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THE BLESSINGS IMPARTED BY THE GOSPEL
1 Corinthians 1:4-9. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that, ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
WE cannot but admire the address which is manifest in all the Epistles of St. Paul. He of course has frequent occasion to mention truths which are far from palatable to those to whom they are spoken: but he always introduces them in so kind a manner, and accompanies them with such expressions of the most unfeigned love, that it is almost impossible for any to be offended with him. He never shrinks from a faithful discharge of his duty: but he exerts himself always, to the utmost of his power, to heal the wounds which his fidelity inflicts. The Corinthian Church was in a far worse state than any other that he had occasion to address: indeed the manners of the Corinthians, previous to their conversion, were dissolute even to a proverb; and therefore it is the less to be wondered at, that, after their conversion, many of them should still need admonition on points which they had hitherto been accustomed to regard as venial at least, if not altogether indifferent. On every thing necessary for their welfare, the Apostle here communicates his sentiments freely: but in the commencement of his epistle he makes no difference between the Corinthians and the purest of all the Churches. He knew that if many among them were corrupt, the great majority of them were sincere; and therefore he comprehends them all in the first expressions of his regard, that he may afterwards have the more influence over those, whose errors he designed to rectify. And this by the way shews us, that, when we see in our Liturgy the same charitable expressions relative to the state of persons in our own Church, we ought not scrupulously to strain every word to the uttermost, but should allow the same latitude of expression in the one case as we do in the other. But not to dwell on this, we notice in this introductory acknowledgment of the Apostle,
The blessings which the Gospel imparts—
The Gospel is no other than “a testimony” of Jesus. This was “the spirit of prophecy” under the Old Testament [Note: Revelation 19:11.]; and it is the spirit of all the writings in the New Testament. What the testimony was, is declared with great precision by St. John: “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son; he that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life [Note: 1 John 5:11-12.].”
The believer has this testimony “confirmed in him.” There are two ways in which this testimony is confirmed: the one is externally, by signs and miracles; the other is internally, by the operation of the Spirit of God upon the soul. The Corinthians had had it confirmed to them in both ways: for no Church exceeded them in miraculous gifts [Note: 1 Corinthians 12:10.]; and in the change wrought upon their own souls, they had an evidence of the truth and power of the Gospel: they had an evidence of it in “the grace which had been given them by Jesus Christ.”
Two things in particular they had received, which served to mark the saving efficacy of the Gospel; namely,
An enlightened mind—
[They had been “enriched by Christ with all utterance and all knowledge.” Distinct from miraculous gifts, there is in believers a knowledge of an experimental kind, and an ability also to declare that knowledge with ease and precision. It is a knowledge derived from the heart, rather than from the understanding; even such as Solomon refers to, when he says, “The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips [Note: Proverbs 16:23.].” St. John speaks of this when he says, “He that believeth in the Son of God hath the witness in himself [Note: 1 John 5:10.].” There is a perfect correspondence between the divine record concerning Christ, and the feelings of the believer’s soul: he feels that he needs such a salvation as Christ offers, and that there is in Christ a sufficiency for all his wants: and in speaking of these things every believer throughout the universe is agreed. As in all human beings, notwithstanding some minute differences, there are the same general features belonging to the body; so in the minds of all believers there is, notwithstanding a diversity in smaller matters, a correspondence in their general views and sentiments; they all confess themselves to be sinners saved by grace through the Redeemer’s blood. Others, who are not true believers, may have the same creed; but they have not these truths written in their hearts; nor can they speak of them from their own experience: this is the portion of the true believer only; and it is a portion, in comparison of which all the knowledge in the universe and all the wealth of the Indies are but dross and dung [Note: Philippians 3:8.].]
A waiting spirit—
[The Corinthians “came behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The saints under the Mosaic dispensation waited for the first advent of our Lord: those under the Christian dispensation wait for his second advent, when he will come again from heaven in power and great glory, to gather together his elect, and to put them into full possession of their destined inheritance. The first Christians thought this period very near at hand: we who live almost 1800 years after them, believe that it is yet distant; because there are many prophecies not yet fulfilled, which must receive an accomplishment before the arrival of that time. But, as far as respects us individually, the time is near to every one of us, even at the door; for, on the instant of our departure from the body, we are borne into the presence of our Judge, and have our portion for ever fixed. Hence the believer waits for his dissolution, as the promised commencement of everlasting joys. Others may wait, and even long, for death, as a termination of their sorrows; but it is the believer alone who “looks for and hastes unto the coming of the day of Christ,” as the completion and consummation of all his joys. Others may affect heaven as “a rest” from trouble; but the believer alone pants for it as a rest in God. In the view of that day, “he is sober, and hopes to the end for the grace that shall be brought unto him at the revelation of Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Peter 1:13.].”]
But from our text we are led to notice farther,
The blessings which the Gospel secures—
God in calling us to the knowledge of his Son, calls us also to a fellowship with his Son, in all the blessings both of grace and glory: and where he gives the former of these blessings, there he engages to impart the latter also. On this ground, the promise of a faithful God, the Apostle assured the Corinthians of,
Their continued preservation—
[“He shall confirm you unto the end,” says he. If believers were left to themselves, they would have no prospect of ever enduring to the end. So many and so great are the difficulties which they have to contend with, that they could have no hope at all. But God undertakes for them, to “keep them by his own power through faith unto salvation.” He engages both for himself and for them: for himself, that “he will not depart from them to do them good:” and for them, that “he will put his fear into their hearts, so that they shall not depart from him [Note: Jeremiah 32:40.].” If they offend him by any violation or neglect of duty, “he will visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes: but his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from them, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail: for once he has sworn by his holiness, that he will not lie unto David [Note: Psalms 89:30-35.].” So fully assured of this truth was Paul in relation to the Philippian Church, that he declared himself “confident of this very thing, that He who had begun a good work in them would perform it until the day of Jesus Christ [Note: Philippians 1:6.]:” and the same confidence we may feel in relation to every true believer, that “none shall ever separate him from the love of Christ [Note: Romans 8:38-39.].” God pledges his own word, that “he will not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:13.],” but that “he will perfect that which concerneth them.” When therefore we “pray to God that our whole spirit, soul, and body may be preserved blameless unto his heavenly kingdom,” we are authorized to add, “Faithful is he who hath called us; who also will do it [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.].”]
