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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 1-corinthians-14.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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1 Corinthians 14:1-25
The gift of preaching superior to the gift tongues.
1 Corinthians 14:1
Follow after charity; literally, chase; pursue. The word is one of which St. Paul is fond (Romans 9:30, Romans 9:31; Romans 13:13; Romans 14:19; Philippians 3:12, Philippians 3:14; 1 Timothy 6:11, etc.). And desire; rather, yet be zealous for. But rather that ye may prophesy; and yet more strive after the gift of sacred preaching.
1 Corinthians 14:2
In an unknown tongue. The interpolation of the word "unknown" in our Authorized Version is quite unjustifiable, and shows the danger of giving way to the bias of mere conjectures. Probably it is this word, not found in the original, which has given rise to the perplexing, unhistoric, and unwarranted theory that "the gift of tongues" was a power of speaking in foreign languages. Speaketh not unto men. Because, as a rule, no one understands anything that he says. The word literally means "hears." It may, perhaps, imply that no special attention was given to those who gave way to these impulses of utterance. The whole of this chapter proves in a most striking way the close analogy between "the tongue" and the impassioned soliloquies of inarticulate utterance which were poured forth in tones of thrilling power among the Montanists, and in modern times among the Irvingites. In the spirit. It is uncertain whether this means "in his own spirit," or "in the Spirit of God," i.e. as a result of inspiration. Probably the former (John 4:24; Romans 8:13, etc.). Perhaps, however, the two imply the same thing. The spirit is the one Divine part of our human being, and when a man is a true Christian his spirit is in union with, is as it were lost in, the Spirit of God. St. Paul recognizes the true tongue—for it might be simulated by hysteria and even by mere physical imposture—as a result of inspiration, that is, of the overpowering dominance of the human spirit by a supernatural power. Nevertheless, he points out the extreme peril of yielding to or self inducing these emotions public, or in leaving them uncontrolled. Mysteries. Secrets revealed possibly to him, but unrevealed by this strange "tongue" to others.
1 Corinthians 14:3
To edification, and exhortation, and comfort. The "to" should be omitted. His words build up the Christian soul, by rousing its efforts and consoling its sorrows. The "Son of prophecy" (Barnabas) is, as Stanley points out, also "a Son of consolation" (Acts 4:36). "Support" (paraklēsis) involves "comfort," i.e. strength and calm.
1 Corinthians 14:4
Edifieth himself. When the "tongue" was genuine, and under due control (1 Corinthians 14:32); when it avoided the physical and orgiastic manifestations by which a sort of spiritual possession was indicated in the ancient oracular shrines; when the self consciousness was not wholly obliterated,—a sense of ennobling conviction would be produced by this spiritual outpouring. Those who have experienced the emotion describe this very result. They felt enlarged and elevated—their whole being was for a time expanded—by this emotion. The Church. Primarily the body of assembled Christians which he is addressing, and through them the Church of God in general.
1 Corinthians 14:5
I would that ye all spake with tongues. The language of relative disparagement which St. Paul uses throughout these chapters may lead us to regard this with surprise. Yet it is perfectly intelligible. Montanus truly said that each human spirit is like a harp, which the Holy Spirit strikes as with a plectrum, and which yields itself to the mighty hand by which the chords are swept. We have seen all along—and history has in various ages confirmed the impression, on every occasion when these phenomena have been reproduced in seasons of great spiritual revival—that the external symptoms may be imitated with most dangerous and objectionable results both to the speaker and to others. But when the expression is genuine, the fact that the tides of the Spirit can thus sweep through the narrow channels of individuality is in itself a sign that the spirit of the man is alive and not dead; and thus he is an evidence of God's power both to himself and to others. Those who have heard "the tongue" have told me that its force, melody, and penetrative quality produced an impression not to be forgotten. When we see the stuffed and stopped-up hearts and lives of thousands of frivolous and worldly money worshippers, we might well echo St. Paul's wish. Greater. Not of necessity greater absolutely or morally, but greater in the fact of his wider and deeper usefulness. Except he interpret. From this we infer that sometimes, when the passion had spent its force, the speaker in the tongue could give rational explanation of the thoughts and feelings to which he had given ecstatic utterance.
1 Corinthians 14:6
Except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? My "tongue" will be useless to you unless I also speak to you of what I know by revelation, or by my thoughtful study, which may take the form of preaching or of teaching (1 Corinthians 12:28).
1 Corinthians 14:7
Even things without life giving sound. Even musical instruments—flute or harp—dead instruments as they are, must be so played as to keep up the distinction of intervals, without which the melody is ruined and the tune is unrecognizable. Much more is this the ease with the human voice.
"How sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!"
The indiscriminate use of the tongue is here compared to the dissonance of jarring and unmodulated instrumental sounds, In harmony there must be due sequence and intervals of sound.
1 Corinthians 14:8
If the trumpet give an uncertain sound. A spiritual exhortation should be like the "blowing of a trumpet in Zion;" but if, as in "the tongue," the trumpet only gave forth an unintelligible blare, its sounds were useless.
1 Corinthians 14:9
Words easy to be understood; rather, distinguishable speech. Ye shall speak; rather, ye shall be (all the time) speaking. Into the air. Mere pulses of useless inarticulate breath, spoken ins Blaue hinein. Philo has the word aeromuthos one who speaks to the wind.
1 Corinthians 14:10
It may be. A mere expression of uncertainty as to the exact number. It is one of the very few instances where even the verb which implies "chance" is recognized. The word "chance" itself (τυχὴ) does not occur in the New Testament. So many kinds of voices. This does not seem to mean "so many languages." The Jews always asserted that the languages, of the world were seventy in number. It seems to mean "classes of expressive sounds." None of them is without signification. The words rendered "without signification," literally mean dumb. The meaning must either be that "nothing—no creature—is dumb," or that "every class of sounds has its own distinct meaning."
1 Corinthians 14:11
A barbarian; in other words, unintelligible, according to the definition of the word by Ovid—
"Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor ulli."
Unto me; rather, in my eyes.
1 Corinthians 14:12
Even so ye. A general form of conclusion from the previous remarks. Of spiritual gifts; literally, since ye are zealots of spirits. That ye may excel to the edifying of the Church; rather, seek them to the edifying of the Church, that ye may abound. The same word is used in Matthew 5:20 ("exceed"); 1 Corinthians 8:8 ("are we the better").
1 Corinthians 14:13
Pray that he may interpret; either, so pray as to be able to interpret, or, pray with the object of afterwards interpreting. The meaning, "pray to have the power of interpretation given him," seems excluded by the next verse.
1 Corinthians 14:14
My understanding is unfruitful. I am only aware that I am praying. I have no definite consciousness as to what I say.
1 Corinthians 14:15
What is it then? A phrase like the Latin quorsum haec? What is the purport of my exhortations? I will sing. This shows that the glossolaly sometimes took the form of singing. With the understanding also. When we worship or sing we must indeed "worship in spirit," but also worship and "sing praises with understanding" (Psalms 47:7; John 4:24).
1 Corinthians 14:16
That occupieth the room of the unlearned; that is, "one in the position of an ordinary worshipper, who has no spiritual gifts." An idiotēs is a private person; one who does not possess the skill or the knowledge which is immediately in question. Say Amen; rather, say the Amen. The custom of ratifying prayer and praises with the "Amen" of hearty assent and participation existed in the Jewish as well as in the Christian Church. The sound of the loud unanimous "Amen" of early Christian congregations is compared to the echo of distant thunder.
"Et resonaturum ferit aethera vocibus Amen."
Being the answer of the congregation, the "Amen" was regarded as no less important than the prayer itself.
1 Corinthians 14:17
Well. It is good and honourable for thee to utter the voice of Eucharist; but if this be done in the unintelligible tongue, what does the Church profit? The other. The "layman" or "ungifted person."
1 Corinthians 14:18
I speak with tongues; rather, with a tongue. More than ye all. This is exactly what we should expect of the emotional, impassioned nature of St. Paul, who was so wholly under the influence of the Spirit of God. But it is clear from all that he has been saying that, while the personal and evidential value of this gift of yielding his whole being to the spiritual impulse, which expressed and relieved itself by inarticulate utterance, was such as to make him "thank God" that he possessed it, he must either have exercised it only in private gatherings or must have always accompanied it by interpretation.
1 Corinthians 14:19
Yet in the Church. In any public assembly of Christians. Five words. No disparagement of the prominence given to glossolaly could be more emphatic. "Rather half of ten of the edifying sort than a thousand times ten of the other" (Besser). That… I might [may] teach others also. The word rendered "teach" is rather instruct, the root of our "catechize" (Luke 1:4; Romans 2:8; Galatians 6:6, etc.).
1 Corinthians 14:20
Be not children in understanding; rather, in your minds. Your tendency to overvalue glossolaly shows you to be somewhat childish. It is remarkable that this is the only verse of the New Testament in which the common Greek word "mind" (phren) occurs. Howbeit in malice be ye children; better, but in wickedness be babes. The Authorized Version misses the climax involved in the change of the word. The Christian should always be childlike (Matthew 11:25; Matthew 19:4), but never childish (1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:14). Be men; rather, become or prove yourselves full-grown; literally, perfect.
1 Corinthians 14:21
In the Law. The quotation is from Isaiah 28:11, Isaiah 28:12, but the term "the Law" was applied generally to the Old Testament, as in John 10:34; John 12:34; John 15:25; Romans 3:19). With men of other tongues, etc. The application of this Old Testament quotation furnishes one of the many singular instances of quotation which prove that the Jews often referred to the words without any direct reference to their context or original meaning. He here wishes to show that glossolaly had little or no value except as an evidence to unbelievers, and illustrates this by Isaiah 28:11, Isaiah 28:12. Now, in that passage Isaiah tells the drunken priests, who scornfully imitated his style, that, since they derided God's message so delivered to them, God would address them in a very different way by the Assyrians, whose language they did not understand; and that even to this stern lesson, taught them by people of alien tongue, they would remain deaf. In the original, therefore, there is not the least allusion to any phenomenon resembling the "gift of tongues." But the mere words of a scriptural passage always came to Jews with all the force of an argument, independently of their primary meaning; and it was enough for St. Paul's purpose that in Isaiah the allusion is to unintelligible utterance, and to the fact that the teaching which it was meant to convey would be in vain. And other lips. St. Paul does not quote the LXX. The Hebrew has "with stammerings of lips and another tongue will he speak" (comp. Deuteronomy 28:49).
1 Corinthians 14:22
Wherefore. In accordance with this illustration. Not to them that believe. Because their belief depends on other and far deeper grounds. Serveth. This word is wrongly supplied; it should be, is for a sign. Not for them that believe not. Because there is nothing necessarily startling in preaching. It might, indeed, produce conviction in the unbelieving (1 Corinthians 14:25), but it was not a special "sign" "The unbelieving" are those who used to drop in at the Christian services out of curiosity.
1 Corinthians 14:23
All speak with tongues. He does not necessarily mean that all are speaking at once; though, amid these strange scenes of self-asserting enthusiasm, even that was not wholly impossible; but he means, "if there be nothing, going on except glossolaly." Will they not say that ye are mad? This has often been the actual impression produced by these phenomena upon those who stand aloof from the spiritual influences which cause them. On the day of Pentecost the exaltation of the disciples caused mockers to charge them with drunken exhilaration (Acts 2:13).
1 Corinthians 14:24
All prophesy. If one after another speak the word of spiritual exhortation. He is convinced of all, he is judged of all; literally, he is being convicted by all, he is being examined by all; in other words, each address is calculated to awaken conviction in him and to search his heart. Thus the address of St. Peter pierced the consciences of his hearers, when the glossolaly even of Pentecost produced no effect beyond that of irreverent wonder (Acts 2:37). It is easy to see that the style and method of worship in the assemblies of Christians at this early epoch resembled that now prevalent among Quakers. The teaching was not left to recognized pastors, but any Christian might speak who had gifts which moved him to address his brethren. The externals of worship are of no eternal signifiance, but are best left to be moulded by the requirements of time and place, with reference to the teachings of past experience. No doubt St. Paul's depreciation of glossolaly led to its rapid disappearance when it had done its work of being "a sign to unbelievers." But if ancient modes of worship were too independent of rigid conditions, modern modes are, on the other hand, too stereotyped and inelastic.
1 Corinthians 14:25
The secrets of his heart. "The Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,.., and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Falling down on his face. An Oriental. mode of showing humility and deep conviction (Isaiah 45:14; 1 Samuel 19:24). It does not furnish the shadow of an excuse for the encouragement of catalepsy by the mechanical excitement of revivalism. That God is in you of a truth. St. Paul is probably thinking both of Isaiah 45:14 and Zechariah 8:23, where similar phrases are used.
"Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway,
And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray."
1 Corinthians 14:26-33
Rules to check disorderly self-assertion in Christian assemblies.
