“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
WITH that, “God forbid,” Paul makes a clean sweep of every other ground of boasting and casts himself upon the one only chosen object of his soul’s glorying. And yet, if you will think of it, Paul had, after the fashion of other men, many things in which he might have gloried. If it had so pleased him, he might have boasted of his pedigree, for he was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews.” He could trace his genealogy, as the pure Hebrews could, up to that great fountain of nobility–Abraham himself! If he had pleased, he might have boasted in the precision of the former ritual which he had practiced, for he could say that as touching the Law of God, he had been a Pharisee–a man observant of the minutest points of the very letter of the Law, careful for its doctrinal tittles, not allowing even the gnat to escape him, but straining after it with care. And yet the Apostle did not care to boast, either of his pedigree or of his ritualism. He casts them both aside and though he had once gloried in them, he now counted them but dross, that he might win Christ and be found in Him! Surely, if the Apostle had wished it, he might have gloried in his martyr life. He did once give a list of what he had suffered, and he added, “I have become a fool in glorying; you have compelled me.” Had he not been beaten with rods, shipwrecked, subject to perils from robbers, perils from false brethren, imprisonment and stones? And yet you never hear him glory in that wonderful martyr life of his! Among the Apostles, he was no less than the chief in that which he suffered, and yet he says, “God forbid that I should glory in it.” He might have gloried in the Revelation which he received. Who among us has ever seen or heard what Paul was made to see and hear when he was caught up into the third heavens to hear things which it is not lawful for a man to utter? He might, if he had chosen to boast, have boasted in this Revelation, but he did not do so. “God forbid,” said he, “that I should glory,” and that, “God forbid,” includes even that Revelation! Among scholars Paul might have taken an eminent position. He was well qualified to speak in the Areopagus, for even there, in that profound assembly, was probably not one with greater knowledge and of more subtle mind than he, who was once called, “Saul of Tarsus.” Read the Epistles, Brothers and Sisters! Why, the Apostle has the instinct of Bacon and the insight of Sir Isaac Newton! The man seems to have looked through a question, where others would have looked round about it and have seen nothing. Yet, though he must have felt a human delight in the talents which God had given him–and must have known that he possessed them–he still says concerning them, “God forbid that I should glory.” He seems to take all that he had, all that he did, and all that he was, and put it all away–and come forward with no other theme upon his lips, and no greater love in his heart, except this–Jesus Crucified for the sons of men. Jesus to be great among the nations. Jesus, the slaughtered Lamb, to be made unto men their life from the dead, their salvation from going down into the Pit. “God forbid,” he says–that memorable speech, that eloquent declaration, that glorious self-denying, yet exalting resolve–“God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!” We shall be brief upon each point at this time, but the first enquiry must naturally be–
- WHAT IS THIS CROSS IN WHICH PAUL RESOLVED TO GLORY?
You need not to be told, my Brothers and Sisters, that Paul set no store by the material cross, or by the “sign of the cross.” You know that the making of the sign of the cross, and the paying of religious reverence to that, is as great a superstition as the belief in witches and, perhaps, as men come to be enlightened, they will wonder how it is that some men could have thought that there could be more sanctity about a cross than about a circle or the parallelogram, for really there is no holiness in the sign of the cross, and I sometimes wish that some Christians would not countenance that emblem, since it seems to imply a superstitious reverence to that kind of thing. Paul meant no such thing. He would have abandoned in contempt any superstitious use of the cross or the crucifix, and he would do so now if he were here and I hope the result would be that, as at Ephesus they burned their conjuring hosts, so now men would put their chasubles, their albs and all their fripperies and upholstery together and burn them in one glorious pile as the result of the preaching of the true Cross of Christ!
