The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 7:1-35 (1 Corinthians 7:1-35)

Celibacy and marriage.

The Corinthian Christians had written to the apostle for direction respecting the relative desirability and recumbency of single and wedded life. Probably some of them regarded marriage as obligatory, and others perhaps looked upon it as an evil. Amongst Gentiles there was at this period strong tendency towards celibacy. The reputation of Corinth was, moreover, an unenviable for wantonness and uncleanness. There was therefore great need for full and explicit statement, supplemented by apostolic authority.

I. THE APOSTLE DECLARES EACH STATE TO BE LAWFUL . This is apparent from the two opening verses of the chapter. In itself it is no sin to marry; it is no sin to remain unmarried. Perhaps specially to those regarding marriage as obligatory, the apostle says "It is good [expedient, profitable] for a man not to touch a woman;" and to those all for celibacy—speaking generally, "Let every man have his own wife." Both conditions are honourable. We are left to choose between the two. But rules are laid down for guidance.

II. CHOICE BETWEEN THE TWO SHOULD BE LARGELY DETERMINED BY CONDITION AND CIRCUMSTANCE . From 1 Corinthians 7:1 , 1 Corinthians 7:7 , 1 Corinthians 7:8 , 1 Corinthians 7:38 , it has been too hastily concluded by some that Paul decidedly favours celibacy per se. But 1 Corinthians 7:7 is ambiguous, and is thought by not a few to refer to the gift of continence, which qualifies a man for single or wedded life, as circumstances may determine; and the ether verses, together with this verse, must not be dissevered from 1 Corinthians 7:26 , which qualifies the whole chapter. Paul has vividly before his mind the surroundings of the Christian Church in his own age. What was expedient in the "present distress" might not be desirable under other conditions. And similarly, the "better" might cease to be so under changed circumstances. We read elsewhere ( Hebrews 13:4 ) that "marriage is honourable in all." And it is the Apostle Paul himself who elevates marriage to the loftiest position by employing it as a type of the union between Christ and believers ( Ephesians 5:25-32 ). It is also the same apostle who pronounces, the prohibition of marriage to be one of the signs of the great apostacy ( 1 Timothy 4:3 ). "It is not good that the man should be alone" ( Genesis 2:18 ). On Paul's communication to the Corinthians it has been aptly said, "The truth is that the apostle writes to the Corinthians as he would do to an army about to enter on a most unequal conflict in an enemy's country and for a protracted period. He tells them, 'This is no time for you to think of marriage. You have a right to marry. And in general it is best that all men should marry. But in your circumstances marriage can only lead to embarrassment and suffering.'" This is putting the matter bluntly. Perhaps it goes a little beyond the apostle's expressed counsel, yet it shows the drift of his advice. It would seem that choice is to be determined by:

1. Condition or qualification. Celibacy is not commended to any except those who have the gift of continence. To many it would prove a snare—an occasion of the most serious evil. It is not at all "good" for the generality, since most men do not possess the necessary qualification. Thus the almost universal injunction in the second verse follows and qualifies the commendation in the first. Even under adverse temporal circumstances it may thus be better for some to marry. The apostle is most cautious upon this point, and is in great contrast to Romanists, who relegate to celibacy the entire priesthood.

2. Circumstances. The "present distress," because of the sorrows, perplexities, and sufferings which it occasioned in so large a degree to those having upon them the responsibilities of married life, inclined the apostle to commend celibacy to those qualified to practise it. We have here valuable suggestions. Marriage is not to be rashly entered upon. Temporal surroundings and prospects are to be taken into account. Prudence is to be observed in affairs matrimonial. What woeful results have followed imprudent unions! Many who fall into love seem to fall out of their senses at the same time. Not a few regard marriage as a goal to be reached at all hazards. They display infinitely more anxiety to get to it than they do to get to heaven. Evidently they regard it as a most perfect paradise, but when they reach it by the road of folly they generally find that there is a serpent in that garden as in the one of old.

