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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT



1 CORINTHIANS 7



CHAPTER VII.



Ver. 1. Now concerning. The heads of the Church of Corinth had written to S. Paul, desiring to know whether he thought it more expedient to marry or not. This was a question which the sages of antiquity had frequently taken into consideration. To this question S. Paul here delivers his opinion. Calmet. — Others, with greater probability, suppose the chief question proposed to S. Paul was, whether they were not bound, upon their conversion, to abstain from their infidel wives. S. Jer. cont. Jovin. c. iv. S. Chrys. in hunc. locum. hom. xix. — To this he answers in v. 12. and 13. — It is good. That is, according to the style of the Scriptures, it is better, if we consider the advantage of every particular, &c. Wi.



Ver. 2. &c. But because of fornication, let every man have, and live with his own wife,[1] and not leave her, nor dismiss her. Take notice, that S. Paul speaks these words to those that are already married, and speaks not of the unmarried till the 8th verse. He does not then here exhort every one to marry, but admonishes married persons to live together, and not to refuse the marriage duty, which neither the husband nor the wife can do without mutual consent, because of the marriage engagement. Yet he advises them to abstain sometimes from what they may lawfully do, that they may give themselves to prayer,[2] and as it is added in the common Greek copies, to fasting. S. Chrys. observes, that the words of S. Paul, are not only, that they may pray, (which no day must be omitted) but that they may give themselves to prayer, that is, may be better disposed and prepared for prayer, contemplation, and for receiving the holy Sacrament, as we find the priests even of the ancient law, were to abstain from their wives, when they were employed in the functions of their ministry. But such kind of advice is not relished by all that pretend to be reformers. And return together again . . . yet I speak this by way of indulgence, of what is allowed to married persons, and not commanded them, unless when one of the married couple is not willing to abstain. Wi.



Ver. 6. By indulgence. That is, by a condescension to your weakness. Ch.



Ver. 7-8. I would, or I could wish you all were even as myself, and as it is said in the next verse, to continue unmarried as I do. From hence it is evident, that S. Paul was not then married, who according to the opinion of the ancient fathers, was never married. But when the apostle says, I would this as to you all, he only signifies what could be wished for, the particular good of every one considered as a particular person, but what cannot be hoped for, considering the state of mankind in general, and the temptations, and frailty of men. — But every one hath his proper gift from God, so that some prudently embrace a single life, and also make a religious vow of always living so, as it has been practised by a great number both of men and women in all ages, ever since Christ's time. Others have not this more perfect gift: they find themselves not disposed to lead, or vow a single life, they marry lawfully: it is better to marry than to burn, or be burnt by violent temptations of concupiscence, by which they do not contain themselves from disorders of that kind. It is against both the Latin and Greek text to translate, they cannot contain themselves, as in the Prot. and Mr. N . . . 's translation. Dr. Wells, in his paraphrase, gives the sense of this place in these words: The inconveniences of marriage are to be undergone, rather than such sinful imaginations, or practises, as arise from the flames of an ungovernable lust. They therefore that are unmarried or widows, (to whom S. Paul speaks in these two verses) may have recourse to marriage as a remedy. But let it be observed, that when S. Paul allows of marriage, he speaks not of those who have already made a vow of living always a single life. Vows made to God must be kept. Ps. lxxv. 12. Eccl. v. 3. And S. Paul expressly says of such persons, who have made a vow of perpetual continency, and afterwards marry, that they incur damnation, because they violate their first faith, or vow made to God. See 1 Tim. v. 12. This saying, therefore, it is better to marry than to burn, cannot justify the sacrilegious marriages of priests, or of any others who were under such vows. There are other remedies which they are bound to make use of, and by which they may obtain the gift of continency and chastity. They must ask this gift by fervent prayers to God, who gives a good spirit to them that ask it. Luke xi. 15. They must join fasting, alms, and the practice of self-denials, so often recommended in the gospel. See the annotations on Mat. xix. The like remedies, and no others, must they use, who being already in wedlock, are under such violent temptations, that they are continually in danger of violating, or do violate the chastity of the marriage-bed. For example, when married persons are divorced from bed and board, when long absent from one another, when sick and disabled, when one has an inveterate aversion to the other: they cannot marry another, but they can, and must use other remedies. Wi.



Ver. 9. If they do not contain. This is spoken of such as are free; and not of such as by vow have given their first faith to God; to whom, if they will use proper means to obtain it, God will never refuse the gift of continency. Some translators have corrupted this text, by rendering it, if they cannot contain. Ch.



Ver. 10. But to them that are married, &c. He tells these persons, that they ought not to part, or if a separation for weighty reasons can be allowed, neither party can marry another. Wi. — That the wife. Jesus Christ has expressly declared, that in one case only a divorce may be allowable, and that is in the case of adultery. Est.



