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.…
Heresies sin against faith and schism, against charity; and, as children say they love father and mother both best, so let us hate heresies and schisms both worst.
I. WHAT IS A HERESY? An error in the fundamentals of religion, maintained with obstinacy.
1. Note those qualities which dispose a man to be the founder of a heresy.
(1) Pride. When one is elated with conceited sanctity above others, he will quarrel with those who are before him in place, which are behind him in piety.
(2) Discontent that his preferments bear not proportion to his supposed deserts. Thus Arius would be an Arian, because he could not be a bishop.
(3) Learning void of humility; or good natural parts, especially memory and a fluent expression. But if both be wanting, yet boldness and brazen-faced impudence will supply the place, especially if he trades with the vulgar.
(4) To varnish all these, there must be pretended piety and austerity of life. Put all these together, and they spell together hoeresiarcham. To prevent these mischiefs, let such men pray to God for humility. Let them beware of discontentment, which is a direct quarrelling with God, who is the Fountain of all preferment. Grant preferment is denied thee; be not so childish to cast away a crown, because thou canst not get a counter. Lastly, if God hath bestowed good parts upon thee, pray to Him to sanctify them; otherwise the greatest memory may soon forget itself, and a fluent tongue may cut his throat that hath it.
2. A plain follower of a heresy may be thus described. He must be —
(1) Ignorant; for he that knows nothing will believe anything (2 Timothy 3:6).
(2) Desirous of novelty. It is an old humour for men to love new things.
(3) As a result of these two, he must have the persons of men in much admiration, and entertaining anything that is said because they say it. To prevent these mischiefs, let the meanest labour to attain to some measure of knowledge in matters of salvation, that so he may not trust every spirit, but be able to try whether he be of God or no. Secondly, kill the itch of novelty in thy soul, practising the prophet's precept (Jeremiah 6:16). Lastly, love and admire no man's doctrine for his person, but rather love his person for his doctrine.
II. THERE MUST BE HERESIES. A conditionate necessity is this: for upon the pre-supposition of these two things, which cannot be denied — that the devil goeth about like a roaring lion, etc., and that the flesh lusteth against the spirit, making men prone to all wickedness; hence it followeth there must be heresies. Thus he that beholdeth a family, and findeth the master to be careless, the mistress negligent, the sons riotous, the servants unfaithful, he may safely conclude that family cannot be safe, but must be ruined (Luke 17:1).
(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.