1 CORINTHIANS

Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries

 

 

MDCCCCXXIX

The Blessings Imparted by the Gospel

1 Corinthians 1:4–9. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything you are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that, you come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

WE cannot but admire the address which is manifest in all the Epistles of Paul. He of course has frequent occasion to mention truths which are far from palatable to those to whom they are spoken: but he always introduces them in so kind a manner, and accompanies them with such expressions of the most sincere love, that it is almost impossible for any to be offended with him. He never shrinks from a faithful discharge of his duty: but he exerts himself always, to the utmost of his power, to heal the wounds which his fidelity inflicts. The Corinthian Church was in a far worse state than any other that he had occasion to address: indeed the manners of the Corinthians, previous to their conversion, were dissolute even to a proverb; and therefore it is the less to be wondered at, that, after their conversion, many of them should still need admonition on points which they had hitherto been accustomed to regard as venial at least, if not altogether indifferent. On everything necessary for their welfare, the Apostle here communicates his sentiments freely: but in the commencement of his epistle he makes no difference between the Corinthians and the purest of all the Churches. He knew that if many among them were corrupt, the great majority of them were sincere; and therefore he comprehends them all in the first expressions of his regard, that he may afterwards have the more influence over those, whose errors he designed to rectify. And this by the way shows us, that, when we see in our Liturgy the same charitable expressions relative to the state of persons in our own Church, we ought not scrupulously to strain every word to the uttermost, but should allow the same latitude of expression in the one case as we do in the other. But not to dwell on this, we notice in this introductory acknowledgment of the Apostle,

I. The blessings which the Gospel imparts.

The Gospel is no other than "a testimony" of Jesus. This was "the spirit of prophecy" under the Old Testament; and it is the spirit of all the writings in the New Testament. What the testimony was, is declared with great precision by John: "This is the record, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son; he who has the Son, has life; and he who has not the Son of God, has not life."

The believer has this testimony "confirmed in him." There are two ways in which this testimony is confirmed: the one is externally, by signs and miracles; the other is internally, by the operation of the Spirit of God upon the soul. The Corinthians had had it confirmed to them in both ways: for no Church exceeded them in miraculous gifts; and in the change wrought upon their own souls, they had an evidence of the truth and power of the Gospel: they had an evidence of it in "the grace which had been given them by Jesus Christ."

Two things in particular they had received, which served to mark the saving efficacy of the Gospel; namely,

1. An enlightened mind.

They had been "enriched by Christ with all utterance and all knowledge." Distinct from miraculous gifts, there is in believers a knowledge of an experimental kind, and an ability also to declare that knowledge with ease and precision. It is a knowledge derived from the heart, rather than from the understanding; even such as Solomon refers to, when he says, "The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips." John speaks of this when he says, "He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself." There is a perfect correspondence between the divine record concerning Christ, and the feelings of the believer's soul: he feels that he needs such a salvation as Christ offers, and that there is in Christ a sufficiency for all his wants: and in speaking of these things every believer throughout the universe is agreed. As in all human beings, notwithstanding some minute differences, there are the same general features belonging to the body; so in the minds of all believers there is, notwithstanding a diversity in smaller matters, a correspondence in their general views and sentiments; they all confess themselves to be sinners saved by grace through the Redeemer's blood. Others, who are not true believers, may have the same creed; but they have not these truths written in their hearts; nor can they speak of them from their own experience: this is the portion of the true believer only; and it is a portion, in comparison of which all the knowledge in the universe and all the wealth of the Indies are but dross and dung.

2. A waiting spirit.

The Corinthians "came behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The saints under the Mosaic dispensation waited for the first advent of our Lord: those under the Christian dispensation wait for his second advent, when he will come again from Heaven in power and great glory, to gather together his elect, and to put them into full possession of their destined inheritance. The first Christians thought this period very near at hand: we who live almost 1800 years after them, believe that it is yet distant; because there are many prophecies not yet fulfilled, which must receive an accomplishment before the arrival of that time. But, as far as respects us individually, the time is near to every one of us, even at the door; for, on the instant of our departure from the body, we are borne into the presence of our Judge, and have our portion forever fixed. Hence the believer waits for his dissolution, as the promised commencement of everlasting joys. Others may wait, and even long, for death, as a termination of their sorrows; but it is the believer alone who "looks for and hastes unto the coming of the day of Christ," as the completion and consummation of all his joys. Others may affect Heaven as "a rest" from trouble; but the believer alone pants for it as a rest in God. In the view of that day, "he is sober, and hopes to the end for the grace that shall be brought unto him at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

But from our text we are led to notice farther,

II. The blessings which the Gospel secures.

God in calling us to the knowledge of his Son, calls us also to a fellowship with his Son, in all the blessings both of grace and glory: and where he gives the former of these blessings, there he engages to impart the latter also. On this ground, the promise of a faithful God, the Apostle assured the Corinthians of,

1. Their continued preservation.

"He shall confirm you unto the end," says he. If believers were left to themselves, they would have no prospect of ever enduring to the end. So many and so great are the difficulties which they have to contend with, that they could have no hope at all. But God undertakes for them, to "keep them by his own power through faith unto salvation." He engages both for himself and for them: for himself, that "he will not depart from them to do them good," and for them, that "he will put his fear into their hearts, so that they shall not depart from him." If they offend him by any violation or neglect of duty, "he will visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes: but his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from them, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail: for once he has sworn by his holiness, that he will not lie unto David." So fully assured of this truth was Paul in relation to the Philippian Church, that he declared himself "confident of this very thing, that He who had begun a good work in them would perform it until the day of Jesus Christ," and the same confidence we may feel in relation to every true believer, that "none shall ever separate him from the love of Christ." God pledges his own word, that "he will not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able," but that "he will perfect that which concerns them." When therefore we "pray to God that our whole spirit, soul, and body may be preserved blameless unto his heavenly kingdom," we are authorized to add, "Faithful is he who has called us; who also will do it."

2. Their ultimate acceptance.

"He will preserve us, that we may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." "Blameless" in some respect his people already are, inasmuch as the Lord Jesus Christ has washed them in his blood, and pronounced them "clean." But in the last day we shall be blameless in ourselves, as well as in him; being not only justified, as we now are, by his blood, but sanctified also by his Spirit, and transformed into the perfect image of our God. Then "will Christ present us to himself, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; yes, holy, and without blemish;" and in the meantime he will, by his almighty and all-sufficient grace, "strengthen, and establish, and settle us even to the end."

Thus does God assure to his people their continued preservation, and their ultimate acceptance with him: and he pledges his own faithfulness for the performance of his word.

But let no man imagine that these truths supersede the necessity of care and watchfulness on our part; for God will never fulfill his promise to us but through the instrumentality of our exertions. Hence he requires every exertion on our part, precisely as if he had left the final issue solely dependent on our own efforts; and suspends his promised mercies altogether on the performance of our duties. To obtain his final acceptance of us as blameless, we must hold fast our faith: "He will present us holy and unblamably, and unreproveable in his sight, if we continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel." We must also abound in love; we must "increase and abound in love one towards another, to the end that he may establish our hearts unblamably in holiness before God even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." We must also use all diligence in every duty; for it is by diligence that we are to "make our calling and election sure," and that we are to be "found of him at last in peace, without spot and blameless."

Here we see that the very things which God has promised to us, are to be obtained through the medium of our own faith and love and diligence. Without these, the end shall never be obtained (for God has connected the end with the means): but through the continued exercise of these, the end is secured beyond a possibility of failure. "God cannot deny himself," and his word, confirmed as it is by covenant and by oath, can never fail. "Heaven and earth may pass away: but his word shall never pass away."

Application.

1. Be thankful if you are partakers of this grace.

Paul "thanked God always on the behalf" of the Corinthians on this account: how much more therefore should those be thankful, who have received the benefit! To possess this experimental knowledge of the Gospel salvation, and to enjoy these blessed prospects of immortality and glory, is the highest felicity of man. Having these "things which accompany salvation," we need not covet any other good, or regret any attendant evil: we have the richest blessings that God himself can bestow.

2. Be careful to walk worthy of it.

The mercies of God to us call for a suitable requital: and the requital which he desires is, a total surrender of ourselves to him. The thing which God designs, in the communication of his mercy to us, is, to "keep us blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus." Let that then be our end in the improvement of them, even to be "blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, shining among them as lights in a dark world."

3. Remember in whom all your strength is.

Of yourselves you can do nothing. It is God, and God alone, that can "confirm you unto the end." He who has been "the Author, must also be the Finisher," of your salvation. It is "He who must work all your works in you," "all your fresh springs must be in him." Know then, that "he is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy;" and he will do it, if you rely upon him; for Paul expressly says, "The Lord is faithful, who will establish you, and keep you from evil." To him therefore, even "to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and forever. Amen."

 

MDCCCCXXX

The True Light in which the Gospel is to be Regarded

1 Corinthians 1:23, 24. We preach Christ crucified; unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

THERE is a disposition in man to dictate to God, rather than to receive from him what he is pleased to give. Though this is not right, nor should ministers gratify it, yet they should consult men's prejudices, and "seek to please them for their good." The Jews and Greeks sought what from their education they had been accustomed to admire: but Paul, notwithstanding his readiness to yield in all things that were less important, was compelled to make the strain of his preaching directly opposite to their corrupt desires. "The Jews require, etc.; but we preach, etc."

I. The great subject of the Christian ministry.

The Apostle designates this by "preaching the Gospel," "preaching the cross," "preaching Christ and him crucified," but in "preaching Christ crucified" he did not confine himself to an historical relation of the fact, or a pathetic description of it. To fulfill the true end of the Christian ministry, we must,

1. Declare the nature of Christ's death.

This in appearance was only like that of the malefactors that suffered with him; but it was a true and proper sacrifice to God. In this light it was characterized by the whole Mosaic ritual: in this light it was foretold by the prophets: in this light it is plainly represented throughout the New Testament; and unless it be preached in this view, we do not, in the Apostle's sense, preach Christ crucified.

2. Set forth the benefits resulting from it.

There is not any one spiritual benefit which must not be traced to this source; pardon, peace, holiness, glory, are its proper fruits. Without the atonement we could have received nothing; but by and through it we may receive everything. This also must be distinctly inculcated, if we would approve ourselves faithful stewards of the mysteries of Christ.

3. Persuade men to seek an interest in it.

We find men filled with self-righteous conceits, and with great difficulty brought to renounce them: we must therefore argue with them, and urge upon them all the most powerful considerations: we must address ourselves to their passions as well as their understanding; and gain their affections on the side of truth. It was thus that Paul preached Christ; and it is thus only that Christ crucified can be preached aright.

II. The manner in which it was, and is still, received.

As there were differences of opinion respecting our Lord himself, some accounting him a good man, and others a deceiver, so are there respecting his Gospel.

1. Some reject it with contemptuous abhorrence.

Jews and Greeks were equally averse to it, though on different grounds. The Jews did not understand the true nature and scope of their law: hence they supposed that the Gospel was opposed to it, and that Christ was an enemy to Moses: and notwithstanding all the evidence they had of Christ's Messiahship, they rejected him from a pretended want of proof of his divine mission. The Greeks had been habituated to philosophical researches, and rejected the Gospel because there was nothing in it to flatter the pride of human reason: both these kinds of characters yet exist, and oppose the Gospel with equal acrimony; to some it is "a stumbling-block," as appearing to set aside good works; to others it is "foolishness," as militating against their preconceived notions of rational religion. And if it be not so dispensed by us as to call forth such treatment from such characters, we have reason to believe that we do not preach the Gospel as Paul preached it.

2. Others receive it with the deepest reverence.

There are some "called," not by the outward word only, but by the internal and effectual operations of the Spirit. These, whatever have been their disposition in times past, have their eyes open to behold the Gospel in a far different light. To them the doctrine of "Christ crucified" is "the power of God," they see that it is that, by which God has converted myriads to himself: they feel also that it is that, to which alone they can ascribe their own conversion; and they know that nothing can ultimately withstand its power. To them it is also "the wisdom of God," they behold in it every perfection of the Deity united and glorified, while on any other plan of salvation some of his perfections must be exalted at the expense of others: they see it also to be suited to the state of every individual in the universe, while every other plan of salvation is suited to those only who have been moral, or who have a long time before them to amend their lives. Above all, they view it as bringing the greatest good that ever was given, out of the greatest evil that ever was committed. No wonder that they "count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of it."

Address.

1. Those who, like the Greeks, have a high opinion of their reasoning powers.

You have just cause to be thankful for strength of intellect; but the province of reason is, to submit itself to God. God has not opened to your reason any one thing perfectly, either in creation or providence: be not surprised then if you cannot fathom all the mysteries of his revealed will: your wisdom is to become as little children; and if you will not condescend to be taught of Him, he will take you in your own craftiness.

2. Those who, like the Jews, are concerned about the interests of morality.

Did morality suffer in the life of Paul, or of the first Christians? Does it in the lives of many who now profess the Gospel? Are they not now condemned as much for the strictness of their lives as for the strangeness of their principles? Yes, does not morality suffer through the neglect of this preaching? Let not Christ then be a stumbling-block to you, but rather a sanctuary. If you reject Christ, however good your motive may appear to be, your misery will he sure.

3. Those who embrace, and glory in, a crucified Savior.

Contemplate more and more the wisdom and power of God as displayed in this mystery, and endeavor more and more to adorn this doctrine in your lives. Let it never become a stumbling-block or foolishness through any misconduct of yours: let it be seen by your prudence, that it is true wisdom; and by your piety, that it is the parent of every good work.

 

MDCCCCXXXI

The Objects of God's Call

1 Corinthians 1:26–29. You see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has 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, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.

IT is manifest to the most superficial observer, that the Gospel, wherever it comes, meets with a very different reception from different people; some accounting it foolishness, while others regard it as the wisdom of God and the power of God. That we must trace this to the dispositions of men, is certain; because the guilt of rejecting the Gospel must lie upon the sinner himself: yet, inasmuch as a love of the truth is not attainable by mere human efforts, we must acknowledge God as the true and only source of that difference which appears. If he did not interpose, all would equally despise the Gospel: it is his grace which makes the distinction, and causes some to overcome the corruptions of their nature, and to accept his offered salvation.

To unravel this mystery, or at least to throw light upon it, we shall show,

I. Who are the objects of his choice.

God's thoughts and ways are not only far above ours, but often directly contrary to ours.

He has not chosen "the wise, the noble, and the mighty."

He has not indeed excluded these; for he invites them all; and no more wills the death of them, than he does the death of any others: but he has not chosen them either in preference to the poor, or even in comparison of them. Some there have been in every age, who were possessed of much human wisdom, and power, and wealth. God would not pass by them altogether, lest it should appear as if the possession of earthly wisdom and power were an insurmountable obstacle to the reception of the truth; or lest the embracing of his salvation should be thought incompatible with natural abilities, or intellectual attainments. Among the Corinthians there were Crispus and Sosthenes, chief rulers of the synagogue: and Gaius, a man of wealth and of an enlarged heart; and Erastus, the chamberlain of the city. Some few others were numbered with the disciples: there was Joseph of Arimathea, a rich and honorable counselor; and Sergius Paulus, a Roman deputy, famed no less for his wisdom than his power. But if we were to collect the names of all, they would bear no proportion to the numbers of those who composed the Church of Christ. Though therefore there were some, there were "not many" of this description called.

The objects of his choice are, the weak, the ignoble, the illiterate.

As we do not say that these are chosen exclusively, so neither do we say that they are chosen universally; for, alas! there are myriads of poor who are as ignorant and depraved as it is possible for any of the rich to be. But the great majority of the Lord's people are of this description. They have not rank, or learning, or wealth, or great abilities, or any of those things which would recommend them to earthly preferments. This was the case with the first teachers of Christianity: they were, for the most part, poor illiterate fishermen and mechanics. And they who have been their followers have been almost entirely of the middle and lower classes of society. Who are the persons in every town and village who most welcome the preaching of the Gospel? Who are the people that are glad to avail themselves of all the spiritual instruction they can get? Who are they that will be thankful to you for speaking closely to their consciences, and for warning them of their danger? Who are they who will go miles every Sabbath to a place where the Gospel is faithfully preached, notwithstanding, when they come thither, they can scarcely be accommodated with a seat whereon to rest? Who are they that love social meetings for reading the word of God and prayer; and that make it their meat and their drink to do the will of God? In short, Who are they that prove their effectual "calling," by turning "from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God?" Are these the rich, the great, the learned? or are they the poor and unlearned? Let observation and experience decide the point. "You see your calling, brethren," look at it, and judge: We are not afraid to make our appeal to yourselves; for God himself appeals to you; and thereby makes you judges in your own cause. We know that these facts give umbrage to many: but however the proud may find in these things an occasion of offence, our blessed Lord saw nothing in them but ground for praise and thanksgiving.

Our subject leads us to notice,

II. The immediate effect of that choice.

We are told that Noah, in building the ark, "condemned the world." A similar effect is produced by the peculiar mercy given to the poor. The great and learned, though "they shame the counsel of the poor," yet are ashamed and confounded when they see,

1. Their superior discernment.

Many of the wise, like the Scribes and Pharisees of old, are conversant with the Holy Scriptures, and extremely well instructed as to the letter of them. From hence they suppose that they must necessarily enter into the spirit of them, and be as superior to others in a comprehension of divine truth, as they are in wealth or talents. But when they come to converse with one who has been "called out of darkness into God's marvelous light," they begin to feel their own ignorance, and to wonder at the depth and clearness of the person's knowledge. They cannot conceive how an unlettered person should attain such just and comprehensive views, which they with all their application have not been able to acquire. They do not reflect on what God has told them, that "the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God;" and that the knowledge of them must be obtained by means of a spiritual discernment. They, through the pride of their hearts, presume to bring divine truths to the bar of their own reason; and thus are led to account them foolishness: but the humble disciple of Jesus willingly receives all that God speaks; and to him "every word is both plain and right." But all this is a mystery to those who are "wise after the flesh,"—a mystery which mortifies their pride, and inflames their wrath.

2. Their indifference to the world.

The men of letters and of wealth, instead of rising above the world, are really its greatest slaves. To enjoy its pleasures, its riches, and its honors, is the summit of their ambition. They, on the contrary, who are "chosen of God and called," are enabled to renounce the world, and to regard it no more than they would a crucified object, with whom they have no further connection. Now when these persons show, by their heavenly conversation, that they consider themselves as mere pilgrims and sojourners here, and that "they are looking for a better country, that is, an heavenly," the poor slaves of this world cannot comprehend it. They wonder how any should be so indifferent to the things of time and sense, so bold to encounter the frowns and contempt of all around them, and so immoveable in their adherence to such exploded sentiments and conduct. They know that they themselves could not act in such a manner; and they are unable to account for it in others. But if they understood those words, "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith," they would cease to wonder; yes, they would rather wonder that the operations of faith were not yet more uniform and extensive.

3. Their delight in holy exercises.

The wise, and mighty, and noble will often perform religious duties with a commendable regularity: but they comply with them rather as the institutions and customs of their country, than as exercises in which they find any pleasure, or from which they expect to derive any present benefit. It is far otherwise with the poor, weak, despised followers of Christ: they engage in these employments with delight: they look forward to the returning seasons of devotion with sincere joy: and, though they cannot always maintain a spiritual frame in them, yet there is no other employment so pleasing to them, or so productive of permanent satisfaction. Now this also appears strange and unaccountable to them that are yet in their unconverted state: they cannot conceive how it should be, that persons should multiply their seasons of worship, and put themselves to much expense and trouble in attending on them, without any apparent necessity. They can ascribe it to nothing but enthusiasm or hypocrisy. They are constrained however to confess, that, if religion so abstracts the mind from earthly things, and so inclines us to set our affections on things above, their hopes and prospects are "brought to nothing."

Thus as the Gentiles, who were scarcely regarded as having any existence, were made use of by God to bring to nothing the Jewish polity, in which all that was valuable was supposed to be contained; so the spirituality of real Christians is yet daily made use of by God to bring to nothing the pride of wisdom, the power of greatness, and the fond conceits of pharisaic morality.

But let us examine yet further.

III. Its ultimate design.

God, as it becomes him, consults in all things his own glory. In this dispensation more especially,

He has provided, "that no flesh should glory in his presence."

It would not become his Majesty to suffer any of his creatures to assume honor to themselves: it is meet and right that all should acknowledge him to be the one source of all their happiness. As he is the Author of their being, they cannot but be indebted to him for all their powers; and as he is the one Restorer of those powers, both by the blood of his Son and the agency of his Spirit, he must have the glory of all which may be wrought by them; none must stand in competition with him; nor must any presume to claim the smallest share of that honor which is due to him alone.

The dispensation is admirably calculated to insure his end.

If the wise and noble were called in preference to others, they would infallibly arrogate to themselves, in part at least, the honor of that distinction: they would either think that they had effected the change in themselves by their own power, or that God had had respect to them on account of super-eminent worth. But by the preference given to the poor, all occasion for such boasting is cut off. The rich cannot boast, because they have nothing to boast of. The poor cannot boast, as if God had respected their superior talents; for they feel and know assuredly that they had no such superiority, but directly the reverse. The few rich and wise that are among them cannot boast, because they find that they are few in number, and that the great majority of those who are as wise and great as themselves, have made use of their talents, only to harden themselves in infidelity, and to justify their rejection of the Gospel. Hence they are constrained to confess, that it is "God who has made them to differ," and that "by the grace of God they are what they area."

Many and important are the lessons which we may learn from hence.

1. That God acts sovereignly in the disposal of his gifts.

We should not hesitate, if any one presumed to direct us in the disposal of our own favors, to put this question to him; "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own?" Yet we are offended if God assert this liberty, and we think ourselves injured if any be chosen by him in preference to us. But how unreasonable and absurd is this! It is unreasonable, because we have no claim upon him for the smallest benefits. Who imagines that the fallen angels have any ground of complaint against him for withholding a Savior from them, while he provided one for us? Yet they are a superior order of beings to us, and therefore might have been supposed more worthy of God's attention. What right then can any of us have to murmur, if he be pleased to impart salvation itself to some and not to others, when none possess the smallest title above their brethren? But it is absurd also: for God will not alter his dispensations because we choose to quarrel with them. That he does act in this sovereign manner we cannot doubt; for he dispenses his temporal favors according to his own will; and sends his Gospel to us, while it is withheld from far the greater part of the world: and he tells us no less than three times in the short compass of our text, that he has "chosen" some in preference to others. Let us not then dare to "reply against God," but, while we confess his right to confer his benefits on whoever he will, let us humbly implore an interest in his favor, and lie as clay in his hands, that he may, for his own glory sake, fashion us as "vessels of honor meet for the Master's use."

2. That there is not so much inequality in the Divine dispensations as we are apt to imagine.

It is certainly God who causes some to be born to ease and affluence, while others are born to labor and poverty. In a time of health there may not be any great difference between them:—but what is there in a time of sickness! The one has all the comforts of medical aid, of numerous attendants, of delicacies suited to his appetite; whereas the other, in a cold and comfortless habitation, is without food, without fuel, without friends, his wife and children as well as himself almost perishing for want, destitute of everything proper for his disorder, and subsisting only by the scanty pittance hardly obtained, and grudgingly bestowed by an unfeeling dispenser of the public charity. Compare these; and there appears as wide a difference between them as can well be imagined. But pause a moment: Is this the whole of God's dispensations towards them? Can we find nothing to counter-balance this inequality? Yes: look to the spiritual concerns of these two persons: perhaps, like Dives and Lazarus, the one has his portion in this life, and the other in the next: perhaps God has said to the one, "Enjoy all that the world can bestow;" to the other, "Enjoy my presence, and the light of my countenance," to the one, "Be rich in learning, wealth, and honor;" to the other, "Be rich in faith and good works," to the one, "Possess you kingdoms for a time;" to the other, "Be you an heir of my kingdom for evermore." Now, though this is not God's invariable mode of dealing with men, (for there are some who are poor in both worlds, and others rich,) yet it accords with the general tenor of his proceedings: it accords also with the text, and therefore is peculiarly proper for our present consideration. Take then the whole of his dispensations together, and it will be found that the spiritual advantages conferred upon the poor are more than an equivalent for any temporal disadvantages they may labor under. Let the rich then not pride themselves on their distinctions; for "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for them to enter into the kingdom of Heaven: nor let the poor, on the other hand, be dejected on account of their present troubles; for God has chosen them (if they do not despise their birthright) to be partakers of his richest blessings, even life for evermore: but let all, whether rich or poor, seek to have "God himself for the portion of their cup, and for the lot of their inheritance."

3. That they are the wisest people who covet the best gifts.

It is generally accounted folly to "seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;" but the time will come when it will appear to have been the truest wisdom. Indeed "the fear of the Lord is the very beginning of wisdom;" insomuch that all who are not possessed of that, whatever else they may possess, are no better than fools in God's estimation. Let us not then be deceived by the glare and glitter of the world. Let us view things as God himself views them. Let us confess that it is better to be among "the foolish, the weak, the base, the despised, the mere nonentities of this world," and attain eternal happiness at the last; than to be among "the wise, the mighty, and the noble," and to "have our good things in this life only."

We beg leave however to repeat, that the rich will not be excluded from God's kingdom, if they do not exclude themselves; nor, on the other hand, will the poor be admitted into it, if they do not "strive to enter in at the strait gate." Whatever we be in respect of our worldly conditions, we shall be admitted by the Bridegroom, if we be found among the wise virgins: but "the foolish shall not stand in his sight; for he hates all the workers of iniquity."

 

MDCCCCXXXII

Christ is All in All

1 Corinthians 1:30. Of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.

HABITUATED as we have been from our early childhood to read the Holy Scriptures, and to hear them read in public, it is surprising that we do not gain a more clear and accurate knowledge of their contents. But experience shows, that, however strongly the inspired writers have declared the revealed will of God, it is but very partially and imperfectly known among us. The fact is, that we do not sufficiently consider the import of what we read. We pass over the most plain and significant expressions, without considering what is contained in them. When we read of a Savior, we do not advert to the awful truth comprehended in that word, namely, that in ourselves we are utterly and eternally lost. In other words, we are very little affected with what is expressed in Scripture, because we do not pause to inquire into what those expressions imply. That we suffer great loss by this inadvertence is evident from what our blessed Lord taught respecting the resurrection of our bodies to eternal life. The Sadducees could not find that doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures, or at all events not in the Pentateuch, which alone they regarded as of divine authority. Our Lord appealed to the name of Jehovah as proclaimed in the Pentateuch. namely, as "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Now, says our Lord, consider what is implied in that name. Jehovah, as their God, is the God of their whole persons, their bodies as well as their souls; and, if their bodies are not to be raised again, that relation between God and them, so far as respects their bodies, is dissolved. But that relation never can be dissolved: therefore their bodies must be raised again, and be re-united to their souls, that so those departed saints may, in their whole and entire persons, forever serve and enjoy their God.

Now I would wish to commend to you the passage before us in this peculiar view. Paul is showing the Corinthians, that they neither have, nor ever can have, anything to boast of; since "God has chosen the poor, and the weak, and the foolish, in preference to the rich, the mighty, and the wise;" and since whatever any of them may have, they have it solely in Christ, who of God is made to them wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; and that consequently, whoever glories, must glory, not in himself, but in the Lord alone.

In order that we may unfold these words to the greater advantage, we shall, in accordance with this hint, consider, first, What is implied in them, and then, What is expressed.

Now if we will duly consider these words, we shall see this evidently implied in them: first, that we are destitute of all good in ourselves, and, secondly, that we are incapable of acquiring it by any power of our own. On a supposition that either of these positions were not true, what occasion would there be that all good should be treasured up for us in another, to be received from him? But they are true.—It is a fact, that we are destitute of all good in ourselves; for in ourselves we are ignorant, guilty, polluted, and enslaved.

We are ignorant. What do we by nature know of ourselves? What know we of the corruption of the human heart? God himself has told us, that in the heart of man there are depths of iniquity altogether unfathomable, and workings that are utterly unsearchable: the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: Who can know it? And what know we of God? of his holiness, which cannot behold iniquity without the utmost abhorrence of it? of his justice, which cannot but visit it with righteous indignation? and of his truth, which cannot but execute every threatening which he has denounced against it? As to any mere notions which men may entertain in theory, I speak not of them; it is of practical knowledge that I speak: and I need only appeal to the lives of all around us, to prove that, so far from having any just knowledge of God, "there is not in the whole world an unconverted man, that understands, so as duly and habitually to seek after him." On the contrary the conduct of all clearly shows, that "God is not in all their thoughts." And what know we of Christ and of the incomprehensible extent of his love? Or what of his Holy Spirit, and all his enlightening, sanctifying, and consoling operations? What know we of the evil and bitterness of sin? or of the beauty and blessedness of true holiness? The testimony which our Lord himself has borne of us is undeniably true, that, however we may fancy ourselves "rich, and increased in goods, and in need of nothing, we are wretched, and miserable, even poor, and blind, and naked."

We are guilty also, to an extent which no words can adequately describe. As to gross sins, I make no mention of them. Our whole life has been one continued scene of rebellion against God. Nor have we ceased to "trample under foot the blood of Christ, by which we have been redeemed; or to do despite to the Spirit of God," who has striven with us, warning us against the evils which we have been habituated to commit, and stimulating us to those duties, which we have neglected to perform. Truly, on the most superficial view of our state we must be convinced, that "every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God."

How polluted we are, in every member of our bodies and in every faculty of our souls, God alone knows or can conceive. Darkness is not more opposed to light, or Belial to Christ, than we, every one of us, are to the holy will of God, whether as proclaimed in his law, or as exhibited in his Gospel. How blind we are in our understanding, how perverse in our will, how sensual in our affections, who shall be able to declare? Even "the Apostles themselves once had their conversation in the lusts of their flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as other," And such have we been also. Our very "mind and conscience have been defiled," so that there is not one among us who must not join in that humiliating acknowledgment, that "there is no health in us."

In fact, we are altogether enslaved, or, as the Scripture expresses it, "taken in the snare of the devil, and led captive by him at his will." Nor is this true merely in relation to more flagrant transgressors only; "for the prince of the power of the air works in all the children of disobedience;" and, however insensible we may be of his motions, does really instigate us to every evil we commit.

But I observed that there is yet further implied in my text, not only that we are destitute of all good in ourselves, but that we are incapable of acquiring it by any power of our own. Were not this true, there would, as I have before observed, have been no need that all good should be treasured up in another for us.

Now no one of these fore-mentioned evils can we remove. Not our ignorance; for we are told that "God alone gives wisdom." The Spirit of God must "open the eyes of our understanding: nor can we without his gracious influence, "know the things which belong unto our peace." We must have "a spiritual discernment in order to discern the things of the Spirit." Paul, notwithstanding he had made a greater proficiency in Jewish literature than most of his own age, yet could not comprehend the true import of the Mosaic writings, or see their accomplishment in Jesus Christ, until "the scales, by which his organs of vision had been obstructed, were made to fall from his eyes," nor could the immediate disciples of our Lord, who had heard all his instructions both in public and private for the space of three years, see the law of Moses fulfilled in him. The end of his death as a sacrifice for sin, the necessity of his resurrection to carry on and perfect his work, and the spiritual nature of his kingdom, were still hidden from them, until "He opened their understandings to understand the Scriptures." So must "the Holy Spirit be given unto us also, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God." Earthly knowledge we may acquire by the powers of intellect and by dint of application: but heavenly knowledge is the gift of God alone, who, while he "takes the wise in their own craftiness," will reveal to babes "what is hid from the wise and prudent." Nor can we by any means remove our guilt. Let us go and blot out of the book of God's remembrance all the sins we have ever committed. Vain attempt! We cannot cancel so much as one sin; nor would rivers of tears suffice to wash away the slightest stain from our souls. Nor can we even abstain from contracting fresh guilt: for there is imperfection in our best deeds: our very tears need to be washed, and our repentances to be repented of. Even Paul himself, eminent as he was, could do nothing on which he could rely for his justification before God; and therefore "he desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, but the righteousness which was of God by faith in Christ." A justifying righteousness must be perfect: but we can do nothing perfect: we need one to "bear the iniquity even of our holiest actions," and therefore we must forever despair of establishing a righteousness of our own, and must submit simply and entirely to the righteousness provided for us in the Gospel.

Nor can we cleanse ourselves from our pollution. "As well might an Ethiopian change his skin, or a leopard his spots, as we restore ourselves to the image of God in which we were at first created." The renovation of the heart is on this very account called a new birth and a new creation; and it can be effected by none but God himself. Let any man put this matter to a trial: let him see whether he can mortify all the desires of the flesh, and efface from his mind the love of this world, and transform himself into the Divine image in righteousness and true holiness:—he may as well attempt to create a world.

As for deliverance from all spiritual bondage, that also is utterly unattainable by human efforts. Paul even to his dying hour was constrained to cry, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?" Hence in the truly scriptural Liturgy of our Church we are taught to acknowledge; that "we are tied and bound with the chain of our sins," and to cry, "But do you, O God, of the pitifulness of your great mercy loose us."

Now all this is clearly implied in the words of our text: and by a just view of this we are prepared to consider, secondly, what is expressed.

In perfect correspondence with the foregoing truths, we find in our text two things expressed, namely, that God has treasured up for us in Christ all the good that we stand in need of: and that He will freely bestow it on every believing soul.

Observe here how God has treasured up for us in Christ all the good that we stand in need of. God "has laid help for us on One that is mighty," even on his own dear and only-begotten Son. He has treasured up for us in Christ a fullness suited to the necessities of fallen man, and has constituted him "Head over all things to the Church," that "out of his fullness every member of his mystical body may received" such a measure of grace as his peculiar necessities require. This is shadowed forth under the image of a vine, which supplies every one of its branches with the sap and nutriment which alone can enable it to bring forth fruit. "Separate from him," every one of us would become dry and fit only for fuel. The Apostle Paul knew no other source of life and strength; and therefore he said, "The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith in the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me." So in like manner must every soul of man come to Christ for grace to help him in the time of need. "Our fresh springs must be altogether in him." "Our life is hid with Christ in God: yes, Christ is our very life," and it is from that circumstance alone that we are warranted to hope, that "when he shall appear we also shall appear with him in glory." "He is ascended up on high on purpose that he may fill all things," and he does "fill all in all." The very light which is reflected by the whole planetary system of moon and stars, proceeds from the sun; and the life of all the vegetable creation is sustained by its reviving rays. And so is "Christ the light and life of the whole world;" as it is written, "With you is the fountain of life; and in your light shall we see light."

This is yet more fully expressed in our text, which declares, that Christ shall be made all unto us, even wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, to every soul that believes in him.

Do we need wisdom? He shall be made wisdom to us. Wonderful shall be the views which he will impart to the believing soul: yes, the believer shall have, according to the measure of the gift of Christ, "the very mind that was in Christ himself," and be made to view everything as God himself views it. What humiliating views will he have of himself as a guilty, corrupt creature, deserving of God's wrath and indignation! What exalted views will he have of all the Divine perfections, and particularly of them as united and harmonizing in the person and work of Christ! How will he be enabled to "comprehend the height and depth and length and breadth of Christ's unsearchable love, so as even to be filled by it with all the fullness of God!" What a perception will he have of "the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit," and of all his gracious influences, as "a spirit of adoption testifying to his soul, that God is his Father, and that he is God's beloved child!" In what hateful colors will he now behold the sins which he once loved; and how lovely in his estimation will be the paths of righteousness and true holiness! When once "God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness in the material world shall shine into his heart to give him this knowledge, he will behold all the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

Do we need righteousness? Christ shall be made righteousness to the believing soul. The very name by which we are privileged to call our blessed Lord, is, "Jehovah our righteousness." In Christ we shall have a righteousness fully answering all the requirements of God's holy law, and satisfying the demands of his inflexible justice. Clothed in the robe of Christ's perfect righteousness, we shall be so pure that God will not behold in us a spot or blemish. Not the angels before the throne of God shall shine more bright than we: indeed they have only the righteousness of a creature, while the believing soul is clad in the righteousness of the Creator himself. Nor let any one imagine that this is the privilege of the Apostles only: no: the righteousness of Christ is "given unto" every believing soul, and "put upon" him as a garment, in which he shall stand accepted of God to all eternity.

Do we need sanctification? This also shall Christ be made unto us. Yes, he will make us new creatures. He will enable us to "put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and to put on the new man, whereby we shall be assimilated to the Divine image." He has promised his Holy Spirit for this end, even to "sanctify us wholly." By applying to our souls his promises, he will enable us to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God." Yes, by enabling us to "behold his glory, he will change us into his own image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord."

Finally, do we need redemption? He will be redemption to us, "delivering us from all the bondage of corruption, and bringing us into the glorious liberty of the sons of God." "When once the Son thus makes us free, we become free indeed." With what delight do we then walk in the ways of God, and with what enlargement of heart do we run in the paths of his commandments! Truly under the influence of his grace we enjoy almost a Heaven upon earth. The exercises of prayer and praise are far different from what they were accustomed to be in our unregenerate state. Formerly we had no taste for them, no pleasure in them: now we are never so happy as when we get access to God in these duties: it is even "as marrow and fatness to our souls, when we can praise our God with joyful lips."

True, "the flesh will yet lust against the spirit, as well as the spirit against the flesh," but "sin shall no more have dominion over us;" we shall, in desire at least, be "holy as God himself is holy, and perfect as our Father which is in Heaven is perfect."

Before I come to my concluding remarks on this subject, I beg you to inquire with yourselves, whether you have ever had a practical experience of these things in your own souls? It is said in my text, "Of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Now is this true of you? Have you, (I speak to every individual,) Have you ever been brought to such a sense of your own destitution of all good, and of your utter incapacity to supply, by any efforts of your own, your manifold necessities? Have you also been led to see what a fullness there is in Christ, exactly suited to your necessities? and have you actually received out of his fullness a supply of all that you stand in need of, so that Christ is daily regarded by you as your entire Savior, your all in all? I pray you, let not this matter be thought of small import; No indeed. These things are not to be viewed as a mere theory, but as practical truths, upon the experience of which your everlasting salvation depends: and, if you die before they are realized by you in your daily experience, it will be better for you that you had never been born.

Here I might well close my subject. But, having taken hitherto only the more obvious and superficial view of it, I would, if it detain you not too long, briefly entreat your attention to some points which are more deep and recondite, and which, I hope, will repay the trespass which I thus reluctantly make upon your time.

Mark then, I pray you, how entirely salvation is of grace from first to last. You have seen what provision God has made for us in our low estate. You have seen what he has laid up for us in Christ, and what Christ is made unto us, even all that we stand in need of. But you have not seen how it is that Christ is made all this to the believing soul. It is by our being "in Christ Jesus," "Of him are you in Christ Jesus." Now we must be engrafted into Christ as scions, before we can partake of any of these things: we must be cut off from the old stock whereon we grew in our natural state, and be made living branches of Him the living Vine. And who, I beg leave to ask, can do this for us? It can be done by none but God, the great gardener, who has himself ordained this as the only way of saving our ruined race. And this is twice marked in my text with very peculiar force and emphasis: "Of Him are you in Christ Jesus, who Of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Now I ask, who was it that gave the Savior to us, or us to him? Who was it that accepted him in our behalf? Who was it that, after accepting his sacrifice in our behalf, constituted him our living Head, and treasured up in him such a fullness of all that we stood in need of? And who was it that cut us off from our old stock and grafted us into him? And who was it that by this mysterious process actually made us partakers of all these benefits? Hear it, and forget it not: "It is of God that you are in Christ Jesus: and of God that Christ is made unto you all that you stand in need of." Let God then have all the glory. This was the very end for which he did all this, as he tells us both in the words that precede my text, and in the words that follow it: "God, says the Apostle, has chosen things which are not, to bring to nothing things which are, that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, that, according as it is written, he who glories, let him glory in the Lord." Now I entreat your attention to this. Do not rob God of his glory. Do not ascribe anything to yourselves, but give him the glory of your salvation from first to last. If you could go up to Heaven, you would not find one soul there that arrogates anything to himself. All with one heart and one voice are singing, "Salvation to God and to the Lamb;" to God, as the alone Author of salvation, and to the Lamb, as the only means: and I call on every one of you to begin this song on earth, giving all praise to God the Father as the source and fountain of your happiness, and to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has both purchased it for you by his blood, and imparted it to you by his Spirit. God is a jealous God, and will not give his glory to another: and if you rob him of his glory here, you shall not be partakers of it in the world to come.

Having called your attention to this, I next say, seek this salvation in the precise way that God has appointed. Seek it in its full extent—seek it in its proper order—seek it for its only just and legitimate end—seek it with a confidence that you shall not seek in vain.

Seek it in its full extent. Look to Christ for everything without exception. Look to him for wisdom. Even though you be the most learned man on earth in respect of human sciences, you must look to him alone to instruct you in that which is divine. You must come to him even as a little child, to be taught of him; you must in your own apprehension "be a fool, if you would be truly wise." If you "lean to your own understanding," instead of relying upon the teaching of his Spirit, you will never attain true saving knowledge. If you would be made wise unto salvation, "your eyes must be anointed with the eye-salve which he alone can bestow." Look to him also for righteousness. There must be no dependence whatever on anything of your own. There must be no attempt to blend your own righteousness with his. You must not even look to any attainments of your own, as your warrant to go to him, or to hope in him: your hope must be founded wholly on the sufficiency of his atonement, and the perfection of the righteousness which he wrought out for you. I do not mean that you are to be remiss in your obedience; but you are not to rely upon it. In point of dependence, your best deeds must be disclaimed as much as your worst. The fixed and habitual sentiment of your heart must be, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." For sanctification also must you look to him, and that with as much earnestness, as if you were to be saved by your own works. While I warn you that your own good works must be renounced in point of dependence, I would not have you imagine that you can ever be saved without them: No, I declare to every living man, that antinomianism is a horrible delusion, and a damning sin. God has plainly warned us, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord;" and that "every man who has a scriptural hope in Christ, must purify himself even as he is pure." Your complete redemption also must be received from Christ alone. You must "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." It is in his strength alone that you are to maintain your contest with your great adversary, for it is he alone that can "bruise Satan under your feet." And bear in mind, that no one of these things is to be separated from another. There must be no harboring of philosophic pride, or of pharisaic self-righteousness, or of antinomian licentiousness: but the whole of Christ's benefits must be sought by you, without partiality and without hypocrisy."

Next, I would observe, these things must be sought in their proper order, that is, in the very order in which they are here proposed. Divine teaching must be sought in the first instance; for without that, you can know nothing either of your own need of Christ, or of his sufficiency. Then you must, as a poor perishing sinner, look to Christ, to wash you in his blood, and to clothe you in the unspotted robe of his righteousness. Then, having obtained a hope of acceptance through him, you must seek to be "sanctified throughout, in body, soul, and spirit." And further, having obtained a measure of holiness, you must not be self-confident, but, like the Apostle Paul, must "keep your body under, and bring it into subjection, lest after all your high professions, you prove a cast-away at last." To the latest hour of your life, you must retain the frame recommended by the Apostle, "Be not high-minded, but fear." "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." And, while you acknowledge Christ as "the author of your faith," you must look to him, and to him alone, as "the finisher of it."

Further, seek all these blessings for the only just and legitimate end, the glory of God. The mind of all the glorified saints must be your mind. They all "prostrate themselves before the throne of God, and cast their crowns at the Savior's feet." They are nothing; and He is all. This is the true end of all religion, "that God in all things may be glorified through Christ Jesus." An adoring frame of mind is that which you should cultivate to your dying hour. While you are in that frame, God, if I may so speak, is in his place, and you in yours. Even the angels that never sinned, are all upon their faces before God. Much more should you, who have never done anything but sin, and yet have been redeemed from condemnation by the blood of your incarnate God. The higher you are exalted by God, the lower you must lie before him: and the deeper your sense of your own unworthiness, the more devoutly will you join in the song of the redeemed, "To him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and the Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Lastly, seek these blessings with a due confidence that you shall not seek in vain. Recollect, who were the persons of whom these things were spoken? They were sinners of no common stamp. Such were the enormities which many of them had committed, that they seemed to be almost beyond the reach of mercy: yet of them was it said, "But you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." Let none then entertain the doubt, 'Shall Christ be made all this to me?' for he shall be so made to every believing soul; nor shall the vilest sinner in the universe be suffered to seek God's face in vain. Only let the pursuit of these things be your great object in life (for, what is there that can for a moment be put in competition with them?) and there shall not be a soul among us, who shall not be able to say, 'I am the happy person in whom all this blessedness is realized;' 'Of God am I in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto me wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; and in him do I glory, yes and will glory throughout all the ages of eternity.' May this be the happy experience of us all, for Christ's sake! Amen and Amen.

an analysis of the foregoing discourse.

We should consider in Sacred Scripture what is implied as well as what is expressed.

So did Christ (Matthew 22:32,) and so will we.

I. What is implied.

1. That we are destitute of all good in ourselves.

We are ignorant, guilty, polluted, and enslaved.

2. That we are incapable of attaining it by any power of our own.

We cannot remove any one of these; ignorance, guilt, pollution, or bondage.

II. What is expressed,

1. That God has treasured up for us in Christ all the good that we stand in need of.

He is the Vine and we the branches.

2. That he will impart it to every soul that believes in him.

Do we need wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption? He will make Christ all unto us.

Inquire whether He is made all this to you.

application.

1. See how entirely salvation is of grace from first to last.

Who gave the Savior to us? God alone.

Who gave us to him? God alone.

Both these things are marked in the text, and must be marked by us.

2. Seek it altogether in God's appointed way.

In its full extent—omitting none, preferring none.

In its proper order—the precise order stated ill the text.

For its only just and legitimate end—God's glory—twice mentioned.

With full confidence that you shall not seek it in vain.

None can be more unworthy of it than the persons addressed in the text, 1 Corinthians 6:9–11.

 

MDCCCCXXXIII

Christ Crucified, or Evangelical Religion Described

1 Corinthians 2:2. I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

IN different ages of the world it has pleased God to reveal himself to men in different ways; sometimes by visions, sometimes by voices, sometimes by suggestions of his Spirit to their minds: but since the completion of the sacred canon, he has principally made use of his written word, explained and enforced by men, whom he has called and qualified to preach his Gospel; and though he has not precluded himself from conveying again the knowledge of his will in any of the former ways, it is through the written word only that we are now authorized to expect his gracious instructions. This, whether read by ourselves or published by his servants, he applies to the heart, and makes effectual for the illumination and salvation of men. It must be confessed, however, that he chiefly uses the ministry of his servants, whom he has sent as ambassadors to a guilty world. It was thus that he conveyed the knowledge of salvation to the Ethiopian Eunuch, who was reading an interesting portion of Isaiah's prophecies. He might have opened the understanding of this man at once by the agency of his Spirit; but he chose rather to send his servant Philip, to join the chariot, and to explain the Scripture to him. When the Centurion also had sought with much diligence and prayer to know the way of salvation, God did not instruct him by his Word or Spirit, but informed him where to send for instruction; and by a vision removed the scruples of Peter about going to him; that so the established ministry might be honored, and the Church might look to their authorized instructors, as the instruments whom God would make use of for their edification and salvation. Thus it is at this time: God is not confined to means; but he condescends to employ the stated ministry of his word for the diffusion of Divine knowledge: "The priests' lips keep knowledge;" and by their diligent discharge of their ministry is knowledge transmitted and increased.

But this circumstance, so favorable to all classes of the community, imposes on them a duty of the utmost importance. If there be a well from which we are to receive our daily supplies, it becomes us to ascertain that its waters are salubrious: and, in like manner, if we are to receive instruction from men, who are weak and fallible as ourselves, it becomes us to try their doctrines by the touchstone of the written word; and to receive from them those sentiments only which agree with that unerring standard; or, to use the words of an inspired Apostle, we must "prove all things, and hold fast that which is good." To preachers also there arises an awful responsibility; for, as the people are "to receive the word at their mouth," and their "word is to be a savor of life or of death to all that hear it," it concerns them to be well assured, that they set before their people "the sincere unadulterated milk of the word;" that in no respect they "corrupt the word of God," or "handle it deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commend themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."

Hence it appears that we all are deeply interested in this one question, What is truth? what is that truth, which ministers are bound to preach, and which their people should be anxious to hear? There will however be no difficulty in answering this question, if only we consult the passage before us; wherein Paul explicitly declares what was the great scope of his ministry, and the one subject which he labored to unfold. He regarded not the subtleties which had occupied the attention of philosophers; nor did he affect that species of knowledge which was in high repute among men: on the contrary, he studiously avoided all that gratified the pride of human wisdom, and determined to adhere simply to one subject, the crucifixion of Christ for the sins of men: "I came not unto you," says he, "with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God: for I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified."

To explain and vindicate this determination of the Apostle is our intention in this discourse.

I. To explain it.

By preaching Christ crucified, we are not to understand that he dwelt continually on the fact or history of the crucifixion; for though he speaks of having "set forth Christ as it were crucified before the eyes" of the Galatians, and may therefore be supposed occasionally to have enlarged upon the sufferings of Christ as the means of exciting gratitude towards him in their hearts, yet we have no reason to think that he contented himself with exhibiting to their view a tragical scene, as though he hoped by that to convert their souls: it was the doctrine of the crucifixion that he insisted on; and he opened it to them in all its bearings and connections. This he calls "the preaching of the cross," and it consisted of such a representation of "Christ crucified, as was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but to the true believer, the power of God and the wisdom of God." There were two particular views in which he invariably spoke of the death of Christ; namely, as the ground of our hopes, and as the motive to our obedience.

In the former of these views, the Apostle not only asserts, that the death of Christ was the appointed means of effecting our reconciliation with God, but that it was the only means by which our reconciliation could be effected. He represents all, both Jews and Gentiles, as under sin, and in a state of guilt and condemnation: he states, that, inasmuch as we are all condemned by the law, we can never be justified by the law, but are shut up unto that way of justification which God has provided for us in the Gospel. He asserts, that "God has set forth his Son to be a atoning sacrifice through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness in the remission of sins, that he may be just, and the justifier of them that believe in Jesus." He requires all, Jews as well as Gentiles, to believe in Jesus, in order to the obtaining of justification by faith in him: and so jealous is he of everything that may interfere with this doctrine, or be supposed to serve as a joint ground of our acceptance with God, that he represents the smallest measure of affiance in anything else as actually making void the faith of Christ, and rendering his death of no avail. Nay, more, if he himself, or even an angel from Heaven, should ever be found to propose any other ground of hope to sinful man, he denounces a curse against him; and, lest his denunciation should be overlooked, he repeats it with augmented energy; "As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed."

To the death of Christ he ascribes every blessing we possess. We are "reconciled to God by the blood of his cross;" we are "brought near to him," "have boldness and access with confidence" even to his throne; we "are cleansed by it from all sin;" yes, "by his one offering of himself he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified." But there is one passage in particular wherein a multitude of spiritual blessings are comprised, and all are referred to him as the true source from whom they flow. The passage we speak of, is in the first chapter to the Ephesians, where, within the space of eleven verses, the same truth is repeated at least eight or nine times. In order to enter fully into the force of that passage, we may conceive of Paul as maintaining the truth in opposition to all its most determined adversaries, and as laboring to the uttermost to exalt Christ in the eyes of those who trusted in him: we may conceive of him, I say, as contending thus: "Have we been chosen before the foundation of the world? it is in Christ. Have we been predestined unto the adoption of children? it is in and by Him. Are we accepted? it is in the Beloved. Have we redemption, even the forgiveness of sins? it is in Him, through his blood. Are all, both in Heaven and earth, gathered together under one Head? it is in Christ, even in Him. Have we obtained an inheritance? it is in Him. Are we sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise? it is in Him. Are we blessed with all spiritual blessings? it is in Christ Jesus. When the Apostle has labored thus to impress our minds with the idea that our whole salvation is in, and by, the Lord Jesus Christ, is it not surprising that any one should be ignorant of it? Yet we apprehend that many persons, who have even studied the Holy Scriptures, and read over this passage a multitude of times, have yet never seen the force of it, or been led by it to just views of Christ as the Fountain "in whom all fullness dwells," and "from whose fullness we must all receive, even grace for grace."

But we have observed, that there is another view in which the Apostle speaks of the death of Christ, namely, as a motive to our obedience. Strongly as he enforced the necessity of relying on Christ, and founding our hopes of salvation solely on his obedience unto death, he was no less earnest in promoting the interests of holiness. While he represented the believers as "dead to the law" and "without law," he still insisted that they were "under the law to Christ," and as much bound to obey every tittle of it as ever: and he enforced obedience to it, in all its branches, and to the utmost possible extent. Moreover, when the doctrines which he had inculcated were in danger of being abused to licentious purposes, he expressed his utter abhorrence of such a procedure; and declared, that "the grace of God, which brought salvation, taught them, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world." A life of holy obedience is represented by him as the great object which Christ aimed to produce in all his people: indeed the very name, Jesus, proclaimed, that the object of his coming was "To save his people from their sins." The same was the scope and end of his death, even to "redeem them from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works." His resurrection and ascension to Heaven had also the same end in view; for "therefore he both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living." Impressed with a sense of these things himself, Paul labored more abundantly than any of the Apostles in his holy vocation: he proceeded with a zeal which nothing could quench, and an ardor which nothing could damp: privations, labors, imprisonments, deaths, were of no account in his eyes; "none of these things moved him, neither counted he his life dear unto him, so that he might but finish his course with joy, and fulfill the ministry that was committed to him." But what was the principle by which he was actuated? He himself tells us, that he was impelled by a sense of obligation to Christ, for all that He had done and suffered for him: "the love of Christ constrains us," says he; "because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that He died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again." This is that principle which he desired to be universally embraced, and endeavored to impress on the minds of all: "We beseech you, brethren," says he, "by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." What mercies he refers to, we are at no loss to determine; they are the great mercies given to us in the work of redemption: for so he says in another place; "You are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are his."

Now this is the subject which the Apostle comprehends under the term "Christ crucified," it consists of two parts; first, of affiance in Christ for salvation, and, next, of obedience to the law for his sake: had either part of it been taken alone, his views had been imperfect, and his ministry without success. Had he neglected to set forth Christ as the only Savior of the world, he would have betrayed his trust, and led his hearers to build their hopes on a foundation of sand. On the other hand, if he had neglected to inculcate holiness, and to set forth redeeming love as the great incentive to obedience, he would have been justly chargeable with that which has been often falsely imputed to him,—an antinomian spirit; and his doctrines would have merited the odium which has most unjustly been cast upon them. But on neither side did he err: he forgot neither the foundation nor the superstructure: he distinguished properly between them, and kept each in its place: and hence with great propriety adopted the determination in our text.

Having explained his determination, we shall now proceed,

II. To vindicate it.

It was not from an enthusiastic fondness for one particular point, but from the fullest conviction of his mind, that the Apostle adopted this resolution: and so the word in the original imports; "I determined, as the result of my deliberate judgment, to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified: I have made it, and will ever make it, my theme, my boast, and my song." The reasons why he insisted on this subject so exclusively, and with such delight, shall now be stated:—he did so,

1. Because it contained all that he was commissioned to declare.

"It pleased God to reveal his Son in the Apostle, that he might preach him among the heathen," and accordingly Paul tells us, that "this grace was given to him to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ." This, I say, was his office; and this too is the ministry of reconciliation which is committed to ministers in every age; "to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." To the Apostles, indeed, the commission was to "go forth into all the world, and to preach the Gospel to every creature;" whereas to us is assigned, as it were, a more limited sphere: but the subject of our ministry is the same with theirs: we have the same dispensation committed unto us; and "woe will be unto us, if we preach not the Gospel."

But, as though men needed not to be evangelized now, the term evangelical is used as a term of reproach. We mean not to justify any persons whatever in using unnecessary terms of distinction, more especially if it be with a view to depreciate others, and to aggrandize themselves: but still the distinctions which are made in Scripture must be made by us; else for what end has God himself made them? Now it cannot be denied, that the Apostle characterizes the great subject of his ministry as the Gospel; nor can it be denied that he complains of some teachers in the Galatian Church as introducing another Gospel, which was not the true Gospel, but a perversion of it. Here then he lays down the distinction between doctrines which are truly evangelical, and others which have no just title to that name. Of course, wherever the same difference exists between the doctrines maintained, the same terms must be proper to distinguish them; and a just view of those distinctions is necessary, in order to our being guarded against error, and established in the truth.

But we beg to be clearly understood in reference to this matter. It is not our design to enter into any dispute about the use of a term, or to vindicate any particular party; but merely to state, with all the clearness we can, a subject, about which every one ought to have the most accurate and precise ideas.

We have seen what was the great subject of the Apostle's preaching, and which he emphatically and exclusively called the Gospel: and if only we attend to what he has spoken in the text, we shall see what really constitutes evangelical preaching. The subject of it must be "Christ crucified;" that is, Christ must be set forth as the only foundation of a sinner's hope: and holiness in all its branches must be enforced; but a sense of Christ's love in dying for us must be inculcated, as the main-spring and motive of all our obedience. The manner of setting forth this doctrine must also accord with that of the Apostle in the text: the importance of the doctrine must be so felt, as to make us determine never to know anything else, either for the salvation of our own souls, or for the subject of our public ministrations. Viewing its transcendent excellency, we must rejoice and glory in it ourselves, and show forth its fruits in a life of entire devotedness to God: we must call upon our hearers also to rejoice and glory in it, and to display its sanctifying effects in the whole of their life and conversation. Thus to preach, and thus to live, would characterize a person, and his ministry, as evangelical, in the eyes of the Apostle: whereas indifference to this doctrine, or a corruption of it, either by a self-righteous or antinomian mixture, would render both the person and his ministry obnoxious to his censure, according to the degree in which such indifference, or such a mixture, prevailed. We do not mean to say, that there are not different degrees of clearness in the views and ministry of different persons, or that none are accepted of God, or useful in the Church, unless they come up to such a precise standard—nor do we confine the term evangelical to those who lean to this or that particular system, as some are apt to imagine:—but this we say, that, in proportion as any persons, in their spirit and in their preaching, accord with the example in the text, they are properly denominated evangelical; and that, in proportion as they recede from this pattern, their claim to this title is dubious or void.

Now when we ask, What is there in this which every minister ought not to preach, and every Christian to feel? Is there anything in this enthusiastic? anything sectarian? anything uncharitable? anything worthy of reproach? Is the Apostle's example in the text so absurd, as to make an imitation of him blame-worthy, and a conformity to him contemptible? Or, if a scoffing and ungodly world will make the glorying in the cross of Christ a subject of reproach, ought any who are reproached by them to abandon the Gospel for fear of being called evangelical? Ought they not rather, like the Apostles, "to rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer shame, if shame it be, for Christ's sake?" The fact is indisputable, that the Apostle's commission was to preach Christ crucified—to preach, I say, that chiefly, that constantly, that exclusively: and therefore he was justified in his determination to "know nothing else," consequently, to adopt that same resolution is our wisdom also, whether it be in reference to our own salvation, or to the subject of our ministrations in the Church of God.

We now proceed to a second reason for the Apostle's determination. He determined to know nothing but Christ and him crucified,—because it contained all that could conduce to the happiness of man. There are other things which may amuse; but there is nothing else that can contribute to man's real happiness. Place him in a situation of great distress; let him be bowed down under a sense of sin; let him be oppressed with any great calamity; or let him be brought by sickness to the borders of the grave—there is nothing that will satisfy his mind, but a view of this glorious subject. Tell him of his good works; and he feels a doubt, (a doubt which no human being can resolve,) what is that precise measure of good works which will ensure eternal happiness: tell him of repentance, and of Christ supplying his deficiencies; and he will still be at a loss to ascertain whether he has attained that measure of penitence or of goodness, which is necessary to answer the demands of God. But speak to him of Christ as dying for the sins of men, as "casting out none that come unto him," as "purging us by his blood from all sin," and as clothing us with his own unspotted righteousness; yes, as making his own grace to abound, not only where sin has abounded, but infinitely beyond our most abounding iniquities; set forth to him thus the freeness and sufficiency of the Gospel salvation, and he wants nothing else: he feels that Christ is "a Rock, a sure Foundation;" and on that he builds without fear, assured that "whoever believes in Christ shall not be confounded." He hears the Savior saying, "This is life eternal, to know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent;" and having attained that knowledge, he trusts that the word of Christ shall be fulfilled to him: he already exults in the language of the Apostle, "Who is he who condemns? it is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us."

But if a sense of guilt afflict some, a want of victory over their in-dwelling corruptions distresses others: and to them also the doctrine of Christ crucified administers the only effectual relief. The consideration of eternal rewards and punishments affords indeed a powerful incentive to exertion; but efforts springing from those motives only, will always savor of constraint; they will never be sincere, hearty, affectionate, unreserved. But let a sense of redeeming love occupy the soul, and the heart becomes enlarged, and "the feet are set at liberty to run the way of God's commandments" We say not that every person who professes to have experienced the love of Christ, will always walk consistently with that profession; for there were falls and offences not only in the apostolic age, but even among the Apostles themselves: but this we say, that there is no other principle in the universe so powerful as the love of Christ; that while that principle is in action, no commandment will ever be considered as grievous; the yoke of Christ in everything will be easy, and his burden light; yes, the service of God will be perfect freedom; and the labor of our souls will be to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." This the Apostle found in his own experience; and this he found to be the effect of his ministry on the hearts of thousands. What then could he wish for in addition to this? Where this principle was inefficacious, nothing was effectual; and where this was effectual, nothing else was wanted: no wonder then that he determined to insist on this subject, and nothing else; since, whether in the removing of guilt from the conscience, or of corruption from the soul, nothing could bear any comparison with this.

Further, He determined to know nothing but this subject,—because nothing could be added to it without weakening or destroying its efficacy. The subject of Christ crucified may, as we have before observed, be considered as consisting of two parts,—a foundation, and a superstructure. Now Paul declares, that if anything whatever be added to that foundation, it will make void the whole Gospel. If anything could have been found which might safely have been added to it, we might suppose that the rite of circumcision might have claimed that honor, because it was of God's special appointment, and had had so great a stress laid upon it by God himself: but Paul says in reference to that rite, that if any person should submit to it with a view to confirm his interest in the Gospel, "Christ should profit him nothing," such a person would have "fallen from grace," as much as if he had renounced the Gospel altogether. Again, if any person, who had the foundation rightly laid within him, should build upon it anything but the pure, the simple, the essential duties of religion, "his work should be burnt up as wood or stubble;" and though he should not entirely lose Heaven, he should lose much of his happiness there, and be saved only like one snatched out of the devouring flames. With such a view of the subject, what inducement could the Apostle have to add anything to it?

But the Apostle speaks yet more strongly respecting this. He tells us, not only that the adulterating of the subject by any base mixture will destroy its efficacy, but that even an artificial statement of the truth will make it of none effect. God is exceedingly jealous of the honor of his Gospel: if it be plainly and simply stated he will work by it, and make it effectual to the salvation of men; but if it be set forth with all the ornaments of human eloquence, and stated in "the words which man's wisdom teaches," he will not work by it; because he would have "our faith to stand, not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." Hence Paul, though eminently qualified to set it forth with all the charms of oratory, purposely laid aside "all excellency of speech or of wisdom in declaring the testimony of God," and "used all plainness of speech," lest by dressing up the truth "in the enticing words of man's wisdom, he should make the cross of Christ of none effect."

Further vindication than this is unnecessary: for, if this subject contained all that he was commissioned to declare; if it contained all that could conduce to the happiness of man; and if nothing could be added to it without weakening or destroying its efficacy; he must have consented to defeat the ends of his ministry altogether, if he had not adopted and maintained the resolution in the text.

If then these things be so, we may venture to found upon them the following advice.

First, Let us take care that we know Christ crucified.

Many, because they are born and educated in a Christian land, are ready to take for granted that they are instructed in this glorious subject: but there is almost as much ignorance of it prevailing among Christians as among the heathen themselves. The name of Christ indeed is known, and he is complimented by us with the name of Savior; but the nature of his office, the extent of his work, and the excellency of his salvation, are known to few. Let not this be considered as a rash assertion: for we will appeal to the consciences of all; Do we find that the Apostle's views of Christ are common? Do we find many so filled with admiring and adoring thoughts of this mystery, as to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of it; and to say, like him, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ?" On the contrary, do we not find that there is an almost universal jealousy on the subject of the Gospel, that those who most labor to tread in the Apostle's steps, are often most branded with opprobrious names? Do we not find that his views of the Gospel are calumniated now, precisely as they were in the days of the Apostle himself? Truly, we should be glad to be found false witnesses in relation to these things; and would most joyfully retract our assertions, if it could be shown that they are not founded in truth. We do hope however that there is an increasing love to the Gospel pervading the whole land; and I pray God it may prevail more and more, and be embraced by every one of us, not superficially, partially, theoretically, but clearly, fully, practically.

Secondly, Let us adopt the Apostles determination for ourselves.

Doubtless, as men and members of society, there are many other things which we are concerned to know. Whatever be our office in life, we ought to be well acquainted with it, in order that we may perform its duties to the advantage of ourselves and others; and we would most particularly be understood to say, that the time that is destined for the acquisition of useful knowledge, ought to be diligently and conscientiously employed. But, as Christians, we have one object of pursuit, which deserves all our care and all our labor: yes, we may all with great propriety determine to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. This is the subject which even "the angels in Heaven are ever desiring to look into," and which we may investigate for our whole lives, and yet leave depths and heights unfathomed and unknown. Paul, after preaching Christ for twenty years, did not conceive himself yet awhile to have attained all that he might, and therefore still desired to know Christ more and more, "in the power of his resurrection, and in the fellowship of his sufferings." This therefore we may well desire, and count all things but loss in comparison of it.

Lastly, Let us make manifest the wisdom of our determination by the holiness of our lives.

The doctrine of Christ crucified ever did, and ever will appear "foolishness" in the eyes of ungodly men; so that, if it be preached by an Apostle himself, he shall be accounted by them a babbler and deceiver. But there is one way of displaying its excellency open to us, a way in which we may effectually "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men;" namely, "by well-doing;" that is, by showing the sanctifying and transforming efficacy of this doctrine. Paul tells us, that "by the cross of Christ the world was crucified unto him, and he unto the world," and such is the effect that it should produce on us: we should show that we are men of another world, and men too of "a more excellent spirit," we should show the fruits of our faith in every relation of life: and, in so doing, we may hope to "win by our good conversation" many, who would never have submitted to the preached word.

But we must never forget where our strength is, or on whose aid we must entirely rely. The Prophet Isaiah reminds us of this; "Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength," and our Lord himself plainly tells us, that "without him we can do nothing." Since then "we have no sufficiency in ourselves to help ourselves," and God has "laid help for us upon One that is mighty," let us "live by faith on the Son of God," "receiving daily out of his fullness that grace" that shall be "sufficient for us." Let us bear in mind, that this is a very principal part of the knowledge of Christ crucified: for, as "all our fresh springs are in Christ," so must we look continually to him for "the supplies of his Spirit," and "have him for our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and redemption."

 

MDCCCCXXXIV

The Feelings of a Faithful Minister

1 Corinthians 2:3. I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

THERE was one subject on which Paul delighted chiefly to expatiate, which was, "Christ crucified;" a subject which to the Jews was a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness. The mode on which he insisted upon it, contributed to render it yet more distasteful to the philosophic reasoners of Greece and Rome: he laid aside all needless parade of wisdom, and all adventitious ornaments of rhetoric, and plainly declared the fact, that Christ was crucified for the sins of men. This he did, not because he was not able to express himself agreeably to the taste of men of learning, but because he was anxious "that the faith" of all who received the Gospel "should stand, not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God," accompanying a simple statement of the truth. It is probable, too, that somewhat in his speech and external form contributed to render him base and contemptible in the eyes of many. In addition to all this, the hostility of his enemies was most bitter, so that they sought by all possible means to destroy him. These diversified trials he sustained for the most part with great fortitude: but it seems that at Corinth his courage was in some degree shaken; for our blessed Lord, in order to comfort and encourage him, appeared to him in a vision, and bade him not be afraid, for that he would suffer none in that place to hurt him. To this state of mind he most probably alludes in the words before us, declaring, that, partly by his "fightings without and fears within," he had been "among them in weakness, and fear, and much trembling." But we must not confine the words to this sense: there can be no doubt but that he had many other sources of inward trial, such as are common to all who execute the ministerial office. What these are, and what corresponding feelings they call for among a believing people, it is our present intention to inquire.

We will show,

I. The feelings experienced by a faithful minister.

However light many think of the ministerial office, it is a situation of great difficulty, insomuch that there is not any truly faithful minister who does not find the expressions in our text exactly descriptive of his own feelings.

To the frame of mind here spoken of, he will of necessity be led,

1. From a view of the vast importance of his work.

A minister is an ambassador from the court of Heaven, empowered to declare to men the terms on which a reconciliation may be effected between God and them, and on which they who are now objects of God's righteous indignation may become monuments of his love and favor. A man who has the fate of an empire depending on him, sustains an arduous office: but all the empires upon earth are not of equal value with one soul. What a weight then has he upon him, who undertakes to negociate a treaty between God and man,—a treaty, on the acceptance or rejection of which the everlasting salvation of hundreds, and perhaps of thousands, depends! Methinks this were an office for an angel, rather than a poor worm like ourselves: yet is it devolved on us: and every one who is able to estimate its importance, and desires to execute it with success, must needs execute it "in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling."

2. From a sense of his own insufficiency to perform it.

In one who would perform this office aright, there ought to be a combination of all that is good and great. There need not indeed be the same kind of knowledge, or the same species of talent as would be necessary for a person entrusted with the political interests of men: but there should be a deep insight into the great mystery of redemption; a comprehensive view of it, as founded in the necessities of our fallen nature, and adapted to all our wants. There should be an ability to bring forth out of the inexhaustible stores that are contained in the sacred volume, whatever is best fitted for the establishment of sound doctrine and the refutation of error, as also for the correction of everything that is wrong in practice, and the promotion of universal righteousness: he should be "a scribe well instructed unto the kingdom of God," and able to meet every case with suitable instruction. He should also be endued with such grace, as to exemplify in his own spirit and conduct all that he teaches to others; being "an example to believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." But, as Paul himself says, "Who is sufficient for these things?" Who that has any consciousness of his own ignorance and sinfulness, does not tremble at the idea of his own utter inadequacy to the work assigned him?

3. From a consideration of his own awful responsibility.

We are constituted watchmen to the house of Israel; and are warned beforehand, that if any soul shall perish through our neglect, his "blood shall be required at our hand," and on this account we are told to "watch for souls, as those who must give account." But who can reflect on this, and not tremble? It is an awful thought, that we must every one of us answer for ourselves: but how much more, that we must give an account of the hundreds and thousands that are committed to our charge! Truly, if there were not a God of infinite mercy to pity our weakness and to pardon our defects, I know not who would dare to undertake the office. Whenever we hear the bell announcing the death or funeral of one that was under our care, we are constrained to ask, What was the state of that soul? Did I do all that I could for him while he was alive? Can I say as before God, that "I am pure from his blood?" Ah, brethren! this is sometimes a heavy load upon the mind; for, of all the people upon the face of the earth, the man who most stands in need of superabounding grace and mercy, is he who has the care of souls committed to him: and the minister that does not tremble at this thought, has, above all men in the world, the most need to tremble.

4. From an apprehension lest his labor should after all be in vain.

The labors of Jesus himself, and of all his Apostles, were, with respect to the great mass of their hearers, in vain: no wonder, therefore, that it is so with respect to us. And what a distressing thought is this, that we eventually increase the guilt and condemnation of vast multitudes, over whom we have wept, and for whose salvation we have labored! The word which we preach to them, if it be not "a savor of life unto life, becomes to them a savor of death unto death." If we had not labored among them, "they would not, comparatively, have had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin," the more they are, like Capernaum, exalted in their privileges, the more deeply will they be cast down into Hell for their abuse of them. Who that has a spark of compassion in his soul, can look around him on the multitudes who have hitherto withstood his efforts for their good, and not weep over them? Who, when he reflects, that, with respect to many, his commission will prove only like that delegated to Isaiah, "Go, and make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed;" who, I say, can reflect on this, and not be "in weakness, and fear, and much trembling;" more especially when he considers how much the failure may have been owing to his own deficiencies?

Such then are, and ought to be, the feelings of all who have learned to estimate aright the difficulties and dangers of the ministerial office.

Corresponding with these are,

II. The feelings called for in a believing people.

These, it is true, are not expressly mentioned in our text; but they are so closely connected with the foregoing subject, that we must on no account omit to notice them.

Two things are evidently called for on the part of those who are blessed with such a minister:

1. A reciprocal concern for his welfare.

While he is thus "travailing, as it were, in birth with them," they should be deeply concerned for him, and study by all possible means to strengthen his hands and to comfort his heart. They should co-operate with him in every labor of love; they should, as far as their influence extends, endeavor to confirm his word, and to advance his work. In their own families, especially, they should be laborers together with him. Above all, they should assist him daily with their prayers. How often does the Apostle say, "Brethren, pray for us!" yes, with what extreme earnestness did he entreat this support from the Church at Rome; "I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me"! To this he confidently looked, as to an infallible source of blessings to his own soul, and of success to his ministerial exertions! This therefore is the duty of every one, in return for those efforts which his minister is using for his good. Intercession is an ordinance of God; and is replete with benefit invariably to those who use it, and most generally to those in whose behalf it is used. Does your minister then stand in need of wisdom, of zeal, of patience, of love, of all manner of gracious communications? be instant in prayer for him, that he may receive from the fullness that is in Christ all seasonable and necessary supplies. Without such cooperation on your part he can scarcely hope to bear up under the pressure of the load that is laid upon him. He is ready at times to complain, as Moses did under the weight that had been laid upon him: "Wherefore have you afflicted your servant? and wherefore have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that you should say unto me, Carry them in your bosom, as a nursing father bears the sucking child, unto the land which you swore unto their fathers? I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for mep." Learn then, brethren, to sympathize with him; and "labor fervently and without ceasing in prayer to God for him, that he may be enabled to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."

