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20 Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults.

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20. Brethren, be not children in understanding He proceeds a step farther; for he shows that the Corinthians are so infatuated, that they, of their own accord. draw down upon themselves, and eagerly desire, as though it were a singular benefit, what the Lord threatens that he will send, when he designs to inflict upon his people the severest punishment. What dreadful madness is this — to pursue eagerly with their whole desire, what, in the sight of God, is regarded as a curse! That we may, however, understand more accurately Paul’s meaning, we must, observe, that this statement is grounded on the testimony of Isaiah, which he immediately afterwards subjoins. (Isaiah 28:11, 12.) And as interpreters have been misled, from not observing the connection to be of this nature, to prevent all mistake, we shall first explain the passage in Isaiah, and then we shall come to Paul’s words.

In that chapter the Prophet, inveighs with severity against the ten tribes, which had abandoned themselves to every kind of wickedness. The only consolation is, that God had still a people uncorrupted in the tribe of Judah; but straightway he deplores the corruption of that tribe also; and he does so the more sharply, because there was no hope of amendment. For thus he speaks in the name of God — Whom shall I teach knowledge? those that are weaned from their mother? those that are drawn from the breasts By this he means, that they are no more capable of instruction than little children but lately weaned.

It is added — Precept upon precept, instruction upon instruction, charge upon charge, direction upon direction, here a little, and there a little In these words he expresses, in the style of a mimic, 843843     Mimetice Our author has here evidently in his eye the Greek adverb,μιμητικῶςimitatively See Plut. 2.18. B. — Ed the slowness and carelessness by which they were kept back. “In teaching them, I lose my labor, for they make no progress, because they are beyond measure uncultivated, and what they had been taught by means of long-continued labor, they in a single moment forget.”

It is added still farther — He that speaketh to that people is like one that maketh use of stammering lips, and a foreign language This is the passage that Paul quotes. Now the meaning is, 844844     “Or le Prophete signifie;” — “Now the Prophet means.” that the people have been visited with such blindness and madness, that they no more understand God when speaking to them, than they would some barbarian or foreigner, stammering in an unknown tongue — which is a dreadful curse. He has not, however, quoted the Prophet’s words with exactness, because he reckoned it enough to make a pointed reference to the passage, that the Corinthians, on being admonished, might attentively consider it. As to his saying that it was written in the law, 845845     “It is written in the law. ‘In the law,’ that is, in the Scripture, in opposition to the words of the Scribes; for that distinction was very usual in the schools. ‘This we learn out of the law, and this from the words of the Scribes. The words of the law (that is, of the Scripture) have no need of confirmation, but the words of the Scribes have need of confirmation.’ The former Prophets, and the latter, and the Hagiographa, are each styled by the name of the law.” Lightfoot. — Ed. this is not at variance with common usage; for the Prophets had not a ministry distinct from the law, but were the interpreters of the law, and their doctrine is, as it were, a sort of appendage to it; hence the law included the whole body of Scripture, up to the advent of Christ. Now Paul from this infers as follows — “Brethren, it is necessary to guard against that childishness, which is so severely reproved by the Prophet — that the word of God sounds in your ears without any fruit. Now, when you reject prophecy, which is placed within your reach, and prefer to stand amazed at empty sound, is not this voluntarily to incur the curse of God? 846846     Henderson on Isaiah, when commenting on the passage here quoted by the Apostle, (Isaiah 28:9-11,) observes, that it “contains the taunting language of the drunken priests and judges of the Jews, who repel with scorn the idea that they should require the plain and reiterated lessons which Jehovah taught by his messengers. Such elementary instruction was fit” (in their view) “only for babes: it was an insult to their understanding to suppose that they stood in need of it. The language of verse 10” (precept pon, precept, etc.) “more resembles that of inebriated persons, than any used by persons in a state of sobriety. The words are obviously selected to suit the character of those supposed to employ them; and, by their monosyllabic and repetitious forms, admirably express the initiatory process of tuition which they indignantly despise. 13-24 The language they employed in caviling at the Prophetic warnings was all but barbarous: it consisted of barely intelligible sounds: they should, by way of condign punishment, hear the foreign, and to them apparently mocking accents of the Chaldeans, whom God would employ as the interpreters of his severe but righteous will. The passage is employed by Paul (1 Corinthians 14:20, 21) quite in the spirit of the connection in which it here stands. He tacitly compares the Corinthian faction, which boasted of the faculty of speaking in unknown tongues, to the puerile characters adverted to, 1 Corinthians 14:9, (παιδία, νηπάζετε, etc.) and then reminds them, that speaking in such languages had been represented in the Jewish Scriptures — ἐν τῷ νόμῳ (in the law) as a punishment, or a mark of the Divine displeasure, and not as a matter of desire or envy.” — Ed

Farther, lest the Corinthians should say in reply, that to be spiritually children, is elsewhere commended, (Matthew 18:4,) Paul anticipates this objection, and exhorts them, indeed, to be children in malice, but to beware of being children in understanding Hence we infer how shameless a part those act, who make Christian simplicity consist in ignorance. Paul would have all believers to be, as far as possible, in full maturity as to understanding The Pope, inasmuch as it is easier to govern asses than men, gives orders, under pretext of simplicity, that all under him shall remain uninstructed. 847847     “En ignorance et bestise“ — “In ignorance and stupidity.” Let us from this draw a comparison between the dominion of Popery, and the institution of Christ, and see how far they agree. 848848     Calvin makes a similar observation when commenting on Ephesians 4:14. “Nam postquam Christo nati sumus, debemus adolescere, ita ut non simus intelligentia pueri. Hine apparet, qualis sub Papatu sit Christianismus, ubi, quam diligentissime possunt, in hoc laborant pastores, ut plebem in prima infantia detineant;” — “For after being born to Christ, we ought to grow, and not to be children in understanding. (1 Corinthians 14:20.) Hence it appears what sort of Christianity there is in connection with Popery, in which the pastors labor as strenuously as they can to keep the people in infancy.” — Ed.