« הקודםהמשך »
by St. Paul was, to reconcile the Jewish converts to the opinion, that the Gentiles were admitted by God to a parity of religious situation with themselves, and that without their being bound by the law of Moses. The Gentile converts would probably accede to this opinion very readily. In this epistle, therefore, though directed to the Roman church in general, it is in truth a Jew writing to Jews. Accordingly you will take notice, that as often as his argument leads him to say any thing derogatory from the Jewish institution, he constantiy follows it by a softening clause. Having (ü. 28, 29.) pronounced, not much perhaps to the satisfaction of the native Jews, “that he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither that circumcision which is outward in the flesh;" he adds immediately, “What advantage then hath the Jew, or what profit is there in circumcision ? Much every way." Having in the third chapter, ver. 28, brought his argument to this formal conclusion, “that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," he presently subjoins, ver. 31, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid ! Yea, we establish the law.” In the seventh chapter, when in the sixth verse he had advanced the bold assertion, “that now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held;" in the very next verse he comes in with this healing question, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid ! Nay, I had not known sin but by the law.” Having in the following words insinuated, or rather more than insiuuated, the inefficacy of the Jewish law, viii. 3, "for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh ;" after a digression indeed, but that sort of a digression which he could never resist, a rapturous contemplation of his Christian hope, and which occupies the latter part of this chapter; we find him in the next, as if sed sible that he had said something which would give of fence, returning to his Jewish brethren in terms of the warmest affection and respect. “I say the truth in Christ Jesus; I lie not; my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart: for I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers; and of whom, us concerning the flesh, Christ came.” When, in the thirtyfirst and thirty-second verses of this ninth chapter, he represented to the Jews the error of even the best of their nation, by telling them that “Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, had not attained to the law of righteousness, because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law, for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone,” he takes care to annex to this declaration these conciliating expressions : “ Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved : for I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” Lastly, having, ch. X. 20, 21, by the application of a passage in Isaiah, insinuated the most ungrateful of all propositions to a Jewish ear, the rejection of the Jewish nation as God's peculiar people ; he hastens, as it were, to qualify the intelligence of their fall by this interesting expostulation : “I say, then, hath God cast away his people (i. e. wholly and entirely)? God forbid! for I also am an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew?" and follows this thought, throughout the whole of the eleventh chapter, in a series of reflections calculated to soothe the Jewish converts, as well as to procure from their Gentile brethren respect to the Jewish institution. Now all this is perfectly natural. In a real St. Paul writing to real converts, it is what anxiety to bring them over to his persuasion would naturally produce; but there is an earnestness and a personality, if I may so call it, in the manner, which a cold forgery, I apprehend, would neither have conceived nor supported.
THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
BEFORE we proceed to compare this epistle with the history, or with any other epistle, we will employ one number in stating certain remarks applicable to our argument, which arise from a perusal of the epistle itself.
By an expression in the first verse of the seventh chapter, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me,” it appears, that this letter to the Corinthians was written by St. Paul in answer to one which he had received from them; and that the seventh, and some of the following chapters, are taken up in resolving certain doubts, and regulating certain points of order, concerning which the Corinthians had in their letter consulted him. This alone is a circumstance conside`rably in favour of the authenticity of the epistle : for it must have been a far-fetched contrivance in a forgery, first to have feigned the receipt of a letter from the church of Corinth, which letter does not appear ; and then to have drawn up a fictitious answer to it, relative to a great variety of doub and inquiries, purely economical and domestic ; and which, though likely enough to have occurred to an infant society, in a situation and under an institution so novel as that of a Christian church then was, it must have very much exercised the author's invention, and could have answered no imaginable purpose of forgery, to introduce the mention of at all. Particulars of the kind we refer to, are such as the following: the rule of duty and prudence relative to entering into marriage, as applicable to virgins, to widows: the case of husbands married to unconverted wives, of wives having unconverted husbands; that case where the unconverted party chooses to separate, where he chooses to continue the union; the effect which their conversion produced upon their prior state, of circumcision, of slavery ; the eating of things offered to idols, as it was in itself, as
others were affected by it: the joining in idolatrous sacrifices; the decorum to be observed in their religious assemblies, the order of speaking, the silence of women, the covering or uncovering of the head, as it became men, as it became women. These subjects, with their several subdivisions, are so particular, minute, and numerous, that, though they be exactly agreeable to the circumstances of the persons to whom the letter was written, nothing, I believe, but the existence and reality of those circumstances could have suggested to the writer's thoughts.
But this is not the only nor the principal observation upon the correspondence between the church of Corinth and their apostle, which I wish to point out. It appears, I think, in this correspondence, that although the Corinthians had written to St. Paul, requesting his answer and his directions in the several points above enumerated, yet that they had not said one syllable about the enormities and disorders which had crept in amongst them, and in the blame of which they all shared; but that St. Paul's information concerning the irregularities then prevailing at Corinth had come round to him from other quarters. The quarrels and disputes excited by their contentious adherence to their different teachers, and by their placing of them in competition with one another, were not mentioned in their letter, but communicated to St. Paul by more private intelligence: “It hath been declared unto me, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ." (i. 11, 12.) The incestuous marriage" of a man with his father's wife," which St. Paul reprehends with so much severity in the fifth chapter of our epistle, and which was not the crime of an individual only, but a crime in which the whole church, by tolerating and conniving at it, had rendered themselves partakers, did not come to St. Paul's knowledge by the letter, but by a rumour which had reached his ears: “ It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named
among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife ; and ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” (v. 1, 2.) Their going to law before the judicature of the country, rather than arbitrate and adjust their disputes among themselves, which St. Paul animadverts upon with his usual plainness, was not intimated to him in the letter, because he tells them his opinion of this conduct before he comes to the contents of the letter. Their litigiousness is censured by St. Paul in the sixth chapter of his epistle, and it is only at the beginning of the seventh chapter that he proceeds upon the articles which he found in their letter; and he proceeds upon them with this preface : “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me” (vii. 1.); which introduction he would not have used if he had been already discussing any of the subjects concerning which they had written. Their irregularities in celebrating the Lord's Supper, and the utter perversion of the institution which en. sued, were not in the letter, as is evident from the terms in which St. Paul mentions the notice he had received of it: “Now in this that I declare unto you, I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse ; for first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you, and I partly believe it.” Now that the Corinthians should, in their own letter, exhibit the fair side of their conduct to the apostle, and conceal from him the faults of their behaviour, was extremely natural, and extremely probable: but it was a distinction which would not, I think, have easily occurred to the author of a forgery; and much less likely is it, that it should have entered into his thoughts to make the distinction appear in the way in which it does appear, viz. not by the original letter, not by any express observation upon it in the answer, but distantly by marks perceivable in the manner, or in the order, in which St. Paul takes notice of their faults.