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1 Corinthians 15:29-34

29. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

29. Quid alioqui facient qui baptizantur pro mortuis, si omnino mortui non resurgunt? quid etiam baptizantur pro mortuis?

30. And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

30. Quid etiam nos periclitamur omni hora?

31. I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

31. Quotidie morior per nostram gloriam, fratres, quam habeo in Christo Iesu Domino nostro.

32. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.

32. Si secundum hominem pugnavi ad bestias Ephesi, quid mihi prodest? edamus et bibamus: eras enim moriemur.

33. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

33. Ne erretis: Mores honestos corrumpunt mala colloquia.

34. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

34. Evigilate juste, et ne peccetis: ignorantiam enim Dei quidam habent: ad pudorem vobis incutiendum dico.


29. Else what shall they do He resumes his enumeration of the absurdities, which follow from the error under which the Corinthians labored. He had set himself in the outset to do this, but he introduced instruction and consolation, by means of which he interrupted in some degree the thread of his discourse. To this he now returns. In the first place he brings forward this objection — that the baptism which those received who are already regarded as dead, will be of no avail if there is no resurrection. Before expounding this passage, it is of importance to set aside the common exposition, which rests upon the authority of the ancients, and is received with almost universal consent. Chrysostom, therefore, and Ambrose, who are followed by others, are of opinion 6363     “This,” it is stated by Barnes, “was the opinion of Grotius, Michaelis, Tertullian, and Ambrose.” — Ed. that the Corinthians were accustomed, when any one had been deprived of baptism by sudden death, to substitute some living person in the place of the deceased — to be baptized at his grave. They at the same time do not deny that this custom was corrupt, and full of superstition, but they say that Paul, for the purpose of confuting the Corinthians, was contented with this single fact, 6464     “De ce seul argument;” — “With this single argument.” that while they denied that there was a resurrection, they in the mean time declared in this way that they believed in it. For my part, however, I cannot by any means be persuaded to believe this, 6565     “Mats ie ne voy rien qui me puisse amener a suyure ceste coniecture;” — “But I see nothing that could induce me to follow that conjecture.” for it is not to be credited, that those who denied that there was a resurrection had, along with others, made use of a custom of this sort. Paul then would have had immediately this reply made to him: “Why do you trouble us with that old wives’ superstition, which you do not yourself approve of?” Farther, if they had made use of it, they might very readily have replied: “If this has been hitherto practiced by us through mistake, rather let the mistake be corrected, than that it should have weight attached to it for proving a point of such importance.”

Granting, however, that the argument was conclusive, can we suppose that, if such a corruption as this had prevailed among the Corinthians, the Apostle, after reproving almost all their faults, would have been silent as to this one? He has censured above some practices that are not of so great moment. He has not scrupled to give directions as to women’s having the head covered, and other things of that nature. Their corrupt administration of the Supper he has not merely reproved, but has inveighed against it with the greatest keenness. Would he in the meantime have uttered not a single word in reference to such a base profanation of baptism, which was a much more grievous fault? He has inveighed with great vehemence against those who, by frequenting the banquets of the Gentiles, silently countenanced their superstitions. Would he have suffered this horrible superstition of the Gentiles to be openly carried on in the Church itself under the name of sacred baptism? But granting that he might have been silent, what shall we say when he expressly makes mention of it? Is it, I pray you, a likely thing that the Apostle would bring forward in the shape of an argument a sacrilege 6666     “Ce sacrilege horrible;This horrible sacrilege.” by which baptism was polluted, and converted into a mere magical abuse, and yet not say even one word in condemnation of the fault? When he is treating of matters that are not of the highest importance, he introduces nevertheless this parenthesis, that he speaks as a man. (Romans 3:5; Romans 6:19; Galatians 3:15.) Would not this have been a more befitting and suitable place for such a parenthesis? Now from his making mention of such a thing without any word of reproof, who would not understand it to be a thing that was allowed? For my part, I assuredly understand him to speak here of the right use of baptism, and not of an abuse of it of that nature.

