Page images
PDF
EPUB

acquainted with the ftate of the Corinthian church, St. Paul judged it fit to write to them this fecond letter. And that it might have the greater weight, he fent it to them by Titus, the bearer of his former epittle, 2 Cor. viii. 17, 18.-In this fecond letter, the apostle artfully introduced the arguments, objections, and fcoffing fpeeches, by which the faction were endeavouring to bring him into contempt; and not only confuted them by the most solid reasoning, but even turned them against the faife teacher himfelf, and against the faction, in fuch a manner as to render them ridiculous. In short, by the many delicate but pointed ironies with which this epistle abounds, the apostle covered his adversaries with fhame, and fhewed the Corinthians that he excelled in a talent which the Greeks greatly admired.—But while St. Paul thus pointedly derided the faction and its leaders, he bestowed just commendations on the fincere part of the church, for their perfevering in the doctrine he had taught them, and for their ready obedience to his orders concerning the incestuous person. And to encourage them, he told them, that having boasted of them to Titus, he was glad to find his boafting well founded in every particular.

The Corinthian church being compofed of perfons of fuch oppofite characters, the apoftle in writing to them, was under the neceffity of suiting his discourse to them, according to their different characters. And therefore, if we apply to the whole church of Corinth, the things in the two epiftles, which apparently were directed to the whole church, but which were intended only for a part of it, we shall think these epistles full of inconfiftency, if not of contradiction. But if we understand these things according as the apostle really meant them, every appearance of inconfiftency and contradiction will be removed. For he himself hath directed us to distinguish the fincere part of the Corinthians from the faction, 2 Cor. i. 14. Ye have acknowledged us in part, that is, a part of you have acknowledged that we are your boafting.-Chap. ii. 5. Now if a certain perfon hath grieved me, he hath not grieved me except by a part of you, that I may not lay a load on you all. It is therefore plain, that the matters in the two epiftles to the Corinthians which appear inconsistent, are not really fo; they belong to different persons. For example, the many commendations bestowed on the Corin

thians in these epiftles, belong only to the fincere part of them. Whereas the sharp reproofs, the pointed ironies, and the fevere threatenings of punishment found in the fame epiftles, are to be understood as addreffed to the faction, and more especially to the teacher who headed the faction. And thus by difcriminating the members of the Corinthian church according to their true characters, and by applying to each the paffages which belonged to them, every appearance of contradiction vanishes.

ST

SECT. II. Of the Matters contained in the Epiftles to the Corinthians; and of their Usefulness to the Church in every Age. T. PAUL's intention in his Epiftles to the Corinthians, being to break the faction which the falfe teacher had formed in their church in opposition to him, and to confute the calumnies which that teacher and his adherents were induftriously propagating, for discrediting him as an apostle, many of the things contained in these epiftles were neceffarily personal to him and to the faction. Nevertheless we are not on that account to think lightly of these writings, as fancying them of little ufe now to the church of Chrift. The things in them which are most personal and particular, occafioned the apostle to write instructions and precepts, which are of the greatest ufe to the church in every age. For example, in answering the calumnies by which the faction endeavoured to difcredit him as an apostle, he was led to mention facts which demonstrate him to have been an apoftle, commiffioned by Chrift, to direct the faith and practice of all the members of the church. Such as his having wrought miracles for converting the Corinthians, and his having imparted to them fpiritual gifts after they believed: his having preached the gofpel to them without receiving any reward from them; not even the small reward of maintenance while he preached to them: his having endured innumerable hardships in the long journeys which he undertook for the fake of spreading the gospel, and heavy perfecutions in every country from enemies and oppofers, Cor. iv. 11, 12. 2 Cor. iv. 8. xi. 23. His rapture into the third heaven: with a variety of other facts and circumstances refpecting himself, which we should not have known, had it not been for the calumnies of the Co

5

rinthian

[ocr errors]

rinthian faction, and of the Judaizing teachers, who infested the church at Corinth and other churches, (See Pref. to Galat. Sect. 3.) but which, now that they are known, give us the fulleft affurance of his apostleship, and add the greatest weight to his writings. Next, in reproving the faction for their misdeeds, the apoftle hath explained the general principles of religion and morality, in such a manner that they may be applied for regulating our conduct in cafes of the greatelt importance; and hath delivered rules and advices which, if followed, will have the happiest influence on our temper. For inftance, when he rebuked the faction for joining the heathens in their idolatrous feafts in the temples of their gods, he hath fhewed us the obligation Chriftians are under in all their actions, not to regard their own intereft and pleasure only, but to confult the good of their brethren alfo; and that they are at no time by their example, even in things indifferent, to lead their weak and fcrupulous brethren into fin.-In like manner, when he reproved the Corinthians for eating the Lord's Supper in an improper manner, he gave fuch an account of that holy inftitution, as shews, not only its true nature and defign, but the views alfo and the difpofitions with which it ought to be performed.-Finally, the arguments by which the apostle excited the Corinthians to make the collection for the faints in Judea, who, at the time these epiftles were written, were in great diftrefs, and the rules by which he wished them to direct themfelves in making these collections, are of great and perpetual use for animating the dif ciples of Chrift, to perform works of charity with liberality and cheerfulnefs.

