William Bacon Stevens.

A sermon preached in St. Luke's Church, Philadelphia, October 11, 1865, before the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, on the occasion of the consecration of the Rev. Charles Todd Quintard, M.D., as Bishop of the Diocese of Tennessee online

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Online LibraryWilliam Bacon StevensA sermon preached in St. Luke's Church, Philadelphia, October 11, 1865, before the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, on the occasion of the consecration of the Rev. Charles Todd Quintard, M.D., as Bishop of the Diocese of Tennessee → online text (page 1 of 2)
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oration of the Rev, Ghnrle^s Todd C.ruintard ^

William Bacon Stevens

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October ii, 1865,









The Right Reverend WM. BACON STEVENS, D.D.,








October i i, 1865,









The Right Reverend WM. BACON STEVENS, D.D.,








I Cor. ii. I, 2,

Corinth, situated on that remarkable isthmus
which united the Morea and the Peloponnesus,
was one of the principal cities of Greece. If
Athens boasted of its Acropolis, crowned with
the statue of the virgin goddess, the gilded
spear-head of which was seen by the ancient
mariner far outside Cape Suniam, Corinth
prided itself in its Acro-Corinthus, towering two
thousand feet above the sea, as if to guard that
isthmus, which Xenophon has termed " the gate
of the Peloponnesus."

Athens took the lead of Greece in intellectual
culture and artistic treasures, but Corinth was
the common market of the JEgx2.n.

When St. Paul left Athens he went at once
to Corinth. At Athens he had encountered
philosophers of various schools, and idolatry in


its most fascinating form. He was now to meet
a different class of people; the busy trader — the
bustling merchant — the reckless sailor — the
rough mechanic, and the varied elements which
make up the noisy, sinful population of a great

Yet with a wisdom and skill imparted by the
Holy Spirit he accommodated himself to his
new position, and began his great work of plant-
ing in that city, the very name of which was
synonymous with immorality, the gospel of the
Son of God. He succeeded. A church was
gathered, and organized, and the new religion
got a firm foothold in that great city. But how
was this accomplished? What were the instru-
mentalities by which so great a triumph was
achieved? St. Paul tells us in the text, "And
I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with
excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring
unto you the testimony of God. For I deter-
mined not to know anything among you, save
Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

He did not then attempt to plant the religion
of Jesus Christ on a worldly basis, such as elo-
quence, wisdom, or philosophy. The propagators
of all new religions have established their tenets
on a worldly basis, viz. : by the sword — by civil
compulsion — by the arts of superstition, or by

the moulding power of eloquence or human
wisdom, St. Paul eschewed each and all of
these, saying, "I determined not to know any-
thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him
crucified. "

This declaration he made not to the ignorant
and the unrefined, but to those who gloried in
eloquence; who made their boast of wisdom,
and who regarded as barbarians all who came
not within the magic circle of Greek learning
and Greek philosophy. It shows the boldness
of the Apostle in thus setting at naught that on
which the Corinthians so much prided them-
selves, and also his confidence in the power of
the truth which he preached, when he deter-
mined to set it forth, not in its most attractive
phase to a Gentile mind, but in all its apparent
ignominy and reproach, — when he resolved to
preach at Corinth, not Christ as a Prophet
greater than the world's greatest seers, not Christ
as a Priest higher than the highest Pontifex of
earth, not Christ as a King seated on a throne
of universal dominion ; but Christ dying, Christ
on the Cross, hung up between heaven and
earth, rejected by the Jews, despised by the
Greeks, crucified by the Romans.

