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The Wisdom of God in the means used to propagate the Gospel.
1 CORINTHIANS, i. 27, 28.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.*
HE mercy promised to the fathers" was Chrift, the Savior. That "the defire of all nations fhould come," was a prediction of his incarnation; and his entrance here was announced by a heavenly meffenger, with, "Behold, I bring
you glad tidings of great joy-to all people."
*The two difcourfes on this text were originally one, and preached before Windham Affociation, at Thompson, October Seffion, 1798. Probably fome of the ideas which they contain, may have been fuggefted byreading Paley's evidences of Christianity; but as the author had not that book in his poffeffion when he wrote on this fubject, he is not able particularly to give credit to that excellent writer, if here his due.
Yet" when he came to his own, his own received him not!" To many he hath been "a ftone of ftumbling, and a rock of offence !"
THE defign and tendency of chriftianity are most benevolent; but being opposed to men's lufts, which rule in their members, all the malevolence of depravity hath been excited against it. Jews and Gentiles united in the oppofition. "The kings of the earth ftood up and the rulers were gathered to. gether against the Lord, and against his Chriftboth Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Ifrael."
THE Chriftian religion did not creep into the world in the dark. It first appeared at an enlightened period, and among the most enlightened of the nations. The fciences derived from conquered Greece, had been improved at Rome, and communicated to its dependencies. Syria was then a province of the Empire. Every movement in Ju. dea was observed and reported at the metropolis. The crucifixion of our Savior was fanctioned by a Roman deputy; and the perfecuted Chriftians were allowed an appeal to Cæfar. Soon, therefore, did the religion of Jesus make its way to Rome.
THE power of Rome had alfo reached its acme; and as the spirit of Christianity was diverse from that of the world, the learning and power of the Empire foon combined against it. That this religion would be crushed and vanish away as a dream of the night, was generally expected.
EVERY circumftance feemed to indicate fuch an event. Thofe reputed wife, confidered the gospel
scheme as foolishness; and the inftruments which were chofen to propagate it were thought to be weak and contemptible. It was alfo obferved to fpread chiefly among the lower orders of men, who had not the advantages of literature, nor been innitiated in the myfteries of Judaism, all which ferved to infpire its enemies with confidence, that it would foon come to nought.
THE apoftle takes notice, in the context, of the contempt then fo generally poured on Christianity, and declares the wifdom of God in the permiffion; of it. He also predicts the triumph of the cross; efpecially over the powers then combined against it-predictions which were afterwards fulfilled: For those powers were all fubdued and humbled, and Chrift and the gospel exalted. The Chriftian religion was openly professed, and became the most reputable religion in many countries; particularly in Syria and at Rome and its numerous provinces; and by the means then ordered of God. This is the spirit of the text-God hath chofen the foolish things of the world to confound the wife, and the weak things of the world to confound the mighty, &c.
IN difcuffing the subject, we fhall confider the means ufed to propagate the gospel-the oppofition made against it—and the wifdom of God in the choice of the means; which will bring up to view fome of the objections which have been made against the truth of the gospel.
IN treating of the means ufed to propagate the gofpel, we pass over the preaching and miracles. of Chrift, and the wonders which took place at his
death and refurrection. These were known to the Jews, and rendered them inexcufeable in neglecting fo great falvation; but they preceded fending the gofpel to the gentiles, and the means used to spread it among them. The apostle had no reference to Christ, or any thing done or fuffered by him, when he fpake of the foolish and weak, and bafe things,used of God, to confound thofe which are wife and mighty. He spake only with reference to the inftruments which were chosen to carry the gospel abroad and perfuade the nations of the earth to receive it.
GOD hath all creatures at his command; he hath power to prefs the most reluctant into his fervice, and to compel them to bear his meffages, and execute his orders; as we see in the case of Balaam and Jonah. God can make ufe of men to this end, either by reconciling them to himself, and attaching them to his intereft, or by overruling their corrupt and vicious defigns to effect his holy purposes, without their confent or knowledge. Moft of the prophets were brought into his views, and made defirous to honor him. Many Pagan princes, and others, who knew him not, were yet made inftrumental in doing his pleasure and exe cuting his defigns. The divine fovereign never wants for agents to accomplish his purposes. He fitteth on the circle of the heavens, and orders the affairs of the universe in such a manner as to do his pleasure. "None can ftay his hand." Whether the agents which he employs are willing or unwilling, mean fo, or not, is of no importance relative to the event. "His purposes ftand, and
the thoughts of his heart to all generations." The attempts of creatures to reverse his orders, and defeat his decrees, only help to their accomplishment. This was particularly the case respecting the measures adopted by the enemies of Chriftianity to prevent its spreading in the world.
THE perfons chofen of God and fent forth to propagate the religion of Chrift, were fuch as human wisdom would have judged very unsuitable. Twelve poor, defpifed, illiterate men, were called to be apoftles ;-moft of them were fishermen. One was a publican; a collector of the Roman tribute, which had been imposed on the Jews as a conquered people. An employment fo odious, that vile perfons, regardless of character, would only accept it. Such men we fhould judge exceedingly unfit for minifters of religion, and not likely to fucceed in making converts to it. Yet fuch were those who were appointed of God, to be prime minifters in the Chriftian church! Such the men who were fent forth to change the form and adminiftration of Judaism, and overthrow the fyftems of Paganism, rendered venerable by a general establishment, and the religious reverence of ages. The Jews' religion was from God; who had given abundant evidence of its divine origin. This Chrift came not to deftroy. But its external administration was to be changed; and in the apprehenfion of moft of thofe who profeffed it, it was no lefs oppofed to the gofpel fcheme, than Paganism. No others had greater enmity to Christianity than the Jews, or entered into the op