Their ultimate acceptance—
[“He will preserve us, that we may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Blameless” in some respect his people already are, inasmuch as the Lord Jesus Christ has washed them in his blood, and pronounced them “clean [Note: John 15:3.].” But in the last day we shall be blameless in ourselves, as well as in him; being not only justified, as we now are, by his blood, but sanctified also by his Spirit, and transformed into the perfect image of our God. Then “will Christ present us to himself, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; yea, holy, and without blemish [Note: Ephesians 5:27.];” and in the meantime he will, by his almighty and all-sufficient grace, “strengthen, and establish, and settle us even to the end [Note: 1 Peter 5:10.].”
Thus does God assure to his people their continued preservation, and their ultimate acceptance with him: and he pledges his own faithfulness for the performance of his word.
But let no man imagine that these truths supersede the necessity of care and watchfulness on our part; for God will never fulfil his promise to us but through the instrumentality of our exertions. Hence he requires every exertion on our part, precisely as if he had left the final issue solely dependent on our own efforts; and suspends his promised mercies altogether on the performance of our duties. To obtain his final acceptance of us as blameless, we must hold fast our faith: “He will present us holy and unblameable, and unreproveable in his sight, if we continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel [Note: Colossians 1:22-23.].” We must also abound in love; we must “increase and abound in love one towards another, to the end that he may establish our hearts unblameable in holiness before God even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints [Note: 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13.].” We must also use all diligence in every duty; for it is by diligence that we are to “make our calling and election sure,” and that we are to be “found of him at last in peace, without spot and blameless [Note: 2 Peter 1:10; 2 Peter 3:14.].”
Here we see that the very things which God has promised to us, are to be obtained through the medium of our own faith and love and diligence. Without these, the end shall never be obtained (for God has connected the end with the means): but through the continued exercise of these, the end is secured beyond a possibility of failure. “God cannot deny himself [Note: 2 Timothy 2:13.]:” and his word, confirmed as it is by covenant and by oath, can never fail [Note: Hebrews 6:18.]. “Heaven and earth may pass away: but his word shall never pass away [Note: Matthew 24:35.].”]
Be thankful if you are partakers of this grace—
[St. Paul “thanked God always on the behalf” of the Corinthians on this account: how much more therefore should those be thankful, who have received the benefit! To possess this experimental knowledge of the Gospel salvation, and to enjoy these blessed prospects of immortality and glory, is the highest felicity of man. Having these “things which accompany salvation,” we need not covet any other good, or regret any attendant evil: we have the richest blessings that God himself can bestow.]
Be careful to walk worthy of it—
[The mercies of God to us call for a suitable requital: and the requital which he desires is, a total surrender of ourselves to him [Note: Romans 12:1.]. The thing which God designs, in the communication of his mercy to us, is, to “keep us blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus.” Let that then be our end in the improvement of them, even to be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, shining among them as lights in a dark world [Note: Philippians 2:15.].”]
Remember in whom all your strength is—
[Of yourselves you can do nothing. It is God, and God alone, that can “confirm you unto the end.” He who has been “the Author, must also be the Finisher,” of your salvation. It is “He that must work all your works in you:” “all your fresh springs must be in him.” Know then, that “he is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy [Note: Jude, ver. 24.];” and he will do it, if you rely upon him; for St. Paul expressly says, “The Lord is faithful, who will stablish you, and keep you from evil [Note: 2 Thessalonians 3:3.].” To him therefore, even “to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and for ever. Amen [Note: Jude, ver. 25.].”]
THE TRUE LIGHT IN WHICH THE GOSPEL IS TO BE REGARDED
1 Corinthians 1:23-24. We preach Christ crucified; unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
THERE is a disposition in man to dictate to God, rather than to receive from him what he is pleased to give. Though this is not right, nor should ministers gratify it, yet they should consult men’s prejudices, and “seek to please them for their good.” The Jews and Greeks sought what from their education they had been accustomed to admire: but St. Paul, notwithstanding his readiness to yield in all things that were less important, was compelled to make the strain of his preaching directly opposite to their corrupt desires. “The Jews require, &c.; but we preach, &c.”
The great subject of the Christian ministry—
The Apostle designates this by “preaching the Gospel,” “preaching the cross,” “preaching Christ and him crucified:” but in “preaching Christ crucified” he did not confine himself to an historical relation of the fact, or a pathetic description of it. To fulfil the true end of the Christian ministry, we must,
Declare the nature of Christ’s death—
[This in appearance was only like that of the malefactors that suffered with him; but it was a true and proper sacrifice to God. In this light it was characterized by the whole Mosaic ritual [Note: The sacrifices were types of the atonement.]: in this light it was foretold by the prophets [Note: Isaiah 53:5-6; Isaiah 53:10.]: in this light it is plainly represented throughout the New Testament [Note: Matthew 26:28. 1 Corinthians 5:7. Hebrews 9:26. Ephesians 5:2.]; and unless it be preached in this view, we do not, in the Apostle’s sense, preach Christ crucified.]
Set forth the benefits resulting from it—
[There is not any one spiritual benefit which must not be traced to this source; pardon, peace, holiness, glory, are its proper fruits. Without the atonement we could have received nothing; but by and through it we may receive every thing. This also must be distinctly inculcated, if we would approve ourselves faithful stewards of the mysteries of Christ.]
Persuade men to seek an interest in it—
[We find men filled with self-righteous conceits, and with great difficulty brought to renounce them: we must therefore argue with them, and urge upon them all the most powerful considerations: we must address ourselves to their passions as well as their understanding; and gain their affections on the side of truth. It was thus that Paul preached Christ; and it is thus only that Christ crucified can be preached aright.]
The manner in which it was, and is still, received—
As there were differences of opinion respecting our Lord himself, some accounting him a good man, and others a deceiver, so are there respecting his Gospel—
Some reject it with contemptuous abhorrence—
[Jews and Greeks were equally averse to it, though on different grounds. The Jews did not understand the true nature and scope of their law: hence they supposed that the Gospel was opposed to it, and that Christ was an enemy to Moses: and notwithstanding all the evidence they had of Christ’s Messiahship, they rejected him from a pretended want of proof of his divine mission. The Greeks had been habituated to philosophical researches, and rejected the Gospel because there was nothing in it to flatter the pride of human reason: both these kinds of characters yet exist, and oppose the Gospel with equal acrimony; to some it is “a stumbling-block,” as appearing to set aside good works; to others it is “foolishness,” as militating against their preconceived notions of rational religion. And if it be not so dispensed by us as to call forth such treatment from such characters, we have reason to believe that we do not preach the Gospel as Paul preached it.]
