« السابقةمتابعة »
rivers of blood, with which thou hast deluged accursed!" Gal. i. 8, 9. Do we always keep the earth, and which thy reign has caused to in sight while we are working in the building be shed! May God blot out of his book the of the church, "the pattern showed to us in injuries which thou hast done us, and while he the mount?" Heb. viii. 5. You ought to be rewards the sufferers, may he pardon those attentive, diligent, and teachable. who exposed us to suffer! O may God, who make an odious mixture of truth and error, has made thee to us, and to the whole church," Christ and Belial, light and darkness? you a minister of his judgments, make thee a dispenser of his favours, an administrator of his mercy!
I return to you, my brethren, I include you all in my benedictions. May God pour out his Holy Spirit upon all this assembly! God grant this year may be to us all an acceptable year, a preparation for eternity! "Drop down ye heavens from above, let the skies pour down righteousness, let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation."
It is not enough to wish for these blessings; they must be procured, and we must derive them from the source. It is not sufficient that a frail man utters benedictions in your favour, we must pray for a ratification of them by the happy God. We must go to the throne of God himself, wrestle with him, earnestly beseech him with prayers and tears, and "not let him go except he bless us." Magistrates, people, soldiers, citizens, pastors, flock, come let us bow our knees before the Monarch of the world: and you birds of prey, devouring cares, worldly anxieties, be gone, and interrupt not our sacrifice.
THE DIFFERENT METHODS OF
1 CORINTHIANS iii. 11-15. Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones; wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.
HAD rules of preaching sermons no connexion with those of hearing them, we would not have treated of this text in this place. Satisfied with meditating on it in the study, we would have chosen a subject in which you would have been more directly interested. But what doctrine can we preach to you, which does not engage you to some dispositions, that cannot be neglected without hazarding the great salvation, for the sake of which you assemble in this holy place? Are we such enemies to truth, or do we so ill understand it, as to teach you a doctrine contrary to that, which the Holy Spirit has laid down in Scripture? If so, you should remember the saying of an apostle, and, animated with a holy indignation, should exclaim, "Though you, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto us than that which we have received, let him be
ought to exercise your senses to discern good from evil. It is this inseparable connexion of your duty with ours, which determined me to explain the text. It directly regards the various methods of the preachers of the gospel: but as the terms are metaphorical and obscure, it will be necessary to develope the meaning of the apostle in the following manner.
First, we will examine what gave occasion for the words-next, we will observe the design of the apostle in writing them-in the third place, we will explain the several figures made use of-and lastly, we will apply the subject to practice.
I. The occasion of the text will appear by a little attention to the connexion in which it stands. St. Paul had been endeavouring to put an end to the divisions of the church at Corinth, and to destroy the party-spirit of the Corinthians. Ought we to be astonished, that churches are so little unanimous now, when we see diversity often among apostles and primitive Christians? If peace, left by Jesus Christ as an inheritance to his apostles, could not be maintained in churches gathered by these blessed men, where must we look for it? Perhaps, division was partly owing to the imprudence of some preachers in their primitive churches: but certainly their hearers had a chief hand in fomenting them. The teachers had different gifts, and their hearers divided into parties under their ministry. It is always allowable to distinguish men, who have received great talents from God, from such as have received abilities not so great; but these Corinthian Christians affected to exalt those of their ministers, who they thought, were men of the most eminent abilities, to the depression and discouragement of the rest, and under pretence of paying homage to God the giver of these talents, they very indiscreetly idolized the men who had received them. Moreover, they made as many different religions, as God had given different commissions, and different abilities to ministers to execute them. Each party at Corinth chose out of these pretended religions, that which appeared most conformable to its prejudices. The converted Pagans were for St. Paul, to whom the conversion of the gentiles had been committed, and who had brought them to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and they said, for our parts, 66 we are of Paul." Such as had a taste for eloquence were for Apollos, who was an "eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures," and they said,
we are of Apollos." The converted Jews were for Peter, who discovered a great deal of moderation towards their ceremonies, and who had even compelled the gentiles to live as the Jews did," that is to mix the simple worship of the New Testament with the ceremonial observances of the law, and they said, as for us, "we are of Cephas." And those Jews, who obstinately continued the ceremony of circumcision, pretended that they had no need
