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OF DOING ALL TO THE GLORY OF GOD.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.—1 Cor. x. 31.
THESE words are a general conclusion inferred from a particular case, which the apostle had been discoursing of before; and that we may the better understand the meaning of this general rule, it will not be amiss to look back a little upon the particular case the apostle was speaking of; and that was concerning “the partaking of things offered to idols,” and that in two cases; either by partaking of the idol-feasts in their temples, after the sacrifices; or by partaking of things offered to idols, whether they were brought by Christians in the market, or set before them at a private entertainment, to which by some heathens they were invited.
The first he condemns as absolutely unlawful: the other not as unlawful in itself, but in some circumstances upon the account of scandal.
The first case he speaks of from ver. 14, to 23. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, flee from idolatry. I speak to wise men: judge ye what I say.” As if he had said, You may easily apprehend what it is I am going to caution you against. And first he tells them in general, that they who communicated in the worship of any deity, or in any kind of sacrifice offered to him, did, in so doing, own and acknowledge that for a deity. To this purpose he instanceth in communicating in the Christian sacrament, 29and in the Jewish sacrifices, (ver. 16-18.) “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: (that is, the Jews) are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” Thus it is in the Christian and the Jewish worship. And the case is the same, if any man partake of the idol-feasts in their temples. This he does not express, but takes it for granted they understood what this discourse aimed at.
And then he answers an argument, which it seems was made use of by some, particularly the gnostics, of whom the apostle speaks, (chap. viii.) and that was this. If an idol be nothing, and consequently things sacrificed to idols were not to be considered as sacrifices, then it was lawful to partake of the idol-feasts, which were celebrated in their temples. And that the apostle speaks of these, is plain from his discourse against the gnostics, who made use of this argument for the lawfulness of communicating at the idol-feasts, (chap. viii. 4.) “As concerning, therefore, the eating of things which are offered in sacrifice unto idols; we know that an idol is nothing in the world,” &c. And (ver. 10.) “if any man see thee which hast knowledge (alluding to the very name of gnostics)—if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in an idol temple.”
This then is that partaking of idol-feasts, which the apostle here speaks of, which they pretended to be lawful, because an idol is nothing. This, says the apostle, I know as well as you, that an idol is 30no real deity, but for all that the devil is really worshipped and served by this means: (ver. 20.) “But I say that the things which the gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God; and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils! ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and the table of devils.”
Having declared this way of partaking of things offered to idols to be unlawful in itself, and a virtual renouncing of Christianity; then he proceeds to the consideration of the other case, of eating of things offered to idols out of their temples, which might happen several ways. Sometimes, being sold by the priests, they were exposed to sale in the market. Sometimes the heathens carried some remainders of the sacrifices to their houses, and, inviting the Christians to a feast, might set these meats before them; what should Christians do in either of these cases?
First, He determines, in general, that out of the temples it was lawful to eat these things, because in so doing they communicated in no act of worship with the heathens; it is lawful, he says, in itself; but because it might be harmful to others, and give scandal, in such circumstances, it became unlawful by accident. (Ver. 23.) “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” Things which are lawful in themselves, may in some cases be very dangerous and destructive to others, and we should not only consider ourselves, but others also. “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s welfare.” And then he comes to the particular cases. “Whatever is sold in the shambles, that 31eat, asking no question for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” We may take these things from God’s hand, who is the true Lord of them and of all creatures. For this reason we may, without scrupulous inquiry, use those meats which are publicly exposed to sale.
