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Title: Expositor's Bible: The Second Epistle to the Corinthians
Author: Denney, James, 1856-1917
Language: English
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                         THE EXPOSITOR'S BIBLE

                           EDITED BY THE REV.

                    W. ROBERTSON NICOLL, M.A., LL.D.
                      _Editor of "The Expositor"_

                       THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE


                           JAMES DENNEY, B.D.


                          HODDER AND STOUGHTON
                          27, PATERNOSTER ROW


                         THE EXPOSITOR'S BIBLE.

              _Crown 8vo, cloth, price 7s. 6d. each vol._

                         FIRST SERIES, 1887-8.

    By A. MACLAREN, D.D.

  St. Mark.
    By Very Rev. the Dean of Armagh.

    By Prof. MARCUS DODS, D.D.

  1 Samuel.
    By Prof. W. G. BLAIKIE, D.D.

  2 Samuel.
    By the same Author.

    By Principal T.C. EDWARDS, D.D.

                         SECOND SERIES, 1888-9.

    By Prof. G. G. FINDLAY, B.A.

  The Pastoral Epistles.
    By Rev. A. PLUMMER, D.D.

  Isaiah I.-XXXIX.
    By G. A. SMITH, M.A. Vol. I

  The Book of Revelation.
    By Prof. W. MILLIGAN, D.D.

  1 Corinthians.
    By Prof. MARCUS DODS, D.D.

  The Epistles of St. John.
    By Rt. Rev. W. ALEXANDER, D.D.

                         THIRD SERIES, 1889-90.

  Judges and Ruth.
    By Rev. R. A. WATSON, D.D.

    By Rev. C. J. BALL, M.A.

  Isaiah XL.-LXVI.
    By G. A. SMITH, M.A. Vol. II.

  St. Matthew.
    By Rev. J. MONRO GIBSON, D.D.

    By Very Rev. the Dean of Armagh.

  St. Luke.
    By Rev. H. BURTON, M.A.

                         FOURTH SERIES, 1890-1.

    By Rev. SAMUEL COX, D.D.

  St. James and St. Jude.
    By Rev. A. PLUMMER, D.D.

    By Rev. R. F. HORTON, M.A.

    By Rev. S. H. KELLOGG, D.D.

  The Gospel of St. John.
    By Prof. M. DODS, D.D. Vol. I.

  The Acts of the Apostles.
    By Prof. STOKES, D.D. Vol. I.

                         FIFTH SERIES, 1891-2.

  The Psalms.
    By A. MACLAREN, D.D. Vol. I.

  1 and 2 Thessalonians.

  The Book of Job.
    By R. A. WATSON, D.D.

    By Prof. G. G. FINDLAY, B.A.

  The Gospel of St. John.
    By Prof. M. DODS, D.D. Vol. II.

  The Acts of the Apostles.
    By Prof. STOKES, D.D. Vol. II.

                         SIXTH SERIES, 1892-3.

  1 Kings.
    By Ven. Archdeacon FARRAR.

    By Principal RAINY, D.D.

  Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
    By Prof. W. F. ADENEY, M.A.

    By Prof. W. G. BLAIKIE, D.D.

  The Psalms.
    By A. MACLAREN, D.D. Vol. II.

  The Epistles of St. Peter.
    By Prof. RAWSON LUMBY, D.D.

                        SEVENTH SERIES, 1893-4.

  2 Kings.
    By Ven. Archdeacon FARRAR.

    By H. C. G. MOULE, M.A.

  The Books of Chronicles.
    By Prof. W. H. BENNETT, M.A.

  2 Corinthians.

    By R. A. WATSON, D.D.

  The Psalms.
    By A. MACLAREN, D.D. Vol. III.

                       THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE


                           JAMES DENNEY, B.D.

                          HODDER AND STOUGHTON
                          27, PATERNOSTER ROW


    _Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury._


  INTRODUCTION                                                1


  SUFFERING AND CONSOLATION                                  10


  FAITH BORN OF DESPAIR                                      23


  THE CHURCH'S ONE FOUNDATION                                35


  CHRISTIAN MYSTERIES                                        47


  A PASTOR'S HEART                                           59


  CHURCH DISCIPLINE                                          72


  CHRIST'S CAPTIVE                                           84


  LIVING EPISTLES                                            99


  THE TWO COVENANTS                                         112


  THE TRANSFIGURING SPIRIT                                  127


  THE GOSPEL DEFINED                                        144


  THE VICTORY OF FAITH                                      157


  THE CHRISTIAN HOPE                                        173


  THE MEASURE OF CHRIST'S LOVE                              186


  THE NEW WORLD                                             198


  RECONCILIATION                                            210


  THE SIGNS OF AN APOSTLE                                   224


  NEW TESTAMENT PURITANISM                                  237


  REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE                                      248


  THE GRACE OF LIBERALITY                                   262


  THE FRUITS OF LIBERALITY                                  274


  WAR                                                       289


  COMPARISONS                                               300


  GODLY JEALOUSY                                            312


  FOOLISH BOASTING                                          325


  STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS                                     342


  NOT YOURS, BUT YOU                                       359


  CONCLUSION                                              372


Introduction, in the scientific sense, is not part of the expositor's
task; but it is convenient, especially when introduction and
exposition have important bearings on each other, that the expositor
should indicate his opinion on the questions common to both
departments. This is the purpose of the statement which follows.

(1) The starting-point for every inquiry into the relations between
St. Paul and the Corinthians, so far as they concern us here, is to be
found in the close connexion between the two Epistles to the
Corinthians which we possess. This close connexion is not a
hypothesis, of greater or less probability, like so much that figures
in Introductions to the Second Epistle; it is a large and solid fact,
which is worth more for our guidance than the most ingenious
conjectural combination. Stress has been justly laid on this by
Holtzmann,[1] who illustrates the general fact by details. Thus 2 Cor.
i. 8-10, ii. 12, 13, attach themselves immediately to the situation
described in 1 Cor. xvi. 8, 9. Similarly in 2 Cor. i. 12 there seems
to be a distinct echo of 1 Cor. ii. 4-14. More important is the
unquestionable reference in 2 Cor. i. 13-17, 23, to 1 Cor. xvi. 5.
From a comparison of these two passages it is plain that before Paul
wrote either he had had an intention, of which the Corinthians were
aware, to visit Corinth in a certain way. He was to leave Ephesus,
sail straight across the sea to Corinth, go from Corinth to Macedonia,
and then return, _viâ_ Corinth, to Asia again. In other words, on this
tour he was to visit Corinth twice. In the last chapter of the First
Epistle, he announces a change of plan: he is _not_ going to Corinth
direct, but _viâ_ Macedonia, and the Corinthians are only to see him
once. He does not say, in the First Epistle, why he has changed his
plan, but the announcement caused great dissatisfaction in Corinth.
Some said he was a fickle creature; some said he was afraid to show
face. This is the situation to which the Second Epistle directly
addresses itself; the very first thing Paul does in it is to explain
and justify the change of plan announced in the First. It was not
fickleness, he says, nor cowardice, that made him change his mind, but
the desire to spare the Corinthians and himself the pain which a visit
paid at the moment would certainly inflict. The close connexion
between our two Epistles, which on this point is unquestionable, may
be further illustrated. Thus, not to point to general resemblances in
feeling or temper, the correspondence is at least suggestive between
ἁγνὸς ἐν τῷ πράγματι, 2 Cor. vii. 11 (cf. the use of πρᾶγμα in 1
Thess. iv. 6), and τοιαύτη πορνεία in 1 Cor. v. 1; between ἐν προςώπῳ
Χριστῦ, 2 Cor. ii. 10, and ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τῦ Κ. ἡμῶν Ἰ. Χ., 1 Cor. v.
4; between the mention of Satan in 2 Cor. ii. 11 and 1 Cor. v. 5;
between πενθεῖν in 2 Cor. xii. 21 and 1 Cor. v. 2; between τοιοῦτος
and τις in 2 Cor. ii. 6 f., 2 Cor. ii. 5, and the same words in 1 Cor.
v. 5 and 1 Cor. v. 1. If all these are carefully examined and
compared, I think it becomes extremely difficult to believe that in 2
Cor. ii. 5 ff. and in 2 Cor. vii. 8 ff. the Apostle is dealing with
anything else than the case of the sinner treated in 1 Cor. v. The
coincidences in detail would be very striking under any circumstances;
but in combination with the fact that the two Epistles, as has just
been shown by the explanation of the change of purpose about the
journey, are in the closest connexion with each other, they seem to me
to come as nearly as possible to demonstration.

(2) If this view is accepted, it is natural and justifiable to explain
the Second Epistle as far as possible out of the First. Thus the letter
to which St. Paul refers in 2 Cor. ii. 4 and in 2 Cor. vii. 8, 12, will
be our First Epistle to the Corinthians; the persons referred to in 2
Cor. vii. 12 as "he who did the wrong" and "he to whom the wrong was
done" will be the son and the father in 1 Cor. v. 1. There are, indeed,
many who think that it is absurd to speak of the First Epistle to the
Corinthians as written "out of much affliction and anguish of heart and
with many tears"; and who cannot imagine that Paul would speak of a
great sin and crime, like that of the incestuous person, in such
language as he employs in 2 Cor. ii. 5 ff. and 2 Cor. vii. 12. Such
language, they argue, suits far better the case of a personal injury, an
insult or outrage of which Paul--either in person or in one of his
deputies--had been the victim at Corinth. Hence they argue for an
intermediate visit of a very painful character, and for an intermediate
letter, now lost, dealing with this painful incident. Paul, we are to
suppose, visited Corinth on the business of 1 Cor. v. (among other
things), and there suffered a great humiliation. He was defied by the
guilty man and his friends, and had to leave the Church without
effecting anything. Then he wrote the extremely severe letter to which
ii. 4 refers--a letter which was carried by Titus, and which produced
the change on which he congratulates himself in ii. 5 ff. and vii. 8 ff.
It is obvious that this whole combination is hypothetical; and hence,
though many have been attracted by it, it appears with an infinite
variety of detail. It is obvious also that the grounds on which it rests
are subjective; it is a question on which men will differ to the end of
time, whether the language in 2 Cor. ii. 4 is an apt description of the
mood in which Paul wrote (at least certain parts of) the First Epistle
to the Corinthians, or whether the language in 2 Cor. ii. 5 ff., vii. 8
ff. is becoming language in which to close proceedings like those opened
in 1 Cor. v. If many have believed that it is not, many, on the other
hand, have no difficulty in believing that it is; and those who take the
negative not only fail to explain the series of verbal correspondences
detailed above, but dissolve the connexion between our two Epistles
altogether. Thus Godet allows more than a year, crowded with events, to
come between them. In view of the palpable fact with which we started, I
cannot but think this quite incredible: it is far easier to suppose that
the proceedings about the incestuous person took a complexion which made
Paul's language in the second and seventh chapters natural than to come
to any confident conviction about this hypothetical visit and letter.

(3) But the visit, it may be said, at all events, is not hypothetical.
It is distinctly alluded to in 2 Cor. ii. 1, xii. 14, xiii. 1. These
passages are discussed in the exposition. The two last are certainly
not decisive; there are good scholars who hold the same opinion of
the first. Heinrici, for instance, maintains that Paul had only been
once in Corinth when he wrote the Second Epistle; it was the _third_
time he was _starting_, but once his intention had been frustrated or
deferred, so that when he reached Corinth it would only be his second
visit. A case can be stated for this, but in view of chap. ii. 1 and
chap. xiii. 2, I do not see that it can be easily maintained. These
passages practically compel us to assume that Paul had already visited
Corinth a second time, and had had very painful experiences there. But
the close connexion of our Epistles equally compels us to assume that
this second visit belongs to an earlier date than our first canonical
Epistle. We know nothing of it except that it was not pleasant, and
that Paul was very willing to save both himself and the Corinthians
the repetition of such an experience. It is nothing against this view
that the visit in question is not referred to in Acts or in the fist
letter. Hardly anything in chap. xi. 24 ff. is known to us from Acts,
and probably we should never have known of this journey unless in
explaining the change of purpose which the first letter announced it
had occurred to Paul to say: "I did not wish to come when it could
only vex you; I had enough of that before."

(4) As for the letter, which is supposed to be referred to in 2 Cor. ii.
4, it also has been relieved of its hypothetical character by being
identified with chaps. x. 1-xiii. 10 of our present Second Epistle. In
the absence of the faintest external indication that the Epistle ever
existed in any other than its present form, it is perhaps superfluous to
treat this seriously; but the comment of Godet seems to me sufficiently
to dispose of it. The hypothetical letter in question--in which Godet
himself believes--must have had two main objects: first, to accredit
Titus, who is assumed to have carried it, as the representative of Paul;
and, second, to insist on reparation for the assumed personal outrage of
which Paul had been the victim on his recent visit. This second object,
at an events, is indisputable. But chaps. x. 1-xiii. 10 have no
reference whatever to either of these things, and are wholly taken up
with what the Apostle means to do, when he comes to Corinth the third
time; they refer not to this (imaginary) insolent person, but to the
misbelieving and the immoral in general.

(5) Except in the points specified, the interpretation of the Epistle
is little affected by the questions raised in _Introduction_. Even in
the points specified it is the historical reference, not the ethical
import, which is affected. Whichever view we take of them, we get on
the whole substantially the same impression of the spirit of Christ as
it lives and works in the soul of the Apostle. It is part of the man's
greatness, it is the seal of his inspiration, that in his hands the
temporal becomes eternal, the incidental loses its purely incidental
character, and has significance for all time. It is the expositor's
task to deal with the spiritual rather than the historical side, and
it will be sufficient here to indicate in outline what I conceive the
series of Paul's relations with the Corinthians to have been.

(6) His first visit to Corinth was that which is recorded in Acts
xviii.; according to the statement of ver. 11 it extended over a
period of eighteen months. In all probability he had many
communications with the Church, through deputies whom he commissioned,
in the years during which he was absent; the form of the question in 2
Cor. xii. 17 (μή τινα ὧν ἀπέσταλκα πρὸς ὑμᾶς κ.τ.λ.) implies as much.
But it is only after his coming to Ephesus, in the course of his
third missionary journey, that personal intercourse with Corinth can
have been resumed. To this period I should refer the visit which we
are bound to assume on the ground of 2 Cor. ii. 1, xiii. 2. What the
occasion was, or what the circumstances, we cannot tell; all we know
is that it was painful, and perhaps disappointing. Paul had used grave
and threatening language on this occasion (2 Cor. xiii. 2), but he had
been obliged to tolerate some things which he would rather have seen
otherwise. This visit was probably made toward the close of the three
years' stay in Ephesus, and the letter referred to in 1 Cor. v. 9--the
one in which he warned the Corinthians not to associate with
fornicators--would most likely be written on his return from it. In
this letter he may very naturally have announced that purpose of
visiting Corinth twice--once on his way to Macedonia, and again on his
way back--to which reference has already been made. This letter,
plainly, did not serve its purpose, and not long afterwards Paul
received at Ephesus deputies from the Corinthian Church (1 Cor. xvi.
17), who apparently brought written instructions with them, in which
Paul's judgment was sought more minutely on a variety of ethical
questions (1 Cor. vii. 1). Before these deputies arrived, or at all
events before Paul wrote the letter (our First Epistle) in which he
addressed himself to the state of affairs in Corinth which their
reports had disclosed, Timothy had left Ephesus on a journey of some
interest. Paul meant Corinth to be his destination (1 Cor. iv. 17),
but he had to go _viâ_ Macedonia, and the Apostle was not certain that
he would get so far (1 Cor. xvi. 10: "But _if_ Timothy come," etc.).
In point of fact, he does not seem to have gone farther than
Macedonia; and Luke in Acts xix. 22 mentions Macedonia as the place to
which he had been sent. That he got no farther is suggested also by
the fact that Paul joins his name with his own in the salutation of
the Second Epistle, which was written in Macedonia, but never hints
that he owed to _him_ any information whatever on the state of the
Corinthian Church. All that he knew of this, and of the effect of his
first letter, he learned from Titus (2 Cor. ii. 13, vii. 13 f.). But
how did Titus happen to be in Corinth representing Paul? By far the
happiest suggestion here is that which makes Titus and the brother of
2 Cor. xii. 18 the same as "the brethren" of 1 Cor. xvi. 12, whose
return from Corinth Paul expected in company of Timothy. Timothy, as
we have seen, did not get so far. Paul's departure from Ephesus was
apparently hastened by a great peril; his anxiety, too, to hear the
effect produced by that letter which had cost him so much--our First
Epistle--was very great; he pressed on, past Troas, where a fair field
of labour waited for workers, and finally encountered Titus in
Macedonia, and heard his report.

(7) This is the point at which the Second Epistle to the Corinthians
begins. It falls of itself into three clearly marked divisions. The
first extends over chaps. i.-vii. In this the Apostle makes his peace,
so to speak, with the Corinthians, and does everything in his power to
remove any feeling of "soreness" which might linger in their minds
over his rigorous treatment of one particular offender. But embedded
in this there is a magnificent vindication of the spiritual apostolic
ministry, especially in contrast with that of the legalists, and an
appeal for love and confidence such as he had always bestowed on the
Church. Chaps. viii. and ix. form the second part, and are devoted to
the collection which was being made in the Gentile Churches for poor
Christians in Jerusalem. The third part consists of chaps. x. to xiii.
In this Paul confronts the disorders which still assert themselves in
the Church; the pretensions of certain Judaists, "superlative
apostles" as he calls them, who were assailing his apostolic vocation
and subverting his gospel; and the immoral licence of others,
presumably once pagans, who used liberty for a cloak to the flesh. He
writes of both with unsparing severity, yet he does not wish to be
severe. He parts from the Church with words of unaffected love, and
includes them all in his benediction.


[1] _Einleitung_, 2nd ed., p. 255 f.


                      _SUFFERING AND CONSOLATION_

    "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and
    Timothy our brother, unto the Church of God which is at Corinth,
    with all the saints which are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you
    and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "Blessed _be_ the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
    Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all
    our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in
    any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are
    comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound unto us,
    even so our comfort also aboundeth through Christ. But whether we
    be afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or whether we
    be comforted, it is for your comfort, which worketh in the patient
    enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: and our hope
    for you is stedfast; knowing that, as ye are partakers of the
    sufferings, so also are ye of the comfort."--2 COR. i. 1-7 (R.V.).

The greeting with which St. Paul introduces his Epistles is much alike
in them all, but it never becomes a mere formality, and ought not to
pass unregarded as such. It describes, as a rule, the character in
which he writes, and the character in which his correspondents are
addressed. Here he is an apostle of Jesus Christ, divinely
commissioned; and he addresses a Christian community at Corinth,
including in it, for the purposes of his letter, the scattered
Christians to be found in the other quarters of Achaia. His letters
are occasional, in the sense that some special incident or situation
called them forth; but this occasional character does not lessen
their value. He addresses himself to the incident or situation in the
consciousness of his apostolic vocation; he writes to a Church
constituted for permanence, or at least for such duration as this
transitory world can have; and what we have in his Epistles is not a
series of _obiter dicta_, the casual utterances of an irresponsible
person; it is the mind of Christ authoritatively given upon the
questions raised. When he includes any other person in the
salutation--as in this place "Timothy our brother"--it is rather as a
mark of courtesy, than as adding to the Epistle another authority
besides his own. Timothy had helped to found the Church at Corinth;
Paul had shown great anxiety about his reception by the Corinthians,
when he started to visit that turbulent Church alone (1 Cor. xvi. 10
f.); and in this new letter he honours him in their eyes by uniting
his name with his own in the superscription. The Apostle and his
affectionate fellow-worker wish the Corinthians, as they wished all
the Churches, grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus
Christ. It is not necessary to expound afresh the meaning and
connexion of these two New Testament ideas: grace is the first and
last word of the Gospel; and peace--perfect spiritual soundness--is
the finished work of grace in the soul.

The Apostle's greeting is usually followed by a thanksgiving, in which
he recalls the conversion of those to whom he is writing, or surveys
their progress in the new life, and the improvement of their gifts,
gratefully acknowledging God as the author of all. Thus in the First
Epistle to the Corinthians he thanks God for the grace given to them
in Christ Jesus, and especially for their Christian enrichment in all
utterance and in all knowledge. So, too, but with deeper gratitude,
he dwells on the virtues of the Thessalonians, remembering their work
of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope. Here also there is
a thanksgiving, but at the first glance of a totally different
character. The Apostle blesses God, not for what He has done for the
Corinthians, but for what He has done for himself. "Blessed be the God
and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of
all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation." This departure
from the Apostle's usual custom is probably not so selfish as it
looks. When his mind travelled down from Philippi to Corinth, it
rested on the spiritual aspects of the Church there with anything but
unrelieved satisfaction. There was much for which he could not
possibly be thankful; and just as the momentary apostasy of the
Galatians led to his omitting the thanksgiving altogether, so the
unsettled mood in which he wrote to the Corinthians gave it this
peculiar turn. Nevertheless, when he thanked God for comforting him in
all his afflictions, he thanked Him on their behalf. It was they who
were eventually to have the profit both of his sorrows and his
consolations. Probably, too, there is something here which is meant to
appeal, even to those who disliked him in Corinth. There had been a
good deal of friction between the Apostle and some who had once owned
him as their father in Christ; they were blaming him, at this very
moment, for not coming to visit them; and in this thanksgiving, which
dilates on the afflictions he has endured, and on the divine
consolation he has experienced in them, there is a tacit appeal to the
sympathy even of hostile spirits. Do not, he seems to say, deal
ungenerously with one who has passed through such terrible
experiences, and lays the fruit of them at your feet. Chrysostom
presses this view, as if St. Paul had written his thanksgiving in the
character of a subtle diplomatist: to judge by one's feeling, it is
true enough to deserve mention.[2]

The subject of the thanksgiving is the Apostle's sufferings, and his
experience of God's mercies under them. He expressly calls them the
sufferings of Christ. These sufferings, he says, abound toward us.
Christ was the greatest of sufferers: the flood of pain and sorrow
went over His head; all its waves and billows broke upon Him. The
Apostle was caught and overwhelmed by the same stream; the waters came
into his soul. That is the meaning of τὰ παθήματα τοῦ Χριστοῦ
περισσεύει εἰς ἡμᾶς. In abundant measure the disciple was initiated
into his Master's stern experience; he learned, what he prayed to
learn, the fellowship of His sufferings. The boldness of the language
in which a mortal man calls his own afflictions the sufferings of
Christ is far from unexampled in the New Testament. It is repeated by
St. Paul in Col. i. 24: "I now rejoice in my sufferings on your
behalf, and fill up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ
in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the Church." It is varied in
Heb. xiii. 13, where the sacred writer exhorts us to go out to Jesus,
without the camp, bearing _His_ reproach. It is anticipated and
justified by the words of the Lord Himself: "Ye shall indeed drink of
My cup; and with the baptism with which I am baptised shall ye be
baptised withal." One lot, and that a cross, awaits all the children
of God in this world, from the Only-begotten who came from the bosom
of the Father, to the latest-born among His brethren. But let us
beware of the hasty assertion that, because the Christian's sufferings
can thus be described as of a piece with Christ's, the key to the
mystery of Gethsemane and Calvary is to be found in the
self-consciousness of martyrs and confessors. The very man who speaks
of filling up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ for
the Church's sake, and who says that the sufferings of Christ came on
him in their fulness, would have been the first to protest against
such an idea. "Was Paul crucified for you?" Christ suffered alone;
there is, in spite of our fellowship with His sufferings, a solitary,
incommunicable greatness in His Cross, which the Apostle will expound
in another place (chap. v.). Even when Christ's sufferings come upon
us there is a difference. At the very lowest, as Vinet has it, we do
from gratitude what he did from pure love. We suffer in His company,
sustained by His comfort; He suffered uncomforted and unsustained. We
are afflicted, when it so happens, "under the auspices of the divine
mercy"; He was afflicted that there might be mercy for us.

Few parts of Bible teaching are more recklessly applied than those
about suffering and consolation. If all that men endured was of the
character here described, if all their sufferings were sufferings of
Christ, which came on them because they were walking in His steps and
assailed by the forces which buffeted Him, consolation would be an
easy task. The presence of God with the soul would make it almost
unnecessary. The answer of a good conscience would take all the
bitterness out of pain; and then, however it tortured, it could not
poison the soul. The mere sense that our sufferings _are_ the
sufferings of Christ--that we are drinking of His cup--is itself a
comfort and an inspiration beyond words. But much of our suffering, we
know very well, is of a different character. It does not come on us
because we are united to Christ, but because we are estranged from
Him; it is the proof and the fruit, not of our righteousness, but of
our guilt. It is our sin finding us out, and avenging itself upon us,
and in no sense the suffering of Christ. Such suffering, no doubt, has
its use and its purpose. It is meant to drive the soul in upon itself,
to compel it to reflection, to give it no rest till it awakes to
penitence, to urge it through despair to God. Those who suffer thus
will have cause to thank God afterwards if His discipline leads to
their amendment, but they have no title to take to themselves the
consolation prepared for those who are partners in the sufferings of
Christ. Nor is the minister of Christ at liberty to apply a passage
like this to any case of affliction which he encounters in his work.
There are sufferings and sufferings; there is a divine intention in
them all, if we could only discover it; but the divine intention and
the divinely wrought result are only explained here for one particular
kind--those sufferings, namely, which come upon men in virtue of their
following Jesus Christ. What, then does the Apostle's experience
enable him to say on this hard question?

(1) His sufferings have brought him a new revelation of God, which is
expressed in the new name, "The Father of mercies and God of all
comfort." The name is wonderful in its tenderness; we feel as we
pronounce it that a new conception of what love can be has been
imparted to the Apostle's soul. It is in the sufferings and sorrows of
life that we discover what we possess in our human friends. Perhaps
one abandons us in our extremity, and another betrays us; but most of
us find ourselves unexpectedly and astonishingly rich. People of whom
we have hardly ever had a kind thought show us kindness; the
unsuspected, unmerited goodness which comes to our relief makes us
ashamed. This is the rule which is illustrated here by the example of
God Himself. It is as if the Apostle said: "I never knew, till the
sufferings of Christ abounded in me, how near God could come to man; I
never knew how rich His mercies could be, how intimate His sympathy,
how inspiriting His comfort." This is an utterance well worth
considering. The sufferings of men, and especially the sufferings of
the innocent and the good, are often made the ground of hasty charges
against God; nay, they are often turned into arguments for Atheism.
But who are they who make such charges? Not the righteous sufferers,
at least in New Testament times. The Apostle here is their
representative and spokesman, and he assures us that God never was so
much to him as when he was in the sorest straits. The divine love was
so far from being doubtful to him that it shone out then in
unanticipated brightness; the very heart of the Father was
revealed--all mercy, all encouragement and comfort. If the martyrs
have no doubts of their own, is it not very gratuitous for the
spectators to become sceptics on their account? "The sufferings of
Christ" in His people may be an insoluble problem to the disinterested
onlooker, but they are no problem to the sufferers. What is a mystery,
when viewed from without, a mystery in which God seems to be
conspicuous by His absence, is, when viewed from within, a new and
priceless revelation of God Himself. "The Father of mercies and God of
all comfort" is making Himself known now as for want of opportunity He
could not be known before.

Notice especially that the consolation is said to abound "through
Christ." He is the mediator through whom it comes. To partake in His
sufferings is to be united to _Him_; and to be united to Him is to
partake in His _life_. The Apostle anticipates here a thought on which
he enlarges in the fourth chapter: "Always bearing about in the body
the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in
our body." In our eagerness to emphasise the nearness and the sympathy
of Jesus, it is to be feared that we do less than justice to the New
Testament revelation of His glory. He does not suffer now. He is
enthroned on high, far above all principality and power and might and
dominion. The Spirit which brings His presence to our hearts is the
Spirit of the Prince of Life; its function is not to be weak with our
weakness, but to help our infirmity, and to strengthen us with all
might in the inner man. The Christ who dwells in us through His Spirit
is not the Man of Sorrows, wearing the crown of thorns; it is the King
of kings and Lord of lords, making us partakers of His triumph. There
is a weak tone in much of the religious literature which deals with
suffering, utterly unlike that of the New Testament. It is a
degradation of Christ to our level which it teaches, instead of an
exaltation of man toward Christ's. But the last is the apostolic
ideal: "More than conquerors through Him that loved us." The comfort
of which St. Paul makes so much here is not necessarily deliverance
from suffering for Christ's sake, still less exemption from it; it is
the strength and courage and immortal hope which rise up, even in the
midst of suffering, in the heart in which the Lord of glory dwells.
Through Him such comfort abounds; it wells up to match and more than
match the rising tide of suffering.

(2) But Paul's sufferings have done more than give him a new knowledge
of God; they have given him at the same time a new power to comfort
others. He is bold enough to make this ministry of consolation the key
to his recent experiences. "He comforteth us in all our affliction, that
we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the
comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." His sufferings and
his consolation together had a purpose that went beyond himself. How
significant that is for some perplexing aspects of man's life! We are
selfish, and instinctively regard ourselves as the centre of all
providences; we naturally seek to explain everything by its bearing on
ourselves alone. But God has not made us for selfishness and isolation,
and some mysteries would be cleared up if we had love enough to see the
ties by which our life is indissolubly linked to others. This, however,
is less definite than the Apostle's thought; what he tells us is that he
has gained a new power at a great price. It is a power which almost
every Christian man will covet; but how many are willing to pass through
the fire to obtain it? We must ourselves have needed and have found
comfort, before we know what it is; we must ourselves have learned the
art of consoling in the school of suffering, before we can practise it
for the benefit of others. The most painfully tried, the most proved in
suffering, the souls that are best acquainted with grief, provided
their consolation has abounded through Christ, are specially called to
this ministry. Their experience is their preparation for it. Nature is
something, and age is something; but far more than nature and age is
that discipline of God to which they have been submitted, that
initiation into the sufferings of Christ which has made them acquainted
with His consolations also, and has taught them to know the Father of
mercies and the God of all comfort. Are they not among His best gifts to
the Church, those whom He has qualified to console, by consoling them in
the fire?

In the sixth verse the Apostle dwells on the interest of the Corinthians
in his sufferings and his consolation. It is a practical illustration of
the communion of the saints in Christ. "All that befalls _me_," says St.
Paul, "has _your_ interest in view. If I am afflicted, it is in the
interest of your comfort: when you look at me, and see how I bear myself
in the sufferings of Christ, you will be encouraged to become imitators
of me, even as I am of Him. If, again, I am comforted, this also is in
the interest of _your_ comfort; God enables me to impart to you what He
has imparted to me; and the comfort in question is no impotent thing; it
proves its power in this--that when you have received it, you endure
with brave patience the same sufferings which we also suffer." This last
is a favourite thought with the Apostle, and connects itself readily
with the idea, which may or may not have a right to be expressed in the
text, that all this is in furtherance of the salvation of the
Corinthians.[3] For if there is one note of the saved more certain than
another, it is the brave patience with which they take upon them the
sufferings of Christ. ὁ δὲ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος, οὗτος σωθήσεται (Matt.
x. 22). All that helps men to endure to the end, helps them to
salvation. All that tends to break the spirit and to sink men
despondency, or hurry them into impatience or fear, leads in the
opposite direction. The great service that a true comforter does is to
put the strength and courage into us which enable us to take up our
cross, however sharp and heavy, and to bear it to the last step and the
last breath. No comfort is worth the name--none is taught of God--which
has another efficacy than this. The saved are those whose souls rise to
this description, and who recognise their spiritual kindred in such
brave and patient sufferers as Paul.

The thanksgiving ends appropriately with a cheerful word about the
Corinthians. "Our hope for you is stedfast; knowing that, as ye are
partakers of the sufferings, so are ye also of the comfort." These two
things go together; it is the appointed lot of the children of God to
become acquainted with both. If the sufferings could come alone, if
_they_ could be assigned as the portion of the Church apart from the
consolation, Paul could have no hope that the Corinthians would endure
to the end; but as it is, he is not afraid. The force of his words is
perhaps best felt by us, if instead of saying that the sufferings and
the consolation are inseparable, we say that the consolation depends
upon the sufferings. And what is the consolation? It is the presence
of the exalted Saviour in the heart through His Spirit. It is a clear
perception, and a firm hold, of the things which are unseen and
eternal. It is a conviction of the divine love which cannot be shaken,
and of its sovereignty and omnipotence in the Risen Christ. This
infinite comfort is contingent upon our partaking of the sufferings of
Christ. There is a point, the Apostle seems to say, at which the
invisible world and its glories intersect this world in which we live,
and become visible, real, and inspiring to men. It is the point at
which we suffer with Christ's sufferings. At any other point the
vision of this glory is unneeded, and therefore withheld. The worldly,
the selfish, the cowardly; those who shrink from self-denial; those
who evade pain; those who root themselves in the world that lies
around us, and when they move at all move in the line of least
resistance; those who have never carried Christ's Cross,--none of
these can ever have the triumphant conviction of things unseen and
eternal which throbs in every page of the New Testament. None of these
can have what the Apostle elsewhere calls "eternal consolation." It is
easy for unbelievers, and for Christians lapsing into unbelief, to
mock this faith as faith in "the transcendent"; but would a single
line of the New Testament have been written without it? When we weigh
what is here asserted about its connexion with the sufferings of
Christ, could a graver charge be brought against any Church than that
its faith in this "transcendent" languished or was extinct? Do not let
us hearken to the sceptical insinuations which would rob us of all
that has been revealed in Christ's resurrection; and do not let us
imagine, on the other hand, that we can retain a living faith in this
revelation if we decline to take up our cross. It was only when the
sufferings of Christ abounded in him that Paul's consolation was
abundant through Christ; it was only when he laid down his life for
His sake that Stephen saw the heavens opened and the Son of Man
standing at the right hand of God.


[2] The same view is strongly held by Schmiedel. He infers from chap.
vi. 9 that Paul's sufferings had been interpreted at Corinth as a divine
chastisement; in opposition to this the Apostle shows that they are
divinely intended to profit the Corinthians. Hence the opening of the
letter is not a simple outpouring of his heart, but is delicately
calculated to set aside a reproach without naming it. The same purpose
rules in the assumption that the Corinthians will intercede and give
thanks on his behalf; it takes for granted their reconciliation to him.

[3] The text is incurably perplexed. The variations can be seen in any
critical edition. The MS. authority does not justify any confident
decision, and the happiest suggestion yet made seems to be that of
Professor Warfield, who would omit altogether the words καὶ σωτηρίας
(_and salvation_). The MSS. vary most in regard to these words,
inserting, omitting, and transposing them. Hence they are very
probably an old gloss, and their omission simplifies both the grammar
and the sense.


                        _FAITH BORN OF DESPAIR_

    "For we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning our
    affliction which befell us in Asia, that we were weighed down
    exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of
    life: yea, we ourselves have had the answer of death within
    ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which
    raiseth the dead: who delivered us out of so great a death, and
    will deliver: on whom we have set our hope that He will also still
    deliver us; ye also helping together on our behalf by your
    supplication; that, for the gift bestowed upon us by means of
    many, thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf.

    "For our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience, that
    in holiness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the
    grace of God, we behaved ourselves in the world, and more
    abundantly to you-ward. For we write none other things unto you,
    than what ye read or even acknowledge, and I hope ye will
    acknowledge unto the end: as also ye did acknowledge us in part,
    that we are your glorying, even as ye also are ours, in the day of
    our Lord Jesus."--2 COR. i. 8-14 (R.V.).

Paul seems to have felt that the thanksgiving with which he opens this
letter to the Corinthians was so peculiar as to require explanation. It
was not his way to burst upon his readers thus with his private
experiences either of joy or sorrow; and though he had good reason for
what he did--in that abundance of the heart out of which the mouth
speaks, in his desire to conciliate the good-will of the Corinthians for
a much-tried man, and in his faith in the real communion of the
saints--he instinctively stops here a moment to vindicate what he has
done. He does not wish them to be ignorant of an experience which has
been so much to him, and ought to have the liveliest interest for them.

Evidently they knew that he had been in trouble, but they had no
sufficient idea of the extremity to which he had been reduced. We were
weighed down, he writes, in excess, beyond our power; the trial that
came upon us was one not measured to man's strength. We despaired even
of life. Nay, we have had[4] the answer of death in ourselves. When we
looked about us, when we faced our circumstances, and asked ourselves
whether death or life was to be the end of this, we could only answer,
Death. We were like men under sentence; it was only a question of a
little sooner or a little later, when the fatal stroke should fall.

The Apostle, who has a divine gift for interpreting experience and
reading its lessons, tells us why he and his friends had to pass such a
terrible time. It was that they might trust, not in themselves, but in
God who raises the dead. It is natural, he implies, for us to trust in
ourselves. It is so natural, and so confirmed by the habits of a
lifetime, that no ordinary difficulties or perplexities avail to break
us of it. It takes all God can do to root up our self-confidence. He
must reduce us to despair; He must bring us to such an extremity that
the one voice we have in our hearts, the one voice that cries to us
wherever we look round for help, is Death, death, death. It is out of
this despair that the superhuman hope is born. It is out of this abject
helplessness that the soul learns to look up with new trust to God.

It is a melancholy reflection upon human nature that we have, as the
Apostle expresses it elsewhere, to be "shut up" to all the mercies of
God. If we could evade them, notwithstanding their freeness and their
worth, we would. How do most of us attain to any faith in Providence?
Is it not by proving, through numberless experiments, that it is not
in man that walketh to direct his steps? Is it not by coming, again
and again, to the limit of our resources, and being compelled to feel
that unless there is a wisdom and a love at work on our behalf,
immeasurably wiser and more benignant than our own, life is a moral
chaos? How, above all, do we come to any faith in redemption? to any
abiding trust in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of our souls? Is it not
by this same way of despair? Is it not by the profound consciousness
that in ourselves there is _no_ answer to the question, How shall man
be just with God? and that the answer must be sought in Him? Is it not
by failure, by defeat, by deep disappointments, by ominous forebodings
hardening into the awful certainty that we cannot with our own
resources make ourselves good men--is it not by experiences like these
that we are led to the Cross? This principle has many other
illustrations in human life, and every one of them is something to our
discredit. They all mean that only desperation opens our eyes to God's
love. We do not heartily own Him as the author of life and health,
unless He has raised us from sickness after the doctor had given us
up. We do not acknowledge His paternal guidance of our life, unless in
some sudden peril, or some impending disaster, He provides an
unexpected deliverance. We do not confess that salvation is of the
Lord, till our very soul has been convinced that in it there dwells no
good thing. Happy are those who are taught, even by despair, to set
their hope in God; and who, when they learn this lesson once, learn
it, like St. Paul, once for all (see note on ἐσχήκαμεν above). Faith
and hope like those which burn through this Epistle were well worth
purchasing, even at such a price; they were blessings so valuable that
the love of God did not shrink from reducing Paul to despair that he
might be compelled to grasp them. Let us believe when such trials come
into our lives--when we are weighed down exceedingly, beyond our
strength, and are in darkness without light, in a valley of the shadow
of death with no outlet--that God is not dealing with us cruelly or at
random, but shutting us up to an experience of His love which we have
hitherto declined. "After two days will He revive us; on the third day
He will raise us up, and we shall live before Him."

The Apostle describes the God on whom he learned to hope as "God who
raises the dead." He himself had been as good as dead, and his
deliverance was as good as a resurrection. The phrase, however, seems
to be the Apostle's equivalent for omnipotence: when he thinks of the
utmost that God can do, he expresses it thus. Sometimes the
application of it is merely physical (_e.g._, Rom. iv. 17); sometimes
it is spiritual as well. Thus in Eph. i. 19 ff. the possibilities of
the Christian life are measured by this--that that power is at work in
believers with which God wrought in Christ when _He raised Him from
the dead_, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places.
Is not that power sufficient to do for the weakest and most desperate
of men far more than all he needs? Yet it is his need, somehow, when
brought home to him in despair, that opens his eyes to this omnipotent
saving power.

The text of the words in which Paul tells of his deliverance can
hardly be said to be quite certain, but the general meaning is plain.
God delivered him from the awful death which was impending over him;
he had his hope now firmly set on Him; he was sure that He would
deliver him in the future also.[5] What the danger had been, which had
made so powerful an impression on this hardy soul, we cannot now tell.
It must have been something which happened after the First Epistle was
written, and therefore was not the fighting with wild beasts at
Ephesus, whatever that may have been (1 Cor. xv. 32). It may have been
a serious bodily illness, which had brought him to death's door, and
left him so weak, that still, at every step, he felt it was God's
mercy that was holding him up. It may have been a plot to make away
with him on the part of the many adversaries mentioned in the First
Epistle (xvi. 9)--a plot which had failed, as it were, by a miracle,
but the malignity of which still dogged his steps, and was only
warded off by the constant presence of God. Both these suggestions
require, and would satisfy, the reading, "who delivered us from so
great a death, and _doth deliver_." If, however, we take the reading
of the R.V.--"who delivered us from so great a death, and _will
deliver_; on whom we have set our hope that He will also still deliver
us"--the existence of the danger, at the moment at which Paul writes,
is not necessarily involved; and the danger itself may have been more
of what we might call an accidental character. The imminent peril of
drowning referred to in chap. xi. 25 would meet the case; and the
confidence expressed by Paul with such emphatic reference to the
future will not seem without motive when we consider that he had
several sea voyages in prospect--as those from Corinth to Syria, from
Syria to Rome, and probably from Rome to Spain. So Hofmann interprets
the whole passage: but whether the interpretation be good or bad, it
is elsewhere than in its accidental circumstances that the interest of
the transaction lies for the writer and for us. To Paul it was not
merely a historical but a spiritual experience; not an incident
without meaning, but a divinely ordered discipline; and it is thus
that we must learn to read our own lives if the purpose of God is to
be wrought out in them.

Notice in this connexion, in the eleventh verse, how simply Paul
assumes the spiritual participation of the Corinthians in his
fortunes. It is God indeed who delivers him, but the deliverance is
wrought while they, as well as other Churches, co-operate in
supplication on his behalf. In the strained relations existing between
himself and the Corinthians, the assumption here made so graciously
probably did them more than justice; if there were unsympathetic souls
among them, they must have felt in it a delicate rebuke. What
follows--"that, for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many,
thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf" (R.V.)--simple and
intelligible as it looks in English, is one of the passages which
justify M. Sabatier's remark that Paul is difficult to understand and
impossible to translate. The Revisers seem to have construed τὸ ἐις
ἡμᾶς χάρισμα διὰ πολλῶν together, as if it had been τὸ διὰ π. ε. ἡ.
χάρισμα, the meaning being that the favour bestowed on Paul in his
deliverance from this peril had been bestowed at the intercession of
many. Others get virtually the same meaning by construing τὸ εἰς ἡμᾶς
χάρισμα with ἐκ πολλῶν προςώπων: the inversion is supposed to
emphasise these last words; and as it was, on this view, prayer on the
part of many persons that procured his deliverance, Paul is anxious
that the deliverance itself should be acknowledged by the thanksgiving
of many. It cannot be denied that both these renderings are
grammatically violent, and it seems to me preferable to keep τὸ ἐις
ἡμᾶς χάρισμα by itself, even though ἐκ πολλῶν προςώπων and διὰ πολλῶν
should then reduplicate the same idea with only a slight variation. We
should then render: "in order that, on the part of many persons, the
favour shown to us may be gratefully acknowledged by many on our
behalf." The pleonasm thus resulting strikes one rather as
characteristic of St. Paul's mood in such passages, than as a thing
open to objection.[6] But grammar apart, what really has to be
emphasised here is again the communion of the saints. All the
Churches pray for St. Paul--at least he takes it for granted that they
do; and when he is rescued from danger, his own thanksgiving is
multiplied a thousandfold by the thanksgivings of others on his
behalf. This is the ideal of an evangelist's life; in all its
incidents and emergencies, in all its perils and salvations, it ought
to float in an atmosphere of prayer. Every interposition of God on the
missionary's behalf is then recognised by him as a gift of grace
(χάρισμα)--not, be it understood, a private favour, but a blessing and
a power capacitating him for further service to the Church. Those who
have lived through his straits and his triumphs with him in their
prayers know how true that is.

At this point (ver. 12) the key in which Paul writes begins to change.
We are conscious of a slight discord the instant he speaks about the
testimony of his conscience. Yet the transition is as unforced as any
such transition can be. I may well take for granted, seems to be the
thought in his mind, that you pray for me; I may well ask you to unite
with me in thanks to God for my deliverance; for if there is one thing
I am sure of, and proud of, it is that I have been a loyal minister of
God in the world, and especially to you. Fleshly wisdom has not been
my guide. I have used no worldly policy; I have sought no selfish
ends. In a holiness and sincerity which God bestows, in an element of
crystal transparency, I have led my apostolic life. The world has
never convicted me of anything dark or underhand; and in all the world
none know better than you, among whom I lived longer than elsewhere,
working with my hands, and preaching the Gospel as freely as God
offers it, that I have walked in the light as He is in the light.

This general defence, which is not without its note of defiance,
becomes defined in ver. 13. Plainly charges of insincerity had been
made against Paul, particularly affecting his correspondence, and it
is to these he addresses himself. It is not easy to be outspoken and
conciliatory in the same sentence, to show your indignation to the man
who charges you with double-dealing, and at the same time take him to
your heart; and the Apostle's effort to do all these things at once
has proved embarrassing to himself, and more than embarrassing to his
interpreters. He begins, indeed, lucidly enough. "We write nothing
else to you than what you read." He does not mean that he had no
correspondence with members of the Church except in his public
epistles; but that in these public epistles his meaning was obvious
and on the surface. His style was not, as some had hinted, obscure,
tortuous, elaborately ambiguous, full of loop-holes; he wrote like a
plain man to plain men; he said what he meant, and meant what he said.
Then he qualifies this slightly. "We write nothing to you but what you
read--or in point of fact acknowledge," even apart from our writing.
This seems to me the simplest interpretation of the words ἢ καὶ
ἐπιγινώσκετε; and the simplest construction is then that of Hofmann,
who puts a colon at ἐπιγινώσκετε, and with ἐλπίζω δὲ begins what is
virtually a separate sentence. "And I hope that to the end ye will
acknowledge, as in fact you acknowledged us in part, that we are your
boast, as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus." Other
possibilities of punctuation and construction are so numerous that it
would be endless to exhibit them; and in the long-run they do not much
affect the sense. What the reader has to seize is that Paul has been
accused of insincerity, especially in his correspondence, and that he
indignantly denies the charge; that, in spite of such accusations, he
can point to at least a partial recognition among the Corinthians of
what he and his fellow-workers really are; and that he hopes their
confidence in him will increase and continue to the end. Should this
bright hope be gratified, then in the day of the Lord Jesus it will be
the boast of the Corinthians that they had the great Apostle Paul as
their spiritual father, and the boast of the Apostle that the
Corinthians were his spiritual children.

A passage like this--and there are many like it in St. Paul--has
something in it humiliating. Is it not a disgrace to human nature that
a man so open, so truthful, so brave, should be put to his defence on
a charge of underhand dealing? Ought not somebody to have been deeply
ashamed, for bringing this shame on the Apostle? Let us be very
careful how we lend motives, especially to men whom we know to be
better than ourselves. There is that in all our hearts which is
hostile to them, and would not be grieved to see them degraded a
little; and it is that, and nothing else, which supplies bad motives
for their good actions, and puts an ambiguous face on their simplest
behaviour. "Deceit," says Solomon, "is in the heart of them that
imagine evil"; it is our own selves that we condemn most surely when
we pass our bad sentence upon others.

The immediate result of imputing motives, and putting a sinister
interpretation on actions, is that mutual confidence is destroyed; and
mutual confidence is the very element and atmosphere in which any
spiritual good can be done. Unless a minister and his congregation
recognise each other as in the main what they profess to be, their
relation is destitute of spiritual reality; it may be an infinite
weariness, or an infinite torment; it can never be a comfort or a
delight on one side or the other. What would a family be, without the
mutual confidence of husband and wife, of parents and children? What
is a state worth, for any of the ideal ends for which a state exists,
if those who represent it to the world have no instinctive sympathy
with the general life, and if the collective conscience regards the
leaders from a distance with dislike or distrust? And what is the
pastoral relation worth, if, instead of mutual cordiality, openness,
readiness to believe and to hope the best, instead of mutual
intercession and thanksgiving, of mutual rejoicing in each other,
there is suspicion, reserve, insinuation, coldness, a grudging
recognition of what it is impossible to deny, a willingness to shake
the head and to make mischief? What an experience of life we see, what
a final appreciation of the best thing, in that utterance of St. John
in extreme age: "Beloved, let us love one another." All that is good
for us, all glory and joy, is summarily comprehended in that.

The last words of the text--"the day of the Lord Jesus"--recall a very
similar passage in 1 Thess. ii. 19: "What is our hope, or joy, or crown
of rejoicing--is it not even ye--before our Lord Jesus at His coming?"
In both cases our minds are lifted to that great presence in which St.
Paul habitually lived; and as we stand there our disagreements sink into
their true proportions; our judgments of each other are seen in their
true colours. No one will rejoice then that he has made evil out of
good, that he has cunningly perverted simple actions, that he has
discovered the infirmities of preachers, or set the saints at variance;
the joy will be for those who have loved and trusted each other, who
have borne each other's faults and laboured for their healing, who have
believed all things, hoped all things, endured all things, rather than
be parted from each other by any failure of love. The mutual confidence
of Christian ministers and Christian people will then, after all its
trials, have its exceeding great reward.


[4] Notice the perfect ἐσχήκαμεν. We _had_ this experience, and in its
fruit--a newer and deeper faith in God--we _have_ it still. It is a
permanent possession in this happy form. The same idea is expressed in
the pft. ἠλπίκαμεν, ver. 10.

[5] The doubtful words here are καὶ ῥύεται in ver. 10 of the Received
Text, from D^C, E, F, G, K, etc. ("_and doth deliver_," in the
Authorised Version). They are not found in A, D, Syr., Chrys., while the
most authoritative MSS., א, B, C, P, have καὶ ῥύσεται ("and _will_
deliver," of the Revised Version). Most editors take the last reading,
as best attested; but on internal grounds two of the most recent and
acute interpreters, Schmiedel and Heinrici, prefer the Received Text.
The present tense ("_doth_ deliver") presupposes that the danger to
which Paul had been exposed in some form or in some sense continued. If
this were the case, of course it could not have been, as Hofmann
supposes, the shipwreck in which the Apostle spent a night and a day in
the deep. Otherwise this would be a plausible and tempting supposition.

[6] To render διὰ πολλῶν _prolixe_, copiously, is at least precarious;
and to take πρόσωπα as "faces" ("that from many faces upturned in
prayer to God"), though lexically admissible, seems on all other
grounds out of place.


                     _THE CHURCH'S ONE FOUNDATION_

    "And in this confidence I was minded to come before unto you, that
    ye might have a second benefit; and by you to pass into Macedonia,
    and again from Macedonia to come unto you, and of you to be set
    forward on my journey unto Judæa. When I therefore was thus minded,
    did I show fickleness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose
    according to the flesh, that with me there should be the yea yea and
    the nay nay? But as God is faithful, our word toward you is not yea
    and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among
    you by us, _even_ by me and Silvanus and Timothy, was not yea and
    nay, but in Him is yea. For how many soever be the promises of God,
    in Him is the yea: wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the
    glory of God through us."--2 COR. i. 15-20 (R.V.).

The emphatic words in the first sentence are "in this confidence." All
the Apostle's plans for visiting Corinth, both in general and in their
details, depended upon the maintenance of a good understanding between
himself and the Church; and the very prominence here given to this
condition is a tacit accusation of those whose conduct had destroyed
his confidence. When he intimated his intention of visiting them,
according to the programme of vv. 15 and 16, he had felt sure of a
friendly welcome, and of the cordial recognition of his apostolic
authority; it was only when that assurance was taken away from him by
news of what was being said and done at Corinth, that he had changed
his plan. He had originally intended to go from Ephesus to Corinth,
then from Corinth north into Macedonia, then back to Corinth again,
and thence, with the assistance of the Corinthians, or their convoy
for part of the way, to Jerusalem. Had this purpose been carried out,
he would of course have been twice in Corinth, and it is to this that
most scholars refer the words "a second benefit,"[7] or rather
"grace." This reference, indeed, is not quite certain; and it cannot
be proved, though it is made more probable, by using πρότερον and
δευτέραν to interpret each other. It remains possible that when Paul
said, "I was minded to come before unto you, that ye might have a
second benefit," he was thinking of his original visit as the first,
and of this purposed one as the second, "grace." This reading of his
words has commended itself to scholars like Calvin, Bengel, and
Heinrici. Whichever of these interpretations be correct, the Apostle
had abandoned his purpose of going from Ephesus to Macedonia _viâ_
Corinth, and had intimated in the First Epistle (chap. xvi. 5) his
intention of reaching Corinth _viâ_ Macedonia. This change of purpose
is not sufficient to explain what follows. Unless there had been at
Corinth a great deal of bad feeling, it would have passed without
remark, as a thing which had no doubt good reasons, though the
Corinthians were ignorant of them; at the very most, it would have
called forth expressions of disappointment and regret. They would have
been sorry that the benefit (χάρις), the token of Divine favour which
was always bestowed when the Apostle came "in the fulness of the
blessing of Christ," and "longing to impart some spiritual gift," had
been delayed; but they would have acquiesced as in any other natural
disappointment. But this was not what took place. They used the
Apostle's change of purpose to assail his character. They charged him
with "lightness," with worthless levity. They called him a
weathercock, a Yes and No man, who said now one thing and now the
opposite, who said both at once and with equal emphasis, who had his
own interests in view in his fickleness, and whose word, to speak
plainly, could never be depended upon.

The responsibility for the change of plan has already, in the emphatic
ταύτῃ τῇ πεποιθήσει, been indirectly transferred to his accusers; but
the Apostle stoops to answer them quite straightforwardly. His answer is
indeed a challenge: "When I cherished that first wish to visit you,
_was_ I--dare you say I was--guilty of the levity with which you charge
me? Or--to enlarge the question, and, seeing that my whole character is
attacked, to bring my character as a whole into the discussion--the
things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me
there should be the yea yea and the nay nay?" Am I, he seems to say, in
my character and conduct, like a shifty, unprincipled politician--a man
who has no convictions, or no conscience about his convictions--a man
who is guided, not by any higher spirit dwelling in him, but solely by
considerations of selfish interest? Do I say things out of mere
compliment, not meaning them? When I make promises, or announce
intentions, is it always with the tacit reservation that they may be
cancelled if they turn out inconvenient? Do you suppose that I
_purposely_ represent myself (ἵνα ᾖ παρ' ἐμοί) as a man who affirms and
denies, makes promises and breaks them, has Yes yes and No no dwelling
side by side in his soul?[8] You know me far better than to suppose any
such thing. All my communications with you have been inconsistent with
such a view of my character. As God is faithful, our word to you is not
Yes and No. It is not incoherent, or equivocal, or self-contradictory.
It is entirely truthful and self-consistent.

In this eighteenth verse the Apostle's mind is reaching out already to
what he is going to make his real defence, and ὁ λόγος ἡμῶν ("our word")
therefore carries a double weight. It covers at once whatever he had
said to them about the proposed journey, and whatever he had said in his
evangelistic ministry at Corinth. It is this latter sense of it that is
continued in ver. 19: "For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was
preached among you by us, by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not Yes
and No, but in him Yes has found place. For how many soever are the
promises of God, in Him is the Yes." Let us notice first the
argumentative force of this. Paul is engaged in vindicating his
character, and especially in maintaining his truthfulness and sincerity.
How does he do so here? His unspoken assumption is, that character is
determined by the main interest of life; that the work to which a man
gives his soul will react upon the soul, changing it into its own
likeness. As the dyer's hand is subdued to the element it works in, so
was the whole being of Paul--such is the argument--subdued to the
element in which he wrought, conformed to it, impregnated by it. And
what was that element? It was the Gospel concerning God's Son, Jesus
Christ. Was there any dubiety about what that was? any equivocal mixture
of Yes and No there? Far from it. Paul was so certain of what it was
that he repeatedly and solemnly anathematised man or angel who should
venture to qualify, let alone deny it. There is no mixture of Yes and No
in Christ. As the Apostle says elsewhere (Rom. xv. 8), Jesus Christ was
a minister of the circumcision "_in the interest of the truth of God,
with a view to the confirmation of the promises_." However many the
promises might be, in Him a mighty affirmation, a mighty fulfilment, was
given of every one. The ministry of the Gospel has this, then, as its
very subject, its constant preoccupation, its highest glory--the
absolute faithfulness of God. Who would venture to assert that Paul, or
that anybody,[9] could catch the trick of equivocation in such a
service? Who does not see that such a service must needs create true

To this argument there is, for the natural man, a ready answer. It by
no means follows, he will say, that because the Gospel is devoid of
ambiguity or inconsistency, equivocation and insincerity must be
unknown to its preachers. A man may proclaim the true Gospel and in
his other dealings be far from a true man. Experience justifies this
reply; and yet it does not invalidate Paul's argument. That argument
is good for the case in which it is applied. It might be _repeated_ by
a hypocrite, but no hypocrite could ever have _invented_ it. It bears,
indeed, a striking because an unintentional testimony to the height at
which Paul habitually lived, and to his unqualified identification of
himself with his apostolic calling. If a man has ten interests in
life, more or less divergent, he may have as many inconsistencies in
his behaviour; but if he has said with St. Paul, "This one thing I
do," and if the one thing which absorbs his very soul is an unceasing
testimony to the truth and faithfulness of God, then it is utterly
incredible that he should be a false and faithless man. The work which
claims him for its own with this absolute authority will seal him with
its own greatness, its own simplicity and truth. He will not use
levity. The things which he purposes, he will not purpose according to
the flesh. He will not be guided by considerations perpetually
varying, except in the point of being all alike selfish. He will not
be a Yes and No man, whom nobody can trust.

The argumentative force of the passage being admitted, its doctrinal
import deserves attention. The Gospel--which is identified with God's
Son, Jesus Christ--is here described as a mighty affirmation. It is
not Yes and No, a message full of inconsistencies, or ambiguities, a
proclamation the sense of which no one can ever be sure he has
grasped. In it (ἐν αὐτῷ means "in Christ") the everlasting Yea has
found place. The perfect tense (γέγονεν) means that this grand
affirmation has come to us, and is with us, for good and all. What it
was and continued to be in Paul's time, it is to this day. It is in
this positive, definite, unmistakable character that the strength of
the Gospel lies. What a man cannot know, cannot seize, cannot tell, he
cannot preach. The refutation of popular errors, even in theology, is
not gospel; the criticism of traditional theories, even about
Scripture, is not gospel; the intellectual "economy," with which a
clever man in a dubious position uses language about the Bible or its
doctrines which to the simple means Yes, and to the subtle qualifies
the Yes enormously, is not gospel. There is no strength in any of
these things. Dealing in them does not make character simple, sincere,
massive, Christian. When they stamp themselves on the soul, the result
is not one to which we could make the appeal which Paul makes here. If
we have any gospel at all, it is because there are things which stand
for us above all doubts, truths so sure that we cannot question them,
so absolute that we cannot qualify them, so much our life that to
tamper with them is to touch our very heart. Nobody has any right to
preach who has not mighty affirmations to make concerning God's Son,
Jesus Christ--affirmations in which there is no ambiguity, and which
no questioning can reach.

In the Apostle's mind a particular turn is given to this thought by
its connexion with the Old Testament. In Christ, he says, the Yes has
been realised; for how many soever are the promises of God, in Him is
the Yes. The mode of expression is rather peculiar, but the meaning is
quite plain. Is there a single word of good, Paul asks, that God has
ever spoken concerning man? Then that word is reaffirmed, it is
confirmed, it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It is no longer a word,
but an actual gift to men, which they may take hold of and possess. Of
course when Paul says "how many soever are the promises," he is
thinking of the Old Testament. It was there the promises stood in
God's name; and hence he tells us in this passage that Christ is the
fulfilment of the Old Testament; in Him God has kept His word given to
the fathers. All that the holy men of old were bidden to hope for, as
the Spirit spoke through them in many parts and in many ways, is given
to the world at last: he who has God's Son, Jesus Christ, has all God
has promised, and all He can give.

There are two opposite ways of looking at the Old Testament with which
this apostolic teaching is inconsistent, and which, by anticipation,
it condemns.

There is the opinion of those who say that God's promises to His
people in the Old Testament have not been fulfilled, and never will
be. That is the opinion held by many among the modern Jews, who have
renounced all that was most characteristic in the religion of their
fathers, and attenuated it into the merest deistical film of a creed.
It is the opinion also of many who study the Bible as a piece of
literary antiquity, but get to no perception of the life which is in
it, or of the organic connexion between the Old Testament and the New.
What the Apostle says of his countrymen in his own time is true of
both these classes--when they read the Scriptures, there is a veil
upon their hearts. The Old Testament promises have been fulfilled,
every one of them. Let a man be taught what they mean, not as dead
letters in an ancient scroll, but as present words of the living God;
and then let him look to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and see whether
there is not in Him the mighty, the perpetual confirmation of them
all. We smile sometimes at what seems the whimsical way in which the
early Christians, who had not yet a New Testament, found Christ
everywhere in the Old; but though it may be possible to err in detail
in this pursuit, it is not possible to err on the whole. The Old
Testament is gathered up, every living word of it, in Him; we are
misunderstanding it if we take it otherwise.

The opinion just described is a species of rationalism. There is another
opinion, which, while agreeing with the rationalistic one that many of
God's promises in the Old Testament have not yet been fulfilled,
believes that their fulfilment is still to be awaited. If one might do
so without offence, I should call this a species of fanaticism. It is
the error of those who take the Jewish nation as such to be the subject
of prophecy, and hope for its restoration to Palestine, for a revived
Jerusalem, a new Davidic monarchy, even a reign of Christ over such an
earthly kingdom. All this, if we may take the Apostle's word for it, is
beside the mark. Equally with rationalism it loses the spirit of God's
word in the letter. The promises have been fulfilled already, and we are
not to look for another fulfilment. Those who have seen Christ have seen
all that God is going to do--and it is quite adequate--to make His word
good. He who has welcomed Christ knows that not one good word of all
that God has spoken has failed. God has never, by the promises of the
Old Testament, or by the instincts of human nature, put a hope or a
prayer into man's heart that is not answered and satisfied abundantly in
His Son.

But leaving the reference to the Old Testament on one side, it is well
worth while for us to consider the practical meaning of the truth, that
_all_ God's promises are Yea in Christ. God's promises are His
declarations of what He is willing to do for men; and in the very nature
of the case they are at once the inspiration and the limit of our
prayers. We are encouraged to ask all that God promises, and we must
stop there. Christ Himself then is the measure of prayer to man; we can
ask all that is in Him; we dare not ask anything that lies outside of
Him. How the consideration of this should expand our prayers in some
directions, and contract them in others! We can ask God to give us
Christ's purity, Christ's simplicity, Christ's meekness and gentleness,
Christ's faithfulness and obedience, Christ's victory over the world.
Have we ever measured these things? Have we ever put them into our
prayers with any glimmering consciousness of their dimensions, any sense
of the vastness of our request? Nay, we can ask Christ's glory, His
Resurrection Life of splendour and incorruption--the image of the
heavenly. God has promised us all these things, and far more: but has He
always promised what we ask? Can we fix our eyes on His Son, as He lived
our life in this world, and remembering that this, so far as this world
is concerned, is the measure of promise, ask without any qualification
that our course here may be free from every trouble? Had Christ no
sorrow? Did He never meet with ingratitude? Was He never misunderstood?
Was He never hungry, thirsty, weary? If all God's promises are summed up
in Him--if He is everything that God has to give--can we go boldly to
the throne of grace, and pray to be exempted from what He had to bear,
or to be richly provided with indulgences which He never knew? What if
all unanswered prayers might be defined as prayers for things not
included in the promises--prayers that we might get what Christ did not
get, or be spared what He was not spared? The spirit of this passage,
however, does not urge so much the definiteness as the compass and the
certainty of the promises of God. They are so many that Paul could never
enumerate them, and all of them are sure in Christ. And when our eyes
are once opened on Him, does not He Himself become as it were inevitably
the substance of our prayers? Is not our whole heart's desire, Oh that I
might win _Him_! Oh that _He_ might live in me, and make me what He is!
Oh that _that_ Man might arise in me, that the man I am may cease to be!
Do we not feel that if God would give us His Son, all would be ours that
we could take or He could give?

It is in this mood--with the consciousness, I mean, that in Jesus
Christ the sure promises of God are inconceivably rich and good--that
the Apostle adds: "wherefore also through Him is the Amen." It is not
easy to put a prayer into words, whether of petition or thanksgiving,
for men are not much in the habit of speaking to God; but it is easy
to say Amen. That is the part of the Church when God's Son, Jesus
Christ, is proclaimed, clothed in His Gospel. Apart from the Gospel,
we do not know God, or what He will do, or will not do, for sinful
men; but as we listen to the proclamation of His mercy and His
faithfulness, as our eyes are opened to see in His Son all He has
promised to do for us, nay, in a sense, all He has already done, our
grateful hearts break forth in one grand responsive Amen! So let it
be! we cry. Unless God had first prompted us by sending His Son, we
could never have found it in our hearts to present such requests to
Him; but through Christ we are enabled to present them, though it
should be at first with only a look at Him, and an appropriating Amen.
It is the very nature of prayer, indeed, to be the answer to promise.
Amen is all, at bottom, that God leaves for us to say.

The solemn acceptance of a mercy so great--an acceptance as joyful as
it is solemn, since the Amen is one rising out of thankful
hearts--redounds to the glory of God. This is the final cause of
redemption, and however it may be lost sight of in theologies which
make man their centre, it is always magnified in the New Testament.
The Apostle rejoices that his ministry and that of his friends (δι'
ἡμῶν) contributes to this glory; and the whole connexion of thought in
the passage throws a light on a great Bible word. God's glory is
identified here with the recognition and appropriation by men of His
goodness and faithfulness in Jesus Christ. He is glorified when it
dawns on human souls that He has spoken good concerning them beyond
their utmost imaginings, and when that good is seen to be indubitably
safe and sure in His Son. The Amen in which such souls welcome His
mercy is the equivalent of the Old Testament word, "Salvation is of
the Lord." It is expanded in an apostolic doxology: "Of Him, and
through Him, and to Him are all things: to Him be glory for ever."


[7] For χάριν, (benefit) א^C, B, L, P, have χαράν (joy.) Though
Westcott and Hort put this in the text, and χάριν in the margin, most
scholars are agreed that χάριν is the Apostle's word, and χαράν a slip
or a correction.

[8] Mention may be made here of another interpretation of ver. 17,
modifications of which recur from Chrysostom to Hofmann. In substance
it is this: "The things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the
flesh (_i.e._, with the stubborn consistency of a proud man, who
disposes as well as proposes), that with _me_ (ἐμοί emphatic: _me_, as
if _I_ were God, always to do what I would like to do) the Yes should
be yes, and the No, no--_i.e._, every promise inviolably kept?" This
is grammatically quite good, but contextually impossible.

