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1 Corinthians 14:26-33

26. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

26. Quid igitur est, fratres? Quoties convenitis, unusquisque vestrum canticum habet, doctrinam habet, linguam habet, revelationem habet, interpretationem habet: omnia ad aedificationem fiant.

27. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.

27. Sive lingua quis loquitur, fiat per duos, aut ad summum tres, idque vicissim, et unus interpretetur.

28. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

28. Quodsi non sit interpres, taceat in Ecclesia: caeterum sibi ipsi loquatur et Deo.

29. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

29. Prophetae autem duo aut tres loquantur, et caeteri diiudicent.

30. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.

30. Quodsi alii fuerit revelatum assidenti, prior taceat:

31. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.

31. Potestis enim singulatim omnes prophetare, ut omnes discant, et omnes consolationem accipiant. 855855     “Que tous soyent consolez, ou, exhortez;” — “That all may be comforted, or, exhorted.”

32. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

32. Et spiritus prophetarum prophetis sunt subiecti:

33. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

33. Non enim seditionis est Deus, sed pacis, quemadmodum in omnibus Ecclesiis sanctorum. 856856     “Comme en toutes les Eglises des satnets, ou, comme on voit en toutes;” — “As in all the Churches of the saints, or, as one sees in all.”


26. What is it then? He now shows the way in which they may remedy those evils. In the first place, each gift must have its place, but in order and in measure. Farther, the Church must not be taken up to no purpose with unprofitable exercises, but must, in whatever is done, have an eye to edification. He speaks, however, in the first place of edification in this way: “Let every one, according as he has been endowed with some particular gift, make it his aim to lay it out for the advantage of all.” For it is in this way that we must understand the word rendered every onethat no one may take it as implying universality, as though all to a man were endowed with some such gift.

27. If any one speak in another tongue He now describes the order and limits the measure. “If you have a mind to speak with other tongues, let only two speak, or, at most, not more than three, and let there be at the same time an interpreter sitting by Without an interpreter, tongues are of no advantage: let them, therefore be dispensed with.” It is to be observed, however, that he does not command, but merely permits; for the Church can, without any inconvenience, dispense with tongues, except in so far as they are helps to prophecy, as the Hebrew and Greek languages are at this day. Paul, however, makes this concession, that he may not seem to deprive the assembly of believers of any gift of the Spirit.

At the same time, it might seem as if even this were not agreeable to reason, inasmuch as he said before, (1 Corinthians 14:22,) that tongues, in so far as they are for a sign, are suited to unbelievers. I answer, that, while a miracle may be performed more particularly with a view to unbelievers, it, nevertheless, does not follow, that it may not be of some advantage to believers also. If you understand, that an unknown tongue is a sign to unbelievers in the sense that Isaiah’s words 857857     The words referred to are those which Paul had quoted above in 1 Corinthians 14:21. — Ed. bear, the method of procedure, which Paul here prescribes, is different. For he allows of other tongues in such a way that, interpretation being joined with them, nothing is left obscure. He observes, therefore, a most admirable medium in correcting the fault of the Corinthians. On the one hand, he does not at all set aside any gift of God whatever, 858858     “Tant petit soit-il;” — “Be it ever so small.” in order that all his benefits may be seen among believers. On the other hand he makes a limitation — that ambition do not usurp the place that is due to the glory of God, and that no gift of inferior importance stand in the way of those that are of chief moment; and he adds the sauce 859859     “Ascauoir l’interpretation;” — “Namely, the interpretation.” — that there be no mere ostentation, devoid of advantage.

28. Let him speak to himself and to God “Let him enjoy,” says he, “his gift in his own conscience, and let him give thanks to God.” For in this way I explain the expression to speak to himself and to God, as meaning — to recognize in his own mind with thanksgiving the favor conferred upon him, 860860     “Le benefice et don de Dieu;” — “The kindness and gift of God.” and to enjoy it as his own, when there is not an opportunity for bringing it forward in a public manner. For he draws a contrast between this secret way of speaking, and speaking publicly in the Church — which he forbids. 861861     “En ce cas;” — “In this case.”

29. Prophets, two or three. As to prophecy, too, he prescribes limits, because “multitude,” as they commonly say, “breeds confusion.” This is true, for we know it by every day’s experience. He does not, however, restrict the number so definitely, as when he was treating of tongues, for there is less danger, in the event of their applying themselves for a longer time to prophesyings, nay more, continued application would be the most desirable thing of all; but Paul considered what the weakness of men could bear.