2. An anxious desire to answer the end of his exertions.

Is a minister thus deeply exercised for his people's good, and should not they be anxious for their own? Is he harassed with unremitting solicitude, and should they be sitting in a state of indifference? Know, brethren, that the very circumstance of God's having set apart an order of men to labor for your souls, is a very abundant proof that your souls are of an inestimable value, and that all the anxiety you can feel is less than they call for at your hands. Do but consider, that every moment you are ripening either for Heaven or for Hell; every action, every word, and every thought, is enhancing either your happiness or misery forever. More particularly are you responsible for all the means of grace which you enjoy, and for all the efforts which are used for your salvation. Should not this thought fill you with fear and trembling, more especially when you look back upon the opportunities which you have neglected to improve? Have you no reason to fear, lest he who seeks your eternal welfare, and longs above all things to have you as his "joy and crown of rejoicing in the last day," should, after all, be a swift witness against you to your everlasting confusion? Begin then, if you have not yet begun, to cherish this beneficial fear. Remember, what his object is; and then inquire, whether that object have been attained in you. It is not to an approbation of his ministry, or to a mere profession of the truth, that he wishes to convert you, but to a cordial acceptance of the Gospel salvation, and an entire surrender of your souls to God. Less than this will not answer the ends of his ministry, or bring any substantial blessing on your own souls. I pray you, examine well how far this good work has been wrought within you; and learn to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." We do not mean that you should be kept in a state of slavish fear: for the very scope and intent of the Gospel is to "cast out all such fear as has torment." It is a filial fear that we recommend to you; and it is a filial fear that we would cultivate ourselves: but the more that abounds in ministers and people, the more will the work of God flourish among them, and God himself be glorified in the midst of them.

 

MDCCCCXXXV

Apostolic Preaching

1 Corinthians 2:4, 5. My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

IN the education of persons for the ministry, it is justly thought that all possible attention should be paid to the attainment of whatever may render them eminent in their profession, and useful in the Church of God. Yet it may well be doubted whether a proper distinction be made between the acquisition of knowledge and the use of it. A man cannot acquire too much; but he may use his knowledge unprofitably, and even injuriously, in the discharge of his holy calling. There is, in the truths which he has to deliver, a dignity, which would be obscured by the artificial ornaments of human oratory. Hence Paul, even when at Corinth, where human eloquence was in high request, forbore to comply with the prevailing taste, lest, by yielding to it, "he should make the cross of Christ of none effect." Nor did he apologize for this departure from their established usages: on the contrary, he vindicates it, and assigns what they could not but acknowledge to be an abundantly sufficient reason for his conduct.

That we may not lose the benefit of his example, I will enter more particularly into the consideration of it; and show,

I. How Paul conducted himself in his pastoral office.

It is evident that he here contrasts his own conduct with that of their most celebrated instructors, whom they were accustomed to admire. The philosophers, whom they had followed, were fond of displaying the profoundness of their own wisdom, and the extent of their own researches: and they were admired in proportion as they were able to maintain their theories with logical subtlety and plausible argumentation. Their great orators, too, to whom they had been accustomed to listen with delight, had filled their discourses with all the flowers of rhetoric, that, by pleasing the imagination of their hearers, they might suspend the severer exercises of judgment, and persuade beyond the just impulse of deliberate conviction. But to none of these artifices would the Apostle condescend.

He conducted his ministrations with the utmost simplicity.

He was himself a man of great talent: having been educated under the most celebrated teacher, and made a proficiency in knowledge beyond most of his fellow-students; so that, if he had judged it expedient, he could have moved with celebrity in the path which the most distinguished philosophers had trod. But he disdained to seek his own glory in the discharge of his sacred office: he therefore would have nothing to do with "the enticing words of man's wisdom." He had received a message, which he was anxious to deliver; and, in delivering it, "he used great plainness of speech." He looked not to the powers of language, to impress the minds of his hearers, but to the Spirit of the living God; whose energy needed no artificial aid, and whose power was amply sufficient to carry conviction to the soul. He was taught to expect from God such attestations to his word. He was enabled, indeed, to confirm his word with signs and miracles: but it was to the mighty working of the Spirit of God upon the souls of men that he chiefly looked; and, in dependence upon that, he labored both in public and in private. "His speech," when conversing with individuals, and "his preaching" before assembled thousands, were both of the same character. To make known the mystery of redemption through our incarnate God was the office committed to him: and he determined to execute it with all simplicity of mind; "knowing nothing among his people but Jesus Christ, and him crucified."

In this he had respect to the best interests of mankind.

The very aim of the principal philosophers was to establish dogmas of their own, which were to be received by their followers as characteristic of the sect to which they belonged. But Paul would not have the faith of his hearers to stand on the dictates of human wisdom. The word was God's: the power that alone could make it effectual was God's: nor could it be of any real service to the souls of men, any further than it was applied with power from on high. However the people might accede to it as a truth, that they were corrupt and helpless creatures, they could not feel it aright, unless they were taught it by God himself. And, however they might be persuaded that Jesus Christ was the Savior of the world, they could not believe in him to the salvation of their own souls, unless that faith should be wrought in them by the Holy Spirit. In like manner, every truth of Christianity must be experimentally received, and divinely communicated: and therefore the Apostle would not run the risk of having any of its efficacy imputed to his statements: he would have the faith of all its adherents to be purely and undeniably the offspring of a divine power; so that God alone might be glorified in every believing soul.

Such was the character of Paul's ministry. Let me now suggest,

II. The hints which we may derive from it in the relation in which we stand.

If Paul was an example to us as a Christian, he was not less so as a Minister. Now, from his mode of ministering, some important hints arise,

1. To those who preach.

We have the very same message to deliver as that which was committed to the Apostle Paul. And, though we cannot hope, like him, to have our word confirmed with miracles, we may hope that it shall be accompanied with power from on high, to the conviction and consolation of those who hear us. On us, therefore, the same obligation lies, to wave the use of all rhetorical ornaments, and of artificial statements that savor of human wisdom; and to look to the influences of the Holy Spirit to render our word effectual for the good of men. The same holy watchfulness should be found in us respecting the honor of God in the work of man's salvation. Were our talents ever so great, we ought to deem the exercise of them, in dispensing the Gospel, a matter of extreme care and jealousy. I mean not that they are to be laid aside; for they may be employed to good purpose: but they are not to be employed for the purpose of display, or to exalt our own wisdom: they must be improved only for the purpose of unfolding more clearly the great mysteries of the Gospel, and of rendering them more intelligible to the meanest capacity. The object which we should ever keep in view should be, to have our word accompanied with a divine unction to the souls of men, and to see faith wrought in their hearts with a divine power.

2. To those who hear.

The same simplicity of mind as befits your minister, becomes you also. You should not wish for displays of oratory, or affect that preaching which savors of human wisdom: you should desire only "the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby." You should be on your guard against adopting the Shibboleth of a party, or the dogmas of any particular sect: beware, too, of becoming followers of Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, as your own carnal prejudices may incline you: you must receive the truth as little children; and embrace it, "not as the word of man, but as the word of God." If rightly ministered, the Gospel will "be declared to you as the testimony of God" respecting his dear Son. Now, a testimony is not received on account of the figures with which it is embellished, but on account of its intrinsic importance, and the veracity of him by whom it is borne: and in this precise way must you receive the testimony of God, who says, that "He has given us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son; and that he who has the Son, has life; and he who has not the Son of God, has not life." To know this truth, to feel its importance, to taste its sweetness, and to experience its sanctifying and saving efficacy, this must be your end in attending on the ministry; and, in comparison of this, all gratifications resulting from a display of human wisdom ought to be lighter than vanity itself.

In conclusion, let me recommend to you,

1. That you form a right judgment respecting spiritual edification.

There is scarcely any subject on which the Christian world are more in error than this. If persons are pleased with the talents of a preacher, they are ready to suppose that they are edified: but real edification consists in our being more humbled, more quickened, more strengthened in the service of our God: and whatever produces not these effects, however it may please us, is only as a musical exhibition, which leaves us as carnal and corrupt as we were before.

2. That you seek edification in the way in which alone it can be obtained.

God alone can work it in the soul: "Though Paul should plant, or Apollos water, it is God alone that can give the increase." You must cry to God for the gift of his Holy Spirit; and beg that "the word may come to you, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance." To Him you must look in prayer, before you come up hither; and while you are hearing the word; and when you go hence: then may you hope that the word shall be clothed with energy, and prove "The power of God to the salvation of your souls."

MDCCCCXXXVI

Wisdom of the Gospel

1 Corinthians 2:6. We speak wisdom among them that are perfect.

THESE words appear, at first sight, to have an air of conceit and arrogance: and, if uttered by an uninspired man in reference to lucubrations of his own, they might perhaps be not unjustly condemned, as betraying in the speaker, and generating in the hearers, the unhallowed feelings of pride and self-sufficiency. But, as spoken by the holy Apostle, they are open to no such unfavorable construction. If we were to understand by them, that the Apostle held one doctrine among those who were initiated into the secrets of his mind, and another among his less-instructed disciples, we could by no means justify him in such a conduct; for he would then resemble those philosophers of old, who, in private, exposed the fallacy of popular errors, which in their public discourses they upheld and sanctioned. This the Apostle never did. If he brought some things to the view of his more enlightened followers, which he forbore to state to others, it was not from any doubt of the truth of the sentiments which he concealed, or from any fear of incurring the displeasure of men by the promulgation of them; but only from a condescension to the weakness of those whose organs of vision were not capable of sustaining the flood of light which he was able to pour upon them. From such motives he certainly did, on many occasions, withhold truths from those who were unable to bear them, and content himself with administering milk to those who were incapable of digesting strong meat. But this is not the import of the passage before us. The simple meaning of it is, that while the great subject of his ministrations was by many of his hearers regarded as "foolishness," it was, in the eyes of those who properly understood it, "wisdom."

His words will naturally lead me to show,

I. What the true character of the Gospel is.

The Gospel which the Apostle preached was, salvation through a crucified Redeemer: "I determined," says he, "to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."

Now this, whatever an ignorant and ungodly world may say of it, is "wisdom."

It is indeed a "hidden" wisdom.

It was hid from all eternity in the bosom of the Father: nor had the first Archangel any conception of it, until it was revealed to man in Paradise: and all the knowledge which is at this very hour possessed by the Principalities and Powers of Heaven respecting it, is derived to them through the progressive revelation made of it to the Church by the Prophets and Apostles of succeeding ages. Even under the Mosaic dispensation it was for the most part "hidden," because the types and ceremonies, by which it was adumbrated, cast so thick a veil over it, that it could scarcely be discerned at all; and the very prophets who foretold it were unable to unravel the mysteries which they proclaimed to us. The things which it unfolds to our view are perfectly different from anything that ever entered into the minds of uninspired men: and at this moment are they "hidden from the wise and prudent, even while they are revealed unto babes."

But in it is contained the "manifold" wisdom of God.

It was "ordained of God before the world, for our glory," even for the salvation of our souls. And in this "great mystery" we may behold his inventive wisdom, his administrative wisdom, his effective wisdom.

No finite intelligence could have conceived such a plan of rescuing from perdition our fallen race, without dishonoring that law which we had violated, and suspending the sentence which justice had denounced. He alone, "whose understanding is unsearchable," was capable of devising a plan whereby the offence might be punished, and the offender saved.

But how shall this plan be executed? If it be not made known, none can avail themselves of it: and if it be known, it can never be carried into effect: for who would ever dare to lay his hands upon his incarnate God, and inflict on him the things which he was doomed to bear? The Apostle himself tells us, that "if the princes of this world had known what they were doing, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory." And, now that the plan is executed, how shall the benefits of it be so imparted, that, while no room is left for any man to glory, the sovereignty of God shall not supersede, or in any degree interfere with, the free agency of man? Who but God could divine this?

Again: shall anything be left to chance? Shall it be uncertain whether, after all, God's ends shall be attained? No, man shall have the benefit; and God the glory. God will "give a people to his Son, whom he shall have for an inheritance." "A seed shall serve him," and, however far off they may be, God will apprehend them, and bring them to his Son, and "keep them unto the end," and "perfect in them the good work he has begun." Of those whom from eternity he has given to his Son, "not one shall be lost," "not one be ever plucked out of his hands." At the same time, all his own perfections shall be glorified; justice in punishing the offence, and mercy in pardoning the offender: yes, mercy shall be the more magnified, because it is exercised in away of justice; and justice, because it is honored in a way of mercy.

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" This indeed may be said in reference to any single part of his plan: and, if so, how much more in reference to the whole stupendous mystery, in all its branches! Truly, in the mystery of redemption, as viewed in all its parts, there "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;" insomuch that, though they shall be progressively unfolding to all eternity, they shall never be fully seen, never adequately comprehended.

Such, then, being the true character of the Gospel, we proceed to show,

II. Whence it is that the godly alone view it in its true light.

The persons here called "perfect," are the same as in the foregoing chapter are called "the saved," and "the called." As for absolute perfection, there is no such thing to be found in any child of man. But persons are sometimes called "perfect," as having grown from children to man's estate; and sometimes as being truly upright in opposition to the unbelieving and ungodly world. It is in this latter sense that the term "perfect" is used in our text. These persons, though they be only babes, behold a wisdom in the Gospel; though doubtless their insight into the glory and excellency of the Gospel is deep in proportion to the attainments they have made in the Divine life.

Now these persons alone behold the wisdom of the Gospel,

1. Because they alone feel their need of the salvation revealed in it.

Others know not their lost estate: they see no such evil in sin, but that it may be atoned for by some little act of penance, and be counterbalanced by a few self-righteous and formal services. What then can they want of such a provision as the Gospel has made for their reconciliation with God? What need have they, that Almighty God should become incarnate, and offer himself a sacrifice for their sins? What need have they to plead the merits of a dying Savior, when their own will suffice? What need have they that the Holy Spirit should come down and dwell in their hearts, when they have a sufficiency of strength within themselves for every service which they are called to perform? But the man who knows how low he has fallen, and how utterly impossible it is that he should ever reconcile himself to God, or attain by any obedience of his own a righteousness in which he may stand before God, will be filled with amazement at the revelation which is made in the Gospel, and at the stupendous mystery there contained: in whatever light it be viewed by others, it will in his eyes be "the power of God, and the wisdom of God."

2. Because they alone seek to be instructed in it.

Others "lean to their own understanding;" and, being "wise in their own conceits," "they are taken by God in their own craftiness." Not so the humble inquirer. To him is imparted "a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God's dear Son; so that the eyes of his understanding are opened;" and he is enabled to discern with clearness and certainty "the things which are freely given to him of God." By this divine Agent he is led to view "the deep things of God;" and to comprehend, in a measure, the depth and height and length and breadth of that love of Christ, which, in its full extent, is utterly incomprehensible.

3. Because they alone are willing to embrace its self-denying doctrines.

Others are offended at the humiliation it requires: nor can they endure to renounce the world, and to live only for God and for eternity. In justification of themselves, therefore, they "deride" what they choose not to embrace. But the man whose heart is right with God wishes to be humbled in the very dust as a hell-deserving sinner, and delights in "receiving everything out of the fullness" that is treasured up for him in Christ. Could he have the desire of his soul, he would be "holy as God himself is holy," and "perfect as his Father which is in Heaven is perfect." Hence, when he finds in the Gospel everything that he stands in need of, wisdom for the ignorant, righteousness for the guilty, sanctification for the polluted, and redemption for the enslaved, he cannot but adore the wisdom that has ordained so mysterious, so effectual, a salvation.

4. Because these alone give themselves up to the contemplation of it.

Others "let slip all that they hear," having no wish to treasure it up in their minds. But the truly upright lay up the word in their hearts, (even as Mary did the words of her youthful Son;) yes, and meditate upon it day and night. They resemble in this respect the holy angels, who are represented as bending down upon the ark, and inspecting with all possible care the law contained in it. No wonder they are instructed; no wonder the veil is taken from their hearts: for God has said, "Then shall you know, if you follow on to know the Lord."

Hence, then, we see the grounds on which the perfect man admires as "wisdom" what all the world besides regard as folly. Being enabled by God to discern its suitableness, and to experience its sufficiency, he glories in it as the perfection of wisdom, and as a comprehensive summary of all that is good and great.

Now, as in the text are mentioned the speaker and the hearers—the one delivering with confidence, and the others receiving with submission, the dictates of inspiration—I will, in conclusion, address myself,

1. To those whose office it is, or may hereafter be, to preach the Gospel.

The Apostle, knowing the Gospel to be the very wisdom of God himself, was extremely careful to deliver it with the utmost simplicity. He was able to preach it "with wisdom of words," and to set it forth with all the powers of language, if he had been so inclined: but he would not do so, "lest he should make the cross of Christ of none effect." He appeals to the Corinthians themselves, that he had "come to them not with excellency of speech or of human wisdom;" being anxious "that their faith should stand, not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. Now, in this he has set us an example which we ought carefully to follow. We greatly err, if we hope by any meretricious ornaments to embellish the Gospel of Christ. That appears most beautiful, when it is exhibited most simply in its own native form. The whole world would in vain attempt to add anything to light: and equally vain will be any endeavor to exalt the Gospel by the gaudy trappings of rhetorical expressions. It is by the plain exhibition of a crucified Savior that God will work. On the wisdom of the wise he will pour contempt: but "by the foolishness of preaching," that is, by such preaching as the wise of this world account foolishness, "he will save them that believe." Let ministers then learn from hence how to preach the Gospel, remembering that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." We may by our additions weaken the Gospel of Christ; but we can never strengthen its efficacy by anything that we can add. It is in itself "the rod of God's strength," and, if we wield it faithfully, all the powers of darkness shall fall before it.

2. To those who hear the Gospel.

You must seek to attain simplicity of mind, even the simplicity of little children. "If you would be wise, you must become fools that you may be wise." It is the truth of God that you are to regard, and not the human eloquence with which it maybe proclaimed. You must "hear the word," not as the word of man, but of God." You must hear it as God's word to your own selves in particular; and must "receive it with meekness, as an engrafted word, able to save your souls." Let this thought be duly impressed upon your minds, and it will operate powerfully to counteract that sad propensity which is in us to set up one preacher above another, because of his peculiar gifts and talents. For what is any man, but a mere instrument of God, whereby God himself was pleased to work upon you? Whether it was "Paul who planted, or Apollos who watered, it was God alone who gave the increase," and therefore "neither Paul nor Apollos should be anything in your estimation, (except as you may love them for their works' sake,) but God who gave the increase." The praise and glory should be His alone.

On the other hand, neither should you despise the word, because it is delivered in weakness. God is often pleased to "magnify his own strength in the weakness" of his instruments. He has "put his treasure into earthen vessels for this very end," and, if you will look to him for his blessing on the word, he will "ordain strength in the mouths of babes and sucklings," and "enrich you by those who are the poorest in themselves."

Only seek to behold and to admire the wisdom of God in his Gospel; and you shall find it to be "the power of God to the salvation of your souls."

 

MDCCCCXXXVII

Mysteriousness of the Gospel

1 Corinthians 2:7. We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery.

AMONG persons of intelligence, nothing is so highly esteemed as wisdom. And well may it be preferred to every other attainment; because it elevates its possessor in the scale of being, and assimilates him to the highest order of finite intelligences. Even the wisdom that is merely human is deservedly ranked far above all the riches or honors of the world: and much more does divine wisdom merit this place in the estimation of mankind. It is of this latter wisdom in particular that we are now to speak. But, in truth, it far exceeds all human comprehension: for it is the wisdom of God himself; and that wisdom, too, in a mystery, that from all eternity was hid in the bosom of the Most High. Yet is it sufficiently intelligible to answer all the purposes for which it has been revealed, and to enrich the souls of all to whom the attainment of it is given. That which contains it all is the Gospel: and it is my intention, at this time, to show what there is in the Gospel which entitles it to this high character. There are four things, which I will specify:

I. The profundity of its principles.

The great principle of the Gospel is precisely that which was typified under the Law—Reconciliation with God through the sacrifice of his Son. Contemplate this:

Reconciliation with God!

What a mystery! Consider the greatness of the Divine Majesty: consider the baseness and worthlessness of the human race, who, whether they were annihilated, or consumed in the regions of eternal misery, would not be missed from the creation of God; who needs them not, nor can receive anything from them; and who could, if he pleased, by a mere act of volition, create millions of holy beings to supply their place. Why are they not left to their fate? Why does the Most High God concern himself about them? Why, when they have sinned like the fallen angels, are they not left, like them, to reap the bitter fruit of their wickedness? How can we conceive that God should ever think of being reconciled to such rebellious creatures? Even if a proposal to this effect had first come from man, we could not conceive that God should ever accede to it: how much less then can we imagine, that when no such desire was evinced by man, the proposal should ever originate with our offended God?

But contemplate further,

Reconciliation by sacrifice!

What can there be in sacrifice that should answer any such end as this? How can that which is innocent be substituted in the place of the guilty? If such a proposal were made, how could a holy God acquiesce in it? And where could a victim be found? Shall the blood of bulls and of goats take away sin? Impossible. Should the highest archangel offer himself for us? What could he effect, either by doing or suffering, for us? What could he do, beyond what he is by the very law of his creation bound to do? or what could any sufferings of his avail for expiating the guilt of a fallen world? But contemplate yet further,

Reconciliation by the sacrifice of God's only dear Son!

Impossible! The co-equal, co-eternal Son of God be given for such an end! The eternal God become a man! The Creator of all things substitute himself in the place of his creatures! The Lord of Life and Glory die, and bear the curse due to sin, yes, and expiate thereby the guilt of the very persons who nailed him to the cross! Truly, if God has revealed all this in his Gospel, it must be true: but nothing less than the most unquestionable evidence of such a revelation having actually proceeded from God can warrant us to entertain the thought of a reconciliation effected by such means as these.

But, to get a clearer insight into the mystery of the Gospel, let us notice,

II. The comprehensiveness of its provisions.

Nothing in it is wanting that can contribute to,

1. The honor of God.

Were the Gospel at all deficient in this view, it would be impossible for God to approve of it. But there is not a perfection of the Deity which is not honored by it. The justice of God has all its demands satisfied: the holiness of God is displayed in the brightest colors: his truth is kept inviolate: yes, all the perfections of God are more glorified in this way of exercising mercy, than they would have been if man had never fallen, or never been redeemed. In truth, it is this which gives to the Gospel its chief value: it is valuable, doubtless, as saving man; but it is infinitely more valuable as displaying and magnifying the glory of God.

2. The salvation of man.

Needs fallen man the removal of his guilt? it is removed from him, as far as the east is from the west, by virtue of this sacrifice. Be it so: the debt we had contracted was infinite: but infinite also was the value of that blood which was shed to expiate our guilt; so that justice itself, being satisfied by our Surety, has nothing to demand at our hands. Does man need also the renovation of his nature? For this also is ample provision made, seeing that by virtue of the blood of Christ the gift of the Holy Spirit is purchased for us; by whose Almighty agency every child of man may be renewed and sanctified, yes, and transformed also into the very image of his God. Does he need yet further a perfect righteousness wherein to stand before God? This, too, is secured to him by Christ's obedience unto death: for by that a righteousness is formed perfectly commensurate with all the requirements of the law; and it is imputed to every believing soul; so that, clothed in it, he stands perfect and complete before God, without spot or blemish. Nothing that can in any way contribute to a man's peace of conscience, or holiness of life, or fitness for glory, is wanting in this stupendous mystery: all is provided for; all is secured: and in every part of it the wisdom of God is incomprehensibly and unsearchably displayed.

The mysteriousness of the Gospel will yet further appear, if we notice,

III. Its remoteness altogether from human apprehension.

Supposing man to be informed that God had designs of mercy towards him, in what way would he expect it to be exercised? He would look for it,

1. In a way of mere gratuitous forgiveness.

He would never once have the remotest idea of an atonement. It would appear in his eyes a perfect absurdity. In fact, it did so appear "both to the Jews and Gentiles; being to the one a stumbling-block, and to the others foolishness." In this light it does appear to the wise and prudent of the present day. For, though the general notion of an atonement may be admitted, and even contended for, by many, as a sentiment in opposition to Socinians and Deists, it is really approved by those only who are taught of God the truth as it is in Jesus. The minds of all by nature lean to the side of uncovenanted mercy, as being less humiliating than that plan of forgiveness which the Gospel prescribes. The imputation of our sin to Christ, and the imputation of his righteousness to us, are doctrines at which the natural man revolts: nor is any man brought cordially to acquiesce in them, until he has been made to feel the extent of his own demerit, and his utter incapacity to do anything which is good.

Yet, while we thus incline to uncovenanted mercy in preference to an atonement, we still expect that mercy,

2. In a way of self-righteous dependence.

To renounce all dependence on our own works appears absurd in the extreme: for, if we are not to be saved by our works, what need is there for us to perform them? To set them aside in point of merit, seems to supersede all occasion for the performance of them. Man cannot endure to discard all boasting before God. If he cannot purchase Heaven altogether, he will do it in part: and if he be constrained to accept of Heaven as a free gift, still he will look to himself for something which shall be a ground of preference in the sight of God, or at least a warrant for him to look to God for the communications of his grace. A free salvation, without money and without price, and apprehended solely by faith, is, to the great mass of Christians, an object of offence, rather than of desire and love.

3. In a way of self-confident exertion.

The doing of something to merit salvation, is always associated with the doing of it in our own strength. The natural man has no conception but that, as he is responsible for all that he does, he must of necessity have a sufficiency for all that he needs to do. The attempting of anything in the simple exercise of faith, and in expectation of strength communicated from above, appears to him to be an enthusiastic conceit, unworthy of a sober mind. In short, every part of the Gospel salvation, whether as bringing us to God or fitting us for the enjoyment of him, is the very reverse of what the natural man would either suggest or approve. It cannot even he understood by any who possess not a spiritual discernment, nor ever is received but through the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

Distant, however, as it is, from human apprehensions, we cannot but acknowledge,

IV. Its suitableness to the end proposed.

Does God propose to humble the sinner?

Nothing effects that work like the Gospel: for in the death of Christ he sees the awful desert of sin, and the impossibility of obtaining mercy without an adequate atonement for it. In the requirement of a life of faith on the Son of God, he sees his own utter incapacity for anything that is good: and, in the imputation of Christ's righteousness, he is constrained to acknowledge, that even his best works are full of imperfection; and that salvation, from first to last, is, and must be, by grace alone.

Does he desire to exalt the Savior?

The honor of salvation is altogether reserved to Christ, as the Author and Finisher of it: and to him alone, both in Heaven and earth, must all the glory of it be ascribed. Not a hope enters the sinner's mind, but through his atoning sacrifice: not a prayer is offered, but through his mediation and intercession: nor to all eternity will a blessing be enjoyed, without being traced to his merit as the procuring cause, and to the influence of his grace as the efficient cause: so entirely will the glory of it all be given to him alone.

Does he determine to secure holiness?

Here it is secured, beyond a possibility of failure: nor is it found in any creature under Heaven, but in him who receives the Gospel of Christ. Semblances of holiness we may find in self-righteous formalists; but real holiness in none but those who are penetrated with redeeming love. In confirmation of this truth, we appeal to the records of the Church in every age of the world. Even at the present hour, we shrink not from a comparison with all other people under Heaven: and we are free to acknowledge, that the professor of religion who soars not in holiness above all the unbelievers upon earth, is unworthy of the name of Christian, and will have no part with Christ in his kingdom and glory.

Thus we trust that the Gospel, however despised by an ungodly world, is justly entitled to the appellation given it in our text, "The wisdom of God in a mystery."

See, then, from hence,

1. What is the office of a minister.

It is to proclaim "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God." We are to "speak the wisdom of God in a mystery." We are appointed for this very end, even "as stewards of the mysteries of God." We are not to be bringing forth notions out of our own minds; but simply to declare what God has done for the salvation of mankind, and how a guilty world may be reconciled to him. This is the ministry of reconciliation, committed unto us; and in the execution of our office, we beseech you, be reconciled to God.

2. What is the duty of those to whom he ministers.

Is that which he brings to their ears "a mystery?" It becomes them to receive it into their hearts, with docility, submission, and gratitude. We expect little children to learn from us, without questioning the solidity of our judgment, or the truth of our assertions. That he cannot altogether comprehend the lessons we teach him, is no reason why we do not expect his assent to them. On the contrary, it is by their first receiving our testimony with implicit faith, that they afterwards come to see both the truth and excellence of our instructions. And it is in this way that we also must acquire the knowledge of the Gospel of Christ—But we must also submit to the plan proposed by God, and seek remission altogether in the way pointed out by him—And finally, we must feel our obligations to the Most High God, who has done such wonders for the salvation of our souls. While on earth, we must, to a certain degree, be penetrated with the zeal and love which we shall feel in Heaven; and both here and in eternity "glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his."

 

MDCCCCXXXVIII

Ignorance of the Gospel, Fatal

1 Corinthians 2:8. Had they known if, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.

IT has been supposed, that there is such a transcendent excellence in virtue, that if it were embodied upon earth, it would be universally revered and honored. But virtue has been embodied in the person of God's only dear Son; and yet, instead of receiving from man all the homage which might have been expected, it has been treated with all possible indignity, even to the extinction of the person in whom it was found. But in the assumption that all men would honor it, it is taken for granted that all would be able to appreciate its excellence: whereas men, with jaundiced eyes, see everything with an unfavorable tint upon it; and, consequently err exceedingly in their judgment respecting it. Through this unhappy bias, men "put evil for good, and good for evil; darkness for light, and light for darkness; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." No wonder, therefore, if their aversion to what is really excellent rises in proportion to its exalted qualities, and their opposition to it be found to correspond with their judgment. We have the authority of an Apostle for saying that this was the real cause of the indignities offered to our incarnate God. Had men been able to form a correct estimate of his character, they could not have treated them as they did: had they fully understood the errand of love on which he came, and the purposes of grace which he was destined to accomplish, they could not have raised their hands against him: it would have been impossible for persons comprehending the great mystery which he came to consummate, so to act: no; "if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory."

In speaking of the ignorance of mankind, and especially their ignorance of true religion, I will endeavor to show,

I. Its extensive prevalence.

It prevailed to an awful degree in the apostolic age.

Respecting the way which God had devised for the salvation of a ruined world, the wisest philosophers had not the slightest notion. Nor had the governors of the Jewish people any just conceptions respecting it. Though they had the Scripture in their hands, and the great mystery of godliness was shadowed forth in all their sacrifices, yet could they not comprehend the purposes of God which were revealed to them. They had the moral law, but knew not its spirituality and extent: they had the ceremonial law, but knew not its typical import: they had the prophecies, but knew not in what way they were to be accomplished. They saw a Messiah promised, but they altogether mistook the nature of the kingdom which he was to establish in the world.

It prevails also, nearly to the same extent, at this time.

"The princes of this world," though born in Christian lands, know, for the most part, but little of Christianity: nay more; the very rulers of the Church itself are far from having that insight into the hidden mysteries of our religion which their general information might give one reason to suppose. As far as a knowledge of the languages in which the Scriptures were written, and a critical skill in interpreting them, and an extensive acquaintance with ecclesiastical history, will qualify men for the sacred office, there may be no cause for complaint: but, if we inquire into men's knowledge of the "hidden wisdom of God in the great mystery" of redemption, it is lamentable to think how few there are who manifest an acquaintance with it; such an acquaintance, I mean, as has a transforming efficacy on their souls. We see somewhat of the feelings which are generated by a knowledge of this mystery in Heaven: we behold, also, the effects produced by it upon the Apostles and martyrs upon earth: but where do we see these feelings excited, and these effects produced, in any considerable degree, in "the princes of this world" among ourselves? I mean not to speak disrespectfully of any, or to judge uncharitably of any: but I simply ask, whether, in the public ministrations of men, or in their printed addresses, or in their conversation with each other, there be such a preponderance given to this great mystery as might be expected, or such as would infallibly be given, if its excellence and importance were duly appreciated? Of the secret transactions of men, and the fellowship which may take place between God and their souls, I presume not to speak. I speak only of what is manifested in open act: and of men's knowledge of this mystery, as tried by that standard, I am constrained to say, it is very partial and confined. Nor need I bring any other proof of my assertion than this, that, wherever this mystery is fully opened, and the different parts of it are inculcated with the energy which its importance demands, the doctrine draws attention as a novelty; and excites odium, as differing from the common standard of the established ministrations. But could this be, if the mystery of the Gospel were so generally known, and its truths so faithfully promulgated, as some would assert? A taper would attract no notice by day; but it is seen at a great distance at night, by reason of the surrounding darkness: and, for the same reason, even a very slender exhibition of the Gospel, which would have passed unnoticed in the apostolic age, now calls forth adoring gratitude on the part of some, and provokes inveterate hostility on the part of others—a sure proof, that such exhibitions are not so common among us as they ought to be.

To show how great an evil this ignorance of the Gospel is, I will proceed to mark,

II. Its injurious tendency.

In the Jews, it led to nothing less than the crucifixion of the Lord of Glory.

Both Jews and Gentiles concurred in this act. They did not merely refuse to become the disciples of Jesus, but reviled him, and treated him with all imaginable indignities, and at last put him to death, even the accursed death of the cross. And to what but ignorance can we refer it? Can we conceive, that if they had really known Jesus to be "the Lord of Glory," they would have dared to treat him thus? Methinks, if love to him for his condescension and grace had not restrained them, a fear of his displeasure must have disarmed their malice. It would have been impossible for them to proceed to such extremities, if they had had any just conception of his person and character, his work and office.

In a similar way it operates on us also.

It is obvious that men of all ranks and orders live in a neglect of Christ and his salvation, and seek their happiness rather in the things of time and sense—But could it be so, if they really knew what a glorious Savior he is? Could they think so little of all the wonders of his love, if they had any just comprehension of them in their minds? By our treatment of him, we do, in fact, "crucify him afresh, and put him to an open shame." I ask, Could we do this, if we knew him to be indeed "the Lord of glory," who had divested himself of all his glory for us, and become a man for us, and died upon the cross for us, and to be carrying on his work in Heaven for us, and coming again to make us partakers of his glory for evermore? Bad as human nature is, it could not withstand such a miracle of love as this: it must lay down its weapons of rebellion at the sight of this: at the sight of this it would feel "a constraining influence to live to Him" who has so "loved us and given himself for us." From our first inquiry, "Who are you, Lord?" another would instantly succeed, "Lord, what will you have me to do?" and a life of entire devotedness to his service must of necessity ensue.

Can we wonder then at,

III. Its fatal issue.

It was, to the Jews who continued impenitent, of the most fatal consequence.

Doubtless their ignorance did in some respects extenuate, but it could by no means excuse, their guilt. The Apostle apologizes for them; saying, "I know that through ignorance you did it, as did also your rulers," but yet he adds, "Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out;" evidently importing, that without repentance, and thorough conversion to God, they must eternally perish. And Paul, while he speaks of having "obtained mercy, because he did it ignorantly in unbelief," still calls himself "a blasphemer, and injurious, and a persecutor," and "the very chief of sinners," yes, as the greatest miracle of mercy, a monument of mercy to the whole world. In the Old Testament, God had declared by the prophets that he would not regard ignorance as any excuse for their iniquities: "They are a people of no understanding: therefore He who made them will not have mercy on them, and He who formed them will show them no favor." And again, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." And under the New Testament, it is even made a matter of appeal to us: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" And again, "If judgment begin at the house of God, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God? If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" Truly no candid person can doubt what the event was to the unbelieving Jews.

And will it not have the same issue with respect to us?

The greater our advantages are above the Jews, the greater is our guilt in neglecting to improve them. It is generally imagined, indeed, that those who commit no sin to lower them in the estimation of their fellow-creatures, are happy when they die: and to intimate a doubt of this would be deemed very uncharitable. But "none, except they be converted, can ever enter into the kingdom of Heaven." True indeed it is, that men ignorant of the Gospel, and of the wonders of love and mercy contained in it, are confident, in their own minds, that they have nothing to fear: and hence they continue in "the broad road that leads to destruction," without ever thinking of their impending fate, until they drop into perdition. A fact which a pious writer records, as seen by himself, will well illustrate this. A flock of sheep being frightened on a bridge at the time of a high flood, one of them leaped over the side: all, one after another, followed its example, each supposing that those which had preceded him were safe and happy: but all, to their cost, found out their error when it was too late: for all were immersed in the flood, and perished in the waters. This gives us an exact picture of what is passing all around us. And it is abundantly confirmed in Holy Writ. In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the rich man, who had no flagrant sin laid to his charge, supposed himself sure of happiness in death; just as his five surviving brethren did, while walking in his steps: but from the depths of Hell we hear him crying for a drop of water, to cool his tongue; and entreating, that a messenger might be sent from Heaven to warn his brethren of their danger: and, as this request could not be complied with, we have reason to suppose that they also, however confident of their safety, became partakers of his awful doom. And would not many, who are gone before, be glad to send such messengers to us? Yes, I doubt not but that thousands and millions of them would be coming from Heaven, if they were allowed to perform that friendly office for our self-deceiving race: for, whatever we may think to the contrary, that very Jesus, whom we slight, will before long "be revealed from Heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."

To improve this subject, I would entreat you to consider,

1. What use you should make of your present opportunities.

You have "the Lord of glory" set before you, and all the mysteries of redeeming love unfolded to you. Yes, I can appeal to God, that "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." I pray you, then, continue not ignorant of this great mystery; for it is "the wisdom of God, and the power of God" to salvation to all those who receive it. I need not say, in this place, how eagerly knowledge is sought, in the hopes of promoting men's future advancement in life: and shall that knowledge be neglected which has so intimate a connection with your happiness through eternity? I mean not to detract from the importance of human sciences: but I must say, that, when weighed against the knowledge of this mystery, all earthly knowledge is but as the dust upon the balance: for Paul, whose judgment in that particular we cannot doubt, "counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord." Though you possess ever so small a portion of the one, you may be happy: but without the other you can never be happy, in time or in eternity. I must say, then, to every one among you, Seek the knowledge of this mystery: seek to comprehend the height and depth, and length and breadth of the love of Christ contained in it. So shall it be progressively opened to your view, and your souls "be filled with all the fullness of God."

2. What zeal you should manifest for the glory of your Lord.

Did those who knew him not, crucify him? and shall not those who know him, honor and exalt his name? Should you forbear to do so, "the very stones would cry out against you." Let an ungodly world complain of you: let them call your zeal enthusiasm, and your love hypocrisy; but be not you deterred from duty by all the clamor that can be raised against you. You well know what efforts Pilate made to save Jesus from the fury of his persecutors: yet did his entreaties only increase their thirst for his blood. Learn you of them, and show the same pertinacity in his righteous cause; yes, rather, Jet your knowledge operate more forcibly than their ignorant animosity: and as they accounted nothing too much to inflict upon him, account you nothing too great to do or suffer for the honor of his name.

3. How well you may be reconciled to sufferings for his sake.

He has ordained, that all his followers shall have a cross to bear. But shall you account it hard when it is laid upon you? Was he, the Lord of Glory, crucified for you; and will you not bear a cross for him? It is not without reason that he bids you, under such circumstances, to "rejoice and leap for joy," for "you are partakers of his sufferings," and rendered conformable to him; and your reward in Heaven is proportionably augmented by it. Be not, then, either afraid or ashamed of the cross for his sake; but glory in it, and bear it after him with joy; and "rejoice that you are counted worthy to bear it for his sake." You may suppose that you may disarm the malice of the world by the blamelessness of your conduct. But the more you resemble Christ in your conduct, the more will you he called to suffer for his sake. Open as his character and dispositions were, men knew him not. Nor do they know you. Your conduct is as incomprehensible to the ungodly world as Christ's was. They cannot conceive why you should separate so entirely from their ways, or give yourselves up so entirely to God. If they knew all your views, motives, principles, and habits, they would not so despise you. But, as all that our blessed Lord said or did was perverted, and made an occasion of evil, so must you expect "all manner of evil to be spoken against you falsely for his sake." But let it not grieve you to be so treated: for "the servant cannot expect to be above his Lord." Be contented to "suffer with him" here; and be assured that you shall "reign with him" in glory forever and ever.

 

MDCCCCXXXIX

The Gospel a Stupendous Mystery

1 Corinthians 2:9, 10. It is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit.

THE former part of this passage is generally quoted as relating to the eternal world. But, if the latter part be taken in connection with it, as it ought to be, the sense is evidently determined to those things which were revealed by the Spirit to the Apostles of Christ. And it is in this sense that the words were originally used in the place from whence they are cited. They are part of a prayer, which the Jews, as soon as they shall begin to embrace the Gospel, will pour out before God in behalf of their afflicted nation; entreating him to interpose in their behalf, as powerfully as he formerly did when he brought them out of the land of Egypt; and to make known to them those great and glorious truths of which hitherto they have never had any just conception. To the same purpose the Apostle cites them in our text. He is speaking of the Gospel as "foolishness" indeed to the natural man, but as in reality the most stupendous display of the Divine wisdom; such as had never before been seen, or heard, or thought of, from the foundation of the world; and such as, if previously known to those who crucified our Lord, would have effectually deterred them from executing in that respect the eternal counsels of the Deity.

Confining then our views of the passage to what is revealed in the Gospel, we will show,

I. How infinitely superior the Gospel is to anything that reason ever devised.

Reason has certainly evinced great powers in relation to things natural and temporal.

It has penetrated far into the regions of science. It has comprehended within its grasp the whole extent of that field which was laid open to the mind of Solomon; and has arranged according to their nature and properties all parts of the animal and vegetable creation, "from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that springs out of the wall, together with all the different orders of beasts, and bird, and fishes of the sea." Nay, it has soared beyond this terrestrial globe, even to the starry heavens; and has found out the magnitude and distances and courses of the heavenly bodies, together with the laws by which they move in their respective orbits. It has in these and many other respects carried its researches far beyond the limits which nature appeared to have assigned to it, and has raised man far higher in the scale of creation than by his contracted powers he seemed destined to stand.

But it has made little progress in relation to things spiritual and eternal.

Man with, all his powers was not able to find out God. Not even the unity of the Godhead was discovered by him; much less were his great and glorious perfections. The wisest philosophers spoke on these subjects with much uncertainty and inconsistency. As for any way of reconciliation with God, consistently with the Divine perfections, not so much as a thought of it ever entered into the mind of man, until it was revealed to man by the Spirit of God: it was far out of the reach of human reason to declare, how God should be just, and yet the justifier of sinful men. Even a future state of existence was rather guessed at than fully ascertained; and the nature of that state was wholly unknown:—so true is it, in reference to the whole circle of divine knowledge, that "man by wisdom knew not God."

Thus, when we compare the knowledge which we enjoy under the Gospel with the discoveries of uninspired men, we are constrained to say, that they are as wide asunder as light is from darkness, and Heaven from Hell.

But, to form a correct estimate of the Gospel, we should see,

II. How far superior it is to anything that men had a conception of under the Jewish dispensation.

God did reveal himself to Moses: but his views of God were very partial and indistinct: he saw only, as we are told, "his back parts." As far as he, and David, and Isaiah had a cleaver insight into the great mystery of redemption than others, they received it rather by special inspiration, than from the notices given of it in the Mosaic law: the Jews as a people had very indistinct notions on the whole subject of religion.

1. Their views of God himself were very dark.

To them he appeared rather as a Sovereign than as a Father; and as a Sovereign of their own nation only, and not the Father of the whole human race. They beheld him rather in the terrific aspect of his majesty, than in the endearing attribute of mercy.

2. They knew but little of the way of acceptance with him.

They had sacrifices, it is true, but such as could give no peace to a wounded conscience. The very necessity of repeating the same sacrifices from year to year, clearly showed to them, that their past sins were not fully expiated or blotted out. The sacrifices, in this view, were rather "remembrances of sin," than real expiations of it. For some sins, as murder and adultery, no sacrifice whatever was appointed: and for these therefore there was no well-grounded hope of pardon. All that they were assured of, in any case, was, rather an exemption from punishment by the civil magistrate, than an everlasting remission of their sins by God himself: so dark, even in this respect, was the dispensation under which they lived.

3. The real blessedness of his people could not be duly estimated by them.

They possessed indeed many privileges above the heathen; but yet they were kept at an awful distance from God. The people at large could not enter into the court of the more privileged orders, the priests and Levites: nor could any but the high-priest alone enter into the most holy place; and he only on one day in the year, and in the way that was particularly prescribed. Their services consisted altogether in burdensome rites and ceremonies, which, instead of calling forth a sublime exercise of spiritual devotion, were "a yoke which none of them were able to bear." They went in and out before God as servants actuated by fear, and not as children under the influence of love.

4. Not even the future state of rewards and punishments was clearly known to them.

Some light indeed was thrown upon the eternal world; but it was faint and glimmering. Little was seen throughout the Mosaic writings but a prospect of temporal rewards and punishments, of an enjoyment of Canaan with much earthly felicity, or of an ejection from it with the attendant miseries of captivity and bondage.

Thus the whole of the Jewish state was at best only as an intermediate state between the darkness of heathenism and the light of the Gospel: it was as the early dawn to usher in the brighter day.

To elucidate the infinite superiority of the Gospel, we must proceed to show,

III. How full and rich a manifestation of it we enjoy.

"The darkness is now passed, and the true light now shines;."

1. God himself is now fully revealed to us.

We see not only his unity, but his subsistence in Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; all in glory equal, and in majesty co-eternal. All his perfections also have been made, as it were, to shine both in their separate, and united, splendor before our eyes—justice harmonizing with mercy, and righteousness combining with truth, in the salvation of fallen man: yes, justice glorified in the way of mercy, and mercy in the way of justice, and truth and righteousness in all. Yes truly, "the whole glory of the Godhead now shines before us in the face of Jesus Christ."

2. The mysterious plan of redemption also is now fully opened.

We are introduced, if we may so speak, to the eternal counsels of the Deity, wherein the Father gave to his Son a people to be redeemed, and the Son undertook to lay down his life for them. In the fullness of time we behold the eternal Son of God laying aside that glory which he had with the Father before the worlds were made; and taking upon him our nature, on purpose that in the nature which had sinned he might suffer the curse that was due to sin. We behold him fulfilling the perfect law of God for us, that we may have his perfect righteousness imputed to us, and at the same time expiating our guilt by his own sufferings on the cross. We see him further rising from the dead, and ascending up to Heaven, to carry on there the work he had begun on earth; to be the continual Intercessor for his people, and, as their living Head, to supply them with all that their necessities require. And, finally, we behold him coming again to judge the world, and to assign to his friends, and to his enemies, the portion prepared for them; and then, having completed the whole work of redemption to the uttermost, "surrendering up the kingdom into the Father's hands, that God may be all in all."

How amazing is all this! how infinitely beyond all that human eye ever saw, or ear heard, or heart conceived!

3. The felicity of God's people is now also plainly declared.

"Perfect peace" is now to be enjoyed by all who believe in Christ. No doubt rests upon the mind respecting the fullness and sufficiency of his atonement: it is known to be a sufficient "atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world." Now every believer has free access into the holiest of all, to behold God himself upon his mercy-seat, and to present before him his sacrifices of prayer and praise. Every saint now regards God as his Father, and with a filial confidence goes in and out before him, assured that everything both in Heaven and earth shall be ordered with an immediate view to his good, as much as if there were not another creature in the universe. And lastly, he looks up to the more immediate residence of Jehovah, assured that a crown and a kingdom are prepared for him, even a participation of the Redeemer's glory, and an everlasting fruition of God himself.

Say, Did ever any child of man, even among the Jews, foresee such things as these? Did even the highest archangel ever form any adequate conception of them, before they were revealed to the Christian Church? No, they were hid from angels, as well as men; and the angels are made wiser by the revelation of them to the Church. But to us they are now revealed: they are revealed to us in the written word; and they are revealed in us by the mighty power of the Spirit taking the veil from our hearts, and giving to us a spiritual discernment: and we are authorized to declare, that the most ignorant of true believers at this day is greater than all the prophets, not excepting the Baptist himself, who personally knew Christ, and pointed him out as "the Lamb of God who should take away the sins of the world."

Improvement.

1. How inexcusable are they who inquire not into these things!

Has God in his infinite mercy revealed such things to us, and shall we pay no attention to them? Shall we treat them as if they were no other than "a cunningly-devised fable?" Shall "the angels in Heaven be desiring to look into them," and we be unconcerned about them? O, brethren, what account shall we give of ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, if, when he says to us, "Search the Scriptures, for they testify of me," we prefer every other book before them, and either neglect the Bible altogether, or read it only as a formal exercise? Surely our "study should be in it day and night," and it should be "sweeter to us than honey, or the honey-comb."

2. How blind must we be, if we see no glory in them!

What! see nothing wonderful in an incarnate God! Nothing wonderful in God dying in the place of his own rebellious creatures! Nothing wonderful in our being brought by these means into union and communion with God, and an everlasting participation of his glory in the world to come! If these things be not wonderful, tell me anything that is. You would be filled with utter astonishment, if a fellow-creature were to tell you some of the phenomena of nature; and are you not when God tells you all the wonders of his grace? If these things produce no admiring and adoring thoughts in your hearts, know assuredly that the God of this world has blinded your eyes, and that "you are in darkness even until now." Were you of the happy number of the Lord's people, it would have "been given you to behold the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven," but "if you see them not, it is because you are not of God."

3. How ungrateful are they who do not endeavor to walk worthy of them!

These things are revealed, not as matters of speculation, but as means of happiness, and as incentives to holiness of life. Do but think what manner of persons you ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness; you, I say, for whom such things have been done, and to whom they have been revealed! But it will be well for you to attend to that expression in our text, that "God has prepared these things for them that love him." True, in the first instance it is for his enemies: but they do not remain his enemies; on the contrary, they "love him," and serve him, and "wait for him," and truly, if, after you have been enlightened by the Spirit of God, and been enabled to behold all these wonders of love and mercy, you do not devote yourselves wholly to the Lord, you show that you have no part or lot in this matter. You may have believed, like Simon Magus; but like Simon Magus you shall perish: for know assuredly, that, "if you be Christ's, you will crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts, and will glorify God with your body and your spirit, which are his."

MDCCCCXL

The Deep Things of God

1 Corinthians 2:10. The Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.

IN the verse immediately preceding our text, which is a citation from the Prophet Isaiah, there is a remarkable difference between the words, as uttered by the Prophet, and as cited by the Apostle. The Apostle quotes only so much as was sufficient to show that the great mystery of redemption was never conceived by man before it was revealed to us by God. But the prophet excludes all the bright intelligences of Heaven, no less than men; and intimates that none but God was privy to the Divine counsels: "Neither has eye seen, O God, besides you, what He has prepared for him that waits for him." This omission we should not have particularly noticed, if the Apostle had not, by his subsequent observations, drawn our attention to it more particularly, by showing, that though there was no finite intelligence privy to these counsels, there was One, who, though God, was in some respects to be distinguished from Him, whose counsels they were, and who did "search," and behold with perfect accuracy, the very utmost depths of that mystery, and who also had revealed them to the Apostle:—"God," says the Apostle, "has revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." Now, throughout this whole passage, there is repeated mention made of God, as the source and fountain from whence this mysterious plan emanated; and of the Spirit of God, as a distinct Agent discovering these depths to us. From hence we have an insight into the doctrine of the Trinity of persons in the Godhead; a doctrine obscurely intimated in the words of the prophet, but plainly declared in the Apostle's fuller explanation of them. The personality of the Holy Spirit, and his divinity, are here repeatedly asserted: and a beautiful light is thrown upon those words of the prophet; "No eye has seen, O God, besides you," for though no created being has seen, the Holy Spirit has: for "the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God."

In these words we are led to contemplate the province of the Holy Spirit in relation to the great mystery of redemption; to contemplate it, I say,

I. As exercised by him in reference to God.

He "searches the deep things of God," he searches,

1. The eternal purposes of his grace.

From all eternity did God determine to suffer the fall of man, and to provide means for his recovery. The means ordained by him were, the incarnation and death of his only dear Son, whom he would send into the world to be a atoning sacrifice for sin, and to work out a righteousness whereby the believing penitent might be justified. Every particular relative to this mysterious plan was foreseen and fore-ordained. The person of whom the Son of God should take our flesh; the time at which he should come into the world; the various incidents of his life; the minutest circumstances of his death; the agents that should effect it, and the precise part which every one of them should bear in effecting it, whether Judas in betraying him, or Pilate in condemning, or the Romans in crucifying, or Joseph and Nicodemus in burying him: everything also relating to his resurrection and ascension, and the sending of his Holy Spirit, and the consequent establishment of his kingdom in the world; all was ordained of God the Father: but all was searched out by God the Holy Spirit. He had the same perfect knowledge of it as the Father himself; and not the smallest incident that occurred in any part of it was hid from his all-seeing eye. "No eye saw it, besides his," but he saw it in all its parts, and in all its bearings: not the slightest thing connected with it was hid from him.

2. His particular dealings with every individual of mankind.

The salvation of all was to be of grace, from beginning to end. Yet was man to be dealt with as a rational and responsible being; every man being left to the freest exercise of his own will, yet subject to an agency within, which, in all that should be saved, should be effectual for the overcoming of all the evil propensities of his nature. It was not ordained that all should ultimately be saved: but it was ordained, that those who were saved should have nothing to boast of; and that those who perished should have nothing to complain of: the saved should owe their salvation to him alone; the lost should owe their condemnation wholly to themselves. But who could fathom such depths as these? Who could tell how God should ordain all, and yet not interfere with the free agency of any; and how he should reserve to himself the praise from all that were saved, and leave all the blame of condemnation to rest on those who should bring that doom upon themselves? But the Spirit of God searched out all these unfathomable depths. He saw how the whole should be carried into effect, in every individual of the human race: at what time, in what manner, and by what means, the elect should be converted, preserved, perfected; and, at the same time, how the rest should be left to reject the mercies offered them, and to perish under an accumulated weight of misery. If Paul, in relation to the calling of the Gentiles and the restoration of the Jews, exclaimed, "O the depths!" much more must we, in the contemplation of such mysterious works as these.

3. The glorious issue of all his dispensations.

The result of all will be the glory of God, both "in them that are saved, and in them that perish." "Though Israel be not gathered, yet will He be glorious." God declared that he would get himself glory on Pharaoh and all his hosts: and, on his destruction of them all, Moses said, "Your right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: your right hand, O Lord, has dashed in pieces the enemy." In the judgments also that were executed on Nadab and Abihu, God was "glorified." In like manner, even in the torments of the damned, will God be glorified: for all who behold the infliction of his wrath will be constrained to say, "Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments." It is indeed a tremendous thought, and to our weak apprehensions it appears incredible, that God should be glorified in the eternal condemnation of any of his creatures. But so it will be: and at the last day, when Jesus "shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe," will the objects of his wrath be confounded before him, and never have one word to utter in arrest of his judgments. Now all this the Holy Spirit saw from the beginning. He saws that if mercy was glorified in the salvation of some, justice would be glorified in the condemnation of others: and that the whole issue of this stupendous mystery would be worthy of the Most High God; of the Father, who had planned it; of the Son, who had executed it; and of the Spirit, who had carried it into full effect.

But as the Holy Spirit, in the exercise of this office, has respect to us, it will be proper for us to contemplate it,

II. As exercised by him in reference to us.

"He searches all things," as the Apostle intimates, on purpose to reveal them to us. He searches them,

1. As a Teacher, to reveal them to us.

It is the Holy Spirit who revealed this hidden mystery to prophets first, and then to the Apostles of our LORD: and the whole of the written word was penned by inspiration from him—But in the sacred volume there is much that is beyond our comprehension: indeed, if it were all level with our capacity, we should have reason to doubt whether it were really from God; seeing that it would be totally unlike to his other works of creation and providence, in which there is confessedly much that no human being can explain. But the Spirit having searched the deep things of God, is perfectly acquainted with them all, and has revealed to us nothing but what he knows to be true. We, therefore, must receive by faith all that he has declared. Our only concern is, to know what the Holy Spirit has spoken in his word: and that once ascertained, we must receive it with childlike simplicity; saying, 'What I know not now, I shall know hereafter.' That we cannot comprehend it, should be no objection to us: for, if God had explained the whole ever so clearly, there must be many things which we could not comprehend. Let a philosopher declare to an uninstructed peasant some of the more hidden depths of astronomy, could the peasant comprehend them? or could the philosopher, by all the clearest demonstrations, enable him to comprehend them? And if such a distance exist between men, may we not well suppose that an infinitely greater distance will be found between God and man? I say, it is our wisdom to submit our understandings to the word of God: and there is no juster lesson afforded us in all the Scriptures, than that of the Apostle, "If any man will be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise."

2. As an Instructor, to reveal them in us.

To Him we are directed to look for that spiritual discernment, whereby alone we can comprehend the truths of God. The Apostles themselves, after they had heard our Lord's instructions for nearly four years, were unable to understand the Scriptures, until "he opened their understandings to understand them." So it is with us: we must have a "spirit of wisdom and revelation given to us," before we can attain "the knowledge of Christ;" and must "all be taught of God," before we can "know the things that have been freely given to us of God." Let me then recommend, that, whenever you open the inspired volume, you lift up your hearts to him, and say, "Open you my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law."

Shall this be thought unnecessary? Shall it be supposed, that, because we have the words and sentences plainly written, we can necessarily discern the mind of God in them? Were this the case, every student of the Scriptures would, in all their principal and fundamental points at least, have a clear understanding of them. But experience proves, that, like the Scribes and Pharisees of old, we may have an accurate knowledge of the letter, and yet have no conception of the spirit of them. They are a sealed book to us at this time, as they were to those of former days. Like a dial, which has the figures accurately marked, and the gnomon rightly fixed; but yet you look at it in vain, until the light of the sun shine upon it: so in vain do you read or study the Holy Scriptures, until a light shine upon them from above, or until God "shine into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

3. As a Governor, to bring us into subjection to them.

If the Spirit of God have searched out for us the deep things of God, and have made them known to us, it is not that we should speculate upon them, but that we should, as far as possible, be conformed to them. We must be as ready to obey him in what he commands, as to believe him in what he reveals. We must complain of nothing as an hard saying; but must give up ourselves as willing servants to fulfill his will, or rather must be like metal that is ready to be poured into the mold which God has prepared for us. This is the very idea suggested by the Apostle Paul, when he says of all true Christians, "You have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you," his expression rather is, "You have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine, into which, as into a mold, you were delivered." If this be not attained, the manifestation of God's will in the written word will be of no use: indeed, it will only occasion our heavier condemnation.

If any reply, that there are commands which appear unreasonable, and that we cannot be required to obey them; I answer, We are not to sit in judgment upon God, and to determine whether his commands be reasonable or not. We expect to be obeyed by our children and our servants, though they do not know all the objects we have in view when we issue our commands. We expect them to give us credit for ordering only what is wise and good; and to take for granted, rather than deliberate upon, the wisdom of our commands. And what we expect of others, we may well be required to render unto him.

4. As a Witness, to testify of our conformity to them.

It is said of him, that "He searches all things," and if he search "the deep things of God," does he not also search the deep things that are in our hearts? Yes, "He searches the heart and tries the reins," and discerns the inmost thoughts and intents of our hearts. "I know," says he, "the things that come into your minds, every one of them." Yes, "He weighs the spirits," and ascertains precisely the measure of good and evil that there is in the heart of every one among us. We must not suppose that he has fully executed his office when he has revealed to us the deep things of God. No, he searches how we receive them; how we improve them; how we answer the end of God in them. And this he does with a view to a future judgment, that we may all "receive according to what we have done in the body, whether it be good or evil." Let us, then, bear this in mind: let us remember, that he is conversant with every inclination, every affection, every appetite of our souls. The darkness is no darkness with him, but the night is as clear as the day: and as his testimony respecting God is true, so will his testimony respecting us be true. Attend then to the way in which every day and every hour is spent. Mark in what frame your mind is, in all your public or private addresses to the Most High. Call yourselves to a severe account respecting every duty and every defect. After all, you will never weigh yourselves so accurately as he weighs you: and "if your heart condemn you, God is greater than your hearts, and knows all things: but if your heart condemn you not, then have you confidence towards God."

 

MDCCCCXLI

Influences of the Spirit

1 Corinthians 2:12, 13. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

NO man was ever better qualified to please men with the charms of oratory than the Apostle Paul: for, in point of talent, few perhaps have ever exceeded him; and, in point of knowledge, no uninspired man ever came near him. In the great subject of his ministrations there is a sublimity, in comparison of which all other subjects are but as a star before the meridian sun. Yet, in setting forth that subject, he was particularly careful to "use all plainness of speech," lest he should obscure, rather than illustrate, its excellency by any vain attempts to embellish and adorn it. This he repeatedly mentions, as the stated rule prescribed to him by God, and followed by him. "Christ," says he, "sent me to preach the Gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." In conformity with this commission, he says, "I came to you not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring the testimony of God," and again, "My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom," and so also in the words of my text, "Which things we speak, not with words which man's wisdom teaches." As, in receiving the Gospel, he had been taught it by the Spirit of God; so in communicating the knowledge of it to others, he would make use of no other language than that which the Spirit himself had provided.

The declarations of the Apostle in my text will lead me to show,

I. Whence a minister must receive his choicest qualifications.

Of course, if he would instruct others, he himself must be instructed in "the things which are freely given to us of God."

God has given us salvation in the Son of his love—He has also made known to us this salvation in the fullest manner—And this is the subject which even servant of his has it in commission to unfold to a benighted world.

But how is he himself to obtain the knowledge of it?.

He must "receive it, not from the spirit of the world, but from the Spirit of God." It is itself altogether foreign to all that the world either cultivates or admires. It is not within the power of human intellect to comprehend it; or of human investigation to search it out; or of human wisdom to impart the knowledge of it. The Spirit of the living God alone can convey it to the mind.

If it be asked, How are we to account for this? I will confess, that the statement, by which persons very generally endeavor to account for it, I greatly disapprove. We are told in the words following my text, that "the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Hence some imagine that a distinct sense must be given to us, without which we can no more discern the truths of the Gospel, than a man can discern the objects of sight, or smell, or taste, while he has not the organs proper for the perception of them. But, were this the case, a man would be no more blameable for his ignorance of divine things, than a man who was born deaf or blind would be for not perceiving objects by his eyes or ears. A juster view of the case, I apprehend, is this. The word is that seal which the Spirit of God uses for the stamping of the Divine image upon man; and the heart of man is the wax, which is ordained of God to receive the impression. But the wax is hardened by sin; so hardened, that not even the word of God himself can make any impression on it. Hence it resists the word, even as stone or iron would the action of a seal upon it. Thus is man's ignorance to be ascribed, not less to the hardness, than to the blindness of his heart. Nor is this all. Man does not only withstand the word, as stone or iron would the impression of a seal, but as a spring would resist it. In a spring there is a re-action, proportioned to the force which acts upon it: and this is the kind of resistance which the heart of man gives to the word of God. Man's heart rises in opposition to the word, and with all its power repels it. The Jew rejects it as "a stumbling-block;" and the Greek despises it as "foolishness." And hence it is, that no power but that of the Spirit of God can overcome the obstinacy of man's resistance to the word.

And how does the Spirit of God produce this effect? It operates as fire on the wax. Our Lord has said, that he will "baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire;" that is, with the Holy Spirit, who shall operate as fire. And when that divine Agent applies the word to the soul, he humbles the soul, and softens it, and renders it susceptible of that very impression which the word is intended to make upon it. And this is the very account which Paul himself gives of the process, when he says, "You have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you;" or, as it should rather have been translated, "You have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine, into which (as into a mold) you were delivered."

The dependence of a minister on the Spirit of God for the instruction of his own mind shows,

II. How alone his efforts can be made effectual for the salvation of his hearers.

It is not by the power of human eloquence that he must prevail.

Human eloquence is good in its place: but it can add nothing to the truth of God. On the contrary, it rather takes from the power of God's word, than adds anything to it; just as any efforts of man to augment by paint the brilliancy of a diamond, would only, in the issue, obscure its luster. There is a majesty in the word of God, which we may enervate, but can never augment.

It is by the simple statement of the Gospel, as revealed in the sacred records.

The words of Scripture have a power which no words of man can attain. And, though it is not necessary that they should be used on every occasion, they must always be the foundation of what we assert, and must always be referred to in confirmation of it. Paul "compared spiritual things with spiritual," he had to unfold spiritual truths; and he referred to what the Spirit of God had previously revealed, as containing the substance of all that he promulgated. Did he set forth Jesus as the Messiah? He referred to the prophecies which had announced his advent, and were fulfilled in him. Did he expatiate upon the work and offices of Christ? He referred to those typical institutions which had been appointed to shadow them forth. Thus, in like manner, must we do; particularly pointing out the spiritual provisions of the Gospel as suited to the spiritual necessities of man. It is this kind of statement which alone succeeds to any great extent. God might, if he pleased, render more partial statements effectual; and on some occasions he does: but for the most part, it is by an exhibition of the Gospel as a remedy, that he chiefly works for the salvation of man. The state of man, as fallen, must be fully opened: his guilt and danger and helplessness must be set forth with all fidelity: then must the Savior be proclaimed, as making a full atonement for our sins, as bringing in for us an everlasting righteousness, and as supplying out of his own fullness all that our utmost necessities can require. This is the doctrine to which the Holy Spirit bears testimony, and which he uses as a seal, to stamp the divine image on our souls. A striking instance of this may be seen when Peter opened this Gospel to the Jews; and again, when he also first opened it to the Gentiles. On the latter occasion, when he had said, "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins," it is particularly noted, "When Peter spoke these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word." And we also can bear testimony, that he does yet set his seal to these blessed truths, and make use of them for the consolation and salvation of those who hear them.

From this subject we may learn,

1. How to judge of our knowledge of divine things.

A head-knowledge of them may be obtained from books: but a heart-knowledge, if I may so speak, can be acquired only by the teaching of the Holy Spirit. We should carefully inquire, therefore, of what kind our knowledge is. If it be such as man can impart, it is not that which will prove of saving benefit to our souls. But it may be asked, 'If the subject matter be the same, how shall I distinguish between human teaching and divine?' I answer, The distinction can be known only by experience. Suppose a person who had constantly seen the sun, but never felt its beams, were told, that a man exposed to the action of its rays had a totally different perception of the sun from any which a mere sight of it would produce: he could not enter fully into the distinction, as the person could, who felt the genial warmth of the sun: and so a person, unacquainted with the operations of the Spirit upon the soul would have a very inadequate idea of the experience of one who felt them, even though we should labor ever so much to make him comprehend it. But yet, methinks, you will not be altogether at a loss to comprehend the distinction, if I say, that the truths of the Gospel, when received from man only, abide in the mind much in the same way as any speculative subject does; whereas, when applied to the soul by the Spirit of God, they produce a feeling corresponding with the truths themselves; that is, a feeling of humiliation, or confidence, or joy, as the subject itself may require. Perhaps we may understand the matter yet more clearly, if we refer to the illustration before used, of a seal and the wax: the same seal is applied to both; but the one, by reason of an invisible action of heat upon it, receives an impression; while the other, by reason of its obduracy, remains unimpressed. Inquire then, I pray you, whether divine truth operate on your minds, to the production of penitential sorrow, of holy joy, of unreserved obedience. It is from its effects, in assimilating the soul to the Divine image, that you must judge of the source from whence your knowledge flows. If it be from God, you may rest assured that it will lead you to God.

2. How we may grow in all that is good.

If we can learn only from the Spirit of God, we must still continue to seek his heavenly teaching. Even after our eyes have been opened by the Spirit of God, the Scriptures will still be to us as a sealed book, unless He shine upon it from on high, and shine into our hearts also, to give us the knowledge of it. Remember, then, to seek, even to your latest hour, instruction from Him. If at any time you take up the Scriptures, to read them, forget not to pray, with David, "Open you my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law." So also, when you come to hear the word, look up to the Holy Spirit for his gracious influence upon your soul: for if it come not home to you "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," it will be only "as water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again," but if you rely simply upon him, and "receive it with meekness" as little children, you shall find it "mighty, through Him, to the pulling down of every obstruction," and shall experience its sufficiency to sanctify and save the soul

 

MDCCCCXLII

The Natural Man's Ignorance of Divine Things

1 Corinthians 2:14. The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

CHRISTIANITY, as far as relates to its provisions, is founded on the necessities of man: there is a perfect correspondence between the want and the supply: whichever of the two is contemplated, we of necessity behold, or at least may behold, the other. Men, it is true, are not very willing to acknowledge their necessities; and hence they think lightly of the blessings of the Gospel salvation: and many, who are willing to confess the depravation of their will and their affections through the fall of our first parents, are very averse to admit the loss they have sustained in their intellectual powers. But it is certain, that the mind of man is no longer what it was before the introduction of sin into the world: it can no longer discern the glory and excellency of Jehovah, or the mysteries of his spiritual kingdom. This is expressly declared in the words before us; which it is our intention,

I. To explain.

That we may have a just view of them, we will distinctly show,

1. Whom we are to understand by "the natural man."

The term which we translate "natural," is differently translated in different places; and the sense must always be determined by the context. Now the whole context shows, that the person here spoken of is man in his natural state, untaught, and unassisted by the Spirit of God. From the middle of the preceding chapter, two descriptions of persons are mentioned; one, wise in respect of earthly knowledge, but spiritually blind, and, in consequence of that blindness, pouring contempt upon the Gospel: the other, as spiritually enlightened, and, in consequence of that illumination, accounting the Gospel the richest display of God's wisdom and power. The former the Apostle denominates the "wise, the scribe, the disputer of this world," and comprehends among them "the princes of this world," these, in our text, he calls "the natural man," that is, man conversant with worldly knowledge, but uninstructed by the Spirit of God.

2. What are those things which he can neither receive nor know.

These are "the things of the Spirit," or, the great mysteries which are revealed to us in the Gospel. And when it is said, that the natural man cannot know them, we are not to understand merely that these mysteries are not discoverable by the light of reason, so as to supersede the necessity of any revelation; but that, however revealed to us externally by God, they cannot be inwardly comprehended, without a special discovery of them to the soul by the influence of the Holy Spirit. As far as they are capable of being judged of by reason, or are mere matters of science, any man may, by the application of his own natural powers, understand them: but, as far as they are objects of faith, and matters of experience, no man can understand them, unless he be taught of God. Theoretically, he may maintain the whole system of the fall and the recovery; but, practically, he cannot realize in his soul the truths which he maintains: the humiliation which his depravity calls for, he cannot feel; nor the gratitude, which the wonders of redemption so imperiously demand. On the contrary, the whole system, however as a theory it may be approved, as a practical and influential principle in the soul is accounted "foolishness."

3. Whence this incapacity arises.

It is well accounted for in the words before us: "He cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned." We are not to understand by this, that the spiritual man is endued with any new faculty, which the natural man does not possess; for then the natural man would be rather to be pitied for a defect which was unavoidable, than to be blamed for a weakness to which he himself was accessary: we are rather to understand, that the natural man does not make a right use of the faculties which he already possesses, but, through the corruption of his own heart, renders them unfit for the use for which they were originally designed. Perhaps we may attain some insight into this matter by means of an easy and familiar illustration. Many by nature are very indistinct in their organs of vision; and are has enabled them to supply the defect. From the formation and structure of their eye, the objects which they behold do not fall upon the retina that should reflect them, but either fall short of it, or go beyond it: but, by interposing a proper medium, the object is brought to such a focus as the eye requires; and is then clearly discerned. Now we may suppose our natural pride, and unbelief, and sensuality, to have rendered our spiritual discernment so indistinct, that nothing is seen aright; but objects, especially spiritual objects, are dim and distorted: but humility, and contrition, and faith being given by God as a new medium through which they shall be seen, the objects are made, so to speak, to fall upon the heart, and are discerned by the heart in all their true colors and dimensions. We do not propose this as a perfect illustration; for nothing in nature will perfectly represent the mysteries of grace: but it may serve perhaps to convey some faint idea of our natural incapacity to know and to receive the things of the Spirit; and may show us what we want in order to a spiritual discernment. It is the Spirit of God alone that can supply us with those qualities of mind which will rectify the defects of our visual organs: but when he does supply them, then, in proportion as they are communicated, will be the clearness of our sight. We again say, that we do not bring this as a perfect illustration, and much less as a proof, of the truth we are considering: but we apprehend, that it is such an illustration as the word of God sanctions. Our blessed Lord tells us, that, "if our eye be evil, the body will be dark; but that, if our eye be single, our whole body will be full of light," and Paul says, that "by reason of use our senses are exercised to discern both good and evil;" by which two passages we learn, that the rectification of our visual organs, and the due application of them to their proper objects, are the appointed means of communicating to us a spiritual discernment.

This truth, we now proceed,

II. To confirm.

The natural man, under all circumstances, is blind to the things of God.

It was so in our Lord's day.

Never was there any light comparable to that which was diffused by the Sun of Righteousness: yet the darkness comprehended it not. Our Lord came to his own, and his own received him not. The very people who, from their acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures, and their opportunities of knowing the character of our blessed Lord, and the proofs of his divine mission, had the best means of ascertaining the truth of his Messiahship, could see "no beauty or loveliness in him for which he was to be desired." The great mass of the Jewish people accounted him an impostor: and when his own Disciple, Peter, confessed him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, our Lord said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my Father which is in Heaven." Whence it is evident, that none can truly receive Christ in all his characters and offices, unless a spiritual discernment be given unto them by the Spirit of God. Clear as our Lord's discourses were, they were not understood fully even by the Disciples themselves. "To them indeed it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven" more clearly than to others; but even they could not enter fully into the nature of his kingdom, no, not after he had risen from the dead, until "he opened their understandings to understand the Scriptures."

It was so under the ministry of the Apostles.

Paul himself, so far from being convinced by the wonders of the day of Pentecost, was the most determined enemy of the Christian Church, until Christ himself arrested him in his mad career, and revealed himself to him by an immediate vision, and a special revelation from Heaven. In like manner the ministry of Paul was as offensive to some, as it was delightful and instructive to others. Those "whose hearts the Lord opened," as he did Lydia's, "to attend to the things spoken by Paul," received the word with all gladness; but the great majority of his hearers rejected it with abhorrence. The very same words spoken before Festus and Agrippa, made one to cry out, "Paul, you are beside yourself," and the other to say, "Almost you persuade me to be a Christian."

And thus it is also at this day.

The work of conversion does not go forward among "the wise, the mighty, the noble," on the contrary, the Gospel is very generally esteemed as "foolishness" among them. We still find occasion for the same acknowledgment as our Lord himself made: "I thank you, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because you have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in your sight." To this source we must trace all the difference that we still observe among the hearers of the Gospel: "the Spirit of God works all in all; and divides to every man severally as he will." If we know Christ, it is because "he has given us an understanding that we might know him," and "an unction of the Holy One," whereby our faculties were enabled to apprehend him: and, if we have come to Christ, it is because "we have heard and learned of the Father."

Humiliating, no doubt, this declaration is: nevertheless it is one which we shall do well,

III. To improve.

We may learn from it.

1. How to appreciate divine knowledge.

Valuable as human knowledge is, it hears no comparison with that which is divine. So superior is "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord," that Paul accounted all things but as dross "and dung in comparison of it." It is more excellent in its nature, more exalted in its origin, and more beneficial in its use. Into the mystery of redemption the very "angels themselves desire to look." To understand it, we must be taught, not of man, but of God; and, when we have received it aright, it will renew and sanctify us after the Divine image. Let it then be sought by us, not exclusively indeed, but supremely. Let us not be satisfied with any knowledge which the natural man can attain: but let us seek that which shall carry its own evidence along with it as divine, by its renewing, sanctifying, and comforting influence upon the soul.