Others receive it with the deepest reverence—
[There are some “called,” not by the outward word only, but by the internal and effectual operations of the Spirit. These, whatever have been their disposition in times past, have their eyes open to behold the Gospel in a far different light. To them the doctrine of “Christ crucified” is “the power of God:” they see that it is that, by which God has converted myriads to himself: they feel also that it is that, to which alone they can ascribe their own conversion; and they know that nothing can ultimately withstand its power. To them it is also “the wisdom of God:” they behold in it every perfection of the Deity united and glorified, whilst on any other plan of salvation some of his perfections must be exalted at the expense of others: they see it also to be suited to the state of every individual in the universe, whilst every other plan of salvation is suited to those only who have been moral, or who have a long time before them to amend their lives. Above all, they view it as bringing the greatest good that ever was vouchsafed, out of the greatest evil that ever was committed. No wonder that they “count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of it.”]
Those who, like the Greeks, have a high opinion of their reasoning powers—
[You have just cause to be thankful for strength of intellect; but the province of reason is, to submit itself to God. God has not opened to your reason any one thing perfectly, either in creation or providence: be not surprised then if you cannot fathom all the mysteries of his revealed will: your wisdom is to become as little children; and if you will not condescend to be taught of Him, he will take you in your own craftiness [Note: ver. 19, 25.].]
Those who, like the Jews, are concerned about the interests of morality—
[Did morality suffer in the life of Paul, or of the first Christians? Does it in the lives of many who now profess the Gospel? Are they not now condemned as much for the strictness of their lives as for the strangeness of their principles? Yea, does not morality suffer through the neglect of this preaching? Let not Christ then be a stumbling-block to you, but rather a sanctuary. If you reject Christ, however good your motive may appear to be, your misery will he sure [Note: ver. 18. with 2 Corinthians 4:4.].]
Those who embrace, and glory in, a crucified Saviour—
[Contemplate more and more the wisdom and power of God as displayed in this mystery, and endeavour more and more to adorn this doctrine in your lives. Let it never become a stumbling-block or foolishness through any misconduct of yours: let it be seen by your prudence, that it is true wisdom; and by your piety, that it is the parent of every good work.]
THE OBJECTS OF GOD’S CALL
1 Corinthians 1:26-29. Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.
IT is manifest to the most superficial observer, that the Gospel, wherever it comes, meets with a very different reception from different people; some accounting it foolishness, whilst others regard it as the wisdom of God and the power of God [Note: ver. 23, 24.]. That we must trace this to the dispositions of men, is certain; because the guilt of rejecting the Gospel must lie upon the sinner himself: yet, inasmuch as a love of the truth is not attainable by mere human efforts, we must acknowledge God as the true and only source of that difference which appears. If he did not interpose, all would equally despise the Gospel: it is his grace which makes the distinction, and causes some to overcome the corruptions of their nature, and to accept his proffered salvation.
To unravel this mystery, or at least to throw light upon it, we shall shew,
Who are the objects of his choice—
God’s thoughts and ways are not only far above ours, but often directly contrary to ours.
He has not chosen “the wise, the noble, and the mighty”—
[He has not indeed excluded these; for he invites them all; and no more wills the death of them, than he does the death of any others: but he has not chosen them either in preference to the poor, or even in comparison of them. Some there have been in every age, who were possessed of much human wisdom, and power, and wealth. God would not pass by them altogether, lest it should appear as if the possession of earthly wisdom and power were an insurmountable obstacle to the reception of the truth; or lest the embracing of his salvation should be thought incompatible with natural abilities, or intellectual attainments. Among the Corinthians there were Crispus and Sosthenes, chief rulers of the synagogue [Note: Acts 18:8; Act 18:17]: and Gaius, a man of wealth and of an enlarged heart; and Erastus, the chamberlain of the city [Note: Romans 16:23.]. Some few others were numbered with the disciples: there was Joseph of Arimathea, a rich and honourable counsellor [Note: Matthew 27:57. Mark 15:43.]; and Sergius Paulus, a Roman deputy, famed no less for his wisdom than his power [Note: Acts 13:7.]. But if we were to collect the names of all, they would bear no proportion to the numbers of those who composed the Church of Christ. Though therefore there were some, there were “not many” of this description called.]
The objects of his choice are, the weak, the ignoble, the illiterate—
[As we do not say that these are chosen exclusively, so neither do we say that they are chosen universally; for, alas! there are myriads of poor who are as ignorant and depraved as it is possible for any of the rich to be. But the great majority of the Lord’s people are of this description. They have not rank, or learning, or wealth, or great abilities, or any of those things which would recommend them to earthly preferments. This was the case with the first teachers of Christianity: they were, for the most part, poor illiterate fishermen and mechanics. And they who have been their followers have been almost entirely of the middle and lower classes of society. Who are the persons in every town and village who most welcome the preaching of the Gospel? Who are the people that are glad to avail themselves of all the spiritual instruction they can get? Who are they that will be thankful to you for speaking closely to their consciences, and for warning them of their danger? Who are they who will go miles every sabbath to a place where the Gospel is faithfully preached, notwithstanding, when they come thither, they can scarcely be accommodated with a seat whereon to rest? Who are they that love social meetings for reading the word of God and prayer; and that make it their meat and their drink to do the will of God? In short, Who are they that prove their effectual “calling,” by turning “from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Acts 26:18.]?” Are these the rich, the great, the learned? or are they the poor and unlearned? Let observation and experience decide the point. “You see your calling, brethren:” look at it, and judge [Note: It is just as in the days of old: Matthew 11:5.John 7:47-48; John 7:47-48. Mark 12:3.]: We are not afraid to make our appeal to yourselves; for God himself appeals to you; and thereby makes you judges in your own cause [Note: James 2:5.]. We know that these facts give umbrage to many: but however the proud may find in these things an occasion of offence, our blessed Lord saw nothing in them but ground for praise and thanksgiving [Note: Matthew 11:25-26.].]
