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1 Corinthians 3

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Verses 1-12

1 Corinthians 3:1-12

And I… could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal … babes in Christ.

Incapacity in hearers

. That the ignorance and sinfulness of a people are a just cause why faithful and wise ministers of the Word do not sometimes preach of the more sublime and excellent points in Christianity. Paul desired not only to lay a good foundation, but also to build an excellent superstructure, but the ignorance of his hearers restrained him. Even as the husbandman does not sow his best seed, wheat, and the like, because his ground is so barren that it will not bear it. As the schoolmaster teacheth not his choicest notions, because the scholar cannot receive them. To open the doctrine, consider that in Christianity, and so in our preaching, there is a twofold kind of matter.

1. That which is fundamental, plain, necessary, and easy, being the first principles of religion, the total ignorance whereof damneth.

2. There are admirable consequences and conclusions to be deduced from and improved out of these, unto which the godly are to grow, not resting in the former, but greedily desiring the latter. This is to show you that Christ’s school hath many forms, and it is a sin and a shame to be always in the alphabet. For further prosecuting the doctrine, consider, first, how ignorance doth restrain the minister’s abilities. And ignorance is an impediment to our preaching, in these particulars: first, the more eminent and sublime mysteries of the gospel about Christ and His righteousness we cannot so frequently preach upon, but these things which may be known of God by the natural light of conscience and by the works of creation. There are things known of God partly by natural light of conscience, especially if furthered with education, and things by supernatural revelation and authority of the Scripture merely; such is the old doctrine about Christ and His offices. Now this later sort of matter, which is the marrow end life of all preaching, many of our congregations, as they now stand corrupted with blindness and ignorance, are not prepared to receive it. Secondly, as those sublime mysteries cannot be often preached on (though sometimes we must, because we are debtors to the wise as well as the foolish, and there are spiritual as well as carnal in our congregations), so likewise that growth in knowledge, and increase more and more in heavenly light and knowledge, cannot be pressed where gross ignorance is. Can we expect any increase or fruit when men are not so much as plants planted by God? Alas! the ministers of God have far higher and larger degrees of knowledge and grace to press you to if once the foundation were laid. Thirdly, there are many choice and excellent duties in the exercise whereof a Christian would have much joy and bring much glory to God; but the ignorance of a people makes the minister not so frequently urge those, because other things must be done first. The duties are these: Let the Word of God dwell plentifully in you, teaching and admonishing one another (Colossians 3:6). Fourthly, the ignorance of a people restraineth the ministers of God, that they cannot so powerfully press at first the pure and sincere worship of God, and the leaving of all superstitious and traditional ways of worship; but they must by degrees, here a little, and there a little, as they are able to bear it. Thus much for ignorance. Then the sinfulness of people makes them incapable of many precious truths in religion. As, first, the minister’s labour is most spent in discovering the damnable nature of gross sins, taking them off from their brutish ways; and as for spiritual sins, unbelief, diffidence in the promises, carnal confidence in themselves, &c. These they cannot so much press against, because such auditors come far short of civility, and therefore much less reach to piety. Secondly, to a people living in gross sins we cannot so frequently and gloriously preach Jesus Christ in the offices of a Mediator. We cannot make it our work to set forth the promise of the gospel in its glory. We cannot preach of joy and peace in believing. Thirdly, the performing of duties in a spiritual and gracious manner, so as to have communion with God and to enjoy Him. This also is too high for wicked men. Use: To awaken people out of their ignorance and sinfulness. If Aristotle thought a young man no fit auditor for his morals because he was subject to unruly affections, how fit can people blind in mind, corrupt in affections, be to receive the truths of God! How much of the study, labour, parts, and godliness of a minister may be lost through the indocibleness of hearers! Though we preach not Latin, yet the matter we preach may be so spiritual, heavenly, that it may be as unintelligible as an unknown tongue.

That even among those who are truly and indeed of the visible Church of God, there is a vast difference; some are spiritual, some are carnal, some are men, some are babes. Though God created Adam and Eve in their full perfection, :yet He doth not regenerate us into a full stature in Christ. The apostle in the text speaks of two degrees only amongst the godly--the spiritual and the carnal, the men and the babes. These Corinthians are said to abound in all utterance, and they came behind no Church in any gift; yet no Church so carnal. Here were gross heresies, divisions, and several gross practices; so that a spiritual people is not a people of parts and knowledge and abilities only, but of grace and raised sanctification also. Now as there are these degrees in the truly godly, so there are peculiar duties required of them. The spiritual man is, first, to be charitable and indulgent to those that are weaker, not to despise them. Secondly, the spiritual man is to walk humbly, and to be always in an holy fear and trembling. Thirdly, the spiritual man is to consider God requireth mere of him than of others; his account will be the more terrible. Then as for the carnal or babes, two things belong to them. First, that they be not dejected, or quite out of hopes, because they are babes. Fathers have naturally tender affections to those children that are most infirm and weak. Secondly, take heed of resting in low things. To be always weak, to be always carnal, doth highly provoke God and grieve a faithful ministry; to grow in grace and bring forth much fruit are made necessary to our continuance in the state of grace.

Use 1. To confute that proud and arrogant doctrine that will have none members of a Church but who are perfect, and those also who arrogate perfection to themselves. Where can such be found?

Use 2. If those that are truly godly, yet imperfect, retaining some ignorance and some infirmities on them, are such a trouble unto the godly ministers, how unsufferable then are such as are altogether carnal! If wheat, because of some blemish in it, be to be blamed, what then is cockle and plain weeds? If imperfect fruit displease the gardener, what then do brambles and weeds? (A. Burgess.)

The comparative carnality of Christians

. Christians are decidedly, though not wholly, spiritual. The marks of their spirituality are these:--

1. A freedom from wilful and habitual subjection to any sin.

2. The measurement of their obedience by the perfect law.

3. The ascribing of all the excellences attained by them to a Divine source.

4. Union among themselves.

But they have the remains of an opposite character still existing within them, in the midst of which this new one has sprung up. They remain too much carnal and become too little spiritual.

1. They bear not affliction well.

2. Their behaviour in the Church is not good; they quarrel and contend.

3. They pay too much attention to the pomp of this world. This state must be altered. Be no longer carnal, but walk ye in the Spirit. (J. Leifchild, D. D.)

Reflections for Churches

The graduating method of teaching (1 Corinthians 3:1-2). Truth is to be administered with regard to the receptive powers of the student, just as the administration of bodily food must have regard to the digestive capacities of those who need it. Though men might live on milk, strong meat would kill children. There are truths in the gospel of such an elevated character, requiring so much intellect and culture to appreciate them, that to enforce them on the attention of mental and moral children would be positively to injure them. Christ practised this method of teaching. He had many things to say which His disciples could not bear. This method of teaching shows--

1. That a minister that may be useful to one class of men may be unprofitable to another.

2. The necessity of all who would enjoy the higher teaching to cultivate their mental and moral powers.

The carnality of churchisms (1 Corinthians 3:3-4). By churchisms I mean sectarianisms, denominationalisms, &c. Paul says this is “carnal.” Carnal because it engrosses the soul--

1. In the human rather than the Divine.

2. In the personal rather than in the universal.

3. In the selfish rather than in the self-denying.

4. In the transitory rather than in the permanent.

The unity of all true ministers (1 Corinthians 3:5-8).

1. One, notwithstanding the diversity of talents and kinds of labour.

2. One in grand practical aim. What were they working for? The spiritual cultivation of mankind. One planting, another watering, &c. Different kinds of labour, but still one.

3. One in their connection with God.

(1) Whilst all depended on God for success, God gave the “increase.”

(2) All were co-workers with Him. “Labourers together with God.”

4. One in their ultimate reward (1 Corinthians 3:8). Each from the same God, each according to his work. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

St. Paul’s spiritual treatment of the Church whilst in a state of faction


His economic management of truth. Economy in a household means frugality in opposition to extravagance. In the dispensation of truth it means that prudent distribution which does not squander it uselessly, but which apportions to each age and capacity the amount it can turn to good account. For different ages, different kinds of food. For childhood, or “babes in Christ,” milk, &c.; but reverse this, and what is strength to the man is injury to the child--it cannot bear it.

1. The doctrine which the apostle calls “strong meat,” if taught at first, would deter from further discipleship. “No man putteth a piece of new cloth into an old garment, &c. Now “strong meat” does not mean high doctrine, such as election, regeneration, justification by faith, but strong demands on self, a severe, noble life. St. Paul taught the Corinthians all the doctrine he had to teach, but not all the conceptions of the blessed life which he knew of. He showed them that, leaving the principles of doctrine, they were to grow up unto Christ in all things, but by degrees. From a child we must not ask sublime forgiveness of injuries. That which would be glorious in a man might be pusillanimity in a boy. You must content yourself at first with prohibiting tyranny. Do not ask of your child to sacrifice all enjoyment for the sake of others; but let him learn first not to enjoy at the expense of another.

2. Another reason for this is the danger of familiarising the mind with high spiritual doctrines to which the heart is a stranger, and thus engendering hypocrisy--e.g., self-sacrifice, self-denial, are words easily got by rote; and while fluently talking of these high-sounding words, and of man’s or woman’s mission and influence, it never occurs to us that as yet we have not power to live them out. Let us avoid such language, and avoid supposing that we have attained such states. It is good to be temperate; but if you are temperate, do not mistake that for self-sacrifice. It is good to be honest; but when you are simply doing your duty, do not talk of a noble life. The danger of extreme demands made on hearts unprepared for such is seen in the ease of Ananias. These demands were not, as we see, made by the apostles; but public opinion, which had made sacrifice fashionable, demanded it. And it was a demand like strong meat to the weak, for Ananias was “unable to bear it.”

His depreciation of the part played by man in the great work of progress, and his exhibition of the part of God (1 Corinthians 3:5).

1. In all periods of great social activity there is a tendency to exalt persons and means of progress. Hence, in turn, kings, statesmen, parliaments: and then education, science, machinery, and the press. Here, at Corinth, was “minister-worship.”

2. St. Paul’s remedy was to point out God’s part and ours. “Ye are God’s husbandry,” we are only labourers. We execute a plan which we only slightly understand--nay, not at all, till it is completed, like workmen in a tubular bridge, or men employed in Gobelin tapestry, who cannot see the pattern of their work until the whole is executed. Conceive the labourer saying of some glorious piece of architecture: “Behold my work!” or some poet, king, or priest, in view of some progress of the race: “See what I have done!” Who is Paul, but a servant of higher plans than he knows? (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

The ministerial once

As their dissensions had reference to their religious teachers, the apostle endeavours to correct the evil by presenting the ministerial office in its true light.

Ministers were not heads of schools or rival sects, as were the Grecian philosophers, but mere servants, without any authority or power of their own. One may plant, and another water, but the whole increase is of God (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).

Ministers Are One. They have one Master and one work. They may have different departments in that great work, but they are like fellow-labourers on the same farm, or fellow-builders on the same temple (1 Corinthians 3:8-9).

In the discharge of their respective duties they incur a great responsibility. If they attempt to build up the temple of God with the rubbish of their own wisdom, they will be severely punished. If they employ the materials which God has furnished, they will be rewarded (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). The Church is the temple of God, and ministers will be held to strict account for the doctrines which they preach and for the way in which they execute their office (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

No minister need deceive himself in this matter. He cannot preach a higher wisdom than the wisdom of God; and to learn that wisdom he must renounce his own (1 Corinthians 3:18-20).

Therefore the people should not place their confidence in ministers, who belong to the Church, and not the Church to them. To the interests and consummation of the Church all things, visible and invisible, are made subservient (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). (C. Hodge, D. D.)

Prod an example to Christian ministers

. His wisdom

1. He discriminates the spiritual condition of his charge.

2. Unfolds it.

3. Adapts himself to it.

His humility.

1. He repudiates all the glory of his success.

2. Claims no superiority over his brethren.

3. Ascribes all honour to God.

His exalted views of his work

1. Co-operation with God.

2. God’s husbandry.

3. God’s building.

His deep sense of his responsibility.

1. He would build on the right foundation.

2. With solid material.

3. Under the solemn conviction that his work must be tried by fire. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

I have fed you with milk and not with meat.--

Milk for babes

This second verse is a further amplification of Paul’s complaint: they were babes, and not strong men. Wherein did this appear? By the meat he did provide for them. He compareth himself to a nurse, who does not provide strong meat, but milk for babes; for that were to kill them rather than to nourish them. Now this action of Paul’s does denote the great skill and prudence which the apostle used, considering what was fit for his hearers, and condescending thereunto. He that was rapt up into the third heavens, what sublime mysteries might he have preached upon! But he preaches not to show his learning, but to do good to them.

There is a great deal of prudence and wisdom required in the ministers of god so to preach as that it, may be profitable to the hearers. The nurse is carefully to observe what meat the child may eat; the shepherd, what are the fit pastures for to lead his sheep into; the husbandman, what is the proper seed for such ground; the physician, what is the proper physic for such constitutions. To open this doctrine, consider that a minister’s duty of feeding his flock lies in two things--his teaching of them and his governing of them--and both these require great prudence. If Solomon, above all things, prayed for wisdom to govern the people in civil things, how much more have we cause to pray for wisdom in the administration of spiritual things? How easily may we give you poison for bread without wisdom I

1. For information. There is required judgment and a sound mind to separate truth from falsehood; to know which is gold and precious stone, and which is hay and stubble; to winnow the chaff from the wheat.

2. As wisdom is required to choose out true and sound matter, so to proportion it to the capacity of the hearers.

(1) To preach the nature of God and His attributes; of original sin, of conversion, of justification; as also about Christ and His offices.

(2) To preach comfort, and dispense the grace of God in the gospel. But here is much wisdom required that he doth it not to impenitent sinners.

(3) To rebuke and reprove for sin. Now how great a skill is it wisely to reprove, to have zeal and knowledge together! Some must be reproved sharply (Titus 1:13), cuttingly. We must not spare. Thus John called some a generation of vipers (Matthew 3:7), and our Saviour, “Woe to you, scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites,” many times repeating that, upbraiding of them. Others, again, are tender, tractable; meekness will do more than austerity. As for Church government, the wise management of that is far more difficult than political. Let us consider the reason why this doctrinal feeding requireth such skill and prudence. First, because Divine truths are not to be managed by human, worldly wisdom, but by spiritual wisdom. As it is God that teacheth people to profit (Isaiah 48:17), so it is God that teacheth the minister to preach profitably. Secondly, therefore, is wisdom necessary in our preaching of Divine things, because the miscarriage of these precious truths is a far greater loss than any earthly loss. It is pity for want of skill in any calling to miscarry in a man’s worldly affairs, but much more in heavenly; there needs not only faithfulness, but wisdom. Thirdly, therefore is wisdom necessary, because of the untowardness and unteachableness of people which have sundry humours, sundry appetites, sundry affections and desires. Use: To show people’s duty, how much they are to pray unto God for their teachers, that they may be directed into all good thoughts for their soul’s good. The second doctrine remaineth to be amplified, which is--

That it is very necessary to have a people instructed with the principles of religion before they make further progress in religion. Consider, first, and bewail the miserable atheism, ignorance, and blindness that every man naturally is born in about religion and Divine truths. Darkness covers our congregations, as it did the chaos at first. Secondly, as people are thins naturally ignorant of Divine truths, so also their wilful slothfulness about them is much more damnable. Thirdly, because naturally we are thus like a wilderness full of briars, therefore God hath strictly commanded this duty of instructing and informing those that are rude and ignorant in the ways of God. Fourthly, the two principles of religion are reduced to several heads, and are both short and easy, but necessary to be known. The doctrine about God, and Christ, and ourselves, which is the Credendum; the doctrine about faith and repentance, which is the Agendum; and about things to come, which is the Sperandum. But now, when we say these Divine principles are easy, you must take heed of two mistakes.

1. We do not mean that the Divine faith and belief of them is easy to flesh and blood. No; but they are easy supposing the grace of God in respect of other particulars in religion. The principles of religion are easy and plain to the mind enlightened, but they are either foolishness or absurdities to the greatest scholar, that is, if his heart be not opened.

2. We do not mean that the bare saying of the principles of religion by heart and rote is the true believing and knowing of them. As the child is not said to be fed with milk unless it swallow it down and be nourished by it, so neither can they be said to believe the principles of religion unless they do with understanding apply them and receive them into their hearts. Now the grounds for instruction in these principles are, first, because God accounts of no zeal nor devout affections if they be not the fruit of knowledge. Thus Christ told the woman that was so zealous for her Father’s worship, “Ye worship ye know not what” (John 4:22). Secondly, the principles are foundations, and are the root. Now, he would be an unwise artificer that should intend to rear up a house and lay no foundation. So that, so long as we preach to a people ignorant of these, we have no bottom to stand upon. Thirdly, without this good foundation laid, no preaching or duties can have any spiritual effect. Fourthly, conversion cannot be wrought without some knowledge of the principles. We cannot believe in Him we do not know. We cannot love Him we do not know. Fifthly, the knowledge of these principles is necessary to salvation. You that are ignorant totally of them cannot upon any just grounds hope for salvation. “This is eternal life, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent (John 17:2). “They are a people of no understanding, therefore He that made them will not save them” (Isaiah 27:11). God would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). Sixthly, none can pretend excuses for their ignorance herein. That it is a great sin and just reproach to a people that have lived long under the means of grace if they have not got the true profit by it. The Word preached is commended in Scripture for several and Divine operations. Now if thou hast many years been under these droppings, and yet art a dry wilderness, how unsufferable is it! In other things of the world you think it not to be endured.

For opening this, let us consider what are those choice and noble effects of the ministry for the defect whereof a people may be severely blamed. First, illumination and enlightening of the understanding to believe the first principles and foundations of religion. Every science, and so that of Divinity, hath its first principles, which are easy and plain. They shine with their own light, as the sunshineth with its own light; you need not another sun to see it. So, though the sun be never so visible, if the eye be not prepared all is in vain to a blind man. What do such bats and owls in the sunshine of the gospel? Oh, if thou hadst lived in Sodom or Egypt, it had not been such a wonder; but in Jerusalem to be so blind argueth thy case damnable! Secondly, the Word preached expects this effect, not only to lay a foundation, but to build upwards; not only to plant, but to grow. Thus Ephesians 4:13, the offices in the Church are to bring us to a full stature in Christ. Where God gives talents, He looks for increase. The ministry is a talent of which God will require a strict account. As Paul doth sharply reprove the Hebrews for this want of growth (Hebrews 6:1-20.). Oh, then, sit not down at the lower round in the ladder, stay not at the bottom of the hill! Christianity is a race. There is work, and work enough for thee. Let all the world see there is a vast difference between living under no ministry, or a negligent ministry, and an instructing one. If corn should grow no better in improved grounds than in the barren heath it would be very strange. To a blind man the day and night is all one; he seeth as well at one time as another. Oh, fear thyself in a state of blindness, to whom preaching and no preaching, the ministry and no ministry, is all one; for thou makest no more progress! Thirdly, a third effect of the ministry is to establish and settle in the truth, to give a sound mind. For through men’s corruptions, pride, and vainglory, the ministry, as it may increase men’s parts, so accidentally increase their errors. As April showers that make the flowers fresh and sweet, so cause many croaking frogs also. Lastly, it is a shame to a people living under the ministry of the gospel a long while if they are not thereby furnished with abilities for those several personal duties that God requireth of them. Oh, the many duties God looks for at your hands which will not be expected from others!

In the next place, let us observe what a sin it is if people are not able to bear or receive the practical operations of the Word. For all knowledge, if it be not after godliness, is a tinkling cymbal. The Word is not only the tree of knowledge, but the tree of life also. If ye would receive the Word in the light and efficacy of it, keep not any compliance with carnal lusts. The truth is above your natural understanding, and the duties above your corrupt lives and affections. Sore eyes cannot bear the light. Festered wounds cannot bear salt; and yet the ministry is both light and salt. (A. Burgess.)

The distinction between milk and meat

. Negatively. This distinction is not--

1. That between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God. Paul did not preach the wisdom of the world to babes in Christ, and the wisdom of God to advanced Christians.

2. Not that between the Disciplina Arcani, or doctrine of the hidden essence of Christianity, which was introduced in later times. For the sake either of conciliating the heathen, or of preventing beginners from forming false notions of the gospel, it became common deliberately to conceal the truth. This is the foundation of the Romish doctrine of reserve--inculcating a blind faith and keeping the people in ignorance.

3. That which prevailed in the early Church between truth as the object of faith and as the object of knowledge. This is a distinction true in itself, but, as then understood, it meant nothing less than the difference between the doctrines of the Bible and the speculations of men. Philosophers of our own and of every other age have been willing to allow the people the truth as presented in the Scriptures, provided they themselves were allowed to explain them away into philosophic formulas. The true nature of the distinction is to be learnt--


1. From the import of the figure, which leads to the conclusion that the difference is rather in the mode of instruction than in the things taught. The same truth in one form is milk, in another strong meat. “Christ,” says Calvin, “is milk for babes, and strong meat for men.” Every doctrine which can be taught to theologians is taught to children. We teach a child that God is a Spirit, everywhere present and knowing all things, and he understands it. We tell him that Christ is God and man in two distinct natures and one person for ever. This to the child is milk, but it contains food for angels. The truth expressed in these propositions may be expanded indefinitely, and furnish nourishment for the highest intellects to eternity. The difference between milk and strong meat, according to this view, is simply the difference between the more or less perfect development of the things taught.

2. From parallel passages. In Hebrews 5:11-14 the reference is to the distinction between the simple doctrine of the priesthood of Christ and the full development of that doctrine. The important truth is that there are not two sets of doctrine, a higher and a lower form of faith, one for the learned and the other for the unlearned; there is no part of the gospel which we are authorised to keep back from the people. Everything which God has revealed is to be taught to every one just so fast and so far as he has the capacity to receive it. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

The doctrines of the gospel the food of Christians

What doctrines the apostle preached to the Corinthians. In all teaching it is necessary to begin with essential and fundamental principles. The same holds good in preaching the gospel to those who never heard it, and 1 Corinthians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 3:10 show that this was the apostle’s practice in Corinth, and the contents of his two Epistles bear this out.

1. The moral depravity of man lies at the foundation of the gospel, otherwise he would not need that salvation which it offers. Accordingly we find the apostle bringing this into view (1 Corinthians 2:14).

2. This sentiment is intimately connected with regeneration. For if natural men are under the dominion of sin, then their hearts must be renewed before they can become heirs of the kingdom of heaven (2 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 5:5).

3. The immediate effect of regeneration is love, which is the essence of all true religion (chap. 13.). Love to God produces love to Christ; and love to Christ is the very essence of that faith, which is connected with eternal life. Accordingly the apostle exhorted the Corinthians to embrace Christ as the only ground of salvation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

4. After men have become reconciled to God, they still need the Spirit of promise to carry on a work of sanctification in their hearts (2 Corinthians 3:18).

5. The doctrine of perseverance is a consequence of sanctification (2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 5:8).

6. As God begins and carries on a good work in whom He pleases, so Divine sovereignty is an essential doctrine of the gospel (1 Corinthians 3:6). Which leads up to the doctrine of the Trinity (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Why he called these doctrines milk. Hebrews 5:12-14 throws light upon the metaphor. The doctrines which Paul preached to the Corinthians may properly be called milk, because--

1. They are easy to be understood. Milk is much easier to digest than meat. So the first principles of the oracles of God are plain to the lowest capacity. They require attention rather than deep penetration.

2. They are highly pleasing to the pious heart. Peter represents all Christians as “new born babes” who “desire the sincere milk of the word.”

3. They are nourishing. The converts at Corinth made swift advances in knowledge and holiness, while they were fed by the doctrines according to godliness (1 Corinthians 1:4-7).

Why the apostle preached such plain and practical doctrines rather than any others.

1. Their internal state required such plain preaching. They were Genthes who had never been favoured with the knowledge of Divine revelation (1 Corinthians 1:21).

2. Their external state required the same mode of preaching. The heathen philosophers opposed the pure truths of the gospel, and endeavoured to persuade the Christians to renounce them and return to their former superstition. Nor were they altogether unsuccessful, for they overthrew the faith of some. By clearly unfolding the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, the apostle took the best method to guard them against the plausible arguments of infidels.


1. If the metaphor of milk has been properly explained, then by meat Paul means some other sentiments less plain and necessary to be known by common Christians. Such as--

(1) The rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic dispensation. We can hardly suppose that he would teach the Genthe Corinthians these dark things, because they were not prepared to understand them.

(2) The types and predictions respecting the character and coming of Christ. It would have been very difficult to explain these things intelligibly to a people who were without the Old Testament.

(3) The predictions in the New Testament concerning the great apostacy; the rise and fall of the man of sin; the calling in of the Jews; the millennium; and the state of things to the end of the world.

2. It appears from what has been said, that Paul’s doctrines have been greatly misrepresented. How many ministers have quoted his own words against himself, and employed the text to justify themselves, not only in neglecting to preach the doctrines which he preached, but in stigmatising those doctrines!

3. This subject affords an infallible criterion, by which to determine who are the plainest preachers in point of sentiment. Those who preach the doctrines which Paul called milk are the plainest preachers, and the easiest to be understood by every class of hearers. There never was, and there never can be, any false scheme of religion so easy to explain and understand as that which Paul taught.

4. If the foregoing observations are just, then there is no reason to think that any people are unable to bear the doctrines which Paul preached to the Corinthians. The inability lies in the heart, and not in the understanding.

5. It also appears that now is a proper time for ministers to feed their people with milk, and not with meat. Our congregations, in general, are in a situation very similar to that of the Corinthians. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

For ye are yet carnal … and walk as men.--


The two ideas of the text are--Men, as men, are carnal; Christians, as Christians, ought not to be carnal. Note--

What it is to be carnal, and how far the charge may be made good against humanity.

1. The word is of the same kindred as “flesh,” “fleshly,” &c. Flesh, however, is sometimes used in a good sense, as “the heart of flesh,” and sometimes in an indifferent sense, as “all flesh is grass.” Mostly, however, it expresses what is bad. Perhaps the terms “carnal” and “fleshly” have become the equivalents of depraved humanity from the fact of man’s being in the body, and therefore from the evil in him being more openly manifested by the lustings and corruptions of the animal appetites. There might have been sin without the body, but in that case men would not have been stigmatised as carnal. Having thus got the identity of “carnal” and “fleshly,” observe the kinds and gradations of their manifestation.

(1) The first sphere is that known as “fleshly lusts”--irregular animal appetites. Everything that partakes of brute impulse; gluttony, drunkenness, lust.

(2) “Fleshly wisdom,” by which is meant not only falsehood and cunning to gain one’s own ends, but thought which has no regard for God or duty, but which may be quite moral.

(3) The “fleshly mind”--the actings of the intellect and heart in relation to truth and love which are irregular or defective. Note the forms in which it displays itself.

(a) The form in which the intellect rejects truth altogether and turns away from God’s revelations in nature and the Bible, to its own systems and philosophies.

(b) Or the revelations may be admitted, but so corrupted by hypotheses as to make the Divine in nature and the Bible merely the occasion for filling the invisible with monstrous creations, turning the truth of God into a lie.

(c) There may be a holding of the truth simply and uncorrupted; but they who hold it may be so little instructed in it as to know nothing but its first elements, and remain babes.

2. To be carnal in any of these forms is characteristic of man as man. In illustration take--

(1) The history of man as connected with civilisation. Begin with a nation in a state of barbarism and we see disgusting outbreaks of appetite and lust. Elevate them a stage. Let the nation rise into a really civilised society, and understand the nature of prosperity, social comforts, arts, arms, science and commerce; when all the energies look no further than the present life. You know what develops then--pride of prosperity, graspings of avarice, lust of power. Then, when things have advanced further, and minds appear with high spiritual capacity, they surround themselves with forms of beauty, and school themselves in philosophy. But speculation runs rampant, “professing themselves wise they become fools.” They are as far from God as when given up to the gratification of animal passion.

(2) Sacred history. Soon after the Fall, with abundant testimonies of God’s character before it, the world got so corrupted that it had to be purified by the flood. The little church preserved in the ark had a fresh earth to begin upon, and erected its first altar to the true God. But in a very short time all was wrong again. Next, for the maintenance of the Divine idea, out of the mass of idolaters one man was taken, and Abraham’s seed were separated from the world and shielded from corruption. Alas! their constant effort was to break away and get back to the carnal. And when by afflictions and successive revelations the national mind was improved carnality broke out in Sadduceeism and Pharisaism. Then, when Jesus appeared and revealed His truth and established His Church, came the man of sin, and all men worshipped him.

(3) The history of the individual. He begins as the slave of his appetites. By and by he awakes as if another soul were given him, and becomes respectable; he now serves his passions instead of his appetites: a mere man instead of an animal. But some go farther. They get tired of their passions, as they did of their appetites, and take themselves to philosophy, taste, and science, vainly puffed up with their fleshly mind.

(4) Society and literature for the last two hundred years. At the close of the seventeenth century English literature and manners were licentious in the extreme. The latter part of the eighteenth century was an improvement; people got prudent, calculating, and respectable. Their’ understanding was developed; but there was a want of all high perception of the spiritual and the Divine. To come to the present day, men talk differently from the moralists of the last century. They speak of the Divine and of the vast things for which man was made, and there is a warmth and grandeur about their speculations. But, with all their grand thoughts, and their respect for Christianity and Christ, they have no idea of sitting at the feet of Jesus. It is just the worship of taste, beauty, and mind.

The reasons inherent in Christianity why Christians are not to be carnal. Because--

1. Christianity claims to be a system of supernatural dogmatic truth. The gospel meets man at the highest point in the development of the carnal mind, asking, “What am I, whence and whither?” and says, “I can tell you; I can discover to you the unseen and the eternal. Listen to me with unhesitating faith.” All who will do this will find there is not a single question respecting God, man, wants, duties, prospects, which it cannot answer, and by answering put an end to the intrusions of the fleshly mind.

2. The truth thus revealed aims at the purification of our spiritual nature, and must necessarily counteract carnality. It is “the grace of God which bringeth salvation,” and under it men “live soberly,” putting away carnality from the body, the first sphere of its manifestation; “righteously,” putting it away from social life--the second sphere; and “godly,” putting it away from the spirit--the third sphere.

3. Christianity as a system of influence forbids it.

(1) It is contained in a Book. I come to that Book that it may meet me in my spiritual condition as a sinner and teach me how to be reconciled to God; and if rightly studied it will be the instrument of constant development of intellectual and moral strength.

(2) It employs, in addition, the preacher, whose office it is to cause men to grow in righteousness and true holiness.

(3) It is a system of worship. Christians approach the Infinite. What an influence for purifying the heart, raising man above the carnal, inspiring him with the Divine.

(4) And all are under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

4. The opposite of this--the temper and habits of a spiritual life are essential to their character and preparation for a life to come.

5. They cannot give any other satisfactory evidence of their being Christians.

6. The work they have to do forbids it. They are “the light of the world,” “the salt of the earth.” The tendency of man as man is to darkness and corruption, which have to be counteracted by the strenuous efforts of the life of faith and spirituality.

General observations.

1. Christianity, whether true or false, contains those things which, carried out, would care all the disorders of the world, and make society everywhere virtuous and healthy. There can be no question that carnality in its grosser forms is the enemy of all purity, health, and joy; and in its higher manifestation tends to degrade and disorganise humanity.

2. The nature of Christianity demonstrates its truth. It would be a greater miracle for “carnal” man to have been its creator, than for it to be the supernatural thing it is.

3. He that hath this hope purifies himself even as Christ is pure. (T. Binney.)

The remains of corruption in the regenerate

. That the relics of corruption, which do abide in the godly, ought to be a heavy burden to them, against which they are daily to strive and combat. Though the tree be cut down, yet here is the stump and root in the godly. To open this, consider--

1. That even the most spiritual that are, the Christians of the first magnitude, even those that shine like suns in the world, have yet blemishes in them. But the best gold will have some dross; the best garden will have some weeds.

2. Yet there are other Christians who have sin more prevalent over them, and are easier overcome, and these deserve more to be called carnal than the former, their corruptions are more visible than their grace. Oh, take heed that thy life be not as the sluggard’s field, all grown over with briers and thorns.

3. As corruption doth thus abide in all the godly, and worketh differently, so it doth sometimes flame out into open fire; so that it is no longer the lust and motions of sin within, but the gross operations without. In Peter you see what a leak there was ready to drown the whole ship.

Whence it is that the godly do not fully conquer sin. For if you respect Christ He is greater than the devil; and if you respect grace, that is more efficacious than sin. How, then, should any lusts, passions, or motions abide in us? Now the efficient grounds are these: and then the final grounds shall be mentioned afterwards.

1. The efficient, because original corruption, which is the fountain of those streams, is not wholly dried up. So that there cannot but be those sinful affections and corrupt desires stirring in thee; these noisome vapours cannot but exhale as long as that filthy lake or bog is within thee.

2. The Spirit of God by which we come to mortify these corruptions doth not put forth its full power.

3. Therefore doth corruption remain, because the instrument of sanctification and mortification, that also is imperfect and weak. Faith purifieth the heart (Romans 11:1-36). So that if our faith be weak, the effects of it also will be weak. Lastly, therefore doth corruption abide in us, because the Law of God is spiritual, pure, and exact.

This is not an efficient ground, so much as occasional, to discover and manifest that this sour leaven still is in us. In the next place, observe the final grounds.

1. Because God intends in this life to glorify evangelical grace, and the righteousness of the gospel by faith, as the Epistles of Paul abundantly witness. Take the advantage to glorify the grace of the gospel; say thou needest Christ’s robes all the day long for thy nakedness.

2. God suffers these relics in us, that there may be daily exercise for faith, patience, and other graces, so that these are left to increase the crown of glory, not to diminish it. Tempests and winds discover the skill of the mariner. Thou mayest turn these clods of earth into chains of pearl.

3. That we might not he puffed up in ourselves, nor others lift up by admiration. Lastly, These thorns are still in thy side, that heaven may be the sweeter. Lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh. (A. Burgess.)

For whereas there is among you envying, strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal?--


The apostle generally declared the ground of their incapacity of heavenly truths. Now he enumerates the particulars, whereof envy stands in the front.

That envying, wheresoever it is, is a fruit of the flesh, and such a sin that a godly man should especially watch against. Are ye not carnal because of this envying? To open this doctrine, consider--

1. That the original and fountain of this envy is the same with the other great impieties that are committed in the world, viz., the flesh, or corrupt part in a man. So Galatians 5:1-26. and James 4:1-17.

2. This sin of envy may either be in the full predominancy of it, or only in motions and combats; or if breaking out into act, bewailed and repented of. In the former manner it is in wicked men; in the latter sort it may be even in the godly. The Church of God would always abide like an ark, compacted so close together that no waters could enter in; did not envyings and evil eyes upon one another dissolve the cement and soldering whereby they are united. We shall find the disciples of John and of Christ, even those sweet roses, to have these worms breed in them.

3. Consider that envy is accompanied with a grief and a trouble, that others are indeed, or in an apprehension, in a better condition than themselves.

Now, the good that is in others, for which this envy may work, may be of several natures. As--

1. Because of the riches, power, greatness, and outward prosperity of others. And shalt thou be bad to thy own soul because God is good to others?

2. It may be because of the applause and honour, or esteem others have.

3. It may be still higher because of the parts and abilities that others have better than theirs. And it is a greater sin to envy others because of their religious parts and abilities than for any outward mercy, because these are the free gift of God’s Spirit. Now for this were the great envyings amongst the Corinthians. It is far more happy to have sanctifying graces than enlarged gifts; far more glorious to have love than large knowledge. Lastly, that is the highest wickedness that can be in envy, viz., when it is for the graces and godliness of others. How many men are reproached, envied by their neighbours and others, merely for their godliness!

Thus much for the object of envy. In the next place let us consider the subject, who are prone to it and--

1. Those that are of weak, ignorant, and narrow spirits (Job 5:21). Envy slayeth the silly one. It is the fruit of weakness in a man, his very envy betrayeth his thoughts, that he thinks others are above him.

2. Those are subject to this sin of envy, who are in a similitude of condition, estate, trade, or profession, or where there is any competition for one thing, and both cannot have it. One tradesman envieth another of the same trade. These were teachers, and they thought Paul like themselves, ambitious of glory.

3. Such are subject to envy who, because they cannot abide the good of others, they therefore study all the ways to disparage, and obscure the name and excellency of such. Thus where charity covereth a multitude of sin envy covereth a multitude of graces.

(1) Of all envyings take heed of that which is against men, because they are godly, because they live more holily than thou dost.

(2) You that are godly especially take heed of this. How contrary is this spirit of envy to that love Christ hath put into you! Let us, in the next place, consider the aggravation of this sin.

1. The wickedness of this sin may be excellently illustrated by that admirable good it is opposite to; for this is a rule, that privation is the worst whose habit is the best, that is the greatest evil which is opposite to the greatest good.

2. It opposeth that admirable goodness in Christ. Oh, come with admiration, and read, and consider the life of Christ and His death, and you will see envy is as direct contrary to Him as the serpent to the dove.

1. The grace of love and charity is often prayed for, and that by Christ Himself, that His people might have it. He prayeth for nothing so earnestly as that. It is made the sign of Christ’s disciples, not by miracles, not by prophecies, but by love, shall all men know Christ’s disciples.

2. There is still further abomination in this sin; for it is the very lively image of the devil.

3. This sin of envy is a mother-sin, a fountain-sin. There is no wickedness in the world but this sin will conceive it and bring it forth.

4. This sin is a just torment to him that commits it.

5. This sin of envy doth deprive Christians of all exercise and comfort of common graces. Lastly, it is a tenacious inbred sin. These worms will breed in the sweetest roses; these moths in the finest garments. So that the more contumacious and inherent this sin is, the greater cause to be afraid of it. Well, if it be so dangerous a sin, what remedies may be used against it?

1. Turn envy into pity; and this is an excellent cure. Nothing breaketh envy so soon as pity. He hath received more talents, and so greater increase is expected; so that he is more to be prayed for. He having a greater treasure is more obnoxious to thefts and dangers.

2. Consider that if instead of envy thou wouldst bless and praise God for the gifts and graces bestowed upon others, they would thereby be made thine. Lastly, be contented with thy condition. Envy commonly comes from discontent at what is ours. (A. Burgess.)



We are come to the second sign specified. This thorn argued them to be brambles, not figs. In a great measure carnal, not spiritual. Observe that strifes and quarrelling contentions among Christians argue them to be so far carnal. Consider--

1. That the true ground of all love and peace, all concord ,and agreement, can only be upon a motive of godliness and honesty. Only godly men can truly love one another, because the motive of it is the image of God. The cause of it is God’s command, and the end of it is to do good, temporal and spiritual, to one another. Hence this is called love in the faith (Titus 3:15), and in the Spirit (Colossians 1:8). And therefore, if the people of God at any time quarrel, and strive with one another, there is so much manifestation that their love was not because they were godly, but for other ends. In the second place, take notice there is a twofold striving or contention.

1. That which is good and laudable. Thus Jude commands to contend for the faith once delivered. To be in an agony for it (verse 4).

2. There is a sinful and ungodly striving, And that may be about a twofold object. Either in civil worldly things quarrelling and wrangling about them, or in religious matters.

(1) Show the sinfulness of the causes.

(2) The effects wherein they manifest themselves, and--

(3) The aggravation of the sin. The cause in the general is that bitter poisonous fountain of corruption within every man. Man by nature is a spider, a toad. He can spit nothing but venom. He is a bramble that tears every one that cometh near him. Thus Galatians 5:1-26.; strifes and contentions are made the manifest works of the flesh.

But the particular lusts are--

1. Pride. Where pride is there is contention (Proverbs 13:10). A proud man, he cannot but strive, no more than fire cannot but set all on a flame where it is. The chimney that is higher than other parts of the house, puts out all the smoke and dark vapours; and those sometimes that would exalt themselves above others, they must needs evaporate their loathsome stomach against others.

2. Ambition and vain-glory, which comes near to pride. Absalom’s ambition for the kingdom, what a terrible shake did it make in Israel!

3. Malicious froward dispositions. There are some of that rancorous, turbulent nature that they cannot be quiet but in the disturbing of others. Salamanders that can live nowhere but in tire, never at rest but when they are in brawlings or contentions.

4. Covetousness and sinful love to the things of the world that makes men quarrel and brawl. Lastly, impatience, when men know not how with patience and godly wisdom to pass by many injuries and wrongs.

Now the sinful effects

1. Of striving about worldly things is discovered--

(1) In passionate and railing speeches. Let all clamour and evil speaking be laid aside (Ephesians 4:31; Matthew 5:22).

(2) It is seen in backbiting, slandering, inventing of lies against others, whispering, and secretly reproaching of others where they are not present to justify themselves.

(3) A delight to go to law, and to implead others at the courts of judicature (chap. 6.).

(4) Lastly, this civil or uncivil contention, rather, is seen in the procuring of all that hurt and mischief to others we can, either in name or estate.

2. As for striving in religious matters, that is seen two ways.

(1) When men are given to cavil and contradict the truth, though never so evidently discovered, especially because of the purity of it, because it convinceth and arraigneth thy lusts, greatly condemning them.

(2) When men dote about questions and disputes that have no profit, or if profit, yet attend not to them in their place (Titus 3:9).

3. I come to the aggravation of this sin of contention.

(1) This striving temper is directly opposite to many commands that vehemently press love, brotherly kindness, peaceableness (Romans 12:18; 1 Peter 3:8).

(2) These strifes and quarrellings make all our prayers and religion in vain.

(3) The relation we are in commands peace and unity. There is one God, one Christ, one Spirit, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). (A. Burgess.)



That divisions and factions do quickly creep into the best and purest Churches. This Church of Corinth was a garden planted by Paul, and, notwithstanding all his care, his constant inspection, yet these weeds grow up in it.

1. Divisions or factions may be either--

(1) Civil or ecclesiastical. Civil are all those rents and ruptures that are made by the lusts of men in a commonwealth. Thus Jeroboam made a division, he rent ten tribes from the other two. The other divisions are in the Church, and they are of two sorts, either when different doctrines or opinions are maintained, and these are called heresies. Or when there is a soundness of doctrine, yet men break the bonds of love, and live in malice and uncharitableness, and this is called schism.

(2) Factions or divisions are either personal, between godly men particularly, or more public between societies and societies, Churches and Churches. Between persons. Thus Paul and Barnabas, they were in a bitter dissention one with another (Acts 15:39). So Paul and Peter; Paul reproved Peter, and withstood him to the face (Galatians 1:1-24.). Or more public. Thus many Jews that believed raised great dissensions about circumcision, and the retaining of the customs of the law.

2. In the next place, what makes division or faction? And--

(1) That is, when men promote any false or wicked way against truth and godliness.

(2) Faction and division is seen when though the matter be true or good they strive for, yet they do it not in a godly, orderly way. A good intention, even in a good matter without good order, is not warrantable.

(3) A third thing in division is when men do not keep to their proper places, to their offices.

(4) Thus it is division and faction when the affections and passions of men are embittered with any carnal distempers; so that this sin doth affect the heart and spirit of a man, and then it breaks out into actions.

3. In the next place, what are the causes that make these the efficient causes?

(1) The ignorance of men, as long as men know but in part, have not perfection in the understanding; and this breedeth difference of opinions, and difference of opinions difference of affections.

(2) Self-confidence and arrogancy.

(3) The last efficient are worldly hopes and desires of carnal advantages.

(4) Lastly, there is an occasional cause, but not efficient, and that hath been the tyranny and scandalous lives of Church officers. This hath many times made sad rents. (A. Burgess.)

And walk as men.--

Walking as men

The apostle in this phrase, “To live as men,” or, “According to man,” may imply these things.

1. Mere men have no Divine faith in the matters of religion, wrought in them by the Spirit of God, but walk according to the natural dictates of conscience and education, and so are for that religion which they have been brought up in and accustomed to, whether it be right or wrong, whether good or bad. This our Saviour cleareth, when Peter made that excellent confession of faith, that Christ was the Son of God. Our Saviour graciously accepts of it, and tells him, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed this to him” (Matthew 16:17).

2. To walk as a mere man is to propound some outward inferior comforts as the ultimate end and chief felicity of our souls. Take a man, as a mere man, and the utmost end for which he labours and strives in this world is some earthly advantages. Oh, but what saith the apostle of true Christians? “We walk not by sense, but by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

3. To walk as mere men is to put confidence and hope only in second causes and visible instruments, not trusting the promise of God or believing His power, that He reigneth and ruleth in heaven and earth, doing what He pleaseth.

4. To walk like men is to be full of falsehood, deceitfulness, or hypocrisy, to have no truth in heart or word one to another.

5. To walk as men is here in the text to be in anger, hatred, and revengeful thoughts one against another; whereas all beasts agree among themselves, even the savage bears and tigers, yea, the devils are not divided one against another. Man naturally finds nothing so sweet as revenge upon others.

6. To walk as men is to make a man’s self the Alpha and Omega, the centre wherein all the lines must meet. “All seek their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21).

7. Lastly, to walk as man is to commit any sin rather than to be persecuted for the truth of God. To swear, or foreswear, to turn into all shapes, to avoid danger. How are all our congregations? How live they? How walk they? Do they not live as men? Yea, how many like brute beasts? (A. Burgess.)

Verses 4-8

1 Corinthians 3:4-8

For while one saith, I am of Paul … are ye not carnal?

The carnality of Churchisms

In the Church at Corinth there was a variety of elements; the Roman democratic independent in thought and action; the Greek--cultured, philosophic, and aesthetic; the Jewish--craving for signs and wonders. Here consequently there was diversity of thought, and discussions which would lead to divisions. The Corinthian Christians, therefore, instead of being united by having Christ as the supreme object of thought and love, were divided by certain forms of religious thought. No two men will have exactly the same views on the same subject. Paul would not give out the same views in the same way as Apollos or Peter, and their auditors would therefore have their preferences. Herein we have the philosophy of existence of various Churches. Note--

The nature of Churchism. The Corinthians who said, “I am of Paul,” “I am of Apollos,” had such an exaggerated estimate of their particular favourites as led them to depreciate the merits of the others. To the Paulites there was no teacher equal to him, &c. This I call Churchism. To become members of institutions called Churches, and advocate the peculiar views they represent, may be right and useful. It affords opportunities for mutual counselling and spiritual stimulation. But when our communion becomes the centre and circumference of our souls it is sectarianism. One says, I am of the Catholic Church; another, I am of the Greek; another, I am of the English, &c. There is only one true Church, and that is composed of those only who have a vital and practical faith in Christ Himself. “I determined,” says Paul, “to know nothing amongst men save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

The depravity of Churchism. “Are ye not carnal?” This bodily part of man’s being possesses desires, tendencies, and appetites, which our corrupt imaginations nurture and inspire with sinful propensities. Hence to this Paul seems to trace nearly all immoral conduct (1 Corinthians 3:3). That man is carnal who allows his mind to be engrossed--

1. In the human rather than in the Divine. The walk of the spiritual man is with God, he sees Him who is invisible; the “carnal” man lives in the human, never rises above the cloudy atmosphere of human opinions. How some men are chained to their little sects! With them it is all “our Church,” “our body,” “our principles.” Instead of climbing up the breezy heights of Divine ideas, they live down in sectarian glens, breathing the fog of human crotchets, and with souls half suffocated, they exclaim, “I am a Churchman,” “I am a Nonconformist,” &c.

2. In the selfish rather than in the benevolent. The spiritual man lives not to himself, but to God, and for others; to the “carnal” man self is the object of his supreme interest and aim. Churchism often cuts the soul away from all but the members of its own little community.

3. In the transitory rather than the permanent? The spiritual man labours not supremely for the bread which perishes, but is ever more in quest of eternal life or eternal goodness. Not so the “carnal” man, he is ever in pursuit of temporary pleasures, possessions. Now Churchism lives in the temporary. “Our little systems have their day, they have their day and pass away.” Human thoughts, even the best of them, are only as the “grass that withereth,” God’s thoughts alone endure, the “word of the Lord shall stand for ever.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Partisanship in the Church

Its phases.

1. Undue partiality for certain ministers.

2. The offensive exaltation of party names.

Its evils.

1. It does dishonour to God.

2. Occasions strife in the Church.

3. Damages God’s servants.

4. Neutralises their work.

Its occasion--carnality of heart--consequently implies a weak babyish (1 Corinthians 3:1) Christianity. (J. Lyth.)

Thinking too much of ministers

The apostle’s scope is to repress the pride and contentions that were in the Church of Corinth. That although it is the duty of people to have a great and high esteem of the ministers of the gospel, yet they are not sinfully and inordinately to admire or rest merely upon any man’s person.

That great and high respect is to be showed to the faithful ministers of the gospel.

1. Highly to account of the office and the work of the ministry as being the Divine institution and appointment of Christ in His Church. Thus the apostle--“Let a man account of us as the stewards of Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:1).

2. Your spiritual respect lieth in the hearing of the Word preached and the receiving the Word with all gladness of heart. Thus Christ saith, “He that heareth you heareth Me” (Luke 10:16), and therefore they are compared to ambassadors, that do in Christ’s stead entreat you to be reconciled unto God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

3. You are not only to give them respectful hearing and diligent waiting upon their ministry, but to obey and submit unto that work of the Lord, which they enjoin you out of God’s Word.

4. All this bearing, love, and obedience, must be to them for the work’s sake. This the apostle urgeth, and there is a greater matter in that: “Have them in all respect for their work sake” (1 Thessalonians 5:13).

5. You ought to show your spiritual respect and entertainment to the ministry, in avoiding all those evil and wicked ways which may grieve and make sad the hearts of godly ministers. When Jeremiah saw his people walk so disobediently, he said his soul should mourn in secret for them (Jeremiah 13:17). Did not Christ weep over Jerusalem?

Now let us consider when this respect may degenerate into sinful admiration.

1. When we set up the gifts and persons of men, so as to neglect Christ working in and by them. If it be so great a sin in temporal and outward things to take of the glory due to God, and attribute it to instruments, how much more is this in spiritual things.

2. Then men sinfully admire when they set up the gifts and abilities of one to the contempt of others.

3. Then men sinfully admire when their failings and errors they will follow and defend. If these Corinthians that were for Peter should have been led aside, as he did many to circumcision, this was their infirmity. (A. Burgess.)

That it is not lawful for Christians to call themselves by the name of any men, though never so eminent, so as to build on them. Christ and His truth are the foundation we must build upon. The apostles, indeed, are called the foundations (Revelation 22:14), but they were immediately inspired; and they were but secondary foundations. So that we are not believers in Paul or Peter. We are not the apostles’ believers, much less the fathers’, or any doctors and teachers in the world. For the opening of this, let us consider, first, the names that Christians have had in the New Testament, and afterwards in the Church. For by wise names we come to know the nature of things.

1. Christ did often call those that followed Him His disciples. Thus, he that would be His disciple must hate father and mother for His sake. Lean not to thy own understanding. Lean not to others; for only Christ is Truth. Another name, and that most frequent, was believers. Christians are often called by this title; none more frequent. And this also doth difference Christians from all other sects in the world. All the philosophers they affected to be knowing men, not believing. Faith of assent would breed faith of fiducial adherence. Another name often attributed to Christians is saints. “The saints at Corinth,” and in many places. But the most famous and distinguishing name of the people of God is Christians.

There are pregnant reasons for this.

1. Because as our faith in regard of the efficient cause is the gift of God, so the object and motive of it must be God’s authority, because He speaks and revealeth such things. Human faith is because a man saith such a thing; Divine faith, because God saith so. Now see how careful the apostle was that the Church’s faith should not be in human wisdom, but in the mighty power of God.

2. Therefore we may not be called after men, to build on them, because we are not baptized into any man’s name; and we are only to possess those whose name we are baptized into (1 Corinthians 1:13).

3. The apostle presseth another argument: “Was Paul crucified for you? Did Paul die for you” (1 Corinthians 1:13)? His meaning is, In Him only are we to believe who is able to make our reconciliation with God, who hath wrought our redemption for us.

4. Our apostle urgeth a further argument in the same chapter, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord; and Christ is made unto us wisdom. So all boasting in men is to be excluded, as well as boasting in works.

5. The Scripture makes it a great sin in matters of religion and the worship of God to be servants of men (1 Corinthians 7:23).

6. The ministers of God, though never so eminent, have been afraid of this, they have prohibited such restings upon them. That it is the property of godly ministers not to bring men to themselves, but to Christ. (A. Burgess.)

Partiality for preachers to be avoided

A Christian hearer, meeting an acquaintance who had been to hear a sermon, said, “Well, I hope you have been gratified.” “Indeed I have,” replied the other; “I wish I could have prevailed on you to have heard him. I am sure you would never afterwards have liked any other preacher.” “Then,” replied the wiser man, “I never will hear him; for I only wish to hear ministers who show so high an esteem for the Word of God, that their hearers shall love it, hear it from whom they may. For ‘who is Paul, or who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed?’”

Who then is Paul?--

Party spirit unbecoming and injurious


Some of those cases in which party spirit is blamable.

1. The case of those who look on their connection with particular parties as serving of itself to insure their salvation. No party distinction can assure any man of God’s favour, or heaven. It is not Church membership, but union with Christ that warrants the hope of salvation. “Neither circumcision availeth anything,” &c.

2. The case of those who confine their attachment to particular ministers, and think more highly of them than they ought to think. Not that hearers are wrong in feeling for their own ministers more esteem than for others (1 Thessalonians 5:12), nor in esteeming those most through whom they receive most benefit. But blamable they are when even to these they confine their attachment, and when they do not sincerely esteem all whose preaching and practice prove that they are the servants of Christ.

That ministers can only be useful and successful so far as God blesses the means they employ.

1. Paul here speaks of means being used. In allusion to husbandry he speaks both of planting and of watering as preceding the increase; and, indeed, without both, the hope of an increase would not be authorised. Now, does this not teach that unless we be diligent in using the means we cannot expect to be instruments of good?

2. But means, although of God’s appointment and furnishing, can only by Himself be rendered effectual.

(1) In the nature of things it cannot be otherwise. If, in reference to the body, God only can open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, loose the tongues of the dumb, how can it be supposed that any less power than the power of God is sufficient to effect such changes as these with respect to the soul? With counsels the most friendly, warnings the most solemn, arguments the most persuasive, we may labour to reclaim men. But although we had the zeal and learning of Paul, and besides the eloquence of Apollos, yet sinners will remain in the gall of bitterness, unless, as accompanied with the blessing of God, the efforts we make be crowned with success. And it is no less evident that of God only is also the progressive improvement of the saints. If the life of the body be dependent on God, how can any but God preserve and nourish the life of the soul?

(2) I may also appeal in evidence of this to your own observation. It cannot but be obvious--

(a) That the means and instruments most likely to be useful often fail, while good is often done by means and instruments which are known to be far less promising.

(b) That persons most likely to be profited by ministers, not unfrequently remain unedified; while those who are less likely to be profited by them often make much improvement.

(c) That effects, too wonderful to be the effects of mere human power, are often produced by the ministry of the gospel.

(3) Nor is it more confirmed by observation than it is by experience, that Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but it is God alone who giveth the increase.

(4) Turning to this blessed book, how plainly do we find this doctrine uniformly taught by the sacred writers! It is said of Lydia that “her heart the Lord opened in attending to the things which were spoken by Paul.” It is said of the converts in the house of Cornelius, “Then hath God also unto the Genthes granted repentance unto life.” It is said of the Ephesians, “You hath He quickened, you who were dead in trespasses and sins.” “No man,” says the Saviour, “can come unto Me, except the Father who hath sent Me draw him.” And the regenerate are “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Improvement. Is it so that the success of ministerial labours is wholly of God?--then--

1. Ministers should look upon themselves as only instrumental in the doing of good. Melancthon, when he was converted, thought he should be able to make people soon see what he saw, and feel what he felt; but the want of success soon led him to say that he found old Adam too powerful for young Melancthon.

2. That God should be viewed by the hearers of the gospel as He who alone can effectually profit them.

3. Ministers and hearers ought to pray to God for His effectual blessing. (A. Tefler, A. M.)

Undue partiality to God’s ministers

. Ignores their true character

1. As mere instruments.

2. Possessing different qualifications.

3. Yet all used of God.

4. For the benefit of them that believe.

Dishonours God--because it--

1. Transfers to man the honour due to Him alone.

2. Puts contempt on some of the instruments whom He has chosen.

3. Refuses the benefit which might be received through them. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The true estimate of the ministers of Christ

. Their office--all alike instruments in the hands of God.

1. He chooses them.

2. Qualifies them for some special department of toil.

3. Gives them success.

4. Rewards them, each according to his own labour.

Their work--co-workers with God.

1. The sphere, ye are God’s husbandry, God’s building.

2. Their separate departments, one lays the foundation, another builds.

3. Their particular duty to work in harmony with God’s plan.

Their solemn responsibility.

1. In the selection of material.

2. Every man’s work must be tested by fire in that day, and abide the issue. (J. Lyth. D. D.)

Unprofitable hearing

Its cause:--A lady who was present at the Lord’s Supper, where the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine was assisting, was much impressed with his discourse. She went again the next Sabbath to hear him. But she felt none of those strong impressions she experienced on the former occasion. Wondering at this, she called on Mr. Erskine and asked him if he could account for it. He replied, “Madam, the reason is this--last Sabbath you went to hear Jesus Christ; but to-day you have come to hear Ebenezer Erskine.” (W. Baxendale.)

The success of the gospel entirely of God

. God not only sends and employs, but qualifies all whom He employs for promoting His service. From this it is evident that the glory of the whole work, and the success of every particular servant, is entirely owing to their great Lord and Master (1 Corinthians 4:7).

1. All the endowments of mind which fit a man for common or special service are the gift of God. He only endows them with knowledge and comprehension to understand His sacred truths, and enables them to communicate their knowledge to others in an acceptable manner (Exodus 4:11-12). Further, as it is the inspiration of the Almighty that giveth understanding, so the improvement of natural parts by acquired learning is no less to be ascribed to Him. As He gives the disposition and ability, so it is He who, by the course of His providence, furnishes the means and presents the opportunity of making progress. Let human efforts be what they will, if God do not smile upon them they will infallibly be blasted.

2. It is God who endows His ministers with holy and gracious dispositions, which serve to turn their other talents into the proper channel, and to give them force and influence (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).

God gives efficacy to the instructions even of the most eminent and best qualified ministers, by the immediate supernatural operation of His Spirit and grace. With every other advantage they shall not be able to make one sincere convert, unless Almighty God be pleased to open the way by His Divine grace into the heart and conscience of the sinner. The husbandman may manure and dig the soil, and sow his seed with the greatest diligence and care; but he hath not so much as begun the great process of growth. How many things must necessarily concur which are beyond the reach of his power! The enlivening heat of the sun, the refreshing dews and rain, are wholly under the direction and disposal of the omnipotent Jehovah. Just so in spiritual husbandry. “So then neither is he that planteth anything,” &c.

God exercises much of His own sovereignty in the manner of bestowing success. He takes care to show that it is from Himself, by the measure in which He proportions the success to the nature and sufficiency of the means He sees proper to employ. But when there is a regular proportion always observed between the means and the end, men are ready to overlook or forget the great and first cause of all. For this reason He sees it often meet to work without means, or by the weakest means, or even contrary to means, and blasting the effect of those that were most excellent and promising in human judgment. When the gospel was first preached, the apostles were indeed fully furnished for their work, but it was by a miracle. They were originally poor illiterate fishermen, quite unequal in themselves to their astonishing undertaking. But that proper respect might still be had to the qualifications of ministers, and that none might be justified in pouring contempt on human science, the Apostle Paul was the most active, useful, and successful of all the apostles. At the same time there were such circumstances in his calling as made him one of the most illustrious monuments of the sovereignty and riches of Divine grace that any age has produced.


1. A deep and lively impression of this truth will be to those who preach the gospel an excellent preservative from many temptations. It will preserve them from trusting in themselves, it will engage them to maintain a continual intercourse with the Father of lights, and the author of every good and perfect gift. It will also particularly be an excellent mean of preserving them from the dangerous extremes of ostentation and sloth.

2. A deep impression of this truth will be an excellent preservative to the hearers of the gospel from many temptations which often render their attendance on ordinances as fruitless as pernicious. It will purify their views and motives in attending on ordinances. It will deliver them from a sinful attachment to men, and carry them more immediately into the presence of the living God. It will preserve them from hearing the gospel merely as critics, in order to pass their judgment on the soundness or ability of their teachers. It will settle their esteem of and attachment to their pastors upon the best and most immovable foundation. It will make them in a great measure lose view of the creature, and hear the gospel, not “as the word of man, but as it is indeed, and in truth, the Word of God.”

3. Let me intreat the prayers of this congregation, that we may be abundantly qualified for the discharge of our important trust in all its parts. The Apostle Paul never fails to ask the prayers and intercessions of the faithful in his behalf (Ephesians 6:19). (J. Witherspoon, D. D.)

Preachers in their relations

In these verses the apostle gives a fourfold view of evangelical preachers.

To the people (verse 5). As against the foolish and heedless cry raised by the Corinthians, “I am of Paul,” &c., the apostle raises this pertinent question: Who are these men? &c.

1. Ministers. At the root of the word there lies the idea of voluntary and responsible service. We have in St. Paul’s own writings a full answer to his own question: “Who then is Paul … but ministers?” Ministers of what?

(1) “Of the New Testament” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

(2) Of “the gospel” (Colossians 1:23).

(3) Of “the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

(4) Of “the Church” (Colossians 1:24-25).

(5) “Of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:23).

(6) “Of God” (2 Corinthians 6:4).

2. “Ministers by whom ye believed.” When the Corinthians believed, there were three factors directly contributing to that result: the minister of God, the Spirit of God, and the Son of God. And so it is still; the minister sets forth the need and the nature of faith in Christ; the Holy Ghost applies the truth and inspires trust; the Lord Jesus is Himself the Object of saving faith. Ministers are instrumental in bringing together the sinner and the Saviour, even as men brought Bartimaeus to Jesus. They could not give sight to the blind man, but they led him unto One who said, “Receive thy sight.”

To each other (verse 8). The Corinthians had spoken of the apostles as rivals. The apostle shows that Paul and Apollos are one, and illustrates the oneness of the workers by the unity of the work. Through the circling seasons there runs a notable unity m all the operations of husbandry. As soon as the harvest is gathered in, preparations for the next are commenced. In the time between the first plough’s entering the field and the last waggon’s leaving it, many hands are at work--men, women, lads; and many kinds of work were done, skilled and unskilled; but it is all for one master, and all for one end. He that plougheth and he that soweth and he that reapeth are one. And this oneness among farm-workers is never felt so keenly as when the last sheaf is pitched, and the cry is raised of “harvest-home!” A Christian Church is made and maintained on this same principle: manifold operations and many workers. In carrying on this spiritual husbandry, ministers are not alone in the field. We look to Sunday-school workers, to local preachers, &c., and say, “We are labourers together.” It is a partnership in holy toil. The farm-servant who guides the reaping-machine in the harvest-field does not disown his fellow-servants who, in the chilly days of later autumn, did the ploughing and the sowing. He knows that, but for their work, he would not have found any employment in reaping. And those who reap in the Church thankfully recognise as fellow-labourers the men who broke up the fallow-ground, and put in the seed-corn, and cared for the crop in early spring.