Ver. 12-17. For to the rest, &c. This was a case entirely new, which the wisdom of the apostle regulates according to the laws of charity. Tertul. thinks that some of the faithful, who had been converted from paganism, did not esteem it lawful to live any longer with their wives, who were yet buried in the superstitions of idolatry, which scruples S. Paul answers, guided as he was, by the particular lights of the Holy Ghost. Calmet. — Not the Lord. That is, it is the command of the Lord, for such even as are separated, not to marry to another, but when I advised the unmarried not to marry, this is a counsel, or advice, not a divine precept, which doctrine he repeats again before the end of this chap. v. 25. 28. 39. — If any brother have a wife that believeth not, &c. S. Paul speaks of two that were joined by a contract of marriage, when both of them were infidels, and that one of them is converted to the Christian faith: we do not read of any precept that Christ gave, as to those marriages, but the apostle seems to order by his apostolical authority, that they continue as man and wife, unless the party that remains still an infidel, will needs depart; then, says the apostle, let such an one depart. There is also another case, to wit, when the man or woman remaining an infidel, will not live without continual injuries and blasphemies against God and the Catholic religion, so that there can be no peace on that account betwixt them. In these two cases, according to the canons of the Church, it is looked upon as no marriage, so that the party converted may marry another. And this seems grounded on the reason, which the apostle here gave, that God hath called us in peace. Wi.



Ver. 14-16. Is sanctified. The meaning is not that the faith of the husband, or the wife is of itself sufficient to put the unbelieving party, or their children, in the state of grace and salvation: but that it is very often an occasion of their sanctification, by bringing them to the true faith. Ch. — Sanctification which has different significations, cannot here signify that an infidel is truly and properly sanctified, or justified, by being married to a faithful believer; therefore we can only understand an improper sanctification, so that such an infidel, though not yet converted, need not be looked upon as unclean, but in the dispositions of being converted, especially living peaceably together, and consenting that their children be baptized, by which they are truly sanctified.How knowest thou, O wife? &c. These words seem to give the reason, why they may part, when they cannot live peaceably, and when there is little prospect that the party that is an infidel will be converted. Wi.



Ver. 17. &c. But[3] as the Lord hath distributed, . . . and called every one, &c. S. Paul proceeds to other points of discipline, that persons converted may remain and continue in the same employments, and lawful state of life as before, that it is nothing to the purpose, whether before his conversion he was a circumcised Jew, or an uncircumcised Gentile, circumcision being no longer of obligation in the new law. If any one that is converted was a bond-man, or a slave, let him not be concerned at this, but use it rather,[4] which many interpret, let him rather endeavour to be made free, though S. Chrys. and others understand, let him rather remain content with his servile condition. Perhaps it was an admonition to those new converts, who might imagine that their Christian liberty exempted them from being servant of men. However, he gives them this great comfort, that such an one is the Lord's free-man, that is, whoever is a Christian, and in the grace of God; but he adds, let him not be a slave to men, that is, not follow their sinful ways, nor consent to any thing that is criminal. Wi. — All consists in doing the will of God, by loving him with our whole heart; without this, all is illusion. To attach ourselves to exterior practices contrary to the order of God, is the superstition of circumcision; to despise what comes from God, is the pride of uncircumcision.



Ver. 23. With a price. Viz. with the price of the precious blood of Christ. Est. — Him only should we serve, for whatever draws us from this allegiance, is perfect servitude, such as the love of any person or thing out of God.



Ver. 25-28. Now concerning virgins, &c. He turns his discourse again to the unmarried, who (if they have made no vow) may lawfully marry, though he is far from commanding every one to marry, as when he says, seek not a wife. And such shall have tribulation of the flesh, cares, troubles, vexations in the state of marriage, but I spare you, I leave you to your liberty of marrying, or not marrying, and will not discourage you be setting forth the crosses of a married life. Wi.



Ver. 29. The time is short, &c. Incomparable instructions to the end of this chapter, which are not obscure. Wi.



Ver. 30. And they who weep. In this passage the apostle teaches us, in the midst of our greatest afflictions not to suffer ourselves to be overwhelmed with grief, but to recollect that the time of this life is short, and that temporary pains will be recompensed with the never-fading joys of eternity. Est.



Ver. 33. It is far easier to give our whole heart and application without any the least reserve to God, than to divide them without injustice.



Ver. 36. Let him do what he will, he sinneth not, &c. The meaning is not as libertines would have it, that persons may do what they will, and not sin; provided they afterwards marry: but that the father with regard to the giving his virgin in marriage, may do as he pleaseth: and that it will be no sin to him if she marry. Ch.



Ver. 38. &c. He that giveth her not, doth better. And more blessed shall she be, if she so remains, according to my counsel. It is very strange if any one, who reads this chapter without prejudices, does not clearly see, that S. Paul advises, and prefers the state of virginity to that of a married life. — I think that I also have the spirit of God. He puts them in mind, by this modest way of speaking, of what they cannot doubt of, as to so great an apostle. Wi. — It is worthy our notice, that S. Paul on every occasion avoids the least appearance of vanity, and frequently when delivering his own opinion, gives us only a hint, hoping that we shall supply the rest. Of this apostle's modesty in this particular, we have many instances in his writings, as in v. 26. "I think, therefore, that this is good;" and likewise in chap. iv. v. 9. "For I think that God." Estius.

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[1] V. 2. Suam uxorem, suam virum. eautou gunaika, ton idion andra.

[2] V. 5. Ut vacetis orationi, ina scolazhte th proseuch. S. Chrys. ouk eipen aplwV proseucesJe.

[3] V. 17. Nisi, &c. ei mh, it bears the sense here of but.

[4] V. 21. Magis utere, mallon crhsai. S. Chrys. says, touteti mallon douleue.



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