1 Corinthians 3:4
For when one of you says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?
Spiritual Condition of These Corinthian Partisans CharacterizedC. Lipscomb 1 Corinthians 3:1-4
Christian Teachers and Their WorkH. Bremner 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
CarnalityT. Binney.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
ContentionsA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
DiscordA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
EnvyingA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
Incapacity in HearersA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
Milk for BabesA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
Prod an Example to Christian MinistersJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
Reflections for ChurchesD. Thomas, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
StF. W. Robertson, M. A.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
The Comparative Carnality of ChristiansJ. Leifchild, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
The Distinction Between Milk and MeatC. Hodge, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
The Doctrines of the Gospel the Food of ChristiansN. Emmons, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
The Ministerial OnceC. Hodge, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
The Remains of Corruption in the RegenerateA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
Walking as MenA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
Farm LabourersC. H. Spurgeon.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
God the Giver of IncreaseRalph Williams.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
God's Husbandry and BuildingM. Dods, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Gospel PlantingA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Human Instrumentality Useless Without GodJ. Haslegrave, B. A.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Moral IncreaseB. Ward.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Partiality for Preachers to be Avoided1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Partisanship in the ChurchJ. Lyth.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Party Spirit Unbecoming and InjuriousA. Tefler, A. M.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Preachers in Their RelationsJ. Bush.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Rewards Proportionable to WorksBp. Smalridge.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Spiritual IncreaseA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Spiritual WateringA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
That the Best Ministry is Nothing Without God's Power Giving the IncreaseA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
The Carnality of ChurchismsD. Thomas, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
The Christian Hearer's First LessonC. Elis.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
The Reward of the Christian MinistryA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
The Success of the Gospel Entirely of GodJ. Witherspoon, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
The Success of the Ministry Owing to a Divine InfluenceS. Davies, A. M.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
The True Estimate of the Ministers of ChristJ. Lyth. D. D.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
The Unity of Christian WorkA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Thinking Too Much of MinistersA. Burgess., A. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Undue Partiality to God's MinistersJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Unprofitable HearingW. Baxendale.1 Corinthians 3:4-8
Work and WagesG. D. Macgregor.1 Corinthians 3:4-8

These men were in a low state of Christian development, their growth in grace having been arrested by the jealousy and strife dominant in their midst. Under such circumstances, personal progress and Church progress were impossible. Individual self assertion and arrogance could net but lead to the depreciation of others, nor could envious rivalries tolerate merit and worth in those whom it sought to crush. On the other hand, looking at the Church as an organic body, its virtue was a common stock, to be cherished, honoured, and diligently maintained by every one of its members. Its zeal was not a solitary flame burning on an isolated altar, but the combined warmth of many hearts. Diversity, too, is God's law, diversity reaching down into temperament, diversity in the highest realm of gifts, diversity of insight and experience, and this factious temper was fatal to diversity. Agreeably to the Divine method, diversity was preliminary to unity, and men were allowed free action of individuality, that the strongest and best elements of character, and especially its latent qualities, might be brought out and incorporated in the totality of the Church. A very miscellaneous world environed these Corinthians; the Christian community itself was made up of Jews, Greeks, and Romans; and the reasons were, therefore, exceptionally stringent that they should, as brethren, be very closely banded together in one mind, "the mind of Christ." Had they been a homogeneous people, circumstantial motives, which have a very important part to play in the scheme of providence, would not have been so imperative. But these dissensions involved their national peculiarities, and hence the antecedents of blood, the residuum of former bitterness, would surely come in to aggravate their animosities. They were "babes in Christ," and furthermore, they were "carnal;" and this infantile and carnal state, in which all growth had been stopped, was due solely to intestine discord. Had they considered what a grievous evil it was? Paul and Apollos, Tarsian and Alexandrian, had been put by no choice of theirs in a position very unenviable, nay, in despite of their earnest remonstrance. Leaders they were, leaders they must be, leaders of the Church; and on this very account, nothing could be more ill timed, nothing more abhorrent to their personal feelings, nothing so little like "the mind of Christ," as the attempt to make them heads of factions. Alas for such unwise friends, blocking up their way and multiplying the hazards, already enormous, of their ministry in Achaia! If this audacious effort continued, how could they withstand their enemies? The heart of St. Paul is stirred, and, in this chapter, it swells to the full compass of his apostleship. Intellectual heroism is needed now, and in that, as in the other qualities of an habitual hero, he is never wanting. - L.

For while one saith, I am of Paul... are ye not carnal?
In the Church at Corinth there was a variety of elements; the Roman democratic — independent in thought and action; the Greek — cultured, philosophic, and aesthetic; the Jewish — craving for signs and wonders. Here consequently there was diversity of thought, and discussions which would lead to divisions. The Corinthian Christians, therefore, instead of being united by having Christ as the supreme object of thought and love, were divided by certain forms of religious thought. No two men will have exactly the same views on the same subject. Paul would not give out the same views in the same way as Apollos or Peter, and their auditors would therefore have their preferences. Herein we have the philosophy of existence of various Churches. Note —

I. THE NATURE OF CHURCHISM. The Corinthians who said, "I am of Paul," "I am of Apollos," had such an exaggerated estimate of their particular favourites as led them to depreciate the merits of the others. To the Paulites there was no teacher equal to him, &c. This I call Churchism. To become members of institutions called Churches, and advocate the peculiar views they represent, may be right and useful. It affords opportunities for mutual counselling and spiritual stimulation. But when our communion becomes the centre and circumference of our souls it is sectarianism. One says, I am of the Catholic Church; another, I am of the Greek; another, I am of the English, &c. There is only one true Church, and that is composed of those only who have a vital and practical faith in Christ Himself. "I determined," says Paul, "to know nothing amongst men save Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

II. THE DEPRAVITY OF CHURCHISM. "Are ye not carnal?" This bodily part of man's being possesses desires, tendencies, and appetites, which our corrupt imaginations nurture and inspire with sinful propensities. Hence to this Paul seems to trace nearly all immoral conduct (ver. 3). That man is carnal who allows his mind to be engrossed —

1. In the human rather than in the Divine. The walk of the spiritual man is with God, he sees Him who is invisible; the "carnal" man lives in the human, never rises above the cloudy atmosphere of human opinions. How some men are chained to their little sects! With them it is all "our Church," "our body," "our principles." Instead of climbing up the breezy heights of Divine ideas, they live down in sectarian glens, breathing the fog of human crotchets, and with souls half suffocated, they exclaim, "I am a Churchman," "I am a Nonconformist," &c.

2. In the selfish rather than in the benevolent. The spiritual man lives not to himself, but to God, and for others; to the "carnal" man self is the object of his supreme interest and aim. Churchism often cuts the soul away from all but the members of its own little community.

3. In the transitory rather than the permanent? The spiritual man labours not supremely for the bread which perishes, but is ever more in quest of eternal life or eternal goodness. Not so the "carnal" man, he is ever in pursuit of temporary pleasures, possessions. Now Churchism lives in the temporary. "Our little systems have their day, they have their day and pass away." Human thoughts, even the best of them, are only as the "grass that withereth," God's thoughts alone endure, the "word of the Lord shall stand for ever."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)


1. Undue partiality for certain ministers.

2. The offensive exaltation of party names.


1. It does dishonour to God.

2. Occasions strife in the Church.

3. Damages God's servants.

4. Neutralises their work.

III. ITS OCCASION — carnality of heart — consequently implies a weak. babyish (ver. 1) Christianity.

(J. Lyth.)

The apostle's scope is to repress the pride and contentions that were in the Church of Corinth. That although it is the duty of people to have a great and high esteem of the ministers of the gospel, yet they are not sinfully and inordinately to admire or rest merely upon any man's person.


1. Highly to account of the office and the work of the ministry as being the Divine institution and appointment of Christ in His Church. Thus the apostle — "Let a man account of us as the stewards of Christ" (1 Corinthians 4:1).

2. Your spiritual respect lieth in the hearing of the Word preached and the receiving the Word with all gladness of heart. Thus Christ saith, "He that heareth you heareth Me" (Luke 10:16), and therefore they are compared to ambassadors, that do in Christ's stead entreat you to be reconciled unto God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

3. You are not only to give them respectful hearing and diligent waiting upon their ministry, but to obey and submit unto that work of the Lord, which they enjoin you out of God's Word.

