's name was Joseph." "That of itself is presumption enough," said he; "positive proof, in fact, that he cannotbe the Messiah." And what does he say? Why, he says, "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites." "That won't do."Moreover, he says, "It is not by the works of the flesh that any man can enter into the kingdom of heaven." The Jew tieda double knot in his phylactery at once; he thought he would have the borders of his garment made twice as broad. He bow to the Nazarene! No, no; and if so much as a disciple crossed the street, he thought the place polluted, and would nottread in his steps. Do you think he would give up his old father's religion, the religion which came from Mount Sinai, thatoldreligion that lay in the ark and the overshadowing cherubim? He give that up! not he. A vile imposter-that is all Christwas in his eyes. He thought so. "A stumblingblock to me; I cannot hear about it; I will not listen to it." Accordingly, heturned a deaf ear to all the preacher's eloquence, and listened not at all. Farewell, old Jew! Thou sleepest with thy fathers,and thy generation is a wandering race, still walking the earth. Farewell! I have done with thee. Alas! poor wretch, thatChrist, who was thy stumbling-block, shall be thy judge, and on thy head shall be that loud curse. "His blood be on usand on our children." But I am going to find out Mr. Jew here in Exeter Hall-persons who answer to his description-to whomJesus Christ is a stumblingblock. Let me introduce you to yourselves, some of you. You were of a pious family too, were younot? Yes. And you have a religion which you love; you love it so far as the chrysalis of it goes, the outside, the covering,thehusk. You would not have one rubric altered, nor one of those dear old arches taken down, nor the stained glass removed,for all the world; and any man who should say a word against such things, you would set down as a heretic at once. Or, perhaps,you do not go to such a place of worship, but you love some plain old meeting-house, where your forefathers worshipped, calleda dissenting chapel. Ah! it is a beautiful plain place; you love it, you love its ordinances, you love its exterior; and ifany one spoke against the place, how vexed you would feel. You think that what they do there, they ought to do everywhere;in fact, your church is a model one; the place where you go is exactly the sort of place for everybody; and if I were to askyou why you hope to go to heaven, you would perhaps say, "Because I am a Baptist," or, "Because I am an Episcopalian," orwhatever other sect you belong to. There is yourself; I know Jesus Christ will be to you a stumblingblock. If I come and tellyou, that all your going to the house of God is good for nothing; if I tell you that all those many times you have beensinging and praying, all pass for nothing in the sight of God, because you are a hypocrite and a formalist. If I tell youthat your heart is not right with God, and that unless it is so, all the external is good for nothing, I know what you willsay,-"I shan't hear that young man again." It is a stumblingblock. If you had stepped in anywhere where you had heard formalismexalted: if you had been told "this must you do, and this other must you do, and then you will be saved," you would highlyapprove of it. But how many are there externally religious, with whose characters you could find no fault, but who have neverhad the regenerating influence of the Holy Ghost; who never were made to lie prostrate on their face before Calvary's cross;who never turned a wistful eye to yonder Saviour crucified; who never put their trust in him that was slain for the sons ofmen. They love a superficial religion, but when a man talks deeper than that, they set it down for cant. You may loveall that is external about religion, just as you may love a man for his clothes-caring nothing for the man himself. If so,I know you are one of those who reject the gospel. You will hear me preach; and while I speak about the externals, you willhear me with attention; whilst I plead for morality, and argue against drunkenness, or show the heinousness of Sabbath-breaking,butif once I say, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye can in no wise enter into the kingdom of God";if once I tell you that you must be elected of God: that you must be purchased with the Saviour's blood-that you must be convertedby the Holy Ghost-you say, "He is a fanatic! Away with him, away with him! We do not want to hear that any more." Christ crucified,is to the Jew-the ceremonialist-a stumblingblock.