And so likewise, in the other case, if we be invited to the table of a heathen, we may eat what is set before us, without inquiring whether it be part of an idol-sacrifice. But if any man tells us, that this meat was offered in sacrifice to idols, in that case we ought to abstain from eating of it, “for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake;” that is, out of regard to the opinion of those who think these meats unlawful: “for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” Also, in another sense, God hath made such abundant provision for us, that we may abstain from this or that meat without any great inconvenience. “Conscience, I say, not thine own but another’s.” He had said before, we should “eat of what was set before us, asking no question for conscience sake;” that is, not making it a matter of conscience to ourselves: now, he says, if we be told it was offered to an idol, we should “not eat for conscience sake;” that is, not as making a matter of conscience of it to ourselves, but out of regard to the conscience of another, to whom it might be a scandal. “For why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? and if I with thanksgiving be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?” that is, why should another man’s conscience be a prejudice to my liberty? If another makes conscience of it as unlawful, why should his conscience govern mine, and make me think so too; or why should I be 32evil spoken of, for thinking it lawful to eat any thing set before me, for which I give thanks? This is a little obscure; but the plain meaning of the apostle’s reasoning seems to be this:—though I have that regard to another man’s weak conscience, as to abstain from eating what he thinks unlawful; yet am I not therefore bound to be of his opinion, and think it unlawful in itself; I will consider his weakness so far as to forbear that which I am persuaded is lawful to do, but yet I will still preserve the liberty of my own judgment; and as I am content to give no scandal to him, so I expect that he should not censure and condemn me for thinking that lawful, which he believes not to be so: and then, from all this discourse, the apostle established! this general rule in the text; “Wherefore, whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” To which is parallel that other text, (1 Pet. iv. 11.) “That God in all things may be glorified.” So that this general rule lays a duty upon all Christians of designing the glory of God in all their actions; all the difficulty is, what is here meant by this, of doing all things “to the glory of God.” The Jews have a common saying, which seems to be parallel with this phrase of the apostle, “That all things should be done in the name of God.” And this they make so essential to every good action, that it was a received principle among them, that he who obeys any command of God, and not in his name, shall receive no reward. Now, that to do things “in the name of God,” and to do them “to his glory,” are but several phrases signifying the same thing, is evident from that precept of the apostle, (Col. iii. 17.) “And whatsoever ye do in word, or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord 33Jesus Christ;” that is, to his glory. Now for our clear understanding of the sense of this phrase of glorifying God, or doing things to God’s glory; we will consider the various use of it in Scripture, and so descend to the proper and particular sense of it here in the text.
The glory of God is nothing else but the honour which is given to him by his creatures; and consequently, the general notion of glorifying God, or doing any thing to his glory, is to design to honour God by such and such actions: and this phrase is in Scripture more especially applied to these following particulars:
I. We are said in Scripture to glorify God by a solemn acknowledgment of him and his perfections, of his goodness and mercy, of his power and wisdom, of his truth and faithfulness, of his sovereign dominion and authority over us. Hence it is that all solemn actions of religion are called the worship of God, which is given to him by his creatures, signified by some outward expression of reverence and respect. Thus we are said to worship God, when we fall down before him, and pray to him for mercy and blessings, or praise him for favours and benefits received from him, or perform any other solemn act of religion: (Psal. lxxxvi. 9.) “All nations whom thou hast made, shall come and worship before thee, O Lord, and shall glorify thy name.”
But, especially, the duty of praise and thanks giving is most frequently in Scripture called glorifying of God, or giving glory to him. (Psal. lxxxvi. 12.) “I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify thy name.” (Matt. v. 16.) “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify 34your Father which is in heaven;” that is, praise him upon that account. (Luke v. 25.) It is said of the man sick of the palsy, that when he was healed, “He departed to his own house glorifying God;” that is, praising God for his great mercy to him. And (Luke xvii. 18.) our Saviour, speaking of the ten lepers that were healed, says, that “but one of them returned to give glory to God;” that is, to return thanks to God for his recovery.
II. Men are said in Scripture to give glory to God by the acknowledgment of their sins, and repentance of them. (Josh. vii. 19.) “And Joshua said to Achan, My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to him.” In like manner, the prophet Jeremiah, exhorting the people to repentance, useth this expression: (Jer. xiii. 16.) “Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains.” And (Rev. xvi. 9.) it is said, that those upon whom great plagues fell, “repented not to give God glory.” We glorify God by confession of our sins and repentance, because in so doing we acknowledge his authority, and the holiness of those righteous laws which we have broken.
III. We are said, likewise, in Scripture to glorify God by our holiness and obedience. Thus we are commanded to glorify God by the chastity of our bodies, and the purity of our minds: (1 Cor. vi. 20.) “Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are his.” Thus our Saviour is said to have glorified God in the world, by his perfect obedience to his will: (John xvii. 4.) “Father, I have glorified thee upon earth.” And thus he tells us we may glorify God, by the fruits of holiness and obedience in our lives: (John xv. 8.) “Herein is my Father 35glorified, if ye bring forth much fruit.” So likewise St. Paul prays for the Philippians, that they may be “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.”
