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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 2-corinthians-1.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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Address and greeting (2 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:2). Thanksgiving for the comfort sent to him by God, wherein, as in his affliction which rendered it necessary, they sympathetically shared (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). He has earned a right to their sympathy by his sincerity (2 Corinthians 1:12-14). His change of purpose with respect to a visit to Corinth, with digression on the unchangeableness of the gospel (2 Corinthians 1:15-22). Explanation of his Reasons (2 Corinthians 2:4).
2 Corinthians 1:1
By the will of God (see 1 Corinthians 1:1). In the face of Judaizing opponents, it was essential that he should vindicate his independent apostolate (Acts 26:15-18). And Timothy. Timothy had been absent from St. Paul when he wrote the First Epistle, and Sosthenes had taken his place, whether as amanuensis or merely as a sort of joint authenticator. Our brother; literally, the brother, as in 1 Corinthians 1:1. The brotherhood applies both to St. Paul and to the Corinthians; there was a special bond of brotherhood between all members of "the household of faith." The saints. Before the name "Christians" had come into general use, "saints" (Acts 9:13) and "brethren" were common designations or' those who were "faithful in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:1). In all Achaia. In its classical sense Achaia means only the northern strip of the Peloponnesus; as a Roman province the name included both Hellas and the Peloponnesus. Hero St. Paul probably uses it in its narrower sense. The only strictly Achaian Church of which we know is Cenchrea, but doubtless there were little Christian communities along the coasts of the Corinthian gulf. To the Church at Athens St. Paul never directly alludes. This letter was not in any sense an encyclical letter; but even if it were not read in other communities, the Corinthians would convey to them the apostle's greeting.
2 Corinthians 1:2
Grace be to you and peace. On this pregnant synthesis of the Greek and Hebrew greetings, see 1 Corinthians 1:3; Romans 1:7.
2 Corinthians 1:3.
Blessed be God (Ephesians 1:3). This outburst of thanksgiving was meant to repress the relief brought to the overcharged feelings of the apostle by the arrival of Titus, with news respecting the mixed, but on the whole good, effect produced at Corinth by the severe remarks of his first letter. It is characteristic of the intense and impetuous rush of emotion which we often notice in the letters of St. Paul, that he does not here state the special grounds for this impassioned thanksgiving; he only touches upon it for a moment in 2 Corinthians 2:13, and does not pause to state it fully until 2 Corinthians 7:5-16. It is further remarkable that in this Epistle almost alone he utters no thanksgiving for the moral growth and holiness of the Church to which he is writing. This may be due to the fact that there was still so much to blame; but it more probably arose from the tumult of feeling which throughout this letter disturbs the regular flow of his thoughts. The ordinary "thanksgiving" for his readers is practically, though indirectly, involved in the gratitude which he expresses to God for the sympathy and communion which exists between himself and the Church of Corinth. Even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek is the same as in Ephesians 1:3, where, literally rendered, it is, "Blessed be the God and Father." The same phrase is found also in 1 Peter 1:3; Co 1 Peter 1:3. The meaning is not, "Blessed be the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (although the expression, "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ," occurs in Ephesians 1:17 : comp. John 20:17), but "Blessed be God, who is also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," and who is therefore "our Father" by adoption and redemption, as well as our God by creation. The Father of mercies. This corresponds to a Hebrew expression, and means that compassionateness is the most characteristic attribute of God, and emanation from him. He is the Source of all mercy; and mercy
"Is an attribute of God himself."
He is "full of compassion, and gracious, tong-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth" (Psalms 86:15). "The Law," says the Talmud, "begins and ends with an act of mercy. At its commencement God clothes the naked; at its close be buries the dead" ('Sotah,' f. 14, 1). Thus every chapter but one of the Koran is headed, "In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful;" and it is an Eastern expression to say of one that has died that. "he is taken to the mercy of the Merciful." Comp. "Father of glory," Ephesians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:8 ("of spirits," Hebrews 12:9; "of lights," James 1:17). The plural, "compassions,'' is perhaps a plural of excellence, "exceeding compassion" (Romans 12:1), and may be influenced by the Hebrew word rachamim, often literally rendered by St. Paul "bowels." The article in the Greek ("the Father of the compassions") specializes the mercy. The God of all comfort. So in 2 Corinthians 13:11 God is called "the God of love and peace;" Romans 15:5, "the God of patience and of comfort;" Romans 2:15, "the God of hope." This word "comfort" (unfortunately interchanged with "consolation" in the Authorized Version) and the word "affliction" (varyingly rendered by "trouble" and "tribulation" in the Authorized Version), are the keynotes of this passage; and to some extent of the whole Epistle. St. Paul is haunted as it were and possessed by them. "Comfort," as verb or substantive, occurs ten times in Romans 2:3-7; and "affliction" occurs four times in succession. It is characteristic of St. Paul's style to be thus dominated, as it were, by a single word (comp. notes on 2 Corinthians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 4:2; see note on 2 Corinthians 10:8). The needless variations of the Authorized Version were well intentioned, but arose from a false notion of style, a deficient sense of the precision of special words, and an inadequate conception of the duties of faithful translation, which requires that we should as exactly as possible reflect the peculiarities of the original, and not attempt to improve upon them.
2 Corinthians 1:4
Who comforteth us. The "us" implies here, not only St. Paul and Timothy, but also the Corinthians, who are one with them in a bond of Christian unity which was hitherto undreamed of, and was a new phenomenon in the world. St. Paul always uses the first person in passages where he is speaking directly of individual feelings and experiences. In other passages he likes to lose himself, as it were, in the Christian community. The delicate play of emotion is often shown by the rapid interchanges of singular and plural (see 2 Corinthians 1:13, 2Co 1:15, 2 Corinthians 1:17; 2 Corinthians 2:1, 2Co 2:11, 2 Corinthians 2:14, etc.). The present, "comforteth," expresses a continuous experience, with which the Christians of the first age were most happily familiar (John 14:16-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 2 Thessalonians 2:17). In all our affliction. The collective experience of affliction is sustained by the collective experience of comfort. That we may be able to comfort. Thus St. Paul takes "a teleological view of sorrow." It is partly designed as a school of sympathy. It is a part of the training of an apostle, just as suffering is essential to one who is to be a sympathetic high priest (Hebrews 5:1, Hebrews 5:2). In any trouble. The original more forcibly repeats the words, "in all affliction." Wherewith we ourselves are comforted. By means of the comfort which God gives us, we can, by the aid of blessed experience, communicate comfort to others.
2 Corinthians 1:5
As the sufferings of Christ abound in us; rather, unto us. "The sufferings of Christ" are the sufferings which he endured in the days of his flesh, and they were not exhausted by him, but overflow to us who have to suffer as he suffered, bearing about with us his dying, that we may share his life (2 Corinthians 4:10). The idea is, not that he is suffering in us and with us, but that we have "a fellowship in his sufferings" (Philippians 3:17); Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ;" Hebrews 13:13, "Bearing his reproach." Our sufferings are the sufferings of Christ because we suffer as he suffered (1 Peter 4:13) and in the same cause. Aboundeth by Christ. If his sufferings, as it were, overflow to us, so too is he the Source of our comfort, in that he sendeth us the Comforter (John 14:16-18).
2 Corinthians 1:6
And; rather, but. The verse expresses the additional thought that the comfort (i.e. encouragement and strengthening) of the apostle, as well as his affliction, was not only designed for his own spiritual training, but was the source of direct blessing to his converts, because it enabled him, both by example (Philippians 1:14) and by the lessons of experience, to strengthen others in affliction, and so to further their salvation by teaching them how to endure (Rom 5:1-21 :34). The affliction brings encouragement, and so works endurance in us, and, by our example and teaching, in you.
2 Corinthians 1:7
And our hope of you is steadfast; literally, And our hope is steadfast on your behalf. The variations of text and punctuation in the verse do not materially affect the sense. The meaning is "And I have a sure hope that you will reap the benefits of our common fellowship with Christ in his affliction, and of the comfort which he sends, because I know that you have experienced the sufferings, and am therefore sure that he will send you the strength and the endurance. The close connection of tribulation and Divine encouragement are found also in Matthew 5:4; 2Ti 2:12; 1 Peter 5:10. The interchange of the two between teacher and taught is part of the true communion of saints (comp. Philippians 2:26).
2 Corinthians 1:8
For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant. This is a favourite phrase with St. Paul (Romans 1:13; Rom 11:25; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:13). Of our trouble; rather, about our affliction. He assumes that they are aware what the trouble was, and he does not specially mention it. What he wants them to know is that, by the help of their prayers and sympathy, God had delivered him out of this affliction, crushing as it was. Which came to us in Asia. Most commentators refer this to the tumult at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-41.); and since St. Paul's dangers, sicknesses, and troubles are clearly understated throughout the Acts, it is possible that the perils and personal maltreatment which were liable to occur during such a season of excitement may have brought on some violent illness; or, again, be may have suffered from some plots (1 Corinthians 16:9, 32; Acts 20:19) or shipwreck (2 Corinthians 11:25). In Romans 16:4 he alludes again to some extreme peril. But St. Paul seems systematically to have made light of external dangers and sufferings. All his strongest expressions (see Romans 9:1-3, etc.) are reserved for mental anguish and affliction. What he felt most keenly was the pang of lacerated affections. It is, therefore, possible that he is here alluding to the overpowering tumult of feelings which had been aroused by his anxiety as to the reception likely to be accorded to his first letter. To this and the accompanying circumstances he alludes again and again (2Co 2:4, 2 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 7:5, etc.). The sense of "comfort'' resulting from the tidings brought by Titus (2Co 7:6, 2 Corinthians 7:7, 2 Corinthians 7:13) is as strong as that expressed in these verses, and the allusion to this anguish of heart is specially appropriate here, because he is dwelling on the sympathetic communion between himself and his converts, both in their sorrows and their consolations. That we were pressed cut of measure, above strength; literally, that toe were weighed down exceedingly beyond our power. The trial seemed too heavy for him to bear. The phrase here rendered "out of measure" occurs in 2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 7:13; 1 Corinthians 12:31; Galatians 1:13; but is only found in this particular group of letters. Insomuch that we despaired even of life. This rendering conveys the meaning. Literally it is, so that we were even in utter perplexity (2 Corinthians 4:8) even about life. "I fell into such agony of mind that I hardly hoped to survive." Generally, although he was often in perplexity, he succeeded in resisting despair (2 Corinthians 4:8).
2 Corinthians 1:9
But; perhaps rather, yea. The word strengthens the phrase, "were in utter perplexity." We had the sentence of death in ourselves. The original is more emphatic, "Ourselves in our own selves we have had." Not only did all the outer world look dark to me, but the answer which my own spirit returned to the question," What will be the end of it all?" was "Death!" and that doom still seems to echo in my spirit. The sentence; rather, the answer. The word is unique in the LXX. and the New Testament. In ourselves. Because I seemed to myself to be beyond all human possibility of deliverance. That we should not trust in ourselves. There was a divinely intended meaning in my despair. It was meant to teach me, not only submission, but absolute trust in God (see Jeremiah 17:5, Jeremiah 17:7). Which raiseth the dead. Being practically dead—utterly crushed with anguish and despairing of deliverance—I learnt by my deliverance to have faith in God as one who can raise men even from the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:10
From so great a death. From a state of dejection and despair, which seemed to show death in all its power (see 2 Corinthians 4:10-12). And doth deliver. Perhaps a pious marginal gloss which has crept into the text of some manuscripts. We trust; rather, we have set our hope. That. This word is omitted in some good manuscripts, as also are the words, "and doth deliver." He will yet deliver us. This implies either that the perils alluded to were not yet absolutely at an end, or St. Paul s consciousness that many a peril of equal intensity lay before him in the future.
2 Corinthians 1:11
Ye also helping together by prayer for us. St. Paul had a deep conviction of the efficacy of intercessory prayer (Romans 15:30, Romans 15:31; Philippians 1:19; Philemon 1:22). By the means of many persons; literally, from many faces. Probably the word prosopon here has its literal meaning. The verse, then, means "that from many faces the gift to us may be thankfully acknowledged by many on our behalf." God, he implies, will be well pleased when he sees the gratitude beaming from the many countenances of those who thank him for his answer to their prayers on his behalf. The word for "gift" is charisma, which means a gift of grace, a gift of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4).
2 Corinthians 1:12-14
Vindication of his right to their sympathy.
2 Corinthians 1:12
For our rejoicing; rather, for our boasting is this. My expression of confidence in your sympathy with me may sound like a boast, but my boast merely accords with the testimony of my conscience that I have been sincere and honest to all, and most of all to you. The testimony of our conscience. To this St. Paul frequently appeals (Acts 23:1-35. Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16; Romans 9:1; 1 Corinthians 4:4). In simplicity; rather, in holiness. The best reading is ἁγιότητι (א, A, B, C, K), not ἀπλότητι. "Holiness" seems to have been altered to "simplicity," both on dogmatic grounds and because it is a rare word, only occurring in Hebrews 12:10. And godly sincerity; literally, sincerity of God; i.e. sincerity which is a gift of Divine grace (comp. "peace of God," Philippians 4:7; "righteousness of God," Romans 1:17). For the word used for "sincerity," see note on 1 Corinthians 5:8. Not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God. The preposition in both clauses is "in." The grace of God was the atmosphere which the apostle breathed, the sphere in which he worked. We have had our conversation. We lived and moved. The word "conversation" originally meant "mode of life," and is used to translate both anastrophe and politeuma, which means properly "citizenship." The exclusive modern sense of "conversation" is not earlier than the last century. In the world; i.e. in my general life as regards all men. More abundantly to you-ward. Sincerity, holiness, the signs of the grace of God, were specially shown by the apostle towards the Corinthians, because they were specially needed to guide his relations towards a Church which inspired him with deep affection, but which required special wisdom to guide and govern. The fact that, in spite of all his exceptional care, such bitter taunts could still be levelled at him, shows that he had not been mistaken in supposing that no Church required from him a more anxious watchfulness over all his conduct.
2 Corinthians 1:13
For we write none other things unto you, etc. Remarks like these obviously presuppose that the conduct and character of St. Paul had been misrepresented and calumniated. The perpetual recurrence to a strain of self-defence would have been needless if some one—probably Titus—had not told St. Paul that his opponents accused him of insincerity. Here, therefore, he tells them that he is opening out his very heart towards them. What he had to say to them and of them was here set forth without any subterfuges or arrieres pensees. He had nothing esoteric which differed from exoteric teaching. It is a melancholy thought that even such a one as Paul was reduced to the sad necessity of defending himself against such charges as that he intrigued with individual members of his Churches, wrote private letters or sent secret messages which differed in tone from those which were read in the public assembly. Or acknowledge; rather, or even fully know; i.e. from other sources. The paronomasia of the original cannot be preserved in English, but in Latin would be "Quae legitis aut etiam inteltigitis." And I trust… even to the end; rather, but I hope that, even unto the end, ye will fully know—even as ye fully knew us in part—that we are your subject of boast. After telling them that they have in this letter his genuine and inmost thoughts, he adds that "even as some of them (for this seem to be implied by the 'in part') already knew well that the mutual relations between him and them were something wherein to glory, he hopes that they will appreciate this fact, even to the end." He knows that some honour him; he hopes that all will do so; but he can only express this as a hope, for he is aware that there are calumnies abroad respecting him, so that he cannot feel sure of their unbroken allegiance. Such seems to be the meaning; but the state of mind in which St. Paul wrote has evidently troubled his style, and his expressions are less lucid and more difficult to unravel in this Epistle than in any other. To the end. The expression is quite general, like our "to the last." He does not seem definitely to imply either to the end of his life or to the coming of Christ, which they regarded as the end of all things, as in 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Hebrews 3:6.
2 Corinthians 1:14
In part. Not as a whole Church. Some only of the Corinthians had been faithful to his teaching and to himself. (For the phrase, see Romans 11:25; Romans 15:15, Romans 15:24; 1 Corinthians 11:18; 1 Corinthians 12:27; 1 Corinthians 13:9) Rejoicing; rather, ground of boast, as in 2 Corinthians 9:3; Romans 4:2, "whereof to glory;" 1 Corinthians 5:6. In 1 Corinthians 5:12 the substantive means "the act of rejoicing." The word is characteristic of this group of Epistles, in which it occurs forty-six times, Even as ye also are ours. This clause takes away all semblance of self-glorification. In 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 1 Thessalonians 2:20 and Philippians 2:16 he expresses the natural thought that a teacher's converts are, and will be in the last day, his "crown of exultation." Here alone he implies that they may glory in him as he in them. The thought, however, so far frond being egotistical, merely indicates the in. tense intercommunion of sympathy which existed between him and them. He does but place himself on a level with his converts, and imply that they mutually gloried in each other. In the day of the Lord Jesus (see on 1 Corinthians 3:13).