4. All this bearing, love, and obedience, must be to them for the work's sake. This the apostle urgeth, and there is a greater matter in that: "Have them in all respect for their work sake" (1 Thessalonians 5:13).

5. You ought to show your spiritual respect and entertainment to the ministry, in avoiding all those evil and wicked ways which may grieve and make sad the hearts of godly ministers. When Jeremiah saw his people walk so disobediently, he said his soul should mourn in secret for them (Jeremiah 13:17). Did not Christ weep over Jerusalem?


1. When we set up the gifts and persons of men, so as to neglect Christ working in and by them. If it be so great a sin in temporal and outward things to take of the glory due to God, and attribute it to instruments, how much more is this in spiritual things.

2. Then men sinfully admire when they set up the gifts and abilities of one to the contempt of others.

3. Then men sinfully admire when their failings and errors they will follow and defend. If these Corinthians that were for Peter should have been led aside, as he did many to circumcision, this was their infirmity.

(A. Burgess.)That it is not lawful for Christians to call themselves by the name of any men, though never so eminent, so as to build on them. Christ and His truth are the foundation we must build upon. The apostles, indeed, are called the foundations (Revelation 22:14), but they were immediately inspired; and they were but secondary foundations. So that we are not believers in Paul or Peter. We are not the apostles' believers, much less the fathers', or any doctors and teachers in the world. For the opening of this, let us consider, first, the names that Christians have had in the New Testament, and afterwards in the Church. For by wise names we come to know the nature of things.

1. Christ did often call those that followed Him His disciples. Thus, he that would be His disciple must hate father and mother for His sake. Lean not to thy own understanding. Lean not to others; for only Christ is Truth. Another name, and that most frequent, was believers. Christians are often called by this title; none more frequent. And this also doth difference Christians from all other sects in the world. All the philosophers they affected to be knowing men, not believing. Faith of assent would breed faith of fiducial adherence. Another name often attributed to Christians is saints. "The saints at Corinth," and in many places. But the most famous and distinguishing name of the people of God is Christians.There are pregnant reasons for this.

1. Because as our faith in regard of the efficient cause is the gift of God, so the object and motive of it must be God's authority, because He speaks and revealeth such things. Human faith is because a man saith such a thing; Divine faith, because God saith so. Now see how careful the apostle was that the Church's faith should not be in human wisdom, but in the mighty power of God.

2. Therefore we may not be called after men, to build on them, because we are not baptized into any man's name; and we are only to possess those whose name we are baptized into (1 Corinthians 1:13).

3. The apostle presseth another argument: "Was Paul crucified for you? Did Paul die for you" (1 Corinthians 1:13)? His meaning is, In Him only are we to believe who is able to make our reconciliation with God, who hath wrought our redemption for us.

4. Our apostle urgeth a further argument in the same chapter, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord; and Christ is made unto us wisdom. So all boasting in men is to be excluded, as well as boasting in works.

5. The Scripture makes it a great sin in matters of religion and the worship of God to be servants of men (1 Corinthians 7:23).

6. The ministers of God, though never so eminent, have been afraid of this, they have prohibited such restings upon them. That it is the property of godly ministers not to bring men to themselves, but to Christ.

(A. Burgess.)

A Christian hearer, meeting an acquaintance who had been to hear a sermon, said, "Well, I hope you have been gratified." "Indeed I have," replied the other; "I wish I could have prevailed on you to have heard him. I am sure you would never afterwards have liked any other preacher." "Then," replied the wiser man, "I never will hear him; for I only wish to hear ministers who show so high an esteem for the Word of God, that their hearers shall love it, hear it from whom they may. For 'who is Paul, or who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed?'"

Who then is Paul?
Note —


1. The case of those who look on their connection with particular parties as serving of itself to insure their salvation. No party distinction can assure any man of God's favour, or heaven. It is not Church membership, but union with Christ that warrants the hope of salvation. "Neither circumcision availeth anything," &c.

2. The case of those who confine their attachment to particular ministers, and think more highly of them than they ought to think. Not that hearers are wrong in feeling for their own ministers more esteem than for others (1 Thessalonians 5:12), nor in esteeming those most through whom they receive most benefit. But blamable they are when even to these they confine their attachment, and when they do not sincerely esteem all whose preaching and practice prove that they are the servants of Christ.


1. Paul here speaks of means being used. In allusion to husbandry he speaks both of planting and of watering as preceding the increase; and, indeed, without both, the hope of an increase would not be authorised. Now, does this not teach that unless we be diligent in using the means we cannot expect to be instruments of good?

2. But means, although of God's appointment and furnishing, can only by Himself be rendered effectual.(1) In the nature of things it cannot be otherwise. If, in reference to the body, God only can open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, loose the tongues of the dumb, how can it be supposed that any less power than the power of God is sufficient to effect such changes as these with respect to the soul? With counsels the most friendly, warnings the most solemn, arguments the most persuasive, we may labour to reclaim men. But although we had the zeal and learning of Paul, and besides the eloquence of Apollos, yet sinners will remain in the gall of bitterness, unless, as accompanied with the blessing of God, the efforts we make be crowned with success. And it is no less evident that of God only is also the progressive improvement of the saints. If the life of the body be dependent on God, how can any but God preserve and nourish the life of the soul?(2) I may also appeal in evidence of this to your own observation. It cannot but be obvious —(a) That the means and instruments most likely to be useful often fail, while good is often done by means and instruments which are known to be far less promising.(b) That persons most likely to be profited by ministers, not unfrequently remain unedified; while those who are less likely to be profited by them often make much improvement.(c) That effects, too wonderful to be the effects of mere human power, are often produced by the ministry of the gospel.(3) Nor is it more confirmed by observation than it is by experience, that Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but it is God alone who giveth the increase.(4) Turning to this blessed book, how plainly do we find this doctrine uniformly taught by the sacred writers! It is said of Lydia that "her heart the Lord opened in attending to the things which were spoken by Paul." It is said of the converts in the house of Cornelius, "Then hath God also unto the Genthes granted repentance unto life." It is said of the Ephesians, "You hath He quickened, you who were dead in trespasses and sins." "No man," says the Saviour, "can come unto Me, except the Father who hath sent Me draw him." And the regenerate are "born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

III. IMPROVEMENT. Is it so that the success of ministerial labours is wholly of God? — then —

1. Ministers should look upon themselves as only instrumental in the doing of good. Melancthon, when he was converted, thought he should be able to make people soon see what he saw, and feel what he felt; but the want of success soon led him to say that he found old Adam too powerful for young Melancthon.

2. That God should be viewed by the hearers of the gospel as He who alone can effectually profit them.

3. Ministers and hearers ought to pray to God for His effectual blessing.

(A. Tefler, A. M.)


1. As mere instruments.

2. Possessing different qualifications.

3. Yet all used of God.

4. For the benefit of them that believe.

II. DISHONOURS GOD — because it —

1. Transfers to man the honour due to Him alone.

2. Puts contempt on some of the instruments whom He has chosen.

3. Refuses the benefit which might be received through them.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. THEIR OFFICE — all alike instruments in the hands of God.

1. He chooses them.

2. Qualifies them for some special department of toil.

3. Gives them success.

4. Rewards them, each according to his own labour.

II. THEIR WORK — co-workers with God.

1. The sphere, ye are God's husbandry, God's building.

2. Their separate departments, one lays the foundation, another builds.

3. Their particular duty to work in harmony with God's plan.


1. In the selection of material.

2. Every man's work must be tested by fire in that day, and abide the issue.

(J. Lyth. D. D.)

its cause: — A lady who was present at the Lord's Supper, where the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine was assisting, was much impressed with his discourse. She went again the next Sabbath to hear him. But she felt none of those strong impressions she experienced on the former occasion. Wondering at this, she called on Mr. Erskine and asked him if he could account for it. He replied, "Madam, the reason is this — last Sabbath you went to hear Jesus Christ; but to-day you have come to hear Ebenezer Erskine."

(W. Baxendale.)

