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SCHISMS IN THE CHURCH OF CORINTH—APOLLOS—FIRST SCANDALS.
At the same time that he took his share in the vast propaganda which gained Asia to the worship of 192Jesus, Paul was absorbed by the gravest pre-occupations. The care of all the Churches that he had founded, weighed upon him. The Church of Corinth especially inspired him with the gravest disquiet. During the three or four years which had elapsed since the departure of the Apostle from the port of Cenchrea, trouble of every kind had incessantly agitated this Church. Greek levity had indeed produced certain phenomena which had nothing to do with the points that Christianity had touched.
We have seen that Apollos, after a short stay at Ephesus, where Aquila and Priscilla had worked at his Christian education, had set out for Corinth, with urgent letters from the brethren in Asia to those of Achaia, The knowledge and the eloquence of this new doctor were much admired by the Corinthians. Apollos equalled Paul in his knowledge of the Scriptures, and he greatly surpassed him in his literary culture. The Greek which he spoke was excellent, whilst that of the Apostle was extremely defective. He had also, it seems, the exterior gifts of the orator, which failed in Paul, the imposing attitude, the easy eloquence. What is quite certain is, that at Corinth he had remarkable success. His arguments with the Jews upon the question of knowing if Jesus was the Messiah, were regarded as very strong, and he made many conversions.
Apollos and St Paul appeared, among the new sect, in different aspects. They were the only well-instructed Jews in the Jewish manner who had embraced the doctrine of Jesus. But they came from different schools. Paul came from the Pharisaism of Jerusalem, corrected by the liberal tendencies of Gamaliel. Apollos came from the Judæo-Hellenic school of Alexandria: such things we know by Philo; perhaps he was already instructed in the theories of the logos, and was the introducer of these theories into Christian theology. Paul had the kind of feverish 193ardour, the intense fanaticism, which characterises the Jew of Palestine. Natures like that of Paul only change once in their life; the direction of their fanaticism once found, they press on without ever deviating or examining anything. Apollos, more curious and more critical, was ready to inquire into everything. He was a man of talent rather than an Apostle. But everything makes one believe that he joined to this talent great sincerity, and that he was a very affectionate man. At the time of his arrival at Corinth he had not seen St Paul. It was only by Aquila and Priscilla that he knew the Apostle of whom soon, without wishing it, he was going to be the rival.
Among the light-hearted and brilliant populations of the shores of the Mediterranean, factions, parties, divisions are a social necessity. Life without that appears tedious. These people are bent on procuring for themselves the satisfaction of hating and of loving, of excitement, of jealousy, of triumphing over an opponent, even in the most trivial matters. The object of the division is insignificant; it is the division that is wanted, and that is sought for its own sake. Personal questions become, in societies of this kind, all important. When two teachers or two doctors meet in a little town of the south, the town divides into two parties on the merits of each of them. The two preachers, the two doctors, may be warm friends; they will not prevent their names from becoming the signal of keen contests, the banners of two opposing camps.
It was thus at Corinth. The talent of Apollos turned all heads. His manner was absolutely different from that of Paul. The latter charmed by his boldness, his passion, the keen impression of his ardent soul; Apollos by his speech, which was elegant, correct, and assured. Some people, who did not greatly love Paul. and who perhaps did not owe their 194conversion to him, highly preferred Apollos. They treated Paul as an unpolished man, without education, a stranger to philosophy and polite learning. Apollos was their doctor; they swore only by Apollos. The disciples of Paul, doubtless, replied eagerly, and under-valued the new doctor. Although Paul and Apollos were in no wise enemies, although they regarded themselves as fellow-labourers, and although there was no difference of opinion between them, their names became thus the ensigns of two parties, who quarrelled, in spite of the two doctors, with quite sufficient vivacity. The bitterness continued, even after the departure of Apollos. He, in fact, fatigued perhaps by the zeal displayed for him, and showing himself above all these petty rivalries, left Corinth, and returned to Ephesus. He there found Paul, with whom he had long conversations, and consolidated a friendship which, without being that of the disciple or of the intimate friend, was one of two great souls, worthy of understanding and of loving each other.
