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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
1 Corinthians 7

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 7

1 Corinthians 7:1-9 Marriage is to be used as a remedy against fornication. 1 Corinthians 7:10,11 Christ hath forbidden to dissolve the bond thereof. 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 Directions how to act where one of the parties is an

unbeliever. 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 Every man must abide in and fulfil the duties of the

state wherein he was called. 1 Corinthians 7:25-38 Directions concerning the marriage of virgins,

respecting the distress of the times, 1 Corinthians 7:39,40 and concerning the second marriage of widows.

It seemeth, that though this church was very much corrupted, yet some of them retained a reverence for this great apostle, and had wrote one or more letters to him about some points, to which he returneth answer. It seemeth that one thing they had wrote to him about, was about marriage; not about the lawfulness of marrying, (that doctrine of devils was not broached so early in the world), but concerning the advisableness of marriage, and men’s use of their wives, in that afflicted state of the church. The apostle answereth, that

it is good for a man not to touch a woman. When he saith: It is good, he means only more convenient, or better, with respect to the troubled state of the church, or that persons might be more at liberty for the service of God and the duties of religion. Upon these accounts it were more convenient for a man not to marry, for that he meaneth by touching a woman.


Verse 2

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication; in the Greek it is, Because of fornications; the sense of which can be no other than this which our translators give. The word is in the plural number, to signify that that which he meaneth by this term, is all sorts of impurities and uncleannesses, which are the products of the lusts of the flesh. These are sins of that nature and species, that if we cannot choose what in respect of some circumstances would be more convenient, we must balk it, rather than run into such a guilt. The apostle doth therefore determine, that in this case it was every man’s duty to marry, and every woman’s likewise; the reason of which must be, because God had ordained marriage as a means to bridle men, and restrain them from extravagant lusts.

His own wife, her own husband; a clear place against polygamy.


Verse 3

The word translated due benevolence, signifieth due goodwill or kindness, but from 1 Corinthians 7:5, it appeareth what the apostle meaneth: Moses, Exodus 21:10, calleth it, the duty of marriage; both of them using a modest term in expressing the conjugal act, as we shall observe the Scripture always doing, when there is occasion to mention what men of profane hearts are ready to make a scoff at. The apostle maketh this the mutual duty both of husband and wife, under due circumstances, therefore useth the word render, which implieth the thing required to be an act of justice.


Verse 4

He gives the reason of it; because marriage takes away from each married person the power over his or her own body, and giveth it to their correlate. The apostle seemeth here to answer a question propounded to him by some members of this church: Whether, though they were married, the husband and wife might not forbear each other’s bed, and make us of their society each with other merely for helps in other things, such as getting an estate, looking after the affairs of a family, &c.? Which the apostle doth by no means judge advisable.


Verse 5

Defraud not one the other; that is: Withhold not yourselves one from another; which he rightly calls defrauding one another, because he had before declared it a debt; and further declared, that neither the husband nor the wife had a power over their own bodies, but the power of either of their bodies was in their correlate. He adds,

except it be with consent, mutual consent, and then it is indeed no defrauding; and

for a time, for a religious end,

that they might give themselves to fasting and prayer: not that this abstinence is necessary to us by any Divine precept, to prepare us for solemn prayer, (for such only is here spoken of), for then the apostle would not have made consent necessary in this case; but the Jews were commanded it, Exodus 19:15, as a preparation to their hearing of the law; and it was a piece of the legal purification, as appeareth from 1 Samuel 21:4, as to which Christians were at liberty, and might observe or not observe it, as they agreed.

And come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency: then he requires, that they should return to their former course, not defrauding one another, lest the devil, observing their abstinence, should tempt them to unlawful mixtures, seeing their inability to contain themselves within the bounds of temperance and chastity.


