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1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
Ver. 1. Not with excellency ] St Paul’s speech was neque lecta, neque neglecta, neither curious nor careless. Politian could say, that it is an ornament to an epistle to be without ornaments. And yet he had so little grace as to prefer Pindar’s Odes before David’s Psalms. Hosius also, the cardinal, thought David’s Psalms unlearned, applying that, Scribimus indocti doctique poemata passim. Os durum! We write unlearned teachings and poems everywhere. Harsh speech. The Holy Scriptures have a grave eloquence, but lack those pompous and painted words that carnal rhetoricians hunt after. There is difference between a pedantic style and a majestic. Non Oratorum filii sumus, sed Piscatorum, We are not sons of orators but of Picatus, said that great divine to Libanius the rhetorician, that tickled his hearers with tinkling terms, and delighted to wit-wanton it with lascivious phrases of oratory.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Ver. 2. To know anything ] To profess or teach any other skill. All the wisdom of a man is in this one thing, saith Lactantius, Ut Christum cognoscat et colat, that he know and worship Christ. Hoc nostrum dogma, haec sententia est., &c.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
Ver. 3. In weakness ] In misery, and in a mean condition, labouring with his hands, &c., Acts 18:3 .
And in fear ] Of adversaries, or through care of discharging my duty among you.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
Ver. 4. With enticing words ] Religion is not a matter of parts, words, or wit. The devil cares not for the sons of Sceva’s adjurations. Abana and Pharphar may cleanse, but Jordan only can cure. God’s holy things must be handled, Sancte magis quam scite, with fear and reverence, rather than with wit and dalliance. Let ministers set out the work of God as skilfully and adornedly as they can, but still aim at the winning of souls. Let not the window be so painted as to keep out the light. (The Saint’s Everlast. Rest.) Some frothy discourses are like children’s babies, that when you have taken away the dressing, you have taken away all; or like beautiful pictures, which have much cost bestowed on them to make them comely and desirable to the eye; but life, heat, and motion there is none. O pulchrum caput! sed sensus non inest, Oh beautiful head but no feeling there, said the ape in the fable. Prudentibus viris non placent phalerata, sed fortia, said Bishop Jewel, who ever loved a manlike eloquence, but not that which is effeminate. No more did Reverend Mr Samuel Crook, but ever shunned those more gay and lighter flourishes of a luxuriant wit, wherewith the emptiest cells affect to be most fraught, as they who for lack of wares in their shops set up painted blocks to fill up vacant shelves. (Clark’s Lives; Life of Master Crook, by W. G.)
In demonstration of the spirit ] With demonstrations fetched out of the very marrow of the Scriptures. It must be an elaborate speech that shall work upon the conscience. A man must enlighten with his own other men’s understandings, and heat by his own other men’s affections. Si vis me flere, &c. (Horat.) Bonaventure’s words in preaching were non inflantia sed inflammantia, not high-swelling, but inflaming his hearers. (Mr Clark’s Life of Bonav.)
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Ver. 5. That your faith, &c. ] A human testimony can breed but a human faith. Aaron’s bells were of pure gold; our whole preaching must be Scripture-proof, or it will burn, and none be the better for it. Ut drachmam auri sine imagine principis, sic verba hortantis sine authoritate Dei contemnunt homines, saith Lipsius.
In the power of God ] In the gospel that lodgeth a certainty in the soul.
6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
Ver. 6. Wisdom among the perfect ] Or those that are grown to maturity. Some think the apostle horroweth this term from the pagans’ superstition, who admitted none to their most secret ceremonies, but only persons well prepared and purified for many years.
Yet not the wisdom, &c. ] Which is like the labour of moles, that dig dexterously underground, but are blind above ground, and never open their eyes, saith Pliny, till pangs of death are upon them. Cry we after Christ, as the blind man in the gospel did, who when he was asked, What wouldst thou have? "Lord," saith he, "that mine eyes may be opened." Philosophers observe, that lumen est vehiculum influentiae; light begets the flower in the field, the pearl in the sea, the precious stone in the earth; so the foundation of all renovation is illumination. O cry aloud to the Father of lights, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6 . This will hold out, when the wisdom of this world and the philosophorum facile principes "come to nought."
That come to nought ] That are tumbled into hell with all their learning ( nos cum doctrinis nostris, &c. Aug.), which doth but light them into utter darkness.
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom , which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
Ver. 7. Wisdom of God in a mystery ] While God did not divide himself into a merciful Father and a just Judge (as Valerius speaketh of Zaleucus), but declared himself to be both a perfectly merciful Father, and withal a perfectly just Judge; which was such an act of wisdom as the world never heard of. This is that great mystery of godliness, 1 Timothy 3:16 .
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it , they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Ver. 8. Which none of the princes ] He calleth the Pharisees and philosophers princes, for their learning, as being himself a scholar. Only he might well have said of them, as Cicero of others in another case, Mihi quidem nulli satis eruditi videntur, quibus nostra sunt ignota, I cannot take them for scholars that partake not of our learning. (Cicero de Poetis Latinis. )
None of the princes of this world knew ] Because their learning hung in their light. So it fared with Ulpian the chief lawyer, Galen the chief physician, Porphyry the chiefest Aristotelian, and Plotinus the chief Platonist, who were professed enemies to Christ and his truth. So were Libanius and Lucian, the chief scholars of their time. None miscarry oftener than men of greatest parts. None are so deep in hell as those that are most knowing. They see no more into the mystery of Christ than illiterate men do into the profound points of astronomy. As a man may look on a trade and never see the mystery of it; or he may look on the letter, and never understand the sense; so here.