To present success (verse 6). “I have planted”; this lies at the root of all good. Paul must plant before there can be anything for Apollos to water; and until man put in something, God cannot give increase. But while recognising this fact he says, We are nothing. That which the two apostles contributed toward success was labour. They had, so to speak, no capital. The very truth they taught was not their own; it was the truth of God. That mysterious force which we call growth belongeth only unto God; and were it not for the secret influence of His Spirit, the good seed of the kingdom scattered broadcast would in no case take root and spring up. Increase is of God, and wholly of Him.

Preachers is relation to final reward (verse 8). True, he that planteth and he that watereth are one; but “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” In order to reward, there must be not only work, but labour, and every man shall receive his own reward not according to--

1. His success. Visible and numerical success is not always in proportion to labour.

2. His reputation. Whilst some sermons win for the preacher a name and a place in public opinion beyond their merit, there are others which are too full of thought to be appreciated by the many; and so it comes to pass that, now and then, a preacher’s reputation is in inverse proportion to the quality of his preaching.

3. His position. For a time the position of a man in the ministry may be above his deserts, or below. A good place may be secured by favouring incident, and a lowly one through inadvertence.

4. His gifts or talents. We are not responsible for the number of talents given to us; and God does not make our reward depend upon a circumstance over which we had no control.

5. But every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. (J. Bush.)

God’s husbandry and building

. Our praise for any good we have received should be given, not solely to men, but mainly to God. The Corinthians felt that gratitude was due somewhere, but Paul was afraid lest they should give it to himself and Apollos instead of to God.

It is to God we must look for all further growth. We must conscientiously employ such means of grace as our circumstances permit; but, above all, we must ask God to give the increase.

If we are God’s husbandry and building, let us reverence God’s work in our-selves.

1. It may seem a very rickety and insecure structure that is rising within us, a very sickly and unpromising plant; and we are tempted to be disappointed at the slow progress the new man makes in us. But different thoughts possess us when we remember that this transformation is not a thing to be accomplished only by ourselves through a judicious choice and a persevering use of fit means, but is God’s work.

2. For the same reason we must hope for others as for ourselves. It is the foundation of all hope to know that God has always been inclining men to righteousness and will always do so.

But Paul’s chief inference is the grave responsibility of those who labour for God in this work.

1. As for Paul’s own part in the work, the laying of the foundation, he says that was comparatively easy. “Other foundation,” &c. Any teacher who professes to lay another foundation thereby gives up his claim to be a Christian teacher. He who uses the Christian pulpit for the propagation of political or socialist ideas may be a sound and useful teacher; but his proper place is the platform or the House of Commons. The question at present, says Paul, is not what other institutions you may profitably found in the world, but how this institution of the Church, already founded, is to be completed. Other foundation no Christian teacher is proposing to lay; but on this foundation very various and questionable material is being built. In Corinth itself huge slabs of costly and carefully chiselled stone lay stable as the rock on which they rested, but now the glory of such foundations was dishonoured by squalid superstructures. The picture in Paul’s mind’s eye of the Corinthian Church vividly suggested what he had seen while walking among those heterogeneous buildings. The foundation, he knows, is the same; but he sees the teachers bringing, with great appearance of diligence, the merest rubbish, apparently unconscious of the incongruity of their material with the foundation they build upon. What would Paul say did he now see the superstructure which eighteen hundred years have raised on the one foundation? How obviously unworthy of it is much that has been built upon it; how many teachers have laboured all their days at erecting what has already been proved a mere house of cards; and how many persons have been built into the living temple who have brought no stability or beauty to the building. How careless often have the builders been, anxious only to have quantity to show, regardless of quality. As in any building, so in the Church, additional size is additional danger if the material be not sound.

2. The soundness of the material which has been built upon the foundation of Christ will, like all things else, be tested. The Corinthians knew what a trial by fire meant. They knew how the flames had travelled over their own city, consuming all that fire could kindle on, and leaving of the slightly built houses nothing but charred timber, while the massive marbles stood erect among the ruins; and the precious metals, even though molten, were prized by the conqueror. Against the fire no prayer, no appeal, prevailed. Its judgment and decisions were irreversible: wood, hay, stubble, disappeared: only what was solid and valuable remained. By such irreversible judgment are we and our work to be judged. Fire simply burns up all that will burn and leaves what will not. So shall the new life we are to pass into absolutely annihilate what is not in keeping with it, and leave only what is useful and congruous. The work that has been well and wisely done will stand; foolish, vain, and selfish work will go.

3. Paul accepts it as a very possible contingency that a Christian man may do poor work. In that case, he says, the man will be in the position of a man whose house has been burnt. He may have received no bodily injury, but he is so stripped that he scarcely knows himself, and the whole thought and toil of his life seem to have gone for nothing. To many Christians it seems enough that they be doing something. If only they are decently active, it concerns them little that their work is really effecting no good. Work done for this world must be such as will stand inspection and actually do the thing required. Christian work should not be less, but more, thorough.

4. There is a degree of carelessness or malignity to be found in some Christian teachers which Paul does not hesitate to doom (verse 17). A teacher may in various ways incur this doom.

(1) He may in guiding some one to Christ fit him obliquely to the foundation, so that firm rest in Christ is never attained; but the man remains like a loose stone in a wall, unsettled himself and unsettling all around him. Any doctrine which turns the grace of God into licence incurs this doom.

(2) To lift stones from the mire they have been lying in and fit them into the temple is good and right, but to leave them uncleansed and unpolished to disfigure the temple.

5. But we are responsible as well as our teachers for the appearance we present in God’s temple. Would it not make a very obvious change in the appearance and strength of the Church if every member of it were at pains to set himself absolutely true to Christ? Some persons are prevented from resting satisfactorily on Christ because some pet theory or crotchet has possessed the mind and keeps them unsettled. Some will not rest on Christ until they have such repentance as they judge sufficient; others so rest on Him that they have no repentance. But, alas! with some it is some worldly purpose or some entangling and deeply cherished sin. One sin consciously retained, one command or expression of Christ’s will unresponded to, makes our whole connection with Him unsettled and insecure.

6. And more must be done even after we are securely fitted into our place. Stones often look well enough when first built in, but soon lose their colour; and their surface and fine edges crumble and shale off. So do the stones in God’s temple get tarnished by exposure. One sin after another is allowed to stain the conscience; one little corruption after another settles on the character, and eats out its fineness, and when once the fair, clean stone is no longer unsullied, we think it of little consequence to be scrupulous. Then the weather tells upon us: the ordinary atmosphere of this life, with its constant damp of worldly care and its occasional storms of toss, and disappointment, and social collisions, and domestic embroilment, eats out the heavenly temper from our character, and leaves its edges ragged; and the man becomes soured and irritable, and the surface of him, all that meets the casual eye, is rough and broken.

7. Above all, do not many seem to think it enough to have attained a place in the building, and take no step onwards during the whole remainder of their lives? But it is in God’s building as in highly ornamented buildings generally. The stones are not all sculptured before they are fitted into their places; but they are built in rough-hewn, so that the building may proceed: and then at leisure the device proper to each is carved upon it. This is the manner of God’s building. Long after a man has been set in the Church of Christ, God hews and carves him to the shape He designs; but we, being not dead, but living, stones, have it in our power to mar the beauty of God’s design, and indeed so distort it that the result is a grotesque and hideous monster, belonging to no world, neither of God nor of man. (M. Dods, D. D.)

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

Gospel planting

That it is God’s unspeakable goodness sometimes to send His Word and plant His gospel among a people that never heard or knew anything of it before. To amplify this doctrine many things are observable. First, That when the apostle saith that he planted the gospel, it doth suppose all people to be a wild, barbarous people till the gospel both civilised and sanctified them. To plant is properly of orchards, and gardens, and vineyards, and supposeth the great care and skill of him that plants. Thus God is said to plant Eden (Genesis 2:8). It is a great mercy to be born in such times, in such an age, and in such places, where the name of Christ is published; for this is wholly in God’s disposal; He hath determined to all men the times of their life and habitations. Secondly, That in the Old Testament God did limit His gracious preference to the Jews only. Thirdly, Therefore, that there might be spiritual plantations and holy colonies, the Lord Christ appointed extraordinary officers, furnished with extraordinary abilities, to propagate the gospel. Fourthly, God’s severity and mercy hath been observable about the first planting of the gospel. For when a people have lived rebelliously under it a long time, then He takes it away and gives it to another nation. Fifthly, In planting of Churches, commonly their infancy and beginning hath been more pure and godly than the successive ages. Lastly, Because of that proneness to degenerate, and from gold to become dross. (A. Burgess.)

Spiritual watering

Let us consider wherein this spiritual watering consists. First, It lieth in a more explicit and distinct instruction about the principles of religion already received. Secondly, This watering lieth not only in advancing our knowledge, but in giving further and clearer arguments to confirm our faith and to make us unshaken and steadfast. Thirdly, This watering containeth direction about the beauty and order of Churches in the government thereof when once planted. Fourthly, This watering lieth in the stirring up of men ¢o fruitfulness in their places and relations. The end of watering is to make fruitful; and thus all the spiritual plants in God’s garden, though they have deep root, yet need this outward watering.

Let us consider why there is such daily need of these quickening means of grace. First, It doth arise from the heart, which is an unnatural soil to grace and supernatural things. Secondly, The temptations that are so frequent and many do likewise wonderfully destroy and wither all if this constant watering be not. As there are Pauls to plant and Apollos to water, so there are also the devil to plant and his instruments to water men in wickedness. Thirdly, There needs watering because of that indispensable duty to grow. (A. Burgess.)

Spiritual increase

Consider--First, That though God only gives the increase, yet it is only in and through the ministry. We must not make such cavils: What use is there of preaching? Secondly, As God giveth the increase only, so the time when, and the persons on whom, is wholly at His good pleasure. Now let us consider why God only giveth the increase; and then the ends that God hath in this. First, God only can give the increase, because He only hath a sovereignty and power over the heart. No potentate, no emperor, can say, I will give a man another heart. He may force the body, but not change the heart. Hence it is that the Scripture attributes all the work of grace; to believe, to repent only to God. Oh, then, lift up your hearts on high in every sermon! Secondly, God only can give the increase, because the increase is of spiritual and supernatural consideration. It is altogether heavenly. Now there is no proportion between human abilities and heavenly graces. Thirdly, Therefore God only giveth the increase because of the deep pollution that is in every man, who is not only blind and deaf, but dead. Now to what purpose is an eloquent pathetical oration to a dead man? Let us consider the ends, why all increase must be of God only, and that is, to preach humility both to the preacher and to the people. The apostle carrieth it wholly for this end, that he that glorieth may glory in the Lord. And that no flesh should glory in His presence. First, the minister. That Peter, who had so many thousands converted by his sermon, that Paul, who was so exalted by God that he might not be lifted up above measure. For, alas! what have they done? It is God that gives the increase. Secondly, It teacheth the people also to glorify God, not to rest in the parts and gifts of men. As Michal said, “Now God will bless me, because I have a Levite in the house.” So we are Apt to say, “Now we shall go to heaven; now we shall have salvation, because we have such preaching.” It is not enough to be affected with and admire the gifts of ministers. Thirdly, Therefore God only gives the success that so we may seek and pray to Him and do all those things that God may be pleased with. Now, that God may give increase, do these things. First, Bewail bypast unthankfulness and unfruitfulness. O Lord, how often have I been a hearer! Yet what a barren wilderness is my heart! Secondly, Love that preaching which will more discover thyself to thyself. Which will acquaint thee with thy own deformities. As sore eyes are afraid of the light, so many men have so much guilt within and live in so many secret corruptions that they dare not have the Word come with all its might upon them. No wonder then if God bless it not with increase when thou lovest it not and bringest it not home to thee. Thirdly, If thou wouldst have God give the increase come not prepossessed with thine own righteousness, with thine own good heart. Our Saviour’s preaching had no such, though in Him were the treasures of all wisdom, because His hearers were those that justified themselves. Use

1. Is it God that giveth the increase? Then we ministers are not to be inordinately cast down if people receive no Divine stamp on them. Use

2. To the people. Sigh and mourn unto God in earnest prayers for this increase. How terrible will it be if the want of profiting be in yourselves! You do not what God would have you. If the patient distemper himself wilfully all the physic in the world cannot cure him. To clear this, consider--Wherein this work of God to give increase doth consist. And first, In that spiritual revelation and illumination or opening of the eyes whereby the mind understands and perceiveth the things of God. The Word is compared to light, only God by this works above all light. For the sun, though it gives light, yet it doth not give a blind man eyes. Secondly, God’s giving increase lieth in removing the negative incapacity and the positive contrariety in all men’s heart to the word preached. As the husbandman, he first prepareth the ground by stocking up all those briers and thorns and removing all the stones that lie in the way which would hinder the corn’s growth. So it is here. God takes away all that cursed and serpentine nature which is in thee. Thirdly, God giveth the increase when He makes the Word preached to take root and settling in men’s hearts. Fourthly, God giveth increase when He makes this rooted word to grow. For as there is in corn, first the blade and then the ear, it comes to perfection by degrees. Now this growth that God giveth it may be either intensive or extensive. Intensive so God giveth increase when those graces that are already planted in the soul are made more lively and fervent. This may be called a particular, personal increase. Art thou made more believing, more holy, more humble than before? Oh it is a sad thing to see the decays and abatements that are even of godly men’s graces! When God is the same God, the Word is the same Word, there is as much cause to grow as ever. Now the grounds why God only giveth increase may be, first, Because even in natural blessings and outward mercies success is attributed to God, not to men, much more in spirituals. Thus the Psalmist attributes to God that the ridges are full of corn, that cattle are fruitful and do not miscarry. God, He keeps the key of heaven and gives earthly blessings as He pleaseth (Proverbs 10:22). Secondly, God only can give increase, because He only hath the supreme power and dominion over men’s hearts. We are teachers to the ear, God is a teacher of the heart. Object: But you may say, If God gave the increase, why then doth not the Word bear fruit in every place? Are any hearts too strong for the Lord? I answer, a people by their sins may provoke God to depart from His ordinances. Secondly, You may ask, If God only gives increase, what means may we take to have God bless us in this manner? (A. Burgess.)

Farm labourers

. The Church is God’s farm.

1. The Lord has made the Church His own.

(1) By His sovereign choice.

(2) By purchase. It is God’s freehold, and He holds its title deeds.

(3) By enclosure. It lay exposed aforetime as part of an open common, covered with thorns and thistles, and the haunt of every wild beast. Hath not the Lord declared that He hath chosen His vineyard and fenced it?

(4) By cultivation. What more could He have done for His farm? He has totally changed the nature of the soil: from being barren He hath made it a fruitful land.

2. This farm is preserved by the Lord’s continual protection. “I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” If it were not for this her hedges would soon be thrown down, and wild beasts would devour her fields.

3. Inasmuch as the Church is God’s own farm, He expects to receive a harvest from it. Barrenness suits the moorland, but to a farm it would be a great discredit. Love looks for returns of love; grace given demands gracious fruit. Ought not the Lord to have a harvest of obedience, of holiness, of usefulness, of praise?

4. See, then, the injustice of allowing any of the labourers to call even a part of the estate his own. When a great man has a large farm of his own, what would he think if Hodge the ploughman should say, “Look here, I plough this farm, and therefore it is mine: I shall call this field Hodge’s Acres.” “No,” says Hobbs, “I reaped that land last harvest, and therefore it is mine, and I shall call it Hobbs’s Field.” What if all the other labourers became Hodgeites and Hobbsites, and so parcelled out the farm among them? I think the landlord would soon eject the lot. The farm belongs to its owner, and let it be called by his name. Remember how Paul put it: “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos?”

The Great Husbandman employs labourers.

1. By human agency God ordinarily works out His designs. He can, if He pleases, by His Holy Spirit get directly at the hearts of men, but that is His business, and not ours; we have to do with such words as these: “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” The Master’s commission is not, “Sit still and see the Spirit of God convert the nations”; but, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Observe God’s method in supplying the race with food.

2. Our Great Master means that every labourer on His farm should receive some benefit from it, for He never muzzles the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn (verse 8).

3. The labourers employed by God are all occupied upon needful work. Notice: “I have planted, Apollos watered.” On God’s farm none are kept for ornamental purposes. I have read some sermons which could only have been meant for show, for there was not a grain of gospel in them. They were ploughs with the share left out, drills with no wheat in the box, clod-crushers made of butter. I do not believe that God will ever pay wages to men who only walk about His grounds to show themselves. Many Christians live as if their only business on the farm was to pluck blackberries or gather wild flowers. They are great at finding fault with other people’s ploughing and mowing; but not a hand’s turn will they do themselves. Come on! Why stand ye all the day idle? The harvest is plenteous, and the labourers are few.

4. On the Lord’s farm there is a division of labour. Even Paul did not say, “I have planted and watered.” And Apollos could not say, “I have planted as well as watered.” No man has all gifts, and therefore instead of grumbling at the honest ploughman because he did not bring a sickle with him, you ought to have prayed for him that he might have strength to plough deep and break up hard hearts.

5. On God’s farm, there is unity of purpose among the labourers. “He that planteth and he that watereth are one.” One Master has employed them, and though He may send them out at different times, and to different parts of the farm, yet they are all one in being used for one end, to work for one harvest. Planting needs wisdom, and so does watering, and the piecing of these two works together needs that the labourers should be of one mind. It is a bad thing when labourers are at cross purposes. How can I plant with success if my helper will not water what I have planted; or what is the use of my watering if nothing is planted?

6. All the labourers put together are nothing at all. “Neither is he that planteth anything,” &c. The workmen are nothing at all without their master, and all the preachers and Christian workers in the world can do nothing unless God be with them.

7. The labourers shall be rewarded. God works our good works in us, and then rewards us for them. Here we have mention of a personal service, and a personal reward: “Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” The reward is proportionate, not to the success, but to the labour. Many discouraged workers may be comforted by that expression. You are not to be paid by results, but by endeavours.

8. Unitedly the workers have been successful, and that is a great part of their reward. When Paul plants and Apollos waters, God does give the increase. We do not labour in vain.

God himself is the Great Worker. He may use what labourers He pleases, but the increase comes alone from Him. You know it is so in natural things: the most skilful farmer cannot make the wheat germinate. What can you and I do in this matter? We can tell out the truth of God; but to apply that truth to the heart and conscience is quite another thing. Equally it is the Lord’s work to keep the seed alive when it springs up.

Practical lessons. If the whole farm of the Church belongs exclusively to the Great Master Worker, and the labourers are worth nothing with Him--

1. Let this promote unity among all whom He employs. If we are all under one Master, do not let us quarrel.

2. This ought to keep all the labourers very dependent. Man is vanity and his words are wind; to God alone belongeth power and wisdom.

3. This fact ennobles everybody who labours in God’s husbandry. We are mere labourers on His farm, and yet labourers with Him.

4. How this should drive us to our knees. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Moral increase

. All increase is of God. The nature of the thing, Scripture and Christian experience alike show that God alone can give it.

The moral increase which He gives is most glorious in--

1. Itself.

2. Its adaptation.

3. Its extent.

4. Its perplexities.

5. Its benevolence.

He gives it all on a fixed principle. There must be--

1. Personal.

2. United.

3. Believing.

4. Earnest.

5. Prayerful.

6. Persevering--labour. (B. Ward.)

So, then, neither is he that planteth anything … but God that giveth the increase.--

Human instrumentality useless without God

. This may re argued from--

1. The condition of all mankind by nature, viz., dead in trespasses and sins, and therefore moral suasion or education can never reach the evil.

2. The change which is contemplated, which is nothing less than to create man anew, to implant new principles into his soul.

3. The statements of Scripture itself. “Neither is he that planteth anything,” &c.

4. The history of the Church in every succeeding age.

But the Lord and Giver of life ordinarily works by human instrumentality. Would not the husbandman tempt God’s providence if he should say, “I need not sow or culture the ground, for I have no power to cause the seed to grow, and therefore I will remain quiet, and leave it to God”? Would he not justly be left without a harvest and suffer for his own folly and madness? And so will it be in grace. Therefore, it is ours to use the means, while we remember that conversion is generally attributable to the Word of God. How fearful, then, the responsibility which attaches to the preaching and hearing of God’s holy Word! Conclusion: The subject teaches us--

1. That we should regard all human instrumentality in its proper place.

2. That the Word of God, spite of all the opposition that may be made to it by ungodly men, will be the grand instrument of the renovation of our fallen world.

3. That to God we are to ascribe all the praise and all the glory. (J. Haslegrave, B. A.)

God the giver of increase

Christianity had made rapid advances amongst the people of Corinth. Numbers and success had produced the alas! too commonly attendant evils. Party spirit had developed itself. St. Paul writes, seeking to correct all this. He bids them think of the source of the gospel they had received, of the power by which it was propagated, of the life by which it was sustained. They would find all this, not in the wisdom or the eloquence of their teachers, not in the completeness of their Church organisation; but in the presence, the grace, the love of God. God gives the increase.

We naturally and rightly look for increase. We want fruit, as the product of our toil. We all work with a distinct aim (1 Corinthians 9:7). The fact of increase is at once one of the greatest inducements to labour, and one of the greatest rewards of it. Who would continue to work if the work proved altogether barren and resultless? We should look for increase also in higher things. There is the Church with its work. We should desire to see it grow under our fostering care. We should look for growing numbers and increasing usefulness. We should look for increase also in the personal soul. What is our Christianity? Not a creed only, not a theology only, not a piece of social organisation only, but a life. Growth is a characteristic of life. The apostles could say to many of the Christians of their age: “Your faith groweth,” “Your love groweth.” Can it be said of us?

If we want the increase, we must take the proper means. This is true, not only of the great matters of which the apostle is speaking, but also of the commonest things of daily life. It is one of the great lessons of the harvest. So is it in business. Sedulous care is one of the secrets of success. So is it in education. There is no royal road to learning for any man. In every domain of life God blesses human forethought, and toil, and faith. God had given the increase in the Church at Corinth. But how earnest had been the labour of which this growth was the reward. St. Paul had planted with all his zeal. Apollos, with his renowned eloquence, had laboured too. These were the antecedent conditions on the human side to which that growth was to be ascribed.

Paul may plant, Apollos may water, but god giveth the increase. This is so, even in the commonest things of daily life. Take the ordinary annual produce of the earth. The ultimate causes of productiveness are altogether beyond our power to reach. So is it in business life. Two men start together; the conditions which promise success, such as neighbourhood, the conduct and industry of the men, and so on, seem precisely equal. Yet while one man prospers in largest measure, the other goes his way to poverty. But this only states the fact without explaining it. The question at the root of the matter is: What is it that determines a man’s action at the critical moment in his history? What gives the insight and the courage which enable him to grasp the happy chance? What sends him bounding on the flood to fortune? May not this be God, the ruler of all, who “doeth according to His will,” who setteth up one and putteth down another? Toil is ours, but increase is in the hands of God. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” God does give the increase in all the many regions of human life. God blesses all honest humble toil. He crowns the ploughing and the sowing with the golden harvest. Study is rewarded with growth both in our stores of knowledge and also in our mental power to grasp the truth. So also all real spiritual work is largely blessed by God. God is ever near. God labours with us. May we ever bear it in mind in all our work. God crowns our work with His all-sufficient blessing. It is true in all ways. In the personal soul our religious acts in public works and in sacraments, as well as in private devotion, are planting and watering; but faithfully used a richer Divine life will possess us, for God will give the increase, and there will be a sure growth in righteousness. (Ralph Williams.)

That the best ministry is nothing without God’s power giving the increase

Let us consider--what the apostle doth not mean in saying the ministry is nothing. First, he doth not mean as if the officers of the Church were not, in their way and place, necessary; for then the apostle in the same tongue should contradict himself, for he saith, “We are workers together with God” (2 Corinthians 6:1). Secondly, when the apostle calls the ministry nothing, the meaning is not as if it were not sufficient in its kind to work those things for which it is appointed, otherwise this would reflect upon the wisdom of God. Thirdly, when the apostle saith they are nothing, this is to be understood of the ministers of the gospel and preaching of it as well as the ministers of the law and preaching that. What he positively meaneth or inferreth are, first, that it is not in the power or choice of the minister to make it effectual. Secondly, the apostle by this intends that both the ministers and the people should keep themselves in their due bounds. Lastly, in making the ministry nothing and God all, the apostle would have both minister and people in their ministry to have our hearts and eyes up to heaven. But how may we address ourselves to hear and to the ministry so that God may make them something to us? To be made something is when the Word doth greatly wound thy heart or comfort thee. First, make it a real and conscientious matter to pray unto God to give increase. As to the woman our Saviour said, “According to thy faith so be it unto thee,” So according to thy prepared prayer, saith God, this sermon and this duty shall be blessed upon you. Secondly, exercise strong and divine acts of faith; this will make the ministry something to thee. The Word profited not, because it was not mingled with faith (Hebrews 4:2). Thirdly, “lay aside all superfluity of naughtiness” (James 1:21). Labour to find the ministry something, some great thing, some terrible thing, some comfortable thing to thee. (A. Burgess.)

The success of the ministry owing to a Divine influence

Such is the present degeneracy of human nature, that all the ministrations of the gospel cannot remedy it without the concurring efficacy of Divine grace. The gospel is designed to reclaim men from sin; but they are obstinately set upon it. It is intended to bring apostate rebels back to God and the universal practice of holiness; but we love estrangement from Him, and have no inclination to return. Instructions may furnish the head with notions, and correct speculative mistakes; but they have no power to sway the will, and sweetly allure it to holiness. Persuasions may prevail to bring men to practise what they had omitted through mistake, carelessness, or a transient dislike; but they have no effect where the heart is full of innate enmity against the things recommended.

The promises and declarations of the Word, which appropriate all the success of the gospel to God alone. Jehovah is not fond of ostentation and parade. The doctrine of the necessity of Divine influences to render the administrations of the gospel effectual for saving purposes, is a doctrine familiar to the sacred oracles.

That the different success of the same means of grace in different periods of the Church, sufficiently shows the necessity of gracious assistances to render them efficacious. We find that religion has flourished or declined, not so much according to external means as according to the degree of Divine influence. Alas! what could Noah, that zealous preacher of righteousness do, during the 120 years of his ministry? He might warn, he might persuade, he might weep over a secure world, in vain: they would rush upon destruction before his eyes. How little could Moses, the favourite messenger of God, prevail to make his people dutiful! Alas! after all the astonishing wonders he wrought before their eyes, they continued obstinate and rebellious; “For the Lord had not given them an heart to understand,” &c. (Deuteronomy 29:4). What inconsiderable success had that zealous prophet Elijah, the eloquent Isaiah, or that tender-hearted, mourning, weeping prophet, Jeremiah! Surely many feeble servants of Christ, in all respects inferior to them, have been crowned with more extensive success!

Our own experience and observation furnish us with many instances in which this great truth has been exemplified. Sometimes a minister who is a universal scholar, a masterly reasoner, and an accomplished orator, and withal sincerely engaged for the conversion of sinners, labours in vain; while another of much inferior accomplishments is the successful instrument of turning many to righteousness. Sometimes we have seen a number of sinners thoroughly awakened and brought to seek the Lord in earnest; while another number, under the very same sermon, and who seemed as open to conviction as the former, have remained thoughtless as usual. And whence could this difference arise but from special grace? Your own experience proves the same thing. Have you not found that the very same things have very different effects upon you at different times? Hence we learn--

1. How essential and important the doctrine of Divine influence is to the Church of God. The very life and the whole success of the gospel depend upon it.

2. That when we enjoy the ministrations of the gospel in the greatest purity and plenty, we should not place our trust upon them, but wholly depend on the influence of Divine grace for the success.

3. Hence also we may learn whither we should look for grace to render the gospel successful among us. Let us look up to God. Saints, apply to Him for His influences to quicken your graces and animate you in your Christian course. Sinners, cry to Him for His grace to renew your nature and sanctify you.

4. We observe that whatever excellent outward means and privileges a Church enjoys, it is in a most miserable condition if the Lord has withdrawn His influences from it; and whether this be not too much our own condition I leave you to judge. (S. Davies, A. M.)

The Christian hearer’s first lesson

Let me--

For the preventing of all mistakes, briefly illustrate the doctrine contained in these words. But first it will be fit to tell you what is to be taken for granted of the persons here spoken of.

1. That they have a sufficient call to the office of the sacred ministry, and authority to exercise the same.

2. That they be furnished with a competent stock of divine knowledge, and understand the things they are to teach unto others, and are not blind leaders of the blind.

3. That they have at least such a faculty of expression as that they may be understood by those whom they are to instruct. These things supposed, I am now to show--

(l) What every minister of the gospel may and ought to do. He may both plant and water, and do the whole work of God, so far as He hath thought fit to entrust man with it, i.e., exercise the whole ministry of reconciliation.

(2) What one minister may be able to do more than another. God hath not given to all the same number of talents (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). All the apostles had not St. Peter’s quickness of apprehension, forwardness of speech, or zeal; all were not, like James and John, sons of thunder; all had not Paul’s learning, or Apollos’s eloquence. One minister of Christ may have a more faithful memory, and another a clearer judgment, and a third a more fruitful invention, and a fourth a better elocution. One may be more dexterous at planting, another at watering, a third at weeding, and a fourth at fencing; and another may exceed all in pruning off the luxuriant branches and cherishing the tender plants. It is no less absurd to expect the same abilities in all ministers than it would be to imagine that all artists, &c., should be of equal skill.

(3) That all which the best can do is in itself of no efficacy. Neither is Paul nor Apollos anything, i.e., without the blessing of God. What is it that the ablest ministers can do to make men good Christians? All comes to no more but this: they can declare the doctrine of the gospel; they can exhort, persuade, and pray. None but He whose voice shaketh the heavens and the earth can rend the stony hearts of sinners.

(4) That the efficacy of all is of God only. Whoever planteth or watereth, God giveth the increase. He hath put His words into their mouth, and His seed into their hands; but still the seed itself, the skill and activity of the sowers, the goodness of the ground, the warmth and the rain, the growth and harvest, are all of Him.

For the help of such as may need it, point at some of the uses we should make of it. Because we are nothing, and all the increase is of God--

1. Let us take heed how we depend so much on the ministry of men as to attend too little in their ministry upon God. Whilst you are pleased to afford us your ear, be sure that you give God your heart. It is a very lamentable thing to see in what extremes we are apt to lose both God and ourselves. Because neither Paul nor Apollos are anything without God, or in comparison of God, therefore--

(1) Some rashly conclude that they are nothing at all to them. But though the very best instrument be able to do nothing by itself out of the workman’s hands, yet even an indifferent one may do much when managed by the hand of a skilful workman. It is certainly God alone that gives the increase in the field as well as in the Church, and yet men are not so unreasonable as to expect a good harvest from God without the labour of the husbandman.

(2) Others make God Himself almost nothing, and the minister all. Such are they who place the greatest part of their religion in hearing many sermons, and when they have heard enough are apt to persuade themselves that they have served God well enough. So our ears be but constantly exercised; a barren heart, which bringeth forth no fruit of righteousness to God or to our neighbour in our life, never troubles us.

(3) Others attribute so much to the choice of the preacher, as if they thought that God Himself is like to some workmen who cannot do their work to any purpose unless they have the very best tools to work with.

2. Let us learn how we are to behave ourselves in relation to the ordinances of God administered by men.

(1) More generally, let us see that we rightly distinguish between the work of God and the ministry of man, neither expecting from men what God alone can do, nor expecting that God will do that alone which He ordinarily doth by the ministry of men.

(2) More particularly, remember--

(a) That the men who minister to you are still men, and will as long as they live have more or less the infirmities of men. You must therefore be so just as to allow for the common infirmities of human nature, and so charitable, too, as to overlook some personal failings. If the workman build on the right foundation and by his true rule; if he do his work truly, faithfully, and substantially, this ought to satisfy.

(b) That as they are ministers of Christ they are not to be despised, and as they are no more but ministers they may be too much magnified. If he that glorieth in Apollos had indeed prefixed by Apollo’s preaching, as he ought to have done, he would be very well pleased with Paul. And if he that glorieth in Paul had improved in sincere Christianity by Paul’s ministry, he would be well enough pleased with Apollos. I know that it is pleaded by some that they cannot profit by some as by others, and possibly there may be some truth in this, and yet, it may be, the fault doth not always lie where they would have it laid, but where they have no mind at all to find it. However, what is here pleaded deserves to be considered. And first, suppose we that the Word of God, the wholesome food of our souls, is duly and fully administered, there is no room at all for this plea. The same living water coming from the same spring hath the same virtue, through what conduit soever it may pass unto us. The sound we hear is the man’s, and that may be less grateful; but still the Word is God’s, and should be always welcome. Secondly, the scales, it may be, hang a great deal evener than we yet think they do. As many pious people are edified, for ought we know, by him whom we forsake as are by him we follow. Some persons I have known who, through an unreasonable prejudice, have been even sick at the sight of some meat, whereof they could never be persuaded to taste, and yet, after they have but once or twice been prevailed with to eat of it, have fed upon it with much both delight and benefit. Possibly, then, you may not be edified, not because you cannot, but only because you think so, and will not try. (C. Elis.)

Now he that planteth, and he that watereth, are one.--

The unity of Christian work

That, although there is diversity and variety in the gifts of the ministers, yet they all Ought to agree in one. The ministry ought to be one. First, in respect; of doctrine, and true doctrine, that is the soul and life of all (1 Timothy 1:3). Secondly, there ought to be unity in regard of their end and scope. Thirdly, there should be unity in affections, to love one another, to bless God for the abilities and gifts of one another. Envy and pride is apt to get even amongst the best. First, when the ministry is not one, this is apt in the first place to beget atheism and irreligion in the people. Secondly, where there is not this unity, it doth much grieve and unsettle the hearts of the godly. Thirdly, when there is not this unity, profaneness and ungodliness doth the more increase; godliness doth exceedingly decay in the power of it.

1. Do not thou by thy pragmatical meddling widen the difference and raise more dust.

2. Consider this--that those that are godly do agree in the main fundamental point.

3. Do thou labour to be informed with a true and divine faith out of the Word thine own self.

4. Humble yourselves under these differences, when they go not the same way, when they preach not the same thing. (A. Burgess.)

And every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.--

The reward of the Christian ministry

That, according to a man’s labour and working for God, he is sure to have a proportionable reward. To clear this, consider--First, that there are no persons, be they never so mean, so poor, so contemptible, but they are in a way and calling to do God’s work. Secondly, there is a twofold doing of God’s work--either the work of His providence as passive instruments, or the work of His commands as active instruments. In the next place, therefore, let us consider what is the acceptable doing of God’s work which will be rewarded? First, that only is God’s work which is commanded and willed by Him. We are often commanded to understand the good and acceptable will of God. Many think they are doing God’s work when it is the devil’s, because they look not for warrant of it in Scripture. Secondly, it is acceptable labouring when it is done in such a manner.

1. It is profitable working when the persons are first made the Lord’s, when they are justified and sanctified. Make the tree good, and then the fruit will be good.

2. A reward is due to that work only which is done for God’s sake, out of love to Him.

3. That work only will have a reward which is done with that measure and degree of love and fervency that it ought to be.

4. The work to be rewarded is that which is constantly done with perseverance, holding out to the end (Matthew 24:13).

5. The work to be rewarded is that which is done fully and plenarily. Will a good work thus circumstantiated be sure to be rewarded?

Then take heed of two contraries to this work of the Lord.

(1) Of idleness, unprofitableness, and unfruitfulness.

(2) Take heed of the other contrary, upon which the greater wrath of God will fall, and that is, to do the devil’s work. Our Saviour told the Pharisees, They are of the devil, and his works they did (John 8:44). Having considered what the work is, now let us consider and admire at the reward; and before we come to show what reward is, take notice of a distinction or two. First, there is an essential reward, and that is, the enjoyment of God in full assurance and delight. This all that work for God are sure to have. Secondly, there is an accidental reward, and that is, some degrees of glory, because of greater labour and sufferings for Christ one may partake of more glory than another. Thirdly, it is lawful to encourage a man’s self in working for God by this, that there is a reward. There is a lawful self-seeking, viz., of immortality, and honour and glory (Romans 2:7). Let us consider wherein lieth this reward of working for God, either in this life, or in the life to come. And truly, in this life, if there were no heaven, no happiness, no enjoyment of God, there is enough to put us on it. First, there is a great deal of peace and comfort of conscience in doing what is good. Secondly, when we do God’s work, He further rewards with more spiritual strength, and enlargeth our abilities, so that the more we work for God the more we may. Thus in the parable, he that had five, he gained ten (Luke 19:16). Lastly, they are sure to have God’s protection and presence to support them in their labour. In the next place, consider what is the eternal reward, and how eye hath not seen, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.

First, it is God Himself communicating His goodness and comfort to him that hath done His work. Secondly, this reward lieth in the full glorification of the soul in all the faculties thereof, and body in all the parts thereof. Thirdly, the eternity of this happiness. Fourthly, the fulness of this happiness--an aggregation of all things that may make happy, either within or without. Fifthly, consider the vast disproportion of this to those works thou dost for God.

1. The one is infinite, and thou art a finite, limited creature.

2. What work thou doest for God, God He first works it in thee, so that thou labourest for Him of His own, and yet He rewards it.

3. What thou doest for Him, it is accompanied with much evil and many imperfections.

4. Thou hast formerly been a servant to Satan, done his work, so that God might damn thee upon the old score, though thou wert now able to do all things perfectly.

5. Whatsoever thou hast done is but thy duty; God need not reward thee, or might have bestowed a less reward.

6. What work thou doest, it is a due; besides, God doth not need it. It addeth nothing.

7. All that thou doest is for a little time; the reward is for ever. (A. Burgess.)

Rewards proportionable to works

The very least share in the glorious inheritance of the saints in light, is sufficient to reconcile a man to the greatest hardships of a virtuous life; but the sure prospect of more abundant glory, as the recompense of a more exalted holiness, must be allowed to carry still greater degrees of encouragement along with it. And it cannot be denied but that the most natural and prevailing motive to make men grow in grace and goodness is a well-grounded confidence that the greatness of their reward will be proportioned to the greatness of their attainments.

How good grounds we have to believe that different men will receive a different reward in heaven. To confirm us in the belief of this doctrine we may observe that there are several ranks and orders of good men, to whom, in a peculiar manner, more than ordinary degrees of happiness are promised in the Scripture. Of the prophets under the Old Testament we read that “God is not ashamed to be called their God,” theirs in a more than ordinary manner, and that “He hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16). And to the apostles our blessed Saviour thus addresseth Himself (Luke 22:28-30). Now how difficult soever it may be nicely to determine the full meaning of these expressions, yet, certainly, we may very rationally infer from them that there are some particular marks of glory with which the apostles of our Lord will be honoured above other Christians. And to this, it is probable, St. John alludes when, in his description of Jerusalem the holy city, be particularly observes that “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14). St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Thessalonians, breaks out into joy upon the view of that glory which at the day of judgment would redound to him from the success of his ministry among them (1 Thessalonians 2:19). They who come nearest to the apostles in an unshaken faith, and an exemplary holiness, will be next them likewise in happiness and glory. True it is all the blest are alike children of God; but it is as true also that all children have not the same provision, all heirs are not entitled to the same inheritance, all members have not the same honour.

This reward will de allotted to every man according to his own labour. It is observable that the apostle doth not here say we shall be rewarded for the sake and on the account of our labour, but “according to it.” There is no temptation which doth more frequently overtake us than the fond hope of repenting a little before we go hence, and be no more seen. But if we would seriously consider, that though we were never so sure of time and opportunity and will to repent hereafter, yet we shall by this conduct necessarily fall short of many degrees of glory which we might otherwise have just reason to expect. This consideration, one would think, should be sufficient to convince us of the advantages of an early piety, a universal obedience, an uninterrupted state of happiness. (Bp. Smalridge.)

Work and wages

. Every man is a worker.

1. For a livelihood. “He that will not work neither let him eat.” Masters as well as servants, princes as well as peasants, are subject to this great law, and those who strive to evade it are the veriest slaves.

2. To mould the character and life of all among whom we mingle--either for good or evil.

3. At the task of forming our own eternal character, and we are either becoming assimilated to the image of God, or are marring the precious materials of heart, intellect, &c., which we have received from Him.

4. Either aiding or hindering the great moral movements of the day; either making our fellows happier or lending our power to prolong the duration of human darkness, degradation, and woe. Here there is no neutrality. “He who is not for Me is against Me.”

Every man’s work shall be judged of by itself.

1. God has created every man complete and responsible in himself. A man is not a mere part of a mass of humanity. He has to deal for himself with the great question of duty, and by himself to answer to the Eternal Judge.

2. This solemn truth--

(1) Is frequently forgotten, and more frequently neglected. Men act in masses, and lose the sense of individual responsibility. But this does not lighten its pressure or annihilate it.

(2) Involves most important practical consequences. Since I am personally responsible--

(a) No human priest can come between me and my Maker.

(b) Any attempt to deprive me of my liberty of conscience is to be sternly resisted.

(c) I must not measure my duty by the services of others.

(d) It is my wisdom to cultivate a solemn sense of my responsibility.

Every man’s work shall receive its due wages. This is true of--

1. The money-maker. He gets what he works for.

2. The pleasure-seeker.

3. The culture worshipper.

4. The Christian, who receives his wages--

(1) In the quiet approval of his own heart.

(2) In seeing good accomplished by his efforts.

(3) In contemplating the final triumph of his cause.

(4) In the approval of his Master--“Well done,” &c. (G. D. Macgregor.)

Verse 9

1 Corinthians 3:9

For we are labourers together with God.

Labourers together with God

The immediate application of the text.

1. Believers though they were, Paul could not address the Corinthians as spiritual persons, for they moved in the lower, earthly region of man’s nature, where strife and division have place, and into which it was impossible to introduce exalted subjects.

2. He then proceeds to show on what a mistake this party feeling proceeded. The different teachers were but humble instruments in the hand of one and the same God, who commissioned each with spiritual gifts, and who alone prospered their work. Paul might have taken a different course. He might have urged on his own party to more determined action. But, instead of that, he deprecated the existence of any parties, and bade all rise into that higher region in which they would discern that different spiritual teachers were working together with one God, and for the same spiritual results.

3. Oh, that these words had been heeded by the Church since! They would have rendered impossible most of the divisions which have been, and are still, its weakness and its curse. All of us “labourers together with God!” No thought could be more exalted. Well might anybody who felt it protest against what else might be deemed the honour of leading a party.

The wider application. For is it not profoundly true that, since we ale Divinely made, and since we live in a Divine world, all the work we any of us do here is for Divine purposes, and by Divine energy, and so is a “labouring together with God”?

1. It may be said: On this view all other things work for God. True; for “fire and hail, snow and vapour, stormy wind, fulfil His Word.” It would be a healthy Christian thing to see God’s ministers in all the forces of nature, whether silent, like those at work in an opening flower and decaying leaf, or imposing, like those revealed in earthquakes and volcanoes. It is a deeply Christian and a deeply scientific thought, too, to see God at work in these law-abiding and universal changes; and unchristian and unscientific is the too common thought that, in general, things go on of themselves, hut that sometimes, in answer to prayer, God steps in to interfere with them and work special providences. That idea sets God apart from His universe, supposes it can go on without Him, and sees His presence only in irregularities. The other belief supposes God at work always and everywhere, and recognises His intelligence as displayed in the glorious order of His works. The unconscious energies of nature, then, are working together with God. The universe “is God’s husbandry and God’s building.”

2. But, if so, the same may be said, with much higher emphasis, of men. On what a far higher level of being do they live and work, possessed of spiritual faculties resembling those of their Maker, and entrusted by Him with a certain independence in little spheres of activity! So that they can delightfully feel that they are co-operating with Him, or idly neglect to do so, or wilfully oppose His will. The region in which we can help or hinder God’s plans is a narrow one indeed; but, to have such a power at all, how wonderful and great! There is work for us to do--no grand, famous work, but sacred daily duty. (T. M. Herbert, M. A.)

Labourers together with God

In spiritual husbandry. Now it is the province of the husbandman to plant and to water, but neither dexterity in planting can ensure the striking of the root, nor diligence in watering command the ripening of the fruit. In the spiritual husbandry of the Church all is God’s; the field--the world; the plants--men; the instruments wherewith the clods are broken--the appointed ordinances Of grace; the plan for the direct combination of labour--His Word; the water--the purifying influence of His Spirit; the sunbeams--the quickening and cheering manifestations of His love. As in nature the husbandman “waiteth for the precious fruits of the earth, and hath long patience, until he receive the early and latter rain,” relying implicitly on the Divine pledge, so the faithful minister of Christ pursues his spiritual husbandry in patience and in faith.

In spiritual building. Here, too, the labour is of man, but the power of God. In the spiritual temple of the Church the foundation is of God’s laying, the material of God’s preparing, the plan of God’s contriving, the proportions of God’s adjusting; and if ministers of Christ may be said, in the gathering or the raising, in the cementing or compacting, in the edifying or carrying up, m the roofing or covering in, to “build up lively stones into a spiritual temple, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” yet the quickening, pervading power of God is continually recognised throughout. For what could impart life to the stone except a miracle of grace? Conclusion: From this, then, it will follow that while, with St. Paul, we exalt the office of the Christian ministry, at the same time, with St. Paul, we abase the individuals who exercise it. Let them be, like Apollos, “mighty in the Scriptures”; let them be, like St. Paul, mightier still in “signs and wonders,” &c., yet, like Paul and Apollos, in themselves they are nothing. (T. Dale, M. A.)

Working together with God

We are delighted with the sweet invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour,” &c. We sometimes forget that the same Saviour invites us also to labour. “Go, work in My vineyard.”


1. Strengthens faith (John 7:17). Christian experience fortifies against infidelity. The man of scientific ability cannot convince me, against my years of experience, that water is unwholesome, or that its Creator is a blunderer.

2. Strengthens spiritual life. The little child craves activity quite as much as food. Such a child may be never so well fed, and clothed, and sheltered, yet, if it have not opportunity to exercise, it will be a dwarf. So work is a means of spiritual development and growth to every child of God.

3. Purifies the life. Society is kept pure by activity, just as the ocean and atmosphere are kept pure by the winds and waves. The Church in which all minds and hands are busy planning and executing will not have time to criticise, complain, or gossip.

4. Employment and enjoyment go hand in hand. The working Church is the happy Church, and the happy Church helps to keep members from backsliding.

Together. We may say this is the difficult problem. There are so many wills and tastes--so great difference in culture and habit--that “working together” is almost impracticable.

1. And yet when we look at the Christian at the time of surrender, it will not seem so difficult. Every true convert begins the service of the Lord with the question, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? “and this becomes the first, middle, and ending question of the converted man’s life. He becomes a member of the body of which Jesus Christ is head. As the members of a human body are controlled by the will--the head--so must be also the members of Christ’s body. No jealousies between such members. No complaining one of another, but each bearing the burden assigned.

2. And then nothing will help to unite workers so much as a high appreciation of the work to be done. One soul is worth more than all the world beside, and millions perish daily for lack of the bread of life.

3. In view of the fact that Jesus prayed that His disciples might be one.

With God. No man has a right to engage in a work in which he cannot ask God’s presence and blessing. Much more must we realise God’s presence and blessing in the advancement of His kingdom. We may be sure that God will not allow the Son’s mission to fail. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” (R. Moffett.)

God’s co-labourers

. The basis of this co-operation is the high and holy relation between the Christian heart and God. The Christian is united to Him as a child is to a parent, more by affection than by mere external ties. He is united to God, likewise, by a fervent sympathy with the Divine character. God’s holiness is exceedingly attractive to him. Besides, a Christian has truly and persistently submitted his will to God’s will, feeling that the Divine will includes all that is wisest, purest, noblest. A Christian, furthermore, holds his soul and his thoughts in daily communion with God, so that affections are interchanged with Him.

Its nature. The Christian accepts--

1. The Divine idea of his own development of character, and labours to produce in himself those things which God seeks.

2. The Divine order in this world, and endeavours to secure among men that intelligence and goodness for which God endlessly works, and causes nature to work.

3. All his powers and affections in stewardship, and undertakes to use himself for God’s work, His personal influence, his property, his children, his friends--all these he throws in, as it were, to the common stock, and administers them for God, and not for himself.

4. The duty to love all that which God loves, to promote all that God is seeking to promote, to hate what God hates, and to destroy it if he can.

Practical lessons.

1. This view consoles in our conscious weakness. There is no man that, when he looks upon the courses of God in the world; the results that he is to achieve in himself; to seek among his fellows, that does not often come to a consciousness that he is weakness itself. Sometimes it makes one feel utterly worthless, discourages endeavour, and leads one to desire to fly away and be at rest, because they think it will make no difference whether they live or die. What is a drop of water of itself? What is weaker? But when God has marshalled the sum of the weakness of myriad drops together, they lift the mightiest ship as if it were but a feather, and play with the winds as if they were mere instruments of sport. And yet that very drop is there, and has its part and lot in the might of the whole vast; unbounded sea.

2. He who unites himself to any great truth which God has established may be sure that he will go forth from conquering to conquer; not by reason of any might or skill in himself, but because he is a labourer together with God. The man that adopts any Divinely appointed truth, no matter what the world thinks of it, rides in God’s chariot, and has God for his charioteer. He always wins who sides with God. On the other hand, no man in this world is safe or victorious unless he feels that he is going with, and not against God.

3. No life can be barren or insignificant that is a part of God’s life. A woman that seemed to be endowed with everything calculated to fit one for the most eminent service, was called, in God’s providence, to marry a man that was not her equal. She was placed in an obscure position. While she might have been listening to the chime of the spheres she was occupied with rocking the cradle, darning, sewing, washing, and cooking. And sometimes, perhaps, she thought to herself, “Woe is me! To what end am I living?” Her child developed under her care, and learned to call her mother; and then she thought God spoke, so sweet was its voice to her, and in that child she expected to reap her reward for all that she had done and suffered. But just as he was touching manhood, in a moment the wave closed over him, the labour of her life was ended, and, stranded on the shores of despair, she cried out, “Why was I born? and to what end have I lived?” A hundred had marked her fidelity, and she had been schoolmaster to every one of them. A hundred had witnessed her patience, and all the sermons they had ever heard had not preached such a lesson to them as her silent example. Multitudes that had learned of her, in turn became teachers of others. Her influence spread wider than what she dreamed. It was not until she had gone up to the end of life in obscurity, and God had caused the light of eternity to shine on her work, that she understood how glorious little things might be. The good deeds of this life are dewdrops, innumerable, lying unseen among men; but when God shall pour the revealing light of the other world upon them, how it will kindle them and make them sparkle! Imagine how Solomon’s temple was built. In the forest of old Lebanon many and many a day-labourer worked in obscurity, and wondering of what consequence all his work could be. In another place were workers in metal. Some did one thing and some another, but none knew the plan of the temple, none knew what they wrought till on a certain day, when they all trooped to Jerusalem. Then they stood entranced, and wondered that out of things so insignificant in the mountains there should come such glory in Jerusalem. God had sent some to the cedar forest, some to the stone quarry, some to the dark and dank places of this world; but He is collecting materials which will glow with untold splendour in the temple that He is building for the New Jerusalem. (H. W. Beecher.)

Man a worker with God

God a labourer, a labourer with men, God a labourer with men for men, are the facts stated in this passage.

God works alone. We are not wont to consider God in His wonderful activities, but more accustomed to think of Him as having created the universe, and complacently beholding its wondrous workings and results. Nevertheless, the God referred to in this passage is not only glorious in holiness, but also a God doing wonders. This activity of the Infinite One is involved in--

1. The doctrine of providence. The preservation of the action, harmony, and stability of nature requires His constant oversight and direction and application of nature and of its laws. This is also true of all the beings which God had created. Every one of them lives in Him. The seraph before His throne, and the men upon His footstool, are each of them the objects of His ceaseless care. So is every sun and star as well as every plant and flower. How wondrous, how inconceivably glorious must be the activity of the Divine mind!

2. The doctrine of the final judgment. We shall be summoned to the Divine presence, the Omnipotent Judge, who has known our motives and all the circumstances under which we have acted, and we shall receive from Him, from His personal knowledge, the decisions of that day. How wonderful must be the presence, and perception, and memory of this Infinite God, who is thus our judge!

3. The reception of worship. How necessary, in order that God may properly regard our approaches to Him and our devotion, that He should understand everything that affects thought or feeling at the time that those services are rendered! And when we consider how great is the number of His worshippers, how wonderful must be the exercise of His intelligence and of His love! There are two things which render it difficult for us to rightly appreciate these activities.

(1) The one is that God is invisible.

(2) The other is that in most of His works God operates independently of rational agencies.

(a) In making the universe He employed no agents. On the contrary, He spake and it was done.

(b) In the conservation of the universe none of the beings that occupy it have an agency in holding it in its orbit.

(c) In legislating for mankind He has no legislative assembly. The laws by which we are governed emanate from His mind, are promulgated by His authority, and He will execute His own sentence.

Nevertheless, there is one of the Divine enterprises in which God is pleased to associate men, and that is the work of human salvation.

1. But there are several departments of it in which God acts alone.

(1) This was true in devising this scheme of mercy; there were no consultations.

(2) And in making the atonement that was necessary to accomplish this purpose God acted by Himself. He so loved the world, &c. Jesus Christ alone is the Redeemer and Saviour of the children of men.

(3) It is equally true that in the transformation of the human soul it is a Divine work; it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

2. Still there are departments in this enterprise in which God has been pleased to employ men.

(1) He did this in inaugurating Christianity in the earth. By prophets and priests He prepared the world for the reception of the coming Messiah.

(2) And then when the fulness of time was come the shepherds of Bethlehem listened to the announcement of the fact from the heavenly host; wise men from the East came to witness His incarnation.

(3) Disciples were with Him during His ministry, and just before His ascension they received from Him His great commission. And on the day of Pentecost they received the power to go forth and preach the gospel which had been committed to them. You will see in every step of its introduction and inauguration it became needful that human instrumentality should be employed.

(4) And now that it is inaugurated God requires His people to promulgate it. He has made it the business of the Church to give these Holy Scriptures to all men, and in this there is a very large service to be rendered. When in every community upon the earth there shall be a Christian, a Christian pastor, and Christian disciples, it will be their duty to employ every possible influence and agency to prevail upon men to heed the call of Divine mercy. By our Christian character, our constant watchfulness, and every influence that God gives us, we are to beseech men to be reconciled to God.

Practical lessons. If our views of this subject are correct, we may infer--

1. The greatness of the work of human salvation. It is the only enterprise in which God is engaged in which He has taken into the fellowship of labour with Him either angels or men.

2. The dignity of activity in the cause and for the sake of Christ. We are not acting upon physical, material things; we are not seeking to promote mainly temporal interests or present happiness merely. We are seeking to recover lost spirits, redeemed by Christ, for whose restoration there is provision made by the power of the Spirit.

3. The certainty of success in these spiritual enterprises. If we were to do this work in our own wisdom and strength we might well hesitate and fear as to the result, but if we are labouring with God who can doubt the success? (Bishop Janes.)

The work of man and the work of God

. We are God’s fellow-labourers.

1. Men rush into the ministry or into similar positions without a doubt about their ability. But if they pondered the words, “We are God’s fellow-workmen,” they might see some reason to question their fitness. Every workman has two things which must not be wanting in God’s fellow-workman.

(1) An object. This in our case is the final happiness and perfection of each in heaven, and the attraction of each toward that Person who can bring him there. How ought we to ask ourselves whether this is substantially our object!

(2) A method. Every artisan not only knows what the particular result he designs is, but he knows also the process by which he must arrive at it. Now we who undertake to teach others ought to be quite sure that the gospel is true in its two great parts, the offer of forgiveness of sins through Christ, and the offer of the Holy Spirit’s presence to transform, direct, and sustain: these things we ought to have experience of in ourselves, and so be able to declare, as of our own knowledge, that those who listen to us may attain the great object if they will only use the proper means.

2. It is in carrying on this work in this way that we are God’s fellow-workmen. God has the same object that we have, and God is co-operating with us in our endeavours after it.

Ye are God’s husbandry, with regard to the state of your hearts and characters at any particular time.

1. By nature the soil is cold and hard, shallow and barren. It bears some things which look good and beautiful, waiting, as it were, for the Holy Spirit to turn them from natural gifts into spiritual graces; but not yet receiving, because we prefer having them as they are, and shrink back from prayer, which is the connecting link between the soul and God. Now, when we see how slow we all are to take this little step in earnest, we feel that nothing can give us any hope at all but the assurance that God is here engaged, and that He can work with us, preparing the stony ground to receive the good seed of His Word, that it may take deep root and spring up into an abundant harvest.

2. And as it is with the ground, so it is with respect to the weeds which grow so rankly. Long experience teaches us to expect them. We say to ourselves, It must go on so to the end; no care or pains of ours will ever root them up. Perhaps not: and yet it may be not only our duty to labour on as if we might succeed; but more than this; the fault may be in great part ours for not having remembered that we are God’s husbandry, and for not having prayed to God more earnestly to do for us that which for ourselves we could not do.

Ye are god’s building.

1. This is especially true of young people. Your characters are forming now; soon they will be (what we call) formed: then habits of good or evil will have become a second nature, and change, if it come at all, will be a difficulty beyond anything that you have yet known of. Every day is adding something to the building: something of good, or something of evil, some accession of knowledge, of self-control, of practice of good and conquest of evil, or else of carelessness and indifference, of self-indulgence or vanity or forgetfulness of God.

2. Yet, blessed be God, He has not left us (strictly speaking) to build. Ye are God’s building. O how gracious an assurance; that, while that formation of character is going on, to all appearance, so easily and almost casually. Still all the time God is working, God is building; if we will only seek Him and trust Him and not thwart or counteract His work, He is carrying on, in the secret of the soul, a process of formation, and the finished thing will be His own temple, in which He will abide for ever and be satisfied with His travail! But, indeed, we must seek Him. (Dean Vaughan.)

The union of Divine and human agency in the kingdom of Christ

What the work includes in which God and His people are labourers together.

1. The spread of the gospel through the world.

2. The conversion of sinners.

3. The increase and prosperity of the Christian Church.

The spirit in which the work under consideration should be prosecuted. In the spirit of--

1. Humility.

2. Love to God.

3. Love to men.

4. Holy zeal.

5. Prayer and of faith. (S. Brawn.)


The Creator does a part, and the chief part, but He kindly gives us a part, as considerate parents let their children join them in their works, though they could often do it better themselves. Creation is not finished, nor ever will be, but is always proceeding. In this progressive system man can put in his hand and make or mar.

Look at the material creation.

1. The elements are in a rude state. The rivers run waste to the sea; the ocean rolls a vast desert of waters round the world; the forests grow and decay, and furnish nourishment for new generations of the same species; the fire is a hidden force, and the lightning plays apparently at haphazard among the clouds. But God has delegated to man, as His vicegerent on the earth, the power and skill, within certain limits, of using these unwieldly and fearful agencies, and, carrying out the plan of their creation.

2. So with the animals. They are created in kind, but the type may be improved. Man can cross and perfect their breeds. He can tame the wild, multiply their number, and, by better shelter, food, &c., develop new excellences.

3. So flowers, fruits, and vegetables all require to be improved by human skill and ingenuity. Compare the dinner of a savage under his native palm with a horticultural exhibition, and we see the endless room for man to work in, and the effects of his science and experiments.

4. The forests were given to his hands uncut, the ores buried in the earth undug and unworked, the pearls in the sea, the fire in the flint, the steam in the water, the temple and the palace in the quarry. The arts, useful and beautiful, are thus a species of creation. Man was sent, not to destroy, but to fulfil.

It is a great thing to learn distinctly and impressively this duty of a man to be a co-worker with God. Some nations have not learned it yet. The savage tribes still linger on the animal plane. But even the civilised nations do not yet fully comprehend that a new moral and spiritual, as well as material creation, is to be called forth by man. The conquest of matter is not enough, Christianity is to be superadded. Man has not done his work when he has built a house and woven a suit of garments. He can co-work with God in the building of his body and his mind--a Divine carpentry.

1. Physical education is a part of this sub-creation. The body is to be unfolded, invigorated, and kept as a pure temple for the soul, with nothing to do it sacrilege.

2. Guided by the rules, and animated by the spirit of Christianity, man is to be a co-worker with God in the building of his character. The Creator necessitates no holiness. Even Jesus learned obedience. The materials of this higher architecture are given in abundance. There is reason for the truth, understanding for practical affairs, conscience for the right, love for the good, hope for progress, so that our own nature is a forest, quarry, and mine, containing all the needful means for our great work. But beside these native faculties society and Christianity give us the tools to work with, the motives, books, teachers, to aid us in the sub-creation. We are called to be labourers with God, in no meagre plan and for no trivial results. The plan is Divine and the results are eternal. The problem runs somewhat in this wise: Given, passion, energy; required, a spirited character and an active life. Given, a soft infant; required, a sturdy, well-formed, intelligent, and virtuous man. Given, conscience; required, righteousness. Given, affections: required, love to all in heaven and earth. Given, instinct, reason, the gospel of Jesus; required, a new human race, a new moral and spiritual creation. The end and emphasis of all things is formation of ourselves on God’s idea of a human being. The gospel of Jesus is yet but in its infancy in this respect. It has done little compared with what it is to do. It has only begun its work in the soul and among the nations. It is slowly becoming a power in the earth. Conclusion: Let us not forget the lesson and application. This creation is a self-creation, this formation is a self-formation. God gives us means, materials, motives, guidance, and, to let nothing escape us that would be of help, He has presented the exquisite figure and spirit of a Divine Man. The danger is in turning off on some by-path of your own, instead of following the way God has marked out, in fulfilling some little, worthless, and short-lived plan of your passions or pleasures. (A. A. Livermore, D. D.)

Co-operation with God

One is something overwhelmed by the thought of the manner in which good old honest words occasionally lose their primitive meaning and become attached to some separate part of daily life, and in such a manner as to become terms rather of reproach than anything else. You talk of a labourer in ordinary conversation as a man who is doing day by day unintelligent, mechanical toil; but, after all, labour such as that is the very basis upon which the happiness of the world is built. All labour is Godlike; and the single test which you may apply to see whether labour is successful or not is the test which St. Paul applied in these words when he said, “For we are labourers together with God.” I want, then, to look upon the harvest as the fruition of successful labour with God. The fact that harvest comes year by year to a successful result is simply an evidence of the truthfulness of the test which St. Paul applies. Man does his work, then there comes side by side with his work the work of God. His work would altogether fail if it were not labour with God. Now let us suppose for a moment that the husbandman were to labour upon the assumption that he would work by himself and not labour with God. Suppose he said: “I don’t believe that the seasons will come round in their accustomed succession, and I will labour as for seasons of my own.” Every intelligent man knows the result of labour such as that would be complete disaster so far as the harvest is concerned. For the only way in which the wondrous things in the world of nature are brought to their perfect beauty and fruition is because you have on the one hand the hard toil of the man, and on the other hand the hard, unceasing, unremitting toil of God. Now what is true of the harvest of the earth’s fruits is certainly true of every work which man undertakes in daily life. The rule of success is labour with, not labour against, God. The man who has to work can only labour successfully by working with God; and by working with God I mean working just as the husbandman works, in conscious subordination to the law of God. If a man will not obey the law of God his physical work cannot be successful as it might be successful if he worked in subordination to the will of God. If a man breaks down his physical frame by indulging in sin, that man, by disobeying the will of God, is rendering the harvest of his daily work uncertain. It is precisely similar with a man engaged in business. He who will labour with God must labour according to God’s law, and where there is that obedience to the will of God there will be ultimate success. The harvest may not come as the harvest of some of the transitory things in nature comes, very quickly, and remain only a short time, but it will be substantial and solid, and will give perfect happiness and perfect peace, because it will be success which has been honestly won, and prosperity which has been rightly gained. Such a labourer can see, even in the success of his business, his own handiwork co-operating with the handiwork of God, and in all the good fortune which has befallen him he can recognise the directing providence of his Heavenly Father. “Labouring together with God,” that is the grand secret of successful work. There is one other thought that I would like to leave with you from the consideration of this truth, and that is this: that just as there is labour with God, and just as the conditions of successful labour are to be with God, so after labour there comes rest, and the conditions of successful rest are also to be found in the rest with God. (J. R. Diggle, M. A.)