I. GOD NOT ONLY SENDS AND EMPLOYS, BUT QUALIFIES ALL WHOM HE EMPLOYS FOR PROMOTING HIS SERVICE. From this it is evident that the glory of the whole work, and the success of every particular servant, is entirely owing to their great Lord and Master (1 Corinthians 4:7).

1. All the endowments of mind which fit a man for common or special service are the gift of God. He only endows them with knowledge and comprehension to understand His sacred truths, and enables them to communicate their knowledge to others in an acceptable manner (Exodus 4:11, 12). Further, as it is the inspiration of the Almighty that giveth understanding, so the improvement of natural parts by acquired learning is no less to be ascribed to Him. As He gives the disposition and ability, so it is He who, by the course of His providence, furnishes the means and presents the opportunity of making progress. Let human efforts be what they will, if God do not smile upon them they will infallibly be blasted.

2. It is God who endows His ministers with holy and gracious dispositions, which serve to turn their other talents into the proper channel, and to give them force and influence (2 Corinthians 4. 5, 6).

II. GOD GIVES EFFICACY TO THE INSTRUCTIONS EVEN OF THE MOST EMINENT AND BEST QUALIFIED MINISTERS, BY THE IMMEDIATE SUPERNATURAL OPERATION OF HIS SPIRIT AND GRACE. With every other advantage they shall not be able to make one sincere convert, unless Almighty God be pleased to open the way by His Divine grace into the heart and conscience of the sinner. The husbandman may manure and dig the soil, and sow his seed with the greatest diligence and care; but he hath not so much as begun the great process of growth. How many things must necessarily concur which are beyond the reach of his power! The enlivening heat of the sun, the refreshing dews and rain, are wholly under the direction and disposal of the omnipotent Jehovah. Just so in spiritual husbandry. "So then neither is he that planteth anything," &c.

III. GOD EXERCISES MUCH OF HIS OWN SOVEREIGNTY IN THE MANNER OF BESTOWING SUCCESS. He takes care to show that it is from Himself, by the measure in which He proportions the success to the nature and sufficiency of the means He sees proper to employ. But when there is a regular proportion always observed between the means and the end, men are ready to overlook or forget the great and first cause of all. For this reason He sees it often meet to work without means, or by the weakest means, or even contrary to means, and blasting the effect of those that were most excellent and promising in human judgment. When the gospel was first preached, the apostles were indeed fully furnished for their work, but it was by a miracle. They were originally poor illiterate fishermen, quite unequal in themselves to their astonishing undertaking. But that proper respect might still be had to the qualifications of ministers, and that none might be justified in pouring contempt on human science, the Apostle Paul was the most active, useful, and successful of all the apostles. At the same time there were such circumstances in his calling as made him one of the most illustrious monuments of the sovereignty and riches of Divine grace that any age has produced.


1. A deep and lively impression of this truth will be to those who preach the gospel an excellent preservative from many temptations. It will preserve them from trusting in themselves, it will engage them to maintain a continual intercourse with the Father of lights, and the author of every good and perfect gift. It will also particularly be an excellent mean of preserving them from the dangerous extremes of ostentation and sloth.

2. A deep impression of this truth will be an excellent preservative to the hearers of the gospel from many temptations which often render their attendance on ordinances as fruitless as pernicious. It will purify their views and motives in attending on ordinances. It will deliver them from a sinful attachment to men, and carry them more immediately into the presence of the living God. It will preserve them from hearing the gospel merely as critics, in order to pass their judgment on the soundness or ability of their teachers. It will settle their esteem of and attachment to their pastors upon the best and most immovable foundation. It will make them in a great measure lose view of the creature, and hear the gospel, not "as the word of man, but as it is indeed, and in truth, the Word of God."

3. Let me intreat the prayers of this congregation, that we may be abundantly qualified for the discharge of our important trust in all its parts. The Apostle Paul never fails to ask the prayers and intercessions of the faithful in his behalf (Ephesians 6:19).

(J. Witherspoon, D. D.)

In these verses the apostle gives a fourfold view of evangelical preachers.

I. TO THE PEOPLE (ver. 5). As against the foolish and heedless cry raised by the Corinthians, "I am of Paul," &c., the apostle raises this pertinent question: Who are these men? &c.

1. Ministers. At the root of the word there lies the idea of voluntary and responsible service. We have in St. Paul's own writings a full answer to his own question: "Who then is Paul... but ministers?" Ministers of what?

(1)"Of the New Testament" (2 Corinthians 3:5, 6).

(2)Of "the gospel" (Colossians 1:23).

(3)Of "the mystery of Christ" (Ephesians 2:4-7).

(4)Of "the Church" (Colossians 1:24, 25).

(5)"Of Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:23).

(6)"Of God" (2 Corinthians 6:4).

2. "Ministers by whom ye believed." When the Corinthians believed, there were three factors directly contributing to that result: the minister of God, the Spirit of God, and the Son of God. And so it is still; the minister sets forth the need and the nature of faith in Christ; the Holy Ghost applies the truth and inspires trust; the Lord Jesus is Himself the Object of saving faith. Ministers are instrumental in bringing together the sinner and the Saviour, even as men brought Bartimaeus to Jesus. They could not give sight to the blind man, but they led him unto One who said, "Receive thy sight."

II. TO EACH OTHER (ver. 8). The Corinthians had spoken of the apostles as rivals. The apostle shows that Paul and Apollos are one, and illustrates the oneness of the workers by the unity of the work. Through the circling seasons there runs a notable unity m all the operations of husbandry. As soon as the harvest is gathered in, preparations for the next are commenced. In the time between the first plough's entering the field and the last waggon's leaving it, many hands are at work — men, women, lads; and many kinds of work were done, skilled and unskilled; but it is all for one master, and all for one end. He that plougheth and he that soweth and he that reapeth are one. And this oneness among farm-workers is never felt so keenly as when the last sheaf is pitched, and the cry is raised of "harvest-home!" A Christian Church is made and maintained on this same principle: manifold operations and many workers. In carrying on this spiritual husbandry, ministers are not alone in the field. We look to Sunday-school workers, to local preachers, &c., and say, "We are labourers together." It is a partnership in holy toil. The farm-servant who guides the reaping-machine in the harvest-field does not disown his fellow-servants who, in the chilly days of later autumn, did the ploughing and the sowing. He knows that, but for their work, he would not have found any employment in reaping. And those who reap in the Church thankfully recognise as fellow-labourers the men who broke up the fallow-ground, and put in the seed-corn, and cared for the crop in early spring.

III. TO PRESENT SUCCESS (ver. 6). "I have planted"; this lies at the root of all good. Paul must plant before there can be anything for Apollos to water; and until man put in something, God cannot give increase. But while recognising this fact he says, We are nothing. That which the two apostles contributed toward success was labour. They had, so to speak, no capital. The very truth they taught was not their own; it was the truth of God. That mysterious force which we call growth belongeth only unto God; and were it not for the secret influence of His Spirit, the good seed of the kingdom scattered broadcast would in no case take root and spring up. Increase is of God, and wholly of Him.

IV. PREACHERS IS RELATION TO FINAL REWARD (ver. 8). True, he that planteth and he that watereth are one; but "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour." In order to reward, there must be not only work, but labour, and every man shall receive his own reward not according to —

1. His success. Visible and numerical success is not always in proportion to labour.

2. His reputation. Whilst some sermons win for the preacher a name and a place in public opinion beyond their merit, there are others which are too full of thought to be appreciated by the many; and so it comes to pass that, now and then, a preacher's reputation is in inverse proportion to the quality of his preaching.

3. His position. For a time the position of a man in the ministry may be above his deserts, or below. A good place may be secured by favouring incident, and a lowly one through inadvertence.

4. His gifts or talents. We are not responsible for the number of talents given to us; and God does not make our reward depend upon a circumstance over which we had no control.

5. But every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

(J. Bush.)

I. OUR PRAISE FOR ANY GOOD WE HAVE RECEIVED SHOULD BE GIVEN, NOT SOLELY TO MEN, BUT MAINLY TO GOD. The Corinthians felt that gratitude was due somewhere, but Paul was afraid lest they should give it to himself and Apollos instead of to God.

II. IT IS TO GOD WE MUST LOOK FOR ALL FURTHER GROWTH. We must conscientiously employ such means of grace as our circumstances permit; but, above all, we must ask God to give the increase.