Our subject leads us to notice,
The immediate effect of that choice—
We are told that Noah, in building the ark, “condemned the world [Note: Hebrews 11:7.].” A similar effect is produced by the peculiar mercy vouchsafed to the poor. The great and learned, though “they shame the counsel of the poor [Note: Psalms 14:6.],” yet are ashamed [Note: καταισχύνῃ.] and confounded when they see,
Their superior discernment—
[Many of the wise, like the Scribes and Pharisees of old, are conversant with the Holy Scriptures, and extremely well instructed as to the letter of them. From hence they suppose that they must necessarily enter into the spirit of them, and be as superior to others in a comprehension of divine truth, as they are in wealth or talents. But when they come to converse with one who has been “called out of darkness into God’s marvellous light [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.],” they begin to feel their own ignorance, and to wonder at the depth and clearness of the person’s knowledge. They cannot conceive how an unlettered person should attain such just and comprehensive views, which they with all their application have not been able to acquire [Note: Proverbs 28:11.]. They do not reflect on what God has told them, that “the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God;” and that the knowledge of them must be obtained by means of a spiritual discernment [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.]. They, through the pride of their hearts, presume to bring divine truths to the bar of their own reason; and thus are led to account them foolishness: but the humble disciple of Jesus willingly receives all that God speaks; and to him “every word is both plain and right [Note: Proverbs 8:9.].” But all this is a mystery to those who are “wise after the flesh,”—a mystery which mortifies their pride, and inflames their wrath [Note: John 9:34.].]
Their indifference to the world—
[The men of letters and of wealth, instead of rising above the world, are really its greatest slaves. To enjoy its pleasures, its riches, and its honours, is the summit of their ambition. They, on the contrary, who are “chosen of God and called [Note: Revelation 17:14.],” are enabled to renounce the world, and to regard it no more than they would a crucified object, with whom they have no further connexion [Note: Galatians 6:14.]. Now when these persons shew, by their heavenly conversation, that they consider themselves as mere pilgrims and sojourners here, and that “they are looking for a better country, that is, an heavenly [Note: Hebrews 11:13-16.],” the poor slaves of this world cannot comprehend it. They wonder how any should be so indifferent to the things of time and sense, so bold to encounter the frowns and contempt of all around them, and so immoveable in their adherence to such exploded sentiments and conduct. They know that they themselves could not act in such a manner; and they are unable to account for it in others. But if they understood those words, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith [Note: 1 John 5:4.],” they would cease to wonder; yea, they would rather wonder that the operations of faith were not yet more uniform and extensive.]
Their delight in holy exercises—
[The wise, and mighty, and noble will often perform religious duties with a commendable regularity: but they comply with them rather as the institutions and customs of their country, than as exercises in which they find any pleasure, or from which they expect to derive any present benefit. It is far otherwise with the poor, weak, despised followers of Christ: they engage in these employments with delight: they look forward to the returning seasons of devotion with unfeigned joy: and, though they cannot always maintain a spiritual frame in them, yet there is no other employment so pleasing to them, or so productive of permanent satisfaction. Now this also appears strange and unaccountable to them that are yet in their unconverted state: they cannot conceive how it should be, that persons should multiply their seasons of worship, and put themselves to much expense and trouble in attending on them, without any apparent necessity. They can ascribe it to nothing but enthusiasm or hypocrisy. They are constrained however to confess, that, if religion so abstracts the mind from earthly things, and so inclines us to set our affections on things above, their hopes and prospects are “brought to nought.”
Thus as the Gentiles, who were scarcely regarded as having any existence, were made use of by God to bring to nought the Jewish polity, in which all that was valuable was supposed to be contained [Note: This is the meaning of those expressions, “things which are not;” and “things which are.” Compare 2 Esdras 6:56, 57 and the Apocryphal Esther, 4:11. with Romans 4:17.]; so the spirituality of real Christians is yet daily made use of by God to bring to nought the pride of wisdom, the power of greatness, and the fond conceits of pharisaic morality.]
But let us examine yet further—
Its ultimate design—
God, as it becomes him, consults in all things his own glory. In this dispensation more especially,
He has provided, “that no flesh should glory in his presence”—
[It would not become his Majesty to suffer any of his creatures to assume honour to themselves: it is meet and right that all should acknowledge him to be the one source of all their happiness. As he is the Author of their being, they cannot but be indebted to him for all their powers; and as he is the one Restorer of those powers, both by the blood of his Son and the agency of his Spirit, he must have the glory of all which may be wrought by them; none must stand in competition with him; nor must any presume to claim the smallest share of that honour which is due to him alone.]
The dispensation is admirably calculated to insure his end—
[If the wise and noble were called in preference to others, they would infallibly arrogate to themselves, in part at least, the honour of that distinction: they would either think that they had effected the change in themselves by their own power, or that God had had respect to them on account of super-eminent worth. But by the preference given to the poor, all occasion for such boasting is cut off. The rich cannot boast, because they have nothing to boast of. The poor cannot boast, as if God had respected their superior talents; for they feel and know assuredly that they had no such superiority, but directly the reverse. The few rich and wise that are among them cannot boast, because they find that they are few in number, and that the great majority of those who are as wise and great as themselves, have made use of their talents, only to harden themselves in infidelity, and to justify their rejection of the Gospel. Hence they are constrained to confess, that it is “God who has made them to differ [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:7.],” and that “by the grace of God they are what they are [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:10.].”]
Many and important are the lessons which we may learn from hence—
That God acts sovereignly in the disposal of his gifts—
[We should not hesitate, if any one presumed to direct us in the disposal of our own favours, to put this question to him; “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own [Note: Matthew 20:15.]?” Yet we are offended if God assert this liberty, and we think ourselves injured if any be chosen by him in preference to us. But how unreasonable and absurd is this! It is unreasonable, because we have no claim upon him for the smallest benefits. Who imagines that the fallen angels have any ground of complaint against him for withholding a Saviour from them, while he provided one for us? Yet they are a superior order of beings to us, and therefore might have been supposed more worthy of God’s attention. What right then can any of us have to murmur, if he be pleased to impart salvation itself to some and not to others, when none possess the smallest title above their brethren? But it is absurd also: for God will not alter his dispensations because we choose to quarrel with them. That he does act in this sovereign manner we cannot doubt; for he dispenses his temporal favours according to his own will; and sends his Gospel to us, while it is withheld from far the greater part of the world: and he tells us no less than three times in the short compass of our text, that he has “chosen” some in preference to others. Let us not then dare to “reply against God [Note: Romans 9:20.]:” but, while we confess his right to confer his benefits on whomsoever he will [Note: Romans 9:15-18.], let us humbly implore an interest in his favour, and lie as clay in his hands, that he may, for his own glory sake, fashion us as “vessels of honour meet for the Master’s use [Note: Romans 9:21-23.].”]