[9] According to Schmiedel, in the words δι' ἡμῶν ... δι' ἐμοῦ καὶ
Σιλουανοῦ καὶ Τιμοθέου we ought to discover an emphatic reference, by
way of contrast, to Judaising opponents of Paul in Corinth. These are
said to have brought _another_ Jesus (xi. 4), who was _notì_ God's
ἴδιος υἱὸς in Paul's sense (Rom. viii. 32), and in whom there _was_
Yea and Nay--namely, the confirmation of the promises to the Jews or
those who became Jews to receive them, and the refusal of the promises
to the Gentiles as such. It needs a keen scent to discover this, and
as the Corinthians read without a commentator it would probably be
thrown away upon them.


                         _CHRISTIAN MYSTERIES_

    "Now He that stablisheth us with you in Christ, and anointed us,
    is God; who also sealed us, and gave _us_ the earnest of the
    Spirit in our hearts."--2 COR. i. 21, 22 (R.V.).

It is not easy to show the precise connexion between these words and
those which immediately precede. Possibly it is emotional, rather than
logical. The Apostle's heart swells as he contemplates in the Gospel
the goodness and faithfulness of God; and though his argument is
complete when he has exhibited the Gospel in that light, his mind
dwells upon it involuntarily, past the mere point of proof; he lingers
over the wonderful experience which Christians have of the rich and
sure mercies. Those who try to make out a more precise sequence of
thought than this are not very successful. Of course it is apparent
that the keynote of the passage is in harmony with that of the
previous verses. The ideas of "stablishing," of "sealing," and of an
"earnest," are all of one family; they are all, as it were, variations
of the one mighty _affirmation_ which has been made of God's promises
in Christ. From this point of view they have an argumentative value.
They suggest that God, in all sorts of ways, makes believers as sure
of the Gospel, and as constant to it, as He has made it sure and
certain to them; and thus they exclude more decisively than ever the
idea that the minister of the Gospel can be a man of Yes and No. But
though this is true, it fails to do justice to the word on which the
emphasis falls--namely, God. This, according to some interpreters, is
done, if we suppose the whole passage to be, in the first instance, a
disclaimer of any false inference which might be drawn from the words,
"to the glory of God _by us_." "By us," Paul writes; for it was
through the apostolic preaching that men were led to receive the
Gospel, to look at God's promises, confirmed in Christ, with an
appropriating Amen to His glory; but he hastens to add that it was God
himself whose grace in its various workings was the beginning, middle,
and end both of their faith and of their preaching. This seems to me
rather artificial, and I do not think more than a connexion in
sentiment, rather than in argument, can be insisted upon.

But setting this question aside, the interpretation of the two verses
is of much interest. They contain some of the most peculiar and
characteristic words of the New Testament--words to which, it is to be
feared, many readers attach no very distinct idea. The simplest plan
is to take the assertions one by one, as if God were the subject.
Grammatically this is incorrect, for Θεός is certainly the predicate;
but for the elucidation of the meaning this may be disregarded.

(1) First of all, then, God confirms us into Christ. "Us," of course,
means St. Paul and the preachers whom he associates with
himself,--Silas and Timothy. But when he adds "with you," he includes
the Corinthians also, and all believers. He does not claim for himself
any stedfastness in Christ, or any trustworthiness as dependent upon
it, which he would on principle refuse to others. God, who makes His
promises sure to those who receive them, gives those who receive them
a firm grasp of the promises. Christ is here, with all the wealth of
grace in Him, indubitable, unmistakable; and what God has done on that
side, He does on the other also. He confirms believers into Christ. He
makes their attachment to Christ, their possession of Him, a thing
indubitable and irreversible. Salvation, to use the words of St. John,
is true _in Him and in them_; in them, so far as God's purpose and
work go, as much as in Him. He who is confirmed into Christ is in
principle as trustworthy, as absolutely to be depended upon, as Christ
Himself. The same character of pure truth is common to them both.
Christ's existence as the Saviour, in whom all God's promises are
guaranteed, and Paul's existence as a saved man with a sure grasp on
all these promises, are alike proofs that God is faithful; the truth
of God stands behind them both. It is to this that the appeal of vv.
15-20 is virtually made; it is this in the long-run which is called in
question when the trustworthiness of Paul is impeached.

All this, it may be said, is ideal; but in what sense is it so? Not in
the sense that it is fanciful or unreal; but in the sense that the
divine law of our life, and the divine action upon our life, are
represented in it. It is our calling as Christian people to be
stedfast in Christ. Such stedfastness God is ever seeking to impart,
and in striving to attain to it we can always appeal to Him for help.
It is the opposite of instability; in a special sense it is the
opposite of untrustworthiness. If we are letting God have His way with
us in this respect, we are persons who can always be depended upon,
and depended upon for conduct in keeping with the goodness and
faithfulness of God, into which we have been confirmed by Him.

(2) From this general truth, with its application to all believers, the
Apostle passes to another of more limited range. By including the
Corinthians with himself in the first clause, he virtually excludes them
in the second--"God anointed us." It is true that the New Testament
speaks of an anointing which is common to all believers--"_Ye_ have an
anointing from the Holy One; ye all know" (1 John ii. 20): but here, on
the contrary, something special is meant. This can only be the
consecration of Paul, and of those for whom he speaks, to the apostolic
or evangelistic ministry. It is worth noticing that in the New Testament
the act of anointing is never ascribed to any one but God. The only
unction which qualifies for service in the Christian dispensation, or
which confers dignity in the Christian community, is the unction from on
high. "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with
power," and it is the participation in this great anointing which
capacitates any one to work in the Gospel.[10] Paul undoubtedly claimed,
in virtue of his divine call to apostleship, a peculiar authority in the
Church; but we cannot define any peculiarity in his possession of the
Spirit. The great gift which must be held in some sense by all
Christians--"for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of
His"--was in him intensified, or specialised, for the work he had to do.
But it is one Spirit in him and in us, and that is why we do not find
the exercise of his authority alien or galling. It is authority
divorced from "unction"--authority without this divine
qualification--against which the Christian spirit rebels. And though
"unction" cannot be defined; though no material guarantee can be given
or taken for the possession of the Spirit; though a merely historical
succession is, so far as this spiritual competence and dignity are
concerned, a mere irrelevance; though, as Vinet said, we think of
unction rather when it is absent than when it is present,--still, the
thing itself is recognisable enough. It bears witness to itself, as
light does; it carries its own authority, its own dignity, with it; it
is the _ultima ratio_, the last court of appeal, in the Christian
community. It may be that Paul is preparing already, by this reference
to his commission, for the bolder assertion of his authority at a later

(3) These two actions of God, however--the establishing of believers
in Christ, which goes on continually (βεβαιῶν), and the consecration
of Paul to the apostleship, which was accomplished once for all
(χρίσας)--go back to prior actions, in which, again, all believers
have an interest. They have a common basis in the great deeds of grace
in which the Christian life began. God, he says, is He who also sealed
us, and gave the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

"He also sealed us." It seems strange that so figurative a word should
be used without a hint of explanation, and we must assume that it was
so familiar in the Church that the right application could be taken
for granted. The middle voice (σφραγισάμενος) makes it certain that
the main idea is, "He marked us as His own." This is the sense in
which the word is frequently used in the Book of Revelation: the
servants of God are sealed on their foreheads, that they may be
recognised as His. But what is the seal? Under the Old Testament, the
mark which God set upon His people--the covenant sign by which they
were identified as His--was circumcision. Under the New Testament,
where everything carnal has passed away, and religious materialism is
abolished, the sign is no longer in the body; we are sealed with the
Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. i. 13 f.). But the past tense ("He
_sealed_ us"), and its recurrence in Eph. i. 13 ("ye _were_ sealed"),
suggest a very definite reference of this word, and beyond doubt it
alludes to baptism. In the New Testament, baptism and the giving of
the Holy Spirit are regularly connected with each other. Christians
are born of water and of the Spirit. "Repent," is the earliest
preaching of the Gospel (Acts ii. 38), "and be baptised every one of
you, ... and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." In early
Christian writers the use of the word "seal" (σφραγίς) as a technical
term for baptism is practically universal; and when we combine this
practice with the New Testament usage in question, the inference is
inevitable. God puts His _seal_ upon us, He _marks_ us as His own,
when we are baptised.[11]

But the seal is not baptism as a ceremonial act. It is neither
immersion nor sprinkling nor any other mode of lustration which marks
us out as God's. The seal by which "the Lord knoweth them that are
His" is His Spirit; it is the impress of His Spirit upon them. When
that impress can be traced upon our souls, by Him, or by us, or by
others, then we have the witness in ourselves; the Spirit bears
witness with our spirits that we are children of God.

But of all words "spirit" is the vaguest; and if we had nothing but
the word itself to guide us, we should either lapse into superstitious
ideas about the virtue of the sacrament, or into fanatical ideas about
incommunicable inward experiences in which God marked us for His own.
The New Testament provides us with a more excellent way than either;
it gives the word "spirit" a rich but definite moral content; it
compels us, if we say we have been sealed with the Spirit, and claimed
by God as His, to exhibit the distinguishing features of those who are
His. "The Lord is the Spirit" (2 Cor. iii. 17). To be sealed with the
Spirit is to bear, in however imperfect a degree, in however
inconspicuous a style, the image of the heavenly man, the likeness of
Jesus Christ. There are many passages in his Epistles in which St.
Paul enlarges on the work of the Spirit in the soul; all the various
dispositions which it creates, all the fruits of the Spirit, may be
conceived as different parts of the impression made by the seal. We
must think of these in detail, if we wish to give the word its
meaning; we must think of them in contrast with the unspiritual
nature, if we wish to give it any edge. Once, say, we walked in the
lusts of the flesh: has Christ redeemed us, and set on our souls and
our bodies the seal of His purity? Once we were hot and passionate,
given to angry words and hasty, intemperate deeds: are we sealed now
with the meekness and gentleness of Jesus? Once we were grasping and
covetous, even to the verge of dishonesty; we could not let money pass
us, and we could not part with it: have we been sealed with the
liberality of Him who says, "It is more blessed to give than to
receive"? Once a wrong rankled in our hearts; the sun went down upon
our wrath, not once or twice, but a thousand times, and found it as
implacable as ever: is that deep brand of vindictiveness effaced now,
and in its stead imprinted deep the Cross of Christ, where He loved
us, and gave Himself for us, and prayed, "Father, forgive them"? Once
our conversation was corrupt; it had a taint in it; it startled and
betrayed the innocent; it was vile and foolish and unseemly: are these
things of the past now? and has Christ set upon our lips the seal of
His own grace and truth, of His own purity and love, so that every
word we speak is good, and brings blessing to those who hear us? These
things, and such as these, are the seal of the Spirit. They are Christ
in us. They are the stamp which God sets upon men when He exhibits
them as His own.

The seal, however, has another use than that of marking and identifying
property. It is a symbol of assurance. It is the answer to a challenge.
It is in this sense that it is easiest to apply the figure to baptism.
Baptism does not, indeed, carry with it the actual possession of all
these spiritual features; it is not even, as an _opus operatum_, the
implanting of them in the soul; but it is a divine pledge that they are
within our reach; we can appeal to it as an assurance that God has come
to us in His grace, has claimed us as His own, and is willing to
conform us to the image of His Son. In this sense, it is legitimate and
natural to call it God's seal upon His people.

(4) Side by side with "He sealed us," the Apostle writes, "He gave the
earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." After what has been said, it is
obvious that this is another aspect of the same thing. We are sealed
with the Spirit, and we get the earnest of the Spirit. In other words,
the Spirit is viewed in two characters: first, as a seal; and then as
an earnest. This last word has a very ancient history. It is found in
the Book of Genesis (xxxviii. 18: עֵרָבוׄן), and was carried, no
doubt, by Phœnician traders, who had much occasion to use it, both to
Greece and Italy. From the classical peoples it has come more or less
directly to us. It means properly a small sum of money paid to clench
a bargain, or to ratify an engagement. Where there is an earnest,
there is more to follow, and more of essentially the same kind--that
is what it signifies. Let us apply this now to the expression of St.
Paul, "the earnest of the Spirit." It means, we must see, that in the
gift of this Spirit, in that measure in which we now possess it, God
has not given all He has to give. On the contrary, He has come under
an obligation to give more: what we have now is but "the firstfruits
of the Spirit" (Rom. viii. 23). It is an indication and a pledge of
what is yet to be, but bears no proportion to it. All we can say on
the basis of this text is, that between the present and the future
gift--between the earnest and that which it guarantees--there must be
some kind of congruity, some affinity which makes the one a natural
and not an arbitrary reason for believing in the other.

But the Corinthians were not limited to this text. They had St. Paul's
general teaching in their minds to interpret it by; and if we wish to
know what it meant even for them, we must fill out this vague idea with
what the Apostle tells us elsewhere. Thus in the great text in Ephesians
(i. 13 f.), so often referred to, he speaks of the Holy Spirit with
which we were sealed as the earnest _of our inheritance_. God has an
"inheritance" in store for us. His Spirit makes us sons; and if sons,
then heirs; heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ. This connexion of the
Spirit, sonship, and inheritance, is constant in St. Paul; it is one of
his most characteristic combinations. What then _is_ the inheritance of
which the Spirit is the earnest? That no one can tell. "Eye hath not
seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the
things that God hath prepared for them that love Him." But though we
cannot tell more precisely, we can say that if the Spirit is the earnest
of it, it must be in some sense a development of the Spirit; life in an
order of being which matches the Spirit, and for which the Spirit
qualifies. If we say it is "glory," then we must remember that only
Christ in us (the seal of the Spirit) can be _the hope_ of glory.

The application of this can be made very plain. Our whole life in this
world looks to some future, however near or bounded it may be; and
every power we perfect, every capacity we acquire, every disposition
and spirit we foster, is an earnest of something in that future. Here
is a man who gives himself to the mastery of a trade. He acquires all
its skill, all its methods, all its resources. There is nothing any
tradesman can do that he cannot do as well or better. What is that the
earnest of? What does it ensure, and as it were put into his hand by
anticipation? It is the earnest of constant employment, of good
wages, of respect from fellow-workmen, perhaps of wealth. Here, again,
is a man with the scientific spirit. He is keenly inquisitive about
the facts and laws of the world in which we live. Everything is
interesting to him--astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, history.
What is this the earnest of? It is the earnest, probably, of
scientific achievements of some kind, of intellectual toils and
intellectual victories. This man will enter into the inheritance of
science; he will walk through the kingdoms of knowledge in the length
of them and the breadth of them, and will claim them as his own. And
so it is wherever we choose to take our illustrations. Every spirit
that dwells in us, and is cultivated and cherished by us, is an
_earnest_, because it fits and furnishes us for some particular thing.
_God's_ Spirit also is an earnest of an inheritance which is
incorruptible, undefiled, imperishable: can we assure ourselves that
we have anything in our souls which promises, because it matches with,
an inheritance like this? When we come to die, this will be a serious
question. The faculties of accumulation, of mechanical skill, of
scientific research, of trade on a great or a small scale, of
agreeable social intercourse, of comfortable domestic life, may have
been brought to perfection in us; but can we console ourselves with
the thought that _these_ have the earnest of immortality? Do they
qualify us for, and by qualifying assure us of, the incorruptible
kingdom? Or do we not see at once that a totally different equipment
is needed to make men at home there, and that nothing can be the
earnest of an eternal life of blessedness with God except that Holy
Spirit with which He seals His own, and through which He makes them,
even here, partakers of the divine nature?

We cannot study these words without becoming conscious of the immense
enlargement which the Christian religion has brought to the human
mind, of the vast expansion of hope which is due to the Gospel, and at
the same time of the moral soundness and sobriety with which that hope
is conceived. The promises of God were first really apprehended in
Jesus Christ; in Him as He lived and died and rose again from the
dead, in Him especially as He lives in immortal glory, men first saw
what God was able and willing to do for them, and they saw this in its
true relations. They saw it under its moral and spiritual conditions.
It was not a future unconnected with the present, or connected with it
in an arbitrary or incalculable way. It was a future which had its
earnest in the present, a guarantee not alien to it, but akin--the
Spirit of Christ implanted in the heart, the likeness of Christ sealed
upon the nature. The glorious inheritance was the inheritance, not of
strangers, but of sons; and it still becomes sure as the Spirit of
sonship is received, and fades into incredibility when that Spirit is
extinguished or depressed. If we could live in the Spirit with the
completeness of Christ, or even of St. Paul, we should feel that we
really had an earnest of immortality; the glory of heaven would be as
certain to us as the faithfulness of God to His promise.


[10] Observe the play on the words in βεβαιῶν εἰς Χ ρ ι σ τ ό ν and
Χ ρ ί σ α ς.

[11] When we consider the New Testament use of this idea (cf. Rom. iv.
11; Rev. vii. 2 ff.; Eph. i. 13 f., and this passage), and remember
that Paul and John can have had nothing to do with the Greek
mysteries, it will be apparent that to adduce the ecclesiastical use
of σφραγίς as a proof that the conceptions current in these mysteries
had a powerful influence from the earliest times on the Christian
conception of baptism is beside the mark. One of the earliest examples
outside the New Testament is in the Shepherd of Hermas, _Simil._,
viii. 6: οἱ πιστεύσαντες καὶ εἰληφότες τὴν σφραγῖδα καὶ τεθλακότες
αὐτὴν καὶ μὴ τηρήσαντες ὑγιῆ. This figure of _breaking the seal_, by
falling into sin and losing what baptism confers, is common. Sometimes
it is varied: "Keep the flesh pure, καὶ τὴν σφραγῖδα ἄσπιλον," in 2
Clem. viii. 6. This may be made to carry superstition, but there is
nothing superstitious or unscriptural in it to begin with.


                           _A PASTOR'S HEART_

    "But I call God for a witness upon my soul, that to spare you I
    forbare to come unto Corinth. Not that we have lordship over your
    faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand. But I
    determined this for myself, that I would not come again to you
    with sorrow. For if I make you sorry, who then is he that maketh
    me glad, but he that is made sorry by me? And I wrote this very
    thing, 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 out of much affliction and anguish of
    heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be made
    sorry, but that ye might know the love which I have more
    abundantly unto you."--2 COR. i. 23-ii. 4 (R.V.).

When Paul came to the end of the paragraph in which he defends himself
from the charge of levity and untrustworthiness by appealing to the
nature of the Gospel which he preached, he seems to have felt that it
was hardly sufficient for his purpose. It might be perfectly true that
the Gospel was one mighty affirmation, with no dubiety or
inconsistency about it; it might be as true that it was a supreme
testimony to the faithfulness of God; but bad men, or suspicious men,
would not admit that its character covered his. Their own
insincerities would keep them from understanding its power to change
its loyal ministers into its own likeness, and to stamp them with its
own simplicity and truth. The mere invention of the argument in vv.
18-20 is of itself the highest possible testimony to the ideal height
at which the Apostle lived; no man conscious of duplicity could ever
have had it occur to him. But it had the defect of being too good for
his purpose; the foolish and the false could see a triumphant reply to
it; and he leaves it for a solemn asseveration of the reason which
actually kept him from carrying out his first intention. "I call God
to witness against my soul, that sparing you I forbore to come[12] to
Corinth." The soul is the seat of life; he stakes his life, as it
were, in God's sight, upon the truth of his words. It was not
consideration for himself, in any selfish spirit, but consideration
for them, which explained his change of purpose. If he had carried out
his intention, and gone to Corinth, he would have had to do so, as he
says in 1 Cor. iv. 21, with a rod, and this would not have been
pleasant either for him or for them.

This is very plain--plain even to the dullest; the Apostle has no
sooner set it down than he feels it is too plain. "To spare us," he
hears the Corinthians say to themselves as they read: "who is he that
he should take this tone in speaking to us?" And so he hastens to
anticipate and deprecate their touchy criticism: "Not that we lord it
over your faith, but we are helpers of your joy; as far as faith is
concerned, your position, of course, is secure."

This is a very interesting aside; the digressions in St. Paul, as in
Plato, are sometimes more attractive than the arguments. It shows us,
for one thing, the freedom of the Christian faith. Those who have
received the Gospel have all the responsibilities of mature men; they
have come to their majority as spiritual beings; they are not, in
their character and standing as Christians, subject to arbitrary and
irresponsible interference on the part of others. Paul himself was the
great preacher of this spiritual emancipation: he gloried in the
liberty with which Christ made men free. For him the days of bondage
were over; there was no subjection for the Christian to any custom or
tradition of men, no enslavement of his conscience to the judgment or
the will of others, no coercion of the spirit except by itself. He had
great confidence in this Gospel and in its power to produce generous
and beautiful characters. That it was capable of perversion also he
knew very well. It was open to the infusion of self-will; in the
intoxication of freedom from arbitrary and unspiritual restraint, men
might forget that the believer was bound to be a law to himself, that
he was free, not in lawless self-will, but only in the Lord.
Nevertheless, the principle of freedom was too sacred to be tampered
with; it was necessary both for the education of the conscience and
for the enrichment of spiritual life with the most various and
independent types of goodness; and the Apostle took all the risks, and
all the inconveniences even, rather than limit it in the least.

This passage shows us one of the inconveniences. The newly
enfranchised are mightily sensible of their freedom, and it is
extremely difficult to tell them of their faults. At the very mention
of authority all that is bad in them, as well as all that is good, is
on the alert; and spiritual independence and the liberty of the
Christian people have been represented and defended again and again,
not only by an awful sense of responsibility to Christ, which lifts
the lowliest lives into supreme greatness, but by pride, bigotry,
moral insolence, and every bad passion. What is to be done in such
cases as these, where liberty has forgotten the law of Christ? It is
certainly not to be denied in principle: Paul, even with the peculiar
position of an apostle, and of the spiritual father of those to whom
he writes (1 Cor. iv. 15), does not claim such an authority over their
faith--that is, over the people themselves in their character of
believers--as a master has over his slaves. Their position as
Christians is secure; it is taken for granted by him as by them; and
this being so, no arbitrary _ipse dixit_ can settle anything in
dispute between them; he can issue no orders to the Church such as the
Roman Emperor could issue to his soldiers. He may appeal to them on
spiritual grounds; he may enlighten their consciences by interpreting
to them the law of Christ; he may try to reach them by praise or
blame; but simple compulsion is not one of his resources. If St. Paul
says this, occupying as he does a position which contains in itself a
natural authority which most ministers can never have, ought not all
official persons and classes in the Church to beware of the claims
they make for themselves? A clerical hierarchy, such as has been
developed and perfected in the Church of Rome, does lord it over
faith; it _legislates_ for the laity, both in faith and practice,
without their co-operation, or even their consent; it keeps the _cœtus
fidelium_, the mass of believing men, which _is_ the Church, in a
perpetual minority. All this, in a so-called apostolic succession, is
not only anti-apostolic, but anti-Christian. It is the confiscation of
Christian freedom; the keeping of believers in leading-strings all
their days, lest in their liberty they should go astray. In the
Protestant Churches, on the other hand, the danger on the whole is of
the opposite kind. We are too jealous of authority. We are too proud
of our own competence. We are too unwilling, individually, to be
taught and corrected. We resent, I will not say criticism, but the
most serious and loving voice which speaks to us to disapprove. Now
liberty, when it does not deepen the sense of responsibility to God
and to the brotherhood--and it does not always do so--is an anarchic
and disintegrating force. In all the Churches it exists, to some
extent, in this degraded form; and it is this which makes Christian
education difficult, and Church discipline often impossible. These are
serious evils, and we can only overcome them if we cultivate the sense
of responsibility at the same time that we maintain the principle of
liberty, remembering that it is those only of whom he says, "Ye were
bought with a price" (and are therefore Christ's slaves), to whom St.
Paul also gives the charge: "Be not ye slaves of men."

This passage not only illustrates the freedom of Christian faith, it
presents us with an ideal of the Christian ministry. "We are not lords
over your faith," says St. Paul, "but we are helpers of your joy." It
is implied in this that joy is the very end and element of the
Christian life, and that it is the minister's duty to be at war with
all that restrains it, and to co-operate in all that leads to it.
Here, one would say, is something in which all can agree: all human
souls long for joy, however much they may differ about the spheres of
law and liberty. But have not most Christian people, and most
Christian congregations, something here to accuse themselves of? Do
not many of us bear false witness against the Gospel on this very
point? Who that came into most churches, and looked at the
uninterested faces, and hearkened to the listless singing, would feel
that the soul of the religion, so languidly honoured, was mere
joy--joy unspeakable, if we trust the Apostles, and full of glory? It
is ingratitude which makes us forget this. We begin to grow blind to
the great things which lie at the basis of our faith; the love of God
in Jesus Christ--that love in which He died for us upon the
tree--begins to lose its newness and its wonder; we speak of it
without apprehension and without feeling; it does not make our hearts
burn within us any more; we have no joy in it. Yet we may be sure of
this--that we can have no joy without it. And he is our best friend,
the truest minister of God to us, who helps us to the place where the
love of God is poured out in our hearts in its omnipotence, and we
renew our joy in it. In doing so, it may be necessary for the minister
to cause pain by the way. There is no joy, nor any possibility of it,
where evil is tolerated. There is no joy where sin has been taken
under the patronage of those who call themselves by Christ's name.
There is no joy where pride is in arms in the soul, and is reinforced
by suspicion, by obstinacy, even by jealousy and hate, all waiting to
dispute the authority of the preacher of repentance. When these evil
spirits are overcome, and cast out, which may only be after a painful
conflict, joy will have its opportunity again,--joy, whose right it is
to reign in the Christian soul and the Christian community. Of all
evangelistic forces, this joy is the most potent; and for that, above
all other reasons, it should be cherished wherever Christian people
wish to work the work of their Lord.

After this little digression on the freedom of the faith, and on joy as
the element of the Christian life, Paul returns to his defence. "To
spare you I forbore to come; for I made up my own mind on this, not to
come to you a second time in sorrow." Why was he so determined about
this? He explains in the second verse. It is because all his joy is
bound up in the Corinthians, so that if he grieves them he has no one
left to gladden him except those whom he has grieved--in other words, he
has no joy at all. And he not only made up his mind definitely on this;
he wrote also in exactly this sense: he did not wish, when he came, to
have sorrow from those from whom he ought to have joy. In that desire to
spare himself, as well as them, he counted on their sympathy; he was
sure that his own joy was the joy of every one of them, and that they
would appreciate his motives in not fulfilling a promise, the fulfilment
of which in the circumstances would only have brought grief both to them
and him. The delay has given them time to put right what was amiss in
their Church, and has ensured a joyful time to them all when his visit
is actually accomplished.

There are some grammatical and historical difficulties here which claim
attention. The most discussed is that of the first verse: what is the
precise meaning of τὸ μὴ πάλιν ἐν λύπῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐλθεῖν? There is no
doubt that this is the correct order of the words, and just as little, I
think, that the natural meaning is that Paul had once visited Corinth in
grief, and was resolved not to repeat such a visit. So the words are
taken by Meyer, Hofmann, Schmiedel, and others. The visit in question
cannot have been that on occasion of which the Church was founded; and
as the connexion between this passage and the last chapter of the First
Epistle is as close as can be conceived (see the Introduction), it
cannot have fallen between the two: the only other supposition is, that
it took place before the First Epistle was written. This is the opinion
of Lightfoot, Meyer, and Weiss; and it is not fatal to it that no such
visit is mentioned elsewhere--_e.g._, in the book of Acts. Still, the
interpretation is not essential; and if we can get over chap. xiii. 2,
it is quite possible to agree with Heinrici that Paul had only been in
Corinth once, and that what he means in ver. 1 here is: "I determined
not to carry out my purpose of revisiting you, in sorrow."

There is a difficulty of another sort in ver. 2. One's first thought
is to read καὶ τίς ὁ εὐφραίνων με κ.τ.λ., as a real singular, with a
reference, intelligible though indefinite, to the notorious but
penitent sinner of Corinth. "I vex you, I grant it; but where does my
joy come from--the joy without which I am resolved not to visit
you--except from one who is vexed by me?" The bad man's repentance had
made Paul glad, and there is a worthy considerateness in this
indefinite way of designating him. This interpretation has commended
itself to so sound a judge as Bengel, and though more recent scholars
reject it with practical unanimity, it is difficult to be sure that it
is wrong. The alternative is to generalise the τίς, and make the
question mean: "If I vex you, where can I find joy? All my joy is in
you, and to see you grieved leaves me absolutely joyless."

A third difficulty is the reference of ἔγραψα τοῦτο αὐτὸ in ver. 3.
Language very similar is found in ver. 9 (εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ ἔγραψα),
and again in chap. vii. 8-12 (ἐλύπησα ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ). It is very
natural to think here of our First Epistle. It served the purpose
contemplated by the letter here described; it told of Paul's change
of purpose; it warned the Corinthians to rectify what was amiss, and
so to order their affairs that he might come, not with a rod, but in
love and in the spirit of meekness; or, as he says here, not to have
sorrow, but, what he was entitled to, joy from his visit. All that is
alleged against this is that our First Epistle does not suit the
description given of the writing in ver. 4: "out of much affliction
and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears." But when those
parts of the First Epistle are read, in which St. Paul is not
answering questions submitted to him by the Church, but writing out of
his heart upon its spiritual condition, this will appear a dubious
assertion. What a pain must have been at his heart, when such
passionate words broke from him as these: "Is Christ divided? Was Paul
crucified for you?--What is Apollos, and what is Paul?--With me it is
a very little thing to be judged by you.--Though ye have ten thousand
instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ
Jesus I begot you through the Gospel.--I will know, not the speech of
them that are puffed up, but the power." Not to speak of the fifth and
sixth chapters, words like these justify us in supposing that the
First Epistle may be, and in all probability is, meant.[13]

Putting these details aside, as of mainly historical interest, let us
look rather at the spirit of this passage. It reveals, more clearly
perhaps than any passage in the New Testament, the essential
qualification of the Christian minister--a heart pledged to his
brethren in the love of Christ. That is the only possible basis of an
authority which can plead its own and its Master's cause against the
aberrations of spiritual liberty, and there is always both room and
need for it in the Church. Certainly it is the hardest of all
authorities to win, and the costliest to maintain, and therefore
substitutes for it are innumerable. The poorest are those that are
merely official, where a minister appeals to his standing as a member
of a separate order, and expects men to reverence that. If this was
once possible in Christendom, if it is still possible where men
secretly wish to shunt their spiritual responsibilities upon others,
it is not possible where emancipation has been grasped either in an
anarchic or in a Christian spirit. Let the great idea of liberty, and
of all that is cognate with liberty, once dawn upon their souls, and
men will never sink again to the recognition of anything as an
authority that does not attest itself in a purely spiritual way.
"Orders" will mean nothing to them but an arrogant unreality, which in
the name of all that is free and Christian they are bound to contemn.
It will be the same, too, with any authority which has merely an
intellectual basis. A professional education, even in theology, gives
no man authority to meddle with another in his character as a
Christian. The University and the Divinity Schools can confer no
competence here. Nothing that distinguishes a man from his fellows,
nothing in virtue of which he takes a place of superiority apart: on
the contrary, that love only which makes him entirely one with them in
Jesus Christ, can ever entitle him to interpose. If their joy is his
joy; if to grieve them, even for their good, is his grief; if the
cloud and sunshine of their lives cast their darkness and their light
immediately upon him; if he shrinks from the faintest approach to
self-assertion, yet would sacrifice anything to perfect their joy in
the Lord,--then he is in the true apostolical succession; and whatever
authority may rightly be exercised, where the freedom of the spirit is
the law, may rightly be exercised by him. What is required of
Christian workers in every degree--of ministers and teachers, of
parents and friends, of all Christian people with the cause of Christ
at heart--is a greater expenditure of soul on their work. Here is a
whole paragraph of St. Paul, made up almost entirely of "grief" and
"joy"; what depth of feeling lies behind it! If this is alien to us in
our work for Christ, we need not wonder that our work does not tell.

And if this is true generally, it is especially true when the work we
have to do is that of rebuking sin. There are few things which try
men, and show what spirit they are of, more searchingly than this. We
like to be on God's side, and to show our zeal for Him, and we are far
too ready to put all our bad passions at His service. But these are a
gift which He declines. Our wrath does not work His righteousness--a
lesson that even good men, of a kind, are very slow to learn. To
denounce sin, and to declaim about it, is the easiest and cheapest
thing in the world: one could not do less where sin is concerned,
unless he did nothing at all. Yet how common denunciation is. It seems
almost to be taken for granted as the natural and praiseworthy mode of
dealing with evil. People assail the faults of the community, or even
of their brethren in the Church, with violence, with temper, with the
tone, often, of injured innocence. They think that when they do so
they are doing God service; but surely we should have learned by this
time that nothing could be so unlike God, so unfaithful and
preposterous as a testimony for Him. God Himself overcomes evil with
good; Christ vanquishes the sin of the world by taking the burden of
it on Himself; and if we wish to have part in the same work, there is
only the same method open to us. Depend upon it, we shall not make
others weep for that for which we have not wept; we shall not make
that touch the hearts of others which has not first touched our own.
That is the law which God has established in the world; He submitted
to it Himself in the person of His Son, and He requires us to submit
to it. Paul was certainly a very fiery man; he could explode, or flame
up, with far more effect than most people; yet it was not there that
his great strength lay. It was in the passionate tenderness that
checked that vehement temper, and made the once haughty spirit say
what he says here: "Out of much affliction and anguish of heart, I
wrote unto you with many tears, not that you might be grieved, but
that you might know the love which I have more abundantly toward you."
In words like these the very spirit speaks which is God's power to
subdue and save the sinful.

It is worth dwelling upon this, because it is so fundamental, and yet so
slowly learned. Even Christian ministers, who ought to know the mind of
Christ, almost universally, at least in the beginning of their work,
when they preach about evil, lapse into the scolding tone. It is of no
use whatever in the pulpit, and of just as little in the Sunday-school
class, in the home, or in any relation in which we seek to exercise
moral authority. The one basis for that authority is love; and the
characteristic of love in the presence of evil is not that it becomes
angry, or insolent, or disdainful, but that it takes the burden and the
shame of the evil to itself. The hard, proud heart is impotent; the mere
official is impotent, whether he call himself priest or pastor; all hope
and help lie in those who have learned of the Lamb of God who bore the
sin of the world. It is soul-travail like His, attesting love like His;
that wins all the victories in which He can rejoice.


[12] The R.V. "forbare to come" has the same vagueness as οὐκέτι
ἦλθον, which may mean (1) "I came not as yet"--so A.V.; or (2) "I came
not again"; or (3) "I came no more."

[13] To suppose the reference to be to an epistle carried by Titus and
now lost, is to suppose what is incapable of proof or disproof. To
take ἔγραψα as "epistolary" aorist, and translate "I write," is
grammatically, but only grammatically, possible. The supposed
reference to chaps, x. i-xiii. 10 as a separate epistle is noticed in
the Introduction.


                          _CHURCH DISCIPLINE_

    "But if any hath caused sorrow, he hath caused sorrow, not to me,
    but in part (that I press not too heavily) to you all. Sufficient
    to such a one is this punishment which was _inflicted_ by the
    many; so that contrariwise ye should rather forgive him and
    comfort him, lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up
    with his overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you to confirm your
    love toward him. For to this end also did I write, that I might
    know the proof of you, whether ye are obedient in all things. But
    to whom ye forgive anything, I _forgive_ also: for what I also
    have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, for your sakes _have I
    forgiven it_ in the person of Christ; that no advantage may be
    gained over us by Satan: for we are not ignorant of his
    devices."--2 COR. ii. 5-11 (R.V.).

The foregoing paragraph of the Epistle has said a great deal about
sorrow, the sorrow felt by St. Paul on the one hand, and the sorrow he
was reluctant to cause the Corinthians on the other. In the passage
before us reference is evidently made to the person who was ultimately
responsible for all this trouble. If much in it is indefinite to us,
and only leaves a doubtful impression, it was clear enough for those
to whom it was originally addressed; and that very indefiniteness has
its lesson. There are some things to which it is sufficient, and more
than sufficient, to allude; least said is best said. And even when
plain-speaking has been indispensable, a stage arrives at which there
is no more to be gained by it; if the subject _must_ be referred to,
the utmost generality of reference is best. Here the Apostle
discusses the case of a person who had done something extremely bad;
but with the sinner's repentance assured, it is both characteristic
and worthy of him that neither here nor in chap. vii. does he mention
the name either of offender or offence. It is perhaps too much to
expect students of his writings, who wish to trace out in detail all
the events of his life, and to give the utmost possible definiteness
to all its situations, to be content with this obscurity; but students
of his spirit--Christian people reading the Bible for practical
profit--do not need to perplex themselves as to this penitent man's
identity. He may have been the person mentioned in 1 Cor. v. who had
married his stepmother; he may have been some one who had been guilty
of a personal insult to the Apostle: the main point is that he was a
sinner whom the discipline of the Church had saved.[14]

The Apostle had been expressing himself about his sorrow with great
vehemence, and he is careful in his very first words to make it plain
that the offence which had caused such sorrow was no personal matter.
It concerned the Church as well as him. "If any one hath caused
sorrow, he hath not caused sorrow to me, but in part to you all." To
say more than this would be to exaggerate (ἐπιβαρεῖν).[15] The Church,
in point of fact, had not been moved either as universally or as
profoundly as it should have been by the offence of this wicked man.
The penalty imposed upon him, whatever it may have been, had not been
imposed by a unanimous vote, but only by a majority; there were some
who sympathised with him, and would have been less severe.[16] Still,
it had brought conviction of his sin to the offender; he could not
brazen it out against such consenting condemnation as there was; he
was overwhelmed with penitential grief. This is why the Apostle says,
"Sufficient to such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by
the majority." It has served the purpose of all disciplinary
treatment; and having done so, must now be superseded by an opposite
line of action. "Contrariwise ye should rather forgive him and comfort
him, lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with his
overmuch sorrow." In St. Paul's sentence "such a one" comes last, with
the emphasis of compassion upon it. He had been "such a one," to begin
with, as it was a pain and a shame even to think about; he is "such a
one," now, as the angels in heaven are rejoicing over; "such a one" as
the Apostle, having the spirit of Him who received sinners, regards
with profoundest pity and yearning; "such a one" as the Church ought
to meet with pardoning and restoring love, lest grief sink into
despair, and the sinner cut himself off from hope. To prevent such a
deplorable result, the Corinthians are by some formal action (κυρῶσαι:
cf. Gal. iii. 15) to forgive him, and receive him again as a brother;
and in their forgiveness and welcome he is to find the pledge of the
great love of God.

This whole passage is of interest from the light which it throws upon
the discipline of the Church; or, to use less technical and more
correct language, the Christian treatment of the erring.

It shows us, for one thing, the aim of all discipline: it is, in the
last resort, the restoration of the fallen. The Church has, of course,
an interest of its own to guard; it is bound to protest against all
that is inconsistent with its character; it is bound to expel
scandals. But the Church's protest, its condemnation, its
excommunication even, are not ends in themselves; they are means to
that which is really an end in itself, a priceless good which
justifies every extreme of moral severity, the winning again of the
sinner through repentance. The judgment of the Church is the
instrument of God's love, and the moment it is accepted in the sinful
soul it begins to work as a redemptive force. The humiliation it
inflicts is that which God exalts; the sorrow, that which He comforts.
But when a scandal comes to light in a Christian congregation--when
one of its members is discovered in a fault gross, palpable, and
offensive--what is the significance of that movement of feeling which
inevitably takes place? In how many has it the character of goodness
and of severity, of condemnation and of compassion, of love and fear,
of pity and shame, the only character that has any virtue in it to
tell for the sinner's recovery? If you ask nine people out of ten what
a scandal is, they will tell you it is something which makes talk; and
the talk in nine cases out of ten will be malignant, affected, more
interesting to the talkers than any story of virtue or piety--scandal
itself, in short, far more truly than its theme. Does anybody imagine
that gossip is one of the forces that waken conscience, and work for
the redemption of our fallen brethren? If this is all we can do, in
the name of all that is Christian let us keep silence. Every word
spoken about a brother's sin, that is not prompted by a Christian
conscience, that does not vibrate with the love of a Christian heart,
is itself a sin against the mercy and the judgment of Christ.

We see here not only the end of Church discipline, but the force of
which it disposes for the attainment of its end. That force is neither
more nor less than the conscience of the Christian people who
constitute the Church: discipline is, in principle, the reaction of
that force against all immorality. In special cases, forms may be
necessary for its exercise, and in the forms in which it is exercised
variations may be found expedient, according to time, place, or degree
of moral progress; the congregation as a body, or a representative
committee of it, or its ordained ministers, may be its most suitable
executors; but that on which all alike have to depend for making their
proceedings effective to any Christian intent is the vigour of
Christian conscience, and the intensity of Christian love, in the
community as a whole. Where these are wanting, or exist only in an
insignificant degree, disciplinary proceedings are reduced to a mere
form; they are legal, not evangelical; and to be legal in such matters
is not only hypocritical, but insolent. Instead of rendering a real
Christian service to offenders, which by awakening conscience will
lead to penitence and restoration, discipline under such conditions is
equally cruel and unjust.

It is plain also, from the nature of the force which it employs, that
discipline is a function of the Church which is in incessant exercise,
and is not called into action only on special occasions. To limit it
to what are technically known as cases of discipline--the formal
treatment of offenders by a Church court, or by any person or persons
acting in an official character--is to ignore its real nature, and to
give its exercise in these cases a significance to which it has no
claim. The offences against the Christian standard which can be
legally impeached even in Church courts are not one in ten thousand of
those against which the Christian conscience ought energetically to
protest; and it is the vigour with which the ceaseless reaction
against evil in every shape is instinctively maintained which measures
the effectiveness of all formal proceedings, and makes them means of
grace to the guilty. The officials of a Church may deal in their
official place with offences against soberness, purity, or honesty;
they are bound to deal with them, whether they like it or not; but
their success will depend upon the completeness with which they, and
those whom they represent, have renounced not only the vices which
they are judging, but all that is out of keeping with the mind and
spirit of Christ. The drunkard, the sensualist, the thief, know
perfectly well that drunkenness, sensuality, and theft are not the
only sins which mar the soul. They know that there are other vices,
just as real if not so glaring, which are equally fatal to the life of
Christ in man, and as completely disqualify men for acting in Christ's
name. They are conscious that it is not a _bona fide_ transaction when
their sins are impeached by men whose consciences endure with
equanimity the reign of meanness, duplicity, pride, hypocrisy,
self-complacency. They are aware that God is not present where these
are dominant, and that God's power to judge and save can never come
through such channels. Hence the exercise of discipline in these legal
forms is often resented, and often ineffective; and instead of
complaining about what is obviously inevitable, the one thing at which
all should aim who wish to protect the Church from scandals is to
cultivate the common conscience, and bring it to such a degree of
purity and vigour, that its spontaneous resentment of evil will enable
the Church practically to dispense with legal forms. This Christian
community at Corinth had a thousand faults; in many points we are
tempted to find in it rather a warning than an example; but I think we
may take this as a signal proof that it was really sound at heart: its
condemnation of this guilty man fell upon his conscience as the
sentence of God, and brought him in tears to the feet of Christ. No
legal proceedings could have done that: nothing could have done it but
a real and passionate sympathy with the holiness and the love of
Christ. Such sympathy is the one subduing, reconciling, redeeming
power in our hands; and Paul might well rejoice, after all his
affliction and anguish of heart, when he found it so unmistakably at
work in Corinth. Not so much formal as instinctive, though not
shrinking on occasion from formal proceedings; not malignant, yet
closing itself inexorably against evil; not indulgent to badness, but
with goodness like Christ's, waiting to be gracious,--this Christian
virtue really holds the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and opens and
shuts with the authority of Christ Himself. We need it in all our
Churches to-day, as much as it was needed in Corinth; we need it that
special acts of discipline may be effective; we need it still more
that they may be unnecessary. Pray for it as for a gift that
comprehends every other--the power to represent Christ, and work His
work, in the recovery and restoration of the fallen.

In vv. 9-11, the same subject is continued, but with a slightly
different aspect exposed. Paul had obviously taken the initiative in
this matter, though the bulk of the Church, at his prompting, had
acted in a right spirit. Their conduct was in harmony with his motive
in writing to them,[17] which had really been to make proof of their
obedience in all points. But he has already disclaimed either the
right or the wish to lord it over them in their liberty as believers;
and here, again, he represents himself rather as following them in
their treatment of the offender, than as pointing out the way. "Now to
whom ye forgive anything, I also forgive"--so great is my confidence
in you: "for what I also have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything,
for your sakes have I forgiven it in the presence of Christ." When he
says "if I _have_ forgiven anything," he does not mean that his
forgiveness is dubious, or in suspense; what he does is to deprecate
the thought that his forgiveness is the main thing, or that he had
been the person principally offended. When he says "_for your sakes_
have I forgiven it," the words are explained by what follows: to have
refused his forgiveness in the circumstances would have been to
perpetuate a state of matters which could only have injured the
Church. When he adds that his forgiveness is bestowed "in the presence
of Christ," he gives the assurance that it is no complaisance or
formality, but a real acceptance of the offender to peace and
friendship again.[18] And we should not overlook the fact that in this
association of Christ, of the Corinthians, and of himself, in the work
of forgiveness and restoration, Paul is really encompassing a
desponding soul with all the grace of earth and heaven. Surely he will
not let his grief become despair, when all around him and above him
there is a present and convincing witness that, though God is
intolerant of sin, He is the refuge of the penitent.

The gracious and conciliatory tone of these verses seems to me worthy of
special admiration; and I can only express my astonishment that to some
they have appeared insincere, a vain attempt to cover a defeat with the
semblance of victory, a surrender to the opposition at Corinth, the
painfulness of which is ill-disguised by the pretence of agreement with
them. The exposition just given renders the refutation of such a view
unnecessary. We ought rather to regard with reverence and affection the
man who knew how to combine, so strikingly, unflinching principle and
the deepest tenderness and consideration for others; we ought to propose
his modesty, his sensitiveness to the feelings even of opponents, his
sympathy with those who had no sympathy with him, as examples for our
imitation. Paul had been deeply moved by what had taken place at
Corinth, possibly he had been deeply injured; but even so his personal
interest is kept in the background; for the obedient loyalty which he
wishes to prove is not so much _his_ interest as theirs to whom he
writes. He cares only for others. He cares for the poor soul who has
forfeited his place in the community; he cares for the good name of the
Church; he cares for the honour of Jesus Christ; and he exerts all his
power with these interests in view. If it needs rigour, he can be
rigorous; if it needs passion, he can be passionate; if it needs
consideration, graciousness, a conciliatory temper, a willingness to
keep out of sight, he can be depended upon for all these virtues. If
they were only affected, Paul would deserve the praise of a great
diplomatist; but it is far easier to believe them real, and see in them
the signs of a great minister of Christ.

The last verse puts the aim of his proceedings in another light: all
this, he says, I do, "that no advantage may be gained over us by
Satan: for we are not ignorant of his devices." The important words in
the last clause are of the same root; it is as if Paul had said:
"Satan is very knowing, and is always on the alert to get the better
of us; but we are not without knowledge of his knowing ways." It was
the Apostle's acquaintance with the wiles of the devil which made him
eager to see the restoration of the penitent sinner duly carried
through. This implies one or two practical truths, with which, by way
of application, this exposition may close.

(1) A scandal in the Church gives the devil an opportunity. When one
who has named the name of Jesus, and vowed loyal obedience to Him,
falls into open sin, it is a chance offered to the enemy which he is
not slow to improve. He uses it to discredit the very name of Christ:
to turn that which ought to be to the world the symbol of the purest
goodness into a synonym of hypocrisy. Christ has committed His honour,
if not His character, to our keeping; and every lapse into vice gives
Satan an advantage over Him.

(2) The devil finds his gain in the incompetence of the Church to deal
with evil in the Spirit of Christ. It is a fine thing for him if he
can drive the convicted sinner to despair, and persuade him that there
is no more forgiveness with God. It is a fine thing if he can prompt
those who love little, because they know little of God's love, to show
themselves rigid, implacable, irreconcilable, even to the penitent. If
he can deform the likeness of Christ into a morose Pharisaism, what an
incalculable gain it is! If the disciples of Him who received sinners
look askance on those who have lapsed, and chill the hope of
restoration with cold suspicion and reserve, there will be joy over
it, not in heaven, but in hell. And not only this, but the opposite is
a device of the devil, of which we ought not to be ignorant. There is
hardly a sin that some one has not an interest in extenuating. Even
the incestuous person in Corinth had his defenders: there were some
who were puffed up, and gloried in what he had done as an assertion of
Christian liberty. The devil takes advantage of the scandals that
occur in the Church to bribe and debauch men's consciences; indulgent
words are spoken, which are not the voice of Christ's awful mercy, but
of a miserable self-pity; the strongest and holiest thing in the
world, the redeeming love of God, is adulterated and even confounded
with the weakest and basest thing, the bad man's immoral forgiveness
of himself. And not to mention anything else under this head, could
any one imagine what would please and suit the devil better than the
absolutely unfeeling but extremely interesting gossip which resounds
over every exposure of sin?

(3) But, lastly, the devil finds his advantage in the dissensions of
Christians. What an opportunity he would have had in Corinth, had
strained relations continued between the Apostle and the Church! What
opportunities he has everywhere, when tempers are on edge, and every
movement means friction, and every proposal rouses suspicion! The last
prayer Christ prayed for His Church was that they might all be one: to
be one in Him is the final security against the devices of Satan. What
a frightful commentary the history of the Church is on this prayer!
What frightful illustrations it furnishes of the devil's gain out of
the saints' quarrels! There are plenty of subjects, of course, even in
Church life, on which we may naturally and legitimately differ; but we
ought to know better than to let the differences enter into our souls.
At bottom, we should be all one; it is giving ourselves away to the
enemy, if we do not, at all costs, "keep the unity of the Spirit in
the bond of peace."


[14] On the identity of the person referred to, see Introduction, p. 2

[15] This meaning of ἐπιβαρεῖν, taken as intransitive, is rather
vague, but I believe substantially correct. If the word is to be taken
as virtually transitive, the object must be the partisans of the
offender. It would "bear hardly" on them, to assume that _they_ had
been grieved by what Paul considered an offence. They had not been
grieved. That is why he excludes them from πάντας ὑμᾶς by ἀπὸ μέρους.

[16] This suits with either idea as to the identity of the man. (1) If
he were the incestuous person of 1 Cor. v., the minority would consist
of those who abused the Christian idea of liberty, and were "puffed
up" (1 Cor. v. 2) over this sin as an illustration of it. (2) If he
were one who had personally insulted Paul, the minority would probably
consist of the Judaistic opponents of the Apostle.

[17] This is the force of the καὶ before ἔγραψα in ver. 9.

[18] In spite of the Vulgate, which has _in persona Christi_; of
Luther, who gives _an Christi Statt_; and of the English versions,
Authorised and Revised, which both give "in the person of Christ"
(though the R.V. puts _presence_ in the margin), there seems no room
to doubt that "in the presence of Christ" is the true meaning. The
same words in chap. iv, 6 are admittedly different in import; and in
the only passages where ἐν προσώπῳ occurs with a genitive, it means
"in presence of." These are Prov. viii. 30, where ἐν προσώπῳ αὐτοῦ is
= לפניו; and Sir. xxxii. 6, where "Thou shalt not appear _before the
Lord_ empty" is ἐν π. Κυρίου.


                           _CHRIST'S CAPTIVE_

    "Now when I came to Troas for the Gospel of Christ, and when a
    door was opened unto me in the Lord, I had no relief for my
    spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave
    of them, I went forth into Macedonia. But thanks be unto God,
    which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest
    through us the savour of His knowledge in every place. For we are
    a sweet savour of Christ unto God, in them that are being saved,
    and in them that are perishing; to the one a savour from death
    unto death; to the other a savour from life unto life. And who is
    sufficient for these things? For we are not as the many,
    corrupting the Word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in
    the sight of God, speak we in Christ."--2 COR. ii. 12-17 (R.V.).

In this passage the Apostle returns from what is virtually, if not
formally, a digression, to the narrative which begins in chap. i. 8
f., and is continued in i. 15 f. At the same time he makes a
transition to a new subject, really though not very explicitly
connected with what goes before--namely, his independent and divinely
granted authority as an apostle. In the last verses of chap, ii., and
in chap. iii. 1-4, this is treated generally, but with reference in
particular to the success of his ministry. He then goes on to contrast
the older and the Christian dispensation, and the character of their
respective ministries, and terminates the section with a noble
statement of the spirit and principles with which he fulfilled his
apostolic calling (chap. iv. 1-6).

Before leaving Ephesus, Paul had apparently made an appointment to meet
Titus, on his return from Corinth, at Troas. He went thither himself to
preach the Gospel, and found an excellent opportunity for doing so; but
the non-arrival of his brother kept him in such a state of unrest[19]
that he was unable to make that use of it which he would otherwise have
done. This seems a singular confession, but there is no reason to
suppose that it was made with a bad conscience. Paul was probably
grieved that he had not the heart to go in at the door which had been
opened to him in the Lord, but he did not feel guilty. It was not
selfishness which made him turn away, but the anxiety of a true pastor
about other souls which God had committed to his care. "I had no relief
_for my spirit_," he says; and the spirit, in his language, even though
it be a constituent of man's nature, is that in him which is akin to the
divine, and receptive of it. That very element in the Apostle, in virtue
of which he could act for God at all, was already preoccupied, and
though the people were there, ready to be evangelised, it was beyond his
power to evangelise them. His spirit was absorbed and possessed by hopes
and fears and prayers for the Corinthians; and as the human spirit, even
when in contact with the divine, is finite, and only capable of so much
and no more, he was obliged to let slip an occasion which he would
otherwise have gladly seized. He probably felt with all missionaries
that it is as important to secure as to win converts; and if the
Corinthians were capable of reflection, they might reflect with shame on
the loss which their sin had entailed on the people of Troas. The
disorders of their wilful community had engrossed the Apostle's spirit,
and robbed their fellow-men across the sea of an apostolic ministry.
They could not but feel how genuine was the Apostle's love, when he had
made such a sacrifice to it; but such a sacrifice ought never to have
been required.

When Paul could bear the suspense no longer, he said good-bye to the
people of Troas, crossed the Thracian Sea, and advanced into Macedonia
to meet Titus. He did meet him, and heard from him a full report of
the state of matters at Corinth (chap. vii. 5 ff.); but here he does
not take time to say so. He breaks out into a jubilant thanksgiving,
occasioned primarily no doubt by the joyful tidings he had just
received, but widening characteristically, and instantaneously, to
cover all his apostolic work. It is as though he felt God's goodness
to him to be all of a piece, and could not be sensitive to it in any
particular instance without having the consciousness rise within him
that he lived and moved and had his being in it. "Now to God be
thanks, who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ."

The peculiar and difficult word in this thanksgiving is θριαμβεύοντι.
The sense which first strikes one as suitable is that which is given
in the Authorised Version: "God which always _causeth us to triumph_."
Practically Paul had been engaged in a conflict with the Corinthians,
and for a time it had seemed not improbable that he might be beaten;
but God had caused him to triumph in Christ--that is, acting in
Christ's interests, in matters in which Christ's name and honour were
at stake, the victory (as always) had remained with him; and for this
he thanks God. This interpretation is still maintained by so excellent
a scholar as Schmiedel, and the use of θριαμβεύειν in this transitive
sense is defended by the analogy of μαθητεύειν in Matt. xxviii. 19.

But appropriate as this interpretation is, there is one apparently fatal
objection to it. There is no doubt that θριαμβεύειν is here used
transitively, but we have not to guess, by analogy, what it must mean
when so used; there are other examples which fix this unambiguously. One
is found elsewhere in St. Paul himself (Col. ii. 15), where θριαμβεύσας
αὐτοὺς indubitably means "having triumphed over them." In accordance
with this, which is only one out of many instances,[20] the Revisers
have displaced the old rendering here, and substituted for it, "Thanks
be to God, which always _leadeth us in triumph_." The triumph here is
God's, not the Apostle's; Paul is not the soldier who wins the battle,
and shouts for victory, as he marches in the triumphal procession; he is
the captive who is led in the Conqueror's train, and in whom men see the
trophy of the Conqueror's power. When he says that God always leads him
in triumph _in Christ_, the meaning is not perfectly obvious. He may
intend to define, as it were, the area over which God's victory extends.
In everything which is covered by the name and authority of Christ, God
triumphantly asserts His power over the Apostle. Or, again, the words
may signify that it is through Christ that God's victorious power is put
forth. These two meanings, of course, are not inconsistent; and
practically they coincide.

It cannot be denied, I think, if this is taken quite rigorously, that
there is a certain air of irrelevance about it. It does not seem to be
to the purpose of the passage to say that God always triumphs over Paul
and those for whom He speaks, or even that He always leads them in
triumph. It is this feeling, indeed, which mainly influences those who
keep to the rendering of the Authorised Version, and regard Paul as the
victor. But the meaning of θριαμβεύοντι is not really open to doubt, and
the semblance of irrelevance disappears if we remember that we are
dealing with a figure, and a figure which the Apostle himself does not
press. Of course in an ordinary triumph, such as the triumph of Claudius
over Caractacus, of which St. Paul may easily have heard, the captives
had no share in the victory; it was not only a victory over them, but a
victory against them. But when God wins a victory over man, and leads
his captive in triumph, the captive too has an interest in what happens;
it is the beginning of all triumphs, in any true sense, for him. If we
apply this to the case before us, we shall see that the true meaning is
not irrelevant. Paul had once been the enemy of God in Christ; he had
fought against Him in his own soul, and in the Church which he
persecuted and wasted. The battle had been long and strong; but not far
from Damascus it had terminated in a decisive victory for God. There the
mighty man fell, and the weapons of his warfare perished. His pride, his
self-righteousness, his sense of superiority to others and of competence
to attain to the righteousness of God, collapsed for ever, and he rose
from the earth to be the slave of Jesus Christ. That was the beginning
of God's triumph over him; from that hour God led him in triumph in
Christ. But it was the beginning also of all that made the Apostle's
life itself a triumph, not a career of hopeless internal strife, such as
it had been, but of unbroken Christian victory. This, indeed, is not
involved _in the mere word_ θριαμβεύοντι, but it is the real _thing_
which was present to the Apostle's mind when he used the word. When we
recognise this, we see that the charge of irrelevance does not really
apply; while nothing could be more characteristic of the Apostle than to
hide himself and his success in this way behind God's triumph over him
and through him.

Further, the true meaning of the word, and the true connexion of ideas
just explained, remind us that the only triumphs we can ever have,
deserving the name, must begin with God's triumph over us. This is the
one possible source of joy untroubled. We may be as selfish as we
please, and as successful in our selfishness; we may distance all our
rivals in the race for the world's prizes; we may appropriate and
engross pleasure, wealth, knowledge, influence; and after all there
will be one thing we must do without--the power and the happiness of
thanking God. No one will ever be able to thank God because he has
succeeded in pleasing himself, be the mode of his self-pleasing as
respectable as you will; and he who has not thanked God with a whole
heart, without misgiving and without reserve, does not know what joy
is. Such thanksgiving and its joy have one condition: they rise up
spontaneously in the soul when it allows God to triumph over it. When
God appears to us in Jesus Christ, when in the omnipotence of His love
and purity and truth He makes war upon our pride and falsehood and
lusts, and prevails against them, and brings us low, then we are
admitted to the secret of this apparently perplexing passage; we know
how natural it is to cry, "Thanks be unto God who in His victory over
us giveth us the victory! Thanks be to Him who always leadeth us in
triumph!" It is out of an experience like this that Paul speaks; it is
the key to his whole life, and it has been illustrated anew by what
has just happened at Corinth.

But to return to the Epistle. God is described by the Apostle not only
as triumphing over them (_i.e._, himself and his colleagues) in
Christ, but as making manifest through them the savour of His
knowledge in every place. It has been questioned whether "His"
knowledge is the knowledge of God or of Christ. Grammatically, the
question can hardly be answered; but, as we see from chap. iv. 6, the
two things which it proposes to distinguish are really one; what is
manifested in the apostolic ministry is the knowledge of God as He is
revealed in Christ. But why does Paul use the expression "_the savour_
of His knowledge"? It was suggested probably by the figure of the
triumph, which was present to his mind in all the detail of its
circumstances. Incense smoked on every altar as the victor passed
through the streets of Rome; the fragrant steam floated over the
procession, a silent proclamation of victory and joy. But Paul would
not have appropriated this feature of the triumph, and applied it to
his ministry, unless he had felt that there was a real point of
comparison, that the knowledge of Christ which he diffused among men,
wherever he went, was in very truth a fragrant thing.[21] True, he was
not a free man; he had been subdued by God, and made the slave of
Jesus Christ; as the Lord of glory went forth conquering and to
conquer, over Syria and Asia and Macedonia and Greece, He led him as a
captive in the triumphal march of His grace; he was the trophy of
Christ's victory; every one who saw him saw that necessity was laid
upon Him; but what a gracious necessity it was! "The _love_ of Christ
constraineth us." The captives who were dragged in chains behind a
Roman chariot also made manifest the knowledge of their conqueror;
they declared to all the spectators his power and his pitilessness;
there was nothing in that knowledge to suggest the idea of a fragrance
like incense. But as Paul moved through the world, all who had eyes to
see saw in him not only the power but the sweetness of God's redeeming
love. The mighty Victor made manifest through Him, not only His might,
but His charm, not only His greatness, but His grace. It was a good
thing, men felt, to be subdued and led in triumph like Paul; it was to
move in an atmosphere perfumed by the love of Christ, as the air
around the Roman triumph was perfumed with incense. The Apostle is so
sensible of this that he weaves it into his sentence as an
indispensable part of his thought; it is not merely the knowledge of
God which is made manifest through him as he is led in triumph, but
that knowledge as a fragrant, gracious thing, speaking to every one of
victory and goodness and joy.

The very word "savour," in connexion with the "knowledge" of God in
Christ, is full of meaning. It has its most direct application, of
course, to preaching. When we proclaim the Gospel, do we always succeed
in manifesting it as a savour? Or is not the savour--the sweetness, the
winsomeness, the charm and attractiveness of it--the very thing that is
most easily left out? Do we not catch it sometimes in the words of
others, and wonder that it eludes our own? We miss what is most
characteristic in the knowledge of God if we miss this. We leave out
that very element in the Evangel which makes it evangelic, and gives it
its power to subdue and enchain the souls of men. But it is not to
preachers only that the word "savour" speaks; it is of the widest
possible application. Whereever Christ is leading a single soul in
triumph, the fragrance of the Gospel should go forth; rather, it does go
forth, in proportion as His triumph is complete. There is sure to be
that in the life which will reveal the graciousness as well as the
omnipotence of the Saviour. And it is this virtue which God uses as His
main witness, as His chief instrument, to evangelise the world. In every
relation of life it should tell. Nothing is so insuppressible, nothing
so pervasive, as a fragrance. The lowliest life which Christ is really
leading in triumph will speak infallibly and persuasively for Him. In a
Christian brother or sister, brothers and sisters will find a new
strength and tenderness, something that goes deeper than natural
affection, and can stand severer shocks; they will catch the fragrance
which declares that the Lord in His triumphant grace is there. And so in
all situations, or, as the Apostle has it, "in every place." And if we
are conscious that we fall in this matter, and that the fragrance of the
knowledge of Christ is something to which our life gives no testimony,
let us be sure that the explanation of it is to be found in self-will.
There is something in us which has not yet made complete surrender to
Him, and not till He leads us unresistingly in triumph will the sweet
savour go forth.

At this point the Apostle's thought is arrested by the issues of his
ministry, though he carries the figure of the fragrance, with a little
pressure, through to the end. In God's sight, he says, or so far as
God is concerned, we are a sweet savour of Christ, a perfume redolent
of Christ, in which He cannot but take pleasure. In other words,
Christ proclaimed in the Gospel, and the ministries and lives which
proclaim Him, are always a joy to God. They are a joy to Him, whatever
men may think of them, alike in them that are being saved and in them
that are perishing. To those who are being saved, they are a savour
"from life to life"; to those who are perishing, a savour "from death
to death." Here, as everywhere, St. Paul contemplates these exclusive
opposites as the sole issues of man's life, and of the Gospel
ministry. He makes no attempt to subordinate one to the other, no
suggestion that the way of death may ultimately lead to life, much
less that it must do so. The whole solemnity of the situation, which
is faced in the cry "And who is sufficient for these things?" depends
on the finality of the contrast between life and death. These are the
goals set before men, and those who are being saved and those who are
perishing are respectively on their way to one or the other. Who _is_
sufficient for the calling of the Gospel ministry, when such are the
alternatives involved in it? Who is sufficient, in love, in wisdom, in
humility, in awful earnestness, for the duties of a calling the issues
of which are life or death for ever?

There is considerable difficulty in the sixteenth verse, partly
dogmatic, partly textual. Commentators so opposite in their bias as
Chrysostom and Calvin have pondered and remarked upon the opposite
effects here ascribed to the Gospel. It is easy to find analogies to
these in nature. The same heat which hardens clay melts iron. The same
sunlight which gladdens the healthy eye tortures that which is
diseased. The same honey which is sweet to the sound palate is
nauseous to the sick; and so on. But such analogies do not explain
anything, and one can hardly see what is meant by calling them
illustrations. It remains finally inexplicable that the Gospel, which
appeals to some with winning irresistible power, subduing and leading
them in triumph, should excite in others a passion of antipathy which
nothing else could provoke. This remains inexplicable, because it is
irrational. Nothing that can be pointed to in the universe is the
least like a bad heart closing itself against the love of Christ, like
a bad man's will stiffening into absolute rigidity against the will of
God. The preaching of the Gospel may be the occasion of such awful
results, but it is not their cause. The God whom it proclaims is the
God of grace; it is never His will that any should perish--always that
all should be saved. But He can save only by subduing; His grace must
exercise a sovereign power in us, which through righteousness will
lead to life everlasting (Rom. v. 21). And when this exercise of power
is resisted, when we match our self-will against the gracious saving
will of God, our pride, our passions, our mere sloth, against the
soul-constraining love of Christ; when we prevail in the war which
God's mercy wages with our wickedness,--then the Gospel itself may be
said to have ministered to our ruin; it was ordained to life, and we
have made it a sentence of death. Yet even so, it is the joy and glory
of God; it is a sweet savour to Him, fragrant of Christ and His love.

