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1 Corinthians 7:25-28

25. Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.

25. De virginibus autem praeceptum Domini non habeo: sed consilium do, tanquam misericordiam consequutus a Domino, ut sim fidelis.

26. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

26. Arbitror igitur hoc bonum esse propter instantem necessitatem, quod bonum sit homini sic esse.

27. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

27. Alligatus es uxori? ne quaeras solutionem. Solutus es ab uxore? ne quaeras uxorem

28. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

28. Quodsi etiam duxeris uxorem, non peccasti: et si nupserit virgo, non peccavit: attamen afflictionem in carne habebunt eiusmodi. Ego autem vobis parco.


25. Concerning virgins He now returns to treat of marriage, of which he had begun to speak in the commencement of the chapter. What he is now about to state he had previously touched upon, but briefly and somewhat obscurely. He accordingly intimates more explicitly what his views are respecting virginity; but as it is a matter that is liable to be misapprehended, and is full of difficulties, he always speaks, as we shall see, conditionally. Virgins here I understand as meaning virginity. As to this, he says he has no commandment of the Lord; because the Lord does not in any part of the Scriptures declare what persons ought to remain unmarried. Nay, on the contrary, inasmuch as the Scripture says, that

male and female were created together, (Genesis 2:21,)

it seems as if it called every one equally and without exception to marriage: 414414     “Appelle indifferemment et sans exception tous hommes et femmes a se marier;” — “Calls all men and women indiscriminately and without exception to marry.” at least celibacy is nowhere enjoined upon any one, or commended.

He says that he gives advice, not as if there were anything doubtful in it, and had little or no stability, but as being certain, and deserving to be maintained without any controversy. The word, too, that he employs, γνώμη, signifies not merely advice, but a decisive judgment. 415415     Such is the view that Beza takes of the meaning of the term here — “Sententiam in hac re meam dico;” — “I give you my authoritative decision as to this matter.” — Ed. Papists, however, rashly infer from this, that it is allowable to go beyond the limits of God’s word, since nothing was farther from Paul’s intention than to go beyond the limits of God’s word for if any one attends more closely, he will see, that Paul here advances nothing but what is included in what Christ says in Matthew 5:32, and Matthew 19:5; but in the way of anticipating an objection, he acknowledges that he has no express precept in the law, pointing out who ought to marry, and who not

Having obtained mercy to be faithful. He secures authority for his decision, that no one may think himself at liberty to reject it, if he chooses. For he declares that he does not speak simply as a man, but as a faithful teacher of the Church, and an Apostle of Christ. According to his custom, he declares himself to be indebted for this to the mercy of God, 416416     The original word, ἠλεημένος, which has occasioned no inconsiderable difficulty to interpreters, is ingeniously supposed by Granville Penn, in his Supplemental Annotations, to be a dialectic variation of ηλημενος, for ειλημενος, bound, (from ειλεω, to bind,) in which case the meaning would be this: “as one bound by the Lord to be faithful.” Taking the word in this light, the expression is much similar to what we find employed by the Apostle in a subsequent chapter of this Epistle — ἀνάγκη γάρ μοι ἐπίκειται, necessity is laid upon me (1 Corinthians 9:16.) — Ed as it was no common honor, nay superior to all human merits. Hence it appears, that whatever things have been introduced into the Church by human authority, 417417     “Du cerueau des hommes;” — “From man’s brain.” have nothing in common with this advice of Paul. But faithful here means truthful — one who does not do what he does merely from pious zeal, but is also endowed with knowledge, so as to teach with purity and faithfulness For it is not enough for a teacher to be conscientious, if he has not also prudence and acquaintance with the truth.

26. I think therefore that this is good. While I translate this passage of Paul’s writings differently from Erasmus or the Vulgate, I at the same time do not differ from them as to its meaning. They divide Paul’s words in such a way, that the same thing is repeated twice. I, on the other hand, make it simply one proposition, and not without authority, for I follow ancient and approved manuscripts, which make it all one sentence, with merely a colon between. The meaning is this: “I think it expedient on account of the necessity, with which the saints are always harassed in this life, that all should enjoy the liberty and advantage of celibacy, as this would be of advantage to them.” There are some, however, that view the term necessity as referring to the age of the Apostle, which was, undoubtedly, full of trouble to the pious: but he appears to me to have had it rather in view to express the disquietude with which the saints are incessantly harassed in the present life. I view it, therefore, as extending to all ages, and I understand it in this way, that the saints are often, in this world, driven hither and thither, and are exposed to many and various tempests, 418418     “Diuerses afflictions et orages;” — “Various afflictions and tempests.” so that their condition appears to be unsuitable for marriage. The phrase so to be, signifies to remain unmarried, or to abstain from marriage.

