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feint to speak to them "even as unto babes in Christ," v. 1. of this chapter. "That he fed them with milk, and not with meat, for hitherto they were not able to bear it," v. 2. Yea that these "envyings and strifes and divisions" which were among them were sad discoveries of their carnality, v. 3, 4. Not but that the people of God may very justly sometimes, upon some accounts, and in some respects, prefer one minister of the gospel to another. The blessed God dignifies some above others, and we may honor those most whom God is pleased most to honor: But to cry up one and to cry down others; to idolize some and to decry, depreciate and make nothing of others, who are also the true and faithful servants of God in the evangelical work (as seems to have been the case of the Corinthians :) this is very evil, and speaks those in whom it is to have vicious and corrupt affections, and to walk more according to men than like real Christians.
To make them sensible of the evil of this, and to bring them off from it, the apostle mentions two things to them.
(1.) The first is that their ministers or teachers were not authors of faith to them, but only instruments by whom God assisted them in the great work of believing. "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man," v. 5. Not masters, but ministers, not principal agents, but (I had almost said) only tools, to be sure only instruments whom the blessed God (from whom every good gift cometh) furnishes with various measures of gifts, and with different degrees of ability, just as he seeth good, and therefore none are to be so extolled and adhered to, as that for their sakes to undervalue or set at naught any others who endeavor to be faithful, and do
what they can. In this sense, "Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker," Prov. xvii. 5. Since it is the LORD that in this respect "maketh poor and maketh rich," 1 Sam. ii. 7.
(2.) The other thing that the apostle mentions, is, because the success of all their labors depended upon the blessing of God. Where any of them came to be indeed beneficial, it was from him. Text: "I have planted, Apollos," &c. Two things are most obvious and easy to be taken notice of in the words.
1. The apostle's declaration of what himself and Apollos did in the ministerial work, "I have planted, Apollos watered."
Concerning Paul's coming to Corinth and preaching the gospel there, we have an account, Acts xviii. begin. "There Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house and many of the Corinthians hearing believed and were baptized," v. 8. of that chapter. And there Sosthenes, who was a chief ruler of the synagogue also, was converted; mention is made of him, and also of what he suffered from the Greeks, v. 17. These believers I suppose were those called the church of God in Corinth.
Touching this Apollos also (what he was, and how he carried himself) we read, Acts xviii. 24. "And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus," v. 25. "This man was instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord," &c. "He mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures, that Jesus was Christ," v. 28. And as he mightily convinced the Jews, so probably was as useful to the Corinthians.
Now saith the apostle, "I have planted, Apollos watered; if he should have said, God was pleased to put this honor upon me first of all to preach the gospel among you, and blessed my preaching to convert you unto Christ (thus though they might have "ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet had they not many fathers, for in Christ Jesus," he tells them "he had begotten them through the gospel," 1 Cor. iv. 15.) And when I left you, Apollos stayed behind, and he watered what I had planted, what I had begun by my ministry, he furthered and strengthened by his, was a means further to build you up in faith and holiness.
2. Here is an account how, what they did in the ministerial work came to be successful. And this was from God: "But God increased, or gave the increase," i. e. he blessed our ministry, he wrought inwardly to make our preaching lively and effectual, from him was the fruit found. The text, in short, is a metaphor, and the similitude is taken from planters, the allusion is to people of that denomination, whether husbandmen, or gardeners, these (it is well known) plough, they plant, they dig, they sow, and sometimes water, but after all that they do of this nature (yea, after it is watered by the clouds, and warmed by the influences of the heavenly bodies) the fruitfulness of the earth is wholly from God. Whatsoever concatenation of second causes there may be, God is at the higher end of the chain, and all must be resolved into him. "I will hear the heavens, and the heavens shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn and the wine and oil, and they shall hear Jezreel," Hos. ii. 21, 22. And thus it is in the spiritual plantation, even as it is in that which is of an earthly nature; as it is in the earthly husbandry or tillage, so is it in the spiritual, the increase, the fruit, the benefit of this is just as God is pleased to give, just as he seeth meet to bless the labors of those whom he improves in his vineyard, to succeed the endeavors of those whom he sends forth into his harvest. Hence the
That whatever use or improvement God is pleased to make of the ministers of the gospel in the converting, and for the edification, and building up of souls, their being advantageous and
effectual this way, is wholly from the gift of God; it depends entirely upon the divine blessing.
I shall not dilate as I might on the doctrinal part of this great truth the point doth not need explication so much as application, it doth not want to be proved so much as improved. I shall therefore but as it were glance upon the distinct parts of the doctrine, and then proceed to make some inferences and deductions for our learning and practice.
There are two propositions which fall under our consideration. I. That God is pleased to make use or improvement of the ministers of the gospel in the converting, and for the edification, or building up of souls.
II. Whatever use or improvement God is pleased to make of these, their being advantageous and effectual this way, is wholly from the gift of God, it depends entirely upon the divine blessing.