200 OF PREACHERS.
of the authority either of Paul, or of Apollos,
St. Paul tells these Corinthians, that, as
Having reproved the folly, and repeated the descriptive censure, he leads them to the true motive that should induce them to avoid it. Although, as if he had said, the talents of your ministers are not all equal, yet they all received them from the same source, that is, from the grace of God; and how amply soever any of them may be endowed with abilities, they can have no success, except the same "Who then is Paul, and grace bestows it. who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, as the Lord gave to every man," ver. 5, that is, as the blessing of God accompanied their ministry? "I have planted, Apollos watered: but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase," ver. 8. A great lesson for those to whom God has given gifts to preach the gospel! A fine example of humility, which they ought always to have before their eyes! And what were the gifts, with which God enriched the first heralds of the gospel? What is a little vivacity of imagination, a little grace of elocution, a little reading, a little justness of reasoning? What are these talents in comparison with the gifts of men, who spoke several foreign languages, who understood all mysteries, who altered the laws of nature, who were dis-i pensers of the divine power, who raised the dead, who slew the wicked with the breath of their lips, who struck dead at their feet Ananias and Sapphira, and to say more still, who were immediately conducted by the spirit of God in their ministry? Yet behold the man, who was first in this class of extraordinary men, behold this chosen vessel, behold the man who could say, "I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles," 2 Cor. xi. 5, behold him, doing homage for all his own talents, and all those of his colleagues, to that grace, from which they came, and which blessed the administration of them. "Who is Paul? Who is Apollos? He that planteth is nothing, he that watereth is nothing, but God that giveth the increase."
II. It was to be feared (we proceed to the
If this were doubtful in regard to the preach-
The design of St. Paul in our text is to rectify our judgment on this subject. For this purpose he divides preachers into three classes. The first are such as preach the word of man, not only different from the word of God, but directly in opposition to it. The second preach the pure word of God without human mixtures. The third do indeed make the word of God the ground of their preaching, but The apostle characterizes these three mix with it the explications and traditions of men. kinds of preachers, informs us of their destination, and what account God will require of their ministry.
1. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid." This is directed against such miposition to the word of God, or the doctrine nisters as preach the word of man in direct op
of Jesus Christ. What will be the destination of such ministers? St. Paul tells us by affirming, no man can preach, no man can lay any other foundation than that is laid." No man can! Not that this can never happen. Alas! This has too often happened; witness many communities, which under the Christian name subvert all the foundations of the Christian religion. But no man can do so without rendering himself guilty of the greatest crime, and exposing himself to the greatest punishment.
2. "If any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones." These are ministers, who preach the pure word of God. They not only retain all the fundamental points of the Christian religion, in opposition to the former who subvert them: but they explain these truths so as to affirm nothing inconsistent with them. All the inferences they draw from these great principles naturally proceed from them, and their whole doctrine is agreeable to the foundation on which it is built. On this account it is compared to "gold, silver, and precious stones." What shall be the destiny of these ministers in the great day of judgment, when their doctrine shall be examined? They "shall receive a reward." They shall share the glorious promises made to faithful ministers of religion.
3. "If any man build upon this foundation, wood, hay, stubble." These are ministers who really make the word of God the ground of their preaching: but who mix the word of man with it, and disfigure it with their fanciful sophistry. When the doctrine of these ministers shall be examined in the great day of judgment, what shall their destiny be? " They themselves shall be saved," because they have taught nothing directly contrary to the essential truths of Christianity: but they shall have no reward for exercising a ministry, in which they rendered the word of God of less effect by mixing with it the traditions of men, and they shall be "saved, yet so as by fire," that is, with difficulty, because their preaching occupied the time and attention of their hearers, in a manner unworthy of the disciples of Jesus Christ.
This is, my brethren, a general view of the design of our text: but this is not sufficient to give an exact knowledge of it. In a discourse intended to prevent, or to eradicate a certain kind of superstition, nothing ought to be proposed that is likely to cherish it. You should not be required to believe any thing without the most full and convincing evidence. Having therefore shown you the general design of the text, we will proceed to our third article, and explain the several metaphors made use of in it.
III. Although all these figurative expressions are selected with caution, and very bold, yet they are not all alike obscure to you. Which of you is such a novice, I do not say only in the style of the inspired authors, as not to know the idea affixed to the term foundation? In architecture they call those massy stones laid in the earth, and on which the whole building rests, foundations; and thus in moral things, particularly in sciences, founda
tions signify some propositions, without which all the rest that make the body cannot subsist.
The foundation is Jesus Christ. These terms are to be understood in this place, as in many others, of the Christian religion, which is called Jesus Christ, not merely because Jesus Christ taught it to the world, but because his history, that is, his sufferings, his death, and his resurrection, are the principal subjects. In this sense, the apostle says, "he determined not to know any thing among" the Corinthians "save Jesus Christ and him crucified,” that is, the Christian religion, of which the crucifixion of Christ is a principal article.
The other emblems, "wood, hay, stubble; gold, silver, precious stones," seem evidently to convey the ideas which we just now affixed to them. As St. Paul here represents the doctrine of preachers under the similitude of an edifice, it is natural to suppose, that "wood, hay, and stubble," especially when they are opposed to "gold, silver, and precious stones," should mean doctrines less considerable, either because they are uncertain, or unimportant.
For the same reason, "gold, silver, precious stones," signify in the edifice of the church, or in the system of preachers, such doctrines as are excellent, sublime, demonstrable. In this sense the prophet Isaiah, describing the glory of the church under the government of the Messiah, says, "behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones," chap. liv. 11, 12, and, by way of explaining this metaphorical language, he adds in the very next words, "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children."
There is a little more difficulty, at least there are many more opinions on the meaning of those words, "Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is." Without detailing, and refuting erroneous opinions on these words, let it suffice that we point out the true sense. By the "day" we understand the final judgment. This day is called in many passages of Scripture the day" of the Lord," the "day," or that day by excellence. Thus the apostle, "Jesus Christ shall confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord," chap. i. 8. Thus, also, speaking of the temporal punishment of the incestuous person, he says, "deliver such a one unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus," chap. v. 5. So again, "I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded, that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day," 2 Tim. i. 12. In that day "every man's work shall be revealed," or "made manifest by fire." It is not astonishing, that fire should be joined here with the day of judgment. The Scripture teaches us in more than one place, that the terrible day of judgment will verify in the most dreadful of all senses this declaration, "God maketh winds his angels," and "flam
cularly of the doctrines of ministers of the gospel. For this purpose he compares the trial with that of metals by fire. Says he, the different doctrines of ministers of the gospel shall then be put into a crucible that they may be fully known, as by the same process pure gold is separated and distinguished from foreign matter mixed with it: "Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day," that is, the day of judgment, "shall declare it," because it shall be "revealed by fire," that is, the day of judgment like "fire," applied to metals "shall try every man's work, of what sort it is."
ing fire his ministers."* Hence the psalmist | we try gold in the fire. I return to the text, says, "the mighty God, even the Lord hath which I left only for the sake of explaining it spoken, and called the earth from the rising the better. St. Paul here represents the day of of the sun unto the going down thereof. A judgment as a time of the most exact and fire shall devour before him," Ps. 1. 1. Agree-severe trials of the actions of men, and partiably to which our apostle says, "the Lord Jesus, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe, shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God," 2 Thes. vii. 10. 8. Though all these passages cast light on the text, yet strictly speaking, I think the apostle presents the fire of the day of judgment here under an idea somewhat different from that given in all these passages. In these, fire is represented as punishing only the wicked, the righteous do not feel the action of it: but here in the text it is described as alike kindled for the righteous and the wicked; at least it is said that the works of both shall be "revealed by fire." Now we should be obliged to have recourse to some subterfuge to make sense of the text, if we understood the apostle speaking of the fire of hell. How can the works of the righteous and the wicked be equally manifested by the fire of hell?