2 Corinthians 1:15-22
His change of purpose in visiting Corinth.
2 Corinthians 1:15
In this confidence. In reliance on the mutual respect and affection which exists between us. I was minded. The stress is partly on the tense: "my original desire was." When speaking of matters purely personal, St. Paul generally reverts to the first person. To come unto you before. I meant to visit you, first on my way to Macedonia, and again on my return from Macedonia, as explained in the next verse. A second benefit; rather, a second grace. There is another reading, χαρὰν, joy, and the word χάρις itself sometimes has this sense (as in Tobit 7:18), but not in the New Testament. Here, again, there is no boastfulness. St. Paul, filled as he was with the power of the Holy Spirit, was able to impart to his converts some spiritual gifts (Romans 1:11), and this was the chief reason why his visits were so eagerly desired, and why his change of plan had caused such bitter disappointment to the Corinthians. The importance of the Church of Corinth, its central position, and its unsettled state made it desirable that he should give them as much as possible of his personal supervision.
2 Corinthians 1:16
To be brought on my way (see note on 1 Corinthians 16:6) toward Judaea (1 Corinthians 16:4-6).
2 Corinthians 1:17
When I therefore was thus minded. Without saying in so many words that all this plan was now given up, he proceeds to defend himself against the charges which had been evidently brought against him by his opponents. The Corinthians were aware that he no longer meant to come to them direct from Ephesus. They had certainly been informed of this by Titus, and he had indeed briefly stated it in 1 Corinthians 16:5. Their disappointment had led some of them into angry criticisms upon the "indecision" of the apostle, the more so because he had (out of kindness, as he here shows) spared them the pain of expressing his reasons. Did I use lightness? Was this change of plan a sign of "the levity" with which some of you charge me? Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, etc.? Every phrase in this clause is of ambiguous meaning. For instance, the "or" may imply another charge, namely, that his purposes are carnal, and therefore capricious; or it may be the alternative view of his conduct, stated by way of self-defence—namely, "Does my change of plan imply that I am frivolous? or, on the contrary, are not my plans of necessity mere human plans, and therefore liable to be overruled by God's will?" Thus the meaning of the "or" is doubtful, and also the meaning of" according to the flesh." Generally this phrase is used in a bad sense, as in 2 Corinthians 10:2 and Romans 8:1; but it may also be used to mean "in a human way," as in 2 Corinthians 5:16. That with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay. There is probably no clause in the New Testament of which the certain sense must be left so indeterminate as this.
(1) The Authorized Version gives one way of taking the clause. The grammar equally admits of the rendering.
(2) That with me the yea should be yea, and the nay nay. Whichever rendering we adept, it may be explained in accordance with the view indicated in the last note. "I was not showing the levity which my opponents speak of, but my purposes are necessarily mere human purposes, and therefore my 'yes' and 'no' can be only 'yes' and 'no' when I make a plan. My 'yes' or 'no' may be overruled by the Spirit (Acts 16:7) or even hindered by Satan, and that more than once (1 Thessalonians 2:18)." "With me," i.e. as far as I am concerned, I can only say "yes" or" no;" but l'homme propose, Dieu dispose. His intended double visit to them was prevented, not by any frivolity of his, but, as he afterwards shows, by their own unfaithfulness and his desire to spare them. There is yet a third way of taking it which involves a different meaning—"In order that with me the 'yea yea ' may be also ' nay nay,'" Am I inconsistent? or, are my purposes merely carnal purposes, in order that my "yes yes" may be, as far as I am concerned, no better than "no no"—like the mere shifting feebleness of an aimless man? A fourth way of taking the clause, adopted by St. Chrysostom and many others, is, "Do I plan after the flesh, i.e. with carnal obstinacy, so that my ' yea' and 'nay' must be carried out at all costs?' This suggestion can hardly be right; for St. Paul was charged, not with obstinacy, but with indecision. The phrases, "yea" and "nay," as mentioned in Matthew 5:37 and James 5:12, throw no light on the passage, unless indeed some one had misquoted against St. Paul our Lord's words as a reason for adhering inviolably to a plan once formed. Of these various methods I adopt the first, because it seems to be, on the whole, most in accordance with the context. For on that view of the passage he contents himself with the remark that it cannot be inconsistency or levity on his part to alter plans which are liable to all the chance and change of ordinary circumstances; and then tells them that there was one part of his teaching which has nothing to do with mere human weakness, but was God's everlasting , "yes;" after which he explains to them the reason why he decided not to come to them until he had first visited Macedonia, and so to give them one visit, not two.
2 Corinthians 1:18
But as God is true; rather, but God is faithful, whatever man may be (1Co 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 John 1:9). Our word towards you, etc. The verse should be rendered, But God is faithful, because (faithful herein, that) our preaching to you proved itself to be not yea and may. Whatever you may say of my plans and my conduct, there was one thing which involved an indubitable "yea," namely, my preaching to you. In that, at any rate, there was nothing capricious, nothing variable, nothing vacillating. St. Paul, in a manner characteristic to his moods of deepest emotion, "goes off at a word." The Corinthians talked of his "yea" and "nay" as though one was little better than the other, and neither could be depended on; well, at any rate, one thing, and that the most essential, was as sure as the faithfulness of God.
2 Corinthians 1:19
For. This is a proof of what he has just said. His preaching was as firm as a rock; for, tried by time, it had proved itself a changeless" yea," being a preaching of Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. By me and Silvanus and Timotheus. They are mentioned because they had been his companions in the first visit to Corinth (Acts 18:5), and he wishes to show that his preaching of Christ had never wavered. "Silvanus" (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1) is the "Silas" of Acts 15:22. He disappears from the New Testament in this verse, unless he be the "Silvanus" of 1 Peter 5:12. Was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. "Became not (proved not to be) yes and no (in one breath, as it were, and therefore utterly untrustworthy), but in him there has been a yea." The perfect, "has become," means that in him the everlasting" yes" has proved itself valid, and still continues to be a changeless affirmation (Hebrews 13:8).
2 Corinthians 1:20
For all the promises of God in him are yea; rather, For so many as be the promises of God, in him is the yea. All the promises of God find in him their unchangeable fulfilment. He was "a minister to confirm the promises" alike to the Jews and the Gentiles (Romans 15:8, Romans 15:9); and "the premise of the eternal inheritance" can only be fulfilled in him (Hebrews 9:15). And in him Amen. The true reading is," Wherefore by him also is the Amen to God, uttered by us to his glory" (א, A, B, C, F, G, etc.). In Christ is the "yea" of immutable promise and absolute fulfilment; the Church utters the "Amen" of perfect faith and grateful adoration. Here, as in 1 Corinthians 14:16, we have a proof of the ancientness of the custom by which the congregation utters the "Amen" at the end of praise and prayer. But as the "yea" is in Christ, so it is only through him that we can receive the grace to utter aright the "Amen" to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 1:21
Now he that stablisheth us. They will have seen, then, that steadfastness not levity, immutability not vacillation, has been the subject of their teaching. Who is the Source of that steadfastness? God, who anointed us and confirmed us, and you with us, into unity with his Anointed. With you. We partake alike of this Christian steadfastness; to impugn mine is to nullify your own. In Christ; rather, into Christ, so as to be one with him. They are already "in Christo;" they would aim more and more to be established "in Christurn." Who anointed us. Every Christian is a king and priest to God, and has received an unction from the Holy One (1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27).
2 Corinthians 1:22
Who hath also sealed us. We cannot be deconsecrated, disanointed. Still less can the confirming seal be broken. He continues to dwell on the conception of the unchangeableness of God and of the gospel into which he had been incidentally led by the charge of "lightness." The earnest of the Spirit. The promises which we have received are not mere promises, they are already so far fulfilled to us and in us as to guarantee hereafter their plenary fruition. Just as in money bargains "earnest money," "money on account," is given, in pledge that the whole will be ultimately discharged, so we have "the earnest of the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 5:5), "the firstfruits of the Spirit" (Romans 8:23), which are to us "the earnest" or pledge money that we shall hereafter enter upon the purchased possession (Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 1:14). We now see the meaning of the "and." It involves a climax—the promise is much; the unction more; the seal a still further security (Ephesians 4:30; 2 Timothy 2:19); but beyond all this we have already a part payment in the indwelling of the Present of God (Romans 5:5; Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6). The word arrabon, rendered "earnest," has an interesting history. It is very ancient, for it is found (נוֹברָעַ) in Genesis 38:17, Genesis 38:18, and comes from a root meaning "to pledge." It seems to be a Phoenician word, which had been introduced into various languages by the universality of Phoenician commerce. In classical Latin it is shortened into arrha, and it still exists in Italian as aura, in French as arrhes. The equivalent Hebrew figure is "firstfruits" (Romans 8:23).
2 Corinthians 1:23
Moreover I call God for a record; rather, But I call God for a witness. At this point, to 2 Corinthians 2:4, he enters for the first time on the kindly reasons which had led him to forego his intended earlier visit. He uses a similar adjuration in 2 Corinthians 11:31; and although these appeals may be due in part to the emotional fervour of his temperament, yet he would hardly have resorted to them in this self defence, if the calumnies of his enemies had not gained much credence. The French proverb, Qui s'excuse s'accuse, is often grossly abused. The refutation of lies and slanders is often a duty, not because they injure us, but because, by diminishing our usefulness, they may injure others. Upon my soul. Not "to take vengeance on my soul if I lie," but to confirm the appeal of its honesty and integrity. By the use of such "oaths for confirmation," St. Paul, no less than other apostles, shows that he understood our Lord's rule, "Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay," as applying to the principle of simple and unvarnished truthfulness of intercourse, which requires no further confirmation; but not as a rigid exclusion of the right to appeal to God in solemn cases and for good reasons. To spare you. This postponement of the intended visit was a sign of forbearance, for which they should have been grateful. After all that he had heard of them, if he had come at all, it could only have been "with a rod" (1 Corinthians 4:21). I came not as yet. The rendering is erroneous. It literally means "I no longer came," i.e. I forbore to come as I had intended.
2 Corinthians 1:24
Not for that we have dominion over your faith. The expression, "to spare you," might have been resented as involving a claim "to lord it over their faith." He had, indeed, authority (1 Corinthians 4:21; 2Co 10:6; 2 Corinthians 13:2, 2 Corinthians 13:10), but it was a purely spiritual authority; it was valid only over those who recognized in him an apostolic commission. St. Peter, no less than St. Paul, discourages the spirit of ecclesiastical tyranny (1 Peter 5:3). But are helpers of your joy. We are fellow-helpers of your Christian joy, and therefore I would not come to cause your grief. That was how I desired to spare you. The object of my visits is always "for your furtherance and joy of faith" (Philippians 1:25). For by faith ye stand. The expression is not a mere general principle, but explains his disclaimer of any desire "to lord it over their faith." As far as their "faith" was concerned, they were not to blame; that remained unshaken, and was independent of any visit or authority of St. Paul. But while "in respect of faith ye stand" (Ephesians 6:13), there are other points in which you are being shaken, and in dealing with these I should have been obliged to take severe measures, which, if I postponed my visit, would (I hoped) become unnecessary.
2 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:2
The will of God.
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ," etc. Here are three subjects of thought.
I. THE SUPREME LAW. "By the will of God."
1. God has a will. He is, therefore, personality, free and intelligent. His will explains the origin, sustenance, and order of the universe. His will is the force of all forces, the law of all laws.
2. God has a will in relation to individual men. He has a purpose in relation to every man, every man's existence, mission, and conduct. His will in relation to moral beings is the standard of all conduct and the rule of all destiny. Love is its primal fount or mainspring.
II. THE APOSTOLIC SPIRIT. Judging from what Paul says here, we observe:
1. The apostolic spirit involves subjection to Christ. "An apostle of Jesus Christ." Christ is the moral Master; he the loving, loyal servant.
2. The apostolic spirit is that of special love for the good. He calls Timothy his "brother," and towards "the Church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia," he glows with loving sympathy. Love for souls, deep, tender, overflowing, is the essential qualification for the gospel apostolate or ministry.
III. THE CHIEF GOOD.
1. Here is the highest good. "Grace and peace." He who has these has the summum bonum.
2. Here is the highest good from the highest Source: "From our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
The God of Christianity.
"Blessed he God, even the Father," etc. The God of nature is revealed in nature as the Almighty and the All-wise. "The invisible things of the world are clearly seen, being made visible by the things that are seen, even his eternal power and Godhead." But God in Christianity appears in three aspects.
I. AS THE FATHER OF THE WORLD'S REDEEMER. "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ is the world's Redeemer, and the world's Redeemer is the Son of God. "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
II. AS THE SOURCE OF MAN'S MERCIES. "The Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort," or the merciful Father. Mercy implies something more than mere benevolence; it is a modification of goodness; it implies sorrow and suffering. God is good to all, but he is merciful to the afflicted—he compassionates and comforts them. God in nature does not appear as the God of mercy and comfort for the fallen and the lost.
III. AS THE COMFORTER OF AFFLICTED SAINTS. "Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble," etc. The best of men have their tribulations here. Most, if not all, the men who have entered heaven have passed through much tribulation.
1. He comforts his afflicted people "in all their tribulations." Whatever the nature and variety of affliction, he has suitable and adequate comfort to bestow. Moral remorses, worldly losses, social bereavements,—he has a healing balm for all.
2. He comforts his afflicted people, that they may be able to administer comfort to others. "That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble." Affliction is necessary to qualify us to sympathize with and administer comfort to others. "They comfort others who themselves have borne," says Sophocles. By affliction Christ qualified himself to comfort others. "We have not a High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities," etc.
2 Corinthians 1:6-11
"And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation," etc. The words suggest a few remarks concerning personal sufferings.
I. THEY ARE OFTEN EXPERIENCED IN THE BEST OF ENTERPRISES. What a glorious enterprise Paul and his fellow apostles were engaged in!—nothing less than the restoration of mankind to the knowledge, image, and friendship of the great God. Yet how great their sufferings! "We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life."£
II. THEY ARE EVER NECESSARY FOR THE RENDERING OF THE HIGHEST SERVICE TO MANKIND. "Whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer." The apostle here teaches that his sufferings and those of his colleagues were vicarious. He and his colabourers incurred them in their endeavours to extend the gospel, and they had the "consolations" which came to him, qualified him to sympathize with and administer comfort to all who were in the same trying condition. Paul could say to the sufferers at Corinth—We were in sufferings and were comforted; you are in sufferings and may participate in the same comfort. If you are partakers of the same kind of suffering, that is, suffering on account of your religion, you shall also be partakers of the same comfort. Suppose a man who had been restored from a certain disease by a certain specific were to meet another suffering under a complaint in all respects identical, and were to say to the man—I can not only sympathize with you, but I can assure you of that which will cure you, for it has cured me;—this, perhaps, may serve as an illustration of the apostle's meaning here; and this every true Christian man who has suffered can say to all—I was in your condition, I was restored; I can sympathize with you, and I urge the same means of restoration,
III. THEIR DETAILMENT PURELY FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS IS JUSTIFIABLE. Paul says, "We would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble." There is a wonderful tendency in men to parade their sufferings and their trials, to spread them out before men, in order to enlist their sympathy and excite commiseration. This is selfish, is not justifiable. Christ—perhaps the greatest of all sufferers—never did this: in rids respect, "he opened not his mouth." But to declare sufferings in order to benefit others, to give them courage and comfort, and to establish between you and them a holy unity in the Divine cause, this is right, this is what Paul does here. He does it that they may believe in his sympathy and seek the comfort which he himself experienced.
IV. THEIR EXPERIENCE OFTEN PROVES A BLESSING TO THE SUFFERER. They seem to have done two things for Paul.
1. To have transferred his trust in himself to trust in God. "We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God." Paul no doubt felt that he was brought near unto death, to the very extreme of suffering, and that led him to look away from self, to put his trust in God. When affliction does this it is indeed a blessing in disguise. When it detaches us from the material and links us to the spiritual, takes us away from self and centres us on God, then, indeed, it worketh out for us a "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
2. To have awakened prayers by others on his behalf. "Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our own behalf."
2 Corinthians 1:12
Conscience and the inner life of man.
"For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward." Three remarks are suggested.
I. WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE SOUL CONSCIENCE OBSERVES. This is implied in its "testimony." The eye of conscience pierces into the deepest secrets of motives, and is cognizant of all our hidden impulses, thoughts, and aims. We may appear sincere to others, but hypocrites to conscience; hypocrites to others, but true to conscience. Conscience is the best judge.
II. WHATEVER IS GOOD IN THE SOUL CONSCIENCE APPROVES.
1. Paul's conscience approved of his inner principles—his "simplicity" or holiness, and "sincerity." On these elements it has ever smiled and will ever smile, but not on "fleshly wisdom," carnal policy, and worldly expediency.
2. Paul's conscience approved of his external demeanour. "We have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward." His outward conduct was the effect and expression of his inner life. Conscience smiles on every holy deed, however mean in the sight of men.
III. WHATEVER IS JOYOUS IN THE SOUL CONSCIENCE OCCASIONS. "Our rejoicing is this," or, "our glorying is this." Where there is not an approving conscience there is no real, moral joy. Its "well done" sets the soul to music; with its approval we can stand, not only calm and serene, but even triumphant, under the denunciations of the whole world. Dr. South says, "Conscience is undoubtedly the grand repository of all those pleasures which can afford any solid refreshment to the soul; when this is calm and serene, then properly a man enjoys all things, and, what is more, himself; for that he must do before he can enjoy anything else. It will not drop but pour in oil upon the wounded heart; it will not whisper but proclaim a jubilee to the mind."
2 Corinthians 1:15-22
Possessions of a genuine Christian.
"And in this confidence," etc. These verses may he regarded as indicating what every genuine disciple of Christ—that is, every Christly man—possesses now and here.
I. HE POSSESSES MORAL STABILITY. Paul is here writing on the defensive; indeed, the whole tone of his letter is apologetic. Because he did not visit the Corinthians according to his first promise, they perhaps pronounced him fickle, vacillating, untrue to his word. Against this he protests. "And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit; and to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judaea." Here he admits his intention and his promise, but in reply says emphatically, "When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness?" etc. He claims stability, and the stability which he claims is possessed by all true Christians.
1. A stability of purpose. "As God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay." What we said we meant; there was no equivocation, no "yea" and "nay" in the same breath. In defending his veracity:
(1) He makes an asseveration. "As God is true," or as God is faithful, we meant to perform what we promised.
(2) He indicates an incongruity. "For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea," etc. He means to say that the gospel which he had preached to them necessarily bound him to faithfulness. Christ, in whom he lived and for whom he laboured, was the grand Reality, the "Amen," the Truth. The idea of a man in Christ being unveracious, untruthful, was preposterous. An untruthful man cannot be a Christian. This the apostle means and declares.
2. A stability of character. "Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God." The stability he claims for himself he accedes to all the Christians at Corinth. How blessed to have the heart fixed, their character "in Christ" established, "rooted and grounded in love"!
II. HE POSSESSES DIVINE CONSECRATION. He that "hath anointed us is God." Among the Jews in olden times, kings, priests, and prophets were set apart to their offices by anointing them with oil; hence here the word "anointed" means they were consecrated by God to a Christly life and labour. A truly Christian man is divinely consecrated, not to a mere office, but to the noblest character and the sublimest mission. As such he has God's seal on him, "who hath also sealed us."
III. HE POSSESSES A PLEDGE OF THE HIGHEST PROGRESS. "Given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." "Let us," says F.W. Robertson, "distinguish between an earnest and a pledge. A pledge is something different in kind given in assurance of something else, as when Judah gave his staff and ring in pledge for a lamb which he promised should be given afterwards. But an earnest is part of that thing which is eventually to be given, as when the grapes were brought from Canaan, or as when a purchase is made and part of the money is paid down at once." There is no finality in the life of goodness; it passes on from "strength to strength," from "glory to glory." In every step, after the first, up the celestial mountains, the scenes widen and brighten, and the breezes become more balmy and invigorating as we advance. He who has the Christly life within has already Paradise in germ.
2 Corinthians 1:23, 2 Corinthians 1:24
A threefold theme.
"Moreover I call God for a record," etc. In these verses we have three things worthy of note.
I. THE FULFILMENT OF A PROMISE ADJOURNED. "Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth." Paul here, in the most solemn way, assigns the reason why he had adjourned his promised visit to Corinth. It was not for his personal convenience, or from a change of purpose, or from any indifference towards them, but on the contrary, out of tender regard to their feelings—"to spare you I came not." Knowing the prevalence of the spirit of schism and disorder which had crept into the Church, he shrank from the exercise of that discipline which of necessity would inflict great pain. Hence, hoping that the admonishing letter which he bad addressed to them would have the effect he desired upon them, he delayed. Surely a love so generous, so pure, and exquisitely sympathetic, would justify, if not the breaking of a promise, the postponement of its fulfilment, Regard for the feelings of others, it has been said, is the grand characteristic of the "gentleman." Anyhow, it is an essential element in personal Christianity.
II. AUTHORITY OVER THE FAITH OF OTHERS DISCLAIMED. "Not for that we have dominion over your faith." Had we desired to set up a lordship over you, we might have hastened to you at once, but we respected your feelings, and sought your happiness. The authority which Paul here disclaims has been assumed by priestly ecclesiastics in all times. It is the very spirit of priestism. The minister, whoever he may be, to whatever Church he belongs, who endeavours to make men believe that his own personal ministry, or the ministry of his denomination, is the special ministry of heaven, and essential to the salvation of mankind, has in him the intolerant spirit of the priest, he seeks dominion over the faith of men, he would restrain liberty of thought, and subject the minds of men to his credenda. These men, whether Papists or Protestants, Churchmen or Nonconformists, outrage the spirit of the mission they have received, and inflict untold mischief on the minds of men.
III. THE TRUE WORK OF A GOSPEL MINISTER. "But are helpers of your joy." He is a helper, not a lord; a helper, not a substitute. A true minister is:
1. To help men to think aright. To think aright is to think on the right subject, in the right way.
2. To help men to feel aright. Feel aright in relation to self, mankind, the universe, and God.
3. To help men to believe aright. "By faith ye stand." Spiritually men can only "stand" by faith, and the work of a true minister is to help people to "stand" by "faith" on the right foundation. When will ministers come to feel that they are the spiritual "helpers" of the people; to help them, not by doing their work for them, but to assist them in working for themselves?
HOMILIES BY C. LIPSCOMB
2 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:2
It is a greeting from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from "'Timothy our brother," instead of Sosthenes, as in the First Epistle. It is to the Church of God at Corinth, with all the saints in the whole of Achaia, all connected in the province with the central Church at Corinth. "Beginning at Jerusalem"—the holy city was to be the starting point. Antioch, Caesarea, Thessalonica, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, were to be early reached by the gospel. Community centres were to become Church centres, so that the social idea of Christianity should have prompt and impressive development. As usual with St. Paul, "Grace be to you and peace," opening and closing with the word so comprehensive, so precious, "grace."—L.
2 Corinthians 1:3-11
Thanksgiving in the midst of tribulation; uses of sorrow; comforting others; personal references.
The ascription begins with "blessed," the strongest term the apostle could employ as representing the highest and strongest emotions, the head-word in the vocabulary of gratitude and praise, found in the Old and New Scriptures, and common to Jews and Gentile Christians. "Blessed;" the best in us acknowledging the God of grace, an anthem in a single utterance, and embodying the whole nature of man in reverence and adoration. "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ;" not only God, but the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a Father to us in him. What significance Christ gave to the word "father" we all know. It is the root-word of the Lord's Prayer, every ascription and every petition being but an offshoot from "Our Father which art in heaven." So of the entire Sermon on the Mount; it is the motive to trust Providence, the reason to be like God, the ground of brotherhood, the inducement to forgive those who offend us, the inspiration of each duty, each sacrifice, and the joy and strength of each beatitude. So of the last conversations and discourse—all of the Father and of the Son in him, and the disciples in the Son. So after the Resurrection, "My Father and your Father." St. Paul rejoiced in the word. Nor did he hesitate to use on Mars' Hill the quotation," We are also his offspring," and from this point of view expose the error and sin of idolatry. And wherever he comes to give it the fulness of its import, as in Romans 8:1-39., his heart overflows with feeling. Here (Romans 8:3) he is also the "Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort," and no matter how the mercies reach us and what their nature and connections, they are from the Father as the God of all comfort. Physical and spiritual blessings, a visit from Stephanas, the return of Titus, good news from Corinth,—all alike are mercies from the Father, the God of all comfort. One may lose himself in the omnipresence of Jehovah and be overwhelmed by its sublimity, but it is a very practical doctrine with the apostle, a constant reality, and he feels it deeply because he feels it always. "Not far from every one of us." How can he be, when "we live and move and have our being" in]aim? We say these great words, but with what little consciousness of their massive import! Reason tries in vain to comprehend omnipresence; imagination labours and sinks under its images; while the humble and docile heart accepts the grandeur of God's presence in immensity as the grandeur of his nearness in all the affairs of life. "God of all comfort" because "Father of mercies;" the mercies very welcome to him just then in that sore emergency, and the fatherhood of God in Christ unspeakably dear. it enlivened the sense of special providence in his soul; it was the Comforter whom Christ had promised as more than a compensation for his absence, and. while this Comforter was never taken from him, yet, as occasion demanded, his Divine manifestations were augmented. Just as we need human sympathy, assurances of human friendship and love, more at some times than at others, so need we the Consoler, and to this varying want he adapts himself in the infinitude of his power and tenderness. No soul is saved, we may suppose, on an unvarying plan; no soul is cheered and strengthened by a rigid monotony of spiritual influence. "The wind bloweth where it listeth," a zephyr, a breeze, a gate, but in all the wind. "So is every one that is born of the Spirit." "Blessed be God," not only for "mercies" and "comfort," but for them in particular adaptations to seasons and experiences that doubly endear the gracious offices of the Paraclete. Now, these words of praise naturally lead us to expect a justification of their special utterance, and we have it immediately. "Who comforteth us in all our tribulation," and for what purpose? Titus and Timothy had brought him much cheer and consolation, and why? Was it just to revive his drooping spirit? Just to assuage his personal pain, soothe his unquiet nerves, invigorate his tone of mind? Nay; consolation was not selfish. Happiness is not exclusively or even mainly for its possessor. "Doth God take care for oxen?" Yea; for the owner of oxen too in his providence over the beast. The tribulation had not fallen on St. Paul because of anything peculiar to him; it was vicarious; and the comfort had been granted, not in his behalf alone, but that he might know how to console others. This is his statement: "That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble." If the Holy Ghost is the Comforter, we are his agents, and, just as the gospel of doctrine reaches you from him through us, so too the gospel of consolation comes to your hearts through our hearts. Look at what the apostolic office meant. Far more than preacher, organizer, administrator, leader, champion, was included in its high duties and arduous responsibilities. To console was one of its greatest tasks. Everywhere the dejected were to be lifted up, the discouraged animated, the afflicted taught to hope. To be a physician to suffering souls was a cease- less requisition on St. Paul. Think of what it entailed on such a man as he. Think of but one aspect of the matter—tension of sensibility. The exhaustion consequent on the unceasing strain upon sensibility is the hardest of all things to bear. It opens the door to all manner of temptations. It is the crucial test of manly fortitude, Now, the quality of emotion has much more to do with the exhaustion of the nervous system than the quantity. Every preacher knows that a funeral occasion on which he has to officiate is a severer tax on his nerves than half a dozen ordinary pulpit services. The more solemn, and especially the more pathetic, the circumstances, the more rapid and complete the subsequent exhaustion. Think now of what St. Paul had to endure in this kind of apostolic experience, and that too without a respite; how many thorns rankled besides "the thorn in the flesh;" and how many hearts bled in that one bleeding heart of his. Just now, moreover, he was suffering greatly on account of the Corinthians. This will appear hereafter. The main point before us is—How was he qualified to be a consoler? What Ms discipline, what his education, for this beautiful and holy service? Ah, Tarsus and Jerusalem, Gamaliel, all other teachers, pass out of view in this deepest and most personal of all culture, and the Holy Ghost and the man are the only parties to the work. "By the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." Talking from the intellect is in such a case of no avail. A man must have been a sufferer, must have felt Christ in his sufferings, must have abounded in these "sufferings of Christ," as St. Paul designates his afflictions, before he can be fitted to minister unto others. Only sorrow can speak to sorrow. Notice the correspondence in the degree; if the sufferings of Christ abounded, so "our consolation also aboundeth by Christ." "By the sufferings of Christ abound in us" ("unto us," Revised Version), we understand the apostle to mean his fellowship with Christ in suffering the ills and sorrows that came ,.Ton him as an apostle and as a man because of his spiritual union with Christ. Mediation in all its offices, in the peculiar and exclusive work of Christ as the one Reconciler and Healer, in the subordinate and imperfect operations of human sympathy, is essentially painful. And allowing for the infinite distinction between the Divine Sufferer and. human sufferers, there is vet a unity in suffering predicable of Christ and the members of his mystical body. For it is the capacity to suffer which is the dignity and glory of our nature. We are God-like in this quality. It is the basis of all grand excellence, nor can our innate love of happiness nor any other ideal of our being have its fulfilment except through that kind of sorrow which Christians undergo in the Man of sorrows. Ver, 6 emphasizes this fact. If we are afflicted, argues he, it is for your good, that we may be instrumental in your salvation, and that grace may abound to yon because of what we endure. And, furthermore, it was for their present consolation; it was "effectual;" the example of their distressed apostle operated to strengthen and establish them, and the consolation wherewith he was sustained availed to animate their souls For this reason, his hope of them was "steadfast Corruptions were among these Corinthians God's judgments had overtaken them because of their free-thinking and laxity of morals: they were punished, they were chastened but in the midst of all, St. Paul was encouraged to hope for their stability and growth in grace, seeing that they were not only sympathizers but participants both in the sugaring and in the consolation he himself experienced for their sakes. Two points here come into view: first, the apostle was in great distress on their account, and they shared with him this peculiar burden of grief; and, secondly, the supporting grace which God had given him was not confined to his soul, but overflowed (abounded) in their souls. What a great truth is this! There are times in our history as believers when, if left without the support of Church relations, we should be overcome by temptation. In such hours God shows us the worth of membership in the Church; grace comes to us through their affections, and brethren in Christ are our best friends in the flesh. The human, or rather the Divine in the human, saves us when all else would be ineffectual, and thus it is that associates and companions in the faith cooperate with other "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." And what a meaning this imparts to the Holy Communion, wherein we express, not only our remembrance of Christ's suffering and death, but our fellowship with his sufferings in others! Keep in mind how sorrow ennobles us. Is it the silence and loneliness, the self-examination, the penitence, the amendment, in which the divinest fruits of chastening appear? These are not ultimate results. It is not alone what the discipline of pain makes us in ourselves; it is not the individual man, but the social man, that is under God's plastic hand, and who, while learning to "bear his own burden," is also learning a lesson far more difficult, to bear another's burden and "so fulfil the law of Christ." Who are they that practise the "so"? Who are the burden bearers—those that carry the ignorance, perverseness, folly, misfortune, troubles, of other people on their hearts? Only such as have known Christ as he suffered from taking "our infirmities" and bearing "our sicknesses," and who have been taught by the Holy Spirit that the mediating life to which we are called as the highest sphere of life is possible only by means of personal affliction. Was Bunyan immured in Bedford jail on his own account or for the world's benefit? Was Milton blind for his own sake or for England's? How could 'Pilgrim's Progress' or 'Paradise Lost' have been produced except in obedience to the law—partakers in suffering, partakers in consolation? St. Paul proceeds to the illustration. Of his general sufferings we have a definite idea. How he was misrepresented by his enemies, how he was charged with meanness and cowardice, how he was vilified for his self-denial, how the Judaizers pursued him with merciless zeal, we all know. We know, too, how his heart was moved by the deplorable state of things at Corinth. Now, it is quite true that the endurance of trouble prepares us to bear a new trouble; but it is true also that trouble increases the sensitiveness to pain, and hence, in a succession of sorrows, the last, though not in itself the heaviest, is virtually such because of the sensibility involved. This was St. Paul's condition. At this very conjuncture, when a phalanx of evils threatened, he had one particular trouble, of which he says, "We would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia." What it specifically was, we know not. He tells us, however, that it was exceptional even in his sad life; for he was "pressed [borne down] out of measure," and again, "above strength" (human resistance inadequate to bear the load), so much so that he saw no way of escape, life hung in peril, "we despaired even of life." In that dreadful hour all seemed over. Such hours do come to the best and noblest of God's servants. Body gives way, heroism is weakened, faith is half shorn of its strength. It is the eclipse of all light, the hour of darkness and of the Prince of darkness; the very soul seems to put off its better attributes, and life to its core appears an unreality. St. Paul "had the sentence of death" in himself. Was there any "lower deep"? Yet in this season of terrible experience a Divine lesson was being taught him, and it was "that we should not trust in ourselves." Had he not learned it long ago? Yes; in part, but not in this precise shape nor in this degree. The capacity to suffer is peculiar in this, that its development requires a manifold experience. One trouble is not another trouble; one grief is not another grief. Affliction that reaches a certain sentiment or a particular section of our nature may leave other sentiments and sections altogether untouched. Every quality within must go through this ordeal. The loss of money is not the loss of position and influence, the loss of friend is not the loss of a child, the loss of a child is not the loss of a wife. Each affection must pass through the refiner's fire. Nay, the very instincts must share the purification ordained for such as are to be made "perfect through suffering." Every link must be tested, must be thoroughly known, before the chain can be formed. What the issue was in St. Paul's case he informs us, and it was this—all self-reliance was taken away, and, in utter hopelessness, his heart was committed to God with his life, even the God "which raiseth the dead." Could anything represent his marvellous deliverance except the resurrection? "Who delivered us from so great a death;" it was an act of omnipotence, and as signal as raising the dead. After this era in his career imagine his consciousness of God's power in him. There it was—part and portion of his being, thought of his thought, feeling of his feeling, separable never from the existence of self. Had the crisis passed? Yea; but maligners and intriguers and foes were still on his track; the half-Christianized Pharisee nursed the old grudge against him, and the Judaizer, who believed in no gospel of which the Law of Moses was not a vital part as a requisite to salvation, was as inveterate as ever in cunning and in the arts that undermine. Yet what a potency of assurance lies in sorrow! After this season of trial, St. Paul, who was very apprehensive of mischief from this Judaizing source, and most serious mischief, and who felt his own ministry more imperilled at this point than at any other, must have had an unwonted degree of heavenly strength imparted to his spirit. Is it not likely, indeed, that it was a period of special education for this struggle with the Judaizers? May it not have been that, while in Ephesus, Troas, Macedonia, the principal warrior on the side of Christianity and free grace had his armour refitted and burnished for the dangers newly impending? It is on record that he was revived and reinvigorated; for he speaks of God as one who had not only "delivered," but "doth deliver," and "in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us." "So great a death" had been escaped; why might he not hope for future and triumphant victory? Would not these Corinthians be brethren indeed? "Ye also helping together by prayer for us;" the joy of deliverance from his enemies would not be complete unless they were "partakers;" not even would he have triumph at the price of selfishness, but self in them and self in him must be one; and, therefore, the recurring plural, "we" and "us." "By the means," or through the agency of "many persons," the future deliverance, "the gift bestowed upon us," will be secured, and what then? It would be no private and personal thanksgiving on his part. Instead of that, "thanks may be given by many on our behalf." His joy would be their joy; their joy his joy; and, in their mutual thanksgiving, all would see that a common sorrow had been overruled for a common glory.—L.
