« PreviousContinue »
iboukJ seek, those gifts especially bv which the church may receive edification "and advantage: Seek that ye may excel, to the edifymg of the church. Here note, 1. The noble end which St. Paul directs them to propound in what they desire and design, namely, the edifying of the church, The church's edification should be the scope of all her members', especially of all her mmisters', wishes and prayers, enterprises, and endeavours: our first care should be to lay a right foundation, namely, the doctrine of redemption and salvation, by the meritorious undertaking of Christ Jesus our Lord, the eternal Son of the Father. Our next care, that our superstructure be answerable to our foundation; this being »c4«l and substantial, that must be so too; acouambog persons with the whole will of God, and the whole duty of man. Note, 2. The operation to be performed, and the aans to be used, in order to this noble ead: Seek that ye may excel; that is, rSSKmateiy desire and endeavour that you may, by the gifts and graces of the Holy spirit, be eminently qualified for edifying sad building the church of God; Seek that ye may excel, to the edifying of the ehsreh. Learn hence, 1. That the edifying of the church, and the improvement of its members in knowledge, faith, and holiness, a, and ought to be, the great end which the minsters of God propound to themselves in the use of their gifts, and discharge of ther office. Learn, 2. That the edifying of the church bemg the proper office of the "maters of Christ, they should study to 'f*1 »» M &n^ and graces conducing ihereunto, by such means and methods as are prcper for that end; namely, by fervent prayer to God for divine illumination «nd knowledge, by reading the scriptures »rth great attention and application of mad, by studying other authors in order » that end, by deep meditation, by judiowb, lealous, and laborious preaching, ast especially by holy living. There ought *i be a consecration of our lives, as well * of our persons, to the service of God »ad ha church; in this manner, especially, 'he meanest of her ministers may seek that rtxy may excel, to the edifying of the
13 Wherefore let him that speakrth in an unknown tongue pray that be may interpret. 14 For if I pray '» an unknown tongue, my spirit
Vol. ir. r
prayeth; but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
Observe here, How strongly the apostle pleads the necessity for all public worship particularly preaching or prophesying, praying and singing, to be performed" in a language known and understood by all the congregation: Let him that speaketh preacheth, or teafcheth, in an unknown tongue, in which he cannot edify others pray for the edifying gift of interpretation! that others may be edified as well as himselfotherwise when we pray in an unknown tongue, our spirit prayeth, that is, our own gifts are exercised; but our understanding is unfruitful, that is, unto others. If we satisfy ourselves, we cannot edify them. He resolves therefore to pray with the spirit, and to sing with the spirit, that is, with a strange tongue ministered to him by the Spirit; yet to pray with the understanding also, that is, to pray so as others may understand him, and join with him, and be edified by him. Learn from hence, Both the impiety and absurdity of the church of Rome, in appointing their public offices to be performed in Latm ; a language which the common people in France, Spain, Germany, yea, in Italy itself, do not understand; for the Latin tongue is not now the mother tongue of any nation under heaven : and the council of Trent thunders out an anathema against those that say the mass ought to be celebrated only in the vulgar tongue. Lord! what is it, if this be not, to offer the sacrifice of fools? How can this be a reasonable service, which is no better than a sinful taking God's name in vain. How can their hearts and tongues go along together, who understand nothing which their tongues utter. They neither know the God they pray to, nor yet the mercies which they pray for. Lord, pity the miserable souls in their communion, who erect an altar, and offer up unknown prayers to an unknown God.
16 Else, when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned, say Amen at ihy giving of thanks? seeing he underslandeth not what' thou sayest. 17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is
not edified. 18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all: 19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
Our apostle still goes on, arguing, that public prayers ought to be made in a language understood by them that pray. His argument is this: The heart ought to consent to, and agree with, the supplications and prayers presented unto God, and to testify its consent by saying Amen: but, says the apostle, no man can say Amen to that which he doth not understand, nor be edified by that which cannot be understood. For a close, he tells them, that Almighty God had given him the gift of speaking more languages than all of them put together, that so as an apostle he might plant and propagate the christian faith in and throughout all nations; yet he declares he had rather speak a few words to the instruction and edification of his hearers, than a multitude in a language not understood. The faithful ministers of Christ have such a regard to the end of their ministry, which is the communicating of the divine knowledge to the understandings of their people, that they had much rather they should be edified and profited, than their own parts and gifts applauded and admired.
20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children ; but in understanding be men.
As if the apostle had said, My brethren, be not like children in understanding, who prefer gay and gaudy things, which make a fine show, as the gift of tongues does, before things more useful. Thus, do not you choose what best pleaseth you, but what most profits others. I would have you indeed in some respects to be as children, namely, in innocence and harmlessness, in freedom from malice, and all kind of wickedness; but in understanding be and act as men, as persons of mature judgment, who know what is fittest to be spoken, and best to be done. To be like children in the innocency of our actions, is a virtue; but to be like them in the impotency and weakness of our understanding, is a reproach: In understanding be men.
21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them - that believe not, but for them which believe.
