1 Corinthians 11The apostle had in the foregoing chapters, by many cogent arguments, exhorted the Corinthians to deny themselves the lawful use of their Christian liberty, for the benefit of their brethren; to enforce which argument he propounds to them his own example in this verse, Be ye followers of me even as I follow Christ.
Where note, 1. The duty recommended to their practice; namely, to follow their spiritual guide: Be ye followers of me. It is the standing duty of a people whom God honours with the enjoyment of faithful spiritual guides, to follow their faith, and to imitate their exemplary conversation; the graces of all Christians in general, but of the ministers of the gospel in particular, whether living or dead, are patterns set forth to the world for their careful imitation: and for omission herein they must certainly become accountable to God.
Note, 2. With what great modesty and caution, with what restriction and limitation, St. Paul propounds his own example to the Corinthian's view: Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.
As if he had said, "If at any time you find me, your spiritual guide, stepping aside, and walking unanswerably to that uniform pattern of holy and humble obedience, which the Lord Jesus set both before you and me, in his own examplary life, be sure you decline my example, and follow not my footsteps."
Learn hence, That the best of ministers, and the best of men, being but men, our imitation of them must be an universal, but a limited imitation; we must follow pastors, teachers, nay, apostles themselves, no farther than they follow Christ, their infallible Lord and master: Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
This commendation is to be restrained to the sounder part of the church at Corinth, who were mindful of his precepts and instructions which he had delivered to them concerning matters appertaining to the public worship of God; which precepts and rules for the worship of God he calls traditions, because they were immediately delivered to the church, either from the apostle's mouth, or by writing. This place, though produced, yet makes nothing for the unwritten traditions of the Romish church. Let them prove by authentic testimony, that their fardels of traditions were delivered to the church from the mouth of the apostles, and we will receive them.
Now I praise you, brethren. Here it deserves a remark, that the apostle, being about to reprove certain disorders in the church at Corinth, ushers in his reproof for what was amiss, with a commendation for what was praise-worthy among them; I praise you, brethren.
Like the physician, who wraps his bitter pill in honey or sugar before he gives it into his patient's mouth. It is wisdom to intermix commendations with our reproofs, that the latter may take more place when accompanied with the former.
Here our apostle answers the query, and resolves the case which the Corinthians had put to him, and laid before him, about church-order, and concerning the decent behaviour of men and women in church- assemblies.
And first he reminds them, that a subordination of persons in the church of God ought to be observed and kept: that as Christ, as Mediator, is inferior to God the Father, but is the head and lord of all men, as Creator and Redeemer; so the man is the head of the woman, and as such she must show her subjection unto the man. As Christ, as Mediator, acts in subordination to the Father, so must the woman act in subordination to the man.
The Socinians would wrest this text to confirm them in their blasphemous denial of the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. "Here, say they, the apostle declares that the head of Christ is God. Now the most high God can have no head above him; therefore Christ, who hath an head above him, cannot be the most high God."
The modern and general answer is, that God is here called the head of Christ as Mediator, in which relation he received his kingdom from him, and exercises it for him; and therefore is elsewhere styled the Father's servant, Behold my servant, &c. because he doth all things according to his Father's will, and with a fixed eye to his Father's glory.
But the ancients reply to this objection thus: "That God is said to be the head of Christ, as he is the Father of the Son, and so the cause of him; and as the woman is of the same nature with the man, who is her head, so is Christ of the same nature with God the Father, who is here called his head: The head of Christ is God."
By the man's praying and prophesying, understand his performing any divine offices in the church, as prayer, and expounding the scriptures, singing of psalms, and the like.
By doing this covered, understand not the natrual covering of the hair, but an artificial covering by a veil, after the manner of women, which is a token of subjection.
By dishonouring his head, understand either,
1. Christ, who in the former verse was called the head of every man. He that administers in the church in holy things represents Christ, who is the head of the church; therefore by covering the head he declares a subjection in his adminstration, and doth as it were make the church the head of Christ, instead of Christ's being the head of the church.
Or else, 2. By dishonouring the head, may be understood the minister's own head: he betrayed his superiority, and lesseneth the honour and dignity of his sex, by using such a gesture in divine offices, as is a token of inferiority and subjection; for in that country, at that time, it was a sign of subjection to have the head covered, but a sign of power and dominion to have the head uncovered.
