1 Corinthians 7


A solution of several difficult cases concerning marriage and

married persons, 1-6.

God has given every man his proper gift, 7.

Directions to the unmarried and widows, 8, 9.

Directions to the married, 10, 11.

Directions to men married to heathen women, and to women

married to heathen men, 12-16.

Every man should abide in his vocation, 17-24.

Directions concerning virgins, and single persons in general,


How all should behave themselves in the things of this life, in

reference to eternity, 29-31.

The trials of the married state, 39-35.

Directions concerning the state of virginity or celibacy, 36-38.

How the wife is bound to her husband during his life, and her

liberty to marry another after his death, 39, 40.


Verse 1. The things whereof ye wrote unto me] It is

sufficiently evident that the principal part of this epistle was

written in answer to some questions which had been sent to the

apostle in a letter from the Corinthian Church; and the first

question seems to be this: "Is it proper for a man to marry in the

present circumstances of the Church?"

The question concerning the expediency or inexpediency of

marriage was often agitated among the ancient philosophers; and

many, though inclined to decide against it, because of the

troubles and cares connected with it, tolerated it in their

opinions; because, though an evil, it was judged to be a necessary

evil. The words of Menander are full to this effect: γαμεινεαν

τιςτηναληθειανσκοπηκακονμενεστιναλλαναγκαιονκακον. "If

a man consider marriage in a proper point of view, it is an evil;

but then it is a necessary evil." Metellus Numidicus spoke of it

nearly in the same way. Si sine uxore possemus, Quirites, esse,

omnes ea molestia careremus; sed quoniam ita natura tradidit, ut

nec CUM ILLIS salis commode, nec SINE ILLIS ullo modo vivi possit,

saluti perpetus potius quam brevi voluptati consulendum. "If, O

ye Romans, we could live unmarried, we should be saved from a

great deal of trouble; but, seeing that nature has so ordered it

that we cannot live very comfortably with wives, and without them

cannot live at all, marriage should be adopted, not for the sake

of the short-lived pleasure, but rather for perpetual safety."

But this was not the common opinion; the Jews absolutely required

that every man should marry, and reputed those as murderers who

did not.-See Clarke on 1Co 7:6.

By the laws of Lycurgus unmarried persons were prohibited from

seeing the public games. By the laws of the Spartans bachelors

were punished. And Plato declares all such unworthy of any

honour. And to this the commentator says, Amen.

Not to touch a woman] γυναικοςμηαπτεσθαι. The learned

reader need not be informed in what sense απτομαι is used among

the Greeks, and langere among the Latins. For examples Wetstein

may be consulted.

Verse 2. To avoid fornication] διαταςπορνειας. verto,

propter exercendam libidinem, vel ut libidinem licite exercere

liceat. Probo hanc notionem ex Hebraeo, ibi , zanah, est

libidinem exercere, Ho 4:10:

For they shall eat and not have enough; they shall commit

whoredom, , libidinem exercebunt, and shall not increase.

Here the prophet certainly does not speak of whoredom in our

sense of the word; for the persons he mentions expected to have

children, which cannot be said of those who are addicted to

improper connections: the prophet speaks concerning married

persons, whom he threatens with a privation of children,

notwithstanding libidinem exercebant in order to have numerous

families. See Schoettgen. The following verse shows that this is

the apostle's meaning.

Let every man have his own wife] Let every man have one woman,

his own; and every woman one man, her own. Here, plurality

of wives and husbands is most strictly forbidden; and they are

commanded to marry for the purpose of procreating children.

In the Jewish constitutions there are some things not only

curious, but useful, respecting marriage. "There are four causes

which induce men to marry: 1. Impure desire; 2. To get riches; 3.

To become honourable; 4. For the glory of God. Those who marry

through the first motive beget wicked and rebellious children.

Those who marry for the sake of riches have the curse of leaving

them to others. Those who marry for the sake of aggrandizing

their family, their families shall be diminished. Those who marry

to promote the glory of God, their children shall be holy, and by

them shall the true Church be increased."

Verse 3. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence]

τηνοφειλομενηνευνοιαν. Though our version is no translation of

the original, yet few persons are at a loss for the meaning, and

the context is sufficiently plain. Some have rendered the words,

not unaptly, the matrimonial debt, or conjugal duty-that which a

wife owes to her husband, and the husband to his wife; and which

they must take care mutually to render, else alienation of

affection will be the infallible consequence, and this in

numberless instances has led to adulterous connections. In such

cases the wife has to blame herself for the infidelity of her

husband, and the husband for that of his wife. What miserable

work has been made in the peace of families by a wife or a husband

pretending to be wiser than the apostle, and too holy and

spiritual to keep the commandments of God!

Verse 4. The wife hath not power, &c.] Her person belongs to

her husband; her husband's person belongs to her: neither of them

has any authority to refuse what the other has a matrimonial right

to demand. The woman that would act so is either a knave or a

fool. It would be trifling to attribute her conduct to any other

cause than weakness or folly. She does not love her husband; or

she loves some one else better than her husband; or she makes

pretensions to a fancied sanctity unsupported by Scripture or

common sense.

Verse 5. Defraud ye not one the other] What ye owe thus to

each other never refuse paying, unless by mutual consent; and let

that be only for a certain time, when prudence dictates the

temporary separation, or when some extraordinary spiritual

occasion may render it mutually agreeable, in order that ye may

fast and pray, and derive the greatest possible benefit from these

duties by being enabled to wait on the Lord without distraction.

That Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.] It is most

evident that the separations permitted by the Apostle, for he

enjoins none, are only for a season, on extraordinary occasions;

and that the persons may come together again, lest Satan, taking

advantage of their matrimonial abstinence, might tempt either

party to illicit commerce.

There are a multitude of rules prescribed in such cases by the

rabbins, and indeed even by heathen writers; for this was a matter

in which common sense could always judge; and under the direction

of experience, heathens, as well as those favoured with Divine

revelation, could see what was proper in all such cases.

Incontinence, εικρασια, want of strength to regulate one's

desires or appetites; from α, negative, and κρατος, strength.

