1 Corinthians 1
In this chapter we have,
I. The preface or introduction to the whole epistle,
1 Corinthians 1:1-9.
II. One principal occasion of writing it hinted, namely, their
divisions and the origin of them,
1 Corinthians 1:10-13.
III. An account of Paul's ministry among them, which was principally
preaching the gospel,
1 Corinthians 1:14-17.
IV. The manner wherein he preached the gospel, and the different
success of it, with an account how admirably it was fitted to bring
glory to God and beat down the pride and vanity of men,
1 Corinthians 1:17-31.
|The Apostle's Salutation.
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1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the
will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are
sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that
in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both
theirs and ours:
3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and
from the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God
which is given you by Jesus Christ;
5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance,
and in all knowledge;
6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of
our Lord Jesus Christ:
8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be
blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship
of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
We have here the apostle's preface to his whole epistle, in which we
may take notice,
I. Of the inscription, in which, according to the custom of writing
letters then, the name of the person by whom it was written and the
persons to whom it was written are both inserted.
1. It is an epistle from Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, to the
church of Corinth, which he himself had planted, though there were some
among them that now questioned his apostleship
(1 Corinthians 9:1,2),
and vilified his person and ministry,
2 Corinthians 10:10.
The most faithful and useful ministers are not secure from this
contempt. He begins with challenging this character: Paul, called to
be an apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God. He had not
taken this honour to himself, but had a divine commission for it. It
was proper at any time, but necessary at this time, to assert his
character, and magnify his office, when false teachers made a merit of
running him down, and their giddy and deluded followers were so apt to
set them up in competition with him. It was not pride in Paul, but
faithfulness to his trust, in this juncture, to maintain his
apostolical character and authority. And, to make this more fully
appear, he joins Sosthenes with him in writing, who was a minister of a
lower rank. Paul, and Sosthenes his brother, not a fellow-apostle, but
a fellow-minister, once a ruler of the Jewish synagogue, afterwards a
convert to Christianity, a Corinthian by birth, as is most probable,
and dear to this people, for which reason Paul, to ingratiate himself
with them, joins them with himself in his first salutations. There is
no reason to suppose he was made a partaker of the apostle's
inspiration, for which reasons he speaks, through the rest of the
epistle, in his own name, and in the singular number. Paul did not in
any case lessen his apostolical authority, and yet he was ready upon
all occasions to do a kind and condescending thing for their good to
whom he ministered. The persons to whom this epistle was directed were
the church of God that was at Corinth, sanctified in Christ Jesus,
and called to be saints. All Christians are thus far sanctified in
Christ Jesus, that they are by baptism dedicated and devoted to him,
they are under strict obligations to be holy, and they make profession
of real sanctity. If they be not truly holy, it is their own fault and
reproach. Note, It is the design of Christianity to sanctify us in
Christ. He gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and
purify us to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. In
conjunction with the church at Corinth, he directs the epistle to
all that in every place call on the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, both
theirs and ours. Hereby Christians are distinguished from the
profane and atheistical, that they dare not live without prayer; and
hereby they are distinguished from Jews and Pagans, that they call on
the name of Christ. He is their common head and Lord. Observe, In
every place in the Christian world there are some that call on the name
of Christ. God hath a remnant in all places; and we should have a
common concern for and hold communion with all that call on Christ's
II. Of the apostolical benediction. Grace be to you, and peace, from
God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. An apostle of the
prince of peace must be a messenger and minister of peace. This
blessing the gospel brings with it, and this blessing every preacher of
the gospel should heartily wish and pray may be the lot of all among
whom he ministers. Grace and peace--the favour of God, and
reconciliation to him. It is indeed the summary of all blessings.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace,
was the form of benediction under the Old Testament
but this advantage we have by the gospel,
1. That we are directed how to obtain that peace from God: it is in and
by Christ. Sinners can have no peace with God, nor any good from him,
but through Christ.
2. We are told what must qualify us for this peace; namely, grace:
first grace, then peace. God first reconciles sinners to himself,
before he bestows his peace upon them.