IV. We are said likewise, in an especial manner, to glorify God by our sufferings for his cause and truth. (John xxi. 19.) Our Saviour foretelling St. Peter’s martyrdom, expresseth it by this phrase of glorifying God by his death; “This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.”
V. And lastly, And because religion is the solemn honour, and public owning and acknowledgment of the Deity; hence it is, that in Scripture we are said to glorify God in a peculiar and eminent manner, when in all our actions we consult the honour and advantage of religion. Upon this account, St. Peter exhorts the ministers of the gospel so to preach to the people, and so to perform the public offices of religion, as may be for the honour of religion; and this he calls glorifying of God: (1 Pet. iv. 11.) “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified.” And because the peace and unity of Christians is so very much for the honour and advantage of religion, therefore we are said, in an especial manner, to glorify God, by maintaining the peace and unity of the church: (Rom. xv. 5, 6.) “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another, that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And here in the text, we are said to “do all things to the glory of God,” when in all our actions we have a regard to the promoting and advancing of religion, and the 36edification of Christians. For here, by eating and drinking” to the glory of God,” the apostle plainly means, that when things offered to idols are set before us, we should refrain from them, when, by our eating, the interest of religion, and the edification of Christians, may receive any prejudice; that is, when our eating may be a scandal to others, that is, a stumbling-block, or an occasion of falling into sin. And that this is the apostle’s meaning is evident from ver. 23. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient; (οὐ πάντα συμφέρει, all things profit not;) all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not;” that is, though I know it is a thing very lawful in itself, to eat things which have been offered to idols, if they be bought in the market, or accidentally set before me at a feast; yet, in some circumstances, it may not be for the advantage of religion, and be so far from edifying, that it may be an occasion of sin to them. For instance, I am invited to a feast, where things offered to idols are set before me, and one says, This was offered in sacrifice unto idols; a sufficient intimation to me that he thinks it unlawful; and therefore I will forbear, because of the inconvenience to religion, and the manifold scandal that might follow upon it, by hindering others from embracing religion; or by tempting weak Christians, either to the doing of a thing against their conscience, or to apostatize from religion. In this case, he that ab stains from these meats, and contents himself with others, eats “to the glory of God.”
And, that this is the true notion of scandal or offence, not barely to grieve others, or do things displeasing to them, but to do such things as are really hurtful to others, and may be a prejudice or 37hinderance to their salvation, and an occasion of their falling into sin: I say, that this is the true and proper notion of scandal is evident from what follows immediately after the text; “Give none offence, to the Jews, nor to the gentiles, nor to the church of God; as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” “Give no offence to the Jews, nor to the gentiles, nor to the church of God f the apostle intimates, that such an action as this we are speaking of, might be an occasion of sin to all these, and a hinderance of their salvation: it might hinder the Jew from turning Christian, and harden him in his infidelity; for he might say, See how well you Christians worship one God, when you can partake of things offered to idols: it might confirm the heathen in his superstition, and keep him from embracing Christianity; for he might say, surely, Why should the Christians persuade me to forsake the worship of idols, when they themselves will knowingly eat things offered to them? It might tempt the weak Christians either to sin against their consciences by following my example, or to apostatize from Christianity upon this offence taken against it; therefore, says the apostle, “do all things to the glory of God;” that is, for the honour and advantage of the Christian religion, and the furtherance of men’s salvation: for so, says he, I do, in these and all other actions of my life; I study the advantage of all men, in all things, not regarding mine own convenience in comparison of the eternal salvation of others.
And thus I have as briefly and clearly as I could explained this phrase to you, of doing things “to the glory of God.”38
The result of all is, that we glorify God by doing our duty, by all actions of worship and obedience to God, and by our repentance in case of sin and disobedience, by doing and by suffering the will of God, more especially by using our Christian liberty, as to things lawful in themselves, so as may make most for the honour and advantage of religion, for the unity and edification of the church, and the salvation of the souls of men, which is the proper notion here in the text of eating and drinking, and doing whatever we do, “to the glory of God.”
From all this discourse it will be evident, that three things must concur, that our actions may be said to be done “to the glory of God.”
1. Our actions must be materially good; we must do what God commands, and abstain from doing what he hath forbidden. Sin is in its nature a dishonour to God, a contradiction to his nature, and a contempt of his authority and laws; so that we cannot glorify God by transgressing our duty.