Verse 6

Some refer these words to all that had gone before in this chapter; but the best interpreters rather refer them to what went immediately before in the preceding verse, declaring, that he had no express command from God, as to those things of abstaining for a time for fasting and prayer, and then coming together again, but he spake what he judged equitable and reasonable; but as to particular persons, they ought to judge and govern themselves according to their particular circumstances.


Verse 7

I would that all men were even as I myself: I would, in this place, can signify no more than, I could wish or desire, (if it were the will of God), that all Christians had the gift of continency, which God (blessed be his name) hath given me: that this is meant, is plain by the next words, and 1 Corinthians 7:9: it is apparent that Paul did not will this absolutely, for that had been to have willed the dissolution of the world, as well as the church, within the compass of that age.

But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that: But, saith the apostle, every one hath not the gift of continency, one hath it, another hath it not; which is the same thing which our Saviour said in reply to his disciples, saying: If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given, Matthew 19:10.


Verse 8

By the unmarried and widows, it is apparent that Paul means virgins that were never married, and such as, having been once married, had lost their husbands: though the first word, in the Greek, had been significative enough of persons in both these states; yet the apostle’s using of two words, makes it past dispute; when he saith, it is good for such to be as he was, his meaning is, that it was better with respect to the present circumstances of Christians, or it was convenient, in which notion good is often taken, not for what is absolutely good; and indeed the nature of all good lieth in the conveniency or suitableness of the thing so called to us; and though in the Divine precepts there is always such a suitableness, so as they must be always good, yet in other things, which God hath left to our liberty, (such as is this of marriage), a thing may be good or evil, as the circumstances of several persons, yea, of the same person, may vary. St. Paul considereth only the circumstances of the world common to all Christians, and upon them, determines this goodness, supposing the circumstances of the particular person not to rule otherwise. His not saying, it is good for them not to marry, but to be as he was, hath bred a question of no great import to be determined: Whether Paul was ever married or not? In the determination of which the ancients could not agree; but it is not worth spending our time about, considering that all agree he was at this time unmarried, which is all he doth here mean: if St. Paul was never married, we are sure Peter was, for we read of his wife’s mother sick of a fever, Mark 1:30.


Verse 9

That St. Paul’s saying: It is good, & c. did not signify, it is the will of God, or, (as the papists would have it), it is my counsel in order to your further perfection, is plain by his precept for them to marry if they could not contain; and this likewise lets us see that second marriages are not only lawful, but may be an incumbent duty, that is, if they who are concerned as to them cannot contain themselves within the bounds and rule of chastity, which must not only be interpreted with reference to acts of uncleanness. This is contradicted by the reason given by the apostle, determining that marriage was much more eligible than burning, which term signifies the inward fervour and eager inclinations of the mind, not the acts only of the outward man.


Verse 10

The apostle had spoke to the married before, but in another case, he now returneth in his discourse to them again, speaking to another case, which it should seem they had put to him; what it was is not plainly expressed, but it may easily be gathered from 1 Corinthians 7:12,13, as also from the apostle’s determination in this verse: or it was this: Whether it was lawful for the husband to depart from his wife, or the wife from her husband, unless it were in the case of adultery; for though here be nothing spoken as to that case, yet it plainly must be excepted, as determined before by our Saviour; but as the Jews, so the heathens amongst whom these Corinthians lived, had entertained much too mean thoughts about the marriage bond, indulging themselves in a liberty to break it for every slight cause; and it should seem by 1 Corinthians 7:12,13, it was judged by them a sufficient cause, if one of them were not converted to the faith of Christ. Now in this case, saith the apostle,

I command, and what I tell you is the will of God; it is not I alone who command it, but you are to look upon it as the will of God concerning you, though revealed to you by me that am the minister of God to you.

Let not the wife depart from her husband; she may be divorced from her husband in case of fornication, but let her not for any other cause make a voluntary secession.


