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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 19
Verse 19. For it is written. This passage is quoted from Isa 29:14, The Hebrew of the passage, as rendered in the English version, is, "The wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid." The version of the Seventy is, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the understanding of the prudent I will hide," kruqw corresponding substantially with the quotation by Paul. The sense in the Hebrew is not materially different. The meaning of the passage as used by Isaiah is, that such was the iniquity and stupidity of "Ariel," Isa 29:1, that is, Jerusalem, that God would so execute his judgments as to confound their wise men, and overwhelm those who boasted of their understanding. Those in whom they had confided, and on whom they relied, should appear to be bereft of their wisdom; and they should be made conscious of their own want of counsel to meet and remove the impending calamities. The apostle does not affirm that this passage in Isaiah refers to the times of the gospel. The contrary is manifestly true. But it expresses a general principle of the Divine administration—that the coming forth of God is often such as to confound human prudence; in a manner which human wisdom would not have devised; and in such a way as to show that he is not dependent on the wisdom of man. As such, the sentiment is applicable to the gospel; and expresses just the idea which the apostle wished to convey—that the wisdom of the wise should be confounded by the plan of God; and the schemes of human devising be set at nought.
I will destroy. That is, I will abolish; or will not be dependent on it; or will show that my plans are not derived from the counsels of men.
The wisdom of the wise. The professed wisdom of philosophers.
And will bring to nothing. Will show it to be of no value in this matter.
The prudent. The men professing understanding; the sages of the world. We may remark,
(1.) that the plan of salvation was not the contrivance of human wisdom.
(2.) It is unlike what men have themselves devised as systems of religion. It did not occur to the ancient philosophers; nor has it occurred to the modern.
(3.) It may be expected to excite the opposition, the contempt, and the scorn of the wise men of this world; and the gospel makes its way usually, not with their friendship, but in the face of their opposition.
(4.) Its success is such as to confound and perplex them. They despise it, and they see not its secret power: they witness its effects, but are unable to account for them. It has always been a question with philosophers why the gospel met with such success; and the various accounts which have been given of it by its enemies, show how much they have been embarrassed. The most elaborate part of Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" is contained in his attempt to state the causes of the early propagation of Christianity, in chap. xv., xvi.; and the obvious failure of the account shows how much the mind of the philosophic sceptic was embarrassed by the fact of the spread of Christianity.
(5.) The reception of the gospel demands an humble mind, Mr 10:16. Men of good sense, of humble hearts, of child, like temper, embrace it; and they see its beauty, and are won by its loveliness, and controlled by its power. They give themselves to it; and find that it is fitted to save their souls.
(6.) In this, Christianity is like all science. The discoveries in science are such as to confound the wise in their own conceits, and overthrow the opinions of the prudent, just as much as the gospel does, and thus show that both are from the same God, the God who delights to pour such a flood of truth on the mind as to overwhelm it in admiration of himself, and with the conviction of its own littleness. The profoundest theories in science, and the most subtle speculations of men of genius, in regard to the causes of things, are often overthrown by a few simple discoveries—and discoveries which are at first despised as much as the gospel is. The invention of the telescope by Galileo was, to the theories of philosophers and astronomers, what the revelation of the gospel was to the systems of ancient learning, and the deductions of human wisdom. The one confounded the world as much as the other; and both were at first equally the object of opposition or contempt.
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