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1 Corinthians 7:1. Now concerning the things, &c.— The chief business of the foregoing chapter we have seen to be, the lessening the credit of the false Apostle, and the extinguishing of that faction. What follows is in answer to some questions which they had proposed to St. Paul. This chapter contains conjugal matters; wherein he dissuades from marriage those who have the gift of continence, considering the present unsettled state of the Christian converts. Next, he teaches that converts ought not to forsake their unconverted mates, inasmuch as Christianity changes nothing in men's civil estate, but leaves them under the same obligations as they were tied by before. And last of all, he lays down directions about giving or not giving their daughters in marriage. Locke.
1 Corinthians 7:3. Due benevolence— What is due. Wells. Benevolence here signifies that complacency and compliance which every married couple ought to have for each other, with respect to their mutual satisfaction. Locke.
1 Corinthians 7:4. Also the husband hath not power, &c.— The woman, who in all other rights is inferior, has here the same power given her over the man, that the man has over her.
1 Corinthians 7:5. Defraud ye not one the other— Do not in this matter be wanting one to another, unless it be by mutual consent for a short time, that you may wholly attend to acts of devotion, when you fast upon some solemn occasion: and when this time of solemn devotion is over, return to your former freedom and conjugal society; lest the devil, taking advantage, should tempt you to a violation of the marriage-be
1 Corinthians 7:6. But I speak this by permission— "You will observe, that I say this by permission from Christ; but not by any express command which he gave in person in the days ofhis flesh, or gives by the inspiration and suggestion of his Spirit now;—by which inspiration you may conclude I am guided, when I throw in no such precautions as these." See Craddock, and Doddridge's Dissertation on the Inspiration of the New Testament, p. 30, &c. For a good explanation of the phrase απ εαυτου, of or from myself, John 16:13; John 16:33. See "The Doctrine of the Trinity, as deduced by the Light of Reason, &c." p. 93.
1 Corinthians 7:7. For I would that all men, &c.— "As for the main question that we are now upon, I could wish that all men were in this respect even as myself; that all Christians could as easily bear the severities of a single life, in the present circumstances, and exercise as resolute command over their natural desires." Common sense requires us thus to limit the Apostle's expression; for it would be a most flagrant absurdity to suppose that St. Paul wished marriage might entirelycease. It shews, therefore, how unfair and improper it is in various cases to strain the Apostle's words to the utmost rigour, as if he perpetually used the most critical exactness. See Doddridge and Whitby.
1 Corinthians 7:10. And unto the married I command, &c.— The translation published by the English Jesuits at Bourdeaux has it, To those who are united in the sacrament of marriage; which we mention as one instance selected from a number, of the dishonesty of that translation, and of the subtilty of the translators.
1 Corinthians 7:12. But to the rest speak I, &c.— "I have reminded you of the decision of Christ, with respect to the affair of divorce; now, as to the rest of the persons and cases to which I shall address myself, it is to be observed that I speak according to what duty or prudence seems on the whole to require; and it is not to be considered, as if it were immediately spoken by the Lord." See on 1 Corinthians 7:6.
1 Corinthians 7:13. Let her not leave him— The Greek word being the same both in this and the 12th verse, though it be rendered put away in that, and leave in this, and being directed both to the man and woman, seems to intimate the same power and same act of dismissing in both; and consequently it should have been rendered put away in both places. See Locke and Doddridge.