Workers together with God

This ninth verse is a further amplification of Paul’s intent, which is to press unity against factions and divisions; and it is a declaration of his argument before, which was “The planters and waterers are one, but God gives the increase.” This he further illustrates in the beginning of this verse--“For we are workers together with God.” We are all in God’s vineyard, and labour unto Him. In what sense they are workers with God; not by immediate producing of any spiritual effects, but by the external application of the ministry to the people. As Gehazi carried his master’s staff and touched the child with it, but that did no good till Elijah came himself. In the first place, consider what reasons may be for this, why God will use such workers with Him, He needeth not the parts or gifts of any. First, this is a fit and an accommodated way to our natures. When God sends men of the same mould and subject to the same affections, this may the more easily draw us. When God delivered the law Himself, it was with such terror and majesty, that they desired that God would not Himself speak any more to them, so that mere men would not be able to bear the immediate approaches of the Divine majesty to them. As the fowler catcheth many birds by one decoy a bird of the same feather, thus it becometh us to have such to bring us home unto God, that are affected with our estates, that have the same temptations in them as other men. Hence the more experience God’s ministers have of the work of grace, the temptations of Satan, the deceitfulness of sin, the more fit they are to comfort others, or to deliver them out of snares. Secondly, He may do it to oblige us and tie us to His instituted means. It is a great caveat in the Scripture, and frequently urged: “No man must follow the imagination of his own heart.” Now God would prevent such loose principles, and bind us up to His instituted way; He will bind us, though He is not bound. Thirdly, hereby God would exercise the humility, meekness, and obedience of men. Oh, it is a great matter for men to submit to God’s institution! Fourthly, that men might be the more inexcusable. For if thou art not now turned from thy sin, who shall plead for thee? Fifthly, God will hereby declare His power so much the more. Now to this there needs one caution to be added, viz., that this connection between the labour of the minister and God’s working is not natural, necessary, and perpetual. We may work, and yet neither the presence or power of God be therein. It is not here as in the works of nature; there God hath made a perpetual and unalterable decree. Now if you ask when may it fall out that though the ministry laboureth, yet God doth not work with it, reasons may be on God’s part, the minister’s, and the people’s. First, work with God in prayer, that He would work with the ministry. Secondly, take heed of such sins as may provoke God not to he with the ministry. (A. Burgess.)

Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.--

God’s husbandry and building

The metaphor of the field describes the raw material on which God works; that of the house describes the result of the work. The field represents the individual Christian in his secret power of life and endless growth; the house represents the Church in the unity of plan, in the beauty and strength of its structure. The metaphor of the building lends itself more easily than that of the farm to the apostle’s purpose in the subsequent verses, and leads naturally to the highest conception, that of God’s temple in 1 Corinthians 3:16. (Principal Edwards.)

God’s husbandry

. The first condition of the soil--its wilderness condition--is not without growths. It is overgrown with forests, choked with underbush, and cumbered with falling and decaying materials. The sun is always hidden from its interior. It is apt to be a lair of beasts. This is certainly the state of the human soil before religious culture is applied to it. Men are in a state of wilderness in the beginning.

The first step of husbandry is to relieve the soil of these wild growths, and prepare it for tillage. The trees are felled and burned, so that the ground may be disencumbered and laid open to the sun. But some, for expedition, are only girdled. All connection between the sap at the roots and the top is severed by a line of sharp cuts around the trees; and so girdled, they will stand for a while, but they will never leaf again; so that, little by little, more and more ground is susceptible to the plough. The first work of religion is analogous to this. Many of the things which men practise in an unregenerate state are, by the power of God’s grace at their conversion, cut down peremptorily and taken out of the way. But there are a great many things which are only girdled, and only little by little brought to the ground.

When this preliminary process is complete, the pioneer farmer is ready for the next stage, which is that of seed-planting. It is not smooth sward that the plough is now to turn; but rough soil, full of the green stumps of trees but just disappeared. And, worse than this, roots are matted all over the ground; but the ground is, at any rate, open to the sun, and every year and every ploughing will rip up and throw out some of these roots. And so it is with men. Their first efforts at goodness are very crooked and shallow. When men first begin to let go the lower forms of wickedness, and to sow the higher seeds of virtue, it is often like the sudden taking away of the forest, and the laying open of the soil to the sun. The first crops are very unsatisfactory; yet these incipient mistakes must be taken, if you are going to have a good farm by and by.

Having got thus far the home-lot is cleared. The stones are cleared away, the stumps rooted out, and the ground fenced round where his house is to be. Then he gives the ground a more thorough farming, and so the house-lot is got into a better condition. So men usually begin to smooth down those traits of their character which lie next to themselves, as it were, and which are in the family. Then one and another habit is attacked, and trait after trait is added. And so they enlarge, more and more, every year, their husbandry.

Hitherto the farmer has only sown the grains and roots absolutely needed for sustenance; but now a garden and orchard are planted. And so in spiritual life. At first it is a tough, hard fight for life. By and by times of richer gladness come--more liberty, more hope. Prayer grows out of duty into pleasure. God’s Word opens, and Christians walk amid beds of flowers. Clusters of fruit are gathered--richer experiences--the fruits of the Spirit.

Eventually it is resolved upon to bring in every acre. All outlying lots are to be cleared. So, eminently, is it with advancing Christians. After a time many men experience a second conversion, as it seems to them. They are aroused to a sense of the largeness and symmetry of Christian character. And their purpose is to subdue every thought and every feeling to the will of God.

The farmer, as his last step, applies to his soil, thus brought forward, the most scientific methods of ascertained husbandry. He underdrains deep the whole estate; and when all those stagnant pools and chilling springs that deluge the roots of tender-growing plants are carried away, then he subsoils. He puts down the plough as far as iron can go, and mellows the soil and the subsoil down deep in the earth. Then he begins to select better herbs than before. And just so it is with Christians. As they grow in grace, and as God, the great Husbandman, perfects the work of clearing up and bringing into a condition of complete tillage the human heart, the religious feelings grow deeper. Many of those causes which obstructed their growth are now drained and carried off from the soul. Men give themselves more thorough religious cultivation. And the later periods of Christian experience are by far the most assiduous and the most faithful Conclusions: Note--

1. Some practical lessons we may perceive from what has been said.

(1) The difference between instantaneous beginnings and gradual developments. No man ever suddenly cleared up forty acres of land. A man may and does begin suddenly, but the doing requires a long period. And so no man ever began to be a Christian without an instantaneous volition; but the mere volition is only a beginning. The evolution of Christian character is gradual.

(2) The meaning of succession in Christian experience. We know that in husbandry, until some things are done, other things cannot be reached. And so there must be an order of development in Christian life. We cannot anticipate those graces which come only after the ripening of preceding graces. Graces grow just as grains do; first the sprouting under the ground, &c.

(3) That the hardest part in both kinds of husbandry is apt to come at the beginning; but that, if well met then, it grows easier and easier every successive year. How hard was it at first to bring the soil to such a state that you dared to think “plough!” and how hard is it for a man at first to bring himself into such a state that he dares to think “prayer!” How many men who would like to be able to get their graces just as they can get an old, well-cultivated farm; but, though you can do that in natural husbandry, you cannot do it in spiritual husbandry.

2. The various kinds of spiritual husbandmen and husbandry.

(1) There are shiftless and lazy farmers who raise just enough grain to keep them through the year. That is all they ask, and therefore they have no ambition to seek for more. And how many men there are who, after having been in the Church ten or twenty years, are just about where they were when they first entered it!

(2) Scheming, changeable farmers who, instead of laying out their strength upon well-ascertained processes, are bewitched with new schemes and experiments. And there are just such spiritual farmers. One is running after new promises, another after a new faith, and another after new solutions of miracles. One has got a new doctrine, another some new idea of Church organisation, and another some new way of putting this or that religious truth. They see their old farms left untilled.

(3) Pedigree farmers, whose fruit bears the highest-sounding names, but is the poorest in the neighbourhood. Their oxen are lean, their cows are milkless, but what a line of blood they sprung from! Did you never see just such husbandmen in the Church?--men who had no greater morality, or piety, or spiritual experience, but who went back through a long pedigree.

(4) Chaff farmers. Suppose you should find a farmer who said that he was satisfied that farmers had been doing injustice to many kinds of seeds; and that he felt assured that if a man would sow cockle-seeds; and do it sincerely, God would give the increase: so He would--of cockles. Suppose a man should sow that detestable Canada thistle, and say that it was wheat. Would any amount of botanical sincerity on the part of this fool secure to him a harvest of anything better than the seed sown? Now a great many persons say, “Why do you teach us such doctrines? What matter is it whether we believe in the Bible or not, so that we live about right, or that we are sincere? Is not that enough?” No, it is not enough. There is the same connection between spiritual seed and the result. Sincerity is a very good thing, but it cannot make grain out of chaff; neither can it make Christian graces out of worldly affections and worldly estates.

(5) Fence farmers. What would you think of a husbandman who neglected everything because he was giving his whole time to the building of his fences? And, oh, such fences! The best and highest that could be built. Oftentimes, when he has got them all built up, he goes to work and pulls them down again. And what for? Why, just so that he can build them up again! And did you never hear of spiritual husbandmen that were for ever defining the great points of doctrine; for ever running boundaries round the kingdom of God; rebuilding the middle walls of partition, but never sowing and never reaping? There never was a fence that would keep vermin out of a man’s farm, nor a fence that would keep hawks off from it. The best thing a farmer can do is to take such care of his soil as to have a harvest so rich that he will be able to spare a little to vermin and birds. The only safe way is to have so much spiritual culture in the Church that such minor troubles make little difference with its prosperity.

(6) Nimrod farmers--hunting farmers. There are in the Church heresy-hunters. They are searching for foxes, and wolves, and bears, that they suppose are lying waste God’s husbandry! They never do anything except fire at other folks. I have no doubt that Nimrod was a very good fellow in his own poor, miserable way; but a Nimrod minister is the meanest of all sorts of hunters! (H. W. Beecher.)

God’s husbandry

The harvest is passed; the corn is housed. Is the farmer’s labour done? No, the plough is even now at work again; the seed must soon be sown for next year’s crop. So continual is the round. But, as the work of husbandry goes on, is there no lesson to us in these things? Yea, all nature speaks to us if we would hear, and the words of the text call us to listen to its voice. Let these words teach you--

The care which God has had for you.

1. In choosing you to be part of His own field--the Church of Christ. You are plants set in the Lord’s garden, branches grafted into the living Vine; your heart is the soil on which God deigns to bestow culture, and from which His grace is able to bring forth fruits, meet for the paradise of God.

2. In the price He gave for this field. “Ye are not your own,” &c.

3. In enclosing you with the design of making you holy to Himself. Have you ever seen a piece of ground taken in from a common? While all around it is still barren and wild, is not that one spot fair and goodly to the eye? This is what God would have you be in the midst of a world that lieth in wickedness.

4. In that He is ever seeking to improve the ground of your hearts. But, as the farmer does not use the same management to all kinds of soil--the stiff, stubborn clay must not be treated like the light, dry sand-so God now tries to win us by mercies; now to frighten us by judgments. Perhaps your heart clings to the love of this world; then He shakes it loose by storms of trouble. Perhaps He sees you indulging in sinful pleasures; then He makes you taste their bitterness and gall.

5. By employing labourers in His field, for your sakes. He sends His ministers to labour among you, if, by any means, they may save your souls alive.

The return you ought to make to him. What is this? Surely, to take care that you do not receive the grace of God in vain. When a farmer has bestowed much care and management upon a field, does he not expect some increase? How few soils are hopelessly bad, as not to be made better by good management! The earth is no insolvent debtor; you do not put into its bank to receive nought again. Shall the very ground we tread on put us to shame? Ask, then, yourselves, are you bearing fruit to God? (E. Blencowe, M. A.)

God, a husbandman

As such--

He is thoroughly acquainted with the soil. He knows--

1. Its original state; the soul with all its pristine powers.

2. Its present condition; its barren and wilderness state--stony, weedy, and thorny.

3. Its tillable capabilities--what can be made of it. Some can become the majestic cedar, whilst others only the shrub.

He has all necessary instrumentalities. This stony, weedy ground requires certain well-contrived implements to work it into a fruitful condition. There must be the ploughshare, the pruning-hook, &c. He has them.

1. In the events of life. All the dark and painful circumstances in life are His implements to break up the fallow ground. All the pleasant and propitious are instruments for mellowing the soil.

2. In the revelations of truth. There is law and love, Sinai and Calvary.

He possesses the proper seed. His Word is seed in many respects.

1. Vitality. Every seed has life in it. His Word is spirit and life.

2. Completeness. The seed is complete in itself. Nothing can be taken from it, nothing can be added to it, any alteration injures it.

3. Prolificness. One seed in course of time may cover a continent and feed nations. The word of God is wonderfully fruitful.

He commands the culturing elements. The best agriculturists who understand the soil possess the best implements and the best seed, are thwarted in their efforts, because the elements are not propitious. God has command over the elements. The heat, the cold, the dew, the shower, the sunshine, and the air, are all at His disposal. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

God’s husbandry

The Scripture doth delight to compare the Church to many similitudes, all which show the tender respects it stands in towards God. Sometimes to a wife, sometimes to a body, sometimes to the branches of a vine; at other times to a garden, to a vineyard, and here to a field, and a house. We will first handle these two similitudes jointly, and then severally. Jointly, in that they are God’s husbandry and house. It implieth these things--First, the power and goodness of God in making them so. A building is not of itself; everybody that seeth a house, presently concludes the house did not make itself; so if you see a field well husbanded, we all know of itself the earth would not do, but rather its curse is to bring forth briers and thorns. So when you see a people leaving their sins, walking according to the rules revealed in Scripture, you must necessarily conclude, this men have not of themselves, they cannot have this by flesh and blood. Hence, God, speaking of the Church of Israel, said: “He planted a vine” (Jeremiah 2:21). Secondly, it doth imply dominion and absolute sovereignty over us. Even as the master that buildeth the house appointeth what customs and orders shall be in the house, the husbandman appointeth what seed he pleaseth for the ground. This point is of great consideration, for how durst men in all ages have brought in such superstition, such heresy, such tyranny in the Church of God, if they had remembered there is but one master in the house of God--one lawgiver. All officers are but servants, and not masters. Thirdly, it denoteth propriety and interest that God hath a right to us, that we are His, and not our own. The house is the owner’s, he hath the propriety of it; so that by this means they who are, indeed, of this building, of this field, they are more happy than all others in the world, for God is in covenant with them. To them only God is their God, and they His people. Fourthly, it supposeth care, love, and protection. Propriety causeth care and love among men. What cares a man for another man’s field, another man’s corn, but he looketh to his own? He weedeth that, he fenceth that, he keepeth that from all violence. It makes for God’s praise, that thy heart be a room swept and kept clear for Him to lodge in. Oh, urge this in prayer! O Lord, am I not Thy husbandry? Is not my soul Thy building? Why, then, lieth it thus ruinous? Why is it neglected by Thee? It is not only my comfort, my happiness, but Thy glory and honour is interested in this. Come we in the next place to consider the several similitudes, and--First, ye are God’s husbandry. Take notice that He doth not here speak of the invisible and mystical Church of Christ, but as they were a visible Church at Corinth. This relation of being God’s husbandry implieth something on His part, and many things on ours. On His part: First, that He finds all people of themselves like a barren wilderness and fruitless desert. The curse upon the ground is fulfilled in them--to bring forth nothing but briers and thorns. All the things of grace and godliness are not only above our natures, but contrary to them. Secondly, it supposeth that grace and godliness is wholly planted by God in their souls, for this floweth from the other. Seeing we are such a barren wilderness, what fruit can ever be expected from us? Thirdly, this supposeth that God likewise giveth all the seasons and opportunities of growth and fruitfulness. As the gardener, He looketh to His times when He must water the plants, lest they die. The season of the year helpeth to grow, as well as the nature of the soil. Oh, then, know that as the natural seasons and times are of His appointment, so much more the gracious ones. On our parts, who are the field to be tilled, there are these things: First, a willingness to have the Word of God prepare and wound our souls; even tearing our hearts to pieces, that so the Word as seed may fructify. This is what the Scripture calls, “Ploughing up the fallow ground” (Jeremiah 4:3). Oh, expect not healing and peace and comfort, till you have been thus disquieted! Do not then quarrel at the Word of God, but rather bless Him for the power of it, when it changeth the whole face of a congregation. Secondly, this implieth that you should answer the satisfaction of that husbandman whose husbandry you are. Who will bear that ground which, after much labour and cost, brings forth no fruit at all? Thirdly, it supposeth a careful improvement of all those means which God useth for our spiritual good. If we be God’s husbandry, we are patiently to receive and fruitfully to improve whatsoever may make for our fruitfulness. Now the means are of two sorts, either essential, and entire and perfect, such as the hearing of the Word, praying, godly communion; or, accidental and occasional, such as afflictions, troubles, and persecutions. They need a winter as well as a summer. Lastly, consider how near such a people are to utter ruin; while you are but near it, there is some hope of escaping, if you seek out; who after all God’s husbandry, are the same ignorant and profane people still. Thy soul is God’s field. Oh, what fruit, what reformation shouldst thou show forth? Thus, not only the Sabbath day, but every day may be a Sabbath day; every field thou goest into; every goodly crop thou seest on the ground, it may teach and preach unto thee. (A. Burgess.)

God’s building

is Divine--

In its plan.

In its structure.

1. Christ, the foundation.

2. Living stones, the superstructure.

In its workmanship. Each stone by God is--

1. Polished.

2. Adjusted.

3. Cemented.

In its purpose.

1. For His glory.

2. For the inhabitation of His Spirit. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

God’s building

There have been many splendid structures which, in their day, have been the wonder and admiration of the world, but this infinitely transcends them all. The colossal palaces and hanging gardens reared by Nebuchadnezzar must have presented a gorgeous spectacle; while the fame of Solomon’s temple has filled the earth in every age. But what is all this material splendour, which has long since passed away, to this temple whose stones are immortal spirits--whose foundation is the rock of ages-whose walls no revolutions can ever shake--whose fair proportions shall be fully developed, amid the ruin of all the mightiest and loveliest works of human ingenuity and power--whose top-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings when the “heavens shall have passed away.” In surveying this building, note--

The foundation. This is the most important part; if this be defective, all the cost and labour of the superstructure will be in vain. But the foundation upon which this edifice is built is such as an Omnipotent hand alone could lay, and for which no other can be substituted. Christ is the foundation of the Christian Church, as He is--

1. The source of her being. The Church could have no existence but for Him. The spiritual stones that constitute the edifice are sinners ransomed by His blood, and renewed by His Spirit. Were it possible for the connection between the stones and the foundation to be dissolved, the whole edifice would become a heap of ruins.

2. The author of her creed. In regard to her doctrines she rests on no human authority, but takes them as they flow pure from Christ and His inspired apostles.

3. The founder of her discipline. His laws are few, and the principles on which they rest are equity and love. “One is your Master,” &c. “A new commandment give I unto you,” &c.

4. The guarantee of her stability and perpetuity. “Upon this rock will I build My Church,” &c. These were His words--this was His pledge; and “all power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth,” in this capacity, and for this very purpose.

The materials.

1. Immortal spirits, redeemed and regenerated men, lively stones, or what Paul denominates “gold, silver, precious stones”; the accredited and the durable materials which ministers are the instruments of placing in the Church. But in the visible Church there are materials of another kind--mere professors, hypocrites, formalists, “the wood, hay, stubble”; but they form no part of the true Church, but shall ultimately be removed from the edifice.

2. Whence are the materials taken? See these “living stones,” as in successive courses they rise to constitute and adorn the edifice. They are of various colours--from the white of Europe to the jet of Africa; every rank--from the monarch to the labourer. “They shall come from the east and from the west,” &c. “They shall come” from the eastern Brahmins--from the western savages--from the Southern Isles--from the northern Esquimaux; “they shall come” from the patriarchal and the prophetic ages--from the Jewish and the Christian dispensations. David, with the harp, shall be there; and Isaiah, with his evangelic songs; and Ezekiel, with his prophetic visions; mingling with the malefactor from the cross, and the poor beggar from the rich man’s gate. “They shall come” from every denomination: the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, &c,; all forgetting, or lamenting, that they should ever have been otherwise than one.

The instrumentality and agency. The instrumentality is human; the agency Divine. Yet the instrumentality is of Divine appointment; and, for the most part, inseparably connected with the agency. Though it is God who “giveth the increase,” yet Paul musk “plant” and “Apollos water.” Ministers are not architects, but simply workmen, employed under the guidance of the Divine architect. Nor can any one stone boast against another in respect of “the rock whence it was hewn,” “the hole of the pit whence it was digged,” for all alike are hewn out of the quarry of a common depravity. However much as they may vary in other respects, all are on a level here--alike “dead in trespasses and sins”; whilst it is “God who has quickened them together with Christ,” &c. I know that it is not with us to “limit the Holy One of Israel,” nor to say by what avenues He shall or shall not obtain access to the human heart. It may be affliction, &c.; but the ministry of the gospel is the main and ordinary instrumentality. Was it not by this that Peter “pricked to the heart” three thousand; that Luther shook the throne of papal tyranny; that Whitefield and Wesley aroused the slumbering Churches of Great Britain and America. What is it that has caused the Rose of Sharon to bloom amid the snows of Greenland? What is it that has gathered the savages of Kaffraria and New Zealand around the Cross? It is the preaching of the gospel in its simplicity and purity--and nothing less--that God will own and honour for this great and glorious purpose; Christ, in the sufficiency of His atonement; in the prevalence of His intercession, &c. (T. Raffles, D. D.)

God’s building

. God is our builder. If we climb some high hill near the sea on a fine day, we behold on one side hills and valleys; and on the other the tremendous ocean stretching to the horizon. Then we feel that our Father is a grand God to make such things. There are great buildings which men have erected, but there is no building which is so great as the splendid planet on which we live. But far more wonderful than the world is the body of man; but a grinder thing still is the soul, which God created to dwell in. It appears as if He had given to the soul of man a portion of His own almighty power. Does not the Scripture say, “Ye fight against God”? We have power to say “No” to the Almighty! But there is something far grinder and more precious still--it is the new spirit which is breathed in every man who believes in Christ. This is Godlike.

God has furnished a plan for the building--the life of Christ. It is the best life and nobody can improve on it. The Lord does not mean us to copy His style of garment, or to eat the same sort of food, or to be put to death on a cross. We are to copy His character.

God has also given a foundation for the building. “Christ Jesus.” Then, we are to believe His words and to build our actions thereon. Jesus is our foundation for the knowledge--

1. That God loves us as our Father. We are to live from day to day feeling certain of that.

2. That Christ lays down His life for us. So we are to rest upon Him for forgiveness.

3. That in Him are all things necessary for our peace. Build on Him, then, for all circumstances of trouble. (W. Birch.)

The Church God’s building

The apostle’s description of the church. “Ye are God’s building.” This building--

1. Has a proprietor. God is the proprietor of the site (the world), of the foundation (Christ), of the materials (sinners), of the builders (ministers), of its privileges here, and its ultimate glory in heaven.

2. Has an architect. Infinite wisdom and power. Before this building was commenced there was intention; it is the result of design.

3. Has a good foundation. Christ, called a “stone,” to convey the idea of stability and durability; and a tried stone,” to indicate that it is completely adapted to answer the purpose for which it is laid; “a sure foundation,” because no attacks of its enemies, no revolutions of time, no concussions of earth will ever shake or destroy it.

4. Has a grand superstructure. It is composed of materials properly fitted, to occupy a place in the building (1 Peter 2:5). The stones once had no connection with the building, deeply imbedded in nature’s quarry of guilt; but by the hammer of God’s Word and the energy of the Spirit, they have been detached from the rock, brought from darkness to light, &c. By regeneration, by sanctification, they are fitted for a position in the temple.

5. Has workmen--ministers, all Christian workers, missionaries.

6. Has perfect beauty (Psalms 48:1-14.; Song of Solomon 6:4). See the polished stones, bearing the inscription of “Holiness to the Lord.” See their love, union, benevolence. They are adorned with the righteousness of Christ, and bear the image of God.

The special design of the erection.

1. Magnificent. It is “a habitation for God.” What a glorious inhabitant! “God is known in her palaces for a refuge.” “Behold the heaven of heavens,” &c.

2. Gracious (Isaiah 66:1). “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion.”

The blessedness of being a part of his building.

1. It is honourable. It is the most glorious building that ever was erected. It is to be allied to the glorious Proprietor Himself.

2. It is advantageous. The state of a person is decided; he has realised the Divine power by which he has been fitted into the temple of God. This produces peace, contentment, joy, hope. He has an interest in all the promises and privileges of this house, and is a participant of all its provisions.

3. It is a state of safety. The Proprietor will never suffer this building to be destroyed. He ever watches over and defends it; He is a wall of fire round about it, angels minister to it, all the attributes of God are pledged for its security. (Homilist.)

The Church God’s building

The metaphor describes the work of God as being not the gathering together of certain devout souls wishing to abstract themselves from the corruptions of the heathen around them, and to shape their own lives after a nobler mode. Such persons might have dwelt in Corinth, exciting no remark, creating no enmity; the worst that could have befallen them would have been an idle scoff as enthusiastic strivers after an ideal of unattainable perfection. But by representing the Christian body as a Divinely erected building, he paints at one stroke a picture of tangible social system rising in the midst of the old heathen world like a new sanctuary in the centre of one of its temple-crowned cities, with the Christian community growing up in Corinth, with its groups of little children and its elder men, its ministry and ordinances of worship, its examples of whole households like that of St. Stephanas, enrolled by baptism among its members. This was not a philosophical school created by Pauline teaching, but an all-comprehensive, all-embracing structure, reared by a Divine hand, the abode of supernatural powers and operations, a structure which invited into it through its ever open gates all of every race, and age, and class, the Jew and the Greek, the vast slave population of the old world, as well as its most privileged citizens; and this in order, having gathered them within its walls, to weld them together into a new social system by bonds and principles which soon would supersede existing ties. Nor is this all. A building implies not a sudden emanation of opinion, but a construction of progressive stages, each based upon that which lies below; from the foundation which the earth hides, to the pinnacle which loses itself in the blue air. And so St. Paul speaks of their being “being built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets,” coupling together the living and the dead as a substructure of the Church of his day. Yes, even that Church of the first-born, in all the fresh light of its new faith, was to regard itself not as a creature of its own age, although Christ had Himself walked the earth in that age; but it was to know that its foundations went back into the depths of eternity, that its creed, short as it was, “Christ, and Him crucified,” gathered up into itself all the past revealings of God. Their legend, St. Paul would tell them, was no system of faith and morals lying on the surface of a single generation; it penetrated into the very secret of them all. The facts were the outcome of God’s determinate counsel working gradually century after century up to its accomplishment from the birth of time. Its precepts of love and holiness were not arbitrary precepts, but derived from the very being of God; thus the corner-stone of the building had been laid before the elder angels began to be. And as God does not create each human being separately, but carries forward His original work continuously, “making of one blood all nations of men,” so with the work of salvation, the Lord does not simply join to Himself those that are being saved, but He adds them to the Church, and that by the instrumentality of those who were Christians before them. Thus, you see, every generation of the baptized is bound together by a spiritual consanguinity with the generations which precede it. The creeds which we inherit from ages, the prayers whose solemn tones are prolonged among us from the remotest times, like the long-drawn note of solemn music through a cathedral; the influence of saints and doctors and confessors, indestructible as that influence is, whether men like it or not; all this is but the outward expression of that essential continuity which, through the one baptism and the one Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, has secured to the fellowship of His disciples. (Bp. Woodford.)

The spiritual temple

Its foundation. A wise builder is always most attentive to this, because the stability of the structure can only be secured by that of the foundation (Matthew 7:24). We are thus prepared to find the Church of Christ represented as built upon a rock, i.e., Christ. In His complex nature He becomes, by His obedience and death, the ground on which guilty men are brought to stand and live again in the favour of the Almighty (Acts 4:11-12).

The edifice.

1. The Church of Christ is an edifice composed of rational and immortal beings, brought out of a fallen state, to stand in an intimate relation to Him, and to God through Him. They are all united to Him in their hearts by faith, and meet together in that union. This Church hath both an outward form, and an inward grace. The visible Church is composed of all in every place, who make an open profession of faith in Christ. But many of these make this profession in the absence of any Divine principle of faith in their hearts. These are only nominally of the temple of God. They live upon a name. “Thou hast a name, that thou livest, but art dead.” The profession of the rest, however, is that which results from the principle within: for “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” &c. These are the true and real temple, “builded together for a habitation of God, through the Spirit.” As the practised eye of the jeweller discerns the real gem from the artificial resemblance, and uses means to make the difference manifest, that the precious may be separated from the vile, so does Christ distinguish those in His Church who are really partakers of “like precious faith,” from those who have the appearance of it only.

2. Such is the analogy to be traced between the spiritual temple of God upon earth, and a material sacred edifice. As far, however, as heavenly things exceed earthly ones, they are incapable of being fully represented by such, e.g.

(1) No stone moves itself to the foundation. It is taken from the quarry and carried to it to be placed upon it, without the possibility of its own concurrence. But here there is a principle of spiritual life, in consequence of which the individual goes to Christ to be redeemed unto God by Him and made to live in His sight. “Unto you that believe, Christ is precious; to whom, coming, as unto a living stone, ye also,” &c.

(2) Every stone in this Divine fabric is immediately united to the Foundation, and all of them that are equally near to it. This cannot be the case with a material building. But the souls of all believers in Christ are equally intimately united to Him by their own personal faith.

(a) The faith of the parent cannot save the child, nor that of the husband the wife.

(b) Neither have we any saving connection with Christ by an outward union to His Church and participation of its ordinances. “Being in the Lord” is a constant phrase of the New Testament in describing a state of salvation.

(3) Every portion of spiritual building makes increase of itself and the whole by the addition of other parts. This is out of question with respect to any erection of man. (J. Leifchild, D. D.)

Character built bit by bit

Remember that the building of a noble and Godlike and God-pleasing character can be erected on the foundation of faith only by constant effort. Growth is not the whole explanation of the process by which a man becomes what God would have him to be. Struggle has to be included as well as growth, and neither growth nor struggle exhaust the New Testament metaphors for progress. This other one of my text is of constant recurrence. It takes the metaphor of a building to suggest the slow, continuous, bit-by-bit effort. You do not rear the fabric of a noble character all at a moment. No man reaches the extremity, either of goodness or baseness, by a leap; you must be content with bit-by-bit work. The Christian character is like a mosaic formed of tiny squares in all but infinite numbers, each one of them separately set and bedded in its place. You have to build by a plan; you have to see to it that each day has its task, each day its growth. You have to be content with one brick at a time. It is a lifelong task, till the whole be finished. And not until we pass from earth to heaven does our building work cease. Continuous effort is the condition of progress. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Soul masonry

A good plan.

1. What is a good plan?

(1) A plan adapted to its purpose. If the edifice is intended for study, worship, business, recreation, or residence, the plan, to be good, must be fitted for its purpose.

(2) A plan aesthetically pleasing. Nature provides for the aesthetic instinct in boundless varieties of forms and hues. A plan that does not embrace all those lines, and curves, and proportions, and blended shades, that charm the aesthetic instinct, cannot be considered truly good.

2. What is the plan on which moral masonry should proceed? The character of Christ. This ideal has the two grand attributes of architectural excellence, fitness, and beauty. All history shows that such an ideal is to be found nowhere else. Men, alas, are everywhere building character on other plans: some by the plan of sensual pleasure, others by the plan of commercial greed, others by the plan of worldly vanity and ambition. But they are all unsuitable and unlovely. In them the soul is neither happy nor beautiful.

Good materials. However fitted and beautiful the plan, if the materials are poor, the stones crumbling, the tiles leaking, the timber rotten, the edifice will be anything but perfect. What are the materials with which we are to build up a good character? They are actions. If these are corrupt, the materials are bad; but if good, then the character is all right. Good actions are actions that spring from a supreme sympathy with the supremely good. Such actions are the gold and the silver and the precious stones that will bear the fires at the last day.

A good foundation. What is the good foundation of a character? Not conventional mortality, not religious observances, not orthodox creeds; but Christ and Him only. See in Matthew 7:1-29., the destinies of the wise man who built his house on a rock, and the foolish man who built on the sand. The one endured through the storm, but the other was swept away in utter ruin. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

God’s building

Now this comparison of building supposeth these things--First, that a people of themselves are nothing but so much rubbish, and that it is God who makes them this glorious building. That as you see the temple was built by excellent art. The trees in the forest and the stones in the quarry could never have prepared themselves, nor put themselves into so goodly a structure. So it is here. Men by their own power, their own ability and strength, could never become a fit habitation for the Lord to rest in. Secondly, it implieth that the matter of this building should be sound, precious, and substantial. Oh that you would think of this, what ye ought to be! Holiness to the Lord should be writ on your hands, foreheads, and whole conversation. Thirdly, it implies the gracious presence and power of God among His people. A house is the place where a man continually resides; and this is one great reason why God useth this metaphor to show with what rest and delight He will take up His habitation in His Church. Fourthly, this house or building doth imply God to be the Master therein, that He only may prescribe the laws and orders, what shall be done, and what not; He appoints every one his work and his labour. Fifthly, here is this further in this building. It is not an ordinary building, but a sacred and holy one. Therefore they are called the temple of the living God. Now then, what an astonishing consideration is this? Sixthly, it being a house, all within are servants, and so they are to do their Master’s work, to live to Him. “Whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Thus this health, this wealth, these parts, this time is none of mine; I must improve it for my Master. Seventhly, it supposeth order and government. The Church of God is a house; now that hath domestical laws. Paul did rejoice to see the Church’s order, and her faith (Colossians 2:5). Eighthly, unity, love, and concord among those that are in the same house. Oh, let this shame all animosities and quarrellings! Are we not of the same house? (A. Burgess.)

The church a building

1. It is a spiritual building. What our Lord Jesus say of His kingdom is true of His building, that it is not of this world--in it, but not of it (John 15:19). It is a building of souls.

2. It is a spacious building of vast extent. “I beheld, and lo, a great multitude,” &c. (Revelation 7:9).

3. It is a high building. Though part of it be here below, yet the top of it is as high as heaven. There it is that the glorious angels are, and the spirits of just men made perfect; all of this building.

4. It is a holy building (Ephesians 2:21). Holiness to the Lord is written upon the front of this building.

5. It is a living building. No other is so. The same who are quickened are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets’ (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:20).

6. It is a light building. This is one thing that makes a building pleasant, and comfortable--many and large windows. All the world besides is in darkness; it is the Church only that hath the true light.

7. It is a secure, a safe, building. The Church of God is such a building as the ark was (1 Peter 3:20-21).

8. It is a spreading, growing building. (Philip Henry.)

Verses 10-15

1 Corinthians 3:10-15

According to the grace of God … as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation … But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

All of grace

Now when we say a godly man acknowledgeth all to grace, consider--First, he doth it heartily, seriously. No fountain doth run more sweetly, fully, and purely than he doth. Oh, his heart is a happy spring from whence comes such rivers of living water! Secondly, this acknowledgment is accompanied with a renouncing all his own works. His own strength, his own duties, he doth not so much as think of them, nor mention them. Thirdly, this acknowledging it must be from an inward sense of our own sin and unworthiness, how ill we have deserved at God’s hand. No man can ever praise grace that hath not felt the sting of sin, the power of the law. Fourthly, he must wholly and solely acknowledge grace. He must not give some piece to grace and the rest to his own free-will. He must not by grace mean the outward manifestation and revelation of it, but the inward efficacy of it. Lastly, he must set up this grace of God in a Scripture way. Not to oppose godliness or holiness, or to sin more securely and boldly: this is not to acknowledge grace, but to abuse grace. In the next place consider why the godly are so sensible of God’s grace. And first, this is the final cause of all the good that God doth enable us unto. This is all He looks for. Secondly, the children of God are endowed with an ingenuous, free, and excellent spirit; therefore they cannot but confess by whom it is they have obtained grace. Thirdly, the real sting, smart, and danger they have been in makes their heart full and mouth full of the grace of God. Fourthly, they are an humble debased people in themselves. They have low thoughts of all that they do. And therefore it is that they are so precious with God. Fifthly, they must needs acknowledge grace, because they have the experience how hard it is to do anything spiritual and upon heavenly grounds. And therefore if they are ever enabled thereunto they cannot but exalt grace. Sixthly, to praise and exalt the grace of God, it is a very profitable and advantageous duty also. It is two ways profitable.

1. It procures more grace and mercies from God: “He giveth grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

2. This acknowledging of grace will enlarge a man, and make a man more willing and ready in all the ways of God. It is like oil to the wheel; it is like wings to the bird. Duties done with the spirit of praise and thanksgiving have great life and vigour in them. Now I shall add one caution: corrupt doctrines and opinions in religion may much cool this duty of giving thanks. I shall instance some. As first, the denying of original sin is a great engine against the grace of God. Secondly, the maintenance of free-will doth much detract from free grace. Thirdly, that the law is not to be preached; no, not for direction or obligation. Whereas Christ and Paul do often press this. (A. Burgess.)

A good foundation

This Paul makes the principal part of his wisdom, that he began with a good foundation. The point therefore in hand is of great consequence, both to the preacher and to the auditor, to consider what foundation his religion and godliness is fixed upon. For the opening of this, consider that divines do ordinarily make a twofold foundation. The one they call the foundation of our knowledge and faith in matters of religion; and this is the Scripture only. We can lay no other foundation for the matters of faith but the Word of God. Secondly, there is the foundation of the being, or existence of all our glory and salvation, and that is only Jesus Christ. I shall instance in four unquestionable foundations, which are the four main pillars that support our Christian building, for the necessary things of religion are these four. Either--

1. The matters to be believed.

2. The worship and necessary service of God.

3. The spiritual benefits and mercies, justification and salvation.

4. The things to be done by us in our way to salvation.

We will begin with the first, the foundation of our faith or Divine assent in matters of religion. What is that which every man must build his faith upon? And that is the Word of God. As God at first put all the light into the sun, and the stars shine by a borrowed light from it, so God hath now put all supernatural light into the Scripture, and all guides are to shine by that. Now that the written Word of God is the only foundation of our Christian faith, appeareth by these reasons--First, a Christian faith ought to be a Divine, supernatural faith, not a bare human faith. Now nothing can be the ground of a Divine faith but a Divine authority. Secondly, the Scriptures are only the foundation because they are the immediate verity or truth coming from God, who is the first essential truth. They have not only a Divine authority, but evident infallibility. Take a tree from the river side and plant it in a wilderness, what can you expect but withering? And thus it is if you take a man from the Scripture; his seeming faith, graces, godliness will all presently vanish. Thirdly, the Scriptures only are the foundation of faith because they are only immutable and unmovable. They abide always the same, they are not subject to changes, to perturbations of affections, as men are. Councils consisted of men carried by passions and- interests. Lastly, the Scripture is only to be laid for a foundation because this only is strong enough to support and bear up in sad hours of temptation and dangerous times of persecutions. Our Saviour quelled Satan’s temptations by arrows out of the Scripture quiver. Now for the matter of doctrine to be believed, some men lay four rotten and weak foundations; others may be reduced to this. The first is that of the papist, the authority of the Church and the Pope, being wholly ignorant themselves, but resting all on their authority. The second foundation men lay is the authority of the civil magistrate. This is a mere political faith. The third is private revelation and enthusiasms. Fourthly, another false foundation is mere human reason. (A. Burgess.)


The foundation therefore of every good duty or work we do hath these parts. First, there is a foundation by way of a direction or rule, to which everything we do must be commensurate, and by which it must be regulated, now that is the Word of God. For God’s Word is not only a rule of faith but of manners. And as thou must be of no other religion than the Word directs to, so thou must do no other actions or live any other life than that guides thee too. A second part of that foundation we must lay for the practice of holiness is the justification and reconciliation of our persons with God through Christ. Thirdly, another foundation we must lay is to receive power and strength from Christ only, both in the beginning and progress of Revelation 1:0 good actions. Fourthly, the last part of this foundation is a renewed and sanctified nature. Now let us consider why we are to be careful about laying this foundation. First, because it is very dangerous, and it is very easy to miscarry in this matter, if the foundation be not well laid thou art undone for ever. In matters of men’s estates, or of their bodily life, how careful are they to go upon a sure foundation. Only they wilfully venture their ruin in the matters of their soul. Thou wouldst be unwilling to live in an house whose foundation is rotten! Consider, then, am I in the right? Fear would make thee jealous and suspicious. Secondly, we mistake easily. We see the greatest part of Christians never attend to these things. And withal the difference between true and false foundations is spiritually to be discerned. Oh then say, I do the outward works of religion, I am careful to discharge them! But how easy may I build all upon a false foundation! Thirdly, therefore we must look to our foundation because of the great confusion that will be at last on those who have failed therein. Fourthly, therefore lay a good foundation, for if that be wanting, thou doest nothing but sin in all thou doest. In the third place, let us take notice what are those weak and rotten foundations that many men build upon in regard of their practice. First, a conformity to the life of others; they do as most do, they shall speed as well as they; what would ye have them to be singular, to be different from others? This is a most rotten foundation. Secondly, others build upon a partial practice of good things. The hypocritical Jews they rested upon their temple, their sacrifices, their outward worship of God; in the meanwhile their hands were full of blood, of unrighteousness and injustice. Thirdly, another rotten foundation is the mere work done. They consider no more than the external act of religion, of justice, of charity, and so they think they have obeyed the commandment. This was the Pharisees’ foundation. Fourthly, another rotten foundation is the goodness, yea, supposed perfection, of the work they do. (A. Burgess.)

Building on the foundation

To amplify this, consider, there may be a twofold building or addition to the Word of God, either destructive and corruptive, such as wholly overthroweth the true meaning and sense of the Holy Ghost. And this is a very dangerous sin. Or else perfective and explicative. Thus the New Testament was added to the Old as a perfective addition, not corruptive; though it could not have been added as Scripture, but that the authors thereof had a Divine infallibility. And now what the ministers of God in their ministerial labours do, it must be an addition explicative of the foundation, though it be not with Divine infallibility. Secondly, the Word of God, which containeth the foundation that the apostles have laid, may be either considered in respect of the words only, or in respect of the sense clothed with words. In the next place, let us consider why we ought so to take heed, and that is to be manifest in many respects. First, from God Himself, His glory and honour is greatly concerned herein. Secondly, on God’s part we are to take heed because He hath so severely threatened all those that add or detract to His Word. Any that shall alter these foundations or change these bounds. Secondly, on the people’s part. Therefore we ought greatly to take heed. For--

1. The Word of God in the true sense of it is the only food and nourishment of the soul.

2. If we build not on this foundation, the preaching of the Word loseth those glorious and excellent effects for which it is appointed.

3. On the people’s part we had need to take heed, because they are more prone and ready to receive any corrupt sense than the pure meaning of the Scripture.

Lastly, on the minister’s part it is necessary theft he should take heed. For--

1. He hath not a magistery but a ministry committed to him.

2. He is accountable for all the sin and error people run into through his neglect.

3. He must take heed because, though a man do preach the substantials and the necessary things of salvation purely, yet if he add or mix any corrupt opinions, though of a less nature, that man’s salvation is very difficult. (A. Burgess.)

The spiritual foundation

. The foundation.

1. Is laid.

2. Is one.

3. Is sure.

The superstructure.

1. Is in course of erection.

2. Is variable in character.

The test is--

1. Certain.

2. Severe.

3. Decisive.

The foundation of faith

The text establishes a distinction between fundamental doctrine and that which is not fundamental. It speaks of the foundation which must be laid in all Christian teaching. It speaks also of the superstructure, which varies according to the disposition or knowledge of the individual teacher.

Christian teaching may legitimately be carried beyond the limits of fundamental doctrine. There have certainly been seasons in the history of the Church in which its secondary doctrines have usurped the first place. Times of re-action, in which the Christian mind was recalled to the foundation, have in some cases promoted the development of other secondary doctrines, which have overshadowed the foundation no less than those which obtained acceptance before. One phase of the Reformation was a return to the heart of Christianity from the intricate subtleties of scholasticism. Yet Calvinism in its extreme development is at least as barren, and as subversive of all place and keeping in the mutual relation of doctrines, as any part of the scholastic system. It is no wonder that men are tempted from time to time to cast aside all but the most elementary doctrinal teaching, as to content themselves with accepting the bare letter of the Bible, denouncing every inference from it as a corruption of Evangelical simplicity. Far different was the teaching of the apostle. “As a wise master-builder I have laid the foundation,” he does not add “Let no man build thereupon;” but “Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.” While he disparages the “wisdom of this world,” he congratulates his converts that they “are enriched … in all utterance, and in all knowledge,” and declares his intention to “speak the wisdom of God” not indeed to the “carnal babes in Christ,” but “among them that are perfect” and able to bear the highest teaching. The Hebrew Christians also are reproved, as those of Corinth are, for their backwardness in the school of Christ (Hebrews 5:12-13).

“Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

1. To preach Christ is the chief office of God’s messengers. The leading events of the gospel history, the doctrine of Christ’s nature which is a necessary inference from and the only consistent explanation of those events, and the efficacy of His redeeming work which rests on the truth of His nature, make up one complex whole, the due and proportionate exhibition of which is preaching Christ. This is presupposed in all farther Christian teaching.

2. All more advanced teaching must rest upon this.

(1) It must not be inconsistent with it. For the superstructure may not merely overshadow, it may disturb and destroy the foundation. Doctrine which comes into collision with fundamental doctrine is a virtual denial of the foundation.

(2) It must stand in a definite relation to it and grow out of it. Thus the doctrine of the Sacraments cannot be duly taught, except as it is taught in connection with those of the Incarnation and Atonement.

“let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.”

1. There may be teaching which is not inconsistent with the leading Christian verities, and which nevertheless is false or worthless. Those who promulgate it will have to answer for it before God. “The day shall declare it.” Paul was thinking mainly of vain, subtle, and barren questions such as those against which he frequently warns Timothy and Titus (1 Timothy 1:4-7; 1 Timothy 4:7; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:16; 2Ti 2:23; 2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 3:9). But the words apply to every form of teaching which is in itself false and groundless, which is barren and unprofitable, and which ministers questions, rather than godly edifying.

2. If men are answerable for teaching which is not inconsistent with the foundation of the faith, how much more for that which directly or indirectly overthrows it. If vain and unprofitable religious questions cannot be raised with innocence, how can men teach heresy without guilt? If an unwise builder injures the Temple of God by unskilful workmanship, a judgment is pronounced against him: how then shall he escape, who has either never laid the foundation at all, or who (when it has been laid) has succeeded in disturbing it? (Bp. Basil Jones.)

Building the true life

. Christ is the foundation of Christian trust and character. No other King and Saviour of men is possible to those who know and understand what He was and taught. Great teachers of religion, and great examples of conduct, have been in the world: but in comparison with Christ, they are but stars in the firmament of the world’s night, which become lost to sight when the glorious sun has risen. He stands unique and preeminent in all history, the only true Saviour of mankind. A Congregational minister once said to a Unitarian minister, “Can you conceive of anything greater and higher than the life and teaching of Jesus Christ?” and the Unitarian minister frankly answered, “No.” “Then what is the difference between your conception of the character of God and the character of Christ?” and he as frankly said again, “That it was a very fine point.” The apostle, as a wise master builder, had laid this foundation as the basis of the new life; not himself, or Apollos, or Peter. The Corinthians were to be rooted and built up in Christ, and in no other. But they were to take heed how they built themselves up on Him.

Two structures are possible even upon Christ. A Christian life must have Christ as the model as well as the foundation. The gold and silver, and precious stones, that constituted the glory and beauty of Christ’s character, must constitute the glory and beauty of theirs. But it was possible for men holding some connection with Christ to build up a pile of perishable rubbish, a hut instead of a temple. They might mingle doctrines and practices which had no necessary connection with Christ and Him crucified; and they were doing it.

1. Some men never think of building up anything, but take life just as it comes. They have no plan of life to work at. Indeed, nothing is so irksome to such men as to live by rule. They live on impulses, come from where they may, from inward passion or from outward circumstances. Dreadful, indeed, is the fate of those who have tried to make this life a holiday.

2. Others live for a purpose; but they are building only for this world, and not for eternity. Their foundation is on the very surface of things, and as the building rises it tapers off into nothingness. A man may bring to it intellect, will, energy; and all for what? Perhaps to have it said of him, “That man started with half-a-crown, and he has made a fortune.” But the Divine soul within him has not been built up; his nobler nature has lain despised and neglected; he has been building up his circumstances, but he has not been building up himself.

3. I once watched the building of a new church, and remember what trouble they had in getting a foundation for the tower, and how long they were in reaching down to a solid basis of stone that would bear the immense mass of weight that was to rest upon it. I remembered also when the foundation was laid, how carefully the plan of the building was studied and followed by the workmen; how every principal stone was selected and measured, and chiselled to a nicety. It was all done by faithfully working according to the plans of the architect; and when the building was complete, it was but a transcript of what had been in the architect’s mind before a stone had been laid. It was a parable in stone of the manner in which a human life must be built. We must get down beneath the surface and rubble of things before we can reach Christ as our foundation, as the rock upon which our eternity of life is to rest. Hearing and doing His sayings is trusting to Christ; nothing more and nothing less (Matthew 7:24, &c.). He drew with a Divine hand and an unerring pencil the plan of a human life, not only by His words but by His deeds, to show what God meant in creating man. To believe in Christ is to believe that His plan is to be our plan, faithfully worked out after the living pattern He exhibited. But our mistake and disaster is, that we mix up the wood and the gold, the stubble with the silver, and the hay with the precious stones. One man has great gaps in his character because he thinks God regards faith as the transcendent virtue; and if faith meant the prompt and active loyalty of the mind to all Christ’s commandments, he would be right; but if faith is taken to mean an indolent confidence, such a notion will arrest the progress of the building up of the soul. Another man says that prayer is the principal thing. Now, though Christ says that we ought always to pray and not to faint, He says also that it is he who does His will who is most eminent before God. What would be otherwise gold, becomes wood or stubble when we put it out of its place, and make it a substitute for other equally essential things. The doors of a house are necessary things; but if we put them at the top instead of on the floor, they are useless and absurd. It is this jumbling of things which often makes the spiritual structure of our lives unsightly and unprogressive. We want symmetry,

If we could follow the Divine order in the building of the soul, how beautiful our lives would be! If the first act of the new life could be an act of faith, grandly receptive and grandly active at the same time; and if to such a faith we could add virtue or mental valour--an enterprise of soul that would launch us forth upon every difficult work with enthusiasm; and if to such valour we could join knowledge, &c., &c. (2 Peter 1:5, &c.). These are the gold and silver and precious stones of the Christian life, if we could but build them into our characters with symmetry and beauty.

We are like men who are building in the night, who cannot see exactly what they are doing, but every man’s work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, the full daylight shall show the true value or worthlessness of that which we have been building. A great part of the building that is going on is an unconscious operation, or nearly so. That which we knowingly build into ourselves is but a small part in the structure of our lives. A habit steals upon us with furtive steps, and embraces us with arms which are as soft as velvet but as strong as chains. We forget the work that has been wrought upon us in the past, because we were never distinctly conscious of its kind and extent. And so each man is a mystery to himself, an enigma in his own eyes. He feels that there is in him such a strange mixture that he is doubtful of himself, doubtful whether the gold or the alloy is in the larger proportion. Therefore the apostle exhorts us to take heed, to be vigilant, and as far as possible to know how we are building. For the daylight will break, and this compound structure which we call ourselves shall become more clearly defined by and by. (C. Short, M. A.)

Building men

St. Paul here calls himself a builder; and nothing could be more significant of the specific end he has in view than this word. The word “build” means work fitted to set up, to strengthen and establish. In this sense we see it illustrated in all the business and varied occupations of human life. The apostle, in his sphere as a preacher, was as much a builder as a carpenter, or a mason; for the work of an apostle was a most assured reality. It implied all the deep intensities of a most zealous soul in order to save and to bless.

What is a builder? A builder is one who brings together materials and adjusts them properly, in order to secure symmetry, strength, coherence, and beauty. A wise master-builder in God’s Church seeks soul after soul; its rescue from sin; so that each godly soul may take its proper place in the spiritual temple of the Lord Jesus. This process sets before us the vocation of a spiritual builder. He has two aims before him. His work is first to get hold of souls, and then, second, to fix them, as permanent parts or members of the Church of God.

1. This getting hold of souls is a great work, and success therein in the test of a real builder for God. For so great is the subtilty of Satan, and such is the hardness of the heart of man, that to effectually resist the one and to prevail with the other is the surest proof that the preacher is sent of God. No mere human learning, sense, skilfulness, or eloquence, can make a master-builder for God. No! He must have that spiritual magnetism by which one soul, strong in the might of God, can go out to another soul, and grapple with its guilt and hate, and overcome it by the love of Christ.

2. But souls, when saved, are to be fixed into the temple of God, as permanent parts or members thereof. Thus St. Paul tells the Ephesian Christians: “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of faith; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom,” adds the apostle, “all the building, fitly framed together, groweth into an holy temple in the Lord.” Here we have this permanent abiding of saints, their fixedness in God’s Church, graphically set forth. So much, then, with regard to the qualities of a builder.

Let us now consider what is the obligation of being builders of souls. Surely, it is to be this, or else to be destroyers! In the universe of God there are two great principles ever antagonistic, one to the other; that which conserves, and that which destroys. And to one of these two classes every one of us belongs. There are, indeed, differences of character and degrees of depravity. See the singular light which comes upon this point from the narrative of the rich man and Lazarus. When you examine the character of Dives you can discover nothing prodigious in immorality. But during his lifetime he was not a builder for God. Self, and not God, was the mainspring of his being. His life work was not to save and bless. Hence he was ranked with the class of destructives in time, and sent to keep company with them in eternity! It is your duty not to be destroyers, but to be builders, consciously and with purpose. Note here what God is--a Builder; ever since, as a great Architect, he laid the foundations of the universe, and built all the great fabrics of His creation: the globe, beasts, birds, fishes, and man, the crown of all! And if this is the fashion of the Omnipotent being of God, what then should men be, who are His image and likeness? Ought we not to be builders, as God is? How otherwise shall we show our similitude to Him? The new creation, in Christ Jesus, for what is it wrought in us, if not to make us co-workers with Him? Join to this the testimony of your own nature. Look into your spiritual framework, and see that in every way, the soul of man was fitted in every attribute to be a builder of souls. What is the power of thought but a power formative in all its activities? What is reason but a constructive force? What imagination but a creative faculty? Our physical members are also formed for creative action. Take the hand, and mark its wonderful adaptedness to operations creative and fashioning. It can demolish. But every one sees that that is not its special vocation. It was made to construct. Hence, naturally from the functions of the hand have sprung up the divers formative trades of men, in clay, wood, leather, stones, and metals. But the hand of man, of itself, had no skilful cunning, no ingenious art. No more than the claw of a bird, or the foot of a squirrel or a rat. But the hand is the instrument and agent of the soul. And because the soul of man is a builder, therefore it is that there are carpenters and wheelwrights, blacksmiths and machinists, ship-builders, stonemasons and architects, painters and sculptors. But what are all these functions and faculties of men, compared with the grand creative power of God? God made man in His own image. But man fell into ruin; and then God began again the refashioning of humanity out of the ruins of the Fall. And ever since He has been building up man, by all the operations of the kingdom of grace; by the workings of the Spirit. But angels, and men too, are workers together with God, to the same gracious end. Jesus died to build men. For this purpose the Holy Ghost descended on the day of Pentecost. So again, to build men, the ministry was commissioned, and the Scriptures were given. As God is a builder of souls, so are all His disciples. And although ministers are set apart to special duty in this grand work of soul-building, the laity of the Church, in a subordinate way, are likewise called the same solemn vocation.

And now, lastly, let us consider the classes of persons we should build up.

1. First, of course, ourselves. It is a great trust to have souls. Broken and impaired as are the spirits of men, they show, even in fragmentary powers, the skill of a Divine architect.

2. Next to ourselves, are our kinsfolk and relatives to be built up in the faith of Jesus. It is our duty to strive to build up parents and children in the most holy faith; by all the several means of training and teaching, by admonition, by prayer and spiritual example. In the family relation this is, without doubt, the most obvious of all duties to train up our children and servants. Build them! that is the word; not tear them down to ruin by indifference, by carnal indulgence, by foolish vanity!

3. But besides kinsfolk and family, there is a further outer circle of human beings separate from ourselves, for Whom it is our duty to live, and our aim to build up in the temple of the Lord. So, then, it seems quite apparent that our life-work among our fellow-men is primarily, constructive and restorative. Christ came to seek and to save the lost.


1. Do not destroy! Keep from ruining souls for whom Christ died! Do not destroy little children! Do not ruin women! Boys and girls, baptized into Christ, do not destroy! Nay, strive to save other boys and girls. Yea, all of you, do not destroy! Do not destroy by whisky or by wine! Do not destroy by cursing, nor by oaths! Do not destroy by scoffing or by filthy speech, or carousing.

2. Build! Strive to mould, to compact and strengthen the immortal spirits around you, that they may become powerful for Christ. Endeavour to root and ground every soul you meet in the truth. Labour to build men in the knowledge and love of Christ. Make it the aim of your life to strengthen and uphold, and build immortal souls. Build men! by speech, by influence, by godly example. Use every possible instrument and agency, both small and great, at all times, and in all places, in your families, in the world, at the workshop, on the highway or in the street, to save men, and to glorify Christ. (A. Crummell.)

Verse 11

1 Corinthians 3:11

Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The one foundation

. Men often try to lay another foundation.

1. Reason.

2. Self-righteousness.

3. The goodness of God.

They will all fail. Because--

1. Unauthorised.

2. Insufficient.

3. Delusive.

Christ is the only foundation.

1. Divinely laid.

2. Suitable.

3. Strong. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

No other foundation

In building, the first thing essential is the foundation.

1. A foundation should be broad and deep enough for the structure.

2. God Himself has appointed such a foundation (Isaiah 13:16).

3. There is but one foundation, and it is laid for all men.

Christianity is something more than a foundation--it is a building.

1. Christianity provides for regeneration of character.

2. The building is of gold, silver and precious stones.

3. Or it is of wood, hay and stubble.

Every man’s work will be tried.

1. The trial is to be “as by fire.”

2. There will be most astonishing revelations at this time of trial.

Some whom you haven’t counted as amounting to much in this world-behold how their buildings loom up in the light of that day. Others shall suffer loss--wood, hay, stubble, all consumed. (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

The one foundation. Christ is the sole foundation

Of all saving knowledge.

Of all acceptance with God.

Of all holy obedience.

Of all true happiness, and this both in the present world and the future. (W. Romaine, M. A.)

The one foundation

. The foundation. Christianity stands opposed to every system that has entered into the mind of man. It is an original system founded upon Christ Himself. So distinct is it from all that existed before, that it changed the whole system of public worship, and overthrew the altars of heathen idolatry. And if men deny that it was done by Divine influence, the onus rests upon them to show how it was effected. Christianity is intended as that which is to lay at the foundation of all our hopes, to the overthrow of all the imaginations and discoveries of man when left to himself.

The laying of this foundation.

1. The public way is to simply lay down the doctrines of salvation.

2. A personal way consists in my bringing Christ, by faith, to my own soul, and saying, with Thomas, “My Lord and my Odd!”

The sufficiency of the foundation. No foundation is laid, if this be omitted; and if this be laid, all the doctrines of the gospel are brought into harmony. Is man a ruined creature? “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Is man enslaved and lost? Jesus Christ is “made wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” Conscience condemns, and the law aggravates the condemnation; but Christ is “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” How many have built their immortal hopes on this foundation, and not one of them has ever sunk! And I appeal to your own experience. Is not this the foundation which has supported, and succoured, and sustained you?

The unity of the foundation. It is absolutely indivisible. In vain shall any man attempt to separate it. All the good works of the Christian are the fruits of his union to Christ, the foundation. All “holy desires, good counsels, and just works, proceed” from Him: and it is impossible to mix up anything human with that which is wholly Divine. (W. B. Collyer, D. D.)

The one foundation

There cannot be two of the kind, for--

1. God from all eternity has made His only-begotten Son to be the foundation. Of whom else is it written that verily He was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world?

2. It is Divine, and it is as impossible that there should be two foundations as that there should be two Gods.

3. Otherwise there must be two redemptions. There is--

No Church but what is built on Christ. Whatever community may call itself a Church, or even the Church, if it is not built upon Christ it is not a Church at all. A foundation is--

1. The first portion of a building; and so is Jesus first with His Church, for His people were chosen in Him (Ephesians 1:4).

2. The support of all, and there is no Church but that which derives all its support from Christ. Call the community a religious club if you like, but it is no Church--

(1) Where the atonement is denied or ignored.

(2) Which places its dependence for its present power and future progress anywhere but in Christ. If we depend upon the secular power, education, eloquence, prestige, or our own zeal and ardour, we are leaving the rock for the sand.

3. Has the shaping of the building, and the true Church forms itself upon Christ as its ground-plan and outline. His law is the law of the Church. All the decrees of councils, synods, &c., and all the ordinances of men, if they at all differ from the law of Christ, are treasonable insults to the majesty of King Jesus. Steadfast is that Church which carefully follows His guiding line, but that which departs from it has left the foundation, and therein ceased to be a Church.

4. Indispensable. You could do without certain windows, you might close a door, and remove parts of the roof, and still it might be a house, but you cannot have a house at all if you take away the foundation; and so you cannot have a Church if Christ be not the foundation. If any people find their joy in a teaching which casts the Lord Jesus into the background, they are not His Church. The Church is not formed--

(1) By the union of men with men. The best of men may form a league, for good and useful purposes, but they are not a Church unless Christ be the basis upon which they rest.

(2) By a mere union to a minister. The Church is not built on Paul, nor upon Apollos; we are not to be believers in Luther, Calvin, or Wesley, but in Christ.

(3) By the following of any particular form or rite.

No gospel but what is built on Jesus Christ. For--

1. There is but one Mediator, by whom God speaks words of grace. If, then, any man say, “God hath spoken to me, and bidden me say other than what Christ has said,” receive him not.

2. The true gospel has Christ’s Divine person as its glory, and there can be no gospel without this.

3. Christ is the essence of the gospel.

(1) If, then, you hear a gospel in which free-will, good works, or the forms and ceremonies, are set up as being fundamental things, it is not the good news from heaven.

(2) The teaching of doctrines is not the teaching of the gospel if those doctrines be taught apart from Christ. Paul’s body of divinity was the life and death of that only embodied divinity, the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-5).

