1 He yieldeth the reason why, though he knew their forwardness, yet he sent Titus and his brethren beforehand. 6 And he proceedeth in stirring them up to a bountiful alms, as being but a kind of sowing of seed, 10 which shall return a great increase to them, 13 and occasion a great sacrifice of thanksgivings unto God.
OR as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:
Douay Rheims Version
A further exhortation to almsgiving. The fruits of it.
OR concerning the ministry that is done towards the saints, it is superfluous for me to write unto you.
8. And God is able to make all grace abound in you: that ye always, having all sufficiently in all things, may abound to every good work,
9. As it is written: He hath dispersed abroad, he hath given to the poor: his justice remaineth for ever.
i. He proceeds to stimulate the Corinthians to almsgiving by motives of human shame and praise; he bids them not to be put to shame before the liberality of the Macedonians.
ii. He dwells (ver. 6) on the fruits of almsgiving, how it enriches those that give with good things, now and hereafter.
iii. He points (ver. 11) to the thanksgiving that flows from it to God, and the joy of the poor Christians, who are the recipients, and who will pray for their benefactors the Corinthians.
Ver. 1.—For as touching the ministering to the saints. At the end of the last chapter, Paul had commended to them Titus and his companions, but not their errand of collecting alms; for, as he says, it was superfluous for him to write about this, since they were of their own accord ready for it (Anselm). It is a politic device on the part of those that ask for alms to praise the liberality of the givers. Public beggars in the streets and churches are experts at this.
Ver. 2.—Achaia was ready a year ago.—I boast to the Macedonians that you, 0 Corinthians, and the rest of Achaia, have been long ready for this almsgiving; and this zeal of yours, being proclaimed by me, has stimulated others. See, then, by your action that my boasting of you be not in vain, lest we both be put to confusion.
Ver. 5.—As a matter of bounty. As a blessing (Latin version). That your beneficence may seem spontaneous and generous, not extorted from greedy persons (Anselm, Theophylact, Chrysostom). Why bounty is called a blessing is explained in the note to ver. 6. The Greek, ευ̉λογίαdenotes both blessing and a good and fruitful contribution or almsgiving (Erasmus). In 1 Cor. xvi. 1, the Apostle called these contributions or collections ευ̉λογίαι. Both meanings have place here. S. Paul is urging the Corinthians to spontaneous and cheerful (denoted by blessing), as well as to fruitful and liberal, contribution. He is engaged in describing the spirit that should animate the giver, viz., one ready and cheerful, unforced, unconstrained, unstained by covetousness or meanness.
Ver. 6.—He which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Literally, he which soweth in blessings, i.e., liberally scatters, as it were, seeds among the poor, shall reap of them again. For God, who reckons that to be done to Himself which is done to the poor, does not suffer Himself to be surpassed in liberality, but to the liberal is far more liberal, and repays them in greater abundance, both corporal and spiritual gifts. For parallel expressions, cf. Josh. xv. 19; 1 Sam. xxv. 27; Gen. xlix. 25. In this last passage, Jacob hints at the reason why the Hebrew calls beneficence blessing. It is because, by a pious form of speech, they wish to point out that the beneficence of God, which is the fount and origin of all ours, flows from His benediction. With God to bless is to do, and is the same as to benefit, and therefore God by His word alone bestows on us all good things. (2.) Another reason is that the Patriarchs and early Christians, such as the hermits and other Saints of the New Testament, were wont to distribute the gifts with solemn prayer and blessing, and for this reason to call them by the name of ευ̉λογία. (3.) A third reason is that it is pleasanter, both to giver and receiver, to call the gift an act of benediction rather than of beneficence. Hence poor honest men, when asking for alms, call them benedictions, extenuating their importance, and rich givers in their turn do the same. Theophylact adds that S. Paul by this word stimulates them to cheerful giving, reminding them by it that what they give is a blessing to him that gives and him that takes. No one is saddened by giving such a blessing, but cheerfully imparts it. Cf. also Prov. xxii. 9; Eccles. xi. 1-3.
Notice also the use of the words “sow” and “reap.” Almsgiving, like other good works, is a seed which produces a harvest of grace, and even of temporal good things, as is explained in vers. 8 and 10. Hence you may infer against Calvin that good works effect and merit a reward, for seed, by its natural powers, produces its proper fruit at harvest-time; therefore almsgiving produces truly its reward, not physically, as is evident, but meritoriously.
Ver. 7.—Not grudgingly or of necessity. Avarice makes reluctance, and regard for one’s reputation induces constraint. Let each man give what he likes, not influenced or compelled by my authority or that of Titus, and not because regard for his honour makes him ashamed of giving less than others.
For God loveth a cheerful giver. Quoted from Prov. xxii. 9, LXX. On cheerfulness in giving, see Rom. xii. 8. S. Augustine (Enarr. in Ps. xliii.) says beautifully: “If you give your bread grudgingly, you lose both your bread and your reward.” And again (Serm. 45): “If good works are good seeds, why are they sown in tears?” S. Chrysostom (Hom. on 1 Cor. xi. 19) says: “If we give cheerfully, our reward will be twofold, one for giving and one for giving cheerfully.” S. Gregory (Morals, 21, c. 11, on Job xxxi. 16) says: “Job thus acted that he might increase his merits, not only by giving but also by the promptitude with which he gave his good things.” Cf. Prov. iii. 28, Ecclus. xxxv. 11. Alms then should be given with cheerful mind, not sadly, reluctantly, and tardily. Thus shall we imitate God, who cheerfully distributes His gifts.
The heathen depict the Graces as three sisters, embracing one another but looking in different directions. They meant by this to signify how gifts should be distributed. The first, named Aglaia, denotes generosity, it being better to give than to receive. “For he who receives a kindness sells his freedom,” says the jester of P. Syrus. The second is called Thalia, i.e., flourishing in the midst of the course. The third is called Euphrosyne, or joy; for both he that gives and he that receives rejoice in the kindness done—God loveth a cheerful giver. Cf. Seneca (de Beneficiis).
Ver. 8.—And God is able to make all grace abound toward you. This is an answer to an objection: You will say to me, If I give much, I shall become poor, I shall be unable for the future to help my servants and others who are in more need (Theophylact). To this the Apostle answers: Do not be afraid of that; believe and hope in God, who is able to make all grace (or beneficence—Syriac) abound toward you, so that you shall always have a sufficiency of goods, out of which you may abound in every good work. God can and does enrich those that give alms, so that they have always means to spend, and so can abound in works of charity.
God is able denotes not only the power but also the act of God. The phrase is a meiosis. Similarly, a king might say to his commander-in-chief: “Go, end the war, spare no expense. I am able to bear it, and to enrich you as well.”
In the Greek there is a beautiful use of the word all, which is three times repeated in the last clause of this verse, “always having all sufficiency in all things.” Not in some particular necessity, but in all; not at one time, but always; not some sufficiency but all sufficiency will God give you, to enable you to succour others.
Again, S. Paul does not here speak of abundance, says Theophylact, but sufficiency, enough for one’s self and one’s own. Perhaps he means to imply that he who is content with his lot, and has enough for himself and his family, desires no more. God alone is properly said to be self-sufficient, being One who has no need of any one, and rests wholly in Himself. An almsgiver partakes of the same character. An avaricious man, on the other hand, is never satisfied—“the more that waters are drunk the more are they thirsted for;” and so it is with riches. Hence the avaricious man is always in need. But self-sufficiency, as Clement (Pædag. lib. ii. c. 12) says, is a virtue which makes us contented; or it is a habit of mind that is content with such things as are needful, and which by itself acquires those things which belong to the life of bliss. Hippias (Suidas, sub Verbo Hippias) made self-sufficiency or a contented mind the end of all good. Moreover, Epicurus used to say that “sufficiency is the richest possession” (Clement, Strom. lib. vi.). In the same sense Cicero said (Paradox 1) that “to live happily, contentment was virtue enough.” Socrates, too (apud Plat. Dial 3 de Legibus), thus prays: “Let me have as much gold as a temperate man can bear.” For further notes on this subject, cf. 1 Tim. vi. 6, and Phil. iv. 11.
Ver. 9.—As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad (Ps. cxii. 9). In all necessities, in all places, and at all times, a merciful man, such as S. Laurence, of whom the Church sings, distributes his goods and his alms; in the same way he who sows scatters his seed. The Apostle wishes to prove that God makes all grace to abound towards almsgivers, and gives them full sufficiency for that grace (beneficence). He proves this from the fact that the giver of alms of his sufficiency distributes his alms, disperses them as seed on every side, not among his boon-companions or free-lovers, but among the poor. Œcumenius says that the word “dispersed” denotes the largeness of the alms given. It also implies that these alms are not wasted or thrown away.
His righteousness remaineth for ever. Remains in God’s memory and in its eternal reward, as in its harvest. So, too, when the husbandman scatters his seed he does not lose it, but entrusts it to the ground, that he may receive a hundred-fold in return. Almsgiving, therefore, is everlasting, and blesses the giver with everlasting glory. Hence the Psalmist also says: “The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance; he shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his horn” (his dignity, strength, and, as Theodoret says, his power) “shall be exalted with honour;” in other words, it shall daily increase until it be exalted in the highest in celestial glory.
His righteousness or his beneficence does not perish, but remains before God to be rewarded here and hereafter. S. Chrysostom (Hom. 9 de Pænit.) says: “Heaven is to be gained by merchandise and trafficking. Give bread and you will receive paradise; give a little and gain much; give what is mortal and you will receive what is immortal.”
Observe that in Scripture almsgiving, which is an act of mercy, is called righteousness, both because it forms a large part of righteousness in general, which embraces all virtues, as also because it is a mark of righteousness and holiness. The Saints are merciful, “but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (Prov. xii. 10). A third reason is that it disposes to righteousness, and merits it, firstly, de congruo, and secondly, de condigno, as increasing righteousness. Hence, it is to the merciful alone that Christ gives the crown of righteousness (S. Matt. xxv. 35). Hence, too, those that are hardened in evil must be exhorted as a last remedy to give alms, as Daniel did Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. iv. 24).
Ver. 10.—Now he that ministereth seed to the sower. This again is an answer to an objection which might be urged from the Psalm quoted. It might be said. You prove clearly enough, Paul, that alms remain in their heavenly reward, but I do not yet see how you prove from that that we ought not to impoverish ourselves. You have, therefore, given no answer to my first objection that if, I give alms liberally I shall make myself poor, and be unable for the future to give help to others. S. Paul’s answer to this is, that the contrary is implied in the verse of the Psalm he has just quoted. As a master who supplies his husbandman with seed to sow his field, provides him also with bread to eat, and multiplies his seed, that is the grain sown, at harvest times, so that for one bushel he receives three, which he can sow again, and receives still more at the next harvest, and so on from year to year—so much more shall God, who gives to almsgivers goods to disperse to the poor, give them bread and all other necessaries of life; nay, more, He shall multiply their seed or goods to sow again and disperse to the poor. For God is our Master; we are His husbandmen: His field is the poor, and alms are the seed. God, then, wishes us as His husbandmen, to scatter His seed (alms) over His field (the poor). Much more, if we do that, will He give us nourishment and a harvest of goods to sow again. Let rich men remember that their riches are given them as seed to disperse to the poor, not to store up in their coffers or to be spent on costly clothing or luxurious living. “It is,” says Cicero, “a work of liberality to sow seeds of kindness, so as to be able to reap a harvest from them.”