But there is another specimen of this Jew to be found. He is thoroughly orthodox in his sentiments. As for forms and ceremonies,he thinks nothing about them. He goes to a place of worship where he learns sound doctrine. He will hear nothing but whatis true. He likes that we should have good works and morality. He is a good man, and no one can find fault with him. Herehe is, regular in his Sunday pew. In the market he walks before men in all honesty-so you wouldimagine. Ask him about any doctrine, and he can give you a disquisition upon it. In fact, he could write a treatise uponanything in the Bible, and a great many things besides. He knows almost everything: and here, up in this dark attic of thehead, his religion has taken up its abode; he has a best parlor down in his heart, but his religion never goes there-thatis shut against it. He has money in there-Mammon, worldliness; or he has something else-self-love, pride. Perhaps he lovestohear experimental preaching; he admires it all; in fact, he loves anything that is sound. But then, he has not any soundin himself; or rather, it is all sound and there is no substance. He likes to hear true doctrine; but it never penetrateshis inner man. You never see him weep. Preach to him about Christ crucified, a glorious subject, and you never see a tearroll down his cheek; tell him of the mighty influence of the Holy Ghost-he admires you for it, but he never had the hand ofthe HolySpirit on his soul; tell him about communion with God, plunging in Godhead's deepest sea, and being lost in its immensity-theman loves to hear, but he never experiences, he has never communed with Christ; and accordingly, when you once begin to strikehome; when you lay him on the table, take out your dissecting knife, begin to cut him up, and show him his own heart, lethim see what it is by nature, and what it must become by grace-the man starts, he cannot stand that; he wants none ofthat-Christ received in the heart, and accepted. Albeit that he loves it enough in the head, 'tis to him a stumblingblock,and he casts it away. Do you see yourselves here, my friends? See yourselves as God sees you? For so it is, here be many towhom Christ is as much a stumblingblock now as ever he was. O ye formalists! I speak to you; O ye who have the nutshell, butabhor the kernel; O ye who like the trappings and the dress, but care not for that fair virgin who is clothed therewith; Oyewho like the paint and the tinsel, but abhor the solid gold, I speak to you; I ask you, does your religion give you solidcomfort? Can you stare death in the face with it, and say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth?" Can you close your eyes at night,singing as your vesper song-
"I to the end must endure
As sure as the earnest is given"?
Can you bless God for affliction? Can you plunge in, accounted as ye are, and swim through all the floods of trial? Can youmarch triumphant through the lion's den, laugh at affliction, and bid defiance to hell? Can you? No! Your gospel is an effeminatething-a thing of words and sounds, and not of power. Cast it from you, I beseech you; it is not worth your keeping; and whenyou come before the throne of God, you will find it will fail you, and fail you so that youshall never find another; for lost, ruined, destroyed, ye shall find that Christ, who is now "a stumblingblock," willbe your Judge.
I have found out the Jew, and I have now to discover the Greek. He is a person of quite a different exterior to the Jew. Asto the phylactery, to him it is all rubbish; and as to the broad hemmed garment, he despises it. He does not care for theforms of religion; he has an intense aversion, in fact, to broad-brimmed hats, or to everything which looks like outward show.He likes eloquence; he admires a smart saying; he loves a quaint expression; he likes to read the lastnew book; he is a Greek, and to him the gospel is foolishness. The Greek is a gentleman found everywhere, now-a-days;manufactured sometimes in colleges, constantly made in schools, produced everywhere. He is on the exchange, in the market;he keeps a shop, rides in a carriage; he is noble, a gentleman; he is everywhere, even in court. He is thoroughly wise. Askhim anything, and he knows it. Ask for a quotation from any of the old poets, or any one else, and he can give it you. Ifyou are aMohammedan, and plead the claims of your religion, he will hear you very patiently. But if you are a Christian, and talkto him of Jesus Christ, "Stop your cant," he says, "I don't want to hear anything about that." This Grecian gentleman believesall philosophy except the true one; he studies all wisdom except the wisdom of God; he likes all learning except spirituallearning; he loves everything except that which God approves; he likes everything which man makes, and nothing which comesfromGod; it is foolishness to him, confounded foolishness. You have only to discourse about one doctrine in the Bible, andhe shuts his ears; he wishes no longer for your company-it is foolishness. I have met this gentleman a great many times. Once,when I saw him, he told me he did not believe in any religion at all; and when I said I did, and had a hope that when I diedI should go to heaven, he said he dared say it was very comfortable, but he did not believe in religion, and that he was sureit was best to live as nature dictated. Another time he spoke well of all religions, and believed they were very goodin their place, and all true; and he had no doubt that, if a man were sincere in any kind of religion, he would be alrightat last. I told him I did not think so, and that I believed there was but one religion revealed of