That there is not so much inequality in the Divine dispensations as we are apt to imagine—
[It is certainly God who causes some to be born to ease and affluence, whilst others are born to labour and penury. In a time of health there may not be any great difference between them:—but what is there in a time of sickness! The one has all the comforts of medical aid, of numerous attendants, of delicacies suited to his appetite; whereas the other, in a cold and comfortless habitation, is without food, without fuel, without friends, his wife and children as well as himself almost perishing for want, destitute of every thing proper for his disorder, and subsisting only by the scanty pittance hardly obtained, and grudgingly bestowed by an unfeeling dispenser of the public charity. Compare these; and there appears as wide a difference between them as can well be imagined. But pause a moment: Is this the whole of God’s dispensations towards them? Can we find nothing to counter-balance this inequality? Yes: look to the spiritual concerns of these two persons: perhaps, like Dives and Lazarus, the one has his portion in this life, and the other in the next: perhaps God has said to the one, “Enjoy all that the world can bestow;” to the other, “Enjoy my presence, and the light of my countenance:” to the one, “Be rich in learning, wealth, and honour;” to the other, “Be rich in faith and good works:” to the one, “Possess thou kingdoms for a time;” to the other, “Be thou an heir of my kingdom for evermore.” Now, though this is not God’s invariable mode of dealing with men, (for there are some who are poor in both worlds, and others rich,) yet it accords with the general tenour of his proceedings: it accords also with the text, and therefore is peculiarly proper for our present consideration. Take then the whole of his dispensations together, and it will be found that the spiritual advantages conferred upon the poor are more than an equivalent for any temporal disadvantages they may labour under. Let the rich then not pride themselves on their distinctions [Note: 1 Timothy 6:17.]; for “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for them to enter into the kingdom of heaven [Note: Matthew 19:23-24.]: nor let the poor, on the other hand, be dejected on account of their present troubles; for God has chosen them (if they do not despise their birthright) to be partakers of his richest blessings, even life for evermore [Note: James 2:5.]: but let all, whether rich or poor, seek to have “God himself for the portion of their cup, and for the lot of their inheritance [Note: Psalms 16:5.].”]
That they are the wisest people who covet the best gifts—
[It is generally accounted folly to “seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness [Note: Matthew 6:33.];” but the time will come when it will appear to have been the truest wisdom. Indeed “the fear of the Lord is the very beginning of wisdom [Note: Psalms 111:10.];” insomuch that all who are not possessed of that, whatever else they may possess, are no better than fools in God’s estimation. Let us not then be deceived by the glare and glitter of the world. Let us view things as God himself views them. Let us confess that it is better to be among “the foolish, the weak, the base, the despised, the mere nonentities of this world,” and attain eternal happiness at the last; than to be among “the wise, the mighty, and the noble,” and to “have our good things in this life only [Note: Luke 16:25.].”
We beg leave however to repeat, that the rich will not be excluded from God’s kingdom, if they do not exclude themselves; nor, on the other hand, will the poor be admitted into it, if they do not “strive to enter in at the strait gate [Note: Luke 13:24.].” Whatever we be in respect of our worldly conditions, we shall be admitted by the Bridegroom, if we be found among the wise virgins [Note: Matthew 25:8-10.]: but “the foolish shall not stand in his sight; for he hateth all the workers of iniquity [Note: Psalms 5:5.].”]
CHRIST IS ALL IN ALL
1 Corinthians 1:30. Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
HABITUATED as we have been from our early childhood to read the Holy Scriptures, and to hear them read in public, it is surprising that we do not gain a more clear and accurate knowledge of their contents. But experience shews, that, however strongly the inspired writers have declared the revealed will of God, it is but very partially and imperfectly known amongst us. The fact is, that we do not sufficiently consider the import of what we read. We pass over the most plain and significant expressions, without considering what is contained in them. When we read of a Saviour, we do not advert to the awful truth comprehended in that word, namely, that in ourselves we are utterly and eternally lost. In other words, we are very little affected with what is expressed in Scripture, because we do not pause to inquire into what those expressions imply. That we suffer great loss by this inadvertence is evident from what our blessed Lord taught respecting the resurrection of our bodies to eternal life. The Sadducees could not find that doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures, or at all events not in the Pentateuch, which alone they regarded as of divine authority. Our Lord appealed to the name of Jehovah as proclaimed in the Pentateuch. namely, as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Now, says our Lord, consider what is implied in that name. Jehovah, as their God, is the God of their whole persons, their bodies as well as their souls; and, if their bodies are not to be raised again, that relation between God and them, so far as respects their bodies, is dissolved. But that relation never can be dissolved: therefore their bodies must be raised again, and be re-united to their souls, that so those departed saints may, in their whole and entire persons, for ever serve and enjoy their God [Note: Matthew 22:32.].
Now I would wish to commend to you the passage before us in this peculiar view. St. Paul is shewing the Corinthians, that they neither have, nor ever can have, any thing to boast of; since “God has chosen the poor, and the weak, and the foolish, in preference to the rich, the mighty, and the wise;” and since whatsoever any of them may have, they have it solely in Christ, who of God is made to them wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; and that consequently, whosoever glories, must glory, not in himself, but in the Lord alone.
In order that we may unfold these words to the greater advantage, we shall, in accordance with this hint, consider, first, What is implied in them, and then, What is expressed.
Now if we will duly consider these words, we shall see this evidently implied in them: first, that we are destitute of all good in ourselves, and, secondly, that we are incapable of acquiring it by any power of our own. On a supposition that either of these positions were not true, what occasion would there be that all good should be treasured up for us in another, to be received from him? But they are true.—It is a fact, that we are destitute of all good in ourselves; for in ourselves we are ignorant, guilty, polluted, and enslaved.
We are ignorant. What do we by nature know of ourselves? What know we of the corruption of the human heart? God himself has told us, that in the heart of man there are depths of iniquity altogether unfathomable, and workings that are utterly unsearchable: the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: Who can know it? And what know we of God? of his holiness, which cannot behold iniquity without the utmost abhorrence of it? of his justice, which cannot but visit it with righteous indignation? and of his truth, which cannot but execute every threatening which he has denounced against it? As to any mere notions which men may entertain in theory, I speak not of them; it is of practical knowledge that I speak: and I need only appeal to the lives of all around us, to prove that, so far from having any just knowledge of God, “there is not in the whole world an unconverted man, that understandeth, so as duly and habitually to seek after him [Note: Romans 3:11.Psalms 53:2-3; Psalms 53:2-3.].” On the contrary the conduct of all clearly shews, that “God is not in all their thoughts [Note: Psalms 10:4.].” And what know we of Christ and of the incomprehensible extent of his love? Or what of his Holy Spirit, and all his enlightening, sanctifying, and consoling operations? What know we of the evil and bitterness of sin? or of the beauty and blessedness of true holiness? The testimony which our Lord himself has borne of us is undeniably true, that, however we may fancy ourselves “rich, and increased in goods, and in need of nothing, we are wretched, and miserable, even poor, and blind, and naked [Note: Revelation 3:17.].”