(3) Some preach experience, and experience is admirable when Christ is set forth in it; but if you take up an experimental vein of things, whether of human corruption or of human perfection, and Christ is put in the background, you are marring the gospel.

(4) So, too, with practice. By all means let us have practical preaching; but merely to denounce vice and to extol virtue is a mission fit enough for Socrates or Plato, but does not well beseem a minister of Christ. His example shames vice and encourages virtue.

No hope of salvation but that which is built upon Christ. Some think it must be well with them because their parents were excellent Christian people. But if this is your only hope you are lost, for “Except a man be born again,” &c. “Ay, but,” saith another, “I had all the ceremonies of the Church performed upon me.” Yes, but they cannot bear the weight of your soul. “Ah,” saith another, “but I have diligently performed a great many good works.” Abound in good works, but do not trust them. Human merit is a foundation of sand. “But I have had spiritual feelings,” says one. Yes, but there is nothing in feelings and excitements which can be a ground of hope. “Why,” says another, “it has troubled me that I have not had these feelings.” Do not let it trouble you, but go to Jesus Christ and rest in Him.

No Christian but the man built on Jesus Christ. Here is a Christian, and of one thing in him I am sure: I cannot tell whether he is an Arminian or a Calvinist, but if he is a Christian he has no foundation but Christ. Every man to be a Christian must--

1. Rest his whole soul upon Christ as to eternal salvation.

2. Have Christ for his model.

3. Grow up in Christ, for the temple of God grows. Nor need we wonder, for it is a living temple. An ordinary, clumsy bit of work displays the mason and the carpenter, but perfect architecture looks as if it grew. But all our up-growing must come out of Christ.

4. Live for Christ. Christ’s glory must be the great object of his being. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The one foundation

St. Paul had described himself as a master-builder, whose office was the laying of foundations. The Corinthians thought any man could do that; the skill of the architect was shown in the building he raised upon it. A teacher who was fit for them could not be a mere teacher of elements. Those who only spoke of Jesus Christ and Him crucified might be very useful amongst barbarians. Men who had been used to hear the most various wisdom from Pagan professors, were prepared for the most advanced Christian instruction. This opinion probably was not confined to one of the sects into which their Church was divided. Those who called themselves after Apollos supposed that he had brought a lore with him from Alexandria which would fill up the imperfect outline that St. Paul had drawn. Those who used the name of Cephas thought that; circumcision would initiate into the highest privileges those who had been made novices by the rite of baptism. And the Pauline school will have indignantly disclaimed that their master preached a simple gospel. Had not he as much Rabbinical knowledge as Peter? Was not he better acquainted with Greek poets and philosophers than Apollos? Did he not make light of ceremonies to which they, in their infantine faith, still clung? Had he not been seeking for deep principles, while they were reverencing forms? The praise of seeking for principles, if it had been accompanied with no disparagement of his fellow-labourers, St. Paul would not have disclaimed. That was his aim; and therefore he was as much offended with the conceit of his admirers as of those who despised him. They, as well as the others, were missing that which was dearest to all three--that which they most cared to make the Church aware of, a foundation lying far beneath Paul and Cephas and Apollos, to a rock against which the gates of hell could not prevail. St. Paul, therefore, had to persuade these wise Corinthians that they were the stones of a glorious and Divine temple; that God was hewing and shaping them into their fit places in that temple; if they would know whereabouts they stood, they must give up disputing about the theories and opinions of this doctor or of that; they must ask, “What holds us all together?” This being the case, it was necessary for St. Paul to define more carefully than he did, when he was merely speaking of his relation to other teachers, in what sense he called himself a master-builder. He could not lay the foundation. All which teachers can do is to say, “There it is.” All which believers can do is to recognise it. That Christ, the Son of the Living God, of whom Cephas spoke in his great confession; that Word of God, whom Apollos and the Alexandrians declare to be the Teacher of all; that Jesus, the crucified, whom I have set forth in weakness and death; He it is on whom the edifice rests, by whom it alone consists. St. Paul’s conversion cannot be described more accurately than by saying that it consisted in his awaking from ignorance of this foundation to a full, clear apprehension of it. He had thought that there was something of his own which be could stand upon; some wisdom, or righteousness, or exclusive privilege, appertaining to him. That belief made him hard, narrow, savage. But the righteousness and wisdom which became so truly his own when he had renounced his own, this was the foundation which he could tell the Corinthians was lying for them as much as for him, the foundation which they were denying and setting at nought by their Greek factions, as he had denied it through his Jewish pride. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

The one foundation

1. Every wise man should sometimes look at his “foundations,” and especially at the “foundation” on which he is building his eternity.

2. Perhaps the chief danger is of treating as “foundations” what are part of the superstructure. And therefore you should take it as a first principle that the “foundation” is nothing which you have laid, or can lay. Your faith, love, change of character, good works, have nothing in the world to do with the “foundation.” They may be evidences that there is a foundation, and may be a test of how firmly we are attached to it, but they are not the foundation itself.

3. What, then, may I ask, is at this moment the “foundation” of your hope, of your eternal life? You perhaps say, “The love of God.” But that is not all you want. Can you find your foundation in the justice, in the truth of God? Has net God said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die!” And love can never cancel truth.

4. Is there, then, a “foundation” deeper and more sound than the love of God? Is there a “foundation” which shall reconcile and combine all the attributes of God? Yes. His love makes Him, as a Father, longing to forgive all His children, and His justice makes it to be unjust to punish what He has already punished in the Substitute. There, then, is safety.

5. But what has led me to that position of safety? Simply the act of believing, and as the Holy Spirit puts it into your heart to believe, we come to our conclusion that our “foundation” lies in the Trinity--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. They are all united to us in Christ.

6. Do any object, “It is too easy?” The grandest things of the universe are always the simplest. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The soul’s foundation

Christ is the foundation of all--

Gospel doctrine.

1. All gospel doctrines centre in Christ.

2. All the gospel titles arc taken from Christ. From--

(1) His names.

(2) His perfections.

(3) His Word.

Evangelical preaching. The object on which every minister--

1. Directs the eye.

2. Delights to dwell, must be Christ.

Acceptance with God. Christ is--

1. The atonement for our sin.

2. Our only way to God.

3. The remover of sin away from us.

Experimental knowledge. He is the foundation of both--

1. Theoretical; and--

2. Experimental, knowledge.

Holy practice. All our holiness is derived from Him. Application:

1. How destructive to the souls of men must those preachers be who lay other foundations than Christ.

2. Rejoice that the foundation of Christ is laid already.

3. Is Christ your foundation? (J. Sherman.)

The alone foundation

. The foundation.

1. We justify the appellation here given, and the situation thus assigned to Christ by a reference to--

1. His precedency. The foundation stone of a building is that which is first laid. Christ is called the “Ancient of Days.” In this appointment we have the richest displays of the everlasting love and wisdom and power of Jehovah.

2. His strength and stability (Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:6-7).

3. The strength which He imparts to His people. That which imparts stability to the superstructure is the foundation, and all the strength which the believer can boast he derives from Christ. It is by virtue of the union between believers, “the lively stones,” and Christ, “the foundation,” that the Church has, in all ages, been sustained amidst the storm.

The laying of this foundation.

1. When was it laid? “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were formed.”

2. By whom was it laid? “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone.”

3. How is it yet laid?

(1) Officially (1 Corinthians 3:10) in the preaching of the gospel. Hence--

(a) The minister himself must have an experimental acquaintance with the truths he promulgates. How can he recommend to others a “foundation” he has never tested and proved to be secure?

(b) He must be endued with the Holy Ghost. He may himself be truly established on this “foundation,” but this is not sufficient to enable him to lay the same “foundation” in the heart and experience of others. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts!”

(2) Personally. This consists in the response which your heart gives to the message which we bring.

The exclusiveness of this foundation.

1. Were we to attempt to lay any other among you, how direful the denunciation to which we were exposed (Galatians 1:8-9)! Laying another foundation, we act as traitors to God, handle the Word of God deceitfully, and basely betray the best interests of those of whom we may receive oversight, professedly in the Lord (Acts 20:28).

2. And as it is important that your ministers should continually bear this in mind, so it is no less important that you should carefully and habitually examine yourselves as to the ground on which you are resting your faith and hope. Remember, there is no other foundation needed, there is no other appointed. “A Saviour! ’twas all that earth could want, ’twas all that heaven could give!” (J. Gaskin, M. A.)

Christ, the only foundation

Under what view Jesus Christ is the foundation.

1. It is not His person merely, nor any views of His person abstractly, that constitute the foundation of which Paul speaks.

2. In attending to the subject before us, it is important to inquire who was Jesus Christ? This inquiry the New Testament fully answers. Not because He is God, but because He is the Christ, Jesus is the foundation.

3. It may be asked, Are we then to build our faith and hope upon a mere man? By no means. As it is not as God, neither is it merely as man, that Jesus is the foundation; but as the Christ, the Divinely commissioned messenger of God.

4. That it is as the Christ, as a Divinely commissioned person, Jesus is the foundation, appears from the plain declarations of the New Testament (Matthew 16:13-18; Romans 10:9; 1 John 5:1).

5. Christians are to build on the foundation of what Jesus revealed and taught. We can build upon Jesus Christ, or upon tits mission, only so far as we build upon the truth and grace of God which came by Him.

6. But is not the death of Christ, as a satisfaction for sins, the true foundation? However important the death of Christ may be, it is not the foundation; for when Peter confessed the truth which Jesus declared to be the rock on which He would build His Church, He did not know that it would be necessary the Messiah should die.

How God hath laid this foundation.

1. God laid Him as the foundation in His eternal purpose and counsel.

2. God laid this foundation in His ancient promises and declarations.

3. God laid this foundation by actually raising up Jesus as a teacher and Saviour, by giving Him His Divine mission, and all the qualifications necessary to execute it.

4. This foundation was firmly established by the miracles which God wrought by and in behalf of His Son Jesus, and by the apostles in confirmation of their testimony concerning Him.

5. By raising Him from the dead and exalting Him to glory.

6. In the ministry of the apostles God placed Jesus Christ before Jews and Genthes, before the whole world, as the foundation on which mercy is built and salvation prepared before the face of all people, on which He will establish the habitation of holiness, that all the earth may be filled with His glory.

7. This foundation was fixed in its place by all the Divine perfections, and hath remained unmoved through all succeeding ages, though exposed to hosts of assailants who sought to remove it.

Of what Jesus Christ is the foundation.

1. Jesus Christ is the foundation of Christian faith. What He taught, His disciples are required to receive; but nothing else ought to be made an article of faith.

2. He is the foundation of Christian privileges.

3. He is the foundation of Christian redemption. His gospel and resurrection are the only ground of an assured hope of redemption from death and the grave.

4. He is the foundation of evangelical righteousness. He hath furnished the principles and motives which will produce it: and no other principles but those contained in the gospel, nor any weaker motives, can produce true evangelical righteousness.

5. He is the foundation of our hope.

6. God hath laid in His Son Jesus the foundation of universal happiness.

Let every man take heed how he buildeth upon this foundation.

1. Take heed how and what doctrines you build upon Jesus Christ: that they be not contrary to reason; for to reason, He and His apostles appealed; that they be not inconsistent with the character and perfections of God as plainly revealed in the Scriptures; that they clash not with those plain facts and declarations of the New Testament which compel universal assent.

2. Take heed in what spirit you build upon Christ. You can neither build doctrines nor anything else aright upon Christ, any further than you do it in His disposition in a spirit of seriousness and piety, of meekness and humility, of purity and love.

3. Take heed what life and conduct you build upon this foundation; that it be such as becometh the gospel of Christ.

4. Take heed how you build upon this foundation, because your all is depending; consequences of the utmost moment are involved. A day of fiery trial will come. Try your own work of what sort it is. (J. Wright.)

Jesus Christ the foundation

. Jesus Christ as the foundation of the Church.

Some peculiarities characterising this foundation.

1. It is notable for its strength (Psalms 31:2-3).

2. It is remarkable for its suitability (1 Corinthians 1:30).

3. It is renowned for its perpetuity (Hebrews 13:7-8).

The folly of attempting to lay any other foundation. The way wherein other persons attempt to lay unjustifiable foundations are--

1. By relying on the directions of carnal reason (1 Corinthians 2:5).

2. By placing affiance in our own righteousness (Romans 2:5).

3. By trusting to God’s mercy without regarding the Saviour’s merits (1 John 5:10).

4. This folly appears from the sufficiency of the foundation laid (Hebrews 7:25).

5. It is a reflection on Jehovah’s wisdom and goodness (Revelation 7:12).

6. It involves the soul in remediless woe, to despise Christ (Acts 4:12).

This foundation then is--

1. Invaluable.

2. Necessary.

3. Most costly.

4. And eternally saving. (T. B. Baker.)

The gospel the only foundation of religious and moral dut


Jesus Christ is the foundation on which we are to build, inasmuch as it is from Him alone that we procure a knowledge of our duty. Look to the opinions and practices of man not blessed with the light of revelation, and you will perceive how imperfect is the knowledge of duty possessed by the natural man. Not such are the instructions as to the duty of man which are vouchsafed us by the gospel of Jesus Christ. The lives of professors must correspond with Christ’s commandments, that the building may be worthy of the foundation!

“Other foundation can no man lay than Jesus Christ,” because by Him alone are we instructed in the right principle on which our duty is to be performed. A sense of affectionate gratitude to God is the principle on which the whole duty of a Christian is established. This is the foundation of His religion: this is no less the foundation of His morality. Can any principle be so firm? can any be so pure? Honour may dazzle, custom may mislead, expediency may perplex us, and neither honour, nor custom, nor expediency will at all times support us in the discharge of our duty: but his “feet are set upon a rock,” whose “goings are ordered” by a desire of doing the will of a perfect and unchangeable, of an infinitely wise and holy Being. Again, unlike the principles of the world in another important respect, what motive of human conduct can be so pure as a grateful affection towards God? “God is love.” And human nature is never more exalted and improved than when it partakes most largely of the quality which is identified with God, when with the most devout affection “we love Him, because He first loved us.”

Jesus Christ is the only foundation on which we can build, because, as we are indebted to Him for the knowledge both of our duty and of the principle on which it is to be done, so also we derive from Him the power of doing it.

Jesus Christ is the only foundation on which we can build, inasmuch as it is He who renders our services acceptable to Almighty God

Christ Jesus then being the foundation, the only foundation on which we are to build, let us inquire whether we build upon Him in the several particulars that have been now passing under our view.

1. Is our practice regulated by that perfect law of religious and moral duty which Christ hath set before us in the gospel? Do we submit ourselves--our souls and bodies--our thoughts, words, and deeds--to the Christian commandments? Do we yield to their authority an unreserved, an unqualified, an universal obedience?

2. What is the principle which we choose as our actuating motive? Is it love for our heavenly Father?

3. In the execution of our duty, on what foundation do we build our hopes that we shall be able to perform it? Do we rely upon our own imaginary strength to support us in the hour of trial, or do we humbly depend upon the Divine grace?

4. After all that by the grace of God we have been enabled to do, on what foundation do we rest our hopes that our services will be accepted by God? Is it upon any value which those services possess of themselves, or, renouncing all claim to merit on our own parts, do we trust our cause to the perfect righteousness of Christ? (Bp. Mant.)

The sure foundation

. The foundation. In building, it is essential to begin with a good, solid foundation. If we have not that, we may take ever so much pains afterwards, but our labour will be all in vain. Now, there are many false foundations. Our selection of ground that will give way under the weight of what we put upon it is quite unlimited. But there is only one true foundation. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” All that teachers can do is to say, “There it is!” All that believers can do is to recognise it. It is God Himself who has laid it there for us. Wheresoever else than the love of God in Christ we repose our chief confidence and affection, it wilt sooner or later repent us and shame us, either happily in time while we may yet have recourse to Him, or miserably when it is too late. It is on this present world, on its pleasures, its riches, its honours most men try to rear the fabric of their happiness; but this world and all we can have in it will slip from under our feet like the sand. But let us remember that it will not avail us that a foundation has been laid, or that it has been already pointed out to us, if we do not make choice of it and use it.

The superstructure, or what is built on the foundation. St. Paul knew that the foundation was most important, and that, save on the one sure foundation, no lasting building could be raised; but he knew also that the foundation was not the house, that the discovery of a good foundation does not dispense a man from the necessity of building his house. We must build. We must not only rest on Christ, and Christ alone, for salvation, but must also “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” We must build, and to build is to labour. If we cannot build even the smallest cottage without the exertion of putting each stone in its proper place, still less can we, without exertion, build up our lives into temples of God. To do so is the grandest of all works, and for that very reason it is one which needs the most thought and trouble. It demands a constant putting in of what is solid and true, and a constant casting out of what is hollow and false. He who would build up his own self, his own mind, and heart and soul gradually into a perfect manhood, must see to it that every day, every hour contributes somewhat towards that result. Some accession of knowledge, of self-control, of practice of good, and conquest of evil. Six kinds of material for building are mentioned in the text, but they may be reduced to two--good materials and bad: those which will stand the fire, and those which will not. Gold, silver, precious stones--the fire will not burn these; wood, hay, stubble--it will burn these. The various good materials may be of very different degrees of goodness. The various bad materials are not equally bad. A house, not so very uncomfortable for a while, may be constructed of wood, but not even a tolerable hut can be made out of hay and stubble. Yet all are bad; for even wood, if fire come near it, will be speedily reduced to ashes. All this is perfectly applicable to our own lives. We may build with different degrees of diligence, and what we do day by day may be most unlike in a thousand respects; but all we build must have its source either in love to God and holiness, or to self and sin, and will either be approven or condemned. The very best of worldly lives will be found then as miserably insufficient as a house of wood, however well built, however commodious, however imposing without, to resist the fury of the flames; and, on the contrary, no life which has been prompted by love to Christ and a sincere endeavour to do the will of God, however far it may have fallen below what it ought to have been, will be proved by the fire to have been other than enduring and precious. Let us live, then, as nobly and sublimely as we can; but, oh, at least let us live sincerely and righteously.

The day which will try the building of each one of us. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” The apostle, I think, refers here in part to any time of peculiar trial, any day of testing. There is many a day of this sort, and they often make strange revelations. Either adversity or prosperity, for instance, may serve to test the work of our lives, and both often find far more wood, hay, and stubble therein than either we or others suspected. Every day of sore affliction is a day of fiery revelation. A man is living altogether for this world, wholly engrossed with his farm or merchandise, so as to have no thought beyond that; but God lays him on a bed of sickness, brings him to the very verge of eternity, reminds him of his sins and of the condemnation which awaiteth sin, and, oh, how clearly he then sees that he has been living like a fool and judging like a fool, that this world which he thought so real and so important is a shadow and a vanity, while that other world, which he never thought of, is alone substantial and eternal;, that he has been preferring wood, hay, and stubble to gold, silver, and precious stones. It is, however, mainly to a greater and more terrible day than any of these that Paul refers; it is mainly to that awful day on which there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, neither hid that shall not be known--that day into the light and heat of which no work, however subtle, or obscure, will not be brought, so that its true character may be made manifest--that day which, as we are told by a prophet, will burn like an oven, so that not one wicked life, not even one bad feeling, or one base act, will pass successfully through it. Since there is this day coming, it surely well becomes us to habituate ourselves, to bring our conduct, to bring our most secret feelings to the test of that law by which they will then be judged, and, through the grace God never denies to those who sincerely seek it, conform ourselves to that law now as far as we can, that it may have the less to condemn in us then. (R. Flint, D. D.)

The foundations of life

. The foundations include almost all that we call life, in a large view. The individual is like an apple-blossom at the top of some tall and spreading monarch of the orchard. The entire tree is to that flower a foundation, out of which the blossom unfolds. The flower cannot change its place, cannot develop into anything but an apple. Its destiny is bounded, its efforts limited to a very narrow place. It is mainly so with a man. He is a consummate flower on the tree of humanity. For his personal development all the foundation facts are inevitable and irrefragable. The physical, intellectual, and moral worlds he cannot alter by the breadth of a hair. He can only build upon them. A century of progress has tended to bewilder some minds into the hope of new foundations. To such men progress seems a thing of changing the bases of life, but it is nothing of the sort. It is simply and only the uncovering of eternal foundations, that we may build more broadly. The widened palaces of civilisation are wider, because we have found more of God’s unchangeable foundations. Every improvement, every application of an invention, is made possible by uncovering a little more of the unbreakable rock. Look at social and political changes in the same light. A vast number have been proposed in this century of ours. A few have succeeded, because they struck solid foundation. They rose upon the basal facts in the nature of man and his social and moral conditions. The dreams of idealists and utopians have come to naught, because they had no granite undergirding of eternal law. You might as well try to change the constituents, or their proportions, of water or air, as to attempt to vary by a scruple the moral order of the world. You might as well try to defeat gravitation as try to abolish one jot or tittle of any of the Divine order. Nearly everything is settled. It is ours to find out how it is settled, and to rear our house on that solid ground. We are on a foundation. God’s fire, God’s waves, God’s tempests, will always keep their steady ways: it is ours to make ourselves secure against the fire, the waves, the storm-wind. So is every moral law, every and unchangeable fact in our nature, every invincible barrier in our liberty. We must uncover this bed-rock if we would build securely.

All forms of unbelief resolve themselves into incredulity respecting fundamental law. Men are incredulous about law, because a merciful provision postpones the penalty. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, the hearts of the children of men are fully set in them to do evil.” Nature seems to the careless to be infinitely tolerant of law-breaking. Her process of punishment, like her processes of growth, are slow, and are so concealed that the children of men are snared as birds are snared. If every carelessly caught cold should kill, consumption would not reap its awful harvests. If one glass of liquor caused death, there could be no alcohol habit. In none of these cases is nature tolerant or indifferent; the penalty is delayed just as the maturity of a fruit is delayed, but it comes in “the evil time.” We sin by inches and die by inches, because we refuse to see the penalties of vice, gluttony, carelessness, or drunkenness. Because sentence is not executed speedily, men build cities over the ruins wrought by earthquakes; and the sides of Vesuvius bloom with gardens and are green with olives, and villages sleep in the lava paths below; and on our streams towns sleep in fancied security, where floods work periodical desolation. Men caught in the net of their physical sins are apt to have the courage of confession. They admit that they ought to have believed in the fundamental law. But when snared in the evil nets of passion or vice, they are apt to regard their conviction and punishment as an accident or injustice. No man violates one of the Ten Commandments with impunity. The very act of sinning inflicts a punishment.

We must build upon the eternal foundations. We cannot build at our caprice the foundations themselves. But it is of much moment to remember that our own work becomes fundamental to further work. On God’s rock we lay our own foundations. The walls above are imperilled by the weakness of the walls below. Poor materials in the basement crack the roof overhead. The tall towers rock and reel because the undergirding is unsound. There are gifts of speech which Jack the support of the gifts of wisdom. There are capacities for action made useless for lack of capacities for reflection. There are mature manhoods which are inefficient because they are not built upon an industrious youth. There is an old age mourning over a life of neglected opportunities. There are souls that have repented of pleasant vices too late to recover in this world the joys of innocence.

The individual man has more conspicuous need of building on what is noblest in his past. This personal past is characterised by what we call the law of habit. The thing once done tends to be done again. The good and the bad in the past have a common interest in this foundation. We cannot unmake the law. We are at each new step influenced by the path we have travelled. It has brought us here; it has set up a tendency to go right on. But our past has good to be selected from. If the immediate last steps were wrong, still our feet have known the other path. Some one may ask what I make of that doctrine of grace which lies so close to my text. I reply that grace is as much and as fully a foundation under moral life as gravitation is a foundation of physical life. We do the men of our generation infinite damage when we speak of grace as though it were a matter of Divine caprice. God helps men who seek His help as truly as He helps men who sow and reap. There is no wait of more contingency in the one case than in the other. Grace is the inspiring name for the Divine co-operation with man.

To suggest the importance of making our noblest past the material for building our future, let me call your attention to our present business. In short, we can build. Our building is on God’s land and up towards His skies. All that distinguishes our personality comes out of personal aspiration and endeavour. One man’s life is a filthy hut, another is a stately palace. The bed-rock below every fixed fact of material or season is the same for both. The builders have made the enormous difference in the results. (J. Wheeler, D. D.)

The Christian foundation

Christ is the foundation of--

Christian doctrine.

1. If it be of man we reason, of his sinfulness, his corruption, his mortality; even here shall our foundation be laid in Jesus Christ. For in His Word is our fall most plainly set down, and by the necessity of His sacrifice is the enormity of our guilt most plainly proved. How deep must be that sinfulness which no less a sacrifice than one so precious could atone for!

2. If it is of God we speak, of His nature, His attributes, His dealings with mankind; here must our foundation still be Christ Jesus (John 1:18).

Human duty. If we consider what line of conduct men ought to pursue, as most tending to their own happiness, either on earth or in heaven; the same reference is made to the will and grace of Christ. In the gospel only can we find any sufficient rule of excellence. There only can we learn how to become pure in heart, lowly, meek, kind, and charitable. There only are we taught sufficient motives for doing what we ought to do, or avoiding what we ought to avoid.

Eternal hope. Without His revelation and His merits how dark and dreadful had our future been. Or if aught we could suspect of any further existence, it was an apprehension of punishment. But in the gospel of Christ “life and immortality are brought to light.”

Church ordinances. If hither you resort to pray remember it is because Christ is in the midst of you (Matthew 18:20). If here you offer praise, it must be above all for the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ. If hither you bring your children to be baptized, it is because Jesus Christ ordained this holy rite (see Matthew 28:19). If hither your dead are borne to burial, it is because Christ is the resurrection and the life (John 4:25). And here also should you apply this rule to the celebration of those holy mysteries, in which Christ is Himself set forth before us, His very body and blood received through faith, and made effectual to the strengthening and refreshing of the soul. (C. Girdlestone, M. A.)

Christ the foundation

. The properties of Christ as a foundation.

1. He is a laid foundation (Isaiah 28:16). Christ did not take upon Himself this honour. He that could best tell what would best serve pitched upon His own Son for that purpose.

2. A low foundation. Foundations are wont to be laid low, the lower the surer. So the Lord Jesus (Philippians 2:6-9). There were several steps of His humiliation.

(1) Into the human nature.

(2) Into subjection under the laws.

(3) Into poverty and persecution, contempt and contradiction.

(4) To death itself.

(5) To the grave.

3. He is a foundation of stone (Isaiah 28:16). A stone is the fittest thing for foundation, because it is hard and firm, and yet easily hewn. Now Christ is a rock (1 Corinthians 10:4).

4. He is a foundation out of sight. All foundations are so. Christ is out of sight, not below, as He once was, but above, in glory.

(1) His person is out of sight, yet we love Him (1 Peter 1:8).

(2) His presence is with us everywhere, especially in His ordinances, but in an invisible way (Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:20).

(3) His proceedings are invisible--those of His grace within; of His providence without (Psalms 77:1-20, ult.).

5. He is a precious foundation (Isaiah 28:16). Though all stones in their place be useful, yet they are not all precious stones. Few buildings are built upon precious stones, but the Church is. Christ is precious--

(1) In Himself. “The chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.”

(2) In the account and esteem of His disciples. To others He is a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence (1 Peter 2:7).

6. He is a permanent foundation (Isaiah 26:4)--the rock of ages, from everlasting to everlasting. The saints have been building on Him from the beginning, and will build on Him to the end of time. He is “the same yesterday,” &c. His righteousness, His promises are unchangeable.

7. He is an elect, or chosen foundation (Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 42:1).

8. He is an experienced or tried foundation. He was tried--

(1) By God, who laid upon Him the iniquities of us all.

(2) By men and devils, who did their best against Him, bus all to no purpose.

(3) By the saints, who have had occasion to make use of Him, and He has never failed them.

Our duty in reference to this foundation.

1. To believe all this concerning Him.

2. To see our need of Him. We have each of us a building to rear, and what foundation have we? None in ourselves.

3. To renounce all other foundations. They are but sand (Matthew 7:24).

4. To repair to Him. In the way of faithful and fervent prayer tell Him you are sensible of your need of Him, and that you are undone without Him.

5. To build upon Him.

(1) In the great business of justification.

(2) In all our perils and dangers (Psalms 46:1; Psalms 62:1; Psalms 26:2).

6. To beware what we build upon this foundation, in opinion and in practice (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). If we build loose, careless walking, our hopes built will be accordingly wood, hay, stubble, &c. (Philip Henry.)

Christ the foundation

When the immense stone piers of the East River bridge were begun, some years ago, the builders did not attempt to manufacture a foundation. They simply dug down through the mud and sand, and found the solid bed rock, which the Almighty Creator had laid thousands of years ago. It is a wretched mistake to suppose that you need to construct a foundation. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Your own merits, however, cemented by good resolutions, will no more answer for a solid base than would a cartload of bricks as the substratum of yonder stupendous bridge. God has provided for you a corner-stone already. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Christ the only foundation

Of the Christian Church. It was already built upon Him as its historical foundation. He was the reason and account of its existence, so that if He had not lived and died, its existence, as Paul found it, would have been inexplicable. Some hold that Paul, not Christ, was the founder of Christendom--a theory he by anticipation contradicted. “Was Paul crucified for you?” &c. If the Church is built on she labours of apostles, apostles themselves rested on the Chief Corner Stone.

Of Christian thought and life.

1. Christ Himself is the only foundation on which the soul can build, and not merely--

(1) Doctrines abort Him. Not that Scripture texts, or the creeds are to be disparaged. We prize both for His sake but not Him for theirs, and to rest upon them as distinct from Him would be like building on a measuring rule instead of on the granite of which it has given us the dimensions.

(2) Feelings about or towards Him. These are great aids to devotion; yet what so fugitive and unreliable. And after all they only point to Christ; their root is in ourselves, and we cannot supply the foundation stone out of the exhausted quarries of unrenewed human nature.

(3) His work. For this can only be appreciated in the light of His person. His death is at best heroic self-devotion, if it be so much as that, unless His person is superhuman; and no more reliance can be placed upon it than upon the death of Socrates.

(4) His teaching. For the persistent drift of this is to centre thought, love, adoration on Himself. Relatively to Himself, it is part of the superstructure. His disciples learnt devotion to His person through listening to His words; we believe His words because we know whose words they are.

(5) His sacraments. These are only picturesque unrealities, unless He who warrants them lives and is mighty. Apart from Him they have no more validity than our armorial bearing or a rosette.

(6) His example. Take only the pattern of humility (Philippians 2:1-30.). If He is only the Son of Mary His condescension is but one acceptance of natural circumstances. His example in this and in other respects is only a power on Paul’s hypothesis.

2. In modern times an effort has been made to put His power in the shade, as if it did not affect the essence of the gospel. What Christ was, or is, men say cannot matter if we profit by His teaching and example. And that is true, if Christ was merely man. And a high-minded, disinterested man, after doing his best for his fellow-creatures, will withdraw as far as possible from their notice, But we know that Christ imposed His person, and not merely His maxims upon the thought and heart of the world, and this departure from the ordinary instinct of high human goodness must have depended on the fact that such a course was necessary. It implies that Christ’s person was in His own deliberate estimate of more importance than His teaching or philanthropy. But all is sufficiently explained, if we believe with Paul that Christ is God. Otherwise to make Him the foundation of the soul’s life would be to substitute a creature for the Creator. A purely human Christ might be the architect, and even the scaffolding of the spiritual temple; He could not be its own foundation. (Canon Liddon.)

Christ the only foundation

. The nature of this foundation. It is to the atonement, principally, that the apostle refers.

1. It was prepared from eternity.

2. It was made known by revelation.

3. It was finally laid at the death of Christ.

Its peculiarity. Christ is the only foundation--

1. That God has appointed.

2. That the Scriptures will warrant.

3. That the righteous have in every age relied upon.

The advantages of trusting on it.

1. It promotes the glory of God.

2. It produces evangelical obedience.

3. It secures safety, honour, and happiness.

(1) In the season of adversity.

(2) In the hour of dissolution.

(3) In the day of judgment.

Conclusion: Let us--

1. Seek to obtain correct views of our true condition as sinners in the sight of God.

2. Beware of building on any false foundation.

3. Allow nothing to move us from this blessed hope. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

Christ the sure foundation of

1. The Church.

2. The Christian congregation.

3. The Christian life.

4. The sinner’s hope.

5. The hope of men. (W. F. Stevenson, D. D.)

Christ the strong foundation

The “foundation” is that from which everything springs, while itself bears all the weight. So from Christ all that is beautiful in the whole structure of the Church starts; and back to Him every part throws its heft and burden.

1. Christ was the “foundation” of the material world. For His sake, chiefly, this world was made--to be the scene of the display of His exceeding power and love to the glory of the Father (Proverbs 8:23-31).

2. So that when this world fell to ruin, there was the eternal Son of God ready to be the beginning of a new and better creation. As the promised Messiah, at the gate of Eden, He stayed the hand of universal death; and this earth and everything that is in it lived on, for “He was before all things, and by Him all things consist,” i.e., hold together.

3. After that, all along, underlying the whole Jewish dispensation, there was that expected One, the “foundation” a thought of every Jew till, in due time, He came. And the cradle of Bethlehem was the “foundation” of a throne before which every throne shall crumble into dust--of a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.

4. Of this kingdom of grace and glory the threefold fundamental principal is--

(1) The person of Christ, that He is God and man--man to constitute Him a representative; God to give efficacy to the representation.

(2) The work of Christ--that He paid the debt of the whole world, and wrought a righteousness which can make the whole world good in a holy Father’s sight.

(3) The glory of Christ--that He is occupying heaven for us, and there exercises all regal functions for His people’s sake.

Foundation presupposes superstructure. And with the superstructure you have to do. And the height of the superstructure will be according to the depth of the strength of the “foundation.”

1. The foundation of all prayer is the Christ that is in it. Realise that your prayer is made prevalent by His intercession, that whatever you ask in the name of Christ shall be done.

2. Works are good and acceptable to God just according as they proceed from love--the love of God. But you cannot love God till you are in Christ, Good works are sweet evidences; the pinnacles and the decorations of heavenly architecture; but no foundation.

3. Is there any one in this church who has not peace? It is because Christ is not in His proper place. He is not laid deep enough in that poor heart of yours. Nothing else can bear the weight of that sin of yours. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The true foundation of character

. There is as analogy between the formation of character and the erection of a building.

1. In the variety of its materials. Moral character is built up by impressions, the emotions, thoughts, volitions; by all, in fact, that in any way affects us.

2. In the unity of its design. Every building, however varied its materials, is formed on some plan. The master-purpose of the soul, whatever it may be, gives unity to the whole.

3. In the function it fulfils. Buildings are generally residences of some kind or other. The soul lives in the character. In some cases the home is the mere stye of the animal, or the shop of the barterer, or the prison of the guilty, or the temple of the saint.

Christ is the only foundation of a true character. There are sometimes splendid edifices and poor foundations, and the reverse. All characters are based upon some one idea.

1. Some on the sensual idea. Such as that on which the prodigal son started; such as that on which Dives built his all. Millions now do the same. What shall we eat, what shall we drink? is the grand inquiry.

2. Some on the secular idea. On this Judas, the young lawyer, and Demas built; and on this thousands build now.

3. Some on the ambitious idea. Absalom, Haman, Herod, are examples of this. Such, too, are the Alexanders and Napoleons of general history.

4. Some on the Christian idea. Supreme sympathy with God, and this requires Christ for its existence. Christ is its foundation, for He does the two things to generate this sympathy. He--

(1) Demonstrates to man the propitiableness of God.

(2) Reveals to man the moral loveliness of God. Thus He is the true foundation.

To Christ as a foundation men bring worthless as well as valuable materials. There are edifices--

1. Partially formed of “wood, hay, stubble.”

(1) The mere creedal character is worthless. There are those whose Christianity is a mere thing of idea.

(2) Mere sentimental character is worthless. There are those whose Christianity is a mere thing of frames and feelings.

(3) Mere ritualistic character is worthless. There are those whose Christianity is a mere matter of form. All these are things of no solidity, value, duration.

2. Entirely formed of valuable materials brought to Christ. They are formed of “gold, silver, precious stones.” The heart is in vital sympathy with Christ as the Atoner for sin, the Exemplar of holiness, the Saviour of the world. The profoundest thoughts, the strongest sympathies, the gold and silver of the soul, are connected with Christ.

There is an era to dawn when all the edifices built on this foundation shall be tried. Individually, it is the day that dawns at the end of our mortal life. Universally, it is the day that dawns at the end of this world’s history. The fire of absolute justice and truth will burn to the centre of all souls, consuming all that is worthless.

1. This day will be injurious to those who have built on this foundation with worthless materials.

(1) They will suffer loss. There will be the loss of labour, of opportunity, of position.

(2) Though they suffer loss they may be saved. Their favourite theories and cherished hopes shall burn like wood and hay, yet they themselves may survive.

2. This day will he advantageous to those who have built on this foundation with right materials. (D. Thomas. D. D.)

Fundamental truths explained, and popular errors exposed

We have--

A striking figure. Christ is compared to a foundation. There are four ideas connected with Christ as a foundation.

1. Selection. A foundation stone is not taken at random--wisdom and care are required in the choice of it. The motto inscribed on this stone is, “Chosen of God and precious.” When any great building is about to be erected, it is customary for some person of eminence to lay the foundation stone. “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone.”

(1) How striking was the description which represents Him as a “tried stone.” He was tried in His humiliation, tried by the lapse of ages, by the malice of devils, by the opposition of His enemies, and in the experience of His friends.

2. Suitableness. The Divine and human natures which meet in Him render Him suitable for the work He undertook.

3. Strength. The Saviour has strength to sustain. He sustains millions who are now in glory, and multitudes who are on their way, and the whole universe cannot furnish one instance of an individual being confounded who reposed here. But there is strength to destroy (Daniel 2:34-35; Matthew 21:42-44).

4. Stability. This is well represented by a stone; yet, however durable, the elements have power over it. But “time that doth all things else impair,” has no power over the foundation of the Church. Eternity claims it as its own--it shall stand unshaken amidst the shock of judgment--and when all nature shall sink in ruins, “verily the foundation of God standeth sure.”

A solemn fact. Christ is the only foundation. The apostle plainly intimates that attempts would be made to lay other foundations. Let me take you to three spots where men have tried to build their hopes for eternity.

1. Carnal reason. I mean the reason of man set up in opposition to, and in defiance of revelation. We would not undervalue reason, nor condemn its use in religion, for religion itself is a reasonable service. In all the doctrines of Christianity there is nothing contrary to reason, though there is much that infinitely surpasses it. There must be some standard by which to guide our views and feelings in reference to the interests of the soul, the claim of God and the solemnities of eternity. Where shall we find such a standard? Pride of intellect has set up reason; the wisdom of God revelation; and to make the latter bow to the former would be as preposterous as to make the sun acknowledge his inferiority to the glimmering taper.

2. Self-righteousness. This error assumes a variety of forms all of which are fatal. Here is a benevolent individual who wishes well to all around him. The acts of his liberality we cannot but admire, but we deplore the principles by which he is prompted to do what he does; he prides himself on his generosity, and imagines that God will accept him, though the general tenor of his conduct is opposed to Christianity. Let him come to the temple of Christianity, and read on the stone which unites and sustains the whole--“Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Let him enter the building, and there read for himself--“Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,” &c. Here is another individual strictly moral, a respectable and respected member of society, a good husband, a kind father, a generous master, and a sincere friend. Now all this is well and praiseworthy, so far as it goes, but all these excellent traits may be found in their fullest extent while the heart is estranged from God. The man prides himself on his morality, and is attempting to make of it a bridge over which he shall pass to heaven. But here is another individual who makes a considerable profession of religion, his creed is sound, his life regular, his attendance on the means of grace punctual, &c., but he knows nothing of the power of grace or the experience of religion. How many seek to make a ladder of their religious duties that shall reach to heaven!

3. The general goodness of God. Many wish to be saved, but in their own way. They will not comply with the terms proposed in the gospel--they would have salvation, and yet retain their sins--they desire heaven, not because they love holiness, but that they may escape hell. We must take it as a gospel axiom, that if the salvation of Christ is in the soul, the dominion of Christ must be set up in the heart. Conclusion: Let me seriously inquire whether I am building on this foundation. It was laid in the eternal counsels of the Sacred Three--in the fulness of time in the person, work, suffering, and sacrifice of Christ--and is now laid in the preaching of the gospel. (Ebenezer Temple.)

Christianity ultimate and absolute truth

1. What we know of the way of the world hitherto prepares us to believe that a great many things which are now serving their purpose will be superseded. And that we cannot see how, gives us no assurance that certain things shall not be got beyond. In travelling, there may be something beyond railways. In communication, no one can say that the telegraph is the ultimate wonder. And in all the arts and conveniences of life, the case is so too.

2. There is one thing, however, which will never be superseded. The world has seen various religions; but the truth, as it is in Jesus, is absolute and ultimate truth. We may have to learn, perhaps, that things which we think to be part of Christianity, are not, and to give them up as our fathers had. But, in the face of all possibilities, we turn to the comfortable assurance in the text. There is no “Christ that is to be”: the One Christ has come, once for all. Among the ultimate and unchangeable truths are--

The way in which each of us must be saved. A vital thing, which cannot go amid all coming changes, is salvation through the atonement of Christ. We are sure of nothing if we are not sure that “Christ died for our sins.” And no theory of the way of salvation but that which is familiar to us can bear being calmly looked at by any man who feels it his duty to accept the Word of God as decisive. We do not think that it is in any way profitable to push revealed doctrine into minute details; but we cannot regard it as other than vital part of that foundation besides which there never can be another, that Christ is a Saviour: that His sufferings were sacrificial, and borne for us: that by His obedience and death He reconciles us to God, satisfies Divine justice, and secures sanctification as well as forgiveness: that His atoning work is complete, and that its benefits are offered freely to all who will receive them.

The rule of duty and help in duty.

1. You are not more sure of your own existence than that the requirements of Christianity as to duty will never grow less and can never grow greater. You cannot conceive of anything beyond perfection. Nor can you recall anything that lies outside of “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest,” &c. And there is set before us for constraining example the life of One who was sinless in humanity, perfect in Godhead; and we are bidden to grow like Him.

2. Then, as for the help for all this there can be no change. As for the grace, guidance, vitality of the Holy Spirit--these, too, will be needed and are guaranteed to the end. Conclusion: There may be other things nearly associated with the scheme of Christian belief which will endure. Christian worship, surely, must always abide, though the accessories may greatly change. Surely there must be prayer, and praise; and even preaching must in some shape last. “Till He come” again, too, the sacramental commemoration of the Great Sacrifice, and the feeding upon it by faith, is appointed to continue. Yet it is rather doctrine than ritual that is pointed to in the text. (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

Religion illustrated under the form of a building

. The foundation. Christianity is threefold. Its doctrines are the walls which enclose and preserve the interior parts of the building, its duties are the beams and rafters which keep its several parts together, and are its strength and firmness. Its privileges are the furniture placed in this edifice. Now, Christ is undoubtedly the foundation of each.

1. As to doctrines, whether they concern our fall or our recovery, a state of grace here or of glory hereafter, certain it is, Christ is the foundation of them all--not only is He the centre in which all the lines of doctrine meet, but also the fountain from whence they flow. So is He also the one source of all spiritual illumination. From Him all the sacred penmen derived their instruction, and from Him we must receive the ability to understand what they have revealed. So that whoever would build up the walls of Christian doctrine must be careful to erect them on Christ, his Prophet.

2. But Christ is the foundation of Christian privileges, i.e., the blessings procured by Him for men, and bestowed upon all true believers, as the pardon of sin, the favour of God, adoption, the indwelling of His Spirit, the resurrection of the body, and everlasting life. Whosoever, therefore, would enjoy these blessings must build all his confidence and hope respecting them on Christ; and they who look for them in any other way build upon the sand.

3. The duties of Christianity can only be built on the same Rock of Ages. And here I refer to a right temper, as well as a regular behaviour; a pure heart, as well as a holy life. Now Christ’s laws enjoin all this, and His Spirit inspires it; from His love it springs, and to His glory it is directed. It derives all its value from His grace, and depends for acceptance upon His mediation.

Its superstructure (1 Corinthians 3:12). What a glorious temple must that be which is raised upon a solid rock with such costly, splendid, and durable materials as “gold, silver, and precious stones” I And what a glorious spiritual temple must that be which is built on “the Rock of Ages”; of no worse materials than faith, love, and good works!

1. We must build faith upon Christ, or we must build upon Him by faith. Is Christ “a Teacher sent from God,” He the High Priest of our profession, He our King? Then we must believe in Him, receiving His doctrines, relying on His promises, and subjecting our hearts and lives to Him.

2. This faith must be followed by love.

(1) The love of God, which, as a fruit of faith, must be built upon Christ, is not merely a high esteem of Him, nor a desire after Him as our chief good, but also a complacency and delight of soul in Him as our Father and our Friend, who, in and through Jesus Christ, is become our portion in time and eternity.

(2) And as this love is in union with the love of our neighbour which is a resemblance of God’s love to mankind.

3. With great propriety are good works compared to precious stones, whether we regard their real worth or apparent beauty. Valuable and costly in themselves, they shall adorn the crowns and beautify the robes of the followers of Jesus in that day when God shall amply reward even “a cup of cold water” given in the name of Christ. Real good works spring from living faith and the love of God shed abroad in the heart; they are done in obedience to the Divine will, and with a view to the glory of God, and hence, be they ever so insignificant as to the outward act, they are truly precious in His sight.

4. But, alas! many begin to build with gold, &c., but by and by build with no better materials than wood, &c. Others never make use of anything better than sapless, combustible wood; the best modes of worship and religious duties, where the Spirit of God is wanting, are no better than mere hay; and the best systems of doctrine, where the gospel does not come with power, are of no more use than dry straw.

The issue of all (1 Corinthians 3:13). “Every man’s work shall be made manifest” (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 10:26), “for the day shall declare it.”

1. The day of trial here will generally discover what character we possess, and if our religion is built up of nothing better than “wood,” &c., it will be consumed and vanish.

2. The day of death shall prove a man’s faith and piety, as a furnace tries the metals, and those who are mere dross shall be burnt up by it.

3. The day of judgment (Malachi 4:1; 2 Peter 3:10). (J. Benson.)

Building for eternity

All Christian men build for eternity upon one and the same foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11).

1. Sin had laid the world in a state of ruin; and if another temple could be constructed it must have a foundation firmer and broader than that which fallen nature could furnish. Human sagacity might suggest penitence, reformation, suffering. But none of those, nor all united, could answer the purpose.

2. When the incompetency of the law had been demonstrated, God “laid in Zion a foundation”; and “he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded.” As Christ is the foundation of the universal temple of God, so is He also the foundation of each believer. It matters not in what clime they have fixed their dwelling, &c. In Christ they are one, and on Him, as their common support, they repose.

Christian men greatly differ in the materials which they use in the erection of the building.

1. Some build “gold, silver, and precious stones.” The superstructure which they rear is of a costly and glorious character. The materials are emblematical of preciousness, purity, solidity, and permanency. There are some characters formed of elements as pure and indestructible as the principles upon which they are reared.

2. There are others who build on the same foundation “wood, hay, and stubble”; materials which are perishable, corrupt, and comparatively worthless.

There will be a period in which these materials shall be revealed in their true nature, and tried by the severest test (1 Corinthians 3:13). The day referred to is clearly the day of judgment. Independent of revelation, we have many evidences confirmatory of this truth.

1. Analogy. Everything here tends to a final close. The universe itself is marching on towards dissolution.

2. The aspirations and the forebodings of humanity. The moral character of God. There must be another day in which that which is now wrong and imperfect shall be rectified and completed.

The building constructed of pure materials will abide the test, and the builder be recompensed (1 Corinthians 3:14).

1. The work of the wise builder is indestructible. As it regards--

(1) Himself: his sentiments, feelings, spirit are in harmony with the laws of heaven.

(2) Others: the doctrines, &c., are right and Scriptural. As a necessary consequence, the fabric erected of such materials cannot but abide. Having been erected on the same principles which have the throne of the Eternal, their period of duration will be analogous.

2. The builder shall be rewarded. His reward will be a reward of--

(1) Grateful recollection.

(2) Inward satisfaction.

(3) Remunerative labour.

(4) Public approval.

(5) Divine recompense.

3. The reward shall be in proportion to the work done. “Every man shall receive according to his own labour.” Heaven will be what we make it on earth.

The building constructed of perishable materials shall be consumed--the builder sustain loss, but with difficulty saved (1 Corinthians 3:15). The very idea of erecting “wood, hay, and stubble” upon an everlasting foundation was highly imprudent. What could be more incongruous, or more indicative of misplaced labour? However, such a building cannot stand; the investigations of the last day are more than it can bear.

1. As a consequence “he shall suffer loss”--

(1) Of labour. All that he has done, with one exception, has been done in vain.

(2) Of inward satisfaction. He might have reared a durable building; but he wasted his time and energy in another way.

(3) Of hope. He expected his labour to be accepted by his Judge and rewarded accordingly. He is now stripped of all such anticipations.

(4) Of reward. A reward can never be given but in connection with service rendered. This loss will be everlasting in its effects; it shall be a detriment to him to all eternity.

2. He himself shall be saved. The groundwork abides upon which he has been erecting, and, in virtue of this, he is safe. (D. Evans.)

Life as a structure

A foundation laid.

1. The idea is the radical one that no one can begin to live rightly and well just as he is. Sin has touched and tainted the deepest things in us. We cannot even begin. And this is not only the Bible teaching, but the conviction of almost the whole world.

2. Immense numbers of men are busy in the vain attempt to lay a foundation of their own. And as builders drive in piles into the marshy ground, and throw in vast loads of earth and stones, making a foundation on which they rear their house to last for its century or two, so men in imagination carry out of themselves their good deeds, sufferings, penitence, recognitions of Divine mercy, &c., to lay down as a basis on which they may raise the structure of hope and happiness. Vain toils! The gulf is too deep and the materials have no real strength or worth.

3. God, looking down says, in condemnation, yet pity, “Behold, I lay in Zion,” &c. Jesus Christ, then, is the foundation. The needed work is done. “It is finished.” The gospel is a message, far more than an argument; an announcement of work done, rather than a discussion as to the way of doing it. On this we rest. The foundation of God standeth sure. We are safe, we are strong, if we build on that. There are many mysteries yet unsolved, but this is clear, that God has laid the foundation.

There is a building to be raised. A foundation without a building is a solecism.

1. After laying the foundation God tells us that we may build a house, and ought to build a temple. “Wood” was used for the posts and doors; “hay,” or dried grass mixed with mud, for the walls, and “stubble” or straw for the roof. These are never used for temples. The temples were built of “precious stones,” such as granite and marble, and they were adorned with “gold and silver.” God stands close by the foundation He has laid, waiting for the builders to come. Come, be a builder. Put your trust in Christ. Faith in Him is the first stone laid on the foundation, and without it no other can be there. A man may be, according to the human judgment, great, and good, and happy, but if he does not believe in God’s chosen foundation, his life is essentially defective, and must collapse in the end.

2. But the apostle is speaking to those who have begun, and in effect says, “Having begun, go on. Build diligently, that you may have a completed structure--carefully, that it may be composed of the proper materials.” There is a certain kind of Christian teaching and writing which condenses everything in Christian life and experience into faith: “only believe. That is all.” No, says the apostle, that is not all. Lay the first stone securely on the foundation which is laid, then add another, and another. Act by act, day after day, let the temple grow. In the compass of three verses four several times the apostle mentions a man’s work. Lay the precious stones one upon another. Bring in the gold and silver for the enrichment and adorning of this living temple.

(1) And beware lest unwittingly you should be using the wood and the hay and the stubble, which must perish at last. A man, e.g., comes to Christ, he yields to Him, is pardoned, renewed, and rejoices for a while in his complete salvation. For years he keeps his place and builds on. But what is his building? “Wood, hay, stubble,” low views, superficial opinions, evil tempers, worldly habits--just such things as irreligious men are building into their lives. Then let us be careful to build with the right materials, and all the more because the wrong ones are so rife and so near. Errors of every kind, but especially religious errors, are very abundant, some of them looking quite like truth. We shall build them up into the system of our faith ere ever we are aware; if we do not give earnest heed. Vices also abound, and some of them are so fair. And a multitude of things are around us which cannot be called either errors or vices, which yet will make very indifferent materials--ways of thinking, speaking, acting; the spirit of the place.

(2) But let no man be discouraged, as though there were but little chance of being able to build up his life without large intermixture of such inferior stuff. Good materials are available--truth, virtue, strength, wisdom and love. If we ask them they will be given to us. God has taken care for this. He has filled His Book with truth. He has filled His providence with moral helps. If we diligently study the one and live faithfully amid the scenes of the other, He will fill us with His grace and salvation day by day, so that we shall grow unto an holy temple in the Lord.

There is a time given to finish the work. And when the limit of that time shall come, not one stone more can be laid. “I must work the work of Him that sent me while it is day,” &c. And no man can tell when the night shall come. Look at the tombstones in a graveyard. You will see every age recorded there, and remember, as you read, that every name recorded is the name of a builder who, in the day given to him, began and finished a building that will be tried by fire.

1. Here is a stone that tells that an infant was born, and after wrestling with mortality but for a few days, died and was buried. But that little history was the building of a temple, and when it was finished the angels carried it away.

2. Here is a stone that marks the resting-place of a little worker. Mere shapings and scantlings of work there were--a little serious thought, a little faith and love, some tiny steps of following after the great Master: nothing, as some would say, to make a finished life. You are mistaken. That little workman will never need to be ashamed. He has finished a temple life.

3. This is a maiden’s name. She was looking to the bridal-day, and death came unbidden, but not unwelcome, for He led her up to the higher espousals of heaven. Father, mother, lover have written on the stone that “her sun went down while it was yet day.” But the angels have written “eventide”; the Saviour has written “finished.”

4. Here lies a merchant who was in the full stretch of his powers. His name was a synonym for truth and honour, and all around are the beginnings he had made. Nothing was finished. Yes, all is finished, and he lies here.

5. And now we come to the grave of the old, old pilgrim. The shock of corn seemed more than ripe. He was blind, deaf, in pain, helpless. Would it not have been better that he had gone some years sooner? No, no. It was the right time. He needed all his days and all his experiences to finish the temple.

The fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. Our day is now. “The day of the Lord” is coming. Then our day will begin once more beyond, Go have no more ending. But there must be judgment before glory. The apostle brings out this idea with truthful and unsparing severity. Again, and again, and again he mentions “the fire”! and how shall I dare try, with my misleading instincts, to quench God’s holy fires? They will burn all the same, and be the more consuming the less men expect them.

1. God resolves to take us through that last ordeal, sparing nothing that will burn, and bringing us out, if need be, with nothing left to us of all our sore labour under the sun, that we ourselves may be saved--saved so as by fire. And which is best? Our poor human shrinking and longing, or God’s holy will? For would you have “the wood, the hay, the stubble,” yonder as well as here--calcined and hardened and preserved by those fires which were too feeble to consume them? Better stand at last in his full and complete salvation, than in any respect or for any length of time come short of it. Day of God! Day of Christ Jesus our Lord, with awful yet with loving desire we would look on to thee! The Lord grant to us that we (whatever may come of many of our works), that we may find mercy of the Lord on that day.

2. But let us, on the other hand, remember that nothing in us, which is truly Christian, can fall in those flames at last. And a little of these things is just as indestructible as much. Good is gold always, and will pass through any fires. If it is mingled with alloy the fire will be its salvation. And you do not know how the little services you are rendering will expand into nobleness, when the spirit and principle of them are known and declared. Not one precious stone which you put into your life will ever crumble, not one particle of gold or silver can perish. He whom you serve will gather up all the fragments so that nothing shall be lost. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

On the Rock

One day a female friend called on the late Rev. William Evans, a pious minister in England, and asked how he felt himself. “I am weakness itself,” he replied; “but I am on the Rock. I do not experience those transports which some have expressed in the view of death; but my dependence is on the mercy of God in Christ. Here my religion began, and here it must end.”

A false foundation

One was once brought, in the course of providence, into the company of a young lady who was just recovering from a dangerous illness. Speaking of her illness, among other things, she said, “At one time I sent for my honoured parents, and beloved brothers and sisters, and took, as I thought, my last farewell of them. Both the physicians had given me up, and my friends expected to see me no more.” “We seldom meet with a person,” said the other, “who has been so near to death as you have been. Pray tell me what were your feelings when you were on the verge of eternity.” “I was happy,” she replied. “And will you please to tell me what were your prospects?” “I hoped to go to heaven, of course.” “Had you no doubts, no fears, no suspicions?” “None.” “Perhaps almost all hope to go to heaven; but I fear,” said the young man, “there are many who have no good foundation for their hope: pray, on what was your hope founded? “Founded!” she replied: “why, I have never injured any person, and I had endeavoured to do all the good in my power. Was not this sufficient?” “It is a delightful reflection,” said the student, “that you have never injured any person, and it is still more delightful to think that you have done all the good in your power; but this is a poor foundation for a sinner to rest upon. Was this the foundation of your hope?” She seemed quite astonished at the question, and eagerly inquired, “Was not this sufficient?” The student did not give a direct answer; but observed, “I am very thankful that you did not die.” “What! do you think I should not have gone to heaven?” “I am sure you could not in the way you mentioned. Do you perceive that, according to your plan, you were going to heaven without Christ?--a thing which no sinner has done since Adam fell, and which no sinner will be able to do while the world stands. Be very thankful, dear Miss, that you did not go out of life resting on this delusive foundation: for had you done so, the moment that you entered eternity, it would have given way, and you would have fallen through it into the bottomless pit.” God carried home this word to her soul: light broke in upon her mind. From that day a decided change took place in the young lady’s views; and a corresponding holiness, and love, and zeal, and usefulness, have adorned her life. (Scripture Doctrines Illustrated.)

Admonitions to ministers and congregations

. To ministers (verse 11).

1. Ministers are to preach as the foundation--Christ. Recollect what Paul’s own Christianity was: a few facts respecting his Redeemer’s life, a few of his Master’s precepts out of which he educed all Christian principles, and on which he built all that noble superstructure--his Epistles. Remember how he sums all up (Philippians 3:10). His life, death, and resurrection, working daily in us, “being made manifest in our body.” Christianity is Christ; understand Him, breathe His spirit, comprehend His mind; Christianity is a life, a spirit. Let self die with Christ, and with Him rise to a life of holiness, and then you need not care what discussions may arise; you stand upon a rock.

2. On this foundation we are to build the superstructure. Christianity is a few living pregnant principles, and on these you may construct various buildings. Christianity is capable of endless application to different circumstances, ages and intellects. Now in the words of verse 12, observe that there are not six kinds of superstructure, but two: gold, silver and precious stones, the materials of the temple; wood, hay and stubble, of a cottage; but in these buildings the materials of each are of various degrees of excellence, and the latter, good, bad and indifferent. Now what do these symbolise? Perhaps doctrines or systems; but more probably persons. Some of straw, utterly worthless; some of silver, sound, good, but not brilliant men; some of gold, characters true to the very centre; some of precious stones, men in whom gifts are so richly mingled with useful qualities that they are as jewels in the Redeemer’s crown. And such was the author of this Epistle.

3. Now there follows from all this the doctrine of the rewardableness of work. All were one, on the one foundation; yet they were not one, in such a sense that all their work was equally valuable, for, “every man shall receive his own reward according to his labour.” Therefore, Christian men, work on--your work is not in vain. A cup of cold water, given in the name of a disciple, shall not lose its reward.

4. There is also here a distinction between the truth of work and its sincerity. In that day nothing shall stand but what is true; but the sincere worker, even of untrue work, shall be saved (verse 15). Sincerity shall save him in that day, but it cannot accredit his work. But what is this day? Generally speaking, time; more particularly the trial day, which every advent is, and especially the last. Nothing gilded or varnished will remain; for just as fire burns straw so must all that is not based on the truth perish. Then elaborate systems of theology shall be tried and found worthless. Then many a Church order, elaborately contrived, shall be found something unnecessarily added to the foundation, and overlying it. And then many a minister, who has prided himself on the number of his listeners, will be stripped of his vain-glory, if that which seems to be souls won for God, turns out to be only hearts won for self.

To congregations.

1. A warning against all ministers who should so teach as to split the Church into divisions (verse 21).

2. A warning against sectarianism, on the ground of Christian liberty (verse 21). Man enters this world, finding himself in the midst of mighty forces of which he seems the sport and prey. But soon Christianity reveals to him God’s will, which makes these things co-operate for his good. And so he learns his own free-will, and uses them as the sailor does the winds, which as he uses them become his enemies or his friends. Then it is that he is emancipated from the iron bondage to circumstances: then all things are his--this marvellous life, so full of endless meaning, so pregnant with infinite opportunities. Still more death, which seems to come like a tyrant, to lead hint to higher life. Paul is his, to teach him freedom. Apollos his, to animate him with his eloquence. Cephas his, to fire him with his courage. Every author his, to impart to him his treasures.

3. St. Paul refers all this to the universal law of sacrifice: all things are ours on this condition--that we are Christ’s. The law which made Christ God’s has made us Christ’s. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Christ the only foundation

First, therefore, He is to be laid down as the only foundation in respect of knowledge and instruction. Secondly, we must preach Christ the foundation of all strength and power, from whom we receive all ability to do anything that is good. “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me” (Philippians 4:3). Thirdly, Christ is preached as a foundation when He is exalted in our ministry to be the Head of the Church and He that governeth all things. Fourthly, Christ is to be set up the only foundation in respect of mediation and intercession with God. Fifthly, from this floweth another necessary way of preaching Christ a foundation, viz. of acceptation of our persons and duties. Sixthly, Christ is to be preached as the foundation of all fulness for all our necessities and spiritual wants. Two or three particulars more we are to instance in by which it may appear in what Christ is laid a foundation. Seventhly, He is to be preached as the Fountain of all the happiness, joy, and spiritual content the godly hearer can have. Eighthly, Christ is to be preached as the Person with whom we are to close in all ordinances. Lastly, we are to preach Christ, not only as the foundation of our approaches to God, but of all God’s gracious actions and visitations to us. In the next place let us consider the reasons why we ministers are to lay no other foundation but Christ: to make Him all in all. First, it is the main end and scope of the Scriptures only to exalt Christ, and the end of the ministry should be the same with the end of the Scriptures. Secondly, as the Scripture, so God’s great purpose and counsel from all eternity was, to set up Christ and to have Him glorified. Thirdly, we must preach Christ the foundation, because in Him there is such a treasure of the riches of God’s grace and God’s love. Fourthly, therefore are we to exalt Christ in our ministry, to lay Him the foundation, because in heaven, though Christ will then lay down the exercise of His mediatory kingdom, yet the glory and honour must be given unto Him for ever. Fifthly, the necessity of preaching Christ the foundation ariseth from the ignorance of people who do grossly err about Christ both doctrinally and practically. Sixthly, the necessity appeareth because of the subtilty and enmity of Satan, who has continually set himself against Christ and His Church. Seventhly, we have the more need to exalt Christ because there is proneness in every man to trust to his own work. (A. Burgess.)

Verses 12-15

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Now if any man build on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble.

