VICAR OF TRINITY CHURCH, CAMBRIDGE.
PRINTED AT THE PITT PRESS, BY JOHN W. PARKER,
"I DESIRE that a Tablet may be put up in my Church with this inscription,--"In memory of the Reverend CHARLES SIMEON, M.A. a long time Fellow of King's College, and __ years Vicar of this Parish; who, whether as the ground of his own hopes, or as the subject of all his ministrations, determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified, 1 Cor. ii. 2." It is also my desire that an edition of the Sermon which I preached on that text, 1 Cor. ii. 2, before the University, be printed; and that one of them be presented to every family in Trinity Parish, as a memorial of my pastoral regards, and as the means of impressing their minds with the importance of the doctrine, which I preached to them during the whole course of my ministry."
IN different ages of the world it has pleased God to reveal himself to men in different ways; sometimes by visions, sometimes by voices, sometimes by suggestions of his Spirit to their minds: but since the completion of the sacred canon, he has principally made use of his written word, explained and enforced by men, whom he has called and qualified to preach his Gospel; and though he has not precluded himself from conveying again the knowledge of his will in any of the former ways, it is through the written word only that we are now authorized to expect his gracious instructions. This, whether read by ourselves or published by his servants, he applies to the heart, and makes effectual for the illumination and salvation of men. It must be confessed, however, that he chiefly uses the ministry [5/6] of his servants, whom he has sent as ambassadors to a guilty world. It was thus that he conveyed the knowledge of salvation to the Ethiopian Eunuch, who was reading an interesting portion of Isaiah's prophecies. He might have opened the understanding of this man at once by the agency of his Spirit; but he chose rather to send his servant Philip, to join the chariot, and to explain the Scripture to him. When the Centurion also had sought with much diligence and prayer to know the way of salvation, God did not instruct him by his Word or Spirit, but informed him where to send for instruction; and by a vision removed the scruples of Peter about going to him; that so the established ministry might be honoured, and the Church might look to their authorized instructors, as the instruments whom God would make use of for their edification and salvation. Thus it is at this time: God is not confined to means; but he condescends to employ the stated ministry of his word for the diffusion of Divine knowledge: "The priests' lips keep knowledge;" and by their diligent discharge of their ministry is knowledge transmitted and increased.
But this circumstance, so favourable to all classes of the community, imposes on them a duty of the utmost importance. If there be a well from which we are to receive our daily supplies, it becomes us to ascertain that its waters are salubrious: and, in like manner, if we are to receive instruction from men, who are weak and fallible as ourselves, it becomes us to try their doctrines by the touchstone of the written word; [6/7] and to receive from them those sentiments only which agree with that unerring standard; or, to use the words of an inspired Apostle, we must "prove all things, and hold fast that which is good." To preachers also there arises an awful responsibility; for, as the people are "to receive the word at their mouth," and their "word is to be a savour of life or of death to all that hear it," it concerns them to be well assured, that they set before their people "the sincere unadulterated milk of the word;" that in no respect they "corrupt the word of God," or "handle it deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commend themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." [* See 2 Cor. ii. 15-17, and iv. 2.]
Hence it appears that we all are deeply interested in this one question, What is truth? what is that truth, which ministers are bound to preach, and which their people should be anxious to hear? There will however be no difficulty in answering this question, if only we consult the passage before us; wherein St Paul explicitly declares what was the great scope of his ministry, and the one subject which he laboured to unfold. He regarded not the subtleties which had occupied the attention of philosophers; nor did he affect that species of knowledge which was in high repute among men: on the contrary, he studiously avoided all that gratified the pride of human wisdom, and determined to adhere simply to one subject, the crucifixion of Christ for the sins of men: "I came not unto you," says he, [7/8] "with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God: for I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified."
To explain and vindicate this determination of the Apostle is our intention in this discourse.