That was not the only cause of trouble. Corinth was a place much frequented by strangers. The port of Cenchrea saw great numbers of Jews and Syrians disembark every day, many of whom were already Christians, but of another school than that of Paul, and by no means well disposed to the Apostle. The emissaries of the Church of Jerusalem, whom we have already met at Antioch and in Galatia, upon the footsteps of Paul, had reached Corinth. These new-comers, great orators, full of boasting, fortified with letters of recommendation from the Apostles of Jerusalem, rose against Paul, scattered suspicions upon his honesty, questioned or denied his title of Apostle, and pushed their indelicacy so far as to maintain that Paul himself did not believe that he was really an Apostle, since he did not profit by the ordinary privileges of an Apostle. His disinterestedness was made 195use of against him. They represented him as a vain, frivolous, inconstant man, speaking and menacing without much effect; they reproached him with glorifying himself whenever opportunity offered, and of appealing to pretended favours from Heaven. They scoffed at his visions. They dwelt upon the fact that Paul had not known Jesus,—that he had not, in consequence, any right to speak of him.
At the same time, they represented the Apostles of Jerusalem, especially James and Peter, as the true Apostles, the arch-apostles, in some way. The new-comers, simply because they were of Jerusalem, claimed a relationship with Christ after the flesh, considering the bond that they had with James and with those whom Christ had chosen in his lifetime. They held that God had established a single Doctor, who is Christ, who had instituted the Twelve. Proud of their circumcision and of their Jewish descent, they sought to impose as much as possible the yoke of legal observances. There was thus at Corinth, as there was nearly everywhere else, a “party of Peter.” The division was profound. “I am of Paul,” said some; “I am of Apollos,” said others; “I am of Cephas,” said others still. Some people, finally wishing to pose as superior spirits to these quarrellers, created a very spiritual title for themselves. They invented as the name by which they would designate themselves, that of the “party of Christ.” When the discussion got warm, and when the names of Paul, Apollos, Peter (Cephas) crossed them in the battle, they intervened with the name of that One whom they forgot. “I am of Christ,” said they, and, as these juvenilities did not exclude at the bottom a truly Christian spirit, the remembrance of Jesus had a powerful effect in restoring concord. The name of this “party of Christ” involved nevertheless something of hostility against the Apostle, and a certain ingratitude, since those who were opposed to the “party of Paul” seemed to wish 196to efface the trace of an apostleship to which it owed its knowledge of Christ.
Contact with the Pagans caused to the young Church no small dangers. These dangers came from Greek philosophy, and from bad morals, which everywhere assailing the Church in some degree, here penetrated it and undermined it. We have already seen that at Athens philosophy had stopped the progress of the preaching of Paul. Corinth was far from being a town of as high culture as Athens; there were, however, many well-instructed men there, who received the new doctrines very ill. The cross, the resurrection, the approaching restoration of all things, appeared to them follies and absurdities. The faith of many was shaken, and the attempt to bring about an impossible reconciliation altered the gospel. The irreconcilable struggle between positive science and the supernatural elements of the Christian faith began. This contest will only finish by the complete extinction of positive science in the Christian world in the sixth century; the same contest will be revived with positive science on the threshold of modern times.
The general immorality of Corinth produced upon the Church the most disastrous effects. Many Christians had not been able to break themselves away from loose habits, which, from being common, had almost ceased to be thought culpable. They talked of strange and almost unheard of scandals even in the assembly of the saints. The bad habits of the town crossed the threshold of the Church, and corrupted it. The Jewish rules about marriage, which all parts of the Christian Church proclaimed imperative and absolute, were violated: Christians even lived publicly with their mothers-in-law. A spirit of vanity, of frivolity, of disputation, of foolish pride, reigned among many. It seemed as if there was not another Church in the world, so much did this community 197walk in its own ways without caring for others. The gifts of the Spirit, speaking with tongues, prophesying, the gift of miracles, formerly subjects of so much edification, degenerated into shocking scenes. Hence arose strange disorders in the Church. The women, formerly so submissive, were here very bold, almost claiming equality with the men. They wished to pray aloud, to prophesy in the Church, and that without a veil, their long hair disordered, making the assembly witness of their ecstasies, of their drunken effeminacy, of their pious lubricities.
