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i COR. i. 21.
For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world
by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by,
*N the seventeenth verse of this chap
ter the Apostle declares, that the
great intention of his being sent by
He well knew indeed, that the effect of his preaching the Gospel would be
different, according to the different dispositions and characters of those who heard it; that by some it would be treated with contempt, by others with an attention and regard, suitable to the great importance of the doctrine he taught; and that the consequences, with refpect to both these sort of persons, would be answerable to the temper with which they received it. The preaching of the Cross is to them that peris foolishness, but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. And in the view of this glorious and beneficial effect of the doctrine of the cross, the Apostle cries out with triumph : * Where is the wise man, where is the scribe, where is the disputer of this world? What is the effect of human philosophy? What hath the world gained by the instructions of the Jewish Scribes, Rabbi's, and Doctors? What good hath been done by all the fubtle, intricate, learned questions, that have been debated and disputed by the wiseft men amongst Jews or Greeks? Where are the converts they have made to real knowledge, genuine religion, and the practice of righteousness ? Even as to the very first article of all religion, the being of one God, the Creator, Preserver and Governor of the world, they have never been able to bring men to the acknowledgment and worship of him ; for, as it follows in my text: § After that, or since, in
the * Ver. 20.
the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew nat God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. The wisdom of God here is that wisdom, understanding and skill, which God discovers in the frame of nature, and in all the various works and parts of which it consists. But by all these numerous and convincing discoveries of the wisdom of God in the creation, the world, by wisdom, i. e. by human wisdom and philosophy, knew not God; were never converted to the knowledge and worship of the one only living and true God. And therefore, because human wisdom had not in fact and experience ever answered this important purpose, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, by this method of preaching a crucified Saviour, which to the Greeks appeared foolishness, to save them that believe : which words will naturally lead us to consider the following things.
I. The inefficacy of human wisdom and
philofophy to bring mankind to know
ledge and salvation. II. How it pleased God, by his own imme
diate inter position, to accomplish this be
nevolent design. III. The method which God made use of
for this purpose. IV. The nature and causes of that severe
çensure, which the world passed on it. Of these in their order.
These 1. These words plainly intimate to us the inefficacy of human wisdom and philosophy to reform and save mankind. This sentiment is evidently conveyed to us in the words of the A postle : By the wisdom of God, viz. manifested in the works of creation, the world through wisdom, i. e. human wisdom and philosophy, knew not God; were not brought to form just and honourable sentiments of him, nor prevailed with g to glorify him as God; but worshiped and served the creature more than, or befides the creator, who is blessed for evermore, Mankind indeed never were so far atheists, as absolutely to reject the belief of Deity; but still they may be truly said to be without God in the world, as they had too generally formed the most corrupt and unworthy notions of him, ascribed to him the paffions and vices of men, and thought him, in the general, altogether such an one as themselves; a local, circumscribed, temporary, dependent being, subject himself to want, without perfection and rectitude of nature, deftitute of all dignity of character, and every way unworthy to be placed at the head of the creation, and of the veneration and esteem, the affection, confidence, and trust of every truly rational Being. These were the popular sentiments of God. Many of the philosophers indeed had very 7
different ones, and the more ftudious and thoughtful had formed much more excellent and worthy ideas of the divine nature and attributes, and
Rom. i. 21. 25.
treated with contempt the gods of the vulgar, and all the ceremonies of their worship as ridiculous and unprofitable superstitions. But still those gods continued to be the gods of the publick, and all the impieties and follies, that were practised in honour of them, maintained their ground, were held sacred and inviolable, and constituted the standing religion of the whole Gentile world.
It is true, that this ignorance of God, and the reasonable worship that was due to him, was not owing to any absolute incapacity in mankind to search after and find him out. The powers and faculties of reason, with which God endowed them, would, had they made the right use and improvement of them, have taught them better; and as there was no defect in the necessary proofs of the being and perfections of the one true God, God having never left himself without witness in the darkest ages of the world, their ignorance of him was really voluntary, and became their crime as well as their reproach. f So that they were altogether without excuse, because had they but duly attended to the many and clear notices, that God gave them of his being and perfections, they would certainly have found him out, who never was far from any one of them, and paid him that rational reverence and worship, that was due to him, as the Almighty Creator, Preserver, and Sovereign of the world,
† Rom. i. 20.