"I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling."
THE cross and the sufferer, taken from prison and from judgment to its agonies and shame, is the object, my brethren, with which the services of this day fill our view. All the solemnities of this Holy Week centre upon the same scene. [The Sermon was preached on Palm Sunday.] Christian penitents, come together to this sight, and beholding the things which are done, return from it smiting their breasts. The Angels desire to pierce its mysteries, and the Spirits of the cherished ones, so dear to us while living, and so mourned over when summoned away, find in the past humiliation and present majesty of this one object the theme which awakens their most grateful song. "Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the Throne, and to the Lamb."
 Here, then, brethren, you have revealed what has been so well termed, "the beginning, and the ending of true religion; the single hope and consolation of a sinful world; the whole business, strength, and glory of the Christian Ministry." The success of that ministry, (whatever may be the sphere opened for its exercise) must depend, under God, on the pure and lofty resolve with which the awful trust is received, and the humble, patient, and devoted spirit of its subsequent discharge. No passage presents both of these features in a clearer light than the text. The Apostle seems here to have laid open to us his heart to its innermost recess. What do we discover to have been its fixed aim, its ruling purpose? It is told in words which show how fully it occupied his thoughts, and with what energy of love and devotion he entered into this ministry of reconciliation. "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." And with what feelings and disposition did he proceed to carry out this decision? He has left on record an answer, showing at a glance how profound was the sense entertained by him of his utter insufficiency, when put in contrast with the magnitude and difficulty of the work. "And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." Memorable words;--always to be printed in their remembrance who are set apart to the weighty office and charge of messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord. Happy are they who study to show themselves thus approved [4/5] in their trust. Happier art thou, my Brother and companion beloved, whose faithful diligence in the work is sealed to us by the hand of death, and made more dear on this sad occasion, by the vivid recollection of what we have lost. This, my brethren, is no common bereavement. It is felt beyond the threshold of the home which it makes solitary and desolate; and the parish, where his memory is so fresh in every heart; and our grief, as the tidings reach to other quarters, will be shared by many, very many, to whom his worth was as fully known.
At such a time then, connected as it is with the most solemn week of the christian year, it will not, I hope, be deemed inappropriate to draw our thoughts to the SUBJECT and SPIRIT which should mark the christian minister, before I attempt the mournful duty of carrying to your heart and my own, the illustration given by his example, who spent with you the last years of his labors, and has been welcomed to his rest in Christ.
I. The text, in stating the SUBJECT of Paul's preaching, cannot be understood as meaning that in the discharge of his ministry he dwelt upon a single topic. Were we to follow out his determination in his writings, it might be shown that it was fulfilled in the setting forth of Christ fully and prominently as the End of the Law, and the Substance of the Gospel. The expression used by Paul, is replete with energy, and in perfect accordance with the integrity and decision of his character. Here was his chief [5/6] and conspicuous argument. Here stood confessed the heart, and life, and very essence of his ministry. It was the centre to which he made all the lines of christian doctrine and duty converge. It was the subject alone, which in his judgment, gave to the whole system its beauty, consistency, and strength. "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." "We preach Christ crucified." He had no RESERVE in preaching this truth, and he would have accounted it treason to his Lord, and ruin to himself, to have neutralized and destroyed by strange mixtures its simple and life-giving virtue. And what other truth, indeed, could make such a demand upon his best sympathies and efforts? Where was the faithful saying, so worthy of being preached as this, for universal acceptation? God manifest in the flesh; the Almighty One, humbling himself to become the despised and rejected of men; glory exchanged for shame; a diadem of eternal majesty, for a crown of thorns; the right hand of the Father, for the sepulchre! And all this abasement endured for the rebellious; for us who had scorned his grace, and trampled under foot his mercy! O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
The apostle knew full well that it was the testimony of grace and glory, gathered from the Death of the Cross alone, that could arouse the careless, subdue the pride and obduracy of a self-justifying spirit, comfort the contrite in heart, or draw forth the affections [6/7] to the Father of mercies in glowing zeal and abounding love. To the disputers of this world the preaching of the Cross seems, indeed, an instrument so utterly inadequate to human wants; so entirely separated from any such results as the delivery of a sinner from the power and penalty of sin, and his restoration to the favor of an offended God; that the employment of such means for the attainment of so mighty an end, is, in the judgement of many, accounted to be madness, and nothing more. But how will they explain the fact, that, nevertheless, it accomplishes its work, and is honored with success by the Holy Spirit? how will they solve the difficulty, that while they can see no reason for such results, and no connexion between the instrument employed and the effect produced, still by the "preaching of Christ crucified;" "by the foolishness of preaching;" sinners are turned from the power of Satan unto God? There is no solution of the case, but upon one principle. It is simply because Jesus Christ, and him crucified, is the testimony and ordinance of God.