It is remarkable that the apostle supposes that even this

temporary continence might produce incontinence; and universal

observation confirms the supposition.

Verse 6. I speak this by permission, &c.] It was a constant

custom of the more conscientious rabbins, to make a difference

between the things which they enjoined on their own judgment, and

those which they built on the authority of the law. Thus Rabbi

Tancum: "The washing of hands before meat is in our own power;

washing after meat is commanded." In relation to this point Dr.

Lightfoot produces some examples from the Jewish writers: "The man

is commanded concerning begetting and multiplying, but not the

woman. And when does the man come under this command? From the

age of sixteen or seventeen years; but, if he exceeds twenty

years without marrying, behold he violates and renders an

affirmative precept vain. The Gemara says: It is forbidden a man

to be without a wife; because it is written, It is not good for

man to be alone. And whosoever gives not himself to generation

and multiplying is all one with a murderer: he is as though he

diminished from the image of God, &c." We may understand the

apostle here as saying that the directions already given were from

his own judgment, and not from any Divine inspiration; and we may

take it for granted that where he does not make this observation

he is writing under the immediate afflatus of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 7. For I would that all men, &c.] He wished that all

that were then in the Church were, like him self, unmarried; but

this was in reference to the necessities of the Church, or what he

calls, 1Co 7:26,

the present distress: for it never could be his wish that marriage

should cease among men, and that human beings should no longer be

propagated upon earth; nor could he wish that the Church of Christ

should always be composed of single persons; this would have been

equally absurd; but as the Church was then in straits and

difficulties, it was much better for its single members not to

encumber themselves with domestic embarrassments.

Every man hath his proper gift of God] Continence is a state

that cannot be acquired by human art or industry; a man has it

from God, or not at all: and if he have it from God, he has it

from him as the author of his nature; for where it does not exist

naturally, it never can exist, but either by miraculous

interference, which should never be expected, or by chirurgical

operation, which is a shocking abomination in the sight of God.

See Clarke on Mt 19:12.

Verse 8. The unmarried and widows] It is supposed that the

apostle speaks here of men who had been married, in the word

αγαμοι, but were now widowers; as he does of women who had been

married, in the word χηραι, but were now widows. And when he says

ωςκαγω, even as I, he means that he himself was a widower; for

several of the ancients rank Paul among the married apostles.

Verse 9. But if they cannot contain] If they find it

inconvenient and uncomfortable to continue as widowers and widows,

let them remarry.

It is better to marry than to burn.] Bishop Pearce translates

the original thus: For it is better to marry than to be made

uneasy. πυρουσθαι, says he, "signifies primarily to burn; but in

a metaphorical sense, to be troubled, vexed, or made uneasy. So

in 2Co 11:29:

Who is offended and I burn not, καιουκεγωπυρουμαι, and I am not

troubled. So in Terence, Uro hominem, is I vex him." It would

be well to soften the sense of this word in reference to the

subject of which the apostle speaks. He cannot mean burning with

lust, no more than Virgil means so when he says, AEn. iv. ver. 68:

Uritur infelix Dido, the unfortunate Dido is tormented; and in

Eccl. ii. 68: Me tamen urit amor, love torments me. All this may

be said with the strictest truth in such cases where the impure

fire referred to above has no existence.

A curious story, which certainly casts light on the phraseology

of this place, is related by Dr. Lightfoot, from the tract

Kiddushin, fol. 81. "Some captive women were brought to Nehardea,

and disposed in the house and the upper room of Rabbi Amram. They

took away the ladder [that the women might not get down, but stay

there till they were ransomed.] As one of these captives passed

by the window, the light of her great beauty shined into the

house. Amram [captivated] set up the ladder; and when he was got

to the middle of the steps [checked by his conscience] he stopped

short, and with a loud voice cried out FIRE! FIRE! in the house of

Amram! [This he did that, the neighbours flocking in, he might be

obliged to desist from the evil affection which now prevailed in

him.] The rabbins ran to him, and [seeing no fire] they said,

Thou hast disgraced us. To which he replied: It is better that ye

be disgraced in the house of Amram in this world, then that ye be

disgraced by me in the world to come. He then adjured that evil

affection to go out of him, and it went out as a pillar of FIRE.

Amram said: Thou art FIRE, and I am FLESH; yet for all that I have

prevailed against thee." From this story much instruction may be


Verse 10. I command, yet not I, but the Lord] I do not give

my own private opinion or judgment in this case; for the Lord

Jesus commands that man shall not put asunder them whom God hath

joined, Mt 5:32; 19:6. And God has said the same, Ge 2:24. The

following extracts will prove that the law among the Jews was very

loose relative to the firmness of the marriage bond:-

A woman might put away or depart from her husband by giving

this simple reason to the elders, who would give the following

certificate. "In ____ day of ____ week, of ____ year, A.,

daughter of B., put away before us and said: My mother, or my

brethren, deceived me, and wedded me or betrothed me, when I was a

very young maid, to C., son of D.; but I now reveal my mind before

you, that I will not have him."

Sometimes they parted with mutual consent, and this also was

considered legal, as was also the marriage of the separated

parties to others. Witness the following story: "A good man had a

good wife; but because they had no children, they mutually put

away each other. The good man married a bad (a heathen) wife, and

she made him bad (a heathen;) the good woman married a bad (a

heathen) husband, and she made him good."

Divorces were easily obtained among them, and they considered

them the dissolving of the marriage bond; and, in consequence of

these, the parties might remarry with others. This was contrary

to the original institution of marriage, and is opposed both by

our Lord and the apostle.

Verse 11. But, and if she depart] He puts the case as

probable, because it was frequent, but lays it under restrictions.

Let her remain unmarried] She departs at her own peril; but

she must not marry another: she must either continue unmarried, or

be reconciled to her husband.

And let not the husband put away his wife.] Divorces cannot be

allowed but in the case of fornication: an act of this kind

dissolves the marriage vow; but nothing else can. It is a fact

that, among the Jews, the wife had just as much right to put away

her husband as the husband had to put away his wife. As divorces

were granted, it was right that each should have an equal power;

for this served as a mutual check.

