Of the Grace of God which Paul exalteth above Fleshly Wisdome, and ascribeth all unto.
2 COR. 1. 12.
THe third particular, which qualifieth the Apostles conversation in this world, cometh in order to be treated on, which is set down Oppositely, But by the grace of God. This is added; partly to exclude all pride and presumption in himself. For having declared his integrity, lest it might be thought, that though he did not confide in carnal wisdome, yet he might in his own integrity; he addeth, The grace of God; shewing thereby, that he tru∣sted in that alone. And then partly it is spoken, in opposition to fleshly wis∣dome. For seeing it might be demanded, If Paul did not use the wisdome of the world, How could it come about, that he should have such success in his preaching, that the Gospel should have such a full and glorious course by his Ministry? He resolveth it into the grace of God, that did go along with him: it was neither his gifts, or his graces, but the power and grace of God, dire∣cting and protecting of him, in his ministerial imployment. Thus Paul and Barnabas, Acts 14. 26. are by the brethren recommended to the grace of God for the work, which they fulfilled. So that whereas the word Grace in the New Testament, hath several significations; the principal whereof is the favour and meer mercy of God without us. The lesse principal, is the Effects there∣of; and the Effects of this Grace, are either of sanctification, or administration and service. We may comprehend all these in the word [Grace;] but especially the latter, the effects of grace; and of those effects, chiefly those ministerial gifts, with the successe thereof, that Paul was enriched with. What is this grace of God, saith Chrysostome? It is (saith he) the wisdome and power God bestowed upon him, whereby through miracles and other wayes, especial∣ly, that coming without humane learning, and oratory of the world, he Page 433 did overcome the greatest Philosophers and Rhetoricians, whom the world did admire. This was the grace of God upon Paul, which he also mentioneth as the original of all the fruit of his labours, not attributing any thing to himself, 1 Cor. 15. 10. I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Now although by grace is meant principally the grace called, Gratiis da∣ta, common ministerial gifts and favours of God, yet because it is oppo∣sed to fleshly wisdome and carnal policy. There is also necessarily contain∣ed heavenly wisdome, whereby Paul did avoid all sensual and deceitfull wayes, walking closely according to the Word, the fountain of all spiri∣tual wisdome. For as the Scriptures are a farre surer Rule, even to Ci∣vil Governours and Magistrates, then Tacitus, Machiavel, or others, cry∣ed up by humane, worldly wise men, even in their civil administrations: So much more is it a sure Starre for all the spiritual Officers of the Church to manage their affaires by, if they do look for successe. From the Scri∣pture both Magistrates and Ministers may learne wisdome for their respe∣ctive administrations. Paul therefore, what ever it be that goeth on pro∣sperously in his ministerial worke, doth not attribute it either to his sin∣cerity, much lesse to any humane policy, which he renounceth, but whol∣ly to the grace of God assisting of him, and going constantly along with him. Observe,
That it is the property of those who are godly to take nothing to themselves,*but to give all to the grace of God.
You see here, though Paul was so eminent for godlinesse, and so admi∣rable for gifts, yet he maketh the grace of God to be alone the sole Au∣thour of all spiritual successe. This subject the Apostle doth very willingly enlarge himself upon, wheresoever he hath occasion: Hence in the fore-mentioned place, 1 Corinth. 15. 10. he saith, By the grace of God I am what I am. The grace of God made him an holy man; The grace of God made him an eminent Apostle; he had nothing as a private Christian, or as an Officer, but by the grace of God; and because many may have grace in a common way bestowed upon them, that yet abuse it, as Judas; he addeth, This grace was not in vain. Yet lest it should be thought that it was his improvement of the grace bestowed, that made it so effectual, he presently correcteth his expression, Yet not I, but the grace of God, which was with me. As it is not the pen, but the Writer that is a cause of fair Characters.
Let us discover this Doctrine. And
First, We see the Apostle rejoycing in the sincerity of his heart, and yet*acknowledging all to the grace of God, so that these two may well stand toge∣ther to take comfort from our holinesse, yet to put our trust in nothing but the grace of God. It is true, this is a very hard lesson to performe, there is required much skill and prudence herein; for we are apt to runne into ex∣treames: Either through unbelief and peevishnesse, we nourish doubts and perplexing thoughts in our selves, not taking notice of the grace of God in us: Or else, if we doe behold it, and rejoyce in it, we are present∣ly in a secret manner lifted up, and confident thereby. But we see by the Apostles practice, both are consistent together: So that the people of God are diligently to labour after this heavenly frame of heart. To be in doubts and fears about thy condition, is to live in the jaws of hell, and to be presuming or carnally confident of thy graces, is the next door to a sad and miserable downfall.
