1 That he hath approved himself a faithful minister of Christ, both by his exhortation, 3 and by integrity of life, 4 and by patient enduring all kinds of affliction and disgraces for the gospel. 10 Of which he speaketh the more boldly amongst them, because his heart is open to them, 13 and he expecteth the like affection from them again, 14 exhorting to flee the society and pollutions of idolaters, as being themselves temples of the living God.
E then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
Douay Rheims Version
He exhorts them to a correspondence with God's grace and not to associate with unbelievers.
ND we helping do exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain.
18. And I will receive you. And will be a Father to you: and you shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
i. He exhorts them not to neglect the proffered grace of reconciliation spoken of at the end of the last chapter.
ii. He points out (ver. 4) the qualities required in ministers, especially in Apostles and preachers of the Gospel.
iii. He declares (ver. 11) how his heart was filled with love of the Corinthians, and he strives to stir them up to like love.
iv. He warns them (ver. 14) by many contrasts carefully to avoid holding intercourse or intermarrying with unbelievers.
Ver. 1.—We then, as workers together with Him. We, as workers together with God, beseech you to accept this proffered reconciliation, spoken of in vers. 18, 19, and 20, of the preceding chapter.
Beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. He receives grace into a vacuum, says Anselm, who does not work with it, who does not give it his heart, and who, through sloth, makes that grace ineffectual, by not doing, all that he can to express it in good works. In other words, do not suppose that faith alone is reconciliation, for a good life and good works are also indispensable. So Theophylact, following Chrysostom.
Observe that the Apostle applies the word grace to the general benefit of reconciliation of the world through Christ’s redemption; for it was of this that he had just been treating. Nevertheless, under that he comprehends that particular grace which Christ has merited for each one, and which God gives to each one, to enable each one to become a partaker of the general redemption wrought by Christ.
Ver. 2.—For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted (Isa. xlix. 8). The Apostle proves that now is the time of grace and reconciliation, in order that we way not receive this grace in vain, from the fact that Isaiah had foretold that this would be the time of grace. He is anticipating an objection which might be raised. It might be said by some one: “It is not in my power to receive the grace of God; for to give it or not to give it depends on the will of God. How, then, can you exhort me to receive it?” Paul replies. Now is the time accepted, now is the time of salvation, now is the time of grace, when, as Isaiah foretold, God offers His grace to all, and hears the desires and petitions of all.
In a time accepted. This time is the period of the law of grace, or the present life of Christians, during which they have the opportunity of doing good works and obtaining merit. But after this life it is not called “a time accepted;” for in this time only has God been pleased to offer to all men, through Christ, His grace of reconciliation, loving-kindness, and salvation. It is called accepted and acceptable, i.e., most welcome, and worthy of being received with the greatest possible rejoicing and praise, since it brings salvation to the world through Christ.
These words are addressed by the Father to the Son. I have heard, i.e., since the prophetic eye sees the future as already present, I will hear Thee, My Son, making request for Thy members, and in Thy faithful members, and asking for help, and grace, and, salvation. And in the day of salvation, in the time of grace, when I will call all men to eternal salvation by Thee, 0 Christ, have I succoured Thee, i.e., I will succour Thee, so that you shall obtain in, Christians, as Thy members, the salvation that is offered them by Thee. So Ambrose, Chrysostom, Anselm. Cf. Isa. lxi 2, where Christ says that He is sent to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn. This acceptable year was typified by the year of jubilee. The whole time, therefore, that Christ preached, and after that the whole time of the New Law, was, and is, to them that obey Christ and accept His free gift, a year of jubilee, of mercy, peace, forgiveness, salvation, and freedom. In this year, after the long-standing. wrath of God against us, we are restored to His grace, good-will, to our glorious inheritance, and all the original good things which we had in the state of innocence in Paradise. The same time, the same year, was the day of vengeance on our foes, when God avenged the human race on its enemies by delivering them from their tyranny.
Ver. 3.—Giving no offence in anything. When we speak of the day on which all are called by Christ to be saved, let us be careful that we put no stumbling-block in any one’s way, and by our self indulgence, or gloominess, or cowardice cause him to refuse to accept, or advance in the way of salvation; else we Apostles, who do all that we can by our preaching and living to induce all to accept salvation, will be blamed.
Ver. 4.—Approving ourselves. “Commending ourselves” (Erasmus), “declaring ourselves,” as others render it; but “showing ourselves” (Syriac) is the best. The Latin version, however, takes it in the Optative, “let us show ourselves.” Paul is here again defending himself and praising himself because of his rivals, the false apostles; and he exhorts all Christians, and especially all preachers of the Gospel, of whom there were many at Corinth, to live up to the Evangelical and Apostolical life. At the same time he tacitly describes his own life, his sufferings, fortitude, and virtues, that others may imitate him, and may in their own lives offer a contrast to the pride, self-indulgence, cowardice, and other vices of the false apostles. As we shall see in chap. xi., he is forced in this Epistle to praise himself in self-defence.
S. Paul here puts forward a living picture of a true and genuine Apostle and preacher of the Gospel, by which any one may examine teachers whose faith and uprightness are suspected. This picture is also a model for all teachers and pastors to copy. S. Paul wishes the Corinthians to see the injustice of preferring their false apostles and blatant demagogues before himself and his fellow-Apostles, in whom all the marks of a true Apostle will easily be found. These marks he now proceeds to enumerate.
As the ministers of God in much patience. The exhibition of suffering endured not once but often is a plain proof of apostleship. The word “patience” is to be referred to what follows. Let us show ourselves, says S. Paul, as ministers of God, by suffering many tribulations, necessities, distresses, stripes, and other afflictions. For men admire this patience as a higher philosophy, they themselves being accustomed when they are injured to be angry, indignant, and to avenge themselves by blows and angry words, and thus they are led to infer the truth of Christian doctrine and to recognise the Spirit of God. For example, S. Xavier and his companion Juan Fernandez made no progress in Japan until a man one day spat in the face of one of them; whereupon the Saint gently wiped his face and proceeded with his sermon as though he had suffered nothing, and bore with most exemplary patience their scoffs and insults. The keen-witted Japanese so admired this fortitude that they at once proceeded to honour them as men descended from heaven, and to vie with each other in embracing the faith they taught. The heathen Epictetus also saw the power of constancy and long-suffering, and taught his followers to show the wisdom he had taught them, not so much by words as by deeds of endurance. In his Enchiridion (c. 29), he says: “Be not in a hurry to utter thy words to the unskilful; but rather let thy words act as fuel to the flames of thy deeds; for sheep do not ask us to prove by reasonings how much they may have eaten, but they quietly digest their food, and show its results in wool and milk.” So Christ (S. Matt. vii. 16) says of false prophets, “by their fruits ye shall know them;” and again, in S. Luke viii. 15, speaking, of the seed of the Gospel which falls into good ground, He says “these are they which in an honest and good heart having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
In necessities.—In want of food, drink, and clothing. Theophylact takes the word in a more general sense, as denoting the intensity and severity of his tribulations, when they become so overwhelming that escape seems impossible, and drive a man into extreme necessity, and as it were stifle him.
Ver. 5.—In tumults. Being constantly hunted from one city to another, so that I have no place to abide in, but am forced to be always going hither and thither. The word may, however, also denote popular outbreaks or tumults, as in S. Luke xxi. 9.
Ver. 6.—By pureness. Being pure in all things, not only inasmuch as Paul was guiltless of bribery, and forbade his disciples to yield to it, but also because he preached not at others’ expense, as Theophylact says. The Latin version gives the word a narrower meaning, as denoting pure and perfect chastity, abstinence from every lustful action, the cultivation of angelic purity, such as was seen in Paul and the other Apostles. Every infidel and heretic looks upon this as a token that a man is a true minister of God; and he rightly thinks that chastity with himself is impossible. It is possible among Catholics alone, inasmuch as they are sharers in the true faith and in the grace of God. Hence you will not find among heretics virgins or houses of virgins, or monks or monasteries, no, nor even celibate priests. These are to be found in every age in the Roman Catholic Church alone, which has followed, and taught her members to follow, Paul and the other Apostles as her guides and teachers.
