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acquainted with the state of the Corinthian church, St. Paul judged it fit to write to them this second letter. And that it might have the greater weight, he sent it to them by Titus, the bearer of his former epiltle, 2 Cor. viii. 17, 18.-In this second letter, the apostle artfully introduced the arguments, objections, and scoffing fpeeches, by which the faction were endeavouring to bring him into contempt; and not only confuted them by the most solid reasoning, but even turned them against the false teacher himself, and against the faction, in such a manner as to render them ridiculous. In short, by the many delicate but pointed ironies with which this epistle abounds, the apostle covered his adverfaries with shame, and shewed the Corinthians that he excelled in a talent which the Greeks greatly admired. --But while St. Paul thus pointedly derided the faction and its leaders, he bestowed just commendations on the sincere part of the church, for their persevering in the doctrine he had taught them, and for their ready obedience to his orders concerning the incestuous person. And to encourage them, he told them, that having boasted of them to Titus, he was glad to find his boasting well founded in every particular.
The Corinthian church being composed of persons of such opposite characters, the apostle in writing to them, was under the necessity of suiting his discourse to them, according to their different characters.' And therefore, if we apply to the whole church of Corinth, the things in the two epiftles, which apparently were directed to the whole church, but which were in. tended only for a part of it, we shall think these epistles full of inconsistency, if not of contradiction. But if we understand these things according as the apostle really meant them, every appearance of inconsistency and contradiction will be removed. For he himself hath directed us to distinguish the fincere the Corinthians from the faction, 2 Cor. i. 14. re have acknowledged us in part, that is, a part of you have acknowledged that we are your boasting.---Chap. ii. 5. Now if a certain person bath grieved me, he hath not grieved me except by a part of you, that I may not lay a load on you all. It is therefore plain, that the matters in the two epistles to the Corinthians which appear inconsistent, are not really fo; they belong to different persons. For example, the many commendations bestowed on the Corin
part of thians in these epistles, belong only to the fincere part of them. Whereas the sharp reproofs, the pointed ironies, and the severe threatenings of punishment found in the same epistles, are to be understood as addressed to the faction, and more especially to the teacher who headed the faction. And thus by discriminating the members of the Corinthian church according to their true characters, and by applying to each the passages which belonged to them, every appearance of contradiction vanishes.
Sect. II. Of the Matters contained in the Epifles to the Corin
thians; and of their Usefulness to the Church in every Age.
being to break the faction which the false teacher had formed in their church in opposition to him, and to confute the calumnies which that teacher and his adherents were indus. triously propagating, for discrediting him as an apostle, many of the things contained in these epistles were necessarily personal to him and to the faction. Nevertheless we are not on that account to think lightly of these writings, as fancying them of little use now to the church of Christ. The things in them which are most personal and particular, occasioned the apostle to write instructions and precepts, which are of the greatest use to the church in every age. For example, in answering the calumnies by which the faction endeavoured to discredit him as an apoftle, he was led to mention facts which demonstrate him to have been an apostle, commissioned by Christ, to direct the faith and practice of all the members of the church. Such as his having wrought miracles for converting the Corinthians, and his having imparted to them fpiritual gifts after they believed: his having preached the gospel to them without receiving any reward from them; not even the small reward of maintenance while he preached to them: his having endured innumerable hardships in the long journeys which he undertook for the sake of spreading the gospel, and heavy persecutions in every country from enemies and opposers, 1 Cor. iv. 11, 12. 2 Cor. iv. 8. xi. 23. His rapture into the third heaven: with a variety of other facts and circumstances respecting himself, which we should not have known, had it not been for the calumnies of the Co
rinthian faction, and of the Judaizing teachers, who infested the church at Corinth and other churches, (See Pref. to Galat. Sect. 3.) but which, now that they are known, give us the fullest afsurance of his apostleship, and add the greatest weight to his writings.-Next, in reproving the faction for their misdeeds, the apostle hath explained the general principles of religion and morality, in such a manner that they may be applied for regulating our conduct in cases of the greatest importance; and hath delivered rules and advices which, if followed, will have the happiest influence on our temper. For instance, when he rebuked the faction for joining the heathens in their idolatrous feasts in the temples of their gods, he hath shewed us the obligation Christians are under in all their actions, not to regard their own interest and pleasure only, but to consult the good of their brethren also; and that they are at no time by their example, even in things indifferent, to lead their weak and scrupulous brethren into fin.-In like manner, when he reproved the Corinthians for eating the Lord's Supper in an improper manner, he gave such an account of that holy institution, as shews, not only its true nature and design, but the views also and the dispositions with which it ought to be performed. Finally, the arguments by which the apostle excited the Corinthians to make the collection for the saints in Judea, who, at the time these epistles were written, were in great distress, and the rules by which he wished them to direct themselves in making these collections, are of great and perpetual use for animating the disciples of Christ, to perform works of charity with liberality and cheerfulness.