There still remains, however, a question — why it is that he assigns the like number to prophesyings and to tongues, except that, as to the latter, he adds particularly — at the most, for if tongues are less useful, there ought assuredly to be a more sparing use of them? I answer, that even in tongues, as he takes the term, prophecy is included; for tongues were made use of either for discourses, 862862     “Pour traiter de quelques matieres de la religion;” — “For treating of some matters of religion.” or for prayers. In the former department, the interpreter was in the place of the prophet: thus it was the principal and more frequent exercise of it. Only he limits the measure of it, lest it should fall into contempt through a feeling of disgust, and lest those who were less skillful should prevent those that were better qualified from having time and opportunity of speaking; for he would, undoubtedly, have those to whom he assigns the duty of speaking, to be of the more select class, and appointed by their common suffrages. 863863     “Par l’approbation commune de l’Eglise;” — “By the common approbation of the Church.” None, however, are more inclined to push themselves forward, than those who have but a slight smattering of learning, so that the proverb holds good, “Ignorance is pert.” 864864     The Latins have a similar proverb — “Stater in lagena bis bis clamat;” — “A penny in an earthen pot is constantly tinkling.” The Germans say — “The higher the head, the humbler the heart.” — Ed. Paul had it in view to remedy this evil, by assigning the office of speaking to two or three

Let the others judge. Lest he should give any occasion to the others to complain — as though he were desirous that the gift of God 865865     “Le don de Dieu qu’ils ont receu;” — “The gift of God which they have received.” should be suppressed among them and buried, he shows in what way they may lawfully make use of it for the benefit of the Church, even by keeping silence — if they set themselves to judge of what is said by others. For it is of no small advantage, that there should be some that are skillful in judging, who will not allow sound doctrine to be perverted by the impostures of Satan, or to be otherwise corrupted by silly trifles. Paul, accordingly, teaches that the other prophets will be useful to the Church, even by keeping silence.

It may seem, however, to be absurd that men should have liberty given them to judge of the doctrine of God, which ought to be placed beyond all controversy. I answer, that the doctrine of God is not subjected to the scrutiny of men, but there is simply permission given them to judge by the Spirit of God, whether it is his word that is set before them, or whether human inventions are, without any authority, set off under this pretext, as we shall have occasion to notice again ere long.

30. But if anything be revealed to another. Here is another advantage — that whenever there will be occasion, the way will also be open to them. 866866     “Que toutes fois et quantes qu’il sera besoin, eux aussi auront lieu de parler;” — “That as often, and in as far as there will be occasion, they will also have opportunity of speaking.” Hence they have no longer any occasion to complain, that the Spirit is bound, or that his mouth is shut. For all have opportunity and liberty allowed them of speaking, when there is occasion for it, provided only no one unseasonably intrudes — having it in view to please himself, rather than to serve some useful purpose. Now he requires this modesty on the part of all — that every one in his place shall give way to another that has something better to bring forward. 867867     “But if anything be revealed to another that sitteth by That is very frequently said of the Jewish doctors, היה יושכ He sat — which means not barely he was sitting, but he taught out of the seat of the teacher, or he sat teaching, or ready to teach So that, indeed, he sat and he taught are all one. Examples among the Talmudists are infinite. In the same sense the Apostle: ‘If something be revealed to some minister, who hath a seat among those that teach, etc., not revealed in that very instant: but if he saith that he hath received some revelation from God, then ὁ πρῶτος σιγάτωlet the first be silent:, let him be silent who ψαλμὸν ἔχειhath a psalm — and give way to him.’” Lightfoot. — Ed For this only is the true liberty of the Spirit — not that every one be allowed to blab out rashly whatever he pleases, but that all, from the highest to the lowest, voluntarily allow themselves to be under control, and that the one Spirit be listened to, by whatever mouth he speaks. As to the certainty of the revelation, we shall see ere long.

31. You can all, one by one. In the first place, when he says all, he does not include believers universally, but only those that were endowed with this gift. Farther, he does not mean that all ought to have equally their turn, but that, according as it might be for the advantage of the people, each one should come forward to speak either more frequently or more seldom. 868868     “Ainsi qu’il sera auise pour le mieux;” — “As it shall be judged for the better.” “No one will remain always unemployed; but an opportunity of speaking will present itself, sometimes to one and at other times to another.”

He adds, that all may learn. This is applicable, it is true, to the whole of the people, but it is particularly suited to the Prophets, and Paul more especially refers to them. For no one will ever be a good teacher, who does not show himself to be teachable, as no one will ever be found who has, in himself alone, such an overflowing in respect of perfection of doctrine, as not to derive benefit from listening to others. Let all, therefore, undertake the office of teaching on this principle, that they do not refuse or grudge, to be scholars to each other in their turn, whenever there shall be afforded to others the means of edifying the Church.