The Cross, my brethren, contains an argument easily understood, and deeply felt in every clime and by every people. The annals of the Faith, from its first promulgation to the present day, have on this point but one record to unfold. When at midnight the foundations of the prison at Philippi were shaken, and its keeper startled out of his sleep rushed trembling into the dungeon, with the exceeding bitter cry, "What must I do to be saved?" although his heathen prepossessions [7/8] would have turned, perhaps, a deaf ear to the most labored reasonings of his christian captives, yet could he not withstand the first emphatic announcement to him of the Gospel; the message of mercy which kindled up the first ray of hope in the agony of his despair. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Seventeen centuries afterwards, when Swartz, the faithful missionary of the Peninsula of India, was once preaching from those blessed words; "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all sin;" a Hindoo devotee, measuring his wearisome pilgrimage of many hundred miles, with spikes in his sandals, came exhausted and wretched to the spot. On hearing the tidings which alone can bring peace to the broken spirit, he wept aloud. "That is what I need," was his cry of joy as he smote upon his breast, and casting from him at once the instruments of his shame and torture, hailed with a full heart the knowledge of the truth in Jesus, which led him afterwards a faithful disciple to his Saviour's feet. Now contrast with this instance, and numberless others of the like kind, which might be adduced, the experiment which is said to have been once tried by certain missionaries in China, [* The Jesuits] when finding the people offended at this doctrine, they thought it prudent to deny that Christ had been crucified, and affirmed that it was nothing more than a fiction, invented by Jewish malice, to cast disgrace on Christianity. [8/9] The Redeemer was preached, therefore, never as lifted up upon the cross, but always as reigning in glory; and the result of man's device is seen to this day in the thick darkness of the covering still cast over that people, whilst millions in other lands, where Christ crucified is honored by a full exhibition of his grace and love, rejoice in the saving and lasting effects of the message of God. Leave out or keep back, indeed, the doctrine of the cross, the faithful announcement of the Atonement made by the blood of the ONE SACRIFICE, and the Christian system is brought down at once to a level with the empty schemes of a vain-glorious philosophy. What then become of the justice and mercy of God? How shall His Law be magnified, and the rights of His Government maintained in the pardon of the guilty? What is there left of the entire revelation to abase the pride of man, to convince him how utterly he is lost, to warm his frozen bosom into gratitude, to constrain him to that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord? This, we may conceive, was the view taken by the apostle, of the power and preciousness of this truth, which made him determine to know nothing else. It was not from ignorance of Jewish or Grecian learning, neither was it from inability to cope with his adversaries on any topic in the whole range of human knowledge, that he founded his resolve. It was from choice, so to preach, and so to act, as if he knew nothing, and had nothing to communicate, but one absorbing subject. "I came not," says he, "with [9/10] 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."
