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manners. Strabo, Lib. viii. p. 581, tells us, that in the temple of Venus at Corinth, "there were more than a thousand harlots, "the slaves of the temple, who, in honour of the Goddess, pros❝tituted themselves to all comers for hire, and through these "the city was crowded, and became wealthy." From an institution of this kind, which, under the pretext of religion, furnished an opportunity to the debauched to gratify their lusts, it is easy to see what corruption of manners must have flowed. Accordingly it is known, that lasciviousness was carried to such a pitch in Corinth, that in the language of these times, the appeilation of a Corinthian, given to a woman, imported that she was a prostitute, and Kogiviaev, to behave as a Corinthian, spoken of a man, was the same as Erzgeven, to commit whoredom.
In the Achæan war, Corinth was utterly destroyed by the Roman Consul Mummius. But being rebuilt by Julius Cæsar, and peopied with a Roman colony, it was made the residence of the Proconsul who governed the province of Achaia, (See 1 Thess. i. 7. note,) and soon regained its ancient splendour. For its inhabitants increasing exceedingly, they carried on, by means of its two sea-ports, an extensive commerce, which brought them great wealth. From that time forth, the arts which minister to the conveniences and luxuries of life, were carried on at Corinth in as great perfection as formerly; schools were opened, in which philosophy and rhetoric were publicly taught by able masters; and strangers from all quarters crowded to Corinth, to be instructed in the sciences and in the arts. So that Corinth, during this latter period, was filled with philosophers, rhetoricians, and artists of all kinds, and abounded in wealth. These advantages, however, were counterbalanced, as before, by the effects which wealth and luxury never fail to produce. In a word, an universal corruption of manners soon prevailed: so that Corinth, in its second state, became as debauched as it had been in any former period whatever. The apostle, therefore, had good reason in this epistle, to exhort the Corinthian brethren to flee fornication and after giving them a 'catalogue of the unrighteous who shall not inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. he was well entitled to add, and such were some of you. In short, the Corinthians had carried vice of every kind to such a pitch, that their city was more debauched than any of the other cities of Greece.
Of the Conversion of the Corinthians to the Christian Faith.
After the apostle left the synagogue, he frequented the house of one Justus, a religious proselyte whom he had converted. Here the idolatrous inhabitants of the city, prompted by curiosity, came to him from time to time, in great numbers, to hear his discourses. And having themselves seen, or having been credibly informed by others of the miracles which Paul wrought, and of the spiritual gifts which he conferred on them who believed, they were so impressed by his discourses and miracles, that many of them renounced their ancient superstition. So Luke tells us, Acts xviii. 8. And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized.
Of all the miracles wrought in confirmation of the gospel, that which seems to have affected the Greeks most, was the gift of tongues. For as they esteemed eloquence more than any other human attainment, that gift, by raising the common people to an equality with the learned, greatly recommended the gospel to persons in the middle and lower ranks of life. Hence numbers of the inhabitants of Corinth, of that description, were early converted. But with persons in higher stations, the gospel was not so generally successful. By their attachment to some one or other of the schemes of philosophy which then prevailed, the men of rank and learning had rendered themselves incapable, or at least unwilling, to embrace the gospel. At that time, the philosophers were divided into many sects, and each sect having nothing in view, but to confute the tenets of the other sects, the disquisitions of philosophy among the Greeks, had introduced an universal scepticism which destroyed all rational belief. This pernicious effect appeared conspicuously in their statesmen, who, through their philosophical disputations, having lost all ideas of truth and virtue, regarded nothing in their politics but utility. 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 reasoned 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 composed 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 sought 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 Christ. 2. Milk I gave you, and not meat. For ye were not then able to receive it. Nay, neither yet now are ye able.
Of the Occasion of writing the First Epistle to the Corinthians.
Though the Apostle had taught the word of God at Corinth, during more than 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 than some others, to be deceived by any impostor 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 false apostle, 2 Cor. xi. 13. having been sent forth by men. This teacher was of the sect 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. i. 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 Grecks 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 flesh, the hope of worms :—a filthy and abominable 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 passed, 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. Nay, he went so far as to patronise a person of some note among the Corinthians, who was living in incest with his father's wife, 1 Cor. v. 1. proposing thereby to gain the good will, not only of that offender, but of many others also, who wished to retain their ancient debauched manner of living. Lastly, to ingratiate himself with the Jews, he enjoined obedience to the law of Moses, as absolutely necessary to salvation.
In thus corrupting the gospel, for the sake of rendering it acceptable to the Greeks, the false teacher proposed to make himself the head of a party in the church at Corinth, and to acquire both power and wealth. But Paul's authority as an apostle, standing in the way of his ambition, and hindering him from spreading his errors with the success he wished, he endeavoured to lessen the apostle, by representing him as one who had neither the mental nor the bodily abilities necessary to an apostle. His presence, he said, was mean, and his speech contemptible, 2 Cor. x. 10. He found fault with his birth and education, 2 Cor. x. 10. He even affirmed that he was no apostle, because he had not attended Christ during his ministry on earth, and boldly said that Paul had abstained from taking maintenance, because he was conscious he was no apostle. On the other hand, to raise himself in the eyes of the Corinthians, he praised his own birth and education, boasted of his knowledge and eloquence, and laid some stress on his bodily accomplishments; by all which he gained a number of adherents, and formed a party at Corinth against the apostle. And, because there were in that party some teachers endowed with spiritual gifts, the apostle considered them also as leaders. Hence, he speaks sometimes of one leader of the faction, and sometimes of divers, as it suited the purpose of his argu
While these things were doing at Corinth, Paul returned from Jerusalem to Ephesus, according to his promise, Acts xviii. 21. During his second abode in that city, which was of long continuance, some of the family of Chloe, who were members of the church at Corinth, and who adhered to the apostle, happening to come to Ephesus, gave him an account of the disorderly practices, which many of the Corinthian brethren were following, and of the faction which the false teacher had formed among them, in opposition to him, I Cor. i. 11. These evils requiring a speedy remedy, the apostle immediately sent Timothy and Erastus to Corinth, Acts xix. 22. 1 Cor. iv. 17. in hopes that if they did not reclaim the faction, they might at least be able to confirm the sincere. For that purpose he ordered his messengers to inform the Corinthians, that he himself was coming to them directly from Ephesus, to increase the spiritual gifts of those who adhered to him, 2 Cor. i. 15. and to punish, by his miraculous power, the disobedient, 1 Cor. iv. 18, 19.