Gregory of Tours (Hist. Gallic. lib. v. c. 38) highly praises the Christian Emperor Tiberius for his almsgiving, and says that he uttered the following words, worthy of an emperor: “There will be no deficiency in our treasury so long as the poor receive alms, and captives are redeemed. For if we do these things, great will be our treasure, according to the words of the Lord, ‘Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.’ Let us then lay up in store in heaven by the hands of the poor from what God has given us, that the Lord may vouchsafe to increase our goods on earth.” No wonder that God increased his wealth. He saw one day a cross engraved on the pavement, and when, out of veneration for it, he ordered the stone to be taken up, he found under it a vast treasure, containing more than 100,000 pieces of gold. Then, when, according to his wont, he distributed of it largely to the poor, God gave him another treasure already amassed for him by Narsetes, Duke of Italy. This was found in a cistern, in which, when they opened it, they found so much gold and silver that it took several days to carry it away. Cf. Baronius (Annals, A.D. 582).
Both minister. The Latin version with the Syriac gives the future, shall minister, instead of the optative. Theophylact, Erasmus, and Vatablus read the optative. The future is better, because, as I said, Paul is endeavouring to banish from their minds all fear of poverty. But this is not to be done by wishing, but by making assertions and promising bread, seed, and fruits.
Multiply your seed sown. Your temporal goods. S. Basil (Hom. 13 de Eleemos.) says: “As seed cast into the ground brings forth fruit an hundredfold, so do alms given to the poor. If you have then but one loaf, and it be asked for at the door, take it and lift up your hands to heaven and say, ‘Of my little I give to my brother, and do Thou, 0 Lord, supply my want.’ Then doubt not that the bread given out of your poverty will abundantly minister you seed for sowing.” And again, commenting on S. Luke xii. 18, he says: “As wells that are continuously drawn from send forth a sweeter and more copious supply of water, while if neglected and undisturbed they soon grow foul, so are riches when stored up useless, but when transferred to the poor they bring forth fruit.” Clement of Alexandria (Pædag. lib. iii. c. 7) uses this same simile of a well, and adds another. He says. “As milk commonly flows into those breasts that are sucked, so does wealth flow to those who spend it.” S. Cyprian says the same (Tract. de 0pere et Eleemos.), and adds that the best inheritance that parents can leave their children is alms given, and the more children there are the more liberal should the almsgiving be. He proves this by the example of the widow of Sarepta (1 Kings xvii.) and from Tob. iv. 7. Cf. Prov. xxviii. 27, and Ps. xxxvii. 26.
Very many remarkable examples are given by Leontius, in his “Life of John the Almoner,” who, like the Emperor Titus, bewailed that he had lost a day because he had given no alms. “Even if the world,” he said, “were to come into Alexandria, it would not narrow my liberality and wealth.” This he learnt from a vision he saw of a certain virgin named Mercy, who, standing before God, seemed to obtain from Him all that she asked for. Hence this holy man John, when he had nothing to spend, would frequently, in his love of almsgiving, change miraculously tin or honey into cold. The more he gave the more was brought to him to spend; and so he seemed to strive with God and God with him which should be the most bountiful. When he at length died, he had half a piece of money left, and he ordered this to be given to his brethren and masters, the poor, that all he had might be restored to Christ.
Sophronius, in his Pratum Spirituale, a work mentioned with approval by the Second Council of Nice (Gen. Act. iv. c. 185), narrates that a wife gave to her husband, who wished to increase his wealth, the advice to sell what he had and give it to the poor, and he would find that he would receive it again with interest. He did so, and distributed his whole estate to the poor, and for fifty he received three hundred.
Sophronius has a still more beautiful example (c. 195) in the philosopher Evagrius, who, having heard in church that almsgiving was rewarded a hundredfold in heaven, gave £60 to the Bishop, Synesius, to be distributed among the poor, and received from him a written promise that for each he should receive a hundred in heaven. When he was dying, he ordered his sons to place this writing in his hand when he was buried. This having been done, Evagrius, on the third day after death, appeared to the Bishop in a dream, and said: “Go to my tomb and take back your handwriting, for I have received a hundredfold what I gave, according to Christ’s promise and yours.” In the morning the Bishop went with his clergy to the tomb, and took from the hand of Evagrius a letter, of which this was the tenor: “Evagrius the philosopher to his Bishop. I am unwilling for you, my father, to be ignorant that I have received according to your promise the money that I gave you in my lifetime, and received for it a hundredfold; therefore you are not bound to me by any debt.”
Similar examples are found in the life of S. Liduina and other Saints. Hence Chrysostom says that “alms have the name of seed, because they are not so much expended as returned.” S. Deusdedit well understood this, for, as the Roman Martyrology records (Aug. 10th), although he was a poor man yet he gave to the poor every Saturday all that he had earned during the week, looking only to obtain the heavenly reward.
“If you have any care for your children, leave them a written deed in which you have God as your debtor,” says S. Chrysostom, referring to money left for the poor by will. A famous example of this occurs in Sophronius (c. 201), in the case of a nobleman of Constantinople, who, when dying, left all his goods to the poor and his son to the care of Christ. Nor was he disappointed of his hope; for Christ gave his son a wife, who was at once noble, rich, and pious. S. Chrysostom wrote at the head of his Thirty-third Homily to the people, “that almsgiving is the most profitable of all occupations.” Cf. Prov. xix. 17.
And increase the fruits of your righteousness. God will increase the outgoings of your righteousness and charity, ie., He will give an increase of grace here and of glory hereafter (Theophylact). “By fruits,” says Anselm, “he means God’s eternal reward.” The Apostle seems here to speak of three fruits of almsgiving: (1.) when he says, “Shall minister seed to the sower;” (2.) when he says, “And multiply your seed sown;” (3.) when he says, “And increase the fruits of your righteousness.” In this sense S. Anselm, as related by Edinerus in his Life, when he entered Canterbury on a visit to Archbishop Lanfranc and was honourably and lovingly received by the citizens, said, when he was explaining to them the glory and merit of charity, that “those who do works of charity have something greater than those who are recipients of charity. For the one receives a temporal benefit only, but the other spiritual; and they look besides for eternal thanks from God.” Christ said the same thing in His paradox on the rich of this world: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts xx. 35).
Anselm again understands this passage to refer simply to the fruits of temporal goods. God will make your fruits and riches to increase, that you may have ever more and more to give in alms, and He will increase the fruits of your righteousness. In other words, He will give much more abundant increase to those fruits of yours which your righteousness gains for you; for it is only just that, since God gives to man all that he has, man should from it give to him who is in need. If we do this, our fruits will he increased by God. Hence almsgiving is rightly called seed, because he who sows once will reap twice, once in earth and once in heaven. This is Anselm’s comment, and he seems to be right; for the Apostle is explaining the words, “shall multiply your seed,” and is impressing on the Corinthians that alms do not impoverish but enrich the giver, that so he may remove from their minds and from the minds of all Christians all fear of poverty, which so frequently deters men from almsgiving, and which is given as an objection so often to the admonitions of those who urge the duty.
Nevertheless, it is simpler to understand fruits of your righteousness of the wealth which God gives to the beneficent as a harvest for what they have sown. The increase of these fruits is nothing else but the harvest that follows on the seed. Since, therefore, it is evident that when the Apostle said, “shall multiply your seed sown,” he meant by seed the money spent on the poor, it is also evident that here he means the same thing. As is the seed, so is the harvest. The one is correlative with the other, as are merit and reward. This, then, seems to be the drift of the Apostle’s words.
Lastly, we should observe that he alludes to the fields and estates of the rich. Beneficence, he says, is like a field, or a very fertile farm, which brings forth to the almsgiver plentiful and never-failing fruits from the seed of his alms. (1.) It gives bread or food. (2.) It multiplies his seed, or money to be dispersed again among the poor. (3.) It also increases his fruits, and enriches his family. These three things a temporal lord gives to his husbandman if he is faithful and diligent; much more will God do the same.
Ver. 11.—To all bountifulness. Or simplicity, or liberality. This simplicity or liberality of yours brings it to pass that I and all my companions, nay, all Christians amongst whom I speak of it, give thanks to God for having instilled into you such feelings of piety and mercy.
Ver. 12.—For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints. Ή διακονία τη̃ς λειτουργίας, literally, “the ministry of this liturgy.” In this collection of alms there is, as it were, a liturgy, a mystic sacrifice of the Mass, in which the Corinthians, as offering the victim of alms, are the priests; the poor make the altar; the sacrifice is the alms. Paul may be the deacon, the minister exhorting, collecting, and distributing the alms, through whom the poor who receive and the rich who give, seeing and rejoicing at the grace of Christ, are stirred up to give thanks unto the Lord. S. Cyprian says (Tract. de 0pere et Eleemos.): “Since thanksgiving is directed to God in the prayers of the poor for our alms and good deeds, the total is increased by the reward given by God, who works in us.” S. Chrysostom (Hom. 20) says: “When you see a poor man, think that you see the body of Christ, the altar of Christ, and do reverence, and offer the sacrifice of alms, that from it there may ascend, like incense, to God glory and thanksgiving.” Thus almsgiving is an Eucharist or thanksgiving, and an Eucharistic sacrifice, not properly, but metaphorically speaking. So, too, in Rom. xv. 16, the preaching of the Gospel and the conversion of the Gentiles are called a sacrifice. Nazianzen says beautifully (Orat. de Cura Paup.): “Out of all things none so honours God as mercy; for nothing is so peculiar to God as this is, before whose Face go mercy and truth. . . . Nothing is so Divine in a man as to do good. Learn, then, to open your heart to the needy. If you have nothing else to give, give your tears readily. Pity is a great solace to the afflicted.”
Ver. 13.—By the experiment of this ministration. This almsgiving of yours will induce men to glorify God in Christ and to give thanks to Him for the law of grace which has stirred you up to this liberality. They will glorify Him first for your obedience to the Gospel, and then that you so obey its precepts as to show such charity and mercy.
Ver. 14.—And by their prayer for you. The poor Saints of Jerusalem who receive your alms, while praying, for you, will also glorify God. This clause is to he connected with “they glorify God.”
Ver. 15.—Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift. For the gift of your charity and almsgiving, from which flow so many good things and so many praises of God, that it may be well called unspeakable.
Against the false apostles, who disgraced the weakness of his person and bodily presence, he setteth out the spiritual might authority, with which he is armed against all adversary powers, 7 assuring them that at his coming he will be found as mighty in word, as he is now in writing being absent, 12 and withal taxing them for reaching out themselves beyond their compass, and vaunting themselves into other men’s labours.
OW I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
7 Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.
Douay Rheims Version
To stop the calumny and boasting of false apostles, he set forth the power of his apostleship.
