Page images


The EPISTLE for the Tenth Sunday after

[blocks in formation]

Concerning Spiritual Gifts, Brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Te know that ye were Gentiles, carry'd away unto thefe dumb Idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no Man, Speaking by the Spirit of God, calleth Jefus accurfed; and that no Man can say, that Fefus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost, &c.


HE Collect for this Day befeeches the Lord, to let his merciful Ears be open to the Prayers of his humble Servants, and that they may obtain their Petitions, to make them ask fuch things as fhall please him. And that we may be the better enabled to ask fuch things,

The Epiftle for the Day treats concerning Spiritual Gifts, which the Apostle here declares to be fo useful and fo neceffary a piece of Knowledg, that he would by no means have us ignorant of it. And to the end that the Chriftian Church might be rightly instructed in fo divine and excellent a Subject, he here treats at large of the Nature, the Author, the Number, and the Ufe of these spiritual Gifts. But before he begins, he puts these Corinthians in mind of their former Heathen State, and how they were acted and mif led by evil Spirits, before they receiv'd the Gospel. Te know (faith he) that ye were Gentiles, carry'd away unto these dumb Idols, even as ye were led meaning, that before they became Chriftians, they were led altogether by the Heathen Oracles, who pretended to foretel things to come: and their Defire of knowing fuch things feduc'd them into Idolatry; where all the Anfwers and Account they had in thofe Matters, came not from the Idols or the Priefts, but from the Devil in them; and therefore that they might know

know thofe that are taught by the Spirit of God, from those that are acted by the Devil, he gives us two Marks of Diftinction to difcern between them: The firft is, that no Man that is led or mov'd by the Spirit of God, will ever fpeak evil of Jefus, Wherefore (faith he) I give you to underftand, that no Man, Speaking by the Spirit of God, calleth Fefus accurfed: for that takes Men off from all the Heathen Blafphemies, and leads to the knowledg of the Truth, as it is in Jefus. The fecond is, that all that truly own and give up themselves to Jefus Chrift, are acted by that Divine Spirit; for the evil Spirits do all they can to hinder the Doctrine and Defigns of Chrift's Kingdom and therefore the Apostle adds, that no Man can fay that Jefus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghoft. Where we have the Author of these fpiritual Gifts, which the Apostle here tells us is the Holy Ghoft, the third Perfon in the ever-blessed Trinity, whose peculiar Office, in the Business of Man's Salvation, is to edify and inftruct the Church of Chrift, by which he enlightens our Minds, and inftils his Gifts and Graces into our Hearts; which are therefore call'd fpiritual Gifts, not because they are feated in the fpiritual Part or Soul of Man, but because they proceed from the Holy Spirit of God which we muft not fo understand, as to exclude the Father and the Son from having any hand in thefe Gifts, or the beftowing of them; for St. James tells us, that every good and perfect Gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights; Jam. 1. 17. And St. Paul, that when Chrift afcended up on high, he gave Gifts unto Men; Eph. 4. 8. So that thefe Gifts come from the other two Perfons no less than from the third, according to that known Rule, Opera Trinitatis ad extra funt indivifa; The outward Works of the Trinity, relating to any without them, are never divided, but what one doth they all do. But yet thefe Gifts are more particularly attributed to the Holy Spirit, rather by way of Congruity than otherwise, as referring to fome particular or perfonal Attribute of his from whence they flow for there are fome Properties and Perfections of the Deity, which tho common to all the three Perfons, yet the Effects of them are more especially and feverally afcrib'd to each diftinct Perfon; as Creation to the Father, Redemption to the Son, and Sanctification to the Holy Ghoft. And hence it is, that these spiritual Gifts, which tend to the inftructing and fanctifying the People of God, are more peculiarly attributed


to the Holy Ghoft, whofe Office it is. This for the Au thor of these spiritual Gifts.

From whence the Apoftle proceeds, in the next Verse, to the Number and Variety of them; faying, Now there are Diverfities of Gifts, but the fame Spirit; and there are Differences of Adminiftrations, but the fame Lord; and there are Diversities of Operations, but it is the fame God who worketh all in all where the Apostle diftinguisheth between Gifts, Adminiftrations, and Operations, obferving a Difference and Diverfity between them, and yet afcribing them all to the fame Author, under the Titles of the fame Spirit, the fame Lord, and the fame God, who worketh all in all; that is, who worketh all these things in all that have them.

As for the Diversity of Gifts, Adminiftrations, and Ope rations, they are generally thus diftinguifh'd. By Gifts here, are meant thofe inward Endowments or Qualifications, whereby Men are enabled to do or perform any thing; thefe are fet down in the 8th, 9th and 10th Verfes of this Chapter, which fhall be confider'd in their Place. By Adminiftrations are meant the outward Calling, Function, or Office, whereby they are lawfully call'd and authoris'd to do it. These are fet down in the 28th Verfe of this Chapter. By Operations are meant the Effects or Works wrought or executed by the two former: Thefe are too many to be fet down; only care must be taken, that as every Calling hath its own proper Work, fo every one fhould know and keep to it. Now all these are here faid to proceed from the fame Spirit, the fame Lord, and the fame God; meaning fuch a Spirit as is both Lord and God, and that is only the Holy Ghost.