Verse 12. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord] As if he had

said: For what I have already spoken I have the testimony of the

Lord by Moses, and of my own Lord and Master, Christ; but for the

directions which I am now about to give there is no written

testimony, and I deliver them now for the first time. These words

do not intimate that the apostle was not now under the influences

of the Divine Spirit; but, that there was nothing in the sacred

writings which bore directly on this point.

If any brother] A Christian man, have a wife that believeth

not, i.e. who is a heathen, not yet converted to the Christian

faith, and she be pleased to dwell with him, notwithstanding his

turning Christian since their marriage, let him not put her away

because she still continues in her heathen superstition.

Verse 13. And the woman] Converted from heathenism to the

Christian faith; which hath a husband, who still abides in

heathenism; if he be pleased to dwell with her, notwithstanding

she has become a Christian since their marriage; let her not leave

him because he still continues a heathen.

Verse 14. The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife]

Or rather, is to be reputed as sanctified on account of his wife;

she being a Christian woman, and he, though a heathen, being by

marriage one flesh with her: her sanctity, as far as it refers to

outward things, may be considered as imputed to him so as to

render their connection not unlawful. The case is the same when

the wife is a heathen and the husband a Christian. The word

sanctification here is to be applied much more to the Christian

state than to any moral change in the persons; for αγιοι, saints,

is a common term for Christians-those who were baptized into the

faith of Christ; and as its corresponding term kedoshim

signified all the Jews who were in the covenant of God by

circumcision, the heathens in question were considered to be in

this holy state by means of their connection with those who were

by their Christian profession saints.

Else were your children unclean] If this kind of relative

sanctification were not allowed, the children of these persons

could not be received into the Christian Church, nor enjoy any

rights, or privileges as Christians; but the Church of God never

scrupled to admit such children as members, just as well as she

did those who had sprung from parents both of whom were


The Jews considered a child as born out of holiness whose

parents were not proselytes at the time of the birth, though

afterwards they became proselytes. On the other hand, they

considered the children of heathens born in holiness, provided the

parents became proselytes before the birth. All the children of

the heathens were reputed unclean by the Jews; and all their own

children holy.-See Dr. Lightfoot. This shows clearly what the

apostle's meaning is.

If we consider the apostle as speaking of the children of

heathens, we shall get a remarkable comment on this passage from

Tertullian, who, in his treatise De Carne Christi, chaps. 37, 39,

gives us a melancholy account of the height to which superstition

and idolatry had arrived in his time among the Romans. "A child,"

says he, "from its very conception, was dedicated to the idols and

demons they worshipped. While pregnant, the mother had her body

swathed round with bandages, prepared with idolatrous rites. The

embryo they conceived to be under the inspection of the goddess

Alemona, who nourished it in the womb. Nona and Decima took care

that it should be born in the ninth or tenth month. Partula

adjusted every thing relative to the labour; and Lucina ushered it

into the light. During the week preceding the birth a table was

spread for Juno; and on the last day certain persons were called

together to mark the moment on which the Parcae, or Fates, had

fixed its destiny. The first step the child set on the earth was

consecrated to the goddess Statina; and, finally, some of the hair

was cut off, or the whole head shaven, and the hair offered to

some god or goddess through some public or private motive of

devotion." He adds that "no child among the heathens was born in

a state of purity; and it is not to be wondered at," says he,

"that demons possess them from their youth, seeing they were thus

early dedicated to their service." In reference to this, he

thinks, St. Paul speaks in the verse before us: The unbelieving

husband is sanctified by the wife-else were your children unclean;

but now are they holy; i.e. "As the parents were converted to the

Christian faith, the child comes into the world without these

impure and unhallowed rites; and is from its infancy consecrated

to the true God."

Verse 15. But if the unbelieving, depart] Whether husband or

wife: if such obstinately depart and utterly refuse all

cohabitation, a brother or a sister-a Christian man or woman, is

not under bondage to any particular laws, so as to be prevented

from remarrying. Such, probably, the law stood then; but it is

not so now; for the marriage can only be dissolved by death, or by

the ecclesiastical court. Even fornication or adultery does not

dissolve the marriage contract; nor will the obstinate separation

of any of the parties, however long continued, give the party

abandoned authority to remarry. If the person have been beyond

sea, and not heard of for seven years, it is presumed he may be

dead; and marriage has been connived at in such cases. If there

be no person to complain, it may be presumed that there is none

injured. But I have known instances where even a marriage after

seven years' absence has been very unfortunate; the husband

returning at the end of ten or twelve years, and to his utter

distress finding his wife married to another man, and with issue

of that marriage! There can be no safety in this case, unless

there be absolute certainty of the death of the party in question.

God hath called us to peace.] The refractory and disagreeing

party should not be compelled to fulfil such matrimonial

engagements as would produce continual jarring and discord. At

the same time each should take care that he give no cause for

disagreements and separations, for the author of the Christian

religion is the author of peace, and has called us to it.

Verse 16. For what knowest thou, O wife] You that are

Christians, and who have heathen partners, do not give them up

because they are such, for you may become the means of saving them

unto eternal life. Bear your cross, and look up to God, and he

may give your unbelieving husband or wife to your prayers.

Verse 17. But as God hath distributed to every man, &c.] Let

every man fulfil the duties of the state to which God in the

course of his providence has called him.

So ordain I in all Churches.] I do not lay on you a burden

which others are not called to bear: this is the general rule

which, by the authority of God, I impose on every Christian


Verse 18. Is any man called being circumcised?] Is any man

who was formerly a Jew converted to Christianity?

Let him not become circumcised.] Let him not endeavour to

abolish the sign of the old covenant, which he bears in his flesh.

The Greek words μηεπισπασθω, let him not draw over, are evidently

an elliptical expression: the word τηνακροβυστιαν, the fore-skin,

being understood; which, indeed, is added by the Armenian and the

Itala, and several of the Latin fathers. It is a fact that it was

possible by the assistance of art to do this; and Celsus himself

prescribes the mode, De Medic. vii. 25. By frequent stretching,

the circumcised skin could be again so drawn over, as to prevent

the ancient sign of circumcision from appearing. Some in their

zeal against Judaism endeavoured to abolish this sign of it in

their flesh: it is most evidently against this that the apostle

speaks. Many false Jews made use of this practice, that they

might pass through heathen countries unobserved; otherwise, in

frequenting the baths they would have been detected.