1 Corinthians 14:26
How is it then? The same phrase as in 1 Corinthians 14:15. Every one of you hath a psalm, etc. We see here a somewhat melancholy picture of the struggling self assertion of rival claimants to attention. A doctrine; rather, a teaching, The glossolaly had probably been promoted by Syrian enthusiasts, perhaps of the Petrine party; the egotism of oratory and itch of teaching now described (James 3:1) may have been developed in the Apollonian party. Unto edifying. The object is moral improvement, not idle self display, not the ostentation of individual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7, 1 Corinthians 12:8, 1 Corinthians 12:10). To this he recurs again and again (1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 14:3, 1Co 14:5, 1 Corinthians 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 2Co 10:8; 2 Corinthians 11:19; 2 Corinthians 13:10; and the verb frequently). The substantive, as used by St. Paul, only occurs again in Romans (Romans 14:19; Romans 15:2), and in Ephesians (Ephesians 2:21, etc.).
1 Corinthians 14:27
And that by course; rather, and that in turn. He does not allow more than one glossolalist to speak at a time, and not more than three at the most in any one service. This rule alone tended to extinguish the disorderly exhibition of" tongues." To control the passion which leads to it is, sooner or later, to stop the manifestation—a result which St. Paul would probably have been the last to regret, when its purpose had been accomplished.
1 Corinthians 14:28
Let him keep silence. The "him" refers to the glossolalist, not to the interpreter. To himself. In his private devotions (as St. Paul himself seems to have done); not in the public assembly.
1 Corinthians 14:29
Two or three. If more than two or three preached, the congregation would get weary. Let the other judge; rather, let the rest discriminate the value of what is said. "Prophesyings" are not to be despised, but we are only to hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:21), and we are "to try the spirits" (1 John 4:1). St. Paul is not encouraging the Corinthians to the consoriousness of conceited and incompetent criticism, but only putting them on their guard against implicit acceptance of all they hear; which was a very necessary caution at a place where so many teachers sprang up.
1 Corinthians 14:30
Let the first hold his peace. It would be easy enough to judge whether the revelation vouchsafed to his neighbour was more pressing and important than his own address.
1 Corinthians 14:31
Ye may all prophesy; rather, ye all can; that is, "if you have the gift of prophesying." St. Paul has already implied that at every assembly there would be idiotai, unendowed worshippers, who only came to profit by the gifts of others, and that "all" are not prophets (1 Corinthians 12:29). May be comforted; rather, may be exhorted or cheered.
1 Corinthians 14:32
And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. Into this golden aphorism St. Paul compresses the whole force of his reasoning. The articles are better omitted: "Spirits of prophets are under the control of prophets." Mantic inspirations, the violent possession which threw sibyls and priestesses into contortions—the foaming lip and streaming hair and glazed or glaring eye—have no place in the self-controlling dignity of Christian inspiration. Even Jewish prophets, in the paroxysm of emotion, might lie naked on the ground and rave (1 Samuel 19:24); but the genuine inspiration in Christian ages never obliterates the self consciousness or overpowers the reason; It abhors the hysteria and simulation and frenzy which have sometimes disgraced revivalism and filled lunatic asylums.
1 Corinthians 14:33
Of confusion. The word is rendered "commotion" in Luke 21:9; "tumult," in 2 Corinthians 6:5 and 2 Corinthians 12:20. "Confusion" is, as St. James says (James 3:16), the result of envious and pushing egotism. But of peace; which cannot coexist with inflation and restlessness. As in all Churches of the saints. The clause probably belongs to this verse, not to the following. It is a reflection on the exceptional turbulence and disorder which disgraced the Corinthian Church.
1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Corinthians 14:35
Rules about the public teaching by women.
1 Corinthians 14:34
Let your women keep silence in the Churches. St. Paul evidently meant this to be a general rule, and one which ought to be normally observed; for he repeats it in 1 Timothy 2:11, 1 Timothy 2:12. At the same time, it is fair to interpret it as a rule made with special reference to time and circumstances, and obviously admitting of exceptions in both dispensations (Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Nehemiah 6:14; Luke 2:36; Acts 2:17; Acts 21:9), as is perhaps tacitly implied in 1 Corinthians 11:5. But… to be under obedience (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 2:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1). Christianity emancipated women, but did not place them on an equality with men. As also saith the Law (Genesis 3:16; Numbers 30:3-12).
1 Corinthians 14:35
Let them ask their husbands. Here again St. Paul is dealing with general rules.
1 Corinthians 14:36-40
Appeal and summary.
1 Corinthians 14:36
What? An indignant exclamation. Came the word of God out from you? Are you the authors of the Christian system, that you are to lay down rules about it? No rebuke was too strong for the pretensions of these Corinthians. Or came it unto you only? Is no one to be considered but yourselves? Have you no respect for Christian custom? end that when you were by no means the first Gentile Church in Europe (1 Thessalonians 1:8)?
1 Corinthians 14:37
If any man think himself to be a prophet. Test your pretensions by the capacity to recognize that I have been speaking to you what Christ approves and requires. Or spiritual. He has already said that to most of them he could only speak as carnal (1 Corinthians 3:1).
1 Corinthians 14:38
Let him be ignorant. The formula seems to fall under the idiom which refuses to say anything more about a subject ("If I perish, I perish;" "What I have written, I have written;" "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still," etc.). The readings vary considerably ("He is ignored;" "He has been ignored;" "He shall be ignored;" "Let him be ignored"). These other readings would be a statement of retribution in kind—of God "sprinkling penal blindnesses on forbidden lusts." But the reading of our translation is on the whole the best supported, and means that to invincible bigotry and ignorant obstinacy St. Paul will have no more to say (Matthew 15:14; 1 Timothy 6:3-5).
1 Corinthians 14:39
Wherefore. The final conclusion. Covet… forbid not. The power to preach is to be desired; all that can be said of glossolaly is that it is not to be absolutely forbidden so long as the conditions which St. Paul has laid down for its regulation are observed. But glossolaly is hardly possible under conditions of order, decorum, and self suppression, and we are not surprised that we hear no more of it in the Church, but only in the wild excitement of fanatical sects. The suppression, however, of the startling manifestation by no means necessarily involves any enfeeblement of the inspiring conviction from which it sprang. The brawling torrent which "foams its madness off" is lost in the calm and majestic flow of the deep river.
1 Corinthians 14:40
Let all things. The "but" of the original should not be omitted. It is a final caution against the abuse of the permission accorded in the last clause. Decently; that is, "with decorum." Thus Milton uses the term—
''... and held
Before his decent steps a silver wand."
In Romans 13:13 and 1 Thessalonians 4:12 it is translated "honestly," i.e. honourably. In order. Time, proportion, regulation, self suppression, are as necessary in worship as in "the music of men's lives."
1 Corinthians 14:1-28, 1 Corinthians 14:34-40
Grace and gifts.
"Follow after charity," etc. There are many separate verses in this chapter implying or suggesting thoughts capable of being wrought out into sermonic sketches, but my purpose now is to take a homiletical glance at the whole. The following general propositions will bring all the parts into a logical connection:—
I. THE GRACE OF CHARITY IS SUPERIOR TO ALL ENDOWMENTS. I say "charity," for I prefer the word to the word "love," which the New Version gives as the substitute. "Charity" implies the highest forms of love—compassion, sympathy, benevolence. "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts." Whatever other endowments you may possess or desire, do not neglect the cultivation of charity. The remarks of the illustrious F. W. Robertson are so admirable on this point that I transcribe them here. In showing the difference between a grace and a gift, he says, "A grace does not differ from a gift in this, that the former is from God and the latter from nature. As a creative power, there is no such thing as nature; all is God's. A grace is that which has in it some moral quality, whereas a gift does not necessarily share in this. Charity implies a certain character, but a gift, as for instance that of tongues, does not. A man may he fluent, learned, skilful, and be a good man; likewise, another may have the same powers, and yet be a bad man—proud, mean, or obstinate, Now, this distinction explains at once why graces are preferable. Graces are what the man is: but enumerate his gifts, and you will only know what he has. He is loving; he has eloquence, or medical skill, or legal knowledge, or the gift of acquiring languages, or that of healing. You only have to cut out his tongue or to impair his memory, and the gift is gone. But, on the contrary, you must destroy his very being, change him into another man, and obliterate his identity, before he ceases to be a loving man. Therefore you may contemplate the gift separate from the man, and, whilst you admire it, you may despise him. As many a gifted man is contemptible through being a slave to low vices or to his own high gifts. But you cannot contemplate the grace separate from the man—he is lovable or admirable according as he has charity, faith, or self control. And hence the apostle bids the Corinthians undervalue gifts in comparison with graces. 'Follow after charity.' But as to gifts, they are not ourselves, but our accidents, like property, after charity. But as ancestors, birth, or position in the world. But hence, also, on the other hand, arises the reason of our due admiration of gifts: 'Desire spiritual gifts.' Many religious persons go into the contrary extreme: they call gifts dangerous, ignore them, sneer at them, and say they are of the world. No, says the apostle, 'desire ' them, look them in the face as goods; not the highest goods, but still desirable, like wealth or health. Only remember, you are not wealthy or good because of them. And remember, other people are not bound to honour you for them. Admire a Napoleon's genius, do not despise it, but do not let your admiration of that induce you to give honour to the man. Let there be no mere hero-worship, that false modern spirit which recognizes the force that is in a man as the only thing worthy of homage. The subject of this chapter is, not the principle on which graces are preferable as gifts, but the principle on which one gift is preferable to another: 'Rather that ye may prophesy.' Now, the principle of this preference is very briefly stated. Of gifts, Paul prefers those which are useful to those that are showy. The gift of prophecy was useful to others, whilst that of tongues was only a luxury for self. The principle of this preference is stated generally in the twelfth verse: 'Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the Church.'"
II. SOME ENDOWMENTS ARE SUPERIOR TO OTHERS. In the fifth verse the apostle says, "Greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues." In this chapter it is taught that the didactic faculty is greater than the linguistic. Sense is better than sound, ideas are better than words. Ideas are the seed of character and the soul of history. Of all classes of ideas, religious ideas, ideas in relation to God, are the most salutary and sublime. A man may pronounce "sun," "universe," "God," in fifty different languages, and he is not necessarily richer in ideas concerning these than the man who can only speak them in his own vernacular. It often happens that the man who has the most aptitude in acquiring languages, and the most fluency in pronouncing them, has the least capacity either for attaining or communicating great ideas. But the language of which the apostle is here speaking seems to have been of a very peculiar sort—an unintelligible vocal utterance. It was, perhaps, the inarticulate voice of new and strong emotions—an emotional language. It is not necessary to consider this gift as miraculous. We are so constituted that when there rises up in our souls a strong rush of tender emotions, we feel utterly incapable to put them into words. Sometimes they choke us. If expressed at all, they can only be in the quivering lip and the gleaming eye and the convulsive chest. No stranger or stronger emotions can enter a man's soul than those which Christianity awakens when it first takes possession of him. The groans, the sighs, the rapturous shouts, cannot be interpreted. Albeit they are a "gift," a gift of a high type, inasmuch as they are the expression of the most priceless states of soul. Such have been manifested in all great revivals of religion. In my younger days I have heard such untranslatable sounds under the mighty sermons of grand old Welsh preachers. The words imply that these "tongues," unintelligible vocal sounds, are valuable. "I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied." They are valuable:
1. Because they are symptomatic of a new spiritual life. You can talk about the facts of history, the principles of science, and the doctrines of theology, but not about the deepest and divinest things of the heart. They only come out in "groanings that cannot be uttered."
2. Because in them the soul expresses its devotions. "If I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful." It is delightful to think of the human soul, generally so immersed in the selfish and the sensuous, bathing itself in the rising tides of spiritual emotions.
3. Because by them the religious sympathy of the unbelieving is often excited. "Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not." Sounds expressive of human emotion often strike potently on the heart of the listener. The emotions of others, revealed either in sounds or "signs," groans, sighs, or tears, seldom fail to strike the deepest chords in the hearts of others. Take the most thoughtless man into some vast congregation in Wales, when all the people are singing their plaintive hymns in strains of weird music, and he will not be long, even if he understands not the language, before he feels the influence. Deep emotion often speaks in the "unknown tongue." Unsyllabled speech is often the mightiest. There are melodies that carry into the soul that which no word can express.
III. The highest endowment is the ABILITY FOR SPIRITUAL TEACHING. "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the Church." "I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all." What do I mean by "teaching "? Not the mere impartation of the facts of the gospel, but rather the indoctrinating of the soul with its primary elements and spirit—taking the spirit of the truth out of the letter and transfusing it into the souls of men. On this subject the apostle's language suggests three remarks.
1. That the gospel gives to its genuine disciples intelligent convictions that should be communicated to others. This is certainly implied in the words, "Forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the Church." He who has accepted the gospel in reality becomes instinct with mighty and irrepressible ideas—ideas which he "cannot but speak," for "necessity is laid" upon him to do so. They are given to him to communicate, not to monopolize, and on their communication the spiritual life, growth, and perfection of mankind depend. Paul assumes in the whole of these verses, not only that the members of the Corinthian Church ought to do so, but that they did so. "How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying."