God-the religion of God'select, the religion which is the gift of Jesus. He then said I was a begot, and wished me good morning. It was to him foolishness.He had nothing to do with me at all. He either liked no religion, or every religion. Another time I held him by the coatbutton, and I discussed with him a little about faith. He said, "It is all very well, I believe that is true Protestant doctrine."But presently I said something about election, and he said, "I don't like that; many people have preached that and turnedit to bad account." I then hinted something about free grace; but that he could not endure, it was to him foolishness. Hewasa polished Greek, and thought that if he were not chosen, he ought to be. He never liked that passage, "God hath chosenthe foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and the things which are not, to bring to nought things that are."He thought it was very discreditable to the Bible and when the book was revised, he had no doubt it would be cut out. To sucha man-for he is here this morning, very likely come to hear this reed shaken of the wind-I have to say this: Ah! thou wiseman,full of worldly wisdom; thy wisdom will stand thee here, but what wilt thou do in the swellings of Jordan? Philosophymay do well for thee to learn upon whilst thou walkest through this world; but the river is deep, and thou wilt want somethingmore than that. If thou hast not the arm of the Most High to hold thee up in the flood and cheer thee with promises, thouwilt sink, man; with all thy philosophy, thou wilt sink; with all thy learning, thou shalt sink, and be washed into that awfuloceanof eternal torment, where thou shalt be forever. Ah! Greeks, it may be foolishness to you, but ye shall see the man yourjudge, and then shall ye rue the day that e'er ye said that God's gospel was foolishness.
II. Having spoken thus far upon the gospel rejected, I shall now briefly speak upon the GOSPEL TRIUMPHANT. "Unto us who arecalled, both Jews and Greeks, it is the power of God, and the wisdom of God." Yonder man rejects the gospel, despises grace,and laughs at it as a delusion. Here is another man who laughed at it, too; but God will fetch him down upon his knees. Christshall not die for nothing. The Holy Ghost shall not strive in vain. God hath said, "My word shall notreturn unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.""He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be abundantly satisfied." If one sinner is not saved, another shall be.The Jew and the Greek shall never depopulate heaven. The choirs of glory shall not lose a single songster by all the oppositionof Jews and Greeks; for God hath said it; some shall be called; some shall be saved; some shall be rescued.
"Perish the virtue, as it ought, abhorred,
And the fool with it, who insults his Lord.
The atonement a Redeemer's love has wrought
Is not for you-the righteous need it not.
See'st thou yon harlot wooing all she meets,
The worn-out nuisance of the public streets
Herself from morn till night, from night to morn,
Her own abhorrence, and as much your scorn:
The gracious shower, unlimited and free,
Shall fall on her, when heaven denies it thee.
Of all that wisdom dictates, this the drift,
That man is dead in sin, and life a gift."
If the righteous and good are not saved, if they reject the gospel, there are others who are to be called, others who shallbe rescued; for Christ will not lose the merits of his agonies, or the purchase of his blood.
"Unto us who are called." I received a note this week asking me to explain that word "called"; because in one passage it says, "Many are called but few are chosen," while in another it appears that all who are calledmust be chosen. Now, let me observe that there are two calls. As my old friend, John Bunyan, says, the hen has two calls,the common cluck, which she gives daily and hourly, and the special one, which she means for her little chickens. So thereis a general call, a call made to every man; every man hears it. Many are called by it; all you are called this morningin that sense, but very few are chosen. The other is a special call, the children's call. You know how the bell sounds overthe workshop, to call the men to work-that is a general call. A father goes to the door and calls out, "John, it is dinnertime"-that is the special call. Many are called with the general call, but they are not chosen; the special call is for thechildren only, and that is what is meant in the text, "Unto us who are called, both Jews and Greeks, the power of Godand the wisdom of God." That call is always a special one. While I stand here and call men, nobody comes; while I preach tosinners universally, no good is done; it is like the sheet lightning you sometimes see on the summer's evening, beautiful,grand; but whoever heard of anything being struck by it? But the special call is the forked flash from heaven; it strikessomewhere;it is the arrow sent in between the joints of the harness. The call which saves is like that of Jesus, when he said "Mary,"and she said unto him "Rabonni." Do you know anything about that special call, my beloved? Did Jesus ever call you by name?Canst thou recollect the hour when he whispered thy name in thine ear, when he said, "Come to me"? If so, you will grant thetruth of what I am going to say next about it-that it is an effectual call; there is no resisting it. When God calls withhis special call, there is no standing out. Ah! I know I laughed at religion; I despised, I abhorred it; but that call!Oh, I would not come. But God said, "Thou shalt come. All that the Father giveth to me shall come." "Lord, I will not." "Butthou