Let him not be circumcised.] Let no man who, being a Gentile,

has been converted to the Christian faith, submit to circumcision

as something necessary to his salvation.

Verse 19. Circumcision is nothing] Circumcision itself,

though commanded of God, is nothing of itself, it being only a

sign of the justification which should be afterwards received by

faith. At present, neither it nor its opposite either hinders or

furthers the work of grace; and keeping the commandments of God,

from his love shed abroad in a believing heart, is the sum and

substance of religion.

Verse 20. Let every man abide in the same calling] As both

the circumcised and uncircumcised, in Christ, have the same

advantages, and to their believing the same facilities; so any

situation of life is equally friendly to the salvation of the

soul, if a man be faithful to the grace he has received.

Therefore, in all situations a Christian should be content, for

all things work together for good to him who loves God.

Verse 21. Art thou called being a servant?] δουλοςεκληθης,

Art thou converted to Christ while thou art a slave-the property

of another person, and bought with his money? care not for it-this

will not injure thy Christian condition, but if thou canst obtain

thy liberty-use it rather-prefer this state for the sake of

freedom, and the temporal advantages connected with it.

Verse 22. For he that is called] The man who, being a slave,

is converted to the Christian faith, is the Lord's freeman; his

condition as a slave does not vitiate any of the privileges to

which he is entitled as a Christian: on the other hand, all free

men, who receive the grace of Christ, must consider themselves the

slaves of the Lord, i.e. his real property, to be employed and

disposed of according to his godly wisdom, who, notwithstanding

their state of subjection, will find the service of their Master

to be perfect freedom.

Verse 23. Ye are bought with a price] As truly as your bodies

have become the property of your masters, in consequence of his

paying down a price for you; so sure you are now the Lord's

property, in consequence of your being purchased by the blood of


Some render this verse interrogatively: Are ye bought with a

price from your slavery? Do not again become slaves of men.

Never sell yourselves; prefer and retain your liberty now that ye

have acquired it.

In these verses the apostle shows that the Christian religion

does not abolish our civil connections; in reference to them,

where it finds us, there it leaves us. In whatever relation we

stood before our embracing Christianity, there we stand still; our

secular condition being no farther changed than as it may be

affected by the amelioration of our moral character. But slavery,

and all buying and selling of the bodies and souls of men, no

matter what colour or complexion, is a high offence against the

holy and just God, and a gross and unprincipled attack on the

liberty and rights of our fellow creatures.

Verse 24. Let every man-abide with God.] Let him live to God

in whatsoever station he is placed by Providence. If he be a

slave, God will be with him even in his slavery, if he be faithful

to the grace which he has received. It is very likely that some

of the slaves at Corinth, who had been converted to Christianity,

had been led to think that their Christian privileges absolved

them from the necessity of continuing slaves; or, at least,

brought them on a level with their Christian masters. A spirit of

this kind might have soon led to confusion and insubordination,

and brought scandals into the Church. It was therefore a very

proper subject for the apostle to interfere in; and to his

authority, the persons concerned would doubtless respectfully bow.

Verse 25. Now concerning virgins] This was another subject on

which the Church at Corinth had asked the advice of the apostle.

The word παρθενος, virgin, we take to signify a pure, unmarried

young woman; but it is evident that the word in this place means

young unmarried persons of either sex, as appears from

1Co 7:26, 27, 32-34, and from Re 14:4.

The word παρθενος, virgin, is frequently applied to men as well

as to women. See Suidas, under the word αβελ. ουτοςπαρθενοςκαι

δικαιοςυπηρχε, He (Abel) was a virgin, and a righteous man.

In 1Co 7:36 the word is supposed to mean the

state of virginity or celibacy, and very probable reasons are

assigned for it; and it is evident that persons of either sex in a

state of celibacy are the persons intended.

I have no commandment of the Lord] There is nothing in the

sacred writings that directly touches this point.

Yet I give my judgment] As every way equal to such

commandments had there been any, seeing I have received the

teaching of his own Spirit, and have obtained mercy of the Lord to

be faithful to this heavenly gift, so that it abides with me to

lead me into all truth. In this way I think the apostle's words

may be safely understood.

Verse 26. This is good for the present distress] There was no

period in the heathen times when the Church was not under

persecutions and afflictions; on some occasions these were more

oppressive than at others.

The word αναγκη signifies, necessity, distress, tribulation,

and calamity; as it does in Lu 21:23; 2Co 6:4; 12:10. In such

times, when the people of God had no certain dwelling-place, when

they were lying at the mercy of their enemies without any

protection from the state-the state itself often among the

persecutors-he who had a family to care for, would find himself in

very embarrassed circumstances, as it would be much more easy to

provide for his personal safety than to have the care of a wife

and children. On this account it was much better for unmarried

persons to continue for the present in their celibacy.

Verse 27. Art thou bound unto a wife?] i e. Married; for the

marriage contract was considered in the light of a bond.

Seek not to be loosed.] Neither regret your circumstances,

notwithstanding the present distress, nor seek on this account for

a dissolution of the marriage contract. But if thou art under no

matrimonial engagements, do not for the present enter into any.

Verse 28. But, and if thou marry] As there is no law against

this, even in the present distress, thou hast not sinned, because

there is no law against this; and it is only on account of

prudential reasons that I give this advice.

And if a virgin marry] Both the man and the woman have equal

privileges in this case; either of them may marry without sin. It

is probable, as there were many sects and parties in Corinth, that

there were among them those who forbade to marry, 1Ti 4:3, and

who might have maintained other doctrines of devils besides.

These persons, or such doctrines, the apostle has in view when he

says, They may marry and yet not sin.

Trouble in the flesh] From the simple circumstance of the

incumbrance of a family while under persecution; because of the

difficulty of providing for its comfort and safety while flying

before the face of persecution.