1 Corinthians 7:14. Is sanctified— The words sanctified, holy, and unclean, are used here by the Apostle in the Jewish sense. The Jews called all that were Jews holy, and all others unclean. Thus proles genita extra sanctitatem, was, "a child begotten by parents, while they were yet heathens." Genita intra sanctitatem, was, "a child begotten by parents after they were proselytes." The meaning of this verse is as follows: "For, in such a case as this, the unbelieving husband is so sanctified to the wife, and the unbelieving wife is so sanctified to the husband, that their matrimonial converse is as lawful, as if they were both of the same faith, otherwise your children, in these mixed cases, were unclean, and must be looked upon as unfit to be admitted to those peculiar ordinances, by which the seed of God's people are distinguished: But now they are confessedly holy, and are readily admitted to baptism in all our churches, as if both the parents were Christians; so that the case, you see, is in effect decided by this prevailing practice." This one passage is of great force to establish the use of infant baptism, and prove it even an apostolical practice; and this is the sense in which the ancient Christians understood and explained the text. Should those who are against infant baptism think this explication to be a modern invention, merely to support a system, the commentaries of St. Augustin, and others who lived long before the rise of the people called Baptists, will be a sufficient refutation of such a suspicion. Should it be supposed that holy signifies legitimate, and that unclean denotes illegitimate or bastards;—not to urge that this sense of the phrase is not warranted by Scripture,—the argument will not bear it: for it would be reasoning in a circle, and proving a thing by itself, to say that the marriage of the parents was lawful or not dissolved, because the children were not bastards; whereas all who thought the marriage of the parents to be unlawful or dissolved, must of course esteem the children to be bastards. See Locke, Hammond, Bingham's Antiq. Wall on Infant Baptism, part 1 Chronicles 19:0 and Elsner, vol. 2: p. 94.
1 Corinthians 7:15. Is not under bondage, &c.— That is, says Hilary, "The Christian in this case is free to marry to another Christian." "He is free," says Photius, "to depart, because the other has dissolved the marriage." "If he depart," say Chrysostom, OEcumenius, and Theophylact, "because thou wilt not communicate with him in his infidelity, be thou divorced, or quit the yoke, &c." But it must be remembered, that the present subject refers only to marriages between Christians and those who were professedly heathens. A brother or sister, in the case above mentioned, after all due means of peace and reconciliation have been in vain attempted, (for God hath called us to peace,) is not enslaved.
1 Corinthians 7:16-17. For what knowest thou, &c.— Continue with your infidel spouses who are willing to dwell with you; for how knowest thou, O Christian wife, whether thou shalt convert thy husband, (see 1 Peter 3:1.) and how knowest thou, O Christian husband, whether thou shalt convert thy wife, if thou continue with her. But, though this should not be the case, yet as God hath distributed to every one his lot, and in the state wherein the Lord Christ hath called every one, so let him continue,fulfillingthedutiesthereof,unlesshecanchangehiscondition lawfully. And so in all the churches I ordain.
1 Corinthians 7:18. Is any man called being circumcised?— This is a very pertinent digression, as it so directly contradicts the notion which prevailed among the Jews, that embracing the true religion dissolved all the relations which had before been contracted; whereas the Apostle here declares, that the Gospel left them in this respect just as it found them; increasing, instead of lessening, the obligations they were under to a faithful and affectionate discharge of their correspondent duties. The word επισπασθω has an evident relation to attempts like those referred to 1 Maccab. 1Co 1:15 which it is not necessary more particularly to illustrate. See Doddridge, Hammond, and Wall.
1 Corinthians 7:20. Let every man abide in the same calling, &c.— It is plain from what immediately follows, that this is not an absolute command; but only signifies, that a man should not think himself discharged by the privilege of his Christian state, and the franchises of the kingdom of Christ into which he was entered, from any ties or obligations that he was under as a member of the civil society. The thinking themselves freed by Christianity from those ties, was a fault, it seems, which those Christians at Corinth were very apt to run into; for St. Paul thinks it necessary to guard them against this prejudice three times in the compass of seven verses; and, in the form of a direct command, enjoins them not to change their conditionor state of life: whereby he manifestly intends that they should not change, upon a presumption that Christianity gave them a new or peculiar liberty to do so; for, notwithstanding the Apostle's positively bidding them to remain in the same condition in which they were at their conversion, it is yet certain, that it was lawful for them, as well as others, to change, where it was lawful for them to change had they not been Christians. See Lock
1 Corinthians 7:21. Being a servant— That is, a slave. Use it rather, implies, that if a man could obtain his freedom, he might lawfully desire it; but if he could not, he was not to look upon it as a mark of the displeasure of God. The word 'Απελευθερος, rendered freed-man, in Latin Libertus, signifies not simply a free-man, but one who, having been a slave, has had his freedom given him by his master. See Locke and Clarke.