Classic buildings and their materials

In such cities as Ephesus, where this letter was written, or Corinth, to which it was addressed, there was a signal difference (far greater than in modern European cities) between the gorgeous splendour of the great public buildings and the meanness and squalor of those streets where the poor and profligate resided. The former were constructed of marble and granite; the capitals of their columns and their roofs were richly decorated with silver and gold; the latter were mean structures, run up with boards for walls, with straw in the interstices and thatch on the top. This is the contrast on which St. Paul siezes,… not, as sometimes the passage is treated, as though the picture presented were that of a dunghill of straw and sticks, with jewels, such as diamonds and emeralds, among the rubbish. He then points out that a day will come when the fire will burn up those wretched edifices of wood and straw, and leave unharmed in their glorious beauty those that were raised of marble and granite and decorated with gold and silver, as the temples of Corinth itself survived the conflagration of Mummius, which burnt the hovels around. (Dean Howson.)

The perishable from the imperishable

One man writes a big book about baptism, and says it means “immersion,” and winds up by thanking God that, whatever other men have thought fit to believe, he has had grace enough to take up his cross and follow Christ! Another man writes another big book and says it is not immersion, and thanks God, if he has only been sprinkled, he is not so uncharitable as some people! And then they read each others’ books, and “vain janglings” follow, as the apostle calls them, “whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, and perverse disputings.” “Stubble!” Every inch of it. For all purposes of profit to the kingdom of Christ--worthless. The fire shall consume their books and the injury will be, not to Christ, depend upon it, but to themselves. “If any man’s work shall be burned he shall suffer loss,” &c. I was asked if I thought Roman Catholics would be saved. “Saved!” Assuredly, if they believe Christ died to save them. “But they practise auricular confession; they offer prayers for the dead; they celebrate the mass; they invoke the saints; they pay homage to the Pope.” Undoubtedly; and as we believe, unhappily and unlawfully, they do. But if they believe in Christ, is all this to imperil their salvation? Is not this the “wood, hay, and stubble” of their false systems in God’s estimation, and useless for every purpose of progress or consolidation in the operations of the Church? These, with other phases of error--some of them peculiar to Protestantism--the “fire” will reveal; and they shall perish, and their removal will prove them to have been human in their origin, and innovations upon the truth of God. But the “truth,” and the one embodiment of that truth as it shall be seen in a purified and finished Church, shall remain unmoved. Gold, silver, precious stones! Faith, love, zeal! No fire shall effect these. They are invulnerable. The removing of those things that are shaken as of things that are made shall prove the strength and solidity of those things which could be shaken and which shall remain. “Therefore, receiving a kingdom which cannot be removed, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.” (S. Holmes.)

The doctrine and truths of Christ are very precious and excellent

To open the doctrine, let us consider, What is implied in this when the truths of Christ are thus called gold and precious stones? First, the preciousness of them is hereby declared. They ought to be esteemed and desired by us as much as the covetous man desires his gold and silver. This made the holy martyrs willingly die for it; they thought it more precious than life. The apostle calls it “that good thing committed to thee.” “To you that believe Christ is precious” (1 Peter 2:7). Secondly, it doth denote the rarity of it. It is hardly and difficulty obtained. Gold and silver is not so common as the stones of the street. There are but few mines of gold to the mountains of earth. And thus for the most part the Churches of God have been so corrupted with errors that very little gold did appear. It was a rare thing to have any one truth of God made known. In the Old Testament, under many kings, idolatry and superstition had so prevailed that the book of the law of God in Josiah’s time was a rare thing; and in Asa’s time “they had been without the law and a teaching prophet for a long while” (2 Chronicles 15:3). So that it is not so easy a matter to obtain the truth, that is found out with much prayer, humility, holiness of life, and industrious using of all means appointed by God. So that the Scripture is the mine where all the gold and silver is; there we must dig, thence we must replenish ourselves. Thirdly, there is implied the durableness and constancy of it. Gold will not melt away in the fire or be consumed as hay and stubble will. So that the truths of God are so constant and abiding that when a man comes to be afflicted, to be persecuted, to be undone for the truth of God, this will abide. Fourthly, the truths of Christ are compared to gold and silver because of the solidity and ponderosity of them; they are weighty and heavy; whereas errors are compared to hay and stubble; what is lighter than these? Whatsoever opinion then is accompanied with vanity, levity, and emptiness, it is not solid, grave, and substantial; refuse that. Fifthly, they are compared to gold because of the purity and sincerity of them. The truths of God, they have an holy simplicity and sincerity, and therefore false teachers are said to corrupt the pure Word of God, as hucksters do their wine (2 Corinthians 2:1-17.). David compareth God’s Word to “pure gold, even seven times refined” (Psalms 19:1-14.). And hereby it becomes a very dangerous sin for any to counterfeit it or corrupt it. Sixthly, it is compared to gold for the efficacy and choice virtue thereof. Seventhly, they are compared to gold and silver for the usefulness and profitableness to all things. Many outward comforts in this world may be had for gold and silver; you may have friends, food, raiment. The truth of justification by faith in Christ, is not that more worth than the gold of Ophir? What precious and powerful operations hath it upon the hearts of the ungodly? Eighthly, the truths of Christ are compared to gold and precious stones because they are able to enrich a man with all graces. In the second place, to build gold and precious stones on this foundation is not only to preach sound and pure matter, but this matter in a pure and exact way. First, in preaching of them after Scripture authority, when they are conveyed unto you, as having the stamp and authority of God. Secondly, it is to preach them with Scripture gravity and solidity. As the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11). Thirdly, they are to be preached with Scripture simplicity in respect of aims and ends. For though a man should build gold and silver, yet if it be for human glory and earthly greatness he builds hay and stubble, though this be known to God only. But this fire will discover the secrets of men’s hearts. With what delight and holy covetousness you should receive the truths of Christ; they are no less worth than gold, than precious stones. The tabernacle was covered all over with gold, and they brought precious stones to it; and thus is the Church of God still to be built (Revelation 21:19). (A. Burgess.)

The losses of the saved

1. You all hope in some way to be saved at last. The mercy of God is so all but exhaustless; He has such a marvellous variety Of saving contrivances; and the thought of being shut out for ever in hell is so horrible, no wonder that you hope to be eventually saved. But hopes amid carelessness, worldliness, or sin are no good sign, for they are hindrances to salvation, and to that fear with which the apostle tells us to work it out. But be it as we wish, viz., that these hopes will not imperil, but secure, our salvation--that will be gain indeed; but be it as we wish, that this hope will not, by the mercy of God, wreck the salvation of any one, it will also be infinite, eternal loss; for it will be a loss of that measure of the capacity of the infinite love of God, which the soul might have gained, but would not.

2. Here we are in the province, not of God’s mercy only, but of His justice. It is by His mercy in Christ that we are saved at all; but when we have been saved, the reward is according to our works. What, then, I wish you to dwell upon is not the risk of hell, which a careless or worldly ambitious life involves, but the certain sufferings of the day of judgment to some who shall be saved, and the irremediable loss which they have brought upon themselves.

3. And this pain and loss will not come to us through sins which separate men from Christ. Day by day, and year by year, men will have gone on, laying tier after tier of their spiritual building, which, on account of their real belief and trust in Christ, they thought enduring. They built on and on; whether they had, from time to time, misgivings is not said. But if they had they stifled them. For they builded on unto the end. And they must all the while have been earnest in their way; perhaps they were praised, and the praise blinded them the more. Some of them may “have left names behind them.” Oh, if the departed still know of what passes on this our earth, what a hideous mockery must that posthumous fame be when the temple has collapsed in ashes. A life-long labour perished! It is piteous, even when the temporal end, for which a man has toiled all his life, crashes at last. But remediless! And for eternity! Plainly, there must have been self-deceit about it. For not without a man’s own will and his own fault would God have allowed such an one to remain so deceived to the end.

4. What, then, are things which shall not be burned--gold, silver, costly stones, which represent something costly and something very pure? They are of different values, but all agree in this, that they are pure. All done for Christ, from the cup of cold water to the martyr’s chariot of fire, have their several values; but all spring from the one pure motive, love of Him. What else can we even imagine that God will reward? Why should we look hereafter for a second reward from God for doing what our own natural dispositions prompted us to do, and which brought their own reward? True, all things, even eating and drinking, if done to the glory of God, have their eternal recompense, because in each one of these ordinary things we may please God and gain greater grace and larger capaciousness for His infinite love. But what so common as to have mixed motives for our actions, or, rather, what so rare as to have any one motive for any one action, unless, indeed, it be a lower one?

5. But the day of judgment must clear up all this, and then, as shall be the issue, so “shall every man have praise of God.” And since nothing can receive praise from God which is not more or less purely done for God, then the day of judgment will, I fear, to very many of the saved, who now stand well with themselves, be a terrible discovery, how very little, in their whole lives, they have really done for love of God. And this is what the apostle means by those things which shall be burned up. Things they are of different degrees of lightness, by which different minds imposed upon themselves, as though they were of value when they were of none. But the most plausible will not leave a rack behind, more than the most openly worthless.

6. Nothing but a continued active habit of directing our actions to God, such as results from offering them to God, with continuous prayer for grace, will rescue some fragments of our acts from the unclean contact of our besetting faults. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

Loss through little sins

You know well what would become of a house of wood or of a rick if fire was kindled around it, on however good and solid a foundation of stone it might be raised. The foundation upon which it was built would not save it. So then there are works, done by those who do not yet forsake Christ, which shall not stand in the fire of the great day. What are they, then? Are they great, deadly sins, such as the apostle elsewhere speaks of, “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, hatred, drunkenness, revelling, and such like”? No. Such works are not and cannot be built upon the foundation; they, as far as in us lies, destroy the foundation, and the soul itself. They who do these things do not build upon “the Rock which is Christ”; they “build their house on the sand; and the ruin of that house,” our Lord says, “is great.” What, then, are these things done by a Christian which bring upon him such terrible loss for eternity? They are heaps of little sins; little self-indulgences against the law and will and mind of God, which do not extinguish the love of God in the heart, yet chill it exceedingly; little vanities; little envies; little self-seekings or selfishnesses; little detractions of a neighbour; little unseriousnesses; little contemptuousnesses; idle imaginings; petty angers; little deceitfulnesses or self-praise. Sins they are of which people make very little, because one by one they think them little sins, but which, weighed together, become very heavy. These encrust the soul, as it were, with habits of mind, in thought, word, and deed, with which they cannot enter heaven. In heaven there cannot be the slightest thought of vain-glory; no petty repugnance or mislike of one another; no suspicion; no comparison of ourselves with others; no discontent; no repining; no thought that we are not cared for enough or loved enough; no grudge; no remembrance of unkindness. And if all these things must be left and laid aside at the very portals of heaven; if none of these things can stand the fire of the day of judgment; if the slightest feeling of unlove would be a dark spot, seen through the whole brilliancy of heaven and unbearable in its transparent purity and brightness; what are any of us doing if we are not using our utmost strength, all the power of our souls, to lay them aside now? (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

Every man’s work shall be … revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.--

The revelation and test of fire

The nature of every one’s work or superstructure shall sooner or later be known; for the great day of the Lord shall dawn in a flood of fire. The house of gold and silver shall be lit up by its dazzling brilliancy; but the house of wood and thatch shall be burnt up. And not only so, but whereas the builder whose house is consumed will lose his reward, having nothing to show, and though he himself, as having built on a true foundation, will be saved, yet he will come out singed and scorched as by an escape out of a burning ruin. It is possible that this whole image may have been suggested or illustrated by the conflagration of Corinth under Mummius; the stately temples standing amidst the universal destruction of the meaner buildings. (Dean Stanley.)

That all errors in religion, though not fundamental, are no better than hay and stubble

Consider, first, though all errors in opinion and religion have no better a name and no better a nature, yet those that build them do not think so. They judge what they build gold and silver; they think their monsters beautiful and comely. The false prophets in the Old Testament, they would presumptuously call their dreams and imaginations the word of the Lord. Secondly, when the apostle calls these errors hay and stubble, he doth not speak of fundamental errors neither, but such as are consistent with and built on the true foundation. They do not damn the author of them, but they make his salvation difficult. “He shall be saved, but by fire.” So that as all sins are not alike, so neither are all errors. As in sickness some are mortal and deprive of life immediately, others are not so. In the second place, let us consider why the apostle calls errors by such names--wood, hay, and stubble. First, because of the vileness and contemptibleness of them. Men, if they understand the Scripture and walk by that rule, would no more regard them than the straw under their feet. Secondly, it is compared to hay and stubble for the levity and uncertainty of it. Now the lightness and uncertainty appeareth in three things. It cannot abide the touchstone; it cannot endure to be tried. Straw cannot endure the fire. Thirdly, errors are compared to hay and stubble for the uselessness and unprofitableness of them.

(1) They do not truly inform and enlighten the mind.

(2) The truths of Christ are profitable to sanctification and holiness. “Sanctify them by Thy truth” (John 14:1-31.).

(3) They are unprofitable for any sound comfort and joy. “That we through the comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

(4) They are not profitable for duration or continuance. This straw will not keep off the rain of God’s tempests. To show the folly either of such teachers or hearers that dote on errors, that admire hay and stubble, as if it were gold and precious stones. Oh, try and prove things by the Word ere you rejoice or boast in them! What makes a Church truly glorious, even when it is pure from errors and heresies? A Church embracing the truth is like a goodly edifice of all beautiful excellencies; but where errors are there is dishonour to it. In all the matters of religion, see what solidity and profit there is in the thing thou believest. (A. Burgess.)

That all the ways and works of wickedness, though acted in never so secret a manner, shall be made manifest

. We shall show what kind of hidden wickedness shall be made manifest. First, all the secret and hidden thoughts, affections, and purposes of the heart, God will one day make manifest to the whole world. That as there are a world of flies and motes in the air which we never see till the sunbeams arise, so there are thousands of proud, unclean, covetous, and malicious thoughts and purposes lodging in men’s hearts which the world never knows, but God will one day have heaven and earth take notice of them. Oh, then, what a curb should this be to thy heart, to thy thoughts! Secondly, all the impure and unclean works of the flesh committed in secret, these also shall be made manifest. Thirdly, the hidden works of thieving and stealing and unjustly taking away of other men’s goods will one day be manifest. Fourthly, there is a hidden work of unrighteousness which is not plain stealing, but it is crafty and artificial cosening in thy trading and commerce with others. Fifthly, carnal and worldly policy to have earthly greatness and power and honour in the world: this is a very deep and secret work, but God will manifest it. Sixthly, dissimulations and inconstancies in matter of religion.

In the next place, consider the aggravation of those sins that are secret and hidden.

1. It argueth a man hath more consciousness to himself that he doth not well, therefore he would not have the world know.

2. This secret sinning puts far more respect and fear upon men than God.

3. The more secret any wickedness is, it argueth the heart is more studious and industrious about it, how to contrive it, how to bring it about. Take heed of secret hidden sins, God will one day manifest what thou hast been. (A. Burgess.)

That all the hidden and secret ways of false doctrines God will one day make manifest

. God will manifest all those hidden causes and ends of thy false doctrines. Now the Scripture gives these causes.

1. Pride and self-conceit, or overweening of thy own abilities and sufficiency; such a man is in the highway to all errors: “For the humble and meek God will teach” (Psalms 25:1-22.). The valleys are fruitful when the high mountains are barren.

2. Ignorance and weakness of judgment. And truly this is the most innocent cause of errors when men, through ignorance and weakness, go in a false way; yet this doth not excuse (2 Peter 3:16).

3. Hypocrisy. The Scripture brandeth that for a heavy cause sometimes of the errors in religion.

4. Ambition and affectation of high places in the Church of God, and to be above others. This hath made men build hay and stubble.

5. Discontents and impatiencies at some things which have fallen out in the Church hath been a great cause to make divisions and to sow tares amongst the wheat.

6. Envy and sinful emulation to the gifts and abilities of others that have been above them. This hath made men bring in strange doctrines. So then, as some sharp thorny bushes have pleasant blossoms on them, so many specious and fair opinions that are set out with much glory may yet grow upon such thorny and corrupt causes.

7. A contemplative delight in a man’s own notions and conceptions he hath. This hath caused more errors than anything, especially in learned men.

The nature of every man’s doctrine, and, if false, then the mask will be pulled off. It will appear counterfeit coin, and you know to be guilty of that is a capital crime. God’s authority and stamp will not be found on it. Rehoboam, when the golden vessels were taken out of the Temple, he put brass ones in the stead.

God will manifest every man’s work in the cunning subtilty he hath managed it with. For the Scripture speaks of the crafty ways men use that they do adulterate the Word of God. For--

1. Before hearers are publicly prepared for them, they go privately and secretly vent their wares. They are said to creep into houses (2 Timothy 3:1-17.). They are the moles that creep under ground, whereas Christ said He taught nothing but what He did publicly; all did hear.

2. Their craft is seen in mingling some truths with their error, that while we take one we may swallow down the other.

3. This craft is seen either in sweet and winning words, full of love and kindness, or else in pretence to deep and sublime mysteries.

4. Their circumspection to observe the fit seasons to disseminate their errors. Thus, while all were asleep, tares were sown upon the fittest subjects--women, as being more affectionate. “They lead captive silly women” (2 Timothy 3:6). Take we heed how we build, and that is by avoiding the causes of error, pride, ambition, envy, discontent. Alas! thou hast cause enough to be humbled; the more thou knowest, thou wilt see thy ignorance the more. A poor man thinketh a little stun of money great treasures. (A. Burgess.)

That God hath His time when He will discover the errors of men’s doctrines

First, in that the Scripture calls the time of manifestation a “day,” wherein is light and the sunbeams; it doth excellently imply that all the while there are corruptions in doctrine and worship that time is a time of darkness. Let them never so much rejoice in them, and count them happy times, yet the Scripture calls them dark times. Secondly, there are no foolish builders that thus deform God’s temple but they are by God’s permission; in His wrath and anger, because men have abused His truth and waxed wanton under it, therefore hath He sent the spirit of delusion and errors amongst men (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Thirdly, as the corrupt errors of men came from God’s anger, so in mercy He hath appointed times wherein He will purge and take away their dross. Fourthly, this day of God’s revealing may be a long while as to our expectation. You may see only chaff and no wheat; and this may be a long while, so that the ungodly do even languish under their expectations. These things thus explained, let us consider the reasons why God will have a day to declare men’s works in matter of false doctrines. And first, because the truth of God is dear and precious to him. Christ Himself makes it one main reason why He came into the world to bear witness to God’s truth. Secondly, it is necessary there should be a time, because of the people who belong to God’s grace, that they may see their errors and bewail them; that they may redeem the time by pulling down their hay and stubble and building gold and silver. Lastly, in respect of men hardened in their errors, that their obstinacy may appear the more; that when they will not see, though the day appear, who then can justify them? To embrace those days of light and revelation which God brings into the world. (A. Burgess.)

That God useth to bring people out of errors and false ways by His Word and afflictions

To understand this, consider that though the Word and afflictions both help to bring a man out of false ways, yet far differently. For, first, the Word of God is of itself sufficient, in a way of light, to inform and instruct, and hath threatenings also to be like a goad in the side; but afflictions of themselves do not inform, do not teach. God’s Word is able to reduce without afflictions, but afflictions cannot do anything without God’s Word. Secondly, there is a difference between the Word and afflictions, because though afflictions have a voice as well as the Word, and the rod speaks as well as God’s Word, yet the Word of God doth it distinctly and plainly, afflictions in a general manner. Thirdly, though the Word of God be thus only able to instruct and convince, being a perfect rule, yet that doth not exclude other helps, especially the ministry; for ministers are called the lights and guides. Let us see how God by the Word reduceth the wandering sheep. First, the Word of God is instrumental to open the eyes, to enlighten the dark understanding. Secondly, the Word of God is fire to try men’s works, because it containeth all matter necessary to salvation. Thirdly, the Word of God will be a fire to try, because it doth direct to all those means whereby we may come out of all errors. But you will say, “How is God’s Word a fire? How doth that reveal?” Answer

1. The defect is not in the Scripture, but in men themselves. The owl and bat are made blinder by the sunbeams, not through any defect in the sun. Secondly, men swallow down first the sweet poison of errors from false teachers, and then they think every place in the Scripture makes for them. Thirdly, they do not attend to the whole Scripture. Lastly, it is not enough to have Scripture, to have many texts, but we are also to make use of those helps for the understanding of them which God hath appointed.

2. Afflictions are God’s fire; they will discover men’s works by preparation and fitting the heart to receive. (A. Burgess.)

The test of Christian teaching

Many of us have watched that fascinating but awful sight--the progress of a great fire. We have marked how the devouring element masters first one and then another department of the building which is its victim; but especially we have noted what it consumes and what it is forced to spare, the resistless force with which it sweeps through and shrivels up all the slighter materials, and only pauses before the solid barriers of stone or iron, thus trying before our very eyes the builders’ work of what sort it is. Now of whom was the apostle thinking when he wrote the warning words about the spiritual builder who employed wood, and hay, and stubble in his work? The eager adherents of Apollos had been powerfully impressed by the brilliant Alexandrian, by his knowledge of what was being said and thought in the Greek world; by his skill in setting out what he had to say to the very best advantage; they were, after the manner of disciples, more eager to imitate their master’s methods than careful to be true to the end he had in view. “Take care,” St. Paul seems to say to the young men who were trading on the great name and authority of Apollos--“take care what you are doing with those souls at Corinth. Are you only interesting and amusing them for a few of the passing days of time, or are you building up in them a faith which will enable them to pass death and eternity? What are the materials of the structures within those souls which you are raising? Are they the gold, the silver, the precious stones of the Apostolic faith? No doubt they are; but do they not also include materials of a different kind--less valuable, less durable--wood, hay, and stubble? If this be so, a time is coming when all the precious and worthless alike will be submitted to a serious test. “The fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” But He who at the end will judge us once for all is now and always judging us, and His perpetual presence among us as our Judge, constantly probing, trying, saving us, is revealed by events and circumstances which have on our souls the effects of fire--they burn up that which is worthless, they leave that which is solid unscathed. There is the searching, testing power of a new and responsible position, of a situation forcing its occupant to make it a critical choice, or to withstand a strong pressure. Such a new position discovers and burns up all that is weak in a man’s faith and character. History is strewn with illustrations of this truth. The virtuous, though weak, emperor, who was floated to power on the surf of revolution, is by no means the only man of whom it might be said that all would have judged him capable of ruling others if only he had never been a ruler. How often does early manhood open with so much that seems promising--with intelligence, courage, attention to duty, unselfishness, what looks like high principle--and then the man is put into a position of authority--it is the fire that tests the work which he has done in his character. Suddenly he betrays some one defect which ruins everything: it may be vanity, it may be envy, it may be a shadow of untruthfulness, it may be some lower fierce passion which emerges suddenly as if unbidden from the depths of the soul, and wins over him a fatal mastery. All is good is turned to ill, all is distorted, discoloured; he might have died a young man amid general lamentations that so promising a life had been cut short. He does die as did Nero or Henry Tudor, amid the loudly-expressed or the muttered thanksgiving of his generation that he has left the world. The fact was, that the position in which be found himself exposed him to a pressure which his character could not bear. You remember how the old Tay Bridge, before that fatal winter night, was believed to be equal to its purpose. It needed, no doubt, a mighty impact, a terrific rush of wind from one particular quarter, in order to show that the genius and audacity of men had presumed too largely on the forbearance of the elements. But the moment came. We many of us remember something of the sense of horror which the tragical catastrophe left on the public mind; the gradual disappearance of the last train as it moved on its wonted way on into darkness, the suddenly observed dislocation and flickering of the distant lights, the faint sound as of a crash rising for a moment even over the din of the storm, and then the utter darkness as all, train and bridge, together sank into the gulph of waters beneath, and one moment of supreme and unimaginable agony was followed by the silence of death. And we see these truths at work in associated as well as in individual human life. Any one will recall the names of empires which have appeared to possess the elements of unconquerable strength until they have been subjected to the test of new conditions--the empire of the Great Alexander, the empire of Attila the Hun, the empire of the first Napoleon. Alexander subdued all the nations which spread from the Adriatic to the Indies. No sooner had he passed away than the unity of his work was shattered by the ambition of three generals. Attila’s kingdom at one time reached from the Volga to the Loire; the vast host at his disposal was attended by a bevy of subject kings and chiefs: the emperors of the East and West were both his obsequious tributaries; and the men of his day expressed the terror which his apparently boundless power inspired when they named him “the scourge of God.” Yet he had scarcely been discovered dead on his couch after a drunken revel, when his sons, greedy for high place, turned their arms against each other, and so within some fifteen years the Buns had sunk to be the dependents and tributaries of the very race which but now they had ruled. And there is Attila’s great counterpart in modern Europe--Napoleon. His vast, motley hosts swept along over much the same ground as Attila’s though in an opposite direction. Like Attila’s, they passed over ancient and prostrate thrones; like his, too, they went on the errand of an insatiable ambition; but before he died, as we all know, Napoleon’s work had been tested with a severity which revealed its weakness, and left behind it nothing but a million of tombs and the dying echoes of a vast catastrophe. And as with States, so with particular branches of the Christian Church. A Church may be, to all appearances, highly favoured; it may have leaders conspicuous for holiness or learning; it may reckon its multitudes of devout communicants, its flourishing missions at home and abroad, and its many works of benevolence and mercy; and yet it may have admitted to its bosom some false principles, whether of faith or morals, which will find it out in the day of trial. In the early centuries no Church was more highly favoured than that of Northern Africa. It had, it is said, almost innumerable Churches, which produced saints and martyrs; its intellectual and practical activity was tested by the long series of Councils of Carthage; it was the first Church, so far as we know, certainly it was earlier than any in Italy, to translate the New Testament Scriptures into the languages of the West; it held its own in debate with the greatest Churches of Europe, and with Rome itself; but the day of trial came on it with the invasion of the Vandals, as Augustine lay dying in Hippo. It came again, and more decisively, with the Moslem conquest. There are Churches in the East which have suffered as much as or more than the Church of Northern Africa--Churches which have never ceased suffering, yet which in their weakness are still instinct with life and hope; but the Church of Cyprian and Augustine perished out right. We may guess at the cause--we cannot determine; it may have been a general lax morality among its people; it may have been a widespread spirit of paradox among its teachers; it may have been some far-reaching weakness or corruption which the day of account will alone reveal. But there is the fact. No Church in primitive Christendom stood higher than the Church of Africa: none has ever so utterly disappeared. Let us of the Church of to-day be not high-minded, but fear; for if prominence and success do not discover what is weak in faith and character, there is an agent who comes to all sooner or later, and who will surely do so--there is the fire, the searching, testing power of deep affliction. Many a creed that will do for the sunny days of life will not serve us in its deep shadows, much less in the valley of the shadow of death. The truths which strengthen and brace character, and enable it to pass unscathed, like the three holy children through the fiery furnace of deep sorrow, are the great certainties which were ever to the front in the apostle’s teaching about God and men, about life and death, about sin and redemption, about nature and grace, and, above all, about the boundless power and love of Jesus Christ our Lord and God. (Canon Liddon.)

Two builders on one foundation

In the vivid imagination of the apostle two workmen are building side by side. One builds a palace, the other a hovel. The materials which one uses are gold and silver for decoration; and for solidity costly stones--not diamonds, emeralds, &c., but valuable building material, such as marbles, granites, and alabaster. The other employs timber, dry reeds, straw. Suddenly there plays around both buildings the fire of the Lord coming to judgment. The marbles gleam the whiter, and the gold and the silver flash the more resplendently; but the straw hovel goes up in a flare! The one man gets wages for work that lasts, the other man gets no pay for what perishes. He is dragged through the smoke, saved by a hair’s breath, but sees all his toil lying there in white ashes at his feet. It is a grim picture. Note--

The two builders and their work.

1. The wood, &c., are clearly not heresies, for the builder who uses them is on the foundation, and had they been so Paul would have found sharper words of condemnation. They are misplaced learning; speculation; preaching one’s self; talking about temporary, trivial things; dealing with the externals of Christianity, and with its morals apart from that one motive of love to a dying Saviour which makes morality a reality. All that kind of teaching, however it may be admired, and thought to be “eloquent,” “original,” and “on a level with the growing culture of the age,” and so on, is flimsy stuff to build upon the foundation of a crucified Saviour. There is no solidity in such work. It will not stand the stress of a gale of wind while it is being built, nor keep out the weather; and it will blaze at last like a thatched roof when “that day” puts a match to it. The solid teaching is the proclamation of Christ and His great salvation. On that rock-fact we calmly repose. In that great truth are wrapped up, as the plant in the seed, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. So let all teachers take the warning that well-meaning men, building on the foundation, may, if they do not take care, be building with rubbish instead of with the indestructible truths of God’s Word; and see to it that they do not carry chaff in their seed-baskets, but only the pure seed of the Word of God.

2. But the principle may be extended to the whole Christian life. The life of a Christian man is a building, suggesting slow and continuous progress and a homogeneous result. It is possible for two men, both of them being Christians, to be building two very different structures in their lives. Many a true follower of Christ may pile much upon the foundation which is unworthy of it. As you may see in the wretched huts in which wandering Arabs house amongst the ruins of some historical city, that half a man’s house shall be of fluted marble and the other half shall be of crumbling clay, so, alas! many Christian men and women are building their lives. With what are you building? and what are you building? A palace, a temple, a shop, a place of sinful amusement, a prison--which? We build inconsistently, and in our own persons combine these two builders. Look, then, for yourselves into your building, and see how much, and what, of it is likely to last, and how much of it is sure to be burned up when the fire comes.

The twofold effects of the one fire. The day is the day when Christ shall come. And the fire is but the symbol that always attends the Divine appearance.

1. When Christ comes to judge, light comes with Him, and the light pours in upon the actions of men and reveals them for what they are. The builders have been working, as you see builders sometimes nowadays night-work, with some more or less sufficient illumination. The day dawns, and the building stands out disclosed in all its beauty or deformity. Its true proportions are manifest at last. And how many surprises there will be. Many a man who thought that he was building gold, &c., will find out that he was pleasing himself, and not preaching his Master; that he was talking about trivial, transitory things, and not about eternal truths that nourish and save men’s souls. “Lord! Lord! have we not prophesied in Thy name? And He shall say unto them, I never knew you”! Many an humble and timid builder who did not know what he was doing will see that he has built gold, &c., according to that blessed word, “Lord! when saw we Thee … in prison and visited Thee? And He shall answer,” &c. One of the most precious diamonds in Europe, that blazes now in a king’s crown, lay on a stall in a piazza at Rome for months, labelled, “Rock crystal, price one franc.” And many of the most noble deeds that ever were done on earth have been passed unrecognised by the crowd that beheld them, and forgotten except by Him.

2. Not only is there this revealing process suggested, but the one class of service, teaching, life, is glorified by the fire, and the other is burned up. The gold, &c., are glorified because revealed, and heightened in beauty by being brought into contact with Christ Himself, as a fair jewel is fairer for its setting, and flashes in the sunshine. And, on the other side, how much of all our lives will be crushed into nonentity, made as if it had never been at all, by the simple revelation of Christ! The selfish, God-forgetting deeds, the lust, the greed, will all vanish and go up in foul-smelling smoke. And what is left will be all holy desires, self-sacrificing service, devout aspirations, and pure Christlike character.

The twofold effects on the builders.

1. The one gets the consequences of his services. We do not need to shrink from admitting the idea of a reward. Christ perpetually speaks to us about heaven as being, in a very deep sense, a reward; not because men deserve heaven, but because the heaven which they get only by His merits and through faith in Him, is given in the measure of their capacity, which depends on their character, and is largely determined by their habitual conduct.

2. The inconsistent Christian’s inconsistencies shall be burned up. Thank God for that! What better could happen to them or for him? Instead of the hovels he may build a palace. The fire of London finished the plague, and statelier streets took the place of the fetid alleys. But still that imperfect Christian “shall suffer loss”--the loss of what he might have gained. He shall lose remembrances which are true wealth, tie shall lose, in that he will stand further from the Lord, and possess, because he can contain, less of His glory. His crown is far less resplendent than the others, His seat at Christ’s table in the kingdom is far lower. His heaven is narrower and less radiant. These two are like two vessels, one of which comes into harbour with a rich freight and flying colours, and is welcomed with tumult of acclaim. The other strikes on the bar. “Some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship, all come safe to land.” But ship and cargo, and profit of the venture, are all lost. “He shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Good qualities seen in the fiery day

The best qualities of the Christian--patience, gentleness, and forgiveness of injuries--are written by the Spirit of God in the heart of a Christian, out of the sight of the world, and come only to be seen in the day of fiery affliction and trial, just as words written with invisible ink come only to be read when submitted to the heat of the fire. (T. H. Leary, D. C. L.)

Severely tested

Call it by what name you please--dream, vision, or reverie--we found ourselves in a large room, the walls of which were concealed by well-packed shelves of books, from the ponderous folio to the minute thirty-two-me, and in all the variety of dress which a skilful handicraft could devise. While cursorily gazing on these intellectual stores, our attention was arrested by the entrance of two personages of mild and venerable aspect, who very courteously introduced themselves, and stated the object of their visit. They bore the significant names of Time and Posterity, and intimated that they had come to pay their semi-centennial visit, to weigh the merits of authors, and determine their destiny. The task seemed to us an herculean one, where the volumes were numbered by thousands; and we were curious to know by what process they were to ascertain the character of so many candidates for fame. We might, however, have spared our surprise, had we reflected that Time was a gentleman who had seen much of the world, and professed great experience, and Posterity was no less distinguished for the solidity of his judgment. They were well prepared for an expeditious performance of their work, and, in truth, we felt no small degree of horror in witnessing the results of their essay. By the way, we should have mentioned that they were provided with a capacious crucible, under which was burning a large and steady flame. Into it volume after volume was thrown, and the ordeal through which they had to pass was one of fire. “Goodly volumes, these,” said Time, taking up a brace of octavos on metaphysics, “let us test their quality.” Placed in the crucible, they were instantly converted into cinders. “Dust and ashes,” said Posterity. This was the doom of many an ostentatious volume, whose promising title availed as little as its interior embellishments. Time rather soliloquised than addressed Posterity, while subjecting volume after volume. He would remark, “Deadborn this; its claims for perpetuity died amidst the types.” “An old heresy under the slight disguise of a new dress.” “Nonsense, fustian, bombast.” A whole row of poets succeeded each other in their descent into the heated crucible, with no more sympathy on the part of the executioner than a contemptuous exclamation. What is called “light literature” could scarcely be kept in the crucible long enough to be converted into thin smoke. Whole tons of periodicals and reviews shared the same fate. Occasionally we observed an unscorched leaf or two remained in the crucible, which Posterity carefully gathered and deposited in his portefeuille. At intervals, a whole volume would escape--this, however, was very rare; for in the instances in which they preserved their original shape, large portions of these fortunate volumes were burned out. For the most part, the large books fared worse than the smaller ones, from which we were led to infer that facility in writing was quite a different thing from ability, and that a lumbering ship may be dashed on the rocks over which a small boat may safely ride. Whole piles of periodicals (our own did not entirely escape) were soon converted into ashes. “Fabrications,” said Time, as he hurled volume after volume of history into the crucible. Some leaves, however, of most of them escaped, out of which Posterity remarked he would make up a small volume of true history worthy of preservation. Many books of religious controversy, and many more of worldly controversies on all subjects went in with the ominously expressed doom, “Dust and ashes,” and so they came out. We perceived a most offensive effluvium arise as certain “Philosophical Disquisitions,” and “Light of Reason” were submitted to the fiery test. Thus went forward the process, the further details of which might be tedious to enumerate, and in a very brief time the great library had so far disappeared that Posterity carried off what was left in a small but beautiful cabinet, made of enduring materials. (Presbyterian.)

If any man’s work abide … he shall receive a reward.--

Successful and unsuccessful builders

. The successful builder.

1. His work.

(1) Well founded.

(2) Well built.

2. Its durability.

(1) It stands the test of time.

(2) Of investigation.

(3) Of fire.

3. His reward.

(1) In the successful issue of his toil.

(2) In the approbation of God.

(3) In the abundant recompense.

The foolish builder.

1. His folly.

(1) He had a right foundation.

(2) Selected corruptible materials.

2. His loss.

(1) His work consumed.

(2) His labour lost.

(3) His reward forfeited.

3. His narrow escape. Saved--yet so as by fire. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

God’s truths are of a durable nature, notwithstanding trial

First, there are Divine truths, such as are revealed in God’s Word, most of which human reason could not comprehend; but, as Zacchaeus, of a low stature, got up into the tree to see Jesus, so reason, being too low, must ascend up into the Scripture to behold these truths. Now these are more certain and durable than those natural truths. Secondly, this good building of truth doth not only abide the fire, but desireth the fire; it is willing to come to the touchstone. Thirdly, the truths of God, built by a spiritual builder, do not only abide the fiery trial, but they grow more illustrious and glorious thereby. All the heresies and persecutions that ever have been were like the waters to the ark, they lifted it higher to heaven. The truth about grace had not been so clear had not Pelagius maintained free-will. The Divine nature of Christ had not been so fully evidenced out of Scripture had not the Arrians opposed it. But for the doubt of Thomas Christ’s resurrection was more confirmed unto us. Fourthly, not only the truths of God in their nature, but also in the proper and genuine effects upon the hearers, they also abide and will endure the trial. (A. Burgess.)

If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.--

That every man will be altogether a loser in any error or false way that he hath maintained; he shall suffer loss

In the first place we shall show wherein they shall be losers. First, if they thought by erroneous ways to better themselves in an outward condition in this world, in this they are sure to lose. Oh, that this were well thought of by those who think to better themselves by those ways that are not of God! Secondly, if they looked for outward honour and dignity, to be applauded and esteemed, this also they shall be losers in. For by the judgment of those Churches or persons that are orthodox they shall fall from all that repute and esteem they had. Thirdly, they lose all their ministerial labour and study they used in building such stubble. And truly this loss should much affect every man whether minister or private Christian. The wise mad observeth great vanity in all worldly labour, but especially in matters of religion; to labour in vain, there to lose all thy nights and thy days, and thy study, and thy pains, is beyond expression miserable. Fourthly, they will lose their inward peace and comfort of conscience. Fifthly, they lose, though not the total seed of grace, yet the degree and fervency of it; yea, in regard of outward appearance all seemeth to be lost. They have not that tenderness, that strictness they once had. Yea, lastly, men lose their parts and gifts; they have not that clearness and soundness of understanding as they had. (A. Burgess.)

That every godly man, though never so eminent, yet is with difficulty saved

Now the grounds of these truths are--First, from the exactness and strictness that is in the way to heaven. Secondly, the difficulty doth appear from that remainder and relic or corruption that is in every man, which is in danger to break out. Thirdly, there are many afflictions and tribulations which God brings on His people, and they do much endanger. (A. Burgess.)

Verses 16-23

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

The two temples

Two points comprehend the apostle’s teaching in this chapter.

1. The foundation of Christian life and doctrine (1 Corinthians 3:11).

2. The form of Christian life and doctrine built thereon. It is to be worthy of the foundation (1Co 3:10; 1 Corinthians 3:12, &c.). Christian teachers have a covenant engagement--to erect a temple on a previously laid foundation. According to a specification, they are to use “gold,” &c. Paul’s complaint is, that they appear not to have known the terms of their contract (text), and hence had departed from the true foundation, and consequently had developed a form of Christian life contrary to the form and Spirit of Christ. Note--

The Divine dwelling.

1. The Christian heart under the figure of a “temple” points back to God’s visible dwelling-place in Jerusalem.

(1) The former temple was the dwelling-place of Trinity. In the holy of holies the cloud was the memorial of the enduring mercy of the Father; in the outer courts the sacrifices typified the atonement of the Son, while the incense pointed to the sweet influence of the Spirit.

(2) The former temple was the treasury of sacred truth. All that symbolised the religious life of the Jews was kept in the ancient temple--Aaron’s rod that budded, indicating the perpetual freshness of the gospel; the golden pot of manna, indicating the nourishing properties of the gospel; the original copy of the law of Moses, indicating that the gospel is our directory. The gospel rod of God’s strength is treasured up in the Christian heart. The gospel food of God’s providing for the wilderness is received into the soul. The gospel, the perfect law, is hidden in the secret places of the heart. “Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage,” &c.

(3) The former temple was but a partial revelation of the Divine glory. Sin explains all that earlier worship; sin, too, explains all our later worship. And not till sin is destroyed will the Christian heart be a perfect temple, and full revelation of the glory of God.

2. Compare the Christian heart with the future, or heavenly temple.

(1) The central figure in the heavenly temple is Christ. The Lamb is in the midst of the throne, is the chief subject of their song, “Worthy is the Lamb.” He is the object of their highest worship, “They cast their crowns at His feet.” “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?” Jesus “in the midst” of the throne of your affections; Jesus the object of your worship.

(2) In that heavenly temple “there shall be no more curse” (Revelation 22:3); so in the Christian heart “there is now no condemnation” (Romans 8:1).

(3) In the heavenly temple there is no particular spot consecrated for worship (Revelation 21:22), no set times, but it is all temple; so also in the human heart (John 4:21). Every place, season, faculty consecrated to worship.

The Divine indwelling. From the figure of the temple the apostle passes to the life of it, that which gives it its vitality. Observe the various methods of the Spirit’s manifestations in the Christian heart.

1. He is the Spirit of the new birth (John 3:6).

2. To the worker in the Kingdom of God He is the Spirit of new strength (Ephesians 3:16; Ephesians 1:17-18).

3. To the broken-hearted He is the Spirit, the Comforter. He is the Spirit to seal the covenant of the soul with its God (2 Corinthians 1:22).

4. He dwells in us--

(1) Through faith.

(2) By prayer. “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities.”

(3) By obedience to the Divine will, “He makes us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

(4) By the assurance of faith, “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God.”

(5) By fruit-bearing, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,” &c.


1. The oneness of the Christian Church. Paul in the last chapter complained of divisions. In this he speaks of them all as built on one foundation, and growing up into one temple, having one source of life, &c.

2. Its sacredness (1 Corinthians 3:17). (D. Y. Currie.)

Temples of God

Every Christian is a dwelling-place for God. That God dwells in us is only possible from His dwelling in Christ, through whom we touch Him.

Christians, as temples, are to be manifestors of God. The meaning of temple is that there the indwelling Deity shall manifest Himself. God dwelling in our hearts reveals Himself--

1. To us ourselves.

2. To others around us by our conduct.

Christians, as temples, should be places of sacrifice. What is temple without worship? What is worship without sacrifice?

Christians, as temples, are to be holy. Holiness is separation to God’s service--dedication. The idols of covetousness, idolatry, intolerance, drunkenness, &c. When God enters, all Dagons fall to the ground maimed and destroyed. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

God’s spiritual temple

The ancient temple was not more glorious and admirable to the human eye than such societies should be to the eye of faith. And learned men think that latter part of Ezekiel’s prophecy, though very obscure, concerning the measuring of the temple, is nothing but the promise of the building of the Church in the New Testament in an heavenly and glorious manner. First, the materials for the temple were to be polished and fitted by art ere they could be made part of the building. We of ourselves have not faith, have not preparedness for such Church duties, till God doth enable us. Look we, therefore, how we come into the Church of God? How is it brought about that we are so? If there be nothing but nature and custom, or because we are born in such places. Thus it is here, whatsoever our societies and meetings are in reference to God it is wholly of His making. Secondly, the materials of the temple were very excellent and precious, of gold and silver, &c., not hay and stubble. The best stone, the best wood that would not putrify, and all things were covered over with gold, and the gold was to be pure gold; even the very snuffers were to be of gold. Now what did this represent, but to show what kind of people those should be who were of the Church of God? Thirdly, the temple was full of external glory. A magnificent place, admired by heathens. Now the glory of Christians is likewise great, but in a spiritual and heavenly way. The Church is all glorious within (Psalms 45:13). The gospel that is preached is styled a glorious gospel (1 Timothy 1:11); and the Spirit of God the Spirit of glory (1 Peter 4:14). It is promised that the glory of the second temple should far exceed that of the first (Haggai 2:9). Now how was that made good? not in any outward glory, but because Christ in a spiritual manner did reform all those corrupt doctrines, and did sit as a refiner to purify the sons of Levi. This was glory to have the spiritual worship of God. Fourthly, the temple was in a peculiar manner holy in respect of other buildings. Now when we say it was holy, we do not mean an holiness inherent, as angels and men are holy, but of dedication and consecration, a relative holiness, being set apart by God’s special command to such a use. Fifthly, because of this relative holiness it was a capital crime to defile this temple. There were porters set at the gate to keep out all unclean things (2 Chronicles 23:19). Lastly, that which was the glory of the temple and the life of it was God’s gracious presence. (A. Burgess.)

The Divine Spirit dwelling in the Church

. That the Spirit of God is God.

That the Spirit of God dwells in His Church, And now to open this let us consider--First, what the phrase to dwell in the Church implieth. Now this phrase, to have the Spirit dwell in us, denoteth--First, the propriety that it hath to us, that we are His possession, as an house is a man’s own, where He is Lord and Master. And this is worthy of consideration, that we who once were the devil’s, he dwelt in us, he ruleth in the hearts of the disobedient (Ephesians 2:1-22.), have now him expelled from us, and the Spirit of God taken us for His possession. So that herein is a wonderful change when the Spirit of God comes and takes possession of a people who before were captives to Satan, and led aside according to his will (2 Timothy 2:26). Secondly, when it is said the Spirit of God dwells in a people, it supposeth that He doth fashion and prepare them for Himself. For every lodging is not fit for so noble a guest, but as great men carry their rich furniture with them to have convenient lodgings, so also doth the Spirit of God raise up a people by illumination and sanctification to be a fit habitation for Him. Thirdly, when it is said the Spirit of God dwells in us, it denoteth the familiarity and condescending communion that God vouchsafeth unto His children. Fourthly, in that the Spirit of God is said to dwell, it denoteth a permanent and constant abode in His people. For this you must know, the Spirit of God is many times working where yet He doth not dwell. There is a great difference between transient motions and constant mansions of God’s Spirit. Fifthly, the Spirit dwelling in us doth denote the intimateness and inward efficacy it hath. It doth not only dwell with us, but in us, which denoteth great intimateness.

Now let us proceed to show how the Spirit of God dwells in His Church. Now several ways we may consider of the Spirit’s dwelling in the people of God. First, there is an essential dwelling, or a gracious dwelling, by a special manifestation of more peculiar favours; we do not speak here of an essential dwelling, for so the Spirit of God is everywhere (Psalms 139:7). Secondly, when the Spirit of God is said to dwell in His Church, it may not only be understood of the gracious effects thereof, but also of His person likewise. Lastly, the Spirit of God dwells two ways in His Church--

1. In respect of wonderful and miraculous operations.

2. In respect of saving and sanctifying graces.

In the next place, let us consider the special works and effects of God’s Spirit in His Church. But to the particulars. First, the Spirit of God dwells in us after a saving manner in the general, by way of sanctification of the spirit, soul, and body, even the whole man (1 Thessalonians 5:1-28). But more particularly, the Spirit of God dwells in a saving manner. First, by illumination, and opening of the dark mind of every man. Secondly, the Spirit of God quickens and reviveth those graces that by regeneration were infused to us. Thirdly, the Spirit of God doth enable us to kill and mortify sin (Romans 8:1-39.). Fourthly, the Spirit of God doth bestow a filial and ingenuous spirit upon believers, whereby they are carried out upon evangelical and gospel grounds in their obedience to God. Fifthly, the Spirit of God works comfort and joy in the hearts of the godly. Hence He is called the Comforter (John 15:26). Sixthly, that we may have this boldness and joy. The Spirit of God hath another effect, which is, to witness and seal unto our spirits that we are the children of God. Seventhly, the Spirit of God worketh wonderful support, and even glorious rejoicing, in all afflictions and tribulations. Lastly, the Spirit of God doth work the prayers of God’s people. (A. Burgess.)

The believer a temple of God


The people of God indwelt by God. “The Spirit of God dwelleth in you.”

1. We must accept that as literally true. The Spirit of God is a person, the attributes of personality are ascribed to Him. The Old Testament prepared for this teaching. “I will put My Spirit within you.” Then, in the New Testament, our Lord says, “I will pray the Father,” &c. As God the Father pardons sin, and God the Son atoned for sin, God the Spirit dwells in us to cleanse from sin.

2. This is granted to the lowliest spiritual condition. Indeed, “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.” Many spiritual blessings we have to wait and even strive for, but this is given at the beginning. “I dwell with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit,” and that is the first stage of Christian life.

3. This represents a permanent state. God comes not to tarry for a night, but “This is My rest for ever, here will I dwell, for I have desired it.” What a vision all this gives of infinite condescension.

This indwelling makes each of God’s people a temple. That implies--

1. Divine consecration. Other buildings might be put to other use, but everything under the shadow of the shekinah was inscribed “Holiness unto the Lord.” And that is the Divine emblem of the redeemed man; he is to be amongst men like a church in a city, the mirthful tide may beat against its gates, and the stream of business ever pass its doors, but it were pollution for either to cross its threshold, it and all within are God’s. The less distinction we make between the Church and the world the further we go from God’s purpose concerning us.

2. Divine testimony. For the temple stands amid the din and strife of the streets a silent witness for God. Such is the Christian amongst men; he is a church in the world. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His,” and do you think He can dwell in a soul and the world not know it!

3. Divine revealings. God in the soul. What spiritual visions, what views of the King, what subtle voices, what inward brightness does it not suggest! “The King’s daughter is all glorious within.” And if He be there, the angels, His attendants, are there; angels of holy thought and affection and desire, making sacred melody, and reverently listening for their Lord’s will.

The fact of this indwelling is often forgotten by God’s people. How often do we need the Divine appeal, “Know ye not,” &c. For example--

1. When we doubt the Divine care. “What! know ye not that ye are the temple of God?” Will He not care for His own; will He dwell amid our needs and not meet them?

2. When we mourn an absent God. “Know ye not,” &c. He has not gone, He is in your soul, you carry within you the “well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Only unmourned sin has hindered His manifestation, and that hindrance can be removed and the shining of His face appear again.

3. When we shrink from setting holy example.

4. When we make light of sin. (C. New.)

Humanity the temple of God

Let us look at man as--

A Divine temple. A temple is a special--

1. Residence of God. God is in all material objects, but especially in moral minds.

2. Manifestation of God. God is seen everywhere, but never so fully as in the mind of man. “We are all His offspring.”

3. Meeting place with God. The temple at Jerusalem was specially such. “There will I commune with thee.” Man can meet God in nature, but not so fully and consciously as in mind,

As a Divine temple that might be destroyed. The destruction of a temple does not mean the destruction of all its parts, but the destruction of its use. Man might live for ever and yet be destroyed as the special residence, manifestation, and meeting-place of God. But this destruction is not by God. “If any man.” Alas! men are destroying this temple--their natures. An awful work this!

As the destroyer of that which will be destroyed by God Himself. Destroy, if not his existence, all that makes existence worth having, or even tolerable. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The Christian Church the temple of God the Holy Spirit

. The Christian Church is God’s temple.

1. The temple of God is a phrase used to signify something dedicated to Jehovah, whether a material or a spiritual building.

(1) The temple in Jerusalem.

(2) The human nature of Christ (John 2:19-22; Colossians 2:9).

(3) Heaven (Revelation 7:15).

(4) The Christian Church. This is the spiritual house of God, composed of all faithful souls.

2. In writing to the Church at Corinth, the apostle remembered the pride that city had in its temples whose glory fired all its people with delight. All of this grandeur was displayed for what? For senseless idols who could hear no prayer nor impart any blessing. The gospel came to destroy all false systems of religion, and to build up a more glorious temple of God than any heathen or Jewish temple ever was before.

3. Now, if the Christians in Corinth lost much delight and cherished associations in forsaking their temples, if the Jewish converts, too, lost all their pride in the glory departed from their temple, the apostle’s argument is that God hath His own glorious temple still on earth.

4. Although this glorious work is sometimes invisible to man’s eye, yet it is all comprehended by the Divine mind, and is daily extending in the world.

5. Now this good work is God’s and not man’s. Human skill may rear classic temples, but no power less than Divine can take a rough block of human sinfulness, purify it from its defilements, and gloriously prepare and polish it for some fitting place in the spiritual temple of the living God.

The holy Spirit dwells in the Christian temple. Heathen classics believed that their divinities resided in their temples. Advancing a step nearer truth, some of the wise men of old taught that a good man himself was a temple in which the divinity dwelt. Now these were glimmerings of Divine truth.

1. It might well be argued that to dwell in any place denotes a living being and a distinct personality. Man’s soul dwells in his body, and this constitutes him a real living person; the Spirit of God dwells in the Christian soul, and animates by Divine power all the living Church.

2. God clearly taught this truth to the Hebrew Church (Ezekiel 36:25-28), though its fulness of blessing was only bestowed in Christian days. If any man of rank or power sat down familiarly in some poor cottage how the world would marvel! Especially if in his condescension he bestowed on it some of his own treasures as gifts of his power. How much more, then, ought we to be astonished and delighted that God, the Eternal Spirit, visits earth’s dwellings of dust.

3. But the infidel theories of the day banish God from all His own works. Yet if I behold some great building, I naturally inquire who was the architect, and who dwells or acts there? Apply this illustration--

(1) To creation. Will any man, then, tell me that this glorious temple is the mere work of chance, that no Almighty Spirit regulates or minds it?

(2) To a living Church. Can it be possible that this is no work of God? Has not God’s Spirit dwelt in it, creating its life, diffusing its light, and commanding its heavenly power, love, peace, and joy, and making it the centre of rich blessing, humanity, charity, and civilisation to the world?

(3) To the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Christian soul.

The obligations and blessings of these important truths.

1. As you are bought with the price of Christ’s blood, and sealed as His by the Holy Spirit, you are called to glorify Him both in body and soul. As Christians are God’s temple collectively as “the body of Christ,” and individually as “members of Christ,” how then ought they to live in holiness, peace, and love!

2. Who can tell the invaluable blessings and gifts of the Holy Spirit thus dwelling in the heart? In short, they are Divine light, guidance, help, and comfort. (J. G. Angley, M. A.)

The house beautiful

Taking the idea of the text and looking upon the “human form divine” as the “house beautiful,” we would remark that--

The house should give signs of its superior occupant. We judge of the inmate by the residence. If everything around is disorderly, we attribute it to the character of the tenant. If the paths are clean and the flower-beds are trimmed, we know that there is taste and cultivation of the spirit of beauty on the part of the occupier. So we judge regarding the human house. Sin makes its marks upon the countenance. Care traces its wrinkles on the face. The house should be--

1. Kept clean. Sanctification is spiritual cleanliness. Christ will cleanse. And the soul made pure will manifest that purity in the outer life. The light of God in the soul will illumine the darkness around.

2. Well furnished. The Christian needs to be ready to account for his faith. He must be furnished for every good word and work. His mind should be stored only with remembrance-pictures upon which he can look with tranquility and delight.

We are not freeholders or absolute possessors of that house--we only have it on lease. It is but a temporary temple. The beams and rafters will be taken down, and the tenant will depart.

The tenant is more precious than the house he lives in. The soul is of infinitely more worth than the body. Fair though the house may be, more beautiful still is the tenant, radiant with the love that God bestows. (Homiletic Monthly.)

The nature and offices of the Holy Spirit

. His personality. To dwell in a temple is a personal act. We understand by person a distinct, subsistent, intelligent being, as distinguished from a mere property or attribute. It is quite necessary to draw this distinction, otherwise we might imagine the Spirit of God to be nothing but a Divine power, virtue, or efficacy, resident in God, or derived from God. There are, certainly, attributed to the Holy Spirit faculties and operations which can only be attributed to a person, and not to a quality. He possesses understanding, “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” Affections are ascribed to Him, when we are bidden not to grieve Him, and when the Israelites are said to have provoked Him. He teaches men; guides them into all truth; can be blasphemed, and Christians are baptized into His name equally with that of the Father and the Son, whose personality are not disputed.

His divinity. If it be a personal act to dwell in a temple, there must, it would seem, be Deity in the person who, by His indwelling, makes the temple the temple of God. But we have clear evidence in abundance that He must be actually God. What inherent property and perfection of the Divine nature is there which is not attributed to the Holy Spirit? What operation is there, transcending that of a finite and created thing, which the Spirit is not said to perform?

His offices. If the residence of the Spirit in a man convert him into the temple of God, it is evident that the Spirit must be a renewing and sanctifying agent. Man being naturally inhabited only by what is evil, therefore a work of regeneration must be effected ere he can be dwelt in by One infinitely holy. Here we may observe that the office of the Spirit, in the economy of redemption, is a fresh proof of His Divinity. Man having been “born in sin, and shapen in iniquity,” it is the office of the Holy Ghost to effect such a change that the sinner may be described as born again, and made a new man in Christ Jesus. It were even nothing that Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree, if there were no supernatural agency to apply to ourselves the expiatory virtue of Christ’s sacrifice. It is the office of the Spirit to translate us from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God’s dear Son; and having once made us fellow-citizens with the saints, He equips us for spiritual conflict, enables us for every spiritual duty, and furnishes us with every spiritual consolation. Indeed, it were little to be brought within the circle of the family of God, if we were not also kept in it by the power through which we were first introduced. But this power never deserts those who give themselves to its guidance. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The Spirit’s dwelling

The fact. “Ye are the temple,” &c. In three ways

1. By building. No one is by nature a temple. The Holy Ghost quarries the stones, shapes the pillars, constructs the edifice.

2. By furnishing. He supplies the good thoughts, good motives, good principles, which actuate the Christian’s life.

3. By inhabiting. The Spirit does not build a house for the devil’s home. It is for Himself.

The inferences. It is implied that there should be, if we wish the Spirit to continue--

1. Fitness. The house must be kept in such a condition as is suitable for His presence.

2. Supremacy. God cannot share the kingdom.

3. Unanimity. How can two dwell together, except they be agreed? (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit

This indwelling is a profound mystery, but it is the characteristic glory of the Christian dispensation. Our Lord distinguishes between the work of the Holy Spirit before and after Pentecost: “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” Once He came upon them, now He is in them. And where the Spirit dwells is holy ground. Of that indwelling the temple of Solomon gives us a prophetic glimpse. There shone a heavenly light, the symbol of the Holy Spirit who was to dwell in every true Christian, not as a passing visitor, but as a perpetual guest. And where He comes, He brings a new nature and capacities. He gives a new direction to the heart and will. He opens the understanding, and bestows a new power for holiness and for service. This indwelling is here set forth as an antidote.

To party spirit.

1. The love of faction which marked the politics of Corinth had crept into their religion. They nursed a temper of bitterness which hindered true work for God, injured their inner life, and grieved the Holy Spirit. Therefore St. Paul asks with surprise, “Know ye not,” &c. Their lack of charity helped to destroy the Church of God. It broke up its unity, it killed its spirituality. It provoked God to judge them. It was a desecration which the Holy God could not ignore.

2. The bane of the Church still is its unhappy divisions. Still Christian scorns Christian in proportion as the differences which divide them are trivial and unimportant. If the remembrance of our great mission fail to move us, at least let the tact that the Spirit of God dwells in us do so. If Moses appealed to the striving Israelites, “Sirs, ye are brethren,” may not we appeal, “Sirs, know ye not that ye are a temple of God,” &c.

To disloyalty to God.

1. Some of the Christians at Corinth knew well the freedom of Christ’s gospel. But there was a danger lest they should grow proud of their light and their liberty, and despise every barrier between themselves and sin. Therefore St. Paul sternly calls them to a life of separation from all evil (2 Corinthians 6:14-16).

2. The warning is not unneeded by English Christians. There are forces at work in society not unlike those at Corinth. Our charity is apt to degenerate into indifference. A feeble and uncertain grasp of truth leads too often to acquiescence in a policy or in practices which the conscience condemns. When we are tempted to take as our friend the godless, simply because they are clever or rich; when we are invited to put our hands to any work upon which we cannot ask the blessing of God, or to join any association which may make money at the cost of the character or the well-being of our fellow-men--let us remember that to touch the unclean thing is to defile that temple and to grieve the indwelling Spirit.

To impurity. In the foul atmosphere of that heathen city the Christians were exposed to fearful temptations, and needed an adequate motive and a superhuman power, if they were to keep themselves pure. And such they had (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). There are symptoms in the social life of England which cannot but excite the anxiety of every one who loves his country and is loyal to God.

1. If our literature is free from the coarseness of earlier centuries, it is too often pervaded by a subtle taint which poisons almost imperceptibly the imagination of its readers; while the silent and deadly effect of the publication in our newspapers of things of which it is a shame even to speak in secret, has corrupted the purity of thousands of souls.

2. The fashion of treating marriage flippantly, and the fact that leading reviews insert articles which deliberately question its sanctity, tend to strike at the very root of morality and home life.

3. The growing luxury which has accompanied the accumulation of wealth, brings with it its own Nemesis in the relaxing of our moral fibre.

4. And, while rejoicing in every honest attempt to remove all the disabilities under which women have suffered, I venture to think that the tendency to destroy the distinction between the sexes must help, in the long run, to rob a woman’s life of those graces which have been the secret of her highest influence, and her most invulnerable shield. Now to us, exposed to these dangers, the fact of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, when once realised, becomes a great safeguard, and a mighty incentive to a pure and self-restrained life. (F. J. Chevasse, M. A.)

The indwelling of the Spirit

He, uncreated love, pours out into our souls all our power of Divine love for Him and for each other. He, uncreated wisdom, orders our thoughts secretly. He, uncreated truth, dissipates from our mind the mist which we have gathered round ourselves. He, uncreated strength, instrengthens us to bear or to overcome all evil, and to will mightily all good. He, uncreated holiness, cleanses by His presence an habitation for Himself, and hallows by His abiding the dwelling-place, which He has repaired, that He might enter in; which He has enlarged, that it might contain Him. He Himself, within us, informs our memory that we may remember Him, enlightens our minds that we may know Him, moves our wills that we may choose Him and obey Him. He Himself, within us, quickens our diligence that we may seek Him, gives us wisdom that we may find Him, perseverance that we may attain unto Him. Nor is it our spiritual nature only which He so hallows. “Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost.” Yes, these poor bodies, which hunger and thirst, are heavy and weary; which shall return to corruption, which shall be subject to the dishonour of the grave--these God has chosen to be His dwelling-place; within these He is forming that glorious body which shall be after the resurrection; with these He unites Himself now, that they may be full of His glory hereafter. They shall shine above the glory of the sun, because they shall be filled with the light of His divinity. They shall know no decay; for He shall be their immortality. They shall know no weariness; for He shall be their life. They shall know no suffering; for they shall be made impassible, since He is not subject to suffering. They shall obey, unhindering, every motion of His will, for they shall be spiritual through His indwelling Spirit. How, then, should we reverence this our mysterious being. How should we reverently use the eyes; how keep them from all wrong use and all unlawful sight, which are, through the light of God, to see God! How should we keep the tongue from evil words, which, moved by the Spirit of God, is endlessly to sing the new song! How should we guard the heart from evil affections, which God has claimed as His own, and bidden us to give it wholly to Him; the soul which is capacious enough to “contain God,” yet not large enough to contain the world and God! (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy … which temple ye are.--

The human soul God’s truest temple

. The human soul God’s truest temple. This truth expresses one of the great changes introduced by Christianity. Why has Christianity abolished the one local house and consecrated man himself as the dwelling-place of God? Because--

1. God is equally present everywhere. Though recognised in Judaism, this never broke forth into its wonderful glory until Christ appeared. Men feared God, and the shadow of that fear led them to fancy Him far away. The whole tendency of Christ’s life was to wear down the barrier between God and man. He showed that nature was but the living work of an ever-present Father. But although equally present, God is not equally manifested everywhere. Thus God is revealed in His worship, but who sees Him? Not the careless or the carnal; but to holy men spiritual emotion has hallowed strange places, and made them temples. To Jacob, the stones became a temple. To Peter, the mountain where Christ’s glory shone became the Holy Mount. Nathaniel would never pass the fig-tree without feeling it to be a place of prayer. Perhaps we all have our holy places; the chamber where we first really prayed, &c. These are our earthly temples, because there God has been most clearly manifested to us.

