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1 Cor. i. 20.
WHERE IS THE WISE ? WHERE IS THE SCRIBE ? WHERE IS THE DISPUTER OF THIS WORLD?
HATH NOT GOD MADE FOOLISH THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD?
HE subject on which St. Paul is speak
ing in this chapter, and which drew from him the exclamation in the text, is the doctrine of the cross; that is, the atonement made for the sins of mankind by the crucifixion of our blessed Lord. This is a topic on which he always speaks with an air of peculiar triumph and exultation: and in this chapter more especially, he enlarges upon it with unusual strength of argument and eloquence. He was not ignorant that this doctrine gave
the utmost offence both to the Jew and to the Greek: but notwithstanding this, he asserts, “ that it was the power of God
unto salvation*.” He was no stranger to the numberless objections made to it by the profound reasoners and the fashionable philosophers of the age, who are here distinguished by the appellation of the wise, the scribe, the disputer of this world ; but their wisdom, their learning, their skill in disputation, had no weight with him. He considered their idle cavils and subtilties as utterly unworthy of his notice. He affirmed, that their boasted science and erudition never had been, never could be, of the least use to mankind, in leading them to the knowledge and practice of true Religion; “and that the world by wisdom," (by such wisdom as they possessed)
66 knew " not God;" whereas, what they called the “ foolishness of preachingt"; the foolishness of preaching the great doctrine of Redemption, had already enlightened the minds, and reformed the hearts of a prodigious number of people, and thus made “ foolish the wisdom of 66 this world;" had shewn the weakness and impotence of worldly wisdom, when compared with the rapid and astonishing effects produced by the so much derided doctrine of Re* Rom. i. 16, + i Cor. i. 21.
demption. Transported with these ideas, the apostle breaks vut into the sublime apostrophe of the text: “ Where is the scribe ? where " is the wise? where is the disputer of this “ world ? Hath not God made foolish the 66 wisdom of this world?”
Since the time of this great apostle, his argument, drawn from the inefficacy of Rabbinical learning and Gentile philosophy, compared with the consequences of the Christian revelation, has acquired additional force by the propagation of the latter, and the reformation wrought by it through a large part of the world, and the light diffused by it into almost every other part; whilst the wise and the disputers of this world have never been able to work any considerable change in the dispositions and manners of a single city, or even a single village, throughout the earth. Yet, notwithstanding this apparent superiority, there are not wanting persons who are full of objections to the Gospel of Christ; and especially to that capital and fundamental article of it of which we have been speaking, the doctrine of atonement by the death of Christ.
If (say these disputers) it was God's purpose to rescue mankind from the dominion
and the punishment of sin, what need was there of so many strange expedients, and such a long course of laborious and uncouth arrangements, for the accomplishment of this design ? What necessity was there, that no less a person than the Son of God himself should be sent from heaven to this lower world to take upon him our flesh; that his very birth should be a contradiction to the common course of nature; that he should be allied to mean and indigent parents, live for many years an obscure life, then go about preaching a new Religion, full indeed of excellent precepts, but abounding also with mysterious, and unintelligible, and seemingly useless doctrines; that he should go through a long series of indignities and sufferings, which he might easily have avoided; should at length submit to a most painful and ignominious death ; should afterwards rise from the grave,
ascend into heaven, there sit down at the right hand of God, and then send another divine person, called the Holy Ghost, to finish what he had left undone ?
What necessity, it is asked, could there possibly be for such a complicated piece of me
chanism as this ; for such a multiplicity of instruments, and such a variety of contrivances, as are here set in motion, to effect one single, and, to all appearance, very easy purpose, the pardon of a few wretched criminals? Why could not God have done this at once, by one decisive and gracious exertion of mercy and of power; by publishing, for instance, an act of general indemnity and oblivion for past offences, on condition of sincere repentance and amendment of life? Is not this a plain, simple, and natural manner of proceeding, and far more worthy of the wisdom and the majesty of the Supreme Being, than that intricate, operose, and circuitous kind of process in the work of our Redemption, which the Gospel ascribes to him?
In answer to all these specious cavils, it might be sufficient to say,
6 Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?” Shall the sinner that is saved, say to him that redeemed him, Why hast thou redeemed me thus? “ As “ well might the thing formed, say to him that “ formed it, Why hast thou made me thus *?" Objections of such a nature, and from such a
* Rom. ix. 20.