THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
Chronological Notes relative to this Epistle.
- Year of the Constantinopolitan era of the world, or that used by the emperors of the east in their diplomata, also called the "civil era of the Greeks," εφξε (5565.)
- Year of the Alexandrian era of the world, or ecclesiastical epoch of the Greeks, εφνθ (5559.)
- Year of the Antiochian era of the world, εφμθ (5549).
- Year of the Eusebian epoch of the creation, or that used in the Chronicon of Eusebius, and the Roman martyrology, δςπε (4285.)
- Year of the Julian period, 4767.
- Year of the world, according to Bedford and Kennedy, in their Scripture Chronology, 4065.
- Year of the Usherian era of the world, or that used in the English Bibles, 4061.
- Year of the world according to Scaliger, 4001. The difference of sixty years in the era of the world, as fixed by Scaliger and Usher, arises from the former chronologer placing the birth of Abraham in the 70th, and the latter in the 130th year of the life of his father Terah. For Scaliger's computation, see on Genesis 11:26; and for Usher's computation, see on ; 11:26, and Genesis 11:32, conferred with ; Acts 7:4.
- Year of the minor Jewish era of the world, 3817.
- Year of the greater Rabbinical era of the world, 4416.
- Year since the Deluge, according to Archbishop Usher and the English Bible, 2405.
- Year of the Cali Yuga, or Indian era of the Deluge, 3159.
- Year of the era of Iphitus, who re-established the Olympic Games 338 years after their institution by Hercules, or about 884 years before the commencement of the Christian era, 997.
- Year of the two hundred and ninth Olympiad, 1. This epoch commenced, according to the most accurate calculations of some of the moderns, precisely 776 years before the Christian era, and 23 years before the building of Rome; and computations of time by it ceased about A. D. 440.
- Year from the building of Rome, according to Fabius Pictor, who flourished about 225 years before Christ, and who is styled by Dionysius of Halicarnassus an accurate writer, 804. (This epoch is used by Diodorus Siculus.)
- Year from the building of Rome, according to Polybius the historian, 808.
- Year from the building of Rome, according to Cato and the Fasti Consulares, and adopted by Solinus, Eusebius, Dionysius of Halicarnassus,
- Year from the building of Rome, according to Varro, which was that adopted by the Roman emperors in their proclamations, by Plutarch, Tacitus, Dio Cassius, Gellius Censorinus, Onuphrius, Baronius, and by most modern chronologers, 810. N. B. Livy, Cicero, Pliny, and Velleius Paterculus, fluctuate between the Varronian and Catonian computations.
- Year of the epoch of Nabonassar, king of Babylon, after the division of the Assyrian monarchy, or that used by Hipparchus, by Ptotemy in his astronomical observations, by Censorinus and others, 805. (The years of this era constantly contained 365 days, so that 1460 Julian were equal to 1461 Nabonassarean years. This epoch commenced on the IVth of the calends of March, (Feb. 26,) B. C. 747; and, consequently, the beginning of the 805th year of the era of Nabonassar coincided with the Vth of the Ides of August, (Aug. 9,) A. D. 57.
- Year of the era of the Seleucidae, or since Seleucus, one of the generals of Alexander the Great, took Babylon and ascended the Asiatic throne, sometimes called the Grecian era, and the era of principalities, in reference to the division of Alexander's empire, 369.
- Year of the Caesarean era of Antioch, 105.
- Year of the Julian era, or year since the Calendar of Numa Pompilius, the second Roman king, was reformed by Julius Caesar, 102.
- Year of the Spanish era, or since the second division of the Roman provinces among the Triumviri, 95.
- Year since the defeat of Pompey, by Julius Caesar, at Pharsalia, called by Catrou and Rouille the commencement of the Roman empire, 105.
- Year of the Actiac, or Actian era, or proper epoch of the Roman empire, commencing with the defeat of Antony by Augustus at Actium, 87.
- Year from the birth of Jesus Christ, 61.
- Year of the vulgar era of Christ's nativity, 57.
- Year of the Dionysian period or Easter Cycle, 58.
- Common Golden Number, or year of the Grecian or Metonic Cycle of nineteen years, 1, or the first common year.
- Jewish Golden Number, or year of the Rabbinical Cycle of nineteen years, 17, or the sixth Embolismic.