Verse 11

How our translators came to translate cwrisyh, which is manifestly a verb passive, if she depart, I cannot tell. It signifieth, if she be departed, and so is as well significative of a being parted from her husband by a judicial act of divorce, as of a voluntary departing. The Jews were wont to give bills of divorce to their wives for any trivial cause. The word is to be interpreted as well of any legal divorce, not according to the true meaning of the Divine law, as concerning a voluntary secession; in which case the apostle commandeth that she should marry to no other: the reason is plain, because no such cause of divorce broke the bond of marriage; she was yet the wife of her former husband in God’s eye and account, and committed adultery if she married to another, as our Saviour had determined, Matthew 5:32 19:9. But he gives her a liberty to

be reconciled to her husband. In case that a woman put away by her husband became another man’s wife, by the law, Deuteronomy 24:4, she might not (though that latter husband died) return to her former husband; but in case she remained unmarried, she might be reconciled to him.

And let not the husband put away his wife; the apostle giveth the same precept concerning husbands.


Verse 12

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord; either as to the other part of your Epistle, or as to the cases of the rest mentioned in your Epistle, I shall give you my advice so far as I am instructed by the Holy Spirit of God, though our Lord Jesus Christ hath set no certain rule concerning them.

If any brother hath a wife that believeth not: that believeth not, both here and 1 Corinthians 7:13, signifieth, that hath not embraced the Christian faith, but still remaineth a pagan.

And she be pleased to dwell with him; if there be no other matter of difference between such persons, save only in matter of religion, let him not for that put her away. If a Christian man or woman had their choice to make, it were unlawful for either of them to make choice of a pagan for their yoke-fellow; but if, after marriage, either the husband or the wife embraceth the Christian faith, the other correlate still abiding a pagan, their difference in religion is not a sufficient ground for a separation: this seemeth to be the apostle’s meaning. The case seemeth a little different in the opinion of some divines, when the idolater or idolatress blasphemeth God and the true religion, and is continually tempting the correlate to apostacy: but it is hard to determine against the plain precept of so great an apostle, especially considering the reason by which he backeth his precept.


Verse 13

See Poole on "1 Corinthians 7:12"


Verse 14

Ver. 13,14. Sanctifying, in holy writ, generally signifieth the separation or setting apart of a person or thing from a common, to and for a holy use, whether it be by some external rites and ceremonies, or by the infusing of some inward spiritual habits. In this place it seemeth to have a different sense from what it usually hath in holy writ; for it can neither signify the sanctification of the person by infused habits of grace; for neither is the unbelieving husband thus sanctified by the believing wife, neither is the unbelieving wife thus sanctified by the believing husband; nor are either of them thus set apart for the service of God by any legal rites: which hath made a great difference in the notions of interpreters, how the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife, or the unbelieving wife, by the believing husband. Some think it signifies no more than prepared for God, as sanctified signifies, Isaiah 13:3. Others think they are sanctified by a moral denomination. I rather think it signifies, brought into such a state, that the believer, without offence to the law of God, may continue in a married estate with such a yoke-fellow; and the state of marriage is a holy state, notwithstanding the disparity with reference to religion.

Else were your children unclean; otherwise, he saith, the children begotten and born of such parents would be unclean, in the same state that the children of pagan parents are without the church, not within the covenant, not under the promise. In one sense all children are unclean, i.e. children of wrath, born in sin, and brought forth in iniquity; but all are not in this sense unclean, some are within the covenant of grace, within the church, capable of baptism.

But now are they holy; these are those that are called holy; not as inwardly renewed and sanctified, but relatively, in the same sense that all the Jewish nation are called a holy people: and possibly this may give us a further light to understand the term sanctifed, in the former part of the verse. The unbelieving husband is so far sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife so far sanctified by the believing husband, that as they may lawfully continue in their married relation, and live together as man and wife, so the issue coming from them both shall be by God counted in covenant with him, and have a right to baptism, which is one of the seals of that covenant, as well as those children both whose parents are believers.