2. How to seek it.

Nothing is to be attained without diligence: but it is not by study only that the knowledge of divine things is to be acquired: we must "cry after knowledge," at the same time that we "search for it as for hid treasures." It is "the Lord alone who gives wisdom;" and therefore we must seek it from him by earnest prayer. We must beg him "to give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him," that the eyes of our understanding being enlightened, we may see "the deep things of God." He first "commanded light to shine out of darkness" in the material world; and a similar process must take place in our minds through the operation of his word and Spirit. We must be "taught of God, as all his children are," and then only shall we behold "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, when he shines into our hearts to give it us." Our studies therefore must all be accompanied with prayer, and we must never take up the Holy Scriptures without crying, like David, "Lord, open you my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law."

3. How to employ it.

Has God in his unbounded mercy opened our eyes, and enabled us to see what the natural man is not able to receive? Surely we should endeavor to employ that light in the way that shall most conduce to his glory. We should make use of it as the means of searching out his glorious perfections, and of discovering the heights and depths of his unsearchable love. We should also employ it for the rectifying of all our own views, and spirit, and conduct: and, finally, for the diffusing, to the utmost of our power, the knowledge of him throughout the world. As it was said to Peter, "When you are converted, strengthen your brethren;" so is it said to us, "Freely you have received, freely give." No one gift is bestowed on us for ourselves alone, but for the good of others: and knowledge in particular is a talent entrusted to us for the benefit of all around us: "it is a light that is to be set on a candlestick, and not to be hid under a bushel." If then, through the distinguishing grace of God, we have been called to the knowledge of the truth, it becomes us to "shine as lights in the world," and so to "hold forth the word of life," that others may be "guided into the way of peace."

 

MDCCCCXLIII

Advantages of the Spiritual Man

1 Corinthians 2:15, 16. He who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

TO claim, in the behalf of any person, a pre-eminence and distinction which does not belong to him, is invidious and unwise; but to prefer such a claim in behalf of persons on account of some peculiarity in their religious sentiments or feelings, would be an act of palpable impiety. In proclaiming, therefore, the advantages of a spiritual man above those who are only carnal, I would proceed with extreme caution, lest I should appear to arrogate in his behalf what does not truly and properly belong to him. Yet we must not dissemble, that the Scriptures do paint in very bright colors the privileges of the true Christian; and that he is represented as a "child of light," while others are "children of darkness;" yes, and as "a child of God" too, while others are declared to be "the children of the wicked one."

It is evident that there is in the passage before us a comparison drawn between the natural and the spiritual man. The natural man is he who has nothing but what he possesses by nature, or has acquired by his natural powers: the spiritual man is one who has been enlightened and renewed by the Spirit of God. The former, in all his views, desires, and pursuits, is circumscribed by the things of time and sense: the latter soars to spiritual things, and lives, as it were, in a sublimer atmosphere, the element of Heaven.

Of these latter the Apostle speaks in the words which I have just read; which will lead me to set before you,

I. The advantage which the spiritual man enjoys above all others.

"He judges all things."

Of course, we must understand this observation as relating to those things only which come properly before him as a spiritual man: for, in relation to arts and sciences, or indeed to anything which is within the reach of the natural man, he has no advantage whatever. Solomon speaks in the same unqualified terms: "Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the Lord, understand all things" John also uses nearly the same language: "You have an unction from the Holy One, and you know all things." But common sense, as well as experience, shows, that we must limit the assertion to those things which pertain to the salvation of the soul. And here I might enumerate a great variety of things: but I will content myself with specifying two, which will carry their own evidence along with them.

The spiritual man, then, "discerns" (that is the meaning of the word, which we translate "judges," and it is so translated in the margin of our Bibles) wherein true happiness consists: he sees it, knows it, feels it, and has his judgment completely made up upon it. He discerns that his happiness, as a rational and immortal being, is bound up in communion with God as a reconciled God and Father, and in a conformity to his image. By this view of happiness, all earthly things are cut off at once from any share of this honor, any further than they are made subservient to the bringing of Almighty God near unto us, or to the transformation of our souls into his likeness. In forming this judgment, the spiritual man inquires what constituted the happiness of man in his first creation. And here he has no more doubt than he has about the happiness of the heavenly hosts. And with this agrees his own experience. For he can have no comfort in his soul while he is in doubt whether God is reconciled to him, or while the light of God's reconciled countenance is hid from him. Nor can he find any true comfort while he feels within him any reigning sin, or any unmortified lust whatever.

Next, he discerns the means by which alone this happiness can be attained. He sees that it can be attained only by the simple exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is by that only that he can obtain reconciliation with God, or a sense of the Divine favor in his soul. It is by that alone that he can obtain "the witness of the Spirit," or "the earnest of the Spirit," or "the sealing of the Spirit," which are necessary to elevate his soul above all earthly things: as the Apostle has said; "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith." It is by that, too, that he attains the Divine image on his soul, even by "the faith that purifies the heart." In a word, it is by the simple exercise of faith that he receives everything out of the fullness that is in Christ, and is filled with that "love of Christ that constrains him," as a mighty torrent, "to live no more unto himself, but unto Him who died for him, and rose again."

"But he himself is judged and discerned of no man."

The natural man does not discern these things. However he may speculate upon such things, there is not a natural man in the whole world that truly and practically discerns them, so as to have the same fixed judgment in relation to them that the spiritual man has. The natural man knows not how to estimate the spiritual man, either in relation to his principles or conduct. Judge him indeed he will, and confidently enough; setting him down for a weak enthusiast, if not for a designing hypocrite. But, to form a just estimate of him, he has no power. He has no idea of spiritual enjoyment; no conception of the efficacy of faith: consequently the experience of the spiritual man appears to him a mere delusion, a fanatical conceit. His pretensions to joys which the natural man never experienced, appear as wild as if he claimed the possession of a sense which none but himself and a few other favored persons had ever exercised. Suppose, for instance, when all the world besides were destitute of someone of the senses that we enjoy; say, of sight, or hearing, or smelling; and one were to profess that he was enabled by that particular organ to distinguish things which the others could not perceive; would they not account him a deceiver? Just so do the ungodly world account the true Christian, who by faith discerns the excellency of those things which never were discerned by the eye of sense: they are ready to exclaim, as Felix to Paul, "You are beside yourself: much learning (or much conceit) has made you mad." But Paul was "not mad," nor are they mad who seek their happiness in the way before described. If they appear so, it is because their principles and conduct are not duly appreciated. Not that he has any new sense: for that he certainly has not. But a new perception he has: and by means of that he is enabled to judge of these things as they are. At the same time, he himself is judged of no man; because no natural man does view things as they are; he never takes eternity sufficiently into his account: if he did, he would see, at once, that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do thereafter: the praise of it endures forever."

Let me now proceed to point out,

II. The true source of his superiority.

The natural man possesses not that kind of knowledge whereby to instruct him.

What, I would ask, is the standard of true wisdom? Is it not "the mind of the Lord?" Is there a man in all the world that believes in a divine revelation, and will, for a moment, controvert this truth? Let this, then, be settled in our minds: let this be admitted as a point agreed upon by all parties: let this be laid down as an axiom, which admits of no doubt:

The mind of the Lord is the only standard of true wisdom.

Now then, I will ask, What natural man knows that mind? There are but two ways in which he can know it; namely, either by the written word alone, or by a special revelation of it to his soul. But by the written word alone (whether with human instruction, or without) he cannot understand it; as we are told in the words before my text: "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." As for a spiritual revelation of them to his soul, that is out of the question: for if he had that, he would already have become a spiritual man: but, not having received that, he neither knows, nor can "know, the mind of the Lord;" and consequently cannot instruct the spiritual man, either in a way of refutation, or of more accurate and enlarged information. If he attempt to dogmatize on such subjects, he will only betray his own ignorance, which even a babe, if taught of God, will discover.

But the spiritual man possesses that very knowledge which is requisite for his guidance in the divine life.

"He has the mind of Christ," he has it revealed to his soul by the Spirit of God: as Paul has said, "God has given him the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of his Son." Nay, "he is himself one spirit with Christ," and "has in him the very mind that was in Christ." He has, "according to the measure of the gift of Christ," the very "law of God himself written in his heart;" so that he may be "seen and known of all men to be an epistle of Christ, written, not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God." True, indeed, he always needs fresh instruction from above; and will, even to his dying hour, have occasion for that prayer, "What I know not, teach you me." At first he is only "a babe, and unskillful in the word of righteousness: and it is not until after his spiritual senses have been long exercised to discern both good and evil," that he attains the fuller "mind of Christ." But, even as "a babe, he has opened to his view things which are hid from the wise and prudent;" and an inward monitor, saying, "This is the way, walk you in it." Hence, therefore, whatever superiority a natural man may have over him in relation to the things of time and sense, he is himself superior to the natural man in reference to the things of the Spirit; nor can the natural man either add anything unto him, or correct him.

What then shall I say? I will say to every one that is taught of the Spirit,

1. Regard not the ridicule of an ignorant and ungodly world.

They will ridicule you; and they will despise you; and they will represent all your pursuits as folly: but "they know not what they say; nor do they understand whereof they affirm." Nay, they themselves have a secret consciousness, that, at least in the main you are right. This do then: Ask them if they are right: ask them on what their own conduct is founded, whether on the commands of God, or on the dictates of the world. Ask them which is the more likely to issue well at last, a life of worldly conformity, or a life devoted to God. I mean not by this to encourage anything that is really enthusiastic or absurd. You must doubtless "walk in wisdom towards them that are without," and "give no occasion to any one to speak reproachfully," but you must nevertheless maintain a holy and consistent conduct; and, "if reproached or persecuted for righteousness' sake, you must rejoice," and bless God, who has counted you worthy of such an honors.

2. Study diligently the mind of God in his word.

That, as we have observed, is the one only standard either for faith or practice; and from that alone can the mind of God be ascertained. Though the Spirit is necessary for your guidance into truth, it is only by and through the word that he will instruct you. He will not bring to your minds any one truth that is not there revealed. Study, therefore, the word; and study it with fervent prayer to God for the teaching of his good Spirit: and never adopt, either in sentiment or practice, any one thing which may not be clearly proved by God's written word.

3. Let your pretensions to "the mind of Christ" be justified by your conformity to his example.

if you "have indeed the mind of Christ," you will undoubtedly "walk as he walked." He came, not only to redeem you by his blood, but also "to set you an example, that you should follow his steps." Let it be seen, then, that Christ is with you of a truth: that in all your tempers and dispositions you resemble him; in your deadness to the world; in your devotedness to God; in your meekness and patience, your kindness and benevolence, your purity and holiness, your self-denial and zeal. It is by this only that the world can judge of your pretensions to a superior knowledge of his mind: and by this will your improvement of your advantages be tried in the last day. Show that, in these respects, you are "one with Christ" now; and doubt not but you shall be one with him, to all eternity, in a better world.

 

MDCCCCXLIV

Undue Partiality to Ministers Reproved

1 Corinthians 3:5–7. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he who plants anything, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase.

WE are apt to conceive of the primitive Churches as patterns of all perfection; and doubtless there were among them many individuals whose attainments in piety were truly apostolic: but there were in most of the Churches as great blemishes as can be found in any society of Christians at the present day. The Church of Corinth was peculiarly corrupt. They were indeed distinguished for gifts; but, in respect of graces, too many of them were sadly deficient. One evil especially obtained among them to a great extent: namely, the indulging of a contentious spirit, by means of which the Church was divided into parties; some accounting themselves followers "of Paul, others of Apollos, others of Cephas, and others of Christ." Now, though this evil did not prevail so far as utterly to subvert their souls, it kept them in a low, and, as it were, an infantile state; insomuch that the Apostle "could not speak to them as to spiritual" persons, who had made any considerable advances in the divine life; but was forced to address them as mere "babes in Christ," to whom he could only administer "milk," when he would gladly have rather "fed them with meat." Their being "puffed up for one minister against another" showed that a great measure of "carnality was yet in their hearts;" and that, though spiritual in the main, they yet conducted themselves too much like the "men" of this world, whose chief zeal was occupied in contending for the leaders of their respective sects.

The same spirit, as might be expected, still infests the Christian Church. And that we may be put on our guard against it, I will endeavor to show,

I. In what light ministers should be viewed.

They are instruments, whereby God carries on his work in the souls of men.

God is pleased to work by means, and to make use of men for the accomplishing of his gracious purposes in the world. Even when he has employed angels, he has still chosen to put honor upon men as his immediate instruments of good; as when he directed Cornelius to send for Peter to instruct him, and removed from Peter's mind the scruples which would have kept him from executing that office of love. Though God might as easily effect his work without instruments, yet he has decreed that "faith shall come by hearing," and where no minister is sent to until the ground, there is one great desert, in which no plant of righteousness is found, no real goodness exists. The land uncultivated brings forth nothing but briers and thorns. Human learning, to whatever extent it be carried, can produce no spiritual change in the heart of man. The most learned philosopher needs instruction from God's ministers, no less than the untutored savage: yes, and to the end of life, no less than at the commencement of his Christian course, does every saint require the aid of ministerial exertions, to "water" that which Divine grace has "planted" in his soul: and the more exalted any man's attainments are, the more highly will he esteem the ordinances of God, and the more sensible will he be of his dependence on them for a supply of those blessings which he stands in need of.

They are, however, mere instruments, and nothing more.

They can effect nothing of themselves: not even Paul himself, with all his eloquence and force of reasoning, could bring conviction to the minds of his hearers: the very discourses which converted some, only irritated others against him, and caused them to regard him as "a babbler," and a maniac. If any received his word aright, it was because God had "opened their hearts to attend to it." "Whether he planted, or Apollos watered, it was God alone who gave the increase." This is universally felt and acknowledged in the natural world. There may be a great disparity between the skill and industry of different laborers: yet no one ever thinks of ascribing the harvest to the skill of man: every one knows, that without the influences of the sun and rain the gardener will cultivate his land in vain. And the same is true respecting ministers, who will labor to no purpose, if God do not accompany their word with the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven. The very best of men are but as "a voice crying in the wilderness," as unable in themselves to convert a soul as they are to raise the dead.

The manner in which Paul speaks of them, will lead us to consider,

II. The importance of forming a right estimate of their labors.

A just view of them will teach us,

1. To moderate our regards for man.

We are apt to idolize those from whose ministry we have derived benefit to our souls. From their labors we expect a blessing which we scarcely hope to derive from any other quarter; and a secret dissatisfaction arises in our minds, if, at any time, his place be occupied by a less-favored minister. We forget that neither the word, nor the power with which it has been accompanied, were his; and we are ready to ascribe to him the honor which is due to God alone. But if we duly considered that ministers are only the channels of communication between the Fountain and us, and that the waters by which we have been refreshed have proceeded from God alone, we should look through them to God, and limit both our expectations and our gratitude to Him, from whom alone any spiritual good can flow. I say not that we are to feel no gratitude towards them: for "we are to esteem them very highly in love for their works' sake." Nor do I say that some measure of partiality may not fitly be shown towards those to whom, under God, we owe our own souls: for "though we have ten thousand instructors, yet have we but one Father," to whom, therefore, we owe a filial regard: but such a measure of attachment to one, as leads us to undervalue others, is a mere carnal feeling, which ought to be suppressed. Paul repeatedly appealed to the Corinthians themselves respecting this: while you indulge such partialities, "are you not carnal? yes, are you not carnal, and do you not walk as carnal men?" I may say, therefore, that a just estimate of the labors of ministers will prevent an undue rivalry among them in our affections.

2. To augment our dependence of God.

The gardener, when his fields are sown, looks to God for a blessing on his labors. In like manner will our eyes be directed to God alone for a spiritual harvest, if we be thoroughly convinced that he is the only source from whence it can spring. We shall not look to the creature, but to God, in and through the creature: and to the same gracious Giver of all good shall we render thanks for all the good we have received; ever mindful that it has proceeded from his Holy Spirit, "who divides to every man severally as he will." We shall be afraid of provoking God to jealousy, by ascribing to man any part of that glory which belongs to him: and we shall live in the very frame of those who are around the throne of God; who, ever mindful of the benefits they have received from him, are singing, "salvation to God and to the Lamb forever and ever." As in Heaven, so on earth, the creature will be "nothing;" but God will be "all in all."

Let me found on this subject,

1. Some matter of inquiry.

What benefit have you received from all the labors of your minister? Are there not many who are as ignorant and as worldly as if they had never heard the Gospel at all? You can bear me witness, that, from the beginning, "I have never known anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified;" and yet how many of you have derived no benefit to your souls! To what has this been owing? I acknowledge, with shame, that the word has been ministered to you in much weakness; but if Paul or Apollos had ministered unto you, even their labor would have been lost, it is to be feared, on many of you, because you have not regarded the word as God's, nor looked to him for a blessing upon it—To some, we would hope, the word has not been altogether in vain: but would it not have taken far more effect, if you had looked less to the creature, and more to God?—I pray you to be on your guard respecting this. The brazen serpent was broken to pieces as "Nehushtan" (a piece of brass) because to it was transferred the honor that was due to God alone. Cease! O cease from all "carnal" partialities! and, by whoever God shall speak to you, "receive the word, not as the word of man, but, as it is in truth, the word of God."

2. Some ground of encouragement.

Behold what God has wrought by means of a few poor fishermen! And can he not make his word effectual for you? Is it not "sharper than any two-edged sword?" and shall it not still be "mighty, through Him, to the pulling down of strongholds, and to the casting down every thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ?" It gained not its efficacy from the wisdom of Paul; nor shall it lose its efficacy because spoken by me. God has ordained, that "by the foolishness of preaching he will save them that believe," and if you receive our testimony, however weak it may be, it shall prove "the power of God to the salvation of your souls." Direct your eyes, then, simply to the Lord; and, "since you are not straitened in him, be not straitened in your own souls." Only let your expectations be from Him alone, and you shall not be disappointed of your hope. "Open your mouth wide; and he will fill it."

 

MDCCCCXLV

Christ the Only Foundation

1 Corinthians 3:11. Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

THERE is not anything more injurious to the Church of God than a party-spirit: yet even in the apostolic age did it begin to distract the Christian community. At Corinth it prevailed, and rose to an alarming height: and Paul was obliged to exert all his influence in order to counteract it. He reminded the partisans, that, as "God's building," they should be cemented together with brotherly love: that they should study to show themselves worthy of the place they held in the Church, in expectation of that day when all their works should be tried by fire: and that, instead of fomenting strifes and divisions, they should unite with each other in cleaving steadfastly to the one foundation, whereon they stood.

The declaration in the text is plain, and of infinite importance.

To enter more fully into it we shall consider,

I. What foundations men lay for themselves.

Every man has some foundation for his hope. Though there are many shades of difference in the sentiments of different men, yet their grounds of hope may be reduced to two:

1. Their own goodness.

Some think that nothing but gross sin can expose them to the wrath of God. They therefore congratulate themselves as having never done anything to merit his displeasure. Others imagine that they may trust in the good works that they have done. They have, in their own apprehension, been regular in their duties to God and man: nor can they conceive that they should have any reason to fear. Thus, like the Pharisee of old, they thank God that they are not as other men; and are filled with self-delight, because they are punctual in the observance of certain duties.

2. Their own works and Christ's merits united.

Many, who see that their own works cannot justify them according to the strict tenor of the law, yet hope that they will, according to the milder demands of the Gospel. If they see that these will not suffice, they will look to Christ to supply their deficiencies. If they see that such an union is impracticable, and, that Jesus must be their only foundation, they hope, however, that he will save them for their works' sake. Thus they either avowedly profess to participate with Christ the honor of their salvation; or, while they pretend to give the honor of it to him, they look for the original and moving cause of it within themselves. Like the Judaizing Christians, or the Gentiles whom Peter misled, they unite the law to Christ; as though Christ needed to have something superadded to him, to render his death effectual. At all events, if they find their error in this respect, they will regard their works as their warrant to believe in Christ; and will expect mercy at his hands, not so much because his grace is free and all-sufficient, as because they have something in themselves, which may deserve his notice and regard.

These plans of salvation however will be found very erroneous, if we inquire,

II. What is that foundation which God has laid.

Nothing can be more clear, than that he has not laid either of those, which have been before mentioned.

He often describes his people as performing good works: and often promises them, under that character, eternal life. But he always represents us as sinners, and as standing in need of his mercy. And he has sent his Son into the world for that very reason, because none could obtain mercy by any works of their own. Nor has he less clearly shown, that works are wholly to be excluded from the office of justifying. He has told us, that salvation must be wholly of grace or wholly of works. That every degree of boasting is excluded from that salvation which he has revealed. And that the persons, whom he justifies, are ungodly, and without any works whatever to recommend them.

Christ is the one foundation which he has laid in Zion.

He "has set forth his Son to be a atoning sacrifice for sin," and every sinner is to build his hope on Christ alone. Christ is the foundation laid in the covenant of grace. The same is laid in all the promises. The same was exhibited in all the types. The same is laid also in the Gospel. We are expressly told that there is no other. Nor indeed can there be any other to all eternity.

The necessity of building upon this will appear, while we consider,

III. Why no other can be laid.

Many reasons might easily be assigned: but one or two may suffice:

1. Any other would be unworthy of the Divine Architect.

God himself is the architect; and must have all the glory of beginning and perfecting this building. But, if men were to found their hopes on anything but the Lord Jesus Christ, they would have whereof to glory. So far as respect was had to any merit in them, so far might they ascribe the honor to themselves. Even in Heaven their song must differ from that of the redeemed. Instead of giving all the glory to God and to the Lamb, they must take a portion of it to themselves. But this would be utterly unworthy of God to suffer. Indeed he has told us that he never can nor will suffer it. We may be sure therefore that no such way of salvation shall ever be established, as leaves man at liberty to boast. We shall be rewarded according to our works, and in some respect for our works; but the only ground of acceptance, either for our persons or our services, is in Christ alone.

2. No other would support the weight that is to be laid upon it.

Whatever our souls need in time or eternity must be derived from that, which is the foundation of our hope. Our pardon must be obtained by it; our peace flow from it; our strength and righteousness be given us on account of it; and eternal glory be bestowed on us, as the reward of it. And can we build our hope of such things in any degree on our own works? Can we, who, if we had done all that is commanded us, should be only unprofitable servants, imagine, that we can in any respect merit such things, when we have done nothing that is commanded us, at least, nothing perfectly, or as we ought to have done it? Surely such an hope would soon appear to be a foundation of sand; and would infallibly disappoint us to our eternal ruin. Yes, the very persons who build on such a foundation, almost invariably deny, that any man can be assured of his acceptance with God; they account such an assurance to be an enthusiastic delusion; which is a clear acknowledgment of the insufficiency of their foundation to bear this weight.

Infer,

1. How needful is it to inquire what foundation we are upon!

If we build but a common habitation, we are careful on what foundation we raise it. How much more care should we exercise, when we are building for eternity! Let us inquire, whether we have been deeply convinced of the insufficiency of our own goodness, and of the impossibility of uniting any works of ours with Christ's atoning sacrifice? And let us examine whether Christ's obedience unto death be our only hope, our only confidence? We never can be saved, unless, with Paul, we utterly renounce the filthy rags of our own righteousness, and desire to be found clad in Christ's unspotted robe.

2. How secure are they who are built upon the Lord Jesus Christ!

Christ, on whom they stand, is justly called "a tried stone, and a sure foundation." He never yet failed those who trusted in him. The vilest of mankind have found him able to save them to the uttermost. He is a rock to those who trust in him; nor shall the gates of Hell prevail against them. Let all believers then rejoice in their security; and hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering.

3. How careful should we be, what superstructure we raise upon him!

While Christ is the foundation of our hope, we are also to build upon him all our works. But our works will all be tried by fire. If they be not such as tend to his glory, they will be burnt up as hay, and wood, and stubble. If they be truly good, they will stand the trial, like gold, or silver, or precious stones. Let us then give diligent heed to our works. We may suffer loss in Heaven, though we should not suffer the loss of Heaven. Let us then seek "a full reward." While we renounce good works in point of dependence, let us practice them from love to our Redeemer. Thus shall we put to silence our adversaries; and adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

 

MDCCCCXLVI

Instructions to Those Who Build upon the True Foundation

1 Corinthians 3:12–15. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be spared; yet so as by fire.

IN our natural state, we follow the dictates of our own will, without consulting the honor of our God. Even after we are converted to God, there yet remains within us a proneness to follow our own inclinations, except as Divine grace counteracts that propensity, and prevails against it. In the Corinthian Church there were many awful proofs of this fact. The irregularities which obtained among them, were both numerous and deeply reprehensible. A party-spirit in particular created very grievous dissensions among them. Paul, reproving their unfitting conduct, reminds both the preachers who fomented such divisions, and the people who were drawn aside by them, that their eternal happiness would be advanced or diminished in proportion as they cultivated or neglected a Christian temper; and that, if they would be approved of their God in the day of judgment, they must not only build on the right foundation, but raise upon it a superstructure that should be worthy of it.

To elucidate the words before us, we shall show,

I. What is that superstructure which we ought to raise upon the true foundation.

Among the persons who rely on Christ as their only hope, there is a great diversity both of sentiment and action. This is intimated by the different images under which their conduct is represented in the text.

There are some whose actions may be compared to "wood, and hay, and stubble."

There were in the apostolic age two sets of teachers, who occasioned much strife and dissension in the different churches; namely, those who contended for the observance of the Mosaic ritual, and those who introduced into religion the dogmas of philosophy—Persons of similar dispositions and sentiments have infested the Church in every age. Some are distracting the minds of those around them with subtle questions and unedifying disputes about doctrines; others are magnifying the external forms of Church-government, as if they were of equal importance with the most fundamental articles of our faith; and others are bringing forward some fond conceits, which, from a desire of popularity and distinction, they propagate with all their might—How justly the superstructure which these men raise, may be compared to "wood, and hay, and stubble," appears from the natural tendency, and universal effect, of their exertions: for, instead of edifying the Church in faith and love, their doctrines uniformly lead to error—to contention—to bondage. Hence it is that Paul studiously dissuaded all ministers from engaging in such unprofitable disputes, and all Christians from being led astray by them.

But those actions which we ought to be performing, may rather be compared to "gold, and silver, and precious stones."

As the Apostles themselves were, so have many in all successive ages been, intent on cultivating, both in themselves and others, all the graces of the Spirit. It has been their ambition, while they have founded all their hopes on Christ, to show, by the holiness of their lives, that the Gospel is indeed "a doctrine according to godliness"—Now such a superstructure does indeed resemble the materials here mentioned; for it is valuable in itself—suitable to the foundation—ornamental to the edifice—and worthy of the Divine Inhabitant. Such is the superstructure which we all should raise: and it is the orderly accumulation of such materials as these, which assimilates the Church to that temple wherein God visibly resided, or rather, to that more glorious temple wherein he dwells invisible to mortal eyes.

That we may be stimulated to care and diligence in these things, let us consider,

II. The importance of erecting such an edifice as will be approved of by God.

This is set forth by the Apostle in very awful and appropriate terms:

1. Our works will all be tried as by fire.

In that day when God shall judge the world, "he will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the most secret counsels of our hearts." As the Judaizing teachers of old, or the philosophical reasoners, conceived that they were actuated solely by a regard for truth, while they were in reality instigated by pride and bigotry; so the contentious disputers about doubtful points of doctrine, or indifferent matters in Church-government, little think "what spirit they are of." But, as fire tries the metals, and discovers the dross that is in them; so will that fiery trial discover the unworthy mixtures with which our most specious actions were debased. It is to no purpose therefore to deceive ourselves; for we shall most assuredly be undeceived in that solemn day, when "the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is."

2. The works that are approved will add to our eternal happiness.

Every grace which we exercise, is pleasing and acceptable to God. "A meek and quiet spirit," and consequently every other holy disposition, "is in the sight of God an ornament of great price." It is the mind, which God regards. A contrite sigh, a grateful aspiration, an adoring look, are of more value in his eyes than all the zeal or subtlety which ingenious disputants or pharisaic bigots can exercise. Nor shall a pious thought or desire pass unnoticed or unrewarded.

3. The works which are disapproved will detract from our felicity.

It is supposed that we sincerely build upon the right foundation; and that this will secure our acceptance with God. But the degree of our happiness will depend entirely on the superstructure which we raise. We may suffer loss in Heaven, even though we should not suffer the loss of Heaven. Known deliberate sins will rob us of Heaven itself: and mistaken services, so far from increasing our reward, will diminish it. The person who has "added grace to grace with holy zeal and diligence, will have an entrance ministered unto him abundantly into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior." On the other hand, they whose spirit is less agreeable to the mind of God, will be saved only "as brands plucked out of the burning." Wherein the precise difference will consist, we do not know. It is sufficient that we are informed it does exist, and will certainly he manifest at the last day. Some "will suffer loss," and others "receive a full reward." Surely this consideration may well make us careful to regulate our minds by the sacred oracles, and to "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing."

Address.

1. Let us look well to our foundation.

It is obvious that, if they who build on the right foundation may be "scarcely saved," they who are not fixed on that, cannot be saved at all. Let us remember then that Christ is the only foundation of our hopes, and that we must depend solely on the merit of his blood and righteousness. Every other hope must be renounced: and we must say with the Church of old, "In the Lord alone have I righteousness and strength."

2. Let us look well to our superstructure.

The caution in the text clearly proves, that persons, upright in the main, are yet liable to err, and to be heaping up rubbish for the fire while they fancy that they are doing God service. Let us therefore take heed to our ways, and "take heed to our spirit." Let us not only endeavor to live and act for God, but to do everything from such motives, and in such a manner, as shall he approved by him in the day of judgment.

 

MDCCCCXLVII

The Danger of Defiling God's Temple

1 Corinthians 3:16, 17. Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

EVERY passion of the human mind should be called forth in aid of vital godliness. The saints indeed are more influenced by considerations that excite their love and gratitude: but they still need to be sometimes impressed with truths that may awaken a holy fear and jealousy, especially when their conduct has been such as to deserve reproof. The Corinthians were in a high degree culpable on account of their contentions: the Apostle therefore warns them of the consequences of acting in a manner so unworthy of their profession.

In discoursing on his words, we shall consider,

I. The acknowledged privilege of Christians.

Christians, like the temple of old, are the habitation of God.

The temple was the place where God dwelt in a more especial manner. Not only was the visible symbol of his presence there, but there also he manifested himself to his people in tokens of his love and communications of his grace. Thus does he also now reveal himself in his church: yes, every individual believer is thus consecrated to his service, and honored as his immediate residence.

Nor is this a doubtful, but a clear acknowledged, privilege.

Ignorant people may doubt "whether there be any Holy Spirit," but true Christians know him, and know themselves to be his habitation. Paul frequently appealed to the Corinthians respecting this, not imagining that any one of them could entertain a doubt of it. They must have often read of it in the Jewish scriptures—Often too must they have heard it from him: nor could they fail of knowing it from their own experience. If for an instant they reflected on the light, the strength, the consolations with which they had been favored, they could not but ascribe them to the agency of God's Spirit—and consequently they must be conscious of his dwelling in them as in his temple. Believers at this day have certainly not less grounds for drawing the same inference with respect to themselves: for they also are "a spiritual house;" and therefore they may, and should, know, that they are in the actual enjoyment of this privilege.

But as this privilege is attended both with duties and dangers, let us consider,

II. The declaration founded upon it.

God denounces the heaviest judgments against those who abuse this privilege.

He would not suffer any unclean person to enter into his temple of old, however free he might be from moral pollution, or however ignorantly he might have contracted his ceremonial defilement. These ordinances were intended to show, that sin of any kind, and much more such as now prevailed among the Christians at Corinth, was extremely hateful in his sight: such purity does he require in all that come near unto him. Doubtless there are errors, both in faith and practice, which, though injurious to his people's happiness, will not destroy the relation that exists between him and them: but, if they be of such a kind as to affect the foundation of the Christian's hope, or greatly to dishonor the superstructure, they will surely bring down the divine judgments on all who harbor them. This is declared respecting every kind of open immorality: but it is declared also, with very remarkable force and energy, respecting any departure from the principles of the Gospel, or any declension from a life of entire devotedness to God. Paul says to these very Corinthians, "I fear, lest as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so any of you should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." Why does he use the term "corrupted?" Why does he not say, turned from the simplicity that is in Christ? Why does he use the very same word as in my text is translated by the terms "defile," and "destroy?" No doubt he intended to show us, that any great departure from Christian principles would corrupt, defile, and destroy the soul: and it is a fact, that such a dereliction of Christian simplicity does proceed from corruption in the soul, and will generate corruption in the life. This idea is strongly confirmed by what the Apostle elsewhere says of those who propagate specious errors, being "vainly puffed by their fleshly mind. They do, in reality, the devil's work; and him they serve under the semblance of an angel of light. Beware then of his devices, of whatever kind they be, lest you bring upon yourselves destruction from the Lord.

This denunciation is even founded on the privilege itself.

Why was God so jealous of the honor of his temple, but because it was his immediate residence? the more nearly it was connected with him, the more was he himself dishonored by any pollutions introduced into it. Thus we also, instead of having any reason to hope for impunity on account of our relation to him, are taught to expect rather the heavier indignation, if we provoke the eyes of his glory. He may not indeed depart instantly and at once; because he is long-suffering as in the days of old. In forsaking his temple at Jerusalem, he removed to the threshold of the temple first, and then to the court of the temple, and then to the door of the east gate, and then to the mountain, that very Mount of Olives, from whence Jesus, the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person, afterwards took his departure from the midst of them. So he may be often grieved by us before he finally departs from us: but we may so resist his sacred motions as ultimately to "quench" them: and then he will abandon us to our utter ruin.

Improvement.

1. Let us seek to possess this great privilege.

As to be visited by an earthly monarch would be a higher honor than to be admitted into his palace, so to have God dwelling in our hearts on earth is even a higher honor than to be admitted into his temple above. Shall we not then be solicitous to obtain it? when God has designed that we should even know ourselves possessed of it, and enjoy all the happiness arising from it, shall we treat it with contempt, as a mere phantom of a heated imagination? Let us open wide the doors of our hearts, that the King of glory may enter in. With the Spirit of God dwelling in us, we shall have "all good things," peace, joy, strength, purity, yes, an earnest and foretaste of our heavenly inheritance. Let us never cease from our importunity until we have obtained from our God this "unspeakable gift."

2. Let us be careful lest we abuse this privilege.

Doctrines arising from human systems, even though they be true in themselves, must never be pressed into the service of sin, or be brought to enervate the force of declarations, which, though apparently opposite, are equally clear and true.

If some truths are revealed for the confirming of our stability, others are intended to create within us a holy jealousy. Instead therefore of attempting to invalidate the declaration before us, let us flee from those defilements which alone can make it formidable. Let us maintain that purity of heart which God requires, and study to "be holy as God is holy." Especially must we guard against abusing our privilege by enthusiastic conceits on the one hand, or presumptuous confidence on the other. The Spirit's operations do not supersede our efforts, but rather encourage them, and work by them: yet are they not to be discerned, except, like the wind, by their effects. Let your life, then, testify that God is with you of a truth. "And I pray God, your whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be sanctified wholly, and preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

MDCCCCXLVIII

The Means of Attaining True Wisdom

1 Corinthians 3:18. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

CONCERNING the nature of true wisdom, God and the world are at issue; the wisdom of man being foolishness with God, and the wisdom of God being foolishness with man. To what now must this be imputed? Is there anything in the revelation which God has given us, that is contrary to right reason? or is it that man's reason is darkened, and that his intellectual powers, no less than his bodily appetites, are depraved by sin? We apprehend that an impartial judge will not hesitate long in determining this question. But here another question arises; How shall man in his present fallen state be brought to entertain the same judgment of things as God himself does? Must he get some new faculty, whereby he shall have an additional mode of perception? or is there any way whereby his present faculties, weakened as they are, may be made to answer all the purposes for which they were originally given? To this we answer, that man does not want any new faculty, but only a new direction to the faculties he already possesses. We have a film upon the organs of vision, which needs to be removed: and for this end we must go to him who has said to us, "I counsel you to buy of me eye-salve that you may see." To the same effect is the advice given us in the text: "If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise;" let him acknowledge, that he cannot see clearly at present; and let him submit to the operation of God's word and Spirit: thus shall the film be purged away from his eyes, and he shall "walk in the light, as God is in the light."

This direction we would now submit to your consideration; and, for the fuller understanding of it, we will endeavor to set before you,

I. Its meaning.

II. Its reasonableness.

III. Its importance.

I. Its meaning.

It cannot be supposed that we are to lay aside our reason: that were to "become fools" indeed. Reason, in those things that are within its sphere, is an useful, though not an infallible, guide. And, in the things that are beyond its sphere, it has its office: it ceases to be a guide indeed; but it becomes a companion, that must attend us every step we take, and often interpose its counsel in difficult conjunctures.

To become a fool, in the sense it is enjoined in the text, implies two things; first, a consciousness of the weakness and fallibility of our reason, especially in things relating to God: and secondly, a willingness to submit our reason to the teachings of God's word and Spirit.

That our reason is weak and fallible, we see every day and hour. How differently will men argue on the most common subjects, and yet with equal confidence of the truth of their opinions! How will those very arguments, which, under the influence of vanity, or interest, or passion, once seemed to a man unanswerable, afterwards appear to him frivolous in the extreme, when the bias that was upon his mind has ceased to operate!

But it is in things relating to God that the fallibility of our reason more especially appears. How ignorant are the heathen world respecting the will of God, and the way in which they are to obtain acceptance with him! And how crude are the notions, which many who have the Bible in their hands, form respecting the path of duty, and the way of salvation! How absurd, for instance, was the idea that Nicodemus formed of the new birth, when he conceived it to be a repetition of a natural birth! Thus it is with many among ourselves: they cannot hear of the new birth, or of justification by faith, or of the influences of the Spirit, without annexing to them ideas, if not as gross, yet quite as erroneous, as those of Nicodemus. But we may presume that Christ and his Apostles were right in their judgment of spiritual matters; and that others are right in proportion as they accord with them in sentiment, in spirit, and in conduct. In what light then will our boasted reason appear, if tried by this touchstone? Will not its dictates be found in direct opposition to the voice of inspiration, and consequently erroneous? Is there not such an universal departure from the scripture standard, that the few who adhere to it, are, as the prophet calls them, "Men wondered ate?"

To become a fool, then, is to feel the insufficiency of our own reason, and to be sensible that we are exceeding prone to form wrong opinions on Divine subjects, insomuch that we need at all times greatly to distrust our own judgment.

But this expression implies also a willingness to submit our reason to the teachings of God's word and Spirit. Men who have a high opinion of their own reason, are ever ready to bring the word of God to their bar, and to pass judgment on it as true or false, according as it agrees with, or opposes, their own preconceived opinions. They are not contented to let reason judge, whether the revelation itself be from God or not? (that is its proper office) but, having acknowledged it to be from God, they proceed to determine on the points that are revealed, exactly as if they were able with their shallow reason to fathom the depths of Divine wisdom.

This disposition must be mortified; and men, however learned or wise in the estimation of themselves and others, must submit to "be taught of God." The only use of reason, as applied to revelation, is to ascertain, Whether the revelation, purporting to be from Heaven, be indeed of Divine authority; and, What is the true import of that revelation in all its parts. These two points being ascertained, it is not the province of reason to judge whether a thing confessedly revealed, be true or not: there faith steps in, and supplies the defects of reason; and assures the mind, that the point itself is true, because it is revealed; and that if its truth do not appear evident to the eye of reason, it is not from any irrationality in the point itself, but from a want of clearness in our reason to discern it, and a want of purity in our hearts to receive it.

Thus, to become a fool, is to take the word of God with the simplicity of a little child; to acknowledge our inability to comprehend it; and to implore of God the influences of his Spirit, that "the eyes of our understanding being enlightened, we may be able to comprehend the heights and depths" of his revealed will. In short, it is to "receive with meekness the engrafted word," and to pray with Job, "What I see not, teach you me," or with David, "Open you my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law."

Now it must be confessed, that this is humiliating to our proud reason; and that it is difficult for those who "seem wise in this world," to condescend to receive instruction in such a way. But we shall find, that the Apostle's direction, if duly considered, may be vindicated (as we are in the next place to show) on the ground of,

II. Its reasonableness.

To become fools in order to be wise, however paradoxical it may appear, is, in the view of it before stated, most highly reasonable: for, in so doing, we acknowledge nothing but what is undeniably true—and submit to nothing, but what we cheerfully submit to in the acquiring of human wisdom.

We acknowledge nothing but what is undeniably true. Let us look into the Scriptures, and see how our characters are painted there. In them we are told, that "the God of this world has blinded our eyes," that "we have walked hitherto in the vanity of our mind, having our understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in us, because of the blindness of our hearts," that, on this very account, we need "a spirit of wisdom and revelation to enlighten us," that, in our conversion, our "eyes are opened," and we are "turned from darkness unto light," yes, are "brought out of darkness into marvelous light." We are further told that, so far from having in ourselves a knowledge of the things of God, we do not even receive them when offered to our view; yes, we account them foolishness, neither can we know them, because we are destitute of that spiritual understanding whereby alone they can be discerned.

These are plain truths which require no comment.

Let us now see these truths exemplified. If we would state our argument in its most advantageous point of view, we should adduce the Gentile world as proofs of the fallibility of man's reason; and show, that "by wisdom they knew not God." But we will wave this advantage, and take the instance of Paul, who had the Scriptures in his hands, who was educated under the most eminent teacher of his day, and who had made a proficiency in biblical learning beyond any of his own age. With these helps, we might well expect that reason should perform its office to admiration, and prove to the world, that it was not so vitiated as some imagine. Doubtless he, who had the advantage of living under the brightest, fullest dispensation of Gospel light, should in no respect continue in darkness: he must have clear views both of his duty to God, and of that method of salvation which had been typified in the Scriptures, and was now made plain by the preaching of a crucified Savior. Yet behold, this very man was grossly ignorant both of the law, and of the Gospel too: he knew not that the law condemned the inmost workings of iniquity in the soul; or that the prophecies had been accomplished in Jesus. Nor, unless God had caused the "scales to fall from his eyes," would his reason ever have sufficed to rectify his views, or to keep him from being a self-righteous moralist, a furious zealot, and a bloody persecutor.

Thus much could reason do for him: "his very wisdom and knowledge, instead of guiding him aright, perverted him;" "he became vain in his imaginations, and his foolish heart was darkened; professing himself to be wise, he became a fool."

In addition to what has been thus stated and exemplified, we will only observe, that God speaks with utter indignation against those who fancy themselves wise, or expect ever to become so by the mere exertion of their own reason; "Vain man would be wise, though he be born like a wild ass's colt."

Here then permit me to ask; Does not God know more of us than we do of ourselves; and, Do not the passages that have been adduced, declare at least as much as they have been brought to establish? How much more they affirm, we shall not now inquire: but that they show the fallibility of our reason in things relating to God, and the propriety of submitting our reason to the teaching of God's word and Spirit, no candid person will deny.

Is it not then reasonable that we should acknowledge these truths? Shall we make ourselves wiser than God? Will not the very attempt to do so be an irrefragable proof, that we are fools indeed?

But the reasonableness of becoming fools in order to be wise appears yet further, in that it is the very thing which we cheerfully do in order to attain human wisdom.

If a man begin to learn any science, and his preceptor tell him of some deep part of that science, which at first sight appears to involve in it a contradiction or absurdity; he does not presently determine that that point is false; but he conceives that there are things which he does not yet understand; and he contents himself with studying, in the method prescribed to him, those parts which are suited to his capacity, hoping that in due time he shall gain a further insight into those abstruser matters, and see the truth and reason of those things which he cannot at present comprehend, and which. through his ignorance of the intermediate points, he would not be able to comprehend, even if they were ever so clearly stated to him.

Now why should we not act thus with respect to religion? Has not that as great depths as any human science? Or rather, is it not more above the sphere of human intellect than any other science whatever?

But it will be asked, What are those first rudiments which we must understand well in order to qualify us for a deeper knowledge of the subject? To this we answer, (and O that God would impress it on all our minds!) The knowledge of ourselves is the key to all other knowledge. If we do not know by deep experience, that we are "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," we never can "know any other truth as we ought to know it." On this the whole Scripture turns. It is because of our guilt and misery, that we need the atoning blood, and unspotted righteousness, of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is because of our blindness and pollution, that we need the enlightening and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. It is because we are altogether destitute of anything that is good, that we must be saved wholly by grace, and that we must receive "Christ as our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our complete redemption." We may indeed obtain a head-knowledge of these things from books, while yet we remain as proud and unsanctified as the most ignorant heathen. But a real, spiritual, and saving knowledge of these things can be learned only by divine teaching, and must always be preceded by a knowledge of our own hearts: indeed, it will always be exactly proportioned to our self-knowledge: the more we feel ourselves destitute of wisdom, goodness, and strength, the more insight shall we have into "the deep things of God," and the more precious will every Scripture truth be to our souls.

We repeat the question then, Why should it be thought unreasonable to adopt this method of attaining heavenly wisdom, when it is the method we invariably pursue in the investigation of human sciences? Is it not reasonable that we should pay as much deference to God as to man? Or is religion alone, of all subjects, so easy to men's apprehension, that they who have never paid attention to its first principles, are yet competent to sit in judgment on its most mysterious truths? Surely, if a submission to any given process be judged reasonable in the prosecution of human knowledge, much more must it be so in the pursuit of that which is divine.

We must not be satisfied however with showing the reasonableness of the direction before us; we must go on to state, in the last place,

III. Its importance.

Every word of God deserves our deep attention. But the exhortation in the text is singularly important; for first, It declares the only way in which we can ever attain true wisdom.

If we could attain the end by different means, it would be of the less consequence whether we used these means or not. But here is the door of knowledge; and the only question is, Whether we will enter in by it or not. It requires us to stoop, yes, to stoop much lower than we wish: but stoop we must; or else we can never gain admission to "the secrets of God's covenant." God holds the key of knowledge in his own hand: "he alone can give wisdom and understanding," we may compass sea and land; we may learn all languages, and explore all sciences, and repeat the very Scriptures themselves from beginning to end; and yet never attain true wisdom. If any man will be wise, he must become a fool, in order that he may be wise. The most learned man in the universe can know nothing savingly in any other way: and the weakest man in the universe shall know all that is needful for him, if he will but enter in at this door: "God will reveal to babes the things which he has hid from the wise and prudent," and "a wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein."

Can anything more strongly show the importance of this precept, than the consideration, that none can remain destitute of true wisdom who obey it, or obtain true wisdom who despise it?

We are aware that some may ask, Are there not many persons learned in the Scriptures, who yet never attained their wisdom in this way? We answer, Either they attained their wisdom in this way, or their wisdom is no other than "the wisdom of the world, which is foolishness with God." We have nothing to do with individuals. The point to be resolved is, Whether God requires us to become fools in our own estimation, in order that we may be wise in his? And if he do require it, then shall men become wise in his way, or not at all.

But there is another view in which the importance of this precept will appear, namely, that if we obey it not, our reason, instead of guiding us aright, will only mislead us more and more, and render us more obstinate in our error.

The more confident we are respecting the truth of our present views, the more shall we regulate our conduct according to them: and consequently, if they are wrong, we shall wander further and further from the right way, and yet conceit ourselves to be in the path of duty. Moreover, God himself will give such persons up to their own delusions, as a just punishment for the pride of their hearts. The very words following the text are full to this point; "He knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain," and again, "He takes the wise in their own craftiness." Let us hear our Lord himself speaking to the Pharisees, who disdained to be taught by him: "For judgment I am come into this world; that they who see not, might see; and that they who see, might be made blind." And when they answered with indignation, "What, are we the blind persons you are speaking of?" he answered, "If you were blind, you should have no sin; but now you say, We see; therefore your sin remains."

The language of the Apostle in the first chapter of this epistle, is peculiarly strong and animated; "It is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" Thus we may ask in reference to all who will not learn in God's appointed way, What does their wisdom do for them? Does it bring them to God? Does it enable them to overcome the world? Does it disarm death of its sting? Does it inspire them with a hope full of immortality? Does it sanctify them throughout in all their tempers and dispositions, and transform them into the image of the blessed Jesus? We may even ask, Whether, so far from loving to be taught of God themselves, they do not feel an enmity in their hearts against those who are taught of God; and account them fools, whom God declares to be the only wise?

Here then the point appears in its true light. If men will not become fools in their own estimation, they shall be fools indeed: for they shall wander incessantly "in their own deceivings," and shall "perish at last for lack of knowledge."

We cannot conclude this subject without observing.

How much it reflects on a fact which has existed in every age of the Church, which yet it is not easy to account for, namely, that few of those who are eminent for learning, are at the same time eminent for spirituality of heart and life.

Paul in this very epistle says to the Church at Corinth, "You see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has 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, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence." Thus must we say in reference to our times, that not many wise, or many noble, are found among the despised followers of Jesus. And the reason is, that men will not condescend to be taught of God in the way that God requires: they are "wise in their own conceits," their wisdom is even a greater bar to their salvation than their lusts: for, their lusts they will condemn, even while they inwardly indulge them: but their wisdom they hold fast, nor will they part with it, even for "the wisdom that comes of God." Being therefore too proud to learn, they are left in ignorance; and, stumbling at the very threshold of the sanctuary, they never enter within the veil.

Here then let us call to mind the first words of the text: "Let no man deceive himself." We all, and especially those "who seem wise in this world," are in danger of self-deception. But let us remember that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." Let us therefore "not lean to our own understandings;" but, aware of the weakness and fallibility of our own reason, let us submit ourselves humbly to the teachings of God's word and Spirit.

To this advice it may be objected perhaps, That we promote an enthusiastic dependence on divine impulses; and puff up ignorant persons with spiritual pride; and discourage the pursuit of sound learning.

Let us then be heard in reply to these objections.

In answer to the first we say, that we should indeed promote enthusiasm, if we exhorted any one to follow impulses that were independent of the written word: but if we recommend all persons to regulate their sentiments solely by the written word, and to rely on the influences of the Holy Spirit no further than they accord with that, then neither we, nor they, are in any danger of enthusiasm, because the sacred oracles are an unalterable standard to which every thought and action may be brought, and by which its quality may be infallibly determined.

With respect to the encouraging of spiritual pride, surely the inculcating of humility is a strange way of promoting pride. Suppose we were to tell men that their own reason is sufficient for every purpose of spiritual instruction; and that they are at liberty to weigh every truth of Scripture in their own balance, and to admit, or alter, or expunge whatever accords with, or opposes, their own sentiments; then indeed there would be some foundation for the objection. But when we recommend a cheerful submission to the voice of inspiration, and a humble dependence on God's promised aid, we cut up pride by the very roots, and lead men to confess, that all their sufficiency is of God alone. And if any pervert this doctrine to the fostering of their own pride (and what doctrine is there that has not been perverted?) the fault is not in the doctrine itself, but in those who abuse it: and if an argument from the abuse of a thing be valid, we must then give up the Bible itself; since every doctrine in it has been more or less abused.

Lastly, as to the discouraging of sound learning, how can that be a consequence of the foregoing statement? We have not insinuated that worldly wisdom is unnecessary for worldly purposes, but only for the attainment of divine knowledge: and therefore we can no more be said to speak against human wisdom because we deny the necessity of it in order to the attainment of that which is divine, than we could be said to decry divine wisdom, if we should deny that to be necessary in the investigation of human sciences. Nor have we intimated that human wisdom is of little value for the elucidating of the Scriptures; for most assuredly it is of exceeding great value in this view, especially when used in conjunction with, and in subserviency to, divine wisdom. And lest any one should conceive, that deductions unfavorable to the pursuit of literature should appear to be authorized by this discourse, we declare unequivocally, that it is the duty, the indispensable duty, of all students, whatever be the sphere in which they are afterwards to move, to cultivate human wisdom, and with all diligence to prosecute the work assigned them, "not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." We do not hesitate to say, that they would be culpable in the highest degree, if they should make religion a pretext for neglecting their Academical studies. We would solemnly exhort them all to remember, that, as in our families, so also in God's family, every servant best executes his Master's will, when he is most attentive to the duties of his place and station.

Having thus endeavored in few words to obviate such objections as were likely to arise, what remains, but that we entreat those who think themselves wise, to become fools in their own sight; and those who feel that they "lack wisdom, to ask it of God, who gives to all men liberally, and without upbraiding."

 

MDCCCCXLIX

The Christian's Privileges

1 Corinthians 3:21–23. Let no man glory in men. For all things are your's; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's.

IT is scarcely to be expected, considering the weakness and depravity of our fallen nature, that the Church in any place should be free from dissensions and disputes. If every man who embraced the Gospel were from thenceforth altogether under its influence, nothing but love and harmony would prevail. But, not to mention the insincerity of some, who, like Simon Magus, profess the truth without experiencing any of its sanctifying influence, the hearts of men are not changed all at once, but by a gradual and progressive advancement in the divine life. Hence corruption will be at work, as well as grace; and, while the Spirit lusts against the flesh, the flesh will lust against the Spirit, and in some cases prevail against it, to the disturbing and defiling of the Church. So it was even in the apostolic age; and even where Paul himself preached. A party-spirit early prevailed in the Church of Corinth; different parties arraying themselves under different heads; some saying, that they were of Paul, others of Apollos, others of Cephas, and others of Christ. To repress these contentions, the Apostle remonstrated with the people on the impropriety of their conduct: and, having exposed the evil of such a spirit, he now, in conclusion, shows, that to "glory in men" is highly criminal; because of,

I. Our interest in God.

All that God has, belongs to us, if we believe in Christ:

1. His servants are ours.

They are ours, with all their talents, and with all their labors: the most eminent among them is but "a steward of the mysteries of God," appointed by God to dispense them to his people; "an earthen vessel, in which treasures" are deposited by him for their use. They are Christ's servants; and they are ours for his sake. Paul, and Apollos, and Cephas were not endowed with their respective powers for their own sake, but for the sake of the Church and of the world; as we are expressly told: When "Christ ascended up on high, he gave some, Apostles; and some, Prophets; and some, Evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," so that all to whom they are sent, may consider them as among their treasures, the gifts of God to them for the benefit of their souls.

2. His creatures are ours.

The whole "world," and all that it contains, is ours, if we believe in Christ. The sun is ours to light us by day, and the moon and stars by night. The rain is ours, and the produce of universal nature, as far as is for our good. As to the actual possession of it, we may have but little; but as to the sanctified enjoyment, we have all. Paul speaks of himself as often oppressed with want and nakedness: yet, not-withstanding in appearance he had nothing, in reality he "possessed all things." Little as a worldly mind can enter into the idea, it is a fact, that the poor godly man has a richer enjoyment of his pittance, than the most opulent of ungodly men have of all their sumptuous feasts and large estates. To live by faith is a sublimer happiness than to live by sense; because in the cup of one who so lives, there is an ingredient which the other never tasted, and never can taste: "God himself is the portion of his inheritance, and of his cup," whether he have little or much, he enjoys God in it; and therefore he has the best possible use of all sublunary good.

3. His dispensations are ours.

"Life," with all its comforts, belongs to the believer; nor can it ever be taken from him until his appointed time be come. "Death" also is among the number of his possessions. Terrible as it is to the unbeliever, it ceases to be so when once we give ourselves up sincerely to Christ as his peculiar people: from that moment its sting is drawn: and every man who can say with truth, "To me to live is Christ," may with the fullest assurance add, "To me to die is gain." The pains and sorrows which usually precede death are only so many means of purifying the soul, and of preparing it for its appearance before God: and the final stroke is no other than the opening of the gates of Paradise for the soul's admission to the full possession of its inheritance. If the stroke be more sudden and violent, it may be regarded as the fiery chariot which bore Elijah to the realms of bliss: or, if it be more mild and gradual, it may be viewed as the wagons which Joseph sent to bring his aged father to a participation of all his glory in the land of Egypt. However it may come, it is to the true Christian a termination of all his sorrows, and a consummation of all his joys. "Things present" too, of whatever kind they be, are precisely such as the believer, if he did but see as God sees, would choose for himself: and "things to come," however involved in impenetrable darkness at the present, are all ordered for his eternal good. To him they are uncertain: but Infinite Wisdom has ordained them all: and though there may be insulated occurrences which in themselves may be evil, they shall all, when taken together, "work for good," to those who love God. Yes, for the believer is prepared the future judgment; and for him are reserved all the glories of the eternal world. And, that we may not doubt the truth of these assertions, the affirmation is renewed at the close of this catalogue, "All are yours."

Before we point out the particular bearing of this part of our text, we will notice the latter part, wherein is stated,

II. God's interest in us.

Here it will be necessary to mark distinctly the drift of the Apostle's argument. He is showing, that we ought "not to glory in men," that is, not to indulge such partiality for some as would lead us to undervalue others. To evince this, he observes, that "all things are ours;" and that it is absurd to be so over-valuing a minute and comparatively insignificant part of our possessions, when we ought rather to be rejoicing in the whole: and that it is moreover highly criminal to be arranging ourselves under the standard of some favorite preacher, when we should be wholly and entirely given up to God as his exclusive property.

The former of these points we have already considered: the latter now calls for our attention.

We are not to give up ourselves to any man whatever, as though we had an exclusive property in him, or he in us: for,

1. We are Christ's.

In speaking upon this, we shall not enter into it at large, but shall confine ourselves to the precise view in which we conceive it to have been spoken by the Apostle.

We are Christ's, and not man's. The minister, who may be the honored instrument of bringing us to Christ, has no property in us: he is only the servant whom Christ has sent to bring his bride to him. Christ is the Bridegroom; the preacher is only the person who "presents the Bride as a chaste virgin to Him," and this is the precise view in which every convert ought to regard the person to whom the honor of bringing him to Christ is delegated. The bride may feel obligations to the friend who conveys her to the bridegroom; but she does not once think of showing to him any such partiality as would interfere with the sacred and inalienable rights of her husband. Thus it should be with all who are converted through the instrumentality of men: they should regard those men as mere instruments, or, as Paul expresses it, "as ministers by whom they have believed," and by whom they have received the gifts which the Lord himself, their heavenly Bridegroom, sent to them.

Let this then be borne in mind: "You are Christ's," wholly, and altogether Christ's. He formed you originally: he redeemed you with his own most precious blood: he called you by his grace: all that you are, and all that you have, is his. You must therefore consider yourselves as his: his exclusive property, in all the powers of your body, and in all the faculties of your soul. Yes, so entirely must your affections be set on him, as to make all creatures dwindle into insignificance before him, eclipsed as stars before the meridian sun.

2. "Christ is God's."

Our affections are not to be so set even on Christ himself, as to forget that he, as our Mediator, is only God's servant, sent to bring us to God the Father, and to deliver us up to him when the whole work entrusted to him shall be complete. The Lord Jesus Christ is to be considered in a three-fold view; as God, as man, and as the Mediator between God and man. As God, he is equal with the Father: as man, and as Mediator, he is inferior to the Father; as Paul has said; "I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man: and the head of Christ is God." He is the Father's servant, to redeem both Jews and Gentiles by his own obedience unto death—In all that he spoke, and in all that he did, he acted agreeably to the commission which he had received from the Father: and all that he suffered was "according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God the Father." While this glorious work is going forward, we must look to Christ, in whom all fullness is treasured up for the use of his Church, and "in whom all fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily," but in the last day, when all the elect shall have been gathered in, and every enemy shall have been put under the feet of our victorious Lord, the whole body, with Christ himself at their head, shall be subject unto God the Father, being delivered up to him as the supreme Head of this glorious kingdom, that "God may be all in all." As a mediatorial kingdom, it has been received from God the Father; and when, as a mediatorial kingdom, there shall be no longer any need of the Mediator's office, it shall be given up into the hands of Him from whose counsels it proceeded, and by whose power it was completed.

Seeing then that we, and all the whole Church, are God's exclusive property, we must, from fidelity to him, guard against the smallest disposition to alienate from him any portion of that honor and authority which are due to him alone.

We will improve the subject,

1. In its negative and more appropriate view.

We must "not glory in men." It matters little whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, be the object of our preference; the attachment which leads us to set up one above another is altogether carnal. Four times in as many verses is this conduct characterized as carnal. Happy would it be for the Church of God, if this disposition were viewed in its proper light! for there is scarcely a place where more than one minister officiates, but this hateful temper springs up to disturb the union and harmony of the Church. Moreover, as this temper is carnal in itself, so is it injurious to the welfare, as well of those who indulge it, as of all who are affected by it. Wherever it exists, it deprives the person of all the benefit which he might receive from those whom he so ungratefully undervalues: he contributes to excite divisions in the Church of God; and, as far as in him lies, weakens the hands of those ministers, on whom, in comparison of his favorite, he pours contempt. Brethren, let the arguments of the Apostle have their proper weight. The object of your idolatrous regard is given, not to you only, but to the whole Church of God, for whose benefit he is sent forth: and while he is sent for others, others also are sent for you: and you are ungrateful to God in so limiting your regards, as not to give a due proportion of them to all who seek your welfare. Besides, you are not to view them, so much as God in them: for of themselves they are nothing: whoever plants or waters, it is God alone that gives the increase. To God then supremely, and to God exclusively, are your affections due: and, if you will set them on any creature, you will "provoke him to jealousy," and cause him to take away from you, as "Nehushtan," (a piece of brass,) the instrument which he had raised up for the salvation of your souls.

2. In its positive and more general view.

You should glory in God with your whole hearts. Think what reason you have to glory in him: what unspeakable benefits you have received at his hands, and what obligations you have to surrender up yourselves wholly unto him! Who, besides the believer, can take to himself the declarations of our text? Of whom, besides him, can it be said, "All things are yours?" Survey the catalogue, believer, and think whether there be anything in the whole universe that you can add to it? Should not you then be contented? Should not you be thankful? or rather, should there be any bounds to your joy and gratitude? I ask not whether you be in health or sickness, in wealth or poverty, in joy or sorrow: the state you are in is that which Infinite Wisdom has ordained for your greatest good; and there awaits you, at your departure hence, the immediate and everlasting fruition of God himself. O be joyful in the Lord, all you people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard day and night! And, as God is wholly yours, so be wholly his, in body and in soul, in time and in eternity.

We cannot however conclude without entreating all to see that these blessings do indeed belong to them. It is to the believer, and to him alone, that they do belong: and we earnestly invite all, first, to believe in Christ as their only Savior, and, then, to make it evident by their works that they have indeed believed; for, if our character be not clear, we can have but little comfort in the promises to which the saints alone are entitled, and of which they alone will ever receive the final accomplishment.

 

MDCCCCL

Believers are Christ's Property

1 Corinthians 3:23. You are Christ's.

TRUE Christians, however poor in this world, are indeed the richest people in the universe. There is not anything of which they have not the best use and enjoyment. All things temporal, spiritual, and eternal, belong to them: yet they are not so rich in the property they possess, as they are in being themselves the property of another. The Apostle is enumerating in a climax the privileges of Christians; and having said that all things are theirs, he adds, as a more exalted privilege, that they are Christ's. To elucidate this truth, we shall consider,

I. Whose we were.

The whole creation properly belongs to God; but mankind have alienated themselves from him: nor, whatever difference may have been made between us and others by the grace of God, is there any difference between us by nature. As long as we continue unregenerate we belong,

1. To ourselves.

The natural man disclaims God's authority over him, and thinks himself at liberty to live to himself. This was once the state even of the Apostles themselves: nor is there one among us who was not once a rebel like unto them. Our understanding, will, and affections, we used as altogether our own. The members of our bodies too we employed wholly in our own service: even in our religious actions we regarded self rather than God. With respect to all our talents of time, money, influence, etc. we said, "They are our own, who is Lord over us?"

2. To the world.

The world has an entire ascendency over us by nature. We adopt its maxims, follow its fashions, and obey its dictates: the pleasures, riches, and honors of it are the idols which we worship. What more can be wanting to constitute us its vassals? Our Lord himself declares, that all such persons are, not merely the friends, but the property, of the world.

3. To Satan.

Satan rules in all the children of disobedience; he leads them captive at his will. Hence he is called the God of this world: and who among us has not fulfilled his will? This then manifests us to have been his children; and, if we be not converted by divine grace, it may still be said to us, as it was to the Jews of old, "You are of your father, the devil."

By conversion, however, we are brought back to our rightful Owner,

II. Whose we are.

Christ is the heir and sovereign Lord of all things. Both men and devils are subject to his control; but believers are his in a more peculiar manner. They are his people, his bride, his very members.

1. By donation from the Father.

The Father, from eternity, chose a people for himself. These he gave to Christ to be redeemed by him; and secured them to him by an everlasting covenant. To his eternal purpose we must trace the distinction made between them and others, and ascribe all our salvation to him alone.

2. By his own purchase.

Though salvation is freely given to us, it was purchased for us at a most invaluable price. Christ gave his own life a ransom for us: the price he paid was no less than his own blood. This is the great subject of praise in Heaven: nor should it ever be forgotten by us on earth.

3. By the drawings of the Holy Spirit.

No man, of himself, would go to Christ for salvation: all who are his, are drawn to him by the Spirit. It is the Spirit who quickens and renews our souls: to him alone must we ascribe the power and the glory.

4. By their own voluntary surrender.

All Christ's people are made willing to be his: they willingly renew their baptismal covenant, and give themselves up to him at his holy table. This they consider as their reasonable service: yes, they rejoice in it as their highest privilege. This is the peculiar character of all true Christians.

Learn hence,

1. What an exalted character the Christian is.

He is Christ's, he is Christ's property, and "purchased possession." He is so united to Christ, as to be even "a member of his body," yes, he is so entirely one with Christ as to be "one spirit with him." Amazing! one would be almost ready to account this blasphemy. But it is altogether the very truth of God. Compare him, in this view, with what he was: how marvelously changed! There are changes in the natural world, which are truly wonderful; from an acorn to an oak; from a chrysalis, immured in its cell, to a butterfly, with all its gaudy plumage: but the Christian far surpasses them: for they had in their very nature the elements of what they afterwards display: whereas the Christian had the very reverse; a carnal and earthly nature, which is changed into one that is heavenly and divine. Methinks, scarcely would Beelzebub himself, if restored to his former state, be a greater monument of grace than he. Brethren, I charge you to keep this in mind. And, if any imagine that such a reflection will generate pride, tell them, that what you was is all that you can call yours; and that what you are, is the gift of sovereign grace, to the praise and glory of God alone.

2. What inestimable privileges he possesses.

Is he Christ's? Then Christ acknowledges him as his, and fixes his eye upon him for good, and orders everything for his eternal welfare. Yes, the Lord Jesus "keeps him even as the apple of his eye," and will suffer neither men nor devils "to pluck him out of his hand." To the Christian the Savior looks as to the brightest jewel in his crown, and as a trophy, in whom he will to all eternity be glorified. It was in reference to him that the Savior, in his last, his intercessory, prayer, said, "Father, I will that they whom you have given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me," and never will he cease to watch over every one of them, until that prayer is answered, and they are enthroned with him in glory, at the right hand of God.

3. How plain and obvious is his duty.

Are you Christ's? Then for him you must live; and every faculty you possess, whether of soul or body, must be improved for him. Your whole life must be a comment on those words of the Psalmist, "Depart from me, you wicked; I will keep the commandments of my God." Having obtained this stupendous, this inconceivably exalted honor, you must "walk worthy of your high calling;" or, rather I should say, of Him who has called you, yes, "worthy of the Lord himself unto all pleasing." There should be no bounds to your desire after holiness, no limit to your efforts. You should desire to be "pure as Christ himself is pure," and "holy as your Father which is in Heaven is holy." This is what the Lord Jesus expects at your hands, and what your relation to him imperatively demands. Seeing that "you are not your own, but bought with a price, it is your bounden duty to glorify him with your body and your spirit which are his."

 

MDCCCCLI

Ministers, the Lord's Stewards

1 Corinthians 4:1. 2. Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God, Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

THE apostolic Churches were not so blameless as we are apt to imagine. Many evils obtained among them; and not in a few insulated individuals only, but in the great mass of the people. The Church at Corinth was peculiarly faulty: many and great evils obtained among them: dissension and division in particular, were fomented among them: and the very diversity of gifts which were exercised among them, instead of being an occasion of more exalted piety, was made a source of discord. The people had their favorite preachers, under whom they ranged themselves as partisans and followers; one being of Paul, another of Apollos, another of Cephas; and another of Christ, as having heard and enjoyed his personal ministrations. To allay this spirit, Paul teaches them what account to make of all their teachers, and what to look for at their hands: not flattery, as heads of parties; but fidelity, as stewards of their great Lord and Master.

Let us here see,

I. In what light people are to view their ministers.

Ministers come not in their own name, but as ordained of God for the benefit of the Church. They are to be viewed,

1. As ministers of Christ.

They are sent by Christ. They come not of themselves, but as commissioned by him. It is his message which they bring; his will that they perform. By them it is that he speaks to men, As earthly kings are represented by their ambassadors, and speak by them in foreign courts, so the Lord Jesus Christ himself speaks by his ministers: they stand in his stead: they speak in his name: their word is not their own, but his; and must be received, "not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God."

2. As stewards of the mysteries of God.

They are not merely servants or ministers, but servants of a peculiar class. The whole Church is one great family; and they are appointed as "stewards," to "give to every one his portion in due season." To them "the mysteries of God" are more especially committed, that they may dispense them to all, according to their respective necessities; giving "milk to babes, and strong meat to those who are of full age." The whole of God's revelation is full of mysteries, which, in due season, they are to unfold: but that which they are chiefly to make known, is the stupendous mystery of redemption. They are to show, as occasion may require, the need there was of redemption; the means by which it is wrought, even by the incarnation and death of God's only dear Son; and the way in which it is applied to men, by the mighty operation of the Spirit of God upon the soul—It is not necessary that they should be always insisting on one particular topic: the subject comprehends an immense range; and every part of it must be brought forward in its turn: but the one great mystery must be always kept in view; and the dispensing of it must ever be considered as the appropriate office of the ministers of Christ.

This being their true character and designation, it will easily appear,

II. In what way ministers are to conduct themselves towards their people.

A steward in an household must be faithful to his charge: and so must a minister be in the Church of God: he must be faithful,

1. To his Master.

He is to receive instructions daily from his Master, and to carry them into effect to the utmost of his power. He must never be doing his own will, or following his own way: he must "in no respect seek his own things, but invariably the things of Jesus Christ." He must so act, as if the eye of his Master were immediately upon him; and so that he may be able to give a good account of his stewardship, whensoever he shall be called into his Master's presence—He must never be swayed by anything but his Master's will: there must be no vacillation in his conduct, as arising from carnal hopes or fears; nor any negligence, as arising from sloth. What his Master has appointed, he must do: and "whatever his hand finds to do, he must do it with all his might."

2. To his fellow-servants.

He must make a due inquiry into their state and circumstances, in order that he may know what to apportion to each, in a way either of work or sustenance. Having his eye on all, he must deal out to them severally that measure of approbation or displeasure, which may be a sure criterion and earnest of the award which will be assigned them at the coming of their Lord. He is never to aim at "pleasing them, except for their good to edification," I say, he must speak and act, at all times, "not as pleasing men, but God, that tries the hearts." He must indeed "speak the truth in love;" but the truth he must speak at all times, "commending himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God." He must "never prophesy smooth things;" but "reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine;" "doing nothing by partiality, and never preferring one before another." The express command of God to him is, "He who has my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?" The word which he is entrusted to dispense must be in his mouth "as a fire, and as a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces." He must consider his own soul as at stake: and must so "declare the whole counsel of God, as to be pure from the blood of all men," and, at all events, to "deliver his own soul;" that, if any have perished under his ministry, he may himself at least be approved of his God.

Address.

1. Be thankful for the privileges which you enjoy.

You have, I hope I may say, a faithful ministry. But you need to be cautioned against the error which obtained in the Corinthian Church. You know, that wherever there are more ministers than one, there is apt to arise an undue partiality for one above another: and this sometimes verges on an idolatrous attachment on the one part, and a contemptuous indifference on the other. But the Apostle tells us, that this is a very reprehensible carnality. For, granting that you find one more profitable to your soul than another, "what is any man, but a minister by whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?" Look through men to God. All of them are "earthen vessels, and the treasure they dispense is God's," if you look to man, God will withhold his blessing from you: but if you look simply to him, he will, by one as well as by another of his faithful servants, comfort and enrich your souls.

2. Be faithful, on your part, in making a due improvement of them.

If faithfulness be required on our part, so is it also on yours. You must come to the ordinances with a real disposition and desire to "hear what the Lord God will say concerning you." You must have your minds open to conviction, and "receive with meekness every word you hear, that it may be an engrafted word, effectual to save your souls." You must not be offended with the faithfulness of your minister; but consider Almighty God himself as speaking to you by him. Then may you expect from God those blessings which your souls need, and a happy meeting with your ministers in the realms of bliss.

 

MDCCCCLII

Paul's Indifference to Men's Judgment

1 Corinthians 4:3–5. With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yes, I judge not my own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he who judges me is the Lord, Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

THE ministers of Christ are generally either unduly exalted, or undeservedly depreciated, by those around them; but they should discharge their duties with fidelity, without any regard to the opinions of men, and approve themselves to Him who will judge them righteously in the last day.

I. The tribunal to which Paul referred his character.

He was not concerned about man's judgment.

By some he was looked up to as the head of a party; by others he was deemed unworthy to live; but he knew that men's judgment would continue only for a day: he was therefore alike indifferent to their censure or applause.

He could not wholly depend even upon his own judgment.

He did not know that he lived in any allowed sin; yet he was aware that, through the deceitfulness of sin and of his own heart, he might be led to form too favorable an estimate of his own state: he knew that God might discern much iniquity where we see none; he therefore could not venture too confidently to trust even to the testimony of his own conscience.

He committed himself rather to the unerring judgment of God.

He did not indeed hope for an acquittal on the ground of innocence, or expect a reward as due to him on the footing of strict justice; but he relied on God's equity as tempered with mercy, and willingly left himself to the righteous disposal of his Judge.

II. The tribunal to which we must also refer ours.

God has appointed a day wherein to judge the world.

He has constituted the Lord Jesus the Judge of quick and dead. And in due season he will summon the whole universe to his tribunal. Then will he bring into judgment, not the actions only, but the inmost thoughts and desires, of the whole world. Men judge of actions only, and of those actions principally which have respect to the welfare of the community in which they live. They care little about the state of men's souls before God. But God notices the inmost recesses of our hearts. "He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, (of which men can take no cognizance;) and will make manifest the counsels of men's hearts," and make the very designs and purposes of men the ground of his dealings with them to all eternity. He will notice what we have been as creatures—what as sinners—what as redeemed sinners—The very habit of our minds under all these characters will be brought before him; and, according as that has been conformed, or contrary, to his revealed word, will be his sentence of condemnation or approval in that day.