But I spare you.] The evil is coming; but I will not press

upon you the observance of a prudential caution, which you might

deem too heavy a cross.

Verse 29. The time is short] These persecutions and

distresses are at the door, and life itself will soon be run out.

Even then Nero was plotting those grievous persecutions with which

he not only afflicted, but devastated the Church of Christ.

They that have wives] Let none begin to think of any

comfortable settlement for his family, let him sit loose to all

earthly concerns, and stand ready prepared to escape for his life,

or meet death, as the providence of God may permit. The husband

will be dragged from the side of his wife to appear before the

magistrates, and be required either to abjure Christ or die.

Linquenda tellus, et domus, et placens

Uxor; neque harum, quas colis, arborum

Te, praeter invisas cupressos,

Ulla brevem dominum sequetur.

HOR. ODAR. lib. ii., Od. xiv., v. 22.

Your pleasing consort must be left;

And you, of house and lands bereft,

Must to the shades descend:

The cypress only, hated tree!

Of all thy much-loved groves, shall thee,

Its short-lived lord, attend. FRANCIS.

Poor heathenism! thou couldst give but cold comfort in such

circumstances as these: and infidelity, thy younger brother, is no

better provided than thou.

Verse 30. They that weep, &c.] There will shortly be such a

complete system of distress and confusion that private sorrows and

private joys will be absorbed in the weightier and more oppressive

public evils: yet, let every man still continue in his calling,

let him buy, and sell, and traffic, as usual; though in a short

time, either by the coming persecution or the levelling hand of

death, he that had earthly property will be brought into the same

circumstances with him who had none.

Verse 31. And they that use this world] Let them who have

earthly property or employments discharge conscientiously their

duties, from a conviction of the instability of earthly things.

Make a right use of every thing, and pervert nothing from its use.

To use a thing is to employ it properly in order to accomplish the

end to which it refers. To abuse a thing signifies to pervert it

from that use. Pass through things temporal, so as not to lose

those which are eternal.

For the fashion of this world] τοσχηματουκοσμοντουτου

signifies properly the present state or constitution of things;

the frame of the world, that is, the world itself. But often the

term κοσμος, world, is taken to signify the Jewish state and

polity; the destruction of this was then at hand, and this the

Holy Spirit might then signify to the apostle.

Verse 32. Without carefulness.] Though all these things will

shortly come to pass, yet do not be anxious about them. Every

occurrence is under the direction and management of God. The

wrath of man shall praise him, and the remainder of it he shall

restrain, and none can harm you if ye be followers of that which

is good. We should all take the advice of the poet:-

"With patient mind thy course of duty run;

God nothing does, nor suffers to be done,

But thou wouldst do thyself, couldst thou but see

The end of all events as well as He."-BYROM.

He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the

Lord] He has nothing to do with a family, and therefore can give

his whole time to the service of his Maker, having him alone to


Verse 33. But he that is married] He has a family to provide

for, and his wife to please, as well as to fulfil his duty to God,

and attend to the concerns of his own soul. The single man has

nothing to attend to but what concerns his own salvation: the

married man has all this to attend to, and besides to provide for

his wife and family, and take care of their eternal interests

also. The single man has very little trouble comparatively; the

married man has a great deal. The single man is an atom in

society; the married man is a small community in himself. The

former is the centre of his own existence, and lives for

himself alone; the latter is diffused abroad, makes a much more

important part of the body social, and provides both for its

support and continuance. The single man lives for and does good

to himself only; the married man lives both for himself and the

public. Both the state and the Church of Christ are dependent on

the married man, as from him under God the one has subjects, the

other members; while the single man is but an individual in

either, and by and by will cease from both, and having no

posterity is lost to the public for ever. The married man,

therefore, far from being in a state of inferiority to the single

man, is beyond him out of the limits of comparison. He can do all

the good the other can do, though perhaps sometimes in a different

way; and he can do ten thousand goods that the other cannot

possibly do. And therefore both himself and his state are to be

preferred infinitely before those of the other. Nor could the

apostle have meant any thing less; only for the present distress

he gave his opinion that it was best for those who were single to

continue so. And who does not see the propriety of the advice?

Verse 34. There is a difference also between a wife and a

virgin.] That is: There is this difference between a married and

an unmarried woman. The unmarried careth (only) for the things of

the Lord, having no domestic duties to perform. That she may be

holy-separated to Divine employments, both in body and spirit.

Whereas she that is married careth (also) for the things of the

world, how she may please her husband, having many domestic duties

to fulfil, her husband being obliged to leave to her the care of

the family, and all other domestic concerns.

On this verse there is a profusion of various readings in MSS.,

versions, and fathers, for which I must refer to Griesbach, as it

would be impossible to introduce them here so as to make them look

like sense.

Verse 35. This I speak for your own profit] The advices

belong to yourselves alone, because of the peculiar circumstances

in which you are placed. Nothing spoken here was ever designed to

be of general application; it concerned the Church at Corinth

alone, or Churches in similar circumstances.

Not that I may cast a snare upon you] ουχιναβροχονυμιν

επιβαλω-Here is a manifest allusion to the Retiarius among the

Romans, who carried a small casting net, which he endeavoured to

throw over the head of his adversary and thus entangle him. Or to

a similar custom among the Persians, who made use of a noose

called the [Arabic] camand; which they employed in the same way.

One of these lies before me; it is a strong silken cord, one end

of which is a loop to be held in the hand, and the rest is in the

form of a common snare or noose, which, catching hold of any

thing, tightens in proportion as it is pulled by the hand that

holds the loop.

The apostle, therefore, intimates that what he says was not

intended absolutely to bind them, but to show them the propriety

of following an advice which in the present case would be helpful

to them in their religious connections, that they might attend

upon the Lord without distraction, which they could not do in

times of persecution, when, in addition to their own personal

safety, they had a wife and children to care for.

For that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord

without distraction,] The original αλλαπροςτοευσχημονκαι

ευπροσεδροντωκυριωαπερισπαστως, of which our version is only a

paraphrase, is thus translated by Bishop Pearson: But for the sake

of decency, and of attending more easily upon the Lord without

distraction. This is much more literal than ours.