Verse 15

If the unbelieving husband or the unbelieving wife will leave his or her correlate, that is, so leave them as to return no more to live as a husband or as a wife with her or him that is Christian,

let him depart. Such a person hath broken the bond of marriage, and in such cases Christians are

not under bondage, they are not tied by law to fetch them again, nor by the laws of God to keep themselves unmarried for their perverseness. But it may be objected, that nothing but adultery, by the Divine law, breaketh that bond.

Answer. That is denied. Nothing but adultery is a justifiable cause of divorce: no man may put away his wife, nor any wife put away her husband, but for adultery. But the husband’s voluntary leaving his wife, or the wife’s voluntary leaving her husband, with a resolution to return no more to them, breaks also the bond of marriage, frustrating it as to the ends for which God hath appointed it; and, after all due means used to bring again the party departing to their duty, doth certainly free the correlate. So that although nothing can justify repudiation, or putting away a wife or a husband, and marrying another, but the adultery of the person so divorced and repudiated; yet the departure either of husband or wife without the other’s consent for a long time, and refusal to return after all due means used, especially if the party so going away doth it out of a hatred and abomination of the other’s religion, will justify the persons so deserted, after due waiting and use of means to reduce him or her to their duty, wholly to cast off the person deserting; for no Christian in such a case, by God’s law, is under bondage.

But God hath called us to peace; for God hath called Christians unto peace, and in his ordinance of marriage aimed at the quiet and peace of his people in their service of him in their families and relations; and therefore as Christians ought not to disturb the peace of their own consciences, turning away their relations, though they be unbelievers; yet neither are they bound, if such will leave them, to court their own continual trouble and disturbance.


Verse 16

The apostle having before determined the lawfulness of a Christian husband’s or wife’s abiding in a state of marriage with a wife or husband that was an infidel, if she or he were willing to abide with the believer, now argues the great advantage which might be from it, for the glory of God, and the good of the soul of such husband or wife.

What knowest thou, O wife? saith he; it is not certain that God will so far bless thy converse with thy husband or wife, as that thou shalt, by thy instruction, admonition, or example, be an occasion or instrument to bring them to Christ; but it is neither impossible nor improbable, and their willingness (notwithstanding their difference from thee in religion) yet to abide with thee, may give thee some hopes that they will hearken to thee. They are often (in the language of holy writ) said to save others, who are instrumental to bring them to Christ, 1 Corinthians 9:22 1 Timothy 4:16 James 5:20. We ought to bear with many inconveniences to ourselves, where our bearing with them may any way promote the glory of God or the good of souls.


Verse 17

Calling in this place signifieth that station and course of life, wherein by the providence of God any man is set. Some think, that this precept hath a special reference to what went before, as if the sense were this: If God by his providence hath so ordered it that thy heart be changed, thy wife’s or thy husband’s heart being not yet changed, but he or she remaining pagans, yet let not this cause any separation between you, but, unless the unbeliever will depart, live yet as man and wife together, mutually performing conjugal offices each to other. But the following verses, {1 Corinthians 7:21,22} where the apostle speaks of called being a servant, show this interpretation to be too narrow. The sense of the text is, that the profession of Christianity is consistent with any honest calling or course of life, and it is the will of God tliat Christians should not pretend their profession of religion, to excuse them from the duties of any relation wherein they are set.

And so ordain I in all churches; this is a universal rule, and concerned not the church of Corinth only, but all other churches of Christ, being an apostolical constitution.


Verse 18

Is any one who was a native Jew, and so circumcised according to the Jewish law, converted (while he is in that state) to the faith of Christ? Let him not affect the state of him that, having been formerly a Gentile, was never circumcised. On the other side, is any, being a native Gentile, and so not circumcised, converted to Christianity? Let not him affect the state of one converted from Judaism, who was circumcised. This is, doubtless, the sense of the verse, not, (as some would have it), let him not endeavour by art to make himself uncircumcised, which was the wicked practice of some, (for a better compliance with the Gentiles), of whom we read, /Apc 1 Maccabees 1:15.