Observe here, How the apostle, to take the Corinthians off from their loud admiration of the gift of tongues, tells them, That in the law, that is, in the writings of the Old Testament, particularly in Isa. xxviii. 11. it is declared, that because the people of Judah would not be instructed by the plain preaching of the Lord's prophets, therefore he would cause them to be spoken to in an unknown language; namely, by outlandish enemies and armies, whose language they should not understand: from whence he infers, that strange tongues were not given for a sign of any good to believers, but they were given as a token rather of God's displeasure to unbelievers; insomuch that, by the just judgment of God, their ignorance by this means would be the more increased: but the gift of prophecy serveth not only for the conversion of unbelievers, but for the edification of believers also; therefore prophecy, or preaching intelligibly, is to be preferred in the church before speaking with tongues.
23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad 1 24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all, 25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
To convince the Corinthians that prophecy was far more excellent than the gift of tongues, the apostle here argues from the absurdity of speaking in the congregation with a strange tongue uninterpreted; Will they not say ye are mad? And from
the utility and advantage of speaking in a language understood, it convinceth and converteth sinners: He is convinced of all, he is judged of all. As if the apostle had said, When the church meets together, if all that speak should speak in a strange tongue, what will an ignorant or unbelieving person, coming into the congregation, think or say? Will he not apprehend you to be madmen? Whereas if all that speak do prophecy and interpret scripture to the edification of the church, in such a case, tf an unbeliever comes in, he is convinced, discovered, judged by all them that prophesy, and toe secrets of his heart are made manifest to himself: and so, falling down, be will adore God, the searcher of the heart, and report, from his own experience, that God is in or among you of a truth. Where note, Whence prophesying or preaching of the word has its convincing power, and converting efficacy, namely, from that God who is present in and with hn own word: God is in, or with, you of » truth. When Almighty God quickens the word with his own Spirit, and clothes r. with bis own power, when he bids it go Ei ha might, and prevail in his strength, tSe strongest holds of ignorance and unbelief, of obstinacy and rebellion, fall to the ground like the first-ripe figs shaken with toe wind: when the unlearned or idiot coma into the assembly of the saints, he is roazinccrf of all, he is judged of all, he fallt itrzn and -worships. What is it that works this sudden change? Not the preaching of men, but the power of God: He cill report that God is in you of a truth. The arm of grace in the ministry of the word is victorious and invincible; the efficacy and success of the word depends not on the parts of a man, but the power of God.
26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let ill things be done unto edifying.
From this verse to the end of the chapter, the apostle lays down particular precepts for the preservation of decency and rood order m the church of God ; and first he advises, when they came together into the public assemblies, that if any of them had a psalm or hymn suggested to them by the Spirit of God, to his glory, and the
church's edification ; or had a doctrine, either for instruction or consolation ; or had a strange tongue, or the gift of interpreting tongues; let it be how it will, he exhorts that all be done so as may most and best tend to the benefit and edification of the church, which is the true end of church assemblies. The great end, design, and aim, which those who administer in holy thmgs ought to propound to themselves in all their public administrations, is the church's edification, the people's growth and improvement in knowledge, faith, and holiness. Let all things he done to edifying; that is, let all your public offices be so performed, and in such a manner, as may best conduce to the end for which they were designed.
27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. 28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. 29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets; 33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
Our apostle's next advice for the church's edification, is this, That such as had the gift of tongues should not speak all together, but two or three successively, one after another; and that one interpret what was so spoken, to the benefit and edifying of the church. But if there were no interpreter present, let him, says the apostle, that only speaks with tongues, keep silence in the church ; and let him only speak mentally to himself and to God, in prayer and thanksgiving. The same advice he gives to them that prophesied; to wit, that only two or three of them should prophesy successively, in order to the church's edification, and that the rest of the prophets should sit still and judge, examining their doctrines by the rule of the word: for says
he, the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets; that is, the doctrines which the prophets deliver are apt to be judged and examined by other prophets, whether they be agreeable to the word of God or not: or the instinct by which the prophets pretend to be moved at that time to prophesy, is subject to the judgment and censure of other prophets who are endowed with the same gift. And thus he declares, that all that are prophets, and prophetically inspired, may prophesy, provided it be done orderly and successively, without occasioning disorder and confusion in the church; and so managed as to answer the great end of the institution; namely, the instruction, edification, and consolation, of the church; For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. Confusion is so far from being of divine inspiration, that it is hateful to God, who requires that peace and order should be kept and maintained, not only in the church of Corinth, but in all the churches of the saints. That which breaks order, doth also break peace: for there can be no true peace without order; and God is not the author of disorder and confusion in the churches, but of peace. Here by the way let us observe and note, That speaking and preaching in the public assemblies is limited all along, by the apostle, to the prophets. Let the prophets speak; not the common people; they were to sit by, it was no part of their business to speak, but to examine what was spoken by the rule of the word. The authoritative preaching of the gifted brethren, at the call of a private congregation, was no more permitted by St. Paul, than his suffering of women to speak in the church; none but prophets, or persons in office, appointed for the work of preaching, were ever suffered to undertake it in the primitive times, and downwards, till very lately. Let such as first gave, and still give, encouragement to the contrary, consider how they will answer it at the bar of God, who is not the author of such confusion and disorder, but of peace.