II. But it is time that we should notice briefly the SPIRIT which was cherished and manifested in setting forth this SUBJECT with this unfaltering resolution. The words here used by St. Paul, are as emphatic as his previous ones. "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." This sinking of the heart, we may pause for one moment to observe, could not have been caused by the selfish dread of man. Why should the minister of Christ, my brethren, in the conscientious discharge of duty, harbour such a fear in his intercourse with his fellow worms? "I am ready," says the Apostle, "not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem." "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus." Nor did he make account of the reproaches which the pride of intellect vented then, as it does now, against the doctrine of the cross as "a technical, obscure, and frigid theology, worthy only of an era of ignorance, superstition, and slavery." [* Dr. Channing] "I am not ashamed," (asserts this eminently learned and gifted man) "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ." And no doubt whilst he was unlocking this treasury of grace to [10/11] bring forth to the sinner "the unsearchable riches of Christ," he was not in the condition of those unhappy ones, who delve the depths of earth for the benefit of others, and dare not appropriate to themselves one atom of that precious ore, which is the fruit of their unremitting toil. The Truth, to which his ministry gave explicit and rightful prominence, filled his own heart. He must have enjoyed peculiar happiness, and reaped a high reward in exercising the full vigor of his powers upon the glorious ends of the embassy of grace. The experience of his own interest in the Saviour's love; the personal knowledge possessed by him of the excellence of the Gospel; the clear perception of the objects to be accomplished by its ministry; the assurance which he had of his Master's heavenly blessing, and of the sympathies and prayers of christian friends; and the hope of the crown of righteousness awaiting him in the day of his Lord's appearing, could not but have strengthened and animated him in his work. Still it is Paul who applies to himself the memorable words before us. And was there not a cause for his cherishing constantly such feelings? Powerful were the considerations pressing upon his soul, fitted to cast him down, and to fill him with disquietude. It was the language of one who understood and realised the responsibility of his office. "Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful." It was the language of one, who combined with a [11/12] vigorous and faithful discharge of whatever belongs to the pastoral function, an overwhelming conviction of his own helplessness and unworthiness. "I am the least of the Apostles that am not meet to be called an Apostle;" "Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations;" "for who is sufficient for these things?" It was the language of one who thought this of himself; which had he not recorded it, we should not have dared to think; "I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Such, then, was the Subject of the Apostle's ministry, and such the Spirit which he maintained in setting it forth. "Other foundation" he showed by his life, his labors, and his death, "no man can lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Solemn, unspeakably solemn, is the admonition conveyed by Paul's course to the Servants who have to feed and provide for the Lord's family; and may the Holy Ghost, who sustained him in it, bless the retrospect to him who speaks, to them who hear! Building upon this, as the Chief Corner Stone, the ministry in God's hands, by us his unworthy instruments, will have an influence for good that is beyond human power to estimate; but in building on any other we do more than labor in vain and spend our strength for nought. We record against ourselves the cry of souls that perish.
Friends and brethren, how well the impressive lesson of the text was learned; with what fidelity and [12/13] zeal, humility, patience, and good success this example was followed by Him whom God in his providence has taken from us, your hearts now unite with mine in testifying. [* FOOTNOTE] To you of this parish, he was for the [13/14] last eleven years, a friend, a pastor, and minister of the Lord Jesus, in whom you reposed a confidence and love which were never shaken, and which God, the hearer of prayer, will surely return to you in blessing. To me, he was known from his youth, and known for qualities which not even friendship itself could too highly appreciate. For forty years, thirty-three of which we have spent in the same ministry, we were brothers and companions, and at no time was the bond thus formed between us weakened and impaired. No man's heart (that I ever knew) was so manifestly in all that he said and did, and no one ever breathed who was more sincere