Abbildungen der Seite

ment, by a set of artless unlearned men, who only related what they had seen and heard, and proved the truth of what they said, not by fine-spun arguments, or florid declamations, but in a plain unfashionable kind of way, by sacrificing all that was dear to them, and laying down their lives in tes¬ timony to their doctrines. As far, indeed, as those doctrines were ncw, they would be well received. For the Athenians, as we learn from the highest authority, 66 spent "their time in nothing else but either to "tell or to hear some new thing*.". When therefore St. Paul came to Athens, and preached to that celebrated school of phi losophy "Jesus and the Resurrection," they were extremely ready to give him the hearing, and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, " May we know what this new doc"trine whereof thou speakest is? for thou bringest certain strange things to our "ears." But when they heard what these strange things were, BELIEF IN ONE SUPREME AUTHOR AND GOVERNOR OF THE WORLD, REPENTANCE, AMEND MENT OF LIFE, CHRIST CRUCIFIED AND RAISED FROM THE DEAD, A GENERAL RESUR


[blocks in formation]

RESURRECTION, A FUTURE JUDGMENT, (strange things indeed to the ears of an Athenian) some "mocked him," laughed at the seeming incredibility of what he told them; others said, "We will hear thee "again of this matter*;" not probably with any view of enquiring into the evidence of facts (the very first and principal enquiry that was necessary to be made) but of entering into long and learned disquisitions on the nature and the fitness of the truths in which they were instructed. They expected to have all the difficulties relating to JESUS AND THE RESURRECTION, cleared up to them in the most pleasing and satisfactory manner, to have all the reasons on which God acted laid open before them, and all his proceedings with mankind justified on the principles of human wisdom. Till this were done, the doctrine of CHRIST CRUCIFIED would always appear "foolishness to the Greeks." The pride of philosophy, and the self-sufficiency of learning, would never submit to believe that a man who suffered like a common malefactor could be a teacher sent from God; that the death of so excellent and innocent a person could be of any benefit

* Acts xvii. 32.

[ocr errors]

benefit to mankind; that God would make use of means to accomplish his ends, so totally different from those which a Greek philosopher would have fixed on; and that no better and more credible method of instructing and saving the world could have occurred to infinite wisdom. The seeming absurdity of all this would shock the Pagan, no less than the ignominy of it did the sons of Abraham. Show us the meaning and propriety of this plan, said the Greek; show us the dignity and splendour of it, said the Jew: prove to us, said the one, the consistency of these doctrines with the magnificent descriptions of the Messiah by the prophets; reconcile it, said the other, to the principles of reason and common sense.

And in what manner now does St. Paul treat these objections to the doctrine of the cross? Does he go about to accommodate and bring it down to the temper of his opponents? Does he endeavour to palliate and soften, to conceal or pass slightly over, to explain away or apologize for, this offensive article? No such matter. Notwithstanding these well-known prejudices against a crucified Redeemer, we find him constantly, and boldly, and in the most express terms asserting, that the Saviour whom he preached, whose disciple


disciple he was, and on whom he wished all mankind to believe, was put to death upon the cross, and gave himself a sacrifice for the

sins of the whole world. He well knew how shocking this would sound to some, and how absurd to others; but he persisted in his course; he felt the truth and importance of the fact; and, regardless of consequences, he declared it every where aloud, and left it to work its own way. "I am not ashamed,” says he, "of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the of God unto salvation to every one power "that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to "the Greek*." "God forbid that I should


glory," says he, in another place, "save in "the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by "whom the world is crucified unto me, and "I unto the world." And it is evidently in the same strain of triumph and exultation that he speaks of this doctrine in the text. "The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks "seek after wisdom; but we" (regardless of both)" preach Christ crucified, to the Jews "a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks fool❝ishness; but unto them which are called, "both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power ❝of God, and the wisdom of God."


Rom. i. 16.

↑ Gal. vi. 14


The inferences I mean to draw from the preceding observations, are these two that follow:

I. The first is, that the friends of Revelation have no need to be disturbed or alarmed at a circumstance which has been sometimes dwelt upon with expressions of surprise and concern; namely, that all those virtuous and learned philosophers, who lived in the first ages of the Gospel, and "adorned the times in which they flourished, such as Seneca, the elder and the younger Pliny, Tacitus, Plutarch, Galen, Epictetus, and Marcus Antoninus, either overlooked or rejected the evidences of the Gospel; and that their language or their silence equally discovered their contempt for the Christians, who had in their time diffused themselves over the Roman empire*."

The simple fact, that these eminent men did not embrace Christianity, is admitted; and concerned, undoubtedly, every compassionate mind must be at so unhappy an instance of perseverance in error; but whoever reflects on what has been said above, will


*See the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. i. p. 516.

« ZurückWeiter »