2. Our actions must not only be good, but they must be done with regard to God, and out of conscience to our duty to him, and in hopes of the reward which he hath promised, and not for any low, and mean, and temporal end. The best action in itself may be spoiled, and all the virtue of it blasted, by being done for a wrong end. If we serve God to please men, and be charitable out of vain glory “to be seen of men;” if we profess godliness for gain, and are religious only to serve our temporal interest, though the actions we do be never so good, yet all the virtue and reward of them is lost, by the mean end and design which we aim at in the doing of them; because all this while we have no love or regard for God, and the authority of his 39laws; we make no conscience of our duty to him, we are not moved by the rewards of another world, which may lawfully work upon us, and prevail with us, but we are swayed by little temporal advantages, which if we could obtain as well by doing the contrary, we would as soon, nay, perhaps, much sooner, do it.
And this is so essentially necessary, that no action, though never so good, that is not done with regard to God, and upon some of the proper motives and considerations of religion, such as are the authority of God, conscience of our duty to him, love of him, faith in his promises, fear of his displeasure; I say, no action that is not done upon all, or some of these motives, can be said to be done “to the glory of God.” And this is the meaning of that saying among the Jews which I mentioned before, “That he who obeys any command of God, but not in his name, shall receive no reward.” Moral actions receive their denomination of good or evil, as well from the end, as from the matter of them; and as the best end cannot sanctify an action bad in itself, so a bad end and design is enough to spoil the best action we can do; and as it is great impiety to do a wicked thing, though for a religious end, so it is great hypocrisy to be religious for mean and temporal ends.
3. That all our actions may be done “to the glory of God,” we must not only take care that they be lawful in themselves, but that they be not spoiled and vitiated by any bad circumstance; for circumstances alter moral actions, and may render that which is lawful in itself, unlawful in some cases: so that if we would “do all things to the glory of God,” we must in some cases refrain from doing that which 40is lawful in itself. As, when such an action that I am about to do, may .through the prejudice or mistake of men probably redound to the dishonour and disadvantage of religion, by causing factions and divisions, by hindering some from embracing the true religion, or making others apostatize from it, or by being any other way an occasion to men of falling into sin, or any impediment to their salvation; in these and the like cases, we are bound to have that consideration of religion, that regard to the peace and unity of the church, that tenderness and charity for the souls of men, as to deny ourselves the use of things otherwise lawful; and if we do not do it, we offend against a great rule both of piety and charity.
I shall only farther at present endeavour to give a brief resolution to two questions, much debated upon occasion of this rule of the apostle, of doing “all things to the glory of God.”
First, How far we are bound actually to intend and design the glory of God in every particular action of our lives. To this I answer,
1. That it is morally impossible that a man should do every particular action with actual and explicit thoughts and intentions of glorifying God thereby, and therefore there can be no obligation to any such thing.
2. It is not necessary, no more than for a man that takes a journey, every step of his way actually to think of his journey’s end, and at the place whither he intends to go; a constant resolution to go to such a place, and a due care not to go out of the way; and in case of any doubt, to inform ourselves as well as we can of the right way; and to keep in it, is as much consideration of the end of a man’s journey, 41as is needful to bring him thither, and more than this would be troublesome and to no purpose; the case is the very same in the course of a man’s life. From whence it follows, in the
3. Third place, That a habitual and settled intention of mind, to glorify God in the course of our lives, is sufficient; because this will serve all good purposes, as well as an actual intention upon every particular occasion. He that doeth things with regard to God, and out of conscience of his duty to him, and upon the proper motives and considerations of religion, in obedience and love to God, in hopes of his reward, and out of fear of his displeasure, glorifies God in his actions. And if this principle be but rooted and settled in his mind, it is sufficient to govern his life, and is virtually, and to all purposes, as true and constant an intention of glorifying God, as if we did actually and explicitly propound this end to ourselves in every particular action of our lives.
Secondly, Whether a man be bound to prefer the glory of God before his own eternal happiness, as Moses and St. Paul seem to have done; the one in being content to have his name blotted out of the book of life, the other to be anathema from Christ, for the salvation of Israel? To this I answer,
If we could admit the supposition, that the glory of God and a man’s eternal happiness might come in competition, there could be no obligation upon a man to choose eternal misery upon any consideration whatsoever. The preference of one thing before another, supposeth them both to be objects of our choice; but the greatest evil known and apprehended to be so, cannot be the object of a reasonable choice; neither the greatest moral nor natural 42evil of sin, or misery. Sin is not to be chosen in any case, no, not for the glory of God. The apostle makes the supposition, and answers it; that if the truth and glory of God could be promoted by his lie, yet we are “not to do evil that good may come,” (Rom. iii. 7, 8.)