What did the Apostle mean, then? He meant, in a single word, the great Doctrine of the Atonement offered for sin by the Son of God upon Mount Calvary. “The Cross” is the short term for “substitutionary suffering,” for “vicarious Sacrifice,” for the offering up of the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. The Apostle was never cloudy about this matter. Wherever he went, he preached that God was in Christ reconciling the world with Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. His declarations were always clear. “Him has God set forth to be a propitiation for our sins, and not for our sins, only, but for the sins of the whole world.” He was always saying that Jesus Christ took our sins and bore them in His own body on the tree–that He was punished instead of us, that the claims of Divine Justice were met by the death of the Redeemer, that He was made a curse for us that we might be enriched and blessed of God in Him–that He made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Paul’s great master-point was that Jesus actually suffered to vindicate the Divine Justice by enduring, instead of us, the punishment due to our sins!
And he also meant by it that Gospel which springs out of the Cross, and which is contained in these few words, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” “He that believes on Him is not condemned.” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” Paul told the people that the Son of God was made Man and suffered in human form to take away human guilt, and that whoever, the wide world over, would come and rest in what Christ had done, would be saved. This was the Gospel which he proclaimed in every place. For barbarian and Scythian, this was the Gospel! For the Greek and the Jew, the same! For the illiterate, for the learned, for the king and for the peasant, it was always his one theme–a bleeding Savior and a sinner looking to Him–a living Christ dying, that a dying world might live! This is that Gospel which we preach from Sabbath to Sabbath, which will save your souls, and which you delight to sing of in words like these–
“There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins!
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.”
This was “the Cross” which Paul resolved to glory in!
II. WHAT WAS THERE IN THIS PARTICULAR DOCTRINE OR FACT FOR THE APOSTLE TO GLORY IN AT ALL?
The answer is, first, that there is glory in the fact, itself. It is a fact entirely by itself, unique, unparalleled. The mythology of the heathens had invented many, many strange things, but among them all there is nothing so beautiful, even if it were not true, nothing so perfect in its imagery, as this–that God, the offended One, should give up His Only Begotten in order that Justice might not be injured. At the same time, His mercy might have full sweep, that the Only Begotten should die that the offending ones might live! There is nothing like this in the whole range of human poetry! Men had fine poetic imaginings before, and there were Prophetic declarations of the coming of Christ, and they prophesied some wonderful things, but of all the poets of all the nations, it may be said that they never conceived anything like this–the offended One dies so that the offenders might live! “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God first loved us.” “Beloved, behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us.” That one fact that God descended from the royalties of Heaven, that He might take upon Himself the servitude of earth in the form of Man and offer Himself a Sacrifice for sin, reveals the Infinite Wisdom, together with the Infinite Love of God, besides casting a brilliant light upon all His other attributes. It stands a marvel of marvels, a wonder of wonders, in which the Believer may glory, glory as much as he will! You know we do not doubt about this fact. We hold it, no, we are sure of it, and it is a very great reality to us. I was passing, some years ago, a Socinian chapel in this great London of ours, and I sermon on the morning of one Sunday upon some political subject–and in the evening there was to be a sermon upon the crucifixion, but the word was spelt “cruci fiction.” And I thought, “Ah, just so, and though you may not mean it, it isjust that with you–it is nothing more to you than a mere fiction, but to us it is real.” We believe that the blood of Jesus really takes away sin. We believe that He really laid down His life to redeem us from our iniquity–and to us the most real, sublime, grand, soul-moving thing beneath Heaven, and even in Heaven is this–that Jesus Christ came into theworld to save sinners and died that He might save them! The Apostle, then, gloried in the fact as a fact.