By knowledge. Let us see that we do not appear to some to be unskilled and untaught as to what things Christians are to do and avoid. Let us rather show that we know such things, by teaching others the good they are to do, and the evil that they are to avoid, that so they may attain salvation, and that all may know us to be God’s ministers, preachers, and Apostles. So Ambrose. Anselm, not amiss, thinks that knowledge here denotes acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures.
By kindness. Let us not be rancorously bitter against those who trouble us, but let us be gentle and kindly disposed to them, in thought, word, and deed, that all may say that we are God’s ministers. It is evidently a sign of adamantine fortitude, says Theophylact, when any one, being harassed and attacked on every side, is not only long-suffering, but also gentle and kind. It is superhuman, Christ-like, God-like.
Such was S. Athanasius, of whom Nazianzen says in his oration in his praise: “Athanasius was in his life high and lifted up, in his mind filled with humility; of such urbanity that all might easily approach him; forgiving, free from all anger, compassionate, Pleasant in speech, pleasanter still in his life, in shape like an angel, in mind still more angelic, calm when rebuking others, able to instruct when he gave praise, as far removed from easy-going carelessness as from harsh severity; in short, he was adamant to those that struck against him, a magnet to those that stood apart from him.”
By the Holy Ghost. By the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and by the works we do by His help and guidance. Let us do everything with so pious, kind, sincere, and fervent spirit, that it may be apparent that we are not moved by vanity or pride, but by the Holy Spirit. So Anselm, Theophylact, Chrysostom.
Ver. 7.—By the word of truth. By purely and sincerely preaching Gospel truth, let us show ourselves ministers of God.
By the power of God. By working miracles, or rather, with Chrysostom, by Christian constancy and fortitude displaying itself in so many adversities, so many labours, such vehemence of word, and so effectual preaching. All such things come to us through the power of God, and prove us to be powerful ministers of Him, worthy of all admiration.
By the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left. Both in prosperity and adversity let us take as our arms works of righteousness, i.e., of virtuous deeds springing from a righteous and holy life, that we may neither be lifted up by prosperity nor cast down by adversity. So Anselm. But Chrysostom and Theophylact say that the left hand denotes adversity, and the right prosperity, which two things, by alternate action, fortify the servants of God like armour, so that they are neither exalted to pride nor cast down into despondency.
Ver. 8.—By honour and dishonour. Whether we are honoured and praised, or dishonoured and abused, as, e.g., when the Lycaonians wished to worship Paul as God, and directly afterwards to stone him as an impostor. The preposition by is here equivalent to in. See note to 1 Tim. ii. 15.
By evil report and good report. Whether we are spoken evil of, or are in great repute.
As deceivers. Regarded as such, says Ambrose, when yet we are true.
As unknown, and yet well known. Looked upon by unbelievers and heretics as unknown and obscure, but yet well known to God and our own consciences (Ambrose).
Ver. 9.—As dying. We may seem to be always dying through our daily dangers, persecutions, and trials, but God preserves us alive and unharmed.
As chastened and not killed. Let us show ourselves as ministers of God (ver. 4), by being chastened and not killed.
Ver. 10.—As poor, yet making many rich. By enriching them with earthly goods as well as with things Divine and heavenly. S. Paul was collecting alms for the poor Saints, and especially those of Jerusalem.
As having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (1.) I have all things necessary, and I want no more; nay, what is more, I despise them as vile and beneath me, whence I am as though I possessed all things. (2.) Though we Apostles are poor, yet are we the head of the faithful, the richest of whom bring all their goods and lay them at our feet (Ambrose and Anselm). Cf. Chrysostom here and Homily (in Moral.). (3.) Possessing all things may also be understood to mean, having books, garments, and all other necessary things, all meaning “some out of all,” and being “distributed” according to classes of individuals, and not according to the individuals of classes. Others say that all things refers to God, and they who possess Him possess all things. But this last sense is mystical and symbolical.
Anselm remarks that as though is here prefixed to what is painful, but not to what is joyful, because all the sadness of the Saints is but apparent. It is short-lived, and passes away as a dream, and seems but a shadow, and is not sorrow, but a mere semblance of it. The joy of the Saints, however, has no as though, because it is founded on the sure and certain hope of eternal bliss. On the other hand, the joy of the wicked has here the prefix as though, because it is brief and shadowy as a dream, while their sorrow will have no as, because it will be eternally bitter.
Observe the nature of the life of Paul and the other Apostles. It was such a life as is led by religious, whose fathers were the Apostles. Nazianzen (Oral. 1 de Pace), in describing this life, says: “Their life is one of wealth in the midst of need, of great possessions while but pilgrims, of glory amid scorn, patience in weakness, a noble offspring in celibacy: instead of riches they have contempt of riches; for the kingdom of heaven’s sake they embrace humility; they have nothing in the world, and yet they are superior to the world; they are in the flesh, and yet live out of the flesh; they have God for their portion; their hope of the Kingdom makes them labour in want, and through want they rein.” Such was the life of Bishops and apostolic men. Sulpitius praises S. Martin for fulfilling the dignified duties of a Bishop without abandoning his purpose as a monk. Posidonius relates of S. Augustine that he lived so frugally as to be content with bread and vegetables, seldom providing flesh except for his guests; he says also that when he was at the point of death he left no will, because, as he said, Christ’s poor had nothing to leave. Still he was able to refute Arians, Manichees, Donatists, and Pelagians, and became one of the first columns and doctors of the Churches. Of Exuperius, Bishop of Toulouse, S. Jerome says: “When hungry himself he fed others, and showed by his face, wasted and wan with constant fasting, that he was consumed by hunger after other things.”
This therefore, is the norm and form of the apostolic life prescribed by S. Paul to all who are desirous of perfection and the salvation of their souls. From this was drawn the short rule of the Institute of our Order, a printed copy of which each of us is wont to carry about with him, and to apply to it his eyes and mind, regarding it as his private monitor, and a keen spur to zeal for virtue, nay, as a living mirror of our vocation and profession. It says as follows: “The nature of our life demands that we be men crucified to the world, and to whom the world itself is crucified; new men, who have put off their affections to put on Christ; dead to themselves, to live to righteousness; men who, as S. Basil says, show themselves to be ministers of Christ 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; men who by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report, in prosperity and adversity, are themselves hastening by force marches to their heavenly country, and wish all zealous labour compelling others also, always aiming at the greatest glory of God. This is the summary, this one thing the aim and object of our constitutions, viz., Jesus.”
Ver. 11.—0 ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you. My mouth is open, it longs to say more to you, and to express all my affection for you, and it cannot. No matter what and how much I may say, it is less than my affection. The Apostle says this to show that what he had said of his patience, tribulations, and virtues was not from self-love, but from friendship, trust, and love towards the Corinthians. Friends are in the habit of interchanging their secret joys and sorrows, and thus showing their love for each other. When this is great they more and more try to express it, but find themselves unable to do justice to their feelings. This is what Paul does here.
The two ideas of “straitening” and “enlarging” are frequently contrasted by the Hebrews, to denote on the one hand sadness, timidity, suspicion, and avarice, and on the other joyfulness and generosity of heart. As sadness and avarice contract the heart, the brow, and the hands, so joy, cheerfulness, and charity expand them. Cf. Ps. cxix. 32, and 1 Kings iv. 29.
Ver. 12.—Ye are not straitened in us. You dwell fully and spaciously in my heart as in your home. My love builds for you a spacious house.
Ye are straitened in your own bowels. The love of your hearts for me is so small that it contracts them, and barely gives me place there. Your love and good-will do not equal mine. The Corinthians would seem to have been alienated from Paul by the calumnies of the false apostles; he, therefore, declares the greatness of his love for them, that he may kindle theirs in return.
Moreover, Paul seemed to have in his First Epistle straitened the Corinthians by prohibiting them from idolatry, from going to law before unbelieving judges, from their love-feasts and sumptuous banquets; and in ver. 14 he is about to straiten them by forbidding a believer to marry with an unbeliever. He here paves the way by urging them to receive, with the large-hearted love of Christ, his apparently straitening precepts, which are not his but Christ’s.