Let us now inquire as to the meaning. At one time I was of opinion, that Paul here pointed out the universal design of baptism, for the advantage of baptism is not confined to this life; but on considering the words afterwards with greater care, I perceived that Paul here points out something peculiar. For he does not speak of all when he says, What shall they do, who are baptized? etc. Besides, I am not fond of interpretations, that are more ingenious than solid. What then? I say, that those are baptized for dead, who are looked upon as already dead, and who have altogether despaired of life; and in this way the particle ὑπέρ will have the force of the Latin pro, as when we say, habere pro derelicto;to reckon as abandoned 6767     The form of expression referred to is made use of by Cicero. (Art. 8.1.) — Ed. This signification is not a forced one. Or if you would prefer another signification, to be baptized for the dead will mean — to be baptized so as to profit the dead — not the living, 6868     “Proufite apres la mort, et non pas la vie durant;” — “Profits after death, and not during life.” Now it is well known, that from the very commencement of the Church, those who had, while yet catechumens, 6969     “Estans encore sur la premiere instruction de la doctrine Chrestienne;” — “Being as yet in the first rudiments of Christian doctrine.” fallen into disease, 7070     “Quelque maladie dangereuse;” — “Some dangerous malady.” if their life was manifestly in danger, were accustomed to ask baptism, that they might not leave this world before they had made a profession of Christianity; and this, in order that they might carry with them the seal of their salvation.

It appears from the writings of the Fathers, that as to this matter, also, there crept in afterwards a superstition, for they inveigh against those who delayed baptism till the time of their death, that, being once for all purged from all their sins, they might in this state meet the judgment of God. 7171     Cornelius a Lapide, in his Commentary on the Canonical Epistles, (Paris, 1631,) adverts in the following terms to the custom referred to by Calvin: Inter conversos olim multi erant qui Baptismum diu differebant, etiam usque ad mortem, adeoque aegri in lecto baptizabantur, ut per Baptismum expiati ab omni culpa et poena illico puri evolarent in coelum:” — “Among the converted there were anciently many who deferred baptism for a long time, even up to the time of their death, and were accordingly baptized when sick in bed, that cleared by baptism from all fault and punishment, they might fly up to heaven pure.” Milner, in his Church History, (volume 2,) when treating of Gregory Nazianzen, says, “In another discourse, he protests against the too common practice of delaying baptism, which, from the example of Constantine, had grown very fashionable, for reasons equally corrupt and superstitious. Men lived in sin as long as they thought they could safely, and deferred baptism till their near approach to death, under a groundless hope of washing away all their guilt at once.” See also Turretine’s Theology, (Geneva, 1690,) volume 3 — Ed. A gross error truly, which proceeded partly from great ignorance, and partly from hypocrisy! Paul, however, here simply mentions a custom that was sacred, and in accordance with the Divine institution — that if a catechumen, who had already in his heart embraced the Christian faith, 7272     “Si celuy qui n’ estoit pas encore parfaitement instruit en la doctrine Chrestienne, et toutesfois auoit desia de vraye affection embrasse la foy;” — “If one, that had not as yet been fully instructed in Christian doctrine, but yet had already embraced the faith with true affection.” saw that death was impending over him, he asked baptism, partly for his own consolation, and partly with a view to the edification of his brethren. For it is no small consolation to carry the token of his salvation sealed in his body. There is also an edification, not to be lost sight of — that of making a confession of his faith. They were, then, baptized for the dead, inasmuch as it could not be of any service to them in this world, and the very occasion of their asking baptism was that they despaired of life. We now see that it is not without good reason that Paul asks, what they would do if there remained no hope after death? 7373     “Baptism,” says Dr. Dick, in his Lectures on Theology, (volume 4) “imports our interest in the resurrection of Christ and its consequences. It was called by the ancients ‘the earnest of good things to come,’ and ‘the type of the future resurrection.’ May not this be the meaning of that passage in the fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, concerning which there has been such a diversity of opinion? ‘Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not? why are they then baptized for the dead?’ (1 Corinthians 15:29.) Some of the Fathers understood the expression, ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν, to mean to be baptized into the hope of the resurrection of the dead; or, what amounts to the same thing, to submit to baptism that they might fill up the places of those who had died, thus declaring their belief that they had not perished, but were alive in a better world, and their hope that, through Jesus Christ, to whom they dedicated themselves in baptism, they also should be raised again to enjoy the same glorious recompense. According to this view of the passage, a resurrection to life is one of the blessings signified and sealed by this institution. It assures us of a triumph over death and the grave, through the redeeming blood of Christ, with which we are sprinkled; and of admission into heaven, for which we are qualified by the washing of regeneration.”Ed. This passage shows us, too, that those impostors who had disturbed the faith of the Corinthians, had contrived a figurative resurrection, making the farthest goal of believers to be in this world, His repeating it a second time, Why are they also baptized for the dead? gives it greater emphasis: “Not only are those baptized who think that they are to live longer, but those too who have death before their eyes; and that, in order that they may in death reap the fruit of their baptism.”