I. To explain it--
By preaching Christ crucified, we are not to understand that he dwelt continually on the fact or history of the crucifixion; for though he speaks of having "set forth Christ as it were crucified before the eyes" of the Galatians, and may therefore be supposed occasionally to have enlarged upon the sufferings of Christ as the means of exciting gratitude towards him in their hearts, yet we have no reason to think that he contented himself with exhibiting to their view a tragical scene, as though he hoped by that to convert their souls: it was the doctrine of the crucifixion that he insisted on; and he opened it to them in all its bearings and connexions. This he calls "the preaching of the cross:" and it consisted of such a representation of "Christ crucified, as was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but to the true believer, the power of God and the wisdom of God." [*1 Cor. i. 23, 24.] There were two particular views in which he invariably spoke of the death of Christ; namely, as the ground of our hopes, and as the motives to our obedience.
In the former of these views, the Apostle not only asserts, that the death of Christ was the [8/9] appointed means of effecting our reconciliation with God, but that it was the only means by which our reconciliation could be effected. He represents all, both Jews and Gentiles, as under sin, and in a state of guilt and condemnation: he states, that, inasmuch as we are all condemned by the law, we can never be justified by the law, but are shut up unto that way of justification which God has provided for us in the Gospel. [*Gal. iii. 22, 23.] He asserts, that "God hath set forth his Son to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness in the remission of sins, that he may be just, and the justifier of them that believe in Jesus." [*Rom. iii. 25, 26.] He requires all, Jews as well as Gentiles, to believe in Jesus, in order to the obtaining of justification by faith in him: [*Gal. ii. 15, 16.] and so jealous is he of every thing that may interfere with this doctrine, or be supposed to serve as a joint ground of our acceptance with God, that he represents the smallest measure of affiance in any thing else as actually making void the faith of Christ, and rendering his death of no avail. [*Gal. v. 2-4.] Nay, more, if he himself, or even an angel from heaven, should ever be found to propose any other ground of hope to sinful man, he denounces a curse against him; and lest his denunciation should be overlooked, he repeats it with augmented energy; "As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." [*Gal. i. 8, 9.]
 To the death of Christ he ascribes every blessing we possess. We are "reconciled to God by the blood of his cross;" we are "brought nigh to him," "have boldness and access with confidence" even to his throne; we "are cleansed by it from all sin;" yea, "by his one offering of himself he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." But there is one passage in particular wherein a multitude of spiritual blessings are comprised, and all are referred to him as the true source from whom they flow. The passage we speak of, is in the first chapter to the Ephesians, where, within the space of eleven verses, the same truth is repeated at least eight or nine times. In order to enter fully into the force of that passage, we may conceive of St Paul as maintaining the truth in opposition to all its most determined adversaries, and as labouring to the uttermost to exalt Christ in the eyes of those who trusted in him: we may conceive of him, I say, as contending thus: "Have we been chosen before the foundation of the world? it is in Christ. Have we been predestinated unto the adoption of children? it is in and by Him. Are we accepted? it is in the Beloved. Have we redemption, even the forgiveness of sins? it is in Him, through his blood. Are all, both in heaven and earth, gathered together under one head? it is in Christ, even in Him. Have we obtained an inheritance? it is in Him. Are we sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise? it is in Him. Are we blessed with all spiritual blessings? it is in Christ Jesus." When the Apostle has [10/11] laboured thus to impress our minds with the idea that our whole salvation is in, and by, the Lord Jesus Christ, is it not surprising that any one should be ignorant of it? Yet we apprehend that many persons, who have even studied the Holy Scriptures, and read over this passage a multitude of times, have yet never seen the force of it, or been led by it to just views of Christ as the Fountain "in whom all fulness dwells," and "from whose fulness we must all receive grace for grace."