Verse 19

Circumcision was an ordinance of God, a sign of God’s covenant, as necessary to salvation in its time, as the fufilling of any precept of the law contained in ordinances: and uncircumcision also was something; for by the law relating to that ordinance, the uncircumcised male is determined to have broken God’s covenant, and determined to a cutting off, Genesis 17:10-14. But in the present state of the church, circumcision was of no value or moment in the business of salvation: In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love, Galatians 5:6.


Verse 20

Let every man abide in the same state and condition of life in which he was when he was first converted to the faith of Christ, that is, supposing that he was in an honest course of life; for we read in the Acts that the conjurers burnt their books, and unlawful courses of life must not be adhered to after men have once given up their names to Christ. The apostle’s design is only to show, that the profession of Christianity maketh no state of life unlawful, which was before that profession lawful, nor dischargeth any from such as were before the duties of persons in their circumstances and relations. They too far strain this text, who interpret it into an obligation upon all men, not to alter that particular way and course of life and trading to which they were educated, and in which they formerly have been engaged; though such a thing be of too great moment and consequence for any to do without just advice and deliberation. The world is a mutable thing, and trades and particular courses of life wear out, and what will now bring in a due livelihood, possibly seven years hence will not furnish any with bread; and it is unreasonable in such a case to think, that the rule of Christian profession ties up a man under these changes of providence to such a particular course of life, as he cannot, in it, in the sweat of his face eat his bread.


Verse 21

Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: If while thou art a servant to another in any honest employment, thou art converted to the Christian religion, let it not trouble thee, mind it not. A man may be the servant of Christ, and yet a servant to men in any honest employment.

But if thou mayest be made free, by the favour of thy friends, with the consent of thy master,

use it rather; that is, (say some), rather choose to be a servant still, (which indeed in some cases may be the duty of a good Christian), that is, if thou seest, that in that station thou canst better serve God and the interest of thy master’s or other souls. But it is more probable the sense is, make use of thy liberty rather; for certain it is, that the free-man is ordinarily at more advantage for the service of God than he that is a servant.


Verse 22

For the state of a servant to men no way prejudiceth a man as to his spiritual liberty; a servant and a free-man, considered with reference to Christ, are both one; a servant may be as near the kingdom of heaven as a free-man; and let a man be in never so good a state of civil liberty, yet, if he be a Christian, he is still a servant of Christ, and bound in all things to obey him. As to the new man, there is neither bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all.


Verse 23

What price we are bought with, we heard, 1 Corinthians 6:20: the apostle there pressed it upon us as our duty to glorify God with our bodies and our spirits; here he presseth upon us another duty, viz. upon that consideration not to be

the servants of men; by which some think he forbiddeth the selling themselves as slaves to infidels; others think that he only forbiddeth eye-service, as the apostle calls it, Ephesians 6:6; while in the mean time they might be the servants of men, if they served them as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men. But the most probable interpretation is: Be not servants to the lusts of men: wherein you can serve men, and in the same actions also serve God, and be obedient to his will, you may be the servants of men; but be not servants of men in such actions wherein, to serve them, you must disobey God.


Verse 24

In whatsoever state or condition, whether he be married or unmarried, whether he be a master or a servant, whether he were before circumcised or uncircumcised, let him not think Christianity obligeth him to alter it; he may abide in it, only he must

abide in it with God, as one who remembereth God’s eye is upon him, and seeth him, and that he is bound to approve himself in it unto God, and to keep a good conscience towards him, as one that is a member of the church of God, and under the laws of it.


Verse 25

He had before spoken to married persons and widows, now he comes to speak

concerning virgins; and though he mentions only the female sex, yet the following words show that his advice extended to both. As to them he saith, he had no special direction from Christ, none that would suit the case of every virgin; but yet he would give his advice, what seemed to him best. And he would have them look upon him

as one that himself had received mercy from the Lord, and as he desired to be faithful in the discharge of his trust, so might and ought to have credit given him in what he said. In which sense we read in Scripture of a faithful saying, a faithful Creator, a faithful man, & c.