To that period therefore we must all look, and for it we must all prepare.

As by the written word we must all be judged, we should study it with all diligence, in order that we both know and execute God's holy will. As for the world's standard of religion, we must not regard it: nor must we regard the approbation or censure which it assigns to men in accordance with its own erroneous views. But to God's judgment we must look forward with the deepest solicitude, laboring if by any means we may approve ourselves to him, and "have praise of him." To what purpose will it be to have monumental inscriptions in our favor, when God has sealed our condemnation, and loaded us with his merited displeasure? Or what effect will the censures of men produce on our minds, when God has passed a sentence of approbation upon us, and seated us with himself on thrones of glory? Methinks that laudatory word, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter you into the joy of your Lord," will richly repay all the obloquy that man can cast upon us, and all the pain that he could ever inflict.

Then live, my brethren, in expectation of that day, and in continual preparation for it. Mind not what man approves or disapproves, in comparison of what God commands: and be as attentive to the motions and desires of your hearts as to your outward acts. "if you seek to please man, you cannot be the servants of Jesus Christ." You must therefore "not please men, but God who tries our hearts." And let me entreat you not to defer this surrender of yourselves to God. Think what is now the mind of thousands, who, having "sought the praise of man rather than the honor that comes of God," are now reaping the bitter fruits of their folly: and whatever the whole world may either say or do, (for you must "expect to be persecuted by them if you will live godly in Christ Jesus,") "be steadfast, immoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord, assured that at last your labor shall not be in vain in the Lord."

 

MDCCCCLIII

God to be Acknowledged in Everything

1 Corinthians 4:7. Who makes you to differ from another? and what have you that you did not receive? now if than did receive it, why do you glory, as if you had not received it?

IF there are advantages derived from education, there are also disadvantages not unfrequently attached to it; inasmuch as habit forms, as it were, a second nature; and often both indisposes us to see what is good, and disqualifies us to a great extent for the prosecution of it. The Corinthian Christians, while in their unconverted state, had been habituated to much evil, both intellectual and moral. From the wealth that abounded in their city, and the vicious courses that were there pursued, and particularly from the idolatrous regard shown there to the leaders of different sects, they were but ill-disposed towards the humbling doctrines of the Gospel, and but ill-fitted for the self-denying habits to which it called them. We wonder not, therefore, that they brought on themselves heavier censures than any other of the apostolic Churches: for, in truth, all things considered, their piety seems to have been, in many respects, very low and questionable. The particular fault blamed in the passage before us was, their contentious disposition to exalt one teacher above another, and their readiness to range themselves under different heads or parties in the Church. The Apostle reproved their conduct with the utmost delicacy; transferring to himself and his friend Apollos the evils of which he complained; lest, by mentioning the names of others, he should provoke their hostility, and defeat his own ends.

His reproof may be fitly applied,

I. To those who glory in others.

Among the Corinthian converts, some preferred one preacher, and some another: and, not content with exalting each his own favorite, they poured contempt upon those who were of a different sentiment, and thus produced sad divisions in the Church. The same fault obtains more or less in the Church, wherever the Gospel is preached: and men justify their partiality upon the ground of their favorite's superior endowments, or on the ground of the benefits derived from him. But this supposes that the object of their attachment has something of his own, which may serve as a ground of boasting. But "what has any man, which he has not received" as a free gift from God? Supposing him to be possessed of gifts, have they not been conferred upon him by "God; who dispenses to men according to his own sovereign will" and pleasure; and, whatever the particular operations be, himself "works all in all?" Or, supposing him to be made preeminently useful in converting souls to God, is it by any power of his own that he has thus prevailed? Can any man open the eyes of the blind, or unstop the ears of the deaf, or determine whom he will convert to Christ? Paul himself could not effect these things. Had the conversion of souls been left to his disposal, he would have conferred that benefit on all: whereas, in every place, the great majority rejected his word, and were enraged by it almost to madness. To glory then in any persons, as though they possessed these talents or powers independently of God, is as absurd as it would be to glory in a sword which had effected the slaughter of many enemies. Every one sees that it is not the sword which has effected anything: all that it has effected was done by the hand that wielded it: and the person so using it might, if it had pleased him, have taken any other sword as well as that. This is what God himself said, in answer to the vauntings of Sennacherib: "Shall the axe boast itself against him that hews therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shakes it?" True it was, that the Assyrian monarch had subdued many kingdoms: but he erred in supposing that it had been done by his own power. It was God who had made use of him, for the accomplishing of his own purposes; and it was not in the power of the proud boaster to go an hair's breadth beyond the commission he had received. So, whatever a man has, he has it from "God, who is the Giver of every good and perfect gift;" and whatever he does, it is not he who does it, but God, who does it by him: and to God alone must be given the glory, which, through our ignorance and folly, we are but too apt to ascribe to man.

But the text may also be very fitly applied,

II. To those who glory in themselves.

If we have any particular endowments, whether of body or mind, we are apt to arrogate something to ourselves, as if we had ourselves been the authors of our own excellencies. But such a conceit is most offensive to Almighty God. For "who is it that has distinguished us, or made us to differ from others?" Suppose we have the highest attainments; for which of them are we not indebted to our God? We will suppose that we have light in our understandings: was it not "the Spirit of God who opened our eyes," and "guided us into his truth?" Suppose that we possess decision in our wills: is it not God who "has made us willing in the day of his power?" Suppose we are blessed with success in our endeavors: is it not "God who has ordained it for us, and wrought all our works in us?" How, then, can we take to ourselves the glory, which so evidently belongs to God alone? When a fawning multitude applauded Herod as speaking like a God, he accepted the compliment; and, by laying the flattering unction to his soul, provoked God to give him up to worms, which from that moment began to prey upon his vitals. And we also shall incense our God against us to our destruction, if we take honor to ourselves of anything that we possess, and withhold from God the honor due unto his name. Let this, then, be an acknowledged principle within us, that, whatever eminence we possess above our brethren, "by the grace of God we are what we are;" and to Him must be given the absolute and undivided praise.

In conclusion,

1. I will reply to an objector.

A person may ask, in reference to our first view of this subject, 'Am I to entertain no preference for a man who has been the means of awakening, sanctifying, and saving my soul? Does not Paul say, in this very chapter, "Though you have ten thousand instructors, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you, through the Gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be followers of me?" ' I answer, We may have a peculiar love to those to whom we are so pre-eminently indebted: but we must never so exalt one, as to despise another; and never so love any man, as to forget, for a moment, that he is only an instrument in God's hands, or that the glory of all is due to God alone.

Again, it may be asked, 'Have I not used means which others have neglected; and obtained, in the use of means, that which has been withheld from others on account of their neglect?' To this I readily reply, Your statement is true and just: but your inference from it is altogether erroneous. You have not, as you imagine, any ground for self-preference or self-delight on this account: for it was "God alone who gave you both to will and to do, of his good pleasure." To draw the exact line between Divine agency and the freedom of the will, is difficult, or perhaps impossible, to such an ignorant creature as man: but so far as is necessary for practical purposes, it is easy. Suppose we say, that whatever comes within the range of your physical powers you may do: but to do it in a spiritual manner, and for spiritual ends, is beyond your reach: God alone can enable you to do that: you are indeed responsible to God for not using the powers which you have; and to him you must give account of your abuse of them: but, if you succeed in anything that is good, you must ascribe that thing to God, as his workmanship; and say, "Not unto me, O Lord, not unto me, but unto your name be the praise," for "His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever."

2. I will turn the reproof into a fund of rich encouragement.

Must it be said even to an Apostle, "Who made you to differ? and what have you which you have not received?" It may with equal truth be said to the most insignificant of men, What shall you not receive, if you are willing to accept it at God's hands, and to give him the glory of it? Truly, you need not envy any, if only you will cry unto your God. From your present selves, and from the ungodly that are around you, you shall differ: nor shall anything be wanting unto you, if only you will wait on God in the exercise of prayer and faith. But take care that you pride not yourselves in any of his gifts; for as sure as ever you are "lifted up with pride, you will fall into the condemnation of the devil." The more God magnifies his grace upon you, the more must you abase yourselves before him, and give him the glory due unto his name.

MDCCCCLIV

Paul's Meekness

1 Corinthians 4:12, 13. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the earth, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

AS there is a wide difference between the characters of the wicked and the righteous, so there are strong marks of discrimination between those who are truly pious, and those who have taken up a profession of religion without having felt its transforming efficacy. In too many there remains a proud, contentious spirit, amidst all their pretensions to piety: but in the upright Christian there is a meek, patient, and benevolent disposition, which will show itself in the most trying circumstances, and afford a decisive evidence of his sincerity. Of the former description were those teachers, who, in order to gain over to themselves a party in the Corinthian Church, introduced among them contentions and divisions. But to these the Apostle's conduct forms a striking contrast: and though he doubtless was peculiarly eminent in his attainments, we may see in him what every Christian, according to the measure of his grace, will surely practice.

We shall take occasion from his words to show,

I. The treatment which every Christian meets with from an ungodly world.

The people of God have in every age been despised by the world.

It was the common complaint of all the Prophets, and Apostles, and of Christ himself, that they were objects of hatred and contempt to all around them. We also are taught to expect the very same treatment at the hands of ungodly mend. We shall be "defamed" behind our backs, and "reviled" to our face: nor will our enemies be satisfied with injuring us merely by their words; they will also "persecute" us by acts of open hostility: yes, they will account us as the very scum of the earth, and as execrable wretches that are fit only to be sacrificed to devils, to appease their wrath in a time of public calamity.

Strange as this may seem, it may be easily accounted for.

Christians are not thus detested because they are worse than others (for they are "the excellent of the earth," "more excellent than any of their neighbors,") but because they exhibit a light which forces men to see their own wickedness. To this we must ascribe Cain's murder of his brother, and the universal opposition which the seed of the serpent make to the seed of the woman. If we were of the world, the world would love its own: but because we are chosen out of the world, and walk contrary to its sinful customs, it does, and will, hate us even unto death.

Doubtless such treatment is hard to be borne; but the Christian distinguishes himself by,

II. His behavior under it.

There are two things that characterize a true Christian under all his trials:

1. A passive meekness.

The saints are men of like passions with others; but, through grace, they are enabled to repress the workings of corruption, and to regulate their tempers by the word of God. Instead of giving loose to a vindictive spirit, they bear with silent resignation the injuries that are inflicted on them, or, if they speak, it is only in words of gentle "entreaty." David, in his conduct towards Shimei and Saul, exemplifies in both these points of view the Christian's duty, and the Christian's experience. There are indeed occasions whereon, through inadvertence or the power of temptation, they may be overcome: but, on the whole, they will "possess their souls in patience," and "show all meekness unto all men." Rather than provoke contention they will endure the wrong that is done towards them, and, forbearing to notice it in complaint to man, will commit themselves into the hands of a righteous God.

2. An active benevolence.

The natural man, under injuries received, is mindful only of his own troubles: but the Christian feels a concern for the souls of those who injure him. He is grieved for them; and would be willing to sustain any temporal evils whatever, if by means of his own sufferings he might bring his enemies to a better mind, and avert from them God's heavy displeasure. He will even bless his enemies, and pray for them, and rendering to them good for evil, he will heap coals of fire, as it were, upon their heads, in order to melt them into love. He will contend indeed; but he will use no weapon except that of love: and in this warfare he will fight strenuously, until, instead of being overcome of evil, he overcomes evil with good.

Inferences.

1. How different is the judgment of God from that of sinful men!

Men hate and despise the righteous; and would pour out their blood as water, if God should withdraw his restraints from them. But God declares that, instead of their being unfit to live in the world, the world itself is not worthy of them; that their blood is precious in his sight; that whoever touches them, touches the apple of his eye; and that it were better for any man to be cast into the sea with a millstone tied about his neck, than that he should offend one of his little ones. Moreover the time is fast approaching, when this difference of sentiment shall be made to appear before the whole assembled universe, to the everlasting comfort of his afflicted people, and the eternal confusion of his enemies. Let us then learn to "take up our cross daily," and to follow the example of our blessed Lord; so shall we approve ourselves his true Disciples, and obtain a glorious reward in the day of judgment.

2. How superior are the operations of divine grace to all the suggestions of human wisdom, or all the efforts of human power!

Philosophy never could devise means to eradicate a vindictive spirit from the heart: on the contrary, it extolled revenge as a virtue, and regarded the temper that is exhibited in the text, as baseness and pusillanimity. If men had even endeavored to exercise such a disposition as Paul's, they would have failed in the attempt, because unassisted nature is wholly incompetent to such a work. But what cannot the grace of God effect? It will turn a lion into a lamb; or rather, it will transform the vilest of the human race into the image of our incarnate God. Let us then follow the example of the saints and martyrs that have gone before us. Let us exert ourselves in dependence on the Lord Jesus, and not doubt but that "his grace shall be sufficient for us." Then shall our very enemies be constrained to "glorify God in us," and to "confess that God is with us of a truth."

 

MDCCCCLV

An Important Alternative

1 Corinthians 4:21. What will you? shall I come unto you with a rod. or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

AT Corinth, religion was at a very low ebb. Great were the abuses which obtained there, even among the professed followers of Christ. Yet to those very persons the Christian Church is much indebted, for the displays which they occasioned the Apostle Paul to make of the Christian character in its highest perfection. How perversely they acted towards him, the Apostle tells us: "Now you are full: now you are rich; you have reigned as kings without us," and, at the same time that they arrogated so much to themselves, they poured the utmost contempt on him: "We are fools for Christ's sake; but you are wise in Christ: we are weak, but you are strong: you are honorable, but we are despised." But how did that blessed man conduct himself under these circumstances? He tells them: "Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat." And then, with most lovely delicacy, he adds, "I write not these things to shame you; but, as my beloved sons; I warn you." Still it was necessary that he should correct what was amiss in them; and therefore he sent Timothy to rectify these abuses for the present, engaging that he himself would shortly come and put everything in order. But the proud leaders of that Church said, he would never dare to obtrude himself among them. He, however, assured them that he would come to them, and with power too, if they constrained him to do so: and he submitted it, as it were, to their option to determine in what way he should come to them; whether of needful severity, or of unmixed love.

Now the Apostles had, occasionally at least, a power to inflict temporal judgments; as Peter did on Ananias; and as Paul did on Elymas the sorcerer: and to this there may be some reference in the menace before us. But every minister of God has such a measure of authority vested in him over the people of his charge, that he may with propriety address them in the language of my text; "Shall I come unto you with a rod; or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?"

That I may make a suitable improvement of these words, I will,

I. Set before you the diversified duties of a Christian minister.

A minister is not merely "a steward of the mysteries of God," to dispense to every member of God's family his portion in due season; but

He is, as a father over them, to exert authority.

Even a young minister, if there be occasion, is to "reprove" both sin and error; yes, to "rebuke with all authority," and even "sharply" too, rather than not effect the reformation he desires. In this exercise of authority, he must seek "the edification, and not the destruction" of the offender: but he must rather proceed to the utter excision of a corrupt member, than suffer the whole body to sustain irreparable injury. Nor is he to be influenced in this matter either by fear or love. If the offender be as powerful as Ahab or as Herod, yet must Elijah reprove the one, and John the other: nor must the true Levite, the faithful minister, know even his own parents or children, so as to withhold from them the needful admonition. Eli is, in this respect, a warning to all ministers, to "know no man after the flesh."

At the same time, he must act under the influence of love.

Even in the use of "the rod," a father is actuated by love: but where it is possible to effect his purpose without it, he would rather cast it away, and conduct himself only in a spirit of affectionate endearment. Paul, towards this very Church, and at a time when they were actually setting him at defiance, writes, "Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ." And this was his constant habit. He could appeal to his converts, that "as a nursing-mother" he had cherished them; being so affectionately desirous of them, as to be willing to impart to them, not the Gospel of God only, but also his own soul, because they were dear unto him: and he further appeals to them, that, during his whole fellowship with them, he had "exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of them, as a father does his children, that they would walk worthy of God, who had called them to his kingdom and glory." K there were any of whom he stood in doubt, he "changed his voice towards them, and even travailed in birth with them, until Christ should be formed in them." This is the true pattern for a Christian minister: he must have courage and firmness to use "the rod," where necessary; but in his soul he should affect nothing but "love, and a spirit of meekness."

Having stated the diversified duties of a minister, I will,

II. Address myself to the discharge of them.

Paul gave to the Corinthian Church their option between the two alternatives, and left them to determine in what way he should proceed with them. Now, as your stated minister, I am necessitated to "come unto you" from Sabbath to Sabbath: and I beg you to consider,

1. What is the treatment which you desire?

Too many are utterly indifferent about the ministry of the word; and are equally unaffected, whether we come in a way of reproof or of consolation—Yet, methinks, it is not altogether thus with you: but, in answer to the question, "What will you?" you are ready to say, 'Come in the way which you judge most suited to my necessities.'

Let me then proceed to ask,

2. What is the treatment which you deserve?

What is your conduct, in your collective capacity, as a Church? Are there among you "debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults?" Dear brethren, if this be the case, and "I find you such as I would not, you can expect only that I shall be found unto you such as you would not: and that, while I bewail your condition," I shall only administer such correctives as the occasion may require. As to individuals, of course, except in extreme cases, nothing of a personal nature can be spoken, but only in a way of private fellowship. But, beloved, I wish you to examine, whether you are "profiting by the word preached," and whether you "make that profiting to appear." I wish you to examine, whether there be in you any secret declension from God; or whether you are advancing steadily in your Christian course, and "daily growing up into Christ in all things as your living Head." If this be the case, we shall greatly rejoice: for, as Paul said, "I live, if you stand fast in the Lord;" and as John said, "I have no greater joy, than to hear that my children walk in truth;" so I, brethren, according to the grace given unto me, would have all my own feelings and interests swallowed up in your welfare. If you are but "babes, I would feed you with milk: if you are grown to full age, I would administer strong meat" for your nourishment. In a word, I would endeavor to adapt my ministrations to your necessities, in accordance with the direction given me; "Warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, and be patient towards all men." The time is shortly coming, when both you and I must give account to God; I, of my ministrations; and you, of your improvement of them: and the Lord grant, that in that day I may be found to have discharged my duties with fidelity! and may you be my crown of rejoicing to all eternity! yes, of all of you, without exception, may I then be able to say, "You are our glory and joy!"

 

MDCCCCLVI

Sin A Malignant Leaven

1 Corinthians 5:6. Know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

THAT ungodly men may glory in their shame, may easily be conceived: but that persons professing godliness should ever be led to do so, can scarcely be imagined. Yet, such is the force of habit, that it may blind the eyes of persons who are not otherwise destitute of discernment; and may lead them to vindicate proceedings, which, on a calmer view, they would judge deserving of utter abhorrence. The Corinthians, in their heathen state, had been proverbially addicted to lewdness of every kind. But, behold, a man after having embraced Christianity, had become guilty of incest: and when the Apostle protested against this, as an act of gross impiety, the elders of the Church at Corinth espoused the cause of the incestuous man, and refused to execute upon him the censure which his crime demanded. This conduct the Apostle justly reproved, both as detestable in itself, and as likely to prove exceedingly injurious to the whole Church: "Your glorying is not good: know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?"

Now in this expostulation we may see,

I. The malignant nature of sin.

The operations and effects of leaven are well known in every family: and it will serve, therefore, to illustrate, in the clearest manner, the nature of sin. It is,

1. Corrupting.

The purest dough that was ever made has no sooner a portion of leaven blended with it, than it ferments, and becomes sour. And such was the effect of sin upon the soul of our first parent. Adam, when he came out of his Creator's hands, was formed in the perfect image of his God: not an evil propensity of any kind was found in him. But behold him as soon as sin entered into his soul: instantly he became so alienated from his God, that he fled from him, and strove to hide himself among the trees of the garden: and when interrogated by God respecting the act which he had committed, he cast the blame of it upon God himself. The sin which he had committed was as small as any that could be conceived; it was not a breach of morals, properly so called; but only a transgression of a positive precept, which rendered that sinful, which, if not particularly prohibited, would have been perfectly innocent: yet did this small leaven so leaven his whole soul, that he became altogether corrupt; and the image of God was changed, as we shall see presently, almost into the image of an incarnate fiend.

2. Spreading.

However large the mass of dough may be, the smallest leaven will leaven it throughout. And thus did sin operate on the soul of Adam. His understanding was rendered dark; his will, perverse; his affections, sensual; his conscience, treacherous and partial. Not a member of his body, or a faculty of his soul, retained its original purity: but, as the prophet says of the Jewish people, "The whole head was sick, and the whole heart faint: from the sole of the foot even to the head there was no soundness in him; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores." God's own testimony, respecting man in his fallen state, is, that "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually."

3. Assimilating.

The whole of the dough is by leaven changed, and will produce the same change on any other mass with which it may come in contact. So "Adam begat a son in his own fallen likeness;" and all who have proceeded from him inherit the very same depravity which sin had produced in him. In every age, and every place, human nature is the same: there is, in all, the same alienation from God, and the same idolatrous regard to self. Education may make a difference in the habits of men; but in their propensities there is no difference. There is, in all, the same "filthiness, both of flesh and spirit;" the same love to sensual indulgence; and the same disposition to pride, envy, malice, wrath, and all uncharitableness. In every living man, whether civilized or savage, there is that "wisdom only which is from beneath, which is earthly, sensual, devilish."

The appeal which the Apostle makes on this subject leads us to consider,

II. The importance of having just conceptions respecting it.

It is no curious speculation that is here suggested; but a fact, that is confirmed by universal experience, and the knowledge of which is of great importance,

1. For the preservation of the Church.

The Church of Christ is in continual danger, both from error and corruption: and, in reference to both of these, the Apostle gave the same beneficial warning. The Galatian Church were in danger of seduction by Judaizing teachers: indeed, even Barnabas himself had been seduced by Peter's dissimulation. To them, therefore, Paul suggested this beneficial admonition, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump," and in numberless instances has the truth of that saying been evinced. Aaron's calf became an object of worship to all Israel: and Jeroboam's calves perverted all the tribes that were submitted to his government; and continued to pervert them, until they were all destroyed. The little leaven that, from time to time, was found among holy men in the primitive Church, wrought gradually to the production of all the abominations that have for centuries prevailed in the Church of Rome. And in the great majority of Protestant Churches has one error or another crept in, until all their members have become infected with it, and vital godliness been banished from their souls.

In the passage before us, the warning refers more particularly to morals; and intimates, what experience so fully proves, that "evil communications will corrupt good manners." To illustrate this among the ungodly world is unnecessary, because it is too obvious to have escaped the observation of any. But among the Apostles themselves we may behold it on several occasions. Let a little leaven of pride, of covetousness, of self-confidence, or cowardice, be brought among them, and they all immediately catch its baneful influence, and betray the weakness of their better principles. And wherever the Gospel is preached in its purity, the same awful tendency is seen and felt: one person or another indulges a proud, conceited, or contentious spirit; and "his word will soon eat as does a canker."

2. For the preservation of our own souls.

The recollection of this fact will prove extremely serviceable to every child of God. For who is there that has not felt the bitter consequences of omitting to resist the very first incursion of an evil thought? It was but a glance which David caught of Bathsheba; and we all know what sad effects it produced, to the dishonor of God, and well near to the destruction of his own soul. "The man after God's own heart" became, in a degree that was scarcely ever exceeded, a man after the very heart of Beelzebub himself. And if this idea teaches us to resist the first motions of sin, how much more strongly does it guard us against the harboring of any evil in the heart! How affectingly does it warn us to "pluck out the right eye, and to cut off the right hand or foot," lest our whole body be contaminated, and be consigned, as utterly irrecoverable, to the flames of Hell! Nor does it less forcibly instruct us to guard against the means of evil, and the temptations to it. A man in the midst of many combustibles will dread the approach of fire. And who that considers how soon a fire may be kindled within him, and burn even to the lowest Hell, will needlessly venture himself into those scenes of temptation, where everything around him has a direct tendency to inflame and consume his soul? Who, that considers "how great a matter a little fire kindles," will be indifferent respecting the company with which he mixes, the conversation in which he engages, the books he reads, the thoughts he indulges in his heart? Truly, if we would retain a purity of heart and life, we must never forget that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump." If we pray to God not to lead us into temptation, we must take care that we run not needlessly into it ourselves.

What now shall I say? Beloved brethren,

1. "Purge out," with all imaginable care, "the leaven that is within you."

This is Paul's own improvement of the subject. The Jews, at their Passover, were accustomed to search every corner of their houses with candles, in order to get rid of any leaven that might be found there; that so they might keep the feast with unleavened bread, according to the commandment. And is "Christ our Passover sacrificed for us," and shall not we exercise the same care to "keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth?" I call you, then, to the utmost possible vigilance in relation to this matter. Guard against everything that is evil, whether in principle or practice; that so you may not be an occasion of corrupting others, and "may yourselves be preserved blameless unto the kingdom of your God."

2. Endeavor to get your souls altogether leavened by divine grace.

There is a leaven that proceeds from God himself, that is intended to operate through the whole world, and to assimilate every human being to the very image of his, God. Entreat of God to impregnate your souls with that. See to it, that its operation be progressive, through all your faculties and powers: and never rest until it has had its perfect work within you, and "changed you into your Savior's image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

 

MDCCCCLVII

Christ Our Passover

1 Corinthians 5:7, 8. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

CHRISTIANITY affords us not only new grounds of hope, but also new motives to action, yes, the only motives that are capable of giving an uniform direction to our conduct. The arguments derived from the excellency of virtue, the fitness of things, or even the certainty of rewards and punishments, never could produce any effects comparable to those, which have been wrought by the exhibition of a crucified Savior. Paul, well knowing the efficacy of this topic, proposed it on all occasions. If he would enforce the duties of love, beneficence, or zeal, the love of Christ was both his pattern, and his plea. Thus, in the passage before us, having enjoined the Corinthian Church to excommunicate their incestuous member, he reminds them of the sacrifice of Christ; and, in allusion to their accustomed method of eating the Paschal Lamb, exhorts them to celebrate the Christian Passover with becoming purity, both as to outward discipline, and inward affection. In considering his words we shall notice,

I. The representation here given of Christ.

Christ is here said to have been "sacrificed for us."

Sacrifices were appointed of God from the very fall of Adam as means of conciliating his favor, and expiating any offences which had been committed against him. The creatures sacrificed were put to death, and were always considered as dying in the place of the offender, who, by his transgression, had forfeited his life to divine justice. Precisely in this way has Christ been sacrificed for us: "he died, the just for the unjust;" he was put to death not merely for our good, but in our stead: and in his sufferings we may behold a figurative representation of what we had merited by our transgressions.

In this view he is called "our Passover."

The paschal lamb was sacrificed in a peculiar manner, and on a most extraordinary occasion. God had determined to destroy the Egyptian first-born, but to spare his own people: He appointed the Jews to kill a lamb, to sprinkle its blood upon the door-posts, and to eat its flesh roasted with fire, taking also with it some bitter herbs. Upon their due observation of this ordinance God promised to interpose for their deliverance, and not to suffer the destroyer to involve so much as one of them in the common ruin. Thus are we obnoxious to the wrath that is coming upon the ungodly world: but Jesus, that spotless Lamb, has, on the very same month, day, and hour, that the Passover was first killed, and in the midst of most inconceivable agonies both of body and soul, yet without the breaking of a bone, been slain for us; and we are by faith to sprinkle our hearts with his precious blood: we are also to feed upon his body and blood; and, in so doing, are as sure of the divine protection as if we were already in Heaven. Though "thousands should fall beside us, and ten thousand at our right hand, the sword of the avenger should not come near us."

That we may rightly improve this glorious truth, let us consider,

II. The exhortation grounded upon it.

While the occasion of Christ's death affords us ground for the deepest humiliation, the deliverance effected by it should ever be remembered with joy.

The Jews were commanded to "keep" an annual "feast" in commemoration of their deliverance from the destroying angel. And, as their feast was a memorial of the mercies they had received, so is ours to be, to the latest generations. Indeed our whole lives should be kept as a holy solemnity, because we are daily and hourly experiencing the saving virtue of the Redeemer's blood.

The peculiar manner in which the Jews were to observe their Passover, was a figurative representation of the manner in which ours also should be observed.

The Jews were enjoined on pain of death to forbear the use of leaven, and to put it out of their houses for seven days: and they were to eat the lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Thus is the leaven of sin to be purged out of our hearts with the greatest care; and while we feed by faith on the spotless Lamb of God, we must partake also of the bitter herbs of repentance and "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." As for the "old leaven" of Gentile impurity, or of Jewish pride and malignity, it must be wholly put away: the scrupulosity with which the Jews searched and swept their houses to purge out all leaven, is an admirable pattern for our imitation. A sincere desire to know the will of God, a full and unreserved determination to do it, together with a corresponding meekness in our spirits, purity in our thoughts, sincerity in our words, and integrity in our actions—this, this is the Christian temper; this is the frame in which our whole lives should be kept as a feast unto the Lord. Moreover as the Jews were to eat the Passover in haste, with their shoes on their feet, and their loins girt, so must we be in a continual readiness to go towards the promised land.

From this most instructive subject we may observe.

1. How plain is the way of salvation!

Ask of every one that was saved that night, To what he was indebted for his preservation? Would there be two opinions throughout the whole nation of Israel? Would there be so much as one that would ascribe it to his own wisdom, or power, or goodness? No, not one. All without exception would say, I owe it to the blood of the Paschal Lamb sprinkled upon my door-posts. That was God's ordinance: and by the observance of that alone I was kept from the sword of the destroying angel, who was constrained to pass over every house where that blood was seen. Let us then see ourselves doomed to perish on account of our sins; but, through the application of the blood of Christ to our souls, preserved from death: and we have a perfect view of the Gospel salvation. Nothing can be conceived more simple or more intelligible even to the meanest capacity.

2. How beautiful is the Christian life!

It is one continued feast; a feast upon the body and blood of our great Sacrifice. True, it must be eaten "with bitter herbs." But who is there among us who does not need to have his joys tempered with penitential sorrow? It must be eaten too "with unleavened bread," for if there be in us any allowed deceit, we can never hope to escape the wrath of God. We must eat it also with our loins girt, and our staff in our hands, ready every moment to proceed on our journey to the promised land. Compare this state with that of those who were to be left behind in Egypt, wholly ignorant of these high privileges, and altogether destitute of these exalted hopes: truly of the Christian, whoever he be, it may well be said, "Happy are you, O Israel; who is like unto you, O people saved by the Lord?"

3. How certain and glorious is the effect of faith!

The whole that was prescribed to Israel was one act of faith. The killing of the sacrifice, the sprinkling of its blood, the feeding on its flesh, the uniting with it the bitter herbs of penitence, and the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, and the habitual readiness to depart, were all, I say, one act of faith. And of its success we are fully informed. Of the whole nation not so much as one was lost. If any one had refused to comply with the appointed ordinance, he would have perished: but in all Israel not so much as one was slain. So, beloved, it shall be with you, if you live by faith upon the Son of God. Sooner shall Heaven and earth pass away, than the least or meanest of true believers shall perish. Be assured of this; and you shall have even now a foretaste of the blessedness that awaits you in the worlds above.

 

MDCCCCLVIII

God's Mercy to the Vilest Sinners

1 Corinthians 6:9–11. Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

AS long as men retain within them the seeds of their original corruption, so long they will be liable to fall into sin, and consequently they will need to be instigated by every motive that can be adduced, to persevere in the ways of holiness. Now there are scarcely any stronger incentives to obedience, than a recollection of the inseparable connection which there is between sin and misery; and a view of the unspeakable mercies which we ourselves have received at God's hands. It was by these considerations that Paul urged the Corinthians to abstain from some practices in which they were engaged, and from others to which they were particularly exposed. They had gone to law with each other even in the Gentile courts, instead of settling their disputes by arbitration among themselves. It is probable too that some among them thought but lightly of the sin of fornication; since the close of the chapter is wholly occupied with that subject. His address to them was well adapted to the occasion; in that it appealed at once to their fears and to their gratitude; and thus secured the influence of their sincere feelings, as well as of those which were of a more selfish nature.

His words will lead us to show,

I. The awful condition of the ungodly.

Those who live in sin will have no part in the inheritance of the saints. Though some of the sins specified in this black catalogue are such as cannot be mentioned with delicacy, or thought of but with horror, yet far the greater part are as common in Christian lands as among the heathen themselves: but, by whatever name men call themselves, they who live in such sins "shall never inherit the kingdom of God." The manner in which this declaration is made, calls for our particular attention. Mark,

1. The Appeal.

The Apostle appeals to our own consciences; "Know you not this?" However ignorant you be, are you not well assured in your own minds, that persons living, and dying, in the commission of any of these sins, must perish? Does not Scripture, does not reason, does not conscience tell you, that there must be a difference put between the just and unjust in the day of judgment?.

2. The Caution.

The Apostle next cautions us against self-deception. We are apt to extenuate these crimes, and to conceal their enormity by some specious name. Fornication and adultery are youthful indiscretions: drunkenness is conviviality: covetousness and extortion are prudence, and the common licence of trade. Thieving is confined to one species of dishonesty; while a defrauding of the revenue, and a neglect of paying one's debts, and many other kinds of theft, are practiced without remorse. As for "reviling," the conversation of many consists of little else than speaking against their neighbor; and especially when they have received from him any real or imagined injury: yet that is considered as nothing more than a proper token of their contempt for such conduct as they disapprove. And a soft, easy, indolent, "effeminate" manner of life, such as indicates an aversion to do anything or suffer anything for Christ, is reputed innocent, as though a Christian had nothing to do but to please himself. Moreover, if men be free from the grosser acts of sin, they pay no attention to the dispositions of their minds; though, in reality, dispositions are as hateful to God, and as much reprobated in the text, as overt acts. But, however they may hide from their own eyes their guilt and danger, God's decree is irreversible, and his threatened vengeance shall assuredly be executed upon them.

But, notwithstanding the danger to which sinners are exposed, the text informs us of,

II. The blessed state to which they may yet be exalted by the Gospel.

Many of the Corinthians had, while in their heathen state, been guilty of all the abominations mentioned in the text. But at their conversion,

1. They were received into the Christian covenant.

The word "washed" seems, to refer to their initiation into the Christian Church by the ordinance of baptism; and therefore imports, that they had been admitted into the Christian covenant. We indeed, at our conversion, are not to repeat the rite of baptism; because the baptism administered to us in our infancy was in all respects as available for us as circumcision was for the Jews; yet, since we are brought only into the outward bond of the covenant in our baptism, we need to be made partakers of its saving benefits: and, however abandoned we may have been in our unregenerate state, we shall be received to a full participation of its blessings, as soon as ever we repent and believe in Christ.

2. "They were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus."

Justification includes not merely a remission of sins, but a being dealt with, by God as innocent persons, or, in other words, an exaltation to eternal happiness and glory. Now this the Corinthians enjoyed as soon as they embraced the Gospel. They were not left to expect it after death: it was already given unto them. For the sake of Christ all their sins were blotted out as a morning cloud. And we also, as soon as we "believe in him, shall, for his sake, be justified from all things," however abominable our past lives may have been, and however much we may have deserved to be abhorred both by God and man.

3. "They were sanctified by the Spirit of our God."

The Apostle, speaking in the fullness of his heart, did not observe any particular order in the arrangement of his words; and therefore no conclusion is to be drawn from the order of them: for, in strictness of speech, our sanctification does not precede, but follows, and flows from, our justification. But what a triumph of Divine grace was here! these people, who had been sunk beneath the very beasts by their iniquities, were renewed by the Holy Spirit, and transformed into the image of their God. Surely then none of us need despair! Whatever we have been, or whatever we may yet be, we still may look to that Divine Agent, who will renew and sanctify us wholly, provided we seek his operations in the name, and for the sake, of Jesus Christ.

Address.

1. To those who are yet living in sin.

Is there a person here, who, whether openly or in secret, gives way to impurity? You "shall never inherit the kingdom of God." Is there a person here who corresponds in any respect with those described in the text? Does not your conscience tell you, You must perish? If you have bribed, or silenced your conscience, "deceive not yourself;" for God's word shall stand, whether you believe it or not. Hear this, you whoremonger, you adulterer, etc. etc. In the name of Almighty God I declare, You shall never inherit the kingdom of God, unless you repent, and believe in Christ. Let me entreat you seriously to consider your guilt and danger, while there is a way of escape yet opened to you by the Gospel.

2. To those who have experienced pardon and sanctification by the Gospel.

It will be always profitable for you to bear in mind what you once were: for though your actions may not have been so abominable as those referred to in the text, none of you have any right to cast a stone at others; seeing that the seeds of all evils are in your own hearts, and nothing but the preventing grace of God has made you to differ from your more abandoned neighbor. What cause have you then to magnify and adore that grace which has so distinguished you; and to "love much, from a sense of having had so much forgiven!"

Well also may a recollection of the many talents that have been forgiven you, incline you readily to forgive the pence that may be owing to you by an offending brother. It is particularly in this view that the text is introduced by the Apostle, and in this view it certainly ought to be improved. Get but a just sense of the mercies given to you in the pardon of your sins by the blood of Jesus, and the renovation of your natures by the Holy Spirit, and you will esteem nothing too much to do for God, and no forbearance too great to exercise towards the most unworthy of mankind.

 

MDCCCCLIX

The Duty of Devoting Ourselves to God

1 Corinthians 6:19, 20. What? know you not that … you are not your own? for you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

THE word of God reveals to us many things which unenlightened reason could never have discovered. This is particularly manifest with respect to the offices of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. These were "mysteries hid in God from the foundation of the world;" but they are supposed to be well known to every true Christian; indeed they form the basis of the Christian's hope; and they at the same time afford him his strongest motives to obedience. Paul was dissuading the Corinthians from the sin of fornication: he reminded them therefore of the principles which they professed. We wave what he says respecting the Spirit dwelling in them, and shall confine ourselves to the words of our text.

We shall consider,

I. The principle which the Apostle assumes.

All men naturally think they are "their own."

Men employ their time and faculties nearly as they please. They think themselves at liberty so to do. Hence the language of their hearts is declared by the Psalmist—Their conduct, if not their speech, resembles that of Pharaoh.

But no man is or can be his own.

Men may be free from any human yoke; but no man is or can be independent of God. This is a principle even of natural religion.

This every Christian is supposed to know.

The manner in which the Apostle assumes this principle is remarkable. His question is a direct appeal to our consciences; he takes it for granted that no one can be ignorant of that truth; he expresses surprise that such a truth should be forgotten.

Indeed this principle cannot admit a doubt. This appears from considering,

II. The argument he urges in support of it.

God, as our Creator, has an unalienable right over us.

We possess not a faculty of body or mind but from him. We cannot exercise one faculty but by virtue derived from him. We therefore can be no other than his property.

But he has also redeemed us.

We were in bondage to the curse of the law, but God has redeemed us from this miserable state. He paid no less a price for us than the blood of his own Son.

By this he has acquired a further right over us.

The great end of redemption was "that we might live unto God." The Scriptures speak of redemption in this light. Thus our obligation to devote ourselves unreservedly to God is greatly increased and confirmed by it. If God complain of us for requiting with neglect his paternal care, how much more may he, for our contempt of redeeming love!

The principle being thus established, we proceed to consider,

III. The exhortation he founds upon it.

"Our body and our spirit are entirely God's" property. We are bound therefore to glorify him with both to the uttermost.

We cannot indeed add anything to God's glory. God however esteems himself glorified by our services. There are many ways in which we may glorify him daily. A devotedness to him is justly called "our reasonable service."

Let the exhortation then have its due effect.

God claims every one of us as his own. Let us not then live as though we were at our own disposal; let us adopt the resolution of Joshua—let us yield to him all the members of our bodies; let us glorify him with every faculty of our souls; let us never disjoin what was so connected in Paul's experiences; let us seek to have that inspired declaration fulfilled in us.

Inferences.

We may see from hence,

1. What lamentable ignorance prevails in the Christian, world!

Many are daily violating their baptismal vows without remorse. Though educated in the faith of Christ, they give not themselves to him. This may well be a matter of surprise to thoughtful minds. It justly excited the feelings of David. Let us beg of God to convince us of the evil of such conduct; let us turn from it with self-loathing and self-abhorrence.

2. How reasonable and delightful is the Christian's duty!

What more reasonable than that we should be his who bought us? And what so delightful as to be ever glorifying God? This constitutes the felicity of the perfected saints and angels. We should never be unhappy here if we abounded more in this duty. Let us know, then, and enjoy our inestimable privilege. To have honored God here, will be our crown hereafter.

 

MDCCCCLX

The Importance of Family Religion

1 Corinthians 7:16. What know you, O wife, whether you shall save your husband? or how know you, O man, whether you shall save your wife?

WE, who live under laws generally known and acknowledged, have little conception what difficulties arose to the Church in the apostolic age, from the licentious habits of many upon their first conversion to Christianity. Those who had been brought up as heathens saw no evil in concubinage: and those who had been educated as Jews imagined that they were still at liberty to put away those with whom they had been united in the bonds of matrimony. In some respects, the very habits and ordinances of pious men among the Jews tended to confirm the Christian converts in their errors. They were not aware, that some things were tolerated among the Jews, and, on some particular occasions, even enjoined, which yet were positively forbidden by the Christian code. It will be remembered, that, after the Babylonish Captivity, many of the Jews who had returned to Canaan "took wives of the people of the land," and thereby greatly provoked the Lord to anger. On that occasion, Ezra commanded all of them to put away their wives and children. Hence, when persons had been converted to Christianity, a doubt arose in their minds, whether they were not bound, or at least authorised, to separate themselves from their unbelieving partners. This case had been stated to the Apostle, for his opinion respecting it: and he, by God's special command, forbad any such measure. Even if a person, being a Christian, had so far forgot his duty to God as to connect himself in marriage with an unconverted person, he was not at liberty to divorce her from him; but he must exert himself to the uttermost to effect the conversion of his unbelieving partner. This was the line prescribed equally to all, whether men or women: and agreeably to that rule they were all bound to conduct themselves, whatever difficulties might lie in their way.

The words thus explained will lead me to show you,

I. The duty of persons in wedded life.

Persons once brought into a marriage union should from thenceforth live, as it were, altogether for each other, even as the Lord Jesus Christ is incessantly occupied in promoting the welfare of his Church: and, as the Church is ever seeking to advance the honor of her divine Head, each should seek continually the other's salvation.

If there be a oneness of sentiment between the parties, this will be easy. But whatever diversity of sentiment there may be between them, the duty is still the same; and it should be performed with unremitting diligence. It is not to be supposed that such unions will often be found, as existed frequently in the primitive Church, when, through the conversion of one party to the Christian faith, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, a believer and an infidel, were joined together. But between Christians, as converted to Christ or yet in a state of unregeneracy, there is scarcely a less difference than between persons of different religions. And this difference exists to a great extent wherever the Gospel is preached in sincerity and truth; and the duty of each party is then precisely the same as that which bound the converts from Judaism or idolatry to their unconverted partners. The utmost possible forbearance was to be exercised towards the person who was yet under the power of heathen darkness or Jewish superstition: and so should it be towards one who is yet in bondage to the world; and who, perhaps, is irritated and enraged at the change that has been wrought in the mind of his dearest companion. Great allowance should be made for him. We must not expect him to see with our eyes: and, if he express grief or vexation at our conduct, we must consider how we should have felt, if the change had been wrought in him, and we had yet continued under our former blindness. Grateful to God for the mercy given to us, we should implore the same in his behalf: yes, we should "labor earnestly in prayer for him night and day," that God may open his eyes, and impart to him the salvation which we have experienced. We should remember, that the change has been wrought in us; and that therefore there is, so to speak, a ground for complaint on his side, who still retains his former sentiments and habits: and we must be prepared to endure unkindness from him, on whom we have inflicted so deep a wound. We must possess our souls in patience; and labor, by meekness and by love, to win him, whose heart has never submitted to the preached word.

To this the most distant prospect of success should be a sufficient inducement.

Whatever the state of our partner may be, God is able to effect a change: "there is nothing impossible with him," he can "quicken the dead," and "call forth into existence that which had no being." And great beyond conception is the power of prayer. The person that continues instant in prayer is almost sure to succeed at last. And what if success should be granted, even though it were after years of suffering and of supplication? would not that be a very abundant recompense for all? Yes: years of labor would be well repaid by such an issue. And how know you, O husband, or O wife, whether this shall not be the issue of your prayers? How know you, whether you shall not be the happy instrument of saving your unbelieving partner? Surely a mere possibility of such an event should be sufficient to call forth our utmost endeavors; and we should with patient perseverance hold on to the end, "instructing in meekness him that opposes us, if God perhaps may give him repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and he may at last recover himself out of the snare of the devil, by whom he has been led captive at his will."

But the questions need not be restricted to those in wedded life: they show us equally,

II. The duty of persons, in whatever relation they may stand to each other.

Manifold are the relations of civil and social life; and in all of them, the same concern for the salvation of others becomes us. Such is our duty,

1. In our own families.

A person at the head of a family should consider all under his roof as committed to his care, to be brought up for God. It was said by God himself, with special approbation, respecting Abraham, "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, that they shall keep the way of the Lord." The same attention will he approve in us also: and the more we know of the evil of the heart, and of the danger of dying in an unconverted state, the more earnest should we be in the performance of this duty. And what if we be successful in one single instance; will it not richly repay all the labor we can bestow on this good work? Even as it respects this present life, what a bond of union exists between a man and his spiritual offspring! What sweet counsel they take with each other, when going to the house of God as friends, or in the more retired fellowship of domestic life! But, if we take eternity into the account, what shall we then say? Think of saving an immortal soul! What an honor! what a joy! O cease not, any of you, from this good work; but go on steadily, with much patience, much forbearance, much earnestness, if by any means you may be honored with "turning one soul from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God."

2. In the Church of God.

The Church is one great family; among whom there is yet very ample occasion for mutual forbearance, and for mutual aid. All who believe in Christ are, in fact, one body; and every member should take a deep interest in the welfare of the whole. It is to be lamented, that, even in the apostolic age, there were divisions and bitter animosities among those who ought to have been united in the bonds of brotherly affection: and so it is at this time. Many, because of a diversity of sentiment on some points, and frequently on points of inferior importance, are really separated from one another more widely than from the unconverted world. But such a disposition ill becomes the family of which Christ is the Head. We should all have but one object in view; and labor with incessant care so to watch over each other: and we should "become all things to all men, if by any means we may save some."

3. In the world at large.

Wherever there is an immortal soul, there should be an object of our care and love. We should not ask, in reference to any human being, "Am I my brother's keeper?" We all have a debt of love, which we should be paying to every child of man. Especially should we be concerned for the salvation of their souls, and be using all the means in our power to advance it. The unconverted heathen, the unbelieving Jew, and the scoffing infidel, should be objects of our tenderest compassion, as should also be the careless and ungodly all around us; and, both by secret prayer and benevolent efforts, of whatever kind, we should seek their salvation. And what if we be the means of saving one single soul? Truly I say to you, that we shall cause all Heaven to rejoice: for "there is joy among the angels in the presence of God over one sinner that repents." Know you this, brethren; "know, that whoever converts a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." Shall not such a prospect stimulate us to exertion? You will say, you are not sure to succeed in your efforts. True: but are you sure that you shall not succeed? "How know you, O man," what God shall be pleased to effect by your means? You may be among the weakest of the people; yet that should not discourage you: for God delights to honor those who honor him; and "he will perfect his own strength in your weakness." But, at all events, if we should fail in doing good to others, shall none accrue to ourselves? This cannot be: for "God will reward every man according to his own labor;" and he who "watered others, shall be watered also himself."

 

MDCCCCLXI

Abiding in Our Calling

1 Corinthians 7:24. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

THE state of the Church, at the first introduction of Christianity, was full of embarrassment: the Jewish converts knew not how to conduct themselves in reference to the Mosaic law, which was now abrogated; nor did the Gentile converts find it easy to submit to a moral discipline so different from that to which they had been hitherto accustomed, and so strict as that which Christianity imposed. The union also of Jews and Gentiles in the same society, like that of two contending elements, was a source of continual discord. The persecutions too, which each were called to endure, tended yet further to make their path of duty more intricate; so that not even the wisdom and authority of Paul himself were sufficient to adjust the difficulties which arose, without a special appeal to the whole college of Apostles, and the public sanction of their united authority. The epistle before us gives a great insight into the state of things as existing at that day, and shows how much there was to be rectified in the whole Christian Church. But, not to notice the various evils which prevailed in the Church at large, we will fix our attention on some difficulties which the Corinthians had submitted to the Apostle for his advice. Many, who had been converted in the married state, had to encounter the most painful opposition from their unconverted relatives: the husband being filled with resentment against his wife, and the wife against her husband. Hence arose a question, whether it was not expedient for the two to separate, rather than, by continued feuds, to embitter each other's life. On this subject they wrote to him for his advice. The Jewish and Gentile converts also consulted him how they might best satisfy their own minds under their respective circumstances, and most approve themselves to that God whom they desired to serve. Doubts also arose among believing servants, whether they ought not, at any risk, to leave the masters who were hostile to the religion they had embraced. To each of these the Apostle gives an appropriate answer: and then lays down as a general rule, that "the state which any man was called, he should not think of leaving his calling, but should abide therein with God." This rule he twice prescribes, within the space of a few verses: and therefore we may well regard it as deserving the most attentive consideration.

For the elucidation of the whole subject, I shall endeavor to mark,

I. The feelings which the Gospel is apt, under peculiar circumstances, to engender.

There is, as we all know, a great difference between the states and conditions of different men.

The Jews, for instance, were, for the space of fifteen hundred years, distinguished above all the rest of the human race, by the light of revelation, and by ordinances of divine appointment: and, from the apostolic age, the followers of Christ have, in like manner, been honored as the depositories of the Gospel, whereby alone we are instructed how to obtain favor with God, and secure to ourselves the possession of an eternal inheritance. If we compare the state of Muhammadans or Pagans with that of the Christian Church, we shall see how greatly we are favored; and what reason we have to adore our God for that light which we enjoy, and of which they have no just conception.

And as there is a difference in men with respect to religious privileges, so also is there in relation to their civil advantages. Some are rich, and possessed of extensive authority; while others are poor, and altogether subjected to the will of their superiors. Some enjoy the blessings of a liberal education, whereby their knowledge is expanded and enlarged; while others are shut up in ignorance, and, by a continued necessity for bodily labor, are precluded from all opportunity of enriching their minds by intellectual pursuits. Some enjoy, without labor, all that the world can give; while others are scarcely able, even by the most unwearied exertions, to obtain what is necessary for the support of themselves and families; or perhaps even to get employment for their industry, or to exist at all, except by a degrading supply of eleemosynary aid.

Now, to the natural man, these distinctions are an occasion of much murmuring and complaint.

Men see that such a state of things exists; and they feel the inconveniences arising from it: and, inasmuch as it arises, for the most part, neither from any exalted merit in the higher classes, nor any peculiar demerit in the lower, they view it with an envious eye and a repining heart. They do not understand what necessity there is for such a state of things, nor how connected it is, for the most part, with civilization and the liberal arts. They are not aware, that if the whole system were subverted, and all men were reduced to perfect equality, the same inequality would soon arise, and greater evils ensue than those which had been already experienced. The disparity alone is felt; and no wonder if, in an inconsiderate mind, it create a measure of uneasiness and discontent.

For a season, even the Gospel itself, instead of removing this feeling, is calculated rather to engender it.

Doubtless, in itself, the Gospel is fitted only to reconcile the mind to every dispensation of providence: but, until it has gained a due ascendant over us, it may, through the corruption of our nature, operate rather as affording an additional ground it—for discontent: for it brings eternity to view: and a person, once beginning to feel the value of his soul and the importance of eternity, contemplates with more than common interest the advantages which men of learning and of leisure have, for the acquisition of knowledge, and the advancement of their eternal interests. A bond-slave, for instance, whose every hour is devoted to some laborious task, and to whom the very means of grace are denied by a cruel master, what prospect, it may be said, has he of attaining salvation, in comparison of one whose wealth and independence place within his reach every assistance that he can stand in need of? Can we wonder if a person so circumstanced murmur and repine at his hard lot? Such, no doubt, was the state of many, both of wives and servants, whom the Apostle speaks of in the preceding context. And hence arose the necessity for the encouragement which he affords the bond-slave, saying, "If you are called, being a servant, care not for it," and for the direction which, with an emphatical repetition, he gives to all; "the state which any man is called, let him therein abide with God."

A juster view of the Gospel, therefore, will lead us to contemplate,

II. The conduct which it ought rather to inspire.

A relinquishment of our calling is not that which the Gospel recommends. A continuance in it is rather enjoined, whether to those who are unhappily yoked to an unbelieving partner, or to those who are subjected even to the most oppressive bondage: for though it admits, that liberty, if offered, is rather to be preferred, it still requires that no unlawful effort be made to obtain it. In whatever state a man be called to the knowledge of the truth, he should abide therein with God; that is,

1. In submission to his will.

Every state should be regarded as appointed us of God. Whatever be the means which are instrumental to the fixing of our lot, still it must be considered as disposed altogether by Him who "does all things after the counsel of his own will." There was not a tribe, no, nor an individual, in all Israel, whose inheritance was not appointed of the Lord. And so it is in every age, and every place. Now, we know that God orders everything with perfect wisdom: and, whether we see the reasons of his dispensations or not, he will show, in due season, that he has done all things well. He acts in reference to mankind at large, as he has done in reference to our natural body. He has given us many members; and has endued every member with faculties suited to its state, and proper for the discharge of its peculiar office. All the parts have not the powers of the eye or of the ear: but some have a higher, and others a lower, office assigned to them, so as most to conduce to the good of the whole. And thus it is in the body politic; the whole of which is benefitted by a just distribution of powers and offices assigned to the different members: nor has any member any just occasion to complain of its situation or use, since all are necessary to the perfection of the whole, and all subservient to the good of the whole. The collective welfare, rather than its own individual use, should be the ambition and the happiness of every part.

2. In dependence on his grace.

In every station we may serve the Lord. Doubtless it is more difficult to maintain our integrity in some situations than in others; but yet, whatever be our trials, "the grace of Christ is sufficient for us;" and God has promised that we shall have no temptation without a way to escape, or ability to bear it." We should, therefore, not sit down in despair, as though our calling were such as that God could not be served in it. If we cannot do all that we could wish in a way of active service, we may yet bear and sustain his will: and passive obedience is no less acceptable to him than active; yes, it is in some respects the more acceptable, because it is the more difficult. A man may shut us up in prison, and prevent our fellowship with men: but can he intercept our flight to Heaven, or prevent the descent of God into our souls? Can he rob us of the communications of grace and peace, which our heavenly Father has bestowed? No, we may laugh him to scorn, and defy his utmost efforts. The utmost that he can do is, to kill the body: he cannot, for a moment, touch the soul, or obstruct its happiness. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Only let God be our refuge and our hope, and no situation under Heaven can prevent us from discharging the very offices which he has assigned us, or from drinking deeply of the "streams which refresh and gladden the whole city of God."

3. In endeavors to promote his glory.

As God may be served by all, so may he be glorified in all. It matters not what the particular service be to which we are called, if only we endeavor to honor him by it. The bond-slave honors him as much by a meek submission to his will, as the greatest potentate on earth does by the most diffusive benevolence. It is not in great things only that God is glorified: for, as he has told us, "whether we eat or drink, to do all to his glory," we may be sure that, even in the most common acts that can be performed, this blessed end may be attained. Aim, then, at this: keep your eye steadily fixed on this, under every circumstance of life: seek "that in all things God may be glorified, through Jesus Christ," and if this end be attained, you need not care whether it be by action or suffering, "by life or death."

A question, however, of great importance here occurs: Are we forbidden, under any circumstances, to change our calling?

I apprehend not. The Apostle's rule is general, not universal. Were the rule absolutely universal, no converted person could marry, or assume the pastoral office, or perform many other duties, which must, without such a change, be totally neglected. But no man should change merely on account of the difficulties that attend his present calling. We should guard exceedingly against fickleness of mind, and a cowardly desertion of our post on account of the trials which we meet with in the way of duty. Who ever sustained heavier conflicts than the Apostle Paul? Yet did he not account them any reason for abandoning his apostolic office. We should rise to the occasion, whatever the occasion be; and be ready, when dissuaded or discouraged, to reply, "None of these things move me; neither count I my life dear unto me, so that I may but finish my course with joy." There may, however, be occasions whereon we may be "moved by the Holy Spirit" to give up a calling, that is purely temporal, for one that is spiritual: yet, in reference to such calls, I confess that the greatest jealousy over ourselves is desirable, and the utmost watchfulness that we deceive not our own souls. That many have taken upon themselves the ministerial office, who were never truly called to it, I have no doubt: but that many have relinquished other callings, and devoted themselves to this, to the great advantage of God's Church, is certain. To lay down rules by which every case should be determined, and every difficulty solved, would be impracticable, because of the infinite diversity of circumstances which must be taken into consideration in every different case: but, in every prospect of change, recourse should be add to prayer, for God's special direction: nor should we move, until we have some evidence that the pillar of the cloud is moving before us. One thing, under all circumstances, is necessary: whether we change our calling or not, we should be careful to "abide with God." We must walk with him; we must go in and out before him; we must approve ourselves to him; we must bear in mind the solemn account which we must shortly give to him at the judgment-seat of Christ. While we look to him in such a mind as this, we need not fear but that he will lead us aright, and prosper us in our ways, and conduct us in safety to his heavenly kingdom.

 

MDCCCCLXII

Moderation in the Use of Earthly Things Inculcated

1 Corinthians 7:29–31. This I say, brethren, the time is short: it remains, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that Keep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passes away.

IT is no inconsiderable part of Christian wisdom to distinguish clearly between things lawful, things expedient, and things necessary: since many things must be reduced under one or other of these heads according to the circumstances connected with them. The Apostle is writing upon the subject of marriage; and gives it as his opinion, that though at all times lawful, and to some persons necessary, it was, at that particular season, inexpedient for those who could conveniently abstain from it; because the cares necessarily attendant on a married life would increase their difficulties during the present persecuted and afflicted state of the Church. But, while they were all left at liberty respecting the line of conduct they would pursue in relation to this, he solemnly warns them, that the same abstraction from worldly cares, and indifference to worldly pleasure, were necessary for all who would approve themselves to God. As his words equally concern the Church of God in all ages, it will be proper to consider,

I. The direction given us with respect to the things of time and sense.

It is but too obvious that men's regards to this world are, for the most part, inordinate and excessive.

If all do not set their hearts upon the same object, there is something which every unconverted man regards with an idolatrous attachment. Has he some prospect of attaining it? his mind goes forth to it in warm and eager desire. Is there reason to apprehend a disappointment respecting it? he is kept in anxious suspense, as though all his happiness were bound up in it. Is he brought to the possession of it? he congratulates himself as having reached the summit of his wishes, and thinks he can never lend himself too much to the enjoyment of his newly acquired comforts. Is he by any means bereaved of his beloved idol? what vexation of mind, and what dissatisfaction with the dispensations of Providence does he feel! He is so entirely swallowed up in sorrow for his loss, as to be insensible of all his remaining blessings. Of course, men will differ widely as to the particular gratification which they affect: some find their delight centered in their wife or children; others in their wealth and honor; others in their ease and pleasure; and others again in some indulgences, which habit has rendered essential to their happiness: but the same love of carnal things, however diversified as to its objects, pervades mankind of all ages and of all descriptions.

But we should maintain an equableness of mind under all circumstances, however pleasing or afflictive.

We are not required to exercise a stoical apathy under the various events of life; we may rejoice or weep, according as the occurrences of the day are suited to excite the affection of joy or sorrow. But "our moderation should be known unto all men;" nor should anything of a temporal nature so occupy our minds, as to make us forget that we have concerns of infinitely greater importance. Have we "formed a connection" that promises us the highest bliss? we should so enjoy the creature as to be ready to surrender it up again to God, whensoever he may be pleased to call for it. Are we "weeping" for the loss of a dear relative, or on account of any other calamity? we should not so give way to sorrow as to forget that we have God for our friend, and Heaven for our inheritance. Has anything of a very "joyous" nature befallen us? we should still remember, how unsatisfying it is in its nature, how contracted in its use, how precarious in its continuance, and how short in its duration; and we should regulate our joy by such considerations as these. Have we been blessed with such success, that we are enabled to "purchase" great possessions? we should be watchful over our spirits, that we do not say, like the fool in the Gospel, "Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years, take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry." And while we "use" our good things with thankfulness to the Donor, we should be careful never to "abuse" them to the purposes of pride, intemperance, and carnal ease.

This direction derives great force and importance from,

II. The reason with which it is enforced.

Everything here below is transient and of short duration.

"Time is short," if our days be extended to seventy or eighty years, the whole period of our existence will appear but, as it were, "a span long," when we come to the close of it: or, if we compare it with eternity, it is no more than the twinkling of an eye. Moreover, while our lives, like a sail that is in the act of being furled, are every moment contracting, everything around us also is drawing to a close. As actors on the stage perform the part assigned them, and each succeeding scene brings their fictitious joys or sorrows to a speedy termination, so we make our appearance on the stage of life; and, having sustained the character allotted us by the Disposer of all events, we soon bid adieu to all these transient scenes, and enter on a state of everlasting bliss or woe! Or as men please themselves with some empty show, that passes in procession before their eyes, but it is scarcely come fully into view before it begins to recede, and in a little time totally disappears; so we scarcely behold the glare and glitter of this vain world, before the enchanting prospect vanishes, and the phantom passes onward, to astonish and delude succeeding generations.

Can there be any stronger argument for sitting loose to the things of time and sense?.

Were either our joys or our sorrows permanent, there would be some reason for having our minds deeply affected with them: but when we know that a few months or years must put an end to every present sensation, does it become us to be much elated with what is pleasing, or much depressed with what is painful? Should not the infinitely greater importance of eternal things so engross our minds, as to render every temporal concern comparatively trivial? Should not the prospect of appearing before the judgment-seat of Christ cause us to estimate our happiness by a far different standard, and to consider ourselves in a blessed or miserable state, not so much by what we enjoy or suffer in this present world, as by our preparation to give up our account to God, and our hope of an approving sentence from the Judge of quick and dead? Let then the transitoriness of earthly things moderate our affection to them, that whether we attain and enjoy them, or lose and want them, we may still have God as our abiding and all-sufficient portion.

Address.

1. The young and inexperienced.

You are ready to imagine that some change in your circumstances, to which you look forward, or perhaps which you rather wish for than expect, would make your cup to overflow with joy, and perfectly satisfy your most enlarged desires. But be assured that, if you could at this moment possess all that your heart can wish, you would be quickly constrained to confirm the testimony of Solomon, that it is "all vanity and vexation of spirit." Happy would it be for you if you could be prevailed upon to purchase your experience at the expense of others; and not, like those who have gone before you, grasp at a shadow until you lose the substance. Ask those who are old and grey-headed, whether they have not found the world to be "a vain show, wherein men disquiet themselves in vain?" And ask the godly in particular, whether they who fear God have not a truer enjoyment even of this present world, than the votaries of gain or pleasure?" Or rather we would say, attend to God's expostulation, and obey his voice; "Wherefore do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfies not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."

2. Those who have grown old in the service of the world.

Lamentable it is, that the very persons who have found the insufficiency of the world to make them happy, are still as regardless of the eternal world, as those who are just entering on the delusive path. If age or experience have blunted the edge of their feelings with respect to present things, they are as insensible as ever either of pain or pleasure from spiritual concerns: nor are they at all more stimulated to improve the time that remains to them, than if their eternal interests were of no value. Yes, age has often no other effect than to confirm the errors, and rivet the prejudices, of their former years. Inquire, brethren, whether you have profited by your experience; and whether you be now "setting your affections on things above, and not upon things below?" You have hitherto regarded the blessed Savior, and your own immortal soul, as though you regarded them not; and suffered your whole heart to be occupied about the world. Now reverse your conduct, and all will yet be well: let the greatest concerns of time and sense make but a light impression on your minds; and let an interest in Christ, and the salvation of your soul, be regarded henceforth as the one thing needful. "Be no longer fools, but wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil," and while the fashion of this world is passing away, endeavor to secure an "incorruptible inheritance in Heaven."

 

MDCCCCLXIII

Against Carefulness

1 Corinthians 7:32. I would have you without carefulness.

THERE were, as might be expected, subjects of great difficulty and delicacy submitted, from time to time, to the Apostle Paul, for his decision. In matters of expediency was he consulted, no less than of duty. Of that nature was the question which was proposed to him from Corinth, on the subject of marriage. Of the lawfulness of that holy ordinance there could be no doubt, since it was instituted by God himself, even in the time of man's innocency in Paradise. But of the expediency of embarking in the engagements of matrimony, under the circumstances of the Church in that day of trial and persecution, reasonable doubts might well be entertained. His opinion upon it therefore was asked; and he gave his judgment with all the tenderness that the occasion required. "In that season of distress," he thought that persons of either gender would do well to keep themselves unmarried; since they would be more at liberty to act, or suffer, for the Lord, than if they were involved in the cares and duties of a family. And as to the general question, while he left all to judge and act for themselves, he thought that, where no very urgent reason existed for engaging in the matrimonial contract, it would be found more easy to serve the Lord fully in a single state, than in a state which must necessarily be attended with some "distraction" and embarrassment.

Upon this particular question I have no design to enter. But the basis upon which the Apostle framed his decision, is alike applicable to all cases, and in all ages: "I would have you without carefulness." Dismissing, therefore, from our minds the subject proposed to him, and which, in fact, must depend altogether upon the personal feelings and peculiar circumstances of every distinct individual, I will proceed to show you,

I. The evil and danger of "carefulness."

Every kind of care is not evil; but only that care which is attended with anxiety. And this is evil,

1. As distracting our mind.

It is surprising how even a small matter, upon which we set our hearts, will incapacitate us for attending to our spiritual concerns. Some object to be attained, or some trial to be avoided, or some difficulty to be overcome, though in itself of very trifling moment, will so dwell upon the mind as to indispose us for reading the word of God; and will even so disturb our repose by night, as to unfit us for any mental exertion—The injury which this must do to the soul is obvious.

2. As impeding our progress.

The eastern dress is calculated to impede the movements of him that wears it: and hence Elijah girded up his robes, when he ran before Ahab. To this the Apostle refers, when he speaks of "our laying aside every weight, and the sin that more easily besets us." Any care operates in this way, as a weight upon the feet, and an obstacle to our progress, even in temporal duties, and much more in those which are of a spiritual nature. Our blessed Lord illustrates this by another image, taken from agriculture; and tells us, that "the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the good seed that has been sown within us, and prevent it from growing up to perfection."

3. As tending to turn us from the path of strict integrity.

Whatever engages the affections strongly, will warp the judgment, and produce a strong bias upon the mind. Duties, which would interfere with the prosecution of our object, will be neglected; and measures, which may facilitate the attainment of it, will be adopted, without any scrupulous attention to their exact legality. Truth, honor, probity, will be sacrificed, rather than the favorite object be lost. And what need I say more, to mark the evil and danger of inordinate desire? To whatever it have respect, it is a root and source of evil, which, if not corrected, will destroy the soul.

You will then, of course, desire to be informed,

II. How we may most effectually divest ourselves of it.

Much might be spoken upon this subject: but two hints only shall suffice:

1. Get a deep sense of the obligations which God has laid on us.

See what your God has already given you in the blessings of creation—in the care of his providence—and, above all, in the wonders of redemption—What can you wish for more? Should not a reflection on these things fill you with unutterable joy? What can anything else be in comparison of these stupendous mercies? Truly, whatever it be that is the object of your desire, it can be no more than the dust upon the balance, when weighed against the inconceivable blessings already conferred upon you.

2. Get a lively sense of the obligations which he has laid upon himself also respecting us.

He has bound himself to us by covenant and by oath, that "we shall want no manner of thing that is good." If only we "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, every earthly blessing shall be added unto us." We have only to "make our requests known to him, and all that we want shall be done unto us." We have no more real occasion for carefulness than the birds of the air, or than the child in the mother's arms. The clouds, the rock, the very ravens, should supply our wants, and for forty years together, rather than we should be destitute of anything that is good. Only call to mind how the Almighty God cares for you, and you will feel no difficulty in casting your care on him.

Application.

Dear brethren, I would have you all like Mary; who, when her sister "Martha was careful and cumbered about many things, was intent only on the one thing needful," In relation to the concerns of eternity, be as careful as you will. In reference to these things, the Apostle approves of, and applauds, our care—And, if only in this matter you will be "as wise as the children of this world," you shall never fail of obtaining all that your souls can desire.

 

MDCCCCLXIV

Proper Accompaniments of Knowledge

1 Corinthians 8:2. If any man think that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.

OF all the apostolic churches, not one abounded with such various and enormous evils as that of Corinth. To bring the people to a better mind was the continual labor of the Apostle; and a difficult task he found it: for, while some denied his authority, others justified the very evils which he endeavored to correct. Hence, on different subjects, an appeal was made to him, that he might state his sentiments upon them fully, and lay down rules for their future conduct.

The eating of meats offered to idols was a ground of much contention among them. They all, to a certain degree, were agreed on this, that "an idol was nothing in the world;" and that the circumstance of meat having been offered to an idol could not defile the meat itself, or render it unfit for food. But there were some who thought, that by eating such meat they should, in some respect, be partakers in the idolatry of those who had offered it to their idols. Those who saw their liberty in relation to this matter felt proud of their superior discernment; and, for the purpose of displaying their superiority to such antiquated prejudices, would actually go into the very temples of the idols, and eat with the idolaters themselves. This, as might be well expected, gave great offence to their weaker brethren, and proved a stumbling-block to many; who were induced, by this example, to pursue the same line of conduct, while yet they doubted the lawfulness of it in the sight of God; and thus were led to the commission of damning sin by the unhallowed boldness of their own brethren. The Apostle marked the precise line of distinction which ought to be observed in this matter. The eating of meat offered to idols was allowable; since neither the act, nor an abstinence from it, would make them either better or worse in the sight of God. But the eating of it in an idol's temple was decidedly wrong; since it did, in fact, both sanction idolatry, and involve them in a participation of it. But the eating of it at all, in the presence of one who doubted the lawfulness of it, was wrong; because it put a stumbling-block in the way of a weak brother, and tempted him to violate the dictates of his less-enlightened conscience. The Apostle acknowledges that the general sentiment respecting the vanity of idols was right; but still declares, that if any person thought his knowledge so decisive that it needed not to be under the regulation and control of love, it was a clear proof that, "as yet, he knew nothing as he ought to know."

Now, though this subject is not of any great interest to Christians in general, I conceive it to be of very great importance to Churches, where there is any considerable profession of religion; and especially to Churches wherein there are, as at Corinth, a number of persons who need to have the lines of demarcation drawn between Christian liberty and Christian duty.

I will proceed, then, to set before you,

I. The defects usually attendant on knowledge.

We must not take the Apostle's words in too strict a sense, as though a person must be unconscious of any proficiency in knowledge: it is not possible for one who has studied a subject thoroughly to imagine himself as ignorant of it as he was before he turned his attention to it, or as another person who has never spent one hour in the contemplation of it. It is not possible for a philosopher to suppose himself on a level with a peasant in point of intellectual attainment. The very idea is altogether repugnant to reason and common sense: and, therefore, we must be careful not to put on the Apostle's words a construction which would involve such an absurdity as that.

But knowledge, through the corruption of our fallen nature, is attended with many and great defects. It is but too frequently accompanied with, yes, and too often generates in its possessors,

1. Conceit.

To speak of knowledge generally, would draw us too far from our subject. It is of knowledge as connected with religion that we are called to treat: and perhaps it is in that precise view that its attendant evils are most fully seen. For it is not attained by great labor, like other knowledge. There is a key to that, which is not to be found in relation to any other branch of knowledge whatever; a key which will open a way to all its richest stores, and without which its stores are inaccessible to mortal man: and that key is a broken and contrite spirit. Now, as this key may be in the possession of a poor unlettered man, while a man of learning and research has not found it, the poor man may have his mind enriched with stores to which his more learned neighbor is an utter stranger: and therefore it must not be thought strange, if, in an uncultivated mind, it should generate somewhat of conceit. The possessor of that key has a consciousness that "God has revealed to him, a babe, what he has hid from the wise and prudent;" and therefore feels himself, in that respect, superior to his less-enlightened, though more learned, neighbor: and if he be somewhat elated with a superiority which nothing else could give him, we may lament it, but we cannot altogether wonder at it. But this conceit is frequently carried beyond the objects of mere spiritual discernment, and leads persons to think that they have a like superiority in reference to all things connected with religion: and here they greatly err; for the things which come within the sphere of spiritual discernment are few; such as, the depth of our fall, the necessity of a Savior, the beauty of holiness, and our entire dependence on the influences of the Holy Spirit for the production of every good work within us: but the things connected with these are infinite; and, for a just view of them, we must be indebted to much deep learning and critical research. And it is an evil, a very great evil, when religious people, because their eyes have been opened, and they can say, "Whereas I was blind, I now see," imagine that they can see what is really beyond the sphere of their observation.

2. Dogmatism.

Wherever there is conceit, there will be a proportionate degree of readiness to dictate to others. Men, conceiving themselves to be right, will of course conclude all others to be wrong; and will lay down the law with as much confidence as if they were infallible. Persons of every different communion will do this: the Papist and the Protestant, the Churchman and Dissenter, the various classes of Dissenters, all are alike assured that they themselves are right, and that all who differ from them are wrong. Nor is it only in the forms of Church government that they will express this confidence, but also in relation to the doctrines of our holy religion; every one being ready to make articles of faith for his neighbors, as well as for himself, and to exclude from the pale of his Church all who cannot pronounce his Shibboleth. In truth, this has been the source of almost all the divisions that are to be found in the Church of God. It is this species of dictation which has driven from the Popish Church millions of holy men: and I am not sure that the Church of England also would not have done better, if she had left on neutral ground all which has no direct bearing on the spiritual welfare of her communicants. The Apostle complains of those at Corinth who insisted on points, which, if complied with, rendered men no better, or, if neglected, rendered them no worse. And had his spirit been more generally prevalent among every denomination of Christians, there would have been more real unity among them than all the acts of uniformity in the world, and all the rules of every distinct body, ever did, or could, produce.

