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1 Corinthians 10:1.—Notice “for,” true reading, connecting closely with ix. ult. Q.d. “I am not secure from becoming a ‘castaway’; you are not yet sure of the prize; for it is ever a law of God’s people and their life,” etc. I would not … ignorant.—Found (with slight variation) in Romans 1:13; Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Add (for the thought) 2 Corinthians 8:1. He is a “steward of the mystery,” and is anxious to get what is entrusted to him dispensed. Our fathers.—Evidently the sin animadverted upon in this chapter is the liability and temptation of the Gentile section of the Church. But he is a Christian who still claims “the fathers” as his own; (perhaps some of the Gentiles had been proselytes before conversion to Christianity). The Church is the real Israel; the continuity of the dispensations and of the covenant of God (cf. Galatians 3:7-9; Galatians 3:14; Galatians 3:29) is maintained in the deep unity of One Covenant People, whether for some centuries accidentally Israelite, or now Gentile and Israelite indifferently. As in the parallel fact that he appeals to the Old Testament when dealing with Gentile Christians as well as with Jewish, the whole Past belongs to the new Church,—its Scriptures, its “fathers,” its God. Or, conversely, as here, “the Church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38) had our Sacraments and our Christ—“whom they tempted” (1 Corinthians 10:9)—before us. Under … through.—Literal, historical, but “in” (1 Corinthians 10:2) passes over to the underlying significance. Quite worthless as bearing upon the question of the mode of baptism, unless perhaps as an ad hominem argument against a certain type of disputant, thus: “The cloud sprinkled them, the sea splashed them with its spray; the only immersion was that of the doomed Egyptians!” But the question how much water should be used is parallel with the question how much bread should be eaten, how much wine drunk, in order to a valid participation in the Lord’s Supper. [The question of the subjects of baptism is of vital significance.]
1 Corinthians 10:3. Spiritual.—Not to be discussed apart from the specialised meaning of “spiritual” in chaps. 2,
3. “Belonging to the realm of facts in which God the Spirit and the awakened ‘spirit’ in man, and these in communion by the gracious action of the Holy Spirit upon the latter, are the leading and typical facts.” Very pertinent is Revelation 11:8 : “which spiritually is called Sodom.” Also Galatians 4:24. The Manna (Exodus 16:14-15; Exodus 17:6), with Christ’s comment, John 6:31-32 (and Psalms 78:24). Twice a rock was smitten—a “rock” (tzur) at Rephidim, under Sinai, and at Kadesh a “cliff” (selah); in the first year of the Exodus, and in the last, just before the new start to Canaan, respectively. These are quite sufficient basis for Paul’s use of the Old Testament narrative, without supposing him to sanction or adopt the foolish Rabbinical fables of the rock in Rephidim being an isolated mass which, with its spring of water, gathered itself into a quasi-globular form, “like a swarm of bees,” and, rolling along by itself, or even “carried by Miriam [!],” accompanied the host through their wilderness wanderings. This can scarcely have been anything but an allegory to the Rabbis themselves; and even if it be as old as Paul’s time—which is not certain about anything in the mass of material vaguely called the Talmud, whose earliest written form dates many years later—the utmost that can be said is well put by Dr. Driver: “The particular expression chosen by the Apostle may have been suggested to him by his acquaintance with the legend current among the Jews; but it is evident that he gives it an entirely different application, and that he uses it, not in a literal sense, but figuratively” (Expositor, January 1889). Stanley also points out that “the cloud” and “the sea” are not called “spiritual”; the manna and the water from the rock were already Messianically expounded by the Jewish teachers; whilst, until Christian baptism had been instituted, no use of the cloud and sea would be suggested, and would only occur to a Christian Rabbi like Paul.
1 Corinthians 10:5.—Cf. Hebrews 3:7 to Hebrews 4:13 for the general strain of this paragraph. Also cf. “All … all … all … all … many” here with “All … all … all … some” in 1 Corinthians 9:22. Q.d. “I may do all I can do, God may do all He can do, yet some will not be saved. See to it that ye are saved.” [Cf. Christ’s reply: “Few or many, strive yourself to enter” (Luke 13:23).]
1 Corinthians 10:6. Examples for us, or “examples of us,” which? Grammatically each finds supporters. Both are true; the former because the latter is true; on the general principle of the paragraph, that the “History of the Church” may be extended backward into even wilderness days. Evil things.—Quite general in reference; and “lust” must not be confined to the sin of 1 Corinthians 10:8. (Cf. Romans 7:7; James 1:15; 1 John 2:16.
1 Corinthians 10:7. Idolaters.—In the same sense as in 1 Corinthians 10:14. No sudden and complete lapse is contemplated, but the complicity with, and countenance of, idolatry involved in eating at the public heathen banquets, which of course might prove the first step to a complete relapse. For the history, see Exodus 32:6. Play was in fact, but by no necessary implication in the word, lascivious “play” or “sport.” At Corinth notoriously, but in heathenism everywhere, idolatry was linked with, degenerated into, sensuality; and even made sensuality service to the gods, and a means of enrichment of the Temple treasuries. [Men and women “presented their bodies a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).]
1 Corinthians 10:8.—Numbers 25:1-9 (and Josephus) say 24,000, not 23,000. “Paul follows a Jewish tradition which deducted 1,000 as being the number of those who were hanged by the judges, so that only 23,000 would be killed by the plague” (Evans). Most modern commentators dismiss as valueless all attempts at removing the apparent discrepancy, and would account the discrepancy itself of small importance, as “a slip of Paul’s memory,” or “a slip of the pen of Paul’s amanuensis”; either way obviously regarding his inspiration and that of the Epistle as not absolutely requiring “inerrancy in the original autographs.” Certainly “in one day” is not so emphatic as to imply “and a thousand more, the balance, on another.”
1 Corinthians 10:9.—Note “Lord,” not “Christ,” is now the widely supported reading. Yet “ ‘Lord’ and ‘Christ’ equally refer to Christ’s presence in the Old Testament, as implied in 1 Corinthians 10:4; Jude 1:5; Hebrews 11:26” (Stanley). Moreover, something is due to the form of the sentence; it is not expressly said that Israel tempted Christ; we do “tempt Christ.” [For similar Gospel turns given to Old Testament phrases and facts, see, besides Hebrews 11:26; Hebrews 11:7; Romans 4:13 : cf. again this with Matthew 5:5 (Psalms 37:11), ib. 3] Tempted.—Numbers 21:4; Numbers 21:6. See homiletic material on 1 Corinthians 10:13. Here “put God’s patience to the test.” The word is strengthened here with a prefix which intensifies its meaning: “put Him to uttermost proof”; “unbelief, impatience, presumptuousness” being elements in their sin; suggesting a “longing for the sensual gratifications of their old heathen life, and a desire to shake off the restraints of Christianity” (Ellicott).
1 Corinthians 10:10.—Numbers 16:41-50. The murmuring against Moses and Aaron being perhaps covertly intended as a suggestive parallel to the Corinthian murmuring against Paul’s Apostolic authority. Yet it of course aims higher than at any human authority. The destroyer.—Q.d. “the destroying angel,” whose physical instrument of chastisement was “a plague.” As in 2 Samuel 24:16; Isaiah 37:36. So Paul discloses a personal, Divine wrath behind the prevalent sickness and the deaths at Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:30).
1 Corinthians 10:11. Happened … were written.—There was a purpose moulding the facts; the written record was also the expression of a purpose. If we may use the human analogue: just as the writer of “a novel with a purpose” first constructs his characters and his story, and then publishes his teaching through the vehicle of his narrative, by writing and printing it. The vehicle of instruction is here not a fiction, but a history (“these things happened”), in which the sovereign “authorship” of God and the absolutely free activity and “authorship” of man are found, as always, in “collaboration.” Ends of the ages.—The great dispensational periods in God’s whole Redemption history: Antediluvian, Patriarchal, Mosaic. In a sense these are successive, the Christian age being the last; after Christianity, Eternity. Yet the truer view sees what is essential in each running on side by side with the next later to arise, so that all “arrive” together at the beginning of the “age to come” (Matthew 12:32; cf. significantly, Mark 10:30). For ensamples,—“Typically,” as 1 Corinthians 10:6. So Romans 5:14 (strengthened by 1 Corinthians 15:45). The serviceableness of the Old Testament for teaching New Testament truth is not a happy accident, but the result of the intention of Him Who is the Author of History.
1 Corinthians 10:13.—“Take warning. But also take courage!” See homiletic treatment.
1 Corinthians 10:15.—“I take you at your own valuation; the more reason, if you are such wise men, that you should see how my warning is warranted.”
1 Corinthians 10:16. Cup of blessing.—The name given to the third [or fourth,—authorities differ hopelessly] cup of wine solemnly drunk at a Passover Supper, over which the master of the feast said, “Blessed be Thou, O Lord our God, the King of the World, who hast created the fruit of the vine.” [This is the starting-point of the Saviour’s thought (John 15:1).] But the name was already associating itself with the Christian custom of pronouncing a blessing or thanksgiving in connection with “the cup” at the Lord’s Supper. “After the same manner” (1 Corinthians 11:25) implies that He gave thanks over His cup (1 Corinthians 10:21) as well as over His bread; and the first giving of thanks, that over the bread, is called “blessing” in Matthew 26:26. (On the general subject, see Separate Homily on 1 Corinthians 11:20.) Note that “communion” here, “partakers” (1 Corinthians 10:18), and “fellowship” (1 Corinthians 10:20) are cognate words, as shown in the 1 Corinthians 10:18; 1 Corinthians 10:20 are thus exegetical of the “communion” of this verse. (“Partakers with Christ” or “partakers of Christ,” in Hebrews 3:14, has, as matter of mere verbal exegesis, the same ambiguity as here between “Common participation with each other in,” and “Communion with, the blood of Christ (i.e. ultimately with Himself). The exact meaning will be for each man determined by his reading of the whole teaching of the New Testament upon the subject. We … we.—No definite, or decisive, pronouncement as to the persons who did, or who rightly should, “administer.” Paul’s “we” is the French “on,” q.d. “Which is broken in our Churches in our custom and manner of having amongst us ‘the Lord’s Supper.’ ” “We Christians, as a new religious community.”
