For this cause many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged,’— 1 COR. 11:30-31.
I intend at this time especially to stand upon the duty of judging, as being fittest for the occasion.* But yet, by God’s assistance, we† will take the words in order, because I desire to speak somewhat of the other which follow.
‘For this cause many are sick,’ &c. After the holy apostle, the seedsman of God, had sown the seed of heavenly doctrine, Satan also by his instruments had sown his cockle of abuses among the Corinthians, of which, amongst many, this was one, to come irreverently to the holy communion. Whereupon God was forced to take them into his own hands; and lest they should be ignorant of the cause, the blessed apostle points them here, as it were with the finger, to the cause of the visitation among them,§ for their irreverent and unprepared coming to the Lord’s table, ‘For this cause,’ &c. In the words we will speak of,
1. The cause of the correction among them.
2. And then of the kinds of it: ‘Many are sick, and weak, and sleep.’
3. And then of the care, if it had been used, that might have prevented those contagious sicknesses among them: ‘If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.’
But lest God’s children should despair when they are judged and sharply corrected of him, he adds, in the next place, the comfort; howsoever things fall out, our salvation is promoted. ‘When we are judged,’ and chastened of the Lord, ‘it is that we should not be condemned with the world.’
First, of the cause.
I will speak briefly of the former verse, but dwell most upon the next, of self-judging. ‘For this cause many are weak and sick, and many sleep.’ Observe here in the cause.
Doct. (1.) First, when there is a cause, God will correct; and where there is this cause, he will correct, that is, irreverent coming to the communion.
Doct. (2.) Secondly, As there is a cause when God doth correct, so usually there is this or that particular cause.
For the first, where there is cause he will correct, and where there is this cause. Where there is no cause he will not correct. ‘For this cause.’ There is always a cause, and a particular cause, [and a particular cause of God’s judgment is]
Quest. Why must there be alway a cause?
Ans. Because God is the judge of the world, and the judge of the world must needs do that which is right, Gen. 18:25. And therefore he will not judge without a cause.† We have ill in us, before we suffer ill. God is forced to mortify sins by afflictions, because we mortify them not by the Spirit, and in the use of holy means. There is a cause always. God doth favours from his own bowels, and from his own nature; but he never correcteth without a cause from us. Corrections and judgments are always forced. It is a stranger work to him than favours that come from his own nature as a gracious God, and therefore the cause of his judgment is always in us. But when he is beneficial to us, it comes from himself, as water comes from a fountain.
Instruction. This should teach us in all visitations to justify God, and to take heed of that which our nature is prone to, of swelling and murmuring, and rising up against God. Just thou art, and righteous are thy judgments. ‘I will bear the wrath of the Lord, because I have sinned,’ &c., as it is said, Micah 7:9. Let us lay our hand upon our mouth, and justify God in all his visitations. There is a cause.
And not only a cause at random, but if we search ourselves there is this or that particular cause. So 2 Thes. 2:10 it is said, ‘For this cause God gave them up to strong delusions, because they entertained not the truth in the love of it.’ There is a ‘this;’ for God shoots not his judgments, as children shoot their arrows, at random, light where they will; but he hath his aim.