Devotions:
The Knowledge of Jesus Christ the Best Knowledge PDF Print E-mail
George Whitefield
    The persons to whom these words were written, were the members of the
   church of Corinth; who, as appears by the foregoing chapter, were not
   only divided into different sects, by one saying, "I am of Paul, and
   another, I am of Apollos;" but also had man amongst them, who were so
   full of the wisdom of this world, and so wise in their own eyes, that
   they set at nought the simplicity of the gospel, and accounted the
   Apostle's preaching foolishness.

   Never had the Apostle more need of the wisdom of the serpent, mingled
   with the innocency of the dove, than now. What is the sum of all his
   wisdom? He tells them, in the words of the text, "I determined not to
   know any thing amongst you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." 
   A resolution this, worthy of the great St. Paul; and no less worthy, no
   less necessary for every minister, and every disciple of Christ, to
   make always, even unto the end of the world.
 
 In the following discourse, I shall,
 
   First, Explain what is meant by "not knowing any thing, save Jesus
   Christ, and him crucified."
 
   Secondly, Give some reasons why every Christian should determine not to
   know any thing else. And
 
   Thirdly, Conclude with a general exhortation to put this determination
   into practice.
 
   First, I am to explain what is meant by "not knowing any thing, save
   Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
 
   By Jesus Christ, we are to understand the eternal Son of God. He is
   called Jesus, a Savior, because he was to save us from the guilt and
   power of our sins; and, like Joshua, by whom he was remarkably
   typified, to lead God's spiritual Israel through the wilderness of this
   world, to the heavenly Canaan, the promised inheritance of the children
   of God.
 
   He is called Christ, which signifies anointed, because he was anointed
   by the Holy Ghost at his baptism, to be a prophet to instruct, a priest
   to make an atonement for, and a king to govern and protect his church.
   And he was crucified, or hung (O stupendous love!) till he was dead
   upon the cross, that he might become a curse for us: for it is written,
   "Cursed is every man that hangeth upon a tree."

   The foundation or first cause of his suffering, was our fall in Adam;
   in whom, as the living oracles of God declare, "We all died;" his sin
   was imputed to us all. It pleased God, after he had spoken the world
   into being, to create man after his own divine image, to breathe into
   him the breath of life, and to place him as our representative in the
   garden of Eden.
 
   But he being left to his own free will, did eat of the forbidden fruit,
   notwithstanding God had told him, "The day in which he eat thereof, he
   should surely die;" and thereby he, with his whole posterity, in whose
   name he acted, became liable to the wrath of God, and sunk into a
   spiritual death.

   But behold the goodness, as well as the severity of God! For no sooner
   had man been convicted as a sinner, but lo! A Savior is revealed to
   him, under the character of the seed of the woman: the merits of whose
   sacrifice were then immediately to take place, and who should, in the
   fullness of time, by suffering death, satisfy for the guilt we had
   contracted; by obeying the whole moral law, work out for us an
   everlasting righteousness; and by becoming a principle of new life in
   us, destroy the power of the devil, and thereby restore us to a better
   state than that in which we were at first created.
 
   This is the plain scriptural account of that mystery of godliness, God
   manifested in the flesh; and to this our own hearts, unless blinded by
   the god of this world, cannot but yield an immediate assent.
 
   For, let us but search our own hearts, and ask ourselves, if we could
   create our own children, whether or not we would not create them with a
   less mixture of good and evil, than we find in ourselves? Supposing God
   then only to have our goodness, he could not, at first, make us so
   sinful, so polluted as we are. But supposing him to be as he is,
   infinitely good, or goodness itself, then it is absolutely impossible
   that he should create any thing but what is like himself, perfect,
   entire, lacking nothing. Man then could not come out of the hands of
   his Maker, so miserably blind and naked, with such a mixture of the
   beast and devil, as he finds now in himself, but must have fallen from
   what he was; and as it does not suit with the goodness and justness of
   God, to punish the whole race of mankind with these disorders merely
   for nothing; and since men bring these disorders into the world with
   them; it follows, that as they could not sin themselves, being yet
   unborn, some other man's sin must have been imputed to them; from
   whence, as from a fountain, all these evils flow.
 