Verse 26

Good here signifieth convenient, (as before), if other circumstances of particular persons make it not sinful; or better with respect to

the present distress or necessity: by which, without doubt, the apostle meaneth, not the common necessities of all men that are born once to die, (which is the more easy the fewer relations we have to part from), nor yet of family troubles and concerns, for there is none who hath a family in this world to look after, but will have trouble in the flesh; but the continual troubles with which the church of God was disquieted, as the ark upon the waters, and the more special troubles of the primitive church; for though their great persecutions from the heathen were not, possibly, at that time begun, yet Christ had foretold them, and the apostles had them in a very near prospect (Paul is thought to have died the tenth or eleventh year of Nero). For this present necessity or distress, the apostle gives his opinion, that it was convenient and better, for those that could honestly abstain from marriage, to keep themselves in their single and unmarried condition.


Verse 27

Art thou bound by marriage, or bound by contract, do not use any sinful ways to be loosed from that bond, either by divorce or by a voluntary departure: if the unbeliever will depart, he or she may, you are not obliged to court their stay, but do not you put him or her away. Are you free from a wife, either as yet unmarried, or by the hand of God separated, in case you can without sin, abstain. If your circumstances be such as they do not oblige you to marriage, do not seek a wife; the times are like to be full of trouble and difficulty. Our Master said, Woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! Matthew 24:19.


Verse 28

I would not have you mistake me, as if I judged marriage sinful for persons in any state or condition, or of any sex; but those that are married in any time, will find troubles about the things of this life, and those that marry in such times as these are, and you are like further to see, will meet with more than ordinary troubles of this nature: I only would spare you, and have you keep yourselves as free as you can: or:

I spare you any further discourse of that nature, not willing to torment you before the time cometh.


Verse 29

He had before spoken to what concerned some, now he comes to what concerneth all.

The time (saith he) is short; furled up, like sails when the mariner comes near his port. He either meaneth the time of this life, or the time of the world’s duration; we often find the apostles speaking of their times as the last times (and in these senses all are concerned): or the time of the church’s rest and tranquillity, which they had hitherto enjoyed in a far more perfect degree than they enjoyed them soon after this, when ten persecutions followed immediately one upon the neck of another.

It remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; therefore (saith the apostle) it is the concernment of all Christians, not to indulge themselves too much in the pleasures and contentments of this life; but if ye be married, or shall marry, you will be concerned to keep your hearts as loose from the contentment and satisfaction men use to take in their wives, as if you had no wives at all.


Verse 30

And they that weep, as though they wept not; this consideration also should weigh with those who have a more afflicted portion in this life, and are mourners for the loss of their near relations; they have but lost what they could not long have kept, and for the time they kept them must have enjoyed them, probably, with a great deal of sorrow and bitterness.

And they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and so for any of those who rejoiced in any worldly enjoyments, the shortness of the time they are like to have them to rejoice in, should admonish them to govern and moderate their joy, for it is like to be but like the crackling of thorns under a pot.

And that they buy as though they possessed not; and those that have liberal possessions of good things in this life, they should look upon them as none of theirs, and use them as not like to be their possessions long.


Verse 31

And they that use this world, as not abusing it: while you have any thing of this world’s goods you may use them, yea, you must use them, without them you cannot live in the world; but the consideration how little the time is you are like to have them to use, should govern you in the use of them, so as you ought to take heed you do not use them to any other purpose, or for any other end, than that for which God hath appointed and given them to you.

For the fashion of this world passeth away; for this world is like a stage or theatre where are diversities of scenes, and the present scene abideih but for a little time, then passeth, and another scene or figure of things appeareth: those who appear this day in the form of princes and nobles, tomorrow appear as beggars, and persons of a low estate and degree.


