Observe here, 1. The great trial which St. Paul met with from the Corinthians, whose spiritual father he was: though he had served them with great faithfulness, yet they did acknowledge him but in part. There was a time when he was high in their esteem. Who but Paul! None but he! but now a great part leave him, and admire others.
Learn hence, What great levity, fickleness, and inconstancy, may be found in good men in general; and what great mutability and changeableness of affection in particular to their ministers and spiritual guides, though never so sincere and faithful.
Although St. Paul, with a laborious diligence, and divine success, had planted and propagated the Christian faith amongst them; yet now not only his person, but his very office, falls under contempt by many of them. None more than ministers do experience this truth, that nothing is so mutable as the mind of man.
Though ministers are the same, and their message the same; though they continue burning and shining lights, though they burn out, and consume life, health, and estate, among and for their people; yet it is only for a season, for an hour, for a short time, at their first coming amongst them, that they rejoice in their light: You have acknowledged us in part.
Observe, 2. That notwithstanding the contempt cast upon St. Paul by some in the church of Corinth, yet there were others among them who did greatly rejoice in him, and bless God for him, and he for them: We are your rejoicing, and ye are ours, as being converted by us; and I trust we shall be a farther joy and mutual rejoicing each to other in the day of our Lord Jesus.
Learn hence, What unspeakable rejoicings and joyful congratulations there will be in the day of Christ, between laborious faithful ministers and their believing obedient hearers.
"Lord! will the Christian say, this was the blessed instrument, under God, of my happy illumination and conversion; by the blessing of the Spirit upon his ministry, my soul was begotten unto Christ." But on the other hand, if we be ignornat or lazy, unskillful or unfaithful, in our office, our people will come in against us as swift witnesses in the day of Christ: and, Lord, what an intolerable aggravation will it be of our misery in hell, to have any of our people thus upbraiding us!
"O cruel man! that sawest my soul in danger, but never dealt faithfully and plainly with me; the same time that we spent together in sin and vanity, in sensual mirth and jollity, might have been instrumental to save us both from this place of torment." Let ministers consider themselves as witnesses for God, and their people as witnesses for or against them; and under that consideration, so study, preach, and pray; so live, walk, and act, that they may, with this great apostle, take God to record, that they are free from the blood of all men.