The contrary is found with us at this day; for those that have power over others, now keep their heads covered, and those that are inferior to others, keep their heads uncovered before them, ver. 5.
By the woman's praying and prophesying, is understood either prophesying extraordinarily, (which we read the women sometimes did both in the Old and New Testament, and were called prophetesses, Luke 2:36; Acts 21:9.)
Or else, by the woman's prophesying, is to be understood praising God in hymns and psalms, They prophesied with harps, psalteries, and cymbals, giving thanks, and praising the Lord, 1Chr 25:1-3; where prophesying and praising the Lord are the same thing.
By the woman's prophesying with her head uncovered, to the dishonour of her head or husband, is to be understood her appearing unveiled in the church, open and barefaced in public; which was accounted,
1. An immodest, unbecoming, and unseemly guise.
2. Arrogant; her being unveiled and uncovered was a token of her usurping an undue authority over the man, and of her casting off that subjection which she was under by the law of her creation to him.
3. Superstitious; it being a fantastical imitation of the she-priests and prophetesses of the Gentiles when they served their idols, and particularly when they sacrificed to Bacchus, who used to have their faces uncovered, their hair dishevelled, hanging at its full length round about their ears.
Now the Corinthian women, in imitation of these heathen women, (for the female sex is very fond and exceeding prone to follow the fashion,) did cast off their veils, discovered their faces, dishonoured their heads, even their natural heads, (as well as their economical head, their husband,) it being then and there accounted as immodest a thing for a woman to appear in public uncovered, as to appear with her head shaven.
From the whole learn, That God requires at the hands of all persons, who either administer unto him, or stand before him, a decent behaviour and comely accommodation in his house, especially in the acts and exercises of his worship and service. For if in their habit and dress, surely much more in their gesture and deportment, doth he hate what is unseemly and unbecoming in any person.
Learn, 2. That it is especially the duty of persons employed in divine adminstrations to demean themselves as those who represent our Lord Jesus, managing themselves with a due authority and decent gravity, becoming the ambassadors of God.
So then it is a general obsrvation of decency in our outward behaviour, when worshipping God before others, which our apostle here recommends as a special duty.
Our apostle here proceeds by many arguments to evince and prove the woman's inferiority and subjection to the man, and that she ought to have a covering upon her head as a sign and token of it.
First, because the image of God, that is, the image of his majesty, dominion, and power, shineth forth most brightly in the man, therefore he ought to have his head uncovered: Man is the image and glory of God.
But is not the woman so likewise?
Ans. Consider the woman according to her specifical nature, and so she was created after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness, as well as the man: but then consider the woman according to her personal relation to her husband, and in that regard the woman is not the image of God because dominion, which is the image of God, is the man's privilege; and subjection the woman's duty.
But she is the glory of the man; that is, it is the glory and honour of man, that God hath given him superiority over so excellent a creature as the woman; for if his dominion over the irrational creatures be his glory and honour, then what a glory and honour it is for a man to have so excellent a creature as the woman, a creature endued with reason like himself, subject to him?
But as in this sense the man is the glory of the woman, so in another sense the woman is the glory of the man. She communicates with him in all his dignity, how great soever; whatever natural or civil excellency is in him, reflects on her: Uxor fulget radiis mariti, the wife shines with the rays of her husband's honour.
And the woman being thus in a state of inferiority, she ought to profess her subjection to her husband by wearing a veil.
Another argument which the apostle offers, to prove the inferiority of the woman, is this, That originally the man was not made of the woman, or for the woman, but the woman was made of the man, (his rib,) and for the man, that is, for his service and comfort, to be an help meet for him, and to be in subjection to him.
Man had this prerogative, to be immediately from God; but the woman was from man, and to be administering and subservient to man, and consequently to cover her head in token of her submission to him.
Moreover, for this cause ought the woman to have power, (that is, a veil upon her head, as a sign and in token of her husband's power, and her own subjection,) because of the angels; that is, say some,
1. Because of the law of subjection given her by the ministry of angels.
2. Because of the pastors, teachers, and ministers of the church, say others, who are often in scripture styled angels.
3. Because of the evil angels, as some interpret it; the woman being tempted by Satan, the prince of evil angels, to commit the first sin, which is a perpetual cause of shame to her and her posterity, and which increased her and their subjection to the man; for which reason the woman ought to be veiled and covered (in the church-assemblies particularly) as a token of shamefacedness and subjection.