It must have seemed strange to that cultivated
people to be told that they must believe in the

divine character and marvelous works and prof-
fered mediation of a Jew, a Jew crucified, a
Jew whom his own nation hung on a tree, or
else be forever lost. Yet strange as it was, they
were told with an emphasis and directness not
qualified by courtly phrase, or garnished with
rhetorical grace, that unless they believed in and
received this crucified Jesus as their Lord and
Saviour, they not only could not be saved, but
would be visited with the eternal wrath of God.
The question then arises, what is it to know
Jesus Christ and Him crucified? It is to under-
stand and proclaim the plan of salvation, of
which Christ is the central and controlling
power, — that scheme of grace revealed in God's
word for the redemption of the world. If now
we look for a moment at this great plan, we
shall find that it incorporates within itself the
very highest, broadest, deepest knowledge which
the human mind is capable of receiving, and
that which at first sight seems to be a very nar-
row circle of knowledge, the knowledge of
Jesus Christ is, indeed, when truly understood,
the widest circle which the intellect can com-
pass, for the circumference of it takes in the
very being and perfections of God, as well as
the nature and destiny of man. The aspect in
which the Apostle contemplated Jesus Christ

was that of being in himself, as he says in an-
other place, " the power of God, and the wisdom
of God," centering in himself the attributes of
God, the scheme of grace, the offices necessary
for salvation, and the perfections of humanity.

There are two points which the Apostle
brings out here, of vital importance.

He says, ist, "I am determined not to know
anything among you, save Jesus Christ," i.e.
Christ in his person ;

And, 2dly, "Him crucified," i.e. Christ in his

Christ in his person and Christ in his work
then is the one great theme of the Apostle.

Let us see what is involved in a knowledge
of each of these points.

To know Christ in his person, it is not enough
that we know a man named Jesus, the reputed
son of Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, who,
more than eighteen hundred years ago, lived in
Judea. It is not enough that we know Jesus as a
teacher, instructing the people in the sublimest
truths and mysteries, such truths as the greatest
masters of human thought and the greatest
founders of schools of philosophy only dimly saw
or vaguely conjectured. It is not enough that we
know Jesus as an exemplar, showing in his daily
life, in his private as well as public acts, by his

words as by his deeds, in the house and by the
way, in his intercourse with the great as with the
poor — the most spotless model of human con-
duct, so that his bitter enemies were compelled
to say we "find no fault in him." It is not
enough that we know Jesus as the founder of
a new religion, like Confucius, or Pythagoras,
or Zoroaster, or Mohammed. We may know
Jesus in these several aspects through the pages
of history, or by the traditions of men, and yet
this knowledge may be no more influential on
our lives than that which we thus have concern-
ing Alexander the Great, or Plato the philosopher,
or Pericles the statesman. To know Christ in
his person is to know, recognize, and acknowl-
edge Him in the divine constitution of his being,
by which He is revealed to us as very God and
very man united in one person — the Messiah of
the Jews, the Christ of the Gentiles, the Saviour
of the world.

It is not necessary that we should know the
metaphysics of this truth or the rationale of the
hypostatic union of the two natures human and
divine; it is not necessary that we should tell
the philosophy of such a scheme as He came to
execute, or unravel the mysteries of his own in-
carnation and sacrifice; but it is necessary that
we should fully accept the plain revelations of

the Bible on this subject, and that we should
take Christ and believe in Him just in the aspect,
and in all the fullness of that aspect in which
He is revealed to us in the Bible. We must
know Him to be man born of a woman, made
in the likeness of sinful flesh, made like unto his
brethren, with a true human body, a true human
soul, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of
Judah, of the house of David, tempted in all
points like as we are, a man of established per-
sonal identity, with a full and recognized social,
civil, and religious status among the people with
whom He dwelt. Having at times no food He
is an hungered, having at times no water He
thirsts, with long journeys He is wearied, pros-
trate with fatigue He sleeps, witnessing grief He
weeps, moved by compassion He blesses, sorrow-
ful in heart He sighs, needing divine strength He
prays, loving God He worships ; He repays affec-
tion with blessing. He receives the gratuities of
friends with thanks, He dies on the Cross as a
condemned malefactor, and with the human
cry of surrender, "Father, in thy hands I com-
mend my spirit," He gives up the ghost.

Thus was He truly man. And had He not
been this true man, one with us in nature, form,
function, living and sufl^ering and dying, He could
not have stood in man's place, borne man's sin.

endured man's penalty, atoned for man's guilt,
and worked out man's salvation. For, as St.
Paul says, *' Wherefore in all things it behooved
Him to be made like unto his brethren, that He
might be a merciful and faithful high priest in
things pertaining to God."

