on 1-corinthians 7 :40
But she is happier if she so abide - If she continue in her widowhood because of the present distress; for this must always be taken in, that consistency in the apostle's reasoning may be preserved. If this were not understood, how could St. Paul tell the widow that it would be more happy for her to continue in her widowhood than to remarry? She who had tried both the state of celibacy and the state of marriage could certainly best tell which was most for her comfort; and he could not tell any thing but by an express revelation from heaven, relative to the future state of any widow: it is certain that he can never be understood as speaking in general, as there are multitudes of persons abundantly more happy in their married than in their single state; and there are many widows also much more happy in their second marriage than they have been in their first.
After my judgment - According to the view I have of the subject, which view I take by the light of the Divine Spirit, who shows me the tribulations which are coming on the Church. But, says he, 1 Corinthians 7:28 : I spare you - I will not be more explicit concerning coming evils, as I wish to save you from all forebodings which bring torment.
I think - I have the Spirit of God - Δοκω δε κᾳγω Πνευμα Θεου εχειν might be translated, I am Certain that I have the Spirit of God. This sense of δοκειν (which we translate to seem, to think, to appear, etc.) I have noticed in another part of this work. Ulpian, on Demosthen. Olynth. 1, says, Το δοκειν ου παντως επι αμφιβολου ταττουσιν οἱ παλαιοι αλλα πολλακις και επι του αληθευειν· The word δοκειν is used by the ancients, not always to express what is Doubtful, but often to express what is True and Certain. - See Bp. Pearce. The apostle cannot be understood as expressing any doubt of his being under the inspiration of the Divine Spirit, as this would have defeated his object in giving the above advices; for if they were not dictated by the Spirit of God, can it be supposed that, in the face of apparent self-interest, and the prevalence of strong passions, they could have been expected to have become rules of conduct to this people? They must have understood him as asserting that he had the direction of the Spirit of God in giving those opinions, else they could not be expected to obey.
1. In the preceding chapter we have met with subjects both of difficulty and importance. As to the difficulties, it is hoped that they have been so generally considered in the notes that few or none of them remain; and on the subjects of peculiar importance much time has been spent, in order to impress them on the mind of the reader. The delicacy of some of them would not admit of greater plainness; and in a few instances I have been obliged to wrap the meaning in a foreign language.
2. On the important subject of marriage I have said what I believe to be true, and scruple not to say that it is the most useful state in which - the human being can be placed; and consequently that in which most honor may be brought to God. I have listened with much attention for the better part of half a century to the arguments against marriage and in favor of celibacy; and I have had the opportunity of being acquainted with many who endeavored to exemplify their own doctrine. But I have seen an end of all their perfection: neither the world nor the Church are under any obligations to them: they either married when they could do it to their mind and convenience; or, continuing in their celibacy, they lived a comparatively useless life; and died as they should, unregretted. The doctrine is not only dangerous but anti-scriptural: and I hope I have sufficiently vindicated Paul from being its patron or supporter.
3. While I contend for the superior excellence of the marriage state, I hope I shall not be understood to be the apologist of indiscriminate marriages - no, many of them are blamable in a very high degree. Instead of consulting common sense and propriety, childish affections, brutish passions, or the love of money are the motives on which many of them have been contracted. Such marriages are miserable; must be so, and should not be otherwise; and superficial people looking at these form an estimate of the state itself, and then indulge themselves in exclaiming against an ordinance of God, either perverted by themselves or the equally foolish persons who are the subjects of their animadversion. That genuine Christians can never be so useful in any state as that of marriage I am fully convinced; but to be happy, the marriage must be in the Lord. When believers match with unbelievers, generally pars sincera trahitur; the good becomes perverted; and Satan has his triumph when he has got an immortal soul out of the Church of Christ into his own synagogue. But who among young people will lay this to heart? And how few among young men and young women will not sell their Savior and his people for a husband or a wife!
4. The doctrine of second marriages has been long a subject of controversy in the Church. The Scriptures, properly understood, have not only nothing against them, but much for them. And in this chapter St. Paul, in the most pointed manner, admits of them. A widow may marry again, only let it be in the Lord; and a widower has certainly the same privilege.
5. The conversion which the Scripture requires, though it makes a most essential change in our souls in reference to God, and in our works in reference both to God and man, makes none in our civil state: even if a man is called, i.e. converted in a state of slavery, he does not gain his manumission in consequence of his conversion; he stands in the same relation both to the state and to his fellows that he stood in before; and is not to assume any civil rights or privileges in consequence of the conversion of his soul to God. The apostle decides the matter in this chapter, and orders that every man should abide in the calling wherein he is called.
