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2 Corinthians 1:3-4
I. The Relation of Comfort to Trouble. When we deal with sorrow, not merely as a practical but as a personal fact, no general considerations suffice; speculation is powerless to assuage grief. We only know it is there, and we must either have it taken away or must be taught how to bear it; in other words, we feel the pain, and we long after either happiness or comfort. And of the two it is not happiness but comfort that God has appointed for us. With Christ, comfort was the attendant and antidote of permitted sorrow; and the two are inseparably associated in every Christian life.
II. Observe how the Apostle points us to the Source of Comfort. 'Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation.' God knows our need, and He has not left it unsupplied; He knows that we have perplexity, trial, pain, and He has provided comfort.
III. Consider the Uses of Comfort in Affliction. (1) Note how the sorrow he had endured deepened the Apostle's sense of the value of God's presence and love. (2) Note, further, that sorrow is made a means of spiritual training. (3) Affliction thus comforted bestows the power of sympathy.
Alexander Stewart, The Divine Artist, p. 43.
References. I. 3, 4. W. H. Harwood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 70; Christianity in Daily Conduct, p. 277. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2640. I. 3-6. G. Body. Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 214.
2 Corinthians 1:4
'If he had sorrows,' says Lowell of Shakespeare, 'he has made them the woof of everlasting consolation to his kind.'
References. I. 5. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. No. 13. W. H. Hutchings, Sermon Sketches, p. 251. I. 7. Bishop Creighton, University and other Sermons, p. 186.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11
Henri Perreyve wrote, a few months before his death, to his friend Charles Perraud: 'Dear friend, I send you a text which you know as well as I do, but I copy it out in full, because it has often been for my soul a truly wonderful recipe, bringing strength, comfort, and spiritual health. If we wish to make use of it, we must meditate deeply on every word.' [Then follows this passage in Latin.] "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life. But we had the sentence of death [ responsum mortis ] in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead, who delivered us from so great a death and doth deliver; in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us." I know that each one ought to draw his life freely from the Holy Scripture, and that the words which save one do not seem to be written quite as specially for another. For myself, I have found, in repeated and varying circumstances of my life, such help from those words of St. Paul, that I cannot but repeat them to you at this moment. I know not whether any one has ever sounded more deeply the abyss of the weakness of a human heart, and the abyss of the saving help of the heart of God. What does all this mean, dear friend? It means that you, by the will of God, are passing through a desolate region, because your soul must not rest in mediocrity, but must become very holy .'
References. I. 9. J. Martineau, Endeavours After the Christian Life, p. 59. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1536. I. 10. Spurgeon, Sermons, xlvii. No. 2718. I. 11. R. W. Dale, Fellowship With Christ, p. 278. I. 11, 12. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 507.
A Ministry That Satisfies the Conscience
2 Corinthians 1:12
'Our glorying is this.' How would my hearers finish the sentence? When we have discovered the nature of a man's glorying we have got the real height of the man. Here is a man withdrawn from all carnal spheres, seeking no glory upon the public stage, placing no value upon transient fame; but in the awful sanctuary of the conscience quietly glorying in its witness to the devotion and fidelity of his ministry. It is the only glorying which endures. The colours are fast colours; they do not wash out in the drenching blast of life's tempestuous days. This man stands in the solemn presence of the great White Throne, and finds his glorying in the message which speaks from the Throne. 'Our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience.' And yet this is no arrogant claim to perfection. His letters burn with the consciousness of his own defilement. In the latter part of our text the Apostle carefully describes the features of his ministry which brought him the restful witness of his conscience.
I. And first of all he had rejected the offers of 'fleshly wisdom'. He had been repeatedly advised to moderate the stringency of his message. It was the same temptation which assailed our Lord. But the Apostle was like his Master; he rejected the overtures. He would have no unclean ally in the ministry of holiness; he would accept no 'fleshly wisdom' in proclaiming the wisdom of the Highest. In this he found his glory.
II. And his conscience also testified to the holiness of his ministry. The Apostle claims that his ministry was absolutely separated unto God. Whatever he was doing the Lord dominated his purpose and work. And in this he gloried. He had not been led aside to minor purposes, and forgotten the primary aims of redeeming grace.
III. And his conscience testified to the simplicity of his ministry. I am using that word not in the degenerate sense in which it has fallen in these latter days, not in the sense of childishness, or even of lucidity, but in its great primary content of singleness of purpose, and of perfect openness and candour of life. 'I determined not to know anything among men save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.' And in this he gloried.
IV. And there is one other word he uses to describe his ministry among men. It is characterised by sincerity. The Apostle humbly boasts that his ministry among men is not condemned even in the searching light of God's countenance. He had sought his motives there! And therefore, even if he failed, he was calm and restful, for when he returned into the throne-chamber of his life he enjoyed the peace of God.
J. H. Jowett, British Congregationalist, 18th February, 1908.
References. I. 12. J. H. Jowett, The Transfigured Church, p. 229. D. C. A. Agnew, The Soul's Business and Prospects, p. 114. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 93; ibid. 6th Series), vol. viii. p. 178. I. 15. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 237. I. 15-17. Ibid. vol. viii. p. 233. I. 16. Ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 232. I. 17. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. mi. p. 69. I. 19. H. S. Seekings, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 224. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 87. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 374. I. 20. J. C. M. Bellew, Sermons, vol. i. p. 216. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvi. No. 2657. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Corinthians, p. 268. I. 21. Ibid. p. 277. I. 22. Ibid. p. 287. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 301; ibid. (5th Series), vol. iv. p. 274. I. 23. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 170.
The Effect of Faith
2 Corinthians 1:24
Faith is that by which men stand. I invite your attention to the effect of faith on the believing soul.
I. Faith as bowing us down before God. Faith is constantly associated with self-distrust.
II. Faith as making us stand erect before men. It sets us free from man's authority, from slavish submission to popular opinions and from all forms of ecclesiastical or social tyranny.
III. Faith as making us stand firm against sin. The truths of the Gospel in the mind weaken all temptation.
References. I. 24. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 146. II. 1 . Ibid. vol. i. p. 404; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 81. II. 3. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 238. II. 5-8. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 385. II. 6-10. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. i. p. 216. II. 10. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. iv. p. 452.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
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