We are guilty also, to an extent which no words can adequately describe. As to gross sins, I make no mention of them. Our whole life has been one continued scene of rebellion against God. Nor have we ceased to “trample under foot the blood of Christ, by which we have been redeemed; or to do despite to the Spirit of God [Note: Hebrews 10:29.],” who has striven with us, warning us against the evils which we have been habituated to commit, and stimulating us to those duties, which we have neglected to perform. Truly, on the most superficial view of our state we must be convinced, that “every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God [Note: Romans 3:19.].”
How polluted we are, in every member of our bodies and in every faculty of our souls, God alone knoweth or can conceive. Darkness is not more opposed to light, or Belial to Christ, than we, every one of us, are to the holy will of God, whether as proclaimed in his law, or as exhibited in his Gospel. How blind we are in our understanding, how perverse in our will, how sensual in our affections, who shall be able to declare? Even “the Apostles themselves once had their conversation in the lusts of their flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as other [Note: Ephesians 2:3.]:” And such have we been also. Our very “mind and conscience have been defiled,” so that there is not one amongst us who must not join in that humiliating acknowledgment, that “there is no health in us.”
In fact, we are altogether enslaved, or, as the Scripture expresses it, “taken in the snare of the devil, and led captive by him at his will [Note: 2 Timothy 2:26.].” Nor is this true merely in relation to more flagrant transgressors only; “for the prince of the power of the air worketh in all the children of disobedience [Note: Ephesians 2:2.];” and, however insensible we may be of his motions, does really instigate us to every evil we commit.
But I observed that there is yet further implied in my text, not only that we are destitute of all good in ourselves, but that we are incapable of acquiring it by any power of our own. Were not this true, there would, as I have before observed, have been no need that all good should be treasured up in another for us.
Now no one of these fore-mentioned evils can we remove. Not our ignorance; for we are told that “God alone giveth wisdom [Note: Proverbs 2:6.].” The Spirit of God must “open the eyes of our understanding [Note: Ephesians 1:18.]: nor can we without his gracious influence, “know the things which belong unto our peace.” We must have “a spiritual discernment in order to discern the things of the Spirit [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.].” St. Paul, notwithstanding he had made a greater proficiency in Jewish literature than most of his own age, yet could not comprehend the true import of the Mosaic writings, or see their accomplishment in Jesus Christ, till “the scales, by which his organs of vision had been obstructed, were made to fall from his eyes [Note: Acts 9:18.]:” nor could the immediate disciples of our Lord, who had heard all his instructions both in public and private for the space of three years, see the law of Moses fulfilled in him. The end of his death as a sacrifice for sin, the necessity of his resurrection to carry on and perfect his work, and the spiritual nature of his kingdom, were still hidden from them, till “He opened their understandings to understand the Scriptures [Note: Luke 24:45.].” So must “the Holy Spirit be given unto us also, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:12.].” Earthly knowledge we may acquire by the powers of intellect and by dint of application: but heavenly knowledge is the gift of God alone, who, whilst he “takes the wise in their own craftiness [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:19.],” will reveal to babes “what is hid from the wise and prudent [Note: Matthew 11:25.].” Nor can we by any means remove our guilt. Let us go and blot out of the book of God’s remembrance all the sins we have ever committed. Vain attempt! We cannot cancel so much as one sin; nor would rivers of tears suffice to wash away the slightest stain from our souls. Nor can we even abstain from contracting fresh guilt: for there is imperfection in our best deeds: our very tears need to be washed, and our repentances to be repented of. Even St. Paul himself, eminent as he was, could do nothing on which he could rely for his justification before God; and therefore “he desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, but the righteousness which was of God by faith in Christ [Note: Philippians 3:9.].” A justifying righteousness must be perfect: but we can do nothing perfect: we need one to “bear the iniquity even of our holiest actions [Note: Exodus 28:38.]:” and therefore we must for ever despair of establishing a righteousness of our own, and must submit simply and entirely to the righteousness provided for us in the Gospel [Note: Romans 10:3.].
Nor can we cleanse ourselves from our pollution. “As well might an Ethiopian change his skin, or a leopard his spots, as we restore ourselves to the image of God in which we were at first created [Note: Jeremiah 13:23.].” The renovation of the heart is on this very account called a new birth and a new creation [Note: John 3:3. 2 Corinthians 5:17.]; and it can be effected by none but God himself. Let any man put this matter to a trial: let him see whether he can mortify all the desires of the flesh, and efface from his mind the love of this world, and transform himself into the Divine image in righteousness and true holiness:—he may as well attempt to create a world.
As for deliverance from all spiritual bondage, that also is utterly unattainable by human efforts. St. Paul even to his dying hour was constrained to cry, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me [Note: Romans 7:24.]?” Hence in the truly scriptural Liturgy of our Church we are taught to acknowledge; that “we are tied and bound with the chain of our sins,” and to cry, “But do thou, O God, of the pitifulness of thy great mercy loose us.”
Now all this is clearly implied in the words of our text: and by a just view of this we are prepared to consider, secondly, what is expressed.
In perfect correspondence with the foregoing truths, we find in our text two things expressed, viz. that God has treasured up for us in Christ all the good that we stand in need of: and that He will freely bestow it on every believing soul.
Observe here how God has treasured up for us in Christ all the good that we stand in need of. God “has laid help for us on One that is mighty [Note: Psalms 89:19.],” even on his own dear and only-begotten Son. He has treasured up for us in Christ a fulness suited to the necessities of fallen man [Note: Colossians 1:19.], and has constituted him “Head over all things to the Church [Note: Ephesians 1:22.],” that “out of his fulness every member of his mystical body may receive [Note: John 1:16.]” such a measure of grace as his peculiar necessities require. This is shadowed forth under the image of a vine, which supplies every one of its branches with the sap and nutriment which alone can enable it to bring forth fruit [Note: John 15:5.]. “Separate from him,” every one of us would become dry and fit only for fuel. The Apostle Paul knew no other source of life and strength; and therefore he said, “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith in the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me [Note: Galatians 2:20.].” So in like manner must every soul of man come to Christ for grace to help him in the time of need. “Our fresh springs must be altogether in him [Note: Psalms 87:7.].” “Our life is hid with Christ in God: yea, Christ is our very life:” and it is from that circumstance alone that we are warranted to hope, that “when he shall appear we also shall appear with him in glory [Note: Colossians 3:3-4.].” “He is ascended up on high on purpose that he may fill all things [Note: Ephesians 4:10.]:” and he does “fill all in all [Note: Ephesians 1:23.].” The very light which is reflected by the whole planetary system of moon and stars, proceeds from the sun; and the life of all the vegetable creation is sustained by its reviving rays. And so is “Christ the light and life of the whole world;” as it is written, “With thee is the fountain of life; and in thy light shall we see light [Note: Psalms 36:9.].”