Prop. I. God is pleased to make use and improvement of the ministers of the gospel in the converting, and for the edification, or building up of souls. It is certain, that the blessed God doth not do this out of any necessity; he needs no second causes, though he frequently useth them; he wants no instruments, though he many times improves them. He can do his own work immediately, and without means; he can bring to pass what he hath a mind to, by contrary means, but in his using and improving of these, the blessed God acts his wisdom and displays his goodness towards us. If the glorious God should act towards us immediately, and in his own person, we should be overwhelmed by such an awful majesty, we cannot bear the immediate manifestations of God while we are here in this world. Such appearances of the Creator would be confounding to the creature, so terrible was the sight of the great Lawgiver in the promulgation of his law, that Moses said, "I exceedingly fear and quake," Heb. xii. 21. When the disciples were in the mount of transfiguration, and heard the voice which came out of the cloud, it is said, that "they fell on their faces and were sore afraid," Matt. xvii. 6. And if the blessed God had commissioned and made use of angels in this affair, we cannot think that a word spoken by angels would have been so advantageous to us, as that wherein God improves the tongues of men. It is that therefore which some have taken notice of, That the angel which appeared to Cornelius, did not say much to him himself, but referred him to Peter, Acts x. 6. "He shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do." It is therefore God's gracious condescension to our present weakness, that he employs men for the benefiting our souls; men of the same make of ourselves, of the same passions with us, Acts xiv. 15. Who are compassed with infirmity even as we are, as Elihu said to Job, chap. xxxiii. 6, 7.
"Behold I am according to thy wish, in God's stead; I also am formed out of the clay, behold my terror shall not make thee afraid," &c. These God is pleased to make use of or improve in the converting, and for the edification, or building up of souls. There are two articles or branches here.
1. God is pleased to make use or improvement of the ministers of the gospel in the converting of souls, for the planting of his grace in the hearts of men. It is ordinarily this way, though it may sometimes be in other, yet mostly in this. It may be sometimes by the rod of sanctified affliction, but it is most usually by the word of grace dispensed by Christ's messengers. God can make the edifying discourses of private Christians to minister grace to the hearers, Eph. iv. 29. 2 Cor. v. 20. This, this is the means appointed for the reconciling and bringing home sinners to God. In this way God is wont to illuminate and enlighten sinners. Paul's preaching was to "open men's eyes," &c. Acts xxvi. 17, 18. In this way God is wont to awaken and startle sinners: When Paul "reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come, Felix trembled," Acts xxiv. 25. In this way God is wont to convince sinners, and make them indeed concerned as to what they must do thus when Peter pressed upon the Jews their sin in crucifying our blessed Saviour, it is said, "When they heard this, they were pricked at the heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, men and brethren, What shall we do?" Acts ii. 37. And in this way is God wont to convert sinners. No less than "about three thousand souls were converted by one sermon which Peter preached," Acts ii. 41. Thus we see that answered, "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher?" Rom. x. 14. And that verified, "That it hath pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe," 1 Cor. i. 21. And that, "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation," Rom. i. 16. Not that this power shall always accompany the preaching of it, but as if God would exert his power, at least ordinarily only by it. "We are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever, and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you," 1 Pet. i. 23, 24. But I pass to say,
2. God is pleased to make use and improvement of the ministers of the gospel for the edification or building up of souls. Not only for the planting of his grace in the hearts of men, but also for the watering of the same: The making it grow and flourish. Not only for the beginning of a good work, but also for the carrying of it on. He gave some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying the body of Christ, Eph. iv. 12, 13. This is most conspicuous, if we consider
some of the titles that are given in the sacred pages to the ministers of the gospel. Thus they are sometimes called PASTORS and SHEPHERDS, because they are to feed the flock of God which is among them, that so they may "thrive and grow," 1 Pet. v. 2. They are also styled RULERS and STEWARDS over God's household, to give them their meat in due season, that so they may be nourished and grow up to a taller stature, Matt. xxiv. 45. So also they are sometimes termed BUILDERS, because they are not only to lay the foundation in a work of grace, but also to rear up the spiritual building of Christ, 1 Cor. iii. 10. To promove the building up of the saints in their most holy faith, Jude v. 20. Once more, they are sometimes called VINE-DRESSERS, because they are to dress and tend the trees in God's vineyard (to use all possible means) that so they may thrive and flourish in fruitfulness, Luke xiii. 7-9. I might also have illustrated this by instancing in some things which the word preached is in Scripture compared unto; let it suffice to say, that it is likened not only to seed, but to milk, because by this milk God designs our spiritual growth. 1 Pet. ii. 2. "As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby."
Thus God is pleased to make use of the ministers of the gospel in the converting and for the edification and building up of souls; this shall suffice for the first proposition or part of the doctrine, though I have said but a very little in comparison of what might have been said upon it.
Prop. II. Whatever use or improvement God is pleased to make of these, their being advantageous and effectual this way, is wholly from the gift of God, it depends entirely upon the divine blessing. It is certain that in order to this the ministers of the gospel are to do what in them lies: In this consists their main work, viz. to woo and if possible to win souls to Christ. They are to do their uttermost to illuminate, awaken, convince and convert sinners, and also to confirm, quicken, strengthen and comfort saints, and promote and carry on the work of grace in them. In order to this, they are "to give themselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word," Acts vi. 4. "Must preach the word, and be instant in season and out of season," &c. 2 Tim. iv. 2. "Must take heed to themselves and to their doctrine, and continue in them,' &c. 1 Tim. iv. 16. "Must study to show themselves approved workmen that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," 2 Tim. ii. 15. And not only are they to preach the word, but also to administer the sacraments, dispense the censures, as shall be necessary, visit their people, catechize the younger ones of the flock, guard the church against such as would be injurious by their errors and false doctrines; and to be sure they are