2. That these intelligent convictions can only be conveyed to others by intelligible language. "Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?" The apostle proceeds to say that mere "sound" is not worth much. "Things without life," such as the "pipe" and the "harp," produce sound. Nay, more, unless the sound gives out clear and distinct ideas, it is not only useless, but injurious. "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" If in battle the trumpet does not sound clearly the "advance" or "retreat" when intended, it is worse than useless. "So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air." Whatever might be the unintelligible utterances, whether an unvernacular language or the unsyllabled expressions of emotion, he indicates their inadequacy without interpretation to convey to the hearer intelligent convictions of gospel truth.
3. That the use of a language which the listener cannot understand should not be indulged in.
(1) Not in public devotion. "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful," etc. (1 Corinthians 14:14-16). Unintelligible utterances in public devotion fail to excite in the assembly a spirit of united worship. "How," in such a case, "shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?" So far as the individual himself is concerned, it does not matter with what tongue he speaks, or whether he speaks at all. "For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified."
(2) Not in public ministration. Alas! it is to be feared the language of many a sermon is an "unknown tongue"—to illiterate audiences, many syllabled, strangely compounded, high-sounding, technical language. Such language gratifies the vanity of the speaker, but wastes the time and tires the patience of the hearer. "I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: yet in the Church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." The apostle goes on to indicate that such unintelligible utterances in the Church are:
(a) Childish. "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men." They who prize such utterances are infants in knowledge.
(b) Useless. "In the Law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people." As if the apostle had said, "Remember, there was a time in Jewish history when unintelligible language was a sign sent by God, but it proved unavailing so far as concerned the conversion of Israel."
(c) Confounding. "If therefore the whole Church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?"
(d) To be of any service, they must be interpreted. "If there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the Church; and let him speak to himself, and to God."
1 Corinthians 14:29-33
Paul's idea of the Christian Church in assembly.
"Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge," etc. From these words we may infer that Paul considered—
I. That the Christian Church in assembly, on the SAME OCCASION, MIGHT HAVE SEVERAL SPEAKERS TO ADDRESS THEM. "Let the prophets [or, 'teachers'] speak two or three." "For ye may all prophesy one by one." If this be so:
1. Should Christian teaching be regarded as a profession? It is so now: men are brought up to it, trained for it, and live by it, as architects, lawyers, doctors. Surely preaching the gospel should no more be regarded as a profession than the talk of loving parents to their children.
2. Is the Church justified in confining its attention to the ministry of one man? In most modern congregations there are some Christian men who, by natural ability, by experimental knowledge and inspiration, are far more qualified to instruct and comfort the people than their professional and stated minister. Surely official preaching has no authority, either in Scripture, reason, or experience, and it must come to an end sooner or later. Every Christian man should be a preacher. Were the half hour allotted in Church services for the sermon to be occupied by three or four Christly men, thoughtful and reverent, with the capability of expression withal, it would not only be far more interesting, but more profitably spent than now.
II. That the Christian Church in assembly might ALLOW ONE OF ITS GODLY MEN TO RISE AND SPEAK ON THE INSPIRATION OF THE MOMENT. "If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace." This does not mean, I presume, that the one who is speaking is to be interrupted, but that after he has delivered his message another, if he felt truly inspired to do so, might rise and address the audience. May it not be that under every discourse there might be some one or more in the audience so divinely excited with a rush of holy thought, that he craves for an utterance, not for his own sake, but for the sake of others; and why should he not have the opportunity? What an interest such an event would add to a religious service!
III. That the Christian Church in assembly SHOULD SUBMIT THE UTTERANCES OF ITS TEACHERS TO A DEVOUT CRITICAL JUDGMENT. "Let the other judge," or, as the New Version has it, "Let the others discern [or, 'discriminate']." The people were not to accept as a matter of course all that the prophets or teachers spake to them; for even were they inspired, they were not infallible. They were to act as it is said the Bereans did, who "searched the Scriptures daily whether those things were so." Ah me! if congregations were so to act, there would soon come an end to the crudities, the assumptions, and the dogmas of modern pulpits.
IV. That the Christian Church in assembly SHOULD IN ALL ITS SERVICES MAINTAIN ORDER. "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all Churches of the saints." It is a characteristic of a true teacher that, however full of inspiration, he can so master his impulses as to prevent confusion. This should always be done, "for God is not the author of confusion, but of peace." Notwithstanding all the liberty of teaching, all the enthusiasm of the new life, where Christianity reigns there will be no disorder; all will be peace. There is an order in dead mechanism, and there is order, too, in the roar of ocean and in the thunderstorm. All that is Divine is under law.
HOMILIES BY C. LIPSCOMB
1 Corinthians 14:1-5
Love controls zeal in behalf of spiritual gifts.
In the opening verse we have three ideas, viz. love as a virtue to be diligently sought and practised, spiritual gifts as objects worthy of desire, and prophesying as a gift among gifts to be especially prized. "Rather that ye may prophesy" is the formative thought of this chapter, and it must be kept in view by the reader, since it is explicit or implicit in every associated idea. But this leading thought is closely connected with the twelfth and thirteenth chapters, and this also must be considered by the reader. To understand the reasoning of the apostle in the fourteenth chapter and sympathize with the fervour of his exhortation in the "rather that ye may prophesy," remember that he is contemplating prophecy from the standpoint of love. How else, forsooth, could he regard it, either in the logic as bearing on intellect, or in the appeal as applied to experience, or in their united effect on Christian character? Prophecy, in the light here presented, is not simply a revelation of God's will and wisdom to others, but likewise a revelation of love as a conscious influence pervading, inspiring, controlling the soul of the prophet or teacher. It is a voice from God himself by the Spirit. It is a Divine voice, moreover, in tones and accents most truly, most thoroughly, human, became of tender sympathy with the needs of its fellow men and their dependence on it for guidance, help, furtherance, in the salvation of their souls. One of the aspects of love as the '"greatest" instantly comes before the eye Prophecy, in the case of the man so gifted, is an organ of his love, so that he teaches, not to enjoy the activity and brilliance of his intellect, or make in any way a demonstration of himself, but solely to benefit his fellows. Actuated wholly by brotherly sentiment, he comes down from the pedestal of complacent self regard, and values his endowment in the degree that he is able to take the common level, and thereby instruct and console his brethren. Why, then, should the argument in this chapter follow the eulogy on love so closely? One reason—the chief reason—we may suppose to be that the gift of "tongues" was overvalued, and, as a consequence, the capacity to teach was depreciated. Without disparaging the "tongues" when rightly used, St. Paul lays a very proper stress on teaching, and gives it the preference, on the ground that it allows a fuller, freer, more effective manifestation of love. "Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. And so, too, now abide the "spiritual gifts," the gifts in general, "tongues" and "prophecy" m particular, but the "greatest of these" is "prophecy." The parallelism is complete. And how easily St. Paul glides from the chapter on love as the greatest among virtues to the chapter on teaching as the greatest among gifts! One would have supposed that, after such an effort of analytic and descriptive intellect and its interblending with emotional outgoings, there would be a rebound, a pause for nature to recover from an intense exertion; but this is not apparent. The strong man is still strong, the eye beams as brightly and the hand moves as firmly as before, and the eulogist of love passes into the eulogist of prophecy with no change other than that which the nature of the new topic necessitates. The argument in 1 Corinthians 14:2 takes an antithetic form. There is speaking in an unknown tongue. The speech is not a communication of wisdom to others, but a mysterious activity that exalts the speaker above the ordinary sphere of self consciousness and is ecstatic. "No man understandeth him." There is the outward hearing on man's part, but no inward hearing. God is the only listener who comprehends him: "He speaketh... unto God;" "In the spirit he seeketh mysteries." The mysteries are things "which are hidden from the hearers, and sometimes also from the speaker himself" (Alford). Was language a sublimer function than we have comprehended? Are there uses of expressional power of which we know nothing? Are there utterances of intuition beyond our power to grasp? Is there some one vast generalization of speech as interiorily related to pure reason, under which, as fragmentary forms of embodied thought and as representations of the functional energies of the mental faculties, all the utilities of speech are classified? We cannot tell.
1. All we know is that the speaker here under notice speaks from his "spirit;" intellect, emotion, the entire nature, are simultaneously excited. Barriers between the faculties are broken down; speech is no longer merely philosophic, or poetic, or impassioned, but it is in some occult way the articulation of the spirit in its wholeness. No man ever said anything that he could look upon as the complete expression of himself. Before he utters his greatest thoughts, he is very hopeful of doing full justice to them; afterwards he is half abashed, deplores his shortcoming, and gazes with a feeling somewhat reproachful on the ideal that retreated afar. Now, in the instance St. Paul has in view, the speaker is under the perfected sway of his spirit, and he transcends the limits of habitual consciousness.
2. All we know is that this exceptional speaker utters "mysteries." And the "mysteries," out of whose deep solitudes the voice comes, remain mysteries; neither word nor tone, neither look nor gesture, gives any solution of the meaning. The secrets have taken on sound, but the sense is concealed, and the very sound is a deeper silence. And has not such silence its uses? Is it a mere image to the fancy that Milton gives when he so finely personifies Silence in paradise as pleased with the song of the "wakeful nightingale"? Or when Thomson breathes the invocation: "Come, then, expressive Silence, muse his praise"? And, in the present case, the sound falls back into silence, but, nevertheless, the "unknown tongue" is among "spiritual gifts," and fills its sphere in the spiritual economy of Christ's universe. What, then, is the object of St. Paul's argument? It is a question of, comparative worth, that he discusses. These Corinthians are fascinated by the tongues, and, in their passion for high excitements, have been led to exaggerate beyond bounds the ecstatic singularity of the "unknown tongue." This unhappy craving for morbid and tumultuous agitation, this delight in sensations and emotions, threatened the decay, ay, the destruction of spirituality. It was the spirit of man, indeed, but the spirit borrowing the impulses of the lower man, instead of holding itself aloof from a depraving alliance with ungoverned blood and nerves. The remedy of the evil was in a proper estimate of the gifts as relative to brotherhood and helpfulness of others. Therefore, "desire… rather that ye may prophesy." And wherefore? That ye may "speak unto men" with three ends in view, namely, edification, exhortation, comfort. To edify is to build up the whole framework of Christian character; to exhort is to incite to duty by timely, appropriate, and effectual motives; to comfort is to show tenderness of fellow feeling and be partners of the cares, burdens, and sorrows of others. What a blessed prerogative, to go forth from the isolations of intellect and from the selfish exclusiveness that our own anxieties and sufferings not infrequently bind upon us, and impart ourselves in large sympathies to such as in their weakness need our strength! "Himself;" there the benefit lies. Lifted to a lofty height, borne upward from one sublimity to another, rapt and entranced, it is still himself that is the party concerned. There may be quickening and ennobling; the immense realm within the soul, where the surprises of possible consciousness are dormant, may suddenly yield their resources and give the soul a new and astonishing sense of itself; yet, despite of all such results, it is himself, first and last. But he "that prophesieth edifieth the Church." A community gets the benefit, not the mere man "himself." Is St. Paul depreciating the speaking with tongues? Hear his hearty wish: "I would that ye all spake with tongues." In perfect consistency with this testimony to the worth of the tongues, he adds that he desires for them more ardently the gift of prophecy. Why this more fervent wish? Because the prophet or teacher is greater than the speaker with tongues not interpreted—greater because he builds up and inspirits and cheers his brethren more than the mystical speaker with "an unknown tongue;" greater because "it is more blessed to give than to receive"—L.
1 Corinthians 14:6-13
Argument continued and illustrated.
