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1 Corinthians 7:29-35

29. But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

29. Hoc autem dico, fratres, quia 423423     “Ou, Mais ie vous di ceci, mes freres, que le temps;” — “Or, But I say this to you, my brethren, that the time.” tempus contractum est: reliquum est, ut qui uxores habent, sint tanquam non habentes:

30. 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;

30. Et qui flent, tanquam non flentes: et qui gaudent, tanquam non gandentes: et qui emunt, tanquam non possidentes:

31. And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

31. Et qui utuntur hoc mundo, tanquam non utentes: praeterit enim figura mundi hujus.

32. 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:

32. Velim autem vos absque solicitudine esse. Qui coelebs est, curat ea quae sunt Domini, quomodo placiturus sit Domino:

33. But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

33. Coniugatus curat ea quae sunt mundi, qualiter uxori placiturus sit, et divisus est.

34. There is 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

34. Et mulier caelebs, et virgo curat ea quae sunt Domini, ut sancta sit corpore et spiritu: at quae maritum habet, curat ea quae sunt mundi, quomodo placitura sit marito.

35. 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.

35. Hoc autem ad utilitatem vestram dico, non ut laqueum vobis iniiciam, sed ad honestatem ac decorum, ut Domino adhaereatis absque ulla distractione.


29. Because the time is short, etc. Again he discourses respecting the holy use of marriage, for the purpose of repressing the wantonness of those who, when they have married, think of nothing but the delights of the flesh. They have no remembrance of God. Hence he exhorts believers not to give way to unbridled desire in such a way, that marriage should have the effect of plunging them into the world. Marriage is a remedy for incontinency. It has really the effect, if it be used with moderation. He therefore exhorts married persons to live together chastely in the fear of the Lord. This will be effected, if marriage is made use of by them, like other helps of this earthly life, having their hearts directed upwards to meditation on the heavenly life. Now, he draws his argument from the shortness of human life: “This life,” says he, “which we are now spending is frail, and of short duration. Let us not therefore be held entangled by it. Let those accordingly who have wives, be as though they had none.” Every one, it is true, has this philosophy in his mouth, but few have it truly and in good earnest impressed upon their minds. In my first translation, I had followed a manuscript, to which (as I afterwards discovered) not one of the many others gave any countenance. I have accordingly deemed it proper to insert the particle because, to make the meaning more apparent, and in accordance also with the reading in some ancient copies. For as in those cases in which we are deliberating as to anything, we look to the future rather than to the past, he admonishes us as to the shortness of the time that is to come.

As though they had none All things that are connected with the enjoyment of the present life are sacred gifts of God, but we pollute them when we abuse them. If the reason is asked, we shall find it to be this, that we always dream of continuance in the world, for it is owing to this that those things which ought to be helps in passing through it become hindrances to hold us fast. Hence, it is not without good reason, that the Apostle, with the view of arousing us from this stupidity, calls us to consider the shortness of this life, and infers from this, that we ought to use all the things of this world, as if we did not use them. For the man who considers that he is a stranger in the world uses the things of this world as if they were another’s — that is, as things that are lent us for a single day. The sum is this, that the mind of a Christian ought not to be taken up with earthly things, or to repose in them; for we ought to live as if we were every moment about to depart from this life. By weeping and rejoicing, he means adversity and prosperity; for it is customary to denote causes by their effects. 424424     “Or de prosperite s’ensuit ioye, comme d’aduersitez pleurs;” — “Now joy is attendant on prosperity, as tears are on adversities.” The Apostle, however, does not here command Christians to part with their possessions, but simply requires that their minds be not engrossed in their possessions. 425425     “Enterrez en icelles;” — “Buried in them.”

31. And they that use this world In the first clause there is the participle χρώμενοι (using,) in the second, there is a compound of it — καταχρώμενοι (abusing.) Now the preposition κατα in a compound state is generally taken in a bad sense, or at least denotes intensity. 426426     “Tellement que le mot signifie yci, Abusans, ou Vsans trop;” — “So that the word means here abusing, or using too much.” The verb καταχράομαι, is frequently made use of by classical writers to mean using to the uttermost, using up, or misusing See Dem 430, 10, and Lys 153, 46. — Ed Paul, therefore, directs us to a sober and frugal use of things, such as may not impede or retard our course, but may allow of our always hastening forward toward the goal.

For the fashion of this world passeth away By the term here used, the Apostle has elegantly expressed the vanity of the world. “There is nothing,” says he, “that is firm or solid; 427427     “En ce monde;” — “In this world.” for it is a mere show or outward appearance, as they speak.” He seems, however, to have had an allusion to theatrical representations, in which, on the curtain being drawn up in a single moment, a new appearance is presented, and those things that held the eyes of the spectators in astonishment, are immediately withdrawn from their view. I do not see why it is that Erasmus has preferred the term habitus (form.) He certainly, in my opinion, obscures Paul’s doctrine; for the term fashion is tacitly opposed to substance. 428428     “Comme s’il disoit, que ce monde n’ha point vn estre, mais seulement vne monstre et vaine apparence;” — “As if he had said, that this world has not an existence, but only a show and mere appearance.”

