1 Corinthians 7:9
But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
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(9) It is better . . .—Because to be influenced with unlawful desire is a sin, and to marry is no sin.

7:1-9 The apostle tells the Corinthians that it was good, in that juncture of time, for Christians to keep themselves single. Yet he says that marriage, and the comforts of that state, are settled by Divine wisdom. Though none may break the law of God, yet that perfect rule leaves men at liberty to serve him in the way most suited to their powers and circumstances, of which others often are very unfit judges. All must determine for themselves, seeking counsel from God how they ought to act.But if they cannot contain - If they have not the gift of continence; if they cannot be secure against temptation; if they have not strength of virtue enough to preserve them from the danger of sin, and of bringing reproach and scandal on the church.

It is better - It is to be preferred.

Than to burn - The passion here referred to is often compared to a fire; see Virgil, Aeneas 4:68. It is better to marry, even with all the inconveniences attending the marriage life in a time of distress and persecution in the church 1 Corinthians 7:26, than to be the prey of raging, consuming, and exciting passions.

9. if they cannot contain—that is, "have not continency."

burn—with the secret flame of lust, which lays waste the whole inner man. (Compare Augustine [Holy Virginity]). The dew of God's grace is needed to stifle the flame, which otherwise would thrust men at last into hell-fire.

That St. Paul’s saying: It is good, & c. did not signify, it is the will of God, or, (as the papists would have it), it is my counsel in order to your further perfection, is plain by his precept for them to marry if they could not contain; and this likewise lets us see that second marriages are not only lawful, but may be an incumbent duty, that is, if they who are concerned as to them cannot contain themselves within the bounds and rule of chastity, which must not only be interpreted with reference to acts of uncleanness. This is contradicted by the reason given by the apostle, determining that marriage was much more eligible than burning, which term signifies the inward fervour and eager inclinations of the mind, not the acts only of the outward man. But if they cannot contain, &c. Or "if they do not contain", as the words may be rendered, and as almost all versions do render them; if they have not the gift of continency; if they are not willing, and do not think fit to contain, for none are to be compelled; if either therefore they want a will or power to contain, let them marry; it is not only lawful for them to marry, but it is right and best for them; hence it appears that second marriages are lawful, which were condemned by some of the ancients: for it is better to marry than to burn; or be burnt; not with material fire, as Judah ordered Tamar to be brought forth and burnt with, for whoredom; nor with hell fire, the just demerit of uncleanness; but with the fire of lust itself; and so the Syriac version reads it, "it is better to marry than to be burnt" "with lust"; when persons not only find in them some lustful motions and desires, and a glowing heat of concupiscence; but are as it were all on fire with the lusts of the flesh, and in great danger of being drawn into the commission of fornication, adultery, or other pollutions, and even unnatural lusts; it is much better to enter into a marriage state, though it may have its cares, inconveniences, and difficulties, than to be under temptations and inclinations to such defilements: so the Jews often express the lust of concupiscence by fire; they tell (g) us a

"story of R. Amram, that he redeemed all the captives, men and women; and the women and the virgins dwelt in a chamber in his house alone; one time, Satan kindled in him, , "the fire of lust", and he set a ladder to go up to them, and when he came upon the steps of the ladder, he began to cry with a loud voice, , "fire in the house of Amram, fire in the house of Amram": and the men came to quench the fire, and found nothing burning; for it was only his intention to cause to cease from him the fire of lust; and his thought ceased and his mind grew cool; and they asked him, why he mocked them? he replied, for this is a greater "fire" than all the fires in the world, for it is the fire of hell:''

This story is also told in the Talmud (h), with some little variation: so we read of one that is , "inflamed" (i), or all on fire "with the corruption of nature", who does not direct his heart to God: and such a man that finds his corruptions prevail over him, he ought to marry, they say (k), as a proper remedy against it:

"he whose mind is intent upon the law continually, and learns it as Ben Azzai, and cleaves to it all his days, and does not marry a wife, there is no iniquity in his hands, and that because his corruption does not prevail over him; but if his corruption prevails over him, , "he ought to marry a wife":''

and that for the very reason the apostle here gives. The Ethiopic version reads, "it is better to marry than to commit fornication"; that and adultery both are expressed by fire and burning, with the Jews, as they prove from Hosea 7:4 (l).

(g) Caphtor, fol. 62. 1.((h) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 81. 1.((i) Zohar in Lev. fol. 21. 1.((k) Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 15. sect. 3.((l) Vet. Nizzachon, p. 43, 44.

But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to {g} burn.

(g) So to burn with lust, that either the will yields to the temptation, or else we cannot call upon God with a peaceful conscience.

1 Corinthians 7:9. Κρεῖσσον, better) This comparative does not nullify the positive in 1 Corinthians 7:38.—ἢ πυροῦσθαι, than to be inflamed) A very strong word. A man, who maintains continence, may have that, with which he has to struggle, although he may not be inflamed. Thomas Aquinas on this passage says, to be inflamed [to burn], that is to be overcome by concupiscence; for concupiscence is a certain noxious heat. He, then, who is assailed by it, becomes warm indeed, but he does not burn, unless, overcome by concupiscence, he loses the dew of God’s grace. This burning thrusts men at last into hell-fire.Verse 9. - If they cannot contain; rather, if they have not continency. Let them marry. In 1 Timothy 5:14 he lays down and justifies the same rule with reference to young widows. It is better to marry than to burn. The original tenses give greater force and beauty to this obvious rule of Christian common sense and morality. The "marry" is in the aorist - "to marry once for all," and live in holy married union; the "burn" is in the present - "to be on fire with concupiscence." Marriage once for all is better than continuous lust; the former is permitted, the latter sinful. Cannot contain (οὐκ ἐγκρατεύονται)

Rev., have not continence. Only here, and 1 Corinthians 9:25, of athletes abstaining from sensual indulgences when preparing for the games.

To burn

Continuous present, to burn on: continuance in unsatisfied desire.

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