1 Corinthians 11:11-16
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.…
First, it should seem there were contentions in the apostle's times. Contentions about what? About matter of circumstance. So was this here, Whether men were to pray uncovered, and women veiled or no? Not to pass them in silence, and say nothing to them. But this to say, We have no such custom, nor the churches of God. And so oppose the Church's custom to contention. In which saying there are these heads — First, that the Church hath her customs. As she hath them, so she may and doth allege them. This I note first, that we may not think it strange if there be contentions in our times. As true it is of the last as of the first Church. There were contentions then. About what? For though peace be precious, yet of such moment may the matters be as they are to be contended for. For what then were these? For nothing but a matter of rite. Men praying whether they should be uncovered; women, whether veiled or no. For a hat and a veil was all this ado. It was not about any of the high mysteries, any of the vital parts of religion. And to pick a quarrel with a ceremony is easy. A plausible theme not to burden the Church with ceremonies — the Church to be free — which hath almost freed the Church of all decency. About such points as these were there that did not only contend but that grew contentious. Why should any love to be contentious? Why, it is the way to be somebody. Well, if any such should happen to be, what is to be done in such a case? What saith the apostle? Saith he thus? Seeing it is no greater matter, it skills not greatly whether they do it or no — sets it light, and lets it go. No, but calls them back to the custom of the Church. Why doth he so? For two reasons:
1. First, he likes not contention at all. Why? If it be not taken at first, within a while ye shall hear of a schism (ver. 18). And within a little after that (ver. 19) ye shall have a flat heresy of it. The one draws on the other.
2. Nor he likes not the matter, wherefore though it seems but small. St. Paul knew Satan's method well — he asks but some small trifle. Give him but that, he will be ready for greater points. If he win ground in the ceremonies, then have at the sacrament. For when they had sit covered at prayer awhile, they grew even as unreverent, as homely with the sacrament. Opposing then to these, what course takes he? Where it is plain the apostle is for the Church customs. And first, that she hath them. Every society, beside their laws in books, have their customs also in practice; and those not to be taken up, or laid down, at every man's pleasure. The civil law saith this of custom. A custom is susceptible of more and less — the further it goeth, the longer it runneth, the more strength it gathered; the more gray hairs it getteth, the more venerable it is — for, indeed, the more a custom it is. Now, then, as the Church hath them, so she stands upon them — fears not to allege them. And say not the prophets the same? "Stand upon the ways" (it is Jeremiah), "and there look for the good old way; and that way take, it is the only way to find rest for your souls." If it be but of some one Church, but at Corinth alone it is too narrow — not large, not general enough. If it be but taken up by some of our masters of late, it is too fresh — it is not ancient enough. But by these two we know our right custom. As neither is any particular Church bound to the private custom of another like particular as itself is. But if the other Church's custom have also been the general custom of the Church, then it binds, and may not be set light. But, if to this we add, or rather if before this we set, this the apostles had it too, that it is apostolic, we have then said as much as in this point can be sad, as much as may content any that is not contentious.
Parallel VersesKJV: Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.