For had they known it, &c. ] It was ignorance then that crucified Christ, Acts 3:17 . And St Paul thanks his ignorance for his persecuting and blaspheming, 1 Timothy 1:15 ; "The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty," Psalms 74:20 . And they proceed from evil to evil, because they know not me, saith the Lord, Jeremiah 9:3 . Surely as toads and serpents grow in dark and dirty cellars, so doth all sin and wickedness in an ignorant and blind soul. The Platonist held, that men sin only by ignorance. And Omnis peccans est ignorans, saith Aristotle. In blind ale houses is abundance of disorder, &c.
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Ver. 9. Eye hath not seen, &c. ] It is reported of one Adrianus, that seeing the martyrs suffer such grievous things, he asked the cause; one of them answered, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love him." The naming of which text so wrought upon him that afterward he became a martyr.
The things which God hath prepared ] As he prepared Paradise for Adam, so heaven for all his. Yet he reserves not all for the life to come, but gives a few grapes of Canaan in this wilderness. And so this text is to be understood of gospel joy and those present comforts that the saints have here, that praemium ante praemium; for not only after, but in the doing of God’s will there is great reward,Psalms 19:11; Psalms 19:11 , such as natural eye hath not seen nor ear heard: the stranger meddleth not with this joy; it is the sparkle of that white stone, it is that new name known to none but those that have it; it is a comfort confined to the communion of saints.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
Ver. 10. But God hath revealed ] The Chinese use to say of themselves, that all other nations of the world see but with one eye, they only with two. This is most true of the natural man compared to the spiritual.
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
Ver. 11. Save the Spirit, &c. ] Man knows his inward thoughts, purposes, and desires, but the frame and disposition of his own heart he knows not, Jeremiah 17:9 .
Knoweth no man ] How can he that cannot tell the form and quintessence of things, that cannot enter into the depths of the flowers, or the grass he treads on, have the wit to enter into the deep things of God, hidden from angels till the discovery, and since that they are students in it?
But the Spirit of God ] With this heifer of his, therefore, we must plough, if we will ever understand his riddles.
12 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.
Ver. 12. Not the spirit of the world ] The world lieth down in that unclean one, and is under the power and vassalage of that spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience, as a smith in his forge, 1 John 5:19 ; Ephesians 2:2 . It is wholly "set upon wickedness," as Aaron saith of the people, Exodus 32:22 .
That we might know ] A sweet mercy; the cormorants of the world will not let their heirs know what they will do for them till they die. But God assures his of heaven beforehand. Thus we have not received of the spirit of this world: we cannot shift and plot as they can; but we have received a better thing, and have no reason to repine.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
Ver. 13. But which the Holy Ghost teacheth ] So that not the matter only, but words also of Holy Scripture are dictated by the Spirit, and are therefore to be had in higher estimation, 2 Peter 1:21 .
Comparing ] Or co-apting ( συγκρινοντες ), fitting spiritual words to spiritual matters, that all may savour of the Spirit.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them , because they are spiritually discerned.
Ver. 14. But the natural man ] This mere animal ( ψυχικος ), that hath no more than a reasonable soul and natural abilities, Judges 1:19 . Such was that sapless fellow, נבל Psalms 14:1 , that may have a disciplinary knowledge, that is, by hearsay, as a blind man hath of colours, but not an intuitive per speciem propriam, through their very own sight. The water riseth no higher than the spring from whence it came; so natural men can ascend no higher than nature. If the unreasonable creatures could draw a picture of God, said Xenophanes, they would certainly paint him like themselves, quia scilicet nihil animal animali superius cogitare potest, because they can think of nothing above themselves.
Neither can he know them ] They that are blear eyed and weak sighted, if at any time they set themselves to see better into a thing, they see the worse (Vives in Aug. de Civ. Dei, xxii. 6), so here; nay more, in our nature there is an antipathy to divine truth. We love the law better than the gospel, and any truth better than the law.
Because they are spiritually ] Ambrose reads, Because he is spiritually judged, being delivered up to a reprobate sense. But the other reading is better.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
Ver. 15. Judgeth all things ] By his spirit of discerning, 1 Corinthians 14:2 , his spiritual senses exercised to discern good and evil, Hebrews 5:14 , his undoubted persuasion of that truth he professeth, Colossians 2:3 , and whereof he hath felt the sweetness, Colossians 1:9 . Papists will needs have this spiritual man that judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of none, to be the pope. But when this Epistle was written, there was no such thing as a pope; no such doctrine as that the pope is infallible; that he must not be contradicted though he speak blasphemy or heresy; no, though he should draw thousands of souls after him to hell, say the Canonists, those abominable slowbacks. St Paul, who had the mind of Christ, was never of this mind.
Is judged of no man ] Of no natural man, who can judge no more of divine truths than a blind man can do of colours, or a sick man of meats. And herein the poorest idiot (saith one), being a sound Christian, goeth beyond the profoundest clerks that are not sanctified, that he hath his own heart instead of a commentary, to help to understand even the most needful points of the Scripture.
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Ver. 16. But we have the mind of Christ ] This is a privilege confined to the communion of saints, to have communication of Christ’s secrets, to be as it were of his court and council. One saith of Dr Sibbs, that he was a man spiritually rational, and rationally spiritual, one that seemed to see the insides of nature and grace, and the world and heaven, by those perfect anatomies he had made of them all.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29