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mit, that the wicked will be condemned, endeavor to persuade themselves, that their condemnation will be only to a suffering of temporary continuance. But wherever the happiness of the one class, and the misery of the other, are spoken of, everlasting, or something equivalent, is always the term applied to both; and it would destroy the use of language to suppose the same term, in the same passage, so different in its signification. Besides, as the judgment of the great day will respect saints and sinners, how can it be eternal judgment, unless suffering, as well as happiness, be eternal! As it is not our province to decide, it would ill become us to say, that a belief in the doctrine of universal salvation, was never entertained by a christian, but we may with propriety, say, that the doctrine tends to licentiousness, and, that eternal judgment, or the judgment which eternally settles the condition of men, is reckoned by an inspired Apostle, among first principles in religion.
Having attended to the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, which the apostle calls milk, let us now inquire what he means by meat. This must be something more difficult to be apprehended, as meat is less easily digested than milk, and it is probably, what St. Peter refers to, when speaking of his beloved brother Paul's epistles, he observes that there are some things in them hard to be understood, St. Paul informed the Corinthians, that he adopted a different method of instruction towards some from what he had practised with them. Howbeit, we speak wisdom among
them that are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, which come to naught. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery; even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.
Nothing is necessary but a close attention to these words, to discover to what they refer. If we examine we shall find, that the hidden wisdom of which St. Paul speaks; the things hard to be understood mentioned by St. Peter; are not found in the epistles to the Corinthians, but in those writings which were addressed to the other churches. We need go no farther than the epistle to the Romans, find all those hard things, or that hidden wisdom which the apostle imparted to those who were perfect; to such as
were of full age; who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. The case of Jacob and Esau is one of the difficult cases, and that of Pharaoh is another. We have the history of these men, and when we read what St. Paul has written of them, we should, if we would understand it, compare it with the history. The historian and the apostle must both be correct in their statements, and what each has said may help to unfold the meaning of the other.
Had we been acquainted with Pharaoh, and had we seen his treatment of the people of Israel, we should undoubtedly have considered him like other tyrants; though hardened to an uncommon degree, and delighting in oppression, regardless of God, and of his fellow creatures. We are told that God hardened his heart; and, that he himself hardened it. The agency of God in this business is very apparent. God sent judgments, one after another upon this wicked man, because he would not consent that Israel should leave his land, and when he applied to Moses to intercede for him, God removed the judgments. As the judgments did not so humble him as to change his heart, he grew more rebellious in consequence of every deliverance, as is the case universally with sinners.
Of Esau it is said in the book of Genesis, that he despised his birthright; and in the epistle to the Hebrews he is called a profane person. If therefore he was an object of hatred to God, was his case peculiar, for God is angry with the wicked every day. That Esau was a wicked man is evident from his undervaluing the blessings of the birthright, which were principally, in that case, spiritual blessings; and from his marrying idolatrous women of Canaan, to the great grief of his parents. The two passages which the apostles cite, one from Genesis, and the other from Malachi, however they may suit the case of Jacob, and Esau, personally, evidently refer to their posterity. Esau never did serve Jacob in person, but the Edomites, descended from Esau, served the Israelites, descended from Jacob.
What St. Paul says of election, and of predestination, we know is hard to be understood, because it is so often misunderstood. To this perhaps St. Peter did not refer, because
he deals in the same doctrine, unless he has reference to something peculiarly hard in the manner of teaching, adopted by his brother apostle. All will grant that God has a knowledge of every thing which is to be, as well as of every thing which is, but all do not consider whether his knowledge is grounded on his determination, or his determination on his knowledge, and all do not see, that if predestination makes things certain, foreknowledge does the same. If we are all so inclined to evil as to be utterly averse to good, when we turn to God, it must be his power that turns us, and he who grants this, grants the substance of what is intended by election, and he who denies it may be inquired of, why he in his prayers, or in any other way acknowledges his dependance upon God.