The textual difficulty is in the words ἐκ θανάτου εἰς θάνατον, and ἐκ
ζωῆς εἰς ζωήν. These words are rendered in the Revised Version "_from_
death to death," and "_from_ life to life." The Authorised Version,
following the _Textus Receptus_, which omits ἐκ in both clauses,
renders "a savour _of_ death unto death," and "_of_ life unto life." In
spite of the inferior MS. support, the _Textus Receptus_ is preferred by
many modern scholars--_e.g._, Heinrici, Schmiedel, and Hofmann. They
find it impossible to give any precise interpretation to the better
attested reading, and an examination of any exposition which accepts it
goes far to justify them. Thus Professor Beet comments: "_From death for
death_ (comp. Rom. i. 17): a scent proceeding _from_, and thus revealing
the presence of, _death_; and, like malaria from a putrefying corpse,
causing _death_. Paul's labours among some men revealed the eternal
death which day by day cast an ever-deepening shadow upon them [this
answers to ὀσμὴ ἐκ θανάτου]; and by arousing in them increased
opposition to God, promoted the spiritual mortification which had
already begun" [this answers to εἰς θάνατον]. Surely it is safe to say
that nobody in Corinth could ever have guessed this from the words. Yet
this is a favourable specimen of the interpretations given. If it were
possible to take ἐκ θανάτου εἰς θάνατον, and ἐκ ζωῆς εἰς ζωήν, as Baur
took ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν in Rom. i. 17, that would be the simplest way
out of the difficulty, and quite satisfactory. What the Apostle said
would then be this: that the Gospel which he preached, ever good as it
was to God, had the most opposite characters and effects among men,--in
some it was death _from beginning to end_, absolutely and unmitigatedly
deadly in its nature and workings; in others, again, it was life from
beginning to end--life was the uniform sign of its presence, and its
invariable issue. This also is the meaning which we get by omitting ἐκ:
the genitives ζωῆς and θανάτου are then adjectival,--a vital fragrance,
with life as its element and end; a fatal fragrance, the end of which
is death. This has the advantage of being the meaning which occurs to an
ordinary reader; and if the critically approved text, with the repeated
ἐκ, cannot bear this interpretation, I think there is a fair case for
defending the received text on exegetical grounds. Certainly nothing but
the broad impression of the received text will ever enter the general

The question that rises to the Apostle's lips as he confronts the
solemn situation created by the Gospel is not directly answered. "Who
is sufficient for these things? Who? I say. For we are not as the
many,[22] who corrupt the Word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of
God, in the sight of God, we speak in Christ." Paul is conscious as he
writes that his awful sense of responsibility as a preacher of the
Gospel is not shared by all who exercise the same vocation. To be the
bearer and the representative of a power with issues so tremendous
ought surely to annihilate every thought of self; to let personal
interest intrude is to declare oneself faithless and unworthy. We are
startled to hear from Paul's lips what at first sight seems to be a
charge of just such base self-seeking laid against the majority of
preachers. "We are not as the many, corrupting the Word of God." The
expressive word rendered here "corrupting" has the idea of
self-interest, and especially of petty gain, at its basis. It means
literally to sell in small quantities, to retail for profit. But it
was specially applied to tavern-keeping, and extended to cover all the
devices by which the wine-sellers in ancient times deceived their
customers. Then it was used figuratively, as here; and Lucian, _e.g._,
speaks of philosophers as selling the sciences, and in most cases (ὁι
πολλοί: a curious parallel to St. Paul), like tavern keepers,
"blending, adulterating, and giving bad measure." It is plain that
there are two separable ideas here. One is that of men qualifying the
Gospel, infiltrating their own ideas into the Word of God, tempering
its severity, or perhaps its goodness, veiling its inexorableness,
dealing in compromise. The other is that all such proceedings are
faithless and dishonest, because some private interest underlies them.
It need not be avarice, though it is as likely to be this as anything
else. A man corrupts the Word of God, makes it the stock-in-trade of a
paltry business of his own, in many other ways than by subordinating
it to the need of a livelihood. When he exercises his calling as a
minister for the gratification of his vanity, he does so. When he
preaches not that awful message in which life and death are bound up,
but himself, his cleverness, his learning, his humour, his fine voice
even or fine gestures, he does so. He makes the Word minister to him,
instead of being a minister of the Word; and that is the essence of
the sin. It is the same if ambition be his motive, if he preaches to
win disciples to himself, to gain an ascendency over souls, to become
the head of a party which will bear the impress of his mind. There was
something of this at Corinth; and not only there, but wherever it is
found, such a spirit and such interests will change the character of
the Gospel. It will not be preserved in that integrity, in that
simple, uncompromising, absolute character which it has as revealed in
Christ. Have another interest in it than that of God, and that
interest will inevitably colour it. You will make it what it was not,
and the virtue will depart from it.

In contrast with all such dishonest ministers, the Apostle represents
himself and his friends speaking "as of sincerity." They have no
mixture of motives in their work as evangelists; they have indeed no
independent motives at all: God is leading them in triumph, and
proclaiming His grace through them. It is He who prompts every word
(ὡς ἐκ Θεοῦ). Yet their responsibility and their freedom are intact.
They feel themselves in His presence as they speak, and in that
presence they speak "in Christ." "In Christ" is the Apostle's mark.
Not in himself apart from Christ, where any mixture of motives, any
process of adulteration, would have been possible, but only in that
union with Christ which was the very life of his life, did he carry on
his evangelistic work. This was his final security, and it is still
the only security, that the Gospel can have fair play in the world.


[19] The perfect ἔσχηκα seems at first sight out of place, but it is
more expressive than the aorist. It suggests the _continuous_
expectation of relief which was always anew disappointed.

[20] See Grimm's Lexicon _s.v._, or Lightfoot on Col. ii. 15.

[21] In τὴν ὀσμὴν τῆς γνώσεως, γνώσεως is gen. of apposition: the ὀσμὴ
and the γνῶσις are one.

[22] "The many" (ὁι πολλοί) seems to be the true reading. "The rest" (ὁι
λοιποί) would be stronger still in its condemnation. But probably Paul
is not thinking of the Church in general, but of the teachers as a body
who crossed and thwarted him in his chosen field. The transition which
is immediately made to the case of his opponents (τινὲς, iii. 1), and to
the comparison of the old and new covenants, suggests that his Judaistic
adversaries in Corinth (see chap. xi.) are in view.


                           _LIVING EPISTLES_

    "Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? or need we, as do
    some, epistles of commendation to you or from you? Ye are our
    epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men; being
    made manifest that ye are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us,
    written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not
    in tables of stone, but in tables _that are_ hearts of flesh."--2
    COR. iii. 1-3 (R.V.).

"Are we beginning again to commend ourselves?" Paul does not mean by
these words to admit that he had been commending himself before: he
means that he has been accused already of doing so, and that there are
those at Corinth who, when they hear such passages of this letter as
that which has just preceded, will be ready to repeat the accusation. In
the First Epistle he had found it necessary to vindicate his apostolic
authority, and especially his interest in the Corinthian Church as its
spiritual father (1 Cor. ix. 1-27, iv. 6-21), and obviously his enemies
at Corinth had tried to turn these personal passages against him. They
did so on the principle _Qui s'excuse s'accuse_. "He is commending
himself," they said, "and self-commendation is an argument which
discredits, instead of supporting, a cause." The Apostle had heard of
these malicious speeches, and in this Epistle makes repeated reference
to them (see chaps, v. 12, x. 18, xiii. 6). He entirely agreed with his
opponents that self-praise was no honour. "Not he who commendeth
himself is approved, but he whom the Lord commendeth." But he denied
point-blank that he was commending himself. In distinguishing as he had
done in chap. ii. 14-17 between himself and his colleagues, who spoke
the Word "as of sincerity, as of God, in the sight of God," and "the
many" who corrupted it, nothing was further from his mind than to plead
his cause, as a suspected person, with the Corinthians. Only malignity
could suppose any such thing, and the indignant question with which the
chapter opens tacitly accuses his adversaries of this hateful vice. It
is pitiful to see a great and generous spirit like Paul compelled thus
to stand upon guard, and watch against the possible misconstruction of
every lightest word. What needless pain it inflicts upon him, what
needless humiliation! How it checks all effusion of feeling, and robs
what should be brotherly intercourse of everything that can make it free
and glad! Further on in the Epistle there will be abundant opportunity
of speaking on this subject at greater length; but it is proper to
remark here that a minister's character is the whole capital he has for
carrying on his business, and that nothing can be more cruel and wicked
than to cast suspicion on it without cause. In most other callings a man
may go on, no matter what his character, provided his balance at the
bank is on the right side; but an evangelist or a pastor who has lost
his character has lost everything. It is humiliating to be subject to
suspicion, painful to be silent under it, degrading to speak. At a later
stage Paul was compelled to go further than he goes here; but let the
indignant emotion of this abrupt question remind us that candour is to
be met with candour, and that the suspicious temper which would fain
malign the good eats like a canker the very heart of those who cherish

From the serious tone the Apostle passes suddenly to the ironical. "Or
need we, as do some, epistles of commendation to you or from you?" The
"some" of this verse are probably the same as "the many" of chap. ii.
17. Persons had come to Corinth in the character of Christian
teachers, bringing with them recommendatory letters which secured
their standing when they arrived. An example of what is meant can be
seen in Acts xvii. 27. There we are told that when Apollos, who had
been working in Ephesus, was minded to pass over into Achaia, the
Ephesian brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to
receive him--that is, they gave him an epistle of commendation, which
secured him recognition and welcome in Corinth. A similar case is
found in Rom. xvi. 1, where the Apostle uses the very word which we
have here: "I commend unto you Phœbe our sister, who is a servant of
the Church that is at Cenchreæ: that ye receive her in the Lord,
worthily of the saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever matter
she may have need of you: for she herself also hath been a succourer
of many, and of mine own self." This was Phœbe's introduction, or
epistle of commendation, to the Church of Rome. The Corinthians were
evidently in the habit both of receiving such letters from other
Churches, and of granting them on their own account; and Paul asks
them ironically if they think he ought to bring one, or when he leaves
them to apply for one. Is _that_ the relation which ought to obtain
between him and them? The "some," to whom he refers, had no doubt come
from Jerusalem: it is they who are referred to in chap. xi. 22 ff. But
it does not follow that their recommendatory letters had been signed
by Peter, James, and John; and just as little that those letters
justified them in their hostility to Paul. No doubt there were
many--many myriads, the Book of Acts says--at Jerusalem, whose
conception of the Gospel was very different from his, and who were
glad to counteract him whenever they could; but there were many also,
including the three who seemed to be pillars, who had a thoroughly
good understanding with him, and who had no responsibility for the
"some" and their doings. The epistles which the "some" brought were
plainly such as the Corinthians themselves could grant, and it is a
complete misinterpretation to suppose that they were a commission
granted by the Twelve for the persecution of Paul.

The giving of recommendatory letters is a subject of considerable
practical interest. When they are merely formal, as in our
certificates of Church membership, they come to mean very little. It
is an unhappy state of affairs perhaps, but no one would take a
certificate of Church membership by itself as a satisfactory
recommendation. And when we go past the merely formal, difficult
questions arise. Many people have an estimate of their own character
and competence, in which it is impossible for others to share, and yet
they apply without misgiving to their friends, and especially to their
minister or their employer, to grant them "epistles of commendation."
We are bound to be generous in these things, but we are bound also to
be honest. The rule which ought to guide us, especially in all that
belongs to the Church and its work, is the interest of the cause, and
not of the worker. To flatter is to do a wrong, not only to the person
flattered, but to the cause in which you are trying to employ him.
There is no more ludicrous reading in the world than a bundle of
certificates, or testimonials, as they are called. As a rule, they
certify nothing but the total absence of judgment and conscience in
the people who have granted them. If you do not know whether a person
is qualified for any given situation or not, you do not need to say
anything about it. If you know he is not, and he asks you to say that
he is, no personal consideration must keep you from kindly but firmly
declining. I am not preaching suspicion, or reserve, or anything
ungenerous, but justice and truth. It is wicked to betray a great
interest by bespeaking it for incompetent hands; it is cruel to put
any one into a place for which he is unfit. Where you are confident
that the man and the work will be well matched, be as generous as you
please; but never forget that the work is to be considered in the
first place, and the man only in the second.

Paul has been serious, and ironical, in the first verse; in ver. 2 he
becomes serious again, and remains so. "_You_," he says, answering his
ironical question, "_you_ are our epistle." Epistle, of course, is to
be taken in the sense of the preceding verse. "_You_ are the
commendatory letter which _I_ show, when I am asked for my
credentials." But to whom does he show it? In the first instance, to
the captious Corinthians themselves. The tone of chap. ix. in the
First Epistle is struck here again: "Wherever I may need
recommendations, it is certainly not at Corinth." "If I be not an
apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you: the seal of mine
apostleship are ye in the Lord." Had they been a Christian community
when he first visited them, they might have asked who he was; but they
owed their Christianity to him; he was their father in Christ; to put
him to the question in this superior, suspicious style was unnatural,
unfilial ingratitude. They themselves were the living evidence of the
very thing which they threw doubt upon--the apostleship of Paul.

This bold utterance may well excite misgivings in those who preach
constantly, yet see no result of their work. It is common to disparage
success, the success of visible acknowledged conversions, of bad men
openly renouncing badness, bearing witness against themselves, and
embracing a new life. It is common to glorify the ministry which works
on, patient and uncomplaining, in one monotonous round, ever sowing, but
never reaping, ever casting the net, but never drawing in the fish, ever
marking time, but never advancing. Paul frankly and repeatedly appeals
to his success in evangelistic work as the final and sufficient proof
that God had called him, and had given him authority as an apostle; and
search as we will, we shall not find any test so good and unequivocal as
this success. Paul had seen the Lord; he was qualified to be a witness
of the Resurrection; but these, at the very most, were his own affair,
till the witness he bore had proved its power in the hearts and
consciences of others. How to provide, to train, and to test the men who
are to be the ministers of the Christian Church is a matter of the very
utmost consequence, to which sufficient attention has not yet been
given. Congregations which choose their own pastor are often compelled
to take a man quite untried, and to judge him more or less on
superficial grounds. They can easily find out whether he is a competent
scholar; they can see for themselves what are his gifts of speech, his
virtues or defects of manner; they can get such an impression as
sensible people always get, by seeing and hearing a man, of the general
earnestness or lack of earnestness in his character. But often they feel
that more is wanted. It is not exactly more in the way of character; the
members of a Church have no right to expect that their minister will be
a truer Christian than they themselves are. A special inquisition into
his conversion, or his religious experience, is mere hypocrisy; if the
Church is not sufficiently in earnest to guard herself against insincere
members, she must take the risk of insincere ministers. What is wanted
is what the Apostle indicates here--that intimation of God's concurrence
which is given through success in evangelistic work. No other intimation
of God's concurrence is infallible--no call by a congregation, no
ordination by a presbytery or by a bishop. Theological education is
easily provided, and easily tested; but it will not be so easy to
introduce the reforms which are needed in this direction. Great masses
of Christian people, however, are becoming alive to the necessity for
them; and when the pressure is more strongly felt, the way for action
will be discovered. Only those who can appeal to what they have done in
the Gospel can be known to have the qualifications of Gospel ministers;
and in due time the fact will be frankly recognised.

The conversion and new life of the Corinthians were Paul's certificate
as an apostle. They were a certificate known, he says, and read by all
men. Often there is a certain awkwardness in the presenting of
credentials. It embarrasses a man when he has to put his hand into his
breast pocket, and take out his character, and submit it for
inspection. Paul was saved this embarrassment. There was a fine
unsought publicity about his testimonials. Everybody knew what the
Corinthians had been, everybody knew what they were; and the man to
whom the change was due needed no other recommendation to a Christian
society. Whoever looked at them saw plainly that they were an epistle
of Christ; the mind of Christ could be read upon them, and it had been
written by the intervention of Paul's hand. This is an interesting
though a well-worn conception of the Christian character. Every life
has a meaning, we say; every face is a record; but the text goes
further. The life of the Christian is an epistle; it has not only a
meaning, but an address; it is a message from Christ to the world. Is
Christ's message to men legible on our lives? When those who are
without look at us, do they see the hand of Christ quite unmistakably?
Does it ever occur to anybody that there is something in our life
which is not of the world, but which is a message to the world from
Christ? Did you ever, startled by the unusual brightness of a true
Christian's life, ask as it were involuntarily, "Whose image and
superscription is this?" and feel as you asked it that these features,
these characters, could only have been traced by one hand, and that
they proclaimed to all the grace and power of Jesus Christ? Christ
wishes so to write upon us that men may see what He does for man. He
wishes to engrave His image on our nature, that all spectators may
feel that it has a message for them, and may crave the same favour. A
congregation which is not in its very existence and in all its works
and ways a legible epistle, an unmistakable message from Christ to
man, does not answer to this New Testament ideal.

Paul claims no part here but that of Christ's instrument. The Lord, so
to speak, dictated the letter, and he wrote it. The contents of it
were prescribed by Christ, and through the Apostle's ministry became
visible and legible in the Corinthians. More important is it to notice
with what the writing was done: "not with ink," says St. Paul, "but
with the Spirit of the living God." At first sight this contrast seems
formal and fantastic; nobody, we think, could ever dream of making
either of these things do the work of the other, so that it seems
perfectly gratuitous in Paul to say, "not with ink, but with the
Spirit." Yet ink is sometimes made to bear a great deal of
responsibility. The characters of the τινὲς ("some") in ver. i, were
only written in ink; they had nothing, Paul implies, to recommend them
but these documents in black and white. That was hardly sufficient to
guarantee their authority, or their competence as ministers in the
Christian dispensation. But do not Churches yet accept their ministers
with the same inadequate testimonials? A distinguished career at the
University, or in the Divinity Schools, proves that a man can write
with ink, under favourable circumstances; it does not prove more than
that; it does not prove that he will be spiritually effective, and
everything else is irrelevant. I do not say this to disparage the
professional training of ministers; on the contrary, the standard of
training ought to be higher than it is in all the Churches: I only
wish to insist that nothing which can be represented in ink, no
learning, no literary gifts, no critical acquaintance with the
Scriptures even, can write upon human nature the Epistle of Christ. To
do that needs "the Spirit of the living God." We feel, the moment we
come upon those words, that the Apostle is anticipating; he has in
view already the contrast he is going to develop between the old
dispensation and the new, and the irresistible inward power by which
the new is characterised. Others might boast of qualifications to
preach which could be certified in due documentary form, but he
carried in him wherever he went a power which was its own witness, and
which overruled and dispensed with every other. Let all of us who
teach or preach concentrate our interest here. It is in "the Spirit of
the living God," not in any acquirements of our own, still less in any
recommendations of others, that our serviceableness as ministers of
Christ lies. We cannot write His epistle without it. We cannot see,
let us be as diligent and indefatigable in our work as we please, the
image of Christ gradually come out in those to whom we minister.
Parents, teachers, preachers, this is the one thing needful for us
all. "Tarry," said Jesus to the first evangelists, "tarry in the city
of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high"; it is of no
use to begin without that.

This idea of the "epistle" has taken such a hold of the Apostle's
mind, and he finds it so suggestive whichever way he turns it, that he
really tries to say too much about it in one sentence. The crowding of
his ideas is confusing. One learned critic enumerates three points in
which the figure becomes inconsistent with itself, and another can
only defend the Apostle by saying that this figurative letter might
well have qualities which would be self-contradictory in a real one.
This kind of criticism smells a little of ink, and the only real
difficulty in the sentence has never misled any one who read it with
sympathy. It is this--that St. Paul speaks of the letter as written in
two different places. "Ye are our epistle," he says at the beginning,
"written _in our hearts_"; but at the end he says, "written not on
tables of stone, but on tables that are hearts of flesh"--meaning
evidently _on the hearts of the Corinthians_. Of course this last is
the sense which coheres with the figure. Paul's ministry wrote the
Epistle of Christ upon the Corinthians, or, if we prefer it, wrought
such a change in their hearts that they became an epistle of Christ,
an epistle to which he appealed in proof of his apostolic calling. In
expressing himself as he does about this, he is again anticipating the
coming contrast of Law and Gospel. Nobody would think of writing a
_letter_ on tables of stone, and he only says "not on stone tables"
because he has in his mind the difference between the Mosaic and the
Christian dispensation. It is quite out of place to refer to Ezek. xi.
19, xxxvi. 26, and to drag in the contrast between hard and tender
hearts. What Paul means is that the Epistle of Christ is not written
on dead matter, but on human nature, and that too at its finest and
deepest. When we remember the sense of depth and inwardness which
attaches to the heart in Scripture, it is not forcing the words to
find in them the suggestion that the Gospel works no merely outward
change. It is not written on the surface, but in the soul. The Spirit
of the living God finds access for itself to the secret places of the
human spirit; the most hidden recesses of our nature are open to it,
and the very heart is made new. To be able to write _there_ for
Christ, to point not to anything dead, but to living men and women,
not to anything superficial, but to a change that has reached the very
core of man's being, and works its way out from thence, is the
testimonial which guarantees the evangelist; it is the divine
attestation that he is in the true apostolical succession.[23]

What, then, does Paul mean by the other clause, "ye are our epistle,
written on _our_ hearts?" I do not think we can get much more than an
emotional certainty about this expression. When a man has been an
intensely interested spectator, still more an intensely interested
actor, in any great affair, he might say afterwards that the whole
thing and all its circumstances were engraved upon his heart. I
imagine that is what St. Paul means here. The conversion of the
Corinthians made them an epistle of Christ; in making them believers
through St. Paul's ministry, Christ wrote on _their_ hearts what was
really an epistle to the world; and the whole transaction, in which
Paul's feelings had been deeply engaged, stood written on _his_ heart
for ever. Interpretations that go beyond this do not seem to me to be
justified by the words. Thus Heinrici and Meyer say, "We have in our
own consciousness the certainty of being recommended to you by
yourselves and to others by you"; and they elucidate this by saying,
"The Apostle's _own good consciousness_ was, as it were, _the tablet_
on which this living epistle of the Corinthians stood, and _that_ had
to be left unassailed even by the most malevolent." A sense so
pragmatical and pedantic, even if one can grasp it at all, is surely
out of place, and many readers will fail to discover it in the text.
What the words do convey is the warm love of the Apostle, who had
exercised his ministry among the Corinthians with all the passion of
his nature, and who still bore on his ardent heart the fresh
impression of his work and its results.

Amid all these details let us take care not to lose the one great
lesson of the passage. Christian people owe a testimony to Christ. His
name has been pronounced over them, and all who look at them ought to
see His nature. We should discern in the heart and in the behaviour of
Christians the handwriting, let us say the characters, not of avarice,
of suspicion, of envy, of lust, of falsehood, of pride, but of Christ.
It is to us He has committed Himself; we are the certification to men
of what He does for man; His character is in our care. The true
epistles of Christ to the world are not those which are expounded in
pulpits; they are not even the gospels in which Christ Himself lives
and moves before us; they are living men and women, on the tables of
whose hearts the Spirit of the living God, ministered by a true
evangelist, has engraved the likeness of Christ Himself. It is not the
written Word on which Christianity ultimately depends; it is not the
sacraments, nor so-called necessary institutions: it is this inward,
spiritual, Divine writing which is the guarantee of all else.


[23] The true reading of the last words in ver. 3 is doubtful. The
Received Text has ἐν πλαξὶ καρδίας σαρκίναις. This is as old as
Irenæus and Origen, and is found in many versions. Almost all MSS.
give the reading which is translated in the Revised Version: ἐν πλαξὶ
καρδίαις σαρκίναις(א, A, B, C, D, etc.); and this is adopted by most
of the purely critical editors. Some, however, and many exegetes,
suspect a primitive error, affecting all MSS. and versions. Schmiedel
would omit καρδίαις or καρδίας, as a marginal note, suggested by Prov.
vii. 3, Jer. xvii. 1; Westcott and Hort, on the other hand, think that
πλαξὶ may be a primitive interpolation. No certainty is possible; but
considering Old Testament usage, one would expect Paul to write ἐν
πλαξὶ καρδίας almost unconsciously.


                          _THE TWO COVENANTS_

    "And such confidence have we through Christ to God-ward: not that
    we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from
    ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God; who also made us
    sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but
    of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
    But if the ministration of death, written, _and_ engraven on
    stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not
    look stedfastly upon the face of Moses for the glory of his face;
    which _glory_ was passing away: how shall not rather the
    ministration of the spirit be with glory? For if the ministration
    of condemnation is glory, much rather doth the ministration of
    righteousness exceed in glory. For verily that which hath been
    made glorious hath not been made glorious in this respect, by
    reason of the glory that surpasseth. For if that which passeth
    away _was_ with glory, much more that which remaineth _is_ in
    glory."--2 COR. iii. 4-11 (R.V.).

The confidence referred to in the opening of this passage is that
which underlies the triumphant sentences at the end of the second
chapter. The tone of those sentences was open to misinterpretation,
and Paul guards himself against this on two sides. To begin with, his
motive in so expressing himself was quite pure: he had no thought of
commending himself to the Corinthians. And, again, the ground of his
confidence was not in himself. The courage which he had to speak as he
did he had through Jesus Christ, and that, too, in relation to God. It
was virtually confidence in God, and therefore inspired by God.

It is this last aspect of his confidence which is expanded in the fifth
verse: "not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as
from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God." This vehement
disclaimer of any self-sufficiency has naturally been taken in the
widest sense, and theologians from Augustine downward have found in it
one of the most decisive proofs of the inability of man for any
spiritual good accompanying salvation. No one, we may be sure, would
have ascribed salvation, and all spiritual good accompanying it,
entirely to God with more hearty sincerity than the Apostle; but it does
seem better here to give his words a narrower and more relevant
interpretation. The "sufficiency to account anything," of which he
speaks, must have a definite meaning for the context; and this meaning
is suggested by the words of chap. ii. 14-17. Paul would never have
dared, he tells us--indeed, he would never have been able--on his own
motion, and out of his own resources, either to form conclusions, or to
express them, on the subjects there in view. It is not for any man at
random to say what the true Gospel is, what are its issues, what the
responsibilities of its hearers or preachers, what is the spirit
requisite in the evangelist, or what are the methods legitimate for him.
The Gospel is God's concern, and only those who have been capacitated by
Him are entitled to speak as Paul has spoken. If this is a narrower
sense than that which is expounded so vigorously by Calvin, it is more
pertinent, and some will find it quite as pungent. Of all things that
are done hastily and inconsiderately, by people calling themselves
Christian, the criticism of evangelists is one of the most conspicuous.
At his own prompting, out of his own wise head, any man almost will both
make up his mind and speak his mind about any preacher with no sense of
responsibility whatever. Paul certainly did form opinions about
preachers, opinions which were anything but flattering; but he did it
through Jesus Christ and in relation to God; he did it because, as he
writes, God had made him sufficient, _i.e._ had given him capacity to
be, and the capacity of, a true evangelist, so that he knew both what
the Gospel was, and how it ought to be proclaimed. It would silence much
incompetent, because self-sufficient, criticism, if no one "thought
anything" who had not this qualification.

The qualification having been mentioned, the Apostle proceeds, as
usual, to enlarge upon it. "Our sufficiency is of God; who also made
us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of letter, but of
spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." At the
first glance, we see no reason why his thought should take this
direction, and it can only be because those whom he is opposing, and
with whom he has contrasted himself in chap. ii. 17, are in some sense
representatives of the old covenant, ministers of the letter in spite
of their claim to be evangelists, and appealing not to a competency
which came from God, but to one which rested on "the flesh." They
based their title to preach on certain advantages of birth, or on
having known Jesus when He lived in the world, or perhaps on
certification by others who had known Him; at all events, not on that
spiritual competence which Paul's ministry at Corinth had shown him to
possess. That this was really the case will be seen more fully at a
later stage (especially in chaps. x. ff.).

With the words "ministers of a new covenant" we enter upon one of the
great passages in St. Paul's writings, and are allowed to see one of
the inspiring and governing ideas in his mind. "Covenant," even to
people familiar with the Bible, is beginning to be a remote and
technical term; it needs to be translated or explained. If no more
than another word is to be used, perhaps "dispensation" or
"constitution" would suggest something. God's covenant with Israel was
the whole constitution under which God was the God of Israel, and
Israel the people of God. The new covenant of which Paul speaks
necessarily implies an old one; and the old one is this covenant with
Israel. It was a national covenant, and for that, among other reasons,
it was represented and embodied in legal forms. There was a legal
constitution under which the nation lived, and according to which all
God's dealings with it, and all its dealings with God, were regulated.
Without entering more deeply, in the meantime, into the nature of this
constitution, or the religious experiences which were possible to
those who lived under it, it is sufficient to notice that the best
spirits in the nation became conscious of its inadequacy, and
eventually of its failure. Jeremiah, who lived through the long agony
of his country's dissolution, and saw the final collapse of the
ancient order, felt this failure most deeply, and was consoled by the
vision of a brighter future. That future rested for him on a more
intimate relation of God to His people, on a constitution, as we may
fairly paraphrase his words, less legal and more spiritual. "Behold,
the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with
the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the
covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by
the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant
they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord. But
this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after
those days, saith the Lord; I will put my law in their inward parts,
and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they
shall be My people: and they shall teach no more every man his
neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they
shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them,
saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will
I remember no more." This wonderful passage, so profound, so
spiritual, so evangelical, is the utmost reach of prophecy; it is a
sort of stepping-stone between the Old Testament and the New. Jeremiah
has cried to God out of the depths, and God has heard his cry, and
raised him to a spiritual height from which his eye ranges over the
land of promise, and rests with yearning on all its grandest features.
We do not know whether many of his contemporaries or successors were
able to climb the mount which offered this glorious prospect; but we
know that the promise remained a promise--a rainbow light across the
dark cloud of national disaster--till Christ claimed its fulfilment as
His work. It was His to make good all that the prophets had spoken;
and when in the last hours of His life He said to His disciples, "This
is My blood of the covenant,[24] which is shed for many, for the
remission of sins," it was exactly as if He had laid His hand on that
passage of Jeremiah, and said, "This day is this scripture fulfilled
before your eyes." By the death of Jesus a new spiritual order was
established; it rested on the forgiveness of sins, it made God
accessible to all, it made obedience an instinct and a joy; all the
intercourse of God and man was carried on upon a new footing, under a
new constitution; to use the words of the prophet and the apostle, God
made a new covenant with His people.

Among the Christians of the first age, no one so thoroughly
appreciated the newness of Christianity, or was so immensely impressed
by it, as St. Paul. The difference between the earlier dispensation
and the later, between the religion of Moses' disciples and the
religion of believers in Jesus Christ, was one that could hardly be
exaggerated; he himself had been a zealot of the old, he was now a
zealot of the new; and the gulf between his former and his present
self was one that no geometry could measure. He had lived, after the
straitest sect of the old religion, a Pharisee; touching the
righteousness which is in the law he could call himself blameless; he
had tasted the whole bitterness of the legalism, the formality, the
bondage, in which the old covenant entangled those who were devoted to
it in his days. It is with this in his memory that he here sets the
old and the new in unrelieved opposition to each other. His feeling is
like that of a man who has just been liberated from prison, and whose
whole mind is possessed and filled up with the single sensation that
it is one thing to be chained, and another thing to be free. In the
passage before us, this is all the Apostle has in view. He speaks as
if the old covenant and the new had nothing in common, as if the new,
to borrow Baur's expression, had merely a negative relation to the
old, as if it could only be contrasted with it, and not compared to
it, or illustrated by it. And with this restricted view he
characterises the old dispensation as one of letter, and the new as
one of spirit.[25] Speaking out of his own experience, which was not
solitary, but typical, he could truly speak thus. The essence of the
old, to a Pharisee born and bred, was its documentary, statutory
character: the law, written in letters, on stone tablets or parchment
sheets, simply confronted men with its uninspiring imperative; it had
never yet given any one a good conscience or enabled him to attain to
the righteousness of God. The essence of the new, on the other hand,
was spirit; the Christian was one in whom, through Christ, the Holy
Spirit of God dwelt, putting the righteousness of God within his
reach, enabling him to perfect holiness in God's fear. The contrast is
made absolute, _pro tem_. There is no "spirit" in the old at all;
there is no "letter" in the new. This last assertion was more natural
then than now; for at the time when Paul wrote this Epistle, there was
no "New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" consigned in
documents and collected for the use of the Church. The Gospel existed
in the world, not at all in books, but only in men; all the epistles
were living epistles; there was literally no letter, but only spirit.

This, doubtless, is the explanation of the blank antithesis of the old
covenant and the new in the passage before us. But it is obvious, when
we think of it, that this antithesis does not exhaust the relations of
the two. It is not the whole truth about the earlier dispensation to
say that, while the new is spiritual, it is not. The religion of the
Old Testament was not mere legalism; if it had been, the Old Testament
would be for us an unprofitable and almost an unintelligible book.
That religion had its spiritual side, as all but utterly corrupt
religions always have; God administered His grace to His people
through it, and in psalms and prophecies we have records of their
experiences, which are not legal, but spiritual, and priceless even to
Christian men. Nor would Paul, under other circumstances, have refused
to admit this; on the contrary, it is a prominent element in his
teaching. He knows that the old bears in its bosom the promise of the
new, a sum of promises that has been confirmed and made good in Jesus
Christ (chap. i. 20). He knows that the righteousness of God, which is
proclaimed in the Gospel, is witnessed to by the law and the prophets
(Rom. iii. 21). He knows that "the law," even, is "spiritual" (Rom.
vii. 14). He knows that the righteousness of faith was a secret
revealed to David (Rom. iv. 6 f.). He would probably have agreed with
Stephen that the oracles received and delivered by Moses in the
wilderness were "living" oracles; and his profound mind would have
thrilled to hear that great word of Jesus, "I am not come to destroy,
but to fulfil." Had he lived to a time like ours, when the Gospel also
has been embodied in a book, instead of using "letter" and "spirit" as
mutually exclusive, he would have admitted, as we do, that both ideas
apply, in some sense, to both dispensations, and that it is possible
to take the old and the new alike either in the letter or in the
spirit. Nevertheless, he would have been entitled to say that, if they
were to be characterised in their differences, they must be
characterised as he has done it: the mark of the old, as opposed to
the new, is literalism, or legalism; the mark of the new, as opposed
to the old, is spirituality, or freedom. They differ as law differs
from life, as compulsion from inspiration. Taken thus, no one can
have any difficulty in agreeing with him.

But the Apostle does not rest in generalities: he goes on to a more
particular comparison of the old and the new dispensations, and
especially to a demonstration that the new is the more glorious. He
starts with a statement of their working, as dependent on their nature
just described. One is letter; the other, spirit. Well, the letter
kills, but the spirit gives life. A sentence so pregnant as this, and
so capable of various applications, must have been very perplexing to
the Corinthians, had they not been fairly acquainted beforehand with
the Apostle's "form of doctrine" (Rom. vi. 17). It condenses in itself
a whole cycle of his characteristic thoughts. All that he says in the
Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians about the working of the law,
in its relation to the flesh, is represented in "the letter killeth."
The power of the law to create the consciousness of sin and to
intensify it; to stimulate transgression, and so make sin exceeding
sinful, and shut men up in despair; to pass sentence upon the guilty,
the hopeless sentence of death,--all this is involved in the words.
The fulness of meaning is as ample in "the spirit giveth life." The
Spirit of Christ, given to those who receive Christ in the Gospel, is
an infinite power and an infinite promise. It includes the reversal of
all that the letter has wrought. The sentence of death is reversed;
the impotence to good is counteracted and overcome; the soul looks out
to, and anticipates, not the blackness of darkness for ever, but the
everlasting glory of Christ.[26] When the Apostle has written these
two little sentences--when he has supplied "letter" and "spirit" with
the predicates "kill" and "make alive," in the sense which they bear
in the Christian revelation--he has gone as far as the mind of man can
go in stating an effective contrast. But he works it out with
reference to some special points in which the superiority of the new
to the old is to be observed.

(1) In the first place, the ministry of the old was a ministry of death.
Even as such it had a glory, or splendour, of its own. The face of
Moses, its great minister, shone after he had been in the presence of
God; and though that brightness was passing away even as men caught
sight of it (τὴν καταργουμένην is partic. impf.), it was so resplendent
as to dazzle the beholders. But the ministry of the new is a ministry of
spirit: and who would not argue _a fortiori_ that it should appear in
glory greater still? Both the μᾶλλον ("rather"), and the future (ἔσται),
in ver. 8, are logical. Paul speaks, to use Bengel's expression, looking
forward as it were from the Old Testament into the New. He does not say
in what the glory of the new consists. He does not say that it is
veiled at present, and will be manifested when Christ comes to
transfigure His own. Even the use of "hope" in ver. 12 does not prove
this. He leaves it quite indefinite; and arguing from the nature of the
two ministries, which has just been explained, simply concludes that in
glory the new must far transcend the old.

(2) In vv. 9 and 10 he puts a new point upon this. "Death" and "life"
are here replaced by "condemnation" and "righteousness." It is through
condemnation that man becomes the prey of death; and the grace which
reigns in him to eternal life reigns through righteousness (Rom. v.
21). The contrast of these two words is very significant for Paul's
conception of the Gospel: it shows how essential to his idea of
righteousness, how fundamental in it, is the thought of acquittal or
acceptance with God. Men are bad men, sinful men, under God's
condemnation; and he cannot conceive a Gospel at all which does not
announce, at the very outset, the removal of that condemnation, and a
declaration in the sinner's favour. Perhaps there are other ways of
conceiving men, and other aspects in which God can come to them as
their Saviour; but the Pauline Gospel has proved itself, and will
always prove itself anew, the Gospel for the sinful, who know the
misery of condemnation and despair. Mere pardon, as it has been
called, may be a meagre conception, but it is that without which no
other Christian conception can exist for a moment. That which lies at
the bottom of the new covenant, and supports all its magnificent
promises and hopes, is this: "I will forgive their iniquities, and I
will remember their sins no more." If we could imagine this taken
away, what were left? Of course the righteousness which the Gospel
proclaims _is_ more than pardon; it is not exhausted when we say it is
the opposite of condemnation; but unless we feel that the very nerve
of it lies in the removal of condemnation, we shall never understand
the New Testament tone in speaking of it. It is this which explains
the joyous rebound of the Apostle's spirit whenever he encounters the
subject; he remembers the black cloud, and now there is clear shining;
he was under sentence then, but now he is justified by faith, and has
peace with God. He cannot exaggerate the contrast, nor the greater
glory of the new state. Granting that the ministry of condemnation had
its glory--that the revelation of law "had an austere majesty of its
own"--does not the ministry of righteousness, the Gospel which
annulled the condemnation and restored man to peace with God, overflow
with glory? When he thinks of it, he is tempted to withdraw the
concession he has made. We may call the old dispensation and its
ministry glorious if we like; they are glorious when they stand alone;
but when comparison is made with the new,[27] they are not glorious at
all. The stars are bright till the moon rises; the moon herself reigns
in heaven till her splendour pales before the sun; but when the sun
shines in his strength, there is no other glory in the sky. All the
glories of the old covenant have vanished for Paul in the light which
shines from the Cross and from the Throne of Christ.

(3) A final superiority belongs to the new dispensation and its
ministry as compared with the old--the superiority of permanence to
transiency. "If that which passeth away _was_ with glory, much more
that which remaineth _is_ in glory." The verbs here are supplied by
the translators, but one may question whether the contrast of past and
present was so definite in the Apostle's mind. I think not, and the
reference to Moses' face does not prove that it was. All through these
comparisons St. Paul expresses himself with the utmost generality;
logical and ideal, not temporal, relations, dominate his thoughts. The
law _was_ given in glory (ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ, ver. 7)--there is no
dispute about that; but what the eleventh verse makes prominent is
that while glory is the attendant or accompaniment of the transient,
it is the element of the permanent. The law is indeed of God; it has a
function in the economy of God; it is at the very lowest a negative
preparation for the Gospel; it shuts men up to the acceptance of God's
mercy. In this respect the glory on Moses' face represents the real
greatness which belongs to the law as a power used by God in the
working out of His loving purpose. But at the best the law only shuts
men up to Christ, and then its work is done. The true greatness of God
is revealed, and with it His true glory, once for all, in the Gospel.
There is nothing beyond the righteousness of God, manifested in Christ
Jesus, for the acceptance of faith. That is God's last word to the
world: it has absorbed in it even the glory of the law; and it is
bright for ever with a glory above all other. It is God's chief end to
reveal this glory in the Gospel, and to make men partakers of it; it
has been so always, is so still, and ever shall be; and in the
consciousness that he has seen and been saved by the eternal love of
God, and is now a minister of it, the Apostle claims this finality of
the new covenant as its crowning glory. The law, like the lower gifts
of the Christian life, passes away; but the new covenant abides, for
it is the revelation of love--that love which is the being and the
glory of God Himself.

These qualities of the Christian dispensation, which constitute its
newness, are too readily lost sight of. It is hard to appreciate and
to live up to them, and hence they are always lapsing out of view, and
requiring to be rediscovered. In the first age of Christianity there
were many myriads of Jews, the Book of Acts tells us, who had very
little sense of the newness of the Gospel; they were exceedingly
zealous for the law, even for the letter of all its ritual
prescriptions: Paul and his spiritual conception of Christianity were
their bugbear. In the first half of the second century the religion
even of the Gentile Churches had already become more legal than
evangelical; there was wanting any sufficient apprehension of the
spirituality, the freedom, and the newness of Christianity as opposed
to Judaism; and though the reaction of Marcion, who denied that there
was any connexion whatever between the Old Testament and the New, went
to a false and perverse extreme, it was the natural, and in its
motives the legitimate, protest of spirit and life against letter and
law. The Reformation in the sixteenth century was essentially a
movement of similar character: it was the rediscovery of the Pauline
Gospel, or of the Gospel in those characteristics of it which made
Paul's heart leap for joy--its justifying righteousness, its
spirituality, its liberty. In a Protestant scholasticism this glorious
Gospel has again been lost oftener than once; it is lost when "a
learned ministry" deals with the New Testament writings as the scribes
dealt with the Old; it is lost also--for extremes meet--when an
unlearned piety swears by verbal, even by literal, inspiration, and
takes up to mere documents an attitude which in principle is fatal to
Christianity. It is in the life of the Church--especially in that life
which communicates itself, and makes the Christian community what the
Jewish never was, essential a missionary community--that the safeguard
of all these high characteristics lies. A Church devoted to learning,
or to the maintenance of a social or political position, or even
merely to the cultivation of a type of character among its own
members, may easily cease to be spiritual, and lapse into legal
religion: a Church actively engaged propagating itself never can. It
is not with the "letter" one can hopefully address unbelieving men; it
is only with the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the heart; and
where the Spirit is, there is liberty. None are so "sound" on the
essentials of the faith as men with the truly missionary spirit; but
at the same time none are so completely emancipated, and that by the
self-same Spirit, from all that is not itself spiritual.


[24] The true reading in Matt. xxvi. 28 omits "new," but the reference
is unmistakable.

[25] Grammatically, it is probable that γράμματος and πνεύματος in ver.
6 depend, not on διαθήκης, but on διακόνους; but the sense is all one.

[26] The contrast of "letter" and "spirit" has, as is well known, been
taken in various ways. That which is given above undoubtedly
represents St. Paul's mind, and may be called the historical
interpretation. An interpretation so common in early times that it
might fairly be called the patristic, would explain the words as
meaning that the _literal_ sense of the Scriptures, especially of the
Old Testament, is fatally misleading, and that we must find what that
literal sense represents to the laws of allegory, if we would make it
a word of life (cf. in Rev. xi. 8, "the great city, which
_spiritually_ is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was
crucified"). There is another interpretation still, which may be
called the literary or practical one. According to this, the Apostle
means that the spiritual life, whether of intelligence or conscience,
is strangled by literalism; we must regard not words as such, but the
spirit and purpose of their author, if we are to have life and
progress. This is perfectly true, but perfectly irrelevant, and is a
good example of the free-and-easy way in which the Bible is quoted by
those who do not study it.

[27] Chrysostom explains ἑν τούτῳ τῷ μέρει by κατὰ τὸν τῆς συγκρίσεως
λόγον, and this is substantially right. But I think the words merely
anticipate ἑίνεκεν τῆς ὑπερβαλλούσης δόξης.


                       _THE TRANSFIGURING SPIRIT_

    "Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness of speech,
    and _are_ not as Moses, _who_ put a veil upon his face, that the
    children of Israel should not look stedfastly on the end of that
    which was passing away: but their minds were hardened: for until
    this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil
    remaineth unlifted; which veil is done away in Christ. But unto
    this day, whensoever Moses is read, a veil lieth upon their heart.
    But whensoever it shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
    Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
    _there_ is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face reflecting as a
    mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image
    from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit."--2 COR.
    iii. 12-18 (R.V.).

The "hope" which here explains the Apostle's freedom of speech is to all
intents and purposes the same as the "confidence" in ver. 4.[28] It is
much easier to suppose that the word is thus used, with a certain
latitude, as it might be in English, than to force upon it a reference
to the glory to be revealed when Christ comes again, and to give the
same future reference to "glory" all through this passage. The new
covenant is present, and present in its glory; and though it has a
future, with which the Apostle's hope is bound up, it is not in view of
its future only, it is because of what it is even now, that he is so
grandly confident, and uses such boldness of speech. It is quite fair to
infer from chap. iv. 3--"if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled in those
that are perishing"--that Paul's opponents at Corinth had charged him
with behaviour of another kind. They had accused him of making a mystery
of his Gospel--preaching it in such a fashion that no one could really
see it, or understand what he meant. If there is any charge which the
true preacher will feel keenly, and resent vehemently, it is this. It is
his first duty to deliver his message with a plainness that defies
misunderstanding. He is sent to all men on an errand of life or death;
and to leave any man wondering, after the message has been delivered,
what it is about, is the worst sort of treachery. It belies the Gospel,
and God who is its author. It may be due to pride, or to a misguided
intention to commend the Gospel to the wisdom or the prejudices of men;
but it is never anything else than a fatal mistake.

Paul not only resents the charge; he feels it so acutely that he finds
an ingenious way of retorting it. "We," he says, "the ministers of the
new covenant, we who preach life, righteousness, and everlasting
glory, have nothing to hide; we wish every one to know everything
about the dispensation which we serve. It is the representatives of
the old who are really open to the charge of using concealment; the
first and the greatest of them all, Moses himself, put a veil on his
face, that[29] the children of Israel should not look stedfastly on
the end of that which was passing away. The glory on his face was a
fading glory, because it was the glory of a temporary dispensation;
but he did not wish the Israelites to see clearly that it was destined
to disappear; so he veiled his face, and left them to think the law a
permanent divine institution."

Perhaps the best thing to do with this singular interpretation is not
to take it too seriously. Even sober expositors like Chrysostom and
Calvin have thought it necessary to argue gravely that the Apostle is
not accusing the law, or saying anything insulting of Moses; while
Schmiedel, on the other hand, insists that a grave moral charge _is_
made against Moses, and that Paul most unjustly uses the Old
Testament, in its own despite, to prove its own transitoriness. I
believe it would be far truer to say that the character of Moses never
crossed Paul's mind in the whole passage, for better or worse; he only
remembered, as he smarted under the accusation of veiling his Gospel
of the new covenant, a certain transaction under the old covenant in
which a veil did figure--a transaction which a Rabbinical
interpretation, whimsical indeed to us, but provoking if not
convincing to his adversaries, enabled him to turn against them. As
for proving the transitoriness of the Old Testament by a forced and
illegitimate argument, that transitoriness was abundantly established
to Paul, as it is to us, on real grounds; nothing whatever depends on
what is here said of Moses and the veil. It is not necessary, if we
take this view, to go into the historical interpretation of the
passage in Exod. xxxiv. 29-35. The comparison of the Apostle with the
Old Testament writer has been made more difficult for the English
reader by the serious error in the Authorised Version of Exod. xxxiv.
33. Instead of "_till_ Moses had done speaking with them," we ought to
read, as in the Revised Version, "_when_ Moses had done speaking."
This exactly reverses the meaning. Moses spoke to the people with face
bare and radiant; the glory was to be visible at least in his official
intercourse with them, or _whenever he spoke for God_. At other times
he wore the veil, putting it off, however, when he went into the
tabernacle--that is, _whenever he spoke with God_. In all divine
relations, then, we should naturally infer, there was to be the open
and shining face; in other words, so far as he acted as mediator of
the old covenant, Moses really acted in the spirit of Paul. It would
therefore have been unjust in the Apostle to charge him with hiding
anything, if the charge had really meant more than this--that Paul saw
in his use of the veil a symbol of the fact that the children of
Israel did not see that the old covenant was transitory, and that its
glory was to be lost in that of the new. No one can deny that this
_was_ the fact, and no one therefore need be exercised if Paul
pictured it in the manner of his own time and race, and not in the
manner of ours. To suppose that he means to charge Moses with a
deliberate act of dishonesty is to suppose what no sensible person
will ever credit; and we may return, without more ado, to the painful
situation which he contemplates.

_Their minds were hardened._ This is stated historically, and seems to
refer in the first instance to those who watched Moses put on the
veil, and became insensible, as he did so, to the nature of the old
covenant. But it is applicable to the Jewish race at all periods of
their history; they never discovered the secret which Moses hid from
their forefathers beneath the veil. The only result that followed the
labours even of great prophets like Isaiah had been the deepening of
the darkness; having eyes the people saw not, having ears they heard
not; their heart was fat and heavy, so that they did not apprehend the
ways of God nor turn to Him. All around him the Apostle saw the
melancholy evidence that there had been no change for the better.
Until this day the same veil remains, when the Old Testament is
read,[30] not taken away; for it is only undone in Christ, and of
Christ they will know nothing. He repeats the sad statement, varying
it slightly to indicate that the responsibility for a condition so
blind and dreary rests not with the old covenant itself, but with
those who live under it. "Until this day, I say, whensoever Moses is
read, a veil lies upon their heart."

This witness, we must acknowledge, is almost as true in the nineteenth
century as in the first. The Jews still exist as a race and a sect,
acknowledging the Old Testament as a revelation from God, basing their
religion upon it, keeping their ancient law so far as circumstances
enable them to keep it, not convinced that as a religious constitution
it has been superseded by a new one. Many of them, indeed, have
abandoned it without becoming Christians. But in so doing they have
become secularists; they have not appreciated the old covenant to the
full, and then outgrown it; they have been led for various reasons to
deny that there ever was anything divine in it, and have renounced
together its discipline and its hopes. Only where the knowledge of the
Christ has been received is the veil which lies upon their hearts
taken away; they can then appreciate both all the virtues of the
ancient dispensation and all its defects; they can glorify God for
what it was and for what it shut them up to; they can see that in all
its parts it had a reference to something lying beyond itself--to a
"new thing" that God would do for His people; and in welcoming the new
covenant, and its Mediator Jesus Christ, they can feel that they are
not making void, but establishing, the law.

This is their hope, and to this the Apostle looks in ver. 16: "But
whensoever it shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away." The
Greek expression of this passage is so closely modelled on that of
Exod. xxxiv. 34, that Westcott and Hort print it as a quotation. Moses
evidently is still in the Apostle's mind. The veiling of his face
symbolised the nation's blindness; the nation's hope is to be seen in
that action in which Moses was unveiled. He uncovered his face when he
turned from the people to speak to God. "Even so," says the Apostle,
"when _they_ turn to the Lord, the veil of which we have been speaking
is taken away,[31] and they see clearly."[32] One can hardly avoid
feeling in this a reminiscence of the Apostle's own conversion. He is
thinking not only of the unveiling of Moses, but of the scales which
fell from his own eyes when he was baptised in the name of Jesus, and
was filled with the Holy Ghost, and saw the old covenant and its glory
lost and fulfilled in the new. He knew how stupendous was the change
involved here; it meant a revolution in the whole constitution of the
Jews' spiritual world as vast as that which was wrought in the natural
world when the sun supplanted the earth as the centre of our system.
But the gain was corresponding. The soul was delivered from an
_impasse_. Under the old covenant, as bitter experience had shown him,
the religious life had come to a dead-lock; the conscience was
confronted with a torturing, and in its very nature insoluble,
problem: man, burdened and enslaved by sin, was required to attain to
a righteousness which should please God. The contradictions of this
position were solved, its mystery was abolished, when the soul turned
to the Lord, and appropriated by faith the righteousness and life of
God in him. The old covenant found its place, an intelligible and
worthy though subordinate place, in the grand programme of redemption;
the strife between the soul and God, between the soul and the
conditions of existence, ceased; life opened out again; there was a
large room to move in, an inspiring power within; in one word, there
was spiritual life and liberty, and Christ was the author of it all.

This is the force of the seventeenth verse: "Now the Lord is the
Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." The
Lord, of course, is Christ, and the Spirit is that of which Paul has
already spoken in the sixth verse. It is the Holy Spirit, the Lord
and Giver of life under the new covenant. He who turns to Christ
receives this Spirit; it is through it that Christ dwells in His
people; what are called "fruits of the Spirit" are traits of Christ's
own character which the Spirit produces in the saints; practically,
therefore, the two may be identified, and hence the expression "the
Lord is the Spirit," though startling at first sight, is not improper,
and ought not to mislead.[33] It is a mistake to connect it with such
passages as Rom. i. 4, and to draw inferences from it as to Paul's
conception of the person of Christ. He does not say "the Lord is
spirit," but "the Lord is the Spirit"; what is in view is not the
person of Christ so much as His power. To identify the Lord and the
Spirit without qualification, in the face of the benediction in chap.
xiii. 14, is out of the question. The truth of the passage is the same
as that of Rom. viii. 9 ff.: "If any man have not _the Spirit of
Christ_, he is none of His. And if _Christ is in you_," etc. Here, so
far as the practical experience of Christians goes, no distinction is
made between the Spirit of Christ and Christ Himself; Christ dwells in
Christians through His Spirit. The very same truth, as is well known,
pervades the chapters in the Fourth Gospel in which Christ consoles
His disciples for His departure from this world; He will not leave
them orphans--He will come to them, and remain with them in the other
Comforter. To turn to Christ, the Apostle wishes to assert with the
utmost emphasis, is not to do a thing which has no virtue and no
consequences; it is to turn to one who has received of the Father the
gift of the Holy Ghost, and who immediately sets up the new spiritual
life, which is nothing less than His own life, by that Spirit, in the
believing soul. And summing up in one word the grand characteristic
and distinction of the new covenant, as realised by this indwelling of
Christ through His Spirit, he concludes: "And where the Spirit of the
Lord is, there is liberty."

In the interpretation of the last word, we must have respect to the
context; liberty has its meaning in contrast with that state to which
the old covenant had reduced those who adhered to it. It means freedom
from the law; freedom, fundamentally, from its condemnation, thanks to
the gift of righteousness in Christ; freedom, also, from its letter,
as something simply without us and over against us. No written word,
as such, can ever be pleaded against the voice of the Spirit within.
Even the words we call in an eminent sense "inspired," words of the
Spirit, are subject to this law: they do not put a limit to the
liberty of the spiritual man. He can overrule the letter of them when
the literal interpretation or application would contravene the spirit
which is common both to them and him. This principle is capable of
being abused, no doubt, and by bad men and fanatics has been abused;
but its worst abuses can hardly have done more harm than the pedantic
word-worship which has often lost the soul even of the New Testament,
and read the words of the Lord and His Apostles with a veil upon its
face through which nothing could be seen. There is such a thing as an
unspiritual scrupulosity in dealing with the New Testament, now that
we have it in documentary form, just as there used to be in dealing
with the Old; and we ought to remind ourselves continually that the
documentary form is an accident, not an essential, of the new
covenant. That covenant existed, and men lived under it and enjoyed
its blessings, before it had any written documents at all; and we
shall not appreciate its characteristics, and especially this one of
its spiritual freedom, unless we put ourselves occasionally, in
imagination, in their place. It is far easier to make Paul mean too
little than too much; and the liberty of the Spirit in which he exults
here covers, we may be sure, not only liberty from condemnation, and
liberty from the unspiritual yoke of the ritual law, but liberty from
all that is in its nature statutory, liberty to organise the new life,
and to legislate for it, from within.

The bearing of this passage on the religious blindness of the Jews
ought not to hide from us its permanent application. The religious
insensibility of his countrymen will cease, Paul says; their religious
perplexities will be solved, when they turn to Christ. This is the
beginning of all intelligence, of all freedom, of all hope, in things
spiritual. Much of the religious doubt and confusion of our own times
is due to the preoccupation of men's minds with religion at points
from which Christ is invisible. But it is He who is the key to _all_
human experiences as well as to the Old Testament; it is He who
answers the questions of the world as well as the questions of the
Jews; it is He who takes _our_ feet out of the net, opens the gate of
righteousness before us, and gives us spiritual freedom. It is like
finding a pearl of great price when the soul discovers this, and to
point it out to others is to do them a priceless service. Disregard
everything else in the meantime, if you are bewildered, baffled, in
bonds which you cannot break; turn to Jesus Christ, as Moses turned to
God, with face uncovered; put down prejudice, preconceptions, pride,
the disposition to make demands; only look stedfastly till you see
what He is, and all that perplexes you will pass away, or appear in a
new light, and serve a new and spiritual purpose.

Something like this larger application of his words passed, we may
suppose, before the Apostle's mind when he wrote the eighteenth verse.
In the grandeur of the truth which rises upon him he forgets his
controversy and becomes a poet. We breathe the ampler ether, the diviner
air, as we read: "But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a glass
the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to
glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit." I have kept here for
κατοπτριζόμενοι the rendering of the Authorised Version, which in the
Revised has been relegated to the margin, and replaced by "reflecting as
a mirror." There do not seem to be sufficient grounds for the change,
and the old translation is defended in Grimm's Lexicon, in Winer's
Grammar, and by Meyer, Heinrici, and Beet. The active voice of the verb
κατοπτρίζω means "to exhibit in a mirror"; and the middle, "to mirror
oneself"--_i.e._, "to look at oneself in a mirror." This, at least, is
the sense of most of the examples of the middle which are found in Greek
writers; but as it is quite inapplicable here, the question of
interpretation becomes rather difficult. It is, however, in accordance
with analogy to say that if the active means "to show in a mirror," the
middle means "to get shown to one in a mirror," or, as the Authorised
Version puts it, "to behold in a mirror." I cannot make out that any
analogy favours the new rendering, "reflecting as a mirror"; and the
authority of Chrysostom, which would otherwise be considerable on this
side, is lessened by the fact that he seems never to have raised the
question, and in point of fact combines both renderings.[34] His
illustration of the polished silver lying in the sunshine, and sending
back the rays which strike it, is in favour of the change; but when he
writes, "We not only _look upon_ the glory of God, but also catch thence
a kind of radiance," he may fairly be claimed for the other side. There
are two reasons also which seem to me to have great weight in favour of
the old rendering: first, the expression "with unveiled face," which, as
Meyer remarks, is naturally of a piece with "beholding"; and, second, an
unequivocal example of the middle voice of κατοπτρίζομαι in the sense of
"seeing," while no unequivocal example can be produced for "reflecting."
This example is found in Philo i. 107 (_Leg. Alleg._, iii. 33), where
Moses prays to God: "Show not Thyself to me through heaven or earth, or
water or air, or anything at all that comes into being; nor let me see
Thy form mirrored in any other thing than in Thee, even in God" (Μηδὲ
κατοπτρισαίμην ἐν ἄλλῳ τινὶ τὴν σὴν ἰδέαν ἢ ἐν σοὶ τῷ Θεῷ). This seems
to me decisive, and there is the less reason to reject it on other than
linguistic grounds, when we consider that the idea of "reflecting," if
it is given up in κατοπτριζόμενοι, is conserved in μεταμορφούμεθα. The
transformation has the reflection of Christ's glory for its effect, not
for its cause; but the reflection, eventually, is there.

Assuming, then, that "beholding as in a glass" is the right
interpretation of this hard word, let us go on to what the Apostle
says. "We all" probably means "all Christians," and not only "all
Christian teachers." If there is a comparison implied, it is between
the two dispensations, and the experiences open to those who lived
under them, not between the mediator of the old and the heralds of the
new. Under the old covenant one only saw the glory; now the beatific
vision is open to all. We all behold it "with unveiled face." There is
nothing on Christ's part that leads to disguise, and nothing on ours
that comes between us and Him. The darkness is past, the true light
already shines, and Christian souls cannot look on it too fixedly, or
drink it in to excess. But what is meant by "the glory of the Lord" on
which we gaze with face unveiled?

It will not be questioned, by those who are at home in St. Paul's
thoughts, that "the Lord" means the exalted Saviour, and that the
glory must be something which belongs to Him. Indeed, if we remember
that in the First Epistle, chap. ii. 8, He is characteristically
described by the Apostle as "the Lord of glory," we shall not feel it
too much to say that the glory is _everything_ which belongs to Him.
There is not any aspect of the exalted Christ, there is not any
representation of Him in the Gospel, there is not any function which
He exercises, that does not come under this head. "In His temple
everything saith Glory!" There is a glory even in the mode of His
existence: St. Paul's conception of Him is dominated always by that
appearance on the way to Damascus, when he saw the Christ through a
light above the brightness of the sun. It is His glory that He shares
the Father's throne,[35] that He is head of the Church, possessor and
bestower of all the fulness of divine grace, the coming Judge of the
world, conqueror of every hostile power, intercessor for His own,
and, in short, bearer of all the majesty which belongs to His kingly
office. The essential thing in all this--essential to the
understanding of the Apostle, and to the existence of the apostolic
"_Gospel of the glory of Christ_" (chap. iv. 4)--is that the glory in
question is the glory of a Living Person. When Paul thinks of it, he
does not look back, he looks up; he does not remember, he beholds in a
glass; the glory of the Lord has no meaning for him apart from the
present exaltation of the Risen Christ. "The Lord reigneth; He is
apparelled with majesty"--that is the anthem of His praise.

I have insisted on this, because, in a certain reaction from what was
perhaps an exaggerated Paulinism, there is a tendency to misapply even
the most characteristic and vital passages in St. Paul's Gospel, and
pre-eminently to misapply passages like this. Nothing could be more
misleading than to substitute here for the glory of the exalted Christ
as mirrored in the apostolic Gospel that moral beauty which was seen
in Jesus of Nazareth. Of course I do not mean to deny that the moral
loveliness of Jesus is glorious; nor do I question that in the
contemplation of it in the pages of our Gospels--_subject to one grand
condition_--a transforming power is exercised through it; but I do
deny that any such thing was in the mind of St. Paul. The subject of
the Apostle's Gospel was not Jesus the carpenter of Nazareth, but
Christ the Lord of glory; men, as he understood the matter, were
saved, not by dwelling on the wonderful words and deeds of One who had
lived some time ago, and reviving these in their imagination, but by
receiving the almighty, emancipating, quickening Spirit of One who
lived and reigned for evermore. The transformation here spoken of is
not the work of a powerful imagination, which can make the figure in
the pages of the Gospels live again, and suffuse the soul with feeling
as it gazes upon it; preach this as gospel who will, it was never
preached by an apostle of Jesus Christ. It is the work of the Spirit,
and the Spirit is given, not to the memory or imagination which can
vivify the past, but to the faith which sees Christ upon His throne.
_And it is subject to the condition of faith in the living Christ that
contemplation of Jesus in the Gospels changes us into the same image._
There can be no doubt that at the present time many are falling back
upon this contemplation in a despairing rather than a believing mood;
what they seek and find in it is rather a poetic consolation than
religious inspiration; their faith in the living Christ is gone, or is
so uncertain as to be practically of no saving power, and they have
recourse to the memory of what Jesus was as at least something to
cling to. "We thought that it had been He which should have delivered
Israel." But surely it is as clear as day that in religion--in the
matter of redemption--we must deal, not with the dead, but with the
living. Paul may have known less or more of the contents of our first
three Gospels; he may have valued them more or less adequately; but
just because he had been saved by Christ, and was preaching Christ as
a Saviour, the centre of his thoughts and affections was not Galilee,
but "the heavenlies." _There_ the Lord of glory reigned; and from that
world He sent the Spirit which changed His people into His image. And
so it must always be, if Christianity is to be a living religion.
Leave out this, and not only is the Pauline Gospel lost, but
everything is lost which could be called Gospel in the New Testament.

The Lord of glory, Paul teaches here, is the pattern and prophecy of
a glory to be revealed in us; and as we contemplate Him in the mirror
of the Gospel,[36] we are gradually transformed into the same image,
even as by the Lord the Spirit. The transformation, these last words
again teach, is not accomplished by beholding, but while we behold; it
does not depend on the vividness with which we can imagine the past,
but on the present power of Christ working in us. The result is such
as befits the operation of such a power. We are changed into the image
of Him from whom it proceeds. We are made like Himself. It may seem
far more natural to say that the believer is made like Jesus of
Nazareth, than that he is made like the Lord of glory; but that does
not entitle us to shift the centre of gravity in the Apostle's
teaching, and it only tempts us to ignore one of the most prominent
and enviable characteristics of the New Testament religious life.
Christ is on His throne, and His people are _exalted and victorious_
in Him. When we forget Christ's exaltation in our study of His earthly
life--when we are so preoccupied, it may even be so fascinated, with
what He was, that we forget what He is--when, in other words, a pious
historical imagination takes the place of a living religious
faith--_that victorious consciousness is lost_, and in a most
essential point the image of the Lord is not reproduced in the
believer. This is why the Pauline point of view--if indeed it is to be
called Pauline, and not simply Christian--is essential. Christianity
is a religion, not merely a history, though it should be the history
told by Matthew, Mark, and Luke; and the chance of having the history
itself appreciated for religion is that He who is its subject shall
be contemplated, not in the dim distance of the past, but in the glory
of His heavenly reign, and that He shall be recognised, not merely as
one who lived a perfect life in His own generation, but as the Giver
of life eternal by His Spirit to all who turn to Him. The Church will
always be justified, while recognising that Christianity is a
historical religion, in giving prominence, not to its historicity, but
to what makes it a religion at all--namely, the present exaltation of
Christ. This involves everything, and determines, as St. Paul tells us
here, the very form and spirit of her own life.


[28] In the LXX. ἑλπίζω is often used as the rendering of בָּטַה

[29] Attempts have been made to render πρὸς τὸ μὴ ἀτενίσαι otherwise:
_e.g._, πρὸς has been taken as in Matt. xix. 8, which would give the
meaning, "considering that the children of Israel did not look on,"
etc. Moses would thus veil himself in view of the fact that they did
not see: the veil would be the symbol of the judicial blindness which
was henceforth to fall on them.

[30] I cannot suppose that ἐπὶ τῇ ἀναγνώσει τῆς π. διαθήκης means
anything different from ἡνίκα ἄν ἀναγινώσκηται Μωϋσῆς. It conveys no
sense, that I can see, to say that there are _two veils_, one upon the
reading, and another upon the heart. Yet many take it so.

[31] The present, where we might expect the future, conveys the
certainty and decisiveness of the result.

[32] The subject of the verb ἐπιστρέψῃ ("turn") is not in point of
grammar very clear. It may be Israel, or the heart on which a veil
lies, or any one, taken indefinitely. Practically, the application is
limited to those who live under the old covenant, and yet have its
nature hidden from them. Hence it is fair to render, as I have done,
"when _they_ turn to the Lord."