III. Of the apostle's thanksgiving to God on their behalf. Paul begins
most of his epistles with thanksgiving to God for his friends and
prayer for them. Note, The best way of manifesting our affection to our
friends is by praying and giving thanks for them. It is one branch of
the communion of saints to give thanks to God mutually for our gifts,
graces, and comforts. He gives thanks,
1. For their conversion to the faith of Christ: For the grace which
was given you through Jesus Christ,
1 Corinthians 1:4.
He is the great procurer and disposer of the favours of God. Those who
are united to him by faith, and made to partake of his Spirit and
merits, are the objects of divine favour. God loves them, bears them
hearty good-will, and bestows on them his fatherly smiles and
2. For the abundance of their spiritual gifts. This the church of
Corinth was famous for. They did not come behind any of the churches in
1 Corinthians 1:7.
He specifies utterance and knowledge,
1 Corinthians 1:5.
Where God has given these two gifts, he has given great capacity for
usefulness. Many have the flower of utterance that have not the root of
knowledge, and their converse is barren. Many have the treasure of
knowledge, and want utterance to employ it for the good of others, and
then it is in a manner wrapped up in a napkin. But, where God gives
both, a man is qualified for eminent usefulness. When the church of
Corinth was enriched with all utterance and all knowledge, it was fit
that a large tribute of praise should be rendered to God, especially
when these gifts were a testimony to the truth of the Christian
doctrine, a confirmation of the testimony of Christ among them,
1 Corinthians 1:6.
They were signs and wonders and gifts of the Holy Ghost, by
which God did bear witness to the apostles, both to their mission and
so that the more plentifully they were poured forth on any church the
more full attestation was given to that doctrine which was delivered by
the apostles, the more confirming evidence they had of their divine
mission. And it is no wonder that when they had such a foundation for
their faith they should live in expectation of the coming of their Lord
1 Corinthians 1:7.
It is the character of Christians that they wait for Christ's second
coming; all our religion has regard to this: we believe it, and hope
for it, and it is the business of our lives to prepare for it, if we
are Christians indeed. And the more confirmed we are in the Christian
faith the more firm is our belief of our Lord's second coming, and the
more earnest our expectation of it.
IV. Of the encouraging hopes the apostle had of them for the time to
come, founded on the power and love of Christ, and the faithfulness of
1 Corinthians 1:8,9.
He who had begun a good work in them, and carried it on thus far, would
not leave it unfinished. Those that wait for the coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ will be kept by him, and confirmed to the end; and those
that are so will be blameless in the day of Christ: not upon the
principle of strict justice, but gracious absolution; not in rigour of
law, but from rich and free grace. How desirable is it to be confirmed
and kept of Christ for such a purpose as this! How glorious are the
hopes of such a privilege, whether for ourselves or others! To be kept
by the power of Christ from the power of our own corruption and Satan's
temptation, that we may appear without blame in the great day! O
glorious expectation, especially when the faithfulness of God comes in
to support our hopes! He who hath called us into the fellowship of
his Son is faithful, and will do it,
1 Thessalonians 5:24.
He who hath brought us into near and dear relation to Christ, into
sweet and intimate communion with Christ, is faithful; he may be
trusted with our dearest concerns. Those that come at his call shall
never be disappointed in their hopes in him. If we approve ourselves
faithful to God, we shall never find him unfaithful to us. He will
not suffer his faithfulness to fail,
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10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no
divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together
in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by
them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are
contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul;
and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye
baptized in the name of Paul?
Here the apostle enters on his subject.
I. He extorts them to unity and brotherly love, and reproves them for
their divisions. He had received an account from some that wished them
well of some unhappy differences among them. It was neither ill-will to
the church, nor to their ministers, that prompted them to give this
account; but a kind and prudent concern to have these heats qualified
by Paul's interposition. He writes to them in a very engaging way:
"I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
if you have any regard to that dear and worthy name by which you are
called, be unanimous. Speak all the same thing; avoid
divisions or schisms" (as the original is), "that is, all
alienation of affection from each other. Be perfectly joined
together in the same mind, as far as you can. In the great things
of religion be of a mind: but, when there is not a unity of sentiment,
let there be a union of affections. The consideration of being agreed
in greater things should extinguish all feuds and divisions about minor
II. He hints at the origin of these contentions. Pride lay at the
bottom, and this made them factious. Only of pride cometh
They quarrelled about their ministers. Paul and Apollos were both
faithful ministers of Jesus Christ, and helpers of their faith and joy:
but those who were disposed to be contentious broke into parties, and
set their ministers at the head of their several factions: some cried
up Paul, perhaps as the most sublime and spiritual teacher; others
cried up Apollos, perhaps as the most eloquent speaker; some Cephas, or
Peter, perhaps for the authority of his age, or because he was the
apostle of the circumcision; and some were for none of them, but Christ
only. So liable are the best things in the world to be corrupted, and
the gospel and its institutions, which are at perfect harmony with
themselves and one another, to be made the engines of variance,
discord, and contention. This is no reproach to our religion, but a
very melancholy evidence of the corruption and depravity of human
nature. Note, How far will pride carry Christians in opposition to one
another! Even so far as to set Christ and his own apostles at variance,
and make them rivals and competitors.