2 Corinthians 1:12-24
Defence of himself; character of his preaching.
"On our behalf" were the closing words of the preceding verse, and St. Paul would now impress upon the Corinthians that he was worthy of their confidence and affection. And yet, further, if their regard had been manifested by intercessions in his behalf, he wished to assure them that he had in his own mind a blessed witness to the truth and sincerity of his apostolic work. Conscience was this witness. It testified that, "in simplicity and godly sincerity" ("godly honesty and singleness," "a plain, single mind"), and with, out any carnal wisdom that is begotten of selfish intellect, and under the control of grace determining the matter and manner of his preaching, he had shown his character and done his work at Corinth. This was his "rejoicing;" it was inward, it was from God; it applied to his "conduct in the world," and especially to his labours among the Corinthians. Were they not the witnesses of all this? How could he be charged with duplicity? They read his heart in the letters written to their Church, and acknowledged his open and frank dealing. Certain persons were sharply censorious, questioning his integrity, attributing baseness to his motives, but some had testified to his "simplicity and godly sincerity," and rejoiced in his apostleship. And they and he would be united in this bond till the end, the day of the Lord Jesus. The day was already anticipated, and even now the "rejoicing" was a foretaste of its bliss. Such was his pleasure in them that, he had been anxious to visit Corinth and confer "a second benefit," and so enlarge his usefulness in their community, and bind their hearts and his in a fellowship closer, firmer, tenderer. Two visits had been intended. Circumstances had changed his purpose. Was he, then, light-minded, fickle, irresolute? The explicit statement of the reason is delayed, but, while not assigning at the moment the cause of postponing the visit, he meets the charges of his enemies by speaking the stern, strong language of that internal authority, the conscience, to which he had just referred. Was he playing the part of a trifler and deceiver by raising expectations he never meant to fulfil? Was he carnally minded, saying, "Yea, yea, and nay, nay," so emphatically?
If he had this shifting and variable intellect (so said his enemies), what dependence was to be placed in such an apostle? Then the solemn protestation breaks forth, "As God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay." It was our purpose to come to you, but it was changed in the spirit of the gospel, and just as certainly as the preaching of Christ in this gospel was "yea," just so certainly was our conduct in this matter in the "yea" of the gospel, i.e. truthful and reliable. All God's promises were made to be kept, and they are "yea" in Christ and we are "yea" in him. The response of the Church is "Amen," and it glorifies God through our instrumentality, All is in the Spirit of Christ—our preaching, promising, and living. God has made us firm and strong in Christ, has given us the unction of his Spirit, so that while Jesus of Nazareth was by distinction the Anointed, and received the Holy Ghost without measure, he has taken us, apostles and believers, unto himself, and conferred on us the gifts of grace. We are "sealed;" the mark is evident that we belong to Christ, and this "earnest" or pledge is "in our hearts." On the broad ground of his apostolic ministry and fidelity to its obligations, St. Paul makes his first defence as to sincerity and consistency. The charge of his adversaries, that he was guilty of double-dealing, is without foundation. His teaching and its results were proofs beyond question that he was anointed to his work, and these believers were the acknowledgment, the "Amen," that certified the fact. Why did he defend himself, at first, in this general way? Why not come at once to the specific reason for not visiting Corinth as he had promised? The reason is obvious. These Judaizers were striking at his apostleship, and the true issue between him and them turned on this point. What did they care about the assurance that he was coming to Corinth? This was a small matter. The main thing with his opponents, in their fiery zeal, was to overthrow the power of his ministry among the Gentiles by heaping contempt on his character and conduct. St. Paul saw this clearly, and hence his line of argument, lie appealed to his ministry, to its fruits, most of all to the fact that the "yea" here was "yea," and the "Amen" of all converted souls was the endorsement of its success. And having met these slanders precisely in the form they were designed to affect him, he proceeds to tell the Corinthians why he had failed at the time to make them a visit. Hoping that his letter would lead them to see their grievous errors and induce them to repent and amend, he bad deferred the journey to Corinth. "To spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth." The "rod" of severity (1 Corinthians 4:21) might not be needed, it would not if they administered the proper discipline in the case of the incestuous man and rectified the disorders in the Church. and he not asked them to decide whether he should come to them "with a rod, or in love and in the spirit of meekness"? In this spirit of tender conciliation he had waited to see the issue. And now, vindicating his action in this matter, he solemnly appeals to God to be a witness against his soul if he had not spoken the truth. "I call God for a record upon my soul." Was not the case very clear? In what stronger light could it be put? There was the testimony of conscience, the seal of God, the unction and the earnest, the yea and the Amen; and here, last of all, the calling on God to testify against him if he had been untruthful. But, writing as he was under the consciousness that every word would be subjected by his adversaries to a merciless criticism, he would explain that he claimed no "dominion" over their "faith." In fact, they were steadfast in the faith, and his only wish was to be a helper of their joy. Thus ends the first chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. It is personal in an uncommon degree, a revelation of the man and the apostle in one of the critical periods of his career. Yet it is not a new revelation, but rather a fuller disclosure of what had been previously seen in part. No man can be known in one attitude and aspect, To see him in a single light and from a fixed angle of observation is impossible. Sculptors and painters, in representing men, work under this limitation. They select a characteristic expression, a dominant appearance, an historic moment. But not so with the historian, the poet, the dramatist. St. Luke in the Acts gives us St. Paul in various positions; but St. Paul is his own biographer, and, in this chapter, admits us to the privacy of his heart. Throughout the Second Epistle we shall enjoy this inner communion with him, and feel every moment the heart that throbs beneath the words.—L.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
2 Corinthians 1:1
An apostle by the will of God.
Paul claims to be what he is, not by his own choice, not by the favour or nomination of his fellow men, but by the Divine will, There were special reasons why he should so think of himself; the office to which he was called was special, for he was a commissioned apostle; and the manner in which he was called to that office was marvellous, supernatural, and miraculous. But the principle contained in this language applies to every Christian; whatever we are, whatever we do, we are, we do, by the will of God.
I. THIS IS EMPHATICALLY A CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLE. Our Lord Jesus lived a life of conscious obedience, for he came to do, not his own will, but the Will of him who sent him. And he calls his disciples to a like life of subjection to the Divine will, by his precious blood redeeming them from self-will and summoning them to recognize the will of God in their salvation.
II. THIS PRINCIPLE APPLIES TO THE OCCUPATION OF EVERY CHRISTIAN. This may not be easy for the follower of Christ at once to see and believe. He looks back upon the time when he decided upon his business or profession, and he remembers that he was guided to a large extent by his own tastes and interests and by the advice of friends. Rut reflection will assure him that Providence is discernible in very familiar and ordinary means. And the appointment of God is to be observed, not only in the life of the statesman, the reformer, the missionary, but also in the life of the lowliest of Christ's disciples. It is not the scale upon which actions are performed that associates them with the Divine will, hut the motive, the moral quality, the spiritual tendency. What is your calling? Are you a servant, a mechanic, a tradesman, a lawyer, a surgeon, a magistrate? In any case, if you are a Christian, and are in the path of duty, you are what you are, not simply through circumstances or through choice, but through the will of God. This principle has an obvious reference to spiritual work, for such is manifestly assigned by heavenly wisdom. The will of God calls the Christian labourer to witness, to work, and to endurance.
III. CONSIDER WHAT THIS PRINCIPLE IMPLIES ON THE PART OF GOD. It implies that the great Creator and Lord of all is conscious of all the affairs of all his people. He is not merely interested in their affairs; he exercises his will with reference to them. His will is not arbitrary or tyrannical; it does not override our liberty, for it is in harmony with justice and with kindness. Yet it has a supreme moral authority.
IV. CONSIDER WHAT THIS PRINCIPLE IMPLIES ON OUR PART.
1. The belief that we are what and where we are by the will of God gives dignity and grandeur to our life. It exalts the Divine will, yet it places us in a position of honour, as workers together with God.
2. It requires us daily to ask, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" and then to bring our actions into harmony with the Divine will.
3. It induces a habit of cheerfulness and content. If we are not just what and where our will would choose, be it remembered that our Father has appointed our lot. What joy and strength must come to him who is convinced that his daily life is assigned and regulated by the will of the Eternal and Supreme!—T.
2 Corinthians 1:4-7 - Comfort, Divine and human.
The human heart is so sensitive, and the human lot is so sorrowful, that it cannot excite surprise when it is found that religion lays great stress upon the provision for true and lasting comfort which Divine wisdom furnishes and offers to the pious. And whilst the consolations of friendship and of philosophy are superficial, those of Christianity go down to the depths of the nature and extend throughout the whole period of life.
I. THE SUPREME AUTHOR OF SPIRITUAL COMFORT. Instead of looking merely to the earthly streams, the apostle goes straight to the living Fountain.
1. The universal sufficiency of this Divine consolation. God is the God of all comfort, and he comforts us in all our tribulation. For he is omniscient and knows all our sorrows: "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." He is infinitely sympathetic: "In all our afflictions he is afflicted."
2. Divine comfort abounds by Christ. Christ is all to his people. If, then, we share his sufferings and benefit by them, the ministration of his consolatory grace is enjoyed by us who recognize him as upon the mediatorial throne.
II. THE MINISTERS OF DIVINE COMPORT TO THEIR FELLOW MEN. The apostle says of himself here what in a measure may be said of all true pastors.
1. They are qualified for this office by their participation in those sorrows which are the common lot of humanity.
2. By their experimental participation in the sufferings of the Redeemer. They know something of that pain which human sin inflicted upon Christ's heart, and something of that sympathy which showed itself in Christ's tears and sighs.
3. By their interest and affection cherished towards those for whose spiritual welfare they are concerned.
III. THE RECIPIENTS OF SPIRITUAL COMFORT.
1. In order to the enjoyment of true consolation, Christians must submit themselves with humility and resignation to the will of God.
2. If they have committed sin or neglected duty, they must not expect consolation except through contrition and repentance.
3. By whatever ministrations consolation may be administered, in order that it may be received aright, it must be. sought from the God of comfort, and it must be sought in the Name and for the sake of Christ.—T.
2 Corinthians 1:11 - Intercessory prayer.
The grateful mind of the apostle recognized in the deliverance which had come to him at Ephesus the answer to the intercessions of the Corinthians on his behalf. Looking back upon affliction, illness, danger, he sees that a Divine hand has brought him out of adversity; yet he acknowledges his debt to those who had pleaded for him at the throne of grace. "Prayer moves the arm that moves the universe." Seeking the continuance of this intercessory application, he hopes great things from it in his future life and ministry.
I. FOR WHOM SHOULD INTERCESSORY PRAYER BE OFFERED? For all men doubtless, yet especially for certain classes.
1. For those who represent their brethren in devoted labour in Christ's cause.
2. Especially for all the public officers of the Church, for bishops and pastors, evangelists and teachers. They need it; for their responsibility is great and their difficulties are many, whilst their discouragements and disappointments are often sore.
II. WHO SHOULD OFFER INTERCESSORY PRAYER? The answer is emphatic and instructive: "the many," i.e. the whole Church in the person of all its members—privately, in the family, and in an especial manner in the great public and solemn assemblies upon the Lord's day and other appointed seasons. The gatherings of worshippers should be composed of "the many," and everything should be done to secure the attendance of large numbers at the services of the Church.
III. WHAT BLESSINGS SHOULD BE SOUGHT IN INTERCESSORY PRAYER? Surely that the Christian labourers, whose case is remembered, may be made devoted, efficient, and successful. That they may be diligent in toil, faithful to their trust; that they may be cheered and comforted amidst their difficulties; and that their labour may not be in vain in the Lord.
IV. WHAT ADVANTAGES MAY BE EXPECTED FROM INTERCESSORY PRAYER? The expression, "helping together," seems to point to good results widely diffused.
1. To him who labours, the strength which comes from sympathy and the strength that comes from the abundant bestowal and outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
2. To him who prays, reflected blessings, such as ever abound to those who live, not for themselves, but for others. There is a reaction, a rebound of spiritual blessing, and they who water others themselves are watered.
3. To the world, a hallowed impression, as it sees how its salvation is near to the hearts both of those who labour and of those who pray for its enlightenment.
V. WHAT ULTIMATE RESULT MAY BE ANTICIPATED AS CERTAIN TO FOLLOW INTERCESSORY PRAYER? Thanksgiving on the part of many; thanksgiving to God, who alike prompts the petition, qualifies the labourer, and gives his benediction to make all effort successful. Thanksgiving, here sincerely though imperfectly on earth, and hereafter perfectly, eternally in heaven.—T.
2 Corinthians 1:18-20 - The promises of God.
If Paul, in delaying his promised visit to Corinth, had seemed chargeable with levity and fickleness, he was not really thus guilty. Such qualities were alien from his Christian nature. And not only so; they were contrary to the character of the God he worshipped, the Saviour he preached; contrary to the promises of the gospel he believed—which they had received through his ministry. Thus the personal reference suggests the statement of a great Christian doctrine.
I. GOD IS GRACIOUS AND GIVES PROMISES.
1. Revelation is one long promise; it consists, not merely of commands and admonitions, but of assurances of favour and of help. Herein it proves its adaptation to the nature and to the needs of men. There were promises addressed to our first parents, to Abraham, to Moses.
2. The one promise distinctive of the old covenant was the promise of the Saviour, the Servant of the Lord, the Desire of all nations. In promising the Christ, Jehovah did indeed virtually promise all spiritual blessings to mankind.
3. The one promise of the new covenant is the promise of the Holy Spirit, in whom is grace and help for all human want and need.