But much as we insist on the true manhood
of Christ, He was something more. He was
very God. In union with this human nature
was a divine nature; not such a union as ele-
vated the human nature into the divine, nor
yet dwarfed the divine nature by the human,
but each perfectly separate, yet so conjointly
acting in a way and process mysterious to us, yet
fully revealed, as to constitute Him at once the
"word" which "was God," and the "word"
which "was made flesh," — the Immanuel, God
with us.

Now to know Christ, even in this phase of
his character, is to know the sublimest historical
character in the annals of the world; one who
by his simple teachings has overturned more in-
stitutions of error, built up more grand schemes
of right, spread abroad more truth, shed more
light, and dispensed more blessing than any or
all human beings combined.

You have only with a docile mind to open
your Bible and read the acts done by Christ,

the attributes ascribed to Him, the titles bestowed
upon Him, the divine worship given to Him, the
judgment which He is to exercise and the work
which He came on earth to do, to be convinced
that, as the Apostle says, "In Him dwelleth all
the fullness of the Godhead bodily." This is
that great mystery of godliness, God manifest in
the flesh, which finite minds cannot comprehend,
because the measuring lines of human reason
stretch not out to the infinitude of God, and
the sounding lead of human thought strikes no
bottom in the unfathomable depths of the divine

Now, as it was necessary to believe that Jesus
Christ is a real man in order to qualify Him to
be a real day's man or redeemer for men, so also
is it necessary to believe that Jesus Christ should
be the true. God in order to qualify Him to mag-
nify the law, bear the penalty due to it, and
make such an atonement as could satisfy an in-
finitely holy God and vindicate an infinitely holy
law. No other than a divine being could recon-
cile God and man, for the presence of the divine
nature gave to the obedience of Christ a divine
value, and to the sacrifice of Christ a divine
efficacy, and to the mediation of Christ a divine .
sufficiency, and to the redemption by Christ a
divine completeness, and to the salvation offered

by Christ a divine fullness, without which the
obedience of the law would have been valueless,
the sacrifice of Christ inefficient, the mediation
of Christ insufficient, the redemption of Christ
incomplete, and the salvation proffered defective
alike in its grace, its hopes, and its rewards here
and hereafter.

There is then no true knowledge of Jesus
Christ which does not know Him in this double
aspect as the God-man, Christ Jesus. Thus
Paul knew, loved, worshiped, and preached
Him. Thus the early church recognized and
honored Him. Thus all the holy angels re-
garded Him, and thus will He be adored by the
eternal worship of the General Assembly and
Church of the new-born, whose names are
written in Heaven.

We perceive, then, that there is involved in
the knowledge of the person of Christ a knowl-
edge of his full humanity and full deity in his
divine constitution and attributes, and this com-
prehends a full knowledge of God as revealed
in the face of Jesus Christ, for He, says St. Paul,
is the brightness of the Father's glory and the
express image of his person.

But we pass on to the second point, the knowl-
edge of Christ in his work, expressed by the
Apostle in the phrase **Him crucified."

As all the knowledge which God has revealed
to us concerning himself centers directly or in-
directly in the person of Christ as being the
brightness of the Father's glory and the express
image of his person, so all the operations of
divine grace center in a crucified Christ as being
the sole object of the world's faith and salvation.
God's covenant of grace is in its every part mor-
ticed into the cross of Calvary. Take that cross
away, and atonement, redemption and restora-
tion to the favor and enjoyment of God have
no existence. They each derive their efficacy
from their relation to the cross. Listen to a
few quotations, to show how the Bible regards
the cross. What was the one theme of Paul's
preaching ? Writing to the Corinthians, he says,
"we preach Christ crucified," and in another
place he calls it the preaching of the Cross.
How was Christ presented as an object of faith
to the people ? As a lamb slain, as a sacrifice, or,
as he tells the Galatians, " Christ hath been evi-
dently set forth crucified among you."

Through what instrumentality was peace and
reconciliation effected ? " Having made peace
through the blood of the Cross," " we are recon-
ciled in one body by the Cross." How was the
old legal demand against us, that handwriting
of ordinances, which was contrary to us, re-

moved? It was done by Christ, says St. Paul,
" taking it out of the way and nailing it to his
Cross." What was it that has redeemed us unto
God? Corruptible things, as silver and gold?
No; but the precious blood of Christ as of a
lamb, a bleeding lamb, the lamb slain on the
altar of the Cross.

What did the Apostle regard as the concrete,
the very quintessence of knowledge ? — To know
Jesus Christ and Him crucified. How would
the Apostle express our mortification of sin and
our required deadness to the world ? " I am cruci-
fied with Christ." What was the highest glory
that fired the ambition of this great Apostle?
" God forbid that I should glory save in the
cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Who is He
that walketh amidst the seven golden candle-
sticks, whose eyes were as a flame of fire, whose
voice was as the sound of many waters, who had
in his right hand seven stars, out of whose mouth
went a two-edged sword, and whose countenance
was as the sun shining in his strength ? Let
himself answer. " I am He that liveth, and was
dead and am alive for evermore." Who is He
that only of all the beings in heaven could open
the seven-sealed book and unfold the future of the
Church of the world? " The Lamb in the midst
of the throne as it had been slain." What is the

chorus of that new song of the four and twenty
elders which is sung by the angels round the
throne, and the living creatures and the elders
and ten thousand times ten thousand ? " Worthy
is the Lamb that was slain." Whence came
that white-robed and palm-bearing throng
who are before the throne of God and serve
Him day and night in his temple ? Those
" who have washed their robes and made them
white in the blood of the Lamb." And in
that grand description of the marriage supper
in heaven, when the bride of the Church hath
made herself ready, who is it that is repre-
sented as her spouse? One who sits upon a
white horse leading the armies of heaven, clad
in white, also, on white horses ; one on whose ves-
ture and on whose thigh is a name written " King
of Kings and Lord of Lords;" one who had on
his head many crowns ; and one ! mark the em-
phatic language ! "who was clothed with a ves-
ture dipped in blood," the blood of the Cross,
" and whose name is called the Word of God."
Thus the scheme of redemption in its every part
and place, in earth and in heaven, is linked with
the Cross of Christ, so that he who knows Christ
crucified knows all the truths which center in
and radiate from that one fact, which constitute
the whole sum of saving knowledge. We are

not to be saved by Christ as a teacher, by Christ
as an example, by Christ as God manifest in the
flesh ; but by Christ's obedience and death — by
his vicarious sacrifice, by his full and sufficient
oblation and satisfaction on the Cross, by his
blood shedding as of a lamb slain from the foun-
dation of the world. Whatever else we may
know of Christ, if we know not this, we have
not saving knowledge and saving faith. But, if
we know this, whatever else we may be ignorant
of, we shall secure eternal life.

It is not necessary that we should believe in
earthly science, that we should grasp human
philosophy, that we should range through secu-
lar history, that we should be skilled in the arts
of painting and sculpture, that we should be
learned in the affairs of government. These are
all proper for us to know as dwellers on this
material earth, but then we are not to dwell
here always, and our minds and souls are given
us for higher ends than these. We want a knowl-
edge that will not leave us at death, that will
go with us into the eternal world, and constitute
there the rudiments of that learning in which
we shall be forever ripening and growing. He
who knows Christ as the way to God, as the
truth of God, as the life of God, as the light of
the world, as the Lamb of God, as the redeemer

of the world, as the day's man and Saviour of
the world, knows that which is the highest
reach of all knowledge, those deep and precious
mysteries of faith which even the angels desire
to look into.