1 Corinthians 10:18. After the flesh.—Showing that he has been all along writing in the presence of the thought of a continuous “spiritual” “Israel.” The custom of making a sacred meal of the greater part of the flesh of the peace offerings is in Leviticus 8:31; Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 16:11; 1 Samuel 9:23-24, etc. This gave Paul an argument appealing to the Jewish-Christian section of the Church. With the altar.—Not, as the parallels would suggest, with God, as though that were too solemn to say in such a connection.
1 Corinthians 10:19.—“Do I contradict what I said in 1 Corinthians 8:4, or in Romans 14:14?” [1 Timothy 4:4 his still unchanged conviction.] “For Christians I said indeed that these things have no real significance; to the heathen around you they have a very real significance; and the powers of the world of evil take good care that they shall have to themselves a very real significance also.”
1 Corinthians 10:20. Devils.—“Damons;” quoted from Deuteronomy 32:17. In the New Testament there is only one “devil”; the “demons” are many (Gospels passim). Stanley would soften down the meaning here to “divinities,” and “more especially to those heroes and inferior divinities to whom alone (according to the belief of this later age), and not to the supreme rulers of the universe, sacrifices as such were due.” But this enfeebles the strong antithesis which underlies Paul’s argument and remonstrance, 1 Corinthians 10:21; it is also against the New Testament usage of the word, which is everywhere (except Acts 17:18, where the speakers are heathens) evil spirits, spiritual beings, who form part of the Satanic order and realm (Ephesians 6:12. for example, is definite, and of decisive authority). “It is assumed everywhere in the New Testament that the abstract power and rule of sin have taken concrete form in superhuman beings, acting under one personal head, and bringing evil influences to bear on the human face.… Therefore every act of sin is obedience (Romans 6:16) to these superhuman enemies, and tends to carry out their purposes of death. For idolatry is the ritual of sin. It is therefore the ceremonial of the rule of evil spirits over men. Consequently, though the heathen neither intend nor know it, every act of idolatry, and whatever tends to support it, is a sacrifice laid on the altar of demons” (Beet). Very significant how far Paul is from any apologetic recognition of the (perhaps) original purpose of an idol,—to assist the worshipper to fix attention in worship, and its tribute to the necessity of human nature to worship something. There are fragments, instincts, of truth in all idolatry; but practically it is evil, only evil, sensual, demoniac.
1 Corinthians 10:22.—A very good illustration of the meaning of “tempting God.”
1 Corinthians 10:23.—See Separate Homily on 1 Corinthians 6:12.
1 Corinthians 10:24.—Note the significant “also” in the second member of the similar saying in Philippians 2:4.
1 Corinthians 10:25. For conscience’ sake.—This does not mean “Let sleeping dogs lie! Shut your eyes and go on. Do not raise the question!” but “There is, before God, no reason to raise any question; there is really no question to raise, for,” etc. So in 1 Corinthians 10:27. But, accidentally, a question of conscience becomes involved in the matter under the circumstances of 1 Corinthians 10:28; yet even then only for the brother’s conscience’ sake, directly. Indirectly, any want of consideration for him which ends in spiritual harm to him, will mean “judgment,” and condemnation, of the first man’s “liberty.”
1 Corinthians 10:27.—Will of course be, not a public heathen festival banquet—there he must not go at all; but one in a private house, and that also a mere friendly banquet.
1 Corinthians 10:28.—“Don’t burk difficulties of conscience;” as 1 Corinthians 10:25 means, “Don’t make difficulties.”
1 Corinthians 10:30.—“I don’t blame him for his not unnatural condemnation of me; nor is God’s condemnation of such a use of my liberty unjust; I only blame myself. Why should I persist in doing what brings even this indirect condemnation? It would have been better to abstain, although I could, having regard only to myself, eat with thankfulness” [=“by grace”]. Perhaps with a reminiscence of the “blessing” of the cup and the bread in the most sacred meal of all.
N.B. 1 Corinthians 11:1 really concludes this chapter. “Imitators of me,” 1 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 5:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; Hebrews 6:12; 1 Peter 3:13; (and for the thought) Hebrews 12:1-2.
HOMILETIC ANALYSIS.—Whole Chapter
I. An ancient piece of history; lighting up
II. A modern question of conduct.
1. Corinth may borrow light and teaching from the Wilderness of Sinai. The ordinary, every-day type of man in a busy, wicked centre of trade and commerce may go back for teaching to a singular, isolated people, in special, unprecedented, unparalleled conditions of national, social, religious, personal life. The Gentile Christian in Corinth may, must, listen to the teachings of the story of Ancient Israel. Israel, like Another, is “given for a witness to the peoples” (Isaiah 55:4); a standing embodiment, in its history and its Scriptures, of some great Truths of God. The facts “happened”—were made to happen, such of them as depended on the sole will of God—to be a Revelation; they were also “written” down to be a Revelation (1 Corinthians 10:11). The “ends of the ages” were come upon these men in Corinth. The last “age” of the Redemption history was begun. No preceding age had really passed away. Beginning successively, they had run on concurrently, and now were mingling their course with this newest-arisen contributory to the stream of history. They were all still needed. No one of them had really ever become obsolete. Each had contributed much to its next successor; but it had also within it principles, examples, methods, of God’s government, always needed somewhere, by some nation or individual, and essentially applicable universally. And for these “wise,” fin de siècle Corinthians (one might almost call them), at their own valuation of themselves, there was teaching, admonitory teaching. Nothing that is of God’s essential truth ever passes away. It may clothe itself, He who makes history may clothe it, in new forms, of longer or shorter persistence; but when the form perishes, the spirit and the essential principles remain. Very notably all true of the last of the bygone “ages,”—that of “Mosaism” (1 Corinthians 10:2) and its history and institutions. So closely did this mimic or suggest the coming final age; so wonderfully parallel were the historic Israel of the wilderness, and the new Israel of faith, just then beginning to be gathered out of many cities and peoples and tongues and religions; with such an entirety of transfer of all that was of abiding significance was the old “age” passing over, passing on, under the new forms of the last “age” of all; that the division line was, to the men who, like Paul himself, had lived in both, scarcely more than the formal break between two chapters of the written record of a history that never pauses in its course, and does not show any abrupt cleavage between old and new. Not only was human nature at Sinai, or Kadesh, or in the weary waste of the Arabah, the same human nature as at Corinth; not only were the great, broad outlines and principles of God’s dealing with the sins and the needs of a chosen people those on which His unchangeableness still must needs run, in dealing with a Church chosen out of the Corinthian world; but, more, it really was one continuous history of one continuous Church. There really never had been, nor could be, but one “seed of Abraham,” one people on whom were incumbent the responsibilities, in whom were vested the privileges, of the covenant with Jehovah’s “friend.” Every Gentile may read the Jewish Scriptures as his Scriptures; the Jews were not authors or exclusive proprietors, but “librarians” for the world’s sake; the Gentile Christian may claim the “fathers” as his too (1 Corinthians 10:1). The historic form was just then changing under men’s eyes, and in men’s personal knowledge; but one Corporation, one Church, embraced Sinai and Corinth, and will include every local Church and every century until literally “The End” of the earthly ages comes (1 Corinthians 15:24). The men of old were but “patterns of” the new men come or to come. And because they were patterns of them they were “examples for” them (1 Corinthians 10:6). Without essential resemblances history could teach nothing. If, so to speak, the body corporate had no personal identity under all changes of growth and development, it might as well have no memory; the Past would mean nothing to the Present or the Future. The teaching value of all History depends upon the unity of Man. The teaching value of sacred ancient history depends upon the oneness of man, and sin, in God’s purpose and work of Redemption.
2. So, then, we see really one Church, Jewish and Christian, in historical sub-division.
(1) They had our privileges (1 Corinthians 10:1-4);
(2) we have their perils (1 Corinthians 10:5-10); but
(3) they did reach, or might have reached, Canaan, as our Exodus, too, may be completed; we may have their “way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:11-13).