34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it
is a shame for women to speak in the church.
A farther rule is here given by the apostle for maintaining decency and order in the public assemblies; namely, that the women should never presume to speak or utter any thing as public teachers in the congregation; no, nor so much as ask any question publicly. Almighty God having by his law made subjection (not public instruction) their duty, of which silence is a token. Here observe, That it is not the women's speaking in the public assemblies, when they join with the congregation in singing of psalms and prayer, but their speaking by way of teaching and prophesying that is there forbidden. Note larther, That the means of instruction were not denied the women ; at home they might put forth questions to their husbands, for their own information and satisfaction; but to do any thing like this publicly was a shame, or indecent thing, both to the church, the husband, and herself. Still observe, How the God of order calls for order, and delights in decency, especially in places where his religious worship is celebrated. He has unworthy thoughts of God, that thinks him either a patron of, or pleased with, any disorder, either in civil affairs, or religious services.
36 What! came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only' 37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
These words are looked upon by interpreters as a smart reflection upon some of the ministers and members of the church at Corinth; who from a high opinion which they had of themselves and their own management, would not submit to the foregoing precepts, canons, and rules, for order and decency in the church of God. What, says the apostle, do you think that you have all the word and will of God? Doth all knowledge of scripture, and resolution of doubts, rest in your breasts, and flow out of your lips? Consider, you are not the first church that was planted, (Jerusalem was before you,) the gospel was sent to you, it did not come out first from you.
Whence learn, That all kind of scorn is not always uncomely: men are apt to overrate themselves, and to overvalue their own abilities, as if they had engrossed all knowledge, that all must borrow from their store, and ls»ht their candle at their torch. Now 10 that case we may, without breach of chanty, or blemish of holiness, check pride with derision; and speak them below men, who set themselves up above men. Observe next, The apostle affirms, that these rules for order and decency which he had given them, were from the Lord; and he expected and required, that those who esteemed themselves prophets, should observe and obey them as such. But if men will be ignorant, and obstinate in their ignorance, be it at their peril, and let them look to it; do not you regard them: If (W* be ignorant, let them be ignorant.
39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
For a close of the whole, he exhorts iliem earnestly to endeavour after the gift of prophesying, and not to forbid the use of the gift of tongues, provided the forcmenti»oed rules and directions before given be r.bserved: that so in their public assemblies all things relating to religious worship be performed with that becoming gravity and decency which may most and best conduce to the glory of God and the church's edification. Learn hence, 1. That the whole (.Lurch in general, and every individual member of it in particular, ought to perform all the duties of God's worship in a decent and orderly manner. Learn, 2. That it is the duty of church governors 'o take care that order and decency be "ljomed and observed in the church of Gud, to the edification of all the members of it. Learn, 3. That they only have authority to make church orders whom the I-ntd has made church governors. Learn, 4. That such orders as relate to real decency a the worship of God, made and omfirm<d by the governors of the church, ought to be obeyed and conformed to by the members of the church for conscience' sake, that all things may be done decently and ■ order,
Ttar il< »»,1" **d scope of our .pottle in this ex«Utpter now before us. i», to establish
the doctrine of the resurrection of tlie body, which some in the church of Corinth at that time denied. This grand article of the clinstinn faith is here by several arguments defended, the absurdity of the contrary declared, the objections made against il fully answered, and christian sted fastness in the faith, and laborious diligence in the work of Christ, urged and enforced to the end of the chapter.
MOREOVER, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if yc keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
Observe here, 1. The subject-matter of St. Paul's preaching to the Corinthians: it was the gospel. I declare unto you the gospel which Ipreached: and particularly the doctrine of the body's resurrection, which was a great point of that gospel which he had preached and delivered to them. Observe, 2. The obedience which many, if not most of the Corinthians, had given to the doctrine of the gospel; they heard it, believed it, and embraced it as the truth of God. Which gospel ye received, and wherein ye stand; that is, the best and greatest part of you are firm to your former profession, though some are fallen away. Observe, 3. The blessed effect which the gospel had upon those that did believe and receive it: By it they were saved; that is, put into a salvable state, brought into the right and only way that leads to salvation. The gospel reveals the object, salvation; it directs lost man which way to arrive at it, assures him that it is attainable, and inclines and encourages him seriously to endeavour after the attainment of it. Observe, 4. The condition annexed and required on our part, in order to the attaining that salvation which the gospel discovers unto us, and that is, perseverance; for that is implied in our keeping in memory what we have received: Ye are saved, if ye keep in memory. If we do not stedfastlv cleave to the gospel, and to this grand doctrine of it, the resurreclioti, our hearing is vain, our believing is vain, our hopes of salvation are vain: By the gospel we are saved, if we keep it in memory, and practise it; otherwise we have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you, first of all, that which 1 also received, how that Christ died for our sins