Ver. 13.—Now for a recompence in the same . . . be ye also enlarged. S. Paul is speaking of a return of love, and not, as some think, of the heavenly reward. These latter take the meaning to be, that since the Corinthians were to have the same reward in heaven, they should enlarge their love for S. Paul. But the sense clearly is that they should repay S. Paul’s for them with an equal measure of love on their part.
Ver. 14.—Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Do not have so close fellowship with them in matters of religion as to be gradually led away to share in their unbelief, as, e.g., in marriage. Separate yourselves from the unbelievers’ assemblies, temples, sacrifices, feasts; do not intermarry with them, for all commerce with them is either wicked and unrighteous in itself, or is dangerous to those who hold it, and a cause of offence to others. Do not imitate the Jews, whose laxity is recorded in PS. cvi. 35 (Chrysostom, Ambrose, Theophylact). S. Jerome (contra Jovin. lib. i.) understands S. Paul to warn against intermarriage with unbelievers. There seems to be an allusion to Ps. cvi. 28, “They joined themselves unto Baal-peor,” which refers to the fornication committed by the Israelites in honour of Baal-peor. So, whoever marries with an unbeliever may be said to join himself to Baal-peor, i.e., the devil, the ruler of unbelievers. Anselm again supposes that by “unbelievers” is meant the Judaising false apostles, who were attempting to eviscerate the faith of Christ by making the ceremonies of the law of Moses binding on Christians. Such men are more dangerous to Christians, and more to be shunned than unbelieving Gentiles, and therefore S. Paul warns his readers against them. This sense is good but defective, for the Apostle wishes the fellowship of all unbelievers whatsoever to be avoided
The Apostle is here passing on, as is usual in letters, to discuss another point of importance just then to the Corinthians, viz., the duty of avoiding unbelievers. It is in vain, therefore, for any one to seek for connecting links with what has gone before.
Erasmus observes that the Latin version is happy in its translation here; it renders the passage: “Do not be joined in the same yoke with unbelievers.” For if a Christian marry a heathen wife, or a Christian magistrate have a Gentile as colleague, he is called έτεροζυγω̃ν. Marriages of this kind S. Jerome calls unequal.
Observe upon this that έτερος signifies sometimes one of two, sometimes an object that is diverse, whether from some one other or from several others. Thus the word occurs in a compound word, to denote one who lacks an eye, and again to denote one who is of a different opinion (έτεροφθάλμος and έτερόδοξος). And hence it is uncertain whether S. Paul here means one who bears one-half of a yoke, or one who bears a yoke in company with one of a different condition.
Budæus takes the former of these two, and understands S. Paul to exhort the Corinthians not to bear one part of a yoke with unbelievers, just as in Campania two oxen bear the same yoke, one on each side.
Others more properly take the latter meaning, and understand the warning to be against such an alliance as that of an ox and an ass would be in the same yoke (Deut. xxii. 10). This interpretation is rendered more probable from the words that follow—“what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?”
Theophylact again thinks that the warning is against accommodating one’s principles to those of our partner in wedlock. He says that the allusion here is not to a yoke but to the beam of a balance, and one especially that is unequally weighted, so that one side is lower than the other. We are not to be like such a balance, and lean towards an unrighteous or unbelieving partner.
For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteous? The just with the unjust, believers with unbelievers.
It was hard for the Corinthians, while Christians were so few, to be forbidden to have commerce and intermarriage with unbelievers. Many amongst them would find a difficulty in obtaining partners of equal rank, or wealth, or position; and hence they would either be obliged to abstain from marriage, or else marry an inferior. Moreover, by natural and Divine law there was nothing simply and absolutely to prohibit them from allying themselves with unbelievers; still such alliance would be unbecoming and full of danger, and hence it is forbidden by the Apostle. But to reconcile them to so severe a precept he puts before them five contrasts drawn from the inherent opposition between Christianity and heathenism.
(1.) Unequal wedlock is a heavy yoke, burdensome to both parties, even as it would be if a horse and an ox were yoked together. (2.) Light and darkness cannot cohere in the same subject or be in the same place at once; therefore one of the faithful, who has the light of faith, cannot well enter into the same yoke with one who is full of the darkness of unbelief. (3.) There is no concord between Christ and Belial: believers belong to Christ, unbelievers to Belial; therefore they cannot agree. (4.) The believer has no part or communion with the unbeliever, but differs from him as widely as belief from unbelief, heaven from hell; therefore they cannot be joined together. (5.) The temple of God cannot be associated with the idols and temples of devils; neither, therefore, can a believer with an unbeliever. For each of the faithful is a temple of God, and the unbeliever is a temple and image of the devil.
Ver. 15.—What concord hath Christ with Belial? What harmony can there be between Him who is the Author of all knowledge, obedience, and righteousness and the devil with his followers?
The Hebrew Belial denotes (1.) disobedience, rebellion, ungodliness; (2.) those who have these qualities; and (3.) the devil, as the first apostate, the first to shake of the yoke of obedience to God and His law. Hence apostates are called “sons of Belial,” i.e., children of the devil, or children of disobedience, rebellion ungodliness
What part hath he that believeth with an infidel? What is there common to both, to be shared by both? So, in 1 Kings xii. 16, we find: “What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse.” This antithesis explains the three preceding ones. It is not right for a believer to be joined with an unbeliever, even as it is not possible for righteousness to be joined to unrighteousness, light to darkness, Christ to Belial, the temple of God with idols.
Ver. 16.—Ye are the temple of the living God. By faith, grace, and holiness. S. Cyprian (de Orat. Domin.) says beautifully: “Let us show ourselves in our lives as the temples of God, that all may see that God indwells within us, so that we who have begun to be heavenly and spiritual, may think and do nothing but what is spiritual and heavenly.” The Hebrew word for “temple” connotes power and majesty. Hence Chrysostom (Hom. 17 in Ep. ad Heb.) says that God ordered Solomon’s Temple to be made exceeding magnifical, that the Jews, who were naturally attracted by outward things, might be led to know something of the majesty of God. Why, then, should not Christians ornament their temples, as the houses of God, and show honour to God, and especially to the body of Christ present with them, and so excite others to reverence and love God? Such a temple, such a royal, nay, such a Divine palace, is the Church allegorically, and each faithful soul tropologically, as the Apostle here declares. In this temple God shows His great glory and majesty, by His exceeding great grace, by magnificent and glorious works of virtue, and by the power of His sacraments.
Villalpando (in Ezek. vol. ii. p. 256) sees a further reference in the Hebrew word for temple to motion or walking. The tabernacle was a movable temple in which God dwelt and walked with the Hebrews through the wilderness into their promised land. It is to this that S. Paul alludes in the words that follow.
I will walk in them. I will be their guardian, and will spiritually walk in them through the powers and virtues of the soul. Anselm points out that S. Paul quotes Ezek. xxxvii. 27 literally, and Lev. xxvi. 12 tropologically. What is said in the latter passage of the literal tabernacle of witness is to be understood of God’s protecting presence in each one of the faithful.
Allegorically this tabernacle signified the Church of Christ, as is explained in Ezek. xxvii. 27, and tropologically each holy soul, which is a temple of God moving through the wilderness of this world to its resting-place in heaven.
(i.) God walks in the soul as in His tabernacle when, through acts of faith, hope, and charity, He passes from the memory to the understanding, and thence to the will. For the faithful soul is as the temple of heaven: its sun is the understanding, or zeal for righteousness, its moon is faith and continence; its stars the other virtues, as S. Bernard says (Serm. 27 in Cantic.). (2.) God walks in the soul, inasmuch as He makes it by His grace go from virtue to virtue (Anselm and Theophylact). In the same way that in the tabernacle the way to the Holy of Holies through the Holy Place was by the altar of incense, the table of shew-bread, and the candle-stick, does God enable us to pass into heaven through holiness of life by prayer, almsgiving, chastity, and purity of soul. The altar of incense was a symbol of prayer, the table of almsgiving, the candle-stick of purity and brightness of life. (3.) God walks in the soul by way of contemplation. He causes us to follow in our minds His temples, as He passed from the temple of heaven to that of the Virgin’s womb, thence to that of Calvary, thence to hell, and finally back again to heaven. (4.) God walks in us corporally, says S. Ambrose, for the Word was made flesh and dwelt and walked amongst us, and daily by Holy Communion He dwells in us and walks with us.