3. Contemptuousness.

This is nearly allied with the former. The next step to the believing that others are blind in comparison of ourselves, is, to despise them for their want of just discernment. Hence religious professors often speak of those who maintain different sentiments from themselves, as ignorant and carnal. With what contempt will a Calvinist regard an Arminian brother, as having no insight into Divine truth; while an Arminian will ascribe to his Calvinistic brother every sentiment that is degrading to God, or discouraging to man. Those of their own party are wise: but all others are "fools and blind." How much of this leaven was there in the Corinthian Church! and how much is there of it in the present day! How many are "fond of vain jangling, desiring to be teachers, though they understand not what they say, nor whereof they affirm," but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof comes envy, strife, railings, evil surmises, and perverse disputings!" Whereas the one rule of conduct to a Christian should be this: "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." In truth, I scarcely know whether ignorance itself be not preferable to knowledge so absurd: for ignorance is destructive to ourselves only; whereas a contemptuous spirit of dictation is injurious to the whole Church. But this I know, at all events, that "if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself;" and that true wisdom is, to "esteem others better and wiser than ourselves."

But let me turn from this painful subject, to mark,

II. The qualities with which our knowledge should be imbued.

Knowledge is doubtless a most signal blessing, if it be accompanied with those dispositions which will turn it to good account. It should in every instance be blended,

1. With humility.

The effect of knowledge should always be, to show us how little we know. In every science under Heaven we can advance but a little way: after a few steps, we are wholly out of our depth. And, if this be the case with respect to sciences which admit of demonstration, how much more must it be so in reference to religion, where we know nothing but by revelation! Look at the philosophers of Greece and Rome, and see how little they knew, either of God or man. The most unlearned person who has been instructed in the knowledge of the Gospel has juster views of God, and of man, than all the wise men of antiquity put together. Yet what does the most exalted Christian know, either of the one or the other? Of God we have no positive knowledge at all: our knowledge of him is altogether negative. We know that He is not a material being; and therefore we call him a Spirit: but we know no more what a Spirit is, than we did the hour that we were born. We assign to him certain perfections: but what those perfections are in themselves, or how they are exercised, we know scarcely anything: we only know that he is not weak, not unwise, not unjust, not unmerciful, and so on: but, if we should attempt to declare what he is, we should only "darken counsel by words without knowledge." Of man, too, how little is known! Self-knowledge is exceeding rare: and the person in whom it exists in the highest degree will be the most ready to acknowledge the truth of that observation, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" In a word, "If any man would be truly wise, he must become a fool, that he may be wise."

2. Diffidence.

Where such a multitude of opinions prevail on all subjects, who is he who shall claim an exemption from error? Who will venture to say, 'All others are wrong, and I am right?' Doubtless there are some truths of which, in a general view, we may be confident; because they are revealed so plainly in the word of God, that they cannot be misapprehended; and because we have the witness of them in our own souls. But when we come to enter into particulars, we soon find ourselves involved in difficulties that are insurmountable, if not in absolute contradictions. Let us try this in reference to any point whatever; and we shall have evidence enough of our ignorance, even in the things that we are best acquainted with: nay, we shall find, on many occasions, reason to alter our opinions, and, on fuller information, to adopt those which we had before rejected. We should be careful, therefore, so to embrace sentiments, as to hold ourselves still open to conviction; and so to maintain opinions, as to admit that others may be possessed of truth as well as we.

3. Consideration.

There may be much knowledge, where there is but little wisdom. Knowledge may be superficial and crude; though, I confess, in that state it scarcely deserves the name of knowledge. It ought to be matured by a large and comprehensive view of things, under all the variety of circumstances in which they can occur: for, without such an attention to circumstances our very knowledge may be foolishness, and our light no better than darkness. We know that we are to observe every ordinance that God has enjoined: but if the calls of mercy be heard, they must supersede even the plainest ordinance that is of a ritual nature. In the chapter before us, as in the Epistle to the Romans also, the want of consideration was that which was particularly blamed in those who ate the meat which had been offered to idols. Had they done it in secret, there had been no harm: but, when they did it in the presence of a weak brother, they showed a grievous want of consideration, to discern the expediency or inexpediency of their conduct. It is right to declare the Gospel without fear: but it is not right to "cast pearls before swine." In everything, therefore, of a practical nature, we should so attend to every minute circumstance of time and place, as to keep clear of offence to any, and to "prevent our good from being evil spoken of."

4. Love.

Without this, all knowledge is vain. Of what value was the knowledge of those Corinthians, who would display it at the expense of the souls of their own brethren, whom they led into sin! Many who preach the Gospel are particularly faulty in this respect. They mind only what they are able to declare, without ever considering what their hearers are able to receive. A man, coming into a sick chamber, would not at once cast a flood of light upon the eyes of the patient, when he was scarcely able to endure the glimmering of a taper: love would keep him from so injurious an act: and the same heavenly principle should operate universally in the exercise of our knowledge: we should put a veil over our faces, if men be unable to behold the splendor of our communications; or, in other words, we should give "milk to babes, and strong meat to those only who are capable of digesting it." In reference to the point before us, Paul shows us the proper office of love in these things: "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no meat while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend."

In order to a due improvement of this subject, let us cultivate,

1. Docility of mind.

In this especially are we to resemble little children. Divine truth is manifestly beyond our comprehension; and we must receive it simply on the authority of God. It is in this way that we attain even human knowledge. What does a child know of grammar? but, from acquiescing in the instructions given him, he comes to find that all those things which once appeared to him so dark and unintelligible have a real foundation in language itself, and that we could not communicate ideas upon any abstract subject without them. Much more, therefore, must Divine knowledge be so received. We do not comprehend anything fully at the first: but from receiving implicitly God's declarations, respecting our fall in Adam, our recovery by Christ, and all the other wonders of redeeming love, we shall at last attain an internal evidence that things both are so, and must be so. The proper frame of mind for all of us is, that of the Centurion and his friends: "Now we are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded you of God." If we come to God "poor and hungry, we shall be filled with good things: but if we come rich and full, we shall surely be sent empty away." "See you a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him."

2. Moderation of sentiment.

We must guard against running to extremes; or so embracing any subject, as to be unwilling to weigh what is to be said against it. I do not mean by this, that we should run into scepticism, or involve ourselves in controversy; but that we should so hold our own sentiments, as to conceive that others who differ from us may have a measure of truth on their side as well as we. We should doubtless form our own opinions on all things that come fairly before us: but we should concede the same liberty to others; and be as willing that others should walk according to the dictates of their consciences, as we of ours. Had this disposition reigned in the apostolic Churches, how happily might those of different sentiments have lived together! But "the weak would judge the strong; and the strong would despise the weak." Had each made due allowance for the other, God had been honored, and peace preserved.

3. Tenderness of deportment.

Lovely is that rule which the Apostle has laid down, in his Epistle to the Romans; "Him that is weak in the faith, receive you; but not to doubtful disputations." How happy would it be, if this rule were more generally observed! But the evil is, that almost every one is ready to insist on his own peculiarities, and to make them a ground of controversy and division. Surely it were far better to live under the influence of love; and to leave matters of minor consideration to the judgment of every individual. Doubtless, about things of primary and vital importance, we must both maintain our own opinions, and inculcate them on others, with a holy zeal; according as it is written, "You should contend earnestly for the faith that was once delivered to the saints." But even in this we should be careful always to "speak the truth in love;" and be studious only to "win the souls" of men, and not to proselyte them to a party. We may "have all the knowledge of men or angels; but it will profit us nothing if it be not under the influence of love." Knowledge may puff us up; but it is charity alone that edifies."

 

MDCCCCLXV

Preaching the Gospel

1 Corinthians 9:16. Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel!

RESPECTING men's call to the ministerial office, it would be difficult to speak with any degree of certainty. That of the Apostles was clear and unquestionable: that of individuals, among ourselves, must be judged of by many circumstances, known only to the persons themselves, and but indistinctly known even to them. But the obligation to discharge the office with fidelity, when once it has been undertaken, is as manifest in relation to us, as it was in reference to Paul himself: a dispensation having been committed to us, we may every one of us say, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel!"

In discoursing on these words, I will endeavor to explain,

I. The office of ministers.

This, in one word, is to "preach the Gospel." And here let us distinctly mark,

1. What is meant by the Gospel.

The Gospel imports glad tidings; and it is particularly to be understood of the glad tidings which are brought to men respecting a salvation provided for them, a salvation through the blood and righteousness of our incarnate God. Such a salvation has been effected for us by our Lord Jesus Christ, who expiated our guilt upon the cross—and now lives in Heaven to complete the work which he began on earth—and offers salvation to all who will believe in him—This is the Gospel: nor does anything but this deserve the name.

2. The duty of ministers in relation to it.

They must preach it, as God's heralds and ambassadors: they must preach it fully, in all its parts; freely, without any mixture of self-righteous conceits; and constantly, making it the one subject of all their ministrations. If they preach the law, it must be in order to prepare men for the reception of the Gospel. If they preach obedience, as doubtless they must, is must be as flowing from the united influence of faith and love. They must speak to men nearly in the same strain as they would if they had received a commission to preach to those who are already suffering the penalty due to their sins. They should not flatter men with any conceits about their own goodness, or the ability which they possess to deliver themselves; but should offer them mercy through the atonement made for them upon the cross, and call them to accept it as the free gift of God for Christ's sake.

Supposing us to have undertaken this office, let us notice,

II. The indispensable necessity of discharging it with fidelity.

"Woe is unto us if we preach not this Gospel" faithfully. For if, from any consideration whatever, we forbear to do so, what account shall we give,

1. To God, who has committed this office to us?

If we have neglected it, through the fear of man, or the love of this present evil world, or through mere indolence, what shall we say, when summoned to give an account of our stewardship? Should we have loved anything in comparison of Him? or feared any besides Him? or counted anything too much to do for Him? How vain will all our excuses appear in that day!

2. To the souls whom, by our unfaithfulness, we have betrayed?

Men may now say to us, "Prophesy unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits;" and they may be pleased with our compliance. But when they meet us in judgment, how bitter will be their reproaches, and how loud their complaints against us!—The very persons whose favor we courted when on earth, will be among the first to cry out for vengeance on our souls.

3. To the Savior, whose dying love we should have made known?

What shall we say, when the Savior shall remind us of all that he has done for the salvation of our souls? Is it thus that we should have requited him? Did he come from Heaven for us, and die upon the cross for us, and confer on us the honor of being his ambassadors to a ruined world; and have we felt no more regard for him, and his interests in the world? How shall we call on the rocks and mountains to cover us from his merited indignation!

4. To ourselves, who have trifled thus with our own salvation?

Now any foolish excuse will satisfy us: but how will our conduct appear in that day? Methinks our self-reproach will be the bitterest ingredient in that cup of bitterness which we shall have to drink forever.

But let us not close the subject without reflecting on what is evidently implied in it.

1. The woe which awaits those who embrace not the Gospel.

If we are bound to preach it, no doubt you also are bound to receive it with all humility of mind, and with the gratitude which such tidings call for at your hands. You must not think that you have discharged your duty, when you have merely heard the word: you must receive it as the word of God to your souls: you must embrace it, as suited to your necessities, and sufficient for your wants. You must contemplate it, and rely upon it, and glory in it, and get your souls poured, as it were, into the very mold of the Gospel; that so it may have its perfect work upon you. This you must do: and if you do it not, it will prove to you, "not a savor of life unto life, but a savor of death" to your heavier condemnation. Remember, then, your own responsibility: and, while you pray for your minister, that he may be found faithful, be exceeding urgent with God in prayer, that the word you hear may take effect, and prove the power of God to the salvation of your souls.

2. The blessedness of those who discharge their ministry aright.

They may meet with much opposition from an ungodly world: but they are truly happy, in the hope that "they shall both save themselves and those who hear them." Sweet is the thought which a faithful minister has in looking forward to the time of meeting his people at the judgment-seat of Christ. The sight of many whom he shall then have to present to God as his spiritual children, saying, "Here am I, and the children whom you have given me;" and the prospect, that, to all eternity, he shall have them as "his joy and crown of rejoicing" before his God; say, is not this delightful? Will not this be a rich reward for all his labors, and for all that he had suffered in the discharge of his high office? Yes, truly, if he had died a thousand deaths for them, this would be an abundant recompense: and this blessedness assuredly awaits the laborious minister, the faithful servant of his God.

 

MDCCCCLXVI

The Nature and Extent of Christian Liberty

1 Corinthians 9:19–23. Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the Gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

IT is a favorite sentiment with some, that the epistles of Paul, having been written to particular Churches and on particular occasions, are of little importance to us at this day. And, of all the epistles, this before us is most open to that objection, as having been, more than any other, written for the correction of some existing abuses, and in answer to some specific questions. But God, by whom the Apostle was inspired, knew that, whether the same specific points should again arise or not, the general principles by which they were to be determined would be of use to the Church in all ages: and accordingly we find, that the views and sentiments which were elicited from the Apostle on these occasions give us a deeper insight into the Christian character than we could otherwise have obtained. We are here instructed not merely by general and abstract principles, but by a practical application of those principles to circumstances fitted for the illustration of them. And we cannot but account it a great blessing to the Church, that the enemies of the Gospel were permitted so to assault the character of the Apostle, as to extort from him a vindication of it, and thereby to obtain for the Church in all ages a complete exposition of practical Christianity.

The words before us open with extraordinary precision the nature and extent of Christian liberty: for the fuller explanation of which we shall distinctly mark,

I. Its proper boundaries.

Liberty cannot exist without restrictions; for, if unlimited, it would degenerate into licentiousness. Besides, if every man were at liberty to act agreeably to his own corrupt wishes without any control, the weaker would be a prey to their more powerful neighbors, and would be the constant victims of tyranny and oppression. Paul, though at liberty to vary his conduct according to circumstances, was still under a law by which his liberty was restricted: "he was not without law to God, but under the law to Christ." Christian liberty is a right to do or forbear anything,

1. Which is not evil in itself.

What is evil in itself can be warranted by no circumstances under Heaven: "We must not do evil that good may come," even though the good which we promise ourselves be ever so great. We must not do it for the gratification of others. If our dearest friends and relatives endeavor to persuade us, we must be alike deaf to their menaces or entreaties. We must "not love father or mother more than Christ;" yes, we must even "hate them in comparison of Christ;" that is, we must, when their will comes in competition with that of Christ, act as if we hated them, giving no more heed to them than we would to an avowed enemy. The plain answer to be given to all who would wish us to act contrary to any command of God, is this; "Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge you."

Neither must we do evil for our own advantage. If an act be sinful, we must, like the Hebrew Youths, refuse to do it, even though we saw the fiery furnace, already burning with seven-fold intenseness, ready to destroy us. So likewise, if a duty be clear, we must not be deterred from the performance of it, even though we knew that the consequence of our perseverance must be an immediate incarceration in the den of lions: like Daniel, we must prefer the maintenance of a good conscience to the preservation of courtly favor, and the avoidance of a cruel death. In all such circumstances we must embrace the offered alternative, and surrender up our lives rather than violate a command of God.

2. Which is not evil in its consequences.

An act perfectly innocent, in itself may, by the circumstances in which we are placed, become no longer innocent. If, for instance, the eating of meat offered to an idol be likely to prove a temptation or a stumbling-block to a weak brother, we are then no longer at liberty to eat it, notwithstanding in itself it is a matter of perfect indifference. We are bound to have respect to his weakness, and to abstain from a thing which may become an occasion of sin to him: and, if we do not abstain from it, "we sin against him," and "we sin against Christ."

So likewise, if a thing would be injurious to ourselves, we must not do it, even though others might be at liberty to do it. Suppose, for instance, we know from experience, that splendid equipage or apparel administers to, and calls forth into exercise, the pride and vanity of our hearts; or that a luxurious table is apt to lead us to intemperance; or that some particular amusement operates as an incitement to covetousness, or a provocative to wrath; we should deny ourselves in those particulars, and not seek an indulgence that we have reason to fear will become an occasion of sin. The express command of God in all such cases is, "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill it in the lusts thereof."

Thus under a variety of circumstances is our liberty abridged, even in things that are, under other circumstances, indifferent: for though all things may be lawful, they may not be expedient; and we must not so "be brought under the power of any," as not to be able to forego them, if the welfare either of ourselves or others demands the sacrifice.

Such, we apprehend, are the limits beyond which Christian liberty has no existence. But within these limits there is abundant scope for,

II. Its legitimate operations.

In all that we do, we should keep in view the best interests of mankind.

Whatever Paul did, or whatever he forbore, his one object was to promote the salvation of his fellow-men. This he tells us six times in the short space of four verses: and in another place he tells us, that he had the same object in view in all that he suffered: "We endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." Such must be our object also in all that we do. We must not be seeking merely to please men; for "if we please men, we cannot be the servants of Jesus Christ," in as far as we seek to "please them, it must be solely for their good to edification." To remove their prejudices, to conciliate their regards, to "choose out acceptable words," to accommodate ourselves to their apprehensions, are all legitimate methods of gaining a more easy access to their minds, in order that we may ultimately "win their souls," and, as we administer milk or meat to persons according to their capacity to profit by it, with a view to the sustenance of their bodies, so we may do for the benefit of their souls: and, if only we keep this end in view, we shall in all that we do "be approved and accepted both of God and man."

For this end our liberty may be used without reserve.

It is delightful to see how free and unembarrassed the Apostle was in all his fellowship with mankind, and how studiously he adapted himself to all their varied prejudices or necessities. Was he with a Jew—he submitted freely to the yoke which Moses had imposed, though he well knew that the Gospel had freed him from it. On the other hand, was he with Gentiles who had never been subjected to the law of Moses—he readily conformed himself to their habits. If he was with one that was weak in faith, he cheerfully bore with all his weaknesses and infirmities, and acted, as he would have done, if his own mind had been under the influence of the same doubts and fears as agitated the mind of his weaker brother. In a word, "he became all things to all men."

Now this is the very course which we should pursue: we should seek the welfare of our brethren precisely as he did, namely, in a way of self-denying restraint, and in a way of condescending compliance.

We should seek it in a way of self-denying restraint. Not again to recur to the mention of eating meats offered to idols, which "the Apostle would not do as long as the world should stand, if it should make his brother to offend;" we may see in the chapter before us how determinately he refused to accept the support to which both by the laws of God and man he was justly entitled. Such concessions are most lovely; and would be productive of incalculable good in the Church of God. In a family, for instance, the governing part of it is not willing that all which an inferior member of it may think conducive to his benefit shall be allowed to him: it would become the inferior to evince a self-denying spirit, and cheerfully to concede a part of his privileges, that he may not irritate and embitter the minds of his superiors. It may be asked, perhaps, "What, am I to sacrifice anything which I think profitable to my soul?" I answer, Yes: and God would repay you for so doing, provided you did it purely from a tender concern for the welfare of your superior: the very self-denial, which such an act would call forth, would itself be a more substantial benefit to the soul, than all the gratification which would have followed from self-indulgence: and Paul himself has set us an example of this conduct: "I," says he, "please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved."

We should further seek it in a way of condescending compliance. Paul, in order to meet the prejudices of the Jews, and to gain the easier access to their minds, circumcised Timothy: and with the same view he submitted to the tedious rites and ceremonies which attended the performance of the Nazarite's vow. And if we were more willing to meet the wishes of those who are prejudiced against the truth, we might greatly allay their hostility, and often win their souls. There is in many young Christians an unreasonable stiffness in relation to matters of pure indifference; and they will often plead conscience for their non-compliance, when it proceeds solely from a want of compassion for the ignorance of others, and of due concern for their souls. They will please themselves, however much their enemies be offended, when by kindness and condescension they might have operated a favorable change upon their minds.

Well do we know, that these principles may be easily perverted; and that it will often be extremely difficult to know how far, and in what manner, they are to be called forth into action. Nevertheless, the principles themselves are good, and indispensably necessary to be embraced and cultivated by all who would adorn the Gospel of Christ: and, if only we look well to the motive by which we are actuated, we shall not be likely to err very materially in the application of them. The main point to guard against is, the doing anything which is in itself sinful, or anything, the lawfulness of which we ourselves doubt: for we ought certainly to be fully persuaded in our minds, that the restraint which we impose on ourselves, or the concession which we make, be not contrary to any express command of God. Where the concession which others require at our hands is forbidden of God, there the rule must be observed; "We must obey God rather than man."

From the whole view of this subject, we cannot but remark,

1. Of what infinite importance is the salvation of the soul!

Whence was it that the Apostle labored so indefatigably in every possible way to save the souls of men? Whence was it that he even "wished himself accursed from Christ, or after the example of Christ, for his brethren's sake?" Did it not proceed from a conviction, that the souls of men were of infinite value, and that, if he could but "by any means save some," he would be richly repaid? But think of all that Christ did and suffered—and then say, whether your souls are not of more value than ten thousand worlds; and whether any labor, any self-denial, any sacrifice can be too great for the advancement of their eternal welfare?.

2. How exalted is the morality which we are called to practice, if ever we would attain salvation!

Doubtless it is through Christ alone, even through his blood and righteousness, that we must find acceptance with God: but we must serve Christ as well as believe in him. He has indeed fulfilled the law for us; but he has not therefore dispensed with its requirements: on the contrary, "we are under the law to Christ;" and are to fulfill his will precisely as the Apostle Paul did; having our hearts filled with zeal for his glory, and with love to the souls of men. We quite mistake, if we imagine, that Christian morality consists in a mere abstinence from outward sins, or a compliance with outward observances: the heart must be given up to God, and the whole soul be engaged in seeking his glory. It is well known, that by nature we are altogether selfish, and desirous that everything should bend to our will, and every person should consult it: but grace teaches us to have our own will mortified and subdued; and "to live no longer to ourselves, but altogether to our God." O brethren, aim at this: be satisfied with nothing short of this: and be aspiring after this blessed attainment daily, and with your whole hearts: for it is in this way only that you call "be partakers of the Gospel," and of the inheritance of the saints in light. It is by this that you will approve yourselves "followers of Paul, as he was of Christ."

3. How greatly do we need to be guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit!

Who is sufficient for these things? These attainments are high and difficult; and the very way to them is dark and slippery. It is easy to think ourselves upright in our intentions, when we are in reality actuated by a desire of man's applause, or a fear of his displeasure. It is easy also to fancy that we are sacrificing our own wishes for the good of others, when we are only gratifying our own earthly and carnal desires. In these things none but God can keep us from error; none but God can "perfect that which concerns us." Pray then, that the Holy Spirit may guide you into all truth. Pray, that He, who upheld the Savior in all his arduous work, may "form in you the mind that was in Christ Jesus." Thus you may hope to be preserved blameless amidst all the difficulties with which you are encompassed, and to win by your conversation many, who would never have been won by the word alone.

 

MDCCCCLXVII

Directions for Running Our Race

1 Corinthians 9:24. So run, that you may obtain.

THERE is not anything around us from which we may not draw some hints for our spiritual instruction. The habits and customs of the world, if duly improved, will afford us many valuable lessons. A reference to these is peculiarly useful when we wish to convey instruction to others; because it strikes the imagination more forcibly, and carries stronger conviction to the judgment. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, availed himself of the Isthmian games which were celebrated there, to illustrate their duty with respect to their souls. Among other sports, that of the foot-race was held in high estimation; and great preparations were made by those who engaged in them, in order to qualify them for their extraordinary exertions. In reference to these the Apostle speaks of himself as running in this race; and proposes himself to the Corinthians as a pattern for their imitation, if they were desirous to win the prize.

We shall consider,

I. The direction here given.

The words of the text are not a mere exhortation to run our race, but a special direction respecting the manner in which we are to run it. We should be, like the Apostle,

1. Disentangled from worldly cares.

Paul, as he tells us in the foregoing context, had equal liberty with others to marry, and to take a wife with him in his journeys. But he knew that such a step would involve him in many cares, and impede his exertions in the cause of Christ. He therefore lived in celibacy himself, and recommended it to others, both men and women, especially during those seasons of persecution, when they were liable every day and hour to be called to lay down their lives for the Gospel's sake. Now, though there is not any necessity for us to imitate him in this individual act, yet we must admit the principle in its fullest extent, and live under its influence continually. We must study to be "without carefulness." We must endeavor to "serve the Lord as much as possible without distraction." We must "not entangle ourselves more than is necessary with the affairs of this life," or multiply our cares in such a way as to rob our souls of the attention due to them. To do this would be as absurd as to "load our feet with thick clay," when we were about to run a race. On the contrary, we should endeavor to "lay aside every weight," conscious that cares of every kind impede our progress in the divine life, and, if suffered to increase, will endanger our ultimate success.

2. Divested of selfish principles.

Never was a selfish spirit more subdued and mortified, than in the Apostle Paul. Instead of claiming from the Corinthian Church that support, which God himself had assigned to every minister of the Gospel, he endured numberless wants and hardships, in order to set an example of unselfishness to others. And, when he himself was perfectly acquainted with the extent of Christian liberty, he "made himself the servant of all," becoming all things to all men, that by all means he might save some. Thus did he forego what he might have justly claimed, and consent, as it were, to pay, what none had any right to demand: he willingly sacrificed both his financial rights, yes, and his Christian liberty too (as far as conscientiously he could) for the benefit of immortal souls.

Such is the way in which we are to run. But O, how many professors of religion have been retarded (yes, and have cast stumbling-blocks also in the way of others) by a rigorous exaction of their dues, or by an unwillingness to sacrifice their worldly interests! How many also have been kept from making a progress themselves, and from helping forward their fellow-sinners, by an unyielding zeal for Christian liberty on the one hand, or a bigoted attachment to human forms on the other! Happy would it be for every individual in the Church of Christ, if a desire of advancement in the Divine life disposed them to "look, not on their own things only, but also on the things of others;" and "to seek the welfare of others not only in conjunction with, but (to a certain degree) in preference to their own."

3. Determined, if possible, to win the prize.

They who proposed to contend in the race, maintained, for a long time before, the strictest temperance, and habituated themselves to the most laborious exertions. In reference to them, Paul tells us how careful he was to keep under his body, and to bring it into subjection, in order that he might be the fitter to run the Christian race. Thus must we be trained both in body and mind, in order that we may run well and "endure unto the end." We must accustom ourselves to labor and self-denial, mortifying every corrupt affection, and "giving all diligence to make our calling and election sure."

Let us next turn our attention to,

II. The argument with which it is enforced.

The Apostle's expression is concise: but there is much implied in it:

1. We cannot win the race without running in this manner.

However persons strove for the mastery in the games, they were not crowned, unless they strove according to the laws prescribed them. Thus, however earnest we may be in running for Heaven, we never can gain the prize, unless we conform to the rules that have been laid down. This is the course that we are to run over. It abounds indeed with rough places, and steep ascents: but we must not deviate from it. We may easily find a smoother path; but we must run in that which is marked out for us, and abide in it to the end.

Let us then inquire, whether we be treading in the Apostle s steps—And let the fear of coming short at last, stimulate us to unremitting exertions.

2. If we run in this manner, we are sure of winning the race.

Of those who contended in the race, one only could win the prize: but it is not so in the race that we run: every one that enters the lists, and exerts himself according to the directions given him, must succeed. None have any reason to despond on account of their own weakness; on the contrary, those who are the weakest in their own apprehension, are most certain of success—Only let us not be satisfied with "running well for a season;" but let us "hold on our way," until we reach the goal. Then we need not fear but that we shall "finish our course with joy, and obtain a crown of righteousness, from the hands of our righteous Judge."

3. The prize, when obtained, will amply compensate for all our labor.

Poor and worthless as the prize was to him that won the race, the hope of obtaining it stimulated many to contend for it. How much more then should the prize held forth to us, together with the certainty of obtaining it, call forth our exertions! Compare our prize with theirs in respect of honor, value and duration; how infinitely superior is it in every view! Theirs was but the breath of man's applause; ours is honor coming from God himself. Theirs was a green chaplet, that withered in an hour; ours is an incorruptible, undefiled, and never-fading inheritance in Heaven.

Let every one that is engaged in the race, survey the prize. Let him at the same time contemplate the consequence of coming short, (not a transient disappointment, or loss of some desirable object, but everlasting misery in Hell,) and the labor necessary to attain it will appear as nothing. None that have succeeded, now regret the pains they took to accomplish that great object: though thousands that have refused to run, now curse their folly with fruitless remorse—Let not any then relax their speed: but all attend to the directions given; and "so run, that they may obtain the prize."

 

MDCCCCLXVIII

The Manner in Which Paul Sought for Heaven

1 Corinthians 9:26, 27. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.

THE Scripture teaches us no less by examples than by precepts. Doubtless the great exemplar, which all are to follow, is the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom there was no sin at all. But, next to him, the Apostles deserve our regard. Paul frequently exhorts us to be imitators of him: but he always limits that counsel by the superior regard which we owe to Christ; and bids us to follow him, so far only as he followed Christ. In this view he introduces the passage which we have just read. He has been recommending to the Corinthians a holy self-denying conduct. To enforce his exhortation, he states to them how he acted under a variety of difficult circumstances: and lastly, in reference to the Isthmian Games which were celebrated in that city, he gives them, in the words before us, a very animated view of his own experience, which he proposes to them for their imitation.

We may notice in these words,

I. The manner in which the Apostle exerted himself.

It is scarcely necessary to say, that Heaven was the prize for which he contended. For this he labored,

1. With careful attention.

As the course was precisely marked out for those who ran in the race, so there were certain rules prescribed in every one of the games; in allusion to which Paul elsewhere says, "If a man strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully." Now in running the Christian race, there are rules indispensably necessary to be observed, if we would have the prize adjudged to us. One rule in particular we mention, because it is expressly specified by the Apostle, and because it virtually includes all others: it is, that we must "look unto Jesus," as the pattern for our imitation, as the source of our strength, as the medium of our acceptance, "as the Author and the Finisher of our faith." Now the Apostle did not run as a person regardless of the rules, but as one who was determined in all things to observe them.

For want of this care, many who appear desirous of getting to Heaven, fall short of it at last: they are not sufficiently instructed, especially in relation to the rule that has been specified: they are apt to satisfy themselves with rules of their own devising; and on this account they are found at last to have "spent their strength for nothing."

2. With ardent zeal.

A person who should be brandishing, as it were, his arms, and should "beat the air" in a way of sportive exercise, would be very unlike to one who was engaged in actual combat. Such a difference exists between those who merely profess to engage with their spiritual enemies, and those who are really "warring a good warfare," nor is this difference less visible in the Christian world, than it would have been on the stage where such spectacles were exhibited. Now the Apostle was not a mere pretender to religion: he saw too much of the importance of eternal things to waste his time in empty professions: he knew that, if he did not vanquish his enemies, his enemies would destroy him; and therefore he strove to "fight a good fight," and to "quit himself like a man," who would rather die than yield.

3. With absolute self-denial.

Those who intended to engage in the different games, used much self-denial in the whole of their diet and mode of living, in order that they might be the better able to endure the fatigues and hardships which they must inevitably experience in the contest: and, when they came to the trial, they put forth all their strength, that they might gain the victory. The enemies with which the Apostle contended, were numerous and mighty. Those which he particularly refers to in the text, were, his own indwelling corruptions. He found that, in common with all others, he had "lusts warring in his members," yes, "warring against his soul." To subdue these, it was necessary that he should put forth all his strength. He had already gained a great advantage over them, as a man who had got his antagonist's head under his arm, and was beating him in the face with all his might. He would not give them any liberty to regain their former ascendancy, but was determined to subdue them utterly.

We shall easily account for these exertions, when we call to mind,

II. The considerations by which he was actuated.

It is painful to see how persons, who are enslaved by human systems, will wrest the Scriptures, to make them coincide with their own views. Did the Apostle mean to say, that he exerted himself thus, merely lest he should by any means be betrayed into some fault, which should cause him to be disapproved of men? Had he not respect to God also, and to his eternal state? No man living, whose judgment was not warped by a predilection for a system of his own, could doubt one moment but that the Apostle was actuated by two considerations;

1. A hope of gaining the prize.

This is manifestly implied in his words: and such a hope is the main spring of activity to every Christian that is under Heaven. The Apostle well knew, how infinitely an unfading crown of glory surpasses the perishable chaplets that were awarded to the victors in the different games. He could not endure the idea, that others should take so much pains to obtain a corruptible crown, which vet only one would win; and that he himself should be remiss in seeking an incorruptible crown, which all who contended earnestly for it must obtain. The securing of this he felt to be the one thing needful; and therefore he determined to make it the one object of his ambition.

2. A fear of losing it.

The person who executed the office of herald in the different games, introduced others, and encouraged them to the contest, but did not contend himself. But the Christian herald, who stirs up and encourages others to engage in the race or combat, must himself both run and fight: and, if he do not engage with his whole heart, however he may have animated others, he himself will not be deemed worthy of the prize. Now the Apostle felt that the same exertions were necessary for him as for all others; and that peculiar guilt and shame would attach to him, if he, after having preached successfully to others, should at last fail of success himself. On this account therefore he labored to "destroy the whole body of sin." He was conscious that the smallest advantage gained by his bodily appetites might be attended with the most fatal consequences; and therefore he strove to "mortify his earthly members," and to "crucify his flesh with its affections and lusts."

Address.

1. Those who are satisfied with the name and profession of Christianity.

Were such a life as yours sufficient to obtain the prize, there were no propriety in such figures as the Apostle has used in the text. Be assured, that, if Paul found such exertions necessary for himself, they are no less so for you: and, that if he could not get to Heaven without them, much less can you.

2. Those who have relaxed their exertions.

It is not the beginning well, but the enduring to the end, that will avail to the saving of the soul. Some indeed will say, "Once a child of God, and always so," but God warns you, that if any man turn back, his soul shall have no pleasure in him. It is only by a patient continuance in well-doing that you can obtain the glory and honor and immortality which you profess to seek for. The labor that has been bestowed upon you is all in vain, if you do not maintain your steadfastness even to the end. "Be not weary therefore in well-doing; for in due season you shall reap, if you faint not."

3. Those who are discouraged through apprehensions of failure.

Well might all be discouraged, if success depended on our own strength. But "God has laid help upon One that is mighty;" and it is our privilege to be "strong in the Lord and in the power of his might." However weak therefore you yourselves are, and however powerful your enemies, you have no reason to despond, since, "through the strength of Christ you can do all things."

4. Those who are "contending earnestly for the faith" and practice of the Gospel.

You know not indeed the precise measure of your course: but it is pleasing to reflect, that it may very soon be terminated, and that the prize shall be adjudged, not to the one who surpasses all others, but to all who "run their race with patience." Methinks, the Savior, the Judge of all, is holding forth the prize to you; and the whole host of Heaven are witnesses of your exertions. Consider the countless multitudes that are already crowned, and that have bid an everlasting adieu to all the dangers of warfare, and the fatigues of running. Soon your hour also shall arrive: only, whenever it may arrive, let it find you exerting yourselves with all your might; that you may be able to say with your dying breath, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me; and not unto me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."

MDCCCCLXIX

The Manna and Rock Types of Christ

1 Corinthians 10:3, 4. They did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that rock was Christ.

THOUGH it is certain that the covenant of grace is ordered in all things and sure, and that God will fulfill his promises to all who believe, yet there is no man so absolutely assured of his own interest in the Divine favor, as that he can with safety cast off all watchfulness and circumspection. The Corinthians, by going to the utmost verge of their Christian liberty in eating things offered to idols, were in danger of being drawn back into actual idolatry. The Apostle recommends to them therefore to exercise self-denial, as well for their own sake, that they might not be ensnared, as for the sake of others, whose weak consciences might be wounded. He tells them that he himself felt the necessity of mortifying all his appetites, and that he was obliged to "keep his body under, and to bring it into subjection, lest by any means, after having preached to others, he himself should be a cast-away." He then proceeds to remind them of the Israelites, who, notwithstanding the numberless privileges that they enjoyed, as God's peculiar people, perished in the wilderness for their manifold provocations. Among the privileges which he specifies, we shall fix our attention upon that referred to in the text; and shall take occasion from it to inquire,

I. What was that spiritual food which the Israelites partook of in the wilderness?

God, having brought his people into the wilderness, sustained them there with miraculous supplies of bread and water.

About six weeks after their departure out of Egypt, their provisions were spent, and they began to be in want of bread. God therefore promised them a constant supply from day to day: forbidding them to reserve any for the morrow, except on the day preceding the Sabbath, when they were to gather sufficient for two days' consumption. This food (which for want of any more appropriate name they called manna, I. e. a portion) descended from the clouds every night; and, when the dew that covered it was exhaled by the sun, it appeared on the face of the ground: it was a very small white thing like coriander seed, which they ground in their mills, and baked; and, in taste, it was like wafers made of fresh oil and honey. Of this there was a constant and regular supply for forty years; nor did it ever fail, until their want of it was superseded by the corn, of which they got possession in the laud of Canaan. In like manner, water was given them out of a rock in Horeb, by a stroke of that rod, with which Moses had divided the Red Sea: and it was made to follow them in all their encampments for about thirty-eight years; when, for their further trial, the stream was dried up, and a similar miracle was wrought for them again in Kadesh-barnea.

This food, though carnal in its nature and use, was truly "spiritual;" inasmuch as it was,

1. A typical representation of Christ.

Our Lord himself copiously declares this with respect to the manna: He draws a parallel between the bread which Moses gave to the Israelites, and himself as the true bread that was given them from Heaven; and shows that, as the manna supported the natural life of that nation for a time, so he would give spiritual and eternal life to the whole believing world. The same truth he also establishes, in reference to the water that proceeded from the rock. He told the Samaritan woman, that if she would have asked of him he would have given her living water. And on another occasion he stood in the place of public concourse, and cried, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink;" thereby declaring himself to be the only "well of salvation," the only rock from whence the living water could proceed. Indeed, the Apostle, in the very words of the text, puts this matter beyond a doubt; "they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them;" and "that Rock was Christ."

2. A sacramental pledge of his blessings.

Under the Gospel dispensation there are two sacraments, baptism and the Lord's supper: and these are not only "outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace," but they are also "means whereby we receive that grace, and a pledge to assure us thereof." Thus when the Israelites were "baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea," they were consecrated unto God; and they received, as it were, an earnest from him, that all the blessings of his covenant should in due time be imparted to them, unless they, by their violation of the covenant, should provoke him to withhold them. In the same manner the bread and water miraculously given and continued to them, were a pledge, that they should one day "eat of the hidden manna," and "drink of the rivers of pleasure which are at his right hand for evermore," provided they continued steadfast in the covenant, and walked worthy of their heavenly calling. Thus while their daily food typically represented, and, to those who partook of it in faith, really conveyed, spiritual blessings, it was "an earnest to them of that Spirit," whom the water typified, and "an earnest of that inheritance," which Christ should purchase for them by his obedience unto death.

And that this food was not peculiar to them may be shown by considering,

II. In what respects it was the same with that which we now partake of.

When the Apostle says, that they all eat the same spiritual meat, he does not mean that all the Israelites subsisted on the same food (for that was obvious enough, and was of no consequence to his subject) but that their spiritual food, represented by the manna and the water, was the same that still nourishes the Church of God. To elucidate this we may observe, it was the same,

1. In its nature and substance.

As their bodies could not have maintained their vigor without the daily use of bread and water, so neither could their souls flourish, unless they daily fed upon Christ, the living bread, and received from him renewed communications of his Spirit. And are there any other means of subsistence for our souls? Has not our Lord expressly told us, that "except we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no life in us?" Has not Paul also assured us, that none can belong to Christ unless they be partakers of his Spirit? We are as destitute of strength in ourselves as the Israelites were; and need the same direction, support, and support. If any man could be sufficient of himself, surely the great Apostle of the Gentiles was: but he corrects himself instantly when he appeared to have suggested an idea that was capable of that interpretation; "I live," says he, "yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." This is precisely what the believers in the wilderness did, when they subsisted on their spiritual food; and it is what every believer must do as long as the world shall stand.

2. In its use and tendency.

The daily supply of manna, and of the water from the rock, continually reminded them of their dependence upon God, and encouraged them to serve him with a willing mind. But the conveyance of spiritual blessings to them under these symbols would go further still, and actually produce the dispositions, which the outward blessings could only tacitly recommend. And what are the dispositions which the eating of the bread of life, and the drinking of the living water uniformly create? Do they not lead us to a dependence on God's care, and a devotedness to his service? The very end for which our Savior died, was, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them: no doubt therefore his love, when shed abroad in the heart, will incline us to do this; and his grace communicated to the soul, will enable us to do it.

We may learn from hence,

1. In what spirit we should attend the ordinances of the Gospel.

The Israelites were left to feel their need of food before the miraculous supplies were given them: and with what avidity would they gather up the new created bread! with what insatiable appetite would they bow down to drink of the flowing stream! Such is the spirit with which we should approach the ordinances of our God. In them the manna is rained round about our tents: in them the rock is struck, and the waters of salvation flow around us: and if we come hungering and thirsting, we shall never be sent empty away. Let none then consider the ordinances as mere occasions for gratifying their curiosity, but as the place where spiritual food is set before them for the support and comfort of their souls. The Israelites would ask but one question: Is this provision suited to my necessities? So neither should we concern ourselves much about the manner in which the ordinances are dispensed, but rather go, that we may receive Christ in them, and have more abundant communications of his Spirit imparted to us.

2. What should be the habit of our minds when we have partaken of spiritual blessings.

The particular object of the Apostle in the text is, to inculcate the necessity of fear and caution: and the argument he uses is well calculated to effect his purpose. Two millions of Israelites came out of Egypt: they were brought in safety through the Red Sea, and supported by this miraculous food: yet, of all who had attained the age of twenty, two only were suffered to enter into the promised land. All the rest perished in the wilderness: and the very profession which they made, and the privileges which they enjoyed, served but to enhance, in most instances, it is to be feared, their eternal condemnation. Moreover they were intended by God himself as examples to us; that we, admonished by their fate, might suppress all irregular desires, and walk more worthy of our high calling. Well therefore does the Apostle add, "Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." We never are so much in danger as when we think ourselves most secure. Let us then "not be high-minded, but fear," whatever mercies we have experienced, and whatever enjoyment of spiritual blessings may have been given to us, let us remember, that we are not beyond the reach of temptation: we may "have escaped for a while the pollutions of the world, and yet be again entangled therein and overcome," it is not sufficient for us to have "tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come," we may still "fall away, and return to a state from whence we shall never be renewed to repentance." "Let all then take heed, lest, a promise being left them of entering into God's rest, they should by any means come short of it."

1 CORINTHIANS, 10:3, 4.

See Sermon on 1 Timothy 1:11. where it forms the third Sermon of a series.

 

MDCCCCLXX

The Judgments on the Israelites Typical

1 Corinthians 10:11. Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

THE Holy Scriptures were not given to the world, to amuse us with an account of past occurrences, but to instruct us in the way to eternal life. Nor are the historical parts less conducive to this end, than the preceptive; since they show us, in a striking view, the characters of them that are saved, and of them that perish. The history of the Israelites would be entertaining as a romance; but, as an exemplification of God's dealings with his Church, it is inestimable. Hence the Apostle expresses great concern that the Corinthian Church should be acquainted with the things that had happened to the Jewish nation; in order that they themselves might be on their guard, lest, resembling the Jews in their conduct, they should also resemble them in their fate.

Let us consider,

I. The typical events here specified.

The Jews, notwithstanding the mercies given to them, perished in the wilderness for their iniquities.

Great, exceeding great, were the favors conferred upon them: they were brought, under the immediate direction of God, through the Red Sea, and were baptized thereby into the covenant which God made with them by Moses. They were also sustained by food miraculously afforded them, food, not carnal only, but "spiritual," if spiritually improved.

But, instead of following the Lord fully, "they forgot God their Savior," and addicted themselves to idolatry, to fornication, to distrust and murmuring.

For these, and other impieties, the heavy wrath of God came upon them; and two only, of all the adults who had come out of Egypt, were suffered to enter into the promised land.

In this view they were intended as types and examples to us.

Peter mentions the judgments inflicted on fallen angels, the antediluvian world, and the cities of the plain, as exemplifying those which should come upon all, who at any period, should live and die in an ungodly state. Jude, in addition to those instances, mentions also the Israelites, who perished in the wilderness. The former might properly represent the people, who are wholly ignorant of God; the latter may more particularly characterize those who profess religion: and the disappointment which they experienced in consequence of their sins, was typical of that, which all must experience, who profess to have been called with a holy calling, and yet walk unworthy of their profession. In them we see that the greater our privileges, the heavier, if we abuse them, will be our condemnation.

Being so deeply interested in the events recorded concerning them, we should consider attentively,

II. The admonitions they give us.

The Jewish dispensation closed, and the Christian dispensation commenced, in the apostolic age: and, this being the last that ever shall be given to the world, we who live under it may be said to live in the concluding period of the world.

Now the foregoing events admonish us,

1. Not to rest in a mere profession of religion.

It was to no purpose that the Israelites called themselves the people of God, while they were unmindful of the obligations which such a profession entailed upon them. While they called God and Abraham their father, they were, like their descendants also, children of the wicked one. Thus it will be in vain for us to call ourselves Christians, if we have not the power as well as the form of godliness. On the contrary, as God disowned the people before referred to, so, however confident our claims to his favor may be, will He disown us in the day of judgment. Let us seek then to be Christians, "not in word, and in tongue, but in deed and in truth." Let us not only unite ourselves to the church of God, but also devote ourselves to God in body, soul, and spirit.

2. Not to indulge any evil desires.

This is particularly specified by the Apostle as a principal end for which these events were recorded. Had the Israelites watched against the first risings of sensuality and lewdness, they had not fallen into those numerous sins which brought upon them God's heavy displeasure. And, if we would be preserved from spiritual idolatry, or even from the grossest acts of impurity, we must avoid all needless connection with an idolatrous world, and labor to suppress the first motions of sin which work in our members. "God requires truth in our inward parts;" nor shall any but the pure in heart ever behold his face in peace. An "hypocrite in heart only treasures up wrath against the day of wrath."

3. Not so to presume on any past mercies, as to forget that we have need of continual watchfulness and circumspection.

The Israelites thought, that, after so many signal manifestations of God's favor towards them, they could never be cast off. But, like Lot's wife, they stand as a pillar of salt to us. Let not us then forget, that we may have "escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, and yet be entangled again with it and overcome;" and that "we may have been enlightened by the word of God, and have tasted of the powers of the world to come, and yet so apostatize, as never to be renewed unto repentance." The Apostle himself felt the necessity of "keeping his body under, lest, after having preached to others, he himself should be a cast-away," much more therefore should we, however confident we may be of our own steadfastness, "take heed lest we fall." Let us then not be satisfied with having come out of Egypt, or having put ourselves under the Divine guidance, or having lived hitherto on Christ, the living bread and living water: but let us go on in dependence on his grace, and in obedience to his will. Let us combine a consciousness of our proneness to fall, with an humble affiance in him, "who alone is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."

Be admonished then, every one of you, my beloved brethren.

1. You who are resting in outward forms.

See how earnest the Apostle Paul was in impressing these facts on the minds of his Corinthian converts: "I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of these things." So say I to you: "I would not have you ignorant of them." Indeed, indeed, they are too little considered. If you had asked all the six hundred thousand men after they had passed the Red Sea, and beheld all their enemies dead upon the seashore, Where are you going? They would all have confidently replied, "We are going to Canaan, and doubt not but that we shall in due time possess it." And this is what all say respecting Heaven. But of them only two ever arrived in safety at that good land. And I tremble to think how many of you will in all probability fall short of the promised rest in Heaven. You are all Christians in name: but are you all such in truth? Would to God you were! Would to God that you were all living by faith on the Lord Jesus, and altogether devoted to his service!—But I must tell you, that "the kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent must take it by force," for neither can a race be won, nor a battle gained, without very different exertions from what we behold in the Christian world at large.

2. You who make a profession of vital godliness.

This was the state of the Corinthian Church, on whose minds Paul labored so earnestly to impress these known and acknowledged facts. Think not then, my brethren, that it is superfluous for me to inculcate the consideration of them upon you, and such an improvement of them as your state demands. Think not that you have attained such stability as to render these admonitions unnecessary: but know, that the more you possess of holy fear, the more certain will you be of God's effectual aid. It is only when you are weak in yourselves, that you are really strong; and, when in a simple dependence upon God you are "following the Lord fully," then only can you hope, with Caleb and Joshua, to possess that good land that flows with milk and honey.

 

MDCCCCLXXI

Against Self-Confidence

1 Corinthians 10:12. Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.

THE things which are recorded in the Holy Scriptures are written, not for the entertainment, but for the real improvement, of our minds. Doubtless, as gratifying our curiosity, there is no book under Heaven so interesting as the Bible: but as exhibiting what must be realized in our own experience, as showing us our duties and our difficulties, our helps and our remedies, our punishments and our rewards, it claims, infinitely beyond all other books, our unremitting attention. In this view the Apostle, having mentioned the misconduct of the Israelites in the wilderness, and the destruction which they brought upon themselves by means of it, founds upon their history this solemn admonition; "therefore let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall."

From these words we may learn,

I. That all, even the most eminent, are liable to fall.

The most distinguished characters of antiquity have fallen—They have betrayed their weakness in those very points, wherein their eminence chiefly consisted. Who then among us will presume to say, "I am in no danger of falling?."

II. That the more self-confident we are, the more likely we are to fall.

Self-confidence naturally emboldens us to rush into temptation—And necessarily provokes God to leave us to ourselves—By means of the former, our occasions of falling are greatly multiplied: by means of the latter, our ability to stand is utterly withdrawn—God, for his own honor's sake, is concerned to let us fall, in order that we may know and confess, that our sufficiency for any good thing is derived from him alone.

III. That, if we would be kept from falling, we must look well to our steps.

As in a slippery path peculiar caution is required, and an inattention to our steps will probably issue in some painful accident, so more especially is it necessary to use circumspection in the path of duty. Who can tell the snares and temptations that beset us? Who can tell what may be the consequences of any step we take? Who can reflect on all the circumstances that arose from one single glance of David's eye, and not feel himself exposed to continual danger? The most important events of our lives may be traced to some trivial cause, some matter of pure indifference: and events, equally or more important, perhaps no less than the everlasting salvation of our souls, may depend on the very next step we take. Surely then we should in "all things be circumspect," we should "take heed to our ways;" we should walk in an humble dependence on God for direction and support; we should cry to him continually, "Hold you up my goings in your paths, that my footsteps slip not."

We shall conclude this subject with a few words of advice:

1. To those who are offended at the falls of others.

Many, when they see a professor of religion act amiss, are ready to impute his misconduct to the Gospel itself, as though Christianity were only a cloak for hypocrites. But, considering the temptations that surround us, and the corruptions that are within us, it is rather a wonder that any stand, than that some should fall. We mean not to justify, or to extenuate, the sins of any: but we desire that religion should not be represented as promoting that, which it utterly condemns. Let the blame fall on those who merit it, and not be cast indiscriminately on all who profess godliness. Let Judas be branded as a traitor; but let not the odium of his offence attach to all the other Apostles, and to their Divine Master.

2. To those who are endeavoring to walk uprightly before God.

It is of considerable use to persons when walking on slippery ground, to have hold of each other, that if one slip, the other may afford him immediate assistance. Many falls and bruises have been escaped by these means. Thus it is of great importance to Christians to walk together in love, each helping to support his neighbor, and receiving help from others in the time of need. Let all then watch over one another with a godly jealousy. If one fall, let others endeavor instantly, in meekness, to raise him up. Above all, let every one know in whom his strength is; and pray continually, "Hold you me up, and I shall be safe."

"Now to him who is able to keep us from falling, etc. be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."

 

MDCCCCLXXII

The Security of God's Tempted People

1 Corinthians 10:13. There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.

WE are ever prone to run into the opposite extremes of presumption and despair. To check the former, we should reflect upon the manifestations of God's wrath; and to avoid the latter, we should bear in mind the promises of his mercy. With this view Paul sets before the Corinthian Church the judgments that had been executed on the Israelites in the wilderness; but lest they should turn his warnings into an occasion of despondency, he assures them, that God himself had engaged to keep all who diligently sought him, and humbly relied upon him.

His words naturally lead us to point out,

I. The temptations of God's people.

Many, doubtless, are the temptations with which the godly are beset.

It seems from the preceding context that the word "temptation" is to be understood in its most extended sense, as comprehending everything which might endanger their steadfastness in the ways of God. The world strives to ensnare them both by terrors and allurements—The flesh strongly inclines them to gratify its appetites—and Satan labors incessantly to beguile them by his wiles and devices.

But the temptations of all are such only as others experience in common with themselves.

All are ready to suppose that there are none tempted like them: but if we knew the experience of others, we should find that, "as face answers to face in a glass, so does the heart of man to man"—All indeed are not tempted exactly in the same manner or the same degree (for there are temptations peculiar to men's age and condition in life) but there are none so singularly tried, but that there are many others in similar circumstances with themselves; and the ascertaining of this point often affords much consolation and encouragement to tempted souls.

Nor are there any trials so great but that believers may be confident of,

II. Their security in the midst of them.

God himself is interested in their behalf; and they may safely rely on,

1. His power.

"That they may not be tempted above that they are able," he will proportion their trials to their strength. Are they at present too weak to endure hardship? He will delay its approach: or, if he permit it to come upon them, he will weaken its forced: and, if they be likely to faint under it, he will shorten its duration—If he do not see fit m any of these ways to lighten the temptation, he will proportion their strength to their trials, so that, if there be not a way to escape, they at least "may be able to bear them." This he effects sometimes by communicating more abundant grace, and sometimes by filling them with the consolations of his Spirit, and giving them near prospects of the glory that awaits them. Thus will he "keep them by his power unto everlasting salvation."

2. His faithfulness.

No man, however eminent, could stand, if left to himself: Satan would sift us as wheat, and scatter us as chaff; but God has promised that "he will keep the feet of his saints;" that "sin shall not have dominion over them;" that "none shall pluck them out of his hands;" that "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against them." "Nor shall one jot or tittle of his word ever fail," "He is not a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repent." He has exhausted all the powers of language in laboring to persuade us of this truth, that he will never forsake his people; and they may safely rest on him "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

Address.

1. Those who are conflicting with temptation.

What a blessed promise is that before us! What can God himself say more for your encouragement? Dry up your tears: know that "as your day is, so shall also your strength be," "there are more for you than against you," trust therefore in Him who "knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation," and "is able both to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." But do not say, "God will keep me, and therefore I will rush into temptation," such an abuse of his mercy as this would surely bring with it the most tremendous evils. We are to trust God when in trouble; but not to tempt God by exposing ourselves to danger without a cause.

2. Those who are yielding to temptation.

The generality complain, "That they cannot resist temptation," and yet they venture continually into those very scenes which most endanger their virtue. What hypocrisy is this! If flesh and blood be, as they justly acknowledge, so weak and frail, why do they not flee from the occasions of sin? and why do they not cry unto God for help? Let all know that their impotency is no just excuse; that all shall receive support if they will but seek it; and that "God's strength shall be perfected in their weakness." But if we will not repent of our sins and turn unto God, the power and faithfulness of God are engaged against us, and will be glorified in our everlasting destruction.

 

MDCCCCLXXIII

Appeal to Men Of Wisdom And Candor

1 Corinthians 10:15. I speak as to wise men; judge you what I say.

AMONG the various systems of religion that have been promulgated, there is this remarkable difference; that, while those which have been devised by man were founded on the deductions of human reason, that which has been revealed by God is founded solely on his own authority. Every declaration, every precept, every promise, every threatening, is introduced with "Thus says the Lord." Deliberation and discussion respecting these declarations of God, are altogether superseded: man has no alternative, he must believe and obey whatever his God has spoken.

But though revealed religion is neither founded on human reason, nor makes its appeal to it, yet it is perfectly consistent with reason, and approves itself to the judgment of every one whose mind is enlightened by the Spirit of God, and whose passions are subjugated to the higher powers of the soul.

The appeal which the Apostle makes in our text to the judgment of the Corinthian Church has respect indeed to only one particular point, the maintaining of communion with heathens in their idolatrous sacrifices and oblations. This, as he observes, was inconsistent with their professed allegiance to Christ, and with all hope of participating the blessings of his salvation: and so unquestionable was this truth, that he did not hesitate to appeal to their judgment respecting it.

We are far from saying that all the truths of Christianity are as level with the capacity of men as that which is the subject of the Apostle's appeal: but still we are persuaded, that there is no part of our religion repugnant to reason, nor any part which enlightened reason must not highly approve.

In confirmation of this sentiment we shall endeavor to show,

I. That the Gospel approves itself to all who are truly wise.

II. That it is the duty of every man to exercise his judgment in relation to it.

I. That the Gospel approves itself to all who are truly wise.

There is a wisdom to which the Gospel does not approve itself,—I mean "the wisdom of this world," as it is called, even that which is both the root and offspring of philosophic pride. Between this wisdom and the Gospel there is as inveterate an opposition as between light and darkness; the Gospel is regarded by it as foolishness; and itself is no other than foolishness in the sight of God. The Apostle tells us, that by this wisdom the world neither knew God, nor could possibly find him out; that God has so formed his Gospel as to "destroy the wisdom of the wise, and to bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." Remarkable is that triumphant language of the Apostle, "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?"

If it be asked, Why this wisdom is so much at variance with the Gospel? we answer, that men filled with the conceit of their own sufficiency, and wise in their own eyes, are ready to prescribe to God what he shall speak; receiving only what accords with their own preconceived opinions, and rejecting everything that is not accommodated to their carnal apprehensions. They do not read the Scriptures to learn of God, but rather to criticize what he has revealed, and to sit in judgment upon all that he has spoken. Is it to be wondered at, that the Gospel, which is full of mysteries, should not approve itself to them? yes, that it should be a stumbling-block and an offence to them! It is so, and it must be so, until they shall see that "God is wiser than man," and that "if any man would be wise, he must become a fool that he may be wise."

But though to such proud and self-sufficient religionists the Gospel of God is foolishness, yet to the truly wise it is a revelation every way worthy of its great Author.

By the truly wise, we mean those persons who are sensible that they stand in need of reconciliation with their offended God, and that the Gospel is a revelation from God respecting the provision which he has made for our restoration to his favor. These persons, conscious of the insufficiency of human wisdom to find out such a plan for the salvation of mankind, receive with humility what God has revealed; and, the instant they know his mind and will, they receive his testimony with the liveliest gratitude, and make it the one ground of all their hopes. These are truly wise; they presume not to dispute with God about the means he has provided, or the terms he has offered, for their salvation; but they accept thankfully what he has so graciously planned, and so freely offered.

To persons of this description the Gospel does approve itself as the wisdom of God and the power of God. It approves itself both as a revelation, and as a remedy.—As a revelation, it appears to stand on a basis that is immoveable; and the evidence of its divine authority is considered as incomparably stronger than any that can be adduced for any other record under Heaven. As a remedy, it appears exactly suited to the necessities of fallen man, providing wisdom for the ignorant, righteousness for the guilty, sanctification for the polluted, and redemption for the bond-slaves of sin and Satan. It is further recommended to their approval by the honor which it brings to all the perfections of the Deity, in that justice is no more set aside than mercy, nor truth is violated any more than holiness; but every perfection of God is harmoniously exercised, and more glorified, than it could have been, if such a salvation had never been devised.

We do not at present enter into the particulars of this Gospel, because that will be the subject of our future discourses: but we would give a general clew whereby to discover the true Gospel from everything that falsely assumes that name. It will be generally granted, that the Gospel which the Apostle Paul preached, was the true Gospel: and we find, that the foregoing marks were inseparable from his doctrines: his statements were disapproved by those who were carried away, either by "philosophy and vain deceit" on the one hand, or by superstition on the other hand: to the Jews his doctrine was a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but to those who were called and taught by divine grace, it was the wisdom of God and the power of God. If therefore the Gospel which we preach be disapproved by the same persons as disapproved of his, we have so far an evidence in its favor; whereas, if our Gospel be approved by those who were averse to his, then it is evident that we do not preach the same Gospel as he did. To unsanctified wisdom, the truth of God ever was, and ever must be, foolishness; but to those who are possessed of true wisdom, it is, and ever will be, a stupendous effort of wisdom and of love for the recovery and salvation of a ruined world.

The intent of our present discourse is to bespeak your candor in reference to those which may follow it, and to show that, at least in our own judgment, there is such a reasonableness in all our doctrines as must of necessity commend itself to every candid inquirer. We wish not one sentiment to be embraced, without a firm conviction of its truth: we wish every word we utter to be brought to the test of Scripture and of true wisdom. We would say to every man, "Prove all things, and hold fast that only which is good."

To impress on our minds the importance of making for our ourselves a candid inquiry into the Gospel of Christ, we proceed to show,

II. That it is the duty of every man to exercise his judgment in relation to it.

God himself is pleased on some occasions to make an appeal to us respecting his own dealings with mankind: "Judge, I pray you," says he, "between me and my vineyard," and again, "Are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?" In truth, though he is not to be dealt with by us as if he were bound to "give an account to us of any of his matters," yet he treats us as rational creatures, and expects us to use our reason in relation to our spiritual, as well as our temporal, concerns. He draws us indeed, and expects that we should give ourselves up to the influence of his grace; but "he draws us with the cords of a man," that is, with such influences as are suited to our faculties as rational agents. Still, however, we must remember, that, in forming our judgment of the truths revealed to us, we are not called to determine beforehand what it becomes him to reveal; but only by a diligent attention to his written word to consider what he has revealed: and if at first we find such things as we did not expect, or such things as seem to oppose the sentiments we have imbibed, we must not hastily determine that his word is not true, but must suspect our own competency to judge of it, and must say, "What I know not now, I shall know hereafter."

In executing this important duty we shall do well to observe the following rules; namely,

To form our judgment with care.

To exercise it with candor—and

To implore of God the enlightening and sanctifying influences of his Spirit, that we may be preserved from error, and be guided into all truth.

We must, in the first place, form our judgment with care.—It is no easy matter to search out all the mysteries of our holy religion, and to attain a clear and just knowledge of the inspired volume. There are confessedly many passages which are difficult to be understood, and many passages which appear to have, what may be called, an opposite and contradictory aspect. To explain all these, and to reconcile them with each other, and to gather out of them one entire and consistent plan of salvation, is surely no easy work: it should be undertaken with fear and trembling; and no pains should be spared to execute it aright. To take one set of texts, and to wrest the opposing texts to a sense which they were never designed to bear, will save us indeed much trouble, and gratify a proud contentious spirit; but it will never bring us to a just view of the truth as it is in Jesus. The way to solve the difficulties of Scripture, is, to give to every declaration of God its proper force, and then to mark the subserviency of one truth to others which appear opposed to it. A person, who should in an ignorant and superficial manner observe the opposite motions that are found in a great engine, would be ready to suppose that the wheels would obstruct each other: but on a closer inspection he would find, that there is a subserviency of one part to another, and that all the motions, however opposite in appearance, tend in reality to one common end. Thus it is in the Scriptures of truth; there is no real opposition between one part and another; but every truth has its proper place in the system, and its proper use: if one encourages, another humbles: if one inspires confidence, another stimulates to activity: and true wisdom will lead us to assign to every

truth that place and that measure of importance which seem to be given to it in the sacred volume. Were this mode of investigating the Holy Scriptures more generally adopted, there would be an end of almost all the controversies which agitate and distract the Christian world. The very disposition of mind which would be exercised in such endeavors, would go far to rectify our judgment, and would divest error of more than half its evils.

If it be said, that all have not leisure or ability for such examination of the Holy Scriptures, we answer, That, whether we have more or less of leisure and ability, this should be our mode of proceeding: and those especially, who are to teach others, should be careful to form their judgment in this way. The Scriptures should be studied diligently throughout; the design of the inspired writers should be especially attended to; the scope of every distinct passage should be ascertained by a strict examination of the context; and the general analogy of faith must be borne in mind, in order to regulate us in our interpretation of passages that are of more doubtful signification. In a word, we should without prejudice or partiality attend to every part of the sacred records, and then judge, as before God, respecting the genuine import of the whole. Whatever sentiment is brought before us as of heavenly origin and of divine authority, we must bring it to the law and to the testimony, and give it only such weight in our minds as shall appear to be justified by the general tenor of the inspired volume. It was by such care that the Bereans attained the knowledge of salvation; and by similar care we may confidently hope to be guided gradually into all truth.

Having thus formed our judgment, we must, in the next place, exercise it with candor.—There will to the last, whatever means he used for the regulating of our judgment, be some points whereon there will be a difference of opinion. The minds of men are differently constructed; and there are no two men in the universe who on all points think alike. It must be expected therefore, that some diversity of sentiment will remain in reference to religion, as well as on every other subject under Heaven. Aware of this, we should form our judgment with diffidence, especially on those points where men of piety have differed from each other. We should consider ourselves as liable to err, no less than others. To imagine that we are in possession of all truth, and to take for granted that all who differ from us must of necessity be wrong, is not consistent with Christian modesty. Of course, if we embrace an opinion, we must of necessity do it, under the idea that the sentiment is just; but, knowing how weak and fallible we are, we should think it possible that those who differ from us may be right; or, at all events, that the truth may be partly on their side as well as on ours. But even where we feel greater confidence as to the rectitude of our judgment, we should feel no hostility to those who differ from us; they have the same right to exercise their judgment as we; and we should no more be offended with them for not viewing things in the same light as we, than for their not resembling us in the stature of their body or the features of their countenance. By this observation we do not mean to express an approbation of indifference respecting religious sentiments; for there are sentiments that should be dearer to us than life itself: but it is intolerance which we disapprove; it is a readiness to condemn others on account of their religious opinions, and to load them with all manner of obloquy. This, I say, is what we deprecate; and too much reason there is to deprecate it; since the indulgence of this hateful disposition is the common error of all parties. To be fully persuaded in our own minds, after a long course of diligent inquiry, is well; but to brand persons with opprobrious names, because they see not with our eyes; and to misrepresent their sentiments, putting into their mouths statements which they never make, and loading their real statements with consequences which they disavow and abhor, is a mode of proceeding which tends only to generate endless contentions, and to destroy that love which is the sum and substance of all true religion. The liberty which we use ourselves, we should concede to others; and if we think others have adopted erroneous sentiments, we should endeavor to set them right; but we should do it, not with railing accusations, but in kindness and a spirit of love.

But the third rule which we mentioned as deserving our attention, is above all things necessary to be observed: We must implore of God the enlightening and sanctifying influences of his Spirit, that we may be preserved from error, and be guided into all truth.—We are all by nature blind to the things of God: there is a veil upon our hearts, precisely as there was in the apostolic age, and still continues to be upon the hearts of the Jews. "The natural man," says Paul, "receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Even the discourses of our blessed Lord and Savior, notwithstanding his confirmation of them by miracles unnumbered, could not convince those who did not choose to be convinced: nor were the Apostles themselves so enlightened by his instructions during the whole time of his ministry upon earth, but that they needed after his resurrection the influences of his Spirit to "open their understandings, that they might understand the Scriptures." The same influence we need: we must have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation given to us, to discover to us the things of the Spirit; and, unless "God shine into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," we shall continue in darkness to our dying hour. Of this blindness we should be aware; for, if we are not sensible of our need of the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us, we shall never seek his influences, nor ever be qualified to form a correct judgment of the things which are revealed to us. Even Timothy, long after he had ministered the Gospel with great success, needed not only the instructions of Paul, but the teachings of the Holy Spirit, to render them effectual: "Consider what I say," says Paul to him; "and the Lord give you understanding in all things."

This need of divine teaching we are all by nature averse to acknowledge. One of the last things that we are brought to confess, is, the insufficiency of our own wisdom to understand the sublime truths of Christianity. But, if we look around us, we see many possessing all the same privileges with ourselves, and yet so blinded by prejudice or passion, as not to discern any one truth aright: the divinity of our blessed Lord, his atonement for sin, the influences of his Spirit, the necessity of a renewed heart, together with many other truths, are boldly denied by them; or, if acknowledged as doctrines that are revealed, they are utterly disregarded as to any practical effect upon the soul. This clearly proves the great truth we are insisting on; namely, that we must all be taught of God, and that, without his teaching, we shall know nothing as we ought to know.

But we observed, that we need the sanctifying, as well as the illuminating, influences of the Holy Spirit: for we have many corrupt affections, which it is the very intention of the Gospel to eradicate; and under the influence of them we lean to those doctrines which tolerate, rather than to those which would mortify and subdue, our favorite propensities. How then can we judge aright while we are influenced by such a bias? "Our eye being evil, we shall of necessity be in darkness; and our eye must be made single, before the whole body can be full of light." This single eye then must be given us by the Holy Spirit. Instead of loving darkness rather than light, we must love the light, and come to the light, on purpose that the nature and quality of our actions may be made manifest. Let our first object then be to seek of God the gift of his Holy Spirit (for he has said, that, "if any man lack wisdom, and ask it of him, he will give it liberally, and without upbraiding,") and then, in dependence on the sacred guidance of the Spirit, let us examine every part of God's word. Let us in particular desire to be conformed to the word as far as we understand it; and then there is no fear but that we shall be guided into all truth, as far at least as shall be necessary for our own personal welfare, and for the transforming of our souls into the image of our God.

We cannot conclude this part of our subject with more appropriate words than those of our excellent Liturgy, in which we entreat you to accompany us from your inmost souls: "O Lord, from whom all good things do come; grant to us your humble servants, that by your holy inspiration we may think those things that be good, and by your merciful guiding may perform the same, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."

 

MDCCCCLXXIV

On the Corruption of Human Nature

1 Corinthians 10:15. I speak as to wise men; judge you what I say.

IN the appeal, which we have proposed to make to your judgment, we shall confine ourselves to things of primary and fundamental importance. We are little disposed to enter upon a field of doubtful disputation: for though we think that every truth in the Holy Scriptures is important, and that some of those points which are more controverted are exceeding valuable, when received rightly, and improved for our advancement in the divine life; yet, as the acceptance or rejection of them may consist with real and vital piety, we gladly wave all consideration of them, it being our wish, not to establish the dogmas of a party, but to bring home to the hearts and consciences of our hearers those principles which constitute the basis of our holy religion.

The very first of these principles is, that man is a fallen creature, guilty, polluted, helpless. The knowledge of this lies at the root of all true religion. In proportion as this is seen and felt, will the provision made for our recovery by Jesus Christ be valued: and in proportion as persons either overlook, or maintain in theory only, this truth, the whole plan of salvation by Christ will be disregarded and despised.

But the views and sentiments of those who maintain the depravity of our fallen nature are frequently and greatly misrepresented. Injudicious persons, it is true, may speak unguardedly and unadvisedly on this subject, as they may well be expected to do on every subject; but as the crudities of an ill-informed and violent partisan could not properly be stated as exhibiting a just view of the principles of any government; so neither can the rash unqualified assertions of the inexperienced be justly imputed to those who promulgate truth in its more sober and measured forms. It were to be wished, indeed, that our opponents would content themselves with statements that may be found: but they far exceed the wildest reveries that have ever issued from any ignorant enthusiast, and represent those who maintain the total depravity of our nature as reducing men to the condition of stocks and stones.

We beg leave therefore to state with some measure of precision what we mean, when we say that man is altogether polluted in every faculty of his soul, and destitute of all true goodness.

We do not mean to say that men may not be comparatively good by nature. There is as great a difference between men's natural dispositions as between their intellectual powers. As some children are quick and lively in their apprehension, while others are dull and stupid; so some are mild, affectionate, and generous in their tempers, while others are fierce, vindictive, and selfish. The children of the same parents, who have seen only the same examples set before them, are often as different in their dispositions, as if no ground of resemblance had existed between them.

In like manner we concede that persons may be morally good, not merely in comparison of others, but to a certain degree really and substantially so: that is, a person may possess by nature such a measure of candor, and benevolence, and integrity, as almost to put to shame those who profess to have been renewed by grace. How much, indeed of these dispositions may arise from education as well as from nature, we are not anxious to inquire: we wish to give to nature as much as can with any show of reason be claimed for her; and then to point out that kind and measure of goodness which she never communicated to any man, nor ever enabled any person to attain.

We say then, that no man by nature is spiritually good, or good towards God. No man by nature loves God, or delights himself in God. No man truly fears him. There may be a superstitious dread of him as an Almighty Being, but no real fear to offend him, no true desire to please and glorify him. No one by nature has, what I may call, a creature-like spirit towards him. No one feels his obligations towards him as his Creator, or places implicit confidence in him as his Preserver, or rejoices in him as his Benefactor, or delights to execute his will as his Governor, or labors to approve himself to him as his Judge. A spirit of independence pervades every child of Adam, and is, perhaps beyond everything else, the great effect and evidence of our apostasy from God. Self-will, self-seeking, self-confidence, self-delight, are but so many branches issuing from this root. The loss of that creature-like spirit which possessed the mind of Adam in Paradise, is absolutely universal. Whatever differences there may be between men as to their moral dispositions, there is none in this: self has usurped the place of God, and is to every man by nature the principle and end of all his actions.

As we have no longer by nature a creature-like spirit, so neither have we, what, if we may be allowed the expression, we would call, a sinner-like spirit. It might be supposed, that the universal fruit of our fall should be contrition, and self-loathing, and self-abhorrence; and that, a way having been revealed for our restoration to God's favor, we should be occupied day and night in the grateful contemplation of it, and in the pursuit of so inestimable a blessing. But here again we are all upon a par: the men of finer clay and more exquisite workmanship, are here on a level with vessels of the most base materials and most degraded use. A spirit of humiliation is never found, but as it is infused into the soul by the Spirit of God. It might be supposed, that the desire of obtaining reconciliation with God should stimulate every child of man to earnest inquiries after a Savior, and to grateful thanksgivings to God for the unspeakable gift of his only dear Son. But so far are these feelings from being the natural growth of the human heart, that they are never formed in the heart but with great difficulty, nor ever preserved alive there but with constant vigilance and unremitting exertions. We do indeed read of a Samuel, a Josiah, a Timothy, sanctified from an early period of life: but this was not in consequence of any natural piety in them any more than in others; but in consequence of peculiar operations of divine grace upon their souls.

Connected with this want of a sinner-like spirit, is a love of sin in all its branches. We say again, there is not in every man the same predominance of sin in all its branches; but the same propensity to it there is: the seed of every evil lies buried in our fallen nature: in some it acquires more strength than in others, and manifests itself by more hateful fruits; but in all it lives, it vegetates, and, if circumstances were to arise to call it forth, would grow up to maturity in one as well as in another.

Thus we have delivered our sentiments on the corruption of man's nature; and we will add a few words respecting that which is so intimately connected with it—our natural inability to do anything that is good.