1. It may seem a very rickety and insecure structure that is rising within us, a very sickly and unpromising plant; and we are tempted to be dis. appointed at the slow progress the new man makes in us. But different thoughts possess us when we remember that this transformation is not a thing to be accomplished only by ourselves through a judicious choice and a persevering use of fit means, but is God's work.

2. For the same reason we must hope for others as for ourselves. It is the foundation of all hope to know that God has always been inclining men to righteousness and will always do so.


1. As for Paul's own part in the work, the laying of the foundation, he says that was comparatively easy. "Other foundation," &c. Any teacher who professes to lay another foundation thereby gives up his claim to be a Christian teacher. He who uses the Christian pulpit for the propagation of political or socialist ideas may be a sound and useful teacher; but his proper place is the platform or the House of Commons. The question at present, says Paul, is not what other institutions you may profitably found in the world, but how this institution of the Church, already founded, is to be completed. Other foundation no Christian teacher is proposing to lay; but on this foundation very various and questionable material is being built. In Corinth itself huge slabs of costly and carefully chiselled stone lay stable as the rock on which they rested, but now the glory of such foundations was dishonoured by squalid superstructures. The picture in Paul's mind's eye of the Corinthian Church vividly suggested what he had seen while walking among those heterogeneous buildings. The foundation, he knows, is the same; but he sees the teachers bringing, with great appearance of diligence, the merest rubbish, apparently unconscious of the incongruity of their material with the foundation they build upon. What would Paul say did he now see the superstructure which eighteen hundred years have raised on the one foundation? How obviously unworthy of it is much that has been built upon it; how many teachers have laboured all their days at erecting what has already been proved a mere house of cards; and how many persons have been built into the living temple who have brought no stability or beauty to the building. How careless often have the builders been, anxious only to have quantity to show, regardless of quality. As in any building, so in the Church, additional size is additional danger if the material be not sound.

2. The soundness of the material which has been built upon the foundation of Christ will, like all things else, be tested. The Corinthians knew what a trial by fire meant. They knew how the flames had travelled over their own city, consuming all that fire could kindle on, and leaving of the slightly built houses nothing but charred. timber, while the massive marbles stood erect among the ruins; and the precious metals, even though molten, were prized by the conqueror. Against the fire no prayer, no appeal, prevailed. Its judgment and decisions were irreversible: wood, hay, stubble, disappeared: only what was solid and valuable remained. By such irreversible judgment are we and our work to be judged. Fire simply burns up all that will burn and leaves what will not. So shall the new life we are to pass into absolutely annihilate what is not in keeping with it, and leave only what is useful and congruous. The work that has been well and wisely done will stand; foolish, vain, and selfish work will go.

3. Paul accepts it as a very possible contingency that a Christian man may do poor work. In that case, he says, the man will be in the position of a man whose house has been burnt. He may have received no bodily injury, but he is so stripped that he scarcely knows himself, and the whole thought and toil of his life seem to have gone for nothing. To many Christians it seems enough that they be doing something. If only they are decently active, it concerns them little that their work is really effecting no good. Work done for this world must be such as will stand inspection and actually do the thing required. Christian work should not be less, but more, thorough.

4. There is a degree of carelessness or malignity to be found in some Christian teachers which Paul does not hesitate to doom (ver. 17). A teacher may in various ways incur this doom.(1) He may in guiding some one to Christ fit him obliquely to the foundation, so that firm rest in Christ is never attained; but the man remains like a loose stone in a wall, unsettled himself and unsettling all around him. Any doctrine which turns the grace of God into licence incurs this doom.(2) To lift stones from the mire they have been lying in and fit them into the temple is good and right, but to leave them uncleansed and unpolished to disfigure the temple.

5. But we are responsible as well as our teachers for the appearance we present in God's temple. Would it not make a very obvious change in the appearance and strength of the Church if every member of it were at pains to set himself absolutely true to Christ? Some persons are prevented from resting satisfactorily on Christ because some pet theory or crotchet has possessed the mind and keeps them unsettled. Some will not rest on Christ until they have such repentance as they judge sufficient; others so rest on Him that they have no repentance. But, alas! with some it is some worldly purpose or some entangling and deeply cherished sin. One sin consciously retained, one command or expression of Christ's will unresponded to, makes our whole connection with Him unsettled and insecure.

6. And more must be done even after we are securely fitted into our place. Stones often look well enough when first built in, but soon lose their colour; and their surface and fine edges crumble and shale off. So do the stones in God's temple get tarnished by exposure. One sin after another is allowed to stain the conscience; one little corruption after another settles on the character, and eats out its fineness, and when once the fair, clean stone is no longer unsullied, we think it of little consequence to be scrupulous. Then the weather tells upon us: the ordinary atmosphere of this life, with its constant damp of worldly care and its occasional storms of toss, and disappointment, and social collisions, and domestic embroilment, eats out the heavenly temper from our character, and leaves its edges ragged; and the man becomes soured and irritable, and the surface of him, all that meets the casual eye, is rough and broken.

7. Above all, do not many seem to think it enough to have attained a place in the building, and take no step onwards during the whole remainder of their lives? But it is in God's building as in highly ornamented buildings generally. The stones are not all sculptured before they are fitted into their places; but they are built in rough-hewn, so that the building may proceed: and then at leisure the device proper to each is carved upon it. This is the manner of God's building. Long after a man has been set in the Church of Christ, God hews and carves him to the shape He designs; but we, being not dead, but living, stones, have it in our power to mar the beauty of God's design, and indeed so distort it that the result is a grotesque and hideous monster, belonging to no world, neither of God nor of man.

(M. Dods, D. D.)

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. —
That it is God's unspeakable goodness sometimes to send His Word and plant His gospel among a people that never heard or knew anything of it before. To amplify this doctrine many things are observable. First, That when the apostle saith that he planted the gospel, it doth suppose all people to be a wild, barbarous people till the gospel both civilised and sanctified them. To plant is properly of orchards, and gardens, and vineyards, and supposeth the great care and skill of him that plants. Thus God is said to plant Eden (Genesis 2:8). It is a great mercy to be born in such times, in such an age, and in such places, where the name of Christ is published; for this is wholly in God's disposal; He hath determined to all men the times of their life and habitations. Secondly, That in the Old Testament God did limit His gracious preference to the Jews only. Thirdly, Therefore, that there might be spiritual plantations and holy colonies, the Lord Christ appointed extraordinary officers, furnished with extraordinary abilities, to propagate the gospel. Fourthly, God's severity and mercy hath been observable about the first planting of the gospel. For when a people have lived rebelliously under it a long time, then He takes it away and gives it to another nation. Fifthly, In planting of Churches, commonly their infancy and beginning hath been more pure and godly than the successive ages. Lastly, Because of that proneness to degenerate, and from gold to become dross.

(A. Burgess.)

I. Let us consider WHEREIN THIS SPIRITUAL WATERING CONSISTS. First, It lieth in a more explicit and distinct instruction about the principles of religion already received. Secondly, This watering lieth not only in advancing our knowledge, but in giving further and clearer arguments to confirm our faith and to make us unshaken and steadfast. Thirdly, This watering containeth direction about the beauty and order of Churches in the government thereof when once planted. Fourthly, This watering lieth in the stirring up of men ¢o fruitfulness in their places and relations. The end of watering is to make fruitful; and thus all the spiritual plants in God's garden, though they have deep root, yet need this outward watering.

II. Let us consider WHY THERE IS SUCH DAILY NEED OF THESE QUICKENING MEANS OF GRACE. First, It doth arise from the heart, which is an unnatural soil to grace and supernatural things. Secondly, The temptations that are so frequent and many do likewise wonderfully destroy and wither all if this constant watering be not. As there are Pauls to plant and Apollos to water, so there are also the devil to plant and his instruments to water men in wickedness. Thirdly, There needs watering because of that indispensable duty to grow.

(A. Burgess.)