(1) We have not copied theirs; theirs preluded ours. The Church may now read the significance of its very sacraments in—not read it back into—the Cloud and the Sea and the Manna. The child in Christian ideas may now read the riddle of the smitten Rock and the outflowing water. The word of the enigma is “Christ.” “That rock was Christ.” Indeed, to borrow the fantastic figure or fable of the Rabbis, a grace flowed forth from Him which accompanied their journey—the Spirit (cf. John 7:37-39), given forth from Christ, though not in the abundance, nor in the special “adoption grace” (Romans 8:15-17), which are the glory of the Church of Christ, given forth from Christ “before Christ.” [Noteworthy how the two strikings of rocks to bring forth water, occurred, the one in the first year of the wanderings, the other at Kadesh, after the long thirty-eight years’ parenthesis, the “suspension” of the covenant history; as though, when the new generation is to begin from Kadesh its march to Canaan, it is to have its Rock and Water, just as the old had at their outsetting.] The camp was full of God; the history was full of miracle, which is only the world of God and of “spiritual” things, breaking through the accustomed veil behind which He ordinarily chooses that it shall lie concealed, and that He shall do His work. The world of things “spiritual” extended itself, and included within its circle the “Rock,” the “drink,” the “meat” (1 Corinthians 10:3-4). They were all for the time lifted up and became “spiritual,” tokens and material instruments of the manifested presence and blessing of God. [Indeed, may we go further and say that these were to Israel as true “sacraments” as are those of the Christian Church? Did they receive the same grace as we, though in connection with another covenant token? John 6:0 would almost carry the weight of an inference that, as to a Christian, believing partaker the bread is, between him and his Lord Christ, the pledge and seal, and is also the symbol, of all the grace of “the New Covenant” (1 Corinthians 11:25, also Hebrews 8:8-13), so to a believing, obedient Israelite the Manna, for example, might be a sign and seal of “old covenant” grace, which is but “new covenant” grace in its beginnings and in scantier measure. [Galatians 3:8; Galatians 3:14; it was “the Gospel” of justification by faith which was preached to Abraham; it is “the blessing of Abraham” which “comes upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.”] The men of the ancient order had their “baptism,” when the cloud and the sea, with its waters, put the same obvious, visible demarcation between the old life of bondage and the new life of liberty as baptism puts in our case; [it is “burial” (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12), the express, formal, visible token of a real “death” to the old life. A man who is carried to his burial is obviously by everybody accounted dead; he presumably is dead]; and when, moreover, just as we were by our baptism bound to Christ, the Representative of our God, to accept Him as our Lawgiver and Mediator, and to render all obedience to all God’s words spoken by His mouth, they were in parallel manner bound to God’s earlier Representative and Lawgiver and Mediator, to accept him and obey,—“baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” As we sit at the Table of our Lord Christ, so they had spread daily for them God’s “table in the wilderness” (Psalms 78:19), and ate and drank with [and of (John 6:53-58)] Christ. Even so do we sit down at a peace-offering banquet (1 Corinthians 10:18) where the Host Whose guests we are is also the Sacrifice once put upon “the altar,” and Who is now also the Provision upon the table. We and they share in common privileges and in a common grace. But
(2) we share their perils, their one great danger, and the subordinate dangers that contribute to it. “Let him that thinketh, … take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). They fell,—“many of them,” most of them. All with their (Mosaic) “baptism”; all with their (wilderness) Table and its (“spiritual”) viands; all safely out of Egypt and safely commencing their Exodus under Moses’ hand and care: but not all retaining the “good pleasure” of Jehovah so as to enter Canaan. And you, too, of Corinth, who have begun your Christian course, all of you; who have partaken of the Baptism and the Table, all of you; who have all shared abundantly in the full-flowing tide of the Spirit’s grace, springing from Him who is our pierced, smitten Rock, [who “came by water and blood” (1 John 5:6); see how John turns aside from the simplicity of narrative to clench his statement of fact with, so to say, an affidavit (John 19:34)]; have a care that you also be not “overthrown in the wilderness.” No most abundant ordinances and “sacraments” will save you; no most assured and definite commencement of your Christian course, no most real and blessed past participation in the Grace of this new “age” of the world, will avail to give you absolute security of completing your course. “All” ends in “some” (1 Corinthians 9:22), with all man’s effort; “all” may be diminished by the loss of “many” (1 Corinthians 10:5), with all God’s grace and the Church’s fellowship. Watch! Take heed! Guard your heart; the mischief will begin there. Its “lust” (1 Corinthians 10:6) within and “evil things” without—your danger lies there, as did the danger of “our” common “fathers.” Your heathen friends and neighbours spread you another Table; nay, the “demons” themselves do it, with a “demon” cup. Idolatry slew our fathers; in the banquet to which you are bidden as guests there is idolatry which may slay you,—“idolatry” with its riotous, drunken, lascivious “play” (1 Corinthians 10:7) for the sequel to its feast. Your city is infamous for the “fornication” which cut off three-and-twenty thousand, who quitted Egypt, but never saw Canaan. [Call it by its plain name; let its undisguised shame and sin stand clear in your thought, a thing in all ages accursed of God and His holy Law. Lend no ear to your philosophers who tell you that it is a thing outside the man, and “indifferent”; to the young man’s natural appetite, which pleads that either God should not have made him so, or that it is “necessary” and “natural” to indulge it; to the poetry which calls it “love,” and weaves around it bewitching verse, till the sin gleams and glows a very virtue, a jewel “set” and enshrined in some of the masterpieces of human genius. God’s handling of fornication is with the plague and the sword!] Think how they daringly, wickedly, put to the test the love and patience of “the Angel of the Lord” in their midst, tempting Him, as if to see how far they might go before vengeance should fall. Do not ye so put Christ to the test by complicity with surrounding heathen sin; there is a “wrath of the Lamb” which may be awakened; God can still find “serpents” to avenge His holiness, outraged by His very people; He will never lack instruments, servants, to execute His judgments. [Perhaps not too far away to illustrate by the wretched man in Southey’s Thalaba, from whose shoulders grew two serpents, which unceasingly gnawed at his face. A sinner is often punished by the “serpents” born of the sin of his own heart or life; and most commonly and terribly in case of “fornication,” when the ruined body and the polluted mind become the man’s worst scourge.] Take heed lest, if your heart “lust” after the “evil things” you left behind when you came out from heathenism, your lips begin to “murmur” rebelliously against the “narrow” and “restricted” life your religion imposes. The journey hard? Yes. No delicacies of Egypt? No. But there is still a “Destroyer,” of sharp sword (2 Samuel 24:16, etc.) and mighty power. He can execute wrath upon the Egypt you have left. He can wield His sword against the very Church which has quitted Egypt. “Flee from idolatry.” Yet
(3) some did find their journey’s end in Canaan; with some the Exodus was complete; it might have been for all. You need not fall; there is “access by faith into grace whereby you stand” (Romans 5:2). It was not God’s fault if they found that the “way of escape” from Egypt led them nowhere but, after all, to death. He “is faithful” to you and to them; the breakdown will be on your side, not on His. He knows your strength, your weakness. It is hard for you to stand in Corinth; neighbours tempting, wife or husband an unbeliever, perhaps obstinate and persecuting (1 Corinthians 7:12-13); impossible to move about in your city or to take part in public life, without being confronted with the signs and breathing the atmosphere of idolatry—attractive, sensual, filthy. But your God knows how hard it is, and He will in a thousand ways shelter you from an overwhelming pressure. Take care! Take heart! But again, take care, for
II. This devil-parody of the peace-offering feast in the Temple of Jehovah, and of the supper of the Lord which “we” spread, with its “Bread which we break,” and its Cup “which we Christians bless,” in the midst of the Church assembly, was more true to the original than many a Corinthian pleader for “liberty” and “breadth” remembered or appreciated. Whatever the heathen worshipper intended or understood, however the Christian partaker in the feast might fine down and minimise the meaning of his action, it was really a devil communion! Nothing less. Will not the Corinthians hear, think, “judge” (1 Corinthians 10:15)? To sit at “the Lord’s Table” is to enter into a very blessed “participation” with it, and indeed with the Lord, Whose table it is. (Even as the Israelite, who sits down at the peace-offering banquet, enters into a happy participation with the Altar, with the Religion of which it is the very central Symbol, and indeed with the Jehovah whose Altar it is. He is Jehovah’s man who eats there; he is an Israelite.) He is Christ’s man who eats there; he is a Christian. He who eats at the table, or who drinks the cup, of Aphrodite—nay, of the demon-master of the Feast—whose man then is he? Can he be Christ’s, and sit to eat there? Can he be a guest at Christ’s table, and go thence to become guest at a demon’s table? What congruity is there in his resorting to this table and to that? If the partakers of the old, wilderness “sacraments” brought on themselves the holy wrath of Jehovah by their murmuring and longing for the old life of Egypt, and by their shameless, flagrant, heathen impurity under the very shadow of Sinai itself, will Christians escape with impunity if their heart also lusts, and the lips murmur, and the body lends itself to vilest sin? For what else is indicated by this desire to make idol feasts compatible with a Christian profession? What but a heart like theirs? What less is meant by partaking of “the table of devils”? The new Christian Church Order lights up the meaning of the Church Order of the wilderness, and of its institutions. So the new Christian fellowship of the Table, once understood, lights up the fearful significance of the fellowship of the idol table. Who then will tempt the might (1 Corinthians 10:22) of that God Whose “jealous” holiness would not of old, and cannot now, tolerate that one of His people should be married to evil? Stand clear! Take heed! “But you are making too much of this, Paul! There is no ‘demon’ behind the idol, or its festival. There is nothing behind the idol—nothing at all; yourself said so. Then why make scruple about what is intrinsically nothing?” Well, but the conscience of another may not only make scruple for himself, but, indirectly, for the querist. And even if no “judgment” (1 Corinthians 10:29) come upon his conscience for his own act, let him see to it that his liberty is not condemned of God for the wound it gives, the snare it spreads, to the hurt of a brother’s soul. The questioner’s conscience has its rights; and the conscience of his less stable or less instructed fellow-Christian, and even that of his heathen neighbour in whose house he sits as a guest, have their rights also (1 Corinthians 10:28-29). Their weakness and needless scrupulousness have a right to tenderest consideration from a Christian man. If he violate their right by his inconsiderate liberty, he may “give thanks” loudly enough over his “meat offered to idols” and “bought in the shambles”; he may insistently urge that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” But if he eat, and so make the doubting Christian, or the inquiring heathen, or (still more) the scoffing heathen, “speak evil” of him, he is “judged” and condemned. “The earth is the Lord’s;” and so is the man of too tender conscience; very precious to the Lord and Owner of all things! The Lord seeks “that man’s wealth” (1 Corinthians 10:24); the strong, “wise” (1 Corinthians 10:15) Christian will do so too. As Paul does (1 Corinthians 10:33). Lift up everything, as the Lord’s Table with its simple, holy bread and wine does even eating and drinking, to that high level of which happily all our natural life is capable; lift it all up till it become a continual praise: “To the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:9. (May be made the occasion of a sermon or sermons upon Temptation.)
I. Neutral sense of word.—
1. Text, whether we read “Christ” or “Lord,” reminds us that the “temptations” of the Devil are not the only ones we meet with in Scripture. Experience teaches by many sharp lessons that man also can tempt man. This verse reminds us that man can “tempt” God. More than interesting—often very helpful—to get back to the one common meaning from which all these uses of the word have grown; the one which satisfies them all; the only necessary, and exact, meaning of the word in Scripture (unless perhaps in James 1:13-14).
2. We customarily distinguish between “trials” and “temptations.” Easy for a reader of even an English Bible to see that our forefathers did not so sharply divide the words. They could not help distinguishing between the things! But the word was as often neutral, or good, as evil, in its suggested idea.
3. This is not only a question of the use of English words. Very remarkable and clear case of the intrinsic neutrality of the very idea of putting to the test in Malachi 3:0. In 1 Corinthians 10:15 “they that tempt God” and yet “are delivered” are manifestly daringly evil men. But in 1 Corinthians 10:10 “prove Me now herewith” employs the same word-when, so to speak, inviting men by their consecration of their goods to see whether God will not meet their fair dealing with Him with liberal dealing to them. In both cases men tempt, prove, put God to the test, but with a purpose that gives the quite neutral word a widely differing colouring in the two cases. “Trying God” may be an act of God-honouring faith or of God-daring impiety. The word, the thing, the “testing,” was big with twin possibilities. It bore within its womb a temptation born of an evil heart whether of man or devil, and a temptation born of God’s good purpose or of man’s God-honouring faith.
