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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

2 Corinthians 9

Verses 12-15


2 Corinthians 9:12-15. The administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the Gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; and by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

IN this happy country, benevolent institutions of every kind abound, insomuch that there is scarcely any distress to which human nature can be subjected, for which some appropriate provision is not made. — — — But of all charities, there are none that deserve our support more, than those which have respect to the poor in an hour of sickness, and provide for their temporal and spiritual wants at the same time. Such is the institution to which we are to call your attention this day. We will briefly set before you,


The nature of the institution—

[It is called ‘A Visiting Society.’ Its design is to find out the modest and industrious poor in a time of sickness, and to administer to them relief for their bodies, and, at the same time, instruction for their souls. For the better accomplishment of this design, the town and neighbourhood are divided into districts; in each of which, two persons, one of each sex, are appointed to superintend their immediate vicinity, to inquire into such cases of distress as may come within their knowledge, and to afford them such relief as their immediate necessities may seem to require. As in such seasons the ears of men are more open to instruction, the visitors are to avail themselves of the opportunity thus afforded them, to direct the attention of the poor to the concerns of their souls, and to lead them to that adorable Saviour, who calls himself “The way, the truth, and the life.” Of these visitors, there is a meeting once a month under the superintendence of their minister, to report what persons they have visited; and to be advised, in case of any difficulty, what is most fitting to be done. At those meetings also the accounts of every district are settled; and the book which contains them is kept open to the inspection of them all [Note: This records what has been done for about fifty years under the Author’s ministry at Cambridge. Of course, this head must vary, according to the institution, in aid of which the Sermon is preached.].”]

From this short view of the institution may be judged—


Its great utility—

The words of our text refer to the contributions sent from Macedonia and Achaia to relieve the necessities of the saints at Jerusalem: and they mark with great distinctness the chief excellencies of the institution before us. Its obvious tendency is to advance,


The comfort of the poor—

[The poor in a time of health are happy; because their minds and habits are fitted to their state. But in a time of sickness their situation is truly pitiable; because they are unable to procure those comforts which their necessities require. Their very application for parochial relief sometimes subjects them to unkindness: and those, who have been familiar with them in a season of prosperity, too often neglect them in a time of need [Note: See Proverbs 19:7.]. Conceive then at such a season a visitor coming to them, and not only tendering to them that relief which they could not have obtained from any other source, but expressing the tenderest sympathy with them under their affliction: What a balm must this be to the wounded feelings of the poor sufferer! If the rich, who are accustomed to kindness from their friends, find it doubly acceptable at such a season, what must the poor man feel at the unexpected and unsolicited attentions of a perfect stranger!

But conceive the poor man now for the first time led to call upon his God; now instructed in the knowledge of a Saviour; now blessed with the first dawn of spiritual light, and begotten to a hope full of immortality: conceive him now saying with David, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted:” “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I learned thy law:” How altered is his state! How peaceful is his mind! How exceeding joyful is he in all his tribulation!
Know ye then that such effects have frequently arisen from the exertions of those who are engaged in this good work; and it is the manifest tendency of the institution to produce them. This therefore may well recommend the institution itself to your support.]


The welfare of all engaged in it—

[To enter cordially into a work of this kind is no small exercise of grace: it truly displays “the exceeding grace of God in us:” and where grace is so exercised, it will assuredly be strengthened and confirmed. God has said, that “he who watereth, shall be watered also himself.” And we will appeal to all who have ever visited the chambers of the sick, and laboured for the spiritual welfare of their fellow-creatures, whether they have not been richly repaid by the blessing of God poured out upon their own souls? We know assuredly, that in proportion as any have offered unto God these sacrifices of love, they have been made by him to feast upon their own sacrifice.
But further, we are told in our text, that the persons relieved will offer up “their prayers” to God in behalf of those who relieve them: and is this a small benefit? Possibly the prayers may be only devout aspirations to God, such as “God bless you!” but shall such prayers go forth in vain? If God hears the cries of the injured, and punishes their oppressors [Note: James 5:4.], will he not hear and answer the prayers of men when offered for their benefactors? No doubt he will; and will recompense into the bosoms of the benevolent every benefit they have conferred.

Nor is it a small benefit to such benevolent persons that their names are respected, and their company desired. True indeed, we are not to engage in such services with a view to the applause of man: but we are not to despise the approbation and love of our fellow-creatures, but rather to accept it as an expression of God’s kindness to our souls. See how Job’s exertions in this way were recompensed [Note: Job 29:11-13.]: and was this a despicable reward? But consider how such benefactors are loved by the objects whom they relieve; “how greatly they are longed after for the exceeding grace of God in them.” How do the poor people count the hours, and almost the minutes, when these kind friends are expected to arrive! Truly this is a great honour from the Lord, and an unspeakable comfort to those who have rendered themselves so respected and beloved.]