But we have observed that there is another view in which the Apostle speaks of the death of Christ, namely, as a motive to our obedience. Strongly as he enforced the necessity of relying on Christ, and founding our hopes of salvation solely on his obedience unto death, he was no less earnest in promoting the interests of holiness. Whilst he represented the believers "dead to the law" and "without law," he still insisted that they were "under the law to Christ," and as much bound to obey every tittle of it as ever: [*1 Cor. ix. 21. Gal. ii. 19.] and he enforced obedience to it, in all its branches, and to the utmost possible extent. Moreover, when the doctrines which he had inculcated were in danger of being abused to licentious purposes, he expressed his utter abhorrence of such a procedure; [*Rom. vi. 1, 15.] and declared, that "the grace of God, which brought salvation, taught them, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world." [*Tit. ii. 11, 12.]
 A life of holy obedience is represented by him as the great object which Christ aimed to produce in all his people: indeed the very name, Jesus, proclaimed, that the object of his coming was "To save his people from their sins." The same was the scope and end of his death, even to "redeem them from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works." His resurrection and ascension to heaven had also the same end in view; for "therefore he both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living." Impressed with a sense of these things himself, St Paul laboured more abundantly than any of the Apostles in his holy vocation: he proceeded with a zeal which nothing could quench, and an ardour which nothing could damp: privations, labours, imprisonments, deaths, were of no account in his eyes; "none of these things moved him, neither counted he his life dear unto him, so that he might but finish his course with joy, and fulfil the ministry that was committed to him." But what was the principle by which he was actuated? He himself tells us, that he was impelled by a sense of obligation to Christ, for all that He had done and suffered for him: "the love of Christ constraineth us," says he; "because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that He died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again." [* 2 Cor. v. 14, 15.] This is that principle which [12/13] he desired to be universally embraced, and endeavoured to impress on the minds of all: "We beseech you, brethren," says he, "by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." [*Rom. xii. 1.] What mercies he refers to, we are at no loss to determine; they are the great mercies vouchsafed to us in the work of redemption: for so he says in another place; "Ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are his." [* 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20.]
Now this is the subject which the Apostle comprehends under the term "Christ crucified:" it consists of two parts; first, of affiance in Christ for salvation, and, next, of obedience to the law for his sake: had either part of it been taken alone, his views had been imperfect, and his ministry without success. Had he neglected to set forth Christ as the only Saviour of the world, he would have betrayed his trust, and led his hearers to build their hopes on a foundation of sand. On the other hand, if he had neglected to inculcate holiness, and to set forth redeeming love as the great incentive to obedience, he would have been justly chargeable with that which has been often falsely imputed to him,--an antinomian spirit; and his doctrines would have merited the odium which has most unjustly been cast upon them. But on neither side did he err: he forgot neither the foundation nor the superstructure: he distinguished properly between them, and [13/14] kept each in its place: and hence with great propriety adopted the determination in our text.
Having explained his determination, we shall now proceed,
II. To vindicate it
It was not from an enthusiastic fondness for one particular point, but from the fullest conviction of his mind, that the Apostle adopted this resolution: and so the word in the original imports; "I determined, as the result of my deliberate judgment, to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified: I have made it, and will ever make it, my theme, my boast, and my song." The reasons why he insisted on this subject so exclusively, and with such delight, shall now be stated:--he did so,
1. Because it contained all that he was commissioned to declare.
"It pleased God to reveal his Son in the Apostle, that he might preach HIM among the heathen:" and accordingly St Paul tells us, that "this grace was given to him to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ." This, I say, was his office; and this too is the ministry of reconciliation which is committed to ministers in every age; "to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." [* 2 Cor. v. 18, 19.] To the Apostles, indeed, the commission was to "go forth into all the world, and to preach the Gospel to every creature;" whereas to us is assigned, as it were, a more limited sphere: but the subject of our ministry [14/15] is the same with theirs: we have the same dispensation committed unto us; and "woe will be unto us, if we preach not the Gospel."
