Page:An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1828) vol 6.djvu/404

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AN


EXPOSITION,


WITH


PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS,


OF THE


FIRST EPISTLE


OF


ST. PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS.


Completed by Mr. Simon Brown.





CORINTH was a principal city of Greece, in that particular division of it which was called Achaia. It was situated on the isthmus (or neck of land) that joined Peloponnesus to the rest of Greece, on the south em side, and had two ports adjoining; one at the bottom of the Corinthian gulf, called Lecheeum, not far from the city, from whence they traded to Italy and the west ; the other, at the bottom of the Sinus Saronicus, called Cenchrea, at a more remote distance, from whence they traded to Asia. From this situation, it is no wonder that Corinth should be a place of great trade and wealth. And as affluence is apt to produce luxury of all kinds ; neither is it to be wondered at, if a place so famous for wealth and arts, should be infamous for vice. It was in a particular manner noted for fornication, insomuch that a Corinthian ivommi was a proverbial phrase for a strumpet, and K'.fty^ia^ui, KCftv^Kxa-to-b-ai — to filay the Coririthian^ is to play the whore, or indulge whorish inclinations. Yet in this lewd city did Paul, by the blessing of God on his labours, plant and raise a christian church, chiefly among the Gentiles, as seems very probable from the history of this matter. Acts 18. 1 — 18. compared with some passages in this epistle, particularly ch. 12. 2. where the apostle tells them, Ye know that ye were Gentiles carried away to those dumb idols even as ye were led ; though it is not improbable that many Jewish converts might be also among them ; for we are told that Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord, •with all his house. Acts 18. 8. He continued in this city near two years, as is plain from Acts 18. 11, and 18. compared, and laboured with great success, being encouraged by a divine vision, assuring him God had much people in that city. Acts 18. 9, 10. Nor did he use to stay long in a place, where his ministry met not with acceptance and success. Some time after he left them, he wrote this epistle to them, to water what he had planted, and rectify some gross disorders, which during his absence had been introduced, partly from the interest some false teacher or teachers had obtained amongst them, and ])artly from the leaven of their old maxims and manners, that had not been thoroughly purged out by the christian principles they had entertained. And it is but too visible how much their wealth had helped to corrupt their manners, from the several faults for which the apostle reprehends them. Pride, avarice, luxury, lust, (the natural offspring of a carnal and corrupt mind,) are all fed and prompted by outward affluence. And with all these, eitlier the bodv of this peo])le, or sonic particular persons among them, are here charged by the apostle. Thc'xr pride discovered itself in their sidings and factions, and the notorious disorders they committed in the exercise of their spiritual gifts. And this vice was not wholly fed by their wealth, hut by the insight they had into the Cireek learning and philosojjhy. Some of the ancients tell us that the city abounded with rhe- toricians and philosophers. And these were men naturally vain, full of self-conceit, and apt to desjjise the plain doctrine of the gospel, because it did not feed the curiosity of an inquisitive and disputing temper, nor ])lease the ear with artful speeches, and a flow of fine words. Their avarice was manifest in their law-suits and litigations about wfwm — mine, and tuum — thine, before heathen judges. Their luxury appeared in more instances than one, in their dress, in their debauching themselves even at the Lord's table, where the rich, who were most faulty on this account, were guilty also of a 'ery proud and criminal contempt of their poor brethren. Their lust broke out in a most flagrant and infamous instance, such as had not been named among the Gentiles, not spoken of without detestation — that a man should have his father's wife, either as his wife, or so as to commit fornication with her. This indeed seems to have been the fault of a particular jjerson ; but the whole church were to blame that they had this crime in no greater abhorrence, that they could endure one of such ver}' connipt morals and of so flagitious a behaviour among them. But their participation in his sin was yet greater, if, as some of the ancients tell us, they were puffed up on behalf ot the great learning and eloquence of this incestuous person. And it is plain from other passages of the epistle, that they were not so entirely free fi-om their former lewd in- clinations, as not to need very strict cautions and strong arguments against fornication : see ch. 6. 9 — 20. The pride of their learning had also carried many of them so far, as to dis'lielieve or dispute against the doctnne of the resurrection. It is not imi)robable, that they treated this question problematically, as they did many questions in philosophy, and tried their skill by arguing it pro and con.