4. The more general interpretation is, because of the good angels, who are present in the assemblies of the saints, and eye-witnesses of their carriage there; therefore the woman ought to do nothing indecent in the presence of those holy spirits. And besides, she has the angels for her pattern and precedent, who cover their faces and veil their heads, in token of subjection to Almighty God.
Note here, 1. That it has been a general opinion among Jews, heathens, and Christians, that good angels are more particularly present with us in the places, and at the times, of God's public worship; yea, that they are not only present with us, but observant of us, and assisting to us, in the performance of all religious exercises, especially prayer: and therefore the Jews speak of a particular angel, whom they call the angel of prayer.
Note, 2. That therefore all persons, both men and women, ought to demean themselves with all modesty, reverence, and decency, in the worship of God, out of regard to the angels, who are there present, observing their carriage and behaviour.
True, the angels cannot penetrate into the inward devotion of the mind, which God only observes; but they observe and take notice of the outward decency of our carriage, and the reverence of our deportment.
But, Lord, how little is this considered, and by how few among us, in our religious assemblies! With regard to God, who sees our hearts, we should more particularly compose our minds to the greatest seriousness and sincerity in our devotions; and with a particular regard to the holy angels who are there present, we should be careful also of our outward behaviour: but to our shame be it spoken, there are multitudes amongst us in our Christian assemblies, whom neither the presence of angels, nor the observing eye of him who is the Lord of angels, can influence to any tolerable decency of behaviour in the house of prayer, where the eyes of God and angels, of ministers and men, are upon them.
Such without repentance must never expect to dwell hereafter with God and his holy angels in heaven, but take up their lodgings with the devil and his angels in an eternal hell, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
Because the apostle might seem to have been too harsh towards the woman, and lest the man should thereupon take occasion to carry himself with pride and insolence towards her, he prudently intimates the mutual help and need which both man and woman stand in of one another; for since the creation of the first man, all men are by the woman. And as men have no being but by the woman, so the woman without the man cannot exist or propagate.
For as at the first creation the woman was taken out of the man, so now in generation the man is of the woman; and by the woman; she conceives him, brings him forth, suckles him, and brings him up; and all this by the wise disposal of God, who made the woman out of the man, and by his benediction increaseth man by the woman.
From which consideration our apostle infers, that both man and woman should look upon their distinct prerogatives as given them by God, and carry it not with pride and insolence, but with respect and kindness each to other; and especially that the woman be in subjection to the man, and testify that subjection by all the signs of it, particularly by her being veiled and covered, which is the argument our apostle is here insisting upon.
Observe here, 1. How our apostle closes his discourse, in which he had reproved the Corinthians, the men for covering, the women for uncovering, their heads, and laying aside their veils in time of religious worship: by an appeal to themselves and their own judgment concerning the matter he is speaking of, and reproving them for; namely, men's praying with their heads covered, and women with their heads uncovered.
Observe, 2. How the apostle proceeds to blame both sexes for another disorder; namely, that men wore their hair like women, and that women appeared in the guise of men as to their hair.
Here he lets them know that both these kinds of disorders are repugnant to the institution of God, and the dictates of natural reason; Doth not nature itself teach you?
That is, (1.) The general dictates of natural reason.
(2.) The particular law of nature, concerning the distinction of sexes.
(3.) Usage and common custom, which is a second nature.
All these suggest, that for men to wear their hair at full length like the woman, is uncomely and unnatural in the manly sex, but so to do is comely and natural in the female.
Learn hence, That God disallows,and even nature itself condemns, every thing that tends to the confounding of the sexes, which it is his will and pleasure should be visibly distinguished.
It is a great offence to God, and contrary to one end for which apparel was given, when either the man or the woman wears apparel contrary to their sex; and what is said of apparel, their artificial covering, may be affirmed of the hair, that is their natural covering.
"It is a shame for either sex to wear their hair in an uncomely and indecent manner, disagreeable to the natural modesty of either sex."
Observe, 3. How the apostle appeals to the custom and practice of the churches of God in the cases before us. The custom of all the churches is against women's being uncovered, as an unseemly thing.