[33] The peculiarity of the passage has given occasion to conjectures,
of which by far the most ingenious is Baljon's: Ὁῦ δὲ ὁ Κύριος, τὸ
Πνεῦμά ἐστιν, οὗ δὲ τὸ Πνεῦμα Κυρίου, ἐλευθερία: "Where the Lord is,
the Spirit is; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

[34] _Hom._ vii. on 2 Cor., p. 486, E.: Οὐ μόνον ὁρῶμεν εἰς τὴν δόξαν
τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐκεῖθεν δεχόμεθά τινα αἴγλην.

[35] So Meyer, from whom the particulars in this sentence are taken.

[36] The idea of the mirror is not to be omitted, as of no consequence.
It is essential to the figure: "we see not yet face to face."


                          _THE GOSPEL DEFINED_

    "Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained
    mercy, we faint not: but we have renounced the hidden things of
    shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the Word of God
    deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth commending
    ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But and
    if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that are perishing:
    in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the
    unbelieving, that the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ,
    who is the image of God, should not dawn _upon them_. For we
    preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as
    your servants for Jesus' sake. Seeing it is God, that said, Light
    shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the
    light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus
    Christ."--2 COR. iv. 1-6 (R.V.).

In this paragraph Paul resumes for the last time the line of thought
on which he had set out at chap. iii. 4, and again at chap. iii. 12.
Twice he has allowed himself to be carried away into digressions, not
less interesting than his argument; but now he proceeds without
further interruption. His subject is the New Testament ministry, and
his own conduct as a minister.

"Seeing we have this ministry," he writes, "even as we obtained mercy,
we faint not." The whole tone of the passage is to be triumphant;
above the common joy of the New Testament it rises, at the close (ver.
16 ff.), into a kind of solemn rapture; and it is characteristic of
the Apostle that before he abandons himself to the swelling tide of
exultation, he guards it all with the words, "even as we obtained
mercy." There was nothing so deep down in Paul's soul, nothing so
constantly present to his thoughts, as this great experience. No flood
of emotion, no pressure of trial, no necessity of conflict, ever drove
him from his moorings here. The mercy of God underlay his whole being;
it kept him humble even when he boasted; even when engaged in
defending his character against false accusations--a peculiarly trying
situation--it kept him truly Christian in spirit.

The words may be connected equally well, so far as either meaning or
grammar is concerned, with what precedes, or with what follows. It was
a signal proof of God's mercy that He had entrusted Paul with the
ministry of the Gospel; and it was only what we should expect, when
one who had obtained such mercy turned out a good soldier of Jesus
Christ, able to endure hardship and not faint. Those to whom little is
forgiven, Jesus Himself tells us, love little; it is not in them for
Jesus' sake to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things,
endure all things. They faint easily, and are overborne by petty
trials, because they have not in them that fountain of brave
patience--a deep abiding sense of what they owe to Christ, and can
never, by any length or ardour of service, repay. It accuses us, not
so much of human weakness, as of ingratitude, and insensibility to the
mercy of God, when we faint in the exercise of our ministry.

"We faint not," says Paul: "we show no weakness. On the contrary, we
have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness,
nor handling the Word of God deceitfully." The contrast marked by ἀλλὰ
is very instructive: it shows, in the things which Paul had
renounced, whither weakness leads. It betrays men. It compels them to
have recourse to arts which shame bids them conceal; they become
diplomatists and strategists, rather than heralds; they manipulate
their message; they adapt it to the spirit of the time, or the
prejudices of their auditors; they make liberal use of the principle
of accommodation. When these arts are looked at closely, they come to
this: the minister has contrived to put something of his own between
his hearers and the Gospel; the message has really not been declared.
His intention, of course, with all this artifice, is to recommend
himself to men; but the method is radically vicious. The Apostle shows
us a more excellent way. "We have renounced," he says, "all these weak
ingenuities; and by manifestation of the truth commend ourselves to
every man's conscience in the sight of God."[37]

This is probably the simplest and most complete directory for the
preaching of the Gospel. The preacher is to make the truth manifest.
It is implied in what has just been said, that one great hindrance to
its manifestation may easily be its treatment by the preacher himself.
If he wishes to do anything else at the same time, the manifestation
will not take effect. If he wishes, in the very act of preaching, to
conciliate a class, or an interest; to create an opinion in favour of
his own learning, ability, or eloquence; to enlist sympathy for a
cause or an institution which is only accidentally connected with the
Gospel,--the truth will not be seen, and it will not tell. The truth,
we are further taught here, makes its appeal to the conscience; it is
there that God's witness in its favour resides. Now, the conscience is
the moral nature of man, or the moral element in his nature; it is
this, therefore, which the preacher has to address. Does not this
involve a certain directness and simplicity of method, a certain
plainness and urgency also, which it is far easier to miss than to
find? Conscience is not the abstract logical faculty in man, and the
preacher's business is therefore not to prove, but to proclaim, the
Gospel. All he has to do is to let it be seen, and the more nakedly
visible it is the better. His object is not to frame an irrefragable
argument, but to produce an irresistible impression. There is no such
thing as an argument to which it is impossible for a wilful man to
make objections; at least there is no such thing in the sphere of
Christian truth. Even if there were, men would object to it on that
very ground. They would say that, in matters of this description, when
logic went too far, it amounted to moral intimidation, and that in the
interests of liberty they were entitled to protest against it.
Practically, this is what Voltaire said of Pascal.[38] But there is
such a thing as an irresistible impression,--an impression made upon
the moral nature against which it is vain to attempt any protest; an
impression, which subdues and holds the soul for ever. When the truth
is manifested, and men see it, this is the effect to be looked for;
this, consequently, is the preacher's aim. In the sight of God--that
is, acting with absolute sincerity--Paul trusted to this simple method
to recommend himself to men. He brought no letters of introduction
from others; he had no artifices of his own; he held up the truth in
its unadorned integrity till it told upon the conscience of his
hearers; and after that, he needed no other witness. The same
conversions which accredited the power of the message accredited the
character of him who bore it.

To this line of argument there is a very obvious reply. What, it may
be asked, of those on whom "the manifestation of the truth" produces
no effect? What of those who in spite of all this plain appeal to
conscience neither see nor feel anything? It is sadly obvious that
this is no mere supposition; the Gospel remains a secret, an impotent
ineffective secret, to many who hear it again and again. Paul faces
the difficulty without flinching, though the answer is appalling. "If
our Gospel _is_ veiled (and the melancholy fact cannot be denied), it
is veiled in the case of the perishing." The fact that it remains
hidden from some men is their condemnation; it marks them out as
persons on the way to destruction. The Apostle proceeds to explain
himself further. As far as the rationale can be given of what is
finally irrational, he interprets the moral situation for us. The
perishing people in question are unbelievers, whose thoughts, or
minds, the god of this world has blinded.[39] The intention of this
blinding is conveyed in the last words of ver. 4: "that the
illumination which proceeds from the Gospel, the Gospel of the glory
of Christ, who is the image of God, may not dawn upon them."

Let these solemn words appeal to our hearts and consciences, before we
attempt to criticise them. Let us have a due impression of the
stupendous facts to which they refer, before we raise difficulties
about them, or say rashly that the expression is disproportioned to
the truth. To St. Paul the Gospel was a very great thing. A light
issued from it so dazzling, so overwhelming, in its splendour and
illuminative power, that it might well appear incredible that men
should not see it. The powers counteracting it, "the world-rulers of
this darkness," must surely, to judge by their success, have an
immense influence. Even more than an immense influence, they must have
an immense malignity. For what a blessedness it meant for men, that
that light should dawn upon them! What a deprivation and loss, that
its brightness should be obscured! Paul's whole sense of the might and
malignity of the powers of darkness is condensed in the title which he
here gives to their head--"_the god_ of this world." It is literally
"of this age," the period of time which extends to Christ's coming
again. The dominion of evil is not unlimited, in duration; but while
it lasts it is awful in its intensity and range. It does not seem an
extravagance to the Apostle to describe Satan as the god of the
present æon; and if it seems extravagant to us, we may remind
ourselves that our Saviour also twice speaks of him as "_the prince_
of this world." Who but Christ Himself, or a soul like St. Paul in
complete sympathy with the mind and work of Christ, is capable of
seeing and feeling the incalculable mass of the forces which are at
work in the world to defeat the Gospel? What sleepy conscience, what
moral mediocrity, itself purblind, only dimly conscious of the height
of the Christian calling, and vexed by no aspirations toward it, has
any right to say that it is too much to call Satan "the god of this
world"? Such sleepy consciences have no idea of the omnipresence, the
steady persistent pressure, the sleepless malignity, of the evil
forces which beset man's life. They have no idea of the extent to
which these forces frustrate the love of God in the Gospel, and rob
men of their inheritance in Christ. To ask why men _should_ be exposed
to such forces is another, and here an irrelevant, question. What St.
Paul saw, and what becomes apparent to every one in proportion as his
interest in evangelising becomes intense, is that evil has a power and
dominion in the world, which are betrayed, by their counteracting of
the Gospel, to be purely malignant--in other words, Satanic--and the
dimensions of which no description can exaggerate. Call such powers
Satan, or what you please, but do not imagine that they are
inconsiderable. During this age they _reign_; they have virtually
taken what should be God's place in the world.

It is the necessary complement of this assertion of the malign
dominion of evil, when St. Paul tells us that it is exercised in the
case of unbelievers. It is their minds which the god of this world has
blinded. We need not try to investigate more narrowly the relations of
these two aspects of the facts. We need not say that the dominion of
evil produces unbelief, though this is true (John iii. 18, 19); or
that unbelief gives Satan his opportunity; or even that unbelief and
the blindness here referred to are reciprocally cause and effect of
each other. The moral interests involved are protected by the fact
that blindness is only predicated in the case in which the Gospel has
been rejected by individual unbelief; and the mere individualism,
which is the source of so many heresies, doctrinal and practical, is
excluded by the recognition of spiritual forces as operative among men
which are far more wide-reaching than any individual knows. Nor ought
we to overlook the suggestion of pity, and even of hope, for the
perishing, in the contrast between their darkness and the illumination
which the Gospel of the glory of Christ lights up. The perishing are
not the lost; the unbelievers may yet believe: "in our deepest
darkness, we know the direction of the light" (Beet). Final unbelief
would mean final ruin; but we are not entitled to make sense the
measure of spiritual things, and to argue that because we see men
blind and unbelieving now they are bound for ever to remain so. In
preaching the Gospel we must preach with hope that the light is
stronger than the darkness, and able, even at the deepest, to drive it
away. Only, when we see, as we sometimes will, how dense and
impenetrable the darkness is, we cannot but cry with the Apostle, "Who
is sufficient for these things?"

This passage is one of those in which the subject of the Gospel is
distinctly enunciated: it is the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who
is the image of God. The glory of Christ, or, which is the same thing,
Christ in His glory, is the sum and substance of it, that which gives
it both its contents and its character. Paul's conception of the
Gospel is inspired and controlled from beginning to end by the
appearance of the Lord which resulted in his conversion. In the First
Epistle to the Corinthians (i. 18, 23), and in the Epistle to the
Galatians (vi. 14), he seems to find what is essential and
distinguishing in the Cross rather than the Throne; but this is
probably due to the fact that the significance of the Cross had been
virtually denied by those for whom His words are meant. The Christ
whom he preached had died, and died, as the next chapter will make
very prominent, to reconcile the world to God; but Paul preached Him
as he had seen Him on that ever-memorable day; with all the virtue of
His atoning death in it, the Gospel was yet the Gospel of _His glory_.
It is in the combination of these two that the supreme power of the
Gospel lies. In the distaste for the supernatural which has prevailed
so widely, many have tried to ignore this, and to get out of the Cross
alone an inspiration which it cannot yield if severed from the Throne.
Had the story of Jesus ended with the words "suffered under Pontius
Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried," it is very certain that
these words would never have formed part of a Creed--there would never
have been such a thing as the Christian religion. But when these words
are combined with what follows--"He rose again from the dead on the
third day, He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of
God the Father"--we have the basis which religion requires; we have a
living Lord, in whom all the redemptive virtue of a sinless life and
death is treasured up, and who is able to save to the uttermost all
that trust Him. It is not the emotions excited by the spectacle of the
Passion, any more than the admiration evoked by the contemplation of
Christ's life, that save; it is the Lord of glory, who lived that life
of love, and in love endured that agony, and who is now enthroned at
God's right hand. The life and death in one sense form part of His
glory, in another they are a foil to it; He could not have been our
Saviour but for them; He would not be our Saviour unless He had
triumphed over them, and entered into a glory beyond.

When the Apostle speaks of Christ as the image of God, we must not let
extraneous associations with this title deflect us from the true line
of his thought. It is still the Exalted One of whom he is speaking:
there is no other Christ for him. In that face which flashed upon him
by Damascus twenty years before, he had seen, and always saw, all that
man could see of the invisible God. It represented for him, and for
all to whom he preached, the Sovereignty and the Redeeming Love of
God, as completely as man could understand them. It evoked those
ascriptions of praise which a Jew was accustomed to offer to God
alone. It inspired doxologies. When it passed before the inward eye of
the Apostle, he worshipped: "to Him," he said, "be the glory and the
dominion for ever and ever." Whether the pre-incarnate Son was also
the image of God, and whether the same title is applicable to Jesus of
Nazareth, are separate questions. If they are raised, they must be
answered in the affirmative, with the necessary qualifications; but
they are quite irrelevant here. Much misunderstanding of the Pauline
Gospel would have been prevented if men could have remembered that
what was only of secondary importance to them, and even of doubtful
certainty--namely, the exaltation of Christ--was itself the foundation
of the Apostle's Christianity, the one indubitable fact from which his
whole knowledge of Christ, and his whole conception of the Gospel, set
forth. Christ on the throne was, if one may say so, a more immediate
certainty to Paul, than Jesus on the banks of the lake, or even Jesus
on the cross. It may not be natural or easy for _us_ to start thus;
but if we do not make the effort, we shall involuntarily dislocate and
distort the whole system of his thoughts.

In the fourth verse the stress is logically, if not grammatically, on
Christ. "The Gospel of the glory of _Christ_," I say. "For we preach
not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your
servants for Jesus' sake." Perhaps ambition had been laid to Paul's
charge; "the necessity of being first" is one of the last infirmities
of noble minds. But the Gospel is too magnificent to have any room for
thoughts of self. A proud man may make a nation, or even a Church, the
instrument or the arena of his pride; he may find in it the field of
his ambition, and make it subservient to his own exaltation. But the
defence which Paul has offered of his truthfulness in chap. i. is as
capable of application here. No one whom Christ has seized, subdued,
and made wholly His own for ever, can practise the arts of
self-advancement in Christ's service. The two are mutually exclusive.
Paul preaches Christ Jesus as Lord--the absolute character in which he
knows Him; as for himself, he is every man's servant for Jesus' sake.
He obtained mercy, that he might be found faithful in service: the
very name of Jesus kills pride in his heart, and makes him ready to
minister even to the unthankful and evil.

This is the force of the "for" with which the sixth verse begins. It is
as if he had written, "With our experience, no other course is possible
to us; for it is God, who said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who
shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of
God in the face of Jesus Christ." But the connexion here is of little
importance in comparison with the grandeur of the contents. In this
verse we have the first glimpse of the Pauline doctrine, explicitly
stated in the next chapter--"that if any man be in Christ, he is a new
creature." The Apostle finds the only adequate parallel to his own
conversion in that grand creative act in which God brought light, by a
word, out of the darkness of chaos. It is not forcing the figure unduly,
nor losing its poetic virtue, to think of gloom and disorder as the
condition of the soul on which the Sun of Righteousness has not risen.
Neither is it putting any strain upon it to make it suggest that only
the creative word of God can dispel the darkness, and give the beauty of
life and order to what was waste and void. There is one point, indeed,
in which the miracle of grace is more wonderful than that of creation.
God only commanded the light to shine out of darkness when time began;
but He shone Himself in the Apostle's heart: _Ipse lux nostra_ (Bengel).
He shone "to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the
face of Jesus Christ." In that light which God flashed into his heart,
he saw the face of Jesus Christ, and knew that the glory which shone
there was the glory of God. What these words mean has already been
explained. In the face of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, Paul saw
God's Redeeming Love upon the throne of the universe; it had descended
deeper than sin and death; it was exalted now above all heavens; it
filled all things. That sight he carried with him everywhere; it was his
salvation and his Gospel, the inspiration of his inmost life, and the
motive of all his labours. One who owed all this to Christ was not
likely to make Christ's service the theatre of his own ambitions; he
could not do anything but take the servant's place, and proclaim Jesus
Christ as Lord.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a difficulty in the last half of ver. 6: it is not clear what
precisely meant by πρὸς φωτισμὸν τῆς γνώσεως τῆς δόξης τοῦ Θεοῦ κ.τ.λ.
By some the passage is rendered: God shined in our hearts, "that _He_
might bring into the light (for _us_ to see it) the knowledge of His
glory," etc. This is certainly legitimate, and strikes me as the most
natural interpretation. It would answer then to what Paul says in Gal.
i. 15 f., referring to the same event: "It pleased God to reveal His Son
in me." But others think all this is covered by the words "God shined in
our hearts," and they take πρὸς φωτισμὸν κ.τ.λ., as a description of the
apostolic vocation: God shined in our hearts, "that _we_ might bring
into the light (for _others_ to see) the knowledge of His glory," etc.
The words would then answer to what follows in Gal. i. 16: God revealed
His Son in me, "that I might preach Him among the heathen." This
construction is possible, but I think forced. In Paul's experience his
conversion and vocation were indissolubly connected; but πρὸς φωτισμὸν
κ.τ.λ., can only mean one, and the conversion is the likelier.


[37] Expositors seem to be agreed that in this passage there is a
reference, more or less definite and particular, to the Judaising
opponents of St. Paul at Corinth. This may be admitted, but is not to
be forced. It is forced, _e.g._, by Schmiedel, who habitually reads
St. Paul as if (1) he had been expressly accused of everything which
he says he does not do, and (2) as if he deliberately retorted on his
opponents every charge he denied. Press this as he does, and whole
passages of the Epistles become a series of covert insinuations--a
kind of calumnious conundrums--instead of frank and _bona fide_
statements of Christian principle. The result condemns the process.

[38] "Il voulut se servir de la supériorité de ce génie, comme les
rois de leur puissance; il crut tout soumettre, et tout abaisser par
la force."

[39] Grammarians differ much as to the relation of τῶν ἀπίστων ("which
believe not") to ἐν οἶς ("in whom"). I have no doubt they are the
same. The natural way for the Apostle to express himself would have
been: "it is veiled in them that are perishing, whose minds the god of
this world blinded." But he wished to include the moral aspect of the
case, the side of the personal responsibility of the perishing, as of
equal significance with the agency of Satan; and this is what he does
by adding τῶν ἀπίστων. Hence, though the expression is capable of
being grammatically tortured into something different (the perishing
becoming only _a part_ of the unbelieving--so Meyer), it is, by its
sheer grammatical awkwardness, exempted from liability to such
rigorous treatment, and brought under the rules, not of grammar, but
of common sense.


                         _THE VICTORY OF FAITH_

    "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding
    greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves; _we
    are_ pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not
    unto despair; pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not
    destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that
    the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. For we which
    live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life
    also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death
    worketh in us, but life in you. But having the same spirit of faith,
    according to that which is written, I believed, and therefore did I
    speak; we also believe, and therefore also we speak; knowing that He
    which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus,
    and shall present us with you. For all things _are_ for your sakes,
    that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the
    thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God.

    "Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet
    our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction,
    which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an
    eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are
    seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are
    seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are
    eternal."--2 COR. iv. 7-18 (R.V.).

In the opening verses of this chapter Paul has magnified his office,
and his equipment for it. He has risen to a great height, poetic and
spiritual, in speaking of the Lord of glory, and of the light which
shines from His face for the illumining and redemption of men. The
disproportion between his own nature and powers, and the high calling
to which he has been called, flashes across his mind. It is quite
possible that this disproportion, viewed with a malignant eye, had
been made matter of reproach by his adversaries. "Who," they may have
said, "is this man, who soars to such heights, and makes such
extraordinary claims? The part does not suit him; he is quite unequal
to it; his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible." It
is possible, further, though I hardly think it probable, that the very
sufferings Paul endured in his apostolic work were cast in his teeth
by Jewish teachers at Corinth; they were read by these spiteful
interpreters as signs of God's wrath, the judgment of the Almighty on
a wanton subverter of His law. But surely it is not too much to
suppose that Paul could sometimes think unchallenged. A soul as great
and as sensitive as his might well be struck by the contrast which
pervades this passage without requiring to have it suggested by the
malice of his foes. The interpretation which he puts upon the contrast
is not merely a happy artifice (so Calvin), and still less a _tour de
force_; it is a profound truth, a favourite, if one may say so, in the
New Testament, and of universal application.

"We have this treasure," he writes--the treasure of the knowledge of the
glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, including the apostolic
vocation to diffuse that knowledge--"we have this treasure in earthen
vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power [which it exercises,
and which is exhibited in sustaining us in our function] may be seen to
be God's, and not from us." Earthen vessels are fragile, and what the
word immediately suggests is no doubt bodily weakness, and especially
mortality; but the nature of some of the trials referred to in vv. 8 and
9 (ἀπορούμενοι, ἀλλ' οὐκ ἐξαπορύμενοι) shows that it would be a mistake
to confine the meaning to the body. The earthen vessel which holds the
priceless treasure of the knowledge of God--the lamp of frail ware in
which the light of Christ's glory shines for the illumination of the
world--is human nature as it is; man's body in its weakness, and
liability to death; his mind with its limitations and confusions; his
moral nature with its distortions and misconceptions, and its insight
not yet half restored. It was not merely in his physique that Paul felt
the disparity between himself and his calling to preach the Gospel of
the glory of Christ; it was in his whole being. But instead of finding
in this disparity reason to doubt his vocation, he saw in it an
illustration of a great law of God. It served to protect the truth that
_salvation is of the Lord_. No one who saw the exceeding greatness of
the power which the Gospel exercised--not only in sustaining its
preachers under persecution, but in transforming human nature, and
making bad men good--no one who saw this, and looked at a preacher like
Paul, could dream that the explanation lay in _him_. Not in an ugly
little Jew, without presence, without eloquence, without the means to
bribe or to compel, could the source of such courage, the cause of such
transformations, be found; it must be sought, not in him, but in God.
"God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise;
and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things
which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are
despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to
nought things which are." And the end of it all is that he which
glorieth should glory _in the Lord_.

This verse is never without its application; and though the contempt
of the world did not suggest it to St. Paul, it may naturally enough
recall it to us. One would sometimes think, from the tone of current
literature, that no person with gifts above contempt is any longer
identified with the Gospel. Clever men, we are told, do not become
preachers now--still less do they go to church. They find it
impossible to have real or sincere intellectual intercourse with
Christian ministers. Perhaps this is not so alarming as the clever
people think. There always have been men in the world so clever that
God could make no use of them; they could never do His work, because
they were so lost in admiration of their own. But God's work never
depended on them, and it does not depend on them now. It depends on
those who, when they see Jesus Christ, become unconscious, once and
for ever, of all that they have been used to call their wisdom and
their strength--on those who are but earthen vessels in which
another's jewel is kept, lamps of clay in which another's light
shines. The kingdom of God has not changed its administration since
the first century; its supreme law is still the glory of God, and not
the glory of the clever men; and we may be quite sure it will not
change. God will always have his work done by instruments who are
willing to have it clear that the exceeding greatness of the power is
His, and not theirs.

The eighth and ninth verses illustrate the contrast between Paul's
weakness and God's power. In the series of participles which the Apostle
uses, the earthen vessel is represented by the first in each pair, the
divine power by the second. "We are pressed on every side, but not
straitened"--_i.e._, not brought into a narrow place from which there is
no escape. "We are perplexed, but not unto despair," or, preserving the
relation between the words of the original, "put to it, but not utterly
put out." This distinctly suggests inward rather than merely bodily
trials, or at least the inward aspect of these: constantly at a loss,
the Apostle nevertheless constantly finds the solution of his problems.
"Pursued, but not abandoned"--_i.e._, not left in the enemy's hands.
"Smitten down, but not destroyed": even when trouble has done its worst,
when the persecuted man has been overtaken and struck to the ground, the
blow is not fatal, and he rises again. All these partial contrasts of
human weakness and Divine power are condensed and concentrated in the
tenth verse in one great contrast, the two sides of which are presented
in their divinely intended relation to each other: "always bearing about
in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be
manifested in our body." And this again, with its mystical poetic
aspect, especially in the first clause, is reaffirmed and rendered into
prose in ver. 11: "For we, alive as we are, are ever being delivered
unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be
manifested in our mortal flesh."

Paul does not say that he bears about in his body the death of Jesus
(θάνατος), but his dying (νέκρωσις, _mortificatio_), the process which
produces death. The sufferings which come upon him daily in his work for
Jesus are gradually killing him; the pains, the perils, the spiritual
pressure, the excitement of danger and the excitement of deliverance,
are wearing out his strength, and soon he must die. In the very same way
Jesus Himself had spent His strength and died, and in that life of
weakness and suffering which was always bringing him nearer the grave,
Paul felt himself in intimate sympathetic communion with his Master: it
was "the dying _of Jesus_" that he carried about in his body. But that
was not all. In spite of the dying, he was not dead. Perpetually in
peril, he had a perpetual series of escapes; perpetually at his wits
end, his way perpetually opened before him. What was the explanation of
that? It was _the life of Jesus_ manifesting itself in his body. The
life of Jesus can only mean the life which Jesus lives now at God's
right hand; and these repeated escapes of the Apostle, these
restorations of his courage, are manifestations of that life; they are,
so to speak, a series of resurrections. Paul's communion with Jesus is
not only in His dying, but in His rising again; he has the evidence of
the Resurrection, because he has its power, present with him, in these
constant deliverances and renewals. Nay, the very purpose of his
sufferings and perils is to provide occasion for the manifestation of
this resurrection life. Unless he were exposed to death, God could not
deliver him from it; unless he were pressed in the spirit, God could not
give him relief; there could be no setting off of the exceeding
greatness of His power in contrast with the exceeding frailty of the
earthen vessel. The use of body and of mortal flesh in these verses has
been appealed to in support of an interpretation which would limit the
meaning to what is merely physical: "I am in daily danger of death, God
daily delivers me from it, and thus the life of Jesus is manifested in
me." This is of course included in the interpretation given above; but I
cannot suppose it is all the Apostle meant. The truth is, there is no
such thing in the passage, or indeed in human life, as a merely physical
experience. To be delivered to death _for Jesus' sake_ is an experience
which is at once and indissolubly physical and spiritual; it could not
be, unless the soul had its part, and that the chief part, in it. To be
delivered _from_ such death is also an experience as much spiritual as
physical. And in both aspects, and not least in the first, is the life
of Jesus manifested. Nor can I see that it is in the least degree
unnatural for one who feels this to speak of that life as being
manifested in his "body," or in his "mortal flesh"; it is a way which
all men understand of describing the human nature, which is the scene of
the manifestation, as a frail and powerless thing.

The moral of the passage is similar to that of chap. i. 3-11.
Suffering, for the Christian, is not an accident; it is a divine
appointment and a divine opportunity. To wear life out in the service
of Jesus is to open it to the entrance of Jesus' life; it is to
receive, in all its alleviations, in all its renewals, in all its
deliverances, a witness to His resurrection. Perhaps it is only by
accepting this service, with the daily dying it demands, that that
witness can be given to us; and "the life of Jesus" on His throne may
become inapprehensible and unreal in proportion as we decline to bear
about in our bodies His dying. All who have commented on this passage
have noticed the iteration of the name of Jesus. _Singulariter sensit
Paulus dulcedinem ejus._ Schmiedel explains the repetition as partly
accidental, and partly indicative of the fact that Christ's death is
here regarded as a purely human occurrence, and not as a redemptive
deed of the Messiah. This points in the right direction, though it may
fairly be doubted whether Paul would have drawn this distinction, or
could even have been made to understand it. The analytic tendency of
the modern mind often disintegrates what depends for its virtue on
being kept whole and entire, and this seems to me a case in point. The
use of the name Jesus rather indicates that, in recalling the actual
events of his own career, Paul saw them run continually parallel to
events in the career of Another; they were one in kind with that
painful series of incidents which ended in the death of the historical
Saviour. People have often sought in the Epistles of Paul for traces
of a knowledge of Christ like that which is conserved in the first
three Gospels; in this expression, τὴν νέκρωσιν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, and in the
repetition of the historical proper name, there is an indirect but
quite convincing proof that the general character of Christ's life was
known to the Apostle. And though he does not dwell on Christ's
sympathy with the fulness and power of the writer to the Hebrews, it
is evident from this passage that he was in sympathetic fellowship
with One who had suffered as he suffered, and that even to name His
human name was consolation.

In ver. 12 an abrupt conclusion is drawn from all that precedes: "So
then death worketh in us, but life in you." _Ironice dictum_, is
Calvin's comment, and the words are at least intelligible if so taken.
The stinging passage beginning at chap. iv. 8 of the First Epistle is
ironical in precisely this sense--"We are fools for Christ's sake, but
ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye have glory,
but we have dishonour": this is as it were a variation on the theme
"death worketh in us, but life in you." Still, the irony does not seem
in place here: Paul writes in all seriousness that the sufferings
which he endures as a preacher of the Gospel, and which eventually
bring death to him--which are the approaches of death, or death itself
at work--are the means by which life, in the most unqualified sense,
comes to be at work in the Corinthians. If the death and life which
are in view wherever the Gospel appears are to be distributed among
them, the death is his, and the life theirs; the dying of Jesus is
borne about by the Evangelist, while those who accept the message he
brings at this cost are made partakers in Jesus' life.

Not indeed that the contrast can be thus absolute: the thirteenth
verse corrects this hasty inference. If death alone were at work in
St. Paul, it would frustrate his vocation; he would not be able to
preach at all. But he is able to preach. In spite of all the
discouragement which his sufferings might beget, his faith remains
vigorous; he is conscious of possessing that same confidence toward
God which animated the ancient Psalmist to sing, "I believed,
therefore I spoke." "We also," he says, "believe, and therefore also
we speak." What he believes, and what prompts his utterance, we read
in the thirteenth verse: "We speak; knowing that He who raised Jesus
shall raise us also like[40] Jesus, and shall present us with you.
With you, I say: for the whole thing is for your sakes, that the
grace, having become abundant, may by means of many[41] cause the
thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God."

What an interesting illustration this is of the communion of the saints!
Paul recognises a spiritual kinsman in the writer of the Psalm;[42]
faith in God, the power which faith confers, the obligations which
faith imposes, are the same in all ages. He recognises spiritual kinsmen
in the Corinthians also. All his sufferings have their interest in view,
and it is part of his joy, as he looks on to the future, that when God
raises him from the dead, as He raised His own Son, He will present him
_along with them_. Their unity will not be dissolved by death. The word
here rendered "present" has often a technical sense in Paul's Epistles;
it is almost appropriated to the presenting of men before the
judgment-seat of Christ. Good scholars insist on that meaning here; but
even with the proviso that acceptance in the judgment is taken for
granted, I cannot feel that it is quite congruous. There is such a thing
as presentation to a sovereign as well as to a judge--the presenting of
the bride to the bridegroom on the wedding day as well as of the
criminal to the justice--and it is the great and glad occasion which
answers to the feeling in the Apostle's mind. The communion of the
saints, in virtue of which his sufferings bring blessing to the
Corinthians, has its issue in the joyful union of all before the throne.
As Paul thinks of that, he sees an end in the Gospel lying beyond the
blessing it brings to men. That end is God's glory. The more he toils
and suffers, the more God's grace is made known and received; and the
more it is received, the more does it cause thanksgiving to abound to
the glory of God.

Two practical reflections present themselves here, nearly related to
each other. The first is that faith naturally speaks; the second, that
grace merits thanksgiving. Put the two into one, and we may say that
grace received by faith merits articulate thanksgiving. Much modern
faith is inarticulate, and it is far too soothing to be true if we
say, Better so. Of course the utterance of faith is not prescribed to
it; to be of any value it must be spontaneous. Not all the believing
are to be teachers and preachers, but all are to be confessors. Every
one who has faith has a witness to bear to God. Every one who has
accepted God's grace by faith has a thankful acknowledgment of it to
make, and at some time or other to make in words. It is not the
faculty of speech that is wanting where this is not done; it is
courage and gratitude; it is the same Spirit of faith which prompted
the Psalmist and St. Paul. It is true that hypocrites sometimes speak,
and that testimonies and thanksgivings are apt to be discredited on
their account; but bad money would never be put in circulation unless
good money was indisputably valuable. It is not the dumb, but the
confessing Christian, not the taciturn, but the outspokenly thankful,
who glorifies God, and helps on the Gospel. Calvin is properly severe
on our "pseudo-nicodemi," who make a merit of their silence, and boast
that they have never by a syllable betrayed their faith. Faith is
betrayed in another and more serious sense when it is kept secret.

But to return to the Apostle, who himself, at ver. 16, returns to the
beginning of the chapter, and resumes the οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν of ver. 1:
"Wherefore we faint not." "Wherefore" means "With all that has been said
in view"; not only the glorious future in which Paul and his disciples
are to be raised and presented together to Christ, but his daily
experience of the life of Jesus manifested in his mortal flesh. This
kept him brave and strong. "We faint not; but though our outward man is
decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day." The outward man
covers the same area as "our body," or "our mortal flesh." It is human
nature as it is constituted in this world--a weak, fragile, perishable
thing. Paul could not mistake, and did not hide from himself, the effect
which his apostolic work had upon him. He saw it was killing him. He was
old long before the time. He was a sorely broken man at an age when many
are in the fulness of their strength. The earthen vessel was visibly
crumbling. Still, that was not the _whole_ of his experience. "The
inward man is renewed day by day." The meaning of these words must be
fixed mainly by the opposition in which they stand to οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν
("we faint not"). The same word (ἀνακαινοῦσθαι) is used of the renewal
of the soul in the Creator's image (Col. iii. 10)--_i.e._, of the work
of sanctification; but the opposition in question proves that this is
not contemplated here. We must rather think of the daily supply of
spiritual power for apostolic service--of the new strength and joy which
were given to St. Paul every morning, in spite of the toils and
sufferings which every day exhausted him. Of course we can say of all
people, bad as well as good, "The outward man is decaying." Time tires
the stoutest runner, crumbles the compactest wall. But we cannot say of
all, "The inward man is renewed day by day." That is not the
compensation of every one; it is the compensation of those whose outward
man has decayed in Jesus' service, who have been worn out in labours for
His sake. It is they, and they only, who have a life within which is
independent of outward conditions, which sufferings and deaths cannot
crush, and which never grows old. The decay of the outward man in the
godless is a melancholy spectacle, for it is the decay of everything; in
the Christian it does not touch that life which is hid with Christ in
God, and which is in the soul itself a well of water springing up to
life eternal.

But who shall speak of the two great verses in which the Apostle,
leaving controversy out of sight, solemnly weighs against each other
time and eternity, the seen and the unseen, and claims his inheritance
beyond? "Our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us
more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look
not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not
seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which
are not seen are eternal." One can imagine that he was dictating quick
and eagerly as he began the sentence; he "crowds and hurries and
precipitates" the grand contrasts of which his mind is full.
Affliction in any case is outweighed by glory, but the affliction in
question is a light matter, the glory a great weight: the light
affliction is but momentary--it ends with death at the latest, it may
end in the coming of Jesus to anticipate death; the weight of glory is
eternal; and as if this were not enough, the light affliction which is
but for a moment works out for us the weight of glory which endures
for ever, "in excess and to excess," in a way above conception, to a
degree above conception: it works out for us the things which eye hath
not seen, nor ear heard, nor man's heart conceived, "all that God has
prepared for them that love Him" (1 Cor. ii. 9). If Paul spoke fast
and with beating heart as he crowded all this into two brief lines, we
can well believe that the pressure was relaxed, and that the pen moved
more steadily and slowly over the contemplative words that follow:
"while we look not to the things which are seen, but to the things
which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but
the things which are not seen are eternal." This sentence is sometimes
translated conditionally: "provided we look," etc. This is legitimate,
but unnecessary. The Apostle is speaking, in the first instance, of
himself, and the looking is taken for granted. The look is not merely
equivalent to vision; it means that the unseen is the goal of him who
looks. The eye is to be directed to it, not as an indifferent object,
but as a mark to aim at, an end to attain. This observation goes some
way to limit the application of the whole passage. The contrast of
things seen and things unseen is sometimes taken in a latitude which
deprives it of much of its force: psychology and metaphysics are
dragged in to define and to confuse the Apostle's thought. But
everything here is practical. The things seen are to all intents and
purposes that tempest-tossed life of which St. Paul has been speaking,
that daily dying, that pressure, perplexity, persecution, and
downcasting, which are for the present his lot. To these he does not
look: in comparison with that to which he does look, these are a light
and momentary affliction which is not worth a thought. Similarly, the
things unseen are not everything, indefinitely, which is invisible; to
all intents and purposes they are the glory of Christ. It is on this
the Apostle's eye is fixed, this which is his goal. The stormy life,
even when most is made of its storms, passes; but Christ's glory can
never pass. It is infinite, inconceivable, eternal. There is an
inheritance in it for all who keep their eyes upon it, and, sustained
by a hope so high, bear the daily death of a life like Paul's as a
light and momentary affliction. The connexion between the two is so
close that the one is said to work for us the other. By divine
appointment they are united; fellowship with Jesus is fellowship all
through--in the daily dying, which soon has done its worst, and then
in the endless life. We may say, if we please, that the glory is the
reward of the suffering; it would be truer to say that it was its
compensation, truer still that it was its fruit. There is a vital
connexion between them, but no one can imagine he is reading Paul's
thought who should find here the idea that the trivial service of man
can make God his debtor for so vast a sum. The excellency of the power
which raises the earthen vessel to this height of faith, hope, and
inspiration is itself God's, and God's alone.

Distrust of the supernatural, insistence on the present and the
practical, and the pride of a self-styled common sense, have done much
to rob modern Christianity of this vast horizon, to blind it to this
heavenly vision. But wherever the life of Jesus is being manifested in
mortal flesh--wherever in His service and for His sake men and women
die daily, wearing out nature, but with spirit ceaselessly
renewed--there the unseen becomes real again. Such people know that
what they do is not for one dead, but for One who lives; they know
that the daily inspirations they receive, the hopes, the deliverances,
are wrought in them, not by themselves, but by One who has all power
in heaven and on earth. The things that are unseen and eternal stand
out as what they are in relation to lives like these; to other lives,
they have no relation at all. A worldly and selfish career does not
work out an exceeding and eternal weight of glory, and therefore to
the worldly and selfish man heaven is for ever an unpractical,
incredible thing. But it not only comes out in its brightness, it
comes out as a mighty inspiration and support, to every one who bears
about in his body the dying of Jesus; as he fastens his eye upon it,
he takes heart anew, and in spite of daily dying "faints not."


[40] Σὺν Ἰησοῦ is the true reading: sameness of kind is meant, not of

[41] Διὰ τῶν πλειόνων is construed in the R.V. with πλεονάσασα (so
Meyer): De Wette takes it as above; in the A.V. the διὰ is made to
govern τὴν εὐχαριστίαν. There is no grammatical decision certain here.

[42] The Hebrew Psalm cxvi. 10 is at this precise point practically
unintelligible, but that does not justify any one in saying that the
fine thought of the Apostle is utterly foreign to the original text.
The open confession of God, as a duty of faith, pervades the psalm
from this point to the end (the verses beginning Ἐπίστευσα διὸ ἐλάλησα
make a psalm by themselves in the LXX.).


                          _THE CHRISTIAN HOPE_

    "For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be
    dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands,
    eternal, in the heavens. For verily in this we groan, longing to be
    clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven: if so be that
    being clothed we shall not be found naked. For indeed we that are in
    this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be
    unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon, that what is mortal
    may be swallowed up of life. Now He that wrought us for this very
    thing is God, who gave unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Being
    therefore always of good courage, and knowing that, whilst we are at
    home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith,
    not by sight); we are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather
    to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.
    Wherefore also we make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be
    well-pleasing unto Him. For we must all be made manifest before the
    judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things _done_
    in the body, according to what he hath done, whether _it be_ good or
    bad."--2 COR. v. 1-10 (R.V.).

That outlook on the future, which at the close of chap. iv. is presented
in the most general terms, is here carried out by the Apostle into more
definite detail. The passage is one of the most difficult in his
writings, and has received the most various interpretations; yet the
first impression it leaves on a simple reader is probably as near the
truth as the subtlest ingenuity of exegesis. It is indeed to such first
impressions that one often returns when the mind has ceased to sway this
way and that under the impact of conflicting arguments.

The Apostle has been speaking about his life as a daily dying, and in
the first verse of this chapter he looks at the possibility that this
dying may be consummated in death. It is only a possibility, for to
the end of his life it was always conceivable that Christ might come,
and forestall the last enemy. Still, it _is_ a possibility; the
earthly house of our tabernacle may be dissolved; the tent in which we
live may be taken down. With what hope does the Apostle confront such
a contingency? "If this befall us," he says, "we have a building from
God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens." Every word
here points the contrast between this new house and the old one, and
points it in favour of the new. The old was a tent; the new is a
building: the old, though not literally made with hands, had many of
the qualities and defects of manufactured articles; the new is God's
work and God's gift: the old was perishable; the new is eternal. When
Paul says we have this house _in the heavens_, it is plain that it is
not heaven itself; it is a new body which replaces and surpasses the
old. It is in the heavens in the sense that it is God's gift; it is
something which He has for us where He is, and which we shall wear
there. "We have it" means "it is ours"; any more precise definition
must be justified on grounds extraneous to the text.

The second verse brings us to one of the ambiguities of the passage.
"For verily," our R.V. reads, "in this we groan, longing to be clothed
upon with our habitation which is from heaven." The meaning which the
English reader finds in the words "in this we groan" is in all
probability "in our present body we groan." This is also the meaning
defended by Meyer, and by many scholars. But it cannot be denied that
ἐν τούτῳ does not naturally refer to ἡ ἐπίγειος ἡμῶν οἰκία τοῦ
σκήνους. If it means "in this body," it must be attached specially to
σκήνους, and σκήνους is only a subordinate word in the clause.
Elsewhere in the New Testament ἐν τούτῳ means "on this account," or
"for this reason" (see 1 Cor. iv. 4; John xvi. 30: Ἐν τούτῳ πιστεύομεν
ὅτι ἀπὸ Θεοῦ ἐξῆλθες), and I prefer to take it in this sense here:
"For this cause--_i.e._, because we are the heirs of such a hope--we
groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from
heaven." If Paul had no hope, he would not sigh for the future; but
the very longing which pressed the sighs from his bosom became itself
a witness to the glory which awaited him. The same argument, it has
often been pointed out, is found in Rom. viii. 19 ff. The earnest
expectation of the creation, waiting for the manifestation of the sons
of God, is evidence that this manifestation will in due time take
place. The spiritual instincts are prophetic. They have not been
implanted in the soul by God only to be disappointed. It is of the
longing hope of immortality--that very hope which is in question
here--that Jesus says: "If it were not so, I would have told you."

The third verse states the great gain which lies in the fulfilment of
this hope: "Since, of course, being clothed [with this new body], we
shall not be found naked [_i.e._, without any body]." I cannot think,
especially looking on to ver. 4, that these two verses (2 and 3) mean
anything else than that Paul longs for Christ to come before death. If
Christ comes first, the Apostle will receive the new body by the
transformation, instead of the putting off, of the old; he will, so to
speak, put it on _above_ the old ἐπενδύσασθαι; he will be spared the
shuddering fear of dying; he will not know what it is to have the old
tent taken down, and to be left houseless and naked. We do not need to
investigate the opinions of the Hebrews or the Greeks about the
condition of souls in Hades in order to understand these words; the
conception, figurative as it is, carries its own meaning and
impression to every one. It is reiterated, rather than proved, in the
fourth verse:[43] "For we who are in the tabernacle groan also, being
burdened, in that our will is not to be unclothed, but to be clothed
upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life." It is natural
to take βαρούμενοι ("being burdened") as referring to the weight of
care and suffering by which men are oppressed while in the body; but
here also, as in the similar case of ver. 2, the proper reference of
the word is forward. What oppresses Paul, and makes him sigh, is the
intensity of his desire to escape "being unclothed," his immense
longing to see Jesus come, and, instead of passing through the
terrific experience of death, to have the corruptible put on
incorruption, and the mortal put on immortality, without that trial.

This seems plain enough, but we must remember that the confidence
which Paul has been expressing in the first verse is meant to meet the
very case in which this desire is _not_ gratified, the case in which
death _has_ to be encountered, and the tabernacle taken down. "_If_
this should befall us," he says, "we have another body awaiting us,
far better than that which we leave, and hence we are confident." The
confidence which this hope inspires would naturally, we think, be most
perfect, if in the very act of dissolution the new body were assumed;
if death were the initial stage in the transformation scene in which
an that is mortal is swallowed up by life; if it were, not the
ushering of the Christian into a condition of "nakedness," which,
temporary though it be, is a mere blank to the mind and imagination,
but his admission to celestial life; if "to be absent from the body"
were immediately, and in the fullest sense of the words, the same
thing as "to be at home with the Lord." This is, in point of fact, the
sense in which the passage is understood by a good many scholars, and
those who read it so find in it a decisive turning-point in the
Apostle's teaching on the last things. In the First Epistle to the
Thessalonians, they say, and indeed in the First to the Corinthians
also, Paul's eschatology was still essentially Jewish. The Christian
dead are ὁι κοιμώμενοι, or ὁι κοιμηθέντες ("those that sleep");
nothing definite is said of their condition; only it is implied that
they do not get the incorruptible body till Jesus comes again and
raises them from the dead. In other words, those who die before the
Parousia have the soul-chilling prospect of an unknown term of
"nakedness." Here this terror is dispelled by the new revelation made
to the Apostle, or the new insight to which he has attained: there is
no longer any such interval between death and glory; the heavenly body
is assumed at once; the state called κοιμᾶσθαι ("being asleep")
vanishes from the future. Sabatier and Schmiedel, who adopt this view,
draw extreme consequences from it. It marks an advance, according to
Schmiedel, of the highest importance. The religious postulate of an
uninterrupted communion of life with Christ, violated by the
conception of a κοιμᾶσθαι, or falling asleep, is satisfied; Christ's
descent from heaven, and a simultaneous resurrection and judgment,
become superfluous; judgment is transferred to the moment of death,
or rather to the process of development during life on earth; and,
finally, the place of eternal blessedness passes from earth (the
Jewish and early Christian opinion, probably shared by Paul, as he
gives no indication of the contrary) to heaven. All this, it is
further pointed out, is an approximation, more or less close, to the
Greek doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and may even have been
excogitated in part under its influence; and it is at the same time a
half-way house between the Pharisaic eschatology of First
Thessalonians and the perfected Christian doctrine of a passage like
John v. 24: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word,
and believeth Him that sent Me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into
judgment, but hath passed out of death into life."

There is no objection to be made in principle to the idea that the
Apostle's outlook on the future was subject to modification--that he
was capable of attaining, or even did attain, a deeper insight, with
experience, into the connexion between that which is and that which is
to come. But it is surely somewhat against the above estimate of the
alleged change here that Paul himself seems to have been quite
unconscious of it. He was not a man whose mind wrought at unawares,
and who passed unwittingly from one standpoint to another. He was
nothing if not reflective. According to Sabatier and Schmiedel, he had
made a revolutionary change in his opinions--a change so vast that on
account of it Sabatier reckons this Epistle, and especially this
passage, the most important in all his writings for the comprehension
of his theological development; and yet, side by side with the new
revolutionary ideas, uttered literally in the same breath with them,
we find the old standing undisturbed. The simultaneous resurrection
and judgment, according to Schmiedel, should be impossible now; but in
chap. iv. 14 the resurrection appears precisely as in Thessalonians
and in chap. v. 10 the judgment, precisely as in all his Epistles from
the first to the last. As for the inconsistency between going to be at
home with the Lord and the Lord's coming, it also recurs in later
years: Paul writes to the Philippians that he has a desire to depart
and to be with Christ; and in the same letter, that the Lord is at
hand, and that we wait for the Saviour from heaven. Probably the
misleading idea in the study of the whole subject has been the
assumption that the κοιμώμενοι--the dead _in Christ_--were in some
dismal, dreary condition which could fairly be described as
"nakedness." There is not a word in the New Testament which favours
this idea. Where we see men die in faith, we see something quite
different. "_To-day_ shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." "Lord Jesus,
receive my spirit." "I saw the souls of them which had been slain for
the Word of God ... and there was given them, to each one, a white
robe." When Paul speaks of those who have fallen asleep, in First
Thessalonians, it is with the express intention of showing that those
who survive to the Parousia have no advantage over them. "Jesus Christ
died for us," he writes (1 Thess. v. 10), "that, whether we wake or
sleep, we may live together with Him." And he uses one most expressive
word in a similar connexion (1 Thess. iv. 14): "Them also that sleep
in Jesus will God _bring_ [ἄξει] with Him." _Suave verbum_, says
Bengel: _dicitur de viventibus_. May we not say with equal cogency,
not only "de viventibus," but "de viventibus _cum Iesu_"? Those who
are asleep are with Him; they are in blessedness with Him; what their
mode of existence is it may be impossible for us to conceive, but it
is certainly not a thing to shrink from with horror. The taking down
of the old tent in which we live here _is_ a thing from which one
cannot but shrink, and that is why Paul would rather have Christ come,
and be saved the pain and fear of dying. With death in view he
mentions the new body as the ground of his confidence, because it is
the final realisation of the Christian hope, the crown of redemption
(Rom. viii. 23). But he does not mean to say that, unless the new body
were granted in the very instant of dying, death would usher him into
an appalling void, and separate him from Christ. This assumption, on
which the interpretation of Sabatier and Schmiedel rests, is entirely
groundless, and therefore that interpretation, in spite of a
superficial plausibility, is to be decidedly rejected. It is to be
rejected all the more when we are invited to see the occasion which
produced Paul's supposed change of opinion in the danger which he had
lately incurred in Asia (chap. i. 8-10). Paul, we are to imagine, who
had always been confident that he would live to see the Parousia, had
come to very close quarters with death, and this experience
constrained him to seek in his religion a hope and consolation more
adequate to the terribleness of death than any he had yet conceived.
Hence the mighty advance explained above. But is it not absurd to say
that a man, whose life was constantly in peril, had never thought of
death till this time? Can any one seriously believe that, as Sabatier
puts it, "the image of death, with which the Apostle had not hitherto
concerned himself, [here] enters for the first time within the scope
of his doctrine"? Can any one who knows the kind of man Paul was
deliberately suggest that fear and self-pity conferred on him an
enlargement of spiritual vision which no sympathy for bereaved
disciples, and no sense of fellowship with those who had fallen asleep
in Jesus, availed to bestow? Believe this who will, it seems utterly
incredible to me. The passage says nothing inconsistent with
Thessalonians, or First Corinthians, or Philippians, or Second
Timothy, about the last things: it expresses in a special situation
the constant Christian faith and hope--"the redemption of the body";
_that_ is the possession of the believer ἔχομεν; it is ours; and the
Apostle is not concerned to fix the moment of time at which hope
becomes sight. "Come what will," he says, "come death itself, _this_
is ours; and because it is ours, though we dread the possible
necessity of having to strip off the old body, and would fain escape
it, we do not allow it to dismay us."

The Apostle cannot look to the end of the Christian hope without
referring to its condition and guarantee. "He that wrought us for this
very thing is God, who gave us the earnest of the Spirit." The future
is never considered in the New Testament in a speculative fashion;
nothing could be less like an apostle than to discuss the immortality
of the soul. The question of life beyond death is for Paul not a
metaphysical but a Christian question; the pledge of anything worth
the name of life is not the inherent constitution of human nature, but
the possession of the Divine Spirit. Without the Spirit, Paul could
have had no such certainty, no such triumphant hope, as he had;
without the Spirit there can be no such certainty yet. Hence it is
idle to criticise the Christian hope on purely speculative grounds,
and as idle to try on such grounds to establish it. That hope is of a
piece with the experience which comes when the Spirit of Him who
raised up Christ from the dead dwells in us, and apart from this
experience it cannot even be understood. But to say that there is no
eternal life except in Christ is not to accept what is called
"conditional immortality"; it is only to accept conditional glory.

The fifth verse marks a pause: in the three which follow Paul
describes the mood in which, possessed of the Christian hope, he
confronts all the conditions of the present and the alternatives of
the future. "We are of good courage at all times," he says. "We know
that while we are at home in the body we are away from home as far as
the Lord is concerned--at a distance from Him." This does not mean
that fellowship is broken, or that the soul is separated from the love
of Christ; it only means that earth is not heaven, and that Paul is
painfully conscious of the fact. This is what is proved by ver. 7: We
are absent from the Lord, our true home, "for in this world we are
walking through the realm of faith, not through that of actual
appearance."[44] There _is_ a world, a mode of existence, to which
Paul looks forward, which is one of actual appearance; he will be in
Christ's presence there, and see Him face to face (1 Cor. xiii. 12).
But the world through which his course lies meanwhile is _not_ that
world of immediate presence and manifestation; on the contrary, it is
a world of faith, which realises that future world of manifestation
only by a strong spiritual conviction; it is through a faith-land that
Paul's journey leads him. All along the way his faith keeps him in
good heart; nay, when he thinks of all that it ensures, of all that
is guaranteed by the Spirit, he is willing rather to be absent from
the body, and to be at home with the Lord.

          "For, ah! the Master is so fair,
           His smile so sweet on banished men,
           That they who meet it unaware
           Can never turn to earth again;
           And they who see Him risen afar,
           At God's right hand to welcome them,
           Forgetful stand of home and land,
           Desiring fair Jerusalem."

If he had to make his choice, it would incline this way, rather than the
other; but it is not his to make a choice, and so he does not express
himself unconditionally. The whole tone of the passage anticipates that
of Phil. i. 21 ff.: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
But if to live in the flesh,--_if_ this is the fruit of my work, then
what I shall choose I wot not. But I am in a strait betwixt the two,
having the desire to depart and to be with Christ; for it is very far
better: yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake."
Nothing could be less like the Apostle than a monkish, unmanly wish to
die. He exulted in his calling. It was a joy to him above all joys to
speak to men of the love of God in Jesus Christ. But nothing, on the
other hand, could be less like him than to lose sight of the future in
the present, and to forget amid the service of men the glory which is to
be revealed. He stood between two worlds; he felt the whole attraction
of both; in the earnest of the Spirit he knew that he had an inheritance
there as well as here. It is this consciousness of the dimensions of
life that makes him so immensely interesting; he never wrote a dull
word; his soul was stirred incessantly by impulses from earth and from
heaven, swept by breezes from the dark and troubled sea of man's life,
touched by inspirations from the radiant heights where Christ dwelt. We
do not need to be afraid of the reproach of "other worldliness" if we
seek to live in this same spirit; the reproach is as false as it is
threadbare. It would be an incalculable gain if we could recover the
primitive hope in something like its primitive strength. It would not
make us false to our duties in the world, but it would give us the
victory over the world.

In bringing this subject to a close, the Apostle strikes a graver
note. A certain moral, as well as a certain emotional temper, is
evoked by the Christian hope. It fills men with courage, and with
spiritual yearnings; it braces them also to moral earnestness and
vigour. "Wherefore also we make it our aim"--literally, we are
ambitious, the only lawful ambition--"whether at home or absent, to be
well-pleasing unto Him." Modes of being are not of so much
consequence. It may agree with a man's feelings better to live till
Christ comes, or to die before He comes, and go at once to be with
Him; but the main thing is, in whatever mode of being, to be accepted
in His sight. "For we must all be manifested before the judgment-seat
of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body,
according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad." The
Christian hope is not clouded by the judgment-seat of Christ; it is
sustained at the holy height which befits it. We are forbidden to
count upon it lightly. "Every man," we are reminded, "that hath this
hope set on Him purifieth himself even as He is pure." It is not
necessary for us to seek a formal reconciliation of this verse with
Paul's teaching that the faithful are accepted in Christ Jesus; we can
feel that both must be true. And if the doctrine of justification
freely, by God's grace, is that which has to be preached to sinful
men, the doctrine of exact retribution, taught in this passage, has
its main interest and importance for Christians. It is Christians only
who are in view here, and the law of requital is so exact that every
one is said to get back, to carry on for himself, the very things done
in the body. In this world, we have not seen the last of anything. We
shall all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ; all that
we have hidden shall be revealed. The books are shut now, but they
will be opened then. The things we have done in the body will come
back to us, whether good or bad. Every pious thought, and every
thought of sin; every secret prayer, and every secret curse; every
unknown deed of charity, and every hidden deed of selfishness: we will
see them all again, and though we have not remembered them for years,
and perhaps have forgotten them altogether, we shall have to
acknowledge that they are our own, and take them to ourselves. Is not
that a solemn thing to stand at the end of life? Is it not a true
thing? Even those who can say with the Apostle, "Being justified by
faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and
rejoice in hope of His glory," know how true it is. Nay, they most of
all know, for they understand better than others the holiness of God,
and they are especially addressed here. The moral consciousness is not
maintained in its vigour and integrity if this doctrine of retribution
disappears; and if we are called by a passage like this to encourage
ourselves in the Lord, and in the hope which He has revealed, we are
warned also that evil cannot dwell with God, and that He will by no
means clear the guilty.


[43] The true rendering here is that in the margin of the R.V.

[44] This translation is Schmiedel's. For the use of διὰ cf. Rev. xxi.
24: Καὶ περιπατήσουσιν τὰ ἔθνη διὰ τοῦ φωτὸς αὐτης. It cannot mean
"by" faith, in the sense of "according to" faith, or as faith directs.
Nor can it be proved that εῖδος ever means "sight."


                     _THE MEASURE OF CHRIST'S LOVE_

    "Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are
    made manifest unto God; and I hope that we are made manliest also in
    your consciences. We are not again commending ourselves unto you,
    but _speak_ as giving you occasion of glorying on our behalf, that
    ye may have wherewith to answer them that glory in appearance and
    not in heart. For whether we are beside ourselves, it is unto God;
    or whether we are of sober mind, it is unto you. For the love of
    Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that One died for
    all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they which live
    should no longer live unto themselves, but unto Him who for their
    sakes died and rose again."--2 COR. v. 11-15 (R.V.).

The Christian hope of immortality is elevated and solemnised by the
thought of the judgment-seat of Christ. This is no strange thought to
St. Paul; many a time he has set himself in imagination in that great
presence, and let the awe of it descend upon his heart. This is what
he means when he writes, "Knowing the fear of the Lord." Like the
pastors addressed in the Epistle to the Hebrews, he exercises his
office as one who must render an account. In this spirit, he says, he
persuades men. A motive so high, and so stern in its purifying power,
no minister of Christ can afford to dispense with. We need something
to suppress self-seeking, to keep conscience vigorous, to preserve the
message of reconciliation itself from degenerating into good-natured
indifference, to prohibit immoral compromises and superficial healing
of the soul's hurts. Let us familiarise our minds, by meditation, with
the fear due to Christ the judge, and a new element of power will
enter into our service, making it at once more urgent and more
wholesome than it could otherwise be.

The meaning of the words "we persuade men" is not at once clear.
Interpreters generally find in them a combination of two ideas--we try
to win men for the Gospel, and we try to convince them of our own
purity of motive in our evangelistic work. The word is suitable enough
to express either idea; and though it is straining it to make it carry
both, the first is suggested by the general tenor of the passage, and
the second seems to be demanded by what follows. "We try to convince
men of our disinterestedness, but we do not need to try to convince
God; we have been manifested to Him already;[45] and we trust also
that we have been manifested in your consciences." Paul was well aware
of the hostility with which he was regarded by some of the
Corinthians, but he is confident that, when his appeal is tried in the
proper court, decision must be given in his favour, and he hopes that
this has really been done at Corinth. Often we do not give people in
his position the benefit of a fair trial. It is not in our consciences
they are arraigned--_i.e._, in God's sight, and according to God's
law--but at the bar of our prejudices, our likes and dislikes,
sometimes even our whims and caprices. It is not their _character_
which is taken into account, but something quite irrelevant to
character. Paul did not care for such estimates as these. It was
nothing to him whether his appearance made a favourable impression on
those who heard him--whether they liked his voice, his gestures, his
manners, or even his message. What he did care for was to be able to
appeal to their consciences, as he could appeal to God, to whom all
things were naked and opened, that in the discharge of his functions
as an evangelist he had been absolutely simple and sincere. In
speaking thus, he has no intention of again recommending himself.
Rather, as he says with a touch of irony, it is for their convenience
he writes; he is giving them occasion to boast on his behalf, that
when they encounter people who boast in face and not in heart they may
not be speechless, but may have something to say for themselves--and
for him. It is easy to read between the lines here. The Corinthians
had persons among them--Jewish and Judaising teachers evidently--who
boasted "in face"; in other words, who prided themselves on outward
and visible distinctions, though as Paul asserts, they had nothing
within to be proud of. There are suggestions of these distinctions
elsewhere, and we can imagine the claims men made, the airs they gave
themselves, or at least the recognition they consented to accept, on
the ground of them. Their eloquence, their knowledge of the
Scriptures, their Jewish descent, their acquaintance with the Twelve,
above all acquaintance with Jesus Himself--these were their
credentials, and of these their followers made much. Perhaps even on
their own ground Paul could have met and routed most of them, but
meanwhile he leaves them in undisturbed possession of their
advantages, such as they are. He only sums up these advantages in the
disparaging word "face," or "appearance"; they are all on the outside;
they amount to "a fair show in the flesh," but no more. He would not
like if _his_ disciples could make no better boast of their master,
and all the high things he has written, from chap. ii. 14 on to chap.
v. 10, especially his vindication of the absolute purity of his
motives, furnish them, if they choose to take it so, with grounds of
counter-boasting, far deeper and more spiritual than those of his
adversaries. For _he_ boasts, not "in appearance, but in heart." The
ironical tone in this is unmistakable, yet it is not merely ironical.
From the beginning of Christianity to this day, Churches have gathered
round men, and made their boast in them. Too often it has been a boast
"in face," and not "in heart"--in gifts, accomplishments, and
distinctions, which may have given an outward splendour to the
individual, but which were entirely irrelevant to the possession of
the Christian spirit. Often even the imperfections of the natural man
have been gloried in, simply because they were his; and the Lutheran
and Calvinistic Churches, for example, owe some of their most
distinctive features to an exaggerated appreciation of those very
characteristics of Luther and Calvin which had no Christian value. The
same thing is seen every day, on a smaller scale, in congregations.
People are proud of their minister, not for what he is in heart, but
because he is more learned, more eloquent, more naturally capable,
than other preachers in the same town. It is a pity when ministers
themselves, like the Judaists in Corinth, are content to have it so.
The true evangelist or pastor will choose rather, with St. Paul, to be
taken for what he is as a Christian, and for nothing else; and if he
_must_ be spoken about, he will be spoken of in this character, and in
no other. Nay, if it really comes to glorying "in face," he will glory
in his weaknesses and incapacities; he will magnify the very
earthenness of the earthen vessel, the very coarseness of the clay, as
a foil to the power and life of Christ which dwell in it.

The connexion of ver. 13 with what precedes is very obscure. Perhaps
as fair a paraphrase as any would run thus: "And well may you boast of
our complete sincerity; for whether we are beside ourselves, it is to
God; or whether we are of sober mind, it is unto you; that is, in no
case is self-interest the motive or rule of our conduct." Connexion
apart, there is a further difficulty about εἴτε ἐξέστημεν. The Revised
Version renders it "whether we _are_ beside ourselves," but in the
margin gives "_were_" for "are." It makes a very great difference
which tense we accept. If the proper meaning is given by "are," the
application must be to some constant characteristic of the Apostle s
ministry. His enthusiasm, his absolute superiority to common selfish
considerations such as are ordinarily supreme in human life, his
resolute assertion of truths lying beyond the reach of sense, the
unearthly flame which burned unceasingly in his bosom, and never more
brightly than when he wrote the fourth and fifth chapters of the
Second Epistle to the Corinthians--all these constitute the temper
which is described as being "beside oneself," a kind of sacred
madness. It was in this sense that the accusation of being beside
himself was brought on a memorable occasion against Jesus (Mark iii.
21, ἐξέστη). The disciple and the Master alike seemed to those who did
not understand them to be in an overstrained, too highly wrought
condition of spirit; in the ardour of their devotion they allowed
themselves to be carried beyond all natural limits, and it was not
improper to speak of applying some kindly restraint. At first sight
this interpretation seems very appropriate, and I do not think that
the tense of ἐξέστημεν is decisive against it.[46] Those who think it
is point to the change to the present tense in the next clause, εἴτε
σωφρονοῦμεν, and allege that this would have no motive unless
ἐξέστημεν were a true past. But this may be doubted. On the one hand,
ἐξέστη in Mark iii. 21 can hardly mean anything but "He is beside
Himself"--_i.e._, it is virtually a present; on the other, the
grammatical present ἐξιστάμεθα would not unambiguously convey the idea
of madness, and would therefore be inappropriate here. But assuming
that the change of tense has the effect of making ἐξέστημεν a real
past, and that the proper rendering is "whether we _were_ beside
ourselves," what is the application then? We must suppose that some
definite occasion is before the Apostle and his readers, on which he
had been in an ecstasy (cf. ἐν ἐκστάσει, Acts xi. 5; ἐγένετο ἐπ' αὐτὸν
ἔκστασις, Acts X. 10), and that his opponents availed themselves of
this experience, in which he had passed, for a time, out of his own
control, to whisper the malicious accusation that he had once not been
quite right in his mind, and that this explained much. The Apostle, we
should have to assume, admits the fact alleged, but protests against
the inference drawn from it, and the use made of the inference. "I
_was_ beside myself," he says; "but it was an experience which had
nothing to do with my ministry; it was between God and my solitary
self; and to drag it into my relations with you is a mere
impertinence." That the "ecstasis" in question was his vision of Jesus
on the way to Damascus, and that his adversaries sought to discredit
that, and the apostleship of Paul as grounded on that, is one of the
extravagances of an irresponsible criticism. Of all experiences that
ever befell him, his conversion is the very one which was _not_ solely
his own affair and God's, but the affair of the whole Church; and
whereas he speaks of his ecstasies and visions with evident reluctance
and embarrassment, as in chap. xii. 1 ff., or refuses to speak of them
at all, as here (assuming this interpretation to be the true one), he
makes his conversion and the appearance of the Lord the very
foundation of his preaching, and treats of both with the utmost
frankness. It must be something quite different from this--something
analogous perhaps to me speaking with tongues, in which "the
understanding was unfruitful," but for which Paul was distinguished (1
Cor. xiv. 14-18)--that is intended here. Such rapt conditions are
certainly open to misinterpretation; and as their spiritual value is
merely personal, Paul declines to discuss any allusion to them, as if
it affected his relation to the Corinthians.