Verse 36. Uncomely towards his virgin] Different meanings

have been assigned to this verse; I shall mention three of the

principal. 1. "In those early times, both among the Hebrews and

Christians, the daughters were wholly in the power of the father,

so that he might give or not give them in marriage as he chose;

and might bind them to perpetual celibacy if he thought proper;

and to this case the apostle alludes. If the father had devoted

his daughter to perpetual virginity, and he afterwards found that

she had fixed her affections upon a person whom she was strongly

inclined to marry, and was now getting past the prime of life; he,

seeing from his daughter's circumstances that it would be wrong to

force her to continue in her state of celibacy; though he had

determined before to keep her single, yet he might in this case

alter his purpose without sin, and let her and her suitor marry."

2. "The whole verse and its context speaks of young women

dedicated to the service of God, who were called παρθενοι,

virgins, in the primitive Church. And a case is put here, 'that

circumstances might occur to render the breach of even a vow of

this kind necessary, and so no sin be committed.'"

3. "The apostle by παρθενος, does not mean a virgin, but the

state of virginity or celibacy, whether in man or woman."

Both Mr. Locke and Dr. Whitby are of this opinion, and the latter

reasons on it thus:-

It is generally supposed that these three verses relate to

virgins under the power of parents and guardians and the usual

inference is, that children are to be disposed of in marriage by

the parents, guardians, &c. Now this may be true, but it has no

foundation in the text, for τηρειντηνεαυτουπαρθενον is not to

keep his daughter's, but his own virginity, or rather his purpose

of virginity; for, as Phavorinus says, He is called a virgin who

freely gives himself up to the Lord, renouncing matrimony, and

preferring a life spent in continency. And that this must be the

true import of these words appears from this consideration, that

this depends upon the purpose of his own heart, and the power he

has over his own will, and the no necessity arising from himself

to change this purpose. Whereas the keeping a daughter unmarried

depends not on these conditions on her father's part but on her

own; for, let her have a necessity, and surely the apostle would

not advise the father to keep her a virgin, because he had

determined so to do; nor could there be any doubt whether the

father had power over his own will or not, when no necessity lay

upon him to betroth his virgin. The Greek runs to this sense: if

he had stood already firm in his heart, finding no necessity, viz.

to change his purpose; and hath power over his own will, not to

marry; finding himself able to persist in the resolution he had

made to keep his virginity, he does well to continue a virgin: and

then the phrase, if any man think he behaves himself unseemly

towards his virgin, if it be over-aged, and thinks he ought rather

to join in marriage, refers to the opinions both of Jews and

Gentiles that all ought to marry. The Jews say that the time of

marriage is from 16 or 17 to 20; while some of the Gentiles

specify from 30 to 35. If any think thus, says the apostle, let

them do what they will, they sin not: let them marry. And then he

concludes with those words applied to both cases: so then, both he

that marries doeth well, and he that marries not, doeth better.

This last opinion seems to be the true sense of the apostle.

It may be necessary to make a few general observations on these

verses, summing up what has been said.

1. παρθενος here should be considered as implying not a virgin,

but the state of virginity or celibacy.

2. υπερακμος, over-aged, must refer to the passing of that time

in which both the laws and customs of Jews and Gentiles required

men to marry. See above, and See Clarke on 1Co 7:6.

3. καιουτωςοφειλειγινεσθαι, And need so require; or, if there

appear to be a necessity; is to be understood of any particular

change in his circumstances or in his feelings; or, that he finds,

from the law and custom in the case, that it is a scandal for him

not to marry; then let him do what he wills or purposes.

4. Instead of γαμειτωσαν, let THEM marry, I think γαμειτω,

let HIM marry, is the true reading, and agrees best with the

context. This reading is supported by D*EFG, Syriac, in the

Arabic, Slavonic, one of the Itala, and St. Augustine. Si

nubat, if he marry, is the reading of the Vulgate, several copies

of the Itala, Ambrose, Jerome, Ambrosiaster, Sedulius, and Bede.

This reading is nearly of the same import with the other: Let him

do what he willeth, he sinneth not, let him marry; or, he sinneth

not if he marry.

5. The whole of the 37th verse relates to the purpose that the

man has formed; and the strength that he has to keep his purpose

of perpetual celibacy, being under no necessity to change that


6. Instead of οεκγαμιζων, he who giveth her in marriage, I

purpose to read ογαμιζων, he who marrieth, which is the reading

of the Codex Alexandrinus, the Codex Vaticanus, No. 1209, and of

some others: with Clement, Methodius, and Basil. τηνεαυτου

παρθενον, his own virgin, is added after the above, by several

very ancient and reputable MSS, as also by the Syriac, Armenian,

Vulgate, AEthiopic, Clement, Basil, Optatus, and others; but it

seems so much like a gloss, that Griesbach has not made it even a

candidate for a place in the text. He then who marrieth, though

previously intending perpetual virginity, doeth well; as this is

agreeable to laws both Divine and human: and he who marrieth not,

doeth better, because of the present distress. See 1Co 7:26.

Verse 39. The wife is bound by the law] This seems to be

spoken in answer to some other question of the Corinthians to this

effect: "May a woman remarry whose husband is dead, or who has

abandoned her?" To which he replies, in general, That as long as

her husband is living the law binds her to him alone; but, if the

husband die, she is free to remarry, but only in the Lord; that is

she must not marry a heathen nor an irreligious man; and she

should not only marry a genuine Christian, but one of her own

religious sentiments; for, in reference to domestic peace, much

depends on this.

Verse 40. But she is happier if she so abide] If she continue

in her widowhood because of the present distress; for this must

always be taken in, that consistency in the apostle's reasoning

may be preserved. If this were not understood, how could St. Paul

tell the widow that it would be more happy for her to continue in

her widowhood than to remarry? She who had tried both the state

of celibacy and the state of marriage could certainly best tell

which was most for her comfort; and he could not tell any thing

but by an express revelation from heaven, relative to the future

state of any widow: it is certain that he can never be understood

as speaking in general, as there are multitudes of persons

abundantly more happy in their married than in their single state;

and there are many widows also much more happy in their second

marriage than they have been in their first.