4. The promises of God extend beyond this life into eternity, and include the vision of our Saviour and the possession of an immortal inheritance and home.
II. GOD IS FAITHFUL AND FULFILS HIS PROMISES.
1. Of this his unchangeableness and omnipotence are the certain pledge. What his fatherly goodness assures, his inexhaustible resources will realize.
2. The gifts of his Son and of his Spirit are the proof of his faithfulness. All his promises relating to these gifts have been already made good, and none who receives them can doubt his power and willingness to fulfil what yet remains.
3. The promises of individual guidance, protection, and aid cannot be falsified. "Ye know in all your hearts, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you."
4. Our confidence in Divine faithfulness may be tried, but cannot be disappointed. The stream sometimes disappears and flows for a space underground and unseen; but it is there, and soon emerges in beauty and power. So with the purposes of God; they may be hidden and delayed, but they shall all be accomplished.—T.
2 Corinthians 1:21, 2 Corinthians 1:22 - The Spirit in the heart.
The signs of an apostle were abundantly manifested in the case of St. Paul. Some of these signs were outward and visible; the wonders which he wrought and the labours which he fulfilled were evidences to many of his high calling. There were other signs which were rather internal, revealed in his own spiritual nature and life. These were precious to himself, whether they were recognized or not by others.
I. THE ANOINTING OF THE SPIRIT.
1. This rite received a significance from its employment under the old covenant in the designation of the prophet, the priest, and the king.
2. This significance is enhanced by the application to the Son of God of the official appellation, the Christ, i.e. the anointed One, the Being consecrated and commissioned by the Eternal.
3. The anointing claimed by the apostle is the qualification, by a supernatural and spiritual power, for holy and responsible office.
II. THE SEALING OF THE SPIRIT.
1. By this sealing the apostle was stamped with the mark which was the sign of Divine property in him.
2. And he was thus inwardly and graciously authenticated as the Lord's messenger to men. By the seal we understand the mark set upon the moral nature, the character, indicating Divine possession and Divine authority.
III. THE EARNEST OF THE SPIRIT. The other operations of the Holy Ghost relate to this present state; this refers to the future.
1. The Spirit within the heart is the earnest of a fuller indwelling; they who receive the Spirit are assured that they shall he "filled with the Spirit."
2. The earnest of a clearer revelation. The light shall brighten until the dawn shall be succeeded by the splendour of noonday.
3. The earnest of a richer, purer joy. The measure in which gladness is experienced in the present is a foretaste of the joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.
4. The earnest of an eternal inheritance. They who are possessed by the Spirit and pervaded by his gracious influences have within them both an anticipation of heaven and a preparation for heaven. To whom the Lord gives the pledge, he will give the redemption; to whom he gives the promise, he will give the glorious fulfilment and the eternal possession.—T.
2 Corinthians 1:24 - Helpers of joy.
Even when the immediate effect of the apostle's language and action was to produce heaviness and grief of spirit, the real and ultimate design was to awaken and to intensify spiritual joy. A benevolent nature can find no pleasure in the infliction of suffering; yet it may be that, as was the case with these Corinthians, the way of sorrow and repentance is the only path which can lead to true and lasting gladness.
I. THE CAUSES OF CHRISTIAN JOY. It is well known what the world calls joy—pleasure, mirth, exhilaration of spirits, occasioned by festivity and by prosperity. But the Scriptures represent, what Christian experience supports, that there are purer sources of nobler joy.
1. The joy of spiritual deliverance, known by those who are emancipated from the bondage of sin, ignorance, and error.
2. The joy occasioned by Divine favour. The psalmist appreciated this when he exclaimed, "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us; thou hast put gladness in my heart more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased."
3. The joy of anticipating the gracious and final approval of God.
II. THE MANIFESTATIONS OF CHRISTIAN JOY.
1. The most natural sign of spiritual gladness consists in the abundant utterance of thanksgiving and praise. "Is any merry? Let him sing psalms."
2. Where there is inward joy there is happy and energetic labour for Christ. "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Whilst a gloomy disposition cripples the energies of the worker, gladness within expresses itself in cheerful toil. He works well who "sings at his work."
III. THE WAYS IN WHICH THE CHRISTIAN MINISTER MAY HELP HIS PEOPLE'S JOY.
1. By presenting those Divine truths which are the spring and source of joy.
2. By fortifying their minds against all that would disturb and spoil their joy.
3. By providing for them outlets, in worship and in work, for the expression of the joy that is in them.
4. By encouraging all those special exercises which will promote joy.
5. By exhibiting to them the privilege of rejoicing, as a Christian virtue, and admonishing them to spiritual gladness as a happy duty: "Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice,"—T.
HOMILIES BY E. HURNDALL
2 Corinthians 1:1
A beautiful title frequently conferred upon the people of God in Scripture, They are called believers, since they exercise faith in Christ; disciples, as they place themselves under the teaching of Christ; servants, as they are pledged to do his bidding; children, as they are adopted into the family of God; and saints, since they are to live holily—"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke [blemish], in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15). Christian saintship lays emphasis upon Christian holiness.
1. Upon present Christian holiness. It is not that we are to be saints in heaven only, but saints on earth. And we can have no well-founded expectation of being holy there unless we are holy here. It is the easiest thing in the world to be holy in the future] All are saints next year. But who is a saint now? The true child of God is—must be, or he cannot be a true child of God.
2. Upon universal Christian holiness. All real believers are real saints. Not so with the Romish Church, which canonizes a certain number, some of them very strange ones. Not as in our New Testament (erroneously continued in the Revised Version), Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, etc., as though these were saints because of their eminence in the Church. All Christians are saints. The idea of a Christian as a believer and nothing more is preposterous and utterly unscriptural. If a man believes, we want to know what his belief has done for him—what effects it produces. If it does nothing, it is nothing. Belief, says one, unites me to Christ. Very good; but Christ ridiculed the idea of a branch being united to the true Vine without bringing forth fruit. Belief, says another, alters my condition; being in Christ by faith, I am a "new creature." Excellent; but if you are a "new creature," let us see that you are, else we shall be apt to think that you are the old creature with a new name. "Faith, if it hath not works, is dead" (James 2:17). A true belief is ever followed by holiness. This, however, only suggests how much false belief there must be. True belief is something like the firing of a loaded cannon. If there be true firing the shot will be propelled. So, if we truly believe, we shall be propelled along the course of holiness. It would be but a poor thing if Christianity made us something very excellent in another world, and left us just as it found us in this. Holiness is, no doubt, progressive, But love of holiness, desire of holiness, striving after holiness, and some realization of holiness, are the possession of every true child of God.
I. HOLINESS IN HEART. Not the mere approval of holiness. Many applaud holiness who do not possess it and who do not want to possess it. It must reign in the centre of our being. A child of the devil has unholiness reigning in his heart, but a child of God has holiness upon the heart-throne. "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom ... Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalms 51:6-10). Holiness must begin in the heart; a holiness tacked on to us goes for very little. Many commence with outward reformation, when what they need is inward. The holiness of not a few is very indifferent fruit hung on to the branches of a dead tree. It is the pushing round of the hands of a clock which has no works behind the dial-plate. Mere external holiness is of nothing worth; God looks upon the heart. External saint-ship is the most miserable of shams.
II. HOLINESS IN THOUGHT. Some pass for holy livers who are very unholy thinkers. But if the heart be pure the thoughts are likely to be. Christ attached the same guilt to evil thinking as to evil doing (Matthew 5:28). It is not what we do, but what we want to do! Moreover, evil thinking is the father of evil doing. A child of God may be overtaken by a fault, sudden temptation may carry him away; but to think evil, to plan or purpose evil, is against the genius of his life. We should watch carefully our thoughts.
III. HOLINESS IN WORD. No man could tame the tongue, so God came to tame it. The true saint is pure in speech. The true saint speaks holily, not cantingly. Whenever a man speaks after a sanctimonious, shuffling, canting fashion, he is speaking under the inspiration of the devil. Some religious talking is peculiarly unholy; it sickens and disgusts; it is enough to turn the stomach of leviathan. But those who thus talk think they are infinitely pious, imagining probably that God Almighty measures his people's faces to ascertain how much grace there is in their hearts, and accounts them holy in proportion to their ability to pour forth unmeaning, impertinent or pretentious twaddle. We should speak holily, and then we shall be as far removed as we possibly can be from speaking sanctimoniously. And we should remember the power of words.
IV. HOLINESS IN DEED. Our actions will, as a general rule, show what we are, especially our unstudied actions. The true child of God is not only holy in profession, but in practice. The good tree will bring forth good fruit. Men judge us chiefly by what we do. The saint desiring the honour of God will let his light so shine that men may see his good works, and thus be led to glorify the Father in heaven. We shall not persuade either man or God that we are saints unless we act as saints. A secret holiness is no holiness. If we alone know that we are holy, we may be quite sure that we are unholy.
V. HOLINESS IS THE SPIRIT OF THE LIFE. The child of God is to have the fragrance of holiness pervading his life. The general bent of his life will be holy. To aid in the attainment of holiness we have:
1. A Pattern. Christ. He was "without fault." We are to seek to be like him. "as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy" (1 Peter 1:15).
2. A Helper. The Holy Ghost. To
(1) dwell within us;
(2) sanctify us;
(3) aid us in every emergency.
Without holiness our prospect is dark; for "without holiness no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).—H.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
I. ITS SOURCE. God. Some seek comfort in reflecting that their case is no worse than that of others, that things will improve, that "it can't be helped;" in attempted forgetfulness; in exciting and dissipating pleasures; in unmeasured complaint and repining. But the child of God goes to his Father. God is the god of comfort; he is "the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). All mercies are of him, and this great mercy of comfort amongst others. Comfort is a mercy; it is of grace, not of right. Our sin has bred our sorrow, and we might have been left to it. But through the mercy of God we have abundant solace. As our comfort, comes through mercy, we are not surprised to find that it comes "through Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:5), the incarnation of the mercy of the Most High. It is of the God who is "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:3). It is thus associated with our redemption. It is for those who can say "our Lord Jesus Christ;" his Father is then their Father. God's children shall be comforted; for they are the children of the One who is the sole Source of all true comfort.
II. ITS BESTOWAL. It comes to us when most needed.
1. In affliction, The world's consolations, such as they are, are offered to us when we least need them. Affliction finds few friends; but it finds one Friend. In the dense darkness the Christian has light in his dwelling, like Israel in Egypt. When the child of God is sick and troubled, his Father comes to him.
2. In all our affliction. (2 Corinthians 1:4.) No affliction is beyond the reach of Divine comfort. God does not desert us in any trouble. Human comfort often aggravates our sorrow. When we are sore stricken we can bear no other touch but God's. We are sinking, but "underneath are the everlasting arms." Infinite in power; infinite also in consolation.
3. In proportion to our affliction. (2 Corinthians 1:5.) God weighs all our troubles. He knows our sorrows. "As thy days so shall thy strength be." He is acquainted with our need, and will he not supply it? We may reckon upon sufficient Divine consolation in all our sorrows; very especially so when those sorrows have been directly brought upon us by our steadfastness in the faith, our loyalty to Christ, our faithfulness to God. Each martyr had a martyr's portion of comfort as well as of pain. And so with Paul, whom we may regard as a long-lived martyr, dying daily, yet living through the death blows and comforted under them.
III. ITS OBJECT. We are comforted for our peace and happiness, but here we learn that we are comforted for our usefulness also. Like the apostle, we are comforted of God that we may comfort others. Divine comfort enables us to do this; for:
1. We can then speak from experience of the efficacy of Divine comfort.
2. We can direct to the Source of comfort.
3. We can testify to the Divine faithfulness in bestowing comfort.
4. The salutary influence of sorrow comforted by God will make us efficient comforters. Only those who have tasted trouble are fitted to minister to the troubled. And of these only they who have been divinely comforted can truly comfort. Such will be just unlike Job's comforters. Christ was perfected as a Comforter by his sorrows, and by the Divine consolation which kept him from sinking under them. We are brought down and then lifted up again, that we may be made meet for this service. And great will be our joy if we see those comforted by us patiently enduring (verse 6) their tribulation.
IV. ONE OF ITS EFFECTS. Gratitude, mingled with adoration. "Blessed be the God," etc. (verse 3). We shall thank God:
1. That he has comforted us.
2. That through this we have been enabled to comfort others. No stinted praise should we offer for such mercies. We shall all regard the first as great, but gracious spirits will regard the second as greater.—H.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11
In the depths and out of them.
I. THE EMERGENCIES OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD. God's children are often afflicted children. Far from escaping trial, it is frequently multiplied to them. Through much tribulation they enter the kingdom; with much tribulation they often abide in it whilst on earth. For them the furnace seems not seldom to be made "seven times hotter." Children of sorrows follow the "Man of sorrows." Like the apostle, they are sometimes "pressed out of measure," "weighed down exceedingly" (2 Corinthians 1:8), until their own power collapses. It is uncertain to what special exigency Paul refers, but in such straits was he that even his brave heart despaired of life. Happy are we if, like him, we do not in such tribulation despair of God. When our strength fails, his is untouched. As easy is it for him to deliver us when we are in great peril as when we are in little. God knows nothing of emergency.
II. THE LESSONS OF TRIAL AND PERIL. Very numerous—to teach us our weakness, to induce the pilgrim spirit, to bend our will to God's, to rouse us from lethargy, etc. One chief lesson noted here is to lead us to trust in God (2 Corinthians 1:9). He "raiseth the dead," and can do all things for us. Our perfect helplessness is demonstrated, and then faith lays hold of God's perfect helpfulness. Creatures become nothing, especially that very little creature, ourself. The soul cries out for God, and can rest upon nothing but omnipotence. This is Christian life—despairing of our own power, confident in God's. God sometimes keeps us in the fiercely hot furnace until he sees us walking therein by the side of the Son of God (Daniel 3:25). Before we felt the fire we thought we could walk alone. God shakes us until he has shaken all the self-trust out of us. Self-confidence is poison; trial is intended to destroy that poison. When everything seems to fail us but God, then we lie at his feet.
III. PROVIDENCE DOES NOT EXCLUDE PRAYER. (2 Corinthians 1:11.) In our extremity we can do one thing—we can cry to God. The afflicted believer should say, "This one thing I do."
1. Our own prayer. Christians should not be dumb dogs. The command to pray is bound up with the command to trust. Prayer is proof of a trustful spirit. A confidence in God which makes us too lazy to call upon him is a confidence which will get more blows than blessings. We may be kept in the fires till we find our voice.
2. The prayers of others. The apostle evidently believed in the efficacy of intercessory prayer (2 Corinthians 1:11). He regarded such prayer as very real "help." Confidence in God's help which excludes confidence in spiritual help from our fellows is not so pleasing or honouring to God as some imagine. He has ever honoured "united" prayer. The prayers of saints are very precious and very prevailing as they ascend from the golden altar. God was very willing to deliver Peter out of prison, but he gave to the saints at Jerusalem the great honour of praying him out(Acts 12:5). The prayers of righteous men avail much. God loves not only solo praying, but choral praying.
IV. PRAYER ANSWERED IN PROVIDENCE CALLS FOR PRAISE. (2 Corinthians 1:11.) Oftentimes, alas! we are so pleased with our deliverance that we forget to thank God for it. We say "Thank you" to every one except God. These things ought not so to be. When God hears us once in supplication, he should hear us once again in thanksgiving. Deliverances by God call for "songs of loudest praise." When prayer has been answered, praise should be exceedingly full and hearty. We do not prevail in prayer because we did—and were unthankful When many have prayed and have been answered many should give thanks. We must have united praise meetings as well as united prayer meetings.—H.
2 Corinthians 1:12
The testimony of our conscience.
I. THE FAVOURABLE TESTIMONY OF CONSCIENCE IS A GREAT SUPPORT IN THE HOUR OF TRIAL AND SUFFERING. Affliction brought upon us directly by our own folly or sin is as wormwood for bitterness. Suffering is then greatly intensified by the reproaches of conscience. We feel that we are reaping only as we have sown. But when conscience acquits us we gain great moral support. The pressure of the heaviest burden is relieved; in the darkest day there is then some light. We may be "cast down," but we are "not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:9). Sometimes the approval of conscience is enough to turn our sorrow into gladness, and to lead us to rejoice when otherwise we should have greatly lamented. We may glory in this without vain glory. Paul was greatly comforted in his tribulations by a conscience which witnessed to the integrity of his conduct.
