« ForrigeFortsæt »
distinct from the qualities which are essential to the character of a real Christian. They were powers conferred not at all, or in a very subordinate degree, for the benefit of the individual himself, but were distributed according to the sovereignty of the Divine will, for the edification of believers, and the conviction of unbelievers. Hence saith the apostle, -"Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe."* Our Lord has informed us, that miraculous endowments were not necessarily connected with, but were often disconnected from, personal piety. "Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me ye workers of iniquity." Paul supposes the same thing in the commencement of this chapter, where he says, "Though I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge;-and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, 1 am nothing." This hypothetical mode of speech certainly implies, that gifts and grace are not necessarily connected.
This is a very awful consideration, and, by showing how far self-deception may be carried, ought to
1 Cor. xiv. 22.
be felt as a solemn admonition to all professing Christians, to be very careful and diligent in the great business of self-examination.
It is evident, both from the nature of things, and from the reasoning of the Apostle, that some of the miraculous powers were more admired, and therefore more popular, than others. The gift of tongues, as is plain from the reasoning in the fourteenth chapter, appears to have been most coveted, because eloquence was so much cultivated by the Greeks: to reason and declaim in public, as a talent, was much admired, and, as a practice, was exceedingly common: schools were established to teach the art, and places of public resort were frequented to display it. Hence, in the Church of Christ, and especially with those whose hearts were unsanctified by Divine grace, and who converted miraculous operations into a means of personal ambition, the gift of tongues was the most admired of all these extraordinary powers. A desire after conformity to the envied distinctions of the world, has ever been the snare and the reproach of many of the members of the Christian community.
Where distinctions exist, many evils will be sure to follow, as long as human nature is in an imperfect state. Talents, or the power of fixing attention and raising admiration, will be valued above virtues; and the more popular talents will occupy, in the estimate of ambition, a higher rank than those that are useful. Consequently, we must expect, wherever opportunities present themselves, to see on the one hand, pride, vanity, arrogance, love of display, boasting, selfishness, conscious superiority,
and a susceptibility of offence; while, on the other, we shall witness an equally offensive exhibition of envy, suspicion, imputation of evil, exultation over failures, and a disposition to magnify and report offences. Such passions are not entirely excluded from the Church of God, at least during its militant state; and they were most abundantly exhibited among the Christians at Corinth. Those who had gifts, were too apt to exult over those that had none; while the latter indulged in envy, and ill-will toward the former: those who were favoured with the most distinguished endowments, vaunted of their achievements over those who attained only to the humbler powers; and all the train of the irascible passions was indulged to such a degree, as well nigh to banish Christian love from the fellowship of the faithful. This unhappy state of things the Apostle found it necesary to correct, which he did by a series of most conclusive arguments; such, for instance, as that all these gifts are the bestowments of the Spirit, who in distributing them exercises a wise but irresponsible sovereignty-that they are all bestowed for mutual advantage, and not for personal glory-that this variety is essential to general edification-that the useful ones are to be more valued than those of a dazzling nature—that they are dependant on each other for their efficiency: and he then concludes his expostulation and representation, by introducing to their notice that heavenly virtue which he so beautifully describes in the chapter under consideration, and which he exalts in value and importance above the most coveted miraculous powers. "Now, ye earnestly desire (for the words
should be rendered indicatively, and not imperatively), the best gifts, but yet I show unto you a more excellent way." "Ye are ambitious to obtain those endowments which shall cause you to be esteemed as the most honourable and distinguished persons in the Church; but, notwithstanding your high notions of the respect due to those who excel in miracles, I now point out to you a way to still greater honour, by a road open to you all, and in which your success will neither produce pride in yourselves, nor excite envy in others. FOLLOW AFTER CHARITY, for the possession and exercise of this grace is infinitely to be preferred to the most splendid gift."
Admirable encomium-exalted eulogium on Charity! What more could be said, or be said more properly, to raise it in our esteem, and to impress it upon our heart? The age of miracles is past; the signs, and the tokens, and the powers which accompanied it, and which, like brilliant lights from heaven, hung in bright effulgence over the Church, are vanished. No longer can the members or ministers of Christ confound the mighty, perplex the wise, or guide the simple inquirer after truth, by the demonstration of the Spirit, and of power: the control of the laws of nature, and of the spirits of darkness, is no longer entrusted to us; but that which is more excellent and more heavenly remains; that which is more valuable in itself, and less liable to abuse, continues; and that is, CHARITY. Miracles were but the credentials of Christianity, but CHARITY is its essence; miracles but its witnesses, which, having ushered it into the