and steady in his attachments, or more indulgent to the failings and imperfections of others. Early was he called and trained by the grace of God to the knowledge and love of spiritual things. His career in College, whilst it was marked throughout by a diligence in the cultivation of his talents, and the improvement of a vigorous and well balanced mind, which secured for him [14/15] a most honorable rank in his class, and by a purity of motives, urbanity of deportment, and integrity of conduct, for which he was always esteemed by them who knew him, was adorned by that consistent and unaffected piety, which is the young man's chief ornament and crown. Under its deep impressions, with the lively hope long cherished and watered by many prayers and tears, that the love of God and of his fellow-men, had been shed abroad in his soul, constraining him to live not unto himself; but unto Him who had died for him and rose again, he was drawn by His grace to the work of the highest dignity and weightiest charge;--"To preach Christ, and him crucified." From the time of his ordination, in 1816, to his parting hour, this work was set as a seal upon his heart; and in the important fields to which he was successively called, it was pursued with a spirit of humble, earnest, self-sacrificing devotedness which has won for him an enduring name, and bequeathed to us who mourn, so bright an example. Often, very often, as years have come round, and when we have taken sweet counsel together, have words, such as these, been on his lips; "We preach Christ crucified, my dear brother. This is our work. Let us preach him to the end, in the glory of his Godhead, in the mighty efficacy of his atonement, and in the offer of his own priceless gift, the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. As the Lord our righteousness; Christ Jesus made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. This is the testimony for the times. [15/16] This is the great truth to be witnessed. We love our Church. Side by side we have humbly tried to be faithful to her interests. The holding forth of this truth, we believe, to be her chief glory. What would she be were its light in her to set? Let us not know anything besides Jesus, and Him crucified." And so it was, Friends and Brethren. In season and out of season, this was his message to the people given to his charge, and which through that ability coming from God alone, made him wise to win souls. This spot where I stand, had it a voice could say, not only how vivid and just were the conceptions possessed by him of such a message, but also how able, and honest, and true he was in conveying clear and deep impressions of it to others. The chamber of sickness, the house of mourning, the bed of the dying, the habitation of the aged and the poor; all can attest a faithful and untiring work of sympathy and love, and with what humbleness of mind, (often, very often indeed, when the hand of bodily disease and suffering was heavily upon him) he aimed to make "full proof of his ministry," "not seeking his own profit, but the profit of many that they may be saved." Feeding thus, the flock committed to his care, taking the oversight, not by constraint, but willingly, not as a Lord over God's heritage, but in all things an example, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity, the Chief Shepherd drew near and found him on the watch, and waiting for his appearing. The sickness which proved his last visitation, gradually, as you are aware, sapped his [16/17] strength, and severed the strings of life. Twice, though not without great, reluctance, and only under a full conviction of the duty of trying every proper means to lengthen his days for further work in his Lord's vineyard, was he induced to yield to the advice of friends, and cross the ocean in search of health. But God willed it otherwise, and he was compelled on his return last autumn, after a sad struggle for you, and for himself; to resign his parish. The insidious malady, gathering renewed power, brought with it many days of acute pain; but they were borne with that christian submission which our brother had learned at his Master's feet. Week after week, hope gleamed up in many an anxious countenance, only to be again extinguished; and to try still more the faith of his servant, God in his wisdom, took from the embrace of a weeping household, its youngest prop, and filled with fresh bitterness the cup. [* Thomas D. Smith, youngest son of Dr. Smith, died on the 16th of January, after an illness of several weeks, in the 17th year of his age.] Yet, mingled as that cup was by a Heavenly Father's hand, it was not refused, and no doubt it helped to strengthen his watchfulness for his own departure. Three days before it came, he took occasion, when we were left alone, to express his perfect conviction that his course was run; and then in words never to be forgotten, spoke of his unworthiness in the sight