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ligion is accompanied with present peace and consolation. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Thus will you, having believed in the Son of God in a proper sense, rejoice in your youth; your hearts will cheer you in the days of your youth : for “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Go on and prosper, and the Lord be with you. “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among them who are sanctified.”
For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishner of preaching to save them that believe.
THE best method, in my judgment, of determining with accuracy, how far the light of nature is sufficient to lead mankind to the knowledge of the true God and their duty to him, is, to attend to the condition of the heathen world : not of the most barbarous and ignorant, but of the inhabitants of Greece and Rome, at the periods when they were most celebrated for learning and refinement. Even then they were gross idolaters ; and many of their sentiments and practices were shocking to decency and common sense. f Whence it appears, that with all their wisdom and learning, they quite mistook the nature of God and religion: hence divine revelation became absolutely necessary. “For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God.” The meaning is, that although “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, the world knew him not ; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” It has been the method of the infinite God, both before and since the fall, to leave mankind to act out their own characters, and not to interpose until the necessity of his interposition became evident. Thus it was in the case of our first parents: he could have prevented their apostasy, but did not. After they had sinned, and were distressed with conscious guilt, he revealed to them Jesus Christ, under the idea of the seed of the woman. And when the world was overspread with sin and ignorance, and by wisdom knew him not, having had the fairest trial, he was pleased, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. Let us
* This and the two following Sermons were delivered in No. vember, 1790. - .
it “The sports of the gladiators, unnatural lusts, the licentiousness of divorce, the exposing of infants and slaves, the procuring abortions, the public establishment of stews; all subsisted at Rome, and not one of them was condemned, or hinted at in Tully's offices. The most indecent revelling, drunkenness, and lewdness were practised at the feasts of Bacchus, Ceres, and Cybele; and their greatest philosophers never remonstrated against it.
“The heathen philosophers, though they have advanced fine sayings and sublime precepts, in some points of morality, have grossly failed in others; such as the toleration or encouragement of revenge, slavery, unnatural lust, fornication, suicide, &c. For ex"
ample: Plato expressly allowed of excessive drinking at the festivals of Bacchus, Maximus Tyrius forbad to pray, &c. “Aristotle and Plato both direct that means should be used to prevent weak children being brought up. Cato commends a young man for frequenting the stews. Cicero expressly speaks of fornication as a thing never found fault with. Plato recommends a community of women, and advises that soldiers should not be restrained from sensual indulgence, even the most unnatural species of it. Xenophon relates, without any marks of reprobation, that unnatural lust was encouraged by the laws of several Grecian states. Solon, their great lawgiver, forbad it only to slaves. Diogenes inculcated, and openly practised the most brutal lust. Zeno and Cato both killed themselves.” Bishop of Carlisle's reflections on the life and character of Christ,-Appendix.
I. Account for Paul's use of this expression, “the foolishness of preaching.”
II. Ascertain what kind of preaching he had in view.
III. Prove that God hath been pleased to put the most distinguished honour on it, by making it the means of saving them that believe.
I. Our first inquiry is, why does the apostle use the expression, “foolishness of preaching 2"
We are confident, my brethren, he does not speak in his own, but in borrowed language. He must have been a fool indeed, to have engaged in a service which he knew would reproach his own understanding. Rather he has respect to the common opinion of the Greeks, who are said to “seek after wisdom;” meaning, the wisdom of this world. “We preach Christ crucified,” says this apostle, “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but unto them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” This single passage accounts for Paul's use of the expression. The preaching of Christ crucified was foolishness to the learned, unregenerate Greeks.
II. We pass to consider what kind of preaching it was, the apostle had respect to.
There are certain sentiments that the world can hear with patience and approbation ; there are others to which the hearts of natural men rise in opposition. 1. Few, if any, object to moral subjects, because it is a just and general opinion, that all men ought to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Neither Jews nor Greeks would take offence at this kind of preaching, nor even men of vicious characters, unless the preacher should happen to fix on the vices of some of his friends, and censure them with severity : in that case resentment would naturally be excited, and he might expect to be charged with being too pointed or personal in the pulpit, especially if he had previously known on whom the reproof would fall. In such circumstances, what shall a preacher do Shall he cease to expose vice, because some of his friends are vicious : God forbid! Far better will it be for him to lose the attachment of the best parishioner he has, and to make a sacrifice of his whole temporal interest, than to be unfaithful to his God, to his conscience, and to the people of his charge. The way for mankind to secure their feelings from injury on such occasions, is for them to be virtuous. But if they will violate the laws of God, and injure society by their wicked examples, they must bear the reproach. No prudent man will introduce personal matters into the pulpit ; nor will an honest man be afraid of commending himself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. However, as moral subjects are generally approved, because agreeable to the reason and nature of things, he has but little to fear on this head, except he should be too evangelical in his manner of treat