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lebration of the Lord's supper, where, says the apostle, “ every one taketh before another; and “one is hungry, and another is drunken.''y. I apprehend that these instances of disorder cannot be paralleled by the most irregular proceedings in our time, amongst any people that hold the principles which I am at present engaged to vindicate.
Many of the Corinthians, as well as the Galatians, had discovered great unsteadiness towards St. Paul, and had been seduced by false teachers and pretended apostles. 2 Inexperienced minds are very liable to such deceptions : meaning well themselves, they are too apt to listen to the fair words and fine speeches of those who lie in wait to deceive. The love of Christ, and the love of holiness, are the leading properties of a gracious heart; and such an one, till experience has made him wise, conceives a good opinion of all who profess a regard for Jesus, or for sanctification. He is not aware, at first, that there are those in the world who attempt to divide what God has joined to together. When the blood and righteousness of Christ are recommended, not as the source, but as a substitute for vital, experimental
y 1 Cor. xi, 21. z Yet he says of the Galatians, that when he first went among them, they received him as an angel of God, and, if possible, would have plucked out their own eyes to have given them to him, Gal. iv. 15. Great is the power of the Gospel ; it subdues and possesses the heart, and conciliates a tenderness and relation between ministers and people, nearer and dearer than the ties of Hesh and blood. But, alas, how great likewise is the inconstancy of mortals! The apostle experienced it to his grief; and where he had the greatest prospect, he was most disappointed. Those who once would have plucked out their own eyes for his service, afterwards accounted him their enemy for telling them the truth. We need not therefore wonder if there are instances of this kind at present.
religion, or when some other spirit is preached than that whose office it is to testify of Jesus; in either case the food of the soul is poisoned, and the evil begins to operate before it is perceived. Faithful ministers are accounted too low or too high, too strict or too remiss, according to the scheme newly adopted: they are first disregarded, and at length considered as enemies, because they persist in the truth, and refuse to suit thenselves to the new taste of their hearers. Thus error, once admitted, makes an alarming progress, and no power but that of God can stop it. Hence proceed divisions, subdivisions, distinctions, refinements, bitterness, strife, a envyings, and by degrees enthusiasm, in the worst sense of the word; an evil to be dreaded and guarded against no less earnestly than the beginning of a fire or a pestilence. Such trying circumstances will demonstrate who are indeed upon the right foundation; for others, having once begun to depart from the truth, grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived; and many who are built
upon the rock, and therefore cannot be totally or finally drawn away, yet suffer unspeakable loss; the “wood, hay, and stuble," the unadvised additions they have admitted to the Scriptural truths they once received, are burnt up in the time of temptation; they lose much of their comfort and stability, and have, in a manner, all to begin again. The world, that knows
a That bitterness and strife were too frequent in the pris mitive churches, appears from James, iii. 14.; Gal. v. 15. and other texts. Our Lord's admonition, Matt. vii. 3-5. has always been too little regarded ; and few are yet sufficiently convinced of the folly and absurdity of pointing out, and in an angry spirit condemning, the mistakes and faults of others, while we indulge greater in ourselves. Reformation (like modern charity) should begin at home.
1 Cor. iii. 10–15.
not the weakness of man, or the power and devices of Satan, laughs at those things, and expects to see them issue in a universal confusion, like that of Babel. In the same light, it is most probable, the Heathens beheld and derided the primitive Christians, for they likewise had their shaking and sifting times; many amongst them, who seemed to begin in the Spirit, were stopped short in their course by the arts of false teachers, to their great hinderance, and some to their final overthrow.
St. Paul addresses no one church in terms of greater tenderness and approbation than the Thessalonians. He commends their work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope, in our Lord Jesus, and mentions them as a pattern to the other churches in Macedonia and Greece. Yet even among these he understood there were “some who walked disorderly, and were busybodies, not working at all;" he strongly disapproved their conduct, declaring, that “if any would not work, neither should he eat."¢ When persons are newly awakened to a concern for their souls, and deeply impressed with the importance of eternity, it is no wonder considering the animal frame,) if their attention is so engaged and engrossed for a season, that they cannot attend to the affairs of common life with their usual alacrity and freedom. If their concern is
c 2 Thes. jii. 10, 11.
à Sec James, iv. 9 The word Karnpela, rendered heaviness, answers nearest to dejection, the derivation importing & downcast countenance; and it expresses that kind of sorrow which sinks the spirits, and fixes the eyes upon the earth. Something of this is usually discernible when a real conyiction of sin takes place in the heart. The inspired apostle recommends this temper and demeanour, as most suitable to the case of sinners who are destitute of faith and love, and cannot therefore rejoice upon good grounds; and yet,
of a right kind, they are gradually brought to peace and hope in believing. They recover their spirits; and their civil callings being now sanctified by a desire to glorify God in them, their diligence is not less, but frequently greater, than before; for now they act not to please men, or to please themselves, but what they do, they do heartily as to the Lord. However, amongst a number of people, natural temper, indiscretion, or inadvertence, may cause some to deviate froin the general rule; and though we cannot justify any who are remiss in the discharge of the relative duties of society, we may justify the doctrines and principles they acknowledge from the charge of leading them into this mistake, unless it can be proved that St. Paul's preaching was justly chargeable with the same fault.
But these are small things compared to what he
says in another place. He complains to the Philippians in this affecting language "Many walk (not some only, but many), of whom I have told you often, and now tell you, even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of
Christ; whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, who mind earthly things.” St. Paul had occasion to express himself thus, and that again and again, even in the golden days of primitive Christianity. Could their worst enemies have given them a worse character ? Can
when any person begins to be impressed in this manner, and to see the propriety of the apostle's advice, it frequently happens that all who know him, both friends and enemies, will agree to pronounce him disordered in his senses. So different, so opposite, are the Spirit of God and the spirit of the world.
e Phil. iii. 18, 19. What disagreeable things the apostle was apprehensive of meeting, when he should revisit Corinth, we may learu from 2 Cor. xii. 20, 21.
even malice itself desire to fix a harsher imputation upon any denomination of people now subsisting ? Yet these are the words of truth and soberness; the words of an inspired apostle; the words, not of resentment, but grief. He spoke of it weeping; he would willingly have hoped better things, but he knew what tempers and practices were inconsistent with a sincere acceptance of the Gospel; and, unless he would shut his
eyes and stop his ears, he could not but be sensible that many, who were reputed Christians, dishonoured the name of Christianity, and caused the ways of truth to be evil spoken of. Now what is the consequence ? Shall the apostle bear the blames of the evils and abominations he lamented ? for if he had not preached, these evils would not have appeared under the Christian
Shall the wickedness of his pretended followers be charged as the necessary effect of that pure and heavenly doctrine which he had delivered ? By no means. The grace of God, which he preached, taught and enabled those who received it in their hearts, “ to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world. If inquiry was made concerning the tendency of his doctrine, he could appeal to the tempers and
& The apostle knew that some did cr would presume to infer a liberty to sin from the doctrine which he preached, Rom. vi. 1 ; yet he would not suppress or disguise the truths of God to prevent such a poor disingenuous perversion. He knew likewise that no one, who had tasted that the Lord is gracious, can either form such a conclusion bimself, or listen to it if proposed by others; therefore he thought. it unnecessary to refute it at large. all we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid !” This is a sufficient answer. This absurd blaspheny exposes and confutes itself; the terms are inconsistent, impossible, and contradictory in the highest degree.