After my judgment] According to the view I have of the

subject, which view I take by the light of the Divine Spirit, who

shows me the tribulations which are coming on the Church. But,

says he, 1Co 7:28:

I spare you-I will not be more explicit concerning coming evils,

as I wish to save you from all forebodings which bring torment.

I think-I have the Spirit of God.] δοκωδεκαγωπνευμαθεου

εχειν might be translated, I am CERTAIN that I have the Spirit of

God. This sense of δοκειν (which we translate to seem, to

think, to appear, &c.) I have noticed in another part of this

work. Ulpian, on Demosthen. Olynth. 1, says, τοδοκεινου


τουαληθευειν. The word δοκειν is used by the ancients, not

always to express what is DOUBTFUL, but often to express what is

TRUE and CERTAIN.-See Bp. Pearce. The apostle cannot be

understood as expressing any doubt of his being under the

inspiration of the Divine Spirit, as this would have defeated his

object in giving the above advices; for-if they were not dictated

by the Spirit of God, can it be supposed that, in the face of

apparent self-interest, and the prevalence of strong passions,

they could have been expected to have become rules of conduct to

this people? They must have understood him as asserting that he

had the direction of the Spirit of God in giving those opinions,

else they could not be expected to obey.

1. IN the preceding chapter we have met with subjects both of

difficulty and importance. As to the difficulties, it is hoped

that they have been so generally considered in the notes that few

or none of them remain; and on the subjects of peculiar importance

much time has been spent, in order to impress them on the mind of

the reader. The delicacy of some of them would not admit of

greater plainness; and in a few instances I have been obliged to

wrap the meaning in a foreign language.

2. On the important subject of marriage I have said what I

believe to be true, and scruple not to say that it is the most

useful state in which-the human being can be placed; and

consequently that in which most honour may be brought to God. I

have listened with much attention for the better part of half a

century to the arguments against marriage and in favour of

celibacy; and I have had the opportunity of being acquainted with

many who endeavoured to exemplify their own doctrine. But I have

seen an end of all their perfection: neither the world nor the

Church are under any obligations to them: they either married when

they could do it to their mind and convenience; or, continuing in

their celibacy, they lived a comparatively useless life; and died

as they should, unregretted. The doctrine is not only dangerous

but anti-scriptural: and I hope I have sufficiently vindicated

Paul from being its patron or supporter.

3. While I contend for the superior excellence of the marriage

state, I hope I shall not be understood to be the apologist of

indiscriminate marriages-no, many of them are blamable in a very

high degree. Instead of consulting common sense and propriety,

childish affections, brutish passions, or the love of money are

the motives on which many of them have been contracted. Such

marriages are miserable; must be so, and should not be otherwise;

and superficial people looking at these form an estimate of the

state itself, and then indulge themselves in exclaiming against an

ordinance of God, either perverted by themselves or the equally

foolish persons who are the subjects of their animadversion. That

genuine Christians can never be so useful in any state as that of

marriage I am fully convinced; but to be happy, the marriage must

be in the Lord. When believers match with unbelievers, generally

pars sincera trahitur; the good becomes perverted; and Satan has

his triumph when he has got an immortal soul out of the Church of

Christ into his own synagogue. But who among young people will

lay this to heart? And how few among young men and young women

will not sell their Saviour and his people for a husband or a


4. The doctrine of second marriages has been long a subject of

controversy in the Church. The Scriptures, properly understood,

have not only nothing against them, but much for them. And in

this chapter St. Paul, in the most pointed manner, admits of them.

A widow may marry again, only let it be in the Lord; and a

widower has certainly the same privilege.

5. The conversion which the Scripture requires, though it makes

a most essential change in our souls in reference to God, and in

our works in reference both to God and man, makes none in our

civil state: even if a man is called, i.e. converted in a state

of slavery, he does not gain his manumission in consequence of his

conversion; he stands in the same relation both to the state and

to his fellows that he stood in before; and is not to assume any

civil rights or privileges in consequence of the conversion of his

soul to God. The apostle decides the matter in this chapter, and

orders that every man should abide in the calling wherein he is


6. From the 20th to the 23d verse the apostle refers to the

state of slavery among the Greeks; and from what he says we find

that even among the slaves there were Christian converts, to whom,

though he recommends submission and contentment, yet he intimates

that if they could get their freedom they should prefer it; and he

strongly charges those that were free not to become again the

slaves of men, 1Co 7:23; from which we learn that a man might

dispose of his own liberty, which, in a Christian, would be a

disgrace to his redemption by Christ. The word ελευθερος, which

we translate freeman, means properly freed-man, one who had been a

slave but had regained his liberty. It is the same as libertus

among the Romans, one who was manumitted. The manumission was

performed three several ways: 1. The consent of the master that

the slave should have his name entered in the census; or public

register of the citizens. 2. The slave was led before the

praetor, and the magistrate laid his wand, called vindicta, on his

head, and declared him free. 3. By testament or will, the master

bequeathing to the slave his freedom.

The manner in which the second mode of manumission was performed

is curious. The praetor having laid the rod vindicta upon the

slave's head, pronounced these words, Dico eum liberum esse more

Quiritum, "I pronounce him free according to the custom of the

Romans." This done he gave the rod to the lictor, or serjeant,

who struck the slave with it upon the head, and afterwards with

the hand upon the face and back. The head also of the slave was

shaven, and a cup given him by his master as a token of freedom,

and the notary entered the name of the new freed-man in the public

register, with the reasons of his manumission: it was customary

also to give him another surname.

7. Among our Saxon ancestors, and also after the conquest,

there was a species of slavery: all the villani were slaves to

their respective lords, and each was bound to serve him in a great

variety of ways. There is a profusion of curious examples of this

in the ancient record preserved in the bishop's auditor's office

in the cathedral of Durham, commonly known by the name of the

Bolden Book. This record has been lately printed under the

direction of his majesty's commissioners on the public records of

the kingdom, in the supplement to Domesday Book.