But what was the End or Ufe of thefe fpiritual Gifts? Why, that the next Verfe will tell us; The Manifeftation of the Spirit is given to every Man to profit withal: where by the Manifeftation of the Spirit, is meant the Exercife of the Gifts and Graces confer'd on any by the Holy Spirit, which manifeft his Power and Goodness to the Church of Chrift; and where any of thefe Gifts appear'd in any Perfon, especially in any eminent fort or degree, it was a manifeft Sign that the Spirit of God wrought in him and therefore thefe fpiritual Gifts are truly call'd the Manifeftation of the Spirit, as any other fenfible Effect is a Manifeftation of its proper Caufe. And this is here faid to be given to every Man, not to be merited or purchas'd by any,


but confer'd by a free Donation, and convey'd merely by a Deed of Gift.

But the End for which they were given, is what the Apoftle here chiefly aims at. The Manifeftation of the Spirit is given to every Man; but for what? Why, to profit withal. 'Tis not to please or pride our felves, and fo to use them for Vanity and Oftentation; to fet forth our felves, or to raise Admiration in others by our Eloquence or elaborate Arts of Speech, as fome of these Corinthians did, and too many in our days ftill do: much lefs were they given to raise Schifms and Factions in the Church, by inftilling the Poison of Errors and Divifions into the Minds of the People, and fowing the Seeds of Difcord and Diffenfion among them. To this bad ufe many of the Corinthians put their spiritual Gifts, by which means they fell into divers Sects and Parties, fome faying, I am of Paul, others I am of Apollo; a third fort, I am of Cephas; and a fourth, I am of Chrift which made the Apostle ask the Question, Is Chrift divided? Hath he not stil'd his Church one Body, and will'd that there be no Schifm or Separation in it? How then can he like the tearing or reuding one Member from another in his Body? Hath he not told us of one Baptifm that leads into his Church, and of one Communion to confirm and unite us together in it? How then can he approve of different Communions, or divided Ways of Worship? Did not Chrift prefs his Difciples to Unity? and likewise pray to his Father, that they all might be one, even as he and his Father are one? that is, with the most intire Unity of Heart and Mind. This was the laft Prayer he made for them, and the laft Legacy he bequeath'd to them: And how oppofite to this are all Difcord and Diffenfion in the Worship of God? They who use their Parts to thefe bad purpofes, grofly abuse the Gifts of God, and will have a heavy Account to make for it at the laft Day. For the Manifeftation of the Spirit was given not to do harm, but to profit withal; that is, not only to procure fome private Profit to themfelves, tho that be not altogether excluded, but for the publick Good and Benefit of others. They were given for the Edification of the Church, not for the Deftruction of it; and confequently are to be employ'd for the Advancement of Peace, Unity, and Order in the Church, which tend to the Welfare and Settlement of it; not to foment and propagate Divifions, or introduce Strife and Confufion, which lead to its Ruin and Destruction.



All then that have any fhare in thefe Gifts and Endow ments of the Spirit, are to lay them out according to the Degree and Meafure they have receiv'd, for the publick Good: As every one hath receiv'd the Gift (faith the Apoftle) even fo minifter the fame one to another, as good Stewards of the manifold Grace of God; 1 Pet. 4. 10. Where we are bid to look upon our felves, not fo much as Owners, but as Stewards of what we have. Now the Office of a Steward, you know, is not to hide or embezel his Master's Goods, but to employ them for his benefit, and to give to every one of the Houfhold his Portion of Meat in due feafon. This is the End and Ufe of all our Gifts, natural and temporal, as well as spiritual; which the Will of the Donor, and the Nature and Quality of the Gifts require and call for at our hands: and that because our own Infufficiency of our felves puts us in mutual need of the Gifts and Affiftance of one another. If a Man could come to that All-fufficiency in himself, as to be able to fay to his Brethren, I have no need of you, then might he keep his Gifts to himself: till then let him remember, he is to employ his Talent to the profit of his Mafter, and to the benefit of his Brother; for the Manifeftation of the Spirit is given to every one to profit withal.

For the better clearing and confirming hereof, the Apoftle proceeds to the Distribution of these spiritual Gifts; fhewing that they are not all given to one, nor are the fame given to all, but they are fcatter'd with an admirable variety, and in different measures on the Sons of Men, that like the various Members of the natural Body, they might be all helpful and ferviceable to one another. There is none fo mean, but may be useful to the greatest; and there is none fo great, but may fometimes ftand in need of the Service of the meaneft.

For to one is given by the Spirit (faith the Apoftle) the Word of Wifdem. By which we may understand the Revelation of the Gospel, which is in Scripture often call'd the Wisdom of God in Chrift. St. Paul ftiles the Evangelical Doctrine and Myfteries by the name of Wisdom, and diftinguishes it too from the Philofophy of the Heathens, and the Wisdom of this World; 1 Cor. 2. 6, 7. Howbeit (faith he) we Speak Wisdom, yet not the Wisdom of this World, but we speak the Wisdom of God in a Mystery, even the hidden Wifdom, the Revelation whereof God ordain'd be fore the World unto our glory. This Word of Wisdom, or

« PreviousContinue »