We are secondly to inquire what was the character of the church at Corinth, when the apostle wrote this epistle. His own words will give us the best information. And I brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal; even as unto babes in Christ. As he did not deny, that the church was a church of Christ; he admitted the members to be, in a measure, spiritual, as babes in Christ must be; but there was great evidence of remaining carnality, and he pointed it out to them. For it hath been declared unto me of you my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Some have thought, that the Corinthians ranged themselves under other leaders, who were false teachers, and, that the apostle, to avoid the mention of them, intent only on the division, and contention, of the church, spoke of himself, and of his two brethren, as those who were considered to be heads of the parties. Others however are of a different opinion. It is not very essential, whether these men were intended, or others, whom the Corinthians might compare with them. Apollos, we know, was at Corinth, and preached to great acceptance.
Paul was a great reasoner, a deep logical man, whose preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power.
argumentative manner, was liis principal human recommendation. His bodily presence was weak, and by no means, such as to secure to him the favorable attention of his audience; and his speech, instead of being pleasant, and attractive, was so ungraceful, as to be called contemptible. With all these personal disadvantages, his letters were acknowledged to be weighty, and powerful, and his discourses must have been charged with the force of his mind. There were therefore among the Corinthians those who preferred him, or some man like him, to all other teachers.
It is not necessary to admit, that they who adhered to him, understood him, for often that is the most exalted, which is the least understood. The gift of speaking in an unknown tongue was more highly esteemed in the Corinthian church than the gift of prophesying. For this absurd preference of tongues to prophecy, the Apostle reproves them, and declares, 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. We may here see how strangely men judge; and, that those who adhered to Paul, did not adhere to him on account of the uncommon edification which they received from his preaching; but because they had formed an opinion of him, as a man singularly profound. They appear to have been like many others who bestow much commendation upon what they have heard without considering that if they have heard a good subject, ably discussed, they ought to take sast hold of instruction, and make it profitable to themselves.
Apollos was a very different man from Paul. He was a Jew, born at Alexandria; a celebrated city in lower Egypt; built by Alexander the great, soon after the destruction of Tyre; between three and four hundred years before Christ, Living here, Apollos might have had great advantages, particularly on account of the famous Alexandrian library, which, when it was destroyed by the Saracens, is said to have consisted of seven hundred thousand volumes. Though Apollos was mighty in the scriptures, his argumentative powers seem not to have formed his prominent distinction. Flognence was rather that in which he excelled. As an
orator he attracted the attention of many, and they preferred him to Paul; not because the matter of his discourse was superior, but because his manner of delivery was more graceful; and perhaps his stature and form were more commanding. A personable man, with a sonorous, pleasant voice, who can descant upon a subject, in a style easy and elegant, is usually popular, and will gather a crowd around him, to gaze at the splendor of his abilities, if no better motive has influence to collect them.
It has been thought that Apollos left Achaia, of which Corinth was the capital, because he was displeased with the attention which was bestowed upon him, from wrong motives. The character given of Apollos, forbids us to suppose that he made a display of his eloquence, from the vanity of his mind and to win followers to himself, for the words of Christ will universally hold true, He that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. The case was with him, especially at Corinth as it has often been with others; more regard was paid to the ambassador than to the commission under which he acted.
As Apollos was very different from Paul; Cephas, or as he is more commonly called, Peter, differed as much from them both. Apollos had been favored with instruction at Alexandria; Paul had been brought up at Jerusalem, at the feet of Gamaliel, a distinguished Jewish doctor; but Peter had had little or no education; and had followed the business of catching fish upon the sea of Galilee. This want of education, perhaps recommended him to those who chose him for a leader. Many are prejudiced against learning, and suppose, that he who cannot, with ordinary help, preach without it, cannot with it. Human nature being always the same, the proof of Peter's inspiration might appear stronger to some than that of Paul, or Apollos, for they might think, that with Paul and Apollos, preaching was a profession; something for which they had qualified themselves by their studies. If you should think this inadmissible, upon the supposition, that Peter's adherents were real christians, you may call to mind the incoherent things,