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"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." — 1 Cor. ii. 2

THE character and career of St. Paul are an inspiration to every believer in Christ and a model to every one of his ministers. That character will never cease to be admired by all who are capable of emotions of moral sublimity. It will be a dark day for the Christian church when this heroic apostolic example will have no imitators. He declared that after a course of bloody persecution he obtained mercy that he might stand forth as a conspicuous specimen of the wonderful power and condescending mercy of God, and as a pattern of all long-suffering to them who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting. We are justified in saying that Saul found pardoning grace that his course of labors and sufferings might be presented to every successive generation of Christian heralds as a model of all ministerial fidelity and devotion to his divine Master. His heroism is seen not only in his persistent surmounting of obstacles and dauntless courage to face foes thirsting for his blood, but also in the offensive doctrine to which he always gave prominence. He exalts and magnifies the most unpalatable truth of the gospel. He lifts up the bloody cross, awakening the anger of the Jew and the disgust of the Greek. To the one it was a stumbling-block and to the other foolishness. The Jew's worldly ideal of the Messiah was rudely shocked by the hammer that nailed the Nazarene to the tree. Even to this day he will not bow the knee to Jesus Christ because he says, in the words of a Hebrew college classmate, "I cannot worship a dead God." The cultured Greek, whose exquisite taste has given law to art, has his modern successors who are disgusted with a theology that has the blood of atonement as a cardinal element. Every audience before whom Paul "reasoned" was composed of Jews and Greeks whose prejudices were harshly assaulted, whose tastes were grossly offended by the very mention of the shameful cross as the instrument of blessing to mankind.

"For we must strive to recollect what the cross was. We have wrought it in gold and wreathed it with flowers, and worn it as an ornament, and placed it at the top of all human symbolisms, until we have transfigured it. It had none of these associations originally. It was the meanest of all the engines of torture. The guillotine has something respectable in it, as it was used in the decapitation of princes as well as of robbers. The gallows is not so mean as the cross; for, when there was slavery among us, and a master and his slave were convicted of a capital crime, they perished on the same scaffold. But the cross was reserved for the lowest and vilest malefactors. It added deepest ignominy to death — Tacitus called crucifixion the torture of slaves."

Paul was constantly under a strong temptation to please men by concealing the cross and by exalting other facts in the history of Christ. For he is a very wide topic, affording a vast variety of themes. Paul could have preached many sermons without alluding to Christ's ignominious, judicial death. His inventive and fertile mind could easily have filled up his longest term of service in one place, three years, dwelling without repetition on other topics than the crucifixion and its relation to human salvation. He might have preached on the mediatorial office of the Son of God in the physical realm, by whom the world's were made, and by whom they are upheld, and in whom all things consist. How easy for Paul's judicial mind to discourse of the Son of God as the governor of the world, proving that his shoulder upholds the kingdom, and that he is head over all things unto his church. How large the theme of messianic prophecy! How many sermons on the text, "Unto him give all the prophets witness"! How charming and fertile the theme of the unique and wonderful character, a sinless soul mingling unstained with a world of sinners, wearing the robe of spotless purity amid earth's pollutions; each radiant virtue constituting the theme of a discourse, his humility, his meekness, his philanthropy, his forgiving spirit, his zeal and diligence in his Father's work, the wonderful symmetry of his character, so unlike any creation of man's imagination as to prove him divine. How rarely did Paul in his addresses dwell upon the miracles of Jesus, a large subject almost entirely neglected. He names only the miracle of miracles, the resurrection of Christ. The legal training of St. Paul might have found a large field for its exercise in amplifying each of the wonderful utterances of the sermon on the mount, emphasizing and illustrating every specific moral obligation. What proofs of Christ's Godhood might have been educed from his sole judgment of the whole human race, adjudging changeless and eternal destinies!

Paul knew how to become all things to all men that he might win some. Why then is he not politic and conciliatory in the selection of the theme of his preaching? There must be some good reason. This is found in the fact that the cross is the center of the Christian system. To have ignored it would have been to pluck the roots from the tree with the expectation that it would grow and withstand the tornado, or to dig out the corner-stone and look to see the temple withstand the earthquake.