30. Why are we also? “If our resurrection and ultimate felicity are in this world, why do we of our own accord abandon it, and voluntarily encounter death?” The argument might also be unfolded in this manner: “To no purpose would we stand in peril every hour, if we did not look for a better life, after death has been passed through.” He speaks, however, of voluntary dangers, to which believers expose their lives for the purpose of confessing Christ. “This magnanimity of soul, I say, in despising death, would be ascribed to rashness rather than firmness, if the saints perished at death, for it is a diabolical madness to purchase by death an immortal fame. 7474     “Quand quelques fois les mondaines s’exposent a la mort seulement pour acquerir vn bruit immortel;” — “When worldly persons in some cases expose themselves to death, merely to acquire an immortal fame.”

31. I die daily Such a contempt of death he declares to be in himself, that he may not seem to talk bravely when beyond the reach of danger. “I am every day,” says he, “incessantly beset with death. What madness were it in me to undergo so much misery, if there were no reward in reserve for me in heaven? Nay more, if my glory and bliss lie in this world, why do I not rather enjoy them, than of my own accord resign them?” He says that he dies daily, because he was constantly beset with dangers so formidable and so imminent, that death in a manner was impending over him. A similar expression occurs in Psalm 44:22, and we shall, also, find one of the same kind occurring in the second Epistle. (2 Corinthians 11:23.)

By our glory. The old translation reads propter, (because of,) 7575     The rendering in Wiclif (1380) is — for youre glorie.Ed. but it has manifestly arisen from the ignorance of transcribers; for in the Greek particle 7676     The particle νὴ, made use of in solemn protestation. — Ed. there is no ambiguity. It is then an oath, by which he wished to arouse the Corinthians, to be more attentive in listening to him, when reasoning as to the matter in hand. 7777     “Veu qu’il parloit a bon escient, ayant luy-mesme les mains a la besongne, ainsi qu’ on dit;” — “Inasmuch as he spoke in good earnest, having himself his hands in the work, as they say.” “Brethren, I am not some philosopher prattling in the shade. 7878     “Quelque Philosophe qui triomphe de dire, estant loin de la prattique;” — “Some Philosopher, that talks loftily, while far from the scene of action.” As I expose myself every day to death, it is necessary that I should think in good earnest of the heavenly life. Believe, therefore, a man who is thoroughly experienced.”

It is also a form of oath that is not common, but is suited to the subject in hand. Corresponding to this was that celebrated oath of Demosthenes, which is quoted by Fabius, 7979     “Lequel Quintilian allegue;” — “Which Quintilian quotes.” when he swore by the Shades of those who had met death in the field of Marathon, while his object was to exhort them to defend the Republic. 8080     “Quid denique Demosthenes? non illud jusjurandum per caesos in Marathone ac Salamine propugnatores reipublicae, satis manifesto docet, praeceptorem ejus Platonem fuisse?” — “What in fine as to Demosthenes? Does not that celebrated oath by these defenders of the Republic who were slain at Marathon and Salamis, afford ample evidence, that Plato was his preceptor?” Quinctilian, (Edin. 1810,) volume 2. The celebrated oath of the Grecian orator referred to, was in these terms — νὴ τοὺς ἐν Μαράθωνι πεπτωκοτας “By those who fell at Marathon.” — Ed. So in like manner Paul here swears by the glory which Christians have in Christ. Now that glory is in heaven. He shows, then, that what they called in question was a matter of which he was so well assured, that he was prepared to make use of a sacred oath — a display of skill which must be carefully noticed.