1 Corinthians 7:23. Ye are bought with a price— Slaves were bought and sold in the market, as cattle are, and the laws of the Roman Empire considered them as the property of the purchasers. This therefore is a reason for what the Apostle advised, 1Co 7:21 that they should not be slaves to men, that is, not make themselves the slaves of men, because Christ had paid a price for them, and they belonged to him. But he tells them in general, in the next verse, that nothing in any man's civil estate or right is altered by his becoming a Christian. See Locke. According to Dr. Whitby the meaning is, "Are you redeemed from servitude? Do not sell yourselves for slaves again." It is indeed probable, that the Apostle does counsel Christians against becoming slaves, if it could be prevented; and with great reason; as it was a circumstance which seemed less suitable to the dignity of the Christian profession, and must expose them to many incumbrances and interruptions in duty, especially on the sabbath, and other seasons of religious assembly,—besides the danger of being present at domestic idolatrous sacrifices, or being ill-treated if they refused their compliance. The interpretation, however, seems objectionable, because the advice is unnecessarily restrained thereby to those slaves who had been redeemed; which plainly as well suited those who had theirfreedom given them; and indeed suited all Christians, who never had been slaves at all, and who might more easily have been prevailed upon by their poverty to bring themselves into a condition, the evils and inconveniences of which they did not thoroughly know.—If a state of slavery be so inconvenient for the practice and unworthythe dignity of the Christian profession,—in how horrible a light must they stand, who call themselves Christians, and yet carry on an infamous traffick, in order to enslave, and reduce to the most complicated distress, millions of their fellow-creatures! See Mr. Sharp's short account of Africa, and of the Slave-tra
1 Corinthians 7:24. Abide with God— Beausobre and L'Enfant explain παρα τω Θεω, by, in the sight of God;—"taking care to behave in a religious and prudent manner, as under the divine inspection." (See 2 Corinthians 11:11.Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 2:6.)
1 Corinthians 7:25. Now, concerning virgins— St. Paul by virgins evidently means those of both sexes who are in a state of celibacy. It is probable that he had formerly dissuaded them from marriage, in the present situation of the church. (See the next note.) It seems they were uneasy under this, (1 Corinthians 7:28; 1 Corinthians 7:35.) and therefore sent some questions to St. Paul about it: In answer to which, from 1Co 7:25-37 he gives directions to the unmarried about their marrying or not marrying: in 1Co 7:38 he addresses himself to parents about marrying their daughters; and then 1Co 7:39-40 speaks of widows. When he says, I have no commandment of the Lord, he means, "I have no express or positive commandment upon this subject in any of Christ's discourses transmitted to us."
1 Corinthians 7:26. For the present distress— This must certainly refer to the prevalence of persecution at that time; for nothing (as we have before remarked) can be more absurd, than to imagine that an inspired Apostle would in the general discountenance marriage; considering that it was expressly agreeable to a divine institution, and of essential importance to the existence and happiness of all future generations. See Locke, and Doddridge.
1 Corinthians 7:29. The time is short— "Is contracted within very narrow limits." The word συνεσταλμενος properly imports this, being a metaphor taken from furling or gathering up a sail. The Apostle probably said this from a prophetic view of the approaching persecution under Nero; while in its general import it may respect the shortness of our duration in this world; which should guard us against too fond an attachment to any earthly relation or possession. Somewould render this clause, "The time, as to what remains, is short; when both they, &c." See Hammond, Grotius, and Heylin.
1 Corinthians 7:31. As not abusing it.— The word Καταχρωμενοι does not here signify abusing in our sense of the word, but intently using,—not carrying the enjoyments of it to any excess; for the whole scheme and fashion of this world passes off, and is gone like a scene in a theatre, which presently shifts; or a pageant in some public procession, which, how gaudily soever it be adorned, to strike the eyes of spectators, is still in motion, and presently disappears, to shew itselffor a few moments to others. The reader will observe great elegance and beauty in this comparison: See 1 John 2:17. Wall, Doddridge, and Locke; the latter of whom thinks that all, from the beginning of 1Co 7:28 to the end of the present verse, should be looked upon as a parenthesis.