II. THE FAVOURABLE TESTIMONY OF CONSCIENCE CAN BE SECURED ONLY BY HOLY LIVING.
1. Like the apostle, we must live in:
(1) Simplicity. Singleness of purpose. Holiness: refraining from evil; walking ever before God. Though we shall not, it may be, be absolutely pure, we may abstain from all wilful transgression.
(2) Sincerity. We must be true, honest, guileless, straightforward. Godly sincerity—God-like sincerity—thorough; a sincerity which comes from God.
(3) Not in fleshly wisdom. A wisdom which has selfish aims, which is not particular about the means employed, a wisdom which ignores God.
2. This must apply to all our life. Our conversation in the world must be the same as in the Church. Some live double lives. It is no wonder that they have little peace of mind. Their conduct is ruled by place rather principle. We must be the same amongst the enemies of God as amongst his friends.
III. WE CAN LIVE SO AS TO SECURE THE FAVOURABLE TESTIMONY OF CONSCIENCE ONLY BY THE GRACE OF GOD. We may "sear" conscience, dull it, so that its voice may he scarcely heard; but if free, unfettered, it will assuredly condemn unless we are in alliance with the Eternal. We cannot live a life of which the healthy conscience will approve apart from him. We may lay down excellent plans for life, but we shall have to lay them down unless we get strength from the Strong One. The apostle had to say, "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Corinthians 15:10). Of ourselves we can do nothing—except sin. Our sufficiency is of him. He causes us to triumph. We cause ourselves to fail. We can walk "in the grace of God" only "by the grace of God."—H.
2 Corinthians 1:17-20
I. THE UNCHANGEABLENESS OF CHRIST. He is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Paul, compelled by circumstances to alter his plans, and charged with fickleness, dreaded lest inconstancy should be associated with his Master or with the doctrines of the gospel. He passes rapidly from a defence of himself to defend that which is of so much more importance. Well would it be if we were equally jealous of the honour of Christ, equally anxious that through us no shadow should fall upon his glory. Christ is unchangeable as
(1) a Saviour,
(2) a Teacher,
(3) an Example,
(4) an Advocate,
(5) a Master,
(6) a Friend.
II. THE UNCHANGEABLENESS OF GOD. Illustrated by the fulfilment of Divine promises in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). Not one jot or tittle has fallen to the ground. In Christ is the "yea"—the affirmation, the accomplishment of Divine promise. True believers acknowledge this; "through him is the Amen" (2 Corinthians 1:20, new version); they say "Amen" to the Divine faithfulness which they see so strikingly illustrated in Christ. This is "to the glory of God." The glory of his character is proclaimed. God is not inconstant. A promise made by him is, to all intents and purposes, a promise fulfilled. This unchangeableness applies to all Divine dealing. Threat will as certainly be fulfilled as promise. Many believe in the semi-unchangeableness of God. They think he will fulfil all that they wish to be fulfilled, and kindly dispense with the remainder. They make their own god, as the heathen do.
III. THE UNCHANGEABLENESS OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. Christian doctrine is certain, definite, abiding. It is not "yea" today and "nay" tomorrow (2 Corinthians 1:18). As there is no change in Christ, there is no room for change in statements respecting him. The apostle was assured that what he promulgated was the truth about the Truth. To change from that would have been to embrace error. If we change our utterances concerning the Saviour, we are justified only in so far as our prior statement was erroneous. The "old gospel" is the gospel for all new times. In Christianity the truest progress is to go back—to go back to what God himself revealed. As we do that, "more light will break from God's Word." But note, it will break from God's Word, not from the poor constellations of human wisdom. There, in the Word, we have the doctrine, which, like him in whom it centres, is" the same yesterday, and today, and forever." There is no development in Christian doctrine as the ages roll on. There may be much development in our knowledge of it. The same doctrine is to come from the lips of all preachers at all times. The doctrine preached by Paul was preached also by Silvanus and Timothy (2 Corinthians 1:19).
IV. THE UNCHANGEABLENESS OF THE TRUE BELIEVER. This is relative, not absolute. But in proportion as we resemble Christ we shall become unchangeable—unchangeable in principle, in bent of mind, in love of holiness, in life purpose, etc. We are not to be fickle, but steadfast. Men are to find us ever the same in loyalty to Christ, in devotion to his service. Paul was charged with lightness, instability of purpose (2 Corinthians 1:17); but it was a false charge. He altered his movements that he might not be altered himself. The same principles which led him to form his plans led him to change them. Change in them was evidence of unchangeableness in him. Inconstancy and inconsistency were grievous charges in apostolic eyes.—H.
2 Corinthians 1:21, 2 Corinthians 1:22
Four privileges of the believer.
I. TO BE ESTABLISHED IN CHRIST. Brought into ever closer union with him. More and more firmly settled in faith. Increased in knowledge of him and of his doctrine. Made constant to Christ. Developed in likeness to him. Perfected increasingly along all the lines of Christian character. A work continuous; so Paul uses the present tense. The Christian's course is like that of the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Not all at once is he at his best. The seed of the kingdom takes time to develop. The points of contact at first may be few; but we are to be established "into" Christ. Believers should seek closest association with their Lord. True self-interest does not prompt the question—How far may we safely keep from Christ? but—How near to him may we draw? "Abide in me… if a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered" (John 15:4-6).
II. TO BE ANOINTED. The believer is made like his Lord. Christ was the Anointed; so therefore is the believer anointed. Christ was the Anointed of God; so by God is the believer also anointed. Christ was anointed as King and great High Priest; so as king and priest is the believer anointed—"a royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9). Christ was anointed for a special life and a special work; so is the believer. It is not for nought that we receive our anointing from the Holy One (1 John 2:20). We are consecrated, set apart, to carry out the Divine purposes. Christ was anointed with the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:38); so is the believerse With the anointing comes the power to realize the purpose of the anointing (1 John 2:27). Here is great privilege, but at the same time great responsibility. Are we fulfilling the design of our anointing?
III. TO BE SEALED. Believers are sealed by the reception of the Holy Ghost (Ephesians 1:13 and Ephesians 4:30). This is the Divine mark or seal put upon them. This sealing:
1. Indicates protorietorship. Believers have God's seal upon them because they are God's. He lays claim to them. They are in a most special sense for God. "Ye are not your own."
2. Authenticates. The genuineness of a believer is guaranteed by this marl If he is sealed, then he is of God, though in some things he may seem eccentric. No spurious goods pass under this brand. Yet imitations of the Divine seal are many, so that we have need to "try the spirits," to ascertain whether they are truly of the Holy Spirit. The true seal authenticates us to ourselves. "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). Our assurance springs from the Divine sealing. Dreamings, frames and feelings, and fancies, even opinions of others, are as nought compared with the witness of the Spirit.
3. Invests with authority. That which bears the royal seal has weight and authority among men; and those who bear the Divine seal are intended by God to exercise large influence over their fellows. They have the weight and authority of accredited servants of God. Not lightly are they to be esteemed; not contemptuously are their words to be received. So far as they are true to their sealing, they are of God, and are to be regarded as his messengers.
4. Preserves. Safety is often ensured by the human seal, always by the Divine. If God has marked us for his own, none shall pluck us out of his hand. Though the universe should rise up against a sealed saint, it should ingloriously fail; for the Divine seal is the pledge that Omnipotence will defend the sealed. God is not mocked. What he has set apart for himself he will have, and who shall say him nay? The saints are safe, for they are sealed of God.
5. Testifies to value. We seal only that which we value. And yet there may be no intrinsic value in that which is sealed. In itself it may be of no account; but we seal it because we can use it for some important purpose. So with the believer. Of himself he is nothing and less than nothing, and vanity. The sealing is no teacher of pride. He is sealed of God, not because he is excellent or of himself of any service, but because God in his infinite grace designs to make him so. The seal praises, not us, but God, who of us can make that which will redound to his glory and accomplish his purposes.
IV. TO BE ENDOWED WITH THE EARNEST OF THE SPIRIT. The Divine Spirit with which believers are sealed is the "earnest money," the pledge of that which has yet to come. The expression refers to that part of the purchase money which was paid in advance as a security for the remainder. Of what, then, is the possession of the Divine Spirit a guarantee?
1. Of yet fuller possession of the Spirit.
2. Of complete salvation. The "firstfruits" of the Spirit a pledge of the great harvest (Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 1:14).
3. Of fulfilment of all Divine promises.
4. Of our enjoyment of the eternal inheritance. The heaven is begun. No great heaven above for those who have no lesser heaven below. This pledge of the future does not conflict with diligence and faithfulness in Christian walk. These are the signs of the possession of the Divine Spirit—a mirror in which alone we may see the reflection of the great privilege we claim. The holier we are in inner and outer life the more clearly shall we see what we possess. If we walk unholily the mirror will reflect only sin and condemnation. The perseverance of saints is saints persevering.
V. THE SOURCE OF THESE PRIVILEGES. God. We are debtors for these vast mercies. In them we are "enriched by him." Knowing the Source, we shall know where to seek for those things which are "more precious than rubies."—H.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
2 Corinthians 1:5
It is correct to say that Christ suffered in order that we may not suffer, died that we may never die. "Christ suffered for us." But it is also correct to say that Christ suffered in order that we may suffer with him, and, following him in the path of self denial and patience, may be with him in his kingdom and glory. The apostles Paul and Peter regarded sufferings for Christ as continuations of the sufferings of Christ, and always looked, and taught their brethren to look, along a vista of trial and affliction toward the happy issue of being glorified together with Christ at his appearing. As members of the body of Christ we suffer. As the natural body of Christ suffered in the days of his flesh, so now the mystical body, the Church, suffers in these days of the Spirit. It must have its agony and bloody sweat before the end comes; blows of contempt, scourging, buffeting; and must have its "bones sore vexed," as were those of his body on the cross; sore vexed, but not broken: "A bone of him shall not be broken." As witnesses for the Name of Christ we suffer. While walking and witnessing in the acceptance and power of his resurrection, we must be identified with him as the despised and rejected One. We are in collision with the spirit of the world, and the more firmly we lift our testimony against it the more the sufferings of Christ abound in us. In primitive times men suffered as Christians, for no other offence than the confession of the Saviour's Name. The council of the Jews arrested the apostles Peter and John, and put the deacon Stephen to death, on this charge. The cultivated Pliny, when Proconsul of Bithynia, about forty years after the death of St. Paul, is shown, by his correspondence with the Emperor Trajan, to have regarded the very fact of being a Christian as a crime worthy of instant punishment. Christian faith was in his eyes nothing but an absurd and excessive superstition, and the noble constancy of the Christians under threats and torture "a contumacious and inflexible obstinacy." So the witnesses for our Lord suffered in Bithynia under the illustrious Trajan, as well as in Italy under the infamous Nero, and throughout the empire under the cruel Domitian and Diocletian. But it sustained them to know that they were fulfilling the sufferings of Christ. His grace was sufficient for them. On them rested the Spirit of glory and of God. Such discipline continues, though without actual peril of life. Faithful Christians suffer many things, at many points, and from many quarters. And when they suffer for the Church it is a continuation of our Lord's unselfish suffering. So St. Paul endured all things for the Lord's sake and the sake of the elect. He used the expression, "I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ" (Colossians 1:24), in reference to his inward anxiety and "agony" for those at Colosse and Laodicea, who had not seen his face in the flesh. His anxiety for their confirmation in the mystery of God was a sort of supplement to the deep struggle of the Saviour in behalf of multitudes, Paul included, who had not seen and could not see his face in the flesh. The apostle had no thought of adding to the sufferings of Christ in respect of their expiatory virtue, but rejoiced that he was permitted to follow his Master in this same path of affliction and solicitude for the Church. All sowers of "the incorruptible seed" have to sow with tears. And hearers of the Word are most profited when they receive it "in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost." Three views may be taken of those afflictions which are distinctively Christian.
1. They are for the Lord, incurred and endured for his Name. So were the afflictions of Christ for the Name and glory of the Father. The world hated both him and his Father.
2. They are for the good of the Christian sufferer—tribulations that work patience, chastisements for his profit. So were the afflictions of Christ for his own good. "Though he were a Son, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered."
3. For the sake of his brethren, or for the good of the Church, which is edified through the self-denial and godly patience of individual believers in successive generations. So were the afflictions of Christ for the Church which he redeemed, and in which he now succours them that are tempted. The present time, then, is one of communion with our Lord in suffering. Let four advices be given to those who suffer with a good conscience—for well doing and not for evil doing.
I. HAVE A CARE ONE FOR ANOTHER. Trouble may make men sullen and self engrossed. Correct this tendency by remembering that you are not isolated persons, but parts of the body of Christ, and so members of one another. If you suffer, bear yourselves so that others may be confirmed by your faith and patience. If they suffer, suffer with them, help to bear their burdens, condole in their sorrow, minister to their necessity. "Weep with them that weep."
II. LEARN PATIENCE FROM "THE MAN OF SORROWS." It ought to cure peevishness and wilfulness to read the story of our Lord's passion, and consider the meekness of him "who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself." See how St. Peter sets before suffering saints the example of their Master (1 Peter 2:20-23).
III. LOOK FOR STRENGTH TO THE SYMPATHIZING SAVIOUR. In the present connection between Christ and Christians the Scripture marks a distinction. The saints suffer with Christ; Christ sympathizes with the saints. The word for the former is συμπασχεῖν: the word for the latter is συμπαθεῖν. The Head is raised above suffering, but sympathizes with the distressed and bruised members, and loves to supply consolation and relief. "Our consolation also aboundeth by Christ." He makes us strong, even in the hour when our hearts are jaded and our spirits faint. The crook in the lot, the thorn in the flesh, the buffeting in the world, the disappointment in the Church,—he knows it all, and he can bear us through it all.
IV. REJOICE IN THE HOPE OF HIS COMING. There is a deep wisdom of God in the long drawn affliction of Christ and the Church. Glory comes out of the dark womb of trouble. How long the travail must be God only knows. Jesus Christ suffered till he was perfected, and then God exalted him. The Church must suffer and struggle till she is perfected and God exalts her too. And the glory that awaits her is that of her Beloved. As the Church enters into his sufferings, so is she to enter into his glory. This is the day for faithful service and saintly patience. The coming day is that of honour and reward, "that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."—F.
2 Corinthians 1:9
The sentence of death in ourselves.
St. Paul had just recovered from a depression of spirit under which his frame, never very robust, had been bowed down almost to the grave. He was no Stoic. No spiritual man is. Regenerate life brings quickened sensibility. The new heart is both deep and rapid in its appreciations, and feels intensely both joy and sorrow. St. Paul had not lost faith or comfort in his distress. Tie trusted in the living and life-giving God. All spiritual men find that faith thrives when they have to endure hardness. If they occupy places of ease or walk on sunny heights, they look down into the sorrows of life and call them dark and dismal. But when their path lies through the valley on which death shadows fall, they lift their eyes to the hills whence help comes. The hills are near and strong, and the sky above reveals its golden stars. It is in houses of comfort that we often find doubt and discontent; but Divine serenity floats over the tried saints, and the secret prayers of God's stricken ones have the sweetest tones of hope. The reason of this is not obscure. If your chamber is full of light by night, and you look out through the window, you discern little or nothing—all is dark. But if your chamber be in darkness, and you look forth, you see the moon and stars ruling the night, the trees standing as solemn sentinels in the valley, and the mountain casting a broad shadow on the sea. So, when you have worldly ease and pleasure, heavenly things are very dim to you. But, when the world is darkened, heaven brightens, and you trust in God who raises the dead. There is a heathen conception of death which makes all vigorous limb shrink and recoil. Tim dead are thought to go away into a mournful stillness, or move through the air and haunt lonely places, as pallid shades or ghosts. There is also a Hebrew conception of death which sufficed in the time of the Old Testament, but falls quite short of what is now brought to light by the gospel (see Psalms 115:17; Isaiah 38:18, Isaiah 38:19). But Christ has delivered from the fear of death. Every believer in Christ may enter into the consolation of St. Paul. If he is in sickness and has a sentence of death in himself, or sees that sentence written on the wan countenance of one whom he loves, he is not without a strong solace. It is not the mere philosophical tenet of the immortality of the soul, which implies an endless being, but by no means attains to the Christian doctrine of eternal life. It is faith in God who raises the dead. Father Abraham had this comfort when he strode up the hill, with the knife to slay and the fire to consume in sacrifice his dear son, "accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." We read of certain Hebrew women who through faith "received their dead brought to life again." We remember one instance in the ministry of Elijah, and another in that of Elisha. In those times it was an object to live long in the land which Jehovah God had given to his people; and so it was a blessed resurrection to be restored so as to prolong one's days on the earth. In the beginning of the gospel a few such cases are reported. We allude to the ruler's daughter, the widow's son, Lazarus, and Tabitha or Dorcas. But the gospel being fully unfolded, and the hope laid up in heaven made known, there are no more instances of restoration to mortal life. To depart out of the world and be with Christ is far better than to remain in it. So the resurrection for which we wait is that of the just at the appearing of Jesus Christ. When we believe in God who raises the dead, the first and chief reference is to his having raised up the slain Jesus (see Romans 4:24; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15:15). This is in the very heart of the gospel, and this carries with it the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of "the dead in Christ." "God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power." The sentence of death which St. Paul had felt was not executed till years had passed; but it was well to be forearmed. Ere long, warned or unwarned, we all must endure death, if the Lord tarry. And before we die we may have to see the sentence carried out in others whom we love and for whom we must go mourning. There is no help in facing death but that which comes of faith; there is no comfort in regard to those who have endured it but in the belief that they are already with God, "breathers of an ampler day," and in the hope that he will raise them up complete and glorious at his coming.—F.
