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Secundus. Thank you, my dear Fidelio, for opening to me my case. I feel myself easier already. May I have wisdom and grace to attend to your kind counsel! Farewell.
EXPLANATION OF 1 COR. viii. 11.
IN ANSWER TO THE REQUEST OF A CORRESPONDENT.
And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother per
ish, for whom Christ died?"
In the passage from whence the above text is taken St. Paul is considering the case of a Christian's eating part of an animal which had been offered by a Heathen to an idol; particularly, sitting down to partake of it in a Heathen temple.*
It was customary among Pagan idolaters to offer sheep, oxen, and other animals to their fancied deities. Part of these was consumed on the altars; part was divided among the priests; and the offerers, with their friends, feasted on them in their own houses, or in the idol temple; and what was not so disposed of was sold in the market.
Now it appears from ver. 4 and 10, that some of the Corinthians, who professed Christianity, made no scru. ple of eating such meat; for they argued thus: "An idol is nothing in the world;” and, consequently, the flesh offered to it is neither the better nor the worse, We can, therefore, sit down in the Pagan temple, and eat of the sacrifice, without paying any religious honors to the dol.
* Ver. 9.
But this compliance was dangerous; for some professors had not this knowledge. Some weaker Christians, who took this liberty, did eat of the things in question, “with conscience of the idol;"'* that is, with consciousness of some religious regard to the idol, intending a degree of homage to it; and thus their conscience," being too weak to withstand a temptation to what, in their circumstances, is really evil, "is defiled," and brought under a terrifying load of guilt. This practice, therefore, was reprehensible; for it emboldened such weak persons to venture to the idol temple, and border at least on superstitious regard to an idol. The apostle, therefore, expostulates with this venturesome professor, on the danger of his conduct as to others: “Through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” The apprehended difficulty is, Can a soul perish, for whom Christ died?
I answer, That, strictly speaking, he cannot; for Christ, spraking of his sheep, for whom he died, says, “They shall not perish; but have everlasting life.”+ But I take his meaning to be this: “Do not, by the use of your liberty, tempt your weaker brother to sin; and to contract such guilt as, in the nature of things, tendo io his final perdition.”
It is not affirmed, nor necessarily implied, that any person for whom Christ died shall perish. The caution is, not to tempt a brother to a sinful action. We
* Ver. 7.
† John x.
ought, in a judgment of charity, to conclude, that he who professes the faith, is one of those for whom Christ died; but we cannot be sure of it. The hopeful professor may be tempted to sin, continue it it, apostatize, and perish. His persisting in sin gives us reason to conclude he was not one of the redeemed; and nothing but the faith that is connected with a holy life can prove that we are of that number.
Some judicious persons think, we are not to understand by the perishing of a soul here, eternal perdition, but the loss of his peace and comfort; as, probably, that parallel text ought to be understood: “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died;"* that is, Destroy not his peace and comfort, by staggering his faith and wounding his conscience; or, as it is in verse 20 and 21, do nothing “whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak; but follow after the things which make for peace and edification.”+
In a word; if the former passage be understood of finally perishing, it is the perdition of a mere professor, who, in the judgment of charity, was deemed one for whom Christ died. But if we understand the apostle to speak of a real Christian redeemed by the blood of Christ, then his perishing can only refer to his being tempted to an evil action, which, in its natural tendency, leads to ruin; but which the pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace of God shall prevent. C. C. D.
* Romans xiv, 15.
† Ver, 19.
REMARKS ON THE SAME TEXT BY ANOTHER HAND.
This text and its parallel (Rom. xiv. 15, “Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died") have been urged by the opposers of the doctrine called Calvinistic, as an evidence both in favor of universal redemption, and against the perseverance of the saints unto eternal salvation; for they argue, If the person in question was not a real Christian, then Christ must have died for all, else such an one could not have been included in the number of those for whom Christ died, without great presumption; but if he was a real Christian, or even was, in the judgment of charity, supposed to be such, then the apostle's language concedes, he might rotwithstanding perish or be destroyed; which overturns the doctrine of
perseverance. This is the Anti-Calvinistic objection in its full force; nor do I suppose that C. C. D. has been materially deficient in meeting it. But there is another ground on which the indiscriminate universality of redemption, and the uncertainty of everlasting salvation to a real saint, may be successfully opposed in defending this text, though but little noticed. The consideration to which I now allude, and which I am going to lay before you, should not be passed over as of trivial moment, since, if I mistake not, its influence extends not only to many controverted parts of holy writ in particular, but also to the Divine dispensations in general.
now advert to the words first proposed: “Through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?" If the Corinthian professor be considered merely as an external believer, without any
satisfactory evidence of a saving change, yet of such it may be said that Christ died for him with a rectoral design of saving him, though not with a decretive. This is no arbitrary distinction, but one founded in the very nature and character of the parties concerned; viz. God and man.
An essential character of God is; That he is the sovereign and absolute Disposer of all his creatures, as they are passive; and an equitable Governor of those who are accountable. An essential character of man is, That he is at the disposal of his Maker, in the most absolute sense, as to every thing which does not imply injustice; and that, considered as a moral agent and accountable, nothing is required of him but what he has the requisite moral means of accomplishing. I said moral means, not moral ability. How, though a sinner may be required, under the pain of everlasting condemnation, to believe in Christ without any communication of moral ability; yet for God, in a manner consistent with justice, to require the same without moral means, or an external sufficient consideration for so doing, is not conceivable. But what, short of a rectoral design or purpose to save sinners as such, can justify an address to them in the way of invitation to believe in Christ for salvation, and to repent for the remission of sin through the death and mediation of Christ?
On this ground then, in perfect consistency with sovereign election, and the decretive peculiarity of Christ's atoning death, may an Anti-Calvinist be answered in vindication not only of this passage, but of all other passages that speak of Christ having died for sinners, or died for all. To make any such text answer his purpose, an advocate for the indiscriminate univer