OW I Paul, myself beseech you, by the mildness and modesty of Christ: who in presence indeed am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.
i. In this and the two next chapters Paul defends his apostleship against the false apostles, who held him up to contempt as vile and despicable, and accused him of over-harshness, audacity, and insolence. Paul here points out that his arms are not carnal but spiritual, and therefore all the more powerful, because it is theirs to cast down all the strongholds, counsels, and wisdom of the world, as well as to inflict punishment on all disobedience.
ii. He contrasts (ver. 12) the boast of the false apostles of the provinces traversed and converted by them with the actual journeyings and conversions wrought by himself.
Observe that these false apostles envied the glory of Paul, and wished to destroy it by their own eloquence, boasting, and calumnies. It appears, from xi. 22, that they were Jews, and were greedy of gain and glory, braggarts, and self-assertive. Fro m xi. 4 it also appears that they preached Christ in appearance, but were endeavouring to gradually subvert the Gospel by Judaism and its errors (xi. 3; xii. 13). Of this class were Cerinthus, Ebion, and other Judaisers, who bitterly persecuted S. Paul as an apostate from their law. 1 Cor. xv. was an exposition of the resurrection against the teaching of Cerinthus.
Ver. 1.—Now I Paul myself beseech you. Hitherto I have pleaded the cause of others, the poor; now I am going to speak for myself. I beseech you to observe my admonitions and the precepts which, as your Apostle, I have given you concerning a true Christian life.
By the gentleness of Christ. He beseeches them, says Theophylact, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, that reverencing them they may lovingly hear, receive, and obey the entreaty of Paul. In the second place, he does it to signify that he imitates the meekness of Christ, not His severity. I do not order you, he seems to say, although by virtue of my apostleship I might, but I beseech you by the gentleness of Christ, which I imitate and ever keep before me. For Christ in rebuking, teaching, and guiding men, showed wondrous patience, kindness, and gentleness, as when He received into grace Matthew, the Magdalene, and other sinners, and most lovingly forgave them all their guilt and punishment without harsh words or blows.
In presence am base among you. When I am with you, I seem in outward appearance mean and base (cf. ver. 10); but when away from you, I am bold and confident. He speaks ironically; for, as the next verse tells us, the false apostles, who held him up to execration, used to say: “Why do you make so much of Paul? He is a base and worthless fellow. Apollos and others have far more grace and eloquence; there is no comparison between them. By the side of them he is ignorant and unpolished. Why, then, does he take upon himself, why does he presume, when away from you, to send you such threatening letters, rebuking you, ordering, scolding, excommunicating you?” S. Paul imitates the false apostles, and repeats their words, as much as to say. “I am not the domineering, insolent, severe, threatening man, when absent, that my detractors make me, but I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” Cf. vers. 9, 10 (Chrysostom).
Ver. 2.—But I beseech you that I may not be bold. I beseech you to lovingly receive my admonitions, lest when I come to you and see your disobedience, rebellion, and contumacy, I use my boldness and power to inflict excommunication and other spiritual. punishment, which I am thought to have already inflicted arbitrarily (Anselm). The Latin version reads the passive, I am thought, but Theophylact takes it actively—I think, I propose to boldly punish some evil-disposed persons.
Which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. As though we lived a carnal life, or better, as though we used carnal means, such as fleshly, human, and political wisdom, in doing by letter what I dare not do in person.
The Apostle says that they walk, fight, and glory according to the flesh, who, after the manner of carnal and, crafty men, walk and boast in outward gifts, such as birth, prudence, eloquence, good looks, sagacity, and by means of these seek to gain the applause of men, and so win them to their side and overthrow their enemies. That this is his meaning is evident from the contrast drawn between these arms and spiritual arms in ver. 4. So, in xi. 18, he says that the false apostles boast according to the flesh, i.e., of external gifts. In v. 15, 16, again, he says that he knows no one, not even Christ, according to the flesh. In 2 Cor. i., he contrasts the natural and carnal wisdom of philosophers and orators with the spiritual wisdom of Christians, and especially of Apostles. Cf. also Gal. iii. 3.
Ver. 4.—For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. Carnal weapons are such as serve for carnal and bodily warfare and life, as the honours, pleasures, and power of this world. This the Apostles did not use in their task of subduing the world to Christ. Or rather, as said above, carnal weapons are human arts, sciences, reasonings, systems, eloquence, flatteries, boasting, hypocrisies, affected gravity and prudence, all of which are used by men of the world to gain influence and respect; while true and solid authority, such as Paul and the other Apostles had, is the gift of God, and is not to be obtained by external gifts or by assumed gravity, but rather by the display of virtue, wisdom, and holiness.
But mighty through God. Or, are the power of God. Through them God works powerfully in the minds of the hearers—converts them to the faith, makes them accept our preaching, brings them under subjection to Christ, so that we gain credence to what we say, and obtain what we want. These weapons are, says Anselm, (1.) Vehement spiritual zeal; (2.) Efficacious preaching, through God seeming to lend weight and force to our words; (3.) Wisdom; (4.) Courtesy; (S.) Holiness; (6.) Miracles; (7.) Frequent prayer; (8.) Purity of intention; (9.) Patience; (10.) Charity. When they see us men of the most blameless life, seeking not their wealth or honours, but their salvation only, and that by many labours, sacrifices, afflictions, daily death and martyrdom, and preaching to them with such zeal and ardour that all acknowledge Christ, and glorify Him and His Father—by all these things, as though by a most powerful dart, they are struck and wounded in their consciences, they yield, and believe our words and our doctrines. By these weapons do we Apostles destroy the vices and storm the kingdom of the devil, even the whole world. Hence apostleship and preaching of the Gospel are rightly called a warfare. Cf. 1 Tim. i. 18.
To the pulling down of strong holds. All reasonings, syllogisms, sophisms, eloquence, philosophic virtues, worldly power, grace, friendship, and all that the Gentiles and devils opposed to the preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles (Chrysostom and Anselm).
Ver. 5.—Casting down imaginations. Or, with Theophylact reasonings. The Syriac and Erasmus give imaginations; the Latin version, counsels. By our weapons we destroy all the counsels of the prudent of this world, by which they strive to overthrow the Gospel, to strengthen against it their heathenism, and to put their philosophers before Christ and us.
And every high thing. Every height, both of human and philosophic wisdom, as well as of diabolic magic, such as of Simon Magus and others, and of royal and imperial power. Imaginations and heights were the two towers set up by the Gentiles against the Apostles, one of which seemed impregnable through its intricate wiles, and the other by its height and strength. Yet both yielded to the weapons of the Apostles.
That exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. That knowledge of God given to us by Christ, and which we, His Apostles, teach throughout the world; faith, that is, in the Three in One, in the Son of God, in His Incarnation and death, in the Cross and its Redemption.
And bringing into captivity. Every thought, every intellect, however full of resources, however exalted in wisdom, must surrender as a conquered foe, and obey the Gospel of Christ.
When S. Paul says “every thought” or “every intellect” he does not mean to imply that all the philosophers and mighty men of the world who heard the Gospel preached were converted, but that the weapons of the Apostles were so powerful that they were able to subdue to the faith of Christ any thoughts and reasonings of the human intellect, however full of wiles, however highly exalted. As a matter of fact, they did subdue these powers in those who took these weapons, and admitted them into their soul, and so were converted. Many of all classes of philosophers and orators, illustrious for their learning and wisdom, were subdued by the weapons of the Apostles, and brought to believe in Christ. Such were Dionysius the Areopagite, Clement of Rome, Paul the proconsul, Justin the philosopher, Athenagoras, and others.
Ver. 6.—And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience. Paul had said that his weapons were powerful to subdue any Gentiles or heathen wise men. He now goes on to say that this same power is able to punish all disobedience on the part of the faithful, or amongst heretics. I am ready, he says, and it is easy for me, to punish the disobedience of the false Apostles who depreciate me, by excommunicating them.
When your obedience is fulfilled. For I am unwilling to involve you in the same punishment. I would rather that you yourselves correct what needs correction and I am waiting until you fulfil what you have been ordered. Then when you have done that, I will unsheathe the sword of excommunication against those contumacious detractors. From this doctors lay down that this sword should not be drawn except against the disobedient, and those who, after having been warned, are still rebellious and obstinate.
Ver. 7.—Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? The Latin version takes this in the indicative. Ye see how openly and manifestly the truth has been set before your eyes, that I am not only a disciple of Christ, but also an Apostle endowed with such spiritual power as you see with your own eyes (Anselm).
Ver. 8.—Of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification. The Council of Trent (sess. xxv. c. 3) lays down from these words that the sword of excommunication should be soberly and cautiously drawn for edification; otherwise we see that it is rather despised than dreaded, and produces ruin rather than salvation, not only to the excommunicated, but also to the whole Church.
Ver. 10.—For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful. My detractors, the false apostles, say that my letters are hard and bitter, severe and threatening, but my appearance is mean, contemptible, and puny. Nicephorus (lib. ii. c. 37) thus describes the stature and form of S. Paul from tradition and early representations. “Paul was small of stature, spare in form, round-shouldered, and somewhat inclined to stoop. His face was pale, and showed the marks of years. His head was small, and his eyes shone with a pleasant light. He had bushy eyebrows, a nose beautifully curved and somewhat long, and a thick and long beard, which, like his hair, was plentifully interspersed with white.” S. Chrysostom (Hom. de Princip. Apost.) says that “Paul was but three cubits high, and yet he touched the heavens.” Lucian again, in his Philopater, laughs at Paul for having a head bald in front.
And his speech contemptible. Unlearned, inelegant, unadorned. Cf. 1 Cor. ii. 1, 2.
Ver. 12.—For we dare not make ourselves of the number. I do not, like the false Apostles, boast of what I do not possess. I measure myself by my own foot, by the gifts of God, and by the things God’s grace has done for me, says Photius, and so I do not arrogate to myself more than God has given me.
Paul speaks ironically. The false Apostles were in the habit of disparaging Paul’s words and deeds, as though in him there was nothing great but his letters, which were high-flown enough, but were not borne out by his presence, than which nothing was more despicable. They would boast that in this they far excelled him. Therefore, says Paul, in scorn of their pride, I, a mere dwarf, do not dare to class myself with these giants, or to compare myself with them. None the less their boast of their greatness is baseless; while whatever I declare is true, and I measure myself by my own greatness, the grace I have received, and the things that I have really done.
The Latin version omits the last clause, “are not wise.” The Syriac, Vatablus and others apply it to the false apostles, not to Paul. They commend themselves, but they do not see that they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves among themselves. They do foolishly in thus exalting themselves and making themselves giants. They act like a man who should measure his height by himself, instead of by a yard-measure, like a pigmy who boasts of his gigantic size; they have no other cause for their boasting than their self-delusion. Photius supplies after “they do not understand,” that they are ridiculous to all, or, as S. Augustine says, in Ps. xxxv., they do not understand what they say and what they boast of.
