[A Discourse Delivered on the Morning of Annual Thanksgiving, November 27th, 1884, in the City of Philadelphia.]
Allen, Lane & Scott’s Printing House,
Therefore let no man glory in men: for all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, of Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, inclusive.
We have in these words what is usually termed an inventory of goods—good things—constituting property; and it will be my aim at present to investigate this inventory in the several parts of it. Because even professing, and it may be real Christians, are liable to make a common mistake with reference to ministers of the gospel. "Therefore"—it is a deduction from certain premises logically drawn—"let no man glory in men, for all things are yours"—and why then glory in a part of them? It is written, "Let him that glorieth, glory in the Lord." There is nothing else worth glorying in; therefore let no man glory in men. This was one of the disorders which prevailed in the church at Corinth, and it did not die with that church; it is as rife today perhaps as it ever was in Corinth. Professing Christians continue to glory in men. "Let no man glory in men; for all things are yours." And first, MEN are yours—Men, who are ministers of the gospel; these belong to you. Christ, as we sing in Psalm 68th, purchased them, obtained them from his Father, and he gave them. The church is of more value than all her officers put together, and in this respect, and particularly just here, we find the great apostasy of the Church of Rome; for her office-bearers are the clergy, the Lord’s inheritance; the laity are equal to almost nothing. But whether is the gift bestowed, or the object of the gift, the more important? It is for the sake of the object that the gift is bestowed. So the church has her officers, has Jehovah’s gift to her. "Therefore let no man glory in men; for all things are ours;" they are all equally the gift of Christ. And here it were easy to amplify to any extent about the spiritual gifts and grace bestowed upon some and not upon all. Like gifts are not bestowed upon each of the members or officers. But what Christ by his Spirit would have us to understand here, is the danger, the sin of men glorying in men; as though there were any efficiency in the best of them. The apostle elsewhere goes out upon this point: "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?" So then, although Paul plants and Apollos afterwards waters, neither he that plants nor he that afterwards waters adds anything to efficiency—the finishing is the main thing. All have not the same gifts. There is a diversity of gifts among ministers of the gospel. All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas. You all know that Cephas is the same as Peter. Here were three, distinguished in the gospel ministry. Not all were apostles. Apollos was only an evangelist; but we sometimes find the Spirit speaking of evangelists by the higher title. Paul and Barnabas are both spoken of as apostles. Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles. Peter’s ministry was more limited to the Jews. Yet what is remarkable, the very apostle whose ministry was chiefly to his own countrymen, this very apostle was chosen that by his instrumentality the Gentiles should first hear the gospel. He was honored by the conversion of the house and family of Cornelius; and he was thus honored as first to add Gentiles to the church, commanding them to be baptized because they had received the gift of the Holy Ghost.
"All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world." That is a large idea in the common apprehension of men. Well, the world belongs to the believer. It is said, "By inheritance the meek ones shall possess the earth." There is no doubt of it. They have a covenant title, and they only are united to Christ by the bond of the Spirit and of faith—"heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." "The little that the righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked." The world is ours, because of our title to it. Of what value is property to the man who has no title, and who may be dispossessed any moment? The apostles and evangelists are yours, and then the world or life or death. Here is part of the inventory—life. And that is the sum which a rational creature can desire; and surely the child of God, the true believer, has a title to life. "This is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life." "He asked life of thee and thou gavest it him, even length of days, forever and ever." That is to our Mediator, our covenant Head. And then there is his word, "Because I live ye shall live also." The union between Christ and his people is vital, and it is as permanent as it is vital. This is confirmed by the triumphant words of Paul: "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Death is theirs, added to these. Death is the believer’s. Now, according to our weak comprehension of divine things, it is a greater act, it would require greater power to renew the lost soul than to create it at first. So to abolish death, "the wages of sin," the opposite of life, according to our weak apprehension requires greater acts even of omnipotence than to give life at first. All are yours, life and death. How is it that death becomes the believer’s property? It is just the vehicle, so to speak, which a covenant God has appointed to carry his sons and daughters from grace to glory. He appoints holy angels to this function; this is expressly enunciated in the language of our Saviour contained in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus: "And it came to pass, that the beggar died and was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom." Surely death was his, and so I understand the eloquent language of the Psalmist in the triumphant words of the twenty third Psalm, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." He knew he would have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, but you see how he contemplates it. His faith soars above the fear of death. It is but the shadow to him, and the shadow of a sword can hurt no one.
And then in this large inventory there are "things present" and "things to come," without specification, because they are so many as to be undoubtedly innumerable. Even in like manner it is stated in the close of the Gospel of John: "There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written to every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." So things present are lumped together, as it were, and things to come. We know not certainly what these are, only here we have the assurance that whatever their character, they are in the possession of the believer. People are often greatly disturbed by future trials. It is the infirmity of many of God’s people, to fear that which is coming, more than is warranted by it when the event is transpiring. All things belong to us, if we be the disciples of Christ indeed—things present and things to come. Such is the inventory—the part of it, that belongs to every child of God.