Ver. 17.—Come out from among them. Isa. lii. 11, which is here quoted, taken literally ordered the Apostles and the faithful generally to come out, not from the unbelieving and unclean city of Babylon, but from Jerusalem, to be laid waste by Titus. But the Apostle, either tropologically or by parity of reasoning, applies it as an injunction to the faithful to avoid too great intimacy with unbelievers, and not to touch the unclean thing, that is unclean unbelievers; not to live with them, lest they stain themselves with their uncleannesses, such as drunkenness, lust, pride, ungodliness, and unrighteousness (Jerome, Cyril in Isa. lii., Chrysostom, Ambrose, Anselm).
1 He proceedeth in exhorting them to purity of life, 2 and to bear him like affection as he doth to them. 3 Whereof lest he might seem to doubt, he declareth what comfort he took in his afflictions, by the report which Titus gave of their godly sorrow, which his former epistle had wrought in them, 13 and of their loving kindness and obedience towards Titus, answerable to his former boastings of them.
AVING therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
5 For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.
6 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
Douay Rheims Version
The apostle's affection for the Corinthians. His comfort and joy on their account.
AVING therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and of the spirit, perfecting sanctification in the fear of God.
i. He declares his love, sincerity, and his confidence in the Corinthians.
ii. He declares (ver. 6) his joy at their repentance and amendment.
iii. He states (ver. 10) the signs and acts of true repentance.
iv. He names (ver. 13) Titus as his witness for the repentance, love, and obedience of the Corinthians.
Ver. 1.—Having therefore these promises. The promises that, Christians should be the temples of God, should be His sons and daughters, and should have God dwelling in them and walking in them.
Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. From this passage theologians draw the division of sin into that which is fleshly and that which is spiritual. The first has to do with a carnal object, and makes man like a beast, as, e.g., gluttony, lust, and drunkenness. The second has to do with a spiritual object, and makes man like a devil, as e.g., anger, pride, envy.
S. Basil (Reg. 53) says appropriately that “filthiness of the flesh denotes carnal actions, and filthiness of the spirit is having intercourse with them that do such things, as, e.g., the Corinthians had with the fornicator whom the Apostle bade them wholly to avoid.”
Perfecting holiness. So that the mind, purged from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, may be perfectly holy and pure, given in the fear of God to good works. The fear of God is both the beginning and perfecting of true wisdom and holiness (Ecclus i. 16, 19, and v. 18). The more the fear of God increases, the more does holiness increase, and so the perfect fear of God is perfect holiness. S. Basil (Reg. 53) says beautifully: “Holiness consists in being dedicated to God, and thenceforward wholly clinging to Him, in eagerly seeking after and earnestly maintaining such things as are pleasing to Him. Even in things offered to God as gifts those are rejected as unpleasing to Him which are maimed or defective; and to resume for human uses what has been once dedicated as a gift to God is infamous and accursed.”
Ver. 2.—Receive us. Embrace us with the arms of love, as with all our heart we do you (Theophylact). Cf. vi. 11-13. Strictly, the Greek denotes “make a place for us”—a large place in your hearts. Maldonatus (Not. Manusc.) renders the words. “Bear with me if I have praised myself over-much.”
We have defrauded no man. We have obtained no man’s goods, either by violence or fraud. Cf. ii. 11.
Ver.3.—I speak not this to condemn you. I do not mean to accuse you of suspecting me of such things.
Ye are in our hearts to die and live with you. So great is my love for you that with you and for you I am ready both to die and to live. How this harmonises with the preceding will be seen in ver. 4. S. Paul alludes to lovers, whose love is commonly so ardent as to make them of one life, to hold all things in common, and to involve one in the death of the other. Cf. Nilus and Euryalus in Virgil, Æn. ix. 427-445; the Soldurii, mentioned by Caesar in lib. iii. de Bello Gallico, and the sacred cohort of the Thebans, described by Plutarch. Erasmus and others add that the Apostle is referring to that ancient kind of friendship in which on the death of one friend the other also killed himself, as Caesar records that the Soldurii were in the habit of doing. Such was the friendship Horace says that he had with Mæcenas. In Peru and Mexico wives and the better-loved servants, when the husband or master dies, throw themselves upon the funeral pyre, or are buried alive with the dead body. In Japan, too, when noblemen are condemned to death, they in company with their nearest friends inflict death on themselves by ripping themselves up. Such suicide the Apostle condemns, but praises and embraces the friendship. He seems to say: “As they love each other even to death, so do I, 0 Corinthians, love you, and long to live with you and die with you; but I do not, as they, long to inflict on myself death.” But there is no need to suppose that the Apostle finds a model for his love in illicit and parricidal friendships. They chiefly manifested themselves in simultaneous death and self-murder, and were, therefore, wickednesses, and deserving blame rather than praise
Ver. 4.—Great is my boldness of speech toward you. My boldness is great because my love is so great. Hence comes my “glorying of you” (Theophylact and Ambrose). Paul says all this to banish all suspicion of his good faith, and to gain credence to his declaration, “We have wronged no man,” &c. “I have not said this,” he seems to sail, “out of any distrust of your good opinion of me, but out of the boldness engendered by my great love for you; hence it is that I am wont to glory of you.” Let superiors learn of S. Paul, to beware lest those under them distrust them, from a belief that their superiors do not believe them, do not trust in them, and do not therefore confidently entrust themselves and their goods to their superior; let them rather endeavour to deal openly with them, and let them know that they are loved; let them show that they have a good opinion of their inferiors, and by so doing they will bind their hearts to themselves, and turn them wherever they please.
I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation. Viz., because you have corrected what in my First Epistle I condemned. You have so comforted me that I not only am filled with comfort, but more than filled. This exuberance of joy drowns all feeling of my afflictions, even as floods of water put out a small fire.
Observe here that friendship produces four affections in the souls of friends. The first affection is one of trust, of which Paul says: “Great is my confidence in you;” the second is one of glorying, of which he says: “Great is my glorying of you;” the third is one of comfort, of which he says: “I am filled with comfort;” the fourth is one of superabundant joy, of which he says. “I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulations.”
Ver. 5.—Without were fightings. Unbelievers were openly hostile.
Within were fears. I was inwardly anxious, both because of false brethren and of weak Christians, lest they should be led to fall away through our persecutions (Anselm and Ambrose).
Ver. 7.—When he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more. I was before saddened through your divisions and other sins, but when I saw and heard of your desire to amend, your penitence for your sins, and your zeal to protect me against all detractors, I rejoiced.
Ver. 8.—For though I made you sorry with a better. Although in my First Epistle I made you sorry by rebuking your vices, nevertheless it was good for us, and it stirred you to repentance, which brought you at once peace and joy.
Though it were but for a season. My Epistle saddened you but for a short time, and it led you to repentance; therefore I rejoice both over my letter and your repentance.
Ver. 9.—Ye sorrowed to repentance. This sorrow led you to repentance, to mourning (ver. 7), to indignation and revenge (ver. 11). Repentance, therefore, is not merely a coming to one’s self again, as I will show directly by several proofs.
Ver. 10.—For gladly sorrow worketh repentance. Observe 1. that the Apostle here distinguishes two kinds of sorrow, one according to God, and one of the world. The sorrow of the world, or carnal sorrow, is that which springs from loss of excessively loved worldly goods—as when wealth or pleasures are lost, when friends or great men are offended. This sorrow often works death to the soul, by bidding us recover our goods and offend God. Not unseldom it even works diseases and death to the body, for many pine away and die through excessive grief. “Sorrow slays many,” says Ecclus. xxx. 25, “and there is no use in it.” But godly or Divine sorrow is that which follows on the thought of having offended God, and is called contrition; it produces penance, or self-punishment; so leading to salvation, it is firm, sure, and not to be repented of. Hence Chrysostom and Erasmus refer not to be repented of to penance, not to salvation.