The honour of the Gospel—

[Of this also the text particularly speaks. These kind offices are regarded both by God and man as a “professed subjection to the Gospel of Christ.” The Gospel expressly requires these offices of love. “Pure religion,” we are told, “is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction:” and again it is said, “Bear ye one another’s burthens, and so fulfil the law of Christ [Note: Galatians 6:2.].” When therefore these offices are performed, the Gospel appears, in its true light, a religion of love.

And here we cannot but observe, how such conduct in the professors of the Gospel is calculated to silence all its enemies. Many cry out against the Gospel as inculcating faith only, and leading its advocates to neglect good works. But where shall we find among the enemies of the Gospel such institutions as these? where shall we find that a regard for the souls of men forms a leading feature in any charity of theirs? It is under the Gospel only that these institutions flourish; and no sooner does any one receive “the truth as it is in Jesus,” than he delights to aid such institutions to the utmost of his power. Truly this is most honourable to the Gospel: and that which so adorns the doctrine of God our Saviour, must needs be itself worthy of universal support.]


The glory of God—

[Doubtless it is not in the power of man to add any thing to the glory of his God. Yet, inasmuch as these institutions lead men to acknowledge the providence of God, and to adore him for his gracious interposition in their behalf, they may be justly said to advance the glory of God. And this view of the subject is repeatedly mentioned both in the text and context [Note: See 2Co 8:19 and ver. 11.]. The visitor may possibly, in the first instance, be regarded as the sole source of the benefit conferred: but his instructions soon lead the grateful person to behold the hand of God, and to render thanks to Him as the true and only source of good. Then the benefactor is viewed in his true light, even like the angel sent by God to deliver Peter from his prison: but God is viewed as “the Author and Giver of the gift.” Then “thanksgivings abound to Him;” and the person who perhaps thought nothing of his God before, now adores him and magnifies him from his inmost soul. This is the only tribute that man can pay to his Maker: but it is “a sacrifice most pleasing unto God.”]


[We now call upon you all to adopt the language of our text, and say, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!”
The true import of these words is not generally understood. It is supposed, that, because our blessed Lord and Saviour calls himself “The gift of God,” and is undoubtedly the greatest of all God’s gifts to man, the passage must relate to him: but, both from the text and context, it is evident that we must understand it as relating to the alms which were collected for the service of the Church at Jerusalem. Speaking of the part which Titus had taken in this measure, St. Paul says, “Thanks be to God, who put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:16.]:” where it is observable, that he traces the blessing to God as its true Author, and returns thanks to God for it. So in our text he speaks of “Thanksgivings to God” occasioned by it, and “God as glorified for it,” and “the exceeding grace of God” as manifested in it. Hence the import of it undeniably is, that “Thanks” should be given by all to God for so “unspeakable a gift.”

And truly it is “the gift of God:” it is God alone that has put it into the heart of so many persons to unite in so good a work. It is to his grace alone that we can trace this tender concern for the temporal and eternal welfare of our fellow-creatures. Man, by nature, has it not: and those who are ignorant of the Gospel have it not: they may talk about good works; but this is a work in which they never engage. We must therefore glorify God for it, as being the only true source from whence it proceeds.
And it may well be called an “unspeakable gift.” It is unspeakable, whether as existing in the visitors, or as operating on those who are visited. No grace can justly be considered as a light matter, since the smallest portion of it that can exist in the soul is of more value than the whole world. Of what value then must such “exceeding grace” be, such grace as most assimilates us to God himself! Was “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” most displayed in this, that “when he was rich, he for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:9.]?” This is the pattern which the visitors desire to imitate, so far at least as, by the most self-denying offices of love, to contribute to the utmost of their power to the happiness of their afflicted brethren.

If we look at the effects which have followed from their exertions, these are “unspeakable” indeed: for, in addition to the temporal comfort administered to Christ himself in many of his poor members [Note: Matthew 25:40.], I doubt not but that there are at this very hour before the throne of God several, whose first thoughts about religion originated altogether in the instructions received from this society. Had there been but one soul brought out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel by means of this institution, the labours of all connected with it would have been richly recompensed: but we say again, that several, we doubt not, will have to bless God for it to all eternity.

Let all then give thanks to God that such an institution exists; and let all contribute liberally to its support — — — We beg to remind you all, that the contributors, no less than the visitors, are accessary to all the good that is done by it; and may expect a blessing on their own souls: and we close our subject with that admonition of the Apostle, “He who soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly; and he who soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully [Note: ver. 6.].”]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 9". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.