« PreviousContinue »
GALATIANS vi. 14.
But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Y brethren, we are this day met to keep up the remembrance of our Redeemer's fufferings and death in our room. We are to commemorate an event the most important, the most interesting, and the most astonishing, that creation ever beheld. We are to contemplate a subject the most wonderful and mysterious that ever was offered to the mind of man. The incarnation of the Son of God, the King of kings found in the form of a servant, and the Prince of life expiring on an accursed tree. What is this but the union of things the moft oppofite and feemingly inconfiftent that can poffibly be conceived? the union of the moft diftant extremes of ftrength and weakness, glory and baseness, honor and fhame?
In a fort of correfpondence and analogy to this great fubject itself, nothing can be more opposite than the fentiments formed by believers and unbelievers with regard to it. To the one it hath a dignity and majefty unfpeakably amiable; to the other, it hath a meannefs and bafenefs that is fhameful and contemptible. The Apostle
Paul often takes notice of this, that it was "to the Jews a "a ftumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness ;" and he often difcovers his own inviolable attachment to his Saviour, by an open profeffion of efteem for those circumftances in his character and appearance which a blinded world were moft apt to treat with derifion and fcorn. This is particularly the cafe in the text, "But God forbid that "I fhould glory fave in the cross of our Lord Jefus Christ.”
By the crofs of Chrift, in the New Teftament, we are fometimes to underftand the fufferings of believers for Chrift's fake; but more commonly, and, I think, evidently in this place, it fignifies his humiliation in general, and particularly his crucifixion, to which circumstance our attention is directed, because it was the most base and ignominious of the whole. In this the apoftle fays he would glory nay, he expreffes his abhorrence at the thought of glorying in any thing else: "God forbid that "I fhould glory fave in the crofs of our Lord Jefus Chrift.” Nothing can be more fuited to the employment of this day, and nothing more proper to diftinguish between the friends and the enemies of Chrift, than this, when carefully attended to; for the one will undoubtedly glory and the other will as certainly be ashamed of his crofs.
In difcourfing further on this fubject, what I propose, through divine afliftance, is,
1. To explain the import of the apoftle's glorying only in the Saviour's crofs.
2. To fhew what good reafon every real Christian hath to glory in it. And,
To make fome practical application of the fubject.
I. In the first place, then, let us explain the import of the apoftle's glorying only in the Saviour's crofs. What is this object in which the apoftle fays he would glory? Very wonderful indeed. It is, That Jefus of Nazareth, the fon of Mary, was fubjected to a long life of forrow, reproach, and contempt: That towards the clofe of it, he was arrested, accufed, condemned as a malefactor; and after innumerable and unfpeakable indignities, was at last nailed to a crofs, an engine of torture of the most cruel
and painful kind, and fo fhameful, that it was a manner of punishment appropriated to the most detefted criminals of the bafeft rank. What is there here to glory in? and what does the apostle mean by this expreffion? It means,
1. That he had a high efteem of it, as an event of the greatest moment, and an object worthy of the highest regard. We do not glory in common things, but in things of peculiar dignity and worth. It was not then in his view merely what it feemed. He did not confider it, furely, as the execution of a criminal; but faid, with the centurion on Mount Calvary, Truly "this was a righteous man ;" Truly this was "the Son of God." "the Son of God." He confidered it as the effect of the infinite love of God, who fent his only begotten Son to die for our fins. He confidered it as an infinite price paid for the pardon of our offences, as the only way of deliverance from guilt, as the fure and certain pledge of peace to an awakened confcience. In this view, how does it rife in his efteem? While others are disposed to fcorn, pitying their madness, he is constrained to worfhip and adore. Think of it, Chriftians, how different were the sentiments of his infulting enemies and his mourning difciples, when he hung upon the crofs. The one confider him as a guilty fufferer, the other as a loving Saviour. The hearts of the one were boiling with hatred, or filled with contempt; the hearts of the other were swallowed up in admiration, or melted with love.