But, as though men needed not to be evangelized now, the term evangelical is used as a term of reproach. We mean not to justify any persons whatsoever in using unnecessary terms of distinction, more especially if it be with a view to depreciate others, and to aggrandize themselves: but still the distinctions which are made in Scripture must be made by us; else for what end has God himself made them? Now it cannot be denied, that the Apostle characterizes the great subject of his ministry as the Gospel; nor can it be denied that he complains of some teachers in the Galatian Church as introducing another Gospel, which was not the true Gospel, but a perversion of it. [*Gal. i. 6, 7.] Here then he lays down the distinction between doctrines which are truly evangelical, and others which have no just title to that name. Of course, wherever the same differences exists between the doctrines maintained, the same terms must be proper to distinguish them; and a just view of those distinctions is necessary, in order to our being guarded against error, and established in the truth.
But we beg to be clearly understood in reference to this matter. It is not our design to enter into any dispute about the use of a term, or to vindicate any particular party; but merely to state, with all the clearness we can, a subject, about which every [15/16] one ought to have the most accurate and precise ideas.
We have seen what was the great subject of the Apostle's preaching, and which he emphatically and exclusively called the Gospel: and if only we attend to what he has spoken in the text, we shall see what really constitutes evangelical preaching. The subject of it must be "Christ crucified;" that is, Christ must be set forth as the only foundation of a sinner's hope: and holiness in all its branches must be enforced; but a sense of Christ's love in dying for us must be inculcated, as the main-spring and motive of all our obedience. The manner of setting forth this doctrine must also accord with that of the Apostle in the text: the importance of the doctrine must be so felt, as to make us determine never to know any thing else, either for the salvation of our own souls, or for the subject of our public ministrations. Viewing its transcendent excellency, we must rejoice and glory in it ourselves, and shew forth its fruits in a life of entire devotedness to God: we must call upon our hearers also to rejoice and glory in it, and to display its sanctifying effects in the whole of their life and conversation. Thus to preach, and thus to live, would characterize a person, and his ministry, as evangelical, in the eyes of the Apostle: whereas indifference to this doctrine, or a corruption of it, either by a self-righteous or antinomian mixture, would render both the person and his ministry obnoxious to his censure, according to the degree in which such indifference, or [16/17] such a mixture, prevailed. We do not mean to say, that there are not different degrees of clearness in the views and ministry of different persons, or that none are accepted of God, or useful in the Church, unless they come up to such a precise standard;--nor do we confine the term evangelical to those who lean to this or that particular system, as some are apt to imagine:--but this we say, that, in proportion as any persons, in their spirit and in their preaching, accord with the example in the text, they are properly denominated evangelical; and that, in proportion as they recede from this pattern, their claim to this title is dubious or void.
Now when we ask, What is there in this which every minister ought not to preach, and every Christian to feel? Is there any thing in this enthusiastic? any thing sectarian? any thing uncharitable? any thing worthy of reproach? Is the Apostle's example in the text so absurd, as to make an imitation of him blame-worthy, and a conformity to him contemptible? Or, if a scoffing and ungodly world will make the glorying in the cross of Christ a subject of reproach, ought any who are reproached by them to abandon the Gospel for fear of being called evangelical? Ought they not rather, like the Apostles, "to rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer shame, if shame it be, for Christ's sake?" The fact is indisputable, that the Apostle's commission was to preach Christ crucified;--to preach, I say, that chiefly, that constantly, that exclusively: and therefore he was justified in his [17/18] determination to "know nothing else:" consequently, to adopt that same resolution is our wisdom also, whether it be in reference to our own salvation, or to the subject of our ministrations in the Church of God.
