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ST. PAUL'S FIRST EPISTLE
SECT. I. Of the Time of St. Paul's Arrival at Corinth.
E are told, Acts xvii. 15. That after Paul was driven by the unbelieving Jews, from Theffalonica, and Bercea, he went to Athens, the most celebrated city in Greece, intending to make the gospel known to the learned there. But the contempt in which the Athenian philosophers held his doctrine and manner of preaching, convincing him that it would be to no pur
ofe to stay long among them, he left Athens foon and went to Corinth, now become the metropolis of the province of Achaia, and of equal fame for the fciences and the arts with Athens itself.
On his arrival in Corinth, he found Aquila and his wife Prifcilla, two Jewish Christians, who had lately come from Italy, becaufe Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome, Acts xviii. 2. According to the best chronologers, Claudius's edict against the Jews, was published in the xith year of his reign, answering to A. D. 51. Claudius began his reign on the VOL. H. 24th
24th of January. Wherefore, notwithstanding his edict against the Jews might come forth early in the xith year of his reign, yet, as the Jews would be allowed a reasonable time to fettle their affairs, and take themfelves away, we cannot suppose that Aquila and Prifcilla arrived at Corinth, fooner than the end of the fpring in the year 51. And seeing they were fettled in Corinth, and carrying on their bufinefs of tent-making, when the apoftle arrived, his arrival cannot be fixed fooner than the fummer of that year. This epoch of St. Paul's arrival at Corinth merits attention, because it will be of ufe in fixing the dates of other occurrences, which happened both before and after that event. Being come to Corinth, the apoftle immediately preached in the fynagogue. But the greatest part of the Jews opposing themselves and blafpheming, he told them he would go to the Gentiles, Acts xviii. 6. Knowing, however, the temper and learning of the Gentiles in Corinth, and their extreme profligacy of manners, he was in great fear when he first preached to them, 1 Cor. ii. 3. But the Lord Jesus appeared to him in a vision, and bade him not be afraid, but speak boldly, because he had much people in that city, Acts xviii. 9, 10. In obedience to Christ's command, Paul preached almost two years in Corinth, (ver. 11. 18.) and gathered a very flourishing church, in which there were fome Jews of note, ver. 8. But the greatest part were idolatrous Gentiles, Cor. xii. 2.-The members of this church being very numerous, were so much the object of the apostle's attention, that he wrote to them two long and exellent letters, not only for eftablishing them in the belief of his apostleship, which a false teacher, who came among them after his departure, had prefumed to call in queftion, but to correct certain irregularities, into which many of them had fallen in his absence, and for other purposes which fhall be mentioned in fect. iv. of this preface.
SECT. II. Of the Character and Manners of the Corinthians in their Heathen State.
Before Corinth was deftroyed by the Romans, it was famous for the magnificence of its buildings, the extent of its commerce, and the number, the learning and the ingenuity of its inhabitants, who carried the arts and sciences to fuch perfection, that
it was called by Cicero, totius Græcia lumen, the light of all Greece: and by Fiorus, Gracia decus, the ornament of Greece. The luftre, however, which Corinth derived from the number and genius of its inhabitants, was tarnished by their debauched manners, Strabo, Lib. viii. p. 581, tells us, that in the temple of Venus at Corinth, "there were more than a thousand harlots, the flaves "of the temple, who, in honour of the Goddess, prostituted "themselves to all comers for hire, and through thefe the city "was crowded, and became wealthy." From an institution of this kind, which, under the pretext of religion, furnished an opportunity to the debauched to gratify their lufts, it is easy to see what corruption of manners must have flowed. Accordingly it is known, that lafcivioufnefs was carried to fuch a pitch in Corinth, that in the language of these times, the appellation of q Corinthian given to a woman, imported that the was a proffitute, and Kopa Cev, to behave as a Corinthian, fpoken of a man, was the fame as Eraigever, to commit whoredom.
In the Achæan war, Corinth was utterly deftroyed by the Roman Conful Mummius. But being rebuilt by Julius Cæfar, and peopled with a Roman colony, it was made the refidence of the Proconful who governed the province of Achaia, (See 1 Theff. i. 7. note,) and foon regained its ancient splendour. For its inhabitants increafing exceedingly, they carried on, by means of its two fea-ports, an extenfive commerce, which brought them great wealth, From that time forth, the arts which minifter to the conveniences and luxuries of life, were carried on at Corinth in as great perfection as formerly; schools were opened, in which philofophy and rhetoric were publicly taught by able masters; and strangers from all quarters crowded to Corinth, to be inftructed in the fciences and in the arts. So that Corinth, during this latter period, was filled with philofophers, rhetoricians, and artists of all kinds, and abounded in wealth. These advantages, however, were counterbalanced, aş before, by the effects which wealth and luxury never fail to produce. In a word, an univerfal corruption of manners foon prevailed: fo that Corinth, in its fecond state, became as debauched as it had been in any former period whatever. The apostle, therefore, had good reason in this epistle, to exhort the Corinthian brethren to flee fornication: and after giving them a B 2 catalogue
catalogue of the unrighteous who shall not inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. he was well entitled to add, and fuch were fome of you. In fhort, the Corinthians had carried vice of every kind to fuch a pitch, that their city was more debauched than any of the other cities of Greece.
SECT. III. Of the Converfion of the Corinthians to the Chriftian
After the apostle left the fynagogue, he frequented the house of one Juftus, a religious profelyte whom he had converted. Here the idolatrous inhabitants of the city, prompted by curiofity, came to him from time to time, in great numbers, to hear his discourses. And having themselves feen, or having been credibly informed by others of the miracles which Paul wrought, and of the spiritual gifts which he conferred on them who believed, they were fo impreffed by his discourses and miracles, that many of them renounced their ancient fuperftition. So Luke tells us, Acts xviii. 8. And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized.
Of all the miracles wrought in confirmation of the gospel, that which seems to have affected the Greeks moft, was the gift of tongues. For as they esteemed eloquence more than any other human attainment, that gift, by raising the common people to an equality with the learned, greatly recommended the gospel to perfons in the middle and lower ranks of life. Hence numbers of the inhabitants of Corinth, of that defcription, were early converted. But with perfons in higher ftations, the gospel was not fo generally successful. By their attachment to some one or other of the schemes of philofophy which then prevailed, the men of rank and learning had rendered themselves incapable, or at least unwilling, to embrace the gofpel. At that time, the philofophers were divided into many fects, and each fect having nothing in view, but to confute the tenets of the other fects, the difquifitions of philosophy among the Greeks, had introduced an universal scepticism which deftroyed all rational belief. This pernicious effect appeared conspicuously in their statesmen, who, through their philosophical disputations, having loft all ideas of truth and virtue, regarded nothing in their politics but utility.