Greater is the teacher than the speaker in a tongue not interpreted, was the statement of the apostle in the fifth verse. Suppose, then, that even he were to address these Corinthians "with tongues;" would not the edification be confined to himself? There would be no exception in his case, none in his favour as the apostle of the Gentiles, and hence his usefulness, no matter what he might say, would be at an end, for lack of interpretation. "What shall I profit you?" The profit is only possible by means of doctrine and knowledge. Tongues unexplained convey no doctrine and knowledge, and hence, as relative to the hearers, are nugatory. For instance, there are musical instruments, "pipe or harp," that have a language in the broad sense of the word, and convey their meanings if skilfully used. The instrument in the hands of an intelligent performer, though in itself "without life," yet receives life as it were from him who knows how to handle it. A dead thing, yet his breath or his touch imparts a representative vitality to its sounds, and you hear in those sounds the sentiments and emotions of the soul. What a range they have, rising and falling by turns, exulting, sorrowing, shouting, wailing! To effect this, there must be "a distinction in the sounds;" the instrument must obey its laws, and the laws are dictated by the art of music. And he argues further, that a trumpet in battle can give such discriminating sounds as to direct the movements of soldiers. The commanding officer, though distant, speaks to the trumpeter, and the trumpeter conveys the order through the trumpet. A thing "without life," and yet it outreaches the compass of the living voice and is fully understood, for it gives no "uncertain sound." Musical instruments are interpreters. Their utility exists in their intelligible modulations. If it were otherwise, they would but confuse and bewilder. The comparison is promptly applied. "So likewise ye," with all your admiration for "tongues" and your disposition to give them pre-eminence among the gifts, are indulging in a wild and incoherent display, unless you "utter by the tongue words easy to be understood." Words are not sufficient; they must be words easy to be understood. The capacity of the hearer, the humblest in the congregation, must be thoughtfully regarded, otherwise they are to him idle rhapsodies; "ye shall speak into the air." If neither "pipe," nor "harp," nor "trumpet" give an "uncertain sound," still less could it be said of human voices (languages) that they are unintelligible. "Many kinds are in the world, and none of them without signification." Varieties exist. The surface of the globe is not more diversified than language, and yet, as the globe is one, so are these languages one, although very unequal as to capacity for the conveyance of ideas. But is the "tongue" like these voices? If not, then he that speaketh in this way is a barbarian; and would you barbarians in your Christian relations, outside foreigners, you and your fellow citizens in the commonwealth of Christ shut out from intelligible communication with one another? We can see, while reading St. Paul's argument, what force it contains. Pentecost had restored what Babel had destroyed; the ambitious tower that was to reach so high had been arrested by confusion of tongues; men had scattered from one great centre, and human centralization had been stopped in the evil form threatened. Pentecost had enabled men to cooperate; all languages could now be used as vehicles of making known the gospel, and the builders could work together on the temple of the Church. Pentecost, however, was here annulled, and Corinth was making ready to scatter her Christian population, to alienate them from community of impulse and aim, and changing the members of the Church in this respect into barbarians to one another. "Even so ye," declares the apostle, who are "zealous of spiritual gifts," should esteem it your first concern to edify the Church. "Wherefore," he adds in application, let the speaker in an unknown tongue "pray that he may interpret." Whatever construction may be given this difficult passage, it is certain that St. Paul intended to teach the Corinthians the absolute insulation of this sort of speech, its essential characteristic as opposed to the true function of language, and the complete exclusion of its possessor from the fellowship of the outward world.—L.
1 Corinthians 14:14-22
Further enforcement of the argument.
At this point in the discussion St. Paul refers to the distinction between the spirit and the understanding. Such a distinction must be recognized or his argument has no basis in the nature of the human mind, and, if there be no foundation in the laws of the mind for this difference between Spirit and understanding, the operations of the Holy Spirit in the two forms under notice are inconceivable. Man has a spirit—a power of introversion that withdraws itself from the avenues of outward activity; a capacity of absorption in its own thoughts and feelings as self related; a susceptibility to receive Divine influence as an experience restricted to its own intuitions and making the man himself the supreme object. Man, too, has an understanding, and its functions are to connect him with other men. But is there an impassable gulf between the two? Certainly not; the spirit may cooperate with the understanding. Left to its own ecstatic freedom, the spirit may soar and shine, but the flight is in loneliness and the resplendency unwitnessed. In this condition the body indicates occult activities that we do not comprehend, and its physiological expressions are, in a certain sense, "unknown tongues." On the other hand, this state may be translated from the unknown into the known by means of the understanding, and thus the latter, which was previously "unfruitful," becomes fruitful of thought and emotion in others. Prayer and praise will thus be mutual to spirit and understanding in the original party. No longer wilt these be dissevered forces, but coalescent for the common good, and the "unlearned" can intelligibly say, "Amen." What is worship without this true "Amen"? Response there must be; heart must go up to God with heart; and the glad "Amen" will be the assurance of this beautiful mutuality. The value of this single word cannot be measured. What a history it has! Far back in Hebrew life, when the psalms gave voice and sentiment to the thanksgiving of the nation; further back yet, when Israel wandered in the desert; in the land of promise, in the lands of captivity; heard in the acknowledgment of chastening and in the celebrations of returning light and hope; temple and synagogue, homes and booths, war and peace, repeating its loud echoes; and descending through the Christian ages with a deeper and more touching import, and everywhere an utterance precious to faith and sympathy, whether in lowly kirk or magnificent cathedral;—what a past this word preserves! "True or faithful," how could its meaning but survive in the long struggle of truth and fidelity for triumph in the world? And what honour comes to it when Christ himself is represented in the Apocalypse as the "Amen, the faithful and true Witness"! No marvel, then, that St. Paul felt the thrill of this "Amen" when he said that, though he spoke "with tongues more than ye all," yet he would "rather speak five words" with his understanding, and so teach others, than "ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." No higher estimate than this was ever put on practical wisdom. The best and profoundest utilitarian is the man who advocates utility on this high ground. St. Paul argued so warmly in behalf of the "understanding" because he felt so deeply the glory of the human "spirit." Hence the exhortation: "Brethren… in understanding be men," and this manliness is enforced by an appeal to Jewish history (Isaiah 28:11), wherein is seen the threatened judgment of Jehovah on those who despised the simplicity and truthfulness of Old Testament teaching. Then comes the significant "wherefore," followed by two ideas:
(1) the tongues are a "sign" from God, and meant for unbelievers who have not hearkened to his words; and
(2) prophesying or teaching was a sign to believers, a token of blessing, an earnest for the future, a proof of God's interest in them; a sign in the one case of impending evil, in the other of good in immediate realization and good in future store. Would he not rather preach a gospel to belief than to unbelief? a gospel to hope in preference to apprehension? a gospel of exceeding great and precious promises, instead of a gospel of exceeding great and awful threatenings? "Five words" to enlighten, cheer, inspire, the heart of belief and love outweighed "ten thousand" addressed as a rebuke and a warning to men who had willed not to hearken to God's voice.—L.
1 Corinthians 14:23-32
How a spectator would regard the tongues; the gracious effects of prophesying; interpretation or silence.
Suppose that the whole Church were to assemble in one place (argues the apostle), and all "speak with tongues;" the unchecked energy pouring itself forth in many and discordant volumes, each speaker borne away on the mighty tide of his own transport; no one considerate of another; the car scarcely cognizant of the sound issuing from the lips, the eye insensible to the impression made on a beholder;—suppose such a state of things occurring in the Corinthian Church, and, amid the disorder and commotion, the "unlearned" (those unacquainted with the meaning of the exhibition) or the "unbelievers" (such as were not converted to Christianity) were to make their appearance and look upon the scene; would they not think them "mad"? Instantly he reverses the supposition. The work of teaching is in progress, and the Church is receiving the doctrines, duties, consolations, of the gospel in appropriate methods of instruction. A person, who is unlearned or unbelieving, enters the assembly. He hears, is able to understand, is "convinced of all" and "judged of all." The word reaches his inmost consciousness, and he is revealed to himself. Perception, reflection, self scrutiny, judgment, conscience, are aroused by the Holy Spirit, and for the first time, perchance, he listens to the voice of his own instincts in the articulations of others. It is usually through some mediating soul that God makes us known to ourselves In our darkness the light is reflected as that of the moon on the night, and the sunrise and the day follow afterwards. And, in this case, the unlearned or unbeliever has the "secrets of his heart made manifest." The throne of judgment is set within; the hour is calm and meditative; the man is brought to the bar; and the ministering servants of the eternal Judge are here with their testimony. Most of all, the Divine Agent is here, of whom Jesus Christ said, "He shall testify of me." Step by step the trial advances. Memory speaks from the past, fear speaks of the future. The sense of guilt is awakened, "and so falling down on his face," overpowered by his convictions, "he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth." How is this? In the one case, there is an impression of madmen; in the other, God is felt to be with these men. In the former, religion was an unintelligible thing; in the latter, it was comprehensible. Recall the power of the "five words" spoken to the understanding, versus the "ten thousand" uttered in rhapsody, and the secret is explained. What, then, is the practical inference? "If, when you are met together, one is prepared to sing a hymn of praise, another to exercise his gift of teaching, another his gift of tongues, another to deliver a revelation, another an interpretation" (Conybeare and Howson); shall any of God's gifts be suppressed or discarded? Room for all, need for all, blessings for all, blessings in all, exist; and none must be suffered to fall into desuetude or cast away as useless. Let each have time and opportunity, subject to one inflexible condition: "Let all things be done unto edifying." Edify has had emphasis after emphasis in the conduct of the argument, and surely the Corinthians can be at no loss to understand its meaning. But St. Paul will particularize. Edification allows the use of tongues. Edification requires, however, that the tongues be used in order and under strict propriety. The order and propriety are specified: "If there be any who speak in tongues, let not more than two, or at the most three, speak (in the same assembly); and let them speak in turn; and let the same interpreter explain the words of all" (Conybeare and Howson). How important the interpreter was is obvious, for he says, "If there be no interpreter," let him who speaks in tongues "keep silence in the Church." Will this destroy his devotional spirit? Nay; he may still commune silently with himself and with God. Prophets may also "speak two or three," but edification holds them likewise under rule. "Let the others judge." Inspired teachers were amenable to the Church in the persons of those who possessed the gift of discernment as a specialty from the Holy Ghost. Furthermore, edification demands, that if the Spirit suddenly and powerfully act on "another that sitteth by," let the latter be heard. "One by one;" this is the method of edification, "that all may learn, and all may be comforted." For this was a matter under each prophet's personal control. In him the "spirit" and the "understanding" were harmonious. Consciousness kept its serene poise. There could be no reach of thought beyond the jurisdiction of the will, no passion for undue excitement, no verging towards hysterical emotion. And as heart and lungs maintain their beautiful relativity, and thus secure the maximum of health and vigour to the body, so "spirit" and "understanding" act in the prophet with no jar or jostle, but in perfect accord. For the "spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets."—L.
1 Corinthians 14:33-40
If edification was to be the rule of conduct in everything, it is plain that the prophets must govern themselves. No matter how sincere and truthful their zeal, or how honest and excellent their purpose, feelings, and even the best feelings, must be held under firm restraint. They had this power, and it was from God; for he is "not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all Churches of the saints." St. Paul directs further that "women keep silence in the Churches." If the Corinthians objected to this injunction, what right had they so to do? Usage in the Christian community as a whole was to be observed; local peculiarities offensive to the spirit and tastes of the body of Christ were not to be indulged. How could they claim exemption from a rule recognized everywhere? Were they the original Church? or did their position warrant any exclusive customs at variance with established custom? To enforce this view and the argument in the chapter, he asserts in the strongest manner that he spoke from Divine inspiration. "No more direct assertion of inspiration can be uttered than this" (Alford). If any one deny this inspiration, no controversy must be had with him. "Let him be ignorant," and, perchance, he may be self convicted of his error. Then the idea which has been so prominent in his mind is introduced again in the words, "covet to prophesy." Had he not made good its claim to a pre-eminent excellence? By the concurrent "Amen" of approval and sympathy, by his own special delight in this gift, by the manliness connected with its exercise, by the effect on spectators, by the capacity of self government which accompanied its activity and the culture given to volition and feeling, he exhorts his brethren to desire fervently this means of usefulness. What a momentum has the argument acquired before it comes to a close! Vapours rise from large tracts of territory, float in the air, run together, condense in clouds, and then descend in fruitful blessing to the fields. Far inland a stream begins its flow, gathers rivulets and creeks into its channel, and, before it reaches the ocean, has drained half a continent. St. Paul omits nothing essential to the greatness of his argument. From the Hebrew Scriptures, from musical instruments, from the "many kinds of voices in the world," from the laws of the human mind in respect to the difference between "spirit" and "understanding," he has drawn materials to enlarge and vivify the presentation of his doctrine. In other connections (Romans 12:1-21.; Ephesians 4:1-32.) we find him urging substantially the same view, pressing on the conscience and heart of the Church the individuality of gifts, and, at the same time, showing their worthlessness unless blended in unity. The most truly gifted, the most nobly endowed man, is portrayed in this chapter with singular distinctness, and this man is the prophet. Yet, he adds, "forbid not to speak with tongues;" let them be regulated, not discarded—a lesson widely applicable in the management of Church affairs. A genuine orthodoxy is always tolerant, charitable, and heartily disposed to make much allowance for idiosyncrasies in others. Many persons are content with love in their hearts. Intellect is left to itself. But the really orthodox man is a Christian in his method of thinking, and in many a thing not to his liking, ay, repellent to his tastes and sensibilities he makes a special point to remember the "forbid not." The last constituent of a man to feel the thoroughly subduing grace of God is the intellect. Often when the animal nature has been conquered, often when the coarser struggles of life are all over, this besetment of dogmatic and tryannical intellect remains as the final entrenchment of evil. Orthodoxy is an admirable thing. It is beautiful and even glorious to feel the oneness of our beliefs with the greatest and best thinkers of the Church; but if truth of thought be exaggerated at the expense of truth of feeling and truth in external relations, it is truth despoiled of its supreme charm, and therefore the wisdom of the "forbid not." One who knows that be shall live for ever must needs feel, if he is a cultivated man, that a long past is not simply at his back, but is a part of himself, and that the parentage of much of the wisest and best in his soul lies in ancient years. Sympathy with the past is a foremost element in a charitable intellect. And he has also a keen fellow-feeling with forms of belief current in his own times. The sense of immortality widens his embrace of the present, and the "forbid not" is a welcomed dissuasive when he is tempted to the most disagreeable and pernicious form of vanity, viz. self insistence. Only one thing remains for the apostle to say on the topic that has elicited so much wisdom and fervour from his soul: ''Let all things be done decently and in order." And, doubtless, it commended him to the trim minded among the Corinthians as it has done ever since, that he should be so considerate of behaviour. There is an art of Christian behaviour, and St. Paul would have us make a conscience of it, and not leave it to mere taste and sentiment. It is net a distant and impracticable ideal. It is not the possibility of a few. But it is simply a cultivated sense of decency and order, and as such within the reach of all.—L.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Corinthians 14:3
The purposes of prophesying.