The apostle, pursuing the same metaphor, adds, "If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward," that is, if the doctrine which a minister of the gospel shall have taught, and built on "the foundation that is laid," if this doctrine shall abide the trial of the day of judgment, as gold abides that of fire, the preacher I think a much more simple and natural ex- shall receive a reward: but if his doctrine position may be given of the words of the text. burn, if it will not abide this trial, if it be like The chief design of a day of judgment is to the foreign matter mixed with gold, and which examine the actions of men, and to distinguish burns when gold is tried with fire, then the bad actions from good, and good from better. preacher will lose the honour and pleasure of This is an idea contained in a thousand pas- his work, he will have no reward for his minissages of Scripture, and it would be useless to terial services: but as to himself, perhaps he prove it. Now the apostle, in order to make may be saved, however, he will be saved with us understand that the evidence shall be com- difficulty, "he will be saved as by fire." Why plete, represents it under the similitude of the may he be saved? Because his doctrine did most perfect and best known trials among not go to the subversion of the principal truths men, of which that of metal by fire certainly of the Christian religion. Why will he be excels in its kind. Hence it is, that the sacred saved with difficulty? Because his doctrine writers have chosen this to explain the trials was inconsistent with the dignity of Christiwhich God makes his children go through in anity. Why is the salvation of such a man this world. I select only one passage out of a uncertain? Because it is possible, that the great number, "That the trial of your faith, motives which induced him to preach such a being much more precious than of gold that doctrine, and to prefer it before what St. Paul perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might compares to "gold and precious stones," may be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, have been so detestable as to deserve all the at the appearance of Jesus Christ," 1 Pet. i. punishments denounced against such as shall 7. The trial of your faith is a remarkable have subverted the foundation of the gospel. word in the original. Good Greek authors If you doubt whether the sense we have given use it for the trial of metals in the fire. Iso-to this metaphorical expression, "saved as by crates uses the term exactly as St. Peter does,
* Psalm civ. 4. The English version is-Who maketh his angels spirits: his ministers a flaming fire. Mr. Saurin understands the words, as above, expressive of the divine influence over the power of nature, and reads, who maketh winds and fires, literally, his instruments, or figuratively, his messengers. This is perfectly agreeable first, to the original terms-secondly, to the context, who walketh upon the wings of the wind-who maketh clouds his chariot-who sitteth on waters-whose canopy is the heavens. Whose clothing is light. This whole psalm, the most sublime of all essays on nature, makes all parts of the universe particles of one body of majestic size, and exact symmetry, of which the Psalmist's God, JEHOVAH, is the soul; the earth, the deep, mountains, valleys, beasts, fowls, grass, herbs, oil, wine, man, and all his movements, the skill that builds, and sails a ship, and the sensations that make leviathan play, all these, all the parts and powers of nature, are formed, animated, and directed by God. Thirdly, this sense is agreeable to other passages of Scripture-the Lord, rained fire, Gen. xix. 24. The Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind, Exod. xiv. 21. Fire and hail, snow and vapour, stormy wind, fulfilling his word, Ps. cxlviii.
fire," be just, we beg leave to observe in three words that it is well founded.
First, the sense given is not forced, for nothing is more natural than to express a great difficulty by similitudes taken from difficult things, thus we say a man escaped from shipwreck, to describe a man who has escaped from any great danger: and the same idea is expressed with equal aptness, when we say a man freed from some great danger has escaped the fire.
Secondly, the metaphor is not only just but beautiful in itself, but it is common in profane writers. In this manner Emilius Paulus, to show that he had hardly escaped the rage of the populace during his first consulship, says, that he escaped a popular conflagration, in which he was half burnt. In like manner Cicero, speaking of the miseries of life, says, that it would be better not to be born, but that if we have the misfortune to be born, the most
advantageous thing is to die soon, and to flee from the hands of fortune as from a conflagration.
passages of Scripture, which tell us that "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, that "he that believeth is passed from death unto life," that when "the righteous dieth, he is taken from the evil to come, and shall enter into peace," Rom. viii. 1; John v. 24; and Isa. lvii. 1, 2. A doctrine founded on a thousand visions and fabulous tales, more fit for times of pagan darkness than days of evan
Thirdly, the metaphor in the text is common in other parts of Scripture, as in Amos, "I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning," chap. iv. 11. The apostle Jude adopts the same figure, and says, save others with fear, pull-gelical light; a sordid doctrine that evidently ing them out of the fire," ver. 13.