The strongest point in favour of this interpretation seems to me not
the tense of ἐξέστημεν, but the use of Θεῷ: "it is unto God." If the
meaning were the one first suggested, and the madness were the holy
enthusiasm of the Evangelist, that would be distinctly a thing which
did concern the Corinthians, and it would not be natural to withdraw
it from their censure as God's affair. Nevertheless, one can conceive
Paul saying that he was answerable for his extravagances, not to them,
but to his Master; and that his sober-mindedness, at all events, had
their interests in view. On a survey of the whole case, and especially
with Mark iii. 21, and the New Testament use of the verb ἐξίσταμαι
before us, I incline to think that the text of the Revised Version is
to be preferred to the margin. The "being beside himself" with which
Paul was charged will not, then, be an isolated incident in his
career--an incident which Jewish teachers, remembering the ecstasies
of Peter and John, could hardly object to--but the spiritual tension
in which he habitually lived and wrought. The language, so far as I
can judge, admits of this interpretation, and it brings the Apostle's
experience into line, not only with that of his Master, but with that
of many who have succeeded him. But how great and rare is the
self-conquest of the man who can say that in his enthusiasm and his
sobriety alike--when he is beside himself, and when his spirit is
wholly subject to him--the one thing which never intrudes, or troubles
his singleness of mind, is the thought of his own private ends.

In the verses which follow, Paul lets us into the secret of this
unselfishness, this freedom from by-ends and ambition: "For the love of
Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that One died for all,
therefore all [of them] died." "Constraineth" is one of the most
expressive words in the New Testament; the love of Christ has hold of
the Apostle on both sides, as it were, and urges him on in a course
which he cannot avoid. It has him in its grasp, and he has no choice,
under its irresistible constraint, but to be what he is, and to do what
he does, whether men think him in his mind or out of his mind. That the
love of Christ means Christ's love to us, and not our love to Him, is
shown by the fact that Paul goes on at once to describe in what it
consists. "It constrains us," he says, "because we have come to this
mind about it: One died for all; so then all died." Here, we may say, is
the content of Christ's love, the essence of it, that which gives it
its soul-subduing and constraining power: He loved us, _and gave Himself
for us_; He died for all, _and in that death of His all died_.

It may seem a hazardous thing to give a definition of love, and
especially to shut up within the boundaries of a human conception that
love of Christ which passes knowledge. But the intelligence must get
hold somehow even of things inconceivably great, and the New Testament
writers, with all their diversity of spiritual gifts, are at one as to
what is essential here. They all find Christ's love concentrated and
focussed in His death. They all find it there inasmuch as that death
was a death _for us_. Perhaps St. Paul and St. John penetrated
further, intellectually, than any of the others into the mystery of
this "for"; but if we cannot give it a natural interpretation, and an
interpretation in which an absolutely irresistible constraint is
hidden for heart and will, we do not know what the Apostles meant when
they spoke of Christ's love. There has been much discussion about the
"for" in this place. It is ὑπέρ, not ἀντί, and many render it simply
"on our behalf," or "for our advantage." That Christ did die for our
advantage is not to be questioned. Neither is it to be questioned that
this is a fair rendering of ὑπέρ. But what _does_ raise question is
whether this interpretation of the "for" supplies sufficient ground
for the immediate inference of the Apostle "so then all died." Is it
logical to say, "One died for the benefit of all: _hence_ all died"?
From that premiss is not the only legitimate conclusion "hence all
remained alive"? Plainly, if _Paul's_ conclusion is to be drawn, the
"for" must reach deeper than this mere suggestion of our advantage: if
we all _died_, in that Christ died _for_ us, there must be a sense in
which that death of His is _ours_; He must be identified with _us_ in
it: there, on the cross, while we stand and gaze at Him, He is not
simply a person doing us a service; He is a person doing us a service
_by filling our place and dying our death_. It is out of this deeper
relation that all services, benefits, and advantages flow; and that
deeper sense of "for," to which Christ in His death is at once the
representative and the substitute of man, is essential to do justice
to the Apostle's thought. Without the ideas involved in these words we
cannot conceive, as he conceived it, the love of Christ. We cannot
understand how that force, which exercised such absolute authority
over his whole life, appealed to his intelligence. We do not mean what
he meant even when we use his words; we gain currency, under cover of
them, for ideas utterly inadequate to the spiritual depth of his.

If this were an exposition of St. Paul's theology, and not of the
Second Epistle to the Corinthians, I should be bound to consider the
connexion between that outward death of Christ in which the death of
all is involved, and the appropriation of that death to themselves by
individual men. But the Apostle does not directly raise this question
here; he only adds in the fifteenth verse a statement of the purpose
for which Christ died, and in doing so suggests that the connecting
link is to be sought, in part at least, in the feeling of gratitude.
"He died for all, that they which live should no longer live unto
themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again." In dying
our death Christ has done something for us so immense in love that we
ought to be His, and only His, for ever. To make us His is the very
object of His death. Before we know Him we are naturally selfish; we
are an end to ourselves, in the bad sense; we are our own. Even the
sacrifices which men make for their families, their country, or their
order, are but qualifications of selfishness; it is not eradicated and
exterminated till we see and feel what is meant by this--that _Christ
died our death_. The life we have after we have apprehended this can
never be our own; nay, we ourselves are not our own; we are bought
with a price; life has been given a ransom for us, and our life is due
to him "who died for us and rose again." I believe the Authorised
Version is right in this rendering, and that it is a mistake to say,
"who for our sakes died and rose again." The Resurrection has
certainly significance in the work of Christ, but not in precisely the
same way as His death; and Paul mentions it here, not to define its
significance, but simply because he could not think of living except
for One who was Himself alive.

One point deserves especial emphasis here--the universality of the
expressions. Paul has been speaking of himself, and of the constraint
which the love of Christ, as he apprehends it, exercises upon him. But
he no sooner begins to define his thought of Christ's love than he
passes over from the first person to the third. The love of Christ was
not to be limited; what it is to the Apostle it is to the world: He
died for all, and so all died. Whatever blessing Christ's death
contained, it contains for all. Whatever doom it exhausts and removes,
it exhausts and removes for all. Whatever power it breaks, it breaks
for all. Whatever ideal it creates, whatever obligation it imposes, it
creates and imposes for all. There is not a soul in the world which is
excluded from an interest in that knowledge-surpassing love which made
our death its own. There is not one which ought not to feel that
omnipotent constraint which enchained and swayed the strong, proud
spirit of Paul. There is not one which ought not to be pouring out its
life for Him who died in its place, and rose to receive its service.


[45] The φανερωθῆναι of the last judgment, ver. 10, has as good as
taken place--for God.

[46] According to Winer ἐξέστη in Mark iii. 21 has the present sense =
_insanity_; and so it might be with ἐξέστημεν here. The verb occurs
fifteen times in the New Testament, and except in these two passages
has always the sense of being amazed or astonished beyond measure.


                            _THE NEW WORLD_

    "Wherefore we henceforth know no man after the flesh: even though
    we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know _Him so_ no
    more. Wherefore if any man _is_ in Christ, _he_ is a new creature
    [or, _there is_ a new creation]: the old things are passed away;
    behold, they are become new."--2 COR. v. 16, 17 (R.V.).

The inferences which are here drawn depend upon what has just been
said of Christ's death for all and the death of all in that death of
His. In that death, as inclusive of ours, the old life died, and with
it died all its distinctions. All that men were, apart from Christ,
all that constituted the "appearance" (πρόσωπον, ver. 12) of their
life, all that marked them off from each other as such and such
outwardly, ceased to have significance the moment Christ's death was
understood as Paul here understands it. He dates his inference with
ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ("henceforth"). This does not mean from the time at which
he writes, but from the time at which he saw that One had died for
all, and so all died. Here, as in other places, he divides his life
into "now" and "then," the Christian and the pre-Christian stage (Rom.
v. 9; Eph. ii. 11-13). The transition from one to the other was
revolutionary, and one of its most startling results is that which he
here describes. "Then," the distinctions between men, the
"appearances" in which they boasted, had been important in his eyes;
"now," they have ceased to be, _He_[47] never asks whether a man is
Jew or Greek, rich or poor, bond or free, learned or unlearned; these
are classifications "after the flesh," and have died in Christ's death
_for all_. To recognise them any longer, to admit the legitimacy of
claims based upon them--such claims as his opponents in Corinth seem
to have been putting forth--would be to make Christ's death, in a
sense, of no effect. It would be to deny that when He died for all,
all died in Him; it would be to reanimate distinctions that should
have been annihilated in His death.

To this rule of knowing no one after the flesh Paul can admit no
exception. Not even Christ is excepted. "Even though we have known
Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more." This is a
difficult saying, and has been very variously interpreted. The English
reader inevitably supposes that Paul _had_ known Christ "after the
flesh," but had outgrown that kind of knowledge; and that he is
intimating these two facts. But it is quite possible to take the
words[48] as purely hypothetical: "Supposing us to have known even
Christ after the flesh--a case which in point of fact was never
ours--yet now we know Him so no more." Grammar does not favour this
last rendering, though it does not preclude it; and however the matter
may be settled, the bare supposition, as much as the fact, requires us
to give a definite meaning to the words about knowing Christ after the
flesh, and ceasing so to know Him.

Some have inferred from them that when Paul became a Christian, and
for some time after, his conception of Christ had resembled that of
the persons whom he is here controverting: his Christ had been to all
intents and purposes a Jewish Messiah, and he had only been able by
degrees to overcome, though he had at last overcome, the narrowness
and nationalism of his early years as a disciple. To know Christ after
the flesh would be to know Him in the character of a deliverer of the
Jews: His Jewish descent, His circumcision, His observance of the
Temple worship, His limitation of His ministry to the Holy Land, would
be matters of great significance; and Jewish descent might naturally
be supposed to establish a prerogative in relation to the Messiah for
Jews as opposed to Gentiles. Probably there were Christians whose
original conception of the Saviour was of this kind, and it is a fair
enough description to say that this amounts only to a knowing of
Christ after the flesh; but Paul can hardly have been one of them. His
Christian knowledge of Christ dates from his vision of the Risen Lord
on the way to Damascus, and in that appearance there was no room for
anything that could be called "flesh." It was an appearance of the
Lord of Glory. It determined all Paul's thoughts thenceforth. Nothing
is more remarkable in his Epistles than the strong sense that what he
calls his Gospel is one, unchanged, and unchangeable. It is not Yes
and No. Neither man nor angel may modify it by preaching another Jesus
than he preaches. He is quite unconscious of any such transformation
of his Christology as is indicated above; and in the absence of any
trace elsewhere of a change so important, it is impossible to read it
into the verse before us.

Another interpretation of the words would make "knowing Christ after the
flesh" refer to a knowledge at first hand of the facts and outward
conditions of Christ's life in this world: a knowledge which Paul had
in his early Christian days valued highly, but for which he no longer
cared. There were numbers of men alive then who had known Christ in this
sense. They had seen and heard Him in Galilee and Jerusalem; they had
much to tell about Him which would no doubt be very interesting to
believers; and more than likely some of them emphasised this distinction
of theirs, and were disposed to be pretentious on the strength of it.
Whether Paul had ever known Christ in this sense, it is impossible to
say. But it is certain that to such knowledge he would have assigned no
Christian importance whatever. And in doing so, he would have been
following the example of Christ Himself. "Then shall ye begin to say, We
have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our
streets. And He shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are."
But it is impossible to suppose that this is a matter on which Paul as a
Christian had ever needed to change his mind.

It is an interpretation in part akin to this which makes St. Paul here
decry all knowledge of the historical Christ in comparison with the
understanding of His death and resurrection. To know Christ after the
flesh is in this case to know Him as He is represented in Matthew,
Mark, and Luke; and Paul is supposed to say that, though narratives
like these once had an interest and value for him, they really have it
no longer: they are not essential to his Gospel, which is constituted
by the death and resurrection alone. These great events and their
consequences are all he is concerned with; to know Christ after the
Evangelists is merely to know Him after the flesh; and flesh, even
_His_ flesh, ought to have no significance since His death.

It is a little difficult to take this quite seriously, though it has a
serious side. St. Paul, no doubt, makes very few references to incidents
in the life of our Lord, or even to words which He spoke.[49] But he is
not singular in this. The Epistles of Peter and John are historically as
barren as his. They do not add a word to the Gospel story; there is no
new incident, no new trait in the picture of Jesus, no new oracle.
Indeed, the only genuine addition to the record is that one made by Paul
himself--"the word of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to
give than to receive." The truth seems to be that it is not natural for
an apostle, nor for any inspired man, to fall back on quotations, like a
preacher gravelled for lack of matter, or conscious of wanting
authority. Paul and his colleagues in apostleship had Christ living in
them, and recognised the spirit by which they spoke as the spirit of
their Master. So far as this was the case, it was certainly a matter of
indifference to them whether they were acquainted with this or that
incident in His life, with this or that syllable that He spoke on such
and such an occasion. One casual occurrence, one scene in Christ's
sufferings, one discourse which He delivered, would inevitably be known
with more exact and literal precision to one person than to another; and
there is no difficulty in believing that the casual advantage which any
individual might thus possess was regarded by St. Paul as a thing of no
Christian consequence. Similar differences exist still, and in principle
are to be disregarded. But it is another thing to say that all knowledge
of the historical Christ is irrelevant to Christianity, and yet another
to father such an opinion on St. Paul. The attempt to do so is due in
part, I believe, to a misinterpretation of κατὰ σάρκα. Paul has been
read as if what he disclaimed and decried were knowledge of Christ ἐν
σαρκί. But the two things are quite distinct. Christ lived _in the
flesh_; but the life that He lived in the flesh He lived _after the
spirit_, and when its spiritual import is regarded, it is safe to say
that no one ever knew Christ as He was _in the flesh_--the Christ of
Matthew, Mark, and Luke--better than Paul. No one had been initiated
into Christ's character, as that character is revealed in the story of
the Evangelists, more fully than he. No one ever knew the mind, the
temper, the new moral ideal of Christianity, better than Paul, and there
is no ultimate source for this knowledge but the historical Christ. Paul
could not in his work as an evangelist preach salvation through the
death and resurrection of an unknown person; the story which was the
common property of the Church, and with which her catechists everywhere
indoctrinated the new disciples, must have been as familiar to him, in
substance, as it is to us; and his evident knowledge and appreciation of
the character embodied in it forbids us to think of this acquaintance
with Christ as what he means by knowing Him after the flesh. He might
have had the Gospel narratives by heart, and counted them inestimably
precious, and yet have spoken exactly as he speaks here.

Nevertheless, this interpretation, though mistaken, has a certain truth
in it. There _is_ a historical knowledge of Christ which is a mere
irrelevance to Christianity, and it has sometimes a stress laid upon it
by its possessors which tempts one to speak of it in St. Paul's
scornful tone. Many so-called "Lives" of Christ abound in it. They aim
at a historical realism which, to speak the plain truth, has simply no
religious value. Knowledge of localities, customs, costumes, and so
forth, is interesting enough; but if it should be ever so full and ever
so exact, it is not the knowledge of Jesus Christ in any sense which
makes a Gospel. It is quite possible, nay it is more than possible, that
such knowledge may come between the soul and the Lord. It was so when
Jesus lived. There were people who knew so well what He was like that
they were blind to what He was. In St. Paul's phrase we may say that
they knew Him "after the flesh," and it kept them from knowing Him
truly. They asked, "Is not this the carpenter?" as if that were a piece
of undeniable insight; and they were not conscious that only men blind
to what He really was could ever have asked a question so absurd. It was
_not_ the carpenter who spoke with authority in the synagogues, and cast
out devils, and brought in the kingdom; it was the Son of Man, the Son
of God; and whether Paul meant it so or not, we may use his language in
this passage to express the conviction, that one may really know Christ,
to whom the whole outward aspect of His life, represented by "the
carpenter of Nazareth," is indifferent; nay, that one cannot know Him in
any real sense until these external things _are_ indifferent. Or to put
the same thing in other words, we may say that the knowledge of Christ
which constitutes the Christian is not the knowledge of what He was, but
of what he is; and if we know what He is, then all that is merely
outward in the history may pass away.

But if none of these interpretations answers exactly to the Apostle's
thought, where are we to seek the meaning of his words? All these, it
will be observed, assume that Paul knew Christ "after the flesh,"
subsequent to his conversion; that he shared, as a Christian, views
about Christ which he is now combating. As these interpretations,
however, are untenable, we must assume that the time when he thus knew
Christ was _before_ his conversion. He could look back to days when
his Messianic conceptions were carnal; when the Christ was to be
identified, for him, by tokens in the domain of "appearance," or
"flesh"; when He was to be a national, perhaps merely a political
deliverer, and the Saviour of the Jews in a sense which gave them an
advantage over the Gentiles. But these days were gone for ever.
"Henceforth"--from the very instant that the truth flashed on him, One
died _for all_, and so _all_ died--they belonged to a past which could
never be revived or recalled. One died for all: that means that Christ
is Universal Redeemer. That same One rose again: that means He is
Universal Lord. He has done the same infinite service for all, He
makes the same infinite claim upon all; there are no prerogatives for
any race, for any caste, for any individual men, in relation to Him.
In presence of His cross, there is no difference: in His death, and in
our death in Him, all carnal distinctions die; "henceforth we know no
man after the flesh." Even kinship to Jesus "after the flesh" does not
base any prerogative in the kingdom of God; even to have eaten and
drunk in His presence, and listened to His living voice, confers no
distinction there; He has not done more for His brethren and His
companions than He has done for us all. And not only the carnal
distinctions of men have vanished away; the carnal Jewish conception
of Christ has vanished with them.

The seventeenth verse seems a new inference from the same ground as
the fifteenth. Indeed, it connects so naturally with ver. 15 that one
critic has suggested that ver. 16 is spurious, and another that it was
a later insertion by the Apostle. Perhaps we may assume that St. Paul,
who had no fear of such critics before his eyes, was capable of
setting his sentences down just as they occurred to him, and did not
mind an occasional awkwardness. When he writes "Wherefore if any man
is in Christ, he is a new creature," he is indeed drawing an inference
from ver. 15, but he is at the same time generalising and carrying on
the thought of ver. 16. The idea of the new creature occurs in other
places in his writings (_e.g._, Eph. ii. 10; Gal. vi. 15), but both
here and in Gal. vi. 15 I prefer the rendering in the margin of the
Revised Version--"If any man is in Christ, there is a new creation:
the things passed away (when he died in Christ);[50] behold, they have
become new." We may say, if we please, that it is the new creature
which makes the new creation; the change in the soul which
revolutionises the world. Still, it is this universal change which the
Apostle, apparently, wishes to describe; and in the sudden note of
triumph with which he concludes--"Behold! all is become new"--we feel,
as it were, one throb of that glad surprise with which he had looked
out on the world after God had reconciled him to Himself by His Son.
The past was dead to him, as dead as Christ on His cross; all its
ideas, all its hopes, all its ambitions, were dead; _in Christ_, he
was another man in another universe.

This is the first passage in 2 Corinthians in which this Pauline
formula for a Christian--a man in Christ--is used.[51] It denotes the
most intimate possible union, a union in which the believer's faith
identifies him with Jesus in His death and resurrection, so that he
can say, "I live no longer, but Christ liveth in me." It is the
Apostle's profoundest word, not on the Gospel, but on the
appropriation of the Gospel; not on Christ, but on the Christian
religion.[52] It is mystical, as every true word must be which speaks
of the relation of the soul to the Saviour; but it is intelligible to
every one who knows what it is to trust and to love, and through trust
and love to lose self in another whose life is greater and better than
his own. And when we have seen, even for a moment, what it is to live
in self or in the world, and what to live in Christ, we can easily
believe that this union is equivalent to a re-creating and
transfiguring of all things.

It is impossible to point to all the applications of this truth: "all
things" is too wide a text. Every reader knows the things which bulked
most largely in his life before he knew Christ, and it is easy for him
to tell the difference due to being in the Lord. In a sense the new
creation is in process as long as we live; it is ideally that faith in
Christ means death in His death; ideally that with faith the old
passes and the new is there; the actual putting away of the old, the
actual production of the new, are the daily task of faith as it unites
the soul to Christ. We are _in_ Him the moment faith touches Him, but
we have to grow up _into_ Him in all things. Only as we do so does
the world change all around us, till the promise is fulfilled of new
heavens and a new earth.

But there is one application of these words, directly suggested by the
context, which we ought not to overlook: I mean their application to
men, and the old ways of estimating men. Those who are in Christ have
died to the whole order of life in which men are judged "after the
flesh." Perhaps the Christian Church has almost as much need as any
other society to lay this to heart. We are still too ready to put
stress upon distinctions which are quite in place in the world, but
are without ground in Christ. Even in a Christian congregation there
is a recognition of wealth, of learning, of social position, in some
countries of race, which is not Christian. I do not say these
distinctions are not real, but they are meaningless in relation to
Christ, and ought not to be made. To make them narrows and
impoverishes the soul. If we associate only with people of a certain
station, and because of their station, all our thoughts and feelings
are limited to a very small area of human life; but if distinctions of
station, of intelligence, of manners, are lost in the common relation
to Christ, then life is open to us in all its length and breadth; all
things are ours, because we are His. To be guided by worldly
distinctions is to know only a few people, and to know them by what is
superficial in their nature; but to see that such distinctions died in
Christ's death, and to look at men in relation to Him who is Redeemer
and Lord of all, is to know all our brethren, and to know them not on
the surface, but to the heart. People lament everywhere the want of a
truly social and brotherly feeling in the Church, and try all sorts of
well-meant devices to stimulate it, but nothing short of this goes to
the root of the matter. The social, in this universal sense, is
dependent upon the religious. Those who have died in Christ to the
world in which these separative distinctions reign will have no
difficulty in recognising each other as one in Him. Society is
transfigured for each of us when this union is accomplished; the old
things have passed, and all has become new.


[47] The "we" in the first clause of ver. 16 is emphatic.

[48] As Heinrici does.

[49] See the excellent section on Paul and the Historical Christ in
Sabatier's _The Apostle Paul_ (English Translation, pp. 76-85).

[50] Observe the aorist παρῆλθεν.

[51] Chap. ii. 14, 17, and chap. iii. 14, are more limited.

[52] Perhaps the use of ἐν Χριστῷ here may be determined by the wish
to express tacitly his opposition to those who claimed to be in a
special sense τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Paul's formula really asserts a much more
intimate relation to Christ than theirs.



    "But all things are of God, who reconciled us to Himself through
    Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit,
    that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not
    reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us
    the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors therefore on behalf
    of Christ, as though God were intreating by us: we beseech _you_
    on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin
    He made _to be_ sin on our behalf; that we might become the
    righteousness of God in Him."--2 COR. v. 18-21 (R.V.).

    "Est hic insignis locus, si quis alius est in toto Paulo: proinde
    diligenter excutere singulas particulas convenit."--CALVIN.

"If any man be in Christ," Paul has said, "there is a new creation; he
is another man and lives in another world. But the new creation has the
same Author as the original one: it is all of God, who reconciled us to
Himself by Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation."
It is plain from these last words that "us" does not mean Christians in
general, but in the first instance Paul himself. He is a typical example
of what it is to be in Christ; he understands what his own words
mean--"the old things passed away; behold, they have become new"; he
understands also how this stupendous change has been brought about. "It
is due to God," he says, "who reconciled us to Himself through Christ."

The great interest of this passage is its bearing upon the Christian
doctrine of reconciliation, and before we go further it is necessary
to explain precisely what this word means. It presupposes a state of
estrangement. Now, a state of estrangement may be of two kinds: the
feeling of alienation and hostility may exist upon one side only, or
it may exist upon both. What, then, is the character of that state of
estrangement which subsists between God and man independently of the
Gospel, and which the Gospel, as a ministry of reconciliation, is
designed to overcome? Is it one-sided, or two-sided? Is there
something to be put away in man only, or something to be put away in
God as well, before reconciliation is effected?

These questions have been answered very confidently in different ways.
Many, especially in modern times, assert with passionate eagerness that
the estrangement is merely one-sided. Man is alienated from God by sin,
fear, and unbelief, and God reconciles him to Himself when He prevails
with him to lay aside these evil dispositions, and trust Him as his
Father and his Friend. "All things are of God, who reconciled us to
Himself through Christ," would mean in this case, "All things are of
God, who has won our friendship through His Son." That this describes in
part the effect of the Gospel, no one will deny. It is one of its
blessed results that fear and distrust of God are taken away, and that
we learn to trust and love Him. Nevertheless, this is not what the New
Testament means by reconciliation, though it is one of its fruits.

To St. Paul the estrangement which the Christian reconciliation has to
overcome is indubitably two-sided; there is something in God as well
as something in man which has to be dealt with before there can be
peace. Nay, the something on God's side is so incomparably more
serious that in comparison with it the something on man's side simply
passes out of view. It is God's earnest dealing with the obstacle on
His own side to peace with man which prevails on man to believe in the
seriousness of His love, and to lay aside distrust. It is God's
earnest dealing with the obstacle on His own side which constitutes
the reconciliation; the story of it is "the word of reconciliation";
when men receive it, they _receive_ (Rom. v. 10) the reconciliation.
"Reconciliation" in the New Testament sense is not something which _we
accomplish_ when we lay aside our enmity to God; it is something which
_God accomplished_ when in the death of Christ He put away everything
that on His side meant estrangement, so that He might come and preach
peace. To deny this is to take St. Paul's Gospel away root and branch.
He always conceives the Gospel as the revelation of God's wisdom and
love in view of a certain state of affairs as subsisting between God
and man. Now, what is the really serious element in this situation?
What is it that makes a Gospel necessary? What is it that the wisdom
and love of God undertake to deal with, and do deal with, in that
marvellous way which constitutes the Gospel? Is it man's distrust of
God? is it man's dislike, fear, antipathy, spiritual alienation? Not
if we accept the Apostle's teaching. The serious thing which makes the
Gospel necessary, and the putting away of which constitutes the
Gospel, is God's condemnation of the world and its sin; it is God's
wrath, "revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of men" (Rom. i. 16-18). The putting away of this is
"reconciliation": the preaching of _this_ reconciliation is the
preaching of the Gospel.

Much impatience has been shown in the criticism of this conception.
Clever men have exhibited their talent and courage by calling it
"heathenish"; and others have undertaken to apologise for St. Paul by
describing this objection as "modern." I cannot understand how any one
should feel entitled either to flout the Apostle on this matter, or to
take him under his patronage. If any one ever had the sense to
distinguish between what is real and unreal in regard to God, between
what is true and false spiritually, it was he; even with Ritschl on
one side and Schmiedel on the other he is not dwarfed, and may be
permitted to speak for himself. The wrath of God, the condemnation of
God resting on the sinful world, are not, whatever speculative
theologians may think, unreal things: neither do they belong only to
ancient times. They are the most real things of which human nature has
any knowledge till it receives the reconciliation. They are as real as
a bad conscience; as real as misery, impotence, and despair. And it is
the glory of the Gospel, as St. Paul understood it, that it deals with
them as real. It does not tell men that they are illusions, and that
only their own groundless fear and distrust have ever stood between
them and God. It tells them that God has dealt seriously with these
serious things for their removal, that awful as they are He has put
them away by an awful demonstration of His love; it tells them that
God has made peace at an infinite cost, and that the priceless peace
is now freely offered to them.

When St. Paul says that God has given him the ministry of
reconciliation, he means that he is a preacher of this peace. He
ministers reconciliation to the world. His work has no doubt a
hortatory side, as we shall see, but that side is secondary. It is not
the main part of his vocation to tell men to make their peace with
God, but to tell them that God has made peace with the world. At
bottom, the Gospel is not good advice, but good news. All the good
advice it gives is summed up in this--Receive the good news. But if
the good news be taken away; if we cannot say, God has made peace, God
has dealt seriously with His condemnation of sin, so that it no longer
stands in the way of your return to Him; if we cannot say, Here _is_
the reconciliation, receive it,--then for man's actual state we have
no Gospel at all.

In the nineteenth verse St. Paul explains more fully the way in which
he is looking at the subject:[53] "to wit, that God was in Christ
reconciling the world to Himself, not reckoning unto them their
trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation."
The English Authorised Version puts a comma at Christ: "God was in
Christ, reconciling the world to Himself." It is safe to say that "God
was in Christ" is a sentence which neither St. Paul nor any other New
Testament writer could have conceived; the "was" and the "reconciling"
must be taken together, and "in Christ" is practically equivalent to
"through Christ" in the previous verse--God was by means of Christ
reconciling the world to Himself. "Reconciling," of course, must be
taken in the sense already explained. The sentence does not mean that
God was trying to convert men, or to prevail with them to lay aside
their enmity, but that He was disposing of everything that on His part
made peace impossible. When Christ's work was done, the reconciliation
of the world was accomplished. When men were called to receive it,
they were called to a relation to God; not in which they would no more
be against Him--though that is included--but in which they would no
more have Him against them (Hofmann). There would be no condemnation
thenceforth to those who were in Christ Jesus.

The connexion of the words "not reckoning unto them their trespasses,
and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation," is rather
difficult. The last clause certainly refers to something which took
place after the work of reconciliation had been wrought; Paul was
commissioned to tell the story of it. It seems most probable that the
other is co-ordinate with this, so that both are in a sense the
evidence for the main proposition. It is as if he had said: "God was
by means of Christ establishing friendly relations between the world
and Himself, as appears from this, that He does not reckon their
trespasses unto them,[54] and has made us preachers of His grace." The
very universality of the expression--reconciling a world to
Himself--is consistent only with an objective reconciliation. It
cannot mean that God was overcoming the world's enmity (though that is
the ulterior object) it means that God was putting away His own
condemnation and wrath. When this was done, He could send, and did
send, men to declare that it was done; and among these men, none had a
profounder appreciation of what God had wrought, and what he himself
had to declare as God's glad tidings, than the Apostle Paul.

This is the point we reach in ver. 20: "We are ambassadors therefore
on behalf of Christ, as though God were intreating you by us; we
beseech you, on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God." The
Apostle has just told us that all is of God, but all is at the same
time "in Christ," or "through Christ." Hence it is on Christ's behalf
he comes forward; it is the furtherance of Christ's interests he has
at heart. Nay, it is that same interest which is at the heart of the
Father, who desires now to glorify the Son; so that when Paul appeals
to men on Christ's behalf it is as though God Himself entreated them.
Most expositors notice the amazing contrast between πρεσβεύομεν ("we
are ambassadors") and δεόμεθα ("we beseech you"). The ambassador, as a
rule, stands upon his dignity; he maintains the greatness of the
person whom he represents. But Paul in this lowly passionate entreaty
is not false to his Master; he is preaching the Gospel in the spirit
of the Gospel; he shows that he has really learned of Christ; the very
conception of the ambassador descending to entreaty is, as Calvin
says, an incomparable commendation of the grace of Christ. One can
imagine how Saul the Pharisee would have spoken on God's behalf; with
what rigour, what austerity, what unbending, uncompromising assurance.
But old things have passed away; behold, they have become new. This
single verse illumines, as by a lightning flash, the new world into
which the Gospel has translated Paul, the new man it has made of him.
The fire that burned in Christ's heart has caught hold in his; his
soul is tremulous with passion; he is conscious of the grandeur of his
calling, yet there is nothing that he would not do to win men for his
message. It would go to his heart like a sword if he had to take up
the old lament, "Who hath believed our report?" In his dignity as
Christ's ambassador and as the mouthpiece of God, in his humility, in
his passionate earnestness, in the urgency and directness of his
appeal, St. Paul is the supreme type and example of the Christian
minister. In the passage before us he presents the appeal of the
Gospel in its simplest form: wherever he stands before men on Christ's
behalf his prayer is, "Be ye reconciled unto God." And once more we
must insist on the apostolic import of these words. It is the
misleading _nuance_ of "reconcile" in English that makes so many take
them as if they meant, "Lay aside your enmity to God; cease to regard
Him with distrust, hatred, and fear"; in other words, "Show yourselves
His friends." In St. Paul's lips they cannot possibly mean anything
but, "Accept _His_ offered friendship; enter into that peace which He
has made for the world through the death of His Son; believe that He
has at infinite cost put away all that on His part stood between you
and peace; _receive_ the reconciliation."

The Received Text and the Authorised Version attach the twenty-first
verse to this exhortation by γὰρ ("for"): "For Him who knew no sin He
made _to be_ sin on our behalf." The "for" is spurious, and though it
is not inept the sentence gains greatly in impressiveness by its
omission. The Apostle does not point out the connexion for us: in
simply declaring the manner in which God reconciled the world to
Himself--the process by which, the cost at which, He made peace--he
leaves us to feel how vast is the boon which is offered to us in the
Gospel, how tremendous the responsibility of rejecting it. To refuse
"the reconciliation" is to contemn the death in which the Sinless One
was made sin on our behalf.

This wonderful sentence is the inspired commentary on the statement
of ver. 15--"One died for all." It takes us into the very heart of the
Apostolic Gospel. Just because it does so, it has always been felt to
be of critical importance, alike by those who welcome and by those who
reject it; it condenses and concentrates in itself the attraction of
Christ and the offence of Christ. It is a counsel of despair to evade
it. It is not the puzzle of the New Testament, but the ultimate
solution of all puzzles; it is not an irrational quantity that has to
be eliminated or explained away, but the key-stone of the whole system
of apostolic thought. It is not a blank obscurity in revelation, a
spot of impenetrable blackness; it is the focus in which the
reconciling love of God burns with the purest and intensest flame; it
is the fountain light of all day, the master light of all seeing, in
the Christian revelation. Let us look at it more closely.

God, we must observe in the first place, is the subject. "All" is of
him in the work of reconciliation, and this above all, that He made
the Sinless One to be sin. I have read a book on the Atonement which
quoted this sentence three times, or rather misquoted it, never once
recognising that an action of God is involved. But without this, there
is no coherence in the Apostle's thoughts at all. Without this, there
would be no explanation of reconciliation as God's work. God
reconciled the world to Himself--made peace into which the world might
enter--in making Christ sin on its behalf. What precisely this means
we shall inquire further on; but it is essential to remember, whatever
it mean, that God is the doer of it.

Observe next the description of Christ--"Him that knew no sin." The
Greek negative (μὴ), as Schmiedel remarks, implies that this is
regarded as the verdict of some one else than the writer. It was
Christ's own verdict upon Himself. He whose words search our very
hearts, and bring to light unsuspected seeds of badness, never Himself
betrays the faintest consciousness of guilt. He challenges His enemies
directly: "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" It is the verdict of
all sincere human souls, as uttered by the soldier who watched His
cross--"Truly this was a righteous man." It is the verdict even of the
great enemy who assailed Him again and again, and found nothing in
Him, and whose agents recognised Him as the Holy One of God. Above
all, it is the verdict of God. He was the beloved Son, in whom the
Father was well pleased. For three-and-thirty years, in daily contact
with the world and its sins, Christ lived and yet knew no sin. To His
will and conscience it was a foreign thing. What infinite worth that
sinless life possessed in God's sight! When He looked down to earth it
was the one absolutely precious thing. Filled full of righteousness,
absolutely well-pleasing in His eyes, it was worth more to God than
all the world beside.

Now, God reconciled the world to Himself--He made a peace which could
be proclaimed and offered to the world--when, all sinless as Christ
was, He made Him to be sin on our behalf. What does this mean? Not,
exactly, that He made Him a sin-offering on our behalf. The expression
for a sin-offering is distinct (περὶ ἁμαρτίας), and the parallelism
with δικαιοσύνη in the next clause forbids that reference here. The
sin-offering of the Old Testament can at most have pointed towards and
dimly suggested so tremendous an utterance as this; and the
profoundest word of the New Testament cannot be adequately interpreted
by anything in the Old. When St. Paul says, "Him that knew no sin God
made sin," he must mean that in Christ on His cross, by divine
appointment, the extremest opposites met and became one--incarnate
righteousness and the sin of the world. The sin is laid by God on the
Sinless One; its doom is laid on Him; His death is the execution of
the divine sentence upon it. When He dies, He has put away sin; it no
longer stands, as it once stood, between God and the world. On the
contrary, God has made peace by this great transaction; He has wrought
out reconciliation; and its ministers can go everywhere with this
awful appeal: "Receive the reconciliation; Him who knew no sin God
hath made sin on our behalf, and there is henceforth no condemnation
to them that are in Christ."

No one who has felt the power of this appeal will be very anxious to
defend the Apostolic Gospel from the charges which are sometimes made
against it. When he is told that it is impossible for the doom of sin
to fall on the Sinless One, and that even if it were conceivable it
would be frightfully immoral, he is not disquieted. He recognises in
the moral contradictions of this text the surest sign that the secret
of the Atonement is revealed in it: he feels that God's work of
reconciliation necessarily involves such an identification of
sinlessness and sin. He knows that there is an appalling side to sin,
and he is ready to believe that there is an appalling side to
redemption also--a side the most distant sight of which makes the
proudest heart quail, and stops every mouth before God. He knows that
the salvation which he needs must be one in which God's mercy comes
_through_, and not _over_, His judgment; and this is the redemption
which is in Christ Jesus. But without becoming controversial on a
subject on which more than on any other the temper of controversy is
unseemly, reference may be made to the commonest form of objection to
the apostolic doctrine, in the sincere hope that some one who has
stumbled at that doctrine may see it more truly. The objection I refer
to discredits propitiation in the alleged interest of the love of God.
"We do not need," the objectors say, "to propitiate an angry God. This
is a piece of heathenism, of which a Christian ought to be ashamed. It
is a libel on the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose name
is love, and who waits to be gracious." What are we to say to such
words, which are uttered as boldly as if there were no possible reply,
or rather as if the Apostles had never written, or had been
narrow-minded unreceptive souls, who had not only failed to understand
their Master, but had taught with amazing perversity the very opposite
of what He taught on the most essential of all points--the nature of
God and His relation to sinful men? We must say this. It is quite true
that we have not to propitiate an offended God: the very fact upon
which the Gospel proceeds is that we _cannot_ do any such thing. But
it is not true that no propitiation is needed. As truly as guilt is a
real thing, as truly as God's condemnation of sin is a real thing, a
propitiation is needed. And it is here, I think, that those who make
the objection referred to part company, not only with St. Paul, but
with all the Apostles. God is love, they say, and therefore He does
not require a propitiation. God is love, say the Apostles, and
therefore He provides a propitiation. Which of these doctrines appeals
best to the conscience? Which of them gives reality, and contents, and
substance, to the love of God? Is it not the apostolic doctrine? Does
not the other cut out and cast away that very thing which made the
soul of God's love to Paul and John? "Herein is love, not that we
loved God, but that _He loved us, and sent His Son to be the
propitiation for our sins." "God commendeth His love toward us, in
that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.... Him that knew
no sin He made to be sin on our behalf."_ That is how they spoke in
the beginning of the Gospel, and so let us speak. Nobody has any right
to borrow the words "God is love" from an apostle, and then to put
them in circulation after carefully emptying them of their apostolic
import. Still less has any one a right to use them as an argument
against the very thing in which the Apostles placed their meaning. But
this is what they do who appeal to love against propitiation. To take
the condemnation out of the Cross is to take the nerve out of the
Gospel; it will cease to hold men's hearts with its original power
when the reconciliation which is preached through it contains the
mercy, but not the judgment of God. Its whole virtue, its consistency
with God's character, its aptness to man's need, its real dimensions
as a revelation of love, depend ultimately on this, that mercy comes
to us in it through judgment.

In the last words of the passage the Apostle tells us the object of
this great interposition of God: "He made Christ to be sin on our
behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Our
condemnation is made His; it is accepted, exhausted, annihilated, on
His cross; and when we receive the reconciliation--when we humble
ourselves to be forgiven and restored at this infinite cost--there is
no longer condemnation for us: we are justified by our faith, and have
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what is meant
by becoming the righteousness of God in Him. It is not, as the very
next sentence suggests, all that is included in the Christian
salvation, but it is all that the words themselves contain. "_In Him_"
has all promise in it, as well as the present possession of
reconciliation, with which the Christian life begins; but it is this
present possession, and not the promise involved in it, which St. Paul
describes as the righteousness of God. In Christ, that Christ who died
for us, and in Him in virtue of that death which by exhausting
condemnation put away sin, we are accepted in God's sight.


[53] This seems to be the force of ὡς: it is a violent supposition
that it means "since," or "for," and that ὅτι is a marginal
interpretation of it which has crept into the text.

[54] This makes λογιζόμενος a true present, not an imperfect
participle. It quite dislocates the sentence if it is co-ordinated
with καταλλάσσων, and not with θέμενος.


                       _THE SIGNS OF AN APOSTLE_

    "And working together _with Him_ we intreat also that ye receive
    not the grace of God in vain (for He saith,

          At an acceptable time I hearkened unto thee,
          And in a day of salvation did I succour thee:

    behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of
    salvation): giving no occasion of stumbling in anything, that our
    ministration be not blamed; but in everything commending
    ourselves, as ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions,
    in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in
    tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; in pureness, in
    knowledge, in long-suffering, in kindness, in the Holy Ghost, in
    love unfeigned, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the
    armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by
    glory and dishonour, by evil report and good report; as deceivers,
    and _yet_ true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and
    behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet
    alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing,
    and _yet_ possessing all things.

    "Our mouth is open unto you, O Corinthians, our heart is enlarged.
    Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own
    affections. Now for a recompense in like kind (I speak as unto
    _my_ children), be ye also enlarged."--2 COR. vi. 1-13 (R.V.).

The ministry of the Gospel is a ministry of reconciliation; the preacher
of the Gospel is primarily an evangelist. He has to proclaim that
wonderful grace of God which made peace between heaven and earth through
the blood of the Cross, and he has to urge men to receive it. Until this
is done, there is nothing else that he can do. But when sinful men have
welcomed the glad tidings, when they have consented to accept the peace
bought for them with so great a price, when they have endured to be
forgiven and restored to God's favour, not for what they are, nor for
what they are going to be, but solely for what Christ did for them on
the cross, then a new situation is created, and the minister of the
Gospel has a new task. It is to that situation St. Paul addresses
himself here. Recognising the Corinthians as people reconciled to God by
the death of His Son, he entreats them not to receive the grace of God
in vain. He does so, according to our Bibles, as a fellow-worker with
God. This is probably right, though some would take the word as in chap.
i. 24, and make it mean "as fellow-workers with you." But it is more
natural, when we look to what precedes, to think that St. Paul is here
identifying himself with God's interest in the world, and that he speaks
out of the proud consciousness of doing so. "All is of God," in the
great work of redemption; but God does not disdain the sympathetic
co-operation of men whose hearts He has touched.

But what is meant by receiving the grace of God in vain, or to no
purpose? That might be done in an infinite variety of ways, and in
reading the words for edification we naturally grasp at any clue
suggested by our circumstances. An expositor is bound to seek his clue
rather in the circumstances of the Corinthians; and if we have regard
to the general tenor of this Epistle, and especially to such a passage
as chap. xi. 4, we shall find the true interpretation without
difficulty. Paul has explained his Gospel--his proclamation of Jesus
as Universal Redeemer in virtue of His dying the sinner's death, and
as Universal Lord in virtue of His resurrection from the dead--so
explicitly, because he fears lest through the influence of some false
teacher the minds of the Corinthians should be corrupted from the
simplicity that is toward Christ. It would be receiving the grace of
God in vain, if, after receiving those truths concerning Christ which
he had taught them, they were to give up his Gospel for another in
which these truths had no place. This is what he dreads and
deprecates, both in Corinth and Galatia: the precipitate removal from
the grace of Christ to another Gospel which is no Gospel at all, but a
subversion of the truth. This is what he means by receiving the grace
of God in vain.

There are some minds to which this will not be impressive, some to which
it will only be provoking. It will seem irrelevant and pithless to those
who take for granted the finality of the distinction between religion
and theology, or between the theory, as it is called, and the fact of
the Atonement. But for St. Paul, as for all sufficiently earnest and
vigorous minds, there is a point at which these distinctions disappear.
A certain theory is seen to be essential to the fact, a certain theology
to be the constitutive force in the religion. The death of Christ was
what it was to him only because it was capable of a certain
interpretation: his theory of it, if we choose to put it so, gave it its
power over him. The love of Christ constrained him "because he thus
judged"--_i.e._, because he construed it to his intelligence in a way
which showed it to be irresistible. If these interpretations and
constructions are rejected, it must not be in the name of "fact" as
opposed to "theory," but in the name of other interpretations more
adequate and constraining. A fact of which there is absolutely _no_
theory is a fact which is without relation to anything in the
universe--a mere irrelevance in man's mind--a blank incredibility--a
rock in the sky. Paul's "theory" about Christ's death for sin was not to
him an excrescence on the Gospel, or a superfluous appendage to it: it
was itself the Gospel; it was the thing in which the very soul of God's
redeeming love was brought to light; it was the condition under which
the love of Christ became to him a constraining power; to receive it and
then reject it was to receive the grace of God in vain.

This does not preclude us from the edifying application of these words
which a modern reader almost instinctively makes. Peace with God is the
first and deepest need of the sinful soul, but it is not the sum-total
of salvation. It would, indeed, be received in vain, if the soul did not
on the basis of it proceed to build up the new life in new purity and
power. The failure to do this is, unhappily, only too common. There is
no mechanical guarantee for the fruits of the Spirit; no assurance, such
as would make this appeal unnecessary, that every man who has received
the word of reconciliation will also walk in newness of life. But if an
evangelical profession, and an immoral life, are the ugliest combination
of which human nature is capable, the force of this appeal ought to be
felt by the weakest and the worst. "The Son of God loved me, and gave
Himself for me": can any of us hide that word in his heart, and live on
as if it meant nothing at all?

Paul emphasises his appeal to the Corinthians by a striking quotation
from an ancient prophet (Isa. xlix. 8): "At an acceptable time did I
hearken unto thee, And in a day of salvation did I succour thee"; and
he points it by the joyful exclamation: "Behold, now is the
acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." The passage in
Isaiah refers to the servant of Jehovah, and some scholars would
insist that even in the quotation a primary application must be made
to Christ. The ambassadors of the Gospel represent _His_ interest
(chap. v. 20); this verse is, as it were, the answer to _His_ prayer:
"Father, the hour is come: glorify Thy Son." In answering the Son, the
Father introduces the era of grace for all who are, or shall be,
Christ's: behold, now is the time in which God shows us favour; now is
the day on which He saves us. This is rather scholastic than
apostolic, and it is far more probable that St. Paul borrows the
prophet's words, as he often does, because they suit him, without
thinking of their original application. What is striking in the
passage, and characteristic both of the writer and of the New
Testament, is the union of urgency and triumph in the tone. "Now" does
certainly mean "now or never"; but more prominently still it means "in
a time so favoured as this: in a time so graced with opportunity." The
best illustration of it is the saying of Jesus to the Apostles:
"Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.
For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have
desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and
to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them." _Now_,
that we live under the reign of grace; _now_, when God's redeeming
love, omnipotent to save, shines on us from the Cross; _now_, that the
last days have come, and the Judge is at the door, let us with all
seriousness, and all joy, work out our own salvation, lest we make the
grace of God of no effect.

St. Paul is as careful himself as he would have the Corinthians to
be. He does not wish them to receive the Gospel in vain, and he takes
pains that it shall not be frustrated through any fault of his:
"working together with God we intreat you ... giving no occasion of
stumbling in anything, that our ministration be not blamed." It is
almost implied in a sentence like this that there are people who will
be glad of an excuse not to listen to the Gospel, or not to take it
seriously, and that they will look for such an excuse in the conduct
of its ministers. Anything in the minister to which objection can be
raised will be used as a shield against the Gospel. It does not matter
that in nine cases out of ten this plea for declining the grace of God
is impudent hypocrisy; it is one which the non-Christian should never
have. If it is not the chief end of the evangelist to give no occasion
of stumbling, it is one of his chief rules. This is a matter on which
Jesus lays great stress. The severest words He ever spoke were spoken
against those whose conduct made faith hard and unbelief easy. Of
course they were spoken to all, but they have special application to
those who are so directly identified with the Gospel as its ministers.
It is to them men naturally look for the proof of what grace does. If
its reception has been in vain in them; if they have not learned the
spirit of their message; if their pride, or indolence, or avarice, or
ill-nature, provoke the anger or contempt of those to whom they
preach,--then their ministration is blamed, and the shadow of that
censure falls upon their message. The grace of God which has to be
proclaimed through human lips, and to attest itself by its power over
human lives, might seem to be put in this way to too great hazard in
the world; but it has God behind it, or rather it is itself God at
work in His ministers as their humility and fidelity allow Him; and
in spite of the occasions of stumbling for which there is no excuse,
God is always able to make grace prevail. Through the faults of its
ministers, nay, sometimes even with those faults as a foil, men see
how good and how strong that grace is.

It is not easy to comment on the glowing passage (vv. 4-10) in which
St. Paul expands this sober habit of giving no occasion of stumbling
in anything into a description of his apostolic ministry. Logically,
its value is obvious enough. He means the Corinthians to feel that if
they turn away from the Gospel which he has preached to them they are
passing censure lightly on a life of unparalleled devotion and power.
He commends himself to them, as God's servants ought always to do,[55]
by the life which he leads in the exercise of his ministry; and to
reject his Gospel is to condemn his life as worthless or misspent.
Will they venture to do that when they are reminded of what it is, and
when they feel that it is all this for them? No right-minded man will,
without provocation, speak about himself, but Paul is doubly
protected. He is challenged, by the threatened desertion from the
Gospel of some, at least, of the Corinthians; and it is not so much of
himself he speaks, as of the ministers of Christ; not so much on his
own behalf, as on behalf of the Gospel. The fountains of the great
deep are broken up within him as he thinks of what is at issue; he is
in all straits, as he begins, and can speak only in unconnected words,
one at a time; but before he stops he has won his liberty, and pours
out his soul without restraint.

It is needless to comment on each of the eight-and-twenty separate
phrases in which St. Paul characterises his life as a minister of the
Gospel. But there are what might be called breathing-places, if not
logical pauses, in the outburst of feeling, and these, as it happens,
coincide with the introduction of new aspects of his work. (1) At
first he depicts exclusively, and in single words, its passive side.
Christ had shown him at his conversion how great things he must suffer
for His name's sake (Acts ix. 16), and here is his own confirmation of
the Lord's word: he has ministered "in much patience--in afflictions,
in necessities, in distresses; in stripes, in imprisonments, in
tumults"--where the enmity of men was conspicuous; "in labours, in
watchings, in fastings"--freely exacted by his own devotion. These
nine words are all, in a manner, subordinated to "much patience"; his
brave endurance was abundantly shown in every variety of pain and
distress. (2) At ver. 6 he makes a new start, and now it is not the
passive and physical aspect of his work that is in view, but the
active and spiritual. All that weight of suffering did not extinguish
in him the virtues of the new life, or the special gifts of the
Christian minister. He wrought, he reminds them, "in purity, in
knowledge, in long-suffering, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in love
unfeigned, in the word of truth, in the power of God." The precise
import of some of these expressions may be doubtful, but this is of
less consequence than the general tenor of the whole, which is
unmistakable. Probably some of the terms, strictly taken, would cross
each other. Thus the Holy Spirit and the power of God, if we compare
such passages as 1 Cor. ii. 4, 1 Thess. i. 5, are very nearly akin.
The same remark would apply to "knowledge," and to "the word of
truth," if the latter refers, as I cannot but think it does,[56] to
the Gospel. "Purity" is naturally taken in the widest sense, and
"undissembled love" is peculiarly appropriate when we think of the
feelings with which some of the Corinthians regarded Paul. But the
main thing to notice is how the "much endurance," which, to a
superficial observer, is the most conspicuous characteristic of the
Apostle's ministry, is balanced by a great manifestation of spiritual
force from within. Of all men in the world he was the weakest to look
at, the most battered, burdened, and depressed, yet no one else had in
him such a fountain as he of the most powerful and gracious life. And
then (3) after another pause, marked this time by a slight change in
the construction (from ἐν to διὰ), he goes on to enlarge upon the
whole conditions under which his ministry is fulfilled, and especially
on the extraordinary contrasts which are reconciled in it. We commend
ourselves in our work he says, "by the armour of righteousness on the
right hand and the left, by glory and dishonour, by evil report and
good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet coming to
be well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as chastened, and not
killed; as sorrowing, yet ever rejoicing; as poor, yet making many
rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." Here again it
is not the details that are important, but the whole, and yet the
details require notice. The armour of righteousness is that which
righteousness supplies, or it may even be that which righteousness is:
Paul's character equips him right and left; it is both spear and
shield, and makes him competent either for attack or defence. Without
righteousness, in this sense of integrity, he could not commend
himself in his work as a minister of God.[57] But not only does his
real character commend him; his reputation does the same service,
however various that reputation may be. Through honour and dishonour,
through evil report and good report--through the truth that is told
about him, and through the lies--through the esteem of his friends,
the malignity of his enemies, the contempt of strangers--the same man
comes out, in the same character, devoted always in the same spirit to
the same calling. It is indeed his very devotion which produces these
opposite estimates, and hence, inconsistent as they are, they agree in
recommending him as a servant of God. Some said "He is beside
himself," and others would have plucked out their eyes for his sake,
yet both these extremely opposite attitudes were produced by the very
same thing--the passionate earnestness with which he served Christ in
the Gospel. There are good scholars who think that the clauses
beginning "as deceivers, and true," are the Apostle's own commentary
on "through evil report and good report"; in other words, that in
these clauses he is giving samples of the way in which he was spoken
of, to his honour or dishonour, and glorying that honour and dishonour
alike only guaranteed more thoroughly his claim to be a minister of
God. This might suit the first two pairs of contrasts ("as deceivers,
and true; as unknown, and gaining recognition"), but it does not suit
the next ("as dying, and behold we live"), in which, as in those that
follow, the Apostle is not repeating what was said by others, but
speaking for himself, and stating truth equally on both sides of the
account. After the first pair, there is no "dishonour," or "evil
report," in any of the states which he contrasts with each other:
though opposites, they have each their truth, and the power and beauty
of the passage, and of the life which it describes, lie simply in
this, that both _are_ true, and that through all such contrasts St.
Paul can prove himself the same loyal minister of the reconciliation.

Each pair of opposites might furnish by itself a subject for
discourse, but what we are rather concerned with is the impression
produced by the whole. In their variety they give us a vivid idea of
the range of St. Paul's experiences; in the regularity with which he
puts the higher last, and in the climax with which he concludes, they
show the victorious spirit with which he confronted all that various
life. An ordinary Christian--an ordinary minister of the Gospel--may
well feel, as he reads, that his own life is by comparison empty and
commonplace. There is not that terrible pressure on him from without;
there is not that irrepressible fountain of grace within; there is not
that triumphant spirit which can subdue all the world contains--honour
and dishonour, evil report and good report--and make it pay tribute to
the Gospel, and to himself as a Gospel minister. Yet the world has
still all possible experiences ready for those who give themselves to
the service of God with the wholeheartedness of Paul: it will show
them its best and its worst; its reverence, affection, and praise; its
hatred, its indifference, its scorn. And it is in the facing of all
such experiences by God's ministers that the ministry receives its
highest attestation: they are enabled to turn all to profit; in
ignominy and in honour alike they are made more than conquerors
through Him who loved them. St. Paul's plea rises involuntarily into
a pæan; he begins, as we saw, with the embarrassed tone of a man who
wishes to persuade others that he has taken sincere pains not to
frustrate his work by faults he could have avoided--"giving no
occasion of stumbling in anything, that the ministry be not blamed";
but he is carried higher and higher, as the tide of feeling rises
within him, till it sets him beyond the reach of blame or praise--at
Christ's right hand, where all things are his. Here is a signal
fulfilment of that word of the Lord: "I am come that they might have
life, and might have it more abundantly." Who could have it more
abundantly, more triumphantly strong through all its vicissitudes,
than the man who dictated these lines?

The passage closes with an appeal in which Paul descends from this
supreme height to the most direct and affectionate address. He names his
readers by name: "Our mouth is open unto you, O Corinthians;[58] our
heart is enlarged." He means that he has treated them with the utmost
frankness and cordiality. With strangers we use reserve; we do not let
ourselves go, nor indulge in any effusion of heart. But he has not made
strangers of them; he has relieved his overcharged heart before them,
and he has established a new claim on their confidence in doing so. "Ye
are not straitened in us," he writes; that is, "The awkwardness and
constraint of which you are conscious in your relations with me are not
due to anything on my side; my heart has been made wide, and you have
plenty of room in it. But you are straitened in your own affections. It
is _your_ hearts that are narrow: cramped and confined with unworthy
suspicions, and with the feeling that you have done me a wrong which you
are not quite prepared to rectify. Overcome these ungenerous thoughts at
once. Give me a recompense in kind for my treatment of you. I have
opened my heart wide, to you and for you; open your hearts as freely, to
me and for me. I am your father in Christ, and I have a right to this
from my children."

When we take this passage as a whole, in its original bearings, one
thing is plain: that want of love and confidence between the minister
of the Gospel and those to whom he ministers has great power to
frustrate the grace of God. There may have been a real revival under
the minister's preaching--a real reception of the grace which he
proclaims--but all will be in vain if mutual confidence fails. If he
gives occasion of stumbling in something, and the ministry is blamed;
or if malice and falsehood sow the seeds of dissension between him and
his brethren, the grand condition of an effective ministry is gone.
"Beloved, let us love one another," if we do not wish the virtue of
the Cross to be of no effect in us.


[55] Observe that it is ὡς Θεοῦ διάκονοι, not διακόνους.

[56] Some, because of the want of the article, make it equivalent to

[57] Beet, however, takes it in the technical sense: justification by
faith is the preacher's sword and shield.

[58] _Rara et præsentissima appellatio_ (Bengel).


                       _NEW TESTAMENT PURITANISM_

    "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have
    righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with
    darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion
    hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath a temple
    of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as
    God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be
    their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore

          Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord,
          And touch no unclean thing;
          And I will receive you,
          And will be to you a Father,
          And ye shall be to Me sons and daughters,

    saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, beloved,
    let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit,
    perfecting holiness in the fear of God."--2 COR. vi. 14-vii. 1

This is one of the most peculiar passages in the New Testament. Even a
careless reader must feel that there is something abrupt and unexpected
in it; it jolts the mind as a stone on the road does a carriage wheel.
Paul has been begging the Corinthians to treat him with the same love
and confidence which he has always shown to them, and he urges this
claim upon them up to ver. 13. Then comes this passage about the
relation of Christians to the world. Then again, at chap. vii. 2--"Open
your hearts to us; we wronged no man, we corrupted no man, we took
advantage of no man"--he returns to the old subject without the least
mark of transition. If everything were omitted from chap. vi. 14 to
chap. vii. 1 inclusive, the continuity both of thought and feeling would
be much more striking. This consideration alone has induced many
scholars to believe that these verses do not occupy their original
place. The ingenious suggestion has been made that they are a fragment
of the letter to which the Apostle refers in the First Epistle (chap. v.
9): the sentiment, and to some extent even the words, favour this
conjecture. But as there is no external authority for any conjecture
whatever, and no variation in the text, such suggestions can never
become conclusive. It is always possible that, on reading over his
letter, the Apostle himself may have inserted a paragraph breaking to
some extent the closeness of the original connexion. If there is nothing
in the contents of the section inconsistent with his mind, the breach of
continuity is not enough to discredit it.

Some, however, have gone further than this. They have pointed to the
strange formulæ of quotation--"as God said," "saith the Lord," "saith
the Lord Almighty"--as unlike Paul. Even the main idea of the
passage--"touch not any unclean thing"--is asserted to be at variance
with his principles. A narrow Jewish Christian might, it is said, have
expressed this shrinking from what is unclean, in the sense of being
associated with idolatry, but not the great Apostle of liberty. At all
events he would have taken care, in giving such an advice under
special circumstances, to safeguard the principle of freedom. And,
finally, an argument is drawn from language. The only point at which
it is even plausible is that which touches upon the use of the terms
"flesh" and "spirit" in chap. vii. 1. Schmiedel, who has an admirable
excursus on the whole question, decides that this, and this only, is
certainly un-Pauline. It is certainly unusual in Paul, but I do not
think we can say more. The "rigour and vigour" with which Paul's use
of these terms is investigated seems to me largely misplaced. They did
undoubtedly tend to become technical in his mind, but words so
universally and so vaguely used could never become simply technical.
If any contemporary of Paul could have written, "Let us cleanse
ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit," then Paul himself
could have written it. Language offers the same latitudes and
liberties to everybody, and one could not imagine a subject which
tempted less to technicality than the one urged in these verses.
Whatever the explanation of their apparently irrelevant insertion
here, I can see nothing in them alien to Paul. Puritanism is certainly
more akin to the Old Testament than to the New, and that may explain
the instinctiveness with which the writer seems to turn to the law and
the prophets, and the abundance of his quotations; but though "all
things are lawful" to the Christian, Puritanism has a place in the New
Testament too. There is no conception of "holiness" into which the
idea of "separation" does not enter; and though the balance of
elements may vary in the New Testament as compared with the Old, none
can be wanting. From this point of view we can best examine the
meaning and application of the passage. If a connexion is craved, the
best, I think, is that furnished by a combination of Calvin and Meyer.
_Quasi recuperata auctoritate_, says Calvin, _liberius jam eos
objurgat_: this supplies a link of feeling between vv. 13 and 14. A
link of thought is supplied if we consider with Meyer that
inattention to the rule of life here laid down was a notable cause of
receiving the grace of God in vain (ver. 1).[59] Let us notice (1) the
moral demand of the passage; (2) the assumption on which it rests; (3)
the Divine promise which inspires its observance.

(1) The moral demand is first put in the negative form: "Be not
unequally yoked with unbelievers." The peculiar word ἑτεροζυγοῦντες
("unequally yoked") has a cognate form in Lev. xix. 19, in the law
which forbids the breeding of hybrid animals. God has established a
good physical order in the world, and it is not to be confounded and
disfigured by the mixing of species. It is that law (or perhaps
another form of it in Deut. xxii. 10, forbidding an Israelite to
plough with an ox and an ass under the same yoke) that is applied in
an ethical sense in this passage. There is a wholesome moral order in
the world also, and it is not to be confused by the association of its
different kinds. The common application of this text to the marriage
of Christians and non-Christians is legitimate, but too narrow. The
text prohibits every kind of union in which the separate character and
interest of the Christian lose anything of their distinctiveness and
integrity. This is brought out more strongly in the free quotation
from Isa. lii. 11 in ver. 17: "Come out from among them, and be
separate, saith the Lord, and touch not anything unclean." These words
were originally addressed to the priests who, on the redemption of
Israel from Babylon, were to carry the sacred temple vessels back to
Jerusalem. But we must remember that, though they are Old Testament
words, they are quoted by a New Testament writer, who inevitably puts
his own meaning into them. "The unclean thing" which no Christian is
to touch is not to be taken in a precise Levitical sense; it covers,
and I have no doubt was intended by the writer to cover, all that it
suggests to any simple Christian mind now. We are to have no
compromising connexion with anything in the world which is alien to
God. Let us be as loving and conciliatory as we please, but as long as
the world is what it is, the Christian life can only maintain itself
in it in an attitude of protest. There always will be things and
people to whom the Christian has to say No!

But the moral demand of the passage is put in a more positive form in
the last verse: "Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh
and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." That is the ideal
of the Christian life. There is something to be overcome and put away;
there is something to be wrought out and completed; there is a
spiritual element or atmosphere--the fear of God--in which alone these
tasks can be accomplished. The fear of God is an Old Testament name
for true religion, and even under the New Testament it holds its
place. The Seraphim still veil their faces while they cry "Holy, holy,
holy is the Lord of Hosts," and still we must feel that great awe
descend upon our hearts if we would be partakers of His holiness. It
is this which withers up sin to the root, and enables us to cleanse
ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit. St. Paul includes
himself in his exhortation here: it is one duty, one ideal, which is
set before all. The prompt decisive side of it is represented in
καθαρίσωμεν ("let us cleanse": observe the aorist); its patient
laborious side in ἐπιτελοῦντες ἁγιωσύνην ("carrying holiness to
completion)." Almost everybody in a Christian Church makes a beginning
with this task: we cleanse ourselves from obvious and superficial
defilements; but how few carry the work on into the spirit, how few
carry it on ceaselessly towards perfection. As year after year rolls
by, as the various experiences of his come to us with their lessons
and their discipline from God, as we see the lives of others, here
sinking ever deeper and deeper into the corruptions of the world,
there rising daily nearer and nearer to the perfect holiness which is
their goal, does not this demand assert its power over us? Is it not a
great thing, a worthy thing, that we should set ourselves to purge
away from our whole nature, outward and inward, whatever cannot abide
the holy eye of God; and that we should regard Christian holiness, not
as a subject for casual thoughts once a week, but as the task to be
taken up anew, with unwearying diligence, every day we live? Let us be
in earnest with this, for surely God is in earnest.

(2) Observe now the assumption on which the demand not to be unequally
yoked with unbelievers is based. It is that there are _two_ ethical or
spiritual interests in the world, and that these are fundamentally
inconsistent with each other. This implies that in choosing the one,
the other has to be rejected. But it implies more: it implies that at
bottom there are only two kinds of people in the world--those who
identify themselves with the one of these interests, and those who
identify themselves with the other.

Now, as long as this is kept in an abstract form people do not quarrel
with it. They have no objection to admit that good and evil are the only
spiritual forces in the world, and that they are mutually exclusive. But
many will not admit that there are only two kinds of persons in the
world, answering to these two forces. They would rather say there is
only _one_ kind of persons, in whom these forces are with infinite
varieties and modifications combined. This seems more tolerant, more
humane, more capable of explaining the amazing mixtures and
inconsistencies we see in human lives. But it is not more true. It is a
more penetrating insight which judges that every man--despite his range
of neutrality--would in the last resort choose his side; would, in
short, in a crisis of the proper kind, prove finally that he was not
good _and_ bad, but good _or_ bad. We cannot pretend to judge others,
but sometimes men judge themselves, and always God can judge. And there
is an instinct in those who are perfecting holiness in the fear of God
which tells them, without in the least making them Pharisaical, not only
what things, but what persons--not only what ideas and practices, but
what individual characters--are not to be made friends of. It is no
pride, or scorn, or censoriousness, which speaks thus, but the voice of
all Christian experience. It is recognised at once where the young are
concerned: people are careful of the friends their children make, and a
schoolmaster will dismiss inexorably, not only a bad habit, but a bad
boy, from the school. It ought to be recognised just as easily in
maturity as in childhood: there are men and women, as well as boys and
girls, who distinctly represent evil, and whose society is to be
declined. To protest against them, to repel them, to resent their life
and conduct as morally offensive, is a Christian duty; it is the first
step towards evangelising them.