- Year of the Solar Cycle, 10.
- Dominical Letter B; or, which is the same thing, the Calends of January, (Jan. 1,) happened on the Jewish Sabbath, or our Saturday.
- Jewish Passover, (15th of Nisan, or Abib,) Tuesday, April 5, or on the Nones of April.
- Number of Direction, or number of days that Easter Sunday happens after the 21st of March, 21; or the XIIth of the Calends of April.
- Mean time of the Paschal Full Moon at Corinth, (its longitude being twenty-three degrees to the east of London,) according to Ferguson's Tables, which are sufficiently exact for this purpose, April 7, or the VIIth of the Ides of April, at forty-eight minutes and thirty-eight seconds past eight in the evening. True time of the Paschal Full Moon at Corinth, according to Ferguson's Tables, April 8, or the VIth of the Ides of April, at thirty-seven minutes and one second past five in the morning; the true time of the Paschal Full Moon being eight hours, forty-eight minutes, and twenty-three seconds after the mean.
- Easter Sunday, April 10, or the IVth of the Ides of April.
- Epact, or moon's age on the twenty-second of March, or the XIth of the Calends of April, (the day on which the earliest Easter happens,) 29.
- Year of the reign of Nero Caesar, the Roman emperor, and fifth Caesar, 4.
- Year of Claudius Felix, the Jewish governor, 5.
- Year of the reign of Vologesus, king of the Parthians, or the family of the Arsacidae, 8.
- Year of Caius Numidius Quadratus, governor of Syria, 7.
- Year of Ishmael, high priest of the Jews, 3.
- Year of the reign of Corbred I., king of the Scots, brother to the celebrated Caractacus, who was carried prisoner to Rome, but afterwards released by the emperor, 3.
- Roman consuls; Nero Caesar Augustus, (the second time,) and L. Calpurnius Piso.
Eminent men, contemporaries with St. Paul. -L. Annaeas Seneca, the Stoic philosopher and poet, son of M. Annaeus Seneca, the rhetorician; born about the commencement of the Christian era, and put to death about A. D. 65. -Annaeus Cornutus, the Stoic philosopher, and preceptor to Persius the satirist; flourished under Nero. -Lucan, nephew to Seneca the philosopher; born about A. D. 29, put to death about A. D. 65. -Andromachus of Crete, a poet, and Nero's physician. -T. Petronius Arbiter, of Massila, died A. D. 66. -Aulus Persius Flaccus, the Latin poet, of Volaterrae in Italy; died in the ninth year of the reign of Nero, aged 28. -Dioscorides, the physician; the age in which this physician lived is very uncertain. -Justus, of Tiberias, in Palestine. -Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian; born A. D. 37, died A. D. 93. -Silius Italicus, the poet who was several times consul; born about A. D. 23, died in the beginning of the reign of Trajan, aged 75. -Valerius Flaccus, the Latin poet; flourished under Vespasian. -C. Plinius Secundus, of Verona, born under Tiberius, flourished under Vespasian, and died under Titus, A. D. 79, aged 56. -Thraseus Paetus, the Stoic philosopher, famous for his independence and generous sentiments; slain by order of Nero, A. D. 66. -Quintius Curtius Rufus, the historian; the time when he flourished is uncertain, some placing him under Claudius, others under Vespasian, and others under Trajan. -Asconius Pedianus, the historian and annotator, died A. D. 76, aged 85. -Marcus Valerius Martialis, the epigrammatist; born about A. D. 29, died A. D. 104, aged 75. -Philo-Byblius, born about A. D. 53, died A. D. 133, aged 80. -Acusilaus, the rhetorician; flourished under Galba. -Afer, an orator and preceptor of Quintilian, died A. D. 59. -Afranius, the satirist, put to death by Nero, in the Pisonian conspiracy. -Marcus Aper, a Latin orator of Gaul, died A. D. 85. -Babilus, the astrologer, who caused the Emperor Nero to put all the leading men of Rome to death. -C. Balbillus, the historian of Egypt; flourished under Nero. -P. Clodius Quirinalis, the rhetorician, flourished under Nero. -Fabricus, the satirist; flourished under Nero. -Decius Junius Juvenalis, the satirist; born about A. D. 29, died A. D. 128, aged about 100 years. -Longinus, the lawyer, put to death by Nero. -Plutarch, the biographer and moralist; born about A. D. 50, died about A. D. 120, or A. D. 140, according to others. -Polemon, the rhetorician, and master of Persius the celebrated satirist, died in the reign of Nero. -Seleucus, the mathematician, intimate with the Emperor Vespasian. -Servilius Nonianus, the Latin historian; flourished under Nero. -Caius Cornelius Tacitus, the celebrated Roman historian; born in the reign of Nero, and died at an advanced age in the former part of the second century.