shalt," said God. And I have gone up to God's house sometimes almost with a resolution that I would not listen, but listenI must. Oh, how the word came into my soul! Was there a power of resistance? No; I was thrown down; each bone seemed to bebroken; I was saved by effectual grace. I appeal to your experience, my friends. When God took you in hand, could youwithstand him? You stood against your minister times enough. Sickness did not break you down; disease did not bring you toGod's feet; eloquence did not convince you; but when God puts his hand to the work, ah! then what a change. Like Saul, withhis horses going to Damascus, that voice from heaven said, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." "Saul, Saul, why persecutestthou me?"There was no going further then. That was an effectual call. Like that, again, which Jesus gave to Zaccheus, when he wasup in the tree; stepping under the tree, he said, "Zaccheus, come down, today I must abide in thy house." Zaccheus was takenin the net; he heard his own name; the call sank into his soul; he could not stop up in the tree, for an almighty impulsedrew him down. And I could tell you some singular instances of persons going to the house of God and having their charactersdescribed, limned out to perfection, so that they have said, "He is painting me, he is painting me." Just as I might sayto that young man here, who stole his master's gloves yesterday, that Jesus calls him to repentance. It may be that thereis such a person here; and when the call comes to a peculiar character, it generally comes with a special power. God giveshis ministers a brush, and shows them how to use it in painting life-like portraits, and thus the sinner hears the specialcall. Icannot give the special call; God alone can give it, and I leave it with him. Some must be called. Jew and Greek may laugh,but still there are some who are called, both Jews and Greeks.
Then, to close up this second point, it is a great mercy that many a Jew has been made to drop his self righteousness; manya legalist has been made to drop his legalism, and come to Christ; and many a Greek has bowed his genius at the throne ofGod's gospel. We have a few such. As Cowper says:
"We boast some rich ones whom the gospel sways,
And one who wears a coronet, and prays;
Like gleanings of an olive tree they show,
Here and there one upon the topmost bough."
III. Now we come to our third point, A GOSPEL ADMIRED; unto us who are called of God, it is the power of God, and the wisdomof God. Now, beloved, this must be a matter of pure experience between your souls and God. If you are called of God this morning,you will know it. I know there are times when a Christian has to say,
"Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought;
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I his, or am I not?"
But if a man never in his life knew himself to be a Christian, he never was a Christian. If he never had a moment of confidence,when he could say, "Now I know in whom I have believed," I think I do not utter a harsh thing when I say, that that man couldnot have been born again; for I do not understand how a man can be killed and then made alive again, and not know it; howa man can pass from death unto life, and not know it; how a man can be brought out of darkness intomarvellous liberty without knowing it. I am sure I know it when I shout out my old verse,
"Now free from sin, I walk at large,
My Saviour's blood's my full discharge;
At his dear feet content I lay,
A sinner saved, and homage pay."
There are moments when the eyes glisten with joy and we can say, "We are persuaded, confident, certain." I do not wish todistress any one who is under doubt. Often gloomy doubts will prevail; there are seasons when you fear you have not been called,when you doubt your interest in Christ. Ah! what a mercy it is that it is not your hold of Christ that saves you, but hishold of you! What a sweet fact that it is not how you grasp his hand, but his grasp of yours, that savesyou. Yet I think you ought to know, sometime or other, whether you are called of God. If so, you will follow me in thenext part of my discourse, which is a matter of pure experience; unto us who are saved, it is "Christ the power of God, andthe wisdom of God."
The gospel is to the true believer a thing of power. It is Christ the power of God. Ay, there is a power in God's gospel beyondall description. Once, I, like Mazeppa, bound on the wild horse of my lust, bound hand and foot, incapable of resistance,was galloping on with hell's wolves behind me, howling for my body and my soul, as their just and lawful prey. There camea mighty hand which stopped that wild horse, cut my bands, set me down, and brought me into liberty. Isthere power, sir? Ay, there is power, and he who has felt it must acknowledge it. There was a time when I lived in thestrong old castle of my sins, and rested in my works. There came a trumpeter to the door, and bade me open it. I with angerchide him from the porch, and said he ne'er should enter. There came a goodly personage, with loving countenance; his handswere marked with scars, where nails were driven, and his feet had nail-prints too; he lifted up his cross, using it as a hammer;atthe first blow the gate of my prejudice shook; at the second it trembled more; at the third down it fell, and in he came;and he said, "Arise, and stand upon thy feet, for I have loved thee with an everlasting love." A thing of power! Ah! it isa thing of power. I have felt it here, in this heart; I have the witness of the Spirit within, and know it is a thing of might, because it has conquered me; ithas bowed me down.