2. The Apostle distinguishes this sorrow from penance as the cause from the effect; for sorrow, that is contrition, works penance, that is self-punishment. Hence it is evident that this sorrow and this penance are not merely a return to one’s sense and a new life, as heretics think; nor mere leaving off one’s past sins, as Erasmus says, but are contrition and self-discipline. It is evident in the second place that sinners are justified and attain salvation, not by faith alone, but also by penance; and thirdly, that repentance includes this contrition, confession, and satisfaction, and that these are the three parts of repentance. So in ver. 11 the Apostle, explaining repentance, says that it works carefulness, i.e., to appease and satisfy God, revenge, &c.
Here we should take note of the golden saying of S. Chrysostom (Hom. 5 ad Pop.), on the use, end, and fruit of sorrow. He says: “Sorrow was given us, not that we should mourn over death or other ills, but to blot out sin and to be a remedy against it. Just as the remedy for blear eyes takes away that particular disease and no others, so does sorrow banish sin, but not other ailments. For example, a man loses his money—he grieves, but does not mend his case; one loses his son—he grieves, but does not thereby raise the dead. He meets with scorn and contempt—he grieves, but the insult remains; he falls sick—he grieves, but does not thereby banish his sickness, nay, he makes it worse. But when a man sins and grieves for it, he blots out his sin, for godly sorrow works repentance powerful for salvation. Sorrow, therefore, was made because of sin alone, and from it takes its birth, and, like a moth, eats it up and destroys it.”
Cassian, following his master S. Chrysostom, thus describes (lib. ix. c. 10) godly sorrow: “Sorrow ran be said to be useful to us only when it is enkindled within us by repentance for our sins, or by a longing after perfection, springing from the contemplation of our future bliss. . . . This sorrow, which worketh repentance powerful to salvation, is obedient, affable, humble, meek, tender, and long-suferring, as descending from the love of God, and unweariedly extending itself through its longing after perfection to all bodily mortification, and to complete spiritual contrition. It is at times joyful, and feeds itself on hope of progress; it retains all the pleasantness of affability and long-suffering, having in it all the fruits of the holy Spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” He proceeds to give the marks of worldly sorrow: “It is harsh, impatient, hard, full of bitterness and unfruitful grief, and guilty despair. It breaks of from diligence and saving grief any one that it may have laid hold of; it is void of reason, and not only hinders prayer from being efficacious, but destroys all the aforesaid fruits of the Spirit conferred by godly sorrow.”
Ver. 11.—For behold this selfsame thing, &c. The Apostle here, as Calvin admits, names seven effects of godly sorrow and true repentance. (1.) Carefulness to expiate the offence against God and to regain His favour. (2.) Defence (rendered by Ambrose, “excusing;” by Erasmus, “satisfaction;” by Maldonatus, “clearing of the accusation”), not by words but by deeds—by a good life. Here the defence may be the defence of S. Paul against his detractors and the false apostles. (3.) Indignation—that now, recognising your divisions your passing over the act of incest and the other sins rebuked in my First Epistle, you were grieved and penitent, you were indignant with yourselves. (4.) Fear, not only of man, but fear of offending God. (5.) Desire to correct self, and to satisfy man and still more God. (6.) Zeal to honour God and to cast the notorious sinner out of the Church (Anselm and Chrysostom). (7.) Revenge, or purpose to punish sin by grief and tears, by bodily and spiritual mortification (Theodoret, Theophylact, Ambrose, S. Thomas). Calvin himself says (Inst. lib. iii. c. 13, § 16): “Last of all is revenge. The more severe we are against ourselves, the keener our condemnation of our sins, the more hope ought we to have that God will be propitious and merciful to us. And surely the soul that is smitten with fear of God’s judgment cannot but anticipate part of His punishment by inflicting punishment on itself.”
In these seven effects and fruits of repentance there is a gradation; for the Apostle rises by steps from the less to the greater, as is expressed by the repeated, “yea, what.” This sorrow for having offended God has not only brought on carefulness to be reconciled to Him, but also defence of me, Paul; not only that, but indignation against sin, holy fear of guarding against sin for the future, desire of making satisfaction, zeal against sinners, and, lastly, revenge on sin, which is the last step and fruit of repentance.
This passage plainly shows us, therefore, that repentance is not merely a change of life and a purpose of better living, but is also detestation of the old life, mortification, and satisfaction. Hence the Council of Trent (sess. xiv. c. 8), following the ancient usage of the Church, bids confessors, in enjoining satisfaction, to regard not only the needs of the new life, but also the revenge due to the sin committed, although its guilt by absolution is remitted.
Tertullian, one of the earliest of the Fathers, says the same (de Penit. c. ix.). His words are: “Public confession is a discipline which lays low and humiliates man, and acts as an allurement to mercy. As to dress and food, it bids us lie in sackcloth and ashes, defile the body with sordid clothing, tame the mind with sorrow, with stern treatment change what is sinful, to use food and drink for the sake of the life only, not for the pleasure of the belly, to cherish prayer by fastings, to weep and cry to God day and night, to attend Church services, and to kneel with those that are pleasing to God, to add supplications to those of all the brethren.”
Climacus, too (de Penit. Gradu. 5), says: “Repentance is thought condemning itself, a perpetual repudiation of bodily delight, a voluntary endurance of all afflictions, a constant deviser of sufferings for itself, a severe mortifier of the pleasures of appetite, a condemner of the physical life also in its keenest sensual delight, an abyss of humility.”
How different is all this from the easy system of Luther and Calvin, who enjoin no other penance than faith for every sin, no matter how frequent or how heinous. I believe, say they, that God has pardoned thee thy sins through the merits of Christ, and therefore He will pardon thee all thy punishment and guilt. In other words, believe yourself to be in the Elysian Fields, believe yourself a king, and straightway you are such; at all events, if not really, certainly in imagination. Surely all this is but like the fond dreams of lovers. Let him believe this who lacks, not so much faith, as brains and sound sense, and who, at his own risk, desires and intends to enter on the broad way of the many, which leads to perdition, and not the narrow way of the few, which leads to life. As the Sibyl said to Æneas. “Easy is the descent to Avernus, but to retrace one’s steps, and to emerge into the upper air—this is labour, this is toil; the few God-born ones, beloved by Jupiter, or raised by their virtues to the heavens, have alone availed to do it.”
Let the Protestants listen to S. Jerome, or the author of the Epistle to Susanna after lapsing, (whoever he may be, he is certainly of weight and of early times, nay, Erasmus and Marianus think from the style that he is S. Augustine himself). Prescribing to her or any other penitent the form of lamentation and repentance, he says; “Who shall comfort thee, 0 virgin-daughter of Zion, for thy contrition is made vast as the sea? Pour out thy heart as water before the face of the Lord, raise to Him thy hands as a remedy against thy sins. Take thy lamentation, and chiefly on no day omit to say the 51st Psalm, which is always used for this purpose, and with groaning and tears go through each verse, as far as that one, ‘A broken and contrite heart, 0 God, shalt Thou not despise.’ Moreover, pour out this lament, not without compunction of heart, in the sight of God, thy Judge. Who will give water to my head and a fount of tears to my eyes, that I may bewail the wounds of my soul? Woe is me! for I am become as Sodom, and am burnt even as Gomorrha. Who will have pity on my ashes? I have sinned worse than Sodom, for she sinned in ignorance of the law, but I have received grace and sinned. If a man sin against a man there will be one to plead for him, but I have sinned against the Lord, and whom shall I find to atone for me? How bitter is the fruit of concupiscence—more bitter than gall, more cruel than the sword! How am I become desolate! Suddenly have I fallen away and perished through my iniquity, like as a dream when one awaketh. Therefore has my image become vile in the city of the Lord, my name has been blotted out. Cursed be the day when the womb bore me, and the cruel light saw me. Better for me if I had not been born than become thus a proverb amongst the Gentiles. Through me confusion and reproach have come on the servants of the Lord, and on them that worthily worship Him. Mourn for me, ye mountains and rivers, for I am the daughter of weeping. My sin and my iniquity are not like to the offences of men. This wickedness is horrible, to pollute with flesh a virgin who has professed chastity. I have lied against the Lord Most High, but still I will call to the Lord: ‘Lord, rebuke me not in Thy anger, neither chasten me in Thy heavy displeasure.’” S. Ambrose gives the same directions to a lapsed virgin. Cf. Cyprian (Serm. de Lapsis), Chrysostom (Hom. 41 ad Prop.).