2 Corinthians 1:19
Christ is yea.
The apostle defended himself against imputations of levity and self-contradiction. He did not lightly form or change his plans. He did not bandy about "yea and nay." The serious theme of his ministry was some security for its grave and consistent treatment. At the present day one hears a good many complaints of vagueness and vacillation in the pulpit. Preachers are said to use ambiguous phrases, propound shifting opinions, and leave their hearers unsettled and perplexed. They seem to have no certainty in their own minds, and therefore cannot convey a sure and straightforward gospel to others. Their word is "yea and nay." Now, there may be reason for hesitancy on some topics of religion. It may be a great deal wiser than absolute assertion. But as to the main theme of gospel preaching there should be perfect certainty; for the very essence of it is the setting forth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is the True One, and ought to be proclaimed with firmness, consistency, and "much assurance." The Greeks were fond of speculation. At Athens they inquired after some new thing. At Corinth they were fickle and disputatious. On such a people the calm certainty of St. Paul's preaching must have fallen with surprise. It was testified that Jesus, who had taught in Judaea, but never even visited Greece, and who had been crucified at Jerusalem, was the Son of God; that he had ascended to heaven, and would judge the world on an appointed day. This was not submitted to the critical acumen of the Greeks for their examination and approval. It was delivered as truth, and not as a lie—yea, and not nay. Jesus, the Son of God, was the grand Reality in a world of delusions, and the grand Essence in a world of shadows. Such had been the teaching of St. Peter and the other apostles at Jerusalem, of Philip at Samaria, and of the Cypriote and Cyrenian brethren who first delivered the testimony at Antioch. No one was more clear or more intent upon this than St. Paul. Though his powerful mind could easily have dealt with many questions that would have interested the Greeks, he resolved to adhere to the simple testimony to Jesus, the Son of the living God. It may be said that, though this was right and needful in the world which St. Paul looked upon, and is right and needful still among Jews and heathens, it is not necessary in Christian countries. But alas! it is necessary. Countries called Christian are still very ignorant of Christ; all of them need full, definite, and firm preaching of the Son of God. There is nothing like it for delivering men from their sins, and drawing them away alike from the arid sands of unbelief and from the marshy places of superstition. But the testimony must be delivered with unfaltering heart and voice; for it is the preaching of the Yea, the Faithful and True—a pillar that cannot be shaken, a foundation that cannot be moved. Heathenism was full of contradiction, incoherence, and contrast. Its gods conflicted with each other and its oracles were uncertain. It was and still is a thing of "yea and nay." Buddhism, in some respects an improvement on the heathenism which it supplanted, after all amounts to a mere dreary nihilism. One who had studied it carefully (Sir J. Emerson Tennant) said of Buddhism that, "insufficient for time and rejecting eternity, the utmost triumph of this religion is to live without fear and to die without hope." This is not "yea," not even "yea and nay," but a perpetual dismal "nay." In Christendom, too, something like it appears. There is a weary scepticism which a famous writer described as "the everlasting No." Partly it is a shallow fashion, partly it is a real plague and misery of the generation to have "nay' only in regard to the unseen. God is not. The Bible is not. The devil is not. Heaven is a dream. Hell is a fable. Prayer is useless. Faith is a fond fancy. So the mist wraps men in its chilly fold. Against all this we place the everlasting Yea. Jesus Christ is God's mighty and loving Yes to the children of men. And whatever the differences among our religious communities, in this testimony all are at one. The Son of God is he who can give light to the darkened mind, rest to the weary spirit, warmth to the frozen heart. In him desire is satisfied, apparent contradictions are reconciled, or hope is given of solutions by and by, for which we can well afford to wait. Some contrast the Christian faith unfavourably with the physical sciences. They say that it is full of mysticism and loose conjecture, whereas the sciences proceed by rigorous induction of facts observed, collated, and scrutinized. In the former we are asked to walk on air; in the latter, every step we take is on sure and solid ground. This we totally deny. There is no fair and proper test of historical and moral truth to which our holy religion refuses to be subjected. We have the well-authenticated records spoken and written by those who saw and heard Jesus Christ. We have the best reasons for trusting their testimony; and in the words, and works, and character, and suffering of Jesus, in his reappearance after death, and in the whole influence which he has exerted over millions of men for nearly nineteen centuries, we have overwhelming proof that, while human, he is superhuman—he is the Son of God. It is science that has to change its voice, not religion. It has to modify its assertions, correct its conclusions, and reconsider its theories; but Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever;" and the gospel which proclaims him brings to us the Divine "yes" to which we have only to respond with the human "yes" of an unwavering faith. The Saviour asks, "Believest thou that I am able to do this?" Be ready with the answer, "Yea, Lord.'—F.
2 Corinthians 1:20
The certainty of Divine promises.
I. ALL THE PROMISES OF GOD. From the first (Genesis 3:15) which points to the Saviour's first coming, to the last (Revelation 22:20) which assures us of his second coming, these are all very good. Their range is vast, their bounty large, their comfort sweet and strong. They bring balm to our wounds, help to our infirmities, rest to our weariness, encouragement to our prayers. They are "exceeding great and precious." Scattered as the promises are over the Bible, they should be searched out and read with an intelligent regard to the time when they were given, the persons to whom they were addressed, and the nature of the dispensation under which they were issued. They are profitable in a general sense as exhibiting the Divine character and mind, and they convey individual comfort to those who, in express terms or by fair inference from the express terms, are indicated in particular promises. These comprehend assurances of
(1) temporal welfare;
(2) Free pardon;
(3) a renewed and obedient heart;
(4) the indwelling of the Holy Spirit;
(5) the return of the Lord and our gathering to him in his glory.
These are the keys to open all doors in the dungeons of Doubting Castle and set captives free. These are the strong withes that bind the holiest affections of men, or the cords and bands let down from above, which they hold as they skirt the precipices of moral danger and climb the steep places of duty. These are the stepping stones across waters of despondency, on which pilgrims may pass dry shod to the happy shore.
II. THE SECURITY OF ALL THOSE PROMISES IS IN JESUS CHRIST. No Divine promises are made to us out of Christ, and no promise in him can fail. This arises from:
1. The constitution of his mediatorial Person. He is very God and very man: God who is true and cannot lie, in union with a guileless Man who had no deceit in his mouth.
2. The nature of his mediatorial offices. As he is the Prophet, all the promises of Divine teaching and enlightenment are secure in him. As he is the Priest, all the promises of pardon, of acceptance in worship, and of salvation to the uttermost are secure in him. As he is the King, all the promises of the subdual of sin and of deliverance from spiritual adversaries are secure in him.
3. The covenant relations of Christ to his people. They are so comprehended in him or represented by him that all the promises made to him are for their help and consolation, and all the promises made to them are for his glory. So are they assured of pardon through him, eternal life in him, the Holy Spirit of him and by him, and the new heavens and new earth with him who is the Amen, faithful and true.
III. THE END IN VIEW IN THE SURENESS or THE PROMISES. "For glory to God through us." It is glorifying to him that we go to the promises for solace and live on the promises by faith. It was when Abraham believed a promise, and was strengthened in faith, that he gave glory to God. And this way of glorifying our God is open to all of us. Let us not stagger at his promises, but believe his love and rely on his faithfulness, He cannot deny himself. Glory be to the Father, who promises to be a Father to us, and to take us for his sons and daughters! Glory be to the Son, in whom all things are ours by free grace, and God himself is not ashamed to be called our God! Glory be to the Holy Ghost, for the anointing, the sealing, and the earnest in our hearts (2 Corinthians 1:21, 2 Corinthians 1:22)! The promises of God being established in Christ, we too who believe are established in Christ by the Holy Spirit, and so the promises are ours. What will you do who have no hold of the promises, no hearty faith in the Divine Promiser? For you there is no bright future; for the inheritance is by promise of free grace in Christ Jesus. Yet we do not ask you to believe a promise. Strictly speaking, there is no promise to men who are not in Christ. But Christ himself is set before you and offered to you. Believe on the Name of the only begotten Son of God, according to the tenor of the gospel. Then all things will be yours. The promises of grace and glory are for you; for they are all yea and amen in Jesus Christ our Lord.—F.
2 Corinthians 1:24
The apostolic ministry.
I. APOSTOLIC TESTIMONY. Our religion is based on facts seen and known, abundantly verified and honestly related. Of these facts apostles were the chosen witnesses. When they spoke to their countrymen, the Jews, they showed how those facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled Old Testament types and prophecies of the Christ. But the real foundation which they laid everywhere was one of fact. Jesus had died and God had raised him from the dead. Of these things they were absolutely sure, and on their testimony the Church was built. On this it is well to lay emphasis. From one side there comes an insidious suggestion to cease from asserting the miraculous nativity and the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ as historical facts, and to content ourselves with the elevation of ideas and sweetness of culture which are associated with his Name. To this we cannot listen, because we cannot live in a house without foundations, and we do not believe that the ideas and influences of Christianity can long remain with us if we part with the historical Christ to whom the apostles bore witness. From the opposite side we encounter another danger. The facts which were testified by apostles and prophets ere overlaid with masses of theological statement and niceties of controversial distinction. Not the Redeemer is preached, but the scheme of redemption; not the death of Christ, but the doctrine of atonement; not his resurrection, but the tenets of the schools regarding the results secured by his "finished work." Now, we do not for a moment disparage theology, systematic or polemical, or forget that St. Paul put much theology into his letters to the Churches; but it is a thing taught and argued, not witnessed. We must adhere to our point, that the gospel is a proclamation of facts, and the Church rests on a foundation of facts, certified by the apostles as competent and chosen witnesses—facts, however, not dry and barren, but significant, suggestive, full of profound meaning and intense spiritual power. St. Paul was careful to assume no higher place in regard to the gospel than that of a faithful witness. He delivered it just as he had received it, "by the revelation of Jesus Christ." He told the Galatians that, if he himself should be found at any future time proclaiming any other gospel, or if an angel from heaven should do so, he was not to be listened to—he was to be accursed. Any perversion of that gospel which had been delivered from the beginning would be sufficient to discredit an apostle as a false apostle, an angel as a fallen angel.
II. APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY. The apostles had authority to "bind and loose," to direct and administer in the early Church. On fit occasions they exerted such authority, and none of them more firmly or wisely than Paul. But they forbore as much as possible to press mere authority even in matters of order and discipline, and they disclaimed any right of dominion over the faith of their fellow-Christians, The Apostle Paul in particular is never found demanding attention or obedience to his teaching on the ground of his official dignity. Many signs and special miracles attended his ministry and confirmed his word; but he never posed as a worker of wonders in order to awe the minds and compel the submission of his hearers. His aim was to manifest the truth to the consciences of men. In founding the Corinthian Church he had "reasoned," "persuaded," "testified," and "taught the Word of God" (see Acts 18:1-28.). His own statement is, "I declared unto you the testimony of God" (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). The object of St. Paul in thus refraining from any assertion of a right to dictate was to build the faith of the Church, not on apostles, but on God. He would not say, "Believe because we bid you, and whatever we tell you." He was one of a hand of witnesses to Jesus Christ the Lord; but, once those facts were believed with the heart, the disciples in every Church stood for salvation on the same ground with the apostles themselves, and had the same confirmation of the truth by the Holy Spirit.
III. LESSONS FOR THE MODERN MINISTRY OF THE WORD. For the propagation of the gospel there must still be witnesses; for the edification and peace of the Church there must be teachers, helps, governments, overseers. But none of these have a right to "lord it over God's heritage;" least of all may they lord it over the faith of their brethren. If the apostles of the Lamb disclaimed such dominion, how much more should they who have ministries to fulfil in the modern Churches of God! It is preposterous to connect apostolic dignity or the glory of apostolic succession with pomp and lordliness and the assertion of official superiority. It is apostolic to serve diligently and suffer patiently, to preach the truth in love, and to teach the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, but seeking no honour or glory from men. The object of the ministry in regard to those who are without is to bring them to repent and believe the gospel The object in regard to those who are within the household of faith is to promote their joy and health.
1. "In faith ye stand." This is not submission to a human authority, but allegiance of heart to God in Christ Jesus. In emotions, opinions, anxieties, conjectures, there is no standing. Only by faith is the heart fixed, the mind established, in this world of change and disappointment, solidity imparted to the character, and calm courage breathed into the soul. Want of faith or decay of faith accounts for restlessness, weakness, rashness and inconstancy. The heart is "tossed and not comforted." The will is yielded to selfish desires and uneasy impulses. But "we have access by faith into the grace wherein we stand."
2. Those who minister to the faith of Christians increase their joy. The apostles were intent on this (see Romans 15:13; Philippians 1:25, Philippians 1:26; 1 Peter 1:8; 1 John 1:4). And every true minister of Christ will find, with St. Paul, that his own spiritual life is bound up with the steadfastness and liveliness of those whom he instructs in the truth.—F.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
2 Corinthians 1:1
By the will.
In this assertion, "an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God," St. Paul briefly summarizes the claim to apostleship which he elsewhere argues, and which he so earnestly vindicates in a later portion of this Epistle. He carries the question to the final court of appeal, declaring that the primal source whence comes all call to office in the Christian Church is the "will of God." It matters not how that "will" may be expressed; whether, as to the older disciples, in the call of their Master to apostleship, or, as to St. Paul, by direct revelation from heaven. The only point of interest is this—Have sufficient signs of the Divine will concerning us been given to carry conviction to our minds? And what is the proper influence which the recognition of the will of God concerning us should have as we hold and fulfil the duties of the office? Such a conviction is—
I. A MAN'S HUMILIATION. It makes him nothing and God all. It sets him down among the ministries that God may use as he wills. But it brings to him a holier humiliation than that. It bows him down under the greatness of the trust he bears, oppresses him with the honour that is laid upon him, makes him feel his helplessness and unworthiness, as may be illustrated in the hesitations and humble expressions of Moses and Jeremiah when they were called of God. The healthiest humility is that wrought by a great and solemn trust.
II. A MAN'S INSPIRATION. It gives him an idea and an object in his life. It moves him with the power of a great purpose. It calls him to high endeavour. It wakens into bright activity every faculty and power of his nature. It urges him with the sense of duty. It delivers him from the weakness that ever attends a conflict of motives. It holds out before him the reward of the faithful.
III. A MAN'S STRENGTH. In the power of the conviction that he is where God would have him be, and is doing what God would have him do, a man can overcome and dare all things. St. Paul's own endurances are inconceivable save as we can feel that he had this strength. Especially illustrate from his wearying controversy with the Jewish party. They said evil things of him, but this was his strength—he knew that he was an apostle by the will of God.—R.T.
2 Corinthians 1:4
Comforted, and therefore comforters.
It may seem strange that the Bible, and Christian ministers following its example, should deal so frequently and so largely with troubles and afflictions. You sometimes half suspect that Christian people must have a larger share of earthly sorrow than fails to the lot of others. We may admit a sense in which this is true. The higher susceptibilities of the Christian man, his clearer vision of unseen things, and his separateness from the world, do seem to involve some special kinds of suffering from which the heedless and the godless are free. The influences on personal character and on individual life, wrought by God through the sorrows he sends, are often presented. In the passage now before us the apostle puts another side of their influence. Our afflictions and our comfortings become a blessing to others. "That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble." Our sorrows have by no means exhausted their stores of blessing when they have dispelled our doubts, delivered us from our dangers, and cultured our characters; they have stores of blessing left in them still, with which, through us, to enrich and comfort others. This may be set before us in two of its aspects.
