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And therefore, in the persuasion that idolatry was the only proper religion for the vulgar, they would hear nothing that had the least tendency to make the people sensible of its absurdity. On persons of this description, the arguments in behalf of the gospel, advanced by the apostle, made no impression; as was seen in the Athenian magistrates and philosophers, before whom Paul reafoned in the most forcible manner, against the reigning idolatry, without effect. The miracles, which he wrought at Corinth, in confirmation of the gospel, ought to have drawn the attention of all ranks of men in that city. But the opinion which the philosophers and statesmen entertained of their own wisdom, was so great, that they despised the gospel as mere foolishness, (1 Cor. i. 23.) rejected its evidences, and remained, most of them, in their original ignorance and wickedness.
Though, as above observed, the common people at Corinth, strongly impressed by the apostle's miracles, readily embraced the gospel, it must be acknowledged, that they did not seem, at the beginning, to have been much influenced thereby, either in their temper or manners. In receiving the gospel, they had been moved by vanity, rather than by the love of truth. And therefore, when they found the doctrines of the gospel, contrary in many things to their most approved maxims, they neither relished them, nor the apostle's explications of them. And as to his moral exhortations, because they were not com. posed according to the rules of the Grecian rhetoric, nor delivered with those tones of voice which the Greeks admired in their orators, they were not attended to by many, and had scarce any influence in restraining them from their vicious pleasures. Knowing, therefore, the humour of the Greeks, that they fought wisdom, that is, a conformity to their philosophical principles, in every new scheme of doctrine that was proposed to them, and nauseated whatever was contrary to these principles, the apostle did not, during his first abode in Corinth, attempt to explain the gospel scheme to the Corinthians in its full extent; but after the example of his divine master, he taught them as they were able to bear : 1 Cor. iii. 1. Now I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshly men, even as to babes in Chrift. 2. Milk I gave you, and not meat. For ye were not then able to receive it. Nay, neither get now are ye able.
Sect. IV. Of the Occasion of writing the First Epifle to the
Corinthians. Though the Apostle had taught the word of God at Corinth, during more than a year and six months, the religious knowledge of the disciples, for the reasons already mentioned, was but imperfect at his departure. They were therefore more liable thany some others, to be deceived by any impoftor who came among them, as the event shewed. For after the apostle was gone, a false teacher, who was a Jew by birth, (2 Cor. xi. 22.) came to Corinth with letters of recommendation, (2 Cor. iii. 1.) probably from the brethren in Judea, for which reason he is called a falfe apofile, 2 Cor. xi. 13. having been sent forth by men. This teacher was of the feet of the Sadducees, (See 1 Cor. xv. 12.) and of some note on account of his birth (2 Cor. v. 16, 17.) and education ; being perhaps a scribe learned in the law, 1 Cor. is 20.--He seems likewise to have been well acquainted with the character, manners, and opinions of the Greeks : for he recommended himself to the Corinthians, not only by affecting, in his discourses, that eloquence of which the Greeks were so fond; but also by suiting his doctrine to their prejudices, and his precepts to their practices. For example, because the learned Greeks regarded the body, as the prison of the soul, and expected to be delivered from it in the future state, and called the hope of the resurrection of the fieh, the hope of worins :-a filthy and aboa minable thing --which God neither will nor can do, (Celsus ap. Origen. Lib. v. p. 240.) and because they ridiculed the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, Acts xvii. 32. this new teacher, to render the gospel acceptable to them, flatly denied it to be a doctrine of the gospel, and affirmed that the resurrection of the body was neither desirable nor possible: and argued, that the only resurrection promised by Christ was the resurrection of the soul from ignorance and error, which the heretics of these times said was already paffed, 2 Tim. ii. 18. Next, because the Corinthians were addicted to gluttony, drunkenness, fornication, and every sort of lewdness, this teacher derided the apostle's precepts concerning temperance and chastity, and reasoned in.defence of the licentious practices of the Greeks, as we learn from the apostle's confutation of his arguments, 1 Cor. vi. 12, 13.