Climacus, in the passage already cited, relating examples and describing, the disposition of penitents, has the following remarks, which may worthily act as goads of compunction to the sinner: “When I came to the monastery of penitents, nay, to the religion of them that flee from sin, I saw and heard things which may well take God by storm. I saw some of those guilty ones standing and watching through whole nights till daybreak, standing motionless, resisting sleep applying force to nature, giving themselves no rest, but chiding themselves. Others I saw in prayer, with their hands bound behind their backs after the fashion of criminals, turning their sorrowful faces to the earth, saying that they were unworthy to see the heavens, asking for nothing, but offering to God a mind silent and mute and filled with confusion. Some I saw sitting on the ground that was strewn with sackcloth and ashes, covering, their faces with their knees, and bruising their foreheads against the earth. Others were smiting their breasts, and with deep sighs recalling their past life; others were weeping, and others lamenting their inability to do the like. I saw some as though turned into stone by grief, and insensible to everything. Others, with looks fixed on the ground, were constantly moving their heads and roaring like lions. . . . I saw too some with their thirsty tongues protruding from their mouth as dogs. Some of these tortured themselves under the heat of a burning sun, others submitted to the most bitter cold; some drank a little water, that they might not be altogether parched with thirst, and so gained relief. Some would eat a little bread and then throw away the rest, as if they were unworthy of it. What place was there among them for laughter, for gossip, for anger, for enjoyment of wine or fruits? They all alike cried to God, and nought was heard save the voice of prayer.” If any one desire more he will find much of the same kind, and enough to make him dumb. He ends by saying: “I saw them, and I counted them who so mourn after falling happier than they who have never fallen, and do not so bewail themselves.”
Lastly, listen to the repentance and sorrow of S. Paula for some slight sins, as recorded by S. Jerome: “She had not, even when stricken with violent fever, any soft bed-clothing, but lay on sackcloth, spread on the bare hard ground, and so took her rest, if that is to be called rest which mingled night and day with never-ceasing prayers, according to the words of the Psalmist, ‘Every night will I wash my bed, and water my couch with my tears.’ You might suppose that in her were fountains of tears, so bitterly did she bewail the slightest sins; and you might have thought her guilty of the most heinous crimes. When she was bidden by us, as often was the ease, to spare her eyes, and save them for reading the Gospel, she would say, ‘Defiled must that face be which, against the commandment of God, I have often painted with red dyes, and antimony, and different cosmetics. Afflicted must be the body which has been devoted to many delights. Long laughter must be atoned for by long mourning. Soft clothing and dainty silks must be exchanged for rough sackcloth. I, who once lived for my husband and the world, now desire to please Christ.”
In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. Free from the sin of the fornicator. Although at first you neglected to punish it, yet you have shown your detestation of it by punishing it, and by your repentance (Anselm and Theophylact).
Ver. 12.—Though I wrote unto you, I did it not, &c. He who suffered wrong was the father whose wife the incestuous man had taken to himself. Hence it is evident that the father was alive. The Apostle says in effect: In the former Epistle I wrote somewhat sharply, but I did not mean to avenge the private injuries done by the incestuous person and suffered by the father; but I wished to show the care that I have for the common salvation of your Church, by expelling from it this public scandal.
Ver. 13.—Therefore we were comforted. By your repentance, zeal, &c., as was said (vers. 6, 7, 9, 11). The Latin version points this verse as follows: “Before God, therefore, we were comforted. But in our comfort we joyed the more,” &c. If with some Greek copies we read “in your comfort,” S. Paul refers to the good news that he had heard of their repentance. “The tears of penitents,” says S. Bernard, “are the wine of angels,” nay, they are the wine of penitents, for nothing so makes glad the heart as compunction. How sweet to the penitent is it with the Magdalene to weep at the feet of Jesus, to bathe them with tears, to wipe them, to kiss them, and then to hear: “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” None but one who has tried it knows this sweetness.
Ver. 14.—Even so our boasting which I made before Titus is found a truth. I am accustomed to boast to him of you as good disciples, and you have proved my boasting true.
Ver. 16.—I have confidence in you in all things. I dare to speak and act boldly with you, whether in the way of praise or blame. You are always obedient to me, and, therefore, I am bold, and am able to boast of you and think well of you (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Ambrose). Anselm remarks on the prudence of Paul, as of a physician, in curing with the pleasant medicines of consolation and praise the wounds now nearly healed, so that the burning inflicted by his former rebuke might be wholly healed.
1 He stirreth them up to a liberal contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem, by the example of the Macedonians, 7 by commendation of their former forwardness, 9 by the example of Christ, 14 and by the spiritual profit that shall redound to themselves thereby: 16 commending to them the integrity and willingness of Titus, and those other brethren, who upon his request, exhortation, and commendation, were purposely come to them for this business.
OREOVER, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:
15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
Douay Rheims Version
He exhorts them to contribute bountifully to relieve the poor of Jerusalem.
OW we make known unto you, brethren, the grace of God that hath been given in the churches of Macedonia.
i. He exhorts the Corinthians to imitate the generosity of the Macedonian Christians in sending alms to the poor at Jerusalem.
ii. He points (ver. 9) to the example of Christ, who for our sakes was made poor, that through His poverty we might be rich.
iii. He urges them (ver. 10) to fulfil their purpose and half-promise, and bids each one give according to his means.
iv. He says (ver. 13) that by so doing rich and poor will be equalised, through the former giving their temporal goods in return for spiritual benefits.
v. He reminds them (ver. 16) that he had sent Titus and other Apostles to make this collection, and warns them that if they put His messengers to shame they themselves will also be put to shame before them.
The first example of the almsgiving referred to in this and the next chapters is related by S. Luke (Acts xi. 28). This famine under Claudius is referred by many to his fourth year, by Baronius to his second, i.e., A.D. 44. From S. Luke’s narrative it appears that the Christians of Antioch zealously met the famine beforehand by sending alms by the hands of Barnabas and Paul. Many years afterwards, in A.D. 58, the collection spoken of in this chapter was made in Corinth and the neighbouring places. Further, a greater and more lasting cause of the poverty of the Christians of Jerusalem was the constant persecution suffered by them at the hands of the Jews since the death of Stephen, frequently taking the form of banishment and confiscation of their goods (Acts viii. 1, and Heb x. 34). From that time forward the Jews were sworn foes to Christ: and bitterly persecuted the Christians; and since the Church of Jerusalem was the mother of all others, the custom prevailed amongst Christians in all parts of the world of sending, help to the poor of that Church. When Vigilantius found fault with this custom in the time of Theodosius, S. Jerome, writing against him, testifies to its prevalence with approbation. He says: “This custom down to the present time remains, not only among us, but also among the Jews, that they who meditate in the law of the Lord day and night, and have no lot in the earth save God only, be supported by the ministry of the synagogues, and of the uhole earth.”
In this chapter, then, the Apostle is urging the Corinthians, as being rich, to the duty of almsgiving. Corinth was the most frequented emporium of Greece, and in it were many wealthy merchants
Ver. 1.—Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace. God has given to the Macedonian Christians great patience, liberality, and pity for others.
Ver. 2.—How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy. When greatly tried by sundry tribulations, they were very joyful.
And their deep poverty abounded. Having sounded the depths of poverty, the Macedonians, as it were, broke out into plentiful and abundant kindness and almsgiving
Liberality is given in the Latin version simplicity, and denotes a pure, liberal, and ready will to give. Liberality is measured not by the greatness of the gift, but by the promptitude of the mind, as Chrysostom and Theophylact say. “Simplicity” says Ambrose (Ep. 10), “weighs not pros and cons, has no mean suspicions or dishonest thoughts, but overflows with pure affection.” Cf. Rom. xii. 8.
Ver. 3.—For to their power . . . they were willing. Of their own free will, without being solicited, they came forward and contributed as much as and more than they were able to afford.
Ver.4.—Praying us. Begging us to undertake the gracious work of collection, and take our part in it. The Apostle often applies the word χάρις(gift) to what is gratuitous and munificent. Here he applies it to the work of collection. In ver. 7 and elsewhere he applies it to the alms itself.