6. From the 20th to the 23rd verse the apostle refers to the state of slavery among the Greeks; and from what he says we find that even among the slaves there were Christian converts, to whom, though he recommends submission and contentment, yet he intimates that if they could get their freedom they should prefer it; and he strongly charges those that were free not to become again the slaves of men, 1 Corinthians 7:23; from which we learn that a man might dispose of his own liberty, which, in a Christian, would be a disgrace to his redemption by Christ. The word ελευθερος, which we translate freeman, means properly freed-man, one who had been a slave but had regained his liberty. It is the same as libertus among the Romans, one who was manumitted. The manumission was performed three several ways:
1. The consent of the master that the slave should have his name entered in the census; or public register of the citizens.
2. The slave was led before the praetor, and the magistrate laid his wand, called vindicta, on his head, and declared him free.
3. By testament or will, the master bequeathing to the slave his freedom. The manner in which the second mode of manumission was performed is curious. The praetor having laid the rod vindicta upon the slave's head, pronounced these words, Dico eum liberum esse more Quiritum, "I pronounce him free according to the custom of the Romans." This done he gave the rod to the lictor, or serjeant, who struck the slave with it upon the head, and afterwards with the hand upon the face and back. The head also of the slave was shaven, and a cup given him by his master as a token of freedom, and the notary entered the name of the new freed-man in the public register, with the reasons of his manumission: it was customary also to give him another surname.
7. Among our Saxon ancestors, and also after the conquest, there was a species of slavery: all the villani were slaves to their respective lords, and each was bound to serve him in a great variety of ways. There is a profusion of curious examples of this in the ancient record preserved in the bishop's auditor's office in the cathedral of Durham, commonly known by the name of the Bolden Book. This record has been lately printed under the direction of his majesty's commissioners on the public records of the kingdom, in the supplement to Domesday Book.
8. Among our Saxon ancestors manumissions were granted on various accounts:
on 1-corinthians 7 :40
If she so abide - If she remain a widow even if she could be married to a Christian.
After my judgment - In my opinion; 1 Corinthians 7:25.
And I think also that I have the Spirit of God - Macknight and others suppose that this phrase implies entire certainty; and that Paul means to affirm that in this he was clear that he was under the influence of inspiration. He appeals for the use of the term (δωκῶ dōkō) to Mark 10:32; Luke 8:18; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 8:2; 1 Corinthians 11:16; Hebrews 4:1, etc. But the word does not usually express absolute certainty. It implies a doubt; though there may be a strong persuasion or conviction; or the best judgment which the mind can form in the case; see Matthew 6:7; Matthew 26:53; Mark 6:49; Luke 8:18; Luke 10:36; Luke 12:51; Luke 13:24; Luke 22:24; Acts 17:18; Acts 25:27; 1 Corinthians 16:12, 1 Corinthians 16:22, etc. It implies here a belief that Paul was under the influence of the infallible Spirit, and that his advice was such as accorded with the will of God. Perhaps he alludes to the fact that the teachers at Corinth deemed themselves to be under the influence of inspiration, and Paul said that he judged also of himself that he was divinely guided and directed in what he said - "Calvin." And as Paul in this could not be mistaken; as his impression that he was under the influence of that Spirit was, in fact, a claim to divine inspiration, so this advice should be regarded as of divine authority, and as binding on all. This interpretation is further demanded by the circumstances of the case. It was necessary that he should assert divine authority to counteract the teaching of the false instructors in Corinth; and that he should interpose that authority in prescribing rules for the government of the church there in view of the special temptations to which they were exposed.
Remarks On 1 Corinthians 7
We learn from this chapter:
1. The sacredness of the marriage union; and the nature of the feelings with which it should be entered; 1 Corinthians 7:1-13. On a most delicate subject Paul has shown a seriousness and delicacy of expression which can be found in no other writings, and which demonstrate how pure his own mind was, and how much it was filled with the fear of God. In all things his aim is to promote purity, and to keep from the Christian church the innumerable evils which everywhere abounded in the pagan world. The marriage connection should be formed in the fear of God. In all that union, the parties should seek the salvation of the soul; and so live as not to dishonor the religion which they profess.
2. The duty of laboring earnestly for the conversion of the party in the marriage connection that may be a stranger to piety; 1 Corinthians 7:16. This object should lie very near the heart; and it should be sought by all the means possible. By a pure and holy life; by exemplifying the nature of the gospel; by tenderness of conversation and of entreaty; and by fidelity in all the duties of life, we should seek the conversion and salvation of our partners in the marriage connection. Even if both are Christians, this great object should be one of constant solicitude - to advance the piety and promote the usefulness of the partner in life.