Ver. 13.—But we will not boast of things without our measure. This is the second charge brought by S. Paul against the false Apostles. They boast so largely that one would think they have preached the Gospel in every part of the world (Theophylact). I, however, boast not falsely, or beyond my measure; I measure myself by the true measure of the gifts and provinces that God has marked out for me. This measure reaches from Judæa through the intervening countries to Corinth. Just as kings glory in having extended their realms far and wide, so do I, as a doctor sent by Christ, glory in having extended His sway, and I hope to extend it still further.
Rule here denotes the measuring-line used by surveyors to fix the boundaries of fields and other grounds (cf. ver. 16). Measure denotes (1.) that by which anything is measured, as a yard-measure or a foot-measure; (2.) it denotes the quantity of the measuring-line; and (3.) the act of measuring; (4.) it stands for the thing measured, a bushel of wheat or an acre of land; i.e., corn to the amount of a bushel, land to the amount of an acre. In any of these last three senses the word may be used here, but best of all in the second.
Ver. 14.—For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure. This is his third scornful charge against the false apostles. They stretch out themselves and more than that by their boastful words, but let us see what good as a matter of fact they do. Whom have they converted? What cities or countries have they visited? They have never left their own home. Did they bring you into the Church? Ye are not their work, but mine in the Lord. It is I who have taken you and subdued you: you are my lot, the possession assigned me by the Lord. I can triumph over you and other provinces reaching to Judæa that I have subdued. And just as P. Scipio was called Africanus, and L. Scipio, Asiaticus, from the provinces they conquered, so might S. Paul have the agnomen of Corinthiacus, Achaicus, Macedonicus, Thracicus, Asiaticus, &c.
Ver. 15.—Without our measure. The provinces not assigned us by God. This is again a blow aimed at the false apostles, who were in the habit of boasting, groundlessly of the many regions they had visited and converted.
Not boasting . . . of other men’s labours. A fourth charge against the false apostles, who had entered into his labours at Corinth, where he had laid the foundations of the faith (Chrysostom). Doctors remark that heretics never go to unbelievers from zeal for the Gospel and for martyrdom, and convert them first of all to Christianity, but content themselves with endeavouring to attract the faithful. It may be said: Surely the Emperor Valens, when the Goths were anxious to be converted to Christianity, sent Arian Bishops, who made them Arians (Freculphus, lib. iv. c. 20). I reply. This is true; but the Arians did not themselves take the initiative and go to the barbarous Goths from zeal for the faith, to plant among them the true faith, after the Apostolic manner, in hunger, thirst, persecutions, and deaths. The Goths invited them, and Valens consented. There is no difficulty in instilling poison into those who wish for it. Moreover, most of the Goths had previously been of the orthodox faith; but Ulphilas their Apostle, having been deceived by the Arians, deceived them in his turn and made them Arians, as Theodoret expressly says (Hist. lib. iv. cap. ult. ).
But having hope when your faith is increased. I hope that when your faith is increased you will have no need of me; then I shall be able to go on to other nations to preach the Gospel (Chrysostom).
That we shall be enlarged by you. Or magnified in you. (1.) I hope that in those more distant regions I shall preach and bring back great glory. The teacher, says Theophylact, is magnified when his disciples grow in wisdom. (2.) It is better to refer the words magnified in you to what follows—according to our rule abundantly. I hope, as you increase in the faith, to be magnified through you according to our rule, i.e., to extend our rule, the bounds of my apostolate, to the regions beyond you, so that they, seeing your faith, holiness, and grace, may be provoked by your example, and eagerly await me and receive the Gospel.
As the Holy Land was divided by lot among the twelve tribes by fixed boundaries (Ps. lxxviii. 54), so was the whole earth divided as by a measuring-line among their antitypes, the twelve Apostles, that they might bring it under subjection to Christ. Thomas, e.g., evangelised India; Andrew, Achaia; John, Asia.
Abundantly. That my lot may be increased and spread further and further. I have not yet fixed any certain bounds to my province, nor has God, but I am always looking for and striving after its extension.
Ver. 16.—Not to boast in another man’s line. I do not meddle with the bounds, the provinces, and districts measured out and assigned, or occupied by other Apostles, so as to enter into things got ready by others, and to boast of other men’s labours as if they were mine. He calls “made ready to his hand” those regions which had already received the Gospel from others; he refuses to seize upon the tilled fields of others, but rather chooses to be the first to plant the faith in any place he goes to. Cf. Rom. xv. 20.
The Greek κανώνdenotes the measuring-line of surveyors. Here the Apostle calls all those regions measured out to him, as it were, by God his rule. This “rule” he was daily extending, from his desire to preach everywhere; “as though,” says Chrysostom, “he had come into possession of the earth and a fat inheritance.” “Paul was,” says Theophylact, “like a builder of the world, measuring it by his rule and building accordingly.” The Greek κανών stands also for the builder’s measuring-rod, but seems by S. Paul to be referred rather to the surveyor’s.
Ver. 17.—But he that glorieth let him glory in the Lord. Let him glory in truth as before the Lord. Secondly, and better, to glory in the Lord is to glory with the glory given by the Lord, which alone commends a man, and vouches for him by the wonders which it works through him. This is the genuine meaning, for S. Paul contrasts glorying in one’s self with glorying in the Lord. To glory in self is to commend self; to glory in the Lord is to be commanded by the Lord, and to glory in that commendation. Still it follows from this, thirdly, that he who truly glories should glory not in himself but in the Lord, by referring all that has been received to Him, whose gifts they are, by giving to Him all the glory, and directing everything to His praise and glory (Chrysostom).
By these words the Apostle shows where, when, and in what we should glory, and at the same time clears himself of all charge of ostentation and desire of vain-glory. He says implicitly: These great and fine things I say about myself, not because I wish to glory in myself, but because I wish to give the praise to the Lord, from whom I have received all my glory, and the ground of my glorying. Cf. 1 Cor. i. 31, note.
Learn from this that true praise and glory come from God alone, and far excel all human glory; for, (1.) man’s praise is but small and poor, men being but worms of earth; but God’s glory is, as He is, boundless. (2.) Man’s glory is outward and apparent only—within it is empty and ready to vanish away; but God’s glory is inward and substantial; hence it fills and satisfies the soul. (3.) Man’s glory is untrustworthy, feigned, and hypocritical—many laugh at you behind your back while praising you to your face; but God’s glory is faithful and true. (4.) Man’s glory is unstable, and, like a reed, is shaken by the slightest breath of rumour—they who praise you to-day will rail at you to-morrow; but God’s glory is stable and constant. (5.) Man’s glory is short-lived: mortals to die to-morrow praise you, and your praise will die with them. Where now are the praises of Cæsar, Pompey, Augustus? They have passed away—they are gone like smoke; but the praise of God is eternal. God will praise thee for ever before the angels and blessed ones, because thou didst despise the worlds glory, and sought for that true glory which lasts for ever with God. (6.) Man’s glory is imperfect, maimed, and alloyed; a man is praised by some, blamed by others; as many men as there are, so many opinions and judgments are there. God’s glory is entire and perfect, for whoever God praises is praised also by the inhabitants of heaven. (7.) Man’s glory is erroneous and groundless. Men glorify the high-born, the rich, the powerful, even if they be villains, crime-stained, and tyrants. God’s glory is most true and most certain, for He praises none but those endowed with virtue and true wisdom. Again, men glory in themselves, in their sagacity, virtue, fortitude—all things of naught; and therefore they glory in what is false, in nothing, in what is not. God’s glory is to glory in God, of whom is all good and from whom flow all things to us, and to say, “Not unto us, not unto us, 0 Lord, but unto Thy name give the praise.” (8.) Man’s glory stands in the mouth of them that praise, confers no benefit on thee, impresses on thee no good. Therefore it is not in thee, but in Him that glorifies thee; just as honour is not in him that is honoured, but in him that confers it. But God’s glory is both in God and in thee, for it is efficacious and fruitful. God does not merely beatify thee in thy soul with the light of glory, and in thy body with glorious gifts, but He communicates to the Blessed His own very Divine and uncreated glory, to be possessed and enjoyed. Oh, blind and insensate children of Adam, by nature greedy of praise, created and born to glory! Why do ye not seek after glory instead of its smoke and shadows? Why strive for what is false and fallacious and leave the true? Why seek for glory where it is not? You seek it on earth: it is not there, but in heaven. You seek it among men: it dwells among the angels and before God. You seek it in time: it is found in eternity. Thou, then, 0 Lord, art my glory; Thou art the joy of my heart. In thee will I glory and exalt all the day long. For myself I will glory in nothing save my infirmities. Let Jews, let worldly men seek glory from one another. I will require that which is from God alone. All human glory, all worldly honour, all temporal heights, when compared with Thy eternal glory are but vanity, foolishness, and reproach. 0 my Truth, my Mercy, my Glory, my God, 0 Blessed Trinity, to Thee alone be praise, honour, and glory; to Thee alone be blessing, wisdom, and thanksgiving; to Thee, our God, be honour, virtue, and strength for ever and ever. Amen.
Ver. 18.—For not he that commendeth himself is approved. How is it, then, that Saints have sometimes commended themselves, as, e.g., Hezekiah, in Isa. xxxviii. 3, and S. Paul in the next chapter, and in 2 Tim. iv.? I answer, They do indeed commend themselves, but at the same time they tacitly refer all their praise to God’s grace as its first cause, and say: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” Again, this self-commendation came not from themselves, but was inspired into them by the Holy Spirit, who spoke by their mouth. The Holy Spirit suggested to each writer of the Holy Scriptures what he should write.
1 Out of his jealousy over the Corinthians, who seemed to make more account of the false apostles than of him, he entered into a forced commendation of himself, 5 of his equality with the chief apostles, 7 of his preaching the gospel to them freely, and without any their charge, 13 shewing that he was not inferior to those deceitful workers in any legal prerogative, 23 and in the service of Christ, and in all kind of sufferings for his ministry, far superior.
OULD to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.
21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly) I am bold also.
Douay Rheims Version
He is forced to commend himself and his labours, lest the Corinthians should be imposed upon by the false apostles.
OULD to God you could bear with some little of my folly! But do bear with me.
i. After declaring his love for the Corinthians, he proceeds (ver. 4) to defend his apostleship against the false apostles, pointing out that they had bestowed no more of the Spirit, nor given more Christian doctrine than S. Paul.
ii. He says, moreover (ver. 7), that they preached the Gospel for the sake of gain, but he freely.
iii. He insists (ver. 22) on his being equally with them a Hebrew, and what they were not, a minister of Christ. He then enumerates the marks of his apostleship, his labours for Christ, his persecutions, scourgings, sufferings, anxieties, and the care of all the Churches, and in them all he glories.
Ver. 1.—Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly. In my boasting, which sounds like folly. It is, however, a mark of the highest wisdom on my part, for I do it out of zeal to protect the faith of the Gospel against the false apostles (Chrysostom and Anselm). S. Paul anticipates an objection: he is about to praise himself, and he meets beforehand any charge of vainglory or self-seeking. The last clause, “and indeed bear with me,” may be also indicative, and then it is a correction to his request for forbearance: “I need hardly make such a request: you do indeed bear with me.”