It is a known rule, Ubi nihil certi statuit Scriptura, mos populi Dei, et instituta majorum, pro lege tenenda sunt: We ought not to dissent and differ from the custom and practice of the church of Christ in matters not positively determined: but the custom and practice of the church of Christ in matters not positively determined: but the custom of the church must sway with us, with whose practice it is our duty to be as concordant as we can. If any man will by contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
Learn thence, That in things only respecting decency, and in compliance with which there is no violation of the command of Christ, the custom of the church of Christ should determine us, and be as a standing rule unto us.
Learn, 2. That it argues a contentious spirit, and savours very much of pride, in matters of little moment to be singular in our practice, and to create disturbance to the church of God. If any man seem to be contentious, &c.
Our apostle here enters upon a new argument or subject-matter of discourse; namely, to reprove the abuses which were crept in amongst them, in their administration of the holy sacrament of the Lord's supper.
And the first abuse which he blames them for, was, the divisions and factions which were found amongst them; I hear that there are schisms amongst you. Where we are to understand by schisms, not a separation from the unity of the catholic church, but of sects and divisions in the church; they did not separate from the church, but they ate the Lord's supper separately in the church, and the whole congregation did not join together in the celebration of that ordinance. Though we do not separate from the communion of the catholic church, yet if we occasion division and dissension groundlessly in the church, we justly fall under the imputation and charge of schism.
Observe next, The apostle argues a minori ad majus; he did easily believe there were divisions, because there must be also heresies among them. Heresies were worse than schisms, false doctrines more dangerous than divisions. Heresy is an error in the fundamentals of religion, maintained with obstinacy. When the green wound of an error is let alone, it soon rankles, and quickly grows into the old sore of an heresy.
But how comes the apostle to say, there must be heresies? what necessity is there for them?
Ans. 1. Negatively; there is not an absolute necessity for them on God's part, or a necessity of his making; but a conditional necessity, or a necessity ex. hypothesi, which must needs be, if such a thing be granted before: as supposing the sun be risen, it must be day.
Thus here, upon supposition of the pride, vain-glory, envyings, strife, and contentions, which are amongst the members of the church; upon supposition of the craft and subtilty, malice and malignity, of Satan, the church's grand enemy; upon supposition of God's permission, that Satan and wicked men should act according to their corrupt affections and inclinations; heresies must and will be.
Note farther, That the reason here assigned for the necessity of heresies is not causal, but eventual: not causal, as if the wisdom of God did design there should be heresies for this end, that they who are approved of him should be made manifest; but rather eventual; as if the apostle had said, "Hence it will come to pass, that they who are approved will be made manifest."
As if he had said, "True, ye Corinthians, when ye come together to one place, ye pretend to eat the Lord's supper, but though you eat it, yet ye do not eat it as ye ought to do; you perform the material part of the action, but you do not partake of it solemnly and religiously, according to the divine institution; this therefore is not to eat the Lord's supper."
Learn thence, That a duty not done as it ought to be done, is not done at all in the account of Christ. Sermons may be heard, and yet accounted no sermons; prayers made, yet not made; sacraments received, yet not received; alms given, yet not given; because not done in manner and form as God required.
A gracious heart will look not barely at the matter of the duty, but also at the manner of performance, and take care not only that he hears, but how he hears.
Here our apostle begins to reprove the Corinthians for the abuses found in their love-feasts. These love-feasts were founded on no express command in holy writ, but only on the custom of the church, who immediately before receiving the sacrament used to have a great feast, to which all the poor were invited at the charges of the rich, as an expression of their perfect love and charity one towards another.
Now in these feasts of charity they did not observe due order and decency: for every one, that is, every party and faction, being come to the place of the assembly, did presently sit down and eat what they had bought, in the company of their own party, not minding or regarding others; whereupon this holy feast of charity was neither celebrated at the same time by all, nor with that unanimity and concord which it was designed to represent: whilst the poor were excluded, and sent home hungry, the rich were feasted, and drank to some degree of excess, which is here called drunkenness; one is hungry, and another is drunken.
Behold what great irregularities and disorders are here found in the church of Corinth! Who can expect a church without spot in this imperfect state? God has left these miscarriages upon record, not for imitation, but for our caution.