But it was the agapes (love feasts) or mystic feasts above all which gave an opportunity for the most crying abuses. The scenes of rioting which followed the Pagan sacrifices were there reproduced. Instead of all things being common, each ate the part that he had brought; some went nearly drunk, others very hungry. The poor were covered with shame; the rich seemed by their abundance to insult those who had nothing. The remembrance of Jesus, and of the high significance which he had given to this repast, appeared forgotten. The corporal state of the Church was for the rest bad enough; there were many sick, and several had died. Death, in the state in which the mind of the faithful then was, caused much surprise and hesitation; sickness was held as a trial of faith or as a chastisement.
Had four years then sufficed to take all the virtue out of the work of Jesus? Certainly not. There were still edifying families, in particular that of Stephanas, who was entirely devoted to the service of the Church, and was a model of evangelical activity. But the conditions of Christian society were already much changed. The little Church of saints of the latter day was thrown into a corrupted, frivolous world very little given to mysticism. There were already bad Christians. The time was gone by when Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for having 198kept back some little property. The sacred feast of Jesus had become a debauch, and the earth did not open to devour him who went out drunk from the table of the Lord.
These evil tidings reached Paul one upon another, and filled him with sadness. The first rumours only mentioned some faults against good morals. Paul wrote on this subject an epistle that we no longer have. He therein forbade to the faithful all communication with persons whose life was not pure. Some ill-intentioned men affected to give to this order a meaning which rendered it impossible to be executed. “Are we at Corinth then,” said they, “to have communications with irreproachable people only? . . . . But what is he thinking of? It is not only from Corinth, it is from the world that we must depart.” Paul was obliged to revert to this order, and explain it.
He knew the divisions which agitated the Church a little later, probably in April, by the brothers whom he called “them which are of the house of Chloe.” Just at this moment he thought of leaving Ephesus. Some motives which we do not know detained him there for some time. He sent into Greece before him, with powers equal to his own, his disciple Timothy, accompanied by several brothers, amongst others a certain Erastus, probably another than the treasurer of the town of Corinth, who bore the same name. Although the principal object of their journey was Corinth, they passed through Macedonia. Paul intended to take this journey himself, and, according to his custom, he caused his disciples to precede him to announce his arrival.
Shortly after the message of Chloe, and before Timothy and his companion had arrived at Corinth, new envoys from this town came to find Paul. These were the deacon Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, three men very dear to the Apostle. Stephanas was 199according to the Apostle’s expression, “the first fruits of Achaia,” and since the departure of Aquila and Priscilla he had held the first rank in the community, or at least in the party of Paul. The envoys brought a letter asking for explanations with regard to the former epistle of Paul, and for solutions of divers cases of conscience, in particular touching marriage, the meats sacrificed to idols, spiritual exercises, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. The three envoys added by word of mouth details of the abuses which had been introduced. The annoyance of the Apostle was extreme, and, regardless of consolation that the pious messengers gave him, he lost his temper in the presence of such feebleness and levity. He had fixed his departure for after Easter, which was probably two months later on; but he wished to pass through Macedonia. He could not even now be at Corinth in less than three months. He immediately resolved to write to the sick Church, and to reply to the questions they had addressed to him. As Timothy was not with him, he took as a secretary a disciple unknown to the others, named Sosthenes, and, by a delicate attention, he wished that the name of this disciple should figure in the subscription of the letter along with his own.
He began by an appeal to concord, and, under the appearance of humility, by an apology for his preaching,—
“Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptised in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptised none of you but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I baptised in mine own name. And I baptised also the household of Stephanas: besides I know not whether I baptised any other. For Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the 200cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, I will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound them which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. . . .