At the commencement of his self-praise he thrice excuses himself: (1.) by saying, “Would ye could bear with me;” (2.) by calling himself foolish; (3.) when he says. “I am jealous over you”—he takes such pains to excuse himself that the Corinthians may see the violence he does to his feelings when he descends to self-praise. Chrysostom says: “Just as a horse, when about to leap some deep and precipitous ravine, collects its strength, as though it would cross it at a bound, but when it looks down on the yawning gulf refuses the leap; then, under the spur of the rider, approaches again and admits its ability to leap and the necessity of it by standing still for a time, till at last it takes courage, and of its own accord boldly makes the attempt; so too S. Paul, like one about to throw himself over a precipice, when going to sing his own praises, retreats once, twice, and thrice, and at length falls to the task of praising himself.”
Ver. 2.—For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy. I cannot endure any rivals, such as these false apostles, who seek to seduce you. Paul calls his great and unbounded love “jealousy,” implying that he seeks to be first in the affections of the Corinthians. S. Chrysostom remarks on this jealousy being a jealousy of God, which implies that Paul does not seek the bride for himself but for Christ and God—not for his own glory, pleasure, or gain. Christ is the Bridegroom, he is but the paranymph.
For I have espoused you to one husband. “I have fitted you” (Augustine, contra Manich. lib. ii.); “I have prepared you” (Ambrose); “I have united you ” (Theophylact). The Greek verb may well bear the three meanings of, “I have invited you,” “I have betrothed you,” I have united you in wedlock.” The three duties of the paranymph are: (1.) to gain the maiden’s affections for the bridegroom, and to do all he can to get her to be the wife of his friend; (2.) to see that she is espoused to him; and, (3.) when betrothed, to unite them in marriage. S. Paul says in effect: I, as the paranymph of a spiritual marriage, have by my preaching betrothed you to one husband, Christ, and by betrothing you I have persuaded you to present yourselves to Christ as His espoused bride. Or better still, with Anselm and Theophylact: I have now espoused you to Christ through baptizing you into the Christian faith, that I may show you, or present you in the day of judgment, as virgins, i.e., pure in faith, hope, and charity, fitted for the nuptial couch of the glory of Christ.
Chrysostom remarks that the betrothal takes place in this life, the union in the next, when the espoused Church, i.e., all the elect, shall be brought to the marriage of the Lamb and the eternal kingdom (Rev. xxi. 2).
The Church of Corinth is described by S. Paul as the virgin spouse of Christ, whose paranymph he is. Then he transfers to himself the jealous love of the Bridegroom, and protests against Christ’s bride being stolen by false apostles, and handed over to the tender mercies of heretics. Just as true Apostles and preachers are paranymphs of Christ and His Church (S. John. iii. 29), so, on the other hand, false preachers are Satan’s panders.
This passage of the espousal of the Church and each faithful soul is famous and full of consolation. It has been commented on beautifully by most of the Fathers, and still is frequently treated in pulpits and elsewhere. That it may be clearly and fully understood, let us then dwell on it a little more at length.
Observe, then, firstly, that this espousal takes place by faith and hope and other virtues. For, as S. Augustine says (Tract. xiii. in Johan.), “the mind’s virginity consists in perfect faith, well-grounded hope, and unfeigned love.” On the other hand, the soul becomes an adulteress or prostitute when she consents to unbelief, to sin, to the suggestions and wiles of the devil. “If, therefore,” says Origen (Hom. 12 in Lev. ii.), “you have admitted an adulterous devil into the chamber of your soul, then your soul has committed fornication with the devil. If there has entered there the spirit of anger, envy, pride, uncleanness, and you have welcomed in and listened to its words, and taken pleasure in its suggestions, then you have committed fornication with him.”
Secondly, this betrothal makes the goods of each common to both, and therefore endows the Church and each faithful soul with the abundant riches of Christ. Hence, since the Bridegroom is a King, He makes His bride, even if she be a slave, however lowly and poor she be, a queen. S. Basil (de Vita Virgin.) says, quoting Ps. xlv. “Upon thy right hand did stand the queen, in a vesture of gold wrought about with divers colours. Wherefore, she who now is counted vile for her sordid dress and servile habit, is ennobled by her station at the King’s hand, and found in the kingdom of heaven to be a queen. Let her, then, despise all visible things, and with open face beholding her Spouse, let her be filled with His love, and make all her faculties His handmaidens. In no respect should a virgin be an adulteress, not in tongue, in ears, eyes, or any other sense, no, nor yet in thought; but let her keep her body as a temple, or bride-chamber ready for her Spouse. No unfaithfulness can escape the eye of Him of whom it is said, ‘He that planted the ear, shall He not hear; or He that made the eye, shall He not see.”
S. Bernard (Serm. 2, Domin. 1, post Epiph.) thus describes the election, dignity, and glory of this bride: “For the sake of that Ethiopian woman, the Son of God came from afar to espouse her to Himself. Moses, indeed, married an Ethiopian wife, but her colour he could not change; but Christ, loving the Church, who till then was contemptible and foul, presented her to Himself, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Whence, 0 human soul, whence comes this to thee? Whence is the inestimable glory of meriting to be His spouse on whom the angels desire to gaze? Whence is it to thee that thou art the spouse of Him, whose beauty sun and moon wonder at, at whose will all things are changed? . . . What reward, then, will you give unto the Lord for all the benefits that He hath done unto you, in making you a sharer of His table, of His Kingdom, of His chamber? See with what arms of love should He be in turn lovingly embraced, who has thought so much of you, and made you so great. Leave all carnal affections, forget all worldly ways, undo all evil habits. For what thinkest thou? Does not the angel of the Lord stand ready to cut thee asunder, if perchance, which may He prevent, thou admittest any other lover?” Then he goes on to describe the nuptial feast: “Now thou art espoused to Him, now the wedding feast is being celebrated, for the banquet is prepared in heaven. There the wine will not fail for we shall be inebriated with the fulness of the house of Gad, and shall drink of the torrent of His pleasure. For that marriage, truly, there is got ready a river of wine, which maketh glad the heart, an impetuous stream, which maketh glad the city of God.”
Thirdly, be it observed that from this betrothal and union of the soul to God, the fairest offspring are born. Origen (Hom. 20 in Num. xxv.) thus Describes them. “When the soul, therefore, clings to her Spouse, and listens to His voice, and embraces Him, she doubtless receives from Him seed, even as He said: ‘Of Thy fear, 0 Lord, have I conceived in the womb, and brought forth, and caused on the earth the spirits of Thy salvation.’ Thence will proceed a noble offspring—thence will be born chastity, righteousness, patience, meekness, and charity, and a fair family of all the virtues. . . . But if the unhappy soul forsakes the chaste embraces of the Divine Word, and surrenders herself to the devil’s adulterous endearments, without a doubt she will bring forth children, but they will be such as those of whom it is written: ‘The adulterous children shall be imperfect, and the seed of the wicked bed shall be destroyed.’ All sins, therefore, are children of adultery and fornication.”
Fourthly, although this espousal is brought about by any virtues, yet the chief agent among them is charity. Charity carries with it towards God all the powers and affections of the soul, so much so that the more charity increases in a soul, the more closely is that soul united to God. Hence those whose souls are on fire with charity, and who are ever exercising themselves in it, enjoy the bliss of betrothal to God and the possession of His nuptial gifts of Divine joys. For charity is a marriage-union, the welding of two wills, the Divine and human, into one, whereby God and man mutually agree in all things. Hence springs familiar intercourse between the soul and God, hence spring peace and a wondrous delight of the soul. So great becomes the thirst for the Divine love that all other affections of the soul are absorbed in it and lost in God. S. Bernard (Serm. 38 Cantic.) says: “Such conformity weds the soul to the Word, that, though naturally like Him, she none the less exhibits that likeness in the will, by loving as she has been loved. If, then, she loves perfectly, she is wedded to Him. What is more pleasant than this conformity? what more to be longed for than this charity? By it it comes to pass that you are not content, 0 my soul, to rest on human teaching, but you boldly approach the Word, and cling closely to Him, hang lovingly on His lips, and consult Him on everything. You are as bold in your longings will allow. Surely this is a holy and spiritual wedding contract. Contract, do I say?—nay, it is an embrace; for where the same will to have or not have is, where one spirit is made out of two, there there must have been an embrace. Nor need we fear that the disparity of the persons can make this union of wills imperfect, for love knows no fear. Love is self-sufficient: wherever he comes he draws to himself and makes prisoners all the other affections. Therefore she loves what he loves, and knows nought else. There is a bride and there is a bridegroom. What other relation or connection do you seek between them that are wedded than that of loving and being loved?”
If you say that the soul is so far inferior to God in its nature and love as to make it impossible for friendship to exist between them, and much less betrothal and marriage union, all of which can only be between equals, then S. Bernard replies: “It is true that there is not the same copious flow in the soul that Loves as in Love Himself, in the soul as in the Word, and in the bride as in the Bridegroom, in the creature as in the Creator, ably more than there is the same in him that is athirst and the spring that quenches his thirst. But what of that? Are we therefore to lose and see destroyed utterly the devotion of her that is about to wed, the desire of the longing soul—the eagerness of the lover, the confidence of one that boldly draws near—just because a dwarf cannot run on equal terms with a giant, because sweetness cannot rival honey, gentleness cannot compare with a lamb, whiteness with the lily, brightness with the sun, charity with Him who is charity? No, for though the creature’s love is less because it is itself less, yet if it loves with all its might, it withholds nothing, and its love is entire. Therefore have I said, ‘So to love is to be wedded already,’ unless any one doubt that the soul is first loved and more loved by the Word. But truly He prevents and surpasses the soul in love. Happy the soul that has merited to be prevented with the blessings of goodness.”
Fifthly, it follows that this espousal is most perfectly brought about by virginity and vows of chastity and religion. S. Augustine (Tract. 9 in Johan.) says: “They who vow to God virginity, although they may hold a higher position of honour and dignity in the Church, yet are they not without nuptials; for they belong to those nuptials in which the whole Church is united to Christ as her Bridegroom.” And the reason is, that as a bride gives her heart and all her goods to her husband, so does a virgin, or a religious, consecrate herself and all that she has to Christ. Hence religion is called and is a state of perfection, or of perfect charity. Moreover, as a bride in contracting matrimony says. “I take thee for mine,” so does a religious say: “I vow to God poverty, chastity, obedience,” and by these she is bound to Christ as a wife to her husband. Hence Tertullian (de Veland. Virgin. c. 16) says: “Thou hast been wedded to Christ, thou hast committed to Him thy body; thou hast betrothed to Him the bloom of thy life; walk, therefore, according to the will ,of thy Spouse.” For this reason S. Jerome (Ep. 27) dared to call the mother of a virgin consecrated to God, “God’s mother-in-law,” and for this he was found fault with hypercritically by Ruffinus. A ring used to be given to virgins, in token that by it they were betrothed to Christ. “He gave me a ring,” says S. Agnes (Ambrose, Serm. 90), “as an earnest of my betrothal to His faith.” For this virgins were given veils, even as those who are married to husbands, and that solemnly, by priests, on appointed days alone, as Gelasius says (ad Episc. Lucaniæ, c. 14), and Optatus Milevit. (lib. 6). He says: “Spiritual wedlock is of this kind. In will and profession they had already come to be betrothed to their spouse; and to show that they had abjured all secular nuptials, they had cut off their hair for their spiritual Bridegroom, and had already celebrated their heavenly nuptials.” Ambrose (ad Virg. Lapsam) says: “She who has betrothed herself to Christ, and received the sacred veil, is already wedded, is already united to an immortal husband; and if she now wishes to marry under the common law, she commits adultery, and is made the handmaiden of death.” S. Cyprian too (Ep. 62) calls such lapsed virgins adulteresses. From all this it is evident, whatever Marloratus may say, that the Church applies this passage of the Apostle to virgins, and reads it as the Epistle in the Mass of Holy Virgins.