III. He expostulates with them upon their discord and quarrels: "Is
Christ divided? No, there is but one Christ, and therefore
Christians should be on one heart. Was Paul crucified for you?
Was he your sacrifice and atonement? Did I ever pretend to be your
saviour, or any more than his minister? Or, were you baptized in the
name of Paul? Were you devoted to my service, or engaged to be my
disciples, by that sacred rite? Did I challenge that right in you, or
dependence from you, which is the proper claim of your God and
Redeemer?" No; ministers, however instrumental they are of good to us,
are not to be put in Christ's stead. They are not to usurp Christ's
authority, nor encourage any thing in the people that looks like
transferring his authority to them. He is our Saviour and sacrifice, he
is our Lord and guide. And happy were it for the churches if there were
no name of distinction among them, as Christ is not divided.
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14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and
15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I
know not whether I baptized any other.
Here the apostle gives an account of his ministry among them. He thanks
God he had baptized but a few among them, Crispus, who had been
a ruler of a synagogue at Corinth
Gaius, and the household of Stephanas, besides whom, he says, he
did not remember that he had baptized any. But how was this a proper
matter for thankfulness? Was it not a part of the apostolical
commission to baptize all nations? And could Paul give thanks to God
for his own neglect of duty? He is not to be understood in such a sense
as if he were thankful for not having baptized at all, but for not
having done it in present circumstances, lest it should have had this
very bad construction put upon it--that he had baptized in his own
name, made disciples for himself, or set himself up as the head of a
sect. He left it to other ministers to baptize, while he set himself to
more useful work, and filled up his time with preaching the gospel.
This, he thought, was more his business, because the more important
business of the two. He had assistants that could baptize, when none
could discharge the other part of his office so well as himself. In
this sense he says, Christ sent him not to baptize, but to preach
the gospel--not so much to baptize as to preach. Note, Ministers
should consider themselves sent and set apart more especially to that
service in which Christ will be most honoured and the salvation of
souls promoted, and for which they are best fitted, though no part of
their duty is to be neglected. The principal business Paul did among
them was to preach the gospel
(1 Corinthians 1:17),
(1 Corinthians 1:18),
1 Corinthians 1:23.
Ministers are the soldiers of Christ, and are to erect and display the
banner of the cross. He did not preach his own fancy, but the
gospel--the glad tidings of peace, and reconciliation to God, through
the mediation of a crucified Redeemer. This is the sum and substance
of the gospel. Christ crucified is the foundation of all our joys. By
his death we live. This is what Paul preached, what all ministers
should preach, and what all the saints live upon.
|The Efficacy of the Gospel; The Character of the Gospel.
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17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel:
not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made
of none effect.
18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish
foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the
disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew
not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save
them that believe.
22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after
23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a
stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ
the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the
weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise
men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to
confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the
world to confound the things which are mighty;
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised,
hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to
nought things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto
us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him
glory in the Lord.
We have here,
I. The manner in which Paul preached the gospel, and the cross of
Christ: Not with the wisdom of words
(1 Corinthians 1:17),
the enticing words of man's wisdom
(1 Corinthians 2:4),
the flourish of oratory, or the accuracies of philosophical language,
upon which the Greeks so much prided themselves, and which seem to have
been the peculiar recommendations of some of the heads of the faction
in this church that most opposed this apostle. He did not preach the
gospel in this manner, lest the cross of Christ should be of no
effect, lest the success should be ascribed to the force of art,
and not of truth; not to the plain doctrine of a crucified Jesus, but
to the powerful oratory of those who spread it, and hereby the honour
of the cross be diminished or eclipsed. Paul had been bred up himself
in Jewish learning at the feet of Gamaliel, but in preaching the cross
of Christ he laid his learning aside. He preached a crucified Jesus in
plain language, and told the people that that Jesus who was crucified
at Jerusalem was the Son of God and Saviour of men, and that all who
would be saved must repent of their sins, and believe in him, and
submit to his government and laws. This truth needed no artificial
dress; it shone out with the greatest majesty in its own light, and
prevailed in the world by its divine authority, and the demonstration
of the Spirit, without any human helps. The plain preaching of a
crucified Jesus was more powerful than all the oratory and philosophy
of the heathen world.