Paul might thus have conciliated a few bitter Hebrew enemies of Christ, or he might have gained the favor of a few proud philosophers, but he would have torn out the heart of Christianity and would have preached another gospel. If he had shunned preaching salvation through the blood of Christ he would have robbed Christianity of its distinctive doctrine, on which rest both justification from the guilt of sin and sanctification from its pollution, and he would have made Jesus a favorite on the platform of the skeptics and agnostics of his day. To Jesus as a mere ethical teacher they would have no more objection than they have to Confucius, Buddha or Zoroaster; and his gospel would have become as impotent to save as are their religions. Jesus the expounder of the moral law on the mount of beatitudes provokes no great opposition in the proud sinner. But Jesus the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world arouses the hostility of the self-righteous, because it lays their pride in the dust to be saved through the sacrifice of another. How contemptuous and blasphemous the words of a former professed teacher of Christianity in Boston, that "orthodox people are depending for salvation on the blood of a crucified Jew, the son of a peasant mother and a peasant sire." Paul magnifies Christ's death, because as an atonement for sin it is the foundation of all the vital doctrines of the gospel. Here are displayed God's love, man's worth, and the nature and cure of sin. Let us consider the last first.

I. The misnamed Christian Scientists and the so-called liberal theologians teach that sin is not a reality but an illusion of mis-educated minds; that it is a weakness to be outgrown by further development. We are told that sin is an incidental misstep of an infant toddling from the cradle to his mother's knee — an incident or accident in the unfolding of immature faculties. It is very confidently asserted that there is no such thing in the universe as absolute evil; that moral evil, or sin, is only another form of good, — good in the process of making, as a bitter medicine is not an evil of itself if it promotes health. We are gravely assured that the fall of Adam was the longest stride in human progress yet made by our race. This, in brief, is what has been aptly styled "bitter-sweet theology;" that sin is bitter in its experience but salutary in its final results, a relative evil antecedent to a positive good in its ultimate end and purpose. Hence "all is well that ends well." At the bottom of this doctrine lies the pantheistic denial of the radical and eternal distinction between right and wrong; that the testimony of conscience to such a distinction is illusory. It is asserted that the foreboding of fiery indignation and consuming wrath which haunt the guilty man is a superstition. This view of sin to which some are schooling themselves is an opiate to the conscience, disastrous to the individual and ruinous to society, because it removes every safeguard to virtue which exists in the fear of punishment — a cardinal restraint from sin. Should the belief become universal that sin, in the long run, is as profitable as holiness, crime would run riot through the whole world. The bridle would be thrown down upon the neck of lust, and every good man would be tempted to regret a life of self-denying piety and to exclaim, "In vain have I washed my hands in innocency." The world would become a pandemonium where successful vice would triumph evermore. "Evil would stand on the neck of good and rule the world alone."