III. THE APOSTLE DIRECTS OUR THOUGHTS TO THE RELATIVE ADVANTAGES OF THE TWO STATES .

1. Celibacy has less care attaching to it, especially in troublous times. The unmarried have more leisure to attend to the things of the Lord. The married must concern themselves more about things temporal, and this may prove a distraction injurious to higher duties. A loving wife tends to occupy her mind very largely about her husband, and a loving husband about his wife. There is danger here lest the claims of One who should be far more to us than husband or wife be neglected. This is especially so in days of persecution and of violent and sudden change. The beloved object may be threatened with suffering; the price of escape may be unfaithfulness to God. Here is the pinch; felt terribly in days of darkness. It is easier for many to suffer themselves than to see their dear ones suffer. And we are apt to excuse conduct which has for its object the welfare of another—when we should be bound to condemn it if we only were concerned. Shall I see my wife and children exposed to nameless insult and hideous cruelty, or forswear the faith? This was the dread alternative set before many a married man in the days of Paul. As we have seen, a celibate may devote himself entirely to the Lord and his service. I do not understand the apostle to say that this is impossible in one who is married, but that human claims may come into conflict with Divine. In happy peaceful times the conflict might never arise; in days of persecution it might be severe. Note: There is here no commendation of monastic or isolated celibacy. The apostle would doubtless expect the celibate to exhibit his devotion to God very largely by works of usefulness amongst his fellow men (as in the ease of Paul himself). Observe: The single state is not to be sneered at. It has special opportunities, Those who adopt it from right motives are worthy of all esteem. And those who are compelled to it by circumstances, if they use its advantages, are to be held in honour. Frequently, however, they are considered the fittest objects for ridicule. Yet "old maids" are sometimes the best of maids. And men unfettered by wedded responsibilities have frequently been patterns of excellence and usefulness.

2. Marriage is the safer condition morally. ( 1 Corinthians 7:2 .) It is freer from temptation. It is the condition appropriate for a large number. And let us not forget that God has so made us that the generality find their true place in the domestic circle ( 1 Corinthians 7:7 ). "It is not good that the man should be alone" has very extensive application. Marriage is needful for the replenishing of the earth. There are some who under any external circumstances will find it easier to serve God in the married state. Marriage is a great support and source of strength to many. The home influence is felt wherever a man journeys, and often upholds him in good resolution, and animates him when despondent. It expands his sympathies. It draws him out of himself. Celibacy presents many perils even for those who are naturally qualified for it. Tendencies towards narrowness, selfishness, lack of sympathy, have to be carefully guarded against. Domestic life of the right kind supplies an antidote. And in the home and in its duties we may truly serve God. When we rightly "care" for those near and dear to us we are offering acceptable service to the Most High. The home may and should be a true sanctuary. It will be seen that this applies chiefly to quiet times. In times of disturbance and insecurity, "home" exists often only as a name, and the advantages of married life are turned into serious disadvantages. Its powers for good assume then the form of perils. Finally, whichever state we choose, we must ever remember the "shortness of the time" ( 1 Corinthians 7:29 ), and must not settle down in this world as though it were our abiding place. Eternity has opened upon our view. For that we are chiefly to live. With an eye to that we must determine our conduct and choices. Time, in which we marry and are given in marriage, is but a flash (though it is the flash of preparation ) ; eternity is our life.— H.

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 7:2-17 (1 Corinthians 7:2-17)

Marriage: its nature and duties.

I. NATURE .

1. It is the union of one man and one woman. ( 1 Corinthians 7:2 .) Polygamy and polyandry are rigorously excluded from the sanction of the Christian faith. The former was tolerated by God in early times, but never enjoined or commended. The first union, in Eden, was of the Christian order. The wisdom of the dictum of Christianity has been exemplified by universal experience. All other arrangements are prolific of evils.

2. It is a union for life. ( 1 Corinthians 7:39 .) No hint is given of temporary wedlock.

3. It is a bond not to be lightly severed.

4. It is an exclusive union. It is to avoid fornication ( 1 Corinthians 7:2 ).

5. Those who enter upon it must do so prudently. This is developed in the apostle's argument as to the respective advantages of celibacy and marriage. And:

6. In the Lord ( 1 Corinthians 7:39 ) will apply to all cases. Marriages are to be continued with the ungodly, but not to be commenced. Of our choice we are not to be "unequally yoked." We are not to marry in order to convert. Many do this and, soon discover their mistake. They are like the woman who journeyed to Rome to convert the pope, but instead of converting his holiness, his holiness converted her!

II. DUTIES .

1. The body of one is to be surrendered to the other. ( 1 Corinthians 7:4 .) Cohabitation may be suspended for a time by mutual consent, for special purposes, but with distinct recognition of speedy reunion. Care must here be exercised, lest temptation be occasioned. There is no command for this temporary separation; it is permitted, not enjoined or even recommended.