When a nature is so depraved, as ours from the foregoing statement appears to be, there can be no disposition to any thing truly and spiritually good: on the contrary, there must be an aversion to what is good, and, in consequence of that, an incapacity to engage successfully in the prosecution or performance of any good thing. But here we beg to be distinctly understood, that the incapacity to do anything that is good is a moral, and not a physical, incapacity. A man is not under the same kind of incapacity to stop the progress of his corruptions that he is to stop the sun in its course: it is because of his inveterate inclination to evil, and aversion to what is good, that he cannot bring the powers of his mind to bear on the prosecution of anything that is truly and spiritually good; if he had the inclination and the desire, his exertions would be proportioned to the extent of those desires: and though we are far from saying that those exertions would be sufficient of themselves for the accomplishment of his object, they would certainly be accompanied with power from on high, and such a power too as should render them effectual for the desired end. It is the want of these pious inclinations that keeps us from looking unto God for his effectual aid; and consequently from attaining that strength, whereby alone we can subdue and mortify our natural corruptions.

When therefore we say, that man is by nature altogether helpless, and incapable of doing anything that is good, we wish it to be borne in mind, what the incapacity is of which we speak. Were it an incapacity that rendered all exertion nugatory, man's responsibility for his actions would, as far as relates to that point, be at an end; but our incapacity arising altogether from the inveteracy of our love to sin, and the total alienation of our hearts from what is truly good, it ceases to be an extenuation of our guilt, and becomes rather an aggravation of it.

We have now spoken what will be sufficient to mark our sentiments respecting the corruption and helplessness of fallen man. We say of man, that he is altogether destitute of every thing that is truly and spiritually good, and altogether prone to evil; though, in respect of the visible fruits of evil, there is a considerable difference between one and another. We say too that man is incapable of doing anything that is truly and spiritually good; but that his incapacity arises, not from any want of physical powers, but of moral and spiritual dispositions. He has the same power to exercise his mind in one thing as in another, if he have the inclination and desire so to do; the fault is in his will, which is averse to good, and in his affections, which are set on evil. At the same time, whatever be the state of a man's will and affections, he has not in himself the power to do the will of God; for that end he must be strengthened by the Spirit of God: but that aid no man shall want, who seeks it from God in spirit and in truth.

And now I speak as to wise men; judge you what I say: Is there anything extravagant in this statement? Is there anything that can warrant such representations as are too often given of the sentiments of those who maintain the doctrines above considered? We speak not as to wise men only, but as to men of candor and liberality, of truth and equity: is there anything here which is not most decidedly declared in the Holy Scriptures? Is there anything which is not sanctioned and confirmed by all the authentic records of the doctrines of our Church?

Let us briefly institute this inquiry, in order that the truth of our statement may yet more abundantly appear.

What says the Scripture? The testimony of the Most High God is this, that when he looked down from Heaven to behold the children of men, he saw "that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually." Can the total corruption of our nature be stated in stronger terms than these? But it will be more satisfactory, perhaps, to refer to a passage where an inspired Apostle is establishing the very point in question. Look we then to the third chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans, and let us hear what he says. He is proving that all mankind, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under sin; and in support of his assertions he brings together a whole cloud of witnesses: "It is written," says he, "There is none good, no, not one: there is none that understands; there is none that seeks after God: they are all gone out of the way: they are together become unprofitable: there is none that does good, no, not one." Have we spoken anything stronger than this? Yet, in a subsequent chapter, the Apostle speaks in stronger language still: "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." In another Epistle he denies the power of any man by nature even so much as to know the things of the Spirit; "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Nor does he confine these assertions to any particular age or nation: he says of himself and his fellow Apostles, that even they, in their unregenerate state, "fulfilled the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature children of wrath, even as others." Even after he was regenerate, be still speaks of himself, so far as he was yet unrenewed, as destitute of all good; "In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing."

We think that this will abundantly suffice for the confirmation of our sentiments from Scripture. The person that will not be convinced by these passages, would not be convinced even though we were to multiply quotations to ever so great an extent.

Turn we then to what, with this assembly at least, must have considerable weight, I mean the authentic records of the doctrines of our Church. In the 9th article, entitled "Original or Birth Sin," it is said, "Original sin stands not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the fault and corruption of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusts always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world it deserves God's wrath and damnation." Then, in reference to the impotency of man to do anything that is truly good, it is said in the next article, "The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith and calling upon God: wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will."

We forbear to comment on these articles, because all of us can refer to them and examine them for ourselves: but there is an end of all certainty in language if these articles do not affirm all that we have expressed in the foregoing statement. The homilies of our Church speak in numberless passages to the same effect. In that for Whit-Sunday, it is said, "Man of his own nature is fleshly and carnal, corrupt and naught, sinful and disobedient to God, without any spark of goodness in him, (mark these words, "without any spark of goodness in him") without any virtuous or godly motion, only given to evil thoughts and wicked deeds." And in our Liturgy, our helplessness is stated in terms equally strong; in the Collect for the second Sunday in Lent, we address the Deity in the following words; "Almighty God, who see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves."

It would occupy too much time if we were to multiply quotations on these subjects. The Articles, the Homilies, the Liturgy, all abound with expressions to the same effect; so that no man can read them with candor, and doubt what the sentiments of our reformers were on these subjects.

But we will bring the matter still nearer home, and agree to have the point determined by every man's own experience. Let every one of us look back to the earliest period of his life, and see what have been his dispositions towards God. Did we, in proportion as our rational powers were expanded, employ them in the contemplation of God as our Creator, our Benefactor, our Redeemer, and our Judge? Have we felt an sincere solicitude to please him, and to glorify his name? Has everything that is contrary to his will been hateful in our eyes, and has it been shunned by us with abhorrence? Has it been our delight to draw near to him from day to day in the exercise of prayer and praise, and to implore help from him that we may mortify every corrupt affection, and be gradually transformed into his image in righteousness and true holiness? Nay, we will go no farther than this very day, and ask, Whether such were the exercises of our minds when we rose from our beds, and whether we find it an easy matter to preserve our minds in such a frame as this? Do we not find, that the things of time and sense thrust out all these holy affections, and that God, instead of being the one object before our eyes, is scarcely to be found in all our thoughts? I speak as to wise men, and to men of integrity; Declare the truth before God: Say whether or not you yourselves are fallen from God? Say whether piety be the natural produce of your souls? Say whether you find holy and heavenly thoughts, or carnal and earthly thoughts, have the readier entertainment in your minds? Say whether or not you are impotent to good; or go and try it when you leave this place: Go, and say with yourselves, 'I will bring my own mind to a state of deep humiliation for my past sins; I will exercise lively gratitude to God for his sparing mercy hitherto; I will look with steadfast faith to Christ as my only and all-sufficient Savior; and I will rejoice and delight in him as my present portion, and my eternal great reward.' Do this; do it, not for a constancy, but only for the remainder of this day; and then will we confess, that all that we have spoken is a libel upon human nature, and that man is neither so corrupt nor so helpless as the Scriptures and the writings of our reformers have represented him. Whatever may be thought of all our preceding observations, it must surely be acknowledged fair, when we leave every man to be his own accuser, and constitute him judge in his own cause. I repeat it; this is the tribunal to which we make our appeal, and by your own impartial judgment we will venture to abide.

Anticipating your decision, (for we doubt not but that the faithful monitor within you has already pronounced it,) we ground on your own acknowledgments a

"Word of exhortation."

First, if we are such corrupt and helpless creatures, let us seek to obtain a deep and abiding sense of our wretched condition. What ought we to feel, who have lived as without God in the world, who have exalted to his throne all the vanities of time and sense, and have, in fact, been a God unto ourselves, doing our own will, finding our own pleasure, and seeking our own glory? What, I say, ought such persons to feel? What view ought they to have of their own conduct? Is it a small measure of humiliation and contrition that befits such persons? Take into the account also what blessings that God, whom we have so neglected, has from time to time been pouring out upon us; and let us reflect, above all, on his incomprehensible love in giving his only-begotten Son to die for us, and in following us incessantly with offers of a free and full salvation through him: think, moreover, of the strivings of his Holy Spirit with us from time to time, and of the resistance which we have opposed to his sacred motions; reflect, I say, on these things, and then say, Whether our eyes ought not to be a fountain of tears to run down night and day for all our iniquities and abominations. Indeed it is not a mere sigh that the occasion calls for; nor is it a few heartless acknowledgments that will suffice: the very best of us has need to smite on his breast with anguish of heart, and to cry from his inmost soul, God be merciful to me a sinner! Nothing less than this will in any respect answer the demands of our offended God: it is the broken and contrite spirit alone which he will not despise. O let us seek to humble ourselves aright! Let us implore help from God, who alone can take away the heart of stone, and give us a heart of flesh: let us look to Jesus our ascended Savior, who is exalted to give repentance as well as remission of sins; and let us entreat of him so to discover to us the enormity of our guilt, that we may mourn and be in bitterness as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.

In the next place, if such be our guilt and helplessness, let us not only humble ourselves for it, but seek for the remission of our sins in Jesus' blood. O, thanks be to God! "there is a fountain opened for sin and for impurity," there is a Savior, "whose blood will cleanse from all sin," and "who is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him." He has made reconciliation for us through the blood of his cross; and through his sacrifice and intercession we may yet find acceptance with our offended God. In his righteousness we may be clothed; and, arrayed in that, we shall stand before God "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, yes, holy, and without blemish." We do indeed, in the first place, urge the necessity of repentance: but no man must rest in his repentance, however deep it may be: the offender, under the law, not only confessed his sins over his sacrifice, but laid them upon the head of the victim. So must we do; we must transfer all our sins to the head of our Great Sacrifice; and he, like the scapegoat, will carry them all away to the land of oblivion.

Lastly: Let us seek to be renewed in our hearts by the influence of the Holy Spirit. He is justly called in our Catechism, "the Sanctifier of all the elect people of God." It is he who must "give us both to will and to do;" and if we set ourselves in earnest to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling," we need not fear but that he will help our infirmities, and his grace shall be sufficient for us. Polluted as we are, we should yet be sanctified throughout in body, soul, and spirit, if only we would plead in earnest for his renewing influence: and, helpless as we are, we should yet be strengthened with might by his agency in our inward man, and be enabled to do all things through his gracious communications.

This is the true use of Christian principles. To acknowledge the extent of our fall, is of no use, unless we seek for a recovery through the sacrifice of our Redeemer, and through the influence of the Eternal Spirit. Let us but apply these remedies; and all aversion to see the depth of our guilt and misery will vanish instantly. We shall be in no fear of being too much depressed by a sense of our sin; but shall rather desire to know the full extent of our malady, that God may be the more glorified in our restoration to health. And if indeed we are disposed to implore help from God, then may we profitably sum up our requests in the words of that truly scriptural Collect, "Grant to us, Lord, we beseech you, the Spirit to think, and do always such things as be rightful; that we, who cannot do anything that is good without you, may, by you, be enabled to live according to your will, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

 

MDCCCCLXXV

On the New Birth

1 Corinthians 10:15. I speak as to wise men; judge you what I say.

THE subject to which we would now draw your attention, and which is most intimately connected with that of our fallen state, and of our depravity by nature, is the doctrine of the New Birth. It has been already shown, that we are altogether born in sin and corrupt in all our faculties; and it is obvious, that a great change must pass upon our souls before we can be meet for the enjoyment of those heavenly mansions, where no unclean thing can enter.

In order to invalidate this doctrine, occasion has been taken from the use of the word ðáëéããåíåóßá, which we translate regeneration, to confound this doctrine with baptism. The argument used is this: The word ðáëéããåíåóßá occurs but twice in the Scriptures, and neither time has it anything to do with that spiritual change which enthusiasts insist upon as necessary to our salvation. One of the times it is used in reference to baptism, and is expressly distinguished from the renewing of the Holy Spirit; as when it is said "God has saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit," and the other time, it has nothing to do either with baptism or the new birth, but refers to a totally distinct subject.

Now we grant, that this particular term, "the washing of regeneration," is here used as our objector states: and we also grant, that if nothing more were said in Scripture respecting a new birth than what is expressed under that particular term, there would be very great weight in the objection. But the doctrine of the new birth is not at all founded on the use of that particular term. The term regeneration, indeed, has a peculiar fitness to express the being born again: and when it is so peculiarly fit for this purpose, we cannot but think that the non-application of it to the subject in the Holy Scriptures, would be a very weak argument against the doctrine itself, when that doctrine is expressed as clearly as possible by various other terms of the same import. However, we wish not to contend about a word: it is not words, but things, that we insist upon; and therefore, waving the use of that particular term, we shall speak in the common phraseology of Scripture, of being "born again," or "born from above," or "born of God."

But that we may leave no room for misapprehension respecting our sentiments, we shall begin with stating what we do not mean, when we insist upon the doctrine of the new birth.

It is supposed by many, and indeed affirmed by some, that we require a sudden impulse of the Holy Spirit, which, without any cooperation on the part of man, is to convert the soul to God; and that we require this change to be so sensibly and perceptibly wrought, that the subject of it shall be able to specify the day and hour when it took place.

But all this we utterly disclaim. We say, indeed, that God may effect his work in any way that he pleases; and that, if he choose to convert men now, precisely as he did the three thousand on the day of Pentecost, or as he did the persecuting Saul on his way to Damascus, he is at liberty to do it; and no man in the universe is authorised to say that he cannot, or shall not, or will not, do it. But we never require anything of the kind: we require nothing sudden. It may be so gradual, as that the growth of it, like the seed in the parable, shall at no time be particularly visible, either to the observation of others, or to the person's own mind: "it shall spring and grow up, he knows not how." We deny that we ever speak of it us wrought by an irresistible impulse of the Spirit, or without the cooperation of the man himself: for that man is in all cases a free agent: he is never wrought upon as a mere machine. He is drawn, indeed, but it is with the cords of a man; that is, by considerations proper to influence a rational being, and by feelings which those considerations excite in his soul. He is influenced by hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, just as any other man is; only the Spirit of God takes away from his heart that veil which was upon it (and thereby enables the man to see both temporal and eternal things in their true light, according to their relative importance); and then inclines the heart to act agreeably to the dictates of sound judgment. How far the Spirit of God works, and how far the mind of man, is a point which no human being can determine; but that "God gives us both to will and to do," we are certain, since "every good and perfect gift comes down from him." But at the some time we know, that man does and must "work out his own salvation with fear and trembling;" and so far is the Divine agency from being a reason for neglect on man's part, that it is the great motive and encouragement which God himself affords him to activity and exertion.

Thus we have endeavored to guard against the misrepresentations with which this subject is usually disguised and deformed.

We now come to state what our views of the subject really are:.

We have before shown, that man by nature has nothing in him that is spiritually good, or good towards God. But in order to be made meet for Heaven, he must be made spiritually good; that is, he must love what God loves, and hate what God hates; and be, and do, what God commands. Does God hate sin in all its branches? he must hate it too, and loath and abhor himself for having ever committed it. Does God love holiness? he also must love a holy God, and holy exercises, and holy affections; and must so love holy things, as to make them the continual objects of his most earnest pursuit: in relation to everything that is holy and heavenly, "the same mind must be in him that was in Christ Jesus." Has God required him to come as a weary and heavy-laden sinner to Jesus, and to live altogether by faith in Christ, for wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; and to glory, not in any human strength or goodness, but wholly and exclusively in the Lord Jesus Christ? the man's mind must be brought to this, and Christ must be exceeding precious to him in all these points of view; yes, he must "determine to know nothing, and to rejoice in nothing, but Christ and him crucified." These views and these principles must not rest as mere notions in the head, but must be wrought into the heart, and exhibited in the whole of the life and conversation.

Before we proceed, we will beg leave to ask, Is this, or is it not, a reasonable statement and a reasonable requirement? I speak as unto wise men; and I call upon you to judge, as in the sight of God, whether these requirements can justly be branded with enthusiasm, or severity, or any odious character whatever?

But to proceed:—This change far exceeds the power of fallen man. Whatever powers you may be pleased to invest him with, they fall very far short of this. A semblance of these things he may put on; but he cannot form them really and truly in his heart. This is the work of the Spirit of God, who is promised to us for this very end: "A new heart will I give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh: and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my commandments to do them." As to the mode of effecting this great work, we have already observed, the Spirit is not restricted: but whenever it is truly effected, then we say, that the man is born again, and born of the Spirit; and the change that has taken place within him, we call the new birth.

Now the question is, Whether this be the new birth or not? and whether we do right in insisting upon it as necessary to man's salvation?

In answer to this, we reply, not only that the Scriptures call this a new birth, a new creation, a being born of God, and a being born of the Spirit, but that an experience of it is predicated of all who are in a state of favor with God now, or shall find admission into his kingdom hereafter. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, or a new creation," says the Apostle: "old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." And our Lord, with repeated asseverations, says to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

These declarations of our Lord to Nicodemus are peculiarly strong; because the import of them cannot with any appearance of reason be explained away. Some indeed have endeavored to explain this of baptism; but I wish that those, who think it can bear that construction, would see what sense they can on that supposition make of the whole context. Let us suppose for a moment that baptism is the new birth, and that baptism was the point which our Lord so strongly insisted on; Why should our Lord, when explaining and enforcing his first assertion, so carefully distinguish between water-baptism, and the operations of the Holy Spirit; "Truly, truly, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God?" Here, admitting that he insisted on the necessity of being born of water, he insisted also on being born of the Spirit, in order that he might convince Nicodemus that he spoke, not of an outward and carnal, but of an inward and spiritual, change. Again—How can his subsequent explanations apply to baptism? On the supposition that he speaks of a spiritual birth, his reasons are clear and forcible; "that which is born of the flesh, is flesh," and therefore unfit for a spiritual kingdom: but "that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit," and exactly suited to that kingdom which he was about to establish. Again—If it were baptism of which he speaks, what connection has that with the wind, which blows where it wills, and which, though inexplicable in some respects, is invariably and infallibly to be seen in its effects? If it were baptism, it would blow, not where the Spirit wills, but where the parents and the minister list: and as for its effects, they are for the most part visible to no human being. Moreover, how could our Lord with justice ask Nicodemus, "Are you a master in Israel, and know not these things?" Nicodemus might have well replied, 'Yes, I am a master in Israel, and yet know not these things: for how should I know them? Where are they revealed? What is there in the writings of Moses or the prophets that should have taught me to expect so much from baptism? God required the circumcision of the flesh, as you do baptism: but he required the circumcision of the heart also: and, if there be a spiritual change of a similar nature required of us under your dispensation, and that be the thing which you call a new birth, then I confess I ought to have had clearer views of these things, since they were evidently inculcated in the Jewish Scriptures, and were represented also as particularly characterizing the Messiah's reign.'

It were much to be wished, that those who will have baptism to be the new birth would take this passage, and try what sense they can make of it according to their interpretation. Prejudice doubtless is so strong as to be convinced by nothing; but I should marvel if a person possessed of a simple and unsophisticated mind, could withstand the evidence that would arise from this one passage alone.

But as some distinguished characters are very strong and positive upon this point, we think it not improper to enter somewhat more fully into it.

That we may not be misunderstood either in relation to what we conceive to be their sentiments, or what we would maintain in opposition to them, we will state precisely what it is in their views which we disapprove, and which we conceive it is of great importance to correct.

If by the term regeneration they meant an introduction into a new state, in which the baptized persons have a right and title to all the blessings of salvation, we should have no controversy with them.

If they meant that all adults, who in the exercise of penitence and faith are baptized into Christ, have in that ordinance the remission of their sins sealed to them, and the Holy Spirit in a more abundant measure communicated to them, we should not disagree with them.

If they meant that infants dedicated to God in baptism may and sometimes do (though in a way not discoverable by us, except by the fruits) receive a new nature from the Spirit of God in, and with, and by that ordinance, we could cordially join with them.

But they go much farther than all this; and assert, that all persons do necessarily by a divine appointment receive the Holy Spirit in such a manner and degree as really to be changed in the spirit of their minds into the very image of God in righteousness and true holiness, and so to partake of the Divine nature, that they never need afterwards to seek so great a change again. This we are constrained to combat as a fundamental error: and respecting it, we now, in humility and a spirit of love, venture to make our appeal to you.

Is the new birth so identified with baptism as to be universally and necessarily attendant on it?

To determine this question, let us examine what is said of the new birth in Scripture, and what of baptism.

Hear what is said of the new birth: "Whatever is born of God, overcomes the world." "Whoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."

Strong as this is, the same is yet more confidently expressed in another place: "We know, that whoever is born of God, sins not; but he who is begotten of God keeps himself, and that wicked one touches him not. Now we ask, Is this true of all that are baptized? Do they invariably, from the moment of their baptism, overcome the world? Do they never (willingly and habitually) commit sin? and are they incapable of so sinning because they are baptized? Do they so keep themselves, that the wicked one touches them not? I speak as to wise and candid, yes, as to honest, men; and ask, Whether in your consciences you can affirm such things of baptism; and, Whether, if you cannot, the new birth must not be a thing very different from baptism? I will even abide by the testimony which every individual must give of himself: you have all been baptized: but have you all overcome the world? Are you all in such a state that you cannot knowingly and habitually commit sin? And have you so kept yourselves, that the wicked one does not touch you? Was there ever such a period in your lives? If there was, when was it? How long did it last? Why did you not continue it? Why are you not panting after it, and laboring for it again? But you know in your own hearts that there are millions of baptized persons of whom these things are not true, nor ever were true; and that consequently the new birth must be a very different thing from baptism.

Now then let us inquire also what is said of baptism. It is said, "Our Lord baptized no man."—But was he not the means of any being born to God? It is said by Paul, that "God did not send him to baptize, but to preach the Gospel," but was he not sent to beget souls to God through the Gospel? He goes further, and says, "I thank God I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius." But would he have accounted it a proper ground of thanksgiving, if he had been instrumental to the conversion of no more than these? He tells us of many whom he had begotten by the Gospel, and who were his sons in the faith: and therefore we are sure, that there is a birth effected by the Word and Spirit of God, that is totally distinct from baptism.

How can we account for it, that men, in the face of all this evidence, should maintain, as they do, this fatal error? In some cases it is to be feared, that, being averse to seek the spiritual change of which the Scriptures speak, they are glad to lay hold on any error that shall lull their consciences asleep, and sanction their continuance in an unconverted state. But with some we hope, that there is really an error of judgment arising from the strong things which are spoken of baptism in the Holy Scriptures. They do not consider, that, when it is said, "Repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins;" those words were addressed to adults, who had just been informed, that Jesus was the Christ, and that, if they believed in him, and became his disciples, their sins should be blotted out. Expressions of this kind were highly proper as addressed to adults; but afford no ground for the idea, that the rite of baptism is the new birth. We are no more disposed to detract from the honor of that sacred ordinance than our adversaries themselves: we admit, and beg you to bear in mind our admission, that great, exceeding great, benefit accrues to the soul from baptism. In many instances, where the ordinance is really attended upon in faith, and prayer is offered up to God in faith, we do believe that God bestows a peculiar blessing on the child: and, though we cannot ascertain that he does so but by the fruits that are afterwards produced, yet are we warranted from Scripture to believe, that the effectual fervent prayer of righteous people shall not go forth in vain; and that "whatever we ask, believing, we shall receive." But even from the ordinance itself we may consider great good as arising to the soul; since, as in the case of circumcision, the person is thereby brought into covenant with God. The Israelites, as a nation in covenant with God, were highly privileged: for "to them," as the Apostle says, "belonged the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises." The same, I doubt not, may be justly said of all that are baptized: indeed, we doubt not, but that our Reformers had that very passage of Scripture in their eye, when in our baptismal service they instructed us to thank God for having regenerated the baptized person by his Holy Spirit; and, in our Catechism, to speak of children as by the ordinance of baptism made members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of Heaven. These expressions are doubtless strong; and so are Paul's expressions respecting the benefits of circumcision: and every blessing which he asserts to have been conveyed by circumcision, we may safely and truly apply to baptism. By the very admission of persons into covenant with God, they are brought into a new state, have a right and title to all these privileges; and by the exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ they come to the actual possession of them.

We hope we shall not be considered as degrading our subject, if we attempt to present it more clearly to your minds, by an easy and familiar illustration. The subject is confessedly difficult; and if we can by any means simplify it, we shall render an important service to those who wish to understand it. Take then a well-known ordinance from the laws of our own land. A person, to whom property has been bequeathed, has a right and title to it from the moment of the testator's death: but he cannot take possession, and have the full enjoyment of it, until he has complied with the due forms and requisitions of the law: so a baptized person has a right and title to all the blessings of the Christian covenant as soon as he is baptized; but he must comply with the requisitions of the Gospel, and exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, before he can have the complete enjoyment of them. We do not mean to lay any great stress on this illustration; we are aware it is far from complete; and we particularly desire that it may not be pressed beyond the occasion for which it is used; but we conceive that, imperfect as it is, it may serve to throw some light upon a subject, which has been, and yet is, a source of perplexity to many.

But the chief source of the fore-mentioned error is, that men do not distinguish between a change of state and a change of nature. Baptism is, as we have just shown, a change of state: for by it we become entitled to all the blessings of the new covenant; but it is not a change of nature. A change of nature may be communicated at the time that the ordinance is administered; but the ordinance itself does not communicate it now, any more than in the apostolic age. Simon Magus was baptized; and yet remained in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity, as much after his baptism as he was before. And so it may be with us: And this is an infallible proof, that the change, which the Scriptures call the new birth, does not always and of necessity accompany this sacred ordinance. As the circumcision of the heart did not always accompany the circumcision of the flesh, so neither does the renovation of the soul always accompany the outward rite of baptism, which shadows it forth; and if only our opponents will distinguish the sign from the thing signified, and assign to each its proper place and office, there will be an immediate end of this controversy.

But it will not be amiss to examine briefly the different tendencies of these opposite doctrines, and to ascertain their comparative worth; in point of sobriety; in point of practical efficacy; and, lastly, in reference to their final issue.

Which has the preference in point of sobriety; the doctrine of a new and spiritual birth, by the operation of the Spirit of God; or that of baptism being the new birth? It is objected to the former doctrine, that it is enthusiastic, and that it is accompanied with many absurd and baneful errors; namely, that its advocates insist on sudden impulses, which irresistibly, and without any cooperation on our parts, at some particular time that may at all subsequent periods be referred to, convert the soul to God. Now we have before denied that the advocates for the new birth give any such representation of it, or that it is in its own nature associated with any such things. But now observe the doctrine of our adversaries; namely, of those who identify baptism with the new birth: it is curious to observe to what an extent they fall into the very errors which they impute to us. They say, that we are born again in baptism, consequently, they,

First, make our new birth sudden.

Next, they make it irresistible; for the child cannot withstand the power of the priest.

Next, they make it without any cooperation on our part; for the child is wholly passive.

Next, they make it arbitrary according to the will of man; who may hasten it, or delay it, or prevent it, exactly as he pleases: whereas it is expressly said of all Christians, that they are "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

Next, they make it so determinate in point of time, that not the person himself only, but the whole world also, may know it, by consulting the register where the ceremony is recorded.

And, lastly, they are assured of it, not only without any evidence at all, but in the very face of all imaginable evidence to the contrary.

Who, I would ask, are the enthusiasts now? I will further ask, Whether the wildest fanatic that can be found at this day in Christendom entertains notions half so fanatical as these?

The Jews laid great and unscriptural stress on circumcision: but did they ever say that the circumcision of the flesh was the same as the circumcision of the heart? Or do our advocates for baptismal regeneration give credit either to the ancient or modern Jews, as actually born again by the rite of circumcision? The Jews did indeed think that all the circumcised among them would be saved; but it was on other grounds: it was from an idea that, as children of Abraham, they could not perish, being all of necessity interested in the covenant made with him and his seed: but never, as far as we know, did they so confound the sign with the thing signified, as to imagine, that they were of necessity made new creatures by the operation of God upon their souls, at the time that man performed a painful operation on their bodies.

But let us also examine the two opinions in reference to their practical efficacy. What is the tendency of the doctrine which requires men to seek from God an entire change both of heart and life; and declares them to be incapable of entering into the kingdom of Heaven until they have experienced this change? Its tendency manifestly is to awaken men from their slumbers in the way of sin, and to stir them up to seek a conformity to God in righteousness and true holiness. But what is the tendency of the doctrine that identifies baptism with the new birth? Is it not to lull men asleep in their evil ways; to make them think that they do not need a new nature, but only a little reformation of some things, which may easily be amended whenever they please? I ask any candid man, Are not these the true and natural tendencies of the two opposite doctrines? and do not these tendencies strongly mark which of the two is right?

Lastly; Let us view them in reference to their final issue.—Suppose that the doctrine of baptismal regeneration should prove erroneous, what will be the consequence to those who, having relied upon it as true, have never sought that spiritual birth which we maintain to be necessary to salvation? According to their own principles, they must perish: for, let it be remembered, that our opponents maintain the necessity of a new birth as well as we; only they maintain that they experienced it in their baptism. But suppose that our doctrine prove erroneous; shall we perish because we were fearful that we had not yet attained that new birth, and continued with all diligence to seek it after we had actually attained it? The worst that could in that case be said, would be, that we had given ourselves some unnecessary concern and trouble: but our very opponents must acknowledge, that by that diligence we had "made our calling and election sure;" yes, if I may be allowed such an expression, we had made it doubly sure. Can any one who considers this, sit down contentedly with the doubtful notion of having been regenerated in his baptism, and not exert himself to put the matter beyond a doubt? The pains used to obtain a new and spiritual birth will injure no man: but a neglect to seek it, from the idea of its having been imparted in baptism, will, if that idea be erroneous, plunge us into irremediable and endless misery. Which alternative, then, will any man of wisdom, yes, of common prudence, choose?

I think, enough has been said to show what the new birth really is, and that it must be sought and experienced by all who would find admittance into the kingdom of Heaven.

But we will yet further confirm what has been said, by two or three passages of Scripture, which bear directly upon the question, and show us the danger of listening to such delusions as are set in opposition to the truth which we are insisting on. "All are not Israel," says Paul, "who are of Israel;" or, in other words, all are not true Christians who are nominally so. Again, "In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." Here substitute the term baptism for the corresponding rite of circumcision, and you have in one single sentence every word that we have spoken. Once more: "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." Can there be plainer language than this? O that we may not trifle with God, and our own souls! It is an easy matter to adopt an opinion, and to maintain it in opposition to the most convincing statements: but we cannot change the truth of God; nor, when we have passed into the eternal world, can we come back to rectify our errors. We may laugh at the new birth, and persuade ourselves that we have no need to be alarmed at the declarations of the Lord Jesus Christ in relation to it; but we cannot make him open the kingdom of Heaven to us when once the door is shut: we may knock, and say, Lord, I thought my baptism was sufficient: but he will say, 'Depart, I never knew you: My words were plain enough, if you had desired to understand them; but you did not choose to let go your beloved lusts; you did not choose to give yourselves up to me in newness of heart and life; and therefore you would "believe any lie" rather than comply with my word: Depart, therefore, and reap forever the fruit of your own delusions.'

And now let me once more appeal to you as men of wisdom and integrity, whether your own experience does not confirm every word that I have spoken? Are not many of you sensible, that, notwithstanding your baptism, you have never been so born again, as to be brought out of darkness into light, and to be turned from the power of Satan unto God? Are you not sensible at this very hour, that it is not the one labor of your souls to walk as Christ walked, and to obtain an entire renovation of your souls after the Divine image? In a word, Do you not find the current of your affections still running, agreeably to the bias of your corrupt nature, after the things of time and sense, instead of flowing, contrary to nature, upwards to high and heavenly things? If so, the point is clear: you have an evidence within yourselves where the truth lies. Notwithstanding your baptism, you are yet unrenewed; you are yet in your sins; and you are lost forever, if you die in your present state. O cry mightily to God for the gift of his Holy Spirit, and for the influence of his converting grace! Pray, as David did, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Then shall you know by your own happy experience, what it is to be born again; and in due time shall you be partakers of the inheritance to which you are born, even "that inheritance, which is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fades not away."

 

MDCCCCLXXVI

On Justification by Faith

1 Corinthians 10:15. I speak as to wise men; judge you what I say.

IF there be any one question of more importance than all others, it is this, "How shall a man be just with God?" Many errors in relation to other points may be entertained in the mind, and yet our final salvation not be affected by them: but an error in reference to this undermines the foundation of our hopes, and will involve our souls in everlasting ruin. We are anxious therefore to state, with all the precision in our power, what we apprehend to be the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures respecting the grounds of a sinner's acceptance before God. And here we are peculiarly solicitous to bespeak your candor; because there are in the world so many misconceptions, not to say, misrepresentations also, of the views of those who maintain the doctrine of justification by faith only.

It is thought by some, that we make faith to consist in a strong persuasion of the mind that we are in the favor of God: but we are far from entertaining any such opinion. Whatever is founded on a mere persuasion of our own minds, is a baseless fabric, a fatal delusion. The only warrant for a sinner's hope, is the written word of God: and that word is the same, whether it come suddenly to our minds, and excite in us an assurance of our interest in it, or be brought more gradually to our view, and be received with fear and trembling. The promises made to repenting and believing sinners are, I say, independent of any frames or feelings of ours; and are the only legitimate ground of our hope in God: and a simple reliance on them, and on Christ as revealed in them, we call faith.

What we mean by being justified by faith, we shall also explain in few words.

We all, as sinners, are obnoxious to the wrath of God: but the Lord Jesus Christ is set forth in the Gospel, as having by his own obedience unto death obtained eternal redemption for us. To him we are commanded to look as to the atoning sacrifice offered for the sins of the whole world: and we are assured, that, on our doing this with penitence and faith, "we shall be justified from all things, from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses." With this command we comply: we look to God as reconciled to us in the Son of his love; and in the exercise of this faith we become interested in all that Christ has done and suffered for us. Our iniquities are blotted out as a morning cloud; the righteousness of Christ is given to us, and put upon us; and, arrayed in that spotless robe, we stand before God without spot or blemish. Thus are we accepted in the beloved, or, in other words, are justified by faith.

We will also add a few words, to declare what we mean when we say, that we are justified by faith without works. We do not mean that a justified person is at liberty to neglect good works; but that the person who seeks for acceptance through Christ must not bring with him any works whatever, either ceremonial or moral, as a joint ground of his hope, or as a price which he is to pay for an interest in Christ. He must, in point of dependence, renounce his best works as much as the greatest sins he ever committed: his trust must be altogether in the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here it will be proper just to mention a mistake which some have fallen into, respecting the works which are so carefully excluded by Paul from the office of justifying: It is said, that wherever works are mentioned as not justifying the sinner, the expression used is, "The works of the law," and that therefore we may conclude, that not works in general are excluded from this office, but only the works of the ceremonial law. But the truth is, that "works" are often mentioned in this view, without any notice of the law; and the inference drawn from this unfounded assertion only shows, how hard the adversaries of the doctrine we are insisting upon find it to reconcile their opinions, in any plausible manner, with the statements of Paul. Let one passage suffice to settle this point. It is said (where the point in question is expressly debated), "If Abraham were justified by works, he has whereof to glory." But what works could the Apostle mean? Those of the ceremonial law? The ceremonial law was not promulgated until four hundred and thirty years after the time that Abraham was justified; and, consequently, the works which are spoken of as incapable of justifying him, were not those of the ceremonial law, but works generally, of any kind whatever.

To make known our views, then, in few words: We consider justification as an act of sovereign grace and mercy, given to sinners, on account of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done and suffered for them, and in no respect on account of their own merits or deserts: and it is solely through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, that we do, or ever can, obtain this mercy at God's hands.

Now, then, the question is, whether this be the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, or not.

Let us then address ourselves to this important subject, and make our appeal to you, as men of wisdom and judgment, to determine, whether or not our statements be right, and whether they be of such fundamental importance as we profess them to be.

But here it may be thought that we shall merely bring forward some passages of Paul's writings, which may be differently interpreted; and that, after all, the question will remain where we found it. But this shall not be our mode of proceeding. If the point be as we maintain, we may expect that it will run, like the warp, throughout the whole Scriptures, and not depend upon any particular expressions that may here and there be interwoven with it by one favorite author. We will take then, but with all possible brevity, a comprehensive view of the subject; and will inquire.

I. What is the true way of our salvation? and

II. What evidence we have that this is the only true way?

Under the former of these heads we will distinctly examine, What was the way of salvation dictated by the moral law 1 what by the ceremonial law I what was proclaimed by the prophets? what by our Lord Jesus Christ himself? and what was maintained by his Apostles? what was the way in which the most eminent saints of old were justified? and what is the way marked out in the authentic records of our Church? Of course, on these several points we must be very concise; but we hope, nevertheless, to be clear and satisfactory.

What, then, was the way of salvation to which the moral law directed us? Our adversary will here exultingly reply, "by works." True, as given unto man in innocence, it did say, "Do this, and live." But what does it say to fallen man? Does it encourage him to hope for salvation by his obedience to it? Hear what it says to all who are under it: "Cursed is every one that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." Does this afford us any encouragement to seek salvation by our works? Our obedience must have been absolutely perfect from the first moment to the latest hour of our lives, or else the law, instead of promising any reward, denounces a curse against us; and on this account it is said by infallible authority, that "as many as are under the law, are under the curse." Is it asked, Why then was it promulgated in so solemn a manner on Mount Sinai? I answer, To show us how awfully sin abounded in the world, and how much we stood in need of a Savior; and thus to "shut us up to the faith that should afterwards be revealed," and to constrain us to seek for salvation by faith alone. This is what we are expressly told by an inspired Apostle: "Wherefore then serves the law? It was added, because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise was made. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid! for if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness should have been by the law: but the Scripture has concluded (has shut up) all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to all that believe. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

Next, let us hear the ceremonial law. In all the burnt-offerings, and the peace-offerings, and the sin-offerings, a fundamental part of the institution was, that the person who brought the offering should put his hand on the head of the victim, in token that he transferred all his sins to it; and then, when the sacrifice was slain, and its blood sprinkled according to the commandment, the offender was liberated from the sin that he had committed. But we will direct your attention to the offerings which were annually made for the sins of all Israel, on the great day of atonement. Two goats were taken: one was to be slain for a sin-offering for the whole people of Israel, and its blood was to be carried within the veil, and sprinkled upon the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat. Then the live goat was brought forth, and the high-priest was to lay both his hands upon his head, and to confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat: and then the goat was to be led away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness, bearing upon him all their iniquities, unto a land not inhabited. Can anything be conceived more plain and simple than this? Who does not see that the sins of the people were expiated by the blood of the one, and carried away in consequence of their having been transferred to the other? Who does not here see written, as with a sun-beam, the truth it typified; namely, that "Christ died for our offences, and was raised again for our justification;" and that we are saved entirely by the exercise of faith in him, or, in other words, by transferring our guilt to him, and looking for mercy through his all-atoning sacrifice? Truly, if we make no better use of the explanations given us in the New Testament than to refine, and cavil, and obscure the truth, we had better go at once, and learn of a poor ignorant Jew: for there was no Jew so ignorant, but, when he saw that rite performed, could tell you in what way his iniquities were to be forgiven. And, if only we will bear in mind that ordinance, we may defy all the sophists upon earth: for it speaks the truth so plainly, that "he who runs may read it."

Turn we to the prophets: They bear one uniform testimony to the truth we are proclaiming. Through fear of detaining you too long, we will wave the mention of any particular passages; because, if we believe the declaration of God himself, their testimony is all summed up in one infallible declaration: "To him give all the prophets witness, that, through his name, whoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins."

Our blessed Lord invariably declared, that his blood should be shed for the remission of sins, and that in no other way than by faith in him could any child of man be saved. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me." "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so shall the Son of man be lifted up; that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "He who believes on him, is not condemned; but he who believes not, is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God." If it be said, that, in answer to one who inquired, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" he replied, "If you will enter into life, keep the commandments;" we answer, he did so: and we highly disapprove of that mode which some take of evading the force of his words, by saying that he spoke them ironically. We are persuaded that our Lord would not have indulged in irony or sarcasm on such an occasion, and least of all towards one whom "he loved." The meaning of his answer was; "Come, and follow me in all that I command you, and you shall gradually be guided into all truth." And the command which he immediately gave the Youth, to go and sell all that he had, and to look for treasure in Heaven, put his sincerity to the trial, and showed him, that, notwithstanding the anxiety he professed to learn the way to life, he was more attached to his wealth than to his Savior and his God. When our blessed Lord more explicitly declared the way of salvation, he spoke of himself as having come into the world for the express purpose of giving up his life "a ransom for many," and of giving men his own flesh to eat, and his blood to drink, for the life of their souls.

Of the views given by the Apostles, our opponents themselves have but little doubt; and hence, for the most part, the Epistles are no very favorite part of Scripture with them: and some will go so far as to say, that they think it would have been better if the Epistles of Paul had never been written.

But let us hear Peter on the day of Pentecost. When three thousand persons at once were crying out with great agony of mind, "Men, and brethren, what shall we do?" his answer to them is, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins;" that is, 'Change your minds with respect to Him whom you have crucified as a malefactor; and, with deep contrition of heart for your rejection of him, look to him now as the only Savior of your souls, and become his open followers in token of your faith in him.' The same Apostle, addressing the whole Jewish Sanhedrin, speaks thus of that Jesus whom they had crucified: "This is the stone which was set at nothing of you builders, which is become the head of the corner: neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Of Paul it is scarcely needful to speak. Only let a man, desirous of knowing the truth of God, read with an unprejudiced mind the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, and he could no more doubt what were Paul's sentiments, than he could doubt whether the sun shines at noonday. That a learned and ingenious man may involve the plainest subjects in obscurity, and may maintain even the most palpable absurdities with somewhat like a plausible course of argument, is well known to this audience, who are habituated to investigate theories of every kind. But the Scriptures are written for the poor: and it is a fact, that the poor do understand them; while the vain disputers of this world are bewildered in their own mazes, and by the just judgment of God are "taken in their own craftiness." But, that we may not seem as if we took Paul's testimony for granted, we will bring to your remembrance that answer which he gave to the jailor, when inquiring, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" He replied to the same effect as Peter had done on the day of Pentecost, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved."

We will mention also that striking reproof which he gave to Peter, for countenancing, by his dissimulation, the idea, that something besides faith in Christ was necessary to salvation: "We (we Jews, we Apostles,) knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; even we have believed in Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."

Here perhaps it will be urged, that the testimony of James is altogether on the opposite side; for that he says, "We are justified by works, and not by faith only." But if only we attend to the scope of James's argument, we shall see that he does not at all contradict Paul. James is writing to some who were disposed to abuse Paul's doctrine of justification by faith only; who "said that they had faith," but had no works to support their claim. These he tells that their faith was dead, and no better than the faith of devils. He declares to them, that, as it would be to no purpose to profess compassion for a fellow-creature, when at the same time we made no effort to relieve his distress; so it is in vain to profess faith in Christ, if we show not forth our faith by our works. Abraham and Rahab were believers; but they evinced by their conduct, of what kind their faith was; namely, that it was not a dead and barren, but a lively and operative, faith. And we in like manner must give, by our works, an evidence that our faith is genuine: for in any pretensions which we make to a saving faith, it is by our works that we must be justified (or proved upright), and not by faith only. Paul, on the other hand, is arguing expressly on the subject of a sinner's justification before God; and he maintains that no man is, or can be, justified in any other way than by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Next, let us see what the most eminent saints of old found effectual for their salvation. And here the path is prepared for us by Paul, so that we need little more than quote his words. In the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, where he is arguing this very point, he asks, "What shall we then say, that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, has found (I. e. has found effectual for his justification)? for if Abraham were justified by works, he has whereof to glory, but not before God (I. e. he has nothing whereof to glory before God). For what says the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt: but to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness: even as David also describes the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputes righteousness without works; saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: blessed is the man, to whom the Lord will not impute sin." We regret that we have not time to make any observations upon this passage: but whoever will read it attentively will find, that every word we have uttered is confirmed by it, beyond the power of sophistry to set aside.

To Abraham and David under the Old Testament, we will add Paul under the New; and methinks, if he had no righteousness of his own wherein to trust, we cannot pretend to any. Hear, then, what he says respecting the grounds of his hope: "We desire to win Christ, and to be found in him, not having our own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is by the faith of Christ, even the righteousness which is of God by faith." Are we so much holier than he, that when he renounced all trust in his righteousness, we should make ours, either in whole or in part, the ground of our dependence? After all this, it is scarcely needful to refer to the avowed sentiments of our reformers: indeed we have no time to do it at any length: we will content ourselves therefore with reciting to you the eleventh article of our Church: "We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by faith; and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification."

II. We now come, in the second place, to show, that this alone is the appointed way of acceptance with God.

This part of our subject being of such vast importance, we must beg leave to enter into it somewhat minutely; and to show, first, that this alone accords with the character given of the true Gospel; and, next, that this alone is suited to our condition as fallen sinners.

As to the marks which characterize the Gospel, one of peculiar importance is, that it magnifies the grace of God. We are told by Paul, that God gave his Gospel to us, "that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus." And if we consider salvation as entirely by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the grace of God is indeed magnified beyond all the powers of language to express. The gift of God's only dear Son to die for us, the laying of all our iniquities on him, the accepting of his vicarious sacrifice in our behalf, the offering of a full salvation to all the sinners of mankind, on account of what he has done and suffered for us; a bestowing of this salvation freely, without money and without price, even upon the very chief of sinners—all this is such a stupendous work of grace, that it fills even Heaven itself with wonder. But let man be required to purchase this salvation, either in whole or in part, by any works of his own; and who does not see how the grace of God is lowered? We will grant, for argument's sake, that the giving of salvation on any terms, would have been a wonderful display of grace; but, as compared with that which is revealed, it would have been no grace. As the Apostle says of the Mosaic dispensation, that "notwithstanding it was made glorious, it had no glory, by reason of the glory that excels;" so we may say of such a mutilated Gospel as we are speaking of; it might be glorious, inasmuch as it would be an exercise of mercy; but it would have had no glory, by reason of the infinitely brighter display of Divine grace in the Gospel, as it is revealed to us. Indeed, Paul tells us, that if anything were required on our part towards purchasing of salvation, salvation could be no longer of grace; because the two are contrary to, and absolutely inconsistent with, each other. "If," says he, "salvation be by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace: but if it be of works, then it is no more of grace; otherwise work is no more work." Hence he elsewhere says, "It is of faith, that it may be by grace," and again, "Christ is become of no effect unto you; whoever of you are justified by the law, you are fallen from grace." This, then, is one evidence, that salvation must be by faith alone, without works.

Another most important mark of the true Gospel is, that it cuts off all occasion for boasting. God has said, that he has made Christ the great depository of all spiritual blessings, in order "that no flesh should glory in his presence, but that all might glory in the Lord alone." And it is evident, that by the Gospel, as Paul preached it, all boasting is excluded.

But suppose that our works in any measure whatever formed a ground of justification before God; should we have no occasion for boasting then? Assuredly we should: for in proportion as we had procured it by our works, we might claim it as a debt, and say, "I have procured this unto myself." It matters not in what degree this exists: if it exist in any degree whatever, boasting is not excluded. Even in Heaven itself we might say, "I owe it not entirely to the free grace of God that I am here, but partly to my own superior merit." This is declared by Paul in very express terms: "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith," that is, if it were in any degree, even the smallest that can be imagined, by works, there would be room for boasting; but seeing it is solely by faith in the Lord Jesus, all boasting is, and must forever be, excluded. Hence, in giving an account of the Gospel salvation, he says, "By grace you are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Let these words be remembered, "Not of works, lest any man should boast;" and there will be an end of all further argument on this subject.

One more mark of the Gospel salvation is, that it secures the performance of good works. The grace of God, that brings salvation, teaches us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Many are apt to imagine, that the doctrine of salvation by faith alone destroys all incentive to holiness, and tends to encourage all manner of licentiousness: this was the very objection which was urged against the Gospel in the Apostle's days, and which he set himself strongly to refute. Anticipating the objection, he says, "Shall we then continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we, who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" And again; "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid! yes, we establish the law." The fact is, that there is nothing so operative as a lively faith. What was the spring of all those glorious actions that were performed by the long catalogue of worthies mentioned in the 11th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews? From beginning to the end, we are told that faith was the principle by which they were actuated, and the root from which all their obedience sprang. Of the New Testament saints, none exceeded, or even equaled, Paul: and what was it that actuated him? He tells us: "The love of Christ constrains us, because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him that died for them and rose again." This is the effect which faith will, according to its measure, produce in all. It will "work by love," and "overcome the world," and "purify the heart." What if the works it produces be not to be relied on for our justification before God? Is it nothing that they will be adduced in the day of judgment as the evidences of our love to Christ, and as the measure of our everlasting reward? Is it nothing that God is glorified by them, and that the dispositions from whence they spring constitute our fitness for the heavenly inheritance? Surely these are motives enough for the performance of them, without making them the meritorious cause of our salvation; and, if we look to fact and experience, who are the persons at this day that are accounted righteous overmuch, and are represented as making the way to Heaven so strait that none but themselves can walk in it? Is it among the declaimers about good works, that we must look for these persons? No; but among those who renounce all dependence on their own works, and seek for salvation by Christ alone: a sure proof, that they who look for redemption solely through the blood of Christ, are by that very principle made "a peculiar people zealous of good works."

These, then, are clear evidences that the way of salvation is precisely such as we have declared it to be: for there is no other doctrine under Heaven that has these marks connected with it, or these effects proceeding from it.

The second thing we mentioned as establishing our doctrine, was, that there is no other way of salvation suited to our condition as fallen sinners.

Take the way of salvation by our own works: who will venture to build his hopes on such a foundation as that? Who is not sensible that in many things he has offended God? For those offences he must answer at the judgment-seat of Christ. If throughout a great part of our life we had done all that was commanded us, we should still be unprofitable servants: our obedience to some commandments would make no atonement for our violation of others: for the sins that we had committed, we must die. But it may be said, that of those offences we repent. Be it so: still our tears can never wash out the guilt we have already contracted. Even in human governments, a criminal that is under sentence of death may be truly sorry that he has transgressed the laws, and may determine never to repeat his crimes any more; but these sorrows and resolutions will not avail to rescue him from death, or to repeal the sentence that is gone forth against him: much less can any repentance of ours remove the curses of God's holy law, or avert the judgments which our sins have merited.

But it may be said, we rely not on our works alone, nor on our repentance alone, but on these things and Christ's merits united. Go, then, and search the records of your life, and see what works you will bring forth in order to eke out the insufficient merits of your Savior; bring forth one single work; one only out of your whole life; one that has no defect, and that does not in any respect need the mercy of God to pardon its imperfection: then carry it to God, and say, 'Here, Lord, is a work in which you yourself can not find a flaw; it is as perfect as any that my Lord and Savior himself ever performed, and is therefore worthy to be united to his infinitely meritorious obedience, as a joint ground of all my hopes: I am content to stand or fall by this one work: I am aware, that if it is imperfect, it stands in need of mercy for its own imperfection, and consequently can never purchase pardon for all my other offences; but I ask no mercy for that, yes, rather, I claim on account of it all the glory of Heaven.' You who will dispute against salvation by faith only, and who wish to have something of your own to found your hopes upon, do this: bring forth some work, someone work at least, that shall stand the test of the divine law, and defy the scrutiny of the heart-searching God. But if you cannot find one such work, then see how unsuitable to your state is the doctrine for which you contend.

Perhaps it will be said, that God does not require of us imperfect creatures anything that is perfect, but only that we be sincere. But who will venture to make his own sincerity the ground of his salvation? If this be the law by which we are to be tried, who shall stand? Who shall say, that from the earliest period of his life he has sincerely striven in everything to please God, and to approve himself to God? Alas! those who stand upon their own sincerity are little aware of the deceitfulness and wickedness of their own hearts; and if they would but look back throughout their whole lives, they would find, that their sincerity, like that of Saul of Tarsus, has only stimulated them to a greater measure of inveteracy against the Gospel of Christ.

We will mention only one more refuge to which these persons will be disposed to flee, and that is, their having done as well as they could: 'I have done as well as I could, and therefore I doubt not but that God will have mercy upon me.' But in this we shall all fail, as much as in all the fallacious hopes that have preceded it. For, who has done as well as he could throughout his own life? Who will dare to appeal to God even respecting the best day in his life, that there was no one thing omitted which he might have done for him, nor any one thing done in a less perfect manner than it might have been done?

It is clear, that in all the ways of salvation which men devise for themselves, whether by good works, or repentance, or faith and works united, or sincerity, or doing as well as we can, there is not a spot of ground whereon to place our foot: we must go to the ark of God, and there only can we find rest for our weary souls.

Permit me, then, to address you as dying persons, and to ask, What you will think of these things when standing on the brink and precipice of eternity? Now you can speculate, and dispute, and speak with confidence about the justness of your views: now you can discuss these matters as if it were of little moment what your sentiments are, or what is the ground of your affiance. But if you hold fast any of the foregoing delusions, you will not find them so satisfactory in a dying hour as you now imagine. Doubts like these will arise in your mind; 'What if my works should be found at last, either in number or quality, insufficient? What if my imagined goodness, which I am blending with my Redeemer's righteousness, should prove a refuge of lies?' Among the numberless evils to which this fatal error will expose you, is, that in that hour, when you will most need divine and heavenly consolation, your soul will be trembling with uncertainty as to the ground of your hopes, of those hopes which will in a little time be blasted or realized forever. For, who shall tell you whether you have attained that precise measure of righteousness which God will accept? And what a fearful thing will it be to be going into the presence of your Judge, uncertain what shall be his sentence upon you, and whether Heaven or Hell shall be your everlasting portion! Would you but place yourselves, where you must all very shortly be, on a dying bed, we should not find it so difficult to convince you, that it is better to trust in the righteousness of Christ, which is commensurate with all the demands of law and justice, and adequate to the wants of the whole world, than to be trusting in any respect to any poor defective righteousness of your own. Methinks this argument alone were sufficient to convince any considerate man: supposing that your own righteousness were sufficient, your Lord would not condemn you for thinking too humbly of it, and for relying solely on his all-atoning sacrifice: but supposing it insufficient, will he not condemn you for your pride and arrogance in trusting to it, and for your ingratitude in rejecting his salvation? Here all the declarations of his word are as pointed and clear as words can make them: "He who believes on the Son has life: and he who believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him." "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who believes not shall be damned." Both of these declarations were uttered by our blessed Lord himself when on earth; and he will not forget them, when he shall come again to judge the world.

May I not, then, make my appeal to you? "I speak as to wise men; judge you what I say." Is it wise to turn your back upon righteousness, which, as a rock, is able to sustain a ruined world; and to be trusting in one that is no better than a foundation of sand? Know you that your God is a jealous God: he will not give his glory to another: if you will seek acceptance with him, through his only-begotten Son, "no one of you shall ever be cast out," your sins shall be washed away in his blood; and your souls be clothed with the unspotted robe of his righteousness. Being justified by faith in him, you shall have peace with God: you shall "be kept also from falling," while in this ensnaring world; and in due time you shall be "presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for every one of you is, that you may be saved: but know assuredly, that there is no salvation for you but by faith in Christ: for "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." To whom with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be glory in the Church throughout all ages, world without end: Amen.

MDCCCCLXXVII

True Wisdom and Charity

1 Corinthians 10:32, 33, & 11:1. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Be followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

CHRISTIAN morals, in their sublimer parts, are far from being fully understood, or duly appreciated, even by those who are most zealous in the profession of Christian principles. The duties of Christian forbearance, and Christian forgiveness, and Christian liberality, are but very imperfectly discerned, and, consequently, but very imperfectly practiced, in the religious world. Nor are the limits of true Christian charity by any means clearly ascertained. On this subject, in particular, I must say, that I think there is scarcely a Christian upon earth that would have made the distinctions contained in this chapter; and not many that would approve of them, now they are made, if they were not forced to yield to apostolic authority. It is an easy thing to lay down broad principles; as, that "We must not do evil that good may come," and it is easy to decry "expediency," as the refuge of time-serving and dishonest men. But it is not easy to see the different modifications of a good principle, as affected by different circumstances; or the different situations under which expediency alone can guide us. And even the discussion of such a subject as this, however carefully conducted, would be condemned at once by many, as no better than Jesuit sophistry and refinement. But we must not, therefore, be deterred from treading in the Apostle's steps, and marking what we believe to be the true boundaries of Christian liberty and Christian duty.

I shall take occasion, from the passage before us, to show,

I. Our duty in reference to things which are indifferent.

There are many things on which different parties lay a great stress; which yet, in the sight of God, are altogether indifferent.

In the apostolic age, the observance of the Jewish ritual was regarded by some as of primary and indispensable importance. The keeping of certain days, and the abstaining from certain meats, and the practice of circumcision, were by many insisted on as of continued obligation; notwithstanding they were never intended but as types and shadows, which were to vanish when the substance should appear. There were not in those rites any essential qualities, either of good or evil. They derived all their force from their having been divinely appointed; and, of course, they lost all their force when that appointment was withdrawn. If any chose to observe them, they were at liberty to do so, without any offence to God: and if any were disinclined to observe them, they were equally at liberty to follow the dictates of their own judgment. If any man thought them still obligatory, he of course was bound by them: but all who saw that they were no longer required, were free to neglect and discard them.

The same might be said of many things at this day, respecting which different parties form different opinions, according to the degree of their information, or to the particular prejudices which they have imbibed. I refer to certain rites and ceremonies in religion, on which some place an undue stress; while others, with equal vehemence, decry them. I must say the same, also, in reference to some habits of the world, respecting which men may speak in too unqualified terms; whether they justify them, or whether they condemn.

But our great duty, in reference to all such things, is, to guard against giving needless offence to any party.

In reference to Jewish or Gentile observances, the Apostle says, "Give no offence either to the Jews, or to the Gentiles, or to the Church of God." The things about which the parties differed were really non-essential: and there was danger of giving offence to either side by a contemptuous disregard of their prejudices. It was not right to wound the feelings of a Jew, by doing in his presence what was contrary to the law, which he regarded as still in force: nor was it right, by a free and indiscriminate use of meats offered to idols, to hurt the feelings of a Gentile brother; who, having been accustomed to feast on these meats as a religious act, would be ready to think that the person eating them did not indeed abhor idolatry in the way that he professed. At the same time, offence might easily be given to the Church of God, by producing disunion and division among her members, whom we should rather have labored to "edify in faith and love."

The same may be said in reference to all matters of indifference, in every age and in every place. There should be a tender regard to the feelings and infirmities of others; and a determination never to please ourselves at the expense of others. Self-denial, rather, should be the disposition of our minds, and the habit of our lives: and rather than wound the consciences of others, and lead them by our example to do what their own consciences condemned, we should abstain from the most innocent indulgence, as long as the world shall stand. The rule given in relation to all such matters is, "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves."

In my text, the Apostle marks,

II. The object which we should keep in view, for the regulation of our conduct.

The salvation of our fellow-men should be an object of the deepest interest to our minds.

Doubtless the salvation of a man's own soul should be his first concern. But no man should be indifferent to the eternal welfare of others; much less should he think himself at liberty to do anything which may put a stumbling-block in their way. "We are all, in fact, one body in Christ;" and are bound, every one of us, to consult the welfare of the whole. No member is authorized to act independently, and for itself alone. None but a wicked Cain would ask, "Am I my brother's keeper?" For we are his keeper, as he also is ours: and we are neither at liberty to injure each other, nor to neglect any opportunity of advancing each other's welfare. The duty of mutual love and mutual aid is unalterable and universal.

With a reference to that, therefore, should we act to the utmost extent of our power.

We may either benefit our fellow-creatures, or injure them, according as we demean ourselves in reference to things which are in themselves indifferent. We may disgust some, by our unhallowed boldness; or grieve others, by passing an uncharitable judgment upon them; or ensnare others, by inducing them to follow our example, contrary to the convictions of their own conscience. We may, by our uncharitable disregard of the feelings and sentiments of others, produce the most fatal effects that can be imagined; not only offending many, but actually "destroying our weak brethren, for whom Christ died." What a fearful thought! Can any man, who calls himself a Christian, feel himself at liberty to act without any reference to such a result as that? Can any pleasure, or any "profit" arising to himself, compensate for such a calamity as that? Methinks, on any question arising in our minds, we should instantly ask ourselves, not, What will please or profit myself? but, What will please or profit others? What will have a tendency to promote the salvation of others? If any self-denial or forbearance on my part can advance, in the remotest degree, the salvation of a weak brother, I will die rather than gratify myself at his expense.

That this is no extravagant requirement, will appear if we consult,

III. The examples which Christ and his Apostles have set us in reference to this very thing.

Paul calls us to "be followers of him, even as he was of Christ."

Consider how our blessed Savior acted under circumstances of this kind.

He was called upon to pay a tribute levied for the support and service of the temple. From this, as being the Son of God, he might have pleaded an exemption: because it is an acknowledged fact, that kings receive tribute from strangers only, and not from their own children. But he knew that the Jews would not be able to see the truth and justice of his plea, and that his acting upon it would give serious offence: he therefore waved his right; and chose rather to work a miracle for the satisfying of their demands, than give offence to them by an assertion of his rights. Nor did he only wave his right in this particular, but gave occasion to all present to deny that he possessed any such right, or stood in any such relation to Jehovah as would have authorized him to assert it. Yet he considered not himself, but others only; and chose to submit to anything, however humiliating, rather than, by maintaining his right, to put a stumbling-block in their way. Thus, by his example, he taught all his followers, not to please themselves, but "to please every man his neighbor for good to edification."

Observe, also, how Paul acted.

It was not on any particular occasion that he conformed to this rule, but constantly, and in circumstances of continual occurrence. Hear his own account of his daily practice: "Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews: to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law: to the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." Here you see, not only what his constant habit of life was, but the principle by which he was actuated throughout the whole; preferring the "winning" of men to Christ, and the "saving" of their souls, to any personal consideration whatever. In all this he was an example to us; and therefore says, in reference to this very thing, "Be you followers of me, as I also am of Christ."

In accordance with this was the conduct also of all the Apostles.

The last time that Paul came to Jerusalem, the whole college of Apostles, fearing that the Jews had a wrong impression of his principles, and that, because he had represented a conformity to Jewish ceremonies as unnecessary, they would imagine he had decried them as sinful, besought him to unite himself to some persons who were about to perform their vows as Nazarites, and purify himself, according to the Mosaic law, with them. And this he did, in conformity with their advice: thus not only illustrating the principle by which he was habitually actuated, but setting, as it were, the seal of all the Apostles to this line of conduct, as sanctioned and approved by them.

After all this evidence, nothing further need be added to confirm the statement we have made respecting the Christian's duty, or to enforce the advice which, in conformity with our text, we have presumed to give.

On the ground therefore which has been established, I beg you to bear in mind,

1. What is the principle by which you are to be actuated, in all your fellowship with mankind.

Love to their souls must animate you at all times: and by that must you be determined, in everything where the path of duty is not clearly determined for you. By that must you be regulated, whether in acceding to their wishes, or in resisting their solicitations. There are certainly occasions whereon a compliance with them will produce a good effect; and there are occasions whereon it will be your duty rather to withstand the importunity even of your dearest friends. But you must be careful to distinguish aright the principle from which you act. You must not give way to fear: nor must you comply from a feeling of personal friendship or regard: and, least of all, must you conform to the world, to please yourselves. You must consider, under all circumstances, how you may best advance the welfare of men's souls; and then act as in the sight of God, so as most to promote that great object. That is what Christ did, when he left the bosom of his Father, and died upon the cross: and in so doing you will fulfill those injunctions which he has given you; "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others," and that also, in a few verses before the text, "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth."

2. How you may best approve yourselves to the heart-searching God.

The mode of conduct which we have recommended will, to superficial observers, lay you open to the charge of inconsistency: for, if you will observe rites, or not observe them, according as others may stand affected towards them, you must of necessity appear to many to be destitute of any fixed principle. But God sees the fixed principle which men cannot see; and he will approve that which perhaps your fellow-creatures will condemn. But, for your conduct in circumstances of more than ordinary difficulty, I would suggest three rules; which, though, when separately taken, they may be insufficient for your direction, will, when taken together, effectually preserve you from any material error. Ask yourselves three questions: What would an ungodly man do in my circumstances? That I will not do. Next, What would be agreeable to my own corrupt heart? That I will not do. Lastly, What would my Lord or the Apostle Paul do, in my circumstances? That I will do. Now I say again, that though no one of these, separately, will suffice, all of them together will prove an easy and a safe directory. It will be impossible for you greatly to err, if these questions be sincerely asked, and faithfully answered by you. If, in prosecuting this line of conduct, you be misunderstood and blamed, then say, with the Apostle, "It is a small matter to me to be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yes, I judge not my own self; but he who judges me is the Lord." Thus will you ensure the approbation of your God, and enjoy the testimony of your own conscience that you have pleased him.

 

MDCCCCLXXVIII

The Design and Importance of the Lord's Supper

1 Corinthians 11:24, 26. This do in remembrance of me … for as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord's death until he come.

THE Corinthians had shamefully profaned the Lord's supper. Paul reproves them, and rectifies their views of that ordinance.

I. The design of the Lord's supper.

Our ungrateful hearts are prone to forget the richest mercies. To keep up "the remembrance" of his death, Christ instituted his last supper. When we celebrate that ordinance, we "show forth" his death.

The Passover was a memorial of the deliverance given to the Jews from the sword of the destroying angel. At every returning celebration of it the reason of that ordinance was declared. Christ in his death has effected a greater deliverance for us. In partaking of the bread and wine we "show forth" his death: we show forth the manner of it as excruciating and bloody: we show forth the end of it as a sacrifice for our sins: we show forth the sufficiency of it for our full salvation.

We show forth his death "until he come."

Christ will, in due season, come again to judge the world; then his people will no longer need such memorials as these. They will incessantly enjoy the brightest vision of his person, and the richest fruits of his death; but until then the remembrance of his dying love, and the expectation of his future advent, must be thus preserved. Such was Christ's end in instituting, and such should be our end in observing it.

To enforce the observance of this ordinance, we will proceed to show,

II. The necessity of attending it.

The duty of commemorating our Lord's death is much neglected; but a neglect of it involves us in the deepest guilt. It implies,

1. Rebellion against the highest authority.

Christ, the Supreme Governor of Heaven and earth, has said, "Do this"; yet the language of too many is, 'I will not.' But they who disregarded the Passover did not go unpunished; much less shall they who slight the invitations to Christ's supper. Surely it is no less than madness to persist in this rebellion.

2. Ingratitude towards our greatest Benefactor.

Christ has even "given his own life a ransom for us;" and shall we disregard his dying command? On the same night that he was betrayed, did he institute these memorials of his death. Had he at that season such a concern for us, and can we refuse to do so small a thing in remembrance of him? The Jews went thrice every year up to Jerusalem, from the extreme parts of Judea, to commemorate their deliverance. And shall we turn our backs on the table when it is spread before us? Shall not God visit for such ingratitude as this?

3. Contempt of the richest mercies.

To communicate, without discerning the Lord's body, can profit us nothing; but to approach the table in humility and faith is a sure mean of obtaining all spiritual blessings. Christ sometimes reveals himself in the breaking of bread, to those who had not so fully discovered him in the ministration of the word. And do they not manifest a contempt of these mercies, who will not use the means of procuring them? How may the Savior take up that lamentation over them!

4. A renunciation of our baptismal covenant.

In baptism we covenanted to renounce the world, etc. and to serve God: this covenant we ought to renew and confirm at the Lord's table. But our refusing to confirm it is a tacit renunciation of it. And can we hope that God will fulfill his part while we violate ours? Will he be our God when we refuse to be his people?

We shall conclude with answering some excuses.

'I am not prepared.' How then can you be prepared to die? 'I am afraid of eating and drinking my own damnation.' Are you not afraid of damnation for neglecting your duty? 'I am afraid of sinning afterwards, and thereby increasing my guilt.' If sins after receiving the Lord's supper were unpardonable, none should receive it until the last moment of their lives. 'The time of administering it interferes with other engagements.' To those who cannot deny themselves in anything, we say with Paul—; but where the difficulties are insurmountable, God will accept the will for the deed. They however, who are at liberty, should attend "as often" as they can; only they must be careful to communicate with reverence, humility, faith, and gratitude.

 

MDCCCCLXXIX

On Eating and Drinking our Own Damnation

1 Corinthians 11:27, 29. Whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord … For he who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

THE more excellent anything is, the greater is the guilt contracted by the abuse of it. A contempt of the law is not so bad as a contempt of the Gospel. An irreverent attendance on Divine ordinances is exceedingly sinful; but to profane the Lord's supper is worse, inasmuch as that institution is more solemn and brings us nearer to God. Hence when Paul reproved the former, he spoke mildly; but when he reproved the latter, he spoke with great severity.

I. What is it to eat the bread, and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily.

To understand this, we should inquire how the Corinthians behaved. The abuses of which they were guilty are impracticable now: nevertheless we may imitate them in our spirit and temper. Like them we shall eat and drink unworthily if we do it,

1. Ignorantly.

The Corinthians did not discriminate between the common and religious use of the consecrated elements. Many at this time also partake without discerning the Lord's body: they, not remembering his death, defeat the end for which the Supper of the Lord was instituted.

2. Irreverently.

The customs of our country do not admit of our meeting in the tumultuous way that was practiced at Corinth; but many are altogether as destitute of reverence and sacred awe. A light, worldly, impenitent heart, is unfitting that solemnity: such a frame, if habitual, mates us partake unworthily.

3. Uncharitably.

The rich did not impart of their provisions to the poor. We also may be equally destitute of Christian love: we may be haughty, injurious, unforgiving, etc. Such a frame wholly unfits us for the Lord's table.

4. Sensually.

The Corinthians made it an occasion for intemperance and excess: though we cannot imitate them in this, we may be as carnal as they. A want of spirituality and affiance in Christ makes our service carnal; nor can such a service be acceptable to Him who will be worshiped in spirit and in truth.

To attend at the Lord's table in such a manner is no slight or venial offence.

II. The consequence of so doing.

The consequences mentioned in the text respect,

1. The guilt we contract.

They were "guilty of the body and blood of our Lord" who crucified him, as they are also who apostatize from his truth. They too are involved in the same guilt who partake unworthily of the Lord's supper: they manifest a contempt of his sacrifice. What a dreadful iniquity is this! How careful should we be to abstain from the commission of it!

2. The punishment we incur.

The word "damnation" imports temporal judgment. Eternal damnation is by no means a necessary consequence of this sink: yet if it be unrepented of, no doubt this punishment will follow; and we may expect some spiritual or temporal judgments for it here. We should therefore examine ourselves well before we attend the table of the Lord.

Address.

1. Those who urge this as an excuse for neglecting the Lord's supper.

There are many who under this pretext cover their own unwillingness to yield themselves up to God; but God will not admit their vain excuses. The habitual neglect of their duty ensures the punishment which they desire to avoid. Let all then devote themselves to the Lord in the use of all his instituted ordinances.

2. Those who are really kept away by a fear of incurring this punishment.

Many are kept from the table by a sense of their own unworthiness. But to be unworthy, and to partake unworthily, are very different things: yet if we have partaken unworthily in past times, let us humble ourselves for it; and then may we come again with joy: this has been the experience of many, and may be ours also.

 

MDCCCCLXXX

On the Preparation Requisite Before the Lord's Supper

1 Corinthians 11:28. Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.

GOD is a holy and jealous God, and greatly to be feared: in all our approaches to him we should be filled with awe; but a want of reverence prevails among the generality of mankind; even real Christians manifest it sometimes, and that too even in the most sacred ordinances. Paul, reproving the Corinthians for their conduct at the Lord's supper, lays down an universal rule for communicants: "Let a man," etc.

I. The duty of self-examination in general.

This is an important but much neglected duty: it is strongly recommended in the Scriptures.

The Apostle expressly enjoins it to all. This injunction is remarkably strong and energetic.

There is great reason for it: we cannot ascertain the state of our souls without it.

It is evident that the generality of men deceive themselves. We also are liable to the same deception through pride and self-love; nor can we form a right conclusion without a strict investigation.

A mistake respecting our state would be fatal.

There is no repentance in the grave: as we die, so shall we continue forever.

The benefits to be derived from it are exceeding great.

If our state be found good, we shall rejoice in the testimony of a good conscience: if it be bad, we shall be stirred up to flee from the wrath to come.

We should therefore live in the habitual practice of this duty. But self-examination is more especially needful on certain occasions.

II. The need of it before the Lord's supper in particular.

This is intimated in the text; "Let a man examine himself, and so let him come." And indeed there is peculiar reason for it at that time.

That ordinance is a season of remarkable solemnity.

There we see Christ crucified, as it were, before our eyes: there we contemplate the most stupendous mysteries: there we commemorate the greatest of all mercies: there we are admitted to most familiar fellowship with God. And does it become us to engage lightly in such an ordinance?

It is a season that calls for the exercise of all our powers.

The understanding should be occupied in devoutest meditations: the affections should be engaged to the uttermost. And can we thus command our faculties without any preparation?

The neglect of self-examination may rob us of all the benefit of the ordinance.

Who can estimate the benefits we might receive if we came prepared? But who has not often communicated in vain? And has not our neglect been the true cause of this

We should therefore be peculiarly attentive to it at such a season.

To assist in the discharge of this duty we shall show,

III. The subjects which we should then more especially inquire into.

We should examine ourselves respecting,

1. Our knowledge of the ordinance.

To come without a proper discernment is dangerous. We should inquire what we know of the nature and ends of the ordinance. On a distinct view of these our profiting much depends.

2. The state of our souls before God.

At the Lord's table we receive "the children's bread." We should inquire therefore whether we be God's children?

3. The immediate frame of our souls.

We ought to have all our graces in lively exercise.

Application.

Begin this necessary work without delay—Yet set not about it in a legal manner or for self-righteous ends: do not trust in your preparation, or expect acceptance on account of it; but look to Christ as the only ground of your hope towards God: neither stay away from the table because you have not spent so much time in preparation as you could wish. Whether you have used more or less diligence you must go as the publican. Be assured however that your profiting will for the most part be proportioned to your preparation.

 

MDCCCCLXXXI

No Knowledge of Christ but by the Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:3. I give you to understand, that … no man can say, that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.

WE trust that among us there are none so hostile to the name of Christ, as to "call Jesus accursed;" and therefore we omit from our text that part which is inapplicable to the age in which we live. There were among the Jews many, who, while they rejected Christ as an impostor, pretended to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, and, either through magic or satanic influence, wrought "signs and lying wonders" in confirmation of their word. Among believers themselves also, there were some, who made a very unfitting use of the miraculous powers with which they were endowed, priding themselves upon them, and exerting them rather for the furtherance of their own glory, than for the edification of the Church of Christ. To rectify the views of the Corinthians on these subjects, Paul informs them, that the unbelieving Jews, whatever they might pretend to, had not the Spirit of God; since "no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, calls Jesus accursed," nor, on the other hand, had those, who possessed the miraculous influences of the Spirit, any such ground for self-preference and self-delight as they imagined; since every true believer enjoyed those influences which were infinitely the most important; for that "no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit."