Let us now bring our study of the nature of sin to the cross, the only place where a true view of it can be obtained. Who is he who hangs thereon bowing his head in death? It is none other than the Son of God, who dwelt in his bosom and shared his glory before the world was. By him, "the image of the invisible God, were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions; all things were created by him and for him" (Col. 1. 16). Equal in power and glory with the Father, he says, "I and my Father are one." "He who hath seen me hath seen the Father." This person of infinite dignity is nailed to the cross, voluntarily laying down his life as a ransom for many. The cost of redemption is the measure of the turpitude of sin. Jesus died to antagonize sin, to neutralize its baneful effects and to arrest its consequences in such a manner as to afford no encouragement to sin, but rather to raise up the strongest safeguard against it. If Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man, it proves that in every man there is some fatal plague spot which must be removed, which nothing short of the death of the Son of God could effect. I need not tell you that this plague is sin which embitters and blights every human soul, casting an eternal eclipse upon its future existence. Before Jesus was born it was said, "He shall save his people from their sins." He began to preach and his theme was repentance of sin. He visits John the Baptist and he hears himself designated as "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." He heals the paralytic, — but his omniscient eye sees deeper than the paralysis of the body the sin of the soul, which he hastens to forgive before he utters the omnipotent word, "Arise, take up thy bed and walk." From the top of Olivet he looks down upon Jerusalem and weeps over her sins. On the cross he prays, not Father, deliver me, but Father, forgive the sins of my murderers. The whole scheme of revelation in both Testaments has distinct reference to sin. The great problem with which omnipotence wrestled was how to annihilate sin without annihilating the sinner. Justice said: "Let them share the same fate." Mercy cried: "Let me devise a ransom, though it be the most precious thing in the universe, even the only begotten of the Father. Let his death atone for the sins of the human race with whose nature he has forever united himself. Let him satisfy the demands of the moral Governor and the Protector of law, and at the same time melt the obduracy of sinners and sway them to a penitent acceptance of Christ as both Saviour and Lord." The chasm between sinners and God is bridged by an atonement satisfactory with God and influential with man. We may not be able to state correctly the philosophy of the atonement on its Godward side, showing in what way he is affected by the death of his Son. But the saving efficacy of the atonement does not depend on our perfect philosophy, but on that faith which inspires love, imparts spiritual life, overcomes the world, and purifies the heart. The Father is grossly misrepresented when he is represented as a pitiless and vengeful Shylock demanding his pound of flesh, while his Son is the sole embodiment of mercy. The Father originated the atonement and himself suffered in the gift of his well-beloved Son beyond all possible conception by men or angels. Suffering is the highest proof of love. To say that the gift of his Son to the manger and the cross did not wring the heart of the Father with the keenest anguish, is to strip him of every proof of love to a world of sinners. Professor Fairbairn asserts that it is a great error to teach that God is incapable of suffering.

The self-sacrifice of both the Father and the Son in providing for human redemption pours a light of double intensity upon the awful nature of sin. Not so distinctly are we taught that the Holy Spirit suffers in his part of the scheme of redemption. But in the application of it by convicting the world of sin, he must be deeply grieved with every individual who rejects his mission and hardens himself in sin. The three Persons of the Trinity being interested in the elimination of sin are pained by its existence in any human character.

"With joy the Father doth approve
The fruit of his eternal love;
The Son looks down with joy and sees
The purchase of his agonies;
The Spirit takes delight to view
The contrite souls he forms anew;
While saints and angels join to sing
The growing empire of their King."

Thus the cross of Christ symbolizes the unutterable pain throbbing in the bosom of the triune God. Hence sin is no trifle, no mere misstep easily corrected. It is not another form of good, a medicine, bitter indeed but profitable because it secures health. We reject the so-called "bittersweet theology" which regards sin as only a relative evil, a good in the process of making. It is an evil unmitigated, absolute and eternal in its consequences, unless canceled by the voluntary acceptance of the atonement. The terribleness of the disease is seen in the sufferings of the Physician to find the only remedy. Would you see the cost of that remedy, gaze upon the thorny path of the Son of God from the manger to the garden, from the garden to the cross, from the cross to the tomb, every weary, bleeding footstep to find a cure for sin. Think you that your sins are unworthy your serious regard? Sit down and ponder them beneath the cross of Christ and you will discover their deep significance. Your eves will be anointed to see the divine image in you disfigured by the hideousness of sin. You will see in strong outlines the likeness of Satan imprinted on your immortal spirit soon to be made eternally unchangeable by that decisive event which we call death. Could men be induced to study sin in the light of Calvary there would be an end to the flippant talk about its insignificance, and there would be an earnest inquiry for the remedy. It is said that five thoughtful men were once asked for the best cure of sin. The first said, "Meditation on death." This may be beneficial to restrain from sin, but it cannot remedy sin already committed. The second said, "Contemplation of the day of judgment." This would have the same defect. The third said. "Meditation on hell." This might be morally healthful in deterring from sin. The fourth prescribed "The contemplation of heaven." This might awaken hope, but it might not be a hope which maketh not ashamed, because it could not blot out the record of past sins and regenerate by shedding abroad the love of God in the heart by the Holy Ghost." The fifth man gave the correct answer, "Meditation on the cross of Christ." This is saving because it has in it the person and work of the Redeemer and Saviour. It looks towards both the past and the future. Looking unto Jesus is the conquering attitude of the soul. It cancels past sin. It subdues sin within; it overcomes sin without. It secures the new creation and implants the aspiration after perfect conformity to the image of the Son of God through entire sanctification by the indwelling Spirit and that perfect love which is the full heritage of the believer.

The story of Calvary pondered by a sinner drives him to his knees in penitent abhorrence of sin. We do not know of a place on earth in which Christ crucified should be more plainly and earnestly preached than in agnostic Boston, where men are taught to look for a cure of sin in their own good works; where many, ignoring Christ, go about to establish their own righteousness. The failure of such a scheme of salvation is now and then honestly confessed by its own advocates. While writing this sermon my attention is called to the following candid concession by a writer in the
Liberal Christian: "Had sin been duly understood and dealt with by the last generation of Unitarian sermonizers, we should not have had the swing over into naturalism which has cost us so serious a loss of faith and power. The pulpit would not have become so easily confounded with the lecturer's desk, and preaching been placed beside other forms of literary entertainment." This is the confession of a preacher who accounts the blood of Christ of no more importance than that of any martyr for the truth. In rejecting the atonement, he threw away the only fact, by which sin could be "duly understood and dealt with," the sounding line by which its depths can be fathomed and the only measure of its enormity. It has been said that

"Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees,"

but there is another object which he gazes upon with greater terror, the Lamb of God, the offering for sin, shedding his blood freely for the cure of sin. In a European cathedral there is in the chancel a painting of a cross. A ladder leans against it, and a rope dangling from the crosspiece intimates that the body has just been taken down. Beyond a hillock in the rear are seen the heads of four men who are evidently carrying the dead Christ to Joseph's new tomb. But the most wonderful part of the picture, and that which shows the intelligence of the painter, is a rill of blood running down the hill from the cross and a serpent running away in affright from that crimson stream. Christ "through death destroys him who has the power of death, that is, the devil." Gazing on this picture, may those preachers who have treated sin as a trifle rectify their mistake on their visit to that open tomb which demonstrates the supreme deity of the Son of God, whose blood cleanses from all sin.

"The cleansing stream I see, I see;
I plunge and oh! it cleanses me."

II. In Christ crucified we find the highest expression of God's love to sinful men. The most comprehensive sentence in the universe is comprised in three monosyllables, "God is love." Nature could not reveal this wonderful truth. Yen of the greatest wisdom and insight could not infer it from the physical world or from human history. There is too much suffering in the world to justify such an inference. It must be revealed by the Spirit of God, who searches the depths of his being. The Spirit inspired John to write the words "God is love," the demonstration of which he had contemplated at Golgotha.

Love is the only weapon that can conquer the rebellious will and transform the soul from sin to holiness. And divine love does this only when it awakens responsive love in the sinner's breast. If love alone could save sinners, every prodigal son who has a mother would be drawn immediately from his husks to his home a reformed man. As a parent's love alone cannot save the dissolute son or the fallen daughter, so God's love alone, though deep as hell and wide as the world, can save no soul from the guilt and love of sin. But love that awakens love in return is a magnet that draws men from the lowest depths near the very gates of perdition up to the highest heaven. The sinner whom love cannot save God cannot save, for salvation is absolutely impossible without responsive love, the first throb of which is the first pulsation of spiritual life. He is born again, born from above, for, behold, he loveth.

He who has so hardened himself in sin as to lose the capacity to be inspired with love responsive to the love of God revealed on Calvary must perish. For God has no way of regenerating the sinner except by awakening in him love to himself. If love revealed in the greatest possible sacrifice cannot awaken love to God, nothing can enkindle this sacred flame. It is certain that omnipotence cannot change the heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Power cannot constrain love. Not the thunderbolt but the cross is the symbol of salvation. What a relief did Christianity experience when she shook off the dreadful doctrine of salvation through sovereign power and irresistible grace with a sledge hammer breaking down the door of the impenitent heart!

