1 Corinthians 11:17-22
Now in this that I declare to you I praise you not, that you come together not for the better, but for the worse.…
I. PASTORS MAY AND MUST PRAISE THEIR PEOPLE WHEREIN THEY DO WELL.
(1) Hereby they shall peaceably possess themselves of the good-wills of their people, which may advance the efficacy of their preaching.
(2) Men will more willingly digest a reproof for their faults, if praised when they do well.
(3) Virtue being commended doth increase and multiply; creepers in goodness will go, goers run, runners fly.
2. Use. Those ministers are to be blamed which are ever blaming, God "doth not always chide" (Psalm 103:9). These preachers use their reproofs so commonly, till their physic turns natural, and will not work with their people. Do any desire to hear what Themistocles counted the best music — namely, themselves commended? On these conditions, we ministers will indent with them: Let them find matter, we will find words; let them do what is commendable, and blame us if we commend not what they do. Such work would be a pleasure. To reprove is pressed from us, as wine from grapes; but praises would flow from our lips, as water from a fountain. But, alas! how can we build, when they afford us neither brick nor straw? If with Ahab they will do what is evil, then with Micaiah we must always prophesy evil unto them.
II. MINISTERS MUST NOT COMMEND THEIR PEOPLE WHEN THEY DO ILL.
(1) Dishonourable to God.
(2) Dangerous to the ministers. That ambassador who, being sent to proclaim war, pronounceth peace to rebels (Isaiah 57:21), deserves at his return to be preferred to the gallows.
(3) Dangerous to the people who are soothed in their sins. Honey-dews, though they be sweet in taste, do black and blast the corn: so those who praise their people without cause, are cruelly kind unto them: it is pleasent to the palate of flesh, but destroyeth and damneth the soul.
2. Use. It were to be wished, that as those that live under the equinoctial at noonday have no shadows at all; so great men should have no shadows, no parasites, no flatterers to commend them when they least deserve it.
3. Objection. But why doth St. Paul deal so mildly with the Corinthians, "I praise you not"? Me thinks he should have made his little finger as heavy as his loins.
(1) Theophylact answers that St. Paul reproves the rich men the more mildly, lest otherwise they should be implacably incensed against the poor as the causers of the apostle's anger.
(2) It was the first time he told the Corinthians of their fault, and therefore used them the more gently, on hope of their amendment. This corrupt humour in the Corinthians was not as yet clodded in them by custom, and therefore the easier purged and removed. So ministers must use mildness, especially at their first reproving of a sin. Yea, God so blessed the mild severity of St. Paul, that the Corinthians reformed their errors.
(T. Fuller, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.