We now proceed to a second reason for the Apostle's determination. He determined to know nothing but Christ and him crucified,--because it contained all that could conduce to the happiness of man. There are other things which may amuse; but there is nothing else that can contribute to man's real happiness. Place him in a situation of great distress; let him be bowed down under a sense of sin; let him be oppressed with any great calamity; or let him be brought by sickness to the borders of the grave;--there is nothing that will satisfy his mind, but a view of this glorious subject. Tell him of his good works; and he feels a doubt, (a doubt which no human being can resolve,) what is that precise measure of good works which will ensure eternal happiness: tell him of repentance, and of Christ supplying his deficiencies; and he will still be at a loss to ascertain whether he has attained that measure of penitence or of goodness, which is necessary to answer the demands of God. But speak to him of Christ as dying for the sins of men, as "casting out none that come unto him," as "purging us by his blood from all sin," and as clothing us with his own unspotted righteousness; yea, as making his own grace to abound, not only where sin has abounded, but infinitely [18/19] beyond our most abounding iniquities; [*Rom. v. 20, 21.] set forth to him thus the freeness and sufficiency of the Gospel salvation, and he wants nothing else: he feels that Christ is "a Rock, a sure Foundation;" and on that he builds without fear, assured that "whosoever believeth in Christ shall not be confounded." He hears the Saviour saying, "This is life eternal, to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent;" and having attained that knowledge, he trusts that the word of Christ shall be fulfilled to him: he already exults in the language of the Apostle, "Who is he that condemneth? it is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." [*Rom. viii. 34.]
But if a sense of guilt afflict some, a want of victory over their in-dwelling corruptions distresses others: and to them also the doctrine of Christ crucified administers the only effectual relief. The consideration of eternal rewards and punishments affords indeed a powerful incentive to exertion; but efforts springing from those motives only, will always savour of constraint; they will never be ingenuous, hearty, affectionate, unreserved. But let a sense of redeeming love occupy the soul, and the heart becomes enlarged, and "the feet are set at liberty to run the way of God's commandments." We say not that every person who professes to have experienced the love of Christ, will always walk consistently with that profession; for there were falls [19/20] and offences not only in the apostolic age, but even among the Apostles themselves: but this we say, that there is no other principle in the universe so powerful as the love of Christ; that whilst that principle is in action, no commandment will ever be considered as grievous; the yoke of Christ in every thing will be easy, and his burden light; yea, the service of God will be perfect freedom; and the labour of our souls will be to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." This the Apostle found in his own experience; and this he found to be the effect of his ministry on the hearts of thousands. What then could he wish for in addition to this? Where this principle was inefficacious, nothing was effectual; and where this was effectual, nothing else was wanted: no wonder then that he determined to insist on the subject, and nothing else; since, whether in the removing of guilt from the conscience, or of corruption from the soul, nothing could bear any comparison with this.
Further, He determined to know nothing but this subject,--because nothing could be added to it without weakening or destroying its efficacy. The subject of Christ crucified may, as we have before observed, be considered as consisting of two parts,--a foundation, and a superstructure. Now St Paul declares, that if any thing whatever be added to that foundation, it will make void the whole Gospel. If any thing could have been found which might safely have been added to it, we might [20/21] suppose that the rite of circumcision might have claimed that honour, because it was of God's special appointment, and had had so great a stress laid upon it by God himself: but St Paul says in reference to that rite, that if any person should submit to it with a view to confirm his interest in the Gospel, "Christ should profit him nothing:" such a person would have "fallen from grace," as much as if he had renounced the Gospel altogether. Again, if any person, who had the foundation rightly laid within him, should build upon it any thing but the pure, the simple, the essential duties of religion, "his work should be burnt up as wood or stubble;" and though he should not entirely lose heaven, he should lose much of his happiness there, and be saved only like one snatched out of the devouring flames. With such a view of the subject, what inducement could the Apostle have to add any thing to it?
But the Apostle speaks yet more strongly respecting this. He tells us, not only that the adulterating of the subject by any base mixture will destroy its efficacy, but that even an artificial statement of the truth will make it of none effect. God is exceedingly jealous of the honour of his Gospel: if it be plainly and simply stated he will work by it, and make it effectual to the salvation of men; but if it be set forth with all the ornaments of human eloquence, and stated in "the words which man's wisdom teacheth," he will not work by it; because he would have "our faith to stand, not in the [21/22] wisdom of men, but in the power of God." Hence St Paul, though eminently qualified to set it forth with all the charms of oratory, purposely laid aside "all excellency of speech or of wisdom in declaring the testimony of God," and "used all plainness of speech," lest by dressing up the truth "in the enticing words of man's wisdom, he should make the cross of Christ of none effect." [* 1 Cor. i. 17. and ii. 1, 4, 5.]