32. But I would wish you. He returns to the advice which he had spoken of, (1 Corinthians 7:25,) but had not as yet fully explained, and in the outset he pronounces, as he is wont, a commendation upon celibacy, and then afterwards allows every one the liberty of choosing what he may consider to suit him best. It is not, however, without good reason that he returns so frequently to proclaim the advantages of celibacy, for he saw that the burdens of matrimony were far from light. The man who can exempt himself from them, ought not to refuse such a benefit, and it is of advantage for those who resolve to marry, to be forewarned of those inconveniences, that they may not afterwards, on meeting with them unexpectedly, give way to despondency. This we see happens to many, for having promised themselves unmixed honey, on being disappointed in that expectation, they are very readily cast down by the slightest mishap. 429429     “Qu’ils puissent rencontrer;” — “That they may meet with.” Let them know, therefore, in good time, what they have to expect, that they may be prepared to endure everything patiently. The meaning is this: “Marriage brings along with it hindrances, from which I should wish you to be free and exempt.”

As, however, he has previously made use of the term trouble, (1 Corinthians 7:28,) and now makes mention of cares or anxieties, it may admit of doubt whether they have a different signification, or not. I am of opinion that the trouble referred to is what arises from things of a distressing nature, such as loss of children, widowhood, quarrels, and little differences, (as lawyers speak,) 430430     “Qui sourdent entre le man et la femme;” — “that arise between a husband and wife.” many occasions of dislike, faults of children, difficulty in bringing up a family, and the like. The anxieties, on the other hand, are, in my opinion, connected with things that are joyful, as for example marriage fooleries, jests, and other things with which married persons are taken up. 431431     Our Author’s meaning is, that while θλιψις (trouble) invariably relates to what is of a distressing nature, μεριμνα (care) is applied to anything that takes up the attention of the mind. — Ed

He that is unmarried careth for the things of the Lord. Mark the kind of exemption from anxieties that he desires in behalf of Christians — that they may devote to the Lord all their thoughts and aims. This, he says, belongs to celibacy; and therefore he desires all to enjoy this liberty. He does not mean, however, that it is invariably so in unmarried life, as experience shows it to be quite otherwise in priests, monks, and nuns, than whose celibacy nothing can be conceived to be farther from God. Add to this the many base fornicators who abstain from marriage for the very purpose of having greater liberty for the indulgence of lust, and that their vice may not appear. Where there is burning, (1 Corinthians 7:9,) no love of God can exist. But Paul’s meaning is this — that an unmarried person is free, and is not hindered from thinking of the things of God. The pious make use of this liberty. Others turn everything to their own destruction.

33. He that is married careth for the things of the world. By the things of the world you must understand the things that belong to the present life; for the world is taken here to mean the condition of this earthly life. But from this someone will infer, that all, therefore, who are married are strangers to the kingdom of God, 432432     “Forclos du royaume de Dieu;” — “Shut out from the kingdom of God.” as thinking of nothing but this earth. I answer, that the Apostle speaks only of a portion of the thoughts, as though he had said: “They have one eye directed to the Lord, but in such a way as to have the other directed to their wife; for marriage is like a burden, by which the mind of a pious man is weighed down, so that he does not move God-ward with so much alacrity.” Let us always, however, bear in mind, that these evils do not belong to marriage, but proceed from the depravity of men. Hence the calumnies of Jerome, 433433     See Harmony, volume 2. who scrapes together all these things for the purpose of bringing marriages into disrepute, fall. For, were any one to condemn agriculture, merchandise, and other modes of life, on this ground, that amidst so many corruption’s of the world, there is not one of them that is exempt from certain evils, who is there that would not smile at his folly? Observe, then, that whatever evil there is in marriage, has its origin somewhere else; for at this day a man would not have been turned away from the Lord by the society of his wife, if he had remained in a state of innocence, and had not corrupted the holy institution of God; but a wife would have been a help-meet to him in everything good, as she was created for that end. (Genesis 2:18.)

But some one will say: “If anxieties that are faulty and blameworthy are invariably connected with marriage, how is it possible for married persons to call upon God, and serve him, with a pure conscience?” I answer, that there are three kinds of anxieties. There are some that are evil and wicked in themselves, because they spring from distrust. Of these Christ speaks in Matthew 6:25: There are others that are necessary, and are not displeasing to God; as, for example, it becomes the father of a family to be concerned for his wife and children, and God does not mean that we should be mere stumps, so as to have no concern as to ourselves. The third class are a mixture of the two former; when we are anxious respecting those things as to which we ought to feel anxiety, but feel too keenly excited, in consequence of that excess which is natural to us. Such anxieties, therefore, are not by any means wrong in themselves, but they are corrupt, in consequence of αταξια, that is to say, undue excess. And the Apostle did not intend merely to condemn here those vices by which we contract guilt in the sight of God, but he desires in a general way, that we may be freed from all impediments, so as to be wholly at leisure for the service of God.

And is divided. It is surprising how there has come to be so much diversity upon this passage. For the common Greek version is so widely different from the old Latin translation, that the diversity cannot be ascribed to mistake or inadvertence, in the way in which a mistake often happens in a single letter or a single word. Now the Greeks commonly read it literally, “He that is married thinks of the things of the world, how he may please his wife: a married woman and a virgin are divided: She that is unmarried, thinketh of the things of the Lord,” etc. And being divided they understand as meaning to differ, as if it had been said: “There is a great difference between a married woman and a virgin; for the one is at leisure to attend to the things of God exclusively, while the other is taken up with various matters.” But as this interpretation is somewhat at variance with the simple meaning of the word, I do not approve of it, especially as the meaning of the other reading (which is found also in some Greek manuscripts) is more suitable and less forced. We may, accordingly, understand it in this manner — that a man who is married is divided, 434434     Kypke (in his Observationes Sacrae) renders the original word μεμέπισται, as Calvin doesdivided or perplexed, and brings forward a passage from Achilles Tatius, in which εμεμεριστο is used in a similar sense. In the Syriac version, on the other hand, the rendering is as follows: Discrimen autem est inter mulierem et virginemThere is a difference between a wife and a virgin The Greek commentators interpret the clause thus: — Μεμέρισται, τουτ ᾿ εστιν, διαφερουσιν αλληλων, και ου την αὐτην εχουσι φροντιδὰThey differ from one another and have not the same care Bloomfield considers divided or distracted to be a harsh interpretation, and not agreeable to the context, and renders the clause — “There is a difference between.” — Ed inasmuch as he devotes himself partly to God and partly to his wife, and is not wholly and exclusively God’s.

34. The unmarried woman and the virgin. What he had laid down as to men he now declares in like manner as to women — that virgins and widows are not prevented by earthly things from devoting their whole cares and their whole affections to God. Not that all act this part, but that there is opportunity for it, if the mind is so disposed. When he says, that she may be holy in body and in spirit, he shows what kind of chastity is true and acceptable to God — when the mind is kept unpolluted in the sight of God. Would to God that this were more carefully attended to! As to the body, we see what kind of devotement to the Lord there commonly is on the part of monks, nuns, and the whole scum of the Papistical clergy, than whose celibacy nothing can be imagined that is more obscene. 435435     “Plus infame et puante;” — “More infamous and abominable.” But not to speak at present of chastity of body, where is there one to be found among those that are held in admiration in consequence of their reputation for continency, that does not burn with base lusts? We may, however, infer from this statement of Paul, that no chastity is well pleasing to God that does not extend to the soul as well as to the body Would to God that those who prate in such haughty terms as to continency, did but understand that they have to do with God! They would not be so confident in their contendings with us. At the same time, there are none in the present day who dispute on the subject of continency in more magnificent style than those who are openly and in the most shameless manner guilty of fornication. But though they should conduct themselves ever so honorably in the sight of men, that is nothing, if they do not keep their minds pure and exempt from all uncleanness.

35. And this for your benefit. Observe the Apostle’s moderation. 436436     “La prudence et moderation de l’Apostre;” — “The prudence and moderation of the Apostle.” Though he knew the vexations, troubles, and difficulties of the married life, and, on the other hand, the advantages of celibacy, yet he does not venture to prescribe. On the contrary, having commended celibacy, and being afraid that some of his readers might be led away by such commendations, and might straightway say within themselves what the Apostles said in reply to Christ — It is good, therefore, so to be, (Matthew 19:10) 437437     Our author, quoting from memory, gives the substance of the passage referred to, while the words which he employs correspond with what we find in the 26th verse of this chapter. — Ed. — not in the meantime taking into view their ability, he here declares in express terms, that he points out, indeed, what is most advantageous, but does not wish to impose a necessity upon any one.

And here you have two things worthy of observation. The first is, for what purpose celibacy is to be desired — not on its own account, nor on the ground of its being a state that is nearer to perfection, but that we may cleave to God without distraction — that being the one thing that a Christian man ought exclusively to look to during his whole life. The second thing is, that no snare must be put upon men’s consciences, so as to keep back any one from marriage, but that every one must have liberty allowed him. It is well known what grievous errors have been fallen into on both these points. As to the second point, those assuredly have been bolder than Paul, who have not shrunk from passing a law respecting celibacy, with the view of prohibiting the whole of the clergy from matrimony. The same may be said of those who have made vows of perpetual continency, which are snares by which not a few myriads of souls have been drawn into endless ruin. Hence, if the Holy Spirit has spoken by the mouth of Paul, Papists cannot clear themselves from the crime of fighting against God, (Acts 5:39,) while binding men’s consciences in a matter in which He designed that they should remain free unless, perhaps, He 438438     “Le Sainct Esprit;” — “The Holy Spirit.” has since that time adopted a new plan, so as to construct a snare, which he had previously disapproved of.

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