I. OUR AFFLICTIONS AND COMFORTINGS ARE THE SOURCES WHENCE COMES OUR FITNESS FOR INFLUENCING OTHERS. It may be a question beyond present solution, what exact share have the sorrows of our past lives had in the formation and nourishment of our present abilities for Christian work and influence? And yet surely no man can reach middle life or old age, and feel the respect in which he is held, his power to comfort and help others, and the value that is set upon his judgment and counsel, without recognizing how much of that fitness for influence has come out of his experience of sorrow. Precisely what qualities are nourished by particular forms of trouble we may not be able to decide, but the whole result we can estimate, and there is not one true Christian who would hesitate to say, "Blessed be God for the afflictions of my life; yes, even for those which bruised and almost broke my heart, because, as sanctified by God, they have fitted me to sympathize with and to comfort others' Experience brings power. But the Christian's experiences are not of griefs only; they are of griefs together with Divine comfortings, and these together bring a peculiar kind of power. This may be illustrated from any of the spheres of Christian influence.
1. Take the power of a Christian's ordinary conversation. We can discover m the very tones of the voice the holy subduedness that tells of some great woe that has put into the words and the voice that humbleness and gentleness. How often this tone of the stricken ones has had its power upon us!
2. Take the special efforts which are made, by conversation, for the conversion and instruction of others.
3. Take any endeavour to express sympathy with those who may now be suffering under God's mighty hand. How different are the consolations offered by stricken and by unstricken ones! The unstricken can find beautiful words, and be truly sincere as they utter them. But the stricken ones can express unutterable things in silence and look. Send the long-widowed woman to cheer the newly widowed. Send the mother who has children in heaven to comfort the mother who sits so still, with broken heart, beading over the baby's coffin. The plant of healing sympathies grows and blossoms and fruitens out of our very wounds and tears and deaths. Then it will but be reasonable to expect that, if God has high places of work for us, and valuable influence for us to exert, he will need to bring us through great and sore troubles, St. Paul recognizes this necessity in our text. How his life was filled with anxieties and sorrows we seldom worthily estimate. Great soul! He did not care to be always talking about himself; only once or twice does he lift the veil and show his secret history; but there—in much affliction awaiting him everywhere, and the comfortings of God abounding in all—is the explanation of his mighty and gracious influence. He was "comforted of God that he might be able to comfort them which are in any trouble." The same truth shines out even more clearly from the life and cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is able to succour because in all points tempted. Lifted up, "he draws all men unto him." Gaining his influence by his own sufferings borne in patience and faith. Winning power to save and help the world by dying an agonizing death and knowing, in the uttermost needs of a dying hour, the gracious comfortings of God.
II. OUR AFFLICTIONS AND COMFORTINGS GAIN FOR US ALL THE POWER OF A NOBLE EXAMPLE. In the previous part of the subject our conscious efforts to help and bless others have been chiefly considered; but the good man's influence is by no means to be limited to them. There is an unconscious influence, less easily calculated, but more mighty, reaching more widely, blessing as does the bracing air of the hills, or the fresh blowing of sea breezes, or the face of a long-lost friend. And this kind of power to bless belongs peculiarly to those who have come out of God's tribulations and comfortings.
1. Estimate the moral influence of those in whom afflictions have been sanctified upon men who are living with no sense of spiritual and eternal things.
2. Estimate their influence on doubting and imperfect Christians.
3. Estimate the influence of such persons on children. You may have thought that your afflictions have set you aside from your work. Nay, they have just lifted you up to the trust of some of God's highest and best work. Tribulation worketh patience, experience, and hope. It matures the finer elements of character. But it does more—it fits us for work, for higher influence on others, enabling us to set before men all the power of a noble example. Our afflictions and comfortings are really our clothing with the soldier's dress, our putting on the soldier's armour, our grasping the soldier's weapons, our drilling for the soldier's service, that we may be good soldiers of the cross. Each one of us may become a Barnabas, a son of consolation. Comforted of God, let us learn to comfort others.—R.T.
2 Corinthians 1:5
Christ's sufferings renewed in his disciples.
"For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us." We have expressed here a characteristic and familiar thought of the apostle's—the one which brought to him the fullest and deepest consolations. It is true, but it is too easily apprehended to be all the truth, that St. Paul's sufferings, borne in fulfilling his ministry, were Christ's sufferings because a part of his service; but the apostle evidently reached the unspeakably precious and inspiring view of Christian suffering which sees it to be Christ's, because it is essentially like his—it is vicarious, it is borne for others. He says, "Whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation… or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation." St. Paul would know "the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;" even to that death in its vicariousness, as a sublime self sacrifice for the salvation of others. For the thought that in our sufferings, of whatever nature, we share Christ's sufferings, comp. 2 Corinthians 4:10; Philippians 3:13; Col 1:24; 1 Peter 4:13. All vicariously borne suffering is Christly; it is the kind of which he is the Leader and the sublime Example; it is even necessary, as attendant on all human efforts to bless others. Every one who would help another must take into account that he may have to suffer in doing it. Illustrate by the doctor, or the man who tries to save, from water, or fire, or accident, a fellow creature. He may even perish in so doing. The Christian may cherish this supreme comfort—he may become to others, in measure, what Christ is to him. He may become the inspiration of vicarious service. His Christly example may act on men as Christ's example acted on him. If it might be so, St. Paul was willing to suffer. It may be shown and illustrated that such Christ-like enduring has—
I. A TEACHING power on others. It brings its revelations of God and brotherhood. It opens mysteries. It impresses the evil of sin.
II. AN ELEVATING power on others. It lifts men up to bear their own sufferings well, when we can show them the Christ-likeness of ours.
III. A COMFORTING power, since it shows, not only how God's grace can abound, but also how God can turn even what we think evil into gracious agency for blessing. Sufferers still can strengthen, help, and save others.—R.T.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11
The sanctifying influence of nearness to death.
In God's providence he brings his people sometimes to the "borderland," and, after giving the expectation, and almost the experience, of death, he leads them back to life and labour and relations again. Of this Hezekiah is the prominent Bible example. The sufferings through which the apostle had passed are not here detailed, and there is found much difficulty in deciding to what experiences he refers. Some think he recalls the tumult in Ephesus, which Dean Stanley shows was a more serious affair than Luke's narrative alone would suggest. Others think that some time of grievous and imperilling sickness is alluded to. And the apostle's mind may go further back to the stoning at Lystra, when he was left for dead (see Acts 14:19). It has been remarked that "the language is obviously more vividly descriptive of the collapse of illness than of any other peril." The point to which we now direct attention is that the sufferings imperilled life and brought him to the full contemplation of death—brought him to the "borderland;" and he gives the Corinthians some account of his feelings and experiences at the time, and tries to estimate some of the spiritual results then attained. They are these—
I. A FEELING OF SELF HELPLESSNESS. Man never feels that fully until he faces death. He knows that no resolution, no energy, no sacrifice, can ensure his "discharge from that war" He can do nothing, and that most humiliating conviction may be a part of our necessary experience. Somewhere in life we need to be brought up before a great sea, with mountains around and foes before, much as Israel was when led forth from Egypt. It is good for us to feel helpless, utterly helpless, and then to hear the voice saying, "Stand still, and see the salvation of God."
II. DELIVERANCE FROM SELF TRUST. Some sort of reliance on ourselves is necessary in order to meet the claims of life aright, and do its duties faithfully. Some measures of self-reliance blend with the Christian's trust in God all through his life of activity and service. Seldom, indeed, are full surrender to God, and entire conformity to his will, and simple reliance on his care, really won; and the experience of nearness to death alone breaks away the last bonds binding us to self, and enables us to "trust wholly." Life, after visiting the "borderland," may be wholly the "life of faith upon the Son of God."
III. FULL CONFIDENCE IN THE CONTINUING AND ABOUNDING OF DIVINE GRACE. This follows from so extreme an experience of what "almighty grace can do." Short of the experience of death, we may doubt whether "grace" can meet us at every point of our need; whether there really are no complications of circumstances which may overmaster grace. A man may say—Grace can meet many needs, but not just this condition or this particular frailty. A man brought back from the "borderland" has won an impression of God's power and mercy that enables him to look forward to life and feel that God's efficient grime can be with him everywhere and in everything. It is St. Paul, who "had the sentence of death in himself," who was a personally delivered man, and who spoke of God as being able to make all grace abound towards us, so that we, having all sufficiency in all things, might abound unto every good word and work (2 Corinthians 9:8). Death is the climax of all human woes, and he who can deliver from death can master all our troubles and "make all things work together for good." In concluding, show that the sanctified influence of his extreme experience may be seen in the tone and spirit and manner of the Christian thus brought back from the "borderland;" but that there is great danger of misusing even such Divine dealings with us, as Hezekiah seems to have done. A man restored from imperilling sickness may presume on the very mercy which has been so gloriously manifested in his case. We should take as our model such an experience as that of the Apostle Paul.—R.T.
2 Corinthians 1:11, 2 Corinthians 1:12
The gracious influence of prayerfulness and sympathy on suffering souls.
The apostle wanted his friends to know of his sufferings so that he might have—
I. THEIR SYMPATHY IN THE TROUBLES. Very tenderly beautiful is the way in which St. Paul, while turning to God for his great consolations, yet yearns for the sympathy of those among whom he laboured. He liked to have some of them with him. He was a most brotherly and sympathetic man, and could neither suffer nor rejoice alone. In this he illustrates what is the great want of all warm natures; they yearn for sympathy, and we may render noble service who can give such sympathy in response to them. It is help and healing for stricken ones that we can "weep with those who weep."
II. THEIR PRAYERS FOR HIS PRESERVATION. A man in trouble longs for the feeling—at which men may easily scoff, but which is nevertheless a most real and helpful feeling—that he is upheld by the prayers of those that love him. None of the difficulties about prayer in relation to material changes need meet us when we speak of prayer in relation to spiritual influences. We ought to pray for the preservation of our friend's life when he is in peril from disease, but we do this with uncertainty as to what the will of God is, and so with full submission to whatever the decisions of that will may be. We pray that our suffering friends may be inwardly upheld, comforted, and strengthened, and in such prayers we know what the will of God must be. Sympathizing prayers have a really gracious influence on suffering souls, and surely bring down Divine blessings on them.
III. THEIR THANKSGIVINGS WHEN HE WAS RESTORED. The apostle could not rejoice alone. He wanted others to help him sing both of "mercy and judgment." From this subject arises, as the point of practical impression, the question—How can we help our suffering brothers and sisters? Even the Lord Jesus wanted sympathy, and the uplifting of others' prayers for him, when he was in the agony of Gethsemane; and so do his brethren. In what ways can such sympathy and help find expression? Neither utterances of sympathy nor earnest prayers can suffice instead of, and as an excuse for, not rendering practical helpings, but they will be found to inspire such practical efforts; for those whom we take on our hearts to pray for we are most likely to take into our hands to help.—R.T.
2 Corinthians 1:12-14
The conscience testimony.
"For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience." This passage may be thus paraphrased: "It is this which causes such a perennial flow of joy and consolation into my heart amid all my anxieties and distresses. I can feel in my conscience that what knits us together in sympathy is a Divine and not a human bond. On my part there is the inspiration from above, on yours the verifying faculty which enables you to recognize the truth of what I deliver to you." Now, no man ever needs publicly to appeal to the testimony of his conscience unless he is misjudged, misrepresented, maligned, or slandered by his fellow men. He may, however, be placed in such circumstances that he can make no other appeal than to the consciousness of having acted in sincerity and uprightness. Such a testimony may not be accepted by others, but the ability to render it brings rest and peace to a man's own heart. St. Paul was at this time greatly suffering from misrepresentations and slanderings; and so was David, in the older time, when he turned with such passionate intensity to God, saying, "Judge me according to mine integrity, and according to my righteousness which is in me." The worst hurt a true and faithful man can receive is the misjudging of his sincerity. F.W. Robertson says, "Met by these charges from his enemies, and even from his friends, the apostle falls back on his own conscience. Let us explain what he means by the testimony of conscience. He certainly does not mean 'faultlessness,' for he says, 'Of sinners I am chief.' And St. John, in a similar spirit, declares that none can boast of faultlessness: 'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.' And here St. Paul is not speaking of his own personal character, but of his ministry; and again, he is not speaking of the blamelessness of his ministry, but of its success. No; it was not faultlessness St. Paul meant by the testimony of conscience, but this—integrity, moral earnestness in his work; he had been straightforward in his ministry, and his worst enemies could be refuted if they said that he was insincere." Now, the conscience testimony may be said to include self approval before self, self approval before man, and self approval before God.
I. SELF APPROVAL BEFORE SELF. Treat conscience as the exercise of a man's judgment concerning the right and wrong of his own conduct—a man's self appraisement. A man may be calm amid all storms of slander or persecution who can feel that he is consciously sincere, and that he has been true to himself. Carefully distinguish this from mere self satisfaction, and from the pride that leads a man to "think of himself more highly than he ought to think." A man's moral strength depends upon his self approval when conscience makes its searching estimate of conduct and of motives. A man is only weak when his conscience upholds his accuser.
II. SELF APPROVAL BEFORE MAN.
1. A man is often compelled to take action which he knows men are likely to misconceive and misrepresent. He can only do so with the assurance that he is right.
2. Men are corruptly disposed to put a wrong construction on the actions of their fellows, and every man must take this into account who occupies prominent or public positions. He dares not waver or change to try and meet everybody's wishes. He can but fall back upon the testimony of his own conscience.
III. SELF APPROVAL BEFORE GOD. He, being the Searcher of the heart, knows the very secrets of motive and feeling, and it may seem as if there could not be any "self approval" in his presence. And yet God's Word teaches us that God looks for sincerity, expects it, and knows that we can reach it. Perfect we cannot be; sincere we can be. "It we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." David may even speak of his integrity before God. And the height of a man's moral strength is only gained when he feels consciously sincere in the Divine presence, but is truly humble even in the consciousness and says, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my ways."—R.T.
2 Corinthians 1:21, 2 Corinthians 1:22
The sealing and earnest of the Spirit.
The figure used in the passage is taken from the custom, common to nearly all lands, of affixing marks to a man's peculiar property. That mark was frequently a seal, with a characteristic device. The shepherd has some mark which he places on each of his sheep, so that if any one of them strays away it may at once be known as his. And so Christ, the good Shepherd, has a mark by which he knows, and would have all men know, the members of his flock. That mark is the seal of the Spirit. The meaning of the term is explained by a passage in Revelation 7:1-17. The angel demands a little delay until he shall have "sealed the servants of God in their foreheads." That is, by a distinctive mark, the sons of God are to be separated from the world, stamped as God's chosen ones. And as that shall then be done by a glorious name, blazoned on the forehead; as it was done, in the older time, to Israel, by a blood-sprinkled lintel; so now it is done by the gift of the great Comforter and Friend, the Holy Spirit of promise. The presence of the Spirit pledges the fact of our reconciliation to God, and so it seals us. That Spirit may work on ungodly men and by ungodly men, but he cannot properly be said to work in ungodly men. His is an influence on them from without; his dwelling in the heart is the assurance that the great change has taken place. A man must be "born again" ere he can be the dwelling place of the Spirit. "The Spirit witnesseth with our spirit that we are the children of God." And it is not possible to overstate either the dignity or the safety that attends such a sealing. God stamps his people by giving them his own presence. It is hot enough to affix a mark, not enough to entrust to guardian angels. Satan may conceivably overcome them, and sin may blot out the mark. God would give his people no other seal than his own omnipotent presence. Divinest seal! No human hands can tear that from our soul. It can only be lost by our own self willed acts. We can pluck off the seal. We may grieve the Spirit away. None can deny the livery of the eternal King, with which we are clothed, but we may ourselves choose another service and strip off the King's dress. What the sealing and earnest of the Spirit are may best be illustrated by the experiences of the apostolic company when the Spirit first came in Pentecostal power and glory. The disciples were waiting at the throne of grace, waiting for the fulfilment of the as yet mysterious promise of the Lord. It was the early morning, when a sweeping sound of wind came about the house, and filled the room where they were sitting. Presently dividing tongues of flame rested on their heads, and they felt new power thrilling within them. Those were the symbols of the Spirit's sealing them for their great missionary service. In this new might a surprising change passed over them. They were ignorant Galilaeans; now they could speak seas to be understood by people of all tongues; now they were swayed with feelings that raised timid disciples into moral heroes and noble witnesses and faithful martyrs. That was the flint sealing of the Spirit, and it does but illustrate how still God takes us as his, gives to us his Spirit, secures us by a Divine indwelling, and inspires us with Divine motives and impulses.—R.T.