Consider — First, That though God only gives the increase, yet it is only in and through the ministry. We must not make such cavils: What use is there of preaching? Secondly, As God giveth the increase only, so the time when, and the persons on whom, is wholly at His good pleasure. Now let us consider why God only giveth the increase; and then the ends that God hath in this. First, God only can give the increase, because He only hath a sovereignty and power over the heart. No potentate, no emperor, can say, I will give a man another heart. He may force the body, but not change the heart. Hence it is that the Scripture attributes all the work of grace; to believe, to repent only to God. Oh, then, lift up your hearts on high in every sermon! Secondly, God only can give the increase, because the increase is of spiritual and supernatural consideration. It is altogether heavenly. Now there is no proportion between human abilities and heavenly graces. Thirdly, Therefore God only giveth the increase because of the deep pollution that is in every man, who is not only blind and deaf, but dead. Now to what purpose is an eloquent pathetical oration to a dead man? Let us consider the ends, why all increase must be of God only, and that is, to preach humility both to the preacher and to the people. The apostle carrieth it wholly for this end, that he that glorieth may glory in the Lord. And that no flesh should glory in His presence. First, the minister. That Peter, who had so many thousands converted by his sermon, that Paul, who was so exalted by God that he might not be lifted up above measure. For, alas! what have they done? It is God that gives the increase. Secondly, It teacheth the people also to glorify God, not to rest in the parts and gifts of men. As Michal said, "Now God will bless me, because I have a Levite in the house." So we are Apt to say, "Now we shall go to heaven; now we shall have salvation, because we have such preaching." It is not enough to be affected with and admire the gifts of ministers. Thirdly, Therefore God only gives the success that so we may seek and pray to Him and do all those things that God may be pleased with. Now, that God may give increase, do these things. First, Bewail bypast unthankfulness and unfruitfulness. O Lord, how often have I been a hearer! Yet what a barren wilderness is my heart! Secondly, Love that preaching which will more discover thyself to thyself. Which will acquaint thee with thy own deformities. As sore eyes are afraid of the light, so many men have so much guilt within and live in so many secret corruptions that they dare not have the Word come with all its might upon them. No wonder then if God bless it not with increase when thou lovest it not and bringest it not home to thee. Thirdly, If thou wouldst have God give the increase come not prepossessed with thine own righteousness, with thine own good heart. Our Saviour's preaching had no such, though in Him were the treasures of all wisdom, because His hearers were those that justified themselves. Use

1. Is it God that giveth the increase? Then we ministers are not to be inordinately cast down if people receive no Divine stamp on them. Use

2. To the people. Sigh and mourn unto God in earnest prayers for this increase. How terrible will it be if the want of profiting be in yourselves! You do not what God would have you. If the patient distemper himself wilfully all the physic in the world cannot cure him. To clear this, consider — Wherein this work of God to give increase doth consist. And first, In that spiritual revelation and illumination or opening of the eyes whereby the mind understands and perceiveth the things of God. The Word is compared to light, only God by this works above all light. For the sun, though it gives light, yet it doth not give a blind man eyes. Secondly, God's giving increase lieth in removing the negative incapacity and the positive contrariety in all men's heart to the word preached. As the husbandman, he first prepareth the ground by stocking up all those briers and thorns and removing all the stones that lie in the way which would hinder the corn's growth. So it is here. God takes away all that cursed and serpentine nature which is in thee. Thirdly, God giveth the increase when He makes the Word preached to take root and settling in men's hearts. Fourthly, God giveth increase when He makes this rooted word to grow. For as there is in corn, first the blade and then the ear, it comes to perfection by degrees. Now this growth that God giveth it may be either intensive or extensive. Intensive so God giveth increase when those graces that are already planted in the soul are made more lively and fervent. This may be called a particular, personal increase. Art thou made more believing, more holy, more humble than before? Oh it is a sad thing to see the decays and abatements that are even of godly men's graces! When God is the same God, the Word is the same Word, there is as much cause to grow as ever. Now the grounds why God only giveth increase may be, first, Because even in natural blessings and outward mercies success is attributed to God, not to men, much more in spirituals. Thus the Psalmist attributes to God that the ridges are full of corn, that cattle are fruitful and do not miscarry. God, He keeps the key of heaven and gives earthly blessings as He pleaseth (Proverbs 10:22). Secondly, God only can give increase, because He only hath the supreme power and dominion over men's hearts. We are teachers to the ear, God is a teacher of the heart. Object: But you may say, If God gave the increase, why then doth not the Word bear fruit in every place? Are any hearts too strong for the Lord? I answer, a people by their sins may provoke God to depart from His ordinances. Secondly, You may ask, If God only gives increase, what means may we take to have God bless us in this manner?

(A. Burgess.)


1. The Lord has made the Church His own.(1) By His sovereign choice.(2) By purchase. It is God's freehold, and He holds its title deeds.(3) By enclosure. It lay exposed aforetime as part of an open common, covered with thorns and thistles, and the haunt of every wild beast. Hath not the Lord declared that He hath chosen His vineyard and fenced it?(4) By cultivation. What more could He have done for His farm? He has totally changed the nature of the soil: from being barren He hath made it a fruitful land.

2. This farm is preserved by the Lord's continual protection. "I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." If it were not for this her hedges would soon be thrown down, and wild beasts would devour her fields.

3. Inasmuch as the Church is God's own farm, He expects to receive a harvest from it. Barrenness suits the moorland, but to a farm it would be a great discredit. Love looks for returns of love; grace given demands gracious fruit. Ought not the Lord to have a harvest of obedience, of holiness, of usefulness, of praise?

4. See, then, the injustice of allowing any of the labourers to call even a part of the estate his own. When a great man has a large farm of his own, what would he think if Hodge the ploughman should say, "Look here, I plough this farm, and therefore it is mine: I shall call this field Hodge's Acres." "No," says Hobbs, "I reaped that land last harvest, and therefore it is mine, and I shall call it Hobbs's Field." What if all the other labourers became Hodgeites and Hobbsites, and so parcelled out the farm among them? I think the landlord would soon eject the lot. The farm belongs to its owner, and let it be called by his name. Remember how Paul put it: "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos?"


1. By human agency God ordinarily works out His designs. He can, if He pleases, by His Holy Spirit get directly at the hearts of men, but that is His business, and not ours; we have to do with such words as these: "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." The Master's commission is not, "Sit still and see the Spirit of God convert the nations"; but, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Observe God's method in supplying the race with food.

2. Our Great Master means that every labourer on His farm should receive some benefit from it, for He never muzzles the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn (ver. 8).

3. The labourers employed by God are all occupied upon needful work. Notice: "I have planted, Apollos watered." On God's farm none are kept for ornamental purposes. I have read some sermons which could only have been meant for show, for there was not a grain of gospel in them. They were ploughs with the share left out, drills with no wheat in the box, clod-crushers made of butter. I do not believe that God will ever pay wages to men who only walk about His grounds to show themselves. Many Christians live as if their only business on the farm was to pluck blackberries or gather wild flowers. They are great at finding fault with other people's ploughing and mowing; but not a hand's turn will they do themselves. Come on! Why stand ye all the day idle? The harvest is plenteous, and the labourers are few.

4. On the Lord's farm there is a division of labour. Even Paul did not say, "I have planted and watered." And Apollos could not say, "I have planted as well as watered." No man has all gifts, and therefore instead of grumbling at the honest ploughman because he did not bring a sickle with him, you ought to have prayed for him that he might have strength to plough deep and break up hard hearts.

5. On God's farm, there is unity of purpose among the labourers. "He that planteth and he that watereth are one." One Master has employed them, and though He may send them out at different times, and to different parts of the farm, yet they are all one in being used for one end, to work for one harvest. Planting needs wisdom, and so does watering, and the piecing of these two works together needs that the labourers should be of one mind. It is a bad thing when labourers are at cross purposes. How can I plant with success if my helper will not water what I have planted; or what is the use of my watering if nothing is planted?

6. All the labourers put together are nothing at all. "Neither is he that planteth anything," &c. The workmen are nothing at all without their master, and all the preachers and Christian workers in the world can do nothing unless God be with them.

7. The labourers shall be rewarded. God works our good works in us, and then rewards us for them. Here we have mention of a personal service, and a personal reward: "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour." The reward is proportionate, not to the success, but to the labour. Many discouraged workers may be comforted by that expression. You are not to be paid by results, but by endeavours.

8. Unitedly the workers have been successful, and that is a great part of their reward. When Paul plants and Apollos waters, God does give the increase. We do not labour in vain.