There was a marked difference of judgment between St. Paul and his Corinthian converts with regard to the relative value of speaking with tongues and of prophesying. The Corinthians were disposed to set too high a value upon the more brilliant and startling girt; its novelty and singularity seem to have so impressed them with admiration that, in comparison with it, gifts which appealed to sober reason sank into insignificance. Paul, however, who himself spake with tongues, maintains the superiority of the rational and moral endowment over that which surprised the sense and dazzled the imagination. He does this most successfully by exhibiting in this verse the purposes of prophesying.
I. EDIFICATION. A prophet is one who speaks from God and for God, to his fellow men. The prophets of the old covenant came before their fellow countrymen with messages which they prefaced by the declaration, "Thus saith the Lord." In the new dispensation, there seems to have been at first an order of prophets, but in addition to these there were many who upon occasion uttered forth the mind of God. Now, since human nature is dependent upon truth, upon spiritual motive, upon personal influence, for the realization of the designs of the Creator, it is dear that a true prophet is one who apprehends those designs, and seeks their accomplishment by means ordered by Divine wisdom. Character and moral life require building up, i.e. upon a divinely laid foundation, by the use of divinely provided material, so that the edifice may assume form, proportions, beauty, in consonance with the idea of the great Architect. Hence the importance given in the New Testament to that element in prophecy denominated edification. No individual can become full grown, no society can be at once progressive and secure, where this department of ministry is lacking.
II. EXHORTATION. It must never be forgotten that the communication of knowledge is not the whole of ministry; that religion is not altogether a matter of the intellect; that human life is not simply one long lesson. Man is so framed that he is bound to action, and that he needs inducements, directions, encouragement, with a view to such action as shall be acceptable to his Maker and Saviour. Especially do the young, and converts whose principles are not fully formed, whose habits are not yet established, need frequent admonition. St. Paul reminds us that this also is part of the prophetic office and ministry.
III. CONSOLATION. If the necessity of exhortation follows upon the characteristics of human nature, the necessity of consolation arises from the circumstances of human life. Stronger than human philosophy, and tenderer, the consolations of Christian prophecy are able to bind up all wounds, and to cheer all sad and downcast hearts.—T.
1 Corinthians 14:15
The two elements in devotions.
Religious exercises have always consisted mainly of praise and prayer. If there be a Deity, then from him we have received all we possess and enjoy, and to him, therefore, our natural feelings and our reason alike urge us to present sacrifices of thanksgiving. And since we are altogether dependent upon his favour and his faithfulness, we shall not omit to other supplications and intercessions to the Giver of every good gift. Now, Christianity falls in with this natural view of religious observances, and raises these orates, which are too often perfunctorily performed, into a higher atmosphere, penetrating and sanctifying them with a new spirit.
I. IN PRAYER AND PRAISE THEIR IS AN ELEMENT OF EMOTION AND COMMUNION. Human nature is so constituted that it is capable of great excitement, and Oriental nature, as is well known, is peculiarly sensitive to impressions and susceptible of enthusiasms and hallucinations. Now, religion, which consists in the relation and intercourse of the soul with the unseen, has peculiar power to raise some natures to a high pitch of excitement. The gesticulations, the self inflicted tortures of devotees, the religious campaigns and wars of the East, are illustrations. Even at Corinth, a Grecian city, though largely frequented by Orientals, manifestations of enthusiasm were common in the Christian society. Paul himself was sometimes transported, in a trance, into unfamiliar and celestial regions of experience. He has not a word to say against those religious exercises which took place in "the spirit," i.e. which consisted in highly wrought feeling, in a consciousness of the presence of God, and which manifested themselves in the utterance of musical sounds reducible to no law or system, and of words unfamiliar sometimes to both speaker and hearers, but evidently an outpouring of fervent though vague and unformed prayers.
II. IN PRAYER AND PRAISE THERE IS AN ELEMENT OF THOUGHT, REASON, AND LANGUAGE. No doubt it often happens that this element preponderates. Where psalmody and common prayer are prepared beforehand, where there is a form of devotion, it is obvious that the understanding is engaged. Words are necessary in order to clear and articulate thought. It may be urged that there are higher moods of the spirit which cannot be interpreted by articulate speech. And this must be admitted. Yet the ordinary moods of the spirit have chiefly to be considered; and of these we may say, they are capable of being formulated in the conceptions of the understanding, in the phraseology of speech. And thus will devotion be most widely diffused and most profitably promoted, and Church worship be rendered most generally intelligent and fervent, and so most acceptable to God.—T.
1 Corinthians 14:20
Babes, not in mind, but in malice.
There is in the style of St. Paul's admonitions a happy mingling of suavity and severity. A proverb reminds us that a hand of steel may be covered by a glove of velvet. The apostle will have no compromise with the errors, follies, and injurious judgments of the Corinthians; yet he speaks to them in language of gentleness and persuasion, addresses them as "brethren," and entreats them to act with wisdom and considerateness.
I. CHILDISHNESS OF JUDGMENT AND OF CONDUCT IS BLAMABLE. There is all the difference in the world between childlike conduct, i.e. conduct partaking of the true, proper, ideal character of the child, and childlish conduct, i.e. conduct on the part of men which resembles the follies and frivolities of the infantile age. When the Corinthians preferred dazzling gifts to Christian graces, they were like children to whom a painted sweetmeat is dearer than a substantival treasure. And such a disposition is still exhibited by those to whom a splendid ritual, imposing learning, social eminence, are more admirable than a Christ-like spirit, a gentle, unobtrusive, self denying habit.
II. CHILDLIKE FREEDOM FROM MALICE AND ALL VICE IS COMMENDABLE. Our Lord himself lays it; down as one—indeed, as the chief—condition of entrance into his kingdom, that his disciples should become as little children. He taught this his favourite doctrine both by word and by symbols. This has ever been a stumbling block in the way of the vain, the proud, the self seeking, and it has been brought as a reproach against the religion of the Lord Jesus. Yet the morally cultivated have seen, in the condition laid down by him who was "meek and lowly in heart," a condition worthy of God and beneficial to humanity. Alas! in human society how much is there to corrupt the primitive simplicity of childhood! Sacred and precious is the spiritual power which restores the bloom of spring, the brightness of morning, the dew of youth.
III. MANLINESS OF UNDERSTANDING IS WORTHY OF HUMAN EFFORT AND ASPIRATION. If it is the glory of childhood to act upon pure, fresh, unsophisticated impulse, it is the glory of manhood to deliberate, to weigh motives and inducements and authorities, and to decide reasonably and justly. Well had it been for the Christian Church had it always been guided by the counsels of the thoughtful and the wise. There is abundant room for a manly understanding to show itself in the reasonings of the theologian, the policy of the bishop, the appeals of the preacher, the counsels of the pastor. And there is a far wider scope for the exercise of sanctified manliness of intelligence in the varied departments of human society, civil as well as ecclesiastical. It is the glory of Christianity that whilst it stoops to the child, it rises to the man, and aids him to realize the intellectual and spiritual prerogatives of manhood.—T.
1 Corinthians 14:24, 1 Corinthians 14:25
The conviction of the unbeliever.
In estimating the gifts of intelligent prophecy on the one hand, and the gifts of tongues on the other, the apostle tests their respective value by their practical utility. It could not be denied that one great end of the existence of the Christian Church was, as it still is, the instruction of the ignorant and the reformation of the sinful. It is clear that at Corinth, and at other places where Christian communities existed in the first age, there was already a constant intercourse between the Church and the world. Attracted by curiosity, or driven by spiritual wants and hopes, the unbelieving heathen and Jews would sometimes attend the Christian assemblies. This being so, Paul asks, What must be the effect upon such persons, first of such an exhibition of supernatural powers such as the Corinthians delighted in, and secondly of the proclamation of the truths and promises of the gospel? His own answer is that, whilst the speaking with tongues may amaze, it will probably be set down as ranting; whilst the utterance of God's Word will sometimes issue in the enlightenment, conviction, and salvation of the sinner. Surely a sufficient and decisive test!
I. THE MEANS OF THE UNBELIEVER'S CONVERSION. This is represented as prophecy, i.e. the uttering forth by man, as God's messenger, of God's mind and will. And in the case supposed by the apostle, evidently the declaration concerns the sinful state and the spiritual needs of man, the merciful purposes of God, the provision of pardon, renewal, and eternal life, through the Saviour Jesus Christ. Prophecy, so understood, has never ceased in the Church of the Lord Jesus. His ministers prophesy when they give witness to him, when they publish the gospel and its gracious invitations.
II. THE PROCESS OF THE UNBELIEVER'S CONVERSION. The question arises—How does the Christian prophecy affect the mind and heart of the ignorant and unbelieving hearer? According to the representation of the apostle, the word evinces its own divinity by making the sinner known to himself. And there can be no more generally convincing and conclusive evidence of the authority of religion than is afforded by the fact. that the preaching of the gospel reveals man to himself in his true state and position. The truths of the gospel are the utterances of him who formed the human heart. The candle of the Lord searches even the dark places of man's nature, and that which is hidden is brought forth to light. The conscience stricken sinner realizes his guilt and danger, and his need of a Divine Deliverer. He is convinced, examined, judged, by the several messages which penetrate his nature. The secrets of his heart, his iniquities, his sorrow and penitence, his aspirations for a better life, are all made manifest.
III. THE RESULTS AND SIGNS OF THE UNBELIEVER'S CONVERSION.
1. His enmity to God and to God's truth is utterly vanquished. He falls down, contrite and submissive, like him Who cried, "God, be merciful to me a sinner."
2. His enmity is exchanged for reverence and worship. Before, he may have adored the false gods whom he has been trained to revere; now and henceforth there is for him but one God, the Saviour of all men.
3. He acknowledges the Divine presence in the Church. Had he listened only to "tongues," he would have deemed the speakers to have raved. But listening to words of grace and truth, the convert acknowledges that in meeting e he has met with God, and their assembly has become to him, as it has God's people he has met with God, and their assembly has become to him, as it has become to multitudes, "the house of God, and the gate of heaven. - T.
1 Corinthians 14:33
A God, not of confusion, but of peace.
True religion teaches us to refer all questions to the highest tribunal, and to ask, not merely—What is agreeable and expedient? but—What is the will of God? At Corinth many disorders had arisen; men spake with tongues and without interpreters, two or three prophesied at the same time, women appeared unveiled and spoke in the assemblies. Now, there were many reasons why such things should not be. But in this verse St. Paul adduces the highest of all reasons. Christians are the servants of God, and God is the God, not of confusion, but of peace; his people, therefore, should banish from their assemblies all that conflicts with the nature and the ways of their supreme Lord.
I. THAT GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF CONFUSION, BUT OF PEACE, IS APPARENT FROM HIS WORK AS A CREATOR. The more nature is studied the more does it become apparent that it is the workmanship of an Intelligence proceeding according to order. "Order is Heaven's first law." Indeed, men of science affirm the universal presence of law through the whole realm of nature. By law they mean uniformity; and to those who believe in a Lawgiver the regularity with which the processes of nature are conducted is an evidence of the working of mind, and mind acting in accordance with the highest reason.
II. AND FROM HIS METHOD IN REVELATION. He who studies the Scriptures as a whole is struck with this—that they unfold a plan, unfold it gradually and regularly, according to a scheme of which the profound wisdom is apparent, although not fully apparent to a creature mind. The truth was revealed first to a family, then to a nation, then to a race. "The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." The Bible is a marvellously organic whole; in its diversity is discernible a unity and harmony which only a Divine mind could impart.
III. AND FROM THE WORK OF REDEMPTION. The whole motive of the economy of grace was to avert the confusion which had invaded, and threatened to overwhelm, this sinful humanity. To hush the moral discord, to introduce peace on earth,—such was the lofty purpose contemplated and fulfilled in the incarnation and the sacrifice of the Son of God.