A twofold sense and interpretation is given of these words, Some paraphrase them thus; What! must you make the house of God the place of your feasting? If you be disposed for mirth and jollity, have you not houses wherein you may do it with more privacy, and less offence? Or despise you the church of God? Do you undervalue and thus profane and unhallow the place set apart for God's worship and service, by converting it into a common banqueting-house? Thus many expound it of the material church; and their opinion is favoured by the antithesis and opposition betwixt church and houses; Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise you the church of God?
Learn, That holy duties, pious and public, are to be performed in the church or house of God.
Duties pious, but not public, better suit the closet than the church.
Duties public, but not pious, more befit a Guild-hall or Townhouse, than the house of God.
Others by the church of God understand the spiritual church, the poor members of Jesus Christ, and render the words thus; "What, have ye not houses to eat and to drink in, if need be, before you come? Or despise you those poor Christians, who are members of the church of Christ as well as you, and put to shame them that have not what you eat and drink, by excluding them out of your company for their poverty-sake? For since God adopts them into his family, and admits them unto his table, you ought not to exclude them from this feast of charity, which was originally designed for the poor's relief."
Learn, He that despiseth the poor, despiseth the church of God; yea, despiseth Christ himself; as he that pincheth the little toe paineth the whole body, so the disgracing the poor members of Christ is a despising of the whole church.
In these love-feasts the poor were the most proper, and should have been the most principal guests; but, alas! the rich gorged themselves plentifully, whilst the poor stood and looked on hungry.
Yet observe, lastly, With what lenity and mildness the apostle reproves these great disorders in the church at Corinth: Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. It was the first time he had told them of their faults; therefore he doth it gently, in hope of amendment.
Learn thence, That though ministers must not commend but reprove people, when they do ill, yet they must use mildness, especially at their first reproving of a sin.
Some observe, That God so blessed the mild severity of St. Paul, that the Corinthians, upon the writing of this first epistle, reformed all their abuses: which they gather from hence, because no fault is taxed in the second epistle, which was reproved in the first.
Observe here, 1. How the apostle, for reforming those abuses which were crept into the church amongst them, relating to the holy sacrament, reduces them to the first institution of that sacred ordinance; I have delivered unto you what I have received of the Lord.
Mark, the apostle, did receive and deliver, but not institute and appoint, this venerable ordinance. Had he not received, he had wanted authority; and had he not delivered what he received, he had wanted integrity.
Observe, 2. The author of this institution, the Lord Jesus. To institute sacraments is an act of Christ's regal power and royal authority. The church has no power to appoint, but only to execute and administer what Christ appoints.
Observe, 3. The time of the institution: the same night in which he was betrayed. It is a night much to be remembered, in which he settles an ordinance in the church for the confirmation and consolation of his people to the end of the world.
Lord! what an evidence was here of thy tender care and affectionate concern for thy church and people, in spending so much of that little, very little time thou hadst left, upon their account!
Observe, 4. The sacramental elements, or the commemorative, significative, and instructive signs: and they are bread and wine, shadowing forth the body and blood of the crucified Jesus.
Where note, St. Paul calls it bread five times over, which Christ calls his own body, because it was a sign and representation of his body; not his real body, for then Christ ate his own body whilst he was alive, his disciples devouring that body over night which hung upon the cross next morning, with a thousand such absurdities which the doctrine of transubstantiation carries along with it.
Observe, 5. The ministerial actions: the breaking of the bread, and blessing of the cup.
The bread must be broken, to represent the breaking of Christ's body upon the cross, which comprehended all the sufferings of his human nature, all which were consummated in his crucifixion; and this broken bread must be taken and eaten by us, to intimate that all his breakings, bruisings, and woundings, both in soul and body, were for our sins, and for our benefits, and that the sole intention of all his sufferings was for us.
Wine also is poured forth, because as no liquor like wine doth cheer a sad and drooping spirit, in like manner nothing doth so glad and cheer the soul as faith in a crucified Saviour.
That spiritual life which a soul is raised to, by the death of Christ, is a life of the greatest delight and joy which we can conceive.
Observe, 6. The great design and end of this institution: Do it in remembrance of me, or for a memorial of me. Christ knew how apt our base hearts would be to forget him, amidst such a throng of sensible objects as we here converse with: and how much our forgetfulness of him and his sufferings would tend to our prejudice and disadvantage; and therefore doth he appoint this ordinance to bring him to remembrance.