St. Paul encourages them to trust in God in all adversities, from a consideration of the support which he had granted them already in times of afflictions; and expresses his strong confidence of their fidelity, 1-7. Mentions the heavy tribulation which he had passed through in Asia; as also his deliverance, 8-11. Shows in what the exultation of a genuine Christian consists, 12. Appeals to their own knowledge of the truth of the things which he wrote to them, 13,14. Mentions his purpose of visiting them; and how sincere he was in forming it; and the reason why he did not come, as he had purposed, 15-24.
Notes on Chapter 1
Paul, an apostle
Paul, commissioned immediately by Jesus Christ himself, according to the will of God, to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. See Clarke on 1 Corinthians 1:1.
In all Achaia
The whole of the Peloponnesus, or that country separated from the main land by the Isthmus of Corinth. From this we may learn that this epistle was not only sent to the Church at Corinth, but to all the Churches in that country.
Grace be to you and peace
See Romans 1:7.
Blessed be God
Let God have universal and eternal praise: 1. Because he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the gift of his endless love to man, John 1:16. 2. Because he is the Father of mercies, οπατηρτωνοικτιρμων, the source whence all mercy flows, whether it respect the body or the soul, time or eternity; the source of tender mercy; for so the word implies. See Clarke on Romans 12:1. And, 3. Because he is the God of all comfort-the Fountain whence all consolation, happiness, and bliss flow to angels and to men.
Who comforteth us
Who shows himself to be the God of tender mercy, by condescending to notice us, who have never deserved any good at his hand; and also the God of all consolation, by comforting us in all our tribulation-never leaving us a prey to anxiety, carking care, persecution, or temptation; but, by the comforts of his Spirit, bearing us up in, through, and above, all our trials and difficulties.
That we may be able to comfort them
Even spiritual comforts are not given us for our use alone; they, like all the gifts of God, are given that they may be distributed, or become the instruments of help to others. A minister's trials and comforts are permitted and sent for the benefit of the Church. What a miserable preacher must he be who has all his divinity by study and learning, and nothing by experience! If his soul have not gone through all the travail of regeneration, if his heart have not felt the love of God shed abroad in it by the Holy Ghost, he can neither instruct the ignorant nor comfort the distressed. See 2 Corinthians 1:6.
The sufferings of Christ
Suffering endured for the cause of Christ: such as persecutions, hardships, and privations of different kinds.
Our consolation also aboundeth
We stood as well, as firmly, and as easily, in the heaviest trial, as in the lightest; because the consolation was always proportioned to the trial and difficulty. Hence we learn, that he who is upheld in a slight trial need not fear a great one; for if he be faithful, his consolation shall abound, as his sufferings abound. Is it not as easy for a man to lift one hundred pounds' weight, as it is for an infant to lift a few ounces? The proportion of strength destroys the comparative difficulty.
And whether we be afflicted
See Clarke on 2 Corinthians 1:4.
Which is effectual
There is a strange and unusual variation in the MSS. and versions in this passage. Perhaps the whole should be read thus: For if we be afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; and if we be comforted, it is also for your encouragement, which exerted itself by enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer.
This transposition of the middle and last clauses is authorized by the best MSS. and versions. The meaning seems to be this: While ye abide faithful to God, no suffering can be prejudicial to you; on the contrary, it will be advantageous; God having your comfort and salvation continually in view, by all the dispensations of his providence: and while you patiently endure, your salvation is advanced; sufferings and consolations all becoming energetic means of accomplishing the great design, for all things work together for good to them that love God. See the variations in Griesbach.
And our hope of you is steadfast
We have no doubt of your continuing in the truth; because we see that you have such a full, experimental knowledge of it, that no sufferings or persecutions can turn you aside. And we are sure that, as ye suffer, so shall ye rejoice.