Further vindication than this is unnecessary: for, if this subject contained all that he was commissioned to declare; if it contained all that could conduce to the happiness of man; and if nothing could be added to it without weakening or destroying its efficacy; he must have consented to defeat the ends of his ministry altogether, if he had not adopted and maintained the resolution in the text.
If then these things be so, we may venture to found upon them the following ADVICE--
First, Let us take care that we know Christ crucified--
Many, because they are born and educated in a Christian land, are ready to take for granted that they are instructed in this glorious subject: but there is almost as much ignorance of it prevailing amongst Christians as amongst the heathen themselves. The name of Christ indeed is known, and he is complimented by us with the name of Saviour; but the nature of his office, the extent of his work, and the excellency of his salvation, are known to [22/23] few. Let not this be considered as a rash assertion: for we will appeal to the consciences of all; Do we find that the Apostle's views of Christ are common? Do we find many so filled with admiring and adoring thoughts of this mystery, as to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of it; and to say, like him, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ?" On the contrary, do we not find that there is an almost universal jealousy on the subject of the Gospel, that those who most labour to tread in the Apostle's steps, are often most branded with opprobrious names? Do we not find that his views of the Gospel are calumniated now, precisely as they were in the days of the Apostle himself? Verily, we should be glad to be found false witnesses in relation to these things; and would most joyfully retract our assertions, if it could be shewn that they are not founded in truth. We do hope however that there is an increasing love to the Gospel pervading the whole land; and I pray God it may prevail more and more, and be embraced by every one of us, not superficially, partially, theoretically, but clearly, fully, practically.
Secondly, Let us adopt the Apostle's determination for ourselves--
Doubtless, as men and members of society, there are many other things which we are concerned to know. Whatever be our office in life, we ought to be well acquainted with it, in order that we may perform its duties to the advantage of ourselves and [23/24] others; and we would most particularly be understood to say, that the time that is destined for the acquisition of useful knowledge, ought to be diligently and conscientiously employed. But, as Christians, we have one object of pursuit, which deserves all our care and all our labour: yes, we may all with great propriety determine to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. This is the subject which even "the angels in heaven are ever desiring to look into," and which we may investigate for our whole lives, and yet leave depths and heights unfathomed and unknown. St Paul, after preaching Christ for twenty years, did not conceive himself yet awhile to have attained all that he might, and therefore still desired to know Christ more and more, "in the power of his resurrection, and in the fellowship of his sufferings." This therefore we may well desire, and count all things but loss in comparison of it.
Lastly, Let us make manifest the wisdom of our determination by the holiness of our lives.
The doctrine of Christ crucified ever did, and ever will appear "foolishness" in the eyes of ungodly men; so that if it be preached by an Apostle himself, he shall be accounted by them a babbler and deceiver. But there is one way of displaying its excellency open to us, a way in which we may effectually "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men;" namely, "by well-doing;" that is, by shewing the sanctifying and transforming efficacy of this doctrine. St Paul tells us, that "by the cross of [24/25] Christ the world was crucified unto him, and he unto the world:" [*Gal. vi. 14.] and such is the effect that it should produce on us: we should shew that we are men of another world, and men too of "a more excellent spirit:" we should shew the fruits of our faith in every relation of life: and, in so doing, we may hope to "win by our good conversation" many, who would never have submitted to the preached word.
But we must never forget where our strength is, or on whose aid we must entirely rely. The Prophet Isaiah reminds us of this; "Surely shall one say. In the Lord have I righteousness and strength:" and our Lord himself plainly tells us, that "without him we can do nothing." Since then "we have no sufficiency in ourselves to help ourselves," and God has "laid help for us upon One that is mighty," let us "live by faith on the Son of God," "receiving daily out of his fulness that grace" that shall be "sufficient for us." Let us bear in mind, that this is a very principal part of the knowledge of Christ crucified: for, as "all our fresh springs are in Christ," so must we look continually to him for "the supplies of his Spirit," and "have him for our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and redemption."