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some are still only half emancipated from idolatry, and when they eat such meat, feel that they are still acknowledging the idols whom they have renounced. In them it is sin to eat. And if
And if any of them see thee, which hast knowledge, sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered unto idols, and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? Remember, when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their '
weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
In the ninth chapter he urges this argument further by his own example. Do I myself, he says, , attempt to evade these principles of exalted charity? Am not I an Apostle ? if not an Apostle to others, certainly your Apostle ? Do I not forego every claim to maintenance and support from you, working with my own hands in order not to be burthensome to you? On what principle do you suppose that I relinquish these and other things, which I might most unquestionably claim and enjoy? It is for two reasons. First, for charity? I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And, secondly, for my own discipline and improvement; relinquishing justifiable ease and innocent enjoyment, thus keeping under my body, and bringing it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
But further, he continues in the tenth chapter, this partaking of idol sacrifices is not so innocent a thing as it may seem. Consider what was the case with the Jews. They had some things which were analogous to our two characteristic rites, the Christian sacraments : for they were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea; and they did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did drink the same spiritual drink : when they were discontented with this spiritual food, and lusted after the flesh-pots of Egypt; and when, instead of adhering to the invisible God, whose pillar of cloud had led them through the sea, they sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play before the golden calf in Horeb, God was displeased with them, and overthrew them with various and terrible judgments in the wilderness. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye most cautious, lest inadvertently ye be betrayed into idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. When we Christians bless the cup, and break the bread, do we not communicate with each other in one worship? When the Jews eat of the sacrifices, do they not thereby partake of the altar,—that is, communicate with each other in one worship? What do I say then? do I say that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered to the idol is any thing? No. 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 rightly drink both the
cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils. Ye cannot at one moment be partakers (and therefore jointworshippers) at the table of the Lord, and at the next, at the table of devils.
True, all these things may be lawful, but they are not expedient: true, they may be lawful, but they do not edify. These are your rules and principles of conduct. Let no man seek his own good, but every man another's. Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence either to the Jews, or the Gentiles, or the Church of God. Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved, be ye followers of me, even as I also am a follower of Christ.
The particular circumstances, under which the Apostle addressed these admirable chapters to the Corinthians, have long since passed away from the Church of Christ; but the importance and value of the precept contained in them can never pass away. There still are, and ever will be, while the world remains, things which are lawful, but not expedient; things which are lawful, but not to edification. In truth, of the acts which occur to every man amongst us to perform in the daily passage of his life, how few are there of which it is possible to say at once, • It is unlawful.' How seldom, in proportion to the vast number of acts performed, does a man do any thing of which it can be pronounced at once, and without reference to any circumstances, that it
is sinful. Characters are formed, dispositions perfected, the heart inveterately bent towards good or evil, and therefore towards happiness or misery, by the agency of things indifferent. Many a man loses hope, and cause for hope, by means of things lawful. The very acts which in one man are the materials of a character of dutiful and contented self-denial and holiness, foster in his next neighbour's mind the very opposite dispositions. If it be true, that of the whole number of human acts, at least nine-tenths are neither absolutely commanded nor absolutely forbidden ; it is also most true, and not enough remembered, that there is not one, even of these, which is devoid of real and serious influence upon the character and prospects of a man.
It is in the very nature of indifferent things that they do not admit of being treated, or settled in the abstracț. General rules cannot be given about them, because the good or evil of acting in them depends, by the very hypothesis, altogether upon the particular circumstances. And hence we may observe, how far more advantageous it is for us that the writings of the New Testament do not contain a systematic code of abstract precepts, but rather the practical application of principles to real cases and real characters. In this particular instance we are able to apprehend St. Paul's doctrine, and apply it to our new circumstances, far better from the settlement of the question of eating the idol offerings, than if he had laid down the most elaborate principles in a general way. And therefore, also, in deducing lessons from St. Paul's example, we may learn, that we shall be likely to do more good, in proportion as we are more definite and particular in our applications. I shall therefore not scruple to refer to minute and particular instances, in which great mischief seems to be sometimes incurred in the treatment of things indifferent.
I shall not attempt to define the boundaries of what is indifferent in actions, nor to make distinctions, such as might easily and reasonably be made, between various kinds of indifferent actions. Suffice it to say, that when St. Paul, in emphatical language, repeats twice in the same sentence, all things are lawful, he assuredly means to include under that denomination far the greater part of the acts which men ordinarily perform.
The things expressly forbidden are few, and comparatively rare: the things expressly commanded are also few, and easily performed. Not many men often do the one, or omit the other. It is then of the vastly numerous and various acts intermediate between these, upon the treatment of which depends almost all of human character and disposition, that we speak; and perhaps the most profitable mode of speaking will be to pass at once, after a short general statement of principles, to practical applications of them.
On referring to the passage of St. Paul, in order to gather from it the general principles by which