This is yet more fully expressed in our text, which declares, that Christ shall be made all unto us, even wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, to every soul that believes in him.
Do we need wisdom? He shall be made wisdom to us. Wonderful shall be the views which he will impart to the believing soul: yes, the believer shall have, according to the measure of the gift of Christ, “the very mind that was in Christ himself,” and be made to view every thing as God himself views it [Note: Philippians 2:5. 1 John 2:20.]. What humiliating views will he have of himself as a guilty, corrupt creature, deserving of God’s wrath and indignation! What exalted views will he have of all the Divine perfections, and particularly of them as united and harmonizing in the person and work of Christ! How will he be enabled to “comprehend the height and depth and length and breadth of Christ’s unsearchable love, so as even to be filled by it with all the fulness of God [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.]!” What a perception will he have of “the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost [Note: Romans 5:5.],” and of all his gracious influences, as “a spirit of adoption testifying to his soul, that God is his Father, and that he is God’s beloved child [Note: Romans 8:15-16.]!” In what hateful colours will he now behold the sins which he once loved; and how lovely in his estimation will be the paths of righteousness and true holiness! When once “God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness in the material world shall shine into his heart to give him this knowledge, he will behold all the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6.].”
Do we need righteousness? Christ shall be made righteousness to the believing soul. The very name by which we are privileged to call our blessed Lord, is, “Jehovah our righteousness [Note: Jeremiah 23:6.].” In Christ we shall have a righteousness fully answering all the requirements of God’s holy law, and satisfying the demands of his inflexible justice. Clothed in the robe of Christ’s perfect righteousness, we shall be so pure that God will not behold in us a spot or blemish [Note: Ephesians 5:26-27.]. Not the angels before the throne of God shall shine more bright than we: indeed they have only the righteousness of a creature, whilst the believing soul is clad in the righteousness of the Creator himself. Nor let any one imagine that this is the privilege of the Apostles only: no: the righteousness of Christ is “given unto” every believing soul, and “put upon” him as a garment, in which he shall stand accepted of God to all eternity [Note: Romans 3:22.Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:6.].
Do we need sanctification? This also shall Christ be made unto us. Yes, he will make us new creatures. He will enable us to “put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and to put on the new man, whereby we shall be assimilated to the Divine image [Note: Ephesians 4:22-24.].” He has promised his Holy Spirit for this end, even to “sanctify us wholly [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23.].” By applying to our souls his promises, he will enable us to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].” Yea, by enabling us to “behold his glory, he will change us into his own image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.].”
Finally, do we need redemption? He will be redemption to us, “delivering us from all the bondage of corruption, and bringing us into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.” “When once the Son thus makes us free, we become free indeed [Note: John 8:36.].” With what delight do we then walk in the ways of God, and with what enlargement of heart do we run in the paths of his commandments! Truly under the influence of his grace we enjoy almost a heaven upon earth. The exercises of prayer and praise are far different from what they were wont to be in our unregenerate state. Formerly we had no taste for them, no pleasure in them: now we are never so happy as when we get access to God in these duties: it is even “as marrow and fatness to our souls, when we can praise our God with joyful lips [Note: Psalms 63:5.].”
True, “the flesh will yet lust against the spirit, as well as the spirit against the flesh:” but “sin shall no more have dominion over us [Note: Romans 6:14.];” we shall, in desire at least, be “holy as God himself is holy, and perfect as our Father which is in heaven is perfect [Note: 1 Peter 1:15-16.].”
Before I come to my concluding remarks on this subject, I beg you to inquire with yourselves, whether you have ever had a practical experience of these things in your own souls? It is said in my text, “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” Now is this true of you? Have you, (I speak to every individual,) Have you ever been brought to such a sense of your own destitution of all good, and of your utter incapacity to supply, by any efforts of your own, your manifold necessities? Have you also been led to see what a fulness there is in Christ, exactly suited to your necessities? and have you actually received out of his fulness a supply of all that you stand in need of, so that Christ is daily regarded by you as your entire Saviour, your all in all? I pray you, let not this matter be thought of small import; No indeed. These things are not to be viewed as a mere theory, but as practical truths, upon the experience of which your everlasting salvation depends: and, if you die before they are realized by you in your daily experience, it will be better for you that you had never been born.
Here I might well close my subject. But, having taken hitherto only the more obvious and superficial view of it, I would, if it detain you not too long, briefly entreat your attention to some points which are more deep and recondite, and which, I hope, will repay the trespass which I thus reluctantly make upon your time.
Mark then, I pray you, how entirely salvation is of grace from first to last. You have seen what provision God has made for us in our low estate. You have seen what he has laid up for us in Christ, and what Christ is made unto us, even all that we stand in need of. But you have not seen how it is that Christ is made all this to the believing soul. It is by our being “in Christ Jesus:” “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus.” Now we must be engrafted into Christ as scions, before we can partake of any of these things: we must be cut off from the old stock whereon we grew in our natural state, and be made living branches of Him the living Vine. And who, I beg leave to ask, can do this for us? It can be done by none but God, the great husbandman, who has himself ordained this as the only way of saving our ruined race. And this is twice marked in my text with very peculiar force and emphasis: “Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who Of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” Now I ask, who was it that gave the Saviour to us, or us to him? Who was it that accepted him in our behalf? Who was it that, after accepting his sacrifice in our behalf, constituted him our living Head, and treasured up in him such a fulness of all that we stood in need of? And who was it that cut us off from our old stock and grafted us into him? And who was it that by this mysterious process actually made us partakers of all these benefits? Hear it, and forget it not: “It is of God that ye are in Christ Jesus: and of God that Christ is made unto you all that you stand in need of.” Let God then have all the glory. This was the very end for which he did all this, as he tells us both in the words that precede my text, and in the words that follow it: “God, says the Apostle, has chosen things which are not, to bring to nought things which are, that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, that, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” Now I entreat your attention to this. Do not rob God of his glory. Do not ascribe any thing to yourselves, but give him the glory of your salvation from first to last. If you could go up to heaven, you would not find one soul there that arrogates any thing to himself. All with one heart and one voice are singing, “Salvation to God and to the Lamb;” to God, as the alone Author of salvation, and to the Lamb, as the only means: and I call on every one of you to begin this song on earth, giving all praise to God the Father as the source and fountain of your happiness, and to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has both purchased it for you by his blood, and imparted it to you by his Spirit. God is a jealous God, and will not give his glory to another: and if you rob him of his glory here, you shall not be partakers of it in the world to come.