IV. AND FROM THE INSTITUTION OF CIVIL SOCIETY. It is observable that social and political life are in the New Testament frequently attributed to God, the Author and Giver of all good. Jesus himself bade his disciples "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's.' And Paul taught that "the powers that be are ordained of God," enjoining loyalty and submission as a Christian duty.
V. AND FROM THE CONSTITUTION AND GOVERNMENT OF CHRISTIAN CHURCHES. Is it credible that the God in all whose ways order is so apparent, who, in the several spheres accessible to our observation, proceeds upon methods of regularity, and harmonizes all forces to fulfil his commands, should reverse his procedure in that realm which is the highest and noblest of all? Is Divine order to be confined to the physical and political spheres, and banished from the Church? It cannot be, and it is not so. Christ appointed and authorized apostles; apostles constituted Churches, ordained officers of various kinds and grades, and gave instructions for the conduct of worship, of business, of charity. If then, there be confusion, in any professedly Christian community, that confusion is traceable, not to Divine wisdom, but to human folly. In proportion as the Spirit of Christ lives and works in any society, in that proportion will subordination, cooperation, peace, and unity prosper and prevail.—T.
1 Corinthians 14:38
Abandonment to ignorance.
Paul was a man who humbled himself but magnified his office. For himself, he was less than the least of all saints; but officially and in apostolic influence and authority, he was not behind the chiefest of the apostles. Of course there were in the primitive Churches men who acknowledged neither his authority nor the authority of any other than themselves. And when the apostle gave utterance to his judgment, it was with the knowledge that his judgment would not pass unchallenged. There is something of indignation and something of sarcasm in his reference to those who resisted his opinions and decisions. And there is wisdom as well as an admirable display of just impatience in his language: "If any man is ignorant, let him be ignorant."
I. OPINIONATEDNESS AND IGNORANCE OFTEN GO TOGETHER. A little experience convinces us that those who cling the most tenaciously to their own opinions, their own habits, are not always men of the soundest judgment. To resist evidence and authority is no sign of soundness of mind and power of intellect. Some are obstinate because they are blind to all testimony and evidence but that which is acceptable to their own prejudices.
II. THERE ARE THOSE WHOM NO EVIDENCE CAN CONVINCE AND NO AUTHORITY OVERAWE. If all men were candid and dispassionate, and habituated to follow the clear white light of reason, human life and human society would be very different from what they actually are. Our Lord Jesus was forbearing and patient with those who opposed themselves to him; but even he confessed that there were those who loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. Young and sanguine ministers of religion often begin their work with an inward persuasion that they have only to place the truth fairly and fully before men, in order to their conviction and conversion. But experience teaches them that it is not so; that there is a moral obduracy which is proof against all efforts.
III. IT MAY BE WISE TO ABANDON TO THEIR LOVED IGNORANCE THOSE WHO WILL NOT BE ENLIGHTENED. An affectionate and benevolent mind will be very slow to adopt such a course. And it cannot be adopted without the hope and prayer that, when ordinary and human methods have failed, it may please God to employ some methods unknown to finite wisdom, to secure the wished for result. Even the Creator himself seems to act upon the principle here exemplified, at all events for a season and a purpose: "Ephraim is joined unto idols: let him alone."
IV. THERE IS BETTER EMPLOYMENT FOR THE TIME OF CHRISTIAN LABOURERS THAN THE ENDEAVOURS TO ENLIGHTEN THE INVINCIBLY IGNORANT. There are the young, the ardent inquirers for truth, the candid and open minded, the earnest and prayerful, all anxious for more light, for lessons of truth, counsels of wisdom, encouragement, and admonition. In such directions there is abundant scope for effort, with the confidence that labour will not be in vain. Why spend years in tilling the rock or sowing the iceberg, when virgin soil awaits the plough and promises to reward the toil of the spiritual husbandman?
V. THERE IS A PROBATION AND A JUDGMENT APPOINTED BY GOD, TO WHICH SUCH CHARACTERS MUST NEEDS BE LEFT. It must be remembered by the Christian labourer that he is not one of the governors of the world. This reflection will not harden his heart against the unbelieving; he will leave such in the hands of One who is far more wise and far more merciful than the wisest and the most merciful of men.—T.
HOMILIES BY E. HURNDALL
1 Corinthians 14:1-19
I. THE DESIRE FOR SPIRITUAL GIFTS IS LEGITIMATE AND PRAISEWORTHY.
1. We must not rest content even with the possession of love. We must seek qualification for making that love effective. Inactive love is both suspicious and useless. If we have a true love for men, we shall seek to be helpful to them, especially in their spiritual life, and to this end we shall seek all possible means for conveying to them the knowledge of the love of God and. the truth as it is in Jesus. Spiritual endowments will aid us in this. The miraculous gifts in tile early Church were bestowed with this object in view; and so are modern gifts.
2. Spiritual gifts are to be most earnestly sought. Whilst pointing out abuses to which gifts in the early Church were liable, Paul nevertheless commends these gifts as worthy of the keenest desire, for if rightly used they were productive of the most valuable results. So now, in every way, we should seek qualifications for the service of Christ in the world. Some of these must be natural to us, but not a few may be acquired; and by diligence the small gift may be made great. Prayer, study, earnestness, are channels through which spiritual endowment and spiritual power ever tend to flow. Not to desire spiritual endowment is to show that we are unspiritual and lazy. A master desire of our soul should be to be equipped for service. God can do this thing for us. He can sharpen the bluntest instrument, and give strength to the weakest.
II. WHAT GIFTS WE SHOULD MOST EARNESTLY DESIRE. Not
(1) the most brilliant,
(2) the most remarkable,
(3) the most rare,
(4) the most praised,
(5) the most mysterious,
(6) those which are only enough to serve our own ends and supply our own needs; but
(7) the most useful (1 Corinthians 14:19).
To win applause or to excite wonder is but the poorest of poor ends to attain. We should long to effect something for others. To lay out ourselves for ourselves is not to serve our fellows or our Master at all. That which startles most may be least valuable; that which calls forth most remark may be most barren. The apostle had to rebuke the childish Corinthians who were captivated by the strange gift of speaking in foreign languages—a gift most precious when foreigners speaking these languages were addressed, but valueless when they were absent. Yet the Corinthians, forgetting that the gift was bestowed for its special usefulness, exercised the gift and gloried in it when its usefulness was impossible! Here were selfishness and pride conjoined to supernatural endowment! What penetrating power has evil! It seems to touch everything, even the holiest, most God like things, that man touches! Here is the touchstone which tries our work—Is it truly useful?
III. MARKS OF USEFUL GIFTS.
1. Plainness. We want to make men understand Divine truths; we should then assuredly use "great plainness of speech." Our speech should be "easy to be understood" (1 Corinthians 14:9). What a mass of preaching and praying has been lost because it was too ornate, or high flown, or expressed in incomprehensible language! The ability to speak so that no one can understand us is a gift which should be earnestly desired by fools only. Some men are so profound that they are quite unfathomable, even to themselves. They dig the well so deep that they drown themselves in it. Possibly some avoid plainness intentionally, because they want no one to perceive the poverty of the portion which they are dealing out. They place nothing in many wrappers, with the fond expectation that it may pass for something amongst the ignorant. But such trickery is unworthy of the servants of the Most High, and would be called knavery if it were practised by a pedlar. The Romish Church is greatly censurable for continuing the use of Latin in her services, which is a "tongue unknown" of the people.
2. Clearness. No mean endowment is required so as to speak with lucidity upon scriptural topics. We need to think clearly ourselves. Hearers often do not understand because preachers do not. We may expect to be useful according to the measure in which we make clear to others Divine truths; and we must never forget how peculiarly prone men are to misapprehend these. A clear statement is like a piece of music played correctly; an involved and obscure one is like music in which the notes are all jumbled together without reference to order or time. Both may have exactly the same notes, but what a contrast!
3. Force. Like the sound of the trumpet when well blown (1 Corinthians 14:8). Life and vigour are needed in our utterances. We mast not weaken the message which we deliver. If we would lead men heavenwards there must be power in our appeals. Our aim should be, not to tickle men, but to incite them. Force may be quiet; often is. But there is much quietness in which them is no force, Noise is not force, but earnestness and passion are generally its accompaniments.
4. Certainty. The trumpet blast which directs must not waver. A halting, uncertain testimony is generally worse than useless. Some are so "gifted" that they are certain of nothing. One should not desire such gifts. Notwithstanding all boast about them, they carry much more folly than wisdom, and the devil's hand is more manifest in them than God's. We have truth—which is not an uncertain thing; one of the most precious and most useful gifts is a certain grasp upon that which is of the very essence of certainty.—H.
1 Corinthians 14:15
How we should sing and pray.
I. AN IMPORTANT MATTER, SINCE SINGING AND PRAYER CONSTITUTE THE CHIEF PARTS OF PUBLIC WORSHIP.
II. THE "EXTERNALS" OF SINGING AND PRAYER ARE NOT OF THE FIRST IMPORTANCE.
III. THE RIGHT METHOD.
1. With the spirit. Intellectual worship alone is very imperfect. It is cold, formal, not stimulative. Our emotional nature should take part. We should make melody in the heart, and should be deeply stirred in heart as we approach the Deity. To this end we must pray and sing "with the Holy Spirit;" the Holy Ghost must fall upon our spirits, and we shall then become acceptable worshippers who "worship the Father in spirit and in truth."
2. With the understanding As the intellectual alone is not sufficient, neither is the emotional. The whole man should engage in the sets; even the body taking its subordinate part. Man, being an intelligent creature, should worship intelligently; should realize
(1) to whom he speaks,
(2) what he utters,
(3) what he is.
IV. A TOO COMMON METHOD.
1. Without realization of the worshipped.
2. With inattention to the sentiments expressed.
3. With souls unmoved.—H.
1 Corinthians 14:20
Mind and Christianity.
I. RELIGION IS NOT MERE SENTIMENT.
II. RELIGION DEMANDS THE EXERCISE OF MENTAL POWERS.
III. THE MORE DEVELOPED THE MIND BECOMES UNDER GRACIOUS INFLUENCES, THE MORE USEFUL, HAPPY, AND HONOURED WILL THE POSSESSOR BECOME.
1. Better fitted to labour for God's glory.
2. For the advancement of mankind.
3. Will become himself more firmly established in the truth.
(1) The grasp of revealed truth will be more tenacious;
(2) the conception of the Divine character loftier;
(3) the realization of personal duty clearer and stronger.
IV. CULTIVATE THE MIND.
1. Store it.
2. Exercise it vigorously. Generally minds are wrecked by too little effort, not by too much.
3. Discipline it carefully.
4. Keep it ever under salutary influences. Lest you become wise in your own conceit. Pride has great facility for entering by the door of knowledge.—H.
1 Corinthians 14:23-25
Conversion prepared for.
I. CONVERSION EFFECTED BY MEANS.
1. The door of the sanctuary should be an open one (1 Corinthians 14:23). Restrictions and hindrances to attendance should be swept away. Non churchgoers are often such through the action of churchgoers.
2. Means should constantly be employed in the sanctuary. The gospel should be preached. The presence of "unbelievers" should constantly be borne in mind, and of those altogether "unlearned" in the truth. Casual hearers should not be forgotten; the bow drawn at a venture has often done signal execution.
II. PROBABLE MEANS OF CONVERSION.
1. Order and propriety in the sanctuary. The building itself should not be regarded as altogether unimportant. There are some church buildings in which it is very difficult to be converted! Wherever practicable, a suitable structure should be secured; not bare and ugly, to repel, nor unduly ornate, to distract. And the services should be well ordered and decorous, else some coming in may suppose that we are "mad." But dullness and coldness are not decorous. Vigour and enthusiasm are in the highest degree proper. If we want to move others we must be moved ourselves. There can be great freedom in the service without overstepping bounds. Modern Christian services tend to be too stilted, formal, frigid, unemotional.
2. Church worship. Song and prayer have won not a few from the kingdom of Satan. But the song service is sometimes a hindrance to edification; the music attempted is such as no angel could learn, and, for the matter of that, such as no angel would ever want to! Song, which should quicken, may freeze; and a freezing soul is very difficult to convert. Sanctuary song should be united song. In heaven the host sings, not a selected choir. Prayer should be earnest, real, intelligible. There are such things as mock prayers—prayers without any praying in them. Prayers of words and time; nothing in them except letters and minutes. Often too many of these.
3. The preaching of the gospel. This, the pre-eminent means, should be:
(1) Intelligible. Not over the heads of the people.
(2) Sensible. Not under their heels. If the sermon is despised, the gospel may be.
(3) Direct. "He is convinced [or, 'reproved'] of all" (1 Corinthians 14:24). It is meant for him. There is something in the gospel which suits every condition. We are apt to take the edge off by general indefinite utterance.