III. GOD HIMSELF IS THE GREAT WORKER. He may use what labourers He pleases, but the increase comes alone from Him. You know it is so in natural things: the most skilful farmer cannot make the wheat germinate. What can you and I do in this matter? We can tell out the truth of God; but to apply that truth to the heart and conscience is quite another thing. Equally it is the Lord's work to keep the seed alive when it springs up.

IV. PRACTICAL LESSONS. If the whole farm of the Church belongs exclusively to the Great Master Worker, and the labourers are worth nothing with Him —

1. Let this promote unity among all whom He employs. If we are all under one Master, do not let us quarrel.

2. This ought to keep all the labourers very dependent. Man is vanity and his words are wind; to God alone belongeth power and wisdom.

3. This fact ennobles everybody who labours in God's husbandry. We are mere labourers on His farm, and yet labourers with Him.

4. How this should drive us to our knees.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. ALL INCREASE IS OF GOD. The nature of the thing, Scripture and Christian experience alike show that God alone can give it.


1. Itself.

2. Its adaptation.

3. Its extent.

4. Its perplexities.

5. Its benevolence.


1. Personal.

2. United.

3. Believing.

4. Earnest.

5. Prayerful.

6. Persevering — labour.

(B. Ward.)


1. The condition of all mankind by nature, viz., dead in trespasses and sins, and therefore moral suasion or education can never reach the evil.

2. The change which is contemplated, which is nothing less than to create man anew, to implant new principles into his soul.

3. The statements of Scripture itself. "Neither is he that planteth anything," &c.

4. The history of the Church in every succeeding age.

II. BUT THE LORD AND GIVER OF LIFE ordinarily works by human instrumentality. Would not the husbandman tempt God's providence if he should say, "I need not sow or culture the ground, for I have no power to cause the seed to grow, and therefore I will remain quiet, and leave it to God"? Would he not justly be left without a harvest and suffer for his own folly and madness? And so will it be in grace. Therefore, it is ours to use the means, while we remember that conversion is generally attributable to the Word of God. How fearful, then, the responsibility which attaches to the preaching and hearing of God's holy Word! Conclusion: The subject teaches us —

1. That we should regard all human instrumentality in its proper place.

2. That the Word of God, spite of all the opposition that may be made to it by ungodly men, will be the grand instrument of the renovation of our fallen world.

3. That to God we are to ascribe all the praise and all the glory.

(J. Haslegrave, B. A.)

Christianity had made rapid advances amongst the people of Corinth. Numbers and success had produced the alas! too commonly attendant evils. Party spirit had developed itself. St. Paul writes, seeking to correct all this. He bids them think of the source of the gospel they had received, of the power by which it was propagated, of the life by which it was sustained. They would find all this, not in the wisdom or the eloquence of their teachers, not in the completeness of their Church organisation; but in the presence, the grace, the love of God. God gives the increase.

I. WE NATURALLY AND RIGHTLY LOOK FOR INCREASE. We want fruit, as the product of our toil. We all work with a distinct aim (1 Corinthians 9:7). The fact of increase is at once one of the greatest inducements to labour, and one of the greatest rewards of it. Who would continue to work if the work proved altogether barren and resultless? We should look for increase also in higher things. There is the Church with its work. We should desire to see it grow under our fostering care. We should look for growing numbers and increasing usefulness. We should look for increase also in the personal soul. What is our Christianity? Not a creed only, not a theology only, not a piece of social organisation only, but a life. Growth is a characteristic of life. The apostles could say to many of the Christians of their age: "Your faith groweth," "Your love groweth." Can it be said of us?

II. IF WE WANT THE INCREASE, WE MUST TAKE THE PROPER MEANS. This is true, not only of the great matters of which the apostle is speaking, but also of the commonest things of daily life. It is one of the great lessons of the harvest. So is it in business. Sedulous care is one of the secrets of success. So is it in education. There is no royal road to learning for any man. In every domain of life God blesses human forethought, and toil, and faith. God had given the increase in the Church at Corinth. But how earnest had been the labour of which this growth was the reward. St. Paul had planted with all his zeal. Apollos, with his renowned eloquence, had laboured too. These were the antecedent conditions on the human side to which that growth was to be ascribed.

III. Paul may plant, Apollos may water, BUT GOD GIVETH THE INCREASE. This is so, even in the commonest things of daily life. Take the ordinary annual produce of the earth. The ultimate causes of productiveness are altogether beyond our power to reach. So is it in business life. Two men start together; the conditions which promise success, such as neighbourhood, the conduct and industry of the men, and so on, seem precisely equal. Yet while one man prospers in largest measure, the other goes his way to poverty. But this only states the fact without explaining it. The question at the root of the matter is: What is it that determines a man's action at the critical moment in his history? What gives the insight and the courage which enable him to grasp the happy chance? What sends him bounding on the flood to fortune? May not this be God, the ruler of all, who "doeth according to His will," who setteth up one and putteth down another? Toil is ours, but increase is in the hands of God. "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." God does give the increase in all the many regions of human life. God blesses all honest humble toil. He crowns the ploughing and the sowing with the golden harvest. Study is rewarded with growth both in our stores of knowledge and also in our mental power to grasp the truth. So also all real spiritual work is largely blessed by God. God is ever near. God labours with us. May we ever bear it in mind in all our work. God crowns our work with His all-sufficient blessing. It is true in all ways. In the personal soul our religious acts in public works and in sacraments, as well as in private devotion, are planting and watering; but faithfully used a richer Divine life will possess us, for God will give the increase, and there will be a sure growth in righteousness.

(Ralph Williams.)

I. Let us consider — WHAT THE APOSTLE DOTH NOT MEAN IN SAYING THE MINISTRY IS NOTHING. First, he doth not mean as if the officers of the Church were not, in their way and place, necessary; for then the apostle in the same tongue should contradict himself, for he saith, "We are workers together with God" (2. Corinthians 6:1). Secondly, when the apostle calls the ministry nothing, the meaning is not as if it were not sufficient in its kind to work those things for which it is appointed, otherwise this would reflect upon the wisdom of God. Thirdly, when the apostle saith they are nothing, this is to be understood of the ministers of the gospel and preaching of it as well as the ministers of the law and preaching that. What he positively meaneth or inferreth are, first, that it is not in the power or choice of the minister to make it effectual. Secondly, the apostle by this intends that both the ministers and the people should keep themselves in their due bounds. Lastly, in making the ministry nothing and God all, the apostle would have both minister and people in their ministry to have our hearts and eyes up to heaven. But how may we address ourselves to hear and to the ministry so that God may make them something to us? To be made something is when the Word doth greatly wound thy heart or comfort thee. First, make it a real and conscientious matter to pray unto God to give increase. As to the woman our Saviour said, "According to thy faith so be it unto thee," So according to thy prepared prayer, saith God, this sermon and this duty shall be blessed upon you. Secondly, exercise strong and divine acts of faith; this will make the ministry something to thee. The Word profited not, because it was not mingled with faith (Hebrews 4:2). Thirdly, "lay aside all superfluity of naughtiness" (James 1:21). Labour to find the ministry something, some great thing, some terrible thing, some comfortable thing to thee.

(A. Burgess.)

I. SUCH IS THE PRESENT DEGENERACY OF HUMAN NATURE, THAT ALL THE MINISTRATIONS OF THE GOSPEL CANNOT REMEDY IT WITHOUT THE CONCURRING EFFICACY OF DIVINE GRACE. The gospel is designed to reclaim men from sin; but they are obstinately set upon it. It is intended to bring apostate rebels back to God and the universal practice of holiness; but we love estrangement from Him, and have no inclination to return. Instructions may furnish the head with notions, and correct speculative mistakes; but they have no power to sway the will, and sweetly allure it to holiness. Persuasions may prevail to bring men to practise what they had omitted through mistake, carelessness, or a transient dislike; but they have no effect where the heart is full of innate enmity against the things recommended.

II. THE PROMISES AND DECLARATIONS OF THE WORD, WHICH APPROPRIATE ALL THE SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL TO GOD ALONE. Jehovah is not fond of ostentation and parade. The doctrine of the necessity of Divine influences to render the administrations of the gospel effectual for saving purposes, is a doctrine familiar to the sacred oracles.