32. If according to the manner of men He brings forward a notable instance of death, from which it might be clearly seen that he would have been worse than a fool, if there were not a better life in reserve for us beyond death; for it was an ignominious kind of death to which he was exposed. “To what purpose were it,” says he, “for me to incur infamy in connection with a most cruel death, if all my hopes were confined to this world?” According to the manner of men, means in this passage, in respect of human life, so that we obtain a reward in this world.

Now by those that fought with beasts, are meant, not those that were thrown to wild beasts, as Erasmus mistakingly imagined, but those that were condemned to be set to fight with wild beasts — to furnish an amusement to the people. There were, then, two kinds of punishment, that were totally different — to be thrown to wild beasts, and to fight with wild beasts. For those that were thrown to wild beasts were straightway torn in pieces; but those that fought with wild beasts went forth armed into the arena, that if they were endued with strength, courage, and agility, they might effect their escape by dispatching the wild beasts. Nay more, there was a game in which those who fought with wild beasts were trained, like the gladiators 8181     “Et mesme comme il y auoit le ieu de l’escrime pour duire des gens h combatre les vns contre les nutres, pour donner passetemps au peuple, aussi il y auoit vn ieu auquel on faconnoit des gens a combatre contre les bestes es spectacles publiques;” — “Nay more, as there was a game of fencing for training persons for fighting with each other, to afford amusement to the people, so there was a game in which they made persons fight with wild beasts in the public shows.” Usually, however, very few escaped, because the man who had dispatched one wild beast, was required to fight with a second, 8282     “N’ estoit pas quitte, mais il luy faloit retourner au combat contre la seconde.” — “He was not let go, but had to return to fight with a second.” until the cruelty of the spectators was satiated, or rather was melted into pity; and yet there were found men so abandoned and desperate, as to hire themselves out for this! 8383     “Sometimes freemen, of desperate circumstances, sought a precarious subsistence by hazarding their lives in this profession; but it was chiefly exercised by slaves, and prisoners of war, whom their masters or conquerors devoted to it; or by condemned persons, to whom was thus afforded an uncertain prolongation of existence, dependent upon their own prowess, activity, or skill.”Illustrated Commentary.Ed. And this, I may remark by the way, is that kind of hunting that is punished so severely by the ancient canons, as even civil laws brand it with a mark of infamy. 8484     “What was called venatio,“ (hunting,) ”or the fighting of wild beasts with one another, or with men called bestiarii, (fighters with wild beasts,) who were either forced to this by way of punishment, as the primitive Christians often were; or fought voluntarily, either from a natural ferocity of disposition, or induced by hire, (auctoramento,) Cic. Tusc. Quaest. it. 17. Faro. 7:1., Off. it. 16., Vat. 17. An incredible number of animals of various kinds were brought from all quarters, for the entertainment of the people, and at an immense expense. Cic. Faro. 8:2, 4, 6. They were kept in inclosures, called vivaria, till the day of exhibition. Pompey in his second consulship exhibited at once 500 lions, who were all dispatched in five days; also 18 elephants. Dio. 39. 38. Plin. 8.7.“ Adam’s Roman Antiquities, (Edin. 1792,). — Ed.

I return to Paul. 8585     “Ie retourne maintenant a parler de Sainct Paul;” — “I now return to speak of St. Paul.” We see what an extremity God allowed his servant to come to, and how wonderfully, too, he rescued him. Luke, 8686     “Sainct Luc aux Actes;” — “St. Luke in the Acts.” however, makes no mention of this fight. Hence we may infer that he endured many things that have not been committed to writing.