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of 201God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought, but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, be-cause they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. . . .
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For when one saith, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers 202by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God, that giveth the increase . . . For we are labourers together with God; ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. . . . Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? . . . Let no man deceive himself. If any among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. . . . But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment; yea, I judge not mine own self . . . but he that judgeth me is the Lord. . . . Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
“And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes that no one of you be puffed up for one against 203another . . . Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. For I think that God hath set forth us, the Apostles, last, as it were, appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; and labour, working with our own hands; being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat; we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscourings of all things unto this day!
“I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways, which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every Church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?”
After this general apology, the Apostle approaches each of the abuses which had been pointed out to him, and the questions which had been put to him. It is for the incestuous an extreme severity.
“It is reported commonly among you that there is 204fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he hath done this deed might be taken away from you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
There can be no doubt: it is a sentence of death that Paul pronounces. Terrible legends were circulated as to the effect of the excommunications. It is to be remembered, besides, that Paul seriously believed in the working of miracles. By only delivering to Satan the body of the blameable, he doubtless believed himself to be indulgent.
The order that Paul had given in a preceding letter (lost) to the Corinthians, to avoid the shameless, had brought about mistakes. Paul developed his idea. The Christian has not to judge the world without, but to be severe only upon those who are within. A single spot on the purity of life ought to be sufficient to exclude one from the Christian society; it is forbidden so much as to eat with a delinquent. Thus it may seem in a convent, a congregation of pious persons, occupied in watching and judging each other, much more than in a church, in the modern sense of the word. The whole Church, in the eyes of the Apostle, is responsible for the faults committed within its bosom. This exaggeration of severity had its reason for its existence in ancient society, which sinned in so many other ways. But we feel that such an idea of sanctity is narrow-minded, illiberal, contrary to the morality of him whom we formerly called 205“a good fellow;” a morality whose fundamental principle is to busy oneself as little as possible with other people’s conduct. The question is only to know if society can exist without censuring bad manners, and if the future will not bring back something analogous to the ecclesiastical discipline that modern liberalism has so jealously suppressed.
The ideal type of moral perfection, according to Paul, is a man, gentle, honest, chaste, sober, charitable, unfettered by riches. Humility of condition and poverty are almost necessary for one who would be a Christian. The words “miser, greedy one, thief,” are nearly synonymous; at least the vices which they designate are liable to the same reproach. The antipathy of this little world for the great profane society was strange. Paul, following in that the Jewish tradition, reproves as an act unworthy of the faithful any reference to the courts of law.
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? . . . Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to the life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in this church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren!”
The relations of the sexes were a matter of the gravest difficulty. The Apostle was occupied with 206them constantly when he wrote to the Corinthians. The coldness of Paul gives to his morality something sensible, but at the same time monastic and narrow. The sexual attraction is in his eyes an evil, a shame. Since it cannot be suppressed, it must be regulated. Nature, for Saint Paul, is evil, and grace consists in contradicting and mastering it. He has, nevertheless, beautiful expressions as to the respect that man owes to his body: God will raise it, the bodies of the faithful are the temples of the Holy Ghost, the members of Christ. What a crime then it is to take the members of Christ to make them the members of a harlot! Absolute chastity is most valuable, virginity is the perfect state; marriage has been established as a lesser evil. But, from the time when it is contracted, the two parties have equal rights over each other. The interruption of conjugal relations ought only to be admitted for a time and in view of religious duties. Divorce is forbidden, save in the case of mixed marriages, where the unbeliever first retires.
Marriages contracted between Christians and unbelievers may be continued. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband,” in the same manner that the children are sanctified by the parents. One can, moreover, hope that the faithful spouse will convert the unfaithful. But new marriages can only be between Christians. All these questions will present themselves under the most singular light, since the end of the world was believed to be at hand. In the state of crisis which existed, pregnancy and the begetting of children appeared anomalies. There is little marrying in the sect, and one of the most untoward consequences for those who had associated these was the impossibility of establishing their daughters. Many murmured, finding that thing unbecoming and contrary to 207custom. To prevent greater evils, and out of regard for the fathers of families, who had on their hands marriageable daughters, Paul permitted marriage, but he did not conceal the contempt and disgust which he had for that estate, which he found disagreeable, full of trouble, and humiliating.