II. We have the different effects of this preaching: To those who
perish it is foolishness, but to those who are saved it is the power
1 Corinthians 1:18.
It is to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness;
but unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power
of God and the wisdom of God,
1 Corinthians 1:23,24.
1. Christ crucified is a stumbling-block to the Jews. They could not
get over it. They had a conceit that their expected Messiah was to be a
great temporal prince, and therefore would never own one who made so
mean an appearance in life, and died so accursed a death, for their
deliverer and king. They despised him, and looked upon him as
execrable, because he was hanged on a tree, and because he did not
gratify them with a sign to their mind, though his divine power shone
out in innumerable miracles. The Jews require a sign,
1 Corinthians 1:22.
2. He was to the Greeks foolishness. They laughed at the story of a
crucified Saviour, and despised the apostles' way of telling it. They
sought for wisdom. They were men of wit and reading, men that had
cultivated arts and sciences, and had, for some ages, been in a manner
the very mint of knowledge and learning. There was nothing in the plain
doctrine of the cross to suit their taste, nor humour their vanity, nor
gratify a curious and wrangling temper: they entertained it therefore
with scorn and contempt. What, hope to be saved by one that could not
save himself! And trust in one who was condemned and crucified as a
malefactor, a man of mean birth and poor condition in life, and cut off
by so vile and opprobrious a death! This was what the pride of human
reason and learning could not relish. The Greeks thought it little
better than stupidity to receive such a doctrine, and pay this high
regard to such a person: and thus were they justly left to perish in
their pride and obstinacy. Note, It is just with God to leave those to
themselves who pour such proud contempt on divine wisdom and grace.
3. To those who are called and saved he is the wisdom of God, and
the power of God. Those who are called and sanctified, who receive
the gospel, and are enlightened by the Spirit of God, discern more
glorious discoveries of God's wisdom and power in the doctrine of
Christ crucified than in all his other works. Note, Those who are saved
are reconciled to the doctrine of the cross, and led into an
experimental acquaintance with the mysteries of Christ crucified.
III. We have here the triumphs of the cross over human wisdom,
according to the ancient prophecy
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the
understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe?
Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the
wisdom of this world?
1 Corinthians 1:19,20,
All the valued learning of this world was confounded, baffled, and
eclipsed, by the Christian revelation and the glorious triumphs of the
cross. The heathen politicians and philosophers, the Jewish rabbis and
doctors, the curious searchers into the secrets of nature, were all
posed and put to a nonplus. This scheme lay out of the reach of the
deepest statesmen and philosophers, and the greatest pretenders to
learning both among the Jews and Greeks. When God would save the world,
he took a way by himself; and good reason, for the world by wisdom
knew not God,
1 Corinthians 1:21.
All the boasted science of the heathen world did not, could not,
effectually bring home the world to God. In spite of all their wisdom,
ignorance still prevailed, iniquity still abounded. Men were puffed up
by their imaginary knowledge, and rather further alienated from God;
and therefore it pleased him, by the foolishness of preaching, to
save those that believe. By the foolishness of
preaching--not such in truth, but in vulgar reckoning.
1. The thing preached was foolishness in the eyes of worldly-wise men.
Our living through one who died, our being blessed by one who was made
a curse, our being justified by one who was himself condemned, was all
folly and inconsistency to men blinded with self-conceit and wedded to
their own prejudices and the boasted discoveries of their reason and
2. The manner of preaching the gospel was foolishness to them too. None
of the famous men for wisdom or eloquence were employed to plant the
church or propagate the gospel. A few fishermen were called out, and
sent upon this errand. These were commissioned to disciple the nations:
these vessels chosen to convey the treasure of saving knowledge to the
world. There was nothing in them that at first view looked grand or
august enough to come from God; and the proud pretenders to learning
and wisdom despised the doctrine for the sake of those who dispensed
it. And yet the foolishness of God is wiser than men,
1 Corinthians 1:25.
Those methods of divine conduct that vain men are apt to censure as
unwise and weak have more true, solid, and successful wisdom in them,
than all the learning and wisdom that are among men: "You see your
calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many
mighty, not many noble, are called,
1 Corinthians 1:26,
&c. You see the state of Christianity; not many men of learning, or
authority, or honourable extraction, are called." There is a great deal
of meanness and weakness in the outward appearance of our religion.
