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(Preached at the Primary Visitation of the Bishop of
Winchester held at Southampton, July 15, 1788.]
COR. ii. 13.
WHICH THINGS WE SPEAK, NOT IN THE WORDS,
BUT WHICH THE HOLY GHOST TEACHETH, COMPARING SPIRITUAL THINGS WITH SPIRITUAL.
WHEN St. Paul planted the Gospel at Corinth, he found his designs chiefly opposed by two kinds of people.
The first were men of pleasure. Corinth lay commodiously for trade; and trade produces
riches; and it had been early observed, that it was difficult for rich men to enter into the kingdom of heaven. They were more disposed to the pleasures which riches furnish; than to the comforts which religion administers : and even they, who had embraced Christianity, found much work for the apostle in keeping them pure
from the contagion, that was spread around them.
Besides the gay, and thoughtless, the apostle had another kind of people to contend' with. These were philosophers: and tho' they were a more respectable set of men than the other, they were at the same time, perhaps more intractable. A state of learning is in itself, no doubt, favourable to religion, at least in a certain degree ; and has ever been found so: but the philosopher himself has sometimes too much wisdom to be taught. The Corinthian philosophers certainly had; and were in general rather inclined to add something of their own to amend the Gospel; than to accept it in that simplicity, in which Paul preached it.
To the latter the text alludes. These philosophizing Christians (many of whom were probably teachers also) the apostle recalls to the simplicity of the Gospel. He sets before them his own ex
ample. He came not, he tells them, with the excellency of speech, or the enticing words of man's wisdom. He knew nothing among them, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified : adding, that he had never preached the words, which man's wisdom teacheth ; but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
In this passage the apostle gives us the only true rule of interpreting Scripture, which I shall endeavour to explain, by shewing-first, How the apostles were directed by it-And, secondly, How far it seems applicable to us.
I. In the first place, the apostle tells us, he avoided the words, which man's wisdom teacheth.
In the apostle's days, indeed, man's wisdom had made but little progress in matters of religion. We read of Hymeneus, Philetus, and a few others, who seemed desirous of being teachers, before they understood what they affirmed. But their number was small.
Man's wisdom, however was a kind of leaven, which made a rapid progress. We need only cursorily examine ecclesiastical history to see its mischievous effects. There we find men running such lengths of folly, extravagance, wild B 2
ness, and I may add of wickedness, that we may well
suppose, it was in the spirit of foresight, that the apostle puts us so much on our guard against man's wisdom. Man's wisdom hath filled in
. numerable volumes: the Gospel is comprised in
In this ingrateful field we might wander long. The history of man's wisdom is the history of his opinions; and of these there is no end. Zeal, and indiscretion; pride, and vanity ; bad meanings, and good meanings, have all contributed to interpret what the Holy Ghost teacheth, by 'the words of man's wisdom. Instead therefore of wandering in this wide wilderness, let us fix our eyes on those great land-marks, which the apostle has set up to lead us safely through it.
The apostles were immediately inspired. They taught, as the Holy Ghost instructed. Immediate inspiration brought all things to their remembrance, whatever their blessed Lord had taught them.
At the same time, it should seem that the inspiration of the apostles was restricted to what was new in the religion they taught--or if not wholly new, yet so obscurely shadowed out in prophecies, and prophetic types, that it
needed explanation. The great truths, with regard to the redemption of the world—the inter. cession of Christ-his.atonement for sin the conditions of acceptance-the universality of the Christian religion—the motives it holds outthe purity it hath introduced into morals—the certainty of a future state-and of a last judg. ment- -were all, no doubt, strongly impressed on the minds of the apostles, and properly opened by immediate inspiration. In any of these great truths, mistakes were dangerous-memory was frail--and there were yet no written records. At the same time such notices as were already on the records of inspirationthose divine truths contained in the books of the Old Testament-wanted no farther illustra. tion from the Holy Ghost. Here nothing more seems to have been necessary, than the use of reason and common sense. And thus the apostle distinguishes between the things, which God had revealed by the spirit; and the act of comparing spiritual things with spiritual. The one he calls declaring the testimony of God: the other was plainly the exertion only of reason. Nothing more than the exertion of reason was necessary to prove the connection between the Old Testa