Observe, 7. The strict mandate or charge given for the frequent celebration of this ordinance; Do this as oft as ye drink it; that is, do it often. We can no more live and thrive without our spiritual, than we can without our corporal food; as the body must be often fed, so the soul must have its frequent repast.
Observe, 8. The reason assigned for the frequent celebration of this ordinance: For as oft as ye do this, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come: that is, by frequenting this ordinance we commemorate the death of Christ during his absence from us. As the end of the ordinance was to be a standing memorial, so the obligation that lies upon all Christians to observe it is perpetual. Christians are, by this ordinance, to represent the sacrificing of Christ for their sins, till he come again in glory.
Learn from the whole, 1. That the sacrament of the Lord's supper was instituted by Christ as a standing memorial of his death and sufferings for us.
Here we ought to remember the painfulness of his death, the meritoriousness of his death, the voluntariness of his death to ourselves. And the manner how we should remember Christ and his death in the sacrament is various; with judgment and understanding, with reverence and humility, with sorrow and grief of heart for our sins; yet with joy and thankfulness for the sufferings of a Saviour, with faith and affiance, with live and affection, with resolutions for a new and better obedience.
Learn, 2. That the command of Christ lays it as a law upon, and makes it the standing duty of, all Christians, to commemorate his death at his holy table. Do this in remembrance of me.
Here it deserves our notice what kind of command this is; it is a sovereign and supreme command: it is a positive and express command: it is a permanent and lasting command; it is the command of a Saviour, yea, of a dying Saviour; it is a command of love; it is such a command as, if we duly observe, will be a blessed means to enable us to observe all the commands of God better.
Lastly, It is such a command, as whoever lives in the wilful neglect of it, cannot be called a Christian, but will be treated by Christ at the great day as an enemy and despiser of his dying love.
Learn, 3. That it is a Christian's duty not barely to do this, but to do it often: frequent communicating is a great duty. The primitive Christians received every Lord's day, yea, it is believed oftener than every Lord's day.
This is agreeable to the nature of the ordinance, which is a spiritual repast, banquet, and feast, and therefore to be received frequently. It is also agreeable to the Author of the ordinance; it is a feast of God's own providing, therefore to neglect it is to fly in the face of God: it is agreeable to the end of the ordinance, which is to renew our covenant, and that cannot be done too often.
The apostle having in the foregoing verses declared the original institution of the Lord's supper, he comes now to instruct the Corinthians in the right use of it; and to excite them to a due regard in their approaches to it, he acquaints them with the great danger of an unworthy receiving of it; Whosoever shall eat this bread, &c. unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
Quest. 1. What is it not to eat and drink unworthily?
Ans. (1.) To receive the sacrament with many doubts and fears, with a weak faith, with a trembling hand and fearful heart, all this may be, and yet the person not receive unworthily.
(2.) The want of perfect holiness, and a complete freedom from sin, doth not denominate a person an unworthy receiver; for this ordinance was not instituted for angels, but for men; to make sinful men good, and good men better.
(3.) Backwardness to the duty, deadness and dullness in the duty, when involuntary and lamented, makes not a person an unworthy receiver.
Quest. 2. What is it to eat and drink unworthily?
Ans. (1.) It is to receive without such a disposition of mind, such a preparation of heart, such reverence and devotion, as ought therein to be exercised; to receive without knowledge, without repentance, without faith, without resolution for a sincere obedience, without sincere reconciliation to our neighbour.
Quest. 3. What is it to be guilty of the body and blood of our Lord?
Ans. (1.) It is an implicit approbation of the Jews' act in crucifying Christ.
(2.) It is implicitly a jesting with the body and blood of Christ, a playing with the most tremendous things in the world.
(3.) It is a crucifying the Son of God afresh: it is to stab the master of the feast at his own table, whilst he is treating us with the richest dainties.
Observe here, The duty required to prevent the danger of unworthy receiving, and that is, the great and necessary duty of examination. A metaphor taken from goldsmiths, who try the truth of their gold by the touch-stone, the purity of their gold by the fire, the weight of it by the scale.
Observe, 2. The examinant, or person, performing this duty of examination: Let a man, that is, let every man. This stands in a double opposition:
(1.) To our examining of others.
(2.) To our resting in another's examination of us.
Observe, 3. The frequency of this act; as often as we partake of the ordinance, so oft we should, if we have time, less or more, examine ourselves: Let him examine, and so let him eat. Let him pass through one duty to another.