"His free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affection, and held my soul fast."
The gospel to the Christian is a thing of power. What is it that makes the young man devote himself as a missionary to thecause of God, to leave father and mother, and go into distant lands? It is a thing of power that does it-it is the gospel.What is it that constrains yonder minister, in the midst of the cholera, to climb up that creaking staircase, and stand bythe bed of some dying creature who has that dire disease? It must be a thing of power which leads him toventure his life; it is love of the cross of Christ which bids him do it. What is that which enables one man to standup before a multitude of his fellows, all unprepared it may be, but determined that he will speak nothing but Christ and himcrucified? What is it that enables him to cry, like the war-horse of Job in battle, Aha! and move glorious in might? It isa thing of power that does it-it is Christ crucified. And what emboldens that timid female to walk down that dark lane inthe wetevening, that she may go and sit beside the victim of a contagious fever? What strengthens her to go through that denof thieves, and pass by the profligate and profane? What influences her to enter into that charnel-house of death, and theresit down and whisper words of comfort? Does gold make her do it? They are too poor to give her gold. Does fame make her doit? She shall never be known, nor written among the mighty women of this earth. What makes her do it? Is it love of merit?No; sheknows she has no desert before high heaven. What impels her to it? It is the power of the gospel on her heart; it is thecross of Christ; she loves it, and she therefore says-
"Were the whole realm of nature mine.
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."
But I behold another scene. A martyr is going to the stake; the halberd men are around him; the crowds are mocking, but heis marching steadily on. See, they bind him, with a chain around his middle, to the stake; they heap faggots all about him;the flame is lighted up; listen to his words: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name."The flames are kindling round his legs; the fire is burning him even to the bone; see him lift up his handsand say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and though the fire devour this body, yet in my flesh shall I see the Lord."Behold him clutch the stake and kiss it, as if he loved it, and hear him say, "For every chain of iron that man girdeth mewith, God shall give me a chain of gold; for all these faggots, and this ignominy and shame, he shall increase the weightof my eternal glory." See all the under parts of his body are consumed; still he lives in the torture; at last he bows himself,and theupper part of his body falls over; and as he falls you hear him say, "Into thy hands I commend my Spirit." What wondrousmagic was on him, sirs? What made that man strong? What helped him to bear that cruelty? What made him stand unmoved in theflames? It was the thing of power; it was the cross of Jesus crucified. For "unto us who are saved it is the power of God."
But behold another scene far different. There is no crowd there; it is a silent room. There is a poor pallet, a lonely bed:a physician standing by. There is a young girl: her face is blanched by consumption; long hath the worm eaten her cheek, andthough sometimes the flush came, it was the death flush of the deceitful consumption. There she lieth, weak, pale, wan, worn,dying, yet behold a smile upon her face, as if she had seen an angel. She speaketh, and there is musicin her voice. Joan of Arc of old was not half so mighty as that girl. She is wrestling with dragons on her death-bed;but see her composure, and hear her dying sonnet:
"Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high!
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide,
Till the storm of life is past,
Safe into the haven guide,
O receive my soul at last!"
And with a smile she shuts her eye on earth, and opens it in heaven. What enables her to die like that? It is the thing ofpower; it is the cross; it is Jesus crucified.
I have little time to discourse upon the other point, and it be far from me to weary you by a lengthened and prosy sermon,but we must glance at the other statement: Christ is, to the called ones, the wisdom of God as well as the power of God. Toa believer, the gospel is the perfection of wisdom, and if it appear not so to the ungodly, it is because of the perversionof judgement consequent on their depravity.