And next, the Apostle gloried in the fact viewing the simplicity of it–the simplicity of the Doctrine which grew outof the fact. It is frequently said, “Oh, these evangelical preachers, these men that preach up Christ, these popular preachers–they are very shallow-brained men! They talk mere platitudes. They do not read the German philosophers, they do not go to the bottom of the thing and stir the mud–they are content with just telling the people really such plain and common things that you cannot expect enlightened people in this 19 th Century to care to go and hear them.” It is a veryodd thing that they are the only people who do go to hear them! That only shows, I suppose, that there are plenty of people who are shallow, too. But we boast, if in anything, in the sheer simplicity of this Truth of God that we preach. If the Cross of Christ were a marvelous riddle, the answer to which none could guess but a philosopher trained for 50 years, if we understood it so, we should feel as if it were scarcely worthwhile for us to tell it, since there would be so few that could be benefited by it! But we thank God that we have a simple Gospel to preach to you, because there are so many in this world who need saving quite as much as the wisest, but who could not be saved if the Gospel were not simple. I thank God that when Christ is preached in the Union House, He is believed there, and when Christ is preached to the most benighted nation, He is received there! And He is just as sweet and precious to those who cannot read as to those who are the best educated. No, we do not, and never will, blush because the Gospel is simply, “Believe and live.” We think that every statement of great truth, before it can do good to the heart, must be simple. It seems to us that its simplicity is a part of its grandeur–that it is more God-like, to give us a Gospel which can be spoken in few words by simple men, than to give us something involved and intertwisted–the meaning of which we would never be able to guess! We thank God, dear Hearer, that it does not need many minutes to tell you what you must do to be saved! Believe in Jesus, that is, trustHim–trust Him with all your heart! Cast yourself flat upon Him–you cannot fall any lower when you are down there! Cast yourself on His arms, rely upon His merits, and you are saved! God forbid that we should glory save in this very simplicity, which some persons so fiercely decry!
Paul gloried, and we glory, in the next place, in the freeness and suitability of the Gospel. The Apostle never foundhimself in a place where the Gospel was not suitable. Sometimes some of you young men who are here tonight may have to go out to supply pulpits, and you may be apt to ask yourselves and ask one another, “Well, what subject shall I take?” I answer you–wherever you go, preach Jesus Christ–and that will suit every congregation! And if it does not, the congregation that is unsuited by it will not be suited at all–and they ought to have twice as much of it till they are suitedwith it! Preach up Jesus Christ! No matter how noble the audience, or how poor, still preach the Atonement. Preach up the dying Savior, instead of men, and it never can be out of season. Those men who, for the sake of variety and freshness, run away from their Bibles, are like men who, for the sake of wealth, run away from a substantial business which brings them in their thousands in order to speculate where bankruptcy must be their only gain. Close to the Cross! There is no such variety as in that one theme! It is like a diamond with a thousand facets, each one reflecting its own sweet light. You shall preach Jesus Christ to the angels in Heaven throughout eternity and make known to them the unsearchable riches of God in Christ Jesus–and you will never exhaust the theme! What a blessing, though, that this Cross of Christ should be so suitable to every person we meet with! If you take the Cross of Jesus Christ into the condemned cell, there is nothing else that is so likely to awaken that slumbering soul! If you take it to our criminals–alas, that there are so many–it is the only balm of Gilead to them! Go with it to the lodging houses, and the back slums, and the street corners of St. Giles’s, or where you will, and this story of the Man, Christ Jesus, who loved and died, touches all hearts!
You have heard of the Greenlanders. The missionaries thought they ought, first, to instruct them in the Doctrine of the Trinity, so they preached away to them of the Godhead, but the Greenlander did not care about it. But one of them, while interpreting, I think, the third chapter of John, came across that blessed passage, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life,” and the Greenlanders stopped him and said, Why did you not tell us that before?“ "Oh, I thought I had better begin by telling you of some of the other Truths of God.” “But we knew all those, or could have guessed them–why didn’t you tell us this before?"From that moment the good Moravians lifted up Christ as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, and the eyes and hearts of the Greenlanders began to look to Him–and Jesus Christ was the Glory of that land! We may say of this Doctrine of the Cross, as David did of Goliath’s sword, "There is none like it.” It is suitable in all places, wherever we may be found.
