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Chap. iii. 1. “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you?"
“As some others.” Turn to Acts xviii. 27. and you will find that, a short time before the writing of this epistle, Apollos had gone to Corinth with letters of com. mendation from the Ephesian Christians; “and when Apollos was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him.” Here the wo of the epistle bear the appearance of alluding to some specific instance, and the history supplies that instance; it supplies at least an instance as apposite as possible to the terms which the apostle uses, and to the date and direction of the epistle, in which they are found. The letter which Apollos carried from Ephesus, was precisely the letter of commendation which St. Paul meant; and it was to Achaia, of which Corinth was the capital, and indeed to Corinth itself (Acts xix. 1.) that Apollos carried it ; and it was about two years before the writing of this epistle. If St. Paul's words be rather thought to refer to some general usage which then obtained among Christian churches, the case of Apollos exempli. fies that usage; and affords that species of confirmation to the epistle, which arises from seeing the manners of the age, in which it purports to be written, faithfully preserved.
No. XI. Chap. xiii. 1. « This is the third time I am coming to you :” τριτον τουτο ερχομαι.
Do not these words import that the writer had been at Corinth twice before? Yet, if they import this, they overset every congruity we have been endeavouring to establish. The Acts of the Apostles record only two journeys of St. Paul to Corinth. We have all along supposed, what every mark of time except this expres. sion indicates, that the epistle was written between the first and second of these journeys. If St. Paul had been already twice at Corinth, this supposition must be given up; and every argument or observation which
depends upon it falls to the ground. Again, the Acts of the Apostles not only record no more than two journeys of St. Paul to Corinth, but do not allow us to suppose that more than two such journeys could be made or intended by him within the period which the history comprises; for from his first journey into Greece to his first imprisonment at Rome, with which the history concludes, the apostle's time is accounted for. If therefore the epistle was written after the second journey to Co. rinth, and upon the view and expectation of a third, it must have been written after his first imprisonment at Rome, i. e. after the time to which the history extends. When I first read over this epistle with the particular view of comparing it with the history, which I chose to do without consulting any commentary whatever, I own that I felt myself confounded by this text. peared to contradict the opinion, which I had been led by a great variety of circumstances to form, concerning the date and occasion of the epistle. At length however it occurred to my thoughts to inquire, whether the passage did necessarily imply that St. Paul had been at Corinth twice; or whether, when he says,
" this is the third time I am coming to you," he might mean only that this was the third time that he was ready, that he was prepared, that he intended to set out upon his journey to Corinth. I recollected that he had once before this purposed to visit Corinth, and had been disappointed in this purpose; which disappointment forms the subject of much apology and protestation, in the first and second chapters of the epistle. Now, if the journey in which he had been disappointed was reckoned by him one of the times in which "he was coming to them,” then the present would be the third time, i. e. of his being ready and prepared to come; although he had been actually at Corinth only once before. This conjecture being taken up, a farther examination of the passage and the epistle, produced proofs which placed it beyond doubt. “This is the third time I am coming to you:” in the verse following these words he adds, “I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present the second time : and being absent, now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare.” In this verse, the apostle is declaring beforehand what he would do in his intended visit: his expression therefore, “as if I were present the second time," relates to that visit. But, if his future visit would only make him present among them a second time, it follows that he had been already there but once.--Again, in the fifteenth verse of the first chapter, he tells them, “In this confidence, I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit." Why a second, and not a third benefit ? why δευτεραν, and not τριτην χαριν if the TPITOV EPXonar, in the fifteenth chapter, meant a third visit? for, though the visit in the first chapter be that visit in which he was disappointed, yet, as it is evident from the epistle that he had never been at Corinth from the time of the disappointment to the time of writing the epistle, it follows, that if it was only a second visit in which he was disappointed then, it could only be a second visit which he proposed now. But the text which I think is decisive of the question, if any question re. main upon the subject, is the fourteenth verse of the twelfth chapter: “Behold, the third time I am ready to Come to you :” Ιδου τριτον ετοιμως εχω ελθειν. It is very clear that the τριτον ετοιμως εχω ελθειν of the twelfth chapter and the τριτον τουτο ερχομαι of the thirteenth chapter, are equivalent expressions, were in. tended to convey the same meaning, and to relate to the same journey. The comparison of these phrases gives us St. Paul's own explanation of his own words; and it is that very explanation which we are contending for, viz, that TOITOV TOUTO epxouar does not mean that he was coming a third time, but that this was the third time he was in readiness to come, τριτον ετοιμως εχων. I do not apprehend, that after this it can be necessary to call to our aid the reading of the Alexandrian manuscript, which gives ετοιμως εχω ελθειν in the thirteenth chapter as well as in the twelfth; or of the Syriac and Coptic versions, which follow that reading; because I allow that this reading, besides not being sufficiently supported by ancient copies, is probably paraphrastical, and been inserted for the purpose of expressing more unequi¥ocally the sense, which the shorter expression TPITOV
τουτο ερχομαι was supposed to carry. .