He says, in the second place, that all may receive consolation. Hence we may infer, that the ministers of Christ, so far from envying, should rather rejoice with all their heart, that they are not the only persons that excel, but have fellow-partakers of the same gift — a disposition which Moses discovered, as is related in sacred history. (Numbers 11:28.) For when his servant, inflamed with a foolish jealousy, was greatly displeased, because the gift of prophecy was conferred upon others also, he reproves him: “Nay,” says he, “would that all the people of God were sharers with me in this superior gift!” And, undoubtedly, it is a special consolation for pious ministers, to see the Spirit of God, whose instruments they are, working in others also, and they derive also from this no small confirmation. It is a consolation, too, that it contributes to the spread of the word of God, the more it has of ministers and witnesses.

As, however, the word παρακαλεῖσθαι, which Paul here employs, is of doubtful signification, 869869     “Ha double signification;” — “Has a double signification.” it might also be rendered may receive exhortation. 870870     Thus in Acts 15:32, παρεκάλεσαν means exhorted, while the noun παρακλήσις is used in the immediately preceding verse in the sense of consolation. — Ed Nor would this be unsuitable, for it is sometimes of advantage to listen to others, that we may be more powerfully stirred up to duty.

32. And the spirits of the Prophets. This, too, is one of the reasons, why it is necessary for them to take turns — because it will sometimes happen that, in the doctrine of one Prophet, the others may find something to reprove. “It is not reasonable,” says he, “that any one should be beyond the sphere of scrutiny. In this way it will sometimes come to a person’s turn to speak, who was among the audience and was sitting silent.”

This passage has been misunderstood by some, as if Paul had said, that the Lord’s Prophets were not like persons taken with a sudden frenzy, who, when a divine impulse (ἐνθουσιασμὸς) had once seized them, 871871     “Depuis que leur folie les prenoit, laquelle ils appeloyent vn mouuement Diuin;” — “Whenever their folly seized them, which they called a Divine impulse.” were no longer masters of themselves. 872872     The reference here is manifestly to those who practiced divination, (Θεομαντεία) of whom there were three sorts among the Grecians, distinguished by three distinct ways of receiving the divine afflatus, (ἐνθουσιασμὸς.) See Potter’s Grecian Antiquities, volume 1, pp. 349-354. Virgil describes in the following terms the frantic state of the Sibyl, when pretending to be under divine impulse: —
   “Non comtaee mansere comae; sed pectus anhelum,
Et rabie fera corda tument: majorque videri,
Nee mortale sonans, attlata est numine quando
Jam propiore dei

   “But when the headstrong god, not yet appeased,
With holy frenzy had the Sibyl seized,
Terror froze up her grisly hair; her breast
Throbbing with holy fury, still expressed
A greater horror, and she bigger seems,
Swoln with the afflatus, whilst in holy screams
She unfolds the hidden mysteries of fate.”

   Virg. Aen.VI. 48-51.Ed.
It is indeed true that God’s Prophets are not disordered in mind; but this has nothing to do with this passage of Paul’s writings. For it means, as I have already stated, that no one is exempted from the scrutiny of others, but that all must be listened to, with this understanding, that their doctrine is, nevertheless, to be subjected to examination. It is not, however, without difficulty, for the Apostle declares that their spirits are subject. Though it is of gifts that he speaks, how can prophecy, which is given by the Holy Spirit, be judged of by men, so that the Spirit himself is not judged by them? In this manner, even the word of God, which is revealed by the Spirit; will be subjected to examination. The unseemliness of this needs not be pointed out, for it is of itself abundantly evident. I maintain, however, that neither the Spirit of God nor his word is restrained by a scrutiny of this kind. The Holy Spirit, I say, retains his majesty unimpaired, so as to

judge all things, while he is judged by no one.
(1 Corinthians 2:15.)

The sacred word of God, too, retains the respect due to it, so that it is received without any disputation, as soon as it is presented.

“What is it, then,” you will say, “that is subjected to examination?”’ I answer — If any one were furnished with a full revelation, that man would undoubtedly, along with his gift, be above all scrutiny. There is, I say, no subjection, where there is a plenitude of revelation; but as God has distributed his spirit to every one in a certain measure, in such a way that, even amidst the greatest abundance, there is always something wanting, it is not to be wondered, if no one is elevated to such a height, as to look down from aloft upon all others, and have no one to pass judgment upon him. We may now see how it is, that, without any dishonor to the Holy Spirit, his gifts admit of being examined. Nay more, where, after full examination, nothing is found that is worthy of reproof, there will still be something, that stands in need of polishing. The sum of all, therefore, is this — that the gift is subjected to examination in such a way, that whatever is set forth, the Prophets consider as to it — whether it has proceeded from the Spirit of God; for if it shall appear that the Spirit is the author of it, there is no room left for hesitation.