2. Mutual pleasing. ( 1 Corinthians 7:33 , 1 Corinthians 7:34 .) This, referred to as a natural result, may be regarded as an implied injunction. Corroborated by Ephesians 5:21-25 . It is evidently needful. But it has limits; we must not displease God in order to please husband or wife.

3. The highest spiritual interests of one to be sought by the other. ( Ephesians 5:16 .) A special ease is supposed, which, however, opens up a wide question of home influences. How earnestly should we desire the salvation of those most closely united to us! How terrible the thought of final separation! The home presents the best opportunities of winning the ungodly to Christ. Not by words so much as by life . The influence is very continuous, and is exercised by those nearest and often dearest. Still, much grace is needed for such a ministry as this. Faults, jealously concealed in public, are often undisguised and freed from check in the household. We may do great harm as well as great good in the home; we may drive from Christ as well as draw towards him. The converted husband or wife is the pastor of the unconverted. Solemn responsibility! Care for the higher interests involve care for the lower. In all things those united in marriage should seek each other's good. This will involve much—

(1) self. restraint,

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 7:1-9 (1 Corinthians 7:1-9)

Celibacy and marriage.

Hitherto the apostle has been treating of abuses in the Church at Corinth, which had come to his knowledge, either through the household of Chloe ( 1 Corinthians 1:11 ) or through common report ( 1 Corinthians 5:1 ). He passes now to deal with certain matters regarding which the Corinthians had asked his advice by letter; and the first of these is marriage, with other related subjects. While treating the whole chapter homiletically, the preacher will do well to exercise a wise delicacy in introducing many of the points to a mixed congregation.

I. CELIBACY . The preference apparently given to celibacy in this chapter calls for careful consideration.

1. In what sense is it called "good"? It is not good in the sense of being in itself and always superior to marriage. Elsewhere Paul speaks of the married state with the greatest respect, as an image of the union between Christ and his Church ( Ephesians 5:23-25 ), and gives it as a mark of the false teachers of later times that they "forbid to marry" ( 1 Timothy 4:3 ). The law of consistency, then, bids us interpret his statements here as in no sense depreciatory of the Divine ordinance of marriage. A single life is good in the sense of being in itself honourable, and in certain circumstances expedient. The apostle's "good" here must always be read in view of the "not good" of Genesis 2:18 .

2. When is it to be preferred to marriage? Leaving out of view considerations of physical health, which in some cases may render marriage imprudent or even culpable, three answers to our question may be gathered from this chapter.

2. If a man has not the gift of continency, there is in that a clear indication that it is his duty to marry ( Genesis 2:9 ); if he possesses this gift, then he is free to give weight to other reasons which may turn the balance in favour of celibacy. Even then, however, the higher ends of wedlock are not to be overlooked.

3. It is not to be made obligatory. The Church of Rome ascribes a peculiar excellence to the celibate state, as fitted to promote greater sanctity. Hence her cultivation of monastic and conventual life, and the imposition of celibacy on the clergy. There is no warrant for this in the teaching of the apostle here; while experience testifies to the dreadful evils to which it leads.

II. MARRIAGE .

1. Marriage is a safeguard against incontinence. The apostle is not here treating of marriage in general or presenting it in its higher aspects and bearings. The pure union of man and woman in wedlock is a communion of soul and body in love, a fulfilment of the Divine intention clearly expressed in our nature. Husband and wife thus united "in the Lord"—the one being the complement of the other, and set "like perfect music unto noble words"—are joined by a bond so holy, so exalted, so mysterious, that it is the earthly reflex of the spousal union between Christ and his Church. Still, the use here referred to by the apostle is not to be overlooked, especially in view of such licentiousness as prevailed at Corinth. God never bids us eradicate any natural appetite, as asceticism does, but provides for its gratification in a way consonant to our nature and destiny.

2. It implies the rendering of conjugal duty. ( Genesis 2:3 , Genesis 2:4 .) The one party exists for the other, and for the other alone—the twain having become one flesh ( Genesis 2:24 ).

3. Marriage is a union between one man and one woman. In polygamy the true idea of marriage is lost. The original appointment was the union of two persons only, Adam having only one Eve; and the departure from this was due to sin. The testimony of Scripture, alike in precept and in its purest examples, is all in favour of monogamy ( Genesis 2:24 ; Matthew 19:4 , Matthew 19:5 ; 1 Timothy 3:2 ); and the statements of the apostle here take this for granted. The domestic bliss of which poets sing is not to be found in the homes of polygamy.

"Here Love his golden shafts employs, here lights

His constant lamp. and waves his purple wings,

Reigns here and revels."