Learn hence, That it is the special duty, and ought to be the singular care and endeavour, of all those that desire safely and comfortably to approach the table of the Lord, to examine themselves before they come: to examine their right unto it, and to examine their fitness for it.
What it is to eat and drink unworthily, we find explained before, at ver. 27.
Note here farther, That many persons of honest hearts, but weak heads, have sadly misunderstood the words of St. Paul, about unworthy receiving, thinking that such an excess of reverence and preparation is required, that either they dare not come at all, or they come with so much dread and fear upon their minds, that they are more terrified than comforted.
Observe farther, The unworthy person eats and drinks judgment; that is, temporal judgment will follow him in his life; and, without repentance, eternal damnation in the next.
Yet note, It is judgment to himself that receives not to another that receives with him. If a wicked man's presence at the sacrament pollutes the ordinanace to a worthy receiver, then Christ and his eleven apostles were defiled by the company of Judas at the passover; for at that he certainly was, and as many think, at the Lord's supper also.
Learn, then, that unworthy receivers of the Lord's supper do contract great guilt, and incur great danger, to themselves. The design of the apostle in these two last verses is this, that we should not sinfully omit the duty, because of the command; nor carelssly undertake it, because of the threatened judgment.
For this cause; that is, for profaning the sacrament, and not discerning the Lord's body at the Lord's table; for not approaching it as a feast of love designed equally for the benefit of all his members, and to knit them in the closest bonds of unity and friendship each to other: therefore it was that many were visited with sickness and weakness, and some with death; which being called sleep, some have charitably concluded from thence that were pious persons in the main; for the death of the wicked is hardly called sleep any where in scripture; and if so, then we learn that the holiness of an ordinance, or the habitual holiness of any person who approaches an ordinance, will not exempt from God's displeasure, and the infliction of temporal judgments here in this life, if they do not by actual preparation sanctify the name of God in the duties and ordinances of his worship.
Besides an habitual, there is required an actual preparation, in all those that will safely and comfortably approach to God in holy duties; without it we shall meet with a blow, instead of a blessing.
That is, if we would examine, try, censure, and sentence ourselves, and so come to the Lord's table as penitent believers, with a purity of aim, and a sincere intention; we should thereby escape the castigatory punishments, and condemnatory sentence, of God.
Learn hence, That as it is our duty often to examine and judge ourselves, so self-judging in particular, before we approach the Lord's table, will preserve us from the judgment and condemnation of God; we must first summon, then examine, then convict and try, then sentence and condemn ourselves, and all this in hopes of being absolved and acquitted by God, acting our faith upon his free mercy, and the Redeemer's satisfaction.
Observe, 1. The nature of those judgments, or afflictive evils, which do befall the children of God in this life: they are chastenings: we are chastened of the Lord. Chastenings belong properly to children who are wanton and ungovernable. To be chastened has a double aspect; first upon our privilege, it denotes our relation as children unto God our Father. Chastenings are a part of his children's portion; yet in that we are chastened, it taxes us with weakness; we are foolish, wanton, and unruly children, and therefore so long as we are here, must always go with a rod at our backs.
Observe, 2. Christ, who was also a Son, was chastened; The chastisement of our peace was upon him. But his were judiciary chastisements: God did not chastise him as a child, but as an enemy, as a malefactor, in our stead; as we must have been chastened, who were enemies and malefactors. Our chastenings are fatherly; Christ's judiciary.
Observe, 3. The merciful design of God in the chastenings of his children: it is to prevent their condemnation: We are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. When therefore at any time we are under chastisement, in all we say or do, let us justify God and condemn ourselves, seeing his chastisements are designed to prevent our condemnation.
Our apostle here concludes his discourse with an exhortation to the Corinthians, to take heed for time to come that all these fore-mentioned miscarriages may be rectified; that when they come together to eat the Lord's supper, and the love-feasts, they should tarry one for another, that they may all feed and feast together. And if any man pretend to be hungry, let him eat at home before he comes, lest by these irreverent actions he bring down the judgments of God upon himself.
Lastly, he tells them, that as to other points of church order, he would determine them when he came among them; The rest will I set in order when I come. Such unchristian disorders may arise in the church as will require the presence and coming of an apostle to correct and reform them.
Copyright information for Burkitt
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