This is a truth of infinite importance; and Paul was very anxious that it should be duly weighed and considered. We will, therefore,

I. Explain the assertion in our text.

It is obvious that the text is not to be understood as denying our power to make use of that particular expression; because that form of words is as easily used as any other: but it affirms, that we cannot, without the aid of the Holy Spirit, make use of that assertion,

1. With a full conviction of its truth.

We may easily from education give a notional assent to the whole Gospel; but when we come to reflect on the idea of our God becoming incarnate, and offering himself a sacrifice for the sins of his rebellious creatures, and reconciling them to himself through his own sufferings upon the cross, the mind revolts at the thought; and the whole plan of the Gospel appears a cunningly-devised fable. We see not any need for such an intervention of the Deity. We are ready to ask, Why could not God pardon us without such an atonement? Why could not his mercy be extended to us on our repentance and amendment, without any such devices as those which the Gospel professes to reveal? Yes: when these mysteries are more nearly contemplated, they are "to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness," and "the natural man neither does, nor can, receive them."

2. With a just sense of its importance.

Supposing the mysterious truths of Christianity to be admitted from the force of reasoning alone, the importance of them can never be felt, but from a deep consciousness of our guilt and helplessness before God. We must feel our disease, before we justly appreciate the remedy. But who can ever know the desperate wickedness of his own heart, unless he be taught of God? Who can see the fullness that is in Christ, and his suitableness to our necessities, until the eyes of his understanding have been enlightened by the Spirit of the living God? We must be "brought out of darkness into marvelous light," before "Christ can become so precious to us" as he deserves to be.

3. With a suitable determination to act upon it.

When we truly confess Christ as our Lord and Savior, we shall of necessity feel his love constraining us to live no longer to ourselves, but unto him who died for us and rose again. But who can thus live, unless he be aided and strengthened from on high? Are the world, the flesh, and the devil so easily vanquished, that we can by any power of our own subdue them? No, it is "not by might or by power, but by the Spirit of God" alone that such victories are gained. Grace must lay the foundation-stone; and grace must bring forth the head-stone: and to all eternity must the glory be ascribed to the grace of God alone.

Thus comprehensive is the assertion contained in our text. We will now,

II. Commend it to your most attentive consideration.

The Apostle evidently considered this declaration as of peculiar importance: "I give you to understand this," says he; and I wish you ever to bear it in remembrance, as of singular use both for the instruction of your minds, and the regulation of your lives. This one assertion, truly understood, will show you,

1. What is the great office of the Holy Spirit in the economy of redemption.

Among the many purposes for which our blessed Lord was sent into the world, one was, to "declare the Father to us." But the chief end for which the Holy Spirit is sent, is, to "testify of Christ," and "to take of the things that are his, and to show them unto us." This then is the end for which we are to desire the gift of the Holy Spirit: we should feel sensible that we cannot know Christ, unless the Spirit reveal him in us; or come to him, except the Spirit draw us; or be one with him, unless the Spirit form him in our hearts. This is a point by no means considered as it ought to be. We have an idea that the Holy Spirit is to "help our infirmities;" but we have no conception of the extent to which we need that help, and especially in relation to the knowledge of Christ. But we entreat you to consider fully the declaration in our text, and to take it as a clew, which, if duly followed, "will guide you into all truth."

2. How deeply we are concerned to obtain his gracious influences.

If "to know Christ be life eternal," and those who know him not must die in their sins, it is obvious, that we never can obtain salvation but through the all-powerful agency of the Holy Spirit. But we need not take this in a way of deduction; for the voice of inspiration has expressly said, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Should it not then be a matter of serious inquiry with every one of us, Whether we have received the Holy Spirit; and whether he has performed in us that great work of discovering to us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? Let us not be satisfied with any views which are merely obtained from books, and which may float in the mind without any influence on the heart; but let us, by prayer and supplication, seek the gift of the Holy Spirit, that through him we may be taught what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived.

3. How thankful we should be for the smallest measure of his influence.

If we have been taught truly and from our hearts to say that Jesus is the Lord, we then have certainly received the Holy Spirit; since it is by his gracious influence alone that we are enabled to do so. The assertion in our text establishes this truth beyond a doubt: for "no man," however learned he may be, has any advantage over the poor in this respect. "If any man will be wise," he must divest himself of all his imagined pre-eminence, and "become a fool, that he may be wise." On the other hand, if any man have attained a just knowledge of Christ, he has that, in comparison of which all other things are as dung and dross. Let not any one then be cast down because he possesses a smaller measure of earthly distinctions: for there is an infinitely greater distance between the meanest believer and the most learned philosophers on earth, than can be found between any two persons that have been taught of God. The wisdom of this world is of no account in the sight of God; and at all events it benefits men only for this present life: but he to whom the Holy Spirit has imparted even the smallest measure of the knowledge of Christ, possesses the choicest gift that God himself can bestow, and is made "wise unto everlasting salvation."

MDCCCCLXXXII

The Operations of the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:11. All these works that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

THE Corinthian Church was richly endowed with gifts: but the persons so endowed were not proportionably enriched with grace. Hence their gifts in too many instances administered only to strife and disorder; creating pride in some, who gratified themselves with an ostentatious display of their preternatural powers; and calling forth envy in others, whose powers were only of an inferior order. To counteract and rectify these disorders, Paul directed the people's attention to the origin and use of all these gifts which had been conferred upon them. He showed that they were all imparted by the Spirit of God according to his own sovereign will and pleasure, without any reference to the merits or attainments of the people themselves; and that they were bestowed on them, not for the aggrandizement of the favored individuals, but for the benefit of the whole Church. This is the precise import of the whole chapter, as it is also of the fourteenth chapter, wherein the subject is still further prosecuted: it is confined, I say, to the gifts of the Spirit, without referring to the graces. Yet we shall take occasion from our text to notice also the graces of the Spirit, because they will be treated of with peculiar advantage in this connection.

We will consider then the work of the Holy Spirit generally; and notice,

I. His miraculous operations.

The powers communicated by him to the Church were extremely various.

At this time it is not easy to say what was the precise difference between some of the powers specified in the preceding context, though doubtless, when the epistle was written, they were well understood. "The word of wisdom," probably refers to a large and comprehensive view of the great mysteries of redemption: and "the word of knowledge," to a more particular insight into the types and prophecies, with an ability to explain them for the edification of others. "The faith," there mentioned, was such a confidence in God, as emboldened a person to go forward in the midst of all dangers undaunted and undismayed. "The gift of healing," was a power merely confined to the healing of disorders; while "the working of miracles" was operative on a larger scale. The gift of "prophecy," was a power of foretelling future and contingent events: the power of "discerning spirits," enabled a person to estimate with certainty and precision the motives by which others were actuated: the gift of "divers tongues," qualified a person to speak in languages which he had never learned: and "the interpretation of tongues," was a power of instantly interpreting such discourses to other persons in a language which they understood: so that, while some of the audience were addressed in a language familiar to them, the rest might also have the benefit of the discourse, by having it interpreted to them in their vernacular tongue; by which means, a mixed assembly, belonging to different countries, might all be instructed and edified by the same discourse.

If in this brief attempt to assign to each word its proper import we should not have exactly marked the precise meaning of each, it will be of little consequence; our object being, not so much to enter into a critical examination of doubtful points, as to mark that in which all are agreed; namely, that all the miraculous gifts, of whatever kind they were, proceeded from "that one and the self-same Spirit," the Third Person in the ever-blessed Trinity. And here we wish it to be distinctly noticed, how repeatedly that adorable Person is mentioned as the author of all the gifts: "To one is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit; to another, faith, by the same Spirit; to another, the gifts of healing, by the same Spirit;" and then, after the mention of many other gifts, "All these works that one and the self-same Spirit." This shows what a holy jealousy the Apostle felt for the honor of that Divine Agent; and how anxious he was that the people might not for a single moment forget, to whom, and to whom alone, they were indebted for every gift that they enjoyed.

By him also all the gifts were bestowed according to his own sovereign will and pleasure.

Doubtless whatever God does is founded, not in a mere arbitrary will, but in the inscrutable counsels of his own wisdom: still however, as far as we are concerned, the effect is the same as if his will alone were the ground of his actions; because the counsels by which they are regulated are known to himself alone. He has no respect to anything in us as the ground of his preference: he is not influenced either by our merits, or our attainments; but dispenses his gifts to whoever he will, and in the measure that he sees fit: bestowing on some the higher gifts; on others, the lower; and on others, none at all. This is beautifully illustrated by a reference to the natural body. The body consists of different members, to each of which is assigned some peculiar office, together with appropriate powers for the discharge of it. The eye, the ear, the hands, the feet, have all their own peculiar structure, fitted for the uses for which they were designed by God himself. The different powers were not given to any one of them on account of its own superior goodness, or for its own use alone: but all were given for the use of the whole; "God having set every one of them in the body as it has pleased him." In relation to these, every one sees plainly, that God alone determined what powers to create, and where to place them in the body, and what measure of influence every member should possess: and, in the whole of it, nothing is for a moment contemplated but the wisdom, the power, and the goodness of the Creator. Never does any one entertain a thought that any one member has the least reason to glory over another, since all owe their respective powers to the same Divine Author; and all are mutually dependent on each other for such aid as they are severally fitted to impart. A more apt illustration could not have entered into the mind of man. The members of the Corinthian Church composed all one body in Christ: and their respective talents, whether of a higher or inferior order, were committed to them by the Spirit of God, not for their own use or honor, but for the good of the whole: God himself in the whole of the dispensation, having consulted only his own wisdom, and acted only according to his own sovereign will.

In connection with the miraculous operations of the Spirit, we have proposed to consider also,

II. His spiritual influences.

These also are greatly diversified.

We have several mentioned by Paul: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, joy, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." In truth, every holy disposition is from him, even "from that self-same Spirit," "from whom comes every good and perfect gift." The illumination of the mind is from him; for it is he whom "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ gives to us, as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him." The sanctification of the soul is from him: for "God has chosen us through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience." From him also is all spiritual consolation: for it is on this very account that He is called "The Comforter." From the very beginning to the end of our salvation, it is He who "works all in all." Are we born again? it is "of the Spirit." Are we helped in our infirmities? it is "by the same Spirit." Are we progressively changed into the Divine image from one degree of glory to another? it is "by the same Spirit." Have we in our souls a sure testimony of our adoption into God's family? it is "from the same Spirit." Are we sealed unto the day of redemption? it is by the same Spirit, who alone "works all our works in us."

They are given too according to his own sovereign will and pleasure.

We are expressly told, that he "works all things after the counsel of his own will;" and that he "works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure." We see how sovereignly he dispensed his blessings in the days of old, giving to Abraham, faith; to Moses, meekness; to Job, patience; to Daniel, wisdom; to Paul, zeal and love. Whence was it that these were so eminent for those particular graces by which they were severally distinguished? Whence was it that a few poor fishermen were chosen to be the depositories of divine knowledge in preference to any of the Scribes and Pharisees, or any of the philosophers of Greece and Rome? Whence in every age has God "revealed to babes and suck-lings the things which he has hid from the wise and prudent?" There is but one answer to be given to it all; "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in your sight." "God's grace is his own;" and he imparts it to whoever he will, "according to the measure of the gift of Christ;" that is, in the time, and manner, and measure that he sees fit. From the whole of his work human merit is absolutely excluded as the procuring cause, as human strength is as the efficient cause, that no flesh should glory in his presence, but all the glory be given to God alone.

Let us learn from hence

1. What we are to think of this great Agent.

Volition is inseparable from personality: and such actions, as are here ascribed to the Holy Spirit, proceed from none other than God. The enabling of men to work all kinds of miracles is beyond the power of any finite and created intelligence to effect. Here then we have a demonstration of the personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit. This passage alone establishes this doctrine beyond a doubt. And when we recollect, that all our hope is from Him; that, as our justification is altogether from the Lord Jesus Christ, so our sanctification is altogether from the Holy Spirit; it is of infinite importance that our minds be rightly instructed in reference to this point: for as, if Christ be not God, we can have no hope from his death, so, if the Holy Spirit be not God, we can have no hope from his agency. Let this truth then be settled in our minds; that He who, in the economy of redemption, has engaged to supply the place of Christ on earth, is very God. and able to effect for us, and in us, the whole work which he has undertaken.

2. Where we are to look for all needful assistance.

To this Divine Agent must we look, and not in any respect to ourselves. He it was who wrought the whole work in the days of the Apostles, and has continued to work in the Church even to the present hour. To him therefore must we look. Let us suppose the present assembly to be in the very state in which that assembly was on the day of Pentecost; our eyes as blind, our hearts as hard, yes, our hands yet reeking with the Savior's blood: must we despair? No, He, who converted thousands of them in one single day, can work effectually on us also, and accomplish in us all that our necessities require—Let us pray then that the Spirit may be poured out upon us as he was upon them: and then may we expect the same moral change on our hearts as was wrought on theirs. Let but "the word come to us in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," and all will be done for us that shall be necessary for our sanctification and our complete salvation.

3. To whom we must give the glory of all that is good in us.

"He who has wrought us to the self-same thing, is God," and he must be acknowledged as the sole author of all good. As in the miraculous powers that were imparted, "he was all in all;" and as in the faculties which our different members possess, "he is all in all;" so must he be in all that is wrought in our souls. Whatever then be our faculties of mind or body, they must be improved for him, that he may be glorified in all: and, whatever graces we possess, they must be exercised, not for our own honor, but for his, "that God in all things may be glorified through Christ Jesus."

 

MDCCCCLXXXIII

Christians One in Heart

1 Corinthians 12:13. By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

IT has been said, to the reproach of Christianity, that the professors of it have no union among themselves, either of sentiment or affection. And this charge, we must confess, is true, so far as Christianity prevails in name only. But, where vital piety exists, there is found an union which obtains in no other society under Heaven. Men feel some degree of union with each other, as belonging to the same country, or town, or society, or calling in life. There are some who boast that they are brothers to all who belong to their fraternity; which relation they discover by certain signs unknown to the world at large. But theirs is a vain pretense: they may extend a little relief to one in distress, because of his standing in that relation to them (which yet is a very narrow and selfish ground of preference), but as for union of heart with each other, they know no more of it than other people; no more of it, than the greatest strangers in the universe. But Christianity brings men not only into one body, but into a oneness of heart and affection; insomuch that, in their collective capacity, they bear the sacred name of "Christ," as the members of the human body do of the individual to whom they belong. Of this union my text gives a very clear and accurate description. According to the Apostle, this union is,

I. External and visible.

By baptism we are all brought into one body.

Whatever may have been the former profession of any man, whether he have been a Jew (a worshiper of the true God) or an idolatrous Gentile; and whatever be his present condition in society, a freeman or a slave; he is no sooner baptized into the faith of Christ, than he becomes a member of Christ's mystical body. Let the disparity between them be ever so great, it makes no difference, as it respects their relation to Christ, or to each other. The least honorable members of the body are as much a part of the body as the eye or hand; and as much dependent on the head, by which they exist, and to which they minister. And this is precisely the connection in which the lowest as well as the most exalted Christian stands to Christ, and to the collective body of his Church and people.

Whatever part in that body we sustain, we should cheerfully perform the duties of it.

There should be no envying of those who occupy a higher station than we; nor any despising of those who are beneath us. Every member is useful in his place, and necessary to the good of the whole. Indeed, if all were to sustain the same office, there would be no more a body: if all were an eye, or an ear, it must soon cease to exist, for want of such powers as the other parts of the body supply. There is nothing in the body either superfluous or defective. It needs no addition: in truth, it admits of no addition: and if it suffer defalcation, the whole is injured and deformed: for there is no part that can say to any other, "I have no need of you." In this respect, therefore, all are honorable before God, and all have reason to discharge with pleasure the office assigned to them.

But it is the other part of our subject that demands our more particular attention. I observe, therefore, that this union is also,

II. Internal and spiritual.

It is surely a remarkable expression which the Apostle uses in my text: "We are all made to drink into one Spirit." What can be the meaning of this? What its force? I apprehend, that if we accurately investigate the influence of the soul upon the human frame, we shall find a strict parallel between that and the influence of the Spirit of God upon the members of Christ's mystical body. Bearing this in mind, I would observe, that the expression in my text imports,

1. A participation of the same vital energies.

One soul pervades the whole body, and operates alike in every part; calling into activity the eye, the ear, the hand, the foot, and working by all according to their respective capacities. So, whether it be a king upon his throne, or a beggar on a dunghill, if he be truly alive to God, he is quickened by the same Spirit; the whole Church being, in its collective capacity, "the body of Christ, the fullness of Him that fills all in all." Without his aid we can do nothing: but by him the weakest is made strong, and is "enabled to do all things" that are required at his hands.

2. An accordance in the same divine principles.

As one power animates, so one mind directs, the whole man: there is no schism in the body in relation to its actings, every part harmoniously concurring in the object proposed. So, especially, in all important matters, are all the members of Christ's mystical body agreed. In subordinate points there may be some difference among different persons, just as there is a distinctive difference of features and complexion among persons of different countries; but in all essential matters they are alike. There are some points of doctrine wherein good men are not agreed; in points, for instance, of a Calvinistic or Arminian aspect: and in points of discipline, also, they may differ; some embracing one mode of Church government, and some another. But, in the great leading points of "repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ," there is a perfect similarity in every true Christian throughout the universe. No one imagines that either of these can be dispensed with, or that, when united, they will be insufficient for the salvation of the soul. There is not one who does not feel himself a lost sinner, deserving of God's wrath and indignation: nor is there one who does not desire "to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God, through faith in Christ." In these respects the whole people of God, of every order and every rank, and every nation under Heaven, are altogether "of one heart and of one mind."

3. A prosecution of the same heavenly pursuits.

This, too, is found in every part of the corporeal frame: and this also is found in all the members of Christ's body. The worldly pursuits of men may be widely different, according to their situation in society and in the Church of God. But there is not one in all the family of God who does not account the care of the soul the one thing needful; not one who is not laboring, as God shall help him, to flee from the wrath of God, and to lay hold on eternal life. See them wherever they are, or whatever they are doing, they never lose sight of this. In the world or in the Church, by night or by day, they keep steadily in view the prize of their high calling, and run with all diligence in order to obtain it. To "live a life of faith upon the Son of God," and a life of love towards all mankind, is their great object: and from the first moment of their conversion, to the latest hour of their lives, this occupies their minds, and engages their utmost efforts.

4. A sympathy with the whole body in all its parts.

No member of the human frame can suffer or rejoice, but as the other members suffer or rejoice with it. Nor in Christ's mystical body can any member be indifferent to either the temporal or spiritual welfare of the rest. The conversion of men to Christ, even in the remotest quarters of the globe, is a matter of deep interest to the real saint: and the declension of any is with him a source of grief and pain. And if he can administer to the welfare of any, he accounts it a high privilege to exert his influence for that end. A true believer has no interest compared with that of the Redeemer's kingdom: and if he may be an instrument of promoting that, he accounts it a call from God to put forth all his powers, yes, and, if need be, to sacrifice his very life in so good a cause.

From this subject we may see,

1. How far we have profited by our baptism.

Many will lay an undue stress on baptism, as though it of necessity changed and renewed the soul. I grant it does change the state, because by it we are made members of Christ's mystical body: and this change is properly ascribed, in our Liturgy, as in our text, to the Spirit of God. But we must experience an inward change besides, and must "drink into one Spirit," having our whole soul renewed and sanctified by the Spirit of God. This is absolutely indispensable to the salvation of the soul. The Israelites in the wilderness "were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and all drink the same spiritual drink: and yet God was angry with them, and overthrew them in the wilderness. And these things happened to them for examples." The outward form never did, nor ever can, suffice: if we would be the Lord's people indeed, we must "be one spirit with him," and have really, as the governing principle of our lives, "the mind that was in him."

2. What benefit we may hope for in communicating at the table of the Lord.

The expression, "drinking into one Spirit," has a reference to the sacramental cup, of which all communicants partake. And though, where baptism is duly received, it is doubtless accompanied with the richest blessings to the soul, yet is the Lord's supper, as being often repeated and received in communion with the whole Church, generally productive of the greater benefit. This seems intimated in the language of our text: for by the one we are brought into one body; and by the other, are "made to drink into one Spirit." At all events, we can have no doubt what God intends by this ordinance: for, in "eating the flesh of Christ, and drinking his blood," we shall "grow up into him in all things, as our living Head," and by him be filled with all the fullness of God. Come, then, to the table of the Lord, that you may receive "a supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ!" for "He has the residue of the Spirit," and will send Him to you from the Father, in answer to your prayers. Come, all of you; and you shall partake more richly of his vital energies, and be confirmed more strongly in the principles you have imbibed, and be quickened more abundantly in your pursuit of Heaven, and be rendered still more heavenly in all your tempers and affections. Thus shall the whole work of God be perfected in your souls: and in due time you shall resemble the saints above; yes, and be partakers with them in holiness, and felicity, and glory.

 

MDCCCCLXXXIV

Gifts and Graces Compared

1 Corinthians 12:31. Covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.

SUCH is the weakness of human nature, that we can scarcely possess anything that distinguishes us from others, without priding ourselves in it; as though it had sprung from some efforts of our own, or at least had been given us for our superior desert. Even miraculous powers, which could manifestly originate in nothing but God's sovereign will and pleasure, were to the Corinthians a ground of boasting and self-delight. We, at this time, are perfectly amazed at the indecorous way in which many in the apostolic age abused their powers, and at the manner in which they conducted their religious assemblies. Paul, as might well be expected, set himself to reform those abuses, and so to regulate their proceedings, that "all things might be done decently and in order." With this view, he showed them, that, whatever the number or quality of "their gifts" might be, whatever "the differences of their administrations," and whatever "the diversities of their operations," they all proceeded from "the same God who wrought all in all." He acknowledged the benefit arising from the judicious exercise of their miraculous powers; hut yet told them, that there was an object far more worthy of their ambition; namely, charity, which was the sum and substance of all Christian perfection. He does not altogether blame their desire of useful gifts: on the contrary, he says, "Covet earnestly the best gifts." But he would not have them satisfy themselves with any measure of such attainments, because without love or charity they were of no value whatever: and therefore he adds, "Yet show I unto you a more excellent way."

Before I come to my subject, I would just observe, that, though some of high name would alter the translation in my text, (from an idea that the Apostle, when reproving the pride and emulation which had prevailed in reference to these gifts, could never encourage the Corinthians to covet them,) I feel no doubt but that the translation is correct: for the very same word occurs again at the commencement of the 14th chapter, (the whole of the 13th being only parenthetical, as an explanation of my text,) and it is incapable of being understood in any other way than as it is translated in my text: "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy," where, showing the peculiar usefulness of the gift of prophecy, which was the expounding of Scripture, he recommends that they should affect that in preference to any other. Again, in verse 12 of the same chapter, he says, "Forasmuch as you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that you may excel to the edifying of the Church" And again, at the close of the same chapter, he says, "Brethren, covet to prophesy; and forbid not to speak with tongues."

I have judged it expedient to dwell somewhat upon this point; because the Apostle's inculcating a desire after the best gifts will have an important bearing on my subject; which is, to show,

I. The value and importance of spiritual gifts.

II. The infinitely greater value of spiritual graces.

First, I will endeavor to mark the value and importance of spiritual gifts.

The miraculous powers with which many of the primitive Christians were endowed, the Apostle calls "spiritual gifts," not because in their nature they were spiritual, as emanating from the soul, and exercised about things that were altogether heavenly, but because they were spiritual in their source and tendency; inasmuch as they were wrought in men by the Holy Spirit, and were imparted to the Church for the purpose of spreading and establishing Christianity in the world. There was a great diversity of them, all proceeding from the same origin, and all conducing to the same end. Hence the Apostle says, "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man, to profit withal. For to one is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit; to another, faith, by the same Spirit; to another, the gifts of healing, by the same Spirit; to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, discerning of spirits; to another, divers kinds of tongues; to another, the interpretation of tongues; and all these works that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."

These gifts, at the first establishment of Christianity, were necessary: for, unless God had imparted to the Apostles a spirit of wisdom and of knowledge, they could never have known those "mysteries which were hid in God from the foundation of the world." Nor, if they had not been endued with the gift of tongues, could they have declared to foreigners the blessed truths which they had received. Nor could they have given sufficient evidence of their divine commission to preach those truths, if they had not been enabled to work miracles in confirmation of their word. To have argued with heathens, or even with Jews, would have been a slow process, if they had to bear down their adversaries with the mere force of reason; and to convince them would have been a difficult undertaking: but the performing of miracles superseded, if not entirely, yet in great measure, these laborious efforts, and carried conviction at once to the minds of hundreds and of thousands, who would not have had leisure or ability to enter into long and deep discussions. Thus it was that Christianity was established: and those to whom these divine powers were committed, were highly honored of God, in being made his instruments for the conversion and salvation of their fellow-men.

But these gifts are now no longer necessary: they have accomplished the work for which they were bestowed. The record of them remains; and to that we can appeal. That was written while multitudes were alive, and able to testify of what their eyes had seen and their ears had heard. To have had those miracles continued would have answered no good end: for they must have been wrought in every age and every place, where the doctrine needed to be confirmed: and then the commonness of them would have destroyed their efficacy upon the mind. Even when they were wrought, they did not carry conviction to the minds of all: and how much less would they have done so at this time, if they had been continued to the present day! We may well say, that, if men believe not the records of the Old and New Testaments, neither would they be persuaded though they saw one rise from the dead.

These supernatural gifts being withdrawn, we are now left to the use of those means which are placed within our reach. I do not intend to say, that any efforts of ours can convince those who will shut their eyes against the light: for the resurrection of Lazarus, and of our Lord himself, did not effect that: but we have within our reach means, which will, as far as is necessary, subserve the interests of religion in the way that miracles once did. Learning is now the substitute for those gifts: and by learning must we labor to attain the ends for which those spiritual gifts were formerly bestowed; namely, to acquire the knowledge of religion; to attain a facility of diffusing it; and to maintain it against all its adversaries.

By learning we must attain the knowledge of religion. Of course, I must not be understood to say, that the fundamental doctrines of Christianity cannot be understood without learning: for then I should condemn to hopeless misery all the unlearned of the earth. No, God has not so constituted his Gospel, that it should be hidden from the poor: for it is a characteristic feature of the Gospel, that it was to be preached to the poor and illiterate, and that it would commend itself to them, while it was hid from the wise and prudent. The fundamental truths of our holy religion are few and simple. The man who feels himself an undone sinner, and who looks simply to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, is truly instructed in the Gospel, though he be not able to read one word in it. And the Scriptures are so written, that even the poorest man who can read them, and who has a spiritual discernment given him from above, can comprehend all that is contained in them, so far as it is necessary for the edification and comfort of his own soul: and to keep the Bible out of the hands of the poor, from an idea that they will only receive injury from the perusal of it, is a Popish delusion, an unchristian cruelty, an impious reflection upon God himself. But still I must say, that, to a full and complete understanding of the sacred volume, a very considerable degree of learning is requisite. In truth, that volume itself contains mines of learning, which many years of investigation are scarcely sufficient to explore. Numberless things at this very day are but matters of conjecture, even to the most learned men upon earth, because of the very partial information which is transmitted to us of the customs to which they refer, and the circumstances with which they were connected. And it may well be doubted, whether the inspired volume will ever be fully understood, unless a Spirit of inspiration be again given to unfold it to us.

Nor is learning at all less necessary for the diffusion of sacred knowledge. We admire and revere the memory of one favored servant of God, who, possessed as he was of most transcendent talents, and with incredible zeal and industry devoted to the Lord, translated the New Testament into the Persian and Hindu languages. What, then, must be necessary for the translating of the whole Scriptures into all the languages of the world! Let all the learning of our highly-respected University be embodied in one man, and how little would it enable him to effect in three quarters of the globe! In truth, were it not that God's ancient people are scattered over the whole face of the earth, everywhere possessing, in part at least, their own inspired writings, on which ours are founded; and were it not that we had reason to believe that they are ordained of God to be his instruments for the conversion of the world; we should be ready still to regard the Millennial age as far distant as ever; so impossible would it seem, that persons in the present state of the Christian Church, should ever be found for the evangelizing of the world.

And must I not add, that learning is alike necessary for the maintaining of Christianity against its adversaries? We cannot contend even with sceptics and infidels, among ourselves, without learning: and how much less can we refute all the objections of Jewish Rabbis, and all the errors of the different religionists upon the face of the globe? They will not bow to the authority of our Scriptures: nor can we work miracles to convince them. We must search out all their refuges of lies, and expose all their sophistry, and establish our own religion upon the ruins of theirs. But can this be done without learning? I think, then, we may say, that learning must supply the place of miracles, unless God should be pleased to restore to his Church those powers which for so many centuries have been withdrawn.

Nevertheless, while, as becomes me, I exalt among you the importance of learning, it is proper that I proceed to point out, in

The second place, The infinitely greater value of spiritual graces. "Covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way."

That which is here proposed to them as more excellent than any gifts, is the grace of Charity; the character and offices of which are fully described in the chapter which follows. Now, in looking into that chapter, we see that the direct tendency of this grace is to mortify all those evil dispositions which had been exercised in the Corinthian Church, and to call forth into action all those holy tempers which had been trodden under foot. The Apostle, therefore, may be considered as saying to the Corinthian Church, 'You, instead of improving your gifts aright, have made them an occasion of pride, and envy, and jealousy: and I recommend you rather to set your hearts on the attainment of that heavenly principle, which will rectify your disorders, and unite all your souls in love.'

Still, however, we must observe, that the Apostle did not confine himself to this idea; but launched forth into a general view of the excellencies of Charity, in order that he might the more powerfully excite them to the cultivation of it. And, therefore, I will so far follow him, as to show you the superiority of this grace to all gifts whatever; first, for our own personal benefit; next, for the benefit of the world at large; and lastly, for the honor of our God.

Charity, then, is more excellent than learning; first, for our own personal benefit. I would by no means be thought to undervalue learning: it is, beyond all doubt, of immense importance: it expands the mind, and enlarges the heart; and contributes, more than can be well conceived, to raise man above his fellows; insomuch, that all are ready to bow down to him who stands high in repute for the attainment of it. But, then, it does nothing towards the sanctifying of the heart, or the improvement of the soul in heavenly dispositions: on the contrary, it is too often found to operate precisely as the spiritual gifts did at Corinth, to the engendering of pride and envy, of conceit and jealousy, of hatred and malignity, in the very circle where it most abounds.

But Charity elevates the mind, and purifies it from all these hateful dispositions. It raises the soul to God, and calls forth all our energies in behalf of man. It even transforms us into the very image of God himself, whose name and nature is love. It also greatly tranquillizes the mind, and cuts off all occasion for those painful feelings which agitate the bosoms of the generality, and kindle animosities between man and man. I may go further, and say, as the Apostle does, that, whatever we may possess of such attainments, they will soon vanish away, and leave us as little benefitted as if we had never possessed them. But Charity constitutes our fitness for the heavenly inheritance, and is indeed the commencement of Heaven in the soul: and it will exist within us, in full activity, when all other things shall have ceased forever.

Charity, too, is more excellent than learning, for the benefit of the world at large. Learning, as I have said, confers extensive good upon mankind: but it is also frequently a vehicle of incalculable evil. To a vast extent has it been employed in the service of infidelity and profaneness; insomuch, that, even in Christian lands, some of the most distinguished historians, poets, and philosophers, have put forth all their energies for the subversion, rather than the establishment, of our holy religion. But Charity is never employed but for the good of mankind. Gladly would it drive from the world every noxious sentiment and feeling, and contribute, as far as possible, to the happiness of all. To benefit the souls of men, is its highest aim: and not so much as one would it suffer to perish, if by any means it could induce him to embrace the offered salvation. We need only see the difference between the learned Saul and the pious Paul, and we shall behold this matter in its true light.

I may here add, that learning, how beneficial soever it may be to some, has but few objects, comparatively, with whom it can come in contact. The learned only can appreciate its worth, or make a due improvement of its stores. But love extends to every child of man; and is capable of its fullest exercise, in every place, and under every circumstance that can occur. It is like the sun, which shines alike upon the evil and upon the good; or the rain, which descends alike on the just and on the unjust.

Yet further I must add, that love is more excellent than learning, as contributing more to the honor of our God. Though learning is indeed to be traced to God as its true source, yet his agency in it is almost always overlooked; and the honor of it is ascribed to its possessor, who employs it only for his own glory. Even when it is used in support of religion, still, unless under the influence of love, it aims only at the advancement of its possessor in wealth or honor. But love bears upon it the very stamp of Heaven; and shows to all, that it proceeds from God. It is "an epistle of Christ, known and read of all men." And in all it does, it seeks to honor God. It would be ashamed to arrogate anything to itself. It gives to God the glory of its every motion and its every act: and, if only God be honored, it regards not what portion is assigned to its possessor. I will only add, that learning will sit at ease, and please itself, without any concern for God; while love will travel to the ends of the earth, and encounter all imaginable perils, if only man may be benefitted, and God be glorified.

Suffer me now, then, to address you in the words of my text; and, in conformity with the Apostle's direction to the Corinthians, to say, in the first place.

"Covet earnestly the best gifts."—It will be remembered, that I have stated this to be the just translation of the word; and that, instead of being a reproof, saying, "You do covet" (and covet improperly) the best gifts, it is a concession. "Covet earnestly the best gifts;" for that is an ambition, which, if duly exercised, I cordially approve. I observed, that this view of the word had an important bearing on my subject: and that bearing I shall now point out. There are religious persons who undervalue learning; and therefore undervalue it, because they want either the talent or the industry to attain it. But I must bear my decided testimony against all such persons; and must declare, that their notions are erroneous, their conduct evil, their example pernicious. It is an error to suppose that religion discountenances attainments of any kind: and they who are sent hither (to this university, I mean) for instruction, and neglect to improve their talents according to the plan of study here prescribed, are highly criminal before God and man: nor can they conceive how great a stumbling-block they lay in the way of others, or what injury they do to religion, which is condemned for their sakes. I therefore would say to all, "Covet earnestly the best gifts;" and not only "covet them earnestly," but pursue them diligently. And, if I may be permitted to address myself more particularly to those with whom, as a partaker of the same benefits with them in our early education and our present means of prosecuting our studies, I am more immediately connected, I would say, 'Inasmuch as your advantages have been greater than perhaps those of any other persons, your proficiency ought to be proportionably great: and, inasmuch as the lines in which you have an opportunity to distinguish yourselves are, through accidental circumstances, more contracted than those of others, you are doubly bound to excel in those lines, where the scope for competition is open to you.'

Yet I must go on, with the Apostle, to say, good as this way is, "I have shown you a more excellent way," and would most earnestly exhort you to walk in it. The way of charity is indeed a more excellent way; and it may well regulate you, even in the prosecution of your studies. You will remember that the Apostle says, "Covet earnestly the best gifts." And he tells us plainly what the best gifts are: "God has set some in the Church; first, apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles; then, gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." Now, here you will notice, that his judgment was in direct opposition to that of the Corinthians in general. They put the speaking with tongues in the first place, because that was the gift which excited the most admiration, and attracted the most applause: and they accounted the prophets, that is, the expounders of God's blessed word, as low in comparison of them. But the Apostle inverted that order altogether: he put the prophets and teachers next in order to the Apostles; and placed the diversities of tongues the very lowest of all. He estimated these gifts by a very different standard from that which obtained among the vain ostentatious Corinthians: he judged of gifts by their usefulness to the souls of men. And this is the judgment which I would recommend to you. Let not your time be so occupied with things curious, or entertaining, or calculated to excite the admiration of men, as to neglect, or keep upon the back-ground, those things which are of practical utility to the Church of God. Learn to estimate these things, not by the world's standard, but by God's: and lay out your time and strength most in those things which will most conduce to the benefit of God's Church and people.

And this you will do, if you cultivate the grace of charity. You will act to God, and not to man. You will seek the edification of your own souls, in everything that is amiable and praiseworthy; and you will move in the sphere appointed you, so as most to advance the welfare of men and the honor of your God. You will not consider it sufficient to attain gifts, however great and splendid, when you recollect how empty and worthless they are without charity. The Apostle says, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge (in which we may include all that is cultivated with so much assiduity and success in this learned university); and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing." After such declarations as these, so strong, so authoritative, so decisive, I may well be excused if I urge upon you a practical attention to them, and entreat you, while pursuing, as you ought to do, the best attainments in learning, not to be unmindful of that more excellent way; but to "add to your knowledge godliness, and to godliness brotherly-kindness, and to brotherly-kindness charity."

 

MDCCCCLXXXV

The Importance of Christian Charity

1 Corinthians 13:1–3. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.

IN the apostolic age, the Church enjoyed some advantages, to which we of this day are strangers. The vast variety of gifts which were given to the primitive believers, tended greatly to fix their attention on the truths that were delivered, and to confirm the faith of those who heard them. On the other hand, these gifts were attended with some disadvantages; inasmuch as they gave rise to an unholy emulation in the persons who possessed them, and an undue partiality in those for whose benefit they were exercised. On the whole, we need not envy them their distinctions, since their gifts, how exalted soever they might be, were nothing in comparison of that which we, as well as they, are privileged to possess. Love is of more value than them all. Gifts might edify others; but love benefits ourselves: and, without love, all the gifts that men ever possessed were of no value. This is asserted by Paul in our text. But, as his assertions are of a very extraordinary kind, we shall endeavor to explain and vindicate them to your satisfaction.

I. To explain.

In order to place the passage in its true point of view, we shall explain,

1. The principle itself.

This throughout the whole chapter is called "charity." The generality of commentators have expressed their regret that the word "love" had not been substituted in the place of "charity," that being confessedly the true meaning of the term used in the original. But we do not conceive the translation to be open to the objection that is urged against it: for it is not possible for any one, who reads the chapter with attention, to imagine, that it relates exclusively to alms-giving: the most ignorant reader must see, that the principle, which is here called "charity," is far more extensive, and can by no means have so limited a sense, as these objectors would suppose them to affix to it. We, on the contrary, think that the translators intentionally preferred the term "charity," in order to mark distinctly that the principle here spoken of is love to man in its utmost latitude; but that it is love to man only, and not love to God. That it must be so limited, is evident from the whole preceding and following context. The Corinthians possessed many miraculous powers, which, though given them only for the edification of the Church, were exerted by them principally for vain-glorious and selfish ends. Hence the Apostle tells them, that they defeated the very ends for which these powers had been imparted, and trampled upon that principle of Christian love, which was of more value than all the powers that either men or angels could possess. Besides, all the properties which in this chapter are ascribed to love, show it to have man, and man alone, for its object. And those who interpret the word as including love to God also, make the import of the whole chapter obscure and unintelligible. We therefore approve of the term "charity," as giving to the passage its true, and definite, and more appropriate meaning.

Yet we must bear in mind, that it is Christian charity which is here spoken of; namely, charity founded on a regard to the authority of God who has enjoined it, and on a regard to Christ also, in and through whom all the human race may be considered as united in one great family. His example is no less binding upon us than the command of God: and therefore, though we confine the term to the love of man only, we understand by it such a love, as is founded altogether on Christian principles, and is combined with all other gracious affections.

2. The assertions respecting it.

Such in the Apostle's judgment is the value and importance of Christian charity, that, without it all that we can possess is of no value, and all that we can do is of no value.

Without it, all that we can possess is of no value.—It is here supposed that a man may be able to speak with all the wisdom and eloquence both of men and angels; that he may possess a gift of prophecy so as to foretell future events; that he may have a perfect insight into all the most hidden mysteries of our religion, and an ability to solve all its difficulties; yes, that he may possess a faith whereby he may be able to remove mountains: and yet be destitute of this principle of universal charity. And certain it is that all these miraculous powers are independent of gracious affections, and have been more or less exercised by men, who, like Balaam, were altogether destitute of the grace of God. Supposing then a man to possess all these powers in their highest possible degree, and at the same time to be destitute of the principle of true charity, he would, as the Apostle says, be only "as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal," the most harsh and monotonous of all the instruments from whence anything like music can be elicited.

Moreover, without this principle of charity, all that we can do is of no value. It is supposed here that a person may have such a fit of liberality as to give all his goods to feed the poor; and such a fit of zeal as to give his body to be burned; and yet be destitute of this principle. And certain it is, that there are principles in our fallen nature capable of producing these effects in men who have never received one atom of the grace of God, or felt one spark of true charity. Many thousands of our fellow-subjects in India are awful examples of this truth; men reducing themselves to the most wretched state of want and misery, and women voluntarily burning themselves upon the funeral piles of their deceased husbands; and this from no better principle than pride and vain-glory. Similar effects are produced also by a self-righteous principle; the unhappy devotees accounting nothing too much to do or suffer in order to recommend themselves to their senseless deities. Supposing then a man to do all this, and yet to be devoid of charity, "it would profit him nothing," literally "nothing." Not one of his sins would ever be removed by it; nor would he be advanced one single step towards the favor of God: he would be as poor, and wretched, and miserable as before.

Now these, it must be confessed, are very strong assertions: and the idea of a man going from the flames of martyrdom to the flames of Hell, is so shocking, that we scarcely know how to admit it for one moment. Yet is it really true that this may be the case; as is abundantly evident from the Apostle's assertions; which now we will proceed,

II. To vindicate.

Let it be remembered that the principle, which is here supposed to be wanting, is that of universal "charity." And well may it be said, that, in the absence of that, all other things are of no value; for, where that is wanting, there can be,

1. No love to God.

Here John will prove to us an infallible instructor. His words are plain and decisive: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God. He who loves not, knows not God: for God is love." "If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he who loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God, whom he has not seen?" Here he not only declares the vanity and falsehood of all pretensions of love to God, while we are destitute of love to man, but he appeals to us respecting it, as a matter that is self-evident and incontrovertible. For a man to pretend to obey the first table of the law, while he tramples habitually on all the duties of the second table, is an absurdity too glaring for any one seriously to maintain. If we are destitute of love to man, we cannot possibly be possessed of love to God.

Now then, we would ask, in what light must that man be viewed who has no love to God? Of what value are his gifts, how great or manifold soever they may be? Or of what value are his actions, how glorious soever they may be in the eyes of man? Can the man please God, when he does not love him? Can the man enjoy God, when he does not love him? Could he enjoy God even in Heaven itself, if he did not love him? No, if it be only a fellow-creature whom we do not love, we have no pleasure in his presence, even though he himself be not the only source from whence our comfort might be drawn: how then could we be happy in God's presence, when he would be the only spring from whence even one drop of pleasure could flow? Truly, to such a man, even Heaven itself would be no Heaven; or rather, it would be to him as the precincts of Hell.

2. No faith in Christ.

Love is properly the fruit of faith. Mere carnal affection, or party-spirit, may exist without any knowledge of Christ: but Christian charity must spring from faith in Christ, even from that faith, which, as the Apostle says, "works by love." But here again the Apostle John shall be our guide. In immediate connection with the fore-cited passages, he says, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God: and every one that loves him that begat, loves him also that is begotten of him." Here the argument is plain: every one that believes in Christ, loves God; and every one that loves God, loves those also who are begotten of him: consequently, if we love not those who are begotten of him, we have no love to God, nor any faith in Christ.

And what is the state of a man that has no faith in Christ? Can there be any value in anything which he either has or does? He has no interest in Christ, no pardon of sin, no title to Heaven, no hope beyond the grave: what signify then his pre-eminent talents, or his specious virtues? He may benefit others; but he cannot benefit himself: he may even "save others; but he himself will be a cast-away." Yes, at this moment "he is in a state of condemnation, and the wrath of God abides on him."

3. No real holiness of heart and life.

The man that is destitute of charity tramples alike on both tables of the law. For, "the very end of the commandment, (the very end for which the law was given, and which it was principally intended to effect,) is charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith sincere," and this end not being answered, the whole law is made void. Again; Paul says, that "all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself," therefore, if this one grace is so connected with every part of the law as to fulfill it all, the want of this one grace must violate it all. Once more: it is said, "Put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness," it is that by which all the graces that constitute perfection are bound together, just as the armor was by the belt that enclosed it. This therefore being wanting, no grace whatever is found in its proper place: they are altogether scattered to the winds.

What then, we would again ask, is the state of such a man? a man that defeats the one end for which the law was given; that violates it in all its parts; and leaves at the disposal of every gust of passion all the graces which it was intended to combine? We think that nothing more is wanting to confirm all the strong assertions of the Apostle, or to show that, whatever a man may either possess or do, without charity he is nothing but a tinkling cymbal; he will be nothing to all eternity, but a miserable, self-deceiving, self-ruined hypocrite.

From this view of Christian charity, learn the importance,

1. Of understanding clearly its nature.

Certain it is that the nature of Christian charity is but little known. In truth, had it not been so fully opened in the chapter before us, it may well be doubted whether any man upon the face of the earth would have fully understood it: or rather, it may be doubted, whether any man on the face of the earth does fully understand it even now. No part of it can be understood any farther that it is experienced in the soul: and the defects of men in the practice of it show how defective must be their views of its extent and obligations. But, it is only in proportion as we understand it, that we can have any just standard whereby to estimate our own character, or any sure directory for our conduct. But God will judge us by his perfect law, whether we understand it or not. He does not reduce his demands to the measure which we choose to fix; but requires us diligently to learn his will, and then to do it "without partiality and without hypocrisy." Our first object then must be to get a thorough insight into the requirements of his law, and then to set ourselves with all diligence to the performance of it.

2. Of ascertaining our state in relation to it.

Often should we bring ourselves to the touchstone, to try what our state is before God. We have seen how high we may be in the estimation of men, while yet we are nothing in the sight of God. Perhaps there are no persons more eminent in their own eyes, than those who attract great attention by their talents, or by liberality and zeal have high credit for their attainments. But such persons often fearfully deceive their own souls. If we would form a right judgment of our character, let us study this chapter thoroughly, and apply to our hearts and consciences every one of those properties by which Christian charity is there distinguished. Let us further study the character of the Apostle Paul, and of our blessed Lord himself: and thus shall we know, with some considerable measure of certainty, what is God's estimate of us, and what his sentence will be upon us in the great and awful day.

3. Of cultivating the growth of it in our souls.

There is no measure of Christian charity with which we are to rest satisfied: we are always to be pressing forward for higher and higher attainments. Paul commends the Thessalonians, because "their faith grew exceedingly, and the charity of every one of them towards each other abounded." Let us seek to merit that commendation. It is in that way only that we can make our profiting to appear, or give evidence that we are growing from babes to young men, and from young men to fathers. Love is the image of God; and the more we increase in it, the more we adorn our Christian profession, and attain "a fitness for the heavenly inheritance." Let us all then "follow earnestly this best of gifts;" and however much any of you may have attained, "we beseech you to abound more and more."

 

MDCCCCLXXXVI

A Description of Charity

1 Corinthians 13:4–7. Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

OF all the subjects proposed to us in the Holy Scriptures, there is not one that deserves a deeper attention than that before us. If only we consider what is said of charity in the preceding verses, and reflect on the indispensable necessity of it to our acceptance with God, we shall be led to inquire diligently into its characteristic features, and its inseparable properties: we shall not satisfy ourselves with any specious appearances, or outward acts; but shall examine, whether, and how far, this divine principle exists in our hearts. To assist you in this inquiry, we shall enter minutely into the description here given of it; and endeavor to hold up a mirror, in which every one may behold his own face. It is but too common, when subjects of this kind are discussed, to apply them to others, rather than ourselves: but, if we would hear with profit, we must think of ourselves only; and implore of God the influences of his Spirit, that "the word may come, not in word only, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," to our souls.

There are here no less than fifteen particulars by which the principle of charity is distinguished. But we apprehend, that the two first are designed to give a general view of the subject; and that those which follow are the particulars comprehended under it.

The suffering patiently all kinds of evil, and doing cheerfully all kinds of good, are the constituent parts of true charity: and these are expressed by those two words, "Charity suffers long, and is kind," and Paul elsewhere sums up the whole of charity in these two things; "Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good."

In fact, it is by these two terms that charity is depicted as existing and operating in the bosom of God himself: "Despise you the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" Here the words "goodness and long-suffering" are, in the original, the very same with those in the beginning of our text, "Charity suffers long, and is kind," from whence we may see that charity in us is of the same nature with charity in God; or, in other words, that it is a conformity of heart to God, whose name and character is love.

It is yet further observable, that there is, in the original, a marked difference between the mode in which the general view of the subject is stated, and the particular parts of it are enumerated; there being no copulative to connect the verbs. This distinction is marked also very properly in our translation; the copulative "and" being put in italics, to show that it is not to be found in the original.

This view of the text removes all appearances of tautology, and opens an easy way for the discussion of it.

Descending thus to the consideration of the different particulars, we notice, that there is a marked difference also in the statement of them, in the former part, as compared with the latter part; the former consisting wholly of negations; and the latter, of affirmations: and thus presenting to our view,

I. The evils it excludes.

These may fitly be distributed under five heads:

1. Envy: "Charity envies not."

Envy is a repining at another's prosperity, or good, which we ourselves desire to possess: and it is a principle deeply rooted in our fallen nature, insomuch that it may be seen to operate with great force even in children at the breast; so true is that testimony of the Apostle, "The spirit that dwells in us, lusts to envy." But how contrary is this to true charity! Can we conceive a mother to envy her own child any perfection it possessed, or any benefit that has been conferred upon it? or if there were such a mother, would she not, by the common consent of all men, be thought an unnatural monster, rather than a loving parent? Real love would lead her to rejoice in all the good that accrued to her child, though she herself were not a partaker of it: and this is the invariable operation of love, wherever it exists. Know then, that, whatever distinctions or benefits any other person may attain, while we ourselves have failed in the pursuit of them, we should feel only pleasure in his success; and if we grudge it him, and are disposed to detract from his merits, and to reduce him to a level with ourselves, we are actuated by the hateful principle of envy, and, in that instance at least, are destitute of the sublimer principle of love.

2. Pride: "Charity vaunts not itself; is not puffed up; does not behave itself unseemly."

These three may properly be classed under the head of pride. The word which is translated "vaunts not itself," is in the margin translated. "is not rash," and this perhaps is somewhat nearer to the original; which imports, that charity is not inconsiderate, insolent, and over-bearing. This is nearly allied with a conceit of one's own attainment, and naturally leads to a violation of all that respect which is due to age, and station, and legitimate authority.

Yet to what an extent do these evils exist! how headstrong, how self-opinionated, how presumptuous are youth in general, especially where they can give vent to their dispositions without restraint! But love is modest, sober, temperate: it pays a just deference to the sentiments of others; and willingly submits to the dictates of maturer age, and riper judgment.

If then we speak and act without a due consideration of what others may think, or a proper regard to what others may feel, or in any way that does not befit our age, our rank, our character, we violate the duties of charity; which teaches us to "esteem others better than ourselves," and to guard with all possible care against everything that may give just offence, or weaken the influence of our exertions for the good of others. In a word, real charity will lead us to "prefer others in honor before ourselves," and to take on all occasions the lowest place.

3. Selfishness: "Charity seeks not her own."

Throughout the whole of this description, the Apostle seems to have had in his eye some of those particular evils which abounded in the Church at Corinth. This more especially he had occasion to reprove, both in the preceding and subsequent context. Many of them were possessed of gifts, which they used chiefly for the advancement of their own honor, when they should have improved them solely for the Church's good. And this disposition fearfully predominates in our fallen nature; "All men seek their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ." But true charity triumphs over all these narrow and contracted feelings: it teaches us not to seek our own ease, honor, and profit, but in entire subserviency to the good of others; and to become the servants of all for Christ's sake, sacrificing our just rights, abridging our unquestionable liberty, and accommodating ourselves either to the wishes or the prejudice of others, for the better promotion of their welfare. This is charity: but wherein self predominates, so as to turn us from this blessed path, we are destitute of that heavenly principle, whose direction is, "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.

4. Wrath: "Charity is not easily provoked, thinks no evil."

It not unfrequently happens in a family, that, in the estimation of him who is at the head of it, one member can do nothing that is good; and another member, nothing that is wrong. But whence arises this? Is it that the one is so perfect as never to err; and the other so depraved, as never to do right? No, the actions of the two are seen through a different medium; the one through the medium of prejudice, and the other of love. Now such a measure of partiality as can find no fault, is far from being desirable; nor is it any part of true charity. But charity keeps us from breaking forth into wrath against an offending brother; and suffers us not to impute evil intentions to him, to aggravate his offence. Where there is a continual disposition to find fault, and a readiness to fly out into a rage on trifling occasions,—where there is a proneness to put an unkind construction on everything, and to judge persons with severity,—there is no charity. Let us but observe how ready we are to find excuses for any one we greatly love, or even for a favorite animal that has committed a fault, and we shall see immediately what would be our conduct towards our brethren, if we had real love to them in our hearts. How ingenious are we in finding excuses for ourselves, when we have done anything amiss! and if self-love operate so towards ourselves, would not the love of our brethren prescribe somewhat of a similar measure towards them? Yes assuredly: we should "be slow to wrath," as we find we are, comparatively at least, towards those whom we love; and ready to extenuate, rather than aggravate, what we cannot fully approve.

5. Malice: "Charity rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth."

To find pleasure in the fall or disgrace of another is the very essence of malice, the counterpart of Satan himself. Yet how universally prevalent is this malignant disposition! Has any person, especially one whom we have regarded as a superior or a rival, done anything whereby he has lowered himself in the estimation of mankind? with what pleasure do we listen to the tale! what gratification do we feel in circulating the report! and what a satisfaction do we take, even while we profess to pity him, in the fall and degradation of our brother! If afterwards we find that the report was not true, or that there were circumstances which materially altered the real character of the action, do we feel the same pleasure in having our own judgment rectified, and in rectifying the misapprehensions of others? No, there is not the same gratification to our corrupt nature in believing and circulating the one, as in crediting and spreading the other: and therefore, while we are ready enough to propagate the evil, we leave truth to find its way as it can. But this is not the way in which love will show itself: charity finds no pleasure in that which causes pain to another, or dishonor to God: but it is delighted with everything which may tend to the advancement of God's honor and our brethren's good.

In this copious description of charity, we see yet further,

II. The habits it keeps in exercise.

1. It "bears," or, as the word rather means, "covers, all things."

Where love does not exist, there will be a readiness to spy out evil, and to spread the report of it far and wide: but where it reigns, there will be a disposition rather to cast a veil over our brother's faults, yes and over his sins too; according as it is written, "Charity will cover a multitude of sins." Where the revealing of what we know is necessary for the maintenance of public justice, there love to the community will supersede the obligation of which we are now speaking: but where no necessity exists for exposing the shame of our brother, we ought as far as possible to conceal it, and to cast over it the mantle of love. This is what a man does towards those with whom he stands most intimately connected by the ties of consanguinity or friendship: and he will deal the same measure to all, in proportion as the general principle of Christian charity prevails in his soul.

2. It "believes all things."

This must of course be restricted to good: for to believe hastily all manner of evil would be directly contrary to love. In the things which we either see or hear, there must of necessity be a great deal which cannot come under our observation. Acts are visible; but the motives which lead to them are hid from us. Results too may be visible; but all the circumstances that led to them, and the precise manner in which they were brought about, may be very imperfectly known by us: and yet on these depends the innocence or criminality of the persons engaged in them. Now charity will not judge from outward appearances, or from partial information; but will suppose and believe that there are many things connected with the event, which, if fully known, would in some measure, if not altogether, justify the person condemned. In our courts of law, the judge always considers himself as, in some degree, counsel for the person accused. Now this is what we should all be, in our daily conduct: a person accused is, as it were, brought to our bar for trial: and, instead of pronouncing a sentence of condemnation upon him instantly on the statement of his accuser, we should suspend our judgment until we know what he has to say in vindication of himself: and if we are not likely to gain that fuller information, we should take for granted that there are some circumstances, though unknown to us, that would give a different color to the transaction, and constrain us to give a sentence in his favor.

3. It "hopes all things."

The reports we hear may be so full and circumstantial, and be corroborated by such a weight of evidence, that we can scarcely withhold our assent to the statement. Yet, if we cannot altogether believe that the accused person is less guilty than he is represented, we should "hope" it. We should not so definitively pass judgment on him, as if it were impossible for us to err; or as if more perfect information might not give us a more favorable view of his conduct. If we are compelled to condemn him for an evil act, we should hope that the act was not formed into a habit: or, if we are constrained to lament that his iniquities are become a habit, still we should hope that he is not altogether incorrigible; we should not despair of seeing a change in his favor, or give him over as altogether reprobate. This is the way in which a loving parent acts towards his son; and it is the way in which we should act towards all the human race: we should believe, where we cannot see; and hope, where we cannot believe; and cherish desire, where we can scarcely entertain a hope.

4. It "endures all things."

Much will we bear from a beloved object, many unkindnesses, and many injuries: and, especially if we have a prospect of ultimately benefitting his soul, we can bear up under his ill treatment with much long-suffering and forbearance. This at least is the proper effect of love; as we see in Paul, who says, "I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." It is not a slight provocation or two that love will overlook, but a long-continuance of provocations: it will forgive, not once, or seven times, but seventy times seven. It will continue to bless even the man that loads us with curses, and to accumulate benefits on him who seeks only to do us evil. It so endures evil, as "not to be overcome by it;" and makes such returns for it, as to "overcome it with good." Its great aim is, so to "heap coals of fire on the head of an adversary, as to melt him into love." In this consists the triumphs of the God of love; and in this will every one who is born of God endeavor to resemble his heavenly Father.

Hence we may see,

1. How different is true religion from what men generally apprehend!

Far be it from us to undervalue gifts of any kind, especially of those which have a favorable aspect on religion: and still less would we speak lightly of those alternations of hope and fear, of joy and sorrow, which many experience in their religious course. But still we must say, that vital religion is different from them all, as a building is from the scaffold that is used for its erection. Religion is a conformity to the Divine image: religion is the law of God written in the heart: religion is love; love in all its bearings, and in all its exercises. Happy would it be if this matter were better understood by those who profess religion: but, with too many, religion has its seat in the ear and in the tongue, rather than in the heart; and operates rather in a way of conceit and talkativeness, and uncharitable censures of those who differ from us, than in meekness and modesty, benevolence and beneficence, forbearance and forgiveness. But let no man deceive himself: just so much as we have of real, active, and habitual charity, so much we have of true religion, and no more.

2. How little is there of true religion in the world!

Look into the world, and see what are the dispositions and habits of all around us: what do we see, but pride and envy, wrath and malice, self-seeking and self-indulgence? The whole world is full of uncharitableness: nothing is to be seen or heard but mutual censures and bitter animosities. The real actings of love are as little prevalent, I had almost said, as in Hell itself. The laws of the land, and the habits of society, keep many from those violent breaches of charity which would disturb the public peace: but their secret heart-burnings, towards those who have injured or insulted them, show sufficiently how little there is of true charity in their hearts.

Would to God that this were not the case also in the Church of God! But it is a lamentable truth, that in Christian societies there is much of this unkind feeling in one towards another; brethren alienated from each other by some trifling differences, and even harder to be reconciled to each other than the ungodly world. "O tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ascalon, lest the uncircumcised triumph." But let professors look well to this matter: for they shall be judged, not by their profession, but by their practice: and, however eminent they may be in the estimation of men, they will receive their doom from God, according to the actings of this principle in their hearts and lives.

3. How thankful should we be for the rich provisions of the Gospel!

Who among us could stand, if we were to be justified only by our obedience to this law? Who would venture his salvation upon it, even for one single day? Alas! "in many things we all offend," there is not a human being who does not come very short of the requirements of perfect charity. We need then, all of us, to wash in "the fountain opened for sin and for impurity;" and to seek an interest in that Savior, who alone fulfilled the law in all its full extent.

Nor can we obey this law at all, any farther than we are assisted by divine grace. We need the influences of the Holy Spirit, to mortify and subdue the risings of uncharitableness within us. Whatever we may have attained, "the flesh still lusts against the Spirit, so that we cannot do the things that we would." But, blessed be God! the Holy Spirit is promised unto all who desire his gracious influences, and his operation shall be effectual for the ends and purposes for which he is given.

While then we strive to be holy as God is holy, let us seek all our help from above, and "live by faith on the Son of God, who has loved us, and given himself for us."

 

MDCCCCLXXXVII

The Saints' Views in Heaven

1 Corinthians 13:9–12. We know in part, and we prophecy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

In the chapter before us, the Apostle expatiates upon the nature of true charity; developing it in all its properties, and in all its operations. And, having done this with a singular felicity of thought and expression, he declares the superiority of this grace above everything else, whether gifts or graces; and that too, not only on account of its own intrinsic excellence, but on account of its duration; because, when all other things shall have passed away, this will endure through eternal ages.

To enter fully into the Apostle's views, we must notice, in succession,

I. His statement of the subject.

Whatever we possess here, we have it only "in part."

God, in his mercy, has given us a revelation: but this revelation contains but a very small part of what God might have revealed, if it had pleased him to do so. And the knowledge which we have of what he has revealed, is extremely partial and superficial. What know we of God, and his perfections? of Christ, and his offices? of the Holy Spirit, and his operations? What know we of the human heart, and its unsearchable depravity? What know we of the "riches of Christ," and of all the wonders of redemption, "the length and breadth, and depth and height, of which surpass" all finite comprehension.

And even what knowledge we do possess shall in the eternal world "be done away."

We shall have no need of the written word to teach us, when once we are brought into the presence of God; nor will our present imperfect conceptions of it abide with us. The word, which at present is to us as the polar star, will then vanish from our sight; and the views which we now have of it, like those of the early dawn, will be dispelled; both the one and the other giving way, as darkness before the noon-day sun—To what purpose would a man carry a taper in the day-time? Even so the light within us, and the light without, will add nothing to the brightness of the objects in Heaven, or to the clearness of our perception of them, when once we shall behold them in their "perfect" state.

But this will receive additional light from,

II. His illustration of it.

We all know how imperfect the conceptions of a child are, in comparison of what he possesses when he is become a man.

A child speaks without reflection, chooses without judgment, reasons without solidity: but, when he becomes a man he exercises all his faculties in a more appropriate and becoming manner. He no longer utters the unmeaning and senseless sounds which emanated from him in his infant state, or makes the trifling observations that befitted him when he first began to speak. Nor does he set his mind on things which are of no value, in preference to those that are of real and important use. Nor, though he still may err in his reasonings, does he any longer found his conclusions on premises which have no apparent connection with them. His intellectual powers being expanded by use and exercise, he dismisses, as unworthy of him, the puerilities which he once affected.

Still more imperfect are our present views of eternal things, in comparison of what they will be in a future state.

Now "we see them all as in a mirror, darkly," they appear to us as a riddle or enigma, which we cannot without great difficulty comprehend. The incarnation of God's only dear Son, his substitution in the place of sinful man, the atonement offered by him for sin, his intercession for us at the right hand of God, his appointment to be the Head of vital influence to his Church and people, our union with him by faith—what know we of these, and ten thousand other mysteries of our holy religion? the darkest riddle that ever was propounded is more level with our apprehension than these mysterious truths. And what know we of the felicity of Heaven? What conception can we form of the soul's exercises in its disembodied state; or of the glory of the Godhead, as shining forth to the view of the glorified saints and angels? Even the resurrection of the body, what know we about it? or what notion have we of a spiritual body? We must all confess, that our present views are so indistinct, as scarcely to deserve the name of knowledge. But when we shall behold God "face to face," and "see the Lord Jesus Christ as he is," then will our faculties be wonderfully enlarged, and our perceptions be infinitely more clear. O what views shall we then have of our own sinfulness, and of the Redeemer's love! What an apprehension shall we then have of the perfections of our God, as united and harmonizing in the great work of redemption! Our knowledge will then arise, not, as now, from a variety of ideas communicated in succession to the mind, but from one intuitive perception: we shall see God, and the things of God, in some measure as God himself sees us: he sees the whole of us, even the inmost recesses of our souls, all at once, with equal clearness in every part: and somewhat of the same kind will be our knowledge of him, though, of course, in an infinitely lower degree: for "then shall we know even as also we are known."

See, then,

1. In what light we should regard death.

To an ungodly man, indeed, death will be terrible, beyond all conception; because it will introduce him to a perfect knowledge of all those terrors, which, in this world, he would not believe. But to the true Christian, death is the door of entrance into glory. It is the friendly messenger sent to us by God, in answer to that prayer of our blessed Savior; "Father, I will that they whom you have given me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me." Who, then, would deprecate it? Who should not account it gain, and number it among his treasures? Who should not desire to depart, that he may be with Christ?" Methinks it is a shame to Christians to be wedded to life, except for the purpose of honoring God, and advancing in a fitness for the heavenly inheritance.

2. In what light we should regard this present life.

This is a state of childhood; and, as children are educated for the purpose of acting their part as men upon earth, so should we be preparing daily to act our part in Heaven. We should now be searching into all those truths which will there be more fully revealed to us, and be obtaining those dispositions which will qualify us for the enjoyment of them—And here let me say, that the great and learned will do well to remember what they are; and the poor and unlearned will do well to look forward to what they will be. Our felicity above will be proportioned, not to our intellectual, but moral, attainments: and as, even in this world, "God often reveals to babes and sucklings what he has hid from the wise and prudent," so much more, in the eternal world, will he most largely impart both knowledge and happiness to those who, in the present state, evince most fully the teachableness and humility of little children.

To all then I say, If you will be men indeed, "put away childish things." Put away your foolish communications, your corrupt affections, and your vain reasonings. Form your judgment, and exercise your inclinations, in accordance with the word of God. Begin to view things, here, as you will view them hereafter. Be no longer children, but men. If you look at the world around you, what are they but children of a larger growth? The dispositions and habits of those most advanced in life are, for the most part, not at all different from what they were in the earlier stages of their existence: earthly vanities still retain their ascendant over their minds; and the realities of the eternal world have as little influence over them as ever. Let it not be so, my brethren; but now begin to obtain those views, to cherish those desires, and to follow those pursuits, which a more enlightened judgment will dictate, and which will approve themselves as wise in the eternal world.

 

MDCCCCLXXXVIII

Faith, Hope, and Charity, Compared

1 Corinthians 13:13. And now abides faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

THE scope of the whole chapter is, to show the superiority of Christian love or charity to all the gifts that were so erroneously estimated, and so ostentatiously displayed, in the Church of Corinth. In the course of his argument, the Apostle enumerates the principal offices of charity, and marks with singular accuracy and minuteness its proper qualities. The last of the properties which he mentions is, that it "never fails;" while all miraculous powers, of whatever kind they be, are but for the short period of this present life. They, he observes, will soon vanish; but this, instead of disappearing, will endure in uninterrupted exercise, and be continued in undeviating perfection for evermore. Thus incidentally he is led to speak of the whole experience of Christians in relation to the objects of their faith and hope: they view them all but indistinctly, and know them very imperfectly; having little better conception of them than of a riddle, or enigma, in which some leading particulars only are set forth; and the rest is left, as it were, as matter of conjecture. In short, Christians, not excepting the Apostle himself, are but children, in relation to the deep things of God; and, when they shall be exalted to Heaven, they will discard all their puerile notions respecting them, just as they now do the weaknesses of childhood on their arrival at man's estate. The Apostle having thus, unintentionally as it were, been drawn from the consideration of miraculous gifts to the mention of Christian graces, proceeds to assert the superiority of love among the sister graces of faith and hope, as he had before shown its superiority to all the miraculous powers that ever were possessed: "There now remain" (for constant use and exercise) "faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

To confirm this declaration, we will show,

I. The distinguishing excellencies of faith and hope.

These, with love, form the cardinal graces of a Christian: and they are indispensable to his happiness, both in this world and in the world to come. That we may know how to appreciate their value, we will distinctly notice the excellencies,

1. Of faith.

This, when infused into the soul by the Spirit of God, and called forth into exercise according to the will of God, is a principle truly wonderful. It beholds things that are invisible; and presents to the eye of the mind all the perfections and purposes of God himself. It is conversant with all that God has ever revealed; and especially with that stupendous mystery, the redemption of the world by God's only dear Son, and the restoration of men to the Divine image by the influence and operation of the Holy Spirit. It goes farther still; and apprehends all that God has ever promised, and appropriates to itself all the blessings of his everlasting covenant. It seizes by a holy violence all that God is, and all that God has, even all his glory; and invests the soul with all of it, as its present and everlasting portion. It brings Christ himself down into the soul; fills it with his love, and enriches it with all his fullness. As for difficulties they all vanish, and are dispelled by the power of faith. There is a kind of omnipotence in this grace. No enemy can withstand it: "All things are possible to him that believes." The more dark our way is, the more scope there is for the exercise of this grace, and the more it triumphs. In this point of view, it, far beyond any other grace, reflects honor on God: it fixes on the Divine perfections, and calls every one of them to its aid: it presses even justice itself into its service; and never will let go its claims upon God's mercy and truth: it finds quite sufficient encouragement in a single promise. See it in Abraham: he assured himself, that though Isaac should be slain and reduced to ashes, he should be raised again from the dead, and the promises should be fulfilled in him. And thus does faith operate in the hearts of all; and, in proportion as it operates, secures to us a victory over all the enemies of our salvation.

2. Of hope.

This is a less comprehensive grace than faith: for faith has respect to everything that is revealed, whether past, present, or future; and to things evil, as well as good: whereas hope respects futurity only, and only that which is either really, or in its own conception, good. It is also a less honorable grace than faith: for its existence is derived from faith, and altogether dependent on it; and it has respect only to our own personal happiness, while faith rises above self, and seeks to advance the glory of God.

Still however it is a grace of vast importance; and the entire absence of it is the most striking character of Hell, where all are immersed in darkness and despair. This is the grace which encourages and supports the soul in all its conflicts with sin and Satan. In the panoply of God it holds a most conspicuous place: it is the helmet that protects the head, and the breast-plate that defends the heart: so that, where hope is kept in exercise, Satan cannot inflict any deadly wound. True, he may raise storms and tempests around the soul, and menace it with instant destruction: but hope casts "its anchor within the veil;" and, deriving thence "a sure and steadfast" support, defies the utmost efforts of our great adversary. How often would the strongest believer have failed, if he had not received support from this grace! "I should have fainted," says David, "unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." It was no less by this grace, than by faith itself, that the saints of old were enabled to endure the great fight of afflictions which they were called to sustain. On this account hope is said to save us, no less than faith: for though faith brings us into the way of salvation, it is hope that enables us to endure unto the end.

After such a view of faith and hope, it will almost be thought, that no higher commendation can be bestowed on any other grace: but there is abundant scope yet left for showing,

II. The superior excellence of charity.

Of the three graces, the Apostle expressly asserts, that "the greatest is charity." And its superiority will be found,

1. In its nature.

Faith and hope, how excellent soever they be, derive all their value from the objects on which they terminate. If they had respect only to human testimony, and temporal objects, they would be of little worth: it is their connection with God and with eternity, that so elevates them in the scale of Christian graces. But charity has an essential goodness in itself, irrespective of any objects toward whom it may be exercised. If we could suppose that the whole human race both in Heaven and earth were swept away, so that we could never find a being towards whom the grace of charity could be exercised, still would the disposition itself be good. As God himself would have been good, even though no creature had ever existed towards whom his goodness should be displayed; so would the grace of charity be good, though there never should be found any scope for its exercise. It is the image of God upon the soul. God himself has no higher character than love: and, if in this character we resemble him, we have the highest excellence of which our nature is capable.

Only let us consider what the existence of charity in the soul supposes. It supposes the subjugation of all the evils that are opposed to love; as pride, envy, hatred, wrath, selfishness; and the presence of all the virtues which were in Christ Jesus. They were all comprehended in this single word, love; and consequently, the existence of this grace in the soul most assimilates us to Christ, "in whom was no sin, and in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."

Nor should it be overlooked, that the production of love in the soul was the end for which all God's other mercies were given: for that even faith and hope were given; nor have they any value, any farther than they are conducive to this end: and consequently love, for which alone they are given, must be greater than they; just as health, for which alone medicine is given, is better than medicine, which is valuable only as it is subservient to the preservation, or re-establishment, of health. The end must of necessity be greater than the means.

2. In its duration.

Faith and hope must soon cease; the one terminating in sight, and the other being consummated in fruition. But not so the grace of love: that will endure to all eternity; the exercise of it being the one employment and blessedness of Heaven. The other graces which have been instrumental to the formation of this, will be no longer wanted, when this is perfected in the soul: they will therefore be dismissed, as having no longer any scope for exercise.

But when the scaffolding is removed, the building will appear in all its glory, the most wonderful monument of the power and grace of Christ. Then indeed will Christ "be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe;" for every one of them will then "be fully like him, when they shall see him as he is."

Thus, how excellent soever the graces of faith and hope may be, that of charity far excels them both: for those will find no place in Heaven; but this will remain an everlasting source of blessedness to man, and an eternal theme of honor to our God.

Seeing, however, that during this present life "these three remain," and are to be cultivated with incessant care, we will close the subject with some directions for the exercise of them:

1. Keep them ever united in your hearts.

No one of them can be dispensed with: if one be wanting, we must perish. We must indeed keep each of them in its place, and assign to each its proper office. We must not think that faith can save us, if it do not "work by love;" or that hope can benefit us, if it do not "purify us as Christ is pure;" or that love can supersede the necessity of faith in the work of our justification before God. We can be justified by faith only: but by love we must prove the truth of our faith. We must not imagine, that, because love is greater than faith, we are therefore to be saved by love. The eye is more excellent than the ear; but it cannot on that account perform the office of the ear, nor supersede the necessity of hearing, in order to the perfection of our present state: faith, hope, and love, have all their distinct offices, and must all be exercised for their respective ends—faith, to justify our souls; hope, to keep us steadfast in our spiritual course; and love, to form our fitness for the heavenly inheritance. Let all then be sought, and all be exercised, that God may be glorified in all.

2. Let them all be held fast, whatever trials you may have to encounter in the exercise of them.

No one of them can be maintained without much difficulty. Your great adversary will assault them all in their turn. In Adam he succeeded to destroy them all: and he would succeed to root them out of our hearts also, if the Lord Jesus did not secure, by his continual intercession, the establishment of them in our souls. Not that they can be maintained without strenuous and unintermitted exertions on our part. We must "watch and pray that we enter not into temptation," and when temptation comes, we must "not stagger at the promises through unbelief, but be strong in faith, giving glory to God." We must also "hold fast the rejoicing of our hope firm unto the end." Under the influence of love too, we must "let patience have its perfect work, that we may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing." Thus shall we "grow up into Christ as our living Head;" thus shall we attain "the full measure of the stature" which he has ordained for us; and thus shall we be fitted for those regions of love, where we shall completely resemble Christ, and participate, with all the myriads of his redeemed, the glory and felicity of the God of love.