Truly, Brothers and Sisters, Paul might well glory in the Cross if you will kindly remember the great results whichare sure to come from its constant and faithful preaching. There is no land where the Cross has been lifted up, but is the better for it. Even those countries in which we have been compelled to regard missions as a failure, have still received much blessing as the result. If the people have not been converted, yet still the bringing of the Light of God into contact with their thick darkness has done something, though not all that we could wish. See yonder South Sea Islands, where the savage is clothed and in his right mind. Go tonight, if you can, on the wings of imagination, to the Bechuana villages, where Mr. Moffat labored among the Bushmen, about the existence of whose souls even there was once some doubt, and see what has been done there! Yes, and even in this land, with all our sins, how different are we from our savage forefathers, and how can Edinburgh, and London, and Glasgow tell you how the putting down of a district church or chapel has turned the heathen population of these days into a Christian community! This is the great lever to uplift the masses. Where Jesus is preached, signs and effects follow in which we may well rejoice. How many a home that was once filthy and miserable has been cheered and comforted, now that father is a Christian! How many a man who used to reel in and out of the gin shops or the public houses, now delights to sing another song, and to drink of other wines on the lees, well refined! What changes Divine Grace is making among us! How some of us could tell of them as long as we live, we, ourselves, being changed! We will then say, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
You know, as I was last night turning over this text in my mind, I shut my eyes and saw–for you see a great deal more with your eyes shut than with them open sometimes–as I looked I thought I saw a Cross before me and it began to grow. I saw it as I had never seen it before. It grew upon me–grew every moment. I saw it go downward into the earth, and as its foot descended, graves began to open–for resurrection comes from the Cross–and Hell, itself, began to tremble, for nothing shakes the infernal kingdom like the Cross! Then I looked up, and the Cross had been growing till it reached up to Heaven, bearing with it tens of thousands of redeemed souls, and I thought of that verse–
“In the Cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o'er the wrecks of time!
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.”
I turned my eyes lower and I saw its transverse beams, and these began to stretch to the east and to the west, and they took away the sins of all God’s people and carried them into the place of forgetfulness, where they never shall be found, while a shadow, broad as the universe, seemed to fall upon creatures off all kinds! And wherever it fell, the shadow dropped with the benedictions of Heaven. Oh, that Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus–how deep, how high, how broad! The imagination cannot conceive it, but the soul delights in it!
And then, as I seemed to look with eyes closed, I thought I saw in my vision a flock of doves, fluttered and afraid, and well they might be, for there were archers after them and the sharp arrows all but pierced their breasts. No, some fell sorely wounded. And they flitted to the groves and they flew to the far-off sea, and to the wilderness, but the sharp shafts pursued them everywhere, and the doves found no rest for the soles of their feet. At last one day they lighted on the Cross, and they marked that every shaft fell short–and some that were shot at them with double force were splintered and broken–and fell upon the ground! Not a single dove was hurt, but all found shelter there. Lord, make me one of those doves! And may my soul escape the arrows of my spiritual foes. Let me find shelter on my Savior’s precious Cross, for there is shelter there, and there, alone!
And then the picture changed and I saw before me the whole earth, as it now looks, without rain, and it was all parched and browned, and seemed ready to be burned. The plants hung down their heads and the flowers seemed to be pining for the tears of the angels to drop down upon them from Heaven, but nothing came. Yet I noticed that all along, wherever the shadow of the Cross fell, it was all verdant as in spring, and every flower seemed as if it did drink in the dew and opened its cup towards the light that streamed from the Cross. ‘Twas all fertile there where the shadow of the Cross fully preached and received, every soul is blessed, happy and fruitful–but where it is not so, there is an arid waste on which the dew of Heaven falls not.
And while I thought I saw before me a caravan, and there were camels, and hundreds of men, the drivers of the camels, and they were all hot, and panting, and fainting. They went to the well and rolled away the stone, but they found no water there. So they went onward, ready to drop at every step. Before them they thought they saw a cooling stream, but it was a mirage, and they were mocked. But I thought I saw them suddenly halt at the foot of the Cross, and just at the bottom of it there sprang up a clear and crystal spring, and each one drank, and went on his way refreshed. And what are the sons of men, but a great caravan on the way to realms unknown? And where is there water for so much as one of them, except at the foot of the Cross? If they drink there, they live! If they drink not there, there is nothing for them.