Let us eat and drink This is a saying of the Epicureans, who reckon man’s highest good as consisting in present enjoyment. Isaiah also testifies that it is a saying made use of by profligate persons, (Isaiah 22:13,) who, when the Prophets of God threaten them with ruin, 8787     “De ruine et perdition;” — “With ruin and perdition.” with the view of calling them to repentance, making sport of those threatenings, encourage themselves in wantonness and unbridled mirth, and in order to show more openly their obstinacy, say, “Since die we must, let us meanwhile enjoy the time, and not torment ourselves before the time with empty fears.” As to what a certain General said to his army, 8888     “Car quant a ce qui on trouue entre les histoires ancicnnes que quelqu’vn disoit aux soldats;” — “For as to its being recorded in ancient histories, that one said to his soldiers.” “My fellowsoldiers, let us dine heartily, for we shall sup to-day in the regions below,” 8989     The allusion is to Leonidas, king of Sparta, when addressing 300 Spartans, at the Pass of Thermopyhe, who “by an act of intrepidity, rarely paralleled in history, set themselves to defend that Pass, in opposition to 20,000 Persian troops, and during the night spread dreadful havoc and consternation among the Persians, but the morning light at length discovering their small number, they were immediately surrounded and slaughtered.” — Robertson’s History of Greece, page 151.Ed. that was an exhortation to meet death with intrepidity, and has nothing to do with this subject. I am of opinion, that Paul made use of a jest in common use among abandoned and desperately wicked persons, or (to express it shortly) a common proverb among the Epicureans to the following purpose: “If death is the end of man, there is nothing better than that he should indulge in pleasure, free from care, so long as life lasts.” Sentiments of this kind are to be met with frequently in Horace. 9090     The following instances may be quoted as a specimen: —
   “O beate Sesti!
Vitae summa brevis nos vetat inchoare longam,
Jam to premet nox, fabulaeque Manes
Et domus exilis Plutonia

   O happy Sestius! the brief span of human life forbids us to indulge a distant hope. Soon will night descend upon thee, and the fabulous Manes, and the shadowy mansion of Pluto.” — Hor. Carm. I. 4, 13-17.

   “Sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi
Spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
Aetas. Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero

   Be wise; rack off your wines; and abridge your distant hopes in adaptation to the brevity of life. While we speak, envious age has been flying. Seize the present day, depending as little as possible on any future one.” — Hor. Carre. I. 11.6-8.

33. Be not deceived. Evil communications corrupt good manners As nothing is easier than to glide into profane speculation, under the pretext of inquiring, 9191     “De douter et s’enquerir;” — “Of doubting and inquiring.” he meets this danger, by warning them that evil communications have more effect than we might suppose, in polluting our minds and corrupting our morals. 9292    Les bonnes moeurs;” — “Good manners.” To show this, he makes use of a quotation from the poet Menander, 9393     “Menander was a celebrated comic poet of Athens, educated under Theophrastus. His writings were replete with elegance, refined wit, and judicious observations. Of one hundred and eight comedies which he wrote, nothing remains but a few fragments. He is said to have drowned himself’ in the fifty-second year of his age, B. C. 293, because the compositions of his rival Philemon obtained more applause than his own.”Barnes.Ed. as we are at liberty to borrow from every quarter everything that has come forth from God. And as all truth is from God, there is no doubt that the Lord has put into the mouth of the wicked themselves, whatever contains true and salutary doctrine. I prefer, however, that, for the handling of this subject, recourse should be had to Basil’s Oration to the Young. Paul, then, being aware that this proverb was in common use among the Greeks, chose rather to make use of it, that it might make its way into their minds more readily, than to express the same thing in his own words. For they would more readily receive what they had been accustomed to — as we have experience of in proverbs with which we are familiar.

