Summary: This Sermon is #3 and #4 from the Rev. Andrew Lee’s SERMONS published in 1803 by Isaiah Thomas,Jr. at Lisbon, Connecticut. Transcribed by Fredric Lozo, September 2004.
The entire book Andrew’s Lee’s Sermons is available free at Project Gutenberg as e-Text #15031.
The Wisdom of God in the means used to propagating the Gospel.
1 Corinthians i, 27, 28.
"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are."
IN the preceding discourse we took a summary view of the means used of God to propagate the gospel, and of the opposition made to its propagation.
WE are now to consider the wisdom of God in the choice of means to this end; which will bring up to our view some of the objections which have been made against the truth of the gospel.
THAT the gospel is from God, and the means used to propagate it of his appointment, are from sundry considerations, apparent--particularly from the miracles wrought by Christ and by his disciples, who went forth in his name. Conclusive was the reasoning of Nicodemus--"Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." God, who is perfect in wisdom, would choose no improper or unsuitable means. Their wisdom might not at first appear to men. It did not at first appear. The world cried folly and weakness. But "The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
IN God’s hand any means are sufficient to effect his designs. The rod of Moses, when stretched out by divine order, availed to bring all those plaques on Egypt, by which God made himself known and feared. When Israel left that land, it availed to open them a passage through the sea; and afterwards to bring back its waters to the destruction of their enemies.
COULD we see no fitness in divine appointments, we should remember that "we are of yesterday and know nothing," and not dare to arraign divine wisdom, or charge folly on God. But in the case before us, his wisdom is in many respects discernable, as will appear from a consideration of some of the objections which are made against the gospel, and against the means appointed of God to propagate it.
ONE of the objections is taken from the supposed unsuitableness of the means. Considered in itself this made an objection. It is said the all-wise God would not have appointed them--that to appoint a company of poor, despised, ignorant fishermen, as prime ministers of a religion, is sufficient to prove that it is not from God, who always useth the best means and most suitable instruments.
IT is not strange that this should have been objected at the beginning of the gospel story, before any effects of the apostles labors appeared. It is a natural objection for the, proud, who thought themselves the best judges of wisdom and propriety, to have made at that day. But it comes with an ill grace from modern infidels, who cannot deny that Christianity triumphed over the power and learning of the world combined against it, though such means only were used to propagate it--such weak instruments employed in it. Naaman, the Syrian, reasoned at first like one of these objectors, but the success which attended the prophets directions convinced him of his error. Why has not the same the like effect on these? Surely, "had this counsel been of men, it would have come to nought." Under the circumstances in which Christianity made its appearance, it would have been easily overthrown; but the power of the world could not overthrow it, or prevent it from spreading far and wide. It continued--it prospered --and every opposing system fell before it. Means and instruments which human wisdom would have judged most suitable, could have done no more. The success of measures in a contest like this, proves their fitness.
UNDER this head it is further objected that the first ministers of the gospel were ignorant of the arts and sciences cultivated by the polished nations of the age--that therefore, they were despised, especially by the Greeks. Despised they might be by those who "professed themselves wise had become fools." Yet they had all the knowledge which their work required imparted to them from above. The language of the schools would have been ill adapted to the simplicity of the gospel. It would have been unintelligible to many of those to whom the gospel was sent. The gospel offers salvation to the unlearned, equally as to the learned--should be expressed, therefore, in language easy to be understood. Had the apostles and evangelists used the abstruse language of the schoolmen, to many they would have spoken in an unknown tongue. Had the scriptures been written in such language, they would have been much more obscure than they now are.