('Paradise Lost,' 4:763-765.)

"Domestic happiness, thou only bliss

Of Paradise, that has survived the Fall!…

Thou art the nurse of virtue; in thine arms

She smiles, appearing, as in truth she is,

Heaven born, and destined to the skies again."

(Cowper's 'Task.')

B.

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 7:8-16 (1 Corinthians 7:8-16)

The marriage tie.

When Christianity spread abroad among the heathen, very often, in a family, "one would be taken and another left," and much family and social difficulty was made when a heathen husband or a heathen wife was converted, and the other partner remained in heathen darkness. There could be no doubt that Christianity demanded separation from heathenism, and even declared a social connection with heathen people to be morally perilous; and it might very readily be inferred that this applied to the heathen husband or the heathen wife, and that divorce from them should at once follow upon Christian profession. It seems that the heathen in ancient times held the marriage bond very loosely, as do the heathen in many countries now. There is no more fruitful source of national immorality than ease in procuring divorce. Christianity has exerted such an ennobling influence on the European nations, in part because it has testified so firmly to the sacredness of the marriage bond. Christianity treats marriage as the main foundation of moral relations, and the proper preventive and cure of social evils. The relation must, therefore, be anxiously sustained, and almost every other consideration must be made subservient to its maintenance. Its various claims must be duly met; its various duties must be properly performed:

1. For the Christian partner's own sake, whether the other be Christian or not. If not, then maintaining faithfully the marriage relation will prove a spiritual discipline.

2. For the sake of the children of the mixed marriage, over whom the Christian partner can exercise a holy influence.

3. And even for the heathen partner's sake, since he or she may be won by the "chaste conversation" and holy example of the fellow partner. Impress that the principle applied to marriage has wide applications. Whatever our spheres and relations may be, the man in Christ ought to master and mould and use them by the force of his new life in Christ.—R.T.

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 7:1-40 (1 Corinthians 7:1-40)

Answers to the inquiries of the Corinthians respecting marriage.

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 7:1-11 (1 Corinthians 7:1-11)

The lawfulness of marriage, and its duties.

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 7:9 (1 Corinthians 7:9)

If they cannot contain; rather, if they have not continency. Let them marry . In 1 Timothy 5:14 he lays down and justifies the same rule with reference to young widows. It is better to marry than to burn. The original tenses give greater force and beauty to this obvious rule of Christian common sense and morality. The "marry" is in the aorist—"to marry once for all," and live in holy married union; the "burn" is in the present—"to be on fire with concupiscence." Marriage once for all is better than continuous lust; the former is permitted, the latter sinful.

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 7:1-40 (1 Corinthians 7:1-40)

Paul's conception of marriage.

"Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me," etc. All that Paul here says of marriage is in answer to some communication which the Church had addressed to him On the subject, and what he says he declares is not "of commandment," that is, not by Divine authority, but by "permission." All Scripture is therefore not inspired, even all the counsels of St. Paul do not seem to have been so. So desirous did he seem to be that all he says on this subject should be regarded as coming from himself without any inspiration of God, that he declares it not only in the sixth verse, but also in the twenty-fifth verse, in which he says, "I have no commandment of the Lord." My purpose now is to gather up from all these verses Paul's personal ideas of marriage. His idea seems to be—

I. That marriage is not a DUTY BINDING ON MANKIND . It is not a moral obligation, like "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," etc. He says, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" ( 1 Corinthians 7:1 ); again. "I would that all men were even as I myself" ( 1 Corinthians 7:7 ); and again, "It is good for them if they abide even as I" ( 1 Corinthians 7:8 ). In referring to the widow, he says, "She is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God" ( 1 Corinthians 7:40 ). So Paul seems to teach that the question of marriage is optional, not obligatory. Some may feel that celibacy is best for them, then let them remain single; others think that marriage is the most desirable state, then let them enter into that relationship. Now, it does strike one as something marvellous that this condition of life on which the very continuation of the human race depends should remain thus open and optional. Suppose that today every individual of the human race determined not to enter into this relationship, and to have no intercourse with the opposite sex, sixty years hence, at most, the race would be extinct; no man, woman, or child would be found on the earth. The earth would be as it once was, without a man, a school without a student, a theatre without a spectator, a temple without a worshipper. The answer to the question which some may give is this, that there is no reason for a written command on this subject—it is a law of nature. God does not command us to eat and drink, because it is not necessary—the law of our nature urges us to it. For the same reason he does not command us to marry. However, so it is, and it is a wonderful thought that upon the volition of this generation on this question, depends the continuation or noncontinuation of the race.