Verse 32

But I would have you without carefulness; the reason why I have advised (during the present distressed estate of the church) a single rather than a married life, for those to whom God hath given the gift of continency, is, that those who are Christians might live as free from such cares as divide and distract men’s and women’s minds, as they possibly can.

He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: the single person that hath a spiritual heart, disposed to pious performances, being free from other distractions and cares, caused by worldly occasions, will spend all his thoughts about his duty toward God, and how to please him.


Verse 33

But he that is married hath other things which he must take care about; for besides that he is obliged to provide for his family, husbands and wives are under some obligations to please each other by divertisements, which, though not in themselves sinful, yet take up time, which those free from such relations may spend more religiously.


Verse 34

There is the same difference between a married woman and a single woman, as there is between a married man and a single man. If a woman be unmarried, and be piously disposed, she hath leisure and opportunity enough to mind the things of God; but if she be married, she will then be obliged to attend secular affairs, to take care for her family, and to please her husband. It is the same thing that was before said of the man. The sense is, that a conjugal relation draws along with it many diversions, from which a single life is free.


Verse 35

And this I speak for your own profit; for your advantage both as to your converse in the world, and also for your religious conversation, and the performance of those duties which you owe unto God; for those that are married must meet with more troubles and cares in this life, and cannot have so much time and leisure for religious duties, as others have that are not entangled in the domestic cares of a family.

Not that I may cast a snare upon you; yet I would not bring you under a snare, imposing what God hath not imposed, and obliging you where God hath not obliged you.

But for that which is comely; the word here is euschmon, it strictly signifies a thing of a good figure, and is translated in Scripture honourable, Mark 15:43 Acts 13:50 17:11; where it signifies what is of a fair and good repute in the eye of the world; which is also the sense of it, 1 Corinthians 12:24, where we read of the comely parts of man’s body; but in this place the word signifies most largely, the same with profitable and convenient. For marriage is a state which neither is in itself indecent, nor ever was so reputed in the world by any nation, and the Scripture tells us, that marriage is honourable amongst all, Hebrews 13:4. The word therefore here is of the same significancy with sumferon, which in the beginning of the verse is translated profit, and 1 Corinthians 6:12, is translated expedient. And that you may attend upon the Lord without distraction; the phrase in the Greek is very difficult to be translated properly into our English language, word for word it is, to sit well to the Lord without distraction; our translators render it, attend upon the Lord. We have something like it in our language, when we express our diligent attendance to a thing, under the notion of sitting close to a business; which is opposed to such an attendance to business as we give when we have many avocations and callings away, so as we cannot sit close to it. The apostle saith, that this was the end of his advising those who could contain not to marry under that state of things in the world referring to the church, that they might with more ease and conveniency attend to the great concerns of their souls, without those distracting and dividing thoughts which they must have who were entangled with domestic businesses and relations.


Verse 36

But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely: there is a general and a particular uncomeliness; some things are uncomely with respect to all persons; of such things the apostle doth not here speak; but of a particular uncomeliness with respect to the circumstances of particular persons. Neither doth uncomely here signify a mere indecency and unhandsomeness, but such a behaviour as suiteth not the general rules of the gospel, which judgment is to be ruled by the circumstances of persons, as they more or less desire marriage.

If she pass the flower of her age; if she be of marriageable years, or rather, if she beginneth to grow old,

and need so require, and be desirous of marriage, so as the parent seeth reason to fear that, if he gives her not in marriage, she will so dispose of herself without asking her father’s advice or leave, or be exposed, possibly, to worse temptations: which two things seem to interpret that term, if need so require.