8. Among our Saxon ancestors manumissions were granted on

various accounts: 1. A person might, if able, purchase his own

freedom. 2. One man might purchase the freedom of another. 3.

Manumissions were granted to procure by their merit the salvation

of departed souls. 4. Persons were manumitted also in order to be

consecrated to the service of God. These manumissions were

usually recorded in some holybook, especially in copies of the

four Evangelists, which, being preserved in the libraries of

abbeys, &c., were a continual record, and might at all convenient

times be consulted. Several entries of these manumissions exist

in a MS. of the four Evangelists, s. 4, 14, in the library of

Corpus Christi or Bennet college, Cambridge.

I shall produce a specimen of one of the several kinds

mentioned above, giving the original only of the first; and of the

others, verbal translations.

1. The certificate of a man's having purchased his own freedom.





"Here is witnessed, in this book of Christ, that AElfwig the

Red hath redeemed himself from Abbot AElfsig, and the whole

convent, with one pound. And this is witnessed by the whole

convent at Bath.

May Christ strike him blind

Who this writing perverts."

This is a usual execration at the end of these forms, and is in

rhyme in the original.

2. Certificate of one having purchased the liberty of another.

"Here is witnessed, in this book of Christ, that AEdric Atford

has redeemed Saegyfa, his daughter, from the Abbot AElfsig, and

from the convent of Bath, to be for ever free, and all her


3. Certificate of redemption in behalf of one departed.

"Here is witnessed, in this book of Christ, that AElfric Scot

and AEgelric Scot are manumitted for the soul of Abbot AElfsig, to

perpetual liberty. This was done with the testimony of the whole


4. Certificate of persons manumitted to be devoted to the

service of God.

"Here is witnessed, in this book of Christ, that John bought

Gunnilda the daughter of Thurkill, from Goda, widow of

Leafenath, with half a pound. With the testimony of the whole


May Christ strike him blind

Who this writing perverts.

And he has dedicated her to Christ and St. Peter, in behalf of

his mother's soul."

9. When a man was made free, it was either in the church or at

some public meeting: the sheriff of the county took him by the

right hand and proclaimed him a freeman, and showed him the open

door and the public highway, intimating that he was free to go

whithersoever he pleased, and then gave him the arms of a freeman,

viz. a spear and a sword. In some cases the man was to pay thirty

pence to his master of hide money, intimating that he was no

longer under restraint, chastisement, or correction. From which

it appears that our ancestors were in the habit of flogging their

slaves. See the laws of Ina, c. 24, 39; of Wm. the Conqueror,

c. 65; and of Hen. I. c. 78.

10. Among the Gentoos the manumission of a slave was as

follows: The slave took a pitcher, filled it with water, and put

therein berenge-arook (rice that had been cleansed without

boiling) and flowers of doob, (a kind of small salad,) and taking

the pitcher on his shoulder he stands near his master; the master

then puts the pitcher on the slave's head, breaks it so that the

water, rice, flowers, and doob that were in the pitcher may fall

on the slave's body: when this is done the master thrice

pronounces, I have made thee free; then the slave steps forward a

few paces towards the east, and then the manumission is complete.

See Code of Gentoo laws, chap. 8: sec. 2, page 160. It is evident

that the whole of this ceremony is emblematical: 1. The pitcher

represents the confined, servile state of the slave. 2. The

articles contained in it, his exclusion while in a state of

slavery from the grand benefits and comforts of life. 3. The

water contained in the pitcher, his exclusion from the refreshing

influences of heaven; for slaves were not permitted to take part

in the ordinances of religion. 4. The clean, unboiled rice, his

incapacity to have secular possessions; for slaves were not

permitted to possess lands either by inheritance or purchase: a

slave could sow no seed for himself, and consequently have no

legal claim on support from this staff of life. 5. The doob or

salad shut up, his being without relish for that state of being

which was rendered insupportable to him by his thraldom. 6. The

breaking of the pitcher, his manumission and enjoyment of liberty:

being as free to go whithersoever he would as the water was to

run, being now disengaged from the pitcher. 7. The shedding of

the water, rice, flower, &c., over his body, his privilege of

enjoying and possessing every heavenly and earthly good. 8. His

stepping towards the east, his acknowledgment to the supreme

Being, the fountain of light and life, (of whom the sun was the

emblem,) for his enlargement; and his eagerness to possess the

light and comfort of that new state of happiness into which he was

now brought in consequence of his manumission.

11. The description that Dr. John Taylor gives, ln his Elements

of Civil Law, of the state of slaves among the ancients, will

nearly suit with their state among our ancestors, though scarcely

as bad as their state in the West Indies. "They were held among

the Romans, pro nullis; pro mortuis; pro quadrupedibus:- -for no

men; for dead men; for beasts: nay, were in a much worse state

than any cattle whatever. They had no head in the state, no name,

no tribe or register. They were not capable of being injured,

nor could they take by purchase or descent, had no heirs, and

could make no will. Exclusive of what was called their peculium,

whatever they acquired was their master's; they could neither

plead nor be impleaded; but were entirely excluded from all civil

concerns; were not entitled to the rights of matrimony, and

therefore had no relief in case of adultery; nor were they proper

objects of cognation or affinity. They might be sold,

transferred, or pawned, like other goods or personal estate; for

goods they were, and such were they esteemed. They might be

tortured for evidence, punished at the discretion of their

lord, and even put to death, by his authority. They were laid

under several other civil incapacities, too tedious to mention."

When all this is considered, we may at once see the horrible

evil of slavery, and wonder at the grace which could render them

happy and contented in this situation see the preceding chapter,

1Co 7:20-22. And yet we need not be surprised that the apostle

should say to those who were free or freed, Ye are bought with a

price; do not become slaves of men.

12. I have entered the more particularly into this subject,

because it, or allusions to it, are frequently occurring in the New

Testament, and I speak of it here once for all. And, to conclude,

I here register my testimony against the unprincipled, inhuman,

anti-Christian, and diabolical slave-trade, with all its authors,

promoters, abettors, and sacrilegious gains; as well as against the

great devil, the father of it and them.

Copyright information for Clarke