Now I pass to the second train of thought, namely, the reciprocity here; there is a reciprocal possession. "Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s." "Therefore, let no man glory in men," for ye do not belong to Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas. "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or, were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" Is Christ divided? This question involves in the bosom of it a negative answer, as is usual. Ye are Christ’s, and he takes pleasure in those that are his possession; so in the end of the book of Psalms, "God doth take pleasure in those that are his people." They are the excellent ones of the earth, who alone can judge with absolute certainty of the value of anything. The language is elliptical, these are possessive cases as the grammarians say, and necessarily involve something else. So in the formula of baptism, according as our divines have expressed it, this includes "our engagement to be the Lord’s." The question arises, The Lord’s what? I answer, the word property is the correct one to supply. The Lord’s portion is his people. So ye are Christ's property, and Christ is God’s property. As there is an inventory that belongs to the believer on the one side, a part of his described possessions, for they are not all enumerated in the text, so on the other side, the property belonging to the Father is the Son. "Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s." Christ belongs to the Father in his relation as his eternally begotten Son, and his chosen servant; he sustains these relations to his Father. Here I understand that the word "God’s" expresses the distinction of the Father’s person from the Mediator and from the Holy Ghost—"and Christ is God’s." I wish this to be understood. I emphasize these points, because the line is a very difficult one, relating as it does, to the covenant of grace, and because I know they are so little studied, so little understood, and consequently of so little consolation to such as are not true believers. They do not find the hidden manna furnished to us, and found in God’s word, for want of searching the Scriptures. "Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s." This refers to the person of the Father, for the economy of man’s redemption is ascribed to the first person of the Trinity. What is in Christ’s inventory? In his intercessory prayer, found in John’s Gospel, among others we find this: "Thine they were, and thou gavest them me." "Ye are Christ’s," for God the Father gave you to Christ; and then Christ is God’s, together with all those whom the Father gave to him. And then in the final winding up of God’s economy of redemption, we have the very words of Christ prepared for us, that we may understand in ours his Father’s economizing or recapitulating all in this inventory—"Here am I, and the children which thou gavest me." God hath chosen these people in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before him, prepared through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth for entering upon the heavenly inheritance, when this inventory shall be verified throughout eternity.
Now I feel inadequate to enlarge, and shall close with a very few remarks. Let us inquire, you and myself, whether we look upon this inventory as desirable, because it is unquestionably so, that the great body of our fellow-sinners are utterly unconcerned about it. There are other good things, possessions that are far more desirable, because in the estimation of the men of the world they are more valuable than all comprised in this inventory. But this is the only true possession that will enrich you; and, indeed, this is only a part of the riches of the covenant of God, for we read in plain words the riches of Christ are unsearchable. But here is the synopsis of them: "All things are yours," if ye are but Christ’s, "whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come." Faith has in it the principle of appropriation. It unites to Christ; it apprehends him in the glory of his person; it takes hold of him in his righteousness.
We should be thankful this day for those things that are condescended upon by the Reformed Presbytery, and for the redemption purchased by Christ, that we in our own persons can be called by the gospel preached in our hearing and in our days. Faith cometh be hearing ordinarily, and hearing by the word of God. But we have had it dispensed for a comparatively long period, and we trust not without power in some instances. For this we ought to be thankful.
We should be glad that we enjoy the ordinances of divine institution. Through these the Spirit of Christ applies the benefits of his redemption to all for whom it was intended—through the "word, sacraments, and prayer." Though all have not access to the preaching of the gospel, yet they have fellowship with one another. Christ’s witnesses are helpful to each other in their journey through the wilderness of this world, and on their way to the promised land, the heavenly mansions. They should not forsake the assembling of themselves together.
We should also be thankful for the dissemination of the gospel; the opening up of avenues for its spread by the wonder-working providence of Jesus Christ controlling the empires and kingdoms of the earth—emperors, kings, presidents, ministers of state, and men of influence in this world, who are all under his control—so that, by turning their attention to what may be their own worldly interest, Christ is breaking up the way for the ultimate triumph of truth in the earth. Men who are engineers, acquainted with natural philosophy (what are called laws of nature), are employing their talents to facilitate the intercourse of men with men. They are leveling mountains, filling up valleys, preparing a highway for the Lord. So the Holy Scriptures, by Divine Providence, are bestowing gifts upon men, and God is enabling them to understand all the dialects and languages spoken by the children of Adam, from the time when they began to separate at the confusion of Babel. More than two hundred languages present God’s word to the children of men that they may read it, and behold the works of God in their own tongue in which they were born. For what purposes are these avenues opened up? He sends his disciples into every country and place whither he himself would come.
Let us all pray with faith for that coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, to bless his own word to the conviction of sinners and edification of believers, till all ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God. I have said enough. The Lord bless the preaching of his word!