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a foreign land, fleeing from the violence of persecution, destitute and unattended. Spending a few days at Athens, he comes to Corinth, and has already entered the thronged metropolis. A stranger, and possessing no extraordinary marks of personal appearance, he is scarcely noticed among the busy, hurrying multitude in the close pursuit of gain or pleasure. What were the first impressions, or the feelings of such a man, on such a mission, at such a place, we cannot well imagine.
Corinth was at this time scarcely rivalled among the cities of Greece for its opulence, luxury, and fame. Paul had heard of its renown, for it was spread every where abroad. Travelers then visited Corinth with the same interest they now do Florence or Rome, London or Paris. Said Horace, the Latin poet, "It is not the good fortune of every one to visit Corinth." This was no common privilege at that day. Its magnificent temples and palaces and theatres, and other public buildings, adorned with columns and statues and painting, were alike the pride of its inhabitants and the admiration of strangers.
It abounded in schools of learning, richly endowed with the most accomplished professors of philosophy, oratory, and the fine arts; and scholars resorted to them from all parts of the world to perfect their education. The arts and sciences were carried to such a degree of perfection, that Cicero denominates Corinth, "the light of all Greece." Another Latin writer, in view of the splendor of its public edifices, and the refinement of its learning and arts, calls it "the ornament," or glory, "of Greece."
Such was Corinth when the apostle visited it, probably, for the first time in his life. He was possessed of natural genius and taste, and had a mind highly cultivated in the arts of learning. He had a soul to appreciate and enjoy the nicest sentiments of the grand and beautiful. Does he not anticipate a rich feast in this emporium of refined learning? Do we not see him hastening to those heathen temples to admire the magnificence of their architecture, their statuary, and paintings? Shall we not find him in their celebrated schools of philosophy? Is he not captivated by the sublime eloquence of those orators, or attracted by the exciting exhibitions of the Isthmian games?
No! Paul has a more important business at Corinth. He bears a commission from the God of Heaven, and none of these things move him from his sacred purpose. Having girded on the whole armor of God, he is thoroughly steeled against the assaults of every temptation. His soul is so deeply possessed with the greatness-the urgency of his work-that he feels he has no time to waste in the gratification of curiosity or pleasure. Its pressing importance admits of no delay. And, "pressed in spirit," he lifts up his voice, scarcely heard amid the din of that bustling, thoughtless, pleasure-seeking populace, whose very tutela
ry deity was the goddess of lust, and declares his first message, "testifying that Jesus is the Christ." In him is salvation for the chief of sinners. O ye Corinthians, estranged from God and doomed to death, your idols are but the work of men's hands. They cannot save. I bring you good tidings of great joy. Receive ye my message. Christ crucified is my only theme; neither is there salvation in any other.
Ask me not to turn aside from my single object and purpose for the attractions of your proud city. I have an errand for you of vastly greater moment. I am come to proclaim to dying men salvation from death and hell. My business is most urgent. My commission is imperious. Delay may be fatal to you; for soon the door of mercy will be shut, and heaven will seal your doom forever. Therefore I am determined not to know any thing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. In him is comprehended, in all its length and breadth, the glorious Gospel of the blessed God. And here are discoveries of knowledge and wisdom, sublimity, beauty and perfection, far transcending all the results of mere human power and skill. He that believeth shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Repent, therefore, and believe the Gospel.
Is Paul beside himself? Has some phrenzied imaginationsome strange monomania, seized upon his brain, that he thus talks foolishness to the Greeks? Or is he the only really sane man in all that devoted city? No! Paul is not mad, as he is judged by some; but such is his sober, earnest devotion to his calling; and such his undeviating purpose, and never-tiring zeal to fulfil his high commission as a servant of God, and minister of the everlasting gospel, to reveal the unsearchable riches of the knowledge of Christ.
III. What were the motives which urged Paul to such selfdenial and singleness of devotion in preaching the knowledge of Christ?
We shall find them all drawn from one and the same source. They may all be traced up to Christ on the cross, as the fountain head. The love of Christ constrained him. Here is discovered that silent, yet mighty spring and moving power which controlled every act and purpose of his life.
1. His first motive was obedience to Christ as his Lord and Master. He had been ordained by Christ himself as a minister of reconciliation. He needed no holy unction from priest or bishop to clothe him with authority, or qualify him for his work. He was a chosen vessel of the Lord to communicate unto men the unsearchable riches of his grace. And he had received an especial commission from the Holy Ghost, to preach a crucified Saviour to the Gentile world. From this high calling he dared not swerve. His business was marked out for him, and he did
not stop to parley with expediency, or to consult with flesh and blood. He went forward to meet his duty with a firm, undeviating step. His sole ambition was, to be found a faithful servant of his Lord; and by uncompromising obedience, to meet, at last, the approbation of Him who had chosen him for such a work. He could not, therefore, be drawn aside from his single purpose by the attractions of worldly emolument or pleasure. And he would not, therefore, dishonor that Gospel, and preach himself instead of Christ, or use the enticing words of man's wisdom. He desired to be wholly eclipsed by the glory of the sun of righteousness, whom he would hold up, in all the fullness of his light and beauty and perfection, for the faith and admiration of the world.