   I know this doctrine of our original sin, or fall in Adam, is esteemed
   foolishness by the wise disputer of this world, who will reply, How
   does it suit the goodness of God, to impute one man's sin to an
   innocent posterity? But has it not been proved to a demonstration, that
   it is so? And therefore, supposing we cannot reconcile it to our
   shallow comprehensions, that is no argument at all: for if it appears
   that God has done a thing, we may be sure it is right, whether we can
   see the reasons for it or not.
 
   But this is entirely cleared up by what was said before, that no sooner
   was the sin imputed, but a Christ was revealed; and this Christ, this
   God incarnate, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, that he might be
   freed from the guilt of our original sin; who was born of the Virgin
   Mary, that he might be the seed of the woman only; who suffered under
   Pontius Pilate, a Gentile governor, to fulfill these prophecies, which
   signified what death he should die: This same Jesus, who was crucified
   in weakness, but raised in power, is that divine person, that Emmanuel,
   that God with us, whom we preach, in whom ye believe, and whom alone
   the Apostle, in the text, was determined to know.

   By which word know, we are not to understand a bare historical
   knowledge; for to know that Christ was crucified by his enemies at
   Jerusalem, in this manner only, will do us no more service, than to
   know that Caesar was butchered by his friends at Rome; but the work
   know, means to know, so as to approve of him; as when Christ says,
   "Verily, I know you not;" I know you not, so as to approve of you. It
   signifies to know him, so as to embrace him in all his offices; to take
   him to be our prophet, priest, and king; so as to give up ourselves
   wholly to be instructed, saved, and governed by him. It implies an
   experimental knowledge of his crucifixion, so as to feel the power of
   it, and to be crucified unto the world, as the Apostle explains himself
   in the epistle to the Philippians, where he says, "I count all things
   but dung and dross, that I may know him, and the power of his
   resurrection."
 
   This knowledge the Apostle was so swallowed up in, that he was
   determined not to know any thing else; he was resolved to make that his
   only study, the governing principle of his life, the point and end in
   which all his thoughts, words, and actions, should center.
 
   Secondly, I pass on to give some reasons why every Christian should,
   with the Apostle, determine "not to know any thing, save Jesus Christ,
   and him crucified."

   First, Without this, our persons will not be accepted in the sight of
   God. "This (and consequently this only) is life eternal, to know thee,
   the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent." As also St.
   Peter says, "There is now no other name given under heaven, whereby we
   can be saved, but that of Jesus Christ."
 
   Some, indeed, ma please themselves in knowing the world, others boast
   themselves in the knowledge of a multitude of languages; but could we
   speak with the tongue of men and angels, or did we know the number of
   the stars, and could call them all by their names, yet, without this
   experimental knowledge of Jesus Christ, and him crucified, it would
   profit us nothing.
 
   The former, indeed, may procure us a little honor, which cometh of man;
   but the latter only can render us acceptable in the sight of God: for,
   if we are ignorant of Christ, God will be to us a consuming fire.
 
   Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; "No one cometh to the
   Father, but through him;" "He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of
   the world;" and none ever were, or ever will be received up into glory,
   but by an experimental application of his merits to their hearts.
 
   We might as well think to rebuild the tower of Babel, or reach heaven
   with our hands, as to imagine we could enter therein by any other door,
   than that of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Other knowledge may make
   you wise in your own eyes, and puff you up; but this alone edifieth,
   and maketh wise unto salvation.

   As the meanest Christian, if he knows but this, though he know nothing
   else, will be accepted; so the greatest master in Israel, the most
   letter- learned teacher, without this, will be rejected. His philosophy
   is mere nonsense, his wisdom mere foolishness in the sight of God. 
   The author of the word now before us, was a remarkable instance of
   this; never, perhaps, was a greater scholar, in all what the world
   calls fine learning, than he: for he was bred up at the feet of
   Gamaliel, and profited in the knowledge of books, as well as in the
   Jewish religion, above many of his equals, as appears by the language,
   rhetoric, and spirit of his writings; and yet, when he came to know
   what it was to be a Christian, "He accounted all things but loss, so he
   might win Christ." And, though he was now at Corinth, that seat of
   polite learning, yet he was absolutely determined not to know any
   thing, or to make nothing his study, but what taught him to know Jesus
   Christ, and him crucified.
 
   Hence then, appears the folly of those who spend their whole lives in
   heaping up other knowledge; and, instead of searching the scriptures,
   which testify of Jesus Christ, and are alone able to make them wise
   unto salvation, disquiet themselves in a pursuit after the knowledge of
   such things, as when known, concern them no more, than to know that a
   bird dropped a feather upon one of the Pyrenean mountains.
 
   Hence it is, that so many, who profess themselves wise, because they
   can dispute of the causes and effects, the moral fitness and unfitness
   of things, appear mere fools in the things of God; so that when you
   come to converse with them about the great work of redemption wrought
   out for us by Jesus Christ, and of his being a propitiation for our
   sins, a fulfiller of the covenant of works, and a principle of new life
   to our souls, they are quite ignorant of the whole matter; and prove,
   to a demonstration, that, with all their learning, they know nothing
   yet, as they ought to know.
 
   But, alas! how must it surprise a man, when the Most High is about to
   take away his soul, to think that he has passed for a wise-man, and a
   learned disputer in this world, and yet is left destitute of that
   knowledge which alone can make him appear with boldness before the
   judgment-seat of Jesus Christ? How must it grieve him, in a future
   state, to see others, whom he despised as illiterate men, because they
   experimentally knew Christ, and him crucified, exalted to the
   right-hand of God; and himself, with all his fine accomplishments,
   because he knew every thing, perhaps, but Christ, thrust down into
   hell?
 
   Well might the Apostle, in a holy triumph, cry out, "Where is the wise?
   Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world?" For, God
   will then make foolish the wisdom of this world, and bring to nought
   the wisdom of those who were so knowing in their own eyes.
 
   I have made this digression from the main point before us, not to
   condemn or decry human literature, but to show, that it ought to be
   used only in subordination to divine; and that a Christian, if the Holy
   Spirit guided the pen of the Apostle, when he wrote this epistle, ought
   to study no books, but such as lead him to a farther knowledge of Jesus
   Christ, and him crucified.
 
   And there is the more reason for this, because of he great mischief the
   contrary practice has done to the church of God: for, what was it but
   this learning, or rather this ignorance, that kept so many of the
   Scribes and Pharisees from the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? And
   what is it, but this human wisdom, this science, false so called, that
   blinds the understanding, and corrupts the hearts of so many modern
   unbelievers, and makes them unwilling to submit to the righteousness
   which is of God by faith in Christ Jesus? But,
 
   Secondly, Without this knowledge our performances, as well as persons
   will not be acceptable in the sight of God.
 
   "Through faith," says the Apostle, that is, through a lively faith in a
   Mediator to come, "Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain."
   And it is through a like faith, or an experimental knowledge of the
   same divine Mediator, that our sacrifices of prayer, praise, and
   thanksgivings, come up as an incense before he throne of grace. 
   Two persons may go up to the temple to pray; but he only will return
   home justified, who, in the language of our collects, sincerely offers
   up his prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord.
 
   For it is this great atonement, this all-sufficient sacrifice, which
   alone can give us boldness to approach with our prayers o the Holy of
   Holies: and he that presumes to go without this, acts Korah's crime
   over again; offers unto God strange fire, and, consequently, will be
   rejected by him.
 
   Farther, as our devotions to God will not, so neither, without this
   knowledge of Jesus Christ, will our acts of charity to men be accepted
   by him. For did we give all our goods to feed the poor, and yet were
   destitute of this knowledge, it would profit us nothing.
 
   This our blessed Lord himself intimates in the 25th of Matthew, where
   he tells those who had been rich in good works, "That inasmuch as they
   did it unto one of the least of his brethren, they did it unto him."

   From whence we may plainly infer, that it is seeing Christ in his
   members, and doing good to them out of an experimental knowledge of his
   love to us, that alone will render our alms-deeds rewardable at the
   last day.
 
   Lastly, As neither our acts of piety nor charity, so neither will our
   civil nor moral actions be acceptable to God, without this experimental
   knowledge of Jesus Christ.
 