Ver. 5.—Not as we hoped They gave much more than we expected.
But first gave their own selves to the Lord and unto us. They first surrendered themselves to the will of God and then to ours, to do and give whatever I wished.
Observe here that they who give alms ought, if they are to do it properly, first to give their hearts to God, and in token that they have so surrendered themselves to Him, they ought then to give alms, as tribute paid to Him.
By the will of God. God wishes people to follow our directions, and regard our wish as His, and us as the interpreters of His will, so what we will God also wills to be done by those under us. He Himself says: “He that heareth you heareth Me” (Anselm and Theophylact).
Ver. 6.—Insomuch that we desired Titus. We asked Titus to collect these alms, just as we had collected them in Macedonia. We doubted not for a moment that the liberality of the rich Corinthians would not be outshone in readiness and amount by the poverty of the Macedonians. This is to stimulate the Corinthians to liberality by the example of the Macedonians.
Ver. 7.—See that ye abound in this grace also. See that, as ye abound in faith, care, and love towards me, so ye abound in almsgiving to the poor (Anselm).
Ver. 8.—By occasion of the forwardness of others. I do not command, but seek to move you by the example of the Macedonians, who were so anxious to help the poor.
And improve the sincerity of your love. I say this to make test of your love, sincerity, and goodness, and to stimulate you by others’ example. The Latin ingenium, which is the rendering of the Greek γνήσιον, does not here denote the good disposition of charity, as Anselm thinks, in which case the meaning would be: I say this, not to test and show that your charity has a good disposition, by its suggesting, dictating, and advising that you do this good deed without any order from me; but γνήσιον denotes, not ingenium, but ingenuum, or an innate disposition. Again, the word for prove has the double idea of testing and then demonstrating. Maldonatus, indeed (Notæ Manusc.), renders it, “longing to prove to others;” for, as he says, the Greek verb here denotes not the effect but the affection.
Ver. 9.—For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a fresh stimulus to almsgiving. Christ, the King of kings, for your sakes became poor when He was born in the stable, because there was no room for Him in the inn. Instead of His royal throne He had a manger; for bedding, hay; for fire, the breath of ox and ass; for curtains, spiders’ webs; for sweet perfumes, stable ordure; for purple, filthy rags; for His stud, ox and ass; for a crowd of nobles, Joseph and Mary. So, too, His whole after-life was stamped with poverty, or, as Erasmus renders the Greek here, with beggary. From this it appears that Christ was not merely poor, but was also an actual beggar.
That ye through His poverty might be rich. Rich with spiritual riches, with lessons of godliness, with forgiveness of sins, righteousness, holiness, and other virtues. The Corinthians are tacitly bidden, if they wish to imitate Christ closely, to enrich the poor with their alms, to impoverish themselves so as to enrich others. Cf. Anselm on the riches and poverty of Christ, and Chrysostom (Hom. 17), who points out how the Christian should not be ashamed of or shrink from poverty.
S. Gregory Nazianzen (Oral. 1 in Pascha) beautifully contrasts our benefits and Christ’s loving-kindness. He says: “Christ was made poor that we through His poverty might be rich. He took the form of a servant that we might regain liberty. He descended that we might be exalted. He was tempted that we might overcome. He was despised that He might fill us with glory. He died that we might be saved. He ascended, to draw to Himself those lying prostrate on the ground through sin’s stumblingblock.” S. Augustine again says beautifully: “What will His riches do if His poverty made us rich?” Lastly, from these words of the Apostle, Bede infers: “All good faithful souls are rich: let none despise himself. The poor in his cell, being rich in his conscience, sleeps more quietly on the hard ground than he that is Rich in gold sleeps in purple.”
Ver. 10.—And herein I give my advice. Bede takes this: “Herein I give my opinion,” but wrongly; for advice is here contrasted with precept.
Not only to do but also to be forward. Or “to be willing,” i.e., of your own accord, no one forcing you. This, as S. Paul hints, is more than to do it when asked (Anselm). Gregory (Hom. 18 in Ezek.) says: “This very exhortation contains a reproach. ‘A year ago,’ he says. They did well then, but slowly. Their teacher, therefore, while he praises, chides. He is a physician who applies to the wound a remedy which both soothes what has been already cleansed, and bites the parts that are found unsound.”
Ver. 11.—So there may be a performance. Lucian’s lines are well known:—
“Sweeter is grace that is prompt;
If slow is the hand that bestows,
Its grace becomes empty and vain
And title to grace must resign.”
“He double gives who promptly gives.”
Ver. 12.—It is accepted according to that a man hath. In other words, “Give what you can” (Ambrose, Chrysostom, Anselm). Observe here 1. that the perfection and merit of almsgiving and of every virtue consists in the readiness of the will and not in the greatness or the number of the gifts; and, therefore, before God, when this readiness is greater then the virtue is greater, even if, on account of poverty or some other cause, the wish is unable to issue in the external act of giving. Hence S. Paul says that the willing mind is accepted, not the gift. Cf. S. Mark xii. 43.
2. Notwithstanding, in order that this readiness be accepted before God, says S. Thomas, as true, earnest, and efficacious, it must issue in act according to what it has, i.e., give of what it has according to its power; otherwise it would be merely a wish, not an earnest and ready will. It is not expected to give what it has not, as S. Paul says. “Let him who has,” says Theophylact, “carry out his work; he who has not has already carried out his work by willing it.” S. Leo (Serm. 4 de Jej. Dec. Mensis) says: “Unequal expenditure may give equal merits; for the intention may be the same, though the incomes be widely different;” and Anselm says: “Here all, whether poor or rich, give equally, if each gives in proportion to what he has.”
3. It follows that amongst those who are equally rich or equally poor that one is the more liberal and has more merit who gives more. Amongst those, however, whose wealth is unequal, that one merits more who gives the more in proportion to his means, although absolutely he may give less than his richer neighbour. Cf. Tob. iv. 9. S. Augustine (Enarr. in Ps. civ.) says: “If you can give, give. If you cannot, give courtesy. God crowns the goodness within when He finds not means without. Let no one say, I have not.’ Charity is not paid from the pocket.”
Ver. 13.—For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened. I do not enjoin on you such liberal almsgiving as to enable the poor to live in luxury and you in need, but I wish every one to think of the necessities of others according to his power, without neglecting his own (Theophylact). S. Paul does not enjoin this, but he counsels it. It is, say S. Thomas and Anselm, an evangelical counsel, and, therefore, a sign of greater perfection, to give all your goods to the poor and become wholly poor yourself. “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor,” said Christ (S. Matt. xix. 21). This can be done not only by those who are going to devote themselves to the religious life, but even by those who remain in the world, as, e.g., by the poor widow (S. Mark xii. 43). Do not mistake me: any one may do this provided he do not bring himself into extreme necessity, and if he has no family, for whom he is bound to provide. Theophylact adds that in the next verse the Apostle exhorts the Corinthians to give beyond their strength, when he says “that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want,” meaning: If you wish for a great reward, give liberally; if for the whole reward, give your all. He takes abundance to mean profuse almsgiving, abounding beyond their strength, such as S. Paul praised in the Macedonians. The reason is this, that such an act is one of supreme, heroic almsgiving, poverty, fortitude, and hope in God.
We have a striking example of this in S. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, who, after spending all his goods on the poor, at last gave himself up to the Vandals to be enslaved in the place of the son of a widow. His self-abnegation is praised by S. Augustine (de Civ. Dei, lib. i. c. 10). The event showed that his action was pleasing to God, for, when he was living as a slave, he was recognised by the Vandals under the inspiration of God, and was honourably treated and sent back home. S. Paula, again, was so liberal to the poor that her frequent prayer was heard, and, according to her wish, she had to be buried at the expense of others, and in another’s garments. S. Jerome, in his Life of her, praises her warmly for this. S. Martin, S. John the Almoner, and many others are examples of the same liberality. But abundance in this verse more properly denotes the abundant wealth of the Corinthians; for S. Paul contrasts it with the poverty of the Christians of Jerusalem, and desires that one may relieve the other.