It is worth noticing in the passage before us how the Apostle, starting
from abstract ideas, descends, as he becomes more urgent, into personal
relations. What fellowship have righteousness and lawlessness? None.
What communion has light with darkness? None. What concord has Christ
with Belial? Here the persons come in who are the heads, or
representatives, of the opposing moral interests, and it is only now
that we feel the completeness of the antagonism. The interest of
holiness is gathered up in Christ; the interest of evil in the great
adversary; and they have nothing in common. And so with the believer and
the unbeliever. Of course there is ground on which they can meet: the
same sun shines on them, the same soil supports them, they breathe the
same air. But in all that is indicated by those two names--believer and
unbeliever--they stand quite apart; and the distinction thus indicated
reaches deeper than any bond of union. It is not denied that the
unbeliever may have much that is admirable about him; but for the
believer the one supremely important thing in the world is that which
the unbeliever denies, and therefore the more he is in earnest the less
can he afford the unbeliever's friendship. We need all the help we can
get to fight the good fight of faith, and to perfect holiness in the
fear of God; and a friend whose silence numbs faith, or whose words
trouble it, is a friend no earnest Christian dare keep. Words like these
would not seem so hard if the common faith of Christians were felt to
be a real bond of union among them, and if the recoil from the
unbelieving world were seen to be the action of the whole Christian
society, the instinct of self-preservation in the new Christian life.
But, at whatever risk of seeming harsh, it must be repeated that there
has never been a state of affairs in the world in which the commandment
had no meaning, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate"; nor an
obedience to this commandment which did not involve separation from
persons as well as from principles.

(3) But what bulks most largely in the passage is the series of divine
promises which are to inspire and sustain obedience. The separations
which an earnest Christian life requires are not without their
compensation; to leave the world is to be welcomed by God. It is
probable that the pernicious association which the writer had
immediately in view was association with the heathen in their worship,
or at least in their sacrificial feasts. At all events it is the
inconsistency of this with the worship of the true God that forms the
climax of his expostulation--What agreement hath a temple of God with
idols? and it is to this, again, that the encouraging promises are
attached. "_We_," says the Apostle, "are a temple of the living God."
This carries with it all that he has claimed: for a temple means a house
in which God dwells, and God can only dwell in a holy place. Pagans and
Jews alike recognised the sanctity of their temples: nothing was guarded
more jealously; nothing, if violated, was more promptly and terribly
avenged. Paul had seen the day when he gave his vote to shed the blood
of a man who had spoken disrespectfully of the Temple at Jerusalem, and
the day was coming when he himself was to run the risk of his life on
the mere suspicion that he had taken a pagan into the holy place. He
expects Christians to be as much in earnest as Jews to keep the sanctity
of God's house inviolate; and now, he says, that house are we: it is
ourselves we have to keep unspotted from the world.

We are God's temple in accordance with the central promise of the old
covenant: as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I
will be their God, and they shall be My people." The original of this
is Lev. xxvi. 11, 12. The Apostle, as has been observed already, takes
the Old Testament words in a New Testament sense: as they stand here
in Second Corinthians they mean something much more intimate and
profound than in their old place in Leviticus. But even there, he
tells us, they are a promise to us. What God speaks, He speaks to His
people, and speaks once for all. And if the divine presence in the
camp of Israel--a presence represented by the Ark and its tent--was to
consecrate that nation to Jehovah, and inspire them with zeal to keep
the camp clean, that nothing might offend the eyes of His glory, how
much more ought those whom God has visited in His Son, those in whom
He dwells through His Spirit, to cleanse themselves from every
defilement, and make their souls fit for His habitation? After
repeating the charge to come out and be separate, the writer heaps up
new promises, in which the letter and the spirit of various Old
Testament passages are freely combined.[60] The principal one seems to
be 2 Sam. vii., which contains the promises originally made to
Solomon. At ver. 14 of that chapter we have the idea of the paternal
and filial relation, and at ver. 8 the speaker is described in the
LXX., as here, as the Lord Almighty. But passages like Jer. xxxi. 1,
9, also doubtless floated through the writer's mind, and it is the
substance, not the form, which is the main thing. The very freedom
with which they are reproduced shows us how thoroughly the writer is
at home, and how confident he is that he is making the right and
natural application of these ancient promises.

Separate yourselves, for you are God's temple: separate yourselves,
and you will be sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, and He will
be your Father. _Hæc una ratio instar mille esse debet._ The
friendship of the world, as James reminds us, is enmity with God; it
is the consoling side of the same truth that separation from the world
means friendship with God. It does not mean solitude, but a more
blessed society; not renunciation of love, but admission to the only
love which satisfies the soul, because that for which the soul was
made. The Puritanism of the New Testament is no harsh, repellent
thing, which eradicates the affections, and makes life bleak and
barren; it is the condition under which the heart is opened to the
love of God, and filled with all comfort and joy in obedience. With
Him on our side--with the promise of His indwelling Spirit to sanctify
us, of His fatherly kindness to enrich and protect us--shall we not
obey the exhortation to come out and be separate, to cleanse ourselves
from all that defiles, to perfect holiness in His fear?


[59] An ingenious defence of the place of these verses has been made
by Godet in his Introduction to St. Paul's Epistles. At chap. vi. 10
the Apostle suddenly stops, amazed, as it were, at himself and at what
the Spirit has just dictated to him. His heart swells, and he longs to
embrace the thankless Church to which he writes. What _can_ be the
cause of its ingratitude? It is this. He has inexorably exacted from
them a sacrifice claimed by their Christian profession--abstinence
from banquets, etc., in idol temples (1 Cor. x.). But he has had no
choice; the promises God makes to His sons and daughters are made on
condition of such separation. Hence the entreaty in vii. 2 f., "Make
room for me in your hearts: I have not deserved ill of any one by what
I have done."--_Introduction_, p. 381.

[60] So freely that Ewald thinks the words from κἀγὼ εἰσδέξομαι onward
are a quotation from some unknown source: as, _e.g._, Eph. v. 14.


                         _REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE_

    "Open your hearts to us: we wronged no man, we corrupted no man, we
    took advantage of no man. I say it not to condemn _you_: for I have
    said before, that ye are in our hearts to die together and live
    together. Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my
    glorying on your behalf: I am filled with comfort, I overflow with
    joy in an our affliction.

    "For even when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no relief,
    but _we were_ afflicted on every side; without _were_ fightings,
    within _were_ fears. Nevertheless He that comforteth the lowly,
    _even_ God, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not by his
    coming only, but also by the comfort wherewith he was comforted in
    you, while he told us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me;
    so that I rejoiced yet more. For though I made you sorry with my
    epistle, I do not regret it, though I did regret; for I see that
    that epistle made you sorry, though but for a season. Now I rejoice,
    not that ye were made sorry, but that ye were made sorry unto
    repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly sort, that ye might
    suffer loss by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance
    unto salvation, _a repentance_ which bringeth no regret: but the
    sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold, this selfsame thing,
    that ye were made sorry after a godly sort, what earnest care it
    wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what
    indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what longing, yea, what zeal, yea,
    what avenging! In everything ye approved yourselves to be pure in
    the matter. So although I wrote unto you, _I wrote_ not for his
    cause that did the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered the wrong,
    but that your earnest care for us might be made manifest unto you in
    the sight of God. Therefore we have been comforted: and in our
    comfort we joyed the more exceedingly for the joy of Titus, because
    his spirit hath been refreshed by you all. For if in anything I have
    gloried to him on your behalf, I was not put to shame; but as we
    spake all things to you in truth, so our glorying also, which I made
    before Titus, was found to be truth. And his inward affection is
    more abundantly toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of
    you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him. I rejoice that
    in everything I am of good courage concerning you."--2 COR. vii.
    2-16 (R.V.).

In this fine passage St. Paul completes, as far as it lay upon his
side to do so, his reconciliation with the Corinthians. It concludes
the first great division of his Second Epistle, and henceforth we hear
no more of the sinner censured so severely in the First (chap.
v.),[61] or of the troubles which arose in the Church over the
disciplinary treatment of his sin. The end of a quarrel between
friends is like the passing away of a storm; the elements are meant to
be at peace with each other, and nature never looks so lovely as in
the clear shining after rain. The effusion of feeling in this passage,
so affectionate and unreserved; the sense that the storm-clouds have
no more than left the sky, yet that fair weather has begun, make it
conspicuously beautiful even in the writings of St. Paul.

He begins by resuming the appeal interrupted at chap. vi. 13. He has
charged the Corinthians with being straitened in their own affections:
distrust and calumny have narrowed their souls, nay, shut them against
him altogether. "Receive us," he exclaims here--_i.e._, open your
hearts to us. "You have no cause to be reserved: we wronged no man,
ruined no man, took advantage of no man." Such charges had doubtless
been made against him. The point of the last is clear from chap. xii.
16-18: he had been accused of making money out of his apostolic work
among them. The other words are less precise, especially the one
rendered "corrupted" (ἐφθείραμεν), which should perhaps be rather
explained, as in 1 Cor. iii. 17, "destroyed." Paul has not wronged or
ruined any one in Corinth. Of course, his Gospel made serious demands
upon people: it insisted on readiness to make sacrifices, and on
actual sacrifice besides; it proceeded with extreme severity against
sinners like the incestuous man; it entailed obligations, as we shall
presently hear, to help the poor even of distant lands; and then, as
still, such claims might easily be resented as ruinous or unjust. St.
Paul simply denies the charge. He does not retort it; it is not his
object to condemn those whom he loves so utterly. He has told them
already that they are in his heart to die together and to live
together (vi. 11); and when this is so, there is no place for
recrimination or bandying of reproaches. He is full of confidence in
them;[62] he can freely make his boast of them. He has had affliction
enough, but over it all he has been filled with consolation; even as
he writes, his joy overflows (observe the present: ὑπερπερισσεύομαι).

That word--"ye are in our hearts to die together and to live
together"--is the key to all that follows. It has suffered much at the
hands of grammarians, for whom it has undeniable perplexities; but
vehement emotion may be permitted to be in some degree inarticulate, and
we can always feel, even if we cannot demonstrate, what it means. "Your
image in my heart accompanies me in death and life,"[63] is as nearly as
possible what the Apostle says; and if the order of the words is
unusual--for "life" would naturally stand first--that may be due to the
fact, so largely represented in chap. iv., that his life was a series of
deadly perils, and of ever-renewed deliverances from them, a daily dying
and a daily resurrection, through all the vicissitudes of which the
Corinthians never lost their place in his heart. More artificial
interpretations only obscure the intensity of that love which united the
Apostle to his converts. It is levelled here, unconsciously no doubt,
but all the more impressively, with the love which God in Christ Jesus
our Lord bears to His redeemed. "I am persuaded," St. Paul writes to the
Romans, "that neither death nor life can separate us from that." "You
may be assured," he writes here to the Corinthians, "that neither death
nor life can separate you from my love." The reference of death and life
is of course different, but the strength of conviction and of emotion is
the same in both cases. St. Paul's heart is pledged irrevocably and
irreversibly to the Church. In the deep feeling that he is theirs, he
has an assurance that they also are his. The love with which he loves
them is bound to prevail; nay, it has prevailed, and he can hardly find
words to express his joy. _En qualiter affectos esse omnes Pastores
conveniat_ (Calvin).

The next three verses carry us back to chap. ii. 12 ff., and resume
the story which was interrupted there at ver. 14. The sudden
thanksgiving of that passage--so eager and impetuous that it left the
writer no time to tell what he was thankful for--is explained here.
Titus, whom he had expected to see in Troas, arrived at length,
probably at Philippi, and brought with him the most cheering news.
Paul was sadly in need of it. His flesh had no rest: the use of the
perfect (ἔσχηκεν) almost conveys the feeling that he began to write
whenever he got the news, so that up to this moment the strain had
continued. The fights without were probably assaults upon himself, or
the Churches, of the nature of persecution; the fears within, his
anxieties about the state of morals, or of Gospel truth, in the
Christian communities. Outworn and depressed, burdened both in body
and mind (cf. the expressions in ii. 13 and vii. 5), he was suddenly
lifted on high by the arrival and the news of Titus. Here again, as in
ii. 14, he ascribes all to God. It was He whose very nature it is to
comfort the lowly who so graciously comforted him. Titus apparently
had gone himself with a sad and apprehensive heart to Corinth; he had
been away longer than he had anticipated, and in the interval St.
Paul's anxiety had risen to anguish; but in Corinth his reception had
been unexpectedly favourable, and when he returned he was able to
console his master with a consolation which had already gladdened his
own heart. Paul was not only comforted, his sorrow was turned into
joy, as he listened to Titus telling of the longing of the Corinthians
to see him, of their mourning over the pain they had given him by
their tolerance for such irregularities as that of the incestuous man
or the unknown insulter of the Apostle, and of their eagerness to
satisfy him and maintain his authority. The word "your" (ὑμῶν) in ver.
7 has a certain emphasis which suggests a contrast. Before Titus went
to Corinth, it was Paul who had been anxious to see _them_, who had
mourned over their immoral laxity, who had been passionately
interested in vindicating the character of the Church he had founded;
now it is _they_ who are full of longing to see _him_, of grief, and
of moral earnestness; and it is this which explains his joy. The
conflict between the powers of good in one great and passionate soul,
and the powers of evil in a lax and fickle community, has ended in
favour of the good; Paul's vehemence has prevailed against Corinthian
indifference, and made it vehement also in all good affections, and he
rejoices now in the joy of his Lord.

Then comes the most delicate part of this reconciliation (vv. 8-12).
It is a good rule in making up disputes to let bygones be bygones, as
far as possible; there may be a little spark hidden here and there
under what seem dead ashes, and there is no gain in raking up the
ashes, and giving the spark a chance to blaze again. But this is a
good rule only because we are bad men, and because reconciliation is
seldom allowed to have its perfect work. We feel, and say, after we
have quarrelled with a person and been reconciled, that it can never
be the same again. But this ought not to be so; and if we were perfect
in love, or ardent in love at all, it would not be so. If we were in
one another's hearts, to die together and to live together, we should
retrace the past together in the very act of being reconciled; and all
its misunderstandings and bitterness and badness, instead of lying
hidden in us as matter of recrimination for some other day when we are
tempted, would add to the sincerity, the tenderness, and the
spirituality of our love. The Apostle sets us an example here, of the
rarest and most difficult virtue, when he goes back upon the story of
his relations with the Corinthians, and makes the bitter stock yield
sweet and wholesome fruit.[64]

The whole result is in his mind when he writes, "Although I made you
sorry with the letter, I do not regret it." The letter is, on the
simplest hypothesis, the First Epistle; and though no one would
willingly speak to his friends as Paul in some parts of that Epistle
speaks to the Corinthians, he cannot pretend that he wishes it
unwritten. "Although I did regret it," he goes on, "now I rejoice." He
regretted it, we must understand, before Titus came back from Corinth.
In that melancholy interval, all he saw was that the letter made them
sorry; it was bound to do so, even if it should only be temporarily;
but his heart smote him for making them sorry at all. It vexed him to
vex them. No doubt this is the plain truth he is telling them, and it
is hard to see why it should have been regarded as inconsistent with
his apostolic inspiration. He did not cease to have a living soul
because he was inspired; and if in his despondency it crossed his mind
to say, "That letter will only grieve them," he must have said in the
same instant, "I wish I had never written it." But both impulses were
momentary only; he has heard now the whole effect of his letter, and
rejoices that he wrote it. Not, of course, that they were made
sorry--no one could rejoice for that--but that they were made sorry to
repentance. "For ye were made sorry according to God, that in nothing
ye might suffer loss on our part. For sorrow according to God worketh
repentance unto salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret. But
the sorrow of the world worketh death."

Most people define repentance as a kind of sorrow, but this is not
exactly St. Paul's view here. There is a kind of sorrow, he intimates,
which issues in repentance, but repentance itself is not so much an
emotional as a spiritual change. The sorrow which ends in it is a
blessed experience; the sorrow which does not end in it is the most
tragical waste of which human nature is capable. The Corinthians, we
are told, were made sorry, or grieved, according to God. Their sorrow
had respect to Him: when the Apostle's letter pricked their hearts,
they became conscious of that which they had forgotten--God's relation
to them, and His judgment on their conduct. It is this element which
makes any sorrow "godly," and without this, sorrow does not look
towards repentance at all. All sins sooner or later bring the sense of
loss with them; but the sense of loss is not repentance. It is not
repentance when we discover that our sin has found us out, and has put
the things we most coveted beyond our reach. It is not repentance when
the man who has sown his wild oats is compelled in bitterness of soul
to reap what he has sown. It is not a sorrow according to God when our
sin is summed up for us in the pain it inflicts upon ourselves--in our
own loss, our own defeat, our own humiliation, our own exposure, our
own unavailing regret. These are not healing, but embittering. The
sorrow according to God is that in which the sinner is conscious of
his sin in relation to the Holy One, and feels that its inmost soul of
pain and guilt is this, that he has fallen away from the grace and
friendship of God. He has wounded a love to which he is dearer than he
is to himself: to know this is really to grieve, and that not with a
self-consuming, but with a healing, hopeful sorrow. It was such a
sorrow to which Paul's letter gave rise at Corinth: it is such a
sorrow which issues in repentance, that complete change of spiritual
attitude which ends in salvation, and need never be regretted.
Anything else--the sorrow, _e.g._, which is bounded by the selfish
interests of the sinner, and is not due to his sinful act, but only to
its painful consequences--is the sorrow of the world. It is such as
men feel in that realm of life in which no account is taken of God; it
is such as weakens and breaks the spirit, or embitters and hardens it,
turning it now to defiance and now to despair, but never to God, and
penitent hope in Him. It is in this way that it works death. If death
is to be defined at all, it must be by contrast with salvation: the
grief which has not God as its rule can only exhaust the soul, wither
up its faculties, blight its hopes, extinguish and deaden all.

St. Paul can point to the experience of the Corinthians themselves as
furnishing a demonstration of these truths. "Consider your own godly
sorrow," he seems to say, "and what blessed fruits it bore. What
earnest care it wrought in you! how eager became your interest in a
situation to which you had once been sinfully indifferent!" But
"earnest care" is not all. On the contrary (ἀλλὰ), Paul expands it
into a whole series of acts or dispositions, all of which are inspired
by that sorrow according to God. When they thought of the infamy which
sin had brought upon the Church, they were eager to clear themselves
of complicity in it (ἀπολογίαν), and angry with themselves that they
had ever allowed such a thing to be (ἀγανάκτησιν); when they thought
of the Apostle, they feared lest he should come to them with a rod
(φόβον), and yet their hearts went out in longing desires to see him
(ἐπιπόθησιν); when they thought of the man whose sin was at the bottom
of all this trouble, they were full of moral earnestness, which made
lax dealing with him impossible (ζῆλον), and compelled them to punish
his offence (ἐκδίκησιν). In every way they made it evident that, in
spite of early appearances, they were really pure in the matter. They
were not, after all, making themselves partakers, by condoning it, of
the bad man's offence.

A popular criticism disparages repentance, and especially the sorrow
which leads to repentance, as a mere waste of moral force. We have
nothing to throw away, the severely practical moralist tells us, in
sighs and tears and feelings: let us be up and doing, to rectify the
wrongs for which we are responsible; that is the only repentance which
is worth the name. This passage, and the experience which it depicts,
are the answer to such precipitate criticism. The descent into our own
hearts, the painful self-scrutiny and self-condemnation, the sorrowing
according to God, are not waste of moral force. Rather are they the only
possible way to accumulate moral force; they apply to the soul the
pressure under which it manifests those potent virtues which St. Paul
here ascribes to the Corinthians. All sorrow, indeed, as he is careful
to tell us, is not repentance; but he who has no sorrow for his sin has
not the force in him to produce earnest care, fear, longing, zeal,
avenging. The fruit, of course, is that for which the tree is
cultivated; but who would magnify the fruit by disparaging the sap? That
is what they do who decry "godly sorrow" to exalt practical amendment.

With this reference to the effect of his letter upon them, the Apostle
virtually completes his reconciliation to the Corinthians. He chooses to
consider the effect of his letter as the purpose for which it was
written, and this enables him to dismiss what had been a very painful
subject with a turn as felicitous as it is affectionate. "So then,
though I did write to you, it was not for his sake who did the wrong
[the sinner of 1 Cor. v.], nor for his who had it done to him [his
father][65]; but that you yourselves might become conscious of your
earnest care of our interests in the sight of God." Awkward as some of
the situations had been, all that remained, so far as the Apostle and
the Corinthians were concerned, was this: they knew better than before
how deeply they were attached to him, and how much they would do for his
sake. He chooses, as I have said, to regard this last result of his
writing as the purpose for which he wrote; and when he ends the twelfth
verse with the words, "For this cause, we have been comforted,"[66] it
is as if he said, "I have got what I wanted now, and am content."

But content is far too weak a word. Paul had heard all this good news
from Titus, and the comfort which it gave him was exalted into abounding
joy when he saw how the visit to Corinth had gladdened and refreshed the
spirit of his friend. Evidently Titus had accepted Paul's commission
with misgivings: possibly Timothy, who had been earlier enlisted for the
same service (1 Cor. xvi. 10), had found his courage fail him, and
withdrawn. At all events, Paul had spoken encouragingly to Titus of the
Corinthians before he started; as he puts it in ver. 14, he had boasted
somewhat to him on their account; and he is delighted that their
reception of Titus has shown that his confidence was justified. He
cannot refrain here from a passing allusion to the charges of
prevarication discussed in the first chapter; he not only tells the
truth _about_ them (as Titus has seen), but he has always told the truth
_to_ them. These verses present the character of Paul in an admirable
light: not only his sympathy with Titus, but his attitude to the
Corinthians, is beautifully Christian. What in most cases of
estrangement makes reconciliation hard is that the estranged have
allowed themselves to speak of each other to outsiders in a way that
cannot be forgotten or got over. But even when the tension between Paul
and the Corinthians was at its height, he boasted of them to Titus. His
love to them was so real that nothing could blind him to their good
qualities. He could say severe things to them, but he would never
disparage or malign them to other people; and if we wish friendships to
last, and to stand the strains to which all human ties are occasionally
subject, we must never forget this rule. "Boast somewhat," even of the
man who has wronged you, if you possibly can. If you have ever loved
him, you certainly can, and it makes reconciliation easy.

The last results of the painful friction between Paul and the
Corinthians were peculiarly happy. The Apostle's confidence in them
was completely restored, and they had completely won the heart of
Titus. "His affections are more abundantly toward you, as he remembers
the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received
him." "Fear and trembling" is an expression which St. Paul uses
elsewhere, and which is liable to be misunderstood. It does not
suggest panic, but an anxious scrupulous desire not to be wanting to
one's duty, or to do less than one ought to do. "Work out your
salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you,"
does not mean "Do it in a constant state of agitation or alarm," but
"Work on with this resource behind you, in the same spirit with which
a young man of character would work, who was starting in business on
capital advanced by a friend." He would proceed, or ought to proceed,
with fear and trembling, not of the sort which paralyse intelligence
and energy, but of the sort which peremptorily preclude slackness or
failure in duty. This is the meaning here also. The Corinthians were
not frightened for Paul's deputy, but they welcomed him with an
anxious conscientious desire to do the very utmost that duty and love
could require. This, says Calvin, is the true way to receive ministers
of Christ: and it is this only which will gladden a true minister's
heart. Sometimes, with the most innocent intention, the whole
situation is changed, and the minister, though received with the
utmost courtesy and kindness, is not received with fear and trembling
at all. Partly through his own fault, and partly through the fault of
others, he ceases to be the representative of anything that inspires
reverence, or excites to conscientious earnestness of conduct. If,
under these circumstances, he continues to be kindly treated, he is
apt to end in being, not the pastor, but the pet lamb of his flock. In
apostolic times there was no danger of this, but modern ministers and
modern congregations have sometimes thrown away all the possibilities
of good in their mutual relations by disregarding it. The affection
which they ought to have to each other is Christian, not merely
natural; controlled by spiritual ideas and purposes, and not a matter
of ordinary good feeling; and where this is forgotten, all is lost.


[61] But see on chap. ii. 5-11.

[62] This is, I think, the only possible meaning of πολλή μοι παῤῥησία
πρὸς ὑμᾶς.

[63] So Schmiedel.

[64] It is difficult to fix either the text or the punctuation in ver.
8, and agreement among critics is quite hopeless. Practically they are
at one in omitting the γὰρ of the Received Text after βλέπω: and
Schmiedel agrees with Lachmann and Westcott and Hort that the original
reading was probably βλέπων. The R.V. has the same punctuation as the
A.V., which probably means that the Revisers could not get a
sufficient majority to change it, not that it is quite satisfactory as
it stands. It certainly seems better to connect εἰ καὶ μετεμελόμην
with what follows (νῦν χαίρω) than with what precedes; but the sense
is not affected.

[65] But see on chap. ii. 5-11.

[66] This is the true text. Instead of ἐπὶ τῇ παρακλήσει in ver. 13
all critical editions read ἐπὶ δὲ τῇ π., and make these words begin a
new paragraph.


                       _THE GRACE OF LIBERALITY_

    "Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which
    hath been given in the Churches of Macedonia; how that in much
    proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep
    poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For
    according to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their
    power, _they gave_ of their own accord, beseeching us with much
    intreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the
    ministering to the saints: and _this_, not as we had hoped, but
    first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us by the
    will of God. Insomuch that we exhorted Titus, that as he had made
    a beginning before, so he would also complete in you this grace
    also. But as ye abound in everything, _in_ faith, and utterance,
    and knowledge, and _in_ all earnestness, and _in_ your love to us,
    _see_ that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by the way of
    commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others the
    sincerity also of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord
    Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He
    became poor, that ye through His poverty might become rich. And
    herein I give _my_ judgment: for this is expedient for you, who
    were the first to make a beginning a year ago, not only to do, but
    also to will. But now complete the doing also; that as _there was_
    the readiness to will, so _there may be_ the completion also out
    of your ability. For if the readiness is there, _it is_ acceptable
    according as _a man_ hath, not according as _he_ hath not. For _I
    say_ not _this_, that others may be eased, _and_ ye distressed:
    but by equality; your abundance _being a supply_ at this present
    time for their want, that their abundance also may become _a
    supply_ for your want; that there may be equality: as it is
    written, He that _gathered_ much had nothing over; and he that
    _gathered_ little had no lack."--2 COR. viii. 1-15 (R.V.).

With the eighth chapter begins the second of the three great divisions
of this Epistle. It is concerned exclusively with the collection which
the Apostle was raising in all the Gentile Christian communities for
the poor of the Mother Church at Jerusalem. This collection had great
importance in his eyes, for various reasons: it was the fulfilment of
his undertaking, to the original Apostles, to remember the poor (Gal.
ii. 10); and it was a testimony to the saints in Palestine of the love
of the Gentile brethren in Christ. The fact that Paul interested
himself so much in this collection, destined as it was for Jerusalem,
proves that he distinguished broadly between the primitive Church and
its authorities on the one hand, and the Jewish emissaries whom he
treats so unsparingly in chaps. x. and xi. on the other.

Money is usually a delicate topic to handle in the Church, and we may
count ourselves happy in having two chapters from the pen of St. Paul
in which he treats at large of a collection. We see the mind of Christ
applied in them to a subject which is always with us, and sometimes
embarrassing; and if there are traces here and there that
embarrassment was felt even by the Apostle, they only show more
clearly the wonderful wealth of thought and feeling which he could
bring to bear on an ungrateful theme. Consider only the variety of
lights in which he puts it, and all of them ideal. "Money," as such,
has no character, and so he never mentions it. But he calls the thing
which he wants a grace (χάρις), a service (διακονία), a communion in
service (κοινωνία), a munificence (ἁδρότης), a blessing (εὐλογία), a
manifestation of love. The whole resources of Christian imagination
are spent in transfiguring, and lifting into a spiritual atmosphere, a
subject on which even Christian men are apt to be materialistic. We do
not need to be hypocritical when we speak about money in the Church;
but both the charity and the business of the Church must be
transacted as Christian, and not as secular, affairs.

Paul introduces the new topic with his usual felicity. He has got
through some rough water in the first seven chapters, but ends with
expressions of joy and satisfaction. When he goes on in the eighth
chapter, it is in the same cheerful key. It is as though he said to
the Corinthians: "You have made me very happy, and now I must tell you
what a happy experience I have had in Macedonia. The grace of God has
been poured out on the Churches, and they have given with incredible
liberality to the collection for the Jewish poor. It so moved me that
I begged Titus, who had already made some arrangements in connexion
with this matter among you, to return and complete the work."

Speaking broadly, the Apostle invites the Corinthians to look at the
subject through three media: (1) the example of the Macedonians; (2) the
example of the Lord; and (3) the laws by which God estimates liberality.

(1) The liberality of the Macedonians is described as "the grace of
God given in the Churches." This is the aspect of it which conditions
every other; it is not the native growth of the soul, but a divine
gift for which God is to be thanked. Praise Him when hearts are
opened, and generosity shown; for it is His work. In Macedonia this
grace was set off by the circumstances of the people. Their Christian
character was put to the severe proof of a great affliction (see 1
Thess. ii. 14 f.); they were themselves in deep poverty; but their joy
abounded nevertheless (1 Thess. i. 6), and joy and poverty together
poured out a rich stream of liberality.[67] This may sound
paradoxical, but paradox is normal here. Strange to say, it is not
those to whom the Gospel comes easily, and on whom it imposes little,
who are most generous in its cause. On the contrary, it is those who
have suffered for it, those who have lost by it, who are as a rule
most open-handed. Comfort makes men selfish, even though they are
Christian; but if they are Christian, affliction, even to the spoiling
of their goods, teaches them generosity. The first generation of
Methodists in England--the men who in 1843 fought the good fight of
the faith in Scotland--illustrate this law; in much proof of
affliction, it might be said of them also, the abundance of their joy,
and their deep poverty, abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
Paul was almost embarrassed with the liberality of the Macedonians.
When he looked at their poverty, he did not hope for much (ver. 5). He
would not have felt justified in urging people who were themselves in
such distress to do much for the relief of others. But they did not
need urging: it was they who urged him. The Apostle's sentence breaks
down as he tries to convey an adequate impression of their eagerness
(ver. 4), and he has to leave off and begin again (ver. 5). To their
power, he bears witness, yes and beyond their power, they gave of
their own accord. They importuned him to bestow on them also the
favour of sharing in this service to the saints. And when their
request was granted, it was no paltry contribution that they made;
they gave _themselves_ to the Lord, to begin with, and to the
Apostle, as His agent in the transaction, by the will of God. The
last words resume, in effect, those with which St. Paul introduced
this topic: it was God's doing, the working of His will on their
wills, that the Macedonians behaved as they did. I cannot think the
English version is right in the rendering: "And this, not as we had
hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord." This
inevitably suggests that afterwards they gave something else--viz.,
their subscriptions. But this is a false contrast, and gives the word
"first" (πρῶτον) a false emphasis, which it has not in the original.
What St. Paul says is virtually this: "We expected little from people
so poor, but by God's will they literally put _themselves_ at the
service of the Lord, in the first instance, and of us as His
administrators. They said to us, to our amazement and joy, 'We are
Christ's, and yours after Him, to command in this matter.'" This is
one of the finest and most inspiring experiences that a Christian
minister can have, and, God be thanked, it is none of the rarest. Many
a man besides Paul has been startled and ashamed by the liberality of
those from whom he would not have ventured to beg. Many a man has been
importuned to take what he could not have dared to ask. It is a
mistake to refuse such generosity, to decline it as too much; it
gladdens God, and revives the heart of man. It is a mistake to deprive
the poorest of the opportunity of offering this sacrifice of praise;
it is the poorest in whom it has most munificence, and to whom it
brings the deepest joy. Rather ought we to open our hearts to the
impression of it, as to the working of God's grace, and rouse our own
selfishness to do something not less worthy of Christ's love.

This was the application which St. Paul made of the generosity of the
Macedonians. Under the impression of it he exhorted Titus, who on a
previous occasion[68] had made some preliminary arrangements about the
matter in Corinth, to return thither and complete the work. He had
other things also to complete, but "this grace" was to be specially
included (καὶ τὴν χάριν ταύτην). Perhaps one may see a gentle irony in
the tone of ver. 7. "Enough of argument," the Apostle says:[69] "let
Christians distinguished as you are in every respect--in faith and
eloquence and knowledge and all sorts of zeal, and in the love that
comes from you and abides in us--see that they are distinguished in
this grace also." It is a real character that is suggested here by way
of contrast, but not exactly a lovely one: the man who abounds in
spiritual interests, who is fervent, prayerful, affectionate, able to
speak in the Church, but unable to part with money.

(2) This brings the Apostle to his second point, the example of the
Lord. "I do not speak by way of commandment," he says, "in urging you
to be liberal; I am only taking occasion, through the earnestness of
others, to put the sincerity of your love to the proof. If you truly
love the brethren you will not grudge to help them in their distress.
The Macedonians, of course, are no law for you; and though it was from
them I started, I do not need to urge their example; 'for ye know the
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your
sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might become rich.'"
This is the one pattern that stands for ever before the eyes of
Christian men, the fountain of an inspiration as strong and pure
to-day as when Paul wrote these words.

Read simply, and by one who has the Christian creed in his mind, the
words do not appear ambiguous. Christ was rich, they tell us; He
became poor for our sakes, and by His poverty we become rich. If a
commentary is needed, it is surely to be sought in the parallel
passage Phil. ii. 5 ff. The rich Christ is the pre-existent One, in
the form of God, in the glory which He had with the Father before the
world was; He became poor when He became man. The poor men are those
whose lot Christ came to share, and in consequence of that
self-impoverishment of His they become heirs of a kingdom. It is not
necessary, indeed it is utterly misleading, to ask curiously _how_
Christ became poor, or what kind of experience it was for Him when He
exchanged heaven for earth, and the form of God for the form of a
servant. As Mr. Gore has well said, it is not the metaphysics of the
Incarnation that St. Paul is concerned with, either here or in
Philippians, but its ethics. We may never have a scientific key to it,
but we have a moral key. If we do not comprehend its method, at least
we comprehend its motive, and it is in its motive that the inspiration
of it lies. We know _the grace_ of our Lord Jesus Christ; and it comes
home to our hearts when the Apostle says, "Let that _mind_--that moral
temper--be in you which was also in Him." Ordinary charity is but the
crumbs from the rich man's table; but if we catch Christ's spirit, it
will carry us far beyond that. He was rich, and gave up all for our
sakes; it is no less than poverty on His part which enriches us.

The older theologians, especially of the Lutheran Church, read this
great text differently, and their opinion is not yet quite extinct.
They referred ἐπτώχευσεν, not to Christ's entrance on the incarnate
state, but to His existence in it;[70] they puzzled themselves to
conceive of Him as rich and poor at the same time; and they quite took
the point from St. Paul's exhortation by making ἐπτώχευσεν πλούσιος ὢν
describe a combination, instead of an interchange, of states. It is a
counsel of despair when a recent commentator (Heinrici), sympathising
with this view, but yielding to the comparison of Phil. ii. 5 ff.,
tries to unite the two interpretations, and to make ἐπτώχευσεν cover
both the coming to earth from heaven and the life in poverty on earth.
No word can mean two different things at the same time: and in this
daring attempt we may fairly see a final surrender of the orthodox
Lutheran interpretation.

Some strange criticisms have been passed on this appeal to the
Incarnation as a motive to liberality. It shows, Schmiedel says,
Paul's contempt for the knowledge of Christ after the flesh, when the
Incarnation is all he can adduce as a pattern for such a simply human
thing as a charitable gift. The same contempt, then, we must presume,
is shown in Philippians, when the same great pattern is held up to
inspire Christians with lowly thoughts of themselves, and with
consideration for others. It is shown, perhaps, again at the close of
that magnificent chapter--the fifteenth in First Corinthians--where
all the glory to be revealed when Christ transfigures His people is
made a reason for the sober virtues of stedfastness and patience. The
truth is rather that Paul knew from experience that the supreme
motives are needed on the most ordinary occasions. He never appeals
to incidents, not because he does not know them, or because he
despises them, but because it is far more potent and effectual to
appeal to Christ. His mind gravitates to the Incarnation, or the
Cross, or the Heavenly Throne, because the power and virtue of the
Redeemer are concentrated there. The spirit that wrought redemption,
and that changes men into the image of the Lord--the spirit without
which _no_ Christian disposition, not even the most "simply human,"
can be produced--is felt there, if one may say so, in gathered
intensity; and it is not the want of a concrete vision of Jesus such
as Peter and John had, nor a scholastic insensibility to such living
and love-compelling details as our first three Gospels furnish, that
makes Paul have recourse thither; it is the instinct of the evangelist
and pastor who knows that the hope of souls is to live in the presence
of the very highest things. Of course Paul believed in the
pre-existence and in the Incarnation. The writer quoted above does
not, and naturally the appeal of the text is artificial and
unimpressive to him. But may we not ask, in view of the simplicity,
the unaffectedness, and the urgency with which St. Paul uses this
appeal both here and in Philippians, whether _his_ faith in the
pre-existence can have had no more than the precarious speculative
foundation which is given to it by so many who reconstruct his
theology? "Christ, the perfect reconciler, must be the perfect
revealer of God; God's purpose--that for which He made all
things--must be seen in Him; but that for which God made all things
must have existed (in the mind of God) before all things; therefore
Christ is (ideally) from everlasting." This is the substance of many
explanations of how St. Paul came by his Christology; but if this had
been all, _could_ St. Paul by any possibility have appealed thus
naïvely to the Incarnation _as a fact_, and a fact which was one of
the mainsprings of Christian morality?

(3) The Apostle pauses for a moment to urge his plea in the interest
of the Corinthians themselves. He is not commanding, but giving his
judgment: "this," he says, "is profitable for you, who began[71] a
year ago, not only to do, but also to will.[72] But now complete the
doing also." Every one knows this situation, and its evils. A good
work which has been set on foot with interest and spontaneity enough,
but which has begun to drag, and is in danger of coming to nothing, is
very demoralising. It enfeebles the conscience, and spoils the temper.
It develops irresolution and incapacity, and it stands perpetually in
the way of anything else that has to be done. Many a bright idea
stumbles over it, and can get no further. It is not only worldly
wisdom, but divine wisdom, which says: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to
do, do it with thy might." If it is the giving of money, the building
of a church, the insuring of a life, complete the doing. To be always
thinking about it, and always in an ineffective way busy about it, is
not profitable for you.

It is in this connexion that the Apostle lays down the laws of
Christian liberality. In these verses (11 to 15) there are three.
(_a_) First, there must be readiness, or, as the Authorised Version
puts it, a willing mind. What is given must be given freely; it must
be a gracious offering, not a tax. This is fundamental. The law of the
Old Testament is re-enacted in the New: "Of every man _whose heart
maketh him willing_ shall ye take the Lord's offering." What we spend
in piety and charity is not tribute paid to a tyrant, but the response
of gratitude to our Redeemer: and if it has not this character He does
not want it. If there be _first_ a willing mind, the rest is easy; if
not, there is no need to go on. (_b_) The second law is, "according as
a man has." _Readiness_ is the acceptable thing, not this or that
proof of it. If we cannot give much, then a ready mind makes even a
little acceptable. Only let us remember this, that readiness always
gives all that is in its power. The readiness of the poor widow in the
Temple could only give two mites, but two mites were all her living;
the readiness of the Macedonians was in the depths of poverty, but
they gave _themselves_ to the Lord. The widow's mites are an
illustrious example of sacrifice, and this word of the Apostle
contains a moving appeal for generosity; yet the two together have
been profaned times innumerable to cloak the meanest selfishness.
(_c_) The third law is reciprocity. Paul does not write that the Jews
may be relieved and the Corinthians burdened, but on the principle of
equality: at this crisis the superfluity of the Corinthians is to make
up what is wanting to the Jews, and at some other the situation will
be exactly reversed. Brotherhood cannot be one-sided; it must be
mutual, and in the interchange of services equality is the result.
This, as the quotation hints, answers to God's design in regard to
worldly goods, as that design is indicated in the story of the manna:
He that gathered much had no more than his neighbours, and he that
gathered little had no less. To be selfish is not an infallible way of
getting more than your share; you may cheat your neighbour by that
policy, but you will not get the better of God. In all probability men
are far more nearly on an equality, in respect of what their worldly
possessions yield, than the rich in their pride, or the poor in their
envious discontent, would readily believe; but where inequality is
patent and painful--a glaring violation of the divine intention here
suggested--there is a call for charity to redress the balance. Those
who give to the poor are co-operating with God, and the more a
community is Christianised, the more will that state be realised in
which each has what he needs.


[67] Ἁπλότης is literally simplicity or singleness of heart, the
disposition which, when it gives, does so without _arrière-pensée_: in
point of fact this is identical with the liberal or generous
disposition. Cf. chap. ix. 11, 13; Rom. xii. 8; James i. 5.

[68] Previous to his recent visit? So Schmiedel. Or simply = formerly?

[69] This, according to Hermann (quoted by Meyer), is often the force
of ἀλλά, which is certainly a surprising word here.

[70] Translating it, of course, "_was_ poor," or "lived poor": which
is not impossible in itself.

[71] The προ in προενήρξασθε seems to mean "before the Macedonians."

[72] The order of "do" and "will" is peculiar and has not been clearly


                       _THE FRUITS OF LIBERALITY_

    "But thanks be to God, which putteth the same earnest care for you
    into the heart of Titus. For indeed he accepted our exhortation;
    but being himself very earnest, he went forth unto you of his own
    accord. And we have sent together with him the brother whose
    praise in the Gospel _is spread_ through all the Churches; and not
    only so, but who was also appointed by the Churches to travel with
    us in _the matter of_ this grace, which is ministered by us to the
    glory of the Lord, and _to show_ our readiness: avoiding this,
    that any man should blame us in _the matter of_ this bounty which
    is ministered by us: for we take thought for things honourable,
    not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men.
    And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have many times
    proved earnest in many things, but now much more earnest by reason
    of the great confidence which _he hath_ in you. Whether _any
    inquire_ about Titus, _he is_ my partner, and _my_ fellow-worker
    to you-ward; or our brethren, _they are_ the messengers of the
    Churches, _they are_ the glory of Christ. Show ye therefore unto
    them in the face of the Churches the proof of your love, and of
    our glorying on your behalf.

    "For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous
    for me to write to you: for I know your readiness, of which I
    glory on your behalf to them of Macedonia, that Achaia hath been
    prepared for a year past; and your zeal hath stirred up very many
    of them. But I have sent the brethren, that our glorying on your
    behalf may not be made void in this respect; that, even as I said,
    ye may be prepared: lest by any means, if there come with me any
    of Macedonia, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye)
    should be put to shame in this confidence. I thought it necessary
    therefore to intreat the brethren, that they would go before unto
    you, and make up beforehand your afore-promised bounty, that the
    same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not of extortion.

    "But this _I say_, He that soweth sparingly shall reap also
    sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also
    bountifully. _Let_ each man _do_ according as he hath purposed in
    his heart; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a
    cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound unto you;
    that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound
    unto every good work: as it is written,

          He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the poor;
          His righteousness abideth for ever.

    And He that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for food, shall
    supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits
    of your righteousness: ye being enriched in everything unto all
    liberality, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God. For the
    ministration of this service not only filleth up the measure of
    the wants of the saints, but aboundeth also through many
    thanksgivings unto God; seeing that through the proving _of you_
    by this ministration they glorify God for the obedience of your
    confession unto the Gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of
    your contribution unto them and unto all; while they themselves
    also, with supplication on your behalf, long after you by reason
    of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His
    unspeakable gift."--2 COR. viii. 16-ix. 15 (R.V.).

This long passage has a good many difficulties of detail, for the
grammarian and the textual critic. Where it seems necessary, these
will be referred to in the notes; but as the large meaning of the
writer is hardly affected by them, they need not interrupt the course
of exposition. It falls into three parts, which are clearly marked as
such in the Revised Version: (1) Chap. viii. 16-24, commending to the
Corinthians the three brethren who were to precede Paul and prepare
the collection; (2) Chap. ix. 1-5, appealing to the motives of
emulation and shame to reinforce love in the matter; and (3) Chap. ix.
6-15, urging liberality, and enlarging on the blessed fruits it
yields. The first of these divisions begins, and the last ends, with
an exclamatory ascription of thanks to God.

(1) Chap. viii. 16-24. Of the three men who acted as commissioners in
this delicate undertaking, only one, Titus, is known to us by name. He
had just returned from Corinth; he knew all the critical points in the
situation; and no doubt the Apostle was glad to have such a man at the
head of the little party. He was thankful to God that on the occasion of
that previous visit the Corinthians had completely won the heart of
Titus, and that his loyal fellow-worker needed no compulsion to return.
He was leaving[73] Paul of his own accord, full of earnest care for his
Achaian friends. Along with him went a second--the brother whose praise
in the Gospel was through all the Churches. It is useless to ask who the
brother was. A very early opinion, alluded to by Origen, and represented
apparently in the traditional subscription to this Epistle, identified
him with Luke. Probably the ground for this identification was the idea
that his "praise in the Gospel" referred to Luke's work as an
evangelist. But this cannot be: first, because Luke's Gospel cannot have
been written so early; and, secondly, because "the Gospel" at this date
does not mean a written thing at all. This man's praise in the Gospel
must mean the credit he had acquired by his services to the Christian
faith; it might be by some bold confession, or by activity as an
evangelist, or by notable hospitality to missionaries, or by such
helpful ministries as the one he was now engaged in. The real point of
interest for us in the expression is the glimpse it gives us of the
unity of the Church, and the unimpeded circulation of one life through
all its members. Its early divisions, theological and racial, have been
sufficiently emphasised; it is well worth while to observe the unity of
the spirit. It was this, eventually, which gave the Church its power in
the decline of the Empire. It was the only institution which extended
over the area of civilisation with a common spirit, common sympathies,
and a common standard of praise. It was a compliment to the Corinthians
to include in this embassy one whose good name was honoured wherever men
met in the name of Jesus. This brother was at the same time a deputy in
a special sense. He had been elected by the Churches who were
contributing to the collection, that he might accompany the Apostle when
it was taken to Jerusalem. This, in itself, is natural enough, and it
would not call for comment but for the remark to which the Apostle
proceeds--"avoiding this, that any man should blame us in the matter of
this bounty which is ministered by us to the glory of the Lord, and _to
show_ our[74] readiness: for we take thought for things honourable, not
only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men."

There was evidently an unpleasant side to this transaction. Paul's
interest in the collection, his enemies had plainly said (chap. xii.
17, 18), was not quite disinterested. He was capable of putting his
own hand into the bag. What ought a Christian man to do in such a
case? We shall see in a later chapter how keenly Paul felt this
unworthy imputation, and with what generous passion he resented it;
but here he betrays no indignation; he joins with the Churches who
are making the collection in so ordering matters as to preclude
suspicion. Wherever the money is concerned, his responsibility is to
be shared with another. It is a pity that Christ should not be
glorified, and the Apostle's zeal to help the poor saints made known,
without the accompaniment of these base suspicions and precautionary
measures; but in all things human, evil will mingle with good, and the
humble course is best, which does not only what God knows to be
honourable, but what men must see to be so too. In handling money
especially, it is best to err on the safe side. If most men are too
readily suspected by others, it only answers to the fact that most men
are too ready to trust themselves. We have an infinite faith in our
own honesty; and when auditors are appointed to examine their books,
the inexperienced are apt to think it needless, and even impertinent.
If they were wise, they would welcome it as a protection against
suspicion and even against themselves. Many a man has ruined
himself--not to speak of those who trusted him--by too blind a belief
in his own integrity. The third brother who accompanied Titus seems to
have been more closely associated with Paul than the second. He had
proved him often, in many things, and found him uniformly earnest; and
at this juncture the confidence he had in the Corinthians made him
more earnest than ever. Paul extols the three in the highest terms
before he sends them off; if anybody in Corinth wishes to know what
they are, he is proud to tell. Titus is his partner in the apostolic
calling, and has shared his work among them; the other brethren are
deputies (apostles) of Churches, a glory of Christ. What an idealist
Paul was! What an appreciation of Christian character he had when he
described these nameless believers as reflections of the splendour of
Christ! To common eyes they might be commonplace men; but when Paul
looked at them he saw the dawning of that brightness in which the Lord
appeared to him by the way. Contact with the grimy side of human
nature did not blind him to this radiance; rather did this glory of
Christ in men's souls strengthen him to believe all things, to hope
all things, to endure all things. In showing before these honoured
messengers the proof of their love, and of his boasting on their
behalf, the Corinthians will show it,[75] he says, before the face of
the Churches. It will be officially reported throughout Christendom.

(2) Chap. ix. 1-5. This section strikes one at first as greatly
wanting in connexion with what precedes. It looks like a new
beginning, an independent writing on the same or a similar subject.
This has led some scholars to argue that either chap. viii. or chap.
ix. belongs to a different occasion, and that only resemblance in
subject has led to one of them being erroneously inserted here beside
the other. This, in the absence of any external indication, is an
extremely violent supposition; and closer examination goes to
dissipate that first impression. The statements, _e.g._, in vv. 3-5
would be quite unintelligible if we had not chap. viii. 16-24 to
explain them; and instead of saying there is no connexion between ix.
1 and what precedes, we should rather say that the connexion is
somewhat involved and circuitous--as will happen when one is handling
a topic of unusual difficulty. It is to be explained thus. The Apostle
feels that he has said a good deal now about the collection, and that
there is a danger in being too urgent. He uses what he has just said
about the reception of the brethren as a stepping-stone to another
view of the subject, more flattering to the Corinthians, to begin
with, and less importunate. "Maintain your character before them," he
says in effect; "for as for the ministering to the saints, it is
superfluous for me to be writing to you as I do."[76] Instead of
finding it necessary to urge their duty upon them, he has been able to
hold up their readiness as an example to the Macedonians. "Achaia has
been prepared for a year past," he said to his fond disciples in
Thessalonica and Philippi; and the zeal of the Achaians, or rivalry of
them, roused the majority of the Macedonians. This is one way of
looking at what happened; another, and surely Paul would have been the
first to say a more profound, is that of chap. viii. 1--the grace of
God was given in the Churches of Macedonia. But the grace of God takes
occasions, and uses means; and here its opportunity and its instrument
for working in Macedonia was the ready generosity of the Corinthians.
It has wrought, indeed, so effectively that the tables are turned, and
now it is the liberality of Macedonia which is to provoke Corinth.
Paul is sending on these brethren beforehand, lest, if any of the
Macedonians should accompany him when he starts for Corinth himself,
they should find matters not so flourishing as he had led them to
believe. "That would put me to shame," he says to the Corinthians,
"not to speak of you. I have been very confident in speaking of you as
I have done in Macedonia: do keep up my credit and your own. Let this
blessing, which you are going to bestow on the poor, be ready _as_ a
blessing--_i.e._, as something which one gives willingly, and as
liberally as he can; and not as a matter of avarice,[77] in which one
gives reluctantly, keeping as much as he can."

The legitimacy of such motives as are appealed to in this paragraph will
always be more or less questioned among Christian men, but as long as
human nature is what it is they will always be appealed to. Ζηλότυπον
γὰρ τὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων γένος (Chrys.). A great man of action like St. Paul
will of course find his temptations along this line. He is so eager to
get men to act, and the inertness of human nature is so great, that it
is hard to decline anything which will set it in motion. It is not the
highest motive, certainly, when the forwardness of one stimulates
another; but in a good cause, it is better than none. A good cause, too,
has a wonderful power of its own when men begin to attend to it; it
asserts itself, and takes possession of souls on its own account.
Rivalry becomes generous then, even if it remains; it is a race in love
that is being run, and all who run obtain the prize. Competitions for
prizes which only one can gain have a great deal in them that is selfish
and bad; but rivalry in the service of others--rivalry in
unselfishness--will not easily degenerate in this direction. Paul does
not need to be excused because he stimulates the Macedonians by the
promptitude of the Corinthians--though he had his misgivings about this
last--and the Corinthians by the liberality of the Macedonians. The real
motive in both cases was "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who,
though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor." It is this which
underlies everything in the Christian heart, and nothing can do harm
which works as its auxiliary.

(3) Chap. ix. 6-15. In the third and last section the Apostle resumes
his direct and urgent tone. "I do not need to write to you," he seems
to say, "but one thing I cannot but set down: He that soweth sparingly
shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully[78] shall
reap also bountifully." That is the law of God, and the nature of
things, whether men regard or disregard it. Charity is in a real sense
an investment, not a casting away of money; it is not fruitless, but
bears fruit in the measure in which it is sown. Of course it cannot be
enforced--that would be to deny its very nature. Each is to give what
he has purposed in his heart, where he is free and true: he is not to
give out of grief, mourning over what he gives and regretting he could
not keep it; neither is he to give out of necessity, because his
position, or the usages of his society, or the comments of his
neighbours, put a practical compulsion upon him. God loves a cheerful
giver. Money is nothing to Him but as an index to the soul; unless the
soul gives it, and gives itself with it, He takes no account. But He
does take account of true charity, and because He does, the charitable
may be of good cheer: He will not allow them to be without the means
of manifesting a spirit so grateful to Him. If we really wish to be
generous, He will not withhold from us the power of being so. This is
what the Apostle says in ver. 8: "God is able to make all grace abound
toward you, that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may
abound unto every good work." There is, indeed, another way of
rendering αὐτάρκεια (sufficiency). Some take it subjectively, not
objectively, and make it mean, not sufficiency, but contentment. But
though a contented spirit disposes people wonderfully to be generous,
and the discontented, who have never enough for themselves, can never,
of course, spare anything for anybody else, this meaning is decidedly
to be rejected. The sufficiency, as ver. 10 also shows, is outward: we
shall always, if we are charitable, have by God's grace the means of
being more so. He is able to bless us abundantly, that we may be able
for every good work. Observe the purpose of God's blessing. This is
the import of the quotation from the 112th Psalm, in which we have the
portrait of the good man: "He hath dispersed"--what uncalculating
liberality there is in the very word--"he hath given to the poor: his
righteousness abideth for ever." The approximation, in the Jewish
morals of later times, of the ideas of righteousness and almsgiving,
has led some to limit δικαιοσύνη in this passage (as in Matt. vi. 1)
to the latter sense. This is extremely improbable--I think impossible.
In the Psalm, both in ver. 3 and ver. 10 (LXX.), the expression "his
righteousness abideth for ever" reflects God's verdict on the
character as a whole. The character there described, and here
referred to by the relevant trait of generosity, is one which need
fear no chances of the future. He who supplies seed to the sower and
bread for food will supply and multiply the seed sown by the generous
Corinthians (that they may ever be in a position to be generous), and
will cause also the fruits of their righteousness to grow. Their
righteousness, as it figures in this last phrase, is of course
represented, for the time being, by their generosity; and the poetic
expression "fruits of righteousness," which is borrowed from Hosea,
designates the results which that generosity produces. It is not only
an investment which guarantees to them the generous care of God for
their own welfare; it is a seed which bears another and more spiritual
harvest. With some expansion of heart on this the Apostle concludes.

(_a_) It yields a rich harvest of thanksgiving to God. This is
expressed in ver. 12, and is the principal point. It is something to
fill up further the measure of a brother's needs by a timely gift, but
how much more it is to change the tune of his spirit, and whereas we
found him cheerless or weak in faith, to leave him gratefully praising
God. True thankfulness to the Heavenly Father is an atmosphere in
which all virtues flourish: and those whose charity bears fruit in
this grateful spirit are benefactors of mankind to an extent which no
money can estimate. It is probably forcing the Apostle's language to
insist that λειτουργία, as a name for the collection, has any priestly
or sacrificial reference;[79] but unfeigned charity is in its very
nature a sacrifice of praise to God--the answer of our love to His;
and it has its best effect when it evokes the thanksgivings to God of
those who receive it. Wherever love is, He must be first and last.

(_b_) The charity of the Corinthians bore another spiritual fruit: in
consequence of it the saints at Jerusalem were won to recognise more
unreservedly the Christian standing of the Gentile brethren. This is
what we read in ver. 13. Taking occasion from the proof of what you are,
which this ministration of yours has given them, they glorify God "for
the obedience of your confession unto the Gospel of Christ, and for the
liberality of your contribution unto them and unto all." The verbal
combinations possible here give free scope to the ingenuity and the
caprice of grammarians; but the kind of thing meant remains plain. Once
the Christians of Jerusalem had had their doubts about the Corinthians,
and the other pagans who were said to have received the Gospel; they had
heard marvellous reports about them certainly, but it remained to be
seen on what these reports rested. They would not commit themselves
hastily to any compromising relation to such outsiders. Now all their
doubts have been swept away; the Gentiles have actually come to the
relief of their poverty, and there is no mistaking what that means. The
language of love is intelligible everywhere, and there is only One who
teaches it in such relations as are involved here--Jesus Christ. Yes,
once they had their doubts of you; but now they will praise God that you
have obediently confessed the Gospel, and frankly owned a fellowship
with them and with all. The last words mean, in effect, that the
Corinthians had liberally shared what they had with them and with all;
but the terms are so chosen as to obliterate, as far as possible, all
but the highest associations. This, then, is another fruit of charity:
it widens the thoughts--it often improves the theology--of those who
receive it. All goodness, men feel instinctively, is of God; and they
cannot condemn as godless, or even as beyond the covenant, those through
whom goodness comes to them.

(_c_) Finally, among the fruits of charity is to be reckoned the
direct response of brotherly love, expressed especially in
intercessory prayer, and in a longing to see those on whom God's grace
rests so abundantly. An unknown and distant benefactor is sometimes
better than one near at hand. He is regarded simply in his character
as a benefactor; we know nothing of him that can possibly discount his
kindness; our mind is compelled to rest upon his virtues and remember
them gratefully before God. One of the meanest experiences of human
nature that we can have--and it is not an imaginary one--is to see
people paying the debt of gratitude, or at least mitigating the sense
of obligation, by thinking over the deficiencies in their benefactor's
character. "He is better off than we are; it is nothing to him; and if
he _is_ kind to the poor, he has need to be. It will take a lot of
charity to cover all he would like to hide." This revolting spirit is
the extreme opposite of the intercessory prayer and brotherly yearning
which St. Paul sees in his mind's eye among the saints at Jerusalem.
Perhaps he saw almost more than was really to be seen. The union of
hearts he aimed at was never more than imperfectly attained. But to
have aimed at it was a great and generous action, and to have brought
so many Gentile Churches to co-operate to this end was a magnificent
service to the kingdom of God.

These "fruits" are not as yet actually borne, but to the Apostle's
loving anticipation they are as good as real. They are the fruits of
"the righteousness" of the Corinthians, the harvest that God has
caused to grow out of their liberality. From the very beginning there
have been two opinions as to what St. Paul means by the exclamation
with which he closes--"Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift."
On the one hand, it is read as if it were a part of what precedes, the
unspeakable gift of God being the numberless blessings that charity
yields, by God's goodness, both to those who give and to those who
receive it. Paul in this case would be thinking, when he wrote, of the
joy with which the Gentiles gave, and of the gratitude, the willing
recognition, and the brotherly prayers and longing, with which the
Jews received, help in the hour of need. These would be the
unspeakable gift. On the other hand, the sentence is read as if it
stood apart, not the continuation of what immediately precedes, but
the overflow of the Apostle's heart in view of the whole situation. It
becomes possible, then, to regard "God's unspeakable gift" as the gift
of redemption in His Son--the great, original, unsearchable gift, in
which everything else is included, and especially all such
manifestations of brotherly love as have just been in view. Sound
feeling, I think, unequivocally supports the last interpretation. The
very word "unspeakable" is one of a class that Paul reserves for this
particular object; the wisdom and love of God as displayed in man's
salvation are unspeakable, unsearchable, passing knowledge; but
nothing else is. It is to this his mind goes back, instinctively, as
he contemplates what has flowed from it in the particular case before
us; but it is the great divine gift, and not its fruits in men's
lives, however rich and various, that it passes the power of words to
characterise. It is for it, and not for its results in Jew or Gentile,
that the Apostle so devoutly thanks God.


[73] Αὐθαίρετος ἐξῆλθεν: the aorists all through this passage are
virtually epistolary--ἐξῆλθεν = he is going; συνεπέμψαμεν = I am
sending with him.

[74] _Our_ (ἡμῶν), not _your_ (ὑμῶν), is the true reading. The precise
sense is doubtful. It may be as the R.V. gives it, though this
completely upsets the balance of the clauses πρὸς τὴν τοῦ Κυρίου δόξαν
and καὶ προθυμίαν ἡμῶν. The meaning should rather be: "which is
ministered by us, that the Lord may be glorified, and that we may be
made of good heart"; only Paul's spirits seem a small thing side by side
with the Lord's glory. There is something to say for the conjecture that
the καὶ before προθυμίαν should be κατά, even though this could only be
connected with χειροτονηθείς: "elected as we earnestly desired."

[75] The T.R. has ἐνδείξασθε here, and so Westcott and Hort read in
text, with א, C, D**, etc. Most editors read with B, D*, E, F, G,
etc., ἐνδεικνύμενοι. The imperative certainly seems to be a change
made to facilitate the construction. Reading the participle, we must
supply ἐνδείξεσθε, and put a comma after ἐνδεικνύμενοι: "in showing it
to them, [you will show it] before the Churches." This is the same
kind of ellipsis as in ver. 23.

[76] This is the force of τὸ γράφειν.

[77] The R.V. renders πλεονεξία "extortion"--the πλεονέκται being
those who _get_ the money; but it seems to me more natural to render
"avarice," in which case both εὐλογία and πλεονεξία apply to the

[78] Ἐπ' εὐλογίαις: "so that blessings are associated therewith"
(Winer): the full hand in sowing makes a full hand in reaping.

[79] Λειτουργία: for the general sense of "service," especially
charitable service, quite apart from priestly associations, see Phil.
ii. 25, 30: and Grimm's Lexicon.



    "Now I Paul myself intreat you by the meekness and gentleness of
    Christ, I who in your presence am lowly among you, but being
    absent am of good courage toward you: yea, I beseech you, that I
    may not when present show courage with the confidence wherewith I
    count to be bold against some, which count of us as if we walked
    according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not
    war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not
    of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strong
    holds); casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is
    exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought
    into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness
    to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be
    fulfilled."--2 COR. x. 1-6 (R.V.).

The last four chapters of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians stand
as manifestly apart as the two about the collection. A great deal too
much has been made of this undeniable fact. If a man has a long letter
to write, in which he wishes to speak of a variety of subjects, we may
expect variations of tone, and more or less looseness of connexion. If
he has something on his mind which it is difficult to speak about, but
which cannot be suppressed, we may expect him to keep it to the end,
and to introduce it, perhaps, with awkward emphasis. The scholars who
have argued, on the ground of the extreme difference of tone, and want
of connexion, that chaps. x.-xiii. of this Epistle were originally a
separate letter, either earlier (Weisse) or later (Semler) than the
first seven chapters, seem to have overlooked these obvious
considerations.[80] If Paul stopped dictating for the day at the end
of chap. ix.--if he even stopped a few moments in doubt how to proceed
to the critical subject he had still to handle--the want of connexion
is sufficiently explained; the tone in which he writes, when we
consider the subject, needs no justification. The mission of Titus had
resulted very satisfactorily, so far as one special incident was
concerned--the treatment of a guilty person by the Church; the tension
of feeling over that case had passed by. But in the general situation
of affairs at Corinth there was much to make the Apostle anxious and
angry. There were Judaists at work, impugning his authority and
corrupting his Gospel; there was at least a minority of the Church
under their influence; there were large numbers living, apparently, in
the grossest sins (chap. xii. 20 f.); there was something, we cannot
but think, approaching spiritual anarchy. The one resource the Apostle
has with which to encounter this situation--his one standing ground
alike against the Church and those who were corrupting it--is his
apostolic authority; and to the vindication of this he first addresses
himself. This, I believe, explains the peculiar emphasis with which he
begins: "Now I myself, I Paul intreat you." Αὐτὸς ἐγὼ Παῦλος is not
only the grammatical subject of the sentence, but if one may say so,
the subject under consideration; it is the very person whose authority
is in dispute who puts himself forward deliberately in this
authoritative way. The δὲ ("now") is merely transitional; the writer
moves on, without indicating any connexion, to another matter.

In the long sentence which makes up the first and second verses,
everything comes out at once--the Apostle's indignation, in that extreme
personal emphasis; his restraint of it, in the appeal to the meekness
and gentleness of Christ; his resentment at the misconstruction of his
conduct by enemies, who called him a coward at hand, and a brave man
only at a safe distance; and his resolve, if the painful necessity is
not spared him, to come with a rod and not spare. It is as if all this
had been dammed up in his heart for long, and to say a single word was
to say everything. The appeal to the meekness and gentleness of Christ
is peculiarly affecting in such a connexion; it is intended to move the
Corinthians, but what we feel is how it has moved Paul. It may be
needful, on occasion, to assert oneself, or at least one's authority;
but it is difficult to do it without sin. It is an exhilarating
sensation to human nature to be in the right, and when we enjoy it we
are apt to enlist our temper in the divine service, forgetting that the
wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. Paul felt this
danger, and in the very sentence in which he puts himself and his
dignity forward with uncompromising firmness, he recalls to his own and
his readers' hearts the characteristic temper of the Lord. How far He
was, under the most hateful provocation, from violence and passion! How
far from that sinful self-assertion, which cannot consider the case and
claims of others! It is when we are in the right that we must watch our
temper, and, instead of letting anger carry us away, make our appeal for
the right by the meekness and gentleness of Jesus. This, when right is
won, makes it twice blessed. The words, "who in your presence am lowly
among you, but being absent am of good courage toward you," are one of
the sneers current in Corinth at Paul's expense. When he was there, his
enemies said, face to face with them, he was humble enough;[81] it was
only when he left them he became so brave. This mean slander must have
stung the proud soul of the Apostle--the mere quotation of it shows
this; but the meekness and gentleness of Christ have entered into him,
and instead of resenting it he continues in a still milder tone. He
descends from urging or entreating (παρακαλῶ) to beseeching (δέομαι).
The thought of Christ has told already on his heart and on his pen. He
begs them so to order their conduct that he may be spared the pain of
demonstrating the falsehood of that charge. He counts on taking daring
action against some at Corinth who count of him as though he walked
after the flesh; but they can make this face-to-face hardihood needless,
and in the name, not of his own cowardice, but of his Lord's meekness
and considerateness, he appeals to them to do so. Δυσφημούμενοι

The charge of walking after the flesh is one that needs interpretation.
In a general way it means that Paul was a worldly, and not a spiritual,
man; and that the key to his character and conduct--even in his
relations with Churches--was to be sought in his private and personal
interests. What this would mean in any particular case would depend upon
the circumstances. It might mean that he was actuated by avarice, and,
in spite of pretences to be disinterested, was ruled at bottom by the
idea of what would pay; or it might mean--and in this place probably
does mean--that he had an undue regard for the opinion of others, and
acted with feeble inconsistency in his efforts to please them. A man of
whom either of these things could be truly said would be without
spiritual authority, and it was to discredit the Apostle in the Church
that the vague and damaging charge was made.