4. It is of great practical use in our exegesis of Scripture to keep this, the only proper meaning of the word, quite clear from all the accidental associations of evil purpose and result. These are really accidents. In our experience, the temptation is so commonly designed to arouse, or lead to, evil, and so commonly finds its most potent instrument in the evil within the heart, that we make the purpose of evil in him who tempts, and the presence of evil in him who is tempted, essential to “temptation.” But, in fact, even when the purpose of the testing is evil, the presence of evil to be appealed to and awakened does not constitute the temptation. It makes it strong, not real. The intention to put to the test makes the reality of the temptation.
5. [Obviously so, or men could not “tempt God.” Thus, too, is removed some of the difficulty connected with the “temptation” of Christ;—some, not all. We say, naturally, “This was no temptation to me,” meaning that the tempter, human or diabolic, found no response within, nothing within the heart’s citadel to make resistance difficult; [as Nehemiah found added danger and difficulty in the fact that there were men within Jerusalem, by marriage or otherwise allied to the Samaritan and Ammonite enemies outside]. In such a case we almost use His words, as to that particular instance (John 14:30). But, speaking accurately, it was a temptation, a real putting of us to the test by somebody or some group of circumstances. It is then only popular, and inexact, thought which makes us say of Christ, “How could He be tempted? How could anything be a temptation to Him?” The Adversary was doing on a larger scale, and with a greater intensity of evil, what the “lawyer” did with scarcely any evil intent (Luke 10:25); or His successive questioners, on the “Day of Questions” (Matthew 22:0); all alike were putting Him to the proof to know what He would say and do. The Tempter, par excellence, has a wide knowledge of human nature, and a wider experience, derived from years of practice and observation. But he has no certainty beforehand that he will succeed with even a man. From wide experience he knows the heart, but not the individual; he knows man, but not the man—not me. Christ in the wilderness was a problem to him. Only once before had he seen on earth a sinless man, and he had tried and found him plastic to his evil will and purpose. Now again, after so many centuries, he saw a sinless man. [Perhaps he knew Him “a second Adam”!] Would this One also prove plastic to his will? He tried; he tempted Him. The reality of the temptation of Christ is posited there. It is altogether another question how far the fact that He was secure, whilst the utmost we can by grace attain to is to be kept safe, affects His community and sympathy with us. And another and profoundly mysterious question, what part the forty days’ testing, with its culminating threefold attack, played in the personal life of the Saviour Himself; whether He were simply and wholly representative of our Humanity as it was in God’s original conception and intention. It is to be remembered that the Personality, tempted through one part of His twofold nature, was the Son, “the second Person of the Trinity.”]
II. The evil sense.—
1. Men so tempt men. No more emphatic testimony to the innate evil of man’s heart than that man should, often quite gratuitously, try to lead others astray; should put stumbling-blocks in the paths of spiritual childhood and weakness. [Like putting, morally, a “chair” on the rail, for the mere pleasure of seeing the ruin wrought to the train.] Why will men stand in the way of the drunkard, etc., who wants to climb out of the slough and shame of his old life—stand proffering the old allurements? Why will they beset the path of the prodigal who wants to “arise and go to his Father”? [Utilia.—
(1) You tempted, and must come within near range of the temptation? Hurry by the faster, as a planet or a comet does when nearest to the attracting Sun.
(2) You tempted? Stand fast! You may save your tempter as well as yourself. Perhaps he is fighting with his conscience, whilst he is trying to get you to silence yours.
(3) The sin of the man who tempts you does not take away the sin of your yielding. Jacob is guilty as well as Esau.
(4) “They who ought to have helped me gave me no help and sympathy.” No matter. You may not be so guilty; but you are guilty. Farrar remarks on: “Cast thyself down!”
(5) Never talk away a man’s “too nice “scruples; they may be his only security against a terrible fall (1 Corinthians 8:9; Romans 14:0).] How low that man has sunk who lends himself, for no personal advantage, but simply for the pleasure of seeing evil ruin good, to be the decoy to lead his fellows into the Devil’s trap! [One of the saddest glimpses into the fallen condition of even the world beneath man, that the animals can be trained to do this for their fellows.] Men must needs say to men, sometimes, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” as Christ did to Peter. It would seem that in those weeks the thought of His passion and all its accompaniments of agony was present with Christ in unusual vividness. Perhaps Calvary had never so vividly stood in His view until that time. May we say that He had wrestled with His natural and innocent shrinking from the suffering [as afterwards in Gethsemane], and conquered with an utter submission to the will of His Father? And now Peter, His friend, proposes to Him to choose some easier path than that of the cross. “Do not say that, Peter! That is what Satan would like, and has been saying [as, in effect, in Matthew 4:9, proposing a short and easy “cut” to the throne and the kingdom]; Satan speaks through thy proposal, Peter! Away with the thought! Away with thee, Peter! “Unintentionally they tempt men, and do the work of the Devil, who tempt them to seek an easier path to heaven than that viâ Calvary.
2. Men so tempt God.—See Synopsis appended.
(1) By acting as if daring Him to punish (1 Corinthians 10:22), e.g. Korah and his company of censer-bearers; as if putting Him to the proof to see how long His patience will endure, how far they dare go in open, defiant sin. “Let us see whether He will punish, as He says.” Or
(2) As really, if not so defiantly, by “trading upon” His longsuffering mercy, His readiness to pardon, even at the eleventh hour; continuing in sin, taking little or no care to avoid sin, making little or no effort to cultivate holiness, and yet hoping to retain His favour and their status as His children, as if trying how much His holiness will bear of sin’s offensiveness.
(3) By expecting salvation on some other terms than God’s or without regarding the published terms of the Gospel at all. “God so loved the world,” etc., where “so” is not “so much” but “thus”; the one manner and the channel of the availableness of the love of God for the world; not the measure of it, which lies rather in the fact that it was this “Son” who was “given”; men should seek, expect, get, the love through that one Channel, on that one Condition. The man who will trust to something or some one else, as, e.g., to himself and what he had been and done, or, quite as often, has not been and has not done, and yet who will hope to be saved, is tempting God.
(4) The man who, on no call of duty or of service to souls, thrusts himself into company, or into a business position, or a place of amusement, manifestly unfavourable to his religious life, and yet hopes to escape,—“We shall suffer no harm; God keeps His children anywhere,”—is as really tempting God as Christ would have been if He had flung Himself from the Temple pinnacle hoping to alight unhurt.
(5) Ananias and Sapphira are a typical case of the many wherein men almost seem as if experimenting whether God can find them out and punish (Psalms 73:11).
III. The good sense.—God tempts men; “suffers them to be tempted” (ver, 13), “leads them into temptation” (as implied in the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:13).
1. Our moral instinct assures us that God’s testing stands apart from the rest in this: He never designs or desires that, under His tests, men should give way or fall, and be either overborne by trial or borne down by sin. “God cannot be tempted of evil,” we all say with James (1 Corinthians 1:13-14). Let men’s evil heart, or the devil’s, do their worst, they cannot disturb His peace or sully His awful holiness. Indeed, that holiness of His very being casts, as it were, around Him an awful seclusion of sanctity, within whose sacred precinct He dwells unassailable, unapproachable, by the shafts of temptation. With how much stronger reason do we say, “Neither tempteth He any man.” If evil cannot enter within the awful barrier of His holiness, how much less can we conceive of it as originating within its circle, or that from within that Holy of Holies of burning, blinding sanctity there should issue a volition, a message, a Providence, whose purpose should be to lead a man to sin! Whatever it may mean that God should “lead into temptation,” it can never mean that. He never did, nor can, design to awaken, or strengthen, or bring forth into expression or execution, the evil of man’s heart. He can only design to bring forth, strengthen, discipline, good. The engineer does not desire to break down, when he tests severely, the newly built bridge. He does not even desire to find flaws or weakness, except that they may be remedied. On the other hand, when the enemy tests a city by assault, or by planning to secure the help of treachery within, he hopes the place may prove pregnable. He hopes he may find weakness or treason, which may give him entrance, possession, mastery. As the engineer tries his bridge, so God tempts men—and only so. As the enemy tests the city, so the Devil or evil men tempt men—and always so.
2. God leads into temptation—tempts men—when He puts them into circumstances of (as we distinguish the word) Trial; the Adversary endeavours to turn them to his own evil account of Temptation. E.g. God asks a modern Abraham to give up his Isaac. It is to be a blessing to him; to perfect his consecration; to complete the education of a finished trust, besides making him to others a more glorious example of grace. The diligent Adversary is on the watch, to turn it into an occasion of bitter, or rebellious, thoughts, souring or sanctifying the tempted man. Or God’s test may be some great measure of temporal good—a very sharp test of character. It may reveal to a man how little he can bear of advancement, how liable he is to pride, how easily he might grow independent of God. It may leave him humbler, and drive him to prayer, and make him hold all only as the gift of God. It may reveal the man to himself. He may come out of the testing, and go in and out before men an example of enlarged, enriched, ennobled nature, and of humbly borne honour and consecrated wealth. On the other hand, the Devil’s endeavour will be to bring out all the evil that lies so near the surface. The pride, the ostentation, the independence of God, may become predominant; the man may be enriched, but narrowed into a mere worldling, “who has his portion in this life.”