II. That marriage is PRIMARILY FOR SPIRITUAL ENDS . "The unbelieving husband is sanctified," etc. ( 1 Corinthians 7:14 ). The view given of the end of marriage in the Marriage Service, viz. the "procreation of children," is evidently not the idea that Paul had, and it is a somewhat degrading one. Paul's idea throughout seems to be that the grand purpose of marriage is mutual spiritual influence, correcting faults, removing unbelief, establishing faith, serving the Lord. Those who enter on this relationship from fleshly impulses and with fleshly ends misunderstand the ordinance and are never truly married. There is not only no union of soul, but an inner division. True marriage means such a mutual spiritual affection as welds two souls into one moral personality.

III. That marriage INVOLVES MUTUAL OBLIGATIONS THE MOST SACRED ,

1. Mutual benevolence. "Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife to the husband." Benevolence, a hearty well wishing, each wishing the well being of the other. The New Version drops the word "benevolence."

2. Mutual identification. "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife." The both are one. The equal rights of wife and husband are everywhere recognized in the Bible.

3. Mutual honesty. "Defraud ye not one the other." Deception is inimical to the true union of souls. Nothing cuts united hearts asunder so easily and effectively as artfulness and deception.

4. Mutual forbearance. "if any brother have a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwelt with her, let her not leave him" ( 1 Corinthians 7:12 , 1 Corinthians 7:13 ). Should difference of opinion on religious subjects crop up, should the faith of one or the other in religious matters be shaken or wane, forbear, do not separate on that account, for the right may correct the wrong, the believing correct the unbelieving.

5. Mutual concession of personal freedom. "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace" ( 1 Corinthians 7:15 ). If the wife feels it in her conscience to be a duty to leave her husband, he should not coerce her, nor should she employ compulsion, should he feel it his duty to withdraw.

CONCLUSION . Such are roughly and briefly some of Paul's personal opinions on the question of marriage. They seem to be on the whole wise and just. We have made marriage a civil contract, and we bind two persons together for life who never possessed those mutual affinities which are the essence of marriage. The essence of marriage is this—the strongest mutual sympathies and aims that one being can have for another; the bond of marriage is the solemn mutual pledge. Those who are thus married are united by a cord stronger than adamant, finer than the finest web, too weak to fetter, yet too strong to break.

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 7:1-11 (1 Corinthians 7:1-11)

Views concerning marriage: the institution in itself and in relation to circumstances, obligations, and duties.