It is, however still farther asked — “What rule is to be made use of in examining?” This question is answered in part by the mouth of Paul, who, in Romans 12:6, requires that prophecy be regulated according to the proportion of faith. As to the passing of judgment, however, there is no doubt, that it ought to be regulated by the word and Spirit of God — that nothing may be approved of, but what is discovered to be from God — that nothing may be found fault with but in accordance with his word — in fine, that God alone may preside in this judgment, and that men may be merely his heralds.

From this passage of Paul’s writings, we may conjecture how very illustrious that Church was, in respect of an extraordinary abundance and variety of spiritual gifts. There were colleges of Prophets, so that pains had to be taken, that they might have their respective turns. There was so great a diversity of gifts, that there was a superabundance. We now see our leanness, nay, our poverty; but in this we have a just punishment, sent to requite our ingratitude. For neither are the riches of God exhausted, nor is his benignity lessened; but we are neither deserving of his bounty, nor capable of receiving his liberality. Still we have an ample sufficiency of light and doctrine, provided there were no deficiency in respect of the cultivation of piety, and the fruits that spring from it.

33. For God is not of confusion. 873873     “Car Dieu n’est point Dieu de confusion;” — “For God is not a God of confusion.” We must understand the word Author, or some term of that kind. 874874     Granville Penn reads the verse as follows: For they are not spirits of disorder, but of peace He thinks it probable, that “the singular, ἐστι, has caused a vitiation of this passage, by suggesting the introduction of a singular nominative to agree with it, namely ὁ Θεος, God;’ whereas in the reading of Tertullian, as early as the second or third century, ἐστι referred to the neuter plural, πνεύματα: ‘Et spiritus prophetarum prophetis subditi sunt — non enim eversionis sunt, sed pacis.’ (And the spirits of the Prophets are subject to the Prophets — for they are not of disorder but of peace.) The Greek, therefore, stood thus: οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀκαταστασίας (πνεύματα), αλλ εἰρήνης. This early external testimony, combined with the internal testimony of the context, is sufficient evidence, that Θεὸς has been unskilfully inserted by philoponists here, as Θεὸς, Κύριος, Χριστός, have been intruded into many other passages of the Sacred Text.” — Ed Here we have a most valuable statement, by which we are taught, that we do not serve God unless in the event of our being lovers of peace, and eager to promote it. Whenever, therefore, there is a disposition to quarrel, there, it is certain, God does not reign. And how easy it is to say this! How very generally all have it in their mouths! Yet, in the meantime, the most of persons fly into a rage about nothing, or they trouble the Church, from a desire that they may, by some means, rise into view, and may seem to be somewhat. (Galatians 2:6.)

Let us, therefore, bear in mind, that, in judging as to the servants of Christ, this mark must be kept in view — whether or not they aim at peace and concord, and, by conducting themselves peaceably, avoid contentions to the utmost of their power, provided, however, we understand by this a peace of which the truth of God is the bond. For if we are called to contend against wicked doctrines, even though heaven and earth should come together, we must, nevertheless, persevere in the contest. We must, indeed, in the first place, make it our aim, that the truth of God may, without contention, maintain its ground; but if the wicked resist, we must set our face against them, and have no fear, lest the blame of the disturbances should be laid to our charge. For accursed is that peace of which revolt from God is the bond, and blessed are those contentions by which it is necessary to maintain the kingdom of Christ.

As in all the Churches. The comparison 875875     “Ce mot, Comme;” — “This word, As.” does not refer merely to what was said immediately before, but to the whole of the foregoing representation. “I have hitherto enjoined upon you nothing that is not observed in all the Churches, and, in this manner, they are maintained in peace. Let it be your care, therefore, to borrow, what other Churches have found by experience to be salutary, and most profitable for maintaining peace.” His explicit mention of the term saints is emphatic — as if with the view of exempting rightly constituted Churches from a mark of disgrace. 876876     “Comme s’il vouloit dire qu’il n’y auroit point de propos d’auoir quelque souspecon sur les Eglises bien reformees;” — “As if he meant to say, that there was no occasion for having any suspicion as to Churches thoroughly reformed.”

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