Page 434 Secondly, It is not enough to acknowledge the grace of God in the general, but so to set up grace as to give all to it. The Apostle maketh an imme∣diate * opposition between grace and workes, Rom. 11. 6. there cannot be a reconciling of grace and workes together. This hath been often attempt∣ed, but as unhappily as the building up the walls of Jericho again. The Pelagian, Arminian, the Socinian and Papist, all these doe acknowledge grace; but when we come to the root of the matter, it's nothing at last, but the free-will and workes of a man. It is his good use of grace, that doth determine and make all things effectual, not grace it self: And this is the rather to be noted, because Stapleton would antidote against Cal∣vin's poison, as he speaketh from this Text. For whereas Calvin taking notice of the Apostles glorying, in the testimony of his conscience concern∣in his sincerity, doth shew, that Paul hereby doth not oppose that com∣mand, Let him that glorieth glory in the Lord, because Paul giveth all to the grace of God, and resteth alone upon that. From this, Stapleton would excuse the Papists also, because they acknowledge all good workes to come from grace: Their merits are founded onely upon Christs merits. Even as it doth not derogate from the power of God, that he useth second causes in natural things, because they are subordinate to him, both in their be∣ing and operation; but it doth illustrate as his bounty, so his power the more to make other things powerfull: Thus saith he, it is not injurious to the grace and merits of Christ, if we attribute merit to our workes, see∣ing this cometh onely from Christ; but it argueth his fullnesse and rich grace the more, that communicateth of it to us. So that (saith he) to put trust in the workes of grace, as the proxim and immediate cause, but in the grace of God, as the chiefe and universal cause, is no derogation to the honour and glory of Christ. But that of the Apostle must be alwayes remembred, If of grace, then not of workes, otherwise grace is no more grace. It is not grace, unlesse it be grace every way: And therefore to make our workes the second causes to trust in, though it be not so high a wickednesse as to exclude Christ throughly, yet it doth in part, and therefore as in the matter of worship, we admit of no primary and secon∣dary worship, no more than a primary and secondary God: So it is in matter of trusting, we must depend only upon Christ, not but that holinesse and godly works are necessarily required, but not as causes under any subtil distinctions whatsoever.
These two things premised, let us now consider, What is that grace which*the Apostle doth here exalt against all fleshly wisdome. And
First, As the ground-work of all, there is to be understood, That grace of God, whereby he was called out of that pharisaical estate, and condition of enmity against Christ, to be a faithfull and ready servant to him. This wonderfull grace of God to him, doth often melt the heart of Paul, he speaketh of it with aggravating particulars, as much as may be. Thus Galat. 1, 15. When it pleased God, who called me by his grace, to reveale his Sonne in me, &c. And therefore 1 Tim. 1. 15, 16. he acknowledged himself an instance, (Because the chiefest of sinners,) of the long-suffering of Christ. In Paul's conversion there were no preparations, no merits of con∣gruity, there was no docible and fitted dispositions: Insomuch that the ad∣versaries to Gods grace do acknowledge Paul's conversion to be an extra∣ordinary thing. In the midst of his persecuting sury, when God might have struck him dead with thunder and lightnings from Heaven, and so send him quick (as it were) to Hell; God did visit him with his grace, and give him another heart, to his own amazement, and of all those who heard of it. So if you look upon Paul in a single capacity, as a private person in the whole course of his life, he giveth all to the grace of God.
Page 435 Secondly, The grace of God, which Paul doth also greatly exalt, is, In the setting of him apart to be an Apostle, and an eminent Officer in the Church of God. This crooked and rough timber, that was onely fit for the fire, God doth not onely polish and smooth by grace, but advanceth it to be an eminent part in the building; notwithstanding all Paul's former unwor∣thinesse, God doth not onely by his grace call him, but maketh him an honourable vessel in his house. This our Apostle doth likewise with great enlargement, in many places take great notice of. See how emphatical∣ly is he affected with this grace of God towards him, Ephesians 3. 7, 8. Whereof I was made a Minister according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me,—unto me, who am lesse than the least of all Saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ. Doe not these words proclaime how greatly his heart is affected with the grace of God, in setting him apart to be an Offi∣cer in his Church, and to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles? Thus the grace of Conversion, and the grace of Apostleship, are a two-fold obligation upon Paul, for ever to keep him humble, and lowly in his own eyes.