“The time is short; it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it, for the fashion of this world passeth away. But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things of the world, how he may please his wife. There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.”
Religious exaltation always produces such sentiments. Orthodox Judaism, which, however, showed itself opposed to celibacy, and which treated marriage as a duty, had doctors who reasoned like Paul. “Why should I marry?” said Rabbi ben Azai. “I am in love with the Law; the human race can be perpetuated by others.” Later on, as will appear, Paul expressed upon this subject much juster thoughts, and saw in the union of man and wife a symbol of the love of Christ for his Church; he placed as the supreme law of marriage the love of the man on the one hand, and the submission of the woman on 208the other; he recalled the admirable chapter of Genesis in which the mysterious attraction of the two sexes is explained by a philosophical fable of a divine beauty.
The question of the meats offered to idols is resolved by St Paul with great good sense. The Judæo-Christians held that total abstinence from such meats was a duty, and it appears that it had been agreed at the Council of Jerusalem that they should be generally forbidden. Paul has broader views. According to him, the circumstance of a piece of meat having been part of a sacrificed beast is insignificant. The false gods being nothing, the meat which is offered to them is not defiled. Any meat exposed in the market may be bought freely, without there being any need for asking questions as to the origin of each morsel. A reserve, however, ought to be made: there are scrupulous consciences which take that for idolatry; and the enlightened man ought to be guided not only by principle, but also by charity. He ought to forbid himself the things which are permitted, if weak brethren are scandalised by it. Knowledge exalts, but charity edifies. “All things are lawful unto you, but all things are not expedient; but all this edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.” It is one of the favourite ideas of Paul, and the explanation of several episodes of his life, in which one sees him subdue himself out of regard for timorous persons, to observances which he did not consider of the least value. “If the meat that I eat,” says he, “innocent as it is, scandalises my brother, I will renounce eating it for ever.”
Some faithful people, however, went a little further. Constrained by family relationships, they took part in the festivities which followed the sacrifices, and which took place in the temples. Paul blames this custom, and, according to a method of reasoning familiar to him, starts on a different principle from that which he had just before admitted. The gods of the nations are 209devils; to participate in their sacrifices, is to have commerce with devils. One cannot at the same time participate at the table of the Lord and at the table of devils, or drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils. The feasts which are held in the houses are not of the same importance: it is not necessary to go there, nor to disquiet oneself about the providing of meats; if you are told that any meat has been sacrificed to the gods, from a scandal which must result, abstain from it. In general, avoid that which can be a stumbling-block for the Jew, the Pagan, the Christian; subordinate in practice one’s own liberty to that of others, all the while maintaining one’s rights; in everything seek to please all.
“Follow my example,” he continues. “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet, doubtless, I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare anytime at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? . . . If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing that ye shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless, we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. . . . What is my reward then? Verily, that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the 210law, as under the law; to them that are without law, as without law (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. . . . Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize. So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I; not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
As for the question of the place of women in the church, we can easily see that the Apostle will decide it with his unyielding harshness. He blames the bold efforts of the Corinthian women, and recalls them to the practice of other communities. Women ought not to speak or even ask questions in church. The gift of tongues is not for them. They ought to be submissive to their husbands. If they wish to know anything, let them ask their husbands at home. It is also shameful for a woman to appear without a veil in church, unless she be shorn or shaven. The veil is, moreover, necessary “because of the angels.” It was supposed that the angels present at divine service are capable of being tempted by the sight of the hair of women, or at least of being distracted by this sight from their duty, which is to bear to God the prayers of the saints. “The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. . . . For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man . . . but all things of God.”211
The related observations on the “Supper of the Lord” have an immense historical interest. This feast became more and more the essential part of Christian worship. More and more also is spread abroad the idea that Jesus himself was eating there. That, without doubt, was metaphorical; but the metaphor in the Christian language of this time was not openly distinct from the reality. In every case this sacrament was in a great degree a sacrament of union and of love.
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh; are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? . . . For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, ‘Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.’ After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
The penalty incurred by not acknowledging the high sanctity of the Supper of the Lord is not eternal damnation—there are temporal trials, or even death—212death being often an expiation which saves the soul. “There are perhaps,” adds the Apostle, “among you many feeble men, sick, and numerous deaths. If we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged. But the judgments of the Lord are corrections which preserve us from being judged with the world,” that is to say, condemned in eternity. For the moment the Apostle limits himself to ordaining that those who come to the agapes shall wait for each other, that they must eat at home to satisfy their appetite, and that they must guard the mystical significance of the Lord’s Supper. He will “set the rest in order” when he comes to them.
The Apostle then traces the theory of the manifestations of the Spirit. Under the badly-defining names of “gifts,” “services” (offices), and “powers,” he arranges thirteen functions, constituting all the hierarchy and all the forms of supernatural activity. Three functions are openly designated and subordinated to each other. They are, 1st, the function of an apostle; 2d, that of a prophet; 3d, that of a teacher. Then come gifts, services, or powers which, without conferring so elevated a permanent character, serve for perpetual manifestations of the Spirit. These are, 1st, the word of wisdom; 2d, the word of knowledge; 3d, faith; 4th, the gifts of healing; 5th, the power of working miracles; 6th, the discerning of spirits; 7th, the gift of speaking in divers kinds of tongues; 8th, the interpretations of tongues thus spoken; 9th, the works of charity; 10th, the cares of administration. All these functions are good, useful, necessary; they ought neither to undervalue nor to envy each other. All have the same source. All the “gifts” come from the Holy Ghost, all the “services” come out from Christ, all the “powers” come from God. The body has several members, and yet is one; the division of functions is necessary in the Church as in the body. These functions can no more be divided from each 213other than the eye can be divided from the hand, or the head from the feet. All jealousy between them is therefore misplaced. Without doubt they are not equal in dignity, but they are justly the most feeble members which are the most necessary; they are the feeblest members which are the most honoured, the most carefully surrounded, God having wished to establish in this way a compensation, so that there might be neither schism nor jealousy in the body. The members ought to be careful of each other; if one suffers, all suffer. The advantages and the glory of one are the advantages and the glory of the other. To what good besides are these rivalries? There is a way open to all, the gift which has an immense superiority over all others.
Borne along by a truly prophetical inspiration beyond the confused ideas and blundering which he had just exposed, Paul then wrote this admirable passage, the only one in all Christian literature which can be compared to the discourses of Jesus.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, 214it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
Versed in experimental psychology, Paul went a little further. He had said,—“Brethren, leave illusions. These inarticulate stammerings, these ecstasies, these miracles, are the dreams of your infancy. That which is not visionary—that which is eternal—is what I have just preached to you.” But then if he had not been of his time, he would not have done what he did. Is it not already a great deal to have indicated this capital distinction of eternal religious truths, which are infallible, and of those which, like the dreams of the first age, come to nought? Has he not done enough for immortality by having written this sentence, “The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life?” Woe to him who would stop on the surface, and who, for the sake of two or three visionary gifts, would forget that in this strange enumeration—among the diaconies and the charismata of the primitive Church, are the care of those who suffer, the administration of charitable funds, reciprocal assistance! Paul enumerates these duties in the last place, and as humble things. But his piercing glance can still read the truth here. “Take care,” says he, “that our humblest members are justly the most honoured.” Prophets, speakers with tongues, doctors, you will pass. Deacons, devoted widows, administrators of the good of the Church, you will remain: you build for eternity.”215
In the laying down of rules relative to spiritual exercises, Paul shows his practical spirit. He puts preaching highly above the gift of tongues. Without absolutely denying the reality of the gift of tongues, he makes on this subject reflections which are equivalent to blaming it. The gift of tongues does not speak to men; it speaks to God. No one can understand it; it only edifies him who is speaking. Preaching, on the contrary, serves for the edification and consolation of all. The gift of tongues is only good if it be interpreted—that is to say, if other faithful people specially endowed for that intervene, and know that they hold the sense of it. By itself, it is like indistinct music; we hear the sound of the flute or cithara, but know not the piece that these instruments are playing. It is like a badly-blown trumpet: it makes a great noise, but as it says nothing clear, nobody obeys the uncertain signal or prepares for the combat. If the tongue does not give clearly articulated sounds, it does but beat the air; a discourse in a tongue that no one understands has no meaning. Thus much of the gift of tongues is without interpretation. Moreover, the gift of tongues in itself is barren; the meaning of it remains without fruit.
