“The Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians form a most important part of the Sacred Writings. Though not so systematic as the Epistle to the Romans, they contain many passages, bearing directly on the fundamentally important doctrines of the Christian system, while they are of the highest utility in connection with Practical Theology. The disorders that had unhappily crept into the Church at Corinth, gave occasion for the Apostle’s handling at greater length than in any of his other Epistles various important points as to doctrine and worship; while the relaxed state of discipline that had begun to prevail among them rendered it necessary to exhibit more fully the principles which ought to regulate the administration of the Christian Church. In this the overruling hand of Him who brings good out of evil is strikingly apparent.
While in the selection of the particular places into which the Gospel was first introduced, and in which Christian Churches were first planted, there is a display of Divine sovereignty which it is beyond our power for fathom, this at least is abundantly manifest, that the places selected were not those in which the triumphs of the Gospel were likely to be most easily affected, but quite the reverse. As the skill of the workman appears so much the more strikingly, when the tools employed by him are few and simple, and the materials to be wrought upon are hard and unyielding; so the wonders achieved in the first ages of the Church, through the foolishness of preaching. (1 Corinthians 1:21) excite so much the more our astonishment, when we take into view the peculiarly formidable obstacles that opposed its progress in the places that were selected as the scenes of its triumphs. Of this the inspired narrative furnished in the Acts of the Apostles presents numerous and striking illustrations; and when we observe the particular Churches to which Paul’s Epistles are addressed — in the order in which they are presented to our view in the New Testament — it might almost seem as if the order of arrangement had been designed for the very purpose of calling our particular attention to the fact that the triumphs of the Gospel had been most signal in those places in which its success might have appeared most unlikely. It is a remarkable circumstance, and, assuredly, it is not to be looked upon as merely accidental, that the Christian Church to which the first of Paul’s Epistles — in the order in which they stand — is addressed, is one that had been planted, not in some city of secondary importance, but in Rome itself, the metropolis of the then known world; while the second of the Churches to whom Paul’s Epistles are addressed is that of Corinth, a city that was proverbial among Heathens themselves for its extraordinary profligacy, and consequently the most unlikely place of all to be the scene of the triumphs of a religion that will allow of no compromise with iniquity.
When Paul first visited Corinth, appearances were most unpromising; but, having received special encouragement from his Divine Master, he continued to labor at Corinth for a year and six months, (Acts 18:11;) and such was the success of his labors in that profligate city, that after enumerating some of the worst descriptions of character, he says to the Corinthian converts, — “And such were some of you,” (1 Corinthians 6:11). While, however, the notorious wickedness that prevailed at Corinth was the occasion of illustrating so much the more clearly the power of Christianity in subduing human depravity, that extreme dissoluteness of manners to which the Corinthian Christians had been addicted previously to their conversion, and which was daily witnessed by them in the unconverted around them, was fitted to exert a most injurious influence; and while the disorders that prevailed in the Corinthians Church after Paul left them, were in part attributable to the insidious efforts of false teachers, there seems every reason to believe that they were, in a very considerable degree, owing to the contagion of corrupt manners around them. It is to this that we must trace their preference of the ornaments of speech to the plain unadorned doctrine of the cross — their party jealousies — their vexatious lawsuits — their unseemly fellowship with heathens in their idol-feasts; and their philosophical speculations, leading them to question the possibility of a resurrection from the dead; while the flagrant case of incest, fallen into by one of their number, and connived at by the others, must still more manifestly be ascribed, in part, to the contagion of evil example. Yet even in this we have occasion still farther to mark the overruling hand of God in making evil subservient to good — the disordered state of the Corinthian Church having given occasion for exhortations and reproofs that are fraught with invaluable instruction to the Church of Christ in every successive age.”