He certainly shows no want of courage in meeting it. That he walks
_in_ the flesh, he cannot deny. He is a human being, wearing the weak
nature, and all its maladies are incident to him. As far as that
nature goes, it is as possible that he, as that any man, should be
ruled by its love of ease or popularity; or, on the other hand, should
be overcome by timidity, and shrink from difficult duties. But he
denies that this is his case. He spends his life _in_ this nature,
with all its capacity for unworthy conduct; but in his Christian
warfare he is not ruled by it--he has conquered it, and it has no
power over him at all. "I was with you," he wrote in the First
Epistle, "with weakness and fear and much trembling"; but "my speech
and my preaching were ... with demonstration of the Spirit and of
power." This is practically what he says here, and what must be said
by every _man_ who undertakes to do anything for _God_. No one can be
half so well aware as he, if he is sincere at all, of the immense
contrast between the nature in which he lives and the service to which
he is called. None of his enemies can know so well as he the utter
earthenness of the vessel in which the heavenly treasure is deposited.
But the very meaning of a divine call is that a man is made master of
this weakness, and through whatever pain and self-repression can
disregard it for his work's sake. With some men timidity _is_ the
great trial: for them, it is the flesh. They are afraid to declare
the whole counsel of God; or they are afraid of some class, or of some
particular person: they are brave with a pen perhaps, or in a pulpit,
or surrounded by sympathising spectators; but it is not in them to be
brave alone, and to find in the Spirit a courage and authority which
overbear the weakness of the flesh. From all such timidity, as an
influence affecting his apostolic work, Paul can pronounce himself
free. Like Jeremiah (Jer. i. 6-8) and Ezekiel (Ezek. ii. 6-8), he is
naturally capable, but spiritually incapable of it. He is full of
might by the Spirit of the Lord: and when he takes the field in the
Lord's service, the flesh is as though it were not. Since the
expression ἐν σαρκὶ περιπατοῦντες refers to the whole of the Apostle's
life, it seems natural to take στρατευόμεθα as referring to the whole
of his ministry, and not solely to his present campaign against the
Corinthians. It is of his apostolic labours in general--of course
including that which lay immediately before him--that he says: "The
weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God[82]
to the casting down of strong holds."

Nobody but an evangelist could have written this sentence. Paul knew
from experience that men fortify themselves against God: they try to
find impregnable positions in which they may defy Him, and live their
own life. Human nature, when God is announced to speak, instinctively
puts itself on its guard; and you cannot pass that guard, as Paul was
well aware, with weapons furnished by the flesh. The weapons need to
be divinely strong; mighty in God's sight, for God's service, with
God's own might. There is an answer in this to many of the questions
that are being asked at present about methods of evangelising; where
the divinely powerful weapons are found, such questions give no
trouble. No man who has ever had a direct and unmistakable blessing on
his work as an evangelist has ever enlisted "the flesh" in God's
service. No such man has ever seen, or said, that learning, eloquence,
or art in the preacher; or bribes of any sort to the hearer; or
approaches to the "strong holds," constructed of amusements, lectures,
concerts, and so forth, were of the very slightest value. He who knows
anything about the matter knows that it is a life-and-death interest
which is at stake when the soul comes face to face with the claims and
the mercy of God; and that the preacher who has not the hardihood to
represent it as such will not be listened to, and should not be. Paul
was armed with this tremendous sense of what the Gospel was--the
immensity of grace in it, the awfulness of judgment; and it was this
which gave him his power, and lifted him above the arts, the wisdom,
and the timidity of the flesh. A man will hold his own against
anything but this. He will parley with any weapon flesh can fashion or
wield; this is the only one to which he surrenders.

Perhaps in the fifth verse, which is an expansion of "the casting down
of strong holds," a special reference to the Corinthians begins to be
felt: at all events they might easily apply it to themselves. "Casting
down imaginations," the Apostle says, "and every high thing that is
exalted against the knowledge of God." "Imaginations" is probably a
fair enough rendering of λογισμούς, though the margin has
"reasonings," and the same word in Rom. ii. 15 is rendered
"thoughts." To what it applies is not very obvious. Men do certainly
fortify themselves against the Gospel in their thoughts. The proud
wisdom of the Greek was familiar to the Apostle, and even the obvious
fact that it had not brought the world salvation was not sufficient to
lower its pride. The expression has sometimes been censured as
justifying the _sacrificium intellectus_, or as taking away freedom of
thought in religion. To think of Paul censuring the free exercise of
intelligence in religion is too absurd; but there is no doubt that,
with his firm hold of the great facts on which the Christian faith
depends, he would have dealt very summarily with theories, ancient or
modern, which serve no purpose but to fortify men against the pressure
of these facts. He would not have taken excessive pains to put himself
in the speculator's place, and see the world as he sees it, with the
most stupendous realities left out; he would not have flattered with
any affected admiration that most self-complacent of mortals--the wise
of this world. He would have struck straight at the heart and
conscience with the spiritual weapons of the Gospel; he would have
spoken of sin and judgment, of reconciliation and life in Christ, till
these great realities had asserted their greatness in the mind, and in
doing so had shattered the proud intellectual structures which had
been reared in ignorance or contempt of them. "Thoughts" and
"imaginations" must yield to things, and make room for them: it was on
this principle Paul wrought. And to "thoughts" or "imaginations" he
adds "every high thing [ὕψωμα] that exalts itself against the
knowledge of God." The emphasis is on "every"; the Apostle generalises
the opposition which he has to encounter. It may not be so much in the
"thoughts" of men, as in their tempers, that they fortify themselves.
Pride, which by the instinct of self-preservation sees at once to the
heart of the Gospel, and closes itself against it; which hates equally
the thought of absolute indebtedness to God and the thought of
standing on the same level with others in God's sight,--this pride
raises in every part of our nature its protest against the great
surrender. It is implied in the whole structure of this passage that
"the knowledge of God" against which every high thing in man rises
defiantly is a humbling knowledge. In other words, it is not
speculative merely, but has an ethical significance, which the human
heart is conscious of even at a distance, and makes ready to
acknowledge or to resist. No high thing lifts itself up in us against
a mere theorem--a doctrine of God which is as a doctrine in algebra;
it is the practical import of knowing God which excites the rebellion
of the soul. No doubt, for the Apostle, the knowledge of God was
synonymous with the Gospel: it was the knowledge of His glory in the
face of Jesus Christ; it was concentrated in the Cross and the Throne
of His Son, in the Atonement and the Sovereignty of Christ. The
Apostle had to beat down all the barriers by which men closed their
minds against this supreme revelation; he had to win for these
stupendous facts a place in the consciousness of humanity answering to
their grandeur. _Their_ greatness made _him_ great: he was lifted up
on them; and though he walked in the flesh, in weakness and fear and
much trembling, he could confront undaunted the pride and the wisdom
of the world, and compel them to acknowledge his Lord.

This meaning is brought out more precisely in the words with which he
continues--"bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of
Christ." If we suppose a special reference here to the Corinthians, it
will be natural to take νόημα ("thought") in a practical sense--as,
_e.g._, in chap. ii. 11, where it is rendered "devices." The Corinthians
had notions of their own, apparently, about how a Church should be
regulated--wild, undisciplined, disorderly notions; and in the absence
of the Apostle they were experimenting with them freely. It is part of
his work to catch these runaway thoughts, and make them obedient to
Christ again. It seems, however, much more natural to allow the wider
reference of αἰχμαλωτίζοντες to the whole of Paul's apostolic work; and
then νόημα also will be taken in a less restricted sense. Men's minds,
and all that goes on in their minds (νοήματα covers both: see chaps, ii.
11, iii. 14, iv. 4), are by nature lawless: they are without the sense
of responsibility to guard and consecrate the sense of freedom. When the
Gospel makes them captive, this lawless liberty comes to an end. The
mind, in all its operations, comes under law to Christ: in its every
thought it is obedient to Him. The supremacy which Christ claims and
exercises is over the whole nature: the Christian man feels that
nothing--not even a thought--lies beyond the range in which obedience is
due to Him. This practical conviction will not paralyse thinking in the
very least, but it will extinguish many useless and bad thoughts, and
give their due value to all.

The Apostle descends unmistakably from the general to the particular in
ver. 6: "Being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your
obedience is fulfilled." Apparently what he contemplates in Corinth is a
disobedience which in part at least will refuse to surrender to Christ.
There is a spirit abroad there, in the Judaists especially, and in
those whom they have influenced, which will not bend, and must be
broken. How Paul means to take vengeance on it, he does not say. He is
confident himself that the divinely powerful weapons which he wields
will enable him to master it, and that is enough. Whatever the shape the
disobedience may assume,--hostility to the Gospel of Paul, as subversive
of the law; hostility to his apostolic claims, as unequal to those of
the Twelve; hostility to the practical authority he asserted in Churches
of his founding, and to the moral ideals he established there,--whatever
the face which opposition may present, he declares himself ready to
humble it. One limitation only he imposes on himself--he will do this,
"when the obedience of the Corinthians is fulfilled." He expressly
distinguishes the Church as a whole from those who represent or
constitute the disobedient party. There have been misunderstandings
between the Church and himself; but as chaps. i. to vii. show, these
have been so far overcome: the body of the Church has reconciled itself
to its founder; it has returned, so to speak, to its allegiance to Paul,
and has busied itself in carrying out his will. When this process, at
present only in course, is completed, his way will be clear. He will be
able to act with severity and decision against those who have troubled
the Church, without running any risk of hurting the Church itself. This
leads again to the reflection that, with all his high consciousness of
spiritual power, with all his sense of personal wrong, the most
remarkable characteristic of Paul is love. He waits to the last moment
before he resorts to severer measures; and he begs those who may suffer
from them, begs them by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, to spare
him such pain.


[80] On Hausrath's view that this was a letter between our Ep. I. and
Ep. II. see the Introduction.

[81] This is the only place in the New Testament where ταπεινὸς
("lowly") is used in a bad (contemptuous) sense: in Christian lips it
is a term of praise (Matt. xi. 29); the speakers here had not learned
its Christian meaning.

[82] The dative in δυνατὰ τῷ Θεῷ is the same as in Jonah iii. 3, Acts
vii. 20. A vague rendering like "divinely powerful" is probably
nearest the meaning.



    "Ye look at the things that are before your face. If any man
    trusteth in himself that he is Christ's, let him consider this again
    with himself, that, even as he is Christ's, so also are we. For
    though I should glory somewhat abundantly concerning our authority
    (which the Lord gave for building you up, and not for casting you
    down), I shall not be put to shame: that I may not seem as if I
    would terrify you by my letters. For, His letters, they say, are
    weighty and strong; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech
    of no account. Let such a one reckon this, that, what we are in word
    by letters when we are absent, such _are we_ also in deed when we
    are present. For we are not bold to number or compare ourselves with
    certain of them that commend themselves: but they themselves,
    measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with
    themselves, are without understanding. But we will not glory beyond
    _our_ measure, but according to the measure of the province which
    God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even unto you. For we
    stretch not ourselves overmuch, as though we reached not unto you:
    for we came even as far as unto you in the Gospel of Christ: not
    glorying beyond _our_ measure, _that is_, in other men's labours;
    but having hope that, as your faith groweth, we shall be magnified
    in you according to our province unto _further_ abundance, so as to
    preach the Gospel even unto the parts beyond you, _and_ not to glory
    in another's province in regard of things ready to our hand. But he
    that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth
    himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth."--2 COR. x. 7-18

This passage abounds with grammatical and textual difficulties, but
the general import and the purpose of it are plain. The self-assertion
of αὐτὸς ἐγὼ Παῦλος (ver. 1) receives its first interpretation and
expansion here: we see what it is that Paul claims, and we begin to
see the nature of the opposition against which his claim has to be
made good. Leaving questions of grammatical construction aside, vv. 7
and 8 define the situation; and it is convenient to take them as if
they stood alone.

There was a person in Corinth--more than one indeed, but one in
particular, as the τις in ver. 7 and the singular φησὶν[83] in ver. 10
suggest--who claimed to be Christ's, or of Christ, in a sense which
disparaged and was meant to disparage Paul. If we use the plural, to
include them all, we must not suppose that they are identical with the
party in the Church who are censured in the First Epistle for saying, "I
am of Christ," just as others said, "I am of Paul," "I am of Apollos,"
"I am of Cephas." That party may have been dependent upon them, but the
individuals here referred to are taxed with an exclusiveness and
arrogance, and in the close of the chapter with a wanton trespassing on
Paul's province, which show that they were not native to the Church, but
intruders into it. They were confident that they were Christ's in a
sense which discredited Paul's apostleship, and entitled them, so to
speak, to legitimate a Church which his labours had called into being.
Everything compels us to recognise in them Jewish Christians, who had
been connected with Christ in a way in which Paul had not; who had known
Him in the flesh, or had brought recommendatory letters from the Mother
Church at Jerusalem; and who, on the strength of these accidents, gave
themselves airs of superiority in Pauline Churches, and corrupted the
simplicity of the Pauline Gospel.

The first words in ver. 7--τὰ κατὰ πρόσωπον βλέπετε--are no doubt
directed to this situation, but they have been very variously
rendered. Our Authorised Version has, "Do ye look on things after the
outward appearance?" That is, "Are you really imposed upon by the
pretensions of these men, by their national and carnal distinctions,
as if these had anything to do with the Gospel?" This is a good
Pauline idea, but it is doubtful whether τὰ κατὰ πρόσωπον can yield
it. The natural sense of these words is, "What is before your face."
The Revised Version accordingly renders, "Ye look at the things that
are before your face": meaning, apparently, "You allow yourselves to
be carried away by whatever is nearest to you--at present, by these
interloping Jews, and the claims they flaunt before your eyes." It
seems to me more natural, with many good scholars, to take βλέπετε, in
spite of its unemphatic position, as imperative: "Look at the things
which are before your faces! The most obvious and palpable facts
discredit these Judaists and accredit me. A claim to be Christ's is
not to be made out _à priori_ by any carnal prerogatives, or any human
recommendations; it is only made out by this--that Christ Himself
attests it by giving him who makes it success as an evangelist. Look
at what confronts you! There is not a single Christian thing you see
which is not Christ's own testimony that I am His; unless you are
senseless and blind, my position and authority as an apostle can never
be impugned among you." The argument is thus the same as that which he
uses in chap. iii. 1-3, and in the First Epistle, chap. ix. 2.

At first Paul asserts only a bare equivalence to his Jewish opponent:
"Let him consider this with himself, that, _even as_ he is Christ's,
_so also_ are we." The historical, outward connexion with Christ,
whatever it may have been, amounted in this relation to exactly
nothing at all. Not what Christ was, but what He is, is the life and
reality of the Christian religion. Not an accidental acquaintance with
Him as He lived in Galilee or Jerusalem, but a spiritual fellowship
with Him as He reigns in the heavenly places, makes a Christian. Not a
letter written by human hands--though they should be the hands of
Peter or James or John--legitimates a man in the apostolic career; but
only the sovereign voice which says, "He is a chosen vessel unto Me,
to bear My Name." Neither as Christian nor as apostle can one
establish a monopoly by making his appeal to "the flesh." The
application of this Christian truth has constantly to be made anew,
for human nature loves a monopoly; it does not seem really to have a
thing, unless its possession of it is exclusive. We are all too ready
to unchurch, or unchristianise, others; to say, "_We_ are Christ's,"
with an emphasis which means that others are not. Churches with a
strong organisation are especially tempted to this unchristian
narrowness and pride. Their members think almost instinctively of
other Christians as outsiders and inferiors; they would like to take
them in, to reordain their ministers, to reform their constitution, to
give validity to their sacraments--in one word, to legitimate them as
Christians and as Christian societies. All this is mere unintelligence
and arrogance. Legitimacy is a convenient and respectable political
fiction; but to make the constitution of any Christian body, which has
developed under the pressure of historical exigences, the law for the
legitimation of Christian life, ministry, and worship everywhere, is
to deny the essential character of the Christian religion. It is to
play toward men whom Christ has legitimated by His Spirit, and by His
blessing on their work, precisely the part which the Judaisers played
toward Paul; and to compromise with it is to betray Christ, and to
renounce the freedom of the Spirit.

But the Apostle does not stop short with claiming a bare equality with
his rivals. "For though[84] I should boast somewhat more abundantly
concerning our authority ... I shall not be put to shame"--_i.e._,
"The facts I have invited you to look at will bear me out." The key to
this passage is to be found in 1 Cor. xv. 15, where he boasts that,
though the least of the apostles, and not worthy to be called an
apostle, he had, through the grace of God given to him, laboured more
abundantly than all the rest. If it came to comparison, then, of the
attestation which Christ gave to their several labours, and so to
their authority, by success in evangelising, it would not be Paul who
would have to hide his head. But he does not choose to boast any more
of his authority at this point. He has no desire to clothe himself in
terrors; on the contrary, he wishes to avoid[85] the very appearance
of scaring them out of their wits by his letters (for ἐκφοβεῖν compare
Mark ix. 6; Heb. xii. 21). His authority has been given him, not for
the pulling down, but for the building up, of the Church; it is not
lordly (chap. i. 24), but ministerial; and he would wish, not only to
show it in kindly service, but also in a kindly aspect. "Not for
casting down," in ver. 8, is no contradiction of "mighty for casting
down" in ver. 4: the object in the two cases is quite different. Many
_things_ in man must be cast down--many high thoughts, much pride,
much wilfulness, much presumption and sufficiency--but the casting
down of these is the building up of souls.

At this point comes what is logically a parenthesis, and we hear in it
the criticisms passed at Corinth on Paul, and his own reply to them.
"His letters," they say (or, he says), "are weighty and strong; but
his bodily presence weak, and his speech of no account." The last part
of this criticism has been much misunderstood; it is really of moral
import, but has been read in a physical sense. It does not say
anything at all about the Apostle's physique, or about his eloquence
or want of eloquence; it tells us that (according to these critics),
when he was actually present at Corinth, he was somehow or other
ineffective; and when he spoke there, people simply disregarded him.
An uncertain tradition no doubt represents Paul as an infirm and
meagre person, and it is easy to believe that to Greeks he must
sometimes have seemed embarrassed and incoherent in speech to the last
degree (what, for instance, could have seemed more formless to a Greek
than vv. 12-18 of this chapter?): nevertheless, it is nothing like
this which is in view here. The criticism is not of his physique, nor
of his style, but of his personality--what is described is not his
appearance nor his eloquence, but the effect which the man produced
when he went to Corinth and spoke. It was nothing. As a man, bodily
present, he could get nothing done: he talked, and nobody listened. It
is implied that this criticism is false; and Paul bids any one who
makes it consider that what he is in word by letters when he is
absent, that he will also be in deed when he is present. The double
_rôle_ of potent pamphleteer and ineffective pastor is not for him.

The kind of criticism which was here passed on St. Paul is one to which
every preacher is obnoxious. An epistle is, so to speak, the man's words
without the man; and such is human weakness, that they are often
stronger than the man speaking in bodily presence, that is, than the man
and his words together. The character of the speaker, as it were,
discounts all he says; and when he is there, and delivers his message in
person, the message itself suffers an immense depreciation. This ought
not so to be, and with a man who cultivates sincerity will not so be. He
will be, himself, as good as his words; his effectiveness will be the
same whether he writes or speaks. Nothing ultimately counts in the work
of a Christian minister but what he can say and do and get done when in
direct contact, with living men. In many cases the modern sermon really
answers to the epistle as it is referred to in this sarcastic comment;
in the pulpit, people say, the minister is impressive and memorable; but
in the ordinary intercourse of life, and even in the pastoral relation,
where he has to meet people on an equal footing, his power quite
disappears. He is an ineffective person, and his words have no weight.
Where this is true, there is something very far wrong; and though it was
not true in the case of Paul, there are cases in which it is. To bring
the pastoral up to the level of the pulpit work--the care of individual
souls and characters to the intensity and earnestness of study and
preaching--would be the saving of many a minister and many a

But to return to the text. The Apostle is disinclined to pursue this
line further: in defending himself against these obscure detractors,
he can hardly avoid the appearance of self-commendation, which of all
things he abhors. An acute observer has remarked that when war lasts
long the opposing combatants borrow each other's weapons and tactics:
and it was this uninviting weapon that the policy of his opponents
laid to the Apostle's hand. With ironical recognition of their
hardihood, he declines it: "We are not bold--have not the courage--to
number ourselves among, or compare ourselves with, certain of them
that commend themselves"--_i.e._, the Judaists who had introduced
themselves to the Church. "Far be it from me," says the Apostle
grimly, "to claim a place among, or near, such a distinguished
company." But he is too much in earnest to prolong the ironical
strain, and in the verses which follow, from 12 to 16, he states in
good set terms the differences between himself and them. (1) They
measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves among
themselves, and in so doing are without understanding.[87] They
constitute a religious coterie, a sort of clique or ring in the
Church, ignoring all but themselves, making themselves the only
standard of what is Christian, and betraying, by that very
proceeding, their want of sense. There is a fine liberality about this
sharp saying, and it is as necessary now as in the first century. Men
coalesce, within the limits of the Christian community, from
affinities of various kinds--sympathy for a type or an aspect of
doctrine, or liking for a form of polity; and as it is easy, so is it
common, for those who have united like to like, to set up their own
associations and preferences as the only law and model for all. They
take the air of superior persons, and the penalty of the superior
person is to be unintelligent. They are without understanding. The
standard of the coterie--be it "evangelical," "high church," "broad
church," or what you please--is not the standard of God; and to
measure all things by it is not only sinful but stupid. In contrast to
this Judaistic clique, who saw no Christianity except under their own
colours, Paul's standard is to be found in the actual working of God
through the Gospel. He would have said with Ignatius, only with a
deeper insight into every word, "Where Jesus Christ is, there is the
Catholic Church." (2) Another point of difference is this: Paul works
independently as an evangelist; it has always been his rule to break
new ground. God has assigned him a province to labour in, large enough
to gratify the highest ambition; he is not going beyond it, nor
exaggerating his authority, when he asserts his apostolic dignity in
Corinth; the Corinthians know as well as he that he came all the way
to them, and was the first to come, ministering the Gospel of Christ.
Nay, it is only the weakness of their faith that keeps him from going
farther: and he has hope that as their faith grows it will set him
free to carry the Gospel beyond them to Italy and Spain; this would be
the crown of his greatness as an evangelist, and it depends _on them_
(ἐν ὑμῖν μεγαλυνθῆναι) whether he is to win it; in any case, the
winning of it would be in harmony with his vocation, the carrying of
it out in glorious fulness (κατὰ τὸν κανόνα εἰς περισσείαν); for, like
John Wesley, he could say the whole world was his parish. If he boasts
at all, it is not immeasurably; it is on the basis of the gift and
calling of God, within the limits of what God has wrought by him and
by no other; he never intrudes into another's province and boasts of
what he finds done to his hand. But this was what the Jews did. They
did not propagate the Gospel with apostolic enthusiasm among the
heathen; they waited till Paul had done the hard preliminary work, and
formed Christian congregations everywhere, and then they slunk into
them--in Galatia, in Macedonia, in Achaia--talking as if these
Churches were _their_ work, disparaging their real father in Christ,
and claiming to complete and legitimate--which meant, in effect, to
subvert---his work. No wonder Paul was scornful, and did not venture
to put himself in a line with such heroes.

Two feelings are compounded all through this passage: an intense
sympathy with the purpose of God that the Gospel should be preached to
every creature--Paul's very soul melts into that; and an intense scorn
for the spirit that sneaks and poaches on another's ground, and is more
anxious that some men should be good sectarians than that all men should
be good disciples. This evil spirit Paul loathes, just as Christ loathed
it; the temper of these verses is that in which the Master cried, "Woe
unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land
to make one proselyte; and when he is become so, ye make him twofold
more a son of hell than yourselves." Of course the evil spirit must
always be disguised, both from others and from itself: the proselytiser
assumes the garb of the evangelist; but the proselytiser turned
evangelist is the purest example in the world of Satan disguised as an
angel of light. The show is divine, but the reality is diabolical. It
does not matter what the special sectarianism is: the proselytising of a
hierarchical Church, and the proselytising of the Plymouth Brethren, are
alike dishonourable and alike condemned. And the safeguard of the soul
against this base spirit is an interest like Paul's in the
Christianising of those who do not know Christ at all. Why should
Churches compete? why should their agencies overlap? why should they
steal from each other's folds? why should they be anxious to seal all
believers with their private seal, when the whole world lies in
wickedness? That field is large enough for all the efforts of all
evangelists, and till it has been sown with the good seed from end to
end there can be nothing but reprobation for those who trespass on the
province of others, and boast that they have made their own what they
certainly did not make Christ's.

At the close, to borrow Bengel's expression, Paul sounds a retreat. He
has liberated his mind about his adversaries--always a more or less
dangerous process; and after the excitement and self-assertion are over,
he composes it again in the presence of God. He checks himself, we feel,
with that Old Testament word, "Now he that glorieth, let him glory in
the Lord. I _have_ always broken new ground; I _have_ come as far as
you, and wish to go farther, evangelising; I never _have_ boasted of
another man's labours as if they were mine, or claimed the credit of
what he had done; but all this is mine only as God's gift. It is His
grace bestowed on me, and not in vain. I would not boast except in Him;
for not he who commends himself is approved, but only he whom the Lord
commends." No character which is only self-certificated can stand the
test: no claim to apostolic dignity and authority can be maintained
which the Lord does not attest by granting apostolic success.

    NOTE ON VV. 12 AND 13.--In some MSS. (D*, F, G, 109, It., and some
    Latins) the last two words of ver. 12 and the first two of ver. 13
    (οὐ συνιᾶσιν· ἡμεῖς δέ) are omitted. Most editors of the text
    (Tischdf. vii., Tregelles, Westcott and Hort) seem to think the
    omission accidental; among exegetes, the fact that it yields an
    easy and natural, though of course a quite different, sense, has
    caused some hesitation. Thus Bengel, and recently Schmiedel,
    reject the words. The latter renders the whole passage: "We do not
    venture to put ourselves on a level, or to compare ourselves, with
    certain of those who commend themselves; but in measuring
    ourselves by ourselves, and comparing ourselves with ourselves, we
    shall not boast beyond measure, but according to the measure of
    the rule," etc. This is no doubt intelligible and appropriate
    enough, and certainly one's first impression is that ἀλλ' αὐτοί in
    ver. 12 ought to refer to Paul; but as the meaning yielded by the
    passage with the four words included is equally appropriate, and
    their insertion immeasurably harder to understand than their
    omission, it seems preferable to let them stand, in the sense
    explained above. They are found (with the variation of συνίσασιν
    for συνιᾶσιν in א*) in א**, B, minusc. Theodoret: in E, K, L, P,
    the form is συνιοῦσιν. Apparently it is only by an accident that
    their omission leaves good sense.


[83] This is the reading adopted by Westcott and Hort with most MSS.
except B.

[84] The difficult τε in ἐάν τε γὰρ is most easily explained by the
ellipse of a corresponding καί: of several reasons he might adduce,
Paul adduces only one (Schmiedel).

[85] The ninth verse, Ἳνα μὴ δόξω κ.τ.λ. is most naturally taken with
what precedes, and most simply explained by supplying something like,
"but I say no more about it, _i.e._ about my authority, that I may not
seem," etc. To say more would look like trying to frighten them.
Others make it protasis to ver. 11, ver. 10 being then a parenthesis.

[86] The following sentence from a letter of H. E. M. (a sister of
James Mozley's) is an interesting illustration of this truth: "I
consider Mr. Rickards as the type and model of a country parish and
domestic priest. _All_ his powers and energies are expended on and
exerted for teaching, preaching, and talking. _Bodily presence is his
vocation_: unlike some, writers and others, he must be seen to be
felt; and unlike others again, writers and others, the more he is
seen, the more he is felt."

[87] See note, p. 311.


                            _GODLY JEALOUSY_

    "Would that ye could bear with me in a little foolishness: nay
    indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with a godly
    jealousy: for I espoused you to one husband, that I might present
    you _as_ a pure virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means,
    as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should
    be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is toward
    Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we did
    not preach, or _if_ ye receive a different spirit, which ye did
    not receive, or a different gospel, which ye did not accept, ye do
    well to bear with _him_. For I reckon that I am not a whit behind
    the very chiefest apostles. But though _I be_ rude in speech, yet
    _am I_ not in knowledge; nay, in everything we have made _it_
    manifest among all men to you-ward."--2 COR. xi. 1-6 (R.V.).

All through the tenth chapter there is a conflict in the Apostle's mind.
He is repeatedly, as it were, on the verge of doing something, from
which he as often draws back. He does not like to boast--he does not
like to speak of himself at all--but the tactics of his enemies, and the
faithlessness of the Corinthians, are making it inevitable. In chap. xi.
he takes the plunge. He adopts the policy of his adversaries, and
proceeds to enlarge on his services to the Church; but with magnificent
irony, he first assumes the mask of a fool. It is not the genuine Paul
who figures here; it is Paul playing a part to which he has been
compelled against his will, acting in a character which is as remote as
possible from his own. It is the character native and proper to the
other side; and when Paul, with due deprecation, assumes it for the
nonce, he not only preserves his modesty and his self-respect, but lets
his opponents see what he thinks of them. He plays the fool for the
occasion, and of set purpose; they do it always, and without knowing it,
like men to the manner born.

But it is the Corinthians who are directly addressed. "Would that ye
could bear with me in a little foolishness: nay indeed bear with me."
In the last clause, ἀνέχεσθε may be either imperative (as the Revised
Version gives it in the text), or indicative (as in the margin: "but
indeed ye do bear with me"). The use of ἀλλὰ rather favours the last;
and it would be quite in keeping with the extremely ironical tone of
the passage to render it so. Even in the First Epistle, Paul had
reflected on the self-conceit of the Corinthians: "We are fools for
Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ." That self-conceit led them
to think lightly of him, but not just to cast him off; they still
tolerated him as a feeble sort of person: "Ye do indeed bear with me."
But whichever alternative be preferred, the irony passes swiftly into
the dead earnest of the second verse: "For I am jealous over you with
a godly jealousy: for I espoused you to one husband, that I might
present you _as_ a pure virgin to Christ."

This is the ground on which Paul claims their forbearance, even when
he indulges in a little "folly." If he is guilty of what seems to them
extravagance, it is the extravagance of jealousy--_i.e._, of love
tormented by fear. Nor is it any selfish jealousy, of which he ought
to be ashamed. He is not anxious about his private or personal
interests in the Church. He is not humiliated and provoked because
his former pupils have come to their spiritual majority, and asserted
their independence of their master. These are common dangers and
common sins; and every minister needs to be on his guard against them.
Paul's jealousy over the Corinthians was "a jealousy of God"; God had
put it into his heart, and what it had in view was God's interest in
them. It distressed him to think, not that his personal influence at
Corinth was on the wane, but that the work which God had done in their
souls was in danger of being frustrated, the inheritance He had
acquired in them of being lost. Nothing but God's interest had been in
the Apostle's mind from the beginning. "I betrothed you," he says, "to
_one_ husband"--the emphasis lies on _one_--"that I might present you
as a pure virgin to Christ."[88]

It is the Church collectively which is represented by the pure virgin,
and it ought to be observed that this is the constant use in Scripture,
alike in the Old Testament and the New. It is Israel as a whole which is
married to the Lord; it is the Christian Church as a whole (or a Church
collectively, as here) which is the Bride, the Lamb's wife. To
individualise the figure, and speak of Christ as the Bridegroom of the
soul, is not Scriptural, and almost always misleads. It introduces the
language and the associations of natural affection into a region where
they are entirely out of place; we have no terms of endearment here, and
should have none, but high thoughts of the simplicity, the purity, and
the glory of the Church. Glory is especially suggested by the idea of
"_presenting_" the Church to Christ. The presentation takes place when
Christ comes again to be glorified in His saints; that great day shines
unceasingly in the Apostle's heart, and all he does is done in its
light. The infinite issues of fidelity and infidelity to the Lord, as
that day makes them manifest, are ever present to his spirit; and it is
this which gives such divine intensity to his feelings wherever the
conduct of Christians is concerned. He sees everything, not as dull eyes
see it now, but as Christ in His glory will show it then. And it takes
nothing less than this to keep the soul absolutely pure and loyal to the

The Apostle explains in the third verse the nature of his alarm. "I
fear," he says, "lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his
craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity [and
the purity][89] which is toward Christ." The whole figure is very
expressive. "Simplicity" means singleness of mind; the heart of the
"pure virgin" is undivided; she ought not to have, and will not have,
a thought for any but the "one man" to whom she is betrothed. "Purity"
again is, as it were, one species of "simplicity"; it is "simplicity"
as shown in the keeping of the whole nature unspotted for the Lord.
What Paul dreads is the spiritual seduction of the Church, the winning
away of her heart from absolute loyalty to Christ. The serpent
beguiled Eve by his craftiness; he took advantage of her unsuspecting
innocence to wile her away from her simple belief in God and
obedience to Him. When she took into her mind the suspicions he
raised, her "simplicity" was gone, and her "purity" followed. The
serpent's agents--the servants of Satan, as Paul calls them in ver.
15--are at work in Corinth; and he fears that their craftiness may
seduce the Church from its first simple loyalty to Christ. It is
natural for us to take ἁπλότης and ἁγνότης in a purely ethical sense,
but it is by no means certain that this is all that is meant; indeed,
if καὶ τῆς ἁγνότητος be a gloss, as seems not improbable, ἁπλότης may
well have a different application. "The simplicity which is toward
Christ," from which he fears lest by any means "their _minds_" or
"_thoughts_" be corrupted, will rather be their whole-hearted
acceptance of Christ as Paul conceived of Him and preached Him, their
unreserved, unquestioning surrender to that form of doctrine (τύπον
διδαχῆς, Rom. vi. 17) to which they had been delivered. This, of
course, in Paul's mind, involved the other--there is no separation of
doctrine and practice for him; but it makes a theological rather than
an ethical interest the predominant one; and this interpretation, it
seems to me, coheres best with what follows, and with the whole
preoccupation of the Apostle in this passage. The people whose
influence he feared were not unbelievers, nor were they immoral; they
professed to be Christians, and indeed better Christians than Paul;
but their whole conception of the Gospel was at variance with his; if
they made way at Corinth, his work would be undone. The Gospel which
he preached would no longer have that unsuspicious acceptance; the
Christ whom he proclaimed would no longer have that unwavering
loyalty; instead of simplicity and purity, the heart of the "pure
virgin" would be possessed by misgivings, hesitations, perhaps by
out-right infidelity; his hope of presenting her to Christ on the
great day would be gone.

This is what we are led to by ver. 4, one of the most vexed passages
in the New Testament. The text of the last word is uncertain: some
read the imperfect ἀνείχεσθε; others, including our Revisers, the
present ἀνέχεσθε. The last is the better attested, and suits best the
connexion of thought. The interpretations may be divided into two
classes. First, there are those which assume that the suppositions
made in this verse are not true. This is evidently the intention in
our Authorised Version. It renders, "For if he that cometh preacheth
another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another
spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have
not accepted, _ye might well bear with him_." But--we must
interpolate--nothing of this sort has really taken place; for Paul
counts himself not a whit inferior to the very chiefest Apostles. No
one--not even Peter or James or John--could have imparted anything to
the Corinthians which Paul had failed to impart; and hence their
spiritual seduction, no matter how or by whom accomplished, was
perfectly unreasonable and gratuitous. This interpretation, with
variations in detail which need not be pursued, is represented by many
of the best expositors, from Chrysostom to Meyer. "If," says
Chrysostom in his paraphrase, "if we had omitted anything that should
have been said, and they had made up the omission, we do not forbid
you to attend to them. But if everything has been perfectly done on
our part, and no blank left, how did they [the Apostle's adversaries]
get hold of you?" This is the broad result of many discussions; and it
is usual--though not invariable--for those who read the passage thus
to take τῶν ὑπερλίαν ἀποστόλων in a complimentary, not a
contemptuous, sense, and to refer it, as Chrysostom expressly does, to
the three pillars of the primitive Church.

The objections to this interpretation are obvious enough. There is
first the grammatical objection, that a hypothetical sentence, with
the present indicative in the protasis (εἰ ... κηρύσσει, εἰ ...
λαμβάνετε), and the present indicative in the apodosis (ἀνέχεσθε), can
by no plausibility of argument be made to mean, "If the interloper
_were_ preaching another Jesus ... you _would_ be right to bear with
him." Even if the imperfect is the true reading, which is improbable,
this translation is unjustified.[90] But there is a logical as well as
a grammatical objection. The use of γὰρ ("for") surely implies that in
the sentence which it introduces we are to find the reason for what
precedes. Paul is afraid, he has told us, lest the Church should be
seduced from the one husband to whom he has betrothed her. But he can
never mean to explain a _real_ fear by making a number of _imaginary_
suppositions; and so we must find in the hypothetical clauses here the
_real_ grounds of his alarm. People had come to Corinth--ὁ ἐρχόμενος
is no doubt collective, and characterises the troublers of the Church
as intruders, not native to it, but separable from it--doing all the
things here supposed. Paul has espoused the Church to _One_ Husband;
they preach _another_ Jesus. Not, of course, a distinct Person, but
certainly a distinct conception of the same Person. Paul's Christ was
the Son of God, the Lord of Glory, He who by His death on the cross
became Universal Redeemer, and by His ascension Universal Lord--the
end of the law, the giver of the Spirit; it would be another Jesus if
the intruders preached only the Son of David, or the Carpenter of
Nazareth, or the King of Israel. According to the conception of
Christ, too, would be "the spirit" which accompanied this preaching,
the characteristic temper and power of the religion it proclaimed. The
spirit ministered by Paul in his apostolic work was one of power, and
love, and, above all things, liberty; it emancipated the soul from
weakness, from scruples, from moral inability, from slavery to sin and
law; but the spirit generated by the Judaising ministry, the
characteristic temper of the religion it proclaimed, was servile and
cowardly. It was a spirit of bondage tending always to fear (Rom.
viii. 15). Their whole gospel--to give their preaching a name it did
not deserve (Gal. i. 6-9)--was something entirely unlike Paul's both
in its ideas and in its spiritual fruits. Unlike--yes, and
immeasurably inferior, and yet in spite of this the Corinthians put up
with it well enough. This is the plain fact (ἀνέχεσθε) which the
Apostle plainly states. _He_ had to plead for their toleration, but
they had no difficulty in tolerating men who by a spurious gospel, an
unspiritual conception of Christ, and an unworthy incapacity for
understanding freedom, were undermining his work, and seducing their
souls. No wonder he was jealous, and angry, and scornful, when he saw
the true Christian religion, which has all time and all nations for
its inheritance, in danger of being degraded into a narrow Jewish
sectarianism; the kingdom of the Spirit lost in a society in which
race gave a prerogative, and carnal ordinances were revived; and,
worse still, Christ the Son of God, the Universal Reconciler, known
only "after the flesh," and appropriated to a race, instead of being
exalted as Lord of all, in whom there is no room for Greek or Jew,
barbarian or Scythian, bond or free. The Corinthians bore with this
nobly (καλῶς); but he who had begotten them in the true Gospel had to
beg them to bear with him.

There is only one difficulty in this interpretation, and that is not a
serious one: it is the connexion of ver. 5 with what precedes. Those
who connect it immediately with ver. 4 are obliged to supply
something: for example, "But you _ought_ not to bear with them, for I
consider that I am in nothing behind the very chiefest apostles." I
have no doubt at all that ὁι ὑπερλίαν ἀπόστολοι--the superlative
apostles--are _not_ Peter, James, and John, but the teachers aimed at
in ver. 4, the ψευδαπόστολοι of ver. 13; it is with them, and not with
the Twelve or the eminent Three, that Paul is comparing himself.[91]
But even so, I agree with Weizsäcker that the connexion for the γὰρ in
ver. 5 must be sought further back--as far back, indeed, as ver. 1.
"You bear well enough with them, and so you may well bear with me, as
I beg you to do; for I consider," etc. This is effective enough, and
brings us back again to the main subject. If there is a point in which
Paul is willing to his inferiority to these superlative apostles, it
is the non-essential one of utterance. He grants that he is rude in
speech--not rhetorically gifted or trained--a plain, blunt man who
speaks right on. But he is not rude in knowledge: in every respect he
has made _that_ manifest, among all men, toward them. The last clause
is hardly intelligible, and the text is insecure.[92] The reading
φανερώσαντες is that of all the critical editors; the object may
either be indefinite (his competence in point of knowledge), or, more
precisely, τὴν γνῶσιν itself, supplied from the previous clause. In no
point whatever, under no circumstances, has Paul ever failed to
exhibit to the Corinthians the whole truth of God in the Gospel. This
it is which makes him scornful even when he thinks of the men whom the
Corinthians are preferring to himself.

When we look from the details of this passage to its scope, some
reflections are suggested, which have their application still.

(1) Our conception of the Person of Christ determines our conception
of the whole Christian religion. What we have to proclaim to men as
gospel--what we have to offer to them as the characteristic temper and
virtue of the life which the Gospel originates--depends on the answer
we give to Jesus' own question, "Whom say ye that I am?" A Christ who
is simply human cannot be to men what a Christ is who is truly
divine. The Gospel identified with Him cannot be the same; the spirit
of the society which gathers round Him cannot be the same. It is
futile to ask whether such a gospel and such a spirit can fairly be
called Christian; they are in point of fact quite other things from
the Gospel and the Spirit which are historically associated with the
name. It is plain from this passage that the Apostle attached the
utmost importance to his conceptions of the Person and Work of the
Lord: ought not this to give pause to those who evacuate his theology
of many of its distinctive ideas--especially that of the Pre-existence
of Christ--on the plea that they are merely theologoumena of an
individual Christian, and that to discard them leaves the Gospel
unaffected? Certainly this was not what he thought. Another Jesus
meant another spirit, another gospel--to use modern words, another
religion and another religious consciousness; and _any_ other, the
Apostle was perfectly sure, came short of the grandeur of the truth.
The spirit of the passage is the same with that in Gal. i. 6 ff.,
where he erects the Gospel he has preached as the standard of absolute
religious truth. "Though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach
unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let
him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, If any
man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received,
let him be anathema."

(2) "The simplicity that is toward Christ"--the simple acceptance of the
truth about Him, and undivided loyalty of heart to Him--may be corrupted
by influences originating within, as well as without, the Church. The
infidelity which is subtlest, and most to be dreaded, is not the gross
materialism or atheism which will not so much as hear the name of God
or Christ; but that which uses all sacred names, speaking readily of
Jesus, the Spirit, and the Gospel, but meaning something else, and
something less, than these words meant in apostolic lips. This it was
which alarmed the jealous love of Paul; this it is, in its insidious
influence, which constitutes one of the most real perils of Christianity
at the present time. The Jew in the first century, who reduced the
Person and Work of Christ to the scale of his national prejudices, and
the theologian in the nineteenth, who discounts apostolic ideas when
they do not suit the presuppositions of his philosophy, are open to the
same suspicion, if they do not fall under the same condemnation. True
thoughts about Christ--in spite of all the smart sayings about
theological subtleties which have nothing to do with piety--are
essential to the very existence of the Christian religion.

(3) There is no comparison between the Gospel of God in Jesus Christ
His Son and any other religion. The science of comparative religion is
interesting as a science; but a Christian may be excused for finding
the religious use of it tiresome. There is nothing true in any of the
religions which is not already in his possession. He never finds a
moral idea, a law of the spiritual life, a word of God, in any of
them, to which he cannot immediately offer a parallel, far more simple
and penetrating, from the revelation of Christ. He has no interest in
disparaging the light by which millions of his fellow-creatures have
walked, generation after generation, in the mysterious providence of
God; but he sees no reason for pretending that that light--which
Scripture calls darkness and the shadow of death--can bear comparison
with the radiance in which he lives. "If," he might say, misapplying
the fourth verse--"if they brought us another saviour, another
spirit, another gospel, we might be religiously interested in them;
but, as it is, we have everything already, and they, in comparison,
have nothing." The same remark applies to "theosophy," "spiritualism,"
and other "gospels." It will be time to take them seriously when they
utter one wise or true word on God or the soul which is not an echo of
something in the old familiar Scriptures.


[88] "Woods, trees, meadows, and hills are my witnesses that I drew on
a fair match betwixt Christ and Anwoth."--S. RUTHERFORD.

[89] The words καὶ τῆς ἁγνότητος are bracketed by Westcott and Hort.
They are very strongly attested (by א, B, F, gr., G, etc.); but as
they are found in some authorities _before_, instead of _after_, τῆς
ἁπλότητος, it is not improbable that they may be a gloss on these last
words, suggested by ἁγνὴν in ver. 2, and incorporated in the text.
They rather blur than emphasise the thought.

[90] It is worth appending two ingenious notes on this. Bengel, who
holds that the suppositions are untrue, says: "Ponit conditionem, ex
parte rei, impossibilem; ideo dicit in imperfecto _toleraretis_: sed
pro conatu pseudo-apostolorum, non modo possibilem, sed plane
præsentem; ideo dicit in præsenti, _prædicat_." Schmiedel, who holds
that the suppositions are true, explains the impft. by saying that
Paul resolved, while dictating, to add the apodosis _in the historical
tense_ to the timeless protasis, because the fact which it described
actually lay before him. They _were tolerating_ the other teachers:
that is why Paul says ἀνείχεσθε. He happily compares Plato, _Apol._,
33 A.: Εἰ δέ τίς μου λέγοντος ... ἐπιθυμεῖ ἀκούειν ... οὐδεvὶ πώποτε
ἐφθόνησα. Still, he prefers the present.

[91] It is gratuitous to drag in a reference to the first Apostles,
and then to suppose the Corinthians drawing the inference--"if he is
not inferior to them, still less is he inferior to our new teachers."
Such an inference depends on a traditional conception of apostleship
which the Corinthians were not likely to share, and it is equally
unnecessary and improbable.

[92] Probably either ἐν παντὶ or ἐν πᾶσιν, the latter of which is
omitted in some authorities, is a gloss.


                           _FOOLISH BOASTING_

    "Or did I commit a sin in abasing myself that ye might be exalted,
    because I preached to you the Gospel of God for nought? I robbed
    other Churches, taking wages _of them_ that I might minister unto
    you; and when I was present with you and was in want, I was not a
    burden on any man; for the brethren, when they came from
    Macedonia, supplied the measure of my want; and in everything I
    kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and _so_ will I keep
    _myself_. As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of
    this glorying in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore? because I love
    you not? God knoweth. But what I do, that I will do, that I may
    cut off occasion from them which desire an occasion; that wherein
    they glory, they may be found even as we. For such men are false
    apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles
    of Christ. And no marvel; for even Satan fashioneth himself into
    an angel of light. It is no great thing therefore if his ministers
    also fashion themselves as ministers of righteousness; whose end
    shall be according to their works.

    "I say again, Let no man think me foolish; but if _ye do_, yet as
    foolish receive me, that I also may glory a little. That which I
    speak, I speak not after the Lord, but as in foolishness, in this
    confidence of glorying. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I
    will glory also. For ye bear with the foolish gladly, being wise
    _yourselves_. For ye bear with a man, if he bringeth you into
    bondage, if he devoureth you, if he taketh you _captive_, if he
    exalteth himself, if he smiteth you on the face. I speak by way of
    disparagement, as though we had been weak. Yet whereinsoever any
    is bold (I speak in foolishness), I am bold also. Are they
    Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed
    of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as one
    beside himself) I more; in labours more abundantly, in prisons
    more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft. Of the
    Jews five times received I forty _stripes_ save one. Thrice was I
    beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck,
    a night and a day have I been in the deep; _in_ journeyings
    often, _in_ perils of rivers, _in_ perils of robbers, _in_ perils
    from _my_ countrymen, _in_ perils from the Gentiles, _in_ perils
    in the city, _in_ perils in the wilderness, _in_ perils in the
    sea, _in_ perils among false brethren; _in_ labour and travail, in
    watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold
    and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, there is that
    which presseth upon me daily, anxiety for all the Churches. Who is
    weak, and I am not weak? who is made to stumble, and I burn
    not?"--2 COR. xi. 7-29 (R.V.).

The connexion of ver. 7 with what precedes is not at once clear. The
Apostle has expressed his conviction that he is in nothing inferior to
"the superlative apostles" so greatly honoured by the Corinthians.
Why, then, is he so differently treated? A rudeness in speech he is
willing to concede, but that can hardly be the explanation,
considering his fulness of knowledge. Then another idea strikes him,
and he puts it, interrogatively, as an alternative. Can it be that he
did wrong--humbling himself that they might be exalted--in preaching
to them the Gospel of God for nought, _i.e._ in declining to accept
support from them while he evangelised in Corinth? Do they appreciate
the interlopers more highly than Paul, because they exact a price for
their gospel, while he preached his for nothing? This, of course, is
bitterly ironical; but it is not gratuitous. The background of fact
which prompted the Apostle's question was no doubt this--that his
adversaries had misinterpreted his conduct. A true apostle, they said,
has a right to be maintained by the Church; the Lord Himself has
ordained that they who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel;
but he claims no maintenance, and by that very fact betrays a bad
conscience. He dare not make the claim which every true apostle makes
without the least misgiving.

It would be hard to imagine anything more malignant in its wickedness
than this. Paul's refusal to claim support from those to whom he
preached is one of the most purely and characteristically Christian of
all his actions. He felt himself, by the grace of Christ, a debtor to
all men; he owed them the Gospel; it was as if he were defrauding them
if he did not tell them of the love of God in His Son. He felt himself
in immense sympathy with the spirit of the Gospel; it was the free
gift of God to the world, and as far as it depended on him its
absolute freeness would not be obscured by the merest suspicion of a
price to be paid. He knew that in foregoing his maintenance he was
resigning a right secured to him by Christ (1 Cor. ix. 14), humbling
himself, as he puts it here, that others might be spiritually exalted;
but he had the joy of preaching the Gospel in the spirit of the
Gospel--of entering, in Christ's service, into the self-sacrificing
joy of his Lord; and he valued this above all earthly reward. To
accuse such a man, on such grounds, of having a bad conscience, and of
being afraid to live by his work, because he knew it was not what it
pretended to be, was to sound the depths of baseness. It gave Paul in
some measure the Master's experience, when the Pharisees said, "He
casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils." It is
really the prince of the devils, the accuser of the brethren, who
speaks in all such malignant insinuations; it is the most diabolical
thing any one can do--the nearest approach to sinning against the Holy
Ghost--when he sets himself to find out bad motives for good actions.

As we shall see further on, Paul's enemies made more specific charges:
they hinted that he made his own out of the Corinthians indirectly, and
that he could indemnify himself, for this abstinence, from the
collection (chaps. xii. 16-18, chap. viii. and ix.). Perhaps this is why
he describes his actual conduct at Corinth in such vigorous language
(vv. 7-11), before saying anything at all of his motives. "I preached to
you the Gospel of God," he says, "for nothing." He calls it "the Gospel
of God" with intentional fulness and solemnity; the genuine Gospel, he
means--not another, which is no gospel at all, but a subversion of the
truth. He robbed other Churches, and took wages from them, in order to
minister to the Corinthians. There is a mingling of ideas in the strong
words here used. The English reader thinks of Paul's doing less than
justice to other Churches that he might do more than justice to the
Corinthians; but though this is true, it is not all. Both "robbed"
(ἐσύλησα) and "wages" (ὀψώνιον), as Bengel has pointed out, are military
words, and it is difficult to resist the impression that Paul used them
as such; he did not come to Corinth to be dependent on any one, but in
the course of a triumphant progress, in which he devoted the spoils of
his earlier victories for Christ to a new campaign in Achaia.[93] Nay,
even when he was with them and was "in want" (what a ray of light that
one word ὑστερηθείς lets into his circumstances!), he did not throw
himself like a benumbing weight on any one; what his own labours failed
to supply, the brethren (perhaps Silas and Timothy) made good when they
came from Macedonia. This has been his practice, and will continue to be
so. He swears by the truth of Christ that is in him, that no man shall
ever stop his mouth, so far as boasting of this independence is
concerned, in the regions of Achaia. Why? His tender heart dismisses the
one painful supposition which could possibly arise. "Because I love you
not? God knoweth." Love is wounded when its proffered gifts are rejected
with scorn, and when _their_ rejection means that _it_ is rejected; but
that was not the situation here. Paul can appeal to Him who knows the
heart in proof of the sincerity with which he loves the Corinthians.

His fixed purpose to be indebted to no one in Achaia has another
object in view. What that is he explains in the twelfth verse. Strange
to say, this verse, like ver. 4, has received two precisely opposite
interpretations. (1) Some start with the idea that Paul's adversaries
at Corinth were persons who took no support from the Church, and
boasted of their disinterestedness in this respect. The "occasion"
which they desired was an occasion of any sort for disparaging and
discrediting Paul; and they felt they would have such an occasion if
Paul accepted support from the Church, and so put himself in a
position of inferiority to them. But Paul persists in his self-denying
policy, with the object of depriving them of the opportunity they
seek, and at the same time of proving them--in this very point of
disinterestedness--to be in exactly the same position as himself. But
surely, throughout both Epistles, a contrast is implied, in this very
point, between Paul and his opponents: the tacit assumption is always
that his line of conduct is singular, and is not to be made a rule.
And in the face of ver. 20 it is too much to assume that it was the
rule of his Judaising opponents in Corinth. (2) Others start with the
idea, which seems to me indubitably right, that these opponents did
accept support from the Church. But even on this assumption opinions
diverge. (_a_) Some argue that Paul pursued his policy of abstinence
partly to deprive them of any opportunity of disparaging him, and
partly to compel them to adopt it themselves ("that they may be found
even as we").[94] I can hardly imagine this being taken seriously. Why
should Paul have wanted to lift these preachers of a false gospel to a
level with himself in point of generosity? To coerce them into a
reluctant self-denial could be no possible object to him either of
wish or hope. Hence there seems only (_b_) the other alternative open,
which makes the last clause--"that wherein they boast, they may be
found even as we"--depend, not upon "what I do, that I will do," but
upon "them that desire occasion."[95] What the adversaries desired
was, not occasion to disparage Paul in general, but occasion of being
on an equality with him in the matter in which they gloried--viz.,
their apostolic claims. They felt the advantage which Paul's
disinterestedness gave him with the Corinthians; they had not
themselves the generosity needed to imitate it; it was not enough to
assail it with covert slanders (chap. xii. 16-18), or to say that he
was afraid to claim an apostle's due; it would have been all they
wanted had he resigned it. Then they could have said that in that in
which they boasted--apostolic dignity--they were precisely on a level
with him. But not to mention the spiritual motives for his conduct,
which have been already explained, and were independent of all
relation to his opponents, Paul was too capable a strategist to
surrender such a position to the enemy. It would never be by action
of his that he and they found themselves on the same ground.

At the very mention of such an equality his heart rises within him.
"Found even as we! Why, such men are false apostles, deceitful workers,
fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ." Here, at last, the irony
is cast aside, and Paul calls a spade a spade. The conception of
apostleship in the New Testament is not that dogmatic traditional one,
which limits the name to the Twelve, or to the Twelve and the Apostle of
the Gentiles; as we see from passages like chap. viii. 23, Acts xiv. 4,
14, it had a much larger application. What Paul means when he calls his
opponents false apostles is not that persons _in their position_ could
have no right to the name; but that persons _with their character_,
their aims, and their methods, would only deceive others when they used
it. It ought to cover something quite different from what it actually
did cover in them. He explains himself further when he calls them
"deceitful workers." That they were active he does not deny; but the
true end of their activity was not declared. As far as the word itself
goes, the "deceit" which they used may have been intended to cloak
either their personal or their proselytising views. After what we have
read in chap. x. 12-18, the latter seems preferable. The Judaising
preachers had shown their hand in Galatia, demanding openly that Paul's
converts should be circumcised, and keep the law of Moses as a whole;
but their experience there had made them cautious, and when they came to
Corinth they proceeded more diplomatically. They tried to sap the
Pauline Gospel, partly by preaching "another Jesus," partly by calling
in question the legitimacy of Paul's vocation. They said nothing openly
of what was the inevitable and intended issue of all this--the bringing
of spiritual Gentile Christendom under the old Jewish yoke. But it is
this which goes to the Apostle's soul; he can be nothing but
irreconcilably hostile to men who have assumed the guise of apostles of
Christ, in order that they may with greater security subvert Christ's
characteristic work. Paul dwells on the deceitfulness of their conduct
as its most offensive feature; yet he does not wonder at it, for even
Satan, he says, fashions himself into an angel of light. It is no great
thing, then, if his servants also fashion themselves as servants of

We can only tell in a general way what Paul meant when he spoke of
Satan, the prince of darkness, transfiguring himself so as to appear a
heavenly angel. He may have had some Jewish legend in his mind, some
story of a famous temptation, unknown to us, or he may only have
intended to represent to the imagination, with the utmost possible
vividness, one of the familiar laws in our moral experience, a law
which was strikingly illustrated by the conduct of his adversaries at
Corinth. Evil, we all know, could never tempt us if we saw it simply
as it is; disguise is essential to its power; it appeals to man
through ideas and hopes which he cannot but regard as good. So it was
in the very first temptation. An act which in its essential character
was neither more nor less than one of direct disobedience to God was
represented by the tempter, not in that character, but as the means by
which man was to obtain possession of a tree good for food (sensual
satisfaction), and pleasant to the eyes (æsthetic satisfaction), and
desirable to make one wise (intellectual satisfaction). All these
satisfactions, which in themselves are undeniably good, were the
cloak under which the tempter hid his true features. He was a murderer
from the beginning, and entered Eden to ruin man, but he presented
himself as one offering to man a vast enlargement of life and joy.
This is the nature of all temptations; to disguise himself, to look as
like a good angel as he can, is the first necessity, and therefore the
first invention, of the devil. And all who do his work, the Apostle
says, naturally imitate his devices. The soul of man is born for good,
and will not listen at all to any voice which does not profess at
least to speak for good: this is why the devil is a liar from the
beginning, and the father of lies. Lying in word and deed is the one
weapon with which he can assail the simplicity of man.

But how does this apply to the Judaisers in Corinth? To Paul, we must
understand, they were men affecting to serve Christ, but really
impelled by personal, or at the utmost by partisan, feelings. Their
true object was to win an ascendency for themselves, or for their
party, in the Church; but they made their way into it as evangelists
and apostles. Nominally, they were ministers of Christ; really, they
ministered to their own vanity, and to the bigotry and prejudices of
their race. They professed to be furthering the cause of
righteousness,[96] but in sober truth the only cause which was the
better for them was that of their own private importance; the result
of their ministry was, not that bad men became good, but that they
themselves felt entitled to give themselves airs. Over against all
this unreality Paul remembers the righteous judgment of God. "Whose
end," he concludes abruptly, "shall be according to their works."

The most serious aspect of such a situation as this is seen when we
consider that men may fill it unconsciously: they may devote
themselves to a cause which looks like the cause of Christ, or the
cause of righteousness; and at bottom it may not be Christ or
righteousness at all which is the animating principle in their hearts.
It is some hidden regard to themselves, or to a party with which they
are identified. Even when they labour, and possibly suffer, it is
this, and not loyalty to Christ, which sustains them. It may be in
defence of orthodoxy, or in furtherance of liberalism, that a man puts
himself forward in the Church, and in either case he will figure to
those who agree with him as a servant of righteousness; but equally in
either case the secret spring of his action may be pride, the desire
to assert a superiority, to consolidate a party which is his larger
self, to secure an area in which he may rule. He may spend energy and
talent on the work; but if this is the ultimate motive of it, it is
the work of the devil, and not of God. Even if the doctrine he defends
is the true one--even if the policy he maintains is the right one--the
services he may accidentally render are far outweighed by the
domestication in the Church of a spirit so alien to the Lord's. It is
diabolical, not divine; the Gospel is profaned by contact with it; the
Church is prostituted when it serves as an arena for its exercise;
when it comes forward in the interest of righteousness, it is Satan
fashioning himself into an angel of light.

At this point Paul returns to the idea which has been in his mind
since chap. x. 7--the idea of boasting, or rather glorying. He does
not like the thing itself, and just as little does he like the mask of
a fool, under which he is to play the part: he is conscious that
neither suits him. Hence he clears the ground once more, before he
commits himself. "Again, I say, let no man think that I _am_ foolish;
but if that favour cannot be granted, then even as a foolish person
receive me, that I also may boast a little." There is a fine satirical
reflection in the "also." If he does make a fool of himself by
boasting, he is only doing what the others do, whom the Corinthians
receive with open arms. But it strikes his conscience suddenly that
there is a higher rule for the conduct of a Christian man than the
example of his rivals, or the patience of his friends. The tenderness
of Paul's spirit comes out in the next words: "What I speak, I speak
_not after the Lord_, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of
glorying." The Lord never boasted; nothing could be conceived less
like Him, less after His mind; and Paul will have it distinctly
understood that _His_ character is not compromised by any extravagance
of which His servant may here make himself guilty. As a rule, the
Apostle did speak "after the Lord"; his habitual consciousness was
that of one who had "the mind of Christ," and who felt that Christ's
character was, in a sense, in his keeping. That ought to be the rule
for all Christians; we should never find ourselves in situations in
which the Christian character, with all its responsibilities,
affecting both ourselves and Him, cannot be maintained. With Christ
and His interests removed from the scene, Paul at length feels
himself free to measure himself against his rivals. "Since many glory
after the flesh, I also will glory." The flesh means everything except
the spirit. Where Christ and the Gospel are concerned, it is,
according to Paul, an absolute irrelevance, a thing to be simply left
out of account; but since they persist in dragging it in, he will meet
them on their own ground. What that is, first comes out clearly in
ver. 22: but the Apostle delays again to urge his plea for tolerance.
"Ye suffer the foolish gladly, being wise yourselves." It answers best
to the vehemence of the whole passage to take the first clause
here--"Ye suffer the foolish gladly"--as grim earnest, the reference
being to the other boasters, Paul's rivals; and only the second clause
ironically. Then ver. 20 would give the proof of this: "Ye bear with
the foolish gladly ... for ye bear with a man if he enslaves you, if
he devours you, if he takes you captive, if he exalts himself over
you, if he strikes you on the face." We must suppose that this strong
language describes the overbearing and violent behaviour of the
Judaists in Corinth. We do not need to take it literally, but neither
may we suppose that Paul spoke at random: he is virtually contrasting
his own conduct and that of the people in question, and the nature of
the contrast must be on the whole correctly indicated. He himself had
been accused of weakness; and he frankly admits that, if comparison
has to be made with a line of action like this, the accusation is
just. "I speak by way of disparagement, as though we had been weak."
This rendering of the Revised Version fairly conveys the meaning. It
might be expressed in a paraphrase, as follows: "In saying what I have
said of the behaviour of my rivals, I have been speaking to my own
disparagement, the idea involved[97] being that _I_" (notice the
emphatic ἡμεῖς) "have been weak. Weak, no doubt, I was, if violent
action like theirs is the true measure of strength: nevertheless,
whereinsoever any is bold (I speak in foolishness), I am bold also. On
whatever ground they claim to exercise such extraordinary powers, that
ground I can maintain as well as they."

Here, finally, the boasting does begin. "Are they Hebrews? so am I.
Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I."
This is the sum and substance of what is meant by their glorying after
the flesh: they prided themselves on their birth, and claimed
authority on the strength of it. They may have appealed, not only to
the election of Israel as the Old Testament represents it, but to
words of Jesus, like "Salvation is of the Jews." The three names for
what is in reality one thing convey the impression of the immense
importance which was assigned to it. "Hebrews" seems the least
significant; it is merely the _national_ name, with whatever
historical glories attached to it in Hebrew minds. "Israelites" is a
_sacred_ name; it is identified with the prerogatives of the
theocratic people: Paul himself, when his heart swells with patriotic
emotion, begins the enumeration of the privileges belonging to his
kinsmen after the flesh--"they, who are Israelites." "Seed of
Abraham," again, is for the Apostle, and probably for these rivals of
his, equivalent to "heirs of the promises"; it describes the Jewish
people as more directly and immediately interested--nay, as alone
directly and immediately interested--in the salvation of God. No one
could read Rom. ix. 4 f. without feeling that pride of race--pride in
his people, and in their special relation to God and special place in
the history of redemption--was among the strongest passions in the
Apostle's heart; and we can understand the indignation and scorn with
which he regarded men who tracked him over Asia and Europe, assailed
his authority, and sought to undermine his work, on the ground that he
was faithless to the lawful prerogatives of Israel. There was not an
Israelite in the world prouder of his birth, with a more magnificent
sense of his country's glories, than the Apostle of the Gentiles: and
it provoked him beyond endurance to see the things in which he gloried
debased, as they were debased, by his rivals--made the symbols of a
paltry vanity which he despised, made barriers to the universal love
of God by which all the families of the earth were to be blessed.
Driven to extremity, he could only outlaw such opponents from the
Christian community, and transfer the prerogatives of Israel to the
Church. "_We_," he taught his Gentile converts to say--"_we are the
circumcision_, who worship by the Spirit of God, and rejoice in Christ
Jesus, _and have no confidence in the flesh_" (Phil. iii. 3).

Here he does not linger long over what is merely external. It is a
deeper question that he asks in ver. 23, "Are they ministers of
Christ?" and he feels like a man beside himself, clean out of his
senses (παραφρονῶν)--so unsuitable is the subject for boasting--as he
answers, "I more." Many interpret this as if it meant, "I am more than
a servant of Christ," and then ask wonderingly, "What more?" but
surely the natural meaning is, "I am a servant too, in a higher
degree." The proof of this is given in that tale of sufferings which
bursts irrepressibly from the Apostle's heart, and sweeps us in its
course like a torrent. If he thought of his rivals when he began, and
was instituting a serious comparison when he wrote "in labours _more
abundantly_ [than they]," they must soon have escaped from his mind.
It is his own life as a minister of Christ on which he dwells; and
after the first words, if a comparison is to be made, he leaves the
making of it to others. But comparison, in fact, was out of the
question: the sufferings of the Apostle in doing service to Christ
were unparalleled and alone. The few lines which he devotes to them
are the most vivid light we have on the apostolic age and the
apostolic career. They show how fragmentary, or at all events how
select, is the narrative in the Book of Acts. Thus of the incidents
mentioned in ver. 25 we learn but little from St. Luke. Of the five
times nine-and-thirty stripes, he mentions none; of the three beatings
with rods, only one; of the three shipwrecks, none (for Acts xxvii. is
later), and nothing of the twenty-four hours in the deep. It is not
necessary to comment on details, but one cannot resist the impression
of triumph with which Paul recounts the "perils" he had faced; so many
they were, so various, and so terrible, yet in the Lord's service he
has come safely through them all. It is a commentary from his own hand
on his own word--"as dying, and, behold, we live!" In the retrospect
all these perils show, not only that he is a true servant of Christ,
entering into the fellowship of his Master's sufferings to bring
blessing to men, but that he is owned by Christ as such: the Lord has
delivered him from deaths so great; yes, and will deliver him; and his
hope is set on Him for every deliverance he may need (chap. i. 10).