“Else when thou shalt bless with the Spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandest not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God I speak with tongues more than ye all; yet in the Church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Brethren, be not children in understanding; howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. . . . If therefore the whole Church be come together into one place, and 216all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all; and thus are the secrets of the heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. How is it then, brethren? When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the Church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. . . . Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Some strange noises, which were called the gift of tongues, and in which were mixed Greek, Syriac, the words anathema maran atha, the names of “Jesus, of Lord,” greatly embarrassed simple men. Paul, when consulted on this subject, practised what was called “the discerning of spirits,” and to distinguish in this confused jargon what might come from the spirit and what might not.
The fundamental dogma of the primitive Church, the resurrection, and the approaching end of the world, hold a considerable place in this epistle. The Apostle returns to it eight or nine different times. 217The renewal will be by fire. The saints will be the judges of the world, even of the angels. The resurrection, which of all Christian dogmas was the most repugnant to the Greek spirit, is the object of particular attention. Many, whilst admitting the resurrection of Jesus, his approaching appearance, and the restoration that he was about to accomplish, did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. When there was a death in the community, it was to them a scandal and an embarrassment. Paul had no difficulty in showing them their illogical position: “If the dead be not raised, neither is Christ raised any the more—all hope is vain.” Christians have much more cause to complain than other men; the truly wise are those who say, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee of the resurrection of all. Jesus has made the first step, his disciples will follow him in the day of his glorious manifestation. Then will begin the reign of Christ: all other power but his will be destroyed. Death will be the last enemy that he will vanquish: all will be submitted to him, God alone excepted, who has submitted all things to him. The Son, in fact, will be eager to render homage to God, and to submit himself to him, that God may be all in all.
“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of man, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the 218terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another gory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. . . . Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? . . . But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Alas, the Christ came not. All died one after another. Paul, who was believed to be one of those who would live till near the great appearance, died in his turn. We shall see how neither faith nor hope stopped for that. No experience, however desolating it may be, appears decisive to humanity, when it is concerned with these sacred dogmas in which it finds, not without reason, its consolation and joy. It is easy for us to find that after a time that these hopes were exaggerated; it were well, nevertheless, that those who have partaken of them had not been so clear sighted. Paul tells us candidly that, if he had not counted upon the resurrection, he would have led the life of a peaceable citizen, wholly occupied with his vulgar pleasures. Some sages of the first order—Marcus Aurelius, Spinoza, for example—have gone 219further, and have practised the highest virtue without hope of reward. But the crowd is never heroic. It has needed a generation of men persuaded that they would not die, it has needed the attraction of an immense immediate reward, to draw from man that enormous sum of devotion and of sacrifice which has founded Christianity. The great chimera of the approaching kingdom of God has been thus the maternal and creative idea of the new religion. We shall soon assist at the transformation that the necessity of things will bring about in this belief. About the years 54-58 it had attained its highest degree of intensity. All the letters of Paul written about this time are, so to speak, impregnated with it. The two Syriac words Maran atha—“The Lord is at hand,” were the passwords amongst Christians,—the lively and short expression that they used to each other to encourage one another in their hopes
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