1 Corinthians 7:34-35. How she may please her husband, &c.— The Apostle in this text, and the counterpart to it, seems to declare, that single persons of either sex have generally opportunities for devotion beyond those who are married, even in the most peaceful times of the church; and that a diversity of humours, both in men and women, makes it difficult for them to please each other so thoroughly as is necessary in order to make a married life perfectly delightful. So that it intimates a counsel to single people to value and improve their advantages; and to married people to watch against those things that would ensnare them, and injure their peace and comfort. The word Βροχον, which we translate snare in the next verse, signifies a cord, which possibly the Apostle might use here for binding, according to the language of the Hebrew school: and then his discourse runs thus, "Though I have declared my opinion, that it is best for a virgin to remain unmarried, in the present distress, yet I bind it not; that is to say, I do not declare it to be unlawful to marry." In the word ευσχημον, comely, he seems to intimate, that they were now in circumstances, wherein God did as it were exact a peculiar severity from all their thoughts; and that it was a time to think of the trials of martyrdom, rather than the endearments of human passions. The word Απερισπαστως is rendered in our translation by the addition of several words.
The sentence would be rendered better, for that which is comely and decent in the Lord, without violent constraint. See Locke, Doddridge, and Knatchbull.
1 Corinthians 7:36-37. Toward his virgin.— The word Παρθενον seems here, says Mr. Locke, used for the virgin state, and not for the person of a virgin. Whether there be examples of the like use of it, he adds, I know not; and therefore I propose it as my conjecture upon these grounds: First, because the resolution of mind here spoken of must be in the person to be married, and not in the father, who has the power over the person concerned. Secondly, the necessity of marriage can only be judged of by the persons themselves. A father cannot feel the child's sensations. Thirdly, hath power over his own will, 1Co 7:37 must either signify, "can govern his own desires,—is master of his own will," or "has the disposal of himself;" that is, is free from the father's power of disposing of his children in marriage. But the first cannot be meant, because it is sufficiently expressed before by steadfast in his heart; and afterwards too by decreed in his heart. I think the words should be translated, hath a power concerning his own will; that is to say, concerning what he willeth: for if St. Paul meant, a power over his own will, one mightthink he would have expressed that thought, as he does ch. 1Co 9:12 and Rom 9:21 without the word περι, or by the preposition επι, as it is Luke 9:1. Fourthly, because if keep his virgin had here signified, "keep his children from marrying," the expression would have been more natural, had he used the word τεκνα, which signifies both sexes, rather than the word παρθενος, which belongs only to the female. If therefore the word παρθενος be taken abstractedly for virginity, the 36th verse must be understood thus: "But if any one think it a shame to pass the flower of his age unmarried, and finds it necessary to marry, let him do as he pleases, he sins not; let such marry." St. Paul seems to obviate an objection which might be made against his dissuading from marriage; namely, that it might be an indecency which one would be guilty of, if one should live unmarried past one's prime, and afterwards be obliged to marry: To which he answers, That no body should abstain, upon the account of being a Christian, but those who are of a steady resolution, who are at their own disposal, and have fully determined it in their own minds. The word Καλως, rendered well, 1Co 7:37 signifies not simply good, but preferable, as in 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1Co 7:8; 1 Corinthians 7:26. See Locke, Heinsius, Doddridge, on 1Co 7:25 and compare this note of Mr. Locke's with the introduction to this chapter.
1 Corinthians 7:38. So then, he that giveth her in marriage, &c.— If the word παρθενος be taken in the sense proposed in the lastnote, it is necessary in this verse to follow those copies which read Γαμιζων, marriage, for εκγαμιζων, giving in marriage,—So then, he that marrieth, doth well; but he that marrieth not, doth better. See Locke, Mill, and Wetstein.