Let these virgins ponder this, and recognise their dignity, so as to religiously keep these nuptials pure, and give themselves wholly to their one Bridegroom, Christ. S. Jerome says to Eustochius: “Hear, 0 daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father’s house, and then shall the King take pleasure in thy beauty. It is not enough for thee to leave thy land, unless thou also forget thy own peop1e and thy father’s house, and, despising the flesh, yield thyself to the embraces of thy spouse. You will say perhaps: ‘I have come from the house of my shame; I have forgotten the house of my father; I am born again in Christ. What reward for this am I to receive?’ It tells you: ‘So shall the King have pleasure in thy beauty.’ This then is a great sacrament: there-fore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cling to his wife, and they twain shall be not one flesh but one spirit. Thy Spouse is not haughty; He has married an Ethiopian woman. As soon as you desire to hear the wisdom of the true Solomon and come to Him, He will tell you all that He knows; He will as a King lead you into His chamber, and thy colour being wondrously changed, the words will apply to you, ‘Who is this that cometh up all white?’ . . . The bride of Christ is, like the Ark of the Covenant, covered within and without with gold, the guardian of the law of the Lord. As in it there was nothing save the tables of the law, so in thee let there be no other thought. Over this mercy-seat, as upon the cherubim, the Lord wills to sit. The Lord wishes to set you free from earthly cares, that leaving the bricks and straw of Egypt, you may follow Moses in the wilderness and enter the Promised Land. Whenever in your virgin breast there rages anxiety about earthly business, immediately the veil of the temple is rent in twain, your Bridegroom rises in wrath and says: ‘Your house is left unto you desolate’ . . . Do thou once for all cast aside every burden of the world, sit at the feet of thy Lord, and say: ‘I have found Him in whom my soul delighteth; I have held Him fast; I will not let Him go.’ He will answer: ‘My dove, any undefiled, is but one.’ Let the secret places of thy chamber ever keep thee, let thy Spouse ever play with thee within. When thou prayest thou speakest to thy Spouse. When thou readest He speaks to thee; and when sleep oppresses thee, He will come behind the wall; and when thou art awakened thou wilt say: ‘I am sick with love,’ and in return thou wilt hear Him say: ‘A garden enclosed is My sister, My spouse.’”
That I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. There is something strange in such a marriage. “In the world,” says Theophylact after Chrysostom, “brides do not remain virgins after marriage. But Christ’s brides, as before marriage they were not virgins, so after marriage they become virgins most pure in faith, whole, and uncorrupt in life. So is the whole Church a virgin.” “The virginity of the flesh,” says S. Augustine (in Senten. 79), “is an undefiled body; the virginity of the soul is uncorrupted faith.”
S. Paul converted to Christ at Iconium that most illustrious virgin Thecla: he drew her from marriage and espoused her to Christ. S. Gregory of Nyssa is our authority for this. He says (Hom. 4 in Cantic.): “Such myrrh did Paul once pour from his mouth, mingled with the pure lily of chastity, into the ears of a holy virgin. That virgin was Thecla, who, as the drops fell from the lily into her soul, to her salvation put to death the outward man and quenched the heat of lust within.” S. Epiphanius too (Hæres. 78) says: “Thecla fell in with S. Paul, and was by him set free from wedlock, though she had a husband at once surpassingly handsome, rich, nobly-born, and famous.” S. Augustine (contra Faustum, lib. xxx. c. 4) says: “This Saint in her lifetime despised all earthly things, that she might gain possession of things heavenly, and, though bound in wedlock, she was kindled by the eloquence of S. Paul with love of life-long virginity.” Through this Thecla overcame fire, lions, bulls, and serpents, and when thrown for her virginity into the midst of flames, she, like asbestos, remained unharmed. So did S. Paul arm the harlot Poppæa and virgins against the blandishments of Nero, to despise his embraces and dedicate themselves to Christ. For this he was condemned by Nero to the sword, and obtained the martyr’s and virgin’s crown, and therefore from his neck there flowed, when his head was cut off, a stream of white milk instead of red blood.
Ver. 3.—But I fear lest by any means . . . your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. Beware of the false apostles, who are panders of Satan, adulterers of the genuine doctrine of Christ, and therefore of the Church and of your souls.
Ver. 4.—For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus. Christ is here put for Christianity and its perfection. If the false apostles should preach any other doctrine concerning Christ than that which I have preached, as though my preaching were insufficient for salvation and Christian perfection, then, &c. He speaks a few words further on of the same thing as another Gospel. But, in Gal. i. 8, he orders that any one who should preach another Gospel was not only not to be tolerated, but was even not to be listened to, and was to be anathematised. Hence by the phrase here another Gospel, he means a clear and more spiritual explanation of the Gospel.
Or if ye receive another Spirit. If you should receive other gifts of the Holy Spirit from the false apostles besides those that you received from me, you might well suffer them. He is censuring the pride of the false apostles, who boasted that they had more to give than S. Paul (Theophylact). Where, he asks, is that other Spirit, or those other gifts of which they boast? They do not appear. I call you then to witness that you have received from them nothing but empty words.
Ver. 5.—For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles. Beza says: “If Paul was in no way inferior to the chiefest Apostles, therefore Peter was not his superior in power and authority, and consequently he is not the Prince of the Apostles and of the Church.” I answer that Paul yielded to none in any of the things just mentioned, such as in preaching Christ, in the gifts of the Spirit, in the genuineness of his Gospel, in the labours he bore, and in apostolical gifts in general. The question of power and primacy, therefore has no place here. Were he here to claim it for himself, it would be a sign of the most foolish ambition. Moreover, although by the phrase the very chiefest Apostles, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Œcumenius, understand Peter, James, and John, and this interpretation seems more simple and true, yet very many later writers understand it to refer to the false apostles, who boasted of their greatness. In this case S. Paul is speaking ironically.
Ver. 6.—Rude in speech. Unskilled in the polished and rhetorical eloquence of the Greeks, such as we find in Isocrates, Demosthenes, Lucian. Hence we find in S. Paul so many sudden transitions, ellipses, and solecisms (Chrysostom and Theophylact). S. Jerome (Ep. 151 ad Algas. qu. 10) says: “I have frequently said and I repeat it now, that when S. Paul spoke of himself as being ‘rude in speech yet not in knowledge,’ he was not merely using the language of humility, but was speaking from a consciousness of the truth. For in his writings there are many profound passages unexplained in words, dealing, with truths evident enough to himself, but incapable of being conveyed to others.” He says the same in his epistle to Hedibia, where he adds that for this reason Paul kept Titus by him, who was a Greek scholar, just as S. Peter had S. Mark. Cf. 1 Cor. ii. 1, 4, notes. On the other hand, S. Augustine (de Doct. Christ. lib. iv. c. 7) thinks that Paul calls himself here rude in speech, not as giving his own opinion but that of his detractors. S. Augustine there dwells at length on the eloquence of the Apostle, and shows that he has his own lively and nervous style, and an orderly arrangement of his materials. This is true. The Apostle’s rhetoric was not mere wordiness, but was earnest, persuasive, manly, Divine, and therefore he was “rude,” not so much in rhetoric as in grammatical niceties. It was evident to all that the Apostle by his eloquence stirred the hearts of all who heard him, smote them with the fear of God, and with wonderful skill almost drove them to faith, godliness, and mercy, and wheresoever he wished to lead them.
S. Augustine (Senten. No. 266) says beautifully: “It is an evident token of a good disposition when the truth contained in the words of controversialists is loved, and not the mere words themselves. For what is the use of a golden key if it cannot accomplish our desire and open the door, or why should we think less of a key because it is of wood? All that we want is to have that opened which was shut.”
Ver. 7.—Have I committed an offence? Do you find fault with that very thing which is a cause of glory to me and an instance of large-heartedness, that I humiliated myself to the manual labour of tent-making to support myself and not be a burden to you? (Anselm). This is the language of sarcasm. He charges the Corinthians to their face with ingratitude, in that while he might have claimed from them the means to support himself, he did not do so, but, while preaching and working at Corinth, preferred to be supported by poorer churches. In spite of this, however, as he says, the Corinthians undervalued the kindness of S. Paul, and lent an ear more readily to his rivals, the false apostles, who drained their purses.
Ver. 8.—I robbed other churches. He uses a strong expression, in order to make a strong impression on them. You see my continence and charity. I have, as it were, despoiled other churches that were poor, in order to spare you and to enrich you, that you might not think, as rich merchants like you Corinthians are apt to think, that I was seeking yours instead of you, and also that I might shut the mouths of the false apostles. Acknowledge me, then, as your true and genuine Apostle.
Ver. 9.—I was chargeable to no man.—TheGreek word for chargeable is derived from a word denoting torpor and inactivity, which are apt to be burdensome to others. The ray-fish called torpedo derived its Greek name from the same word. S. Paul says that he did not by his inactivity depend on another for support, but he worked hard with his hands without neglecting his duty of preaching. He gave himself to the work of teaching warning, and advising, just as diligently as if he were under no necessity of supporting himself.
Ver. 10.—As the truth of Christ is in me. I speak in the truth of Christ; I call His truth to witness; I swear to you in truth and holiness by Christ (“under the testimony of Christ,” Ambrose) that I wilt take nothing from you for my support (Theophylact).
No man shall stop me of this boasting. Or, this boasting shall not be stopped in me. This liberty and liberality of mine shall not be stopped, nor therefore my boasting of it. It is a metaphor, taken from springs and rivers, which no barriers can stop.
Secondly, it is better to suppose that S. Paul, following a Hebrew usage, employs the simple verb denoting to seal up for the compound verb unseal (σφραγίζωfor α̉νασφραγίζω). “I have determined,” he then would say, “to receive nothing from you; and I have so confirmed that determination by the strong seal of my oath, that I shall not open this seal, or break my purpose, whatever need or necessity may lay upon me.”
Ver. 12.—Which desire occasion. Of finding fault with me for not bringing anything peculiar to myself more than others.
That wherein they glory they may be found even as we. They boast that in their preaching they are equal to me, when they are inferior; for I preach freely, they for the sake of gain. Cf., ver. 21 (Anselm, Chrysostom, Theophylact).