(4) Searching. "The secrets of his heart are made manifest." Preachers need acquaintance with human life; they should mix among men, and not live as recluses. Then under Divine influence they will be able to apply the gospel so searchingly that often hearers will think somebody has told the preacher the secrets of their lives.
(5) Scriptural; or it may be preaching, but not preaching the gospel, and no conversion can be looked for.
III. TESTS OF THE SUITABILITY OF MEANS.
1. What do the unbelieving and ignorant think of the means employed? Some will indeed scoff, but what will the common sense and sincere ones think? What ought they to think?
2. What results follow? What are the effects of our services and work? We say no man can be responsible for results. This, in one sense, is a great truth, and in another a great lie. Do men under our ministrations fall down in contrition and humility, worship God, and declare that God is amongst us of a truth? If they do not, there is something amiss; and if we look for that something in ourselves and in our modes of work, we shall probably look in the right place. We must not ruin the usefulness of means by regarding them as anything more than means. To rest in them alone is suicidal. We need the power of the Holy Ghost, For this we should yearn, agonize, pray, as we humbly obey the command "not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together," and to "preach the gospel."—H.
1 Corinthians 14:26-33, 1 Corinthians 14:40
Decency and order in the Church.
I. REFLECT UPON WHAT THE CHURCH IS.
1. It is the "Church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:15). In its worship it worships the Eternal. It is the depository of his truth. It is the "temple of God" (1 Corinthians 3:16).
2. It is the Church of Christ. "My Church" (Matthew 16:18). It
(1) bears his Name;
(2) is the place of his presence (Matthew 18:20 and Matthew 28:20);
(3) redeemed by his blood (1 Peter 1:18, 1 Peter 1:19);
(4) his body (1 Corinthians 12:27);
(5) identified with him by the world;
(6) the chief means by which his Name is made known in the earth;
(7) it is light derived from him shining in a dark place.
3. The abiding place of the Holy Ghost. (1 Corinthians 3:16.)
4. The great instrumentality for the conversion of the ungodly.
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF EVERYTHING CONNECTED WITH THE CHURCH BEING AS FREE FROM FAULT AS POSSIBLE. Impropriety and disorder in the Church
(1) dishonour God;
(2) grieve Christ;
(3) tend to quench the Spirit, and
(4) to make the Church powerless for its mission.
III. WHAT VAST RESPONSIBILITY RESTS UPON THOSE WHO VIOLATE THE APOSTOLIC COMMAND. (1 Corinthians 14:40.) God is a God of peace, but in this way he is made to appear a God of confusion and disorder (1 Corinthians 14:33).—H.
1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Corinthians 14:35
Women in the Church.
I. WOMEN HAVE A PLACE IN THE CHURCH. Christianity exalts woman. It found her degraded; it ennobles her. In Christ there is neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28).
II. WOMEN HAVE MANY MINISTRIES CONNECTED WITH THE CHURCH. If excluded from some positions, how many are still open to woman! In not a few of these she is unrivalled by the other sex. If woman may not do some work, man cannot do other. Christianity has opened to woman a most wide sphere of usefulness. It is quite an open question whether the Church has received more help from men or women; not a few would say from women. The Church owes a vast debt to the holy women who have been enrolled amongst her adherents.
III. WOMEN ARE DEBARRED BY THE APOSTLE FROM SPEAKING IN CHURCH ASSEMBLIES, On the ground of propriety. Does not accord with woman's true position. This position indicated in the Law (Genesis 3:16), and laid down in the eleventh chapter of this Epistle. It had been foretold, "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy" (Joel 2:28), and in Acts 21:9 we read of four daughters of Philip who prophesied; but in neither case is anything said of prophesying in public and mixed assemblies. The apostle does not prohibit women from prophesying, but only from prophesying in public. This, according to his view, would conflict with modesty and with woman's rightful position, and would lead to many evils. It is an evasion to discriminate between women speaking in Church meetings and women addressing general congregations. The apostle's objection was to the public character of the act, and when he is speaking of "meetings of the Church" in this very chapter, he is referring to gatherings to which unbelievers had access (Acts 21:24).
IV. WOMEN'S INSTRUCTION ENCOURAGED. To supplement instruction of the sanctuary, women may ask questions at home of their husbands. It may be said—What are those to do who have no husbands? Emphasis seems to rest upon "their own" (Revised Version) rather than upon "husbands." It would be acting in the spirit of the apostle's injunction for the unmarried to ask their relatives or personal friends. There seems no possible reason why an unmarried woman should be allowed to speak in public mixed assemblies whilst a married woman is debarred, but rather the reverse.
1. We have here incidentally indicated a special and most important sphere of woman—the home. A beautiful temple for the exercise of woman's ministry. Oratorical females are frequently poor housewives.
2. A suggestion that husbands should be well furnished with religious knowledge. The head of the house should not be an empty head. If he glories in a superior position, he should realize its responsibilities. But many people like their office more than its duties.
3. Evidence that women are not in the religious sphere to be mere automata. They are not to be the dupes of priests. They are to think, ask questions, understand. They are not to be kept in ignorance. Intelligent service is expected from them. Highest culture is as open to them as to men. There is nothing unwomanly in being well informed.—H.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Corinthians 14:3
In our day a "prophet" is one who predicts future events, but in the older times the word included much more than that. Old Testament prophets were religious teachers who revealed the will of God, and expounded the Word of God. Moses was a prophet, but his chief work was religious teaching. John the Baptist was a prophet, but he appeared as a preacher of repentance and of righteousness. New Testament prophets were the teachers or preachers of the Word—men to whom God had given special insight into his Divine truth, and a happy faculty of imparting that truth to others. The verse now before us describes the proper results that are to be reached by the prophecy, or ministry, of the Word. The gift of prophesying, or preaching, is the most useful and most practical of all the gifts. Other gifts direct attention to the man who possesses them; this gift makes a man a blessing to others, for he may speak to "edification, and exhortation, and comfort."
I. THE PROPER SPHERE OF THE CHRISTIAN PROPHET. Theoretically our pastors are separated unto the ministry of the Word; practically the office is very sadly confused, and our pastors are brought into the most hindering and injurious contact with common worldly things and inferior Church duties. The Pauline idea is, that God has bestowed a variety of gifts upon his Church, and the true conception of his Church is only realized when each man uses faithfully his own gift without interfering with the gifts of others. The work of the Christian pastor is precisely this—by teaching and preaching to cultivate the spiritual life of believers. They should nourish so high and so vigorous a life and activity in the members of the Church as that each one might become, in his place, a light of God, a power for God; each one, in his own way, a holy force bringing in other souls to Christ. It does not matter what other work a pastor may do well, whether it be visiting or governing or writing, he is not faithful to his call and to his office unless by preaching he can speak to men "unto edification, and exhortation, and comfort." It would be a time of holiest revival for the Church of Christ, if her ministers might say, "For all other forms of work, look you out men from amongst you, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith, but we will give ourselves to the Word of the Lord and to prayer." If ministers could be more truly separated to their own proper work, they would bring, out of the deserts of holy stillness and quiet, the most heart stirring views of truth and the noblest spiritual influences. Moses came forth in power from the lonely wilderness. Elijah burst out as a sudden flash of Divine fire from the privacies and hidings of the desert. Our Lord himself had a scene of lonely stillness and struggle on the threshold of his ministry, and his story tells of nights on the desolate mountain brow, or in the shady garden outside the city. The Christian prophet can only come forth aright into his sphere, if he dwells in the "secret place of the Most High, and abides under the shadow of the Almighty."
II. THE PROPER INFLUENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN PROPHET WITHIN HIS SPHERE. His sphere is the Church. He is to be a spiritual power upon its members. That is work enough for any man. To do it aright he must know all the forms and influences of human sorrow; he must understand, and find the antidote for, all the subtleties, devices, and diseases of temptation and of evil; he must win the power to sympathize in every joy that gladdens, and in every sorrow that clouds, the Christian heart. He must be able keenly, critically, to estimate the spirit of the age, "the signs of the times," the tone of social, moral, and religions life, so as to judge aright of the atmosphere in which Christian life has to be lived. He must have a wide acquaintance with the history of Christian thought, and with the books exerting present influence upon the Christian mind. He must be deeply read in the mystery and meaning of God's great Book, so that, "like a scribe instructed to the kingdom, he may bring forth out of his treasury things new and old." Surely all this is a full life-work for any man. Observe the specific terms by which St. Paul describes the Christian prophet's influence.
1. Edification—a term bearing immediate relation to Christian growth. There is to be growth, under pastoral influence, in knowledge, in character, in the great grace of self denial, in control over the bad passions and inclinations of a corrupt nature, and growth in practical devotedness to all works of charity. Upbuilding on all these sides must be continued, if the plan of the Divine Architect is to be seen gaining completion in the temple of our life.
2. Exhortation—a term bearing relation to Christian dangers, failings, and temptations. Warnings, revelations of the evils of sin, searching pictures of the common experience of frail men, calls to neglected duties—these are "exhortations," and a faithful ministry must deal largely with them. It must reach the worldly minded, the almost drunken, the man whose hands are stained with dishonest or ungenerous deeds, the injurer of the widow and the fatherless, the selfish, the proud, the unforgiving. He must "warn all the wicked from the error of their way."
3. Comfort—a term bearing relation to Christian sorrows. The pastor's words are to be holy words of quiet, tender memories of past goodnesses, gentle whispers of the stability of the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, which may lift suffering souls up to their rest in the bosom of the heavenly Father, and lull the tired heart into a sweet sleep upon the "everlasting arms." What would Christian life be without its comfortings? It is no little thing that our pastors can bring balm for wounded hearts; leaves for the healing of bruised hearts; whispers of the eternal love for doubting hearts; and upliftings for downcast, tear-filled eyes, so that they may see the great High Priest "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," and "tempted even as we are."—R.T.
1 Corinthians 14:5
The Church's edification the object sought in the trust of Christian gifts.
"That the Church may receive edifying." In classifying the Christian gifts, talents, and endowments, the first broad distinction to be made is between such as direct attention to the possessor, and such as give the possessor a gracious power of influence on others. Gifts which glorify the man who has them are not to be despised; but the apostle conceived that gifts which take men out of themselves, and only find their exercise in the help and blessing of others, are rather to be sought. The man who can speak in ecstatic language or in an unknown tongue, may seem to be supremely endowed, and men may be disposed to envy his gift; but it only draws attention to him; it only excites feeling; it bears no relation either to intellectual or moral culture. It serves its ends, and possibly these are simply to call attention to Christian preaching, and bring men into relation with the Christian teachers. The question which decides our estimate of the value of the different gifts is this—How does each bear upon spiritual profit; upon the edifying of the Church? "The teacher of religious truth to others, who thereby builds up the whole edifice of the body of Christ, is a greater one than he who is himself benefited by being possessed of profound but uncommunicable emotion." Opening this point, we notice—
I. THE INTEREST OF THE INDIVIDUAL IN THE CHURCH. The Church is a body made up of units; but it is not a mere aggregation of units; every unit is related vitally with every other unit, and in mutual helpfulness a common life is maintained. Schism comes when the interest of the individual is centred in self. The useless members of a Church are those who are satisfied to get, not to give. Each member ought even to nourish his own personal piety with a view to aid the healthiness and vigour of the whole body. Illustrate by the modern discovery of the formation of living beings from germ cells. These do not lie side by side; they divide and form new cells, so that every single cell may be said to be in the whole creature, interested in the vitality of the whole.
II. THE PROOF OF THAT INTEREST IN THE DEVOTION AND USE OF INDIVIDUAL GIFTS. Gifts are not personal privileges, signs of special favour to individuals; they are always trusts committed to individual members of the Church for the use and benefit of the whole. A man only looks at his gift aright when, in the presence of the Church, he says, "This gift is for you; I hold it for your use. Find me the sphere in which I may serve you best in the use of the gift." How sublime the riches and strength of Christ's Church would be if each endowed man and woman would lay his gifts on the altar of the Church's service!
III. THE CULTURE AND PROGRESS OF THE CHURCH ARE ONLY SECURED BY SUCH DEVOTION AND USE OF GIFTS. Illustrate by taking the separate endowments and fitting them to their parts of the Church's edifying. Take:
1. The aesthetic or artistic gift; show how it bears upon the culture of the Church's sense of the beautiful, helping thus to worthy conceptions of one side of the Divine nature.
2. The musical gift; showing how it bears upon edifying by the relief of overcharged feeling, and aids in knitting the Church together by the common expression of common emotions.
3. The preaching and teaching gift; which stands related to mental culture, intellectual edification.
4. The literary gift; which in these days becomes the great defensive agency, by which the evils of the Church are kept off from her, so that she may duly thrive and grow. Others may be mentioned, or subdivisions of these may be taken. Press the importance of encouraging in each member full loyalty to the Church; and show that this becomes a valuable agency in spiritual edification, because it ensures the full and self denying devotement of all the members' powers to the Church's well being. The true and full upbuilding of a Church includes many things, great and small, and so there is need for the use of what we estimate as lesser and greater gifts.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 14:7-11
Christian intelligence the medium of Christian growth.