1 Corinthians 7:39. Only in the Lord— "Only let her take care that she marry in the Lord; and that, retaining a sense of the importance of her Christian obligation, she do not choose a partner for life of a different religion from herself." See Doddridge.
1 Corinthians 7:40. I think also that I have the Spirit of God.— This seems to glance at his adversaries in the church, who might be of a different opinion. What he writes was to answer questions proposed. It is very unreasonable for any to infer hence, that St. Paul was uncertain whether hewas inspired or not: whereas this is only a modest way of speaking; and δοκω εχειν, I think I have, or I appear to have, often signifies the same with χω, I have. Comp. Luk 8:18 with Mat 13:12. 1 Corinthians 10:12; 1Co 14:37 and see Heylin and Doddridge.
Inferences.—The decisions of the holy Apostle in the chapter before us are given with such gravity, seriousness, and purity, that one would hope, delicate as the subject of them is, they will be received without any of that unbecoming levity, which the wantonness of some minds may be ready to excite on such an occasion. It becomes us humbly to adore the divine wisdom and goodness manifested in the formation of the first human pair, and in keeping up the different sexes, through all succeeding ages, in so just a proportion, that every man might have his own wife, and every woman her own husband; that the instinct of nature might, so far as it is necessary, be gratified without guilt, and an holy seed be sought, which, being trained up under proper discipline and instruction, might supply the wastes which death is continually making, and be accounted to the Lord for a generation:—and that so virtue, holiness, and religion, for the sake of which alone it is desirable that human creatures should subsist, may be transmitted through every age, and earth become a nursery for heaven. 1 Corinthians 7:2-4.
With these views should marriages ever be contracted, when it is proper they should be contracted, 1 Corinthians 7:5. Let none imagine the state itself to be impure, and let it always be preserved undefiled; all occasion of irregular desire being prudently guarded against by those who have entered into it. And let all Christians, in every relation, remember that the obligations of devotion are common to all, and that Christ and his Apostles seem to take it for granted that we shall be careful to secure proper seasons for fasting, as well as for prayer, so far as may be needful, in order that the superior authority of the mind over the body may be exercised and maintained, and that our petitions to the throne of grace may be offered with greater intenseness, copiousness, and ardour.
From the Apostle's reasonings and exhortations, 1Co 7:14 we may learn a becoming solicitude to contribute as much as we possibly can to the Christian edification of each other; and especially let this be the care of the nearest relatives in life. What can be more desirable, than that the husband may be sanctified by the wife, and the wife by the husband?-May all prudent care be taken in contracting marriages, as to the religious character of the intended partner for life; and in those already contracted, where this precaution has been neglected, or where the judgement formed seems to have been mistaken, let all considerations of prudence, of religion, of affection, concur to animate to a mutual care of each other's soul,—that most important effort of love, that most solid expression and demonstration of friendship. Nor let the improbability of success be pleaded in excuse for neglect, even where the attempt must be made by the subordinate sex. A possibility should be sufficient encouragement; and surely there is no need to say, How knowest thou, O wife, but thou mayest save him, whose salvation, next to thine own, must be most desirable to thee? 1 Corinthians 7:16.
Let us all study the duties of those relations in which God hath placed us, and walk with him in our proper callings; not desiring so much to exchange, as to improve them, 1 Corinthians 7:24. His wise providence hath distributed the part; it is our wisdom, it will be our happiness, to act in humble congruity to that distribution. Surely the Apostle could not have expressed in stronger terms his deep conviction of the small importance of human distinctions than he here does, when speaking of what seems to great and generous minds the most miserable lot,—even that of a slave, He says, care not for it, 1 Corinthians 7:21. If liberty itself, the first of all temporal blessings, be not of so great importance, as that a man, blessed with the highest hopes and glorious consolations of Christianity, should make himself very solicitous about it,—of how much less importance are those comparatively trifling distinctions, on which many lay so disproportionate, so extravagant a stress!