III. THAT THE DIFFERENT SUCCESS OF THE SAME MEANS OF GRACE IN DIFFERENT PERIODS OF THE CHURCH, SUFFICIENTLY SHOWS THE NECESSITY OF GRACIOUS ASSISTANCES TO RENDER THEM EFFICACIOUS. We find that religion has flourished or declined, not so much according to external means as according to the degree of Divine influence. Alas! what could Noah, that zealous preacher of righteousness do, during the 120 years of his ministry? He might warn, he might persuade, he might weep over a secure world, in vain: they would rush upon destruction before his eyes. How little could Moses, the favourite messenger of God, prevail to make his people dutiful! Alas! after all the astonishing wonders he wrought before their eyes, they continued obstinate and rebellious; "For the Lord had not given them an heart to understand," &c. (Deuteronomy 29:4). What inconsiderable success had that zealous prophet Elijah, the eloquent Isaiah, or that tender-hearted, mourning, weeping prophet, Jeremiah! Surely many feeble servants of Christ, in all respects inferior to them, have been crowned with more extensive success!

IV. OUR OWN EXPERIENCE AND OBSERVATION FURNISH US WITH MANY INSTANCES IN WHICH THIS GREAT TRUTH HAS BEEN EXEMPLIFIED. Sometimes a minister who is a universal scholar, a masterly reasoner, and an accomplished orator, and withal sincerely engaged for the conversion of sinners, labours in vain; while another of much inferior accomplishments is the successful instrument of turning many to righteousness. Sometimes we have seen a number of sinners thoroughly awakened and brought to seek the Lord in earnest; while another number, under the very same sermon, and who seemed as open to conviction as the former, have remained thoughtless as usual. And whence could this difference arise but from special grace? Your own experience proves the same thing. Have you not found that the very same things have very different effects upon you at different times? Hence we learn —

1. How essential and important the doctrine of Divine influence is to the Church of God. The very life and the whole success of the gospel depend upon it.

2. That when we enjoy the ministrations of the gospel in the greatest purity and plenty, we should not place our trust upon them, but wholly depend on the influence of Divine grace for the success.

3. Hence also we may learn whither we should look for grace to render the gospel successful among us. Let us look up to God. Saints, apply to Him for His influences to quicken your graces and animate you in your Christian course. Sinners, cry to Him for His grace to renew your nature and sanctify you.

4. We observe that whatever excellent outward means and privileges a Church enjoys, it is in a most miserable condition if the Lord has withdrawn His influences from it; and whether this be not too much our own condition I leave you to judge.

(S. Davies, A. M.)

Let me —

I. FOR THE PREVENTING OF ALL MISTAKES, BRIEFLY ILLUSTRATE THE DOCTRINE CONTAINED IN THESE WORDS. But first it will be fit to tell you what is to be taken for granted of the persons here spoken of.

1. That they have a sufficient call to the office of the sacred ministry, and authority to exercise the same.

2. That they be furnished with a competent stock of divine knowledge, and understand the things they are to teach unto others, and are not blind leaders of the blind.

3. That they have at least such a faculty of expression as that they may be understood by those whom they are to instruct. These things supposed, I am now to show —(l) What every minister of the gospel may and ought to do. He may both plant and water, and do the whole work of God, so far as He hath thought fit to entrust man with it, i.e., exercise the whole ministry of reconciliation.(2) What one minister may be able to do more than another. God hath not given to all the same number of talents (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). All the apostles had not St. Peter's quickness of apprehension, forwardness of speech, or zeal; all were not, like James and John, sons of thunder; all had not Paul's learning, or Apollos's eloquence. One minister of Christ may have a more faithful memory, and another a clearer judgment, and a third a more fruitful invention, and a fourth a better elocution. One may be more dexterous at planting, another at watering, a third at weeding, and a fourth at fencing; and another may exceed all in pruning off the luxuriant branches and cherishing the tender plants. It is no less absurd to expect the same abilities in all ministers than it would be to imagine that all artists, &c., should be of equal skill.(3) That all which the best can do is in itself of no efficacy. Neither is Paul nor Apollos anything, i.e., without the blessing of God. What is it that the ablest ministers can do to make men good Christians? All comes to no more but this: they can declare the doctrine of the gospel; they can exhort, persuade, and pray. None but He whose voice shaketh the heavens and the earth can rend the stony hearts of sinners.(4) That the efficacy of all is of God only. Whoever planteth or watereth, God giveth the increase. He hath put His words into their mouth, and His seed into their hands; but still the seed itself, the skill and activity of the sowers, the goodness of the ground, the warmth and the rain, the growth and harvest, are all of Him.

II. FOR THE HELP OF SUCH AS MAY NEED IT, POINT AT SOME OF THE USES WE SHOULD MAKE OF IT. Because we are nothing, and all the increase is of God —

1. Let us take heed how we depend so much on the ministry of men as to attend too little in their ministry upon God. Whilst you are pleased to afford us your ear, be sure that you give God your heart. It is a very lamentable thing to see in what extremes we are apt to lose both God and ourselves. Because neither Paul nor Apollos are anything without God, or in comparison of God, therefore —(1) Some rashly conclude that they are nothing at all to them. But though the very best instrument be able to do nothing by itself out of the workman's hands, yet even an indifferent one may do much when managed by the hand of a skilful workman. It is certainly God alone that gives the increase in the field as well as in the Church, and yet men are not so unreasonable as to expect a good harvest from God without the labour of the husbandman.(2) Others make God Himself almost nothing, and the minister all. Such are they who place the greatest part of their religion in hearing many sermons, and when they have heard enough are apt to persuade themselves that they have served God well enough. So our ears be but constantly exercised; a barren heart, which bringeth forth no fruit of righteousness to God or to our neighbour in our life, never troubles us.(3) Others attribute so much to the choice of the preacher, as if they thought that God Himself is like to some workmen who cannot do their work to any purpose unless they have the very best tools to work with.

2. Let us learn how we are to behave ourselves in relation to the ordinances of God administered by men.(1) More generally, let us see that we rightly distinguish between the work of God and the ministry of man, neither expecting from men what God alone can do, nor expecting that God will do that alone which He ordinarily doth by the ministry of men.(2) More particularly, remember —(a) That the men who minister to you are still men, and will as long as they live have more or less the infirmities of men. You must therefore be so just as to allow for the common infirmities of human nature, and so charitable, too, as to overlook some personal failings. If the workman build on the right foundation and by his true rule; if he do his work truly, faithfully, and substantially, this ought to satisfy.(b) That as they are ministers of Christ they are not to be despised, and as they are no more but ministers they may be too much magnified. If he that glorieth in Apollos had indeed prefixed by Apollo's preaching, as he ought to have done, he would be very well pleased with Paul. And if he that glorieth in Paul had improved in sincere Christianity by Paul's ministry, he would be well enough pleased with Apollos. I know that it is pleaded by some that they cannot profit by some as by others, and possibly there may be some truth in this, and yet, it may be, the fault doth not always lie where they would have it laid, but where they have no mind at all to find it. However, what is here pleaded deserves to be considered. And first, suppose we that the Word of God, the wholesome food of our souls, is duly and fully administered, there is no room at all for this plea. The same living water coming from the same spring hath the same virtue, through what conduit soever it may pass unto us. The sound we hear is the man's, and that may be less grateful; but still the Word is God's, and should be always welcome. Secondly, the scales, it may be, hang a great deal evener than we yet think they do. As many pious people are edified, for ought we know, by him whom we forsake as are by him we follow. Some persons I have known who, through an unreasonable prejudice, have been even sick at the sight of some meat, whereof they could never be persuaded to taste, and yet, after they have but once or twice been prevailed with to eat of it, have fed upon it with much both delight and benefit. Possibly, then, you may not be edified, not because you cannot, but only because you think so, and will not try.

(C. Elis.)