27. Art thou bound to a wife? Having stated what would be most advantageous, he adds at the same time, that we ought not to be so much influenced by the advantages of celibacy, that one that is bound by the tie of marriage should shake off the connection. It is therefore a restriction upon the preceding statement, lest any one, influenced by his commendation of celibacy, should turn his thoughts to it, and despise marriage, forgetful of his necessity or of his calling Now in these words he does not merely forbid the breaking up of the connection of marriage, but also represses the dislikes that are wont to creep in, that every one may continue to live with his wife willingly and cheerfully.

Art thou loosed from a wife? This second clause must be taken with a reservation, as is manifest from the entire context. He does not, then, allow to all the choice of perpetual celibacy, but only to those to whom it is given. Let no one, therefore, who is not constrained by any necessity, rashly ensnare himself, for liberty ought not to be lightly thrown away. 419419     “Car il ne faut pas quitter legerement sa liberte sans y bien penser;” — “For he ought not to abandon his liberty lightly, without thinking much as to it.”

28. But if thou shouldest even marry. As there was a danger of one’s thinking from the preceding statement, that he tempted God, if he knowingly and willingly bound himself to marriage, (as that would be to renounce his liberty,) he removes this scruple; for he gives liberty to widows to marry, and says, that those that marry do not sin. The word even also seems to be emphatic — to intimate, that even though there be no positive necessity urging to it, the unmarried are not prohibited from marrying whenever they may see fit.

And if a virgin marry Whether this is an amplification, or simply an illustration, this, in the first place, is beyond all controversy, that Paul designed to extend the liberty of marriage to all. Those who think that it is an amplification, are led to think so by this, that it seems to approach nearer to a fault, and is more open to reprehension, or at least has more occasion of shame, to loose the virgin girdle (as the ancients express themselves) than, upon the death of a husband, to enter into a second marriage. The argument then would be this: “If it is lawful for a virgin to marry, much more may widows.” I am rather of opinion, that he makes both equal in this way: “As it is allowable for a virgin, so is it for widows also.” For second marriages among the ancients were not without some mark of reproach, as they adorned those matrons, who had contented themselves with one marriage during their whole life, with a chaplet of chastity 420420     In accordance with this, Univira, (the wife of one husband,) is often found in ancient inscriptions as an epithet of honor. — Ed. — an honor that tended to reflect reproach upon those that had married repeatedly. And it is a well known saying of Valerius, 421421     “Autheur aneien;” — “An ancient author.” that “it betokens a legitimate excess 422422     “C’est a dire, coloree et reglee par les lois;” — “That is to say, colored over and regulated by the laws.” when a second marriage is desired.” The Apostle, therefore, makes virgins and widows alike as to liberty of marriage.

Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh. He frequently repeats the reason why he leans more to the side of celibacy in his exhortations, lest he should seem to prefer the one condition to the other on its own account, rather than on account of its consequences. He says, that there are many troubles that are connected with the married life, and that on that account he wishes all to be free from marriage, who desire to be exempt from troubles. When he says, that they will have trouble of the flesh, or in the flesh, he means, that the anxieties and distresses in which married persons are involved arise from the affairs of the world. The flesh, therefore, is taken here to mean the outward man. To spare means to indulge, or to wish them to be exempted from the troubles that are connected with marriage. “I am desirous to make provision for your infirmity, that you may not have trouble: now marriage brings with it many troubles. This is the reason why I should wish you not to require to marry — that you may be exempt from all its evils.” Do not, however, infer from this that Paul reckons marriage to be a necessary evil for those troubles of which he speaks do not arise so much from the nature of marriage, as from the corruption of it, for they are the fruits of original sin.

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