Are you a Christian?
What sayest thou, O blessed Paul? To spare them thou camest not to Corinth? Surely thou presentest us with something of a contradiction. For a little above thou saidst that thou therefore camest not, because thou purposest not according to the flesh nor art thine own master, but art led about every where by the authority of the Spirit, and didst set forth thine afflictions. But here thou sayest it was thine own act that thou camest not, and not from the authority of the Spirit; for he saith, “To spare you I forbare to come to Corinth.” What then is one to say? either, that this too was itself of the Spirit, and that he himself wished to come but the Spirit suggested to him not to do so, urging the motive of sparing them; or else, that he is speaking of some other coming, and would signify that before he wrote the former Epistle he was minded to come, and for love’s sake restrained himself lest he should find them yet unamended. Perhaps also, after the second Epistle though the Spirit no longer forbade him to go, he involuntarily stayed away for this reason. And this suspicion is the more probable, that in the first instance the Spirit forbade him: but afterwards upon his own conviction also that this was more advisable, he stayed away.
And observe, I pray you, how he remembers again his own custom, (which I shall never cease to observe,) of making what seems against him tell in his favor. For since it was natural for them to respect this and say, ‘It was because thou hatedst us, thou wouldest not come unto us,’ he shows on the contrary, that the cause for which he would not come was that he loved them.
What is the expression, “to spare you?” I heard, he saith, that some among you had committed fornication; I would not therefore come and make you sorry: for had I come, I must needs have enquired into the matter, and prosecuted and punished, and exacted justice from many. I judged it then better to be away and to give opportunity for repentance, than to be with you and to prosecute, and be still more incensed. For towards the end of this Epistle he hath plainly declared it, saying, “I fear lest when I come, my God should humble me before you, and that I should mourn for many of them that have sinned heretofore, and repented not of the lasciviousness and uncleanness526
That is, I did not therefore say, “To spare you I came not,” as lording it over you. Again, he said not you, but “your faith,” which was at once gentler and truer. For him that hath no mind to believe, who hath power to compel?
For since, saith he, your joy is ours, I came not, that I might not plunge you into sorrow and increase my own despondency; but I stayed away that ye being reformed by the threat might be made glad. For we do every thing in order to your joy, and give diligence in this behalf, because we are ourselves partakers of it. “For by faith ye stand.”
Behold him again speaking repressedly. For he was afraid to rebuke them again; since he had handled them severely in the former Epistle, and they had made some reformation. And if, now that they were reformed, they again received the same reproof, this was likely to throw them back. Whence this Epistle is much gentler than the former.
Chap. ii. 1. “But I determined529
The expression “again” proves that he had already been made sorry from thence, and whilst he seems to be speaking in his own defence he covertly rebukes them. Now if they had both already made him sorry and were about again to make him sorry, consider how great the displeasure was likely to be. But he saith not thus, ‘Ye made me sorry,’ but turns the expression differently yet implying the very same thing thus, ‘For this cause I came not that I might not make you sorry:’ which has the same force as what I said, but is more palatable.
What is this consequence? A very just one indeed. For observe, I would not, he saith, come unto you, lest I should increase your sorrow, rebuking, showing anger and disgust. Then seeing that even this was strong and implied accusation that they so lived as to make Paul sorry, he applies a corrective in the words, “For if I make you sorry, who then is he that maketh me glad, but he that is made sorry by me?”
What he saith is of this kind. ‘Even though I were to be in sorrow, being compelled to rebuke you and to see you sorry, still nevertheless this very thing would have made me glad. For this is a proof of the greatest love, that you hold me in such esteem as to be hurt at my being displeased with you.’
Behold too his prudence. Their doing what all disciples do, namely, smarting and feeling it when rebuked, he produces as an instance of their gratifying him; for, saith he, ‘No man maketh me so glad as he that giveth heed to my words, and is sorry when he seeth me angry.’
Ver. 3. “And I wrote this very thing unto you.”
What? That for this cause I came not, to spare you. When wrote he? In the former Epistle when he said, “I do not wish to see you now by the way?” (1 Cor. xvi. 7.) I think not; but in this Epistle when he said, “Lest when I come again, my God should humble me before you.” (2 Cor. xii. 21.) I have written then towards the end this same, saith he, “lest when I come, my God will humble me, and I should mourn for many of them that have sinned heretofore.”
But why didst thou write? “Lest when I came I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice, having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all?” For whereas he said he was made glad by their sorrow, and this was too arrogant and harsh, again he gave it a different turn and softened it by what he subjoined. For, he saith, I therefore wrote unto you before, that I might not with anguish find you unreformed; and I said this, “lest I should have sorrow,” out of regard not to my own interest but yours. For I know that if ye see me rejoicing ye rejoice, and if ye behold me sad ye are sad. Observe therefore again the connection of what he said; for so his words will be more easy to understand. I came not, he says, lest I should cause you sorrow when finding you unreformed. And this I did, not studying my own advantage, but yours. For as to myself, when ye are made sorry I receive no little pleasure, seeing that you care so much about me as to be sorry and distressed at my being displeased. “For who is he that maketh me glad, but he that is made sorry by me.” However, though it be so with myself, yet because I study your advantage, I wrote this same thing to you that I might not be made sorry, herein also again studying not my advantage, but yours; for I know, that were ye to see me sad, ye also would be sorry; as also ye are glad when ye see me rejoicing. Observe now his prudence. He said, I came not, that I might not make you sorry; although, saith he, this makes me glad. Then, lest he should seem to take pleasure in their pain, he saith, In this respect I am glad inasmuch as I make you feel, for in another respect I am sorry in that I am compelled to make those sorry who love me so much, not only by this rebuke, but also by being myself in sorrow and by this means causing you fresh sorrow.
But observe how he puts this so as to mingle praise; saying, “from them of whom I ought to rejoice,” for these are the words of one testifying kindred and much tender affection; as if one were speaking of sons on whom he had bestowed many benefits and for whom he had toiled. If then for this I write and come not; it is with weighty meaning531
[3.] Next, whereas he said, he that makes me sorry makes me glad; lest they should say ‘this then is what thou studiest, that thou mightest be made glad and mightest exhibit to all the extent of thy power;’ he added,
What more tenderly affectioned than this man’s spirit is? for he showeth himself to have been not less pained than they who had sinned, but even much more. For he saith not “out of affliction” merely, but “out of much,” nor “with tears,” but “with many tears” and “anguish of heart,” that is, I was suffocated, I was choked with despondency; and when I could no longer endure the cloud of despondency, “I wrote unto you: not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love,” saith he, “which I have more abundantly unto you.” And yet what naturally followed was to say, not that ye might be grieved, but that ye might be corrected: (for indeed with this purpose he wrote.) This however he doth not say, but, (more to sweeten his words, and win them to a greater affection,) he puts this for it, showing that he doth all from love. And he saith not simply “the love,” but “which I have more abundantly unto you.” For hereby also he desires to win them, by showing that he loveth them more than all and feels towards them as to chosen disciples. Whence he saith, “Even if I be not an Apostle unto others, yet at least I am to you;” (1 Cor. ix. 2.) and, “Though ye have many532
[4.] Having made this defence of himself, (for he frequently defends himself, without being ashamed; for if God doth so, saying, “O My people, what have I done unto thee?” (Micah vi. 3.) much more might Paul,) having, I say, made this defence of himself, and being now about to pass on to the plea for him who had committed fornication, in order that they might not be distracted as at receiving contradictory commands, nor take to cavilling because he it was who both then was angry and was now commanding to forgive him, see how he provided534
Having first praised them as feeling joy and sorrow for the same things as himself, he then strikes into the subject of this person, having said first, “my joy is the joy of you all.” But if my joy is the joy of you all, need is that you should also now feel pleasure with me, as ye then were pained with me: for both in that ye were made sorry, ye made me glad; and now in that ye rejoice, (if as I suppose ye shall feel pleasure,) ye will do the same. He said not, my sorrow is the sorrow of you all; but having established this in the rest of what he said, he has now put forward that only which he most desired, namely, the joy: saying, my joy is the joy of you all. Then, he makes mention also of the former matter, saying,
I know, he saith, that ye shared in my anger and indignation against him that had committed fornication, and that what had taken place grieved in part all of you. And therefore said I “in part,” not as though ye were less hurt than I, but that I might not weigh down him that had committed fornication. He did not then grieve me only but you also equally, even though to spare him I said, “in part.” Seest thou how at once he moderated their anger, by declaring that they shared also in his indignation.
And he saith not “to him that hath committed fornication,” but here again “to such a one,” as also in the former Epistle. Not however for the same reason; but there out of shame, here out of mercy. Wherefore he no where subsequently so much as mentions the crime; for it was time now to excuse.
He bids them not only take off the censure; but, besides, restores him to his former estate; for if one let go him that hath been scourged and heal him not, he hath done nothing. And see how him too he keeps down lest he should be rendered worse by the forgiveness. For though he had both confessed and repented, he makes it manifest that he obtaineth remission not so much by his penitence as by this free gift. Wherefore he saith, “to forgive535
But what means this, “swallowed up?” Either doing as Judas did, or even in living becoming worse. For, saith he, if he should rush away from longer enduring the anguish of this lengthened censure, perchance also despairing he will either come to hang himself, or fall into greater crimes afterwards. One ought then to take steps beforehand538
Now this he said, (as I have already observed,) both to keep him low, and to teach him not to be over-listless after this restoration. For, not as one who has washed all quite away; but as fearing lest he should work aught of deeper mischief, I have received him, he saith. Whence we learn that we must determine the penance, not only by the nature of the sins, but by the disposition and habit of them that sin. As the Apostle did in that instance. For he feared his weakness, and therefore said, “lest he be swallowed up,” as though by a wild beast, by a storm, by a billow.