(1.) Few of distinguished character in any of these respects were
chosen for the work of the ministry. God did not choose philosophers,
nor orators, nor statesmen, nor men of wealth and power and interest in
the world, to publish the gospel of grace and peace. Not the wise men
after the flesh, though men would apt to think that a reputation for
wisdom and learning might have contributed much to the success of the
gospel. Not the mighty and noble, however men might be apt to imagine
that secular pomp and power would make way for its reception in the
world. But God seeth not as man seeth. He hath chosen the foolish
things of the world, the weak things of the world, the base and
despicable things of the world, men of mean birth, of low rank, of no
liberal education, to be the preachers of the gospel and planters of
the church. His thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor his ways as
our ways. He is a better judge than we what instruments and
measures will best serve the purposes of his glory.
(2.) Few of distinguished rank and character were called to be
Christians. As the teachers were poor and mean, so generally were the
converts. Few of the wise, and mighty, and noble, embraced the doctrine
of the cross. The first Christians, both among Jews and Greeks, were
weak, and foolish, and base; men of mean furniture as to their mental
improvements, and very mean rank and condition as to their outward
estate; and yet what glorious discoveries are there of divine wisdom in
the whole scheme of the gospel, and in this particular circumstance of
IV. We have an account how admirably all is fitted,
1. To beat down the pride and vanity of men. God hath chosen the
foolish things of the world to confound the wise--men of no
learning to confound the most learned; the weak things of the world
to confound the might--men of mean rank and circumstances to
confound and prevail against all the power and authority of earthly
kings; and base things, and things which are despised--things
which men have in the lowest esteem, or in the utmost contempt, to pour
contempt and disgrace on all they value and have in veneration; and
things which are not, to bring to nought (to abolish) things that
are--the conversion of the Gentiles (of whom the Jews had the most
contemptuous and vilifying thoughts) was to open a way to the
abolishing of that constitution of which they were so fond, and upon
which they valued themselves so much as for the sake of it to despise
the rest of the world. It is common for the Jews to speak of the
Gentiles under this character, as things that are not. Thus, in
the apocryphal book of Esther, she is brought in praying that God would
not give his sceptre to those who are not,
Esth. xiv. 11.
Esdras, in one of the apocryphal books under his name, speaks to God
of the heathen as those who are reputed as nothing,
2 Esdras vi. 56, 57.
And the apostle Paul seems to have this common language of the Jews in
his view when he calls Abraham the father of us all before him whom
he believed, God, who calleth those things that are not as though they
The gospel is fitted to bring down the pride of both Jews and Greeks,
to shame the boasted science and learning of the Greeks, and to take
down that constitution on which the Jews valued themselves and despised
all the world besides, that no flesh should glory in his
(1 Corinthians 1:29),
that there might be no pretence for boasting. Divine wisdom alone had
the contrivance of the method of redemption; divine grace alone
revealed it, and made it known. It lay, in both respects, out of human
reach. And the doctrine and discovery prevailed, in spite of all the
opposition it met with from human art or authority: so effectually did
God veil the glory and disgrace the pride of man in all. The gospel
dispensation is a contrivance to humble man. But,
2. It is as admirably fitted to glorify God. There is a great deal of
power and glory in the substance and life of Christianity. Though the
ministers were poor and unlearned, and the converts generally of the
meanest rank, yet the hand of the Lord went along with the preachers,
and was mighty in the hearts of the hearers; and Jesus Christ was made
both to ministers and Christians what was truly great and honourable.
All we have we have from God as the fountain, and in and through Christ
as the channel of conveyance. He is made of God to us wisdom,
righteousness, sanctification, and redemption
(1 Corinthians 1:30):
all we need, or can desire. We are foolishness, ignorant and blind in
the things of God, with all our boasted knowledge; and he is made
wisdom to us. We are guilty, obnoxious to justice; and he is made
righteousness, our great atonement and sacrifice. We are depraved and
corrupt; and he is made sanctification, the spring of our spiritual
life; from him, the head, it is communicated to all the members of his
mystical body by his Holy Spirit. We are in bonds, and he is made
redemption to us, our Saviour and deliverer. Observe, Where Christ is
made righteousness to any soul, he is also made sanctification. He
never discharges from the guilt of sin, without delivering from the
power of it; and he is made righteousness and sanctification, that he
may in the end be made complete redemption, may free the soul from the
very being of sin, and loose the body from the bonds of the grave: and
what is designed in all is that all flesh may glory in the Lord,
1 Corinthians 1:31.
Observe, It is the will of God that all our glorifying should be in the
Lord: and, our salvation being only through Christ, it is thereby
effectually provided that it should be so. Man is humbled, and God
glorified and exalted, by the whole scheme.