3. If this liability is always so near, and men are so often ruined, not raised, soured, not sanctified, by the perverted issue of His own providential arrangements, why does God “run the risk”? Why does He “lead into temptation”? or, at the least, “suffer men to be tempted,” by devils or men? Full answer has within it whole Problem of Evil. We may suggest:
(1) A human analogy. A country lad thrust into the life of large city; pleasant, but evil, things all around; men, friendly but evil, ready with their offer of guidance to “see life”; temptations of the streets, the vacant evenings, the absence of restraining observation. And his Christian father knew all the peril, all the boy’s weaknesses, when he sent him up to the City, and away from home. With more trepidation sends out his daughter too; “cannot afford to keep them at home; would not be good for my boy if I could—he will never become a man unless tested; he must learn to stand alone, by being left alone, even at the risk of many a stumble or even a ruinous fall; will introduce him to friends, will write him frequently; will help him to stand.” When he leads him, thrusts him into the trial of a City life, he leads him into temptation in the only sense in which God does it. [Or we may say: God’s ships are not built only to lie safe and snug within the shelter of the breakwater. There are storms outside; they may bo wrecked; but the risk must be taken, or they will do no business and carry no cargo of blessing.] Also
(2) we ee that not even the Son was exempt (Matthew 4:1); He was “led up into the wilderness—led of the Spirit—to be tempted.” [Another word in Matthew 6:13.] Mark (1 Corinthians 1:12) is very express: “Driveth, thrusteth Him out” into the wilderness, where, of course, His Father knew that the Evil One would find His Son and tempt Him. We dare not say (see above) that the Son of God needed it personally. Officially He did; His work did; we did. Part of His work for us, part of His sharing with us in all things that He must meet, and wrestle with, and overthrow, the same Tempter with whom we must meet and wrestle. [Parallel so far to the death which He must representatively die, though no personal necessity lay upon Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).] We see just how much His Father did. The place, the hunger, the destiny, which gave the Adversary his opportunity, and became the occasions of his attack, were part of His permitted course. Indeed, they were in the course of the providential arrangements of His Father, made for another, an altogether wise and holy, purpose. So we shall say: “My Father led me into circumstances which put me on my trial. As it proved, and not without His foreseeing it, my evil heart, my diligent Adversary, the closely surrounding world, turned all into temptation. My Father so suffered me to be tempted, led me into temptation, tempted me.”
1 Corinthians 10:13. “Thus far, no farther!”—(Of temptation.)
I. View of God here suggested.—
1. Surely an unwarranted turn is given to the thought when this is read: “Take heed, for though you have hitherto had only such trial as man can bear, there is worse to come!” The true connection of thought in Paul’s words conveys a twofold message: “Take heed; take courage! “It would be strange enheartenment to say: “Look out! You will soon have trials such as no man can bear,” But the heart of “the God of all comfort” (παράκλησις, 2 Corinthians 1:3) loves to hearten His people. “A devotional writer, replying to the question, ‘How are we to overcome temptations?’ says, ‘Cheerfulness is the first thing, cheerfulness is the second, and cheerfulness is the third.’ It is very true. Faint heart never won anything, least of all a spiritual battle.… Lightness and brightness of heart, an unfailing elasticity of spirit, must characterise the good soldier of Jesus Christ, if he is to break his way to the heavenly country through the serried ranks of his spiritual foes” (Goulburn, Pers. Rel., III. vi.). It is not part of a healthy religion to anticipate trial, whether worse or lighter than has hitherto been known. [Yet if worse come, “a fiery trial,” Peter would say, “Think it not strange,” etc. (1 Peter 4:12). Q.d. “When it comes your way, and knocks at your door with its urgent hand, do not treat it as a stranger, or an enemy, or refuse it admission into your life, or even grudgingly submit to its intrusion. It is a friend, however strange and rude it may appear; it brings you a blessing; welcome it as from God; do not refuse it.”] As to the possibilities of the future, rather rest in—
(1) God’s relation to the trial, and
(2) God’s relation to you.
(1) “Will not suffer.” Then, if it do not directly originate with Him, it does not come upon you apart from Him. All things, even the course of trials, serve His might. The flood may creep up to, or come rolling in upon, your standing place; but He sitteth above even such waterfloods, and can stay their proud waves when He will—certainly before they swallow up you and your place of foothold upon His faithfulness and love. The free and evil wills of devils and men have their limit, and are subordinated to His will. Except within the limits of His sovereign rule in your life, they can neither themselves create for you, nor modify what He has created, of arrangements of events, or associations with persons, such as put character and the strength of principle to the test in you. The roaring lion himself cannot go beyond his chain; and the end of the chain is in the hand of your “faithful” God. Whatever be our estimate of the literary form of the revelation in Job 1:2—simply literal, or allegoric, symbolic—no question of form involves falsehood in the view there disclosed of God and His relation to evil. It—not to say “he”—must solicit His permit to assail a Job; it can only do it so far as may serve the glory of Jehovah and the moral education of His servant. We are on surer ground in regard to the strain of teaching—some would regard themselves on surer ground as to the actual shape of the facts—when we hear Jesus communicate to Peter—a later Job in this—a colloquy which, behind the veil, and within the real, but to us unseen, world, where He and His Father and the Evil One mysteriously move and meet, had recently taken place in regard to the man Peter. “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31-32). “I cannot tell, now that I look back,” says a man of God, “how I got through. If I had known beforehand, I should have said it would have been impossible for me to come out of it unharmed, conqueror, more than conqueror.” There had been the colloquy behind the veil. There had been the controlling hand of Him who “would not suffer,” etc. Do not look out for worse. Take the days in successive detail, as the trial unfolds itself, and meet each new point in the confidence that His hand will “suffer” or “not suffer” as He knows right. Also
(2) “He is faithful.” If you can see, or can say, that His character is in any case involved, then your faith, or your appeal for help, has a hold upon Him such as hardly anything else will give you. He regards His people warmly; He regards His own honour “jealously.” He is pledged to them. What less is implied in His name “Shepherd”? (Psalms 23:0). For the sake of His name “Shepherd” He will see that “no temptation,” etc. No matter if you rather, with Paul, conceive of yourself a precious “deposit” lodged with Christ for safe keeping “in that day” (1 Timothy 1:12). It is the faithfulness of God revealed, embodied, in Him. In this, as in all else, “he that hath seen Him hath seen the Father.” He is the faithful Father “over again.” So then—
II. Temptation is,
1. Wisely adapted, suited to men (and to the man);
2. Graciously proportioned;
3. Mercifully limited [J. L., who also suggests:] Many suppose that their temptations are:
1. Singular, but they are common;
2. Intolerable, but they are proportioned to ability;
3. Invincible, but there is a way of escape. Illustrate,
1. By the trucks upon the railways. Look at them; see figures painted upon their side or the framing, “5–3–0,” or the like. Their “load limit.” So much, no more, must be put upon that build of truck; that heavier build of truck marked yonder “10–2–0” can carry twice as much. What the temptation suited to angelic nature or strength may be we do not know. He knows what is suited to human nature and its strength of grace. The human build of truck has its load limit. It will never be overpassed. He will not suffer it. “Against regulations,” under His mangement. Illustrate,
2. By the prison surgeon standing by, as even the hardest criminal receives his quota of lashes. He watches the effect of every stroke. If the full tale of punishment has not yet been administered, but the prisoner can bear no more, he says, “Stop!” The sentence is incomplete, but not another lash may be laid on. Incongruous in many a point, the illustration may serve to make Him real Who sits watching the effect of every stroke which He Himself causes, or else permits, to descend. Not one heavier, not one more, than you can wisely, profitably, graciously be made to endure.
(1) It was a true parable when on the top of hill above Nazareth the Pattern Son was hemmed in on all sides by a crowd of angry, murderously angry, Nazarenes; and yet a way out opened through the crowd; a Power was upon them which held every Nazarene hand in its restraining grasp; “passing through the midst of them, He went His way” (Luke 4:30). As you will through the most urgently pressing besetment of encircling “trials.”
(2) How often in such intricate channels as the Kyles of Bute does it seem from the deck as though there were at last a perfect cul de sac, and as if to go forward must be to run upon the enclosing shore or cliff. But at the last moment there is the “way of escape,” and a new, often a more beautiful, bit of clear course opens up by an unexpected turn; like the unexpected “turns” in trying circumstances which have suddenly opened up perhaps years of clear and happy “run.” He has made the channel, and has the map of it under His eye. And His hand, if we will, may be on the helm.
(3) How men rightly glorified Captain Kennedy, who brought his steamer safely out of the so fatal hurricane in the harbour of Apia, Samoa. The enclosing barrier reef had its one narrow opening—difficult, perilous, but a practicable “way of escape.” Our Captain has “consummate seamanship,” and will never fail to hit the exact outlet from the barrier reef of closely encircling trials.
(4) To His knowledge, power, heart, there are no insoluble problems of trial or temptation. Wherever He puts you, or suffers you to go on His errand, He can keep you until you reach “the way of escape.” Possibly the article in Greek may almost be equivalent to “its own way of escape,” i.e. the particular deliverance belonging to, and best for, that particular trial, God thus “giving His attention” to each case that arises.
1 Corinthians 10:14. Flee from Idolatry.
I. The general principles underlying Paul’s advice in this particular instance.—
(1) “You cannot touch even these idol feasts without more or less of complicity with, and countenance given to, the whole system of idolatry.”