of God, and of the feeling which he had of the short comings and imperfections of his ministry. "At times," said he, "I am [17/18] almost overwhelmed at the thought of my sinfulness, and then again, it seems as if I pierced through the veil," (looking earnestly upward) "and saw my Saviour interceding, for me." "Oh, His blood can wash all away." "My Friend and Brother," he continued, "when you and I first began the ministry, I think we laid too much stress upon the outward. You know what I mean, but since then, Anthon, both of us, thanks be to God, have been better taught, I trust, how to preach simply and fully Christ and him crucified." Looking at me very earnestly, as I was preparing to leave him, he observed, "And now remember that what I said four years ago, when I was so ill that I did not expect to live, I say again. In many things which I have done, I believe that I did wrong, but in that one matter, [* Referring to the Protest made by us, July 2nd, 1843, in St. Stephen's Church, New-York, against the admission of Mr. Arthur Carey, to the order of deacons. See Statement of Facts, &c Harper and Brothers, 1843.] when you and I stood up to bear our testimony for Christ, and the Church, I feel persuaded, now, as ever, mark it well, that we did right; and the developments, from that time to this, prove it was right. This gives me comfort now. Understand me. I do not take any merit to myself; not a particle of merit. I am nothing. I mention it to show how God, to whom I had made my prayer, gave me grace, and enabled me to bear up for the duty. Therein I rejoice and find comfort now." [The words in italics are the words emphasized in his peculiar way. It would be difficult to describe his energy of manner. On the day after this interview, he recurred to this subject, when his nephew was at his bedside, and gave the same testimony in almost the same language. He mentioned also to him, "his extreme caution and anxiety," at the time the protest was made. "How he had been roused from his bed at three o'clock of that very morning, to visit a dying man, had staid by him till all was over, and comforted his widow;" then returning home, how he had "knelt down by this very bed; where," said he, "I now lie, and prayed with earnest fervent supplication, that if I were under any delusion, God would show it to me, and not suffer me to do any thing improperly, or disturb the peace of His Church;" how he "arose and went to St. Stephen's, and felt sustained and strengthened."]
From the following [18/19] day, and until his death, a beloved relative, a minister of the Presbyterian Church, was by his side, whose privilege it was to comfort him, and to witness the closing triumph. [Rev. Hugh S. Carpenter] At my request he has furnished me with particulars, which appeal at once to all our hearts. "On Friday," he states, "I was summoned to my uncle's bedside. He had been for some time in a troubled sleep, and startled out of it as I entered, he began at once to repeat the hymn, 'Jesus, Saviour of my soul.' Having roused himself thoroughly with this, he told me that 'his end was drawing near; that this last failure was very sudden, still he had no fears.' 'That Rock, that blessed Rock,' said he, 'if our feet are once upon it, nothing can dislodge us.' He wished me to bear testimony that he put all his trust in the atonement; repeating earnestly the text, 'And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all [19/20] sin.' 'Yes, all sin.' He evinced great humility on account of sin, often saying, 'I have had many infirmities.' 'I am a great sinner.' When I sought to comfort him by referring to his past labors, he would at first be melted to tears of joy, and himself recall instances of the kind, especially among the poor, but generally he distrusted himself so much as to stop me at once, saying, 'I am nothing.' 'I desire to lie low before the Cross.' 'A sinner saved by grace.' When texts and promises of Scripture were quoted, he took up the words and finished the quotation himself; and seemed to delight chiefly in such passages as were fullest of Christ. 'Is not that a noble text?' he asked with great animation, 'It doth not yet appear what we shall be.' And again, 'Behold, O God, our shield, and look upon the face of thine Anointed.' 'Yes, the Anointed One, Anointed to be a Saviour, the Messiah.' He said repeatedly, 'the truths which I have preached to others, they comfort me now.' His sense of unworthiness at no time deprived him of confidence. He exclaimed boldly, 'though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.' 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.' 'I have no fears.' 'It is all peace, perfect peace;' and he spoke with great composure of those whom he should recognize in glory. On Saturday morning, thinking that his end was near, he observed, 'my time is very short,' 'I must leave my testimony.' For every one he had some affectionate word of exhortation, pointing them all to the Saviour; sent messages to the absent, appeared [20/21] to overlook none; and constantly kept saying, 'my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is, that they may be saved.' "