Now it is a sentiment that is particularly worthy of attention, for Satan, when he cannot make a direct assault upon us, 9494     “Pour nous seduire;” — “To draw us aside.” deludes us under this pretext, that there is nothing wrong in our raising any kind of disputation with a view to the investigation of truth. Here, therefore, Paul in opposition to this, warns us that we must guard against evil communications, as we would against the most deadly poison, because, insinuating themselves secretly into our minds, they straightway corrupt our whole life. Let us, then, take notice, that nothing is more pestilential than corrupt doctrine and profane disputations, which draw us off, even in the smallest degree, from a right and simple faith; 9595     “De la simplicite de la foy;” — “From the simplicity of the faith.” for it is not without good reason that Paul exhorts us not to be deceived. 9696     “The connection is not that in which we should have expected such a maxim to be inserted. It is in the midst of a very affecting and instructive view of the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting; but the occasion of it was this: the Corinthians had received, from the intrusion of false teachers, principles which militated against that great doctrine. They had been taught to explain it away, and to resolve it merely into a moral process which takes place in the present world; interpreting what is said of the resurrection of the dead in a mystical and figurative manner. The apostle insinuates, that it was by a mixture of the corrupt communications of these men with the Christian Church, and the intimate contact into which they had permitted themselves to come with them, that they had been led off from the fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and rejected a primary part of the apostolic testimony. ‘For if there be no resurrection of the dead, then,’ as he observed, ‘is Christ not risen, and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain; ye are yet in your sins.’ We see, that notwithstanding the apostle had planted pure Christianity among the Corinthians, and had confirmed it by the most extraordinary miracles and supernatural operations, yet such was the contagion of evil example and corrupt communication, that the members of the Corinthian Church, in a very short time, departed from the fundamental article of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ; and hence we may learn the importance, nay, the necessity, of being on our guard in this respect, and of avoiding such confidence in ourselves as might induce us to neglect the caution here so forcibly expressed — ’Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners.’” — R. Hall’s Works, (Lond. 1846,) volume 6, pages 273, 274. — Ed.

34. Awake righteously As he saw that the Corinthians were in a manner intoxicated, 9797     The original word ἐκνήψατε, properly signifies to awake sober out of a drunken sleepage It is used in this sense in stone instances in the Septuagint. Thus in Joel 1:5, Εκνηψατε οἱ μεθυντες Awake, ye drunkards. See also Genesis 9:24, and 1 Samuel 25:37. It is used in the same sense by classical writers. “‘Awake to righteousness and sin not, for some have not the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame;’ that is, shake off the mental delusion and stupor in which the intoxication of error has involved you, that, with clear and exerted faculties, you may attend to the most important subject.”Brown’s Expository Discourses on Peter, volume in. page 8. The expression ἐκνήψατε δικαίως, (awake righteously,) is rendered by Luther machet recht aui — “Wake right up.” It is, however, generally considered to be elliptical. Some supply ζησοτες — “Awake, that ye may live righteously. Others understand δικαίως, as equivalent to ὡς δικαίως δεῖ “as it is fit you should.” “Arrian and Menander,” says Parkhurst, “use δικαιως in this sense, as may be seen in Alberti on the text.” To the two authorities quoted by Alberti, Alexander in his Paraphrase on 1 Corinthians xv., adds one from Ocellus Lucanus — ̔Ο δε διαμαχομενος δικαιως, but the man who stands up for his own authority as he ought to do.”Apud Gale, page 533, I. 20. Ed. 1688. — Ed. through excessive carelessness, he arouses them from their torpor. By adding, however, the adverb righteously, he intimates in what way he would have them wake up For they were sufficiently attentive and clear-sighted as to their own affairs: nay more, there can be no doubt that they congratulated themselves on their acuteness; but in the mean time they were drowsy, where they ought most of all to have been on the watch. He says accordingly, awake righteously — that is, “Direct your mind and aim to things that are good and holy.”

He adds at the same time the reason, — For some, says he, among you are in ignorance of God This required to be stated: otherwise they might have thought that the admonition was unnecessary; for they looked upon themselves as marvellously wise. Now he convicts them of ignorance of God, that they may know that the main thing was wanting in them. A useful admonition to those who lay out all their agility in flying through the air, while in the mean time they do not see what is before their feet, and are stupid where they ought, most of all, to have been clear-sighted.

To your shame Just as fathers, when reproving their children for their faults, put them to shame, in order that they may by that shame cover their shame. When, however, he declared previously that he did not wish to shame them, (1 Corinthians 4:14,) his meaning was that he did not wish to hold them up to disgrace, by bringing forward their faults to public view in a spirit of enmity and hatred. 9898     See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 167. In the mean time, however, it was of advantage for them to be sharply reproved, as they were still indulging themselves in evils of such magnitude. Now Paul in reproaching them with ignorance of God, strips them entirely of all honor.

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