2. God is most clearly manifested in humanity. Christ, pre-eminently, was the glorious temple in which God dwelt, and through whom the Divine glory was revealed to the world. There was the holy of holies; there the altar which made every other altar fire grow pale and expire.

The manner of realising this. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (verse 16). Assuming that, how may we attain more of the full presence of God in our souls? In man there is a trinity of power, and in order to become a temple all these must be consecrated.

1. Intellect to realise God’s presence, To awaken the soul to energy you must think on Him. Go, then, and stretch every faculty of your souls to realise His glory and His presence.

2. Emotion. Thought is vain apart from this.

3. Action. Thought and feeling are both vain without this. Work from your emotion, and ultimately you may do all from it. Thus man becomes a temple of God--intellect the holy place; the heart’s emotions the altar of sacrifice; the actions of life the revelation of both.

The results of the realisation.

1. God manifested to the world. They say our temples are being deserted; that the young and the labourer are, going away. Is not this because we are not temples? It is vain to build stone temples to God unless we become His living ones.

2. Elevation of life above the sinful, trifling, earthly. His is no vain life who has, through the Spirit, become a temple of Jehovah! In the temple at Jerusalem there was a veil; at the death of Christ that veil was rent. In the temple of every human heart there hangs a veil; death will rend it, and will reveal either the glorious image of the Father, or the image of the demon-god for which it has lived. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

Defiling the temple of God

Why false doctrines are a defiling. First, from the pure nature of God’s truth, and His worship, which falsehoods do stain and take away the glory of. Oh, then, how humble, tender, and careful ought men to be! Are the truths and ordinances of God by institution, and in their original so pure? Come not, then, with thy foul hands to handle such precious things. Secondly, they are called defilements and pollutions, because the truths and Church of God are not only pure, but dedicated and appropriated to Him, as the only object. Thirdly, errors and heresies may well be called defilements, because they are a disease, and so spread over the Church. Fourthly, they are defilements, because they pollute the conscience, mind, and heart, and whole life of a man. Hence you have that phrase, “Men of corrupt minds” (1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Timothy 3:8). Lastly, Corrupt doctrines are called defilements, to show how loathsome and abominable they should be to us. We have despatched the sin supposed, we come to the punishment proposed--“Him shall God destroy.” Let us consider the aggravation of this destruction. First, it is an eternal destruction; a destruction that is always destroying, and yet the party is not extinguished. Secondly, it is a universal destruction in a moral sense. There is not the least mixture of any joy, of any hope. Thirdly, it is an inevitable destruction. God will destroy; who can stop God’s hand? (A. Burgess.)

The mystical temple

There was, under the law--

1. The outward court, where the people did stand, and the inner temple, into which none but the priests did enter. So with a Christian; there is the outward temple of his body (1 Corinthians 6:19), and the holy of holies, his soul, where none but Christ our High Priest must come.

The resemblances between a believer’s soul and a temple.

1. All the materials were fitted for the building of the temple: the timber was to be sawn, the stones to be hewn and polished. So by nature we are not qualified for a temple, we are unhewn and unpolished. So far from preparing ourselves for a temple, we indispose ourselves; but God hews us by His prophets (Hosea 2:5), and cuts and carves us by afflictions, and so makes us meet for a spiritual temple.

2. The temple was very magnificent (1 Kings 6:32). So the soul of a believer is an illustrious temple. God Himself brings His glory into it (Psalms 45:13). Christ never admired the goodly stones of the visible, but admired the glory of the spiritual temple (1 Peter 3:4).

3. The temple was a place set apart for God’s peculiar worship; it was separated from all other places. So a believer’s heart is consecrated ground, and set apart for God’s service (Psalms 4:3; Psalms 119:38).

4. The temple was a place of God’s special presence: He did there command His blessings. So in a spiritual heart God wonderfully manifests His presence: there He gives forth the influences of His grace, the communications of His love.

5. The temple was adorned with curious pictures; so the temple of the heart hath God’s image in it (Colossians 3:10); is drawn by the pencil of the Holy Ghost.

6. The temple had a fire burning on the altar; so a believer’s heart is the altar on which there is a sacred fire still burning (Romans 12:13; Psalms 119:97).

7. The temple, being an hallowed place, was to be kept clean (2 Chronicles 29:15; 2 Chronicles 23:3). So must this (2 Chronicles 7:1).

This Divine temple of the soul differs from other temples, and hath a transcendent excellency above them.

1. Other material temples, though of a beautiful structure, yet have no life in them; but a believer is a living temple (1 Peter 2:5). Hypocrites who have only a name to live (Revelation 3:1), are not temples, but tombs.

2. This is an heavenly temple; other temples are constituted of earthly materials. The believer’s soul was breathed from heaven, and that which is in heaven is to be found in Him. In heaven there is--

(1) Light (Colossians 1:12), so in a saint there is the light of knowledge (Ephesians 5:8).

(2) Love (1 John 4:7), so a saint’s heart is a temple of love (John 21:15).

(3) Joy (Matthew 25:23), so a saint hath joy in believing (Romans 15:13).

3. He is an everlasting temple; other temples are of a perishable nature. God will not demolish His own temple. Christ’s blood cements all the stones together, and as long as the foundation and cement hold, so long this temple shall last, and that is for ever.


1. Of information.

(1) See the difference between the godly and the wicked: the heart of the godly is a temple; the heart of the wicked is a cage of unclean birds (Revelation 18:2).

(2) See wherein a great part of the nation’s safety lies; namely, in having store of these spiritual temples. In ancient times temples were places of safety. The saints are England’s sanctuaries.

(3) If the saints are the temples of God, then how dangerous is it for any to abuse and injure them!

2. Of examination. All God’s temples are made in some measure like Him.

(1) God is a spirit. Are we spiritual?

(2) God is pure. Have we holy and chaste affections?

(3) God is merciful. What shall we say to them who have no mercy?

3. Of exhortation. You who are the temples of God.

(1) Do not defile God’s temple (verse 17).

(a) By intermixing with the wicked. Bad company is defiling (1 Corinthians 5:9).

(b) By uncleanness. This sin defiles both the outward temple and the inner.

(c) By error. Heresies are as the leprosy, which defiled the house in which it was (Leviticus 14:39).

(2) Be as temples.

(a) Do temple work. Offer up spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5)--of prayer; of a broken heart (Psalms 51:17); of praise (Psalms 50:23).

(b) Study temple purity. The temple was very holy. So Christians. Holiness beautifies God’s temples, and is the cherisher of a Christian’s peace.

4. Of consolation.

(1) Such as are God’s spiritual temples shall have much of God’s company (2 Corinthians 6:16).

(2) Such as are gracious temples shall one day be glorious temples. (T. Watson.)

The holiness of God’s temple

Take the figure in connection with any of the kinds of habitation spoken of in Scripture--

1. The home.

2. The tent.

3. The palace.

4. The temple--it exhibits a most comforting truth to us.

To be God’s home or dwelling, His tent or tabernacle, His royal palace, His chosen temple, of which that on Moriah was a mere shadow, how solemn the admonition as to personal holiness conveyed to us by this! In God’s temple there is the blood, the fire, the smoke, the water, the lamps, the incense, the shewbread, the cherubim, the glory--all consecrated things, and all pertaining to what is heavenly!

What intimacy with God. Acquaintanceship with Him who has made our heart His home is the least which could be expected. He must be no stranger to us. There must not merely be reconciliation--for that may consist with some degree of distance--but intimacy, peaceful friendship, loving acquaintanceship. If God be our inmate, how intimate ought we to be with Him in all respects! Of an old Scotch minister it is said (as the finishing stroke in his character), “He was one very intimate with God.” So let it be said of us.

What calmness of spirit. In all false religion there is excitement, in true religion calmness. Man is never more truly and deeply calm than when filled with the Spirit of God. The tendency of much that is called religion in our day is to agitation, bustle, noise, unnatural fervour. God keeps His temple in perfect peace.

What solemnity of soul If God be inhabiting us as His temple we ought surely to be solemn men--called to a solemn life, speaking solemn words, manifesting a solemn deportment. Should the world’s rude laughter echo through the aisles of the Divine temple? or its uproarious mirth ring through the holy of holies?

What recollectedness of thought and feeling. With God dwelling in us, shall we allow wandering thoughts or forgetfulness of the Divine presence to prevail. Let us gather up our thoughts and keep them gathered.

What spirituality and unworldliness. “God is a Spirit, and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” We need the spiritual heart, shutting out the world from a shrine which Jehovah has entered and made His own. If we are temples of the holy Ghost, and if His temples are holy, then are not such things as the following shut out?--

1. Vanity. How inconsistent 1

2. Pleasure. Can a lover of pleasure be a temple of the Holy Ghost?

3. Politics. What have the poor party politics of this world to do with the worship of this glorious temple? Can the smoke and dust of the world commingle with the incense of the golden altar?

4. Covetousness. Absorption even in lawful business is inconsistent with our being temples of God. Let us not grieve that Spirit whose temple we are. Let us allow Him to fill us wholly, and to cast out all that is unbefitting the holiness and glory of His habitation.

Verses 18-20

1 Corinthians 3:18-20

Let no man deceive himself.

If any man … seemeth to he wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may he wise.

How to avoid self-deception

The danger.

1. Is common.

2. Arises out of ignorance and self-conceit.

3. Leads to the most disastrous results.

How to avoid it.

1. Distrust yourself.

2. Distrust the wisdom of this world.

3. Be content to be thought a fool, that you may be enlightened with the wisdom that cometh from above. (J. Lyth, D. D.)


We abhor the character of one who deceives us by fair promises m our ordinary intercourse with the world; but we are not equally prepared against those specious delusions which are cherished in our own breast. It will require all the aids of a power from above to detect the specious illusions which are interwoven with the history of man.

The general causes of self-deceit. Had human nature retained its original innocence the love of truth would have been its unvaried feature. But--we are fallen. The faculties of the mind are blinded by prejudice.

1. Hence the treachery of the heart is one of the first causes of self-deceit. The enemy in our own bosom deludes us into a secret approbation of our vices, and flatters us with the hope of eluding any future punishment, or of avoiding a rigorous investigation of our past lives.

2. Another cause of self-deceit is an inordinate love of pleasure. When we rather seek to be amused than to be improved, we can have no leisure for the scrutiny of thought or a proper inquiry into our own character and conduct.

3. Another fruitful source of self-deceit is thinking too highly of ourselves. Flattery blinds the eye of the judgment, and prevents our discovering the errors which we constantly indulge. We cry peace to our souls when there is no peace; and we dream of security amidst the most formidable enemies.

4. We are further exposed to the danger of self-deceit by making too light of sin. He who lessens the claims of virtue must be a stranger to the purifying influence of sanctifying grace--no error will so effectually delude us into a fatal indifference to our own security.

5. A conformity to the world in our manners, maxims, and pursuits, is another prolific source of self-deceit. This is not the school wherein we shall learn to obey the strictness of our holy religion. Outward appearances are more studied than inward piety in this region of gaiety, business, and perpetual delusion.

6. Again a levity of temper that precludes thought is another common occasion of self-deceit. The mind requires a discipline no less regular than the body.

7. Again, this fatal delusion may be often ascribed to ignorance of our fallen condition by nature and practice. Men who are unacquainted with the depravity of their own hearts and the depth of iniquity within, are not aware of the imposing forms which even their vices will assume.

8. Another way in which we deceive ourselves is in calling vices by the name of virtues. Thus the miser veils his avarice under the name of prudence.

9. Many are also deceiving themselves by mistaking a theoretical acquaintance with the doctrines of the gospel for the power of vital godliness.

The extreme danger of being lulled in a state of carnal security through the imposing influence of self-deceit. The principal evil is that whilst we are entertaining a high opinion of our own goodness, we are taking no pains to avoid the dangers which are coming on us. We are also apt to think every man our enemy who tells us the truth. In the hurry of business, or in a vortex of pleasure, we have no inclination to pause and consider the end of our ways. No dangers can be so great as those which we take no pains to avoid. They come on us in a way utterly unexpected. The danger of carnal security is great, because we are hereby led to neglect the remedy provided in the gospel. Man has too much at stake to trifle, securely, with his chief interest.

The best means to avoid the dangers of self-deceit, with the benefits attendant on a proper knowledge of ourselves.

1. The first step in this important business will be to maintain a holy jealousy over our own hearts. To avoid self-deceit we must beware of self-love, and be on our guard against the natural proneness of our deceitful hearts to excuse our errors and extenuate our vices. We must judge of our own conduct not by the partial opinion of our friends, but by the frequent declarations of our enemies. We must not merely compare our conduct with others, but reflect on what it ought to be when compared with what it is.

2. The benefits attendant on a proper knowledge of ourselves will be humility, under a consciousness of our guilt, and depravity; caution, under a due impression of our weakness; a constant attendance on the means of grace, from a view of the blessings annexed to them; and an anxious solicitude to have a well-grounded interest in Christ, from a thorough persuasion of the dangers that await us. (J. Grose, A. M.)

On deceiving ourselves

That men should deceive themselves, and still more, that they should use means for that purpose, we should believe to have been impossible were it not a fact of daily observation. Several causes lead to this irrational and dangerous practice. The first and most powerful is an inordinate love of ourselves. Pride also often lends its aid to our selfishness it inspires a contempt of other men and too high an opinion of our own rights. The desire to maintain our own esteem contributes to our self-deception. We have a desire of the approbation of our fellow-creatures, and feel mortified when this approbation is withdrawn. But to appear worthless in our own eyes deprives us not only of the pleasure of conscience, but inflicts the stings of remorse. Such mortifying sentiments must be banished, and our self-esteem in some way must be regained. Hence guilty men have recourse to the artifices of self-deceit. Let us guard against the influence of principles which lead to so fatal a conclusion. And for this purpose let us proceed to consider some of those cases in which self-deceit is most frequently practised.

The first of these to which I request your attention is that in which our sins are mingled with some apparent good. Whence, for example, is profusion called generosity, vanity and folly a high and liberal spirit? while, on the other hand, the most narrow selfishness is called prudence; avarice, frugality; the exclusive pursuit of gain, diligent and honest industry? Whence are fraud and low cunning sometimes boasted of as the achievement of superior talent; and crimes fitted only to inspire the deepest disgust are openly related in expectation of applause? Whence is it that restlessness and discontent are confounded with the desire of improvement--subtilty called depth--audacious and hasty decisions, clear and prompt judgments? Whence also do you find blind and intemperate zeal confounded with a supreme love of God; while, on the other hand, insensibility and indifference are honoured with the names of liberality and rational religion? Whence arise these and such-like dangerous perversions of judgment, but from that fatal self-deceit--that unfairness of mind and subserviency of the understanding and the conscience to our passions and indulgences which are so often to be seen in the judgments and conduct of men?

Another case in which self-deceit is apt to be practised is that in which we judge of those duties or indulgences, the proper bounds of which cannot be precisely defined. No duty is more obligatory upon Christians than the relief of persons in distress; but you cannot lay down, either for yourselves or others, the time, the occasion, and the extent in which that relief is in every case to be given. Here, then, is a wide field for a dishonest mind to indulge its propensities, and to deceive itself in the formation of its judgments. Similar observations may be made on the neglect of personal devotion. Are there not many who never employ a portion of their time in serious meditation or private prayer? Deeply engaged in the toils and pursuits of business, they find many excuses for their negligence. The fit season, they say, is frequently interrupted by unexpected occurrences. At length a habit of procrastination is formed. The proper season no longer reminds us of our sacred duties. The world now occupies our thoughts and our inclinations. A similar process of self-deception often takes place in reference to pursuits and indulgences which may be innocent in themselves, but which, in special circumstances, or when frequently repeated, become dangerous and guilty. Under this class may be ranked the undue pursuit of the amusements, and what are called the pleasures, of life. They may interfere with that time which belonged to important objects: they may produce such effects on your temper and state of mind as to unfit you for those special duties to which you are dedicated: or they may be unsuitable to your circumstances and condition in life; and may associate with you ideas and feelings which are injurious to your character and usefulness.

Men are specially liable to self-deceit in those cases where they are led to consider and estimate their own general character. It is of the highest importance that we form just notions of ourselves. This would save us from many unwise and ruinous undertakings, and from doing much injury both to ourselves and to our fellow-creatures. The knowledge of ourselves would also render us humble and mild in our intercourse with one another, modest in our judgments, diligent in the means of knowledge and improvement. But I pass from minor considerations to the higher concerns of the soul and our eternal well-being. The foundation of Christianity is laid in a just sense of our ignorance, sinfulness, and lost estate; and till this be in some degree known and felt, we cannot justly estimate the salvation of the gospel. How important, then, is it for us to guard against that self-deceit which conceals from us the knowledge of our own character, and prevents us from seeking reconciliation with God and rising to that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. Behold a man retired into his closet with the professed design of considering his ways and inquiring into the nature of his character. How astonishing, then, is it to behold this same man using every means to defeat the object of his inquiry. By some sophistical argument he finds that his sins are not so bad nor so dangerous as they have been commonly represented; or he discovers that in the case of persons like him such sins are attended with many circumstances of palliation; they are young, and cannot be expected to have all the wisdom and virtue of age; or they are aged, and being long accustomed to such indulgences, it would be dangerous, perhaps death at their time of life, to reform: or they find that they are peculiarly exposed to temptation, from the nature of their occupations and the persons with whom they are obliged to associate; other men are not better than they, but only not so much exposed to temptation. They rise from their meditations more hardened and ignorant of themselves than before.

Similar causes will lead men to deceive themselves in judging of their state of favour with God and their prospect of future happiness. We have seen the manner in which sinful men deceive themselves into false conceptions of their general character: they have only to carry their self-complacency one step farther, and to fix on some tests of an interest in Christ which are agreeable to their own inclinations, in order to persuade themselves that they are in a state of favour with God and secure of future happiness. How many, for example, satisfy themselves with a splendid profession! Another class of self-deceivers lull themselves into a fatal security by the general decency of their lives; while no action, pursuit, or plan, has ever proceeded from Christian principles. Did not the Pharisee whom our Lord contrasts with the humble publican thus deceive himself? But not to men professing some regard for religion is this self-deceit confined. Strange as it may seem, there are men utterly void of the Christian profession who assure themselves of heaven. Their vices have laid asleep their conscience. Their sense of good and evil is lost, and they see not the gulf which lies before them.

Let me beseech you, then, to guard against an evil so subthe, so dangerous, and to which we are so perpetually exposed. Watch, then, over yourselves; inquire often into the state of your principles and lives; and bring them to the test of the law and the testimony. Turn not away from the consideration of your errors and sins--bear to look at them as they are. Though to probe the wound may be painful, thus only can it be cured. But even in self-examination we are in danger of deceiving ourselves. Lay therefore your hearts before God. (S. MacGill, D.D.)

Human wisdom in opposition to the Divine

. Human wisdom.

1. Is more seeming than real.

2. Is mixed with much of error.

3. Busies itself with matters of temporary importance.

4. Excludes those that are of higher moment, or else judges them by false standards;

To attain to Divine wisdom. A man must--

1. Acknowledge his own ignorance.

2. Become a fool in the eyes of the world.

3. Submit his reason to the teaching of Divine wisdom (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Worldly wisdom

The wisdom here referred to is what Paul calls elsewhere “fleshly wisdom,” the “wisdom of the world,” or of the age (1 Corinthians 1:20). It may be regarded as mere intellectual knowledge applied to secular and selfish ends, however vast and varied its attainments.

It is self-deluding. “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world,” &c. This worldly wisdom deceives a man, inasmuch as--

1. It leads him to overrate the value of his attainments. He imagines that this kind of knowledge, “wisdom,” is everything for a man. Hence the enthusiastic promotion of schools and colleges. But all such knowledge is of no value to man as man, and beyond his brief and uncertain earthly life.

2. It leads him to overrate his own importance. He is “vainly puffed by his earthly mind” (Colossians 2:18). Such a man imagines himself to be very great, he becomes a priggish pedant, he “struts and stares and a’ that.”

It is spiritually worthless. A man with this worldly wisdom must “become a fool that he may be wise.” Two things are here implied.

1. That with all his wisdom he is already really a “fool,” for he looks for happiness where it is not to be found. Happiness does not spring from a man’s brain, but from his heart; not from his ideas, but from his affections.

2. He is a “fool” because he practically ignores the chief good, which is love for, resemblance to, and fellowship with God. Hence “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” The most illustrious scholar, sage, orator, who is considered by himself and his contemporaries to be a man of wonderful wisdom, to the eye of God is a fool.

It is ultimately confounding. “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” It must confound a man sooner or later either--

1. Here in his conversion, or

2. Yonder in his retribution. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Human wisdom a hindrance to the things of Christ

Now the holy and heavenly things of Christ may be reduced unto three heads. In all these you shall see a man with no more than the natural human wisdom to be the greatest adversary thereunto; yea, and the more parts, and the more wisdom he hath, the more indisposed he is to receive or believe supernatural truths. We must not understand to believe, but believe to understand.

Let us consider what an enemy to the doctrine delivered the fleshly, human wisdom of a man is. First, this human wisdom puffeth a man up with pride, that he will not entertain such Divine mysteries. And this swelling or puffing up is immediately contrary to an act of faith; for faith hath an obediential assent, namely, because God saith it, let my understanding cavil and argue never so plausibly. So that faith is a kind of mental martyrdom, it puts to death those lofty thoughts men naturally have. Secondly, human wisdom as it doth immediately oppose faith in its obediential assent, so also humility which is the instrumental grace to receive all the mysteries of Christ. Humility is not only a grace itself, but a vessel to receive other graces (Psalms 25:9; Matthew 11:25). The valleys they receive the drops of heaven, and are more fruitful than the mountains, though high but barren. So that human wisdom is as great an hindrance as humility is a furtherance. Thirdly, human conceited wisdom must needs hinder the entertainment of Christ’s truth, because it sets itself on the throne to be judge, and to determine truth or falsehood according to her own principles. It makes weights and a standard of its own, and will weigh even what God and the Scripture saith by its own self. It is true a man’s reason or wisdom may be considered two ways

(1) As corrupt and darkened through original sin; and in this respect only we speak of it, as such an adversary to the mysteries of religion.

(2) As enlightened and sanctified by the Word and the Spirit of God. Now, in this latter respect, though it be not a judge, but is to be judged, yet it is an excellent instrument to faith. When faith had first laid its foundation, then reason is wonderful serviceable for the confirmation of Divine truths. Fourthly, human wisdom is such an opposite to heavenly truth, because of its subtilty to find out cavils and excogitate arguments against the truth. Lastly, the more wisdom and knowledge men have the more busy the devil is to make them on his side. The doctrine observed is, that human and earthly wisdom is a great enemy to the things of God.

The next thing in order is the manner of declaration and publication of it in the Scripture. And here we shall find worldly wisdom to be a great adversary; but I shall instance in one thing only about that, and that is, the simplicity and plainness of the style. That whereas there are two things that are exceeding apt to take with the world; the one with rational men, the other with affectionate men. The Scripture seemeth to be furnished with neither. For with rational men strong demonstrations and scientifical probations prevail exceedingly. Now, many times men of strong reason are no ways rhetorical, as the earth, where mines of gold are, is barren of grass and flowers. This the Scripture hath not, for that dictateth, not argueth, which is indeed most suitable to the Divine Scripture. Some, then, look for learned demonstrations; others are ravished with the sweet music of human rhetoric. It was the saying of an atheistical critic, that he esteemed one of Pindar’s odes before all David’s psalms. Thus you see, as it was with Christ Himself, many looked for an outward stately, pompous Messiah; and because He came not in that outward way He was a stumbling-block to many. First, for learned men who expect demonstration, consider, that it being the Word of the most High God, it is most decent and graceful that there should no other argument be used but authority. All scientifical demonstrations are far inferior to Divine authority. Secondly, while learned men seek for such rational demonstrations, let them take heed lest while they seek for reason they lose faith. There is greater reason to believe the Scripture than to assent to any demonstration. So that though faith be not reason, yet there is the greatest reason for faith. And for those who look for rhetorical flourishes and fanciful expressions let them consider. Some places of Scripture have strong and masculine eloquence; not indeed that light and meretricious habit of human oratory, but a grave, matron-like clothing: such is the prophecy of Isaiah and other places. If we have a jewel or precious pearl its own native lustre is better than any painting of it. So Divine matter the more plain and clear it is the more admirable it is. It is the matter, not the words that do convince and convert. Words may please the fancy, but it is matter that woundeth the heart.

The third remaineth, and that is, earthly wisdom is a great enemy to those spiritual and practical duties that God requireth of us. Practical godliness hath a great deal of seeming foolishness in the eyes of the world.

1. The whole doctrine of self-denial is a very foolish thing to carnal wisdom.

2. The duty of faith in relying upon Christ only, and renouncing our own righteousness, is the great gospel command, yet nothing is more foolish and absurd to human reason than this. All the philosophers thought of no other righteousness but that of works.

3. The duties of humility and meekness, especially forbearing of one another and loving our enemies, is esteemed high folly in worldly men’s esteem. The heathens thought it a very justifiable thing to hate their enemies. (A. Burgess.)

Scripture wisdom excels speculative wisdom

Let us show wherein the faith of a Christian, commanded by the Scripture, doth far surpass all human knowledge and science which men by nature do glory in. First, faith doth surpass all human sciences in the dignity of the subject. The matter about which a Christian’s faith is exercised doth far transcend all that about which human knowledge doth exercise itself; for the highest that they could reach unto is only to the knowledge of natural effects produced by natural causes. And if any could prove these by the former, this they called a demonstration, though some men say no man ever yet gave a demonstration. So, then, all the excellent wisdom of the world hath been only to consider the nature of sublunary things; and if they did arise to consider of a God, the Maker of these, it was in a very uncertain, doubtful way. This is all our human wisdom can help us to, but now by faith we have the supernatural mysteries of salvation revealed unto us. The Scripture tells us of a God in Christ reconciling man to Himself; of man’s original misery; of Christ the Mediator. Alas! how poor and contemptible are the highest notions even of Plato, though called Divine, when you come and read Paul! Secondly, faith differs from all their human science in respect of the excellency of the end; for the end of all Scripture wisdom is to bring us to eternal life (2 Timothy 3:15; John 20:31). There was never any human knowledge could teach a man to be eternally happy. Plato’s divinity and Aristotle’s morality, though they have the words of happiness anti have large discourses about it, yet wanted the thing itself. Thirdly, faith doth surpass all human knowledge in its certainty and infallibility; for the object of faith being God’s testimony and His Divine authority, it is as impossible for faith to be deceived as it is for God to lie. Hence it is called the full assurance of hope (Hebrews 10:22). And we believe, therefore we speak (2 Corinthians 4:13). How could the holy martyrs witness those Divine truths even to death, had they not been possessed with sure knowledge of them? Fourthly, faith doth more establish and quiet the heart of men than all human wisdom. Solomon observeth a vanity and vexation of spirit even in all human knowledge; but now faith doth satisfy the soul (Hebrews 11:1). Oh, the anxiety and perplexities that mere human knowledge hath cast men into! Lastly, the Christian faith is above all philosophical knowledge, because of the strong and mighty effects it hath to convert the heart and reform the life (Acts 15:9). Never did human knowledge make such wonderful converts, and work so great a reformation as the Christian faith had done. In the next place, the moral or practical wisdom of the world cometh far short of Scripture wisdom; for--First, the most knowing men were ignorant of original sin, which yet is the fountain of our calamity. Secondly, all human wisdom and prudence knoweth not how to mortify and forsake sin upon true grounds, because they were ignorant of God’s Spirit. Thirdly, all earthly prudence cometh short of this wisdom, because it is circumscribed within the bounds of this world and this life. It looketh out no further, whereas the Scripture giveth directions for the world to come and for eternity. (A. Burgess.)

That true Christian wisdom is nothing but folly in the world’s account

. For the things to be believed, there are these seeming follies--First, the very way of Christianity, that it is not a knowledge but believing. Secondly, the matter believed, that hath appeared a great folly to the wisdom of the world is, that God should be made man, that He should die--be crucified--and by this means work salvation for the poor sinner. Thirdly, the manner of propagating and spreading this faith through the whole world was very contemptible and foolish in the world’s account, though mighty powerful and confounding the wise things of the world.

The matter of a Christian’s hope, that also is very foolish. A man must be the world’s fool that doth part with all for this hope, even the resurrection of the dead to eternal glory.

The duties required by Christ, and all that practical way of godliness which He enjoineth, carrieth with it a great show of folly. First, Christ requireth of all His disciples to live contrary to the wicked ways of the world. Secondly, it is a folly in the world to be so fervent, zealous, and active in matters of religion. Thirdly, that part of Christianity seemeth a foolish thing, which presseth the life of faith and not of sense. Lastly, to acknowledge Christ and His ways, though to our outward undoing. This seemeth great folly. (A. Burgess.)

That only in the Church of God, or in Christianity is true wisdom

That, therefore, only true wisdom is in the Church of God appeareth several ways--First, here we have the only rule of wisdom which is the Scriptures; so that all people without this sit in darkness, and want the star to bring them to Christ or happiness. Secondly, only in the Church is true wisdom, because this cometh from God above and is by Divine infusion into us. Thirdly, in Christianity there is only true wisdom, because there is only true godliness (Proverbs 1:7). Fourthly, Christianity teacheth the true wisdom, because that only instructeth about the true and proper end of all our actions, which is happiness. How did the wise men of the world stagger up and down like giddy men in this point; or, like the blind Sodomites, went groping up and down for the door and could not find it. They knew not where or what blessedness was, And, in Christianity we have not only the true end propounded, but the right means also whereby we may attain it. For prudence lieth in the choosing of fit and conducible means to such an end; as in any art no man can by his art produce artificial operations without fit tools. Fifthly, by Christianity we are only taught to avoid that which causeth repentance and grief of mind after it is done. Oh, then, what happy wisdom is it so to live and so to do, that a man afterwards shall have no cause to roar out for the guilt upon him, that in the time of sickness and hour of death thou mayest not cry out, Oh, foolish and wretched man that I am! Oh, that I had been wiser, but now I fear it is too late! Sixthly, Christianity teacheth this wisdom, not so much to regard the present as to provide for the future, to remember our latter end, to provide for eternity. Seventhly, herein doth Christianity teach us true wisdom, because thereby we are enabled to improve the seasons and opportunities of grace. It is accounted a great piece of worldly wisdom to know the fit seasons of buying and selling. Eighthly, Christian wisdom is seen in caution and circumspection, to refuse all the snares and temptations of sin, and to find out all the devil’s methods and subtilties; for there are the depths of Satan and the devices of Satan, and sin hath its pleasant baits and charms. Ninthly, herein Christianity giveth wisdom, because it helps to conquer and overcome all unruly passions which, while they rage, bereave us of all wisdom. Lastly, it is excellent to instruct us to bear afflictions and how to abound. Only by that we can tell how to be rich and how to be poor. (A. Burgess.)

The folly of wisdom

Even truth or true knowledge becomes folly, if employed to accomplish an end for which it is not adapted. If a man attempts to make men holy or happy; if he undertakes to convert the world by mathematics, or metaphysics, or moral philosophy he is foolish, and his wisdom, as a means to that end, is folly. He must renounce all dependence on those means if he would accomplish that end.

Much that passes for wisdom among men is in itself, and not merely as a means to an end--foolishness. Both these ideas are evidently comprehended in the apostle’s statement. He means to say that human knowledge is entirely inadequate to save men, because that end can only be accomplished by the gospel. And he means also to brand as folly the speculations of men about “the deep things of God.” (C. Hodge, D. D.)

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.--

The wisdom of this world

By this, so called by an Hebraism for “worldly wisdom,” is taken in Scripture for--

1. That sort of wisdom that consists in speculation called philosophy which, as Stoicism, Epicureanism, &c., was professed for the grand rule of life and certain guide to happiness. But its utter insufficiency is expressed in Colossians 2:8; 1Ti 6:20; 1 Corinthians 1:21. It is a wisdom making men accurately and laboriously ignorant of what they were most concerned to know.

2. The policy which consists in a certain dexterity or art of managing business for a man’s secular advantage. This is the wisdom here intended in the text; namely, that practical cunning that shows itself in political matters, and has in it really the mystery of a trade or craft. So that God is said to “take the wise in their own craftiness.” Note--

Its rules or principles.

1. That a man must maintain a continued course of dissimulation and profess himself to be what he is not, and employ all the art and industry imaginable to make good the disguise. This dissimulation is the very groundwork of all worldly policy. In the language of the Scripture it is “damnable hypocrisy”; but of those who neither believe Scripture nor damnation it is voted wisdom. It is looked upon as weakness and unfitness for business for a man to be so open as really to think what he says, and when he makes any promise, to have the least intention of performing it.

2. That conscience and religion ought to lay no restraint upon men when it lies opposite to their interest. The great patron of this tribe, Machiavelli, laid down this for a master rule in his political scheme, That the show of religion was helpful to the politician, bat the reality of it hurtful and pernicious.

3. That a man ought to make himself, and not the public, the chief, if not the sole end of all his actions. He is to be his own centre and circumference too, and is not only not to love his neighbour as himself, but to account none for his neighbour but himself. The general interest of the nation is to be nothing to him, but only that portion of it that he either does or would possess. It is not the rain that waters the whole earth, but that which falls into his own cistern that must relieve him: not the common, but the enclosure that must make him rich. Let the public sink or swim, so long as he can hold up his head above water; let the ship be cast away, if he may but have the benefit of the wreck.

4. That in showing kindness, or doing favours, no respect at all is to be had to friendship, gratitude, or sense of honour; but that such favours are to be done only to the rich or potent, from whom a man may receive a further advantage, or to his enemies, from whom he may otherwise fear a mischief. Our politician having baffled his greater conscience must not be nonplussed with inferior obligations; and having leaped over such mountains, at length poorly lie down before a molehill; but he must add perfection to perfection; and being past grace, endeavour, ii need be, to be past shame too; and accordingly, he looks upon friendship, gratitude, and sense of honour, as terms of art to amuse and impose upon weak, undesigning minds.

The folly of these principles in relation to God. Foolishness, being properly a man’s deviation from right reason in point of practice, must needs consist in--

1. His pitching upon such an end as is unsuitable to his condition. “The wisdom of this world” looks no farther than this world, and if it makes a man rich, potent, and honourable it has its ends and has done its utmost. But now that a man cannot rationally make these things his end will appear from these two considerations--

(1) That they reach not the measure of his duration or being; the perpetuity of which surviving this mortal state must needs render a man infinitely miserable and forlorn, if he has no other comforts but what he must leave behind him in this. For nothing can make a man happy, but that which shall last as long as he lasts. And all these enjoyments are much too short for an immortal soul to stretch itself upon, which shall persist in being, not only when profit, pleasure, and honour, but when time itself shall be no more.

(2) They fill not the measure of his desires. The foundation of all man’s unhappiness here is the great disproportion between his enjoyments and his appetites. Let a man have never so much, he is still desiring something or other more. Alexander was much troubled that there were no more worlds for him to disturb; and, in this respect, every man living has a soul as great as Alexander; and put under the same circumstances would own the very same dissatisfactions. Now in spiritual natures, so much as there is of desire, so much there is also of capacity to receive. Man seems as boundless in his desires as God is in His being; and therefore nothing but God Himself can satisfy him. And then in all these worldly things that a man pursues with such eagerness, he finds not half the pleasure in the possession of them that he proposed to himself in the expectation.

2. His pitching upon means for the acquisition of these enjoyments, that are no ways fit to acquire them, and that upon a double account.

(1) That they are in themselves unable and insufficient for them. Let politicians contrive as accurately, and pursue as diligently as possible; yet still the success of all depends upon the favour of an overruling hand (Deuteronomy 8:18; 1 Samuel 2:30). And so upon full trial of all the courses that policy could either devise or practise, the most experienced masters of it have been often forced to sit down with that complaint of the disciples, “We have toiled all night, and have caught nothing.” For do we not sometimes see that traitors can be out of favour, and knaves be beggars, and lose their estates, and be stripped of their offices, as well as honester men?

(2) That they are frequently opposite to the accomplishment of such ends; nothing being more usual than for these unchristian fishers of men to be fatally caught in their own nets; for does not the text expressly say, that “God taketh the wise in their own craftiness”? Haman wanted nothing to complete his greatness but a gallows upon which to hang Mordecai; but it mattered not for whom he provided the gallows, when Providence designed the rope for him. (R. South, D. D.)

That all the admired wisdom of a mere worldly man is nothing but contemptible folly before God

The world’s wise man is God’s fool. I shall first begin with that active foolishness, demonstrating by several particulars, that all worldly wisdom is mere folly. First, that is abundantly seen in all that idolatry and superstition which the wisest of men are prone unto, and wherein they do greatly applaud themselves. Secondly, worldly wisdom is mere foolishness, because such men contrive and plot and think to accomplish all their counsels by their own strength and way. Now this is a very foolish thing, for the thoughts of a man are in some respect from man, but the ordering and disposing of all things is from God (Jeremiah 10:23). Thirdly, all worldly wisdom is folly, because it is only attentive to get the good things of this world, and never looketh to the world to come. Give them the pleasures, the profits, the contents of this world, and they never regard the world to come. Oh, foolish men and unwise! Will thy wealth avail thee in the day of God’s wrath? Fourthly, they are actively foolish, because they are conceited of this wisdom and boast of it. Fifthly, it must needs be folly, because it is directly contrary unto God and His ways, which are only wise (Romans 8:7). Sixthly, all human and earthly wisdom is foolishness, because it makes a man a sad loser in the latter end. To pull off that mask or painting which is put upon the wisdom of the world. Is he not a fool that leaveth a treasure of gold for coals? Is not he a fool that forsaketh a fountain to go to a broken cistern? Is not he a fool that would be in great pomp and honour for one day to be a perpetual tormented slave for ever after? Yet thus foolish and unwise are all wicked men. Pray, then, for wisdom from above. You have heard that this worldly wisdom is foolishness actively. I shall now proceed to show its foolishness passively, such which God turneth to folly; so that there are no men whom God doth more set Himself against than such proud, worldly wise men. First, therefore, God makes this wisdom foolishness in a passive sense, in that He did not vouchsafe to use it as an instrument to propagate the gospel. Secondly, herein God makes it foolishness, that as He doth not use it for the enlargement of His gospel, so He taketh very few of such men to bestow on them spiritual and soul-saving graces. Thirdly, herein also God will make it appear to be folly, in that He takes the foolish things of the world and makes them confound the wise things. Fourthly, herein cloth God make the wisdom of the world foolishness, because all that wise men do is a vain work. They are not able to accomplish their ends, especially those which are to overthrow the kingdom of Christ and rooting out His Church and people. Fifthly, God makes the wisdom of the world foolishness, because what they work is not only a vain work but a deceitful work. So that the wisdom of man must needs be made great folly, when it shall be forced to bring about those things which it hates so much. Sixthly, herein the wisdom of the world is made foolishness, because it doth not only work a vain deceitful work but also a destructive one to itself; so that all the wisdom they have is only to destroy themselves. Thus, like fools, they run their swords in their own bowels. Seventhly, the wisdom of the world becometh foolishness, because God many times infatuateth and blasteth the parts and abilities of the wise men of the world. He takes away their understanding from them. That as we read of Nebuchadnezzar, God bereaved him of his wisdom and judgment so that he became like a beast. Eighthly, herein God doth also make their wisdom folly, because by their pride and haughtiness they undo themselves. God lets them prosper, and the wisdom of the world seemeth to flourish a great while, but it is that their destruction may be the greater. Use--

1. How vain a thing to trust in human policy and worldly wisdom.

2. To judge that wisdom which the wise God judgeth so. (A. Burgess.)

The wisdom of this world is--

Foolish, because--

1. Fallible.

2. Partial.

3. Shortsighted.

4. Often built on false premises.

5. The mere offspring of reason.

Vain. Often--

1. Exploded by time.

2. Exposed by revelation.

3. Overruled and confounded by Divine providence.

4. Fully dissipated by the light of eternity. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The wisdom of the world

Wisdom is justly considered as the guide of conduct. If one shall mistake that for wisdom which at bottom is mere folly, such a mistake will pervert the first principles of conduct, and be perpetually misleading a man through the whole of life.

Let us consider the nature of that wisdom which is reprobated in the text as foolishness with God. It is styled the wisdom of this world; that is, the wisdom which is most current in this world. Its first and most noted distinction is, that its pursuits are confined entirely to the temporal advantages of the world. Spiritual blessings or moral improvements the man of this spirit rejects as a sort of airy unsubstantial enjoyments; he reckons the only solid goods, the possession of riches and power, together with the pleasures which opulent rank or station can procure. In pursuit of these favourite ends he is not in the least scrupulous as to his choice of means. If he prefer those which are the fairest, it is not because they are fair, but because they seem to him most likely to prove successful. He is sensible that it is for his interest to preserve decorums, and to stand well in the public opinion. He is, for the most part, composed in his manners and decent in his vices. Let me here remark in passing, that this character is less likely to be reformed than that of those men given to pleasure. With them vice breaks forth in occasional fits and starts; with the other, it grows up into a hardened and confirmed principle. In the midst of the gross irregularities of pleasure, circumstances often force remorse on the sinner’s mind. But the cool and temperate plan of iniquity on which the man of worldly wisdom proceeds allows the voice of conscience to be longer silent. The man of the world is always a man of selfish and contracted disposition. Friends, country, duty, honour, all disappear from his view, when his own interest is in question. The more thoroughly that the spirit of the world has taken possession of him the circle of his affections becomes always the narrower. Candour, openness, and simplicity of manners are ridiculed by the man of this description, as implying mere ignorance of the world. Art and address are the qualities on which he values himself. For the most part he would choose to supplant a rival by intrigue rather than to overcome him by fair opposition. Indeed, what men call policy and knowledge of the world is commonly no other thing than dissimulation and insincerity. I have dwelt the more fully on the delineation of this character that each of us might learn whether there be any feature in it that applies to himself. Let me now ask whether such a character as I have described be in any respect an amiable one? Is the man of the world--polished, and plausible, and courtly, as in his behaviour he may be--one whom you would choose for a companion and bosom-friend? Of what real value, then, let me ask, is that boasted wisdom of the world which can neither conciliate love, nor produce trust, nor command inward respect? At the same time, I admit that the man of the world may be a man of very considerable abilities. You see in this instance that the most distinguished human abilities, when they are separated from virtue and moral worth, lose their chief eminence and lustre, and are deprived of all valuable efficacy. They dwindle into despicable talents which have no power to ensure the respect of mankind. Having now considered the nature and effect of worldly wisdom with respect to men let us inquire--

How it stands with respect to God. It is said in the text to be foolishness with God. It is so in three respects.

1. It is contemptible in God’s sight. Pleased and satisfied as the wise man of the world may be with himself, and honoured as he may fancy himself to be by the multitude, let him be mortified with reflecting that, in the eye of Him who is the Supreme Judge of all worth, his character is mean and wretched. That which God declares Himself to love and honour is truth in the inward parts; the fair, sincere, and candid mind. But it is not only from the declarations of the Scripture, but from the whole course of Providence, that we learn the contempt in which God holds the wisdom of the world. Who were they on whom were conferred the highest marks of distinction which ever honoured man, He singled out to be the companions of Christ, the workers of miracles, the publishers of everlasting happiness to mankind? Were they the wise men of the world, the refined, and the political, who were employed as the instruments of God on this great occasion? No; He chose a few plain, simple, undesigning men. To this day God in the course of His Providence bestows those external advantages which the men of the world so earnestly pursue with apparent disregard of worldly wisdom. He allows no fixed connection to subsist between an artful, political conduct, and riches, reputation, or honours; He does not always give the race to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor riches to men of understanding; but, on the contrary, scatters the advantages of fortune with a promiscuous hand; and often allows them to be attained by the vilest and lowest of men, who neither by worldly wisdom, nor any other talent whatever, had the smallest title to deserve them.

2. The wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, because it is baffled by Him. Some triumphs He has occasionally allowed it to gain in order to carry on some special purpose that His Providence had in view. It is true that the justice of heaven is not, in the present state, fully manifested, by rendering to every man according to his deeds. But I believe it will be found by attentive observers that there are two cases in which, perhaps more than in any other, the Divine government has, throughout all ages, rendered itself apparent and sensible to men. These are humbling the high imaginations of the proud, and taking the wise in their own craftiness. As He will not permit any greatness to lift itself up against His power, so neither will He permit any art to prevail against His counsels. While the crafty project many a distant plan, and wind their way most cunningly, as they think, to success, how often does the Almighty, by means of some slight and seemingly contingent event, stop the wheel at once from farther motion, and leave them to the bitterness of humbling disappointment (Psalms 2:4-5).

3. The wisdom of the world is foolishness with God; because, though it should be allowed by Providence to run, without disturbance, its fullest career, and to compass successfully whatever it had projected, yet it can produce nothing in the issue worthy of the pursuit of a truly wise man. It is a wisdom which over-reaches and counteracts itself; and instead of expected happiness ends in misery. If the existence of another world be admitted, can he be accounted wise who frames his conduct solely with a view to this world, and beyond it has nothing to look for but punishment? For what is the amount of all that this wise man hath gained, or can gain, after all the toil he has undergone, and all the sacrifices he has made in order to attain success? But how is all this success enjoyed? With a mind often ill at ease; with a character dubious at the best, suspected by the world in general, seen through by the judicious and discerning. For the man of the world flatters himself in vain, if he imagines that by the plausible appearances of his behaviour he can thoroughly conceal from the world what he is, and keep them ignorant of the hollow principles upon which he has acted. He finds himself embarrassed with cares and fears. He is sensible that by many he is envied and hated; and though surrounded by low flatterers is conscious that he is destitute of real friends. Compute now, O wise man, as thou art! what thou hast acquired by all thy selfish and intricate wisdom, by all thy refined and double conduct, thy dark and designing policy? Canst thou say that thy mind is satisfied with thy past tenour of conduct? Are thy days more cheerful and gay, or are thy nights more calm and free of care than those of the plain and upright man whom thou hast so often treated with scorn? From what has been said of the nature and the effects of worldly wisdom you will now judge how justly it is termed foolishness with God. Opposite to it stands the wisdom that is from above, which is described by an apostle as good, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy (James 3:15; James 3:17). This, and this only, is that real wisdom which it is both our duty and our interest to cultivate. It carries every character of being far superior to the wisdom of the world. It is masculine and generous; it is magnanimous and brave; it is uniform and consistent. The wise man of the world is obliged to shape his course according to the changing occurrences of the world; he is unsteady and perplexed. But the wise man in God’s sight moves in a higher sphere. His integrity directs his course without perplexity or trouble. (H. Blair, D. D.)

Taketh the wise in their own craftiness.--

That God delights to take the earthly wise men of the world in their own craft

These spiders are hung in their own webs (see Isaiah 19:13). Now many ways doth God take the wise ones of the world. First, in dissipating their counsels that they cannot attain their ends. They attempt again and again, and are always repulsed. Secondly, God when He doth ruin them He doth it no other way but by their own wisdom, by their own craft. And this is the greatest conquest that can be, when God overcometh them by their own weapon, as it was said of Goliath’s sword. None like that, because by that he cut off Goliath’s head, whose sword it was. So there are no providences of God so glorious as those which make the very craft and wisdom wicked men have to bring about their confusion. Thirdly, He takes the wise men of the world so that they are entangled in their own counsels, and are brought to such snares that they cannot go forward or backward. There is no great wit without some mixture of madness. I might instance in more particulars, hut the next words will have the same occasion; I come to answer an objection. How is this true, you will say, that God taketh the wise in their craft? And doth not the experience of all ages, both in profane and sacred histories, show that earthly, crafty, and wicked policy hath accomplished many destructive things, and that to God’s own Church and people? All this must be granted, and yet the observation is true. First, this is many times done, and we, through our ignorance, take no notice thereof. Secondly, we limit God to time and places and persons; and so because He doth not at such a time, in such a way, as we think, therefore we are apt to think God hath forsaken the earth, and regards not what is done below. Thirdly, if God let worldly wisdom prevail and prosper awhile, it is that the overthrow and confusion of it may be greater. As Pharaoh was suffered to go into the sea, and the waters did not immediately overflow. Come we, then, to show the ground why God doth thus delight to infatuate and blast all earthly wisdom. First, it is that hereby His sovereignty and ruling power may be the more manifest. Secondly, God doth it hereby to vindicate His own glory and cause and name; for all the worldly wisdom that ever was, hath either mediately or immediately set against God.

1. How secure the people and Church of God may be.

2. Not to fear anything but God, for He is the only wise God. (A. Burgess.)

The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.--

That the chiefest and best thoughts of the wisest men are vain

We may consider man in a threefold capacity.

1. Politics, as a political creature endued with civil wisdom, and so is part of a society, and thus his thoughts are vain.

2. Ethics, as he is to walk according to the rules of reason, which sound and rectified nature doth guide a man in, and thus he is vain.

3. Theology, as he is to look up to heaven, to obey God, and to aim at supernatural happiness. And in this sense especially he is a most vain, empty man; and to this the apostle relateth.

Let us consider in what sense the Scripture useth the word vain.

1. That is said to be vain which is empty and void of that worth and excellency which ought to be within. Thus a fool is called often a vain person because he is empty of that solid judgment and reason which ought to be in a man. Hence foolish persons are compared to empty straws that are blown up and down with every wind, because they have no weight in them.

2. That is said to be vanity which seemeth to have great happiness and content in it, but indeed it is the clean contrary. A vain thing is that which hath a goodly appearance, but inwardly hath no profit. Thus it is with the best and choicest thoughts and projects of the wisest men; they have a goodly lustre. You would think such wise men could not but be happy; their expectations are raised, but the issue doth deceive them.

3. Vanity in the Scripture is often applied to a lie. Every man speaks vanity to his neighbour, that is a lie (Psalms 12:2). They are full of falsehood and dissimulation; there is no truth or sincerity in men, as David complaineth (Psalms 12:1-8.).

4. Vanity is often in Scripture used for that which is unprofitable, without any benefit or success. Hence is that phrase, To labour in vain. Oh, this is a sad thing to consider, when thou art dying, I have lived in vain, laboured in vain, thought in vain, spoke in vain; I have no true good abiding by me of all that ever I did.

5. Vanity is often used for that which is unstable, uncertain, and fading. And thus the thoughts of wise men are vain, subject to changes, contradictions, and at last vanish into nothing.

6. They are vain because they work nothing but vain and absurd things. What do vain thoughts produce but vain words, vain gestures, vain attire and fashions, vain discourse in communication, vain opinions, and a vain worship. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts (Matthew 15:19). They are the first sparks that fly out of this forge, and from these vain thoughts cometh all the vanity that is in men’s words, gestures, apparel, yea, and their religion.

Lastly, they are vain because they are wholly wicked. Use of instruction:

1. That God doth not only take notice of vain actions, but vain thoughts.

2. Are all our thoughts vain? Learn, then, Scripture wisdom, get Scripture thoughts. (A. Burgess.)

Verses 21-23

1 Corinthians 3:21-23

Therefore let no man glory in man.

That it is a great sin to glory in men

This sin is not often preached upon, yet no question political and civil idolatry, making men as gods to us, hath done a great deal of hurt, as well as religious idolatry. Now these ways we glory in men.

1. When we join them with Christ as mediators, and make them co-partners, as it were, in spiritual effects as well as temporal. This is to glory in men, even blasphemously.

2. We glory in men when we make our own, or other good works meritorious, and our sufferings satisfactory unto God. This Pharisee is a greater enemy to Christ, and further off from the kingdom of heaven than many publicans.

3. We glory in men when we rejoice in their favour, and are more glad of that than we are of God’s favour.

4. We glory in men when we desire to please them, and to accommodate ourselves to their humours more than to please God, and to walk according to His will. This sinful pleasing of men is not consistent with a servant of Christ’s (Galatians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 7:13).

5. We, then, glory in men when we put our trust and confidence in them, resting and hoping in them, and not depending on God only. As the ground of Divine faith must be some Divine testimony and authority, so the motive of a Divine hope must be only the promise and power of God. It is a sin that all are very prone unto, to trust in earthly power and greatness, and not to eye God above all. Lastly, we glory in men when we boast in anything that is human or earthly, anything that belongs to man. Thus to boast of beauty, apparel, riches, nobility, parts, and learning; all this is a vain and sinful boasting (1 Timothy 6:15; Jeremiah 9:23-24).

In the next place, we are not to glory in the doctors and teachers we have, which we do--

1. When we are affected more with their parts, and gifts, and earning, than with the powerful demonstration of God’s Spirit in them, and by them.

2. Then we glory in men when we rest on the ministry and their labours, thinking it enough to enjoy them, but never look up to God for success and a blessing. What is Paul or Apollos but ministers by whom ye believe? at the fifth verse. Therefore the principal work is from God.

3. Then we glory in men when we have the persons of some teachers in such admiration, that whatsoever they say or maintain, without any search or dispute, we believe. The disciples of Berea are commended for their noble disposition, that they would search the Scriptures, whether the things were so or not (Acts 17:11).

4. Then we glory in men when we prefer one before the other, so as to make differences and schisms in the Church. He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord. Yea, saith Paul, “God forbid I should glory in anything save in the Cross of Christ” (Galatians 6:14). (A. Burgess.)

For all things are yours.--

All things are yours

The one theme of the beginning of this Epistle is man’s glorying, lost through sin and recovered in Christ. In chap. 1. Paul brings the human race with its wisdom, righteousness, and strength into the presence of the Cross, and shows that its boasting was vain, and bids them take salvation as the free gift of God, and give to Him alone the glory. But he is careful to add that man’s ground of boasting is restored to himself: “Let him glory.” Whereas before he had denied everything to human nature, now he cries, “All things are yours.” Retrieved in Christ, the Church has an unlimited prerogative.

The prerogatives of Christ’s people are based upon their relation to Him. “All things are yours” because “ye are of Christ.”

1. The union between Christ and His people gives the highest illustration of our text. Whatever belongs to the Redeemer belongs to the redeemed. But this requires to be carefully guarded.

(1) These words apply only to the mystical company of the faithful, who are united to Christ by faith and have become one Spirit with Him. The spiritual body of Christ is distinguished both from the race and from the individuals of whom it is composed. And it is of the whole company that Paul speaks, not any separate member. It was for that mystical fellowship that our Lord prayed in words that give Paul his argument. “Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those,” &c.

(2) Now to this body united to Himself Christ gives an unlimited interest in all His prerogatives. “All Mine are Thine and Thine are Mine,” and for these He prays that “the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them,” &c. (John 17:1-26.). The answer to this is our text. As the husband and wife are one flesh and have all things common, so Christ and His Church have one Spirit, &c.

2. Our possession of all things in Christ may be referred to the mediatorial supremacy of the Head of the Church, making all things contribute to our welfare.

(1) When the apostle dilates upon the lordship of Christ he brings all the powers of the universe under His sway; sometimes to magnify Christ’s glory, but oftener to set forth the absoluteness of His supremacy over all things for the Church. He governs the principalities and powers of the other world for the accomplishment of His designs in this, and they become ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. The hosts of evil with their prince are governed for our advantage. The world, with all things present, is under His sway for the well-being of His Church. This is the key to all history, and Christ’s mysterious but most certain sway is bringing politics, science, civilisation, into subordination to the spread of His kingdom.

(2) He is also the Head of a visible community which is governed for the salvation of its spiritual members. “Paul, Apollos, and Cephas”--the organised ministry of the visible Church is the servant of the Church invisible. The order has been inverted. The saints have been brought into bondage to the Church instead of the Church being the servant of the saints; and this error has produced a sad reaction--the visible Church has been sundered from its close connection with the Church invisible. But let both grow together. Believers are of Christ, not of the Church; but calling Him Lord they rejoice in the order and service of His Church as a rich inheritance.

3. All who are Christ’s have such a place in His heart, and such an interest in His resources, that in virtue of His special favour they possess all things.

(1) “All things are yours” is the charter of personal prerogative. Christ is the personal Friend of those who love Him, and gives the treasures of His grace to every individual believer. “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name I will do it.”

(2) But here is a necessary limitation which only seems to restrict the privilege--the Redeemer reserves to Himself the decision how much of the all things shall be imparted, when the gift shall be bestowed and when desired. The spiritual position He is more willing to give than we are to ask: our other portion may be more slowly bestowed; reserved from us though our own, for reasons the wisdom of which we cannot always understand.

The apostle blends the high statement of Christian privileges with the practical exhortation to rejoice in them.

1. The starting-point of this exhibition is the warning to glory is nothing but our inheritance in Christ. Once before he had uttered it to claim for the crucified Redeemer His sole honour; now he repeats it to claim for the Christian inheritance its rights. The Son receives us into His Father’s house; and to each one He says, “All that I have is thine.” Henceforth we are servants to none but Himself in God. This leaves no room for self-complacency, for all is of Christ.

2. Paul literally brings the whole compass of things into the believer’s inheritance.

(1) Life is ours. In its deepest meaning none live but those who are in Christ. We know, indeed, that our life in the flesh will cease; but it is our own while it lasts, to be spent in the care of our souls and in the discharge of our duties; and then we shall pass into more abundant life.

(2) Things present.

(a) The creaturely world. So long as we are of the world, the world is our master; but when we become Christ’s free men, the whole economy of the creature pays us tribute. But possessing all things we must show that we are really masters of the creature, by our temperate, thankful, and spiritual use of all things.

(b) All the events that make up the course of this world. Not that Christ gives us control of passing affairs. He keeps the direction of our lives in His own hands, and does not always admit us into the reasons of His dealings. But He sanctions our freedom of action, allows large latitude to our prayers, gives us the discretion to make all events contribute to our welfare, and causes all things to work together for our good.

(3) Death and things to come. Christ has the keys of the other world, and our eternal destiny is in His ever faithful hands.

(a) Death, the last enemy, is translated into a ministering angel.

(b) Things to come--the disembodied waiting for the great day, the day itself, the resurrection, &c.

3. Let us hear the apostle’s exhortation, not expressed, but pervading the whole passage--“He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

All things are ours

It expresses richness--this “All things are yours”; a broad and confident hold on life: a large liberty of mind. To have “all things ours”; to have, as it were, the freedom of the universe; to feel nowhere hemmed in, excluded, limited, whether in the sphere of truth or of sympathy, is a magnificent prospect, a splendid promise. To a great extent, we are compelled to acknowledge, our primary needs are needs of limitation and restraint, and Christianity presents itself as limiting and restraining. We come out to make our way in the world with good intentions, and around us there are ringing in our ears numberless voices--theories of life--denunciations--schemes--hopes--fears--doctrines--denials--doubts, and we feel anything but the consciousness that “all things are ours.” We feel no sense of mastery, only of bewilderment. To be free--to give our sympathies on all sides--to trust all voices alike, is to leave our moorings, to be free to wander on a shoreless sea. Or again, careless indiscriminate sympathy, fellowship with human life in all its forms, may present itself to us as an ideal of conduct, Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto.” But there is that at once must give us pause. For humanity as it is is a strangely mixed thing. To say that my pulses beat in sympathy with all that is human is to state a fact of my being, but it is a fact suggestive as much of horror as of self-congratulation. For it means that there is no disordered passion, however vile, of which I cannot trace at least in some horrible moment the capacity in my own blood; no craft, no guile to which I can claim to be by nature utterly a stranger. Thus out of the surging sea of conflicting theories--out of the seething of this common manhood which I cannot trust--out of this indiscriminate life which might indeed master me, but which certainly I do not master--in which certainly “all things are not mine,” I look up for some Hand from above to lift, some Voice to guide, some standard and criterion of life. And lo! there is One who knows life’s secret, One who loves my humanity, who believes in its capacities as none else ever did, and yet distrusts its impulses. One who in our flesh, “in the likeness of flesh, of sin,” yet restores life; sums it into Himself, and claims to purge it and to reconstruct it. I come to Him--I will be taught by Him. I would have the key to life--I would feel myself under His instruction. He turns upon me, He speaks to me. But it is not first of freedom. A secure life--a strong life, that is the first thing. It must be strong before it can be free--strong at the centre ere it can be free at the circumference, and to make it strong there must be concentration, and that means for the moment mutilation--the cutting off of occasions of sin, of whatever hinders the progress of the true self. If there is a theory which puzzles me, which I cannot refute, which perhaps has some attraction for me, yet seems to militate against my spiritual growth, which is to go--the spiritual growth or the intellectual?” “Thy intellectual interest,” the answer of Christ seems to come, “is not thy primary self. Behind thine intellect is thy will--thy spirit. The centre of thy being where conscience speaks, where will acts, where prayer rises and God is known--that is thyself. It conditions all else. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness--at all costs, limit thyself as you mayest to do so.” Thus the first claim of Christ is a claim upon us for concentration of faculties upon the pursuit of holiness. All things are yours; but not till ye are Christ’s, then, as Christ is God’s. But so, if in blind surrender the sacrifice has been made and remade and made for ever,--is the reward sure. What is this vaunt of the Christian life? In what sense does the “slave of Jesus Christ” find that “all things are his”?

1. He finds it first in the moral sphere. Self has been cut at the roots, and it is selfishness which is the source of narrowness, the impoverishment of life. Party spirit (that is St. Paul’s point) narrows your privileges. To make one great teacher of the Church your patron in such sense as that you exult exclusively in what he taught, exalt his special adherents and depreciate the work of others, is to narrow your Christian heritage. Yours is not what one teacher only was given to teach, but what all were given. All are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas. Argument, it has been said, is often most effective when it is most one-sided. The Christian Church in like manner may gain a certain sort of effectiveness by ignoring half her mission, and dealing with half human nature, but “all things are ours.” The heritage is not meant to be impoverished and narrowed into ever closer channels as it comes down the ages. Meant for Catholic humanity, it remains in its Catholicity. We believe in one holy Catholic Church, one in its Divine authority, one in the truth it teaches in common, one in the grace which flows in its channels and makes its inner life the same, one in its common organisation, one in its sacred books, and to no part of that one whole do I limit my faith. By no corporate self-assertion would I have a part of that society strive to be the whole. “All things are ours.”