Ver. 13.—Transforming themselves into the Apostles of Christ. From this it appears that these detractors of Paul were not believers who were impelled by mere vanity or by envy of Paul, but were heretics; for, in ver. 15, he calls them false apostles and ministers of Satan.
Secondly, he censures their hypocrisy in that, in order that they might impose on the Christians, they took to themselves the appearance and name of the Apostles of Christ, as though they were of Christ, and preachers of the Christian faith. The Calvinists of the present day are of the same kind, for they deform and profane everything sacred—our rites, sacraments, churches, monasteries, sanctuaries, altars, all true worship, religion, and godliness-and yet wish to be looked upon and spoken of as reformers.
Ver. 14.—For Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. He says of light, because good angels, being blessed, are wont, when they show themselves to men, to appear full of light and glory. Secondly, of light refers to the light of truth, righteousness, and godliness. Satan assumes these virtues, promises them to those men before whose eyes he appears in visible form, or into whose imagination he insinuates himself and his counsels, when really he is an angel of darkness, inasmuch as he suggests nothing but what is sinful, erroneous, and false. To unmask him and recognise his wiles there is nothing better, as the Fathers, and holy men, and experience itself teach, than to disclose your thoughts and suggestions to some prudent, pious, and learned man, preferably your Superior or Confessor, and to follow his advice. But Satan hates the light, and therefore dissuades and prevents his followers from doing this. From neglecting this counsel many, even hermits, have been by him most terribly deceived. In the lives of the Fathers there are extant many sad instances of this, e.g., in the case of that monk whom the devil persuaded to throw himself headlong into a well, by declaring that he would find that God, for his merits, would most gloriously deliver him. S. Epiphanius, Irenæus, and Augustine tell us the dreadful and abominable delusions instilled by the devil into such heretics as the Ophites, the Artotyritæ, and the Circumcelliones.
Under the form of a good angel the devil attempted to deceive the hermit S. Abraham, as S. Ephrem records in his Life. While he was singing psalms at midnight, a light like that of the sun suddenly shone in his cell, and a voice was heard saying: “Blessed art thou, Abraham: none is like thee in fulfilling all my will.” But the humility of the Saint recognised the fraud of the devil, and exclaimed: “Thy darkness perish with thee, thou full of all fraud and falsehood; for I am a sinful man; but the name of my Lord, Jesus Christ whom I have loved and do love, is a wall to me, and in it I rebuke thee, thou unclean dog.” And then the devil vanished from his sight as smoke.
Similarly, the devil appeared in splendour, with horses of fire and a chariot of fire, near the column on which was S. Symeon Stylites, and said to him: “The Lord hath sent me, His angel, to carry thee off as I carried Elijah. Ascend, therefore, with me into the chariot, and let us go into heaven. The holy angels, the Apostles, martyrs, and prophets, and Mary the Mother of the Lord long to see thee.” When S. Symeon was lifting his right foot to get into the chariot he made the sign of the Cross, on which the devil disappeared. This is recorded by Antony, his disciple, in his Life.
Another, on hearing from the devil, “I am Christ,” shut his eyes and said: “I would not see Christ in this life but in the next.” Hence the Fathers used to warn people, saying: “Even if an angel really appear to you, do not readily receive him, but humble yourself and say: ‘I am not worthy, while I live in my sins, to see an angel.’”
S. John, who foretold to the Emperor Theodosius his victory over the tyrants, saw devils like an army and chariots of fire, saying to him: “In all things, 0 man, you have borne yourself well. Now worship me, and I will take you up like Elias.” John answered: “God is my Lord and King: Him I ever worship; thou art not my King.” Then the devil vanished. Palladius gives this (Lausiac. c 46).
The devil appeared to Pachomius in the form of Christ, saying: “Pachomius, I am Christ, and I come to thee, my faithful friend.” Pachomius knew by Divine inspiration the fraud, and thought within himself: “The coming of Christ gives tranquillity; but I am now fiercely assailed by conflicting thoughts.” Then, making the sign of the Cross, and breathing on him, he said: “Depart from me, 0 devil, for accursed art thou with thy vision and treacherous wiles; there is no place for you among the servants of God.” Then, leaving a horrible stench, he departed, saying: “I should have gained thee, had not the surpassing power of Christ hindered me. Nevertheless, so far as I can, I will not cease to trouble thee.” Cf. Dionysius, in Vita Pachomii.
The monk Valens was frequently deceived by the devil under the form of an angel. From this Valens became swollen with pride, because of his intimacy with angels. At length the devil appeared to him, feigning that he was Christ, accompanied by a thousand angels holding lights and a fiery wheel. One of them said to him: “Christ has loved thy free and confident life, and has come to see thee; come out, therefore, and worship Him.” Then he went out and worshipped the devil as Christ. This so unhinged his mind that he went into the church and said: “I have no need of communion. I have seen Christ to-day.” The Fathers, therefore, bound him and threw him into fetters. Cf. Palladius, c. 31.
Ver. 16.—If otherwise, yet as a fool receive me. If I can obtain from you nothing else, then receive me as a fool, only that I may have license to glory somewhat. As Cato says: “Neither praise nor blame thyself; leave this to fools, whom empty glory vexes.” Notice how S. Paul hesitates, and paves the way for self-praise, to show how unwillingly he was driven to it (Chrysostom).
Ver. 17.—That which I speak. The praises of myself, that I propose to utter directly.
I speak it not after the Lord. If regarded by itself. But it will be after God if charity and necessity be taken into account, the necessity, that is, of preventing you from despising me, and glorifying the false apostles.
In this confidence of boasting. In this substance (Latin version). In this subject-matter of boasting, i.e., my works, of which I am now going to speak.
Ver. 18.—Seeing that many glory after the flesh. In things merely outward and carnal, as, e.g., in birth, riches, wisdom, circumcision, having Hebrew parents—of all which these false apostles boast. Hence I too will glory in them (Chrysostom). Cf. x. 2, note
Ver. 19.—For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. Irony. You have foolishly suffered the boastings of these vain-glorious false apostles; I hope that you will suffer me to glory wisely and usefully among them that are wise. Theophylact, however, and Anselm think that this is said seriously, in the way of exaggerated rebuke. Since you are wise in Christ, you ought to have exploded the folly of the false apostles. Why, then, do you gladly suffer them?
Ver. 20.—For ye suffer if a man bring you into bondage. This is aimed at the insatiable arrogance, avarice, and tyranny of the false apostles. You suffer false apostles, who imperiously treat you as slaves, who devour you by extorting from you your goods, who are exalted by their self-praise, who smite you in the face, not with the palms of their hands, but with insults. Hence he adds: “I speak as concerning reproach.” These words, therefore, contain a sharp rebuke. These men squander your money, take away your freedom and honour, load you with taunts, as though you were slaves; but 1 have borne myself humbly, have lived at my own expense, have wished to put upon you the easy yoke of Christ. Yet you prefer them to me, as though, when compared with these, your imperious lords, nay, tyrants, I was not sufficiently well-born, or powerful, or eloquent. S. Bernard (de Consid. lib. i. c. 3) says: “When you may be free there is no virtue in the patience which lets you become a slave. Do not conceal the slavery into which you are being daily led, while you know it not. It is the mark of a dull and heavy heart not to feel its own continual trouble. Trouble gives to the hearing understanding, provided it be not excessive. If it is, it gives not understanding, but carelessness.”
Let superiors and prelates console themselves by the example of S. Paul, when they duly do their duty, and are despised by those under them, and see others preferred before them. It has ever been the custom of the world, and ever will be till the end, as Salmeron notices here, to obstinately resist the servants of God, to murmur, and, meeting rebuke, on the least occasion, to complain of even moderate severity; to spurn all discipline; to submit servilely to impostors, libertines, and false apostles; to entrust everything to them; to bear patiently whatever burden they may choose to impose. The Israelites, e.g., despised the holy and gentle Samuel, and preferred to bear the yoke of a self-willed and tyrannical king (1 Sam. viii.).
Ver. 21.—I speak as concerning reproach. This belongs to the preceding. The “smiting on the face” spoken of is here explained to be mental, not physical—consisting in the ignominy and revilings cast, as it were, in their faces by the false apostles. This “smiting” is no less wrong than if they had been beaten like slaves. Others, however, interpret these words to mean: “I say this to your shame.” This, however, would require πρὸς instead of κατὰ.
As though we had been weak. Refer this to the words, ye suffer. You suffer these bold and imperious false apostles; me you do not, but rather despise me as weak and timid, as though I could not have acted more imperiously than I have done, I could, indeed, have done so, but I would not, through humility, modesty, and abounding charity (Chrysostom).
Whereinsoever any is bold. If any one ventures to boast foolishly, I too can do the same.
Ver. 22.—Are they Hebrews? so am I. The word Hebrew is derived either (1.) from a Hebrew word denoting “across the stream,” in allusion to their descent from Abraham, who crossed the Euphrates from Chaldæa to dwell in Palestine. Hebrews in this sense would mean (to coin a word) transamnine, as we speak of transmarine or transalpine. Abraham, after crossing the Euphrates, is the first to be called Hebrew (Gen. xiv. 13). The LXX and Aquila render the word here “crosser;” S. Augustine (qu. 29 in Gen.) renders it “transfluvial.” So Chrysostom, Origen, Theodoret understand the word. (2.) Or the Jews were called Hebrews as being descended from Heber, Abraham’s forefather, the only man who with his family, after the confusion of tongues at Babel, retained the primeval Hebrew tongue, together with true faith, religion, and piety. (Cf. Gen. x. 21, and xi. 1, et seq.) Those, then, are wrong who suppose that Hebræi is derived from Abrahæi. S. Augustine, it is true, at one time held this opinion (de Consens. Evang. lib. 1. c. 14), but in his Retractations (lib. ii. c. 14) he gave it up. The meaning of the Apostle, at all events, is this: These false apostles glory in their birth—in their being, as Hebrews, descendants of Heber, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; in their possession of the holy religion of their ancestors, and the primeval tongue. But I also am a Hebrew and descendant of Abraham—like him in stock, tongue, faith, and religion.
Ver. 23.—Are they ministers of Christ? The Latin version takes this in the indicative, and supposes S. Paul to concede, for the sake of argument, that the false apostles were ministers of Christ. Be it so, but I am much more truly such than they.
In labours more abundant. Let prelates and doctors take notice from this, that they should base their influence, as S. Paul did, not on external show, but on labours and mode of life. The Fourth Council of Carthage (c. 5) says: “Let a bishop have a sordid dress, a scanty table, and poor living, and let him seek to have his high office revered through his faith and the merits of his life.”