3. The duty of contentment in the sphere of life in which we are placed; 1 Corinthians 7:18 ff. It is no disgrace to be poor, for Jesus chose to be poor. It is no disgrace, though it is a calamity, to be a slave. It is no disgrace to be in an humble rank of life. It is disgraceful only to be a sinner, and to complain and repine at our allotment. God orders the circumstances of our life; and they are well ordered when under the direction of his hand. The great object should be to do right in the relation which we sustain in life. If poor, to be industrious, submissive, resigned, virtuous; if rich, to be grateful, benevolent, kind. If a slave or a servant, to be faithful, kind, and obedient; using liberty, if it can be lawfully obtained; resigned, and calm, and gentle, if by the providence of God such must continue to be the lot in life.
4. The duty of preserving the order and regularity of society; 1 Corinthians 7:20-23. The design of the gospel is not to produce insubordination or irregularity, it would not break up society; does not dissolve the bonds of social life; but it cements and sanctifies the ties which connect us with those around us. It is designed to promote human happiness; and that is promoted, not by resolving society into its original elements; not by severing the marriage tie, as atheists would do; not by teaching children to disregard and despise their parents, or the common courtesies of life, but by teaching them to maintain inviolate all these relations. Religion promotes the interests of society; it does not, like infidelity, dissolve them. It advances the cause of social virtue; it does not, like atheism, retard and annihilate it. Every Christian becomes a better parent, a more affectionate child, a kinder friend, a more tender husband or wife, a more kind neighbor, a better member of the community.
5. Change in a man's calling should not be made from a slight cause. A Christian should not make it unless his former calling were wrong, or unless he can by it extend his own usefulness. But when that can be done, he should do it, and do it without delay. If the course is wrong, it should be immediately abandoned. No consideration can make it right to continue it for a day or an hour, no matter what may be the sacrifice of property, it should be done. If a man is engaged in the slave-trade, or in smuggling goods, or in piracy, or highway robbery, or in the manufacture and sale of poison, it should be at once and forever abandoned. And in like manner, if a young man who is converted can increase his usefulness by changing his plan of life, it should be done as soon as practicable. If by becoming a minister of the gospel he can be a more useful man, every consideration demands that he should leave any other profession, however lucrative or pleasant, and submit to the self-denials, the cares, the trials, and the toils which attend a life devoted to Christ in the ministry in Christian or pagan lands. Though it should be attended with poverty, want, tears, toil, or shame, yet the single question is, "Can I be more useful to my Master there than in my present vocation?" If he can be, that is an indication of the will of God which he cannot disregard with impunity.
6. We should live above this world; 1 Corinthians 7:29-30. We should partake of all our pleasures, and endure all our sufferings, with the deep feeling that we have here no continuing city and no abiding place. Soon all our earthly pleasures will fade away; soon all our earthly sorrows will be ended. A conviction of the shortness of life will tend much to regulate our desires for earthly comforts, and will keep us from being improperly attached to them; and it will diminish our sorrows by the prospect that they will soon end.
7. We should not be immoderately affected with grief; 1 Corinthians 7:30. It will all soon end, in regard to Christians. Whether our tears arise from the consciousness of our sins or the sins of others; whether from persecution or contempt of the world; or whether from the loss of health, property, or friends, we should bear it all patiently, for it will soon end; a few days, and all will be over; and the last tear shall fall on our cheeks, and the last sigh be heaved from our bosom.
8. We should not be immoderate in our joy, 1 Corinthians 7:30. Our highest earthly joys will soon cease. Mirth, and the sound of the harp and the viol, the loud laugh and the song will soon close. What a change should this thought make in a world of gaiety, and mirth, and song! It should not make people gloomy and morose; but it should make them serious, calm, thoughtful. O, did all feel that death was near, that the solemn realities of eternity were approaching, what a change would it make in a frivilous and thoughtless world! How would it close the theater and the ball-room; how would it silence the jest, the jeer, and the loud laugh; and how would it diffuse seriousness and calmness over a now frivilous and thoughtless world! "Laughter is mad," says Solomon; and in a world of sin, and sorrow, and death, assuredly seriousness and calm contemplation are demanded by every consideration.
9. What an effect would the thought that "time is short," and that "the fashion of this world passeth away," have on the lovers of wealth! It would:
on 1-corinthians 7 :40
7:40 I also - As well as any of you. Have the Spirit of God - Teaching me all things This does not imply any doubt; but the strongest certainty of it, together with a reproof of them for calling it in question. Whoever, therefore, would conclude from hence, that St. Paul was not certain he had the Spirit of Christ, neither understands the true import of the words, nor considers how expressly he lays claim to the Spirit, both in this epistle, 1Co 2:16, 14:37, and the other. 2Co 13:3. Indeed, it may be doubted whether the word here and elsewhere translated think, does not always imply the fullest and strongest assurance. See 1Cor 10:12.