2. The apostle's glorying in the cross, implied his having a ftrong, though humble confidence of his own relation to and intereft in it. I think it is impoffible to feparate this from our idea of the apoftle's meaning. We do not glory or boaft of any thing in which we have no concern. A man of great genius, or uncommon worth, I may admire and honor, merely for the eminent qualities of which he is poffeffed, and I may do him all juftice by commendation; but I am never difpofed to glory in him, nor have I any title to do it unlefs he is fomehow related to me but if I add, that he is my child, or he is my brother, I may be truly faid to glory in him, or to boast of him, because the honor that is given to him, is, in tome measure reflected upon myfelf. Again, I may speak of
the riches and magnificence of fome great city; but I am then only faid to glory in it, if I add any circumftance of relation; as that it is the place of my nativity, or the place of my refidence, or the place in which I have property and intereft. When therefore the apoftle fays, "God“forbid that I fhould glory, fave in the cross of our Lord Jefus Chrift," it certainly implies a humble perfuafion of his own intereft in it, and his happiness to flow from it. This indeed naturally arifes from a real and spiritual difcovery of its proper glory. None can fee the tranfcendent beauty of this object, till they have seen their own guilt and mifery in the fight of a holy God. And no fooner do they difcover the excellence of this atonement, its perfect fufficiency for all, and the unrestrained offer to all, than they fly to it as their fecurity, and rest on it as the ground of their hope. The word here tranflated glorying, fignifies at the fame time exulting, or rejoicing; and therefore to glory in the crofs, is the fame thing as to rejoice in the Saviour. The truth is, it is but feldom that this apostle mentions the death of Chrift without fome appropriating expreffion: Phil. iii. 8. “ Yea doubtlefs, and "I count all things but lofs, for the excellency of the "knowledge of Chrift Jefus my Lord: for whom I have "fuffered the lofs of all things, and do count them but
dung, that I may win Chrift;" Gal. ii. 20. "I am cru"cified with Chrift: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but "Chrift liveth in me: and the life which I now live in "the flefh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himfelf for me."
3. To complete the idea of the apoftle's glorying in the crofs, it implies fuch a fenfe of its comparative worth, as prompts him to a public and open profeffion of efteem, with a fovereign contempt of the judgment or conduct of others, who fet themfelves in oppofition to it. Glorying always fignifies the declaration of our mind to others; and is not ill illustrated by that expreflion of the apostle Paul in writing to the Romans, chapter i. 16. "For I am not "afhamed of the gofpel of Chrift: for it is the power of “God unto falvation, to every one that believeth, to the
Jew firft, and alfo to the Greck." The oppofition be
tween the fentiments of others, and his own, he often mentions; as 1 Cor. i. 18. "For the preaching of the "crofs is to them that perifh, foolishnefs: but unto us "which are faved, it is the power of God." And verfe 23. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a "ftumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but " unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, "Chrift the power of God, and the wifdom of God." When he glories in the cross, therefore, it implies an open and refolute adherence to this defpifed caufe. This meaning is particularly carried in the word cross. It had been lefs wonder, if he had faid, he gloried in his Saviour's divine power exerted before his crucifixion, or that he gloried in his triumphant resurrection, and exaltation to the right hand of God after it; but, inftead of this, he fays he gloried in his cross, in his very abafement, in what was moft vile and contemptible.
A late very eminent writer and champion for the cross, in a fermon on the fame fubject, makes a remark to the following purpose: "That through the veneration of many ages, and the difufe of that punishment among "us in the execution of malefactors, the word cross does "not carry fo base an idea to our minds; but that in the
ear of a Galatian, it founded as if the apoftle had faid, he gloried in a gallows, a gibbet or a halter." And in a note upon this paffage of the fermon, when published, he expreffes himself thus: "Some perfons, I am informed, "were difgufted at thefe words, halter, gallows, gibbet, "they are fo horridly contemptible to whom I would reply, That the crofs, in point of ignominy, implied all "this; and in point of torture, much more. Unless the "English reader forms to himself fome fuch image as this, "he will never be able to apprehend the fcandalous na"ture and fhocking circumflances of his divine master's "death. The words, I muft confefs, were diverfified, and "the fentiment reiterated, on purpose to affect the mind "with this aftonishing truth. Neither can I prevail with myself to expunge the expreffions, unless I could fub