Our trouble which came to us in Asia
To what part of his history the apostle refers we know not: some think it is to the Jews lying in wait to kill him, Acts 20:3; others, to the insurrection raised against him by Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen, Acts 19:23; others, to his fighting with beasts at Ephesus, 1 Corinthians 15:32, which they understand literally; and others think that there is a reference here to some persecution which is not recorded in any part of the apostle's history.
We were pressed out of measure, above strength
The original is exceedingly emphatic: καθυπερβοληνεβαρηθημενυπερδυναμιν. we were weighed down beyond what is credible, even beyond what any natural strength could support. There is no part of St. Paul's history known to us which can justify these strong expressions, except his being stoned at Lystra; which if not what is here intended, the facts to which he refers are not on record. As Lystra was properly in Asia, unless he mean Asia Minor, and his stoning at Lystra did most evidently destroy his life, so that his being raised was an effect of the miraculous power of God; he might be supposed to refer to this. See Clarke on Acts 14:19.
persecution which he had endured some short time before his writing this epistle; and with the outlines of which the Corinthians had been acquainted.
We had the sentence of death in ourselves
The tribulation was so violent and overwhelming, that he had no hope of escaping death.
That we should not trust in ourselves
The tribulation was of such a nature as to take away all expectation of help but from GOD alone.
But in God which raiseth the dead
This is very like the business at Lystra; and would be sufficient to fix the apostle's reference to that fact could the time and other circumstances serve.
Who delivered us from so great a death
For the circumstances were such that no human power could avail.
Will yet deliver us
Having had such a signal evidence of His interposition already, we will confide in him with an unshaken confidence that he will continue to support and deliver.
Ye also helping together by prayer
Even an apostle felt the prayers of the Church of God necessary for his comfort and support. What innumerable blessings do the prayers of the followers of God draw down on those who are the objects of them!
The gift bestowed-by the means of many persons
The blessings communicated by means of their prayers.
Thanks may be given by many
When they who have prayed hear that their prayers are so particularly answered, then all that have prayed will feel themselves led to praise God for his gracious answers. Thus, the prayers of many obtain the gift; and the thanksgiving of many acknowledge the mercy.
The gift, or χαρισμα, which the apostle mentions, was his deliverance from the dangers and deaths to which he was exposed.
For our rejoicing is this
ηκαυχησις. Our boasting, exultation, subject of glorying.
The testimony of our conscience
μαρτυριοντηςσυνειδησεως. That testimony or witness which conscience, under the light and influence of the Spirit of God, renders to the soul of its state, sincerity, safety,
απλοτητι. from α, denoting unity or together, and πελω, to be; or from α, negative, and πολυς, many; not compounded, having one end in view, having no sinister purpose, no by end to answer. Instead of απλοτητι, many MSS. and versions have αγιοτητι, holiness.
In godly sincerity
ειλικρινειαθεου. The sincerity of God: that is, such a sincerity as comes from his work in the soul. ειλικρινεια, sincerity, and ειλικρινης, sincere, come from ειλη, the splendour, or bright shining of the sun; and here signifies such simplicity of intention, and purity of affection, as can stand the test of the light of God shining upon it, without the discovery being made of a single blemish or flaw.
Not with fleshly wisdom
The cunning and duplicity of man, who is uninfluenced by the Spirit of God, and has his secular interest, ease, profit, pleasure, and worldly honour in view.
But by the grace of God
Which alone can produce the simplicity and godly sincerity before mentioned, and inspire the wisdom that comes from above.
We have had our conversation
ανεστραφημεν. We have conducted ourselves. The word properly refers to the whole tenor of a man's life-all that he does says, and intends; and the object or end he has in view, and in reference to which he speaks, acts, and thinks; and is so used by the best Greek writers. The verb αναστρεφω is compounded of ανα, again, and στρεφω, to turn; a continual coming back again to the point from which he set out; a circulation; beginning, continuing, and ending every thing to the glory of God; setting out with Divine views, and still maintaining them; beginning in the Spirit, and ending in the Spirit; acting in reference to God, as the planets do in reference to the sun, deriving all their light, heat, and motion from him; and incessantly and regularly revolving round him. Thus acted Paul; thus acted the primitive Christians; and thus must every Christian act who expects to see God in his glory. The word conversation is not an unapt Latinism for the Greek term, as conversatio comes from con, together, and verto, I turn; and is used by the Latins in precisely the same sense as the other is by the Greeks, signifying the whole of a man's conduct, the tenor and practice of his life: and conversio astrorum, and conversiones caelestes, is by CICERO used for the course of the stars and heavenly bodies.--De Leg. c. 8: Caelum una conversione atque eadem, ipse circum se torquetur et vertitur.--CIC de Univers., c. 8: "The heaven itself is, with one and the same revolution, whirled about, and revolves round itself."