2. But it is not only within the area of the Christian Church that the Spirit of Christ, by cutting the roots of self-assertion, realises in us the richness of our heritage. “Not only Paul, and Apollos, and Cephas,” but the world, the κοσμος, is ours. The Christian realises his freedom in all truth, his kinship with all nature. It is not only that the good man is at peace with nature, that he is in league with the slaves of the field and the beasts of the land are at peace with him; there is a deep ground for such kinship. He has learned to recognise in Christ (in the latter days Incarnate) the eternal Word of God, the expression and counterpart of his being. His mediation in grace is based upon an unceasing mediation in nature. “Through Him all things were made.” “Without Him was not anything made.” “Whatever has been made, in Him was life.” And as the Christian must lay his claim to be utterly at home in the modern scientific conception of nature, so must he also be in the world of universal humanity. The great Greek theologians of the epoch of the great general councils never let their students forget the largeness of the Christian claim. God’s special dealings with the Jews (St. Athanasius reminds us) are given only to prevent us forgetting His universal providence in all history and nature. For He who came into our territory (he tells us) in the Incarnation, came not as a stranger nor as having been far off before. For no part of creation had ever been left void of Him. He had filled all things through all. He was through all the ages “coming into the world.” He was the light which lighteneth every man--the same Jesus Christ. “Dream not,” says St. Justin (meeting a difficulty by anticipation), in his apology to the heathen, “that persons who lived more than a century and a half ago, before Christ was born in the flesh, escape His judgment. For we have been taught” (it is not a private opinion of his own) “and have explained before that He is the Logos, in which the whole race of man shared. And those who lived with reason up to their lights, are Christians even though they are reckoned Atheists among men, as among the Greeks were Socrates and Heracleitus, and among the Barbarians Abraham and Elijah, and many others, and those who lived of old without reason, were ever the enemies of Christ and the murderers of those who lived with reason. But they who lived or live with reason (i.e., up to their lights)

are Christians and can live without fear.” It ought to have been the instinct of Christianity always to recognise this. Christianity supersedes all other religions not by excluding but by including. In part indeed they represent merely man’s bewilderment and ugly perversions of the truth. But in part they also represent that natural revelation of God which is involved in the light shining in darkness, so that the darkness could not suppress it. Everywhere there was something of a witness to God. And Christian faith stands to all other teachings, as that which supersedes them, by containing and elevating the truth they taught, and illuminating and satisfying the human need that they expressed. They become foes only when they become rivals, as even the good may ever be the enemy of the best, as the twilight is darkness by comparison with the sunlight. “There are many noble things,” says Origen, “in the Oracles by those not of Christ’s part, but with us only are their Oracles complete and pure.”

3. All things are yours--“Life and death,” the world of human nature. It is the privilege of Christian faith to give us the freest access to human hearts. For the wants that Christ came to evoke and to satisfy belong to man, as man, to men equally in every age and in every class. The capacity for prayer, the sense of sin, the need of pardon, the reality and force of temptation, the vicissitudes of spiritual feeling, the moral discouragements and encouragements of life, the moral perplexities from conflicting duties--these things belong to people of utterly different positions in life and with scarcely any reference to degrees of education.

4. “All things are ours, whether things present or things to come.” The great poet of human nature in our time constantly gives expression to the conviction that the problems of human character demand an immortality for their solution. Human characters he feels, in proportion to their worth, need an environment to develop them larger than this world; need a vaster field to work out their issues. “On the earth the broken arcs: in the heaven the perfect round.” “God’s task to make the heavenly period--perfect the earthen.” Now this conviction of immortality in which the Christian lives gives him a leverage for action, and makes him the minister of hope. He can believe in the small beginnings who believes in immortal growth. He can believe in the perfect victory for all who do not finally and obstinately cling by choice to evil. He again has a rational doctrine to hold out to man of human perfection--a doctrine rational because it takes account of experience. Make this world the only sphere of progress, obliterate from men’s eyes what we heard of last week as “the world as little like Whitechapel as possible,” in which, “after death men shall wake up,” and you certainly have no rational doctrine of hope to present to mankind. Where is the experience that justifies us in expecting that the progress of knowledge and civilisation really means for “the sacrificed classes” the progress of happiness. Does not experience rather give us a doctrine that nations have their periods of climax, and then their periods of decay? and is there any real ground for believing the later period for a particular race, happier than the earlier? Or have great social convulsions (though they have taught great lessons to humanity at large) been (except under certain conditions not now existing in England) productive of happiness to the nations who were the subjects of them? Does civilisation or knowledge any way tend to minimise the selfishness which is the root of all social evils? Behind the veil, under the feet of the great Head of a redeeming humanity, the Christian knows that the race of man who will consent to have God when He is offered them in His love, is being gathered into an ever developing perfection. (C. Gore, M. A.)

Christ’s servants lords of all

. How Christ’s servants are men’s lords. “Paul, Apollos, Cephas” were all lights kindled at the central Light, and therefore shining. Each was but a part of the mighty whole, a little segment of the circle--

“They are but broken lights of Thee.

And Thou, O Lord! art more than they.”

And in the measure, therefore, in which men adhere to Christ, and have taken Him for theirs; in that measure are they delivered from all undue dependence on, still more, all slavish submission, to any single individual teacher or aspect of truth. If Christ be our Master, if we take our creed from Him, if we accept His words and His revelation of the Father as our faith and our objective religion, then all the slavery to favourite names, all the taking of truth second-hand from lips that we honour, all the partisanship for one against another which has been the shame and the ruin of the Christian Church, and is working untold mischiefs in it to-day, are ended at once. “One is your Master, even Christ.” “Call no man Rabbi! upon earth”; but bow before Him, the incarnate and the personal Truth. And in like manner they who are Christ’s are delivered from all temptations to make men’s maxims and practices and approbation the law of their conduct. “They say. What say they? Let them say.” The envoy of some foreign power cares very little what the inhabitants of the land to which he is ambassador may think of him and his doings; it is his sovereign’s good opinion that he seeks to secure. The soldier’s reward is his commander’s praise, the slave’s joy is the master’s smile, and for us it ought to be the law of our lives, and in the measure in which we belong to Christ really it will be the law of our lives, that “we labour that whether present or absent we may be pleasing to Him.”

Christ’s servants are the lords of the world. That phrase is used here, no doubt, as meaning the external material universe. He owns the world who turns it to the highest use of growing his soul by it. If I look out upon a fair landscape, and the man that draws the rents of it is standing by my side, and I suck more sweetness and deeper impulses and larger and loftier thoughts out of it than he does, it belongs to me far more than it does to him. The world is his who from it has learned to despise it, to know himself and to know God. He owns the world who uses it as the arena, or wrestling ground, on which, by labour, he may gain strength, and in which he may do service. Antagonism helps to develop muscle, and the best use of the outward frame of things is that we shall take it as the field upon which we can serve God.

Christian men who belong to Jesus Christ are the lords and masters of “life and death.”

1. The true ownership of life depends upon self-control, and self-control depends upon letting Jesus Christ govern us wholly. So the measure in which it is true of me that “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” is the measure in which our lower life of sense really belongs to us, and ministers to our highest good.

2. Animals expire; a Christian man may yield his soul to his Saviour, who is the Lord both of the dead and of the living. If thus we feel our dependence upon Him, and yield up our wills to Him, and can say, “Living or dying we are the Lord’s,” then we may be quite sure that Death, too, will be our servant, and that our wills will be concerned even in passing out of life. Still more, if you and I belong to Jesus Christ, then Death is our fellow-servant who comes to call us out of this ill-lighted workshop into the presence of the King.

Christ’s servants are the lords of time and eternity, “things present or things to come.”

1. The whole mass of “things present,” including all the events and circumstances of our lives, over these we may exercise supreme control. If we are bowing in humble submission to Jesus Christ, they will all subserve our highest good. The howling tempests of winter and its white snows, the sharp winds of spring and its bursting sunshine; the calm, steady heat of June and the mellowing days of August, all serve to ripen the grain. And so all “things present,” the light and the dark, the hopes fulfilled and the hopes disappointed, the gains and the losses, the prayers answered and the prayers unanswered, they will all be recognised if we have the wisdom that comes from submission to Jesus Christ’s will as being ours, and ministering to our highest blessing. We shall be their lords, too, inasmuch as we shall be able to control them. We need not be like the mosses in the stream, that lie whichever way the current sets, nor like some poor little sailing boat that is at the mercy of the winds and the waves, but may carry an inward impulse like some great ocean-going steamer, the throb of whose power shall drive us straight forward on our course, what ever beats against us. That we may have this inward power and mastery over things present and not to be shaped and moulded and made by them, let us yield ourselves to Christ, and He will help us to rule them.

2. And then, all “things to come”; the dim, vague future shall be for each of us like some sunlit ocean stretching shoreless to the horizon; every little ripple flashing with its own bright sunshine, and all bearing us onwards to the great throne that stands on the sea of glass mingled with fire. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

That all things are for the spiritual good and advantage of the godly man

In how many respects all things may be said to be the godly man’s, both in the Church and the world. And first, thus, in that there is nothing which would be for their good that God denieth them. Whatsoever is in all the world, if it be good for the godly man, he shall have it (Psalms 84:11). There is no man that feareth God, though he may say, I want riches, I want health, I am without this or that, that can say he is without Christ, and justification, and the covenant of grace.

2. There is a limited good, that which in itself is good, but doth not make good those that have it, yea, it may be turned to evil. As wine is good, but give it to the feverish man you hurt him. And thus it is with all the temporal good things of the world; they do not make the possessors good, yea, they may be turned to sin, and increase thy corruption. And then it is no wonder if God, out of His love to thee, withhold these things from thee. If they were as necessary and as good as Christ is, and heaven is, thou wert sure to have them (Romans 8:32). Now this very particular should rebuke all the winds and waves of fears and discontent within thee. Art thou repining thou hast not this, thou hast not that ? Oh, look! Hast thou godliness? Hast thou the fear of God in thy heart, then thou hast all things, because there is nothing that is good for thee that God keeps from thee? Secondly, a godly man may be said to have all things, because he hath a right and a claim to the covenant of grace, wherein is a deed of gift of all things both spiritual and temporal. Therefore godliness is said to have the promise of this life and the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8). All heavenly and earthly things are by promise made to the godly, only heavenly things absolutely, earthly things conditionally and with subordination. So, then, it is with thee, as some man, who hath all his estate lying in bonds and covenants, though for the present he cannot command such a sum of money, yet he is rich in bonds. Thirdly, all things are the godly man’s because he hath God for his God, who hath all things. He that hath the sun hath the light of all the stars; he that hath the ocean hath all the streams. Hence our happiness is said to be in this if we have the Lord for our God. David, in all his exigencies, supported himself with this, that God was his portion and his inheritance. Though a child hath not money and raiment at his command, yet because he hath a rich father, who can procure all these things, therefore he may be well said to have them all. Fourthly, a godly man may be said to have all things because godliness worketh such an holy contentation and satisfaction of spirit, that in what estate he is, he is as well pleased as if he had all things, as if he had the whole world (1 Timothy 6:6). Thus all things are theirs, because through contentation they have all things. Fifthly, all things are the godly man’s because they were made finaliter for him. They are all for his spiritual use. Every gift is given to profit withal (1 Corinthians 12:7).

Let us now consider why God should make all heavenly and earthly things for the godly. First, we need not wonder at it, if we consider that Christ Himself took our nature upon Him, and did undergo that shameful death, and those terrible conflicts with God’s wrath for His Church, He gave Himself for His Church. So that Christ being theirs, no wonder if all things else be theirs. If ever God would have denied anything, would have withheld anything, it would have been His only Son, in whom He was so well pleased. Secondly, because all things in the world are ordered by His providence only; but the whole work of God about His children is the effect of His predestination.

Having asserted a comfortable doctrine out of these words for the godly, we proceed to make some objections or doubts about it. First, the doubt may be, How are all things the godly man’s for his use and spiritual edification, when many times we see the godly man gets no good by these? To answer this, first, we must distinguish between God’s intention in giving these, and the godly man’s actual improvement of them to that end. When the apostle saith, “All things are yours,” his meaning is, on God’s part. His love is so great that for the godly only all things in heaven and earth were created. If so be, therefore, at any time these things turn to thy hurt, blame thyself. The physician will tell the patient sometimes, all these potions and all these cordials, they are yours; you are to take them; you may expect much good and ease by them. But if the patient be wilful, and disorder himself, it is his fault, not the physician’s, that they do hurt. Therefore, secondly, the godly man, through his weakness and sinfulness, not walking up to God’s order, may make that a hindrance which God intended a furtherance. Thirdly, though the godly may for a while make these things against their end, and not for it, yet this will not be always. Fourthly, when we say all things are the godly man’s, you must take them in their collective cooperation, as Romans 8:1-39., “All things work together.” The next doubt is, If all things be the godly’s, why, then, are they so uncomfortable, so dejected, complaining of wants, as if nothing were theirs? Answer: It is true it should be so, but we are weak in faith, we do not live upon Scripture principles and privileges. It is by faith only. A quiet resting and reposing of the soul upon God’s promise puts us into the possession of all these things. Secondly, as they want faith, so a heavenly prudence and skill how to improve them spiritually. Though all things be for their good, yet they must have wisdom to know how to use all things. What is a fountain sealed up, or a book that cannot be read, though it hath never such admirable matter? Thus are all things, though never so useful, if thou hast not Christian wisdom. There is no condition, affliction, or event, but thou mayest say, if I had heavenly wisdom I might make excellent use of it. The last doubt is, How are all things the godly man’s, seeing for the most part they are most wanting, they are in the greatest necessities? Answer--

1. This place doth not so much speak of the possession of all things as the spiritual serviceableness of them. Those things which they have no possession of may yet serve for their soul’s good.

2. If the godly have not all things they would, that want is good for them. The want of any outward mercies may sometimes be better than the having of them.

3. Thou hast what is best for thee, and that according to the wise God’s ordering. Let this silence thee always. (A. Burgess.)

All things are yours

You remember the fable of the beautiful fairy who always appeared to turn evil into good, and you have sometimes wished it true. Paul believed that Jesus had power to make everything that happened turn out for the best welfare of His people. The apostle seems to say, “If you serve God, everything in the world shall minister to you as much as if it were really your own.” God did not make you for the earth; He made the earth for you. As a father values his children more than the house he has built for them, so the Lord values you more than the world in which you live. Do not think you are of secondary importance, created only as an offshoot of the earth, to grind away at your labour and care and pain for a number of years, and then die. No; the apostle believed that God made everything for us, and that as workmen are employed to construct a beautiful palace, so God employs the earth and life and death, and all things as workers and materials to build us. What more comforting doctrine can you imagine? Every tribulation, and all our worries, crosses, and losses are as workmen governed by the Lord for the good of His people. (W. Birch.)

Owned, but not explored

“A dear uncle of mine, an Indian chaplain, made the acquaintance, at Singapore, in 1852, of a Christian widow lady, who told him her story. In 1848 her husband’s death had left her, at Manilla, in much reduced circumstances. She owned a little land in Australia, and she now asked an Australian friend to sell it. He did his best; but one barren little field he could not sell, and the widow seemed the poorer for such a possession. Then, in 1851, gold was discovered in Australia; a mine was found in that rough field; and the widow was secured for life from poverty. What was, and had been, her position? In respect of provision, she had owned every nugget, “all the fulness” of the field, all along. In respect of fruition, she had it all to discover; it was all new wealth. So with you, so with me, in Jesus Christ. We have the fulness of the Spirit--in Him. Have we come to have it--in us? If not, let us be animated by the fact that the gold is in the field, is on the property.” (H. C. G. Moule.)

All things are yours when you are Christ’s

A great gulf is fixed between God and man by sin. The Bible reveals a chain depending from the throne of God stretching across the void and holding up the dislocated world.

Christ is god’s: that is the highest link. The Creator rejoices in all His works, but He has a special and peculiar interest in man.

1. When the work of creation, as to its bulk, was nearly done, the Creator was not yet satisfied. He found no point of sympathetic contact between Himself, a spirit, and the material world which He had made. Then was held that council in which humanity was planned. “Let us make man in our own image.” Allied to God by an intelligent mind and an immortal spirit, yet wedded to matter by his body, man was added to the upper edge of creation, a link of communion between the Maker and His work.

2. The mystery of the fall came on and the connecting link was broken. But Satan was not permitted to triumph. When the creature called into being as a son has become an alien, where shall God now find a man, holy as Himself, to be His companion and reciprocate His love?

3. Here is the mystery revealed: Christ is God’s. “Behold the man”! He dwells in the bosom of the Father, and yet is bound in brotherhood to the human family. This is the plan of redemption. The Father cometh to no man; no man cometh to the Father but by Him. The Father’s delight in the Son incarnate (Psalms 42:1-11.; Matthew 3:17) is the uppermost link of the chain whereon all our hope for eternity hangs. How strong and sure it is! Satan tried in the wilderness to separate between this Man and God, as in the garden he had separated between the first man and God. The Tempted triumphed and the tempter fled.

Ye are Christ’s: the next link. It is not that He is your portion, but that ye are His. In actual experience, however, the union is mutual. The vine holds the branch, and the branch holds the vine. “My beloved is mine”--there lies my present happiness; but “I am His”--there lies my everlasting safety. A very slight temptation may break asunder your love to Christ; but all the powers of darkness cannot overcome His love to you. Who shall separate? A British subject may be safe although surrounded by enemies in a distant land, and his confidence in his queen may rebuke the feeble faith of a Christian. Note--

1. How He obtains His property.

(1) By the sovereign gift of God. “Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me” (John 17:1-26.).

(2) By the price of His own blood. Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price.

(3) By the renewing of the Holy Spirit. God the Father gives you to Christ, and you give yourselves. This latter is the effect of the Spirit working repentance and faith in a human heart.

2. How He will use His property.

(1) As objects to exercise His kindness on. The good delight in doing good. Christ in giving grace to His people is getting delight for Himself.

(2) As servants to do His work. He desires your service and deserves it. To work willingly is a mark of a true disciple.

(3) As living epistles in which the world may read the riches of His grace.

(4) For company at His coming, and for portion evermore,

All things are yours: the lowest link. All the fulness of the Godhead bodily has been treasured up in Christ expressly that it may be within the reach of His people.

1. The ministry. The full-bodied doctrinal teaching of Paul, the melting and arousing eloquence of Apollos, and the abrupt, fiery energy of Peter--all are gladly recognised as a wisely mingled provision from the hand of that Father who paints the rose and the violet of different hues but equal loveliness. But, besides the bounty of the Giver, the liberty of the receivers also is signalised in this text. Paul and Apollos and Cephas are yours--not ye theirs. In Rome the ministers have the people; here the people have the ministers. The ministry is an article in the inventory of a Christian’s goods. They are the Lord’s gifts to the heirs, not lords over the heritage.

2. “The world.” The world, under direction of its god, wars against the soul. But our Father in heaven holds that enemy and compels it, in His own time and way, to serve His sons.

3. “Life.” The natural life is indeed corrupt, but over its corrupt root the new nature is engrafted, and so this lower earthly life becomes the root of a spiritual life in heaven.

4. “Death.” Through Christ it is only the dark, narrow door in the partition wall between time and eternity, through which the children are led from the place of exile into the mansions of the Father’s house.

5. “Things present or things to come.” All things are yours in virtue of your union to Christ, whether they lie within the horizon of time or beyond it in the unseen eternity. We have reached now those things that no ear hath heard, and no tongue can tell. I once heard a father tell that when he removed his family to a new and ampler residence his youngest son, yet a lisping infant, ran round every room and scanned every article with ecstacy, calling out in childish wonder at every new sight, “Is this ours, father? and is this ours?” The child did not say “yours”; and the father was not offended with the freedom. The infant’s confidence in appropriating as his own all that his father had was an important element in his satisfaction. Such, I suppose, will be the surprise and joy and appropriating confidence with which the child of our Father’s family will count all his own when he enters the infinite of things to come. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

All things ours

“All things mine? Oh, how delightful that would be if only it were true!” But it is true. “All things mine that I may make them Christ’s? But that is hardly so delightful as having all things for my own.” It is more delightful. Nay, to give all to Christ is the only way to make all things yours. So we might talk on this wonderful passage, finding much that seems incredible, but nothing so incredible as the assurance that all things are ours. Even this incredible assertion, however, may grow credible to you if only you approach it from the apostle’s point of view.

All things are yours.

1. All ministers are yours. “Oh, yes,” you say, “that is true enough; but what are we the richer for that?” But I am by no means sure that all ministers are yours. I am quite sure that, if they are, you are much the richer for it.

1. St. Paul’s general principle is that the teachers are for the Church, not the Church for the teachers. But the intention of God is one thing and the intention of the Church, as shown by its conduct, is often another.

(1) God intended eloquent Apollos, learned Paul, and sagacious and enthusiastic Peter for the Church at Corinth; but some said, “We are of Apollos.” They were charmed with the eloquence of the mighty expositor of Scripture, but they did not care for the learned Paul or the plain Peter. Others attached themselves to Paul, but thought Apollos too rhetorical and Peter too rustic, &c. Thus this ancient Church flung away two-thirds of its treasure.

(2) All the ministers of the Church universal are yours in the design and intention of God; but do you permit them all to be yours? What, all the ministers of the Apostolic, Patristic, Mediaeval, Roman, Episcopal, Presbyterian, &c., branches of the one Catholic Church? All are yours, and yet how few of them are yours!

2. But here you may object: “We have neither the means nor the opportunity of learning from many of Christ’s ministers.” But do you learn as much, and from as many of them, as you might? Do you study the apostolic preachers with the devotion they deserve? When wise and holy men of other communions than your own publish a volume of choice discourses, do you take as much pains to get it as you take for the last new novel, and read it with even as much interest as you bestow on your daily newspaper? There are those in our Churches who so attach themselves to one minister that, like the Corinthians, they care to hear no one but him. Now I do not say that if you find a minister who can most effectually touch the springs of spiritual thought and emotion within you you are not to love and to addict yourselves to his ministry; but I do say that if you so addict yourselves to one that you can hear no other you are flinging away the greater part of your spiritual heritage. But not only all ministers, “all things” are yours, in precisely the same sense, viz., to use and to profit by.

2. The world. If a deed of gift were placed in your hand which made over a whole country, or even a whole cosmos to you as your private estate, you might be the worse and poorer for it. So vast an estate would entail responsibilities under which the strongest and wisest must faint. If you cared only to make a personal and selfish use of it, and if your possession of it robbed you of all stimulus to labour, to mental and moral culture, you would simply sink into the most astounding sot and sinner under heaven. Property is what we can appropriate. And what in the world is there of which, with due pains and trouble, you cannot get the best it has to give? The splendour of sunrise and sunset, the glory of the seasons, the beauty of flower and herb and spreading tree, the starry canopy of heaven, do they not become yours in proportion as you have power to appropriate their teaching, their value? Any house or piece of land that you have bought you may lose by a thousand accidents, and at the best you will soon have to leave it behind you; but the culture wrought into your very spirit by your love and admiration of the natural world, this will never leave you.

3. What is there in all the forms and varieties of human life which you may not so observe as to learn its highest lessons, as to work the very essence of it into the very substance of your mind? What have men ever done, what great and noble thoughts have they uttered, of which you may not so read as to make all that is so permanently valuable in them your own? Christ has thrown open to you the whole domain of history and of human life; and it rests with you to determine how far you will go up into it and possess yourselves of it.

4. And He has made “death” your friend and servant; for if you believe in Him what is death to you, or to those whom you love, but a transition to more life and fuller?

5. So with “things present,” with which we are so seldom content, and “things to come” which we are so apt to fear. All are yours in proportion as you make them yours.

All are yours because you are Christ’s, and that you may make them Christ’s and God’s. Nay, we can only make all things ours as we give them all to Christ and God.

1. All ministers are yours; but when do you make them all yours in fact? Only when you make the best use of the best that is in them, and suffer it to minister to your highest and most enduring welfare. And when you do that, do you not both take them as God’s gift to you and give them back to Him?

2. And in the same way you make “life” yours, viz., as you yield to its nobler influences and suffer them to mould and reform you. That is to say, all life becomes yours as you give your personal life to God.

3. So, again, with death. Only those who believe that Christ has overcome the sharpness and taken away the sting of death, only those know that death is a minister of God for their good. And who are these but those for whom to live is Christ and to die gain? Who but those for whom to depart is to be with the Lord? Death is ours only as we are Christ’s and God’s.

4. And only on the same terms are things present ours and things to come. (S. Cox, D. D.)

The Christian’s possessions

. The general scope of the declaration. Of course all things are not the Christian’s in the sense of actual right or control. A man possesses that which he turns to his own account. A miser, though abounding in wealth, is a very poor man; although he has all things he possesses nothing. So all things in creation and providence shall as certainly minister to the Christian’s present and eternal welfare as if they were absolutely his own. “All things work together for good to them that love God.”

The several particulars.

1. All ministers are yours. Whatever their talents, zeal, piety, fruit, you have an interest in them all. Christ thought of you when He gave some apostles, &c. Feel that you have a personal property in your ministers, not only in their time, talents, prayers, but also in their spiritual prosperity and their growth in grace.

2. The world is yours. The world is created for the saints, and for their sakes is it preserved. It is a mere stage of action for them, and when of these the last has obtained his crown it shall be burned up, having fulfilled its mission in preparing man for a higher condition of existence. The earth hath God given to the children of men, but in an especial sense to the redeemed. It belongs not to men of the world to whom providential gifts are often a ruin.

3. Life is yours, i.e., as it is a blessing, as it serves us for doing the work of God. He lives twice who lives for life’s great end. Only use it rightly, and life is yours.

4. Death is yours; because to the Christian to die is gain.

The solid ground upon which these assurances rest: because “ye are Christ’s.” Ministers, &c., are not yours by any right of your own, not yours for your obedience, your prayers. And therefore remember that if you are not Christ’s, then none of these things are yours. Ministers are not yours, for they shall rise as a testimony against you; nor the world, for it is a master by whom you are held in bondage; nor life, for its things are not blessed to you; nor death, for he comes as God’s executioner, to drag you from your tenacious hold on things present, and to make you view your forfeited interest in all the joys of things to come. Oh, see to it, then, that ye are Christ’s by a good confession, by a choice of service, by faith, by love. (D. Moore, M. A.)

The Christian’s riches

. Wherein do these riches consist?

1. It was not without intention that the apostle placed at the head the great apostolic personalities. For the highest of man’s possessions is man. What would this whole creation be but for man, the image of God?

(1) But it is man who appears to be least of all ours. How many a man would have given thousands to rescue the life of a beloved child, or have cheerfully laid aside his dignities to lengthen a beloved partner’s life, or have sacrificed a portion of our own life to redeem that of a friend? How then can we say that men are ours, if we cannot hinder their being snatched away from us?

(2) It is true that what is earthly and perishable in man does not belong to us; of that we must be deprived. But all that is imperishable and holy in human nature is ours, and cannot be snatched from us. Centuries have passed since the great apostles passed away; but have they ceased to be ours? The word of repentance which they preached, has it not awakened us? The testimony they bore to the grace in Christ, has it not converted us? The example of love which they have set forth, has it not enlightened us? This Paul, this Peter, &c., are ours. And not only they, but all who walk in their footsteps. Yes, they too are ours who seem to be far removed from us. Paul had been a persecutor of the Church, and became its protector. Peter was a shaken reed, and became like a rock. Apollos was a disciple of the false Greek wisdom (Acts 18:24), and became a scholar of Christ. We will not despair, then, of those whom we cannot call ours in reality.

2. All other created things.

(1) On few things do we seem so dependent. There is the lightning, the hailstorm, the flood, the pestilence, war. These forces, which neither the mind nor the will of man can tame or control--are they ours? That wonderful power that carries men across the country, as on the wings of the wind, that still more wonderful power which multiplies thought with lightning speed; that gold which rules the hearts of men; the spirit of inquiry--do these powers belong to us, Christians? Even the gentle gifts which summer scatters over the trees and fields, will not misuse desecrate them, will not sin poison them?

(2) But we must not be misled by appearances. The apostle’s statement is true. For can misfortune touch us when we know that all things work together for our good? When we know that we are not the sport of chance, but that an almighty and all-loving hand sends these trials to us; when we have the experience, too, that we are purified by them as gold by the fire? It is true that the commercial activity of the day may serve the purposes of sin; but does it fail to serve the purposes of the kingdom of God? It is true that a prolific press forges weapons of falsehood and ungodliness; but does it fail to forge the weapons of truth? It is true that gold enters many a house with a message of hatred and hostility; but does it cease to be an angel of love and comfort when we carry it into the dwellings of the poor and wretched? It is true that the spirit of inquiry kindles a fire-brand and casts it into the very sanctuary of God; but does it not also kindle the flame of wisdom and throw light into the sanctuary of Divine truth?

3. But, says the doubter, there is one thing you cannot make your own. It is all-embracing time with life and death, the past, the present, and the future.

(1) We will not dispute that there is nothing on which men seem so dependent as time.

(a) What are we to say of life--is this ours? We devise a plan of life to-day, to-morrow it lies in ruins at our feet. We build to-day on our health, to-morrow we are stretched on our bed.

(b) And how about death? When we shall die we do not know; that we shall die is certain. There are some who during life never cease to be in bondage to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).

(c) And is the past ours? What we have done, we have done and cannot recall.

(d) And how can the present or the future belong to us? At the present moment is not the future dark before us? What will happen in the next hour or day we cannot tell.

(2) Amid these apparent contradictions we hold immovably to the apostle’s word when he calls time ours.

(a) Of course the empty, perishing, earthly life is not ours. But what does this signify? On the other hand, eternal life, whose pledge for us is the resurrection of Christ, will after this life first attain its full perfection. This eternal life is ours, and death cannot rob us of it. For death is ours in Christ.

(b) The past, too, is ours. The centuries have swept away a hundred signs of human devotion; one is left, it is the Cross. Thousands of words of human wisdom have been forgotten; the Word of God remains. Names that once shone brightly in the firmament are now never mentioned; one name remains, it is the name Christ. Numberless hopes have vanished like the morning mist; one hope remains, is ours--the hope of eternal life. The past is ours: all that is worthy and imperishable in it.

(c) And therefore are the present and future ours too. Let men set up new signs, the Cross alone will remain. Let them utter wondrous words, they will all cease to be heard; the Divine Word will remain. Let new names rise into favour, they will all disappear like meteors, while the name of Christ will be like the sun. Let new hopes delude men, our hope is an anchor sure and steadfast.

The conditions to be fulfilled that this may be so. The natural man cannot inherit the kingdom of God; therefore, cannot say “all things are mine,” but must rather confess “I belong to all things.” The context shows how freedom may be gained, and with it the assurance that all things are ours. The apostle is not addressing the unbelieving, but (verse 16) those who have received the Holy Ghost. This is the condition. The way to become possessed of the Christian’s wealth is the way of repentance which leads us to the knowledge of what sin is before the Father; the way of faith which causes us to find in God the Son reconciliation and redemption from sin; the way of regeneration-we are renewed and sanctified by God the Holy Ghost. (D. Schenkel, D. D.)

Christian riches

“Give me a great thought, that I may live upon it,” said a noble man in his dying hour; but even in life there is often need of a great thought to expand and elevate the soul. Such a thought we have in our text.

The world has often used these words to deck out a gospel of the flesh. Do we not hear men calling out, “All is yours”? Lordship over the earth is yours; therefore seize, rule, and enjoy. And because all is yours, ye must all equally rule and enjoy; therefore demolish the old distinction between masters and servants, rich and poor. We know, indeed, that in the early Apostolic Church there was a short time when the word, “All is yours,” was quite literally fulfilled (Acts 2:44), but this state of matters had of necessity very soon to disappear. The providence of God is not uniform, and in different ways will lead different men, setting some as stewards over much, others as stewards over little. But--

The highest good is common to all. In the sense of faith, and hope, and love, we say with the apostle, “All is yours; for ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” What can be more my own than what I possess in best thoughts and feelings? Name anything in the whole world, and I ask whether it is not mine if it may serve my inner man and serve me for growth in wisdom and grace. Wert thou ever so poor, art thou Christ’s, then the whole world must serve thee, for Christ is God’s; but wert thou so rich that thou wouldst have to pull down thy barns and build greater, &c., the days of thy riches are soon numbered. Here, however, are riches which moth and rust cannot corrupt and which cannot be counted. “All is yours.”

1. Paul, Apollos, and Cephas belong to thee, with their varying gifts. For thee the evangelists write, apostles preach, the sacred poets unfold the depths of their soul. For thee is the exhortation and the promise.

2. The world. Yes, not only the kingdom of grace, but also the kingdom of nature, and the lilies of the field and the birds of the air reveal to thee the glory of God.

3. Life or death. How poor would we be if death, too, did not belong to us. The gospel of the flesh leads its adherents up to the gates of death, and just there death, as it were, calls out, “Nothing is yours!” But art thou Christ’s, then “to die is gain.”

4. And whosoever can speak thus can also say, “things present or things to come.” Many perhaps will say, “Yes, no doubt the present is ours--these misfortunes and sufferings--but where are our joy and peace?” But art thou Christ’s, then these times contain a great wealth of Divine exhortations, warnings, appeals, which also belong to thee for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness. And if thou yieldest to these, then also the great word belongs to thee: “We are saved by hope,” hope in the brighter morning of eternity, when all the children of God will reap with joy, for they bring in the fruits of righteousness.

If the Lord is to be able to give us all, then must we be able to give the Lord all. “Lord, we have left all and followed Thee.” Luther sang, “Everything may go … To us the crown remaineth.” This we too must learn if we would obtain the promise. Let all go that is now thine own; the earthly, selfish desires which hold thee back, because thou thyself holdest them so fast; and many a thing which, though it has had a noble origin, yet turns thee from the riches of God, if thou wilt hold it fast against the will of God. Let go, therefore, the vain dreams of a happiness which knows neither sufferings nor the cross. Perhaps thou hast thyself already experienced the disappointments of this life. There were perhaps some dear ones whom thou couldst truly call thine own! The grave covers them, and why wilt thou still cling to the earthly possession? In the name of Jesus, let it go. For in Him we know that we should not seek the living among the dead; we know that what is sown in corruption will be raised in incorruption, &c. And the better we learn to say from the heart, “Let everything go, to us the crown remaineth,” the freer, the more joyous, the richer will we be. For then that dies in us which ought to die, and then that lives in us which ought to live. And then we feel that all is ours. (Bp. Martensen.)

The Christian’s heritage

. The believer may be said to possess all things in God.

1. The mind of a great author is more precious than his books, of a great artist than his pictures. To have the mind is better than to have merely the products of that mind. Give the fountain, and you virtually have the streams. But no earthly or finite mind can transfer its gifts to another. But there is a sense in which we may become sharers of the Infinite Mind from which all that is true and good and fair in the universe proceeds. As really as true, or noble, or holy thoughts become a portion of the mind which apprehends them, does God communicate Himself through the spirit of the believer.

2. The happiness of this mysterious nature of ours is never to be found merely in the possession of God’s gifts; the soul can find its true satisfaction only in rising beyond the gifts, and claiming the Giver as its own. When you covet the friendship or love of a fellow-man, it does not satisfy you that he bestows upon you only outward gifts; unless the man give you himself, the rest are but worthless boons. So the wealth of worlds would be, to the heart longing after Deity, a miserable substitute for one look of love from the Great Father’s eye.

3. Now, admitting the truth of the thought that God is the portion of the soul, then the argument of the text becomes obvious and conclusive. As the scattered rays of light are all included in the focus, as the fountain contains the streams, so all finite and created good is contained in Him who is the Supreme Good; all earthly excellence is but the partial emanation, the more or less bright reflection of the Great Original. The man who is in possession of some great masterpiece need not envy others who have only casts or copies of it.

Some of the special blessings here enumerated.

1. “The world is yours.” Not, obviously, in the literal sense. This earth is not the exclusive property of the good. It is not their Master, but another who, displaying “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,” said, “All these will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” As often as otherwise the rich in faith are poor in this world’s possessions. The best of the sons of men “had not where to lay His head”; and even this last resting-place the hand of charity bestowed. But the world belongs to the Christian in that he only has a legitimate title to the benefits and blessings he enjoys in it. This earth was not meant to be the home of evil.

(1) Even mute and material things, the laws and agencies of nature, have in them something that asserts their Divine origin, and proclaims that wrong is done to them when forced into the service of sin. If, therefore, you are living a sinful life, you are out of harmony with the world in which you live. You are an intruder on its soil, a misappropriator of its benefits, a usurper and perverter of its laws. And so long as you continue in estrangement from God, it is as if His sun were unwilling to shine upon you, and His air to inspire you, and the fruits of His earth to nourish you, and that earth itself to hold you, and as if “the whole creation,” weary of a bondage so degrading, were “groaning and travailing in pain.”

(2) On the other hand, let your soul be brought back into living union with the Father of spirits through His Son, and thenceforward the world will become yours, because you are God’s. In harmony with the Great Centre, you will be in harmony with all things in His universe. Nature will serve him who serves her God. The earth will be fulfilling its proper function in yielding you bread, and the heavens in shedding their sweet influences on your path. You will be able to claim a peculiar property in the works of your Father’s hand, and the bounties of your Father’s providence. You will have served yourself heir to Him who is the Universal Proprietor, and become “heir of God, and joint heir with Christ.” And so “the world” and the fulness thereof will become “yours,” because “ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

2. “Life is yours.”

(1) Of course, considered as mere existence or duration of being, “life” cannot be regarded as the peculiar property of the Christian. For though it is true that religion is really conducive to health and longevity, and that, in absence of its restraints, vicious excess often impairs the health and shortens life, yet it is not always the holiest men who live the longest.

(2) But if the good do not live longer, they live more in the same space of time than other men. Life is to be reckoned not only extensively, but also intensively. An oak lives for centuries; but who would exchange for it a single day of the existence of a living, conscious, thinking man? The briefest life of rationality, again, has more of real life in it than the longest of a mere animal. And, amongst rational beings, that life is longest, whether brief or protracted its outward term, into which the largest amount of mental and moral activity is condensed. “We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths,” &c. But if so, it is only the man who lives to God who can really be said to live at all. For in him alone the whole man lives--in him alone all the energies of man’s being are called into fullest, noblest activity. The man who merely vegetates through existence, who rises day by day only to eat and drink and pursue the same unreflective round, without one lofty thought or pure spiritual emotion--surely, to such an one, life, in its real essence, its true significance, is lost. The man of property, who has an undiscovered gold mine on his estate, is no richer for his latent wealth; and whatever other men contrive to extract out of life--as comfort, honour, knowledge, power--they are, after all, possessors only of its surface wealth; the Christian alone, the man who has discovered and appropriated its hidden treasure of holy thought, feeling, energy, he alone can be said to be its true possessor. Confine a bird for life to a cage, and could it be said to be in reality possessor of the unexercised, unenjoyed power to soar and sweep the heavens? But within every human breast there are capabilities of heaven, folded wings of thought, aspiration, energy, which need only the liberating touch of the Spirit of God to call forth their hidden power, and bear the soul upward to the true region of its life. The true ideal of man’s life is that of a heavenly life. To that man only who can say, “To me to live is Christ,” can we say, in the full significance of the words, Then “life is yours.”

3. “Death is yours.” Outwardly, indeed, death bears the same aspect to all. But yet, whilst of all other men it may be said that they are death’s, of the believer alone can it be averred that death is his.

(1) Sin renders a man, in a sense, the rightful property of death, so that, when the hour of dissolution arrives, it is but the lawful proprietor coming to claim his own. In human society, a man by the commission of a crime is by right, if not in fact, the property of the law. The criminal may elude for a while the hands of justice; but, go where he may, he has no right to liberty or life. And when at last, it may be in some unwary moment, he feels a stern hand laid upon his shoulder, and the terrible words, “You are my prisoner,” fall upon his ear, his guilty freedom is at an end. And though shrinking in dismay from the fate that awaits him, go he must with the officer of justice to meet it. Now, similar to this is the condition of the irreligious man in relation to that law which he has dishonoured, and that dread penalty which he has incurred.

(2) On the other hand, if you are Christ’s, then death is yours. His power over you is gone. For your condition will be analogous to that of the innocent man in the hands of the law. Over him the law has no power. All its authority, its sanctions, its penalties are on his side. And so, if ye be Christ’s, the stain of guilt no longer rests upon you, and- death has no longer any claim to your person. It may be still your mysterious fate to pass into the prison-house of the destroyer; but He to whom you belong will soon claim you as one who, like Himself, cannot be “holden of death.” And then when “this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality,” then shall the believer discover the full and blessed import of the words, “Death is yours.” (J. Caird, D. D.)

Christian dominion

In Genesis 2:1-25. we learn that according to God’s creative ideal, man was designed to subject all things to his own will, to have the power of enjoying all things. But the realisation of that was subject to the condition that man should retain the form and spirit of that Divine life of which he was created. Therefore the truth of the text is that when man is restored to his true character, he recovers his original dominion. Now Christ is the image of God; therefore to be Christ’s is to recover the original character which God created in man. When it can be said of us, “Ye are Christ’s,” it can also be said, “Ye are God’s,” and “all things are yours.” Now the two main characteristics in the Divine life in Christ are light in the understanding, love in the will and the heart. And we shall find that progress in enlightenment, and sympathy makes man more and more capable of reducing all things to His service, and of drawing tribute from all things.

The gifts of men.

1. “Paul, Apollos, and Cephas.” Each had his own special power of setting forth some aspects of the Divine truth. To the narrow-minded and narrow-hearted these teachers were of no service; but to the enlightened and unselfish man the powers of thought, of feeling, and of spirit that existed in these men added to his inward wealth.

2. This is for ever the case. Our ability to make use, for our own good, of the splendid gifts of other men depends upon our own state of heart and mind. For instance, the soul of a great poet is a mine of mental and of moral wealth to those who can make him their own; but the coarse, the unintellectual man cannot grasp its treasures. When Paul’s body was bound by Nero at Rome, the apostle was not possessed by the brutal emperor who could not enter into his ideas; but the humblest Christian slave in Nero’s household was able to make the genius of the great apostle contribute to the inward wealth of his own soul.

The world.

1. The material form of the world becomes ours not by virtue of our external position but of our inward state of heart and mind. The man of cultured mind and heart, who knows the inward life and the hidden history of the world, who looks at and loves the glorious landscape, who sees everywhere the signs of God’s wisdom and power, who sees the beauty of His works; and above all he who knows how to appreciate the greatest of all--the moral nature of man--is more truly the owner of wide provinces of the world than a king dark in mind and debased in heart.

2. So the wealth of the world does not belong to a man really until he has become renewed in mind and in heart. The narrow-minded, narrow-hearted churl may have countless hoards, but he is not the master of his money, but his money is the master of the man.

3. The callings, the social intercourse of the world, do not really belong to us in the sense of doing us any good until we are renewed in heart and mind. A selfish, Christless man may have a large practice, a lucrative business, a high social position, but he cannot derive from them any rich inward happiness; but the man who is animated by the spirit of Christ, finds in doing his every-day duty a resource that gives strength and satisfaction to the whole being, and he can say, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work.”

Life. The desire for life is innate in man. How shall I see life? is the cry of the young human heart. The only answer is, “I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Mere animal existence is not the all of life. The enlightening of the mind by the rays, and the enlargement of the heart by the ardour of that fire of love that came down on Pentecost give the fulness of life. Sensual and worldly life as old age creeps upon us, becomes a burden, not a treasure. But if we are animated by the spirit of Christ we have an undecaying life that we realise day by day more and more our own possession. There are other masters who wish to supersede Christ, that tell us of life sensual and of life intellectual, but they admit that the life of which they speak is not to be our own, and that it is to become the spoil of the grave. Christ alone rescues our life from corruption and makes it ours, ours for ever. “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou alone hast the words of eternal life.”

Death. If we are living worldly, sensual, thoughtless lives, then death is not our possession but our enemy; but if we are deadening the lower life and giving ourselves to the life of the spirit in Christ day by day, then death is ours. As the exile welcomes the white-winged ship that is to bear him away from the strange land of his sojourn where he cannot find lasting rest, and to take him across the storm-tossed waves of the ocean to the calm shores where stands the home of his inheritance, so is the approach of death to those who are in Christ. As is the opening of the door to the guest that has long been wearily waiting in the ante-room of the outward existence to be ushered into the presence-chamber where he shall “see the king in his beauty,” and find the bounty of his favour, so is the approach of death to those who have been all through their life straining the gaze of the soul to catch the vision of the higher life. (Dean Edwards.)

A Christian’s portion

. All things are yours.

1. “Paul, Apollos, Cephas.” Therefore Peter is not the head of the Church. He is named here in the third place. Peter is the Church’s, and therefore cannot be the head and commander.

2. The world.

(1) The world natural--the frame of heaven and earth. All things are made for man, and he is made for God. They have their happiness and misery together with men (Romans 8:21).

(2) The civil world. The commonwealth is for the Church. Therefore St. Paul bids us “pray for kings and princes,” &c. (1 Timothy 2:2). Commonwealths stand because the Church is mingled with them.

(3) The world of wicked men, all their plots, and the “prince of the world” are the Church’s. He and all his instruments are under the command of Him who turns all his designs contrary to his own intention.

3. Life. Why doth God prolong the life of good pastors and good people, but that they may be blessed instruments to convey truth to posterity? (Philippians 1:23-24). And so the life of good magistrates (Acts 13:36). And then our own life is ours, in order to a better life, which is the only life. This present life is nothing but a shadow. Again, life is ours, because the time we live here is a seed time. This time is given us to do a great many good things in, the harvest of which is reserved for the world to come. And life is a special benefit, because by the advantage of life we further our reckonings after death. A good Christian, the longer he lives, the more he soweth to the Spirit.

4. “Or death.” Paul joins these together, for if life be not ours for good, death will never be ours. But if life be ours, and we have made a blessed improvement of it, then death also shall be ours (Revelation 14:13). It tends to our benefit many ways.

(1) It unclothes us of these rags, these sick, weak bodies of ours, that occasion so much disquiet to our souls, and puts on a new robe of immortality, and garments of glory. It ends all that is ill.

(2) It ends labour in our callings, and the miseries and afflictions that accompany them. Death is ours because it is our resting-place.

(3) It frees us from wicked men, and sets us clear out of Satan’s reach.

(4) It is a passage to another world. It is the gate of glory. Our death is our birthday. For when we die, we begin to live, and we never live indeed till we die. Death is ours every way. It is our greatest friend under the mask of an enemy. It is a good messenger; it brings good tidings when it comes (Ecclesiastes 7:1). It is the best physician. It cures all diseases whatsoever of soul and body. And, indeed, death is the death of itself; for after death there is no more death (Romans 6:9).

5. “Or things present.”

(1) The good things present are ours, for our comfort in our pilgrimage and passage towards heaven (Titus 1:15; 1 Timothy 4:4).

(2) And as good things, so ill things. Afflictions are ours, because they fit us for a happier state; they exercise what is good in us, and mortify what is ill.

6. Things to come--whether they be good or evil.

(1) For good. The remainder of our life, that is ours to be good in. Death is to come, and that is ours. And judgment, that is ours; for our Brother and Saviour shall be our judge (1 Corinthians 6:2). And then after judgment heaven is ours. Indeed, the best is to come.

(2) And evil things to come are ours also. They cannot do us harm (Romans 8:35; Romans 8:38).

But we must understand this with some limits. We therefore answer some cases.

1. It may seem there is no distinction of property if all be a Christian’s. If every Christian may say, “All is mine,” then what is one man’s is another’s, and there will be no property. Undoubtedly there is a distinction of properties in the things of this life. “All is ours,” to help us to heaven; in order to comfort and happiness.

2. If all is the Church’s, nothing belongs to the wicked. Therefore say the Jesuited papists, the pope may excommunicate ill princes. They are evil governors; nothing is theirs, all is the Church’s. But political government is not founded upon religion, but upon nature and free election, so that the heathen that have no religion may yet have a lawful government and governors. But it is further objected that they succeed Christ, &c., and He was the Lord of the world; and therefore they may dispossess and invest whom they will. But Christ as man had no government at all (John 18:36), only as God-man, Mediator; and so He hath no successor.

3. Doth not this hinder bounty? It is mine, and therefore I do not owe any bounty unto others (1 Samuel 25:11). However all that we possess is ours in law, yet the bonds of duty, both of humanity and religion, are larger than the bonds of law. Therefore “all things are ours,” not to possess all we have, but to use them as He will have them used, that gives them.

4. If all be ours, we may do what we choose in all things. Not so. There is difference between right, and the use of that right. God’s children have right to that which God gives them, but they have not the use of that right at all times. Again, though all be ours, yet we have not a sanctified use, but by the Word and prayer (1 Timothy 4:4). We must take them with God’s leave.

5. Again, “all things are ours.” Therefore truth, wheresoever we find it, is ours. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Glorious united property

. Christ is God’s.

1. God’s Son.

2. God’s image.

3. God’s gift.

4. God’s great ordinance of salvation.

Ye are Christ’s.

1. Negatively.

(1) You are not the devil’s.

(2) You are not Moses’. You are not the property of the law.

(3) You are not Adam’s. His headship was soon lost.

2. Positively, “Ye are Christ’s.” His property, His spouse, His members, His riches, His glory.

Having Christ, we have all things. I remember reading of a lady looking over certain treasures of the house. She says, this is mine, and this is mine, and this is mine. The husband very pleasantly smiled, and said, Yes, my dear, all this is yours, because you are mine. Now all belongs to the believer that belongs to Christ, officially, relatively, and by covenant, and by mediation.

1. All the fulness stored up in the person of Christ belongs to His people. “It hath pleased the Father that in Him all fulness should dwell.” “Of His fulness we have received, and grace for grace.”

2. All the merit of His work.

3. All the triumphs of His victories. (G. Murrell.)

A call to the utmost expansiveness in religious sympathy

The Church has not always treated its ministers rightly. The attendants on a Christian ministry may be divided into--

1. Those who esteem the doctrine because of the teacher. Paul seems to have had those in his eye when he wrote this chapter. This is a mistake, as bad as it is prevalent.

2. Those who esteem the teacher because of his doctrines. A man who preaches to them, they feel, is estimable only as he embodies and propounds the true doctrines of the gospel. The impropriety of glorying in teachers, rather than in their doctrines, is strikingly illustrated by three things in the text.

The universe is for the Church. “All things”--not some things.

1. The ministry. “Whether Paul, or Apollos.” In every way it serves man--intellectually, socially, materially. Rut its grand aim is to restore the human spirit to God. Now this ministry, in all its varieties, is the property of the Church. Why, then, should it glory in any one form?

2. The world. In the sense of legal possession the world of course is not the property of Christians, nor of others. Yet in the highest sense it is the property of the Christian. He feels an intense sympathy with God who created it; he rejoices in it as the workmanship of a Father’s hands, as the expression of a Father’s heart, the revelation of a Father’s wisdom and power. Spiritually he appropriates the world to himself, he gathers up its truths, he cherishes its impressions, he drinks in its Divine spirit.

3. Life. There are certain conditions in which men cannot be said to live. The prisoner under the sentence of death; his life belongs to the avenging justice of his country. There are others whose faculties are so paralysed they can neither speak nor move. Life is not theirs. Morally man is dead in trespasses and in sin; his life is not his. But life is the Christian’s. His sentence of death is removed; his moral infirmities are healed, and he is enjoying the right of life, he is prosecuting the mission of life, he is answering the grand purpose of life.

4. Death. It delivers from all that is incompatible with our peace, safety, and advancement; and introduces us into the scenes, the services, the society of a blessed immortality. It is ours; the last step in the pilgrimage, the last storm in the voyage, the last blow in the conflict.

5. General events. “Things present,” whatever their character--painful or pleasant--are ours. “Things to come.” What things come to us in a day! What things, therefore, are to come in eternity!

The Church is for the Redeemer. There are two very different senses in which Christian men are Christ’s. They are His--

1. By His relationship to them. He is the Creator of all. “By Him were all things created, visible and invisible,” &c. He is the Mediator of all. “Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price,” &c.

2. By their pledge to Him. They have pledged themselves to Him as their moral Leader.

The redeemer is for God. Christ is--

1. God’s Revealer. He reveals Him--

(1) In creation. God’s creative plan was wrought out by the hand of Christ; He, as the builder of the universe, revealed the mind of the infinite Architect.

(2) In His personal ministry. He was the Image of the invisible God, the brightness of His Father’s glory.

2. God’s Servant. He came here to work out God’s great plan of saving mercy. Christ is God’s Revealer and Servant in a sense in which no other being in the universe is, and therefore to Him men should give their undivided attention.

Conclusion: Learn--

1. The infinite worth of Christianity. It gives “all things” to its true disciples. None of the “all things” specified here are possessed by those who are not His genuine disciples.

2. The contemptibleness of religious sectarianism. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Verse 22

1 Corinthians 3:22

Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas.

The gospel ministry as a property

I would say to the Church, in relation to this property--

Appreciate it. What on earth so valuable as a true gospel ministry? In it you have, as a rule, the most richly cultured intellect, the highest order of genius, the most disinterested services, the most sanctified sympathies.

Protect it from worldly cares, secular embarrassments, social slanders. Take care of it--it is more precious than gold.

Use it. You have eternal treasures in these earthly vessels. Take care, and get from them the “pearl of great price.”

Thank God for it. It is given to you in trust. You must give an account at last. (Caleb Morris.)

Christ and thought

The text must be regarded as a warning against--

Intellectual levity.

1. It was far from the intention of the apostle in this Epistle to speak slightingly of knowledge, or of those gifted men who are its mouthpieces. True, he speaks depreciatingly of a certain wisdom; but there was another wisdom, on account of which he was prepared to suffer the loss of all things. Paul knew that Christ had put us into a fresh attitude of reverence towards the whole intellectual world. Christ taught us--

(1) The reality of truth. “What is truth?” asks the scoffing sceptic. It is an illusion in his view. But when Christ showed us the Father, He taught us at once the reality of truth, and the truth of reality.

(2) The supremacy of truth. “Art Thou a King, then? To this end was I born … that I should bear witness unto the truth.”

(3) The accessibility of truth. That the search for truth is not a vain search.

2. And it was no part of Paul’s purpose that the Corinthians should think lightly of their great teachers. In fact, he gives those teachers a very high place. “The world” is unquestionably a magnificent thing, and the apostle puts great teachers into the same category. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” &c. Intellectual men also declare the glory of God, and with an eloquence surpassing that of the stars.

(1) Let us not, then, lightly esteem our intellectual teachers. All the great thinkers, and writers, and scientists are ours. A ship at sea is directed from two points of view--there is the man with the lead taking soundings from below, and there is the man with the glass taking the bearings from above; so our race is indebted for its guidance alike to the science which concerns itself with the physical world beneath us, and to the theology which contemplates the world above and beyond us. And ours in this matter is a day of exceptionally high privilege. Our easily accessible libraries bring all the gifted teachers close to us. Do not neglect or despise this splendid privilege.

(2) Let us not despise our religious teachers. It seems very probable that “the Christ party” in Corinth was in danger of doing this. This is a mistake. Each generation has its gifted teachers, and these are to be reckoned as God’s choice gifts to His Church, and every lowlier teacher who speaks living words has a real value to his age. A while ago somebody suggested, with a touch of scorn, that preachers ought to be “paid by results.” “Paid by results!” How the money would roll in upon us! To speak the word, at a critical moment, which shall turn a faltering young man or woman into the path of life--how much for that? To utter thoughts which widen and purify a man’s soul, and which save him from lapsing into a sordid, sensual life--how much for that? To inspire with fresh hope one sinking into grief and unbelief and despair--how much for that? No, payment by results must be left to the great Paymaster.

Intellectual servility.

1. Whilst one party amongst the Corinthians set little store by any of the great teachers of the Church, the other three parties were in danger of paying these teachers exaggerated homage. Says the noble apostle: You do not exist for them; they exist for you. The apostle has just been remarking that the greatest sages have been guilty of the most serious errors; he then proceeds: “Therefore let no man glory in men.” The most gifted men are not infallible, and consequently they are to be followed with caution. The greatest teachers are only instrumental. There is a certain respect to be paid to the husbandman who brings forth precious fruits, but we reserve our full wonder and reverence for Him who alone gives the increase. There must, then, be no servility of soul in any of the congregation of the saints. No thinker must be permitted to coerce your intellect, no theologian to dictate your creed, no ecclesiastic to bind your conscience. God endows men that they may help and not enslave one another.

2. Here is a lesson for us to-day. Intellectual men are very prone to lord it over their less-gifted or less-cultured brethren. Sometimes they turn the republic of letters into a tyranny; sometimes they set up lordship in the Church. We see this despotism in philosophy. We are soon overawed by, and accept as gospel, what Carlyle says, or Arnold, or Ruskin, or Huxley, or Spencer. And we see this despotism in religion, and in the Roman Church in a very pronounced form. Now, our text warns us against such ignoble submission. “We are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” We do not stop with Paul, &c.; we are thankful for the stars, but it is still our privilege to have access to the Central Luminary; and all believers, even the humblest of them, share the illumination. It was given to tentmakers and fishermen to see truths not seen by prophets and kings; it was given to a peasant’s son to find for Christendom the Divine doctrine it had lost; it was given to a tinker in Bedford to have visions of God as Isaiah and Ezekiel had; it was given to Wesley’s “ragged regiment” to see truths of life hidden from the wise and prudent; it was given to a Northamptonshire cobbler to seize afresh and to give practical efficacy to the magnificent truth of the universality of salvation in Jesus Christ. Evils may arise out of an exaggerated individuality, but the right of the individual to be taught of God is too clear and too precious to be relinquished on any pretence whatever.

Intellectual partiality. These four sects were mutually exclusive, but Paul declares that all the great teachers belong to the whole Church. It has been said that an intellectual man ought to have preferences, but no exclusions; the Christian may have sundry preferences, but he ought to be prepared to get light from all who can give it. He must recognise the special truths insisted upon by philosophy on the one side, and by theology on the other, and joyfully concede the preciousness of the work wrought by the several denominations. Why should we shut ourselves up to one meadow, when the whole land is ours; to one tree, when the forest is ours; to one constellation, when the whole firmament is ours? (W. L. Watkinson.)

Or the world.--

The world is yours

It is--

The Christian’s temporary lodging place until God translates aim to a better world. This is the patriarchal view; they lived as pilgrims and strangers.

The Christian’s library. There are the books of nature--astronomy, geology, &c.; books of providence--history of nations, individuals--his own history.

The Christian’s spiritual mart. He has much to do both with earth and heaven. He is one of Christ’s agents for extending His cause and kingdom in this world. A Christian cannot be talkative; he has too much to do.

The Christian’s school-room. In this school he is taught, especially on the Lord’s Day. Ministers are teachers. The Spirit instructs by the Word. Providence is a great teacher, so arc children. Christ placed a child in the midst of His disciples to teach them humility. He places sluggards under the tuition of the ant; and the ungrateful must take lessons from the ox and the ass.

The Christian’s battlefield. No battlefield in heaven, it is a palace; no battlefield in hell, it is a prison. This world to Christ was a battlefield. It is only in this world that Christians have to “fight the good fight of faith.”

The Christian’s place for moral cleansing and adornment. He who has to stand in the presence of God and the Lamb, must be washed and properly dressed. Priests, Levites, washed in the laver outside the holy place, were robed and dressed before officiating in the presence of God. “Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.” There are no means of saving, justifying, and cleansing sinners, but in this world.

The Christian’s road to heaven. Two roads in this world--the broad road leading to destruction, the narrow way that leads to life everlasting. Let us fear lest we should miss the way. Alongside the Christian’s way there flows the river of life; be constantly drinking its waters, and rejoicing you will go on your way to the heavenly world. (J. Robertson, M. A.)

That the whole world, with all things therein, is for the spiritual advantage of a godly man

He may say of the whole universe, all this is mine for the advantage of my soul one way or other. Come we, therefore, to show in how many particulars we may say the whole world is a godly man’s; it is for his use--First, it is the godly man’s school or academy; it is his study or library. The heavens and all things therein are so many books, whereby he admireth the wisdom of God (Romans 1:1-32.). Secondly, the world is a godly man’s, because everything therein is given him for his necessary use. Though he hath not everything, yet he hath as much as is needful to him. If you take a man into your house and bid him call for what he will, he may command everything in the house, though he doth not call for all things, but what is for his use--that is, as if he had all. And thus the whole world is for a godly man. What wealth, what honours, what health, is necessary and needful, he is sure to have. He that dwelleth by the ocean, he hath all the water in the sea for his use, though it is not necessary he should make use of it all. He that hath the use of anything, hath the thing. Thirdly, the world is a godly man’s, as his shop and place of service. It is that wherein he works and labours for God. It is the great shop for mankind to do that work God hath appointed them. It is the great vineyard, in which God hath set every man to work. This world is for doing; the world to come for receiving. Fourthly, the world is a godly man’s inn or lodging place, It is a provision God makes for a season, till they are ripe for heaven. Thus the godly are often compared to pilgrims and strangers. Fifthly, the godly have the world as the stage or artillery-yard--a place of exercise, wherein all their graces are to be drawn out by the opposition therein. To be quickened to the height of all thy graces, by how much more the combat and conflict thou hast, is exceeding great. The greatness of the tempest will discover the great art of the pilot. Sixthly, the world is a godly man’s, because all things therein are sanctified and made clean to his use. The objection, then, is, why have the godly the least possession of it, if they have the sanctified use of it? Doth not David complain that wicked men have the fatness of the earth? To answer this you must know that even those wicked men, who are said to have the world at their will, yet they have net the world indeed, they have it not as the godly men. “The little that the righteous hath, is better than great treasures of the wicked” (Psalms 37:16). First, whatsoever the wicked man hath, he hath it in wrath; it cometh from God’s anger. God is angry with the wicked all the day long. Secondly, wicked men have not the world, because they are overcome by it; the world hath them rather. Thirdly, wicked men have not the world, because they do not own and acknowledge God as the Giver of all; neither do they live to Him, but the things of the world are instruments to draw out their lusts, to make them the more wicked. They take the good creatures of God, and abuse them to wickedness. The very air, the very earth, is weary of them; yea, the timber in the house, and the stones of the wall do witness against them; they are, by the things of the world, made more wicked. Lastly, they have not the world, because they have not an holy contentation of mind; they are not quiet or satisfied in their condition. (A. Burgess.)

That godly men do only live, or the godly only do make a spiritual use of their life

That only godly men live. First, the godly man only liveth, because he is united to God and Christ, the fountain of life. David doth often style God “the fountain of life” (Psalms 36:9). And in His favour there is life. And in the New Testament, especially by John, Christ is made the Author of all life. Secondly, only the godly man liveth, because he hath a spiritual and a new life added to his animal life. Thirdly, the godly man only liveth, because he only hath the true blessedness and comfort of this life. He only hath true joy and peace of conscience, and this only the Scripture calls life. Fourthly, the godly only live, or life is theirs, because they only know how to improve the days of their life for God. Fifthly, life is only the godly man’s, because he hath an interest in eternal life. He hath passed from death unto life (John 5:24). He shall never die that liveth this life. Sixthly, the godly man only liveth, because he taketh his life from God, and referreth it to His glory. “Whether we live, we live to the Lord,” said Paul (Romans 14:8). Seventhly, the righteous only live, because they mortify and subdue those sins that kill our bodies, that take away our lives. Lastly, the godly man only liveth, because, even in the last breathings of this life, his hopes and comforts do most remain. “The righteous hath hope in his death” (Proverbs 14:32). And this hope is called a lively hope.

How can it be said that the wicked do not live, when they are said to have their portion chiefly in this life?

1. They are dead in their sins, and hereby their faith, their religion, their Christianity is all dead.

2. They do not live, because they are in a condemned estate; they are appointed to wrath.

3. They do not live, because all their time is lost, so all the time of a man’s unregeneracy is no life.

4. They make everything an instrument of death--their health, their wealth, their honours, are all deadly herbs in the pot; their tongue speaks the words of death; their hands work the works of death. (A. Burgess.)

The world is yours

1. It is useful as well as curious to observe under what different aspects the world is surveyed by different persons. The politician considers it as the scene of political changes; the soldier, as the field of war; the man of business, as the place for the acquisition of wealth; the gay and dissolute estimate it by its pleasures.

2. But each of these estimates is essentially erroneous. The Word of God affords the only criterion by which we can form a just judgment of the world. Instructed, therefore, by the light of Scripture, the Christian looks upon the world as fallen, and under a curse; but by the same Divine light he discovers that God, in His great mercy, has sent His Son into the world to save and raise it.

3. Every Christian, therefore, views the present world not merely as it is in itself, but as it is connected with this great plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. Its aspect is thus totally changed; it becomes a school of discipline, in which God places the heirs of salvation for their improvement and growth in grace; a theatre of instruction, in which are continually exhibited striking, examples of the truth and excellency of God’s precepts, the vanity of earthly pursuits, and the folly and evil of sin; a scene for the display of the bounty and goodness of God to those whom Christ has received as His disciples.

4. Thus “the world is yours.” It is intended for your use; it is adorned for your enjoyment; it was never formed to gratify the purposes of ambition, to satiate the lust of wealth, to be a scene of dissipation and unhallowed pleasure. The world is abused whenever it is used for these purposes. But yours is the world who use it for those ends for which its gracious Creator formed it; who survey its scenery, its mountains, &c.; and feel that they are yours because they were made by your Father. The world is yours who receive the bounty of Heaven with a thankful heart, and employ it, as God has intended, to your own lawful advantage and the good of ethers. The world is yours to enjoy it with moderation, thankful for the conveniences it affords you while a pilgrim and a stranger in it, in your way to a better and heavenly country. The world is yours who enjoy the blessing of God upon all your possessions and occupations in it, and possess in your souls “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.” (J. Venn, M. A.)

Christ and nature

Let us seek to establish the truth of the text--that the world is ours. Many ridicule this assertion. The conception that the earth was the centre of the universe has been entirely disproved. Now, man imagines himself to be the centre of the universe of things, the end for which the whole creation has groaned and travailed through countless ages, and groans and travails still. This view is declared to be an insane egotism. Let us see.

1. The world is realised only in man. It was only a mass of dark force, a dance of atoms, a whirlpool of vibrations, until Adam came. The universe is revealed only in the sense and in the thought of humanity.

2. The world is comprehended only by man. Geology makes the world of the past ours; astronomy makes the worlds above our head ours; a score of sciences make the world at our feet ours. The world is ours, for we comprehend its laws, perceive its unity, mark its developments, rejoice in all its wonderful movements and manifestations. A thing is pre-eminently made for the mind which comprehends it.

3. The world is claimed only by man. Man instinctively acts as if the whole world belonged to him. Ages ago the Psalmist celebrated the splendid sovereignty of man: “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet.” And the fact is not less apparent to-day. Each living creature keeps within its narrow world, but men with telescope, microscope, spectroscope, go forth to claim the wide universe. If men acknowledge that the material realm has a centre, a master, an end, they are compelled to recognise that humanity alone meets the requirements of the case. If you take away man you must put what is inferior in his place.

Let us show how in Christ we realise our property in created things. “We see not yet all things put under” man. He has dropped the sceptre, or it has been wrested from him. But in Christ the government of the world is being restored to us. To illustrate this, look at--

1. The Christian creed.

(1) About God. In Egypt, in Greece, in Rome, the powers of nature were regarded as Divine, and the God that is above was denied (Job 31:26-28). Now, Christianity delivers us from this tyranny of superstition, by making manifest to us “the God that is above.” “You are the world’s,” says a sceptical science, reducing us to a sad idolatry, a sad slavery. The world, like fire, is a grand servant, but a bad master. “You are God’s,” says Christ. He fixes our eye on the God of heaven; He tells us that God made the world for us, that He rules it for us, and just as we hold to that doctrine and serve God, so shall the world be ours, ministering to our utmost satisfaction of soul and sense.

(2) About man. Some of our teachers love to exalt nature at the expense of man. They remind us of the vastness, force, and duration of the universe, as against our limitation, weakness, and mortality. And when they have done this, it is easy to add: “You are the world’s; it is everything, you are nothing.” But Christianity asserts with mighty emphasis the dignity of human nature. There is an element in us that is not in the universe; an element vaster, for it dreams of infinity; stronger, for it forces nature to do its bidding; more abiding, for it claims immortality. The dignity of man has been demonstrated by the fact of the Incarnation. God will see a sun go out as we see a spark, but Bethlehem and Calvary declare that the redemption of the soul is precious.

2. Christian character. What humanity has lost of authority over nature through ignorance, lust, pride, sloth, covetousness, violence, cruelty, it shall recover through Christ in humility, kindness, wisdom, earnestness, truth, and love. Through righteousness shall we become heirs of the world. More righteousness, and our dominion shall extend over the vast, wild, mysterious forces of the material universe; more righteousness, and the birds of the air, the beasts of the field shall become our loyal subjects as we do not now dream; more righteousness, and desert places shall blossom as the rose.

3. Christian civilisation.

(1) How does it come to pass that science should have attained to such perfection in Christendom? Science sprang up ages ago in China, but it soon became an aborted, arrested thing; it flashed out with the Moors, only to sink again into the darkness of paganism. How is it that it is not found where Buddhism reigns, or Confucianism, or Mohammedanism? Christ has girded our scientific men, although some of them know Him not. The glorious science which is making the world ours, is ours because Christ is ours.

(2) How does it come to pass that the commerce, which is realising the riches of the world, should have sprung up and come to such wonderful perfection in Christendom? It is because Christ has set up amongst us the kingdom of God and His righteousness that all things are being added unto us. Conclusion--

1. If the world is ours, let us carefully claim it. There would be less “godless science” if religious people more directly and fully put in their claim to nature. If you notice a piece of unclaimed ground anywhere, somebody will shoot his rubbish there; and so if we neglect to claim nature for God, an atheistical science will soon accumulate its rubbish there. Be sure you realise all that creation will give and teach. Enjoy all its physical fruits and treasures so far as they may be given unto you. Then, remember its intellectual ministry. It is to enrich thought, to exalt and expand the mind, to kindle the imagination and feeling. But, above and beyond all this, nature has a ministry to our spirit. Our Lord showed us this. What lessons He found in the lily and in the bird! &c. “The world is ours.” It is a magazine of instruments for our service; it is a school full of diagrams for our instruction; it is a sanctuary whose grand symbols, properly interpreted, are sacraments indeed. Man was not made for the world, but the world for man, and we must be careful to realise all the wealth and blessing of our great inheritance.

2. Does any one object, “But this proprietorship is all visionary--how can a man without a foot of land say, the world is mine?” To say that the fields and hills are ours only when we have certain parchments made out in our name, and locked up in our iron safe, that is the artificial proprietorship. That is truly ours which enlarges our mind, rejoices our heart, purifies our life. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Or life, or death.--

Life and death are yours

. Life is yours.

1. It is obvious that St. Paul does not mean that any one is supreme over the events or circumstances of his life. Save in so far as virtue conducts to health and prosperity, there is, in this sense, but one end and course to the righteous and the wicked.

2. St. John wrote in Patmos, “He hath made us kings.” This royalty was untouched by transportation and imprisonment. This is a sufficient commentary upon the text. Life is yours still, whatever its condition. You are not its slave because it is adverse. The man who can say, “I have learned the great secret, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content”; “I am in the hand of God, and God is my Father”--is a king in reference to that life, and every part of it. But this empire of the man over his own life is the privilege of him alone who recognises Christ’s empire over him. “Life is yours, and ye are Christ’s.” Give yourself to Him, and then life is yours.

(1) For enjoyment. A Christian living his Christianity is a happy man. He has a sense of safety, of independence, of dignity, and of tranquility, in his life; and those two other delightful things, the sense of being cared for, and the sense of having a secret “For the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him”--a secret of explanation, and (better still) of confidence, between himself and One “whom to know is eternal life”--which must give a joy to the most sorrowful of his experiences, and fully justify, in point of happiness, the apostle’s saying to him “Life is yours.”

(2) For improvement. If to be conscious of growth in anything, knowledge of a language, or skill in a game, or insight into a science, &c., is one of the purest pleasures of which this human nature is capable--what must it be to know oneself the recipient of Divine grace, for illimitable progress in all that is beautiful and lovely and of good report?

(3) For communication. When once the thought has entered, “I am not my own, I am Christ’s, and Christ is God’s,” with it there comes the recollection, I am not only the recipient, I am also the transmitter of life. You can help others to live. Your very look and voice may be a help to them. Your happiness, strength, integrity, loving and holy influence, may, through grace, quicken into newness of life some dead soul.

Death is yours.

1. Who shall echo this? Who that has seen death can do so with any feeling of truth? No, rather we say, as St. Paul (in a different connexion) says, Death reigns. Death is the limit of our free action, as well as the terminus of our long journey. All may be ours up to death, but not further.

2. How shall we interpret this which is here written as to our ownership of death?

(1) Your own death is yours.

(a) Death is the master of the fallen being, as fallen. It makes every plan precarious. How soon must this right hand lose its cunning! There is not a purchase which can be more than a few years’ possession, because of this reign of death over the individual. Hence that feverish eagerness in crowding two years’ work or ten years’ work into one.

(b) It is into existences thus circumstanced that St. Paul bears the startling explanation of the gospel, “Death is yours.” Instead of thus cowering and grovelling before the grim phantom, play the man. Death is yours. Take it betimes for your possession, and it shall be great gain. Look to it as the goal and prize of your being; expect it as the admission into a presence which is the fulness of joy, and you will find its very name and nature transfigured. See it as the gate of life, and it shall be yours, not you its, while you live; and it shall be yours, not you its, when you come to die.

(2) The death of others is yours.

(a) We are apt, by fallen nature, to see ourselves cruelly vanquished by the onslaught of death upon those we love. Many who could face their own death with something better than fortitude, are yet conquered by death when he assails them through another.

(b) Yet in Christ we still own the dead. They are ours, not in hope only of reunion, but in possession too and fruition. Our richest stores of all must surely be those which are the most safely garnered. Our most real heirlooms are the memories and the affections of the dead. Death has set his seal upon them. What they were, in faith and patience, in wisdom and beauty, in grace and love--that are they for ever, that are they to us. (Dean Vaughan.)

Christ and life

We maintain that life is ours as against--

The fatalist, who teaches that we are the slaves of time, place, organisation, and circumstance. Our personal life is sacrificed to the exigencies of nature and humanity; just as the Egyptian tyrant made slaves of the Israelites, and compelled them to build the pyramids, so we are simply tools in the hands of necessity, building strange structures which at last are sepulchres. In opposition to this, the apostle declares that “life is ours”--our servant, with a hundred hands, enriching us with measureless blessings. Christ liberates us from the bondage of the outside world. Science is man asserting his liberty as against nature; history is man asserting his liberty as against the despotism of climate, situation, and material fortune; and Christian life is man asserting his personal liberty as against hereditary influences and current circumstances, and using these in such a way that they build up his character in the full power and beauty of righteousness. Man apart from Christ is too often the manifest creature of circumstances--success inflates him; failure crushes him; darkness makes a worm of him; and sunshine a butterfly. But in Christ life becomes ours, and we use it towards the attainment of that ideal moral perfection which is the mark of the prize of our high calling. You are not the poor vassals of outside forces, you are not sacrificed to the type, you are not insignificant as the coral worm which builds the reef and perishes in the depths, you are free to use the world, and to be served by it in the very largest and grandest sense. The bee does not find honey in every flower, nor the diver a gem in every shell, but in Christ all things are yours, and every emotion within, every action and circumstance without, shall strengthen and refine.

The pessimist, who holds that life is our foe, that to live is a misfortune. It is little matter whether you are rich or poor; life is weeping; the rich man wipes his eyes with a silk, the poor man with a cotton handkerchief, and it doesn’t much matter. It is little matter whether you are wise or ignorant; perhaps it is better to be ignorant, since he who increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. Froude writes of Carlyle, “Every day he told me he was weary of life, and spoke wistfully of the old Roman method. Increasing weakness only partially tamed him into patience, or reconciled him to an existence which, even at its best, he had more despised than valued.” John S. Mill says his father “thought human life a poor thing at best, after the freshness of youth and of unsatisfied curiosity had gone by … He would sometimes say, that if life were made what it might be, by good government and good education, it would be worth having; but he never spoke with anything like enthusiasm even of that possibility.” Miss Martineau says, “You will feel at once how earnestly I must be longing for death--I, who never loved life, and who would any day of my life have rather departed than stayed. Well! it can hardly go on very well much longer now. But I do wish it was permitted to us to judge for ourselves a little how long we ought to carry on the task which we never desired and could not refuse.” That is, she wishes that suicide were permitted. “The world’s winter is going, I hope, but my everlasting winter has set in.” Thus sadly wrote George Eliot. Now, in opposition to all this, the text declares that in Christ “life is ours.” The New Testament everywhere holds human life as a precious and blessed thing. Not that Christianity fails to recognise the sad element in human life. Yet, in face of a groaning and wailing creation, it maintains that life is the crowning benediction, to be prized by us all, to be held fast with gratitude and wonder and hope. And living in Christ we prove that life is a blessing. Christ makes man to rejoice in life--

1. By discovering a great purpose in it--the perfection of our immortal spirit, through the love of God and the keeping of His commandments. Here is something to live for.

2. By putting a great strength into it. “I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me.”

3. By putting a great love into it. The great curse of life is egotism, selfishness. If our pessimists would only leave their selfish moonings and lay themselves out to help, and bless all who are about them, it would soon change their philosophy.

The sensualist. There is an idea abroad that life belongs to the man who lives to the end of self-indulgence. To see the world of animal indulgence is spoken of as “seeing life.” One following a course of licence is said to be “fond of life.” Such life is called “fast life,” “gay life,” and those who live it say to the Christian, “You have some advantage now, you have also great expectations beyond, but surely this life here and now is ours.” This we deny. Life, here and now, is ours--it is our inheritance who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. A man who merely lives on the carnal side misses the real depth and fulness of life. You may say that the Greenlander is alive, and that he enjoys life; but what a different thing from the life of Europe! And the spiritual life of man goes still beyond. Now, the man who knows not this life, knows not the true life of man--living for meat and drink and raiment, he is dead while he liveth. To be carnally minded is death--the death even now of the finer faculties of the living soul. Christ enables us to realise life in all its fulness.

1. The life of the senses is ours in Christ. He is “the Lord of the body,” and as we live to Him the sensational life becomes ours. The very restraint and moderation which the Christian creed imposes on all material enjoyment only puts us in fuller possession of that enjoyment. We lose our life to find it.

2. Christ leaves us free to expatiate through the whole intellectual world.

3. And, most of all, He brings out that Divine nature of ours in which we most truly and gloriously live. As the summer shines on the landscape, and brings green leaves out of the barren stems, full flowers from the sleeping bulbs, singing birds from the silent woods, a world of sweet smells and bright colours and rich music, so Christ acts upon human nature, realising its instincts, its faculties, its powers, making it to blossom as the rose, to stretch its wings like the eagle, to thrill with joyous feeling as the harp with many strings. Our modern poet tells that “more life and fuller” is what we most need. Surely we find this in Christ. He came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly.

The ascetic, who denies to the Christian the pleasures of life; he considers that the more meagre, starved, and sad our life is, the safer and better it is, and the nearer to the true ideal. Let us remember that in Christ “life is ours”--all good, bright, glad things. And life shall be ever brighter with us to the perfect day. True life implies constant renunciation, but it implies also constant acquisition. We do not so much put away joy and gladness, as we keep changing one joy for a higher, one glory for a fuller, one gift for a more excellent gift. Christian life often involves self-denial; but every act of renunciation is followed by the acquisition of a strength and treasure, a beauty and blessedness, altogether more deep and precious. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Death is yours

Death is the property of the Christian--

As bringing a conclusion to all his sorrows. It is, to the Christian, the Red Sea, where all pursuing enemies are arrested and perish--the confines of Canaan, where the wilderness, with all its privations and perils, terminates--the perfect sleep, in which the toils of the day are all forgotten, not a dream even, or floating reminiscence, disturbing its composure.

As forming the introduction to his heavenly joys. When Hannibal was conducting his troops through Alpine heights, before deemed impassable, and they were ready to yield in despair amid the snows and crags and gulfs which surrounded them, he found it sufficient for their reinvigoration to tell them of the fertile Italy they were triumphantly to subdue. Be the boundary of life, then, ever so steep, frowning, and unproved, should not the prospect of Canaan suffice to sustain us amid all its wilds and terrors? We must not judge of what death is to the departing soul by what it is to the survivors. Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes might be opened to see the defence by which they were encompassed. Were a similar prayer to be heard on behalf of Christians lamenting the departure of friends, a sight would be exhibited superior at once in its glory and its efficacy.

As itself contributing to his present and future well-being.

1. The Greeks and Romans had an adage that no man should be accounted happy till he was dead--thus indicating that a desirable end was a chief element of happiness. But in the connection of our text we have death classed with the present possessions of the Christian, subordinated to his interests, and enhancing life itself by augmenting holiness, usefulness, and reward. Paul says (Acts 20:24), “But none of these things (trials, &c.) move me; neither count I,” &c. And so the last stage, anticipated and realised, gives energy to prior stages; and life, while it lasts, is turned to account, and rendered more vital and vitalising, through that solemn change beheld in the vista (2 Peter 1:13, &c.).

2. Death is serviceable to the Christian not only in prospect, but also at the time it befalls him, in affording him occasion for the greatest of victories. There is not, indeed, always the same manifestation of triumph; but it comes effectually and seasonably. “Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory,” &c. In case entrance to heaven be abundant, then indeed is grace specially magnified, and the soul in which it dwells is blessed in its commendation. We have not many accounts of death-bed scenes and experiences in the New Testament. Still examples are given us which verify the exclamation, “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace!” Nothing in all Stephen’s foregoing service was so serviceable to the cause of the gospel as his martyrdom, and on the very border of sealing his testimony with his blood Paul said, “I am now ready to be offered,” &c. Come, ye devotees of pleasure, and witness such spectacles; and say if all your cravings for delight can find anything to equal this transport! Welt may it extort from a very Balaam the aspiration, “Let me die the death of the righteous.” It will be eternally good for the Christian to have died. He will thereby be made more like to the Saviour. Think, too, what eternal life will gain by contrast with this. Conclusion: The practical lesson of all is to make sure of death being ours. With multitudes the great aim is to secure benefits of which death will despoil them. By all their acquisitions they are only extending the ravages of the King of Terrors. Be it your aim to coerce hostility into friendship, and make the very spoiler yours. (D. King. LL. D.)

Death is yours

. The forerunners of death are for our advantage. These, indeed, are often not joyous but grievous at first, but afterwards yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby. In common life we often consider those things which are attended with a very considerable degree of pain, as advantageous, because they are so in their results. For instance, a man suffers the amputation of a limb, because he hopes that the operation will be productive of good: and so it is eventually; life is spared. Now, on the same principle, but on higher grounds, we should learn to submit to those afflictions, whatever they may be, that are the precursors of death, to put us in mind that the great destroyer is on his way. “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment,” &c.

All the circumstances of death are for our advantage--time and place and manner. “My times are in Thy hand.” And we know that God’s time is the best; and the place, too, in which we shall expire, and the manner of our death--both will be of Divine appointment, and will prove to be the best. The manner of your death--whether it be natural or violent--whether it be a sudden death, or preceded by a lingering and distressing illness--all these things are ordered by the Lord.

The consequences of death are for our advantage. I do not wonder that people are unwilling to think of death who have not a good hope through grace; but the heir of eternal life can look forward beyond all the dark clouds that intervene between him and the consummation of his happiness, and “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” “Death is yours,” if you are members of Christ, for your advantage

1. Because there will then be an end of all evil--not only moral evil, or sin, but all natural, inward suffering.

2. Because as soon as it takes place, your happy spirits, disentangled from the encumbrance of these tenements of clay, enter into eternal rest. (J. Entwisle.)

Death an advantage to the Christian

Death is ours--

As the means of deliverance from all the inconsistencies and sinfulness of time. Select any of the people of God whose lives are recorded in the Word of God, and how often have we reason to deplore their inconsistencies! But for death this would be the eternity of their history.

As the means of delivering us from all weakness and imperfection, whether of body or of mind.

As the means of relieving us from the isolated position which we occupy in this world. About the angels we know nothing; we are separated from them. What do we know about the immediate presence of God; the joys of a glorious immortality; the power of the fellowship that is formed around the everlasting throne? By death we enter into the universal region of the good. Conclusion: Sinner, death is not yours--he brings you no benefit. You are his victim. He comes as the messenger of justice to lead you to the judgment seat, to hear the doom which you are to undergo, world without end. Painful as your pilgrimage on earth may be, it is your highest happiness. Your happiness must terminate with its close. You are death’s, and when death seizes you, instead of delivering you from your sins and imperfections, all your sins and imperfections are confirmed for ever. (J. Burnett.)

Death, the privilege of the believer

“Death is yours” if you look at it--

In reference to others.

1. It is so when you seriously regard its universal appointment. There are multitudes who acknowledge this mournful fact, but who derive no advantage whatever from the solemn occurrence. It is otherwise with the Christian; he beholds a number of lessons which, by Divine grace, he is enabled to learn.

(1) He sees the evil and malignity of sin; for there is no rational explanation of the cause of death, but as a penalty due to the violated law of God.

(2) He discovers, also, that “the creature is made subject to vanity”; for it is not the old and decrepid alone who die.

2. It is so when you are impressed by the deaths of particular characters.

(1) When “the wicked is driven away in his wickedness,” he is shocked to reflect on their awful doom, and makes the earnest appeal, “Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men.”

(2) When he hears of the righteous who have expired in the expression of a firm faith and joyful hope of immortality, he pours forth the fervent petition, “May I die the death of the righteous, and may my last end be like his.” There is also something in the aspect of the death-bed experience of many a fellow-Christian which has a tendency to banish the fears and animate the holy courage of the fellow-believer.

In reference to ourselves. “Death is yours,” as it is--

1. A complete deliverance from sin.

2. A final termination of suffering.

3. A retreat from injurious and distressing associations.

4. Secures your admission to the enjoyment of all possible good. (J. Clayton.)

Death for the advantage of the good

Let us consider in how many particulars death is a godly man’s; it is for his benefit and comfort. And first, in this respect, because by death he gaineth, he is invested with greater glory, joy, and happiness than this world can afford. All the while a godly man liveth in this world he is a loser, he is kept from his best treasures, he is not enjoying his best blessings, which will be vouchsafed to him. The apostle doth fully express it (2 Corinthians 5:4). We would gladly be clothed with immortality, yet to put off this mortal body is grievous; as little children cry for their new garments, and yet cry while they are putting them on. Secondly, death is a godly man’s, because it putteth a period to all those miseries and troubles he was here exercised with. It is the haven, after all the tossings he had in this world. Thirdly, death is theirs, because it is the finishing of all their works and service, and by that they come for their wages. How doth the labouring man long for the end of the day, or the week, that he may come to receive his wages? Fourthly, death is the godly man’s, because the meditation and thoughts of it are sanctified to him. He liveth as one that expecteth it daily. Fifthly, death is the godly man’s, because he only knoweth how to die well, as we told you. Life was his, because he only could tell how to live. So death is his, because he only knoweth how to die. Simeon saith (Luke 2:29). Sixthly, the godly man hath death as an advantage, if you respect the time and season of his death. His death is not only mercy, but the time of his death is mercy. The term of every man’s life is appointed by God, “To Him belong the issues of death” (Psalms 68:20). Now God in great wisdom and mercy hath determined the time of thy death. Lastly, even the violent death of martyrdom, which cometh by the cruel and bloody oppression of implacable enemies, that is theirs. It is a mercy, a gain, and honour. The apostles rejoiced that they were accounted worthy to lose what they had for Christ’s sake. (A. Burgess.)

Death of rude appearance, but welcome to the good

Many a man has an ill-favoured countenance, is lean and haggard, pale and sallow, and mean in his attire, who yet, under an ungainly exterior, conceals great talents and virtues. Such is the case with death. Ah me! how much of what is good and sweet and blessed is concealed beneath its sour aspect and transient bitterness! It is not I who die, when I die, but my sin and misery. As often as I think of death I figure to myself that I see a messenger coming from a distant land, bringing the good news of nay Saviour, the Bridegroom of my soul, and of the inheritance which He has purchased with His blood, and reserves for me in heaven. What care I although the messenger may have an ugly face, be armed with a long dart, wear a tattered coat, and knock rudely at my door? I attend less to his appearance than to his business. (Gotthold.)

Death a blessing

I congratulate you and myself that life is passing fast away. What a superlatively grand and consoling idea is that of death! Without this radiant idea, this delightful morning star, indicating that the luminary of eternity is going to rise, life would, to my view, darken into midnight melancholy. Oh, the expectation of living here and living thus always, would be indeed a prospect of overwhelming despair! But thanks be to that fatal decree that dooms us to die; thanks to that gospel which opens the vision of an endless life; and thanks, above all, to that Saviour Friend who has promised to conduct all the faithful through the sacred trance of death, into scenes of paradise and everlasting delight. (J Foster.)

Death brings freedom to the good

Mr. William Jenkyn, one of the ejected ministers in England, being imprisoned in Newgate, presented a petition to King Charles II. for a release, which was backed by an assurance from his physician that his life was in danger from his close imprisonment; but no other answer could be obtained than this: “Jenkyn shall be a prisoner as long as he lives.” A nobleman hearing some time after of his death, said to the king, “May it please your majesty, Jenkyn has got his liberty.” Upon which he asked, with eagerness, “Ay! who gave it him?” The nobleman replied, “A greater than your majesty--the King of kings”; with which the king seemed greatly struck, and remained silent. (Scripture Doctrines Illustrated.)

The Christians mastership over death

Development in our life on earth is limited, as is the development of the bird in the egg. The bursting of the egg-shell is no disaster, but a relief and a profit. That breaking of the shell brings the bird into a world that is unspeakably more glorious. Death is our servant, not our master--through Christ an immeasurable blessing. Because--

It restores us more nearly to our friends who have gone beyond.

It brings us nearer to Christ.

It places us in a position more favourable for soul growth.

It increases our capacity for usefulness. Those who are faithful in this life in a few things, will be made in the life to come rulers over many things.

As a consequence our happiness will be greatly augmented. (Homiletic Monthly.)

Christ and death

Christ makes death ours--

As He gives us assurance of the life beyond. If we consider death with the eye of the materialist we feel that we are death’s. We are delivered helplessly into its cruel hands, and it strips us of everything. But Christ makes death ours by giving us the assurance of immortality.

1. Men have an instinct of immortality. It has been found in the lowest savages, and in the most intellectual races. Very strange and diversified are the manifestations of this instinct, but that it exists in the human heart is beyond question. And this instinct we are bound to respect. “But then,” says Mr. Darwin, “arises the doubt, Can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?” Here he does his own theory injustice. Are not the instincts of the lower creatures on the whole marvellously correct? And, may we not ask with confidence, if the instinct of the caterpillar pointing to the butterfly, if the instinct of the swallow discerning far beyond the sea a land of sunshine and flowers, if these instincts prove no mockery, why should the instincts of human nature, pointing to a grand perfection in a world above and beyond, prove untrustworthy?

2. And reason has a powerful verdict to give on this question of our immortality. Even sceptical philosophers cannot do without this great doctrine. George Sand felt that without immortality there is a painful “deficiency of proportion.” Darwin felt it “an intolerable thought” that after such long-continued and costly progress we should all be annihilated. And Edgar Quinet concludes “that, whilst the human race pursues on earth its career of perfection, the individual continues its parallel march in some place and in some form already prepared for it by Providence.”

3. But whilst human instinct and reason thus declare for immortality, the subject at last is left in deep uncertainty. It may be nothing more than guess-work and illusion. But when Christ comes all is changed. He makes eternity a fact. You cannot come into contact with Him without tasting the powers of the world to come. He brought life and immortality to light. It is the same change that we witness when we see alchemy changed into chemistry, astrology into astronomy, speculation into science. In Christ the dream becomes a reality, the inference a certainty, the desire knowledge and experience. Christ has shown us that through death we find “more life and fuller,” even length of days for ever and ever.

As he gives us fitness for the life beyond.

1. We are sometimes disposed to consider the question of immortality as altogether an intellectual one; we think if we can only succeed in establishing it on logical grounds, that we have nothing more to do than to surrender ourselves to the mighty comfort. But the moral element enters very largely into it. It is conscience that makes death terrible, the unknown world so dark and dreadful. This Epistle goes to the depth of the thing: “The sting of death is sin.” Without sin we might view death with the uneasiness with which we might suppose a caterpillar to view a chrysalis; but a wounded conscience brings in another element, and we shrink from death with sore amazement (see also Hebrews 2:14-15). If it had not been for sin we should have feared death only as a young bird fears to try its wings, but we fear death now as the bird fears the barbed arrow which drinks up its life.

2. It is very easy for us to see what a vast difference is made in our estimate of death whether we bring in or leave out the idea of guilt. Look at the death of a malefactor. How truly repulsive and terrible is death in such a case in all its circumstances! Consider, on the other hand, the death of a martyr. Here the material adjuncts are pretty much the same; but how different is the effect of the whole spectacle! The very same spectacle of death is a horror or a triumph according as you bring into it the idea of guilt or innocence, of infamy or glory. The consciousness of sin makes death an enemy. Because we are children of disobedience we are all our lifetime in bondage to the fear of death; we are debtors, there is an execution out against us for arrest, and we are always trembling lest the bony policeman should lay his cold grip upon us, saying, “You are my prisoner,” and so shut us up in the prison till we have paid that uttermost farthing we never can pay.

3. Here once again Christ makes death ours. He changes death for us from the death of a malefactor to the death of a martyr. He takes away the guilt and power of sin. He satisfies the conscience as He does the intellect. And as He gives peace to the conscience He gives purity and life to the whole personality. Christ becomes the Resurrection and the Life, freeing us from the death of sin, awaking in us the life of righteousness, and so making us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. Christ, so far as we gather from the New Testament, never saw any one die; I do not believe that any one else could have died in His presence; death cannot come where Christ is. Let Christ, then, be with you in your last hour, and death shall be swallowed up in victory. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Spoiling the spoiler

The believer stands with his heel on the neck of the king of terrors. Death is yours as--

A conquered foe transformed into a friend. A lion’s carcass with the honeycomb in it.

An opportunity to glorify God. The Christian’s way of meeting death, not that of the Stoic glorifying his firmness, nor that of the sceptic glorifying his shame, but of the believer magnifying the grace of God. Showing forth Christ’s power perfected in his weakness.

A redeemer from servitude to the clayey body, and subjection to the discordant, tempting, crippling influence of the physical.

A convoy to heaven--a gateway to glory, a herald of coronation. The dawn of “Graduation Day.”

A boon. Rest to the tired pilgrim; harbour for the storm-tossed voyager; Sabbath eve to the working man. Conclusion: Faith in Christ is victory over death. (Homiletic Monthly.)

Or things present.--

Things present

We reckon present things at the highest rate: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” The little present, to our apprehension, eclipses the great past or the greater future. In the case of the true Christian--

His temporal possessions are his own. The ungodly man for awhile engrosses the good things of this life, but they are sent to him often in anger, and are taken away in wrath. As for you, whatever of earthly good the Lord has apportioned you, is in a most blessed manner your own; because--

1. Honestly got. The Christian owns no stolen property or unrighteous gain. Dishonest persons may be rich, but none of their riches are in truth their own; like the jackdaw in the fable, they wear borrowed plumes.

2. Acknowledged to the great Giver with becoming gratitude. Gratitude is, as it were, the quit rent to the great superior owner, and until we discharge the claim, our goods are not lawfully ours in the court of heaven.

3. The due portion which belongs to God has been conscientiously consecrated. The tithing of the substance is the true title to it. It is not altogether thine till thou hast proved thy gratitude by thy proportionate gift to the cause of the Master.

4. We seek to be graciously guided in the use of them. They are not bestowed upon us absolutely; they are ours within the lines of law and gospel, within bounds of sobriety and holiness; not as masters, but as mercies. The benediction of heaven sweetens the lawful use of earthly goods. You are not required to play the ascetic. John came neither eating nor drinking; but the Son of man, who is your master, came both sating and drinking. There is no piety whatever in your accounting the gifts of Providence as necessarily temptations; you can make them so, but that is your folly and no fault of theirs. Vain are those who sneer at nature and the lavish bounty thereof. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” It is no crime to enjoy the beauties of nature, but a sign of idiocy to be unaffected thereby. Fair scenes, sweet sounds, balmy odours, and fresh gales, your Father sends them to you, take them and be thankful. Let us note well, before we leave this point, that any of God’s saints who have but little of this world’s goods, may yet remember that all things are theirs, so that up to the measure of their necessities God will be quite sure to afford them sustenance. The Lord is your shepherd, and you shall not want.

Temporal trials.

1. Tribulations are treasures. Saints gain more by their losses than by their profits. Your present trials are yours--

(1) As medicine. You need that your soul, like your body, should be dealt with by the beloved Physician.

(2) As means of strength. No man becomes a veteran except by practice in arms. Experience worketh patience, and patience brings with it a train of virtues.

(3) As windows, through which we get the clearest views of Christ. Do you understand what it is to come up to Christ’s Cross, and to be conformed unto His death? It is only as you do this that you will have fellowship with Jesus, and understand what His love was towards you.

2. You who are cross-bearers, I would remind you for your comfort--

(1) That you have to bear the cross, but not the curse. Your Lord endured both. The penal result of sin Christ has exhausted, and now the cross that comes to you is garlanded with love.

(2) That your Lord sends you a cross, but not a crush. Your cross is proportioned to your strength.

(3) That your cross is not a loss. It shall only be a putting out to interest that which is taken from you that it may be returned anon with usury.

All our circumstantial surroundings. These are ours as subservient to our usefulness. You wish to win souls, and say, “I wish I were a minister”; but you have a family round about you, and you have to keep to that farm, to manage the shop. Now the position you occupy is, all things considered, the most advantageous for doing your utmost for the glory of God. Suppose the mole should cry, “How I could have honoured the great Creator if I could have been allowed to fly it would be very foolish, for a mole flying would have been a very ridiculous object, while a mole fashioning its tunnels and casting up its castles is viewed with admiring wonder by the naturalist, who perceives its remarkable suitability to its sphere. The fish might say, “How could I display the wisdom of God if I could sing, or mount a tree, like a bird!” But you know a fish in a tree would be a very grotesque affair; but when the fish cuts the wave with agile fin, all who have observed it say how wonderfully it is adapted to its habitat. It is just so with you. If you begin to say, “I cannot glorify God where I am, and as I am,” I answer, neither could you anywhere. “But I have a large family,” says one, “what can I do?” Train them in the fear of God. “I work in a large factory with ungodly men, what can I do?” Needless inquiry! What cannot the salt do when it is cast among the meat? “I am sick,” says another; “I am chained to the bed of languishing.” But your patience will magnify the power of grace, and your words of experience will enrich those who listen to you. Look at the seaman out at sea! does he sit down and fret because the wind will not blow from the quarter that he would most prefer? No; he tacks about and catches every capful of wind that can be of use to him, and so reaches the haven at last. Look at a good commander, if he occupies a bad position, he turns that to account, and often makes the worse become the better.

Spiritual privileges.

1. The favour of God is not for heaven only; it is ours to-day. Adoption into His family is for this present time.

2. Christ is present, and He is ours. We have a “fountain filled with blood,” which puts away all sin; a mercy-seat where all prayer is prevalent; an Intercessor who takes our prayers and offers them.

3. The Holy Ghost, too, is present, and He brings you present enlightenment, guidance, strength, consolation.

4. And if there be any promise to-day written in the Word of God, any blessing to-day guaranteed to the elect family, any mindfulness of Providence, or any abundance of grace, all these are yours, and yours now. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ and the present

That things above, that things beyond, may belong to the Christian is welt understood; the sceptic with a smile will allow this; but that “things present” are ours in Christ is not so well understood. Observe, however--

That the faith of Christ secures to us “things present.” It is a common complaint of secularism that the tendency of supernatural religion is to withdraw our attention from the immediate practical world, and to waste our time and powers on mere figments of the imagination. And it is a very common thing for secular writers to point to the mediaeval age for the demonstration of their position, and to assert that civilisation was saved only by the Renaissance calling man’s energies from the unknowable to the knowable, from heaven to earth. Now this is capable of a satisfactory reply.

1. We appeal from a corrupt to a pure Christianity. Surely none would compare the positive science of astronomy with the obscure divinations and horoscopes of astrology. Yet astronomy concerns itself with the distant, but the science of the firmament is a most fruitful one in regard to our present immediate worldly interests. And so if in the middle ages a corrupt theology and ecclesiasticism worked badly, that is no argument against the Christianity of Christ. The New Testament never separates earth from heaven. It brings before us, in God and Christ and heaven, great ideals which are to vivify, to enrich, to realise, to exalt, to perfect, all earthly things. Men talk of the unworldliness of Christianity, but it recognises the dignity and rights of the body, it assigns us all the wealth of nature, it leaves us free to work out our intellectual faculty, it gives its Divine sanction to all the articulations of human society. Men talk of the narrowness of Christianity, but it is wide enough for all present things so far as those things are rational and useful. If there ever was a grand protest against narrowness it is the protest of the text. Christianity is wide enough for all muscularities; it shuts out Roman amphitheatres and modern prize-rings, but thank God for the narrowness that shuts out brutality and blood. Christianity is wide enough for all art; it shuts out Pompeian chambers of obscenity, but thank God for the narrowness that shuts out beastliness and ghastliness. Christianity is wide enough for love and home; it shuts out Venus’s temple and Mohammed’s harem, but thank God for the narrowness that shuts out the degradation of women. Christianity is wide enough for all true commerce, wealth, pleasure; it warns us against covetousness, licentiousness, materialism, but thank God for the narrowness that prevents our taking the big barn of Dives for the supreme goal of life.

2. We appeal from the mediaeval to the modern world. Whatever a few dilettante critics may say, the faith of Christ has filled us with an energy which finds manifold and magnificent manifestations in the things present. Do you find that the faith of Christ gives men about you a distaste for, and makes them successful in, practical life? “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof,” and all is yours, for “ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

That the faith of Christ makes “things present” ours with truest and fullest propriety. In Christ we have--

1. The richest enjoyment of things present. Things are not ours when they are ours legally, conventionally--they are ours only when we so realise them that they rejoice our heart. It is easy to have riches, &c., and yet not have the power to eat thereof. Some maintain that it is in miserable conditions that the deepest need is felt for religious truth and consolation; and they affirm that as man ceases to be miserable, so religion will be ignored as a superfluous thing. But this is far from being the case. Men are never more deeply, mysteriously miserable than they are when they have everything their soul desireth. Look at Germany to-day, brilliant in genius, flushed with power and success, and yet cankered with the philosophy of despair. And we are constant witnesses how successful opulent men are wearied of life; they remind one of bees drowning in their own honey. The fact is, you can only realise the joy of things present in the light of God’s presence, in the power of His blessing. When the beautiful orb comes between the sun and the earth, it is an inky blot on the heavens. And so all beautiful things in human life become dark and disappointing the moment they come between us and God. It is only in the light of God that life shines, only in His blessing that it is rich.

2. The fullest profit of things present. A life of material success is no advantage. Maudsley, who has no bias to religion certainly, observes: “There is no more efficient cause of mental degeneracy than the mean and vulgar life of a tradesman, whose soul is entirely taken up with petty gains, who, under the sanction of the customs of the trade, practises systematic fraud and theft. The deterioration of nature which he has acquired will, unless a healthier family influence serve to counteract it, be transmitted as a family heritage to his children, and may result in some form of moral or intellectual deficiency, perhaps in outbreaks of positive insanity.” Here, then, the religion of materialism and material success is nothing very grand. Now, what is to save a man from this deterioration? Romances? Politics? The theatre? ‘The newspaper? Surely not. Great thoughts, great principles, great hopes--these will lift the soul of the tradesman; and these are to be found only in religion. Christ makes things present ours by making them means and instruments of our higher education. Conclusion: In this way we are told much about impressionism, about making the best of the present moment. It is said that man has always one foot in the past, the other in the future, and that he misses altogether the flowers and fruits, the delights and treasures, of the present. There is no vivid, full realisation of the moment except as we realise immortality in the moment; he who tastes the power of the present must taste the powers of the world to come. In Christ things present are ours because things to come are ours. Present joy is ours in all its depth and preciousness; and these “light afflictions, which are but for a moment,” are ours also. “Whilst we look not at the things which are seen,” &c. (W. L. Watkinson.)

The present for the good of the godly man

Whatever mercies or good things come about, they are the godly man’s, in these respects: First, they are for his necessary use and supply. They come as so many gifts immediately given by God for thy necessities. Secondly, these prosperous things are not only in a sanctified way to the godly, but God also requireth that with joy and gladness we should make use of them for His glory. It is lawful for them to eat and drink, and enjoy the good mercies they have with a cheerful, joyful spirit. God doth not only love a cheerful giver, but a cheerful receiver also of His mercies. So then, when prosperous things befall thee, thou mayest with great joy of heart make use of them. Thirdly, these prosperous things are not only sanctified to them, but they are also made sanctifying of them. God giveth them those good things of She body to make their souls better. Abraham had many outward mercies, but these also were helpful to his graces; he was rich in faith, as well as in cattle and great substance. Fourthly, these prosperous present things are theirs, because they know how to make the present use of them for God’s glory. As life was theirs, and death theirs, because they only could live well and die well, so present riches, present death, present comforts are theirs, because they know how to make the present improvement of them. And thus it should be with every godly man; there is nothing befalls thee, no good comes to thee, but thou shouldst bethink thyself, How can this be improved for God? How may I make heavenly advantages of these things? Thus be like the bee sucking honey out of every herb. Fifthly, present good things are a godly man’s, because they are accompanied with the love and favour of God, which is infinitely more than the good things themselves. That all these good things are the effects of God’s favour and gracious reconciliation through Christ, this makes them ours in an eminent manner. When God gave Abraham such large worldly revenues, and withal said He Himself would be his great reward (Genesis 15:1). This was the fulness of happiness. A good conscience is a continual feast. Now no man hath a good conscience but he who is reconciled with God through Christ. Lastly, these prosperous events are theirs, because God giveth contentment of spirit. The blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it (Proverbs 10:22). Many men have these outward mercies, but then many thorns grow up with them. There is so much gall in their honey that all the sweetness is gone.

We come now to the second sort of present events, and those are tribulations and afflictions. There are none of these present troubles upon thee, though grievous and burdensome, but it is for thy good. Now they may well be called ours--First, because they come from God’s gracious love to us. It is the same hand that doth stroke thee and strike thee (Hebrews 12:6; Psalms 119:15). Thy tribulations are for thy advantage, as much as all the mercies thou ever enjoyedst. Go to the fountain from whence they came, and that is nothing but precious love. Secondly, they are thine for the blessed and heavenly effects they work on the godly, so that they could not be so well without them. Now of many excellent effects, consider--

(1) They are to humble us for sin, to make us feel how bitter it is to go out of God’s way. What profit have I of such sins that now do so wound me?

(2) Another end is, to make us more vigilant for the future, to preserve us against future temptations. We have been burnt already. Thirdly, these afflictions are ours, because they are exercises to draw out our graces, our faith, our patience, our heavenly-mindedness, and thereby our crown of glory is greater. (A. Burgess.)

Or things to come.--

Things to-come

. The broad future is ours. We are apt to wish to pry into it, but grace forbids us to indulge impertinent and foolish curiosity. My text is a crystal ball, which doth not tell thee facts and minutiae, but what it is far better for thee to know, if thou be Christ’s--viz., that all future things are vested in thy name. Let that content thee.

1. We have no reason to expect that the rest of our life will be more unhappy than the years which are passed already. Life to us has its sorrows, but goodness and mercy have followed us hitherto, and they shall with equal certainty follow us all the days of our life. You who are contending against sin may anticipate the joy of conquest. You who are planning how you can serve God on a wider scale, and in a wiser manner, may expect the joy of His guidance.

2. Still, without any foolish forebodings, you may expect troubles. Changes in circumstances may arise, poverty may supplant wealth, and slander injure fame, or if not, thy friends must die. Then, sooner or later, bodily infirmities must set in. And there must come temptations and inward conflicts, in all which we shall have need to possess our souls in patience, lest we be overcome of evil. And certainly to us all there must come the valley of death-shade; “for it is appointed unto men once to die.”

3. Passing on a little further, in the Word of God we have dark hints as to the grand events of the future, which concern the Church and the world. All things that shall happen, be they ever so counter to your wishes, will, nevertheless, come up, like Blucher at Waterloo, at the exact moment when they shall help on the grand old cause.

4. Amongst the things to come, there is heaven--the heaven of the separate spirit, and the perfect heaven, when soul and body in one man shall sit down at the right hand of God--all this is ours.

The bright eternal future is ours.

1. Notice that the text is not “all may be yours.” According to some a Christian may have a hope of heaven, but he can never have a certainty of it.

2. Notice, too, that the text is not--“Things to come shall be yours.” But how can they be ours till they have come? Because we have a title to them; and though, like nobles who are under age, we come not into our estates until we have reached our majority, yet those estates are as much ours as if we possessed them at this moment. When one of our English kings demanded of his barons where were their title deeds to their lands, a hundred swords flashed from the scabbards, as every man swore to maintain his right by his good sword. We take no sword from its scabbard, but we point to Christ, for He is both our God and our right, and we are persuaded that as our Surety and Representative, He will preserve our inheritance for us.

3. Notice, again, that in the text there is no exception--“Things to come; all are yours.” Whatever may be the future glory of the saints, it all belongs to them. And as there is no exception of things, so there is no exception of persons. Not “All belongs to a few of you, and only a portion to others.”

4. The text speaks without a grain of contingency as to the things to come. It does not say heaven is ours if there be a heaven; but the blessings are spoken of as though they must come. Our future glory is ordained by Divine decree. It is hastened on by every event of Providence; it is prepared by the ascension and session of our Lord; in measure, beatified saints are already partakers of it, and we may rest assured that by no means shall we be defrauded of it.

Examine well your title deeds to see whether they belong to you. Are you Christ’s? Do you trust Him? Do you love Him and serve Him? If so, your title is clear, and all future things are yours. Rejoice even now in your inheritance. Conclusion:

1. All these things are yours; then--

(1) Prepare for them.

2) Gratefully bless God for them.

2. If thou hast no title for these things to come, be amazed and confounded, for it will be an awful thing for heaven to come and thou no entrance into it. God grant that thou mayest lay hold on Christ by an act of faith; thus and thus only the blessings of Christ shall become yours. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ and the future

Humanity has a grand future. Consider--

1. The possibilities of nature. The scoffer speaks of all things continuing as they were from the beginning of the creation, but the scoffer is wrong. Things have changed, are changing, and will change immensely yet. You cannot look into the prophecy of Isaiah, into the argument of Paul, into the vision of John, without a deep feeling of the coming glorification of nature. “Yes,” you say, “but we cannot build much on these.” Very well, then, listen to a President of the Royal Society. Sir J. W. Dawson writes: “There have been, and might be again, conditions which would convert the ice-clad arctic regions into blooming paradises, and which, at the same time, would moderate the fervent heat of the tropics. We are accustomed to say that nothing is impossible with God; but how little have we known of the gigantic possibilities which lie hidden under some of the most common of His natural laws!” “How great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up, which Thou hast hidden, for them that fear Thee! “Nature is a great storehouse, whose treasures of darkness will in due time be brought into the light.

2. The possibilities of society.

(1) Who shall say where the perfecting of our physical nature shall end? The coming man, according to science, is to be tall, and free, and lofty of carriage, having a godlike intelligence of countenance. And the woman of the future is to grow with and through the ages in strength and beauty.

(2) Who shall say what; the intellectual force of the coming man may be? Emerson speaks of “the unexplored riches of the human constitution,” and it is delightful to think of the faculties of our nature which are yet so largely undeveloped.

(3) Our senses now only take in a bit of the universe, and a larger education of those senses will bring into ken new continents of wonder and wealth. We in the nineteenth century are wonderful people, but in a century or two more we shall appear to our posterity mere barbarians.

(4) Who shall say what the social perfection of the future shall be? The Book of the Revelation has proved a stumbling-block to many. But George Lewes reminds us that Comte’s system has its Apocalypse as full of wonderful things touching a glorified humanity as John’s cities of gold. So all parties are full of expectations of progress--saints, scientists, socialists, are looking for ages of gold. Men are always asking for finality, but there is no finality in anything. We move from evil to good, from good to better, from better to better still. Every new discovery fills us with wonder and delight, and we are prone to stay with it, to rest in it, as if it were the ultimate glory; but God keeps saying to us, “Thou shalt see greater things than these.” Some men talk of the world finishing; it is but commencing. This is but the first stage of our existence, and new earths and new heavens open on our sight.

The grand future of humanity will be realised in Christ. This is the distinct teaching of the Scriptures. The Old Testament teaches that in Messiah the world, the ages, will become the possession of the faithful. In the Hebrews we are taught that Christ is Heir of all things, and that He brings many sons to share His glory; and so in Romans 8:1-39. The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle declares in the Ephesians, hath set Christ at; His own right hand in the heavenly places, and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is His body.

1. It is only in godliness that there is progress.

(1) Religion, in setting the living God before us, sets before us a grand inspiring Ideal, which makes the highest perfection possible. We have only to look to China to find an illustration of the non-progressiveness of an atheistic people. It is the ]and of arrested development, of fossils, of petrifactions. If you could take religion out of our civilisation, as some desire, Europe would immediately resemble the fabled city in which every person and thing was changed into stone.

(2) Now, if godliness be the life of the race, Christianity is the religion of progress, because it gives us the highest conception of godliness. Blessed is the nation that has God in Christ for its Ideal. How can it stand still? “Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee,” will be its motto, its evolving force, its strength and glory. It is only in righteousness that there is progress. Moral advancement is the condition of all other advancement, and it would be utterly ruinous if our material prosperity outran our moral wealth. There is certain knowledge and a certain liberty you keep from a child, who could only abuse them; and you give him a spoon until he is fit to be trusted with knives, razors, and swords. So it is with the nations. It was necessary that there should be a fuller moral discipline in the race before we could be trusted with certain knowledge and instruments and forces. And so God will continue to enrich us as we are morally fit for fuller wealth and dominion; just as Christ sets up amongst us the righteousness of God, so shall all other things be added unto us.

2. It is only in hope that there is progress. “When the heart sinks the ship sinks,” and when a people lose heart the mightiest and richest civilisation suffers wreck. Now, the religion of Christ is pre-eminently the religion of hope. Of the confusion and anguish of the world there is no mistake, but everything depends upon the interpretation of the wailing creation. Says the pessimistic philosophy, the world is in its death-throes. And herein that philosophy strikes at; the very root of civilisation and progress. No, says Christianity, it is the birth-pang of a grander world that is now coming into the light. And herein is the faith of Christ a well-spring of life and energy to our race as it struggles onward to its goal of glory. We are saved by hope--that is, by Christ. (W. L. Watkinson.)

The Christian’s possesions

Here is the three-fold cord which unites earth with heaven.

The source of all things--God. He possesses all things.

1. By creation.

2. By undisputed authority. There is no other being in the world to dispute His right.

3. By practical manifestation. He regulates all we see and know.

The recipients of all things--“All things are yours.”

1. In the Church--its members, their labours, graces, and efforts.

2. In the present world--that is, all its highest good.

3. In the world to come--life, death, and eternity.

The medium of connection “Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” Here is one Being standing between man and God. Christ’s relationship to the Father renders Him proprietor of the universe. His relationship to us gives us all He possessed. We are one with Him who is one with the Father. (Homilist.)


All things for man--so wide is the first inclusion. Laws and forces, beauties and sublimities, thought, invention, genius, endeavour, failure, victory--the history of them, the evolution to which they have contributed--life and death, what is, and what is to be--such is man’s inheritance. “How the world is made for each of us!”--each a centre to which the streams of a thousand hills converge, the rays of a thousand stars, the sorrows and joys of ten thousand hearts. “Man is one world, and hath another to attend him.” He can go the whole round of creation, selecting, appropriating what he will.

But there is another inclusion by which the first is ruled and made consonant with our true position. It cannot seem that our enjoyment and use exhaust the economy of the world. Does any one go the whole round of creation and gather its gems to enrich himself?--then his wisdom is at an end. The whole would be lost, as mere unproductive expenditure, if men kept it for their own glory. There is One who claims men. The end of God’s gifts is not to aggrandise a man so that he shall become a self-satisfied vanity, filled with the wind of knowledge, the pride of possession. The law is--All belongs to you, and you to Christ. It is when we are possessed by Christ, and our life is His tribute, that the wealth of nature and the bounty of providence fill our souls to their spiritual fulness.

And the final inclusion gives a perfect issue to the series. All is from God, and returns through Christ to God. Where else can there be an end? The world and life, the streams from a thousand springs, flow into the being of the man whose soul is opened and enlarged by his devotion to Christ. And Christ with all the men He has made His own, and all they have gathered from the generous creation, a broad, deep, rejoicing river, must flow in eternal tribute to the Father. Conclusion: We see--

1. The use of the world--to enlarge the mind, enrich the soul, and perfect the power of man.

2. The place of men with all their science, power, and experience, gathered from the vassal world--to serve Christ, to make for Him a manifold kingdom of brave, wise, earnest life.

3. Christ as mediatorial Prince, all the conquests, gains, and harvests of His patient toil and splendid sacrifice devoted to the glory of the Father, whose He is. This is the cycle which completes the Christian philosophy of being, the economy of the natural and spiritual universe, revealing the glory of the world, of man, of Christ, and of God. (R. A. Watson, M. A.)

An account of stock

We have here a roll of government securities--a warranty-deed to the whole universe. In making an inventory of the Christian’s possessions, I remark--

That he owns this world. If you have a large park, a grand mansion, &c., to whom will you give the first right to them? To your own children. Now this world is God’s park, and while He allows those who refuse His authority the privilege of walking through, all this grandeur is the right of the Christian. He may not have the title-deed to one acre of land; but we can go up on a mountain and look off and say, “All this is mine: my Father gave it to me.” Lawyers when they search into titles often find everything right for some years back; but, after a while, they come to a break in the title, a diversion of the property, and find that the man who supposed he owned it has no right to it at all. Now examine the title to all earthly possessions. Go back a little way, and men of the world think they have a right to them; but go farther back, and you will find the whole right vested in God. Now, to whom did He convey it? To His own children! And in the last days they will have it literally. “The meek shall inherit the earth.” The Christian has a right to--

1. The refinements of life. He has a right to as fine apparel, to as beautiful adornments, to as elegant a residence. Show me any passage that tells the people of the world that they have privileges that are denied the Christian.

2. All the sweet sounds. When did the house of sin or the bacchanal get the right to music?

3. All artistic and literary advantage. I do not care on whose wall the picture hangs, or on whose pedestal the sculpture stands, “All are yours.”

4. Full temporal support. The commissary department of an army will busy scores of people, but just think of the commissary department of a world! God spreads this table first of all for His children, and therefore it is extreme folly for them ever to fret about food or raiment. If God takes care of a wasp, will He not take care of you?

5. All the vicissitudes of this life, so far as they have any religious profit. There are a great many sharp curves in life; but if we are Christians we are on the right track, and are going to come out at the right place. In this voyage of life we often have to change our tacks. One storm blows us this way, and another that way; but He who holds the winds in His fist will bring us into the haven at the right time. One of the best things that ever happened to Paul was being thrown off his horse. One of the best things that ever happened to Joseph was being thrown into the pit. The losing of his physical eyesight helped John Milton to see the battle of the angels. All things work together for your good.

He owns the next. Death is not a ruffian that comes to burn us out of house and home, to leave us homeless for ever. He is only a messenger who comes to tell us it is time to move from this hut into that palace. The Christian owns all heaven. He will not walk in the eternal city as a foreigner, but as a farmer walks over his own premises. “All are yours.” All the mansions yours. Angels your companions. Trees of life your shade. You look up into the face of God, and say, “My Father.” You look up into the face of Jesus and say, “My brother.” Yours the love. Yours the acclaim. Yours the transport. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

Verse 23

1 Corinthians 3:23

And ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s

. “Christ is God’s.” To understand this high saying we must remember that Christ is God. But Christ is man also. As Man, Christ is God’s great Agent for man in every respect.

1. He is God’s Messenger, God’s Witness, to reveal the mind and heart of God towards fallen men. His whole life is an index by which you may read the secret spring of love divine; in Him “God is love.”

2. He is God’s Servant--obedient in life, “obedient unto death.”

3. He is God’s Priest--the One only “Mediator between God and men,” who “ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

4. He is God’s King, reigning now invisibly in truth, and to reign in due time visibly in righteousness over the whole earth.

“ye are christ’s.”

1. By creation, in common with all things. “All things were made by Him,” &c.

2. By purchase, in common with all mankind. He “tasted death for every man.”

3. By ordinance, in common with all Christendom.

4. By gift from God the Father.

5. By the secret power of the eternal Spirit working in due season, according to the purpose and plan of God.

6. In the enjoyment of a friendship and fellowship such as no other friendship can equal. (H. McNeile, D. D.)

That a godly man in all that he is, or can do, is wholly Christ’s

Where we may observe the apostle in a climax rising higher, “All things are yours, you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” So that the highest round in this ladder teacheth to heaven as Jacob’s did, and the lowest one is in the earth. “All things are yours,” there is your privilege; but “you are Christ’s,” there is your duty; even to see that whatever you are, or can do, it be in reverence to Him. So all things are for the godly, and the godly is for Christ.

Let us consider in what respects the godly man is Christ’s.

1. He is bought and purchased by His blood, so that he oweth all his being, comforts, and privileges to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). So then, well may the godly man be said to be Christ’s, for he cometh to be His at a dear rate. Never did king get subject, or master a servant, at so dear a price as Christ obtained thee.

2. The godly they are Christ’s because by His Spirit they are made new creatures. They have a new being. For it cannot be theft any should be Christ’s who live in the flesh and are carnally minded.

3. They are Christ’s because He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He is the Alpha; He is the Author and Fountain of all the spiritual good we have; and the apostle calls Him “the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). It is He that giveth life and motion and all spiritual strength to us. Now every effect is more the cause’s than it is its own. Seeing, therefore, thou hast no good but what thou hast received from Christ, thou art wholly to depend on Him, as the stream is on the fountain, as the light is on the sun--for take them away and these immediately perish. We are not to live to ourselves, but to Him (Galatians 3:20). All our graces are to carry us out of ourselves to Christ, our faith in Christ, our love and affections to be pitched on Christ.

4. We are Christ’s in that all our Christian completeness is in Him (Colossians 1:19). It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell. The privileges of justification, and adoption, and sanctification, that we have by Him, are to be more than meat or drink unto us.

5. We are Christ’s because we are wholly to be disposed by Him in all conditions, in all exercises and temptations. For Christ being made a Lord and King over us, He orders us in all things.

Now in the next place let us consider some characters or properties of such as are Christ’s.

1. They desire more knowledge of Him, more acquaintance with Him; they prize Him above all worldly things (Philippians 3:8).

2. Those that are Christ’s abhor and have no communion with any sin or wickedness, because that only Christ hateth.

3. Those that are Christ’s, they live not to themselves but to Him. They please not themselves or others in a sinful way. Exhortation to those who are Christ’s to be self-denying, to take up Christ’s cross, to love Him more than all they have; for Christ is not for thee, but thou for Christ. (A. Burgess.)

Christ is God’s

Now the doctrine speaks of Christ both in respect of His human nature, and as He is a Mediator--not as God. Let us see, then, how Christ as a man and as a Mediator is God’s.

1. His incarnation and coming into the world, it was not for Himself but for God.

2. That Christ is God’s appeareth, in that He acknowledgeth His doctrine and truth not to be His, but His Father’s, taking all off from Himself, and making Himself only a minister or ambassador in His Father’s Name, and revealing His will (John 8:26; John 8:28; John 7:16).

3. That Christ is wholly God’s appeareth in that as the doctrine He preached was the Father’s, so He sought not His own glory, did not exalt Himself but the Father (John 8:29; John 17:4).

4. That Christ is wholly God’s appeareth in that obediential resignation of Himself to do God’s will (John 17:4). (A. Burgess.)

Ye are Christ’s

means that we are dependent on Him and belong to Him. Note--

Christ’s proprietorship.

1. In this is involved the denial--

(1) That we are our own. We do not belong to ourselves in the sense that our own advantage can be the legitimate end of our pursuit, or that our will can be the legitimate rule of our conduct.

(2) That we belong to the world, parents, friends, country, mankind in either of the above senses; that their good or their will can be the legitimate end or rule.

(3) That we belong to the Church. It is a fatal error to live for and be governed by the Church, and know no higher end or rule or duty.

2. Positively the declaration includes that we are Christ’s in such a sense that His glory is the end and His will the rule of our life. He, and He alone, has the right to us. To Him, and to Him alone, is devotion and submission due.

Its basis.

1. Not specially creation, for as creatures we belong to the Triune God.

2. But--

(1) Gift. From countless orders of creatures the people of Christ were given Him, in the counsels of eternity, as a peculium, a speciality, in which He was to have exclusive right. God as Sovereign of the universe can give what He pleases, and His will is the only real and stable ground of property or possession.

(2) Purchase.

(a) This gives the right of property as founded on justice.

(b) The purchase involving redemption from infinite evil gives the higher and tenderer obligation of gratitude.

(c) The price paid being His own precious blood it gives the highest of all obligations, that of love.

(3) Conquest. We were the captives of Satan. Christ has destroyed his power and delivered us who were led captive at his will.

Its various forms. We are--

1. The servants of Christ, which expresses the relation as founded in justice. We are bound as His δούλοι to live for Him and obey Him.

2. His bride. This includes the ideas of--

(1) Exclusive possession.

(2) Preference and peculiar love.

(3) Perfect community of interest.

3. His friends, bound to Him by mutual love and confidence.

4. His body. Nothing is so intimately a man’s own as his body. It has a common life and consciousness with him. The pains and pleasures of the body are our own pains and pleasures. It has a common interest and destiny with us. So are we bound to Christ in all these ways. This is the nearest relationship of all.

The blessedness resulting from it.

1. Security. If we belong to Christ as His servants, &c., we are secure for time and eternity.

2. Participation in Christ’s excellence, both as to soul and body--in His happiness, glory, and dominion.


1. That we should act worthy of this relation. Remember that we belong neither to ourselves nor the world, but only to Christ.

2. Contentment. We may well be satisfied if we are Christ’s, for all things are ours.

3. Joyful anticipation of Christ’s coming. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

Ye are Christ’s

You are His--

By donation; for the Father gave you to the Son.

By purchase; for He counted down the price for your redemption.

By dedication; for you have consecrated yourself to Him.

By relation; for you are named by His name, and made one of His brethren and joint heirs. Application--Labour practically to show the world that you are--

(1) The servant.

(2) The friend.

(3) The bride of Jesus. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The possession

A gentleman one day took an acquaintance to the top of his house to show him the extent of his possessions. Waving his hand about, “There,” said he, “that is my estate.” Then pointing to a great distance on one side, “Do you see that farm?” “Yes.” “Well, that is mine.” Pointing again to the other side, “Do you see that house?” “Yes.” “That also belongs to me.” “Then,” said his friend, “do you see that little village out yonder?” “Yes.” “Well, there lives a poor woman in that village who can say more than all this.” “Ay! what can she say?” “Why, she can say, ‘Christ is mine.’” He looked confounded, and said no more.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Corinthians 3". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.