1

To the things above mentioned, we may add, that the epiftles to the Corinthians, though fuited to their peculiar circumftances, may be read by the difciples of Chrift in every age, with the greateft profit, because they contain matters of importance, not to be found any where else in fcripture. Such as, the long account given in the first epiftle of the fpiritual men, and of the nature, operation and ufes of their gifts, and of the way in which they exercised their gifts for the confirmation of the gofpel, and the building of the church; whereby the rapid progress of the gospel in the firft and following ages, and the growth of

the

the Christian church to its prefent greatnefs, is fhewn to be, not the effect of natural caufes, but the work of the spirit of God.The proof of the refurrection of Chrift from the dead, the great foundation of the faith and hope of Chriftians, is no where formally set forth in fcripture, but in the xvth chap. of the first epistle to the Corinthians, where many of the witnesses who faw Chrift after his refurrection are appealed to by name, and the times and places of his appearing to them are particularly men.. tioned; and their veracity is established by the grievous sufferings, fometimes ending in death, which they fuftained for witneffing the resurrection of Chrift.-In the fame chapter, by the most logical reasoning, the resurrection of all the dead at the last day, is fhewn to be neceffarily connected with Christ's refurrection: fo that if he hath been raised, they will be raised also.There likewife the apostle hath given a circumftantial account of the refurrection of the righteous, and hath described the nature and properties of the body with which they are to rife: from which it appears, that by the re-union of their spirits with their glorious bodies, their happiness will be rendered complete and everlasting. Thefe great difcoveries made in the first epistle to the Corinthians, impreffed the minds of the difciples of Chrift so strongly in the early ages, that they refolutely fuffered the bittereft deaths with a rapturous joy, rather than renounce their master, and their hope of a glorious immortality —And to name no more inftances; by the comparison which the apoitle hath instituted, in the 3d chap. of the fecond epiftle to the Corinthians, between the inspiration of the apostles the ministers of the gofpel, and the inspiration of Moses the minifter of the law, he hath fhewn, that the inspiration of the apostles was far more perfect than the inspiration of Mofes: fo that by this discovery, the apostle hath admirably displayed the excellence of the gospel revelation, and raised its authority to the highest pitch.

Before this fection is concluded, it may be proper to obferve, that from the epiftles to the Corinthians, and from Paul's other epiftles, we learn that he was the great object of the hatred of all the falfe teachers in the firft age, but efpecially of the Judaizers. Nor is it any wonder, that they were enraged against him, and perfecuted him with the bittereft calumnies. For it was this apostle chiefly who opposed them, in their unrighteous

attempt

attempt of wreathing the yoke of the law of Mofes, about the neck of the Gentiles.-He it was likewife who refifted the introduction of the dogmas of the heathen philosophy into the church, by teachers who having nothing in view but worldly confiderations, endeavoured to convert the Greeks, at the expence of corrupting the religion of Chrift.-In fine, he it was who openly and feverely rebuked the falfe teachers and their dif ciples, for the licentiousness of their manners.-Yet he was not the only object of these men's malice. Barnabas also had a fhare of their hatred, (1 Cor. ix. 6.) probably because he had been active in procuring and publishing the decree of the council of Jerufalem, whereby the Gentile converts were freed from obeying the inititutions of Mofes.

SECT. III. Of the Place and Time of Writing the fecond Epifle to the Corinthians: And of the perfon by whom it was fent.

OF

F the place where the apoftle wrote his fecond epistle to the Corinthians, there is little doubt. In the epiítle itfelf, ii. 12. he tells us, that from Ephefus where he was when he wrote his first epistle, he went to Troas, and then into Macedonia, to meet Titus, whofe return he expected about that time: that while he abode in Macedonia, Titus arrived and brought him the good news of the fubmiffion of the Corinthians and that on hearing these tidings, he wrote his fecond letter to them, to encourage them to go on with the collection for the faints in Judea, that the whole might be finished before he came to Corinth, 2 Cor. ix. 3, 4, 5. The apostle therefore was in Macedonia, in his way to Corinth, to receive their collection, when he wrote his fecond epiftle to the church in that city.

The facts juft now mentioned, which fhew that the apostle's fecond epifle to the Corinthians was written in Macedonia, in his way from Ephefus to Corinth after the riot of Demetrius, fhew likewife that it was written but a few months after the firft epiftle. For, whether the first was written immediately before, or immediately after the riot, there could be but a short interval between the two epiftles. Namely, the time of the apostle's abode in Ephefus after writing the first letter, and at Troas

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »