« AnteriorContinuar »
The patriotic orator, whose eloquence has so often charmed a nation, and whose counsel has been frequently resorted to in a perilous hour, is heard no more; the wisdom also of the most experienced statesman is nonplused : He removeth away the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding of the aged.
The most illustrious characters are stripped of their excellency, and those whose words made nations tremble, having lost their influence, are become weak as other men: He poureth contempt upon princes, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty.
On such an awful occasion, a darkness supernatural seems to have burst upon the world; as though the shades of death had found their way from beneath, and had covered the face of the earth, so that men are bewildered and lost in their pursuits: He ditcovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.
Such an event has an influence on surrounding nations. Like a mountain sinking into the sea, and agitating the waters, it puts every thing out of place. Some are increased by its spoils, others ruined by its overthrow, and even the same nation is by turns both sunk and raised, contracted and enlarged: He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he.enlargeth the nations and straiteneth them again.
Finally: Those great characters of the land, who have escaped the hands of the conqueror, yet having lost all spirit to resist, or to stand their ground, betake themselves to flight. Wandering up and down the world, like men who have lost their way in a wilderness, they become intoxicated with grief and dismay, and know not what measures to take to retrieve their losses; or if they did, have no resolution to pursue them; He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people of the earth, and causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way. They grope in the dark without light, and he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man.
O my soul! can I meditate on such a catastrophe without feeling for others, or fearing for my native country? Yet if such should be its lot, it is a part of that great system of Providence that directs all human affairs, and will ultimately issue in the great
est good. Meanwhile, having received a kingdom that cannot be moved, may I have grace that I may serve God acceptably, with reverence and with godly fear!
"For our comely parts have no need; but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked."
Among other disorders in the church at Corinth, they were lifted up with their gifts. Hence this whole chapter is spent on the subject. Indeed the'same spirit is noticed at the outset of the Epistle, (Chap. i. 12.) where though he mentions his own name, and those of Appollos, &c. as the idols of their admiration, yet it was only in a figure, (Chap. iv. 6.) that he might with a better grace pull them down. Probably, the objects of their idolatry were neither Paul nor Apollos, but their own false teachers. In order to impress a true sense of things upon their minds, he represents them under the form of a human body, composed of many members, insinuating that it was no less absurd for invidious distinctions and divisions to take place on account of different gifts, than it would be for certain members of the body to be exalted, and the rest set at nought.
The Apostle first addresses himself to the inferior members, who were in danger of being discouraged : Ifthefoot shallsay, Because I am not the hand I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
And afterwards to the superior members who were in danger of discouraging them; Andthe eye cannot say to the hand, I have no needof thee : nor again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Finally: he notices the peculiar honour which we confer upon those parts of the body which are least comely, or honourable: And those members of the body which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour, and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. And he intimates in the text that God does the same to his church. Consequently we ought to follow the example, giving more honour, rather than less, to the feeble members of Christ's body. What is this? What is the peculiar honour which God has conferred on the less splendid members of the church rather than the other?
First: That which distinguishes the ordinary members of Christ's body, is of far greater importance than that which distinguishes the extraordinary, or gifted ones. The one is grace, the other gifts. This idea is held up in the text. After speaking of apostles and prophets, and pastors and teachers, &c. he allows them to covet the best gifts. Yet, says he, 1 show unto you a more excellent way. And what was this but charily, or love? Hence he goes on to contrast gifts and tongues with charity, in Chap. xiii. giving the decided preference to the latter. Now this was giving honour to the part that lacked; making that which was common to Christians, even the meanest, of infinitely greater account than that which was possessed by a few of the gifted among them.
Secondly: The most gifted members of Christ's body, in a proper state of mind, when they have expressed their strongest desires, and the objects in which they have gloried, have never selected those things which were peculiar to them as gifted, but those which are possessed by good men in common. The highest object of David's desire was that which was possessed by the meanest good man. One Thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. That in which Paul gloried, was not his greatness, but his infirmity, and the cross of Christ:
and that which he desired was, to be found in him, not having his own righteousness.
Thirdly: The greater is subordinate to the less, and not the Jess to the greater. Churches are not for ministers, but ministers for churches. The poor, the feeble, and the afflicted, are not ordained to honour a splendid orator, by attending upon him and admiring him; but the most accomplished orator, or even apostle, to be their servants for Jesus' sake. As the eye and the hand are subservient to the body, so, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or life, or death, All Are Yours. The greatest of all must be the servant of all : And 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: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Fourthly: In their vocation God has conferred peculiar honour upon the poor, and the weak, and the feeble, in taking the generality of his people from among them. God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty—Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
Fifthly: All the consolations and promises of God are addressed to us, not as gifted, but as gracious God speaks encouraging words to both rich and poor; but mark the difference. Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted; but the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. See also the beatitudes.
Sixthly: That which distinguishes the gifted members of Christ is only for time, and is found in hypocrites; but that which is common to the weak, is a well springing up unto eternal life.— Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out dtvils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, 1 never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
This subject may be applied to the suppression of vanity, and the removal of despondency.
Gifts and knowledge puff men up now, as well as formerly. A poor or feeble-minded Christian, is in danger of being overlooked, and men are valued by the splendour of their appearance or talents. Ministers also of less splendid abilities are often despised by those who have itching ears, and curious minds. But these things ought not so to be. We have seen that God does not proceed on any such principle. If ye say, I am for this great man, and I for that, are ye not carnal? And if any one set himself above his brethren, let him know that he could not do without them. The eye, beautiful and piercing as it is, cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee. The greatest of Christian ministers, such as Paul, felt his need of bis brethren. Hence he frequently entreats their prayers for him. The influence which the early attendance, lively attention, and affectionate reception of the word in common Christians has upon a minister's heart, is indescribable. O what a difference do we feel in preaching to an humble, spiritual, and affectionate congregation, to what we do, when addressing a haughty, worldly, and unfeeling people! The uniform demeanour of serious Christians in life, recommends the doctrines delivered from the pulpit; yea it has been known to carry conviction where the gospel itself has been preached without effect. Listen, ye wives! Be in subjection to your own husbands, that if any obey not the ,word, they also may without the word, be won by the conversation of the wives.
And as some are puffed up in these times, as well as formerly, so others are consequently cast down. Many a poor Christian, because he is poor, thinks himself a dry tree, of little or no use, like the strangers, or eunuchs, Isa. lvi. and many a feeble-minded, low-spirited Christian, whose words are few, feels the same. Yea, many a worthy minister of less splendid talents, being overlooked by others, his heart sinks within him, and he is as if he were not of the body. But if the foot say, because lam not the hand, lam