In the world
Both among Jews and Gentiles have we always acted as seeing Him who is invisible.
More abundantly to you-ward.
That is, We have given the fullest proof of this in our conduct towards you; YOU have witnessed the holy manner in which we have always acted; and GOD is witness of the purity of the motives by which we have been actuated; and our conscience tells us that we have lived in uprightness before him.
Than what ye read
Viz. In the first epistle which he had sent them.
To be the truth of God; and which he hoped they would continue to acknowledge, and not permit themselves to be turned aside from the hope of the Gospel.
Have acknowledged us in part
απομερους may signify here not in part, but some of you; and it is evident, from the distracted state of the Corinthians, and the opposition raised there against the apostle, that it was only a part of them that did acknowledge him, and receive and profit by his epistles and advice.
We are your rejoicing, us as the ministers of Christ through whom ye have believed; as we boast of you as genuine converts to the Christian faith, and worthy members of the Church of God.
And in this confidence
Under the conviction or persuasion that this is the case; that ye exult in us, as we do in you;
I was minded
I had purposed to come to you before, as he had intimated, 1 Corinthians 16:5; for he had intended to call on them in his way from Macedonia, but this purpose he did not fulfil; and he gives the reason, 2 Corinthians 1:23.
A second benefit
He had been with them once, and they had received an especial blessing in having the seed of life sown among them by the preaching of the Gospel; and he had purposed to visit them again that they might have a second blessing, in having that seed watered. Instead of χαριν, grace or benefit, several MSS. read χαραν joy, pleasure; but the word grace or benefit, seems to express the apostle's meaning best.
To pass by you into Macedonia
He had purposed to go to Macedonia first, and then from Macedonia return to them, and probably winter in Corinth. Therefore we must understand the δι υμων, by you, as implying that he would sail up the AEgean Sea, leaving Corinth to the west; though he might have taken it in his way, and have gone by land through Greece up to Macedonia. Some think that the meaning is, that he purposed to take Achaia in his way to Macedonia, without calling at Corinth; but Achaia was out of his way considerably, and he could scarcely go through Achaia without passing close by Corinth. I consider the words, therefore, as implying that he purposed not to call at Corinth at that time, but to pass by it, as before stated.
Did I use lightness?
When I formed this purpose, was it without due consideration? and did I abandon it through fickleness of mind?
That with me there should be yea, carnal men, who change their purposes, and falsify their engagements, according as may seem best to their secular interest?
But as God is true
Setting the God of truth before my eyes, I could not act in this way: and as sure as he is true, so surely were my purposes sincere; and it was only my uncertainty about your state that induced me to postpone my visit. See 2 Corinthians 1:23.
For the Son of God, purpose through carnal or secular interests then I must have had the same interest in view when I first preached the Gospel to you, with Silvanus and Timotheus. But did not the whole of our conduct prove that we neither had, nor could have such interest in view?
For all the promises of God
Had we been light, fickle, worldly-minded persons; persons who could only be bound by our engagements as far as comported with our secular interest; would God have confirmed our testimony among you? Did we not lay before you the promises of God? And did not God fulfil those promises by us-by our instrumentality, to your salvation and his own glory? God is true; therefore every promise of God is true; and consequently each must have its due fulfilment. God will not make use of trifling, worldly men, as the instruments by which he will fulfil his promises; but he has fulfilled them by us; therefore we are just and spiritual men, else God would not have used us.
In him are yea, and in him amen
All the promises which God has made to mankind are yea-true in themselves, and amen-faithfully fulfilled to them who believe in Christ Jesus. The promises are all made in reference to Christ; for it is only on the Gospel system that we can have promises of grace; for it is only on that system that we can have mercy. Therefore, the promise comes originally by Christ, and is yea; and it has its fulfilment through Christ, and is amen; and this is to the glory of God, by the preaching of the apostles.