By establishing the true sense of the text on solid grounds, I think we have sufficiently refuted all erroneous opinions concerning it, and yet there are two, which for different reasons I cannot help mentioning.
owes its being to that base interest, which it nourishes with profusion, luxury, and extravagance; a barbarous doctrine, which produces in a dying man a dreadful expectation of passing from the agonies of dying to whole ages of greater agony in flames of fire.
Thanks be to God we have no other concern with the first of these articles except that which compassion obliges us to take for the wickedness of such teachers, and the blindness of their hearers!
The first is the opinion of those, who think IV. Let us now proceed to examine with the apostle meant by the fire in the text the what eye we ought to consider the three sorts destruction of Jerusalem. This opinion has of preachers, of which the apostle speaks, and an air of probability, yet I do not think it so apply the subject to practice. The first are certain. The time of the destruction of Jeru- such as "lay another foundation" besides that salem is often called in Scripture, as well as which is laid. The second are those who the time of the final judgment, that day, the "build on the foundation," laid by the masterday of the Lord, and the calamities of the day builder, "wood, hay, and stubble." The third are represented under the idea of fire, and are such as build on the same foundation “gold, literally speaking, fire did make sad ravages in silver, and precious stones." Jerusalem and in the temple. However there is a deal of perplexity in the paraphrase given of the text by such as are of this opinion. This is it, exactly as we have transcribed it from a celebrated scholar. "The fire of the destruction of Jerusalem will prove whether the doctrines of your teachers be those of the gospel, or whether they be foreign notions. He whose doctrine will abide this trial, shall receive a reward: but he whose doctrine will not abide it, will lose the fruit of his ministerial labours." We said this opinion was probable: but we cannot say so with the least shadow of truth of the opinion of some of the church of Rome, who pretended that the apostle speaks here of the fire of purgatory.
What a strange condition is that of a man who employs his study, his reading, his meditation, his labours, his public and private discourses to subvert the foundations of that edifice which Jesus Christ came to erect among mankind, and which he has cemented with his blood! What a doctrine is that of a man, who presumes to call himself a guide of conscience, a pastor of a flock, an interpreter of Scripture, and who gives only false directions, who poisons the souls committed to his care, and darkBecause, suppose purgatory were taught in ens and tortures the word of God! Jesus other passages of Scripture, which we are very Christ, to confound the glosses of the false far from granting, great violence must be done teachers of his time, said, ye have heard that to this text to find the doctrine here; for on it was said by them of old time" so and so: supposition the apostle speaks of purgatory," but I say unto you" otherwise. The teachers, what do these words mean? The fire of purgatory shall try the doctrines of the ministers of the gospel, so that substantial doctrines, and vain doctrines shall be alike tried by this fire!
Because St. Paul says here of this fire things directly opposite to the idea which the church of Rome forms of purgatory. They exempt saints of the first order, and in this class St. Paul certainly holds one of the most eminent places: but our apostle, far from thinking himself safe from such a "trial by fire" as he speaks of in the text, expressly says, "every man's work" shall be tried, that is the work of ministers who shall have built on the foundation 'gold, silver, precious stones," shall be tried, as well as that of other ministers, who shall have built on the foundation "wood and stubble."
But the chief reason for our rejecting the comment of the church of Rome is the nature of the doctrine itself, in proof of which they bring the text. A heterodox doctrine, which enervates the great sacrifice that Jesus Christ offered on the cross for the sins of mankind; a doctrine directly opposite to a great number of
of whom I speak, use another language, and
But I say
If this disposition be deplorable considered in itself, it becomes much more so by attending