Herein is the secret of the rapid spread of the gospel going forth as an angel flying over all the world, not with a sword in her hand, but with a trumpet at her lips proclaiming God's love. Deny the vicarious atonement and we have an utterly impotent gospel. The churches which have tried this experiment have lost the light and warmth of evangelical truth, and have felt the chill, the frost, the death of mere naturalism. But wherever Christ crucified is preached as the Redeemer of the entire human race without one exception, and the Saviour of everyone who believes and receives the Holy Spirit, there is a quickening power which raises the dead to life and enkindles the fire of a quenchless zeal. Hence the cross of Christ becomes a live coal, which has touched myriads of dumb lips and made them eloquent to preach Christ crucified to all the world. A Pentecostal experience is the inspiration, the mighty motive power of the great missionary enterprises of the nineteenth century.

III. Liberalists assert that the Epistles, especially those of Paul, present an ideal and not the historical Christ of the four Gospels; that salvation through his blood is a human addition to the system of truth left by Jesus, the outline of which is found in the sermon on the mount. But in the first Gospel Jesus announces the germ of all Pauline teachings, "The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many." The whole oak is in this acorn. If we turn to John's Gospel we shall find numerous hints of the doctrine of the atonement. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit" (John xii. 24). "The bread which I give is my flesh, for the life of the world. Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves" (John vi, 51, 53).

The crucifixion is not a fancy but a stubborn and ugly fact which a person given to idealizing a historical character so rich as that of Jesus of Nazareth would have certainly thrown far into the background of his picture or totally suppressed, hence we argue that the very phrase, "and him crucified," was designed by Paul to emphasize the literal genuineness of the Christ whom he preached, not a mythical creation, but a veritable person, who lived in Palestine, wrought miracles, uttered parables, preached sermons, died, arose and ascended, and proved that he had reached the throne by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete of promise. There is not a doctrine in the Epistles which is not germinally in the Gospels. If Jesus had fully developed the doctrine of justification by faith grounded on the atonement in his own blood, he would have laid too great a burden upon their faith. Hence he wisely reserved it, saying, "I have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now." He might have added, "After I have gone away, these things can then be unfolded to you." After his blood had been shed, it was natural that the doctrinal relations and implications of this fact should be clearly set forth. For this purpose Paul, filled with Hebrew lore, an excellent Greek scholar and a logician of the first rank, was called to the authoritative exposition of Christian truth as educed from the completed facts of the gospel. Jesus did promise "the Paraclete, whom I will send, shall teach you all things." Whether this promise includes a supernatural communication of facts to Paul or not is immaterial, so long as there were eyewitnesses to those facts who were accessible to Paul. But all evangelical scholars agree that the theological inductions from those facts were made through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Hence we may confidently deny that the apostles in unfolding Christian truth after Pentecost presented to the world an imaginary or unhistorical Christ. It is the very same Jesus as "was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world and received up into glory."

IV. In the light of the cross of Christ we clearly see the inevitable failure of all moral reforms, all attempts to antagonize and conquer sin independent of those redemptive influences which flow from the sacrificial element in the atonement made by the Son of God. The great purpose of his death was to destroy the works of the devil, human depravity is a work of the devil. In his deadly conflict with the usurping prince of this world, Jesus welcomes all as allies who will fight beneath his banner and wield his weapons. What is his banner but the crimsoned cross? what his chosen weapon but his death, through which "he destroys him that hath the power of death"? This is the all-conquering sword which the Captain of our salvation girds upon his own thigh when he rides forth in majesty to subdue his enemies. He who fights any form of sin without the weapon of the cross of Christ is doomed to a humiliating defeat. Pride has been called the primal sin, and selfishness has been styled the radical sin of our fallen race. From these twin sins all others spring. No hand ever plucked them out of the soul but the pierced hand of Jesus Christ. How true to both nature and grace is this stanza of Isaac Watts:

"When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride."