S. Bernard, quoting this passage in his work, De Consideratione, addressed to Pope Eugenius, says, (lib. ii. c. 6): “How excellent a ministry is this! What king holds a more glorious office? If you must needs glory, the life of the Saints is put before your eyes, the glorying of the Apostles is set forth. Seems that to you a little matter? Would that one would give to me to be like the Saints in their glorying! The Apostle exclaims God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Recognise thy heritage in the cross of Christ, in abundant labours. Happy the man who would say: “I have laboured more than they all.’ This is glorying indeed, but there is nothing in it empty, slothful, or effeminate. If labour terrifies, the reward beckons us onward. Though he laboured more than all, yet he did not elaborate the whole work, and yet there is room. Go into the field of the Lord, and notice carefully how the ancient curse holds sway in an abundant crop of thorns and thistles. Go forth, I say, into the world; for the field is the world, and it has been entrusted to you. Go into it, not as a lord but as a steward, who will one day be called on to give an account.”
In stripes above measure. More than can be told or believed.
In deaths oft. In dangers of death, when my companions, or others, were wounded or slain, as, e.g., by robbers, or in popular out-breaks. Cf. 2 Cor. i. 10, and 1 Cor. xv. 31.
Ver. 24.—Forty stripes save one. The Lord had ordered, in Deut. xxv. 3, that the number of stripes should not exceed forty. The Jews, to make sure of obedience to this precept, used to inflict on criminals one less.
Ver. 25.—I have been in the deep. The Greek word for the deep may refer to a well or a prison, as well as the sea. Hence (1.) some think, says Theophylact, that that well is meant in which Paul is said to have lain concealed after escaping from the attack made on him by the people of Lystra (Acts xiv. 18). (2.) Baronius (Annals, A.D. 58), following Bede and Theodoret, thinks that the Cyzicenum, that deep and loathsome dungeon, like the Barathrum at Athens and the Tullianum at Rome, into which Paul was thrown, is here meant. (3.) It is better to understand the deep to be the sea, and to be an explanation of the hardships of his shipwreck: ” A night and a day I have been in the deep.” In other words, he says: I was tossed about by so violent a tempest that I seemed to be days and nights in the depths of the sea (Maldonatus Not. Manusc.). Or it may be that he means to say that after his shipwreck he spent a day and a night tossed by the waves, not in a boat or on a raft, but swimming in the deep, i.e., on the open sea (Theophylact, Ambrose, S. Thomas). Haymo says that this latter explanation of S. Paul’s rescue alive from the belly of the deep, like another Jonah, is the tradition of the Fathers.
Of these scourgings and this shipwreck there is no record in the Acts of the Apostles. The shipwreck at Melita, narrated in Acts xxvii., happened long after this, when Paul was sent a prisoner to Rome. Only one scourging is mentioned, that in Acts xvi., and only one stoning, that in Acts xiv. S. Luke, it is evident, therefore, is silent on many details of S. Paul’s life.
Ver. 26.—In perils by my own countrymen. Through the plots that the Jews often entered into against him (Anselm).
In painfulness. Ærumna (Latin version), which, says Cicero, is laborious toil, as, e.g., when one that is tired out is forced, for the sake of rest, to undertake fresh toils.
The things in which the Apostle glories are those that not only many Christians now-a-days but many clergy would be ashamed of, as S. Bernard laments when commenting on the words, “Lo, we have left all.” Whither have we drifted? Where has the apostolic Spirit gone? Whither are fled the humility, labours, sufferings, and zeal of the primitive Church? The Apostles, the princes of the Church, Christ’s lieutenants, do not rejoice in their palaces, their carriages, their silken robes, in an attending crowd of noblemen, domestics, soldiers, horses, and hounds; in banquets and dinners; in fat benefices, in an effeminate, luxurious, and sumptuous life; but they exult and glory in hunger, thirst, painfulness, and weariness; cold and nakedness; in continual journeying to barbarous nations; in persecution, preaching, scourgings, beatings, stonings, death, martyrdom, fatigues by day and night; they are made all things to all men; they scorn no one; they are fathers of the poor and the afflicted; those that are barbarous, ignorant, and poor they teach: they preach to them the Gospel, comfort them, give them alms. This was the calling of the Apostles; this was the high dignity of the princes of the Church, of which Paul here boasts; this was the spirit of the early Christians, both clergy and people. Nor has this spirit, God be thanked, died out in this age. Our age has had, and still has its Borroméo, Pius, Xavier, Menesius, Gaspar, Hosius, and others like minded.
Be not ashamed then, 0 Bishop, or prior, or doctor, or pastor, to imitate these men—to visit the poor after their example, to enter hospitals and prisons, to bear the confessions of peasants, to give counsel to the unhappy, to instruct the simple and ignorant, to be made all things to all men, to zealously seek the salvation of all. In these works do not shrink from toil, fatigue, and sorrow, even unto death; in this cause be pleased and delighted to suffer scoffs and even blows. So Christ did and suffered, so did S. Paul, so did the Apostles in general. In this consisted their virtue, holiness, and apostleship. In that last day of the world, when the Chief Shepherd and great Doctor shall sit as judge, to examine the deeds of each one and to pass on each one sentence of an eternity of bliss or an eternity of woe, He will not ask you how many benefices, what wealth, or servants, or knowledge you had, but how you used them—how many by them you converted, how many poor you fed or gave drink to, how many you visited in prison, how far you spread His Gospel and extended His glory; what labours, dangers, ridicule, and persecutions you bore for Him; what hunger, and thirst, and weariness. These things God has done; and, while we have time, let us think on these things, let us do these things, that we may stir up in ourselves and in all men the spirit of the primitive Church and of the Apostles, that we may follow Christ our Leader, and the Apostles His princes, and so by our zeal and burning charity, set on fire a world now growing old and stiffening with cold. Then shall we in due time hear with the Apostles: “Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed Me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, then shall ye also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Listen to what S. Chrysostom has to say of these sufferings and victories, and the courage of S. Paul (Hom. 25, 26): “Paul, as a champion athlete, against the world contends in every kind of contest, and conquers in all. This was his apostolic character, and by these contests he spread the Gospel. Just as a flame of inextinguishable fire, if it falls into the ocean and is swallowed by the waves, emerges again as bright as ever—so too S. Paul, though pressed on all sides, was not oppressed; not knowing how to yield. Suffering but left him the more glorious victor and martyr a thousand times over.”
S. Chrysostom (Hom. 2) says again: “Paul, through the abundance of his devotion, somehow did not feel the sufferings that he underwent in the cause of virtue; nay, he thought virtue itself its own reward. Daily he rose higher and more ardent; in every attack he rejoiced and gained the victory; when suffering under blows and injuries he counted it triumph. He sought death before life, poverty before riches; he longed for toil more than others rest; he counted cities, nations, provinces, and power as of as little account as the sand. He regarded nothing bitter and nothing sweet, as men commonly regard things. He looked on tyrants as moths; on death, tortures, a thousand sufferings as mere child’s play, provided that he might endure something for Christ. He was as adamant, nay, harder and stronger than adamant. Like a bird he flew over the whole world to teach it, and, as though hampered by no body, he despised all sufferings and dangers. So thoroughly did he despise all earthly things that heaven might seem already his.”
Ver. 28.—Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily. The weight of business that daily presses upon me. The Greek word here used denotes, says Budæus, to collect a band, to call together a meeting, as, e.g., when the mob assembles and makes an attack on the aristocracy and the magistrates. So the Apostle here uses the word to denote those manifold cares which, as it were, formed a band and rushed upon him from every side, and almost overwhelmed him, and this not once only but continuously. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Ephrem understand it to mean that factious conspiracies, seditions, tumults, popular outbreaks, and plots were being always set in motion against him. This is, indeed, the literal meaning of the Greek; but S. Paul has already mentioned those troubles in ver. 26. The former meaning is, therefore, the better. Then next clause, “the care of all the churches,” is explanatory of this. Anselm and Theophylact say beautifully: “Everywhere Paul teaches, but he also suffers greatly. He endures his own sufferings, and at the same time bears the sufferings of others. He bears the infirmities of individuals, and at the same time is anxious about the salvation of all.”
S. Chrysostom here (Hom. 18) teaches us beautifully, by his example, that nothing is sweeter than this anxiety, thought, labour, and grief of a good pastor for the Church. “A mother too,” he says, “in the in midst of deep grief for her child has pleasure; in the midst of anxiety she has joy. Though her anxiety be a source of bitterness, yet her devotion gives her great happiness.” Let great men, and those that are ministers of Christ, desire to be ever in motion as the heart is, or like the heavens, and, as Suetonius says of Vespasian, to die standing. Pacatus says, in his Panegyric of Theodosius: “Divine things delight in continual motion, and at the same time eternity feeds itself on movement, and your nature delights too in what we men call labour. As the heavens revolve with unfailing rotation, and the waves of the sea are ever in motion, and the sun never stands still, so are you, 0 Emperor, always engaged in matters of business that seem to return in a regular cycle.”
Ver. 29.—Who is weak and I am not weak? Who is weak, or grieves, or is afflicted, and I am not with him weak, grieved, or afflicted? Who is offended and I am not on fire, both with grief, because the evil that my neighbour suffers when he is scandalised is mine, and with zeal also, to remedy his trouble and remove the cause of offence?
S. Gregory (Hom. 12 in Ezek. iv. 3), on the words, “Take thou unto thee an iron pan,” thinks that by the pan is meant the mind of Ezekiel, who, on seeing the overthrow of Jerusalem, was, as it were, roasted in a pan with compassion. Of this God puts him in mind by ordering him to place a pan between himself and the city. Such, too, was S. Paul when he said: “Who is offended and I burn not?” “Paul had set on fire his heart,” says S. Gregory, “with zeal for souls, and so had made it a pan in which, from love of virtue, he flamed against vice.”
Ver. 30.—Of the things which concern mine infirmities. I will glory of the afflictions, blows, persecutions, and sufferings that I have borne for Christ. Through them I seem weak, i.e., despicable, mean, and worthless (Chrysostom). Observe that Paul glories not in his miracles but his infirmities, because in them there shines forth the effectual power of God’s grace, and also because in these he surpassed the false apostles, and thirdly, because they are the tokens of real virtue and of an Apostle.
Ver. 32.—The governor under Aretas the king. This satrap of King Aretas was, says Theophylact, the father-in-law of Herod. Josephus says that Herod Antipas, who put to death John the Baptist, married the daughter of Aretas.
Ver. 33.—And through a window in a basket was I let down. This escape of S. Paul from Damascus happened in the year 39 (Acts ix. 25), when, as Josephus says, Aretas, King of Arabia and of the country near Damascus, waged war against Herod, because Herod had repudiated his wife, the daughter of Aretas, for the purpose of marrying Herodias. In this war Herod was worsted, and slain by Aretas. This brought on Aretas the vengeance of Tiberius Cæsar, who sent Vitellius, governor of Syria, to take or slay Aretas (Josephus, Ant. lib. x. c. 7). Using the opportunity, the Jews, enraged with S. Paul, seem to have accused him before the prefect of Aretas of disturbing the people under a pretext of preaching the Gospel, and so drawing them away from heathenism, and consequently from Aretas. They wished to show that this would end in his betraying Damascus to the Jews and to Vitellius. Hence the prefect sought to take Paul, but he, being warned, escaped by being let down by the wall in a basket. Cf. Baronius (Annals, vol. i. p. 304).