Page images
PDF
EPUB

women.

observed in their religious assemblies, the order of speaking, the silence of women, the covering or uncovering of the head, as it became men, as it became

These subjects, with their several subdivisions, are so particular, minute, and numerous, that, though they be exactly agreeable to the circumstances of the persons to whom the letter was written, nothing, I believe, but the existence and reality of those circumstances, could have suggested to the writer's thoughts.

But this is not the only nor the principal observation upon the correspondence between the church of Corinth and their apostle, which I wish to point out. It appears, I think, in this correspondence, that although the Corinthians had written to St. Paul, requesting his answer and his direction in the several points above enumerated, yet that they had not said one syllable about the enormities and disorders which had crept in amongst them, and in the blame of which they all shared; but that St. Paul's information concerning the irregularities then prevailing at Corinth, had come round to him from other quarters. The quarrels and disputes excited by their contentious adherence to their different teachers, and by their placing of them in competition with one another, were not mentioned in their letter, but communicated to St. Paul by more private intelligence: “It hath been declared unto me, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ" (i. 11, 12). The incestuous marriage “of a man with his father's wife,” which St. Paul reprehends with so much

.

[ocr errors]

severity in the fifth chapter of our epistle, and which was not the crime of an individual only, but a crime in which the whole church, by tolerating and conniving at it, had rendered themselves partakers, did not come to St. Paul's knowledge by the letter, but by a rumour which had reached his ears :

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife ; and ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you” (v. 1, 2). Their going to law before the judicature of the country, rather than arbitrate and adjust their disputes among themselves, which St. Paul animadverts upon with his usual plainness, was not intimated to him in the letter, because he tells them his opinion of this conduct, before he comes to the contents of the letter. Their litigiousness is censured by St. Paul in the sixth chapter of his epistle, and it is only at the beginning of the seventh chapter that he proceeds upon

the articles which he found in their letter; and he proceeds upon them with this preface: “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me' (vii. 1); which introduction he would not have used, if he had been already discussing any of the subjects concerning which they had written. Their irregularities in celebrating the Lord's Supper, and the utter perversion of the institution which ensued, were not in the letter, as is evident from the terms in which St. Paul mentions the notice he had received of it: “Now in this that I declare unto you, I praise you not, that ye came together not for the better, but for the worse; for first of all when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you, and I partly believe it.Now that the Corinthians should, in their own letter, exhibit the fair side of their conduct to the Apostle, and conceal from him the faults of their behaviour, was extremely natural, and extremely probable: but it was a distinction which would not, I think, have easily occurred to the author of a forgery; and much less likely is it that it should have entered into his thoughts to make the distinction appear in the way in which it does appear, viz. not by the original letter, not by any express observation upon it in the answer, but distantly by marks perceivable in the manner, or in the order, in which St. Paul takes notice of their faults.

No. II. Our epistle purports to have been written after St. Paul had already been at Corinth : “I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom” (ii. 1): and in many other

. places to the same effect. It purports also to have been written upon the eve of another visit to that church: “I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will” (iv. 19); and again, I will come to you when I shall pass through Macedonia” (xvi. 5). Now the history relates that St. Paul did in fact visit Corinth twice; once as recorded at length in the eighteenth, and a second time as mentioned briefly in the twentieth chapter of the Acts. The same history also informs us, Acts xx. 1, that it was from Ephesus St. Paul proceeded upon his second journey into Greece. Therefore, as the epistle purports to have been written a short time preceding that journey ; and as

a

St. Paul, the history tells us, had resided more than two years at Ephesus before he set out upon it, it follows that it must have been from Ephesus, to be consistent with the history, that the epistle was written; and every note of place in the epistle agrees with this supposition. “If, after the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not ?" (xv. 32.) I allow that the apostle might say this, wherever he was; but it was more natural and more to the purpose to say it, if he was at Ephesus at the time, and in the midst of those conflicts to which the expression relates. “The churches of Asia salute you” (xvi. 19). Asia, throughout the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles of St. Paul, does not mean the whole of Asia Minor or Anatolia, nor even the whole of the proconsular Asia, but a district in the anterior part of that country, called Lydian Asia, divided from the rest, much as Portugal is from Spain, and of which district Ephesus was the capital.—"Aquila and Priscilla salute you” (xvi. 19). Aquila and Priscilla were at Ephesus during the period within which this epistle was written (Acts xviii. 18. 26).-"I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost” (xvi. 8). This, I apprehend, is in terms almost asserting that he was at Ephesus at the time of writing the epistle.—“A great and effectual door is opened unto me” (xvi. 9). How well this declaration corresponded with the state of things at Ephesus, and the progress of the gospel in these parts, we learn from the reflection with which the historian concludes the account of certain transactions which passed there: “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” (Acts xix. 20); as well as from the complaint of Demetrius, “ that not only at Ephesus, but also throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people” (xix. 26).-—"And there are many adversaries,” says the epistle (xvi. 9). Look into the history of this period, “when divers were hardened and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples.” The conformity therefore upon this head of comparison, is circumstantial and perfect. If any one think that this is a conformity so obvious, that any forger of tolerable caution and sagacity, would have taken care to preserve it, I must desire such a one to read the epistle for himself; and, when he has done so, to declare, whether he has discovered one mark of art or design; whether the notes of time and place appear to him to be inserted with any reference to each other, with any view of their being compared with each other, or for the purpose of establishing a visible agreement with the history, in respect of them.

No. III.

Chap. iv. 17—19: “ For this cause I have sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come unto you; but I will come unto you shortly, if the Lord will."

With this I compare Acts xix. 21, 22: “ After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem ; saying, after I have been there, I must also see Rome: so he sent unto Macedonia

« PreviousContinue »