Concupiscence and enslaving artificial appetites such as the alcoholic and narcotic, which drag their victims into the depths of ruin and shut them up in the prison of despair, can be effectually overcome only by the blood of Jesus Christ. By this we mean to say, that faith in evangelical truth centered in the forgiveness of sin based on the atonement, and including the inspiration of spiritual life through the regenerating and sanctifying power of the .Holy Spirit, made accessible to the believer in Christ crucified, is the only power in the universe which can conquer Satan and deliver the captives that he holds in fetters.

Philosophy may wonder, despise and perish while scornfully rejecting the only purgatory for sin — "The blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin." This is the whole gospel in a single sentence, containing the head and front of all its offense against the pride of fallen man and its alleged collision with human reason.

It follows that Christ crucified is the test of every effort to save the individual and to regenerate society. Does it draw its inspiration from the cross, and is the cross the center of the truths which are applied and enforced. Then it is of God. Roman Catholic legends often embody some important truth. It is said of St. Martin of Tours that once, while meditating in his cell, there appeared a form radiant with beauty, crowned with a jeweled diadem, with a countenance glorious and persuasive, and a manner so austere that it seemed to require homage and love. This form said, "I am Christ; worship me." After St. Martin had looked long in silence, he gazed upon the hands and said: "Where is the print of the nails?" The vision suddenly vanished, and St. Martin was left alone, assured that he had met the tempter.

Are we Protestants not invited to bow the knee to some Christ of our own imagination, a Christ without the nail-print, whom it is easy to serve because his service does not require self-crucifixion?

Beware, my beloved, of every form of so-called Christianity out of which the element of self-sacrifice has been dropped. For there are false Christs in many beautiful forms in modern times. A perfect orthodoxy may enrobe a phantom Christ. "We may," in the words of John Wesley, "be as orthodox as the devil and as wicked. For the devils believe and tremble and are devils still." Yea, the modern evangelical who rests in a mere intellectual assent to the truth may not even tremble before the object of his faith. Thus he may prove that his piety is inferior to that of the demons themselves.

How many are worshipping the false Christ of splendid ritualism, resting in symbols forgetful of the thing signified, content with water baptism with no aspiration after the baptism of the Spirit. They are satisfied with the wine, the emblem of the blood, without experiencing the joy of the Holy Ghost of which it is also an emblem. They may be advocates of the individual cup with no individual appropriation of the blood of Christ to the soul's spiritual need. The ritualistic Christ may always be known by his uncharitable exclusiveness. He limits His grace to those who have a certain external mark made by tactual succession, a myth of myths which no man on earth can prove to be real, or which would be of no value if it were real. "He is a Jew which is one inwardly." Others again worship an ethical Christ, advancing no farther than the sermon on the mount; they never reach mount Calvary. They are legalists. They insist on a righteousness without the basis of regeneration, a righteousness which is independent of grace and a substitute for the new birth. It is one thing to admire the beauty of Christ's moral character, and quite another to submit to him as Lord by an all-surrendering trust and an intense desire to be conformed to the image of Christ by being crucified with him.

It will be spiritually healthful always to remember that there is no salvation in a fancied Christ. Only the real Christ can save sinners, Jesus more than hints that many people will forget this truth and lose their souls in consequence. Hear him: "Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. vii. 21, 22).

In conclusion we remark that our text is the best touchstone of the subject-matter of preaching in our time and in all times. An aged Methodist minister, a doctor of divinity, whose preaching had been eminently evangelistic and fruitful of conversions, after several years of retirement from the pulpit made to me the following statement" "For several years I have been an earnest listener to the preaching of my younger brethren. If a man should believe what some of them say, he would be no better, and if he should disbelieve it all, he would be no worse."

My beloved ministerial brother, if this is a description of your preaching, you will be far from having boldness in the day of judgment. That great day will prove that the Christian ministry misused brings the heaviest condemnation. There are only two pulpit themes, Christ or self. Many begin with Christ, but unconsciously switch off to self. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor x. 12).