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THE TRUE GLORY OF THE CHRISTIAN.
GALATIANS vi. 14.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
HE solemnity which, in a few days, we are going to celebrate, I mean the Asscension of Jesus Christ, displays the triumph of the cross. The Saviour of the world ascending in a cloud, received up into heaven, amidst the acclamations of the church triumphant, removes the offence given by the Saviour of the world hanging on a tree. The period of the crucifixion, I acknowledge, was precisely that in which he carried magnanimity to its most exalted pitch. Never did he appear so truly great as when descending into the lower parts of the earth: Eph. iv. 9: humbled, made of no reputation, obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; Phil. ii. 7, 8: he accomplished what was most repulsive to nature, in the plan of redemption. But how difficult is it to recognize heroism, when the hero terminates his career upon a scaffold!
The darkness which overspread the mystery of the cross, is passing away; the vails, which concealed the glory of Jesus Christ begin to withdraw; heaven, which seemed to have conspired with earth and with hell, to depress and overwhelm him, declares aloud in his favor; his splendor bursts out of obscurity, and his glory from the very bosom of shame because he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant because he humbled himself, because he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross: therefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. Phil. ii. 9, 10..
What circumstances more proper could we have selected, Christians, to induce you to seek your glory in the cross of your Saviour, than those which display it followed by so much pomp and magnificence? I am going to propose to you as a model, the man who, of all others, best understood the mystery of the cross: for my part, says he, in the words which I have read, God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Let us meditate on this subject, with all that application of thought which it so justly merits.
And thou, great High Priest, Minister of the true tabernacle! thou holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, Heb. vii. 26. viii. 2, 1. graciously look down on this people, now combating under the banners of the cross! It is impossible for us to call to remembrance the great day of
thy exaltation, without fixing our eyes upon thee, with those blessed disciples of thine who were the witnesses of it, without following thee, as they did, with the bodily organ, and with all the powers of thought, and without crying out, Draw us, Lord, we will run after thee: Cant. i. 4. But in giving way to such desires, we misunderstand the nature of our vocation. We must combat as thou
hast done, in order to triumph with thee. Well, be it so! Teach my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: Psal. exliv. 1. Teach us to make thy cross a ladder, whereon to mount to thy throne. Amen.
The text which we have announced, is, as it were, a conclusion deduced from the chapters which precede it. We cannot possibly have a clear comprehension of it, without a general recollection of the whole Epistle from which it is taken. St. Paul, in writing to the Galatians, has this principally in view, to revive the spirit of Christianity, which he himself had diffused over the whole province of Galatia. Never had preacher greater success, than the ministry of our apostle was attended with, in this city of the Lesser Asia. He himself gives this honorable testimony in favor of the Galatians, in chap. iv. ver. 15. that they had received him as an angel of God, and which is saying still more, even as Christ Jesus. But the Gauls, of which this people was a colony, have, in all ages, been reproached with the faculty of easily taking impressions, and of losing them with equal facility. The sentiments with which St. Paul had inspired them, shared the fate of all violent sensations; that is, they were of no great duration.
With this he upbraids them in the very beginning of the Epistle. I marvel, says he to them, chap. i. 6. I marvel, that ye are so soon removed
from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel. Mark the expression, removed unto another gospel.
We are not possessed of memoirs of the first ages of the church sufficiently ample, to enable us to determine with precision, who were the authors of a revolution so deplorable. But if we may give credit to two of the earliest historians, to whom we are indebted for the most complete accounts which we have of the first heresy, I mean Philostratus and St. Epiphanius; it was Cerinthus himself, in the first instance, and his disciples after-. wards, who marred the good seed which St. Paul had sown in the church of Galatia. One thing is certain, namely, that respect for the ceremonial observances which God himself had prescribed, in a manner so solemn, and particularly for the law of circumcision, was the reason, or rather the pretext, of which the adversaries of our apostle availed themselves, to destroy the fruits of his ministry, by exciting suspicions against the soundness of his doctrine. St. Paul goes to the root of the evil: he conveys just ideas of those ceremonial institutions: he demonstrates, that however venerable the origin of them might be, and whatever the wisdom displayed in their establishment, they had never been laid down as an essential part of religion, much less still, as the true means of reconciling men to God. We perceive, at first sight, this design of the apostle, in the words of my text, and through the whole Epistle, from which they are taken.
But what is, perhaps, not so easily discoverable in it, but which ought to be very carefully observed, is; that as St. Paul was maintaining his thesis against opponents of different sorts, so he likewise supports it on different principles. Three