“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness.” – l Cor. i. 22.
THE success attending the modern schemes for carrying natural conviction to the human mind, and so captivating men is accounted for by predictions going before, concerning The man of sin, the son of perdition, the dragon, the beasts and every form in which anti-christ has, does or shall hereafter appear. The wonderful boasting about new light reflected from seminaries, Sunday schools, tracts, anxious benches, camp or protracted meetings, and all other signs and lying wonders, sought by Jews or Gentiles, and supplied by ancient Jews or modern proselytes, is but the development of the powers of darkness, which men will choose rather than light, according to the declaration of the word of Cod. The Jews require a sign!
The Greeks seek after wisdom. The research of the ancient Greeks after knowledge is proverbial, and when appropriately directed was laudable; for all the sciences of this world are valuable in their place, but altogether inferior to and disconnected from that wisdom which cometh from above. The error of the Greeks was not simply that they sought after wisdom, but that they sought to incorporate their human wisdom with religion. And as God had made foolish the wisdom of this world, and hidden the things of his spiritual kingdom from the wise and prudent of this world, and revealed them to babes, they erred in seeking to reduce the religion of God our Savior to human science. To all those who, like the Greeks, are seeking after worldly wisdom, the gospel of Christ in the simplicity in which it was preached by Paul, and all the primitive ministers sent forth by divine authority, the account of a crucified Savior was foolishness. They are led from human policy to seek religious knowledge from the halls of literature and colleges of science. In their estimation it is no less foolish and absurd to look for human science from the untutored savages, than for religious instruction from unlettered fisherman. What was remarkable in the opposition of Jews and Greeks to the religion of Jesus Christ, is blended in the modern popular theory of their successors in delusion to the present time. And still the words of the apostle are as applicable as when at first uttered, the Jews require a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom.
But we preach Christ crucified. The pronoun we includes all the apostles of the Lamb and true ministers of Jesus Christ. These all preach Christ crucified, which is in reality both a sign and wisdom; but not of a kind adapted to the carnal sense of Jews and Greeks. The signs which the Jews required were such as Christ told them should not be given to them, and the wisdom which the Greeks sought after was: that which God hath made foolish, and which Paul says in, connection with this text, he did not use in his speech or preaching: for Christ had told the Jews, “There shall no sign be given them but the sign of the prophet Jonah.” The preaching of Christ crucified is the sign of the prophet Jonah: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, even so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The sign of Jonah was an emblem of Christ in the heart of the earth, of Christ crucified, &c.; hence to preach Christ crucified, is to set forth that sign of which our Lord spake, and the only one that God will give. This sign not only sets forth the descent of our Redeemer into the dark dominions of death, through his crucifixion, loaded with the transgressions of all his chosen people, for whose offences he was delivered up; but his triumphant resurrection, at the time signified in the sign, for the justification of all for whom he was delivered up. Three days and three nights show also the extent of time that his mystical body or any part of it should be held in that death from which Christ is engaged to raise them up and cause them to sit together in the heavenly places; for iii the fullness of the dispensations of time, which are three, counting from Adam to Moses, from Moses until the coming of Messiah, and thence to the end of time. As at the expiration of three days and nights, the perfect body of Jesus left the environs of the king of terrors, so at the end of time he shall deliver up to his Father the fullness of his mystical body. This sign, whether considered in reference to that body which died on Calvary, or the church which is his body and the full ness of him that filleth all in all, is embraced in the preaching of Christ crucified. And as the sign is of a spiritual nature, the Jews, who look for salvation by works, and for a foundation of their faith in external or natural signs, adapted to their carnal sense, stumble at it; for it is to them a stumbling block. They stumble at the word, as Peter has said, being disobedient, whereunto they were appointed. If therefore it were possible by any course of preparatory study or labor, to present the subject of Christ crucified in such a light as to enable the Jews to understand it, and so prevent them from stumbling at it, it would cease to be the gospel of Christ. It would fail to be the anti-type of Jonah, and it would involve what Paul studiously avoided, viz: that the faith of God’s people should stand in the wisdom of men but not in the power of God. Is the preaching of Christ crucified in this day a stumbling block to boasting arminians, and legal work-mongers, so that they can neither understand nor love it? So it was when preached by Paul, and in all cases where the doctors of divinity, as they are called, manage to present a system or theory of religion which can be taught in seminaries, colleges, Sabbath or other schools, by tracts, catechisms, arguments, moral suasion, or by any other means of human device, they present a gospel which Paul did not preach, which is another gospel, and those who have devised it and all who preach it are accursed; for if Paul, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than that which was preached in the primitive church by the apostles, “let him be accursed.”
We need not labor to prove that religious doctrines are in vented and taught by men in the present age, so widely differing from the gospel preached by Paul, that instead of avoiding, as he did, the excellency of speech which man’s wisdom teaches, those who are engaged in promulgating such doctrines, use enticing, or persuasive, words, the consequence of which is, that their converts’ faith stands not in the power of God, but in the wisdom of men. This spurious sort of preaching is not unproductive of faith; for unregenerate sinners are capable of believing such systems, and it is taught to unregenerate children and adults in schools, as worldly sciences are taught, and they can and do learn it upon the .same principle and with as great facility as they can learn grammar, mathematics or mechanical operations, and ten converts are made to such delusions, where one is made by grace to the faith of the gospel of Christ. The faith there fore of a majority of modern converts, being destitute of spiritual life, is dead faith.
To the worldly wise, who have confidence in their superiority of knowledge and talents, the gospel of the blessed Redeemer is foolishness. The Grecian philosophers could but regard the doctrine of salvation through the blood and righteousness of one that was crucified, with contempt. They regarded the doctrine preached by Paul as an imposition, a delusive infatuation. And to this very day, all who understand the christian religion to be a science, capable of being taught in schools, and comprehended by human intellect, without the special quickening operation of the Holy Ghost, do regard the real gospel of Christ, when preached in its primitive simplicity and purity, as foolishness.
To all those who possess dead faith, however orthodox that faith may be, the preaching of Christ crucified is a stumbling block and foolishness. Hence the mighty efforts which are made by work-mongers to remove the stumbling block, and the offence of the cross of Christ, and the cunning craftiness of the wise and prudent of this world, to invent and practice upon some principle which they regard as an improvement upon the gospel as preached by the apostle Paul.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
March 15, 1843
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 243 – 247