Could we see as St. Paul saw the boundless
circumference of truth of which Christ and
Him crucified is the center, and the present and
eternal greatness and glory of these truths, we
should not wonder that the Apostle could say,
of all human acquirements, " what things were
gain to me, I counted loss for Christ. Yea
doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the
excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my
Lord." Or that he should tell the Corinthians
when he came preaching among them, "I de-
termined not to know anything among you, save
Jesus Christ, and Him crucified:" for to know
these two things, Christ in his person, and Christ
in his work, constitutes the sum of that divine
knowledge which God has revealed in his holy

It is upon this basis alone that the church of
the living God can be built up. The Apostle
tells us "other foundation can no man lay than
that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." This foun-
dation is laid — laid not by man but by God —
laid in the eternal counsels of the Godhead; and

upon this already laid basis, we as workers to-
gether with God are to build, and the strength
and glory of our ministry depend on what and
how we build thereon. If Christ in his person
and Christ in his office, Christ the head of the
Church, and the Church the body of Christ, are
the foundation-stones, we shall build to the glory
of God, — but just in proportion as we substitute
for these great truths, the concrete of human
philosophy, or the painted imitations of living
stones, colored by ecclesiastical art, then will
our labor be in vain, and the sham work will
bring upon us eternal disgrace. There is a
boasting philosophy and a science falsely so
called abroad which now as in the Apostle's day
flout at the simple doctrines of the Gospel, and
would supersede the ordinance of divine wisdom
in the foolishness of preaching, by the words
"which man's wisdom teacheth," and which
can only be rightly met as the stripling David
met the giant of Gath, not in kingly armor
forged by human hands, but by the smooth
stones "from Siloa's brook fast by the oracles
of God," and the child's sling of a childlike

The great safety of the minister, amidst the
perplexities of science and philosophy and social
reforms and human philanthropies, is in keeping

near Christ and his cross. As he moves away
from these, their attractive power is lessened,
and not only so, but just as love and light and
truth are weakened by removal, so his suscepti-
bility to error increases — so his inability to stand
upright is weakened — so his liability to be
swerved by profane and vain babblings and op-
positions of science, falsely so called, is made
more sure. Christ is the light of the world.
There is no darkness of sin or of error which
that light will not scatter, if it only be made to
shine upon it. There is no false science or vain
babbling or deceiving philosophy which the
truth of the Cross will not dissipate when once
brought in contact with it. These battles with
modern infidelity — with exegetical skepticism —
with boastful science — with mere earthly
schemes of man's advancement are to be fought
around the doctrine of a divine, crucified Saviour.
The combat is not to be removed from Calvary
to the academy. The arena of the school is not
to be substituted for the church of the living
God. We are placed as ministers beside the
Cross — there we must fight the Lord's battles —
there herald the Lord's words — there resist the
enemies of the Cross of Christ, — there stand and
labor until we die, resolving always and every-

where to determine to know nothing among
men, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

St. Paul, as he stood in Corinth, might have
preached to such a poHshed people with all the
charms and ornaments of rhetoric and philoso-
phy, but he eschewed this wisdom of words and
excellency of speech. Before such a restive
people he might have inveighed against the
edict of Claudius, which drove all the Jews out
of Rome ; or the political course of Nero in re-
ference to the Grecian colonies and commerce;
or protested against the horrors of Grecian and
Roman slavery, or declared against the bloody
shows and games and unblushing licentiousness
of the Corinthians. He might have preached
social reforms, — political discourses, — sermons
on patriotism that would have almost called from
their graves the old heroes of Greece. He
might, as the modern pulpit is too apt to do,
have run the whole round of popular and sensa-
tional topics, and made the Church another mar-
ket-place for those who, like the Athenians,
"spent their time in nothing else but either to
hear or tell some new thing." But he did none
of these things.

He lived in an age of stirring events in the
political world, when emperors were deposed,
and armies were set against armies, and the em-

pire of Rome itself began to crack and split
beneath the rapacity of politicians and the law-
lessness of the PriEtorian guard ; he lived among
a people as excitable or even more so than our-
selves; more licentious, full of idolatry, with
scarcely a redeeming virtue, and whose only
glory was a sunset glory, the lingering rays of a
greatness that had even then gone down behind
the horizon; and yet observe how St. Paul
spurns all these things — philosophy, politics,


Online LibraryWilliam Bacon StevensA sermon preached in St. Luke's Church, Philadelphia, October 11, 1865, before the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, on the occasion of the consecration of the Rev. Charles Todd Quintard, M.D., as Bishop of the Diocese of Tennessee → online text (page 1 of 2)