Nor is the greatest natural evil the object of our choice. God himself hath planted a principle in our nature to the contrary, to seek our own happiness, and to avoid utter ruin and destruction; and then surely much more that which is much worse, as eternal misery is, whatever some learned men, in despite of nature and common sense, have asserted to the contrary, that it is better and more desirable to be extremely and eternally miserable, than not to be; for what is there desirable in being, when it serves to no other purpose but to be the foundation of endless and intolerable misery? And if this be a principle of our nature, can any man imagine that God should frame us so, as to make the first and fundamental principle of it directly opposite to our duty?
As to the instance of Moses, it does not reach this case; because the phrase of “blotting out of the book of life,” does in all probability signify no more than a temporal death. As to that of St. Paul, it is by no means to be taken in a strict sense, but as a vehement and hyperbolical expression of his mighty affection to his brethren according to the flesh, “For whom (says he) I could wish to be an anathema from Christ.” Besides the reason of the thing, the form of the expression shews the meaning of it, “I could wish;” that is, I would be content to do or suffer almost any thing for their salvation; insomuch, that I could wish, if it were fit, and lawful, 43and reasonable, to make such a wish, to be accursed from Christ for their sakes. It is plainly a suspended form of speech, which declares nothing absolutely. But,
2. It is a vain and senseless supposition, that the glory of God and our eternal happiness can stand in competition. By seeking the glory of God, we naturally and directly promote our own happiness; the glory of God and our happiness are inseparably linked together; we cannot glorify God by sin; and so gracious hath God been to us, that he hath made those things to be our duty which naturally tend to our felicity; and we cannot glorify God more than by doing our duty, nor can we promote our own happiness more effectually than by the same way. From whence it plainly follows, that the glory of God and our happiness cannot reason ably be supposed to cross and contradict one another; and therefore the question is frivolous, which supposeth they may come in competition. (1 Cor. xv. 58.) The apostle exhorts Christians to be “steadfast, and unmoveable, and abundant in the work of the Lord, knowing that their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.” And (Tit. i. 1, 2.) the apostle calls himself “a servant of Jesus Christ, in hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie hath promised.” To serve God in hope of eternal life, is to glorify God; and therefore the glory of God and our eternal happiness are never to be opposed.
I shall briefly draw two or three inferences from this discourse, and so conclude.
I. See here the great goodness of God to man kind, who is pleased to esteem whatever is for the good of men, to be for the glory of God; and whatever 44tends to the eternal salvation of ourselves or others, to be a glorifying of himself.
II. We learn hence, likewise, the excellency of the Christian religion, which requires, not only a conscientious care of ourselves to do nothing but what is lawful, but likewise a charitable regard to others in the use of our liberty; in the doing or not doing of those things which we may lawfully do; after the securing of our own happiness by doing our duty, we are to consult the edification and salvation of others, in the charitable use of our liberty in those things which God hath left indifferent.
III. Here is a great argument to us to be very careful of our duty, and to abound in the fruits of holiness, because hereby we glorify God. “Herein is my Father glorified, (says our Saviour) if ye bring forth much fruit; and the apostle tells us, that “the fruits of righteousness are to the praise and glory of God.” We having all from God, our very being, our souls and bodies, and the powers and faculties of both, therefore we should give him the glory of his own gifts; our souls and bodies were not only made by him at first, but are like wise redeemed by him, and bought with a price, and therefore, as the apostle argues, “we should glorify him in our bodies, and in our souls, which are his.”
IV. And lastly, We should in all our actions have a particular regard to the honour and advantage of religion, the edification of our brethren, and the peace and unity of the church; because, in these things, we do in a peculiar manner glorify God. In vain do men pretend to seek the glory of God by faction and division, which do in their own nature so immediately tend to the dishonour and damage 45of religion. Next to the wicked lives of men, nothing is so great a disparagement and weakening to religion, as the divisions of Christians; and therefore, instead of employing our zeal about differences, we should be zealous for peace and unity, “that with one mind, and one mouth, we may glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”46
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