(2) “You cannot give any degree of countenance and support to idolatry, without in that degree disavowing your Lord.” Sin “hangs together.” No sin is an isolated act. It manifests a tendency of heart; or it carries a principle of action; or belongs to a system of evil, a coherent, organic whole. It might seem a small thing to join in a public banquet, where the viands on the table were largely “meats offered to idols”; especially remembering that such participation was regarded as a matter of good citizenship, “religion” being very much more an affair of a man’s civic life than of the individual life. Moreover, “was it not now abundantly clear to every enlightened, thinking Christian in Corinth that an ‘idol was nothing in the world,’ that these viands were not intrinsically affected in the least by the fact that part of (say) the carcass or of the basket of fruit had been put upon the altar of a so-called ‘god’? Could not every man of sense see that in regard to any healthy food there need be raised no question of conscience about eating it? Such entire abstinence as our Jewish friends counselled—was it not narrow, and needlessly repellent to possibly well-disposed people amongst our Gentile neighbours?” Well, but why this hankering after these old ways, this heathen company, these perhaps dangerous festivities, which not seldom ended in a drunken orgie, or in indulgence of gross sensuality? Was the “Christian” heart half idolatrous yet? Was the ploughman looking back from his plough? (Luke 9:62). Was “Lot’s wife” in heart going back to the Corinthian “Sodom,” as she thus looked back? Were the Christian Israelites “murmuring” that “the fleshpots of Egypt” might not be enjoyed in the camp of God in the wilderness? (1 Corinthians 10:6-10). [Why, in the modern Corinths, all this eagerness to show how compatible with a “broad,” “fair-minded,” “attractive” Christian life are places and pleasures which, in the current opinion of the “stricter sort,” and in the current opinion of “the world,” are accounted “worldly”? Is the heart losing its satisfaction in the joys of the life in Christ; beginning to murmur against its restrictions—they used only to be the instinctively imposed and necessary limitations upon Christian action; beginning to look towards, to move towards, the world again?] But, be that as it might, it perhaps seemed, and might be pleaded, that the connection of the feast with idolatry was of the very slightest, that to touch idolatry there was to touch it at its purest, brightest, or, at worst, at its least defiled and defiling point. No! To touch it anywhere was to sanction it everywhere! It might be but the borderland and farthest outskirts of the area of the evil thing, but it was idolatry’s ground. The most strictly limited participation in anything belonging to the system, “explained” to the man’s own conscience in the most “satisfactory” fashion, would really be, and would be regarded by the idolater as, a patronage and sanction given to the whole. [Not to say that, if the Christian “did but touch the border of the garment” of the Accursed System, an evil “virtue would go forth” and pervade with its power the new life of the soul.] So, in modern Corinths, the “broader” mind pleads for the theatre, sometimes for “the theatre as it might be if only Christian people would not hold aloof from it”; sometimes by carefully choosing the place and the play, and with great circumspection going and coming away “unharmed.” But “harm” is a subtle thing, not always immediately to be perceived. And that apart, the Theatre “hangs together”; it is a coherent thing, touching on the one hand—at least dramatic literature does—the sublimest reaches of poetry and of creative art, but spreading and broadening downwards from that highest point to depths; at best of inane and vapid folly of language and art, at worst of suggestive or overt sensualism and crime. The most guarded, most strictly limited, participation is, by necessity of experience and fact, taken to cover the whole Thing. The Christian man picks up a very filthy cloth, with dainty thumb and finger taking hold very “gingerly” at the cleanest place he can find, and then lays it down, exclaiming, “There! Who says a Christian cannot touch it without being defiled?” He takes hold of the approximately clean end of a stick; the young man, wavering between the world and Christ, hears him say, “There! I have not defiled my fingers!” and takes hold of the end bedaubed with the foulest “pitch.” Even to the man’s own conscience the logic is dishonest. Paul’s principle is: “Touch idolatry anywhere, you touch it as a whole. Flee from idolatry.”
2. “In the Church you have a Table, and its feast; your Lord Christ’s table; your Lord Christ’s Supper. He presides; you partake with Him; you partake of Him, He graciously says; you avow yourself there to belong to His brotherhood; you covenant yourself there to belong to Him. At the table and the feast in the temple of Zeus or Apollo or Aphrodite, you partake with—Demons! You are gone in to supper, not with a no-god, but with a demon! If you do not mean that by the feast, the heathen do, and the demons do. Can you sit there and sit at Christ’s supper—both? Choose; you must choose. Christ will choose if you do not. He will choose to refuse your allegiance, to refuse His follower who will, forsooth, ‘serve two masters.’ To partake of the feast is to disavow your Lord.” So, again, the foundation principles of life “in the world” [“in the Wicked One,” 1 John 5:19] are so entirely other than those of life “in Christ,” that no fusion, no alliance, no truce, between the two is possible. To partake with the world is to break with Christ. Flee from idolatry. Comparative Religion, the wider knowledge of heathen faiths and their history, tend to a temper which would make idolatry no such “terrible sin.” [Even as the spirit ever and again rises which would minimise the differentiœ between the Church and the world.] “It is but the perversion of the worshipping instinct; men must worship something. It is but the abuse of the dramatic instinct; men are some of them born dramatic,” and the like. “Flee from idolatry.” “Ye cannot drink the cup,” etc. (1 Corinthians 10:21).
II. Paul’s counsel.—“Flee from.”
1. As there are temptations against which the best defence is “flight” [“Flee youthful lusts,” 2 Timothy 2:22. Jeremy Taylor, Holy Living, Of Chastity, § iii., “Remedies,” 1]; so, better than parley, argument, endeavour after a modus vivendi between the two types of life—better for the rescued but imperilled man himself, and better for “the world.” that is to be saved out of its “idolatries”—is open, emphatic aloofness and avoidance. “Flee; put the utmost distance between thee and the evil; put it eagerly between thee and it. Touch the evil, in the endeavour to purify and elevate; touch it, even mentally, to battle with it; and you will often suffer, and perhaps be overcome. Flee from idolatry. Flee! FLEE! [Cf. Exodus 23:13 : “Be circumspect; and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” Not even a quasi-antiquarian and historical curiosity about the old idolatries of their Canaanite predecessors was to be encouraged; Deuteronomy 12:30, “Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared; … and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods?” (The next step was apt to be) “So will I do likewise.” “Let him that thinketh he standeth,” etc. (1 Corinthians 10:12).]
2. For the personal life, the aloofness and distinction of utter and pointed abstinence may often be the only needed form of “flight.” But public and official “flight” may need to be a much rougher-seeming and iconoclastic procedure. The architect and the man of taste look upon the fair ruins of monastic establishments and their churches, and bewail the ruthless spoliation and destruction of exquisite architecture and sculpture; the antiquary laments the loss of countless treasures of religious art, priceless to-day for their historic value and their intrinsic beauty and interest. No doubt there was much purely selfish destruction, and some malicious; but some of the iconoclasm was a necessary violence, as things were, if the evil was to be reformed or uprooted. What relic so precious, historically or religiously, as “the serpent of brass which Moses had made”? Were there no regrets, none to plead that it might be spared, “purified from the abuses which had sprung up around it”? Were there no really good men who “could not see that such ‘ruthless’ destruction was necessary,” when Hezekiah broke up the Nehushtan? (2 Kings 18:4). Doubtless; but there are times when the peril of “idolatry” requires the sacrifice of the most honourable, ancient, venerable institution, or opinion, or system; when it is impossible to divorce the thing from its danger and abuse. Such times can afford no nice distinction, no subtle pleading about “underlying good,” or “original blamelessness,” possible “recoverableness” to good use. When the figure of Jesus cannot be kept simply as an exquisite work of the sculptor’s art, but becomes, in its associations and use, an immoral, Jehovah-rivalling, Christ dethroning idol; it must be destroyed, rather than that moral peril shall be incurred. The early Church had perforce to part company for a century or two with the noblest of ancient art. It was self-preservation to “flee from idolatry” in sternest iconoclasm. [The rough surgery of the sword, slaying its three thousand idolaters, was the first “cure” for the moral plague of Israel in the matter of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:27-28).] Stately ritual may become idolatrous, when it becomes an end instead of a means:
“’Tis mad idolatry
To make the service greater than the God.”
“Sweep it away,” perhaps. “Flee from idolatry.” [Other cases will suggest themselves.] “Flee from;” the ship—the Church, the soul—is in peril anywhere near her old moorings. She is only safe in the open sea.
III. Some familiar idolatries.—
1. “A calf of Gold.” [We hear the plea, “There came out this calf!” “Really, I seem to touch nothing that does not prosper; I don’t quite know how it is. You religious people say God made me so rich. Then He is more than half in fault in that I have the calf to tempt me to idolatry!”]
2. Human teachers and current ideas, whether theological or other. The majority must inevitably be dependent upon authority for beliefs and opinions, new or old, orthodox or heterodox. The scientific specialist righteously has claims to be listened to; his work must come before that of the populariser and propagator, and he and his fellow-workers must in the nature of the case find very few who can challenge, or criticise, or verify the facts they announce, and only a slightly larger number who can give a verdict of independent value upon the conclusions they formulate as resulting from other facts. The theologian is a specialist in his own line; and as having given special attention, with special training, to a particular group of facts, may claim to be listened to and to have a presumption set up in favour of his conclusions. But no servile deference should be paid to either. No man may claim that his ipse dixi should be of necessity “truth.” The “idolatry” of great names and of current opinions, and even of long-established ones, oftener arises within the popular mind than with the specialist. He generally knows he is no “god”; and says (1 Corinthians 10:15), “I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.” The deification is oftener the undiscriminating act of the worshipping crowd; every kind of sect—not theological only, by any means—is in danger of setting up its divinity, whose words are an oracle of final authority. Great names tend always to become fetishes. Current, scientific, or theological, or anti-theological theories are apt to become “idols,” before which men dare not but bow. Needless scepticism in regard to any new teacher; dogged, unenlightened clinging to and worship of the old; are indefensible. But there is also a hasty, unreasoning, superstitious acceptance and worship of the new—of the newest—quite as indefensible. Men need to keep their head cool, their heart calm, and when all the plain is covered with the prostrate forms of the worshippers of the latest, or the most venerable, image of gold set up by some Nebuchadnezzar of to-day, or of the past, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego must stand erect, and perilously singular. In some circles the theological furnace perhaps, certainly in many the scientific fires, will be lighted, for the man who dares to “flee from idolatry.” [The charge of “Bibliolatry” is one which will be advanced or repudiated according to men’s estimate of the Bible. It is only fair to those who are charged with undue deference to any dictum of the Book, or to any plain and fair consequence which may be drawn from such dicta, to say that, however much they may differ in their conception and statement of the degree and mode of God’s activity in the production of the Bible, they agree in their aim to formulate and secure the absolute and final authority of God for its declarations and teachings. If they refuse to go behind the Book, it is only because they regard the Bible as in every part invested with the authority due to the mind and will of God Himself. They believe Him to have adopted, and to have made Himself responsible for, the whole Book, whatever be the literary, the historical, the mental, or moral processes by which the work of the human writers has reached its completed form. On their hypothesis, at all events, they cannot be charged with idolatry when they bow their own intellect, heart, will before the whole Word of God. They are worshippers, they would say, not of the Book, but of its Author.]
