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And therefore, in the perfuafion that idolatry was the only proper religion for the vulgar, they would hear nothing that had the least tendency to make the people fenfible of its abfurdity. On perfons of this description, the arguments in behalf of the gospel, advanced by the apostle, made no impreffion; as was seen in the Athenian magiftrates and philofophers, before whom Paul reafoned in the most forcible manner, against the reigning idolatry, without effect. The miracles, which he wrought at Corinth, in confirmation of the gospel, ought to have drawn the attention of all ranks of men in that city. But the opinion which the philofophers and statesmen entertained of their own wisdom, was fo great, that they defpifed the gospel as mere foolishness, (1 Cor. i. 23.) rejected its evidences, and remained, moft of them, in their original ignorance and wickedness.
Though, as above obferved, the common people at Corinth, ftrongly impreffed by the apostle's miracles, readily embraced the gospel, it must be acknowledged, that they did not seem, at the beginning, to have been much influenced thereby, either in their temper or manners. In receiving the gofpel, they had been. moved by vanity, rather than by the love of truth. And therefore, when they found the doctrines of the gospel, contrary in many things to their most approved maxims, they neither relished them, nor the apoftle's explications of them. And as to his moral exhortations, because they were not compofed according to the rules of the Grecian rhetoric, nor delivered with those tones of voice which the Greeks admired in their orators, they were not attended to by many, and had scarce any influence in reftraining them from their vicious pleasures. Knowing, therefore, the humour of the Greeks, that they fought wisdom, that is, a conformity to their philosophical principles, in every new scheme of doctrine that was propofed to them, and naufeated whatever was contrary to thefe principles, the apoftle did not, during his first abode in Corinth, attempt to explain the gofpel scheme to the Corinthians in its full extent; but after the example of his divine master, he taught them as they were able to bear: 1 Cor. iii. 1. Now I, brethren, could not speak to you as to fpiritual, but as to fleshly men, even as to babes in Chrift. 2. Milk I gave you, and not meat. For ye were not then able to receive it. Nay, neither yet now are ye able.
SECT. IV. Of the Occafion of writing the First Epifile to the
Though the Apoftle had taught the word of God at Corinth, during more than a year and fix months, the religious knowledge of the difciples, for the reafons already mentioned, was but imperfect at his departure. They were therefore more liable than fome others, to be deceived by any impoftor who came among them, as the event fhewed. For after the apoftle was gone, a falfe teacher, who was a Jew by birth, (2 Cor. xi. 22.) came to Corinth with letters of recommendation, (2 Cor. iii. 1.) probably from the brethren in Judea, for which reafon he is called a falfe apofile, 2 Cor. xi. 13. having been fent forth by men. This teacher was of the fect of the Sadducees, (See 1 Cor. xv. 12.) and of fome note on account of his birth (2 Cor. v. 16, 17.) and education; being perhaps a fcribe learned in the law, 1 Cor. is 20. He feems likewife to have been well acquainted with the character, manners, and opinions of the Greeks: for he recommended himself to the Corinthians, not only by affecting, in his difcourfes, that eloquence of which the Greeks were so fond; but also by fuiting his doctrine to their prejudices, and his precepts to their practices: For example, becaufe the learned Greeks regarded the body, as the prison of the foul, and expected to be delivered from it in the future state, and called the hope of the refurrection of the fiefh, the hope of worins :—a filthy and abo minable thing—which God neither will nor can do, (Celfus ap. Origen. Lib. v. p. 240.) and because they ridiculed the doctrine of the refurrection of the body, Acts xvii. 32. this new teacher, to render the gospel acceptable to them, flatly denied it to be a doctrine of the gofpel, and affirmed that the refurrection of the body was neither defirable nor poffible: and argued, that the only refurrection promised by Chrift was the refurrection of the foul from ignorance and error, which the heretics of these times faid was already paffed, 2 Tim. ii. 18. Next, because the Corinthians were addicted to gluttony, drunkennefs, fornication, and every fort of lewdnefs, this teacher derided the apostle's precepts concerning temperance and chastity, and reafoned in.defence of the licentious practices of the Greeks, as we learn from the apoftle's confutation of his arguments, 1 Cor. vi. 12, 13.
Nay, he went fo far as to patronise a person of some note among the Corinthians, who was living in inceft with his father's wife, I Cor. v. 1. propofing thereby to gain the good will, not only of that offender, but of many others alfo, who wished to retain their ancient debauched manner of living. Laftly, to ingratiate himfelf with the Jews, he enjoined obedience to the law of Mofes, as abfolutely neceffary to falvation.