Having called your attention to this, I next say, seek this salvation in the precise way that God has appointed. Seek it in its full extent—seek it in its proper order—seek it for its only just and legitimate end—seek it with a confidence that you shall not seek in vain.
Seek it in its full extent. Look to Christ for every thing without exception. Look to him for wisdom. Even though you be the most learned man on earth in respect of human sciences, you must look to him alone to instruct you in that which is divine. You must come to him even as a little child, to be taught of him; you must in your own apprehension “be a fool, if you would be truly wise [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:18.].” If you “lean to your own understanding,” instead of relying upon the teaching of his Spirit, you will never attain true saving knowledge. If you would be made wise unto salvation, “your eyes must be anointed with the eye-salve which he alone can bestow [Note: Revelation 3:18.].” Look to him also for righteousness. There must be no dependence whatever on any thing of your own. There must be no attempt to blend your own righteousness with his. You must not even look to any attainments of your own, as your warrant to go to him, or to hope in him: your hope must be founded wholly on the sufficiency of his atonement, and the perfection of the righteousness which he wrought out for you. I do not mean that you are to be remiss in your obedience; but you are not to rely upon it. In point of dependence, your best deeds must be disclaimed as much as your worst. The fixed and habitual sentiment of your heart must be, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ [Note: Hebrews 12:14.].” For sanctification also must you look to him, and that with as much earnestness, as if you were to be saved by your own works. Whilst I warn you that your own good works must be renounced in point of dependence, I would not have you imagine that you can ever be saved without them: No: I declare to every living man, that antinomianism is a horrible delusion, and a damning sin. God has plainly warned us, that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord;” and that “every man who has a scriptural hope in Christ, must purify himself even as he is pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.].” Your complete redemption also must be received from Christ alone. You must “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus [Note: 2 Timothy 2:1.].” It is in his strength alone that you are to maintain your contest with your great adversary, for it is he alone that can “bruise Satan under your feet [Note: Romans 16:20.].” And bear in mind, that no one of these things is to be separated from another. There must be no harbouring of philosophic pride, or of pharisaic self-righteousness, or of antinomian licentiousness: but the whole of Christ’s benefits must be sought by you, without partiality and without hypocrisy [Note: James 3:17.].”
Next, I would observe, these things must be sought in their proper order, that is, in the very order in which they are here proposed. Divine teaching must be sought in the first instance; for without that, you can know nothing either of your own need of Christ, or of his sufficiency. Then you must, as a poor perishing sinner, look to Christ, to wash you in his blood, and to clothe you in the unspotted robe of his righteousness. Then, having obtained a hope of acceptance through him, you must seek to be “sanctified throughout, in body, soul, and spirit.” And further, having obtained a measure of holiness, you must not be self-confident, but, like the Apostle Paul, must “keep your body under, and bring it into subjection, lest after all your high professions, you prove a cast-away at last [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:27.].” To the latest hour of your life, you must retain the frame recommended by the Apostle, “Be not high-minded, but fear.” “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall [Note: Rom 11:20. 1 Corinthians 10:12.].” And, whilst you acknowledge Christ as “the author of your faith,” you must look to him, and to him alone, as “the finisher of it [Note: Hebrews 12:2.].”
Further, seek all these blessings for the only just and legitimate end, the glory of God. The mind of all the glorified saints must be your mind. They all “prostrate themselves before the throne of God, and cast their crowns at the Saviour’s feet [Note: Revelation 4:10.].” They are nothing; and He is all. This is the true end of all religion, “that God in all things may be glorified through Christ Jesus [Note: 1 Peter 4:11.].” An adoring frame of mind is that which you should cultivate to your dying hour. Whilst you are in that frame, God, if I may so speak, is in his place, and you in yours. Even the angels that never sinned, are all upon their faces before God [Note: Revelation 7:11.]. Much more should you, who have never done any thing but sin, and yet have been redeemed from condemnation by the blood of your incarnate God. The higher you are exalted by God, the lower you must lie before him: and the deeper your sense of your own unworthiness, the more devoutly will you join in the song of the redeemed, “To him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and the Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen [Note: Revelation 1:5-6.].”
Lastly, seek these blessings with a due confidence that you shall not seek in vain. Recollect, who were the persons of whom these things were spoken? They were sinners of no common stamp. Such were the enormities which many of them had committed, that they seemed to be almost beyond the reach of mercy: yet of them was it said, “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.].” Let none then entertain the doubt, ‘Shall Christ be made all this to me?’ for he shall be so made to every believing soul; nor shall the vilest sinner in the universe be suffered to seek God’s face in vain [Note: Isaiah 45:19.]. Only let the pursuit of these things be your great object in life (for, what is there that can for a moment be put in competition with them?) and there shall not be a soul amongst us, who shall not be able to say, ‘I am the happy person in whom all this blessedness is realized;’ ‘Of God am I in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto me wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; and in him do I glory, yea and will glory throughout all the ages of eternity.’ May this be the happy experience of us all, for Christ’s sake! Amen and Amen.
an analysis of the foregoing discourse.
We should consider in Sacred Scripture what is implied as well as what is expressed.
So did Christ (Matthew 22:32,) and so will we.
What is implied.
That we are destitute of all good in ourselves—
We are ignorant, guilty, polluted, and enslaved—
That we are incapable of attaining it by any power of our own—
We cannot remove any one of these; ignorance, guilt, pollution, or bondage.
What is expressed,
That God has treasured up for us in Christ all the good that we stand in need of—
He is the Vine and we the branches—
That he will impart it to every soul that believes in him—
Do we need wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption? He will make Christ all unto us.
Inquire whether He is made all this to you.
See how entirely salvation is of grace from first to last.
Who gave the Saviour to us? God alone.
Who gave us to him? God alone.
Both these things are marked in the text, and must be marked by us.
Seek it altogether in God’s appointed way—
In its full extent—omitting none, preferring none—
In its proper order—the precise order stated ill the text—
For its only just and legitimate end—God’s glory—twice mentioned.
With full confidence that you shall not seek it in vain—
None can be more unworthy of it than the persons addressed in the text, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12