Now he that planteth, and he that watereth, are one.
That, although there is diversity and variety in the gifts of the ministers, yet they all Ought to agree in one. The ministry ought to be one. First, in respect; of doctrine, and true doctrine, that is the soul and life of all (1 Timothy 1:3). Secondly, there ought to be unity in regard of their end and scope. Thirdly, there should be unity in affections, to love one another, to bless God for the abilities and gifts of one another. Envy and pride is apt to get even amongst the best. First, when the ministry is not one, this is apt in the first place to beget atheism and irreligion in the people. Secondly, where there is not this unity, it doth much grieve and unsettle the hearts of the godly. Thirdly, when there is not this unity, profaneness and ungodliness doth the more increase; godliness doth exceedingly decay in the power of it.

1. Do not thou by thy pragmatical meddling widen the difference and raise more dust.

2. Consider this — that those that are godly do agree in the main fundamental point.

3. Do thou labour to be informed with a true and divine faith out of the Word thine own self.

4. Humble yourselves under these differences, when they go not the same way, when they preach not the same thing.

(A. Burgess.)

And every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
That, according to a man's labour and working for God, he is sure to have a proportionable reward. To clear this, consider — First, that there are no persons, be they never so mean, so poor, so. contemptible, but they are in a way and calling to do God's work. Secondly, there is a twofold doing of God's work — either the work of His providence as passive instruments, or the work of His commands as active instruments. In the next place, therefore, let us consider what is the acceptable doing of God's work which will be rewarded? First, that only is God's work which is commanded and willed by Him. We are often commanded to understand the good and acceptable will of God. Many think they are doing God's work when it is the devil's, because they look not for warrant of it in Scripture. Secondly, it is acceptable labouring when it is done in such a manner.

1. It is profitable working when the persons are first made the Lord's, when they are justified and sanctified. Make the tree good, and then the fruit will be good.

2. A reward is due to that work only which is done for God's sake, out of love to Him.

3. That work only will have a reward which is done with that measure and degree of love and fervency that it ought to be.

4. The work to be rewarded is that which is constantly done with perseverance, holding out to the end (Matthew 24:13).

5. The work to be rewarded is that which is done fully and plenarily. Will a good work thus circumstantiated be sure to be rewarded?Then take heed of two contraries to this work of the Lord.(1) Of idleness, unprofitableness, and unfruitfulness.(2) Take heed of the other contrary, upon which the greater wrath of God will fall, and that is, to do the devil's work. Our Saviour told the Pharisees, They are of the devil, and his works they did (John 8:44). Having considered what the work is, now let us consider and admire at the reward; and before we come to show what reward is, take notice of a distinction or two. First, there is an essential reward, and that is, the enjoyment of God in full assurance and delight. This all that work for God are sure to have. Secondly, there is an accidental reward, and that is, some degrees of glory, because of greater labour and sufferings for Christ one may partake of more glory than another. Thirdly, it is lawful to encourage a man's self in working for God by this, that there is a reward. There is a lawful self-seeking, viz., of immortality, and honour and glory (Romans 2:7). Let us consider wherein lieth this reward of working for God, either in this life, or in the life to come. And truly, in this life, if there were no heaven, no happiness, no enjoyment of God, there is enough to put us on it. First, there is a great deal of peace and comfort of conscience in doing what is good. Secondly, when we do God's work, He further rewards with more spiritual strength, and enlargeth our abilities, so that the more we work for God the more we may. Thus in the parable, he that had five, he gained ten (Luke 19:16). Lastly, they are sure to have God's protection and presence to support them in their labour. In the next place, consider what is the eternal reward, and how eye hath not seen, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.First, it is God Himself communicating His goodness and comfort to him that hath done His work. Secondly, this reward lieth in the full glorification of the soul in all the faculties thereof, and body in all the parts thereof. Thirdly, the eternity of this happiness. Fourthly, the fulness of this happiness — an aggregation of all things that may make happy, either within or without. Fifthly, consider the vast disproportion of this to those works thou dost for God.

1. The one is infinite, and thou art a finite, limited creature.

2. What work thou doest for God, God He first works it in thee, so that thou labourest for Him of His own, and yet He rewards it.

3. What thou doest for Him, it is accompanied with much evil and many imperfections.

4. Thou hast formerly been a servant to Satan, done his work, so that God might damn thee upon the old score, though thou wert now able to do all things perfectly.

5. Whatsoever thou hast done is but thy duty; God need not reward thee, or might have bestowed a less reward.

6. What work thou doest, it is a due; besides, God doth not need it. It addeth nothing.

7. All that thou doest is for a little time; the reward is for ever.

(A. Burgess.)

The very least share in the glorious inheritance of the saints in light, is sufficient to reconcile a man to the greatest hardships of a virtuous life; but the sure prospect of more abundant glory, as the recompense of a more exalted holiness, must be allowed to carry still greater degrees of encouragement along with it. And it cannot be denied but that the most natural and prevailing motive to make men grow in grace and goodness is a well-grounded confidence that the greatness of their reward will be proportioned to the greatness of their attainments.

I. HOW GOOD GROUNDS WE HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT DIFFERENT MEN WILL RECEIVE A DIFFERENT REWARD IN HEAVEN. To confirm us in the belief of this doctrine we may observe that there are several ranks and orders of good men, to whom, in a peculiar manner, more than ordinary degrees of happiness are promised in the Scripture. Of the prophets under the Old Testament we read that "God is not ashamed to be called their God," theirs in a more than ordinary manner, and that "He hath prepared for them a city" (Hebrews 11:16). And to the apostles our blessed Saviour thus addresseth Himself (Luke 22:28-30). Now how difficult soever it may be nicely to determine the full meaning of these expressions, yet, certainly, we may very rationally infer from them that there are some particular marks of glory with which the apostles of our Lord will be honoured above other Christians. And to this, it is probable, St. John alludes when, in his description of Jerusalem the holy city, be particularly observes that "the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Revelation 21:14). St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Thessalonians, breaks out into joy upon the view of that glory which at the day of judgment would redound to him from the success of his ministry among them (1 Thessalonians 2:19). They who come nearest to the apostles in an unshaken faith, and an exemplary holiness, will be next them likewise in happiness and glory. True it is all the blest are alike children of God; but it is as true also that all children have not the same provision, all heirs are not entitled to the same inheritance, all members have not the same honour.

II. THIS REWARD WILL DE ALLOTTED TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS OWN LABOUR. It is observable that the apostle doth not here say we shall be rewarded for the sake and on the account of our labour, but "according to it." There is no temptation which doth more frequently overtake us than the fond hope of repenting a little before we go hence, and be no more seen. But if we would seriously consider, that though we were never so sure of time and opportunity and will to repent hereafter, yet we shall by this conduct necessarily fall short of many degrees of glory which we might otherwise have just reason to expect. This consideration, one would think, should be sufficient to convince us of the advantages of an early piety, a universal obedience, an uninterrupted state of happiness.

(Bp. Smalridge.)


1. For a livelihood. "He that will not work neither let him eat." Masters as well as servants, princes as well as peasants, are subject to this great law, and those who strive to evade it are the veriest slaves.

2. To mould the character and life of all among whom we mingle — either for good or evil.

3. At the task of forming our own eternal character, and we are either becoming assimilated to the image of God, or are marring the precious materials of heart, intellect, &c., which we have received from Him.

4. Either aiding or hindering the great moral movements of the day; either making our fellows happier or lending our power to prolong the duration of human darkness, degradation, and woe. Here there is no neutrality. "He who is not for Me is against Me."


1. God has created every man complete and responsible in himself. A man is not a mere part of a mass of humanity. He has to deal for himself with the great question of duty, and by himself to answer to the Eternal Judge.

2. This solemn truth —(1) Is frequently forgotten, and more frequently neglected. Men act in masses, and lose the sense of individual responsibility. But this does not lighten its pressure or annihilate it.(2) Involves most important practical consequences. Since I am personally responsible —(a) No human priest can come between me and my Maker.(b) Any attempt to deprive me of my liberty of conscience is to be sternly resisted.(c) I must not measure my duty by the services of others.(d) It is my wisdom to cultivate a solemn sense of my responsibility.


1. The money-maker. He gets what he works for.

2. The pleasure-seeker.

3. The culture worshipper.

4. The Christian, who receives his wages —

(1)In the quiet approval of his own heart.

(2)In seeing good accomplished by his efforts.

(3)In contemplating the final triumph of his cause.

(4)In the approval of his Master — "Well done," &c.

(G. D. Macgregor.)

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