3. The idolatries of the house, of the family; the “worship” of the husband or the child. Not all Abrahams [or all Sarahs] can put their Isaacs upon God’s altar, or give them back into God’s hands, without there being any subtle “idolatry” of the creature to stand discovered in, and by, the sharp trial to the parental heart. “Flee from”—be on the watch against—the idolatry which makes these in any degree or manner nearer than, higher than, God. No need not to love, warmly, devotedly; no need to reproach himself when, e.g., the husband’s heart feels keenly the severance from the wife. God gave the wife and the mutual love, and does not expect him not to feel, as he did not expect them not to love. Only the allegiance to God, and the interests of the spiritual life, must stand paramount.
“Have I with all my full affections
Still met the King? loved him next heaven? obeyed him?
Been, out of fondness, superstitious to him?
Almost forgot my prayers to content him?”
—Queen Katharine of Aragon, in “Henry VIII.,” Acts 3:0, scene 1.4. Heart sins, so “secret” (Psalms 19:12) that the very soul itself hardly sees them “idols.” “Flee”—cultivate a sensitiveness to the danger—“from idolatry.” Sometimes an “idol” in the heart keeps the seeking soul from finding God’s grace. There is anostrich-policy that tries not to see, and then to think that, nothing seen, all is right. Not honest with itself, the soul turns away from even looking in the direction of the sin it means to keep, and, trying to forget it, offers to God the rest as “all.” But the last and least idol must be sought out, and cast out! Men will keep the idol, but make compensation by giving, by charity, by church-building, or the like. Like Jonah’s sailors, they will cast out their goods; anything, in fact, but their gods. The seeking soul must be sternly iconoclast in the temple within.
(a) “Father, Thy will be done!
We know it is most loving, and most wise,
And yet we tremble lest Thou say, ‘Arise,
That idol leave and come.’
Oh, should we then obey?
Or should we cling unto our shrine of dust?
Or should we follow but because we must?
Not loving Thy pure way?”
—Sunday Magazine, 1867, p. 428.
(b) “Ah, we are slow to learn, dull children all;
We see not and we hear not what we might,
We start and tremble when loud voices call,
When low ones whisper we neglect them quite.
Terror and love, all, all, are tried in vain,
And pass away like visions of the night;
We disregard the warning and the pain,
And clasp our hearts’ poor idols with delight.”
—Dove on the Cross.]
1 Corinthians 10:15. “Judge ye what I say.”
I. An inspired man here asks intelligent, candid examination of his words.—
1. Paul is quite clear as to their absolute, “objective” authoritativeness, as in 1 Corinthians 14:37 : “If any man think himself … a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” Yet they make this appeal to the judgment for examination and reception. They were not to be challenged, indeed, or set aside, or even revised; yet they ask, claim, no acceptance resting on mere authority. They commend themselves to the truly “wise” man, as truth. The instinctive, revolting condemnation of the healthy moral sense that cries “God forbid!” is repeatedly Paul’s only possible, or worthy, or necessary answer to opponents and their teachings. Dr. Martineau’s purpose in, and use of, his words may not commend itself, but it is only an exaggeration of a truth when he says: “Second-hand belief, assented to at the dictation of an interested expert [N.B. this] without personal response of thought and reverence in myself, has no more tincture of religion in it than any other lesson learned by rote.” He proceeds, however: “We never acknowledge [authority] till that which speaks to us from … a higher strikes home and wakens the echoes in ourselves, and is thereby instantly transferred from external attestation to self-evidence. And this response it is which makes the moral intuitions, started by outward appeal, reflected back by inward veneration, more than egoistic phenomena, and turning them into correspondency between the universal and the individual mind, invests them with true authority” (Seat of Authority, Preface). One whose attitude towards an external revelation is far other than that of Dr. Martineau, Dr. South, says: “The surest ground that a man can have for believing anything is that he feels it in himself.” The authoritativeness must in the first instance be external to the man; but the authority presents its credentials. These have several lines of verification, one being the correspondence of the teaching or the fact with demands of the moral sense.
2. The moral sense must be kept in full health by communion with God, or its “wisdom” is darkened, perverted, into folly. Obedience to known truth is a prime condition of further truth being given by the Holy Spirit. “If any man willeth to do His will, He shall know,” etc. (John 7:17, R.V.). The very credentials of Christ Himself would only appeal to the right heart: “He that is of the truth heareth My voice” (John 18:37), which is closely coincident in thought with Paul’s words in the text. John 8:43 means: “Ye do not understand this particular teaching which I am now uttering, because there is a deep, all-affecting ignorance in your heart; ye do not at all understand the dialect itself in which I always speak. Ye cannot judge what I say; ye do not possess the preliminary equipment for judgment, in an acquaintance with my language. I speak as to wise men.” “Wisdom is justified by her children” (Matthew 11:19 [N.B. var. reading], Luke 7:35), and justifies herself to them. Coleridge: “In order to an efficient belief in [and knowledge of] Christianity, a man must be a Christian.”
3. The external authority must be kept first.—In its most peremptory demand for acceptance and obedience Revelation never asks the acceptance of mere credulity. Miracles come primarily as facts of history, to be verified like any other fact of history. Yet there is a moral fitness about them; they are not mere marvels, to be “gulped down” with open mouth and closed eyes; they are parts of a coherent and self-consistent scheme. They are perfectly congruous with the assumed conditions of a Fall and a Redemptive History. Of this moral congruity the moral sense may judge, and it will take it as one of the necessary credentials of even the most abnormally “supernatural” fact. Even the Bible says, “Judge ye what I say,” and awaits with even more than Paul’s confidence the verdict. The Spirit in the Book, and the Spirit which enlightens and guides the judgment in the man, is One; the external and internal must coincide. Yet it does not tolerate challenge, revision, rejection. The closer investigation of the historical and literary phenomena of the process by which the Bible has come to be the One Book it is, must not, in announcing its resultant theories of “inspiration,” leave out of account the age-long and accumulated suffrages of the verifying “judgments” of the most spiritual of every Church and century. In the reaction from an extreme, crudely stated theory of a quasi-mechanical dictation, extending in precisely similar manner and degree to every syllable and letter of the written text, the authoritativeness in, and the Divine responsibility for, every part must not be cast aside. “Judge ye what I say” cannot mean such a criticism as would accept one thing as Divine, authoritative, inspired, and dismiss another as merely human, a mistake, a fiction, if not a fraud. The effect is felt to be—and hence the prevailing unrest about the discussion—to change men’s whole mental and practical attitude towards the Bible. It loses all authority. No book could rule conscience or life, of which no man could be certain, or no two “moral judgments” agreed, as to what did or did not with authority express the Divine will. [If the captain follows the advice of the pilot only when he chooses, because he thinks it right or wise, unhappy the passengers!]
II. The uninspired man ought to welcome and to urge this examination. The “wise” man will exercise his “right of private judgment.”
1. No Church may require of any man that anything should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation, which is not read in Holy Scripture, nor may be proved thereby (Ch. of Eng., Art. VI.). The experiment of pre-reformation ages, as of post-reformation ages, resulted in the conviction that the practicable, practical standard of appeal must be looked for outside all the varying human conditions of thought or varying moral enlightenment, or Church pronouncement. Everything—Church creeds, subjective moral pronouncements, the world’s current maxims—all need to be checked by “what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6). [Particularly when inferences are being drawn from perhaps scanty Scriptural data, and again inferences from those inferences, should these be frequently brought into comparison with the Scriptural standard. As the workman tests the rising building with repeated use of line and square; or as he repeatedly compares his more and more elaborated work with the pattern to which it is to be made conformable.] Better, safer, the aberrancies of private judgment than the slavery to human authority.
2. “Come and see” (John 1:39) is typical of a great principle. So He deals with seeking souls; so Philips should deal with the difficulties of Nathanaels (John 1:46); John in effect says to his disciples: “Go and see the Lamb of God for yourselves” (John 1:36). No man, uninspired, is to take away the telescope from the disciple and bid him believe what he says he himself sees with it; nor to permit the use of the telescope, on the one condition that the disciple only “sees” what his teacher tells him he ought to see. Rather he will give him free use of the telescope, and of his eyes, but will teach him to use it [as every astronomer knows, men learn to “see” better and better, with even the same instrument], and offer his own trained, expert knowledge for his assistance. When Paul, or Christ, or the Book, claims absolute unchallengeable authority, and we give it, we give it to God in them. [In Christ in a higher sense than in the others, of course.] Yet even God does not disdain to say, “Judge ye what I say.” [Cf. “Judge as to what I have done to My vineyard” (Isaiah 5:3).]
3. The preacher invites such spiritual judgment from the hearer.—Dr. John Brown’s father’s preaching and religious life grew mellowed by the sudden sorrow of his wife’s death. He preached at Galashiels before that change, when one “wife” said to her “neebor”: “Jean, what think ye o’ the lad?” “It’s maist o’t tinsel-wark,” said Jean. After it, Brown preached again at Galashiels. Jean, running to her friend, took the first word: “It’s a’ gowd noo.” (Horœ Subsecivœ, Second Series, p. 11, note.)
1 Corinthians 10:27. “If ye be disposed to go … eat.”—Manifestly, from the whole drift of the chapter, this will be not to an idol feast, or even to a heathen civic banquet, but to a meal in a private house.
I. Some intercourse with the world could not be absolutely prohibited.—The Christian belongs to the world in many ways, and cannot choose but to take his part in social life. Many a family is itself traversed by the line of severance between “Church” and “world.” It would be difficult to decide in many instances between the two. One of the best means of cultivating personal piety would be removed from the training of the Christian life; or, which is really the principal consideration, one of the main elements of hope for the world would be gone,—the presence in it of the “salt,” the “leaven,” the “light”; the world needs intercourse with the Christian. Moreover, Christ went to be a guest with a Pharisee, whose motive in inviting Him was scarcely friendly. He was Elisha, not Elijah, in this. He began His miracles at a wedding feast. Oddity is not necessarily holiness, nor singularity sanctity. “Eat;” i.e. if no principle be involved, do simply and naturally what others are doing. But take—
II. Some cautions for such intercourse.—
1. Do not give occasion there for your religion to be evil spoken of. An unguarded word or look may make some younger guest to stumble. An inconsiderate use of one’s abstract liberty [e.g. (in some circles) in taking wine, (in some), playing billiards] may create a difficulty to some “worldling” present, or be the occasion of a snare to a beginner in the new life. A wise circumspection will “take stock” of its company before indulging in a “throw off” which might be misrepresented or misunderstood. “Let your speech—even your fun—be always with grace, ‘seasoned with salt.’ ” As the Christian profession becomes emphasised by (say) the holding of Church office, or by the ministerial character, so does responsibility increase and “liberty” become narrowed. The “representative” Christian should be most jealous over himself. Let him remember about the “idle word”—vapid, powerless, purposeless, at the best. The poor wine of such talk soonest turns sour!
