Summary: This Sermon is #15 from Rev. Andrew Lee’s SERMONS published in 1803 by Isaiah Thomas, Jr. at Lisbon, Connecticut.
The entire book Andrew’s Lee’s Sermons is available free at Project Gutenberg as e-Text #15031.
Human Characters determined only by Divine decision.
1 Corinthians iv. 3,4.
"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment; yea I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord."
CORINTH was one of the principal cities of Greece. Enjoying every advantage of situation, it became rich and populous. Most cities in similar circumstances have become vicious. This became exceedingly so.
THE religion of Corinth was paganism, which naturally led to sundry vices. Bacchus and Venus had there their temples and their votaries; and luxury, the child of affluence, led to vice generally. From such a combination of circumstances, the inhabitants, like the men of Sodom, "were sinners before the Lord exceedingly." It might be justly stiled, like Pergamos, "The place where Satan’s seat was."
YET God had much people in that city, which continue and labor in it, which he did for more than eighteen months. Nor did he labor in vain. He gathered there a large and flourishing church; which appears to have been enriched with a greater effusion of miraculous gifts, than any other of the primitive churches. The state of Corinth, where God had been unknown, and where superstition had reigned, might render this necessary in order to give success to the gospel. Miracles are adapted to arrest the attention of those who would be deaf to the voice of reason and regardless of proofs drawn from it.
BUT those gifts were abused. They were made the occasion of pride, and of divisions: Which shews that there is nothing in the nature or miraculous gifts, which secures the proper use of them; that they are no evidence of renovation.
THOUGH the apostle labored to great and happy effect in that city of the Gentiles, after his departure, deceitful workers went among them, and availed themselves of his absence to make divisions, and alienate their affections from him. This seems to have occasioned his writing the epistles addressed to them, which constitutes a valuable part of the sacred volume.
THE calumnies of his enemies, and the effect which they had on the Corinthians, are alluded to in the text; which contains an expression of his feelings on the occasion.
In discussing the subject, we shall just glance at these matters, and add a brief improvement.
ST. PAUL’S character, both as a Minister and as a Christian, was impeached by those enemies. They represented him as an unfaithful, or unskillful laborer in the gospel, and as one who was not a subject ofdivine grace.
THIS appears from his statement in the beginning of the context, and from the text. Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful, "_But with me it is a very small thing, that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment, yea, I judge not mine ownself. For I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified: But he that judgeth me is the Lord_."
THE apostle here professeth himself "a minister of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God," and directs the Corinthians to consider him in that light; or as one put in trust with the gospel to teach its mysteries, inculcate its truths, urge its duties, and tender its supports.
THE term _mystery_ is used in Scripture, to express things not discoverable by the light of reason, but knowable by revelation. It is also used to express incomprehensibles; which may be objects of faith on the credit of divine truth. The former is the more common sense of the term in the gospel, particularly in the passage before us, and generally in St. Paul’s epistles. "We speak the wisdom of God in a _mystery_--the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. _But God hath revealed them into us by his Spirit_."
THE gospel plan of salvation was a _mystery_, a hidden _mystery_, till the gospel day. It was hidden from the prophets who foretold it; and from the apostles, till after Christ’s sufferings and resurrection. They understood very little of it; knew almost nothing about it till after the ascension, when the comforter was sent down "to teach them all things, and bring all things to their remembrance." To them it was then matter of wonder. They had not been made to understand that Christ was to bear the sins of men--"that he was to suffer and enter into his glory:" And when he did suffer, "they knew not the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead."