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REFLECTIONS. Happy are those churches who have it in their power to exercise godly discipline, and to chase from their communion such members as are its reproach and scandal. Happy they who, having this power, have the courage and fidelity to use it, so as not to be ashamed and condemned by it. Let us not be too much surprised that offences come ; and if there are, even in Christian societies, some enormities beyond what are commonly heard of among thc Gentiles. It is no wonder if such abandon themselves, yea if they are in righteous jucigment abandoned of God, to the uncontroulable rage of their own lusts and corruptions, and the great enemy of souls be suffered to carry them captive at his pleasure. Let it however be our concern that, when this is the case, the wicked person be taken away. And though the extraordinary power which the apostles had, be long ceased, and we cannot deliver over offenders for correction to Satan, as they did, let us take such methods as are still open, for purging the old leaven out of our churches; and () that we may be enabled to purge it out of our hearts ! remembering Christ our Passover, who was slain for us ; feeding daily upon him by faith, and keeping the sacred festival, at once with joy and gladness, and with simplicity and sincerity of heart.
Lamentable indeed is it that so many vices should prevail in human nature; that he, who would avoid all society with persons of a bad character, must needs go out of the world. But most lamentable of all, that any one who is called a brother, should be a fornicator, or covetous, an itlolater, or railer, a drunkard, or an extortioner. May, God preserve us from such detestable crimes, and may he purge out all such spots as these from our feasts of charity and to that end, may he quicken our zeal to bear a testimony against them, in every such method as suits our rclation and circumstances of life! Above all, let not any ever imagine, that being joined in cominunion with a Christian church, can excuse the guilt of such immoral and scandalous practices, for which the wrath of God comes even upon the children of disobedience among the heathen. God will have his time to judge them that are without ; and not only Christians at large, as some may fondly and perhaps profanely be ready to call themselves, but Mahometans and Pagans too, shall find articles like these, sitting upon their souls with a dreadful weight, and if sincere repentance cio not make way for pardon, plunging them into the lowest abyss of misery, into a state of everlasting separation from the blessed God, and. all his holy and acceptable servants.
The Corinthians refiroved for firosecuting their brethren in heathen courts ;
and warned of the sad consequences of indulging in their former criminal practices. Ch. vi, 1–11.
IN ARE any of you, having any matter of complaint against an.
other, refer it to the unjust, to heathen judges, and not to 2 the saints ? Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world.?
And if the world is to be judged by you, are ye unworthy of de3. termining the most inconsiderable matters? Kuow ye not that we
shall judge the fallen angels? And are ye not worthy to judge the 4 affairs which relate to this life? If therefore ye have contro
versies relating to the affairs of this life, do ye set those to deter5 mine them, who are of no esteem at all in the church? I speak
this to your shame. What ! is there not onc intelligent person
among you, who may be able to determine the cause of a broth6 er? But one brother hath a suit aginst another, and this before in7 fidels, who are scandalized at it. Therefore whoever has the right
on his side, even this is altogether a fault among you, that ye have contests with each other. Why do yo not rather endure wrong?
Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded than seek 8 such a remedy? But indeed you do wrong, and defraud even your 9 brethren, in other instances. What! do ye not incccd know that
the unjust shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceiv
ed, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor effeminate persons, nor 10 abusers of themselves with mankind; nor thieves, nor covetous,
nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor rapacious persons, shall inherit 11 the kingdom of God. And such were some of you in your un
converted state; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
REFLECTIONS. Alas! How great a reproach do we bring on our Christian profession, by so immoderate an attachment to our secular interests! How much does the family of our common Father suffer, while brother goes to law with brother! What are these little interests of mortal life, that the heirs of salvation, by whom angels are 10 be judged, should wrangle about them, and for the sake of them do wrong, and that even to their brethren! Men had need, where such a temper prevails, to examine themselves, and take heed that they be not deceived; for though good men may fall into some degrees of this evil, through negligence or mistake, yet certainly it looks too much like the character of such of whom the apostle testifies, that they shall not inheric the kingdom of God. Let us observe, that in this catalogue are contained, not only the most infamous and enormous ofienders, but some, who perhaps may be tempted, because of their frecdom from flagitious crimes, to think much better of themselves than they ought. We find here the effeminale, and covetous, and revilers, and extortioners, ranked with adulterers, and fornicators, with thieves und drunkards, with idolaters and unnatural offenders. We can never be secure from danger of falling into the greatest sins, till we learn to guard against the least; or rather, till we think no evil small; viewing every sin in its contradiction to the nature of God, and in the sad aspect it bears with regard to an eternal state.
But how astonishing is it to reflect, that when the apostle is speaking of persons of such infamous characters, he should be able to add, in his address to his Christian brethren at Corinth, And such were some of you! Who must not adore the riches and sorereignty of divine grace ? Were such as these the best of the heathen world? were such as these prepared by their distinguished virtues to receive further assistance ? let us rather pay our homage to that grace, which went, as it were, into the suburbs of hell, to gather from thence citizens of heaven. - And let the worst of men learn, not to despair of salvation, when made sincerely desirous of being washed and sanctified, as well as justified, in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. It is that name, it is that Spirit alone, which accomplishes works like these. And, blessed be God, all the wonders of this kind were not exhausted in those early ages, but some have been reserved for us, on whom the end of the world is come : the gospel hath exerted its triumphs in our own days, and they shall be renewed in those of our children. Only let none from hence presume to turn the grace of God into wantonness ; lest, instead of being among the few, who are made the trophies of the divine mercy, they should perish with the multitude of the ungodly world, who clie in their pollutions, and go down to final and irreversible condemnation.
Some net converts not being duly sensible of the evil of fornication, the
apostle, after some reflections on things indifferent, sirongly expresses the heinousness of it. Ch. vi 12, &c.
UPPOSE the things in question to be indifferent : I will grant, 12 N for argument sake, that All things are lawful for me ; but
you must acknowledge, all things are not convenient : all things are lawful for me; nevertheless I will not be brought under the pow
er of any thing, so as to be subject to animal appetites. This maxim 13 may be applied to different kinds of food. All Meats are for the
belly, and the belly for meats : but God will destroy both it, and them. But let not any apply the maxim to patronize lewdness, fur the body is not made for fornication, but for the Lord ; and the
Lord for the body, he being the saviour of it, as well as of the soul. 14 And God hath both raised up the Lord Jesus, and will also in like
manner raise us up by his power, and transform these bodies of 15 ours into a resemblance of his.Know ye not that your bodies are
members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, 16 and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid! What,
know ye not that he, who is joined to an harlot, is one body with
her? For (say the divine oracles ) « they two shall be one flesh.” 17 But he that is joined to the Lord, is one spirit with him, Flee 18 fornication* and every kind of lewdness. Every other sin, which
a man practiseth, is without the body, and more immediately affects
the mind : but he that committeth fornication*, sinneth against 19 his own body, polluting and consuming it. What, know you not
that your body is the temple of the Holy Glost in yol, which you
* Sce Note f Vol. I. page EO.
20 receive of God? And ye are not your own : for ye are bought
with a price. Therefore glorify God with your body, and with your spirit, which are God's.
REFLECTIONS. How peculiar is the excellence of the Christian religion ! With what incomparable advantage doth it enforce all the lessons of moral virtue, which it teaches ! With what holy disdain should we look on the baits of sense, and the pollutions which are in the world through lust, if we seriously and often reflected on these two things—That our bodies are the members of Christ, and that they are the temples of the Holy Ghost ! Let it be our care, that they may not only be nominally, but really so. That we may by a living faith be united to the Lord, so as to become one spirit with him, animated by that Spirit wbich resides in him, and dwells in all who are truly his. Let us, as often as we are tempted to alienate ourselves from the service of God, reflect upon the price with which we are bought. How great, how important a price, which we should never think of but with secret shame, as well as admiration and love! O Lord ! hast thou paid such a ransom for me, and shall I act as if I thought even this not enough ? as if thou hadst acquired only a partial and imperfect right to me, and I might divide myself between thee and strangers, between thee and thine enemies? O may we be entirely thine ! and make it the business of the latest day and hour of our lives, to glorify God with our bodies and with our spirits, which are his ! Under the influence of this thought, may we effectually enter into the wise and pious suggestions of the apostle ; and guard, not only against things absolutely and universally unlawful, but likewise against those, which, in present circumstances, may be inconvenient. May we be ever ready to exert a holy freedom of soul, and a superiority to whatever may ensnare and enslave us ; which we shall more easily obtain, if we reflect on the transitory duration of the objects of appetite and sense: how soon the things we enjoy, and those bodies by which we enjoy them, shall be reduced to the dust, out of which they were taken. God destroys all that is present and visible, that we may look more intensely for a kingdom That cannot be moved. He reduces our bodies to putrefaction, that we may learn to cultivate, with greater care, the interest of a never-dying soul : which if we faithfully and diligently pursue, God, who hath raised up his Son as our Surety and Saviour, will also raise us up by liis own power, to enjoyments, sublime, incorruptible, and eternal. O Lord ! we would wait for thy salvation, and in the mean time, would do thy commandmenis ; and animated by so exalted a hope, would purify ourselves, even as thout art pure.
The apostle proceeds to answer certain questions which the Corinthians had put to him ; and first, what related to the marriage-state. Ch. vii. 1-11.
INTOW, concerning these things about which you wrote to me:
W I begin with that concerning marriage. It is good for a man, in present circumstances, to have nothing to do with a woman. 2 Nevertheless, in order to prevent fornication, let every man (who
is married) have his own wife, and let every woman have her 3 own husband. Let the husband render due benevolence to the 4 wife, and in like manner also the wife to the husband. The wife
hath not power over her own body, but the husband : and in
like manner also the husband hath not, power over his own body, 5 but the wife. Withdraw not from each other, unless it be by con
sent for a time, that ye may devote yourselves to fasting and pray
er, and ye may come together again, lest Satan tempt you on ac6 count of your incontinence. But I say this by permission from
Christ ; not by any express command : for I could wish that, in these trying times, all men were even as myself, in regard to continence. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one in
this kind, and another in that. 3 But as to unmarried ment, and widows, I say, it is good for 9 them, if they continue as I do. But if they have not such tem
perance, let them marry ; for it is undoubtedly better to marry, 10 than to bairn. But as to those that are married, it is not I who . command, but the Lord, that the wife should not withdraw herself il from her husband. But if she be withdrawn, let her remain (as
if unmarried, or let her be reconciled to her husband : And let not the husband dismiss his wife for any thing but adultery.
REFLECTIONS. The decisions of the holy apostle are here given with such gravity, seriousness, and purity, that one would hope, delicate as the subject of them is, they will be received without any of that unbecoming levity which the wantonness of some minds may be ready to excite on such an occasion. It becomes us humbly to adore the divine wisdom and goodness inanifested in the formation of the first human pair, and in keeping up the different sexes through all succeeding ages, in so just a proportion, that every man might have his own wife, and every woman her own husband : that the instinct of nature might, so far as it is necessary, be gratified without guilt, and an holy seed be sought, which being trained up under proper discipline and instruction, might supply the wastes that death is continually making, and be accounted to the Lord for a generation : that so virtue and religion, for the sake of which alone it is desirable that human creatures should subsist, may be transmitted through every age, and earth become a nursery for hea
* It may not appear advisable to read this in a Family.