   Our modern pretenders to reason, indeed, set up another principle to
   act from; they talk, I know not what, Of doing moral an civil duties of
   life, from the moral fitness and unfitness of things. But such men are
   blind, however they may pretend to see; and going thus about to
   establish their own righteousness, are utterly ignorant of the
   righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
 
   For though we grant that morality is a substantial part of
   Christianity, and that Christ came not to destroy, or take off the
   moral law, as a rule of action, but to explain, and so fulfill it; yet
   we affirm, that our moral and civil actions are now no farther
   acceptable in the sight of God the Father, than as they proceed from
   the principle of a new nature, and as experimental knowledge of, or
   vital faith in his dear Son.
 
   The death of Jesus Christ has turned our whole lives into one continued
   sacrifice; and whether we eat or drink, whether we pray to God, or do
   any thing to man, it must all be done out of a love for, and knowledge
   of him who died and rose again, to render all, even our most ordinary
   deeds, acceptable in the sight of God.
 
   If we live by this principle, if Christ be the Alpha and Omega of all
   our actions, then our least are acceptable sacrifices; but if this
   principle be wanting, our most pompous services avail nothing: we are
   but spiritual idolater; we sacrifice to our own net; we make an idol of
   ourselves, by making ourselves, and not Christ, the end of our actions:
   and, therefore, such actions are so far from being accepted by God,
   that, according to the language of one of the Articles of our Church,
   "We doubt not but they have the nature of sin, because they spring not
   from an experimental faith in, and knowledge of Jesus Christ."
 
   Were we not fallen creatures, we might then act, perhaps, from other
   principles; but since we are fallen from God in Adam, and are restored
   again only by the obedience and death of Jesus Christ, the face of
   things I entirely changed, and all we think, speak, or do, is only
   accepted in and through him.
 
   Justly, therefore, may I, in the
 
   Third and Last places, Exhort you to put the Apostle's resolution in
   practice, and beseech you, with him to determine, Not to know any
   thing, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
 
   I say, determine; for unless you sit down first, and count the cost,
   and from a well-grounded conviction of the excellency of this ,above
   all other knowledge whatsoever, resolve to make this your chief study,
   your only end, your one thing needful, every frivolous temptation will
   draw you aside from the pursuit after it.
 
   Your friends and carnal acquaintance, and, above all, your grand
   adversary the devil, will be persuading you to determine not to know
   any thing, but how to lay up goods for many years, and to get a
   knowledge and taste of the pomps and vanities of this wicked world; but
   do you determine not to follow, or be led by them; and the more they
   persuade you to know other things, the more do you "determine not to
   know any thing, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." For, this
   knowledge never faileth; but whether they be riches, they shall fail;
   whether they be pomps, they shall cease; whether they be vanities, they
   shall fade away: but the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and him crucified,
   abideth for ever.
 
   Whatever, therefore, you are ignorant of, be not ignorant of this. If
   you know Christ, and him crucified, you know enough to make you happy,
   supposing you know nothing else; and without this, all your other
   knowledge cannot keep you from being everlastingly miserable. 
   Value not then, the contempt of friends, which you must necessarily
   meet with upon your open profession to act according to this
   determination. For your Master, whose you are, was despised before you;
   and all that will know nothing else but Jesus Christ, and him
   crucified, must, in some degree or other, suffer persecution.
 
   It is necessary that offenses should come, to try what is in our
   hearts, and whether we will be faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ or
   not.
 
   Dare ye then to confess our blessed Master before men, and to shine as
   lights in the world, amidst a crooked and perverse generation? Let us
   not be content with following him afar off; for then we shall, as Peter
   did, soon deny him; but let us be altogether Christians, and let our
   speech, and all our actions declare to the world whose disciples we
   are, and that we have indeed "determined not to know any thing, save
   Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Then, well will it be with us, and
   happy, unspeakably happy shall we be, even here; and what is infinitely
   better, when others that despised us, shall be calling for the
   mountains to fall on them, and the hills to cover them, we shall be
   exalted to sit down on the right-hand of God, and shine as the sun in
   the firmament, in the kingdom of our most adorable Redeemer, for ever
   and ever.
 
   Which God of his infinite mercy grant, &c.
 
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