In thus corrupting the gospel, for the fake of rendering it acceptable to the Greeks, the false teacher proposed to make himself the head of a party in the church at Corinth, and to acquire both power and wealth. But Paul's authority as an apostle, standing in the way of his ambition, and hindering him from spreading his errors with the fuccefs he wished, he endeavoured to leffen the apostle, by representing him as one who had neither the mental nor the bodily abilities neceffary to an apoftle. His prefence, he faid, was mean, and his fpeech contemptible, 2 Cor. x. 10. He found fault with his birth and education, 2 Cor. x. 10. He even affirmed that he was no apostle, because he had not attended Chrift during his miniftry on earth, and boldly said that Paul had abstained from taking maintenance, because he was confcious he was no apostle. On the other hand, to raise himself in the eyes of the Corinthians, he praised his own birth and education, boafted of his knowledge and eloquenee, and laid some stress on his bodily accomplishments; by all which he gained a number of adherents, and formed a party at Corinth against the apostle. And, because there were in that party fome teachers endowed with spiritual gifts, the apostle confidered them alfo as leaders. Hence, he fpeaks fometimes of one leader of the faction, and fometimes of divers, as it fuited the purpose of his argument.
While these things were doing at Corinth, Paul returned from Jerufalem to Ephesus, according to his promise, Acts xviii. 21. During his fecond abode in that city, which was of long continuance, fome of the family of Chloe, who were members of the church at Corinth, and who adhered to the apostle, happening to come to Ephesus, gave him an account of the diforderly practices, which many of the Corinthian brethren were following, and of the faction which the falfe teacher had formed among them, in oppofition to him, 1 Cor. i. 11. Thefe evils requiring a B 4 speedy
speedy remedy, the apostle immediately fent Timothy and Eraftus to Corinth, Acts xix. 22. 1 Cor. iv. 17. in hopes that if they did not reclaim the faction, they might at least be able to confirm the fincere. For that purpose he ordered his meffengers to inform the Corinthians, that he himself was coming to them directly from Ephefus, to increase the spiritual gifts of those who adhered to him, 2 Cor. i. 15. and to punish, by his miraculous power, the difobedient, 1 Cor. iv. 18, 19. Such was the apostle's refolution, when he fent Timothy and Eraftus away. But before he had time to put this resolution in execution, three perfons arrived at Ephefus, whom the fincere part of the church had dispatched from Corinth with a letter to the apostlé, wherein they expreffed their attachment to him, and defired his directions concerning various matters, which had been the subject of much disputation, not only with the adherents of the false teachers, but among the fincere themselves.
The coming of thefe meffengers, together with the extraordinary fuccefs which the apostle had about that time, in converting the Ephefians, occafioned an alteration in his refolution refpecting his journey to Corinth. For inftead of setting out directly, he determined to remain in Ephefus till the following Pentecoft, 1 Cor. xvi. 8. And then, instead of sailing straightway to Corinth, he propofed to go firft into Macedonia, 1 Cor. xvi. 5, 6.—In the mean time, to compenfate the loss which the Corinthians fuftained from the deferring of his intended visit, he wrote to them his firft epiftle, in which he reproved the falfe teacher and his adherents, for the divifions they had occafioned in the church. And because they ridiculed him as a perfon rude in speech, he informed them, that Christ had ordered him, in preaching the gospel, to avoid the enticing words of man's wisdom, left the doctrine of falvation through the cross of Chrift, fhould be rendered ineffectual. Then addreffing the heads of the faction, he plainly told them, their luxurious manner of living was very different from the perfecuted lot of the true minifters of Chrift. And to put the obedience of the fincere part of the church to the trial, he ordered them, in a general public meeting called for the purpose, to excommunicate the incefluous perfon. After which, he sharply reproved those who had gone into the heathen courts of judicature with their law
fuits, and directed them to a better method of fettling their claims on each other, respecting worldly matters.
The Corinthians in their letter, having defired the apostle's advice concerning marriage, celibacy, and divorce; and concerning the eating of meats which had been facrificed to idols, he treated of these subjects at great length in this epiftle: Alfo because the faction had called his apostlefhip in question, he proved himself an apoftle by various undeniable arguments, and confuted the objection taken from his not demanding maintenance from the Corinthians. Then, in the exercife of his apoftolical authority, he declared it to be finful, on any pretext whatever, to fit down with the heathens in an idol's temple, to partake of the facrifices which had been offered there. And with the fame authority, he gave rules for the behaviour of both fexes in the public affemblies; rebuked the whole church for the indecent manner in which they had celebrated the Lord's Supper; and the fpiritual men, for the irregularities which many of them had been guilty of, in the exercise of their gifts; proved against the Greek philofophers and the Jewish Saddu cees, the poffibility and certainty of the refurrection of the dead; and exhorted the Corinthians, to make collections for the faints in Judea, who were greatly diftreffed by the perfecution which their unbelieving brethren had raised against them.
From this fhort account of Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, it is evident, as Locke obferves, that the apostle's chief defign in writing it, was to fupport his own authority with the brethren at Corinth, and to vindicate himself from the calumnies of the party formed by the false teacher in oppofition to him, and to leffen the credit of the leaders of that party, by fhewing the grofs errors and mifcarriages into which they had fallen; and to put an end to their schism, by uniting them to the fincere part of the church, that all of them unanimously submitting to him as an apostle of Chrift, might receive his doctrines and precepts as of divine authority; not thofe only which he had formerly delivered, but thofe alfo which he now taught in his anfwers to the queftions, which the fincere part of the church had proposed to him.
At the conclufion of this account of the epiftle, it may not be improper to obferve, that because the unteachablenefs of the