Many other things passed before me, but I cannot detail them now, for we have spent too much time upon this second point and must pass to the third. The third point, very briefly discussed, is this–
III. IF WE DO GLORY IN THE CROSS OF CHRIST, HOW SHALL WE PROVE IT?
We must prove it by trusting in the Cross. The Atonement must have our only confidence, or else it were vain to saythat we glory in it.
We must prove it, next, by holding fast the Doctrine when others challenge it. We must be confident about this vicarious Sacrifice of Christ, let others say what they may.
We must prove it by our zeal in propagating it according to the best of our ability. We must endeavor, as much aslies in us, to tell the good news to others, that whoever believes has everlasting life.
But there are some here who are called to the ministry and, therefore, to them let me say that we must prove that we glory in it most by being prepared to suffer for it. Any man who is called to the ministry may, if he will, take an examplefrom yonder dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. There you see the Cross above the globe. You must put from this point on, the Cross above the world in all your calculations! To preach Jesus and to win souls–not to gain money or human applause–must be the way in which you prove that you glory in the Cross!
But the principal way is by constantly preaching about it. What shall I say to young men who are about to enter theministry that shall be more useful to them than this? Keep to the Cross! Keep to the Cross! Always preach up Jesus Christ! Always preach up Jesus Christ! I think no sermon should be without the Doctrine of Salvation by faith in it. I would not close a single discourse without at least something about believing in Jesus and living. Oh, that our tongues would speak of nothing but Jesus! Oh, that we were something like Rutherford, who is said to have had a squeaking voice on every other subject, but when he began to speak of Christ, the little man would grow tall and his voice become full, so that the Duke, who was one of his hearers, shouted, “Now, Man, you’re on the right string!” Oh, surely, this is a theme that might inspire the very dumb and make the dead to rise, to tell of Jesus Christ’s most wondrous love!
I have thus, as well in the short time I had allowed, shown how we may glory in the Cross. But if we do so, according to the text, we are not to expect to go to Heaven in silver slippers"By which the world is crucifiedunto me, and I unto the world.“ There are two crosses in that saying–there is the world crucified, there, and there is Paul crucified, here. What means he by this? Why, he means that ever since he fell in love with Jesus Christ, he lost all love for the world! It seemed to him to be a poor, crucified, dying thing, and he turned away from it just as you would from a criminal whom you might see hanging in chains–and would desire to go anywhere rather than see the poor being. So Paul seemed to see the world on gallows–hung up there. "There,” he said, “that is what I think of you and all your pomp, and all your power, and all your wealth, and all your fame! You are on the gallows, a malefactor, nailed up, crucified! I would not give a fig for you! I would not turn on my heels to speak to you–all that you could give me would no more suit my taste than as if husks were given to me. Give them to your own swine and let them fatten thereon!”
You know the world is not crucified to “the successors of the Apostle,” and all others who preach merely as a profession. They get their living out of it–they are endowed by the world–the State or the church pays them! The world is not crucified to them. That is the change that has come over the times, but to the first Apostle, the world was crucified. And now observe the other Cross. There is Paul on that. The world thinks as little of Paul as Paul does of the world. The world says, “Oh, that harebrained Paul! He was once sensible, but he has gone mad upon that stubborn notion about the Crucified One! The man is a fool.” So the world crucifies him. It was something like the case of Luther, when he said, “There is no love lost between me and the Pope of Rome. He hates me and I also hate him with all my heart, and soul, and strength.” So is it with the world and the genuine Christian. If he glories in Christ, he must expect to be misunderstood, misrepresented and attacked. And, on the other hand, he will say that he would sooner have the world’s scorn than its honor! He would sooner have its hate than its love, for the love of the world is enmity against God. Blessed are you when they shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s. Set your account, you Christians, upon rough weather and get seaworthy vessels that will stand a gale or two! Ask the Lord to give you Grace enough to suffer and endure for that precious Savior who will give you reward enough when you see Him face to face, for one hour with Him will make up for it all! Therefore, be faithful, and may the Lord help you thus to glory in the Cross of Christ. Amen.