An idea has long possessed the public mind, that a religious man can scarcely be a wise man. It has been the custom to talkof infidels, atheists, and deists, as men of deep thought and comprehensive intellect; and to tremble for the Christian controversialist,as if he must surely fall by the hand of his enemy. But this is purely a mistake; for the gospel is the sum of wisdom; anepitome of knowledge; a treasure-house of truth; and a revelation of mysterious secrets. Init we see how justice and mercy may be married; here we behold inexorable law entirely satisfied, and sovereign love bearingaway the sinner in triumph. Our meditation upon it enlarges the mind; and as it opens to our soul in successive flashes ofglory, we stand astonished at the profound wisdom manifest in it. Ah, dear friends! if ye seek wisdom, ye shall see it displayedin all its greatness; not in the balancing of the clouds, nor the firmness of earth's foundations; not in the measuredmarch of the armies of the sky, nor in the perpetual motions of the waves of the sea; not in vegetation with all its fairyforms of beauty; nor in the animal with its marvellous tissue of nerve, and vein, and sinew: nor even in man, that last andloftiest work of the Creator. But turn aside and see this great sight!-an incarnate God upon the cross; a substitute atoningfor mortal guilt; a sacrifice satisfying the vengeance of Heaven, and delivering the rebellious sinner. Here is essentialwisdom; enthroned, crowned, glorified. Admire, ye men of earth, if ye be not blind; and ye who glory in your learningbend your heads in reverence, and own that all your skill could not have devised a gospel at once so just to God, so safeto man.
Remember, my friends, that while the gospel is in itself wisdom, it also confers wisdom on its students; she teaches youngmen wisdom and discretion, and gives understanding to the simple. A man who is a believing admirer and a hearty lover of thetruth as it is in Jesus, is in a right place to follow with advantage any other branch of science. I confess I have a shelfin my head for everything now. Whatever I read I know where to put it; whatever I learn I know where tostow it away. Once when I read books, I put all my knowledge together in glorious confusion; but ever since I have knownChrist, I have put Christ in the centre as my sun, and each science revolves round it like a planet, while minor sciencesare satellites to these planets. Christ is to me the wisdom of God. I can learn everything now. The science of Christ crucifiedis the most excellent of sciences, she is to me the wisdom of God. O, young man, build thy studio on Calvary! there raisethineobservatory, and scan by faith the lofty things of nature. Take thee a hermit's cell in the garden of Gethsemane, andlave thy brow with the waters of Silo. Let the Bible be thy standard classic-thy last appeal in matters of contention. Letits light be thine illumination, and thou shalt become more wise than Plato, more truly learned than the seven sages of antiquity.
And now, my dear friends, solemnly and earnestly, as in the sight of God, I appeal to you. You are gathered here this morning,I know, from different motives; some of you have come from curiosity; others of you are my regular hearers; some have comefrom one place and some from another. What have you heard me say this morning? I have told you of two classes of persons whoreject Christ; the religionist, who has a religion of form and nothing else; and the man of the world,who calls our gospel foolishness. Now, put your hand upon your heart, and ask yourself this morning, "Am I one of these?"If you are, then walk the earth in all your pride; then go as you came in: but know that for all this the Lord shall bringthee unto judgement; know thou that thy joys and delights shall vanish like a dream, "and, like the baseless fabric of a vision,"be swept away forever. Know thou this, moreover, O man, that one day in the halls of Satan, down in hell, I perhaps may seethee amongst those myriad spirits who revolve forever in a perpetual circle with their hands upon their hearts. If thinehand be transparent, and thy flesh transparent, I shall look through thy hand and flesh, and see thy heart within. And howshall I see it? Set in a case of fire-in a case of fire! And there thou shalt revolve forever with the worm gnawing withinthy heart, which ne'er shall die-a case of fire around thy never-dying, ever-tortured heart. Good God! let not these men stillreject and despise Christ; but let this be the time when they shall be called.
To the rest of you who are called, I need say nothing. The longer you live, the more powerful will you find the gospel tobe; the more deeply Christ-taught you are, the more you live under the constant influence of the Holy Spirit, the more youwill know the gospel to be a thing of power, and the more also will you understand it to be a thing of wisdom. May every blessingrest upon you; and may God come up with us in the evening!
"Let men or angels dig the mines
Where nature's golden treasure shines;
Brought near the doctrine of the cross,
All nature's gold appears but dross.
Should vile blasphemers with disdain
Pronounce the truths of Jesus vain,
We'll meet the scandal and the shame,
And sing and triumph in his name."