But, after all, these perils are but outward, and the very
enumeration of them shows that they are things of the past. In all
their kinds and degrees--violence, privation, exposure, fear--they are
a historical testimony to the devotion with which Paul has served
Christ. He bore in his body the marks which they had left, and to him
they were the marks of Jesus; they identified him as Christ's slave.
But not to mention incidental matters,[98] there is another testimony
to his ministry which is ever with him--a burden as crushing as these
bodily sufferings, and far more constant in its pressure: "that which
cometh upon me daily, anxiety for all the Churches." Short of this,
anything of which man can boast may be, at least in a qualified sense,
"after the flesh"; but in this identification of himself with Christ's
cause in the world--this bearing of others' burdens on his
spirit--there is that fulfilment of Christ's law which alone and
finally legitimates a Christian ministry. Nor was it merely in an
official sense that Paul was interested in the affairs of the Church.
When the Church is once planted in the world, it has a side which is
of the world, a side which may be administered without a very heavy
expenditure of Christian feeling: this, it is safe to say, is simply
out of sight. Paul's anxiety for the Churches is defined in all its
scope and intensity in the passionate words of the twenty-ninth verse:
"Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I burn
not?" His love individualised Christian people, and made him one with
them. There was no trembling timorous soul, no scrupulous conscience,
in all the communities he had founded, whose timidity and weakness did
not put a limit to his strength: he condescended to their
intelligence, feeding them with milk, and not with meat; he measured
his liberty, not in principle but in practice, by their bondage; his
heart thrilled with their fears; in the fulness of his Christ-like
strength he lived a hundred feeble lives. And when spiritual harm came
to one of them--when the very least was made to stumble, and was
caught in the snare of falsehood or sin--the pain in his heart was
like burning fire. The sorrow that pierced the soul of Christ pierced
his soul also; the indignation that glowed in the Master's breast, as
He pronounced woe on the man by whom occasions of stumbling come,
glowed again in him. This is the fire that Christ came to cast on the
earth, and that He longed to see kindled--this prompt intense sympathy
with all that is of God in men's souls, this readiness to be weak with
the weak, this pain and indignation when the selfishness or pride of
men leads the weak astray, and imperils the work for which Christ
died. And this is indeed the Apostle's last line of defence. Nowhere
could boasting be less in place than when a man speaks of the lessons
he has learned at the Cross: yet these only give him a title to glory
as "a minister of Christ." If glorying _here_ is inadmissible, it is
because glorying in every sense is "folly."


[93] This (observe the aorist λαβών) implies that he brought some
money with him from Macedonia to Corinth.

[94] That is, the two ἵνα are co-ordinate.

[95] That is, the ἵνα are not co-ordinate, but the second is
subordinate to τῶν θελόντων ἀφορμήν.

[96] There has been some discussion as to the precise force of
δικαιοσύνη ("righteousness") in this place. It seems to me most
natural to take it, without suspicion, in a perfectly simple sense: a
minister of righteousness is the truly good character which these bad
men affect. To suppose a covert sneer at their "legalism," or that
they had pointed to such matters as are discussed in 1 Cor. v., viii.,
and x., as indicating the need of a gospel which would pay more
attention to righteousness than Paul's, is surely too clever.

[97] This is the force of the ὡς: it leaves it open whether the idea
has reality answering to it or not.

[98] This, which is the second alternative given in the margin of the
Revised Version, seems to me the true meaning of χωρὶς τῶν παρεκτός.


                        _STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS_

    "If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things that concern my
    weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed
    for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under
    Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes, in order to take
    me: and through a window was I let down in a basket by the wall, and
    escaped his hands.

    "I must needs glory, though it is not expedient; but I will come to
    visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ,
    fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not; or whether out
    of the body, I know not; God knoweth), such a one caught up even to
    the third heaven. And I know such a man (whether in the body, or
    apart from the body, I know not; God knoweth), how that he was
    caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is
    not lawful for a man to utter. On behalf of such a one will I glory:
    but on mine own behalf I will not glory, save in _my_ weaknesses.
    For if I should desire to glory, I shall not be foolish; for I shall
    speak the truth: but I forbear, lest any man should account of me
    above that which he seeth me _to be_, or heareth from me. And by
    reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations--wherefore,
    that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn
    in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not
    be exalted overmuch. Concerning this thing I besought the Lord
    thrice, that it might depart from me. And He hath said unto me, My
    grace is sufficient for thee: for _My_ power is made perfect in
    weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my
    weaknesses, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore
    I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in
    persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake: for when I am weak,
    then am I strong."--2 COR. xi. 30-xii. 10 (R.V.).

The difficulties of exposition in this passage are partly connected
with its form, partly with its substance: it will be convenient to
dispose of the formal side first. The thirtieth verse of the eleventh
chapter--"If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things that
concern my weakness"--seems to serve two purposes. On the one hand, it
is a natural and effective climax to all that precedes; it defines the
principle on which Paul has acted in the glorying of vv. 23-29. It is
not of exploits that he is proud, but of perils and sufferings; not of
what he has achieved, but of what he has endured, for Christ's sake;
in a word, not of strength, but of weakness. On the other hand, this
same thirtieth verse indubitably points forward; it defines the
principle on which Paul will always act where boasting is in view; and
it is expressly resumed in chap. xii., ver. 5 and ver. 9. For this
reason, it seems better to treat it as a text than as a peroration; it
is the key to the interpretation of what follows, put into our hands
by the Apostle himself. In the full consciousness of its dangers and
inconveniences, he means to go a little further in this foolish
boasting; but he takes security, as far as possible, against its moral
perils, by choosing as the ground of boasting things which in the
common judgment of men would only bring him shame.

At this point we are startled by a sudden appeal to God, the solemnity
and fulness of which strike us, on a first reading, as almost
painfully gratuitous. "The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is
blessed for ever, knoweth that I lie not." What is the explanation of
this extraordinary earnestness? There is a similar passage in Gal. i.
19--"Now touching the things which I write unto you, behold, before
God, I lie not"--where Lightfoot says the strength of the Apostle's
language is to be explained by the unscrupulous calumnies cast upon
him by his enemies. This _may_ be the clue to his vehemence here; and
in point of fact it falls in with by far the most ingenious
explanation that has been given of the two subjects introduced in this
paragraph. The explanation I refer to is that of Heinrici. He supposes
that Paul's escape from Damascus, and his visions and revelations, had
been turned to account against him by his rivals. They had used the
escape to accuse him of ignominious cowardice: the indignity of it is
obvious enough. His visions and revelations were as capable of
misconstruction: it was easy to call them mere illusions, signs of a
disordered brain; it was not too much for malice to hint that his call
to apostleship rested on nothing better than one of these ecstatic
hallucinations. It is because things so dear to him are attacked--his
reputation for personal courage, which is the mainstay of all the
virtues; his actual vision of Christ, and divinely authorised
mission--that he makes the vehement appeal that startles us at first.
He calls God to witness that in regard to both these subjects he is
going to tell the exact truth: the truth will be his sufficient
defence. Ingenious as it is, I do not think this theory can be
maintained. There is no hint in the passage that Paul is defending
himself; he is glorying, and glorying in the things that concern his
weakness. It seems more probable that, when he dictated the strong
words of ver. 31, the outline of all he was going to say was in his
mind; and as the main part of it--all about the visions and
revelations--was absolutely uncontrollable by any witness but his own,
he felt moved to attest it thus in advance. The names and attributes
of God fall in well with this. As the visions and revelations were
specially connected with Christ, and were counted by the Apostle among
the things for which he had the deepest reason to praise God, it is
but the reflection of this state of mind when he appeals to "the God
and _Father of the Lord Jesus_, He who is _blessed for evermore_."
This is not a random adjuration, but an appeal which takes shape
involuntarily in a grateful and pious heart, on which the memory of a
signal grace and honour still rests. Of course the verses about
Damascus stand rather out of relation to it. But it is a violence
which nothing can justify to strike them out of the text on this
ground, and along with them part or the whole of ver. 1 in chap.
xii.[99] For many reasons unknown to us the danger in Damascus, and
the escape from it, may have had a peculiar interest for the Apostle;
_hæc persequutio_, says Calvin, _erat quasi primum tirocinium Pauli_;
it was his "matriculation in the school of persecution." He may have
intended, as Meyer thinks, to make it the beginning of a new catalogue
of sufferings for Christ's sake, all of which were to be covered by
the appeal to God, and have abruptly repented, and gone off on another
subject; but whether or not, to expunge the lines is pure wilfulness.
The Apostle glories in what he endured at Damascus--in the imminent
peril and in the undignified escape alike--as in things belonging to
his weakness. Another might choose to hide such things, but they are
precisely what he tells. In Christ's service scorn is glory, ignominy
is honour; and it is the mark of loyalty when men rejoice that they
are counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name.[100]

When we go on to chap. xii., and the second of the two subjects with
which boasting is to be associated, we meet in the first verse with
serious textual difficulties. Our Authorised Version gives the
rendering: "_It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come
to visions and revelations of the Lord._" This follows the Textus
Receptus: Καυχᾶσθαι δὴ οὐ συμφέρει μοι· ἐλεύσομαι γὰρ κ.τ.λ., only
omitting the γὰρ (_for_ I will come). The MSS. are almost chaotic, but
the most authoritative editors--Tregelles, Tischendorf in his last
edition, and Westcott and Hort--agree in reading Καυχᾶσθαι δεῖ οὐ[101
συμφέρον μὲν ἐλεύσομαι δὲ κ.τ.λ.] This is the text which our Revisers
render: "_I must needs glory, though it is not expedient; but I will
come to visions and revelations of the Lord_." Practically, the
difference is not so great after all. According to the best authorities,
Paul repeats that he is being forced to speak as he does; the
consciousness of the disadvantages attendant on this course does not
leave him, it is rather deepened, as he approaches the highest and most
sacred of all subjects--visions and revelations he has received from
Christ. Of these two words, revelations is the wider in import: visions
were only one of the ways in which revelations could be made. Paul, of
course, is not going to boast directly of the visions and revelations
themselves. All through the experiences to which he alludes under this
name he was to himself as a third person; he was purely passive; and to
claim credit, to glory as if he had done or originated anything, would
be transparently absurd. But there are "things of his weakness"
associated with, if not dependent on, these high experiences; and it is
in them, after due explanation, that he purposes to exult.

He begins abruptly. "I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago
(whether in the body, I know not; or whether out of the body, I know
not; God knoweth), such a one caught up even to the third heaven." A
man in Christ means a Christian man, a man in his character _as_ a
Christian. To St. Paul's consciousness the wonderful experience he is
about to describe was not natural, still less pathological, but
unequivocally religious. It did not befall him as a man simply, still
less as an epileptic patient; it was an unmistakably Christian
experience. He only existed for himself, during it, as "a man in
Christ." "I know such a man," he says, "fourteen years ago caught up
even to the third heaven." The date of this "rapture" (the same word
is used in Acts viii. 39; 1 Thess. iv. 17; Rev. xii. 5: all
significant examples) would be about A.D. 44. This forbids us to
connect it in any way with Paul's conversion, which must have been
twenty years earlier than this letter; and indeed there is no reason
for identifying it with anything else we know of the Apostle. At the
date in question, as far as can be made out from the Book of Acts, he
must have been in Tarsus or in Antioch. The rapture itself is
described as perfectly incomprehensible. He may have been carried up
bodily to the heavenly places; his spirit may have been carried up,
while his body remained unconscious upon earth: he can express no
opinion about this; the truth is only known to God. It is idle to
exploit a passage like this in the interest of apostolic psychology;
Paul is only taking elaborate pains to tell us that of the mode of his
rapture he was absolutely ignorant. It is fairer to infer that the
event was unique in his experience, and that when it happened he was
alone; had such things recurred, or had there been spectators, he
could not have been in doubt as to whether he was caught up "in the
body" or "out of the body." The mere fact that the date is given
individualises the event in his life; and it is going beyond the facts
altogether to generalise it, and take it as the type of such an
experience as accompanied his conversion, or of the visions in Acts
xvi. 9, xxii. 17 f., xviii. 9. It was one, solitary, incomparable
experience, including in it a complex of visions and revelations
granted by Christ: it was this, at all events, to the Apostle; and if
we do not believe what he tells us about it, we can have no knowledge
of it at all.

"Caught up even to the third heaven." The Jews usually counted seven
heavens; sometimes, perhaps because of the dual form of the Hebrew word
for heaven, two; but the distinctions between the various heavens were
as fanciful as the numbers were arbitrary. It adds nothing, even to the
imagination, to speak of an aerial, a sidereal, and a spiritual heaven,
and to suppose that these are meant by Paul; we can only think vaguely
of the "man in Christ" rising through one celestial region after another
till he came even to the third. The word chosen to define the distance
(ἕως) suggests that an impression of vast spaces traversed remained on
the Apostle's mind; and that the third heaven, on which his sentence
pauses, and which is a resting-place for his memory, was also a station,
so to speak, in his rapture. This is the only supposition which does
justice to the resumption in ver. 3 of the deliberate and circumstantial
language of ver. 2. "And I know such a man--whether in the body or apart
from the body (I know not) God knoweth--how that he was caught up into
Paradise, and heard unspeakable words that it is not lawful for a man to
utter." This is a resumption, not a repetition. Paul is not elaborately
telling the same story over again, but he is carrying it on, with the
same full circumstance, the same grave asseveration, from the point at
which he halted. The rapture had a second stage, under the same
incomprehensible conditions, and in it the Christian man passed out and
up from the third heaven into Paradise. Many of the Jews believed in a
Paradise beneath the earth, the abode of the souls of the good while
they awaited their perfecting at the Resurrection (cf. Luke xvi. 23 ff.,
xxiii. 43); but obviously this cannot be the idea here. We must think
rather of what the Apocalypse calls "the Paradise of God" (ii. 7), where
the tree of life grows, and where those who overcome have their reward.
It is an abode of unimaginable blessedness, "far above all heavens," to
use the Apostle's own words elsewhere (Eph. iv. 10). What visions he
had, or what revelations, during that pause in the third heaven, Paul
does not say; and at this supreme point of his rapture, in Paradise, the
words he heard were words unspeakable, which it is not lawful for man to
utter. Mortal ears might hear, but mortal lips might not repeat, sounds
so mysterious and divine: it was not for _man_ (ἀνθρώπῳ is qualitative)
to utter them.

But why, we may ask, if this rapture has its meaning and value solely
for the Apostle, should he refer to it here at all? Why should he make
such solemn statements about an experience, the historical conditions
of which, as he is careful to assure us, are incomprehensible, while
its spiritual content is a secret? Is not such an experience literally
_nothing_ to us? No, unless Paul himself is nothing; for this
experience was evidently a great thing to him. It was the most sacred
privilege and honour he had ever known; it was among his strongest
sources of inspiration; it had a powerful tendency to generate
spiritual pride; and it had its accompaniment, and its counter-weight,
in his sharpest trial. The world knows little of its greatest men;
perhaps we very rarely know what are the great things in the lives
even of the people who are round about us. Paul had kept silence about
this sublime experience for fourteen years, and no man had ever
guessed it; it had been a secret between the Lord and His disciple;
and they only, who were in the secret, could rightly interpret all
that depended upon it. There is a kind of profanity in forcing the
heart to show itself too far, in compelling a man to speak about, even
though he does not divulge, the things that it is not lawful to utter.
The Corinthians had put this profane compulsion on the Apostle; but
though he yields to it, it is in a way which keeps clear of the
profanity. He tells what he dare tell in the third person, and then
goes on: "On behalf of such a one will I glory, but on behalf of
myself will I not glory, save in my infirmities." _Removere debemus_
τὸ _ego a rebus magnis_ (Bengel): there are things too great to allow
the intrusion of self. Paul does not choose to identify the poor
Apostle whom the Corinthians and their misleading teachers used so
badly with the man in Christ who had such inconceivable honour put on
him by the Lord; if he does boast on behalf of such a one, and magnify
his sublime experiences, at all events he does not transfer his
prerogatives to _himself_; he does not say, "_I_ am that incomparably
honoured man; reverence in me a special favourite of Christ." On the
contrary, where _his own_ interest has to be forwarded, he will glory
in nothing but his weaknesses. The one thing about which he is anxious
is that men should not think too highly of him, nor go in their
appreciation beyond what their experience of him as a man and a
teacher justifies (ver. 6). He might, indeed, boast, reasonably
enough; for the truth would suffice, without any foolish exaggeration;
but he forbears, for the reason just stated. We are familiar with the
danger of thinking too highly of ourselves; it is as real a danger,
though probably a less considered one, to be too highly thought of by
others. Paul dreaded it; so does every wise man. To be highly thought
of, where the character is sincere and unpretentious, may be a
protection, and even an inspiration; but to have a reputation,
morally, that one does not deserve--to be counted good in respects in
which one is really bad--is to have a frightful difficulty added to
penitence and amendment. It puts one in a radically false position; it
generates and fosters hypocrisy; it explains a vast mass of spiritual
ineffectiveness. The man who is insincere enough to be puffed up by it
is not far from judgment.

But to return to the text. Paul wishes to be humble; he is content
that men should take him as they find him, infirmities and all. He has
that about him, too, and not unconnected with these high experiences,
the very purpose of which is to keep him humble. If the text is
correct,[102] he expresses himself with some embarrassment. "And by
reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations--wherefore, that
I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in
the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be
exalted overmuch." The repetition of the last word shows where the
emphasis lies: Paul has a deep and constant sense of the danger of
spiritual pride, and he knows that he would fall into it unless a
strong counter-pressure were kept up upon him.

I do not feel called on to add another to the numberless disquisitions
on Paul's thorn in the flesh. The resources of imagination having been
exhausted, people are returning to the obvious. The thorn in the
flesh[103] was something painful, which affected the Apostle's body; it
was something in its nature purely physical, not a solicitation to any
kind of sin, such as sensuality or pride, else he would not have ceased
to pray for its removal; it was something terribly humbling, if not
humiliating--an affection which might well have excited the contempt and
loathing of those who beheld it (Gal. iv. 14, which probably refers to
this subject); it had begun after, if not in consequence of, the rapture
just described, and stood in a spiritual, if not a physical, relation to
it; it was, if not chronic or periodic, at least recurrent; the Apostle
knew that it would never leave him. What known malady, incident to human
nature, fulfils all these conditions, it is not possible with perfect
certainty to say. A considerable mass of competent opinion supports the
idea that it must have been liability to epileptic seizures.[104] Such
an infirmity Paul might have suffered under in common with men so great
as Julius Cæsar and the first Napoleon, as Mahomet, King Alfred, and
Peter the Great. But it does not quite satisfy the conditions. Epileptic
attacks, if they occur with any frequency at all, invariably cause
mental deterioration. Now, Paul distinctly suggests that the thorn was a
very steady companion; and as his mind, in spite of it, grew year after
year in the apprehension of the Christian revelation, so that his last
thoughts are always his largest and best, the epileptic hypothesis has
its difficulties like every other. Is it likely that a man who suffered
pretty constantly from nervous convulsions of this kind wrote the Second
Epistle to the Corinthians after fourteen years of them, or the Epistles
to the Romans, Philippians, Colossians, and Ephesians later still? There
is, of course, no religious interest in affirming or denying any
physical explanation of the matter whatever; but with our present data I
do not think a certain explanation is within our reach.

The Apostle himself is not interested in it as a physical affection.
He speaks of it because of its spiritual significance, and because of
the wonderful spiritual experiences he has had in connexion with it.
It was given him, he says: but by whom? When we think of the
purpose--to save him from spiritual pride--we instinctively answer,
"God." And that, it can hardly be doubted, would have been the
Apostle's own answer. Yet he does not hesitate to call it in the same
breath a messenger of Satan. The name is dictated by the inborn,
ineradicable shrinking of the soul from pain; that agonising,
humiliating, annihilating thing, we feel at the bottom of our hearts,
is not really of God, even when it does His work. In His perfect
world pain shall be no more. It does not need science, but experience,
to put these things together, and to understand at once the evil and
the good of suffering. Paul, at first, like all men, found the evil
overpowering. The pain, the weakness, the degradation of his malady,
were intolerable. He could not understand that only a pressure so
pitiless and humbling could preserve him from spiritual pride and a
spiritual fall. We are all slow to learn anything like this. We think
we can take warning, that a word will be enough, that at most the
memory of a single pang will suffice to keep us safe. But pains remain
with us, and the pressure is continuous and unrelieved, because the
need of constraint and of discipline is ceaseless. The crooked branch
will not bend in a new curve if it is only tied to it for half an
hour. The sinful bias in our natures--to pride, to sensuality, to
falsehood, or whatever else---will not be cured by one sharp lesson.
The commonest experience in human life is that the man whom sickness
and pain have humbled for the moment, the very moment their constraint
is lifted, resumes his old habit. He does not think so, but it is
really the thorn that has been keeping him right; and when its
sharpness is blunted, the edge is taken from his conscience too.

Paul besought the Lord, that is Christ, thrice, that this thing might
depart from him. The Lord, we may be sure, had full sympathy with that
prayer. He Himself had had His agony, and prayed the Father thrice
that if it were possible the cup of pain might pass from Him. He
prayed, indeed, in express submission to the Father's will; the voice
of nature was not allowed in Him to urge an unconditional peremptory
request. Perhaps in Paul on this occasion--certainly often in most
men--it is nature, the flesh and not the spirit, which prompts the
prayer. But God is all the while guarding the spirit's interest as the
higher, and this explains the many real answers to prayer which seem
to be refusals. A refusal _is_ an answer, if it is so given that God
and the soul thenceforth understand one another. It was thus that Paul
was answered by Christ: "He hath said to me, My grace is sufficient
for thee: for [My] strength is made perfect in weakness."

The first point to notice in this answer is the tense of the verb: "He
hath said." The A.V. with "He said" misses the point. The sentence is
present as well as past; it is Christ's continuous, as well as final,
answer to Paul's prayer. The Apostle has been made to understand that
the thorn must remain in his flesh, but along with this he has
received the assurance of an abiding love and help from the Lord. We
remember, even by contrast, the stern answer made to Moses when he
prayed that he might be permitted to cross Jordan and see the goodly
land--"Let it suffice thee: speak no more unto Me of this matter."
Paul also could no more ask for the removal of the thorn: it was the
Lord's will that he should submit to it for high spiritual ends, and
to pray against it would now have been a kind of impiety. But it is no
longer an unrelieved pain and humiliation; the Apostle is supported
under it by that grace of Christ which finds in the need and
abjectness of men the opportunity of showing in all perfection its own
condescending strength. The collocation of "grace" and "strength" in
the ninth verse is characteristic of the New Testament, and very
significant. There are many to whom "grace" is a holy word with no
particular meaning; "the grace of God," or "the grace of the Lord
Jesus Christ," is only a vague benignity, which may fairly enough be
spoken of as a "smile." But grace, in the New Testament, is force: it
is a heavenly strength bestowed on men for timely succour; it finds
its opportunity in our extremity; when our weakness makes us incapable
of doing anything, it gets full scope _to work_. This is the meaning
of the last words--"strength is made perfect in weakness." The truth
is quite general; it is an application of it to the case in hand if we
translate as in the A.V. (with some MSS.): "_My_ strength is made
perfect in [thy] weakness." It is enough, the Lord tells Paul, that he
has this heavenly strength unceasingly bestowed upon him; the weakness
which he has found so hard to bear--that distressing malady which
humbled him and took his vigour away--is but the foil to it: it serves
to magnify it, and to set it off; with that Paul should be content.

And he is content. That answer to his thrice-repeated prayer works a
revolution in his heart; he looks at all that had troubled him--at all
that he had deprecated--with new eyes. "Most gladly therefore will I
rather glory in my infirmities--that is, glory rather than bemoan them
or pray for their removal--that the power of Christ may spread its
tabernacle over me." This compensation far outweighed the trial. He
has ceased to speak now of the visions and revelations, perhaps he has
ceased already to think of them; he is conscious only of the weakness
and suffering from which he is never to escape, and of the grace of
Christ which hovers over him, and out of weakness and suffering makes
him strong. His very infirmities redound to the glory of the Lord, and
so he chooses them, rather than his rapture into Paradise, as matter
for boasting. "For this cause I am well content, on Christ's
behalf,[105] in infirmities, in insults, in necessities, in
persecutions and distresses; for when I am weak, then am I strong."

With this noble word Paul concludes his enforced "glorying." He was
not happy in it; it was not like him; and it is a triumph of the
Spirit of Christ in him that he gives it such a noble turn, and comes
out of it so well. There is a tinge of irony in the first passage
(chap. xi. 21) in which he speaks of weakness, and fears that in
comparison with his high-handed rivals at Corinth he will only have
this to boast about; but as he enters into his real experience, and
tells us what he had borne for Christ, and what he had learned in pain
and prayer about the laws of the spiritual life, all irony passes
away; the pure heroic heart opens before us to its depths. The
practical lessons of the last paragraphs are as obvious as they are
important. That the greatest spiritual experiences are incommunicable;
that even the best men are in danger of elation and pride; that the
tendency of these sins is immensely strong, and can only be restrained
by constant pressure; that pain, though one day to be abolished, is a
means of discipline actually used by God; that it may be a plain duty
to accept some suffering, or sickness, even a humbling and distressing
one, as God's will for our good, and not to pray more for its removal;
that God's grace is given to those who so accept His will, as a real
reinforcement of their strength, nay, as a substitute, and far more,
for the strength which they have not; that weakness, therefore, and
helplessness, as foils to the present help of God, may actually be
occasions of glorying to the Christian,--all these, and many more, are
gathered up in this passionate Apologia of Paul.


[99] This is done by a number of critics, including Holsten and

[100] Godet gives the incident a peculiar turn, more ingenious than
convincing. "No doubt the list I have given is one of mere infirmities.
I might well boast of things apparently more glorious--as when the whole
of that great city, Damascus, was raised against me, and I could only
escape secretly."--_Introduction au Nouv. Test._, p. 393.

[101] In their margin Westcott and Hort read δὲ οὐ.

[102] The editors vary greatly in punctuation, especially as they do
or do not insert διὸ before the first ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι. Westcott and
Hort suspect some primitive error.

[103] For the meaning "thorn," not "stake" or "cross," see Ezek.
xxviii. 24; Hosea ii. 8 (6); Num. xxxiii. 55.

[104] I should lay no stress here on what some so much insist
upon--the use of ἐξεπτύσατε in Gal. iv. 14, and the fact that _morbus
despui suctus_ is a name for epilepsy: ἐκπτύειν does not mean
_despuere_, and after ἐξουθενεῖν it is necessarily metaphorical.

[105] Construe ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ with εὐδοκῶ.


                          _NOT YOURS, BUT YOU_

    "I am become foolish: ye compelled me; for I ought to have been
    commended of you: for in nothing was I behind the very chiefest
    apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were
    wrought among you in all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty
    works. For what is there wherein ye were made inferior to the rest
    of the Churches, except _it be_ that I myself was not a burden to
    you? forgive me this wrong.

    "Behold, this is the third time I am ready to come to you; and I
    will not be a burden to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the
    children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for
    the children. And I will most gladly spend and be spent for your
    souls. If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less? But be it
    so, I did not myself burden you; but, being crafty, I caught you
    with guile. Did I take advantage of you by any one of them whom I
    have sent unto you? I exhorted Titus, and I sent the brother with
    him. Did Titus take any advantage of you? walked we not by the same
    Spirit? _walked we_ not in the same steps?

    "Ye think all this time that we are excusing ourselves unto you. In
    the sight of God speak we in Christ. But all things, beloved, _are_
    for your edifying. For I fear, lest by any means, when I come, I
    should find you not such as I would, and should myself be found of
    you such as ye would not; lest by any means _there should be_
    strife, jealousy, wraths, factions, backbitings, whisperings,
    swellings, tumults; lest when I come again, my God should humble me
    before you, and I should mourn for many of them that have sinned
    heretofore, and repented not of the uncleanness and fornication and
    lasciviousness which they committed."--2 COR. xii. 11-21 (R.V.).

Expositors differ widely in characterising the three or four brief
paragraphs into which this passage may be divided: (1) vv. 11-13; (2)
vv. 14, 15, and vv. 16-18; (3) vv. 19-21. What is clear is, that we
feel in it the ground-swell of the storm that has raged through the last
two chapters, and that it is not till the beginning of chap. xiii. that
the Apostle finally escapes from this, and takes up an authoritative and
decisive attitude to the Corinthians. When he does reach Corinth, it
will not be to explain and justify his own conduct, either against
rivals or those whom rivals have misled, but to take prompt and vigorous
action against disorders in the life of the Church.

(1) A review of what he has just written leads to a burst of indignant
remonstrance. "I _have_ become foolish." The emphasis is on the verb,
not on the adjective; it is the painful fact that the eleventh chapter
of Second Corinthians is a thing that no wise man would have written
if he had been left to himself and his wisdom. Paul, who was a wise
man, felt this, and it stung him. He resented the compulsion which was
put upon him by the ingratitude and faithlessness of the Corinthians.
The situation ought to have been exactly reversed. When he was defamed
by strangers, then they, who knew him, instead of hearkening to the
calumniators, ought to have stood up in his defence. But they basely
left him to defend himself, to plead his own cause, to become a fool
by "glorying." This kind of compulsion should never be put upon a good
man, especially a man to whom, under God, we ourselves have been
deeply indebted. The services he has rendered constitute a claim on
our loyalty, and it is a duty of affection to guard his character
against disparagement and malice.

Paul, in his deep consciousness of being wronged, presses home the
charge against the Corinthians. They had every reason, he tells them,
to act as his advocates. When he was among them, he was in nothing
inferior to the "superlative" Apostles--this is his last flout at the
Judaist interlopers--nothing though he was. The signs that prove a man
to be an apostle were wrought among them (the passive expression keeps
_his_ agency in the background) in all patience, by signs and wonders
and mighty deeds. Their suspicions of him, their willingness to listen
to insinuations against him, after such an experience, were
unpardonable. He can only think of one "sign of the apostle" which was
not wrought among them by his means, of one point in which he had made
them inferior to the other Churches: he had not burdened them with his
support. They were the spoilt children of the apostolic family; and he
begs them, with bitter irony, to forgive him this wrong. If they had
only been converted by a man who stood upon his rights![106]

"The signs of an apostle" are frequently referred to in Paul's
Epistles, and are of various kinds. By far the most important, and the
most frequently insisted on, is success in evangelistic work. He who
converts men and founds Churches has the supreme and final attestation
of apostleship, as Paul conceives it. It is to this he appeals in 1
Cor. ix. 2; 2 Cor. iii. 1-3. In the passage before us Calvin makes
"patience" a sign--_primum signum nominat patientiam_. Patience is
certainly a characteristic Christian virtue, and it is magnificently
exercised in the apostolic life; but it is not peculiarly apostolic.
Patience in the passage before us, "every kind of patience," rather
brings before our minds the conditions under which Paul did his
apostolic work. Discouragements of every description, bad health,
suspicion, dislike, contempt, moral apathy and moral licence--the
weight of all these pressed upon him heavily, but he bore up under
them, and did not suffer them to break his spirit or to arrest his
labours. His endurance was a match for them all, and the power of
Christ that was in him broke forth in spite of them in apostolic
signs. There were conversions, in the first place; but there were also
what he calls here "signs [in a narrower sense], and wonders, and
mighty deeds." This is an express claim, like that made in Acts xv.
12, Rom. xv. 19, to have wrought what we call miracles. The three
words represent miracles under three different aspects: they are
"signs" (σημεῖα), as addressed to man's intelligence, and conveying a
spiritual meaning; they are "wonders" (τέρατα), as giving a shock to
feeling, and moving nature in those depths which sleep through common
experience; and they are "mighty works" or "powers" (δυνάμεις), as
arguing in him who works them a more than human efficiency. But no
doubt the main character they bore in the Apostle's mind was that of
χαρίσματα, or gifts of grace, which God ministered to the Church by
His Spirit. It is natural for an unbeliever to misunderstand even New
Testament miracles, because he wishes to conceive them, as it were,
_in vacuo_, or in relation to the laws of nature; in the New Testament
itself they are conceived in relation to the Holy Ghost. Even Jesus is
said in the Gospels to have cast out devils by the Spirit of God; and
when Paul wrought "signs and wonders and powers," it was in carrying
out his apostolic work graced by the same Spirit. What things he had
done in Corinth we have no means of knowing, but the Corinthians knew;
and they knew that these things had no arbitrary or accidental
character, but were the tokens of a Christian and an apostle.

(2) In the second paragraph Paul turns abruptly (ἰδοὺ, "behold!") from
the past to the future. "This is the third time I am ready to come to
you, and I will not burden you." The first clause has the same ambiguity
in Greek as in English; it is impossible to tell from the words alone
whether he had been already twice, or only once, in Corinth. Other
considerations decide, I think, that he had been twice; but of course
these cannot affect the construction of this verse: for the third time
he is in a state of readiness--this is all the words will yield. But
when he makes the new visit, whether it be his third or only his second,
one thing he has decided: he will act on the same principle as before,
and decline to be a burden to them. He does not speak of it boastfully
now, as in chap. xi. 10, for his adversaries have passed out of view,
but in one of the most movingly tender passages in the whole Bible. "I
will not lie on you like a benumbing weight, for I seek, not yours, but
you." It is not his own interest which brings him to Corinth again, but
theirs; it is not avarice which impels him, but love. In a sense,
indeed, love makes the greater claim of the two; it is far more to
demand the heart than to ask for money. Yet the greater claim is the
less selfish, indeed is the purely unselfish one; for it can only be
really made by one who gives all that he demands. Paul's own heart was
pledged to the Corinthians; and when he said "I seek _you_," he did not
mean that he sought to make a party of them, or a faction, in the
interest of his own ambition, but that the one thing he cared for was
the good of their souls. Nor in saying so does he claim to be doing
anything unusual or extraordinary. It is only what becomes him as their
father in Christ (1 Cor. iv. 15). "I seek _you_; for the children ought
not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children." Filial
duty, of course, is not denied here; Paul is simply bringing himself as
the spiritual father of the Corinthians under the general rule of nature
that "love descends rather than ascends." If this seems a hard saying to
a child's heart, it is at least true that it descends _before_ it
ascends. It all begins from God: in a family, it all begins from the
parents. The primary duty of love is parental care; and nothing is more
unnatural, though at a certain level it is common enough, than the
desire of parents to make money out of their children as quickly and as
plentifully as possible, without considering the ulterior interests of
the children themselves. This kind of selfishness is very transparent,
and is very naturally avenged by ingratitude, and the Apostle for his
part renounces it. "_I_," he exclaims, with all the emphasis in his
power--"_I_ have more than a natural father's love for you. I will with
all gladness spend, yes, and be spent to the uttermost, for your souls!
I will give what I have, yes, and all that I am, that you may be
profited." And then he checks that rush of affection, and dams up the
overflowing passion of his heart in the abrupt poignant question: "If I
love you more abundantly, am I loved less?"[107]

This is not the first passage in the Epistle, nor, near as we are to
the end, is it the last, in which Paul shows us the true spirit of the
Christian pastor. "Not yours, but you," is the motto of every minister
who has learned of Christ; and the noble words of ver. 15, "I will
very gladly spend and be spent to the last for your souls," recall
more nearly than any other words in Scripture the law by which our
Lord Himself lived--not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to
give life a ransom for many. Here, surely, is a sign of
apostleship--an unmistakable mark of the man who is specially called
to continue Christ's work. That work cannot be done at all except in
the spirit of Him who inaugurated it, and though love like Paul's, and
love like Christ's, may be mocked and trampled on, it is the only
power which has the right to speak in Christ's name. The joy of
sacrifice thrills through the Apostle's words, and it is joy in the
Holy Ghost; it is a fellowship with Christ in the very life of His
life that lifts Paul, for the moment, to the heavenly places. This is
the spirit in which wrong is to be met, and suspicion, calumny, and
contempt; it is in this, if at all, that we can be more than
conquerors. Nature says, "Stand upon your rights; vindicate your
position; insist on having all that you conceive to be your due"; but
love says, "Spend and be spent, and spare not till all is gone; life
itself is not too much to give that love may triumph over wrong."

It is not possible to write long as Paul writes in these two verses (14
and 15). The tension is too great both for him and for his readers. With
ἔστω δέ--"But be it so"--he descends from this height. He writes in the
first person, but he is plainly repeating what he assumes others will
say. "Very well, then, let that pass," is the answer of his enemies to
his friends when that passionate protestation is read. "He did not
_himself_ prove burdensome to us, but being crafty he brought us into
his net by guile. He exploited the Church in his own interest by means
of his agents." This charge the Apostle meets with a downright denial;
he can appeal to the knowledge which the Corinthians themselves possess
of the manner in which his agents have conducted themselves. He had no
doubt had occasion, far oftener than we know, to communicate with so
important and so restless a Church; and he challenges the Corinthians to
say that a single one of those whom he had sent had taken advantage of
them. He instances--perhaps as the last of his deputies, who had but
just returned from Corinth when he wrote this letter; perhaps as the one
on whom scandal had chosen to fasten--his "partner" and "fellow-labourer
toward them," Titus; and he refers to an unknown brother who had
accompanied him. They cannot mean to say (μήτι) that Titus took
advantage of them? "Walked we not in the same Spirit?" A modern reader
naturally makes "spirit" subjective, and takes it as equivalent to "the
same moral temper or principle"; an early Christian reader would more
probably think of the Holy Spirit as that which ruled in Paul and Titus
alike. In any case the same Spirit led to the same conduct; they walked
in the same self-denying path, and scrupulously abstained from burdening
the Corinthians for their support.

(3) We feel the meanness of all this, and are glad when the Apostle
finally turns his back on it. It is an indignity to be compelled even
to allude to such things. And the worst is, that no care a man can
take will prevent people from misunderstanding his indignant protest,
and from assuming that he is really on his trial before them, and not
improbably compromised. Paul's mind is made up to leave the
Corinthians no excuse for such misunderstanding and presumption. In
ver. 19 he reads their ignoble thought: "Ye have long[108] been
thinking"--_i.e._, all through the last two chapters, and, indeed,
more or less all through the Epistle; see chap. iii. 1--"that we are
making our defence at your bar. Far from it: at God's bar we speak in
Christ." He will not endure, with his visit to Corinth close at hand,
that there should be any misapprehension as to their relations. His
responsibility as a Christian man is not to them, but to God; He is
the Master to whom he stands or falls; it is He alone to whom he has
to vindicate his life. The Corinthians had been seating themselves in
imagination on the tribunal, and they are summarily set on the floor.
But Paul does not wish to be rude or unkind. "You are not my judges,
certainly," he seems to say, "but all I have said and done, beloved,
all I say and do, is for your building up in Christian life. My heart
is with you in it all, and I sincerely intend your good." We cannot
sufficiently admire the combination in the Apostle, or rather the
swift alternation, of all those intellectual and emotional qualities
that balance each other in a strong living character. He can be at
once trenchant and tender; inexorable in the maintenance of a
principle, and infinitely sympathetic and considerate in his treatment
of persons. We see all his qualities illustrated here.

Their edification is the governing thought on which the last verses of
the chapter turn, and on which eventually the whole Epistle rests (see
chap. xiii. 10). It is because he is interested in their edification
that he thinks with misgiving of the journey in prospect. "I fear lest
by any means when I come I find you not such as I would, and on my part
be found of you not such as ye would." What these two fears imply is
unfolded in due order in the remainder of the letter. The Corinthians,
such as Paul would not have them, are depicted in vv. 20 and 21; Paul,
in a character in which the Corinthians would prefer not to see him,
comes forward in chap, xiii., vv. 1-10. It is with the first only of
these two fears, the bad condition of the Corinthian Church, that we are
here concerned. This first fear has two grounds. The first is the
prevalence of sins which may perhaps be summarised as sins of self-will.
Strife, jealousy, passions, factions and low factious arts, backbitings,
whisperings, swellings, tumults: such is the catalogue. It illustrates
what has been well described as "the carnality of religious contention."
Almost all the sins here enumerated are directly connected with the
existence of parties and party feeling in the Church. They are of a kind
which has disgraced the Church all through its history, and the
exceeding sinfulness of which is not yet recognised by the great mass
of professing Christians. People do not consider that the Church, as a
visible society, more or less naturalised in the world, is as capable as
any other society of offering a career to ambition, or of furnishing a
theatre for the talents and the energies of self-seeking men; and they
have a vague idea that the wilfulness, the intriguing and factious arts,
the jealousy and conceit of men, are better things when put to the
service of the Church than when employed in mere selfishness. But they
are not. They are the very same, and they are peculiarly odious when
enlisted in His service who was meek and lowly in heart, and who gave
Himself for men. Paul's first list of sins is only too life-like, and
the fear grounded on it is one which many a modern minister can share.
The second list is made up of what might be called, in contrast with
sins of self-will, sins of self-indulgence--"uncleanness, fornication,
and lasciviousness that they wrought." Both together make up what the
Apostle calls the works of the flesh. Both together are the direct
opposite of those fruits of the spirit in which the true life of the
Church consists. Paul writes as if he were more alarmed about the sins
of the latter class. He puts μὴ ("lest") instead of μήπως ("lest by any
means": ver. 20), marking thus the climax, and something like the
certainty,[109] of his sad apprehension. "I fear," he says, "lest when I
come again my God should humble me before you"--or, perhaps "in
connexion with you." Nothing could more bow down a true and loving heart
like Paul's than to see a Church that he had regarded as the seal of
his apostleship--a congregation of men "washed, sanctified, and
justified"--wallowing again in the mire of sensual sins. He had been
proud of them, had boasted of them, had given thanks to God on their
behalf: how it must have crushed him to think that his labour on them
had come to this! Yet he writes instinctively "my God." This humiliation
does not come to him without his Father; there is a divine dispensation
in it, as far as he is concerned, and he submits to it as such. He dare
not think of it as a personal insult; he dare not think of the sinners
as if they had offended against _him_. He fears he will have to _mourn
over_ numbers of those who have before sinned, and who will not have
repented[110] of these sensualities before he reaches Corinth. In chap.
v. 2 of the First Epistle he sums up his condemnation of the moral
laxity of the Church in the presence of such evils in the words: _Ye did
not mourn_. He himself will not be able to avoid mourning: his heart
grows heavy within him as he thinks of what he must see before long.
This, again, is the spirit of the true pastor. Selfish anger has nothing
healing in it, nor has wounded pride; it is not for any man, however
good or devoted, to feel that he is entitled to resent it, as a personal
wrong, when men fall into sin. He is not entitled to resent it, no
matter how much he may have spent, or how freely he may have spent
himself, upon them; but he is bound to bewail it. He is bound to
recognise in it, so far as he himself is free from responsibility, a
dispensation of God intended to make him humble; and in all humility and
love he is bound to plead with the lapsed, not his own cause, but
God's. This is the spirit in which Paul confronts the sad duties
awaiting him at Corinth, and in this again we see "the signs of the

The two catalogues of sins with which this chapter closes remind us, by
way of contrast, of the two characteristic graces of Christianity:
self-will or party spirit, in all its forms, is opposed to brotherly
love, and self-indulgence, in all its forms, to personal purity. There
is much in this Epistle which would be called by some people theological
and transcendent; but no one knew better than Paul that, though
Christianity must be capable of an intellectual construction, it is not
an intellectual system in essence, but a new moral life. He was deeply
concerned, as we have repeatedly seen, that the Corinthians should think
right thoughts about Christ and the Gospel; but he was more than
concerned, he was filled with grief, fear, and shame, when he thought of
the vices of temper and of sensuality that prevailed among them. These
went to the root of Christianity, and if they could not be destroyed it
must perish. Let us turn our eyes from them to the purity and love that
they obscure, and lift up our hearts to these as the best things to
which God has called us in the fellowship of His Son.


[106] Αὐτὸς ἐγώ in ver. 13 has a peculiar emphasis, not easily
explained. It cannot mean "_I_ did not, though my assistants did," for
this is denied in ver. 18. Neither can it mean "_I_ did not, though
the Judaists did," for whatever is opposed to αὐτὸς ἐγώ must
nevertheless be conceived here as belonging to the same category,
which the Judaists did not. Possibly it only separates the _person_
expressly from his _works_, just recited, and has the same sort of
value as in Rom. ix. 3, where it emphasises the person as opposed to
the heart and conscience.

[107] This is the reading of our Revisers, and of Westcott and Hort's
text. In their margin they read: "I will very gladly spend, etc., if
loving you [ἀγαπῶν instead of ἀγαπῶ] more abundantly I am loved the
less." This reading and punctuation are adopted by a number of
scholars, but explained in two ways:--(1) As in the Authorised
Version, "_though_ the more abundantly," etc. But εἰ ("if"), which is
the true reading (not εἰ καί), cannot be translated "though." (2) By
others it is rendered, "I will very gladly spend, etc., if the more
abundantly I love you the less I am loved": that is, "if things have
come to such a pass between us that the natural relations are utterly
inverted, I will make any sacrifice to restore them to a better
footing." This is insipid and flat to the last degree: textual and
psychological considerations combine to support the Revisers text.

[108] Πάλαι is the true reading, not πάλιν. Westcott and Hort retain
the interrogation.

[109] This is also suggested by the reading ταπεινώσει, which
Tischendorf adopts in ver. 21, with B, D, E, F, etc. א, A, K, followed
by Westcott and Hort, have ταπεινώσῃ.

[110] It is more natural to construe ἐπὶ τῇ ἀκαθαρσιᾳ κ.τ.λ. with
μετανοησάντων than with πενθήσω.



    "This is the third time I am coming to you. At the mouth of two
    witnesses or three shall every word be established. I have said
    beforehand, and I do say beforehand, as when I was present the
    second time, so now, being absent, to them that have sinned
    heretofore, and to all the rest, that, if I come again, I will not
    spare; seeing that ye seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me;
    who to you-ward is not weak, but is powerful in you: for He was
    crucified through weakness, yet He liveth through the power of God.
    For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him through the
    power of God toward you. Try your own selves, whether ye be in the
    faith; prove your own selves. Or know ye not as to your own selves,
    that Jesus Christ is in you? unless indeed ye be reprobate. But I
    hope that ye shall know that we are not reprobate. Now we pray to
    God that ye do no evil; not that we may appear approved, but that ye
    may do that which is honourable, though we be as reprobate. For we
    can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. For we rejoice,
    when we are weak, and ye are strong: this we also pray for, even
    your perfecting. For this cause I write these things while absent,
    that I may not when present deal sharply, according to the authority
    which the Lord gave me for building up, and not for casting down.

    "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfected; be comforted; be of the
    same mind; live in peace: and the God of love and peace shall be
    with you. Salute one another with a holy kiss.

    "All the saints salute you.

    "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the
    communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all."--2 COR. xiii. (R.V.).

The first part of this chapter is in close connexion with what precedes;
it is, so to speak, the explanation of St. Paul's fear (xii. 20) that
when he came to Corinth he would be found of the Corinthians "not such
as they would." He expresses himself with great severity; and the
abruptness of the first three sentences, which are not linked to each
other by any conjunctions, contributes to the general sense of rigour.
"This is the third time I am coming to you" is a resumption of chap.
xii. 14, "This is the third time I am ready to come to you," and labours
under the same ambiguity; it is perhaps more natural to suppose that
Paul had actually been twice in Corinth (and there are independent
reasons for this opinion), but the words here used are quite consistent
with the idea that this was the third time he had definitely purposed
and tried to visit them, whether his purpose had been carried out or
not. When he arrives, he will proceed at once to hold a judicial
investigation into the condition of the Church, and will carry it
through with legal stringency. "At the mouth of two and (where
available) three witnesses shall every question be brought to decision."
This principle of the Jewish law (Deut. xix. 15), to which reference is
made in other New Testament passages connected with Church discipline
(Matt. xviii. 16; 1 Tim. v. 19), is announced as that on which he will
act. There will be no informality and no injustice, but neither will
there be any more forbearance. All cases requiring disciplinary
treatment will be brought to an issue at once, and the decision will be
given rigorously as the matter of fact, attested by evidence,
requires.[111] He feels justified in proceeding thus after the
reiterated warnings he has given them. To these reference is made in the
solemn words of ver. 2. English readers can see, by comparing the
Revised Version with the Authorised, the difficulties of translation
which still divide scholars. The words which the Authorised Version
renders "_as if I were_ present" (ὡς παρών) are rendered by the Revisers
"_as when I was present_." All scholars connect this ambiguous clause
with τὸ δεύτερον: "the second time." Hence there are two main ways in
which the whole passage can be rendered. The one is that which stands in
the Revised Version, and which is defended by scholars like Meyer,
Lightfoot,[112] and Schmiedel: it is in effect this--"I have already
forewarned, and do now forewarn, as I did on the occasion of my second
visit, so also now in my absence, those who have sinned heretofore, and
all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare." This is certainly
rather cumbrous; but assuming that chap. ii. 1 gives strong ground for
believing in a second visit already paid to Corinth--a visit in which
Paul had been grieved and humbled by disorders in the Church, but had
not been in a position to do more than warn against their
continuance--it seems the only available interpretation. Those who evade
the force of chap. ii. 1 render here in the line of the Authorised
Version: "I have forewarned [viz., in the first letter, _e.g._ iv. 21],
and do now forewarn, as though I were present the second time, although
I am now absent, those who have sinned," etc. So Heinrici. This, on
grammatical grounds, seems quite legitimate; but the contrast between
presence and absence, which is real and effective in the other
rendering, is here quite inept. We can understand a man saying, "I tell
you in my absence, just as I did when I was with you that second time":
but who would ever say, "I tell you as if I were present with you a
second time, although in point of fact I am absent"? The absence here
comes in with a grotesque effect, and there seems hardly room to doubt
that the rendering in our Revised Version is correct. Paul had, when he
visited Corinth a second time, warned those who had sinned before that
visit; he now warns them again, and all others with them who anticipated
his coming with an evil conscience, that the hour of decision is at
hand. It is not easy to say what he means by the threat not to spare.
Many point to judgments like that on Ananias and Sapphira, or on Elymas
the sorcerer; others to the delivering of the incestuous person to
Satan, "for the destruction of the flesh"; the supposition being that
Paul came to Corinth armed with a supernatural power of inflicting
physical sufferings on the disobedient. This uncanny idea has really no
support in the New Testament, in spite of the passages quoted; and
probably what his words aim at is an exercise of spiritual authority
which might go so far as totally to exclude an offender from the
Christian community.

The third verse is to be taken closely with the second: "I will not
spare, since ye seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me, who to
you-ward is not weak, but is powerful in you." The friction between
the Corinthians and the Apostle involved a higher interest than his.
In putting Paul to the proof, they were really putting to the proof
the Christ who spoke in him. In challenging Paul to come and exert
his authority, in defying him to come with a rod, in presuming on what
they called his weakness, they were really challenging Christ. The
description of Christ in the last clause--"who towards you is not
weak, but is powerful in you, or among you"--must be interpreted by
the context. It can hardly mean that in their conversion, and in their
experience as Christian people, they had evidence that Christ was not
weak, but strong: such a reference, though supported by Calvin, is
surely beside the mark. The meaning must rather be that for the
purpose in hand--the restoration of order and discipline in the
Corinthian Church--the Christ who spoke in Paul was not weak, but
mighty. Certainly any one who looked at Christ in Himself might see
proofs, in abundance, of weakness; going directly to the crowning one,
"He was _crucified_," the Apostle says, "_in virtue of weakness_." Sin
was so much stronger than He, in the days of His flesh, that it did
what it liked with Him. Sin mocked Him, buffeted Him, scourged Him,
spit upon Him, nailed Him to the tree--so utter was His weakness, so
complete the triumph of sin over Him. But that is not the whole story:
"He liveth in virtue of the power of God." He has been raised from the
dead by the glory of the Father; sin cannot touch Him any more: He has
all power in heaven and on earth, and all things are under His feet.
This double relation of Christ to sin is exemplified in His Apostle.
"For we also are weak in Him; but we shall live with Him, in virtue of
God's power, toward you." The sin of the Corinthians had had its
victory over Paul on the occasion of his second visit; God had humbled
him then, even as Christ was humbled on the cross; he had seen the
evil, but it had been too strong for him; in spite of his warnings,
it had rolled over his head. That "weakness," as the Corinthians
called it, remained; to them he was still as weak as ever--hence the
present ἀσθενοῦμεν: but to the Apostle it was no discreditable thing;
it was a weakness "in Christ," or perhaps, as some authorities read,
"with Christ." In being overpowered by sin for the moment, he entered
into the fellowship of his Lord's sufferings; he drank out of the cup
his Master drank upon the cross. But the cross does not represent
Christ's whole attitude to sin, nor does that incapacity to deal with
the turbulence, disloyalty, and immorality of the Corinthians
represent the whole attitude of the Apostle to these disorders. Paul
is not only crucified with Christ, he has been made to sit with Him in
the heavenly places; and when he comes to Corinth this time, it will
not be in the weakness of Christ, but in the victorious strength of
His new life. He will come clothed with power from on high to execute
the Lord's sentence on the disobedient.

This passage has great practical interest. There are many whose whole
conception of the Christian attitude toward evil is summed up in the
words: "He was crucified through weakness." They seem to think that
the whole function of love in presence of evil, its whole experience,
its whole method and all its resources, are comprehended in bearing
what evil chooses, or is able, to inflict. There are even bad people,
like the Corinthians, who imagine that this exhausts the Christian
ideal, and that they are wronged if they are not allowed by Christians
to do what they like to them with impunity. And if it is not so easy
to act on this principle in our dealings with one another--though
there are people mean enough to try it--there are plenty of
hypocrites who presume on it in their dealings with God. "He was
crucified through weakness," they say in their hearts; the cross
exhausts His relation to sin; that infinite patience can never pass
over to severity. But the assumption is false: the cross does _not_
exhaust Christ's relation to sin; He passed from the cross to the
throne, and when He comes again it is as Judge. It is the sin of sins
to presume upon the cross; it is a mistake that cannot be remedied to
persist in that presumption to the end. When Christ comes again, _He_
will not spare. The two things go together in Him: the infinite
patience of the cross, the inexorable righteousness of the throne. The
same two things go together in men: the depth with which they feel
evil, the completeness with which they suffer it to work its will
against them, and the power with which they vindicate the good. It is
the worst blindness, as well as the basest guilt, which, because it
has seen the one, refuses to believe in the other.

The Corinthians, by their rebellious spirit, were putting Paul to the
proof; in ver. 5 he reminds them sharply that it is their own standing
as Christians which is in question, and not his. "Try _yourselves_,"
he says, with abrupt emphasis, "_not me_; try _yourselves_, if ye are
in the faith; put _yourselves_ to the proof; or know ye not as to
_your own selves_, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless, indeed, ye be
reprobate." The meaning here is hardly open to doubt:[113] the Apostle
urges his readers individually to examine their Christian standing.
"Let each," he virtually says, "put himself to the proof, and see
whether he is in the faith." There is, indeed, a difficulty in the
clause, "Or know ye not as to your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in
you?--unless, indeed, ye be reprobate." This may be read either as a
test, put into their hands to direct them in their self-scrutiny; or
as an appeal to them after--or even before--the scrutiny has been
made. The manner in which the alternative is introduced--"unless,
indeed, ye are reprobates"--a manner plainly suggesting that the
alternative in question is _not_ to be assumed, is in favour of taking
it in the sense of an appeal. After all, they are a Christian Church
with Christ among them, and they cannot but know it. Paul, again, on
his side cannot think that they are reprobate, and he hopes they will
recognise that _he_ is not, but on the contrary a genuine Apostle,
attested by God, and to be acknowledged and obeyed by the Church. Very
often that temper which judges others, and calls legitimate spiritual
authority in question, is due, as in part it was among the
Corinthians, to inward misgivings. It is when people ought to be
putting themselves to the proof, and are with cause afraid to begin,
that they are most ready to challenge others. It was a kind of
self-defence--the self-defence of a bad conscience--when the
Corinthians required Paul to demonstrate his apostolic claims before
he meddled with their affairs. It was a plea, the sole purpose of
which was to enable them to live on as they were, immoral and
impenitent. It is properly retorted when he says, "Try _yourselves_ if
ye are in the faith; it is in every sense of the word an impertinence
to drag in anybody else."

In both cases Paul hopes the result of the trial will be satisfactory.
He would not like to think the Corinthians ἀδόκιμοι ("reprobate"), and
no more would he like them to regard him in that light. Still, the two
things are not on exactly the same footing in his mind; _their_
character is much dearer to him than his own reputation, provided they
are what they ought to be, he does not care what is thought of himself.
This is the general sense of vv. 7 to 9, and except in ver. 8 the
details are clear enough. He prays to God that the Corinthians may do no
evil. His object in this is not that he himself may appear approved;
indeed, if his prayer is granted, he will have no opportunity of
exercising the disciplinary authority of which he has said so much. It
will be open to any one then to say that he is ἀδόκιμος, reprobate, a
person to be rejected because he has not demonstrated his claim to
apostolic authority by apostolic action. But as long as they act well,
which is the real object of his prayer, he does not care, though he
_has_ to pass as ἀδόκιμος. He can bear evil report as well as good
report, and rejoice to fulfil his vocation under the one condition as
well as the other. This is only one aspect of that sacrifice of self to
the interest of the flock which is indispensable in the good shepherd.
As compared with any single member of his congregation, a minister may
be more in the eye of the world, more still in the eye of the Church;
and it is natural for him to think that some self-assertion, some
recognition and reputation, are due to his position. It is a mistake: no
man who understands the position at all will dream of asserting his own
importance against that of the community. The Church, the congregation
even, no matter how much it may be indebted to him, no matter if it owes
to him, as the Corinthian Church to Paul, its very existence in Christ,
is always greater than he; it will outlive him; and, however tender he
may naturally be of his own position and reputation, if the Church
prosper in Christian character, he must be as willing to let these dear
possessions go, and to count them worthless, as to part with money or
any material thing.

The real difficulty here lies in the eighth verse, where the Apostle
explains, apparently, why he acts on the principle just stated. "I pray
this prayer for you," he seems to say, "and I am content to pass as a
reprobate, while you do that which is honourable; for I can do nothing
against the truth, but for the truth." What is the connexion of ideas
alluded to by this "for"? Some of the commentators give up the question
in despair; others only remind one of the French pastor who said to some
one who preached on Romans: "Saint Paul est déjà fort difficile et ...
vous veniez après." As far as one can make out, he seems to say: "I act
on this principle because it is the one which furthers the truth, and
therefore is obligatory upon me; I am not able to act on one which would
injure or prejudice the truth." The truth, in this interpretation, would
be synonymous, as it often is in the New Testament, with the Gospel.
Paul is incapable of acting in a way that would check the Gospel, and
its influence over men; he has no choice but to act in its interest; and
therefore he is content to let the Corinthians think what they please of
him, provided his prayer is answered, and they do no evil, but rather
that which is good before God. For this is what the Gospel requires.
"Content," indeed, is not a strong enough word. "We _rejoice_," he says
in ver. 9, "when we are weak, and you are strong: this we also pray for,
even your perfecting." "Perfecting" is perhaps as good a word as can be
got for κατάρτισις: it denotes the putting right of all that is
defective or amiss.

It is in favour of this interpretation of the eighth verse that the
reason seems at first out of proportion to the conclusion. With an
idealist like Paul it is always so. He appeals to the loftiest motives
to influence the lowliest actions,--to faith in the Incarnation, as a
motive to generosity--to faith in the Resurrection Life, as a motive
to patient continuance in well-doing--to faith in the heavenly
citizenship of believers, as a motive to separation from the
licentious. In the same way he appeals here to a universal moral rule
to explain his conduct in a particular case. His principle everywhere
is, not to act in prejudice of (κατά) the Gospel, but in furtherance
of it (ὑπέρ); he has strength available for this last purpose, but
none at all for the former. It is the rule on which every minister of
Christ should always act; and if the line of conduct which it pointed
out sometimes led men to disregard their own reputation, provided the
Gospel was having free course, the very strangeness of such a result
might turn to the furtherance of the truth. It is by-ends that explain
nine-tenths of spiritual inefficiency; singleness of mind like this
would save us our perplexities and our failures alike.

It is because he has an interest like this in the Corinthians that
Paul writes as he has done while absent from Corinth. He does not
wish, when he comes among them, to proceed with severity. The power
the Lord gave him would entitle him to do so; yet he remembers that
this power was given him, as he has remarked already (x. 8), for
building up, and not for casting down. Even casting down with a view
to building up on a better basis was a less natural, if sometimes a
necessary, exercise of it; and he hopes that the severity of his words
will lead, even before his coming, to such voluntary action on the
part of the Church as will spare him severity in deed.

This is practically the end of the letter, and the mind involuntarily
goes back to the beginning. We see now the three great divisions of it
plainly before our eyes. In _the first seven chapters_ Paul writes
under the general impression of the good news Titus has brought from
Corinth. It has made him glad, and he writes gladly. The one case that
he had been concerned about has been disposed of in a way that he can
consider satisfactory; the Church, in the majority of its members, has
acted well in the matter. _The eighth and ninth chapters_ are a
digression: they are concerned solely with the collection for the poor
at Jerusalem, and Paul inserts them where they stand perhaps because
the transition was easy from his joy over the change at Corinth to his
joy over the liberality of the Macedonians. In _chaps, x. 1-xiii._ 10
he evidently writes in a very different strain. The Church, as a
whole, has returned to its allegiance, especially on the moral
question at issue; but there are Jewish interlopers in it, subverting
the Gospel, and reconverting Paul's converts to their own illiberal
faith; and there are also, as it would appear, numbers of sensual
people who have not yet renounced the vilest sins. It is these two
sets of persons who are in view in the last four chapters; and it is
the utter inconsistency of Judaic nationalism on the one hand, and
Corinthian licence on the other, with the spiritual Gospel of the Son
of God, that explains the seventy of his tone. "The truth" is at
stake--the truth for which he has suffered all that he recounts in
chap. xi.--and no vehemence is too passionate for the occasion. Yet
love controls it all, and he speaks severely that he may not have to
act severely; he writes these things that, if possible, he may be
spared the pain of saying them.

And then the letter, like almost every letter, hastens in disconnected
sentences to its close. "Finally, brethren, farewell." He cannot but
address them affectionately at parting; when the heart recovers from the
heat of indignation, its unchanging love speaks again as before. Some
would render χαίρετε "rejoice," instead of "farewell"; to Paul's
readers, no doubt, it had a friendly sound, but "rejoice" is far too
strong. In all the imperatives that follow there is a reminiscence of
their faults as well as a desire for their good: "be perfected, be
comforted, be of the same mind, live in peace." There was much among
them to rectify, much that was inevitably disheartening to overcome,
much dissension to compose, much friction to allay; but as he prays them
to face these duties he can assure them that the God of love and peace
will be with them. God can be characterised by love and peace; they are
His essential attributes, and He is an inexhaustible source of them, so
that all who make peace and love their aim can count confidently to be
helped by Him. It is, as it were, the first step of obedience to these
precepts--the first condition of obtaining the presence of God which has
just been promised--when the Apostle writes, "Greet one another with a
holy kiss." The kiss was the symbol of Christian brotherhood; in
exchanging it Christians recognised each other as members of one
family. To do this even in form, to do it with solemnity in a public
assembly of the whole Church, was to commit themselves to the
obligations of peace and love which had been so set at naught in their
religious contentions. It is a generous encouragement to them to
recognise each other as children of God when he adds that all the
Christians about him recognise them in that character. "All the saints
salute you." They do so because they are Christians and because you are;
acknowledge each other, as you are all acknowledged from without.

The letter is closed, like all that the Apostle wrote, with a brief
prayer. "The grace of the Lord Jesus [Christ], and the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." Of all such
prayers it is the fullest in expression, and this has gained for it
pre-eminently the name of the apostolic benediction. It would be too
much to say that the doctrine of the Trinity, as it has been defined
in the creeds, is explicitly to be found here; there is no statement
at all in this place of the relations of Christ, God, and the Holy
Spirit. Still, it is on passages like this that the Trinitarian
doctrine of God is based; or rather it is in passages like this that
we see it beginning to take shape: it is based on the historical fact
of the revelation of God in Christ, and on the experience of the new
divine life which the Church possesses through the Spirit. It is
extraordinary to find men with the New Testament in their hands giving
explanations, speculative or popular, of this doctrine, which stand in
no relation either to the historical Christ or to the experience of
the Church. But these things hang together; and whatever the worth may
be of a Trinitarian doctrine which is not essentially dependent on the
Person of Christ and on the life of His Church, it is certainly not
Christian. The historical original of the doctrine, and the impulse of
experience under which Paul wrote, are suggested even by the order of
the words. A speculative theologian may try to deduce the Triune
nature of God from the borrowed assumption that God is love, or
knowledge, or spirit; but the Apostle has only come to know God as
love through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this which
reveals God's love and assures us of it; it is this by which God
commends His own love to us. "No man cometh unto _the Father_ but by
_Me_," Jesus said; and this truth, pre-announced by the Lord, is
certified here by the very order in which the Apostle instinctively
puts the sacred names. "The communion of the Holy Spirit" stands last;
it is in this that "the grace of the Lord Jesus and the love of God"
become the realised possessions of Christian men. The precise force of
"the communion" is open to doubt. If we take the genitive in the same
sense as it bears in the previous clauses, the word will mean "the
fellowship or unity of feeling which is produced by the Spirit." This
is a good sense, but not the only one: what Paul wishes may rather be
the joint participation of them all _in_ the Spirit, and in the gifts
which it confers. But practically the two meanings coincide, and our
minds rest on the comprehensiveness of the blessing invoked on a
Church so mixed, and in many of its members so unworthy. Surely "the
grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion
of the Holy Ghost" were with the man who rises so easily, so
unconstrainedly, after all the tempest and passion of this letter, to
such a height of love and peace. Heaven is open over his head; he is
conscious, as he writes, of the immensities of that love whose breadth
and length and depth and height pass knowledge. In the Son who
revealed it--in God who is its eternal source--in the Spirit through
whom it lives in men--he is conscious of that love and of its
workings; and he prays that in all its aspects, and in all its
virtues, it may be with them all.

    _Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury._


[111] Although it is supported by commentators like Chrysostom and
Calvin, it is difficult to treat otherwise than as a whim the idea
that Paul's two or three visits to Corinth make _him_ equal to the two
or three witnesses required by the law. So also Godet, who counts the
three thus: (1) a warning by word of mouth during his second visit;
(2) this letter; (3) his actual arrival for the third time.

[112] See _Biblical Essays_, p. 274.

[113] Another interpretation is worth mentioning. "Try _yourselves_, I
say; put _yourselves_ to the proof; _do not leave it for me to do_ when
I come. Why, do you not recognise as to your own selves that Jesus
Christ is among you, so that you have spiritual competence to proceed in
correcting the disorders of the Church?--unless, indeed, ye are
reprobates: which is an impossible supposition. But ἑαυτοὺς certainly
suggests that in the implied contrast Paul is _object_, not _subject_."


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Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation and spelling errors have been fixed throughout.

Inconsistent hyphenation left as in the original text.

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