Ver. 8. “Wherefore I beseech you.”
He no longer commands but beseeches, not as a teacher but as an equal; and having seated them on the judgment seat he placed himself in the rank of an advocate; for having succeeded in his object, for joy he adopts without restraint the tone of supplication. And what can it be that thou beseechest? Tell me.
“To confirm your love toward him.”
That is, ‘make it strong,’ not simply have intercourse with him, nor any how. Herein, again, he bears testimony to their virtue as very great; since they who were so friendly and so applauded him as even to be puffed up, were so estranged that Paul takes such pains to make them confirm their love towards him. Herein is excellence of disciples, herein excellence of teachers; that they should so obey the rein, he so manage their motions539
For the former instance might have seemed to proceed even of envy and malice, but this shows very especially the obedience to be pure, and whether ye are apt unto loving kindness. For this is the test of right minded disciples; if they obey not only when ordered to do certain things, but when the contrary also. Therefore he said, “in all things,” showing that if they disobey, they disgrace not him541
Seest thou how again he assigns the second part to himself, showing them as beginning, himself following. This is the way to soften an exasperated, to compose a contentious spirit. Then lest he should make them careless, as though they were arbiters, and they should refuse forgiveness; he again constrains them unto this, saying, that himself also had forgiven him.
“For what I also have forgiven, if I have forgiven any thing, for your sakes have I forgiven it.” For, this very thing I have done for your sakes, he saith. And as when he commanded them to cut him off, he left not with them the power to forgive, saying, “I have judged already to deliver such an one unto Satan,” (1 Cor. v. 3; 5.) and again made them partners in his decision saying, “ye being gathered together to deliver him,” (ib. 4, 5.) (thereby securing two most important things, viz., that the sentence should be passed; yet not without their consent, lest herein he might seem to hurt them;) and neither himself alone pronounces it, lest they should consider him self-willed, and themselves to be overlooked, nor yet leaves all to them, lest when possessed of the power they should deal treacherously with the offender by unseasonably forgiving him: so also doth he here, saying, ‘I have already forgiven, who in the former Epistle had already judged.’ Then lest they should be hurt, as though overlooked, he adds, “for your sakes.” What then? did he for men’s sake pardon? No; for on this account he added, “In the person of Christ.”
Seest thou how he both committeth the power to them and again taketh away that by that he may soften them, by this eradicate their self will. But this is not all that he provides for by this, but shows also that should they be disobedient the harm would reach to all, just as he did at the outset also. For then too he said, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (1 Cor. v. 6.) And here again, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us.” And throughout, he maketh this forgiveness the joint act of himself and them. Consider it from the first. “But if any,” saith he, “have caused sorrow he hath caused sorrow not to me, but in part (that I press not too heavily) to you all.” Then again, “Sufficient to such a one is this punishment which was” inflicted by the “many.” This is his own decision and opinion. He rested not however with this decision, but again makes them partners saying, “So that contrariwise ye should rather forgive” him “and comfort” him. “Wherefore I beseech you to confirm your love towards him.” Having thus again made the whole their act, he passes to his own authority, saying, “For to this end did I write unto you, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye are obedient in all things.” Then, again, he makes the favor theirs, saying, “To whom ye forgive anything.” Then, his own, “I” forgive “also:” saying, “if I have forgiven anything, it is for your sakes.” Then both theirs and his, “For,” saith he, “if I have forgiven any thing, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ,” either [that is] for the glory of Christ, or as though Christ commanding this also, which was most effectual to prevail with them. For after this they would have feared not to grant that which tended to His glory and which He willed. Then again he signifieth the common harm should they disobey, when he saith, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us;” well naming it, getting advantage. For he no more takes his own, but violently seizeth ours, for he543
[6.] These things then having in mind, let us too never despise any one; nor ever, though we fall into sin, despair; on the other hand, again, let us not be easy-minded afterwards, but, when we transgress, afflict our minds and not merely give vent to words. For I know many who say indeed that they bewail their sins, but do nothing of account. They fast and wear rough garments; but after money are more eager than hucksters, are more the prey of anger than wild beasts, and take more pleasure in detraction than others do in commendations. These things are not repentance, these things are the semblance and shadow only of repentance, not repentance itself. Wherefore in the case of these persons too it is well to say, Take heed “lest Satan should get an advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices;” for some he destroys through sins, others through repentance; but these in yet another way, by suffering them to gain no fruit from repentance. For when he found not how he might destroy them by direct [attack,] he came another road, heightening their toils, whilst robbing them of the fruits, and persuading them, as if they had successfully accomplished all they had to do, therefore to be neglectful of what remains.
