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4. Apostles of Christ

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. 6And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. 7For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? 8Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. 9For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. 10We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. 11Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 14I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. 15For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. 17For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. 18Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. 19But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. 20For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. 21What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

4. I am not conscious to myself of anything faulty. Let us observe that Paul speaks here not of his whole life, but simply of the office of apostleship. For if he had been altogether unconscious to himself of anything wrong, 222222     “Si nihil prorsus sibi consciret;” — our author most probably had in his eye a well-known passage in Horace, (Ep. I. 1. 61,) “Nil conscire sibi;” — “To be conscious to one’s self of nothing wrong.” — Ed. that would have been a groundless complaint which he makes in Romans 7:15, where he laments that the evil which he would not, that he does, and that he is by sin kept back from giving himself up entirely to God. Paul, therefore, felt sin dwelling in him, and confessed it; but as to his apostleship, (which is the subject that is here treated of,) he had conducted himself with so much integrity and fidelity, that his conscience did not accuse him as to anything. This is a protestation of no common character, and of such a nature as clearly shows the piety and sanctity of his breast; 223223     “Combien sa conscience estoit pure et nette;” — “How pure and clean his conscience was.” and yet he says that he is not thereby justified, that is, pure, and altogether free from guilt in the sight of God. Why? Assuredly, because God sees much more distinctly than we; and hence, what appears to us cleanest, is filthy in his eyes. Here we have a beautiful and singularly profitable admonition, not to measure the strictness of God’s judgment by our own opinion; for we are dim-sighted, but God is preeminently discerning. We think of ourselves too indulgently, but God is a judge of the utmost strictness. Hence the truth of what Solomon says —

“Every man’s ways appear right his own eyes, but the Lord pondereth the hearts.” (Proverbs 21:2.)

Papists abuse this passage for the purpose of shaking the assurance of faith, and truly, I confess, that if their doctrine were admitted, we could do nothing but tremble in wretchedness during our whole life. For what tranquillity could our minds enjoy if it were to be determined from our works whether we are well-pleasing to God? I confess, therefore, that from the main foundation of Papists there follows nothing but continual disquietude for consciences; and, accordingly, we teach that we must have recourse to the free promise of mercy, which is offered to us in Christ, that we may be fully assured that we are accounted righteous by God.


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