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solute: First, In that he desires them to be followers of him. Secondly, In that he sends a teacher, yea, a minister, and eminent bishop, or overseer of the church, for to put them in mind of his ways, which be in Christ, as he taught in every church. No doubt there were apostates, and dissenting spirits in the church of Corinth, that gave Paul occasion thus to write, as he testifies in the beginning of the chapter, how he was judged by some of them; he shews, how they were grown high; verse 8. Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us, &c. Might not these dissenters of the church of Corinth, have reasoned thus against Paul? Did not this Paul teach us, at first, to mind the measure of grace in ourselves, and follow that; (for no doubt that was Paul's doctrine) but now he begins to Lord it over us, and tells us, we must be followers of him. Might they not have judged the beloved Timothy to be far out of his place? Might they not have said, it seems it is not God that moved thee, and sent thee here by his Spirit; but lordly Paul, that seeks dominion over our faith: It seems thou comest not here to preach Christ, and wish us to be followers of him, and of his grace in our hearts; but to mind us to follow Paul's ways, and take notice, how he teaches in every church: We are not concerned with him, nor with his messenger, nor with any of your orders, and so forth. Doth not this run very plausible? I question not but there was such a reasoning among the apostate Corinthians: let such as are of the same kind among us examine seriously, and
measure their spirits truly hereby. Yea, he goes yet further in the following chapter, verses 3, 4, Verse 3. As absent in body, but present in spirit, I have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done the deed. Verse 4. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, &c. Would not one think this to have been a very presumptuous word? And yet who dare offer to con- . demn it? From all which, I shall shortly observe, that it seems it was judged no inconsistency nor contradiction, to be followers of the grace in themselves, to be persuaded in their own hearts, and also to be followers of the apostle Paul, and of his ways; because his ways and example was no other than the spirit of God in themselves would have led them to, if they had been obedient: therefore, he found it needful to charge them positively to follow him, without adding this reason.
Next, the great argument the apostle uses to persuade them hereunto, upon which he mainly insists, because he had begotten them into the truth; Ye have not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel: wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. So he makes that as the cause; which the same apostle also in his expostulation with the Galatians, putting them in mind how he preached the gospel to them at first, and chap. 4. ver. 15. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, if possible ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and given them unto me.
We see then, that the Lord hath, and doth give such, whom he hath furnished, and sent forth to gather a people unto himself, care and oversight over that people; yea and a certain authority in the power over them to bring them back to their duty, when they stray at any time; and to appoint, yea, and command such things as are needful for peace, and order, and unity's sake: and that there lies an obligation upon such as are so gathered, to reverence, honour, yea, and obey such as are set over them in the Lord. For, saith the same apostle, 2 Cor. 2. 9. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether you be obedient in all things: and chap. 7. ver, 13. 15. Yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all. Ver. 15. And his inward affection is more abundant towards you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him.
Now this will not at all infer, as if they had been implicitly led of old: or that such, as having the same authority to exercise it now, sought dominion over their brethren's faith, or to force them to do any thing beyond, far less contrary to, what the Lord leads us to by his Spirit: but we know (as they did of old) that the enemy lies near to betray under such pretences. And seeing, incase of difference, the Lord hath, and doth, and will reveal his will to his people, and hath, and doth raise up members of his body, to whom he gives a discerning, and power, and authority to instruct, reprove, yea, and command in some ca ses, those that are faithful and low in their minds,
keeping their own places, and minding the Lord, and the interest and good of his truth in the general over all, shut out the murmurer; and the Spirit of God leads them to have unity, and concur with their brethren. But such as are heady and high-minded, are inwardly vexed, that any should lead or rule, but themselves: and so it is the high thing in themselves, that makes them quarrel with others for taking so much upon them; pretending a liberty, not sinking down in the seed to be willing to be of no reputation for its sake. Such, rather than give up their own wills, will study to make rents and divisions, not sparing the flock; but prostrating the reputation and honour of the truth even to the world, minister to them an occasion of scorn and laughter, to the hardening them in their wickedness and atheism.
Besides these Scriptures mentioned, I shall set down a few of many more that might be instanced to the same purpose.
Ephes. 5. 21. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Phil, 2. 3. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves.
Verse 29. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such in reputation.
And 3. 17. Brethren, be followers together of me; and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an ensample.
And 4. 9. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of Peace shall be with you.
Col. 2. 5. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
1 Thess. 5. 12. And we beseech you brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you.
Verse 13. And to esteem them very highly in love, for their work's sake; and be at peace among yourselves.
Verse 14. Now we exhort you brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
2 Thess. 2. 15. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
2. Cor. 10. 8. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority (which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction) I should not be ashamed.
Now though the papists greatly abuse this place, as if hereby they could justify that mass of superstition, which they have heaped together; yet except we will deny the plain Scripture, we must needs believe, there lay an obligation upon the Thessalonians to observe and hold these appointments, and no doubt, needful institutions, which by the apostles were recommended unto them: And yet who will say, that they ought, or were thereby commanded to do any thing contrary to that which the Grace of God in their hearts moved them to?
2 Thess. 3. 4. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do, and will do the things which we command you.