From what the apostle says here, and the serious and solemn manner in which he vindicates himself, it appears that his enemies at Corinth had made a handle of his not coming to Corinth, according to his proposal, to defame his character, and to depreciate his ministry; but he makes use of it as a means of exalting the truth and mercy of God through Christ Jesus; and of showing that the promises of God not only come by him, but are fulfilled through him.
Now he which stablisheth us with you
It is God that has brought both us and you to this sure state of salvation through Christ; and he has anointed us, giving us the extraordinary influences of the Holy Ghost, that we might be able effectually to administer this Gospel to your salvation. Through this unction we know and preach the truth, and are preserved by it from dissimulation and falsity of every kind.
Who hath also sealed us
Not only deeply impressed His truth and image upon our hearts; but, by the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, attested the truth of our extraordinary unction or calling to the ministry.
And given the earnest of the Spirit
τοναρραβωνατου πνευματος. From this unction and sealing we have a clear testimony in our souls, the Divine Spirit dwelling constantly in us, of our acceptance with God, and that our ways please him. The αρραβων of the apostle is the same as the erabon of Moses, Genesis 38:17,18,20 which we there translate pledge. The word properly signifies an earnest of something promised; a part of the price agreed for between a buyer and seller, by giving and receiving of which the bargain was ratified; or a deposit, which was to be restored when the thing promised was given. From the use of the term in Genesis, which the apostle puts here in Greek letters, we may at once see his meaning above, and in Ephesians 1:14; the Holy Spirit being an earnest in the heart, and an earnest of the promised inheritance means a security given in hand for the fulfilment of all God's promises relative to grace and eternal life. We may learn from this, that eternal life will be given in the great day to all who can produce the arrhabon, or pledge. He who is found then with the earnest of God's Spirit in his heart, shall not only be saved from death, but have that eternal life of which it is the pledge, the earnest, and the evidence. Without this arrhabon there can be no glory. See the whole case of Judah and Tamar, Genesis 38:13,
I call God for a record upon my soul
The apostle here resumes the subject which he left 2 Corinthians 1:16, and in the most solemn manner calls God to witness, and consequently to punish, if he asserted any thing false, that it was through tenderness to them that he did not visit Corinth at the time proposed. As there were so many scandals among them, the apostle had reason to believe that he should be obliged to use the severe and authoritative part of his function in the excommunication of those who had sinned, and delivering them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, but to give them space to amend, and to see what effect his epistle might produce, (not having heard as yet from them,) he proposed to delay his coming. It is plain, as several commentators have observed, 1. That St. Paul's doctrine had been opposed by some of Corinth, 1 Corinthians 15:12. His apostleship questioned, 1 Corinthians 9:1,2, and ; 2 Corinthians 12:13. 2. Himself despised, and treated as a person who, because of the consciousness he had of his own worthlessness, dared not to come, 1 Corinthians 4:18. His letters, say they, are weighty and powerful-full of boastings of what he can and what he will do; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible, 2 Corinthians 10:10. 3. This being the state in which his reputation was then at Corinth, and he having promised to come to them, 1 Corinthians 16:5, he could not but think it necessary to vindicate his failing them by reasons which should be both convincing and kind, such as those contained in the preceding verses. See Dodd and others.
Not for that we have dominion over your faith
I will not come to exercise my apostolical authority in punishing them who have acted sinfully and disorderly; for this would be to several of you a cause of distress, the delinquents being friends and relatives; but I hope to come to promote your joy, to increase your spiritual happiness, by watering the seed which I have already sowed. This I think to be the meaning of the apostle. It is certain that the faith which they had already received was preached by the apostles; and, therefore, in a certain sense, according to our meaning of the term, they had a right to propound to them the articles which they ought to believe; and to forbid them, in the most solemn manner, to believe any thing else as Christianity which was opposed to those articles. In that sense they had dominion over their faith; and this dominion was essential to them as apostles. But shall any others-persons who are not apostles, who are not under the unerring and infallible influence of the Holy Ghost, arrogate to themselves this dominion over the faith of mankind; not only by insisting on them to receive new doctrines, taught nowhere by apostles or apostolic men; but also threatening them with perdition if they do not credit doctrines which are opposed to the very spirit and letter of the word of God? These things men, not only not apostles, but wicked, profligate, and ignorant, have insisted on as their right. Did they succeed? Yes, for a time; and that time was a time of thick darkness; a darkness that might be felt; a darkness producing nothing but misery, and lengthening out and deepening the shadow of death. But the light of God shone; the Scriptures were read; those vain and wicked pretensions were brought to the eternal touchstone: and what was the consequence? The splendour of truth pierced, dissipated, and annihilated them for ever!
