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St. Paul's congratulation contains a ground of hope for the continuance and successful issue of those blessings—“ God shall confirm you to the end ;” and again, “ God is faithful.” He relies not on any stability of human goodness, he knows that he cannot trust to their inherent firmness or fidelity ; his ground of confidence for the future is rather in the character of God. It might be perfectly true that the Corinthians had these gifts and powers.
But who does not know that human excellence is unstable? Who could secure to them that this should last? Had not Saul once had the Spirit of the Lord ? Had not Judas once had gifts ? Who could say that the Corinthians might not fall away, and make shipwreck of their faith? The Apostle answers this, not by assuring them that their habits had gained stability, not by saying that they were too good for God to desert them, not by counting on their faithfulness to God, but on God's faithfulness to them. Not our fidelity to God, but God's fidelity to us. He loves us better than we do ourselves.
Of course, this doctrine may be misused. We may rest upon it too much, and so become unwatchful and supine; but, nevertheless, it is a most precious truth, and without some conviction of this, I cannot understand how any man dares go forth to his work in the morning, or at evening lay his head on his pillow to sleep. We now pass on secondly, to consider the Apostle's warning and reproof.
Parties had arisen in Corinth: let us endeavour briefly to understand what these parties were. You cannot have read the Epistles without perceiving that the Apostles taught very differently each from the other—not a different gospel, but each one a different side of the Gospel. (Contrast the Epistles of St. Paul with those of St. Peter or St. John.) These modes of teaching were not contrarieties, but varieties, and together they made up the unity of the Church of Christ. The first party in Corinth of which we shall speak was that one which
called itself by the name of Paul; and the truths which they would chiefly proclaim would doubtless be those of Liberty and Universality. We are all aware that the teaching of the Apostle Paul differed in some respects from that of the others —differed at least in the prominence which it gave to certain truths. He taught with peculiar prominence the doctrines of justification by faith, the salvability of the Gentiles, and the doctrine of Christian liberty; and he called this, the Gospel, my Gospel--not the only Gospel, but simply those truths of the Gospel which were especially given to him to teach. Moreover, St. Paul was not ordained like other teachers, but was called suddenly by special revelation of the Lord. He frequently refers to this, and declares that he was taught-not of man, but of God only.
There were men in the Church of Corinth who exaggerated all this, and said, This is the truth and nothing else; accordingly they took the doctrine of justification by faith, and made it an excuse for licentiousness—the doctrine of Christian liberty became to them but a cloak of maliciousness. They took the doctrine of the spiritual resurrection taught by the Apostle, and held that that was the only resurrection ; that there was no immortality; that the resurrection was but the regeneration of society. And this led St. Paul to say that some among thein taught that the resurrection was past already.
There was also a party naming itself after Apollos ; he had been educated at Alexandria, the university of the world, and we are told that he was mighty in the Scriptures, and remarkable for eloquence. The difference between Apollos and St. Paul seems to be not so much a difference of views as in the mode of stating those views : the eloquence of St. Paul was rough and burning; it stirred men's hearts, kindling in them the living fire of truth : that of Apollos was more refined and polished. There was also the party called by the name of Cephas. The Apostle Peter was as gifted in his way as St. Paul; but there was this difference between them, that whereas the Spirit of God had detached St. Paul from Judaism by a sudden shock, in the heart of St. Peter Christianity had been regularly and slowly developed; he had known Jesus first as the Son of Man; and afterwards as the Son of God. It was long before he realized God's purpose of love to the Gentiles. In his conception the Messiah was to be chiefly King for the Jews; therefore all the Jewish converte, who still clung to very much that was Jewish, preferred to follow St. Peter.
Lastly, there was the party calling itself by the name of Christ Himself. History does not inform us what were the special views of this party; but it is not difficult to imagine that they set themselves up as superior to all others. Doubtless they prided themselves on their spirituality and inward light, and looked down with contempt on those who professed to follow the opinion of any human teacher. Perhaps they ignored the apostolic teaching altogether, and proclaimed the doctrine of direct communion with God without the aid of ministry or ordinances; and these as well as the others, the Apostle rebuked. The guilt of these partisans did not lie in holding views differing from each other; it was not so much in saying, “ This is the truth," as it was in saying, “This is not the truth :” for the guilt of schism is when each party, instead of expressing fully his own truth, attacks others, and denies that others are in the Truth at all.
Nothing more certainly eats out the heart and life of religion than party spirit. Christianity is love; party spirit is
; the death of love. Christianity is union amidst variety of views; party spirit is disunion. We admit the evil of dissent; but party spirit, which sets religious sects against each other, is tenfold worse. In these days of party spirit, be it urged solemnly on our hearts, reiterated as the new commandment of Christianity, that we " love one another." Accuracy of
view is worth little in comparison with warmth of heart. It is easy to love such as agree with us. Let us learn to love those who differ from us. Different tempers see truth differently. Party spirit blights and cankers the truth itself.
Avoid, I pray you, the accursed spirit of sectarianism : suffer not yourselves to be called by any party names ; is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." Let each man strive to work out, bravely and honestly, the truth which God has given to him; and when men oppose us and malignus, let us still, with a love which hopeth all things, strive rather to find good in them-truths special to them—but which as yet they-perhaps unconsciously-falsely represent.
AST Sunday we endeavoured to arrive at a right under
standing respecting the different parties in the Church of Corinth: let us now pass on to consider the argument by which St. Paul met these sectarians. It was an appeal to Baptism, and to understand the force of that appeal, we must endeavour to comprehend what Christian Baptism is. contains two things: something on the part of God, and something on the part of man. On God's part it is an authoritative revelation of His Paternity: on man's part it is an acceptance of God's covenant. Now there is a remarkable passage in which we find St. Paul expressing the meaning of Baptism as symbolizing submission, discipleship to any particular teacher : "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant how that all our fathers were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." When the Israelites passed through the Red Sea they cut themselves off for ever from Egypt, so that, figuratively speaking, the Apostle teaches that in that immersion they were baptized unto Moses, for thereby they declared themselves his followers, and left all to go with him. And so, just as the soldier who receives the bounty money is thereby pledged to serve his sovereign, so he who has passed through the Baptismal waters is pledged to fight under the Redeemer's banner against sin, the world, and the devil. And now the argument of St. Paul becomes plain. He argues thus : To whom were ye then baptized ? To whom did you pledge yourselves in discipleship? If to Christ, why do