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THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CO-
BEFORE we proceed to compare this epiftle with the hiftory, or with any other epiftle, we will employ one number in ftating certain remarks applicable to our argument, which arifes from a perufal of the epifrle itfelf.
By an expreflion in the firft verfe of the feventh chapter," now concerning the things "whereof ye wrote unto me," it appears, that this letter to the Corinthians was written by St. Paul in anfwer to one which he had received from them; and that the feventh, and fome of the following chapters, are taken up in refolving certain doubts, and regulating certain points of order, concerning which the Corinthians had in their letter confulted him. This alone is a circumftance confiderably in favour of the authen
ticity of the epiftle: for it muft have been a far-fetched contrivance in a forgery, firft 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 fi<titious anfwer to it, relative to a great variety of doubts and enquiries, purely ceconomical and domeftic; and which, though likely enough to have occurred to an infant fociety, in a fituation and under an inftitution fo novel as that of a Chriftian church then was, it muft have very much exercifed the author's invention, and could have anfwered no imaginable purpofe of forgery, to introduce the mention of at all. Particulars of the kind we refer to, are fuch as the following: the rule of duty and prudence relative to entering into marriage, as applicable to virgins, to widows; the cafe of hufbands married to unconverted wives, of wives having unconverted huflbands; that cafe where the unconverted party choofes to feparate, where he choofes to continue the union ; the effect which their convernon produced upon their prior ftate, of circumcifion, offlavery; the eating of things offered to idols, as it was in itfelf, as others were affected by it; the joining in idolatrous facrifices j the decorum to be obferved in their religious aflemblies, the order of fpeaking, the filence of women, the covering or uncovering of the head, as it became men, as it became women. Thefe fubjects, with their feveral fub-divifions, are fo particular, minute, and numerous, that, though they be exactly agreeable to the circumflances of the perfons to whom the letter was written, nothing, I believe, but the exigence and reality of thofe circumflances, could have fuggefted to the writer's thoughts.
But this is not the only nor the principal obfervation upon the correfpondence between the church of Corinth and their apoftle, which I wifh to point out. It appears, I think, in this correfpondence, that although the Corinthians had written, to St. Paul, requefting his anfwer and his directions in the feveral points above enumerated, yet that they had not faid one fyllable about the enormities and diforders which had crept in amongft them, and •in the blame of which they all fhared;
but but that St. Paul's information concerning the irregularities then prevailing at Corinth, had come round to him from other quarters. The quarrels and difputes excited by their contentious adherence to their different teachers, and hy their placing of them in competition with one another, were not mentioned in their letter, but communu cated to St. Paul by more private intelligence: " It hath been declared unto me, my "brethren, by them which are of the houfe ** ofChloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I fay? that every one of you faith, I am of Paul, and I of A polios, and I of Cephas, and I of Chrift" (i. 11, 12). The incefluous marriage "of a man with his father's wife," which St. Paul reprehends with fo much feverity in the fifth chapter of our epiftle, 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 themfelves 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 F 3 "fuch
"fuch fornication as is not fo much as ** named among the Gentiles, that one "mould 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. i, 2). Their going to law before the judicature of the country, rather than arbitrate and adjuft their difputes among themfelves, which St. Paul animadverts upon with his ufual plainnefs, was not intimated to him in, the letter•, becaufe he tells them his opinion of this conduct, before he comes to the contents of the letter. Their litigioufnefs is cenfured by St. Paul in the fixth chapter of his epiftle, and it is only at the beginning of the feventh 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 urito me" (vii. i); which introduction he would not have ufed, if he had been already difcuffing any of the fubjects concerning which they had written. Their irregularities in celebrating the Lord's fupper, and the utter perverfion. of the inftitut '•" • •/ tion