To the things above mentioned, we may add, that the epistles to the Corinthians, though suited to their peculiar circumstances, may be read by the disciples of Christ in every age, with the greatest profit, because they contain matters of importance, not to be found any where else in scripture. Such the long account given in the first epiftle of the spiritual men, and of the nature, operation and uses of their gifts, and of the way
in which they exercised their gifts for the confirmation of the golpel, and the building of the church; whereby the rapid progress of the gospel in the first and following ages, and the growth of
the Christian church to its present greatness, is shewn to be, not the effect of natural causes, but the work of the spirit of God.The proof of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the great foundation of the faith and hope of Christians, is no where formally set forth in fcripture, but in the xvth chap. of the first epistle to the Corinthians, where many of the witnesses who saw Christ after his resurrection are appealed to by name, and the times and places of his appearing to them are particularly men. tioned; and their veracity is established by the grievous sufferings, sometimes ending in death, which they sustained for witnessing the resurrection of Christ. In the same chapter, by the most logical reasoning, the resurrection of all the dead at the last day, is shewn to be neceflarily connected with Christ's refurrection: fo that if he hath been raised, they will be raised also. There likewise the apostle hath given a circumftantial account of the resurrection of the righteous, and hath described the nature and properties of the body with which they are to rise: from which it appears, that by the re-union of their spirits with their glorious bodies, their happiness will be rendered complete and everlasting. These great discoveries made in the first epistle to the Corinthians, impressed the minds of the disciples of Christ so strongly in the early ages, that they resolutely suffered the bitterest deaths with a rapturous joy, rather than renounce their master, and their hope of a glorious immortality -And to name no more instances; by the comparison which the apoitle hath instituted, in the 3d chap. of the second epistle to the Corinthians, between the inspiration of the apostles the ministers of the gospel, and the inspiration of Moses the minister of the law, he hath shewn, that the inspiration of the apostles was far more perfect than the inspiration of Moses: so that by this discovery, the apostle hath admirably displayed the excellence of the gospel revelation, and raised its authority to the highest pitch.
Before this section is concluded, it may be proper to observe, that from the epiftles to the Corinthians, and from Paul's other epistles, we learn that he was the great object of the hatred of all the false teachers in the first age, but especially of the Judaizers. Nor is it any wonder, that they were enraged against him, and perfecuted him with the bitterest calumnies. For it was this apostle chiefly who opposed them, in their unrighteous attempt of wreathing the yoke of the law of Moses, about the neck of the Gentiles.He it was likewise who refsted the in: troduction of the dogmas of the heathen philofophy into the church, by teachers who having nothing in view but worldly confiderations, endeavoured to convert the Greeks, at the expence of corrupting the religion of Chrift.-In fine, he it was who openly and severely rebuked the false teachers and their dis, ciples, for the licentiousness of their manners.-- Yet he was not the only object of these men’s malice. Barnabas also had a share of their hatred, (1 Cor. ix. 6.) probably because he had been active in procuring and publishing the decree of the council of Jerusalem, whereby the Gentile converts were freed from obeye ing the inititutions of Mofes.
SECT. III. Of the Place and Time of Writing the second Epistle to
the Corinthians : And of the person by whom it was sent.
F the place where the apostle wrote his second epistle to
the Corinthians, there is little doubt. In the epiitle itself, ii. 12. he tells us, that from Ephesus where he was when he wrote his first epistle, he went to Troas, and then into Macedonia, to meet Titus, whose return he expected about that time, that while he abode in Macedonia, Titus arrived and brought him the good news of the subunission of the Corinthians: and that on hearing these tidings, he wrote his second letter to them, to encourage them to go on with the collection for the saints in Judea, that the whole might be finished before he came to Corinth, 2 Cor. ix. 3, 4, 5. The apostle therefore was in Macedonia, in his way to Corinth, to receive their collection, when he wrote his second epistle to the church in that city.
The facts just now mentioned, which thew that the apostle's second episie to the Corinthians was written in Macedonia, in his way from Ephesus to Corinth after the riot of Demetrius, fhew likewise that it was written but a few months after the first epistle. For, whether the first was written immediately before, or immediately after the riot, there could be but a short interval between the two epistles. Namely, the time of the apostle's abode in Ephesus after writing the first letter, and at