2. Remember, Christ went into such company as its Saviour.—The physician may go, and may take risk, where an ordinary, “lay” person dare not and should not go. “What doest thou here, Elijah?” is as apposite a query for some Christians in the world, as for him, who was flying from “the world” at Samaria. Christ went as the physician into the house of the Pharisee, and did the work of a physician of souls there. Do you, when you get into unspiritual society? Do you even try? Ask, sometimes, when coming from such a “feast”: “How did I entertain my companions? A whole evening; I a Christian; they unsaved. Not a word for God? Not a word of Him? Won’t bear looking at in the light of my Master’s example.”
3. Keep your own piety strong, healthy.—You are in real danger there yourself. Further, it will give a reality and a power to any word you endeavour to speak for Christ in that circle. Live near to God, in fellowship with Christ, under the indwelling guidance of the Spirit; the Spirit will then give you the best guidance when to speak and what to say, and also when not to speak—when not to speak even for Christ. No general rule can be laid down in advance. He will, from one case to another, from one house to another, from one hour to another, save you from a “stiffness” which might repel, or a “lightness” which takes away all force from the words spoken; His indwelling will be the best Law and Guide in all sudden emergencies which may arise. Character, spirituality, will also automatically govern the lips and their least guarded utterances; spirituality of habitual tone, a devotional habit of soul, will “transpire” at many a trivial point, and will make even the protest of quiet separateness as lovable as the nature of the case will admit. Goodness will inevitably be singular and alone, sooner or later. But an unconscious goodness will have great power of winning appeal even to the unsaved.
4. Yet why do you want to “go,” or to “eat”?—What does your being “disposed to go” reveal? Are you quite sure that it is a healthy disposition of heart or judgment?
1 Corinthians 10:11. “The ends of the ages.”
I. The Divine superintendence of the ages.—
1. God is in the history of them all.—“No accidents in history;” no age, year, moment, event, dissociated from God. He is in all, originating the good, controlling the evil. [“The King of the ages” (1 Timothy 1:17), Greek.]
2. God employs one age to benefit another.—Nothing takes place for its own sake. The events that transpired in Arabia during forty short years, thousands of years ago, were to tell on the boundless future. [
(1) We are heirs of all the ages.]
(2) We are very incompetent judges of God’s plan and action in the present age.
(3) How serious life is. All full of God. All things flowing to the Eternal. Christ taught us that all the events of His providence are His advents. “Be ye therefore ready.”
II. The growing responsibility of the ages.—Nothing to succeed this dispensation. In this age we have the advantage of the experiences and discoveries of past ages, in two ways:
(1) Through literature; history gives us the intellect and wealth of the chosen people; the intellectual wealth and experience of all past ages meet in this. Consequently our responsibility is great.
(2) Through influence; the mental influence streaming down regularly from sire to son. The Jews lived under moonlight; the first Christian, under the clear dawn of morning; it is high noon with us. We ought to be higher than the men of the past; we stand upon their life’s work.—Extracted and abridged from a sermon in “Homilist,” vii. 188.
1. When the Wesley monument in Westminster Abbey was uncovered, Dean Stanley thus used the fact of Wesley standing on his father’s grave to preach: His work was not to be regarded as a new beginning; he stood upon the past of England and the English Church. 2. All stable progress holds to, and brings forward with it, the best in the old.]
1 Corinthians 10:26; 1 Corinthians 10:28. Observe the divergent applications of the same great truth: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.”
I. Eat; raising no needless difficulty for your own conscience. “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”
II. Eat not; creating no avoidable difficulty for another conscience. A “two-edged sword,” cutting the Gordian knot of this case of conscience.
Also: The Great Proprietor.
I. How indefeasible His right: He created, sustains, renews, blesses all.
II. How rich and diversified His property: the earth and its fulness [i.e. its contents].
III. How liberal and kind His use of it: He gives us all things, richly to enjoy.—[J. L.] [There is another “fulness” which is also at the service, and for the appropriation, of the Church (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9-10; John 1:14; John 1:16).]
1 Corinthians 10:31. “All to the glory of God.”—[Couple with this Colossians 3:17 : “Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”]
I. “What is the chief end of man? To glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” What a noble type of life, if sometimes rugged and stern, has grownup on this spiritual food! It has been the moral oatmeal, putting bone and resistant strength into the character.
1. How many things this excludes from a Christian life;
2. How many things this makes a Christian life include.—
1. Nothing may find place within the holy circle of a life “in Christ” which may not endure this test. Bring every proposal to this touchstone. Many a most tempting, most plausible, proposal will say, “Sibboleth,” and must be cut off and slain, there and then! (Judges 12:6). A compendious rule, a “pocket” code, for thousands of cases of every-day Christian morality. [If you suspect the draught of milk which the world or Satan proffers, drop this lactometer into it!] In Paul’s present instance it means: “Try to avoid hurting a soul. Please men, if you can, even the heathen friend who invites you to his feast. But glorify God!” On the other hand,
(1) Aiming to glorify God, how much else you may glorify! Everything which, passing the examination of 1, may be rightly admitted into a Christian life, will receive a new touch of beauty and perfectness from this aim of the Christian heart.
(2) Earth may thus anticipate heaven, where John “saw no Temple” (Revelation 21:22). Why? The Jerusalem he had known on earth boasted its Temple as its chief glory. The Heavenly Jerusalem has no such apparatus of a sinner’s approach to God, and, moreover, no special, restricted, “sacred” area. As once the whole Temple court was hallowed, all made one vast altar, on any part of which sacrifice might be offered (1 Kings 8:64), so now the city is all hallowed, the whole “new Jerusalem” is Temple floor. Its inhabitants in every detail of their life “live in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalms 23:6).
(3) The day is come in the Christian man’s life when “Holiness unto the Lord” is on the very “bells of the horses”; when not only is every “pot” in every housewife’s kitchen in Judah and Jerusalem a holy thing, in which she may bring her offering, or receive her portion of peace offering meat from the altar; but the bells on the trappings of the chariot-horse may be as really holy as the golden frontlet-plate of the high priest’s mitre. The bells do not draw the load, but they inspirit the horses and help them to draw; even as pleasure is distinct from the serious work of life, and yet finds a worthy function in helping men to bear the burdens and draw the loads of life. The sanctification of the bells is the sanctification of pleasure (Zechariah 14:20-21).
(4) “The form of consecrating all human acts to God was already in use amongst the Jews, by whom, as now amongst Mussulmans, every act was performed ‘in the name of God’ ” (Stanley). Cf. the old formula at the commencement of wills: “In the name of God. Amen. I, A. B.,” etc. The earliest-known bill of exchange begins: “In the name of God. Amen,” and ends “May Christ protect you.” Mabillon, the French Benedictine and the historian of the Order, had special forms of prayer for entering on any new literary work, for use on receiving the first proof-sheet from the press, for the commencement of each day’s studies. (Stephen, Eccl. Biog., one vol. ed., 266.) In his later years Haydn’s sheets of score were each headed, as he began to write a new one, “Deo Soli gloria.”
(5) The very physical life, in all its exercises, may be thus sanctified. The very eating and drinking may be hallowed. Significant that the central ordinance of Christianity, one of its two pieces of original, simple, authoritative ceremonial, should be a Meal, a Supper. The very physical life finds its highest use at the Table of the Lord. [But this must not be exaggerated, as though the Supper were merely the highest example of the fellowship of a feast; or merely the sanctification of our common life.] All the “secular,” natural life may as by a gracious upheaval of spiritual force be a land all uplifted to a higher level, and withal “tilted up” so that it lies ever toward its Sun—God Himself. And the eating and drinking at the Table of Christ the Lord are but a culminating peak where all life is now a high tableland. [George Herbert’s poem The Elixir is all apposite: e.g.
“A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery Divine;
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws
Makes that and th’ action fine.”]
[Synopsis of Useful Passages re Temptation.
I. God tempts man.—Genesis 20:1, Abraham; Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 29:3, the plagues, etc., connected with the Exodus.
II. Temptation neutral or innocent.—? Matthew 6:13 (Luke 11:4); Luke 8:13, making the seed “fall away”; Galatians 4:14, “my temptation which was in my flesh”; James 1:12, “en-dureth temptation”; Luke 22:28, “continued with Me in My temptation,” i.e. the time of His active ministry; Acts 20:19, “serving God with many temptations,” Paul; James 1:2, “all joy”; 1 Peter 1:6, “heaviness through manifold temptations”; 2 Peter 2:9, “deliver the godly out of temptation.”
III. Men tempt God.—Exodus 17:2; Deuteronomy 6:16 (Psalms 95:8; Hebrews 3:9); Isaiah 7:12, “I will not tempt God”; Malachi 3:13; Malachi 3:15; 1 Corinthians 10:19; Numbers 14:22, “tempted Me these ten times”; Acts 15:10, “why tempt ye God?” Jerusalem council; Acts 5:9, Ananias and Sapphira.
IV. Special phrases.—“Enter not into” [evidently meaning more than “not be tempted”], Matthew 26:41 and parallels; “rich fall into temptation,” 1 Timothy 6:9; “endureth” [emphasis on this; more than merely “suffers”; = “passes patiently and safely through”], James 1:12 (1 Corinthians 10:13); “led up of the Spirit into,” etc., Matthew 4:1 (cf. for thought, not word, “lead us not into temptation”).
V. Inquirers tempting Christ.—Matthew 16:1; Matthew 19:3; Matthew 21:35, etc.; Mark 10:2; Luke 10:25; John 8:6.]
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29