Ver. 14.—But by an equality. I do not command so large almsgiving that your homes be pauperised while the poor have ample, but of your superfluity, which supplies the proper matter of almsgiving, I beg you to communicate with the poor, and supply their want, so that you may both have the necessities of life, and may each hold the mean between the two extremes of poverty and abundance. Let there be nothing superfluous in the means of them that give, and nothing deficient in the way of the necessaries of life to them that receive (Theophylact).
That their abundance also may be a supply for your want. So their abundant supply of faith and hope and all graces will, by their prayers and merits before God, assist your spiritual poverty in this life, and in the other life they will, when you die, receive you into everlasting habitations. The kingdom of heaven is the possession of Christ’s poor (Anselm).
That there may be equality. By an interchange of spiritual goods as well as temporal.
Ver. 15.—As it is written. Exod. xvi. 18. Paul applies what is said of the gathering and eating of manna, to show that God wishes men to strive after equality in communion of goods.
He that had gathered much. He that gathered much had no more than he that gathered little, and vice versâ. The passage quoted from Exodus declares that by a continuous miracle God rained down manna for forty years in the wilderness on so many hundreds of thousands of Jews, in such a way that the greedy who gathered much, and the idle who gathered little, both found, when they returned home and measured what they had got, that they had but an homer full, or enough for a day’s food for each. If they collected either more or less, God or an angel subtracted from it or added to it invisibly, to bring all to an equality. So, then, an homer was the measure for men, women, and children, and it contained as much only as a man would ordinarily eat in a day (Nyssen, de Vita Moysis, Chrysostom, Anselm, Vatablus, Theophylact).
The reason for this was (1.) that God would in this way restrain the greediness and gluttony of the Jews, and their excessive love of earthly things (Chrysostom and Theophylact). (2.) By this continuous miracle God would remind us that in all our necessity we should look to His Providence, and recollect that He provides for each all that is needful for his life; therefore, as we sit at table, let us regard God as raining down manna upon us from heaven. So now God supplies, not only to the rich but the poor also, and those that have bad health or are burdened with a large family, their daily portion, which is enough to maintain the life of all. This will seem to any one who considers the matter, and compares the small gain made with the great expenditure of so many heads of families, a wonderful and incredible thing; and by this test alone any one may see God’s sweet and wondrous care for all. Let not the poor, therefore, bewail their lot, nor desire great riches, “For since we all,” says S. Chrysostom, “have but one belly to fill, and one time to live in, and one body to cover, the rich man has no more from his abundance, nor the poor man less from his poverty; but both have food and clothing, and in this they are equal.”
Observe, again, the beautiful application S. Paul makes of the symbolic manna. As God gave of it an equal measure to all, so is it right that Christians should cultivate an equality: those who have abundant wealth should distribute to the poor, and make them equal to themselves, so far as the necessaries of life go, that all may be content, and, having what is necessary, live equally (Theophylact and Chrysostom). Observe, however, that as the rich, by giving of their superfluous wealth to the poor, make them equal to themselves, so too do the poor, by a fellowship of merits, make the rich equal to them, not altogether absolutely, but by way of proportion, in such a way that neither has any lack of either kind of benefits, or has an excessive supply when compared with others; for otherwise the rich would not by giving to the poor make them as rich as themselves, nor would the poor by giving in return his prayers and other spiritual goods give an equal gift, but rather a far more valuable gift than he received. Nor again does he give of his spiritual goods as much as he has (S. Thomas).
Analogically, S. Chrysostom and Anselm refer this passage to the glory of heaven, which all will share equally. But this must he understood of the objective bliss; for all will see the same God, and in Him will be satisfied and blessed; but in this vision, and consequently in joy and glory, there will be degrees, and a disparity proportioned to merit. It was so in the case of the manna: an equal share was given to each, satisfying all equally, yet it tasted differently to different people.
Ver. 16.—But thanks be to God. For having made Titus anxious for you and for your spiritual progress and gain, whereby he was led to exhort you to liberality towards the poor. “The same earnest care” refers to the fact that S. Paul as well as Titus was exhorting them to this liberality.
Ver. 17.—For indeed he accepted the exhortation. The duty of exhorting you to almsgiving (Anselm).
Of his own accord. Without being bidden by me, he took on himself this task of exhorting you to this pious work.
Ver. 18.—And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the Gospel. Barnabas, whose praise is in the preaching of the Gospel. He was ordained as S. Paul’s companion (Acts xiii. 3) (Theodoret, Chrysostom, Ścumenius); but since Barnabas and Paul were now separated, and Silas had taken S. Barnabas’ place at S. Paul’s side (Acts xv. 40), it is better with Baronius to take the reference as being to Silas, or, with Anselm and Jerome, to Luke. S. Paul calls him brother, not Apostle, and this applies better to S. Luke, who wrote a Gospel, and was the inseparable companion of S. Paul. S. Ignatius, writing to the Ephesians, assigned this eulogy to Luke in the words: “As Luke testifies, whose praise is in the Gospel.”
Ver. 19.—But who was also chosen of the churches. For this work of grace of collecting the alms of the Church. The word rendered here chosen is χειροτονηθεὶς, i.e., ordained by imposition of hands—consecrated either deacon or priest. It was the deacon’s office to have care of the poor, and to distribute the alms to them; but the priest’s to help the Apostle on his journeys in preaching and administration of the sacraments. The sacrament of Order is called by the Greeks χειροτονία, from the imposition of the Bishop’s hands on the ordinands. Cf. 1 Tim. iv. 14; v. 22; Acts xiv. 22. From this it is evident that to lay hands on presbyters is to ordain them, and by ordaining to make them presbyters.
Which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord. The Latin version reads, in the last clause of this verse, “to our destined mind;” the meaning of this is, to show the readiness of our mind in this pious service to God and the poor. The Greek is χειροτονία. “Destined,” therefore, as S. Thomas remarks, does not here mean “predestinated by God,” but ready, prompt, and cheerful. But the Greek MSS. give your, not our. We have received, says S. Paul, this grace, this ministry of almsgiving, to glorify God by it, and to make you more ready for it by the exhortations of Titus and Luke (Theophylact).
Ver. 20.—Avoiding this. I have sent Titus and Luke to collect such large alms that no one may suspect me of collecting for my own private use (Anselm). The possession of large sums of money is wont to expose a man to suspicion of fraud, because it is easy to abstract a little secretly from a large amount without any one being aware of it.
Ver. 21.—Providing for honest things. I endeavour to act honourably, not only before God but also before men, lest suspicious persons should have some occasion for suspecting me of some wrongdoing. Wherefore, to show that I administer this collection honestly, I make Titus and Luke my witnesses, I make them the treasurers of it, and refrain from handling it myself. Hence learn this practical rule: We owe a good conscience to God, a good report to our neighbour. He who neglects good report acts cruelly towards his neighbour’s salvation (Anselm).
Ver. 22.—And we have sent with them our brother. Who this is is uncertain. Some, says Anselm, think that it is Apollos; but they suspect only, for S. Paul neither names him nor describes him, but leaves the Corinthians to their personal knowledge of him.
Upon the great confidence which I have in you. Having great confidence and hope that, as is right, they will be received honourably and lovingly by you, and also partly out of love and respect for Titus, who is my companion and fellow-helper. Hence Titus was now at Corinth, having been sent there by S. Paul to collect these alms and to transact other business.
Maldonatus supplies the verb show, and makes the sentence run: “Upon the great confidence that whatever love you show to Titus you will show to me, for he is my partner.” But there is no need to supply anything—the sense given above is clear enough without it.
Ver. 23.—Or our brethren. I trust that you will, as is right, receive them worthily, partly because of the brethren sent with Titus, and partly because of Titus himself.
The glory of Christ. The Apostles are the glory of Christ, inasmuch as they spread and make known His glory. “Whether, therefore,” says Chrysostom, “You will receive them as brethren, or as the Apostles of the Churches, or as those who promote the glory of Christ, you will have many reasons for showing them kindness.” By metonymy, glory is put for the cause and care of Christ’s glory.
Ver. 24.—Therefore shew ye to them. Show to Titus and his companions that signal love which becomes you and your generous love, as well as my boasting of you.