Let Christian servants [for, blessed be God, among us we have no slaves] remember their high privileges,—as the Lord's freed-men. Let Christian masters remember the restraint—as the Lord's servants, 1Co 7:22 and let the benefits of liberty, especially when considered in its aspect upon religion, be so far valued, as not to be bartered away for any price which the enemies of mankind may offer in exchange.
But, above all, let us remember the infinite importance of maintaining the freedom of the mind from the bondage of corruption; and of keeping with all humble and chearful observance the commandments of God, 1 Corinthians 7:19. While many express the warmest zeal for circumcision or uncircumcison, in defence of, or in opposition to, this or that mode or form of external worship, let our hearts be set on what is most vital and essential in religion; and we shall find the happiest equivalent in the composure and satisfaction of our own spirit now, as well as in those abundant rewards which the Lord hath laid up for them that love him.
In the mean time observe we the humility of the excellent Apostle with pleasure. When he speaks of his fidelity in the ministry, (1 Corinthians 7:25.) he tells us, he obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. Edified by such an example, let us ascribe to Christ the praise, not only of our endowments, but of our virtues;—even to him, who worketh in us both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure.
Attentive to the affecting lesson which the Apostle here gives of the shortness of time, (1 Corinthians 7:29.) let us seriously reflect upon the advantages and snares of our respective conditions in life, that so we may improve the one, and escape, as far as possible, all injury from the other. Those who are single will do well to employ their leisure for God, and to endeavour to collect such a stock of Christian experience as may support them, when the duties and difficulties, the cares and sorrows of life shall be multiplied. Those who are married, ought with mutual tender regard to endeavour to please each other, and to render that relation into which Providence hath conducted them, as comfortable and agreeable as they may; (1 Corinthians 7:33-34.) and whatever cares press upon their minds, or demand their attention, let them order their affairs with such discretion, as that they may still secure a due proportion of their time for the things of the Lord.
Should any in their consciences be persuaded, that, by continuing single, they should best answer the purposes of religion, and promote the good of their fellow-creatures, in conjunction with their own; let them do it. As for those who marry, whether a first or second time, let them do it in the Lord; acting in the choice of their most intimate friend and companion as the servants of Christ; who are desirous that their conduct may be approved by him, and that any avocations, and interruptions in his service, which may be occasioned, even in peaceful times, by marriage, may be in some measure balanced by the united prayers, prudent counsels, and edifying converse of those with whom they unite in this tender bond.
REFLECTIONS.—1st. In answer to some cases of conscience, which the Corinthians had sent to the Apostle for his solution, he replies:
1. In the persecuted state of the church, and considering the incumbrances which a married state necessarily produced, he suggests, that it would be well for those who had the gift of continence to keep themselves single.
2. Yet he was far from enjoining celibacy as a duty. Where the gift of continence was not possessed, and circumstances made it more eligible, it was adviseable that every man and woman should enter into the honourable estate of marriage, with all conjugal fidelity and love cleaving alone to those with whom they are thus united. See the annotations.
3. The Apostle declares, I speak this by permission, as my advice, and not of commandment, as what is absolutely necessary for every individual; not as if it was every man's duty to marry, who was thereto inclined; there were cases and circumstances when persons could best judge for themselves. For I would that all men were even as I myself, and could as contentedly continue in a state of celibacy; but every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that, according to their different dispositions and constitutions. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if, in these perilous times, they abide even as I, and can with safety and satisfaction continue single: otherwise, let them marry: this then becomes a duty, and it would be sinful to neglect the ordinance of God.
2nd. As many who had been called in a conjugal state, had partners who still continued in heathenism, and divorces were common among the Jews, the Apostle, by immediate authority from his Lord, declares what was their duty in such circumstances.
1. Let not the wife depart from her husband. But if she depart voluntarily, or be dismissed through any quarrel, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband, whose regard it is her duty by all lawful means to endeavour to regain. And let not the husband put away his wife, on any consideration but the defilement of the marriage-bed. Note; Those who are married should desire and delight to make that state a comfort to each other: every breach involves both in misery. Note; The voluntary departure of the wife from her husband, intimated above, was at the best but tolerated on account of those dreadful times of persecution. It is certainly prohibited by our Lord, in Matthew 5:32; Mat 19:9 and Mark 10:0.