It was early on that same morning, my brethren, that a message was brought to me that he was dying. Upon approaching his bedside, he said to me, "I am going, my Friend and Brother." "Is it peace?" I asked. "All peace," he replied, "through HIS merits," pointing his finger to heaven. "A Sinner saved by grace; mark this well." Before we parted the Communion was administered to him by the Rev. Dr. Turner. [* Besides the family, the Rev. Dr. Wilson, myself, and one or two other friends partook of the Communion. Dr. Smith had previously remarked to me and others, with emphasis, "Remember that I desire it not as a viaticum, a necessary provision for a sinner in the death journey; but for refreshment. We do thus show forth the Lord's death till he come."] The night which succeeded was one of great restlessness; but on Sunday morning, he became calm, and expressed his firm, but humble hope, that God would receive him, and Jesus would be with him; remarking, "that he should not live the day out," and requesting once more, the prayers of the congregation. The church bell sounded loudly in the room, but he would not have it silenced; saying, that it did not disturb him. Almost speechless, a lingering look of devoted love and solemn consciousness was cast upon all encircling him. It was an hour always to be remembered. The organ was rolling up its tones that seemed to sound like the voices of another sphere, [21/22] and the anthem's wave broke majestically upon the stillness of that chamber. Then there was a sudden silence, for the sound of supplication was too subdued to reach his ears; but he knew full well, that at that moment the people who loved him, and had often listened to his voice, were in prayer for him to God. In a few moments his change came. He gently breathed his last.
"I heard a voice from Heaven, saying unto me, Write from henceforth blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors. Amen."
[FOOTNOTE] The REV. HUGH SMITH was born August 29th, 1795, at the Narrows, Long Island. He went to school at Flatbush, and entered Columbia College in 1809. Graduating in 1813, he pursued his studies for the ministry under Bishop Hobart, from whom he received Deacon's Orders in 1816 and Priest's Orders in 1819. In November 1816, he was married to Miss Helen Clarke, daughter of James B. Clarke, Esq., of Brooklyn. Shortly after his marriage he sailed for Savannah, where he supplied the Church during the absence of the Rector, the Rev. Mr. Cranston, until the following April, when he returned to New-York, and was appointed by the Rev. Dr. Bowen, his assistant in Grace Church. In the same year he accepted the Rectorship of St. Ann's Church, Brooklyn. (The History of that parish, by a Sunday School Teacher, details many interesting incidents connected with his rectorship.) In 1819, he removed to Augusta, Georgia, and became the Rector of the Episcopal Church in that place, where he remained until March 1831; when he resigned his charge, returned to the North to educate his children, and be near his aged relatives; and was elected Rector of Christ Church, Hartford. There were but three communicants in Augusta, when Dr. Smith entered upon his duties. During his rectorship a beautiful church was built, and a large and prosperous parish established. In 1833, having been appointed Missionary of the Church of the Holy Evangelists, in New-York, he returned to that city, and labored in this field until he received a call in 1836, to the rectorship of St. Peter's Church, his last parish. In October 1836, at the request of the Standing Committee of the General Theological Seminary, he entered upon the duties of the Professorship of Pastoral Theology and Pulpit Eloquence; and discharged them with great zeal and fidelity. But these duties, in connection with those of his parish, affected his health. He resigned his temporary charge of the Professorship, and obtaining leave of absence, he sailed for Europe in 1837. He returned the same year, with renovated strength and spirits; and continued his labors among his attached people, for nearly nine years; when he was compelled again to try a voyage, which was again of essential service. His health continued good until July, 1848; the time when he last sailed for England. After a short sojourn, he returned wholly incapacitated for further duty. Dr. Smith received the degree of Doctor in Divinity from Columbia College, in 1838. The corner stone of St. Peter's Church was laid in 1836 and the noble and beautiful building was consecrated in 1838. The number of communicants in the last report prepared by the Rector, but not published, was 250. Dr. Smith expired at St. Peter's Rectory on Sunday morning March 25th, in the 54th year of his age.