2. Another motive was gratitude to Christ, as his Redeemer and Saviour.
He had himself been plucked as a brand from the burning. He had seen the price of his ransom. His own eyes had beheld the risen Saviour, and had marked that heavenly visage, marred by the crown of thorns, and those hands by the prints of the nails. He knew the worth of expiatory blood, and had felt the preciousness of pardon. And amid the labors and persecutions he endured, he had derived strong consolation from that good hope in Christ which reacheth unto heaven, entereth within the veil, and is full of immortality. What he had himself already experienced of the blessings of Christ's redemption, was worth infinitely more to him than earthly honors, and treasures, and all things else. Whatever privations, then, or sufferings he might endure, he could well afford the sacrifice. He had received his hundred fold in this present world, with the assured expectation, in the world to come, of life everlasting. Therefore gratitude filled his heart, and he felt that no labor or sacrifice, self-denial or suffering, that was necessary in the faithful discharge of his ministry, was too great to endure for his Saviour.
3. The arduousness of the work to which his Lord had called him, was a motive to great self-denial and earnest devotion.
From every point of view, he beheld the world lying in wickedness. He saw the multiplied forms of idolatrous worship and superstition; and every where the sad and mournful demonstrations of man's alienation from God his creator. He knew the heart of man to be utterly depraved, "desperately wicked," full of unbelief, turning away from the living God. Yet men with such hearts were to be restored to holiness and the divine favor. Even such were to be delivered from the death-penalty of their condemnation, and made heirs to the inheritance of life eternal. The world had been ransomed; it must be saved. From the ruins of Satan's empire was to rise the beautiful, glorious, universal kingdom of the Redeemer. The Gospel was the only means ordained for the achievement of this stupendous result.
For such a work, the energies of an angel were weak and unavailing. He well knew that all the efficiency was of God; yet he could proclaim the knowledge of Christ, and the wonderworking power of his cross, which are the wisdom of God and the power of God, to the salvation of every one that believeth. And he felt that an earnest, untiring devotion to the duties of his calling, and the sacrifice of every thing which might stand in the way of his success, were necessary in order to accomplish, instrumentally, the part which devolved on him; that he "might by all means save some."
4. His estimate of the value of man's salvation, was another strong motive which impelled him to zealous effort and self-sacrifice in preaching Christ crucified.
He knew the worth of the immortal soul, and its imminent danger. He had solemnly meditated on the just penalty of God's violated law-the pains of everlasting death-to which he saw the world of mankind were already doomed; though their sentence was under a temporary suspension. He was deeply impressed with the thought, that the redemption of the soul from the sufferings of the second death, was precious, and that the time would soon come when it would cease forever; when the sacrifice of expiation, which had been made for it, would be no longer availing; that the soul, once cast off, must be irrecoverably lost; not all the wealth of worlds could purchase it; that there could be no further redemption; that man must be saved soon if saved at all.
Such affecting considerations as these were what led him, in the earnestness of his zeal for the salvation of men, to exclaim, "Necessity is laid upon me. Wo is unto me if I preach not the Gospel." I must hasten my work; I must lose no opportunity; I must spare no pains; I am ready to die for the Gospel. "For the Lord Jesus is to be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power." It was to save men from such a doom that he proclaimed the Gospel of a Redeemer; and did it not become him to be in earnest ?
5. Another consideration which animated the zeal of the apostle, and urged him forward with singular devotion to his work, was the certain success and grand results of preaching Christ.
The Gospel to him was no experiment. He never entertained even a suspicion that it might, after all, turn out to be a failure. The high estimation in which he held its great Author, being head over all things to the church, had placed it, in his view, above all contingency. It was not left to the blind fortuity of circumstances, or to the support and direction of feeble, erring man. It was not to fall the victim of persecution, or the prey of
violence. It was not to be supplanted by the cunning craftiness of its adversaries, or by the plausible systems of rational philosophy. It was not to be overborne and crushed amidst the prevailing wickedness and infidelity of the world. No-the eternal purpose of God was in it, and the strength of the Almighty was vouchsafed for its security and success. Though wounded and crippled and bleeding, it was destined to tread down all opposition, and rise up in its glory and triumph over all its foes. Then "the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, would be given to the people of the saints of the Most High." Then should Zion, the glorious church of God, appear "the perfection of beauty; and the sons of them that had afflicted her, would come bending unto her; and all they that had despised her, would bow themselves down at the soles of her feet. Whereas she had been forsaken and hated, God would make her an eternal excellency, the joy of many generations."
These amazing results were to be achieved, in Paul's estimation, not by the ushering in of a new and more imposing dispensation; by a second appearing of Christ in state, and a personal king-ship on earth, with a ministry of risen and glorified saints; but by the power of the Holy Ghost, accompanying the simple preaching of the cross of Christ, and through the ministry of the church militant.
Do any want confidence in the present system of the gospel to bring about the grand triumphs predicted of the Redeemer's kingdom? Do we need a more imposing display to the eye of sense, in order more effectually to reach the heart? Is Christ's power in heaven limited? Is not that array of means which God has made effectual to the salvation of one soul, equally adequate, by the same efficiency, for the salvation of thousands and myriads? Cannot that power which produced the results of the day of Pentecost, under the same system of things multiply revivals, cause a nation to be born to Zion at once, or bring in the glorious millennial day?
We need not therefore slack our energies, or settle down in despondency, in expectation of something better. The present gospel, under the present administration of it, is all that we need; and it is just what Heaven has ordained for the salvation of the world.
We hear this inspired apostle declaring: "We preach Christ crucified, to some a stumbling, to others foolishness; but salvation to them that believe. Again he says, "God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." Here is the whole Gospel-the means, the instrumentality, the efficiency, the result. The work was already commenced in Paul's day. God would carry it forward in the same way, and complete it through the same system