2. With regard to those who have partners that continue in heathenism, while they themselves are called to the knowledge of the truth, the following directions I give by the Spirit, the Lord having left no express command concerning the matter.
(1.) If any heathen wife or husband choose to remain with their partner, who is converted to the faith of Christ, the christian wife or husband must not separate themselves from the heathen on account of religion. And he suggests his reasons for what he enjoined: [1.] The state is sanctified by the faith of either of the parties. The unbelieving husband is sanctified by, or in, the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by, or in, the husband, they being one by virtue of the marriage union, which is therefore sanctified to the faithful person; else were your children unclean, and not entitled to the blessings and privileges that belong to the visible church; but now are they holy, capable of being received into the congregation of the faithful, and admitted to the seal of the covenant, as much as if they descended from parents who were both Christians in profession. [2.] God hath called us to peace; and therefore, so far as we can maintain it with our heathen relatives, we are bound to do it, and not make our different sentiments in religious matters the ground of contention and angry dispute: and though we with they were even as we, yet should we not quarrel with them because they refuse to be of the same mind with us, but bear with the perverseness and displeasure which they may testify against us on account of our profession. [3.] While thus walking in love, peace, and charity, what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? and be made the instrument of her conversion? But, whether this be the case or not, as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, in whatever state or relation, so let him walk, as may most adorn his holy profession; and so ordain I in all churches, laying this down as a general rule, to be accommodated to particular cases.
But, (2.) The case however is quite different, if the unbelieving depart, and, offended at their partner for embracing the gospel, for that cause refuse any longer to dwell with them; and, all kind means being used, insist on a separation; a brother or a sister is nor under bondage in such cases, nor obliged to detain them, when they desire to depart. But this rule refers only to professed Christians when married to professed Heathens. See the annotations.
3rdly. The Apostle passes on to other cases.
1. Respecting circumcision. Is any man called being circumcised, Jew or Proselyte? Let him not become uncircumcised, or regret that he submitted to this rite. Is any one called in uncircumcision? let him not become circumcised, all these marks of peculiarity being abolished under the gospel. Jew and Gentile have now but one way to glory: Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, of no avail at all to salvation; but the grand point is, the keeping of the commandments of God, from the divine principle of faith which worketh by love.
2. With regard to men's stations in life, Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called, desiring no alteration in his circumstances, but satisfied with the dispensations of God's providence. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it; as if because a servant or slave, therefore the less acceptable to God. With him there is no respect of persons. But if thou mayest be made free, use it rather; if the Lord open a door for your liberty, thankfully accept it, in the mean time being resigned to wait his will. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's free-man, brought from the bondage of corruption to the most desirable freedom, even into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant: whatever our civil privileges may be, when we have taken the Lord for our Master, we are, as much as the meanest slave, bound to yield ourselves to him, obedient in all things. Ye are bought with a price, both one and the other with the same price, even the blood of Jesus: be not ye therefore the servants of men; but whenever their commands interfere with the will of your great Master, hesitate not a moment whom you shall obey. Upon the whole, brethren, this is my injunction; Let every man wherein he is called, whatever his station in life may be, therein abide with God, resigned to his will, aiming at his glory, maintaining communion with him, and looking up for grace to serve him acceptably. Note; (1.) As our worldly circumstances are ordered by the divine appointment or permission, to repine is to rebel against God. (2.) No attainments in religion give us a right to any superiority in worldly things. Dominion is not founded in grace.
4thly. In answer to their question with regard to unmarried persons, though our Lord had given no particular directions, yet the Apostle, under divine inspiration, delivers his judgment.
1. Considering the troublesome times, and the present distress that they were under, he advises those who with chastity could, to continue single. If they were already married, they must be content in that state, nor seek to loose that indissoluble bond; but if unmarried, they would do well to not hastily to change their condition.