British Protestants have learned, and Europe is learning that the SACRED WRITINGS, and they alone, contain what is necessary to faith and practice; and that no man, number of men, society, church, council, presbytery, consistory, or conclave, has dominion over any man's faith. The word of God alone is his rule, and to its Author he is to give account of the use he has made of it.
For by faith ye stand.
You believe not in us, but in GOD. We have prescribed to you on his authority, what you are to believe; you received the Gospel as coming from Him, and ye stand in and by that faith.
THE subjects in this chapter which are of the most importance have been carefully considered in the preceding notes. That alone of the apostle's oath has been passed by with general observations only. But, that it is an oath has been questioned by some. An oath, properly speaking, is an appeal to God, as the Searcher of the hearts for the truth of what is spoken; and an appeal to Him, as the Judge of right and wrong, to punish the falsity and perjury. All this appears to be implied in the awful words above: I call God for a record upon my soul; and this is not the only place in which the apostle uses words of the same import. See Romans 1:9;; 9:1, and the note on this latter passage.
On this subject I have spoken pretty much at large at the end of the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy; but as it appears that there I have made a mistake in saying that the people called Quakers hold up their hand in a court of justice, when called upon to make affirmation, I take this opportunity to correct that expression, and to give the form of the oath, for so the law considers it, which the statute (7 and 8 of William III., cap. 34, sec. 1) required of this sect of Christians: "I, A. B., do declare in the presence of almighty God, the witness of the truth of what I say." Though this act was only intended at first to continue in force for seven years, yet it was afterwards made perpetual. See Burn, vol. iii., page 654.
A more solemn and more awful form of an oath was never presented nor taken by man than this; no kissing of the book, holding up of the hand, nor laying hand on the Bible, can add either solemnity or weight to such an oath! It is as awful and as binding as any thing can be; and him, who would break this, no obligation can bind.
But the religious people in question found their consciences aggrieved by this form, and made application to have another substituted for it; in consequence of this the form has undergone a little alteration, and the solemn affirmation which is to stand instead of an oath taken in the usual manner, as finally settled by the 8th Geo., cap. 6, is the following: "I, A. B., do solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare and affirm." Burn, vol. iii., page 656.
It may be well to examine this solemn affirmation, and see whether it does not contain the essential principles of an oath; and whether it should not be reputed by all people, as being equal to any oath taken in the common form, and sufficiently binding on every conscience that entertains the belief of a God, and the doctrine of a future state. The word solemnly refers to the presence and omniscience of GOD, before whom the affirmation is made; and the word sincerely to the consciousness that the person has of the uprightness of his own soul, and the total absence of guile and deceit; and the word truly refers to the state of his understanding as to his knowledge of the fact in question. The word declare refers to the authority requiring, and the persons before whom this declaration is made; and the term affirm refers back to the words solemnly, sincerely, and truly, on which the declaration and affirmation are founded. This also contains all that is vital to the spirit and essence of an oath; and the honest man, who takes or makes it, feels that there is no form used among men by which his conscience can be more solemnly bound. As to the particular form, as long as it is not absurd or superstitious, it is a matter of perfect indifference as to the thing itself as long as the declaration or affirmation contains the spirit and essence of an oath; and that the law considers this as an oath, is evident from the following clause: "That if any one be convicted of having wilfully or falsely made this declaration or affirmation, such offender shall incur the same penalties and forfeitures as are enacted against persons convicted of wilful and corrupt perjury." I believe it may be said with strict truth, that few instances can be produced where this affirmation, which I must consider as a most solemn oath, was corruptly made by any accredited member of that religious society for whose peace and comfort it was enacted. And when this most solemn affirmation is properly considered, no man of reason will say that the persons who take it are not bound by a sufficient and available oath.