Thirdly, The grace of God exalted by Paul, is seen, In the inabling of*him in his ministerial worke, and going along with him in an effectual man∣ner. That whereas he had so many adversaries, the false Apostles, who gloried in humane wisdome, and all external enticements of the flesh of man; yet for all that, that his seeming folly should conquer their tower∣ing wisdome, that his contemptiblenesse should surmount their eminency; This argued that it was not Paul, but the grace of God with him, that was thus effectuall. Even as it was not little David in his own pow∣er, but in the name of the Lord, that did destroy that vaunting Goliah.
Now as there were many choice ingredients that did make up that pre∣cious * ointment, which was to be poured on the head of the Highpriest: So there are also many choice and gracious qualifications, with the Con∣comitants thereof, required in those who are Pastours over people, especially in the Apostles, who were Pastours over Pastours, as well as peo∣ple. As
First, It was the gracious worke of God, To make Paul to be sincere,*and to walke in all plainnesse and integrity of heart, whereas we see many in the broaching of their false wayes, are filled with great deceit and sub∣tilty. The Apostle chargeth upon such, who deliver false Doctrines, E∣phes. 4. 14. By cunning craftinesse and sleight of men, they lie in wait to de∣ceive. Those that are false Prophets in the Church of God, they have 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, A strange slighty jugling, and even be∣witching of men, but it is from the grace of God, that those who are his true Ministers are sincere and upright: They have an agreement betweene their heart and tongue. It was the speech of one reading Lectures in the Popish Schooles, Sic dico, quando sum in Scholis, sed penes nos sit; aliter sentio. I speake thus when I am in the Schooles, but to tell you a secret, I thinke otherwise. It was also a boast of another (Fredericus Staphylus) That he had so many yeares beene a professour of Divinity in the Schooles, and yet no hearer was able to tell what judgement he was of. (Gerhardi Cathol. Confessio lib. 1. par. 2. cap. 19.) Now this craft and dissimulati∣on in the old Dragon and his seed, is no wonder; but the Ministers of Christ, as they believe with their heart, so they make confession with their mouths, and dare not but reveale the whole counsel of God. It was horrible impudence in Melanthus the Grecian, who having got a King∣dome Page 436 by fraud and deceit, did in honour thereof, as if it were pleasing to their gods, appoint Festivals, calling them 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as much as coustning and deceiving, inculcating that of the Poet, Dolus an virtus, quis in hoste requirat. (Capel. Histor. An. Mund. 2872.) Certainly the Church of Rome, and many other Hereticks have gone by no better Rule, counting gaine godlinesse, counting lying and dissembling godlinesse, when they conceiv∣ed, that it made for their end. As if they were of that Kings mind Da∣rius Hystaspes, that to lie and speake truth, were all one: For he that spake truth did so to obtain his desires, and so he that lied did no more; and therefore both truth and a lie were all one. (Vide Laurent. Vul. Ji∣suit. cap. 1. pag. 30.) But oh how abominable is this, and contrary to the Spirit of Christ! The grace of God in such who are his faithfull Mi∣nisters, maketh them not to turn into such false and crooked wayes, though the preaching of the truths of Christ bringeth much hatred and opposition, though they know they are unwelcome and despised, and that for their ve∣ry message sake, yet they consult not with fleshly wisdome, but doe the work of God zealously and with much faithfulnesse. And truly the Mini∣sters of God are much to pray for this grace of God upon them, that they may be above all humane feats, all sinfull compliances, and be afraid of no∣thing, but that they should sinne, and not preach the Gospel with that bold∣nesse as they ought to do. That great commendation which the spies gave Christ, upon a wicked designe, is to be endeavoured after by every faith∣full Minister of Christ, Luke 20. 20. Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly. So that you see this sincerity in the Ministers of God, is the spe∣cial effect of Gods grace towards them.
And therefore let us make an Use of Admonition to all such as desire to serve God in the way of the Ministry, that above all things they would pray to God for this grace. To have thy ministerial conversation with much wis∣dome and learning, with great applause and glory in the world, is nothing so advantagious as this integrity of spirit. This is above parts, above gifts, above books, and all learning. It is said of Barnabas, Act. 11. 24. He was a good man; full of the holy Ghost, and of faith, and much people was added to the Lord: This followed as a blessed effect upon the former. If we Mini∣sters had more mighty workings of Gods Spirit in us, we should find more migh∣ty workings of his Spirit with us.