That we may not then fruitlessly afflict ourselves, let us address a few words to women of this character; for to women this disorder especially belongs. Praiseworthy indeed is even that which now ye do, your fasting and lying on the ground and ashes; but except the rest be added, these are of no avail. God hath showed how He remitteth sins. Why then forsaking that path, do ye carve another for yourselves. In old time the Ninevites sinned, and they did the things which ye too now are doing. Let us see however what it was that availed them. For as in the case of the sick, physicians apply many remedies; howbeit the man of understanding regardeth not that the sick person has tried this and that, but what was of service to him; such must be also our inquiry here. What then was it that availed those barbarians? They applied fasting unto the wounds, yea applied extreme fasting, lying on the ground too, putting on of sackcloth, and ashes, and lamentations; they applied also a change of life. Let us then see which of these things made them whole. And whence, saith one, shall we know? If we come to the Physician, if we ask Him: for He will not hide it from us, but will even eagerly disclose it. Rather that none may be ignorant, nor need to ask, He hath even set down in writing the medicine that restored them. What then is this? “God,” saith He, “saw that they turned every one from his evil way, and He repented of the evil that He had said He would do unto them.” (Jonah iii. 10.) He said not, He saw [their] fasting and sackcloth and ashes. And I say not this to overturn fasting, (God forbid!) but to exhort you that with fasting ye do that which is better than fasting, the abstaining from all evil. David also sinned. (2 Sam. xii. 17. &c.) Let us see then how he too repented. Three days he sat on ashes. But this he did not for the sin’s sake, but for the child’s, being as yet stupefied with that affliction. But the sin by other means did he wipe away, by humbleness, contrition of heart, compunction of soul, by falling into the like no more, by remembering it always, by bearing thankfully every thing that befalls him, by sparing those that grieve him, by forbearing to requite those who conspire against him; yea, even preventing those who desire to do this. For instance, when Shimei was bespattering him with reproaches without number (2 Sam. xvi. 5; 9.) and the captain who was with him was greatly indignant, he said, “Let him curse me, for the Lord hath bidden him:” for he had a contrite and humbled heart, and it was this especially which wiped away his sins. For this is confession, this is repentance. But if whilst we fast we are proud, we have been not only nothing profited but even injured.
[7.] Humble then thine heart, thou too, that thou mayest draw God unto thee. “For the Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart.” (Ps. xxxiii. 19.) Seest thou not in the gorgeous houses those who are in disgrace; how they answer not again when even the lower servants insult them, but put up with it because of the disgrace with which their fault hath surrounded them? So do thou too: and if any one revile thee, wax not fierce, but groan, not for the insult, but for that sin which cast thee into disgrace. Groan when thou hast sinned, not because thou art to be punished, (for this is nothing,) but because thou hast offended thy Master, one so gentle, one so kind, one that so loveth thee and longeth for thy salvation as to have given even His Son for thee. For this groan, and do this continually: for this is confession. Be not to-day cheerful, to-morrow of a sad countenance, then again cheerful; but continue ever in mourning and self contrition. For, “Blessed,” saith he, “are they that mourn,” that is, that do this perpetually. Continue then to do this perpetually, and to take heed to thyself, and to afflict thine heart; as one who had lost a beloved son might mourn. “Rend,” saith he, “your hearts, and not your garments.” (Joel ii. 13.) That which is rent will not lift itself on high; that which hath been broken cannot rise up again. Hence one saith, “Rend,” and another, “a broken and a contrite heart God will not despise.” (Ps. li. 17.) Yea, though thou be wise, or wealthy, or a ruler, rend thine heart. Suffer it not to have high thoughts nor to be inflated. For that which is rent is not inflated, and even if there be something to make it rise, from being rent it cannot retain the inflation. So also do thou be humble-minded. Consider that the publican was justified by one word, although that was not humiliation, but a true confession. Now if this hath power so great, how much more humiliation. Remit offences to those who have transgressed against thee, for this too remitteth sins. And concerning the former He saith, “I saw that he went sorrowful, and I healed his ways;” (Is. lvii. 17, 18. LXX.) and in Ahab’s case, this appeased the wrath of God: (1 Kings xxi. 29.) concerning the latter, “Remit, and it shall be remitted unto you.” There is also again another way which bringeth us this medicine; condemning what we have done amiss; for, “Declare thou first thy transgressions, that thou mayest be justified.” (Is. xliii. 26. LXX.) And for one in afflictions to give thanks looseth his sins; and almsgiving, which is greater than all.