Let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry; in such a case as this a Christian parent shall not sin, if he disposeth her in marriage let her marry to such a person as she loveth, and her parent seeth proper for her. He speaks in the plural number because marriage is between two persons. The reason of this determination is, because the apostle, in his former discourse, had no where condemned a married estate during the present distress of things, as sinful or unlawful, but only as inexpedient, or not so expedient as a single life during the present distress; he had before determined, 1 Corinthians 7:9, that it was better to marry than to burn. Now no inexpediency of a thing can balance what is plainly sinful. If therefore the case be such, that a man or woman must marry, or sin, through marriage brings with it more care and trouble, yet it is to be preferred before plain sinning.


Verse 37

Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart; if a man be resolved to keep his daughter a virgin, not uncertain in his own mind, and wavering what he should do, upon a just consideration of circumstances;

having no necessity; and doth not see a necessity to dispose of her, either for the avoiding some sin against God, or for the better providing for himself and the rest of his family;

but hath power over his own will; but hath a perfect freedom in his own will, so that his will be not contradicted by his daughter’s fondness of a married life; for in such a case the father, though he would willingly not dispose of his daughter in marriage, yet ought to be overruled by the will of his daughter, and so hath not a power over his own will, being forced by the rules of religion to take care of the soul and spiritual welfare of his child; for though the parent hath a great power over his child, and ought to consent to the marriage of his child, yet he hath no such power as wholly to hinder them from marriage.

And hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin; if he be fully resolved, upon a due consideration of all circumstances, and the virgin be satisfied, and yields up herself in the case to her father’s pleasure, in such a case, if the father doth not put her upon marriage, but resolves to keep her unmarried, he

doeth well; that is, not only he shall not sin against God, but he doth that which is more eligible, considering the present circumstances of things, and better than if he did find out a husband for her, and give her to him (as it is expounded in the next verse).


Verse 38

So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well: there is no general rule for all parents in this case, where the duty or sin of parents may arise from their or their children’s different circumstances. But supposing that a parent, having duly weighed all circumstances, be fully resolved, and he finds the child’s will concurring, that she can forbear, and is willing to do in the case what her parent desires; in such a case as this, if the parent disposeth her in marriage, I cannot say he sinneth, but he doth what he may do.

But he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better; but with reference to the present state of things in the church and in the world, and with reference to the young woman’s liberty for the service of God, he doth better, if he doth not so dispose her. The thing is in itself indifferent, and Christians must be in it ruled and inclined one way or another from circumstances.


Verse 39

The apostle all along this chapter hath been speaking to several cases, which the church of Corinth had put to him concerning marriage; some that concerned persons already married, others that concerned such as were single, having been never married; he shutteth up his discourse with advice which relateth to such as had lost their husbands, with reference to second marriages. As to this he determineth, that no woman might marry again while her first husband lived; that is, unless her husband, be legally divorced from her for adultery, or unless her husband, being a heathen, had voluntarily deserted her: but if her husband were dead, she might marry to whom she would; yet she was not at such liberty, as that she might marry an unbeliever. Unbelievers are either heathens, or Christians in name, but such as are idolaters, or profane persons, or heretics, who hold such tenets as are inconsistent with any true faith in Jesus Christ. This phrase,

only in the Lord, seemeth to oblige godly women, not only to avoid marrying with heathens, but with nominal Christians; that is, such who, although they have been baptized, and own Christ with their tongues, yet hold such damnable opinions, or live such profane lives, or worship God in such an idolatrous manner, as is inconsistent with any true faith in Christ. The reason of the precept holds as well to the latter as to the former.


Verse 40

But if other circumstances concur, that a widow can abide without marriage without waxing wanton, and running into temptation, and so as to manage her outward concerns without the help of a husband, my opinion is, that she is more happy if she keeps herself a widow, and doth not marry again; not more happy because more holy, or in a fairer road to the kingdom of heaven, but upon the two accounts before mentioned; more happy because free from troubles and distractions, and because she will be more free and at liberty to mind heavenly things.

And I think also that I have the Spirit of God; and, saith he, I think I know as much of the mind of the Holy Spirit of God, as either those who teach you otherwise, or who may have opinions contrary to mine in this case.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-corinthians-7.html. 1685.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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