We have seen what a meeting place Corinth was for the schools of philosophy and Judaism—a sort of metropolitan Coliseum, in which the gladiators of intellect were in unceasing combat. Neither Rome, nor Athens, nor Jerusalem, afforded such a field of contention as this proud and sensual city, where worldly culture and elegance existed side by side with commercial wealth and luxury. Now, we know what occurs when the waters of the Gulf Stream, bearing northward its immense store of heat from the Gulf of Mexico, come in contact off Newfoundland with the Polar currents, and what a vast bank of fog rises from the condensation of warm vapour in a cold atmosphere. This may symbolize what was going on in Corinth at this time. A century before, the world had been agitated by the ideas and schemes of Julius Caesar, the foremost man of his age, and quite as great a revolutionizer of men's ways of thinking as of political institutions. Imperialism was now in the ascendancy, and the nations were ostensibly a nation—a colossal Rome. But the quickening of thought remained, and this inured to the advantage of Christianity. There was not only external tranquillity, but the precise kind of tranquillity which St. Paul needed; and, though local disturbances often arose and at times violent commotions, yet the Roman law was his best earthly friend. At Corinth he had taught and preached and founded a Church. For three years he had been absent, and, meantime, what collisions had set in, and, amidst the surging to and fro of opinions and prejudices and enmities, what disorders had been tolerated! Over everything and everywhere was felt the chilly mist, a twilight to some, a midnight to others, a bewildering gloom to all. This, however, was providential. Teachers must remand pupils to themselves. Such a new and singular force as St. Paul was in the world—such pre-eminently as he had shown himself in Corinth by his opposition to the views of Greeks and Jews, and by his uncompromising zeal in behalf of the distinctive tenets of the gospel—must be suffered to do its work independently of his presence and immediate oversight. And we now see in this chapter, more fully than before, what conflicts of intellect and passion were in progress, what strange alienations had transpired, and how far gone many of his disciples were from the path in which he had expected their feet to tread. Had anything escaped this billowy sweep of strife? It was even dashing against the institution of marriage, which men had agreed to honour as the most important and the most venerable of earthly interests. Incest had been tolerated in the Church, and St. Paul had found it necessary to argue on the highest religious ground against the sensual evils of fornication. Of late we have heard much concerning a scientific basis of morality. If, however, we follow St. Paul, who never contradicts history, we see that even enlightened instincts cannot be trusted when withdrawn from the guidance and support of the Holy Spirit. Men may theorize as they please. One thing, nevertheless, is certain, and that one thing is, that whenever practical men deal with social questions, they accept St. Paul as the thinker of humanity. Even instincts need God to control them. Proceeding to discuss the questions submitted to him by the Corinthians, he begins this chapter by considering marriage in that aspect which was under debate just then at Corinth. Marriage in the abstract is only in view so far as recurrence is necessary, in the conduct of the argument, to the fundamental principles inseparable from the relation. He treats it, in view of existing circumstances, as a matter to be decided by expediency, each one judging what is best. Whether the unmarried shall be married or not must be determined by themselves in the light of their personal organization, and by the indications of Providence and the Spirit. Freedom within the bounds of law is freedom to deny the use of lawful rights and privileges—so St. Paul had just argued—and marriage comes under this provision. But here as everywhere, "let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind," and so reverential is he in his attitude towards humanity, that in the application of expediency to marriage, he will go no further than offer advice. Under the circumstances, it was the only proper course for him to adopt. No sympathy could he feel with the reaction against marriage in itself, which had set in more than a century before among the Romans, and, while an effect, was also a cause of the widespread demoralization of the age. Doubtless the cares of a family in that troubled period, and the supposed nearness of Christ's advent, had their influence on his mind, and yet he is well aware that, in the lowest view of marriage, it was a protection against vice. Too well he knew the evils which were cursing society because of the popular freethinking on this subject. For five hundred and twenty years not a divorce had been known in Rome, but we may form some idea of the effect of class wealth and debauching leisure if we recall the facts that in the last days of the republic, Cato of Utica, a religious fanatic in his way, had separated from his wife because a friend wished to marry her and, after his friend's death, had made her his wife again. "On the whole," says Mr. Lecky, "it is probable that the Roman matron was from the earliest period a name of honour; that the beautiful sentence of a jurisconsult of the empire, who defined marriage as a lifelong fellowship of all Divine and human rights, expressed most faithfully the feelings of the people; and that female virtue shone in every age conspicuously in Roman biographies." But a deplorable change had set in, such a change that Augustus had found it necessary to take measures for the encouragement of marriage. Nowhere was this corruption more rife than in Corinth, that only repeated on a larger scale the social enormities daily witnessed at Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii. Now, in this state of free thinking, with its attendant wickedness, St. Paul's duty was not without embarrassment. Towards the evil itself and its utter grossness his course was plain enough. On the other hand, there were questions of casuistry to be considered. Marriage as a safeguard of virtue, marriage as a union of hearts, marriage as the highest type of human oneness, marriage in its spiritual import—all involved in it as a Divine institution and as the basis, vitality, security, of all other institutions—this was realized then and always in his apostleship. But there were pure and honest minded persons among his Corinthian converts, who were troubled by doubts and misgivings, and to whom duty was by no means clear. The instincts of nature had something to say, end their voice was entitled to a hearing. And, at the same time, prudence and conscience were not to be dogmatically silenced. St. Paul saw what to do, and he did it. He was profoundly sensitive to principles, he was thoroughly sympathetic with persons, and his judgment was the product of a wise consideration of gospel truth and of the facts at Corinth with which he was dealing. There is an ideal view to which he refers in the opening verse of this chapter, but the practical view in contrast with it is that, in order to be guarded against temptation and escape falling into the worst of social sins, "Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." For, as Neander says, "we must not overlook the fact that Paul is here, not treating of marriage in general, but only in its relation to the condition of things at Corinth, where he feared the effect of moral prejudices concerning celibacy." Nor does he hesitate to say, "I would that all men were even as myself," and yet he qualifies this by stating that "every man hath his proper gift of God," a gift of grace, "one after this manner, and another after that;" so that, whether married or single, the "gift of God" must be recognized, since, as Bengel remarks, "that which in the natural man is a natural habit, becomes in the saints a gift of grace."—L.

- The Pulpit Commentary