 

MDCCCCLXXXIX

Christ a Dying and a Risen Savior

1 Corinthians 15:1, 2. Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; by which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain.

SCARCELY had the good seed of the Gospel been sown in the world, before Satan, by his agents, scattered tares, which in the earlier stages of their growth could not easily be distinguished from them, and from which the field will never be wholly freed until the harvest. The resurrection itself, that most fundamental doctrine of Christianity, on which every other doctrine rests, was denied by many. A Sadducean spirit of infidelity was imported into the Church from among the Jewish converts, as a vain philosophy was from among the Gentiles; and both concurred to bring into doubt the resurrection from the dead—the one denying that it ever could take place, and the other asserting that it was only a mystical change which had taken place already: and between them both "the faith of many was overthrown." Paul therefore, in the close of this epistle, set himself to counteract these errors, and to establish, for the benefit of the Church in all future ages, the truth which he had invariably maintained. He first shows that Christ had risen; and from thence he proceeds to prove that we also shall rise in like manner. But it is with the former position alone that we are concerned at present, that alone being referred to in the words before us; from which we shall be led to show you,

I. What was the Gospel which Paul preached.

This is told us more fully in the words following our text.

The Apostle preached, that Christ had both died and risen according to the Scriptures.

The Scriptures of the Old Testament had invariably asserted that Christ should suffer, and that he should rise again on the third day. Both these things were in some degree intimated in the first promise, that "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head;" but they were more plainly revealed in the institutions of the Mosaic law, especially in the ordinance of the two birds; the one of which was killed, and the other, when dipped in the blood of the one that had been killed, being suffered to fly away: as also in the appointment of the scape-goat, which carried into the wilderness all the sins which had been previously expiated by the blood of another goat that had been slain. Both the one and the other had also been subjects of prophecy; his death being foretold in all its minutest circumstances—and his resurrection being fixed to a precise time after it, even the third day, before any change towards corruption should have taken place upon his body.

What the Scriptures had thus plainly foretold, was in due time accomplished. The death of Christ was known to the whole Jewish nation, thousands of whom were spectators of it: nor was his resurrection less clearly ascertained; as even the falsehood invented to conceal it fully attests. The variety of occasions on which our Lord appeared to his Disciples after his resurrection, once to above five hundred brethren at once, left no possibility of doubt respecting it: and to testify of this was the great work committed, in the first instance to the the twelve Apostles, and afterwards to the Apostle Paul, to whom Jesus appeared in a vision, on purpose that he might be, in that respect, on a par with all the other Apostles.

This he calls the Gospel.

This, in truth, is the Gospel: and it comprehends all that is necessary for us to know. That "Christ died for our sins, and rose again for our justification," is the sum and substance of that mystery, which God from all eternity devised for the redemption of fallen man, and which is unfolded to us in the writings of the New Testament. We may expatiate upon the various parts of this mystery, so as to exhibit them more clearly and fully to your view; but we can never add to it: to attempt to add anything to it, were to destroy it utterly. There is no redemption but through the death of Christ; no salvation, but through his renovated life.

Paul having stated what the Gospel is, proceeds to show.

II. In what manner it should be regarded by us.

The Corinthians "had received it into their hearts." and were at that time "standing in it;" and this shows us what we also must do.

1. We must "receive it" into our hearts by faith.

We must "receive it" as true. There must be no doubt in our minds respecting it. We must have no more doubt of Christ expiating our guilt by his death, or of his

rising to carry on in Heaven the work he began on earth, than of our own existence. We must be thoroughly established in these great and fundamental truths. To question either the one or the other of them in any degree, were little better than to renounce Christianity altogether.

We must receive it also as suitable, yes, as exactly suited to our necessities. We must feel that we need precisely such an atonement as he offered for us; and that we also need a living Savior, who shall make continual intercession for us with the Father, and communicate to us, out of his own inexhaustible fullness, all those supplies of grace and strength as our necessities require. It is this view of the correspondence between the offices of Christ and our necessities, and a consequent affiance in him for the supply of our wants, that constitutes the very essence of saving faith.

We must receive it also as sufficient for us. This great mystery of godliness is absolutely perfect. Nothing can be added to it. And of this we should be fully convinced. We should see that there is in his death a sufficient "atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world," and that there is in him such a fullness of all spiritual gifts, that "he is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him."

In this way is his Gospel to be received, and thus it is that "with the heart man believes unto righteousness."

2. We must "stand fast in it" even to the end.

Nothing must be suffered to turn us away from this faith. We must brave all persecutions, and rather lay down our life than deny the Savior in any manner. "It is he only who will lose his life for Christ's sake, that shall find it unto life eternal." Nor must we yield to the influence of temptations of any kind, so as to be drawn aside by them. "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," if enjoyed in ever so great a degree, will but ill repay us for the loss which we shall sustain by suffering them to choke the good seed of Gospel truth: for "if any man draw back, my soul," says God, "shall have no pleasure in him." Neither must Satan, that subtle adversary, prevail against us by his devices. In ten thousand ways will he endeavor to "turn us from the simplicity that is in Christ," but with "the sword of the Spirit, and the shield of faith" we must resist him until we are crowned with victory, and see him "bruised under our feet." We shall then, and then only, "be partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end."

In the Corinthians themselves we see,

III. The benefits that will accrue to those who duly receive it.

Paul says of them, that "they were saved by it," and this benefit we confidently assure to all who embrace the Gospel with their whole hearts.

1. They shall be brought into a state of acceptance with God.

When our Lord gave his Disciples their commission to preach his Gospel, he expressly authorized them to declare, that "all who believed it should be saved." And in all the book of God there is not to be found so much as one single word against a penitent believer. "All who believe," says Paul, "are justified from all things," even sins of a crimson dye are so washed as to be made "white as snow."

2. They shall have the earnest and foretaste of the heavenly glory.

There is no limit to the blessings promised to the true believer. The Spirit of God shall be poured out upon him, to reveal all the Father's love, and all the glory of Christ, to the soul. "He will glorify Christ, and take of the things that are his, and show them unto us." He will be in us "a Spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry, Abba, Father," He "will witness to our spirits that we are the children of God," He will give us "an earnest of our eternal inheritance," and "seal us unto the day of complete redemption."

3. They shall be brought in safety to the full possession of their everlasting inheritance.

It is here supposed that they "stand fast in the faith;" for if they "make shipwreck of the faith," they cannot hope for the blessings which are promised to those only who "endure unto the end." Hence is that caution given in our text; "You are saved, if you keep in memory (and hold fast to the end) what I have preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain." If our faith be only a dead faith, it will be in vain: for in this sense even "the devils believe and tremble." But, if our faith be living and lively, we need not fear. That never shall be exercised in vain. That shall overcome everything that is opposed to it, and shall remove all the mountains that oppose our spiritual progress. Only live truly by faith on the Son of God as having loved you and given himself for you, and God pledges himself that "none shall ever pluck you out of his hands," and that "you shall never perish, but shall have everlasting life." By the exercise of this "faith you shall be kept by the power of God to a full and everlasting salvation;" for the Gospel still is, no less than in the Apostolic age, "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes."

We would improve this subject,

1. In a way of inquiry.

Have you received this Gospel as you ought? We ask not whether you have a mere notional and speculative belief of it; for that is common to all who bear the Christian name: but have you such a faith in Christ as enables you to rejoice in all that he has done, and is yet doing, for you? Do you glory in him, and renounce every other ground of hope, and "cleave to him with full purpose of heart?" Do not deceive yourselves in relation to these things; for no faith is saving but that which brings you daily to the foot of his cross, and causes you to receive daily out of his fullness all the blessings which you stand in need of.

2. In a way of caution.

Those who are fettered by human systems pass over such cautions as are given in our text: but we dare not act thus. We are persuaded that cautions against apostasy are as necessary in their place as promises of perseverance. Attend then to the caution about "holding fast" what has been preached to you. Innumerable are the cautions given us in the Scriptures upon this head: and it is by a beneficial fear of apostasy that God will keep us. "Beware then lest, being led away with the error of the wicked, you fall from your own steadfastness." Know where your strength is, even in your risen and exalted Savior; and live altogether by faith in him, "holding fast your confidence, and the rejoicing of your hope firm unto the end."

3. In a way of encouragement.

Cleave thus unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and "you shall be saved." However numerous or powerful your enemies may be, they shall not prevail against you: for "greater is he who is in you, than he who is in the world." If indeed Christ be not able to keep you, then you may well give way to fears: but, if his death be a sufficient atonement for the sins of the whole world, and all power in Heaven and in earth be committed to him for the use of his Church and people, then you may dismiss all fear: for, though only a worm in yourselves, you shall "thresh the mountains." Be strong then, you fearful and faint-hearted: for "he will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, but will bring forth judgment unto victory." He has said that "of those who have been given him he will lose none;" and he is faithful who has promised. "Fear not; only believe: and according to your faith it shall be unto you."

 

MDCCCCXC

All of Grace

1 Corinthians 15:10. By the grace of God I am what I am.

EVERY one, however exalted, may find points of comparison in which he is inferior to others; and, instead of envying the superiority of others in those respects, it becomes him contentedly to acquiesce in the Divine appointments, and thankfully to adore God for whatever blessings he enjoys.

Paul, in descanting upon the resurrection of our Lord, has occasion to mention the different manifestations of himself which Christ had given to his Apostles after he had risen from the dead. And in these respects, as well as in the advantages which the other Apostles had enjoyed from the instructions and example of their Divine Master, during the whole period of his ministry on earth, he acknowledged his inferiority to them: for though at a subsequent period Christ had honored him also with an immediate sight of his person, he considered himself as far less honored by this than the other Apostles had been; and, having been himself a persecutor, while they were the faithful servants of their Lord, he regarded himself as no better than an abortion in comparison of the children. But still he was not without many grounds of thankfulness, which he was most ready to acknowledge: "I am not worthy to be called an Apostle," says he; "but by the grace of God I am what I am."

This declaration of his we propose to consider in a two-fold point of view:

I. As a speculative truth.

1. This assertion was true in the Apostle's case.

View him in his first conversion, and there can be no doubt but that the mercy given to him was all of grace. He was a bitter persecutor of the Church of Christ. He was a volunteer in this bloody service: and, of his own accord, sought from the Jewish Sanhedrin a commission to search out, even in a foreign country, all who professed the Christian faith, and to bring them indiscriminately, whether men or women, bound to Jerusalem. In this very employment he was actually engaged, and was come near to the very city where he hoped to seize the victims of his cruel bigotry, when the Lord Jesus Christ arrested him in his mad career, and by his special grace converted him to the faith which he was laboring to destroy. It is further observable, that he alone of all the party heard distinctly the voice that spoke to him, though they beheld the light which shined with preternatural splendor round about them: and he alone of all the party, as far as we know, was converted unto God. What was there in his spirit and conduct that merited such a merciful distinction? Or to what can we refer this mercy but to the free and sovereign grace of God? Here we are compelled to acknowledge an election altogether of grace: and in this interpretation of the event we are fully justified by the assertion of Paul, who traces it to a determination of the Deity long previous to the period when it took place, even to a fore-ordained "separation of him from his mother's womb."

Through the whole of his subsequent life the mercies given to him must be traced to the same source. All his eminent attainments, and all his super-abundant labors, were fruits of the same electing love, and the same effectual grace. This he confessed to the latest hour of his life: he declared, that "in him, that is, in his flesh, dwelt no good thing;" and that his sufficiency even for so much as a good thought was altogether of God alone. And in reference to this truth he displayed in the passage before us a peculiar jealousy: for being, in vindication of himself, constrained to say, that he had labored more abundantly than any other of the Apostles, he adds with holy jealousy for the honor of his God, "yet not I;" "yet, not I, but the grace of God that was with me."

Thus, to say the least, respecting the Apostle Paul the assertion in our text was true, "By the grace of God he was what he was." But,

2. It is true with respect to us also.

What is the state of every man previous to his conversion? Are we not all "dead in trespasses and sins?" Have we not a "carnal mind that is enmity against God?" Do we not "walk according to the course of this world, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind?" and are we not all "children of wrath, even as others?" What then is there in us that can operate as a motive with God to bestow his grace upon us rather than upon others? It is clear enough, that the same word which operates effectually on some to the conversion of their souls, produces on others no other effect than that of exciting greater hostility against the Gospel. To what can this be ascribed but to the sovereign grace of God, whose gifts are his own, and who divides to every man severally as he will? It is also plain, that many under less advantageous circumstances are turned from the power of Satan unto God, while others, with far greater advantages, are left still in bondage to sin and Satan: And what other account can be given of this, than that which our Lord himself supplies, "Even so, Father, for so it seems good in your sight!"

During the whole remainder of our lives it is the same grace which operates even to the end. Demas apostatizes; and Luke perseveres: Peter repents; and Judas commits suicide: Blessed Savior, who would not prove chaff, if you did leave him to be sifted by his great adversary? and whose faith would not fail, if you did not intercede for him in the hour of trial? If any one of us be kept unto salvation, it is by your power and grace alone: you, who have been "the Author of our faith, must also be the Finisher," and, when the head-stone of your spiritual temple shall be brought forth, we must cry, "Grace, grace unto it."

Thus in our own case, as well as in the Apostle's, the glory of all that is good must be given to God alone; who "has loved us with an everlasting love, and therefore with loving-kindness has he drawn us."

But from the speculative view of the Apostle's assertion, let us proceed to notice it,

II. As a practical acknowledgment.

Speculation is of no further value than as it leads to practical results. But the aforementioned truth is discarded by many under the idea of its being replete with injury to the souls of men. In its source, it is supposed to spring from pride; and in its tendency to lead to a total disregard of all moral virtue. Let us then inquire into,

1. Its source.

Does it indeed proceed from pride? Those who cannot endure the thought of God's sovereignty, will affirm confidently that it does: and in reference to all who maintain the doctrine of election, they will exclaim, "These men fancy themselves the special favorites of Heaven." But let me ask, Who are the proud? they who acknowledge themselves to be only as parts of one vast mass of clay, of which the potter, agreeably to his own sovereign will, and for the praise of the glory of his own grace, has taken a part, to form of it a vessel of honor for his own use; or those who assert that they were selected because they were of a finer quality than the mass that was left behind? Who are the proud? they who say with the Apostle, "By the grace of God I am what I am;" or those who say, "By my own strength, and on account of my own superior goodness, I am what I am?" Who, I say, are the proud? they who accept Heaven solely as the free gift of God in Christ Jesus; or they who expect to purchase it at a price which they themselves shall pay? The belief of the doctrines of predestination and election is not founded in pride, but in humility, and in a deep conviction that we are nothing, and have nothing, and can do nothing, but what of itself deserves God's wrath and indignation. It is the denial of these doctrines that proceeds from pride; because it argues a conceit that we have something originally, and of ourselves, which merits the distinction that we hope for in a future world, and to which our ultimate salvation must, in part at least, if not altogether, be ascribed. Will any man say that Paul was actuated by pride, when he said, "Whom God did predestine, them he also called, and justified, and glorified?"—No man ever had a higher sense of the dignity conferred upon him, than Paul had: nor had ever man a deeper sense of his own unworthiness: "I am less than the least of all saints," "I am nothing." And the more deeply we feel our unworthiness, the more cordially shall we acquiesce in his humiliating statements of the freeness and sovereignty of divine grace.

2. Its tendency.

A belief of these doctrines, it is supposed, will produce a laxness in morals. But was the Apostle regardless of morality? or is a deeper sense of obligation to God likely to produce in any mind a less disposition to fulfill his will? Surely its proper tendency is the very reverse of this, even to foster in us every holy disposition towards both God and man.

Towards God—a sense of our entire dependence on his sovereign will, and of our obligation to his sovereign grace, will excite a feeling of gratitude, such as Paul speaks of, when he says, "The love of Christ constrains me." "What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits?" is the question which every one will ask, when once he sees, that "not according to any works of righteousness which we have done, but of his own mercy God has saved us." If once we have a good hope, that we are of "the chosen generation, and of God's peculiar people," we shall exert ourselves to "show forth in every possible way the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light."

Towards man also will these sentiments operate in the most favorable way that can be imagined. A sense of God's electing love will fill us with compassion towards those who are ignorant and out of the way. We shall not, like the proud Pharisee, despise others, but pity them; we shall not say, "Stand off, I am holier than you;" but shall bear in mind, who it is that has made us to differ even from the most abandoned of mankind. And, if a brother fall, we shall not exult over him, but shall endeavor rather to restore him in meekness, considering ourselves, lest we also be tempted.

We will readily grant that there are many truly pious, and even eminent, Christians, who do not embrace systematically, and in profession, the doctrines of predestination and election: but no pious man will ever arrogate merit to himself, or make himself the first moving cause of his own salvation. There is not a saint either in Heaven or earth who will not cordially and from his inmost soul confess, "By the grace of God I am what I am." And, if only the whole glory of our salvation be given to God alone, we are not anxious to press the matter farther, or to insist on terms which they are not willing to admit: if only from their souls they unite in the practical acknowledgment of our text, we will be content to leave the speculative points deduced from it to the judgment of the great day.

Before we close the subject, we will yet farther notice what it contains.

1. For our instruction.

The Apostle ascribed his privileges and attainments to the grace of God: "By the grace of God I am what I am." What then must they do who are yet afar off from God, and have no part with the Apostle either in his privileges or attainments? Let them seek grace from God: let them not trust in their own goodness or strength, but look simply to the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom "they may both obtain mercy, and find grace to help them in the time of need." If only they will renounce all dependence on themselves, they shall receive from the God of all grace a sufficiency for all their wants.

2. For our encouragement.

Who is it that utters the acknowledgment in our text? What, Saul? Saul the blasphemer; Saul the persecutor? Yes, it is even so. But tell us, Paul, what you did to obtain this grace? Did you not earn it? No. Did you not merit it? No. Did you not even seek it? No. And yet it was given you? Yes, when I was in the very act of fighting against God with all my might. Then who shall despair? Who shall say, The grace of God can never reach me; or, if given, can never operate effectually in me? Truly, no man on this side the grave has any reason to despair. Hear what the Apostle says: he tells us that God's particular design in so converting him was, to keep all others from despair; and to make him a pattern and example of his long-suffering to all future generations. Hear this, you who are ready to entertain desponding fears; and know assuredly, that God's grace is his own; that he may give it to whoever he will; and that there is not a creature in the universe for whom it shall not be effectual, if he will but seek it in sincerity and truth.

 

MDCCCCXCI

The Necessity of Christ's Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:17, 18. If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins: then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

THE wisest among the heathen philosophers could not speak with any certainty respecting the future existence of the soul: they could only form conjectures respecting it; so little could unassisted reason do towards the ascertaining of this most important point. As for the resurrection of the body, they deemed it ridiculous and absurd; and considered it as impossible that atoms, so widely dispersed and so variously combined, should ever be reduced to their original form. The Gospel, however, has brought life and immortality to light; and assured us, not only that every soul shall exist in a future world, but that the bodies of men also shall rise out of their graves, and be re-united each to that very soul that once inhabited it. Nevertheless, some, who made a profession of Christianity, were still blinded by the prejudices which they had formerly imbibed. Hence they explained the doctrine of the resurrection in a figurative manner; and said, that it was passed already. The Apostle, therefore, set himself to counteract this dangerous delusion, by proving that there should indeed be a resurrection of the body This he proved from what was fully believed among them, the resurrection of Christ: he showed, that, if Christ was actually risen, there could be no reason why we should not rise in like manner; but that, on the contrary, his resurrection was a pattern and an earnest of ours. In order to give additional weight to this argument, he proves incontestibly that Christ himself had risen; he proves it, I say, by an appeal to numberless living witnesses who had seen him: and then he sets before them three most tremendous consequences which would follow, on a supposition that he was not risen: "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins; then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." This argument of the Apostle's being of the greatest importance, we will endeavor,

I. To confirm;

II. To improve it.

I. To confirm his argument—It consists of three parts, which he mentions as consequences that will follow from a denial of Christ's resurrection.

1. If Christ be not risen, our faith is vain.

The Christian, as long as he is in the world, is called to the exercise of faith: he walks by faith, and not by sight: he lives upon a Savior whom he has never seen with his bodily eyes, and receives a supply of every want out of his fullness. By faith we view Jesus as a surety: we consider him as having discharged our debt: this is the ground on which we hope that our sins shall never be put to our account. We believe what the Scripture says, that "it was exacted of him and he was made answerable;" and that his death was a sufficient compensation for the debt which we had incurred. But what proof have we that he has paid the debt, if he be not risen? We may suppose that he undertook to pay it; and that he laid down his life in order to pay it; but this will by no means prove that he has fully satisfied the demands of law and justice. If a man that has become our surety remain in prison, it is a sign that he has not made good the payment which he had taken upon himself; but if he be set free, we then conclude that the creditors have been satisfied. So, if Christ had yet been confined in the prison of the grave, we might have concluded that the debt was yet unpaid; and consequently, our faith in him as our surety would have been vain and delusive: for, notwithstanding all which Jesus might have done for us, there would yet have remained some part of the debt to be discharged by us, and we must therefore have despaired of ever obtaining happiness in the eternal world.

Again: By faith we view Jesus as an Advocate. We are still offending daily in many things; so that, notwithstanding we have been reconciled to God, we should soon provoke him to withdraw his mercy from us, and to shut up his loving-kindness in displeasure. But the Scripture says, that, "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." By faith, we look to him to intercede for us; to plead our cause; and to maintain our peace with God. But what ground have we for such a hope if Christ be not risen? Instead of being in Heaven to plead our cause, he still lies in the affections of the earth: instead of living to promote our interests, he is no better than a senseless and inanimate corpse. How vain therefore must be our expectations, when we indulge the thought of his prevailing intercessions! We are but buoying up ourselves with groundless hopes, and weaving a web which shall soon be swept away by the broom of destruction.

Once more:—By faith we view Jesus as a Head of all vital influences. The Scripture speaks of him as the vine, and us as the branches; and represents him as "Head over all things to the Church." We look therefore to him that we may receive out of his fullness: we expect grace and peace from him to be communicated to us in the hour of need: we consider ourselves as withered branches, when separated from him, and as no longer having a capacity to bring forth any fruit than while we are united to him, and derive sap and nourishment from him. But what a delusion must this be, if Christ be not risen! If he be not risen, he is still dead: and how can that which is destitute of life impart life to us? What can we possibly receive from him if he be still imprisoned in the grave? We see, then, that whether we regard him as our Surety, our Advocate, or our Head, our faith is vain if he be not risen; yes, we are left under the most deplorable error and delusion that ever engrossed the mind of man.

The next consequence that would follow upon a denial of Christ's resurrection would be, that we should be yet in our sins.

It is the believer's privilege to be free from sin, and to stand in the presence of God without spot or blemish. But this removal of his sins depends upon various circumstances, which are grounded upon the resurrection of Christ.

In the first place, the removal of our sins depends on the truth of our Lord's mission: and the truth of his mission stands or falls with his resurrection. Our Lord constantly spoke of his resurrection on the third day as the grand proof which should be given of his Divine mission. Whether he spoke to friends or enemies, still this he proposed as the test whereby to try the truth of all he said; insomuch that his enemies were peculiarly solicitous to prevent, if possible, the accomplishment of these predictions; knowing that, if they should be fulfilled, the authority of his mission would be fully established. Now let us suppose for a moment that Christ had not risen, what must we have concluded? Surely, that he was an impostor; that he had deceived his followers by specious pretenses; and that, so far from being able to remove our guilt, he perished under the weight of his own most accumulated wickedness.

Again: The removal of our sins depends on the acceptance of his sacrifice. He offered himself as a sacrifice to God, in order that he might expiate our offences; and on the acceptance of this, our eternal happiness depends: if God receive it as an offering of a sweet-smelling savor, we may hope he will be propitious to us on account of it; but if he do not declare himself well-pleased with it, we are left altogether without a remedy. Now how shall it be known whether God has accepted it or not? If we are to judge by the circumstances of our Lord's death, we should rather conclude that the Father took no pleasure in him, since our Lord himself so bitterly complained of the dereliction which he experienced in the very hour of his extremity. We must judge therefore by his resurrection: and that this was to be the test is evident from the sacrifices which were under the law. It was not consistent with the Divine will that the beasts that were sacrificed should be restored to life; but yet this was done in a figure: for one goat was slain to expiate sin by his blood, and another goat was sent away into the wilderness, laden with the iniquities of all the people. So when birds were offered; one was slain, and another was dipped in the blood of that which was slain, and then let loose into the air. These were types of our Savior, who was first to be slain, and then to be raised from the dead, and ascend into the highest heavens; and if he had not risen, we should have had no proof whatever that his sacrifice was accepted. Yet on the acceptance of this sacrifice the removal of our sins entirely depended; so that if Christ be not risen, we must be yet in our sins.

Once more: The removal of our sins depends on our Lord's execution of his office. Our Lord undertook the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King; and though he did in part fulfill these offices on earth, yet he fulfilled them only in part; the principal accomplishment of them remained to take place after he should be seated in Heaven: he was then, as the great Prophet of the Church, to reveal the will of God more fully, and teach by his Spirit those, who, for want of a divine illumination, could not comprehend the truths he had delivered. As the great High Priest, he was to enter within the veil: it was not sufficient that the high priest offered the sacrifice on the day of atonement; he was also to carry the blood into the holy of holies, to sprinkle it on the mercy-seat, to offer incense, and then to come out and bless the people. So, our Lord was under a necessity of rising again, that he might enter into Heaven with his own blood, that he might there present it before the mercy-seat; and that, after offering the incense of his continual intercession, he might, in due time, come forth to bless the people. As a King, also, he had only as yet asserted his kingly office and authority; it was necessary therefore that he should go to the right hand of God, and there sit until all his enemies should be made his footstool. Now, if he did not rise, he cannot execute any of these offices; and yet upon the execution of them depends the removal of our sins: so then, if he be not risen, we are yet in our sins.

We see therefore, that, as the removal of our sins depends on the truth of his mission, the acceptance of his sacrifice, and the execution of his offices; and as all these depend on his resurrection, we must, if he be not risen, be yet in our sins.

A third consequence that would follow from the denial of Christ's resurrection is, that they also who have fallen asleep in Christ are perished. Death to the believer is only as a sleep; it has lost its sting: and as he commends himself to the Divine protection when he lies down upon his bed, so he commits his departing spirit into his Savior's hands, and falls asleep in Christ; and while his body lies moldering in the dust, his soul is carried by angels into Abraham's bosom: but if Christ be not risen, all who from the beginning of the world have fallen asleep in Christ have perished: either their souls have been annihilated at their separation from the body; or rather they have become the monuments of God's wrath and indignation.

For, in the first place, all that have fallen asleep in Christ, have, on a supposition that Christ is not risen, built their hopes on a sandy foundation. They have relied wholly on the merit of Christ's blood, and expected justification only through his obedience unto death: and, as they have trusted in his righteousness, so have they gloried in his strength; not going forth against any enemy, but in his name, and in reliance upon his grace: nor have they trusted in anything but in his continual intercession for maintaining their peace with God. In short, they have made Christ their only foundation, on whom they have built all their hopes. Now if Christ be not risen, that foundation has failed them, and consequently all the superstructure must fall to the ground: so that, notwithstanding all their affiance in him, they are perished; yes, though they committed their departing spirits into his hands, they were not saved: for he could not help them; he could not hear their prayer: in trusting to him they trusted only to a broken reed, which now pierces them through with unutterable and everlasting anguish.

Again: If Christ be not risen, they are perished; because, however zealous they were of good works, their works were not sufficient to justify them before God. We cannot indeed conceive more eminent piety than Abraham discovered in leaving his country and sacrificing his own son; or than David manifested in his incessant praises and thanksgivings; or than Stephen showed when laying down his life for Christ, and praying for his murderers. And yet behold what the text asserts; "they all are perished if Christ be not risen." The reason is plain: they were transgressors of God's law; as transgressors, they were subject to the curse and condemnation of the law; nor could anything less than an infinitely valuable atonement remove that curse. In vain they prayed; in vain they strove; in vain they endeavored to do the will of God; in vain they laid down their lives for his sake; they were under the curse; and cursed they must be, if Christ did not become their Savior. But he could not become a Savior to them if he did not rise; and therefore, if he be not risen, they are all, without exception, perished. They are perished; first, because their foundation failed them; and next, because, that having failed, no hope remained to them from anything which they themselves could do. It is now plain, I trust, that the consequences which the Apostle states as following a denial of our Lord's resurrection are true, and that his argument is strictly just. Having therefore confirmed his argument, we proceed,

II. To improve it.

It will be to little purpose to know the force of the Apostle's reasoning, unless we deduce from it those practical inferences which may bring it home to our hearts and consciences.

First, then, We may see from hence how ignorant they are that seek salvation by works!

The generality of mankind are hoping to be saved for something which they have done, or something which they intend to do: indeed even those who have lived in all manner of evil tempers and sensual indulgences are yet often so blind, as to be the most strenuous in contending for the merit of good works, and in crying out against those who speak of salvation by faith. But do these people fancy themselves wiser and better than all the saints of old? Will any one say that Stephen was not an eminently pious man? Was he not chosen out by the people, because he was full of faith and the Holy Spirit? Was he not endued with peculiar gifts, insomuch that his adversaries could not resist the spirit and wisdom with which he spoke? Did he not also manifest a peculiar excellence of disposition? Did he not with all fidelity charge the people's sins upon them? and, when they were in the very act of stoning him, did he not, after the example of our Lord, pray for his murderers? Did he not willingly seal the truth with his blood? Was he not so highly honored of God that his face was made to shine like the face of an angel? and was he not, even while in the body, favored with a sight of God, and of Christ, as standing at the right hand of God? Say now, Where shall we find a man that bids more fair to be saved by his works than he? yet was he saved by his works? or could he be saved by his works? No. Notwithstanding all his works, he needed the blood of Christ to cleanse him from sin: he needed Christ, as his Advocate and Strength, his Savior and his all; and if Christ be not in a capacity to save him, he is perished. Nor have his works availed him anything more than to lessen in some degree the condemnation he would otherwise have endured. Who then are you that Seek to be justified by your works? Are you as eminent as Stephen? if not, how can you hope to be saved, when even he, if he had no better ground of confidence than his own works, must have perished? Or suppose that you were as good as he, still you must meet with the same fate; you must perish, and that eternally, if you rely on anything but a crucified and exalted Savior. Oh, then, blush at your ignorance, you proud, self-justifying sinners! See how Satan has blinded your eyes! See how far you are from the way of salvation! Oh, let me beseech you for Christ's sake, and for your soul's sake, to renounce all your self-righteous hopes and endeavors, and to rely on him who alone can save you, and who is able to save you to the uttermost.

Secondly. We may see from hence how miserable is the state of unbelievers!

By unbelievers, we mean, not only those who deliberately reject Christ, but all who do not actually enjoy an interest in him. Now these persons, whatever they may think of themselves, and however they may bless themselves because of the abundance of earthly things which they possess, are in as miserable a state as can well be conceived: for, as they have no interest in Christ, it is eventually the same to them as if he had never risen: only with this difference, that their guilt is much greater by neglecting the Savior, than it could have been without such an aggravation. What then is their state? precisely that mentioned in the text; "their faith, as far as they have any, is all vain," even though they assent to all which is spoken concerning Christ, 'tis all in vain: "They are yet in their sins;" all the load of their iniquities lies upon them, and the curse of God hangs over their devoted head. They will also "perish" whenever they die; there cannot possibly be any admission for them into Heaven: perish they must; and remain forever the monuments of God's displeasure. And now say, is not this a miserable state? What though a man have a large estate, can that make him happy? What though he have a form of godliness, can that make him happy! No, he must have an interest in Christ, or he will be a poor miserable wretch forever. Oh! my brethren, seek an interest in this risen Savior: think of him, not only as dying for your offences, but as risen again for your justification: and be assured, that, as you shall be reconciled to God by the death of his Son, so, much more, being reconciled, you shall be saved by his life. Do not conclude too hastily that you have an interest in the Savior: see whether you are "risen with him through a faith of the operation of God?" and never rest until you can say, "I know in whom I have believed."

Lastly. We see from hence how happy is the state of true believers! The resurrection of Christ, which is the foundation of all their hopes, is proved beyond a possibility of doubt: the very means taken to conceal it are among the most convincing proofs of its reality. On the very same basis, your hopes are founded: he has said, "Because I live, you shall live also." Think then with yourselves, that at this moment, your faith, so far from being in vain, avails for all the purposes for which it is exercised: it secures your interest in Christ as your Surety, Advocate, and Head; and brings in an abundance of all spiritual blessings to your soul. Instead of being in your sins, they are put away from you as far as the east is from the west; nor shall they evermore be remembered against you. God has already said concerning every such soul, as he did concerning Joshua; "Take away the filthy garments from him: behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you, and I will clothe you with change of clothing." Further—When you die, you will not perish with the ungodly world, but will go to take possession of a "kingdom." You will have a crown of glory on your head, and a golden harp in your hand: you will be seated on your Savior's throne; and shall sing his praises for evermore. Happy soul! "what manner of love is this with which the Father has loved you!" Hail, you that are highly favored of the Lord! Rejoice, rejoice, you servant of the Most High God! Your Savior, possessed of all power in Heaven and in earth, watches over you continually: he gives his angels charge over you: he gives you everything that is for your good: and though perhaps he deals with you not exactly as you might wish, he is daily preparing you for glory, and making you meet for your inheritance. Oh, then, love and serve this risen Savior; and set your affections on things above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Let it be your endeavor to keep your conversation in Heaven: and while you are living upon the Savior's fullness, oh, strive to live to the glory of his name. Thus will you adorn your holy profession; and when he shall come again to receive you to himself, he will welcome you with these delightful words, "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, from the foundation of the world!"

 

MDCCCCXCII

Adam a Type of Christ

1 Corinthians 15:22. As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

THE fall of man in Adam, and his recovery in Christ, comprehend the whole circle of Divine truth: every part of the revealed will of God is so connected with these two doctrines, that all must stand or fall together. Our death implies the former of them; and our resurrection the latter. Hence Paul, proving the doctrine of the resurrection, adverts to our fall in Adam as an acknowledged truth, and draws a parallel between that and our recovery in Christ.

We shall,

I. Establish the points mentioned in the text.

Nothing can be more certain than that "in Adam all died."

The penalty of eating the forbidden fruit was death, death temporal, spiritual, eternal: and, on the very day that Adam fell, the threatened punishment was inflicted on him, so far, at least, as could consist with God's purposes towards the world at large: the seeds of death were implanted in his body; a spiritual death seized upon his soul; and everlasting death awaited him, unless divine mercy should interpose to deliver him from it. Nor was this a matter which concerned him alone; it involved both him and all his posterity, insomuch that all the human race fell in him, and became obnoxious to temporal, spiritual, eternal death. The very words of the text prove this; yes, they prove it more strongly than any mere assertion could do; because they state it as an allowed fact; and make it the foundation of a most important comparison. And we see it plainly before our eyes. We see that all in successive generations are swept away by death. And as to spiritual death, who does not see how awfully the whole world is "alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, and because of the hardness of their hearts?" As to the eternal death, we see it not: but if we believe the word of God, we can have no doubt, but that thousands are descending daily into those dread abodes, where not so much as one ray of hope can ever enter.

Nor is it less clear that "in Christ shall all be made alive."

Christ was sent into the world to repair the ruins of the fall. By his Spirit he "quickens the souls that were dead in trespasses and sins;" and by his obedience unto death he reconciles them to their offended God. This also is as visible as the former. Look around and see whether some be not endued with a new and heavenly life, whereby they are enabled to live wholly unto God—It is true, that the death of the body is still inflicted upon all: but this ceases to be a punishment to God's people, and must rather be considered as a blessing: "To whoever it is Christ to live, it is gain to die," and the body which is consigned for a while to its native dust, shall at last be raised again "in the likeness of Christ's glorious body," to participate the blessedness of its kindred soul. All this, I say, is restored to us in and through Christ, who on this very account calls himself "the resurrection and the life."

But both these points will be yet further confirmed, while we,

II. Show the correspondence between them.

If it be asked, How did we die in Adam? and, How do we live in Christ? we answer;

1. By means of a federal relation to them.

Neither Adam nor Christ are to be regarded as private individuals, but as the representatives of all mankind. Adam was the covenant head of the whole world: the covenant was made with him for himself and them: had he fulfilled the conditions imposed upon him, there is reason to believe, that the benefits of his obedience would have descended to his latest posterity. For beyond a doubt they are involved in the punishment of his disobedience, and consequently, we may infer that they would have been comprehended in the recompense of his obedience. The death of infants is a decisive evidence, that the sin of Adam is imputed to them; for death is the punishment of sin; and a righteous God will not inflict punishment, where it is not in some way or other merited; therefore they, who have never committed actual sin, and yet are punished, must have guilt imputed to them in some other way, or, in other words, must be chargeable with Adam's guilt. This is the Apostle's own statement; and his conclusion is irresistible.

Christ in the same manner was the head and representative of the elect world: what he did and suffered, he did and suffered in our place and stead; "he, who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we, who had no righteousness, might become the righteousness of God in him." Paul himself not only asserts this, but draws at considerable length this very parallel between Adam and Christ, in order to evince, that, so far from being injured by this constitution of things, we have our loss in Adam far overbalanced by the remedy which God has given us in Christ.

2. By the communication of their nature to us.

Adam was formed after God's image, pure and holy; but he begat children in his own fallen image, corrupt and sinful. Nor could he do otherwise; for "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" The fountain being polluted, the streams that issued from it could not but participate of its malignant qualities. Hence it is that we are conceived in sin and born in iniquity; and that all, the Apostles themselves not excepted, "are by nature children of wrath."

Thus Christ also imparts his nature to those whom he has chosen to share his benefits. He makes them "partakers of a divine nature," and transforms them into "the Divine image in righteousness and true holiness," "He himself lives in them;" and thus renders them meet for eternal life, even for the inheritance of the saints in light.

It is, however, proper to observe, that though all are said to die in Adam, and to be made alive in Christ, the benefits received from Christ do not extend to all that are affected by Adam's fall; the word "all" must, in the latter clause, he taken in a more limited sense, and import that, as they, who were represented by Adam, and are partakers of his nature, die in him; so they, who were represented by Christ, and are partakers of his nature, shall live in him.

Inferences.

1. How much of Christ may be seen even in the character of Adam himself!

Adam is expressly said to be "a figure of him that was to come;" and Christ, in reference to him, is called the second Adam. Both of them were the representatives of their respective seeds; but, blessed be God! not with the same success: the one destroyed, the other saves, the souls committed to him. Let us then renounce, as far as possible, our connection with him who has brought condemnation upon us, and seek an union with him, "through whose obedience we may be made righteous."

2. Of what importance is it to understand and receive the Gospel!

It is only by the Gospel that we can be acquainted with the work of Christ, and obtain an interest in him: if we know him not, we remain under all the disadvantages of the fall. It is this Gospel which gives to the least and meanest of us so great an advantage over all the philosophers of Greece and Rome. They saw in what a fallen state the world was: but how it became so, or how it could be remedied, they had no conception. We however know both the one and the other: we know that in Adam we died, and that in Christ we all may be made alive. True, this does not accord well with the dictates of corrupt reason. But to dispute about this doctrine is to no purpose: we are dead in Adam, whether we will believe it or not; nor can we obtain life, but in and through Christ. Let us then not reject the gracious overtures of Christ, but turn to him in this our time of acceptance, this day of our salvation.

3. How thankful should we be for God's distinguishing mercy to the sinners of mankind!

When angels fell, there was no Savior provided for them: they were punished for the first offence, and will remain monuments of God's indignation to all eternity; but we are spared, yes, are saved by the mediation of God's co-equal Son. Let Heaven and earth praise him! and let every tongue now, as surely we shall hereafter, adore him for such unmerited, incomprehensible love!

 

MDCCCCXCIII

Dying Daily

1 Corinthians 15:31. I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

THERE were many in the apostolic age who denied the resurrection of the dead. Paul, in opposition to them, maintained the truth of that doctrine. In confirmation of his word, he asserted that he himself, no less than the other Apostles, had seen the Lord Jesus Christ in his risen state; and that, consequently, there must be a resurrection of the dead; more especially because the Lord Jesus did not rise as a mere individual, but as the head and forerunner of his people, even as the first-fruits before the harvest. He then appeals to his adversaries themselves, whether, upon any other hypothesis than that of a resurrection to a future life of blessedness and glory, it would be possible to account for the conduct of himself and all his fellow Apostles and fellow Christians; all of whom so readily encountered the severest trials that men could endure in this world, in the hope and prospect of approving themselves to God, and of being approved by Him in the day of judgment? "What shall they do who are baptized for the dead," that is, in the room of the dead, like soldiers filling up the ranks of those who have been cut off, if the "dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead? and why stand we in jeopardy every hour?" Then, for their conviction, he protests most solemnly before God, that this was his own experience, and that "he died daily."

In considering these words, I will notice,

I. The Apostle's experience.

He here declares the daily habit of his mind,

1. As the fruit and consequence of the persecutions he suffered.

The Apostle preached the Gospel "with great plainness of speech." By this he gave offence to multitudes, both of Jews and Gentiles, who with implacable animosity sought his life. He had not preached the Gospel many days before his enemies conspired to destroy him; and necessitated him, for the preservation of his life, to be let down in a basket from the battlements of a walled city. From that time he was in continual danger, never knowing but that the address he was delivering would prove his last. Truly, he was "in deaths oft;" and "like a sheep appointed for the slaughter;" or like the gladiators, who were to engage in renewed combats until they died. In truth, he was regarded only as "the filth of the world, and as the off-scouring of all things;" fit only to be sacrificed for the pacifying of a demon, or for the removal of a common plague. Thus "he was in jeopardy every hour of his life;" and, as he expresses it in my text, "he died daily."

2. As wrought and cherished in his own soul.

It is plain that this also is included in the expression before us; and that it forms, in fact, the very jet of his argument. 'I protest,' says he 'that, as I am daily exposed to death for my ministrations, so I willingly submit to it in an assured prospect that I shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.' He knew that, independently of his persecutions, his life was very uncertain, and that he could not call a day or an hour his own: and the murderous cruelty of his enemies rendered his continuance in life still more precarious. But he was willing to die at any time, and in any way, for his Master's sake: yes, "he desired to depart, and to be with Christ, as far better" than anything he could attain in this life; and he accounted every moment of his continuance in the body as a privation of blessedness in the immediate presence of his Lord. He knew, that, at the very instant of his departure from the body, he should "behold his Lord face to face;" and, that, at the day of judgment, his body also should be raised to "meet the Lord in the air, and to be forever with the Lord," and, under this conviction, he looked upon martyrdom itself as a ground of cordial self-congratulation and joy.

This subject derives peculiar importance from,

II. The solemn manner in which he affirmed it.

He takes for granted that those, whom he addressed, rejoiced in Christ Jesus, even as he did: and he protests by their rejoicing, as well as by his own, that this was indeed his experience from day to day. And from this protest we learn,

1. That this experience is not common.

No, in truth: it is very rare even among "those who profess godliness." That there is no such persecution now, as existed in the apostolic age, is certain; and, consequently, the preachers of the Gospel exercise not their ministry so much at the peril of their life: but there is as much need of zeal now as ever: and the servants of God are as much bound to be faithful in the discharge of their duty as ever; and they must be as ready to sacrifice their lives in the cause of their Divine Master as ever. There is to be no difference in these respects between the Apostles and us. If not called to endure the same trials as they, we must be willing to endure them, if called to it: and if we love our lives in comparison of Him and his glory, we shall lose our souls forever.

As to looking forward to a longer stay on earth, we are no more entitled to indulge such a conceit than the Apostles were; for "we know not what a day or an hour may bring forth." And it is our privilege to be anticipating the blessedness of Heaven as much as it was theirs. We should count death among our treasures: and be "looking for, and hastening unto, the coming of the day of Christ," quite as much as they did in their devoutest frames.

But is this a common attainment? Would to God it were! But the generality of Christians put the day far from them, as though it were to be dreaded, rather than desired: and even the more godly among us live far below their privileges in this respect.

2. That, however, it ought to be found in all who believe in Christ.

He takes for granted, that all true Christians "rejoice in Christ." And truly this is a distinctive character of them: and the man who has not in himself this evidence of his relation to Christ, has no sufficient reason to think that he belongs to Christ. But, supposing that we are really Christ's, then should the Apostle's experience be ours: and so palpably should it be ours, that we should be able to join in the asseveration of Paul, and say, ' "I protest, by my rejoicing in Christ, and as I hope to rejoice in him in a better world, I am dying daily," "I am crucified to the world," and to all things in it: and I am, in the constant habit of my mind, like a dying man, expecting and preparing for my speedy dissolution, and anticipating with joy the blessedness that awaits me.' Beloved brethren, if you be Christians indeed, this is the experience which you are to aspire after; this is the experience which you are bound to attain.

3. That the existence of this, in the Lord's people, is a strong presumptive proof of a future resurrection.

A few enthusiasts may be supposed to be carried forward to strange excesses of zeal, even in a bad cause. But to act and suffer as the Apostles did, could not be general among pious Christians, if they were not animated by a hope beyond the grave: and their conduct in this world, if it prove not the certainty of a future resurrection, proves, beyond a doubt, the full persuasion of their minds respecting it. In truth, nothing but this expectation could carry persons on to such high attainments: and, on the other hand, there is nothing which those who are persuaded of it will not gladly do and suffer in the prospect of such happiness and glory.

Certify then yourselves, brethren, that there is indeed a future state; and labor, by the conformity of your lives to that of the holy Apostle, to show that you are borne up, by the hope of it, far above all that the world can give, and above all that the most inveterate enemy can inflict.

Tell me now, whether the Christian be not,

1. A happy man?.

As "rejoicing in Christ," he must of necessity be happy. Nor is he less so in his superiority to all the things of time and sense. In truth, the only way to live happily is to "die daily." Be it so: he is an object of hatred and persecution among men: but he is beloved of God, and enjoys God; and is even led to anticipate more the blessedness of Heaven by the very sufferings which he endures on earth. "When God therefore gives him such quietness, who can make trouble?" Truly "none can harm him, seeing that he is thus a follower of that which is good."

2. A man worthy to be imitated by all around him?.

The poor, wretched, ignorant world run from vanity to vanity in pursuit of pleasure; and never find it. The Christian follows after righteousness; and happiness waits on him, even as the shadow of his body. To him everything is a source of good: adversity itself comes to him as a blessing in disguise; and in his afflictions he tastes nothing but love. Seek then, my brethren, to rejoice in Christ; and then shall all the Christian's blessedness be yours.

 

MDCCCCXCIV

The Shamefulness of being Ignorant of God

1 Corinthians 15:34. Some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

KNOWLEDGE is the foundation of all acceptable obedience. We must know whom we are to serve; and why we are to serve him; and what are the services that he requires at our hands. Hence the Scriptures represent us first as "renewed in knowledge after the image of him who created us." On the other hand, ignorance is the root of all sin. It was to this, as its proper source, that our Savior and his Apostles traced the wickedness of the Jews in crucifying the Lord of glory, and in persecuting his followers. To this also Paul referred the conduct of those at Corinth who taught, that "there was no resurrection of the dead." From their erroneous views of this fundamental doctrine, and the consequent sinfulness of their conduct, he was sure that they were ignorant of God himself; and therefore he declared it to their shame.

The same may be said in reference to ourselves, if we err in any other fundamental point of faith or practice. In order therefore to bring it home to ourselves, we shall show,

I. What is that knowledge of God, which, as Christians, we are supposed to possess.

God has revealed himself to us in his blessed word; and we ought to know him,

1. In his essential perfections.

These perfections he proclaimed by an audible voice to Moses, in answer to that prayer of his highly favored servant, "I beseech you, show me your glory." The Lord passed by before him and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty." Yet it is not merely a speculative knowledge of him that we ought to possess, but such a knowledge as produces suitable emotions in our minds. The devils could say to our Savior, "We know you who you are," and in like manner they are acquainted with all the perfections of Jehovah; but their knowledge is unattended with any sanctifying influence: they know God, but they cannot love him; they see his holiness, and hate it; his justice, and tremble at it; his power, and lament it; his mercy, and despair of it; his grace, and oppose it; his wisdom, and endeavor to counteract it. But this view of him must fill us with wonder, and love, and gratitude, and affiance.

2. As reconciled to us in the Son of his love.

This more particularly characterizes us as Christians, because in this view he is fully exhibited to us in the Gospel. It is our happy privilege not only to have "the day-star from on high risen upon us," but to have God himself "shining into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." In the cross of Christ we should see all the perfections of God united, and harmonizing, and glorified; or, as the Psalmist expresses it, we should see "mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissing each other." We should realize every perfection of the Deity in this view: we should see his wisdom as providing a plan for the redemption of a ruined world, and as opening a way for the exercise of mercy, without infringing upon the rights of justice, or holiness, or truth. We should see even justice itself become our friend, and beaming upon us with the same benignity as love or mercy, seeing that its utmost demands have been satisfied in the atonement of Christ, and all the glory of Heaven has been purchased for us by his obedience unto death—In a word, the language of David should be the language of our hearts: "Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and your faithfulness reaches unto the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; your judgments are a great deep: O Lord, you preserve man and beast. How excellent is your loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of your wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of your house; and you shall make them drink of the river of your pleasures. For with you is the fountain of life: in your light shall we see light."

Such is the knowledge of God which every Christian ought to possess. I proceed to show,

II. Why it is a shame not to possess it.

Of many things we may all be ignorant without any imputation on our character. But to be destitute of the knowledge of God is a shame to all, because it is,

1. The most excellent of all knowledge.

The knowledge of philosophy is a very valuable acquisition: but it is not to be compared with the knowledge of God, since that infinitely surpasses everything that can occupy the Human mind. How glorious is it for a worm of the earth to see the perfections of the invisible God! to behold them all shining forth in the face of Jesus Christ! and, above all, to see them all interested in his salvation! How glorious is it for a helpless sinner to know that he has omnipotence for his support, and unbounded mercy for his refuge! How glorious is it for such an unworthy creature to survey the justice and holiness, the power and wisdom, the love and mercy, the truth and faithfulness of God, and then to say, "This God is my God forever and ever!" Surely everything else in comparison of this is lighter than vanity itself. And whoever seeks any other knowledge in preference to this, has reason to blush for his stupidity, and to be ashamed of his choice.

2. The most needful of all knowledge.

The knowledge of trade, and of politics, is necessary for the welfare of a state: but a statesman need not be conversant with the lowest branches of trade; nor need a tradesman know how to govern a state. But the knowledge of God is every man's business; it is that for which God has brought him into existence, and for which the ordinances of the Gospel are continued to him. Every man is more interested in this, than even in providing bread for his body: for he may have food supplied to him by the benevolence of others; but who can supply the lack of this knowledge, or what substitute can be found for it? Without that a man can have no happiness; because, until he has it, he is exposed to the wrath of Almighty God. Without that he can have no holiness; because holiness is the fruit that springs from it, and therefore cannot exist without it. Without that he can have no salvation; for "to know God and Christ is eternal life;" and when Christ shall come to judgment, it will be for the express purpose of "taking vengeance on them that know not God." If then it be a shame to be destitute of all good, and to be a miserable outcast from Heaven, it is a shame to be ignorant of God.

3. The most easy to be obtained of all knowledge.

There are many things which men have not a capacity to learn. But even the weakest of men may attain the knowledge of God, if they will seek it in God's appointed way. Our Lord returns thanks to his heavenly Father on this very account, "because the things which he has hid from the wise and prudent, are revealed unto babes." Nor is this expression merely figurative; for Samuel, Josiah, Timothy, and John, are standing monuments to the Church, that "God will ordain strength in the mouths of babes and sucklings." In reference to this knowledge then, no man has any excuse for his ignorance; no man can say, "I am no scholar, and therefore have no reason to be ashamed;" for all may know the Lord, if they will seek the enlightening influences of his Spirit, since God has pledged himself, that "if any man lack wisdom, and ask it of him, he will give it liberally, and without upbraiding."

Application.

Let those who know not God as reconciled to them in Christ Jesus, begin to seek that knowledge without delay. And let those who do know him, give God the glory: for though an ignorance of him is to our shame, the honor arising from this distinction, belongs to God alone; since it is "he who has given us an understanding to know him."

 

MDCCCCXCV

Death a Conquered Enemy

1 Corinthians 15:51–58. Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

THE doctrine of the resurrection was altogether unknown to the heathen world, and but imperfectly known even to the Jews themselves. The idea of bodies, once moldered into dust and scattered over the face of the earth, being ever restored, and reunited to their kindred souls, appeared so visionary, as to be wholly inadmissible and incredible. But Paul shows, that the resurrection of our blessed Lord was a fact established beyond the possibility of doubt; and that he had risen "as the first-fruits," which would assuredly be followed by an universal harvest. True it was that a great change would take place in the body, such as was necessary to fit it for its future state of existence: but still it would be the same body in reality, just as the wheat, which, when sown in the ground, first dies, and then rises substantially the same, though in a very different form. To the question, What shall be done with those who shall be living upon the earth at the last day? He answers, That they shall undergo a change equivalent to death and resurrection: and the manner in which this shall be effected he represents as a mystery, which in former ages had been wholly unknown, but which from inspiration he was now enabled to proclaim. However death had seemed hitherto to triumph over the many successive generations that had existed upon earth, there should at last be an end of his reign, and he himself should be triumphed over by all who belong to Christ.

That we may all have a fuller view of this mystery, we will endeavor to show,

I. The victory that awaits the Christian.

Christians, like others, appear to be overcome by death.

They, as well as others, yield to the stroke of death. Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, all have died: two only of all the children of men have been exempted from the common lot: and the time is quickly coming when every one of us must die; (for "the body is dead because of sin;") and must "return to the dust" from whence we sprang.

But in due time they shall assuredly triumph over it.

It is the body only that death can reach: it cannot affect the believer's soul: and it is for a time only that it can affect the body. When once the last day shall arrive, there will be an end of that empire which death has so widely extended. The bodies of the saints, of whom alone the Apostle here speaks, shall then be raised up, and with varied degrees of splendor shine forth anew. They were sown in corruption, weakness, and dishonor, and they shall be raised in incorruption, power, and glory: from natural bodies, they shall be transformed to spiritual, each one shining forth, as our Savior himself at his transfiguration, like the sun in the firmament forever and ever. Thenceforth shall "death have no more dominion over them," any more than it has over our Lord himself: on the contrary, it shall itself "be swallowed up in victory," as the prophet has said, and, as the Apostle elsewhere speaks, "Mortality shall be swallowed up of life."

By those also who shall be living at the time of our Lord's advent, shall the same triumph be enjoyed. "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye shall they be changed, as soon as ever the last trumpet shall sound," as, in the case of those who have died, "corruptible shall put on incorruption," so, in those who shall be found alive, "their mortal shall put on immortality," and "their vile body shall in an instant be made like unto Christ's glorious body," even to that very body in which he now sits enthroned in glory, the blessed object of adoration to all the hosts of Heaven.

That the Christian may be encouraged the more confidently to look forward to that victory, we proceed to show,

II. How it is, that he is assured of it.

It is sin that gives death its power.

If sin had never entered into the world, death would never have existed, or would have been only a translation from earth to Heaven. This is plainly told us by Paul; "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, even upon those who have not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression." The law which passed the sentence of death on Adam, still says to every child of man, "The soul that sins, it shall die." And this law cannot be set aside: it is as immutable as God himself: and hence it is that sin is itself so powerful, and invests death also with such power over our fallen race.

But the Lord Jesus Christ has taken away our sin.

He has put himself in our place and stead, and, as our Surety, has satisfied all the demands of the law. Did the law require the death of the offender? He has put himself in the place of sinners, and has borne the penalty for them. Would sin yet prevail to destroy the soul? He has expiated its guilt, and put "away sin by the sacrifice of himself." Must every one have a perfect righteousness before he can appear in the presence of a holy God? Christ has not only "made an end of sin, but by his obedience unto death has brought in an everlasting righteousness," which "he imputes to all them that believe." Thus is death disarmed of its sting: for sin, which was its sting, is cancelled; and the law, from which sin derived its strength, is fulfilled: and the sentence denounced against us is reversed, so far at least as it is penal; insomuch that "God may now be just, and yet the justifier of sinful men."

Thus is death disarmed of its power.

Death, no longer envenomed by sin, is to be regarded only as a sleep, "a falling asleep in Jesus." This "enemy," this "king of terrors," is turned into a friend, and may now be numbered among the richest treasures of the Christian. If we view it aright, it is only a friend who comes to draw aside the veil that hides the Savior and all his glory from our eyes. What a blessed thought! O Christian, what joy should this thought impart unto your soul! with what transport should you exclaim, "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" Come forward, Christian; put your foot upon the neck of this conquered enemy: exult over him, as God himself instructs you, "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?" Where are now your boasted triumphs? Instead of swallowing up me, you shall be swallowed up; and instead of casting me into the lake of fire, you yourself shall have that for your only and unchangeable abode.

Such is the victory that awaits you. Think then,

III. What exertions the prospect of it should call forth.

Let the expectation of this triumph stimulate you to prepare for it. Prepare for it by,

1. A steadfast adherence to the faith.

Much will your faith be tried: temptations from without and from within will assuredly assault you: perhaps even the glorious truths contained in our text may be wrested from you by your great adversary, so that you shall be led to question the reality of them, or your interest in them. But "be steadfast, and immoveable;" "holding fast the profession of your faith without wavering." "Fight the good fight of faith," "quit yourself like a man," whoever would "move you from the hope of the Gospel," withstand him: whoever would turn you aside from the right path, or discourage you in running your heavenly race, regard him not; but "run on with patience, looking unto Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of your faith."

2. A diligent performance of your duty.

The Lord has given you a work to do: O engage in it with, all your heart. Has he assigned you any office whereby you may be useful in advancing his kingdom in the world? "Give yourself wholly to it." Do the interests of your own soul call for your attention? "Forget all that is behind, and press forward for that which is before." Be not content with small measures of service; but seek to "abound in the work of the Lord;" and this, not on some particular occasions only, but "always," from day to day, and from year to year, "never being weary in well-doing," but exerting yourselves the more, in proportion as your time for performing it is cut short. Think what is that work where you may best serve and glorify your Lord; and "make it your meat and drink to do it," yes, "whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."

3. An assured expectation of your reward.

Moses himself "looked to the recompense of the reward," as did also the martyrs of old, who "refused to accept deliverance from their tortures, that they might obtain a better resurrection." If you had no prospect of future happiness, there would be some reason for that Epicurean maxim, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." But when you consider how short your present trials are, and how rich will be the recompense for all your labors, it were madness to draw back. Look at those who have already entered into their rest, and ask, Whether they repent of their former labors: or look at the glory that awaits you, and then think whether the possession of it will not richly compensate all that you can do or suffer for your Lord. "The Lord is not unrighteous, that he will forget your works and labors of love," No, he has said, that "you shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the dead;" and he will with his own hand bestow the recompense: "nor shall even a cup of cold water given for his sake lose its reward."

Address.

Happy should we be, if death had this aspect upon all, and we had no occasion to change our voice in relation to it. But to the ungodly it is still an enemy: and over the unbelieving it will retain its dominion to all eternity. Yes, brethren; if we have not sought refuge in Christ from the curses of the broken law, we are yet in our sins, and must perish under the guilt of them for evermore. Is this your case? how terrible then must the thought of death be to you! To you, it will be as the opening of the prison doors to a criminal, that he may be led forth to execution. For a season indeed, your body shall sleep in the dust: but in what image shall it rise in the last day? What will be its feelings, when it shall be re-occupied by the soul, that now claims it as the partner of its former sins, and of all its future sorrows! How glad would it be, if it could take its position under rocks and mountains! Even now, the thought of death is terrible to the unbelieving soul, and the contemplation of eternity distressing. But let it not be always thus; let what you have heard of the Christian's privileges stir you up to seek a participation of them. Remember, how it is that death must be disarmed of its sting: it is altogether by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as having fulfilled the law for you, and taken away your sins by the blood of his cross. Only look to him as dying for your sins, and rising again for your justification, and all shall yet be well: your souls shall live before him; "because he lives, you shall live also," and when he who is your life shall appear, "you also shall appear with him in glory."

But to those who profess to believe in Christ, we would also suggest a beneficial caution. If the prospect of a glorious resurrection produce not its due effect upon you, you have reason to doubt whether you have indeed an inheritance beyond the grave. It is only in proportion as your faith is operative, that you can have any evidence of its being the "faith of God's elect." And how painful will it be, when on the verge of eternity, to have your soul harassed with doubts and fears about your eternal state! Do not, I beseech you, walk so carelessly as to endanger your final acceptance with God, or to make it doubtful to your own mind. What can be the effect of sin, but to fill your dying pillow with thorns? Never then trifle either with sin or duty: let the one be put away from you with all care, and the other be practiced with all diligence: and seek of God the aid of his good Spirit, that you may so live as to enjoy the testimony of your own conscience, and so walk, "that you may be found of him in peace without spot and blameless."

 

MDCCCCXCVI

Christian Counsel

1 Corinthians 16:13, 14. Watch, stand fast in the faith, behave like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity.

OF all the apostolic Churches, not any one seems to have been so corrupt as that at Corinth: at least, Paul reproves more evils there than in any other. In this epistle to that Church he addresses himself to the consideration of several abuses which had crept in among them: and now, in the close of it, he gives them, in few words, his pastoral advice; but evidently, I think, with a special view to all his preceding remarks. They were in the midst of manifold temptations; and therefore he bids them "watch." They had among them false teachers, who, under a specious garb of sanctity and superior illumination, sought to turn them from the truth; and therefore he tells them to "stand fast in the faith." They had trials of various kinds to encounter; and therefore he says to them, "Quit you like men, be strong." At the same time, there were great contentions among them; and therefore he adds, "Let all your things be done with charity." Now, as these subjects are worthy of universal concern, we will adopt the same line of instruction as was pursued by him; and, just changing the words, in order to convey more clearly what I conceive to be the meaning of them, I will say,

I. Guard against temptations of every kind.

Of course, every Christian must watch against all the more open assaults of his three great enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil: and I must therefore, in the first place put you on your guard against them—But, as the caution was given to persons who might he considered as on the whole pious, it may be proper rather to advert to such temptations as are peculiar to Christians, whether in their collective capacity as a Church, or in their personal experience as saints.

Now Christians, as collected into a society, have many things in their temper and deportment against which it becomes them to guard with all vigilance. Pride, envy, prejudice, uncharitableness, are very apt to disturb the harmony of those who ought to be united in the bonds of brotherly love: and they should be checked, by all, in their very first risings in the soul: and not only in ourselves should we watch against them, but in others also, so as to arrest their progress before they have had an opportunity of spreading to any great extent their malignant influence; ever bearing in mind, that "a little leaven, if suffered to spread, will soon leaven the whole lump."

Against secret evils, too, must every one be on his guard; yes, and against the means and occasions of evil. There are many things that, when kept under proper restrictions, are innocent; which yet, through unwatchfulness or excess, are productive of great evil. The exercises of Christian affection may degenerate into feelings of a very unhallowed character; and lawful indulgences may gain an undue ascendant over the mind. It is not easy to draw the precise line between good and evil, especially when the quality of an action depends on its accidental circumstances: we should therefore scrupulously, and as before God, examine our whole deportment, and try it with severity by the test of his holy law. And against every deviation from right, and every declension from what is good, we should guard with the utmost vigilance; well knowing, that Satan will take advantage of our unwatchfulness, to ensnare and defile our souls.

As materially assistant to you in the discharge of that first duty, I would say,

II. Hold fast your principles.

It is by the adoption of Christian principles that any one is brought to the performance of Christian duties: and any dereliction of the one will infallibly introduce a relaxation of the other. God himself asks, "Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" The high standard of Christian morals and of Christian piety is observed by no other person under Heaven. Nothing but love to the Savior ever did, or ever can, lead to an entire surrender of the soul to God. But let a person be drawn aside by vain philosophy or Jewish superstition, and he will soon lose the ardor of his soul in divine exercises, and the delight attendant on close fellowship with God; and a correspondent change in the whole tone and temper of his mind will soon follow. In proportion as the eyes are turned from the Lord Jesus Christ to any matters of doubtful disputation, will a stop be put to a progressive transformation of the soul into his blessed image. To every one, therefore, I would say, "Hold fast the Head," the Lord Jesus Christ, and "live entirely by faith on him;" "receiving continually, out of his fullness," additional supplies of grace. And this is the very advice which Peter, by his own bitter experience, learned to give to the Christian Church, as the only effectual means of overcoming their great adversary: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist, steadfast in the faith."

In this course, however, you will meet with opposition; against which you must,

III. Act with courage.

"All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." You may "watch" as much as you please, and yet suffer no persecution, provided you will relax, as it respects your giving honor to Christ: or you may exalt Christ as much as you please, provided you will relax in your watchfulness against the evils of an ensnaring world: but if you will "live godly in Christ Jesus," giving all the glory to him, while you are serving him with fidelity to the utmost of your power, you will be sure to offend the lovers of the world, and the haters of Christ: and you may assuredly expect to feel, in a greater or less degree, the effects of their enmity. But whether assaulted by ridicule or menace, you must be alike prepared to act a manly part, withstanding every effort that men or devils can make against you. You are not, as children, to be either allured or awed to a deviation from anything which your better judgment directs. As "men," you should examine well whatever is proposed to you, and compare it with the word of God: and, as "men," you should determine for yourselves, and resolutely adopt the line of conduct which the word of God prescribes. If "men" in the service of an earthly monarch meet with opposition, they consider it as an occasion for summoning and putting forth all their energies with augmented zeal: and this is the way in which you are to "play the man," and to approve yourselves to Him, under whose banners you are called to fight.

And, in this resolute conduct, you must,

IV. Persevere with constancy.

This I conceive to be the precise distinction which the Apostle intends between those nearly parallel expressions, "Quit yourselves like men; be strong." We are not to suppose that the opposition made to us will be of short continuance. We shall experience it more or less to the very end of life; and we must be prepared to meet it in its most terrific forms. Never are we to give way to fear or discouragement: never are we to "be weary or faint in our minds." No past trials, no impending calamities, should dishearten us. We should be prepared to say, as well in the prospect of future evils as in the remembrance of past, "None of these things move me; neither count I my life dear unto me, so that I may but finish my course with joy." When we read the long catalogue of sufferings which the Apostle underwent, we are amazed at his fortitude and perseverance. But the same firmness is required of us: for "if any man turn back, my soul," says God, "shall have no pleasure in him." It is "he only who endures unto the end, that shall be eventually and eternally saved." "Be strong," therefore; and especially "be strong, not in yourselves, but in the Lord, and in the power of his might," and you need not fear but that "his grace shall be sufficient for you," and "your strength be augmented according to your day" of trial.

But,

V. Let all be done under the influence of love.

Christians are very prone to err in relation to this matter: they are ready to think, that zeal and courage constitute the whole of their duty; and, in consequence of this mistake, they too frequently overlook the frame of their own minds, and indulge, without being aware of it, a spirit most offensive to God. Acrimony in opponents often begets a similar disposition in those who are opposed: and it may be hard to say, who are most in error, the bitter persecutors, or the indignant sufferers. Beloved brethren, I wish you to be particularly on your guard in relation to this matter. You are to "be gentle to all men; and, in meekness, to instruct them that oppose themselves;" "not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing; but, contrariwise, blessing." Our blessed Lord, and the first martyr, Stephen, prayed for their murderers, at the very moment that they were suffering all imaginable cruelties at their hands: and this is what you are to do; as our Lord has said; "Love your enemies: bless them that curse you; and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you." To young persons, in particular, I would give this caution. You will probably find your greatest enemies among those of your own household: and as you must, of necessity, "obey God rather than man," you will be called to show your fidelity to God in tins respect: but do not, under the idea of quitting yourselves "like men," indulge a petulant and unfitting spirit: (persons, so acting, "know not what spirit they are of.") Nor are you to indulge a querulous spirit behind the backs of your enemies; but to take up your cross meekly, and to bear it patiently, and to bless God that you are counted worthy to bear it for Jesus' sake. Remember, that "love is the very bond of perfectness;" and that "without it, though you give your body to be burned, you are no better than sounding brass and tinkling cymbals."

 

MDCCCCXCVII

The Guilt and Danger of Not Loving Christ

1 Corinthians 16:22. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.

EVERY religion has some characteristic mark whereby it may be distinguished from all others. The leading feature of Christianity is, that it requires a resolute adherence, and an inviolable attachment to Jesus Christ. Though it includes both morality and a regard to God, it does not stop there; but leads us to Jesus Christ as the only mediator through whom divine blessings can flow down to us, or our services go up with acceptance before God. Whatever difference may exist between Christians with respect to other points, all are agreed in love to Christ. Paul did not hesitate to denounce the severest curse against all who should be wanting in this most essential point. He had finished this epistle by the hand of an amanuensis, and was going, as his manner was in every epistle, to write his blessing with his own hand; but deeply solicitous for the welfare of the Church, as well as for the glory of his Divine Master, he inserted between his salutation and his blessing these ever memorable words—"If any man," etc. These are in the form of a judicial sentence, which we shall,

I. Explain.

The solemnity with which this sentence is delivered surely bespeaks our most candid attention: but how shall we, in drawing the line between nominal and real Christians, speak with such precision, as neither to discourage the weak, nor to confirm hypocrites or formalists in their delusions? Let us explain,

1. What it is to love the Lord Jesus Christ.

Love, whatever be its object, implies such an esteem of that object, such a desire after it, and such a delight in it, as the object itself deserves. What would be an idolatrous fondness when placed on one object, would fall very far short of the affection that might be justly claimed by another. Now Christ being incomparably more worthy of our love than any created being, our love to him ought to be unrivaled and supreme. To compliment him with honorable titles, while we feel no real regard for him in our souls, is no better than an impious mockery. We must entertain high and exalted thoughts of him as the Savior of the world; and have learned with Paul to "count all things but dross and dung in comparison of him"—We must also feel such need of him in his mediatorial office and character, as to say with David, "My soul longs for you even as the deer pants for the water-brooks;" "Whom have I in Heaven but you, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee"—Our fellowship with him, moreover, must be sweet: nor must we find less pleasure in doing his will than in enjoying his presence—This is the criterion whereby he himself has taught us to judge of our love to him.

2. What is the judgment denounced against those who are destitute of this love?.

"Anathema" is a term often used to signify only an ecclesiastical censure, or an excommunication from the Church; but the addition of the word "Maranatha" necessitates us to understand it in reference to the judgment at the last day. Under the Jewish law there were many crimes that were to be punished with death; and, when a person was convicted of one of these, he was executed according to the divine command: but when the Jews were brought into subjection to the Romans, they lost the power of life and death: when therefore a person committed any crime, that would have been punished with death by the Jewish law, the Jews excommunicated the offender, and expected that God would visit him in some signal manner; or at least inflict an adequate punishment upon him at the last day. In reference to this, it should seem the Apostle used the word "Maranatha," which in the Syriac language means, "The Lord comes." The import therefore of the denunciation in the text is, That, as they, who did not love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, deserved to be blotted out of the list of true Christians, and to be punished with everlasting destruction, so there was no doubt but that, although man could not take cognizance of that offence, God would; and execute signal vengeance on all those who should live and die under the guilt of it.

Severe as this sentence is, it is such as we may undertake to,

II. Vindicate.

It may not be improper first to vindicate the Apostle himself.

To consign to everlasting destruction those who are free from any gross sin, and who perhaps abound in "the form of religion, while they are only destitute of its power," may seem harsh; but we shall in vain attempt to put any milder interpretation on the words of the text. Shall we then censure the Apostle as uncharitable and severe? If we do, we must involve all the other inspired writers and Christ himself in the same censure. Moses, by God's command, denounced similar vengeance on persons of various descriptions, and required the people to confirm his word by an express declaration of their own consent and approbation. Jeremiah and Malachi repeatedly spoke to the same effect. Nor was this peculiar to those who lived under the legal dispensation: Paul repeatedly denounced a curse even against any angel from Heaven that should presume to publish any other Gospel than that which he had preached. Yes, the meek and compassionate Jesus declared, that God would be a father to none who did not love him; and that he himself would in the last day summon before him all that had refused his yoke, and order them to be slain without mercy. Such examples as these may well screen the Apostle from any imputation of needless severity.

Next we will vindicate the sentence he denounced.

Awful as it is, it will appear both just and reasonable, if we only consider the exceeding sinfulness of not loving the Lord Jesus. This sin implies,

1. Rebellion against the highest authority.

God has by an audible voice from Heaven commanded us to "hear" his Son, that is, to regard him with attention, love, and obedience. He has enjoined all the great and noble of the earth to "kiss the Son" in token of their affection and homage. He has required all men to honor the Son even as they honor the Father. And are we at liberty to set at naught this authority? Do we feel indignant, if our child or our servant refuse obedience to our just commands, and shall not the Most High God express his indignation against us for resisting and despising the most reasonable command that could possibly be given us? If man forbear to notice this iniquity, shall God also? shall he give us reason for that atheistical reflection, "You God will not regard it?"

2. A contempt of the highest excellency.

In the Lord Jesus Christ is every possible excellency combined. Whether we view him in his divine, his human, or his mediatorial character, he is "altogether lovely." There is nothing wanting in him which can in any way conduce to the glory of God or the good of men. What shall we say then of those who love not such a glorious Being? Surely they pour contempt upon him. This is the construction which God himself puts upon their conduct; "Him that honors me, I will honor; but he who despises me, shall be lightly esteemed." And is not this a sin of the deepest die? to despise him who is the fountain of all excellency! to despise him whom all the angels adore! What must not such iniquity as this deserve? Surely to be despised and abhorred of him is the least that such offenders can expect.

3. Ingratitude towards the greatest Benefactor.

Can we reflect a moment on what Christ has done and suffered for us, and not stand amazed that there should be a creature upon earth that does not love him? Can we contemplate his mysterious incarnation, his laborious life, his painful death, his continual intercession, and all the other wonders of his love, and feel no emotions of gratitude towards him? Or shall ingratitude to earthly benefactors be deemed the greatest possible aggravation of a fault, and shall such horrid ingratitude of ours be thought light and venial? No; it stamps an inexpressible baseness on our character; nor can any punishment short of that denounced in the text, be adequate to such impiety.

Application.

Let us seriously examine into the evidences of our love to Christ; that if he should ask us, as he did Peter, "Love you me?" we may be able to reply with him, "Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you." Let us tremble at the thought of subjecting ourselves to the judgments here denounced, and instead of presuming to speak against them as too severe, let us make it our constant endeavor to escape them. So shall death and judgment be divested of all their terrors; and Christ, whom we love, be the eternal portion of our souls.