Upon the whole, the matter is sufficiently certain : nor do I propose it as a new interpretation of the text which contains the difficulty, for the same was given by Grotius long ago: but I thought it the clearest way of explaining the subject, to describe the manner in which the difficulty, the solution, and the proofs of that solution, successively presented themselves to my inquiries. Now, in historical researches, a reconciled inconsistency becomes a positive argument. First, because an impostor generally guards against the appearance of inconsistency; and secondly, because, when apparent in consistencies are found, it is seldom that any thing but truth renders them capable of reconciliation. The existence of the difficulty proves the want or absence of that caution, which usually accompanies the conscious. ness of fraud; and the solution proves, that it is not the collusion of fortuitous propositions which we have to deal with, but that a thread of truth winds through the whole, which preserves every circumstance in its place.
Chap. X. 14–16. “We are come as far as to you also, in preaching the gospel of Christ; not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is ircreased, that we shall be enlarged by you, according to our rule, abundantly to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you."
This quotation affords an indirect, and therefore unsuspicious, but at the same time a distinct and indubi. table recognition of the truth and exactness of the his. tory. I consider it to be implied by the words of the quotation, that Corinth was the extremity of St. Paul's travels hitherto. He expresses to the Corinthians his hope, that in some future visit he might "preach the gospel to the regions beyond them;" which imports that he had not hitherto proceeded “beyond them," but that Corinth was yet the farthest point or boundary of his travels.--Now, how is St. Paul's first journey into Europe, which was the only one he had taken before the writing of the epistle, traced out in the history? Sailing from Asia, he landed at Philippi; from Philippi, traversing the eastern coast of the peninsula, he passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica; from thence through Berea to Athens, and from Athens to Corinth, where he stopped ; and from whence, after a residence of a year and a half, he sailed back into Syria. So that Corinth was the last place which he visited in the peninsula; was the place from which he returned into Asia; and was, as such, the boundary and limit of his
progress. He could not have said the same thing, viz. “I hope hereafter to visit the regions beyond you," in an epistle to the Philippians, or in an epistle to the Thessalonians, inasmuch as he must be deemed to have already visited the regions beyond them, having proceeded from those cities to other parts of Greece. But from Corinth he returned home; every part therefore beyond that city, might properly be said, as it is said in the passage before us, to be unvisited. Yet is this propriety the spontaneous effect of truth, and produced without meditation or design.
THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS.
The argument of this epistle in some measure proves its antiquity. It will hardly be doubted, but that it was written whilst the dispute concerning the circum. cision of Gentile converts was fresh in men's minds: for, even supposing it to have been a forgery, the only credible motive that can be assigned for the forgery, was to bring the name and authority of the apostle into this controversy. No design could be so insipid, or so unlikely to enter into the thoughts of any man, as to produce an epistle written earnestly and pointedly upon one side of a controversy, when the controversy itself was dead, and the question no longer interesting to any description of readers whatever. Now