The point presented in these verses appears to be that the Church is not really edified, save as the teachings presented to it appeal to the understanding. "Everything for use, and everything in its place, is a rule, the apostle is saying, that holds in spiritual gifts and exercises, as in everything else. If you speak with tongues, let it not be as only making strange noises, but let some one interpret, that the tongues may edify, and not be sounds without a meaning. It will not do for Christians to be more unmeaning and idle in spiritual gifts than even things without life themselves, the pipes, and harps, and trumpets, and drums of music; for these, when they give a sound, give it with distinctions that have a meaning and a power, else they are nought to us. Are voices and tongues to be less intelligent and significant than tubes of unconscious horn or metal?" (H. Bushnell, D.D.). Inquire:
1. How far it is true that all influences bearing upon the edification of the Church must appeal to the understanding. So far as edification includes right views of truth and right feelings about truth, the fitting acceptance of a Divine revelation, and the worthy expression of the principles declared in that revelation, the appeal must be to the mind.
2. Under what limitations must this statement be set. John Howe says, "Nor do I believe it can ever be proved that God never doth immediately testify his own special love to holy souls, without the intervention of some part of his eternal Word, made use of as a present instrument to that purpose, or that he always doth it in a way of methodical reasoning therefrom." God usually works through the understanding, but he may use influences which bear at once upon heart and emotion. It must be observed, however, that such influences are but of temporary benefit, if they are not duly supported by intellectual considerations and mentally established principles.
3. Argue from these points the value and importance of an adequately educated and fully cultured ministry; showing, and efficiently illustrating, the relations of such an instructive ministry to
(1) family piety,
(2) liberal apprehensions of revealed truth,
(3) social intercourse of Christian people, and
(4) sober Christian activities.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 14:20
The Christian both a child and a man.
The apostolic counsel here given bears immediate relation to the exaggerated estimate of the value of the "gift of tongues" which prevailed in the Church at Corinth. "Their conduct in exalting these 'tongues,' against which he has been warning them, is a proof that they are yet children in knowledge. They ought to be full grown; the only thing in which they ought to be children is evil, and in that they cannot be too young, too inexperienced; they should be merely 'infants.'" There is a sense in which all Christians must be children. There is a sense in which all Christians must be "men," "perfect," "full grown." To express the thought of the apostle in a sharply defined sentence—"Be childlike, but not childish." Refer to Bible sentiments about children. It seems always impressed with the little idea of evil which young children have. Take a thousandfold forms of human sin and transgression, and you will find that the little child can form no conception of the meanings of the terms in which you express them. The young child is the type of simplicity and innocence. But, in this passage, the apostle is rather thinking of the friendliness of children, of their readiness to forgive; they seldom or ever are found "bearing malice." Illustrating the point that the Christian should be both a child and a man, we notice—
I. WHAT CHILD CHARACTERISTICS SHOULD WE FIND IN A CHRISTIAN? George Macdonald, in a Christmas sermon, given in 'Adela Cathcart,' very suggestively says, "It is as if God spoke to each of us according to our need: My son, my daughter, you are growing old and cunning; you must grow a child again, with my Son, this blessed birth time. You are growing old and selfish; you must become a child. You are growing old and careful; you must become a child. You are growing old and distrustful; you must become a child. You are growing old, and petty, and weak, and foolish; you must become a child—my child; like the baby there, that strong sunrise of faith and hope and love, lying in his mother's arms in the stable." The characteristics of child nature which ought to be found, nourished into the fulness of beauty, in Christian hearts and lives are such as these—each will prove suggestive of illustration
(5) absence of self consciousness;
"If these things be in you and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:8).
II. WHAT MANLY CHARACTERISTICS SHOULD WE FIND IN A CHRISTIAN? A man differs from a child in this, that what he is he is by force of will, and not as a mere accident of his being. What in a child we properly call innocence, in a man we call virtue. The proper manly characteristics are such as
(1) self control;
(2) cultured intelligence;
(6) generous estimate of motives;
(7) self sacrifice.
It is true that the Christian estimate of the manly is not precisely that which the world favours. The world has ever chiefly extolled the active virtues, and associated the passive virtues almost exclusively with womanhood. But in the Lord Jesus Christ has been presented to us the perfect type of manhood: we can concieve or wish nothing higher or more sublime; and we find the passive and active virtues fully represented and harmoniously blended in him. The world's best thought of manhood and womanhood meet in him; and so woman and man can make him their ideal. Nothing can be sublimer for a life aim than to seek to be a child as Jesus was, and, at the same time, to be a man as noble as Jesus was.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 14:20
The power of Christianity on intellect.
This text directly encourages the cultivation of intellect, and supposes that Christianity will exert a practical and helpful influence on such cultivation.
I. CHRISTIANITY WILL HELP TO MAKE US INTELLECTUAL MEN. Christianity recognizes no model, ideal man, save one whose whole circle of faculties has been duly developed, and certainly that noble part, the mind. It presents to us its ideal man in the person of Jesus Christ; there we see what it proposes to bring all men up to, and behold, in the very beginnings of Christ's life we read that "he grew in wisdom and in stature," exhibiting a surprising intelligence, which astonished the great doctors in the temple. A willingly ignorant Christian is an anomaly, a strange being, an imperfection, essentially incomplete; he has not felt, or he has resisted, the full force of the Christly principles and requirements.
1. Christianity comes into the world to rescue man from his fallen condition. Man's self willed fall involved his mind as well as his will, and the restorative applies to the fallen mind. The mind suffered sadly, lost its guiding truth, lost its harmonies, lost its place of rule, which was usurped by the passions of the body.
2. History confirms the relation of Christianity to intellect. Illustrate times of Wickliffe and Luther, etc.
3. The Christian services and duties help the intellect. Other religions are mostly ceremonial, making only routine demands. Christian services are essentially spiritual things, applications of mind to God's written Word, contemplations of Divine and heavenly realities, ordering of the thoughts so as to fashion them into prayers; these, and many other things, actually, by their own direct influence, storing and training the mind. The public Christian worship is intelligent. Its praises are expressed in the words of cultivated poets. Our Bible is the utterance of learning as well as of inspiration. Our preaching is the product of study and thought, and its appeal is made to the understanding as well as to the heart.
4. Christianity, with its revelations and doctrines, provides the very best food for the mind. It is the highest of sciences. It is the philosophy of the Infinite and the Absolute—it is the science of God.
5. Christianity makes the cultivation of the intellect a matter of direct counsel. It bids us "with all our getting get understanding," and assures us that "wisdom is to be chosen rather than riches." And the apostle complains that the believers do not mentally grow as fast as they should—that he has to feed them with the milk of first principles, when they ought to be able to take the strong meat of the Christian mysteries. If this be the relation of Christianity to mind, then two things are manifest.
(1) Those men are utterly wrong who sneer at religion as a weak thing, and affirm that there is an antagonism between reason and revelation.
(2) We are quite in the spirit of the religion which we profess, when we do our utmost to take our stand honourably among the intellectual men of our day. Our very religion helps us "in understanding to be men."
II. CHRISTIANITY PREVENTS OUR BECOMING INTELLECTUALLY PROUD MEN. It does so:
1. By announcing mysteries that are at present unfathomable by the human intelligence.
2. By making clear the distinction between speculation and knowledge.
3. By setting forth prominently its teaching of man's entire dependence on the Divine help. If we know anything, we know it only as God's revelation to us.
III. CHRISTIANITY KEEPS US FROM BEING ONLY INTELLECTUAL MEN. The mind may be cultivated and the morals neglected, so that a man may become dry, and cold, and hard, and unlovely. Men may be mentally vigorous and morally weak; intellectual giants, but slaves to passion. Christianity keeps men from this
(1) by proposing to harmonize man's whole nature by beginning with the regeneration of his heart; and
(2) by carefully developing the character and the moral qualities. Asking the love of the soul for God manifested in Jesus, it quickens and strengthens and nourishes every moral good, every moral power, and helps a man to grow healthily on every side of his nature, so as to develop into the "stature of the perfect man."—R.T.
1 Corinthians 14:24
Preaching to unbelievers.
Previously the apostle had shown that the proper sphere of the Christian prophet was the teaching of the Church, so that its members might be edified, exhorted, and comforted. Now he intimates that this is not the only influence exerted by Christian prophesying; it has its power also on the "unbeliever" and the "unlearned." In the early Church the claims of worship were met by attendance on the temple and synagogue services, and the Christian meetings were, at first, simply gatherings for edification, and prayer; so preaching and teaching were the prominent features of them. Gradually worship and edification became united in the Christian meetings, and a Christian cult, as well as Christian doctrine, was formulated. Then a greater publicity was given to the meetings; unbelievers were allowed to come in, and the preaching came to bear direct relation to them. We observe that—
I. A FAITHFUL MINISTRY WILL BE A POWER ON UNBELIEVERS. It may seem that a ministry adapted to believers is not suited for the arresting, convincing, and converting of the impenitent; and this is made a complaint against those who occupy the pastoral office. It may be advisable that for this particular work a class of evangelists, or missioners, should be raised up, but it may fairly be urged that in the regular Church ministry there should be, and may be, a real converting power. For:
1. Faithful preaching is the exertion of spiritual power; and this all must feel and respond to, in greater or less degree. When God speaks to men by tempests, plague, or famine, every one must feel it more or less; all must hear the voice. An assembled congregation is for the time shut in with God, and all must feel, in some degree, caught by the power of God. We have many cases, in history and within experience, in which the results have been much grander than the means used could indicate. Illustrate by the day of Pentecost, times of revival, seasons of hallowed emotion in Christian services. These are times of spiritual power which all must feel, times of life or of death to men.
2. Faithful preaching wilt liberate and arouse the human conscience. The preaching which fills believers with a new sense of God will arouse the conscience of unbelievers to the conviction of his existence and claims. The preaching that reveals the deep horror, the moral helplessness, and the final ruin of the sinner, will stir the conscience of all who hear it. The things that lull the Christian conscience to sleep are the very things which lull to sleep the sinner's conscience. Men's "refuges of lies," from which they have to be driven, are much the same.
3. Faithful preaching must include the aspects of truth directly suited to reach the unbeliever. He who would "declare the whole counsel of God" must be often dealing with the simplest foundation truths. He speaks to many weak, unlearned believers, who cannot bear "strong meat," and so he must be very often laying down the groundwork of hope; and every sermon may thus gain its helpful adaptation to unbelievers. We have to be constantly presenting such great first principles as these: "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." God is the Father of all the human race. He finds expression for his Fatherhood in a gracious redemption of his erring children. The Divine Spirit is the source of all goodness in man. Jesus is the only, but he is the all sufficient Saviour. Apart, then, from those direct appeals which ministers may be at times constrained to make, their whole preaching should prove a power unto salvation.
II. A FAITHFUL MINISTRY WILL EXERT A PARTICULAR KIND OF POWER ON UNBELIEVERS. 1 Corinthians 14:24, 1 Corinthians 14:25, speak of three things:
(2) knowledge of self;
(3) sense of God.
1. Impression. "He is convinced of all." He is interested, seized, held to thought, even, it may be, against his will. The trifles that agitated him are gone; his purpose in coming is forgotten; he is impressed, held by the force of preached truth. Illustrate by scenes in the itinerant labours of George Whitefield or John Wesley.
2. Knowledge of self. "Secrets of heart made manifest." Sometimes the minister seems to us as if he knew all about us. He brings to memory our wrong doings, he reveals to us our bad motives, our heart wrongness. We see the corruptness of our inclinations and purposes. We feel convicted of the master sin of ungodliness.
3. Sense of God. (Verse 25.) The merely shadowy thought of God becomes substance, the idea becomes reality. In the sanctuary God seems to come out of the dim distance and look us in the face. God's claims and relations go searchingly through our souls. God's love and redemption seem to be great glories far up out of our reach. The minister's sense of God is borne in upon us, compelling us to say, "God! What is God to me?" So sabbath preaching is the savour of life or of death to us all. Under its influence are we being won to God? If not, what shall we say? O guilty will, that decides not for Christ! O mournful worldliness, that plucks men back from the very threshold of life!—R.T.
1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Corinthians 14:35
Woman's place in Christian worship.
Three points may be taken for due explanation and enforcement.
I. The Eastern, Jewish, and pagan sentiments concerning the public position and relations of woman.
II. The practical difficulties which arose when women were converted to Christianity, and became conscious of personal religious life, and the endowment of spiritual gifts.
III. The ways in which St. Paul's teachings on this subject require to be modified in adaptation to Western civilization, and the wiser, better conceptions of woman's mission, which are happily characteristic of modern times.—R.T.