2. If any persons found it more adviseable or necessary for them to marry, they would commit no sin in so doing, marriage being honourable in all; only they would encumber themselves more in the world, and in those days of persecution expose themselves to more dangerous trials. But he urges not the point, lest he should bring them into a snare, when he only meant to suggest the cautions which prudence dictated.
3. Whatever was their state, married or unmarried, he had one important charge to give them. This I say, brethren, the time is short, eternity is advancing swiftly, and the days which are here allotted us draw to their end. Since therefore our great concern in this world is to prepare for a better, it remaineth that both they that have wives, be as though they had none; not setting their affections on a dying world, or retarded from the pursuit of heavenly things by any engagements or attachments here below: and they that weep, as though they wept not; restraining all inordinate grief for the loss of dearest relatives, or for any other afflictions, since all present sufferings must so quickly have an end: and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; considering the transitory nature of all their worldly comforts, and therefore sitting loose to them: and they that buy, as though they possessed not; not trusting in uncertain riches, nor placing their happiness in these possessions, but looking for a more enduring substance; and they that use this world, as not abusing it, to flatter their pride, or gratify their luxury: for the fashion of this world passeth away; all things below are fleeting as the shadow, and will shortly vanish as the dream when one awaketh. Note; (1.) A deep sense of the vanity of time, and the importance of eternity, is needful to regulate both our joys and sorrows, and to keep our affections disengaged from the objects of sense, which would otherwise enslave us. (2.) We are dying worms in a dying world: the longest life is but for a short time; every moment we are in jeopardy; and what is all the world to a dying man?
4. He suggests the general reason on which he grounded the foregoing advice. I would have you without carefulness, not to lay a snare upon you by enforcing celibacy, but that those who have the gift, may attend upon the Lord without distraction. The advantage of the unmarried slave is this, that being less encumbered with worldly cares, the single brother or sister is more at leisure for the service of the Redeemer, and they can more entirely devote their time and talents, and employ both body and spirit in his blessed work: while married persons must necessarily be more engaged in the care of a family, and the needful provision for them, and have the partners of their bosom to please in all lawful things, solicitous to promote their temporal and eternal happiness. Note; (1.) That is always best for a Christian, which is best for his soul. (2.) Our first desire should be to please the Lord, and, whether married or single, to be holy both in body and spirit.
5thly. The Apostle proceeds with farther directions concerning marriage.
1. Concerning virgins. If any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely towards his virgin by restraining his daughter or ward, who is disposed thereto, from marrying; if she pass the flower of her age, and is come to years of maturity, and need so require, and, on deliberating the matter, it seems most eligible that she should change her condition, let him do what he will, he sinneth not in disposing of her; let him marry her to a proper partner. Nevertheless, he that standeth steadfast in his heart, resolved to keep his ward or daughter single, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart, with her consent, that he will keep his virgin as she is, doeth well, and shews in such trying times a prudent care of her. So then, he that giveth her in marriage, when it becomes needful, doeth well; acts a lawful and commendable part: but he that giveth her not in marriage, doeth better; provides more for her comfort, and keeps her more at her liberty to serve the Lord.
Others suppose that την εαυτου παρθενον signifies not his virgin, but the state of virginity, and give the sense, that if any man continued single beyond the usual time when it was thought reputable to marry, and afterwards should think that he had put an undue restraint upon himself, and see cause to change his condition, it would be lawful for him, even if advanced in years, to take a wife: for though it might be most commendable if he could keep his first purpose, yet, if he find the state of wedlock needful, he is at liberty, and may marry. See the subject handled at large in the annotations.
2. Concerning widows. The wife is bound by the law to her husband for life. But if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord; careful not to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever, and giving her hand to no man, who has not, as far as she can judge, given his heart to Christ. But, in most cases, she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment, and live unmarried; and, in what I here advise, I think also, whatever false teachers may suggest, that I have the Spirit of God, and now speak under his immediate inspiration.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30